Under the Open Meadow

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The weight of the high gray peaks are ever-present in the meadow outside the city walls, especially where the terrain gently dips into long, misty valleys. Light is low here even at the best of times, with a pale overcast to most days making the distant mountains loom bigger. Even so, the variety of plants and animals seems almost boundless: Here, one might see great knots of wild flowers in thousands of colors, while there, an entire valley is radiant with luminescent moss.

Animals and monsters alike roam here, and their tracks are much more abundant than any sign of people. Still, a diligent search can turn up a few relics of the past, each one unspeakably antique. The slightest trace of roads can be glimpsed, each wending across hills and valleys, only to go nowhere. A few decrepit mile markers are left, their writing utterly unfathomable.

There are a few signs that the weather is not always hospitable, either: Now and then, an icy wind will blow down from the mountains in the middle of the day. Perhaps most worrisome, though, is the occasional patch of scorched earth or burnt-out stump where a lone tree should be waving in the breeze. A single spark of lightning would be enough to plunge the surroundings into flame. Even worse, however, is the chance that the fire comes from something else entirely.

The Tunnel

In the time everyone has spent in this new and, arguably, confined world, it didn't take long for the more intrepid among you to scatter, to explore, to define your surroundings. It's a wide open space in this valley, to be sure, with a small city on one side and a great expanse of land on the other, but it's still not enough to sustain a growing population forever. And, indeed, the population IS growing--not through families and children, but through the Convergence. It's not nearly as fast as the first couple days, but more people are trickling in all the time, and while everyone is being fed, it's not a given forever--after all, there's no crops in this kind of time frame, so everything depends on the hunt. At least the fountain's working, so the people don't have to depend on rainfall.

Which is just a long, convoluted way of saying the status quo can't stay forever. The people of the new Converged World must break out, not immediately, but soon, in order to sustain themselves. And there are no easy paths, but there's so much hidden in this place, far beyond the idyllic city and its environs, just waiting for the people to find.

Such as the huge vertical tunnel you are all contemplating now. This was unearthed a couple weeks ago in a fight with a giant, vicious Landworm. The beast's massive Magnitude 8 quake magic loosened the earth around this concrete-lined tunnel, and its violent death throes apparently collapsed the concrete cap sealing it from the outside world.

The worm itself is mostly gone now, and considering how much worm meat each of you has had the last week or two, you're just as well pleased the scent of dead worm isn't stronger than it already is. (Ew.)

This leaves the tunnel exposed to the elements, and exposed to a group of intrepid explorers as well. It looks to be a combination of copper tubes, metal braces and concrete structural elements, with ladder-like handholds carved into the first ten feet or so of the shaft giving way to a metal service ladder leading further into the depths. Given the state of lighting in this valley, and the fact the sun isn't immediately overhead, the dim light doesn't go past ten feet or so, the top of that metal ladder. Beyond that is darkness.

Gathering Around the Opening

Ever since she first heard about this tunnel from Vaan, Celes has been chomping at the bit for a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl. In her enthusiasm, she has more or less taken point on the expedition, but she's hardly the type of General who refuses to listen to her troops.

Case in point, as she inspects the entrance, she turns to the others and asks with a grin, "So, who wants to go first?" Though if no one volunteers, she'll go ahead and begin the descent herself.


Carefully avoiding any chance of flying over the middle of that hole in the ground, Farly takes to the air and examines the top edge and the inside wall for about a foot down all the way around. He especially tests the mounting brackets for that ladder. It was no doubt very solidly in place at one time, but that was long ago. The last thing this party needs is to have one of its members fall down this hole.

The second thing the moogle is looking for is any possible control or switch that could be manipulated. Who knows? There might even be some working lights in here. Doubtful, certainly, but well worth trying. Pausing for a moment, he asks, "Did anyone bring torches or lights of some kind, kupo?"


Speaking of the population growing, one of the newest additions to the group of survivors is among the number tonight: the once-boisterous engineer from FH herself, Hailey Alivette. Over the last couple weeks, she's been working, scavenging anything that she could get her hands on -- and that wasn't otherwise in use -- and taking it apart. For what? She's been quiet. In fact, she's barely spoken a word other than an annoyed grunt or two since her arrival. Enjoy the silence for as long as it lasts!

"Sorry, blondie. I'm the artillery, not the front line." the redhead offers, reaching up a hand to pat the barrel of the weapon strapped to her back. The moogle's question gets a crinkle of her nose and a brief patdown of one of the pouches on her legs before she shakes her head. "Out of flares. Used what I had to track you folks down in the first place."

Tifa has no familiarity with any of what has happened before, or this world, or anything else. The last she knew, she was brawling for Gil to fund an expedition out to sea to try to find Wutai with Yuffie, and the next thing she knows, she's been torn from the ring and hurled into the middle of wherever THIS is. She was left looking around wildly, wine-red eyes searching for some sign of what did this to her. An illusion of some kind? Telega? Did she get blown up and die and this is the Lifestream? No, it looks less green.

Hair tied up and back in an enormous ponytail that drapes down her back, wearing a sports top and athletic shorts, socks and sneakers, and a pair of combat gloves, Tifa Lockhart is not exactly well-equipped for finding herself stranded in the middle of nowhere. After she panickedly determines she's alone out here, alone yet again, like she's been terrified of for so long, with no sign of Yuffie or anyone, she takes the time to calm herself and begin hunting around.

She's in some sort of plains area, and she finds her equipment that was in the locker of the arena scattered around eventually. If these came through, then it's possible other things did too... And other PEOPLE. Hope warring with the anxiety twisting in her stomach, the well-trained martial artist puts a body hardened by constant combat ever since her Converge to work looking for some sign that she's not alone out here, or more supplies to work with. Some things are missing from her pack after all.

She searches for hours, having to fight or avoid a few wild beasts, before finding tracks that indicate other people. The sound of voices coming from nearby has Tifa pausing, breath catching in her throat for a few moments, before she lets it out slowly. She fights the urge to call out or just rush towards them. She is a mature woman and an experienced adventurer. She doesn't know who the voices belong to or even if they're friendly. Best not to call attention to herself needlessly.

She advances quietly, but quickly, seeing people gathered around some kind of hole...

Even in this new world and chaotic situation, even when there is presently plenty to go around, some people aren't content with having 'enough' it seems. Or maybe they just like to plan for the eventual future, because they have a realistic appraisal of things. A lithe figure in a tight, body-hugging leather with a harness, armor reinforcements, head gear, and a pair of goggles, has been filching what she can get when people weren't looking, but has kept her hoarding to a minimum in order to not draw immediate suspicion.

Right now, she's gathering resources in a different way. She's been scavenging out in the wilderness, fighting what manageable Fiends she can, and -- most recently -- has been picking up all kinds of valuable junk she just found lying around in the middle of nowhere.

She doesn't question this good fortune because, let's be honest, that's basically an every day occurrence for adventurers. Though perhaps not in such atypical concentrations in the same area... When the blonde girl spotted a curvy figure also walking around collecting things and putting them in a bag, she realized quickly she had competition, but didn't want to fight her. Better to follow her and find out who she is, and if she should be trying to take the bag that all that equipment and little glowy jewels is going into when the brunette isn't looking.

And so it is that as Tifa is sneaking up on the others, Rikku is sneaking up on and following Tifa.


Eiko walks up to the edge of the opening, looking down curiously as she fidgets slightly with her vest and cloak before dusting off her shirt and pants. Rummaging through a pouch at her side she pulls out a ruby on a chain, carefully placing it over her head so the ruby hangs just under her eikon horn as she says "I could probably get us down quickly with float, but not promises that it'll work." as she looks away from the edge.

Celes gives Hailey's assertion a nod, a glint of humor in her eyes. As for Farly's question, Celes gives an unconcerned wave of her hand. "We'll just let our eyes adjust to the darkness, unless you'd rather make some torches now."

She's just about to start climbing down when she spots movement from a distance. She spots Tifa, but not Rikku yet. Celes waves the woman over. "Great, a new set of hands to help out! This is a good sign."

Finally, she gives Eiko a nod. "If you can, that'd be great, but I'm not afraid to take my chances. That being said, I'm not exicted about falling to my death today."

Going Down

"Well, the ladder itself is sturdy enough, kupo, but I can't be sure of its mounting points all the way down," announces Farly. "And even if there are lights of some kind in this thing, they aren't likely to be working after this much time. In any case, I haven't found anything to act as a control or switch to activate those problematical lights, kupo."

The moogle continues, "I'd suggest not too many people on the ladder at one time, kupo. Also, I do have a means of generating small amounts of light for brief moments, so I will continue on down to test the rest of the mounts for the ladder. Please step as lightly as you can coming down, kupo!"

With that, Farly removes a large wrench from his toolbag and extends it, with several clicks and clanks, to a length of about three and a half feet. As he descends into darkness, his body flashes with a dim light every few seconds. He's clearly casting some sort of spell to do this, but he's muttering it to himself.

       (OOC Repeated uses of Libra, which takes no MP from his cache, but does momentarily activate the Mist around him.)

Eiko gets a nod from the engineer at her suggestion, "If you're not sure it'll work, I'll take the slower way. Artillery anyways, like I said, so bringing up the rear doesn't hurt in my case." ...and firm in her point, she's waiting until the others choose a method so that she /can/ bring up the rear. Besides. The Minions always go in first, and without any of her /own/ Minions around... well, these will have to be conscripted in their place.

Celes' announcement of a new arrival draws her attention in that direction, eyes squinting behind goggles to examine the newcomer. Clearly a fighter of some sort judging by her build... and this is good! Because really, the more front line there is, the more anything horrible and nasty down there has to get through in order to get to her.

"Light controls are probably down at the bottom somewhere, short-stuff," It feels good to not be the shortest person around! "We can look when we get there, see about getting them back up and running." ....her voice gets louder as the moogle gets further away, of course. She's important and should be heard, that's just how life goes.

Alas, it seems Yuffie's ninja skills haven't rubbed off on Tifa, as she is detected even when approaching from behind the group. Well, stealth isn't her strong suit anyway. She abandons the pretense of quiet thus and advances a bit, though looking suspicious/curious at being addressed as though she's expected or already known or something. "What's going on here?" she calls out to the strangers in general, or Celes in particular since she's the one who spotted her and seemed to think Tifa would just help them out with something for some reason.

"And where is this place, for that matter?" She folds her arms under her chest and looks around at each person present. A Moogle seems to be going down into the hole, and they're all treating this very casually. Is random strangers appearing common here? If this is like that OTHER Convergence, it might very well be. "Did you all just get deposited here as well?" she tacks on, even as she realizes that might not be likely given they seem to be intentionally exploring a hole in the ground instead of seeming confused or purposeless... But maybe they're just skilled survivors who start making the best of the situation right away. She doesn't know.

What she DOES know is she's not going down into a mysterious tunnel just because some strangers are, without a better idea of what's happening.

Unlike Tifa, it appears that Rikku has ninja skills of her own, because she is completely unaware she is being tracked.

Sneaking here. Sneaking there. Them Al Bhed sneaking everywhere. Moving from boulder to tall grass to directly into Tifa's shadow to wherever she has to in order to avoid being spotted, Rikku goes unnoticed by everyone. But as she listens in, she realizes she has barely more idea than Tifa does of the situation, even if she's been here a teensy bit longer. Maybe only by a day or so. And if all that stuff scattered around was the new arrival's... It might be bad if she was caught with it.

So she has a few options. Run now and avoid the situation entirely, or see about getting some allies in this crazy new world. As awesome as Rikku is on her own, there's limits to how far someone can go solo in a strange place like this where who-knows-what lies in wait to ambush or be discovered. And hey, not like she has to stay with them if she decides she doesn't like them.

So Rikku abandons stealth and walks up behind Tifa. No one has been speaking Al Bhed thus far, so she uses the common tongue everyone seems to be using. Spiran, to her ears. "Oh, you really shouldn't leave your equipment and little glowy gem things lying around," the begoggled blonde says suddenly. "Some thief might have taken it!" She then holds out what she found and smiles brightly.

...Or most of what she found anyway.

Then she leans to the side, "Hello~, strangers! What's happening? Anything you'd want to hire a salvage expert for?"


Eiko nods, slightly as she pulls an old worn looking flute from one of her magic pouches and begins to play a soft melody on it. It doesn't take her long to cast the simple float spell on everyone present, and without waiting as she swaps her flute for the mythril racket hanging off her belt she steps over the edge letting her float spell safely get her to the bottom. "Of course, we'll all have to climb out regardless to leave." she says in an amused voice as she descends, her free hand out next to the ladder to control or catch herself if needed.


The tunnel is certainly fairly wide--a good four or five feet in diameter, and straight as an arrow. Mysterious copper-color tubes run along various lengths, sometimes going into the walls, coming out again, running alongside each other, but the ladder maintains its straight and narrow path throughout. Most of you are Float-ing down, which works like a charm. You all soon learn to only touch the concrete, though--some of the pipes are surprisingly cold and a couple are QUITE hot. The ladder is a little loose in its moorings--it rattles every now and then when someone grabs it--but it doesn't pull free. Soon, however, the people headed downwards have made their way close to two hundred feet below ground level and there, the tunnel makes a sharp 90 degree turn to the side, turning into a round corridor with pipes of one color but many sizes along the wall--there's little concrete visible there. And there's a dim, yellow glow coming from inside...and as people get closer, the chuffing of steam and clanking of gears can be heard.


As the Float spell takes effect, Celes pauses to adjust to the sensation before returning her attention to Tifa. "We're going down there," she says, pointing down the hole, "To see what's down there, if anything." Her other questions will have to be addressed by someone else; being a recent Convergence herself, Celes hasn't the foggiest idea.

Rikku's appearance startles the General a bit, but it's a pleasant surprise. "Oh, hey!" She can't remember the girl's name, but she definitely remembers literally running into her in Vector that one time. "The more, the merrier!" 'Hire' is a tricky word, as Rikku is definitely not getting paid later. If they find anything of value down below, however, she'll of course get a share of it. But Celes opts not to voice any of this, because reasons.

After giving Eiko some space to descend, she follows suit, keeping an eye on the blinking Moogle for perspective.


Farly snorts at Hailey's comment, but also notes in a slightly offended tone of voice, "Any self-respecting Craftsmoogle would always put controls for lighting at both ends of any tunnel, kupo! You never know which end you'll come to first!"

The moogle says nothing further but continues on down, testing the ladder and its mounts. He's also checking for any sort of controls as he continues. Logically, any light switch should be next to the ladder if it's meant to be activated by someone on the ladder.

As Eiko floats down past him, Farly salutes by raising his wrench briefly, but continues with his repeated castings of Libra to provide the light he needs to test the ladder and its mounts. He calls out one warning to those above him: "Be gentle on the ladder, kupo!"


"What happened? Well, I could spend hours going into the science of it all... or I could just say the world ended, and we were the unlucky ones who came back." offers the redhead to the brunette, a bit of a smirk crossing her lips. "Yeah, think I'm gonna go with that. The where? Well, /this/ is a big ol' hole, but if the question's more general... I'm thinking the question's more likely where /aren't/ we, and how long do we have to stay here before we get a bit more mobile." A pause, and a glance down towards the descending Farly, "...and the moogle's bravely exploring the darkness alone. It's the kind of thing that gets statues made of you. Might wanna join him before we have to start working on statues."

Rikku's announcement of her presence gets a sharp snap of Hailey's attention as the previously unseen blonde becomes obvious -- and it wasn't just Hailey who didn't see her, yay! -- but the words, the glorious words spoken by the Al Bhed get her full attention. "Salvage. Expert?" she mouths slowly.

...and then Hailey does something that she hasn't done in months. The redhead /smiles./

Quick footfalls have her moving towards, and circling Rikku with hands clasped behind her back. Analyzing the Al Bhed from behind her own goggles. "You and me, girly. We're gonna be /pals./ Name's Hailey. If it's broke, I can fix it. If it isn't broke? I make it better. If it's better? I did it. Once this..." hands unclasp to wave briefly at the tunnel being explored, "...is done? We need to talk. For now though, there's things down there we probably want our hands on."

...and now that there's a decent amount of cannon fod-- err, Brave Volunteers, going down first, it's Hailey's turn to make her way on the ladder. She might not be able to see well, but she's definitely going to be looking around for anything that looks useful in the process, and especially anything she can make into a light source... even if that's not the current purpose.

"Guessin' this wasn't made by a Craftsmoogle, then!" Hailey calls after Farly as she takes rung by rung. "Probably some kind of evil overlord. Because if /I/ were designing a fortress, any lighting would be controlled from the inside /only./ I'd rather the heroes have to walk into my traps in the darkness rather than be able to turn on the lights and step around the pit full of poison-tipped spikes. Just sayin'." she huffs, as if this should be obvious.


Tifa turns quickly when she hears a voice behind her, and looks down at the handfulls of her belongings. "...Thanks." she says, somehow feeling like she's being ripped off even as she accepts it all and puts it in her back. Her Materia is quickly slotted into her Dragon Claws, which she slips on after removing the simple padded gloves she was using for her non-lethal brawling match. She looks Rikku over briefly, but Hailey seems to be coming over to inspect her, and Tifa is more interested in what they all have to say, rather than how they look.

"So you're just going down there to see what's down there... And if there's something hostile down there... What then?" It isn't that she doesn't understand exploration or adventure, but generally there's a PURPOSE to it. This... Curiosity for the sake of being curious strikes her as even more reckless than Yuffie's antics. ...Okay, not quite, but close.

Even so, if it's a choice between wander around out here with even the girl who gave her this equipment looking to join the spelunking crew, or get a chance to find some more answers ('the world ended' isn't very inspiring) and maybe make some friends, then she'll have to go with the latter. Even if it's against her better judgement.

Sigh. Always stuck playing mom to irresponsible people.

"Alright, I'll go with you for now. But I wish you had a better reason for doing so than 'just because'..." She approaches the tunnel, looking leery still, of both the tunnel tiself and attempts to cast spells on her by someone who hasn't even acknowledged she exists. Since the flute-player apparently doesn't know she's there, she manages to duck the float spell and make her own way down, leaping from wall to wall in a display of considerably athletic and acrobatic ability, and reaching the bottom that way. Her shoes make incidental contact with a pipe at one point, producing a hiss of steam. She makes note of it and avoids further contact with them. Looking ahead, there's plenty more pipes and the sound of machinery active below ground has her mind going quite quickly in regard to figuring out what's going on.

"Tifa Lockhart, by the way." she introduces herself belatedly. She hasn't gotten the names of any of the others, and if a situation as basic as 'one of them gets lost' comes up, or 'one of them is about to get hit by a trap', having something to yell other than 'hey you' could be useful.

"When did you find this tunnel?" she asks, as she squints towards that yellow light. Magma maybe?


Rikku raises a hand hesitantly and... Wiggles her fingers at Celes, trying to figure out if she knows her from somewhere. But she can't think of any time she has. Still, she bounces on her heels a bit and calls back, "Heeeyyy... ...Youuuuu?" Tifa seems suspicious of her for turning over all that sweet loot. Geez! What's with all this racial profiling!? Though if they don't know she's an Al Bhed maybe that doesn't apply here. Well, whatever! She does notice that Celes didn't address the subject of actually HIRING her, which Rikku had been so careful to phrase her assistance as. But with Miss Bouncey bouncing her way down the tunnel for about two-hundred feet, while Rikku puts her hands on her hips and endures Hailey walking around her like she's a particularly valuable machina being checked for viability, she decides she'd rather be down where all the treasure is than up here scrounging for baubles.

That was kind of the whole point in trying to make allies. "Well, thanks, I guess!" Rikku replies, smiling at Hailey. At least ONE person seems to understand the idea of payment for services rendered. Not that there's probably much of an economy here yet, but there will be eventually, and if she gets in on the ground floor, then she could be set for life. And then she could spend her time on more important things, like finding Yunie and Tidus and Lulu and that big dumb Wakka and grumpy Auron and that blue furry and, and, and!

So, it's only a short time before she's climbing down the ladder the good old-fashioned way, one rung at a time, and wishing the tunnel was just filled with water instead every time it wobbles. She can hold her breath for-freaking-EVER. Diving would be easier! "Thanks for the warning, fuzzles!" the machinist says to Farly, regarding the instability of the ladder. When she makes landfall at the bottom, and Tifa introduces herself, Rikku decides to do likewise. "I'm Rikku. Hmm... Sounds like there's some machina up ahead. Hopefully they aren't malfunctioning. Getting some working machina up to the settlement to protect us could be a good start, and maybe lead to securing some roads against Fiends as well..." And, of course, they might have useful goodies of other sorts inside of them.


Fujin was busy cleaning a rabite carcass when everyone started moving, and so when she realised everyone was heading out, she had to find someone to foist the rest of the job onto before she could follow. And so, by the time she comes up to the meadow, most of the people are already gone.

But since there are still a couple of people just heading in, they surely haven't gone too far. Fujin follows, carefully climbing down, feeling out her footholds on the ladder before putting her whole weight on them. They'd studied things like this at Garden, after all - how to travel through old mines without getting yourself killed, how to safely spelunk through caves. It's a surprisingly useful subject, and she's glad she paid attention.

She straightens up once she's off the rickety ladder - /straight/, mind you, almost as if she were military. Tifa and Rikku belatedly introduce themselves, and Fujin joins that trend with two clipped words: "FUJIN SHINATSUHIKO." She's a forceful enough speaker that it works as a general introduction. This 'Rikku' girl has an interesting way of talking about machines, but, well, Fujin is getting used to people using strange terms for things, and so she just nods to her. Automated defenses would be an excellent priority.

The Bottom of the Shaft

The yellow glow coming from the tunnel at the bottom of the shaft isn't lava, fortunately. The pipes are getting more numerous, louder, and especially -bigger-, though. The concrete's not really that visible anymore; when any of the actual wall is visible past the pipes, it looks as though worked stone is the new medium. It makes sense, perhaps...a tunnel to get past the layers of soil, maybe?

Regardless, sallow yellow lamps light the corridor in here, and the ground consists of a dull metal catwalk suspended over more of the vast array of pipes, always curving into the tunnel and towards the direction you all now travel. The corridor is fairly long, but quite straight, and nearly every step is accompanied by an increase in volume.

Soon, however, the exit to the passage is ahead of you, and as you all step through the threshold you see a good-sized underground room, the catwalk stretched across the entirety of the room. It's a good thing, too, since beneath your feet the only other visible objects are more pipes, some going across, some going straight down into the stygian depths, and some up towards the array of unfathomable equipment mounted all along the ceiling, in between more of the wedged-in afterthought yellow lamps. Arrayed along the natural stone walls is more of the copper pipes and some largely unidentifiable equipment as well. A number have pressure valve wheels and unmarked meters, but not a whole lot to divine the room's purpose. The room is fairly tall, but two metal staircases lead up, around a large collection of vertical pipes, to a narrow catwalk six feet above the floor and a doorway leading out the far side. The rattle and hum of machinery is, of course, much more audible here, but not so badly that conversation can't occur if people don't mumble.


"Our -reason-, Miss Lockhart," Celes explains patiently, though she directs her next words to the rest of the group as well, "Is to make sure nothing down here pays our camp an untimely visit. We have a lot of civilians up there. But frankly, as no one really knows where we are, we're just as eager to glean any information we can. You can consider this primarily a scouting mission, but if we come across anything nasty, we're taking it out."

Almost as an afterthought, she adds her name to the pile, "Celes Chere."

With that, she reaches over her shoulder and draws the runic blade from the sheath strapped to her back. She tilts her head to listen for movement, or any sounds that create dissonance with regular noise of the machinery. "How's it even still running?" she murmurs. "The state of the ruins above...it's gotta be -ancient-."

With her runed greatsword at the ready, Celes takes point and proceeds across the metal catwalk and into the room beyond. After taking a moment to gauge the new room for hidden danger, Celes' ice blue eyes follow the stairs to the pathway to what appears to be an exit. Gesturing toward it with the tip of her blade, she announces, "Looks like that's our next stop." At least, it doesn't appear there are any other ways out, aside from where they just made their entry.


The little Craftsmoogle looks over at Celes, then at Tifa. "That is indeed our purpose, kupo. And my name is Farly." He looks over the rumbling machinery again and adds, "I, too, would love to know how this machinery can possibly be running after who knows how many centuries, or even millenia. This is quite a find, indeed, kupo!" Farly then flies up to remain just behind and above Celes. If anyone saw his face, he was clearly awestruck at the immmensity of this installation.


"If there's something hostile down there, that's what people like you and the blonde girl," Hailey jerks a thumb towards Celes, "are here for. It's also a good sign that there's something down here worth the taking." A pause, and she glances over towards Tifa. "As for a reason? Well, I get that you're new to the club, but none of us are anywhere that we should be staying for long, and I don't mean this tunnel. We need to get our hands on more supplies, and a way to somewhere else before we get overrun, or run out of food, or something along those lines... the Convergence's never really dropped us off with long-term survival gear in the past, you know... but it usually leaves us somewhere a bit more familiar. Oh, and I'm Hailey. Hailey Alivette. That's..." she glances in the direction of Blondie, Pipsqueak and Horn-Girl. ...maybe she'd better let them introduce themselves while she tries to remember their /actual/ names. Those could come in handy eventually. Also, Celes has a mission statement, too! "Uh, yeah. Altruistic reasons too, I guess."

Oh, Rikku. You COULD be valuable machina! She has the skills, the tools, and can scavenge the technology! Bigger, stronger, faster are just a life-threatening operation away! ...but as a valuable /person,/ guinea pigs will have to come first. Ahem. "Machina." she echoes softly, "You're from...," What was that world called? "Spira, then. Not one of Yevon's either from the sounds of it, good. Pretty sure he's still ticked at me." Trying to kill a fellow /will/ do that. "Defenses are important, yes. The things in here might not be meant for that, but redesigning is possible. A good blast of steam to the face can hurt far worse than a Fire spell... I've seen it." This is why she uses Minions. "Still, I'm thinking of transportation, too. The roads don't have to be quite so secure if we can outrun anything /on/ them. Plus, being able to..."

While Rikku held a lot of promise for Hailey and her aspirations to make things happen, a rather forceful presence makes herself known and interrupts the engineer. "You!" she exclaims, more surprised than anything. Unlike Fuujin, Hailey's movements don't /quite/ carry the same military-esque aura. She doesn't stand up straight, she stalks when she walks. It's an interesting contrast. "You're here! This is great!" Well. Kinda. The Garage Dwellers and the Disciplinary Committee didn't always get along, afterall. "...are any of the others here?" Inside Hailey's head, she's adding 'pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease' to that. Saying please /outside/ her head is a sign of weakness, however, and bosses don't do that.

As for how they're running? "Good quality work knows no age, Bl-- Celes." Use the name to remember it. Nicknames can return later. "...if machines are built to last, they can keep going with redundant maintenance protocols for... Hyne, I'm not sure there's a measure of time appropriate for it, but good craftsmanship and a long running time means either an incredible, or renewable power source. Which is something that we could /really/ use." There's a couple moments of silence before she adds, "From the looks and sounds, it seems a bit like steam-powered machinery; I did a bit of work with that in Figaro." and her hands are going into her pouches to withdraw tools. She's going to want to scavenge for parts, and likely soon. It's not completely foreign technology, so that's going to help with anything she needs to build.


That makes a bit more sense to Tifa, and she says so. "Reasonable then. Sorry, I literally just wound up here a few hours ago and I didn't know about any settlement or camp or other people." Such information wasn't exactly provided when she asked for a run-down. Just vague and brief commentary. So she can be excused for not knowing the whole situation. "I'll do what I can to help then." She DOES let the one with the sword go first, but she's ready to act as soon as is necessary.

The clanking machinery, the hiss of steam, and all the rest... It reminds her of Midgar. Though the air doesn't smell as polluted, and it doesn't have the same oppressive feel. Even so, she isn't a big fan of the loud noises. She'd gotten used to the natural world way back then, and again after the Convergence. Now she's here in ANOTHER world and still going from greenery and fresh air into places where machines clank and whir and hiss at her like metal serpents.

Rikku's idea about turning Machina to their own purposes is an iffy one for Tifa, but the others seem to find value in it. "Good to meet you all." she replies once all names have been offered. Then HERE IS FORCEFUL LADY.

Tifa blinks when Fujin comes down the ladder behind them and introduces herself. "Uh... Yes. Nice to meet you too." Well! It's almost like being in AVALANCHE again, with all these mismatched faces, except totally not! Hailey explains as they advance, going deeper and deeper, until they go out across the catwalk and observe just how expansive this all is. Though there's a lot more below them, it seems like. The purpose of the room is lost upon her, so rather than commenting on that, she makes something clear.

"I have healing Materia, and Fire Materia. I can support the group at range and help recover injuries. Unlike potions, my energy will recover with time. So if anyone gets injured and can't handle the wounds on their own, I'll be glad to use a renewable resource rather than use up what supplies we have." She's not just a meatshield like SOME PEOPLE seem to think! "Hopefully when we're done here, I'll get to come see this camp of yours as well. I don't think sleeping out on the plains is the safest prospect, nor the most comfortable."

Looking up above her at the second catwalk as Celes indicates it, and then up-and-behind her at Farly, she asks, "Farly, could you please fly up above and see what's there before we ascend? Any obstructions, or traps, or anything that could get set off if we go up the stairs? I doubt anyone would have planned for the possibility of a moogle just bypassing them all."


"Transportation would be good too!" Rikku clearly remembers the usefulness of airships or the salvage ship or all the other machina the Al Bhed assembled, including the so-called 'Forbidden' ones. Operation Mihen, etc. Though that didn't turn out very well. Though she's a bit more surprised by Hailey's familiarity with Spira and dislike of Yevon than anything else so far. "Oh! Huh! You're... Not from Spira though?" Hailey was talking about it as though it were some other place, and not home, after all. And Hailey's goggles prevent her from seeing if Hailey is Al Bhed too, and thus whether she would fit in at ACTUAL 'Home'. But she does at least confirm part of that. "Yep, I'm from Spira, and no, I'm not exactly 'in' with Yevon." She pauses. "Though technically I'm a Guardian to a Summoner, but that's not about the fuddy-duddy 'teachings' and more about 'friends and family'."

Hailey's assertion that Tifa and Rikku are 'for that sort of thing' has the Al Bhed protesting though. "I'm more of a lover than a fighter! I bruise easily! I'm not like other people... Pain HURTS me!" But she is actually pretty good at fighting. Just not so much with taking the hits. "Yeah, like she said. I'm not rushing onto any swords for you, but I'll do my part to earn my pay!" She then turns to look significantly at Celes, even if Celes isn't facing her. But honestly, she'd rather be helping people than hurting people. Even if she makes nothing off of this, the benefit to innocent people would be well worth it.

...She just wants to have the Gil to spend when people start hocking survival goods like potions and phoenix down and so on. Hmm... If they find any down here, maybe SHE could be the one selling them. Eventually, the market will become flooded, so she'll have to have a back-up plan, but right at the START...

She looks over to Fujin and says, "Hey, maybe you're the super strong one that can punch all the Fiends and doesn't afraid of anything!" Someone with such an assertive voice can't be weak, right!? She's like... Like... Kimahri 2.0!


Now that she's down in the tunnels with everyone else, careful to stay behind the front lines where she can be most effective if something happens, Fujin has a chance to listen to everyone's conversation. One person's sticks out. She's reminded of Garden, for some reason. Some annoying reason...

Oh.

Of course it's Hailey Alivette. Shorter hair, now, but the same attitude.

Fujin nods at Hailey in greeting when she recognises her. It's strange that she's eager to see her for once - usually, when the Disciplinary Committee had to come down hard on the garage, she was the first one to argue - but the Convergence, she supposes, makes strange bedfellows. It's good to see that more people from her world have survived, even if this survivor can be obnoxious and doesn't understand the concept of everyone getting a bit bruised up in this sort of situation. "RINOA," she answers; that she doesn't mention the rest of her posse also answers the question of whether /they're/ here. If she has anything more to say, she's not forthcoming right now; this isn't the time or the place for reunions.


Tifa tells the group what she can do. Fujin gestures to herself, "CURE, AERO, SLOW." She's not sure Pandemona is up to being summoned right now, so she doesn't mention that, and she /thought/ that the chakram at her side would make her physical position obvious... but, if Rikku is anything to judge by, it isn't. So she holds up the ranged weapon, explaining: "AGILITY. PRECISION." Sure, she's strong, but it's /entirely/ a different type of strength than what the girl seems to expect. Besides, she'd be more likely to kick a 'fiend' than to punch it! But Rikku will figure that out eventually - or not, if all goes well. Their situation is precarious, and she'd prefer they avoid combat if they can.

She turns her attention to Farly when he's mentioned, watching for his reaction. He is quite a curious little creature, and he seems familiar with technology by the way he speaks, so she thinks he's a good choice to scout.


Celes nods to Hailey's words. There has to be some kind of power source, like she says. Somehow Celes doubts there's a guy ahead who never got the memo to stop shoveling coal. It also brings Figaro to mind for the former General, though she dearly hopes there are no giant worms clogging up any machinery.

She's listening to Rikku as she speaks, and catches that significant look...then quickly looks away. Crap. Now she'll have to find a way to pay her. Would she accept Leafer pelts...? She'll just worry about it later.

Celes, on the other hand, is definitely 'for that sort of thing' and is probably the blonde in question anyway. "Don't worry, I'll protect you," she says, her tone containing both humor as well as assurance.

She gives Farly a quick nod, as well. "That's a good idea. If you don't mind scouting ahead, I'm sure it'll help. Just be careful and don't go too far." In the meantime, though, Celes taps her sword against the bottom step, just in case there's some sort of pressure plate trap that Farly wouldn't notice.

The Catwalk

Farly grins at Tifa's request, and says, "I doubt they would have trapped their own maintenance access systems, but it is possible that someone was so paranoid as to be deranged. We will see, kupo." He then turns and says to Celes, "It's a good idea, kupo, but brace yourself. I doubt there.s anything in here now, since that Landworm laired close by and shook this place up, but if there is and it chases me, it won't have any place to go but towards you, kupo."

With that, the moogle holds that huge wrench crosswise in both hands, and heads up towards the catwalk and the door at its end. As he continues on, he looks for possible traps, but doesn't venture all that close -- he stays in the air beside the catwalk and staircase, not over them, as much as possible. Coming to the door, he pauses and listens for any teltale sounds from the other side. If he hears anything, he will fly back and describe them to the group. However, when he hears only machine noises, he opens the door and looks through the open doorway. He quickly calls back, "More of the same, kupo, but more so. The pipes are even bigger, kupo! Also, be careful with the catwalks, kupo! They seem safe, but the safety rails may be a bit shaky, kupo!"


"I'll say it before, I'm the artillery support." Free hand digs into a pouch, and pulls out a few items Rikku might recognize - an electro marble, a pouch of dream powder, a couple smoke bombs - "I'm thinking frying things my way in here isn't the best idea, but I can provide cover fire anyways. I'm not much good at close range." Hailey offers, crinkling her nose at the prospect.

"Nonono. Not /you/ blonde girl, the blonde girl with the /sword./ You, my dear Rikku, are like me." Hailey offers, beaming for a moment before it falters, and a hand instinctively goes to the bandanna tied around her arm. "Well. Actually, I'm not much of a lover these days, either, so maybe that's wrong." Pause. "Not from Spira, no. But people from there taught me how to use these," she jiggles her trinkets briefly before tucking them back away. She definitely wants at least one hand free for her work. "Glad you're not in with him. For reasons stated and, well. Some of the machines that come from Spira..." she pauses, the smile returning as she thinks about it. "...those engineers have /talent,/ I tell you."

Fujin's announcement that Rinoa's around? Well... Hailey didn't /know/ Rinoa very well. She saw her around Squall and Seifer on occasion, but... that was about the end of it. Didn't she have a dog, or something? Still, more people from her world is a /good/ thing, no matter who they might be. "Well, y'all heard the moogle. Brawn before brains!" Yes, that means Hailey's going to bring up the tail end, again. Or at least try to.


Rikku hmmms. Well, she'll just have to accept that explanation from Hailey. "It's true, the craftsmanship of the ancients is pretty amazing. There's lots of machina that is pretty easy to fix up or that's still going all these thousands of years later..." She looks around at the area. "...Kind of like this, really. Though maybe a bit less on the steam." When they get the answer from Farley about what's up ahead, and it seems to be safe, she slips past the others, slender enough to do so even on a narrow catwalk, and start heading up the stairs. "Awesome! I'll be sure to join our moogle friend then!"

Suuuuuure, now that it's been declared safeish! She also thumbsup to Fujin and says, "Ranged is good! Us dodgy weavy types have to stick together, right behind the smashy swordy types!" Though she's also been known to be a knifey stabby kind of gal on more than one occasion.


Fujin nods to Rikku as she affirms that she has a similar fighting style; it's good information to have. Celes, willing to protect them with her sword, is more information she can use. Quietly, she's building assumptions about how they all work.

Farly affirms that it's safe to proceed, and so Fujin goes up to the catwalk, careful not to rely on the railings. She's good at keeping her balance, thankfully, though she doesn't look down for too long. She'll follow the others through the door!

The Next Room

The room beyond is larger, and more oblong, than the one you all just came from. It's got a long catwalk which is fairly wide here, but narrows to four feet wide at one point to make room for a pair of huge pipes that run from ceiling to floor. Other, -massive- pipes run under the catwalk, as well as all the samller ones, and mysterious pieces of equipment, all around. A loose joint in one pipe on the wall jets high-pressure steam, while others look a little worn. But nothing like the kind of decrepitude one would ever expect of a facility as old as this one must be. The fact that all this still works is nothing short of amazing. Past that narrowing of the catwalk (which doesn't reach to the sides of the chamber, unlike the last room) there's a metal door, steel perhaps, tightly shut and with a big red light over top, dead center.

Over the whirring of cogs, the clank of chains, and the whistle of steam all around is another sound, one that's slowly growing in volume as all of you begin to hear it for the first time: A metal clattering sound. At first, but a single tap-tap-tapping from the depths below, then more from the ceiling as well...and, soon after, lots of such sounds from the door from whence the party came.

It's a good thing you all stuck together.

It's only a couple minutes before the sound is deafening, and the first mechanical bots scuttle up the pipes. They're about two feet tall each, with a small boxy body, four articulated legs with nasty sharp pointy feet, and a small head with a cluster of photoreceptors. It's not immediately apparent how they're climbing the pipes, but they are, and with alarming speed...

Battle With the Bots

The tik-tak-clattering noises from below, hammering a staccato rhythm on huge brass pipes that lead right up to the tunnel entrance are utterly impossible to miss by anyone anywhere near the tunnel entrance far above. It really IS like a brass band came through, and what of the tunnel isn't brass is concrete. Anyone up there doesn't need a degree in situational awareness to know there's a throwdown going on down below. The ladder mounted in the concrete is a bit shaky, but still serviceable...

The people down below, of course, have much more immediate concerns on their minds. Several of your crew immediately go on the offensive, but they're coming in on all sides and there's quite a bit of work to do...


Farly, being the craftsmoogle that he is, immediately recognizes those photoreceptors for what they are, but he has no idea how sensitive they are, or how these assorted bugs will react to a sudden light, so it's time to find out, and gain a bit of physical protection at the same time. With this thought in mind, he hovers near but not over the catwalk, and slightly out of their main line of advance.

Having positioned himself in a clear space, the little moogle holds his wrench crosswise in both hands and begins to concentrate. He quickly begins to glow with a green light. He holds his wrench straight up and calls out, "Protect, kupo!" The green light sinks into his body and vanishes, whereupon he moves to the other side of the catwalk and watches the approaching bugs.

       (OOC Protect --> Farly = 50% physical damage rediction for 5 turns.)


After making their way up the stairs to the catwalk above, post-Moogle-scouting, Tifa ventures into the next room and then they're being swarmed by metal bugs! Tifa immediately drops into a ready stance, hands up to guard or strike as-necessary, turned half-sideways. She's still wearing that boxing outfit she was in when she got plopped in this new world, so she's lacking most of her protective gear, but she has her basic equipment at least.

She doesn't know if these things are hostile or not, but their behavior is aggressive. So she responds appropriately. She unleashes a blast of fire from her Materia on the closest group. The message should hopefully be clear if these things are capable of anything approaching thought or self-preservation.


Rikku is with the others of course. And while she's kind of grossed out by just how... BUGGY these things are, she's plenty familiar with machina. And, uh... These are also kind of weird on that level too. She isn't familiar with these ones. But they look machine-like enough that when they charge and Farly starts casting protection spells and Tifa starts blasting the incoming swarm with fire, Rikku decides area of effect is the area to affect! ...Or something.

"Welp, time to go! We found out what was down here, and I don't think standing here and fighting these things is a good idea!" she yells to her companions as she pulls back and chucks a grenade into the midst of the copperoaches!

She will be running back out the way they came as soon as possible.


Can Auron manage navigation by hearing? Of course he can! Thanks to missing half his sight, he's learned to rely on his ears when his eyes fail him. And all that banging around down there is definitely something he can track. So it's not very much longer before he comes into view. Though he may be further delayed if there are too terribly many of these mechanical bugs in the front area.

On the one hand, there are a whole bunch of these things! On the other hand... Auron's sword is made for large, sweeping strikes... the kind that are likely to be able to take out several. Also his style of weapon is perfect for taking on armored foes; one assumes that metal bugs will be slightly armored, anyway. So maybe it won't take him too long to get to the others.

Of course, on the off-chance that when he reaches the bugs they DON'T attack him, he'll of course refrain from killing any of them. But that's not very likely. Particularly not because he's hearing battle sounds from further up ahead.


Following after Auron at a racing speed to catch up, two (three?) pairs of footsteps end up drowned out by the sounds of battle. Rinoa's weapon is not so perfectly tuned for this sort of thing, unfortunately. Still, she's light on her feet, and catches up fairly quickly simply by following the wreckage and dodging what's left.

When she finally catches up to the older man, she nods to him, coming to a halt in a ready position. Her thrown edge is held almost as much as a shield as a weapon, a slight gesture telling her dog to watch behind them for the time being. She skips words for now, instead following up one of his wide swings with a launch of her narrow blue blade at a further-back opponent.


As Auron and Rinoa hear the sounds from the top of the concrete-lined tunnel, the clattering quickly gives way to the din of battle as combat, of some sort, is joined. Obviously wishing to take no extra time, the pair quickly descend down the metal ladder, a descent that lasts for several stories as more and more brass piping comes out from the walls and lines the path downward, always headed for the bottom and just about covering the concrete by the time a wan yellow light becomes visible from a doorway at the bottom. The doorway leads to a metal catwalk in a small room (not the room the other party members are!) that has several much larger brass pipes, fittings, steam vents, and the like but no real controls. A pair of metal staircases lead to a catwalk one story up and a doorway through which other humans can be heard, clearly in conflict. Just as Auron and Rinoa arrive, the last of the small machina are skittering through the doorway...until one happens to turn and spot the pair heading into the room.

In the larger chamber, a pitched battle is starting to take place. It's not clear how many of these things there are--no one has been able to stop and count--but it's approximately between eleventy-hundred and infinity. Maybe.

The party's efforts are, to a one, effective. Tifa's Fire doesn't kill any outright but weakens several, more than enough for a ranged strike on each one to end them. Rikku's grenade is especially effective, blasting five or six apart in one shot. The great metallic BONG it elicits from one of the massive brass pipes would surely have woken the rest of these things up, if they weren't already headed this way anyway.

Oddly, several of the things stop swarming into the room, turning right back around and headed out into the previous chamber. That doesn't make a lick of sense at first, since the rest are still coming, until the screech of metal on metal can be heard from the room before--someone else is here! A welcome development, one expects, because these things are still coming in droves.

There's enough that everyone here is having to avoid one or two sharp, pointy legs. They can't really jump, but they can and do try to stab toes, shins, thighs and anything else they can reach. It's very difficult to avoid all of them, though each one isn't that effective by itself. Clearly these things are meant to overwhelm. One, however, skitters and clings to the side of one of the massive pipes going vertically through the center of the room, by the narrow part of the catwalk, and swivels its head to most of the party. It emits a wide, sticky web-like substance, all liquid goop and rope. It can be dodged, but there's only so many places to go...

       (Two melee attacks on everyone, fast but not high damage. Also, Slow attempt on everyone.)


Since he's not on the catwalk and therefore can move in any direction, Farly has no problem avoiding any metallic arms sweeping his way, as well as that webby goop. He ponders. What weaknesses do these things have, and how hard will they be to kill? With that in mind, the craftsmoogle again raises his wrench in the air as he glows with white light and then calls out, "Libra, kupo!" He concentrates on one of the nearer bugs to learn its health, current status, and any weaknesses.

(Libra shows they have no special strengths or weaknesses, low health, and low damage potential.)


Despite Tifa's skill as a fighter, she takes some slashes to her legs from the metal bugs, causing her to have to resort to trying to kick them into each other super hard to clear some room. This area is really getting crowded! "I'm going to have to agree with Rikku! A tactical retreat may be in order! We're very much outnumbered, and we don't benefit from standing and fighting when we could regroup and figure out a plan to get rid of them!" She winces as she's slashed again, impairing her movements. If they don't run now, they might not be able to.

When the sound of back-up on the way can be heard, that's as good a sign as any that going back the way they came is now an option. "Everyone out!" she yells. She may not be in charge of this group, but good advice is good advice!


Rikku manages to dodge back out of the way of one of the attacks, but gets stabbed in the back of her leg by another. "Owww!" she lets out from the sharp pain of metal piercing her delicate skin right through that Al Bhed diving suit of hers. The sounds of combat back the way they came, combined with Tifa's call for a retreat, is all the motivation Rikku needs. She attempts to flee back the way they came, a shield on one arm and a claw weapon on the other. She's ready to cut her away out of here if she has to, but she'd just as soon not fight at all!

Of course, she still has grenades left if they need an explosive exit.

"I'm out of here, folks! Hurry, hurry, hurry, if you don't want to die!"


Auron returns the nod from Rinoa, with a nod of thanks. Her long-range attack is likely to attract enemy attention, so he stands half-in front of her on the opposite side as the arm her weapon is strapped to. It will allow her to use him as a shield of sorts, without him being in her way enough that he'd get hit by a flying blade.

Speed is not Auron's forte, and so the quick attacks of the mechanical bugs are all but guaranteed to hit. But he's nothing if not extremely tough. For the time being, he's going to just keep whittling away at the enemies between here and the chamber where the others are. He hears the sound of Tifa calling for the others to retreat and doubles his efforts to whittle down the bugs' numbers to allow the others to get free of the swarm.

And he recognizes Rikku's voice as well! Auron slashes and slogs through mechanical bugs, trying to make his way to the door into the room where the others are coming back towards. "This way!" He's not just calling that unnecessarily, though. Because when the others go past him, back towards the exit, he makes to place himself in that doorway, trying to block as many of those bugs in the other room from coming in and attacking the retreating group.


Rinoa knows good and well how to keep safe behind someone else- she shifts into position quite naturally, turning back to glance behind them before firing another shot around Auron. The blue blade has a curious way of improbably curving around to return to her wrist each time it's fired- some sort of para-magic or such to be certain.

She freezes a moment as she's attacked- she twists around one before being struck by the other. She hops backwards afterwards, considering the position... and gathers green-and-white energy around herself for a moment before swinging a hand to heal the samurai.

       (Cure: Auron)


As fights go, this one is getting just a bit pear-shaped. Which means it's a good thing that the swarm of machina is beginning to die down. Unfortunately, the way the creatures came in, it was a natural thing to bunch up on one side of the room or the other, and on the side of the room near the far door, the group of Celes, Eiko, Fujin, and Hailey are somewhat pinned down. They'd have to move past a four-foot-wide catwalk to get to where the rest of the party is, and there's quite a few machina in the way. So the four of them are in a knot, out of the way of the Slow spell, taking on all comers but unable to move towards the door everyone came in. And the door behind them is, so far, still locked. It doesn't appear to have an obvious control mechanism, but there's various controls in this room, so maybe...

Auron's holding action in the previous chamber is just as successful, and everyone on that side of the bigger chamber, ie Tifa, Rikku, and Farly, makes their way for the door.

It's not to be, though, for Tifa or Rikku, neither of whom tried to dodge the Slow spell. It hits them both from behind, and as the sticky strands softly glow and envelop the pair, their movements toward the door are like molasses. Fortunately, a lot of the machina are going through the tunnel at Auron at this point, but a couple still try to stab at them. Several, of course, are trying to get at Auron, but bottled up as they are in the doorway to the previous room, they're all bunched in one place and only a couple can strike at him.

Farly's out of range of the other machina, but apparently not the one clinging still to the massive vertical pipe! Instead of another Slow, one of its photoreceptors glows a brilliant blue for a moment before a narrow, focused blast of lightning erupts from it, trying to spear the moogle like a bug on a plate.

(One attack on Tifa and Rikku, two on Auron. Tifa and Rikku are Slowed (no action this coming round, one the round after, none in the third round) and Farly is the target of a Thundara. The other four players not here today are taking down their share but can't escape yet.)


"Kupo-po-po-po-po-po!" screams the moogle as the lightning bolt hits him square in the back. Cheeky bugs! Can't even face their opponent!

Farly lets the spell push him back to the vicinity of the others on the catwalk, and then starts glowing a brighter white than before as he swings his wrench in a horizontal circle over his head. As the glow peaks, the moogle calls out, "Cura, kupo!" and the glow spreads across and around all of the non-metallic combattants, causing their wounds to heal significantly.

       (Cura = moderate health recovery to all nearby allies.)


Tifa was trying to get out, not fight. Infinite hordes of these things would be incredibly stupid to stand and fight if they have a clear exit out of here. Why would she run DEEPER into a nest of these things? But she gets webbed in the back, slowing down her retreat, AND making it harder to defend herself and others as she gets tangled up in the gunk! Ugh!

Then she gets bug-stabbed again.

Great.

Thankfully, Farly casts some healing magic that closes up most of her wounds. They aren't fully repaired, but they weren't very high damage injuries in the first place.

They have help now, in the form of a guy with a big sword, and a lady who looks like she has even more healing power to share. Maybe if they stand here in the entrance they can bottle-neck the advancing hordes. Then it's just a matter of area attacks and eliminating the remainder.

That's assuming they don't run out of MP or HP before the bugs run out of bug.


Rikku gets webbed on the butt as she tries to flee. "Agh! Butt webs!" she whines, even as she spots a familiar figure in the doorway. "OH MY GOSH AURON HELP." she yells as she struggles to pull away from a mimic that has her tethered by her rear and towards him. She was already basically just inside the doorway then the things attacked, so she should be able to make it out and past him, even if not much further than that. Farly's healing is appreciated for the cut on her leg, and she says as much while barely evading a second stab. "Thanks, Fuzzly! I think that was your name! I'll buy you some kuponuts or something we get out of here! Don't worry, we're in good hands with Auron and Lul--Wait, you aren't Lulu!"

Rinoa is a different black-haired mage apparently. With all these people from different worlds thrown together, it's honestly surprising she managed to find anyone she actually knows. But encouraging! Especially when they can cut down these bugs like whoosh zap no problem, and come with additional White Magic support!


Auron recognizes the feel of the healing magics around him, and turns to look back over his shoulder at the presumed source. He nods once in thanks to Rinoa, and then makes a wall of himself between the other room full of mechanical bugs with renewed strength. He tries to assist whoever's been webbed get through the door more quickly-- yes, including Rikku-- while trying to keep the bugs from getting in, too. Farly's Cura is also likely to come in handy, particularly if he gets close enough for Auron to benefit from it.

Not to worry, Auron has no intention of leaving the others that are pinned down. He needs to thin out the numbers here, though, before he can get to another area. As he's wedged himself basically in that doorway, he's attacked by the bugs some more! He isn't really able to dodge, given that to do so he'd need to give up his position in the doorway. All he can do is let out a quiet grunt of pain at the slice across his legs. It's a good thing he knows how to sew, his pants are going to need some work after this.

He's determined to stay there in that doorway as long as he can, though, assist others through it if need be, and slice away at the bugs as he can reach them. He needs to whittle these numbers down some. This is one of those situations where numbers make up for the relative weakness of the enemy in question. And this large mass of mechanical bugs stands between him and the other party.

Rinoa looks a little confused at the 'You aren't Lulu' comment, but lets it slide for the time being. Instead she exhales- focusing up again. There's a clear look on her face that she doesn't enjoy what she's doing all the same, but it doesn't seem to stop her. She brings a hand up in front of her, and again a whitish glow appears around her (With a faint impression of feathers in it).

She opens her eyes again, focusing on the machina that appears to be doing all this webbing. She sweeps her arm out again, calling a bolt of lightning from the ceiling above it to crash through its 'head'.

       (Thunder: Slowbot)


The machina in the doorway between rooms have mostly ignored Tifa and Rikku at this point--not because they're not there but because there's more dangerous prey about. They're flooding into that doorway, trying in vain to attack Auron all at once. There's a few halfhearted pokes at the pair of them, but clearly there's some rudimentary battle plan going on other than 'swarm'.

Auron is...well, he's a tank facing off against a few nuisances at a time. WHONK. His sword bisects one. WHONK. It cleaves another in twain. WHONK. A third goes flying. It's satisfying, but not a long term solution for a flood of two-foot-tall pokeybots. KRAK. A bolt of lightning shoots down from nowhere and annihilates another one, courtesy of Rinoa. Plenty more to go, though.

The dynamic of the situation changes little, however, with the press in the doorway. The group by the locked door is still holding out--they probably can for a while--but a lot of the bug's effort is going towards them now.


Oh, great! That Slow effect means trouble for those hit by it. Time to start dealing with it. As Farly concentrates, holding his wrench crosswise in front of himself, he begins to glow with a soft white light. Suddenly he points his wrench at Tifa and calls out, "Esuna, kupo!" The white light travels down the wrench and settles all over Tifa. As it does so, the goopy, webby substance seems to dissolve and vanish. Tifa is now free of the Slow effect.

       (Esuna = cancel all negative status on one target.)


Suddenly Tifa lurches forwards, unwebbed thanks to Farly, and dives into a roll that she turns immediately at the end of. The Materia in her Dragon Claw glows as she focuses upon it, drawing forth mystical strength, and unleashes... A Cure! On everyone! Though Auron is the one who needs it the most, and the other four deeper into the corridor still need to be supported...

But if they can cut down on the numbers here, they can go help the rest sooner.

"Do you have any more of those grenades, Rikku?" she calls out to the girl she barely knows. She saw what she did earlier, and as much as Auron seems to be really strong, and even if he could hold out until the end with all the healing support he's getting from Farly, Rinoa, and now Tifa, she can't be sure the ones they came in with would have the same amount of good fortune.

       (Cure all)


Rikku is glad to be out of that hallway, even if she is still webbed, and even gladder to see Auron, and have all this healing being thrown around! But being paid for this job that she agreed to do, and all her 'salvage expert' ways, is kind of dependent on someone still being around to pay her. And also, you know, she doesn't have a cold butt for a heart and doesn't want to see random innocent people get machina-swarmed and killed to the deads.

So she stands up at Tifa's inquiry, and says, "Boxer Babe, I suuuuure do!" Then she pulls out a pair of small glowing spheres that almost look like materia, except not really. And then she combines them with one of her grenades and hurls the super-charged result into the corridor.

The Frag Grenade detonates on all the enemies at once, shattering their armor and inflicting damage. But only to enemies. Allies like their trapped ones are totally okay somehow (it's magic)!

       (Overdrive: Mix: Frag Grenade)


Rinoa's Thunder eradicates one of the robots, and Auron smirks. Sadly, he doesn't have much else in the way of eradicating these menaces aside from just swinging his sword. Healing's coming in, though, so that should definitely help keep him strong enough to survive long enough. Auron gives a nod in Tifa's direction as well.

Fortunately Tifa's suggestion of using a grenade is one that Rikku can do something about! As Rikku tosses her grenade, Auron winds up and kicks the closest of the bug-bots towards where he expects the blast is going to detonate. He's no Blitzballer, but he's pretty strong. That ought to shove a few of these things closer to the epicenter of the blast.


And right after Rikku goes all hardcore Al Bhed on the corridor full of machina, in the middle of throwing, Rinoa's thunder goes off and Rikku shrieks like a little girl and flinches away in fear. Still isn't quite over that fear of lightning...


Rinoa starts at the reaction to her electricity- then shakes her head. Not the point right now! She exhales quickly, and gathers herself after all that. She surveys the fight once more- and simply opts to hide behind Auron more, worried about the grenade.

       (Defend!)


Auron's efforts to get all the bugs in one place works quite well, booting them back in the doorway just in time for Rikku to drop a can of Limit Break (!!!) on them. The Frag Grenade detonates in the doorway with an impossibly loud, concussive WHUMPH, and with such force that the bots in the way get blown every which way, their own legs becoming even more shrapnel, almost. Everyone takes at least some cover as the pieces of bots fly into the pit surrounding the catwalk, get embedded into the concrete, and a few jam into the brass pipes, alas. One has a whining jet of steam coming out of it at full force, though the rest seem idle, fortunately. The only bug bots left are Slowbot, still clinging to that massive pipe, and about six or seven left that are still harassing the other people near the far end. All of them are attacking the other people and aren't paying visible attention to the entry doorway.


It looks as if Rikku is the only one still affected by Slow, so Farly casts another Esuna spell to get the web off of her. Then he takes the opportunity to call out, "They shouldn't be hard to kill, kupo, but they don't have any specific weaknesses either! Their main defense is their metal shells, kupo!"

Having said that, he turns his attention on Slowbot, and seems to take a stance against that target -- if anyone can be said to take a stance while hovering in midair!


Lightning, swording, grenades, and now all of them are free of status effects. Excellent! Tifa peers out from around her cover (which was previously Auron, but had to become something else when shrapnel came into play. Unless he intended to take that like a badass too). But there's still some left-overs, including the big webber gunk spewer. Tifa has done a surprisingly minimal amount of punching today compared to her usual. Not counting the boxing match she had to abort because end of world.

She's sure there's plenty of others with ranged attacks as well, but as it is, she contribues what she can, by releasing more Fire 2 on the remaining scumbots, or at least Slowbot and any nearby it (if there are any). Flames pour down from above, with Slowbot at the epicenter. Hopefully the ones harrassing the other members of the group can be disposed of by someone else, while the one doing status effects is being focus-fired.

"Thanks for the rescue," Tifa offers to Auron and Rinoa. "Our companions over there could use help still though. I don't wany any more of us getting bogged down in web goo, so whoever can go back-up the others, please do. Anyone with range, maybe make sure no one else gets slowed down."

       (Fire 2 on Slowbot)


Regaining her bearings, even if still a little bit skittish thanks to her close brush with lightning (okay it wasn't that close at all since she wasn't the target), Rikku runs down the catwalk towards the remaining machina-like entities, and attempts to snatch the parts right out of them. If they're actual machina, she should successfully yank something vital out of them that holds them together, and probably get her some cool loot in the process. Because she's running low on grenades.

Otherwise, all she might wind up doing is getting the attention of at least one of the bots as it either loses something or doesn't to Rikku's grabby hands.

But she's reallllly hoping it breaks. That would be a good thing.

       (Steal on swarmbot. Gimme' the goods!)

Auron moves from his position, taking a step back as the Frag Grenade goes off. He's aware of the blast radius. And yes, he is indeed planning on blocking. But he's not just doing that for no reason. He still needs to provide a place for the others to hide if they need to. The shrapnel's still going to hit him-- a few pieces graze his leg and arm-- but hiding behind that sword of his should keep some of the worst of the shrapnel off him.

And once the way seems reasonably clear, he's going to start for the doorway again. He's aware there's still an enemy out there, too. But for the time being he'll just have to provide a meat shield, since he doesn't have any long-range capabilities. There's also another group of people down here, and he doesn't intend to let them get hurt if he can help it.

Taking a step to the side, Rinoa begins to glow once more, scanning the field of battle. She even ventures out past Auron a moment, trying to get a glimpse of that bothersome slowbot- she winces a little as she sees the powerful fire spell hit it- but it doesn't stop her. She gestures forth again, ensuring it won't be a problem any longer as she...

       (Thunder!: Slowbot)


To be sure, the fight is winding down. There's not that many swarmbots left, and while the group near the exit door is battered and bloody, they're unbowed, and as everyone else comes in the swarmbots are sure to fall.

Tifa's Fira engulfs the Slowbot in flames, and Rinoa's Thunder is a fitting capstone. With a pitiful electronic noise it falls from where it was clinging to the pipe. Its head bounces off the catwalk railing and it plunges, smoldering, into the depths.

An amateur could steal from these things, let alone Rikku. She slips up behind one attacking Celes and with a single deft move, snags an important-looking part from its boxy-like housing. It immediately falls to pieces, and its power supply--easily reworkable into an excellent grenade--falls right into Rikku's outstretched hand.

There's little artistry to the rest of the fight; the last few are chopped to bits before they even get the chance to attack once more. The four that were by this door seem the worst hurt, but when cure spells are offered, they wave their hands. "We can cure ourselves, but whatever alarm got tripped might have done something worse inside. Go in. We'll hold the line here and be fine before you return...if we can find the doorknob."


Oh, joy! If there are any more of those things in here, they're likely to try jumping us as soon as we open the next door. That being a very real possibility, our tank is going to need some serious defense. With this thought in mind, Farly turns to Auron and says, "I think you may need this going forward, kupo!"

So saying, the moogle starts to glow green for a few seconds, and then points his wrench at Auron, saying, "Protect, kupo!" The green glow settles onto Auron as the spell takes effect.

       (Protect --> Auron = 50% physical damage reduction for 5 turns.)


Well, looks like all is well. RInoa finishes off slowbot, Rikku gets another grenade, Auron and Rinoa chop chop the baddies along with the injures others who... For some reason... Turn down free healing? Huh. Also, oddly enough, they seem to want to continue deeper into this hellhole instead of LEAVING and REGROUPING. Tifa just shakes her head in amazement, but goes along with it for now, pausing to catch her breath and wipe some sweat from her brow. She's glad she still has her hair up in a ponytail. She doesn't need all that flying around in her eyes down here.

"Well... I'm Tifa. Nice to meet you new folks. Though it looks like Rikku already knows at least one of you. I guess we should proceed." The brunette brawler isn't the technical type, so she leaves getting the door open to Rikku, while preparing for more trouble.


Once it's all settled down, Rikku moves to sit down only to think to check and make sure she doesn't have any lingering webs on her. But they fell away when their magic was erased by Farly, thankfully, so plop. Right on the floor. "I'm pooped! This isn't what I was expecting when I signed on!" Then she remembers! She leaps up and hops towards Auron, waving her hands, "Auron! It's so good to see you! Where's Yunie? And Lulu? And goofus Tidus? And our ronso protector? And what's his name. The one with the face?" She means Wakka.

Then she looks back at the locked door, and at the controls nearby, and does what she can to figure them out and get the door open!


Good, the other group seems all right. Auron nods at the mention of going in. But there's the whole 'how do we get in?' business. This is not a question Auron can answer, sadly. While he's not completely horrible with machina thanks to having lived in a modern city a couple of times, he's definitely no engineer. That he'll leave the people who ARE engineers to answer.

Farly's protect spell gets a nod, though. "Good idea. Thank you," he replies. Also the mention of knowing Rikku gets a nod as well. It's not exactly the best place for a long conversation, but he realizes he does need to know names. "Auron," he offers, for the benefit of those here who don't know him.

As for Rikku's questions? "Not here," he replies, with a shake of his head. "They have been, but they aren't now. I'll explain later. No time now." A pause, though, and he smirks. "It's good to see you."

The Locked Door

This is an underground room, oblong and of a fair size. The walls are made of concrete and the floor is a metal grate catwalk, with handrails. Underneath is a huge pit, and there's a shaft leading straight up as well, though much of the empty space is taken up by a dizzying array of copper pipes -everywhere-. All along the walls, up the ceiling, underneath the floor, are copper pipes with pressure wheels in a couple places, steam venting here and there, all sorts of fun steampunk piping. The catwalk doesn't cover the whole floor--there's space between the walls and the catwalk in many places, and the walk narrows 2/3 of the way into the room to make way for two -gigantic- pipes, at least six feet in diameter each. The walk narrows to only four feet at that point, and then it expands again to lead to a sealed door with a big red light overhead. There's a couple analog-gauge-and-lever control panels near the door, along the walls. Parts of several dozen robots are scattered -everywhere-; clearly, a battle just took place with the largish collection of people in the room, many having just been healed from being stabbed by the bots.


Without touching anything, Farly flies over to the guages. It's too much to hope that any legends will be in a language he knows, but he must at least try to read them. Failing that, he looks for any pipes or cable leading from the guages and/or levers, and traces them to whereever they lead, so long as the destination or connection is near the sealed door.


Auron isn't a mechanic or an engineer. So when Farly starts examining the pipes, he stays quiet and lets the Moogle get to it. He assumes Farly can figure out how to open the door; said Moogle fights with a wrench, it would be odd if he didn't know something about how to use it. He stands by, though, ready to assist if necessary or desired. He does offer, "I'll go first, once the door's open. We don't know what's on the other side, and there may be other doors like this further in." Obviously intending to protect the engineer!


Far worse than there simply being no legends in a script Farly can read, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of legends, period. There -are- a few. A couple can be figured out, of course--one needle gauge goes down by several markers every time a pipe halfway across the room jets out a blast of steam, for instance, and then slowly builds up again. It's probably a pressure gauge. What's more interesting about that gauge, though, is the heavier line marks along the gauge have symbols, as well. Most of the gauges have similar symbols, though they're not all exactly the same. Most of the levers are minimally marked. There's a couple dials with similar symbols.


Farly studies the gauges and levers, and the door itself. He mutters to himself, "This doesn't make sense, kupo. The only reason for making a door /that/ solid and sealed so tightly is if it has to hold back an enormous amount of pressure, kupo." Raising his voice, he speaks out to the party, "This door may be holding a /lot/ of steam pressure, kupo. And this one guage seems to have a connection to that pipe over there, that leaks steam periodically. Since I know nothing at all about the layout or purpose of this steam engine, however, I could easily be wrong. However, I'd suggest we start by moving that lever, to see what effect it has on the steam pressure, kupo. If anyone has another idea, kupo, I'm all ears!" (This from a moogle with large ears, yet.)


Auron nods; Farly's plan seems as good as any, so he heads to where the consoles are. Though he's not sure which of the levers to pull, and which way. If the levers are minimally marked, that means that they at least have SOMETHING to differentiate them from each other, right? A mark or symbol? He'll look to see if any of the symbols on the walls and/or pipes match any on the console first. Hopefully he'll find the lever attached to the pipe venting the steam. If he can, he'll pull that lever, just a bit, to see what happens.


The only symbols apparent at all are on the consoles themselves--none of the pipes are marked in any way. There are considerably fewer levers than pipes, so it seems unlikely that the pipes themselves are what's being controlled by these consoles. Probably machinery the pipes feed in some way. There's many more gauges than levers, but in order for there to be enough gauges for all these pipes they'd have to have gauges from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. The pressure gauge from earlier might be pressure going to or from a machine, not designed to watch the pipe itself at all. Regardless, -something- here has to open that door.

That said, Auron shifts one lever upward. The lever isn't marked, really, but there's considerable resistance at first. It's pretty stiff, but Auron is of course more than strong enough to push it. There's the sound of grating rust on metal from within the console echoing through the lever slot, followed by a deeply satisfying mechanical clunk as it settles into the upper position.

That clunk is followed by another echoing, IMMENSE CLUNK type sound from the other side of the door. Some of the gauges start to top out but many others lower in intensity, going to a middling state. More usefully, the background, subliminal hum of machinery in this place grows louder, and there's a short but intense rush of hot air going from ceiling to floor, followed by a huge rush of much cooler, more pleasant and sweet air flowing from floor to ceiling. Any coats, skirts, etc. get blown right up for a moment before the air pressure equalizes, and a steady flow of sweet air begins traveling upwards. It's quite pleasant, really, and the mechanical metal and oil reek starts to dissipate some.


Farly has to work a bit to hold his position in the air as blasts of air go this way and that, but he manages pretty well. He looks up as if he just thought of something and says, "Let's be sure to stay away from that door, kupo! Pulling a lever just might allow it to fly straight down the catwalk, kupo, and I have no idea how fast it would move. Better safe than sorry, kupo!" (As if what they're doing can be construed to be safe!)

Having said his piece, the little moogle flies over to the lever closest to the door and attempts to pull on it. When it doesn't move readily, he plants his feet on the wall just below the hinge on the lever, grasps it with both hands, and pulls as hard as he can.


Auron braces for something else than a gust of air when that gust occurs, and raises his left arm and turns to face whatever. Fortunately it's just air. And it seems to be clearing out the 'stale' smell of the place. That's good, at least. He lowers that arm when it doesn't look like anything is going to attack, and then nods to Farly's words. It's a good idea. So as Farly goes to pull that lever, Auron moves to make sure that the door won't hit him if it does fly back at them.


As it happens, the door doesn't fly out at them. But when Farly finally manages to pull that lever down, there's another mechanical clunk from within the control panel, and a matching one, this time from within the wall next to the door. It's quite muffled, of course, but soon the door starts to emit wheezing, grinding noises, then after a short crack sound, it glides relatively quietly, with only minimal metal-on-metal sounds, into the wall to the side.

It's fairly dark in the next area, but the sallow yellow lights that have been in this area throughout slowly bloom into life as the adventurers step through...


"Let's let the lighting come up a bit before we start in, kupo!" says the moogle. "We don't know what's in here, and I sure don't want to fight in the dark, kupo!"

Once there's enough light for clear sight, Farly hovers near the top of the doorway, graciously (?) allowing Auron to take the lead.


Auron's ready to take point once that door finally opens. He readies the Masamune, since he figures he's going to end up having to use it again very soon, thouhg he pauses at Farly's words. Once the light's bright enough to see by, he steps through the door, positioned to allow Farly to hide behind him. Though it won't be too difficult; Auron's not huge, but Farly is a Moogle.

As he starts down that corridor, he's listening to the noises inside this place, trying to pick out what's 'normal' noise and what most definitely is not. Hopefully the fact that this place is metallic means it has good acoustics. Auron's ears are pretty good.

The Next Room

Inside the next room appears to be some sort of work area, a cluttered and complicated workshop with strange, unidentifiable machines everywhere. Some are up against the walls, some in the middle of the floor, and a few interesting examples hang from the ceilings as well. While the exact nature of each isn't easy to tell, the general purpose of some aren't that hard to tell--there's only so many ways to make a lathe, or an industrial welding arm, for example. Stepping through the clutter is a challenge, and it's a good thing you all are wearing shoes. Or flying.

There's a total of five other doors, four of which (two on the left, two on the right) are already open to one degree or another. These are sliding doors as well, but inside each room is either a small office-like space or some of the most complicated, technical pieces of equipment here to date. Some of the equipment, huge and yet delicate, is almost part of the same technological base, but the level of engineering is far beyond those who made the facility itself. Odd, to be sure, but bizarrely, much of it still seems to be working, at least as far as one can tell from a distance.

One of the four side chambers looks bizarrely different than the others. Part of it is of the same metal and concrete as the rest, but it's almost as if part of the room, at an oblique angle, was sheared off and replaced with ancient, carved dark stone in a completely unrelated style. A large machine tool in that room is sliced off completely, right on the line where the new decor changes, and inside the new decor looks to be half a floor-mounted spiked urn, the flamed-out ashes still inside. The runes on the walls are arcane and quite vicious-looking, though they don't seem to be working at the moment--a few have barely-guttering red glows to them but most are quite dark now. Just carved runes in the stone. Creepy.

The far door is quite closed, and it's just as sturdy as the one that was just opened, but at least the light above it is green this time.


Fujin allows Auron and Farly to take care of the door; she's hanging back, to make sure they're not attacked again. Once the doors are open properly, she steps through with the others, careful not to step on anything which looks too important and/or pointy. She's never been that much of an egghead, but even she can tell that these things all don't seem to fit together. She frowns at the chunk error which has sliced dark stone into the room, and pointedly does not touch or go near or even stare at it for too long.


Farly reaches into his toolbag and brings out paper, pen, and ink. He immediately sketches each machine, in its place in this space, and where he understands it he adds a notation as to what it apparently is. This includes the machines in the ordinary three rooms. It's not highly detailed, and indeed may be in some form of Moogle shorthand, but he includes some sort of description of each machine as he goes. Anyone looking at the back of his paper might recognize plans for a small airship, which of course is nowhere to be seen around here.

When he gets to the fourth room, the moogle mutters, "How could this happen, kupo? It's as if someone made the equipment disappear from one place and reapper in another. Meanwhile, what was machinery here got replaced by something much more primitive. And possibly very deadly, kupo!"

Coming back out of that fourth room, the little moogle announces, "I'm worried about what's in this room, kupo! Maybe it's just the runes on the wall, but it really looks bad to me, kupo! I just don't trust it."


Well, that's interesting. Auron carefully picks his way through the debris, shoving it out of his way with a foot when possible so that those behind him won't have as much to worry about on that regard. He's making a path.

But it's the runes that have his interest. He looks at them, just long enough to see if he recognizes them. Though a part of him realizes that this being something he recognizes is a bit much in this place.

On the bright side, the door seems like it's open. So he'll pass through the room, moving some of the more dangerous-looking debris out of the way either with his foot or his sword. He's ignoring most of the rooms, aside from that quick look at the runes to see if he recognizes them.

He nods to Farly's observation. "We shouldn't have to disturb it," he observes. That said, he'll make to open the door on the other side of the room, the one with the green light, so they can pass through.


The anomalous room may remind certain people, like Farly, of the anomalous carvings on one of the stone houses above ground. Just like there, the structure was simply...-replaced- with something else, without rhyme or reason. In truth, whatever magic those runes represent is difficult to identify--no one here is well versed in arcane lore, the magic in the few active runes is all but gone, and Auron can tell for absolute certain these are not Spiran. Nothing about the runes or the anomalous room content itself looks Yevonite, or even from ancient times.

The machinery varies in usefulness, of course, but powered machine tools are a welcome sight in a place where just yesterday people were scrabbling for two rocks to make a fire for dinner. One of the most technically advanced machines here seems to be a small manufacturing assembly line, too, though what it actually makes is up for grabs. It has a familiar symbol in front of a master lever, though...the stone in the whirlwind symbol Farly has seen before.

Through the Next Door

The door opens as soon as Auron gets near, and this time it's with a good deal less grinding and wheezing, though it's not quite silent. Beyond is what looks like a very long, dimly lit corridor that slopes downwards at a good 20 degree grade. The corridor is all metal grates and panels, behind which run pipes, service panels, and other such paraphernalia. The whirring, clunking, steaming machinery is louder now, but much of it seems inaccessible from here. Instead, there's the one path downwards...


Tools are welcome and useful - Fujin got good marks in her survival classes, but mashing a piece of flint against stone for sparks gets old /really/ fast. She wishes she had a camera to better document this stuff, but the moogle seems to be on top of sketching things out, at least. She hangs back a bit to watch their rear, but as the group progresses through the area, she follows. (Thankfully, Auron has made a path!) She hurries through the weird dark stone room, out through the green door. She peers around the others to see the path leading downwards - another maintenance access route, perhaps?


Farly makes a final note, stuffs his materials back in his toolbag, and then hurries to join the others. This equipment could well be useful and may be absolutely necessary. But it will have to wait until the preliminary exploration is done. Once we know we won't get jumped by any more of those little bots, we can come back here.

The moogle remains in the air as he catches up to Auron and stays close behind the warrior.


Well, at least there's only one path. Auron isn't picking up anything here, mainly because he figures that since the doors have been left open, they'll probably be able to get into the area where all the tools are again. They should send those who will be using them. Besides that, if there's a fight up ahead he doesn't want to be weighed down by any immediately unnecessary items. He can always go back through, right?

Instead he makes a wall of himself and heads down the downwards-sloping path. He's still alert for sounds that might be out of place down here. Additionally, he's trying to check for suspicious movement on the corridor.


The light remains farily dim in this corridor, and the misty steam and a bit of smoke here and there doesn't do much to improve visibility. The clank of footsteps on metal echo up and down the corridor as the party trudges deeper and deeper underground, and you are all no doubt thankful for the air distribution system you all activated--surely the place would be much more oppressive and hot without it. Every hundred feet or so the corridor evens out to horizontal for ten or fifteen feet, but still, one shudders to contemplate how deadly it would be to, say, drop a three-foot-diameter steel wrecking ball down this corridor.

Along the way, Auron's sharp ears pick up a new sound from beneath the rattle and hum of machinery everywhere--a sound like an air bellows, steady and slow. On the upside, however, there's another industrial-grade door just becoming visible in the dim light...the green light overhead the only thing clearly visible.

Fujin leans back as she makes her way down the steeper parts of the corridor, to help keep her balance. She feels somewhat uncomfortable, this far underground - especially with all the machinery around them, it feels a little as if the whole thing might collapse around them at any moment. That's ridiculous, of course, but the thought keeps hanging around the back of her mind anyway. It must be the poor visibility unsettling her - she's never taken well to not seeing things properly. She'll let the people at the front take care of the door, keeping watch behind them instead.


Farly also simply stays in line at this point. However, we've gone quite a way without another attack, and the moogle can't help but think there are still some enemies about -- even if they're just more of the bots. Accordingly he holds his wrench at the ready, held in both hands, as he flies along behind the tank. He does keep close tabs on what he hears; his ears don't miss much. And he's starting to wonder what's coming next...


Auron pauses briefly, to tilt his head to try and determine the location of that new sound. But he continues down the pathway, pausing as he listens to that air bellows sound. Though all he does right now is continue forward. He pauses before getting near the door, though, to turn and look over his shoulder. "Be ready," is all he says. Though, he's pretty sure everyone's as ready as they're going to be for whatever's ahead. So he approaches the door with the green light.


The bellows sound echoes, of course, like every other sound in a place like this. But it's getting louder as you all approach the door, so whatever is going on, it's definitely somewhere on the other side.

A Large Room With a Large Problem

As you all approach, the door kindly opens up right for you. Auron is in front so he gets the first look.

And what a look it is! The chamber on the other side is positively -monstrous-, a little over two stories high and half again as long and wide as it is tall. Many other, more esoteric pieces of equipment line the walls in haphazard fashion, on average much larger than the ones upstairs and a good deal less easily identifiable. No two are alike, but they all seem of a similar tech base and vintage as the decor surrounding you all. The floor is concrete and totally flat, save for innumerable scorch marks and large scuffs here and there. The smell of machine oil is more prevalent here, despite the cooler air from the ventilation system turned on earlier.

Several exits are visible in random locations along the walls, all using the same sorts of doors as before. Near the ceiling is a series of large bay windows overlooking the room, angled downwards for a better angle. And in the far back, all along the far wall, is a -humongous- door, covered with very large writing in an unfamiliar script, with a large crenelated seam right horizontally across the middle.

None of that is as important, though, as what's in the middle of the floor. The bellows sound was...breathing. Perhaps sleeping, perhaps not, but as the beast turns its glowing yellow eyes your way and unfurls its great green wings, the green dragon raises its head and roars a mighty challenge everyone's way.

As the party takes the sight in, it slams its tail to one side, against a piece of equipment leaning against the wall, right on some object mounted on the wall. It hits the object, which turns crimson in response, and the door from which everyone just came slams violently shut! At the same time, a klaxon begins to sound and red lights begin to whirl above the monstrous far door...


Fujin casts a glance around the room, making sure to look at things which /aren't/ the dragon in the middle - yes, there's a dragon, it's a big threat, but it won't do any good to panic about it. She starts backing up for the door, but the dragon has other ideas, and as the door slams shut Fujin glances sharply at the red lights and the monstrous door.

The door slammed shut on its own, which tells Fujin that turning around and trying to open the door won't do much good. But the fanfare of the gigantic bay doors tell her that they might open soon, instead. "NOT BACK," she barks, taking her chakram in hand, "THROUGH." And to try and facilitate that escape, she draws on one of her Slow casts, throwing the spell at the green dragon. It might not affect a foe so great, but...

       ((Casting Slow on the dragon.))


Oh, joy, kupo! This certainly isn't what Farly was hoping to find, but then it's not our choice. Nevertheless, the first order of business is clear: we must keep our tank alive and relatively healthy. Accordingly, the moogle concentrates briefly, then begins to glow with a natural green color. As the glow peaks, he points his wrench at Auron and calls out, "Protect, kupo!" The green glow leaves Farly's body, travels the length of the wrench, and settles around Auron's body, where it sinks in and disappears.

       (Protect --> Auron = 50% physical damage for 5 turns.)


Well, that explains why this room is so big, doesn't it? It wouldn't be able to house this dragon otherwise. Unfortunately, by the time they're all aware of it, not only has it seen them, but it's cut off their escape. "...No choice but to fight, it seems," he replies. And he nods at Fujin's words. They'll go through, all right. But it'll be through the dragon.

So Auron answers the dragon's challenge. One might consider it crazy to charge a dragon, but that's exactly what he's planning on doing. To draw attention so the others can stay as unharmed as he can manage.

His first instinct is to try to make this as easy for the others as possible. With what feels like an extra burst of power, possibly from the Masamune, Auron pauses to gather his energy. He lunges at the dragon; when he swings, a yellow gleam passes down the blade.

Hit or miss, he's not done. He repeats the procedure, and this time a red gleam slides down his blade as he swings. Hopefully one of those will take...

As he tries to move back, you of the beast's immediate range, he turns to nod at Farly in thanks as he notes the spell settling around him. With Auron drawing the beast's fire, he's going to need that. PArticularly if either or both of his skills took effect...

(OOC: First Strike, 2 Actions. Action 1, Armor Break. Action 2, Power Break.)

At the last echoing of the dragon's roar, another sound drifts through the noise of machinery: something soft and almost keening, a familiar noise to any Spiran. It's short-lived, however, not nearly the huge light-show that may have better suited the ego it heralded the arrival of. No, it's just a few swirling pyreflies out of the wall and floor not too far away from the group, vanishing into the bathing red light leaving a tall, dark figure to blink at the whole scene before him. A beat later, he rumbles a distinctly more rough:

"Give me a break..."


Well. This distinctly wasn't the Farplane. And it sure as hell wasn't anything Spiran that Jecht had ever seen. Nevermind the giant dragon. At first, the Blitzer just grimaces and rolls his left shoulder with the exaggerated motion of his arm lifting to aid in the limbering of muscle, right hand gripping the T-shaped hilt of the massive blade at his side. But he quickly notes he's not alone - that familiar flash of a red coat and the voices of others has him blinking toward his left.

Count on Auron to charge in first.

"Hey! Leave some for me!" Jecht calls in protest, hopping forward a few energetic steps before he brings his fist up before him in what was an instinctive reaction, even after all these years. A surge of white light gathers around his fist, released with a sweeping gesture toward his fellow Guardian in the form of a quickly ticking clock.

Enjoy that Haste, slowpoke.

       ( Haste on Auron. )


Underground? Yes, indubitably. But clearly there's something else going on here. Something no one expected. The gigantic bay doors ponderously, slowly open even as the party starts to do battle with the green dragon, and beyond the massive door? Not machinery. Not a power source. Not vehicles. Not anything anyone ever expected, far down underground.

Sky. Perfect, brilliantly lit sunset purple sky.

You all are in a hangar.

On a FLOATING ISLAND.

The dragon certainly isn't planning on taking the invasion of its appropriated home lightly, of course, but to be honest things have started going sour for it the moment it shut the door. Auron charged it point blank, obviously proving its threat display laughable. He then proceeded to carve it up like a turkey and hamper its defense significantly. It manages to resist the attack debuff, however, and immediately turns and inhales, flames gathering in its mouth...only for Fujin's Slow to affect it, turning its inhaling into an all-day event. Not its best day ever.


Someone - converges? 'Converges' is probably the right word for what just happened, right at the beginning of a dragon fight. Fujin would feel bad for him, but she's mostly glad that they have more backup in this fight. The slow takes, thankfully, alongside whatever Auron did. And then the door yawns open, and -

Oh.

Oh, fuck.

She takes it for a given that no one will be stupid enough to follow through on her advice now that it's been revealed that they are /in the middle of the sky/. (How is that even possible? Are they on a gigantic ship? Or is it- oh, never mind!) Instead, she turns back to the dragon, and this time draws on an Aero spell to try and counter the slowly-emerging fire breath and push it away from their party.

       ((Aero, cast on the dragon.))


Offense is not Farly's strong suit by any means, but there is one thing he can do to help, at least a little. So thinking, the little moogle advances to just within spell range and begins to glow with a blue misty light. As the blue glow peaks, he points his wrench at the dragon and calls out, "Blizzard, kupo!" The blue light travels down the wrench and hits the dragon as an explosion of ice crystals.

       (Blizzard --> Dragon = some ice damage.)

Even if he missed that soft wailing noise, that voice is unmistakeable, one that Auron would recognize anywhere. And his attention is drawn in that direction, just as the clock forms around him and the Haste settles.

Though as Auron turns to look in that direction, it may be a bit jarring for Jecht, depending on what he remembers. Because while the red coat is definitely familiar, the face that greets him is older than it was during Braska's Pilgrimage. Also half-hidden behind that collar and missing an eye. However, Jecht's greater height will probably make it easier to see over that collar. Because there's a smile there on his face. The comment gets a reply. "Then get in here," Auron replies wryly.


It's only THEN that he notices they're not in a building anymore, but apparently EXTREMELY high up. Oh boy. Auron's not afraid of heights. He just doesn't like not having his feet on the ground, that's all. Fortunately he has something else to focus on.

And while Fujin's Aero heads to the dragon's front, Auron moves to the dragon's side and attacks. Hopefully the hide is a little softer than it would have normally been.

       (OOC: Attack x2. Protect: 2/5, Haste 1/3)


The opening of those doors to illuminate the hangar, slow going as it was, has Jecht glancing briefly beyond the dragon. Well. That was new. Then again, that seemed to be the theme since he opened his eyes mere moments ago. Great, stuck in a big room with an angry lizard and the only visible way out was straight down. Not his idea of a good time.

He flashes Fujin a grin, however, sparing a quick quip before charging in. "Wanna rethink that escape plan?"

Seems he heard her initial assessment and, oh joy, is a bit of a talker. Still, he's not betting on anyone stopping dragonfire and so bare feet slap against the floor as he charges up closer, seeking to all but get under the dragon's chest. "Yeah, yeah," comes the answering drawl to Auron's mild needling, but for now it seems there's no doubletakes at his friend. Or the moogle wrench-mage. That can wait 'til there's not a dragon trying to fry them.

Planting his right foot solidly just shy of his target, he pushes off in a leap-twirl to spin around and bring one of the pointy ends of his anchor-shaped sword into the base of the beast's neck, should his aim be true.

Now, he's sorely out of practice, but this isn't the finesse of a skilled swordsman. This is just a really big, strong guy trying to slam a hunk of sharp metal into a big ol' lizard.

       ( Basic attack on the Dragon. )


The dragon certainly had been planning on breathing, but that one-two punch seems to have done a number on it--it coughs once or twice at the smoke that's all that remains of its fiery breath. One level one spell probably wouldn't have done anything, but two seems to have. More critically, the two big, strong sword-lugging warriors start lighting into the thing at full force. Three powerful sword swings start hacking into the thing, and at the rate they're going (with its defenses lowered!) things might be pretty quick indeed.

Even if its breath has been paused, though, it's far from defenseless. The mighty jaws snap, and right as Jecht goes by with a sword wing around its neck, it lunges forward to take a bite out of Jecht's leg. From the hip.

It also has claws, and while Auron has better armor than Jecht, it certainly tries to dig both of them into Auron's chest.

       (Bite on Jecht, two claws on Auron.)

Fujin frowns when Jecht suggests recalibrating her plan. "ATTACK," she snaps back, because it should be obvious. Her volume and force might make her sound more irritated than she is, but, well - she's used to giving that impression.

Now that the dragon is focusing on physical attacks, Fujin does the same. She takes her chakram in hand, and circles around to minimise the risk of it careening out into the sky, for obvious reasons. Then she flings it out in a sharp arc - aiming for its hind legs, to avoid accidentally hitting Jecht or Auron. Fueled by its Aero junction, it should hopefully have enough force to hurt it and come back to her.

       ((Zan on the dragon.))


Whoops! Another melee fighter has entered the fray. He'll need healing, no doubt, but first he needs better protection than he has right now. Accordingly, Farly slides sort of sideways to approach Jecht, and repeats his Protect spell on the second warrior. As the words "Protect, kupo" fill the air and the green glow sinks into Jecht's body, the blitzer gains a measure of the needed help.

       (Protect --> Jecht = 50% damage reduction for 5 turns.)


Auron is thankful for Farly's protect, particularly when he has claws to deal with. It hurts, and that armor's going to need some serious repair after this, but it doesn't hurt as much as it would otherwise. Auron grunts, stepping back a few steps, just enough to stay out of range. He observes the bite headed for Jecht; hopefully Farly's protect will be enough to dampen the blow a little.

As Fujin flings her chakram at the draogn's legs, Auron remains back. He channels his power into his voice this time-- it's a long shot, but might as well try, right? His voice rumbles like thunder, felt now as much as heard, as he speaks.

"Do not move."

       (OOC: Threaten, Dragon. Protect: 3/5, Haste 1/3.)


Okay, being mid-air when a very angry dragon goes lunging to bite into him like that, Jecht has very few options. Twisting would put that maw around him in a solid grip, but keeping those teeth away from the potential bleed-out of getting gashed along the inside of his thigh was higher on his priorities. And so it's with a pained grunt that he jerks in mid-air to let that bite land solidly, his armored arm wrapping over the top of the beast's snout to anchor himself-- but with his own sword jammed lengthwise across its mouth like a giant bit to keep the thing from being able to bite down hard enough to crush or tear.

Thankfully, he also gets a little extra help from that very well-timed Protect, keeping teeth from sinking in as deeply as they may have otherwise with that bit of extra magical.. well, protection. It hurt like hell, Jecht was certainly wounded, but not maimed. "Thanks, kid!" Yeah, sorry, Farly. Tiny person usually means a kid to him, but at least the sentiment was sincere?

With his sword wedged into the thing's mouth, he swings up his now free right hand for a grip over the dragon's snout in favor of freeing up his armored hand... in an effort to slug the thing in the eye. Hopefully Auron won't scare it too bad it won't drop him!

       ( PUNCH DRAGON! Protect: 1/5 )


The onslaught against the dragon doesn't lessen, certainly, as Zan slices its side up and Jecht socks it right in the nose. Not the eye like Jecht wanted, but his grip is nothing if not precarious. It whines in frustration at the nickel-and-diming it's receiving, but, alas, doesn't get caught out by Auron's threatening words as it tries to fling Jecht down on the ground next to Auron. Whether it manages that or not, though, it inhales once more, looking in Auron's direction, and trying to catch as many as it can in a torrential blast of fire! Auron and Farly are in the path, and Jecht if it manages to shake him free. (Fujin stepped to the side, out of the way, earlier.)

Fujin catches her chakram, internally relieved that it didn't get knocked off into the endless sky. The dragon draws in breath, slowly, and it's clear to her what it intends to repeat. So she barks, hoping she's remembered his name properly from hearing it here and there: "FARLY, AGAIN!" This time, when she directs the Aero spell at the dragon's mouth, it's from the side - but hopefully their combined efforts will negate the flame for a second time.

       ((Aero vs. dragon.))


Kupo! The dragon wants to catch multiple targets with a single attack. Time to try a different maneuver. It's risky, but it has actually worked in the past. Accordingly, Farly flies as quickly as possible sideways past the dragon, making sure he gets close enough for long enough to cast another Blizzard spell. This will be disconcerting and at the same time spread out the dragon's targets.

       (Blizzard --> Dragon)


The dragon tries to throw Jecht to the ground, and Auron uses the fading Haste to get where he needs to be to at least try and dampen the impact a little. Even if he can't, he sees what's going on, the dragon breathing that fire. He uses the last of the Haste spell to try and grab hold of Jecht and get them both out of the way of the flames, burning the laste of his Haste in the process. He doesn't want to stick around that close to see of the wind and ice will dissipate the flames.

Barely hanging on as he was, and with the whiplike snap of its thrashing head as the dragon tries to dislodge him from it's face, it's small wonder that Jecht lets out a sharp 'Woah!' as he's suddenly hurtling through the air in a short trip from maw to floor, landing in a hard heap just in front of the sprinting Auron.

"Ow." Comes the groaning complaint, on the heels of the loud, metalic clanging of his sword hitting the ground and skittering off a small distance. Jecht has all of a half-beat to get an arm under him, though, before a strong grip has him by the back of the strap holding his armguard in place and Auron is quite literally hastily dragging him out of the way. "Woah WOAH hold up--ow!"

Jecht has no time to really react, he's busy flailing and stumbling in an effort to get his footing while being hauled by a rushing Auron and dealing with stabbing pain all through his thigh and hip where teeth had dug in. In any other situation, the image would likely have been quite comical.

       ( No action, getting dragged! Protect: 2/5 )


It's child's play for Auron to get Jecht out of the way of the blast, as a matter of fact--and all things considered, it's probably good Jecht isn't anywhere near the thing's head when it's about to breathe. Both get safely away from the blast, so the only one in range is Farly, who, alas, is one of the ones least able to take it. At least he moved!

Fortunately for him, he and Fujin double-teamed the dragon once more! In fact, it's a bit easier this time than last since the pair know that combination worked once before. The aero and blizzard magics combine to completely screw up its breath weapon once more, and a gush of black, nasty smoke comes from its mouth as it coughs and hacks mercilessly. It groans and tries to move forward, but it's stunned and out of position...


Thankfully, the combo works again; Farly's a pretty small whatever-he-is, but Fujin still wasn't looking forward to transporting anyone with burns out of here. While its front is relatively free of friendly-fire targets, she takes her chakram in hand and aims a sharp Zan technique across the underside of its neck. While a thrown attack definitely won't have the force to decapitate something like a dragon, she's not aiming for that - she's just aiming to slice through important arteries. If everyone else can get in there to finish it while it's reeling from her strike, that's a success.


Farly can't effectively attack the dragon (with a wrench, of all things???), but he can at least heal up our two melee fighters. He flies back to a point a bit above Auron and Jecht, waves his wrench in a circle above his head, and casts Cura.

       (AoE Cura --> all allies within range.)


Hopefully it won't take much more to get rid of this beast. Farly's Cura is well-timed; hopefully it'll get Jecht back on his feet quicker. He looks up at the Moogle and offers, "Thanks." Then he looks to Jecht, assisting the other man to his feet if necessary. A familiar gesture of the hand is made. No, it's not a rude gesture. It's a direction. Instruction. Suggestion. Then he inclines his head at the dragon.

Familiar tactics are being suggested. Well, familiar to Auron. He's taking a chance that Jecht remembers. There's really no telling where Jecht has come from, and he doesn't really have the time to ask.

He'll wait for a nod, and for Fujin's chakram pass by so it won't hit either of them. And then he'll head for the dragon again, for the side closest him. Jecht, being faster, is given the task of getting to the other side of the dizzied dragon. Auron waits for the familiar sign... then raises the sword up, trying to bring it down on the dragon's neck. Hopefully Jecht has remembered the battle sign, the language they'd developed to communicate quickly and efficiently on the battlefield during Braska's Pilgrimage...


Once that desperate drag out of harm's way eases, Jecht manages to right himself with a little effort and a light slug at Auron's shoulder. It's a companionable strike, though, barely enough to jostle the other Guardian as he stumbles the few steps away to grab his sword off the ground. "Let's make sure it don't got a chance to try that again!"

Wrapping the chain dangling off his blade's base around his armored hand, Jecht steels himself against how much this is gonna hurt, nodding to Auron at the familiar gesture and grinning widely. Maybe a touch wildly, too. Fayth, it's been so long since he had a workout like this and falling into old habits was comforting, all said and done. Ah, but that lunge forward suddenly hurts a great deal less than he thought it would, thanks to a certain little wrench-mage, but Jecht doesn't have the time to really spare the moogle the thanks he deserves. After.

With Fujin attacking with similar intent, Jecht gives a laughing whoop as he flanks the far side of the dragon from Auron, turning to bring up his blade in a manner that mirrors his friend. Near perfectly in time with each other, both Guardians bring their blades down to bite into - and through - the dragon's neck atop the damage Fujin had already done. No way was the beast living through that, likely hitting the ground with a loud thud.

Planting the tip of his sword on the ground, heedless of the fact they're both probably covered in dragon blood, as well as the floor, Jecht takes a moment to catch his breath. "Anyone wanna explain the hell's going on here?"


Fujin's strike acts as a dotted line, so to speak, and Auron and Jecht's blades come down to seal the deal. The dragon collapses, and she wonders how difficult it would be to haul some of the meat out of here. Can they even eat dragon meat? ... it's probably bad for them, since dragons are predators. "MEAT," she points out, anyway, because if they've eaten carrion wurms they'll eat anything.

Once the dragon's stopped twitching, Fujin moves forward to the object which the dragon had hit to lock the doors in the first place. She examines the panel quickly, and tries pushing the button which looks most likely to open the doors again. She'd rather not have to climb out through the bay doors. As to Jecht's question, she looks up, and then looks back down with a shrug. Someone can explain, but he seems to know Auron already, so he'll be a much better introduction than she could ever be.


Auron sighs in relief as the dragon finally is still. Jecht's words draw his attention up, and he smirks. "We'd all have to figure that out," he states. His voice is a good deal less sharp than Jecht may remember it. Also less condescending... always a good thing. "But I might be able to shed some light on it. To start with, what's the last thing you remember?"

Fujin's pointing out of the possibility of eating the dragon's meat gets a nod. "The hide could prove useful, too." It's tough, but lighter than metal. Then again, he's not sure there are any armorers. Still, RESOURCES!