Anima Ex Machina [R]
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April 6th, 2009 (10:10 AM). Edited May 28th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Your aquatic overlord
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Gasp! A new chapter so soon? I may actually start updating on the schedule I said I would.
(A happy blossom hears you sobbing.)
The screams continued as the group walked quickly along the bottom of a canyon. Veronica held Rose's hand firmly as her eyes moved from the sky to her alien companion every so often. He said nothing since they'd left the campsite. His own eyes were steady on the path, and his face was tensed in an expression of serious concentration.
"Are they getting closer?" Veronica asked.
Bill shook his head. "They think I'm hunting you, so they're lingering behind."
Veronica blinked. "You can understand them?"
He lifted his chin slightly and narrowed his eyes at the sky. "No, the parasite can, but it translates for me."
In response, she gave him a strange look. "The parasite? You mean it's got a mind of its own?"
With a nod, Bill replied, "It's strange, but think of it like… there's a voice in my head that tells me things about myself. That's what guided me to fight against those other ixodida, and it's what's telling me what they're—"
Abruptly, he stopped when he noticed Veronica was no longer beside him. He turned and found her staring at him with a blank expression. Realizing the problem, he shifted on his feet and rubbed the back of his head.
"That sounded a lot saner in my mind," he mumbled.
Veronica quirked an eyebrow. "Did you run it by the voices in your head first? Sometimes, second opinions help."
As an embarrassed flush colored Bill's face as he turned away. He opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, a cry rose not far away. All three travelers immediately froze. As it faded, Rose pulled herself closer to Veronica.
"Another ixodida?" Veronica asked.
Bill shook his head. "No. Something else."
Without putting too much thought into what he was doing, he started towards the scream, leaving Veronica and Rose behind. Veronica jolted, watching him run.
"So you're going towards it?!" she snapped. "You don't know what's over there! Get back here!"
He disappeared around the corner without a response.
Veronica gritted her teeth. "Bill!"
When he didn't return, she turned to Rose. The girl stared at her with wide eyes as her small hands grasped her shirt. At that, Veronica sighed.
"Sorry, kid," she said. "We'd better go after him before he does something stupid."
With that, she squeezed Rose's hand and started forward.
It took Bill a few minutes of winding through canyon paths before he finally found the source of the sound. When he did, he stopped short, and his eyes widened in shock.
The path split into a fork. One end wound out of sight around the rock walls. The other, which Bill faced, was considerably shorter and tapered into a dead end less than twenty feet from him. On a rock beside the end stood a male numel; his stubby feet scrambled to keep his balance on the rock as his small mouth bleated scared cries. Between the numel and Bill, a sea of red pulsed. The closest parasites attempted to climb the rock, only to fall off either by themselves or after being struck by small balls of fire shot from the terrified camel's mouth. They squealed, fell into the sea, and tried to remount the rock as if nothing had happened.
In his head, Bill heard the parasite's voice.
Well, this is certainly a predicament.
Bill furrowed his eyebrows.
We should help it.
Mm. We should?
As if ignoring the voice, Bill glanced at the sea again.
Maybe I can chase them away.
He took a step forward but stopped when he heard footsteps and a gasp behind him. Wincing, he turned and glanced at Veronica and Rose, both of whom stared at the sea with wide eyes.
the parasite said,
now things are a bit more interesting.
Ignoring it, Bill held up a hand with his palm turned towards the girls. "Stay there. Don't move."
"What are you doing?" Veronica hissed. "We've gotta get out of here!"
Seemingly unaware of what she had said, Bill turned towards the rock walls, looking for a way to climb up. The walls, unfortunately, were smooth. A narrow ledge, not even large enough for more than one person to stand on, laced along the right edge a few feet from the canyon floor. Narrowing his eyes, Bill pulled himself onto the ledge and carefully edged his way towards the numel.
"Bill!" Veronica hissed. "What are you doing?!"
"I can't leave this numel here," he replied.
Veronica frowned. "Why don't you just walk through? They won't bite you, right?"
"They'll run, and the only way out is towards you."
Without another word, Veronica watched as her companion reached towards the camel. The numel swiveled his head towards him and, at the sight of claws edging closer, opened his mouth to release a loud bleat. Fire flashed from its throat and blasted past his jaws in three balls of flame. Bill flinched, shielding himself with an arm to let the flames flash across his metal skin instead of his face. Underneath his armor, nerves flared, and blinding pain washed from the tips of his fingers to his shoulder. He felt as if the appendage was on fire, even after the flames died. For that reason, he lost his balance and fell into the sea of red with a cry.
At once, Veronica pulled Rose close as her eyes widened. "Bill!"
He felt the parasites scratch at his armor and skin. Red flashes flared around him as he lifted his head.
"Run!" he shouted.
The sea parted in a circle, washing around the rock and outward towards the opening. Veronica only hesitated slightly before rushing back up the path, pulling Rose with her.
As soon as they moved, so did Bill's good arm. He realized with alarm that he couldn't feel it, much less control what it did. It rose, palm facing one of the rock walls by the opening. A white light gathered in front of his hand until a beam blasted from the gem in its center. The light struck the edge of the opening, blasting rocks from near the top of the canyon wall before doing the same to the other edge. In seconds, a rock slide blocked the opening, and the parasites beneath the fallen boulders squealed in death. The others pooled before the wall and flashed red light.
Shaking, Bill pulled his arm back. Feeling gradually returned to it as he turned over his hand. In the palm, the jewel faded from a bright white to a blood red.
"What?" he murmured.
One of our powers,
the parasite replied.
I will explain later. Save the creature. You came for it, did you not?
Bill turned to see the sea of red gathering at the rock once more. The numel cried loudly as it scrambled to the peak of his perch. Drawing in a breath, Bill crept forward, cautiously as he steadied his eyes on the creature.
"I'm not here to hurt you," he said. "Please let me help."
The numel looked up and, without hesitation, shot fire from his mouth at his rescuer. With a gasp, Bill dodged the fire but not the heat. His side seared, causing him to flinch and fail to dodge another volley. Fire hit his chest, sending him to his knees. A hand rose to touch the spot gingerly. It felt soft beneath his claws – melted. With a gasp, Bill winced.
What should I do?
He watched helplessly as the sea lapped the rock and attempted another climb. The numel bleated, its legs frantically flailing for a higher perch. Resolving himself, Bill pushed forward slowly and carefully. With a sharp cry, the numel fired more balls of flame at him. Flinching, he shielded his chest and face but felt fire lick his arms. The pain steadily increased, and he felt as if at any moment, he would drop in torture.
By some miracle, he pushed himself to the rock. His arms reached to take the numel, to which it responded by firing another Ember into his stomach. Bill winced and bit back a scream. His vision blurred, but he forced himself to stare at the yellow blob in front of him. With another deep breath, he grabbed the creature by its sides and hefted it over a shoulder. The camel kicked, screamed, and blew fire at Bill as he turned and walked to the rock slide. Beneath his feet, the parasite flashed and pooled around his ankles like dogs waiting for their master to drop a plate of food. Several times, Bill nearly did just that before, finally, he reached the rock wall, climbed over it, and collapsed on the other side.
Bill lay on the ground just beyond the block. He inhaled ragged breaths as the creature he'd saved stumbled away from his shoulder. The numel shook on his stubby legs and glanced back. A flame flickered in his mouth, prepared to finish his enemy off. Before he could attack, however, a green hand reached down and slammed its head into the dirt.
Another pair gently lifted Bill from the ground and turned him over. Above him, a human face floated, but it was framed by vine hair and a green neck. A pink flower decorated one of her green shoulders. Its petals quivered to release a sweet fragrance. Fingers gently ran along the half-melted spots of Bill's armor, and with her touch, Bill took a shuddering breath at the sharp pains that radiated under her claws.
"Burn," she murmured.
He couldn't respond. Instead, he watched as the flower opened and emitted a warm breeze from its golden heart. Bill couldn't help but take it in, inhaling the sweet and spicy aroma. At once, he felt calm as a warmth spread through his entire body. He could feel the pain ebb away and his armor work on reinforcing itself.
"Thank you," he whispered.
The female carefully placed him on the ground as her blossom closed. Her hand ran along his tail. The sensation sent cold pangs up Bill's spine, but he didn't stop her.
Suddenly, she looked up as her companions, two other green ixodida, leaned over the numel.
"Stop!" she snapped.
The pair looked up as their vine hair flicked and curled around their heads like Medusa's snakes.
"His!" she hissed. "Hurt for it!"
One of the others snarled, "Injured. Ours now."
The female reached for his tail and pulled it up for them to view. He winced but watched as she presented the arrow tip.
"Monarch!" she snapped. "His!"
The other two ixodida glanced at one another. Then, both leaned back. The quiet one opened a blossom on her stomach and spewed a blue powder from its core. The numel, realizing what it was, flailed under the hands of the other. His head gained a shimmering coat of blue, and because of that, when he was unable to hold his breath for much longer, he was forced to breathe the powder in. For a few moments, he continued to struggle until finally, he slowed. His eyes closed, and his body went limp. Then, the female holding the numel down, the one Bill presumed was the leader, stood.
"Take to clan," the leader said. "Him too."
The quiet one scooped the sleeping numel in her arms. In the meantime, the leader moved to Bill's feet. As the first picked him up by the shoulders, the other took his legs.
Then, much to Bill's surprise, all three sprouted pink insect wings from their backs and took flight.
Veronica had many definitions of the word "screwed." Light bulbs were one. Her ex-boyfriend, as much as she didn't like to think about it, for another. Coming in late to work got her screwed, and so did getting disarmed by a gang of thieves when her backup was across the city.
Facing three ixodida with one growlithe, however, was something she decided deserved a whole new level of screwed.
It hadn't been long at all since Veronica led Rose away from the dead end. She paused only briefly to consider running back to help her companion, but as soon as she turned to head back, hands seized her, tore her away from the girl, and lifted her into the air. Before she knew it, she was dropped on top of the cliffs, high above the floors of the chasms. Rose was dropped next to her, and the pink-winged ixodida landed, staring at the two of them with dark eyes.
All Veronica could tell was that they were waiting, judging by how still they were for those long moments. She couldn't determine much more. All they did was stare at her intently without making another sound or move. Veronica only put up with it until she realized none of them were about to attack her. Then, she dropped her pack on the ground, pulled a ball from a pocket, and released her only pokémon partner. Rose drew close to Veronica as the officer's growlithe appeared in a flash of light. In response, the flowers dotting the ixodida's green bodies opened and spewed blue powder.
"Sleep Powder," Jenny gasped. "Rose, cover your mouth! Growlithe, Flamethrower!"
Both girls immediately covered their faces with their hands and backed closer to the cliff behind them. In the meantime, the puppy opened his own mouth and exhaled a jet of fire that cut through the cloud of powder. Flames engulfed the ixodida in front of him, and instantly, her leafy body caught fire. At once, she screamed and writhed, dancing in the flames until she finally collapsed in a burning heap.
Meanwhile, her sisters' vine hair lashed out to ensnare the distracted dog. He yelped as the tendrils lifted him into the air and slammed him into the ground. Another cloud of blue plumed from their flowers, and Growlithe, unable to escape, could only inhale the cloud. Soon, a wave of weariness washed over him, and despite the jarring impact of his body hitting the earth, he slowly drifted off to sleep.
Upon seeing her limp pokémon be thrown to the ground one last time, Veronica's eyes widened.
"No! Growlithe!" she shouted. "Rose, you've got pokémon, right?"
She turned to find the girl wide-eyed and whimpering. With a frown, Veronica drew her gun from the holster hidden beneath her shirt and fired several rounds. Each bullet hit the grassy bodies, but the sisters only flinched as they started forward. Meanwhile, every hole in their flesh closed as quickly as they were made. Soon, Veronica's gun clicked uselessly in her hands, and her eyes widened as she backed towards the canyon.
Suddenly, a shriek pierced the air from above. Both the ixodida and the humans looked skyward to see three green figures descend and land between Veronica, Rose, and their attackers. One of the newcomers dropped a numel unceremoniously on the ground, but the other two carried a silver body between them. Veronica didn't need to see a face to feel her heart sink with hopelessness.
"Bill," she whispered.
"Monarch," one of the newcomers said. "Hurt. Burned."
One of Veronica's captors pointed to the fallen sister. "Burned."
The grass ixodida huddled together, gently placing their metal brother beside their sister. Veronica started towards them.
"Hey! Leave him alone!" she shouted.
Before she could take a step further, a volley of fireballs blasted between her and the fire sisters to engulf her growlithe. The sisters shrieked and whirled around to face the source of the flames while Veronica gasped and stumbled backwards. Her growlithe, meanwhile, took in the heat of the fire and howled. Fully awakened, he rose to his paws and glanced at the standing numel. Upon seeing his new partner rise, the camel snorted and aimed another volley of fire towards the closest sister.
Once again, she shrieked, but this time, she shielded her face with her arms. A second ixodida lashed at Numel with her vine hair, but Veronica's growlithe leapt forward, snatching the vines in his jaws. Pausing only to inhale, Numel blasted another firestorm from his throat to engulf the face of the ixodida. At that moment, Growlithe released, took a breath, and breathed his own fire into the sister's chest. For several moments, she was engulfed in flame until finally, her writhing stopped, and she fell to the ground.
With collective shrieks, three of the remaining sisters opened all of the pink flowers on their bodies and spun. A storm of pink petals flew in a rose-colored tornado towards both fire-types. The two creatures cried out as the petals whipped them, leaving cuts and welts across their skin.
"No!" Veronica screamed. "Growlithe! Flamethrower!"
The dog's ears twitched from within the twister. He reared back, inhaling through his nose. Numel eyed him and followed his example, bracing himself against the tornado and breathing in. Simultaneously, the dog and the camel exhaled fire to light the tornado ablaze. The sisters screamed as their attacks rose in a twisting pillar of flame to engulf them and burn off their flowers. As their blossoms blew away in showers of red embers, each sister fell into the inferno, their bodies burning until they turned black.
Then, the fire slowly died down. The ashes rained softly on the burned bodies of the sisters. In the center of the circle, Numel and Growlithe stood, still bleeding but otherwise calm. Veronica took a few steps forward but stopped when a groan rose behind the two pokémon. Slowly, Bill stirred, shakily forcing himself to his knees as a hand held his head. A smile crept across Veronica's face.
"Are all of you all right?" she asked.
Growlithe and Numel ignored her as they turned and growled at the awakened ixodida. Bill drew in a breath and struggled to stand.
"Whoa! Hey!" Veronica stepped forward to place herself between them. "It's okay. He's with us."
After a moment's hesitation, Growlithe relaxed. He barked towards Numel until, finally, the camel glanced at him and backed away. Veronica exhaled and continued forward to kneel and examine her injured dog. With a sigh, she drew his poké ball from her belt and recalled him.
"You missed all the excitement," she finally said to her companion. "Are you okay?"
Bill offered a weak smile. "I think so."
Before he could say anything else, a scream rose from behind Veronica. Both adults looked Rose's way to find her held by the last ixodida. The female's clubbed tail wagged as her mouth opened to expose glistening fangs. With a hiss, she leaned towards the shaking girl's neck.
A rush of fireballs slammed into the ixodida's side. She screeched as Numel closed his mouth. The ixodida's eyes widened as she lost her footing and pitched over the edge of the cliff. Although her grip on Rose loosened, she still pulled the girl with her before letting go of her arm completely.
Without much thought, Bill ran forward. He felt a rush of adrenaline course through his body as he quickly reached out to grab Rose's wrist. Unfortunately, he had no time to stabilize himself on the cliff, and before he realized it, he fell over its edge as well.
One arm wrapped tightly around Rose while the other flailed for holds in the cliff's side that weren't there. Rose screamed as she wrapped her arms around his neck. In the confusion of panic, only one word could flash through Bill's mind in response.
The parasite responded at once without speaking.
Veronica raced to the cliff and looked down at the distance between her and the canyon floor. A cold feeling seized her heart.
"Rose! Bill!" she cried. "No…"
The girl's screams stopped. For a moment, Veronica believed the worst as he heart skipped a beat.
Then, she heard a hum.
Slowly, the siblings rose from the canyon. Stunned expressions were etched on both their faces as Bill hovered to solid ground and let his sister down. When Rose was safe, Bill lowered softly to his feet. Behind him, something flashed until finally, they stopped. Four wings – long, silver blades – extended from his back. Glancing at them in shock, he breathed and fell to his knees.
Veronica turned and blinked. "I didn't know you could do that."
Bill smiled softly. "Neither did I until a moment ago."
Then, without warning, he pitched forward and planted his face in the ground. Veronica gasped and darted forward as the injured numel crept closer to Rose. Unaware of the camel's actions, the officer knelt beside the ixodida and turned him over, only to find his armor half-melted.
"No wonder you're so weak right now," she murmured as she ran her fingers over the deformed metal. "Great. We've got to get out of here before those things lay eggs."
She stood and tried pulling at Bill's arms. Veronica couldn't lift more than half of him off the ground before feeling her muscles protest. Exhaling, Veronica dropped him.
"Naturally, you're too heavy to carry," she muttered. "What now?"
Pausing briefly, she looked him over again and furrowed her eyebrows. Then, she glanced over her shoulder at Rose, who was feeding the numel one of the berries from Veronica's pack.
"Rose," Veronica said.
The girl looked up.
"You're a coordinator," Veronica continued. "Do you have a spare poké ball? I want to try something."
Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.
Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina
(Chapter 20 now available)
The Leaf Green Incident
(SWC 2012 winner)
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