Dark City: Darkness Rising IV

April 11, 2014:

Three of the intrepid heroes caught in the Dark City launch an assault on the Dark Keep at its heart.

Manhattan -- The Dark City

It could have been New York… in another life, another world, another time. Lights are dimmer here, the sky slate, tinted with sickly reds and yellows. Smog, or perhaps simply dark fog, hangs heavy in the air, pressing close to the flesh with a thick, oily humidity despite the chill. Streets are cobbles, rather than asphalt. Buildings are brick and plaster in a 19th century style. Harnessed electricity and electrical devices are unreliable, though not entirely unusable. In fact, the same could be said of any power used in this place — natural, meta, or otherwise. Everything is just a little 'off', like the whole world skews to sinister. Murphy's Law has freer reign in this city than it does in the normal universe. Entropy is king.


NPCs: Scene emitted by Wonder Woman.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It's been several hours since the Dark City swallowed Manhattan and all indications suggest that the darkness is still expanding. How far and how fast are harder to determine, however. What has been determined, though, is that the handful of heroes who fought their way through the first emergence of the Dark City weren't the only ones to find their way to the old Cathedral that apparently serves as the headquarters for the local resistance, such as it is. In the intervening hours, others found their way in, as well, each with their own story to tell of running battles with ratlings, dark-clad soldiery, and revenants that were less than obliging at staying dead.

Jason Albright, brother to Jenna and apparent leader of the ragtag rebels with diVinci style flying contraptions and steampunk-esque weaponry, was cautious at accepting these newcomers. Indeed, there was accusation, at first, that the interlopers were, in fact, Tricksters sent by the Magistrate to entrap or otherwise threaten his people. Now, however, as twilight wears on into to true night and a blood red moon rises above the city proper, Albright stands in shadow on a high wall, his flying contraption folded against his back, a long viewing tube in his hands as he looks toward the target of the night's next raid.

The plan as he outlined it earlier is actualy fairly simple. The Magistrate, he believes, draws power from a contraption deep in the bowels of Blackhost Keep — the great castle that stands in place of what the New Yorkers know as Belvedere Castle in Central Park. The park itself is not the great expanse of greenery the heroes know. It is a ramshackle maze of stonework, parterres, and gardens surrounding a small lake that acts as an effective mote. The Goblin King's maze couldn't be any denser than this one.

The goal is to infiltrate the castle and discover this contraption… and shut it down, if such a thing can be done. Half of Albright's men, and a few of the heroes that had appeared, have gone off to scout other approaches and create a distraction elsewhere in the city. Those that remain, however, need only fight or sneak their way through the dense maze leading to the castle gates… and then breach those walls.

Of course, the negative, power skewing effects of this realm are still felt by all. Electronic and electric gadgets are unreliable. And nobody's powers work exactly as expected. It's almost like a dampening field… but not. More, perhaps, like a skewed probability field where Murphy's Law has greater influence than ever before.

Thus, Albright keys a switch on the odd communication device he uses to coordinate with both his men and their unexpected allies. "The Blackguard have retreated out the nor'gates," he tells them. "We are free to begin our approach." He bends his knees and launches himself skyward, his flying contraption spreading its wings. Several of his men do the same… And that's when the first volley of lightning hits.

Things just be gettin' crazy around here… On the upside, even slightly twisted off-center from the norm, Domino's luck is so far holding out as she's found herself in none other than Lunair's company. The gal's a walking armory, which is exactly the sort of thing that the albino could use at a time like this. With a little time to prepare and work out a laundry list of things which 'might' help, it's like she's got a new best friend.

Lunair. Not the machine gun. Or the grenade launcher. Or the sword. Or any of the other gear, whether conjured up by another's powers or brought along from the getgo. They do all make a difference, however.

She's still questioning over just how real and reliable any of the stuff might happen to be when the initial attack lands. Through twisted happenstance she's got a secondary goal out of all of this, she has to keep Lunair alive and able to keep passing useful gear the merc's way. United we stand, yadda yadda.

"Can't believe I'm helping -regain- control of a city," she mutters while arming something suitably nasty and belt-fed. "Duck and cover, catch their flank!" If it's something which can even be done. For the moment she can offer cover fire, and quite a lot of it. Two hundred rounds between reloads should help… Hopefully.

Ugh. Why did everyone get such a nerd love bone for steam punk? Gears, gears and powers gone awry! It's kind of soured Lunair on the whole thing, really. There's a moat with a potential glam patrol and who knows. But she will help Albright's men, although she's not so much on scouting. Lunair isn't going to rely on her portal gun too much. And she is none too thrilled by the accusations. She had been doing stuff and things before all of this. And now it's maze time. She never really cheated on them, but now she wishes she could. Or just climb to the top and go over walls. But life is not so kind and odds are good someone thought of a counter measure, anyway.

Her thoughts are scattered, like dice thrown onto a floor. And happily for others, Lunair might be aware she's more useful than two ducks in a fight (three ducks in a man suit is a party member). Still, aside from the odd failure to function, Lunair's powers hold out reasonably well. Just no light sabers, dubstep guns (oh boy), and what have you, it should be fine. Those non-energy and techy weapons fare better. She is likely unaware of Domino's secondary goal, but she's happy to help. It's what Lunair /does/. When life gives you gun powers, you probably should not make lemonade out of them.

A headtilt at Domino. "Huh? Um. Well. Isn't even toppling a city giving it over to chaos for awhile? I'm not sure. I always go to sleep when those kinds of shows come on." really not her thing. But Lunair is going with Domino and the ground troops. And she might even be making a friend! Friends are great, especially those who don't shoot their own party members. She will join in the lead chorus, it seems.

Mimic adapted to the situation pretty quickly, taking it all at face value. It's really not all that different from when he and the other Exiles were transported and transformed into a nerd's D&D wet dream. At least they all remember who they are this time. "I know the castle well. Shame we can't port into it." But they can't take the chance of porting into the castle. Literally. Into a wall. They'll have to do it the hard way. Fortunately, more passive powers seem to be unaffected. So far anyway. He's prepared to go when the lightning starts and he starts to transform to metal. Aside from taking longer than normal, there's not a lot that can go wrong with the process. Once done, he goes to look at where the lightning is coming from.

The lightning seems attracted to anything that gets more than about 3' above the maze. So, while hopping walls is an option, soaring easily above them, out of reach of anything below that could harm a person, is a little problematic. Consequently, Albright and the others are forced back down into the maze quickly and the sound of a bell tolling in the distance suggests that the troops are being called out.

The maze itself begins as foliage and leaves, well manicured edge walls about 10' tall or so. One of Albright's boys falls against a hedge, however, and it becomes evident that they aren't nearly the pretty and benign things they seem. Thorns lance out, impaling the hapless flyer and dragging him back into the bushes. A muddy, red paste oozes out from beneath the limbs.

Initial gunfire, however, does little more than tear through the greenery making a right mess of things, but until the first of the troopers, still in the stonework ahead, venture out into the foliage, it's of limited utility.

That is, of course, until the ground erupts before them and a swarm of ratlings — those humanoid half-transformed rat creatures — claws their way out of the earth. Against them? Guns are marvelous things.

..Setback. How does one flank something coming from directly overhead? This magic stuff… Domino's out of her element. She's about ready to request a flamethrower for the very angry brush when the ground splits open and gives her lots of things which she -can- easily target. (Well now, that's a better start.)

The lightning almost seems to be keeping them penned inside of the maze, something which she's not even going to begin to try and understand how any of it works. While the foliage itself seems to be -another- threat she can't help but wonder if it might also be serving as a form of cover. Would the lightning get to them more easily if they burned the hedges down? An all-out firesale may not work in their interests, but those maze walls are still tall enough to safely cleave a hole through. At the moment it's also all that she's got to work with.

"Anyone here got any tricks for carving through a bloodthirsty hedge?" Burrowing underground might have been an option as well, but there be ratlings down there. One of them's going to find itself getting thrown into the brush, too. She wants to see if they're affected by it. Because all information is useful.

That's not good. Lunair is now distinctly unhappy about having so much metal around.Lunair does remember Mimic's sage advice, but now is not the time for napalm. Maybe. She looks to Mimic, tilting her head. "Yeah. That blinky thing is awesome." Pause. "… because you're really good at it." There's a bit of adoration, in a sort of hero worship/omg awesome older pal kinda way. Nothing creepy, though. She winces as the poor lad gets impaled and dragged in. Liquifyingly eww.

Still, she'll help deal with the rats as she can. "I would probably use fire or I guess in theory, something bladed. Not that I'd wanna get that close. Fire's kind of risky, and I'm not sure hedge trimmers or a tank of plant killer would do it." A chemical sprayer? Maybe? She looks to the others, eyes wide as Domino flings a ratling into the bush. Oooh.

"Yes." Mimic answers. Flame on. He doesn't actually say it but he always thinks it. Thanks to the strange effect the place has on powers, the fire's not a steady burn but a flickering, patchy network till it gets going more strongly. But he doesn't need it to do more than burn the foliage and make the ratlings wary about coming too close since he intends to guard the less well armored. "We'll go through the foliage and walls." Fire and brute force can do wonders. Which works also for any rat things that get close.

The front ranks of ratlings are ground up by Domino's saw of bullets. And those that fall or are tossed into the bushes find their fates to be very much like those of the Albright Boys. Of course, the alternative to cleaving through the hedge is to try to find the way through. But, let's face it: Cutting through or burrowing under is quicker, to be sure. Flying over, however, is apparently still a no-go. Thus, the Mutant Torch will find that crisping the salad is certainly a viable alternative… once he gets hot enough, at least. Because there's no mistaking the tendency of the plants to try and wrap about him even as they burn. Still, as the bark begins to split and the sap begins to sizzle, the greenery's tendency to draw back instead of grab becomes quite noticeable. Salad doesn't like being cooked.

Score! The plan works, and they've got their very own Human Torch, after a fashion. Dom's more than happy to work with this, though if the plantlife can kill then it might also be able to -grow.- She's not willing to wait around to see if this is going to happen. Press the advantage!

She'll even hold the line while other people go on ahead. Like Lunair! Flyfry's got point, Dom can cover their six. "Go, watch the walls! Torch or dice anything that gets too close!"

When they reach a more substantial wall, such as stone, they've always got explosives at their disposal. Go ahead, just -try- to stop this group! They're building up some serious momentum.

And Dom's luck is still acting wonky, slipping backward on a bloodied patch of mud to avoid getting impaled while a lunging ratling takes to the brush for her. At the same moment an errant thorn catches the trigger on her grenade launcher, blasting apart a cluster of creatures like a bowling ball loosed within a pin warehouse.

Well, the hedges are apparently team killers. And you'd normally think it was the guy with the flamethrower or rocket launcher doing the team killing (or any goober who gets their grubby paws on something explosive or humiliating). Her eyes widen as Mimic does his thing with the fire and plants. Yay! Lunair looks as people go. She will go into the middle, then. With that, a rifle is slung over her shoulder, and she'll blast through some bushes with napalm flamethrower fiery fireness. She will look concerned as Domino slips. "Are you okay? Ack, that's a sword, not ammo, sorry."

That's the plan, yes. A straight path to the walls. And then eventually through them. But first things first. "Stay behind me." Mimic tells Lunair and advances forward. Any ratlings that get within reach get thrown into whatever others happen to be near. The foliage can try to feast on his flesh and blood except he has none and even if it penetrates, his healing factor will take care of it. Meanwhile, he burns and so do the walls.

By the time the trio have cut a bloody, crispy swath to the stonework, Albright and his remaining flyboys have begun engaging the black-armored troops beyond the main stone wall. The sound of electrical discharges and the flash of gunpowder can be seen through gaps in the walls. Lightning still flashes above, never quite breeching the top of the walls, though it lends a purple and blue light to the greenish cast of night's darkness.

As the three step off of grass and onto flagstone, a pair of squadrons come around the corner from separate directions, plant themselves like redcoats on a Revolutionary War battlefield, and fire a cascade of lead shot at the trio… and, of course, their compatriots opposite them. Good thing the muskets have limited range. Too bad they don't seem to require traditional reloading.

(That concludes the salad portion of the meal.)

Stonework may not be 'urban,' but it is familiar to Domino. And solid. And not attempting to maul anyone that happens to get too close. One of the volleys of musketfire catches her square in the sternum, the armor spreading out the kinetic shock as she gets plowed over onto the ground. -Ouch!-

Of course, that they're all standing in a tidy line lobbing smoothbore shot… A positively malicious grin crosses black-stained lips as she sits upright and draws the LMG to her shoulder. One hail of fire from a whole line of soldiers, completely matched then outdone, by one woman with one gun. Modern technology for the win!

With the belt run dry she pulls back to her feet and switches to a pistol and a sword, she's got no way of knowing what else they'll be facing around here. "Find or make an entrance, we've gotta get to cover!"

Few plans ever survive contact with the enemy. But most evil overlords are now sensible enough to employ a 5 year old child to point out obvious gaps, at least. Lunair looks to Mimic and nods. "Be careful. I think…" He seems to be pretty solidly whomping the plants, at least. Lunair eeps, trying to keep out of the path of anything bullet or swordlike. A stray shot takes a bit of her sleeve. It's just a scratch but Lunair has no urge to come back for seconds.

Also, she has to resist giggling at Domino and the LMG. She seems SO HAPPY. It's hard not to. But she does resist because giggling now is the worst possible thing. "Did you need more ammo? Currently, the odds are 50/50 sword or bullets," She admits. Lunair has a sense of humor at least. "You can throw either at the foe in event of an emergency." Just be careful. Chucking swords at men has a way of starting governments. Regardless, Lunair will do her best to keep ammo up. Thankfully, she doesn't flamethrower any redcoats, but with her rifle, she'll pick off any ratlings or whatever might come their way.

Even if his flames didn't soften it, 19th century lead shot isn't anything Mimic needs to worry about when he's metal. He sends a blast of fire toward the soldiers but aimed in front of them. Hopefully they'll take the hint and run. Those that Domino's left. "Try not to kill anyone unless." It's a little late but then again, it's never too late. Leaving the soldiers to the others, he starts pounding at the wall in front of him.

The men Domino cuts down die in a bloody mass. The men Mimic blocks off with fire retreat, but not far. They double back, heading for another way around to intercept the trio. Ratlings swarm in from behind, however, coming through the burnt gap in the foliage. It's pretty obvious by this point that they have no hope of sneaking through anywhere.

That said, the sky above them begins to swirl and glow with green fire and purple clouds. The lightning curves around in sheets and the heavy scent of ozone falls toward the maze, causing hair to stand on end and hackles to rise on the backs of necks as more and more power charges the sky.

"No time to reload!" Dom calls back to Lunair, already spacing called shots with her sidearm while the sword cleaves into, and through, anything that happens to get too close for comfort. Throwing weapons has crossed her mind, as well! Without the benefit of armor she wouldn't be doing quite so well, though a few manage to catch her above the neckline or get through the high tech material. There's just too many of them for this to be a flawless win.

"Feels like things are about to get worse out here, someone get us inside!" Y'know what, wargames wait for no soldier. The bloodied sword gets flung through the air, skewering another baddie's head (what was that about not killing anyone..?) as she spins about, grabs the launcher at her side, and lobs a high explosive grenade toward the wall with a *THOOMP!*

She'd really prefer to not become a new lightning rod out here!

Well, to be fair, in eras with modern weapons, the ole 'stand up and shoot until one side loses more guys or runs off' tactic is a bit outmoded at best. One can thank several firearms advances, including those whacky rifled barrels. But anyway, she will help pick off ratlings. And she totally didn't flamethrower or murder a bunch of people. It's reflexive to pull a gun, but she's - slowly making progress. Trouble is, her powers are just remarkably lethal without the utmost care. "And don't people become kings when someone throws a sword at them?" Lunair doesn't have time to contemplate this and she nods at Domino.

So she will help deal with ratlings, letting Domino do her explosive thing. She also prefers not to be a lightning rod. Things are geting ugly, and she frowns.

Mimic glances up as he feels the ionization in the air start to increase. They need to get under cover soon. Between him and Domino's grenade, they should get through the wall without any real problem. "Lunair, metal javelins. Throw them far." He's a little busy to do so himself.

Getting through the wall isn't really a problem, given the number of combustibles and, more importantly, explosives around. But, as the trio dashes through the crumbling ruins of the stonework, ratlings and blackcoats on their tails, lightning slashes down. Shivers of electricity not quite strong enough to electrocute run down spines like a static charge and a flash of purple light obscures vision the span of a heartbeat.

When the light and dust clears, however, everything has changed. Below the trio is what appears to be a great black sphere of some sort of crystalline material. It sits cradled in dark metal, rods full of power and coiled with wire like a Tesla device, pointed at the crystalline heart of the thing. Energy flows over bodies and armor, immobilizing and neutralizing powers, leaving the three suspended in mid-air.

Dark laughter fills the space, soft and almost intimate — a sound not meant to carry and entirely appreciative rather than megalomaniacal… though there's no mistaking the 'evil' in it. "Oh, excellent," a smooth, liquid voice proclaims. Dark eyes reflect the violet light within a heavy black hood. "You are exactly what I need to make this work…"

Three mutants in a baited trap, the heart of darkness roiling below them. No. This really can't be a good thing at all.

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