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June 10, 2013
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It don't matter where you bury me
I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

--All My Tears, by Julie Miller (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yzreo…

--oOo--

The hunt had been going on for a while now, Nagaetros still hadn’t shown signs of recovery and his loyal servants, the hounds, and shadowbreed, the very shadows themselves were getting restless. They wanted their master back. They wanted to capture the thief and make her suffer, but this seemed to be against their master’s wishes. He wanted her alive for reasons known only to him; all they could do was follow his wishes as best they could.

Music filled the halls of Naga’s lair as Echo made his way through them. He was almost dancing from the combination of excitement and the music he created with his powers. The grey sound drake knew tonight there would be another attempt to “capture” the thief of Nagaetros’ will, this “bald woman” as the hounds had said, and according to the doctor their attempts were going exactly as planned, even though Echo himself couldn’t remember these encounters for some odd reason. The doctor said the memory loss was probably the thief’s doing, she clearly had the ability to manipulate the mind in some form, so Echo didn’t doubt the doctor’s theory. He knew whatever he had done he had been doing right, and that’s all that mattered.

Echo stopped in front of a large steel door with a mechanical eye in its center and waited his music ever present and loudly sounding through the halls, he couldn’t help but dance a little. The sound of his music was interrupted by a loud electronic screech; Echo silenced the music so he could listen. “Ztop dancing you fool!” the voice droned from the door with a unique machine-like buzz mixed with its thick accent. “You vere supposed to be here un hour ago!” the doctor’s voice screeched.
“Hey! sorry, doc! My concert ran a little late and I had to answer a few questions for a couple of fans!” Echo replied, his ears drooped down and his hands rose defensively at his excuse. “I can’t disappoint my fans, now can I?” Echo said with an insincere smile.

“Vine! It doesn’t matter anyvay.” The docor said calmly through the door as it slid open with a mechanical *whir* allowing Echo to enter the doctor’s lab.

Echo was obviously confused by the doctor’s reply to his excuse. Usually the doctor would continue to berate him for his tardiness, not give in and accept his excuse. This just peaked Echo’s curiosity; something was going on, something different, and quite possibly something good. With his hands in his pockets and his eyes set forward, Echo strode into the doctor’s quarters as quick as he could before the good doctor shut the door on his tail.

The doctor’s lab was a large, poorly lit room, almost a garage, filled with hundreds of machines and the doctor’s “projects”, some covered in tarps, and some locked away in cages. In the center of the room were a large metal operating table and a smaller table covered in tools and torture devices, still bloody from the doctor’s latest project. On the far wall from the door way was a wide array of large screens, each screen had something different on it like security footage, recordings of the doctor working, or a soap opera, an odd sight to say the least considering the doctor’s cold and uncaring nature.


Echo turned to face the green skinned, blood stained, white robed, many armed, mechanical monstrosity that was the doctor as he shut the door. “So, doc, what’s up?”
“Ve’ve found her. Und zhere vill be no running zhis time.” The doctor’s voice was no different on this side of the door, in fact it was almost worse.

“What makes you think that?” Echo questioned as he looked around the room which was too dark and gruesome for his liking, it always creeped him out. “She’s been running pretty well so far, what’s to stop her this time?”

“She’s zix veet under hallowed ground.” The doctor answered with a hint of glee in his voice.

“Oh.” Echo’s ears dropped at the words the doctor had just happily revealed to him. “But how is that possible? We haven’t killed her and gods know that naga wouldn’t let her just die with his will.”

“Because zhere’s a trick to be vound. By now she know’s how ve’ve been tracking her. she took Jester’s necklace vith zhe zoul zhard in vone of our recent huntz. she’s clearly attempting zomezing here. She’s not ztupid, after all.” The doctor’s voice grated Echo’s ears with every word; it was such a horrible and confusing noise, it didn’t help that he had an accent but that metallic echo to it was almost unbearable. The doctor began limping closer to Echo, headed towards the screens. Each foot step was accompanied by the unique sound of *click, click, whir* the source of the odd sound hidden away under the doctor’s floor length coat, but it obviously annoyed the doctor as well as his spider like right hand kept a firm grasp on the side of his leg

“Ok, then. What’s the plan? ” Echo jumped at the new sound of the repetitive*click* of clawed footsteps on the metal floor as two drakes walked past the cages and concealed machines into view. The first was literally rotting away, a living, decaying corpse dressed in a priest’s outfit and holding a large, wicked looking scythe made of vertebrae in its skeletal hands. Echo immediately recognized him as Necrosis, Naga’s loyal necromancer and an advisor of sorts. The second drake was shorter, about human sized, and looked to be a blast from the past dressed as an old western bounty hunter, holstered guns, duster coat, and all, with a rattlesnake’s tail and a scarred, coyote like head, Echo recognized him as Kane, Necrosis’ younger brother , master illusionist, and undead bounty hunter.

“We go grave robbing” Necrosis said with an almost Russian accent, but there was something more to it, something older and even more foreign. Necrosis and Kane walked closer to where the doctor and Echo stood.

Echo couldn’t believe the bag of bones could even walk, let alone talk, he knew Necrosis rarely kept a body but he wondered how long gone one must be for Necrosis to move on to a new one. He also never liked how Necrosis’ empty eye socket seemed to follow him, he almost wanted to see if it would now with a few dodges and jumps but he knew the doctor wouldn’t appreciate the attempt in his lab where nonsense and fun were practically illegal, but Necrosis didn’t have the same opinion, he usually enjoyed the attempts of Echo and Jester to test him.

Kane had picked up a drake bone shear from the doctor’s tools and examined it in his clawed hands, opening and closing the scissor like device and giving it a wide, sadistic smile with his scarred jaws, his tail gave a slight rattle as he put the shears back on the table. Gods know what he was thinking, but it was probably directed at their quarry. “We need to get the boss back; this has gone on too long.” He gave an accusing glance at Echo but spoke indirectly to everyone there. “You shoulda got me to hunt her down the first time; I coulda got the witch to break without all of this running about.”

“We needed her alive! A concept a gun slinging zombie Phobos spawn such as you couldn’t comprehend!” Echo snapped. Kane let out a loud, menacing growl. Kane was always quick to anger, and even quicker to pull the trigger, fortunately Naga kept him from shooting his peers when they angered him. Kane was clearly fighting the urge to shoot Echo right now, all the more reason to get Naga back to his former glory.
“So you want me, a walking corpse, and coyote boy over there, to go and set off this obvious trick, in an attempt to get the boss back?” Echo questioned the doctor. “sounds like fun, but why this time?”

“Because, zhe Ancerious cult of Apophis haz found her az vell, und if zhey know vhat’s going on, zhen jormundgand knows too. Zhe last zhing ve need iz zhat draconian to get involved in zhe maztur’s plan.” The doctor began work on a new project as he spoke, not letting the situation slow down his progress. “if he getz to her, zhen all of zis vill be for naught.”

“Ok, I get it. This time, we actually bring something back. No more pretend. No more games” Echo motioned Kane and Necrosis to the door where he soon followed.

“We’re bringing the boss back.”

--oOo—

There were no attendees at her funeral, whoever she was. I never met her, as far as I could tell, beyond that note I found on my desk that night with a ridiculously high stack of casino chips in that bag. How it got there is something I still don’t fully understand. It’s my handwriting. My fingerprints.  But I don’t remember writing it. I don’t remember much of anything. A memory block, perhaps? I looked into that the day before the funeral; hired a Spartan refugee to comb my memories of that one particular night. She said there wasn’t anything there, wasn’t even a memory’s echo. I can tell you that reality stopped at this point, and resumed at that one; I can imagine she was here in that spell of time, perhaps. But there’s nothing. There’s just nothing.

She had arranged the thing in advance. I was just the executor of her wishes. The coffin, the plot, it was all pre-purchased, and the expenses were all covered. Someone just had to orchestrate it, and that was my job. You can believe me when I say that the first thing I did when I saw the coffin was try to open it; it was a metal thing covered in thousands of parallel scratches, all coming from three or four directions and wrapping around the boxes corners in a strange weave. The funeral home owner said he couldn’t remember seeing a coffin like it before, and with any luck he said he’d never have to see one like it again. Gave him bad luck, the old man said. Bad dreams.

…and yes, I did try to open it. The thing was solidly latched in ways I couldn’t understand. Mystery woman he’s never met, no name, pays detective to organize her funeral. Sends well sealed coffin. No proof of body. Where have I heard this one before? Was she even real? Did she really die? Was there anything in that ominous metal coffin? Hell, what if it was someone else’s body? There were no answers. Only questions atop questions. Atop questions.

…atop questions.

As per her request, we buried the coffin with haste. There were no mourners; the pastor wasn’t even involved. The cemetery was quiet, minus the rustling of dying leaves in the wind. It was an autumn morning that we buried her, and as they shoveled dirt atop her coffin and it faded from view, I wondered just what was inside that box, and who’d put it there. I stayed above the freshly unmarked grave for a few hours, resting against the tombstone and wondering.

I had unaccounted for money, and I know I’d gone to meet someone on that now infamous casino ship at one point; I was supposed to head back to it once I had information on a high-ranking Tenebraen timecaster, but a botched robbery lead to the deaths of most of the ship’s passengers and crew, and as the ship was now undergoing a massive refit, it didn’t seem plausible to meet my employer there. Yet the money would keep coming in, indicating I was meeting someone; I even hid cameras in my office in an effort to capture whoever I was working for, but I seemed alone in that room.

Vampires don’t show up on cameras, do they?

--oOo—

Holf's face was set in an expression of calmness as he strode into the bridge of the Tenebrean patrol cruiser he commanded, ahe Automated door sliding shut behind him with an audible sound of minute crystal turbine engines mounted in the wall. A few short steps brought him to the captain’s station of the pill shaped crystal glass enclosed control room. Wear was evident among the equipment and consoles as the crewmembers manned them, several of them held a patchwork quality of construction to them, their controls and holo-screen projectors looking like they had been pulled from other types of craft, while others were simply dark, their internal systems either disconnected or no longer functioning. All of it told the overall nature of their semi-retired and heavily serviced vessel, although it was in no way something to laugh at, as several other Tenebrean patrol craft had discovered as it had made its way out of the Obcasio system.

He couldn’t help but scowl as he looked down at the planet below the vessel as it orbited high above the atmosphere, Leaving Obcasio hadn't exactly been easy. It had been less then a day before that the gathered followers of the Children of Apophis had received word of the theft of the willpower of the draconian Nagaetros from the Herald known as Echo, and throughout the system, the Followers of his Truth had taken to the stars en mass. Although, he couldn’t help but note, most of them had taken off in the directions of where this... thief, this "bald Timecasting woman" had been spotted and confronted by the Heralds as they tracked her across the stars. Converging on cities and the known locations of vessels that had served as the Locations of these conflicts between her and them.

His own ships (He commanded three the other two further along in their own geocentric orbits around the planet) had taken off at a later date, the reason for that being a message him and his crew had received from one of the dark coated members of the Time-breakers. The follower of the cult of Shaw-Haust (apparently from the Dark figure himself!) telling them that they would find the woman, buried in a fresh grave, deep in the center of a massive graveyard on a distant world, as designated by a specific set of Geo-Coordinates that had been included with the Holo-file. How she had ended up there, Hoft noted dryly, had not been explained.

He scoffed silently. The Truth of the All-Devourer Apophis and his messengers was one thing, Naga and the others actually Existed, there was proof in the actions that they had committed. The ERVO itself was a shining example of their masterwork in showing them the dominating true nature of existence, but still, it had been some sort of lead. And following a short eighteen hour preparation period, they had taken off on a route to one of the systems many towers. But leaks had apparently existed in their initiative and only halfway to the tower they had fallen under siege by part of the system security fleet, spearheaded by... and he still couldn't believe it himself fully. A Temporian ship, A Fracking class one Temporian Temporal-Spear. A Fracking time-caster had called the Obcasio Security force down on them,..

The skirmish had been brief, but it had been brutal. By the time they had worn the small assault fleet down enough to manage to escape, they had lost two of their original five ships. A sizable loss, but it assured them there had to be something worthy of note at the location they were Towering out to. It had taken them some time to locate a tower that didn’t have security crawling all over it like ants on a Sweets bar. But in the end they had managed, making the jump to the system they found themselves in now, orbiting one of the inner worlds of the three odd stars that circled themselves at its core.

He looked down at the world, noting several of the cities sprawling under the cloud cover, their outlines defined by the lights of their streets as they passed into the night side of the planets rotation. The halo of the sun as it passed out of sight around the curvature of the world casting a dull reddish gold light across the lands below and within the cockpit, the light reflecting off of his face. It was not a heavily developed world, orbital traffic had been of a moderate level, and the cities were, for their sprawling size, Somewhat small for a colony planet.
Settled in the last 3,000 years, he thought to himself. Taking a few steps forward to the Edge of the console platform suspended in the center of the bridge, he looked over the metal railing through the expansive crystal glass view port below, down at the canvas of the world stretching out beneath them.

"Do we have a pinpoint location yet?" he asked, not turning his head.

"Not yet sir, we're still narrowing down the vectors." a calvara seated at the console nearest to him replied, heavy goggles settled over his otherwise naked skull.

"Then start bringing us out of orbit." he said, turning to face the officers on the bridge. "Have one of the other ships stay up here in case we need additional help in bringing the temporian on board. Vox the crew. Tell them to arm the ship and stay on alert." He said, turning back to look down at the darkening world as the ship began its sloping decent with a gentle lurch as it's A-Grav systems began to engage. A look of screwed concern and caution spreading across his face.

"A Time-Caster tried to get us off her trail, There's no doubt that he'll follow us here or he's already waiting for us down there with her. We're not taking any chances either way, the first Herald of Apophis must be made whole again. This is our duty, this is our mission. Prep the gun shuttles for launch..."

"They want her alive.."

--oOo—

The first installment in what will be the best damn episode I’ve ever contributed to. Thus far, featuring LordNaga, Henry, and myself. Stay tuned.
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