• Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Chapter 5: You Must Enter the Tiger's Den to Catch His Cubs

Ray of Meep

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Feb 15, 2020
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169
Co-authored by: Ray of Meep (GM), CadetNewb, TheCountryWarrior, Wallflower

Solaris Lihana (Dawn Star System), Planet Lihana (Planet Vermillion Bird)

Outskirts of occupied Hillsong (City Cloud Watch)

One moon's cossing after the first meeting with the invader at Lake Obdurate's Solace (Lake Cloud Watch)

The night was espeacially dark with the two moons crossing paths today, as one obscured the other's shine, resulting in waning moon with a soft halo around it. The ground was cold and damp with the coming of autumn, the air nibbling at exposed skin for bodily heat. The three Aos Si waded through thinning vegetation in the darkness, before coming to a clearing: the extent of the invaders' footprint in this area.

Where the monument of Hillsong once stood were skyscrapers with several floors of light, making up the core of this new city. Further outward there were smaller buildings, then the suburbs. The three Aos Si could hear a gentle whirling in the distance, no doubt one of the great power plants that kept the lights on. What they currently saw were two to three story tall houses, all neatly placed together in blocks surrounded by streets, all of similar shape and form with minor aesthetic variance. On one block was a great greenhouse lit up from inside, revealing green vegetation grown in liquid and on stacks of shelves and along walls, in contrast to the red vegetation of the planet.

It was not the first time that Sai had looked upon the city. When she was younger, more withdrawn in her pain, her nan would take her out to see the sights of the nearby world. One of the ones that Sai, young and brash, demanded, was to see the human city.

It was a solemn sight then, though she scarcely recalled it, but what lingered was the sudden coldness that ran across her nan's face. That solemn stare of loss and remembrance. *"I remember when this was ours. We grew our house right over there." Try as she might, the young Sai couldn't tell where her Nan was pointing.

That was years gone, and her Nan left one night after being struck by one of her solemn spells. Sai cried that night, and many more.

Sai knelt hidden in vegetation, staring onward to the abyssmal blight of stone and metal and seemed to have fallen from the sky, piercing the flesh of the earth with countless spikes, a scab grown over and infested, splinters still growing.

Like a parasite.

"All that technology." Sai whispered as she pointed her one hand to the greenhouse. Imagine how well we could feed our people if we had that." The muscled arm retracted, and she cast her gaze back to the other two. The distant lights only slightly illuminated the scarred side of her face, which seemed nearly half blind. "I can't say I know you two whatsoever, but I'm hoping you'll have my back in this."

"It would feed our people quite well, I would say," the Ranger replied. Dressed in her armor once more, Amisra lead them on a specific path in mind towards the city of invaders. "However, I'm more concerned about your familiarity with shadow walking," she pointed out. Even though they had learned how to veil themselves through trial and error, as well as some toying with captured trinkets in the past, it was better not to get spotted by their constructs in the first place. "I'm hoping you'll be able to at least follow my steps?" she asked.

This was something Amisra had prepared for over years. She didn't want to fail now of all times.

Gwaed knew how to keep up with Amisra, that wasn't the issue at hand. The issue at hand was the Parasite Hub they were about to walk into. "I will not the be the cause of your failure." He paused. "At least in regards to stealth."

The walk into the suburbs was fairly unremarkable. The invader, seemingly true this his words, has called off the patrols that typically stroll along the streets, but tonight, there were none to be found. The roads were paved in a black, gravely substance. Periodic street lamps, tall and thin, bending over, illuminated the ground beneath like it was still day. The Aos Si made sure not to enter the perimeters of the houses, as any entrance would've alerted the residents, as Shi Cheng warned. Instead, they stuck to the sides of the roads while their bodies casted sharp shadows on the ground. After walking a few blocks and approaching the urban areas, the Aos Si realized that Amisra had no idea where she was going, despite her confidence.

Sai, despite her toned form, seemed quite adept at remaining hidden. The most that seemed to stand out was the ocassional shadow of a muscled shoulder. Dressed in dark clothing, hiding padded armor, she fit in quite well to the shadows. Her poncho draped over her missing arm, hiding it's presence, or lack thereof from immediate view.

Despite her larger frame, the elf seemed quite in control of how she appeared. She followed Amisra quietly, deciding that it wasn't worth it to retort to the offhanded comment.

As they approached, Sai slowly took in the appearance of the suburbs around them, anxiously shifting from foot to foot. It didn't feel right, too artificial, too forced. Even though they were outside sensors, it felt like they were too far out into the open. She frowned, trying to spot some indicator of whatever alarms existed. Did each building have it's own? Would it go off if a neighbor crossed it?

What a solitary system.

"I suppose a map of some form would have assisted. It's a much more abstract design once you're inside it." Sai mused. "I dislike these lights. Nighttime is supposed to be dark, not half illuminated as if to fool the people here."

"Their night sight is relatively poor," Amisra remarked, "But even so, we once had paved streets lit at night. It's only natural to have such things in a city, both to deter ne'er-do-wells, as well as to faciliate the life of the night," she pointed out. By this point, the ranger had swept back her hood to reveal her features, gracefully fanning her hair out having come without helm. "Truth be told, I am certain that we are being watched. However, I had asked for the removal of the sentries simply because they are displeasing to my eyes, and am loathe to so much as speak a word to them." Despite this admission though, Amisra continued to confidently stride ever onwards into the foreign city. "We are looking for a library, or 'túshū guǎn' in their language. Failing that, we simply knock on someone's door and ask for directions."

Gwaed was momentarily surprised at this boldness, and promptly lost the feeling of surprise. Of course she felt like she could just walk into the city. "I agree in regards to the sentires, however, I would be surprised if we were allowed to go too far in."
 

Ray of Meep

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The suburbs were quite extensive, and carefully planned out. As the Aos Si headed towards the city center, they passed by a cluster of blocks that encompassed a hospital, store, and school. After an hour of walking, they came upon what seemed to mark the beginning of the urban area: the entrance to an underground railway system. Next to it was a large flattened space for the human's personal shuttles.

"I see the symbols for 'school' in that direction, however, should the campus be for children, it will most certainly be closed at this time and access to its library locked," Amisra noted. Of course, she had made certain to ask just the right questions far prior to now. "However, I had asked Shen what late night food options are available, and a 'convenience store' would undoubtedly be open." She didn't even consider their underground rail or the shuttles - they would undoubtedly require money she suspected. "These convenient stores often have only one person, but will be monitored by their constructs," the redhead smiled.

Sai largely found herself critical of the scenarios that Amisra provided, though she largely remained quiet about it. She couldn't quite see it working out as well as her companion seemed to invision. They were told specifically that the sentries would not be there, not that they had been given free reign. What if one of the civilians they had passed in their houses spotted them outside and called the authorities? Would they be so reasonable as to understand that they were allowed in?

...Were there rules that said they couldn't be allowed in? She hadn't known anybody to test the boundaries of the cities before, but she found it unlikely that the sentries under normal circumstances would let her people in as easily as they had just done. A spark of paranoia conjured the idea of betrayal, it being some elaborate hoax to goad them into the city so they could be apprehended, killed, or worse, and to further fuel whatever fire their next war machine was conjuring.

She shuddered, giving a side eye to Amisra. "What if the library also costs money?" She asked, refusing to yet slip into the non-native tongue. "I doubt many places here will let us in regardless, and I especially doubt that random people here will be as accommodating as our mutual parasite."

"Exactly my thoughts. What do you intend to do at this store of convenient placement? You have no Parasitic currency to my knowledge, and they will not let us just take something. What could they have that we would want anyway?" Gwaed was not thrilled to be in the city, but he was even less thrilled by the idea that they would just frivolously wander into buildings.

"During our studies, I had coaxed our dear 'friend' into mentioning the great advancements of his people's education system, including the small, inconsequential detail that they have free, public libraries," Amisra replied, her voice almost mocking of Shen. She of course, left out the even smaller detail of whether or not they were open during the night. "As for this 'store of convenience', I would hope that simply asking for directions would not cost money," she pointed out. "However, I am wearing my casual clothing underneath my armor," the wiley ranger added. "Prior to stepping into the store, I can simply stow my armor and weapons before making my entrance," the redhead smiled with mischevious intent.

Gwaed rolled his eyes, looking off into the city. "I would expect nothing less. The Library is no doubt closed as almost all else is, for the Parasites are only nocturnal when commiting genocide and being scum." His voice tightened with anger, however this time that was his own fault. "Among the three of us we should be able to interrogate the Convienence Parasite sufficiently, but that will mean little if the Library is dark."

Sai gave a small huff in return, not appreciating the idea of having to rely on her companions feminine wiles to seduce information out of the local populace. It would only carry so far, after all.

Still, she realized that temporarily stashing their armor might prove to be the best option for fitting in, regardless of the risk of losing it to thieves, whoever they may be. "Perhaps fitting in may be our best option." She finally mused. "Assuming we can find a safe place to hide our less fitting equipment in the meantime." She knew her clothes wouldn't be considered exactly standard, and her ears stood out, but with an eye patch going around her head she could hide her ears and accent one of things that may fit in better, assuming, of course, that a larger percentage of the population suffered some form of wounds, as the presence of their crippled assistant had suggested.

Still, the thought lingered that perhaps he was an outlier, sent to garner sympathy with his malgrown limb. "Perhaps posing as odd humans will do us better than strutting about as we are now."

"No need for any dour mood," Amisra began. "I've already thought ahead for this, and brought a duffel bag for my own belongings. The two of you can remain 'in costume' for the time being," she emphasized their part. Unclasping her chest and back plate before undoing her cloak, the redhead quickly made herself all too eyecatching. Though the dress she wore was modest, it sill emphasized her strengths. "I assume we will go to the Store of Convenience first then?"

Gwaed averted his gaze from her a bit too quickly, perhaps a measure of embarrassment crossing the features of the usually stoic Commander. "My armor stays on. Let us be off then, and hope this action will not create sudden diplomatic tension. More than is already in place."

Despite Sai's disagreements with the exact method of Amisra's appearance, she still glanced away with a murmur of something not entirely audible, though her refusal to stare in that direction while she changed was message enough.

"I can't say I'm fully on board with trying to seduce information out of whoever we run across." She admitted, still avoiding Amisra with her gaze. "Though you seem dead set upon it in such a way that I won't attempt to stop you. If you think it will work, by all means."

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