<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | NPC Base Commander says, "This is the commander of base P7-99-Phoebe, in an iteration of Siberia, in the Frigid Reaches. We have an intruder who, while presently contained, has used a term that is on my 'alert' list. The term 'Puella Magi', when used by non-Union-affiliated individuals, is to be reported as soon as possible. Not only did the intruder use that term, but she claims to be one and to wish to join the Union."
<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | NPC Base Commander says, "She also claims to be from the same iteration of Earth as Colonel Solid Snake."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake makes a noise not unlike an aborted spittake. "-what?!"
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "I'm ready to check it out if you don't mind me helping."
<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | NPC Base Commander says, "Shall I continue to keep her detained, sir?"
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…well, that's not somethin' you hear everyday. I'm not too far from there, should I head over?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…yeah. Yeah, keep her there, I'm on my way. Saito, is it? I've never been all that keyed into this magical girl business, I could use someone with experience. Ketchum, you too."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Got it, heading in."
<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | NPC Base Commander says, "Yes, sir. We will prepare for your arrival."
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "Yes, sir."
Union Base P7-99-Phoebe is not really an easy place to sneak into. For an Elite? More plausible. But still not EASY per se… But that's just what has happened. Not only that, but the infiltrator appears to be a teenage girl no older than 16, and she made herself known to the base commander and the other officers by appearing in the middle of a meeting. The meeting table, which had looked completely normal before, suddenly was revealed to have had a clever light-warping effect right in the middle of it that this girl was crouched under. She just stood up, scared everyone, and nearly got shot.
After the panic subsided, the blonde-haired, leotard-clad girl had explained that she had infiltrated the base to prove her abilities and that she wanted to join the Union. She also identified herself as a Puella Magi, and from the same world as the legendary hero, Solid Snake. Stuff like Puella Magi are restricted knowledge to most people in the Union. Most wouldn't recognize the full connotations and certainly wouldn't know the worrying details.
It just so happened the base commander was one of the few non-Elite people to know this was a term that — if it cropped up — he was to report on immediately. So he did. And now Union Elites, including Solid Snake himself, are coming to investigate. Because as far as the Elites knew, Magical Girls of the type derived from contracts with Kyubey only appear on one or two worlds. While worrying that Kyubey may be contracting new Puella Magi OUTSIDE his world of influence, hopefully it's the first iteration of the Puella Magi Earth. At least those girls don't turn into Witches.
But if it's the second, more recent iteration…
…Then there's all kinds of potential for Really Bad Things(tm) to happen or already be happening.
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito and Specio says, "Unison In."
<Union-IC> [A] Alya says, "… good hunting, everyone."
Ash has had a variety of run-ins with Puella Magi.
Moreover, he's also completely unsurprised as to the prospect of Kyubey contracting off-world. He would be more surprised at the prospect that it hadn't happened already; the damned stuffed toy from Hell is very efficient with it, and his kind would likely look for energy sources anywhere they could, and there are plenty of angsty beings to choose from. That said, it still doesn't explain just why she didn't just go to the Department of the Elite and sign up like everyone else - making this entire situation all the more curious.
Ash is less than dressed to impressed as he heads into the facility, looking like he in fact hadn't even dressed for the cold weather. And he hadn't, going through one of the immediate external warp gates, he didn't really need it for 30 seconds out in the cold, although it's still in his pack if he needs it. As such, he looks not entirely unlike what one might expect from a kid to be wandering around in summer, not an up-tight, professional Elite. Passing through the checkpoints, he probably elicits a few odd looks from some of the soldiers who have never actually seen an Elite before.
He's shown into the conference room and briefed, possibly the first here. It is, however, noteworthy that he has no Pokemon out. Yet.
"Christ." "Well, you know what they say, sir. Be careful what you wish for."
Solid Snake doesn't get out in the field much these days. With his rank, there's a lot of desk work, strategy meetings and intel analysis; even if he does mostly tend to have his hands in the Union's more covert operations, it's still a far cry from the field work he's best suited for. It gets to the point where he'll take almost any excuse he can find to get out of Njorun and into his octocamo suit.
The Multiverse has a habit of being a monkey's paw, at times.
The colonel spends the trip suiting up and booting up, having simply grabbed the carrying cases for his octocamo and his usual setup of gear; a situation like this with an unknown Elite involved, it's practically regulation to treat it as a potential hot zone. His personal AI, Adai, helps him run through the checks, bantering back and forth now and then with the older man's grumbles.
By the time the transport he's riding reaches P7-99-Phoebe, he's suited up, stepping out into the cold in full gear, Solid Eye online and equipped, but no weapons drawn. Much like Ash, he's not going to have much trouble getting through any security checkpoints.
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "I'd like the full context required to engage in meaningful conversation with this Puella Magi, if it's classified my private band is open."
Altea Saito does look the part of magical girl, except the few pieces of armor, but those are details, as she comes rushing in through the warp gate and into the area. Security checks should be easy when you're an Elite who is known to be coming, so that shouldn't be that hard. She heads into the conference room, salutes to Ash, the supposed Puella Magi, the base commander, and any other officers who might be on site at this moment.
Once in there, she looks at the Puella Magi, and though her kind of magical girl isn't the same as those of the Puella Magi, she at least has some context that non-magical girls might lack. If nothing else, she looks the part of magical girl. Gungnir is held in her hand, and she bows to the girl, "I am Private Saito Altea of the Union Elite Forces, I'm a kind of magical girl and though I'm not an officer, I've been told they're on their way."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I can only give you the details on my side of things. Back home the year's 2019. There's a shadow group called the Patriots running things, or trying to. Used to try a lot harder, but the Union helped me deal with that pretty hard. These days the big issue is PMCs being used to fight proxy wars and the proliferation of cyborg tech."
<Union-IC> [A] Staren says, "…What does that have to do with Puella Magi?"
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "This one is from his world."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "She claims she's from my world, Staren."
The 'intruder' was not very keen on the idea of being stuck in a waiting cell, though she was more okay with remaining in an adjacent conference room under armed guard. Ash is briefed, and when Solid Snake arrives, he too is briefed if Ash doesn't brief him first or if they aren't together when they enter the room. Basically, the situation is explained in as much detail as is requested. Light-warping camouflage, magic usage that Union sensors didn't even pick up until she stepped out of concealment, clothing mimicking that of Colonel Snake but not entirely matching it, even a monocle over her left eye with a glowing red gemstone in it. She didn't attack anyone or cause problems beyond the whole sneaking in and appearing during a supposedly secure meeting.
But people are still understandably suspicious about her.
She says her name is 'Kara'.
Altea entering the adjoining conference room to talk to Kara results in her blinking a bit and hesitantly waving. "There's… More magical girls? I hadn't met any before now. Hm. Well, if there's precedent that makes it even more likely I can join up!" Then she turns to look at the wall that seperates her from the other room and seems to be very… Intently looking at it. Almost like she's looking THROUGH it to the people on the other side. "Well, nice to meet you, Private Saito. I'm Kara." A pause and then, "…Puella Magi Kara, 'hero of the people', that is! I keep forgetting to use my title. Hey, who are those people in the other room? Are those the officers?"
It seems she really can see through the wall — at least to some degree. She can tell two new people (Ash and Snake) have arrived. She seems to be a bit tired, as she rests her rear on the edge of the conference table and stoically crosses her arms. But she has dark rings under her eyes, indicating she hasn't slept much recently. Whenever Ash and Snake have had their full of information they can join Altea in the second conference room or order Kara brought into the main one, or whatever they wish to do.
Snake listens in silence for the most part, nodding his head a little now and then, asking for clarification here and there. He doesn't have all the pertinent info memorized, but he's got an AI with a direct link to Union databases, and she's able to fill in the gaps for him.
He also doesn't blame the suspicion. People from his world have this habit of not being real stable.
"Might as well go take a look," he grunts in Ash's general direction, before making the short trip from one room to the next. The sight that greets him is… eerie, in a lot of ways. The only response he can think of is, "…hell, you got the gear harness right." It's a lot to process.
Ash, for his part, is quickly talking over the situation in whispers with one of the other soldiers.
…and then he's saluted. He waves it off a bit as though she doesn't need to bother with that formality. "Don't worry 'bout it," he says quietly, though does give a respectful nod as he does so.
He nods in confirmation to Snake. However, just before he enters the room, it does call attention to her mentioning the 'new people.'
He doesn't say anything for the moment, keeping back. He may introduce himself to try to make her feel a LITTLE less pressured if no one else does, though he's still suspicious. He may not know a ton about Snake's world (although he does know some, seeing as how he's probably been in a few engagements with Metal Gears), but he knows enough about Puella Magi to know something rotten may be residing a place within a certain European nation with a name starting with a 'D' and ending in 'mark.'
Altea Saito has two options, either she can do this slowly and try to get it carefully there or she can just be straight and to the point. From what she has pieced together, doing the latter is probably harsh but the message is harsh and trying to sweeten it up won't do Kara any good, at all. So she just spills the beans and gets it over with.
"Kyubey is a bastard, his wishes are never worth the cost you've paid for them, and you might not know the full impact yet. I'm not an officer and I can't recruit you, but I do know there are other Puella Magi in the Union who can explain the full details of what you've gotten yourself into."
Altea takes a breath, "I'm not the same kind of magical girl. My magic is part inherent, part due to training, and part due to other minor factors. I do know that Colonel Sna—" And as dramatics demand, that's obviously right where Snake walks in, and Altea salutes again, "Sir!"
The blonde teenager turns her attention off what her magic eye is telling her is on the other side of the wall and onto Altea. She frowns at the insult to Kyubey. "I haven't regretted making my wish yet. I don't feel inclined to start. You're welcome to your opinions, as I fight for freedom — even the freedom to say things I might not personally like — but I'll reserve judgement until I learn more from those others you mentioned." Then she rubs her nose and says, "Though I do think you're kind of a jerk. Until you've had the guts to wager your soul for a wish, I don't think you should be telling me if it's worth it or not." Ah, if only she knew.
The door between the two rooms slides open and two men enter. Kara barely even sees Ash when he enters. Or rather, she sees him, but her mind goes blank. Her wide-eyed gaze is focused solely on Solid Snake. She sees him and… Can't believe it. She could see SOME things through the opaque wall. Rather excellent thermal-imaging, courtesy of her magic, but that was about it. Her dropped jaw turns into a broad smile when she gets the compliment (or so she is taking it as). "Oh, man. Oh, man! Oh, man oh man oh man! I have been… I have been a fan of yours ever since I first heard about you! Mister Solid Snake, you're… Oh, man, I can't believe this is happening!" She's bouncing on her heels and trying not to make too much of an idiot of herself.
This attempt becomes more likely to succeed when she stops bouncing and stands at attention, saluting Solid Snake and Ash and saying, "Puella Magi Kara, Hero of the People, reporting for duty! I've been dreaming of this day for years, but only recently did I get the chance to live it. I thought I'd be fine fighting alone, but…" she trails off for a bit and reaches up with her left hand to adjust the monocle on her eye as the glow seems to fade slightly. "…I think I'll be able to fight more bad guys and rescue more people when I have proper military backing. Where do I sign up?"
Ash is, once again, saluted.
This is a bit of a strange thing for him, all things considered. He's a little bit surprised, but, he's aware they have to put up a unified front.
As such, after a second, returns the salute, although he lets Snake do the talking for now - this is a native from his world, after all, and he's definitely the senior officer in here.
. o O (Still wonder why she didn't just sign up.) Ash thinks at his Pokemon, feeling a little suspicious.
. o O (Saurba bul bulbasaur… <Wonder if maybe the Department turned her down.>)
. o O (Worth lookin' into.) He decides he has a few questions for ARTHUR once the meeting is over.
Snake comes to a complete dead stop.
The urge to reach up and start rubbing his nose is /strong/. But he manages to resist. Somehow.
"At ease," he grunts instead, to both girls in the room. Now of all times, he does not have military decorum in him, and as yet one of the girls in this room isn't even part of the command structure he's in.
It takes Snake a moment or two to even decide what it is he's going to say; he covers that time by heading over to the nearest unoccupied chair at the conference table, pulling it out and sliding into it. Only once he's done that, and mentally braced himself for what's to come, does the 'legendary soldier' begin. "Alright. Let's hear your story."
Altea Saito steps back when the Puella Magi bitches at her, and decides to let Snake handle it for now. She'll let one of the other Puella Magi handle the full story, and maybe this Kara will apologize. Maybe not, maybe they won't ever get the chance. Who can tell? Altea doesn't really seem to care right now, just here to listen and make sure nothing will go horribly wrong… though the others should be more than capable of handling it, right?
Kara looks briefly to Ash, squinting as though seeing something when he communicates with his pokemon but giving no indication she knows what exactly was said or even that telepathic speech is what she picked up. Then again, maybe she just glanced at him for some other reason. It's hard to say. She relaxes a bit, standing with feet apart and hands behind her back when she is told to stand 'at ease'. She waits until Snake sits down in a chair and says he wants to hear her story. Wow! The way he is all calm and stuff is sooo coooool~!
She tries to mimic this by taking a few moments to push down all the things she WANTS to say and instead ordering her thoughts. Then she says, "My name is Kara, as I mentioned before. If I have a surname, no one knows it. As far as the orphanage workers know, if I have a parents they were likely killed in the civil war between the forces of the dictator-for-life of my country and the equally-loathsome rebels. They both used whatever means they felt were necessary to achieve their ends. Those who did not aid the rebellion were threatened, beaten, tortured, or… Uh… Assaulted. Those who aided the rebellion or were accused of such received similar treatment from the army until they gave up information or were executed as traitors."
Aside from the one brief moment of faltering in her story-telling, Kara seems to be rather calm for a teenage girl describing these things. "The orphanage was poor, not equipped to take care of as many orphans as lived there, we had no power, the water was dirty, and food was scarce and poor quality when we got it. For many years I didn't know life could be different than that…" She then turns her head to look at the only other girl in the room and gives a difficult-to-read expression towards Altea. After a few seconds of silence, during which she seems to glance the other Magical Girl over and gain a thoughtful look, she turns to face forward again. "Then we started hearing about you, General Solid Snake." He's not a general, but she doesn't know that.
"We started hearing stories about you, what you were doing for people like us. Countries being run by dictators, or with innocent civilians caught up in wars they had no reason to be in… We didn't know all of what you'd done, but I'd heard enough to know that you were a hero. For the first time in my life, I had hope that things might be better someday."
"About two weeks ago, I met a strange creature named 'Kyubey'. At first I thought he was some kind of genetic experiment gone wrong. But he told me that he had magic — demonstrated it for me — and told me that if I made a contract with him, I could have any wish granted. ANY wish, no matter how impossible it might seem. I wasn't sure if I believed him, but I figured it was worth a shot right? So… I wished that I could be as strong, and famous, and great a hero as you, Mister Snake. I wished I could help people and fight the villains of the world too. That wish was granted. I've been fighting ever since that day. Kyubey mentioned that there were things called 'Witches' I would have to fight, but I haven't run into any yet."
Such a touching story. Then she goes and ruins it by adding on, "So I've just been killing evil humans instead."
Ash blinks as he notices Kara's attention. Wait, did she…
He's not entirely certain, though it's somewhat unnerving. He subtly tells his Pokemon to 'keep it down' before nodding a bit.
His arms are folded and his face is unwavering in the face of this, although he silently curses Kyubey. Again. That thing has taken too many lives.
Though the tactical part of his brain considers whether or not anyone has tried to contract with Kyubey with the wish being 'kill all Incubators.'
Hey, it's worth a shot.
Killing bad humans?… mph. Depends on how bad they are. Ash's hands aren't exactly pure as the driven snow from the shedding of blood himself, that's for certain. Although hunting down humans seems to be something the other Puella Magi have avoided to this point. He ponders saying something but retains his silence for the moment.
For most of the story, Solid Snake is quiet. It's the kind of tale he's all too used to hearing in people he runs into from his world; most of them, however, end up in the military, the classic 'special forces wack-job' that's slowly becoming a thing of the past. This one's taken another route entirely - and her particular descent into delusion is painful for Snake to hear on another level entirely.
Because there's a good girl in there, who wants to do good for people. But it's all based around such a fragile worldview she's going to shatter when she starts getting a real taste of things and finds out she hasn't escaped the kind of life she grew up in.
Snake takes a deep breath. This is going to be rough. He's at least been briefed on how dangerous despair and negative emotion is for Puella Magi. But if he doesn't address it now, the crash will only be that much harder later.
"Finding a way out is more than most people ever pull off," Snake finally says. It's clear by his tone he's choosing his words carefully. "Most people never make it out of that kind of life at all, just end up the next generation of soldiers in the war. It's a hell of a thing, and it's good you got out. But I want to make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into. I know it looks pretty on the news, but the truth of things is a lot less heroic and a bit more mud and blood most of the time."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…Snake."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I know."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…if she hasn't been killing Witches… where's she getting grief seeds?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Shit."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…alright, we've got a potential emergency here, we need a grief seed to this location /NOW/."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Damn it all, um. Snake, maybe we oughta tell her that the brass has to talk about it."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash ngh. "Could try psionics if it comes down to it but that's a long-shot…"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Hold on. Let's see how she responds. Damn it, I really put my foot in the shit, here."
Ash, at the moment, has covered his mouth a bit as though thinking. Though at the moment he IS transmitting, and muffling the transmission.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Either way, getting a Grief Seed here would be a good idea. For all we know she takes it well and she's on her last legs."
Kara is silent as she waits for Snake to speak and then listens intently when he starts carefully explaining to her. A variety of expressions and body language are shown throughout, ranging from happiness, to sadness, to determination, to fear. At the end, she's smiling. But it's a tight, bitter smile. "Yes, sir. Mud and blood. I've seen a lot of that lately, but you've likely seen more than I can imagine. But even if it's ugly, it has to be done, right? It's… Important that soldiers exist as a tool. I get that. But… Sometimes people can't just blindly follow orders. They can't just… Let people tell them whether it's right or wrong to go into an orphanage and start 'recruiting' new soldiers, right? Sometimes, when you come home and find something like that — everyone you've ever known either already gone or being loaded into trucks and taken… Taken, who-knows-where!" No longer standing in any specific position, Kara swings a hand to indicate 'wherever' in general.
"Someone has to stop that, right? It's like you said, eventually they'll just become new soldiers and the whole hellish cycle starts all over again. So the bad guys need to be taken out before that can happen. If they're at the top or at the bottom, those who carry out such things need to face justice, right? Like those thugs in the woods on my way here. Sure, maybe they didn't attack me, but I'd heard they'd been waylaying travellers and vehicles. They'd have attacked me eventually anyway, or any number of others! So, they just had to die right?—And I even gave them the chance to surrender!"
Seemingly very agitated now, practically yelling and pacing up and down the conference room in short, quick steps, she says, "For scum like that, humans that aren't even human — just parasites surviving off the suffering of others — they can't be allowed to keep hurting people, right? What does it matter if it's one, or a dozen, or an entire army! If they're evil, they just need to die! They can't…" She stops, staggering slightly for a moment, one hand on the conference table to support her while her left hand goes up to that gemstone-monocle on her left eye as though it's paining her.
"…I made it this far. Maybe I stumbled a few times along the way. Maybe not everyone had to die. But what choice did I have? I couldn't just let them keep hurting people. I couldn't keep… I…" She looks around the room as tears stream from her eyes. "W-why are you all looking at me like that?" Even if no one is looking at her in any special way, it's like she isn't seeing what everyone else is looking at. "D-do you think you could have done better!? You think you're all so special! You weren't THERE! You didn't have to CHOOSE!"
Then she looks right at Solid Snake and her features twist in an expression of utter misery as she seems to grab the air itself and pull it around her like a cloak.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Uh-oh."
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "Sirs, this is bad news, right?"
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "VERY."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake swears. "Shit! Ketchum, Altea, find her. Whatever tools you two have."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake takes a breath.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Yessir, should we evac the base?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Affirmative. Sound the general evac alert. If you find her and she hasn't changed yet, try to talk her down, but-"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Be ready to aim for the eyepiece. I think that's the spot."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Snake, I've got a… /theory./"
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "That I /might/ be able to use to help her."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "But it's a long-shot."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I'm listening. Talk and search."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Telepathic link, possibly forced. That way she won't have to take the negative emotions on her own."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "I don't like it but if it's this or nothing…"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "If she's right on the edge, Ketchum…"
<Union-IC> [A] Cecily says, "Let me know if I can help with the evac effort, or anything at all."
<Union-IC> [A] Untamed Breeze says, "What the hell's going on? Is one of the Puella Magi… in a bad situation?"
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "I'm not an espionage specialist of any kind, sir. I can use my eyes and move at high speed, but I don't have any real ways to search for individuals beyond that."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "If she's right on the edge then it's a crapshoot no matter what we do."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I'm gonna stop pulling verbal punches, here."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "If I have to choose between her and you, Ketchum, I'll pull the trigger myself."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "It won't come to that, I can protect myself. The question is whether or not it'd actually /work/."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Do what you have to, but don't get yourself messed up if she's doomed no matter what."
Ash comes to a realization just as Snake's explaining, unrelated to what the contents of said explanation is - hence why he was talking on the radio.
And then she wigs out. Fast. Ash is about to say something to try to calm her, and then —
A cold feeling settles in Ash's head. Things just got much, much more serious.
He reaches for his Pokeballs, quickly flicking off two of them.
"KARA, COME BACK!" Ash calls aloud. "Snake wasn't done talking yet!"
The Pokeballs materialize into Pikachu and Butterfree.
"Try to find her!" he orders, though his Pokemon, already listening, are all too aware of the situation. Pikachu begins sniffing at the ground, trying to pick up her scent, and Butterfree's eyes and antennae flash, attempting to send out an AWACS-like psionic pulse to try to find her.
However, it's possible she's cloaked her scent trail, and it's possible Free's psionic pulse will completely fail.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Got it."
<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | With General Evacuation Alarm in the background, an NPC Comm. Officer says, "We have a report of a suspicious cardboard box moving down the northern hallway near the weapons lockers in building 4."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Copy. Moving to intercept."
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "Moving."
Snake is silent at first, but as her attitude goes from bitter to agitated, the concern starts to seep into his expression. He might be a fairly simple man, but rather than stupid, he is actually pretty sharp, and the implications for this growing emotional turmoil on the girl's part are bad enough that adrenaline is already starting to flow. By the time she's ranting at them, the former general is quietly reaching for his SOCOM - but then, more quickly than he can react, she's gone.
In a heartbeat, Snake's up and on his feet. "Kara! Kara, you can't do this! A lot of people are gonna get hurt if you give in to this!" Damn it, Snake is a terrible person for inspirational speeches.
In a flash, Snake deals out orders over radio, and then switches his own suite of gear on. The Solid Eye, already booted and ready, is easily able to provide both IR and Soliton Radar feeds; he's not entirely sure it's going to be able to find her, but it's better than nothing.
When one of the comms officers gives them coordinates, Snake is in motion almost before he can think about it. With no regard for the state of the door afterwards, he simply slams it open and starts running, letting Adai guide him via HUD in the rigt direction.
Altea Saito hears the report over the radio and Gungnir pingz, <BLITMANEUVRIEREN> (lightning maneuvers) and with that, a Belkan triangle appears below her feet and she speeds up to far beyond human speeds. Not supersonic but definitely fast enough to make many car owners jealous. She follows the indicated path to the 'suspicious' box, ready to act on instructions if provided, assuming the box is still there once she arrives.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Saito, watch yourself. If you find her, do not engage unless she opens fire."
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "Yes, sir."
Scent is faint, but it's there. The speed at which this girl has changed locations is astonishing. The conference room doors weren't even touched. The scent, however, indicates that she went right up to the ceiling and a very slightly misplaced fan grating shows that's probably how she got out. Silently. Unseen. That is some serious stealth magic. Whether tracking by scent or by Elite technology or simply going to where they're told to go, all three of the Union Elites make it to building 4 — yes, she even changed BUILDINGS in that brief timeframe.
When they reach the appropriate building, passing out into the cold for a moment inbetween, they find that the lights are flickering, there's blood-spatter all over the place but no signs of any bodies.
Altea is first to arrive due to her speed, and thus can confirm that there is indeed a very suspicious cardboard box in the hallway. Various words are written on it and some are printed or stamped on, in a variety of languages. The letters are faded though, and only one phrase stands out — one in French. If Altea can't read French, then she wouldn't understand it. The box shuffles suddenly, gradually scooting down the hall. Various crates, wooden and more advanced materials line the corridor.
Once Ash gets close enough, the scent of Kara changes gradually and noticeably for Pikachu, but what it means is unclear right now.
Scoot. Scoot. Stop. Silence. Then… Scoot. Scoot. Stop. Silence. The box keeps repeating this. Perhaps Kara does not know she has been spotted yet? For some reason, Butterfree will have been completely unable to pick up on Kara, aside from PERHAPS a general sort of… 'Icky feeling' in the air, unattached to anything in particular.
Ash, on the other hand, doesn't follow the provided directions. They could be a ruse of some sort, after all. Rather, he lets Pikachu do the guidance.
"Pika." <Up there.> Pikachu says. Deciding to save time he quickly has Bulbasaur materialize, lash out his whips to penetrate the ceiling, and climbs up, dematerializing the walking salad as he hurries along through the snow, not even bothering with his coat as Pikachu leads the way.
Soon they're in the other building and Ash is following most quickly, Pikachu's sniffing suddenly turning… off.
"…pika chu." <…scent's changing.> Pikachu says in caution.
Ash's face twists into a deeper frown. "Butterfree?" he asks, not bothering with psionic inquiry - although Butterfree shakes his head in the negative.
They have to hurry - it may already be too late. Ash quietly concentrates as he tries to prepare himself mentally in case he has to attempt to stablize her psionically. He moves faster now, Butterfree suddenly taking higher up and attempting to scan for the girl, both with his psionic senses, as well as using his compound eyes.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Pikachu says, "…pika chu." <…scent's changing.>
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…"
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Charmander says, "Man char charmander…" <I posit that the biochemical changes are already underway.>
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Do you think we can stop it?" "Man char charmander…" <I would rather not speculate, but if we are to save her, it must be done NOW.>
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake's tone gets a little cold. "As of now, she's considered a hostile."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Butterfree says, "Free butter…" <I can't pick up anything, unless a 'room full of crates' is what you're interested in. I'm gonna stick to the ceiling and see if I can do better than that.>
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…if I can get close enough to touch her… Butterfree, I'll need you to dematerialize for that."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Butterfree says, "Free…" <Got it. Sticking close.>
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "If she's already changing she may be hostile."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I hate to be the bad guy here, but we have to assume she's too far gone."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "I'm going to be careful, Snake. And I'm ready to fire if I need to. Pikachu's already got an electrical charge loaded up in case she's already turned when we get there."
Altea Saito looks around warily. She's fought a witch before, but this is new, and she's not sure what's going to be happening. She's not even sure what the relationship between 'Puella Magi' and 'Witch' is beyond that they fight eachother, so she just clutches to Gungnir like this is a life or death situation, with all the hostile talk on Radio.
It's a mad dash to cross the grounds, but once in, Snake slows down, going into cautious 'enemy territory' mode even before the blood and emptiness become apparent. They, however, are what prompts the man to finally draw his pistol, switching on the laser sight and advancing as if expecting enemy hostiles at any moment, following Ash's lead and, by extension, Pikachu's nose. It's what Ash says next over the tactical band that finally seals it for Snake - she's most likely too far gone by now.
This just turned into a mercy killing.
It's with caution that he edges closer to the box, but stops before getting too close. It's still close enough, however, for him to read the writing, and murmur the translation over his radio.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake murmurs, "A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…hm?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "The writing. The biggest stuff says that in French."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Got it."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Pikachu says, "…ka chu pika." <…I think Snake's right. At first I thought it was something from these other boxes and the cold, but that blood…>
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash's Pikachu says, "Pika." <It's not her's.>
As people arrive at the proper location in the hallway, Pikachu continueing to check the smell of the 'hero of the people' Puella Magi, the scent of Kara trails off to the side… NOT to the box itself. The reason why Butterfree hasn't been able to pick up on Kara at all also becomes obvious. Solid Snake's Solid Eye will have also been able to see it… There's a cooling body lying curled up in a ball next to the wall. A blonde-haired girl in what might generously be termed 'civilian clothes' but probably were scavenged from a homeless shelter. She looks dirty, tired, her cheeks having patches of relative cleanness only because her tears have washed away some of the filth.
Her eyes look blank and expressionless, and… She doesn't appear to be breathing.
So what the HELL is in that box and does anyone REALLY want to know?
The first question is answered a few seconds later as the edge of the box lifts up slightly and an enormous black-and-red mechanical-looking appendage that seems to practically BURN with wrongness previously undetectable but now ALL too evident bursts out into the hallway, encompassing the entire corridor in and instant and drawing everyone inside of the box so fast that even Elites with supernatural reflexes just plain don't have the time to react. It's impossibly fast. So fast it might not even be solely speed-based so much as perception-based.
There's darkness for a short while, and the sound of powerful winds blowing, along with intense cold.
Every means of detection available should indicate for those who know what to look for that… They are no longer in any 'normal' reality. As a rather large cardboad box suddenly flies off of the trio, it becomes obvious that Kara has already become a Witch. From the outside, this Labyrinth — and that is what this is — was very small. But on the inside, it's not. It looks like it may well be the size of an entire country. A frozen country being hit by a constant blizzard. Expanding outwards in every direction is snow, icy boulders, and tall, dark mountains.
Even with the driving snow in people's eyes, and painfully-cold winds, it's clear that things are even more distorted than they should be. It's as dark as a starless night in the middle of winter. The sky is completely shrouded. Nuclear winter? Further, things seem somewhat grainy, and indistinct, like an old-fashioned movie. It feels like someone can wander forever in the blizzard and never reach the edge.
Somewhat nearby, as pelting ice stings any exposed flesh, it appears there are a series of winter-camouflaged bunkers, towers, garages, and so on. Humanoid figures seem to be trudging along in the distance, pacing the rooftops, and so on. They look a bit like some of the enemy soldiers Snake has fought in the past — but faceless, indistinct, without any degree of true humanity to them.
Just tools to fight war with.
This is one hell of a labyrinth.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Watch out-!"
<Union-IC>  Altea Saito says, "Wuah?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Adai?" "As near as I can tell, it matches the accounts, sir. I think we're in a Witch's Labyrinth."
<Union-IC> [6-XO] Lloyd Irving says, "Son of a… Good luck, everyone."
Pikachu's nose twitches as they go in.
The blood on the walls they HADN'T been expecting as they chattered outside the hallway, attempting to formulate a plan of action.
Until they arrive. Blood everywhere. It takes Pikachu several seconds to confirm it as some of the crates have some things that are rather powerful stenches to a mouse (perhaps the base commander is a pickled herring addict?), but afterwards, he confirms it.
The plan of action is no longer viable.
Butterfree remains fairly high in the sky as he attempts to scan for anything untowards as Ash approaches, less than happy about it.
"…pika." <…here.> Pikachu says, as they come to the corpse.
Ash kneels down, looking over the girl, touching the neck to search for a pulse.
He stands up sharply as he glances around - no doubt about it.
And it's about then that everything goes to hell. Ending up in the cold, Ash quickly yanks his coat out of his pack, realizing he'd better suit up for this as he glances around, careful to start slipping it on in a way that he can still run, fight, or even abandon the garment if need be. Butterfree remains in the sky lest swooping down should call the attention of the familiars.
'A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.'
The transition comes before Snake is able to react. It's so fast and so sudden that all he can do is stagger as reality completely changes around him, stumbling a step or two as they finally find themselves in a different reality… but one that feels all too familiar to the old soldier. The frigid, near-arctic cold, the faceless enemy soldiers patrolling a fortified base… it's a place he's been to a few times in life, and far too many times in memory.
Slowly, Snake holsters his pistol, swapping the SOCOM out for the heavier firepower of a FAMAS assault rifle. "…I'm no hero," he mutters, more to himself than anyone else. "Never was. Only one thing I do well." He chambers around, then speaks up. "Ketchum. Saito. We've gotta bring this thing down. Only thing we can still do for her."
Altea Saito freezes as they are sucked into the Witch's labyrinth and looks around terrifiedly. She steels herself and grabs hold of Gungnir and nods to Snake, "What's the plan, sir?" Is all she can bring out as she stares at the surrounding area, trying to figure out a course of action, or something resembling it… hopefully, Snake or Ash will have a better one than she does.
The rooftops of the bunkers, the grounds surrounding them, snowy-terrain vehicles, all have various soldiers on them, wandering about on patrol, or sitting ready. It's hard to tell how many there are or even their exact positions without shielding one's eyes and peering closely (at least for those without Thermal Imaging gadgets like Snake), but they don't seem to be aware of the intruders quite yet. They're likely Familiars.
And yet for some reason, without the Elites even attacking, the Familiars start falling. A spray of blood there, a neck-snap there, a muffled shot from a silenced weapon over yonder… The Familiars fall quickly and successively, barely having the time to turn towards where their fellows are falling before they join them. In the grainy darkness and freezing winds, the silhouette of a nimble figure might occasionally be made out when it is outlined by snow or a bunker's wall. It seems to be completely black, but for a single glowing-green eye in the middle of its head. It performs agile flips, extremely fast dashes, killing Familiar after Familiar, and then leaps into the air, does a backwards somersault onto a bunker's rooftop, and then leaps off behind the building and out of sight.
The corpses of the Familiars remain where they are for several seconds, then they start fizzling, dissolving into grey motes of indistinct material, and reforming gradually into the humanoids they were before. Who the heck was that? Was that… Kara's Witch form? If so, why would she be killing her own Familiars? One thing is for certain… Getting out of this cold and perhaps past these soldiers while they're still putting themselves back together may be better to do sooner rather than later.
Especially when an electronic chime echoes out over the howling of the storm, and a computerized female voice makes an announcement that indicates that staying out here is probably going to be lethal relatively soon.
<Union-IC> [A] In German, Adalinda | In the background of the radios of Snake, Altea, and Ash, there is suddenly a loud electronic chime of some kind, and then a computerized female voice announces, "Attention, all personnel: Rocket launch will commence in t-minus, 60 minutes. For your safety, please evacuate to one of the radiation-shielded sub-levels."
Butterfree's compound eyes pick THAT one up.
He silently watches as the figure moves around rapidly, mentally summarizing what's going on. Ash scowls sharply as the being goes out of sight, but he doesn't want to expose the bug to the cold unduely - it might weaken him far faster than would be good for the mission /or/ the bug.
He flutters down and Ash Pokeballs him.
"I think that girl's probably our Witch, did ou see her?" Ash inquires. "She was /fast/."
He frowns a little. He's not sure that he can keep up if it comes right down to it. Pikachu's probably going to have to be his Pokemon of choice for this, maybe Pidgeotto. He keeps an eye out.
And then the 'rocket launch' announcement comes up. Two things come to mind - either this place is going to get nuked or /somewhere else/ is going to get nuked.
Pikachu sniffs the area, trying to determine what, if anything, can be smelled - including Kara, or whatever it is that Kara turned into. He also keeps his ears swiveling about, the radar-like sensory organs hopefully providing some insight as Ash manages to fully pull on his jacket, protecting him from the cold. It's not perfect, but it's better than burning up his body's own energy in a combat situation.
Ash pauses for a moment, before, reluctantly, releasing Butterfree again next to him, keeping close to the bug and in fact grabbing onto him to try to keep him warmer as the bug tries to use his paranormal senses to see if he can find anything radiation-related. But it's questionable if it can work like that; he can pick up quite a few things, but radiation may be a bit much, although he's picked up some kinds of energy before.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "I'm gonna have Butterfree scan and see if he can sense anything, but… not even counting that this is a Witch's barrier, I dunno that he'll be able to find anything. *exhale* What do you need me to do, Snake?"
"I've never been in one of these," Snake replies to Altea, keeping his weapon ready but not yet shouldering it. "Only have the intel Adai gave me. But the way I understand it, we have to figure out where the Witch is, piss her off, then kill her."
The octocamo activates at an unseen command, turning itself a white that will make him nigh invisible against the snow field. He brings up the FAMAS when something seems to be killing the familiars, watching it until it's no longer present, only to lapse into a faint frown as it disappears. "…I saw it-"
And they have a time limit. A very worrying one.
"Let's get moving," Snake declares simply. "Keep up, walk like I am. Let's try not to raise any alarms until we have to." His pace is brisk but measured, carefully lifting his legs up and putting them down so as not to kick up powder or trip himself.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "For now, surveillance. Any intel you can get us. I get the feeling we need to find it and kill it before that sixty's up."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake pauses. "…I think this is Shadow Moses. Or her idea of it. I think that's what's going on here."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…you've never been in one, alright, better explain a bit. Long story short a Witch's Labrynth is an alternate reality. They're basically a mini-god here, although they're not invincible. Regular physics are not necessarily the same here."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I got the brief."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Alright."
Altea Saito follows in Snake's footsteps, carefully. She's clutching Gungnir and ready to act when needed, somewhere hoping that it'll be a while. but generally just preparing to fight while she doesn't have to fight yet, knowing that the fight will come, even if it isn't there yet…
Scents stand out more here, because the snow has no real scent to it. But the smells being picked up are really, really, really messed up. There are few things Pikachu would have in his experience to compare against these smells, most likely. Not because they're so unique that an extremely veteran pokemon wouldn't recognize them, but because they're just plain… WEIRD. They aren't any one thing, don't seem to follow any rules or logic. At one point, Pikachu might even be smelling himself coming from a distance away! But one smell stands out. Blood. It keeps surging and then, after a few seconds, diminishing… Only to surge again somewhere else.
As the trio make their way through the snow, the Familiars they succeed in bypassing don't notice them. But there's more up ahead who don't appear to have been killed yet. Staticky voices start calling out in a gibberish mish-mash of various languages and no-languages. None of the words match anything, and some of it is just 'sounds' rather than meaning. But as guns start opening up on the trio, the message is clear regardless.
On the other side of all the Familiars shooting at them, there's a somewhat larger building than the others, with a freighter-style inclined-ramp elevator that looks like it could probably support a tank. It seems to be powered and ready to descend. Now they just need to GET there as the snow flies up from where rounds impact it, the sharp report of single-fire and automatic weapons warring with the screaming wind.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "So much for not raising any alarms. Hit hard and keep moving!"
The transition from quick, stealthy movement to smooth, urgent combat advance comes with only the briefest pause, during which the alarm on Snake's face at someone opening fire on them is plain.
And then Snake is all business, FAMAS up and levelled on the firing 'soldiers', he begins to unload three-round bursts of his own, aiming for body- and headshots wherever possible. "So much for not raising any alarms," he grunts, his own words from before turned into a somewhat bitter little twist of irony. "Hit hard and keep moving!" Without surprise, all they can do is punch a hole before the familiars can react.
Butterfree picks up aggression.
This is unusual since he's NOT usually able to get much in the way of ranged psionic communications. It occurs to Ash that /MAYBE/ they can use that to their advantage somehow. His mind starts turning as Pikachu's scent trail goes completely haywire. "Pika chu ka pika…" <Seems like space has gone topsy-turvey…> Pikachu comments.
"Charmander char." <It likely has.> Charmadner comments from Ash's Pokeball, causing the trainer to nod.
And then of course… weaponsfire comes in.
He decides not to bother with trying to take out individual targets.
With a smooth motion he hurls one POkeball out — resulting in Pidgeotto, whose body glows purple as he leaves a streak of energy behind him for a split second. Which should, with any luck, send the bullets aimed at him right back at their sources.
That said, Ash also hits the dirt and Pikachu charges in case that doesn't work with the oddities of the barrier.
When Snake fires upon the Familiars, they go down rather readily. If it had been a mundane opponent shooting at them, they might have had more of a chance. Instead, these Familiars actually fly apart when they're shot by an Elite. They don't just fall down, or die, or similar like when the Witch was killing them. They nearly EXPLODE into strips of film, and spent casings, not leaving anything behind except for crude, wooden crosses to mark their final resting places — where they fell and did not 'reform'.
The same is true with the skill Pidgeotto uses. The rounds that come towards Ash and his companions are flung back at their senders… But they don't seem to be as dramatically killed by their own bullets. Their deaths are gruesome, but more conventional. They simply get really large holes in them from where their own shots hit them, and then they fall down and don't get back up. The snow around them turns red as they keep bleeding and bleeding and bleeding.
Staying in place at this point is probably not a good idea. The soldiers on the ground in this area seem to have been taken down. But sentry towers start shining search lights down on the base's grounds. Heading for that elevator-platform before the heroes are detected is probably their best best right now—
"Attention, all personnel. Rocket launch will commence in t-minus 45 minutes. For your safety, please evacuate to one of the radiation-shielded sub-levels."
It has totally not been 15 minutes since the last announcement. Maybe, like… 5 minutes tops, gun/bird-fight included. Oh, well. Labyrinth physics. What are you going to do?
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "…Snake, I've got an idea. But I have no idea if it's going to work."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I'm listening."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Butterfree was able to pick up /emotions/. Normally Butterfree isn't a strong enough psychic to do this. Since I usually have to /touch/ anyone I'm trying to mindlink with /and/ because Butterfree is usually my psychic bridge, I /might/ be able to force a link of some kind and try to get some information."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "It's not a huge chance, but it might work. On the other hand it's entirely possible I'll just get gibberish."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Since I doubt there's much left in the Witch that's like human thought."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "At this point that's not a risk I'm willing to take. I trust you, Ash, but I don't trust this place."
"Move! Watch the searchlights!"
It's basic soldier's instinct for Snake, who himself is already moving as best he can; the currently-white octocamo does a good bit to augment his strength, so it's not as difficult as it might otherwise be. And that's thankful, because while searchlights simply mean 'you can be seen and very easily shot' in the real world, around here the 'death' they represent may be both more and less literal.
So with time counting down far more quickly than it ought, Snake moves. And avoids the searchlights. And, where he finds a moment, here and there, he unloads bursts of automatic fire, at the watchtowers, and at any enemies in their way.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, amidst the sound of running, "Alright. If you change your mind, let me know, 'cuz it might work if we run outta options. I /can/ protect myself."
Fortunately it seems that there's nothing FIRING on them right this second, giving Ash a chance to regroup. He quickly dematerializes Pidgeotto again to protect him, as well as Butterfree. He has an idea, and he turns it over in his head quietly…
"…Snake, I've got an idea." He frowns, glancing around, before he quickly snaps into radio - following the lead of his commander, of course.
The idea thus rejected, Ash quickly Pokeballs Butterfree as well, deciding to switch to someone a bit more directly useful, opening the ball to reveal Charmander.
The fiery little lizard leaps to Ash's OTHER shoulder, and as such Pikachu and Charmander tag-team, attempting to avoid as much fire as he can, and the search lights.
He has more than a few close calls, calls he'd rather NOT have, resistant to bullets or not; in fact, one clips his arm, a reminder that for all the crack-tripness in here they are very much real, as he follows after Snake.
He flicks out his phaser and sets it to 'kill' - but he doesn't fire, since doing so would just disrupt his Pokemon.
The lights shatter when shot. There doesn't appear to be any soldiers in the sentry towers despite those search lights having been used and directed moments before. Blood pours down in waterfalls from the towers, along with lengths of barbed wire such as might ring the fences of a P.O.W. camp. Living sentry towers. That explains how the lights were being aimed.
As any patrolling soldiers are taken down, and three seperate towers are knocked out (and bleed out all over. Where is all that blood even COMING from!?), the Elites eventually make it to the freight-elevator. There's a metal box on a pole with a cable sticking out the bottom and winding down out of sight. The box has two buttons on it. An 'up' arrow and a 'down' arrow.
This one isn't rocket science to figure out. If anyone presses the down arrow button, the lift starts to descend with a mechanical whirring, gradually sliding straight down, and then shifting gears to head down an inclined tunnel on the metal tracks. That computerized voice announces they have 30 minutes left as they descend too. Stupid computer.
The tunnel is, at first, kind of techy-looking but not too much to see. There are lights lining the passage, but the lights start flickering or just being dark the further down they go. Eventually, they're in almost complete darkness and there are weird squelching noises, cracking and tearing sounds, and warm wetness drips on them from the ceiling. Suddenly, emergency lights come on, revealing the platform elevator they're standing on has transformed into a flattened tank, complete with treads, and it's been running over the bodies of civilians all the way down. Piles of them, all laid out across the rails and tracks. Men, women, children, and old-people. Soldiers are hanging from nooses from the ceiling, with black sacks over their heads. They've been bleeding on the Elites from up there. The walls are no longer those of a tunnel, but rusted metal, with rivets, and metal plates welded on, and so forth.
Then the platform lurches to a stop without having reached the bottom. There's a few seconds to worry about what's going to happen, then there's a sensation in the air that everyone can feel, psychic or non. A strange emotion not belonging to those who feel it, not influencing them, but recognized as permeating everything anyone.
Tenacity. The feeling of never giving in, of continuing to push and push beyond the limits of one's mind and body, continuing to fight and struggle even when it means one's death, and never ever ever ever surrendering.
Then the platform/tank starts moving again. This time, very, very, very fast. Infact, it's almost like they aren't moving at all, but rather the tunnel is flying up to meet them. Blast doors shoot up at the Elites, sliding open one after another with just BARELY enough time to not ram into them. It seems the Witch knows she has guests.
Then the final set of blast doors swing open and there is a blinding flash of several colors of light, the explosion of artillery mixed with the bursting of fireworks, and those Elites still in the game find themselves standing in a huge hangar-like room, with flags of all manner of nations and affiliations flying through the air, rolling across the walls and over each other, the symbols constantly changing as one flag overcomes another…
And then RUNES hit them, imprinting themselves on the minds of the Elite, as a female figure clad all in black, with a single, artificial, glowing green cybernetic eye in the middle of her face drops from the ceiling and lands in a crouch with a knife in one hand and a handgun in the other.
The Heroic Witch
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake makes a strained sound.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Open fire?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Everything you've got!"
Silently, Ash wishes he brought Porygon, so he could reformat that stupid computer with Wrecky's endless collection of old television quotes.
However, that doesn't apply to the task at hand. Pikachu and Charmander remain on his shoulder and Ash slides his phaser back into the holster. The reason? Look less hostile. It might give them an advantage - and he's got plenty of firepower on his shoulders if the need should arise.
Although he's seen many horrible things in his days in the Multiverse - and a few on Witch Hunts - it's never /quite/ easy. However, he's able to keep it together, mind cohesive and coherent as he's in Battle Mode. Worry about the others later - these dead people aren't real, anyway. Or at least, he hopes they aren't…
…though it occurs to him that if she was completely unhinged they might have ended up being previous victims. That would explain the other sources of blood. He remains standing on the tank carefully. His Pokemon have similar reactions, save for Squirtle, who is completely oblivious…
Since Bulbasaur has seen and helped liberate Nazi death-camps in person… he's used to the horrors of war. This is in it's own terrible way a cakewalk.
Tenacity - if there's an emotion Ash feels often, it's that, but he identifies this coming from another source. He scowls. This isn't going to be easy - a Witch that's determined for the sake of determination? A paradox if there ever was —
— yeah that makes sense. Ash scowls a little as he shakes off the mild surprise that always accompanies a telepathic rune deployment.
At the moment, he's in the follower position and as such he very quickly asks Snake if it's alright to open fire, just in case the old soldier has another idea.
And unsurprisingly the answer is yes.
*KRAKA-BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!* A burst of Thunder tears through the sky, attempting to smash RIGHT INTO the Witch. The firepower is set to lethal - neither competition, nor stun.
Ash is under no illusions here. Kara is lost.
Now they have to make sure they don't go with her.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "I'm gonna try to short out as much of her cybernetics as I can."
The whole time the elevator is going down, Snake is on his guard. Every single freight elevator he stepped onto during the Shadow Moses incident had at least one nasty surprise in store. It probably ends up looking a little strange to have the former field marshal constantly sweeping his rifle back and forth, the red light on his Solid Eye gleaming. As the surroundings grow more disturbing, in an odd twist, he grows calmer - the horror of atrocity maginified by the mind's eye into a twisted spectacle of blood only forces him to shut down any lingering traces of regret, nerves or other emotion and operate on an almost mechanical level instead.
It also tells him they're getting close, especially when it starts moving like a demented rollercoaster ride.
A tremendous pyrotechnic display of firepower and faux patriotism does little to rattle Solid Snake. But the sudden assault of information on his mind quite literally staggers the soldier, and the Witch herself triggers all sorts of unpleasant memories.
She reminds him too much of Gray Fox.
Snake doesn't have any fancy tricks. Not so readily available, anyway. But a full-auto spray from an assault rifle usually works just fine.
The lightning bolt that comes at Paradox is too fast for humans to dodge. Lightning is FAST. She tosses her knife into the air and it attracts the lightning in a way that a knife probably normally wouldn't outside this barrier. As the improvised lightning rod crackles in mid-air, the Witch is already on the move. Snake's shots at her are met with her own in turn. Further, with her handgun, she shoots each round dead-center, having started shooting at the same time the old soldier did. Several pairs of bullets — practically fused together by the force of their impacts — hit the concrete floor and start spinning around in circles because their kinetic energy needs to be depleted SOMEHOW.
However, handguns have significantly less ammo than an automatic weapon, and a full-burst is a lot more than can be matched even with absurd, physics-warped skills. Paradox is gunned down as several fireworks burst behind her in a dazzling display, cannons firing from one side of the hanger towards a line of howitzers on the other. The black-clad figure falls to the ground full of holes. Was it really that easy?
The lightning-strike melted knife finally hits the ground with a clatter. Then the howitzers return fire.
Just as the cycle of war repeats over and over, one side attacking another and the other side attacking in turn, generating feelings of being wronged, of loss, of hate on BOTH sides, it doesn't seem these weapons are going to stop shooting until the Witch herself is dead. And it seems she is not dead.
The body of Paradox, lying still on the floor, is desecrated by her own self. She erupts from her corpse, seeming unarmed, but the faint glint of something thin and metallic in the light of all the unceasing air-bursting colorful displays may be the only warning people get before mono-filament wire starts lashing out near-invisibly to attempt to entangle and cut right through flesh like it's nothing.
This emerging-from-her-own-corpse thing better not be recurring.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Ketchum! When I say 'pop', close your eyes five seconds later."
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Roger."
Solid Snake is far faster than most ordinary people, and the Octocamo makes him faster still. This is a man who's fought evenly in an unarmed match with a cyborg ninja. But monofilament is something on a whole other level in terms of evasion and counteracting. He manages to hurl himself out of the way, catching a fleeting glimpse that others might never have even noticed until it was too late, and still comes out of it with a cut along his cheek and a deeper mark down his left shoulder, right through the bullet-resistant material of his sneaking suit.
When your opponent's strategy can't be countered? Change the game.
"Pop," Snake calls out, the same moment he pulls the pin out of the grenade he's just palmed. It's lobbed in a low underhand, close to the ground, where it will be harder for the monowire to intercept - and five seconds later, it explodes into a powerful concussive POP and a blinding flash of light.
That's just the distraction, however, for Snake to back up, slapping in a new magazine while he moves, and open up again with the FAMAS.
Ash scowls more than a bit as his attack is deflected. OK, this is not going to be easy - not that Ash expected it to be.
He also knows that there's a timer on this - they have maybe 10 minutes to win before whatever it is that's going to happen, happens. And he would rather not find out the hard way.
Ash decides an alternative strategy is going to be necessary - and he feels the hate clawing at him. The emotions. But that's fine - he's already unhappy enough with it.
Going on a hunch, Ash decides to do a couple of things here that are pretty… unconventional.
First things first - try to find a weak point. It's possible that the old corpses might tie into her somehow, and with that, Charmander fires off a burst of Ember, hoping to consume the ruined body in flames.
That's part one.Part TWO - done after Ash and PIkachu are clipped by more bullets, and Charmander's armor takes a hit - involves the zaprat and Bulbasaur. Ash quickly flicks out a Pokeball to release Bulbasaur; with a crack and a bang, Bulbasaur is released - just as "Pop" is called.
Five seconds later, after Ash and his Pokemon shut their eyes, his Pokemon snap into action, Pikachu first firing off THunder Wave in an attempt to fry the girl's cybernetics to try to make it harder to parry, and a Thunder Wave would be just that. Bulbasaur, meanwhile, snakes his vine whips out to try to ensnare her as best as he can and pin her to the ground. She is going WAY too fast here. The tactics may be less lethal, but if they can pin her down for long enough they might be able to gain an advantage.
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Snake, gonna try to slow her down."
The blinding flash and concussive force are disrupting to a great many people. Paradox doesn't seem too bothered by the visual aspect thanks to that artificial eye, but the sound at least seems to confuse her enough that, while in the process of trying to slash the grenade in half with her wire and failing, she also is too distracted to notice as Snake starts shooting again.
The bodies all the way up the tunnel like who-knows-how-far are set on fire. They're off in another part of the barrier — in the passage to the center of the barrier, but if they had any connection to Paradox's abilities, they're totally burnt to a crisp now! The electrical current that surged up the distracted Witch's body slows her down, though she is using that wire to attempt to slice right through the vines that come close to her when Snake shoots her down again. Just like the first time, there's no blood spray from the injuries, though her slowed reflexes seem to stick with her as she erupts from her own corpse a second time. Her movements seem slightly more awkward—Oh, that's because she is carrying a flamethrower. Crap.
At the same time, the computerized voice announces, "Attention, all personnel. Rocket launch commencing in t-minus 60 seconds." WAIT, WHAT!? "For your safety, please evacuate to a radiation-shielded sub-level IMMEDIATELY." Paradox unleashes with a heavy stream of napalm as a large portion of the hangar floor they're standing on suddenly shifts, revealing previously-hidden edges. Then the floor of the hangar starts descending, similarly to the elevator platform from before. This time it's going straight down, and a Witch is sweeping clinging flames over the area the whole way while her own corpse lies in two seperate locations.
The voice is counting down the whole time as they descend down a long, dark shaft — half heavy-industrial, half dirt with the coffins of soldiers given an 'honorable burial' visible sticking out of the walls. Some of the coffins fall out of the dirt and spill their rotten contents all over the places. Some coffins don't have anything but empty uniforms in them. But one thing becomes clear when the walls suddenly aren't there anymore, and the floor descends into an absolutely MASSIVE, cavernous sub-hangar, with hundreds of rockets of all kinds angled and aimed at a single location right in the center… Where the 'elevator' comes to a stop.
…Everyone is screwed if they don't do something fast.
"…30. 29. 28. 27. 26. 25."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…Ketchum!"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I need you to focus all your firepower on the floor! /Everything you've got/!"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I'll distract the Witch!"
<Union-IC> [5-SA] Ash says, "Got it."
Once again, Snake is fast. Snake is faster than most people could hope to be. But 'fast' isn't always 'fast enough'.
The octocamo protects him from the worst of it. But it comes out the other side badly burnt, and part of Snake's face scorched besides. But as painful as the injuries are, he quite literally cannot afford to hurt right now - or he'll stop hurting ever again.
So while the Colonel barks out orders to Ketchum, he's making his own plans. It requires Snake to set his feet, taking up an extremely stable posture; Ash probably already knows what's to come even before the Stinger missile launcher comes out.
…and then a second one joins it on his other shoulder.
And the 'infinity' symbol on his bandana lights up.
Snake levels both weapons, and doesn't even bother waiting for tone. He fires the launcher on his right shoulder, and then uses the clockwise torque to brace himself a little better for firing the launcher on his left shoulder, which leads straight back to the right again. Right, left, right, left, a cadence of high-explosive firepower any one of which could take out a military vehicle, and he's saturation-bombarding Paradox's general area.
The combined recoil starts to push him back across the floor, but Snake just lets himself slide. And keeps. On. Firing.
With time running out, and not a lot of options, Ash listens to the orders and quickly calculates the best possible attack pattern.
"EVERYONE, /GO/!" he calls aloud, opening up his Pokeballs, revealing Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Pidgeotto and Butterfree.
And without any verbal confirmation they begin an onslaught.
Bulbasaur starts with a massive burst of Solar Beam. Pikachu fires as well, dropping to all fours, a 'click' audible within him before firing off a single, massively chargedd bolt of electricity - Zap Cannon. Charmander simply releases a massive gout of explosive flame in the form of Blast Burn, with Squirtle accompanying with Hydro Cannon. Pidgeotto contributes with Whirlwind, attempting to drill through it with air blades, and Butterfree finishes with a burst of Hyper Beam.
Ash himself only contributes phaser power. Why? Simple enough - Snake said firepower; there might be something critical about it being ranged weapons. Besideswhich, considering how much they're pumping into it, it doesn't seem like it's a terribly great idea to wade into the middle of it to start punching at the ground.
As Snake fires rocket launchers at Paradox, she discards the flamethrower and barely misses being completely blown up by the first rocket as she flips backwards, drawing a pair of Glocks from thin air and shooting the second rocket in mid-air while she's still coming out of her air-flip. The explosion throws her further through the air as flames broil away her black bodysuit, and the third missile can't even be aimed at as it blows up on the ground where Paradox is about to land and takes off one of her legs just from proximity. As missile after missile comes at her, devastating the platform while the countdown continues relentlessly, she manages her insane skills and defensive maneuvers less and less until she's just getting nailed and obliterated with one rocket after another, until there's no visible corpse left amidst the flames and explosions.
But the countdown continues.
Light. Lightning. Fire. Water. Wind. Raw radiant energy. A beam that can tear apart matter on the atomic level.
The concrete ground is made of concrete. It is not made of adamantium or durasteel or unobtanium or ridiculatinium. It breaks and it breaks HARD under this onslaught, destroying the platform completely and sending the Elites plummeting into a deep, dark pit. "10. 9. 8." They manage to miraculously land with minimal injuries (for the most part), though they are now at the bottom of a shaft that does not appear to be radiation-shielded or lead-lined or in any way special aside from having tons of flaming debris piled up in the middle. "7. 6. 5." Oh god, why isn't the countdown stopping? Paradox is NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. She HAS to be dead!
"4. 3. 2." Then the rubble erupts in a sudden geyser of dust and fragments, and Paradox, tattered, worn, but nowhere near dead, surges up with a red-hot katana in one hand, raised over her head and ready to be plunged down towards Snake. "1."
The blow is never delivered. Never attempted. She just stops, the green light of her cybernetic eye flickering. "Rocket launch aborted." A wheezing sound hisses out of the many holes all over Paradox's body, blood finally appearing for the first time from her injuries. As she falls backwards, the entire shaft flies apart like wrapping paper, the rubble scattering to the unfelt and unheard hurricane winds.
Paradox's body starts dissolving and the barrier starts crumbling as a line of gigantic, ethereal soldiers appear in the enormous white void the Elites now find themselves in. The soldiers raise their rifles and… Give a silent, three-volley salute over Paradox's nearly-vanished corpse.
The barrier finally crumbles completely, and with a weird warbling noise, the Union Elites find themselves back in the blood-stained hallway in building 4 of Union Base P7-99-Phoebe. The body of Kara still lies curled up against the wall, now quite cold. Also still in the hallway is the cardboard box that was the means by which people were dragged into the labyrinth to begin with. The same cardboard box with the same sentence in French.
"A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer."
Lying on top of the box is a Grief Seed.
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…one minute longer, huh…"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake's radio transmits the sound of a lighter being flicked. "…thanks for the vote of confidence, kid."
<Union-IC>  Eleanor Lamb says, "Snake?"
<Union-IC>  Eleanor Lamb says, "…Everything… okay down there?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "…Gonna need medical attention. Cleanup team to Union Base P7-00-Phoebe. We've got a Grief Seed here, I want it put in the hands of Akemi or Kaname."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "And I want the body buried in Arlington. My world."
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "I'll make the paperwork happen."
<Union-IC>  Eleanor Lamb says, "…Sir."
<Union-IC>  Eleanor Lamb says, "Right away. Casualties?"
<Union-IC> [5-Of] Solid Snake says, "Unknown for certain. Likely a number of Union personnel, don't know where the bodies went. One for certain. The girl."
<Union-IC>  Eleanor Lamb sighs, sadly. "Sir."
That was unpleasant, to say the least. He plummets, well aware of the fact that a long fall is rarely healthy for the complexion - or anything else, really - gravity not being anyone's friend.
That and several other small splats are audible as Ash and his Pokemon quickly roll away, ready to fight. Paradox seems to be ready and waiting to attack Snake.
"PIKACHU, DO IT!" he yells aloud, and Pikachu attempts to snap off Swift, but they probably won't be making it in time.
…but they don't need to.
Ash and his Pokemon rematerialize, the teenager hitting the ground on one knee, panting slightly and wincing at his rib that took the impact. "…did it."
He swallows heavily. At least they damn well better have done it.
Solid Snake is, in those last few moments, after all the firepower, after all the falling - after time runs out and the Witch still lives, with nothing to shield them all - prepared for what may very well be his last moment.
He's still standing in that ready pose several seconds after the barrier has collapsed and reality has asserted itself, his breathing heavy, favoring his left side from the burn damage. Only once he's sure things have dissolved completely does the old soldier finally stow first one Stinger launcher, then the other, and let out a shaky breath. He finds himself staring at the box, thinking about the words there. "…one minute longer, huh…"
His head turns around towards the now-cold body that was once a girl who, deluded though she might have been, only wanted to do the right thing and live up to an ideal.
Solid Snake discovers that he feels very… old.
Quietly, he takes out a pack of cigarettes, shakes one loose, puts it in his mouth, then produces a lighter. There's a flick, a point of flame, and then a quiet inhalation.
"…thanks for the vote of confidence, kid," Snake finishes, his tone subdued. He just wishes he felt like he could live up to it.
============================== Union - General ===============================
Message: 26/77 Posted Author
AAR: Union Base P7-99-Phoebe Mon Nov 12 Solid Snake
A text-only report filed by Adai.
Snake got word earlier that an unkown girl had infiltrated P7-99-Phoebe and shown herself right in the middle of a military meeting, claiming to be a Puella Magi and also from his own world. He went out to investigate with the help of Ash Ketchum and Altea Saito.
She was exactly what she said she was, more or less - it looks like Kyubey's branching out. And without Witches to hunt, she was already critical, which the group didn't realize until it was too late. She fled, and they pursued, but by the time they found her again, she was gone.
The three of them were able to destroy the Witch, whose Labyrinth seemed to be based on her idealized version of Snake's experience, with a large dose of her own war-torn past. The Witch seemed like she was going to hit them with some sort of nuclear-based strike, but at the last second the countdown aborted and the Witch died, leaving behind a Grief Seed.
At present, 8 base personnel remain unaccounted for, presumed dead. Other than that, all personnel escaped unharmed, and responding Elites were treated for injuries. The Grief Seed has been flagged for transfer to Homura Akemi or Madoka Kaname for safekeeping.
=============================== IC - Cutscenes ===============================
Message: 24/63 Posted Author
Witch Card: Paradox Mon Nov 12 Adalinda
Type: Heroic witch
Description: Paradox is the Heroic witch, with the tenacious nature. She stealthily takes down humans who wander into her labyrinth before they even know she is there. Paradox believes she is a hero and that she is protecting something by killing 'the enemy'. However, she is no longer able to distinguish who is an enemy and who isn't, and thus uses her weapons and abilities against everyone with complete self-assurance. She is so tenacious that she refuses to stop fighting even in death. Only recognizing her defeat by a superior opponent will allow her to be laid to rest.
Summary: A homeless orphan girl from an impoverished third-world country grew up admiring Solid Snake because of all the stories of his heroism. He saved so many people from nuclear annihilation, invasion, or simply the cruel regime of dictators. She didn't know all the details, but she knew he was this awesome person and she wanted to be strong and famous and great just like him when she grew up. Sadly, she had no means to achieve this. Then she met Kyubey.
Salut - Soldiers with rifles who perform a three-volley salute when Paradox dies.
The Enemy - Faceless 'enemy soldiers' who wander the grounds of the labyrinth for Paradox to kill. They are also a hazard for intruders into the labyrinth, but they can be killed permanently by such intruders, whereas they 'respawn' endlessly when Paradox kills them, representing there always being another threat to eliminate in a world torn apart by war.