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1
Manga Creations / Re: MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 1
« Last post by legomaestro on Today at 05:29:54 AM »
Saw the chapter immediately when it came up. Saving it for a nice read tonight.
2
MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2019
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 09:37:02 PM »
Neither have I, but every once in a while I listen to the war era songs or the rap battles. Plus the opening track is still just super solid.
3
I speak only English i'm Filipino and 12.5% Chinese I'm just not good with comprehension and cognitive but I can understand well. Thanks for the meaningful questions I'll have to ask myself those ones when I can. Yeah I agree with you I'm over complicating things when I should simplify things segment by segment I just don't know how to do that. Hope I can later on.

 - When in the story do the events of this dungeon/tournament take place? (A rough percentage of completion is fine)

Well its a borderline to get to the other side the terrestrial territories. So at the beginning Main character is being evacuated from the Ancient Civilization like trouble is coming. So Kilimanjaro the organizer of the band of misfits is going to get him to the other side with Elliot. The band of misfits is chosen from family blood just like katekyo hitman reborn mafia family.

 - How many characters are involved? Grand total, and how many of that grand total are part of the main cast of character?

There are deadly magic organizations but I wouldn't say kingdoms 3 of them are low class kingdoms compared to the Golden Kingdom. Mime, Serpent Knight and Asian Lung.



There is Andou, Elliot, Oulu, Motarike, Irugin Andou brother and Dimitri there could also be girl characters and younger characters some of them could help but others are not a part of the help they just support characters.

Variety of characters clash like hitman, demons and dead people but I would like it to be somewhat a one man show and for some characters to have there own individual exploit. There could be death involve scenario to scenario also good for character development.

Andou, Elliot and Oulu are mainly the main cast but I also like a group of people just like Ueki and his team in the law of ueki or like tokyo underground anime I also like soul society in bleach and hunters association in hunter x hunter.

Irugin I like to based of of anime characters such as Hibari Kyoya from KHR anime, Nishi from Gantz but not personality like him, Sai from naruto, Kurei from flame of recca. Kinda want to make him like sesshomaru in inuyasha or like a Jellal character in fairy tail. Motarike Pisuke can be around but I'm trying to figure out his character to my own liking.

Oh yeah there is Lchiv one main antagonist villain in the 10 most deadly magic organization. Ancestor to Andou and Irugin. Lchiv possesses the power of the pterodactyl. Lchiv can transform into a pterodactyle and can be a Asian Lung combined with pterodactyle. He is also known as Mame Puteradakuchiru his ethnicity was forwarded to Andou and Irugin when they were born. I could figure out outfits later I like Marie Antoinette clothing and Mythology for the villains some could look like ninja or whatever.

Siegmund Hamilton involved with Ancient Civilization market, enemies are after Ancient Civilizations and plans rarely not heard. Father of Andou and Irugin he becomes deaf and dumb due to a accident to his physical well being.

Other than that trying to figure out characters

 - In a single sentence, what is the result of this arc going to be? If you can't sum this entire thing up using a single sentence, then I can tell you just from that that you have over complicated the whole thing

Escaping Corruption of the Ancient Civilization so that Andou can live life from being not being a fugitive. I want to get around what What Vacant said: Does the superior ranking allow him to pass through the border uninhibited? Between Ancient Civilzation and Terrestrial Territories. A High Spirits license could be involve like

Ranking system 5 tiers like one punch man

S class
A class
B class (Top 5 in tournament)
C class (Have to go to the tournament and get top 10)
D class (Everyone starts off here by doing a test at their organization)

 - What do you want your readers to feel during this arc? If you can, sum it up in a single word.

HYPE and feeling the suspense.
 
 - Now tell me what makes that word different from the word you would chose for the arcs on either side of this one.

There isn't a belonging seems like the character is lost he wants to do something about it. He wants to have a enjoyable life.

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Right Now I want to understand the Sewer Dungeon story and how I could build it so that the characters can go to the shrine tournament and gain access to the terrestrial territories.
4
MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2019
« Last post by Vacant on July 21, 2019, 08:09:28 PM »
Ah yes. I've never seen Hamilton, but that's the playlist of choice anytime my girlfriend plays music in the car. I'm confident I've heard that you'll be back song 50 times already.
5
Manga Art Gallery / Re: Legomaestro's Art Box
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 06:59:34 PM »
A little late, but those are some great wind effects on the third panel from a couple posts back! I'd love to see you do a more fleshed out panel like that!
6
Develop Your Story / Re: Diesinglong scenarios help me out please discuss with me
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 06:58:02 PM »
So, have to agree with Vacant up top there. You are pretty all over the place here Evan. It's pretty hard to follow what you're asking for here. Our of curiosity (and don't take this the wrong way), but what is your native language? I just want to get a grasp on where you're coming from here. I understand that working in a language that isn't your native is pretty daunting, and my utmost respect goes out to all that do.

I'm going to give some general advice: When asking for help on a story like this, always reduce the information you're presenting to prospective helpers to the absolute bare essentials. We don't need to know all of the character names and the jargon. Break things down into concepts. Main character, side character, antagonist, primary antagonist, evil empire, father, best friend, the main character's weapon, the mc'guffin, etc. These are the kind of words that you should stick to. It makes it so that anyone can understand you without having to go into intensive research to learn your world first.

It's also going to be useful to you to think of things in these terms. Stories are made of building blocks. Think of them like legos, or your plastic toy brick of choice. Individual bricks are understandable to anyone who comes across them, but if you scribble unique names onto all of them first, it's going to be a lot harder to understand you when you say "the flat 4x4 piece attaches to the top of the 2x6 brick". But once you are also thinking of them in generic terms, you will have learned something fundamental about all stories. They're all unique once fully assembled, but broken down to their essentials, they are the same as every other one.

As to what Vacant said about the links: We ask that if you have stories, that you post them directly to the forum. No offense, but we don't really know you at all yet. Trust like that takes time to build. It's easier for everyone if you just post your stories directly if you want the help. That goes for posting things like the wiki you've built. It's cool that you've done that, don't get me wrong, but flat out, no one is going to take the time reading it to try and piece together your characters and world. A piece of writing should always stand by itself. Wikis are not there to help people understand your story. If a person can't understand the story from the 'published' material, then you have failed as a writer. It doesn't matter if you're the most accomplished author in the world or just another nameless kid on the internet with an idea. Plus, giving us the actual material in an easily accessible format will help us give you better information than any summary possibly could. Back to the lego metaphor above, the blocks  will always be the same, it's how you put them together that matters.


Now, with that out of the way, let's get onto this arc of yours.

You definitely seem to have a bunch of ideas swarming around your head. I don't think what you need is for us to actually feed you specific scenarios. That's just going to lead to clutter. Clutter is the bane of the story writer my friend. You need to again, reduce things to their bare essentials. In this instance, ask the question: What is this sewer dungeon providing to the overall story? What purpose is served by your characters going through it? Who of those characters needs to benefit from having gone through the dungeon? Who does not need to be there? If that character doesn't need to be there, why do you have them there? Is that a good reason? What are the events of the story leading us here? Do they make sense logically? Is that reason contrived? Does the situation fit into the natural flow of the narrative? Is there an appropriately long rest from the action of the story before and after the dungeon? What do the characters ultimately hope to gain by entering the dungeon? (Not just the main cast, but every character we encounter). Does it make sense for those characters to be there? How are the events of this section of story going to impact the very end of the story? Is there any other way that those ends could be met? Would it be better if the results of this arc come from a different arc?

If you're having trouble answering any of the above questions, then you're trying to do too much. As the faithful acronym tells us: K.I.S.S., "Keep It Simple Stupid". Don't over complicate things that you don't have to. The reader will thank you for it.

Again, those aren't questions I'm asking you to answer here and now. They are questions I want you to ask yourself. They are also not an exhaustive list.

Now, some questions I do want you to answer:

        - When in the story do the events of this dungeon/tournament take place? (A rough percentage of completion is fine)
        - How many characters are involved? Grand total, and how many of that grand total are part of the main cast of character?
        - In a single sentence, what is the result of this arc going to be? If you can't sum this entire thing up using a single sentence, then I can tell you just from that that you have over complicated the whole thing.
        - What do you want your readers to feel during this arc? If you can, sum it up in a single word.
        - Now tell me what makes that word different from the word you would chose for the arcs on either side of this one.


I hope that isn't too big of an ask. But we need to set a baseline here if you wan't meaningful help. You need to be simple and direct to get the most benefit from a topic like this. I can make up scenarios for your heroes to find themselves in all day, but if I do, then I have failed you, because I wouldn't have helped you better the foundation of your story. A strong foundation is everything Evan. If you take nothing else from this whole thing, I want it to be that.
7
Manga Creations / Re: MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 1
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 06:00:37 PM »
CHAPTER 4: ESCAPE
CHAPTER 4: ESCAPE

Echo burst back into Swift Team’s cavern. She was breathless, and carrying a rounded object wrapped in burlap. Devola and Vacant, who had expected the scouting party back more than twelve hours earlier, were instantly on their feet. Vacant steadied the young woman as she took painful breaths, and Devola cradled the package she had practically hurled into his arms.
   “It’s… it’s Coryn…” said Echo in between wheezes. “He’s done something stupid.”
   It took effort not to roll his eyes, but Vacant managed to ask his question without sounding too surprised. “What happened?”
   Echo opened her mouth to respond, but was cut short as Devola leapt in surprise. “Ah!” The rough cloth fell to the ground, and 3.0’s head rolled unceremoniously out onto the stone floor. “I wasn’t expecting to see a face…” replied Devola with a halfhearted shrug.
   Echo straightened back up and let her muscles untense somewhat. “Just pick him back up. Coryn will be fine, probably. I’ll explain over food, I haven’t eaten all day.”

   At that exact moment, Coryn was not sure that he was going to be fine. He was not sure at all.
   The troop transport did not possess any windows in the back, at least as far as Coryn could tell, so he could not piece together where they were headed until they had gotten there. He had sat as quiet and as still as possible along the bench seating with maybe three dozen other identical soldiers. Measured silence seemed to be the norm amongst the 4Kids troops, as Coryn only overheard few hints of conversation as they trundled along the roadways. Maybe it was part of their training, maybe it was just because no one could tell who the person sitting next to them was, but Coryn was gracious for it all the same. He could breath. He could think.
   They had been on the road for some time now. Coryn knew that most of the highways had been targeted by 4Kids during the invasion. A few of the more major pathways had been repaired, but the majority still lay ruined. One also had to calculate the number of regular roads that had been either destroyed or made impassible by the destruction, but it was likely too many to count. As a result, 4Kids had to move along very specific routes until better options could be rebuilt or cleared. It might be useful eventually, but for now all it meant was that Coryn was being taken along an unfamiliar route, and that no matter how many turns he could count or distances he could estimate, there was really no way to know where Coryn was going until he got there.
   Just as the thought materialized in his head, Coryn’s ears picked up the sound of air-brakes, and a moment later, felt the great bulk of his own vehicle heave and begin to slow down. Coryn heard mechanical systems working in the distance. They started in front of the vehicle, passed overhead, and then disappeared in their rear. It was an unfamiliar noise, but if Coryn had to put a guess to it, he would say they had just passed below a large security gate. The transport had also transitioned into smoothly moving along. The corners were cleaner, the pace was more even. Evidently they had entered some sort of safe zone, and the driver had relaxed within the perceived safety. In fact the relief was reflected in the orange hazmat suits surrounding Coryn. Shoulders dropped, necks were rolled, forms slumped over and sagged. Coryn did his absolute best to blend in, even if his own shoulders felt like they wanted to fuse together from the shear stress their owner was under. All that brought relief to the ex-moderator was that while he and his fellow raiders were clearly terrified of what 4Kids was planning for all of them, 4Kids, or at least the common soldiers, were equally afraid of the remaining raiders. Even if they didn’t show it outwardly, or even recognize it in themselves, they were very aware that they were an invading force in a not so subdued city.
   At last, they came to a stop, and the doors at the rear of the transport dropped open. The members of the engineering corp stood as one, and began to file out in two even rows. It didn’t take long for the vehicle to empty completely, and Coryn found himself searching around for landmarks while being as inconspicuous as he could.
   The area, whatever it had been before 4Kids’ invasion, had been leveled. Either by bombs from above or by calculated demotion on the ground, nothing of MangaRaiders’ original architecture remained. In the distance, Coryn thought he saw the outlines of buildings belonging to the Artists District, but now that the sun and disappeared and only moonlight remained, he couldn’t be entirely sure about the murky silhouettes. He would have to take a survey of the surroundings after Coryn had affected an escape. To that end, he turned his attention back to things at ground level.
   The two rows from his own transport had joined the rows from the others. Together they formed two great lines of troops, all headed towards a well lit facility with an open barn-style door. The building was surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of readymade military style buildings. Coryn picked out the standard designs. Barracks, mess halls, infirmaries, supply sheds, vehicle depots, armories. Everything he could see was standard with the exception of the building he was currently destined for, and one other.
   Its sheer size set it apart from the rest, but this was no prefabricated military building. This was real construction. Brick and mortar and concrete. Lots of concrete, in fact. It was a supreme example of brutalist architecture. Every fiber of its being screamed 4Kids, and it was just what Coryn was hoping for.
   Another small hope appeared in his heart. Escape faded to the back burner of his mind. If 4Kids had put actual time and effort into building something, then it had to be for something important. If 4Kids had something important, then Coryn had to know about it. And if that something important turned out to be something that could help Swift Team and its cause? Then no risk was too great.
   The mission had changed once again. Coryn’s new objective: Infiltration.
   He studied the situation further. Armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the building and the rooftop. A barbed-wire fence served as the first line of defense, and a gate station sat in the middle of it. Several more defensive lines encircled the building, but only the first of which contained a checkpoint. In the window of time that Coryn could see the gate from his spot in line, a few people in officer uniforms passed through. On the way in some sort of documentation was inspected. Something clipped to their belts it looked like, but Coryn could not make out the details. On the way out people could move freely, and no checks were made. It was apparent that while 4Kids had fortified the building for a seige, it was not prepared for a would-be spy. As long as Coryn could obtain the necessary provisions, he stood a chance of walking right through the front door.
   With an abrupt change of perspective, the recon mission came to an end. There must have been some slack in the line ahead, as Coryn was suddenly ushered several feet forward as things tightened up. He now stood right above the threshold of the brightly lit building, and so his attention shifted once again.
   The lines diverged even further apart once inside. Coryn found himself in the left branch. Down the center of the long building were catwalks, where men and women in lab-coats and facemasks wandered with clipboards. They seemed to be doing spot-checks of the goings on along the walls of the building. Coryn shifted his eyes ahead, and spotted hazmat suits and the troopers they contained disappearing beyond plastic curtains one at a time. A light beside the entrance indicated when the next soldier was to enter, and they stepped onto a conveyor belt that whisked them away into the bowels of the building long mechanism. It reminded Coryn of an industrial dishwasher and a dairy farm all in one. An automated decontamination process that isolated each individual trooper and allowed the attendants to watch from a safe distance.
   It would suit Coryn’s intent just fine.
   He stepped forward, and counted only four more hazmat suited men before it would be his turn to enter the decontamination conveyor. Four became three. Three became two. And when only one soldier stood between Coryn and his chance to break free, the whole operation came to a screeching halt.
   Coryn stiffened, as did all those around him. Perhaps this was just a part of the routine, but something about the air in the room suddenly felt off. Tension was taking hold of the hazmat soldiers, but the men and women on the observation walkways did not seem affected by the sudden stop. Before Coryn could contemplate the situation further, a pair of feet crunching their way across the gravel towards the building broke his concentration.
   No, not just one set of feet. There were two. An effort was being made to walk in step, but the second set of footsteps was lagging just a half-beat behind. Coryn chanced a glance back, and he shifted his torso around so he could see the big doors just at the edge of his visor’s narrow opening. There, he watched as 4Kids-tan and R-Kain strode into the decontamination building.
   Coryn’s spine snapped back into a straight line. He kept his eyes dead ahead as the room was addressed by 4Kids-tan. For the first time, he was truly glad that his eyes had lost almost all of their glow.
   “Attention company! Sensors from the transports indicate that material of interest has been carried in on one of your hazard suits! Standby for search and seizure!” She nodded to R-Kain, and said softly, “Take the left side.”
   Coryn swallowed hard. Being caught now would have been bad enough. Being caught by R-Kain was a death sentence. “Why the hell is he even here?” the ex-moderator thought. But the answer the clear. 4Kids already treated anything related to MangaRaiders as a threat. If they had to react to something quickly, R-Kain was their best bet. They must have already had him on standby, just waiting for something like this to happen. Coryn tried to calm his breathing as he listened to the failed tan’s heavy boots clapping against the concrete floor. From the sounds of things, he was moving along the line much quicker and more roughly than 4Kids-tan was. He would be to Coryn before the real tan had even made it halfway through her own line. Coryn ran the easy numbers. At their current rate, and given his own position near the entrance, he had a rough seventy-five percent chance that the offending suit would be discovered before the search reached him. But-
   Coryn was caught off right before he could account for R-Kain’s less than thorough methodology when a strong hand caught him by the shoulder. “You’re tense trooper.”
   R-Kain spun Coryn on his heels to face him. His heart skipped a beat, and R-Kain tilted his head. “No need to worry trooper, unless you’re the one we’re looking for.”
   He hadn’t even bothered to hide the threat. R-Kain kneeled down, and started feeling his way up Coryn’s legs. He patted and pulled at the loose suit, checking each fold and crease for anything other than the expected dirt and dust. R-Kain progressed up through Coryn’s thighs, hips, waist, sides, underarms, shoulders, and arms. It was a small miracle that he did not notice the weapons Coryn kept on him, and the ex-moderator thanked himself for thoroughly ensuring they had been carefully stowed as to not disrupt his natural outline Coryn tried to keep his breathing even throughout the process, but it accelerated as he noticed R-Kain’s rolled up sleeves, and how the bare arms that they revealed were now reaching up under his helmet’s skirt. If R-Kain’s hands got anywhere near Coryn’s face, the raider’s non-regulation facial hair would be detected, and that would have been that.
   With R-Kain’s fingertips breaching the bottom of the skirt, 4Kids-tan called his name.
   The plague’s hands fell, and he turned towards 4Kids-tan. “What is it?”
   The tan held up a small object with one hand, while tightly grasping a soldier’s shoulder with the other. “I’ve found it.”
   Coryn concentrated on the miniscule object. It was a microchip. What purpose it served he could only speculate. The same went for how or why the chip had made its way onto this particular trooper’s uniform, but it had. Now, that trooper was being escorted away, presumably for questioning of some description, and Coryn was saved from R-Kain’s inspection.
   Things moved quickly after that.
   The tan, the failed tan, and the unlucky soldier disappeared out the bay doors. The decontaminator was restarted, and Coryn was ushered inside. Showers of water, soaps, powders, and various other liquids assaulted Coryn, all separated by walls and layers of plastic curtains.. At last he was hit with a blast of hot air which left him free of any moisture, and then robotic arms swooped in to relieve him of his suit. Thankfully this fell within a gap between the patrolling observers, and Coryn used the opportunity to slip off of the conveyor belt.
   On either side of the belt rose metal walls to contain anyone inside while allowing a clear view. Thankfully this meant that there was no ceiling above him, so Coryn hopped the wall facing away from the catwalks, and landed in what looked to be a locker room.
   The raider still had is normal clothes, equipped with his knife and side arm, but miraculously, he found no 4Kids presence in the locker room. Presumably the soldiers going through decontamination were destined for this space eventually, but had not yet reached that point in the process. Coryn would take full advantage of the presented opportunity.
   None of the lockers had locks, so he searched through them until he found the uniform of a lower ranking officer that looked like it would fit. Coryn donned it quickly, and tossed the pieces of his own clothes that he could not disguise under the 4Kids uniform in the room’s trash bin. He began his search for a razor in order to quickly lose his facial hair, but oncoming voices reached his ears. Panic began to set in as Coryn realized the only other way out of the space was back over the wall and onto the conveyor belt, but before it could seize him completely, a first-aid box mounted on the wall caught his eye.
   Coryn delved into the contents, and among them, found a large medical mask that would cover the majority of his face. His beard would still stick out if anyone took a second look at him, but it would buy him more time than going barefaced would. Coryn slipped the straps over his ears, quickly resealed the first-aid station, and turned towards the entrance of the locker room just in time to see the returning soldiers turn the corner that led into the main locker room.
   They ignored the passing officer almost to a man. Maybe they would have noticed the slight glow to his eyes had the officer not pulled his cap so low, but none of them realized anything was odd except for the fact that he was evidently unwell. Even if one or two of them did spot that the way he had tucked in his shirt was non-regulation, they didn’t think it was worth questioning authority to mention it. As such, Coryn stepped out into the shadowy night of the 4Kids base, completely free from suspicion that he was anything other than what he pretended to be. At least for now. That illusion would not hold if he did not keep moving, and move he did, right for the object of his desires.
   Coryn moved across the compound with purposeful strides. They gave the impression of someone with somewhere to be, but not someone who was in a hurry. Within minutes he was able to join the short que of 4Kids personnel lined up at the small gatepost that guarded the central building’s entrance. A low ranking soldier stood at the small building, and checked the badge of each person that attempted to enter. Coryn quickly located his own clipped to his belt. It was a small laminated card displaying personal information about its owner. The man on Coryn’s card didn’t look a thing like him, but with enough confidence and luck, he wouldn’t have to.
   “Good evening lieutenant,” said the soldier as Coryn handed over the badge. The guard looked from the badge to Coryn’s face a few times before handing the card back over. “Did you pick something up in the field today sir? It’s not contagious is it?”
   Coryn shook his head, and forced his voice to sound hoarse. “Just a sore throat corporal. Worry about yourself.”
The guard saluted. “Sir, yes sir! You’re clear to proceed.”
   So Coryn pressed onward. He wanted to be out of eyeshot as soon as possible. Defensive line after defensive line flanked the raider on each side as he made for the front door of the facility. Once he was close enough, Coryn glanced up at the carved and painted words on the door’s lentil. “‘Department of Science & Development’? Sounds interesting.”
   Coryn kept his gaze down as he passed a pair of officers on his way into the building, and soon found himself standing in the center of an austere lobby. Corridors headed off to the right and to the left. Directly before him stood a bank of elevators with doors of polished chrome. Before them though, sat a large board with listings of rooms and their associated numbers. Thankfully, Coryn didn’t have to delve deep into the alphabet before he found what he wanted.
   Chemical Labs & Storage - 322-345
   The lobby was quiet at this time of night, but Coryn wasn’t about to waste time. He slammed the closest call button for the elevators and stepped inside as soon as one opened. As the doors slid close and Coryn began his ascent to the third floor, Alice made herself known.
   “Director, it is not that I don’t value your skills as a combatant and infiltrator, but I am having trouble in finding the logic in what you are doing here. The safest course of action would be to escape now while they still do not know you are here.”
   Coryn glanced up at the fisheye camera which sat in the top corner of the elevator cab. Alice took note of the look. “Your sensors aren’t picking up any audio recording. The building is only wired for video.”
   The elevator reached the destined level, and opened its doors to reveal a dimly lit corridor. Lights popped on within Coryn’s immediate vicinity, but reached no further. If nothing else, 4Kids was energy conscious. Coryn took note of the floor level room directory and set off in the indicated direction. As he walked, he spoke under his breath such that his mouth would not appear to move beneath the mask. “The storage yards they keep around the city aren’t getting us what we need. It’s too low grade, or just plain missing. It’s just there to keep tanks running and planes flying. I need higher quality materials. If 4Kids has those anywhere, it will be here.”
   “If I may sir, we are not worth it,” chided Alice. They had been through the argument a dozen or more times in the last months. This time however, Coryn had a new comeback.
   “It’s not just you Alice, not just the V.I.s. We’re getting nowhere. Night after night it’s just damn sneak and run attacks.”
   Alice said. “Fabian tactics sir. They take time to work. You know that.”
   “I’m aware,” shot back Coryn, “but we don’t have the manpower or the firepower to make them viable. If I had a fresh supply of juice though, I could fix one of those problems.”
   At last, the V.I. could see where Coryn was going with this. “Director, we were barely able to get you functional! Reactivating your combat abilities would drain what is left of the reserves in days! Maybe even hours if you are not careful!”
   Coryn was feeling flustered under the mask. It felt like it was restricting all of his air, and he resisted the urge to rip it off his face. “It won’t matter if we have enough juice! I’m not saying we wouldn’t have to be strategic about it still, but if I can get back into the fight then we might actually have a chance!”
   Coryn came to an abrupt halt as he reached the first door of the chemical lab. He observed it carefully and caught his breath. As he did, Alice spoke.
   “Are you saying we do not have a chance right now?”
   She sounded hurt, and it made Coryn wince to hear her like that. All the same, he saw no other course of action before them.
   “We do, and I’m taking it.”
   Coryn grasped the door handle, and pushed onward.

   As her investigation into the source of the errant computer chip was being concluded, 4Kids-tan was interrupted by a knock on the door of the lab trailer, which still sat parked near the base’s exterior wall. It slid open a moment later, revealing R-Kain and a soldier. “What do you want?”
   R-Kain shoved the soldier on ahead of him. “You’ve got a problem,” he gave the soldier a look, “go on, tell her.”
   With some apprehension, the soldier saluted. “Ma’am, a lieutenant’s uniform was missing from the decontamination locker rooms. He was on the dig today.”
   She raised an eyebrow. “And? What does this have to do with me? Go tell the quartermaster. Evidently she is letting her crews get soft.”
   “We have, ma’am,” replied the soldier, “all uniforms were pressed and accounted for when delivered to the locker room, and no one was caught on camera either entering or leaving the room until the company returned.”
   This caught her attention. “What are you trying to insinuate soldier?”
   Before he could answer, R-Kain took over. “You went out with three-hundred-and-fifty men today 4Kids, but I checked the transports’ logs. When you came back, you had three-fifty-one.”
   4Kids-tan was up and out the door before R-Kain could finish smirking at her. “Lockdown the entrances and bring up an extra detail of security for every checkpoint and gate! I want roaming squads checking the identification of everyone they come across! Anyone who gets cleared is to be quarantined in the mess! We have an intruder on this base and I want them found now!”

   The alarms started the moment Coryn burst into the mercifully empty lab. Rows and rows of tables holding equipment stretched out into the darkness, but Coryn targeted a door on the side of the room.
   It was the chemical supply closet, and it was criminally mislabeled.
   The room beyond the door was nearly as big as the one Coryn had just come from. Instead of the motion activated lighting of the corridors, this room was controlled by a single switch which brought the light level up to a stark, gleaming brightness, which was almost assuredly the scientifically perfect level for reading small print on bottles. Aisles of metal shelving filled the space from floor to ceiling, and the volume and variety of its contents gave Coryn a moment of pause before he could process where to start.
   "Give me everything that we need, everything that's even close!"
   The V.I.s complied. In a second they used the sophisticated technology in Coryn's eyes to search every label, scan across every frequency of light, and do a dozen other things within Coryn’s field of vision that his human brain jelly couldn't hope to keep up with. To cleave through the confusion, things they could use were highlighted in green, while anything that wasn't useful came up in a dull red.
   Coryn began grabbing every called out bottle and container in arms’ reach. He quickly filled his pockets, then pulled unbuttoned the top of his uniform and began filling in the area around his torso. Once he was stuffed to the brim even there, he shoved whatever he could into the tops of his tall boots. Even fully loaded, the room still glowed with green highlights. Coryn silently raged against what he was leaving behind. The V.I.s assured him that there wasn’t anything critical missing from their shopping list, but it pained him all the same. There was little to no chance that Coryn would ever again have a chance this good. If he didn’t have some key ingredient now, he never would.
   “What a waste,” mused Coryn as he grabbed two familiar looking containers from a nearby shelf, and one more from another. The one he empty directly into a pile on the floor. Of the other two, he took one and began laying a trail from the pile, out of the chemical room, into the labs, and then right up to the door back into the corridor. Finally, Coryn unscrewed the lid of the last, and held it above the end to his trail. “Alice, give me the quickest way out of here.”
   “I am already building a schematic based on what we know, which is not much.”
   “Good enough,” said Coryn, and he dropped the final jar.
   By the time it hit the ground, Coryn was out and door and booking it down the hall in the opposite direction of the storage closet. A few pellets of compressed powered bounced out of the container and onto the trail of dust Coryn had left behind. As soon as the two came into contact, a spark formed, and that spark created a fire which rushed down the trail. It leaped one grannual at a time until it finally reached the original pile Coryn had left in the supply closet itself. A pile of an especially volatile substance that had a nasty habit of spitting balls of superheated plasma whenever it came into contact with a certain different chemical, and heat was applied.
   Behind Coryn, the corridor wall exploded into a fireball. Flames poured out of what used to be the chemical closet, and followed the path of least resistance in each direction. Coryn leapt through another door and into the building’s staircase just in time to avoid the pulse of flame that was threatening to overtake him.
   Fire sprinkler systems activated on the floor he was leaving behind, but the intensity of the chemically powered flames quickly overpowered the sprinklers’ meager abilities. By the time Coryn hit the bottom level, the entire third floor was engulfed, the next two floors above it were well on their way to being there, and the floors below were flooding as fire suppression water poured down through the freshly exposed structure.
   Coryn emerged through the front doors with a wave of scientists, engineers, and soldiers all looking to escape the inferno the building was becoming. They had quickly overwhelmed the singular gate guard, but now several dozen soldiers were checking everyone who left the building, even as firefighter personal came rushing in the opposite direction to try and combat the flames.
   Coryn couldn’t let himself get checked. Even if they didn’t know who to look for specifically, it was clear they weren’t treating the explosion and subsequent fire as an accident. But it wouldn’t matter how good of an act Coryn could put on. The man literally bulging with stolen chemicals was always going to be suspicious.
   Just past the last of the defensive lines, where the mood of the crowd still mostly ‘panic’ and ‘mayhem’, Coryn shot off from the pack. He only made it five steps before someone called for him to stop, but Coryn never broke his stride. The ex-moderator wasn’t stopping for anyone.
   Especially now that they had started shooting at him.
   Coryn briefly considered the potential of the incredibly dangerous mixture of chemicals he was wearing. An on target bullet, even if the wound wouldn’t normally be fatal, may very well lead to him being vaporized. Coryn hadn’t had time to log exactly where everything he had grabbed had ended up. Hell, he had been more focused on just grabbing the highlighted ones than actually reading what any of them were. Dodging this way or that was just a complete gamble now. He couldn’t predict what would happen.
   Coryn rounded a corner, and found himself sprinting out onto a black expanse of asphalt. Heavy troop transports and mobile laboratories like the ones he had seen on the dig site that day flanked him. Those gave way to digging equipment, utility vehicles, even aircraft. They provided some amount of cover, but their orderly rows meant Coryn was always in somebody’s line of fire.
   The wind picked up as he reached an empty expanse between two sets of vehicles. Coryn’s hat was carried off, and he ripped the medical mask from his face. He was breathing hard enough already, Coryn didn’t need anything else getting in his way. Coryn cast the mask away to the winds, but just a few strides later, he came to a screeching halt.
   A red blur shot down from the sky above and shattered the tarmac where it impacted. R-Kain rose from his hunched landing position to give Coryn a toothy smile. “Sken, you have no idea how happy I am to see that you’ve dropped by!”
   Quietly, and to no one in particular, Coryn whispered, “Shields...”
   Unnoticing, or uncaring, R-Kain pushed on. “Just a few days ago, I saw your face for the first time in months. And suddenly, here you are to pay me a visit! You are too kind!”
   “Director we talked about this!” Shot back Alice, but Coryn was in no mood to argue.
   “I said ‘shields’!”
   “It won’t be enough!”
   “No time!” Shouted Coryn as he turned and ran. He only got a few feet before a thin beam of red energy flicked its way across the ground before him. Where it went, a string of explosions followed. Coryn spun on his heel to head in the other direction, but the same thing occurred. He found himself in a fiery ‘V’ pattern, which pinned Coryn in right between death at the hands of R-Kain, and death at the hands of the chemicals he had so carelessly stuffed his clothing with.
   Weighing the options and finding them both wanting, Coryn turned to R-Kain, who still had both hands at the ready. Except now, where they had previously been pointed out to the side in order to corral Coryn to where he wanted him, R-Kain kept both pointer fingers directed firmly at Coryn’s center of mass.
   “Well Sken, it’s been fun, but this is where we end it. I’m actually under orders to interrogate you, you see? Bethuw’el really wants to know where your little band of sewer rats is hiding, but we both know how this is going to work, don’t we? You’ve got too much pride Sken, you wouldn’t let your good name be besmirched by giving into torture would you? I respect that about you, really I do. Especially because it makes killing you here and now so much easier. Very little blowback in the end.”
   Red orbs of pulsating energy formed at R-Kain’s fingertips. “Goodbye Coryn Sken! Enjoy your ride down to Hell!”
   R-Kain fire a twinned pair of energy blasts, Coryn crossed his arms in a desperate attempt to defend himself, and then, everything went black.
   Coryn could not see. He could not hear. All of his senses seemed to fall away at once. Even his body, which until just a moment ago had felt painful and infinitely tired, seemed dull and distant from his mind. Then, slowly, something new entered his mind. It was noise, dull and indistinct. Moment by moment though, it became sharper. Individual noises started to stand out among the mirass. Soon too did feeling begin returning to Coryn’s limbs. He was on his back, his head hurt, explosions were erupting in all directions. Coryn however, was most definitely still alive.
   He opened his eyes, only to realize that they were already open. Coryn blinked, but found no relief for his condition. Without recourse, he reached out to the only thing he knew for certain would be there. “Alice?”
   “I am here director. How are you feeling?”
   “Like I just got exploded. What happened?”
   “We got your shields back online, but there was not enough time to run through the necessary boot-up sequence. The fall-back was a hard ‘on’ command, which caused an excessive in-rush current that temporarily knocked you out.”
   Coryn was still processing what he was hearing as he struggled back to his feet. It was clear now that people were screaming in all directions around him. He could hear numerous fires and the rush of water, but mercifully R-Kain’s voice was not among the cacophony of sound.
   “What’s all that noise?”
   “Your system had analyzed R-Kain’s energy signature even with the shields shut down. They will be far more efficient at dealing with them in the future.”
   “That’s not an explanation.”
   “His energy attack richoched sir. It ended up catching several fueled helicopters in its path, which caused a chain reaction. Couple that with the fire you started earlier, and the whole base is in turmoil.”
   Coryn shook his head. “Just great. I didn’t sign-up to burn my own home down you know? Can you see all of this?”
   “The V.I.s can as a whole, yes. We are sharing your eyes. You are getting an equal share as well sir, but it is moving by too fast for your brain to process.”
   Coryn stood with some trepidation and pondered for a few moments. Shrapnel impacted against his shield as another vehicle went up nearby, but Coryn hardly felt the shockwave. The sporadic ping of burnt metal did give him an idea though. “Each of you is only sampling the visual data for specific indicators aren’t you? All the V.I.s are tasked with their own field, they are essentially ‘blind’ to what doesn’t concern them, but if they all feed what they’re getting from the data up to me, then I might just be able to get by!”
   “Giving it a shot. Aggregate forming...now.”
   A hazy image materialized in Coryn’s mind. The view was like a channel on an analog television that was just out of range of a broadcast. Everything was fuzzy, anything other than general details was washed away by the static. But the picture was clear enough that Coryn could make out what the shapes around him wore, be they man or machine.
   Or, in one case, the biological construct known as ‘R-Kain’.
   The plague smashed himself against Coryn’s shield. It was a large enough bubble that R-Kain wouldn’t be able to grab Coryn by punching his arm through it again, but small enough that Coryn had to recheck his calculations on that a few times. “You’re going to die Sken! I will drink blood from your skull like a cup!”
   Without thinking, Coryn launched himself into the air, but R-Kain clung tight. Coryn couldn’t see his face, especially through the glow of the shield, but he could imagine. R-Kain bashed his fist against the bubble again and again, growing more frustrated each time he didn’t crack it. “I’ll give this one to you Sken! You’re a lot more resilient than I gave you credit for!”
   “Director, energy reserves are draining rapidly. I do not recommend using more than one shield at a time. I will also caution you to limit this encounter to under five minutes.”
   “Doing my best Alice!”
   He was, but right now his best meant keeping the only thing between R-Kain and himself from breaking down. And that dream was severely threatened when R-Kain began charging another blast. “This one is going to end it Sken!”
   “You couldn’t kill me the first time R-Kain, and you won’t do it now!”
   “WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT!”
   They would.
   As R-Kain fired, Coryn split the shield in two. The front half remained to take the brunt of the attack, and to absorb as much energy as possible. The second half Coryn swung around his body such that it formed a second layer behind the first. Had R-Kain wanted to, he could have broken off his first attack, shot around to Coryn’s exposed rear, and ended the ex-moderator’s life then and there. To the raider’s great luck though, he was too wrapped up in his rage to notice. Instead he just fed more and more energy into Coryn’s shield. The one thing he should have known better by now to do.
When the necessary threshold was reached, the first shield detonated.
   The field that kept Coryn anchored at the center of his shields remained attached to the pivoted back half, so instead of taking the shock with his own body, Coryn was able to ride the shield almost like a surfboard along the shockwave of the explosion. He took it just far enough to get clear, and then deactivated the whole shield system. R-Kain would have been sent away in the opposite direction, so Coryn had the distance he needed to lose him. If he kept his energy up though, the furious plague would find Coryn again in minutes. All the ex-moderator could do now was slink back into the shadows while he still could.
   For now though, he still had plenty of horizontal momentum and the height to use it. Coryn wasn’t exactly sure where he was going to end up, but he knew it couldn’t be worse than where he had been.
   As the shields finished their return to slumber, Coryn’s normal vision returned. The air was cold and crisp at his current elevation, and the moon was full in the sky. Even though he hurtled towards the ground, Coryn gazed up at the moon. Despite it all, the heavenly body remained unscathed. It was all artificial of course, everything on the Net ultimately wasn’t. Coryn knew this was the case, but it didn’t feel like it. He looked up at the great glowing orb above him, and all he could see was the moon. A moon just the same as the one all of the human beings that had come before him had seen, and all those that were to come after would.
   For the first time since the war began, Coryn felt something resembling peace.




EPILOGUE
EPILOGUE

As it turned out, Alice had saved just enough energy to give Coryn a shield assisted landing. Their energy reserves we critically low after the conflict, but the haul of components they returned with were promising. In the days past his return, Coryn had slept, healed, and downed several dozen more half-failed experiments. He dreaded the side-effects each and every time, but they kept his reserves from dropping any lower, so he put up with them.
   Today however, he worked on a different project.
   Out in the main chamber, Coryn was putting the finishing touches on the build in the light of the fire. The rest of Swift Team looked onward with curious eyes as they took a meal. It was a gamble whether or not this was going to work, but it was worth seeing either way. At last, Coryn flipped the final switch, and stepped back.
   It clicked, it whirred, and then it screamed. “COME AT ME YOU 4KIDS SWINE! THIS IS MY PROPERTY AND YOU WILL VACATE THE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT AXE?! NO AXES IN THE-!”
   Red eyes blinked on and off as they processed new data. A metallic neck swiveled back and forth atop its new frame. “Oh my! I seem to have embarrassed myself somewhat. What was I saying? That didn’t sound like me at all. What… what are you all staring at? Coryn? What’s going on? Where am I? Why can’t I… why can’t I feel my body?”
   Coryn covered his mouth. He was halfway between feeling bad for 3.0, and laughing at him. “There’s a lot that you missed…”
   He was going to continue, but Vacant interrupted him. “You’re a f*ckin’ radio mate!”
   If 3.0 could have had a facial expression, he would have looked taken aback just then. Slowly, the realization of what Vacant had said sunk in, and it synced up with what his processors were telling him.
   Indeed, Coryn had grafted 3.0’s head directly onto an old two-way radio that Swift Team had recovered. The corynbot’s head spun three-hundred-and-sixty degrees as 3.0 fumed. “Why is by body suddenly a radio?! I understand that you recognize and want to nourish my interests Coryn, any loving grandfather would, but this is really quite ridiculous! I for one-!” This time, 3.0 cut himself off. “Sorry, I… it just all caught back up to me. That battle… we lost it didn’t we?”
   Coryn sighed. “Apparently so. It’s been a rough few months.”
   “Well,” said 3.0, “then you had better started filling me in.”
   The ex-moderator nodded. “Sure thing, but first, I need you to do something for me. Your noggin isn’t the only thing I retrofitted into that old radio. It’s got a lot of range and power it didn’t used to. Enough range and power that it should even be able to cut through to other parts of the Net, provided we can find the right place to point you.”
   “And?” Asked 3.0. “Where do you want me to start looking?”
   Coryn sat down and leaned in to look at 3.0. “If we’re going to have any hope of getting through this alive, we need to track people back down. 3.0., I need you to find Hasith and Corycaly.”




And that's that's folks! Hope you enjoyed this short ride! Please look forward to Part 2 coming this fall!
8
Develop Your Story / Re: stuck at a crossroad
« Last post by evand498 on July 21, 2019, 05:19:03 PM »
thanks it means a lot Coryn
9
Manga Creations / Re: MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 1
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 04:29:12 PM »
CHAPTER 3: CURIOSITY
CHAPTER 3: CURIOSITY

A week after discovering that Coryn was officially back on the list of hunted targets, half of Swift Team discovered themselves on the rooftop of an otherwise unremarkable building just outside the Administration District. This particular half was composed of Coryn and Echo, who lay prone beside each other beneath a collapsed billboard. It was damage from the invasion that 4Kids had deemed unnecessary to clear away, but the members of Swift had found the crumpled metal sheeting did wonders to obscure them from the constantly circling reconnaissance planes. Add to that an excellent view of downtown, and it had all the makings of a spynest.
   The pair had spent the earliest hours of daylight scanning the city for activity, 4Kids or otherwise. With such an expansive urban landscape to keep track of, it was no wonder that each was itching to get back to base where they could get something to eat, walk around, or at the very least, move more than a few inches without either bumping into the person next to you, or bits of jagged metal.
   Coryn pulled his binoculars away from his face and rubbed his tired eyes. The already deep bags under his eyes had only deepened since his encounter with R-Kain in the storehouse. He had not been getting much sleep, and it was beginning to show. The ex-moderator had caught himself several times just in the last hour from giving into his heavy eyelids, but the draw of even an unrestful sleep was becoming too much to bear. “Let’s pack it in Swift 4. There’s nothing to see today.”
   Echo, however, remained glued to her binoculars. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Take a look. Two-hundred-ninety-degrees, about five miles out.”
   Swift Leader took back up his binoculars and searched along Echo’s line of sight. Sure enough, he spotted a gathering of personnel transports, construction equipment, and cargo trucks. Vague shapes seemed to be milling about in the background, but at their current distance he couldn’t make the ongoings out with any real clarity.
   Both members of Swift Team dropped their binoculars and considered the scene with the naked eye. After a minute passed, Echo turned to Coryn. The light of his eyes almost undetectable in the daylight, but even with that handicap, the sharp eyed raider could see that they were pulsing faster than usual. “What’s the call Swift Leader?”
   The quick pulses ceased at once, the pace returning to normal. Coryn had made his decision. “Let’s take a closer look.”

   Five miles away from a building that she had no interest in, 4Kids-tan oversaw the proceedings. All around her, soldiers of the engineering corp went about their tasks. Some came equipped with jackhammers, others manned small construction vehicles. Others still used manual pickaxes and shovels. Excepting the tan herself, each was encased in a bright orange environmental suit, which came as standard outerwear for such an operation as this. 4Kids-tan wasn’t sure exactly what would happen once they found what they were looking for, but she knew that when they did, it would be obvious. In this instance, 4Kids could afford the extra protection for their men.
   “Keep an eye on the energy meters!” Shouted the tan over the noise of digging, “I want to know when we get close!”
   4Kids-bit her knuckle, and watched on in silence. A few expeditions to find MangaRaiders’ banhammer had been mounted while the Lost Chorus had been securing the city. Yet they had all failed to turn up a single shred of information. Not that any city ever left their hammer just laying around, but it was apparent MangaRaiders had gone through extra trouble to secret the device away. With hopes of a quick and easy end to their time here, 4Kids and begun cataloging concentrations of code across the city. This spot was the largest nexus in the downtown area after MR Tower itself, so it was where 4Kids-tan had decided to start digging first.
   Of course, it was proving to be no simple task.
   4Kids-tan surveyed the site. Whatever the block of buildings had been to the raiders, it was now nothing more than a pile of rubble. If it had been the dig teams’ doing, the buildings would have come down in a logical and efficient manner. Unfortunately, the once great towers had been brought down by the chaos of war. No one at high command could even adequately say whether it had been 4Kids or the raiders who had done it. But regardless of who had destroyed them, it was becoming 4Kids-tan’s newest headache. She turned towards the engineering captain who stood by her side. “Keep me apprised of any discoveries worth noting. I’ll be in the research trailer. The rest of my work isn’t going to come to a halt just because Bethuw’el wants his banhammer.”
   “Yes ma’am,” said the officer with a nod.

   As the sun was threatening to reach midday, Coryn and Echo arrived to the twisted remains that 4Kids seemed so interested in. They stood behind a set of drawn blinds in one of the adjacent buildings. The glass had been shattered, but the thin plastic strips banged around enough in the wind that whoever might have heard them from below would have long since stopped paying them any mind. As such, the two raiders could safely catch glimpses of the proceedings whenever the breeze lifted the blinds without much concern of being seen.
   Echo knitted her brow. “This was all just battle damage until today. What’s got them so hot and bothered now?”
   Coryn was muttering, mostly to himself, but loud enough that Echo could hear him. “Sandwich shop, blade sharpeners, printing press, unclassified files storage…”
   “What’s all that?” Asked Echo.
   “What I remember being here,” replied Coryn. “What am I forgetting?”
   Echo looked back out at the area. She took in the surrounding buildings as well, and compared it to her internal map of the city. “Radio broadcast center.”
   Coryn bobbed himself in the forehead with the fleshy part of his palm. “Of course! 3.0’s project! It’s the only thing of real note, but the tower is clearly gone. I don’t know what they’d want with it anyway.”
   Echo shrugged. “What to find out?”
   “Yeah,” nodded Coryn. “There’s bound to be a few spare hazmat suits down there. Let’s sneak into the troop transport and see what we can’t find.”

   There were guards of course. There were always guards when it came to 4Kids. But it was clear that they weren’t expecting any trouble that day. Coryn couldn’t blame them. Swift Team had never attacked during daylight. And while the ex-moderator was sure there had to be others who had escaped 4Kids’ clutches, he hadn’t heard of anyone else attempting counter strikes. Not that he had a chance to between only being out at night and living in an underground cave the rest of the time, but one had to have hope in such dire situations. Whatever the status was of their remaining comrades, Coryn and Echo were able to sneak past the thin perimeter of orange suited guards and into the unoccupied troop transport.
   The pair slipped inside the open back doors of the long vehicle to find themselves in a troop transport that hardly deserved such a non-descriptive name. It was less a transport and more like an armory on wheels. Long rows of bench seating occupied the center of the armored vehicle, but the walls were festooned with weaponry, clothing, field kits, and anything the soldier on the go could possibly desire. Among which, blessedly, were several sets of unused hazmat suits. The members of Swift Team pulled them over their own clothes with some assistance from each other as quickly as they could, and were relieved to find that only their eyes remained visible to outside observers. As long as they could avoid being questioned, there was a good chance they could get through this with no one being the wiser. The pair grabbed a shovel each on the way out, and dropped onto the rocky soil of the dig site.
   Of course, they were immediately questioned.
   Coryn and Echo found themselves face to face with a woman who wore the markings of a lieutenant on her hazmat suit. The raiders’ stolen suits did not possess rank designations, but they guessed that officers must have individualized suits.
   While it was unexpected, it was something that the members of Swift Team had prepared for during the long days stuck beneath the surface. They brought their hands up in a not-so-crisp salut, which they hopped the lieutenant would dismiss as a byproduct of the bulky orange suits, and responded in unison. “Ma’am?”
   There was a slight tilt the lieutenant’s head at their response. The raiders hoped it didn’t mean anything. Whether it did or not, the lieutenant pushed on. “What were you two doing in there? Why aren’t you at your stations?”
   Echo was the quickest with a response. “Ma’am, minor suit malfunctions. We were procuring replacements.”
   The lieutenant raised an eyebrow behind the tinted glass. “What sort of malfunctions?”
   This time, Coryn picked up the story. “Wearing beneath the arms ma’am. We deposited the damaged suits in the biohazard containment bin, if you wish to see for yourself.”
   There was a pause, and Coryn took the moment to sweat as he considered what would happen if they were discovered out in the open like this. He breathed a sigh of relief that he hoped the lieutenant didn’t notice when she responded positively. “I see. Seems like command is skimping on safety again. I expect a full use and service report to the quartermaster from each of you after your shifts today.”
   “Yes ma’am!” Swift team responded in unison. The lieutenant headed off, and Coryn and Echo made their way to what seemed like the most interesting spot: the rubble of the MR Broadcasting Center.
   
   The identical suits made it easy to slip into the workers’ formation. Coryn and Echo mirrored the movements and tasks of those around them, all the while keeping careful stock of where the other was standing. If they got separated, it would be impossible to find each other again. Their only recourse at that point would be to abandon the mission. That they could not do. Whatever it took, they needed to discover why the Lost Chorus was so interested in the pile of ruined city.
   So they worked, and so the day waned on. The raiders avoided the break for the midday meal by shifting themselves to a different contingent of workers when the ones they were with were called to eat, then back once the next crew replaced them at the mess tent. But the day only dragged on after that. Vacant and Devola were surely concerned that something had happened to the other half of their team by now, and the two on the surface were pained that they had been forced to leave them in the dark. By the time anything of interest happened, it was late afternoon. The raiders could pick up on the emotion of the soldiers around them. It was the end of the day, they were ready to retire back to whatever base they had come from for the night. Within the hour, Coryn and Echo were sure that they would have to find an opportunity to slip away.
   A man shouted, and the rest of the workers looked up from where they stood. “Over here! I’ve found something!”
   The work came to a halt as the officers strode over to the scene. A few of the more adventurous 4Kids soldiers edged towards the discovery as well, Coryn and Echo among them. They were deeply interested to see what had been found, but cautious enough that they maintained a respectable distance. This went for friend and foe alike. Regardless of orders to stay in ranks, a small audience had gathered to watch as the officers sorted through the man’s discovery. Coryn and Echo could see metal and electronic parts being pulled from a collapsed section of building. They could identify none of it however. Whatever it had been, it had been destroyed when the tower came down. What they could decipher, was that a handheld device the officers held beeped at an ever increasing rate as the hollow was excavated. At last, one of the outsiders spoke into a radio mounted on his shoulder. “Ma’am, we’ve found the source of the readings.”
   They heard a garbled voice respond over the little black speaker, but Swift team did not have to sit around and parse out who had been on the other side. Almost as soon as the officer had returned the radio to his shoulder holster, the doors to one of the trailers burst open. From within, 4Kids-tan emerged with great loping strides.
   Coryn and Echo closed ranks. “Has she been here the whole time?!” Expressed Echo, just soft enough as to not be overheard. Swift Team had by now heard about 4Kids-tan. She was plastered up and down MangaRaiders on posters and in video broadcasts of 4Kids propaganda. From what Swift Team could find out, she was heralded as the Lost Chorus’s claim to the true throne of 4Kids. What more proof could you desire than their ability to keep the tan alive without a site to call her own? She was the living expression of their loyalty to the cause, and her word carried as much weight as any of the other members of the Lost Chorus High Command.
   Not that they didn’t feel the need to restrain her, Coryn noted as he spied the collar around her neck. Restrained or not though, she presented a significant threat to the raiders in her presence, and they weren’t about to give her cause to notice them. Thankfully more of the dig crew had found the courage to step forward once they noticed that 4Kids-tan had taken interest in the discovery. Swift Team now hid amongst a uniform crowd of orange.
   4Kids-tan reached the exposed cavity, and began inspecting the items that were passed out of it. Still, it was yet to make sense. A plastic casing here, a busted up circuit-board there. It was some time before she was handed anything that made Coryn’s ears perk up.
   4Kids-tan took hold of an oblong metal object, and held it up to the light. To the ex-moderator’s great surprise, he found his own face staring back at him. “I know that head!” Whispered Coryn to Echo as he started making his way forward.
   The tan began describing the metallic face as Coryn came into earshot. “It’s the head of one of Sken’s robots. The after-action report from this area describes one of them defending the broadcast station. Let’s see what it was so hellbent of protecting. You-!”
   Coryn was surprised to find just how far forward he had wandered. Far enough in fact that 4Kids-tan had addressed him directly. The shock was enough that when she tossed it to him, Coryn barely caught 3.0’s severed head. 4Kids-tan either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because she continued with her order. “Put that in the research trailer for analysis. It’s not the source of the readings, but it could prove useful should we encounter any more of its ilk.”
   Coryn saluted awkwardly and proceeded to beat a retreat. Echo was hot on his heels, and once they were behind the crowd instead of in front of it, he thrust 3.0’s remains into her arms. “Get him back to base,” he whispered.
   Echo glanced from Coryn, to 3.0s dark eyes, and back to Coryn. “Is he dead?”
   “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s hard to tell. If he is, great. If not, then at least he’ll get a proper funeral. Either way 4Kids can not learn what’s in his head.”
   Echo frowned beneath the orange helmet. “Wait a minute, what does he know?”
   Coryn shrugged. “At the very least: the ins and outs of MR’s communications grid. If there’s any safe channels left, 4Kids will be able to use him to break them. So shove him up under that bulky orange suit of yours and get out of here.”
   “What about you?” Asked Echo.
   “I’ll see this out to the conclusion, then sneak off myself. If there’s something at the bottom if this wreck that 4Kids wants, then we want it first.”
   Swift 4 nodded, and turned to leave. “Understood. Get home safe.”
   Echo retreated, using the excitement of the find as cover. Coryn turned back towards the center of activity once he was sure Echo wasn’t about to be found out, and took in a deep calming breath. In through his nose, out through his mouth. Just like he had been taught when he was a child.
   “I’m already home…”
   Coryn pushed back into the crowd, losing himself once again in the mass of orange. In the time that he had been away, the tan had called for more help, and men with pneumatic cutters had opened up the cavity. The scene was opening like a lotus. Layers of wreckage were being pulled away one at a time. Each one brought about the anticipation of the full mystery being revealed, and each one left Coryn disappointed.
   Finally, the waiting ended. A layer was peeled away, and a pale blue light caught Coryn’s eye. Another layer came free, and now the light illuminated the front row of orange suited diggers in the dying light of the sun. They couldn’t have known what they were looking at, but Coryn realized it from the first time he saw the ethereal glow. 3.0 had activated the broadcast center’s final defense, and either through bravado or just sheer bad luck, he had been on the outside of it when the building came down. But it had held strong, even if 3.0’s body had not. Before Coryn stood the control station of MR Radio, encircled by a shield of MangaRaiders’ code. The little detectors the officers held had transitioned from a rapid beep to a continuous, shrill note.
   4Kids-tan looked on with a sparkle of curiosity in her eye, and motioned to the soldiers who had just finished revealing the control board. “Take down the shield.”
   They nodded at her, and without another word, set about their task. Cylindrical devices were fetched from one of the trucks and brought to the shield. They reminded Coryn of handheld door rams, and proved to serve much the same purpose. In the hands of the engineering corps members, they lit up with a crackling red energy, and when slammed against the shield of code caused it to ripple like a still pond that had been disturbed by a boulder. The shield flickered and bent with each strike. Every impact like an off note played by an out of tune piano. Coryn knew it was only a matter of time now. The crowded dig crew was being worked into a frenzy. Shouts from the soldiers mixed with the piercing howl of the energy meters mixed with the thumping of the rams. It was almost too much for Coryn to take. He wanted to burst forth, slam his fist into 4Kids-tan’s stupid face, to rescue whatever secret 3.0 held, and to make his way to freedom having decimated every soldier around him. Coryn’s blood boiled, the V.I.’s screamed at him to calm down, he mentally shouted them into silence. His fists tightened, his muscles tensed. The ex-moderator was on the verge of losing his temper.
   And then, it was all over.
   With one final slam of the ram, the shield buckled, shattered, and dissipated into nothingness. The crowd fell silent, and the energy meters were silenced with them. 4Kids-tan took an expectant step forward, but all was still. No new threat presented itself. After another beat of silence, the tan relaxed her posture, and stepped up to the controller’s position. Whatever chair 3.0 had used during his broadcasts was long since lost, so she stood, and unleashed her attentions against the control board. Levers were pulled, buttons were pushed, sliders were adjusted. All the while the tan and Coryn, although separate, waited for something, anything to happen. After a minute passed and nothing occurred, 4Kids-tan turned back to the officers. The one nearest to her shook their head to signify a negative, and the tan’s hands dropped from the control board. “It’s just sound equipment. We were only detecting the shield. Crew 5, stay behind and cut this whole section for transport to headquarters. Whatever was powering the shield, we can’t risk its destruction. Move everything a single piece. The rest of you, mount up, we’re done here!”
   Coryn raced to match the rest of those around him to a salute. The order had to be received, and he was at the greatest risk that he had been all day now that the orange clad soldiers were no longer occupied.
   Swift Leader had anticipated that they would move out in a more ordered fashion, giving him time to slip away. But when the engineering corps soldiers moved, they moved at once. Coryn found himself swept along by the crowd. No matter how he tried to force his way to the outside of the mass, he could make no progress. Before he knew it, Coryn was being coerced towards the trucks. Soon the soldiers around him had forced Coryn into a single file line destined to board one of the troop transports. No matter where he looked, they was no chance to run. The area was cleared away for a hundred yards on either side of him. Although the initial confusion may buy Coryn a few dozen feet, it would not take long for the guards to realize that something was amiss. And 4Kids was not the kind of group to detain first and execute later. If Coryn ran, he would start the interrogation by being shot in the back. If he was lucky enough to survive that, then it would be endless tortures until his eventual show trial, forced confession, and very public execution.
   Coryn took another breath. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. An officer shouted from the back of the truck. They were to stay fully suited until they reached decontamination at the divisional base. The code used by the native residents may have unknown effects on their biology. Such savages they were that their code may be damaging to more civilized peoples.
   Coryn may have added that last part himself, but the implication was there. 4Kids did not fully comprehend the code of MangaRaiders, and was taking no chances until they did. After all, had Hasith not designed it to his own personal standards? Who knew what lurked within that even Coryn did not know about. The thought comforted the ex-moderator as he found a seat within the tight quarters of the troop transport. As it roared to life and set out for the unknown location of the engineering corps’ base, Coryn held onto the thought as it served as seed for a fully formed idea in his mind.
   There may be a way out for him yet, and it may include everything he’d been looking for.
10
Manga Creations / Re: MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 1
« Last post by Coryn on July 21, 2019, 03:51:56 PM »
Alright. Gloves are off! Yes, I'm well aware that I promised the next chapter like...way too long ago. Many apologies. Many things (work more than anything else), has delayed me. So I'm just dumping the rest of the story in one big go! Get ready people! Feel that thundering stampede of words in your bones!


CHAPTER 2: YEARNING
CHAPTER 2: YEARNING

“Be careful, we just need a drop.”
   “0.054 mL if you can.”
   “We can’t get that kind of accuracy.”
   “He can try.”
   “He’s only human.”
   “You three need to leave him be. He’s concentrating.”
   “Look who’s talking!”
   “Quiet! All of you!”
Rang a stern voice against the cacophony of V.I.s.
   “Sorry Alice…” They responded as one.
   In the outside world, Coryn was doing his level best to ignore the voices in his head. In the semidarkness, he held a dropper of chemical solution over a small vial of purple liquid. With a subtle squeeze of the rubber bladder, a single tear of solution dropped into the vial. There was a ‘plop’ as it hit, followed by a quiet fizzling as the two mixers combined into one. Coryn observed a shift in color from purple to cyan. At the transformation, the vial’s contents took on a subtle, but definite, luminescent glow. The scientist breathed a sigh of relief and reclined back in the salvaged office chair. Perspiration was flicked from his forehead as he peeled off his plastic goggles.
Coryn sat there for some time, just breathing and letting the adrenaline wear off. Too much excitement made his bones burn, and he could feel a migraine coming on from the stress of the experiment and the bickering it had fostered amongst the minds he shared his skull with. At least this time, he could rationalize the exertion with a successful test.
After his heart had calmed down, Coryn stood. He wore no lab coat, only his now severely battered hero coat. It was still holding together, but even mysais fibers had a breaking point. The original buttons had all been replaced, and holes had opened up in the areas of heaviest wear. Coryn had abandoned the back patch during the invasion, so now it was little more than a tired looking petticoat.
At night, when everyone was drifting off to sleep, the scientist had taken to imagining himself being buried in some pit with it still on his body. In his mind, it had already become his ‘corpse’s coat’.
   Coryn pushed away the unwelcome thought once again. It would not due to drop into a state of premature mourning while there was still work to be done  He turned his attention back to the vial sitting in its stand on his sad looking lab table. Coryn grasped it, and with one deft motion, sent the liquid it contained swirling down his throat.
   “Start timer.” He said to no one in particular, and stepped into the main space of the hideout.
   Swift Team’s hideout was, point of fact, a cave. The central cavern held the bulk of their little camp. There was a space for cooking, a table for planning, seats arrayed around a small fire. Small caves surrounding the main area served various other purposes. One passage led to Coryn’s ramshackle lab, another served the team as sleeping quarters. Others still contained supplies, weapons, a restroom, and even a few one-man vehicles.
   It had been in this very place that the raiders had taken shelter during C-Kret’s incursion all those years ago. The cave was an artificial excavation, once meant for the Science Division. These days several tons of collapsed stone and earth separated it from even the oldest and most disused Science Division tunnels. The team got in and out through a small fissure in the rock, and only then after having navigated a secret passageway masked by the winding tunnels of MangaRaiders’ storm runoff system. As far as life under Bethuw’el went, it was about as hidden as they could get.
   Coryn found his compatriots in the main hall. Swift 3 and Swift 4, Devola and Echo River respectively, were tending to the small central fire. Swift 2, Vacant, was busy preparing the midday meal. It had already been a day and a half since their nighttime raid on the fuel depot, and the team had spent the time recovering their minds and bodies. Food did not come easily down in the cavern, so any excursions they made came with a heavy toll. Coryn estimated that had each lost at least thirty pounds in the the last few months. If they were ever to go into a real battle against 4Kids, they would need to solve their nutrient issue.
   The scientist took his place near the fire, soaking up its warmth as a guard against the ever present chill of the cave. Echo took note of him as he entered the circle. “I didn’t hear any distressing noises. Does that mean our little chemical heist bore some fruit?”
   Coryn nodded. “I got a positive result this time, but it’s still too early yet to make the call.”
   Devola opened his mouth to say something, but was cut short as Coryn lurched to the side and vomited violently onto the cave floor. Weary, mouth full of bile, and with his head spinning, Coryn slowly hauled himself back up onto one of the small crates surrounding the fire. “Alice, what’s the result?”
   The V.I. ‘sighed’ before responding. “One minute, forty-two seconds before rejection. Zero-point-two percent of energy reserves replenished. Reserves now holding steady at thirty-four-point-eight percent.”
   “Save results. Do what you need to free up the space. Mark it down for future evaluation.”
   All eyes were on Coryn now, and he gave the group a weak thumbs-up before responding. “It’s a new record.”
   “That bad?” Asked Echo.
   Coryn shrugged and shook his head. “4Kids just doesn’t stock the ingredients I need in their fuel sites. We’ll need to look elsewhere.”
   Vacant had approached while Coryn was wiping the results of his test from the edges of his mouth. He deftly sidestepped the pallid liquid that was draining away from the fire-pit, and handed Coryn a damp cloth and a small brick of protein ration. “Well progress is progress, even if you’ve sprayed sick all over the floor. Just try and make it to the toilet first next time.”
   The scientist graciously accepted both items, and began chewing off bites of ration after cleaning his face and tongue. While he ate, Devola asked the question he had wanted to a minute earlier. “So what does happen if your energy reserves hit zero?”
   Coryn looked at Dev with eyes that glowed only a fraction as brightly as they used to. He chewed another bite of protein while considering his answer. “Well, I don’t actually rely on the cybernetics for basic survival. It’s the V.I.s that complicate things. My system doesn’t have the safeguards required to shut them down safely. If I have a total power failure while they’re still inside me, then…”
   “The V.I.s die…” Said Alice in Coryn’s head. 
   “Well, we can’t allow it to happen is all.” Said Coryn instead of what he suspected the whole team already knew to be true. Even though they couldn’t feel it in the same visceral way that Coryn could, it was obvious they all took the need to keep the V.I.s' life support going as important. Coryn shrugged to help move past the moment. “In any case, I’ve at least made a little progress. It’s time to move onto the next thing.”
   “Speaking of…” intoned Devola, “since your mask got destroyed the other night, we need to snag some more mysias to replace it.”
   “We’re out already?” Asked Vacant with a furrowed brow. “Didn’t we just make a run? Whose turn is it?”
   “Yours,” said Echo as she churned the embers of the fire pit.
   “Ah…” replied Vacant in his clipped tone. “Suppose I’ll be off then.”
   Coryn however, was already rising to his feet. “Don’t bother. It was my mask. I’ll make the run.”
   “You sure?” Said Vacant, but Coryn was already clambering towards the cavern's entrance.
   “Yeah, consider it a trade for cleaning up the puke," said Coryn with a nod in its direction. "You all rest up. I could use some fresh air anyway.”

   By the time Coryn’s face appeared in one of MR’s many storm drains, the sun had already turned the sky into hues of amber and crimson. His eyes scanned the pavement in both directions, and he listened intently for any noises that might indicate a guard was stationed out of his view. After a few minutes of careful study, the ex-moderator made the bet that he was on a deserted street, and lifted the manhole cover over his head.
   Thankfully Coryn’s bet paid off, and he was greeted by a silent road as he emerged into the sunlight. Only instead of a pile of casino chips, Coryn’s winnings was the gift of his continued existence. It was a pot that the scientist valued infinitely more.
   Coryn reset the manhole lid, and slipped into the shadows of a nearby alleyway. It was not yet against military law for civilians to be out and about, provided they had a good reason and the right papers. Were the second worst thing to happen, Coryn carried forged documents indicating that he was no one of importance. If the worst thing were to happen, and whoever confronted him recognized the ex-moderator for exactly who he was, then Coryn carried a combat knife and a sidearm. The scientist relied on his new facial hair and hairstyle to obscure his features from a distance, and to his knowledge, the standard Lost Chorus soldier would not be on the lookout for the supposedly dead moderator. It wasn’t clear to anyone on Swift Team whether or not the propaganda was purely for the captive populace, of if it applied to 4Kids rank and file as well, but they placed their hopes in the latter.
   Coryn had emerged near the fashion district, and as he stalked towards it, he took note of the defensive wall that had surrounded MangaRaiders for years now. Its normally smooth top was broken by dark figures at regular distances. Some stood in place, while others paced back and forth along the lines. Coryn could never remember a time when the wall had actually been manned. The raiders had always relied on technology to alert them to anything on the outside that was bent on making trouble. But of course, Coryn knew that those soldiers he could see weren’t looking out. They were all turned in. 4Kids had no need to be concerned with what was going on in the desert after all. It was their creation. No, they only concerned themselves with those still inside the city making a ruckus. Silently, Coryn prayed that someone had made it out into the dry expanse beyond the city. Maybe if they had, there could be an opportunity 4Kids would not be expecting.
   He did not think it was true, but he had to hope.
   Coryn reached the Fashion District. The old neighborhood was crisscrossed by dozens of canals, which meant dozens of bridges which were sure to be guarded by dozens of troops. Swift Leader would never make it to his destination by taking a land route, so he took the one path he knew wouldn’t be as closely watched.
   During the invasion, the district’s fleet of gondolas has broken free of their moorings. In the weeks and months since, they had been free to drift freely along the canal’s inscrutable flows and eddies. By now they were diffused throughout the water system, and the Lost Chorus soldiers in the area had long since stopped paying attention to their unorganized movements. Swift Team had waited patiently to take advantage of this fact, and were now able to use the drifting gondolas to travel among the district.
   Coryn made his way to the bricked in canal. He lurked in the shadows, watching as patrols passed on foot and on vehicles around him. Eventually, what he was waiting for came to pass. A gondola bumped up against the canal near his location. Coryn waited for a blind spot in the patrols, and when it came, he slunk beneath the canvas tarp which had been placed over the disused gondola back in the fall. Back when the notion that MangaRaiders could be taken over by a hostile force was the furthest thing from the raiders’ minds as it could have been.
   Once inside, the scientist found what he was looking for. While the slim boats were usually propelled in the traditional manner, they also came equipped with a paddlewheel system. The wheel was installed in the center of the craft, so any wake caused by the movement of the paddles would not be visible to an outside observer. Coryn hunkered down under the canvas, careful not to disturb canvas over his head, and began to work the pedals with his hands. It was a slow process, any faster and it would be clear that the boat wasn’t drifting naturally. Coryn was forced to maneuver by dead reckoning, so he occasionally bumped against other craft and the canal’s wall, To the soldiers on guard though, it would look like nothing more the random movements of a derelict boat. All that could be relied on now was patience.
   Given time, patience will always pay off.
Coryn knew he had reached his destination when the light penetrating the coarse canvas was suddenly cut off. After a few more yards of travel, Coryn emerged from hiding. He was in one of the many tunnels that the canals used to progress across the district. Each member of Swift Team had memorized their layout, and so they would know that upon entering this particular tunnel, Coryn was directly below his target.
   As not to make any undue noise, Coryn carefully navigated his gondola to the side of the tunnel. In the semidarkness, he groped along the curved tunnel-sides until his hands met iron. With a rope Coryn secured the boat to a rusty ladder, and began his climb.
   A wooden trap-door pushed open, and Coryn found himself in one of the Fashion District’s many storehouses. Orange light poured in from the setting sun, and stacks upon stacks of crates formed ordered rows and aisles. It was a straightforward layout, that if one did not know what to look for, appeared to have remained untouched for at least four months, if not longer. During that time however, Swift Team had been using the warehouse as their own personal mysias stockpile. Predictably, the Lost Chorus had no use or desire to use raider technology themselves. But they had not yet been ordered, or perhaps they were simply not willing, to destroy the mysias stockpiles. Coryn had often wondered if they had been taking samples for study. Perhaps they were looking for a weakness in Corycaly’s design. If an exploit could be found in the cloth armor of MangaRaiders, then it would be a dark day for any surviving raiders.
   Once again pushing the intrusive thoughts to the wayside, Coryn found what he was looking for. A crate with loose nails yielded several bolts of mysias cloth, and Coryn began to dutifully load as many as he could carry into the gondola. As the scientist crested the waterside entrance one last time to procure a final bolt however, he felt the air in the warehouse change. Whereas the building had been filled with a pleasant spring coolness, Coryn felt a sudden elevation of temperature within the space, and it continued to climb. He did not know what was going on, but Coryn knew the importance of each bolt brought back with him. Furthermore, he knew he had left the crate ajar. If someone from 4Kids were to perform even a cursory search, they would realize that someone had been sneaking in.
   With a curse directed at himself under his breath, Coryn slipped up against the rows of crates, and listened. Sure enough, he soon heard the heavy thudding of thick soled boots against the concrete floor. The scientist had expected a pair however, and he heard only one. It was not like 4Kids to patrol in the singular. They almost always came in pairs. Coryn listened as intently as he could, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Unprompted, the intruder announced themselves.   
   “Sken!” Came the voice of R-Kain, clear and bright through the dusty rows. “I’m looking for one Coryn Sken! Could it be that he’s hiding in this dusty old shack?!”
   Coryn’s throat clenched tightly, and he ceased to breathe. Inside his head, the V.I.’s were panicking. “R-R-R-R-R-R-R-KainKainKainKainKain!”
   “He’sherehe’sherehe’she’she’sherehereherehe’shere!”
   “Whwhawhat’shehehehedohe’sdoingdoingdoing?!”
   “Heknowsheknowsheknowsheknows!”
   “Dododododon’t movemove!”

   Coryn pushed their voices aside and tried to think. There was no way that R-Kain could actually know Coryn was there. He was obviously aware that the ex-moderator was alive, but that didn’t mean he could track him down so easily. If he could have, then R-Kain would have surely killed Coryn while the latter was still slowly making his way towards the warehouse in the gondola. “Think Coryn! Think!” He thought to himself. But Coryn would have no time to. R-Kain’s steps went from a slow, even pace, to a full on run, and from the sounds of it, he was coming straight towards Coryn.
   Swift Leader shot to the side as quietly as he could. He needed to get back to the crate, shut it, and then escape without making any noise. But he knew that the wood of the crate was creakey, and he couldn’t stop the trap-door hinges from squealing as they closed. At the same time though, Coryn was in no shape to fight R-Kain. He had barely survived their last encounter. He could not use his shields while the V.I.s resided within him. Not without drastically draining his energy reserves. There was little chance Coryn could physically overpower Azazel’s plague, and just as much doubt that the knife or pistol that he carried would have any effect. So Coryn retreated, and R-Kain advanced.
   It was a stop and go chase. R-Kain would run to the end of one isle, and Coryn would fall back. The genetic weapon would then pick a new direction to rush, and Coryn would scurry away while trying to match the time of R-Kain’s steps. Coryn prayed each time that he had left enough room for escape. For minutes that felt like hours, the process continued. Eventually, R-Kain came to a halt with Coryn only a few feet from him. The ex-moderator was squeezed between a pair of crates, and remained hidden for now, but Coryn knew that if R-Kain turned in his direction next, it would all be over.
   Of course, the option remained that Coryn may not have to wait for R-Kain to make a decision. Coryn had taken in a breath of air when R-Kain was approaching. The ex-moderator forced himself to relax, but the shallow breath would not hold him over. Coryn could already feel his lungs prodding at his nervous system, gently requesting another breath, tactfully telling his brain that more oxygen was needed. Soon they would not be so polite, and Coryn contemplated for the first time whether he had the ability to hold his breath until he passed out, or if his reflexes would take over first.
   Oxygen drained from Coryn’s body, and still R-Kain held firm, sniffing the air. Coryn’s eyes began to throb, and he could feel his diaphragm jerk as his body screamed for air, but his brain shouted it back into submission each time. It was a game of chicken the scientist knew he could not win. Eventually he would cave. R-Kain would find him, and from there it was only a matter of time before he was getting beheaded in front of a live studio audience.
   Just as Coryn’s constitution was failing, and he prepared to give in, a new voice rang out across the gentle afternoon light of the warehouse. “Leader R-Kain! Headquarters is requesting a status report!”
   Coryn’s adam’s apple was throbbing rhythmically as he waited for R-Kain to answer. He could almost see the man in his red officer’s uniform around the corner of the crate. The extra hope Coryn had gained was fading quickly, but once again, his patience was rewarded. He heard the sound of R-Kain turning on his heel, and the steady footsteps of the 4Kids weapon heading for the exit. “Tell them Sken isn’t here either! We’re moving on from the district!”
   After what seemed like an eternity, the heavy doors of the warehouse slammed shut, and Coryn dropped to the floor. Deep inhales overtook his body. Coryn scraped his head back and forth on the concrete as he convulsed The ex-moderator had no control over himself for the moment, but R-Kain was gone, and that was all he needed to know. In a few minutes, he would regain his composure, obscure his presence in the building, and carefully return to his temporary home in the subterranean cavern. But for now Coryn could only think of breath. Cool, refreshing, life giving breath.
   What would come next, he could only guess at.
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