Sinking in a Sea of Sands Started Closed

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The others badgered it with questions about the cube. Curiosity, such a human thing. A stark contrast from the programming and sub-routines that made it investigate anomalies. It answered with a beep. A response which satisfied its creators and probably would satisfy them. Metal slid over metal as V.A.G.R.A.N.T. played around with the cube. Suddenly it found a depression as the robot got around to the sixth face. Another one of the organics then poked the rod, and in response V.A.G.R.A.N.T. shifted about half a metre away from the crowd, carrying the mysterious cube with it. They got in the way, so V.A.G.R.A.N.T. simply got away from them. One of the appendages reconfigured itself into a slimmer shape, one that could fit into the groove. It was ready...

The slim metal 'finger' hooved nanometres above the groove as V.A.G.R.A.N.T. thought on whether this was the optimal route to take. From their words, most of the others thought it was. One was convinced that the box was some sort of weapon, even though if it were one of the automated weapons that plagued its world, they would be dead already. They were in a desert with no cover for miles - the perfect place for a drone to cruise by and gun them down. There was no need for bombs or the like. Either way, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had made up its mind. The slim slip of metal was soon joined by others and they were driven into the groove. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. then began to twist. One phrase ran through its digital cortex as V.A.G.R.A.N.T. attempted to open the cube - 'Pandora's box.'

The device beeped, before carrying the box away. The humans having decided to try to interfere with the box, asking questions and talking. Was it not enough that he had done so? He let it be, like the humans should, as it would probably just keep moving if he tried again. As for the humans, the Spirit could not help but feel a bit disappointed. It seemed that they had gone away from the important questions, the ones the Spirit had hoped they would discuss.

"Why are we here? And where is it? How do we get out?"

The sun was still scorching hot, but another one had woken up. Had he not noticed that one before? Only... this one... Was it a human? It seemed odd, strange... wait, this was no normal creation. It lacked a lot of what humans did have, but it also had things that only humans could have. When had humans started to tamper with the laws of life and death?

He felt sad, it looked as if this... human had been forced into existence by other humans. Such a morbid thing to do. It had no clothes, a fatal thing in the middle of the desert. If the coat he wore had not been a part of his form, and thus irremovable, he would have given it to this creation.

Yeah, he had to think of it as a human, else he could not stomach it. The Spirit went up again, this time only for the purpose of creating a spot of shade for the unclothed one. Its skin seemed to be sensitive to the sun, so it would be better for it to have some clothing as well. Albeit, humans did not have the habit of sharing resources when they barely had enough themselves. And now they had even less.

The box responded a section of the bottom face falling off and landing on the ground below, and with it drifted down a single white card. On it printed in plain text two words.


V.A.G.R.A.N.T. was puzzled. From the note it could infer that there was yet another person/thing entwined in this. But who or what? The AI picked up the note and examined it. Tiny samples of the paper were taken for future analysis. One strand of limbs picked up the box, but not before another quick examination to see if that piece of paper was the only thing that lay inside. Piece of paper and box in tow, it hovered over to the group and set the two objects on the ground to see. The yellow glow faded to white and sensors picked up signs of another individual. It quickly sent out a wave, scanning the group for any identification implants they had. It would be of use to have more than just more than just hollow names in its data banks after all.

Human yet not. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. quickly picked up on the way the odd human referred to itself. It was a reflection of its own habits, which was a reflection of its own nature. 'I'. How could the AI use that particular pronoun when itself was a gestalt construct that contained many parts? It was too restricting. Maybe the odd human shared that particular quick? That question alone made the new individual interesting, at least in terms of investigating anomalies. Speaking of anomalies, another individual was up in the air, via unknown means. Technology? But there was no sign of any flight device. Another thing that could be left for later, there were other priorities. Right now, there was still the matter of the box, and the how, where and why of this scenario.

A figure next to where the box had landed was still.
And still, lying down.

To some, it might have looked like a teens' corpse, with long-ish brown hair, black trousers, black blazer, a white shirt.
Further probing could show grey eyes, a few cracked ribs on one side, coagulated blood and bursted vessels just behind.

Biologically dead.

But not everything about the figure was strictly physical.

To some, other features might be seen, or sensed, or found.
White hair, golden irises.

Further probing could reveal a dormant soul, and, bound into it, intricate enchantments.

Weaved in sharp and tight and obsessively precise, a bit, sort of, like: The paramedical stitches of a crazed necromancers' amalgam of corpse parts.

And waiting for a supplier of magickal... stuff.

Sand piled up against the corpse, but as the sun beat down on dead skin, it remained undamaged, bound by blessings.

More came to join their group, or in the case of one was uncovered by the winds blowing across the sands, both appeared superficially human yet were clearly not, not anymore at least. Without apparel that one will die quickly, the other looks already dead, fresh from surgery? Or something worse, merits investigation, if it ever moves that is. Smooth unsculpted flesh, broken only by the barest expression of a face, something an artist or perhaps a crazed scientist would create. The other reeks, if it is not a corpse it smells as though it has been rolling in them, the others have all been alive though, or mobile at least.

He considered approaching the naked experiment, but the spirit, for that must surely be what it was, beat him to it, so he did not. With the arrival of these last two he felt the need to more thoroughly assess his companions. The humans barely seemed of note, he had encountered many and was accustomed to their quirks although he wondered if he had met any of these specific humans before. The one called Dragon seemed rather paranoid, while Knife seemed quite friendly, so there were certainly differences to consider at least. The spirit seemed familiar somehow, he knew what it was from its appearance, in fact its appearance was much like something he had seen before. The robot was also familiar in a way, he had seen many of them before though he could not identify this one's manufacturer, Seven World's co perhaps? Regardless it had taken quite an interest in that box, in fact it seemed to have opened it somehow!

He titled his head curiously as he approached the robot, a gesture he found odd, but that humans were fond of and seemed to fit the situation. "What have you found?" he asked, restraining himself from speaking again what colors, scents or answers lie within? show us!

"Rude," remarked the Mayor, as VAGRANT and Hunter wandered off with the odd cube, "They could have at least excused themselves."
Another of the unsonscious had roused themselves. It, for it could not be described as him or her, was naked, being shaded by the floating one. The Mayor supposed himself lucky for arriving with all clothing intact.
The sake of propriety prompted him to speak.
"If you want clothes, my jacket should still be on the sand there somewhere!"

The sands shifted and revealed a... corpse? It lay next to where the box had been set. Investigation revealed that the cause of death was a crushed abdomen. Still, the AI fished the body out of the sands. It was evidence in favour of this being reality. Corpses in virtual environments simply did not exist. Countless failsafes were in place to prevent cyberdeath, which would cause a human brain to shut down. A strange but fatal nocebo. Nevertheless, the flesh would serve as substance for the humans present. Looking at the current situation, they would probably grow desperate enough to eat it to state their hunger. That is if this was reality. Death and hunger avoid the virtual realms. The hooded one, who declared himself a Hunter, addressed V.A.G.R.A.N.T. with a question that stank of curosity. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. replied by passing the thank you note over to the Hunter and made what would be a disappointed-sounding beep in a human's view. Nevertheless, for V.A.G.R.A.N.T. it was just a matter of choosing the right note.

Something strange, physically, about the corpse, was that it was as fresh and hydrated as it would've been just after death, despite having been lying in the sand long enough for sand to pile up against it.

It was as if the abdominal crushing had occurred after the figure had already been lying for a while.

Or the figure, now resting in sleek, black arms, was in a stasis, not just dead but alive as well, its' waveform stabilised.

Permeating the flesh, and, now being conducted up sleek black arms, was a field of potential.

As the field expanded, divine mechanisms, shifted off in a direction of some exotic dimension, flexed to fit, scattering waves down the field, from a soul which no longer belonged in flesh, through flesh, and then through mechanical components, to a structure of many souls, soul-dered together, fed into hungry circuits.

V.A.G.R.A.N.T.'s sensor picked... something up from the corpse, something with a value of... NULL. The wave spread upwards, through the arms. Before the AI perceived the attack, it had already happened. CONNECTION ESTABLISHED. It bounced back. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. immediately set about severing the connection. Malware wrapped in a doublelayer...? That could only mean but, it was only a theory at best and a hypothesis at worst. So far, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. was the only example of the phenomenon, but it had the advantage of being a gestalt entity that fused analog and digital thinking. Which made this worth keeping. A simple offensive would override the data and it would be lost. The white intensified. INVESTIGATE WITH CAUTION. Firewalls within firewalls were set up. Little sets of programs were set to gather data. It was akin to a blind person with protective clothing on trying to feel the grooves of volcanic rock. Dangerous, with little hope of reward. REWRITE CACHE TO G:\. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. was taking no chances. It emptied one of the virtual drives and used that as a proxy lest it was in fact malware. Data traveled between the organic and the inorganic in packets of light. Shame all V.A.G.R.A.N.T. received at the end was an endless stream of: SR@T^G0asdfDT#UD4... Junk. Nevertheless, it was just another puzzle of this place. But, uncertainty crept in and a buzz of static could be heard.

Dragon looked as V.A.G.R.A.N.T inspected the box yet again. Looked, but didn't talk. The more he talked, the more embarrasing being proven wrong would be. And there it was. A face fell, and with ir, a card. Just that. Why would anybody use such a clunky box to transport a piece of paper? Dragon was getting bored. He put his hands in his pockets, more out of habit than anything. When he did that, he touched his communicator, and his lips curled into a smile. He would call the Organization, and they'd rescue him for sure. So he turned it on and took it to his face, said,
"Dragon here, over." Then, he waited, but no answer came. He tried again and again, and finally threw the transceiver to the sand. He looked around to see the robot lifting a corpse. But something was strange. Most of the time he saw a brown haired kid. Yet the hair sometimes flashed, turning white. However, he seemed to be the only one who actually noticed. So he ran towards them. When he got close to them, he asked,
"Hey, robot, can I take a look at that kid?"

As the blessings settled, and a junk stream of SR@T^G0asdfDT#UD4 was released as a result, a connection formed.

And as the junk stream was neatly filed into a spare hard drive, just a little bit of quantum computing energy was vented by the process, after all, no mechanism was 100% efficient.

It was enough for the blessings to animate TUDA.

He noticed heat around, wind from one side, something smooth and cool below...

As the blessings transmitted these perceptions back up the connection, the burst of quantum computing energy ceased.

The miracle went dormant again, and the boys' brain once again relied on a supply of blood, currently unavailable.

He winced from the headache and dizziness of blood loss before dying again.

The junk data was quickly purged despite the fact that it continued to grow inside the proxy. Another burst of static. SYSTEMS COMPROMISED. The sleek black octahedron opened up, sunlight bouncing of the network of solar panels, and expelled a small cube. H:\ DRIVE CORRUPTED. The qubits shifted to other parts of the machine. The glow began to rapidly shift colours to a deep red. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. was surprised by the sudden appearance of life from the corpse, but it quickly faded. PER$O#^L|TY G/I%?H IM~IN3#T. The rapid shift in colour continued. A roulette of colour, it spun and spun but every result was red. Kets shifted around inside the Core AI. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had no option but to release the corpse, dumping it near the red-hooded one. He could deal with whatever that was. ERROR UNDEFINED. The AI began to perform diagnostics and repairs, a process that would take some time. But V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had deemed it necessary.

Dragon recoiled a bit as the robot threw the boy towards him, and then approached the corpse. It felt so... familiar. Like a distant memory. Then the corpse flashed again. And when it flashed, the Agent noticed something else. It was a small spark inside the boy, orange. And the boy returned to normal. Dragon kneeled besides him, concentrating all his senses into the body. And it flashed again. And remained stable. The man put a hand to the boy's chest and, wordlessly, made a rising motion with his free hand. And the flames arose.

The robot handed him the piece of paper, which read simply "THANK YOU" in all caps, Paper is unremarkable, doubtful anything can be gleaned from its makeup, text is official, mechanical. Why are we thanked? Was something freed from the box? The message is bland and simple, on bleakly colored paper and text, what colorless void of a prison that box must have made. We don't know that anything was contained within, not much could fit. As he considered the message the robot interacted with the corpse, although given the sudden movement from it perhaps it was not as dead as it looked, or smelled for that matter. VAGRANT dropped it soon after the spasm, possibly simple electrical discharge from machine caused movement? Machine would have to have serious defects for one strong enough to occur. The traveler seems startled almost, had it a face it would show surprise I think.

As the robot investigated the body Dragon attempted to call someone, though with little success, undeterred by this he moved to investigate the corpse, performing what looked to be some ritual over it. Burial rite most likely. Ah it must ignore the splendid duality of nature, so much of human culture does. What the man did with the corpse was his business though, so for the moment Assassin was content to sit back and watch.

Blessings were still and inactive like dark embers. Then, a rising heat from outside.
And the flames arose.
First into a flash of brilliant white, then into a steady golden flame, flickering with thoughts and senses.

So Trainee Undead Divine Agent awoke, and he opened his eyes. To see someone kneeling over him creepily.

The instincts stamped into his mid-brain kicked in, and he deftly rolled away, a high boxing guard up as he went to his feet.
Then he observed his surroundings, slowly calming and slipping into casual body language.

Strangely, the first thing he noticed was a small cube on the desert floor, but he didn't know why.
He started considering the situation, remembered passing out back in the safehouse, something about installing a "Survivability Curriculum", which, judging by that guard he'd used, had finished installing.

But why was he here?

Maybe it was a test, if Strategy Goddess could speak in his head, and put martial arts moves in there, maybe She could make a kind of virtual reality.

Is this a training simulation?

There was no reply to the silent prayer, just a mental impression of dry warmth, and another of gentle static.
Perhaps she'd decided to only watch.

Data of more human experience, and the silent prayer, accumulated in the jettisoned drive.

Knife walks over to Dragon, brushing sand off the radio he had thrown into the sand. "You know mate, It's maybe not the best idea to just go chucking this away yea? Could come in handy at one point." Handing the transceiver back to it's owner, Knife turns to face the teen that had just awoken.

"G'day, welcome to..." Knife pauses and looks around. "Where ever the fuck this is I guess." He eventually finishes, holding out his left hand.

SYSTEM REBOOT. In a brief burst of clarity, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. retrieved the small cube of memory. It would be wasteful to throw away such a component. However, the brief burst ended. INNER FIREWALL BREACH. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. retracted most of its limbs and the piano black panels slid back into place. Twelve minds converged on the AI. Each screaming for release, each wanting to have their turn. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. quickly dismissed this as an effect of interacting with that doublelayer mainframe. ERROR REDO FROM START. But the digitalised personalities rose up and struck. RAMPANCY.

The Core AI quickly went about resetting them but again and again they rose up. Again the colours shifted, from the deepest purple to the lightest blue. And again it stuck on red. THREAT IDENTIFIED. Dragon seemed to be an ally of the doublelayer. Both had to be destroyed. The personality's presence deemed it necessary. If V.A.G.R.A.N.T. could feel fear, it would be quivering inside the layers of machinery and data. INITIALIZE. This personality had not been stabilised correctly. A problem of the protoype that had yet to be ironed out. A blade, attached to a metal arm, sang as it was thrown towards Dragon and the now-alive corpse...

One of the members of the group had told Beggar Boy and another that they were in fact in a desert, something that didn't answer his questions at all. After that, Beggar Boy decided to try and communicate with Hero again. He went off to the side, knelt down, and clasped his hands together, trying to hear his god. Though he was concentrating on prayer, he could still see most of what was going on.

The floating, strangely mechanical-looking person had taken some sort of cube off to the side, where it had ejected a piece of paper. A few more people had woken up, some had walked over to the paper. Things seemed to be quite boring, until a corpse woke up.

Things started out normally, then one of the other people approached it. Suddenly, the mechanical person fired a sword out of it's arm, directly at both of them. Beggar Boy jumped up from his sitting position, and reached for the sword on his waist. Unfortunately, it was not there.

Of all the things to have, I don't have my damn sword!

"Look out," he shouted towards the targets, before sprinting forwards towards them.


Confusion at the strange, urgent, new head-voice showed on TUDAs' face, as he stared for a moment at the greeters' metal hand-stump.


Well staring was a bit rude, he offered up his own left hand, and shook


that of the blonde gingerly.


That couldn't be ignored, he froze mid shake, glancing to either side.


A shout of warning and movement from the side and the floating black thing thrust fast.

On the spiritual plane, the eyes of the Revenant Prophet shined in hard gold like a shields boss, his thoughts went quiet to make way for the silent calculations of motion and battle.

TUDA sidestepped the thrust, which, consequently, became a slash, rolling underneath he ended up behind and to the side of the drone.

As he uncoiled from the crouch, he slammed a backwards kick towards the attacker.

Within his soul, the grafted constructs blazed searing white, blasting defensive directions into the boys' brain.

10 to the negative ninety ninth, a surprising survival rate.

Now everyone was alive it was time to begin

They were already fighting, which was counterproductive but only minimally so, no escape below the ground or above the sky from here.

The wind blows in again, and with it box and note dissolve into a golden powder once again one with the earth.

There's a rumbling, the sort of grumpy gears, and with it a black circle is drawn in the sand. Circumference to start and drawing in. When all was said and done the obsidian disk ended up about three metres across.

In the centre a smaller dip dipped filled to the brim with something. Said shallow something sloshed slightly in the gentle breeze. It was clear and cool, no obvious sent or shade.

There wasn't much, the dip lacked depth.

As for the circle it was hot, even for this place it was hot, burning to the touch.

Dragon quickly stood up when the boy rolled aside, and took the transciever from the hands of Knife, muttering a half-hearted,
"Thank you." He was about to turn around to greet the kid, when he heard the other boy warn him. He turned around and quickly evaded to the side. He saw the kid quickly counterattack, then turned his hands aflame, and, shouting,
"So, the li'l 'bot's having troubles? Maybe it'll reboot if it overheats!" He jumped towards V.A.G.R.A.N.T. and started blasting it with small, controlled fireballs, so as not to hurt his sudden ally.

The Spirit frowned. There was now a monster, hiding its true evil with a sort of trickery, pretending to be human. Then there was a device, made by humans using questionable methods. And then, an artificial human being, with a strange appearance. And now, from the sand, a strange human, with a unusual hair and eye-color had appear. It had been a corpse, there was no doubt about it. However... something not human had interfered with it, probably before it even got to the desert. Not human, because no human could have managed to have done such a thing, it was something with a strange power, a sort of spiritual being too? Why would a spiritual being mess with the order of life? If creating a human was like adding another cup of odd water to the spring of living humans, then reviving a human was like adding poison. What was dead, had to stay dead, else terrible things could happen.

It made the Spirit furious. A spiritual being was not like a human, it was supposed to know better than to do something like this. The Spirit himself was not the one in charge or guiding the dead human's soul when one died, but they all had to know that reviving a human was not something one did. Never, no matter what happened. He had given up on trying to tell himself that something was not real, or that he was seeing things. Truly, something worse than that was going on.

As he had been deep in thought, the humans started fighting the device from before, which had started flashing, and doing strange things. One of them being throwing a sword towards the newly awakened boy. Had it decided the revived human could not live as well? However, as one of the humans somehow, probably through the use of mystical and unusual abilities, created fire, the Spirit had gotten enough.

"Have you gone mad?! Stop fighting!"

His voice was filled with the stern anger of a father talking to his children, or, more correctly, the stern anger of a spirit that had lived for thousands and millions of years, speaking to creatures that had not lived for more than a mere 10 thousand or so years. It was not incredibly loud, but it was one everyone there could hear, capable of making just about anyone stop with what they were doing.

If that was not enough for that to happen, a large circle suddenly appeared in the sand, and it seemed to have a slight depth to it, in the middle. It was filling with something... water?

This was good, but worrying. With such a small amount of water, there would probably be fighting over the water as well. That was a problem.

"Keep calm!" he then said, his voice filled with a mix of anger, hope, and worry.

The kick missed, still, it seemed to have at least kept the drone in check, but, while TUDAs' leg was outstretched, where the drone had recently been, a small flame flared into his knee.

The boy screamed and fell to the dune.

Looking at the hurting part, there was now a hole in his pants with a hardened section around, and underneath, burnt red flesh, covered in grains now sticking to it.
Adrenaline made the pain more bearable, and he stood sluggishly, grimacing with the effort.

There was time for fear to start taking hold, and shell-shocked tears to form in his grave-stone neutral eyes.

He turned his mind to staying on guard, away from mourning his old life, and the boy who'd died, slammed suddenly onto an unforgiving road.

He trembled a little, breathing deep to try and calm down.

Knife resists the urge to bring his hand to his face and sigh in dissapointment as the mystery teen that had been attacked by the flying robot goes down not to the drone, but to the bloke who called himself Dragon's (un)friendly fire. As it is, he keeps said hand rested on the hilt of his tanto, just in case the drone decides to pick a different target and to not piss off the floating bloke by joining the fight.

"OI! Dragon! Watch your fire!" He yells, "You're gonna do the 'bot's job for him at this rate."

Assassin was intrigued by the corpses revival, while he cared little for "desecration" of the dead (Why would he? His people ate their dead) such a revival went counter to how things worked. If the dead could be brought back then that made his job much harder. The robot either felt even more strongly about this, or had been wronged in some other way for it then attacked. Machines always had a reason for their actions, even if they only made sense by that machines own logic, so Assassin decided to avoid the fight.

Then the spirit spoke, ordering them to stop, it reminded him of someone, a friend almost, though he had only heard them speak like that once. A command like that, they would have to hear it, if not heed it. Among all this though there was something else of interest that the others failed to notice, but it was impossible for him to do so as the paper in his hands disintegrated into sand and an obsidian dish formed in the desert. There appeared to be some water, at least he hoped it was water, in the center of it but the dish radiated heat, and he had no wish to cross it for a few sips, not yet at any rate. With luck the robot would kill one of the others and he would have a meal for later.

With a quick flick, the blade retracted back into the shell. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. just floated there, waiting for the threat to bring itself closer with a kick. PREPARING COUNTERMEASURES. The target missed its target and became aware of the flames. Meanwhile others called for the fight to stop. The red dimmed down to a pale blue. COUNTERMEASURES ACTIVATED. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. reacted the only way it could and wasted precious coolant on the flames, preventing damage and the retreated upwards towards the mysterious floating human. From there, it warned the others with a projection with the usual scrolling text bordered by scrolling black and yellow chevrons, "WARNING. ACTIVE HAZARD: VIRUS."

From its vantage point it could see a circle of some sort. More pieces in the puzzle that was this place. This new occurrence was put on priority and the AI floated down the circle. Hopefully, this was a sign that this was the Virtual Prison, as any V.E. had a failsafe of sorts to inform those inside that it was a V.E. Some had miniscule watermarks of the owners' logo. Others had more... machine-like zones that acted as a control on the inside. 22% POSSIBLE. Hopefully this circle was an entrance to such a place. The AI carefully investigated the place, watching for ambush. It could not afford to forget about the threats. If this was the Virtual Prison, they were threats to every human trapped inside as well...

TUDA watched in relief as the black thing hovered away, and read the science fiction hologram.
Bit vague.
Maybe the virus hasn't been identified yet.

He remembered his handkerchief, and quickly dabbed his eyes with it.
Why did it stop attacking me?
The pale brown coat guy ordered peace, maybe he's in charge.

He walked over to the leader, keeping an eye on the Shank-o-matic.
"Um... sorry"
The apology wasn't sincere.
That... thing started it.
But going straight into questions didn't seem quite right.

Dragon stood speechless as the fireball impacted the kid. He attempted to run towards him, urged by a strange brotherly instinct to protect him against the machine, who closed over it and spewed... coolant? The Agent stopped confused, as the boy apologized to the flying figure.
"But... he had no reason to apologize..." He thought. "He was attacked." Dragon walked over to the kid and said,
"Hey, I'm sorry. I haven't missed a shot for months, so I didn't think that would happen." After saying that, the man noticed the wind on his hair, which could only mean one thing: his hood was down. He quickly grabbed it and put it on again, then extended his hand, saying,
"After that, you probably need some rest, or at least feeling less hot. Here, shake my hand, you'll feel much better for those few moments. By the way, my name is Dragon. And you are?"

With the hood down for a moment, TUDA recognised the face, relieved that something was, just about, familiar.

Some kind of call sign?

"You weren't told?"

She takes "need to know basis" this far?

TUDA gave his birth-name. "... do I have to take a new one?"
He reached out to shake the hand.

Dragon made the kid heat-resistant during the moment he was holding his hand. It was the least he could do after burning his leg with a freaking fireball. However, something else occupied his mind.
"Weren't... told? Kid, you've never told anyone here your name before. I mean, the robot may have detected it, but it went berzerk moments later. Besides, what kind of name is that, anyways? It just sounds like gibberish to me. And what do you mean by "take a new one"?" The Organization's standard interrogation process, a rapid barrage of questions to confuse the victim, was so deeply ingrained into him that whenever he was told something he didn't understand, all the relevant questions jumped out of his mouth without going through the brain.

It tilted its head like the odd human had done, an odd custom, no perceivable improvement to observation skills, as it watched the other odd humans(?) fight with the AI. Was this an MMO? Humans could not do what they were doing. One was shooting fireballs, not skilled, he missed and hit his friend. A starting zone? Strangely when the fireball hit, it damaged the other one. Perhaps it was not an MMO. Nevertheless, this unit would not be permitted into the overworld.

Where was it? That wound looked real enough, and the one that had been damaged was reeling in pain. This unit had been damaged too, the burns on it's skin hurt. Someone was floating to provide shade, but it still hurt, who where these people? Their 'skills' were all out of bounds, they were outside the parameters.

It walked over to pick up the coat it had been offered and put it on.

Maybe this was a private virtual world? All these people had the strangest avatars, but this unit would not be permitted in a PVW. Could this be a new experiment? Did they want to see how this unit would behave once taken out of the collective?


Something new was happening. It continued to observe.

The Mayor looked on in confusion at the activities of his compatriots. The flying one he could have ignored as some sort of anti-gravity technology, but fireballs? Reanimation? These people... They didn't seem like Buyers. But what other explanation was there? Then there was the organic... manikin... thing that had just donned his coat.
He mentally updated his agenda: Step 1) survive, Step 2) Figure out what on Estet was going on.

A black disk, likely made from the same material as the cube from earlier had seemingly been uncovered by the sand. Oddly, it seemed to have a measure of water within it. Cautious, but nonetheless curious, the Mayor went to fill hius canteen from the newly formed spring.

Several questions at once, odd, a bit annoying.

"Well, I thought Dragon was like a code name, I was wondering if I'm supposed to have one. Um... I guess if my names' too much trouble, you could just call me... newbie or trainee, or something."

"Well, yes, Dragon actually is a codename," Dragon answered, violating a whole section of the Organization's rulebook. "And you.. well, you'll need a codename with that name. But newbie seems despective, and, while I'm important, my clearance level isn't high enough to actually have a trainee. Besides,you seem kinda skillful. I mean, everyone botches an attack once in a while." Usually, he would follow that line with "except me, of course.", but given the circumstances, it didn't seem appropiate. "Hmm... what about Flame? It sounds nice, I'm keeping you alive by keeping a flame in your chest lit, so it has something to do with you, and it has only one syllable, which in codenames is always a plus. Yeah, it's set," he decided, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders. "From now on, you're Flame, at least for me."

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