Sinking in a Sea of Sands Started Closed

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Dragon stoped, thinking. After half a minute, he said,
I... don't know. Maybe space kind of... unravels... and when you reach that place they are at the same distance that those two?" Dragon pointed at the two pillars. "I know people wose Room works like that. Mostly people with space-related powers, like teleportation... they also see this kinda triangles who turn inside out halfway through? I don't know where they get those ideas from, though."

When the Spirit spoke, the Mayor became grim, removing his hand from around the Assassin's shoulder. He had thought that "The Spirit" had been simply a moniker, or at least that he was of some alien form of spirit, far removed from the ones back home. Yet now... Now the Spirit spoke in the voice of a child, seeming to echo despite the open surrounds, emanating from a cold, blue wisp. He matched the exact description of a Trader.
The Mayor stepped away from the group. "Spirit, old chap!" He called, "Would you mind meeting me over here for a minute? I think we need to have a... Private discussion."

"I don't know where they get their ideas from though"

"Well, maybe if you see... space unravel, like you say, when we go between those pillars, we'll have more idea what's going on, whose... room it is"

The resurrected human and Dragon did not seem to have learned from their rash decisions, having run out in the desert again for no reason. The Spirit found them to be humans he would have to keep an eye on all the time, something that might prove a tiresome task. Still, as long as Dragon was going to protect the one that should not be alive, the spirit would watch over both.

"Spirit, old chap! Would you mind meeting me over here for a minute? I think we need to have a... Private discussion."

The human known as the Mayor spoke in an odd way. However, the Spirit flew over to him. Did the human see his earlier mistakes, and was asking for guidance? That was very rare these days. It had been something occurring all the time when the Spirit's world had been younger, but the humans had grown independent, not always in a good way.

"What is it that you wish to speak of?" the Spirit asked. He did not know why a private discussion was needed, but something told him that guidance was not what the Mayor wanted.

The Mayor asked to speak privately with the Spirit, removing his hand from Assassin's shoulder, the man reminded him more than ever of certain employers he'd had in the past who had seemed to think that if they spoke politely and rubbed up against him they would be able to get away with paying him less. He recalled that the first time it had happened he had assumed the employer was a xenophile, only later did he learn how typical the behavior was for certain humans. His own people had few qualms about physical contact, in their dwellings they often swarmed over each other to best use the confined space, but he had seen that most humans were quite standoffish in this regard.

It seemed many of the words had been chosen already, Outback for Knife, Missions for Dragon, Robot had to be the robot, Stars for himself, market had been the mayor's choice, and he was willing to wager that the corpse's was gods given the things quasi-religious speaking earlier. That left only a few to be decided and the nameless one had yet to speak.

He turned towards it "I have a name for you, should you wish. Protege, for you are still learning, it is but the beginning of a true name, one you will find for yourself I am sure, you may keep or discard it should you wish. Now then so you think any of these words relates to you?"

It holds several meanings of course, though our intent shall seem kindly. Yes protege is not merely a student but an apprentice, our apprentice, we shall find its uses and skills and guide it, an agent in our service, a pale shadow to walk in our own. The prospect intrigued Assassin, he had never had a student before, but it had been more attentive to his words than the others, and he would prefer to test a tool before discarding it. He believed the humans would call his feelings towards the thing 'hopeful' and indeed it was, it seemed wasteful to let the thing persist detached from any past or skills, it would die useless and wasted if he did not help it.

The Mayor turned to face the Spirit. "Spirit," He began, before faltering and starting again, "Spirit, first, I want to say I'm sorry, and I don't wish to offend you in any way. You are a valuable asset to this ragtag bunch of misfits and core to a good team is a good working environemnt, and trust is core to that. You have been nothing but friendly and amiable, and geniunely so, it would appear." Here he paused.
"However, I will admit to having... prejudices. Back in Astlin, I have had various unfortunate dealings with your ilk. I would go as far as to say that spirits have been the cause of everything bad that has happened to me for the past three years, and I would be correct in doing so...." Another pause, filled with orphaned syllables for speeches that will never be. The Mayor was clearly having trouble with this speech. "You in particular have done nothing to earn my ire, but I cannot trust you for the same reason anyone else would fail to trust the family of a murderer. It may well be unfair to distrust you, and, if it is, I apologise, though I feel I must ask you something," And his voice took on the quality of cold lead, "Are you a Trader?"

The mayor apologized at first, and continued to speak in an odd way. He spoke of a place the Spirit had never heard of, and about how spirits had been the cause of a lot of misfortune.

Evil spirits then? But why would he mistake a spirit as noble as me for an evil spirit? I do not think there are any similarities.

Suddenly, the human changed its tone, sounding unfriendly and distrustful.

"Are you a Trader?"

The Spirit did not know what kind of trader this trader the Mayor was talking about was. A trader of goods? Services? He was neither, and frankly, being mistaken for both an evil spirit and a trader was insulting. "I am nothing of the sorts, human." His voice had a proud sound to it, despite it still sounding childish. "I am a Spirit as old as the world, who watches and guides the humans when it is needed. I do not trade anything, as what I do is my duty and reason for existence, not something that can be bought."

The Mayor sighed, "I thought as much. If you were one of them, you'd have tried to sell me something by now. Possibly something intangible. You look remarkably like one, in any case."
The Mayor slumped to the sands. It had only been, what? A few hours? And yet he felt as though he hadn't slept in days. It was something he hadn't felt since the Buyers started showing up. He put a hand up and clutched a knot of scraggly hair. "This is mad. No other words for it." He took a swig from his canteen. He looked at the Spirit, now at eye level, "Could you at least change back? This here" He made vague gestures between the both of them, "Is rather disconcerting."

Ghoulish Geometry

They were approaching another pillar again; surely they'd learnt after the first time. These two now exploring, they must be getting close, emotional attachment was always useful.

Wait, they weren't approaching one of the pillars, they were going for the space in-between? This wasn't good, and why were there 8 visible? It was a mistake; then again space and time were still being worked on.

This wasn't going to be comfortable but it wasn't the first time at least the systems were well tested.

As they approached they slowed, decelerating slower and slower closer and closer their destination had become an asymptote, and just as they were almost there time froze and space stuttered.

It went dark, and everything dissipated. Off.

Then there were all back at the monolith. It defaulted to the last known position that was paradox free. On again.

Nothing significant had been lost, and it was a good opportunity to fix the pillars problems, there were only four visible as there should have been all along.

Wait, how long had that one been there? The one that wasn't moving? Oh well no point wasting the space, the sands started pulling down on him as he stood motionless. Maybe there'd been a transfer error likely, given the short notice they'd had this time.
Though the wasted space was a temporary problem.

Dragon stumbled forwards.
"W-What the-" he stuttered. "Why are we here again?" The Agent looked around. "And why are half the pillars gone?"

The internal clock ticked and tocked as V.A.G.R.A.N.T. idled. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick... Tock... The change was gradual, but it was still there. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. identified the anomaly but space was changing as well as time. Measurements were shifting. Reconfiguration? Or was the virus changing the environment to suit itself? Before V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had a chance to narrow the infinite possibilities down, it went dark. But the dark lull was brief and like if someone had flicked a switch, the light came back. Everything appeared as normal, though there were four less pillars now and as if it to reflect the change, there were four less holes in the sand. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. concluded that there was little doubt about it now. There was definitely an intelligence of some sort working here. Question was: what was the purpose of all of this? Probably something human and illogical...

Hulking Hunter

A lot of checks had to be completed after restarting, it was a strain on the system but worth it in the end no doubt about that. For one that inactive one was now gone, first beneath the sands and then one with them, perfect, this was back on track.

Wait?

The Edge? Where had it gone? That was a very important piece of equipment, and it was lost? No this wasn't happening; another check would find it, and again no, nothing there. The wind grew stronger a stirring up a sandstorm.

Without east or west you couldn't really say which direction it was coming from but it was all from one, but the direction was uniform, you could see from how it bent the smoke of the monolith. Wait, what was that? Something shrouded in the storm, something large and black and...

Moving

uh oh.

The wind picked up.

What will be blown?
That way

The trainee, shielding his eyes, looked to see what, if anything would get blown to the group.

Nothing so far.

The wind kept rising, a sandstorm formed.

With some effort he took another look, glimpsed the black mass.

What?
This place loops so it's behind as well.
Can I catch up?

Two of Strategies' virtues made up his mind, curiosity, competitiveness.
He ran with the wind, joining the storm.

The wind, which up until now had been relatively still, suddenly jumped and picked up like like it had been shocked. "Fuck, try to stick together!" Knife yells as the wind whips the sand into a frenzy, and just after Flame decides to run off. 'Well, I think that's a new record for people not following my advice.' He thinks as he shields his eyes and makes off towards the dark shape in the storm.

Dragon was taken by surprise by the storm, and recoiled backwards. He looked around, and could faintly see Flame running away, in the direction opposite the storm. Dragon tried to follow him, but it was too dark to see anything. He tried to make a small flame, but the wind quickly blew it out. He made a bigger one, but the wind turned it off. Finally, hoping it would work, Dragon burst into flames.

Try to stay together!

The way this place worked, that would happen anyway, the agent considered, so he kept running in the same direction as the wind, raising up his blazer to shield his eyes from the sides.

Blinkered.

He kept looking for the black shape, he knew he'd come up behind it, find it, see what it was.

The sands flurried around him, stinging the burn by his knee, but he pushed on.

The creature didn't appear to be any different, from behind, it was amorphous and black however you looked at it. It was then someone decided to spontaneously combust, the Whatever-It-Was was roused, a smaller piece rose out of the main mass, facing flamewards. A white light shone on what might be a head, a tentacle reached out, drawing slowly closer but stopping before getting too close.

The potential face faced knife now, there were blades, but tiny things, another tentacle edges closer to inspect. If the stump was any indication, the search would bear fruit soon.

"What the...?" The voice was silenced by the roaring sands.

The thing looked like some shapeless blob, with the exception of ad hoc limbs reaching out to TUDAs' friends.

The projection toward Dragon looked to be glowing with some kind of energy, and the one toward Knife seemed to have blades.

How could you fight against a thing like this? there was nowhere to run...

It's being like them
No form of its' own

He kept watching, hoping no-one would get aggressive.

"Could you at least change back? This here," He made vague gestures between the both of them, "Is rather disconcerting."

The Spirit shook his head, it was not as if he had entered the form at will. "I cannot revert back at the moment. I do not have enough spiritual energy for my other form, as I seem to have lost connection with my world." He was sure he was not in the human world he knew either. So where? A human sank into the sand, too fast for him to react. Just like that, gone. If he had proper eyes, they would have widened now. He had let one of them die, just that easily. And there was less monoliths now. What was going on?

"It is troubling, I do not know what is coming next."

An unfamiliar feeling, considering his abilities back where he belonged. They were gone now, or very faint. He could no longer gaze into the future. However, he found out soon enough. A sandstorm started up, and a dark being got closer. The one that should not be alive, the corpse, ran away. And while the Dragon tried to follow, it did not work. The new monster, not alike the Hunter, reached out to some of the humans. Why?

"It appears to be... looking?

The Spirit had no choice but to watch at the time being, if it tried to harm anyone, he would revert back to his true form. But it would be difficult and tiring, and acting too soon would only do more damage.

"I have already failed one human. I cannot fail the rest."

"What the fuck." Knife mutters as the large black blob...thing reached out a bladed tentacle towards him. Taking a step back, his hand drifts towards his waist, where, if anyone had taken the time to look, they might see the twin sheaths of his tanto, their dark blue colour making them blend in the Knife's jeans to a degree.

The Mayor looked stood up when the blob-thing came into view. He hefted the steel bar, but maintained his distance, ready to run, reasoning that if a spirit, a robot, a cyborg and a bloke capable of manifesting fire at will couldn't hold it back, neither could a moron with a hunk of metal. Nevertheless, leaving at this point would likely be fruitless, and there was a chance that this thing was friendly. He stayed as close as he dared, but prepared to bolt at a moment's notice.

V.A.G.R.A.N.T. twitched.

A hostile in this hostile landscape? Or another trapped individual? Nevertheless, as the man combusted, so did the chance of appearing friendly. If it were some sort of animal, the hulking mass would just react aggressively. Yet it wasn't. Was it searching for something? Or merely waiting for a chance to strike? Regardless, it should be established if the thing could communicate. Maybe it knew more than the clueless collection here.

V.A.G.R.A.N.T. beeped in Morse Code, ".-- .... .- - / .- .-. . / -.-- --- ..- / ... . .- .-. -.-. .... .. -. --. / ..-. --- .-. ..--.."

Invasive investigations

As the ones with blades moved away the tendrils advanced making up the new distance with interest. Then there was the beeping box, a cartilaginous coil convulsed and in one swift movement it was on the robot, skirting every surface. They were damp but soft, look like pure muscle but felt relaxed, god knows what happens if it tenses them. It reaches out to the others, from seemingly nowhere more limbs lurched into existence.

"Right, back off...well I really hope your not Venom, but that's looking like a posibility at the moment." Knife says drawing his tanto and leveling it the ever nearing tentacle, keeping his right arm at his side, seeing as it's pretty much useless without a hand.

The Mayor bit his lip and reached into his coat pocket, clasping his pocket knife. It didn't look like a blunt instrument would make this thing flinch, but there was a chance that a knife might do something.

The teen staggered back as more tentacles popped out towards him, but, with nowhere to run in this place, he knew it was pointless.

After a few steps, he started to stand his ground, putting out a hand as if offering a handshake.
Or tentacle shake, or whatever.

As the tentacles approached Assassin moved steadily backwards, locking much of his exoskeleton's plates together, if it examined him it would not find a man certainly, but it would also at least not find any weaknesses. He drew the cloak tighter around himself and backed slowly away, though it seemed futile given the things apparent omnipresence. He reached behind him and switched the filter to its higher setting, unsure if it would cause the thing to ignore him or not, but at least if it removed his cloak it might stop the others from seeing through the filter. He had never seen a creature like this before, part of him was examining it for weaknesses, considering ways to hurt or kill it, the other part was marveling at its strangeness.

The creature noticed the glint of several blades, in turn is reached out touching each but withdrawing casually, could a big black blob sigh? Well there was a slight release of cool air, and perhaps an "eh"ing noise. One was wearing a cloak, though the cape was quickly cast off, and blown into the storm. It spends some time probing and prodding at the carapace, to little effect.

One held out a limb, There wasn't anything in the hand, so the gesture was hardly significant, the tentacles patted that one down quickly, nothing again.

A tentacle rose into the air, far above the main body and slammed down into the ground, was that a grunting sound? The storm raged on not that the creature acknowledged it at all. The head turned to the flaming one, and then back at the others, tendrils approached the burning man again slowly again slowly creeping, backing away periodically but drawing closer with glacial progress.

Dragon looked to the sides, but the fire didn't help to see. He sighed and as he started turning around, he heard a weird grunting, and quickly faced his back. The Agent recoiled at what he saw: many tendrils, coming from a shapeless blob, were slowly approaching him. He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a gun and aimed at a point between the tendrils. A small flame came from him and started floating in front of the gun. It expanded, until there was a fist-sized fireball floating a few centimeters in front of the cannon.
"B-back off!" He threatened, hoping the thing could understand him. "You have no idea how much a flaming bullet hurts!"

Even with tendrils all over it, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. couldn't feel a thing.

The AI let the tendrils explore the surface of its body, but no more than that. It shut up like a turtle striking back into its shell. Was it some sort of verification program? Nevertheless, the thing was on the fire-starter. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. wondered what would happen next? Would the thing devour the arsonist? Regardless, it beeped again.

It beeped again, but a different code this time. Some might recongise it as binary, "01010111 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100001 01110010 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00111111 00100000."

All the while, the AI thought on what would happen next, so many possibilities...

The Tentacles paused; the head can clearly see the fire. It quivered slightly but continues at an even slower pace. Slithering slowly down into the sand, covering a lot of its body, the periscope head still poking out at them.

The search was taking far too long, the sand storm should have overturned the entire world by now, the Executioners Edge wasn't supposed to be the subtle type of weapon, and yet it alluded. This was a new problem, even a process so old could still surprise.

Though the search has disrobed the strange one, a bug? This should make things interesting, though there was a tinged of dread at the prospect of all the notes to be taken.

The Spirit stared at the new monster, it was obviously searching. But for what? He could not know. The other monster, the one he was used to, had thrown away its robe, although it did not seem like anyone had noticed its true, ugly and evil form. The situation did not seem to have changed, but he went closer to the creature they had encountered. Perhaps he would realize something if he could see more of it through the sandstorm.

Finally, the Spirit decided to speak to it. The humans had yelled to it, and tried to communicate. Even the device had done so, with little results, but perhaps the Spirit could get through?

"Hello. What sort of being are you?" the Spirit asked. "Can you understand what I am saying? If so, tell us where we are. Or, if you cannot speak, show us." Even in the voice of a child, authority could be heard from his words.

The creature turned its head to face the sprit, its white eye somehow wider. The creature carefully ran it's probes across the sprit like it had the others, and just like with them nothing seemed to captivate the colossus's attention, however after withdrawing the creature pointed to dragon while still looking the sprit eye to eyes it made a slight whining sound barely audible above the storm, but resonating just enough for all to hear and it's body quivered.

Seeing that the creature didn't intend to kill them, at least not at the moment, Knife slips his Tanto back into the sheath on his him. 'So it doesn't want to kill us, but what is it?' Knife thinks, A late addition to our sorry group, or a construct of whatever's holding us here.'

The creature looked at the Spirit, then pointed at Dragon and... whined? That can't be right... Unless the flames scared him. The tendrils hadn't damaged anyone else, and the Agent couldn't see any reason to believe that he would be damaged. He lowered his gun and said, rolling his eyes,
"Alright, alright, I'll turn miself off."

Dragon's flames faded.

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