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/qst/ - Mitsuba Archive


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The name of the town was Cold Lake. The name didn't suit it anymore. It was hot in the southern desert, hotter than ever before, and whatever lake had been here once upon a time had dried up years ago. If it wasn't for the ozo mine, the town would have dried up along with the lake.

Flint Calloway rode up the center of the the main street at a gentle trot. The chocobo under him had a gaze that matched the sharpness of its beak. A thin trail of sandy dust followed them into town.

He was a man of average height, with a flat determination in his eyes. His brown hair had been cut short eight weeks ago. The wide-brimmed hat he wore was pushed back, a compromise between shading his skin and cooling his brow. One hand rested on the saddle of his chocobo, the other rested easy on his ozo-rifle. Cold Lake was open, unwalled, and the mutant he had fought last night had gotten away wounded. He didn't think it would leave the lush green of the control region, but one never knew. Slung from one hip was a steel blade the length of his arm. Three settings were notched along the base. Two of them were set with small polished spheres of ozo. The third was empty. Flint had sold the third sphere six months ago. He hadn't been able to replace it since then. Chocobo feed was getting scare, but so was ozo.

He rode past the train station and the power plant. He saw that the shops were already open. He wondered if the new O-Mat rifle was in yet. Not that it mattered at the moment. He had been sleeping rough out in the control region for six nights, and he was in the mood for a hot meal.

He hoped Alie was working. He had spent the last of his gil on his last trip into town.

"WARK!" squawked the chocobo under him.

"I know, Spike," he said, and patted its yellow-feathered flank. Flint's own stomach rumbled in agreement. "The inspector will be coming in on the train tomorrow." He slung the ozo-rifle over his shoulder. "If we can bag any more mutants before then, we'll have enough gil to keep us both fed for a month."
>>
Flint didn't need to draw up the reins as they approached the diner. The chocobo knew where he was headed. Flint dismounted and lashed the reins to the hitching rail and stepped past a pair of old-timers talking about magic.

"I tell ya, it came as natural as breathin' to everyone! My grandpa once said his grandpa heard about-"

"Pah! You had to study half your life away! My great-grandma always used to tell stories about-"

The two stopped their bickering and watched Flint as he walked between them. He nodded to them both. "Gentlemen."

Inside, the shade was a relief, even if it wasn't much cooler. Flint was happy to see Alie in the kitchen. "Be right there!" she called.

Outside, an ozomobile pulled to a stop in front of the diner window. On the side was painted BANTAM & BANTAM. Flint couldn't see who got out. Whoever it was disappeared behind the wall where an old map of the continent was pinned. It must have been at least fifty years old, Flint thought to himself. The western forests have all been cut down.

"Flint!" Alie wiped her hands on her apron as she came out of the kitchen to the counter. "I have to go to the train station later to pick up some supplies. I'm glad you got here before I left!" She tucked a strand of black hair behind her ear. "I wasn't expecting you back until tomorrow!"

"Ran out of tents," he said with a smirk. The mutant last week had taken care of that.

"The usual?" Alie asked.

Flint looked at the ozo-mobile outside the window. "I can't exactly-"

"Shh-" Alie raised her finger and looked nervously toward the kitchen. "I'll cover you this time, but this is the last time!" she whispered.

"Thanks," he said.

"Don't mention it," Alie told him, and ducked back into the kitchen. A moment later she was back at the counter. "You know, the midsummer fair is next week."

"So?" Flint asked.

Alie leaned against the counter. "Wouldn't you like to take me to the dance that night?"

"Wouldn't you like to go with someone your own age?"

"I'm mature for my age!" Alie huffed.

"Order up!" shouted the cook.
>>
>>4950018
"Well?" Alie asked as she set the plate down on the counter in front of Flint.

"I mean, I don't think I would have the time to-"

Flint was interrupted by a stranger who pressed his way into the diner. "Whose 'bo is that outside?" called the man. He was dressed in a suit. A new suit, even if it was dusty.

"Who wants to know?" Flint asked, not looking up from his meal.

"Biff Bantam, Bantam and Bantam," he said, and headed toward the counter.

"That's a lot of bantams," mused Alie to Flint.

"We're putting on the rodeo for the midsummer fair, miss," he said to Alie, then turned to Flint. "Now, sir, about your chocobo-"

"Not interested," Flint said, and scooped the last of his breakfast up.

"Are you sure? You could earn a lot of money if you're good enough." The man looked Flint up and down. "More than you're making from whatever you do for a living. First prize is a thousand gil. Say, aren't you the man who hunts mutants out in the desert where that accident happened? That'd make a great angle for the advertising! I can see it now-"

Flint put down the fork and turned to look at Biff for the first time. "I said I'm not interested. I've already got a job. Now why don't you just leave me alone?"

Biff took his hat off and put it back on. "Well... I suppose, if that's how you like it." He stepped away from the counter, took a few steps, then turned to look at Flint once more before he stepped outside. "I'll be around if you change your mind!"

Alie took the empty plate away from him. "You should take him up on that!"

Flint grinned. "Me, in a rodeo? Are you crazy?"

"Why not?" she asked. "You're a good rider. And you might win some money."

"I'm already due to get a bonus this month," he said. "If I can get one or two more, I'll get enough gil to buy that new O-Mat rifle I saw in the catalogue."

"If you come with me to the train station I'll give you ten gil to help me carry the supplies back."

Flint looked out the window at his chocobo, and knew what he had to do...

>Get back in the saddle and hunt some mutants
>Keep talking to Alie until the train arrived
>Find Biff Bantam and see if he meant business

(The first choice to receive three votes will be selected)
>>
>>4950020
>Keep talking to Alie until the train arrived
>>
>>4950020
>>Get back in the saddle and hunt some mutants
>>
>>4950020
>Keep talking to Alie until the train arrived
>>
>Find Biff Bantam and see if he meant business

Not into Alie if she is that much younger then us.
Whats the ages here QM
>>
>>4950282
>Whats the ages here QM
30s/18ish
>>
>>4950020
>Find Biff Bantam and see if he meant business

Also,
>(The first choice to receive three votes will be selected)
You might just want to set a certain amount of voting time and tally the results, QM--otherwise you're probably gonna be waiting a long time.
>>
>>4950333
>You might just want to set a certain amount of voting time and tally the results, QM--otherwise you're probably gonna be waiting a long time.
I was thinking about combining all the votes and weighing the decision based on the ratios.
>>
>>4950323
oof yeah too young. age/2 + 7
So if we are 30 then she would need to be 22
if we are IN our 30s she would need to be in mid twenties
>>
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"I can't," Flint said, and glanced at the ozomobile again. "I'd better get back in the saddle and bag that mutant that got away last night. Thanks for breakfast. I owe you one."

Alie crossed her arms. "You owe me a few. Every week for the past month you've come in here looking like something that got dragged out of the desert. What's it like out there, in the mutant control region?"

Flint leaned back. "I can't say much, you know. The government and O-Mat..." Flint saw the curiosity in the girl's eyes. It was hard not for her to be curious. Fear of what they might run into kept most of the locals out of the region, so wild stories abounded. "Well... You know it was caused by an explosion during a fertilizer experiment, right?" Alie nodded her head and Flint nodded in agreement as he began to think about the place where he spent so many of his days and nights. "It's green," he said at last. "Green as those old picture-books show. The grass is so tall in places it comes up to Spike's chest."

"What about the mutants?" Alie said, then clapped one hand over her mouth and whispered it again. "What about the mutants?"

"I think I'd better get going," Flint said.

"What about the midsummer fair dance?" she asked.

Flint pushed himself away from the counter and stood up. "I'm sure you'll find someone to take you. Maybe a mutant!" he laughed, and walked out the door into the hot sun. He stood there a moment, between the two old men, and looked at his chocobo, then at the ozomobile again.

"Did you gentlemen see where the driver of that ozomobile went?" he asked them.

"He went that way," said one, and pointed a gnarled finger up the main street in the direction Flint had come.

"Looked like he was going to the train station," agreed the other. "Should be here soon!"

"Thanks," Flint said, and untied the reins of his chocobo from the rail. "Come on, Spike," he said. The two of them walked down the dusty street past the weapon shop and the item shop until they came to the station. "Wait here," he said to the chocobo, as he flipped the reins over the saddle.
>>
Inside, the big O-Mat chiller in the corner behind the ticket booth made the lobby painfully cool. Flint felt as though the sweat on his arms was turning to frost. The only ones inside were the ticketman and Biff Banton.

"You!" called Biff as he spotted Flint. "I had a feeling I'd see you again!"

"Listen, I wanted to apologize," Flint said. "I'm not myself until I've had some breakfast. My name's Flint Calloway."

"Don't you worry about a thing, friend!" the man exclaimed, and clapped Flint on the shoulder and led him to the row of chairs in the center of the station floor. "Let's talk business! First thing, that chocobo of yours. You own it outright? No debts, no other owners?"

"I wouldn't exactly say..." Flint began, then stopped. "Spike isn't, that is... no, no one else owns him."

"That's good enough for me," Biff said, and glanced at the clock above the ticket window. "Train should be here any minute. Now, you understand we're arranging for some of the best chocobo riders on the continent to be here. This is going to be the biggest show this little town has ever seen!"

"Who's 'we'?" Flint asked.

"My brother, Bart Banton," Biff said without pause. "He's been scouting the eastern mountain country for riders."

No sooner had Biff mentioned his brother that the train whistle sounded near the edge of town. "Noon train arriving from Red Rock," called the ticketman from the window of his booth. Flint and Biff both stood up as the door opened. Two men stepped out of the car and onto the platform, and into the station. Behind them was a woman, and Flint couldn't help notice how well her blonde hair framed her beautiful face. She was wearing a long wrapped coat despite the heat outside, but from her profile Flint surmised that she had other qualities.

"Ma'am," he said, and tipped his hat. The woman's eyes gave him a fleeting glance. One of the men she had come into the station with stepped toward her, putting himself between the woman and Flint. "Pardon me," Flint said. Before he could do more, the woman strode out of the station with the two men and got into an ozomobile that hadn't been there when Flint arrived. He couldn't help but notice she didn't have any luggage.
>>
"Not the kind of person you normally see in a place like this," Flint said to Biff.

Instead of a reply, Biff spun around and called out "Bart!" From the platform stepped a man who could have passed as Biff himself, if it hadn't been for the thick mustache.

"Biff!" he called, and the two men embraced one another. "Had any luck around here?"

Biff turned to Flint and clapped him on the shoulder again. "I was just going over the details with this fellow, Mr. Calloway! He hunts those mutants they have out in the desert around here!"

"What an angle! I can see it now-" Bart began."

"How about you?" asked Biff. "How many entrants did you find?"

"Oh, I found a gem, brother!" Bart exclaimed. "The greatest chocobo rider of our time."

"Who is it?" Biff asked. "Tell me!"

"You'll see, brother," Bart replied, and clapped Biff on the shoulder. "You wouldn't believe me until you see for yourself!"

Biff turned his head toward Flint. "Looks like you're not going to have an easy time winning that thousand gil, Mr. Calloway! Mr. Calloway?"

Flint had turned away from the brothers. Alie had come into the station.

"Say, Mr. Calloway, we'd like to discuss your participation in more detail," Biff said.

"It's really fortunate that you have a chance to be in a rodeo of this quality," Bart added.

Flint glanced to the clock. If he left soon, he could be back in the control region before dusk. But that only left time for one thing.

>Helping Alie carry her supplies back to the diner
>Finding out exactly what he had to do to win that gil
>High-tailing it out into the desert as fast as he could

(I will do my best to reflect the results of the vote)
>>
>>4950428
>>Finding out exactly what he had to do to win that gil
>>
>>4950436
>>>Finding out exactly what he had to do to win that gil
2nd

Find out if the is only 1 prize (for first) and what the risks are
>>
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"You can still make that ten gil," Alie said with a smile hinting at the corner of her mouth.

"Sorry, I'll have to work off that breakfast another time. I'm taking your advice." Flint thumbed a gesture at the brothers standing behind him.

"Well, good luck," Alie said, and walked past the three toward the platform door.

"Gentlemen," Flint called. "Let's talk business. What do I have to do to win that thousand gil?"

Biff sat down on one of the chairs. "There are five competitions-"

Bart sat two chairs down. Flint stayed standing. "Five competitions," Bart agreed. "Each competitor will be awarded points for his performance during each competition. There's the obstacle course, of course-" Bart said.

"And the flan joust!" Biff exclaimed, jumping up out of the chair. "It's going to be spectacular, Mr. Calloway!"

"O-Mat is sponsoring the joust," Bart said, quickly standing up and waving his hands. "We'll be using their new frost-lances. The same kind of ozo that's in the chiller over there!" He gestured at the chiller behind the counter. "Then there's the kine-riding competition-"

"Ooh, wait until you see those beasts, Mr. Calloway!" Biff grinned at his brother. "The fiercest creatures you've ever seen! Even fiercer than those mutants of your, I guarantee it!"

"That's only three," Flint said. "What else is there?"

"The big race, out into the desert and back." Bart straightened his arm out, gesturing out the window up the main street where Flint had ridden into town. "I scouted the track myself before I left," he said.

"What about the fifth competition?" Flint asked.

"Why, the chocobo show, of course!" Biff exclaimed with surprise. "You mean you haven't heard?"

"I've been out of town for a few days," Flint said. "Chocobo show...So, all I have to do is win three of these competitions and I get a thousand gil? Not bad odds."

"That's the first prize, yes..." Biff agreed.

"Brother-" Bart said, and looked at Biff. "We agreed to keep this a secret."

"Yes, that's true... but what good does it do us to keep it secret? Better promotion to get the word out, I say." Before Bart could act, Biff's hand dipped into his vest pocket and pulled out a small metal case. "The grand prize for the rodeo is something a bit more valuable than a thousand gil. Feast your eyes on this, Mr. Calloway!"

Biff hinged open the clamshell case. Inside was a sparkling marble.

Flint leaned in. "Is that-"

"Hi-Ozo," Bart agreed. "Twice the power of a normal sphere of ozo."
>>
"But-" Biff clamped the case shut and tucket it back into his vest. "-to the winner goes the spoils, and that means you have to win it first, Mr. Calloway!"

"You said he hunted mutants in the desert?" Bart asked his brother. Flint looked at the clock. It would be dark by the time he got to the control region.

"Sorry, gentlemen," Flint said. "I'd like to stay, but I have a job to do. I'll see you at the fair." With that, he turned and walked back out into the heat.

"Wark!" exclaimed the chocobo standing in the sun.

"Sorry to make you wait," Flint said, and climbed onto the saddle. As they passed the edge of town Flint smiled. "We're going to have to get you a bath before next week."

"Wark?" exclaimed the creature.

Flint rode out into the desert. It was an endless sea of glittering golden heat. The ground shifted underfoot, but the chocobo knew the way, and eventually they came to a place where the ground was a little harder, and the path began to dip down between the land on either side of them. As they went father down into the gully, the air began to cool. There were no plants yet, but Flint knew they would arrive at the edge of the control region in a few hours. Then there would be plenty of plants. If he rode far enough into the control region, he would eventually come to the fence that marked the immediate site of the accident. He wasn't allowed past that point, but he didn't want to go past the fenceline anyway. Whatever was left over from the fertilizer accident was the source of the mutants.

Flint was so lost on thought that he almost didn't notice the chocobo stiffen up underneath him.

"What-" he started, but the mutant was already upon them.

The mutant seemed to recognize that he was the source of its ire. He had fought this creature last night, but it had fled. Now here it was in the middle of the day, and hours from the edge of the control region. Whatever strange mutations it received from stumbling into the accident site had given it unholy healing. The wounds Flint had been hoping to see were all but gone. The mutant roared. It looked like a pair of armored leeches protruding from the shoulders of a huge iguana. At its chest it was taller than the chocobo's head. It had snuck up on them somehow, and boxed them into the gully. If they fled, they'd have to backtrack uphill, and Flint didn't enjoy the thought of having it attack their flank.

He fought the way he always fought.

>Up-close with his blade. He saved the gun for the mutants that could fly.
>Down the barrel of his ozo-rifle. The blade was just for finishing them off.
>On foot, with Spike waiting just out of sight for the right moment to strike.

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose)
>>
Rolled 9261 (1d9999)

>>4950519
>On foot, with Spike waiting just out of sight for the right moment to strike.
>>
Rolled 7548 (1d9999)

>>4950519
>>On foot, with Spike waiting just out of sight for the right moment to strike.

And a lance for ourselves, for that full chocobo cavalryman class
>>
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Flint and the chocobo acted with a single mind. The chocobo dug its talons in and spun around, and charged the mutant. At the last moment Flint leaped from the saddle and rolled to a crouch. The chocobo veered hard past the mutant and back up the gully. The beast roared and began to shift itself to give chase when Flint raised his ozo-rifle and gave a cry. "Hey, ugly!"

One of the mutant's two eyeless heads turned at the sound, just in time to register the explosion of energy from the rifle's ozo-infused shot. The blast tore into the armored carapace and the meat within. The mutant roared again and charged to close the gap between them, and as it did Flint calmly drew the blade from its sheath. The two ozo spheres inset along the base began to gleam, driving their power through it, ten times his normal strength, twenty times. He met the beast face-on, and the ozo-powered blade in his hand flashed. A razor of light seared through the air, and momentum carried him to a slide across the dirt with the severed head of the mutant tumbling just behind him.

The mutant's remaining head roared in fury, so loud it shook the walls of the gully, then Flint heard a familiar cry rise above the din.

"Wark!"

Spike had found his entrance.

>The chocobo squawked again, taunting the mutant
>The chocobo charged the mutant and attacked
>The chocobo raced to Flint and caught him on its back

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose)
>>
Rolled 4798 (1d9999)

>>4950601
>>The chocobo raced to Flint and caught him on its back
>>
Rolled 6003 (1d9999)

>>4950601
>The chocobo squawked again, taunting the mutant
>>
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This was the largest mutant Flint had ever encountered. Most of the others were small by comparison, the size of his chocobo at best. Most of them had looked similar. The government scientists and the men from O-Mat had given them all rigid numerical classification, but Flint had come up with his own names for the other mutants. But they had been easier to kill. He couldn't even begin to imagine what kind of animal this thing had been before it mutated. Flint told himself that if he lived through this he was writing the mutant down in his notebook as a hydracephalus when he marked its position for the inspector to come and examine.

The creature swung its eyeless head between Flint and the chocobo as Spike circled around it. When Spike was close enough, Flint leaped onto the saddle, and an instant later the snapping mouth lunged where he had been, but caught only rock and dirt. Spike squawked again, and lashed out with one leg. Strapped to the chocobo's back talons were a pair of spurs, and the metal caught the mutant deep. The spur drew another roar from its remaining head as it tore free.

From his heightened vantage point, Flint raised his ozo-rifle. "Steady," he said, while the chocobo backed away.

The mutant raised itself up on its hind legs, high enough to blot out the sun with its bulk. "Steady-" Flint told the chocobo once more. The enormous mutant began to descend down on them.

"Now!" Flint shouted, and the chocobo launched forward. As it did, Flint raised his ozo-rifle higher, and fired off three successive blasts at the mutant's underbelly as they passed underneath and cleared the falling shadow. The creature landed with a crash that shook the gully, and groaned as it lunged forward one final time. Flint caught a flash of light from beneath the crevices of its armored carapace as some hidden power inside it seemed to consume it from within.

The chocobo circled around the steaming corpse of the mutant. Suddenly, Flint drew the reins up short and slid out of the saddle. He drew his blade and squatted low. The chocobo leaned in and peered at him while he worked.

Just as quickly as he had started, Flint drew the blade out of the mutant's remains. Balanced on the end of it was a small sphere. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was black as a moonless night, but as he touched it with one fingertip a silent flame began to roil within. He could feel the heat begin to warm his hand. A thought came into his mind. He was supposed to turn over any unusual objects he found in the control region. Flint stood up and held the sphere between his thumb and forefinger. The chocobo peered at it just as intently.

"Do you see that, Spike?" he asked. "It almost looks like-"

"Like ozo," said the woman's voice.
>>
Flint spun around on one heel. The woman from the train station was seated sidesaddle on a chocobo of her own. She was still wearing the wrapped coat, despite the heat. Behind her, the two men who had gotten off the train with her both sat atop their own chocobos. Both were armed with rapid-fire ozo guns. "I said I wanted to see him in action. I must say, that was quite an impressive display."

"You know the rules," one of the men said to Flint. "Hand over that object."

"What if I refuse?" Flint asked him. His gaze went to the woman. "After all, I could always use more ozo."

The other man raised his own weapon. "Hand it over."

The woman's beautiful face remained expressionless. "I would hate to see us lose such an obviously skilled employee," she said.

Flint could only see one course of action.

>He closed his fist around the strange ozo and dared them to take it
>He held the strange ozo out to the woman and allowed her to take it
>He mounted his chocobo and ran off before they could take it

(Please make your selection now!)
>>
(I have to go to bed now but keep watching this thread!)
>>
>>4950762
>He closed his fist around the strange ozo and dared them to take it
>>
>>4950762
>He held the strange ozo out to the woman and allowed her to take it
>>
>>4950762
>He closed his fist around the strange ozo and dared them to take it
>>
>>4950762
She's the one picking it up? Rather foolish of her unless she is a martial arts savant, could grab her as hostage. But we're not that sort of chocoboy.

>>He held the strange ozo out to the woman and allowed her to take it
>>
>>4950762
>He held the strange ozo out to the woman and allowed her to take it
>>
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Flint closed his hand around the strange ozo. "Three against two... I've seen worse odds." He looked between the three. The beautiful blonde woman sitting sidesaddle on her chocobo with an impassive gaze, wrapped in her coat like they were in the northern islands. The two men, soldiers or maybe O-Mat special forces, sitting astride their own 'bos with their rapid-fire ozo guns drawn at him. "Then again, my friend hasn't eaten for a few days. I wouldn't want to put him out." The men with the guns shifted in their saddles as Flint held out his hand and opened it. The strange ozo in his palm gleamed with mutant ichor and its own inner fire. He smiled at the woman. "After all, rules are rules."

The blonde woman gave her chocobo an imperceptible nudge, and the creature closed the distance between them. A welcome breeze caught the edge of Flint's desert duster as he looked up at the woman. Despite the heat and her coat, there wasn't a drop of sweat on her brow. She reached out a delicate hand and plucked the strange ozo from Flint's palm. As she did, he felt a sudden burst of warmth flare up from the ozo as it touched her, then it was gone, tucked into her coat somewhere. "Is that the only object of note you found in the carcass?" she asked.

"That's it," Flint said, and reached into his shirt pocket. The soldiers shifted and took aim. Flint remained motionless, but his eyes looked up at the woman.

"It's alright," she said, but their aim didn't waver.
>>
Flint slowly pulled his notebook out of his pocket, and began to thumb through it until he found an empty page. He scribbled something, then looked up and past the three newcomers, then up at the sun overhead.

"What are you doing?" the woman asked him.

Flint continued writing. Just as the woman began to repeat herself, he finished and looked up at her. "This thing is worth a lot of gil to me. If I can bag one more before the train gets here tomorrow, I'll get a nice bonus this month. I don't care what you do with it, as long as I get to tally it."

The woman watched as Flint tucked the notepad back into his pocket. "How intriguing. I see I will need to learn more about the field operations here."

"Does that mean I'll be seeing more of you?" Flint asked as he climbed onto Spike's saddle.

"Anything is possible," the woman said. "Is there anything else?" she asked him.

Flint smiled again. "You could tell me your name."

"It's Verona," she said, then she reached into her coat and pulled out a small leather pouch. "Here," she called, and tossed it to Flint. "Something for your friend." He caught it and inside something heavy clinked against itself. Her chocobo turned and began trotting back up the gully toward Cold Lake. The two men quickly fell in behind her and after a moment they were all out of sight around the bend.

Inside the pouch was 200 gil.

"Would you look at that?" Flint asked the chocobo. "Well, Spike... you know what this means..."

>"Let's head back to Cold Lake and get you a meal"
>"Let's find us a mutant so we can get that bonus"

(Please make your selection now!)
>>
>>4951621
>"Let's find us a mutant so we can get that bonus"
>>
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"Wark!" squawked the chocobo, and turned around with its back to where the others had gone. The chocobo turned its head to look back up the gully. "Wark," it squawked again.

"The sooner we find one, the sooner we can get back to town and spend this," Flint said. He patted the chocobo's flank. "Just bear with me for one more night and we'll be living like kings tomorrow afternoon."

The chocobo began trotting further up the gully, toward the desert. The sun had already started to sink behind the walls. After another hour they emerged from the gully into the dunes. The sun was already low and red against the flat horizon. Flint could see the green ocean of lush grass ahead of them. He could smell it, even from here. The grass was closer than it had been yesterday. If it keeps growing like this, they'll be able to see it in town before the end of the year,Flint thought to himself.

"Wark!" announced the chocobo.

"I saw," Flint agreed. "Keep your eyes out."

The blood-red sun wavered along the horizon. It seemed to hang in place, baking Flint's side and throwing a glare across his vision that made him flinch at every lengthening shadow. In the absence of any breeze, the grass was motionless but for the path the chocobo forged through it. The sun lurked on the rim of the world for another long while, then before Flint knew it the red ball had dropped beneath the horizon and twilight fell. He rode on as the stars began to appear in the wide cloudless canvas far overhead, navigating the inverted desert by memory and instinct and the placement of the lights above him. He also gauged position by the grass. When it got thicker he knew they were veering toward the fenceline, and he pulled away. Flint would have prefered to stay on the edge, where the sand dunes met the encroaching vegetation. But if there were any mutants to be found here, he would find them toward the center. Toward the green.
>>
The stars had all come out and the pallor of the pre-dawn sky had begun when the chocobo uttered its next proclamation. "Wark."

Flint drew up short as they crested a hill. He sat astride the saddle for a long moment and looked out at the dark sea of grass ahead of him. Overhead, the iridescent dome of the world glowed with its faint blue light. A breeze had come up. In the clear starlit night the endless expanse of grass shimmered and rolled like an ocean around them. "Maybe we made the wrong choice," Flint said.

"Wark."

"Maybe I made the wrong choice," he amended. "I haven't seen or heard any trace of one all night." Mutants were usually easy to find. They tended to make a lot of noise, as though they were lost. They blundered around, attacking anything that came near them, or anything they happened to come across. Flint supposed the mutations affected their thinking.

He slid from the saddle and untied a blanket from the saddle. "Might as well settle in for a while." He sat down on the blanket. "We'll watch from here. If there's anything out there, we'll see it-"

There was a crack like a lightning strike and the entire sea of grass was lit, brilliant green under a black sky. Flint threw a hand over his eyes. Another instant and he would have been blind.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

The blinding flash had ceased, but in its absence there was a sustained glow of flickering light ahead of them, deeper into the grass. Flint watched it and knew exactly where it was.

The center of the explosion site.

"Come on," Flint said. He had already rolled the blanket. He leaped into the saddle and grabbed the reins.

>Let's get back to town and tell Verona about this
>Let's see if that flushed out any mutants in the grass
>Let's jump the fence and see what's making that light
>>
>>4951788
>Let's see if that flushed out any mutants in the grass
>>
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The pair raced deeper into the shifting sea. Flint felt the grass slip past his feet, then his knees. They followed a meandering course that slowly took them closer to the center. They came to the fenceline. The grass here was almost taller than the chocobo. The breeze died for a moment. Flint gripped the reins to turn them around, then paused. There was something coming. He could feel it.

The chocobo remained still and silent. Flint nudged the chocobo and it swiftly knelt down. They were hidden in the grass now. Flint waited. He hadn't dared to draw a weapon. He didn't want to risk the noise.

The breeze returned. The grass rustled on its own. Flint remained where he was.

A rustle ran counter to the breeze to his left. Another to his right, and another still a short distance away. They were running swiftly. Flint could hear their jaws snapping at the grass as they pressed through it. All three of them passed without slowing. As they ran into the shallow grass, Flint could see them clearly enough. They resembled huge wooly hogs with tremendous underbites. Flint had fought one before. It had tracked him by smell. Three of them! How could they have missed me? he thought to himself. Flint began to nudge the chocobo to rise when something small came bounding out of the grass directly overhead. Another followed it. There was a flurry of motion around them, and then the mutants were gone, their tiny forms obscured by the grass. More mutants than he had seen all week. None of them had attacked. And they were all running in the same direction.

Away from the accident site.

There was a roar, low and loud, that was followed by another, and another. Flint nudged the chocobo and it scrambled up to higher ground. The light was still there, vivid even in the beginning glow of pre-dawn. The breeze carried the sounds of shouting, and the harsh sizzling of ozo guns. Another tremendous roar carried itself with no need for the wind. From his vantage point Flint could see movement in the grass, as more mutants clambered away in all directions.

Flint heard a scream. The sounds of the ozo guns were fewer now. Flint drew up the reins and nudged the chocobo. "Come on, Spike..."

>"Let's bag us a mutant and head home"
>"Let's find out what's causing all the fuss"
>>
>>4951939
>"Let's bag us a mutant and head home"
>>
>>4951939
>Let's bag us a mutant and head home
They're actively still doing experiments in there?

Sounds like a good chance to get the fancy pearl, but risking mutation sounds bad.
>>
>>4951939
>"Let's find out what's causing all the fuss"
>>
>>4951939
>"Let's find out what's causing all the fuss"
>>
>>4951939
>"Let's find out what's causing all the fuss"
>>
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The chocobo looked at Flint. "Wark!"

Flint patted the chocobo's flank. "Just a peek, then we'll head back. I promise."

Flint gigged the reins and the chocobo turned away from the fenceline. After five paces it pivoted in the tall grass and darted forward. The two of them went into the air, high enough to clear the tangle of barbed metal wire. They landed on the other side and the chocobo broke into a run. Flint felt something tap against the brim of his hat. He looked up, and something small and warm and wet splashed against his cheek.

It had begun to rain.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

"I know!" Flint shouted. The rain was coming down harder the closer they got to the accident site. The chocobo's feathers were already slick with raindrops. Flint drew up short as they approached the glow. He could hear the ozo guns and the shouting over the rain. From here he could tell there were only two men left standing. He nudged the chocobo and they moved forward slowly through the downpour toward the screams and the sizzling of the ozo guns. "Careful," Flint said. A jagged piece of tangled metal loomed out of the rain in front of his neck. Flint could see broken chunks of masonry scattered around the grass. A bit of bent pipework. A torn and burnt book. The grass ended abruptly, and they stood on a floor of cracked and smashed tilework. There was another roar, tremendously loud and somehow low enough to shake Flint's bones. He couldn't imagine what sort of mutant was large enough to make a noise like that. "What have they got there, a sea monster?"

A gust of wind cleared the rain like a curtain. Flint saw that he hadn't been far off.

The space in front of the remaining two soldiers was framed with lightning. In the air above the corpses of three other soldiers was a wreath of flickering light larger than the mutant Flint had fought that day. In the center of the floating wreath was a pulsing mound of rancid purple flesh. An eye the size of a dinner plate rolled into view through the flickering wreath, and the deafening roar shook the rain. Flint didn't know what he was looking at, but he knew what was happening.

The monster was trying to push its bulk through the wreath.

It roared again, loud enough to blot out the shouts and the hissing of the ozo blasts. A barbed tendril emerged from a split in the monster's flesh and launched itself at one of the soldiers. The young man was caught around his ankle by the tip of the tendril and in an instant he was dragged up into the air. He barely had time to scream before the barbed protrusion twisted and flexed and he couldn't scream anymore.

The eye slid across its fleshy bulk and caught Flint in its gaze.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo as a second tendril shot out.

>Fight your way free and run for it
>Make a stand with the last soldier

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 9607 (1d9999)

>>4953121
>>Fight your way free and run for it
>>
>>4953121
>Make a stand with the last soldier
Too late to stop now.
>>
Rolled 4708 (1d9999)

>>4953121
>Make a stand with the last soldier
>>
Rolled 9553 (1d9999)

>>4953190
whoops
>>
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The chocobo lunged to the side, dancing backward through the rain, and Flint drew his blade and slashed the serrated tip of the tendril away. He gripped the saddle with his legs and held the ozo gun in the other hand, and fired as the chocobo danced away from the pulpy mass. Pieces of the tendril vaporized one after the other, until they had put enough distance from the wreath of lightning and the titanic monster turned its attention back to the soldier.

Flint saw something small and shiny in the soldier's hand. It was an ozo grenade. He had taken it out when the monster was distracted.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" Flint shouted and tugged the reins. The chocobo splashed across the slick surface of the ruined tiled floor and through the maze of wreckage. At their backs, the ozo grenade ignited as it impacted against the putrid surface of the monster. The shockwave flung the rain away from them and nearly knocked Flint out of the saddle. Behind the blast was a roiling fireball. Ahead was a boulder of masonry. The remains of a wall. The chocobo leaped onto the surface and raced up it, and threw itself into the air ahead of the blast. It landed just as the fireball roared by all around. Shielded by the masonry the pair raced into the relative safety of the tall grass and disappeared from view.

There was a crack of thunder, then a flash that lit up the grass. The rain had stopped. Flint couldn't hear the monster roaring anymore. They cleared the fence and kept going. At the edge of the grass Flint could see the desert in the light of early dawn.

A girl stood up in the grass.
>>
"Wark!" exclaimed the chocobo.

"Whoa!" Flint shouted as the chocobo reared backward.

"Help me..." the girl said, and fell back over out onto the desert sand.

"Hey!" Flint said as he slid out of the saddle onto the grass and knelt down next to her. Her skin was pale. Her hair was a shade so light it was almost silver. Flint saw that she was older than he had first thought. Maybe a year or two older than Alie. She was dressed in a kind of outfit Flint had never seen before. He bent low and cradled her. "We'll have to take her back with us," he said.

The chocobo knelt and Flint climbed into the saddle with the unconscious girl. The three of them rode into the desert. Flint held the girl in his arms.

When they got down into the cool sink of the gully, the girl began to stir. She stiffened as waking awareness came to her. The chocobo stopped.

"Awake? My name's Flint." He shook the reins and the chocobo started forward again.

The girl swayed and turned to look at him. Her eyes were gleaming aquamarine. "Who are you?"

"Just told you. Name's Flint." The girl looked around at the gully walls, then back to Flint. He nodded. "I'm taking you back to Cold Lake."

The girl looked at the blade on Flint's hip. "You are an agent of the Authority? Or just a brigand?" she asked.

Flint nodded. "I work for O-Mat, sure." He smiled. "Not a brigand."

The girl pursed her lips. "O-Mat?"

"The company. You know, Ozo Materials?" Flint looked at her. "Everyone knows about them. Everyone around here, anyway." Flint was beginning to think there was a lot he didn't know. He started with the basics. "What's your name?"

"Katrin," she said.

They passed the carcass of the hydracephalus in the early afternoon. "Oh! How terrible!" Katrin exclaimed.

"That was a close one," Flint said. "If it hadn't been for Spike, I might not be here right now."

"Do you mean... you fought and killed it?" Katrin asked. "With just your sword?"

"Well, not just that." Flint gestured to the rifle slung on his back. "I used my ozo gun to finish it off."

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

"Spike got a few good jabs in too."

"What is an ozo gun?" Katrin asked. She reached around Flint and grasped the rifle and her finger brushed against the trigger. The flare of ozo energy launched out of the bore and nearly singed Flint's hat.

"Careful!" he admonished. "You mean you've never seen a gun before?"

"Look!" Katrin said.

Three soldiers were standing at the mouth of the gully.

"Just who I wanted to see," Flint said. "I think this girl needs a doctor."

The soldiers raised their ozo rifles. "Our orders are to shoot anything that comes out of the control region!" barked one of the soldiers.

>Fight the soldiers
>Bluff your way past them
>Run away
>>
>>4953339
>Bluff your way past them
>>
>>4953339
>Bluff your way past them
>"Yeah, so hurry up and deal with that roaring monstrosity in there. I heard a grenade go off, but I bet 2 gil it's still standing."
>"You know this girl's parents? I can't hunt if tourists keep coming in."
>>
>>4953339
>Bluff your way past them
Any*thing* or any*one*? Surely people are not things… How do you control a zone without having someone check it out?
>>
>>4953339
>Bluff your way past them
Surely they can understand reason.
>>
>>4953339
>Bluff your way past them
>>
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Flint nudged the chocobo and it stepped back. "Alright, let's cool our heads." He looked at the three soldiers. He hadn't seen any of them around town before. "Now, you boys are just doing your job and I respect that, but I need to get to your boss. Our boss. I think you know who I'm talking about. Blonde, wears a heavy coat? Verona?"

One of the soldiers glanced at another. The one in the middle kept his eyes on Flint. "Our orders are clear. We were instructed to shoot anything that leaves the-"

Flint guessed the middle soldier was the one in charge. "In case you didn't hear, there is a very large mutant out there that took out a squad of your friends this morning. Kill me and I guarantee you'll be in a world of trouble if anyone finds out you stopped me from getting the word out. Besides, if you shoot this girl you'll have to live with that. Now, are you gonna let me report to Verona or not?"

The soldier didn't say anything. Flint gripped the reins and glanced up the gully behind them. He didn't think they could make a clean getaway. The soldier lowered his ozo gun. "Wedge, take one of the chocobos and escort them to the operations base."

The other soldier saluted. "Right." He looked at Flint and the girl. "Your chocobo needs a bath." He gestured with his ozo rifle. "Come on, that way." The other two moved aside and watched as the pair rode past. Their escort fell in behind them. There were three chocobos a few hundred paces from where the soldiers had been. Their reins were tied to a thick stake. The soldier slid one of the knots out and carried the reins as he climbed onto the saddle. "After you," he said.

They rode the rest of the way in near-silence. When they got to the outskirts of Cold Lake there were no people in the street. "Where is everyone?" Flint asked as he rode up main street for the second time in as many days.

"Security precaution," the soldier said.

Flint saw the shops were all closed. The houses were empty. There were more soldiers in front of the train station. "Where's Verona?"

"Right in there," the soldier said as he dismounted, and gestured at the diner. The ozomobile Flint saw Verona get into the previous day was parked in front of it. Two more soldiers were stationed at the door. Flint slid off the saddle and helped Katrin down. Their escort prodded Flint and he turned over his blade and ozo gun to the guards at the door.

Flint gestured a thumb at Spike. "What about him?"

"We'll take care of the animal," one of the guards said and took the reins from him.
>>
Katrin flinched as the other guard approached her.

Flint put an arm around her shoulders. The girl looked up at him. "It's alright. They just want to make sure you're not hiding any weapons."

Inside, the diner was nearly unrecognizable. All the chairs and booths had been taken out, and the tables rearranged to form an arc. The tables were covered with papers and strange equipment that clacked and clanked at seemingly random intervals. There were two more soldiers stationed in the room, and three other people. Verona had her back to the door when Flint and Katrin came in. There was a wiry man a few years younger than Flint who looked like a scholar. On his head was a set of multi-lensed spectacles. There was another man in a suit, perhaps a few years older than Flint, and his face seemed familiar but Flint couldn't place it. Verona was in the middle of berating the young man. "Cid, you blockhead! You told me this wasn't to occur for another six months! We barely got enough soldiers here in time to secure the town!"

The bespectacled man clutched a handful of papers and frantically flicked between lenses as he stammered. "The projections were valid! You must understand, we're dealing with something that has no modern equivalent! If the OL continues to fluctuate at the current rate, we might see a sustained reaction within the next-"

"Never mind." Verona still had her back to the newcomers. "We have other business to discuss now." She turned and looked at Flint. "How wonderful to see you again." She smiled at the girl. "And who is this?"

"My name is Katrin," the girl said.

Flint looked at the girl. He was surprised she had lost her shyness. "I found her at the edge of the control region. She needs a doctor."

"Oh?" Verona looked at Katrin more closely. "She doesn't seem injured."
>>
The soldier who had escorted them here cleared his throat."Ma'am-"

"Yes?" Despite the interruption Verona's voice was placid.

The soldier glanced between Verona and the man in the suit. "I understand that our orders were to shoot anything that tries to leave the mutant control region, but this one said he had important information for you and-"

Verona silenced him with a finger. "You're worried that you'll be punished for disobedience."

The soldier stared ahead at the wall. "Yes, ma'am."

"Well, you can return to your post. After all..." Verona's eyes matched Flint's. "Sometimes rules are made to be broken." When the soldier had left Verona turned to Flint. "You have information for us?"

Flint looked around the room, and at the young man with the multi-lensed spectacles. "Seems like you might have already heard."

"If you're referring to the incident early this morning, we have the situation in hand." Verona looked at Katrin. "I think we're going to enjoy getting to know each other, my dear."

Flint put his hand on Katrin's arm. "I think you should have a doctor look at her. She was out in the desert."

Katrin took Flint's hand in hers and gently moved it back to his side. "Your concern is pleasing, but unnecessary. I can take care of myself. Thank you for your assistance, Flint of the Control Region. And Spike."

"What about him?" The man in the suit spoke for the first time since Flint and Katrin had entered the diner.

"Mmm..." Verona mused. "We can't just have you wandering about. Only military and O-Mat personnel with special clearance are allowed outside at the moment. And we can't have you spreading panic with exaggerations of whatever you think you may have seen in a restricted area. What do you have to say, Mr. Calloway?"

>I just want to help the government and O-Mat
>I just want to know what's going on
>I just want my pay
>>
>>4954688
>I just want this town safe. At least, safe from raving mutants and much bigger things.
>>
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No more updates tonight but here's something to thank you all for playing so far
>>
>>4954688
This >>4954709
>>
>>4954688
>I just want my pay

>>4954813
That's fucking sweet. Thanks for running.
>>
>>4954709
Supporting
>>4954813
Nice, I like this cowboy man.>>4954813
>>
>>4954688
>I just want my pay
>>
>>4954688
>I just want my pay
>>
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Flint looked at the piles of papers and the nervous young scholar examining the clicking and clacking devices strewn across the tables. He spoke to Verona. "I don't care what you tell folks is going on out there in the desert. I only care about two things. I was hired to keep the people of Cold Lake safe from the mutants... or whatever they are. If that means wandering the control region day in and day out, that's what I'll do. If it means doing something else..." Flint looked at Cid until Cid looked back. The young man couldn't hold Flint's gaze for long and began to fiddle with one of the devices. "Where are the people, anyway? All I've seen are soldiers."

Verona gestured out the diner window past her ozomobile. "The residents are being safely housed in the train station for the moment."

Flint looked at Verona. "For the moment."

"That's only one," Verona said.

"I want my pay." Flint took out his pocket notebook and flipped through to the previous day's entry. "Now, the way I figure it, I was one mutant away from getting my bonus and I was supposed to get paid at noon today. You can tell each other whatever you like about what I saw, but I think what I fought last night ought to count for something. Especially if the inspector's not here to check my tally."

Verona gestured to one of the guards. "Take Miss Katrin upstairs to the apartment so she can freshen up. You may have to instruct her on use of the facilities."

The guard snapped to attention. "Yes, Ma'am!" He stepped past Flint without a glance and opened the door to the street. "This way please, miss."

Katrin didn't look at him either.

When the door closed behind them Verona leaned back against the table behind her and gripped the edge with a hand on either side. She looked at Flint for a long moment before she spoke. "Did you mean what you said about doing whatever it takes to keep Cold Lake safe from mutants?"

Flint tucked the notebook back into his shirt pocket. "I think whatever you've got cooked up out there, you might need all the help you can get."

Verona smiled for the first time since Flint had met her. "Your services may be requested at a future date. I feel it would be wise to keep an employee of your talent close at hand. For the moment, we can certainly help you with your payroll issue." She leaned back and grasped a small chest and drew it toward her across the table. Verona opened the chest and cast a glance at Flint. "How much are you owed?"

"Eight hundred gil." It was the truth.

Verona drew a leather bag from the chest and held it out to him. "This should suffice."

Flint took the bag. It was heavier than he expected. "I'll need someone to open up the general store so I can get some feed for my 'bo."

"Of course." Verona nodded to the other guard who snapped a salute. "We will arrange for your temporary lodging, of course. Is there anything else you require?"

>I'd like to check on Alie
>I'd like to talk to Katrin later
>I'd like to see you again
>>
>>4955834
>I'd like to check on Alie
>>
>>4955834
>I'd like to talk to Katrin later
>>
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Flint thumbed a gesture at the diner counter. "There's a girl who works in this diner. Her name is Alie. I'd like to see her and let her know everything is alright."

"Of course." Verona pushed herself away from the table. "We were just about to go there ourselves. Cid has to test the residents to make sure no one is ill or exhausted." Cid picked up a notebook and a device that looked like a sword handle with a metal box welded onto the hilt. As he walked by Flint the device started clacking rapidly. Cid flicked between the lenses of his spectacles and looked at the device again.

"What's that mean?" Flint watched the wiry young scholar flick between lenses a few more times.

Cid held two lenses together and peered at Flint. "I'm sure it's nothing."

Flint followed Cid toward the door. "Thanks for your help. Maybe I'll drop by later and see how Katrin's doing."

Verona's face was impassive as ever. "We'll see what we can do."

Flint stepped out into the street and saw Spike tied to a hitching post between two military chocobos. His blade and ozo rifle were leaning against the diner wall behind one of the guards. "I'll take those." The guard looked at the other soldier, then picked up the pair of weapons. Flint slung the rifle over his back and tucked the blade into his belt as he walked to the hitching post. "Come on, pal. We're finally getting you a meal."

"Wark!" the chocobo squawked.

Verona stepped out into the hot afternoon sun bundled in her long wrap coat. Her hair was unmatted by sweat. Flint's own brow was already beginning to glisten from the heat as they walked up the main street together.

Flint looked at his escort soldier. "I'd like to feed him first."

Verona nodded and broke off from them at the steps of the train station. "I'll see you inside." She turned and walked between the guards standing at attention on either side of the door.

Flint's escort unlocked the door of the general store. Flint stepped inside and walked to the rear where the owner kept the chocobo feed. He looked in the bag Verona had given him. There were ten metal bars worth a thousand gil altogether. He left three under one of the bags of flour, then took a sack of chocobo feed over each shoulder.

Spike devoured the first bag in two bites. The second bag, three. "Wark!" squawked the chocobo as it licked its beak.

"You can't have any more right now." Flint held up a finger at the chocobo. "You'll make yourself sick."

The soldier crossed his arms. "Are you finished?"

Flint looked at the chocobo. "He is."
>>
The train station was crowded with people. It seemed like everyone in Cold Lake was inside, along with two more guards and a few strangers who had been caught in town when the soldiers arrived. Cid was examining each person using his device and writing notes in his book. Flint couldn't find Alie right away. He spotted her next to the big O-Mat chiller. Alie caught sight of Flint across the room and waved. "Flint!"

They both worked their way to the far wall by the window. Alie surprised Flint with a hug. Flint held her shoulders with his arms out. "Are you alright?"

"I'm alright." Alie flapped a hand in front of her neck. "It's just so hot in here! Why are they doing this?"

Flint held her close and whispered in her ear. "Something happened out in the desert last night. All kinds of things. There was some kind of... I don't know... opening. A lot of mutants came through. And something else. Something big. Or at least it tried to." A guard walked through the crowd near them. Flint patted Alie's back. "There, there. It's alright, no need to cry. I'm sure this will all be over soon enough." The guard kept up his rounds.

Alie looked at Flint with fearful eyes. "What do you mean, an opening?"

"It's hard to describe." Flint glanced out the window. There was some activity with the soldiers.

Someone in the train station screamed.

Flint heard the sound of ozo guns outside.

Alie clung to him. "Flint, what's going on?"

"I don't know." Flint looked out the window. All he could see was the empty street. "I'll be right back."

Alie squeezed her arms around Flint once more. "Be careful!"
>>
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Flint emerged into the street amid the screams and shouts of the soldiers. He followed the screams. An enormous mutant had found its way past the perimeter set up by the soldiers. In an instant, Flint could see why the soldiers had been unable to stop it.

The mutant looked like a hawk crossed with a dragonfly. The thick membranous wings glistened in the hot afternoon sunlight, and between its bulging compound eyes was a long and thin serrated beak that hinged open to reveal trails of sticky mucous. Its talons were large enough to carry off a chocobo. Its back end was tipped with a stinger the size of a dagger. A pair of dead soldiers lay at its feet.

Flint named it Abattoiss.

He swung the ozo rifle free and raised it to fire, then paused. The soldiers were accurate with their own guns, but the mutant didn't seem to be injured by the beams, only enraged. Another soldier was killed, nearly bitten in half. Looks like I'll have to do this the hard way, Flint thought to himself as he pulled out his blade. Flint detached one of the spheres of ozo from his rifle and pressed it into the empty setting of his blade. Immediately he felt the power of the combined three spheres reverberating through the blade.

Flint shouted as he charged the mutant. The giant mutant retreated a step, and Flint pressed forward further, blade held out. Perhaps gorged from its kills, the monster was slow to back away the second time, and Flint's blade slashed through it with power amplified far beyond what Flint's own muscles could provide. The mutant shrieked and flung itself backward and up into the air. Its wingbeats sounded like a horde of locusts. Flint readied himself for the thing to strike.

Instead, it launched its stinger like a harpoon. Flint felt a burning sting in his arm as it caught his flesh before he could leap free. He cried out in pain.

"Flint!" Alie was at the door of the train station. The two guards held her back as she struggled.

Flint began to feel tremendously ill. He could hardly keep his balance. The blade doubled. The mutant landed a short distance from him and crept forward. Flint knew there was something wrong with him. He was starting to see things.

It looked like Alie was glowing.

>Alie spontaneously develops curative magic
>Alie spontaneously develops summoning magic
>Alie spontaneously develops elemental magic
>>
>>4956097
>Alie spontaneously develops curative magic
White Mage here we go
>>
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Whoops, forgot to update the ozo allocation
>>
>>4956097
>Alie spontaneously develops summoning magic
a quest is the only place we're going to see summon magic strut its stuff
>>
>>4956097
>Alie spontaneously develops summoning magic
Summons are cool. And she can still summon like, Kirin or something to heal.
>>
>>4956097
>>Alie spontaneously develops summoning magic
I'm kinda curious about this
>>
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The guards threw their hands up in shock and recoiled as the girl's skin began to illuminate itself from within. Her dress and hair began to float as though she was sinking underwater. The soldiers were too speechless to stop her as she ran down the steps of the train station to the street where Flint crouched on one knee.

The mutant pivoted toward her. Its jaws were slick with blood from the soldiers. Its wings began to buzz and it lifted itself into the air for a killing strike.

From all around Alie came a glow of light that spread away from her on both sides and from the glow a huge thing like a bird came screaming upward toward the mutant. It was real and yet somehow not, and it passed through Alie's body as though it was smoke but to the mutant it was real enough. The monster hovered backward, but the creature Alie had brought forth was relentless. It looked like an enormous golden eagle, with a curved feathered neck like a snake, and from its open beak a shine of light coalesced. as the two struggled in the air. Flint heard someone shout. "It's another mutant!" Flint looked at Alie. Her eyes were faraway.

Alie's summoning spread its wings and the mutant seized the opening and lunged at its opponent, but then the shine within the eagle's mouth glimmered and there was a tremendous explosion of sound and light. Every window in Cold Lake shattered with the huge bird's screech. Flint threw his hands over his ears but realized that he had somehow been unaffected by the blast. The mutant lay on its back in the street. Its legs twitched feebly. The carapace steamed. The shadow of the eagle passed overhead.

Flint stumbled and looked at Alie. She blinked and turned to him. "Flint?"

"It's alright," Flint said, and then Alie's eyes rolled back and her legs went weak. "Alie!" he shouted, and caught her as she fell. He dropped to the ground, too sick and weak from the monster's poison to move. The sky was blotted out by blurring shapes. Faces. He thought he was being carried somewhere. Someone spoke to him.

Then there was darkness.
>>
When Flint awoke he didn't know where he was. There was a ceiling, and a window, and he found himself in a bed. A very nice bed. He delicately reached over to touch his arm where the mutant had wounded him, but there was no wound or scar. In fact, he wasn't sore anywhere. He felt the back of his head. He had been given a haircut.

He found his clothes had been washed and mended and put on the stand next to the bed. His blade and gun were next to the stand. As he was putting on his hat there was a knock at the door. "Come in."

Verona opened the door. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine. How long was I out?" Flint looked around. "Where are we?"

Verona traced a finger along the bedpost at the foot of the bed. "The mayor's house. I thought it would be best to keep you close in case the healing didn't take. You were only unconscious for a few hours."

Flint looked at her. "What do you mean, healing?"

"Only individuals with a high OL can safely handle the procedure." Verona looked out the window. "The results with other recruits was... less than promising."

Flint pulled the third ozo from his blade and pressed it into the setting of his rifle. "Where's Alie?"

Verona turned to Flint and smiled. "Can I get you something? Tea, perhaps? Or something stronger?"

He slung the ozo rifle over his back and slid the blade into his belt. "Where's Alie?"

"She's resting right now. It was a very tiring experience for her." Verona walked toward the door and looked over her shoulder at Flint. "You see, there's nothing to worry about for now. Are you sure I can't get you something?"

>I want to see Alie
>I'd like to see Katrin
>I wouldn't mind a drink
>>
>>4957186
>The only way you're stopping me from seeing her is explaining what happened.
>>
>>4957183
>I want to see Alie
>>
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Flint strode across the room and met Verona at the door. He put a hand on the door before she could open it. "I think you have some explaining to do. About what happened to Alie. About what happened in the desert."

"By all means. It will be good for you to have a working knowledge of the situation." Verona gestured to the door. "Shall we?"

Flint moved his hand and opened the door. On the other side was the mayor's servant with a pair of high-stemmed drinks on a silver tray. Verona waved him away. The servant quickly disappeared down a side passage.

Verona strolled and examined the portraits hanging on the walls. "You are no doubt aware of the ongoing ozo shortage."

Flint thumbed the empty setting of his blade. "I know it's getting harder to find. That mine outside of town is one of the biggest on the continent, and it's not that big anymore."

Verona continued her slow stroll down the hallway. "Centuries ago, ozo was much more prevalent than it is today. Our ancestors squandered much of it in pointless wars. If it hadn't been for the efficient O-Mat designs, we might have already run out by now. Of course, even with more efficient usage, the ozo is still eventually consumed."

"What does that have to do with what I saw?" Flint thought he might already know the answer. He wanted to hear her say it.

Verona met his gaze. "Four years ago, the government and O-Mat were able to open a doorway to another world. This location was selected because it was remote and had plentiful access to ozo."

Flint nodded. "Your 'fertilizer accident'."

Verona turned. and continued walking. "It's a world similar to our own, but much more rich in ozo. We were able to make contact with beings from this other world, who showed us how they could help us replenish our own world's ozo. The doorway closed before we were able to gain any more useful information. Approximately eighteen months ago, it began opening at unpredictable and sporadic intervals."

"And that's when the mutants come through." They stopped in front of a door near the end of the hallway. "What are the mutants, anyway?"

Verona opened the door. "As far as we can tell, they're what passes for wildlife."
>>
Inside the room Alie lay in a bed with her eyes closed. Cid was standing next to her with his equipment in hand and on the nightstand next to her. Flint pushed his way inside and knelt down next to the bed. "Alie!" He took her hand and looked at Cid. "What's wrong with her?"

Cid flipped his lenses and glanced between the girl and Flint. "We... we're keeping her under sedation."

Flint stood up and looked at Verona. "Sedation? Why?"

There was a knock at the door. Verona went to it. "We felt it was best to keep her this way so we don't have any more incidents like the one this afternoon." She opened the door. On the other side was the servant. The elderly man leaned in and whispered to Verona.

Verona nodded and closed the door. "At least until you begin your mission."

Flint looked at Cid, who flinched again. "Mission?"

"It seems only those with a high enough OL can safely enter the doorway and return." Verona nodded toward the unconscious girl. "You and Alie will accompany one of our special agents through the doorway and attempt to find anyone who can help us stabilize it so we don't have any more massacres like the one we saw today."

"Special agent?" Flint crossed his arms. "Who's that?"

There was a knock at the door. "Come in," Verona called. The door opened. The servant was there, and so was another man Flint's age. He wore military dress and carried a pair of ozo pistols. "We were just talking about you. This is Captain Rolf."

The man looked at Flint. "I don't know why you think I need him along."

"Mr. Calloway has proven himself an expert at taming the fauna you will no doubt encounter." Verona nodded to Cid, who produced a brass and glass syringe. "It will take about fifteen minutes to revive her. You will leave as soon as she is ready. Flint looked at Verona. She met his gaze. "You had better go prepare. You don't have much time."

Flint walked past Rolf to the door. "Nice to be working with you." He walked out and closed the door behind him.

Outside in the hallway was the mayor's servant. He leaned in toward Flint. "You'll be happy to know that all the residents have been allowed to return to their homes. The businesses have all resumed operation."

>Visit the shops
>Visit Katrin
>Eavesdrop on Verona, Cid, and Rolf
>>
>>4957552
>>Visit Katrin
>>
>>4957552
>Visit Katrin
>>
>>4957552
>Visit Katrin
We also need to find out what this OL is, because we ain't leaving our chocobro

I suspect its literally exp levels tho
>>
>>4957552
>>Visit Katrin
>>
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It was dark and cool when Flint stepped out of the mayor's house. Spike was waiting for him on the porch. Flint stroked the chocobo's beak. "Did you have a nice nap?" They walked down the street illuminated by the full moon and the streetlights. When they got to Alie's apartment above the diner Flint left the chocobo at the foot of the stairs. "Wait here." There was a guard in front of the door.

As he approached, the guard turned to him and raised his ozo rifle. "What do you want?"

Flint stopped in the hallway where he was. "I'd like to see Katrin."

The guard sneered at Flint. "Get out of here." The door unlocked with a click.

Katrin opened the door and nodded to the soldier. "He may enter and speak with me."

The soldier flashed a glare at Flint and stepped back. Flint walked past him into the apartment and closed the door behind him.

Flint looked around. He had never been inside Alie's apartment before. It was small and cramped, but meticulously kept. There was a small nook of a kitchen, a tiny loveseat, a low bookshelf with some silk flowers. At the far end of the room was a curtained alcove where the bed no doubt sat. Flint picked up a trinket from a group of them on top of a dresser near the curtain.

Katrin stood in front of the door. "I must say I am surprised to see you, Flint of the Control Region."

Flint set the trinket back down among the others and looked at her. "If you like, I'll leave."

"I did not say your company was unwelcome." Katrin crossed the small room. "In truth, I am glad you are here." She smiled at Flint. "I see why she admires you." Katrin gestured to a picture frame next to the flowers. There was a picture of Flint. It had been cut out from one of the posters O-Mat had printed to commemorate the first mutant he had bagged.

Flint looked up from the picture of himself. "Are you comfortable here?"

Katrin nodded. "Your people have many wonderful things. It is not at all like this where I am from."

"That's quite a long way from where you are now." He looked around the room again. "Has anyone told you exactly how far?"

Katrin was smiling when he looked at her. "There is only one moon in your sky."
>>
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Flint looked out the window. The soldiers had cleaned up the shattered glass but hadn't replaced it yet. The cool night air drifted into Alie's apartment. "How did you end up out there in the grass?"

"I was kidnapped." Katrin moved to stand next to Flint and looked out the window at the moon above the desert. "They took me far from my home. I escaped, but they caught me. That was when the portal opened and I found myself in your world. At first I was not sure where I was or who you were."

Flint nodded and looked down at the girl. "I remember. You asked if I was a brigand."

"Yes." Katrin looked up at him. "Now I know that you are a man of honor."

He turned to face her. "Katrin, I'm headed back for that portal. We're going to try to find someone in your world who can help us save our own world."

Katrin smiled. "I want to give you something for your journey." She took Flint's hand and placed a stone ring in his palm. On it was a carving of an eye inside of a diamond. "This ring was given to me. It is said that it watches over the wearer and protects him."

Flint looked at it. "Are you sure you want to part with this?"

Katrin closed Flint's hand around the ring. "When you return, you may give it back to me."
>>
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Alie was waiting on the street next to the chocobo when Flint emerged from the apartment. Behind Alie, Verona and Cid stood with Rolf. There were three soldiers with them. One held a stack of Cid's devices. Alie looked miserable. She clutched her arms together. As Flint approached he saw that she had been crying. Flint held out his arms to embrace her. Alie waved him off. "I'm alright."

Verona took a step forward. "The three of you will..."

Flint thumbed a gesture at Spike. "Four."

Cid nervously flicked between lenses of his spectacles. "I'm not sure that's a good idea..."

Flint crossed his arms. "If he doesn't go with, I don't go with."

"It's not a question of preference." Cid stammered and looked at Flint. "If the creature's OL isn't sufficient, it won't survive the journey!"

Flint looked at Cid. "Then you'd better test him."

Cid busied himself with his device. Alie looked over his shoulder. "What is OL? I heard you talking about it before... about me."

Cid shifted to put Alie at his back. "Roughly speaking, it measures how much ambient energy your body has accumulated, such as from exposure to the rift, or from other sources."

Alie looked at Cid. "What kind of sources?"

Cid flicked his lenses. "Prolonged exposure to ozo energy has been shown to..."

Rolf cleared his throat. "Gentlemen, we don't have time for this."

"Why was Alie able to do what she did?" Flint looked at Alie. "She's never been as close to that place as I have."

Cid looked up and thought for a moment. "It's not scientific, but there are stories of people who could use magic. It's possible that her ancestry made her particularly susceptible."

Cid waved the device in front of the chocobo. Flint looked at the device. "Well?"

"I don't know..." Cid flinched as Flint took a step toward him. "The readings are lower than I would recommend... and the device is calibrated for humans, not chocobos... it may be alright, but on the other hand..."

Flint rubbed Spike's beak. "Alright, pal. I'll leave it up to you." He tossed the chocobo's reins over the saddle and patted its neck. He turned away. "If you want to come with, it's your call." The others began to turn as Flint walked by. The two soldiers kept pace with him, followed by Verona and Rolf, then Alie and Cid and the third soldier tasked with carrying Cid's equipment.

"Wark!" The chocobo trotted to catch up to the others.

When they reached the edge of town the soldiers stopped. Verona and Rolf stopped with them. Flint patted the chocobo. "It's an eight-hour ride from here to your accident site. I don't know about you, but I only see one chocobo."

Verona remained where she was. "That won't be necessary." Suddenly a second moon appeared in the sky overhead. A light swept across the ground and Flint realized it was a spotlight. Another light flashed on. The spotlights swept together and illuminated the ground in two wide converging circles. Flint heard the sound of rotors.

An airship descended out of the night sky.
>>
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The front half of the cabin was almost all glass. Flint and Alie stood at the head of the cabin. The lights in the cabin had been turned off and the desert passed by silently under them. The pearl handles of Rolf's pistols gleamed in the moonlight as he stepped out of the shadows. "They said we'll be there in an hour." Flint nodded. Rolf looked at the moonlit desert roll past. He looked at Alie. "I heard you conjured up quite the show yesterday."

Flint turned to Rolf. "Why don't you leave her alone?"

Rolf tilted his head. "I meant no offense." He looked at Alie. She could barely return his gaze. "You shouldn't let a talent go to waste." Alie looked at the floor of the airship. "See you in an hour." Rolf stepped back into the shadows and they heard a door latch click.

Flint looked at Alie. Her face was nearly blue in the moonlight. "Alie... You don't have to come with."

Alie looked up at him. "Verona said they would want to... study me... if I didn't agree to this."

Flint took her hand. "Just stay close to me. I'll protect you. From everything."

The spotlights came on as they approached the ruins. Verona assembled them as the airship landed. "We believe there is a large city north of the rift. Perhaps someone there will be sympathetic to our plight."

Outside, the soldiers had finished setting up Cid's equipment. Cid approached Flint and held out a pair of small silver flasks. "This is an experimental substance. It will cause your body to rapidly heal. Drink the entire amount."

"Thanks." Flint slipped the flasks into his saddlebag.

Cid held up a small box with a button. "This will send a signal to activate the device and open the rift. Be careful - you won't be able to return without it!"

"I'll hang onto it."

Cid pressed a button. The air was filled with lightning. A hole opened, and Flint stepped through.

They stood in a wasteland of red and gray. It was daylight. The sun overhead seemed different. Closer. The air buzzed with flies. "Flint!" Alie pointed at the source. The bodies of some soldiers lay on the rocky ground. They had been nearly picked clean. Flint saw something gleam a short distance away. Rolf picked it up. "What is it?"

Rolf turned it over. "O-Mat rifle. Or what's left of it." He tossed the bent metal to Flint. The ozo had been roughly ripped out.

Alie shrieked. Flint turned and saw four things like hairless bipedal rats creep out from beneath a pile of bones. Before he could act, Rolf had drawn his pistols. With four quick shots, he blasted each one before it could attack.

Flint looked at Rolf as he spun them. "Nice shooting." A skull toppled and Flint drew his ozo rifle, expecting another corpse-rat. Another bone tumbled. Flint realized the ground was shaking.

The nightmare Flint had faced in the desert emerged from a hill of bones. It was twenty feet tall, a sludge of flesh and ooze studded with enormous gaping eyes. Its roar shook the bones of the dead and living alike.

(Select a summon and roll 1d9999)
>>
Rolled 6366 (1d9999)

>>4959248
Does Allie know what each summon does? The one she summoned earlier was Thunderbird, right?
Then there's Raindancer, or Tumbleweed?

I imagine Raindancer might be either very effective against something liquid based, or not at all depending on how this works.

So I'm guessing safe option is
>Tumbleweed?
>>
>>4959325
>Does Allie know what each summon does?
No.
>>
Rolled 7688 (1d9999)

>>4959248
If it was a burrowing creature I'd go for raindancer, but I don't think it can drown in bones.

>Tumbleweed
>>
Rolled 12 (1d999)

>>4959248
>tumbleweed
>>
Oops, mistyped the dice. Do you want me to roll again properly or do you just scale it up?
>>
>>4959425
Reroll please, I need one roll for each character in the combat.
>>
Rolled 8747 (1d9999)

>>4959453
>>
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Flint looked around as the titanic monster slid toward them. It bellowed all the while. Spike had already made himself scarce. A blast from Flint's ozo rifle lanced across the bone-strewn hillside and impacted against the mass of flesh. The beast's huge eyes fixed on him. Flint fired again. The shots were clean, but the monster was tremendous and seemed to have no vitals to be wounded. It was like poking jelly with a toothpick. Flint backed up alongside Rolf. The path down the hill was blocked by the creature. Flint looked at Rolf. "We need something to slow it down!"

They took another step backward. Rolf looked at Flint. "If you have an idea, I'm all ears!" A sudden gust of wind staggered them. Both men turned their heads in unison.

Alie had started to glow.

The enormous monster lumbered across the rocky hillside toward its prey. Bones flew from it. Some were crushed to paste beneath it. Then something the color of straw erupted from the stone ground up into the sky. It cracked the air as it lashed across the surface of the huge beast. The monster bellowed in pain and struggled, but the tip of the thorny lash had entangled itself in the hillside. Another erupted, and another. The thorns dug deep. The roots of the thorny lashes seemed even deeper. As long as they held, the beast was trapped.

A slit of flesh yawned open along the monster's flank. From it a pair of long tendrils slithered out. Long enough to reach the three. Flint sliced at them with his blade. Rolf fired both pistols from the hip. He fired again. The tendrils vaporized. The huge monster roared. The lashes held for the moment. Flint and Rolf fired blast after blast from their ozo guns.

Alie sunk to one knee.

>Flint calls for choco reinforcement
>Alie tries a different summon
>Rolf reveals his secret ability
>Everyone tries to run away

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 5309 (1d9999)

>>4959566
Oh. A BIG tumbleweed as a vine trap. Good taste, op.

>Choco support
Choco ball?
>>
Rolled 9897 (1d9999)

>>4959566
>>Rolf reveals his secret ability
>>
>>4959566
>Flint calls for choco reinforcement
Let's see what our companion can do.
>>
Rolled 230 (1d999)

>>4959986
Forgot roll
>>
Rolled 9742 (1d9999)

>>4959992
Annnnd I fucked up the roll
>>
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Flint and Rolf retreated another step up the hillside. They were almost next to Alie now. Flint whistled for Spike. All he could hear was the monster roaring as it struggled against its binds. Alie's glow had dimmed. The monster was almost free.

"Short trip." Flint fired another blast from his ozo rifle.

"Maybe not." Rolf holstered his pistols.

"What are you doing?" Flint glanced between the monster and Rolf. "Keep firing!"

"Good choice of words." Rolf's eyes had started to glow. His hair waved without breeze. The tails of his coat drifted upward. Inside his cupped hands, something flared. "There's a reason why I was chosen for this mission." The spark inside his hands expanded. Flames shot between his fingers. He flung his hands open and a gout of bright orange fire shot forth. It splashed against the monster's hide and continued to char the oozing flesh even after the magic had ended.

The roar became tremendous. The barbed lashes pinning it to the rocks began to snap. Alie slumped to her knees. The monster charged across the bone-strewn hillside.

Flint raised his ozo rifle and sighted it. "Got any more where that came from?"

Rolf raised his hands in front of him. "Let's hope so."

From the hillside behind them came a cacophony of shouts and whoops. Balls of flame hurled through the air and splashed against the monster. It roared and flinched back against the torrent of fire. Both men turned in disbelief as a band of a dozen men riding red-feathered chocobos came charging over the ridge. The chocobos spit fire as they charged. The monster turned at the onslaught and began to flee. In the lead was a single yellow chocobo Flint recognized.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo as it slid to a stop. Around it, the red chocobos and their whooping riders rushed past, driving the monster back.

Flint put his hand on the chocobo's beak. "Glad you could make it."

Flint lifted Alie up and set her in the saddle. She slumped forward and smiled weakly at him. "Did we win?"

"We sure did." Flint and Rolf watched the riders as they turned. The monster had been driven back underground. They were soon encircled by the riders. Flint saw that these chocobo had other differences as well. His own chocobo had a full head of tufts. These red chocobos were sleeker, with frills, and each chocobo's frill seemed unique. Their riders were as strange as the birds. They had painted their faces and each of them had a metal lance. The lances pointed inward.

Rolf looked around at them. "Thanks for your help."

Flint nodded. "We're in your debt."

One of the riders spoke. "We do not have dealings with outworlders. We have reunited that chocobo with his rider." He raised his lance and aimed it across the wasteland. "There is a city beyond the swamp to the north." He nodded to the others and they turned and began to ride back up the hill. The one who had spoke looked at Flint again. "If you can make it."

>Head for the city as a group
>Flint follows the riders alone
>>
>>4960778
>Head for the city as a group
>>
>>4960778
>Head for the city as a group
lances pointed inward? some kind of encirclement spell?
>>
>>4960872
I just meant they had you surrounded with weapons drawn
>>
>>4960778
>>Head for the city as a group
>>
>>4960899
oh.
>>
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Alie sat up in the saddle and waved a hand at the receding men. "Wait!"

Rolf jogged a few paces up the hill after them and turned back. "We should follow them. They might be able to help."

Flint shook his head. "My 'bo can't run with more than one rider." He looked around at the bones scattered about the stony ground. "I have the feeling we should stay together around here. Who knows what else we might run into." Alie started to climb down from the saddle. Flint stopped her. "You go ahead and ride for now." He took the reins in hand and led the chocobo down the hillside. Rolf watched for a moment, then followed.

They walked into the wasteland. There were no streams or ponds. They passed a dead tree that was nothing more than a crooked finger. Rolf wiped his brow under the strange sun. They walked onward. The days seemed longer here. Flint didn't know how far they had traveled. The land seemed to work against them. They walked onward. The sun remained above them.

"Wark."

The others took it as a cue and stopped where they were. They could go no further. The sun beat down on them. Flint drew one of the flasks of Hi-Tonic from his duster. "We can always drink these." He shook the tiny flask. The liquid inside sloshed. "Not much there..."

Rolf looked up at the sky. "I could go for a nice cool glass of cider." He looked at Alie. "That was some impressive work back there."

The girl looked down at him from the saddle of the chocobo and looked away. "Thank you."

Rolf pressed on. "I meant what I said, you know. About letting a talent go to waste. Seems like if there's anyone here who could help now, you might be the one to call on."

Alie looked back at him. "Me? What can I do?" Rolf shrugged and looked back the way they had come.

Flint sat down on the lifeless ground. "Maybe it'll cool off once the sun goes down."

Rolf sat down where he was and looked at the sky again. "If it ever goes down."

Alie looked at the slumped-over men and closed her eyes.

Flint looked around. He thought he had heard something on the wind.

Rolf looked up. "Do you smell that?"

Flint smelled it. Water. And he heard something too. It sounded almost like...

"Singing." Rolf looked around. "Do you hear that?"
>>
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The ground was wavering like a heat-mirage. Flint watched it as the shimmering coalesced into a shape. Small feet formed and left wet prints in the dirt. Long legs, hips wrapped in nothing but a sash. A woman walked toward Flint where he sat on the ground. The woman was nude but for her sash. Her hair was a waterfall. She carried a bronze pitcher. She was singing all the while. When she approached Flint she held the pitcher into her hair and poured it on Flint's face. He gulped down the sweet water and felt the sting in his eyes fade. He ran his hands through his hair and the cuts he had sustained on the bone hillside were erased. He felt as if he could walk for weeks.

The woman smiled at Flint and continued her song as she walked to Rolf. He stared up at her with wonderment as she doused him. She held the pitcher for the chocobo to drink from it. The woman held it up and Alie cupped her palms into it, over and over. She cupped the water again and splashed her face. When she opened her eyes the singing had ended. The woman had vanished. All that remained were the footprints that were quickly drying. The two men looked at her in amazement. Alie looked at the men. "Well? What are we sitting around for?"

They made it to the edge of the swamp as darkness finally fell. "We'll make camp here." Flint unrolled his blanket from the saddle and laid it on the ground. "No sense trying to find our way through there at night." He walked a short distance away and sat down.

Alie climbed off the chocobo. "Aren't you going to lie on your blanket?"

"You go ahead." Flint leaned back against a rock. "I'll be fine."

Rolf made them a small campfire with some dead wood they had found.

The next day, they walked for almost an hour before they came to a small lake in the swamp. Near the edge of it, knee-deep in the water, was a huge creature with two long necks like armored eyeless leeches. The creature's body was lizardlike.

"Hydracephalus."

Rolf looked at Flint from where they crouched in the bushes. "What?" Behind them Alie and Spike peered out at it.

"That's what it's called. Or at least, what I call it." Flint pointed at the monster. "We'll need to get past it somehow. That looks like the narrowest point of the lake."

Alie looked at the monster and back at the others. "Maybe we could trick it into leaving."

"WARK!" squawked the chocobo.

The grass behind them parted. While the three had debated strategy, another hydracephalus had found them. It roared, and the noise drew the ire of the first hydracephalus. The group found themselves caught between the two monsters. Escape was impossible.

>Go all-out with magic
>Conserve magic and fight

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you chooose!)
>>
>>4961004
>Go all out on one.
Either the second gets scared off, or we start experimenting with nonmagical stuff
>>
Rolled 9335 (1d9999)

>>4961022
>>
Rolled 5241 (1d9999)

>>4961004
seconding >>4961022
>>
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Flint spun and drew his ozo rifle at the monster in the grass. "Rolf! Concentrate on that one! When it rears up, aim for the underbelly!"

Rolf slung both pistols free of their holsters and fired four blasts upward along one of the monster's necks before Flint could take another shot.

Behind her, Flint whistled and Spike burst from the tall grass. He leaped into the saddle as the chocobo passed and charged the monster on its wounded side. The chocobo leaped, and Flint leaped from the saddle at the height of the jump. The blade was in his hand. It slashed the dark air with a gleam of light and sliced the neck free of the body, just as he had done in the desert of his own world.

The monster reared back on its hind legs and its remaining head roared. Rolf raised his pistols and fired, over and over and over. Each blast tore into the monster's vulnerable underbelly and when it crashed to the ground it landed on its side. It didn't move again.

The men turned their attention to the other beast.

Alie looked back in fright as the first hydracephalus neared the shore. Without thought, Alie reacted as she had the first time her terrible power had manifested. The water-haired woman she had summoned in the wasteland rose from the water's edge. This time, the woman's face was contorted with the rage of a storm. The woman spun on one toe, thrust her leg behind her, and held her bronze urn to the sky.

The sky turned dark. A pounding torrential rain suddenly slammed against the charging monster before it reached the woman. The beast slowed. It dug its claws into the sandy soil, but the rain had begun to push it backward. It struggled to charge forward. The storm grew even more fierce. The monster roared. Scales flew from its back as the wind became a hurricane gale.

Alie's face matched the dancer's.

>Everyone attacks the remaining hydracephalus
>Let Alie take care of it on her own

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 4619 (1d9999)

>>4962294
>Everyone attacks the remaining hydracephalus
>>
Rolled 1644 (1d9999)

>>4962294
>>Everyone attacks the remaining hydracephalus
>>
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Flint and Rolf peppered its hide with blasts from their ozo guns. The monster had enough. One of the creature's necks began to glow from within. The reddish glow illuminated the undersides of its scales as it traveled upward. The eyeless leechlike mouth gaped open and spewed a trail of fire that scored its way across the water against the rainstorm. The summoned woman gasped in fright. Alie's face mimicked the other's.

The blast obliterated the water-haired woman in a cloud of steam and continued forward. Alie cried out in pain as the trail of the fire seared over her. The girl had thrown up an arm to protect herself. She crumpled to a heap at the water's edge. The monster regained its charge.

"Alie!" Flint and Rolf shouted her name in unison. Flint spurred his chocobo and it raced forward into the shallows. Rolf followed a step behind. The men fired their ozo guns. They were shouting.

The other head let loose a spew of fire. Rolf leaped to one side. Flint and his chocobo to the other. Flint winced from the heat. The air was full of steam. The beast spun, quicker than any of them had expected. Its barbed tail struck Rolf across the chest and sent him backward. The heads lunged at Flint. The chocobo spun and danced between them as Flint slashed and fired. Rolf regained his senses and rose from the muck. He raised his pearl-handled ozo pistols and fired over and over. The monster roared and roared and finally it sank down into the water and laid there lifeless and half-submerged.

Flint was already dismounted before the monster had given its death-cry. "Alie!" He knelt next to the girl.

Rolf was next to him. "Give her one of those Hi-Tonics!"

Alie moved. She tried to sit up and couldn't. Flint cradled her. He was careful not to touch her wounded arm. He lifted her into a sitting position. "I'm alright." Flint could see she was lying. Her arm was burned from wrist to elbow. Flint drew one of the tiny flasks out of his duster. "No." Alie shook her head. "We can't waste them. We have a long way to go."

Rolf looked at her. "Can you summon up that woman again?"

Alie looked at Rolf, then closed her eyes for a moment. Her face contorted in pain. She opened her eyes and looked at Rolf again and her eyes were full of tears. "No."
>>
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Rolf looked at Flint. "What do you think?"

"I think we're not going anywhere with her in this condition." Flint looked at Alie until she turned her face to look back at him. "We need you. We won't be able to do this without your help." Alie looked at Flint for a moment and then nodded. He unscrewed the flask with his free hand. "Drink the whole thing." Alie nodded. Flint cradled her as he brought it to her lips.

Immediately the wound began to illuminate from within. Flint and Rolf watched as the blistered and charred flesh was transformed into youthful smooth skin. Alie gasped. "It tingles!" Flint helped her rise to her feet. She marveled at the regeneration. Spike was interested too. Flint and Rolf looked across the lake.

"Now that we've taken care of one problem, we still need to get across this lake." Flint looked to his right. "That way looks like it might be the best path."

"I don't know." Rolf looked to his left. "That way might be better."

"Hey!" The two men turned their attention at the sound of Alie's voice. She was pointing at the side of the dead hydracephalus that lay in the grass. When Flint approached he saw what had drawn her attention. There was something glowing inside the beast's innards. Flint knelt, just as he had in the desert, and just as then, he used his blade to draw from the beast a thing that looked like a sphere of ozo. All the ozo Flint had ever seen before in his life had been the same, until the past week. Ozo as he knew it was silver with an iridescent surface that faded as the ozo's power was consumed over the years. This sphere looked like the one he had found in the belly of the creature he had killed in the desert of his world. It was black as pitch, but a tiny fire roiled within it. Flint could feel the heat it made.

"Ozo?" Rolf looked down at Flint.

Flint stood up. "Looks like it, doesn't it? I found one of these before. Inside one of those." He thumbed a gesture at the carcass of the monster.

Alie looked at it closely. "It's beautiful!"

"Ever put it in an ozo setting?" Rolf looked at one of his pistols. "Seems like it might fit."

"I gave it away before I could try it." Flint looked at the black sphere and the roiling fire inside it. "I suppose there's only one way to find out." He drew out his blade and turned it over. There were three settings along the base. Two of them were filled with ozo. Flint pressed the black sphere into the empty setting until it was fastened.

Immediately, the blade began to shimmer like a heat-mirage. It was warm to the touch.

>Keep the Inferno ozo in Flint's blade
>Put the Inferno ozo in Flint's rifle
>Give the Inferno ozo to Rolf
>Give the Inferno ozo to Alie
>>
>>4962449
>>Put the Inferno ozo in Flint's rifle
I wonder if Rolf would be more effective with it, but I'm leaning towards making Flint more versatile.
>>
>>4962449
>Give the Inferno ozo to Rolf
Need stopping power more than raw damage, and regular fireballs are too slow

What about the other beast?
>>
>>4962508
>What about the other beast?
Probably inaccessible if you're wondering about harvesting ozo.
>>
>>4963220
Just realized I dropped my trip
>>
>>4962479
If there's really noone else voting, I'd rather my vote switched to break the tie
>>
>>4962449
>>Give the Inferno ozo to Rolf
>>
Next update should be posted tomorrow!
>>
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Flint held up the blade and they watched the air around it shimmer.

Rolf nodded. "Seems like you could cut through metal like butter with that in your blade."

Alie leaned down on the saddle to get a closer look. She slipped and almost fell off. Flint quickly pulled the blade away. Alie repositioned herself on the saddle. "What do you suppose would happen if you put it in your gun?"

Flint pulled the strange ozo out of its setting and tossed it through the air to Rolf.

Despite his reflexes Rolf almost didn't catch it. "You want me to have this?"

Flint nodded. "Your pistols don't have the stopping power of my rifle. Right now we need all the raw power we can muster. We're all in this together."

"Right..." Rolf looked at his pistols. "I think my guns will be thrown off weight if only one of them has all three settings filled." He reached up and handed the strange ozo to Alie.

"Me?" Alie was just as surprised as Rolf had been.

Rolf nodded. "Just to hold onto for now." Rolf looked out at the endless wetland ahead of them. "It's a big swamp." Rolf thumbed a gesture at the carcass of the hydracephalus. "I'm sure we'll run into at least one more of these before we get across."
>>
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He was right. By the time the sun had started going down they had three more of the strange fiery ozo in hand. The first time they had found one, Flint had replaced one of the ozo in his rifle. The range of his ozo rifle hadn't increased, but the heat output was scorching. Alie had suggested calling the black ozo an Inferno. It was as good a name as any.

They found that fire was effective against the hydracephalus, but not as much as expected. The spare ozo that had been in his rifle was now in the third setting of his blade. That seemed to make more of a difference, at least with these creatures.

Rolf had accepted the next two Infernos. His draw speed was unaffected. The results were impressive. The pearl-handled pistols seemed capable of channeling the power.

They had run into more of the huge wooly hogs that Flint had seen in the control region. The beasts were fierce, but their attacks were uncoordinated. The swamphogs simply bit and snapped and swung their enormous underbites. Their thick pelts seemed to protect them from the worst of the flames.

The sun pressed below the treeline of the swamp. The temperature dropped. Alie swatted at a flying insect. "I almost prefer the wasteland!"

Flint pointed at a hillock ahead. "There's a dry spot. We can make camp up there."

They waded into the muck toward the hillock. Flint was in the lead. He held the reins in his hand. Rolf stopped and looked around at the swamp. "Wait." Flint and the chocobo stopped. Alie looked around from her perch on the saddle.

Flint looked back at Rolf. "What's wrong?"

Rolf scratched his head. "I don't know. I guess it's nothing. I just thought..."

Three swamphogs burst out from the brush. The creatures were ridden by men wearing the tattered remains of uniforms. Flint recognized their insignia. He had seen it all over Cold Lake. The riders were gaunt and unshaven. Their helmets were rusty. Each of them swung a thin lariat.

The feral soldiers had picked a good spot for an ambush. One of the lariats flew through the air and snagged the pistol in Rolf's left hand. Before Rolf could react, the pearl-handled pistol was yanked out of his grip. "My gun!"

The rider who had thrown the lariat caught Rolf's pistol and laughed. "Ozo guns! Haven't seen one of these for a while!" He kicked his swamphog mount and the creature turned to flee back into the swamp.

Another rider spun his lariat above his head. "These will fetch us a nice price in Karach!"

The third rider swung his own lariat and spurred his swamphog to charge. "Get 'em!"

>Flint threw his ozo rifle to Rolf
>Rolf used his fire magic on all of them
>Alie summoned a spirit to attack them

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
>>4967510
>>Rolf used his fire magic on all of them
don't want to overexert Allie... if Flint could snipe the fleeing guy it would be nice but other than that I guess we'll have a plot hook for recovering Rolf's pistol.
>>
Rolled 7521 (1d9999)

>>4967526
and of course I'd forget to roll
>>
Rolled 7929 (1d9999)

>>4967510
>>Rolf used his fire magic on all of them
burninate 'em
>>
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Flint spun around in the mud and drew his ozo rifle. He took aim at the fleeing soldier. Flint blinked a drop of sweat from his eye. Something moved to his side. One of the riders had seen Flint's rifle. The rider swung his lariat.

Rolf holstered his remaining pistol. "Don't count me out yet." Rolf cracked his knuckles and his hair began to wave. The tails of his coat drifted upward. Rolf spread his hands and flung a gout of fire through the air at the closest rider. The feral soldier's mud-caked armor was no protection. The flames seemed to seek out the flesh beneath. The other rider circled them. A second fireball splashed against him.

Flint drew a bead on the fleeing rider. Just as he squeezed the trigger, a third fireball sailed through the air and lit up the man. Flint followed through with a blast from his ozo rifle. The combined power of the ozo and the Inferno supercharged the shot. Sparks and flames shot from the end of the barrel. A firework of energy trailed flame across the humid swamp. The man flew from the saddle of his mount. Rolf's pistol went into the air. The swamphog disappeared into the brush.

Rolf waded through the swamp and bent down to retrieve his pistol. "A-ha!" He pulled it out of the mud and shook it.

"Hee-yah!" Four more riders burst out of the trees at them. One of the riders tossed out his lariat as the swamphog thundered past Flint. A moment later Flint felt something slip from his duster as the rider caught a small leather pouch in his free hand.

Alie raised her palms to the sky.

Another rider flung his lariat at Alie. It tightened around her waist and the girl was yanked from the saddle as the rider passed.

Stole 200 gil!

Stole Alie too!

>Flint and Rolf shoot at the riders
>Rolf mounts a swamphog and they give chase

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 1189 (1d9999)

>>4967647
>>Rolf mounts a swamphog and they give chase
>>
Rolled 3450 (1d9999)

>>4967647
>Rolf mounts a swamphog and they give chase
>>
Rolled 1609 (1d9999)

>>4967647

hey, find your own summoner, this one's ours!

>>Rolf mounts a swamphog and they give chase
>>
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"Alie!" Flint raised his ozo rifle, then thought better of it and charged through the muck toward his chocobo. He whistled for the bird.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo and strode through the swamp toward him. Flint pulled himself into the saddle and the chocobo took off. The muck slowed their chase.

Rolf lunged at one of the riders as the swamphog passed. He grasped the saddle and dragged himself up behind the rider. The feral soldier looked backward as Rolf gripped him and threw him from the saddle. The feral soldier landed in the muck and was trampled by the last of the riders.

Flint looked back as Rolf and his swamphog raced along behind them. The last of the feral soldiers came up behind the two. Rolf drew one pistol and fired. The rider kicked his mount and the swamphog leaped away. The rider came up on the other side of Rolf. Flint and his chocobo began to pull ahead. The other two riders were running single-file. Flint could see the foliage ended.

There was a gorge with a tremendous roaring river. A rope bridge spanned the gap. The riders who had stolen Alie and his gil were already halfway across it by the time Flint reached the lip of the gorge. He looked back. Rolf was still lagging behind him. The last rider was still on Rolf's heels. Flint looked ahead.

The riders had begun to cut the ropes.

Flint kicked his chocobo. They swayed as one of the ropes snapped free. The bridge began to shift. Rolf had almost caught up.

Another rope snapped. They were only halfway across.

Flint looked back. Rolf was almost next to him. "We'll have to jump!"

Rolf nodded. Another rope snapped. The bridge came loose. Flint kicked his chocobo. The bird leaped into the air. He looked back. The last rider had grabbed Rolf.

Flint threw his arm back. Rolf reached out his own arm. Rolf looked up at Flint as he fell downward toward the river with the other rider and the swamphogs. The chocobo slammed against the side of the cliff and scrambled to find a grip. Flint looked down.

He couldn't see anything but the river.
>>
It was a long time before Flint and Spike were able to scale the cliff. By the time they got there, the two riders were long gone. Flint looked around. It had gotten dark. He looked up at the sky. For a moment he was surprised, then he remembered what Katrin had told him.

In this world, there were two moons in the sky.

"We might as well settle in for the night." Flint patted the chocobo.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Flint looked at it. "What's wrong, Spike? Did you get hurt?"

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

"What is it..." Flint looked around. He could hear something. It sounded like music. Flint looked at the chocobo. "What do you think?"

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Flint climbed into the saddle. "Alright. You lead the way."

An hour later, they found the city, or what had been a city. Once, there had been a metropolis of domes and towers and plazas. Now the stone and plaster was half-sunken into the swamp. Crude wooden shacks spotted with lamps protruded everywhere. Flint could hear the music better now. It was loud and raucous, just like the laughter he could hear as well. Flint drew up the reins as they approached the edge of the city. There were a pair of huge pillars sunk into the swamp ahead of them. The stone tiling between them was dry. "So this is Karach." Flint dismounted and threw the reins over the saddle. "You stay out of sight."

The chocobo looked at Flint, then walked into the shadow behind the far pillar.

Flint walked into town.
>>
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There was garbage strewn everywhere. A few people stumbled through the streets. Some of them seemed not to notice him. Others openly stared at him. Flint followed the music. He found one of the original buildings was still mostly intact. A hole in the huge onion dome spilled light into the night sky. Inside was a riot of music and laughter. Flint approached the building and peered in through a window.

There was a tremendously fat creature like an alligator wearing three golden necklaces. Its claws were thick with gold and silver rings. It sat on a plush sofa in front of a table with a pile of coins. Around it were several men. The creature waved a claw and one of the men rushed to its side. "Yes, your corpulence?"

The creature opened its jaws. Its voice was a rusty croak. "Where is the girl you told me about?"

"The girl! Yes, right away! Here she is!"

The crowd of men parted. Flint's eyes widened. Alie walked between them into the room. She was wearing a tall white cone on her head. Her eyes seemed vacant.

The creature opened its jaws again. "Pretty girls like this are common in Tremeire. Why are you bothering me with this one?"

The man bowed, so low that Flint thought he might fall over. "Yes, your immenseness! She is as pretty as any girl in Tremeire, but there are no other girls like her. This girl comes from the other world. Not only that, but she is a summoner!"

The creature looked at the girl and opened its jaws. "You brought a summoner here? You fool!"

"Do not worry, your massiveness!" The man bowed again. "The Dunce Cap she wears robs her of all thought. She will do whatever she is told."

The creature opened its jaws again. "How would a summoner from the other world escape the Authority's notice for four years? You are lying to me!"

The man looked up from where he bowed. "No, oh most inflated one! I must inform you that you are misinformed! The girl has not been here for four years. She only arrived a few days ago. The gateway to the other world has reopened!"

"The gateway has opened again? And the Authority doesn't seem to know about it..." The creature closed its jaws.

Flint heard a crash and looked away from the window. As he did, a small fuzzy white creature leaped out of the door into the street and raced toward him.

Behind the creature, two huge men crashed out of the door and looked around. "Where'd that hairball go?"

The small creature ducked behind Flint's legs. He looked down at it. Flint looked back up and the two men were standing over him. The creature peeked out from behind Flint's knee. "It's a good thing you showed up! This is the bodyguard I was telling you about! Tell these guys I'm good for the money!"

>Trade the creature for admission
>Give the men all your gil
>Tell the men to get lost
>>
>>4969570
>Tell the men to get lost
We dont have the inferno ozo right?

How explosive is the Longarm? Is the cap on alie secured to her chin or something?
>>
>>4969594
There's one Inferno in the Longarm

You could probably shoot it off her head if you were in the room (not through the window though)
>>
>>4969570
>>Tell the men to get lost
>>
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The man closest to Flint cracked his knuckles. "Hand over the runt."

Flint looked at the man. "Get lost. This hairball's with me." The big man reached for the knife at his side. Flint put the barrel of his ozo rifle to the man's chin. "Do you know what this is?"

The man stopped. "That's..."

The small creature hopped up and down. "That's a gun!" He pointed at the two men. "You know what that means! This guy is an agent of the Authority! Now get outta here!"

The man took a step backward. He looked at Flint. "Sorry to have bothered you, sir. We didn't realize..." The other man nodded. The two quickly walked back toward the door of the onion-domed building. One of them glanced over his shoulder and quickly looked away again.

Flint slung his ozo rifle over his shoulder and watched them until they disappeared inside. He looked at the small creature. "What's this Authority anyway? That's the second time someone's thought I was one of their agents."

The fuzzy white creature looked up at Flint. "You don't know about the Authority?" The creature shook his head. "Don't tell me you're from the other world too..." He looked at Flint. "Wait a minute, you ARE from the other world, aren't you! I knew it! The moment I saw you, I could tell you weren't from here! That's why you need someone like me to show you around!"

Flint thumbed a gesture at the window. "I need to rescue that girl." He looked inside but Alie wasn't there anymore. "I'm going in."

The creature hopped up and down. "You can't be serious! You can't just walk into Denzar's place uninvited! You'll be dead before you know what hit you!"

Flint looked down at the fuzzy white creature. "Do you have a better idea?"

The creature nodded. "As a matter of fact, I think I do. Let's get off the street and we can talk about it. My name's Mottin, by the way."

Flint nodded in return. "My name's Flint. Where are we going?"

Mottin pointed up the dark street. "My cousin Mo's casino." He looked back at Flint. "Any other questions?"

Flint looked down at the creature. "What are you? I've never seen anything like you before."

The fuzzy white creature hopped up and down. "Are you saying there aren't any moogles in your world?"

Flint looked up at the two moons in the sky. "There are a lot of things here that my world doesn't have."
>>
Mottin led Flint through the maze of alleys and over a wooden boardwalk suspended over the swamp. They arrived at a low squarish building. Motting banged on the door. It opened and another moogle opened the door. The moogle looked up at Flint. "Who's this guy?"

"Never mind." Mottin looked around at the street. "Go get Mo."

"Alright, fine." The other moogle moved aside and Mottin entered.

Flint looked around and followed Mottin inside. There were several tables with markings on them. Most of the gamblers in the room were human. The staff were all moogles.

Another moogle scurried toward them. He looked at Mottin. "What do you want?"

Mottin pointed at Flint. "I need to talk to Mo! This guy is the answer to our problems!"

The other moogle shook his head. "Mo's busy. Come back some other time."

Flint looked at the moogle. "I didn't come all this way to turn back."

The moogle looked up at Flint, then looked at Mottin and shrugged. "Fine. Come with me..." He led them across the casino floor to a door where a pair of moogles stood. The moogle nodded and they opened the doors. Both of them looked up at Flint as he walked past them. Inside the office were three more moogles. One of them sat behind a human-sized desk. There was a stack of pillows on the chair under him. He looked at the newcomers. "Sorry, boss." The other moogle shrugged. "This guy wouldn't take no for an answer."

Mottin pushed his way into the office. "Mo! Good to see you again!"

"I thought I told you to scram!" Mo bounced up and down on the pillows.

"Wait a second, cousin!" Mottin hopped up and down. "This guy can help us!"

Mo looked at Flint. "Oh, yeah? How?"

Mottin pointed at Flint's ozo rifle. "Look at that! Who do you know besides the Authority that would have something like that?"

Mo nodded. "So where'd he steal it?"

"Forget about where he got it, listen!" Mottin looked up at Flint. "You need a distraction to rob Denzar's vault, right?"

Mo nodded again. "So?"

Mottin pointed at Flint. "An agent of the Authority is due to arrive any day now to collect his monthly bribe from Denzar." He looked at Mo. "This guy can pose as an agent and keep Denzar and his thugs busy long enough for you to rob him blind!"

Mo shook his head. "That'll never work! Everybody knows that agents of the Authority always ride chocobos! Where are we going to get a chocobo?"

Flint cleared his throat. The moogles looked at him. "I've got one." Flint looked at Mottin. "He's waiting near some pillars."

Mottin nodded. "I know the place."

Mo bounced up and down on the pillows. "Well? What are you waiting for? Get to it!"

Flint and Mottin hurried out of the room. "Come on." Mottin led Flint down a side passage. "I know a shortcut."

They emerged near the pillars. Flint whistled. The chocobo stepped out from the shadows. Flint put his hand on its beak. "Good news, Spike."

The chocobo looked at him. "Wark?"

Flint smiled. "You're getting that bath I promised."
>>
Mottin adjusted the collar of Flint's disguise. "Remember, stall them for as long as you can!" Flint wore a blue greatcoat with a white lace jabot dangling from the neck.

"Is this really necessary?" Flint tugged at the collar.

Mottin hopped up and down. "Do you want to fool them or not?" He stepped back and examined Flint. "Perfect! I'll be waiting outside. I'll signal you though the window when everyone is out of the vault. Keep them busy until then." Mottin looked up at Flint. "Good luck!"

Flint rode into Karach for the second time. He stopped in front of Denzar's lair and slid out of the saddle. There were two men in front of the door. Flint looked at them. "Step aside."

One of the men nodded. "We've been expecting you." He opened the door. "Please, follow me." The man walked inside. Flint walked in behind him.

Inside Denzar sprawled on his couch. Surrounding him were three men. The creature opened his jaws. "Welcome. You arrived a little earlier than I had expected. Please, sit." Flint sat down on the other couch. "My men tell me you have a yellow chocobo. How unusual!" Flint didn't say anything. The creature waved a claw and the attendant scurried toward him. The creature opened his jaws. "Send out the serving-girl!" The creature turned his gaze back toward Flint. "How goes the search for the princess?"

Flint looked out the window at Mottin. The moogle ducked out of sight. Flint looked back at Denzar. "The princess... Uh... The search continues."

The creature opened his jaws. "I am surprised Princess Katrin was able to be kidnapped from the very castle of Tremiere."

Flint nodded. "Princess... Katrin?"

Denzar opened his jaws again. "I hope she is rescued soon. The prince must be very worried."

Flint opened his mouth to speak. A door opened. Alie walked into the room. She was still wearing the Dunce Cap. She held a silver tray with two cups and a bottle.

Denzar waved a claw at a table in front of them. "Put it down over there and serve us." Alie did as he commanded. Flint tried not to look at her. Alie poured their drinks. The creature looked at Flint. "Lovely, isn't she?"

Flint nodded. There was a knock at the door. The attendant rushed to the door and opened it. He listened and nodded, then closed the door. The attendant scurried to Denzar's side and whispered into the creature's ear. Denzar's eyes widened and his jaws opened. "Send him in!" The attendant scurried away. Denzar looked at Flint. "It seems there is some confusion."

The door opened. A man stepped into the room. He was wearing a blue greatcoat with a white lace jabot dangling from the neck. Slung on his back was an O-Mat rifle Flint had seen once in a catalogue. The attendant scurried into the room after him. "Presenting... the agent of the Authority?"

>Grab Alie and escape
>Call him the imposter
>>
>>4973313
Not quite sure how Flint can sell this, but
>Reveal that you've been in pursuit Katrin's whereabouts. She was last seen in this area, with a summoner.
>Describe her state of dress if they ask
>Ask to interrogate Alie.
>>
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The agent looked at Flint. "Now, that's odd. I thought I was the only agent in Karach."

Flint nodded. "I've been following the Princess's trail. She was last seen near here... with a summoner."

The bloated alligator-like creature's eyes bulged and it flailed to sit up. "A summoner? Ridiculous!" Denzar waved his claws. "There are no summoners anywhere near Karach!"

Flint thumbed a gesture at Alie. "I'd like to interrogate your serving-girl."

Denzar's jaws gaped open. "That won't be possible! After all, this agent has come to visit. Perhaps another time..."

The agent sat down on a chair with a blue leather seat. "I don't want to get in the way of an investigation into Princess Katrin." He looked at Flint. "You go ahead. It shouldn't take long, since the Dunce Cap makes it impossible for her to lie."

Denzar looked between the two men. Flint walked toward Alie. "What's your name?"

She looked at him like he was a stranger. "Alie."

Flint nodded. "How'd you get here?"

Alie looked around the room. "I was captured by soldiers after I came through the gateway from my world a few days ago. They sold me to Denzar's men."

The agent leaned forward in his chair. Denzar struggled to sit up. Flint looked at the creature. "Alie, did Denzar know you were a summoner from the other world?"

Alie nodded. "Yes."

The agent sprang to his feet. "What?" He looked at Denzar. The creature finally managed to sit up. The agent brandished his O-Mat rifle. "You knew the gateway had reopened and you did not inform the Authority?"

Denzar flailed his ring-covered claws. "I was going to tell you!"

A whisper from across the room caught Flint's attention. He glanced to the side. A door was open a crack. He could see Mottin's fuzzy head peeking out. Flint took Alie's arm and stepped toward the door. The agent was too concerned with Denzar to notice. As soon as they were in the hallway Flint took the Dunce Cap off Alie's head. She looked around. "Flint? Where are we?"

"I'll explain later." Flint guided her down the hall after Mottin. Alie looked at the moogle and gasped. She looked at Flint as they broke into a run. "He doesn't bite." They were soon out of the building and into the dark alleyways. They followed Mottin to the north edge of the city where another moogle stood holding the reins to Spike and a second chocobo.

Mottin turned and looked at Alie. "Hey, toots! You must be Alie! I'm Mottin!" He held out a paw. Alie took it hesitantly.

Flint looked at Mottin. "We've got to get out of here before that agent finds us." Flint helped Alie climb onto the saddle of the other chocobo.

Flint climbed onto Spike's saddle. Mottin leaped onto Alie's lap. The moogle looked at Flint. "I've got to get out of town for a while after they saw me with you earlier!"
>>
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They rode into the darkness past the city. The swamp ended and turned into a dry plain. The two moons lit their way. Flint told Alie what had happened since they had been separated. She wept when he told her about Rolf.

Mottin looked at Flint. "What are you two doing in this world anyway?"

Flint kept his gaze ahead of them. "We came here looking for someone who can help us control the gateway. Sounds like we might find someone in Tremeire."

Motting bounced up and down on Alie's lap. "Are you crazy? You can't just walk up and ask to talk to the Council of Authority!"

Flint tapped his shirt pocket. "We're on official business of our world's government. They'd better talk to us."

"That's not how things work around here!" Mottin looked back at Alie. "Tell him!"

Alie smiled at Mottin. "We could tell them where Princess Katrin is."

Mottin shook his head. "I don't know if the princess will be happy about that!"

Flint looked across at the two of them. "What do you mean?"

Mottin threw up his hands and looked between Flint and Alie. "Hoo boy! You don't know anything about the Authority! Listen, four years ago a group of Tremeirian soldiers overthrew the royal family with guns and swords like the ones you have. The prince and princess were imprisoned. The Authority has been expanding their reach ever since. The only ones who've been able to oppose them call themselves the Saboteurs. They say they're loyal to the prince and princess."

"Four years ago..." Alie looked at Flint.

Flint looked back at her and nodded. "The first time the portal opened. That was the 'contact' Verona told me about." He looked up at the two moons. "They sold ozo guns to these people. Now we have to deal with them."

"Are you sure you want to talk to them?" Alie looked at the ozo rifle on Flint's back. "Maybe we should talk to someone else, like these Saboteurs."

Mottin cleared his throat. Flint looked at Mottin. "I suppose you know someone."

The moogle nodded. "I might know a guy who knows a guy..."

>Contact the Authority
>Contact the Saboteurs
>>
>>4977871
well, that worked even better than what I had in mind
>Contact the Saboteurs
if they told us so little about the Authority, I'm not about to trust them
>>
>>4977871
>Contact the Saboteurs
>>
>>4977871
>Contact the Saboteurs
Maybe they can provide us with enough information to infiltrate the Authority, would be mutually beneficial.
>>
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"I can't wait to tell everyone I rode a green chocobo!" Alie looked over at Flint. "Oh. I suppose we can't tell anyone about this."

Flint smiled. "I'm sure they won't mind if you let it slip."

They rode through the night. Flint didn't want to give the agent a chance to catch up. Mottin explained his plan as they rode. "We might as well make the most of that costume." The moogle looked at Flint. "You'll pretend to be taking prisoners into Tremiere. Once we get inside, we'll shake them and meet the Saboteurs. I think they'll be VERY interested to meet the two of you!"

Flint nodded. It was as good a plan as any. They rode on. The two moons overhead hung lower here. They seemed low enough to almost touch the clouds. Flint could see the cratered surfaces clearly. A thought occurred to him. He looked at the moogle. "What do you call this world? The name of our world is Arden."

"Huh?" Mottin looked over at Flint. He looked up at Alie. "Oh! We call this world Erym."

"Erym." Alie repeated the name. "It's a beautiful name."

"Arden, huh?" The moogle looked at Flint. "What's it like?"

Flint didn't say anything right away. After a moment he looked at Mottin. "Worn out."

They rode on. An hour before dawn Flint saw the walls of Tremiere. They were white marble. In the dawning light the walls seemed to glow. Flint drew up the reins of his chocobo. "This is far enough." The three of them climbed down from their saddles. Flint took some rope and tethered Alie and Mottin to the saddle of the green chocobo, then pulled himself onto it.

"Wark!" squawked Spike.

Flint looked over at his chocobo. "Don't worry. It's just until we get into the city." He nudged the green chocobo and led Spike with the reins and Alie and Mottin with the rope.

When they reached the gates of the wall the pair of soldiers raised their spears. "Halt!" One of them looked at Mottin and sneered. "Where are you taking this... thing?"

"Prisoner transfer." Flint looked down at the guard.

The guards looked at each other, then at Flint. "I wasn't aware of any prisoner transfer. And where did you find a yellow chocobo?"
>>
Mottin stepped forward as far as his tether would allow. "I thought you said these guys were the best at their job!" The moogle looked at the soldiers. "They couldn't guard an empty room! Or maybe their boss just doesn't trust them enough to tell them anything!"

"That's enough out of you!" The guards stepped aside and opened the gate. "Get them out of here!"

Flint nodded. "Thanks." He nudged the green chocobo forward and led the other three into Tremiere. The city was made of the same white marble as the wall. The roads were paved with red brick. Flint continued into the city until he found an alley. He slid off of the saddle and cut Alie's binds. "Hold still." Flint knelt down and cut Mottin's binds. "What now?"

"Now we takes ya for everything ya gots!" Four burly men approached them. Each was dressed in a tunic and long dangling cap and each carried a bent section of iron pipework. The green chocobo squawked and fled down the alley away from them.

"Gentlemen, please!" Mottin called out and the four men turned their attention on the moogle. "Do as you like, but first, let me show you something unbelievable! First, you face that direction..." Mottin guided one of the thugs to turn about. The moogle turned to another. "Now, you need to hold this rock. Do you have anything about the same size and weight?"

The thug held out a hand. "Will this do?" In his hand was a small silver vial.

The moogle pocketed the vial. "I suppose that'll work..."

"Hey, watch it!" One of the thugs stumbled into another. Mottin weaved between them. "Gedoffa me!" Another one shouted. One of them was struck with a pipe. He turned and attacked the first one he saw. In a moment all four of them were striking each other. Mottin hopped away and rejoined Flint and the others. Another moment and the alley was quiet again. The four thugs lay in a heap.
>>
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Mottin held the pilfered vial up to Alie. "Here, toots! You look parched."

"What is it?" Alie held the vial up.

"Ether. Someone like you should know that."

Alie looked at Flint, then drank it. Flint looked at her. "Well?"

"It's delicious!" Alie's eyes seemed to sparkle. "I feel like... like I could summon a million things!"

Flint looked at Mottin. "Where do we find your friends?"

"You're not going to like it..." Mottin pointed at Flint's feet. He was standing on a metal grate.

Alie looked at the grate and wrinkled her nose. "The sewer?"

Flint pried up the grate. "Come on."

"Wark?" squawked the chocobo.

"Yes, you too." Flint helped Alie down into the sewer. She reached up and caught Mottin. Flint looked up at Spike. "Come on, I need to put the grate back in place!" Spike circled the hole and looked at Flint, then hopped in and fluttered his wings as he fell. Flint climbed into the hole and slid the grate over the hole.

The sewer was vast. The ceiling was at least twice the height of a chocobo. Ancient lights dotted the walls. They seemed to have been left unmaintained for centuries, but some still flickered. Mottin led the way. Alie looked at the ceiling overhead. "What kind of revolution meets in a sewer?"

Mottin looked back at her. "Their base isn't in the sewer, but we can't risk being caught by the guards. We'll come up from underneath!"

Alie looked at Mottin. "I hope they have bathtubs!"

Mottin looked at her. "What's a bathtub?"

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Flint heard it too. A low droning noise coming from further up the tunnel. Flint had heard this noise before. The monster he had fought in the middle of Cold Lake. The abattoiss. That horrible dragonfly-hawk hybrid. A moment later, Flint realized he had been mistaken.

There were two of them.

"Look out!" Flint raised his ozo rifle as the monsters flew into view.

>Flint in front
>Flint and Alie in front
>Everyone in front

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 5852 (1d9999)

>>4979989
I certainly am getting those VI vibes

>>4979990
>Flint in front
These are tunnels, so I assume getting flanked isn't likely.
>>
>>4979990
>Flint in front
>>
Rolled 8609 (1d9999)

>>4980046
>>
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The monsters hovered in place, perhaps unsure of the best way to attack. Flint glanced down at Mottin. "Think you can talk them into leaving?"

"Are you nuts?" The moogle had pulled out a small beaten metal horn shaped like a curved icicle.

Flint aimed his ozo rifle at one of the monsters. "Worth a shot." He squeezed the trigger. The ozo and the Inferno sprang to life. A blaze of flame exploded out of the barrel. The abattoiss shrieked as its wings caught fire and shriveled. It fell to the floor of the sewer.

The other abattoiss shrieked and dived toward Mottin. The moogle leaped to the side. The monster snapped its beak and lunged. Mottin spread his free paw wide and a blast of frost flew from his palm. The monster shrank back as the ice coated it.

Behind Alie, the tunnel of the sewer had begun to glow. Alie stood with her arms outstretched as an enormous tumbleweed rolled toward them. Its thorns scraped the walls of the sewer and sent sparks trailing behind it. Flint and Mottin both threw their arms over their heads but the tumbleweed passed by them like smoke. It struck the two monsters and drove them into the floor of the sewer and continued on its way into the darkness.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Flint and Mottin rose and looked around. The monsters had been crushed. Alie was bent over. "Alie!" Flint rushed to her. He put his hands on her shoulders. "Are you alright?" Alie's head snapped back. Her eyes blazed with light. Her hands blazed with fire. The flames exploded outward. Flint threw himself out of the way. The blast was close enough to knock his hat from his head.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo as it fluttered its wings in surprise.

Alie stumbled and looked at Flint as he arose. "Flint! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to..."

Flint picked up his hat and shook it. "That's alright."

"How did I..." Alie looked at her hands. She looked at Flint.

Flint nodded. "I think I know. That Inferno you've been carrying around."

Alie drew the Inferno from her pocket and held it up. In the dim light of the tunnel the small black sphere was almost invisible. The roiling fire inside it was plain to see. "You mean... I was able to do that, because of this?"

Mottin nodded. "I've heard of people developing magical powers from being around those."

Alie looked at Flint. "Why didn't it happen to you?"

Flint looked at his ozo rifle. "Maybe the weapon channels whatever causes it." He looked at Mottin. "How did you learn to do that trick with the ice?"

Mottin shrugged. "I just grew into it!" He looked around. "Now, if you two don't mind, I'd like to get out of this sewer and go meet our new mutual acquaintances!"

"Agreed!" Alie tucked the Inferno back into her pocket.

"Right. Let's go." Flint walked between the remains of the two monsters. The others followed him.

Alie learned Fire!
>>
After a while they came to a grate and could go no further. Flint looked at Mottin. "Now what?"

The moogle hopped once and scurried to the wall of the sewer. He looked around for a moment. "A-ha!" He pressed one of the stones. Immediately, a portion of the wall near him opened up. "Come on, let's go!" Mottin rushed inside. An instant later he backed up out of the opening. He was followed out by a spearpoint.

A man in loose-fitting clothes with a red scarf stepped out of the darkness and jabbed the spear at the moogle. "I thought we told you to get lost and never come back!"

Mottin hopped up and down. "Wait! These people can help you!" The man looked at Flint and Alie. He looked at Mottin. "You'll thank me later!"

The man looked at Flint again. "How is an agent of the Authority going to help us?"

Flint looked at his clothes. "I'm not..." He pulled off the blue greatcoat and the white lace jabot. "That's better."

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Another man had emerged from the darkness of the entrance. The first man looked at him. "What do you think?"

The second man nodded. "Take them inside."

Beyond the opening was a stone stairwell that led up and up. At the top was another door, and beyond it was a cramped workshop. One of their escorts went over to a table where some men stood. Flint recognized some of the components on one of the tables. He looked at Alie. "They're trying to build ozo guns."

Two others followed the guard back. One of them was a bald old man in a red and yellow robe, and the other was a blond boy several years younger than Alie. He had a pair of goggles strapped to his head. From the outlines of soot on his cheeks, it was obvious what they were for. One of the guards raised his spear. "These were the ones we found in the sewer."

The old man nodded and looked at them. "We don't get many visitors." The old man looked at Mottin. "Why did you bring these people here?"

Mottin hopped backward. "Are you that dense? These people are from the other world!"

"W-what?" The old man looked at Flint in shock.

Flint nodded. "It's true. We came to your world looking for help fixing the gateway. When Mottin told us about the Saboteurs, we knew we had to see you."

"Your ozo gun!" The boy with the goggles pointed at Flint's ozo rifle. "It's different than the Authority models!" He looked at the old man. "I think they really ARE from the other world!"

The old man looked at Flint and nodded. "You must be tired after your journey. You can clean up and rest here. I'm sorry we can't offer you much else." He gestured to Spike. "We have chocobo feed if you'd like some."

"Wark!"
>>
The beds were nothing special, but after what Flint and Alie had been through, they were nothing short of wonderful. Alie stretched as the four of them gathered between the beds. "I swear I heard angels chiming in my sleep!"

The old man was waiting for them when they reentered the main room of the workshop. "My name is Olaf." He put a hand on the blond boy's shoulder. "This is Ajax."

Flint nodded. "My name's Flint. This is Alie."

Alie curtsied. "Hello."

Flint gestured at Spike. "And Spike."

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Mottin pointed at Alie. "She's a summoner!" Alie blushed as all the men in the room rushed over to look at her. "Tell 'em about the princess!" Mottin hopped up and down.

Flint looked at Olaf. "Princess Katrin is in our world."

"And living in MY apartment!" Alie crossed her arms.

Olaf nodded. "We heard that she was no longer in the royal castle. No one has seen her since. The Authority blames her disappearance on us, but we had nothing to do with it!"

"She said she was kidnapped." Flint looked at the tables strewn with hand-made components for ozo rifles. "Of course, she also said she didn't know what an ozo gun was."

Ajax whispered something to Olaf. The old man whispered something back. After a moment Olaf nodded. "You should know, we are losing our fight against the Authority. The people of Tremeire are afraid. They need something to inspire them. They need a figure they can rally behind."

"We want you to help us free Prince Karl!" Ajax pointed at Flint's ozo rifle. "You're the perfect ones for the job. Where else are we going to find a summoner AND a gunfighter?" Ajax looked at Mottin. "And... a moogle." Mottin frowned.

"Free the prince?" Flint looked at Alie. He had promised to protect her. Now these people were asking them to go up against men with ozo guns.

>Help Prince Karl escape
>Forget about it!
>>
>>4981098
>I can help you with your guns, but I'm a lot better at hunting than killing.
>We've got one more friend out there. If he's still alive, we either try to find him or the Authority will.
>>
>>4981104
This. Once we recover Rolf we can debate how or if to help.
>>
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Flint looked at Ajax and Olaf and shook his head. "We'd like to help you, but right now we have our own problems."

"But you have to help us!" Ajax looked between Flint and Alie. "We don't have anyone else to turn to!" The boy grasped Olaf's sleeve. "Grandpa, tell them!"

Flint looked at Ajax. "We didn't come to your world by ourselves. We had another man with us, but he was lost, south of Karach. If he's still alive, we need to find him."

Ajax suddenly ran from the room.

Mottin thumbed a gesture at Ajax. "What's eating him?"

The old man shook his head. "He's just young."

Alie looked toward where Ajax had gone. "I hope he's not too upset." She looked at Olaf. "Thank you for all your help."

"It was our pleasure." Olaf looked at Flint. "We'll do what we can to help you find your friend. We can give you another chocobo, and a quicker way out of town."

"Thanks. We'd appreciate that." Flint looked at the others. "Ready?"

"Wait!" Ajax came back into the room. He was carrying a rifle, or at least Flint assumed it was a rifle. Ajax held it out to him. "This is an experimental prototype I've been working on. I'd like you to field-test it." Flint took the rifle in hand. It was bigger than his ozo rifle. Several features had been improvised. Even with limited tools and understanding, the boy had done fine work. The craftsmanship was excellent.

Flint nodded. "I'll take good care of it."

Olaf led them across the room to a hidden opening in the wall. "This chute will take you to the stables on the edge of the city. They'll be expecting you. I hope we see each other again."

Flint climbed into the chute without hesitation. He slid out of sight into the darkness. Spike followed him. Mottin hopped in after the chocobo. Alie climbed into the chute and looked at Olaf and Ajax. "Thanks again." She pushed herself forward and slid into the chute after the others.

They dropped out of the ceiling onto a pile of hay. There were several chocobos in pens. Flint saw three blue ones and two green ones. There was a man standing near them holding the reins to a blue chocobo. "Olaf said you were coming." Flint helped Alie onto the blue chocobo. Mottin leaped into Alie's lap.

Flint climbed onto Spike's saddle. "Alright, let's go."
>>
They rode out from Tremeire under cover of darkness. They headed east, in the direction the river would have taken Rolf. Their path took them away from Karach into the deep swamp. The sun had come up. The swamp was endless. Every tree looked the same.

Abruptly, they came across a cabin in the swamp.

"Who do you suppose lives here?" Alie looked down at Mottin and across at Flint.

Mottin bounced up and down on her lap. "Maybe a witch!"

Flint slid off of his saddle. "Let's find out." He walked up to the door and knocked. Flint looked back at Alie and Mottin. "No answer." He opened the door. An old woman was sitting next to a bed.

Rolf was lying in the bed.

"Rolf!" Alie pushed forward into the cabin. She knelt next to the bed. Alie looked up at Flint. "Give him the Hi-Tonic!"

Flint pulled the tiny silver flask out of his pocket and opened the cap. The old woman looked up at it. "Eh?" She grabbed it out of Flint's hand before he could stop her. The old woman sniffed the Hi-Tonic. "Nope." She handed it back to Flint. "This is no good."

"What do you mean?" Flint took the flask back and looked at Rolf. He seemed to be sleeping.

"That stuff only heals the body! He needs something to heal his mind!" The old woman nodded. "I know just the thing, I do! Saphrym. That'd do the trick. Oh, but that wicked lizard Denzar stole my Saphrym ages ago!"
>>
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Flint nodded. "So Denzar has your Saphrym..."

The old woman touched Rolf's brow. "If only we had that, I could wake him up in a jiffy!"

Mottin looked up at Flint. "What are you thinking?"

"If Denzar has what we need to wake up Rolf, then it's time we paid him another visit." Flint looked at Alie. She nodded.

Mottin hopped up and down. "No way!" Flint and Alie both looked down at him. "Sorry, I'd love to help you, but I can't be seen in Karach right now. You understand. I don't want to get my cousins in any trouble..."

Flint nodded. "Sure. You've done enough for us already. Wait here. We'll be back." Flint looked at Rolf. "With the Saphrym."

"Oh?" The old woman looked up. "You're going to punish Denzar? Here, girl. Take this." The old woman picked up a wooden rod leaning against the bed. "I'm too old to use this."

Alie took the rod. It was lighter than she expected. She looked at Flint and nodded. "Let's go."

They rode straight for Karach. It was high noon when they arrived.

Flint kicked in the door of Denzar's lair. The creature's thugs fled before the combined power of Flint's Inferno-infused ozo rifle and Alie's burgeoning magical powers. Flint and Alie stepped into Denzar's parlor. The alligator-like creature remained sprawled on its back on the plush couch. Its jaws hinged open. "I was not expecting to see you again."

Flint stepped forward. "Hand over the Saphrym."

Denzar opened his jaws. "Saphrym... how delicious. Not as delicious as you will be." Denzar began to glow. The sofa rose from the floor. A circle of yellow light encompassed the creature. Its jaws opened. "Fried humans!" Arcs of lightning flew from the creature all around the room. Alie cried out in pain as the surge coursed through her. Flint reeled backward from the blast. Denzar's jaws hinged open once more. A tremendous belch emanated from the creature's bloated stomach. "Pardon me." It stunk like the swamp. The vapors were thick. The swamp gas overwhelmed Flint. He blinked. Alie glanced at him. Flint was moving as though he was stuck in tar.

Alie turned. She faced the creature alone.

>Alie attacks with summons and spells
>Alie bops Denzar on the snout with her rod

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 9694 (1d9999)

>>4983454
>Alie spreads fire around to attack Denzar and burn away the gas
I sure hope we're not barricaded in the room
>>
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Denzar opened his jaws wide and began to laugh. "The battle is already over."

"Don't count me out yet." Alie clutched the wooden rod.

The alligator-like creature eyed her. "How impudent. You will make a tasty snack."

"I'm more in the mood for barbecued lizard!" The staff in Alie's hands suddenly flared with light. Flames sprung from it. The gas ignited and roiled. Denzar bellowed.

Flint shook his head and looked around the room. "Alie?"

Denzar's couch spun through the air. The creature flew toward Alie in a rage. He slashed at her with one fat arm. Alie blocked it with the wooden rod.

"Denzar." The creature turned its head and opened its jaws wide. Flint had recovered from the gas. The ozo rifle was in his hand. The barrel glowed with the power of the Inferno. Flint squeezed the trigger. A cascade of flame leaped from the barrel. Denzar howled as the flames surrounded him.

The creature's jaws hinged open. "Aug-ck!" A small golden sphere flew from his mouth. It rolled across the stone floor to Alie's feet.

Alie bent and picked it up. "We'd better wash this before we give it back to that old woman!"

Denzar sprawled on his couch. His jaws hinged open. "Oh, look what you've done to my parlor!" He eyed Flint and Alie and waved a claw. "You have what you came for."

Flint nodded. "Let's go."

Spike and the blue chocobo were waiting for them outside. They rode the chocobos hard back to the cabin. When they arrived, Rolf was just as still as he had been when they left. Mottin leaped off of a chair. "You're back!"

The old woman looked up. "Oh? Did you get my Saphrym back from that nasty lizard?"

Alie drew the golden sphere out of her pocket. "Here it is." She tried to hand it to the old woman, but the woman refused. "You'll have to do it. I'm too old."

"What do I have to do?" Alie looked at the small sphere in her hand.

The old woman nodded. "Just hold it over him and concentrate on calling him back." Alie looked at Flint. She looked back at Rolf. Alie closed her eyes and light began to shine through her fingers. The Saphrym began to make a sound like a chime. There was a flash of light.

Rolf opened his eyes and sat up with a start. He looked around the room.
>>
"It worked!" Alie clapped her hands in delight and hugged Rolf. He hesitantly returned the hug and looked at Flint.

Flint nodded. "You've been out for a while. We got separated when those riders cut the bridge."

Rolf felt the back of his head. "I remember the fall..."

"Here's your Saphrym, ma'am." Alie held out the sphere to the old woman.

"You keep it, dear." The old woman folded Alie's fingers back over the Saphrym. "You probably need it more than I do."

Rolf climbed out of the bed and stood up. He looked down at Mottin. "Er..."

Flint looked at Rolf. "A lot has happened since we got separated." Rolf nodded as Flint recollected their journey. When Flint was finished, Rolf turned away from the others.

"Rolf?" Alie reached out a hand to him. "What's wrong?"

Rolf touched his brow. "I... I need to tell you something." Flint and Alie both stepped closer to Rolf. Mottin and the old woman stayed at the fringe as they listened. Rolf looked at Flint. "I was told more about this mission than either of you. I was ordered to make contact with the Authority, and tell them about the rift being open." He looked between Flint and Alie. "No matter the cost."

Alie looked shocked. "You mean..."

Flint stepped forward. "What else did they tell you?"

"Not much." Rolf met Flint's gaze. "All I know is the Authority seemed to be the ones most interested in doing business. O-Mat expected the Authority would still be in charge."

"Why are you telling us this?" Flint and Rolf both looked at Alie.

"When Flint gave me that Inferno, I was caught off-guard. Up until that point I had been thinking of you two as... well, as the enemy. First that, and now..." Rolf gestured at the bed. "You both risked your lives for me. Funny how things turned out, isn't it?" He looked at Flint. "I'll understand if you want me to leave."

"Seems like we're all in this together." Flint held out his hand. "Partner."

Rolf grinned and shook Flint's hand. Alie hugged Mottin. "Count me in!"

"Me too!" Mottin waved his paws helplessly. "If you don't strangle me first!"

"Wark!" squawked Spike.

Rolf looked at Flint. "What now?"

>"We should help the Saboteurs free Prince Karl"
>"We should head back to the gateway and go home"
>"We should contact the Authority like you were ordered"
>>
>>4985427
>"We should help the Saboteurs free Prince Karl"
Ultimately O-Mat is paying the Authority in guns for the raw material for guns. That's not an economy that will be very favorable long-term.

Getting both the prince and princess indebted to us will make a lot more money in the long run.
>>
>>4985427
>We should help the Saboteurs free Prince Karl
>>
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"It's time to see about that prince." Flint tipped his hat to the old woman. "Thank you for your help." He turned and walked out.

Alie looked at the old woman. "Thanks again!"

The old woman nodded. "The next time you see that lizard, give him one for me!"

Outside, Rolf climbed onto the saddle of the blue chocobo. Flint helped Alie climb onto Spike's saddle. A moment later, Mottin leaped onto Alie's lap. "Let's go!" Flint picked up the moogle by the scruff of his neck and dropped him onto Rolf's saddle.

Alie looked at Flint as they rode. "How are we going to get into Tremiere? I don't think that prisoner trick will work a second time."

Rolf looked over at them. "There's a secret entrance near the west wall used by smugglers. Or at least, there was four years ago. I was informed of it before we left Arden."

Flint nodded. "Let's hope they never found it."

They rode on. It was nearly dark again by the time they got back to Tremiere. The smugglers' tunnel was still there. Rolf had only had to feel along the wall for a moment before he found the switch. They emerged near the marketplace. In front of them, a blond boy with goggles concluded haggling with the last remaining merchant.

"Ajax!" Alie whispered as the boy passed.

Ajax stopped and looked over. "Huh? Oh! It's you!" He looked around and then quickly walked toward them. "Am I glad to see you!"

"The feeling's mutual." Flint looked around. "We need to get out of sight."

Ajax nodded. "Come on!" He led them further down the alley. "How's the experimental heavy rifle? Have you had a chance to field-test it yet?" He stopped and knocked on a door that almost seemed to be part of the wall. Ajax looked at Flint. "I can't wait to see the look on Grandpa's face when you walk in!"
>>
Inside, the workshop was full of activity. Men were assembling ozo rifles and armor, while others were consulting charts or books. Olaf spotted them and walked toward them as quickly as he could. He grasped Flint's hand. "You're back!" He looked at Rolf. "I take it you were able to find your friend?"

Flint nodded. "Rolf, this is Olaf. He and his grandson have been a big help. I think it's time we returned the favor."

Ajax grinned. "You mean..."

"That's right." Flint looked at the boy. "We're going to help you free Prince Karl." He looked at Olaf.

The old man nodded. "Prince Karl is held behind a sealed barrier. You can remove the barrier by destroying the crystal that powers it. However, the crystal is kept in another part of the castle. One group will have to destroy the crystal while another group rescues the prince."

"We'll keep the Authority soldiers busy!" Ajax puffed out his chest.

"You are staying right here!" Olaf raised his hands in exasperation. "Our fighters will engage the Authority soldiers while you rescue Prince Karl."

Flint looked at the ring Katrin had given him. "I'll get your prince out."

"You can't do it alone!" Alie looked at Rolf. "Tell him!"

Rolf nodded. "You might run into trouble by yourself."

Mottin hopped anxiously. "Which group would have LESS trouble?"

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

"Alright, quiet, all of you." Flint looked around at the others. "Here's what we'll do..."

>Flint and Alie / Rolf and Mottin
>Flint and Rolf / Mottin and Alie
>Flint and Mottin / Rolf and Alie

(Choose 2 teams of 2 characters each!)
>>
>>4989049
>Flint and Alie / Rolf and Mottin
>>
>>4989049
definitely not Alie, she's too loud when the other team is supposed to distract. Guns would still sound like it could be Authority troops fighting.
>Flint and Rolf / Mottin and Alie
>>
>>4989049
>Flint and Rolf / Mottin and Alie
>>
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Flint looked at Rolf and nodded. "Rolf and I will rescue the Prince. If there's heavy fighting, it'll be there." Flint turned to Alie. "Think you can get along without me for a little while?"

"We'll do our best." Alie smiled and looked at Mottin. "Right?"

The moogle looked around. "How did I get roped into this?"

Flint turned to Olaf. "We're as ready as we'll ever be."

The old man nodded. "There is a passage that will take you into the castle near the Prince's tower." Olaf looked at Alie and Mottin. "You will follow a squad through the passage into the castle. They will show you where to go to find the crystal."

Ajax stepped forward. "What about me?"

The old man frowned. "You are staying here, where it's safe! This battle is for the adults!" Olaf turned to Flint. "May your task be successful." Flint nodded at him. Ajax grinned up at Flint as they filed out of the room and down into the sewers.

They came up onto the street and followed the Saboteurs through the alleys toward the castle. Near the wall was a tall statue with a crack at the base. One of the Saboteurs bent down and pulled a piece of the statue away from the rest. Beneath was darker than the night sky above them. They climbed down into the hole one after the other. Someone lit a lamp. They followed the dim light down a brick-lined tunnel. After a few hundred steps the procession stopped. One of the Saboteurs spoke in the darkness. "This is the juncture."

Flint looked at Alie. He could barely see her in the darkness. The lamplight reflected in her eyes. "Good luck."

Alie hugged him. Then she was gone along with Mottin and the Saboteurs.
>>
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Flint looked toward where he thought Rolf was. "Looks like it's just us now."

"I think I found the way in." Rolf's voice came from somewhere ahead. Flint felt his way along the brick wall. Suddenly there was a dim light overhead. He could see Rolf's face. A thunder of bootsteps above them came out of nowhere. Rolf quickly shut the opening. The light disappeared.

After the bootsteps passed Rolf opened it again and peeked out, then looked toward Flint. "Come on, it's clear." They climbed out from under a loose tile at the edge of a long open-air courtyard lit with torches along the walls and the light of the two moons overhead. A decorated path ran the length of the courtyard to a tower. Both sides of the path were lined with statues of beasts Flint had never seen before. They stepped onto the path. On either side terrible stone monsters loomed above them. Rolf drew his pair of pearl-handled ozo pistols. "I don't like this."

Flint caught sight of a huge shape perched on the wall as it leaped down toward them. It landed with a thundrous boom onto the tiled ground. Another impacted behind them, and another. The three creatures looked like enormous armored horses crossed with bears. The warbeasts circled the two men. Flint and Rolf backed against each other and raised their guns. Each of the warbeasts bore a rider. The riders wore heavy metal armor that matched their steeds. They carried ozo rifles.

The monster closest to Flint reared up and roared. The riders aimed their rifles.

>Rolf casts Fire and Flint calls for his chocobo
>Shoot your way out

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 4194 (1d9999)

>>4994167
>Shoot your way out
>>
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Flint aimed his ozo rifle at one of the riders. The three warbeasts suddenly broke into a gallop and raced around them in a circle. Flint and Rolf spun on their heels. One of the riders caught Rolf's back with a crackling blast of lightning. "Aaugh!" Rolf was flung forward onto the tile at Flint's feet.

"Rolf!" Flint's ozo rifle launched a fiery blast that caught the side of one warbeast and knocked it into a statue. Its claws raked the tile. Rolf stood up. His pistols blazed. The Inferno in each of them flared to life. The warbeasts were running fast now. Rolf's first shot struck one of the riders. The second shot skimmed across the barding of the rider's mount. It passed behind a statue. Rolf pivoted and fired twice more at another rider. The last shot went wild.

"I can't get a clean shot!" Rolf's pistols steamed as he glanced between the warbeasts.

"Keep it up!" Flint threw himself out of the path of a blast from another rider. "Try to concentrate your fire on one of their mounts!"

The warbeasts thundered around them. Rolf aimed and aimed. "I can hardly keep them in sight!"

Flint spun around. He saw the rider's ozo rifle. There was a crackle of energy and suddenly Flint's body was full of pain. He dropped to his knees with a gasp. He couldn't even work his throat to scream. His teeth clenched. Sparks leaped from him. He heard Rolf shout.

Flint pushed himself to his feet.

>Keep shooting
>Call for chocobo support

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 3065 (1d9999)

>>4995562
>Call for chocobo support
if they're gonna keep running around, may as well turn this into a dogfight
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Flint whistled.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo. He looked up. Spike was perched atop one of the statues. The chocobo leaped to the outstretched stone tail of another statue and onto the tiled floor.

"Look out!" Flint shouted.

A bolt of lightning from one of the riders seared the air. Spike flapped upward as it caught his tailfeathers. "Wark!" The chocobo hopped in a circle.

Rolf spun his pistols into their holsters and cupped his hands together as he watched one of the riders circling them. A burst of flame roared from between his fingers. He followed the rider with his eyes.

Flint glanced at Rolf. "Can't you burn them all?"

The fireball in Rolf's hands blazed. "I can hardly send it at one of them!" He flung his hands up. One of the warbeasts was engulfed in flame. An instant later Rolf shouted in pain as a bolt struck him in the chest and flung him backward. He slid across the tile and slammed against the stone base of an enormous six-legged bull with razor teeth.

Spike raced across the tile between the bolts toward Flint and Rolf. Flint leaped atop the saddle as he passed. He glanced at Rolf as he rolled over and began to rise. "Let's get 'em!" The chocobo launched forward toward the nearest rider. It was the one Rolf has set alight. Flint raised his ozo rifle.

The rider already had Flint in his sights. He grinned with malice.

"Wark!"

Spike leaped into the air. The rider didn't have time to raise his rifle before Flint's own rifle blazed with fire. The rider was thrown from his mount and crashed against one of the statue bases in a heap. The warbeast bellowed and charged away blindly. Another of the warbeasts thundered around a statue toward them. Flint was caught surprised. The rider launched a beam of crackling electricity. Flint was thrown from the saddle. "Flint!" Rolf glanced at Flint as he raised his pearl-handled pistols. "What's wrong?"

Flint looked down. He was glowing with a golden light. He held up his hands. The ring Katrin had given him blazed with the same light. The third rider broke from their circle and charged at Flint.

>Everyone attack this rider
>Flint takes him on alone

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 7734 (1d9999)

>>4995676
>Flint takes him on alone
>>
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Flint threw himself to the side as the warbeast thundered past. The monster's claws raked the tile as it spun around. Flint stood up and faced him. The rider raised his ozo rifle as the monster charged. Flint couldn't get out of the way in time. The air fried as the bolt of lighting exploded from the barrel of the rider's gun. It struck Flint in the chest. He gasped in surprise. The shot had hurt, but he had felt harder punches. The rider's eyes widened in surprise. He couldn't stop his charge. Flint quickly drew his blade and dropped to one knee as the warbeast bore down on him. The three spheres of ozo set into the base of the blade began to gleam and he cut the air with a swath of light as he gutted both the warbeast and its rider.

The last rider broke and raced down the pathway toward them. Rolf raised his pistols and fired three hard blasts directly at the warbeast. The fourth was aimed at the rider. He didn't miss. The beast slid forward to Rolf's feet. It was dead. The rider was slumped in the saddle. He was dead too.

Flint picked up the rifle from the rider crumpled against the statue base. Set into the stock were two small spheres. One of them Flint recognized as ozo. The other was clear and seemed to be filled with clouds. As he touched it, a tiny flash of lightning sparked toward the surface. His fingertip began to tingle. The other two rifles were loaded with the same combination. Flint pried one of them from its setting and pressed it into the empty setting of Ajax's experimental rifle. It sparked as it connected.

Rolf held up one of the spheres. Lightning raged within. "Looks like a storm in a bottle." He popped one of the Inferno out of his pistols and tossed it to Flint. "I'm going to try something." Flint caught the Inferno. His glow was beginning to wane. Rolf spun his pistols. One of them was loaded with ozo and Inferno, the other with ozo and Storm. Flint nodded and pulled the third Storm from the setting of the rider's gun. He tossed it into the air. As he reached to catch it, Spike's head darted forward. The Storm disappeared inside the chocobo's beak.

"GULP!" gulped the chocobo.

"Spike!" Flint swapped one of the ozo in his gun for the remaining Inferno. "You know that might be bad for you." The chocobo looked away toward the tower. A faint pink light shimmered just above the surface of the white marble. Flint followed the chocobo's gaze. "The barrier..."

Rolf nodded. "I see it too."

They both looked around. There were no more guards for the moment. Both men were exhausted. Neither of them said what they were thinking. They both hoped Alie and Mottin were going to succeed. Quickly.
>>
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The Saboteurs led Alie and Mottin through the winding maze of tunnels. They stopped and one of the Saboteurs held up a lamp. Another man opened a section of the wall and peered out. "Looks like it's all clear!" The entrance opened into a small alcove. "There are some soldiers on the other side of the hall!"

One of the Saboteurs looked at Alie and Mottin. "We'll distract the soldiers long enough for you to sneak past. The crystal that powers the barrier is beyond that door to the north."

Alie nodded. "Thanks."

The Saboteur nodded. "Good luck." He turned to the other men. "Let's go." They filed out and soon Alie and Mottin heard the sounds of ozo guns. The two of them raced across the room. Alie caught a glance of the soldiers and the Saboteurs fighting. They made it to the doors. Beyond was another room and a doorway to a hall.

Mottin pointed to a door in the north wall. "That way!"

They entered a long room adorned with curtains. At the far end was a set of doors. Mottin scurried toward the doors.

"Wait!" Alie followed after Mottin and reached out her hand. "What are you doing?"

Mottin looked back at her. "Just going to take a peek!" The moogle stood up on his tiptoes and peered into the keyhole. A moment later he flapped his wings and spun around.

"What's wrong?" Alie looked at Mottin as he scurried toward her.

"Quick! Hide!" Mottin pushed Alie toward one of the curtains that lined the walls. A moment later the doors burst open. Three men emerged. One of them was a good ten years older than Flint. He wore a suit of armor. An ozo pistol was slung against his thigh. The man in the middle was huge, a head or more taller than the others, and nearly twice as broad. A pair of ozo rifles was strapped to his back. The third was thin, hardly more than skin and bones. He wore a skullcap and a green robe. The three of them were arguing.

The armored man clenched his fists in anger. "The princess could ruin everything if the gateway really is open and she managed to escape to Arden. Now we have the Saboteurs launching an unexpected attack!"

"What if the people of that world discover the truth about their ozo?" The big man looked at him.

The reedy man appeared from behind the bulk of the other. "Those records were surely destroyed long ago!"

The armored man nodded. "Their wars must have taken care of any evidence." The three of them continued through the room.

When they were gone Alie and Mottin emerged from the curtains. Mottin hopped up and down. "That was the Council of Authority!"

The doors were unlatched. They peered through. Beyond were a pair of armored guards with ozo pistols. The crystal was in sight past them. It was the size of a chest and glimmered with a pink light. It floated in the far end of the room free of any support.

Mottin looked at Alie. "Ready?" She nodded. They pushed open the doors.

>Mottin uses Swindle
>Mottin casts Ice and Alie casts Fire

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 879 (1d9999)

>>4995847
Spike, please don't experiment in irradiating yourself the same way monsters mutate.

>>4995848

>Mottin uses Swindle while Alie summons Raindancer to trip them
>>
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Mottin strode into the room toward the two guards as if he owned the castle. "Hello, boys! Looking sharp tonight. Very presentable. Listen, the Council of Authority needs you both to go join in the fighting against those Saboteurs downstairs. We'll look after the crystal."

One of the guards glanced at Alie. "A rodent and a serving-girl?"

"Serving-girl!?" Alie's face went red.

Both guards drew their ozo pistols at the moogle. The other guard laughed. "Looks like we'll be getting some target practice."

Mottin leaped into the air as they fired. His wings flapped furiously for a moment. When they raised their ozo pisols higher he dropped to the ground and scurried between their legs.

"Hey!"

"Watch it!"

Alie spread her hands. A breeze came through the open window. There was a single distant boom of thunder, then nothing.

Mottin fluttered toward her. One of the men aimed his ozo pistol at the moogle and shot him in the back with a blast of lightning.

Alie cried out a warning too late. "Mottin!" She watched as the moogle's body was tossed across the chamber. Alie ran to Mottin and cradled his body in her arms. His back was black and smoldering. His body was limp as a ragdoll.

The guards approached her. "And now, little girl... what to do about you?"

The other guard's eyes widened. Alie's eyes filled with fiery light. The two guards burst into flames before they could make a move. They died before they could scream.

Alie was oblivious to their charred remains. Her eyes filled up with tears that steamed as the fiery rage subsided. Alie felt something under her and reached down. Flint had slipped the Hi-Tonic into the pocket of her dress. She hurriedly opened the tiny silver flask and held it up to Mottin's slack mouth. For a moment she feared the Hi-Tonic wouldn't be enough but then Mottin coughed. "Huh? Alie?"

"Oh, Mottin!" Alie hugged him. "You're alive!"

"What a touching scene... such a shame to ruin it." In the doorway was the man with the green robe and skullcap. "I thought I sensed something amiss. A pair of Saboteurs sneaking about! So, you're trying to free the prince?

He raised his hands. "Come now. We can't have you slacking on the job."

Behind Alie, the two charred corpses of the guards rose to their feet.

>Alie tries another summon while Mottin casts a spell
>Fire and Blizzard combo attack
>Fight and Fight

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 5199 (1d9999)

>>4996902
>Fire and Blizzard combo attack
ouch, that's gonna leave a mark
>>
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Even in death the guards still gripped their ozo pistols. The guns were blackened and warped from the heat of the fire. The charred corpses wielded them like clubs. One of them swung at Mottin. The moogle ducked away and danced under its reach. The corpse couldn't move fast enough. The other corpse tried to bludgeon Alie. She knocked it away with her staff and raced to Mottin's side.

"Ready?" Mottin looked at Alie. She nodded.

Alie clasped her hands together and a gout of flame enveloped the man. Mottin clasped his hands and a withering blast of frost buffeted the man. He roared in anger and shrank back. He threw a robed arm up to protect himself.

The smoke cleared. Alie had expected him to look like the guards. He was still on his feet. "It seems these guards need assistance taking care of you. Very well." The man spread his arms wide. His robes billowed. Alie glanced around. The room was going dark. Her eyelids were heavy. She collapsed into slumber.

The charred corpses of the guards closed in on her.

"Alie!" Mottin looked over at the slumped form of the girl. "Get away from her!" He leaped toward the charred corpses and stabbed at one with his tin horn. The corpse slowly turned and looked at him. The man in the green robe began to laugh. "This insurrection has failed. Your fellow Saboteurs will no doubt be on the receiving end of several ozo rifles at this moment, if they haven't already."

"Don't underestimate the Saboteurs, Jelandro!" Mottin and the man both looked in the direction of the voice. Ajax was standing in the doorway. In his hands was an ozo pistol. The boy raised the pistol. "After all, we can show up when you least expect it!" He shot a bolt of lightning from the pistol at the man. Jelandro threw up his arm but the blast from the ozo gun caught him and struck him back. Ajax ran across the room toward Alie and Mottin.

"Ouch!" Alie sat up.

"Sorry!" Mottin held his tin horn behind his back. Alie scrambled to her feet.

Jelandro spread his arms. "Very well, young man. You can die with them!" From his body came a tremendous radiance that filled the room. The three flung their hands over their eyes against it. The light burned like fire.

>Alie tries another summon while Ajax uses Examine
>Everyone attacks Jelandro before he casts another spell

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
>>4997012
>Alie tries another summon while Ajax uses Examine
if they hide behind the crystal, can Jelandro's thing destroy it for them?
>>
>>4997017
Let's see it
>>
Rolled 816 (1d9999)

>>4997017
>>
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"Get behind the crystal!" Alie turned and ran. Ajax leaped forward and raced after her through the room toward the huge floating crystal.

Mottin threw his paws up and waved them frantically. "No, wait!" The moogle ran toward them. As he did, the charred corpses sloughed off their skin and their bones flared with light and exploded in clouds of fire. Mottin was thrown forward. He landed in a crumpled heap and didn't move.

"Mottin!" Alie called his name.

Jelandro began to laugh. "The rodent might have been useful after all!" He spread his arms and the withering light began to shine again. As it passed through the crystal it was magnified and the blast was enough to throw Alie and Ajax back. The pain was enormous. Alie felt as though she must surely be on fire. The light blinded her even with her eyes clamped shut. At last the burning radiance faded. Alie forced herself to her feet. Her vision blurred from the spell. She raised her hands and called for help from whatever spirit she could muster.

A tumbleweed appeared in front of her and bounced twice, then vanished.

"Alie, listen!" Ajax was barely able to hold himself upright. "If you want to hurt Jelandro, hit him with something solid!"

>Attack Jelandro
>Try one more summon

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
>>5000265
>Try one more summon
Thunderbird through the crystal
>>
Rolled 1661 (1d9999)

>>5000538
>>
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"Solid?" Alie looked at the staff in her hands.

Jelandro laughed again. "Strike me, if you dare!"

"If Flint was here, you wouldn't be laughing!" Alie raised her staff like she meant to throw it. Jelandro paused. Instead of throwing it Alie gripped it tight and began to glow. From within the crystal came the same soft glow that quickly took the form of a bird with a snake-like neck. The glowing figure swelled in size and Jelandro's eyes widened in shock as it exploded out from the crystal. The shards vaporized instantly. The Thunderbird took form. It reared its head up to the vaulted ceiling.

Jelandro took a step back and stared gape-mouthed between the creature and its mistress. "A summoner!"

The Thunderbird looked down on Jelandro and opened its beak. From within came a piercing light that struck Jelandro. Alie stepped forward when the Thunderbird whipped its head around and shot the same piercing ray of light at her. There was no pain, just a dull sensation that something wasn't quite right. The Thunderbird vanished into oblivion as quickly as it had arrived.

Jelandro raised his hands. "Summoner or not, you are still just a girl, and you and your fellow Saboteurs will suffer terribly for your treason!" For a moment he stood glaring at Alie, then Jelandro lowered his hands and thrust them forward. Again, he thrust them forward, seemingly expecting some result. He looked up at Alie.

She could no longer find that power within her to create fire from nothing.

"A trick!" Jelandro hissed and shrank back. "You may have stopped me from destroying you, but you Saboteurs will never succeed! This world will soon see that the Authority is their only future!"

"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Ajax raised his ozo pistol and fired. The blast of lightning caught Jelandro in the shoulder and drove him spinning backward.

"Aaaugh!" Jelandro raised one hand and cast it down. There was a bang and a flash and suddenly the room filled with smoke. When it cleared the wizard had vanished. Alie ran to Mottin and scooped the moogle up. He was barely breathing. Alie looked at Ajax. "Can you walk?"

The boy nodded. "Come on, let's get out of here!"
>>
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The magical seal vanished. Flint and Rolf raced for the door of the prince's tower and up the stairs. When they burst into the room the Prince was looking out the window. He turned and looked at them in surprise. "You!" Flint began to speak when he realized the prince was addressing Rolf. "You dare to show your face to me again?"

Flint looked at Rolf. "You two know each other?"

Rolf nodded. "I was..."

"He was one of the men from the other world who helped the Authority take control of Tremiere four years ago!" The prince glared at Rolf. "Come to finally finish the job?"

Flint stepped between the two men. "Karl... my majesty... I mean..." Flint looked at Rolf and back at Prince Karl. "We're here to rescue you!"

"Rescue me?" Prince Karl looked at Rolf again, then at Flint. "Wait.. that ring!" He pointed at Flint's hand. "Where did you get that?"

Flint held up his hand. "Katrin gave it to me before we left Arden. She said I should give it back to her after I got back."

Prince Karl looked at Flint again, then at Rolf. "And this man?"

"I can't make you trust him." Flint looked at Rolf. "You'll have to do that on your own. But we DO need to get out of here before any more guards show up."

"Wait." Karl went to the far side of the room and opened a huge chest. Inside was a sword inside an ornate scabbard. The prince tied the scabbard in place and looked at Rolf. "I haven't forgotten you."

Rolf met the prince's gaze. "I understand."

When they stepped out of the doorway into the statue-lined courtyard, Karl looked around at the aftermath of the battle with the three warbeasts and their riders. "How did you take care of the guardian dragon?"

Flint and Rolf looked at the prince, then at each other. Flint looked back at Prince Karl. "The what?"

There was a roar from the sky above them and something huge blotted out both moons as it circled through the dark air. It knocked the huge statues about like toys as it landed. It was the largest creature Flint had ever seen. It was covered from snout to tail in iron scales. Its eyes glowed with blue fire. It looked at Flint and roared again.

>Shoot it
>Stab it
>Mix and match

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
>>5001429
>Mix and match
I assume it's got aoe breath, so splitting up's the way.
>>
>>5001442
Roll it!
>>
Rolled 3821 (1d9999)

>>5001442
riiiight
>>
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Flint took a step backward. "Split up!"

Rolf dodged the dragon's claws and rolled across the rubble of a statue. He rose into a crouch and fired twice with each pistol. Charged with combinations of ozo-Inferno and ozo-Storm, one of the pearl-handled pistols launched a torrent of flame, the other a snap of lightning. The lightning arced across the dragon's iron scales but when the fire impacted the dragon's scales began to glow red and the monster roared again.

Prince Karl charged the dragon. He was at most a year or two older than Alie, but nobody would ever call him a boy. Broad-chinned, broad-shouldered, he stood a head taller than Flint. As he ran toward the dragon he held his sword in front of him. Flint watched as Karl's free hand began to glow, and a bolt of lightning arced from his palm to the blade of the sword. The blade began to glow and crackle with energy. Karl gave a shout and raised the sword as he leaped at the dragon.

Flint shrugged and raised his ozo rifle and fired his own combination, ozo-Inferno-Storm. The intertwine of fire and lightning seared the night air as it lanced out of the experimental rifle Ajax had constructed. It struck the dragon just as Karl stabbed with his electrified sword. The enormous monster struck Karl away through the air with its iron tail and swung its huge skull until its eyes had found the source of the blast. Its jaws swung opened and its maw began to glow as a stream of blue flame surged through the air toward Flint. He whistled and raced up the side of a broken statue base and leaped into the air ahead of the blue flame.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo. Flint landed on Spike and the chocobo raced across the rubble-strewn courtyard with the blue flame at their heels.

>Everyone performs a pincer attack
>Flint rides Spike up the dragon

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 1852 (1d9999)

>>5001585
>Flint rides Spike up the dragon
keep it occupied
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The chocobo weaved between a pair of statues that were still intact. The blue flame splashed against the statue's base. They kept going out into the dark courtyard. The dragon turned its attention back toward the other men.

"I thought he was on our side!" Prince Karl backed up a step and raised his sword. The dragon lunged toward them. "Some rescue!"

"Don't worry about him!" Rolf spun his ozo pistols. "He'll be back." Rolf holstered his pistols and cupped his hands together until a flame began to flare from between his fingertips. The fire exploded outward toward the dragon. The creature roared as its iron scales began to glow again. Karl leaped at the monster and chopped at it three times before he was thrown free. The dragon's claws slashed at Rolf and flung him aside. "Aaugh!" He landed in a tumble near the prince. Rolf pushed himself to his feet as the dragon closed in on them. It opened its mouth and a blue glow came from its gullet.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo. Spike raced over the broken rubble and leaped onto an overturned statue and then to the dragon's haunches and up its spine. The dragon roared and swung its massive head around to see them.

Rolf spun his pearl-handled ozo pistols out of their holsters and fired four times, twice with the Inferno and twice with the Storm.

Karl raised his hands and his eyes glowed as a bolt of lightning shot from the sky and lanced into the dragon just behind the chocobo.

The dragon flapped its wings and lunged into the air.

"Wark!"

>Jump free
>Bring it down

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 822 (1d9999)

>>5001626
>Chop off a wing at the base
shouldn't be different from butchering a chicken!
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Flint gripped the saddle with his legs as the dragon lifted off of the ground. His stomach lurched. They were nearly vertical now. The courtyard was far below them. Flint drew his blade. "Spike!" Without another word, the chocobo turned and ran up the dragon's spine as the monster rose higher into the air. The wind whipped around them. The dragon roared. Flint leaped from the saddle toward the wing. The dragon eyed him.

As Flint sailed through the air the monster spun around. Spike clung to its back with his beak.

Flint's blade slashed the air. He tumbled through the open sky. His free hand flew outward and gripped the dragon's scales at the tip of its wing. Flint swung his blade again. It hit. The dragon roared. Flint raised his blade to sever its wing.

The dragon flapped its wing. Flint's grip came loose.

"Flint!" Rolf and the prince ran down the path from the far end of the courtyard. They watched as the figure tumbled through the air. Flint smashed against the tower and landed hard on the tiled ground. The dragon spiraled downward and crashed into the statues.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo. Spike leaped free and flapped his wings furiously but dropped just as quickly. The chocobo landed head-first and rocked on his back waving his legs absentmindedly.

Flint could barely move. The pain was enormous. He lay on the tiled floor looking up at the two moons. He felt the ground shake as the dragon struck it. The moons were blotted out by a huge dark shape. The monster loomed over him and looked down at him and opened its jaws.

Flint's face was lit with blue light.

>Flint drew his blade.
>Flint drew his rifle.

(Roll 1d9999 for whichever option you choose!)
>>
Rolled 3707 (1d9999)

>>5002563
>Flint drew his rifle.
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"That's it..." Flint raised Ajax's experimental ozo rifle. "Open wide." Near-death, Flint's mind had reverted to his old ways. When he couldn't take on a mutant directly, he had to get clever. Sometimes he had to bait it into a trap. Now the dragon had taken the bait. Flint had pulled the Storm from his rifle and loaded a second ozo in its place. The rifle's barrel began to blaze with the Inferno and the raw power of the two ozo. Not even Ajax's experimental ozo rifle could penetrate the guardian dragon's iron scales, but Flint had noticed something.

Inside its mouth there were no scales.

Flint squeezed the trigger. The Inferno sprang to life. The blast of fire was augmented by the pair of ozo Flint had loaded alongside the Inferno. It punched against the rising blue fire in the dragon's maw. The dragon's eyes went wide as the blast seared its skull from the inside. The great creature rose up and gave one final roar as a blinding flash from within lit the underside of its iron scales. It toppled backward and obliterated the few remaining statues. The entire castle shook with the crash.

Flint circled the giant monster warily. Spike had regained his feet. "Wark!" squawked the chocobo. Flint put a hand on Spike to steady himself.

"Flint!" Rolf ran to them. "Nice trick." The prince was close behind.

Prince Karl looked at the dragon in wonderment, then at Flint. "You're alive!"

"You're only half-right." Flint coughed. He limped past the prince and up to the steaming skull of the dragon. In one of its eye sockets something gleamed blue and white. Flint plucked the small clear marble from the enormous skull and held it up to the torchlight. In the center was a faint blue glimmer. Where his fingers touched it, frost began to form on the inside surface.

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

Flint turned. "I hear them." The shouts of men began to rise from beyond the doorway to the courtyard.

"Get them!"

"Stop the Saboteurs!"

Rolf pried up the false tile they had used to sneak in. "This way, hurry!" The others climbed down into the darkness. Rolf pulled the tile back in place just as bootsteps began to thunder above them.

"Look! The guardian dragon!"

"Sir, the prince has escaped!"

"Sir, there's no sign of the Saboteurs!"


"Come on." Flint's voice was barely a whisper. "Let's get out of here before they find that secret entrance."
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They made it to the Saboteur hideout without being caught. It was almost dawn. Alie was already there. Flint didn't see Mottin.

Olaf was lecturing Ajax. "How could you disobey me like that? Look at you! You could have been killed! And another thing..." The old man stopped and turned when Karl walked in. Olaf hurried toward the prince. "My liege!"

Karl clasped the old man's hands. "Nice to see you again, Olaf." He nodded toward Flint and Rolf. "I have these two men to thank for my freedom."

Alie put her hands on her hips. "What about me?"

Karl looked at her. "Oh? A serving-girl?" He looked around at the components of ozo rifles strewn around the workbenches and nodded. "I suppose you can start by cleaning up this place."

Alie's face reddened. "S-serving-girl!?"

Mottin stirred in the back bedroom and groaned. "I knew I never should have signed up for this!"

"Wark!" squawked the chocobo.

There was a knock at the door. The guards quickly scrambled into place. Everyone else froze. One of the Saboteurs opened the door. A man burst in. "Olaf! The Council of Authority wants to talk to you! They know Prince Karl is with us!"

The old man nodded. "With both the prince and princess out of their control, the Authority has no claim to rule Tremiere."

One of the Saboteurs took a step toward Olaf. "Do you think they'll finally step down and give up power?"

Olaf shook his head. "I don't know. They went to great lengths to conquer this kingdom. Let's hope they see reason." Olaf looked at the messenger. "Tell them I'll meet them at the palace tomorrow at noon." The old man looked at Flint. "I'd like you and your friends to be there, if you don't mind."

Flint nodded. "Right. I wouldn't put it past them to try something."

Ajax hopped with excitement. "Even me?"

"You are staying out of sight!" Olaf grabbed Ajax by the ear. The old man looked at Flint. "You should get some rest."
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The next day Flint, Alie, Rolf, Mottin, and Olaf traveled to the castle gates cloaked in disguise. When they arrived Olaf cast off his hood and faced the guards. "Tell General Zephram we're here to see him."

"We've been expecting you." The guards pushed open the gates. A line of guards led up and up to the huge balcony that spanned the south face of the castle. When the group emerged into the sunlight, the three men Alie and Mottin had seen before were there along with a dozen soldiers holding ozo rifles.

Jelandro pointed at Alie. "That is the summoner I told you about!"

"The one who defeated you." Jelandro began to bluster. The armored man spoke to Olaf. "Thank you for meeting us." He looked at Flint. "I am General Zephram, head of the Council of Authority." He gestured toward the huge man with the pair of ozo rifles on his back. "This is General Articus. You already know Jelandro."

Jelandro fumed. "That's GENERAL Jelandro!"

Olaf crossed his arms. "Why did you ask me to come here, Zephram? You already know our terms. We want your reign to end."

"Your terms?" Zephram looked at Olaf. "No, my friend, I did not call you here to discuss terms. I only wanted to ensure that you were not harmed. We know about your ozo rifles, and your hideout. Right now my soldiers are raiding it from the sewers. The Prince will soon be back in our control, and the Authority will continue its rightful expansion until the entire world is protected."

Rolf put his hands on his ozo pistols. "You double-crossing..." The soldiers raised their ozo rifles.

"Sir!" Another soldier raced up the stairs and out onto the wide balcony.

Zephram turned toward the soldier. "You see? And the prince? Where is he?"

The soldier shook his head. "No sign of Prince Karl, sir! We searched the entire place!"

"Lemme go, you big jerks!"

Another soldier came up the stairs holding Ajax in front of him. "This was the only Saboteur we found in the building!" The boy kicked the soldier's shin. "Ouch! You little brat!"

Zephram looked at Olaf. "Where is the Prince?" He turned and raised a hand. "No matter. If he is in Tremiere we will find him. If the royal family leaves the city entirely, then our right to rule is cemented."

Another soldier ran up the stairs. "Sir!"

Zephram turned toward the man. "Did you recapture the Prince?"

"No, sir!" The soldier pointed toward the balcony railing. "A vessel approaches from the south!"

"The south?" Zephram turned and looked out over the railing. The others followed his gaze.

Verona's airship descended out of the clouds.
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A huge crowd gathered under the balcony. The airship moored at the balcony and a ramp descended. Katrin stepped out onto the ramp. The crowd began to cheer. Behind her, a huge armored contraption that vaguely resembled a man in an iron diving suit stomped out of the airship and down the ramp. It was a head taller than General Articus. One arm ended in an articulated claw. The other had an ozo rifle in place of the forearm. Another one of the metal giants marched out after it.

Verona followed them out. She was still wrapped in her long coat.

"Your majesty." Zephram bowed. "How nice of you to return to us."

"I could never abandon the people I love." Katrin looked at Zephram. "The kingdom has made an alliance with O-Mat."

Jelandro stepped forward and clutched his hands. "I was not aware of any such formal alliance."

Katrin looked at the wizard. "You will agree to the alliance. O-Mat has mastered the gateway." Katrin glanced at the huge armored figures behind her. "There are more of these Panoply Suits on the airship. And others. They will be stationed here. Do you understand, General Zephram?"

Zephram nodded. "It is a shame your brother could not be here for this... occasion."

"You know what they say about Saboteurs, Zephram!" All eyes turned toward the stairwell doorway. Prince Karl stepped out onto the balcony. "Don't look so surprised. The Prince has to know a few secret passages!"

Katrin ran to her brother and embraced him.

Karl returned the embrace. "When they said you'd been kidnapped, I thought maybe they had..."

Katrin shook her head. "I couldn't risk telling anyone about my plan in case their spies overheard, not even you!" She looked at Zephram. "Get on with it."

"Very well..." Zephram nodded and turned to face the crowd that had gathered below. "Let all know that O-Mat is the ally of Tremiere!"

Katrin looked up at Flint. "It is nice to see you again, Flint of the Control Region."

Flint nodded. "Just Flint will do." He took off the ring Katrin had given him and held it out to her. "I suppose you'll want this back."

Katrin folded his fingers back over the ring. "You should wear it for now. Perhaps the next time we see each other you can return it to me."

"What will you do now?" Flint looked at the Panoply Suits. "Seems like you don't need any more protection."

"I would like to remain in Erym." Katrin looked up at Flint. "According to our tradition, at least one member of the royal family must remain in Tremiere at all times."

"In that case..." They looked at Karl. "Now that I know you're safe, I want to see what Arden is like."

Flint nodded. "Nothing like this place, that's for sure." He turned toward Verona. "I suppose you have another job for us?"

Verona looked at Flint placidly. "It's time to come home. All the troubled are over."

"Hey, take me with!" Mottin hopped into the air.

"Me too!" Ajax tugged on Olaf's robe. "Please, grandpa?"

"Well..."

Alie clapped her hands. "The midsummer fair is tomorrow!"

"Wark!"
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>>5003543
damn, Alie has her priorities straight
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This is the end of this thread, but not the end of this game. Thank you to everyone who participated. I hope you had fun. I know I did!
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>>5003551
Cheers OP
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>>5003551
Thanks for running bossman
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>>5003952
>>5005768
Feels good that people enjoyed this!