Railroad To Perdition
One may expect a dark.. foreboding void, the sort of thing waiting for Dave when he approached the obelisk in orbit over Io. But that is not what one finds. instead, Slinger finds himself standing on a lonely, dusty road. The sort of road you see in John Ford films, where the stage coach comes rumbling by, 8 horses frothing at the mouth, the rattle of wood and the whoop of Apache warriors on horseback.

A skin-chaffing dry, hot wind blows by, rippling through Slinger's dirty canvas duster, threatening to lift the brim of his hat to allow the sun to scorch his eyes.

Slinger has been here before. Not this particular place, of course. But he feels the familiar weight of his clothing on himself. He could use a mode of transportation — an apocryphal stagecoach would be useful right now, as would some sort of horse. Really, just about anything.
His hand goes down to a pocket, and he grins. Of course it's there. He pulls out the materials to roll himself a cigarette, strikes a match on his jeans to light it, then cups his hands around the hand-rolled thing. Ah, strong, powerful tobacco. And then he chooses a direction — and begin walking.

Nope. No stagecoach. No train. Nothing quiet like that. Instead, the dweller makes himself known in the form of a gentleman in a pin-striped suit, the sort of suit that speaks 'city slicker' in any language. His bowler hat is mighty fine, his moustache perfectly waxed. "Well now! You seem a little bit on the out-of-the-way, 'Partner'."

Partner seems pretty out of place on his lips.

Partner. Slinger curls his lips upward, drawing another breath of smoke into his young lungs. "Yup. Horse ran off," Slinger improvises. "That's what happens when you take a Bronco out for a ride. Sometimes, you gotta walk home. Why? You have a better way to get back to town?" he asks, with a sly grin on his features. Unfortunately, there's no where to lean. And it's frankly kind of hot out here.

Cane in hand, the gentleman picks his way down the little path leading from the little bluff he's on, to the road. "Well. Thats no state to be, Partner, all out on your-lonesome, what with no horse." He smiles then, offering a hand forward. "Louis Cypher, at your service. I can, for a fee…" A sly smile. "Arrange a ride for you."

Slinger eyes that hand for just a moment, but there's nothing wrong with a friendly handshake. He switches the cigarette to his lips, draws hard on it while he shakes the man's hand, smoke flowing from his nostrils. "I take it your name doesn't come from matches," he remarks. "So what'll be the price for your help? And don't say 'your immortal soul', because, frankly, I'm using that at the moment."

"Oh no no!" Says the man with the weak grip. "Thats so -provincial-!" Says the man then. "Souls… the market's bottomed out on them! Everyone has one, people always want something for them, there's to much supply and not enough -demand- these days." He waves it off as he pulls out a cigar. "No, my stock in trade, Partner, now thats secrets."

Slinger smirks casually. "Secrets. Whose secrets? My secrets? There's nobody to reveal my secrets to — unless you have one I don't already know. Or do you want me to tell you someone else's secrets?" He draws on his cigarette, then flicks the butt away into the sand, where it smoulders, while he casually rolls another one of the filthy things. "Plus, to the spirits, what are secrets? What are secrets to one who can look into another's soul?"

"Some secrets, Partner?" says the man then, a grin coming to his lips, revealing blackened teeth entirely at odds with his dapper appearance.. "Some secrets arn't in the truth of a thing, but the perception of a thing. The secrets I trade in, are the secrets of the soul and mind, how we see things that transpire. For example." he says, opening his jacket, to show a collection of monocles… "Each one a perception."

Slinger rolls his eyes. "Perceptions are something that I'll admit, I never learned the art of controlling. You can be a hero, or a monster, depending on who's telling the tale, and what prejudices they have, and what preconceptions they have. There are those who are good at managing that kind of thing — spin, they call it." The array of monocles draws his eye, glinting in the sunlight, and he smirks. "Me, I just do what I do… and hope that people, on the whole, perceive it as good. But ultimately? It doesn't matter. Because I'm not going to do the wrong thing just because of people's perceptions."

"It's not other peopels perceptions, Kavian, that interest me." he samiles then, buttoning his coat. "It's yours. When you strip away your arrogance… when you strip away your thaumaturgical prowess or your impressive powers of prestidigitation… How do you see yourself? In your darkest moments, in your most self-loathing hour…"

The youth takes a hard drag of smoke at the question. "Next time, ask me a hard one. In those moments?" the youth asks, pushing his hat-brim back. "In those moments, I see myself as a scared little boy pretending to be something I'm not. I wonder what gives me the right to throw the power I have around and try to impose my will on the world. I think I'm Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, like King Canute ordering the tide not to come in. I wonder if I'm a pawn of the megacorps." He smirks. "If I didn't have those doubts, then I wonder what I'd be? Some kind of overconfident, zealous, monster," the youth drawls. He takes a hard drag on his cigarette, abusing his body with the toxins.

Mr. Cypher reaches out, in to the air… plucking a monocle from nothing. "Next time, I will already have this answer, and I will ask what I please."

The road shifts, a shimmering illusion either coming in to being or being cast to the side. Iron tracks replace the dusty road…

"You may want to step back, partner…" Says the black suited man from across the road.

Slinger exhales a cloud of smoke from his cigarette, smirking as he reaches out to take the monocle, and he tucks it up to his eye, briefly. He steps back as well, just testing the view through the thing, though he really doesn't plan to wear it. It gives him a popeyed squint. But perhaps that is part of the quest. Hopefully, it won't affect his 'real world' appearance. That would be uncomfortable. And definitely /not/ sexy and hawt!

The monocle, placed to the view, shows the man for what he is, a cloven hoofed, curled horned, pitchfork weilding daemon with a wicked, jagged grin. "Perceptions. They are so problematic at times." Says he, just as the 3:10 to Perdition pulls in to station, a hiss of steam drowning out all other sound.

Slinger smirks, tucking the monocle away for now. He rolls a fresh cigarette, checks for his ticket, then climbs aboard the train, letting it take him where he is going next. The occupants of the train are surreptitiously scrutinized when he sits down with a view of all of them, and he sneaks a glance through the monocle as he gets the opportunity. Something that strips away appearances and perception, to show the reality beneath? Or simply another perception?

The Monocle shows the train, and its people, as you see them. As they are to you; Which is hard iron, hot steel and tired people; dusty from the days ride, no air conditioning, no refreshment service, nothing…

The conductor leans out the train car… "3:10 to Perdition! Alll aboooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard!"

Slinger pollutes the air around him with rich tobacco smoke, while he leans back. Hot, yes. But it beats walking in the scorching sun. And he's getting thirsty. Maybe they'll have something to drink — not cold, of course, but at least cool. He gets up once the train is moving, starts to wander through it, exploring.

Within a few moments, the train is underway, slowly picking up steam… chuga-chuga-chuga'ing its way down the line. The conductor makes his way up the center line of the train, smiling to Slinger. "Howdy son! Tickets, please." he says with a grin, holding up his hole punch.

The question, of course, is whether Slinger actually /has/ a ticket. Sometimes the Quest provides, sometimes it does not. He reaches into his pockets, searching them for just what he is looking for. Ticket? Ticket? Is there a ticket anywhere? All the while knowing he's under the scrutiny of the conductor. Any money while he's looking, just in case the ticket search comes up negatory.

The ticket? right there in your inside coat pocket. It's a simple folded paper. The conductor takes it when you find it, punching it with a star shaped punch at the right stop-mark. "Thank you, sir, we're about forty five minutes out side of Perdition, which is the end-of-line. Don't recommend you stay there though… not my sort of town."

Slinger chuckles. "Of course not. Any stops before then?" the youth inquires, leaning against one of the seats to give the conductor room to pass. Perdition. It certainly doesn't sound appealing. So this would be the railroad to perdition. He takes his ticket back from the man, waiting for an answer before he continues his explorations.

"No stops before then, no stops after. Perdition is end of the line." Says the Conductor, moving past him now. "This line, she's a loss leader. Union gives the line a stipend for running this line that makes it profitable. Wouldn't no one go this way otherwise."

Slinger nods thoughtfully, takes a drag from his cigarette. "My first time in Perdition," the youth admits. "What can I expect there? I'm on… business," he explains, hesitating perhaps just a heartbeat too long before the final word. He reaches up to adjust his hat. Slinger is not generally a hat person. Tends to mess up his hair.

The conductor eyes Slinger for a moment. "Son. Don't fool yourself. Everyone here… everyones on business. No one goes to Perdition for the fun of it… or…" A glance at the window, a really, rather scared moment of reflection by the Conductor. He looks back to Slinger. "Well son! Got your ticket, Enjoy the ride!" he says, his smile back, plastic as ever.

One thing about astral quests that Slinger has learned: whichever way you go, usually turns out to be the 'right' way, in one fashion or another. The road not taken usually does not beckon; instead, your choices guide the patterns. Everything is leading to this, and seldom is there a single false step. He nods to the conductor, reaches up to tip his hat, and then resumes his search for liquid sustenance.

Liquid. No. None to be found. It's a damn shame, because the closer to Perdition one gets, the hotter it gets. Not unnaturally hot, but close. Women in corsets and bustles fan themselves while gentlemen loosen their ties. Every window down barely creates a breeze. There's a curiosity, thought, as your eyes roam the train. No children. No one under the age of classical majority. Perhaps the youngest person you see is a man who is maybe… 16.

Sixteen is hardly a man, at least in Slinger's view. He'll casually wander that way, toward him, swallowing once to try to at least keep his throat moist. He rolls up a cigarette as he leans against the seat near the other youth, younger than he is. "S'up?" he drawls, in his best westernish accent, before he strikes a match to light up his hand-rolled cancer stick.

The boy rocks quietly in his chair, not quite looking up to Slinger. "Travlen.." He mutters. "Don' wanna go. Don' wanna go. Momma said, she always did says… but no.. I hadda go… "

Slinger sneaks a peek at the youth using the monocle. "Why do you have to go?" he asks. Clues are always a good thing, while he waits. Finding out what it is that awaits him at the end of this journey. "What'd your Momma say?" he asks casually, as he exhales a cloud of smoke upward, where it is caught by the hot wind. He's sweating in these clothes, even though he has loosened the vest he is wearing, and removed the hat as well, at least for now.

Monocle vision! The boy's covered in blood, drenched in it. It drips from his hands, thap thap thaping to the planks of the floor of the train, almost in time to the clacking of the rails.

"Momma'sid don't go ta town with'a gun. Said guns cause trouble. Said leave the saloon'alone… momma said, she always did say.."

Slinger lowers the monocle once again, grimacing. Not good. A few glances at some of the others on the train. Not good at all. He's on the railroad to hell. But the question of what'll be required of him once he gets there — that is a different question. He sucks on his cigarette, waiting. And then, something occurs to him. He starts to look — for a mirror, or something that will function as one…

No mirrors. No water. And as you look.. no reflections at all. No reflections in the glass on the train, no reflections in polished metal. It's very curious, but then… its very likely these people don't want to see the world around them.

One woman's neck is bent at an odd angle, a hangmans angle.

Most of them however, don't have obvious causes of death. The conductor, walking down the train isle back to Slinger though.. He's a curious one. His suit is, around his feet, has smears like people grasping,

Slinger is starting to have his doubts about this situation. He's breathing a little deeper. Partially… he is curious how he appears to others… what the monocle would show him. But for now, he obviously will have a task to perform. So unless something happens to change his mind, the youth settles down, awaiting the arrival of the train at its final destination. End of the line.

The End of the Line. The trains' breaks lock, each car shuddering as it's free-spooling wheels grind on the iron of the rails. Sparks outside, fly up from the wheels. One woman, an older woman, stands up then, running for the door. "Oh lord! Oh looord! Let me out! I don't deserve this! I don't deserrrrrrrrrrrrrve this!"

"Sure you do." Says the Conductor then… "Dispatch never makes a mistake. You just think you don't deserve this. How many years of pitting people against each other, with a smile, a word and a malicious rumor? Don't you remember when you ruined Jessica Gibbs? Such a sweet girl, you condemned her here when you drove her to take her own life."

"But I was a good woman! I loved the lord!"

The Conductor smiles again.. "The lord… doesn't love you."

Slinger… deserves to be here, honestly, by at least some perspectives. He has killed. He has taken life. He has done some things that some would consider bad, evil. But he is ready to stand judgment for them. What would he have done differently? In nearly all cases… nothing, given the information he had at the time. If he had it to do over again, in most cases he would, in fact, make the same choice, and proudly so. He stands up, peering out through the windows, and prepares to go and meet his fate.

It's hard to see beyond the steam and spark and smoke of the rails as the train pulls in to station. The smell of.. smoke. Acrid, powerful, comes in to the car as the doors open. People stand up and start shuffling for the door, tickets at the ready.

Slinger takes a moment to glance at his ticket, as well, eyeing it for a moment. He is supposed to be here, by the nature of the Quest, of the journey. There is always a path, and this is where it leads him. He has his ticket in his pocket, still, filing out of the car as he lights up a fresh cigarette, jauntily looking around. Cocky? Oh, yeah.

Pride goeth before the fall.

Slinger's ticket is marked: Hubris. Curious, that.

Off the train, on the train platform, A sheriff and several deputies are rounding up the passengers. "Lust! Lust, form up at platform 3, hands to yourself! "

"Gluttons! All you fat som'bitches down this way!"

No one calls out for pride, though a small group of them, the old women included, are gathering. Pride knows where it goes.

Pride. Yeah, Slinger is guilty of that one. Hubris… perhaps not so much. But definitely pride. He rolls himself a cigarette, lights it up, offers cancer sticks around to the others while he leans against a support post and waits, casually. Watching people go those different ways. "Wonder about people who suffer from multiple sins. For example, I'm guilty of Lust, too," the youth comments, exhaling a thick drag. "Plus, I wonder if they have a problem with fake SINs down here." The pun was there, ready to be made. Slinger was just the only one with the hubris to make it.

Who knew you could go to hell for bad puns?

"Why… I'm glad to see you made it." Says Louis, standing off to the side, one hand on the ivory hilt of his cane, the other holding up a monocle to watch Slinger as he moves. "Glad to see my.. assistance… was valuable. Welcome to Perdition, Kavian… it's my kind of town."

"Yeah, it's a real happenin' place," the elfin youth agrees. "So the question is, what is there for me to do in Perdition?" he asks, with a drawl. Another cloud of smoke as he glances around at the others nearby. Then back to Louis. Proud? Yes. Guilty of it? Probably — for not becoming humble and begging for a second chance at this moment.

Louis smiles then, a long, thin thing that brings to mind sharks, razors and rapists. "Tell me, Kaivan. Why do you think you are here? Why do you think this…" A gesture to the city behind Kaivan (Now visible as the train simply fades from view.

The view behind him is pillars of smoke rising in to an ill defined black sky. Light comes from plumes of fire rising up in to the distance, like one might see over a massive fuel refinery. Gas lamps throw out a reddish orange glow, but the smell of sulfur pervades.

"Pedophiles! Right this way!" says one deputy. "The rapen' fields just this way!"

Now Louis continues…. "Why do you think this… is for you?"

Slinger eyes his surroundings, which are growing more real by the moment. But he's got to maintain confidence; if he gives in to any kind of despair, then the quest will finish. "As you said at the beginning of the journey," Kaivan comments quietly. "It is about perception. It depends who is judging. From the eyes of certain people who intended great evil? I am a bad person, an obstacle on their way. I had the pride, the arrogance, the hubris to try to stop them from killing — whether it be hundreds or thousands or millions."
"I don't fit nicely and neatly into the machine. I'm a bad cog, a squeaky gear. I'm the cog who thinks he's an engine, according to some. I disrupt their nice, neat little plans, and I'm /just/ powerful enough to actually be a real thorn in their sides.
"But above all? I think it's that I don't follow somebody else's idea of a code of honor. I didn't get it from one of the approved sources. I don't follow any particular God or creed. I don't worship at any altars. I don't subscribe to any particular trademarked brand of philosophy. And I think that makes me unpredictable in some people's eyes. They don't… like that." Slinger still has a hint of challenge in his eyes, though, looking up, meeting those of the Dweller. Not looking down, or away.

"Well." Says Louis then… "I'll let you… get to work. YOu came here.. seeking something, did you not?" A smile creases his features. "What you seek is there." A gesture to the distance. A shaft of light illuminates a palace across town, a gothic spire-like structure. "In the Palace of Mister Follies. You have…" He gestures to the clocktower on the rail station. "12 hours."

"12 hours… until what?" the youth asks. He can guess, but he'd rather hear it straight from the horse's mouth. "And what can you tell me about him?" the youth wants to know, narrowing his eyes at that glowing spire in the distance.

"Oh, I think I should leave some surprises for you." A pause. "And you don't have anything else I want. Good day, Kaivan. Be carefull.. the Streets of Perdition are… -rough-."

The youth nods once, lips tight. And then he sets off, moving through those self-same streets with determination and speed. Heading straight for his objective. Maybe it won't be that easy — but sometimes it is. And the direct approach is sometimes the best one.

Slinger does, of course, attempt a Levitation spell and Invisibility and all of that. Sometimes it works in the astral, and sometimes it does not.

No, it would seem that when Slinger calls up his powers, they simply don't come. That leaves the old fashioned flat foot. The streets are narrow, winding and scattered. People line the streets, in various stages of misery and pain. Most simply seem depressed. Only a few, the true bastards in life, are in active mortification.

Slinger keeps his head high, moving through the streets. Hoofing it at a light jog, though he does stop for a cancer stick every so often while he pushes his body. At least in the physical realm he is in good shape, decent physical condition. Here, though, who knows what the situation is. Always, though, he keeps the vision of that tower in sight, trying to ignore those he passes while he concentrates on the objective.

«OOC» Blindside says, "Go ahead and make me a will power check. First TN is 5."
«Game» Backup to offline storage commencing. Game may freeze for a bit…
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (Slinger's Willpower) + Astral Pool: 6 vs TN 5:
2 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4 5 5 8 = 3 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM will karma that if needed.
«OOC» Blindside says, "Naw. Its cool. 3 was my threshold of not being overly affected."

«OOC» Blindside says, "BRB, AFK 5 min"

The streets get narrower and narrower the further in to town one gets, the denser the streets. The more packed they get. It gets more common to lose track of the palace across town. The shadows grow long, the smell of sweat, the sickly smell not of a workout sweat, but the night sweat of an infection. It's cloying, clinging, the sort of thing that seeps in to the pores. It's a tangible thing, and yet, Slinger seems able to keep his head up.

Slinger wrinkles his nose at the stench, and covers it with another stench, one that to him is far more pleasant. Another cigarette is rolled, lit, inhaled fiercely into his young lungs, his own form of self-abuse and punishment for his sins, perhaps. But one that brings with it its own masochistic pleasure. The narrowing streets require the elf to continually check his position, and he begins to look for a way to get up higher, to see better the route he needs to take. He'll find a building, something perhaps climbable, and give it his best attempt.

A rickety fire escape mocks the people of Perdition, creaking quietly despite the lack of wind. Slinger makes his way over to it, starting his climb to regain his senses, his understanding. Higher he climbs, and yet, there, on the fourth landing, above the ground sweat but below the miasma of the sulfur clouds overhead, there stands a deputy, a silver star tarnished on his chest, a chaw tucked between his teeth and cheek. "Now, son."

"You may be a guest up in these parts, but we don't take kindly to these kinds of things. G'awn back down."

Slinger grins. "Sure thing," the youth says, and gives the deputy a quick salute. So much for that idea. Back down to the streets. He continues toward the tower, or the direction he /thinks/ is the tower, as best he can see it through the narrow streets and the buildings on either side.

"Lookit that." Says the Deputy spitting on the stairs just behind slinger's feet. "Pretty boy's yella." The spittle sizzles on the old iron railing.

Slinger jerks to a stop, and turns around. Yeah, he misjudged that one — he had figured this was one of those boundaries the Quest would stop him from crossing, stop him from moving outside the realm of the path. Steering him gently back onto it. "Yella, you say?" he asks, suddenly looking at the deputy in a whole new, dangerous light. And he looks inward, just briefly. Just long enough to see whether his spells are working — or if he will have to fight this guy more directly. And also, his hand moves downward, just to see if he is armed.

Oh… feel that. That cool, cold steel at your hip. The touch of it is almost a salve, a combat to the oppressive heat. It feels good; comfortable there, an ivory handled six-shooter slung low. Spells don't seem to be there… but steel, she's there. She's always there.

"Ooooh… maybe the little pretty boy's got himself a pair." Says the Deputy, spitting again, one hand's finger's wiggling near his piece. "Now. They bigga'nuf fer ya ta draw? you got the courage of yer convictions… r' ya just gonna slink off down them steps the way ya came?"

«OOC» Blindside says, "Anyway. Give me a reaction check. Just your natural, enhancements (Magical or otherwise) TN four."
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 4 vs TN 4 for "Deputy Draw!":
1 8 9 11 = 3 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Don't apologize :) This is fun."

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 5 (Slinger's reaction) for "Unaugmented.":
1 3 4 11 22
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 vs TN 4 for "KP 1/26.":
1 5 = 1 Success
«OOC» Blindside nods. Okay. You have 1 success on him, so you're moving first. I'm forgoing 'init' at the moment. He's moving to draw. Roll quickness (unaug), TN 5 (big heavy gun) to quickdraw. 3 successes will negate TN mods on the shot. (+2. 1 success draws gun, 2 is -1, 3 is -2)

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 5 (Slinger's Quickness) + Astral Pool: 5 vs TN 5 for "Quickdrawing.":
1 2 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 8 = 3 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "Okay, I'll give you the AP ;)"
«OOC» Blindside forgot about that pool.
«OOC» Blindside says, "Kay. You got the gun free and clear. Give me Sorcery +CP to shoot. TN is 4."

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) + Combat Pool: 6 vs TN 4 for "I shot the sheriff… and the deputy!":
1 1 2 3 4 4 5 5 8 8 9 17 = 8 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 4 vs TN 4 for "KP 2/26.":
2 4 4 11 = 3 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Slinger will stand at 11 successes on that."
«OOC» Blindside says, "Anyway. Go ahead and pose."
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 8 vs TN 4 for "I done been shot by the purty boy!":
2 4 4 4 4 5 7 11 = 7 Successes

Slinger was watching the deputy's gun hand. And that first twitch was all it took for the youth to pull his weapon out, managing /not/ to fumble at the heavy weight of it. And he sends a shot right into the deputy's heart, dropping swiftly into the stance that Popper taught him. Even without the point-and-click interface of the Smartlink, much of what he learned actually is coming back, and the teenager is already ready with another shot if he needs it…

The other man stumbles back, the shot echoing its report up and down the narrow way. He looks dumbly down at his chest, the hole in his star now leaking fire. Small jets of flame licking out from the hole, perfectly centered. "Awww… Puckernuts." Says he, a half moment, a heartbeat before his body is consumed by the flame, spreading out like a sheet of paper on fire, crackling open then blowing away on the wind. Wind?

Yeah… a little breeze kicks up at the death of the Deputy.

The youth grins as he watches the flame licking out of there, and responds by lighting a cigarette off the flame, breathing in deeply. He lets it hang from his lips, before he resumes his climb, heading upward toward the sky — and hopefully toward a place where he can see the route he must take to reach the tower in the center.

Climbing to the top of the rickety building, the Palace of Mister Follies can be seen across the town. Slinger has made it approximately a third of the way there, before being forced to climb.

Slinger prefers up, all things considered. Up means he doesn't have to deal with the smells of the street. Up means he has a clear sight to his target, though line of sight means less. He keeps his gun out, with nobody to challenge him up here. Five bullets left; he checks his pockets for anything to reload it with, if needed.
But that done, he'll move to the edge of this building, and then look for a path to his objective, preferably one that doesn't require him to go back down to that icky street below.

Five bullets appears to be Slinger's Arsenal at this time, his pocket's containing a flat black case that when touched, fold up in to a curious sort of binoculars, a few coins and a twist of jerkey.

As it happens, as regards to routes, the upper levels of the buildings can be close enough to gether to allow one to jump or walk on thin ledges.. if one is athletic and willing to risk falling.

Slinger winces. He's becoming more athletic, but not as good as he would like. The binoculars, though — those are interesting. The youth pulls those out, unfolds them, exploring what they can do — and he looks at the tower, first, and then at his surroundings as he moves slowly. Careful to avoid the edge while he's looking through the binoculars. He stows them away before attempting the first jump.

The Binoculars zoom in on the palace across the town. Now, details can be seen. The 'Rail barons' were a metaphor, a social statement. this however, does not seem so metaphorical, a castle, a fortress, built out of the wrecks, the hulks of steam locomotives.

Ah. That makes some sense. Though Slinger does not fully grasp the significance yet. He puts the binoculars away — and then takes a running start at the first jump, and then the second, continuing onward toward steady progress — he hopes — toward his objective.

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 (athletics) vs TN 5 for "No astral pool — that's just mean.":
3 11 = 1 Success
«OOC» Blindside says, "Hey, you're the one who wanted to go rooftops ;)"
«OOC» Blindside says, "Okay. Go ahead and pose making the first jump; barely."

Slinger misjudges the distance of the leap — but he makes it, his foot nearly slipping off the edge. And with no magic to save him, that would not have been a comfortable fall. He bites his lower lip, gritting his teeth. This is one way to do it, but not the best way. And if every jump is that hard, he's going to take too long to get there… or fall to his death, whichever comes first.

Thud. The landing is hard, very hard, and a bit of the building where you land, crumples off and plumets to the street below. The building you just came from is alight with the sounds of men climbing the rickety fire escape. "Danggum cityboy went this way! He shot earl! Lets get em!"

Crap. Slinger is gonna have to either fight the lot of them, or make another jump. And he does so, trying to put some distance between them and him. If they get too close, then he will have to hide, to stay as stealthy as possible…

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 (athletics) + Astral Pool: 1 vs TN 5 for "Trying again… AP works better now!":
1 3 4 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 (athletics) + Astral Pool: 1 vs TN 5 for "Trying again… AP works better now! KP 3/26.":
1 2 4 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 (athletics) + Astral Pool: 1 vs TN 5 for "Trying again… AP works better now! KP 5/26":
1 2 3 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 2 (athletics) + Astral Pool: 1 vs TN 5 for "Trying again… AP works better now! KP 8/26":
1 3 5 = 1 Success

And again, Slinger launches himself — but this seems to still be difficult for him. All that smoking has taken a toll on him, even here in the astral, and he is breathing harder and deeper, his abused lungs struggling to keep his body supplied. But he doesn't dare pause, doesn't look back, as he continues on his course, trying to stay ahead of the mob pursuing him.

Crossing the area to the next building, Slinger lands hard again, almost twisting his ankle. Behind there are shouts of 'there he is' and 'geddim!'. The air is loud with the sound of gunshots, and the chimney next to Slinger takes three slugs, sending spray of brick about, but leaving Slinger un wounded as he passes out of visual range of those pursuers… quickly, they fall behind.

Slinger keeps going for a while at this pace, finally daring to slow down. He slips behind another of the rooftop chimneys, finally glancing back. He breathes a sigh of relief. It looks like he lost them. And while he waits he lights up another cigarette — luckily, these seem to count toward his geas. He breathes in, waiting for a few moments for his pulse to return to normal. And considers his next step.

There you are. Halfway to the Railroad Barons palace on the other side of town. THe city continues to sprawl out in all directions, but from here, the rooms become pitched, the sort of angle that would make continued running on the roof tops less than.. well, shall we say…. safe. A fire escape leads down, but if Slinger wished to press forward o nthe roof tops, they becon still.

Less than safe isn't Slinger's idea of a good time. He takes his time, surveying what looks like a good route at ground level — and then heads to the fire escape, moving swiftly, yet quietly. He tosses his cigarette to the ground, crushing it underfoot, then heads for the rickety thing and descends as quickly — and quietly — as he can. Twelve hours. He's probably used a good two of them so far.

Give or take. It's hard to tell with no sun and the clocktower of the Train station so far behind. There comes a sound then, on the way down, of metal tearing and rending, you know, like a juggernaut real angry at a big rig. The sky opens in a flash and a train, bent and twisted, falls in to the area that lies beyond your path with a thunderious crash…

Slinger moves forward through the city, making his way in the bone yard, stretches and stretches of burnt, twisted hulks of trains either too damaged or simply unwanted to be made in to the palace itself.

Juggernauts and big rigs… a lethal combination. Slinger mutters under his breath, then tilts his head, trying to find the source of the sound. But that doesn't take long — as the sky opens up and yet another train drops onto the huge rubbish pile. "Whoa," the youth breathes, eyes widening. That was kind of cool — and more than a little bit scary.
The youth slips through the spaces between the twisted hulks, his gun up and ready as he moves, cautiously but doing his best to maintain a good pace toward his goal.

Twisted canyons of demolished rolling steel. A locomotive from the 1800s. A modern deisle with Union Pacific markings. Tanker cars and refrigerated cars. Cars that carry cars. Boxcars and modular shipping containers. The path you are taking leads you deeper in, the sounds of groaning metal and screaming heard in the distance.

And then you come to a clearing in the bone yard. About a hundred meters round, it appears to be some sort of… arena.

Slinger has just about walked into the place before he realizes what it is. Uh-oh. He didn't recognize the shape of it until he entered it, and heard the acoustics of it. A place like this has a certain /sound/ to it, a way that sound echoes and travels from around it. He freezes, then starts to move to the opposite side, his gun out and preparing to deal with whatever it is that he has to confront…

The sound that comes, the sound of hammering on steel. Along the outside edge of the 'arena', large men, bare chested and oiled, carrying hammers. They pound in unison like automatons, creating a steady beat of hammer-fall. Evenly spaced, its probably a hundred large pile-driving men. John Henry Steel Driving men.

John Henry steel-driving men can suck Slinger's cock, as far as he's concerned, but that's not what this Quest is about. He doesn't think. You never know with astral quests. There have been some /hawt/ Dwellers… Slinger instead turns and bolts for the exit, watching the Steel Driving Men carefully. You never can tell with those sorts. And Slinger is not a bottom! Well, not by preference, anyway!

The men don't seem to pay any attention to Slinger as they continue pounding out their single note song. Along the top of the walls, spaced like towers, the front end of locomotives jut over the side. The lights snap on, illuminating Slinger as he runs. A roar goes up from the crowd now, a crowd beyond sight, seeming all around, like standing in the center of a stadium on superbowl sunday.

All right. The steel driving men weren't the threat. The locomotive lights were a nice touch, but Slinger is in no mood to observe the decor. He's in an arena, check. Cheering crowd, check. This means they expect a spectacle, and very likely the spectacle is /not/ going to be Western-dressed elf boi sprinting across a field. This utterly fails to be Chariots of Fire. Therefore, there is something to fight … and Slinger is already looking for what it might be — and examining possible escape routes.

Escape is not a probably, with sheer walls and only one exit (As rail cars fill in your ingress behind you.) in front of you. Slinger comes to crest a small rise in his run.

Then he sees the 'threat'. Earlier, in the train, Slinger wanted to see what he looked like. What his own 'perception' of himself would be. Here it is, right in front of Slinger. A photographic negative of Slinger stands in a haze of smoke, blood pooling around his feet. Naked to the waist, exquisitely formed as if cut from marble, pure white, almost albino in purity. Around him swirl the faces, constantly shifting, of a hundred thousand people, drowned, incinerated or otherwise dead in horrible means. His hair is dark, flowing down his back.

There is no word, no warning. Just a spell launched immediately with a flick of one cigarette, ash falling. Arrogance incarnate, given flesh and form.

Slinger's first thought is instantaneous. "God /damn/ is he hot!" And suddenly, he feels it, his magic flood back into him as he realizes what this is — realizes what exactly he is dealing with. The youth feels his power surge forward as Arrogance Incarnate — the part of himself that he keeps restrained, balanced by what humility the youth has inside himself — casts a spell. And instantly, he allocates his spell defense to protect himself, even while he activates the armor focus and prepares an action of his own in return.

«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 vs TN 8 for "Powerbolt, from Mr. arrogance! Alpha strike, because Mr. Arrogance is ARROGANT!":
3 3 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 7 7 9 11 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 - 2 vs TN 8 for "Powerbolt, from Mr. arrogance! Alpha strike, because Mr. Arrogance is ARROGANT! (KP 1/13)":
1 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 - 2 vs TN 8 for "Powerbolt, from Mr. arrogance! Alpha strike, because Mr. Arrogance is ARROGANT! (KP 3/13)":
1 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 7 10 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 - 3 vs TN 8 for "Powerbolt, from Mr. arrogance! Alpha strike, because Mr. Arrogance is ARROGANT! (KP 6/13)":
1 1 3 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 7 7 9 10 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 - 5 vs TN 8 for "Powerbolt, from Mr. arrogance! Alpha strike, because Mr. Arrogance is ARROGANT! (KP 10/13)":
1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 5 5 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "5 successes. Force 6."
«OOC» Blindside says, "Cast at S."
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 2 vs TN 3 for "D draincode":
1 1 2 2 3 3 3 5 = 4 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 2 - 4 vs TN 3 for "D draincode KP 11/13":
2 3 4 15 = 3 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "Soaked."
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery Pool: 8 vs TN 6 for "Spell defense…":
1 1 3 3 4 4 5 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM says, "How many KP am I down? like… 13?"
«OOC» Blindside says, "8."
«OOC» Blindside says, "You're at 18 left."
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery Pool: 8 vs TN 6 for "Spell defense… KP 9/26.":
1 2 2 3 4 4 5 9 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery Pool: 8 - 1 (succs) vs TN 6 for "Spell defense… KP 11/26.":
1 1 1 2 3 3 11 = 1 Success
«OOC» Blindside says, "Waitaminute. Don't you have shielding?"
«OOC» Blindside says, "No, no you don't."
«OOC» Blindside says, "Never mind!"
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery Pool: 8 - 2 (succs) vs TN 6 for "Spell defense… KP 14/26.":
1 2 2 2 9 16 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (willpower) vs TN 6 for "Spell resist…":
1 2 2 3 5 8 = 1 Success

The mans eyes come up to orient on Slinger. A single, aggressive snarl. His ash hits the ground just as the spell hammers down on Slinger, the power hard to deny, hard to resist. Like… a freight train.

And Slinger carefully allocates his spell defense, keeping just enough in reserve to permit a counterattack. Weakened, yes, but useable. He throws up his shield, which blocks some of the force of the blast — but some leaks through, forcing him to resist it with sheer force of will — and the spell fizzles against his defenses.
And that's when Slinger launches his own counterattack, putting his own energies back into it…

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery + 7 (power focus) vs TN 6 for "Target is unmoving (but not stationary), TN is willpower. Targetting at S stun…":
1 1 2 2 3 5 10 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) vs TN 6 for "Sorcery on that roll as well/…":
1 2 4 5 5 8 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) + 7 (power focus) - 2 (succs) vs TN 6 for "Target is unmoving (but not stationary), TN is willpower. Targetting at S stun… KP 15/26.":
1 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 7 14 = 2 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "I am confused now?"
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) + 7 (power focus) - 4 (succs) vs TN 6 for "Target is unmoving (but not stationary), TN is willpower. Targetting at S stun… KP 17/26.":
2 2 3 3 4 4 5 10 10 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (willpower) vs TN 2 for "F6, -1(DL), 2S drain from last turn…":
1 1 1 1 3 5 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 4 vs TN 2 for "KP 18/26. Willpower karma.":
2 4 5 5 = 4 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls Willpower vs TN 7 for "Willlpower!":
1 1 2 3 4 5 11 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls Willpower - 1 vs TN 7 for "Willlpower! KP 12/13":
1 1 2 3 3 11 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 1 for "+5 for init.":
«OOC» SlingGM says, "7 for Slinger."
«Stats System» Invalid roll: Invalid tn "+5, -3".
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 1 for "+5, -3":
«OOC» Blindside says, "5 for him."
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Slinger goes first. Kewl."
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls Sorcery + Sorcery Pool: 4 + 7 (power focus) vs TN 6 for "Zotting him, stunbolt, F6, targeting at D drain.":
1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 5 5 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery again) vs TN 6 for "More zotting.":
1 2 3 4 5 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "Yech!"
«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) + Sorcery Pool: 4 + 7 (power focus) vs TN 6 for "Zotting him, stunbolt, F6, targeting at D drain. KP 19/26":
1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 11 = 1 Success

«Auto-Judge[]» SlingGM (#669) rolls 6 (sorcery) + Sorcery Pool: 4 + 7 (power focus) - 1 (succs) vs TN 6 for "Zotting him, stunbolt, F6, targeting at D drain. KP 21/26":
1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 4 4 5 5 7 9 11 14 = 4 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Stand at 5. He is at TN… 9 to resist."
«OOC» Blindside says, "Wound penalties count on spell resist?"
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Yup."
«OOC» Blindside says, "Yech!"
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Sucks, don't it?"
«OOC» Blindside says, "Yeah! Thats evil!"

«OOC» Blindside says, "DAMN!"
«OOC» Blindside says, "Dispelling specificaly targets sustained spells."
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 (Foci) vs TN 9 for "Holy shit!":
1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 10 16 16 = 3 Successes
«OOC» SlingGM says, "Ayup. :) Damn… nice…"
«Auto-Judge[]» Blindside (#2329) rolls 6 + Sorcery Pool: 6 + 7 (Foci) - 3 vs TN 9 for "Holy shit! KP 13/13":
1 1 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Blindside says, "k'blamo!"

Knowing his first spell struck home, Slinger lashes out with another one in rapid succession, taking advantage of his opponent's momentary lapse in concentration. And that's when he hits with the full brunt of his second attack, lashing out fiercely toward the other mage with a targeted stunbolt spell, and then he is charging forward, taking advantage of that as cover, he hopes, to avoid any return fire… and close the gap.

The pale reflection stumbles back, staggered by the first spell. He growls then preparing to lash out with a second spell when Slinger's second spell lifts and throws him backwards. He lands in a crumple before the gates that lead out of the arena, fading in to the ground as the gates themselves clank open.

Slinger takes a moment to reach down and pick up the cigarette of his fallen opponent, and takes a deep drag from it, claiming it as a prize of victory. After all, there can't really be any germs there that aren't familiar already, right? The nicotine rushes through him as he picks up the adulation or disappointment of the crowd, and makes a run toward the gates that provide him escape from this hellhole of an arena.

The crowd infact, goes WILD as arrogance is defeated. While Slinger may not be the most HUMBLE man in the world… he's not the shear dripping arrogance of other magic users. Onward he proceeds, now exiting the bone yard.

Slinger reorients his sights on that gleaming tower in the distance; the task cost him a good deal of his reserves, more than he would want to admit. Hopefully there won't be too many more challenges ahead of him…

Magic ones more flees from Slinger as he exits the arena. The trek through the boneyard takes several hours, giving Slinger but 3 when he arrives, but he is also unmolested. The fortress of ruined trains swiftly finds itself before Slinger's dogged pursuit. Tall, impossibly so, its architecture surely cannot exist in any world in which physics are laws and not simply guidelines. The main gates open slowly, beconing the man inward.

Slinger pauses for one more cigarette, rolling it, lighting it, as he steps into the place; he'll need all his stamina once he gets inside. He steps through the gates, approaching, warily for whatever tests may remain inside of here. Weary, tired, exhausted — but still with his head held mostly high, he watches the shadows cautiously.

Mister Follies steps out of the castle now, looking for the world like a simple town mayor, with the massive English-style handlebar moustash, the bowler hat and the watch on a key-fob. "You are a persistent little shit, ancha?" He asks, looking back from the way slinger came. "Done found the rail line in… then ya got yerself away from the deputies… then ya made yer way across the city, through the bone yard and defeated mah boy… and now ya is here. Well, wahtcha want son?"

Slinger smirks. "Persistence is how I've survived all these years, sir," the youth says, politely, and inhales another fierce drag of smoke. "I seek insight into the Spell Shield spell… into the formula for it, to make it part of my knowledge. Is that something you can help with?

"Oh, yeah. I could help ya with that." Says he, narrowing his eyes. "If'n ye can answer me a question."

Slinger nods once. "I will answer to the best of my ability. African or European?" he asks, with a cocky grin on his teenaged face.

The old man stares at Slinger for a long moment. "Alright son…" He shakes his head then.. "Every dawn begins with me, at dusk I'll be the first you see, and daybreak couldn't come without what midday centers all about. Daises grow from me, I'm told and when I come, I end all cold, but in the sun I won't be found, Yet still, each day I'll be around." A pause. "What am I?"

Slinger considers that, shaking his head for a moment, and repeats it to himself several times. His mnemonic enhancer helps. Short term memory. And then he blinks, and then sticks his tongue out at the man. "You're the letter 'D', as in dumbass, which is what I am for takin' that long," the youth smirks.

The man looks angry for a moment, like he's about to actually expand like a balloon on his anger! HE huffs! He shakes a fist… "BAH! You cheated! Take whats yours and be gone!"

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