Tuesday, February 15

proving grounds

"ASH MASON!" The demon bellowed as his wingspan cut a shape across the red desert moon.

The android paid no heed, and continued his course across the sands. The lights of the oasis of Cala Mondrago shone at the edge of the horizon, the only terrestrial landmark.

"ASH MASON!" The demon swooped and landed ten paces ahead. "I command you to halt! You must answer your Elder!"

Ash stood in place, saying nothing.

"What is this madness I hear? You wish drink that potion, do you? You want to be one of the Heterodyne's attack dogs? Is it not shameful enough to follow their pack like some mascot?"

"The Jagermonsters are living weapons, the triumphant legacy of House Heterodyne." Ash's voice was calm and clear. "To be permitted to consume the brau is an honor. Whether or not my soul-chip can accept..."

"MADNESS!" Bloodwing advanced toward Ash, his crimson locks tangling about his horns as a dust storm arose. In an instant there was darkness and stinging sand and the deafening howl of swirling sands. "THIS IS BETRAYAL!"

Ash's measured demeanor cracked as he shouted above the sands. "I was BORN from your betrayal!" His sensors could not penetrate the storm. If the Founder was ten feet away or a thousand, he could not tell. The sands tore at his uniform. "Your lifecode is embedded within me, and if I do nothing your template will reassert itself over my circuitry! There is barely room for ONE Bloodwing on this Earth! What will happen when there are TWO?"

Ash was thrown off his feet by an explosion, but scrambled to his feet. "Ambush! This storm must be part of the attack! Bloodwing! State your location!"

He felt a clawed hand on his shoulder. He turned to see the Elder's pale skin striated with cuts oozing with his black ichor. The demon's glowing embers were hidden as he shut his eyes. "I am blinded! My wings are torn to shreds!"

Ash ripped open a panel in his torso. Lighting arced around the glowing, impossible shape hovering inside the cavity. "We have one chance." Ash had wandered into the desert wastes precisely for the purpose of testing Qlippothic's Galvanic Tesseractor with his own power source. Now it seemed, it would be a trial by fire. "Tesseraction in 3...2...

Above them both they heard a screech of metal, and without a warning a talon of steel wrapped around the blinded demon and lifted him upwards into the darkness. Ash shot out a telescoping arm blindly into the storm as a bolt of energy slammed into his torso.

The citizens of Cala Mondrago stopped to watch the bloom of lightning on the horizon.

When Ash regained consciousness, he immediately assumed his sensors were malfunctioning. There were energy patterns, but no presence of matter. If the readings were correct...this environment was held together not by physical structure, but by information.

"Welcome program Ash," chirped a voice nearby. "Welcome to the Grid."

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