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Cryopod Refresh 240: Commander Phoebe's Strategy

Phoebe Hiro, now the Head Commander of the Anti-Demon Resistance, paces back and forth in front of six hand-picked leaders of the various warfronts. Her guests sit on rocks set in the middle of the field not far behind the warp-gate encampment's western wall, while all of them face her and listen intently to what she has to say. Their names and ranks become unimportant as she looks at them with the eyes of a hawk. To the Hero's Wife, these people are merely weapons she must carefully wield in defense of humanity and its monster allies.
In the front row sits General Chadwick, Princess Brunhilda, and Corporal Hurent, along with Blinker, the monster queen. Behind them sits Lieutenant Samuel and Elder Skarde.
General Chadwick, Neil's number one. A black-haired Norwegian with a thick, three-inch-long beard. He wears a long, thin black coat, one designed to allow the air to cool him during the summertime, while his navy-blue military uniform underneath gives him a commanding presence. Chadwick's six-plus-foot height, in addition to his giant muscles and rotund belly, makes him stand out among all the others present. In social situations, he is the one who defeats his drinking opponents, while in grave situations, he is the strong and silent type.
Brunhilda, the Felorian princess. A chocolate-skinned, well-proportioned warrior with long white hair and countless white tattoos across her face and body. She wears only an animal-skin bra and loincloth, revealing her muscled abs and arms. As a tribeswoman, her domineering attitude comes not from stuck-up haughtiness, but from two decades of careful grooming by her parents, the former King and Queen of planet Feloria. Having bowed and acquiesced to the demons her whole life, she now sits and faces the Hero's Wife with a grave expression, knowing she may soon perish in battle while protecting her planet's tribes. At the least, she may enable a new future for her people, one where they no longer cower at the feet of their demonic oppressors.
Corporal Hurent, a decorated veteran with several military accomplishments. Her black hair sits in a ponytail, draped over her left shoulder, while Blinker sits on her right. Combined with her smooth, olive-green military uniform, and lightly bronzed white skin, she appears almost like a shorter, more tomboyish version of General Chadwick. Not bothering with makeup, she has a 'harder' edge to her appearance than Phoebe or Brunhilda, yet her eyes reveal she longs for the war to end. Battle is not in her nature, but merely her current call to action.
Blinker, the Monster Queen. She wears a tiny little set of cream-colored battle armor, crafted in advance by her mother two years prior. Her bright red hair contrasts with the white armor to give her the appearance of a cute little Valkyrie. When combined with her moth-like wings, the trifecta completes itself, making her resemble a battle-angel. Blinker sits on Corporal Hurent's right shoulder, the two of them somewhat close thanks to their interactions over the past few years.
Lieutenant Samuel, a hard-nosed man with a violent past. The ebony-skinned soldier sports several dreadlocks and a mean scar going across his forehead. He rests his elbows on his legs and leans forward, a look of intense concentration on his face. Combined with his camouflage-fatigues, he looks ready to step into the jungle and disappear amongst its foliage. Few of the leaders gathered have anywhere near the same intense look in their eyes, a testament to how much he hates the demons and what they've taken from him.
Finally, Elder Skarde, one of several tribal elders from the planet Locklorn. As their designated envoy, Skarde speaks for all the people of his world. His skin appears the darkest of all, giving him a rich, coal-colored hue capable of blending in with the night. Skarde's carefully maintained, short-cropped hair combines with his purple and gold robes to give him the air of a merchant king, one with money flowing like rivers. A peaceful man, Elder Skarde nevertheless sets aside his misgivings for the sake of his world. While he might prefer seeking peace with the demons and forgiving their transgressions, he likewise would never consider rolling over and letting them destroy his extended family. He draws a hard line in the sand, one he will never let the demons cross.
With all six of the most important leaders assembled before Phoebe, the recently promoted Tarus II Commander begins pacing back and forth.
"Thank you all for coming. I'd like to have gathered more people, but it's probably best if you simply relay today's briefings to the relevant subordinates. We don't have much time to waste, so I'll get right down to business."
Phoebe shoots a glance at the walls of the warp-gate encampment, listening for a moment to hear if any battles have broken out due to the warp-gate's unexpected opening. Luckily, everything remains quiet and calm.
"I don't know how long we have before the demons clear out the Core, but I do know they will, eventually," Phoebe begins, as she returns her attention to those assembled. "The question afterward is how long we have until the demons get the warp-gates back online."
Corporal Hurent raises her hand. "Commander, one thing has been bothering me. We destroyed the computers which control the Core's warp-gates. How can the demons reactivate them? Without the Core's server infrastructure, won't it be impossible for the demons to calculate Tarus II's travel vectors?"
The Corporal's question, prodding at the very nature of warp-gate travel, elicits several nods from the other leaders. After all, from what they understand, calculating the relative position of a planet in the vastness of space, its orbital position, its current facing, and the exact position of the warp-gate on said planet should be impossible without a vast amount of computing power to assist.
However, to the assembled leaders' surprise, Phoebe shakes her head. "Our opponent is no ordinary demoness. She is Ose, the Emperor of Infiltration, and the creator of warp-gate technology. Co-creator, technically, but a distinction which matters little in this context. I've spoken with Samantha on several occasions regarding Ose, and everything she's had to say about our enemy's abilities left me feeling shaken and worried. Ose's brain functions on a level far beyond ours, with unmuddled thoughts capable of computing information thousands of times more quickly than anyone else. She is, essentially, a living bio-computer."
Continuing, Phoebe adds, "Further, my husband once used Solomon's Crown to calculate the jump-vectors from Tarus II's warp-gate back to the Core. Kar watched him do it. If Jason can perform such a feat, I imagine the creator of warp-gate technology can do so as well."
The Commander's words end that line of questioning by the other generals. They fall silent and listen as Phoebe continues with her original train of thought.
Phoebe clears her throat. "Ahem. The battle for the Core was over far faster than anyone, especially Neil, first thought possible. Our enemies caught us off-guard with their new, armored soldiers. It seems likely they won't have any more of those terrifying Baron-level bastards available to hit us with, but we should naturally prepare for them. In the meantime, shifting to open terrain instead of the enclosed corridors of the Core will benefit humanity's forces greatly. Our weapons work best when engaging our enemies from a distance. The further they have to travel, the more time we have to kill them before they close the gap."
After pausing for a moment to rifle through her bag, Phoebe pulls out a tiny dime-sized device and presses it against the side of her head, just above her right ear. A small red LED on its side blinks twice once attached, then turns off. Afterward, she pulls out a baseball-shaped mechanical object, then lightly tosses it into the air. Elder Skarde and Brunhilda both reflexively flinch when the device doesn't fall to the ground, but instead stops in midair and hovers next to Phoebe.
"This is my Hovering Personal Assistant. I call him 'Happy.' Happy helps me with all sorts of things, but today, he'll be helping all of you to understand my thoughts."
Phoebe concentrates for a moment. She transmits images from her brain through the device stuck to her head and into Happy. In turn, the hovering metal baseball bobs in the air for a moment before beaming out a projected image of Tarus II's landscape, primarily the 20-mile range around and between Hero City and the warp-gate encampment.
The other leaders watch in fascinated silence as Phoebe points toward a small mountain range just over a mile north of the warpgate encampment. "This location is known as the Sphinx Mountain Range, and is going to be a critically important asset we must protect once the demons invade. How many of you have visited it before?"
Elder Skarde and Samuel both shake their heads. General Chadwick, Corporal Hurent, and Blinker all offer hesitant nods, while Brunhilda's are the most emphatic of all. Upon noticing the recognition in the Felorian Princess's eyes, Phoebe smiles. "Brunhilda, what makes you so familiar with that region?"
"I enjoy climbing mountains to gaze at the world from their vistas," Brunhilda replies. "Since that region offers a breathtaking view of the distant ocean, I have scaled it numerous times."
Phoebe's smile stretches further. "Did you ever happen to notice the artillery battlement I built there?"
A look of surprise appears on Brunhilda's face. The Felorian Princess scratches her head sheepishly. "Ah, no? What do you mean, Commander Hiro?"
"Three years ago, Jason and I worked together to build several fortifications for Tarus II. One of those happened to be a network of long range auto-cannon installations in the Sphinx Mountain Range. Observe."
Phoebe's robo-assistant, Happy, releases a cute high-pitched chirp. "Beep-boop!"
Immediately, a second hologram appears, one of a gigantic gun more than a hundred feet tall, with three cannon barrels aimed diagonally into the sky. The whole thing rests upon a square turret base, with rotatable joints and motors allowing it to adjust its firing angle and distance. The menacing weapon makes all of the leaders gathered raise their eyebrows in surprise.
"Wow!" Blinker gasps. "Phoebe, you built that thing? It's huge!"
Chadwick stands up and walks closer to more carefully scrutinize the artillery cannon. "Very impressive. Why have I heard nothing about this?"
"Because it's one of my many secret weapons," Phoebe says, a tricky smile playing upon her lips. "I call it a King Cannon. We've always worried about demonic spies in our ranks. Bad actors among our fellow humans and monsters might also be an issue, too. I built these cannons in absolute secrecy, telling only Jason and Solomon. Not even Samantha knows of their existence."
Elder Skarde snorts. "Just as well."
"Samantha will never betray humanity," Phoebe snaps, glaring viciously at the elder. "Don't think I've forgotten some of the hurtful things you said. I'd advise you to keep your mouth shut about her if you don't want my foot shoved where the sun doesn't shine."
Chadwick remains silent. As one of Neil's closest confidantes, he too has no trust for the succubus. Still, he knows better than to disparage her in front of Phoebe, especially given the circumstances.
"Ahem," Lieutenant Samuel clears his throat. "If I may. You mentioned cannons, plural. How many of these have you built?"
Phoebe turns away from Skarde to look at Samuel behind him. "Ten. They function by firing shells over long distances which explode shortly before striking the ground. These explosions release hundreds of iron rods, each one capable of stabbing through even the heaviest armor. No demon will be able to withstand a shelling from the King Cannons. I have several other types of ammunition present as well, including explosive munitions, poison gas, and acid for melting flesh. Needless to say, we must ensure our troops don't get caught in the crossfire."
"And," Phoebe adds, "that is one of the biggest problems we face. The King Cannons are explosively powerful and more than capable of turning tens of thousands of demons into puddles of blood. However, they lack precision. They're a double-edged sword capable of harming our soldiers. I plan to use them only if our troops fail to prevent the demons' advance from the warp-gate. That's why I will now move on to the next strategic point."
Commander Hiro disables the hologram for the King Cannon while Chadwick takes his seat. She returns to the original hologram, the one showing Tarus II's topography.
"On the north side of Hero City we have ten Covenant ships to protect. On the south side are the Pyramids. On the east, we have a mixture of forested woodlands and some hilly terrain. Between Hero City and the Warp-gate Encampment, we have the Horned Forest, with all manner of vicious predators hiding amongst its trees, and the vast open plains where we will most likely engage with demonkind if they take over the encampment. Looking at the encampment itself, we have the King Cannons to the north, Tarus II's great ocean to the west, and finally the southern side."
Phoebe clears her throat. "Here, we run into another problem. Some of you may not be familiar with the southern region, as we rarely go there. It's filled with canyons and ravines deep enough to kill anyone if they should stumble inside. The deepest one reaches half a mile into the planet's crust, so, needless to say, not many people go there. However, it is also home to another of my secret facilities."
"Another?" Corporal Hurent asks, her jaw turning slack. "Just how many facilities have you built?"
Phoebe's smile dims. "Too many to handle on my own, but not enough to guarantee our safety."
That reply makes the Corporal close her mouth and nod along silently. Phoebe continues by activating another hologram, this time showing a massive network of buildings carved into the side of a ravine. The facility stretches far enough into the distance that it goes past the edge of the hologram where nobody can see its end.
"By the Creator..." Lieutenant Samuel mutters. "You've been holding out on us."
"Indeed. This facility is one I haven't even told Jason about. I built it by myself."
Phoebe's casual attitude stuns everyone present. Blinker jumps off Corporal Hurent's shoulder and flies over to Phoebe. "What?! How could you build all that by yourself? That's impossible!"
While the fairy buzzes around the hologram with wide-open eyes, Phoebe chuckles. "Believe me, I did. Don't you remember six years ago, when Jason used to build houses and apartments for people with his Wordsmithing? I created a tool that could synthesize simple square structures out of energy, one which could project and build walls, ceilings, and floors. I built this facility with an upgraded version of that device."
A huge, giddy smile spreads across Chadwick's face. "Absolutely amazing. I never imagined we had a facility like this at our disposal, nor that you would be its sole builder. What is its function, Commander Hiro? Why did you build it in such an out-of-the-way location?"
"It's not out-of-the-way at all," Phoebe clarifies. "This facility's purpose is to create war-machines capable of leveling battlefields, and so I needed it somewhere close where I could send them barreling toward the front lines within minutes. That Planet-Walker I demonstrated earlier came from here, as well as many similar machines. I wanted to ensure we had extremely powerful trump cards prepared, should the demons ever invade. Secrecy was even more important, as I couldn't chance the demons learning of their existence."
Corporal Hurent raises her hand. "Hold on a moment. Regarding not only this robot-creation-facility, but also the King Cannons, how can we train enough people to pilot and control your machines? Those cannons look like they will require countless soldiers to aim and fire them, while the robots you've constructed will doubtless require intense training to use them to their fullest capacity. Have you trained anyone in secret as pilots? Or, perhaps... might these machines be fully autonomous?"
"Neither," Phoebe replies. "The Planet-walkers and other mecha are, indeed, autonomous, but I will require pilots inside them for target designation purposes. Each robot is capable of basic decision-making, but a human in the cockpit is our surest bet for strategically taking out demons wherever they appear. As for the King Cannons, the situation is similar. I will require a few personnel to man them for the sake of designating targets, but their roles will be minor. A bigger issue comes from fuel and munition supplies, which is the next thing I'd like to mention."
Phoebe waves away the southern facility's hologram, returning to the topographical Tarus II map.
"Look here. The King Cannons are immensely powerful, but they are also fragile. Once the demons figure out the cannons' location, if they choose to attack them, they can easily destroy them. I've protected the King Cannons, as well as my southern facility, with holographic obfuscation technology. Even up close, it's nearly impossible to locate the cannons, but every time they fire, the stealth net will go down for a moment, revealing their position. This will make it easy for the demons to find and destroy them."
Blinker nods. "Like Ose's mansion."
"Additionally," Phoebe continues, "the King Cannons have limited ammunition available. I always envisioned them as being supplementary to Jason and Hope's power, giving us a powerful area-attack, but with the Wordsmiths missing, they will end up being our primary suppression device against the demons. If so, then we'll need to establish munition supply lines to keep them continuously firing at all times. The supply line will come from the east side of Hero City up along the northern border until it reaches the Horned Forest. From there, it will continue until it reaches the Sphinx Mountain Range, where the personnel we place can take the shells and reload the King Cannons. At any point, demons might disrupt this supply line, thus rendering the cannons useless. Without ammunition, they will be little more than giant, decorative statues atop the mountains."
Brunhilda pipes up. "So, you wish for me to take control of protecting the King Cannons?"
"That's right. While the number of personnel required to operate the King Cannons is minimal, we will need a substantial number of troops available to guard the mountains themselves from demonic attacks. Think you're up to the task?"
"Naturally," Brunhilda replies.
Phoebe nods. "Good. I have some positive news to report as well, which you all will doubtless find comforting."
She touches the hologram and draws a circle around the warp-gate encampment. "I came up with a temporary fix for the burrower problem. I didn't want them to easily breach our lines by burrowing under us, so I cobbled together a few experimental devices. I call them 'seismic mines.' They detonate when they detect seismic activity nearby. If the Burrowers try to dig a tunnel near a seismic mine, they will perish a quick, explosive death."
Blinker lands on Phoebe's shoulder. "When the heck did you make those?"
"Today," Phoebe says. "Took me about eight hours. I only synthesized a couple hundred of them, and I attached them to mechanical moles to ensure they end up deep beneath our feet. However, given my limited amount of time, I only managed to surround the warp-gate encampment with them, as well as place a few beneath Hero City. Once a few Burrowers explode, they'll doubtless be able to continue forward, unabated. Luckily, the sensors will still give me an idea of where they're headed."
"You think of everything." Brunhilda says, admiration in her eyes.
"I wish that were the case. I'm only human, so I can't anticipate a demon's thought processes. Doubtless, Ose is sure to find a gap in our defenses. Don't get starry-eyed on me, not unless we actually survive this awful war."
Once again, Phoebe points at the holographic map. "Look over here, to the west of the encampment. There are thirty-seven miles of unprotected land between here and the ocean. If the demons escape in that direction, they'll be able to spread out and go around our borders, as I haven't built any defenses in that area. The King Cannons can certainly fire that far, but their accuracy and coverage will decrease substantially. Lieutenant Samuel, I'll rely on you to keep an eye on the western and southern sides of the encampment, while Princess Brunhilda will be in charge of guarding the Sphinx Mountains to the north. We cannot let the demons stake out a safe haven to the west. If they do, they'll likely summon countless portals to the Labyrinth, removing our chokepoint advantage. We have to keep them pinned down at the Tarus II warp-gate, or else they will rapidly overwhelm us with numbers."
Samuel nods. "As long as I get to kill bloodskins, you can count me in."
Phoebe frowns. "Demons, Lieutenant. Demons. Enough with the god-damned slurs."
"I don't care if you like my language or not," Samuel says, his face emotionless. "Bloodskins killed my brother. They butchered him like livestock. Don't preach to me that compassion nonsense. In my eyes, they're all filthy animals in need of extermination."
"Demons tortured my people for countless generations," Elder Skarde chimes in. "We have known nothing but fear and subservience to the bloodskins my whole life. Commander Phoebe, you may feel some twinge of compassion for the murderous wretches, but we do not. We only fight the bastards because of the horrors they've exacted upon us. If you want our help, then you will find a way to deal with our feelings."
After seeing the other two leaders stand up for their beliefs, Chadwick adds his two cents. "With all due respect, Commander, how many demons do you know who are righteous and pure? One? Ten? A hundred? You may have the utmost faith in Belial and others like her, but we do not. I have fought alongside Neil and Hope countless times when rescuing human slaves from the core. Some of the things I saw..."
The General starts to fall silent, only to notice a look of curiosity in the faces of Elder Skarde and Princess Brunhilda, both of whom have never stepped foot in the Labyrinth except for its Core.
"I saw a young man who was half-dead," Chadwick mutters, his voice low. "the poor kid had all the skin on his back melted and fused together. His bloodskin tormentor pressed him against a wall after burning him, then left him there, with his skin stuck to the stone. When Hope found him, the boy was half-dead and delirious with pain. It took Hope fifteen minutes of Wordsmithing to heal the boy's injuries. The lad later killed himself because of the lasting mental pain we couldn't erase."
General Chadwick glances at Phoebe, noticing with interest that for once, she doesn't appear angry at his words. "That boy was not the exception, but the rule. The bloodskins treat us worse than cattle, worse than bugs. They enjoy our suffering. I see no way we can ever truly cohabit with them. Perhaps you might be capable of picking out one or two decent ones, but the rest are all irredeemable, violent psychopaths. We must eradicate them for the good of the galaxy."
Despite a three-pronged verbal assault from Samuel, Elder Skarde, and Chadwick, Phoebe appears unmoved.
"Do you think I don't know all that?"
Commander Hiro tilts her chin up slightly, allowing her to look down upon the still-seated Chadwick.
"I'm well aware of the atrocities demons have committed. I am not Jason, and as such, I don't believe in trying to save all, or even most of them. My husband is a good man. He tries to look at demons as sinners, those who were led astray early in their history. They were born from bloodshed, and so that is all they know. Or so Jason claims."
Phoebe raises her hand and waggles a finger. "I do not think the same thoughts as Jason, General Chadwick. I do not believe demons are necessarily redeemable, but I do believe that they are not irredeemable. That is why I find myself disgusted when you refer to them with such gross, offensive slurs. Not because I think your hatred is misguided, but because as long as we treat them as inherently evil villains, we will never have even a chance to mend the rift between our species. Hate the demons and wish for their deaths all you want, for I will not stop you from thinking such thoughts. However, please understand that we humans must be better than our enemies. We must show them with our conduct that, so long as they own up to their actions and accept the appropriate punishment, we will always be willing to forgive, if not forget their pasts."
The Commander falls silent, allowing her words to germinate in the ears of those present. Blinker sits on her shoulder silently, saying nothing, while Brunhilda and Corporal Hurent stew in their own private thoughts.
General Chadwick rubs his knee contemplatively. "Hrm. I do not fully understand why you so often choose to defend the demons. Perhaps I never will. I merely wish you would not try to dissuade people from referring to the demons as 'bloodskins,' like they deserve."
"'Deserve' is a strong word, General," Phoebe retorts. "From what I've gathered, humanity stomped on the faces of the demons countless generations ago, and they retaliated in kind. Do we not deserve hatred from them as well?"
"That is a different situation entirely."
"So you claim," Phoebe snaps back. "But, if you so desperately wish to lump all the members of a sentient species under one definition, I suppose I cannot stop you. We haven't time to sit here and wax philosophical about our beliefs, so let's just hold off on the comebacks for today. If we survive this invasion, we'll return to this discussion at a later time."
Chadwick nods. "Very well."
Elder Skarde and Samuel both share a glance with one another, revealing neither of them plans to change their minds, but at the least, they fall silent to allow Phoebe's continued debriefing.
"Right. Let's finish this, then," Phoebe says. The Commander disables the Tarus II topographical map, and instead summons a series of images of various soldiers standing at attention, all of them wearing basic military uniforms with T-REX's strapped across their chests.
"I've finished doling out the new exosuit models I prepared in advance. Allow me to debrief you on their functionality."
The first trooper's image shimmers and shifts, adorning him in a shiny silver armor, one which all of the generals are familiar with.
"This is the basic T-REX, a mass-produced model with no obvious flaws that merely enhances the average human warrior's speed and durability to beyond that of a Demon Lord. It also helps with aim assist on projectile-based weapons, and features a low-level pilot-assistance mode capable of augmenting its wearer's dodging capabilities mid-battle. An excellent suit for any beginner, but one the demons have long grown used to seeing."
The next trooper also shifts his appearance, appearing in a silver-and-red exosuit with a few utility modules attached to its arms and waist. The red coloration extends in a cross-like shape across the trooper's chest.
"This is Mark I of the Clinician battlesuit. It has lower strength and speed than the basic T-REX, but in exchange, it features greater durability and advanced pilot assistance support. I designed it with our battlefield medics in mind. We can't rely on rescue devices to save all of our downed troops, so having field medics on hand will be essential to saving as many lives as possible. The Clinician also features several medical devices capable of prolonging a dying soldier's life, including nano-injectors to seal and repair wounds."
Corporal Hurent, one of the more technically-minded of the leaders present, nods appreciatively. "I'd have liked to have a few of those on hand when we fought in the Core."
"As would we all," Phoebe replies.
The Commander moves on to the third exosuit, one with an identical silver coloring scheme to the first exosuit, but with four 'struts' sticking out of its back.
"Previously, we've had to rely on Harpies for their excellent battlefield mobility and flight capabilities. Now, we have another option. The Mark I Hummer is our first flight-capable battlesuit, but I've only managed to manufacture fifty of them, so far. The wing struts on the back allow for limited durations of swift flight, but extended amounts of hovering capabilities. Think of them as mobile sniper platforms, rather than flying assault weapons."
"I can already imagine several uses for the Hummer," Chadwick says, his voice low.
Phoebe doesn't reply. She activates the next hologram, revealing a truly menacing-looking exosuit, one with gold and black coloration, a metal horn on its helmet, and two others on its shoulders. With much bulkier armor than the previous exosuits, as well as a long impaling rod sticking out above each wrist, it looks like a nasty melee-capable battlesuit.
Audible gasps go up among the leaders present, making Phoebe smile.
"This is the Mark I Rhino. Truly exclusive, I've only made twenty of them. Each is a precious asset, featuring fifty percent thicker armor than other exosuits and razor-sharp nanite rods for 'sticking it' to the demons. Advanced cooling capabilities also make it effectively immune to flame-based attacks from all but the most extreme sources. I designed them for frontline usage, improving the power of each of our best commandos. Naturally, I hope you'll be the first to try one out, Samuel."
Lieutenant Samuel grins evilly. "Oh, yes. I'll be able to do a lot of damage with one of those."
"I'm sure you will. Let's finish with the last two suits, both of which you should all be familiar."
This time, the holographic trooper shifts his appearance into a stealthy jet-black exosuit, one with the same sleek design as the basic exosuit model, but fewer 'cracks' it its surface. Most notably, four long, metallic 'tendrils' stick out of its back and writhe around like an ant's antennae.
Chadwick blinks in surprise. "A Spectre? We have hundreds of those already, don't we?"
"Correct. This Spectre is different, though, as it's a second generation exosuit. I'm sure all of you have noticed the odd-looking tendrils on its back. I call them 'Needlers,' and they will be key for maximizing the Mark II's improvements over the first generation. In addition to greatly improved passive stealth capabilities in shadow, the Mark II Spectre can initiate Level III cloaking at will, granting it five minutes of near-perfect stealth capabilities. Most importantly, it now features nearly infinite Level II stealth capabilities, meaning it can remain invisible indefinitely so long as the user keeps their movement to a minimum. It will be excellent for setting up ambushes."
"What function do the 'Needlers' perform?" Brunhilda asks. "They look like headless black snakes."
"More than you can imagine," Phoebe replies. "The Needlers allow the user to scale walls and cliffs, assassinate multiple enemies at once, manipulate tools, and countless other such feats. Think of them as four additional limbs, each one stronger and much more flexible than your arm. They can wrap around an enemy's neck to choke him out, or they can pick locks by deforming their shape... the possibilities are endless."
"Amazing as always, Miss Hiro," Chadwick says, bowing his head respectfully. "If we had these suits during the Core invasion, perhaps we could have defeated the demons instead of suffering such a terrible loss."
Phoebe purses her lips. "Not necessarily. The Spectre suits sacrifice durability and defensive capacity in exchange for speed and stealth. Their offensive-power is also sub-par, making them only good for assassination and espionage. In a giant arena like the Core, Spectre pilots would have perished the fastest."
"Ah. I'll defer to your expert opinion, then," Chadwick mutters, slightly embarrassed.
Phoebe clears her throat. This time, when the last trooper shifts his appearance, looks of surprise appear on Chadwick, Corporal Hurent, and Samuel's faces.
"Hm?" Samuel says. "Isn't that...?"
"Yes," Phoebe replies. "It's the suit Neil wore during the Core invasion: The Thundercat Mark II."
The final trooper hologram changes to reveal a bright blue, red, and golden exosuit, one with a bulky golden gauntlet on its left wrist. Three Wolverine-like blades stick out of the gauntlet, suitable for ripping and tearing, while the trooper also sports a vicious-looking nanosword in his right hand.
"Another Mark II," Chadwick marvels. "It's much flashier than the Mark I, particularly with its coloration. You must have given Neil one before the battle."
"His bodyguards too," Phoebe affirms. "Neil didn't get much time to learn its many functions, and sadly, neither will our troops. However, I'll tell you right now what to expect. The Transforming Exogauntlet on its left arm is a powerful utility item comparable to the Spectre's Needlers. It can become a hammer, a blade, a shield, or anything you need for the situation at hand. Merely describe a shape, and Centurion will attempt to replicate it."
Phoebe gestures toward the holographic trooper's right hand. "This nanosword is equally dangerous. When combined with the Thundercat's reinforced defensive capabilities, it will allow its pilot to fight on the front lines alongside our Rhino-wearing troopers. Since the Thundercat Mark II is a modification of the Mark I, we already have several thousand of them available, along with the new Spectres. I advise you to quickly debrief your troops about the additional functions of these new exosuits, as we won't have much time to train them in their various intricacies once the demons invade."
After taking a long, deep breath, Phoebe exhales.
"Alright. Let's wrap this up. Any questions?"
Chadwick runs his fingers through his beard. "Do you have anywhere you'd like to station us?"
"Ah! I almost forgot. Thank you for reminding me."
Phoebe re-engages the topographical map and points toward the southern side of Hero City.
"Over here, this area is part of the southern prison complex, where I've created a specialized Demon Containment Facility. We must ensure the demons don't locate Beelzebub and Artorias. Keep them locked up at all costs. Corporal Hurent, I'm putting you in charge of defending the prison."
The Corporal nods. "Yes, Commander. I'm already familiar with their layout, as I took our prisoners there earlier."
"Good. I'll need you to pull double-duty keeping an eye on Hero City's eastern flank, too. The south and east sides are among our most vulnerable, so if the demons break containment from the warp-gate, I want to know at once if they reach our flanks."
Phoebe turns her attention toward the others. "Princess Brunhilda. As stated before, you're in charge of protecting the King Cannons and their supply line. Samuel, you're in charge of guarding the southern and western side of the warp-gate encampment. Chadwick, I want you on command duty for the vast majority of our main forces, particularly between Hero City and the encampment. However, Elder Skarde, you may have the most complex job of all."
Elder Skarde frowns. "In what way?"
"You'll be our final defensive line. You will protect Hero City, especially the north side's Covenant ships. You must ensure Burrowers don't make it past our defensive lines, and that any Warpers get taken out before they can circle around to our flanks."
"I will do my best," Skarde replies.
Blinker hops off Phoebe's shoulder and flies around excitedly. "Ooh, ooh, what about me? What do I get to do?"
Phoebe smiles. "Are you fully healed?"
"Yeppers! Samantha got me all fixed up! Kar's still healing, though. I dunno when he'll be ready to return."
Phoebe's smile deepens. The memory of what Blinker told her before the debriefing, regarding Daisy, leaves butterflies in her stomach. However, for some reason, she keeps her mouth shut and doesn't mention it in front the other leaders.
"That's good. I'm glad we have Samantha at times like this. Well, even if Kar isn't back, I hope we can rely on you for support against the demons wherever they appear."
"Duh!" Blinker giggles. "I'll smush 'em flat! Those big red dummies won't know what hit 'em!"
Phoebe pokes Blinker's stomach playfully. Just watch yourself out there. If anything happened to you, it would devastate Kar."
Blinker rolls her eyes. "Psh. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Monster Queen. I'm strong as heck!"
Despite the fairy's tough words, Phoebe's eyes grow distant. "Yeah. But... be careful. Kar already lost one wife. I don't want to imagine what losing a second would do to him. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you."
With one last, heavy sigh, Phoebe turns to the assembled leaders. "Alright, dismissed. Get out there and make Neil proud. If he's still alive, we'll mount a rescue operation once we survive this war."
Chadwick rises off his rock and raises an eyebrow. "You suddenly sound more confident than before."
Phoebe nods. "Neil always says a leader must look strong for his troops. I can only hope to live up to that ideal."
"As can we all. Words to live by," Chadwick mutters. With a nod of the head, he turns to leave. "I'll see you on the battlefield, Commander Hiro."
"Likewise," Phoebe replies.
The waning sun begins to fade behind clouds to the west, setting on the world of Tarus II and bringing the cover of darkness. As the humans disperse, with Blinker riding on Phoebe's shoulder, they all gaze at the setting sun with wistful eyes.
.......................................
Artwork time!
Basic T-REX.
Clinician T-REX.
Hummer T-REX.
Rhino T-REX.
Spectre T-REX.
Thundercat T-REX
This is Brunhilda!
submitted by Klokinator to TheCryopodToHell [link] [comments]

The Cryopod to Hell 240: Commander Phoebe's Strategy

Author note: The Cryopod to Hell is a Reddit-exclusive story with over three years of editing and refining. As of this post, the total rewrite is 1,012,000+ words long, and we are all caught up to the main sub on HFY! For more information, check out the link below:
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(Previous Part)
(Part 001)
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Phoebe Hiro, now the Head Commander of the Anti-Demon Resistance, paces back and forth in front of six hand-picked leaders of the various warfronts. Her guests sit on rocks set in the middle of the field not far behind the warp-gate encampment's western wall, while all of them face her and listen intently to what she has to say. Their names and ranks become unimportant as she looks at them with the eyes of a hawk. To the Hero's Wife, these people are merely weapons she must carefully wield in defense of humanity and its monster allies.
In the front row sits General Chadwick, Princess Brunhilda, and Corporal Hurent, along with Blinker, the monster queen. Behind them sits Lieutenant Samuel and Elder Skarde.
General Chadwick, Neil's number one. A black-haired Norwegian with a thick, three-inch-long beard. He wears a long, thin black coat, one designed to allow the air to cool him during the summertime, while his navy-blue military uniform underneath gives him a commanding presence. Chadwick's six-plus-foot height, in addition to his giant muscles and rotund belly, makes him stand out among all the others present. In social situations, he is the one who defeats his drinking opponents, while in grave situations, he is the strong and silent type.
Brunhilda, the Felorian princess. A chocolate-skinned, well-proportioned warrior with long white hair and countless white tattoos across her face and body. She wears only an animal-skin bra and loincloth, revealing her muscled abs and arms. As a tribeswoman, her domineering attitude comes not from stuck-up haughtiness, but from two decades of careful grooming by her parents, the former King and Queen of planet Feloria. Having bowed and acquiesced to the demons her whole life, she now sits and faces the Hero's Wife with a grave expression, knowing she may soon perish in battle while protecting her planet's tribes. At the least, she may enable a new future for her people, one where they no longer cower at the feet of their demonic oppressors.
Corporal Hurent, a decorated veteran with several military accomplishments. Her black hair sits in a ponytail, draped over her left shoulder, while Blinker sits on her right. Combined with her smooth, olive-green military uniform, and lightly bronzed white skin, she appears almost like a shorter, more tomboyish version of General Chadwick. Not bothering with makeup, she has a 'harder' edge to her appearance than Phoebe or Brunhilda, yet her eyes reveal she longs for the war to end. Battle is not in her nature, but merely her current call to action.
Blinker, the Monster Queen. She wears a tiny little set of cream-colored battle armor, crafted in advance by her mother two years prior. Her bright red hair contrasts with the white armor to give her the appearance of a cute little Valkyrie. When combined with her moth-like wings, the trifecta completes itself, making her resemble a battle-angel. Blinker sits on Corporal Hurent's right shoulder, the two of them somewhat close thanks to their interactions over the past few years.
Lieutenant Samuel, a hard-nosed man with a violent past. The ebony-skinned soldier sports several dreadlocks and a mean scar going across his forehead. He rests his elbows on his legs and leans forward, a look of intense concentration on his face. Combined with his camouflage-fatigues, he looks ready to step into the jungle and disappear amongst its foliage. Few of the leaders gathered have anywhere near the same intense look in their eyes, a testament to how much he hates the demons and what they've taken from him.
Finally, Elder Skarde, one of several tribal elders from the planet Locklorn. As their designated envoy, Skarde speaks for all the people of his world. His skin appears the darkest of all, giving him a rich, coal-colored hue capable of blending in with the night. Skarde's carefully maintained, short-cropped hair combines with his purple and gold robes to give him the air of a merchant king, one with money flowing like rivers. A peaceful man, Elder Skarde nevertheless sets aside his misgivings for the sake of his world. While he might prefer seeking peace with the demons and forgiving their transgressions, he likewise would never consider rolling over and letting them destroy his extended family. He draws a hard line in the sand, one he will never let the demons cross.
With all six of the most important leaders assembled before Phoebe, the recently promoted Tarus II Commander begins pacing back and forth.
"Thank you all for coming. I'd like to have gathered more people, but it's probably best if you simply relay today's briefings to the relevant subordinates. We don't have much time to waste, so I'll get right down to business."
Phoebe shoots a glance at the walls of the warp-gate encampment, listening for a moment to hear if any battles have broken out due to the warp-gate's unexpected opening. Luckily, everything remains quiet and calm.
"I don't know how long we have before the demons clear out the Core, but I do know they will, eventually," Phoebe begins, as she returns her attention to those assembled. "The question afterward is how long we have until the demons get the warp-gates back online."
Corporal Hurent raises her hand. "Commander, one thing has been bothering me. We destroyed the computers which control the Core's warp-gates. How can the demons reactivate them? Without the Core's server infrastructure, won't it be impossible for the demons to calculate Tarus II's travel vectors?"
The Corporal's question, prodding at the very nature of warp-gate travel, elicits several nods from the other leaders. After all, from what they understand, calculating the relative position of a planet in the vastness of space, its orbital position, its current facing, and the exact position of the warp-gate on said planet should be impossible without a vast amount of computing power to assist.
However, to the assembled leaders' surprise, Phoebe shakes her head. "Our opponent is no ordinary demoness. She is Ose, the Emperor of Infiltration, and the creator of warp-gate technology. Co-creator, technically, but a distinction which matters little in this context. I've spoken with Samantha on several occasions regarding Ose, and everything she's had to say about our enemy's abilities left me feeling shaken and worried. Ose's brain functions on a level far beyond ours, with unmuddled thoughts capable of computing information thousands of times more quickly than anyone else. She is, essentially, a living bio-computer."
Continuing, Phoebe adds, "Further, my husband once used Solomon's Crown to calculate the jump-vectors from Tarus II's warp-gate back to the Core. Kar watched him do it. If Jason can perform such a feat, I imagine the creator of warp-gate technology can do so as well."
The Commander's words end that line of questioning by the other generals. They fall silent and listen as Phoebe continues with her original train of thought.
Phoebe clears her throat. "Ahem. The battle for the Core was over far faster than anyone, especially Neil, first thought possible. Our enemies caught us off-guard with their new, armored soldiers. It seems likely they won't have any more of those terrifying Baron-level bastards available to hit us with, but we should naturally prepare for them. In the meantime, shifting to open terrain instead of the enclosed corridors of the Core will benefit humanity's forces greatly. Our weapons work best when engaging our enemies from a distance. The further they have to travel, the more time we have to kill them before they close the gap."
After pausing for a moment to rifle through her bag, Phoebe pulls out a tiny dime-sized device and presses it against the side of her head, just above her right ear. A small red LED on its side blinks twice once attached, then turns off. Afterward, she pulls out a baseball-shaped mechanical object, then lightly tosses it into the air. Elder Skarde and Brunhilda both reflexively flinch when the device doesn't fall to the ground, but instead stops in midair and hovers next to Phoebe.
"This is my Hovering Personal Assistant. I call him 'Happy.' Happy helps me with all sorts of things, but today, he'll be helping all of you to understand my thoughts."
Phoebe concentrates for a moment. She transmits images from her brain through the device stuck to her head and into Happy. In turn, the hovering metal baseball bobs in the air for a moment before beaming out a projected image of Tarus II's landscape, primarily the 20-mile range around and between Hero City and the warp-gate encampment.
The other leaders watch in fascinated silence as Phoebe points toward a small mountain range just over a mile north of the warpgate encampment. "This location is known as the Sphinx Mountain Range, and is going to be a critically important asset we must protect once the demons invade. How many of you have visited it before?"
Elder Skarde and Samuel both shake their heads. General Chadwick, Corporal Hurent, and Blinker all offer hesitant nods, while Brunhilda's are the most emphatic of all. Upon noticing the recognition in the Felorian Princess's eyes, Phoebe smiles. "Brunhilda, what makes you so familiar with that region?"
"I enjoy climbing mountains to gaze at the world from their vistas," Brunhilda replies. "Since that region offers a breathtaking view of the distant ocean, I have scaled it numerous times."
Phoebe's smile stretches further. "Did you ever happen to notice the artillery battlement I built there?"
A look of surprise appears on Brunhilda's face. The Felorian Princess scratches her head sheepishly. "Ah, no? What do you mean, Commander Hiro?"
"Three years ago, Jason and I worked together to build several fortifications for Tarus II. One of those happened to be a network of long range auto-cannon installations in the Sphinx Mountain Range. Observe."
Phoebe's robo-assistant, Happy, releases a cute high-pitched chirp. "Beep-boop!"
Immediately, a second hologram appears, one of a gigantic gun more than a hundred feet tall, with three cannon barrels aimed diagonally into the sky. The whole thing rests upon a square turret base, with rotatable joints and motors allowing it to adjust its firing angle and distance. The menacing weapon makes all of the leaders gathered raise their eyebrows in surprise.
"Wow!" Blinker gasps. "Phoebe, you built that thing? It's huge!"
Chadwick stands up and walks closer to more carefully scrutinize the artillery cannon. "Very impressive. Why have I heard nothing about this?"
"Because it's one of my many secret weapons," Phoebe says, a tricky smile playing upon her lips. "I call it a King Cannon. We've always worried about demonic spies in our ranks. Bad actors among our fellow humans and monsters might also be an issue, too. I built these cannons in absolute secrecy, telling only Jason and Solomon. Not even Samantha knows of their existence."
Elder Skarde snorts. "Just as well."
"Samantha will never betray humanity," Phoebe snaps, glaring viciously at the elder. "Don't think I've forgotten some of the hurtful things you said. I'd advise you to keep your mouth shut about her if you don't want my foot shoved where the sun doesn't shine."
Chadwick remains silent. As one of Neil's closest confidantes, he too has no trust for the succubus. Still, he knows better than to disparage her in front of Phoebe, especially given the circumstances.
"Ahem," Lieutenant Samuel clears his throat. "If I may. You mentioned cannons, plural. How many of these have you built?"
Phoebe turns away from Skarde to look at Samuel behind him. "Ten. They function by firing shells over long distances which explode shortly before striking the ground. These explosions release hundreds of iron rods, each one capable of stabbing through even the heaviest armor. No demon will be able to withstand a shelling from the King Cannons. I have several other types of ammunition present as well, including explosive munitions, poison gas, and acid for melting flesh. Needless to say, we must ensure our troops don't get caught in the crossfire."
"And," Phoebe adds, "that is one of the biggest problems we face. The King Cannons are explosively powerful and more than capable of turning tens of thousands of demons into puddles of blood. However, they lack precision. They're a double-edged sword capable of harming our soldiers. I plan to use them only if our troops fail to prevent the demons' advance from the warp-gate. That's why I will not move on to the next strategic point."
Commander Hiro disables the hologram for the King Cannon while Chadwick takes his seat. She returns to the original hologram, the one showing Tarus II's topography.
"On the north side of Hero City we have ten Covenant ships to protect. On the south side are the Pyramids. On the east, we have a mixture of forested woodlands and some hilly terrain. Between Hero City and the Warp-gate Encampment, we have the Horned Forest, with all manner of vicious predators hiding amongst its trees, and the vast open plains where we will most likely engage with demonkind if they take over the encampment. Looking at the encampment itself, we have the King Cannons to the north, Tarus II's great ocean to the west, and finally the southern side."
Phoebe clears her throat. "Here, we run into another problem. Some of you may not be familiar with the southern region, as we rarely go there. It's filled with canyons and ravines deep enough to kill anyone if they should stumble inside. The deepest one reaches half a mile into the planet's crust, so, needless to say, not many people go there. However, it is also home to another of my secret facilities."
"Another?" Corporal Hurent asks, her jaw turning slack. "Just how many facilities have you built?"
Phoebe's smile dims. "Too many to handle on my own, but not enough to guarantee our safety."
That reply makes the Corporal close her mouth and nod along silently. Phoebe continues by activating another hologram, this time showing a massive network of buildings carved into the side of a ravine. The facility stretches far enough into the distance that it goes past the edge of the hologram where nobody can see its end.
"By the Creator..." Lieutenant Samuel mutters. "You've been holding out on us."
"Indeed. This facility is one I haven't even told Jason about. I built it by myself."
Phoebe's casual attitude stuns everyone present. Blinker jumps off Corporal Hurent's shoulder and flies over to Phoebe. "What?! How could you build all that by yourself? That's impossible!"
While the fairy buzzes around the hologram with wide-open eyes, Phoebe chuckles. "Believe me, I did. Don't you remember six years ago, when Jason used to build houses and apartments for people with his Wordsmithing? I created a tool that could synthesize simple square structures out of energy, one which could project and build walls, ceilings, and floors. I built this facility with an upgraded version of that device."
A huge, giddy smile spreads across Chadwick's face. "Absolutely amazing. I never imagined we had a facility like this at our disposal, nor that you would be its sole builder. What is its function, Commander Hiro? Why did you build it in such an out-of-the-way location?"
"It's not out-of-the-way at all," Phoebe clarifies. "This facility's purpose is to create war-machines capable of leveling battlefields, and so I needed it somewhere close where I could send them barreling toward the front lines within minutes. That Planet-Walker I demonstrated earlier came from here, as well as many similar machines. I wanted to ensure we had extremely powerful trump cards prepared, should the demons ever invade. Secrecy was even more important, as I couldn't chance the demons learning of their existence."
Corporal Hurent raises her hand. "Hold on a moment. Regarding not only this robot-creation-facility, but also the King Cannons, how can we train enough people to pilot and control your machines? Those cannons look like they will require countless soldiers to aim and fire them, while the robots you've constructed will doubtless require intense training to use them to their fullest capacity. Have you trained anyone in secret as pilots? Or, perhaps... might these machines be fully autonomous?"
"Neither," Phoebe replies. "The Planet-walkers and other mecha are, indeed, autonomous, but I will require pilots inside them for target designation purposes. Each robot is capable of basic decision-making, but a human in the cockpit is our surest bet for strategically taking out demons wherever they appear. As for the King Cannons, the situation is similar. I will require a few personnel to man them for the sake of designating targets, but their roles will be minor. A bigger issue comes from fuel and munition supplies, which is the next thing I'd like to mention."
Phoebe waves away the southern facility's hologram, returning to the topographical Tarus II map.
"Look here. The King Cannons are immensely powerful, but they are also fragile. Once the demons figure out the cannons' location, if they choose to attack them, they can easily destroy them. I've protected the King Cannons, as well as my southern facility, with holographic obfuscation technology. Even up close, it's nearly impossible to locate the cannons, but every time they fire, the stealth net will go down for a moment, revealing their position. This will make it easy for the demons to find and destroy them."
Blinker nods. "Like Ose's mansion."
"Additionally," Phoebe continues, "the King Cannons have limited ammunition available. I always envisioned them as being supplementary to Jason and Hope's power, giving us a powerful area-attack, but with the Wordsmiths missing, they will end up being our primary suppression device against the demons. If so, then we'll need to establish munition supply lines to keep them continuously firing at all times. The supply line will come from the east side of Hero City up along the northern border until it reaches the Horned Forest. From there, it will continue until it reaches the Sphinx Mountain Range, where the personnel we place can take the shells and reload the King Cannons. At any point, demons might disrupt this supply line, thus rendering the cannons useless. Without ammunition, they will be little more than giant, decorative statues atop the mountains."
Brunhilda pipes up. "So, you wish for me to take control of protecting the King Cannons?"
"That's right. While the number of personnel required to operate the King Cannons is minimal, we will need a substantial number of troops available to guard the mountains themselves from demonic attacks. Think you're up to the task?"
"Naturally," Brunhilda replies.
Phoebe nods. "Good. I have some positive news to report as well, which you all will doubtless find comforting."
She touches the hologram and draws a circle around the warp-gate encampment. "I came up with a temporary fix for the burrower problem. I didn't want them to easily breach our lines by burrowing under us, so I cobbled together a few experimental devices. I call them 'seismic mines.' They detonate when they detect seismic activity nearby. If the Burrowers try to dig a tunnel near a seismic mine, they will perish a quick, explosive death."
Blinker lands on Phoebe's shoulder. "When the heck did you make those?"
"Today," Phoebe says. "Took me about eight hours. I only synthesized a couple hundred of them, and I attached them to mechanical moles to ensure they end up deep beneath our feet. However, given my limited amount of time, I only managed to surround the warp-gate encampment with them, as well as place a few beneath Hero City. Once a few Burrowers explode, they'll doubtless be able to continue forward, unabated. Luckily, the sensors will still give me an idea of where they're headed."
"You think of everything." Brunhilda says, admiration in her eyes.
"I wish that were the case. I'm only human, so I can't anticipate a demon's thought processes. Doubtless, Ose is sure to find a gap in our defenses. Don't get starry-eyed on me, not unless we actually survive this awful war."
Once again, Phoebe points at the holographic map. "Look over here, to the west of the encampment. There are thirty-seven miles of unprotected land between here and the ocean. If the demons escape in that direction, they'll be able to spread out and go around our borders, as I haven't built any defenses in that area. The King Cannons can certainly fire that far, but their accuracy and coverage will decrease substantially. Lieutenant Samuel, I'll rely on you to keep an eye on the western and southern sides of the encampment, while Princess Brunhilda will be in charge of guarding the Sphinx Mountains to the north. We cannot let the demons stake out a safe haven to the west. If they do, they'll likely summon countless portals to the Labyrinth, removing our chokepoint advantage. We have to keep them pinned down at the Tarus II warp-gate, or else they will rapidly overwhelm us with numbers."
Samuel nods. "As long as I get to kill bloodskins, you can count me in."
Phoebe frowns. "Demons, Lieutenant. Demons. Enough with the god-damned slurs."
"I don't care if you like my language or not," Samuel says, his face emotionless. "Bloodskins killed my brother. They butchered him like livestock. Don't preach to me that compassion nonsense. In my eyes, they're all filthy animals in need of extermination."
"Demons tortured my people for countless generations," Elder Skarde chimes in. "We have known nothing but fear and subservience to the bloodskins my whole life. Commander Phoebe, you may feel some twinge of compassion for the murderous wretches, but we do not. We only fight the bastards because of the horrors they've exacted upon us. If you want our help, then you will find a way to deal with our feelings."
After seeing the other two leaders stand up for their beliefs, Chadwick adds his two cents. "With all due respect, Commander, how many demons do you know who are righteous and pure? One? Ten? A hundred? You may have the utmost faith in Belial and others like her, but we do not. I have fought alongside Neil and Hope countless times when rescuing human slaves from the core. Some of the things I saw..."
The General starts to fall silent, only to notice a look of curiosity in the faces of Elder Skarde and Princess Brunhilda, both of whom have never stepped foot in the Labyrinth except for its Core.
"I saw a young man who was half-dead," Chadwick mutters, his voice low. "the poor kid had all the skin on his back melted and fused together. His bloodskin tormentor pressed him against a wall after burning him, then left him there, with his skin stuck to the stone. When Hope found him, the boy was half-dead and delirious with pain. It took Hope fifteen minutes of Wordsmithing to heal the boy's injuries. The lad later killed himself because of the lasting mental pain we couldn't erase."
General Chadwick glances at Phoebe, noticing with interest that for once, she doesn't appear angry at his words. "That boy was not the exception, but the rule. The bloodskins treat us worse than cattle, worse than bugs. They enjoy our suffering. I see no way we can ever truly cohabit with them. Perhaps you might be capable of picking out one or two decent ones, but the rest are all irredeemable, violent psychopaths. We must eradicate them for the good of the galaxy."
Despite a three-pronged verbal assault from Samuel, Elder Skarde, and Chadwick, Phoebe appears unmoved.
"Do you think I don't know all that?"
Commander Hiro tilts her chin up slightly, allowing her to look down upon the still-seated Chadwick.
"I'm well aware of the atrocities demons have committed. I am not Jason, and as such, I don't believe in trying to save all, or even most of them. My husband is a good man. He tries to look at demons as sinners, those who were led astray early in their history. They were born from bloodshed, and so that is all they know. Or so Jason claims."
Phoebe raises her hand and waggles a finger. "I do not think the same thoughts as Jason, General Chadwick. I do not believe demons are necessarily redeemable, but I do believe that they are not irredeemable. That is why I find myself disgusted when you refer to them with such gross, offensive slurs. Not because I think your hatred is misguided, but because as long as we treat them as inherently evil villains, we will never have even a chance to mend the rift between our species. Hate the demons and wish for their deaths all you want, for I will not stop you from thinking such thoughts. However, please understand that we humans must be better than our enemies. We must show them with our conduct that, so long as they own up to their actions and accept the appropriate punishment, we will always be willing to forgive, if not forget their pasts."
The Commander falls silent, allowing her words to germinate in the ears of those present. Blinker sits on her shoulder silently, saying nothing, while Brunhilda and Corporal Hurent stew in their own private thoughts.
General Chadwick rubs his knee contemplatively. "Hrm. I do not fully understand why you so often choose to defend the demons. Perhaps I never will. I merely wish you would not try to dissuade people from referring to the demons as 'bloodskins,' like they deserve."
"'Deserve' is a strong word, General," Phoebe retorts. "From what I've gathered, humanity stomped on the faces of the demons countless generations ago, and they retaliated in kind. Do we not deserve hatred from them as well?"
"That is a different situation entirely."
"So you claim," Phoebe snaps back. "But, if you so desperately wish to lump all the members of a sentient species under one definition, I suppose I cannot stop you. We haven't time to sit here and wax philosophical about our beliefs, so let's just hold off on the comebacks for today. If we survive this invasion, we'll return to this discussion at a later time."
Chadwick nods. "Very well."
Elder Skarde and Samuel both share a glance with one another, revealing neither of them plans to change their minds, but at the least, they fall silent to allow Phoebe's continued debriefing.
"Right. Let's finish this, then," Phoebe says. The Commander disables the Tarus II topographical map, and instead summons a series of images of various soldiers standing at attention, all of them wearing basic military uniforms with T-REX's strapped across their chests.
"I've finished doling out the new exosuit models I prepared in advance. Allow me to debrief you on their functionality."
The first trooper's image shimmers and shifts, adorning him in a shiny silver armor, one which all of the generals are familiar with.
"This is the basic T-REX, a mass-produced model with no obvious flaws that merely enhances the average human warrior's speed and durability to beyond that of a Demon Lord. It also helps with aim assist on projectile-based weapons, and features a low-level pilot-assistance mode capable of augmenting its wearer's dodging capabilities mid-battle. An excellent suit for any beginner, but one the demons have long grown used to seeing."
The next trooper also shifts his appearance, appearing in a silver-and-red exosuit with a few utility modules attached to its arms and waist. The red coloration extends in a cross-like shape across the trooper's chest.
"This is Mark I of the Clinician battlesuit. It has lower strength and speed than the basic T-REX, but in exchange, it features greater durability and advanced pilot assistance support. I designed it with our battlefield medics in mind. We can't rely on rescue devices to save all of our downed troops, so having field medics on hand will be essential to saving as many lives as possible. The Clinician also features several medical devices capable of prolonging a dying soldier's life, including nano-injectors to seal and repair wounds."
Corporal Hurent, one of the more technically-minded of the leaders present, nods appreciatively. "I'd have liked to have a few of those on hand when we fought in the Core."
"As would we all," Phoebe replies.
The Commander moves on to the third exosuit, one with an identical silver coloring scheme to the first exosuit, but with four 'struts' sticking out of its back.
"Previously, we've had to rely on Harpies for their excellent battlefield mobility and flight capabilities. Now, we have another option. The Mark I Hummer is our first flight-capable battlesuit, but I've only managed to manufacture fifty of them, so far. The wing struts on the back allow for limited durations of swift flight, but extended amounts of hovering capabilities. Think of them as mobile sniper platforms, rather than flying assault weapons."
"I can already imagine several uses for the Hummer," Chadwick says, his voice low.
Phoebe doesn't reply. She activates the next hologram, revealing a truly menacing-looking exosuit, one with gold and black coloration, a metal horn on its helmet, and two others on its shoulders. With much bulkier armor than the previous exosuits, as well as a long impaling rod sticking out above each wrist, it looks like a nasty melee-capable battlesuit.
Audible gasps go up among the leaders present, making Phoebe smile.
"This is the Mark I Rhino. Truly exclusive, I've only made twenty of them. Each is a precious asset, featuring fifty percent thicker armor than other exosuits and razor-sharp nanite rods for 'sticking it' to the demons. Advanced cooling capabilities also make it effectively immune to flame-based attacks from all but the most extreme sources. I designed them for frontline usage, improving the power of each of our best commandos. Naturally, I hope you'll be the first to try one out, Samuel."
Lieutenant Samuel grins evilly. "Oh, yes. I'll be able to do a lot of damage with one of those."
"I'm sure you will. Let's finish with the last two suits, both of which you should all be familiar."
This time, the holographic trooper shifts his appearance into a stealthy jet-black exosuit, one with the same sleek design as the basic exosuit model, but fewer 'cracks' it its surface. Most notably, four long, metallic 'tendrils' stick out of its back and writhe around like an ant's antennae.
Chadwick blinks in surprise. "A Spectre? We have hundreds of those already, don't we?"
"Correct. This Spectre is different, though, as it's a second generation exosuit. I'm sure all of you have noticed the odd-looking tendrils on its back. I call them 'Needlers,' and they will be key for maximizing the Mark II's improvements over the first generation. In addition to greatly improved passive stealth capabilities in shadow, the Mark II Spectre can initiate Level III cloaking at will, granting it five minutes of near-perfect stealth capabilities. Most importantly, it now features nearly infinite Level II stealth capabilities, meaning it can remain invisible indefinitely so long as the user keeps their movement to a minimum. It will be excellent for setting up ambushes."
"What function do the 'Needlers' perform?" Brunhilda asks. "They look like headless black snakes."
"More than you can imagine," Phoebe replies. "The Needlers allow the user to scale walls and cliffs, assassinate multiple enemies at once, manipulate tools, and countless other such feats. Think of them as four additional limbs, each one stronger and much more flexible than your arm. They can wrap around an enemy's neck to choke him out, or they can pick locks by deforming their shape... the possibilities are endless."
"Amazing as always, Miss Hiro," Chadwick says, bowing his head respectfully. "If we had these suits during the Core invasion, perhaps we could have defeated the demons instead of suffering such a terrible loss."
Phoebe purses her lips. "Not necessarily. The Spectre suits sacrifice durability and defensive capacity in exchange for speed and stealth. Their offensive-power is also sub-par, making them only good for assassination and espionage. In a giant arena like the Core, Spectre pilots would have perished the fastest."
"Ah. I'll defer to your expert opinion, then," Chadwick mutters, slightly embarrassed.
Phoebe clears her throat. This time, when the last trooper shifts his appearance, looks of surprise appear on Chadwick, Corporal Hurent, and Samuel's faces.
"Hm?" Samuel says. "Isn't that...?"
"Yes," Phoebe replies. "It's the suit Neil wore during the Core invasion: The Thundercat Mark II."
The final trooper hologram changes to reveal a bright blue, red, and golden exosuit, one with a bulky golden gauntlet on its left wrist. Three Wolverine-like blades stick out of the gauntlet, suitable for ripping and tearing, while the trooper also sports a vicious-looking nanosword in his right hand.
"Another Mark II," Chadwick marvels. "It's much flashier than the Mark I, particularly with its coloration. You must have given Neil one before the battle."
"His bodyguards too," Phoebe affirms. "Neil didn't get much time to learn its many functions, and sadly, neither will our troops. However, I'll tell you right now what to expect. The Transforming Exogauntlet on its left arm is a powerful utility item comparable to the Spectre's Needlers. It can become a hammer, a blade, a shield, or anything you need for the situation at hand. Merely describe a shape, and Centurion will attempt to replicate it."
Phoebe gestures toward the holographic trooper's right hand. "This nanosword is equally dangerous. When combined with the Thundercat's reinforced defensive capabilities, it will allow its pilot to fight on the front lines alongside our Rhino-wearing troopers. Since the Thundercat Mark II is a modification of the Mark I, we already have several thousand of them available, along with the new Spectres. I advise you to quickly debrief your troops about the additional functions of these new exosuits, as we won't have much time to train them in their various intricacies once the demons invade."
After taking a long, deep breath, Phoebe exhales.
"Alright. Let's wrap this up. Any questions?"
Chadwick runs his fingers through his beard. "Do you have anywhere you'd like to station us?"
"Ah! I almost forgot. Thank you for reminding me."
Phoebe re-engages the topographical map and points toward the southern side of Hero City.
"Over here, this area is part of the southern prison complex, where I've created a specialized Demon Containment Facility. We must ensure the demons don't locate Beelzebub and Artorias. Keep them locked up at all costs. Corporal Hurent, I'm putting you in charge of defending the prison."
The Corporal nods. "Yes, Commander. I'm already familiar with their layout, as I took our prisoners there earlier."
"Good. I'll need you to pull double-duty keeping an eye on Hero City's eastern flank, too. The south and east sides are among our most vulnerable, so if the demons break containment from the warp-gate, I want to know at once if they reach our flanks."
Phoebe turns her attention toward the others. "Princess Brunhilda. As stated before, you're in charge of protecting the King Cannons and their supply line. Samuel, you're in charge of guarding the southern and western side of the warp-gate encampment. Chadwick, I want you on command duty for the vast majority of our main forces, particularly between Hero City and the encampment. However, Elder Skarde, you may have the most complex job of all."
Elder Skarde frowns. "In what way?"
"You'll be our final defensive line. You will protect Hero City, especially the north side's Covenant ships. You must ensure Burrowers don't make it past our defensive lines, and that any Warpers get taken out before they can circle around to our flanks."
"I will do my best," Skarde replies.
Blinker hops off Phoebe's shoulder and flies around excitedly. "Ooh, ooh, what about me? What do I get to do?"
Phoebe smiles. "Are you fully healed?"
"Yeppers! Samantha got me all fixed up! Kar's still healing, though. I dunno when he'll be ready to return."
Phoebe's smile deepens. The memory of what Blinker told her before the debriefing, regarding Daisy, leaves butterflies in her stomach. However, for some reason, she keeps her mouth shut and doesn't mention it in front the other leaders.
"That's good. I'm glad we have Samantha at times like this. Well, even if Kar isn't back, I hope we can rely on you for support against the demons wherever they appear."
"Duh!" Blinker giggles. "I'll smush 'em flat! Those big red dummies won't know what hit 'em!"
Phoebe pokes Blinker's stomach playfully. Just watch yourself out there. If anything happened to you, it would devastate Kar."
Blinker rolls her eyes. "Psh. Don't you know who I am? I'm the Monster Queen. I'm strong as heck!"
Despite the fairy's tough words, Phoebe's eyes grow distant. "Yeah. But... be careful. Kar already lost one wife. I don't want to imagine what losing a second would do to him. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you."
With one last, heavy sigh, Phoebe turns to the assembled leaders. "Alright, dismissed. Get out there and make Neil proud. If he's still alive, we'll mount a rescue operation once we survive this war."
Chadwick rises off his rock and raises an eyebrow. "You suddenly sound more confident than before."
Phoebe nods. "Neil always says a leader must look strong for his troops. I can only hope to live up to that ideal."
"As can we all. Words to live by," Chadwick mutters. With a nod of the head, he turns to leave. "I'll see you on the battlefield, Commander Hiro."
"Likewise," Phoebe replies.
The waning sun begins to fade behind clouds to the west, setting on the world of Tarus II and bringing the cover of darkness. As the humans disperse, with Blinker riding on Phoebe's shoulder, they all gaze at the setting sun with wistful eyes.
Next Part
.......................................
Artwork time!
Basic T-REX.
Clinician T-REX.
Hummer T-REX.
Rhino T-REX.
Spectre T-REX.
Thundercat T-REX
This is Brunhilda!
submitted by Klokinator to HFY [link] [comments]

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 12 Alexis and Cybil Vs Admiral Pineapples and Rudolph

“届けて, 切なさには名前をつけようか ‘Snow halation!’”
The harpoon lodged itself into the Ocean Soul’s chest following a powerful toss from Pork Soda, the beast desperately trying to hit the tether to destroy it and release the harpoon, to no avail. The Ocean Soul had underestimated its opponents, who were currently singing some sort of song, perhaps a sort of war cry, meant to display their superior strength.
“想いが重なるまで待てずに, 悔しいけど好きって純情”
It had to do something! It released the Calamus Root in store within its mouth, ready to spit it out, before Sayonara Kodoku picked the Ocean Soul up, shut its mouth tight, and tossed it over to Pork Soda. With a thrust of its fingers, the porcine stand pierced the Ocean Soul’s eyes, blinding it.
Then, the two stands rushed at it, sending forwards a barrage of blows, breaking bones, claws, and disorientating it, before getting ready for a finisher. Pork Soda picked the Ocean Soul up by its tail and began spinning around, the rapid movement disorientating the fish and sending it closer and closer to its doom.
No, no! It couldn’t let this be! The Ocean Soul was a hunter, and even if its prey had gotten a leg up on it this time, it wasn’t going to give up! It could barely remain conscious under the pressure as the porcine stand spun it around, its already severe wounds getting exacerbated, but it had to do something!
Just one shot! Just one precise shot and it could use the opportunity to escape, to recover! The porcine stand was spinning it around by its tail, so the Ocean Soul could calculate the stand’s position! It just needed to regain its bearings, focus on getting a shot aimed, and it could use its spit to-
SLAM!
With a brutal impact, the Ocean Soul was slammed into a nearby rock. It felt itself sinking in the water as the two stands approached it, its imminent doom coming closer and closer with every movement they made.
It needed to escape, but it couldn’t bring itself to move. The two stands made their way towards it, floating above the ground as they loomed over the barely conscious beast.
Was this going to be it for the Ocean Soul?
“微熱の中 ためらってもダメだね, 飛び込む勇気に賛成 まもなく start!”
Like hell it was.
Gathering the little remaining energy it had, the Ocean Soul spat out the Calamus Root stored within its mouth, mixed with its saliva. Hitting the ground underneath the two stands, two long spikes quickly sprouted out of it and towards their bodies.
Though Sayonara Kodoku’s tough skin didn’t get pierced, the force of the growing spike sent it flying into the air, incapacitating it, if only for a moment. Meanwhile, Pork Soda wasn’t as lucky as it, the spike piercing through the left side of its body, tearing through its left leg and shoulder. The Ocean Soul couldn’t hear anything from underwater, but it was sure that its user was reeling in pain right about now.
Using the remainder of its energy, the Ocean Soul bolted away, desperately trying to remain conscious as it swam away from what it once considered its prey. It didn’t even look backwards, fearing that doing so would give its opponents the time they needed to finish it off for good. It didn’t even keep track of how far it swam, or for how long its opponents had chased it, or if they had done so at all. Its body was searing in pain, broken bones and wounds all over it.
Eventually, it couldn’t bring itself to swim any further, losing consciousness and sinking down into the ocean, not even the searing pain keeping it awake as it began to rest.
The Ocean Soul had lost, but this wasn’t the end of the beast. Though barely, it had managed to escape this encounter with its life.
The results are in for Match 10. The winner is…
‘Agnes’ Bayley and Prince Cosmo, with a score of 80 to the Ocean Soul’s 60!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Players 25-5 The word of the voterbase was clear: the vast majority felt that the Ocean Soul was handily defeated by the players.
Quality Players 23-22 Reasoning
JoJolity Ocean Soul 22-23 Reasoning
Conduct Tie 10-10
“AAAAGH! GODDAMIT, STUPID FUCKING FISH!!” Agnes screamed in pain while clutching his leg, body strewn onto the nearest island, carried by Sayonara Kodoku. “IT STABBED THROUGH MY GODDAMN LEG!! FROM THE FOOT, TO MY WAIST, TO MY FUCKING SHOULDER! AAARGH, DAMMIT, WHERE’S JENNY WHEN YOU NEED HER!!”
“You should be happy we got away with our lives. The Ocean Soul isn’t going to come finish us off any time soon after what we did to it.”
“OH, REAL RICH COMING FROM THE ONE WHO DIDN’T GET STABBED IN THE FUCKING LEG BY THAT MONSTER. DO YOU WANT ME TO STAB YOU AS WELL SO YOU CAN SEE HOW IT FEELS?!” Agnes started rummaging around his surroundings with his right hand, searching for a sharp object to use for his “demonstration”.
“Frankly, you deserve it. Don’t forget that you are the cause for this all. Were it not for your foolishness, Webb would still be alive, and this would not have happened to you.” Cosmo chided.
“PFFF- WHATEVER!” In between his heavy breathing and pained cries, Agnes let out an audible sigh. “Fffffuck this, I’m gonna check my phone to see if there’s any connection here so that we can get the hell out of this place ASAP!” Agnes picked up his phone and pulled it up, taking a look at it.
“That will not be necessary. There is no connection here anyways, and I am certain that a helicopter has been sent out to retrieve us, or at the very least ascertain what might have happened to-” “Shut up, I’m getting a message from Cairo. ‘Don’t worry, Agnes, we have sent your location over to Vitus, and help should arrive in about fifteen minutes.’” Agnes looked at his phone in confusion. “Vitus? Who’s that asshole?”
“Vitus is the man who sent the helicopters out. The one which you indirectly crashed. Nonetheless, let me see that - I have a hard time believing that your phone is capable of picking up a signal when we’re so far away from any cellular towers.”
“And why should I care about what you believe, huh? Here, take a look for yourself!” Agnes shoved the phone in front of Cosmo's face, the dog looking intently at it and seeing… nothing beyond a simple homescreen. “What is this supposed to be. This is your phone’s home screen, and though that horrendous chimera at its center is an affront to anything and everything I believe in, there is no notification here. Could it be that you are perhaps hallucinating from the pain?”
“Wh- you can’t see it?! Don’t fuck with me!” Looking at the dog’s deadpan expression, Agnes could tell that that wasn’t the case. He looked over at the phone, spotting it right there, as clear as day - a notification for an sms from Cairo themselves, containing what he read out loud! “Fuck you, I’m not hallucinating! If anything, you are!”
Cosmo was about to retort, when he spotted something over the distance - a sailboat. It was old and decrepit, seemingly having gone through significant damage and yet still remaining intact, somehow. It clearly didn’t belong to Vitus, and likely wasn’t Cairo’s either. On the boat, he saw a silhouette of a haggard man, but the distance meant that he couldn’t exactly tell exactly what he looked like.
“Someone is coming.”
It wouldn’t be much longer before Agnes and Cosmo were able to get back onland, learn what terrible things they’d missed, even if they still had a wait and a talk ahead of them. Left to nurse grievous wounds, this seaborne menace has seen this chapter of aggression momentarily closed, but further inland, the waters of a laundromat are being braved by a time traveler and a woman in chains.
Scenario:
Sound’s Garden Eastern Strip - A Golden Limousine
The evening was beginning to set in, the lights of the islands of the area beginning to flash on and dot the sky as two women rode through the city, looking out through the windows as they relaxed in luxury. Cybil Antoine was one to travel in style, and now, with a companion in tow, was no exception.
“A strip that absolutely comes alive at night… Makes me feel almost nostalgic for Vegas,” her redheaded travel companion mused as she looked out, “speakin’ of which… you ever play anything like that, Cyby? Cards, slots, so on. We could try Heartache Casino, maybe, if we have time sometime… I bet you’d just have to throw your name around to get up on its higher floors.”
“It’s Cybil,” the wealthy woman emphasized, with an exhaustion begotten by this having been far from the first time, “or Miss Antoine… Either way, I am not a ‘Cyby.’ Get it right next time, alright?”
“Right, yeah, I know you’ve told me… I’m just a nicknamer by heart. Cross my heart, though! It won’t happen again!” Alexis Williams seemed… As serious as she could get about something like that, as curiously carefree, even devil-may-care, as the performer could get.
“Commit it to memory, then. Despite how much a fool you can act, I’m sure you know how much I had to pull to get you onto this stage.”
“Believe me, I do appreciate it!” Alexis answered, focus now turned away from the topic of gambling and onto that. “Putting on a show at one of the biggest stages in Los Fortuna, bigger than anything I’ve done before… I know our group has had some bad luck lately, with Bucket causing that trouble down at the fish market, and how down on herself Leo has been since that dumb show she said she got roped into, but we’re still the freakin’ Judecca Highrollers, right? I want to show the world that, and from their box, I want to show the rest of our team that we’ve got no better option than to face it all with a grin.”
“How very like you,” Cybil answered, neutral in her tone, careful not to betray the affection in such a statement as she pondered their current status, where they would be playing.
Alexis wouldn’t be headlining, unfortunately, though admittedly, her act wasn’t the sort of thing that did that anyway. Rather, a certain piece of immensely beloved local talent, a rocking performer who went by TD/MD, would be having her play immediately before her at the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater, just a drive over a rapidly approaching bridge away. Cybil had been a little annoyed that one of her statues had been overshadowed by a plane crashing near it, not to mention had a desire to spread further the local influence of their team, and so she had arranged with the heads of the entertainment industry of Los Fortuna to see to it that her personal favorite performer among the allies and associates she’d made was onstage at the best possible place for a person wanting to be noticed.
She curled her lips at a cell phone which found its way to its hand, then, narrowing her eyes at its screen. “No word back from your backing band… Where are they? How inconsiderate not to send word on this, especially at how that Mr. Sins recommended them so glowingly.”
“I’m sure they’ll show,” Alexis answered, “and if not… We can make do, can’t we?”
“Of course,” Cybil answered, only to have her eye finally drawn back out the window by the sight of a vehicle which had pulled into the lane directly next to theirs as their limousine crossed the bridge.
Another golden limousine was directly next to them now, this one almost pointedly bigger, longer, more decked out in jewelry, and it seemed to be headed exactly the same way. Cybil, rather than confused or alarmed at the coincidence, simply thought aloud, “that would probably be Mr. Sins… Speak of the devil.”
“Amazing how quickly his casino recovered from nearly burning down…” Alexis mused aloud. “I heard that one of the people who trashed it sent him to the hospital, too.”
“An overreaction I’m certain, from what I know about the man. Absolutely terrified of a little pain, a little elbow grease… I’m not one to gossip, but I can’t help but wonder how a man like him even managed to become so prominent, so consistently successful.”
“Right,” Alexis answered, smirking and putting her finger up to her lips, “I won’t spread that around, then. I know how to schmooze with that type if the need arises.”
Los Fortuna Canals - The SS Sledge Sister
Admiral Pineapples was more comfortable on his own boat, but as far as the fleet of the Masters of Funky Action went, there was no real reason to send out more than one boat for this right now.
“Man, I can’t believe nobody else is ridin’ with me,” his companion, Rudolf Pavlova, said after downing an entire bottle of water in a single gulp, on the tail end of an hourlong keytar solo. “The rest of the Masters better at least make it to the Alexander! It’d really bum me out harder than when Wrenn shot me down if none a’them made it!”
Sorry, but I’m really more the headlining type! Playing second-fiddle to a man in a speedo opening for some local star sounds fun and all, but, I’d totally just overshadow them, I bet! So I should really probably stay out of it! That sentence, clear in its passive-aggressive scathingness, had put Wrenn Aflight’s declining of this gig pretty succinctly. As the man more or less everybody on the team could tolerate, listen to, and generally have a good time with, Admiral had been tasked with asking the other star performer of the team to join Rudolf on the gig he’d accepted opening up for locally beloved rock star and all-around idol TD/MD.
Not wanting to break Rudolf’s heart, he more or less told him the short version, ‘he couldn’t make it,’ and then volunteered his own services for the younger man. “You won’t be out there with none of your allies, though, Nureyev! For I, Admiral Pineapples, will aid you in coordinating every moment of your work! This will be one of the worthiest usages of my tactical mind in a long time, I’m sure!”
“I hope you’ve gotten those hour-long solos out of your system now, Nureyev,” Pineapples warned with an amused, lax tone, “you’re only going to have thirty minutes onstage before the headliner has to get ready, and there’ll be trouble if you bleed into that.”
“I know, I know,” Rudolf answered, casually, as he slipped into an open-chested bathrobe mainly meant to function as the legal requirement of public decency until it was time to perform, “I’m not one to step on anyone’s toes, let alone the star of the show. Live and let live, yeah?”
“I’m curious, though, and you never told me…” The Admiral asked, cracking open a beverage of his own and taking a sip, “how did you manage to get such a part as this in the first place?”
“Oh, that’s simple!” Rudolf said, the thought to answer having simply not occurred to him.
A few weeks ago - A beach in the Waterfront District.
“Alright! Thank you, Los Fortuna! I’m here all day, and all night, and all tomorrow too, baby! Party never stops!” Rudolf had just finished the latest of his performances to a small crowd of beachgoers, shredding through the end of his one-man keytar rendition of 2112 and transitioning into a truly epic medley of the extended Family Guy, American Dad, and Cleveland Show OPs.
As the crowd dispersed, a corporate suit-looking type of guy, bronze-skinned with neatly-groomed hair, remained, eyeing his keytar curiously and smiling artificially. “That was an excellent show, Mr… Pavlova, I think it was? You have such an undeniable energy about you that I can see when I lay eyes upon you… You’ve star material.”
“Am I being poached?” Rudolf asked, tilting his head, “‘cuz I assure you, I am a free agent! Not about to be scooped up by some label and forced to chill out the party churnin’ out music I don’t feel in my soul.”
“Nothing so abrupt, no… I’m a Manager, representing TD/MD. You can call me Thutmose. Anyway, she has a concert approaching rapidly, and we’re struggling and scrambling to find local, new talent and performers to open for her. We’ve managed to secure a lot of artists already, but the most important spot… Playing right before her… That, still, we have a particular need for, and I think you would serve it perfectly.”
“So I accepted!” In the present day, Rudolf finished, “why not, yeah? I can spread the party to tens of thousands at one of the biggest venues in town!”
“Scouted on the street, hm… That’s awfully lucky.” Something about this struck Admiral as odd, but he supposed it was all the more reason it was good he was backing his friend and ally up. He had a strong hunch there was more to it than appeared.
Rudolf’s party yacht would disembark soon, ported on the central-most island of the places which made up Sound’s Garden, and the party would make their way forward from there.
Sound’s Garden West Side - Outside the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater
At the same time, a self-important first step was taken out of a pair of golden limousines, one a heel clacking first out of it and a short, stocky woman in pinstripe emerging, the other dress shoes leading up to a tall, lean man in a gold and yellow tux, grinning and running a hand through his slicked-back hair.
Cybil Antoine hadn’t had the “pleasure” of a personal conversation with Tigran Sins before, but had happened to overhear some of him during her meeting with that Thutmose man, and then and there, she had known everything about him, and knew that she had already had the displeasure of knowing dozens of men like him.
Still, though, one needed to be cordial in times like this, so as Alexis came out behind her, and a very strongly built-looking, mean-looking man with brown hair and a nice vest, attached to the lapel of which was a Heartache Casino brooch (a bouncer? A bodyguard?) stood by Tigran waiting to see what he wanted or what he did, she approached the man who dared to try and be more golden than her Stand. “Mr. Sins, I believe… I believe we’ve crossed paths, briefly, but we didn’t really have a chance to speak.”
The man tensed a bit, only to relax slightly again when he saw that Cybil intended only to speak. “Cybil Antoine, right? I’ve heard you’ve been making a hell of a lot of waves around town lately, so I must say I’m excited to meet you too.” He looked back past her, towards Alexis standing and stretching outside of her team’s limo. “Would that be your star you’ve got going on? Certainly she’s got charm.”
“Hi, right in front of you,” Alexis answered, teasingly passive-aggressively waving, “yeah, I’m going up before TD/MD.”
“She’s a very important star around here, you know… So you’d better put on a show that leaves them wanting for more of the best.” Tigran’s attendant spoke, then, sounding dead serious as he looked them over. “A lot of people have come here just for this, just for her sake… It is completely imperative you keep that in mind.”
Tigran simply nodded, concurring, “couldn’t have said it better myself, Fox.”
Shortly after that, the pairs went their separate ways, shifting through VIP areas of the area of the main structure of the amphitheater, series of comfortably shielded stadium halls that it was.
“Still no sign of the band… Still no word from them either. I’m cross now.”
Alexis, then, stopped in her trail, looking at a schedule which had been printed out and emblazoned upon a green room wall. “Uh, Cybil, you’re gonna wanna take a look at this.”
“Hm?” Cybil raised an eyebrow, turning to face what her partner was pointing at, and then glared again. “Who the hell is Nureyev, and why are they listed at the same time as you?”
“There’s gotta be some kinda mixup or somethin’, man… I know about this ‘Alexis Williams’ it talks about, and hear she’s a Vegas Performer, damn fine one at that who can really strut her stuff. But we ain’t in Vegas at all, so what gives?” Rudolf himself was gesturing at a printout version of much the same piece of programming, he and Admiral Pineapples having wandered much the same series of halls.
“Hrm…” Admiral, now, took a look at the sheet himself, combing over the names before Rudolf on the list and speaking names aloud. “‘Arancini,’ ‘Tenacious-er E,’ ‘Guy and the Fieris’ Heavy Metal Barbershop Quarter,’ all as scheduled… What the hell? Yeah. We’re the only acts double-booked like this, and you say you don’t know this woman personally?”
“Not in the slightest,” Rudolf said, “never laid personal eyes upon her! So maybe there’s a typo, yeah… I know! We could track down Thutmose! But, uh… Where the hell’s Thutmose right now?”
A distorted voice shout-whispered, “I heard that he was visiting TD/MD’s green room.”
“Huh? Oh, thanks!” Rudolf accepted that advice uncritically, beginning to make his way, but Pineapples looked, at least, in the direction it came from, seeing then flashes of a short-looking person in a maroon turban, face bandaged but mouth section bulging with something hidden underneath, and a pair of aviator goggles, as well as a tunic, trousers, and many bulky scarves adorned in the forms of climbing stick figures.
Looking at the man, Pineapples couldn’t help but feel suspicious, but hell, there was a lot shady going on here. “Yes, thank you, Mister… Who am I thanking?”
“No,” the figure answered dismissively, “think little of it… I’m just another interested party watching the show. If there’s confusion, then, I want to see it resolved fast! If you’ll excuse me, though, I need to make my way to my box…”
“Strange man…” Pineapples shook his head, not wanting to leave Rudolf alone to deal with this strange situation. He knew from hearsay and rumor that there were some truly dangerous things lurking in the bowels of Sound’s Garden, and Rudolf, more heart than head, was bound to be barreling into it.
Sound’s Garden - The largest and nicest green room in the halls of the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater.
Metra Doria sat before a makeup chair as assistants fussed and fussed with her hair, her face, her clothes, occasionally being met with polite thanks, compliments, or idle chit-chat, representing a sort of familiarity the team had had with the pale, short-dark-haired girl with a single blue streak through her front left locks. She stared at her own dressed-up eyes in the mirror, one silver, one blue and at once black-striped through the iris. As she sat here, initially clad pretty casually and low-key, she was Metra, but as the outfit she had selected was put together, she would become TD/MD.
She was being cordial before now, but all of the small talk had ended as soon as her manager came into the scene, knocking, being invited to come in, and then doing so.
“How’s the show going, Thutmose? I wish I could see Guy and the Fieris do their thing, but… Makeup, I swear.”
“There’s… People insisting upon speaking, Metra. They’re performers, the ones before you, and they seem annoyed. I tried to shoo them away and tell them to work it out, but that only incensed the old-timers with them, and now they want to speak to you. I tried telling them it was a waste of your time, but-”
“This close to going on?” Metra narrowed her eyes at the reflected form of her manager. Always, it was one thing after another with this guy. Though most of the time, one might assume there was something not worth it going on here, she knew Thutmose well enough to know there might be problems. She sighed, shutting her eyes now. “It had better be important… Let ‘em in.”
And like that, a quartet of two twenty-somethings, a middle-aged woman, and an old man barreled in through the door at once, all talking over one another and expressing confusion with the other’s very existence and presence. It was making the half-prepared girl more uncomfortable than sitting in a chair for awhile just to get ready for a show often did, so she raised her voice, calmly but authoritatively, literally seeming to drown out their babbling in the process. “Quiet down, alright?! One at a time.”
There was a little more whispering among the four, then, and it was the pinstripe-suited woman who stepped forward among them to speak the crowd’s mind. “TD/MD, I presume… This ‘Thutmose’ man, he has made a grave mistake in the scheduling. My associate Alexis here, and this half-nude man carrying a keytar around, they have not met before today, and they certainly did not intend to collaborate before you. Your manager has refused to listen to reason about this, so we are taking the matter straight past him to you… Resolve it at once, and we can be on our way.”
“What?” Metra, facing them all, blinked, shaking her head and glaring at Thutmose. “Again? How does this keep happening? You overbook acts right before me, and it’s such a disaster I’ve started to need to allot extra time to cleanup guys after those sets… It was bad enough before, but it’s seriously getting out of hand, man. I can’t keep dealing with you if you treat everyone else you deal with like this. You’re done working with me. We’re through.”
“B-but… But Metra..!” Thutmose was flabbergasted, looking almost terrified at the prospect. “Please, be reasonable..! I need this job, understand? I’ve got gambling debts, and-”
“Whoa whoa whoa,” the keytarist (Rudolf, or Nureyev, according to the program) interjected then, “let’s not ruin a man’s life over me and Lexy here, yeah? I looked into the history of this place, the Alexander Dickinson… Named after a big dead deal Philanthropist, so basically a dude from the 90's who gave his all to culture in this city, funded all kinds’a stuff! Would a man like that want a man to be fired in his own memorial stadium?”
The logic seemed to confuse nearly everyone there, not least of all Metra, whose response, after a moment, was, “Huh? You… Are you saying it doesn’t bother you?”
“He’s saying that!” Thutmose pleaded. “I am certain he’s saying that!”
“I don’t mind, either…” The redheaded Alexis said next, nodding and looking around at nothing in particular. “Yeah, I think we can work with that… The band he set us up with bailed on us anyway, right? So… Music might help, and it’s not like the things we do step on each other’s toes, yeah? So whatever, I’m sure we’ll still leave a bigger impression.”
Cybil, then, pursed her lips. “If it doesn’t make a difference to you, then, and we’re all on the same page… But still, this is so very inconvenient.”
“Agreed…” Pineapples looked to Thutmose. “Be more responsible in the future, aye? I think even if you keep your job right now, you’re gonna be on thin ice for now. And give up on gambling, if it’s sunken you this far.”
Metra nodded. “Agreed. I can’t guarantee I won’t start looking for a new manager, but… You’ve been good to me, at least. Clean up your act.” Then, she looked over the quartet. “I’m seriously sorry about this… You say you had backup, but they’re not showing up now? I, uh… I don’t know what happened to whoever those were, or why they fell through, but I have something I can do to help both of your shows exist at once: six of the best stagehands I've got.”
At that, the star snapped her fingers, and from the shadowy corners of the room emerged two trios, three men in a pose one well-versed on incidents in the early 20th century Roman Colosseum might compare to Awakening One’s Masters appearing before the Masters of Funky Action, three women in turn also sliding in before the Judecca Highrollers in perfect sync, stepping in with the coordination one might associate with, as a weird example, teenage mobsters jazzed about a dude being sent to the ninth circle of hell.
All six were muscular, clad in black sleeveless shirts, leather gloves, pants, boots, and bandannas over their heads, and all around, they gave off auras of immense reliability.
“Harry, Mark, and John, and Thorn, Dusk, and Luna… I kid you not, these guys can basically do anything and everything you ask of them. If they didn’t much prefer supporting other people to being in the limelight themselves, they would be as big as I am. Treat them well, they’ll learn fast, and they’ll be invaluable to making your bits work. But, uh… I’d hurry it up. Guy and the Fieris probably only have a couple more encores in them, and then you’ll have fifteen to set up. I wish you all luck..!”
Metra Doria had been a bit of a miracle for the grateful performers and put-off older supporters, who had in turn both begun to explain their intended strategies and how those might change to their crew members, who understood alarmingly fast.
“Man…” Rudolf whistled in relief, chuckling. “What a scare that was… But you, Lexy? You’re alright, actually.”
“Thanks,” Alexis answered in turn, still trying to figure this guy out, “you don’t seem bad yourself… I almost kinda feel bad that we’re gonna totally eclipse you out there.”
“Y’think so, huh?” Rudolf answered with a grin, pointing forward with a friendly competitiveness. “Well, the party don’t get drowned out by a damn thing! I’m gonna get all these good people pumped as hell, and they’ll be cheerin’ for me even when that Metra chick goes on!”
“Ooh, I’m starting to feel a bit competitive…” Alexis answered, good-naturedly chuckling and folding her arms. “Wanna see who gets the crowd more pumped? Loser, uh… Buys the winner overpriced concert t-shirts. These things need stakes, right? Heh…”
At the somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion, Rudolf nodded. “Sure, yeah! That, and the pride of bein’ one of the best in the city! May the best team win!”
OPEN THE GAME!
Location: The Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater, one of the biggest outdoor venues in the entirety of the Metropolitan area, in the buildup to TD/MD’s headlining act, wherein both of your teams have had a performer set to open for her. The place is packed at a capacity of tens of thousands of people.
The stage is a competently designed semicircle which is roughly 30 meters across for length and maximum width, with plenty of room all over and the various necessary fixtures upheld off the ground. It is raised up about 2 meters off the ground. Its back half is partially covered by the overhanging roof of the backstage area a dozen meters above.
The backstage area spreads out about 10 meters from both sides and the back of the stage, being somewhat indoorsy and absolutely full of things one could expect an excellent stage production to have, including, of course, sturdy rafters which lead up to the ceiling area overtop the stage. Both sides have had time to arrange for some extra things to be brought in.
Goal: With a leadup of fifteen minutes before acts, and a half an hour where both of your performers are onstage at once, you have a show to put on, and that is not getting ruined by this overbooking. So, with Rudolf and Alexis up on stage, and Pineapples and Cybil each operating their abilities and managing a three-person stage crew, outperform your opponents!
Given the vastly different skill-sets of the competitors, the goal is to execute on your vision better than your opponent executes on theirs. You will be judged and voted on the following criteria, in decreasing priority:
  • Feasibility - Whether your performance is actually within the bounds of what your Stand and Stats would imply.
  • Skill Use - A close second in relevance; how well you integrate your User Skills and Stats into your performance. While your Skills will help in completing this objective, they do not provide an automatic advantage by merely existing and must be woven into your strats, as per usual. Even the best of artists can have abysmal live performances.
  • Stand Use - Similar to the above, and similarly important. How cool, creative, and well-integrated is your Stand use. Put another way, wow the judges, voters, and viewers at home! This is more or less just the same as before.
  • Environment Use - How well you use and integrate the auditorium - its features, its backstage, its stage, and the hearts and passions of its occupants - into your performance.
  • Efficiency - How much quality footage you obtain and how well you use your time. This does not mean that setup for more complex performances is automatically penalized, but do try to minimize ‘deadtime’ and maximize the amount you perform.
Additional Information: There is a huge simp for TD/MD in the audience of the match, and he is connected enough that he will have both of you successfully and canonically killed if you ruin the show before the headliner can go on; therefore, murdering your opponents or audience members (“the ol’ Abraham Lincoln Tech” as they say in the biz) on an audience member is a loss condition. Not at all a moral thing for the record.
Stage Crew members for the respective teams (Harry, Mark, and John on the MFAs, Thorn, Dusk, and Luna on the Highrollers, if you care about their names) have 4s in strength, agility, endurance, Stagehand, and Backup; pretty much, anything their associated team asks them to do, they’ll be able to do, at minimum, competently. Though they won’t, like, murder for you. Generally you can use them for moving props on/off stage, extra bodies or on-stage back up performers, speaker and soundboard control, and/or on-stage camera crew as well as managing any other stage controls. Pretty much everything save for pyronetics and lighting is in their purview.
There are also dedicated lighting guys, totally neutral in your squabbles, who are going to do an entirely too good job adjusting their focus and making things work exactly as is needed so attention is on the stars of the show. They will also be coordinated with a third party camera crew that will be streaming the live feed onto screens for the audience. These feeds can be replaced or split screened with your own crew’s footage, but otherwise they will generally be in control of what is shown on-screen.
Players can be assumed to already have well-rehearsed their plans of action, the in-universe basis for the modified plans of the match, and have knowledge about every aspect of the stage, even if parts of their initial plan obviously need to be modified to account for new challengers also occupying stage space. If something performance related isn’t insanely, “years of training to do competently required” level hard, but would still require some practice ahead of time, they have had it to, at absolute max, somewhere between a 2 and a 3. Players, don’t overly-game this, though; the ‘stars’ of your performances should be the sheeted unique abilities of you, your skills, and your Stands.
All stands can be seen on camera and on the live feed for the audience's viewing pleasure.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Judecca Highrollers Alexis Williams “This one is for the guy who keeps yelling from the Balcony, and it’s called ‘We Hate You, Please Die.’” Gymnastics is a sport of rhythm and pace, this performance should be no different for keeping your momentum. Make as seamless transitions as you can between the acts of your performance!
Judecca Highrollers Cybil Antoine “Prepare to have your minds obliterated by… The boys! And Crash!” You have a whole crew of people working for you here, no need to do any heavy lifting by yourself. This is their job after all, better put them to work since that’s what they are here for. Make the most use out of your stage hands in your performance!
Masters of Funky Action Rudolf "Nureyev" Pavlova “What is with this band? They’ve… changed. Have you noticed they don’t have instruments? Where’s all this amazing noise coming from?” Keeping the audience’s attention for a full 30 minutes should be a piece of cake for the world’s greatest dancer, you can keep the party rocking even between your different acts. Make as seamless transitions as you can between the acts of your performance!
Masters of Funky Action Admiral Pineapples “You and your fireballs and your demon hipster chicks / you’re talking the talk and it’s pretty slick / You think you’re so great, but you’re missing the point / You gotta have friendship and courage and whatever!” You’re all in this show together, you and your crew of stage hand. Everybody should be contributing here, no man left behind. Make the most use out of your stage hands in your performance!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

Tomb of Acquisitions Campaign Diary - Part 1

Tomb of Acquisitions - Episode 1 - What's a Gun?

Premise

This campaign diary series will be covering my experiences preparing and running the Tomb of Annihilation published adventure, with some sprinkling in of the Acquisitions Inc. sourcebook for additional flavor. This game will be played as part of an actual-play podcast (The Rolling Loud Podcast), and so I thought that it might be interesting to write up and share my insights in preparing and running an adventure for a show. I’d also like to hear your feedback, especially your experiences running or playing Tomb of Annihilation, or about using Acquisitions Inc. mechanics in your games. I will not be linking to the show here because I think it goes against the subreddit rules, though I encourage you to check it out so you can follow along.
This campaign diary will not get very deep into my planning of the overarching campaign plot. Since this is a recorded and released story, I want to keep certain things in my back pocket. Instead, this series will largely focus on my preparation for each session. I will grant a little insight into my campaign-planning process though. In Kobold Press’s Kobold Guide to Gamemastering, Monica Valentinelli has an excellent essay on planning your campaign in four stages: Brainstorming, Sketching the Plot, Recording Wants and Needs, and finally Outlining. If you have the means I highly recommend reading her essay because the process she lays out gives you an excellent design skeleton for your campaign.
In this adventure the PCs will all be members of MacGuffin’s Repo Company, a mid-tier adventuring company that was based out of Nightstone. Now that their former base of operations was destroyed in a giant raid, the members of MacGuffin’s Repo are eagerly accepting as many contracts as they can.

Planning

Before I continue, it is important that I make a few choices I made clear. First, the characters are all rolled for stats and are starting out at level 3 instead of 1. Also, I have emphasized that this game will be a meat grinder (Well, a meat grinder by my standards anyways, I tend to be a merciful DM). Next, I decided to throw out the Syndra Sylvane intro. After reading the book’s suggested intro and contrasting it with a few guides that suggested a different opening, I decided that Syndra isn’t really adding a whole lot to the narrative herself besides the map. So, I decided to substitute the Merchant Prince Jessamine in Syndra’s place.
First, having a planned meeting with Jeassamine would give the party immediate direction once they arrived in Port Nyanzaru. This is something that I was anxious about while reading about the city in the book, because Port Nyanzaru can be overwhelming, and the book lacks direction outside of telling the players about some taverns. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I’m trying to plan for a recording I don’t want a lot of time spent going “um where should we go?” Next, Jessamine also suffers from the death curse, so she’s just as invested in finding its source and destroying it as Syndra. Also, as a Merchant Prince it makes sense to me that Jessamine would have the means to conduct the same research that Syndra did, and could provide the same rewards.
With no more Syndra Sylvane to teleport the characters, the party needed a new way to Port Nyanzaru. The guides I read that suggested cutting out Syndra also suggested opening the campaign by sailing into the city and being attacked by pirates, and I thought that was a fun idea so I decided to run with that. The party would be sailing aboard The Brazen Pegasus, since that was the ship mentioned in Tomb. As a side note, I am just having the timer for the Death Curse start ticking down from Day 1 of this adventure. I will not be reducing the timer by the length of the boat journey because it’s not really fair to the players, since they didn’t choose this opening.
And so that brings us to the opening scene of the campaign:

Part 1 - Setting the Scene – Aboard the Pegasus

Our story begins with the party sailing to Chult aboard The Brazen Pegasus, a 60-foot sloop built for speed. The Pegasus is captained by Ortimay Swift, a female rock gnome who is both clever and calm. The first mate is Grig Ruddell, a hulking man whose face is almost hidden by a heavy beard streaked with gray. Other than shouting orders at the crew and conversing in low tones with Captain Swift, Ruddell barely speaks.
Your voyage to Chult began when the company received a job offer from a highly unusual client: Prince Jessamine, one of Port Nyanzaru's seven Merchant Princes who rule the city. She requested a group of capable adventurers be sent to her with haste, with the promise of more details and pay upon your arrival. With a sense of eagerness and anticipation, you set sail out of Waterdeep and made your way through the Sea of Swords, stopping occasionally so that the ship could trade and resupply.
And so after a long journey aboard the Pegasus, Chult has finally come into view as the ship makes its final approach to Port Nyanzaru. Even from a distance you can see that the port is busy, and many ships are anchored in its harbor.
This is the point where I’ll have my players introduce their characters, and perhaps describe what they’ve been doing to keep busy during their time sailing to Chult.

The Party

After character introductions are handled, it’s time for the pace of the session to pick up. So, to start getting some action I’ll have the party roll perception checks to notice the following:
  1. Notice the smell of rotting fish. (DC10)
  2. Notice that the waters on the starboard side are being unnaturally displaced, as if a ship were atop them. (DC14)
If any players succeed on the check to notice the displaced waters, then the party will not be surprised when pirates jump aboard and attack the Pegasus:
The smell of rotting fish fills the air, causing your eyes to sting and threatening to make you lose your lunch all at the same time. Suddenly, you hear orders being shouted and grappling hooks seem to fly out of nowhere, catching the railing along the starboard side of The Pegasus. A moment later your hearts fill with dread as a galley materializes alongside your own ship, a charm of invisibility being dispelled. The massive vessel sports a crew of bloodthirsty bandits and the ship’s name: The Rancid Ghost. Captain Swift's voice rings out, "Pirates!! Come on you scallywags, to arms!" Roll Initiative!
So, a little about the attacking pirates. Like I mentioned earlier, this encounter was another suggestion offered by numerous guides on running Tomb, and it seemed like a fun idea so I included it. I wanted this encounter to have that “Ambushed by Pirates” feel, and so I had the pirate ship sneak up on the Pegasus while cloaked by invisibility. Now, the caveat of this encounter is that it culminates in the destruction of the pirate ship by Aremag, Chult’s local dragon turtle.
Since the attacking ship would be destroyed, I decided that these pirates should not be any of the three listed by the book. Instead, I came up with Captain Ray Mangold and The Rancid Ghost, and decided that they would be added to the list of pirate ships and captains wanted by Port Nyanzaru’s authorities (specifically Zindar). Now, when the players arrive and are greeted by Zindar, he will thank and reward them for dealing with one of these pirate crews and tell the party of the bounties on the other three, giving us a side-quest if the party wants to take it.
Imgur link of Battlemap
Now, onto the combat. Since we are recording remotely, we’re tracking combat through Roll20 and DnD Beyond’s Combat Tracker, which I personally am a big fan of. The Pegasus is being assaulted by an advance squad of 5 enemies: one is a Pirate Captain (Ghosts of Saltmarsh), another is a Pirate Deck Wizard (GoS), and the other three are your typical Bandits (MM). This should present a hard, but not deadly, combat challenge for the PCs. I have a handful of other crew members nearby, who’s competence I will dial up or down depending on how the combat progresses.
I want this combat to showcase cool character abilities while also demonstrating to the players that these fights will be dangerous. To do this, I’m going to try my best to knock one of the PCs off of the side of the Pegasus with the pirate wizard’s gust of wind spell. Now, this won’t kill them outright. But, it will present the players with a challenge they aren’t accustomed to, and will make the pirates seem like a real threat.
Since this is a podcast, we are playing “on the clock” in a sense. We aim for our episode length to be around an hour and a half, and combats tend to eat big chunks of that time. I have two tools to help counteract this combat from dragging on beyond what is fun:
With that being said, this combat will still probably serve as the first half of the episode, and will also serve as its action-piece. The latter half will be mostly RP based around the sights of Port Nyanzaru, and the meeting with Prince Jessamine that will set up the overarching plot of this adventure.
When Aremag arrives:
Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, the surface of the water is breached by a gigantic turtle. The world seems to freeze in place as the turtle's head and upper torso hang in the air above the fight, water shimmering across its blue-green scales and shell. Finally, the great beast plummets back down to the sea, crashing down upon the Rancid Ghost and completely destroying the ship. Pirates cry out in alarm and jump from the ship to avoid being crushed by the turtle, but few make it. Captain Swift and the crew of the Pegasus cheer at this glorious sight.
“Hail, the great guardian Aremag has shown us favor on this day!”
After the combat is all done and the pirates dealt with, the party will officially arrive at Port Nyanzaru and step foot onto Chult, forever changing their lives :O. Also, it serves as a good break in the episode.

Part 2 - Port Nyanzaru – Arrival

Having successfully defeated the pirates (with a little help from a dragon turtle), The Brazen Pegasus calmly sails to a tropical city that appears to be blossoming underneath the blazing sun. The familiar sounds of a harbor — creaking ropes, slapping waves, heavy barrels rolling across cobblestones — mingle with voices shouting and cursing in an unfamiliar language filled with clicks, inhalations, and sing-songy words that make it sound almost musical. The aroma of unfamiliar spices and tropical fruit mixes with the wharfside smells of fish, tar, and canvas.
However, what really catches your attention is the statue at the center of the harbor. The statue represents an ancient Chultan king in full regalia, resplendent in a loincloth of leopard skin and a headdress of feathers, shells, and tyrannosaurus teeth; draped in a cape of girallon fur and monkey tails; and wielding the traditional oval shield and yklwa of Chult. Residents call it Na N’buso, the Great King.
Soon enough, The Brazen Pegasus is hailed by the Port Nyanzaru's Harbormaster, and the ship finally drops anchor and docks. Up close, you are able to see that the Harbormaster is a golden half-dragon wearing large spectacles and white and blue robes, adorned with a golden trim.
Screenshot of arrival to PN
I’m having the players arrive at the Royal Docks (area 11) because I want them to be greeted by Zindar on their arrival, and am justifying this choice by saying that Jessamine’s letter grants them permission to dock in the otherwise restricted area. Upon arrival, Zindar will welcome Captain Swift and the Pegasus like old friends, and the two will have something resembling the following exchange:
Z - "Captain Swift! I am glad to see you back in one piece! How was your journey?"
CS - "Mostly fine right up until the end, damned pirates made a move on us right before we got to the harbor,"
Z - "Damn that criminal scum! The ship seems to be in fine enough condition, though. Who attacked you? Was it that cheat, Laskilar?"
CS - "No, it was Mangold as a matter of fact. Bastard snuck up on us with some cloak of invisibility and got the jump on us. Things wouldn't have gone so well for us if it weren't for these folk, who jumped into the fight right away. And a little help from Aremag didn’t hurt neither."
Z - "So the turtle sunk The Rancid Ghost, eh? Not bad, not bad at all."
Zindar focuses on the members of MacGuffin Repo. Co. and says, "Well, if any of you are looking to hunt some more pirates and make a quick buck doing it, the Merchant Princes have authorized me to offer a bounty of 2,000 gp for each pirate ship that is captured and brought into port, and a bonus 500 gp for the capture of each pirate captain. As it stands, I can't pay you that much for sunken ships. But, I am still believing that you deserve a reward for your help in defending the Pegasus."
I’m hoping that the players jump in on their exchange, and I’d love for them to try and wring some info out of Zindar, but at the same time I’m not holding my breath. Currently, their only clear objective is “Meet with Prince Jessamine”, and so that is what I anticipate they will want to do first. As you can see from the screenshot of Port Nyanzaru, I have placed my PCs pretty much right next to area 13, which is the Harbormaster’s Office. Outside of the office is an information board with listings of guides for hire, something that the party will need to traverse the jungle, which they may or may not be interested in.
The guides also add their own component to the story, which can either be a boon or a curse to the party. I debated for a while whether I’d leave all the guides available like the book says, or if I’d only make the ones that jumped out to me available for hire. Ultimately, I decided to leave them all in because this is something that will shape the player’s journey, and so I think they should make the choice. The players may want to hire a guide first, but without a real purpose to start exploring the jungle I imagine that they’ll keep making their way to Jessamine’s villa.

Exploring the City – Watch Out! Dino Race!

After disembarking from the Pegasus, the members of MacGuffin's Repo Co. leave the busy docks and enter the city proper. You find yourselves by the Harbormaster's Office, outside of which is a bulletin board that provides the names and whereabouts of several wilderness guides.
The first impression you have of Port Nyanzaru is an explosion of color. Buildings are painted in bright shades of blue, green, orange, and salmon pink, or their walls are adorned with murals portraying giant reptiles and mythical heroes.
Every building sports baskets and clay urns of colorful flowers or is draped in leafy, flowering vines. Minstrels in bright clothing adorned with feathers and shells perform on street corners. Multicolored pennants and sun awnings flutter atop the city walls. A crowd of children dressed in feathered hats and capes races past you, squealing in delighted terror as a street performer costumed as a big-toothed lizard stomps and roars behind them. The whole city seems to be bustling, sweating, laughing, swearing, and singing.
As you make your way through Port Nyanzaru, the size of the city starts to sink in. The wonders of Port Nyanzaru rivals that of Waterdeep or Baldur's Gate. Here, people use dinosaurs as beasts of burden, and the city sports a network of large water tubes. These tubes are massive, elevated connected pipes that are maintained and protected by three bound water elementals. People ride in them to quickly travel to different areas of the city. The tubes are ten feet wide and tall, providing ample space for even some dinosaurs to ride in.
While strolling through the city, you pass by a Temple of Gond, god of craft and smithwork. Instead of featuring a forge at its center like most temples to Gond, the boxy stone structure features an immense fountain whose water jets shift continually to create amazing shapes.
Crowds hustle around you as you take in the breathtaking beauty of the city when suddenly the brilliant sound of a trumpet blare echoes across the ward, and the people of Port Nyanzaru quickly begin to clear the city street.
First, you feel the ground begin to shake. Then you see three dinosaurs round the corner of the street, charging abreast towards you. Two are hadrosaurs, the other a young triceratops. The dinos are loosely tacked, and their riders seem to be hanging on for dear life rather than steering the great beasts. They quickly charge past you, and are soon followed by a string of four more dinosaurs that rush by before another trumpet blare signals that the streets are once again safe to walk, and crowds casually fill the streets of Port Nyanzaru while you struggle to get over the shock and bewilderment at what you just witnessed.
This is a good place for me to drop in a side quest or random encounter, but only a handful of the suggested options resonate with me and I don’t want to distract the players quite yet. Also, in reference to the water tubes I described. They are an idea from Sean McGovern’s Tomb of Annihilation Companion, which is available on the DM’s Guild. The guide is an excellent tool and is full of cool ideas like the water tubes.
You continue past the marvelous sight and quickly find yourselves in Port Nyanzaru's Merchant Ward, a vibrant district that encompasses the western half of the city. This is the upper-class section of Port Nyanzaru, home to the city's Merchant Princes as well as other affluent individuals, who are mostly made up of successful merchants and other elites. In fact, the district name is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the majority of the city's merchants and traders actually live and work out of the Market Ward.
As you stroll through the Merchant Ward, you approach the magnificent Temple of Savras, the god of truth and divination. This temple is one of the oldest, grandest buildings in the city. The tiled roof of its great dome resembles an unblinking eye, staring skyward, an homage to the god Savras (whose symbol is a monstrous eye).
Though I am introducing the temple of Savras to the characters, I am not going to have the party meet Grandfather Zitembe until after they’re hired by Jessamine because they need to have an idea of the grander mission that lays before them before they hear from the priest.

Meeting Prince Jessamine

Just beyond the temple is your destination: the Merchant Prince Jessamine's manor. You stand before steps that lead up to a set of double doors marking the entrance to the ruler's residence.
The guard ushers you into the palace's entryway, and you see that Prince Jessamine's home is a lavish villa; open and airy, its pillars and walls painted with colorful serpents. The mansion's decorative stone fountains and fonts also share a similar serpentine motif. The entryway is a pleasant, breezy, tiled courtyard that includes a splashing fountain and luscious green plants. You also see two more guards posted at the threshold to the inner chambers of the palace.
The guard points to an adjoining room and says, "You all may take a seat in the waiting room while I tell the Prince of your arrival."
The guard then turns to leave, going upstairs to fetch the Prince, and soon returns to their post. Around ten minutes later, Prince Jessamine makes her way down the grand staircase. She walks with a royal's stride, her chin held high. Her hair is styled in a medium-sized afro with one streak of grey tracing the left side. She wears a fine sleeveless gown that trails behind her, but as she draws near you notice that parts of her arms are bandaged.
Now that the party has accepted the main quest of this campaign, I want to offer something more immediate that will lead us into our next episode.
Now, depending on time the episode may end here or go on until the tavern. For whichever inn they choose (ideally the Thundering Lizard), they will meet Volo and have a chance to participate in a little tavern game called “Dwarf’s Bane” that I picked up from Tavern Games, a product on the DM’s Guild authored by u/lemongrovelovers. I like minigames and I think that a bar game against Volo could provide for some good banter and roleplaying to close out the episode, with the next ep picking up the following morning in anticipation of the Dino Race.

Running the Game

This section will be a lot briefer than the planning section since the podcast has been released and you can listen to the finer details there. Here I will be self-evaluating how things went and what could have been improved, and this is the section where I would like to hear from you all the most.
So, after the gang’s usual misfires in starting the episode, things get off to a nice start with character introductions and the initial action going according to plan. I almost knocked Reina off the side of the Pegasus, and although I didn’t initially design a DEX save for her to grab onto the side, when the idea was brought up it seemed more than reasonable so I allowed it. At the end of the combat Reina got her cool moment in the spotlight by climbing back over the railing and absolutely destroying the pirate captain. Even with the setback of one PC being mostly out of the combat, the party had this encounter well in hand, so the crew served as a backdrop instead of as active participants. Aremag showed up right on time, and we soon moved on to Port Nyanzaru. I think this combat was an excellent introductory encounter since each character had a moment where they shined in the spotlight, which is all I can ask for. And in the end, it took up more than half of the episode, which is a little more than I predicted. However, there wasn’t a point where I felt like it was dragging.
Arriving to Port Nyanzaru also went according to how I envisioned, almost down to the letter. The party got their prize from Zindar and decided that their best course of action would be to see Prince Jessamine as soon as they could, which is completely reasonable. The only part that surprised me was when the party was considering turning down Jessamine’s offer for one of them to race her dino in tomorrow’s Unchained Race. I thought this would be an easy “yes”, but it turned into a fun little debate and I liked that. In the end, we decided to end the episode in the tavern where the players met Volo and were about to play Dwarf’s Bane when Declan, the trickster cleric, made a wager of such unusual proportions that I deemed it a good place to end the episode.
Looking back on this session as a whole, I am happy with how things went. I think the first half of the session is really strong, but I regret not throwing in some kind of action in the latter half. Instead, it was largely filled with narration as I led the players through Port Nyanzaru. Full disclosure: we ran “episode 1” of this campaign (minus Batuk) a few weeks ago with the book’s introduction, but due to some unfortunate technical difficulties we lost an audio file and were forced to scrap the episode. In this “lost episode”, I had the party meet K’lahu and do his side quest. This time around I didn’t want to run the party through the same gauntlet, even though I liked K’lahu’s inclusion. I didn’t include any of the other side quests in this episode because they just come off as too obtuse to me, but if I could go back in time I think that including some sort of action for the players to jump in on would have made this session even better.
So with all that being said, I hope that I haven’t rambled on for too long and that you all may have found something interesting in my write-up, and I’d love to hear your thoughts so please comment below and give me some actionable feedback. If all goes according to plan, you should be hearing from me again soon.
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