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The Way of Moderation has ended (page 566)

Posted Jun 19, '11 at 5:43pm



11,091 posts


Alright. I had to actually think really hard about this next scene, because it's a big moment that was a long time coming and I actually debated for some hours as to whether the timing was appropriate. You'll see what I mean in the following update:

Mod Brawl

Barely had Devoidless and his two passengers disappeared from view of the Help Center than the raiders came, converging from all sides. At first it was the noise of thousands of feet, and the chanting and rankling cries filled with malice. Plumes of smoke from burning torches, fashioned from the remains of furniture and ruined buildings rose into the air, joining the larger clouds, lost to the searing haze that permeated the air, fighting the humidity that hung heavy over it.

"Here they come, bringing their hate with them, such is the way of this world." Asherlee sighed. "So how shall we go to meet them?"

"I hope you're not about to say with love and rainbows and all that hippie crap," Dank muttered. "Because all I have is this hammer, and the urge to whack."

"That's just fine." Asherlee adjusted her grip on her swords. "Sometimes kids just need a good whacking."

The voices drew closer and the first of the twisted teens came into view, emerging from a shattered storefront just a block away. "They're here! You ready yet?"

"Just a sec... got it!" Zophia finished fiddling with her fireworks and stood back up, hoisting the back on her back. "Fuses all set to go!"

"Not a moment too soon," Dank growled, raising his hammer. "I don't like running but it looks like we don't have much of a choice."

Indeed he was right, but in addition to that it seemed whichever way they took, they would have to fight a path of their own, as all too quickly the yelling and the bloodlust was all around. Once again they were outnumbered and surrounded.

"Zophia," Asherlee reminded her, "The rest of us can't cover you if you're not running."

The disordered conglomeration of raiders and trolls formed ranks as they closed, shoulders bunching together until they formed an impenetrable semi-circle around the team, daring them to make a move.

"I... am ashamed to admit this," Zophia said shakily. "But I think I've forgotten how to run."

"Come on," Dank groaned, stamping the handle of his hammer on the ground. "What's so different this time from the last one?"

"I don't know, I don't know! If my legs would move, I would run but, as it is..." Zophia trailed off, her voice catching slightly, her feet still firmly rooted to the ground even as the raiders leered on.

"It's about the plan isn't it." Moe's mechanical voice startled everybody. Asherlee tried to turn but since the brain in a jar was strapped to her back, it was impossible. "Ever since I lost my powers, I've had time to think... in a different way," Moe explained. "Surviving is one task, but it's harder to do things when there's something to lose. Like failing a plan."

"But what do we do then?" Zophia whined slightly, thrashing her tail. "I don't like feeling like this!"

"Asherlee, unstrap me."

The other three blinked in shock. "Are you sure?" Asherlee said.

"I know what it is to feel helpless, so do we all. But to do something about it, the hardest part is starting." Moe's mechanical tone never changed, but the words themselves were clear. Asherlee hesitated a moment, then sheathed her swords and undid the sling over her shoulder.

Dank was still hesitating. "Moe, with all due respect, is such a gamble nec-"

"We must trust each other. At the end of everything that is all we have. Strop, Devoidless and the 'mistress trust us to support them. Our citizens have no choice but to trust that we will succeed. There is no viable alternative, any other strategy will net a loss."

As the moments passed, the raiders, having somehow stopped a distance short of the team, started muttering amongst themselves. Strangely enough, it was the lack of movement that compelled them to stop, but now they grew restless, growing more confident that nothing was going to follow. And yet more time passed, meaning less time until the other team returned, and doubtless they, too, would be pursued.

"Alright," Dank said. "We've come this far anyway. But how do you know what's going to happen?"

"Technically I don't," Moe admitted. "But my power comes purely from knowledge and experience. To turn my back on those things due to belief in an intangible possibility was my undoing."

"You know what," Zophia looked at them, bemused. "I actually feel a bit better for that. But... we're still trapped. Actually, I think they're getting closer..."

It was true. While they were absorbed in their conversation, the raiders started edging forward, initially held back by a mix of confusion and trepidation, it had been eroded away by impatience. From further up the street the cry of "LET'S GET THEM ALREADY" rang out, and suddenly the whole block was a wordless roar as the raiders stampeded into action, closing the little remaining distance to them.

"Asherlee, I would like you to throw me upwards."

Setting her jaw and shoving any further concerns aside, Asherlee flicked her wrist and the sling whisked upwards. Moe was sent flying, creating a parabolic arc as he spun through the air. Almost within striking distance, the charging raiders hit the brakes, pausing for just one crucial moment to stare upwards as Moe hit the apex of the arc.

Then there was a blinding flash, and the haze lit up, searing thousands of eyes. Everybody reeled back, grabbing their faces and yelling in pain. Through the glare, Asherlee and Dank saw Moe descending, saw the raiders writhing all around them, and knew that one moment was their chance.

Dank picked up his hammer and slammed it into the nearest raider, a non-descript pimply teen like so many others. He could barely make out his features as they distorted from surprise and having the wind knocked out of him, before his body was sent flying in a straight line, plowing into and picking up several other bodies seemingly in slow motion.

Then the light stopped. "GO!" Dank yelled, as several pairs of hands immediately seized him. He knocked them off roughly with his free hand and slammed his hammer on the ground, toppling them from the shockwave. Asherlee immediately dove into the gap, sprinting towards Moe and diving hands outstretched to catch him.

Free for a split second, Dank turned and shoved Zophia, sending her stumbling. "Now your legs are moving, keep running!" he shouted, as he squared off against another group of teen mooks who doubtless hadn't seen a girl on the internet. Eight of them dove in, trying to find purchase on his armor, but he gave a mighty heave, picking two of them up and using them to blow the rest away. Zophia, her arms full with the fireworks, lurched to each side in a desperate bid to avoid the snatching hands of the horde. Asherlee, her arms full with Moe's jar, ran alongside, booting everybody in the face, the chest, the groin, anywhere she could reach. But they were two amongst many, and Asherlee was tripped, and went sprawling. Right away, a raider jumped up, fist poised to strike, and without thinking she held Moe's jar up. Panicking, the raider froze mid-air and Asherlee rolled out of the way just before he crashed into the ground awkwardly. Seizing the moment, she kicked him in the gut, hard, and he skidded away, felling another three. Even then more raiders took their places, succeeding in grabbing Zophia, trying to wrestle the fireworks away from her. Asherlee and Dank charged in, Asherlee flipped Moe's jar over to Dank, then let loose a devastating flurry of jabs and hooks around Zophia, knocking them over. She staggered as a larger grunt landed a blow on her back with a baseball bat, but she promptly turned around and clobbered him with an uppercut.

"I still got your back Zophia!" Asherlee shouted above the din. Zophia nodded, tucked her head in and made a beeline for an abandoned shop front. With just one free arm, Dank managed to connect cleanly with his hammer, sending a whole bunch of raiders flying into the wall, where they cracked the brickwork and crumpled into a heap. In the opening of that moment, he waddled up and dove through the broken window of the shop. Zophia and Asherlee were already making their way up the stairs and through the corridors towards the back. Dank climbed the stairs as fast as his stubby little legs could take him as the raiders piled in behind, all struggling to fit past each other to get to the narrow staircase.

Dozens of feet tramped through the second storey of the building, causing the wooden floorboards to creak dangerously. At the rear, Dank turned around, facing the advancing raiders, and smashed a hole through the floorboards, causing part of the ceiling to collapse. Up front, Asherlee blindly charged at the wall in front, slamming into it with her shoulder. The wall exploded outwards, bricks clattering to the street below, and in the same movement she leapt the gap in the alleyway, aiming for the window of the building opposite. At the last minute she crossed her arms over her face and in a shattering of glass and splintered wood she burst through and rolled back to her feet.

Zophia baulked, feet skidding to a stop with her toes dangling off the edge of the new hole. Dank couldn't stop himself in time, so he did the only thing he could think of.

"ZOPHIA, BOOST!" he shouted, bringing his hammer to bear. Zophia barely had enough time to drop the fireworks and bring her paintbrush out before the head struck her, lifting her bodily through the air with a startled squeak and across to join Asherlee. Having bought himself some time, Dank then pitched the pack of fireworks through the window.

"Can you fly yet?" he asked Moe.

"Still working on it," Moe replied. "It's like learning to walk. If I had legs."

"Better work fast," Dank quipped, before jumping down and hoping for the best. Alas, the best was not to happen, and Dank left a small posterior-sized crater upon landing. He cursed, realising that the raiders were back onto him, and attempted to resume the previous tack of running through buildings to thin them out. Above, he heard a loud whistle and a bang, and several sparks lit up high above, and even in the heat of the action, he was slightly relieved.

"I can do the flash again," Moe suggested, as the raiders swarmed in from both ends of the alleyway.

"Sounds good," Dank said, throwing him upwards and covering his eyes. Having just come in around the corner, the raiders were again unprepared and were all momentarily blinded, allowing Dank to pick up his hammer and cast a small typhoon, blowing the raiders over and back. Then he leapt into it, grabbing Moe on the way and was promptly flung onto the rooftops of the back alley buildings. The landing was more luck than intention, and he sprawled flat, shattering the tiles beneath him. Breathing hard, he scanned the horizon looking for the smoke that would signify the burning Freemarket, but not before quipping to himself: "ha, who says you have to be ninja to run on rooftops."

"We've lost Dank and Moe!" Asherlee shouted over her shoulder at Zophia, who was by this point panting heavily as they ran a meandering course up and down stairways, inside and outside.

"It's okay," Zophia replied between gasps, "I'll leave a trail of fireworks, that'll guide them." With that being said, they burst through the door of one shop, and while crossing the street Zophia yanked the fuse on another firework and tossed it behind her, causing the pursuing raiders to fall over themselves trying to get away from it before it exploded. They disappeared into another building just as it went off, and by the time the smoke cleared they had disappeared. Undeterred, the raiders swarmed back, and realising the trick, broke up into several groups, kicking down every door in the street so they might seek and destroy.

Zophia bundled herself into a darkened room in the house and collapsed, clutching her side. Asherlee swung in, and shut the door as the heavy footsteps echoed all around them, getting closer.

"Stitch," was all Zophia could manage, and after a little pause, "So, unfit."

Asherlee crouched down beside her, and managed to hush her voice. "You've done well so far. Just a little longer."

Zophia shook her head. "Leave me here. Take the fireworks and go."

"No way," Asherlee hissed. "We need everybody."

Zophia winced as the footsteps came even closer, up the stairs onto their floor, along with the sound of wood splintering as doors were kicked in. "No point saying that if we all fail because I failed."

Asherlee looked at Zophia for a long moment, realising just how serious she was. "Just remember what Moe said!" she muttered, picking the fireworks up, standing and placing herself next to the wall, listening intently. Outside, the raiders could be heard calling out "clear!" and "next room!", followed by another splintering. Asherlee's muscles tensed up as the voices approached their door.

Suddenly, with a battlecry, Asherlee rushed to the wall and launched both her feet at it. The dropkick decimated the wall, and it plowed into the raider at the head of the pack, crushing him against the far wall. Seizing the element of surprise, Asherlee scrambled to her feet and rained blows in every direction, forcing them back with sheer mass and ferocity. But the raiders were coming from both ends and without even enough room to turn around or take a proper swing, Asherlee's size proved to be a disadvantage, and as soon as she threw a punch at one end, she was being tackled from the other. Eventually the bodies were piling on top of her and she started to stagger, eventually being overwhelmed and sinking to her hands and knees.

"I'm not done yet!" She pulled out a firework, setting her teeth around the fuse.

"No, not inside!" Zophia tried to call out in warning, but too late. Resolutely, Asherlee gave it a yank, and the firework was live.

The explosion sent a shockwave through the hallway, shattering the windows, causing all the framed pictures in the hall to fall and break on the floor. The flames licked at the walls, engulfing everybody, singeing hair, setting clothes alight. Bodies reeled and flailed everywhere, beating at fire and dust as the firework itself continued to whine and spit sparks over everything.

"Asherlee!" Forgetting her exhaustion, Zophia scrambled to her feet and ran into the corridor, trying to see through the pandemonium. She tripped, and looked back to see a familiar hulking body, trademark red tunic looking much the worse for wear, blackened hands clapped over ears. "Asherlee!"

"I'm fine," Asherlee gritted, looking anything but. "I'm fine. We gotta keep moving."

But while the firework had taken out all the raiders on that level, it had also attracted the attention of everybody in all the other levels and buildings, and once again the shouts rose and the tramping footsteps drew closer, this time a multitude of them. Zophia attempted to hoist Asherlee to her feet but was completely ineffective. She fumbled at the other firework packages, counting them. Apart from the sinister-looking red rocket, she had just two regular fireworks left. That wouldn't buy them much time. Zophia glanced at her paintbrush, sure she could paint a few walls perhaps, but they wouldn't hold out for long either, and she didn't have enough time to draw anything that could really get them out of trouble.

She picked the paintbrush up anyway, armed with a fresh dab of whitewash. "Let's hope Moe's right!" she said, to a weak thumbs up from Asherlee.

The raiders, smelling their quarry, were positively baying by the time they reached the burning level of the townhouse. But Zophia took the initiative, flicking paint at them and wiping them out with violent strokes of her brush. Muted, they fell one by one, but with more piling up behind them, Zophia knew she couldn't hold out much longer. Then the fateful moment happened; a raider slipped past her guard and grabbed her brush, immobilising it. She tried to tug it away but it was far too large and bulky to be effective in such close quarters. She could see the raider's sneering face, mouth slightly open as he reached up-

Right above them, the roof caved in, tile, boards and detritus raining upon them. With a shout, Dank crashed through, the head of his hammer glowing with a charged spell, which he then unleashed through the corridor. A spout of water erupted from it, washing raiders both fallen and active away and back down the stairs, starting off a waterfall that would result in a tidal wave that gutted the entire half of the town house, spitting the raiders back out the front door. No sooner than this had started, Dank promptly wheeled around, using Zophia's body as leverage, and hurled Moe's jar at the nearest raider on the other side. It connected with a thunk, and left the raider glassy eyed. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the raiders on that end of the corridor were picked up and shoved, hard, sending them back down the other staircase to join the tidal wave.

In the stunned silence that followed, Moe spoke. "Now that's an improvement."

"Asherlee!" Zophia finally recovered enough to remember the situation. Asherlee struggled to her feet, leaning against the wall. "It's fine, really. Just singed hair, palms, and my ears are ringing." Asherlee looked down, then added, "And my clothes are shredded."

"I wouldn't have found you if it weren't for that firework," Dank said. "As crazy as that was."

"And we wouldn't be alive if you and Moe hadn't shown up like that," Zophia said, relief evident in her voice.

"We'll have time to thank each other later guys, but we got to finish this job." Asherlee tore another strip off her tattered shreds, wrapping them around her singed palms. "We made it this far, it's just one sprint to go."

"They'll be all over us as soon as we exit," Moe cautioned. "I can help a little now, but it still takes a lot of concentration."

"It's fine," Zophia said. "I feel better now."

Dank smashed another hole through the back door, and they all hit the ground running. Sure enough, the raiders quickly spotted them and started running after them. Zophia quickly pitched the last two regular fireworks, setting them off with a whiz and a bang, and tightened her grip around the sinister red rocket. Over them, the great black pillar of smoke billowed, and the heat from the flames was getting stronger.

"Just a block to go!" Asherlee said, but too soon, for a wall of raiders blocked their path, and the ones pursuing from behind were catching up. The closer they got, the more it was apparent that they had figured out the direction of this breakaway team, and had purposefully set out to stop them, for the wall was very deep and very solid.

"They've got us!" Zophia said, crestfallen. "We can't bust through that."

"Hand me the firework, then," Asherlee said, holding out her hand. Wordlessly, the rocket was passed between them. As the raiders formed another circle around them, Asherlee cocked her arm back, leg raised, and pitched it as hard as she had ever thrown anything. It soared into the air, lost to the haze, and even as the raiders closed in again, they all counted the seconds, waiting for it to go off.

In a bloom of evil red fire, the firework exploded, and from a single wisp, the apparition of a giant dragon's head rose, shining so brightly it was visible for miles around. Even the raiders stopped to watch in wonder at the spectacle.

"Mission accomplished," Moe said.

"Well, guess the small chance was good enough," Dank chuckled wryly. "Too bad I'm probably right about the certain death."

"We'll just have to take as many with us as we can, right?" Asherlee picked her swords up again, and clanged them together ominously.

"Then I guess I better say my thanks now," Zophia said. "It was good working with you guys."

"It's not over yet," Asherlee said. "We'll just have to hope that the others make it back in time."

With that uncertainty hanging over them, the four stood back to back, seeing murder in the eyes of each and every one of the members of the horde as it regrouped.


Next: Gruelling aerial combat!


Posted Jun 19, '11 at 10:49pm



5,814 posts

I was completely smashed yesterday.

Only young people, surfers, and people who have actually been smashed can say that they were smashed.

And since you're not a young person or a surfer I can only assume that you've literally been smashed. Why are you writing things rather than resting in bed? What is wrong with you strop?

...I didn't mean to stop writing, because you probably should. Maybe. Do it. I command you.

"Sometimes kids just need a good whacking."

Whacking is never the answer, Strop. Never. <insert safe for work masturbation joke here>

Posted Jun 20, '11 at 12:12am



2,354 posts

I was completely smashed yesterday.
I heard. And I missed it D: Stupid second graduation. The one day the Internet would have been fun...

Our citizens have no choice but to trust that we will succeed. There is no viable alternative,
These words are so, so, disturbingly true.

Posted Jun 20, '11 at 3:11am



4,440 posts

Whacking is never the answer, Strop. Never. <insert safe for work masturbation joke here>

Bahahahahahah :P

The music timed perfectly for me, which was kinda awesome.

Posted Jun 20, '11 at 10:04am



11,091 posts


Just checking in, can't update today because my shift ended at 11pm and my next one starts at 8am D:

The music timed perfectly for me, which was kinda awesome.

That is good, it took me twice as long to write the segment because I was trying to choreograph it to sync relatively well. Yay 8am bedtime!

Only young people, surfers, and people who have actually been smashed can say that they were smashed.

I can hardly recommend attempting to emulate the experience of imbibing so much alcohol it feels like you were literally punched in the face by a 500 pound gorilla.

Anyway, I'll get the next part up within the next couple of days.

Posted Jun 20, '11 at 4:51pm



4,697 posts

yeeaaaaah, music didn't work on my end, considering it kept having to buffer.

I can hardly recommend attempting to emulate the experience of imbibing so much alcohol it feels like you were literally punched in the face by a 500 pound gorilla.

the same experience can be experienced by actually being punched in the face by a 500 pound gorilla, although this is far less reccomendable.

Posted Jun 22, '11 at 3:51am



4,440 posts

Oh gosh there were emails! D:


Posted Jun 22, '11 at 4:21am



11,091 posts


yeeaaaaah, music didn't work on my end, considering it kept having to buffer.

Hit the pause button and wait 'til it prebuffers manually you dummy!

the same experience can be experienced by actually being punched in the face by a 500 pound gorilla, although this is far less reccomendable.

I will give you +1 internets if you actually attempt this.

And put a record of the attempt on YouTube.

Oh gosh there were emails! D:


Go look, discussion is ongoing!

Posted Jun 22, '11 at 10:08am



3,039 posts

If only my state allowed fireworks like that.


Posted Jun 22, '11 at 9:25pm



4,697 posts

I will give you +1 internets if you actually attempt this.

bro, i'll take no less than 500 bucks plus the medical expenses...
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