A Quest Perdu

GM: Lotus
Players: Walker
Synopsis: This is an astral quest Walker undertakes to learn Improved Invisibility. They end up visiting all the Metaplaces, doing magical surgery and starting a revolution on the way.
Date: 12th of December, 2080

Walker makes his usual preparations for a metaplanar jaunt. Door locked, curtains drawn and landlady told he's away on business - might not even strictly be a lie. He sets out his spare set of sheets in case there's any blood and wills his tattoo into life, golden light flickering beneath his shirt, before he sprawls out on the floor and projects, flitting away from the physical world and off into metaplanar space.

The physical world slowly dissolves and turns into a whirl of lights than slowly fade out, leaving only the familiar black void of the Threshold behind.

"No longer trusting the spirits to hide your ass from the law?" The voice of the Dweller appears, seemingly out of nowhere yet everywhere at once. It doesn't manifest physically. "I'd say I'm surprised, but… you know that'd be a lie."

Walker rolls his eyes, recalling this conversation in reverse from many years prior when a woman offered to teach him the trick. "They do the job well," he responds dryly, "but sometimes it's better to take care of things personally, right? I see you've already got it figured out…"

"I'd love to see the spirits just going, 'You know what, how about you do your own dirty work' on you one day," the Dweller replies. "Then leave you and your pretty boy ass on its own. You'd have to make actual friends for once, if they can stand your constant brooding!"

An eye appears out of the void. Not an actual eyeball, more like a single, big eye, stylised to the point of looking cartoonish as if someone could out of a huge almond-shaped sheet of paper and drew a big black dot on it for a pupil. "So how do you want to do this? Play hide and seek? Let's. We're in an empty void, find a place to hide from my eye and we can get on with this."

"Oh that's a good idea!" the elf muses with a broadening grin. It's not exactly what the Dweller asked for, but on the metaplanes that's more or less the rule. He closes his eyes and conjures up an image of another elf - Laz, his personality is pretty easily summarised - and sets the marionette loose. Another, this one a vicious looking young woman with a penchant for burning things. Darius, unassuming and grey joins the throng, and Pema, bubbly and shy by turns. One by one, the astral caricatures fill the void until the elf just seems to merge into the crowd. "Remind me," his voice echoes from everywhere, "Which one am I?"

Presumably the Dweller will only know about these people from what it can elicit from Walker's mind… or is it an omniscient being connected to all Awakened beings? In either case, that cartoonish eyes darts back and forth over these different figures, eyeing them as emotionlessly as one could expect from a disembodied eye. "Perhaps you do have some friends after all," it admits, "You're all a silly lot. Well done." the eye closes, and disappears.

"Dr. Walker to surgery, please!"

The voice over the hospital intercom and a pair of nurses pushing a bed right past in through the corridor sort of opens his senses to the new place. Much as expected, it's a hospital, green and white abound, and he's also wearing green scrubs. A nurse, that for some reason looks exactly like the image of Pema he conjured earlier except also dressed in scrubs and with a surgical mask over her face, comes up with a clipboard.

"Let's go doctor, curious case waiting in surgery." Without waiting, she starts to walk.

After a momentary double-take, Walker decides that he's better off not asking too many questions and just playing along for the time being. He falls into lockstep beside Nurse Pema and gives her a curious look. "Define 'curious'," he asks, one eyebrow crooked as in all the hospital dramas. Something about water taking on the shape of the container there, he muses to himself.

"Misapplied use of the invisibility spell," Nurse Pema replies as they walk through the corridor. "Never seen anything like it," she muses as they reach the double doors leading into surgery.

Naturally, surgery rooms in the sixth world look more like automated factories than the sparse tiled rooms of yesteryear. The walls are lined with trid monitors showing heart rate, X-rays and all sorts of medical information. The rest of the surgery team are there, behind a decontamination screen, including Nurse Laz and Dr. Darius, both of them already dressed up with aprons, masks, caps, gloves and everything else. Nurse Pema hands over the very same protective clothing from an automated dispenser at the wall. They step into the annex connecting the hospital and the surgery theathre itself.

"Decontamination initiated," an automated voice speaks out and sprays the two with cleaning nanites, followed by a "Decontamination complete," and the doors opening.

"There you are, Doctor," Dr. Darius says and gestures to the patient on the table. It's difficult to tell if it's a man or a woman or anything else, because all tissue and bone is completely invisible, leaving only the cardiovascular and nervous systems still visible. Fully visible beating heart, pulsating veins and nerves firing up in response to stimuli.

After struggling into the PPE and waiting through decon, Walker enters the theatre and gives Darius a scholarly nod. "Doctor." he intones seriously, "Interesting case you've got here." He takes a quick glance at the readouts on the various displays before turning his attention to the patient. "Sedated I see," he notes, "I assume they're somewhat distressed by the situation - any ideas on if they did it to themselves or not?"

Nurse Pema hands over the datapad she was carrying over to Dr. Darius, and then quietly assumes her role at the operating table. "Very interesting," he says, eyeing whatever data's on that pad. "Patient experienced critical failure while casting an invisibility spell, leading into structural dyschromeia in main tissue. Residual mana coagulation in the lymphatic system, causing resistance and potentially fatal hypermagikeia. Basically, a mana clot in the system, there." since the internals of the patient are fully visible, he points it out. Somewhere in there, there's a slightly glowing clot the size of a pea. "Immediate resection necessary. Unfortunately, this curious state has led to our high-tech auto-surgeron being unable to register the patient as metahuman, so we'll have to do it manually. Guess I don't need to tell how difficult it will be to operate on invisible tissue, no?"

"Didn't you once tell me a story about removing some kidney stones blindfolded in your student days?" Walker asks with a smirk at Dr. D, "I'm sure we'll manage though: we'll just have to be slow and methodical. Their vitals look fairly good all things considered, so I don't think we need to rush." He straightens his gloves and glances around the room, "We are all prepared I presume?"

The doctor and the two nurses nod their heads, Nurse Pema pulling forward a table of implements; a mix of old-school surgical instruments, hi-tech gadgets as well as charged health spell foci. "Ready when you are, doctor."

Dr. Darius says, "Apply antiseptic and surgical drape, please," while Pema casts a cleansing spell on the area and Nurse Laz covering up parts of the body that don't need surgery.

To say it's slow going would be an understatement: the procedure drags on for hours. Even with a magical team and state-of-the-art equipment, a partially invisible patient just isn't something most people train to handle. They persevere though, and after hours of effort the successfully extract their coagulated mana. As the glowing glob is deposited in a tray, Walker smiles. "Job well done team, I'd better get to writing this one up on PubMed."

"Wonderful work, doctor," the team replies as Dr. Walker exits the surgery room. "Wish people would be more careful with their invisibility spells," is the last comment he hears before stepping into decontamination.

However, the decontamination sprays seems to be loaded up with something else. Liquid nitrogen, in fact, spraying the doctor's body with supercooled liquid until only a frozen-solid Walker lolly remains. It falls to the ground, and shatters into a thousand shards of burning-cold ice, spreading out across a vast empty floor. His conscience seems to remain in one frozen shard though, as if that very one contained his soul.

"Arise, Walker," a voice commands. Then, other voices are heard from the endless room with its endless shards of broken ice, slowly melting in the sourceless heat of the room.

"I am Walker!"
"No, -I- am Walker!"
"Don't listen to them, I am the real Walker!"

The other shards of Walker impostors begin to move, little droplets of frozen soul-tissue beginning to gather. He can somehow see how some of those puddles of liquid, pretending to be him, are moving across the floor, hungrily absorbing pieces that used to belong to him before he was crushed. He better move!

He can't help but recall an incident in a fever dream of a shopping mall, dozens of carbon copies fighting each other- never mind, focus on the present. The first few puddles are easy enough to absorb, but it quickly becomes apparent that the easy pickings are going to be gone quickly. He lurks as a pair of wannabes fight it ought, then pounces on the still-weakened victor.

Eventually, the puddle that once was Walker has grown to the point it becomes nearly a life-sized mirror on the floor, reflecting his figure as through the surface was a portal into another world where his body remains intact. From there, he can simply climb out of the shallow water and he find himself somewhere else again.

Dripping wet, naked and panting with exertion, Walker hauls himself out of the other side of the portal. For a few moments he simply kneels by the pool as his racing pulse returns to normal. "And fucking stay down," he mutters to the chattering chorus inside his head.

He crawls out and finds himself sitting in the middle of a rocky landscape. The ground is flat, but along the ground there are great pools of liquid, like warm spring full of mineral-rich colours turning the waters into colourful soup. Each pool has its own uniform colour and there are loads of them. There are also people there, wearing coarse robes and veils covering their faces, seemingly tending these pools and occasionally extracting objects from them with long sticks.

Straightening up slowly, Walker eyes the figures scattered among the pools. As his breathing returns to normal, he concentrates for a moment and dons a similar robe, although his is a little better fitted and far less coarse. Approaching the nearest one, but politely staying out of stick reach, the elf calls out, "Hello! I don't suppose you could tell me where this is?" Sometimes it pays to be direct, he figures.

One of the figures look up from their duties, that seem to be poking into a perfectly round pool of brightly purple liquid, with a diameter of perhaps 20 foot. "These are the fields of transmutation," the worker replies. "Here, we create artefacts for our warriors, against the chromatic dragons. Each pool will transmute any piece of equipment into a metal, crystal or gemstone it corresponds to. This one is for amethyst," it says, reaching down with its stick and pulling out a suit of crystalline purple armour, whose parts seem carved out of pure amethyst. "Will you join us in defeating the great prismatic dragon?"

Walker gives this due consideration, dragons not being something to trifle with lightly. "What do you need?" he asks carefully, "Another pair of hands to pull things out of pools, or someone to fight a dragon?" He can't help but stare at the amethyst armour, wondering if this metaplace has any basis in reality or if it's just a product of his wandering mind.

"You seem like a warrior," the worker replies and sinks the amethyst armour back into the purple soup. "Normally, our weapons and armour must match the colour of the dragons, but the greatest dragon of all, the prismatic one, has so many colours we don't know what material to use."

And then, suitably, the sky darkens as a great shadow sweeps above them, sending the workers dropping their sticks and running in fear. "There it is!" the worker closest to worker shouts. "Please, if you know about the magical properties of crystals and metals, please help us defeat the dragon!"

He reaches over to a small covered bag on the ground and takes out a shield, made from what looks like a pure white steel, setting it down on the ground before running away, leaving Walker alone in the massive Fields of Transmutation. The great dragon, a massive beast with scales shimmering in many colours, lands not far away and begins to approach. It flaps its wings that shimmer in thousands of colours like a butterfly's wings would, then bellows out, "Who is this stranger trying to defeat me?" Even as the creature speaks, flames burst out from its nostrils, almost every flame bearing a different colour.

Walker takes of running, his astral form flitting from pool to pool as he puts it all together: purple armour for purple dragon, red armour for red dragon… prismatic dragon and a white shield needs a bit of all of them. It's just as well he gets to the orange pool first, as that seems to let the shield ward off the worst of the first burst of flame in that colour.

The elf ends up a little singed by the various hues of flame as he darts around, but eventually with a speedy but of levitation to dip the shield in the final red pool on the run, the white material turns transparent, refracting the light coming through it like a diamond.

"Sorry about that," he quips as he straightens up with the shield on his arm, "My name is Walks-with-Spirits, and I'm here to kill you."

The great multi-coloured dragon regards the lone warrior amidst the fields of transmuting pools. "Don't run," it bellows, drawing another plume of prismatic flame. "You'll only tire yourself before dying."
Then, as the prismatic shield is done and turns transparent like glass, the great dragon approaching, opening its mouth to destroy Walker with a single huge burst of flames.

The massive plume of glittering, colourful chemical fire spreads out, but as the light from it bounces off the shield, the flames are absorbed into it. A ray of prismatic light emanates from the shield, the ray tearing through the dragon like the prism tears through white light. It howls in agony, and quickly slumps to the ground in two, turning into multicoloured powder that blows away with the wind.

Glancing at the shield slung on his arm with a rather surprised expression before grimacing at the grisly spectacle of the dragon, Walker takes the shield from his arm and peers around to see if any of the workers are anywhere to be seen. "Really don't want to steal your artifact…" he mutters softly to himself.

The dragonslayer walks away from the field of victory then, leaving that world behind and soon finding himself back on the streets of Denver. Of course, deep down he knows it isn't the place but the myriads of people, the billboards, the skyscrapers glittering against the night sky… it all looks right. The faces on the street look familiar. Very familiar in fact, it's like most of his friends are there, wandering around doing their business. By a road crossing, Darius, Pema and Laz are standing, the two tall men and the shorter Pema in between. They're dressed much as they usually do, chattering about something, then begin to walk across the road towards the corner where Walker is standing.

Walker casts around warily, once more back in his comfy longcoat. Dragons and monks and magical operating theatres is one thing, but this particular stop on the tour is just a little too real. He gives the trio a vague wave as he keeps an eye out for trouble.

Certainly the streets of Denver aren't always that safe but there doesn't seem to be anything troublesome out there. The trio comes up closer, but strangely, they seem to completely ignore him. Pema, being the smallest of the three and also walking in the middle, just bumps straight into him and staggers, falling over and looking confused as well as in pain. The other two help her up back on their feet, and they start to look around in confusion.

Then it hits him. He looks down at himself and he's invisible. There aren't any arms, legs or anything else to look at. He's like a floating pair of eyeballs in empty space.

Yup, that would explain it - makes sense now that he thinks about it. "I don't suppose you guys can hear me?" Walker hazards, waving an invisible hand uselessly for a moment before rolling his invisible eyes at his stupid invisible self. His totem stirs at the back of his mind, drawing up a list of fun things to do while invisible. Walker pointedly ignores the rabblerousing.

Pema, still clutching herself in pain from the fall, points at the spot where Walker is standing. "There's something there, some evil spirit or something!" She pulls out her little handgun, fumbling a bit with the action, racking the thing but looks intent on firing it. Darius, meanwhile, begins to chant in his arcane language, preparing to throw some devastating spell at the moment. Though, perhaps more scary of all, Laz also moves in, fist in palm, getting ready to pummel the air until he hits something.

Not wasting any time waiting for Darius or Laz to do their worst, to say nothing of Pema's shots which he suspects could go -anywhere-, Walker focuses for a moment and lifts off the ground, reaching what is probably a safe distance at rooftop height.

Laz goes in first, swinging his mighty fists in the air, accidentally taking down a traffic signs although he barely notices it himself. Not wanting to hit him, Pema instead raises her handgun and begins to shoot higher up, firing off fire shots until she's empty. One of the bullets go dangerously close but hit the wall just behind him. Darius is still prepping a spell.

Walker alights on the roof, letting 'Darius' do his thing - anything but an elemental spell won't bother him if the mage can't see him after all, but just in case he wraps himself in a thick layer of shielding. The magical protection is just as invisible as him, but should easily keep away whatever the mage is trying to throw.

Not having any direct object to attack, the mage begins to fling destructive explosive fireballs that slam against the surface of the building, tearing chunks of concrete from the wall and sending flames lickering about, but even that is not sufficient to find an invisible enemy. Eventually, the trio shrug to each other, and they begins to walk away, leaving a destructive scene behind - as well as their invisible friend. What will he do about it?

Giving the almost-definitely-not-Darius a filthy look as the trio depart, Walker turns his attention to the building that they seem content to leave in flames. In his invisible state, he flits through the hallways looking for any injured.

The fireballs left the interior of the building in ruins. The office building had desks overturned, filing cabinets and chairs overturned and exploded into fragments. The building is burning, people are covered in blood and screaming in pain. Upon seeing this, others are struck with panic and things escalate. Of course, he is invisible so people largely ignore him, occasionally even bump into him unless he stays out of their way.

In the distance stands a man clad in a trenchcoat and old-fashioned hat. He's wearing sunglasses, and both his head and hands are completely wrapped in bandages. With indifference, he stands and watches the mayhem, smoking a cigarette.

Grimacing at this unpleasant vista, Walker does what he can. The screaming ones are generally OK, if he remembers his first aid principles correctly, it's the quiet ones you need to pay attention to. He scans around, trying to identify the worst injuries, figuring he can either heal them enough for them to get themselves out, or levitate them out himself.

The trenchcoated figure gets a quick, dark look, but the elf has more important things to deal with than oddballs who like to spectate the suffering of others.

The figure speaks, with a voice that travels through the chaos unhindered and unchanged by the distance. "Tsk, tsk," it says, flicking its cigarette away. "Look what a mess your cowardice has created. If you had confronted your friends somehow, instead of running away, none of this had happened. But flying away like a skittish little bird was easier, huh."

Walker glowers at the trenchcoat. "One: those aren't my friends. Darius would never do that, nor would the others. Two: have you -seen- what Laz's fists do to people? Or the people standing next to those people?" He shakes his head, a memory of a cleanly bisected corpsec patrol still clinging on in there somewhere. "Prudence is not cowardice, now are you gonna stand there and snipe or help me move these people, seeing as you're the only asshole who seems to be able to see me?”

"I'm sure you would've been able to handle a punch," the figure says, sticking its bandaged hands into the pockets of its trenchcoat. "And certainly taken a bullet. If you had, none of this would've happened." It looks around at the mayhem, with complete indifference. "We could undo all of this, if you want," it says, "But you'll have to go back down there and take that punch. Let it remind you of how your actions have consequences." It watches as one office employee somehow has managed to get himself lit on fire; he runs across the room screaming, then crashed through a window and falls out to a certain death. "Those people down there may not be your friends, but neither are these. They're not even people."

Walker's glare barely falters at the suggestion, but he does spare a glance for the poor folks caught up in the carnage. It shocks him a little how quickly he comes to his conclusion.

"Fine. Undo it. They might not be people, but the seem to scream and die and panic just the same. I'll take a punch from them if it'll make you fix it." The irony of a Ute boy who doesn't believe in it making a deal with the Devil is not lost on him, a resigned smirk spreading across his face.

The figure snaps its fingers and everything freezes and fades to black.
A second later, Walker finds himself standing on the corner of that street again, with the trio of friends walking by exactly like last time. Pema bumps into him and falls to the ground, whimpering in pain. And then Laz comes in, ready to swing his fist.

Here was a scenario he hoped he'd never see. He almost winces, but the memory of the screaming, the bodies and the flames produces an almost meditative calm as the fist comes in. It hurts - it is Laz after all - but it isn't as lethal as the real one would be. He goes sprawling to the ground, but quickly picks himself back up, rubbing at his jaw.

It seems like the blow knocked the invisibility out of him, and when he gets back up, Laz chuckles a bit and says "Oh, it's you Walker, sorry about that" in his usual plump way. Pema looks relieved, albeit still hurting, and Darius decides against nuking the place with fireballs.

"Well, we gotta go Walker, but see you later," Laz says and the three begin walking off again, leaving him standing in the street again, no-one hurt - except maybe his ego.

Wishing that not-Laz had thought of that trick in the operating theatre, Walker dusts himself down and shrugs it off. He glances around for Trenchcoat, or something to vent his frustration on, but finds only the empty street.

That Denver street corner where he just got socked by a good friend slowly changes; colours become watered out, almost monochrome, the neon lights disappear and the street is instead bathed in an eerlie light from a grey sky. The grimy streets have suddenly become spotlessly clean, all the cars are gone. The buildings have changed into tall uniform concrete boxes, the advertising have turned into large propaganda posters for some unnamed totalitarian state. Slogans like 'DO NOT COOPERATE WITH THE INVIS' and 'VISIBILITY IS HONESTY' can be seen. The streets have been divided in two, with a wall separating them. On one side, prim and proper citizens in old-fashioned clothing walk down the streets on their way to work. The colours are a bit brighter, the posters show happy smiling people and the numerous police officers are smiling.

On the other side of the wall, rows of people wander, dressed in uniform grey coveralls. Their faces cannot be seen though; this oppressed mass of workers are all invisible men, appearing as nothing but hovering grey jumpsuits and hats, with a big patch on their breast depicting a stylised eye. Armed guards look down upon them from atop small watch-posts atop the wall, making clear how the hierarchy in this society works.

Walker feels Adversary stir at the back of his mind as he scowls at the saccharine 1950s pastiche, unable to ignore the parallels with the double standards his own people endured - before going on to inflict the same on the Anglos, he acknowledges unhappily. He clads himself in a nondescript suit for the time being, figuring it better to get his bearings before nailing himself to any masts despite the angry thoughts rattling around his head. He joins in with the flow of law-abiding SINners or whatever they are, keeping an ear out for gossip.

The visible side of the wall has people chatting with each other, with low voices but still fairly cheerfully. There's talk of of everything from chocolate rations going up, office workers hoping for promotions at the ministry, what flavour of nutri-paste they'll have for dinner… but there's also talk of something more. A government loudspeaker proclaims:

Naturally, this has people gossiping on about who these traitors are, etc. A sign reveals that said square is just a bit further down the street.

He can't tell of course, but any particularly attentive bystanders might notice Walker's eyes change colour, luminous gold replacing the green as he strides towards the square. Glancing to someone he ends up walking beside, the elf asks in a low voice, "You know what they did?" He doesn't really expect much of an answer, but you never know: maybe they're all unrepentant puppy murderers. 'Still wouldn't justify this,' comes the thought from the back of his skull - was that him or his totem? Maybe both.

Walker finds himself walking beside a typical everyman, dressed in an old-fashioned suit and fedora, suitcase at this side. "Why, they probably took off their state-mandated clothing and went off to steal or spy on the Dear Leader or something! Who knows?" he chuckles and continues walking in silence.

Eventually, they reach the large city square. Almond-shaped and with a patch of grass in the middle, the square would look like a huge green eye from a bird's perspective. In one end, a raised steel platform has been set up. Armed policemen stand watch all around, and a crowd of people are already in place. The second-class Invis citizens have to stand on a catwalk encircling the building.

A large armoured truck comes in, opening up on one side and a series of invisible people are dragged out, only made visible by their linked manacles. They're lined up and one of the armed police come up with a weapon that looks like a flamethrower. However, it appears to rather be a sort of paint gun, spraying black dye over the condemned prisoners so their invisible bodies turn into black shapes. The crowds are cheering.

A man on the platform produces a microphone.

"Dear citizens! We present to you these invis traitors, having rejected their uniforms to commit to stealth and deceit! Who can trust an invisible man? No-one, I tell you!"

"What? They took off their clothes?" Walker heckles from the crowd, "Not much of a crime! I mean there's nothing to see so it hardly rises to public indecency even!" He slides through towards the front, guessing that nobody is going to want to stand next to the dissenter in a police state. His clothing shifts, becoming a replica of the invisibles' jumpsuits.

There's a gasp running through the crowds as someone dares to speak up against the machinery of the state. Some of the armed police look ready to step in with truncheons, but the man with the microphone raises his hand and they put them away.
"Look at this fool! You might dress like an Invis, but are you? I can see you still! The clothing is to keep ordinary citizens safe from the invises and their treacherous ways, that's all!"

The elf rolls his eyes. "Oh sure! They look different so they're definitely evil…" he'd try for reasoned argument, but mocking stupid autocrats just seems to come naturally, "They look like a bunch of scared naked people to me. You!" An pointing finger is flung out to indicate one of the less intimidated prisoners, "What did they say your crime was?"

The prisoner looks up with a black dyed face. "I… work at a furnace, and I had to take my jumpsuit off when it caught fire."

The officer on the platform responds, "The rules are very clear, complete invisibility in public is treason! You violated the law!"

Walker turns to the crowd - he loves playing to an audience. "He took off his jumpsuit because it was on fire! Anybody in the crowd a big fan of burning alive? Anyone?" Part of him almost wants someone to say something, just to have a good argument. He motions to another figure, "What about you? Lemme guess: Caught in a machine? Set on fire too? Ooh! Taken by some asshole with a truncheon because you looked at 'em funny?"

While the privileged visibles on the street level are largely quiet, the invisibles atop the catwalk are cheering as they're being publicly defended.

Then, someone from the lower crowd raise their voice too. "He couldn't help it! Saving yourself from a fire isn't treason… can't his punishment be less severe at least?" The people look carefully at the brave soul that dared to speak up, but there seems to be some agreement. Naturally, most do not dare to speak up.

"Right?!?" Walker calls, pointing to the lone voice of reason in the crowd, "If there's anyone out there who'd wait while they burned alive rather than take off a jacket, you oughta step up and say so!" He thumps the side of the platform for emphasis and shouts, "But that's not the point!"

A sweeping wave takes in the painted figures, their invisible comrades on the catwalk and the mostly silent visible crowd. "None of you would, because you're more alike than you like to admit!" He glares down at the visibles, "You've all just convinced yourselves that when you can't see the people suffering, that suffering doesn't exist. Well open your eyes and see!" Again, he points to the condemned, "These people are just like you! You've just been sold a story that says they're not to be trusted! Makes you wonder…" he turns rather pointedly to face the man with the microphone, "Why someone would do a thing like that…"

The invises are cheering, and begin to collectively toss off their hats and jumpsuits. What eventually becomes both an incident of mass resistance and mass nudity, the symbols of their oppression rain down upon the privileged visible masses, who in turn undress and put the jumpsuits and hats on. The police hesitate, the man with the microphone hesitates, and soon enough the masses advance.

The streets of the once-orderly city have descended into chaos. Throngs of armoured police armed with rifles and paint guns clash against ordinary citizens as well as bobbing invisible rifles held by invisible men and women. Somehow, it appears the people have amassed enough weapons to actively put up a fight against the state, though they're still at a massive disadvantage when it comes to firepower. Parts of the city are burning, but in the distance lies a great government palace, adorned with a big, stylised eye.

Walker sighs softly at the scene. Peaceful transition would be nice… ~But then what would we be for?~ a voice at the back of his head growls and the elf's lips curl in a predatory smile. The invisible clothing is discarded as Walker reverts to his normal astral form, wondering idly how bulletproof his golden skin is here. Last time he was in a pitched battle it'd been crusaders and Saracens - it didn't end well for them either. Eyes flickering with white-gold fire, he advances towards the palace.

Finding stuff to do isn't difficult around here; he can barely walk a hundred yards amidst discarded bricks, riot shields and torn-down walls before he encounters a road block, two big armoured cars and soldiers equipped with old self-loading rifles. As the golden figure approaches, they raise their guns, shouting "This is a restricted area! Turn back, or we will open fire!"

"Wrong way around," the elf remarks softly as his eyes blaze with light. The ensuing burst of mana engulfs the entire roadblock, the soldiers crumpling like puppets with their strings cut. Not sparing any time to gloat, Walker sprints towards the palace, vaulting over the vehicles with a single bound as resistance fighters flow into the gap created with his passing. 'This is fun…' two minds think in unison.

The united front of people begin to gather up as the last roadblock leading up to the palace is cleared. The huge, imposing building is built on a hill, with a suitably impressive set of stairs leading up to it from a small square. Atop the staircase stands, apart from more armed police, a man in a suit with a cloak worn over it. As if clothing did not reveal that he's a mage, he makes it immediately obvious by creating a great ball of multicoloured flame between his hands, launching it down the staircase towards the golden-skinned leader of the masses.

Thinking fast, Walker flings out a hand towards the roiling mass of flames, tearing at the mana holding the thing together. It's hard, harder than he expected; his hand burns as he clenches his fist. The flames gutter and die, the rainbow colours flickering out as Walker sights on the cloaked figure.

The state magician or whatever the figure in question happens to be gets a bitter expression on his face when his fireball fails to connect. He points, sending out four of his rifle-bearing goons that begin walking down the stairs with rifles raised.

"Oh please," Walker mutters as his eyes flash again and the guards crumple, "They matter only marginally more than you do." Perhaps the mage stays conscious long enough to hear it, certainly he sways on his feet for a bit before sprawling backwards on the steps. With that obstacle removed, Walker takes the stairs two at a time, bounding towards the palace doors.

Walking up those palace steps like a boss, barely even paying notice to the unconscious guards or the mage, Walker reaches the majestic double doors of the palace. They open up with ease, revealing a huge marble hall with more staircases, reception desks and all the other things befitting a government building in an Orwellian state. In the centre of the hall is a big monument of two blindfolded figures, together holding up the stylised eye.

'I wonder if we could borrow a sledgehammer…' The thought is gone almost as soon as it registers, but it still produces a smirk. Walker advances across the marble floor, glancing around warily: he's travelled a long way, sure, and the place could be a citadel if you squinted, but something about the statue makes his skin crawl.

Emboldened by their victories, the crowds begin to follow up the stairs and eventually rally up behind Walker in the lobby. Then, there's an otherwordly metallic hiss through the hall as the two statues come to life, stepping down from the podium, the two halves of the stylised eye turning into long, curved blades in their hands. The brass-skinned spirits advance, their golden-skinned adversary in their sights.

Feeling his mind battered by the spirits' mental assault, Walker flings out one hand while the other traces an intricate pattern in the air. It takes some concentration, but after a moment a slick sheet of ice coats the lobby floor while the elf floats up into the air.

Not liking two-on-one odds, Walker opts instead for a less confrontational option. Reaching out to one of the spirits, the elf weaves his hands through the air, attempting to reason with the spirit rather than destroy it. He shows it an image: of the city with its walls torn down, the people living as a whole rather than as two groups lorded over by those who dwell in the palace. Something in the his entreaty seems to reach the spirit, which lowers its blades, still balanced on the ice.

At the first spirit loses its will to fight, and returns to being merely a statue, the second one begins to shimmer and slowly fades out of physical existence, the eye-shaped blade simply dropping on the floor with a loud echoing sound.

Frowning slightly as the spirit fades out, Walker glances to the other spirit. "Confound your twin, please. I don't want to hurt them but I don't want anyone else to get hurt either." Having said his piece, he shifts his vision to the astral plane, calling out, "Spirit, I don't wish you harm. Help me heal your city. Please.2

He wasn't really expecting the spirit to listen to reason, but is still a little taken aback by the ferocity with which it comes at him. Fortunately, with it's twin's help Walker manages to get the better of it, landing a solid blow in its midriff that sends the spirit reeling.

As it stumbles back, Walker floats towards it and takes its head gently in his hands, blazing eyes gazing into its face. "This is not the way. Come with us, put your home to rights." This time it relents, sinking back to the floor and retrieving its discarded blades after putting a physical body back on.

Its twin comes to join it, the two stepping out into the sunlight and removing their blindfolds together before casting their swords to the ground.

As the two spirits walk out of the palace to the cheer of the populace outside, a figure comes walking down one of the grand staircases into the lobby. The figure is merely a suit and floating pair of glasses, otherwise invisible.

"You managed to solve a problem without violence for once," the Dweller says, lighting up a cigarette, the smoke surging down its invisible throat. "I'm almost impressed. When you're not overcome by the Adversary, you can be almost subtle."

Glowing eyes regard the Dweller as it descends the staircase. "An aRTist mUSt WOrk with wHAT He is GIVen," two voices reply, seemingly struggling to decide which one is talking, "ThiS One is A fIGHter, fOR all hE pREtends OTHerwisE."

The Dweller takes another whiff from the cigarette then flicks it away, blowing out a cloud of smoke that subtly reveals the outline of its invisible body. "Indeed," it replies, not sounding terribly impressed. "Well… let us hope that you'll use the invisibility spell for some good." The dweller takes its glasses off, then the suit itself collapses in on itself as the form disappears. Soon afterwards, the city where the revolution took place slowly fades out of existence, and Walker finds himself waking up back home in his Denver flat.

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