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It is quite fitting that the sweltering hot days of July arrive right when the gang confront the barrens of the Mysterious Beyond in the fifth film showcase.  It is almost like us admins planned it that way or something.  :bestsharptooth

This month in the Monthly Showcase we are featuring the Land Before Time V.  Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in that topic.  Additionally, there is a new fanfiction prompt challenge for the months of June July, please check out this topic for more information.

Blanking the Slate

Serris · 921 · 61503

Serris

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Soren scowled. "Are you questioning my work?" he replied. The tone was calm but there was a distinct note of anger in it. "Your boss trusted me to do the operation correctly. I followed his orders to the letter. You got issues with what I did, take it up with him."

The Human sat on a chair and wiped his forehead with a towel. He was quite surprised how sweaty the whole operation made him.

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"Cool it Soren," Axel warned. No matter what they'd said, he didn't trust these guys not to put a bullet through his head if they were pushed too much. And he could only hope Emilena's new limb was fitted right - not for her sake, but he had no intention of dying here.  He looked at the mare as she wheeled Emilena towards the door. "So what do we do?"

The mare had no time to answer - just as she approached the door it swung open, a dark haired man holding it open for her bulk as she pushed Emilena's limp body through. Axel recognised him as the man who'd tasered him in the alley, but if the man recognised him, he gave no indication of it. "Let's hustle it, boys. Back to chez your cells until sleeping beauty here wakes up." He threw a wry expression their way. "Then its adventure time. Fun right?"


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Soren said nothing.

He got back into his cell and sat down on the thin mattress. Compared to the antiseptically clean operating theater, the whole cell block smelled vaguely of mold and deteriorating insulation. The Human looked around. The lone guard at the end of the cell block seemed to be oblivious to him but he was almost positive that guard knew everything that was going on in the cell block.

"Hey Soren!"

The Human immediately looked around for the source of the voice. Across from his cell was Anne. "So where were you for the past hour?"

"Augmenting," he replied.

Anne's eyes dilated momentarily as her ears immediately pricked up. "Awesome! So can you show me your new augment?"

Soren smiled slightly. "I was doing the augmenting...on Emilena."

The Shetland Pony's ears drooped slightly. "Oh...you didn't fuck up did you? So anyways, when are we getting out?"

"Soon." Soren hoped the guard was being honest with them.

-----------------

Aaron tossed his bag of seaweed chips into the trash and wiped his hands on the grimy cloth that covered the table on which a stained coffee urn rested. He exited the breakroom, leaving the TV running and made his way to the "warden's office" where he knew Marcus to be located.

He knocked on the door. "Marcus," he said. "Where should we start looking?"

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aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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Loud thuds echoed in her mind. There were flashes of light in her eyes, but she suspected those were just concussive phosphenes. Her body felt like it was floating.

Emilena kept her eyes closed and breathed through a tube in her mouth that her unconscious mind had already learned was an air supply. Not interested in anything other than getting her bearings, Emilena chose to give no outward signs she was awake.

She could tell she was naked, floating in some sort of gel. She could see only the blood within her eyelids; there was a light source in her face. She was held in place by loose straps around her waist and the air tube, both of which she was capable of removing if she wanted. Her wounds were completely healed.

She knew where she was; she'd been in one before. This was a growth acceleration pod. Great. Even more of my life lost to these damn things. At this rate I'm going to be buried in one. Well, no point in losing any more glory years. Prying the straps off, Emilena felt around the pod for the latch; there was always one. When she found it and flicked it, there was a click and the gel drained from the pod, but the door wouldn't open more than a sliver.

"Echo's awake," she heard someone with a gruff voice report from outside the pod. Emilena pressed her eye against the crack and made out the laboratory. Her pod was surrounded by no less than eight guards in a full circle. Christ, they're not taking chances with me. There were also scientists monitoring her from monitors; Emilena stood tall and forced herself not to shiver from the new draft playing across the glops of gel running down her skin.

Suddenly the drain between her legs shot a jet of freezing water that made her squawk in alarm and smack her head on the top of the pod. A second spray from above her followed suit and the gel was washed from her body in the least comfortable shower imaginable. After the water drained, the vents started blow-drying her with gusts of frigid air. When she heard the pod door unlock, Emilena couldn't stagger out of the pod fast enough, spluttering and thoroughly discombobulated.

The guards and scientists were cracking up at her appearance; every one of her hairs were sticking straight out. "Like the new self-decontaminating pods?" laughed the lead guard, who had the same voice she'd heard before. He caught his bearings just long enough to jab a thumb at the left hallway. "There are civilian clothes in the locker room. Boss wants your team assembled in the hangar in the next ten minutes."

* * *

Guards marched towards each prisoner's cell in order to tell them the same thing.


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"Right then. I see everyone's here. It breaks my heart to say it, but our precious time together's almost up." Rhaegson flashed a grin. "Hope you enjoyed your stay. Cosy, right?"

Axel ground his teeth. If he had to pick a bunch of reasons why he was most happy to get away from this place, this man's smug voice would be near the top of the list. After a few hours of sitting hunched over in his cell, staring at a damp patch on the wall and wondering what the odds were of him making it out of this alive (not good, he judged), a guard had stepped through the door and brusquely ordered him to get moving. He'd been brought to a large garage. A row of vehicles with coverings draped over them were clustered on the far end - a dark blue SUV had been driven forwards and parked in front of a sliding metal gate.

Rhaegson had been sitting on the SUV's bonnet, bouncing a tennis ball, flanked on either side by his guards. Axel recognised Marcus, one of the Purifiers who'd be going with them, standing rigidly next to Rhaegson. Axel was the last to have been led in, and when Rhaegson saw him he'd clapped his hands and jumped down, tossing the tennis ball to a guard beside him.

"Like I mentioned before, our well of information is... well, it's almost bone-fuckin'-dry. That being said, we do have a starting point." The small man gave a sly glance towards Axel. "Somewhere's that's probably gonna make our healthy looking friend here feel closer to home. There's a chop shop running in north Seryet that we've had our eye on for a while. You know, for interest's sake. Stolen augments go in, the rat takes them apart, and the parts get sold off." Rhaegson wagged a finger. "Very naughty stuff. Anyway, months ago we noticed that a butt load of parts were being sold to... well, that's the kicker. We couldn't find out who it was going to - whoever it was was good at covering their tracks, the bastards. At the time we didn't think much of it, but now..." Rhaegson shrugged.

"I don't know anything about that," Axel started.

The small man snorted. "We already know that, dumbass. You know how long we've been watching you? There might have been some talk about cutting your face off and seeing how long it took you to bleed to death, at one point..." he muttered, shifting mischievously. "Lucky for you this thing happened, huh? Anyway, we know that if you aren't busy being a nerd with your machines, you're holed up in your shit-heap apartment or getting drunk off your ass on the other side of town. You're a fuckin' loser and your boss knows it too. No way he'd trust you with that kind of information."

Axel glared daggers at Rhaegson, who smirked back at him.

"But there's a good chance your boss'd know where that shit was going. So my suggestion is you mozy on down there and see if there's any juicy tidbits he might be willing to offer up." Rhaegson looked across the group. "Be creative, have fun! Some people need a little... poking before they spill their guts." He leaned back casually against the SUV. "Questions, comments? Come on guys, this is a team activity, don't be shy."


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Soren said nothing but inside he was fuming. He would have admired Rhaegson's incredible charisma but the man's slimy demeanor was incredibly off-putting...That and the man in front of him was the reason he ended up in this clusterfuck of a situation.  

Anne, on the other hand, seemed to be ice-calm. Soren looked at her and wondered if it was drug-induced or if it was her natural state...as natural as could be given that she was always smoking, snorting or eating something mind-altering.

Soren watched as her splayed ears suddenly pricked upright. "You know, I recall hearing some news a while back about a bunch of Augments just dropping dead and then after that, a siege at Sky Farms," she said.

She then scratched her chin. "Soren, is it known that Sky Farms has Augments in its workforce?"

Soren nodded. "Yeah but what..." He trailed off as soon as he realized what Anne was saying.

"Right." Anne leaned against a concrete pillar. "I believe Sky Farms may be growing more than just crops."

----------

Aaron was opposite Marcus and next to Rhaegson. The powerful muscles he had gained through years of construction, demolition and brawling were still visible under the blue laborer's jumpsuit he wore.

"We don't got a lot of time," he growled. "I suggest making your choices quick."

He leaned against the the blue SUV and impatiently drummed his fingers against the tinted glass.

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Emilena couldn't stop flexing her fingers instinctively. It was uncanny how little she felt in her hand. It felt...normal. It was only when her other hand pressed into her fingertips that she felt the unyielding metal joints of her cybernetic skeleton. Her brain couldn't tell there was anything wrong with the hand. It was still repulsive, of course, but she was having to consciously remind herself of the fact.

"Let's do it," she chimed in. She jabbed her cyborg thumb at Marcus and Aaron. "Me and the jarheads will go with Axel to the chop shop, and if he can't get any info from his old boss the friendly way, we break some kneecaps. Meanwhile Soren can interview some farm animals so he feels useful."

She boarded the SUV. "I want a concealable pistol," she said over her shoulder to Rhaegson. "You're equipping us, right? After all we're all teammates here, like you said."


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"Guns're in a bag in the trunk," Rhaegson said over his shoulder. "And if you want to check out the farm, you go for it little buddy." He motioned to Marcus. "Bag 'em."

The doberman stepped forward, pulling a bundle of black sacks from behind him. Leaning into the car, he slipped it roughly over Emilena's head and yanked a cord around the base, cinching it tightly around her neck.

"Not that I don't completely trust you all, but I'm not sure I want you to see where where it is we call home," Rhaegson explained. "Call me coy."

Marcus pulled sacks over Soren and Anne's head, then stepped in front of Axel. As the bag was yanked down, his world snapped to black. The sound of his breaths filled his ears, the action made strenuous by the tightened cord cutting painfully into his neck. He felt a strong hand gripping the back of his top, and then he was being pushed forwards.

Casually putting his hands in his pockets, Rhaegson watched as Marcus escorted the rat and pony towards the SUV. "Keep their hoods on until you're half an hour out."

Marcus nodded as he shoved them into the vehicle. He gritted his teeth as one of his claws scratched against the rat's metallic, unyielding, unnatural arm. The sooner we get this job done, the sooner they'll be out of my sight, he told himself. Going back for Soren, he glanced over at Aaron. "You drive."

Rhaegson moved away from the SUV. "Have fun!" Lowering his voice, he spoke to a purifier next to him while still keeping an eye on the car. "Take two more. When they split up, follow the one that suggested the farm. If it looks like he's gonna make a run for it, contact us. And be discreet, for fuck sake." As Soren was led past his voice returned to normal. "Make sure you all dress warm, I don't want you catching a cold!"


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"How the fuck can she be so calm!?" Soren muttered just before the bag was pulled over his head and tightened. He swore as he was thrown into the SUV's backseat and the door closed.

Soren began to hyperventilate but he forced himself to take deep calming breaths. He had to remind himself that cooperating with these very dangerous men was his best bet of staying alive.

He heard Anne mutter something about it being like her old jobs in Lanthae.

-----------

Aaron climbed into the SUV's driver seat. He noticed the pistol tucked into where the maps would normally be placed. He shut the door and buckled himself in.

He then turned to Emilena, Axel and Anne. "You three go digging through chop shop's goods. I ain't touching no augments! Especially, ones that've been cut out of some poor fucker."

He then pointed to Soren. "And you, since you're so adamant about heading down to the farm, tell us where it is."

"How about you let me drive you guys there?" Soren replied.

"Nope. Boss's orders."

(OOC - Soren will be alone with the two unnamed Purifiers, right?)

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Marita meanwhile was driving her vehicle with Marie in the driver seat and rose sitting between flora on her left and lily on her right." drive another ten miles said a voice from a audio file on maritas computer which was open so she could remain in contact ' now some of your old friends are headed in your direction. you'll get to reunite but dont try any funny business Miss Jones or we'll blow  your brains out as well as the brains of everyone of your little group. we;re cutting you some slack- not much mind you, but some- because we want these bastards out of commission."
 I got you the first time. you dont need to repeat yourself. ' marita said " just making sure you realize the stakes. you're a smart one, one of only a couple in your  lot that can be said of. keeping driving and turn left. look for the SUV that will pull up.
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A Wolf Purifier operative rapped on the SUV's window. Aaron pressed a button and the window rolled down. "What is it?"

"You're taking Inspector Gadget--"

Aaron scowled. "Who the fuck is 'Inspector Gadget'?"

The Purifier's ears flattened against his head. "That would be, uh, Soren Almaya. The Human."

"Fine. Just get to the point!"

The Purifier's ears returned to their normal position as he cleared his throat. "Anyways, we're meeting up with the other half of the 'team' and transferring over Inspector Gadget to them so they can get to the farm. I'll be following them per the boss's orders. You and Marcus go with the rest of the crew to the chop shop."

Aaron nodded. "Gotcha." He rolled up the window and turned to Marcus. "Okay, let's get this show on the road."

He pressed a button hidden under the SUV's steering column and the garage's heavy gates slowly swung open.

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Emilena's heart leapt into her throat as the bag went over her head. "A gun. In my hand. Now," she demanded in the direction of the Purifiers who bagged her. "I'm not going anywhere unarmed and blind."

Of course they didn't respond, and after a fifteen minute drive she was feeling light-headed from inhaling carbon dioxide.

-----------------

"Sweet. Can't wait to meet them!" Flora piped up cheerfully. She was resolutely keeping up her chipper attitude hoping it would bug the older women, or at least drive home just how pleased she was to be free of their hovel apartment.

Lily was keeping her eyes out for the SUV. If she could catch a glimpse of the direction it came from, she'd have an easier time triangulating the Purifier headquarter's location.


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"We're almost there. Taking the bags off. Don't try anything."

Axel snorted at Marcus' voice, the sound harsh and ragged from within the confines of the bag. As weary as he was feeling from everything that had happened to him since he'd been ambushed outside the bar, he wasn't entirely sure he could fight his way out of a paper bag. The material of the sack over the rat's head was so thick that the only thing he could see was darkness and for what felt like years the only thing he could do was sit and listen to the hum of the SUV's engine, his hands clenched uncomfortably in his lap.

He felt the cord around his neck loosen and suddenly the material was yanked off. The flood of light blinded him and he flinched, squinting his eyes against the glare until his vision slowly returned to normal. Looking around, Axel saw he was in the middle row of seats in the SUV, Emilena sitting to his right. Soren was riding up front in the passenger seat, next to the other purifier, Aaron, who was behind the wheel. He glanced behind to see Anne sitting behind with Marcus beside her... holding a sawed-off shotgun. The gun was resting with the barrels pointing to the back of Axel's seat as Marcus removed Anne's hood.

"Fuck!" Axel yelped, flinching to the side. In the close confines of the vehicle, if the gun went off anything (and anybody) in front of it would be turned to mincemeat. "Point that somewhere else! Please!"

Marcus' eyes stared darkly at him. His expression gave nothing away except disgust, but after a moment he lowered the shotgun - while still keeping a firm grip on it. Looking to the front as the car rounded a corner, he spoke to Aaron. "There they are."

Following Marcus' gaze, Axel looked out the tinted windows and saw another vehicle parked up ahead, a little further up the road. He could just about make out vague, dark shapes moving around inside it. Boarded up, run-down looking building surrounded them, and he couldn't see anyone else around. "Who's that? Nobody said we were meeting up with anyone else..." he muttered uneasily.


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Anne shook her head as the hood was pulled free. She looked around the dingy street. The watery sunlight filtering through the smog seemed to blind her. She blinked a few times and looked at the unfamiliar vehicle.

She was familiar with things like this when it came to picking up drugs or other transactions of questionable legality.

"Soren, I think that's the 'other half of the team' that Wolf was previously talking about," Anne said as her ears pinned back slightly.

Soren said nothing.

---------------

Aaron drove the SUV closer to the unfamiliar vehicle. He paid no heed to the sign that read "Do not block driveway" riveted to the battered steel bar gate that was at the end of a small driveway where the new vehicle was parked.

He shut off the engine. "All right, Marcus, we're here, let's do the transfer and get going."

The German Shepherd pointed to Soren. "All right, Inspector Gadget, get out and stand by the other vehicle. And remember, any funny business and you go over the side." He pointed to the concrete barrier bordering the elevated highway they had just driven on.

Soren said nothing but unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the passenger's side door and got out of the SUV.

He stood on the battered concrete driveway between the new vehicle and the Purifer's SUV.

Aaron pressed another button that automatically closed the passenger's side door. He turned to Marcus. "So shall we get going or wait until the others get here?"

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Emilena suddenly felt a pang of genuine dread when she saw the other SUV. "Axel, hold on," she burst out suddenly as their SUV ground to a halt and everyone started departing. "Stay in the car! There's something you need to know about--"

The side door to Marita's SUV opened and Lily climbed out. She glanced at Soren and her eyes narrowed. "So. You're working with the Purifiers now, huh? I'm surprised, honestly." Her eyes glanced over the SUV, trying to get a glimpse of the occupants still inside.

Flora skipped out of the vehicle. "Oh, fun! New people!" she beamed. Skipping over to the big burly man who'd been driving, she tapped him on the shoulder, paying no heed to his firearm. "Hello handsome, care to fill a girl in?" she fluttered her eyelashes, hoping Marita would feel either jealous or scared for her safety. "Where's our destination now that we're all together?"


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Marita got out of the car and looked over at Soren and emilenas and Anne ' good to see all of you still alive. we're in yet another mess,aren't we? She chuckled briefly.
_ hi Anne Rose said waving at the mare. you guys ok- well relatively speaking? you guys havent exactly been at the Club Ritz..
 so i'm guessing we'll squeeze all 8 of us into the SUV..
_ don';t get any ideas miss' the  guard said to Flora" remember, you have a deal to fulfill. ALL of you. now get over there with your group' he made a motion with the gun for flora to step back.
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Serris

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Soren didn't need any prompting to step next to the van. The Wolf guard looked over the group. When he seemed distracted, Soren sidled up to Lily.

"Lily, it's not what it looks like," he whispered, shooting a glance at the Wolf who seemed to be chatting with the SUV's driver. "Axel, Anne and myself have been kidnapped by them. They want us to find out who's been killing their guys. And we didn't get much of a choice. We'll be rewarded handsomely if we help them...if we don't we'll all be killed."

"Hey!" the Wolf shouted.

Soren's heart leapt into his throat. Had he heard him talking about his predicament to Lily?

"All of y'all! Shut the fuck up and get into the van!" He gestured to the van with his pistol. "Inspector Gadget goes up front with me. Everyone else, in the back! We don't have a lot of time!"

Parked under a dingy warehouse next to Aaron's SUV was the third vehicle. It was the one the Wolf had come out of. Two more operatives were inside. At his order, they'd follow them to the farm under the guise of being reinforcements.

--------------

Anne waved at Rose through the SUV's tinted windows. She looked at Axel and Emilena. "So let me guess, I'm going with you three?"

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Axel frowned at Emilena, half out of the SUV. "What? Who? Who're you..." He saw Marita climb out of the other car, and his stomach started to knot. Then he saw Lily walk around from the other side of the vehicle, and the knot became a lead weight. Axel stared for a second before dropping back in.  

He turned an incredulous look towards Emilena. "Oh, you've got to be fucking with me. She's gonna be here too?" Looking at the woman's face, at her eyes, was enough to bring back the memories of their time after Lanthae. Whatever that thing was back at the Purifier's hideout, he'd been stupid to let his old emotions come back. Now, when he looked at this Lily, the real Lily, all he felt was...

Part of Axel wanted to jump out of the car - but to do what? Shout? Yell? Instead, the rat stayed sitting, shaking his head angrily. "This is a mistake. You don't know what she's like now. She's..." His jaw bunched. "Things changed." Distantly Axel heard Anne speak, and, irritably, he shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah. Whatever."


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Lily realized Axel was in the other SUV at around the time he saw her. Her eyes instantly narrowed and her pupils dilated. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Emilena scampering out of the car. "HEY LILY long time no see how are you doing?" she stammered. She grabbed Flora, who protested loudly. "Sorry Lily but there's no room in this car guess you gotta go with Soren to the farm so have fun at the farm bye!!!"

Practically stuffing Flora into the seat Soren vacated, Emilena whacked the back of the driver seat. "Move it!" she snapped. "To the chop shop!"

Lily, on the other hand, had remained eerily silent. Brow furrowing ominously, she began walking rigidly towards Axel's SUV, never breaking eye contact with the rat.

"I swear to god Aaron, start moving the truck now before she gets here!" Emilena demanded, not fully able to keep the panic out of her voice.


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Something in Emilena's panicked tone made Marcus focus on the woman now walking determinedly towards their car. She didn't look particularly tough, or different from just any woman he'd pass on the street without looking twice. So the fact that someone like Emilena seemed intimidated by her was... puzzling to say the least.  

"You know what, fuck this," the rat muttered from in front. Suddenly he wrenched the door open and started to climb out again. "So you decided to turn up, huh?"

He couldn't see the rat's face, but Marcus could hear the disdain in his voice. Obviously there was something between the two of them, but right now Marcus didn't care about that. What he did care about was the rat making a scene and bringing down more attention on them than necessary, even if the immediate area did look empty.

"What, d'you get bored-" Axel was continuing. Marcus reached over and seized the back of his top, Axel's head banging against the roof of the car as he folded back in, the door slamming after him.

Axel hissed a curse, rubbing the back of his head and glaring daggers at Marcus.

The doberman glared back. "Stop drawing attention. Aaron, get us out of here," he commanded, turning his head. "Drive."