The Recollection Of Crankshaft
It was somewhat dark under the rubble. I fidgeted and HuBBsDoctor rolled off of me. I looked up, and the stairway above us was moving slightly. I looked at this strangely for a moment, then heard Zeirom a few feet away. "Ugh..." he said, as he stood up, and lifted the staircase from his shoulders. "Why did I have to be the biggest person here?"
VanGarrett stood and watched the disembodied staircase fall many floors below, as Zeirom tossed it off. "I think it worked out for the best, Zeirom. If one of us stood out over you, we would've been in severe pain. A rod stopped only inches from my back. I can't imagine the pain if it had hit me."
I jumped up and waved my hand. I shouted, "I can! I can!"
VanGarrett looked at me, then he looked around at everyone else and said, "All right, those guys are gonna be paralyzed and confused when they thaw out, but that's not going to last very long. We'd better get moving!"
HuBBsDoctor piped up, "But how're we going to get back to the roof now that the stairs are busted? There's no way we can accomplish anything on foot either, with all the ruckus outside."
I pointed at a door on the other side of the spire from us, only a floor down from where we started, "More stairs if we go there."
HuBBsDoctor looked at me funny. "Huh?"
Then I spoke really fast. "See, see, ontheothersideofthisbuildingthereisanotherspireofstairs, andifwegothroughthatdoorit'sonlyabriefjogdownalonghallway, pastanumberofclassroomswhichshouldn'tbeinsessionbythispoint in... the... CHA-OS!!..." Then I gasped for air.
Everyone looked at me funny. VanGarrett twitched his eyebrows at me, and said, in an absurdly confused tone, "Huh?"
I was about to say something, but Zeirom stepped up behind me, put one hand behind my head, and his other over my mouth. "He says that there's more stairs if we go through that door, and run down the hallway behind it."
I slid out of his grip and shouted, "YES! That's what I was trying to say really quickly!" I jumped around and did my happy dance.
To this, Zeirom replied in a slow, calm voice, "Yes... It's a wonder what you can do by using fewer words."
We started to run toward the door, but then it blew up, and smoke just came from it. HuBBsDoctor nearly choked on his own breath. "Well, uh... I don't think we're gonna be taking THAT door..."
VanGarrett, Laya and I were the first to drop ourselves over the railing, down to the stairs beneath us. Of course, Laya had told us, "I'm wearing a dress. I go first."
Our jog kept going down and down and further down, until we'd gotten to the ground floor, and logic dictated that we could go no further. First, we had to slide and tumble down some wrecked stairway, but once on the floor of the massive lobby, we booked it across the marble tile, and past the giant statue of Lubetz, the ancient god of Learning. Just as we'd passed the statue, it became apparent as to what was causing the explosions on each floor. Just behind us, Paladin and Akolyte crashed through the ceiling, cracking the marble behind us.
When we got to the second set of stairs spiraling up to the square spire leading to the roof of the building, I stopped and looked back. Akolyte had Paladin down on the ground, and was starting to do something rather strange. He held Paladin to the ground, with his hand, palm flat on Paladin's chest. Something began seeping from his arm's seams, soon forming a number of darkly colored tentacles, which wrapped around each other, and held Paladin down in one place. Paladin struggled, but his movements only forced him deeper into the ground.
When Zeirom smacked me upside the head and grabbed me, Paladin had come up with a slick move to just stop fighting it, and dive into the ground to escape. As we charged up the stairs, I could hear Akolyte's shouts of frustration. Meanwhile, VanGarrett was cursing about stairs. Though perhaps not terribly fat, VanGarrett is something of a chubby RAmar, though that RAmar uniform does a lot in the direction of making its wearer look more physically fit. Hm. Still, I think he'd be considerably larger if he had a job where he like, sat in front of a computer and drew construction plans for parking lots all day, or something. And people kept feeding him donuts. Yes, he'd be larger.
Still, we were running up the stairs for quite some time. After a floor or two, inspiration exploded among us, when another Delbiter busted through a door behind us, and chased us up for or five flights, before our rangers turned around and shot it all to Abyss. Let me recap what happened there.
This thing busted through the door, just BOOOM! And it made this "RROOOOOOUUUPPPHTH!" noise. Then it just totally started chasing us, and we were like, "AH!! Big thing! Scary!" Well, I was, everyone else just cursed, and we started running faster. So we just kept running, and this thing was catching up. In an effort to gain some lead on it, I jumped to the ramp above us, and pulled Laya up behind me, while Zeirom gave HuBBsDoctor a boost. Meanwhile, VanGarrett just kept running, and Zeirom followed behind him. Now, where VanGarrett had been in the lead, he was now followed only by the hulking android.
After a few floors, VanGarrett shouted, "OKAY! That's ENOUGH! I'm TIRED of running from this infernal thing! Turn, aim and shoot him all to Abyss!"
HuBBsDoctor shouted in reply, "Count of three!?"
"Lutz curse it, THREE!!!"
With that, we all stopped, and the rangers among us pulled out their weapons and just started shooting it in a most excessive manner. It was stopped pretty effectively, and when they were done, all that was left of it was a big, chunky purple stain on the stairway they had shot down. We looked at each other. VanGarrett seemed out of breath. He stepped up a few stairs, holding onto the rail for support. "All right," he said. "Let's keep going!"
So, we ran up the stairs some more. Two of the dark RAmars popped out a door in front of us. The first was pushed over the railing by VanGarrett, the second was snatched up and carried with us by Zeirom. I think the rest were about to come through the door, but I slammed into it with all my weight, which may not normally be a whole lot, but when running at full tilt, I can still put a good whomp on.
Of course, when confronted with the strength of eight Dark Falz infected RAmar, even my inertia at full tilt will get shot off a door. Which I was. Just BOOM! And I was riding Zeirom's back. Zeirom promptly pulled me off, tossed me forward, and dropped the RAmar, which he'd been dragging behind him. By this point, Laya was starting to lag behind. Zeirom noticed this, and shouted to her, "Let me help you, Laya!" At which point he pulled her onto his shoulder, and proceeded to run by me.
I was just like, "Um, Hey-ey! I'm lagging, too!"
To this, Zeirom replied, "You're a man! Deal with it!"
Meanwhile, on Zeirom's shoulder, Laya had the chance to really observe our situation. "Time to cut their path out from in front of them! Eye for an eye, I say!" With that, she raised her hands above her head, and cast a huge burst of Rafoie, destroying the stairway behind us, and propelling me up a level ahead of everyone. It hurt, but bleh, I got ahead for free. The RAmars tumbled behind us, and we were safe again for the moment.
It wasn't long, however, before Akolyte himself shot up at us from below, caught a railing, and mangled the stairs in front of us in the process of pulling himself up. Not to be stopped so easily though, of course, we hoisted each other up to the next level, leaving only Zeirom below, because well, the four of us combined aren't enough to pull a full-size RAcast off the ground a millimeter, let alone an entire floor.
Akolyte quickly turned around to chase us. We ran. I believe that Akolyte was soon tackled by Zeirom, promptly stomped on, and then Zeirom caught up with us at a rather frantic pace. Looking down, I saw Paladin jump up as well, and once again struggle with Akolyte. I heard the stairway beneath us bending and breaking underneath their combined weight and constant jerky movements. Most of us tripped, when the entire staircase started coming loose. We were only three floors from the roof, when the whole stairway broke from the wall.
I clung on to the railing for dear life. The slope of the stairs kept adjusting in sudden jerking motions. HuBBsDoctor and VanGarrett were above me. I took a moment to look down, past Laya and Zeirom. Zeirom was looking straight up. I suspect he was looking straight up at Laya, who was directly above him. He seemed to have an oddly thoughtful expression, despite our situation.
Past Zeirom, some distance, I could see Akolyte moving his odd tentacle things about the staircase, pulling himself up, and straightening the whole thing while he was at it. Paladin was standing at the last remaining step where the staircase broke off. He was sparking a little, and appeared to be going through some sort of personal trauma; he was slouched over, holding onto the railing with one hand, and had this other hand on his helmet-looking head. He swayed back and forth a bit, but when the top portion of the staircase, which we were dangling from, swung and hit the lower portion, which he was standing on, he must've regained the resolve at that point, to continue fighting.
I know this, only because while I was falling, I heard him yell at the top of his decibel range, "AKOLYTE!" in a rather angry tone, and by the time Zeirom caught me by the ankle, and I was looking straight down at them, I saw Paladin latching on to Akolyte, and trying to tear him from the staircase.
For some ambiguous reason, Zeirom mentioned, "I seem to be getting into a habit of catching falling Newmans by their ankles..." Evidently, he'd done this before.
As he was hoisting me back up, I saw Paladin ignite some sort of photon blade, yellow in color, and slice through Akolyte's tentacle things, thus causing them both to fall back down the thirty or so stories we'd climbed. I grabbed back onto the railing, and we all watched as they smacked down into the marble tile again. After a moment, they got back up, looked at each other, and resumed their skirmish.
VanGarrett looked back up at the door at the top of the dangling staircase. "He should be all right. He knows Akolyte inside and out. Once we're out of the area, Akolyte should leave." At this point, we all looked up at him. Except for maybe Zeirom, who was looking up, but I don't think it was at VanGarrett. I started scurrying up the railing. Holding on to a step, VanGarrett continued, "Dangit. I always think to myself that I should do a few pull-ups before bed, but do I ever? Noooo, what does a ranger need to exercise his THAT motion for? Pffft..." With a little more effort, we finally got back up to the top. By this time, Laya was on top of Zeirom's shoulder again. One at a time, we stepped through the door, and out onto the roof.
On the roof, a large vehicle was parked. VanGarrett tossed the keys to Zeirom. "You drive this time."
Zeirom caught the keys and shrugged. "Oh-kay." The doors on the vehicle were unlocked, and we all piled in.
Laya looked at VanGarrett, who was sitting next to her. I was sitting in the third, and back row of seats in the vehicle, right behind her. "We're just going to leave Paladin?" she asked.
To this, VanGarrett replied, "Yeah. He can handle himself. He's a DRAGOON-type, just like Akolyte is."
Laya jumped in her seat, as we started taking off. "How many of those violent constructs ARE there?"
"Only three. Dragoon, Paladin, and Akolyte-- in that order. They were part of a project by the Bortevo Corporation, to create a powerful mass-war soldier for the military. The only problem, was that while the Bortevo Corporation--"
I cut off VanGarrett, and finished it myself, "-- while the Bortevo Corporation employed absurdly talented designers, those eccentric crackpots would always either overshoot the client's requirements by WAY too much, or just get it entirely wrong."
"Exactly," VanGarrett replied. "Akolyte was their last creation."
Laya was puzzled, "He was their last? Did they go bankrupt or something?"
"No," VanGarrett looked her squarely in the eye now, "He killed them. All of them."