Sargasso, Grounds of SMU, South-East Finch lobbed the artillery shell - all fifteen-odd pounds of warhead, propellant and metal cartridge sailing towards the grounds of the Mage's University. The projectile had pitched forward and landed on its side oblique to the direction of the wrongness. Nevertheless, it rolled over the stony dirt path and over the grass and eventually came to a stop before the treeline whereupon Finch and his cousins could report feeling something looking at it so hard, the mortar had flung itself back and landed warhead first into the dirt a few feet away. Ravnir was pressing forward into the grounds, the heft of every footfall leaving light tremors and imprints in the grass, noises drowned out bypounding rain and the rumble of distant thunder, obscured by towering cumulonimbus. With the gift given from the inventor, Ravnir could see that many of the trees he could break had their ideal breaking points highlighted in rings around the boughs, tagged as breakable with a solid chop. Something had the time to read and calculate how Ravnir moved and applied their strength, based on live combat data gathered and approximated by the systems around the Raiken: Luca's, Breyja's, Seiren's, maybe Snuffles' had a device too - they all were gathering data, watching, learning and observing movement, communications, intelligence over a digital format familiar to their ilk. Deep slices within a moment to be read there and then, in hindsight, or by the next of kin. Ravnir's gut was feeling uneasy at the prospect of being catalogued this way, all of the sudden - but did such a thought seem to swoop in from the cold, a sudden negative tangent upon genuine gifts sullied by powers malevolent? Looking up through the bushes, the raiken could sense that he was being watched by someone from afar, and when they looked north, they thought they saw someone sitting on a bench, completely serene and absorbed in a book - occasionally glancing to admire a stopped fountain despite the storm raging around them; Though their back was turned and the ... person seemed completely calm in the storm, Ravnir's intuition felt that this thing in a squishy-person's shape was the source of the wrongness. He just didn't have words for it immediately. Breyja was upon a vantage point, watching Ravnir's blip head into the forested area, scanning through the footage and aggregated public photography data to map it out, inconsistencies and question marks were appearing when she compared what her data had captured compared to what she was looking at. It was as though the positions of each tree and path gathered by the data points all correlated with each other. But reality for Breyja - or perhaps only her perception - was simply not lining up any more. Then, a message - but even that didn't come through on a known codec - was there technological interference in the air? On the opposite end of the campus, Snuffles was moving ahead with Sparrow flittering from branch to branch to stay out of the cold. Though Sparrow had more nerve and vinegar than the average ill-tempered and foul-mouthed avian, they couldn't ignore the fundamental 'fuckery' in the air. "Fucken' animals aren't staying in," Sparrow observed dryly as they saw squirrels and raccoons high-tailing it away from the centre of the grounds. As Snuffles pushed ahead, the alien begun seeing what her cousins were - so much overwhelming vision of eyes, dripping from every tree and down the side of each building on campus, all looking, watching, gazing. The walls were being painted with the vestiges of a world of mad dreams, brought to life by the Forgotten Gift's obsessions and psychosis; Splattering in rivulets and spreading like kudzu, to smear the here and now in colours out of visible sight which offended sensibilities in the spectrum of the soul, the concept of the sense of vision. Just off the western side of SMU, the boldly brachiating Seiren was joined soon as Luca's blip leapt from the southernmost building of the campus, aiming straight for the centre against the wind and rain. Even as eyes watched them both from the dark under-hangs of buildings and in the corners of their vision, the two men were joined by Yttrium landing nearby from a quartet of hydraulic hops and skips lead her bounding along the path. As she approached the campus' forested interior, she saw, and was seen, and lost her nerve in the face of magic she couldn't understand, but could feel. "Lulu! What's going on? There's all this ... interference in the air and - and EYES!" Yttrium suddenly found herself unusually self-conscious as she pointed some out behind Luca. Luca stopped on a skid, looking ahead towards the position of the woman in the park. "This isn't just a storm, that lady over there-" he indicated, ignoring all eyes on him, likely even hers "-must be a Weird, Elder level at least." At rest, he could feel Ravnir's footfalls in the ground, and figuring that the Raiken had pushed ahead and moved. Suddenly, Luca's communications begun acting up. Notifications begun flooding in and opening themselves, and indeed a cascading effect of unsettling messages begun appearing all over Phoenix Team's communications network. Luca was watching the sigils on his communications holograms dance and reform before his eyes, and he clicked his tongue in annoyance, deciding not to pry any further now that introductions were made and the tone was set for the encounter. "This much is certain: They are a psionic of a magnitude most powerful, " He surmised to Yttrium and Seiren, "with a very active imagination that's leaking out of control, the ability to mess with sensors and digital systems, and the ability to compel with words - because who else could a champion be, but someone like Driver?" Then, he got his answer as the storm slowly begun to drown out from his perception, an ethereal voice creeping in as he dashed. Was it in those words, or was there something over the hill of bad possibilities, waiting just for him? Aw, shit. Luca realised. I like your style. The Forgotten Gift said. I should wear it as midnight for my next meeting with the investors, once my Champion strikes you down. Luca slowed down a little to shake his head, grunting from the invasive thought. Temhebu closed her book. I can hear six heartbeats, six lives against this storm, six risks you're willing to take, yourself included am I correct? Luca made a hand signal for the others to slow down as he put his fingers against his forehead: They knew the risks. Temhebu turned around in their seat, now looking over with their singular, piercing eye. Come on, order your group to turn around and leave. You've done enough for Sargasso - I'll even let you keep doing it without a care in the world- Even in the midst of a psionic assault and a forceful proposal, Luca surmised that there'd be a catch -so long as you stay out my way. Do we have a deal, eleventh hour diplomat style, mister hero? Seiren could see a rivulet of blood starting to drip from Luca's nose, and he took notice quickly. Yttrium also fretted as she saw her supposed ward bleeding, but saw that the woman's singular eye was now - smiling - a mouth full of too many teeth. Luca meanwhile was feeling the sound of rain flooding back in, wind rushing, the humidity all snapped back to here and now, as he found a centre deep in the core of his being that kept him going, challenging, on the edge of dying and coming back for more - it was all for others, for those who put his faith and trust in him, and for them, there'd be no backing down. "No." Luca challenged the Phasma openly, flinging his bloody hand aside to crack his knuckles - Seiren could feel, and his scans were indicating strong psionics from the woman ahead, and some signals from Luca all of the sudden. "Where's your champion, then!" Not the ideal response, but not outside Temhebu's comprehension, based on their assessment of the other former EAD which caught her interest. That gutsiness killed foolhardy men every day. Temhebu had let men, women, those wronged however glancingly by Temhebu's investments, have a moment in the limelight of her creation before being crushed under heel - there was a difference in this one though was a much more personal connection with her chosen champion - a new angle of dynamics which could serve as the perfect distraction while they made a getaway with their goods. They stood up from their bench and spoke again, mouth of a thousand voices as their illusory skin of a demure woman sloughed away, showing Temhebu - The Forgotten Gift in full. "I'm so glad you asked, because he's familiar to you, and he just finished what he needed to!" She snapped her fingers - Seiren's psionic detections suddenly spiked. Signals were coming in hot all around Seiren and Yttrium, with just enough clarity to know that something was out there, flung forth from places unseen to here and now, as the . In particular, a familiar cyborg in a racing suit rose from a yawning abyss of shadows behind Temhebu, with a gleaming pylon stone under his arm, handing it to the monstrosity. "Now, I'd love to stick around and watch the sparks between you two myself, but I'm I've an investment to cash in on." Temhebu turned around with the keystone for Stranglehold Omega in tow, dismissive. "I'll let security handle the res-" A grapnel from Luca had siezed the underside of the keystone, yanking it away from the Phasma and dragging it along the dirt towards him - before the stone disintegrated within the hooks and materialised back in Temhebu's hands. "Cute, but no doughnut today, monkey boy. Have a nice death!" Luca meanwhile cursed his first plan not going forward, and saw Driver's attention levelling upon him, all eight feet of man staring Luca down. This was all but confirmed with this order: "Driver, kill!" Temhebu then appeared to drift away as planned, dropping herself through another place and time. And for those within Temhebu's favour, they too could be hurled through her nightmares with their consent, immunised from the effect it had on the psyche of ordinary people by desensitising them systematically to the awful truths the existence of such a being as Temhebu pried open by blasting them with brainwashing and just indoctrination. Gruppen Tanhauss had been iterating upon their latest grow-able fighting force, and Temhebu realised that such blooming bodies bereft of soul, empathy and and any trace cognition which didn't serve the company could travel without needing a primer in sleep paralysis. Thus, the threat of broccoli soldiers had returned, emerging from trees and shrubbery, dressed in the black and green of Tanhauss' premier security force, without enough brains to think for themselves but enough to fire at whatever they were told. Breyja could count dozens of them springing up, maybe even hundreds, depending on how serious Tanhauss was on protecting their interest. Driver descended quickly and fiercely, trying to open up with a swinging haymaker - Luca dodged as Driver had predicted with his shotgun up, zigging and leaving one of his sides open as Luca left a heavy slug in Driver's chest to no effect - difficult to spot in the moment, but Driver shot in after the dodge and grabbed Luca by the neck, hoisting him up and causing him to drop his shotgun."He's mine." Driver declared, before disappearing with a puff of eyes to fling himself through witching currents. To the others, Luca had just been whisked away, and in his wake were nothing but the broccoli soldiers, shambling and dripping with eyes from their trip through the hell-scape, waiting to apprehend. Yttrium was the first to freak out and panic at these developments, suddenly launching from an array of launch tubes Luca had grafted into one of her arms, conical mini-missiles snaking out as she spread fire from her fingertips in blind panic at a gaggle of broccoloid men, roasting them with sticky napalm. "Oh-OH GOODNESS! Where'd they take Lulu!?" Yttrium gasped, now mad as hell for what Tanhauss just did to her glom. While many of the Tanhauss broccoli soldiers were armed with simple smallarms, the sound of something heavier engaging and cocking could be heard, and another silhouette outside of everyone's view - similar in stature to Driver, but carried through Temhebu's tides differently - Breyja and Snuffles could recognise the outline of a light machine gun held with one hand - all Yttrium and Seiren saw was a big freaking gun. Ravnir however saw no threat from one squishy using weapons expected for other squishies. Illuminated by the flash of lightning and punctuated by the rumble of thunder, Driver and Luca's silhouettes could be seen atop the southernmost building of the campus. Suddenly in new surroundings, Luca pulled his pistol from his side and unloaded into Driver's neck - pragmatics causing Driver to drop him down and for Luca to give himself distance, rolling back via grappling hook and coming to his feet. "Dean! Dean Bodala! You've changed!" Luca yelled over the din around him, hoarse, "I figured you'd fall in with corporates for easy money, but what the fuck are toying with now, man?! Where's your sense of self?" The Driver stood, all eight feet of race-suited, helmeted and cybernetic menace. "Dean is no longer in this vessel." He stoutly declared. "Only Driver lives in this skin now. Die, Phoenix!" He begun running towards Luca, prepared to punch his face through his head, but Luca intercepted the incoming attack with a fist of his own - and the two men collided again, forehead to forehead in white hot anger. Thunder raged through the bays and oceans of Sargasso, as a migration of Sargasso Slime was making its way down the eastern coastline of Barrier Island, skirting the University grounds.