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  1. Lost and Found The first week in Deagon’s care had been an ideal time for Robbi to acclimate herself to her new surroundings. Geographically, their location on Primal Earth was a collection of islands, formally called the Etoile Islands but informally referred to as the “Rogue Isles”. Deagon’s specific place of residence was in Port Oakes, a shipping dock connected to a small town. Robbi’s current location was within the warehouse Deagon apparently called home, sitting at a desk while surrounded by boxes of scavenged Praetorian Clockwork parts. The computer before her proved highly informative. According to the internet, the Rogue Isles were governed by an organization calling itself “Arachnos”, with Arachnos itself governed by one Lord Recluse. Their spider-themed soldiers, outfitted head to toe in black with intimidating weaponry in hand, seemed to appear everywhere Robbi looked. Arachnos’ troops enforced local laws with a tight grip, with suspected troublemakers being openly targeted in a manner that brought to Robbi’s mind the tactics of the Praetorian Police Department. Yet in spite of this, Deagon’s word was that the Rogue Isles earned their name for a reason; criminals and villains of all sorts found their way here in search of power, and attempts at lawbreaking were encouraged by Arachnos in spite of their law enforcement efforts. What purpose would this paradoxical notion— “Robbi, do you read me?” Deagon’s voice over the communicator line pulled Robbi’s attention away from her web browsing. “Yes, Deagon. What would you have me do?” “I’m outside the south entrance,” the mercenary explained. “How’s that map looking?” In her capacity as Deagon’s support, Robbi’s duties now included maintaining radio contact as her benefactor ventured into the field for whatever task he had come upon. Today’s mission involved a trek into Port Oakes’ sewer system, a task Robbi puzzled over but did not question. She simply did as commanded and brought up the map on her computer screen. “The south entrance will lead you down approximately two-point-three miles of passageways,” Robbi explained. “You will pass two four-way piping intersections before reaching a third one, whereupon you will need to take the rightmost pathway in order to reach the desired junction.” “Got it,” Deagon replied simply. “What about the reports of people ducking in and out of these sewers? Did they say anything about the numbers those people had?” “One moment, please.” A few more clicks brought up an online news article. “The Rogue Isles Protector article posted at seven forty-five this morning does not specify a number of individuals, but does mention that humanoid individuals of abnormally large size have been seen passing through a variety of Port Oakes’ sewer entrances over the past several days. Interviewed witnesses suspect that these are members of the hostile group referred to as ‘the Lost’.” “Guess that’s the best we’ll get,” Deagon sighed. “Ah, well, I’ll make do.” The shrill creak of rusty metal could faintly be heard on Deagon’s end of the radio, reminding Robbi of just how far the Rogue Isles were from Praetoria’s golden splendor. A second creak followed, sounding as if Deagon had just opened and closed an old door. “Will you require anything else at this time?” Robbi asked. “No,” Deagon said back, a sharp edge to his voice. “In fact, I’ll need to go into radio silence. If I’m not sure I’m walking into, something vaguely resembling the element of surprise could tip things in my favor.” “Understood,” Robbi replied. Silence resumed, allowing the Clockwork to continue her browsing. Armed with questions that no ideal servant should ask about her master’s actions, Robbi searched for the name of the gang Deagon seemed to be pursuing: the Lost. The results required several more searches, snapping puzzle pieces together until the larger picture took shape. Almost a decade prior to Robbi’s arrival, Primal Earth had endured an onslaught worse than anything Praetoria could have conceived. An alien species called the Rikti had launched an unprovoked attack on the planet at large, forcing Primal Earth’s citizens to mount as best a defense as their inferior technology could muster. Though the Rikti were repelled in the end through the aid of heroes and villains alike, enough damage had been done. Primal Earth took years to recover, and the carnage had ripped many of its people from their homes. In time, those homeless people would congregate into communities, as many in their positions would do. But these communities behaved quite unlike a simple group seeking shelter; they were organized, and they were hostile. Passers-by who found the Lost on the streets claimed to hear them preaching and plotting, anticipating a great “change”. Furthermore, reports claimed that they had access to strange technology similar to that of the Rikti. Technology of extraterrestrial origin. Robbi paused, her eyes tearing away from her computer screen and scanning the area around her. The warehouse’s security system had been set into place on her first day as Deagon’s subordinate, but boxes of Praetorian Clockwork parts remained. Boxes of technology that originated outside of Primal Earth. Then Robbi looked down at herself; her own body seemed…off. A pause for a quick self-diagnostic revealed no malware or malfunctions of any kind, and she physically resembled the average Praetorian Clockwork, but there were parts and lines of programming that she did not recognize as her own. Parts and lines of programming that belonged in a non-Cleaner Clockwork, like a Builder or a Mender. “Son of a--!” Deagon’s swear over the radio was cut off by the sudden hum of futuristic machinery, followed by the blaring shriek of something whizzing past the radio. “Deagon?” Robbi asked, her ever-monotone voice belying the urgency she recognized in the situation. “What is—” The feed abruptly fell silent with a crackle. Robbi’s entire world seemed to follow suit. She pushed her chair away from her desk, but did not stand. She remained in her chair, folding her hands on her metallic lap. There was no longer anyone who would give her orders, but action was nonetheless required. The decision on what specific action to take now rested solely in her hands. Option A: leave Deagon to whatever fate the Lost had in store for him. After all, she had fallen into the care of someone who clearly held no love for the land she called home. Should he be removed, perhaps she could find someone else to guide her through Primal Earth? But how would she proceed in doing so? Who would she talk to while stranded in what many would call a city of villains? Further consideration yielded further holes in this plan; it would have to be rejected. Option B: stage a rescue. Deagon was her best lead on how to navigate Primal Earth. But outside of the modifications made to her frame, she had little to no combat experience; the Primal Earth heroes she encountered in Galaxy City made short work of her and her fellow Clockworks. Furthermore, if a trained soldier like Deagon fell to the Lost, what chance would a simple Cleaner Clockwork have? …unless, as her self-analysis suggested, she had become more than a simple Cleaner Clockwork. She looked around at the technology Deagon had collected. And then she made her first independent decision. The sewers were alight with laser fire as Deagon’s rifle traded shots with the Lost’s alien weaponry. Bolts of blue and green sailed through the air, striking everything from flesh to piping as several hulking humanoids collapsed onto the concrete. Deagon ducked down behind the massive pipe that served as his cover, a mass of green energy blazing over his head amidst the Lost’s chaotic chorus of words. “You shouldn’t have come here!” “You can’t prevent destiny!” “The change will come!” Beneath his rebreather-bearing helmet, Deagon gritted his teeth as he took one hand off his rifle and reached for a grenade on his belt. He turned his head just enough to see the advancing Lost—a wall of behemoths armored in trash cans, street signs, barbed wire and more—and threw the grenade. The resulting explosion filled the cavernous junction with fire, swallowing all in its path and forcing Deagon to duck down again. As the fire cleared, the mercenary poked his head back up, only to swear under his breath. One Lost stood before the rest, his head stretched and pressed into a horrific crescent. His scar-matted face pulled back its lips into a snarl, eyes radiating a purple glow as he held out his misshapen hands. “No one can stop what is to come!” the lead Lost declared, sweeping his hands wide. The smoke and flames of the explosion from Deagon’s grenade seemed to part in time with his motion, albeit slowly. “Let me guess, resistance is futile?” Deagon snapped back, readying his beam rifle as he darted out from behind his cover. He rushed across the room, firing off a volley of lasers at the lead Lost, earning a pained grunt from the beast with every shot that struck his massive chest. “Protect Ted!” one of the monster’s followers cried, opening fire with his alien rifle. Laser blasts pulsed and trilled in pursuit of their target, Deagon abruptly changing course and rushing aside in an effort to dodge. A shot at his feet soon tripped him up, however, leaving an opening for several additional bolts to pummel the mercenary’s torso. Deagon fell to the ground, biting back a groan. One hand clutched his rifle beside him as the other clutched the sizzling burns left behind by the Lost’s lasers. He looked up, watching the Lost brandish all manner of strange weapons in preparation to finish him. Something suddenly grabbed hold of Deagon’s shoulders and pulled him back, however, out of the Lost’s reach. Laser blasts roared by as Deagon’s rescuer pulled him into a corner, behind a large rotating machine. “Hello,” Robbi said simply, releasing Deagon’s shoulders and allowing him to turn and face her. “You appear to be in need of medical attention.” “Wha—Robbi?!” Deagon sputtered. “What the hell are you doing here?!” “I am here to provide assistance, should it be welcome,” she replied. “Well…at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get. The Lost need to go,” Deagon sighed. “Assuming you have a plan and didn’t just come here to wing it by yourself.” Though Robbi’s face remained blank, Deagon could swear he saw the faintest trace of a smirk on her android lips. “I did not come alone.” A repetitive clunking, the sound of metal against metal, began to echo through the tunnels, growing steadily louder. Deagon readied his rifle in anticipation of hostile assault, but stopped at what he saw. “What in the…?” A small horde of blue-and-silver robots barreled onto the scene, all of hasty construction and composed entirely of the Clockwork parts Deagon had scavenged. Robbi pointed to the Lost, opening her mouth and emitting a series of strange noises that sounded almost like programming code, and the new robots complied by charging into the crowd without a second’s hesitation. “STAMPEDE!” one of the Lost yelled as a robot leapt onto him, tackling him to the ground. Deagon looked to Robbi. “Are those…yours?” “I noticed that I was rebuilt using components foreign to my original construction, specifically from Builder and Mender Clockwork types,” Robbi explained. “I was able to utilize their programming to construct and manipulate those drones.” Deagon let out a huff, taking his rifle into his hands. “Well, I won’t say no to reinforcements like these. Let’s clear this place out.” Robbi nodded, and as Deagon rejoined the fray, his Clockwork sidekick stood at the junction’s entrance, calling out commands to her drones in her computer code and directing them with gestures. Deagon’s beam rifle shots found their marks, felling Lost who were otherwise occupied by Robbi’s drones. Even Ted, the great behemoth, struggled to remove multiple drones that had latched onto his arms. “No! Get off!” Ted cried, the glow of his eyes magnifying as he threw his arms wide. Though the psychic wave sent the drones scattering across the floor, Ted’s gesture left him open. Deagon aimed his beam rifle directly at the behemoth, his weapon humming as energy swirled around the barrel. “I hope this tells your masters to get off my planet,” Deagon snarled just before he fired. The resulting beam tore through the air and into Ted’s chest, coursing through his mutated body. Energy gradually enveloped his form, and in moments, Ted as a whole seemed to utterly fade from existence. The remaining Lost found themselves falling to Robbi’s drones, beaten down by their misshapen fists or gunned down by plasma blasts. Eventually, the battle drew to a close. All was calm again. “Well,” Deagon said, holstering his rifle on his back and freeing up his hands to favor his wounds. “I guess I owe you one, Robbi.” “You have suffered injuries,” Robbi pointed out. “Seeking medical attention is highly advised.” “We can grab some medical equipment for us to use ourselves,” Deagon replied, kneeling by the fallen Lost and picking up their discarded weaponry. “Hospital staff in the Isles is questionable at best, so self-care is our ideal option here.” Robbi paused, as if processing this information, then nodded. “Understood.” “At any rate,” Deagon said as he stood up, “I’m honestly surprised you came to bail me out.” “Remaining in your charge grants me the greatest chance of safely navigating Primal Earth,” Robbi replied without a hint of emotion. “Aiding you here was my most logical choice.” “At least you’re not getting overly sentimental on me,” Deagon chuckled. “Hold out your hands for a second.” Robbi complied, allowing Deagon to toss a silver object with a green glow into her outstretched hands. She looked down at the device, staring at it for a moment. “Souvenir for you,” Deagon explained. “I’ve had some experience with Rikti weaponry, so I’ll teach you how to use that pulse rifle when we get back to the warehouse. Might make things easier for you if you make a habit of bailing me out.” Robbi nodded, clutching her new rifle. She looked down at it, though her analysis was on the events leading up to the weapon’s landing in her hands. The decision she made of her own accord had led to an ideal result, symbolized by this weapon. Her overall situation was much more satisfactory at this stage.
  2. (Hello, all! I'm relatively new to CoH and its particular brand of RP, so as a means of both acclimating myself to the lore and getting a feel for my characters, I decided to write some short stories focusing mainly on a couple of my Rogues and their pre-RP adventures. So, without further ado, let's dive in.) Story 1: "Online" Story 2: "Lost and Found" Online Her world suddenly came to life, text and numbers racing across her field of vision. Static and snow parted to reveal the world around her. Surrounding her was a place that resembled a small warehouse. Several crates and boxes lined up on one wall, a rusty filing cabinet up against another. In front of the filing cabinet was a desk, sporting a few writing implements, several drawers, and little else. The odd light gleamed overhead, one directly above her shining its rays onto her person. She appeared to be facing upward, directly into that light. The glow was already blinding, forcing her to turn her head away. “Don’t move.” The voice was sharp, commanding, and accompanied by the click of what sounded like a rifle. “I had you put back together, but I can easily take you apart again. Permanently.” She froze, though her head was already titled enough to the side that she was not eyeing the light. Without that light, however, her environment was dim. The warehouse looked as if none used it, but clearly, someone was using it. Perhaps its use was only recently? It looked rather unkempt in spite of— “All right, now sit up.” She obeyed, her metallic hands finding the arms of a chair beside her and using them to prop herself up. Now she could see the voice’s owner: a man with an athletic physique, human in appearance and garbed in a grey bodysuit. Over this bodysuit appeared to be brown armoring, its darker shade befitting the dismal warehouse but contrasting the white of his skin and red buzzcut hair. “Good,” the man said, a purple-and-grey rifle in his hands. It was not currently aimed at her, but she suspected that could change in an instant. “Now, identify yourself.” Her options had always been few; if she was given an order, everything in her drove her to follow that order to the letter. As foreign as her new situation was, this time was no different. “I am Clockwork em-three-three-five-six-five-seven,” she answered. “My primary function is to uphold the highest standard of cleanliness in the Praetorian household to which I am assigned, and to support my host family in their daily activities.” The man blinked. “…you’re a maid?” His captive Clockwork hesitated for a moment; his surprise was unexpected. “In a sense, yes. Is that unsatisfactory?” “Never mind,” the man sighed and shook his head, laying his rifle onto his shoulder. “Just wondering what made Maelstrom desperate enough to grab domestic robots for his plans.” She paused again, staring blankly ahead as her inner workings raced to recall the requested information. “I…was recruited to serve Praetoria in a greater capacity,” the Clockwork replied. “I was gathered alongside my fellow Clockwork for a covert mission that would benefit Praetoria’s glorious—” The rifle slid off the man’s armored shoulder and into his hands. The barrel aimed directly at her mouth, her captor’s own lips contorting into a sneer. “You invaded my Earth,” he growled. “You were part of Maelstrom’s most recent act of betrayal against his own planet. You and your ‘fellows’ stormed into our Galaxy City to pick a fight with our heroes and force your sickening dictatorship onto us.” Her eyes trailed down to the rifle’s barrel. A more diplomatic approach seemed to be in order. “I…apologize,” the Clockwork said slowly. “I was merely—” “—following orders, I know,” the man snapped, though he did withdraw his rifle and sling it across his back. “I’ve been a soldier, I know how these things work. But that doesn’t change the fact that your ‘orders’ were to give grief to the world I call home and defend as such. Fortunately, you’ll have your chance to make up for it. As of this moment, you’ll take your orders from me.” She hesitated again, calculating potential routes for this conversation to take. Her first inclination was to obey; after all, that was what she had been built to do. Further analysis justified this, given that the man before her could not only destroy her, but could very well be her best lead on her situation. “Understood,” she finally said, earning a nod of approval. “But I do not know your name, or what purpose you serve.” “Well, fair enough. Name’s Deagon,” the man replied, shrugging one shoulder. “I’ve had a few ‘purposes’ over my life, but these days I work to keep my world safe from the kind of extraterrestrial and extradimensional threats that have been hitting it for God knows how long: Rikti, Shivans, Kheldians, Praetorians, and so on. Most would just call me a mercenary, though, partly because my equipment doesn’t come cheap and food needs to get on the table somehow.” The Clockwork simply nodded; objecting to being in this mercenary’s care was not deemed a wise course of action. “Now, then…calling you by your serial number will make things harder than they need to be, so you’ll need an actual name,” Deagon said. He took a moment to look her over before speaking again. “Ah, why not, let’s go with Robbi.” The newly-named Clockwork blinked, staring in bewilderment. “Robbi? As in Robby the Robot? Science fiction icon?” The confused stare and silence continued. “From the movie Forbidden Planet? 1956?” More silence. “Said movie being loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and leading to Robby making appearances in numerous other films following Forbidden Planet?” Still silence. “No one has ever talked about any of these terms around you, or programmed you with even the most basic knowledge of them?” Deagon asked. “I mean, I know it’s an old movie, but it was good enough to make its mark on popular culture.” The Clockwork shook her head. “The extent of my knowledge is that which is most relevant to my duties. Entertainment media would be filed under supplementary knowledge that I would acquire over the course of serving the family to which I would be assigned.” Deagon sighed, putting a gloved palm to his forehead and muttering something about Praetorians projecting their lack of culture onto others before cutting himself off and addressing his charge again. “Well, at any rate, I’m calling you Robbi. Get used to it.” Robbi merely nodded. “Now that we’ve got that settled, we have work to do,” Deagon began, readying his rifle again. “I understand you Praetorian Clockworks are good at fixing things, including yourselves. Your job is going to be fixing my equipment, helping me install security around here, and whatever other technical tasks I need from you.” “Acknowledged,” Robbi nodded. She paused, looking around. “Would I also be carrying out domestic duties?” “We’ll figure that out later,” Deagon replied flatly. “First priority is setting up security. The things we need to do that are in those crates by the door. Get up and help.” Robbi wordlessly complied, accompanying Deagon to the indicated supplies. Analysis indicated that her existence had taken a perplexing turn. It was true that she was capable of combat, but full-on mercenary work was not something she had been programmed for. Adaptation was going to be key.
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