QueenGhid: Wow, thank you everyone for such nice reviews! It gives me a nice feeling to know that others enjoy what I produce. I have an idea of what is going to happen later, so here's hoping that this chapter does not disappoint! Oh, and, yes, I am a die-hard Godzilla fan! Ghidorah forever!
Outworld could best be described as a realm existing in the past. While worlds such as Earthrealm had spent the last millennia perfecting their understanding of technology and all that it could offer them, the Emperor had been busy occupying new territories, leaving precious little time for studying engineering or anything more complex than a catapult. Not surprisingly, this left the realm lagging far behind its competitors in the way of appliances and mechanical know-how. In the wicked wasteland's defense, however, it at least had a firm grasp of magic and that, in itself, was a formidable weapon.
Unfortunately for it, the quintet of warriors currently surrounding the most advanced piece of technology seen in ages (barring the cyborgs from Earth, of course) were incapable of producing anything more amazing than a simple power projectile. Even if they could conjure something more advanced than a blast of Hado-Energy, it wouldn't much help them in figuring out how to operate the alien device left in their care in under seven days. Shao Kahn was not exactly known for great patience and most likely meant for the smut writer to be writhing in his dungeons by the end of the week, rather than for him to simply be located by then. Seeing as how his five chosen soldiers were completely awed by the way the "roller-thing" controlled the actions of the small arrow on the computer screen, progress was not looking very good. This was made doubly so by the fact that their master, in his haste to leave the embarrassing situation behind him, had forgotten to mention one very important detail:
"So -- how exactly does this 'compuder' thing work?"
Rain's tone of voice bespoke the frustration of all five minions. It had been over three hours since Shao Kahn had left them to their mission, his anger still lingering palpably in the air, and they had accomplished nothing besides having figured out who would get the stone chair behind the big desk. As victor, Rain had taken charge of the machine's accessories and was currently shaking the mouse about violently, trying to force it to do anything other than click like mad.
"Really, it seems a useless thing to me," he growled.
Reptile followed the frantic motions of the cursor on the screen with his eyes, elliptical pupils alternating between dilating and contracting, and rumbled deep in his chest in thought. By the Matriarch, how did the thing work? The buttons only made noises like trampled gravel when pressed and the roller-thing, while kind of fun, did little else.
"What it ssseemsss and what it isss are two different thingsss," he replied unhelpfully. "Who isss to sssay what thisss contraption isss actually capable of? None of usss here are familiar with sssuch thingsss."
Baraka paced back and forth across the room like a caged lion, not in the least liking to be kept cooped up indoors for any longer than a few minutes. His patience already strained by this imprisonment, the fact that he felt Reptile's lisp to be extremely annoying did not help matters.
"Argh, then why did the Master entrust this to us at all?" the Tarkata complained. "We are not suited to the task! We are his muscle; his assassins. We do not concern ourselves with useless toys such as this. It should be the burden of Shang Tsung and Shang Tsung alone! Is that not what he is here for?"
Ermac considered this from his position on the desk corner, one glove removed so he could curiously finger the texture of the mousepad next to him.
"No, We do not think the sorcerer comprehends this sort of magic any better than we do. Besides, he has not proven to be reliable for some time and, in this case, loyalty makes all the difference. We believe Shao Kahn chose us for our passion against this perpetrator. He understands that nothing can stand in the way of passion. It is simply strategic."
Rain snickered suddenly, setting the mouse down carefully for fear of breaking it.
"'Nothing can stand in the way of passion'?" he grinned. "That sounds rather like a line from the story, Ermac."
The few visible areas of the telepathic ninja's otherwise disguised face turned as bright as his red suit at this, the only sign that he'd been upset by Rain's comment at all.
"We'll thank you not to remind Us of that filth, Rain, for while you obviously enjoyed it, it held no pleasure for Us."
Rain stiffened at this inference, abandoning his coveted seat in order to stand to his full height.
"If I did enjoy it," he spat, "it was only because of what it implied about Kahn. That's all!"
Baraka cackled, momentarily forgetting how the walls seemed to be closing in on him, and relished the conflict.
"I have long wondered after your decision to wear purple. Now it is all too clear!"
Rain turned on him next.
"It is a royal color!"
This heated response gave Ermac a reason to smile briefly, the rare gesture unseen behind his mask.
"Of what?" he asked in what could be taken as a sly tone. "Edenia?"
The palace tower in which the conference room was located was one of the tallest for added security against eavesdroppers, and the perpetually moody Outworld sky was clearly visible to its occupants through its single, narrow window. As Rain began to seethe in anger, the dusky sky darkened along with him and aggravated lances of lightning could be seen skittering above the stratosphere.
A nerve had been touched.
Although the ominous atmosphere had both Baraka and Mileena inherently becoming uneasy, Reptile's flickering tongue was the first to detect it as a change in the weather, even before the crash of thunder announced it, and he quickly whipped about to face the furious ninja.
"Calm yourssself, Rain! We are wasssting preciousss time with thessse petty arguementsss. Ressst assured that, jussst asss we are csssertain asss to the Massster'sss affinity, ssso are were confident asss to where you ssstand."
There was a brief moment of consideration following these words before the murky sky began to gradually lighten and the wind to die down, the occasional twitch of lightning remaining as the only evidence that Rain's volatile temper was not yet fully dispelled. For now, he was only mollified. Regardless, Reptile gave an internal sigh of relief, thankful that the bright bolts, their creator's anger leaving them rampant, had not had the chance to target their tower as the perfect place to leap off of.
"That'sss better." He paused. "Wasss purple the color of Edenia?"
Opportunistic as ever, Mileena had been the one quickest to realize that Rain had abandoned his seat, and had immediantly pounced it. Legs draped comfortably over one of its arms, she rolled her eyes at the mentioning of Edenia and turned to glare at the Raptor just as an agitated clap of thunder once again found its voice.
"Enough! What does it matter if Rain wears purple? It is not so horrible a color as you all make it out to be; it certainly served me well in the past."
Ermac carefully adjusted the black leather straps of his mask, tightening those which had begun to droop, and replaced his discarded glove.
"Then why have you forsaken it in favor of pink?" he inquired casually.
Mileena grinned, her disfiguring fangs faintly outlined through her gauzy veil.
"Who would ever suspect pink?"
Baraka was the only one who nodded knowingly with her reasoning, Ermac simply shaking his head and Rain letting loose an indecipherable grunt as he resignedly sat himself on the edge of the protruding window-sill. Reptile shrugged one shoulder with a low hiss, his attention back on the computer.
"I merely asssk to be csssertain; you two are not the only onesss to have worn the color before, and I did not wish my passst actionsss to ssseem...hypocritical."
"So hypocrisy is where you draw the line?" Mileena smirked.
Reptile pretended not to hear her.
"In any cassse, the female isss right about one thing, and that isss how little it mattersss what Rain doesss. That sssaid, I am now willing to sssimply drop the matter and return to our tasssk." His yellow eyes rested pointedly on Mileena. "Why don't you asssk the machine where our target isss located?"
The assassin cocked her head to the side in the manner of a confused animal and stared at the Raptor.
"You believe it would understand me?"
"There isss but one way to find out."
Mileena nodded, uncrossing her legs and leaning forward in her seat to better enable the computer to hear her. The tensions of two minutes ago vanished beneath this new curiosity, and the others eagerly pressed around her for a better look. Feeling important as the center of attention, Mileena cleared her throat raspily and spoke.
"Machine! I order you to give to me the whereabouts of the author of the disgusting story, 'Carnal Kombat'."
After an expectant moment passed in silence, she rumbled angrily.
"Heed me, Machine! I do not like to repeat myself!"
It uttered not a sound. Just when the insulted Mileena seemed about ready to rip her mask aside and lunge for the computer's throat, she was instead sent leaping backwards in surprise as the screen suddenly went completely black. Now perched on the chair's high back, she gawked along with her companions as the Marquee screensaver activated. The five Outworlders did not understand what was happening, of course, and assumed that the writing zipping across the screen was the answer to their question.
"What doesss it sssay?" Reptile asked almost hesitantly.
Ermac's glowing green eyes squinted, trying to keep up with the speedy marquee.
And so it did. Apparently, Shao Kahn had programmed his screensaver to repeat the deadly word over and over. The effect of the blood-red lettering against the black background was far from comforting (as it was undoubtedly intended to be) and, disturbed by what seemed a sinister prophecy, Mileena reacted in the best way she knew how: she kicked the monitor with the flat of her heel. The force of the blow had the poor contraption skidding towards the end of the desk, and it was only the reflexes of a swift Reptile belly-flopping onto the table itself and seizing the monitor before it fell that saved every one of them from certain death. They all went limp with a collective sigh of relief.
"That was far too close for comfort," Rain muttered as soon as he had recovered. Turning to Mileena irritably, he raised a hand as if to strike her. "Fool! You could have killed us!"
Mileena was never one to cower beneath a threat made by an equal and bared her teeth aggressively at the ninja. Baraka's sudden entrance between her and Rain were all that kept her from using her sai against him, an action that she may have regretted later.
The long metal blades embedded deep within Baraka's forearms, a trademark feature of his race, were now fully extended and crossed as a form of barrier against Rain.
"Watch your tone when speaking to the Master's daughter!" he snapped.
Rain lowered his hand with a snort and took a single step back. Though it hurt his pride, the Tarkata was not someone he wanted to get into an altercation with while in such close quarters, and something so trivial as dignity had never stopped him from backing down when he knew it was best.
"Perhaps the Master's daughter should watch herself!" he grumbled.
Baraka gnashed his teeth, but didn't try to pursue the subject; he retracted his blades with a metallic shing.
Ermac and Reptile, meanwhile, had wisely chosen to ignore the squabbling of their peers in favor of focusing their attentions on the health of the computer. All they could think of to do to be sure it was all right was click and type on it frantically.
"It was not so hard a kick," Ermac reasoned, his calm tone belying his anxiety. "It shouldn't have done much damage."
Reptile was not so disposed.
"Not hard? Are you blind? I have ssseen her impale mortalsss with that kick!" he fretted.
Shao Kahn's computer proved to be made of tougher fibers than Mileena's unfortunate victims, luckily, and it promptly responded when the wandering cursor happened to click on the "Return to Desktop" tab, revealing the Emperor's less than soothing wallpaper. Ermac and Reptile took a simultaneous step away from the image of a massacre so suddenly thrust in front of them, both uncaring that they bumped into Baraka in the process. The Tarkata turned around furiously, his high-strung nerves prepared for war, but froze upon sight of the gruesome picture.
"What is that?" his gruff question brought the attention of the room to the computer.
Reptile's tongue fluttered.
"I do not know."
As accustomed to violence as they were, none were spared the disconcerting feeling of seeing such gore painted on their master's mysterious box so soon after the foreboding "Fatality" message; they turned their backs to it in unison to deliberate.
"Do you suppose this thing has the power to see into the future?" Baraka asked of no one in particular, the natural metal of his blades humming faintly in his distress.
Rain made a derisive sound at this, although he, too, seemed somewhat unsettled.
"Bah! If it possessed the Sight, then Kahn would not have been defeated so sorely these past years. It is merely a trick of the box, trying to frighten us away."
They glanced back at the computer, sitting so calmly on the massive desk as if it had no idea what carnage it was displaying. The wallpaper's image must have been recent; they fancied they recognized a few of the victims.
Ermac's bushy eyebrows twitched in mild interest.
"How odd. That battered corpse in the corner appears to have three ribcages. Have you ever seen such a thing?"
The red ninja's monotonous voice, much like his habit of saying "Us" or "We" rather than "I" or "Me", was a dead giveaway to the fact that he was not what he appeared to be. He was a creation of magic, the result of the fusion of the souls of vanquished warriors, and his one throat consequently contained their many voices. When spoken softly and without malice, as he was doing in his wonder that any one body could have five legs or three arms, this multi-voice had a most peculiar calming effect. Thus aided in shaking their moment of superstition, his four accomplices determinedly re-approached the device they were fast starting to detest.
"Yes, I have seen it," Mileena dropped herself into the stone chair carelessly, annoyed at her fear. "But not all belonged to the creature they inhabited."
QueenGhid: And there, after all this time, is chapter two. I apologize for the lengthy wait; I had actually had this all written up soon after publishing the first chapter, but a computer virus wiped the file out before I could publish it, along with a few others and my will to write. In the long-run it may have actually been for the best; I happen to like how it turned out better this time around. Anyway, reviews are always appreciated, so long as criticism is either constructive or at the very least tasteful. Thanks for reading, and, please, stay tuned!