Portal Breach: The Collision of Worlds :: v.4.0


    By the Lake

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    Jo Pistonne
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:51 am

    It was a surefire solution to pacify an Evil Emperor. Oh, do you want to know where else she put that boot? Yeah, probably not.

    "And what good comes from you de-evolving potential slaves? You just make them easy to conquer, but in the end can they do everything you want them to do? Boost production, aid your evil empire? Nope! Turning them back will just make them smarter and want to revolt against you. In either case, the scenario ain't pretty." Note that she wasn't trying to discourage him, or say his reasoning was faulty, or accuse him of his deeds and schemes. She was simply bantering with him in a playful manner.

    "True, true, but you're only one person. And if you don't ask for help, how will people give it to you?" Something to ponder on, but not at the moment. The mechanic shook her head, snickering. "And you think I have it easy? Hah! Big Z, things are easier now, but they sure weren't on Tradeworld! The stories I could tell you would make your horns curl. Literally."

    With a chuckle, she set off. And did he just say court-martial? Another grin appeared on her face. "But how can I help it when the General of All Things is such a fine, fine fellow? He could shed the weight, but the figure? MmmMMMM!"

    Jo laughed, put stayed put, still holding his hand, knowing full well that Big Z's reaction wouldn't be the best to that. Ooh, she hoped she didn't push her luck too much!

    "According to the brochure, they've got a lot of fish and crab dishes at local restaurants. So maybe we could go to dinner and you could try a dish like that? Sure, it's not seafood, but it's still fish! I wonder if they'd call it lakefood instead..." For herself, she would go with something normal, and safe. Maybe spaghetti, or a roast, or maybe they had burgers and wraps. Yep, classic junkfood. Old habits died hard.


    (( Work for me. It's been really busy lately... ))
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:09 pm

    A boot to the royal, evil ass is always the way to go.

    And what's this? Zurg remained quiet as Jo gave her logic on devolving slaves, and he brought a hesitant finger near his mouth. "Well, even devolved slaves can perform the most basic of manual labours, and that's all I would really need. The grubs and brain pods could handle the finer details, with the Hornets serving as faithful overseers. As for reinstating the slaves' original condition? Hmmmr..." He tapped a tooth and thought about all the possible scenarios, choosing the one that pleased him the most. "If I ever run out of simple uses for my thralls, I could always enlist them into armed services or let the brain pods have their share for experimentation. They are quite crafty when they want to be." Of course, Jo no doubt found sending slaves off into battle witlessly and using the remainder for testing a terrible thing, but... Zurg was a terrible person. It came naturally with being a terrible person.

    "Hmph, asking for help." The proud alien slightly sneered. "Asking for help, especially from strangers and those whose personal interests you do not know of, is risky and endangers yourself. Since you mentioned Tradeworld and since I do know quite a bit about that particular slime pot, let me ask you this." Because Zurg was always someone who didn't have conventional thoughts. "If you think asking for help is so paramount, then why didn't you ask for help on Tradeworld when you are just one person? I'll tell you why." He shrugged his shoulders to relieve them of some lingering dirt and continued. "Because it's dangerous, and you can't trust people. That's it. Always was. When you're one person you can't afford to ask for help as asking for help may possibly invite something worse into your metaphorical doorstep. And when you're one person you really can't afford to make a mistake, either."

    In Zurg's honest opinion, the Cosmos were a dangerous place. Everyone was out to get everyone, their needs before others. It was a Raenok-eat-Raenok world, and the Evil Emperor wasn't ever going to drop his guard down again if he could help it. Everyone was dangerous.

    Everyone.

    He snorted at her comment about shedding weight, his mind only keying into that segment of her comment. "Everyone is a critic these days. My waist is too thin, my shoulders are too broad, and now I need to shed some weight. You people are just so judgmental on looks. Blah, blah, blah. Looks." Zurg thought he personally looked just fine. Scary, mean, imposing -- what wasn't to admire about himself? Some muscle mass wasn't weight to be shed.

    But you know what? He was going to be a big boy. Yep, a big boy! "Just meat for the slaughter. Just meat for the slaughter." That's all they were these days! Just pieces of flesh to be auctioned off and -- oh, food talk!

    Well, this little moozle was hungry, no matter how evil, and the mentioning of good, well-cooked seafood dishes... Oh, if his mouth could water and slobber all over it would have. "I'm not much for big shellfish, but craters, I'm hungry." All he had today were... berries, and... yes, berries. He had given Jo the rice thing. Oh, and maybe three eggs this morning. Hm, yes, he was starving come to think of it. "It's food, and that's all I care about." Seafood, lakefood, food was food! In fact, speaking of food... Zurg inhaled a bit of air here or there.

    "Smells like dinnertime. Let's go, Jo! If we take too long then we're going to miss out, and I can't eat dessert!" And sugar-free things for dinner wasn't what he called food -- those were just death meals.

    Hopefully Jo understood his plight and would stop pausing every now and then to pick up shells! The woman could get shells another time!

    ((Tell me about it.))


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Fri Sep 30, 2011 4:03 am

    "Guess if ya want cheap, manual labor, devolution gas is the way to go!" That earned him a boisterous laugh. Using them as fodder for fights was morally repugnant obviously, but that was Zurg. And experimentation...? Eh, not Jo's cup of tea. She made a face, but didn't comment on it.

    Oh, goody, a question about Tradeworld. The mechanic already had an inkling what he'd ask, and her hunch was right. As was his. "Well, yeah! Because no one out there gave a moozle's rear about helping someone when there was nothing in it for them. And who in there right mind would trust someone they don't even know? Not me! 'Sides, I wasn't telling you to go ask help from strangers. Me, Proxy, Lawrence, Red -- it won't hurt to ask us every now and then, you now. Get a load off your shoulders... Cosmos knows you're carrying the weight of a galaxy and then some on them."

    How typical for the compliment to fly over his head. Next time, Big Z, next time! Or maybe right now. Blasted word connections! "Not just meat for the slaughter! Learning how to beat the meat's always a good talent. It might help you ease off some stress and pressure." One day, you will understand what she means, Big Z. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but someday!

    "Ease the thrusters, cadet!" Boy, when that guy worked up an appetite, nothing could stop him. The mechanic grabbed one last shell, stuffing it into her pocket, before falling back into step beside him as they neared the village.

    It was small, and picturesque. You know the saying, "It looks like it just came out of a brochure?" Well, in this case, they weren't kidding. Fishermen were examining their catches of the day, the dock/harbor, though small, smelling strongly of fish and such scrumptious dishes that Big Z was so fond of -- and Jo had to drag him away by the hand before he tried to eat anything right there and then. They entered the village, examining the small shops and buildings, that looked like they belonged to some planet in the Outback quadrant, before spotting a few eateries. Oh, now these looked promising!

    Jo tugged on Zurg's hand and pointed to one of the signs. "Look! This one's called Catch of the Day and it's all fresh!" She, for one, didn't care much for the smell, but if the look on Big Z's face was any indication, he just couldn't wait. "Wanna get dinner here?"
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:58 pm

    Morally repugnant was the name of the game, baby! Slavery was extremely profitable and it managed to get things done at only a fraction of the cost. It was a great success in Zurg's evil accounting books, and he was helping to motivate people into work. Just depended at how you looked at it, you know? And what was that face for, Jo. He lightly tapped Jo just underneath her chin with the base of his hand. "The best labour is always free labour."

    And look at her, not taking her own advice! HAH. Zurg snorted and poo-poo'd the idea. "Strangers is a relative term. You're all strangers, if you look at it. Why, I've only known the four you've just listed in the course of two years. Two years, Jo. That's not exactly something that we would call close. I mean... I don't even know a lot about, say, you, Lawrence, Red -- Proxy is more or less transparent to me as he doesn't have much of a history." Not that he was saying they were all stranger strangers, but he was telling the truth. Zurg didn't know much about Lawrence. Zurg didn't know most things about Red. And Zurg didn't know even 20% of Jo's life. In fact, the mechanic's life was a mystery to him. She didn't talk about her parents, her extended family, her school career, experiences, or other lively things that highlight a person's journey. He didn't know what music she liked, what movies she liked, or even what foods (besides burritos, as that was not food to him) she fancied. Most of what he had done so far was guesswork and diligent deductions. Just recently he discovered that she liked the colour blue, her favourite colour. Things of that personal nature that brought you closer to a person.

    "Oh..." Well, while Zurg put it like that and mentally reasoned with himself, he also realized that the same was true for him. "Guess that means I'm a stranger, too. None of the four know all that much about me, save for you and Red, Jo. But I think you know more than him. Oh, don't tell him I said that." Because Red was his first, never forget!

    Beat the meat?

    Well, it was painfully obvious that the tyrant, while very informed of evil practices, was severely behind in the times. "Beat the meat?" He repeated, unsure of what that could possibly mean. What did that mean? "How is beating meat relaxing...?" If anything, that would just get his fists dirty with meat juice! If he wanted to pound something into dust, he could just... he didn't know, spar with someone or train. But to beat meat? "I don't get it." And that was probably a good thing... Why did Jo tease him and his language barrier!? That wasn't very nice.

    Thankfully his mind was sidetrack by the sounds of civilization, even if it was small and remote, and soon the town lights could be seen up close. As soon as Jo was done with her shell collected, silly Jo, they were finally ready to see what was all the hubbabaloo about Lochlann. Immediately the first thing Zurg noticed were the cobblestone roads. They felt smooth and polished beneath his heels, and a tad slippery from the lake air. The second thing he noticed were the small little buildings, almost like... in a village? They appeared sturdy and colourful, each one unique in some way. The woodwork and craftsmanship regarding some of the buildings were quite impressive. He couldn't really say as he hadn't visited a village quite like this before. At least it wasn't one with thatch roofs and disease running about. The place seemed very clean, and the alien busied himself by looking around constantly to soak in his surroundings. Not a ferocious-looking person in sight. No weapons on display... This town seemed really relaxed and full of culture.

    By now the last thing on his mind were his stomachs, and Zurg snapped out of a haze once he heard Jo. "Hmm?" Oh, some place to eat already! Well, he wouldn't deny that he was hungry, but... His eyes shifted away from the building in question and they went back to roaming around. "I suggest that if you'd like to look around, you do so now. Most places close not long after the sun sets, while eateries and restaurants remain open for longer periods of time." It would be a shame to come all this way out in the middle of nowhere practically and finalize it by eating. Was that what tourists did? Eat at the places they visited and then went home? Silly!

    It was no wonder he never went traveling. He'd be the only one sightseeing while the rest would eat! How come the nose-less aliens were the nosiest?


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Fri Sep 30, 2011 2:35 pm

    Different point of views did yield different results to very similar matters. It really did all depend on perspective, and nothing was ever just black and white. Jo didn't think she frowned for long, but she should have known that Zurg would spot it. With a small tap of his hand, it was like he was saying, "Chin up, chin up!" The mechanic snorted at his words, but smiled. "If only people appreciated such perks." There was never such a thing as "free" -- at least not on Tradeworld.

    "Yeah, but..." Jo's eyebrows slanted as she scrunched her face up again. He did have a point there. Atomos Quantum, a man she'd known for close to a year, was a super nova-sized example of trusting in someone you only thought you knew. How many others had fallen prey to his wily ways? And he'd had the patience to string her along for an entire year... that was a really scary thought. Sometimes, Jo wondered whether there had ever been more behind the timespan -- if he'd been toying around with her for some other reason -- or if it was just because she was so suspicious of other people and it had taken her a while to trust him.

    Not suspicious enough, she thought bitterly.

    But Big Z was different -- right?

    Right now, the mechanic was weighing all possibilities. Zurg was right, they only knew each other for two years. It was considered a long, respectable time between humans, but for Zurg's kind it was like blinking an eye. And Jo wouldn't claim that she knew everything about him. She knew more than most, but she wouldn't say she knew everything. He was a mystery to her. There was no predicting his next move sometimes, or his reaction to something or other. And it wasn't like she told him what to do, or controlled him. Those weren't healthy in any relationship. True, she didn't like some of the things he did, but he'd improved so much since meeting her. He held back on a lot of things he'd normally do for her sake. She didn't know how much, but just him trying was effort enough.

    "Okay, so it's been two years. That's pretty good by human standards, by yours a fleeting sensation, I bet. But out of everyone else here, I'm at my most comfortable with you around. 'Sides Proxy, that is. Tough luck, but you can't compete with my baby on that level!"

    Jo didn't like talking about herself. It was the only reason Zurg didn't know a lot about her life on Tradeworld. She'd tell him if he asked, but they weren't topics she liked sharing with just anybody. Old habits died hard. Back home, no one cared about your personal sob story. You just had to survive.

    The mechanic laughed and hugged Zurg's arm. "I'll show you some other time, champ." She even winked, but that would fly over his head like the innuendo. It couldn't be helped sometimes!

    His suggestion to look around was a good one, so Jo led him by the hand along the cobblestone streets, browsing the small stores that were still open and displaying their wares. The village had a quaint feeling about it. Plain, but distinct. Jo wasn't sure what to call it, but what it reminded her of was strangely the smell of oil in her workshop. You know, the good, gritty, smelly kind. Like that classic star cruiser smell that had seen better days, but you knew was still trusty and reliable despite its age. That's what Jo was looking for -- this village appeared aging, but also timeless, in a weird, weird way.

    Not a lot of interesting shops caught Jo's eye, but there was one that did, that had the strangest display window. She approached the shop and peered at what was on display, spotting small statues, decorations, watches, souvenirs, and almost anything you could imagine. It was like a souvenir/pawn shop! There were even strange animal statues that looked like native carvings -- totems?

    The mechanic took a step back to spy the shops name: Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. Jo tugged on Zurg's hand eagerly. "Let's take a look at this shop! It looks like it's got a lot of rare stuff in it!"

    Maybe she could get something for Proxy that he'd like in here. It looked like the type of shop to have some really rare books in storage somewhere. Jo hoped the place wasn't too archaic, though.
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:54 pm

    Ahh, yes. Atomos Quantum. You know, there was something to be said about the caliber of a person. Here there was Atomos, a real despicable person and shyster; and then you had someone like Zurg, a terrible person in his own right and yet... he wasn't that way originally. Zurg had a funny feeling that this Atomos was naturally a crook, a real villain that didn't need any pushing or forcing. There was a difference between being born evil (something Zurg did not believe in entirely) and then being made evil. A completely different take on things with two separate and unique paths. The real question was, however: would Zurg ever harm Jo like Atomos Quantum had despite not being of the same branch in evil?

    One would like to think not, but we shall see. We shall see.

    "You'd be incredibly correct that two years really is a mere blink of an eye for us. It's almost laughable, really..." Not at Jo, Cosmos no, but at something else. Maybe Zurg would mention it right now? He was always covetous of his secrets. "I don't trust easily; it's dangerous. In the earlier periods of my life, despite how short it is compared to my elderly peers, every time I had given trust it backfired and resulted in grossly painful consequences. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Tradeworld is not a place you drop your guard, if ever." Even rulers of highly advanced civilizations made errors, just as a common human mechanic could as well. The only difference was, at least in Zurg's mind, was that it left him all alone in a dimension with no one to guide him. Then again, wasn't Jo all alone, too? Sure, she had other humans but humans were just so individualistic. They didn't stick together like wet rice. Ugh, this made him feel all colours of emotion and he shut it out of his mind with a simple, ironically, blink of his eyes.

    Anyway, Jo should divulge some information about herself! Break the stranger danger barrier, you know? It may do wonders. And besides, how could he ask about her life if he didn't know what to ask about? His people were private folk; it was seen as rude to inquire about another life if you had no business in the first place. You know, cultural values.

    He had to chortle as the mechanic winked up at him, and immediately he knew what had gotten her to do so. "Beat the meat is another phrase for something I dare not repeat, isn't it." Aw, look how fast he learned! He had to learn since he was all alone. When she didn't explain Zurg knew he was right, and he shook his head slightly. "Why do you humans have so many expressions for the same thing. Why. If you're so stuck on it then make a blasted religion! And, what a minute..." The alien paused to process the recent information and he made a strangled noise in the back of his throat. It was very loud, too. Like a gurgled scream. "I... will have to sadly pass on you showing me." Look, he even took a slight step away. "I think that will just add more stress, if you get what I mean."

    Private! His people were private! Augh, mental images in his mind and a shiver down his spine.

    The face he made as Jo took him by the hand was priceless, but he otherwise didn't refuse. Better she hold his hand than something else...

    She eventually led them both to a cozy little place, some... shoppe? "Is that pronounced shop or... shop-ay?" If left to his own ignorant devices, Zurg would have flat-out said shop-eye. Spending many years trying to speak a foreign language paid off for him, despite the constant lapping between Basic and X'rghthu in his mind. Whatever it was, the little knick-knacks in the window caught his fancy and the despot was all for browsing inside the place. He made sure his hand was on his blaster as it was on his purse, but other than that, little wood carvings of animals and things! "Alright, alright! We'll check it out! Who needs to cool their jets now, hmm?" He gave out a little laugh and opened the door for Jo, giving her a mock bow. "Ladies first, and this time not me~!"

    It seemed promising so why not? It was more entertaining than just eating.


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:11 am

    "I don't give out my trust that easily," Jo agreed with a dip of her head. "Oh, don't I know that! If you want my trust, you have to earn it, with your own hard work and sweat!" Atomos Quantum was an error she would not repeat. The encounter had changed her, made her even more jaded than before. She had built a protective shell around her, because it was her only means of defense against the outside world. He was right; humans were individualistic, and on a world where you couldn't even trust your fellow human being, you were as alone as any alien.

    And she trusted Zurg, more than she had trusted anyone before in her life. For the first time, she had found someone to care for, and who genuinely cared back. But was her trust misplaced, as it had been in Atomos? For a fleeting moment, the factory's events flashed through her mind. She felt sick at the small shred of doubt, but she couldn't help it. If something like that happened again, if Zurg really betrayed her trust in some way, hurt her -- what would she do? What would it mean? And what kind of a person would she emerge as?

    But she shook her head and cast those thoughts away. It was the here and now that was important, not distant what-ifs that might not even happen.

    They would have to work on those cultural values. Jo had a lot of stories to tell, if Zurg wanted to listen. She could even let him know about the robot fighting rings! Now that had been a highlight in Jo's career.

    Ah, but look how quickly he caught on! Big Z was learning, surely but steadily. "You'd be surprised! I heard there's some really obscure sub-sect of a sub-sect that does that." And despite the humor still lingering in her voice, it was the truth. And a lot of people followed the motions so diligently they might as well be part of that sub-sect despite never having heard of its existence. His expressions always tickled her, especially the sound-effects he made. He sounded like a dying moozle, but it was well worth it. "Some other time, champ! We've got years and years ahead of us!"

    Zurg was tickled at the shop -- or shoppe -- too, and Jo was delighted to see him bow like a gentleman to grant her entry. "Alright, I think I'll pretend to be a lady just this once!" She pretended to curtsy, even if she had no dress or skirt to do so, then entered.

    The shop's interior felt cramped, despite there being enough space to move around in. Brightly colored ornaments hung from the ceiling, with feathers and beads attached to their colorfully-painted wood surfaces. The shelves were lined with antique-looking objects, some that moved in mechanical tinkles as they repeated the same sweeping dance steps over and over again. Dolls, stuffed animals, porcelain beauties and statuettes. This shop seemed to have them all.

    Jo made a turn and jumped in surprise. In a glass case was a shriveled-looking creature; it was small, maybe dinosaur-like in its appearance, its skin brown-looking and wrinkled. The mechanic, getting over her initial pause, approached the glass case and looked for a label. The rusty plaque read The Sentinel, but it was too small to be a proper watcher. And a watcher of what? Or was that its species name... why was it in a glass case?

    She reached out a finger to tap the glass, but jumped again when she heard something -- or rather someone.

    "That, fair lass, is jus' a replica. The real Sentinel's still ou' there som'where."

    Jo turned around to spy a mountain of a man. He was immense, looking so out-of-place in a fragile store like this, in his checkered shirt, stained jean overalls, and shaggy brown beard. His hair was flecked with specks of white and gray, granting age to his appearance. Roughly, Jo guessed that this man was close to fifty, although his lined face seemed to make him look far older.

    "Uh... what?" she asked stupidly.

    "The watcher o' the lake." He drew out a pipe and lit it, sticking it between his teeth, making his already heavy accent harder to understand. "Folks 'round here call it the Sentinel."
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:06 pm

    "No. No, I do not want to learn about any sub-sect. No learning about sub-sects of sub-sects, either. Not even sub-sects of sub-sects of sub-sects." This could go on forever, or until Zurg settled down, so thankfully he settled down. When his nerves started frizzling then his nerves started frizzling. He really didn't know how to relax. There was another shiver down the spine and thoughts hopefully moved to greener pastures. Ones with really cool trinkets, too.

    As they entered they split; she went right, and he went left. At first he didn't find much hidden beneath layers of dust (ugh, human skin no doubt), but things became quite interesting the further he went down the rows upon rows of forlorn items. Music boxes, figurines, carvings, jewelry, useless and strange clutter -- it was all very reminiscent of a certain junker he knew back home; a man who liked to collect everything and anything and believed that all creations had a purpose and value. "Well, X'am..." Zurg looked over his shoulders and kept his voice low. "I'm thinking of you in spirit. X'aakasit x'nghmotl x'iintklgrrh." There was a slight tapping of a foot upon the hardened floor, and the alien went about his business.

    In the far back something caught his eye, something he didn't know about. It was like... this block-thing. With funny knobs and bobs. He didn't know how to describe it, other than it had a button on the top of it and a circular opening in the middle. What was a... polaroid? It was clunky, whatever it was, and for some reason he was destined to uncover its secrets. After some fiddling he managed to ascertain that by pressing a finger here... and holding it like this... before his face...

    Shshkshkss... "Hmm?" ...FLASH!

    Cue the dumb alien moment. There was a beyond brilliant light that just went off in the back of the room, and it was quickly followed by a startled yelp in a strange guttural tongue. Sounded like the garbage disposal was going off, only louder and perhaps with vehemence, but despite the clumsy shuffling and scuffling nothing was heard to be broken. Soon after Zurg weaved his way next to Jo, who was at the counter, and he seemed rather... nonchalant. In his hand was the doohickey, and he placed it upon the wooden counter very calmly. His pupils were also the size of saucers, eyes glossy and weeping. "I just discovered that I don't like polaroids."

    That was probably the most profound thing he had said all evening.

    Whiriririrrrrr...! Ksssk!

    Whatever the strange thing was, it spat out something from the front end and Zurg reached with a hand to pull it out, face still directed at the wall in that blank, hazy stare. "Oh, look. It's for you." He casually said, handing Jo a firm piece of material. Little did the Evil Emperor know that it was his picture... His startled picture.


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Sun Oct 02, 2011 8:27 pm

    They could go on forever with that tongue-twister of a sentence, but it was best to keep things short and simple before they evolved into something more. It wasn't like talking about obscure sects was interesting. What was more interesting to the mechanic was getting the monarch to relax and let down his guard. Which she'd never seen him do. It was like he never relaxed. He didn't live his life.

    Well, Jo would have to do something about that, wouldn't she?

    In the meantime, the mechanic was cornered by the man behind the counter, and all she could do was stare blankly and uncomprehendingly at him. She was pretty sure he was the store's owner, or maybe just a frequent customer posing as the owner before a flabbergasted tourist such as herself. But he was probably the owner. Jo didn't see there being any reason for him not to be, even though he didn't look like one.

    The man puffed on his pipe again, then cracked a broad grin. "Ah, bet they sound like ol' bedtime stories to ya, don't they? Bu' here in Lochlann, they be real. As real as the air we be breathing."

    Well, breathing wasn't quite the word Jo would use, but she tried to tilt her head at an angle that would let her avoid the strong fumes of his pipe. Phew, the smell of that thing could raise the dead! Wait, better not let Zurg think that -- and speaking of Zurg, were was he? The mystery to this was soon solved when there was a flash of light and a startled exclamation. After a bit of a scuffle, Zurg himself waddled up to the counter, leaving a polaroid camera and claiming that he had made a discovery about it.

    Sure enough, when the ancient machine popped out its prize and Zurg handed it to her, the mechanic found it hard to stifle a laugh. "Cosmos, Big Z, you look like someone shoved a stick where the sun don't shine!"

    The owner peered at the picture too, then leaned back and boomed with laughter, clutching his stomach. "Aye, what a righ' sight that is! Tell ya what, keep the photo as a keepsake! A face like that needs somethin' to be remembered by!"

    Jo grinned back and pocketed the photograph. "Thanks! I could use a good laugh every now and then." She patted Zurg's arm, squeezing it for a moment. He looked wide-eyed and weepy, like a doe caught in the headlight. If his eyes didn't get sorted out soon, Jo would lend him her pair of sunglasses when they left.

    But the lingering curiosity over just what this Sentinel was drew the woman back to the display case. It was creepy, but she wanted to know more about the place she and Zurg had been at only hours before. "So, what's this Sentinel? Is it supposed to live in the lake?"

    "Yes and no." The man made a few smoke rings, leaning on the counter that creaked beneath his weight. "Some say it just guards the lake, others that it lives in the lake. Bu' whatever the case, the guardian watches o'er us. No evil's stepped foot here, no matter wha' calamity befell the city and the rest of Portal Breach."

    Jo shared a furtive smile with Zurg. No evil, eh? Seems like they had a stray Evil Emperor in their midst! Watch out, Lochlann. He might just pack a doozy!
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:28 pm

    Nope, can't say that Zurg knew how to relax. The man was a classic Type-A personality infused with a wee hint of evil. After all, running an evil business required much attention and resources; there simply wasn't time to relax when you had a galaxy to conquer. Although... Zurg was starting to understand what it meant to relax, just a little. A little. He still preferred to work during his time off, however, and that resulted in everything being orderly and kept proper. Wonder why Jo's house wasn't in shambles yet? Thank the Evil Emperor who couldn't sleep more than half an hour a day. Any more than that and it was a waste of a perfectly good day!

    "What's so funny?" While Zurg's vision was still incredibly blurry, he was beginning to make out shapes and blobs. That swirling mass of light peach and dark colours must have been Jo, and the patches around her... someone else. Someone Zurg didn't know. He kept the bulk of his senses attuned to this mysterious person, using his hearing and smell.

    Tobacco, and heavy. The alien wasn't foreign to the aroma, but his body did not find it overly pleasing. If anything, it kept him from breathing more and he chose not to inhale until he was out of the shoppe. As for what else he smelled... Sweat, oil, grease; this person was rugged. Almost like Jo, except missing that slightly feminine tint in the mix. And the voice. Sounded aged, but that could be because of the tobacco. Hearing Jo stifle a giggle got the Evil Emperor to pause in his assessment, and he blinked away a few small tears. "Photo?" He repeated stupidly. That thing he had passed to Jo was a photo? Ohh! It was all making sense now!

    A trigger, a bulb, lens; he had found none other than a blasted, archaic camera. "I don't like cameras, either." Nor did he like his picture taken and laughed at. Zurg was a sensitive soul, you know. It was even worse that the mysterious person was laughing as well, and Zurg shifted his dilated eyes around -- it was all he could express besides growling, which he did not do.

    He was just going to let Jo do her thing, he supposed. He couldn't see anything, so standing still was the safest bet. Besides, what were they talking about? Sentinel? Sounded like a really campy hero name -- wait, lake? "What's this about a lake guardian?" That awful feeling came back again, the one about bigger monsters out in the murky depths. Should he tell Jo what he had seen? "You know..." Zurg began, tipping his head in their direction but not quite looking at any of them. His eyes seemed fixated at random locations. "While I was out there swimming prior to showing you around, Jo, there was this chasm. And surrounding this chasm were lots and lots of bones. Small bones, big bones, some as big as your head. Bone bones. I don't think I want to go back in there..."

    Evil or not, Zurg wasn't about to enter a challenge when it regarded gigantic monsters. Especially if they were in the water.


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:57 pm

    At least there was some progress. Zurg was starting to learn how to relax, slowly, but surely. Even though he only slept for half an hour a day. Jo sometimes wondered how it'd be like to have longer days, but she liked sleeping in too much to want to give it up. Thank goodness she had Zurg around to help her out. It was true -- without him, she'd still be living at the inn!

    "That's a shame, you're pretty photogenic when you want to be." Knowing that the laughter had struck a chord, Jo rubbed Zurg's back, discreetly, while the store owner peered and squinted at the small display case again, harrumphing and clearing his throat after each puff of smoke.

    "Like I sai', the Sentinel be our protector," the man repeated, stowing his pipe away. Tourists got more daft with every season, by the looks of it. "No one righ' knows its looks, but they be rumors that its den be somewhere real deep in the heart o' the lake."

    Zurg mentioned something then, about finding something in the lake. Oh -- wait! Did Zurg just confirm the man's story with this talk of bones? Why didn't he mention it to Jo sooner? The mechanic frowned, glancing back at the mummified creature in the case, feeling a small shiver. Was it all just old wives' tales, or was there really something in the lake?

    "Aye, that's how the rumor goes. It feasts on lesser creatures and those who dare bring harm to our village." He spotted Jo eying the glass case and chuckled. "Nah, the Sentinel don't look like tha' ol' thing. That's made out o' plastic to fascinate the tourists."

    Jo smiled in spite of herself. She'd been fooled, alright. "Consider me fascinated."

    "Oh, I will, lass." He began to prepare another pipe. "Some people claimed they saw the Sentinel, but ya never really know. Fact became myth, myth's still fact. Things are mysterious here in Portal Breach, ain't they?"
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:35 pm

    He still couldn't see jack-bubkus. What were they staring at in that little case? Whatever it was, it had Jo's fascination and the fellow behind the counter kept referring to it. Sentinel? Lake guardian? Bones? Well, the answer to that awful equation was obvious. "It sure didn't try to eat me, whatever it is you're talking about." Zurg wasn't stupid. If there really was a lake monster then it should have swallowed him up in a heartbeat. Maybe it was taking a nap? Or, maybe... it didn't react as Zurg himself wasn't out to harm Lochlann today.

    That sounded like a challenge.

    A familiar itch started to flare up around the Evil Emperor's impulse center, and his trigger finger twitched just a wee bit. To ruin Lochlann in order to incur the wrath of this mystical beast, or just to remain good... Decisions, decisions. You know, a normal person wouldn't have found this solution so hard but with someone like Zurg? He jerked a little out of a nervous habit. "We should be going, Jo. I'm sure this man wants to go home sooner than later, and there aren't enough hours in the day to answer all your questions." Meaning, if Zurg didn't take his mind off of starting havoc then he was seriously going to consider it. To ruin the sanctity of others was always something he personally enjoyed. Within reason, of course. He was no despicable cur like that Phantom fool. It was time to depart.

    ...If only Zurg could see at least three feet ahead of him, that is. The man was still partially blind thanks to that camera!


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Wed Oct 05, 2011 6:31 pm

    "And that's a good thing, or else I'd have jumped into the water myself to fight it off!" Just imagine, something trying to eat Zurg! Jo would never allow it if she could help it. Zurg was no tasty morsel for just any passer-by to come take a bite out of!

    The conversation with the man was definitely reaching a lull. It didn't seem like the store owner had any actual stories to share, and when the subject turned to how mysterious Portal Breach was, Jo knew that was their cue to go. She'd long since decided not to puzzle out Portal Breach's inner workings and just accept that things were weird here. Half of the time she felt like she was in some giant video game, but other times she could forget that she wasn't home. Sometimes.

    "Oh, right, yeah. I'm done with most of my questions anyway." She nodded politely to the clerk. "Thanks for telling us a bit about the Sentinel!"

    "Ah, it was mah pleasure, lass." He waved her away with glassy eyes. "But if ya ever wan' to take another gander, go righ' ahead. I'm pretty sure a lot o' things here migh' catch yer fancy. And his too, when his eyes ge' better."

    It was a shame they couldn't stay longer, but as both Jo and the store owner glanced at the clock, the mechanic knew they had overstayed their welcome. "We'll come again some other day. Thank you, and good night!"

    Jo carefully took Zurg's arms and led him outside, guiding his steps and making sure he didn't bump into anything. They couldn't avoid grazing by a bookshelf, which teetered precariously, but nothing fell or broke. And a good thing too, because that shelf held some expensive vases. But soon enough, they were out, and Jo fumbled around in her bag before gripping Zurg's hand again and placing something between his fingers.

    "Sunglasses!" she offered helpfully. "Try them on and tell me if they help you see a bit better." Once he did, he'd find that they snagged on to his horns just like his new set of reading glasses had. She'd been saving them for a while now, and they'd suit his current choice of clothing quite nicely.
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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Zurg on Thu Oct 06, 2011 4:23 am

    The Sentinel... It still sounded like a two-bit name for some lackluster hero. Zurg just grunted something akin to a departing greeting at the store clerk and was led out the store, hassle-free. Thankfully his broad shoulders didn't knock over that shelf holding all the expensive antiquities -- otherwise one of them was going to have to remain in the shoppe and work off the debt with hard, arduous labour. But, that danger was averted and out they went, the foreign sounds of Lochlann consuming the bulk of the alien's attention. Imagine his surprise when something of unknown origin was placed between his fingers without his immediate knowing. "What is this?"

    Jo answered his question for him, and he paused to toy with the thing. They were sunglasses, alright. "Is this... because I am currently partially blind, or... because the sun has already set and it's the cool thing to do by wearing sunglasses at night?" Funny, he had always thought that sunglasses were meant for the day, hence sunglasses. Maybe he had messed up the meaning? He wouldn't put it past his language barrier.

    Whatever the case, he put them on without another fuss and let them snap on like the reading glasses Jo had made for him; which he brought, by the way. He can't read fine print otherwise! "Thank you, Jo. Now, if you had a stick with a white tip on the end I can pretend I'm fully blind and whack people; preferably rowdy, snot-nosed children." Not like he needed an excuse to whack people. Zurg could do that perfectly fine without any aid.

    "Anything else you wish to see before we head off? It's getting late, and I think it's around 18:00." That would be 6:00 PM for those not used to PZT.


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    Re: By the Lake

    Post by Jo Pistonne on Thu Oct 06, 2011 4:47 am

    Jo snickered at his questions. "Oh, maybe a bit of both! But no, it's to help your eyes get adjusted again." And until that happened, she would lead him slowly and carefully around so he wouldn't trip or stumble or run into anything. Or anyone. Most of the people around here, strangely enough, were human. Jo didn't recall seeing any aliens so far, but no one had reacted badly to Zurg's presence. That either meant they were used to aliens, or they didn't know who he really was. Maybe it was a mix of both.

    "Nah, all you have to do is bark at them and they'll run away with their tails between their legs!" Figuratively speaking, of course.

    Jo thought about it for a bit, then began to lead him back to the path they'd traveled on to reach the small shop. Six wasn't too late, but how long they could stay would depend on how long it took them to return to the city. "According to the brochure there's some sort of lighthouse, but it's been out of use for a while now. I think we should find a place to eat, if we have time, then go back home. How long would that take us?"

    Lochlann had no museums, and most of their fabled festivals happened towards spring and summer. The only winter activity they had was ice-skating on a pond they'd drained from the lake. Jo hadn't seen the pond, but that might be worth seeing at a later date. If Jo was a rotten dancer, she bet she'd be catastrophic on ice!

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    Re: By the Lake

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