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Going Deeper
The Ascendancy assigned Jay to assist him.  At least it wasn't Allan.  Nox wasn't sure about Marcus Dubois, but at least he wasn't showing animosity towards him the whole time.  Nox wondered what happened to him since the last time.  Nox preferred the fawning to the attacks.  Not that the fawning had been desirable either.

Nox didn't care what happened to Allan as he left with the Ascendancy but he sent the HUDs to the three men leaving the fastest way out.  It was unfortunately the same way the Atharim would have fled leaving them in the Red Light District.  But that was for them to deal with.  He rearranged the packs he'd left -- taking the food and extra water and adding it to the packs he and Jay would take deeper into the tunnels.

The quiet drip of water falling in the depts below them was the only sound as Nox quickly rearranged.  Even the scratching was gone.  It was almost peaceful.  Except Nox knew that around the corner the horde pushed deeper into the bowels of the earth.  

Nox hoisted his backpack upon his shoulder and tucked the duffle bag into a better position.  The power at the ready and a unfinished directional shockwave in front of him ready to go if they needed it.  But their fight should be minimal as they trudged deeper into the depts of the underground.  The software would update Nox's map the deeper they went.  And Nox would mark where there had been nests that the horde cleared.  People shouldn't live this far down.  He could only hope.

He handed Jay a pack.  "If everything goes as planned enjoy the vacation."  In the deep dark tunnels below any civilization where the rocks could kill you just as easily as the beast around the next corner.

[[ @"Jay Carpenter" ]]
Jay accepted the restock pack, but only donned it to his shoulders after thoroughly checking the contents himself. A soldier was only as good as his awareness of his kit. Finding shit had to be second nature. Can’t be fumbling for first-aid when a brother is bleeding out.
“Still ranks better than my last vacation,” he said without even attempting to hide the darkness in his tone. A pat down of himself confirmed the location of his weapons, a knife, water and other essentials, finally plucking only one thing from a pocket. The flask. It was almost empty. Shame. He finished it off in a few swallows and just dropped it on the ground behind them. No point carrying the extra weight.

He wanted to be drunk. Sadly, the fight and adrenaline burned off any previous buzz. Now the liquor was gone. That left only the next best thing. A fight. He wanted a fight. To move and breathe on instinct alone. Thoughtlessly.

After a while of walking in silence, which was actually kind of peaceful, except that the quietude of his mind let in the screaming memories of recent past. He put a hand to his eyes as he walked, wiping away sweat and whatever else.

“Nox,” he said, reaching out to pause him walking. He just looked at a friend, another man that was just as haunted, or maybe cursed. He wanted to say it. Say everything that was on autoplay in his head. But when the words perched on the edge of his tongue, he quickly shoved the other man aside.

And heaved just in time to vomit up his guts.
Only darkness shows you the light.

There was humor behind the words, but they spoke to things Nox didn't know. Jay had gone through something. They hadn't talked. But Nox had been worried and that worry started to show again. Jay tossed his flask to the side and the memories of his father tried to take root. There were reasons Nox didn't drink and those memories were a big part of them.

The walk in silence was peirced by Jay saying his name. Jay's voice made him turn to look at the other man. They stopped walking and there was a moment of understanding before Jay pushed Nox out of the way and heaved the contents of his stomach onto the tunnel floor. Nox danced out of the way and was at Jay's side. He'd have held his hair if were long. But Nox's hand just rested at the top of his friends shoulders. The putrid smell of alcohol filled vomit cemented the memories in Nox's head. He pulled upon the power inside and pushed away the feelings in the darkness. There was nothing left but emptiness. It was how Aria had explained how she felt -- how she had survived her life with feeling what other's felt. That was a bitter memory too as it skittered across the emptiness.

"And this is why I don't drink." Nox joked. "Well that and I do things like kiss a guy I barely know." Which was more than true. It had happened the only times Nox had ever truly gotten wasted. Once with Jade and then with Jay. Both times lead to something greater in terms of Nox's life. One he savored and the other he had forced himself to forget -- until Jay. He sighed and let Jay rest. Nox pulled out a bottle of water and offered it to Jay. "You want to talk about it?" He paused. "Of do you need to hurl some fireballs at shit and get it all out?" Nox knew what he'd choose, but it wouldn't have been the thing to do. As much as he hated it, talking about it always helped. Like saying it took some of the weight off, like the aether took some of it and helped carry the burden. And suffering alone was never a good thing.
Hurling his guts up helped. But it also emptied him of a decent amount of liquor, and he didn’t have any more flasks. After a quick clean up, including the use of a sleeve and swish and rinse with actual water, he found the willpower to look Nox in the eye. The dangers of drinking were hardly a surprise. He’d been drunk enough to fuck all kinds of the wrong people, but then again, some of those lays were entirely sober. Which meant it came down to the one common denominator: Jay’s shitty judgement.

“Know what I want?” he whispered.
He couldn’t help but think about it. They were alone. Would definitely take the mind off a few things. Not like he had any reason to not. He started to take a step forward, but despite the potential to smother what was really haunting him, he just curled up two angry fists and summoned a couple of fireballs for good measure.

“Let’s burn the motherfuckers to the ground,” he said, hopefully to meet a fight before he started to sober up. Battling through a hangover was a bitch.
Only darkness shows you the light.

There was a slight hesitation in Jay's response. The same hesitation Nox had? Or something different it didn't much matter at this point. Jay's fists curled into balls and fire rose in response. Nox quirked a happy smile and he could help Jay with the outlet he needed. This one was easier to accommodate -- and there was no guilt with this 'F'.

Nox drew upon the power -- reaching through the darkness that coated it and swelled with the dark light below. He drew upon the light and made his own fireball. Nox let go of a few of the horde and they turned from the pack. Trying to get others to follow, but his will was stronger. Nox sent the rest of the horde ahead to find the monsters hiding in the depths, and let them through the horde to find the firing squad behind them.

A handful of rat sized creatures barreled at us. "All yours. I got your back."

Control of the horde grew as Nox fought them both physically and mentally. But every one that dropped he felt their death like it had been his own body under fire. Nox did his best not to let it show, hid it behind the fight.

[[ooc: figure a few stray monsters show up, Nox whittles away at the horde for a while giving them cannon fodder every hour or so until they are both weary and should sleep... but feel free to add monster or make chaos. ]]
Marcus, Allan and Asc continue here.
Jay crashed against a wall. Not tossed there by snarling teeth done with its prey but sank against it with exquisite exhaustion and a fucking smile on his face. He slid to all the way to his ass, chest heaving hard. Where was his water?  He snagged one of the two canteens from his belt, but it was empty. Nox last had their supply pack. They’d taken turns hauling it around, but Jay was the one used to fighting with a kit on his back. Nox kept insisting they share or some cocky shit that made Jay grin when he thought about it. Sounded like what he would say.

Forehead beaded, he wiped away far more blood than sweat. It wasn’t his own. He was too good to bleed for these mutant fuckers. Well, since he was sitting, he did a quick inventory of weapons, only to realize the pat down found nothing. He rubbed his head. Had he dropped his side arms? He vaguely remembered and fire and.. Oh shit.

He laughed. “I think I threw my guns at the little fucks,” he said when Nox came over.

Instead, he found a powerbar. It was squished but tasted as sweet as the finest MRE. He couldn’t help but grin.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Nox's heart was pounding. His body ached. And he was eternally grateful that Jay stopped. With a flick of air at either end of the passage they were in, Nox tied off two walls of air. He took a deep breath and let go of the power inside. It slide away leaving the cavern murky and dim even.

Jay sat against the wall and Nox dropped their pack in front of him then slid down the wall to join his friend. His head falling back against the stone and taking another deep breath then laughing as Jay finally missed his gun. Nox reached into the side pocket of his cargo shorts and handed Jay the piece, the cartridge was in another pocket. "Not sure why you were using the gun to begin with." He handed both back to Jay. "Picked it up after we cleared the bodies."

The hoard was past the barriers. They were hungry and on edge, the deaths of their companions rained havoc on their hive mind, and Nox had felt each death. It hurt in ways that he couldn't even explain. Burning to death was the worst of the pain. His skin felt like it was on fire, his lungs seared from smoke and flames that didn't exist. But he pushed on. Fought the phantom pain. Fought the inner turmoil as he and his friend tore through the parts of the horde and creatures of the underworld.

They had lost signal hours ago. They were further than Nox or anyone topside had ever been. Nox wondered how many miles they were below the earth. It was neither hot nor cold. And it was not dry or wet. The conditions were perfect and yet the darkness pooled in around them. Night vision was great in the middle of a fight, but there was something about the inky black darkness where the sun had never shone. If he were afraid of the dark, this would be the reason why. There were no shadows except the ones they cast by the floating orb well out of their vision paths.

"I could sleep for days." Not that he wanted to, he wanted to get home... to Raffe. Being cut off from the world only made that draw harder. He'd lost everything to the darkness of the world, and now he might lose himself and no one would morn his death. The pain and the darkness drowned the happiness and breed the darkest fears and issues of his past. No amount of sunlight could wash away the growing madness. Oh little brother, did you miss me. Images of his dead sister floated in front of his closed eyes. He was going crazy and the horde pulled at the madness, pulled him deeper down the darkness. Nox couldn't wait for the hoard to be dead. Their last vestige of pain going down in the depths of hell. He'd follow if he had to. Funny how now he was willing to make that sacrifice, but when he found out he was reborn god -- the bane of the Atharim, their one true purpose, he balked at it. This was different. He'd seen first hand what a creature like Alistair Pavlo could do -- dead was the best way.

Nox laughed, though it wasn't funny. "I'm so tired I think my nightmares might sleep too." There was more to it than that, he knew the nightmares would not sleep. He knew they'd be worse than ever. He didn't want to close his eyes. The images of Aurora's dead body marred with the destruction these creatures put their victims through combined into horrific images -- nightmares Nox didn't want to find in his dreams, specially since the waking ones sent his heart racing and his desire to end it all pulled harder with each breath.
Jay’s exhaustion was welcome, and he may have complained about it as loudly as Nox if it weren’t for the thrill pulsing inside. Not even in the hottest engagement did he feel so alive as he did right then. His first real battle since becoming a magic user was against Amengual’s henchmen, but he’d not been at his best. “You know that they tortured me in Texas. Yep, basement of an old elementary school. I’m not shitting you. And when I killed the fucker that hooked me up to a fucking car battery, I didn’t think anything could be more satisfying. But fuck me, Nox, this is pretty fucking fun,” he said with a bloody-shit grin on his face. Literally bloody. His face was splattered, though he didn't know it. He hadn’t said anything about what happened to him in the States until then, and Nox didn’t ask. It was an understanding between warriors. Some tales had to be told at the right time. Guess with the thrill of blood, the high of the power and the lust of killing did Jay finally feel at home enough to talk about himself.  

Only Nox knew what it was like to be comfortable among killers, but he didn’t seem to be as entertained as Jay. It was hard to think of themselves as killers though. It was like being proud about exterminating rodents. People were another story. Even the evil-mother fuckers like Placaso and Amengual. Destroying them was bloody satisfaction, but not necessarily fun. Maybe he should be worried? Something to think about, but while they should be celebrating a hard-earned rest, Nox seemed less than himself.

“You take your nap, brother. I’ve more than enough stamina for the both of us. Could go for days if you know what I mean,” he said with a slap on Nox’s knee.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Nox gave Jay a wry smile as he listened. He nodded and understood. He didn't fault Jay for the drink and the killing spree. Not that he had before, just now he understood why it had been necessary. And Nox wasn't one to give advice. But drink was hardly the answer. Leaving your loved ones to find you in a pool of your own vomit was the cowards way out. Least he could have done was die by the hands of a monster. But he was too weak to do that.

The slap on the knee and the offhand comment made Nox laugh, but it faded. While they were in the truth telling moment, he might as well let Jay know why he felt so tired. "I'd have that kinda stamina and that ready to go attitude too if I didn't feel every death like it were my own. Every cut splits my skin. Every fireball we throw sears my throat and lungs as they die. That's the worst of it, choking on smoke and fire. I can't imagine the torture you went through at the hands of ass hats. I'm glad you killed him, or we might have had to make a trip and pay the asshole a visit. If we can find out way back top side that is." Nox tried to lighten the mood with the joke. And truly meant it. He'd kill a man for Jay.

You'd kill for him but not for me? The visage of Aurora with her eyes bulging, her face turning blue and the utter panic of losing her life as the hands of the asshole wrapped a round her neck. And Nox couldn't do it. Wouldn't do it. Why should he when Aria was so willing to be the murderer of a monster -- the monster who killed his sister. It should have been him. But he'd failed. He failed everyone...

He couldn't sit still, sitting still the darkness had time to take root. Nox pushed himself up and away from the wall and started pacing from wall to wall. It wasn't a large distance, but he couldn't sit still. He was exhausted and without the power spuring him on he felt his energy draining. He should take a nap. But the dreaems would be murderous.

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