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A day like any other
One day was the same as the next if one lived underground. Akantha saw the same haggard, dirt streaked, human faces but no signs of her lost friends. She'd gone back to her dwindling clan but none of those she searched for had returned in her absence. Thus, she was out by herself again.

Her slender tongue slipped out from between her lips and tasted the air as she slowed down her pace. Her stomach growled, and up ahead, there appeared to be a snack of sorts. Her people had learned to survive in whichever way possible. At times, the humans they watched over brought food. On other occasions, well, they made do.

The knife appeared in her gloved hand with a flick of a wrist, and after a moment of searching in the dim flickering light, flew from her grasp onto its assigned target. The largest of the rats squealed as the blade sank in. The rest scattered, confused and driven by an instinct to survive.

With a hiss, Akantha walked past a few of the scattering rodents to retrieve her knife and food. It would not be as large a meal as what the humans could offer, but at least the flesh was fresh and not rotten.
The tunnels were dank as he walked from the pale dusk light. His legged twinged a bit but the meds he'd been taking had helped. If he wasn't being a moron anyway. That sled ride with Zoya- more roller derby really what with her feisty streak- had ended up with his sled going off a slight rise and him flying through the air only to come slamming back on to the ground and smacking his leg good. Damn but that had hurt. Zoya had been all commiserating about it and he'd gotten a few sympathy points from her. It had been a fun day.

He wondered if Xena was gonna show. They'd made plans for dusk on Saturday night to go hunting. As he walked to where they had first met, he felt excitement building in his chest. This was the first time he was doing something like this- on purpose, that is. As the Cap said, this was off the books, PTO, on the DL. Whatever you wanted to call it. But Moscow was his home. He wasn't gonna let creatures like that go unchecked.

Once at their meeting place he settled down to wait. He tried to call upon the power- to try to practice doing....something anyway- but while he could sense it in the distance, it wouldn't come. That bothered him but he didn't know any way around it. Luckily, whenever he'd needed it- like really, O my God, if I don't get this right now we are SOL- it had always come. He hoped his luck held.

So he ended up just standing there, listening the the distant noises, waiting.

Edited by Ivan Sarkozy, Nov 26 2014, 03:16 PM.
The rodent had settled her stomach, and it would keep her for a time, but she would have to feed again sooner than normal. Her kind could go on one meal for a couple of weeks, assuming it was of decent size, but given the pace she'd been keeping, Akantha suspected needing to eat within the next two days. Her back and shoulder were still sore from her last encounter, and healing would consume even more energy.

Sighing, she adjusted her mask and continued at a light jog to the meeting place. By the time she reached it, the Naga wasn't even sure she would actually see the human there. But, to her surprise, the man was standing there looking as if something was on his mind. It wouldn't have surprised her if he'd been pondering his first quip for the night.

How exactly she had ended up working with Sarkozy was something she couldn't quite explain to herself. She'd expected to have Drayson assist her. But, despite her mistrust of Ivan's abilities, he could very well prove to be as useful as he was dangerous.

Approaching him from the tunnels ahead of him rather, the Naga slowed her jog down till she was close enough to speak without the need to raise her voice. "Human."

She kept her greeting short, and in all honestly it wasn't much of a greeting at all, but she at least made a point to acknowledge him. For this occasion, Akantha had left her pack hidden further back in the tunnels, and only carried what seemed to be a bamboo staff strapped to her back. "Are you ready?"
So he had just been standing there, facing further down into the tunnels when he heard her coming from up ahead. He swung around. Of course. He should've expected her to do something like that. He snorted to himself. Xena just showin off that she was sneaky sneaky.

Xena looked the same as she had earlier except for a bamboo staff strapped to her back. Wow, she was seriously into this ninja stuff. He hoped she was good with that thing.

She greeted him simply as 'Human.' He smiled. The term only made it clearer that this chick was off her rocker.

"Heya Ninja Lady"
- she probably wouldn't appreciate his calling her Xena.- "Nice to see you."

Her slitted eyes glowed in the faint light. Snake contacts again. An image came to mind of a school field trip to the zoo. It had been feeding time in the snake pen and they had all oo'ed and aa'ed as the thing opened it's mouth and somehow fit a sizable mice in there. With her all swathed in black and those eyes it looked similar.

Hey, if she thought she was part snake, more power to her. "Eat any good mice lately?"
He smiled as he said it so she'd know he was just teasing her.

To her question, "Yeah, I'm ready. You got somethin for us to check out?"
“A Rat.”
In contrast with his teasing tone, her reply was flat and matter of fact. She knew his kind was squeamish about such things, and she would have been lying to herself if she didn’t admit to have a slight hope to see him pale at the thought.

Letting his comment on ninjas slide, Akantha pointed past him to another intersecting tunnel. “That way. Ssome men ssay a few of the people have been going missing deeper down in the tunnelss.”
Her voice, though deep and soft, when compared to her male counterparts, was distinctly sibilant and harsh next to Sarkozy’s. “It can get dark and damp where we are going, sso watch your sstep.”

Walking past him, the Naga headed towards the opening she’d mentioned. “Life endss easily down here, but there wass some mention of one woman being torn apart. I went to look at thingss for myself. You might find ssome of it of interest.”
She was referring to deep grooves on the walls. Claw marks that ran along the concrete, breaking up graffiti, and accompanied dry blotches of blood. She’d tasted nothing in the air there any longer.

Whatever had been there, had not returned when she’d found the mess it left behind. Part of her had wanted to follow the trail, but she was still sore from her last tet-a-tet with a beast. Despite her every scale being uncomfortable with the idea, having Ivan by her side was a better idea than venturing deeper down that trail on her own. Her ego was not very pleased with that at all.
He gave her a wide grin at her comeback. A rat. Very clever. This was going to be fun. But the mood became serious quickly as she explained the rumors about what was going on in the tunnels. More than rumors, he found out, as she led him deeper in.

She must have incredible night-vision because it got really dark the further they went. "Wait a sec."
He pulled out a flashlight with a glow-end. It wasn't a lantern but did just as well. "Alright. Lead the way."

The went through one tunnel after another, a right here, and left there, and he quickly lost his sense of direction. Not that he had a great one. That had been one of the harder things to learn to do when he was in the academy. 'Know where you are at ALL times!' had been drilled into them. He couldn't find his way out of a paper bag. But he'd applied himself and gradually gotten better.

Down here though. He was glad he had switched the app in his wallet to 'crumb mode'. It would give him a way out if Xena tried to bail on him.

Truth was, though, the deeper they went, the more he could feel the weight of ground and buildings and world above. He was a bit claustrophobic. More than a bit, if he was being honest. He wasn't going to stop, of course. He was down here for a reason. But the unease and anxiety kept building in him. And, if he was being REALLY honest, so did the fear that somehow, while he was down here, the whole thing would crash down on them and bury him alive.

Strangely, the light that was the power seemed closer. Tentatively, he reached out to it. This time, a strand of it came to him. He grasped it- holding it only. He didn't want to frighten it away. Very carefully, he pulled on the strand and saw it stretch thinner and thinner and he was terrified that it was going to snap and he'd lose the connection. Somehow, though, it seemed to thicken and he felt the first touch of the power and gasped. Now he drew in much more and the connection seemed strong. He struggled with the power, forcing it to bend to his will and it soon quieted.

He breathed in a sigh of relief. He could see clearly now, Xena walking only one or two steps ahead of him. There was something about her movements that seemed off, though he couldn't put his finger on what it was. He kept following until she stopped, waiting. This was the place.

He looked around, raising his light. It was ok, but a lighted room was better. Curious, he wove fire and air and suddenly a light ball was above his hand, making the room as bright as if they were top-side. A part of him felt relief at the light. It seemed to push back the sense of pressure from being down so deep.

He switched off the flashlight and put it in his pocket. He saw the scratches on the walls, and the splotches of dried blood. He couldn't smell any blood so it had been a while ago. The rents in the walls were deep and angled. Whatever had done it had large claws.

He stood in the room, trying to let the impression of it wash over him. Without a body, there wasn't much he could see beyond the blood and dust scuffing on the ground, the marks in the wall.

"You think it was one of those things from the other night?"
He could imagine those things doing this. He walked to the largest pool of dried blood and knelt down. He could see hand prints in the dust surrounding it.

He looked closer. Odd. Unless they had moved around, he could see three sets of fully splayed hand prints. He frowned, trying to imagine how that would work. After a moment, he put his hands out- this was no crime scene that would ever be processed. He wasn't worried about contaminating it.- and put both his down in one set. As he did, he found himself leaning over the now dried pool, his head inches from it.

A memory came to him of drinking from the river as spring was just thawing things. He'd lean over like this to put his lips to the pure ice-cold water to drink.

He pushed himself up. "They drank her blood."
The scene around them was gruesome enough to make stomachs turn, including hers, but the Naga remained outwardly calm. Her eyes shone as the light from his sphere reflected from them before she turned to look around at the walls once more. The scrapings were clearly from some creature, but not one the likes they two had dealt with the first night she’d met him. For one, whatever had left them, was not as large as the Oni.

“No, the markss are not asss large asss what an Oni would have left.”
She turned to look in his direction once more, and found him pressing his face close to the blood stained concrete. He seemed lost in whatever thoughts were going through his head until the moment he pushed himself back up. Her jaw tightened at his statement and her hand reached back over her shoulder to pull the baton forth.

“Let’ss go. There isn’t much more we’ll learn here.”

Walking deeper into the tunnel, Akantha moved with caution. It had been at least three days since the creatures had fed on the woman, and there was no telling if they would be returning this way. But, if the creatures’ main motivation was food, then perhaps they would revisit their previous hunting ground. “We can follow the tunnel and look for any more signss of them. You might want to dim that light of yourss a bit. If they are sstill here, there iss no ssense in telling them we are coming.”

Still facing away from Ivan, she lowered the covering from her face just enough to uncover her lips. Her slender tongue slithered past, tasting the air, smelling it, sensing for anything out of the ordinary. At first, Ivan stuck out like a sore thumb due to his proximity, but she could detect nothing else. Covering her face once more, Akantha continued to walk, leading him further down.

She repeated her actions now and then, often getting the same results, sensing nothing. At an intersection, she paused to let her fingers trace over the rents left by another set of claws; the pattern and depth similar to those they had left behind. “Look at thiss.”

Stepping aside, so that he may inspect the markings, the Naga took a few steps into intersecting tunnel and uncovered her face. Once more, her forked tongue made its way past her lips and flicked out to sense the air. This time, however, she picked up something. “Up ahead.”

She was right and he dimmed the light. He wondered at her knowing the name of the creature from the other night. Oni? Before he could ask her how she knew, though, she turned and after a moment indicated they should move on.

He wasn't any kind of tracker but evidently she was. He didn't know what she was seeing that said this was the right way but it must have been something because soon they were looking at a wall with more rents in it.

The only sounds were their footsteps and breathing. With the power in him, he could hear her clearly. There was a hissing quality to it, though that could've been because of her covered mouth. Or maybe her snake obsession was making him read more into it. Come to think of it, though, the way she moved- that strangeness he'd noted- was rather fluid and sinuous.

He smiled to himself and whispered to her as they walked "You musta practiced a lot to get that snakey walk down. You should get some fangs put in."

He couldn't see her face but he was sure there was a scowl there. Hopefully. It made him smile.

Suddenly she stopped and after a moment, "Up ahead."

The smile left his lips and he moved forward slowly, letting the light go. There was a dim light ahead anyway and if he held his own light, he wouldn't be able to do anything else. Instead, he prepared a weave of air, a shield as tall as they were and as wide, ready to throw up.

They inched closer to the light and he could here breathing and sometimes faint grunts. He pulled his gun. The power was good to have but having his weapon in his hand was comforting too. His eyes had adjusted to the light level and he could see the tunnel opening out onto a larger room. Shadows sometimes moved against it. They moved slowly along the sides of the tunnel. He could see writing above the room's opening but it was unreadable, the wall having been rent like the others, though much more violently.

Finally, they were at the entrance on either side. He looked at her, gun and weave at the ready.

With a nod to her, he threw up the shield weave in front of them and they stepped into the room.
As they approached, Akantha pressed a small button along the middle of the baton. Slowly, she pulled the two ends apart, slipping the blades free. What had once been a mere stick, turned into twin blades. Adjusting her grip on the bamboo, the Naga focused her attention to the noises coming from ahead of them.

She could see the shadows moving against the walls unaware of their presence. As the two of them reached the entrance, she glanced in Sarkozy’s direction. The man nodded and both stepped into the creature infested room. Despite having seen many things in the tunnels, what awaited them in the room was not something Akantha had encountered before. They were an odd mixture of human and beast that could have very well have left the claw marks the two of them had seen along the way.

First one of the beasts spotted them, then the rest. The hissing and growling noises coming from the six creatures were enough to freeze anyone on their tracks, but the Naga had hunted plenty of creatures before. Despite her unfamiliarity with these, she wasn’t ready to back down. Without warning, one of the monsters leaped in their direction, but appeared to strike some invisible wall that sent it falling back.

There was no way for Akantha to see what Ivan had done, but she had a feeling he had a hand on what had just happened. “Don’t let them touch you.”
She shouted at him over the growls just in case there were surprises they were unaware of.

Twin swords in hand, the Naga shot forward, charging through a wall of air she could not see or feel and towards the nearest of the beasts. She moved quickly, dodging powerful swings of claws and ducking low to slash at its abdomen. Blood splattered from the creature, but Akantha had little time to stop and see if any got on her.

Three more of the creatures came her way, attacking her from all angles. She drove them back with kicks and swings from her swords, sending one of the creatures flying back against a wall just long enough to have enough time to deal with the remaining two. She hissed and watched them all step back and circle around her. It was then that she saw something she’d not expected before. Intelligence.

The three beasts watched her, calculating her next move as much as she did theirs. This wasn’t a mere beast hunt, she realized. This was fight, and at the moment, the odds weren’t in her favor.
All six creatures charged at them and one bounced off the shield he'd made. It gave him a moment to get a feel for what they were facing. Strangley, the rest of the things seemed to watching carefully. It was unsettling to see intelligence in such inhuman distorted faces.

That was cut short, though, when Xena charged at the wall. He tried to yell at her to stop and the words died in his throat as the wall just....melted. The threads of air just dissolved.

He didn't have time to think, though, as two of the creatures rushed at him. His gun fired twice and one of them went went down, the side of its head gone. He fired at the second moment to late at it on grazed the side of its shoulder. It howled but then was one him, this time like some sort of large dog. Its jaws clamped on his arm, thankfully only getting a mouthful of coat.

He wove air and fire and the thing howled and jumped back. More fire and the thing fell to the ground, the air reeking of smoke and burned hair and rotting meat.

He saw Xena with her blade whirring and she took out one of the creatures. It seemed odd that so many of them had targeted her first. She killed one and then things seemed to slow as the remaining three held back warily.

He struck at the one closest to her, fire erupting from its every pore. The remaining two jumped back.

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