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Character: Dresden the host of Fenrir
Race: H.B.M. (human-bound-monster custom race)
Class: spell sword (warrior that can cast spells)
Job: part time bartender and free lance photographer
Appearance: 5 foot six about 200 pounds wears a customized trench coat has a hood attached to it black cargo pants and a satchel bag white skin tone and has faint scars on his face and and right arm
Hometown: Piqua, OH
Dresden, from a young age, had a gift for tracking animals through the woods without being noticed by them. He could approach a rabbit close enough to count it’s whiskers and stay that close for hours. It came in handy for his hobby, photography, specifically of animals at their most beautiful moments. Such as the moment that a fawn takes its first steps or a eagle about to swoop down onto a field mouse.
Dresden was eager this year to track the wolves, for a very particular reason. When he was following wolves, he hoped to find a specimen from the previous spring. The one that he was seeking was as big as a grown man and was the only animal that had ever spotted him. The during the day that it happened, a blizzard had encompassed the woods he was camping in. Even though the weather report said it was twenty degrees below zero, Dresden felt as though it was pleasantly warm. That’s when the wolf and the demon appeared from the depths of the woods. They were fighting tooth and claw even as they smashed their way through the camp. Dresden has heard of demons, hell, he had even watched documentaries on the several different species. What he hadn’t heard was that they were appearing all throughout the world and going on rampages. As he watched, the wolf tore the throat out from the demon and looked up at him. For a moment the world was still, then the wolf turned and headed back into the woods. He realized that he had never felt more at peace when that wolf was looking at him. When he approached the demon’s corpse he saw that it was covered in burns and even as he watched its throat was smoldering as though it had a red hot poker against it.
This year he hoped to get a picture of that wolf and prove to himself that he hadn’t imagined it. However he wasn’t stupid, he knew that the world wasn’t as safe as it once was. So he took two weapons, a Mateba revolver and a machete. Both were gifts from his father, engraved with the words “praesul presul” Latin for protector. The moment Dresden entered those woods, he felt something was waiting for him. He knew then and there, that life was never going to be the same. Three days later Dresden woke up to his bedroom covered completely in frost, he had no recollection of what had happened in those woods but he knew that what ever had happened he had a responsibility. The door was covered in frost saying the same words as on his gun, praesul presul. Dresden then realized, his camera was gone and if he could find it he might be able to figure out what had happened to him. But first he needed something to eat, he was starving. He went into the kitchen grabbed the door handle on the fridge and tore the door from the fridge without any effort. “What the hell happened out there?”
Dresden went back into the woods to try to figure out what happened to him three days ago. He found his tracks almost immediately and started to follow them. As he went along he found signs that a fight had happened, claw marks that went as far as his thumb into the trees, branches torn off, and trees that once stood proud now were smashed to splinters. An hour long hike led Dresden to his camera, and the bodies of three demons. The first he recognized as being a inferni demon, a species infamous for reducing its victims to ashes. It had its eyes and arms were covered with shards of ice. The second was a demon of wrath their species was said to rip anything to pieces when they fought and had been known to rip apart tanks with their bare hands. It’s head was caved in and it was clutching a human arm. The third and last was a basilisk, a type of demon that if it looked at you for long enough, you would die. It’s eyes were shot out and neck slit by three blades.
Dresden immediately headed home to plug in the camera and get a look at what he had filmed. Upon looking at the footage from the camera he saw that the wolf had been fighting these three and losing. He had dropped the camera without switching it off and while it was still recording him he ran in and shot the eyes from the basilisk. Upon seeing Dresden approach, the wolf bolted directly at him, and became a flurry of snow the second that it hit Dresden. He then saw his own hands lengthen into claws and rip out the basilisk’s throat. The inferni then spewed a gout of flame at Dresden, that was countered by a stream of snow and ice. “That leaves the matter, how the demon of wrath die?” He said aloud. And as he watched on the camera his arm was torn off by the wrath demon. Dresden then saw his remaining arm grow bigger and with three blows the demon of wrath was dead. Dresden didn’t even know what to think, so he did what he always did when he didn’t know something. He googled it, searching with sudden appearance of the ability to use magic. He knew from school that you could use magic in two ways; from birth or from training. What he found was a theory by a few mages that stayed if a spirit decided to take a host, they would be able to use the beast’s power as his own no matter if it was divine, infernal, or earthbound. After a bit more digging he found a later theory that stated that the host’s power would reflect the spirit’s alignment. He then remembered a story about wolves and the woods. That in the past whenever a child had been lost in those woods it had always been found safe. When the child was asked what had happened they always said that Fenrir had led them back. When asked who Fenrir was they said simply “a good wolf” every time.
As he sat back he felt something just like when he had entered those woods three days ago. He ran outside and there it was a demon attacking his neighborhood. The words ran their way through his mind “praesul presul” he grinned and ran towards that demon ready to fight it and others to protect his world.
Powers: divine element infused cyromancy, formshifting (the ability to alter your body not into animals but rather modify it with blades or bludgeoning surfaces), enhanced regeneration, (lost limbs take a couple of days to grow back) unnoticed presence, (the ability to become part of the background, not true invisibility) converse with Fenrir, (allows Fenrir to take a non corporeal form outside of Dresden, communicates with those around it) and ride Fenrir (summons Fenrir into a physical form to be ridden on)
Spells: normal ice spells can be cast multiple times while divine class ice spells are only able to be cast while at low health
Cairn: a spell that launches a ice boulder the size of a moped.
Divine Cairn: launches a single spiked ice boulder the size of a moped
Lance: a spell designed for piercing armor roughly the toughness of a car normal has a range ten feet
Divine Lance: has a reduced range in exchange for more power
Avalanche: spell designed as a anti personal spell launches three one-foot long icicles damage drops off at fifty feet
Divine avalanche: launches seven one foot long ones same range
Crucible: coats the ground in ice 20 foot radius slows enemies for 2 rounds (4 comments)
Divine crucible: increases the range to thirty feet slows enemies for 3 rounds (6 comments)
Glacier: spell that produces cover that’s weak to armor piercing highly resistant to non armor piercing
Divine glacier: can withstand two armor piercing attacks
Sleet: spell that pelts enemies with a burst of raw cyromancy has a high chance of freezing human sized enemies
Divine Sleet: deals more damage as well as having a better chance of freezing monsters that are bigger than humans
White Out: a spell that calls forth a blizzard to hide you from sight of enemies, lowers visibility of all including PCs
Divine shatter: causes any constructs made by Dresden to explode and apply bleed no non divine variant after casting can’t use any cyromancy for the rest of the encounter
Cold Forge: creates a simple weapon out of divine infused ice
Formshift modes: Formshifting while different then shapeshifting, allows for greater versatility
Claws: basic formshifting allows for some slash damage Appearance: three “finger” claws and a “thumb” claw
Hammer hands: a formshift that relies on brute strength to tear apart armor and break through doors Appearance: a mass of bones and flesh that barely resemble hands of any kind
Suckers: a unusual formshift that doesn’t help during combat but rather was formed from the desire to avoid conflict Appearance: suckers emerge from the from the palms and fingers
Foot claws: a formshift that mimics the arm claws but is designed for ensuring the best grip in adverse conditions Appearance: three blade toes and a hind claw
Whip fist: a unique formshift that, while it can be used as a blade, excels at being used to grab things from a distance as well as pull one’s self to another object Appearance: a thin, flexible, blade-edged arm
Thermal vision: this formshift shows that not all abilities need to be fancy or huge allows the user to see in infrared disabling normal vision Appearance: bone covers the eyes while black specks appear over the brow and bone
Bone armor: this formshift was developed formed during a moment of danger and from the desire to protect the self, half as durable as glacier and once broken takes five rounds to recharge Appearance: black bone plates emerge from the joints and covers key portions of the body
Equipment: Mateba revolver, steel machete, Nikon D100 camera (the flash on it up close is as good as a flash bang Grenade), and a double barrel shotgun
Encounter won equipment:
(mini attack shrine: small boost to max MP, gives access to the skills: ofuda bomb, ofuda chains and six points barrage)
-(Ofuda bomb: creates and launches a ofuda that explodes into a pillar of fire upon contact with a solid, uses mana)
-(Ofuda chains: creates 4 chains of ofuda across the battlefield which harm those who touch them, uses mana)
-(Six points barrage: 6 giant white orbs revolve around the user with each firing ofuda of a diffrent element, elements are fire, water, earth, lightning, holy, unholy, uses mana)
(mecha miko pylon: +100sp, gives access to the skills: laser beam, and flamethrower)
-(laser beam: instantly fires a thin laser beam from a pylon, uses stamina)
-(flamethrower: lets forth a wave of fire from a pylon, fuel for 5/5 uses per quest)
Plasma rifle: clip size 100 shots deals energy damage
Chain gun: takes a large battery or five plasma rifle cartridges 400 shots per full reload
Enchanted Retractable 3 Handed Katana: This item can preform defensive magic spells and does high damage slashes.
Ring of the Skeleton Key: All doors are twice as easy to open and lockpicking has a 75% chance of going unnoticed at any detection range.
Profaned Handwraps: Melee attacks deal additional 10 unholy damage, 20 unholy damage at night.
Encounter won abilities:
Spell: Summon Immortal Warden Summon the spirit of Karrik the Immortal Warden to fight for you until combat ends or defeated. Requires large amount of magicka to cast.
Spell stats below.
Spirit of Karrik: Freed from their curse, the spirit of Karrik the Immortal Warden can be summoned in battle as an ally until combat ends or Karrik is defeated. (Requires 250 magicka to summon and must be stationary to charge spell for 3 seconds)
Resistances: 65 Defense 20% Resistant to holy damage, 10% Resistant to fire damage, 10% Reduced defense to unholy damage
Weapon: Sword of the Warden’s Judgement. Chance to instantly kill undead (Does not work on bosses) and deals 50 more damage on power attacks. (25-75 damage) +50 when using power attacks.
Karrik’s Radiance: A powerful flash of holy energy that damages enemies and deals extra damage to undead (35 damage 1.5x to undead +afterburn)
Holy Fire Enchantment: Imbues sword with holy fire, dealing 20 holy fire damage during next swing. Critical strikes cause enemies to burn twice as long.
Exploit Weakness: Deals 10% more damage based on lowest resistance.
Divine Inferno: Wraps Karrik in holy fire that burns enemies who get too close for 10 damage per second. Undead take 15 damage per second.
Upon death, Karrik will explode in a holy blast for 150 damage and cannot be resummoned for five minutes. (Explosion does not harm the summoner)
Gold coins 63,700
Trophies: items that have no use but are reminders of past encounters
Frozen zombie virus gunk containers: twin vials that have been coated in ice to prevent their shattering
I apologize for any grammatical errors it’s been along time since I’ve written anything this long without it being in first person also this was all typed on mobile
Oak shack only stuff:
Chain gun mod energy shield: can’t shoot while active and drains the battery while used
Anyways hope you all enjoy Chapter one of Apotheosis Sized!
“You have no idea how many LCs I’d pay to have non mechanical reproductive stimulation with Regional Voice Alice.” Bud besides him muttered as he checked his phone.
“I still can’t believe you pay anything to stick your dick in a box.” Mack replied with a shake of his head. At this time of the evening they had the road totally to themselves. Which he preferred considering how big the Badger was. It took up the entire lane rather easily.
“Dude! I do not stick my dick in a box.” Bud hissed back as he looked up from his phone.
“Right, someone else sticks your dick in a box.” Mack shrugged it off even as he suppressed a grin.
“No! I… There isn’t… There is no box!” Bud insisted as he got flustered. “That’s not how it works.”
“Sure it isn’t. Enlighten me then mister dick boxer.” Mack could see Bud seething from the corner of his vision and he did his best to keep a straight face. But it wasn’t easy.
“When you go in there’s this… No! No! Fuck you!” Bud waved a hand at Mack. “You wanna know what it’s like you can pay for it yourself next time! I’m not going to tell you shit!”
“Yeah I think I’ll pass on spending hard earned elsies on sticking my dick in a box.” Mack casually scratched his chin even as Bud glared at him.
“Fuck you man! That’s not how it works! And which one of us is really the fool? You’re saving up to buy a wife!” Bud scoffed then and looked back at his phone. “Our accounts got credited.” Soon as he announced that Mack reached out to turn the radio off completely.
“Okay. You know very well I’m not buying a wife.” Mack mentioned even as he shifted a bit in his seat. He hated this conversation.
“Tell me how I’m wrong!” Bud insisted. “You’re saving up for that stupid premium reproductive compatiblity package thing where they give you a harem of girls to pick from to make your wife and she can’t say no because of the implication!”
“What fucking implication?” Mack glanced over at Bud a moment in confusion. “People decline reproductive allowance deals all the time!”
“Normal ones yeah! But not the premium ones! Because those are all super official, and come with Benefactor backing! A girl isn’t going to say no to that! Look what happened to Tiff!” Bud smacked Mack’s shoulder as he said that, as if he had won the argument right there.
“Are you fucking serious Bud? Tiff, much as she’s our friend, is also an idiot! She said yes to the first asshole who showed up! She’s also already divorcing him, which the system is totally fine with! Even Benefactor programs are fallible.” He pointed out, but soon as he did Bud sat up a little straighter.
“I’m not sure you should insinuate something so subversive.” Mack got a little tense the moment Bud said that.
“What I mean to say…” He carefully considered his argument. “Is that the… human element of Benefactor programs is fallible. For of course, any non divine element is fallible. Unlike our divine Benefactors.” He glanced around the cabin of the truck then. Their systems were all looking normal, and nothing happened as they sat in quietly for a few seconds. Just the gentle rumble of the engine and the noise of their tires on the road. “Is your phone in off grid mode?”
“Yeah, soon as I verified our accounts were credited for listening to the broadcast.” Bud nodded.
“Then dude! Don’t fucking freak me out like that!” Mack now slapped Bud’s shoulder.
“Ow!” Bud rubbed his shoulder then. “What do you mean? You gotta be careful dude!”
“I’ve told you a dozen times! They don’t have listening devices in the truck! The only thing that could possibly listen to us is our phones and if it’s in off grid mode then it’s totally off! No data tracking! Fuck do they care about us for anyway? We’re surveyors. We’re never getting any kind of collaborator levels no matter how hard we work… Which is why I’m saving up for the premiere program! How the fuck can I find a girl while we bounce all around this region from radioactive ruin to slagged ruin with nothing in between?” Mack shook his head at the thought.
“I still don’t see why you even want to get married. Why would you possibly want to bring a kid into this shitshow?” Bud asked and waved a hand dismissively towards his window. Though Mack understood he meant that more in the aspect of their society. The land, at least here, was quite pretty. Rolling green plains stretched out all around them, with massive patches of untamed wild flowers creating cascades of color now lit an amber gold in the light of the setting sun. Though his favorite areas more than the wildflowers were the vast seas of giant sunflowers. Mack really liked those, and not just for the free sunflower seeds.
“Because I just do. And don’t think me getting married would somehow replace you Bud. We’ve known each other literally our entire lives. Nothing can replace that.” He reached out a moment to give Bud’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze for a moment. Bud glanced back then with a half smile at the reassurance. “But even though you’re a full blown homo I don’t like you like that.”
“Oh fuck off.” Bud glared now and shrugged Mack’s hand off his shoulder. “If anyone’s a homo it’s you with your fucking diet plans and fancy shampoo and shit.”
“Homowhostickshisdickinaboxsayswhat?” Mack rapidly shot back.
“What?” Bud frowned before his brain processed the words. “Oh fuck you!” He flipped Mack off before raising a fist, likely to punch him in the arm.
“Driving! I am driving.” Mack very carefully pointed out with a wave of his hand at the road before them.
“Aahhh…” Bud’s fist waivered a moment and he lowered it. “Fine. But I’m not a homo! And I don’t stick my dick in a box!” He huffed and crossed his arms as he glared at Mack a moment.
“Fine. You’re not a homo and you don’t stick your dick in a box.” Mack was willing to concede those points. For now. Plus he pointed to a sign up ahead as they could just see some lights in the distance. “Supply station Romeo up ahead.” Then he glanced at his watch even though the time was also displayed on the truck’s dash. “We’re ahead of schedule. Do we want to dock the Badger for the night? Or just fuel up and move on to the next survey marker?”
“I say we move on. It’s our last survey marker for the quadrant. We might make it back to town for our bonus just in time for the festival. Or, the end of it at least. Get some nice hot meals that we didn’t have to cook ourselves. Maybe see if there’s any fresh fruit. Since someone won’t let me get the dried stuff at the supply depots.” Bud huffed.
“No!” Mack wagged a finger at him. “No dried fruit! Every time you eat dried fruit you end up making the cabin smell like something died in here months ago and its rotting corpse somehow got stuffed up your butt!”
“I’m aware! That’s why I said fresh fruit! But stil, if we get enough of it maybe my body will adjust to the diet and-” Bud started to try and appeal.
“No!” Mack growled once more. “None of your diet plans work! Why do you think I’m in charge of selecting our food rations at the depots! Remember every time I’ve let you whine your way into making the selections? First you got so much junk food we ended up being so constipated you actually begged me to just kill you and end your suffering!”
“Yeah… Won’t lie. That was pretty bad.” Bud nodded.
“Then the next time you figured oh why don’t we just get all those protein bars and protein shakes that are premade and tasty since they don’t require cooking but they’re also supposed to be healthy! Remember what happened that time?!” Mack hissed.
“I thought people were joking about protein shits! How was I supposed to know they’re a real thing?!” Bud waved a hand as he defended himself. “It’s designed for human diet and it says it can fulfil complete daily nutrition requirements! Plus they taste good!”
“It’s also designed to give us the worst protein shits. And farts. God damn man.” Mack shook his head at the memory and shuddered a moment.
“I get it I get it! So we’re stuck with your balanced health plan shit. But we gotta cook all the food under your plan! All I meant is it’ll be nice to have someone else cook for us. Even if we gotta pay some elsies for it. With our big fat quadrant completion bonus you can still save up for your wife purchase and still get some meals! Shit, I’ll pay for the first meal if you want. Just… anything to break up the routine.” Bud pleaded.
“I know I know.” Mack nodded. “You’re right… I’m fine with that and I’ll pay for my own food. I’m not disagreeing with you… I’m just saying…” Mack waved a hand as he kind of forgot his main point. “You know. But also… really even if I meet a girl… how the fuck could I keep her? We’ve just spent the last several minutes talking about shit, and farts, and dicks, and homos… We are like… the least socially acceptable people on this planet. Even if I get the program and meet a girl I’ll probably just… forget she’s around and rip a fart while I scratch my balls.” Mack shuddered a little as he internalized a lump of concentrated future embarrassment.
“Give yourself credit man, you're always the more sociable one of us at the depots.” Bud pointed out.
“Yeah cause the depots are all staffed by aliens. It’s different.” Mack shrugged it off.
“Well you also talk to your sister all the time.” Bud added.
“Yeah… uh… cause she’s my fucking sister? She doesn’t count as a girl!” Mack snorted. “I fart around her all I want. The fuck is she gonna do? She’s my sister and she's stuck with me. Plus I’m not saying I can’t talk to girls! I’m just saying… I know fuck all about what to do after that bit.”
“You fuck em.” Bud helpfully answered.
“No, asshole. I don’t mean… Ugh…” Mack shook his head. “I mean a relationship. I know fuck all about those.”
“Oh. Well, I can give you advice on those too if you ever need it.” Bud shrugged it off even as Mack gave him a rather confused look.
“The fuck do you know about relationships anymore than me?” There was no possible way Bud had a secret girlfriend was there? They spent all their time together. When would he hang out with her?
“What do you mean? I’ve been with Celia since graduation.” Bud pointed out.
“Ooohh. That doesn’t count! You’re just fuck buddies. Not the same thing.” Mack shook his head.
“Oh it isn’t? It might not be a relationship like you think but it’s still a relationship! She still likes seeing me and checks when we’re in her quadrant! We might not be exclusive or whatever you mean but it’s very much a relationship!” Bud crossed his arms and nodded while Mack opened his mouth to reply only to close his mouth a moment later.
He took time to process what Bud had said and slowly nodded. “Alright. You got me there. You have actually been in a relationship longer than me.”
“The trick is to have a ginormous dong.” Bud then added with a wiggle of his eyebrows.
“The fact that you said that immediately makes it clear I shouldn’t take relationship advice from you though.” Mack shook his head.
“Little do you... shit.” Bud looked ready to continue but as they neared the supply depot they saw the Unity military trucks. Both of them felt a little tense. Of course they had nothing to truly fear from the Citizen Guard. They had no contraband and didn’t engage in any subversive or deviant behavior. But that didn’t mean they felt relaxed around them. “Just go past.”
“We need fuel. And they’ve seen us.” Mack replied quietly as he slowed the Badger down to slowly pull into the depot. The military vehicles dominated the right hand side as he angled over to one of the fueling stations on the left. Even as he pulled the truck up next to a pump they saw a cluster of human collaborative soldiers eying them from the entrance to the depot proper.
“What if we just hang out in the truck till they leave?” Bud asked as he unfastened his seatbelt.
“They’ll think we’re avoiding them.” Mack hissed back as he unfastened his seatbelt as well and got up. “Just get up, and we’ll head inside like nothing is wrong.”
“Is anything wrong?” Bud whispered.
“No. So act like it.” Mack hissed back as he began to move back through the Badger towards the door. The survey truck was filled with everything they needed for off grid operations and he took a quick glance across the various instrument panels to make sure they were all off before stopping before the door. Patting down his sides he made sure he had what he needed in his jumpsuit. Phone, beacon, wallet, watch, keys, and papers. “Phones back to grid mode.”
“Right.” Bud nodded as they pulled out their phones to ensure they were switched back over. Once they stepped down out of the truck they held still as the scanner built into the gas pump looked them over. They soon heard a pair of chimes to verify they were registered and they began to refuel the vehicle. Mack punched in their code into the pump while Bud began the process of attaching and securing the hose. Once that was done they gave each other a glance and nodded as they began to walk towards the depot itself.
The depots were all identical prefabs so it never mattered which one they were at, they were all the same. But they’d been to this particular one several times while surveying this sector. Normally they liked coming into the depot and having a bit of time amongst the staff. But tonight it felt… different. The cluster of Citizen Guard around the door eyed them as they approached. Mack still had no idea why they always had a hard time around the guard. They were good citizens just like anyone else. Maybe this time would be different?
“Well well… what have we here?” Nope. Mack and Bud stopped short as the soldiers spread out. In their armor and helmets they made for intimidating figures. The black tinted lenses of their masks gave extra dark shadows around their masks in the failing light of the setting sun. Mack couldn’t help but think of them as shadow people one might see in a nightmare. As if they were almost human, yet not quite and somewhere deep in his primal mind it sent up warning signals. But he pushed them down and pulled out his papers.
“Just two surveyors stopping for fuel.” He said as he handed over his ID.
“We’ll be the judge of that.” A corporal replied and stepped up to snatch his ID from him, then Bud’s. “Surveyors alright…” He handed the papers back to a sergeant in the back.
“Surveyors are known risks for deviant behavior and subversive materials.” The sergeant mentioned as the cluster of soldiers slowly spread out around them then. Mack noticed how many of them had their hands on their shock batons.
“No subversives or deviants here sir. Just two regular citizens.” Mack insisted.
“Rarely would a deviant identify themself as such. That’s the terrible thing about the mind of a deviant. Their deviancy is normalcy to them.”
Mack frowned as he tried to consider that. “Ah well then… I can assure you sir, we have no subversive or contraband materials on our persons. If that’s what you’re asking.”
“Because a deviant would just admit this to the rightful hand of divine law?” The sergeant asked next. “You surveyors live off the grid too much… Far from the light of our benefactor’s guidance. Who knows what shadows that sends across a man’s soul. Lot of hiding places in a badger too. Or there would be if I didn’t know them all…”
“I… we have nothing to hide sir.” Mack hated how it always came to this.
“So you’ll volunteer your truck for an inspection then.” The sergeant replied as he waved some soldiers at the Badger.
“No sir. I will not volunteer it.” As Mack said that the soldiers stopped and he felt Bud nudge his side.
“You won’t?” The eyeless shadows of the sergeant’s mask turned his way.
“No sir. I am aware you do not need me to volunteer a search. But, I also will not volunteer it. If you wish to search us you must note a cause in the report.” Mack stood firm even as a few of the soldiers around them tugged their batons out now.
“Deviancy… As I suspected… Only the guilty would dare deny the hand of the divine from their holy task.” The sergeant hissed at him.
“Sergeant.” Mack jumped a little as another voice spoke up. Looking past the armored collaborators he saw a massive form, nearly three meters tall easily. A Givax. The towering alien was stepping out of the depot, having had to duck to get out through the door. All four of his hands moved to smooth out his uniform a moment, before crossing them in annoyance. As he looked across the scene, several eyestalks focused on Mack while more in the back swiveled around to make sure nothing snuck up on him. “Why are you harassing these citizens?”
“They denied a voluntary search order.” The sergeant snapped to attention then and took a step back to allow the alien to step forward and peer down at Mack and Bud.
“If it was voluntary then it is their right. Why did you request a voluntary search?” He asked next, while several of the eyestalks turned to look more at the sergeant. One still kept a bead on Mack however.
“Surveyors sir. Suspected deviants and subversives.” The sergeant said rather matter of factly.
“Sergeant you have suspected every surveyor we’ve encountered of deviancy and subversion. Your fervor is to be commended of course as is your dedication to the guiding hand of the divine benefactors. But with a lack of actionable intel your accuracy leaves something to be desired. Papers.” He reached down as the sergeant handed up Mack and Bud’s IDs. The alien then looked them over before sliding them into a Benefactor tablet. After a moment they chirped and he pulled them out to hand them back to Mack and Bud. “Their records are exemplary. We have more pressing concerns, sergeant. Load up the men. We make for the rendezvous immediately.”
“Sir! You heard the Field Captain! To the trucks!” The sergeant barked out orders as the soldiers began to head back towards the military trucks across the lot. Though even as they did several “brushed” by Mack jostling him as they shouldered him aside.
“Begrudge not the fervent in their holy tasks citizens. Though you are not deviants, vigilance is the inoculation against subversion.” The alien assured them as the soldiers filed past to the trucks.
“As you say sir.” Mack nodded, but the alien was now focused on Bud.
“Why was an african assigned to this region?” He asked with curiosity.
“Ah I’m not african. Sir.” Bud replied.
“You are black.” The alien observed rather flatly.
“Er, yes… but I’m from Oregon. Ah… Westeren United, pardon Former Western United States. It was decided that region is similar in climate to region 13. Sir. Lots of… forests and rain and stuff. Sir.” Bud nervously coughed a little as the very tall yet lanky alien peered down at him.
“Hmh. I suppose environmental familiarity counts for more than genetics. Carry on then citizens. Blessings of the benefactors upon you.” With that he turned to start walking back to the specialized van designed to carry around a Givax comfortably.
“Blessings of the benefactors upon you as well.” Both Mack and Bud replied in unison due to force of habit. As soon as he was well on his way towards his van Mack headed into the depot with Bud right behind him.
“Fuck.” Bud hissed as soon as they were in.
“I know.” Mack glanced back at him. “But I’m glad the Givax was there to show Divine guidance and forethought. As always providing a voice of reason and enlightenment to the flawed human mindset.” He said that a bit louder then as he very carefully didn’t look at the cameras set around the entry room.
“Yes. I too appreciated the presence of the Givax.” Bud added with a nod as he also made sure not to purposely look at the cameras. They took a moment each to take a deep breath, their shoulders relaxing a bit as the tension of the encounter began to fade. Then they walked forward, out of the entry into the main depot. There were dozens of shelves arranged in a grid before them, with signs above each to note where to find various goods. Mack could navigate these shelves blindfold since they were all the same in every depot. But this one was a bit different now…
“Where is everything?” He asked aloud as he looked across rows and rows of shelves that had been stripped almost bare.
“Surveyor Mack, is that you I hear?” He heard a soft voice call out from the back.
“Yeah Dino it’s me and Bud!” He called back and walked up through the aisles quickly to get to the counter in the back. It was being staffed by a lone Isoren for now. The reptilian alien gave him a big grin and waved as he approached. His patches of blue bio-luminescent scales across his otherwise grey scales made him stand out very easily in the otherwise drab depot interior.
“Did you see the Citizen’s Guard outside? A field captain was with them!” He was obviously excited as he ran a hand over his skull ridges a moment. Something Mack had seen him do when excited plenty of times. Though he was also wagging his tail a bit like a dog, another giveaway. “I heard they are working for the regional supervisor personally! Isn’t that exciting?! To have a regional supervisor in the quadrant? I can feel his light above us even now.” He looked over and reached up to set a hand on the bottom of a poster displayed behind the counter.
A typical poster of the regional supervisor, his perfect angelic face front and center. His white angel wings spread wide as he held out his hands as if about to hug everyone around him. To his sides stood several smiling humans and a few Isoren shorter than the humans. All of the regular citizens holding industrial tools to show how happy they were to work of course. Behind all of them was the glowing sun to represent the benevolent guidance of the divine.
“Did they take all your stuff Dino?” Mack asked, trying to bring the alien back around to the topic at hand.
“It is not my stuff.” Dino replied as he quickly looked back and frowned. “But, yes they did deplete much of the depot’s inventory. Their stop here was unannounced even if most welcome! I’ll have to get a restock early.”
Mack let out a heavy sigh then and glanced over at Bud who was groaning softly. “We were just about to head to our last beacon. We were going to be well ahead of schedule to…”
“Never fear! I set aside your usual supplies Surveyor Mack.” Dino held up a claw and then began to walk along the counter as he leaned down to grab a box out from under it.
“Oh you’re a lifesaver Dino, thanks.” Mack grinned as he watched the alien haul the box up onto the counter top. “We’ve got enough emergency food to last, but without the drone batteries or ground pounders we’d be up shit creek.” Mack began looking through the box a moment to make sure they’d have everything they needed for the next few days of work. He knew it could possibly take a week if they found anything serious but he doubted it. This quadrant had been pretty quiet.
“I have been blessed with the foresight to ensure all of the Benefactor’s servants can achieve their tasks. This is what I am for. I do so enjoy fulfilling my purpose. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Glowing with the light of the divine!” Dino grinned wide as his tail lightly smacked against the ground as he wagged it.
“Well you’re a credit to the depot for sure Dino.” Mack nodded. He liked Isoren, they always made an effort to have easy to remember names, and seemed to actually give a damn about the people they met. If he never saw another Bregnan though he’d be too happy. Bad as those asshat collaborator soldiers were the hulking meat mountains that made up the Unity shock troops were way worse.
“Did they take everything not nailed down? What about the cheeses?” Bud asked suddenly which made Mack glance over at his friend.
“We got the usual quarter kilo in here of tube dairy paste. Dino made sure we got everything on my list.” He wasn’t sure why Bud asked about the cheese specifically.
“We’re on our last beacon man. I say we go big.” Bud pulled his wallet out as he began to pull out bills. “Dino my fine man! Give me one brick cheese grade A. And here are the elsies to pay for it!” With a flourish he slapped a number of bills on the counter.
“Seriously?” Mack asked with an arched brow.
“Fuck it. I want some good god damn cheese.” Bud nodded.
“As you wish Surveyor Bud.” Dino nodded and walked to a refrigerator in the back. Opening it up to reach in and then pull out a golden yellow packaged brick. “Might I ask why you refer to luxury chits as elsies? I have heard a number of humans do so but I don’t understand.” He asked as he set the heavy brick on the counter.
“Luxury chit first gets abbreviated as L-C.” Mack carefully enunciated. “Then we further just run it together into… elsie.” He shrugged.
“Ah. Elsie.” The reptile mouthed the word carefully and tilted his head to the side a moment. “Elsies… elsies…” He repeated it a few times before shrugging his slim shoulders and opened and closed his hands which the Isoren did to indicate understanding. “I think I get it.”
“Well, thanks Dino. Is there anything else?” Mack asked as he pulled out his ID again to hand over to the alien.
“I cannot think of anything. Though I hope you visit at some point even once you no longer have need of supply depot Romeo.” Dino’s smile actually looked a tiny bit sad to Mack. They’d been using the same station for the better part of the year. Dino might actually miss them. He’d been more personable than the usual depot chief. Even so he took Mack’s ID and scanned it before handing it back.
“We’ll try Dino. No promises though. Never know what quadrant we’ll be assigned next.” Mack took his ID back with a nod and grabbed the box.
“Good seeing you though Dino! You’re a good guy.” Bud added even as he was tearing open the golden wrapper on the cheese. Mack just watched as he revealed the cheese and then just took a bite out of it.
“Dude what the fuck? You are a goddamn animal.” Mack frowned even as Bud looked up, chewing on the cheese.
“‘Uck af.” Bud muttered before swallowing. “Ooohhh yeeeaah… That’s the good stuff. Grade A cheese.”
“Why the fuck are you just biting into the brick? That’s disgusting.” Mack turned to start walking out as Bud walked along next to him.
“It’s fucking good. You’re just jelly.” Bud insisted.
“How am I supposed to eat any if you’ve been taking bites out of it? I don’t want your fucking germs.” Mack grumbled as he hefted the box in his arms to get a better grip.
“Who says you get any? I just bought this for me!” Bud huffed.
“An entire brick of cheese? You’re just going to eat an entire brick of cheese?” Mack blinked as he looked at his friend.
“Not in one sitting!” Bud waved the brick at him a moment. “But… yeah. And before you mention constipation I’ve got laxatives this time!” He nodded and gave Mack a big grin like he had cracked some secret code.
“Un fucking believable.” Mack sighed as they stepped back outside into the orange red glow of dusk. The sun was just dipping below the horizon now as they headed back around to the badger. They could see the tail end of the convoy of military trucks heading up the road now. Unfortunately also headed the way they needed to go. Mack hoped they didn’t run into them again, but he also had no idea why they were here. Guard were usually just… guards. In cities and such. This was the frontier of the Region 13 environmental rehabilitation program. What was there to guard out here?
Bud took another bite out of his brick of cheese and let out a happy murmur as they stepped into the Badger. Mack set down the box of supplies while Bud carefully tugged the wrapper back up around the cheese brick and set it in a sealed bag to tuck into the fridge unit. Then they stepped back out to tend to the Badger. Mack went around checking the tire pressures while Bud unhooked the fuel hose, and checked the coolant. Once they were satisfied the Badger was ready to go they stepped back inside and took their seats.
They each took a moment to just sit there and sort of relax. “Sometimes it sucks being a surveyor and having everyone assume you’re doing shady shit.” Bud spoke first.
“We’re off grid more than on it. That makes some people paranoid.” Mack shrugged. “But they have nothing to fear since we are as always, law abiding citizens who appreciate all our Benefactors have done for us.”
“Yes, this truly is the case.” Bud agreed. Then they tugged their phones out and switched them to off grid mode. “Now let's go.” With that Mack started up the Badger and started to pull out onto the road. “Why don’t I try to take a nap while you drive? When we get there I’ll do the prep work before I sleep and tomorrow we’ll be up and running straight away.”
“Sounds good.” Mack nodded. Bud then tilted his seat back a bit and squirmed around as he tucked himself in against the corner to find a more comfortable spot to close his eyes. Mack was never sure why Bud didn’t just use the beds. But he seemed to prefer napping in his seat up front.
Thankfully Mack really did enjoy driving. Just the comforting background rumble of the Badger driving along. Slowly the orange glow of dusk gave way to the purple shades of night as it settled. Then came his favorite bit as the stars came out in force. Just a massive carpet of stars cluttering the night sky. He’d never trade being a surveyor for any kind of city job. If he did he’d lose the stars. Then his eyes glanced over as the moon began to rise up over the horizon.
He did frown a bit as he focused on the big scar that ravaged the face of the moon. It had been there since Unification though no one had ever said why. He also couldn’t find the constellations he used to see as a kid. There was the turnoff. As he angled the Badger off the main road and onto a dirt track he saw their path would take them through a forest up ahead. But almost immediately he heard the click. “Fuck.”
“Mh?” Bud stirred a little as the clicking rose in intensity and Mack stopped the truck.
“Rads.” Mack said and reached up to toggled some switches. He heard a light hiss as the Badger pressurized and then heard the hum of a fan as it prepared to recirculate.
“Oh fuck.” Bud muttered and then yawned before stretching in his seat. “This is going to be a fucking blast.” Even as he said that he rubbed his eyes a moment and then tapped the counter on the dash. “Strong too.”
“Here though?” Mack as he looked around at the trees ahead of them. “I don’t see any signs of an airburst.”
“Maybe it’s a dump.” Bud suggested.
“If it was that easy why send us?” Mack pointed out. But then they both just shrugged. Mack began to drive forward again, this time slower as he flicked on the floodlights. The massive lights atop the truck lit up the road ahead of them like it was the middle of the day. Bud meanwhile got up to go grab their gear.
“I still can’t believe the Russians would rather nuke themselves than live under alien rule.” Bud mentioned.
“The old timers say the Russians were just like that. Besides, Unification was a mess. Sure they said they were here to unite us, save us, and such but they were also busy killing us at the start. Shit, you’ve seen Bregnan. Those fuckers have no chill. Imagine when they landed and there were millions of them crawling all over Moscow?” Mack pointed out.
“Still nuts.” Bud was pulling their hazmat gear out of the back lockers now to inspect them. Of course they kept the suits in perfect shape but you didn’t want to discover you had a hole in your suit when you were knee deep in radioactive slag. “I still can’t believe the Benefactors didn’t have some kind of missile defences.”
“They do. It’s just… the Russians had like… hundreds of nukes. Doesn’t take that many getting through to ruin shit.” Mack shrugged.
“And now they’re all dead and here we are helping the aliens remake their country into something livable. Kinda hard to fight an intergalactic nation with dozens of planets. Or hundreds. Or whatever.” Bud was laying out the suits now on their beds before he began to pull his on.
“Think we’re on Earth anymore?” Mack asked as he glanced up at the sky, but the floodlights made it nearly impossible to see the stars right now.
“What? Of course we are. Humans aren’t allowed offworld. You know that. Also, I’m positive I’d remember being on a spaceship. That shit would be cool. Also… are you suggesting that there’s another perfectly Earth like world with old Russian buildings on it, and humans, and shit, and a moon just like ours, but somehow isn’t Earth?” Bud asked.
“Well…” Mack hadn’t quite thought of it like that. “I feel like the stars are different. From when we were kids.”
“In Oregon? Of course they are! We’re in Russia now! Sorry, Region 13. They’re gonna have a different view of the sky.” Bud scoffed as if it were obvious. “Also we were kids. You saying you perfectly remember the night sky from when we were kids?”
“Oh…” Mack frowned for a moment. Is that how it worked? He knew the southern hemisphere was different. Was east and west? Not like Unity school covered astronomy. Before he could comment further the Badger emerged from the treeline and into a massive clearing while the road just… ended. Looking at their tracker the beacon should be… right in front of them somewhere. Reaching up he adjusted the lights to sweep the field a moment before them. It was just… a big empty field… Couple rocks in the distance. No crater. No ruins. No beacon… Nothing.
“Where’s the beacon?” Bud asked as he trudged back up to the front of the truck to look out the window.
“I was just wondering that.” Mack mentioned.
“Probably in the trees then and the radiation is messing with the sensors.” Bud shrugged and straightened up as he pulled on his gas mask and made sure the shroud draped over his shoulders. “Check me.”
Mack unbuckled his seatbelt and got up then to examine Bud’s suit. Bud turned around slowly as Mack checked all the straps and the oxygen tank before gripping the back unit and giving it all a light shake. It felt secure. “You’re all good. Be out in a minute.”
Bud gave him a thumbs up and walked to the back of the Badger. They had a secure decontamination airlock in the back for use in places like this. After he closed the door Mack heard the hiss of the airlock cycle while he tugged on his own suit. He hated the hazmat suits. They didn’t breathe for obvious reasons, always smelled vaguely of chemicals and plastic, plus were hot as hell. Yet, he’d rather not die of radiation poisoning.
So he tugged the leggins up over his overalls, yanking the rubber overboots into place and strapped them down to make sure they were secure. That done he tucked his arms into the sleeves and shrugged the suit up and jumped a few times while swinging his hands in the air to get it to pull up and fit properly. That done he zipped it up, folded the velcro cover over the zipper, and then pulled his gasmask on. As the world became muffled and dark he adjusted the strapped and checked his oxygen valve as he heard a very soft hiss for a moment before it began flowing easily.
Without Bud to check him over he took a few twists and turns in place, then squatted down a moment. Satisfied it was all sitting right he headed into the airlock and closed the door behind him. Once he cycled it there was a hiss as he was hit with a blast of air and then the outer door opened. Carefully walking down the steps he looked around a moment, the floodlights making it hard to see past their glare. But he saw Bud’s light beacon bouncing around in the forest as he walked away.
Mack was about to follow him to start helping look for a beacon when he instead looked over at the field where it was supposed to be. The field really did look empty… But he frowned as he saw two birds in the distance by the rocks. Pulling a range finder from his harness he held it up to the lenses of his gasmask to look through. It was awkward but he could see them a bit better now… Red Crested Crows. A local mutation brought about by the nukes he was told.
Yet… He frowned as he kept watching. One was hopping around and flashing leaves at the other. Part of their mating rituals. But this was the wrong season. And time of day. And place. “Bud…” He was about to call out to his friend when movement caught his attention. Looking over he saw a creature watching him from the edge of the light cast by the truck. A pitch black furred Radsable. His own term for the meter long, eight legged mutant sables he saw in these parts.
Even without a crater this place sure did have plenty of mutant animals. Mack quickly fumbled at his harness for a moment. “Shit… Stupid gloves…” He finally grabbed hold of a can he was trying to get and yanked it out. Sardines he kept in his suit for this very reason. Twisting the lid back as quickly as he could he grabbed one of the fish and held it up in the light. “Hey there guy. Curious aren’t you? Can you smell this?”
The Radsable crouched down a moment, then rose up on its back four legs as the front four raised off the ground. It seemed very curious indeed. Mack carefully tossed the canned fish about halfway out. The Radsable bounced back a moment then paused. It was obviously enticed, but still unsure. Mack just stayed where he was.
He watched the animal raise up again to sniff and then start to carefully move closer. Mack just waited and watched the eight legged sable scurry through the grass in a swaying pattern, as if half slithering. When it reached the sardine it sniffed, pawed it a moment, and then chomped it down quickly. “Did you like that?” Mack asked and held up another to toss out a bit closer. This time the radsable very quickly pounced and ate the next sardine.
[Continued in Comments]