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[Realmatic Speculation] On the Spiritual Property of Intent As Related to Lucidity, Sanity, and Belief

This came to mind in another thread regarding Taln, but it provoked a stray thought that merited unraveling.
We know that conscious recognition is a prerequisite for Intent. This is something that can be illustrated in both Stormlight and W&W — to make use of an Honorblade one must first recognize it to be such, and by the same token, the use of an unkeyed metalmind is similarly restricted.
The requisites and processes (conscious identification and retrieval of Investiture) appear to be identical, and I am willing to base my thoughts on the assumption that they are, as it gives me a broader sample set of precedents (still rather small, granted) to work with. That is my base assumption from which other speculation will begin, and I intend (and indeed perhaps Intend) to corroborate child assumptions with individual annotations as relevant, doing my best to clearly separate my guesswork from canonical information as I bring it up.

Intent requires genuine belief that the action you are taking will have the effect you anticipate.

This is another of my foundational assumptions. I'd like to make a case for it by presenting a hypothetical situation. Bear with me as it gets a little lengthy, as the reason for my making it long is to facilitate the ease of making minor but interesting variations of it by changing the details ever so slightly. Items that have been bolded will be variables that can be swapped out on a modular basis, a la Mad Libs, although some contextual information that derives from those variables you'll have to change yourself, in your imagination.
So, let’s consider the following hypothetical: Hoid, for reasons known only to him, takes it upon himself to acquire the Honorblade of Kalak. He then, for a similarly inscrutable reason, presents it to an Alethi guardsman of little note. Then, he says the following, bearing the guise of his primary Rosharan sobriquet, The King’s Wit:
“My good unremarkable guardsman, what I have presented to you is beyond the shadow of a doubt the very own blade of Kelek, whom you might know from the Vorin Church as one of the Ten Heralds of the Almighty himself — who, by the way, was a real and actual person that really did exist, lovely fellow to be sure (before of course all of the repeated centuries of torment he endured in Damnation, and what a shame it was) — and did you know that the powers that he bore that aided him in his unending struggle against the Voidbringers, such as for instance the ability to transport himself into the realm where spren reside, and what those who know of it tend to call Shadesmar — lovely place, incidentally, you’ve never been? — well, anyways, this is relevant because as I was saying this remarkable ability of Transportation was in fact a trait of the blade, rather than the man, and with it in your very grasp, you yourself hold the ability to perform the selfsame feat.”
And he delivers this lengthy spiel in a single breath with minimal pause [1], as I have attempted to punctuate above, to which the guardsman replies [2]:
“Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.”
“Go on, give it a try,” Wit insists. “If my words are true then you will have gained knowledge of an entire world that heretofore lay outside the scope of your awareness, and if my words are false — and I swear upon not only my true name but this mostly-useless hunk of stone (which I carry around with me for primarily sentimental purposes) that every word that I have said to you is undeniably the truth [3][4] — then you come up short by nothing but a sliver of your time, and perhaps a smidgen of your dignity. So go on! Take it for a spin. What have you got to lose?"
And the guardsman, rolling his eyes, says, "Fine, whatever. So how do I go about using it, exactly?"
"You must recognize that the blade you hold in your hands bears the power you are attempting to wield, and draw upon it with the full intent of using such a power," Hoid says. [5]
Tossing a pouch containing a remarkably egregious quantity of infused gemstones at the man, he adds, "Having some Stormlight to give it doesn't hurt either."
"You mean, like a fabrial?" the guardsman asks, eyes narrowed in a manner reminiscent of the meme of Fry from Futurama, you know the one that I'm talking about.
"Ehh... close enough. The analogy still holds water. Sure, like a fabrial."
"Al...right," says our hypothetical guinea pig, now considerably more willing to humor the request primarily due to the stacks of phat cash money in his hand. "Here goes, then." [6]
"... nothing happened," the guardsman says, after a lengthy, quiet moment that trailed on for precisely the perfect amount of time to transcend its very state of being and achieve the Platonic ideal of awkward silences.
"That is a shame," Hoid says, gravely. "Perhaps it is because you did not truly believe me, and held in your heart of hearts that the sword I have bestowed upon you holds no such properties, and that I am either a charlatan or a lunatic. I do not fault you for it, my friend — there are many who would call me both and I am proud to count myself among their number — but I must again insist upon the notion that this blade and its capabilities are indeed the genuine article."
"But I get to keep the broams, yeah?" says the guardsman, whose focus appears to lay elsewhere, in large part taking measures to ensure that the comfortable heft in his palm does not vanish as quickly as it arrived.
"Fine, fine," Hoid says, waving his hand dismissively and gesturing for the sword to be returned.
The guardsman gladly hands it over, richer by a year's wages, if not more, and because I like to imagine (although this is a separate and unrelated line of speculation that I will endeavor not to touch upon further in this post) that our good pal of many names is this much of a troll, he takes the Honorblade of Kalak himself, Herald of the Almighty and Patron of the Willshapers of the Knights Radiant, and uses it to transport himself into Shadesmar. [7]
Before I get into the more Realmatic speculation, I've annotated a few portions of the above text at points where the validity and/or plausibility of this hypothetical may be called into question. I'm trying to focus on one particular premise here and hope to quickly address auxiliary concerns preemptively, so this will be fairly brief (by my evidently lax standards).
[1] Feruchemical Chromium.
[2] The guardsman has not punched Wit in the mouth for this nonsense because to do so would be a slight against his liege.
[3] If any of the true-but-unfathomably-outrageous things that have been said are not actually true, please pretend that he said something similarly true, and similarly detrimental to the plausibility of his overall argument.
[4] I don't know if Hoid would swear upon his true name, even for a jape. This one might be a stretch. You can pretend he's swearing on something else that might carry a similar amount of solemnity in the eyes of an average Rosharan citizen.
[5] This is, of course, the question here. There might be more to it than that, in which case kinda blows the air out of my tires for this little thought exercise. If that ends up being the case, oh well. I had fun. I hope at least one of you that read along this far (who am I kidding) did as well.
[6] It's also a bit of a stretch to assume that an average guardsman would be familiar enough in the operation of a fabrial to respond thus. Let's suspend our disbelief and let this random fellow have this knowledge for the sake of facilitating this hypothetical. Maybe he spent some of last month's pay on a painrial to help with the ache in his shoulder from an old injury (that was not too severe to disqualify him from the position of being a guardsman, of course).
[7] This may also be implausible, in the sense that this whole sideshow of chicanery is clearly too flagrant and overt of a display to allow Hoid to maintain the low profile he requires to elude the eyes of Odium and his many lackeys. Let this one slide for me, okay? Pretend he paid off a worldhopper with less brains than a frog leg to set off a really, really gnarly stink bomb on Braize or something.
So yeah. If you want to use an Invested object like a metalmind or an Honorblade, you have to know that it's Invested, and I'm hoping to make the case that the degree of knowledge needed to operate it requires belief that it is what you think it is. This hypothetical was very exaggerated because it represents the farthest end of the spectrum, in that you are aware of but doubt its authenticity, that I could argue that nothing would happen and I feel hopeful that most people would agree with me on that count.
Belief, however, is not a boolean state. There is a gradient of confidence, between uncertainty and certainty, and attempting to quantify that or trying to speculate on a breakpoint where the line is drawn is a fool's errand, but I certainly don't mind taking a look at some examples here and there on that scale. So, starting from the top...

1. You are aware of but doubt its authenticity.

Our starting point. I don't think it would work. This kind of breaks down into a few subcategories, like what if our guardsman was a more serious Vorin dude and was in agreement that Kelek was a real dude who did stuff — I mean, with all of this Radiant stuff going on lately, it only stands to reason, right? But this Wit guy just feels like he's trying to get a rise out of you, like obviously nobody would be doling out Honorblades to some schmuck in front of a semi-important door, there's only ten of those suckers after all.

2. You know what it is, well, sort of, like you know that there's this thing that exists that is being described, but you don't think that it's the thing that you have right now.

  • I don't think it would work here either. But maybe, just maybe, this trickster's cajoling has planted a little seed of doubt. Maybe it really is what he says it is. There could be a chance. Like he says, what is there to lose?

3. You don't think it is, for real, but you're willing to entertain the notion that it is.

  • Again, I don't think this would work. This category is nice because it kind of covers a broad stretch of the gradient I'm attempting to illustrate, which lets me skip past Sure, he could be right, and I'm willing to cop to that, but there's also the chance that I'm being bamboozled since I think that ends up about the same.

4. Although you have no concrete reason to believe it is what it is, you're willing to accept the idea that it is at face value.

  • So let's say that Hoid isn't being trolly in the above hypothetical and whoever he's talking to nods along like 'yeah, makes sense, I get you, sure, I'll give it a shot'. That scenario might be a little bit harder to believe, but if things shook out that way, I think that it would work. Part of it is just gut feeling, like it feels pretty organic to have that work and I think there is some space on this gradient that is less constricted than having definitive proof that the object is an Honorblade.
But it also reminds me of the bit in Bands where Wax hands over the gold bracelet he snagged pretty early on to Wayne, being like 'this fat hunk of gold that I palmed off the corpse of the woman for whom I was framed for murdering could be handy, why don't you pop that baby on'[8] and then Wayne being like 'now hold up, that's a no can do pardner, looks like this metalmind's already occupado'.
But the earlier eavesdropping on Suit in addition to the rumors of what the Bands of Mourning are capable of gives Wax the notion that the metalmind is unkeyed, and so Wayne gives it a shot and by flippin' tarnation it actually is.
Wayne doesn't go 'nah mate, I'm wearing my aluminum hat today so you can't pull the wool over my eyes, get back to me in two days when I'm wearing my wool hat' or have any real reason to think that Wax is prevaricating here, so he gives it a shot because there isn't any strong evidence pointing to the fact that it isn't an unkeyed metalmind (whereas in the long Hoid example above he's deliberately posturing his statements to make what he's saying less believable) and thus, I think that's the reason it does work when he gives it a try.
So that's actually a pretty good argument in favor of this one working, since all you have to do is accept the premise that the mechanism of Intention in the use of unkeyed metalminds and Honorblades is identical enough to be interchangeable. This lets me refine my speculation with the following:

The Intent to use an Invested object requires that you entertain the notion that it is what you think it is, and that you have no reason to doubt that supposition.

This lets me play with some interesting riffs on the hypothetical.

5. Although you harbor doubts, your desire for the article to be genuine far exceeds them.

  • Bit of an edge case here and too far into the realm of guesswork for me to say anything with any degree of confidence, but I think that it would work here, just personal opinion. Like, Hoid pulls the same nonsense, but this time the guard is in an infirmary bed and terribly wounded, on the precipice of death from a recent injury (and he probably wouldn't be as explicitly playing silly buggers with someone in such dire straits, I'd like to think he isn't cruel to that degree) and the Honorblade that he's offering is instead one that confers the Surge of Regrowth.
Sure, the guy might not believe him, but if there's even the slightest chance that it is and he can use it to, y'know, not die, then it's worth taking, right? So please please please be the real deal. In this situation I think that it would work. I have no evidence to support this and I don't expect to see evidence for or against this idea in the published works anytime soon if at all, but if there were one question that I could pose for Mr. Sanderson to slap a fat and juicy RAFO on, it would be this one for sure.

6. It isn't what you think it is, but it's remarkably close.

  • Let's say Hoid pulls the same nonsense with someone who's aware of the Honorblades and has no reason to doubt him, and he doesn't do the whole "haha this is true, of course, I swear it in the big scaly tail of my oldest and bestest bud, who is coincidentally a dragon" spiel.
But instead of Kalak's Honorblade, he has pulled the most elaborate of ruses — under the hastily-applied Post-It note that says KALAK there is in fact an inscription that proclaims it to be the Honorblade of the incomparably sagacious BattahTryHardahToMakeThisAKetek'Elin. So, it's not the Honorblade that the person using it thinks that it is. And despite that, it retains the ability to draw upon the Surge of Transportation, it being the Surge shared between Kalak and Battar.
Since the Transportation is the Surge that the wielder Intends to use, does it matter that they think the Honorblade belongs to a different Herald? It's still an Honorblade, and it's still got access to Transportation. I have no clue on this one. What do you guys think? I'm inclined to say no here off of gut feeling but this is another one that I think would be neat as heck to find out one day since whatever the answer may be would have some pretty solid information to go off of for puzzling around with Identity and how exactly it works.
Taking it a little further let's say that it does work and the person with the Honorblade does Transport themselves to Shadesmar, being like "haha sweet, got me Kalak's Honorblade, lemme pop on back to the Physical Realm to give Cohesion a shot now and take my pottery skills to the next level". If they attempt that and fail, thus realizing it is not in fact Kalak's Honorblade, would subsequent attempts to use it for Transportation fail? I don't think so because at that point they're thinking "This is a blade that gives me access to the Surge of Transportation, and that is what I'm going to use it for."
But it's interesting to consider the possibility that being overspecific about what you think something is might cause you to run afoul of how Intent is recognized. (Setting aside that if they continue to operate on the presumption that it is an Honorblade and simply mislabeled then I do hope they are attentive enough to recall that Battar would be the only one that remains through process of elimination, and for my money the Surge of Transformation would be more fun to fool around with anyhow.)
Those are all the fun thoughts I have about awareness of identity as it relates to Intent. I hesitate to capitalize the I in Identity because my personal jury is still out due to Question VI, which I can sort of rephrase here to ask "how much does your idea of an Invested object you Intend to use sync up with how that Invested object perceives itself?"
You can kind of convince objects to have a slightly different Identity (like, Wax's trick with the bullet does really break down into converting the bullet's Identity into discrete Identities of shell and casing, although that's a different speculation that hasn't been confirmed that I don't want to get super into in this thread because my goodness look how long it's already gotten and I'm pretty sure that in Secret History, Kelsier did some cool snake charmer stuff with the Cognitive reflections of Physical inanimate objects like convincing a hearth that it was still on fire, since its whole job and reason for existing was to be on fire and keep folks warm, so why not keep on doing that, being a pile of ash is so passe these days, I mean look outside there's absolute swathes of it out there and let me tell you fireplace ol' pal you're too good to be one of the sheeple like them) but I think it would be too hard to convince Battar's Honorblade that it was Kalak's, so my guess would be that nothing would happen.
One last thing before I call it quits because even though any chance I might have at a reputation for not being a long-winded rambler is already burnt to cinders I am still a coward that fears carpal tunnel.
I wanted to talk about the Intent in being aware of the action / result. The big thing to look at here is the bit in Oathbringer where Dalinar and Odium have a little chat and Dalinar asks "hey why don't you just get the heck outta the Rosharan system and stop making life suck so hard for the folks that live here" and Odium replies "well my dude, I'm real glad you asked, see you actually have the power to kick me out as a wielder of Honor's fragmentary power remnants, all you gotta do to give me the boot is to really Intend it" while being specific in his wording that Dalinar needs to have the Intent to release him, and that he will go if he is released with Intent. Presumably neglecting to mention that after that point he can come back whenever and just keep on being a real rude dude, you know, the usual monkey's paw business.
When you kind of step away a bit there are some major parallels here between Ruin's plot to escape the Well of Ascension, which is to trick someone who holds Preservation's power to give it up (with Intent, which is being fostered by the erroneous notion that taking this course of action will return the world from the brink of collapse). In both of these cases the Shards are being very clear and specific about what Intents their potential suckers should be throwing around, while deliberately obscuring or obfuscating the consequences of acting with such Intent. Odium's trick gets seen through pretty quickly, but that's moreso because he has less skin in the deception game, most of his stuff is resting on the other leverage he's got like the Thrill-inducing Unmade and the "you killed your wife, sicko" memory whammy to get Dalinar to release him with Intent because he's a broken shell of a man and at the end of the day he's just as bad as Odium so really who is he to pass judgment on him anyways?
But there's a heavy emphasis on having to specifically do this one thing.
"Release Odium with Intent." Okay, seems pretty sus, let's not do that.
"Relinquish the power of the Well of Ascension with Intent." Sure, alright, that seems legit, I mean things only suck right now because homeboy Rashek did the exact opposite, so that's a solid course of action.
Ruin's sole concession to making the trick more believable without altering the Intention required to free him without explicitly stating it as such is by using the alternative wording "the power of the Well of Ascension" as opposed to "the energy that demarcates the confines of my small and boring magic puddle jail".
And I think that it's no coincidence and that it's very relevant that Ruin doesn't get around the specificity and try to blur the lines for the criteria for his release (since it was a plan millennia or more in the making to groom someone who had sufficient Connection to Preservation as well as the capability to get to the Well of Preservation when it topped back off, presumably having to get through Rashek, so he had to get the timing of that revolution down pretty dang accurate which I bet is a real feat when working at that timescale, superior access to Fortune or no, AND also make sure that she has the incontrovertible inclination to be both noble and misdirected enough to give that power up), and I think that one of the main reasons why it was necessary to go through all that trouble to that degree of meticulousness is that

Intent is innately favorable to the user.

I think that it reads between the lines, it upholds the spirit of the law above the letter of the law, so to speak, and the only time that you're truly able to shoot yourself in the foot is when you ask for something that can't be interpreted any more flexibly, and any single interpretation within that small set is going to screw you over real bad because the consequences of taking that course of action are unknown to you.
Remember way, way back, maybe a year or two ago, at the top of this post, where I mentioned Taln and then immediately never talked about him again? I almost didn't, which would have been a real shame, since this is what I meant to build up to all along.
  • 1) We know that the Oathpact, or at the bare minimum some parts of it, is still doing its thing.
  • 1b) What exactly is the Oathpact doing? We can only guess, but we know that:
  • 1b-a) (haha, I'm just kidding, oh my god can you imagine)
Odium's still trapped in the Rosharan system and the Oathpact isn't like, the whole deal that's got him confined to Braize, but it definitely plays a major factor.
The Heralds are still doing things in the Physical Realm. Not to say that the Oathpact makes them immortal, since they're Cognitive Shadows after all, but I'd say that the Oathpact does keep the meat puppets they're cruising around in a little more long-term maintenance friendly.
The Honorblades still exist. I don't know if they would like, evanesce into desolid Honorvestiture if the Oathpact went kaput for real, but if that were to happen it wouldn't come out of left field for me.
I think that the Oathpact is kind of a table d'hôte sort of deal. Honor didn't sit down and pact it up with each individual Herald, it was kind of a group discount sort of situation where the whole gang went in on double mozzarella sticks for the entire table and left my boy Taln with the check for the entire frickin' meal. (Just in case you thought I wasn't having too much fun with this analogy, the mozzarella sticks are Surges.)
So my question is as follows, and it's a bit of a rough one, and one that I'm really quite hopeful to see at least part of the answer to in Rhythm of War.

If Talenelat'Elin, Bearer of Agonies, is tortured to the point of insanity that he no longer has the presence of mind to understand and consciously Intend to forsake the Oathpact, are the consequences of his recent return from Braize not as severe as they could have been if he made that decision with lucidity?

This plays into some speculation on Intent as it relates to coercion (that is more forcible than deception) but that's definitely talk for another day since I already have plenty of food for thought to chew on. If there is somehow one single soul that journeyed together with me as I felt the desire to spitball things around, I hope that the read was at least fun enough to have been worth your time.
[8] Just a personal note that I think would be neat, but I don't think that I've seen Wayne talk about the logistics of having to disguise himself as someone who can't afford to wear gold while in a situation where he doesn't have a lot of options by way of concealing the gold that he has to wear for personal safety. Tune in as I address this concept in my upcoming debut fanfiction, "The Southern Scadrian Innovation Known As The Sauna, Also Known As This Horrible Wet Box Of Steam What Wayne Gets In A Shootout In", coming to the internet never.
submitted by Antioch_Orontes to Stormlight_Archive

Sure, my room mate is slenderman, but we aren't detectives (MRIS 10)

“This access card has been denied due to the recipient being deceased. Exit the elevator now.” We had only gotten to the 16th floor before the panel made the announcement and the elevator stopped. The elevator door opened to an empty hallway.
“Well I think we’d be borderline horror movie protagonist levels of stupid if we actually leave the elevator right now.” I said, staring into what could either be our doom, or our salvation.
Dexter spoke up, “I should be able to break into the system and have it finish taking us all the way down. Give me ten minutes and I’ll give us a way down to the bottom floor.”
“Alright then, everybody out. The boy needs his space and if we all get out we will have plenty of room to defend him as well.” Abraham instructed. Everyone exited the elevator, starting with The Doctor and ending with Abraham himself. Leaving Dexter inside to do his work. I stole one glance before focusing on the room we had just entered. He had pulled out a futuristic looking laptop and was typing inhumanly fast with both hands.
Tucker noticed my wide eyed expression, “He’s a programmer, one of the best in fact. He’ll be able to get us down there no problem.” I nod and pull out my dagger and future pistol, holding the dagger in an ice pick grip in my left hand, and holding the pistol over the arm that has the dagger. I soon realized this was extremely inefficient considering the length of the dagger itself, and put it away.
“Doesn’t it seem a little quiet for a break in?” I said, breaking the silence that had accumulated over the past few minutes.
The Doctor answered me, in the same voice as earlier, “It may be quiet, but look at the walls. Something is definitely coming.”
The CO joined in, “I highly doubt he’s gonna notice the vibrations in the walls. He’s just a normal human, hell even I can barely notice it.” I strained my eyes, staring at the wall closest to me, but I felt the vibrations before I even began to see it. They were consistent and unrelenting. But I couldn’t feel any footsteps. As if a literal ton of bricks were being pulled by an ant. The main problem with that wasn’t the absence of footsteps, it was the absence of any and all sound. However, the trio of super soldiers all began to get irritable before voicing a command, I assume to their suits. “Deafen” then they went back to what they were doing. Aside from them, everyone else seemed to be doing fine for the most part.
“What’s going on exactly?” I asked, entirely ignorant to the sound they were hearing.
Terry responded a little louder than his normal speaking voice, “It's most likely another floor 20 asshole just trying to scare us.”
“Why are you talking so loud?”
Abraham answered for him with his usual cocky demeanor, “Well it seems they are hearing a sound you and I cannot, I still merely have the ears of a human, as do you.”
“And what about them? They’re humans too aren’t they?”
“What don’t you get about cybernetically enhanced super humans?” Abraham said matter of factly.
By this point I would assume this is how a deaf person would feel going into a concert. The vibrating was in my feet and practically all over my body, but my ear drums still weren’t picking up any sound. But suddenly, it all stopped, no more vibrations, all in a matter of seconds. Like an orchestra finishing their final performance… nothing.
I tried to say something, but I didn’t feel anything in my throat. So instead, I mouthed, “what the fuck?” to Terry, and he gave me a short response, “Manipulation of sound waves.” before he was cut off.
I was somehow able to feel the thing’s voice in my head. It was like information that was being forcibly shoved and translated into my brain. Imagine if you could feel the process of your eardrums taking in the vibrations in the air from someone talking, then translating those sound waves into words we understand. It’s something seemingly simple that our brains do on their own, and we can’t feel it. But imagine if you could, that’s what this felt like. Like a worse version of telepathy. “Don’t bother screaming, no one will hear you. You are in my vacuum, where the laws of physics are mine now.”
Megami smirked, “Oh, so you think you can control vibrations? You must think you’re pretty strong.” I finally saw the woman when I turned my head, she was flawless, not like Megami, more like a porcelain doll. Her hair looked almost fake and her face had no sign of pores. She was even wearing a gothic lolita outfit to go with it. The only part wrong with her face was the pissed off look plastered across it, “Oh you thought you were the only one who could do such things? Oh that’s just precious.” Her voice turned maniacal and her eyes had a look of insanity in them, “I don’t think you realize that you will be the dead one at the end of all of this.” She began singing, but I couldn’t hear it. At first it seemed as though the flawless woman was stopping her from using her vocal cords. But when I looked down at her feet, I could see two blades being carved out of the metal floor. After only a few seconds, she had fashioned a couple rough but sharp looking daggers.
That vibrating started again, and I saw that the porcelain woman wasn’t moving her mouth, “Such barbaric tools. What are you going to do with those?”
“Who knows? Maybe I’ll take a page from the skinwalkers book, peel your skin off inch by inch. Or maybe…” Suddenly, Megami was right in front of the woman, “I can slit your throat right here and now.” The lady made a tiny movement with her finger, just as she did so Megami jumped back in an attempt to dodge what was to come. Opening her mouth as she did so. But she wasn’t fast enough, whatever the woman had done cut Megami’s right shoulder. The battle was on a level that I couldn’t see or hear so I was just left to watch an invisible battle. Megami flung both of the blades like throwing knives at the immaculate woman. As she sang a deafened song the blades sped up before one of them collided with the woman’s right eye. The second was thrown off course with a wave of a finger.
That was when I heard a whisper in my ear, “Let’s head out, we’re ready.” It was Tucker, and I could actually hear him. He was pointing at the elevator which already had everyone in it.
“Wait, Dexter said it would take longer didn’t he?”
“Plans change.” He gestured to a tag that was held up by the dagger that I thought had missed. It was lodged in a wall and Jacob was sneaking his way over to it.
“ENOUGH!” I felt the woman's voice in my head again. With yet another flick of her finger, one of the lights went haywire shooting light in directions it shouldn’t be able to, causing Jacob to have to come up from the ground. “FOUND YOU!” She swung her entire arm, but nothing happened. Turning her head, she glared at Megami.
“What’s the matter, do you have performance anxiety or something?” The woman’s look turned cold, “Oh, well that’s a look I didn’t think you could make. You’re starting to get me all excited.” By now, Jacob had finally managed to snag the card and make his way back over.
“We’re leaving.” Jacob said, before Terry shoved me into the elevator.
“Ta ta little ones, I will meet you down there. Save a couple of them for me if you don’t mind.” Then, the elevator door shut leaving only Megami behind, along with her screams of excitement.
Dexter’s voice cut through the air, “Oh come on guys, I almost had it cracked too. Their programming is so fascinating.”
The CO’s voice cut in, “Had we left you to it you would’ve stopped with a few lines left to go just to admire their work. I know y-”
I cut him off, “Why are we leaving Megami? Sure she’s a bit of a bitch. But wouldn’t she be useful for the boss?”
“She was reaching her limit, both of them were actually. Controlling that many vibrations at that power and for that long is severely mentally straining. If that doll woman has more stamina than Megami, we all would’ve been fucked. This was the best course of action and you know it.” Terry stated nonchalantly.
“Yeah, but why was Megami screaming like a lunatic then if she was nearly out of commission?” Just before Terry could answer my question, the elevator doors opened.
“Well well well, look at what the cat dragged in, and by dragged in I mean coughed up like a hairball.” I could feel the color drain from my face. It looked just like him, but his voice was different. The familiar blur was more intoxicating than I remembered.
Abraham stepped in front of the rest of us, “Run, it is your only chance for survival.” Then, faster than I could register, Abraham punched the thing in the face, smashing it into what appeared to be a cafeteria. The last place I expected our final stop to be. I booked it the moment after, taking any opportunity I had to get away.
“Where do you think you’re going?” It was right in my ear. That was when I saw a Terry Tentacle whiz right over my head. I kept running until I made it… right back… to the cafeteria?
“What the fuck is going on here?” I asked into the air. I know it was the same place we had entered. There were still the same tables knocked over, and it was the exact same elevator. But no one was there. “Hello?” I asked the same empty stillness.
This time though, there was a response, it was him, echoing in my head. “So, you’re trying to play hero now?” It sounded like it was behind me, I pulled out and swung my dagger behind me. “Has it been fun trying to be all heroic?” I swung my dagger around again. He tackled me to the ground. “How many more must suffer just for you to get vengeance?” I was trying to fight him but I couldn’t move a muscle.
“I don’t want anyone to suffer okay.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered that day. “I just don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.”
“Do you truly think you have fooled anyone? You are selfish by nature. You know as well as I do that that’s not the reason you are here right now. You just want to get revenge by killing me. That’s all this has been, revenge and nothing more. Did you really cry when Jeff died? Could you actually bring yourself to befriend the one who killed your wife? Or was that all a front? Something you put up to block everything out. Do you actually care about anyone?” It was then that I looked around, they were all dead. Terry, Abraham, Jacob, Rachel, The Marines and… Jane…
“You asshole! What, did you take smudge’s powers or something?” No response, “ANSWER ME DAMNIT!” In the blink of an eye, it was all gone.
Terry had four tentacles out, pinning me to the ground. “That was definitely their leader, he didn’t even actually show up. It was a mass illusion, far more powerful than anything Smudge could do. We need to get going and find him.”
“But how do we do that with no way of knowing where he is?”
“Baby steps Joseph, baby steps.” I calmed down a little and Terry let go of me. “Now we need to head out before any more show up. We can’t afford to waste any more time. Not with the entities on this floor.”
We managed to find a path that seemed to lead the right way. Based on Jacob’s scouting, we managed to make it pretty deep into floor 20. It was way too quiet for how big the floor was. It had to be the largest in the entire place. But we hadn’t run into a single entity. “Well this is quite the precarious situation we’ve found ourselves in.” Abraham said while I was catching my breath.
“Whaddya mean by that?” Tucker asked.
“I mean, look around. No sign of life whatsoever. No sign anyone has ever even been down here aside from how clean it is. It’s suspicious to say the least.”
“Well, maybe they didn’t expect us to make it this far? You said they were sending higher threat entities to the upper floors right?” Rachel asked.
Dexter answered her, “There’s a problem with your hypothesis. The first card we used, it cut us off at floor 15 and said the person who was supposed to have it was dead. Had it been keeping track of vitals it wouldn’t have let us on the elevator to begin with. Which means someone must’ve found the body and reported it to whoever controls access. In turn, they would’ve known we had the means to kill threat level 20’s before we got down here. Ultimately, there should be things down here but for one reason or another, there aren’t.”
“Hey, Subject 873, you got-”
The CO was cut off, “I will tell you what I tell everyone else, it’s The Doctor. Call me anything else and I will cleanse you.”
“Eh, yeah sorry bout that. Doctor you got any clue what’s goin on here?” He managed to get his question out without too much hesitation.
“Why would I know anything like that. Jeff is… ahem, Jeff was the only one who worked here. So why would I know anything about the layout of this building?” The Doctor asked.
“Well I mean, with how long you’ve been round, figured you’d know a thing or two. Since you’ve probably seen a thing or two.” The CO trailed off, “D-Do you guys hear that?” Everyone nodded, and after a bit I was able to hear it too.
“Get ready everyone, this is definitely gonna be a level 20 threat,” Terry said, preparing as best he could. I pulled out my pistol, holding it up with two hands. Everyone else was readying for what was about to come
“YAY! More things to burn to a crisp. I can’t wait to taste your charred flesh.” That was definitely the sound of a preteen. By all accounts, he looked like a preteen. He was even wearing clothing to match it. “Oh wait, you’re the intruders right? I was told to be careful of you.” He looked at me, “I need you to not die, okay? Can you do that for me by any chance?”
I was confused, and I didn’t understand what he meant. “What do you mean? I’m just some guy. Why wouldn’t your boss want one of them alive.” I gestured to everyone else.
He snickered, “It’s not the boss that wants you alive. I just love the sound of a human who’s lost all hope, scream. The meat’s not too shabby either.”
“You’re disgustin, but someone I can handle.” Tucker said, walking over to the child. “Get your ass over here poindexter.” Dexter caught up to him immediately, they each readied a rifle, that looked almost like the pistol Tucker had handed me. They each fired a few rounds, but the kid created fire with a simple wave of his hands. As the fire dissipated, we saw he was uninjured.
“Don’t be stupid, we can handle a squirt like this.” The Doctor said.
Terry agreed, “He’s right, just let Abraham handle it or something. I’ve seen your organization fight weaker and lose.”
“Terry, let them do this. Sure they may be weak when it comes to physical strength. But when they fight something that is about as strong physically as your average human, they put up quite the fight.” Abraham verbally retaliated.
“I can’t say I have faith in them. This kid is a pyromancer, he’s not exactly the weakest one in the world either.” Terry had just finished his sentence when Tucker started talking again.
“Y’know, I’ve beat the shit outta a lot of things, a lot of things that look like people too. You ain’t human, and you ain’t gonna make me think otherwise.” Tucker finished loading a new mag into his rifle, as did Dexter, “There’s a lotta different metals in the world, ya know that?”
The kid actually answered him, though it was with a sarcastic tone, “97 is a big number. You think you can count that high?”
“Y’know, outta all those metals, we’ve discovered one that no pyromancer has managed to melt. No matter how much time they put into meltin’ it, they just can never quite burn that fire hot enough. You think you know what that metal is?”
Tucker was on the verge of monologuing it seemed until the kid answered yet again, “What? Why would I know that? Seems kind of pointless don’t you think?”
“All you pyromancers are the same. Never think with your head cause your fire is so hot you think it can melt anything.”
Before Tucker could finish his rambling, the kid made some hand gestures, next thing I knew, Tucker was lit ablaze. “Maaaaaan, humans are so lame. What about you other robot man? Do you wanna play with me?” Tucker walked out of the fire like it was nothing, “Tungsten,” was all he said. “What?” The kid asked, confused by both Tucker not being injured, as well as what he said. “What do you mean tungsten?”
Tucker responded, “Tungsten is the only metal that pyromancers like yourself can’t melt. You’d think it’d be Mythril cause of the magical properties n what not. But out of all the pyromancers I’ve seen, tungsten is the one metal none of y’all can melt.”
“What’s your point?” The kid spat, like what Tucker said had left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Well, I’m not melted, neither is my gun, and neither,” He shot three bullets in rapid succession, the kid tried to block, but the fire quickly dissipated, “are my bullets.” He attempted to blow off the barrel of his gun. Either he forgot he still had a helmet on, or it was just to try and look cool. “Sorry Dexty, thought that one would be more like… well, you know.”
Dexter nodded, “Never call me Dexty, ever, again.”
Tucker nodded back, “Sure thing, tasted gross comin out my mouth anyway.” When I looked over, the body had a single bullet in the head, and there were two bullet holes in the wall to his right.
“Dude, we finally caught up to you guys. It was like, a total pain getting down here.” A familiar surfer bro voice cut in through the silence, “Hold up, who are these guys? They look like total douchebags.” Smudge was behind him and from what I could see, Chad was unharmed, I couldn’t tell if smudge was though.
“Oh shit, you’re finally back, I was getting worried about you two.” I said, a bit more excited than I meant to sound.
“Joseph, it’s not them.” Terry said.
“Bro, what’re you talking about, we’re like, totally us. Who else would we be dumbass.”
“Strike two.” Terry said under his… breath? “Okay then, what’s the square root of pi squared.”
Chad hesitated, then responded, “It’s pi duh.”
“Strike three.” Terry finally took the time to turn around, “You’re an illusion aren’t you.” Chad grinned, and smudge disappeared, “Before you ask I’ll just tell you, first off, Chad wouldn’t be able to make it down here even with smudge, if he could, he definitely wouldn’t be unharmed. Secondly, Chad doesn’t talk shit to me, and he’s never called me a dumbass that's for sure.” He changed his tone to the same smugness Abraham always had, “Chad wouldn’t be able to figure that question out so quickly.”
Terry finished and the Chadalike began clapping, “Wow dude, I’m impressed. Sure this body may just be like, a minor illusion and all. But it usually fools even low ranked entities. Guess there’s no getting anything by the man the myth the legend Kenet.” Terry was managing to hold his anger back, “Oh what’s the matter bro, you’re starting to look a little mad. Tell ya what, if you can find me, the real me. I’ll totally fight you for realsies.” With that, the Chadpostor disappeared.
I walked over to Terry and patted him, around the general lower back area, “Don’t worry man, he’ll pay for calling you by that shit.”
It sounded like he somehow had gritted teeth, “Oh I know. I’ll make sure his death is slow and painful. That bastard’s gonna get what’s coming to him.
We continued traversing the halls for what felt like a half hour before we finally came to what we thought was it. “Is this guy trying to look like a stereotypical villain?” I asked.
“There’s definitely a hint of villain to it if my years of huntin down paranormal shit is anythin to go by..” Tucker said.
“It’s like he wants us to find him or something honestly. Sure it took us a while, but seriously.” Rachel added.
“Well I mean, if you’re going to be a villain, might as well showcase it.” The Doctor retorted before Terry butted in.
“Yeah, it’s a red door with a black skull that has flames coming out of it. I don’t care, let's just take this guy out so I can go back to normalcy.” He seemed more irritable than usual. I mean, even after fighting Takeo he wasn’t like this.
“Hey, Doc,” I whispered, but all he did was sigh, “What’s up with Terry man?”
“I’m not entirely sure in all honesty. If you couldn’t tell, Terry isn’t exactly the type of person to share his feelings.”
“Fair point.” With that at an end, I readied my pistol.
Tucker handed me an extra mag, “These’re hollow point rounds. When they peel open on impact, they’ll release even more of you know what, than them FMJ rounds.”
“Whatever is on the other side of this door, don’t hold back. Especially you Terry.” Jacob said.
Just before Abraham charged the door yelling, “FOR NARNIA!” The rest of us follow in after him, seeing a chair at the end of a long villainy table.
“Oh come on dude, you aren’t even trying at this point! Just turn around!” I blurted out right as I saw the most villainous of villain chairs. After slight hesitation, it did in fact turn around. What sat there, looked... familiar. That blur that Abraham chased after, the one we saw as we got off the elevator, the blur that looked just like Smudge.
“I suppose it was only a matter of time before you all showed up. What would you like me to say? The jig is up?” The thing asked as though this were all some prank.
“You know damn well why we’re here. Don’t act like this was just some harmless internet scam. We’re here to make you answer for what you’ve done.” Terry said, getting taller as static filled the vacant sound.
He answered rather quickly, “Oh really? You are all going to make ME answer for what I’VE done? Says the one who quite literally murders children if they wander too far from home.” Tucker was about to interject but the thing only spoke louder, “And he’s with a group that murders innocent entities because they were given orders too.” He projectile vomited the words as he spoke. Then he turned to Abraham, “A zombie who saps the energy from surrounding souls to keep living, just to get one more day of life.” The Doctor was his next target, “A plague doctor who turned to darker arts because he couldn’t keep a single patient from dying.” Then to Jacob, “A skinwalker who murdered his family just to sacrifice them to a being that didn’t exist. Only to later be confronted with the power he so desperately craved.” Then Rachel, “A woman who just wanted to bring her little sister back to life after accidentally killing her. Only to find out that no matter how many people she killed, you can’t bring a soul back to a body.” Finally, the inevitable, “The 9-5 office worker who could’ve prevented his wife’s death, had he only just listened. Now, he walks through life, hollow and alongside murderers.” He paused, “Guess that was pretty spot on if none of you are coming after me right now. How close to home could I come if I really wanted to. Poor ol’ Tucker, never managed to please his father you know?” He said looking in my general vicinity, “Never could get his dad to believe in him, then one day, he comes home and his dad is dead. But the real twist is that’s what got him into what he told his good ol’ dad he’d never do for him. Tragi-”
I cut him off by firing 4 rounds from my pistol at him, “You bastard, shut the hell up!”
He was gone as soon as they left the barrel.
“Don’t you remember how this works pitiful human? Sorry I meant Joseph.” Right as he said that I felt wind as powerful as a hurricane fly past my face. I saw everything like normal now, apparently Tucker had nearly pulverized my head, his fist millimeters away from my head. The bullets that I’d fired were firmly planted into Dexter’s chest plate, thankfully he wasn’t dead. Great Value Smudge wasn’t anywhere obvious though. That was when it finally hit me, the illusion wore off right as Tucker was about to punch me in the face.
“Hey dickhead, I was an orange belt.” I elbowed right behind me, surprisingly, it actually made contact. When I turned around, I saw a leaned over dollar menu Smudge. He sputtered out a “Fuck you” before everything seemingly went back to reality. “Oh come on, I’m tired of all this inception bullshit, just come out and fight us like a man.” I looked behind me again and he was there... again. “Wait what the hell is going on?”
The Doctor answered me, “Well I did give you at least two different steroids to speed up how fast your muscle tissue repaired, but even that shouldn’t have been enough.” As you continued to look down at the man, the smudgey texture began to dissipate, revealing a frail old man.
“Just take me then, you’re with the USPM right?” The old man said now with a voice that matched his appearance to a T. He was looking at the soldiers as he said it, and I’d never heard the acronym before. I looked it up but I doubt they’re from the one that shows up. Special ops is my guess.
“Hey, hold on. We came to talk to you before anything else. Why was there a contract placed on my wife?” I couldn’t manage a tear this time, my emotions were probably shot from everything that had gone down in a matter of hours. “Why would anyone have placed a contract on her?”
“I can tell you one thing, but I swore an oath not to disclose information on clients. I will leave you with this and that’s all. You’ve already met them, it was between two odds.” After a short pause, he finished, “Alright boys, take me away.”
“With pleasure,” Was all the CO said, before injecting a clear liquid into one of the old man’s fading veins.
We left the same way we came in, though it seemed one thing the old man did before being sedated, was put everyone but us to sleep. Thankfully, he had a master card were able to use, because that porcelain woman’s card wasn’t working. We stopped at floor 16 with the elevator to pick up Megami who was out cold but still breathing. Next stop was floor ten since it wouldn’t go any higher. I was amazed by the sheer number of entities this thing was able to force into unconsciousness. Smudge had a hard enough time blocking us from other entity's vision. That was when I realized, that old man likely could’ve had us kill ourselves if he really wanted to. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. Hell he even put everyone to sleep for us, when he had absolutely nothing to gain from it. It’s possible he wasn’t the bad guy in all of this, but if that’s the case, there must be a whole shadow government or something.
Eventually, we finally came across the floor I was terrified to step foot on again. He was lying there, no more alive than when we left him there. Terry picked him up with his hands to carry Jeff, the not so bad killer out of this wreck of a bunker. One final stop came before us, I had no idea if they would be alive. But when we got to where we left them, they were both there, Smudge was surprisingly still conscious, Chad was not though. Nods were exchanged and we exited the bunker at long last.
“Hey Johnny, we need an extraction, lost an arm but we captured our target. I also need you to relay what I’m about to tell you to Sergeant Major Witney, We have the required subject and are currently waiting on extraction. We need to keep an eye out for J.” Jacob finished his report over his radio, shortly after there was a pitch black helicopter overhead that had a few ropes dangling from it. They were the only reason I knew it was just me hearing things. “Well boys, you gave me an entirely new outlook on things. It was nice workin with you.” I could’ve sworn I heard him say something else under his breath, but it was inaudible. And just like that, they were gone.
“Well, what are we gonna do now then? The person who put the contract on Jane is still out there. We don’t even know where they are for crying out loud.”
“Joseph, leave that to tomorrow’s you. It may have only been 5 hours, but I guarantee that was the most physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain you’ve ever put on yourself. I’m surprised you aren’t out cold right now in all honesty.” Terry had a knack for speaking things into existence. But there were any number of things that could’ve knocked me out at the time. Rachel using supernatural chloroform, Terry strangling me, Abraham smacking me over the head, hell it could’ve been that Smudge making me fall asleep.
Whatever it was, all I can remember thinking to myself was, “What a strange place to put a lighthouse.” As I looked out at the ocean before my world went black.
The next day, or maybe the day after next? Who the hell knows? Anyway, when I woke up after however long had passed I immediately stood up, only then realizing how bad of an idea it was as I collapsed back onto my bed from the numbness in my legs. “Terrrrryyyyyyyy… TEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYY!”
He burst through my room after the second “Terry” yelling, “What is it?” He seemed rather annoyed.
I felt way better than I had in so long and I couldn’t figure out why, “Hey man, how ya doin?” Oh shit. Was I high?
“I know doc gave you some pills and he said there’d be side affects but this is ridiculous.”
I started talking like I was asking him to tell me a secret, while very high and loopy, “Pssst, T-man… Psssssssst whaddya got on dem posters huh?”
“Guess you’ll have to find that out on your own won’t you?”
submitted by 4ShotBot to NaturesTemper