The clock tower comes to rest on the land again. Valakar and Gemma look out on a very different landscape. The city of Anthracite has been built up in clearly Pandemonic fashion, with massive factories belching out smog that coats the sky. Several Pandaemonic skyships hover over the city — transports near the work districts, a smaller vessel by the built-up skytower, and what even appears to be a flagship.
As they’re getting their bearings, a familiar teleport flash appears next to them: Lupine, in wolf form and somewhat grayer around the edges. “It’s about time. You’ve been gone twenty years.”
He explains the situation:
- The attack on the gate-hub proceeded without them, and it failed; though Lupine was too young to go along, he heard it was betrayed by someone bearing a star.
- He had a hard time reverting to his original age, which is why he’s younger than he should be.
- They gained a divination that told them when the clock tower would return; Lupine brought his team (and he warns them they’ll be familiar) in hopes that they could help find a way to change the course of time.
Lupine teleports the group out before the occupying Pandaemonic soldiers can investigate. They’re met outdoors by one of Lupine’s partners — Razor Barjack, formerly of the Purebloods. Whey ask if there’s a way to cloak the tower, Barjack can’t propose anything more effective than finding a very large sheet to throw over it.
“She, ah, said she was going to fetch something.”
“Dammit! I keep telling her to follow orders.”
They move through the streets to the safe house. The citizens of Anthracite don’t pay attention to them — many of them wear closed helms that seem to control them, derivations of the Gemini-class Magistrate armor. The safe house itself is sited in a hospital that’s fallen into disuse under the new order. Another member of Lupine’s team is waiting there — Pulsator, the Nexus Pact owl-hawkman, the team’s expert on arcana. Pulsator goes into more detail about the state of the world.
- The Pandaemonics commandeered the imperial ships, and used them to infiltrate and run an attack on the four capitals.
- The world is currently in Interregnum: the Tiger Heir is still missing, the Phoenix Majestrix has gone into her egg state, and the Dragon Emperor and Tortoise Regent have fallen into slumber.
- The Tablets of Wisdom and Courage are sealed, and no new Exemplars or Tiger Generals can be recruited.
- The Tablets of Justice were taken along with the Ebonheim capital, and the Pandaemonics found a way to place the Ebon Legion under their control.
The talk slows when the final rebel shows up — Smiling Kate, with an older helmed citizen under his arm. She bickers with her teammates over her unscheduled acquisition, and Valakar and Gemma can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the former Pureblood lunatic. “The situation creates strange bedfellows,” rumbles Lupine, and Smiling Kate gives him a swat on the rump for emphasis.
Kate’s “prisoner” turns out to be Magistrate Chuyin, who is able to tell them a bit more once she recovers from her fugue. The helmets used to control the populace are indeed derived from the Gemini armor design, and must receive some sort of control pulse. Local in origin, probably, and they contemplate the possibilities.
Valakar and Pulsator get to work planning a way to make the clock tower travel through time again. Obviously, it’ll need parts to complete the repairs Methusalon Epoch was demanding (and to fix the damage Valakar and Gemma caused). It will also need a power source to replace Epoch’s own power, and a guidance system of some sort to allow a non-chronomancer to steer it. The Pandaemonic airships might offer the latter two options, though it’ll be dangerous.
Gemma complains that she hasn’t eaten in twenty years. The former Purebloods tell her that at least everyone eats under the new regime, though the doughy gray blocks extruded by the feeding stations are less than appetizing. Gemma looks at one and says mournfully “I’m going to stare to death here.” Lupine tells Barjack to give her some of his food, and he brings out a basket of mushrooms that he’d scavenged in the woods.
They decide that an optimal distraction would be destroying the control node broadcasting to the populace. A bit of super-speed triangulation with the modified helmet indicates that the node is in the over-built central government building. Lupine dispatches his allies to gather the raw parts for repairs, while the Tiger Generals move to City Hall.
The three gather a few helmets from the populace and disable the receptor engraving within. They use them for disguise, and bluff their way past the guards. The Pandaemonics are still complacent, and it’s easy to reach the control room. There a massive bull-like officer — Baphomoch, Mulciber’s General of the Land — paces around, accompanied by a helmed woman that seems to be a mind-slaved Lancer Quadra.
A viewcrystal projects the image of a tall, powerful Pandaemonic woman, armored and carrying a number of fine Gehennon armaments. Lupine immediately recognizes Baalona, the daughter of Overlord Mulciber. Baalona informs Baphomoch that the Overlord of the Forge now wants Quadra; it’s finally time to disassemble the elemental engine in her chest and see if it can be replicated. Baphomoch agrees, and once the communication ends, the Tiger Generals lock the door and remove the helms. As Baphomoch takes stock of them, Lupine transforms.
Gemma goes immediately to the crystal, and throws a ferocious kick that cracks it. Quadra staggers, and Gemma shifts to helping Valakar scatter the lesser soldiers. Baphomoch shrugs off the first couple of hits, and starts knocking Lupine around. The good doctor isn’t a match for the Pandaemonic general on his own, but he stalls long enough. An electrical punch and a series of unblockable strikes slam into Baphomoch, and the general reels. Lupine teleports into the air above him, and brings all his momentum into a downward raking slash. The general’s armor holds, and his dense skin isn’t even broken — but he falls forward.
They finish the job smashing the broadcast structure, and with Lancer Quadra in tow, they evacuate. The city is in chaos as the Pandaemonics attempt to regain control of the now free-willed populace. They take the opportunity to steal the smaller airship, as the flagship is erupting in chaos as well — apparently Lancer Quadra wasn’t the only Ebon Legionnaire in town. They park the ship by the tower, where they meet the others with a wagon full of parts.
There’s no time to waste on repairs. Kate offers to run distraction by causing mayhem, and Barjack follows her. Captain Doel is able to make the modifications in record time, largely thanks to Gemma’s high-speed and remarkably focuses assistance. Pulsator wishes them luck and excuses himself as the work nears completion.
The haggard future Alec Lupine also wishes them luck in making sure that a better timeline comes to pass. He then teleports away, and Valakar throws the switch. The clock tower lurches, and then falls backward through time.