Turning the corner she spotted Kr’anri curled up in the corner of the cave, lines of tension clearly visible on her small body. Kr’anri’s plaintive and broken whimpers echoed softly through the cave. Her body jerked intermittently, each spasm releasing powerful psychic waves. Mentella rushed over and placed both her hands on either side of Kr’anri’s head; she closed her eyes as she entered Kr’anri’s mind. Mentella formed a provisional psychic link with Kr’anri and manifested herself, in Kr’anri’s mind.
A few moments later, she focused as she attempted to locate Kr’anri, who was nowhere in sight. Mentella looked around Kr’anri’s psyche, it resembled that of her home world forest and it currently was in complete disarray, the yellow and red palm trees were either smouldering, on fire or had been subject to sharp weaponry which had hacked away at their trunks. The ground she stood on was rife with burn marks, craters and broken earth. A sudden, unfamiliar voice caught Mentella's attention.
“TRESPASSER!!" it screamed.
She looked up just in time to see a flat surface moving at high speed milliseconds from her face; a sharp impact struck her, severing the psychic link as her head snapped back from the impact. She blinked a few times as she willed away the sudden shock of the impact before moving back to her previous position; she placed both hands on the side of Kr’anri’s head again and formed a psychic link once again, now aware of the hostile force within Kr’anri’s mind.
Once fully manifested Mentella narrowly dodged a bladed weapon that was swung her way, time seemed to slow as she saw the weapon slice through the air a few inches above her. Pushing herself back up, she turned to view her assailant; the psychic entity seemed to be Prosythian in nature but towered over Mentella, its imaginal physique boasted broad shoulders and impressive muscles; it seemed to be armoured with psychokinetic armour. It stepped forward and snarled at Mentella;
“The Trespasser returns?!" it screamed.
“So, you are The Collective?” Mentella asked.
“You assume right, Telepath. We will assume command of this vessel in due course, BUT, we do not welcome you here!” The Collective spat.
The Collective being formed the weapon once more and swung it in Mentella’s direction. Mentella acted quickly manifesting a bladed staff and swung it round, generating enough opposing force to counter the incoming weapon. Her eyes blazed magenta as the two opposing weapons came into contact with each other, the resultant impact causing powerful ringing to sound throughout Kr’anri’s mindscape. The Collective looked confused as a small smirk crept onto its opponents face, it looked down to its weapon which now sported various cracks; magenta psionic energy seeping out of them. The weapon suddenly crumbled, dissipating completely in its hands. The Collective being backed away from Mentella and her intimidating staff.
“Impossible…the power of a thousand psychic minds…” murmured The Collective
“Amounts to less than nothing in comparison to my own. Where is Kr’anri?” frowned Mentella
“Somewhere you cannot access without harming her.” snarled The Collective
Mentella’s took a moment to focus on Kr’anri’s psychic signature, whilst weak it was still discernible to her.
Kr’anri was on the Astral Plane.
Mentella projected her thoughts to Kr'anri from the mindscape.
“Kr’anri? Kr’anri I am on my way, hold on. I’ll be with you shortly.” ~ Mentella
The Collective glared at Mentella and chuckled darkly; projecting its own thoughts towards Kr’anri.
“She fills your head with lies Little Hunter; we will assimilate you into the Hive before she can hope to reach you.” ~ The Collective
The Collective took a stance and charged at Mentella, she steeled herself, brandishing her weapon as it drew closer; it leapt forward and vanished in a flash of white light. With The Collective nowhere in sight, she withdrew from Kr’anri’s mind and opened her eyes; Mentella stood up and backed away from Kr’anri who was now enveloped in a fiery blue psychic aura, her voice a cross between her normal voice and the deep voice of The Collective.
“We will destroy her, but you. You must go first! We will fight and crush you!”
Kr’anri’s body lashed out at Mentella, a flurry of claws and feet were quickly met by a resilient psychokinetic barrier which enveloped Mentella.
“If it’s a fight you are after, I am only too happy to oblige.” she stated.
Kr’anri’s body dropped to the floor and stilled; realizing that The Collective had transferred itself to the Astral Plane, Mentella strengthened her psychokinetic barrier in the event of further physical attack. She assumed a meditative pose and crossed her legs; her telepathic corona adorned her head as her astral form left her body and performed a jump to the Astral Plane.
Kr’anri scrambled away from the approaching figure; The Collective chuckled darkly as she attempted to escape.
“You waste energy in attempting to escape, Little Hunter. Join us and do not worry, it will hurt us more than you.” ~ The Collective
Kr’anri whimpered as she saw The Collective once again take on the face of her dead sister, Kr’yshte.
“Kr’anri thinks you are lying…Kr’anri says no, do not do this Kr’yshte!” she cried.
The Collective did not answer her but instead its hands morphed into pendulum blades as she drew closer to Kr’anri. The Collective raised its right hand into the air, preparing to strike and Kr’anri’s eyes went wide.
An astral high heel slammed into The Collective’s face, sending it careering backwards across the astral plane, The Collective’s body scraping across the floor. Kr’anri’s eyes widened further as she looked up to see Mentella’s astral Form standing in front of her. The Collective groaned as is stumbled to its feet before snarling at Mentella.
“Mentella! Kr’anri wishes to help fight!” ~ Kr’anri
Mentella knelt down and addressed Kr’anri, whilst keeping tabs on the still disorientated Collective being;
“Kr’anri, you’ve done enough and I’m grateful, but this is something I have to do alone. If The Collective so much as touches you, it will consume you. That is something I cannot allow, for this reason I’m going to put a protective barrier around you, to keep you safe.” ~ Mentella
Even as the words were heard by Kr’anri a dome of astral energy formed around Kr’anri, shielding her from the rest of the Astral Plane; Kr’anri raised a palm against the shield as Mentella turned to face The Collective. Her eyes burned magenta as she manifested two wickedly curved astral blades and walked towards The Collective.
“Telepath. You realize only one of us will win this battle, there will be no standstill. Leave. Now.” ~ The Collective
“You have severely overestimated yourself if you believe you can harm one of my students and escape intact." ~ Mentella
“To the end then!” ~ The Collective
“My sentiments precisely.” ~ Mentella
The Collective forged a large staff; at each end of the staff were two flaming blades. It spun the staff above its head and growled before slamming the weapon into the ground, unleashing several waves of energy. The destructive waves tore through the astral plane as they headed towards Mentella. Kr’anri squealed in delight as Mentella expertly dodged the incoming attacks before launching her own. Mentella jumped high into the air and spun continually as her swords became little more than a blur as she spun towards The Collective. Her swords sliced into the astral shield surrounding The Collective, she pushed harder as the swords shattered the shield, slicing into The Collective’s raised forearm; it roared in pain as its other hand morphed into a large cuboid shape, slamming into Mentella. The impact from the weapon sending Mentella flying backwards, she twisted in the air and flipped back, landing in a crouched position and looked up at The Collective.
As she did, a large blade came crashing down towards her, it was fast but she was faster, she dodged to her left as the blade embedded itself in the floor. The Collective growled and swung around in the opposite direction, a sizable blade sliced through the air towards her only to slam into the solid reality of Mentella’s astral shield. The Collective pushed against her shield, barring its teeth as it attempted to break the shield with repeated strikes. Upon realizing that the shield would not shatter, The Collective jumped back a few feet and caused its weapon to dissipate. Mentella dissipated her shield and steeled herself as The Collective ran towards her, throwing a series of vicious punches at her.
Kr’anri looked on in surprise as Mentella avoided harm, dodging or outright blocking several of the blows. The Collective continued its unrelenting assault, progressively getting angrier with the lack of success it was having. The Collective spun around in an attempt to land a powerful backhand strike, which was brought to an impressive halt as Mentella caught it and exerted extra force as she dragged The Collective being, which was now off balance towards her and slammed her foot into its jaw, sending it backwards as it fell towards the ground. Mentella stood over it, a long fiery astral sword extending out of the palm of her hand; the tip of the sword pushed against the neck of The Collective as she looked down at it.
“Yield and I won’t be forced to destroy you.” ~ Mentella
The Collective looked up and snarled at her,
“I WILL consume the Little Hunter; there is no other foreseeable outcome!” ~ The Collective
Mentella narrowed her eyes and pulled back before driving the sword forward, The Collective rolled to the side narrowly missing the swords edge as it plunged into the ground; it jumped back up as it fashioned a dual-pronged spear above its head and brought it crashing over its head;
“KR’ANRI SAYS WATCH OUT!!” ~ Kr'anri
Time seemed to slow as Mentella forged a spear of her own, holding it firmly above her head as both weapons collided. The colossal shockwave ripped through the Astral Plane; their combined energies putting a hefty crack in the shield around Kr’anri. Kr’anri whimpered as she backed away from the crack in the shield, Mentella chanced a look behind her as she heard Kr’anri’s whimper and attempted to repair the shield whilst holding off against her opponent. The Collective quickly took advantage of the opportunity and stepped back to thrust its spear into Mentella’s unprotected abdomen. Mentella winced as she snapped back to face The Collective, it forced the spear deeper into her abdomen and used the spear to raise her to its face level. Mentella hung almost lifelessly from the spear. The Collective grinned at Mentella:
“You have lost, Telepath. You have witnessed true power, and now The Little Hunter is ours.” ~ The Collective
Kr’anri looked on, too stunned to react. An overwhelming feeling of loss washed over her as she saw Mentella slumped over the end of The Collective's weapon, the tip of the blade sticking out from her back. She turned away from the sight and closed her eyes. Suddenly she heard Mentella's voice, as strong as ever. Kr'anri turned back around to see several ribbons of magenta psychic energy flow out from the wound.
Mentella looked up and a predatory smile cracked across her features, her eyes burning brightly as she spoke;
“Oh please, I’ve never been that easy.” ~ Mentella
The Collective’s eyes widened as its spear shone with magenta astral energy before shattering into a thousand pieces. It looked down toward the entry wound on Mentella’s abdomen, only to see it actively reforming and repairing itself. She floated in the same place as The Collective stumbled back. Mentella’s astral form burned with pure psychic energy as she looked down at her opponent, striking pure terror into its heart.
“The fun and games end now. You believe that was true power? Well then, let me enlighten you.” ~ Mentella.
The astral plane started to almost pulse and shake as Mentella’s face briefly took on a small smile. The astral plane continued to shake and glow, Kr'anri shielded her eyes from the sheer intensity as bloodcurdling scream was ripped from The Collective’s throat. Kr'anri opened her eyes as the shield around her dissipated. She looked around to see The Collective’s armor gone and the creature crawled away in a vain attempt to escape Mentella.
“Telepath...Y-You would kill for a mere student?” ~ The Collective
“My students, my friends or my family, there is very little distinction in my eyes. Anyone who threatens the safety of my students will without fail suffer at my hands. Let this be your final lesson.” ~ Mentella
Kr'anri looked on as a spiked blade of astral energy shot out from Mentella’s palm and began cutting into to The Collective as it writhed in pain, she calmly sliced through the entity, soon quelling its terrifying screams as she sliced through completely. Moments later it exploded in a burst of astral energy. Kr'anri looked to Mentella’s astral form; her telepathic corona clearly displayed on her head and her astral form exuded power. Kr'anri cautiously approached Mentella;
“K-Kr'anri says hello Mentella?” ~ Kr'anri
Mentella regarded Kr'anri for a moment before recognition flashed in her eyes and she knelt down, giving Kr'anri a small smile:
“Kr'anri, how are you feeling?” ~ Mentella.
“Kr’anri is feeling scared and surprised. How is Skyfire not dead?! Why does Skyfire hair not fight like this always?!?!” ~ Kr'anri.
“I simply choose not to. It just isn’t necessary; to most people I’m not seen as a fighter. I have no problem with people still believing that. And it's not that easy to hurt me, let alone kill me on the Astral Plane.” ~ Mentella
“But…Kr'anri saw you fight! Kr'anri thinks it was amazing! Kr'anri wants to know! Where is Collective? Kr'anri will see it again?” ~ Kr’anri
Mentella shook her head at Kr'anri as her telepathic corona and her astral staff dissipated. She extended a hand towards Kr’anri.
“I was forced to destroy it. Follow me; we have a few matters to attend to.” ~ Mentella
Kr'anri nodded and took the outstretched hand; she closed her eyes as they performed an astral jump. She opened them once more and found herself and Mentella in a white room with countless panels encircling them, each one with the face of a different Prosythian. Kr'anri’s eyes widened.
“One thousand and four Prosythian minds exist as part of The Hive Mind. And they are still here, inextricably tied to The Hive Mind.” ~ Mentella
“Kr’anri wants to know; Can Skyfi-Mentella cannot remove them from her?” ~ Kr'anri
“I could, but it would take time. If it isn’t done correctly, psychic echoes of these individuals could haunt your mind and drive you mad.” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri looked out towards the encircling panels, and reached out as they passed through her hand.
“There are two ways to resolve this problem. I can transfer these all into the collective hive mind and lock them away; this will strip you of all but the most basic form of telepathy, communication.” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri visibly recoiled when she heard that idea, she waved her hand dismissively,
“Kr’anri thinks that is a bad thing. Kr’anri does not want it.” ~ Kr'anri
“Well the other option is to fuse the other two of the Prosythian caste’s with your own psyche, this will allow you to have access to their memories and abilities, but this will come at the cost of a portion of your own power.” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri’s features twisted slightly as she thought about it before nodding happily. Mentella raised a hand and the panels stopped moving, arranging themselves into three groups.
“Do any of these groups look familiar to you? I’m aware that there are three different castes, which one do you belong to?” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri grinned and pointed to the middle group,
“Kr’anri knows these! Kr’anri belongs here! Kr’anri is a hunter!” ~ Kr’anri
She trilled happily before looking back up to Mentella, who seemed to be in the process of extracting some sort of energy from the three groups. Kr’anri watched as three strands of astral energy were drawn out of the three groups, she felt a small pull from her core as a fourth strand of energy wormed its way out of her towards the sphere of energy which had formed in Mentella’s open palm.
“Kr’anri wants to know what is going on?” ~ Kr’anri
“In order for the Hive Mind to no longer project psychic echoes at you, I’m fusing the three caste psyches together. It seems that the brief PSI training you had impeded and suppressed one of your natural abilities, namely precognition. Your own psyche does not have enough memory of it in order to reawaken the ability so I’m going to have to perform an extra fusion. Are there any skills you’d like to gain from both castes?” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri nodded and took a moment to think before responding,
“Kr’anri would like to fight like a Warrior! And see like a Prophet!” ~ Kr’anri
Mentella nodded and raised both of her hands to her temples, pressing her index and middle fingers on the side of her head as she focused on the psyche fusion. She opened one eye to see Kr’anri standing around aimlessly, fidgeting slightly.
“You know, on this plane of existence you can interact with your people. Simply tap the screens and they’ll manifest here. You don’t need to fear them either, they aren’t like The Collective.” ~ Mentella
No sooner had Mentella explained that, the room was filled with numerous chatting and laughing as Kr’anri summoned countless Prosythians onto the Astral Plane. Kr’anri squealed happily as she chased and was chased by other Prosythians. Mentella settled into a meditative pose as she continued the process, her thoughts suddenly cut into by a high pitched shout;
“Mentella should play!!” ~ Kr’anri
“Thank you for the invitation, but it’s best that I focus on the task at hand.” ~ Mentella
“Kr’anri says if you do not play you have lost!” ~ Kr’anri
Kr’anri giggled to herself as she resumed the game with her fellow Prosythians.
SOME TIME LATER
Mentella uncrossed her legs and stood up from her meditative pose, a small glowing purple ball of energy floated up to her eye level, the energy sphere then hovered towards her outstretched hand;
“Kr’anri, it’s time to go, I’ve completed the process.” ~ Mentella
“Kr’anri does not want to leave…” ~ Kr’anri
“You’ll be able to visit them again, I’ve linked the Hive Mind consciousness to your memory system with a psychic barrier in place, so you can visit them whenever you like.” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri smiled as she waved to her people; they smiled back as they vanished from the astral plane. She noted the sphere Mentella was holding and frowned.
“Kr’anri wants to know what that is.” ~ Kr’anri
“This is an astral representation of a fused Prosythian psyche, super condensed of course. Once we leave the astral plane and return to your mind, I’ll be able to make this part of you. It will feel strange at first but I’ve added a guide, if you will, to help you through the process.” ~ Mentella
Mentella extended her hand toward Kr’anri, Kr’anri latched on as they returned to Kr’anri’s mindscape. Her mindscape seemed to have repaired somewhat and echoes of her Prosythian brothers and sisters drifted eerily, like astral echoes through the imagined realm of her mind.
“I’d advise you to brace yourself, this will completely change the way your mind interacts with…well reality and your body.” ~ Mentella
“What does this mean for Kr’anri?” ~ Kr’anri
“From what I’ve fused, you’ll have access to a form of psychokinetic weaponry and clairvoyance. This is alongside your natural precognitive ability, which was salvageable thankfully. On the other hand, in exchange for these abilities you’ll only be able to perform basic telepathic feats such as attack or communication. At least for the time being. There is room for growth and healing, so in the future, you will be able to reprise your original suit of telepathic abilities in addition to the aspects of both Prophet and Warrior caste abilities.” ~ Mentella
Kr’anri turned to Mentella fully and latched onto her leg, grinning wildly;
“Kr’anri understands. Kr’anri would like to offer her thanks to Mentella!” ~ Kr’anri
Mentella looked down and smiled slightly,
"It was my pleasure." ~ Mentella
Kr’anri watched as Mentella’s presence vanished as she left her mind and then propelled herself back to reality.
Kr’anri opened her eyes in time to see the astral version of Mentella return with her body, the psychokinetic shield around Mentella’s physical body dissipated as she opened her eyes and looked at Kr’anri.
“Kr’anri feels strange…” frowned Kr’anri
“Yes, you will do for a few moments. I’ve imparted some of my own psychokinetic weapon knowledge into your mind, so you’ll find it easier to access these abilities. As for your clairvoyant abilities, those will take getting used to. I spoke to a Prophet who explained that by nature the visions of the future you see are sporadic at best, so I’d advise you to notify Delta as soon as you can.” Mentella replied.
“Kr’anri will do this.” she nodded.
Mentella turned away as she spoke quietly into a com-link. Kr’anri grinned as she generated a variety of weapons before squealing in delight.
“Ooh! Kr’anri likes this one!” she grinned, examining the construct.
Mentella turned around to see Kr’anri’s claws sheathed in cerulean psychokinetic energy shaped to increase the length of her natural claws. Kr’anri dissipated the claws as she walked with Mentella to the cave entrance, making contented sounds as she fashioned a variety of strange weapons and objects with her new found powers. As the approached the entrance, UNTIL troops seemed to be swarming around the cave and by extension a large portion of the island. A group of five UNTIL Soldiers ran over, Kr’anri scrambled behind Mentella’s leg, peeking out as they drew closer.
“Dr. Summerstone, are y-” started one of the soldiers.
“Yes I’m fine. I assume the operation here is going as planned?” she interrupted.
“Aside from having some pissy VIPER and ARGENT troops, everything is pretty much working according to plan.” he replied.
He looked down to see Kr’anri’s auburn locks and round yellow eyes peeking out from behind Mentella’s leg. He opened his mouth to ask about her but was promptly dismissed as Mentella spoke first.
“Good, you may go about your business.” she nodded.
Mentella walked past the group with Kr’anri, walking through the forest until they came back to Ironclad and Major Okonkwo who seemed to have very little recollection of the past couple of hours. Mentella stopped as she reached the pier;
“Oh for goodness sake…” she sighed
Isabella Maronni had spotted her and came rushing over.
“We did it! I was able to call in help and you solved the issue! We should team up more often, you’d make a superb addition to Project Mindgame, I could put in a good word you know?” rambled Isabella
Mentella gave Isabella a strained smile,
“I think once is quite enough, I don’t foresee such a psychic disturbance happening any time soon. As for Project Mindgame, I’ve been approached on numerous occasions and my answer remains the same. Goodbye.” Mentella stated.
Before Isabella could respond a pillar of white light shot out of the sky engulfing Mentella and Kr’anri before retreating rapidly, leaving nothing more than a smouldering spot where they once were.
Isabella’s eyes widened before turning around swiftly and walking back towards Major Okonkwo.
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