The Let's Play Archive

City of Heroes

by Cleretic

Part 38: Burden of the Past - Glazius

The Darkness of Astoria - Part 1: Burden of the Past

Before I kick this off I'd like to apologize for the recticles and the possible crappiness of the screenshots. Next update should be a bit better in both those regards.

Incidentally, is there any way to suppress the damage numbers and drop notifications? I'm using FRAPS to grab screenshots and even if I wasn't I don't necessarily want to turn off the UI.

Anyway, let's meet the lady I'll be running through this nightmare:

Yeah, this place would pretty much fall apart without me.

And introduce a couple of concepts that this arc needs to explain it. First off:


When the Rikti first invaded, this society of mystics was at the forefront of the opposition. The Rikti basically turned their magic slider down to 0 for extra science points, so magic was kind of their Achilles' heel. Tragically, this also made the Midnight Squad the forefront of the Rikti counteroffensive, and for years they were believed gone.

In Issue 12, the Midnighters started recruiting, heroside and villainside, and entrances to their secret lair opened up in the universities added in Issue 10.

Behind the humble stacks of books in a simple academic library...

Lie the secret tunnels of the Midnight Squad!

And the secret stacks of books!

Anyway, the Midnighters are a broad-spectrum cross-faction magical interest group. Two of their members, who heroes have fought beside and villains fought against, are Kadabra Kill and Sigil.

But they're not the only thing that needs introduced. This here is a portal to another cross-faction organization, called Ouroboros.

First introduced in issue 11, Ouroboros is accessed by a portal that leads to this giant golden sundial, floating above an endless ocean that may also be entirely contained within the pool at its center, judging by what happens when you jump off of it.

Nowadays it also holds these guys, with Dr. Manhattan at the center there being Prometheus, who serves as the plot spackle that explains how anybody knows about Incarnate trials. He's flanked by two NPCs that will let you cash in the rewards from trials for things like my sweet set of (cosmetic) armor.

Once you're been exposed to time travelers or technology capable of changing the timeline, Ouroboros will slip you the portal there.

Of course there are story arcs about time travel. Have been for a while. This is a superhero game after all.

But stealing in on someone else's portal and running up the gnomon to hit this exploration badge also counts, and is probably the most prevalent modern way of getting in.

Anyway, what we're interested here is this thing. The Crystal of Ice and Flame. The little ones on stands all around it will open up the flashback menu, which will let you play any storyarc or badge-granting mission in the game that you've ever played or ever could have. Contacts who are only unlocked by getting specific badges or finishing specific arcs won't be on offer until you've completed their requirements.

When you flashback, you're limited to the maximum level the mission in question was offered, which will restrict your power selection and power down your enhancements, and you can take extra challenges for fabulous prizes, by which I mean badges.

Of course, for Incarnate content that's not really an issue. I just wanted to document this because it's one of the reasons I will miss this game so much when it's gone: they found a way to let you take your favorite character and play absolutely any new content they release for the game, by essentially retconning themselves in, which is comic booky as hell but still actually in-universe.

And now, our feature presentation.

I'll be completely blunt, Zasani. I don't know a lot about what's going on. However, Kadabra Kill and Sigil seemed to at least have an idea of what to do first.

They told me that they would check back periodically with me. Sigil stated that they were trying to find out what was going on with those monsters I mentioned to you, the ones who were attacking the assassins.

Kadabra Kill mentioned that they had tracked some of them down to a nearby cave system.

So if I find Kadabra Kill and Sigil, I'll find some answers.

Yes, I would assume as much. They'll be happy to have someone like yourself on their side, that's for sure.
I'm going to be staying here to see if I can find anyone else who is wandering within Dark Astoria. Before you came along, I saw several other individuals running through the streets. I tried to call out to them, but they could not hear me, and I could not risk leaving this safe area.

I'd be on the lookout yourself for any missing supers in your time here.

On the way over to the cave system, I spotted this sick little exercise on a nearby rooftop. The avenue of escape they were offering was 20 stories straight down.

The Banished Pantheon had always been pretty twisted, but this seemed like a deliberate attempt to create fear and despair.

Sigil was waiting right inside.

Oh, Zasani, you are a sight for sore eyes! My husband and I were hoping that someone else would show up to help us, but we never imagined it would be you!

Montague has asked that the rest of the Midnight Squad stay out of the affairs in Astoria for the moment. We can't risk losing any more members to this until we know more about what's going on.

Understandable. What's the situation here?

My husband and I have been investigating what's going on. Have you seen them in the streets? The monstrous beings that are terrorizing the area along with the Banished Pantheon. We think they might be members of the Knives of Artemis, but transformed. They might have something to do with all of this, but we can't be sure.

I was going to try to push forward through these caverns; there's a member of the group that ran into here. However, there's just too many for me to take on alone.

If you're serious about trying to stop this, Zasani, then I would try to track down that woman and see what she knows. In the meantime, I'm going to meet back with my husband and tell him that we have your help.

Do you know what happened to the missing supergroup?

We encountered a member from a supergroup that was called here. He mentioned how the rest of his group was lost to the city.

The man looked like a shade of himself. My husband told him that we could help him, but he refused, saying something about being beyond help, how he couldn't bear the burden any more. He ran off around a corner. We heard a scream and chased after him. He was gone, Zasani.

During our time here, we've seen a few supers, and even a detective, but none of them stayed still long enough for us to talk with them.

So Detective Hopp was still alive and kicking. I told Sigil I'd take care of things and headed deeper into the cave.

Karmic moment!

One of the good things about this arc is that it's pretty responsive to what you do in it, and what you've done previously. I'll be highlighting the differences I know about.

If you've done the villainside arc that has you taking down Sigil and Kadabra Kill in the service of Darrin Wade, Sigil's a lot more distrusting, but not in the sense that she'll come to blows with you.

The Knives of Artemis were changed, alright. This wasn't their usual weaponry.

Meet the Knives of Vengeance, or as I like to call them, "look at the new power sets!" They use most of the newer melee combat sets that have been introduced over the years - this picture has barehanded fighters (who use knockdown and fear) and titan weapon users (high-damage, knockdown, rend armor).

And they were getting a little mystic about things, not that that hasn't happened before. They'd certainly slipped the leash of their usual employers, the Malta Group.

Dual weapons. They also like to throw blade tornadoes at you, which isn't a standard dual weapon feature.

Eventually I found one of them who hadn't changed, victor over at least a dozen who had.

Zasani, the famous hero. I remember receiving many hits to kill you.

That's all changed now, however. The end is here, and we're all witnesses to the collapse of our world. They're all gone, now, beyond my grasp. I had to kill them, put them out of their misery.

What's going on here? Who are these monsters?

These were my sisters. Something happened to our inner circle, but I do not know what.

They chose to be transformed, to become something higher, as they say. I do not know who or what caused this... I only know that they've broken from the organization. They call themselves the Knives of Vengeance. They tried to get me to join them, but I refused.

They called me traitor and chased me down. They wanted to kill me, Zasani, but I killed them first. We were trained not to care for the deaths of our fellow assassins, but nothing prepared me for killing them when they've become... monsters.

Why do you say it's the end of times?

The organization is gone, Zasani. The monster within Astoria is awakened. Forces of nature beyond our comprehension attack us from every side.

I kill five, ten more show up... there's no end to this. My hands are covered with the blood of my sisters, twisted and disfigured.

I can't go on any further, Zasani. There's no hope left for this world, don't you see?

I heard one of the transformed ones gloating, distantly, as... a giant fanged maw punched through the cave floor and devoured the despairing merc.

Yeah, that's a thing that just happened. But... Vengeance. The name was familiar. It couldn't be...

No, it was. You don't forget those wings, or that patter.

But I wasn't going to fall victim to them.

And this is the last variety, using dual pistols loaded with chemical rounds that eat through armor.

I rang Heather up to tell her what I'd seen.

That's... that's horrible. I didn't even know about these Knives of Artemis until today... but that must've been the assassin I had seen. You said she was swallowed by some sort of mouth? I wonder... was it because she gave up hope? I don't know, it's a crazy theory.

Do you have any idea what caused these women to transform?

Boy, did I ever.

In another dimension, at the edge of Marcus Cole's tiny stronghold against the Hamidon, sits First Ward.

Only the fringes are inhabitable, the central buildings collapsing in on themselves around a grand skyscraper that's improbably survived.

A seed of the Hamidon floats unconcerned through them, pursuing its own inscrutable agenda. The only reason it hasn't been completely left to rot...

Is this. The "Mother of Mercy Hospital", where one of Cole's lieutenants creates the psychic drone network that lets him attempt the impossible task of total authoritarian rule.

Why hasn't it been relocated? Maybe some parts can't be moved. Maybe the lady in charge is just contrary enough to keep it there. Probably because a largely uninhabited area is an alright place to dispose of psychic waste products.

But the Hamidon isn't the only invader out here. The Erinyes have come out to play as well.

The Well of the Furies is a repository for all the bits of heroes and villains that were too super to die, and the source of Incarnate power. The Furies themselves are generally reclusive and interested in the betterment of humanity, but the Well's got its own temper. And the Erinyes, who call themselves the Talons of Vengeance, are its enforcers.

So let's say, just hypothetically, that you and your best buddy Stefan Richter promised to share a draught from the Well. But then you backstabbed him and took his sippy-cup of cosmic mojo for yourself. That kind of thing would bring out the Erinyes.

But the thing about them is, they're not very directed. They seek to punish the guilty, but I can tell you from experience that everyone's guilty of something. So they just end up wreaking indiscriminate destruction, until they find out where their target is. Either because someone gives them up...

Or because of this little ceremony. If you're sufficiently consumed by revenge, the Erinyes can suborn your will and begin to transform you into one of them, and they get all your knowledge into the bargain.

This can happen even, and perhaps especially, if you are consumed by revenge against the Talons of Vengeance, who have killed everyone you ever loved.

Why would the Well, whose guardians love humanity, have such cruel enforcers, who are almost guaranteed to cause collateral damage?

Because it's a horribly neurotic paranoid with massive, massive control issues. And so is the one in this dimension. And apparently the Erinyes are out, and working, for some paranoid fantasy of its own.

So yes. I have some inkling what could have transformed these women.


The giant mouth was new, though. Any ideas there?

Karmic moment!

If you haven't run through the First Ward storyline, you just shrug your shoulders along with Heather. Not that this has repercussions later on or anything. It's just a neat touch if you soldiered on through that whole affair.

The only idea I have still lies with Kadabra Kill and Sigil. Something... bizarre happened while you were gone, Zasani.

Kadabra Kill approached me, without his wife. There was something different in his voice, a sort of... hopelessness in his tone. Sort of how that woman was talking to you. He told me that he was going to investigate a nearby office for clues towards the nature of the monstrous women and the beast that had awakened.

However, he didn't seem all too convinced that he would find anything.

Did Sigil follow him?

Yes, she ran off right away when I told her what happened. She seemed to have an idea of what might've been going on. I tried to follow her, but, well, I'm just a plain civilian. I'm not going to risk leaving these runes.

I'm just an architect, Zasani, I was never supposed to be involved in something big like this. I know it's not much to go on, but I think you can find something else out if you go to this building.

The office tower stretched into the sky. Whatever kept the lights on in Astoria was still keeping them on even now.

Though time and neglect had taken their toll on the interior.

And the Knives were here, hunting for something. Though they'd heard about me by now.

They'd caught someone else, too. Good thing for him getting in the way is part of my job description.

No time to talk, Zasani. I've got business I need to handle in this city. Name's Detective Hopp, though. Maybe we'll run into each other again.

And he ran off again. That was the guy the PPD had set on the trail of the suicides among Astoria evacuees. He certainly seemed hard-boiled and not-playing-by-the-rules enough to stand a chance.

Karmic moment!

Detective Hopp is a recurring character in this arc, but unless you rescue him he won't show up in future missions.

The elevator wouldn't go down any further. Seems like a sewer line had ruptured somewhere.

And there was Kadabra, in a room shot through with the same spiky tentacles I'd seen in the forest between life and death.

He was talking like the mercenary who'd been eaten by the maw, but then the Knives swooped in on raven wings, to claim him as their own.

Mot, they said. I could feel something, like ghosts at the edges of my vision...

And the Banished Pantheon stepped out of the shadows, along with a voice. ...that voice. It echoed all around, but seemed to belong to someone unfamiliar with words, halting in the oddest places.

But I unleashed fiery judgement on them, and they fell easily, and I could feel whatever it was pulling away.

It didn't seem interested in Sigil, though she was plenty distraught.

No... Kadabra... why did you think that you caused me pain?! I chose all of this... it wasn't your place to decide that it wasn't right!

What did he mean when he talked about pain?

When we were young, we had gotten into some... Trouble. I won't bother with the details, but in the end, I chose to give up my soul so that Kadabra would keep his.

He and I have been seeking a way to recover my soul ever since. I suppose these Knives of Vengeance believe that Kadabra somehow cheated, that he should have been the one to have his soul taken. They seem to think that they're doing me a favor in all of this, but I chose for this to happen.

I would do anything to help my husband, and he anything for me. But now it seems the darkness here has twisted his mind, making him believe that he was in the wrong.

The darkness - Mot? What does he have to do with the Pantheon?

I've only heard rumors, nothing substantial. There may be others who can help you, though.

The Tsoo have been fighting in Dark Astoria for years. If anyone would have information about Mot, it would be them.

I need to recover myself and find my husband, Zasani. I can't let him be taken by these women or this city. If I need your help, I will let that woman, Heather, know. I know we can count on you to help us in our time of need.

And she went off. The Tsoo, huh? Something else I thought I'd left behind.

But there they were, out in the streets of Dark Astoria, and they'd somehow gotten the power to keep fighting. This bore looking into. I rang up Heather.

Kadabra Kill has gone missing now, too? I can understand, I think...

The longer I stay in this place, the more my mind has been wandering to my past, to those memories I regret. I thought I'd made peace with it, but... there's just something about this city, Zasani. Maybe it's all just from this Mot creature.

Sigil was right, though. I think the Tsoo can help us, and I think we were lucky enough that I saw some of them before. I was a little scared, at first. Back in Talos, they're nothing but thugs.

The strangest thing happened, though. I watched them actually fighting off those guys from the Banished Pantheon and the Knives of Vengeance! These guys could be allies, Zasani! Maybe they've changed their attitude while in Dark Astoria, fighting for the greater good and all that.

Do you know where they went?

As usual, I stayed here in my little protective rune area. But I did overhear them talk about going into a tunnel system nearby to some sort of underground warehouse.

If what Sigil said is true, we might be able to finally make a breakthrough about what's going on here in Dark Astoria. While you're gone, I'll see if I can't get in touch with Sigil to see if she was able to find her husband. We all need to stick together in here if we're going to take down this Mot creature, right?

And then the definition of 'we' got a little broader. Scirocco, one of Lord Recluse's trusted lieutenants, his Patrons, was talking to the Tsoo, as well. Though it didn't seem to end well for him.

He brought along his firebrand of an apprentice, Ice Mistral, and a distinguished mystic. Wonder what other support infrastructure he had out here.

Well, maybe it was worth a go.

You. Zasani. I am Hua Tov. You are one of the proud heroes of Paragon City. You have stopped many of my kind before. But this is different.

The Tsoo in Dark Astoria are not petty criminals. We are the ones who have fought tirelessly over the years to fight the darkness that consumes this city. You do not know how to fight the darkness, and thus will only bring chaos to our plans.

Leave now, and I will not be forced to use my powers against you. You have been warned, just like the Arachnos lackeys!

I'm not here to fight, I'm here to find out about Mot.

Mot? What would you want to know about the beast?

The Tsoo have been fighting this creature for years, Zasani. We have become familiar with everything regarding the creature. We know what to do in order to destroy it.

Master Tub Ci has commanded that we deal with any outside interlopers. You will only ruin our plans to stop Mot.
I was merciful with Scirocco and his lackeys, but I will not show the same mercy towards you. You will be an example to the others. The Tsoo will handle Dark Astoria, no one else!

Hold on! I understand your frustration, you've all fought hard this entire time.

You are right that we have fought fiercely, Zasani. While you all handled threats of the Rikti, the Praetorians, the 5th Column, we stayed in this cursed city.

I've watched my comrades go mad, either trying to kill each other or themselves. Master Tub Ci has finally come around to help us, now that the beast has surfaced.

You say that you seek to destroy Mot, as well? Hrm... if I let you in, Zasani, my comrades will attack you, and I would have no way of stopping them. I cannot stop that. However, we do have information regarding Mot inside.

Then you will let me in?

I will. If you prove strong enough to defeat my comrades, then perhaps your mind is fresh enough to face the creature.

If not, then we will have eliminated a possible issue down the road. I will be off, Zasani, until we meet again.

Karmic moment!

I'm not sure exactly what seals off the peaceful dialogue options. All I know is that all my heroes have gotten them and none of my villains have. You can provoke Hua Tov into a fight, if you wish. He's a fairly beefy adversary, but nothing about the mission or future arcs really changes if he goes down.

It's like he says: all the Tsoo inside are going to come at you anyway.

The Tsoo relied on their mystic ink for a leg up, though some of them also mastered esoteric schools of martial arts.

Whatever they'd done to even the odds was pretty apparent. I could see the tattoos glowing on their sorcerors' arms.

Meet the Incarnate Tsoo. In addition to the usual Tsoo minions, sorcerors, and ancestor spirits, some of the previous boss-level Tsoo exist at various levels in the ranks. That Far Fire would be a boss to a much less experienced hero, but here he's been retooled into a minion.

Tsoo sorcerors have not stopped being able to mess up your accuracy with darkness and wind, and remain priority targets.

They'd gathered ritual supplies from the far corners of the globe, looking to summon... something powerful. No idea what, yet.

They'd set up living quarters in the back of the warehouse, and I went searching for useful information there.

Spirit Ink archers use trick arrows to create things like the poison cloud you see on the ground. Behind me is a Herald, another demoted former boss with a mean blade and mind-control tricks.

I confronted the man in charge of the place, who seemed absolutely confident in his superiority right before I unloaded fiery judgement in his face.

Ancestral Wardens are the last new addition to Incarnate Tsoo, pumping out powerful kinetic melee attacks (the purple swirly things).

The cinders on the ground and the lingering flames are an effect of an Incarnate judgement-class power. It's a big boom.

Down a side passage I spotted a group of Tsoo who'd cornered another intruder. She seemed amused by this whole state of affairs.

The Sky Fall's another former boss, who actually fights at boss tier. In the back is a demoted former boss, the gravity-controlling Crescent.

Ah, bonjour Zasani! I am Madame Bellerose. You're one of Paragon's biggest and brightest, yes? And you are an Incarnate too, quite impressive! I myself recently joined our exclusive club.

Things are quite hectic here in Dark Astoria, aren't they? Though, I have to say, it's a little exciting having monsters running about, and danger at every corner. I do believe it's why I felt such a... pull to come back here!

... You came here for danger?

I did! And I'm finding plenty of it. Such a strange place, Dark Astoria... I heard it was quite the haunted city before it was taken over.

Did you know they would film many horror movies in Dark Astoria because of its grim atmosphere? Some of my favorite ones were filmed here, including, 'Nightmare on Raimi Boulevard'.

I'm here now to see what else this place of danger has to offer someone as powerful as me. I should get going now, however, there's just so much to do! Ta ta, Zasani.

Karmic moment!

Mme. Bellerose is also a recurring character in the arc. Same deal as with Detective Hopp.

But the reason the Tsoo jumped you was less about being dangerous and more about those lovely, lovely, books.

The Tsoo had been taking notes, all this time. Mot, one of the cannibal gods venerated by the Banished Pantheon, fed on death, suffering, and despair. Perhaps all the invasions recently had nursed it back into awareness.

They mentioned the maws as emanations of Mot, feeding directly on despairing people, like that mercenary and Kadabra.

Nothing about the Knives, though. Perhaps they were a new wrinkle. I called Heather again.

So... Arachnos is here too with some guy named Scirocco? I think I've heard of him. I've got a bad feeling about what's next if they're here...

It looks like we know what we're up against now, though. It all makes complete sense! It's no wonder that Mot was awakened. We've had so many wars and crises these past few years alone... the Praetorian invasion probably pushed his powers into overdrive and caused him to wake up!

That's probably why all of us who were from Dark Astoria started having those dreams... Mot's presence was spilling out of the city and affecting us! So... the absorption... that's it! If the death of someone makes him stronger... and someone who dies in agony is even better... then if he absorbs someone who is evil, or who has given up hope, maybe he continues to absorb their power!

Or, maybe, it's really a shot in the dark. I suppose at this point we should try to meet up with Sigil, right? Let me see if I can get in touch with her... mmph! Something's not right... Someone's talking to me in my mind! It's... Sigil, I think! Hold on...


...! Zasani, this is bad! Sigil says she's been captured by the Knives of Vengeance! They're keeping her and Kadabra Kill in a sewer system nearby!

They're putting the two of them on some sort of sick trial that is only going to end in their deaths!

And that will only make Mot more powerful.

Right! If Sigil and Kadabra Kill die now, it'll only make things harder for us to actually fight against Mot!

Sigil gave me a rough location of where they are. You need to go save them! We need to make a stand here and now against Mot!

And now that I knew, I saw the Tsoo making their own stands as well. Though they weren't quite as accepting of me.

The sewers were nearby...

Well. That's not a color found in nature.

The Knives didn't pay it much heed. They didn't pay anything much heed, except punishing the guilty. But it was still unnerving...

Flaps of flesh growing over sewer tunnels...

Bony, membranous wings jutting up from the red slime...

But eventually it ran out. Either the Knives had carved out a section or Mot hadn't reached this far yet. I pelted down a disused tunnel...

And there they were. Waiting for me.

Welcome, Zasani. You're just in time to see the destruction of two oathbreakers, two sinners. The woman could have been left alone, if she did not insist on staying by this man's side.

They are both guilty of many crimes, but, let us pose the question to you. Shall we take just Kadabra's life and spare the woman? Perhaps you wonder why we ask you. An answer is not needed for that, only for the judgement to pass on them.

Karmic moment!

You do indeed pass judgement here. You can tell the Knives to kill them both, and then they depart and Hua Tov and some Tsoo jump you for trying to make Mot stronger. You can tell the Knives to just take out Kadabra, and then they depart but some backup arrives to take Sigil away anyhow, and then you fight them off.

Or you can go about things this way.

Neither of them are dying today. I'm saving them both!

And that gives you two minutes to put down six bosses. There's a badge for resolving the mission this way.

One thing these creatures have yet to learn...

Heroes never give up...

And we're never outnumbered.

See you back at base, fellas.

This is a Lore-class Incarnate power, where you can pull reflections of things out of the Well of the Furies to fight for you. Longbow are just one of the options, but they're pretty good if you want to stomp something. The Cataphract's plasma cannon just tears into something's regeneration rate.

You saved us both, Zasani. We're in your debt.

Kadabra and I must leave Dark Astoria, I'm afraid. We caused you so much trouble already. We just simply do not have the power to stand toe to toe with the creatures here.

We'll never forget your help, Zasani, I promise you that.

I felt pretty good about myself that day, as I called up Heather for the last time for a long time.

Zasani! I just saw Kadabra Kill and Sigil! Thank goodness you were able to rescue them both. This was a HUGE blow to that monster, Mot! Heck, it even makes me feel better about things!

While you were gone, I had yet another visitor asking for you. He said that he ran into you in the Tsoo warehouse, a 'Mu' by the name of Mu'Vorkan. He claims that Arachnos is trying to work on finding a solution to the Mot problem and that they would like your help.

I know Arachnos is a villainous organization, but this seems like the only lead that you've got to work on, Zasani. With Kadabra Kill and Sigil gone, I'm all out of ideas. I'm honestly going to try to leave this place myself, once I... take care of one last thing.

Working with Arachnos. Well, I'd done it before, when the world was on the line. And it was certainly looking like one of those times.


Do not adjust your sets. This is not a dream! It is not an imaginary story!

All of the Dark Astoria arcs have little epilogues where you walk through a map as someone, usually your contact for the arc, and get a few niblets of hearty plot goodness. They're not required to complete the arc, and in fact offer no rewards at all, but you can flash back to them just the same.

Incidentally, while we're on the topic of rewards, when you first run the DA arcs you can pick from a reward table that includes 10 incarnate threads, a random roll on the Incarnate component rarity table and a free pick of anything that results, or a chance for one Empyrean merit ( = 20 threads, eight of them get you a rare) or two Astral merits ( = 4 threads, mostly useful for breaking down or trading in at Ouroboros).

Flashing back to the arcs offers you the same reward table, but picking a choice will lock it out for 20 hours.

If you look back to my previous post, the guy with the wings and sword is Taskmaster Gabriel, who will give you two Empyrean merits once a week provided you've completed, or flashed back to complete, all the Dark Astoria arcs.

Like I said, this was intended to give people a slower, solo way to unlock the Incarnate slots and powers.

And now, without further ado...

Heather was nervous about leaving the runic circle, even to go this little way - she could still see it and the overpass from here. But it had to do more with something she could see from the circle.

The warehouse. The one where she and her group of survivors had holed up, that day. The one the hordes of zombies broke into. The one...

The one only she walked out of.

It may have been Mot gnawing at her. But one way or another, she had to put things to rest.

The fog. She never thought she'd miss the fog. But it was here, and it felt like an old friend.

She searched for... for anything. For memories. For something that had been left behind, cast off somewhere. But she didn't find anything. The crates were all empty.

This was the right place. The floor was still all torn up from where the zombies had come, chasing them, tripping, falling, getting trampled, but never stopping...

They'd all run right back here. And most of them would never run again. There... there had to be something left. Something real she could hold onto, that would tell her Mot's whispers weren't the whole truth.

But there was nothing. The place was clean. Almost as if...

She heard another set of footsteps echoing in the halls.

Almost as if someone was still using this place.

There was nothing for it. She was just as cornered then as now. If she was going to die, at least this time it would be on her own terms.

But... he didn't seem hostile.

Hey, you're Heather Townshend, right? The architect who survived Dark Astoria. The name's Ajax, I'm here with an offer for you.

How did you find me?

Well, it was easy. I knew what you looked like and saw you running into this warehouse.

The guy that I worked for took care of some monsters that were trying to follow you. How else did you think a civvie like you woulda made it to a place like this?

Anyway, you want to hear this offer or not?

... What is it?

Things are bad here in Astoria, there's no doubt about that. The guy that I work for, he wants your help in solving things.

You know the architecture here in Astoria, right? He believes that there's something beneath all of it, some powerful runes that a guy named David Hazen put down.

The boss wants to ask that you, me, and some other guy investigate these runes and also the information about David Hazen. He thinks that Zasani will be able to use this information to stop Mot in Dark Astoria.

Heather didn't know exactly what to make of this man, or his offer. It seemed almost too good to be true. She'd been an architect once, it seemed a lifetime ago, and here was a chance to help the hero who'd helped her.

A lifeline, and one only she could grab. Was this why she'd survived that day, to be able to carry her knowledge until it was needed in the worst way?

Or was it just a trap? ...but if that was the case, she'd been ready to die the moment she stepped off that bridge.

Either way, there was one thing she did know.

Okay, I'm in.

Perfect. Stay in the runes until the time is right. I need to work on getting this other guy into Dark Astoria.

Just as a warning, he's a real pain, but the boss seems to think that he's got potential to help us out, as long as there's some sorta incentive.

I'll contact you again when the time is right.

This was the second-best news she'd had all month.