The Rage Regulator, Part 3
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Last time on Nexus:
The Rage Regulator, Part 2

In Sushiblade, the sushi is traditionally made by the opponents before the fight. Aura and Mr. Maehara were kneading their rice on a table in one corner, while Elli sat in the other corner with a Dean who was trying to wring some form of meaning out of this situation. Elli, meanwhile, had opened a Nexus portal in her bag and was pulling out some very fine rice.
"So, let me get this straight, you bet the rage regulator in a competition where you spin sushi so that you push other people's sushi off the table."
Elli pulled salmon roe from her bag.
"Mhm."
"And it's lost if you lose to two people, apparently experts, who are competing against you alone at the same time.
The salmon roe was joined by a canning jar of North Sea mussels.
"Exactly."
"What about this do you think is a good idea?"
Elli added a leaf of seaweed and began shaping the rice.
Dean knew Elli's cooking skills, even if he'd never felt their effects himself. If one could get her to follow recipes, she made a passable cook. However, by Elli's own admission, she found it "boring as hell," which led her to experiment with ingredients when she had the chance. The result was the culinary form of Russian roulette. It could taste so good that consumers would start singing hymns about it or send them to the hospital with food poisoning.
What Elli was now putting together, with hands steadied like a surgeons by a sip from her flask, was sushi filled with broad-squeezed clam meat and salmon eggs, plus rice pressed so tightly that you could probably build castles with it.
It seemed edible. Elli even went to the trouble of making a little crown on the roll with the fish eggs.
Whether that would be enough to win was questionable.
Finally, everyone found themselves at a table. To Dean's immeasurable dismay, a large crowd of onlookers had gathered.
That seems to be a popular sport indeed!
Aura presented a very small roll filled with fermented soybeans, Mr. Maehara demonstrated a model with egg and oily salmon as the core. Both had used very fine-grained rice, but not pressed it as much as Elli.
All three took a teacup and a couple of connected chopsticks and broke them apart. Then the sushi was picked up with the chopsticks.
Aura, Maehara, and Elli now seemed to be intoning something that was apparently tradition in Sushiblade.
"Three, two, one, HEY RASSHAI!"
They hit the heads of the chopsticks as hard as they could with the cup and then spread their arms wide. The sushi left the chopsticks and began to rotate counterclockwise on the table, defying all established laws of physics.
"Let's go, Sake Paradox!" shouted Maehara.
"Finish her, Lightning Nattō Spider!", Aura cheered on her sushi.
Elli, for her part, seemed resigned to the fact that she was the bad guy here and commanded her meal with the authority of a queen, "Ikura Ocean Crown, crush them!"
Sake Paradox and Lightning Nattō Spider first circled Elli's heavier sushi which kept spinning leisurely.
Just to then accelerate out of its motionlessness towards Maehara's sushi. The smaller piece was faster and more maneuverable, but was mercilessly chased across the table by Ikura Ocean Crown.
"What is this?" said Maehara, startled. "How can such a big sushi be so fast!"
Elli giggled.
"Just as planned. I figured one of you two would try to reduce his turning friction with fish oil. Ikura Ocean Crown takes advantage of the resulting oil trail on the ground to pursue its target at a steady speed."
The cook gasped, startled.
Dean, meanwhile, wondered exactly when he had missed the road gateway towards sanity. He was now stuck on the highway of madness and it seemed no rest stop was coming anytime soon.
"Not if I have anything to say about it!", Aura spoke up victoriously. "Lightning Nattō Spider, Glue Thread!"
Her sushi seemed to lose some of its soybean core. Nattō, as this stuff was also called, was sticky because the beans were surrounded by viscous slime. And it was now pulling long strings that wrapped around Ikura Ocean Crown.
Before Dean could make any assumptions about possible psychokinesis, Ellis sushi reached Sake Paradox. Its outer surface was slippery, so the Nattō threads did not stick to it.
However, it was only a jostle. Both sushis continued to spin.
Next to Dean, a small boy with glasses muttered something to an older playmate.
"That was a direct hit, wasn't it? How did Sake Paradox survive that?"
"Oh, the name is chosen at random," it was explained to him. "The inari rice that was used is very solid and can absorb most attacks. But against such monsters as Ikura Ocean Crown, the fluffy egg inside comes into play, because the rice still gives way if the blow is too big. The egg absorbs the shock along with the oily salmon, which further softens the impact by sliding. Hard, yet soft, steady yet agile, immune to any attack. Mr. Maehara is not called the Iron Wall of Tokyo for nothing."
If Dean had had tear ducts, he would have started crying in despair. He just couldn't figure out what was going wrong here.
Ikura Ocean Crown led more attacks against Sake Paradox and actually managed to slow it down a bit, however, the Nattō it was incessantly spun in by Lightning Nattō Spider was slowly making itself felt. Ellis Sushi slowed down.
"Clever…" she muttered, gritting her teeth.
"Hmph, you make formidable sushi," Mr. Maehara said with grudging appreciation. "But you made the mistake of trying to end this fight quickly. You don't bring the patience that Sushiblade requires."
"And someone like that accuses me of stealing!" Aura exclaimed.
"Oh, shut up, my sushi is still spinning," Elli hissed.
Dean noticed with horror how rushed she looked at her slowing sushi.
"No, no, no!" she cursed.
"Say what you will, but that's it," Aura triumphed. "Master, let's finish it. Let her eat her sushi off the floor, not the table."
The chef nodded with a serious face. "Sake paradox! Gletscherschub!"
"Lightning Nattō Spider! Haul In!"
Sake Paradox began to push Ellis Sushi towards the edge with short pushes, while Aura's was apparently using its Nattō Threads to pull it.
"Wait, wait, WAIT!" Elli pleaded.
Ikura Ocean Crown was already almost over the edge….
"And now for the final push!" cheered the master thief. "Go, Killing Bite!"
Lightning Nattō Spider joined in with Sake Paradox. Both Sushis took a running start together and raced towards Elli's weakened creation.
She herself made a sad sound that sounded something like "GNNNNNGGGGG!".
"I can't look…" muttered Dean, shielding his eyes.
Elli suddenly grinned very widely.
"Just kidding. CROWN COUNTER!"
Due to the rotational speed of Ikura Ocean Crown, individual salmon eggs detached from its structure and were flung away. They stuck to the surface of the enemy sushi, changing its center of gravity. Both meals thus went off course and whizzed off the table past Ikura Ocean Crown.
Aura's jaw dropped, as did Mr. Maehara's. Dean wanted to join in, but he had not yet looked to see what was in the roof of his mouth. So he kept his mouth closed and just made big eyes.
Elli grinned smugly.
"Next time, you might want to think twice about really messing with the Golden Fox."
The cook's eyes popped out of his skull.
There was a brief silence.
All around Dean, people fell to their knees to his boundless confusion.
"WE ARE SORRY WE DIDN'T RECOGNIZE YOU!" resounded from numerous throats.
"Are you really that big a deal in this sport?" asked Dean.
"Yup, won the world championships twice in a row," Elli said. "I could have flattened you both in three seconds, but I wanted to give the people here a show. So, you two, pay off."
Mr. Maehara bowed his head.
"M-master?" asked Aura anxiously.
"I'm sorry, Aura. But rules are rules. You're banned for life from now on."
Aura gasped in fright.
"Nooooo!"
"Fine," Elli growled. "Now cough up my rage regulator alre-"
Dean was just quick enough to pull her back in her chair, otherwise the shot from the plasma cannon would have blown her head off.
Aura instantly vanished into thin air.
Dean, as well as Elli, turned their heads toward the door in annoyance. The silver-haired bounty hunter had walked in, still holding her plasma gun.
"Hands up!" she bellowed.
Everyone in the room complied, except the two to whom the order actually applied.
"You just robbed me of my winnings!" Elli exclaimed. "Where did you even come from?"
The woman switched her cigar from one corner of her mouth to the other.
"We operate on another level, bitch."
"You sure you don't know these two?" asked Dean. "Speaking of, where's-"
Nero burst through the ceiling directly above Dean, burying him underneath. Then he looked around excitedly.
"Oh, uh, Ferra, did I come out on top of the right-"
Only now did he realize that he had only brought Dean to his knees with his weight, not to the floor.
"Wow, how much can you take?"
"Get off me!"
Dean shook himself, causing Nero to jump off him. He tried to punch, but Nero intercepted his fist. And the other one, too, as he followed up. And grew two more from his shoulders, with which he processed Dean's face.
"Not so great when it happens to you, is it?" sneered Nero. "But I hope it won't come between us."
Dean tried to get free, but his engines failed before Nero's sheer muscle.
Wasn't this body supposed to have the same power as his normal one?
"Move it, Nero, you're in my line of fire!" raged Ferra behind him.
"Whoops," Nero said, and despite Dean's resistance, turned so the smoker could fire at him.
"Wait a minute!" she said suddenly. "Where's the blonde?"
Nero looked around, as did Dean.
Elli was nowhere to be discovered.
Then a Nexus portal appeared between Dean and Ferra, splitting the whole hall. Dean, still fixed by Nero, overclocked his engines and simply heaved him through the portal along with himself.
Elli was waiting on the other side on her lawn and had struck a very strange pose.
"Kame…Hame…"
A ball of light formed between her hands….
"…HADOOOOOKEN!"
She did not change her stance, but Nero suddenly flew out of the Nexus as if seized by a giant's hand. Dean's coefficient of friction was apparently set to zero, because he slipped out of Nero's grip as if freshly greased.
The Nexus closed.
"Isn't that move supposed to go differently?" Dean asked.
"It is," Elli confirmed. "But I'd rather attack him in a way he won't see coming. Come on, we need to find Aura again…"

Maehara, still trying to continue the tradition of Sushiblade despite the chaos, had crawled under the table to eat his beaten sushi. Suddenly, the dark-skinned man flew out of the blackness, but he seemed to lose all momentum the moment he was completely out and fell to the floor. The wall disappeared.
"Crap, not again!" the silver-haired woman fretted. "Come on, Nero, we have to catch up with them."
"I'm coming," Nero gasped, rising heavily from the floor. His two extra arms, meanwhile, retracted into his shoulders.
After he staggered out of the sushi restaurant, the other patrons gradually came back out of hiding.
"What was that all about?" one asked in confusion.

Somewhere in the Australian outback, where nobody ever strays, lies a small Foundation site. It was a site used to imprison the most bloodthirsty creatures the Foundation knew.
Agent Meyers, a guard armed to the teeth, looked around in the corridors he patrolled with boredom. Sure, boredom meant he probably lived longer, but sometimes he did wish something would happen.
The outbreak alarm suddenly whined.
Shit!
He had to jinx it, after all….
The room in question was one that, in the event of an outbreak, should not be entered under any circumstances. Strangely enough, the large steel door was firmly closed when he arrived.
"What's going on? Did the stupid lizard burrow through the wall?
That was impressive in that here they were about fifty meters underground and surrounded by several meters of reinforced concrete in every direction.
Agent Kennedy, fiddling with a control panel next to the door, was white as a sheet.
"Uh, no. It seems more like something got in."
"Who's insane enough to break in here?" another guard asked.

Elli opened the Nexus in a big steel gate and entered the large room. There was nothing in here but a huge tank made of steel. And Aura.
She was drawing something on the wall of the tank.
"Aura, I beat you fair and square," Elli admonished her, "Now give me my regulator already!"
Behind her, Dean stepped out of the Nexus, which then closed.
Aura turned around.
"Oh, well, how does it feel to chase after someone without ever getting the attention you deserve from them!" she scoffed. "Well, I feel great. I finally have my idol nipping at my heels every step of the way."
Elli rolled her eyes.
"Aura, I am so close to just bagging you and throwing you into a dungeon dimension!"
"Empty threats!" laughed Aura. "I know you like me too much, Elli. But you know, that one" she pointed at Dean, "Stands in the way of our love. You want the tage regulator for her, don't you? Don't look at her! Look at me!"
"Uh, can you leave me out of this?" asked Dean. "I'm usually a guy, even if that doesn't make a difference to Elli."
"YOU shut up," the thief hissed. "You're on my shit list. And because that's the case, I'm giving you a nut to crack."
She pulled something out of her pocket that Elli recognized as a miniature reality anchor. At the same time, with the help of her suit, she began to become invisible. Elli felt the reality grow denser around her. She would no longer be able to open the Nexus.
And then she realized that Aura had written on the tank with exploding ink.
The tank cracked open and something stamped out with an angry hiss as hydrochloric acid spread across the floor. By standing on a step at the edge of the room, the corrosive liquid did not reach her, but the resulting hydrogen chloride gas forced Elli to cough incessantly.
The creature locked in the tank was some sort of crocodile with long legs, perhaps ten meters long. It was half decomposed from the hydrochloric acid, but you could watch as muscle and skin began to stretch back over the bare bones.
"Oh crap!" Elli coughed. "One from Outside!"
At that moment, the creature noticed them both. And Dean vented his disgust at the exposed bones and organs.
"Oh, how disgusting!" he and the reptile said as if from the same mouth.
The monster blinked briefly, then roared angrily.
"Sorry," Dean mumbled.
The creature rushed toward him and unhinged its half-acid-eaten jaws. Elli threw herself to the side and ran to the control panel next to the door. She couldn't stay in here much longer; the hydrochloric acid was beginning to burn in her lungs.

She knew of Those from Outside from other dimensions. If a civilization had the misfortune to encounter one before they reached a certain technological level, they were a disaster and it was only a matter of time before their planet and subsequently their solar system were completely sterilized. In other places, they were simply vermin or completely eradicated. Unfortunately, without the Nexus, the end-of-life-part applied to Elli. Dean managed to use his physical strength to pry open the jaws of the weakened monster and thereby avoided being eaten, but with every second he fought it, it would grow stronger. Its tongue was already getting longer and forming an ugly blade at the end.
Before the One from Outside could stab him, however, Dean threw his jaw to the side, and it snapped shut. The monster bit off its own tongue and roared in pain.
Elli, meanwhile, went to the control panel and pulled her hacker stick out of her pocket. The panel had a port for checking devices when maintenance wanted to know if the equipment was still working. Elli jammed her device in there and typed hastily. She was starting to feel dizzy because she couldn't stop coughing.
The gate opened with a loud clack. Elli pulled off her stick and scurried out when the gap was big enough.
On the other side, several soldiers waited in defensive positions. Numerous heavy weapons were pointed at them.
"Uh… The One from Outside is still inside," Elli tried to save herself, coughing profusely to get the hydrochloric acid out of her system.
Dean flew out of the chamber behind her, cursing loudly, and smacked into the wall opposite the door.
"Okay, before anyone asks, we didn't let him out!", Elli was still defending herself before the creature behind her sprinted out of the chamber and opened its mouth to devour Elli.
Only to be literally perforated by bullets.
It wasn't long before the lizard began to grow armor plating and kevlar-like tissue, but Elli didn't pay much attention. She grabbed Dean, who was picking himself up off the ground, and ran between the soldiers, who were far too busy shooting something unconscious that was guaranteed to wipe them out.
"Elli, what are we doing?" Dean asked.
"Getting out of the reality anchor's area of effect so I can get back into the Nexus," Elli explained.
They passed a few troops who appeared to be advancing. Behind them, a deafening roar rang out.
A squad of ten dressed in the look of Australian combat troops stopped in front of them.
"Hey! What are you guys doing here?"
"We're actually leaving," Elli tried to explain to him, but several rifle barrels were aimed at them.
"Come with us!" the leader growled.
The squad took her in the middle and led her off.
I need to get off this continent, Elli thought to herself, eyeing the One from Outside.
She suddenly felt a piece of paper in her hand.
There was no one next to her, but she thought she perceived a brief flicker in the air.
Aura's cloaking device?
She unfolded the paper unnoticed. It showed the profile of a gray-skinned creature that looked like a human with too long limbs. And a too large lower jaw.
Oh… Shit…

Beneath it was a number.
"Where is SCP-096?", she asked.
The guards turned to her suspiciously while Dean curiously studied the photo.
Then they turned pale.
Elli thought she heard some kind of screaming in the distance over the monster's roar.
Definitely too close.
The guards slowly moved away from her.
"I'm sorry, lady, but you're dead."
There was boundless regret to be heard in that message.
Elli looked down at herself.
"Obviously not," she noted, even though she knew what the soldier was getting at.
"If the guy in the photo finds you, you will," the guard said anyway. "And he's gotten everyone who's seen his face so far. Do us a favor and go somewhere where we can easily bag the beast again later."
"Hehe, definitely not."
Elli ran off followed by Dean. The guards made no move to follow them. They probably preferred almost certain death at the hands of the lizard to certain death at the hands of this gray creature.
The screaming behind them stopped. She had about ten minutes left in which to build up a lead.
She had to get to the top. Preferably in a helicopter.
Fortunately for her, they reached an elevator in the white concrete facility. It required a password, but Elli bypassed that with her flash drive. And tripled his speed.
"Dean?" she asked after they both got on. "Be so nice and walk around with your arms and legs rowing. Move as unpredictably as you can. If she is stupid enough, Aura got on, too."
Dean as well as Elli began some sort of expressive dance in the cargo elevator, which probably could only be correctly interpreted by beings from the eighth dimension, as the elevator continued to rise.
Aura was not hit by any of the flying limbs, however Elli did not feel any drop in reality. The anchor had to be extremely strong.
The elevator stopped at the surface and the two ran out. Guards they encountered in the white halls filled with the roar of alarm sirens were simply knocked down by Dean, regardless of whether he was shot at or not.
"If I can get my hands on Aura, I'll come up with something for her," Elli growled.

The creature known simply as SCP-682 burst enraged through the ranks of the defenders. It would not rest until the world had been cleansed of these disgusting things. It had grown thick armor plates by now, underlaid with numerous tissues.
As it raced through the corridors, devouring or mangling anyone it encountered, it suddenly heard something.
It sounded like screaming.
It lasted a moment, but then it remembered that clamor. It knew the creature that emitted these sounds. Hadn't the last beating been enough?
Suddenly the ground in front of him broke open and the gray creature burst through. It ignored the lizard, instead clawing into the wall with its hands and toes and climbing it up to punch through the nearest ceiling.
SCP-682 watched the whole thing and then decided to just follow it, it would get to the surface faster that way.

Elli and Dean managed to leave the site five minutes later through an emergency exit and came out at a large helipad.
"To the helicopter!" Elli commanded.
"Which one?" Dean asked, glancing at the scant dozen flying machines in front of them.
There were all different sizes.
"Doesn't matter, any one. And throw the pilot out!"
Dean took aim at a small vehicle, presumably intended as an evacuation vehicle for VIPs, a few of whom were about to board.
He unceremoniously threw them all out and then grabbed the pilot. He ignored the fact that he, too, was shooting at him like the guards before. Elli was a little proud of the new outer casing, it took shaped charges to get at the machinery behind it. Bullets couldn't even damage the skin covering.
The suit Dean was wearing, however, took some. Not that Elli complained about the sight.
After the pilot was knocked out and carried out of the helicopter, Elli took a seat at the wheel.
"Okay, ease up, if you've flown one helicopter, you've flown them all…" she muttered to herself.
"You haven't landed any of them successfully yet," Dean announced as he returned from closing the doors.
"That was because I was drunk, Dean," Elli defended herself, drinking from her flask as she gradually brought the machine to life. The rotor began to spin faster and faster.
Behind the building, a fountain of dust and concrete debris suddenly shot up.
Elli heard the screeching of the gray creature and it came closerquickly.
And it was accompanied by the booming roar from the One from Outside. Then followed shots from numerous weapons and the banging of tank guns.
Reassured, Elli noted how the helicopter finally generated enough lift to take off from the ground just as SCP-096 broke through a wall of canisters.
Elli pulled on the control stick and the small helicopter made a veritable leap upward.
She exhaled audibly.
"As expected, you think so fast!" Aura gloated beside her in the copilot's seat.
Dean and Elli turned to her in disbelief.
"How the heck did you get in here?!" snapped Elli.
"I was in the elevator with you guys and I followed you," Aura explained matter-of-factly. "What is she still doing here, anyway!" she asked, glancing at Dean.
"But we have-," Elli began.
"Oh please, the fidgeting in the elevator? I'm a master thief, Elli," Aura interrupted her smugly. "It was easy to elude you. Look, if you throw the big one out now and take me instead, I'll disable the reality anchor. Sounds good, right?"
Elli gave her the look of ultimate annoyance.
"Dean, knock her out."
"With pleas-"
The helicopter suddenly tilted to one side. Numerous alarm systems blared off.
The screech of the gray thing was close at hand. A glance out the window confirmed to Elli that it was hanging on to the helicopter's landing gear with one hand, trying to get a firm grip.
It had to have jumped up.
"Evacuation!" yelled Elli.
Dean grabbed Aura by the throat and dragged her behind Elli to the door.
All three tried to get to the parachutes, but SCP-096 seemed to have finally found its footing and ripped off the door of the helicopter. The suction pulled all three of them out, and Elli escaped the monster's grasping hand by a hair's breadth.
Nevertheless, they now plunged unchecked down to earth.

Nero munched on a bag of gummy bears while sitting next to Ferra in the cockpit of the Space Speeder. He piloted because he was the better pilot, as the past had shown. Ferra was in charge of the on-board armaments for similar reasons.
The Space Speeder looked like the dull gold head end of a very narrow trident, thanks to the two subspace reactor engines that powered the ship and could catapult it through realities. The craft was about fifteen meters long and seven meters wide at its thickest point, plus a height of four meters. It was enough for the two of them and their personal belongings. For the two of them, this ship was their home.
At the moment, they were plodding through the Null Space.
"So, we're almost there," Nero said. "Adjusted the coordinates so we don't come out right on the ground on re-entry like last time. Would have almost hit a truck. But oh well, it would have run over the old woman otherwise, so we did something good today. We should probably more often-"
"Shut up and concentrate on steering," came from the copilot seat.
"All right. Reentry is happening… Now!"
With a flash of light, the reality ship appeared over some sort of industrial complex.
"Oh," Ferra made as she scanned the area. "We came out over a facility of the Paragon. Haven't gotten far enough with the technology here yet to be dangerous to us, fortunately."
"Bah, the Paragon… Hmm, what's going on there?"
Nero pointed to a trail of devastation. The people there were firing at something.
"Hm, that's One from Outside…" said Ferra.
"Didn't one of those eat away our bounty the other day before we could bag it?" Nero inquired.
The two looked at each other.
"Particle cannon?" asked Ferra, eyes blazing.
"Particle cannon," Nero confirmed grimly.
"Yay. Particle cannon."
On the Space Speeder, which by now was attracting attention on the ground as well, an elongated cannon with thick walls extended from the underside.
The gun swung at the giant lizard, which was chomping away at a tank.
"Eat that, you non-living asshole!" Nero roared.
"Particle cannon!" gloated Ferra stoically beside him.
The ship fired a glaring white beam of light that reached the monster at a not inconsiderable fraction of the speed of light, resulting in a blinding explosion whose blast wave shattered windowpanes several hundred meters around and dented the walls of nearby buildings. Vehicles and people were hurled away or at least knocked over by the blast.
There are many things that Those from Outside survive.
Complete subatomic obliteration, however, was not one of them.
"And fuck you, Paragon!" Nero added.
"Hehe… Particle cannon…"
Ferra looked out the window with satisfaction.
"Oh crap! Nero, over there!"
Nero looked in the indicated direction.
"Is that…"
"Yeah, now fly over there already!"
Nero didn't need to be told twice. When you had to pick up the bounty as a pulpy mass from the ground, there were always discussions when you handed it in….

Next to Elli, a scuffle developed between Dean and Aura as the thief tried to break free.
Above them, the monster let out a scream from the crashing helicopter and jumped after Elli.
Aura beside her pulled out a small device.
Elli recognized it as the reality anchor, but before she could even react, Aura disappeared.
Along with Dean.
Elli felt reality return to normal around her.
She could open the Nexus again….
But where? She had no frame…
Briefly, she considered searching in her bag for her inflatable life preserver she carried for just such cases, but that would slow her down too much. Above her, SCP-096 was still falling towards the ground, flailing and screaming.
No rosy prospects for Ellis' long-term survival…
Below her, an interreality ship suddenly came flying. She recognized one of the bounty hunters in the cockpit.
The ship performed an extremely daring maneuver. It turned its tail toward Elli and opened the cargo hatch. Inside, the cyborg was waiting for her. The ship seemed to have gravity generators, because they could stand on a surface that was vertically aligned with the Earth.
Perfect.
Elli straightened herself out, accelerating her fall.
The woman seemed to be aiming a tractor beam at her. If that hit her, that was it. Then she was trapped.
It was now or never.
Elli opened the Nexus in the cargo hatch directly in front of the woman and fell through shortly after. She could hear the cyborg on the other side cry out in disappointment as she hurtled toward the ground far above her turf.
She closed the portal.
But there was still shrieking behind her.
Turning around, she saw that the gray pain in the neck had fallen through the portal with her.
Elli put on an annoyed face.
"I guess you're inevitable, huh?" she asked, "But not in here, you prick!"
She snapped her fingers and SCP-096 instantly dissolved into gray dust.
Elli teleported to the ground.
"Stupid critter…"

Agent Custer, MTF soldier, picked himself up from the ground and looked incredulously at the sky, where the spacecraft disappeared with a flash of light.
His radio crackled.
"Agent Custer, this is the command post. Do you read me?"
"Uh… Yes, command post. Did you see that?"
"Yes but of course. What's the status on SCP-682 and -096?"
"Well, the gray one disappeared into the spaceship and the lizard…"
He turned back to the crater from which he had been flung. He still hurt from the impact, but at least that meant he was still alive.
He really wanted it to stay that way, but he had to get closer to the hole that was still smoking.
That took a while, as he moved with the speed of an arthritic turtle, but eventually he was able to peek over the edge.
"Uh, command post?"
"We're listening?"
"Here, uh, in the hole, there…. There's nothing in there at all. Melted rock, smoke here and there, but no sign of 682."
"Are you sure about that? We just checked the surveillance footage again, during and after the explosion SCP-682 didn't leave the crater. Is there a hole somewhere it could have dug?"
"No, command post, the critter's just gone, there's nothing here but molten rock."
"Standby…"
Agent Custer breathed an audible sigh of relief. He didn't know why, but somehow he knew the lizard was gone. So it was possible to face the horror of this world after all. He could feel it. There were interesting times ahead….

Elli looked at her detector as she entered the reality where Aura was currently residing. She had probed the world before.
The thief appeared to be serious about killing Dean. She had sought out one of the worst worlds Elli was aware of. She herself was now standing on the top floor of a ruined but still standing skyscraper, looking for her companion.
They were in the ruins of Buenos Aires, it seemed.
She found Dean below her on the ground, running away from something that was about twenty meters tall and had ten thick long legs. It looked like a black slug that someone had tried to convert into a spider tank. It had two bilious green eyes and a circular mouth that snapped at Dean. Blue-green glowing lines ran across the body.
Dean tried to jump to safety in a hole, but just as he hopped in, Elli opened the Nexus beneath him and sent him flying out the door beside her.
Dean landed on the seat of his pants, quite stunned.
"Elli! Whew, thought you'd take longer. That bitch beamed me right in front of that monster and then immediately turned invisible. Where are we, anyway?"
"Argentina," was all Elli replied, pulling a pair of futuristic-looking binoculars out of her bag.
"Doesn't look like Argentina," Dean remarked. "What happened here? There are monsters or X-Men knockoffs like this running around everywhere. Someone tried to hold me down with tentacles conjured from shadows."
Elli clicked her tongue in annoyance at having missed that.
"The world here has fallen victim to an otherworldly parasite. It sometimes mutates its victims beyond recognition and them superpowers. More superpowers than are good for the planet. Stay alert, everyone here has gone crazy.
"Couldn't we just call it quits and go?" asked Dean. "I mean, we'll probably get an rage regulator elsewhere, too."
"And risk Aura dropping you off somewhere I can't track you next time we run into each other again?" asked Elli, chuckling humorlessly. "No, this ends here, Dean."
Dean shrugged resignedly.
"Ah, I got her," Elli said, peering through several walls with her binoculars. "She's got her cloaking device on…. And she's coming at us?"
She felt reality begin to change around her. Elli neutralized the planned change as the Hume level dropped to near zero for a split second and took the opportunity to teleport her down from the building before it maybe collapsed.
Once down, she put her binoculars to her eyes again.
"What was that all about?" asked Dean, confused.
"Someone was trying to dictate reality to us," Elli replied. "But, I reject other people's reality and substitute my own, as you know."
"And we are still in their immediate environment because?"
"Extend your arm to the left."
Dean did as instructed and hit an invisible Aura that had just tried to run past them. Her cloaking device failed as she fell down. Elli pulled her back up by her hair.
"How did you-" she began, but was interrupted by Elli.
"I've been further into the future than you have. So, Aura, last chance. Give me the rage regulator and promise to leave us alone from now on."
Aura turned to her with an angry face.
"Why! What do I have to do to get your respect! I stole from Paragon, took nuclear missiles from corrupt governments, hell, I even outsmarted you!"
"You don't demand my respect," Elli lectured her, "You demand my attention. And if you put my friends in danger, I am done with you, Aura."
"That's what I thought…" the thief growled. "But if you're not with me…. Then you shall be with no one!"
Behind Elli, a person flew around the corner. It appeared to be a man, but as already said, he flew and behind him floated five concentric rings on which geometric shapes ran in opposite paths.
Elli sensed a reality shift emanating from the being and aimed at turning all three of them into pillars of salt. Elli altered it so that it suddenly lost all kinetic momentum relative to Earth.
The problem with this was, the planet continued to spin beneath him, causing him to shoot west at four hundred and sixty-five meters per second and crash into some ruined houses.
Aura's jaw dropped.
"Did you just…"
"He'll survive," Elli waved it off. "His Hume potential is high enough for that. It'll take him a while to wake up, though."
"Uh, no, you just wiped the floor with the ruler of Buenos Aires. That makes you the new boss around here."
"Yes, and?"
Aura looked around fearfully.
"Now they will come to take the title away from you again…"
"What?"
Some kind of glowing blue-green half-mutated rhinoceros beetle burst through a wall next to her and tried to run her over. Dean grabbed him and used his momentum to hurl him over his own shoulder. The bug man crashed to the floor and rolled onto his stomach to get back up. It didn't seem to have taken any damage through its armor plates.
Elli tried to run toward a building entrance to open the Nexus while Dean grabbed Aura, but suddenly the room in front of her distorted and a woman with completely silver skin stepped out of the distortion. She had hair that reached the floor and was grinning.
Suddenly the distance between her and Elli shrank without her moving. She took out her frying pan and struck. The woman tried to destroy the kitchen utensil with a spatial distortion, but indestructible steel was not impressed by altered space. Elli hit and sent her attacker to the ground.
Several figures, some glowing blue-green, appeared around her. Many were human, but creatures like the slug that had been chasing Dean were there as well.
Dean, Aura and Elli were herded together in the middle of the road like deer being chased by wolves.
"Any ideas, Elli?" asked Dean. "We really need some."
"I'm thinking!"
"Do it faster!"
"HEY! HANDS OFF OUR RETIREMENT PLAN!"
A hail of machine plasma fire descended around them, turning everything that could burn to ash. As Elli and Dean looked up, they saw the bounty hunters' spaceship. Several smoking weapon barrels were extended from its top.
The ship appeared to be on autopilot, as its two occupants jumped out of the vehicle from a height of certainly ten meters, the woman in the man's hands. He hit the ground unscathed, leaving a crater in his wake, and the woman fired something at Elli from the bridal carry. She dodged just in time, so Aura was hit instead at the arm. Elli felt the reality density rise. A glance at the thief confirmed her suspicions. A Scranton bracelet had been put on her.
"Ferra, let it rip!"
The bounty hunter named Nero set his partner down and immediately lunged at Dean. His hands turned into huge, fearsome claws as he did so.
"Look, I hate to rip you apart, but I strongly suspect that I can't buy you a cup of coffee, Missy."
Dean sprinted forward, overcoming the claws and ramming his opponent in the chest, throwing him backward.
In the process, however, the claws came at him again, costing him an arm and leaving several deep cuts in his torso. Sparks shot out of him
Nero got wide-eyed when he saw this.
"Oh what the- you're a robot?!"
"And a dude, actually," Dean confirmed.
The bounty hunter gasped in disbelief for several seconds.
"NO, MY CREATION!" cried Elli, who had witnessed Dean's demolition.
Then she and Aura had to run for their lives from two pulse pistols that the bounty hunter was operating simultaneously. She seemed to be starting to get pissed as she had to try hard not to bite her cigar.
"STAY! FUCKING! PUT!"
Elli didn't even think about it. She could see that Ferra was actually a good shot, but unlike Aura, she obviously wasn't used to people moving randomly and against established escape and evasion patterns. But if they tried to run away, the gray-haired woman simply followed suit.
Only, the closer she tried to get to the shooter to disarm her, the less time she had to react to gunfire, and her pan didn't help her here. Kinetic pulses just flowed through her and would turn Ellis' insides into red mush when Ferra hit. Dean meanwhile had resorted to running away from Nero, who in turn had turned his hands into long tentacles.
"NOT AGAIN!" yelled Dean.
They couldn't endure this farce forever. They needed a miracle!
And get one they did.
The reality bender from earlier came flying back in, pissed off. And his potential was enough to simply steamroll the power of the Scranton ring. But what he actually wanted to do didn't happen. Instead, Elli and Dean were gone.

"What!" gasped Nero, as the robot in front of him suddenly vanished into thin air.
He looked up at the sky, where this wannabe god was staring down at him like at an insect.
"Hey! You stole our money, motherfucker!"
The reality-bending man held out his hand to him. Light shone in it.
And then suddenly, the wannabe god's head was gone with a loud bang.
The bleeding remains fell to the ground. Nero didn't dwell on it, something like that tended to happen when you were with Ferra. Instead, he redoubled his efforts to capture the remaining woman. This was much easier than with this robot. She did try to run away while pulling something out of her pocket, but she was slower and exhausted faster. The smoke bomb in her hand did go off, but Nero ran her down in the white haze.
"Well then, buddy," Nero said as he dragged the woman out of the smoke wall. "Now tell us where your friend went."
Ferra stepped up to him. She seemed to have smoked up her cigar faster than usual, for she already had only a stub at the corner of her mouth.
They both saw that the woman was close to tears.
"I don't know! I don't have a tracker on her. She could be anywhere."
"Oh, not another chase!" fretted Nero.
"I think we can kiss that one goodbye, Nero," Ferra said, holding up the interreality tracker Nero had put on Elli earlier. "This must have fallen off earlier when I tried to shoot her."
Nero's jaw dropped.
"All that chasing was for nothing?" Nero angrily asked himself. "Come on, that was the biggest bounty of our career, We didn't even have this kind of trouble when we bagged Planet Killer Paul back in the day. Okay, a moon was destroyed in the process, but still! Can't you do something?"
Ferra shook his head.
"She got away from us."
Nero looked at Aura. His right arm became a bone blade….
"Wait, Nero," Ferra begged before Nero could strike in his rage.
He knew that look. Ferra matched the woman's face with her database.
"Are you Aura Malcmarr?" she then asked.
"Uh, yes?" the woman confirmed, confused.
Nero thought he saw dollar signs in Ferra's eyes….

Elli scowled as she returned to the Nexus. She came out to her computer room, which looked more like a starship control center than a workstation. Dean limped in behind.
"The good news, if the bounty hunters are half-smart, they'll either kill Aura or turn her over to interreality law enforcement. I don't know why they put a bounty on me. They should really know that I'm harmless if left alone…"
She booted up her computer and tapped a bit on the keyboard, searching the Interreal Network for bounties.
Sure enough, they had put a bounty on her with more digits than could fit in the interface. What made Elli wonder was that the amount was in Lunari.
"What does the Three Moons Initiative want from me?" she mused, but postponed the problem until later.
She gave an exhausted groan.
"Sorry, Dean, but we'll have to look for an rage regulator some other time. I don't have the energy for another purchase."
"Well, about that…" began Dean, reaching into his mouth with his remaining hand.
Elli's eyes widened as Dean pulled out the anger regulator.
"When did you-"
"When Aura tried to run away when the horde showed up, I grabbed her and took the opportunity to inconspicuously rummage through her pockets. It apparently never occurred to her that she wasn't the only pickpocket."
Elli knew Dean's dexterity from his cheats while gambling. Almost in awe, she accepted the anger regulator.
"Come on Dean, let me help you out of this wreck."

Chloe pouted as they strolled through a Hollywood shopping mall. Dean's old body had been restored and he seemed comfortable again.
"I bet you had the craziest adventures again," she grumbled.
Dean waved it off.
"Meh, we did have a little disagreement with a thief and a couple of bounty hunters while we were shopping, but that's been taken care of. Nothing out of our norm. Besides that, I almost got eaten by a crocodile, so you would have hated to be there."
Chloe pressed her lips together and eyed him skeptically.
"And you're sure everything's going to be okay?"
"Oh, yes," Elli confirmed. "I dropped some trash on the floor as a test and he just put me over his knee and spanked me."
Chloe eyed Dean with her eyebrows drawn together.
"When I spank someone, it's not pleasant, Chloe," he defended himself.
Elli nodded mutely, grievous and affirmative.
"I think you cracked my pelvic bone…"
"Nothing you won't survive, Elli, so grit your teeth," Dean grumbled.
"You're right," Elli agreed. "We're in Hollywood, so let's sit back and enjoy-"
The shopping mall around them suddenly began to billow as if viewed through water, giving way to an abandoned building.
Demon-like creatures sat around them on the walls and in the hallways of the higher floors.
With a puff of smoke, an old man with a beard and cowl materialized in front of them. He grinned derisively.
"Ah Elli. How kind of you to have so easily fallen into my net," he said in a surprisingly pleasant voice.
The demons around them laughed maliciously.
"Look, I'm only interested in a small donation," the man continued smugly. "If you leave your brain here, then-"
Dean clenched his fists.
"Easy… Easy…", Elli implored him, but Chloe had the impression she was saying that more to herself.
They actually seemed to be getting calmer again.

Next time on Nexus:
Dreaming with Elli, Part 1

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