First of all I complain about Wikia as well as my laptop because lag and edit mistakes. Anyway. This is the 'fault' of:
- First of all, me. For introducing the Envelope head (and the Printer head later);
- Secondly, Ludi, for making HERE'S THE MAIL;
- Me again, for having the idiocy and inspiration for the mailpets (more of those on the shelf, by the way); everyone who reacted positively is also at fault;
- LD again, this time for giving me the title of this blog page as a thing.
- But still it's just my fault, obviously. This is all a bad joke.
This includes Return to Sender, which was written as its prologue, essentially.
All of this was originally intended to be a joke-ish story, and not something as serious as it has gotten to. However, thanks to 'The Great Mailman War', a comment by Ludi somewhere along the way. now it's stuck in my head and everything. There was a plot I was going to use to replace the existing and poorly written stories hosted on this timeline, but that plot is out the window until I find a use for its little pieces that it has fallen into in the garbage bin. See now, The Great Mailman War.
Chapter 1 - Aftermath of the Postmaster Incident
It had seemed far too obvious. Ludus, in all its busy cities and other places, was a very haystack in which to seek a single individual. It would have been logical for the mail-spreading lunatic to seek a base of operations in some distant and relatively quiet place, where no people would be able to interfere with his actions. However, he'd instead chosen an old little warehouse near the coast. While this was certainly not the most populated area of Ludus, it was everything but secluded, which struck Helen as very odd.
"So that's where you've been hiding, then..."
Before anyone could spot the short woman in her odd set of green armor, she disappeared from the timeline as a whole as quietly as she'd hopped onto it.
"Ah, Helen, you have returned. I may assume that you have succeeded, am I correct?" Helen nodded as the Maintenancekeeper descended from his quarters. He'd been waiting for this information for quite some time now, especially because of how dire the situation could turn if this unchecked instance of Delinius was not halted.
Helen laughed. "You'll be surprised by where he's set up shop, though." She handed him her notes and a rough map with markings of their current pursuits. Delinius the Maintenancekeeper, her friend and 'superior', gazed at the map intently for a moment, then nodded in approval. "Well done, dear. See to it that you keep track of his actions. I may very well need to make indirect contact with the local instance of myself in the meantime." After he'd copied some of Helen's notes, he hastily left the room. Helen quickly shouted after him. "Don't forget to tell Lisa I said hi!" While he did not care in particular for the request, but he would oblige regardless. After all, it was best to keep Helen in good spirits.
He proceeded towards his personal lockers, where he unearthed the old and rather eccentric disguise he'd constructed for himself a long time ago. Obviously, it was highly out of fashion in every possible way, but this would only work in his favour. Nobody expects an unusual man, even moreso eccentric in appearance, to be a threat of any kind.
"My dear colleagues, we stand upon an edge between the relative order and rationality of our daily lives, and the chaos and madness that has begun to invade our planet through the foul plague of envelope creatures and their products. Even though flamethrowers are to be authorised as a disposal method against this plague, we must act now." He paused shortly before continuing, passing over an obvious question that arose in the heads of most attendants. "Of course, one would expect that I, renowned for my proficiency in the art of pyromancy, could handle this situation myself. Such would be the case if this plague was nothing more than some disorganised and natural occurence subject to the rules of Gaia and Chaos. However, there are many reasons to believe that this is not the case."
On the screen behind him, images of some of the larger creatures that had been captured or at least discovered were presented. "Many of you will probably remember the rather turbulent events regarding the capture of the Aerial Envelope Droppers, notably the aftermath of several of them being sent down onto a major distribution centre for the Ludusian mail services." He cast a peculiar glance at a pair of officials who attended the meeting. "Though the support of local law enforcement was much appreciated in its goal, I'd rather not discuss my personal opinion of the utterly reckless behaviour displayed by several individuals in said enforcement." Again, he cast the same ominous glance at the government officials, this time with a small nod. The two returned a similar nod and subsequently exited the room without a word.
Delinius coughed, probably because of the dry and dusty air in the room. "Now then. From the very onset, it was clear that some amount of coordination was occurring - the Mass Scale Paper Distributor was found with obvious signs that it could not have come to be there by sheer chance, let alone the large-scale attack that was directed at myself." The next slide loaded a photo of someone with a striking resemblance to Delinius himself. "This here might appear to you as merely a photograph of myself in my younger years, but pay close attention, dear attendees. His hair is not quite the same. Moreover, he wears a mostly blue attire, something that I would clearly not choose for daily wear." For convenience, he omitted his blue 'disguise coat' from this speech.
"Who is this man? He refers to himself primarily as "The Postbringer". Where from he has come or why he has chosen Steckenberg for his devious schemes, I do not know. Rest assured, however, that he will not rest until he has brought Steckenberg down to anarchy with his flood of paper."
"Wait... how exactly is a flood of paper going to bring anarchy?"
Delinius shook his head. "The flood of paper is rather a rhetorical image I wish to paint, Mr Isles. However, it does represent the flood of plaguing creatures that this delusional man intends to make use of to achieve his goal."
Much of the audience remained somewhat puzzled. "And his goal, ask you might? To deliver his mail. Everywhere, to everyone. And to deliver it forever. This man seeks to overtake our society."
His words were met with silence.
"Has he not made it so that people hardly dare venture out of their homes in the morning? Do any of you not worry when you venture out to work, that you might be facing more of the envelope plague? Whatever the case, his detrimental influence on daily life is already beginning to show. Lest we want complete civil unrest, we must act quickly."
The meeting was concluded with his speech, and most of those present soon filed out of the room, leaving Delinius with Zachary, Baxter and Sam, as well as several other co-workers who apparently did not have a particular task to pursue at the moment. Hankvi had been invited, but never appeared - presumably he was either busy or going through some sleep mid-work, as he usually was. "Delinius, could I speak with you in private?"
Delinius briefly pondered on this request: Baxter rarely asked to speak personally, for he was very much a man of business. "Very much so, Mr Quint." The two walked to Baxter's office at a quick pace, at which point each took a seat.
"As you might guess, I'm not calling you for a personal talk for just any reason." Delinius nodded, knowing that this was as he expected. "I would not expect otherwise from any one as occupied as you usually are. I suppose you wish to discuss the matters regarding the mail and its troubles?" Baxter smiled. "That's right."
"I'm a little worried about what this entire plague might do to our company, and I'm sure you are too." While Baxter's tone was very friendly and amiable as it usually was, his face did express the worry of his words. Delinius took a few papers out of his bag and placed them on the desk. "So far, there have been no less than 74 traffic incidents either involving the plague creatures themselves, or self-righteous people who believed to know the cause of the plague." He elaborated on the latter statement, as it was indeed very confusing. "That is, they actively sought conflict with honest mail carriers. Of these 74, I was present within several minutes of the incident being reported."
Delinius sighed. "What does this tell you, Baxter? It tells you quite a lot about my own worries about this entire situation. It may hardly surprise you that I have my axe readily available in the event that something spontaneously occurs." Baxter nodded approvingly. "Yes, so I heard. It can't hurt, I guess. What I want to know, however, is about our headquarters in particular." This surprised Delinius: he had expected Baxter to ask if there was anything in particular that needed extra attention in this regard. "To be exact, how well it might hold up if we end up being a target of these... plague creatures. You've had some experience with these things now. What would we do if something invades our building?" Delinius carefully considered his answer. After a while, he set out a plan with detailed instructions. "Now, now, I've merely fought a horde of them in defending my mansion. However, it should be quite simple. If a hostile creature enters this building, you have all non-essential employees guided to safe areas. The essential ones will unfortunately be at risk." He could see the relative disappointment on Baxter's face.
"All previous encounters considered, however, those that are not in the vicinity of large paper quantities are not at much of a risk, given that their location is not in the path to any such paper quantities. That brings us to the primary concern, in fact. These creatures will seek paper to use as sustenance or as projectiles to launch, and thus must be kept out of the various archives. For that purpose, I propose we keep the archives under more protection than we currently do, with mandatory request forms for any archive access. This will be tedious, but will only be necessary until the Postbringer has finally been rooted out."
He smiled as he briefly paused.
"Not to worry, I already had this plan written out a few days ago. I'm certain that you are wondering about what exactly we ought to do about the paper creatures themselves. Now, due to the fact that I have consistently been in my office for longer days than usual, you might expect that I either have more work to do, or am working at a quicker pace to have more time at my hands. The latter is the case, and it is why I will be able to act as our primary defense. I suggest you have someone in the employee department track down as many of our employees who have some amount of experience with pyromancy, which remains the most effective way of dealing with these monsters. Send them to me in an orderly fashion, and I will attempt to teach them the workings of controlled fire so that the paper plague is the only thing that actually goes up in flames."
With these final words, he leaned back in his chair. Baxter was not notably impressed, or did very well in hiding it.
"Well, that's quite a detailed plan. Do you have any figures regarding its effectivity?" Delinius shook his head. "Of course not, dear Baxter. We have never experienced any such things. In addition, I do have figures based on whatever statistics I was able to acquire from officials, as well as my own records. Statistically, it is highly unlikely that the Postbringer or his creatures will take any interest in this building's contents."
Baxter's questions were not quite answered by this. "Statistically? Is there a different model?" Delinius smiled, though in a fairly grim manner. "Common sense would predict that the lad will most surely take interest in me, as we've seen a while ago. That is as much as I had to say about this matter."
Delinius stood up and left the office. He had not answered every single question that was likely on Baxter's mind, that much was certain. However, Baxter did not need to know everything just yet, and in fact had best not know all that which Delinius had encountered over the course of his working career at Isles & Quint.
Returning to his office and floor, Delinius calmly sat down behind his own desk. This time, there were no pressing cases in particular that had to be resolved immediately, and so he set aside the most recent box of files for a later time. "Now, what is it that I was supposed to look after..." There were many things on his mind, and not in the least the entire mail plague and the implications if the Postbringer was truly himself from another timeline. While he was in the middle of overthinking this subject in particular, a voice disturbed his thoughts "Hey, Delinius?" Natalie Vertaska, as her name was, had appeared in the doorway as the only colleague he dealt with on this floor. She'd remained as an intern for a good while, and had acquired a permanent position on this floor by her own request.
"Oh, excuse me, Natalie. I was overthinking the entire deal with the mail plague. It continues to surprise me that official media have adopted that term from my words, of all things that they could have picked." He smiled. She'd remained here consistently over the past two months, and had developed an incredibly good feeling for the floor, its general mess, and Delinius' sorting system in the many file cabinets divided across several areas. On top of all the work-related virtues, she was also a very kind individual and often made some tea for breaks, like she had right now.
"Mind if I come in?" She held up two cups as a justification. "Of course, dear. I did not have any particular pursuit to follow at the moment, anyhow." Nat took the chair opposite of Delinius and placed it on his side, next to him. "So, how'd the speech go?" Delinius sighed. "Oh, please. The two officials were quite obviously present, and they have exactly that which they deserve. The remainder of it was quite agreeable, though I doubt that there will be many within the company who truly follow what is happening." Nat leaned against him and nodded. "Baxter expressed some worries about this concrete moloch being at risk from mail plagues and their related problems. Given the relatively low paper density in this place, I doubt that-" Nat burst into laughter. "Of course, that does not include this floor, Natalie."
He did smile, however: between the two of them, many jokes like this one made the working day a little more bearable. "In all seriousness, however, most of the other floors only have a single archive space, if any at all." Delinius stretched his arms and yawned. "Well, we might as well attempt to resolve some of this paperwork, now that we've gotten together at this desk." Natalie sighed. "Fair enough. We're not getting paid for the extra hours, are we?"
Delinius slowly shook his head, though he did grin. "Our only compensation is the complete reign over this floor. Which, considering the cramped cubicles of some of the other floors, is actually quite a privilege. As I recall, Lucas once referred to it as "a chicken coop of terrifying dead faces bent over tiny screens and papers" that was quite unnerving to him. Now, he often exaggerates, and the claim regarding the dead faces seems more of a joke regarding their relatively mundane existence. An existence which", he added, "I quite frankly would not like to experience."
The Postmaster Incident
Not long after the events of Osmium 16th, a large number of airborne creatures started to appear above Steckenberg, Universe City, [REDACTED], and a number of other locations. While those related to [REDACTED] were able to address the situation in most situations, D.R. Langton was called in to deal with the creatures located over Steckenberg due to concerns about public safety. While successful in taking the threat of the Airborne Envelope Droppers, several of the creatures in question landed on the roof of the Steckenberg General Delivery headquarters, spilling the many creatures that they spawned right into the building and caused ███ injuries and ██ casualties. According to Mr. Langton, at least ██ injuries and no less than ██ of the unfortunate casualties were due to an error in the judgement of the local law enforcement operatives, though this claim has not yet been verified by independent analysts. However, Mr. Langton did release an official announcement.
I will have everyone involved know that the result of this incident was not in my hands. If your Gruffy McFluffkins, the head of the local police department with as much perception as a typical formicid, decides that his people have to take aim at something when his superiors specifically instruct him to avoid direct engagement by firearms, then it is on his head that this situation had an undesirable outcome and not my own. It was for a reason that I was appointed to deal with the bloody things myself, just as I was sent to capture the source of the Paperworks Deliverers.
Should any one person, including and especially the man himself, doubt this claim, I invite them to begin a lawsuit against my person. They will find that they will not like it at all once they do.
- D.R. Langton, Isles & Quint Legal Department
Chapter 2 - Domestic Post
This one peculiar individual had been bugging Maltus over seeing Delinius for almost an hour now, which wasn't helped by the fact that his own words didn't quite flow as quickly or steadily as those of the interrogator.
"But surely, good sir, he must have told you something about the information that they have and where they maintain it?" Maltus shook his head irritably and pointed a finger at the man. "Please, get, uh, out of here. Unless of course, you..." The rest of his sentence was not completed, as Delinius just so happened to have arrived home. Maltus sighed. "...see him arrive home, which is right, uh, now." At last, the peculiar short fellow turned away and sped off to speak to Delinius.
"Excuse me, sir! Are you Mr. Delinius Langton?" Delinius looked around with mild surprise, about to proceed through the door. "Why, yes, that is my name. Did you need me?"
Rather than speaking, this eccentric-looking man offered him a number of folders. When he spoke again, Delinius recognised the man's accent and found it notably similar to his own. "These very likely pertain to some matters that concern and interest you. Now, I must be off, for I have many things to do, as I am sure you do too. My greetings go to your associates, as well as those under your roof." Just as Delinius was about to inquire about the origin of the files in his hands, the man disappeared in what seemed a flurry of flames and gears, and he recognised a pair of archaic letters in the haze: Δϝ, delta-wau. The exact meaning of this combination was unclear to him, though he noted the particular way in which the letters had appeared.
"What the hell did he... want?" Maltus had made his way over to Delinius. "He did not want, but rather wished to give me these files, which apparently pertain to something important. Say, did you notice how similar his accent was to my own?"
Maltus did not respond, instead opting to nod at the files. Delinius opened the folder at the top of the stack. Inside was a detailed description of a route to the "target location". At the end of it, a note had been scribbled by hand:
I believe that you will find this useful in engaging the Postbringer in combat. Do take care to bring enough of a force along with you, for he will certainly make use of his array of plaguing creatures.
I take my leave now. May you use the information I've gathered for you to the best of your ability.
"The Maintenancekeeper? Strange, I know no such person."
While he'd been reading, he'd unknowingly walked all the way to the back of his house, finding himself at the kitchen entrance. There was nobody there, but there was a notable pile of paper bags with freshly baked bread on the table, probably something Ina had gone to pick up at the nearby 'settlement', as it was unofficially called. What few actual crops happened to grow in his garden were delivered to a small bakery there, usually to be bought primarily by Ina, who seemed to care for the well-being of the baker and his family.
"Hey, what's that paperwork in your hands?" Before he'd spoken a word, Ina had already handily plucked the stack of folders from his hands and began reading. "Some things from a curious individual at my door, presumably all pertaining to our unwanted mail issues. I see you have acquired some new bread once again, hm?"
Ina smiled. "Hey, you have to admit that it tastes better than whatever else there is within our reach. But this is a pretty interesting set of files, from what I see. Do you think that this is real?" While it was of course odd that someone should have several folders full of information about the Postbringer, it was clear that these documents were quite accurate: much of the information was in line with that which was already known about the Postbringer and his plague of mail creatures.
To Jonathan T. Sweeny, For goodness sake, Jonathan, you are the one who ought to know that padlocks are not permitted! See to it that mishaps like the ones with Epistulans do not happen again, please. Though I personally would be more lenient, this is a fairly strict guideline that we must all adhere to. You are the one responsible for these ignorant fools, and thus they wish to punish you. - D. R. Langton
Not much had happened after he'd accidentally seen and left padlock hanging on the gate to Epistulans' cage at the time, but the aftermath was right here, on his desk. Apparently written and signed by the head of legal issues himself.
He was essentially just another office worker in these situations, even though he had more responsibilities than his salary would suggest. Even Delinius, who would normally be a lot less strict about these issues, could not really help him either. With an irritable sigh, he pushed his chair back from his desk. "Time to break the news to these guys..." He slowly walked off.
"These very likely pertain to some matters that concern and interest you. Now, I must be off, for I have many things to do, as I am sure you do too. My greetings go to your associates, as well as those under your roof."
He disappeared before his counterpart could inquire any further, returning to his base. After ridding himself of his ridiculous costume, he sprinted towards his desk. "Did you get the folders across?" Rather than replying immediately, he rummaged through a drawer until he found a particular document. "Yes, this is it. Sorry, Helen. I did indeed deliver the documents. Now we must wait, and see what my counterpart will do with them."
Would Delinius of that timeline know what to do? Of course he would, that much was clear since the armada of mail creatures he'd defeated. Prove a match for this 'Postbringer' iteration that was stirring up unrest, he perhaps would only barely.
A significant thud shook everyone from their concentration, especially when it was followed by a loud sound of a wall breaking and an even louder explosion.
The mail creatures had struck once again.
Someone tripped over a chair and cursed. What was going to happen now? Call emergencies, someone yelled out, before being struck by a heavy envelope that was travelling at high speed. However, emergencies did not have to be called at all.
"Nobody has given any of you permission to breach these walls!" A rather dangerous-looking Delinius had come bursting through a window, spraying bits of glass across the desk in front of it. The monitor that sat on the desk landed on the ground with its foot perfectly on the ground, undamaged by the glass splinters littering the floor around it.
Soon enough, the first monsters were making their way up to the next floor, having consumed every form of paper they could find on the ground level, excepting toilet paper. Surprisingly, a pair of workers had constructed a barrier at the staircase by flipping several tables on their sides. From there, three office workers were fending the mail monsters off using clipboards and various other objects found around them: one was even wielding a keyboard as a clubbing weapon.
"Excuse me." Delinius handily vaulted over the makeshift barrier, crushing two monsters under his weight. Fending off several smaller monsters trying to spit paper at his face, he set fire to the cheap rugs that covered the staircase, ensuring that not one of the mail creatures that would try to ascend any further was able to survive the climb.
A buzzing in his coat pocket made Delinius aware of a caller. "Delinius R. Langton speaking."
"Yes, Mr. Langton. There seems to be a bit of an issue over at one of our buildings, and we cannot reasonably reach it by any means." The man mentioned a street Delinius knew to be the place of a notable records archive. "You know what to do." The call ended, and he ran forth. Once he'd gained enough momentum, he summoned his signature auric wings to carry him across the streets a little more quickly. Some people were calling for regulations in regards to the various magicians and 'alien' species that were capable of flight, especially because there had been a few traffic incidents. If any such a thing were ever invented, however, there was little chance he would personally worry about it.
The site of the undesirable situation stood out clearly: not only were the surrounding streets blocked by a swarm of monsters, the area above the building was infested with mail monsters as well. Fiery projectiles cleared Delinius' path, and he managed to land on top of the building without much resistance from the monsters. Rather than inquiring about the exact nature of the trouble, he summoned a fairly unusual weapon that looked like a makeshift firearm, with an axe blade attached to the triple barrel's end and a fuel canister attached underneath.
This was the Hades Harbinger: a multi-purpose weapon that had been gifted to him by Hankvi and Masa for a birthday. While it had seemed practical yet not overly powerful at first, it had proved its worth during a hectic skirmish with some belligerent drunkards armed with sharp weapons. They had been too close to effectively wield any of his axes, but quite resistant to magic according to their fame. With little other option in a crowded space, he'd equipped the weapon and hit the inebriated men with it, which proved more than enough to halt them in their threats. He'd immediately left the place afterwards, though the weapon's worth was undeniable at that point.
"That's a cool weapon, sir. Where'd you get that?" Delinius did not reply, instead unloading a barrage of arrows at the swarm of creatures above the building. A number of them closed in, aiming to land a few hits, but they were fried by the flamethrower part of the Hades Harbinger.
"How very convenient that they simply swarm, yet how peculiar their harmless nature." Something wasn't quite right.
"Oh, but of course..." He quickly turned, flaming a blast of envelopes by instinct.</span>"
"Ah, what a shame. I'd thought you might fall for such an obvious thing." The Postbringer's sly grin was irritating to watch, but the fact that he then conjured a stream of paper of many shapes and sizes was even worse, and their flame-retardant properties meant that they were in fact dangerous. "This won't do." He darted forward with the lightest of his axes, the Sunny Day. As fire did not particularly help here, this was a good alternative. The Postbringer initially simply dodged, before reluctantly conjuring a torn mail box as a weapon of his own. While he was quite proficient with it, it was clear this was everything but his strong suit. After several minutes, Delinius managed to knock the cursed thing right out of the Postbringer's hands. "I suppose your paper affairs have left you a little bare-handed now, hm?"
Without a word, the Postbringer disappeared, leaving Delinius to deal with a few hundred monsters pounding on the doors of the building.
Chapter 3 - Burnt Mail
There is no particular reason to panic here. However, we may need to revise our current procedures. As well, I'd like to know where my assigned team of law enforcers has gone.
His request had been denied, much to his irritation. Not all was lost, as the occasional group of youths decided to make a dozen or so molotovs to deal with troublesome monsters from time to time, significantly decreasing his workload.
"Have they given up on stopping any of it?"
"Oh, no. They've simply decided that their resources need not be spent on something that is highly disruptive to day-to-day living. Quite understandable, after all. Our dear government is there to govern, not to protect anyone, clearly. Yet I may very well take it up with the highest authority."
He took a memo from a stack of papers, written by himself. It had been spread to everyone involved in even the most remote of ways, so as to increase awareness of the poor policy in regards to handling the heavy infestation of monsters. If they did not wisen up and act upon their promises, he would likely have to unearth some of the least favourite official closet skeletons, ones that the authorities would rather not see go public. It was equally viable to merely threaten with it, but acting upon the threat immediately was more effective to force the government into listening to him.
"Oi!" The man known as Delinius was pushing through the crowds, apparently focused on something.
From the alleys, squads of rebellious young people began to follow him. He followed too. Together with some of his mates, they cooked up short-term strategies to keep mail monsters at bay. Their street had fortified itself against the entire plague as best it could, since moving beyond that safe zone meant dealing with mail monsters in some way. Delinius had been robbed of his taskforce, some said. If it was because they either never liked the man to begin with or because he was not given enough resources to perform his task well and exactly because of it got no more support from the government, nobody could tell. And so he had apparently rallied some otherwise useless youths who were willing to be commanded by a fairly brisk man - with a beard. The entire ordeal had apparently caused Delinius to ignore shaving.
An alarm bell was rung somewhere.
"Forwards! Fortify this area!" And so they did, and they did it with great discipline in small groups. Some wielded melee weapons, others had slings or bows, and a few were experimenting with their magical talents. Most importantly, they were surprisingly capable, to the point where they shrugged off the attacking hordes without much trouble.
The main reason they were under constant attack here was the fact that there was a large library in the street. Authorities either could not help them, or were generally disinterested in protecting everyone.
"Bloody plague times of old, indeed." It was something he muttered while watching his 'troops' fight off the monsters.
"So wot are you doin' about the ma'er now, mate?" Delinius replied with a surprisingly similar accent, though his was slightly less slang-ridden.
"There is not much I'm able to do until the government bloody well hoists up its own trousers for once, rather than being senile and having it done for them. We were in fact headed somewhere for that purpose, but I noted your position and decided it wise to help defend it. I'll send word so that you will be supplied on a regular basis."
Without any further words, he walked on, checking to see if the current infestation was dying down.After rallying everyone, they moved onwards, Delinius brandishing his axe.
In the process of reaching the government building of his choice, Delinius and his following plowed through hordes of monsters, both dead and living. While it cost them quite some effort, this was the shorter path, and even that was still incredibly tedious and seemingly endless. The longer path, while less hazardous, would have given the monsters more time to harass them.
"To our left the building stands that we seek. Hold a defensible position here."
They complied, and Delinius proceeded towards the building's security alone, who aimed their weaponry at him.
"No unauthorised access, sir."
While the alien fellow who said this appeared determined to stand by these words, their voice wasn't quite strong enough to be convincing.
"You must believe me when I say that I am more than authorised, seeing as I seem the only sane man trying to treat the problems of this plague systematically."
"Sir, I will have to remove you from the grounds if you do not turn back."
"Don't be ridiculous." He stepped forward and gently pushed through, granting none of the armed personnel so much as a glance. They were with many, but each individual making up the security force was acutely aware that a moody Delinius was not to be resisted - in that regard, having a sliver of infamy and mystery around yourself was an advantage. They wouldn't dare to do so much as report that he had entered the building.
This was, in contrary to what most believed, the place where the Emporer generally was found. Rendering himself invisible to observation of the naked eye, Delinius proceeded to Taku's usual abode. He'd been here in the past, unauthorised, simply to see the place for himself and to see what Taku's function entailed. Much of it was simply looking at important documents or being present at certain meetings, though he didn't pay close attention to the contents. Affairs of state and politics were best left to those capable of handling them.
"Excuse me, sir?"
Taku had been working on something that was lying on his desk, and now looked up. When he saw that Delinius was standing there, he was surprised.
"...Delinius? How did you get in here?"
"Irrelevant, good man. You know well enough. This plague of mail monstrosities is getting out of hand."
He was quite aware that Taku had gone through an event like this before, which was perhaps all the better.
"As for a taskforce once appointed to me of five individuals, it seems to have vanished into thin air. Not particularly relevant, but it illustrates to what extent some of your subordinates worry about this issue. I understand that you cannot take each and every one of them by the hand, mind you."
He gave Taku some time to process the words: he was probably reminded of the last time he'd had a meeting with a familiar figure just as much as Delinius himself.
"However, you must see now why we ought to-"
"Our resources are already stretched because of this problem. That's something you probably know, seeing as you're pretty perceptive."
Delinius shook his head. This was true, but that was not the point.
"Why, of course they are!"
He had made a grotesque gesture to demonstrate the incredibly obvious nature of this statement.
"And I am here to tell you to focus it ever so slightly on a particular area, so that you can ward it off in that particular place. Once you clear an area for the most part, you can dedicate your resources elsewhere."
Taku understood the point, but was equally hesitant to agree.
"If it eases your worries, I can have it arranged that Dwineans take it upon themselves to protect others from harm. That's something you most certainly know. The official records of my person span several cabinets of both facts and information that has not been verified."
"You broke into the records? I could have you arrested for that, you know."
He ignored the difficult decision to point this out, much to Delinius' irritation.
"And yet you haven't, Taku. You know that I broke into the records; I was not hiding from your view in particular, was I? You have repeatedly seen me break rules and laws in a way that would entail imprisonment. You have repeatedly watched, and done nothing about it, as you're aware that I do so only as is needed."
He briefly smiled.
"I am very much filling this in for you, but I believe my statements are true. Now..."
Taku watched as he casually sat down on the edge of the desk, there being only one chair in the room, Taku's.
"I'll see what I can do, Delinius. But I'm telling you..."
"If this ends up doing more harm than good, I will arrest you."
"By all means. After all, you still are the one in the lead, not I. I'll see myself out."
As Delinius exited the building, Taku sighed. He began writing down that which Delinius had proposed to him when his eye fell on an unfamiliar folder.
As was to be expected, Delinius had already done the work for him. There was a detailed plan laid out for him, with which areas were best left to be focused on later, and even in which places he could seek help from local Dwinians for the entire scheme. At the end was a hand-written note in an ornate yet easily legible handwriting that he already knew.
Now, I understand that it is still your decision, but I felt it would be rather inconsiderate to let you do the planning work without any reference material at all. A map of where Dwinians have notable communities is included on the second page, as you've seen. I'd advise you to contact the leaders of whichever one you may be dealing with at any time, and to do so personally. Explain that the plan was invented by me in its base, regardless of how much you deviate from this particular document. They will understand what their task is when you do this, else they will want to know every last detail of it. Let me say that many of them are silly old men that have not the greatest ability to fill in the details of a given task themselves, even though they are excellent at detailing tasks to give to others.
I wish you good fortune, Taku. In the meantime, I will continue to strife with mail monsters to buy the hapless people time where I must. Fortunately, we do not live in an age where nobody know how to wield weaponry; else my task would be positively impossible.
Delinius was indeed only six years younger than Taku. Even so, they rarely spoke with each other for long: Taku was usually busy, and Delinius had his own things to tend to as well. As well, Delinius somehow seemed to be far wiser in a way. While Taku had an excellent view on all inhabitants at any given time, Delinius could not only see through people's words to discover their motives, he could manipulate light and information to such an extent that he could go invisible, both to the naked eye and to Taku.
The first time it had happened, Taku put out an order to bring Delinius to him for questioning. At the time, he didn't really know what kind of person Delinius had turned into, so much of his interrogation was hampered by the fact that he didn't know enough about Delinius to ask precise questions. In the end, he'd spent several hours listening to Delinius giving a summary of what he had experienced ever since the Ludusian monster plague had happened. Just when his questions had been answered well enough, Delinius had the nerve to ask him a question.
"Tell me, Emporer, what of Anicetus? Has he ever been to visit?"
The question was too specific for it to be coincidence: whatever magic or knowledge he possessed, he apparently knew that Taku's childhood friend had been to talk to him at some point, and even implied that he knew some details about the encounter.
"Who's asking the questions here?"
Delinius at the time merely smiled, then said:
"I am now."
However, he continued with a more serious tone, a somewhat stern look on his face, as if he was the one in charge, and not Taku.
"The question need not be answered, however. I gather from your reaction that you'd rather not discuss it, and I will respect it. And so, should I ever become invisible to you, you needn't summon me here again. My times of attaining a false identity and hiding are in the past now, as you might understand."
For the first hour or so after he'd let Delinius go, Taku had merely sat there, somewhat frightened by the man's incredibly perceptive mind. As he calmed down, however, he had felt a need to speak with Delinius again at a later time. Through their sparse conversations, Taku had learned to trust Delinius' judgement enough that he didn't worry if Delinius went entirely invisible - he'd been able to see him do several things that were illegal, but every time he committed something that was considered a crime normally, it was something he did out of necessity: for example, a street thug threatening Delinius with a knife for all his money was incapacitated and left on the ground, the knife taken along and disposed of. Never was there a case where he inflicted unnecessary pain or injury on someone.
Eventually, Taku had mostly stopped looking at whatever Delinius was doing.
"Let this be clear. Denying that these documents exist is futile: they were filed with Isles & Quint, and I was the one to handle them. I possess these. The paper on this desk is merely a high-quality copy."
He was as calm as he was infuriated, which was possibly more terrifying than the bloodied warrior he had proven himself against the ongoing monster plague.
"Is it understood that you will comply with the Emporer's plan of attack against the mail plague?"
The official's forehead shone with sweat. Delinius had been talking for over an hour, enumerating all the nasty documents he'd attained - all of them actually filed with the company where he worked. He knew too much to be ignored, even though he was generally not inclined to leverage his knowledge too much.
This time, however, it was clear they had impeded him more than he could tolerate.
Chapter 4 - Denial of Service
Dwinians ran forwards, frying many monsters as well as their attacks. Some packed light weaponry and armour, but the majority of them fully relied on their magic to fight.
"Excellent. Now, where is the man who created this plan..."
He was not here: this was simply one of the many concentrations of Dwinians that had been summoned to aid in driving back monsters.
"Damn you and your decentralised approach."
Once he'd finished off the large monster that was producing spawn of some sort, he responded.
"Know how to shoot a rifle?"
"I am capable of wielding about any weapon, madam."
"Then take this and follow me, if you know what's good for you!"
The woman then shoved a rifle into Delinius' hands and marched for something large that loomed in the distance. Quite ironic that she'd done so, as he already carried a firearm with him.
Apparently, more civilians had been ordered to help in fighting the creature: several people were on roofs and in other tactically sound places, taking aim at a hard-to-miss target. The rifle he'd been given had seen better days, that was clear.
"Madam, I'm afraid this rifle won't hit even that big a target. I do possess a firearm of my own, however."
Delinius slung his antiquated weapon around his shoulder and took aim. It was by no means a very good weapon: if not kept perfectly clean, it was likely to jam, requiring disassembly to get it operational again. He'd bought it many years ago at a weekly market on Mavus, renowned for its merchants and their often surprising wares. Despite its delicate nature regarding dirt, it was fairly accurate and did not give all that much recoil, and so he picked off a particularly persistent monster that was harassing a professional soldier.
Chapter 5 - The Second Postmaster Incident
During a raid mission against a high concentration of monsters in the woods southeast of Steckenberg, it was discovered that a facility had been constructed in its cover. When government operatives, assisted by Dwinians (on the Emporer's instructions, based on a conversation with ████████ █. ███████), encountered the facility, a significant number of creatures identical to those of the first Postmaster incident emerged from an opening in the roof, along with hundreds of smaller monsters.
Both government units and Dwinians were unable to cope with the overwhelming numbers until an unidentified individual appeared from an unknown location and froze the majority of the monsters, apparently through time magic, ensuring further success. All monsters were captured or eliminated, while the facility itself has been cordoned off for study of certain devices inside, including a [REDACTED] that has much in common with an existing Isles & Quint facility's machinery.
"I'll have you later. You're still just following the little lines dotted out for you on the big treasure map!"
He cackled with laughter.
"So, tell me a bit about the machinery they found in the forest, Delinius."
"I am a handler of legal files, Mr. Quint, not a technician. You have received the technicians' reports on the hidden facility."
Baxter shook his head with a mild smile. "No, Delinius, I want your view on it."
"In machinery and technology, I am but a lay. By the looks of the machinery, it was quite similar, but I noted something that couldn't have formed in our history at all."
Baxter's expression changed in an instant to moderate curiosity. "Are you saying this machinery must have-"
"Somehow been based on a different history, indeed. See now..."
He placed his own copy of the rough blueprints on the table, rough schematics that I&Q technicians had made on the fly, with his own notes.
"One of these deviations you see detailed here relies on a simple mechanical interaction that's somehow fully automated, and it bears all the typical marks of a craftsman I've known myself. A cousin of mine, Maltus Chuck Langton. Not necessarily one I was on particularly good terms, but ever since he had the audacity to travel forwards in time through some unstable artifact or other, we have become relatively well-mannered to each other. He is possibly the most skilled individual in the making of mechanical contraptions of all purposes and sizes. I have shown him the relevant material, and he is unfamiliar with it."
"Wait, that cousin of yours is alive as of now?"
"Why, yes. I might've mentioned it before. Whatever the case, he did have an additional remark to make: it does mildly resemble a project he'd been working on shortly before much of our family was tossed to the savages of the witch hunts."
Delinius looked up from the blueprints, with an incredibly sharp gaze in his eyes as he spoke.
"This 'Postbringer', as you might infer from this, is almost surely a time-traveller."
"Yes, that's uh, me. Maltus Chuck Langton. Pardon the slow..."
"Way of speech, yes. Your cousin informed me about it, don't worry. Now, he mentioned to me that you are an excellent designer and builder of various mechanical devices for nearly any purpose."
Maltus nodded, opting to circumvent his slow words as much as possible.
"I was wondering to what extent you could mimic some of the functions of certain machinery in operation here at Isles & Quint. If you want to, of course."
The man smiled a visually warm smile, though the actual emotion put into it lacked the same warmth it was supposed to convey. Maltus didn't particularly care: if this Baxter was interested in his skills, he'd be paying exactly as he ought to, and no less.
"With pleasure, Mr. Quint."
After a short silence, he returned a smile.
"I, uh, think I might already have an idea or two. If you could give me uh, a workshop with enough space. And a bunch of basic, uh, materials. Metal, wood, concrete. Stuff, so to speak. Little circuitry required. I will work on it, uh, right away."
Now it was Baxter's turn to smile a little.
"I'm looking forward to what you can do."
Chapter 6 - Bulk Mail
"Wait, what is that thing?"
A large shadow was cast over a whole street of shops by something that moved slowly but with a seemingly unstoppable force.
"All that matters is that we bring it down."
It stood nearly twenty feet tall, and calmly rolled along on what seemed organic tank treads, summoning a plethora of creatures, of which one particular kind summoned its own spawn.
From his bag, Maltus then pulled a tripod-like object, as well as a small metallic sphere.
"What on Ludus is that, cousin?"
He did not speak, instead prying open the 'claw' at the top of the thing and inserting the sphere. Immediately, the sphere began emitting a bright orange light, sufficient to blind an ordinary Gridmask and more than enough to attract the attention of the moloch they faced.
"By Dwin, that is bright."
However, it was a fascinating sight to see: the creature was equally mesmerised by the light, forgetting that it was supposed to create more underlings to fullfill a purpose with.
From alleys and around street corners that were still standing, a mixture of professional military, volunteering civilians and other parties had begun assaulting the creature, coordinating as best as their differing communication methods would allow.
A short and somewhat plump woman sped by them, only pausing briefly to mention something to the four of them.
"Roughly in time. Was hoping you'd be earlier than we were planning, but beggars can't be choosers. Keep going, you'll be fine."
Immediately following her running off after the crowd of people fighting the monster, the same moustached man appeared that had bothered Maltus and handed files to Delinius. Without introducing himself, he briefly stopped.
"Excuse Helen's highly unprofessional attitude, please. We all do our best, and this Postbringer is a far more elusive figure than we are used to - hardly a surprise, since he would seem a different iteration of us."
With the latter part of his words, he directly addressed Delinius, who remained somewhat puzzled.
"Why, yes, your suspicions are true! I am a rather different version of yourself, originating from a presently shattered timeline. Now, I must go on. Keep busy with this sphere, and we will handle the remainder in taking this creature out."
"Let's leave the questions of what, how and why for a later time - those underlings have intelligence of their own, and they will know what is crippling their master."
Indeed, a handful of creatures were approaching them, some summoning smaller creatures, some firing heavy yellow envelopes.
"Hold them off!"
Delinius and Lyka worked together to form a veil of flowing air and flames to ward off projectiles while Ina let the sun scorch the many creatures as they advanced.
The construct slowly swerved on its foot as the crew slowly adjusted its calibration and aim. They'd been transported from a different timeline, to be returned with no memory of the events other than a vague dislike of envelopes.
A ray of light even brighter than the artifact distracting the moloch struck it, soon setting it on fire and in fact evaporating it until it started collapsing under the weight its weakened frame had to support.
Chapter 7 - R.S.V.P.
Chapter 8 - Briefing
"Alright. The base of this plan is quite simple: I will deal with the Postbringer. Anything and everything else that attacks you is entirely yours to dispatch. Whichever of my pets are capable of combat will assist in this task, as will both my cousin and my sister. I believe a secret project regarding a mechanical and fully automated 'envelope' shredder is equally slated for deployment."