In My Daydreams

Warriors: Part 5

In My Daydreams

I couldn’t know that, of course, but if I thought in terms of the Ascendency’s situation and resources, it seemed reasonable. Our main protection was the caverns’ size in combination with the decoys and traps the colony’s techs created.

If the Ascendancy had genetically modified technical geniuses, they’d be throwing them up against that. That’s what I’d be doing anyway.

I hoped the colony’s techs were as good.

Not long after that I found myself walking across the cavern city to the technical building we’d captured Alanna in before she’d committed suicide. When we walked inside it looked the same as before. Black cylinders as tall as I was while wearing the Rocket suit filled the room. As I remembered from the last time we were there, the cylinders collected ambient energy and stored it.

They’d been collecting energy for years despite being inside a giant rock formation. I hadn’t had the chance to ask for details when we’d been there last time. I might get to this time, but I doubted it. The implant had a selection of technologies that it might be and I suspected I’d have to content myself with going through them later when I had time.

Kals, Crawls-Through-Desert and I followed one of the techs up to the second floor of the building. There weren’t any cylinders there. It looked like a lab. Desks and long tables with dismantled machines and parts of machines filled the room. Tanks with cloudy liquid were scattered throughout the room—next to walls and on top of desks and tables. Though they weren’t easy to see through, the tanks contained hard objects. If I watched, I thought I could see new objects grow.

Neither Kals or the plant showed much interest as we met Asan and Sian at the back of the room and took another flight of stairs up to another floor. This one was a mixture of desks, storage closets, and parts—lots of parts. The implant labeled the ones I gave any thought to and sometimes I recognized parts from my experience with the ship’s alien tech.

Asan and Sian stopped at a desk and pulled out chairs from it’s nearest neighbor for Kals and I. The plant floated next to the desk. Since I was wearing the Rocket suit, I half expected to crush the chair when I sat down, but the most recent version of the suit was lighter than the last. The chair held.

Asan grinned at us. “Jadzen wanted us to talk about what we could do to detect the Ascendancy’s people before they made it down here.”

Sian sat in his own chair. “We’ve been thinking about this for years and we’ve got a system already. It’s not perfect, but it should work. The core problem is that while there are methods we could use to send information through the rock without physical material, they make it easy to triangulate our location.”

In his own chair, Asan tapped on the desk with a stylus. “Not only that, it’s practically an invitation to start decrypting everything we say. So, we went old school. We put in cable—a nearly mono-molecular cable that we used bots to pull through the rock.”

“So,” Sian said, “we have cameras on the other end of the cable that are smaller than pimples. We watched them this morning as they searched the caves. They had no idea.”

Asan grinned. “We’re several steps ahead of where you all think we are. We’ve got people and computers watching the feeds whenever there’s movement.”

Keeping my movements minimal, I asked, “Did Alanna know about the cables?”

“Yes,” Sian frowned, “but she didn’t know where each one of them was. Everybody uses cables like this. They’re practically impossible to find.”

It sounded good. I thought about how I’d counter something like that. If I could detect it with some work, I’d send people in to remove the cameras and then bring in the rest behind them. If I couldn’t detect it, I’d either accept that I’d be making an attack with no chance of surprising anyone, or maybe I’d figure out a way to obscure how many people were going down any given tunnel. Dust, maybe?

My implant called up lists of known ways that Xiniti had defeated similar systems. Depending on the type of camera, it included the use of chameleon suits, sending dust down the tunnel or exploiting the limits of a known type of camera.

“Do we use different types of cameras or all the same kind?”

“The same kind,” Asan nodded. “A good point. They’d have to know the type of camera, but they might be able to get past all of them. It’s not likely.”

“Did Alanna know?”

Sian frowned again. “Yes. I think we could swap out a few cameras, but they didn’t think like that yesterday. Why would they change their approach?”

I thought about it. “I don’t know that they will, but I’m thinking that if they’ve got any techs left, they’ll be assigned to this now.”

From the stairwell came the sound of voices. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but they’d become louder.

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Semicoop

Warming up

Semicoop

At the UK Games Expo, we discovered we were one of the few who had not played the game The Mind yet! We were looked at in disbelieve and we really needed to play it according to multiple people. Vic brought a copy of the game along with him and together with Sam we finally played The Mind. We only just met them both and it turned out that Vic and Sam are incredible The Mind players. We won the first game we ever played, which apparently is not a very common thing. 😉

It’s all about subtle nonverbal communication. Each player is dealt a hand of cards with numbers ranging from zero to one hundred. Players cannot speak to each other and need to lay down cards on the table one by one, trying to lay them down in chronological order from low to high! But you don’t know what cards other players have in their hands. It could be that you have a 7, which is a low-value card, but does somebody else have an even lower card that? Do you need to put it down on the table immediately or will you slide it to the center of the table slowly, giving other players a chance to put a card on the table first? The game starts off relatively easy with players having only a few cards in their hands and it slowly progresses each level with players having more cards in their hands.

There is not much to share about our board gaming life right now, because it’s been on hold due to work-related projects on my side and Heinze’s master thesis on the other. We will be playing Gloomhaven again tonight after three weeks, that’s a start! … we’re going to play so many games this summer to make up for June. 😛

What’s your favorite nonverbal communication game?

The post Warming up appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Crying Grumpies

Mis olvidados CCG, Netrunner

Crying Grumpies

Cryin Grumpies - Surfing - Surfeando - Net - Red - The Grumpy Shop 2

Esta semana me a tocado viaje de trabajo y en la soledad de la noche me ha asaltado la pena. La pena por la segunda despedida de un juego al que los últimos años le he dado mucho. Fantasy Flight Games ha anunciado que las negociaciones con Wizards of the Coast no han llegado a buen puerto y cancelan Android Netrunner. Así que hoy aprovecharemos para hablar un poco de Netrunner y darle un sentido homenaje.

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Netrunner es uno de esos juegos que han tenido una segunda oportunidad. En el año 1996 en medio de la locura de los CCG Richard Garfield creó Netrunner, su obra maestra junto a Roborally y Vampire the Eternal Struggle. Wizards of the Coast solamente llego a publicar una expansión y se han conseguido los archivos de la segunda. El juego estuvo vivo algo más de seis meses, tiempo más que suficiente para ganarse un lugar en el corazoncito de los aficionados gracias a sus mecánicas innovadoras. La segunda oportunidad le llego en 2012 cuando FFG anunció que había licenciado el motor del juego y iba a implementarlo en Android, su propio universo cyberpunk. Esta vez Netrunner ha aguantado un poco más; dos juegos básicos, ocho ciclos de seis miniexpansiones, cinco expansiones deluxe y una campaña narrativa. Netrunner es un raro ejemplo de como un juego puede resucitar de sus cenizas. Los compases iniciales de su vida como LCG fueron superalentadores, todo sonrisas y un crecimiento continuo que hizo replantearse junto a X-Wing la forma de acercarse al juego organizado. Por desgracia el problema inherente del formato LCG conocido como coste de entrada y un par de ciclos de diseño cuestionable alejaron a buena parte de la comunidad. Y cuando ya se le veían las orejas al lobo llego un nuevo diseñador jefe que gracias a ajustes en las legalidades, la rotación planteada para reducir el coste de entrada al juego y un muy buen ciclo de expansiones  parecía que iba a enderezar el rumbo. Por desgracia esa ilusión a durado poco y cuando en breve salga a la venta la nueva expansión deluxe el juego volverá a morir.

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Netrunner es un juego de cartas coleccionables en cualquiera de sus dos encarnaciones con un juego asimétrico. Uno de los jugadores encarna a una “malvada” corporación que deberá salvaguardar sus planes de dominación mundial del otro jugador que se encargará de jugar como runner. Un hacker cuyo cometido será hacerse con dichos planes.  En las partidas se jugarán dos vueltas cambiando los roles.

El juego de la corporación es el del engaño. Todas las cartas que juegue la corporación se juegan boca abajo y a menos que la corporación decida darles la vuelta y ponerlas en juego el runner no sabrá a que se enfrenta hasta que sea demasiado tarde. Para ganar la corporación deberá puntuar siete puntos de Agenda. Para ello deberá crear servidores o columnas de cartas en los que en la base habrá Planes, recursos o trampas. Para proteger estos servidores de las incursiones del runner deberá jugar Hielos con los que intentar parar el avance. Pero no solo deberá proteger estos servidores, la baraja, la mano y el descarte también son objetivos potenciales para realizar incursiones y robar planes.

Por su parte el Runner juega con todo al descubierto. Ya sean programas para enfrentarse a los Hielos del rival durante las incursiones, recursos o hardware para mejorar su estrategia de cara a robar siete puntos dde Plan y ganar la partida. La única información a salvo del rival será el contenido de su mano.

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A diferencia de otros juegos donde cada turno hay la posibilidad de robar una carta del tipo recurso, ¿os suenan los manas?, el principal recurso del juego es el click o acción. Tanto la corporación como el runner pueden invertir estos clicks de formas similares, ganar dinero, cartas, jugar cartas y en el caso del runner realizar incursiones. Esto transforma el juego en un juego sobre economía, por regla general quien mejor consiga optimizar la utilización de sus acciones tendrá la mano ganadora. La cororación solamente podrá utilizar tres click cada turno pero robará una carta al principio del turno, mientras que el runner dispondrá de cuatro de estos clicks.

Netrunner es posiblemente uno de los juegos de cartas más cerebrales que he visto. Los inicios y finales de partida suelen favorecer al runner mientras que el midgame suele ir a favor de los intereses de la corporación. Como conseguir alargar o acortar las fases iniciales del juego, como quedarse en el midgame o como pasar del early game al late game saltándose la parte intermedia de la partida es uno de los puzzles más interesantes que tiene Netrunner.

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Netrunner es uno de los mejores juegos, de cartas, muñecos o lo que sea, que me he encontrado en mi vida. Es cierto que en un momento el juego me hecho, pero tiene más que ver con mi preferencia de juego amistoso antes el competitivo plagado de las mismas barajas una ronda tras otra y algunas decisiones en diseño que favorecieron las barajas de tipo cerrojo contra las que no me divertía jugando con o contra ellas. Así que solo me queda recomendaros una cosa, comprad Netrunner y tendréis un fantástico juego cerrado de por vida al que jugar con vuestros amigos y ahora seguro que encontráis buenos tratos en grupos de segunda mano de gente que se deshaga del juego al no haber soporte competitivo.

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In My Daydreams

Warriors: Part 4

In My Daydreams

Jadzen waited as everyone sat at the table. “As we’re all too well aware, Maru died while fighting Ascendancy forces today. While I find a new assistant, I’m going to have Kals take over Maru’s role. She might not want to continue in it for the long term, but right now she’s familiar with everything I need her to know.”

“Meaning,” Kals sent to me via her bracelet, “she knows that everyone in the colony knows me and she knows that the group of you like me and don’t like her.”

I sent back a feeling of amusement via implant.

Meanwhile, the council members congratulated her and she thanked them.

“You love me now,” she told them, “but wait until I ask for your next resource report.”

That led to laughter and groans from the group. I was about to message her and ask what she was talking about when she sent to the group of us that Maru had people report on their used supplies to get a sense of what they needed to order from off-planet or needed to learn how to make here.

“Everyone knows it needs to be done, but nobody likes it,” she told us.

Aloud, she addressed the Council. “As you’ve heard, the plan worked. We drove a herd of megafauna into them. I don’t know how many died but from what I saw, most of them died or were too hurt to fight. Between the destruction of the ship and all the shuttles, they can’t have working medical chambers, so their forces are reduced to 200 or 300 people at most, and it might be less than that.”

She looked around the table at the group. “There’s one problem. The surviving members are part of the Ascendant Guard. We know that Neves and Kamia are among them and there might be more. Agent 957 might be among the dead, but he might not. We don’t know. Either way, they probably have experienced motivators, so we can’t let our people get near them.”

One of the council members asked, “Do we know what they’re doing next?”

Kals shook her head. “We don’t. We have people watching outside and they haven’t seen anyone try to enter the tunnels that lead to us. Cameras near our traps and decoy entrances show Neves, Kamia, and a few others trying to find us. What we don’t know is whether they’ve given up after what happened to the rest of their group—“

Another council member, a big man with dark skin and faintly glowing eyes, interrupted her. “They’ll never give up. They hate us. The Guard killed more of us than anyone else. I served in the First Citizen’s mansion. He wants us all dead!”

Kals blinked and then frowned as he talked over her, but then said, “I know. That’s the problem. I’ve talked to our techs and they don’t know what the Guard members are doing. All anyone knows is that they saw them heading back to the shuttles. Since then, we haven’t seen anyone heading back here.”

From there it turned into a discussion of whether or not the Guard would bother when they hadn’t made it past the decoys, had far too much area to search and needed to consider issues like surviving on the planet.

Iolan pointed out, “While I agree that the Guard are fanatics, even they have to see that they’ll never be able to capture us and bring us home now.”

Glowing eye guy shook his head. “They’re fanatics. Killing us and then dying at the Xiniti’s hands would be a success in their minds. We’ve got to find them and kill them first.”

It went on until Crawls-Through-Desert interrupted. “I’ve fought the Guard. We have to assume they’ll come after you. Casone,” he must have caught glowing eye guy’s name, “is correct. They’re fanatics. They won’t give up and if they think they’re going to die, they’ll probably kill us all to preserve their reputation. Imagine the Xiniti ships arriving to find that the only living humans were the Ascendant Guard—who would then commit suicide if they didn’t think they could steal a Xiniti ship. Before they died though, they’d send recordings of them killing Jadzen and all of the Xiniti assembled here to the media through the ansible.

“No, you can be confident that they’ll play their best hand every step of the way.”

Casone nodded. “The murderous bastards.”

Crawls-Through-Desert floated above the table. “The Xiniti group needs to rest up and be ready to go tomorrow morning. We can’t be sure the Guard won’t attack tonight, but we’ll do better with rested people than tired people. It the meantime, if Jadzen allows it, I’d like to talk to the techs. We need to work out a system for finding them before they find us. I’ll also need Nick for this. Is that alright with everyone?”

Jadzen glanced over at Kals and then said, “Do it and take Kals along as well. She needs to know this.”

Thinking back to when Marcus and I destroyed the battleship, I’d seen four armed and four-handed people in the engine rooms. I wasn’t sure but I might have seen them on the ground as well. The implant identified them as a geneline designed to be good with technology. I wondered how many survived and what they might be doing.

If any survived, they’d be working on the traps and decoys right now.

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In My Daydreams

Warriors: Part 3

In My Daydreams

The Caverns, Hideaway

Maru didn’t make it. Even as Jaclyn carried him away, I didn’t think he would. Despite having advanced alien tech, it’s not realistic to expect that they’d have the ability to handle disembowelment combined with massive blood loss in a colony’s medical center.

“If we’d been at home,” Iolan began, “I think I could have saved him.”

We were on the second floor of Jadzen’s cavern home in the open area where the council met and we’d made battle plans. As before, we were looking out on the lights of the hidden settlement. Unlike before, Maru’s body lay in storage elsewhere in the cavern.

He hadn’t been the only one who’d died. One of the colonists had died too, done in by a punch that hadn’t killed him outright, but had done more damage to his internal organs than I could see.

Jadzen had said a few words over the bodies and now we were back here looking out into the caverns and deciding what to do next.

Jaclyn turned to look at Iolan. “You could have saved him.” The flatness of her tone made it a statement, but it hung in the air like a question.

Iolan nodded. “He was still warm. He hadn’t lost anything we couldn’t bring back. We have large tanks that we can use to repair the body.”

I thought about the Abominator birthing chambers that I’d seen in the research facility in New York during the Hrrnna invasion and the similar chambers that Rook had been running. It was all probably variations on the same tech.

Marcus turned away from Tikki. “It sounds like the medical tech in Star Wars.”

Iolan said, “Star Wars?”

Marcus glanced over at me and then back at Iolan where he sat next to the table. “It’s an entertainment franchise set in another galaxy in the past. It’s about a rebellion against an evil empire… You guys would probably just see it as normal life.”

Kals and Jadzen walked into the room next. They both had reddish eyes and glistening cheeks. Jadzen gave Kals’ hand a squeeze. They looked at each other and let go. Jadzen stepped up to a crowd of council members and Kals walked up to Marcus, TIkki, Jaclyn and I.

As she did, Iolan stood up from the table, pushing his way out of his chair. He put his hand on Kals’ shoulder, carefully avoiding any skin and said, “I’m sorry about Maru. I did everything I could.”

“I know,” she said.

Iolan walked toward the Jadzen and the other council members. Kals looked over the group of us, atypically quiet. Then she sighed. “How are all of you doing?”

Jaclyn met her eyes. “I feel like we should be asking you, but while I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m doing alright.”

Kals smiled. “I’m doing better. Mom understood. She’d been worried since he left. I told you about that. She was worried that he might take terrible chances in order to redeem himself or even commit suicide.”

I shook my head. “He didn’t do that. He tried to protect you, but it wasn’t like he jumped in front of a blow meant for you. You two were working together and he happened to get unlucky.”

“I know. It’s not good that he died, but at least he didn’t throw away his life out of despair.” She gave a twisted smile. “It’s not much of a consolation, but it’s better than nothing.”

Tikki stepped closer. “I feel like I haven’t done enough. I was close. I don’t know if I could have saved him, but I feel like I should have tried.”

Marcus put his hand on Tikki’s shoulder. “You couldn’t do much. I mean, seriously. Your power doesn’t do much offensively.”

Tikki didn’t say anything at first, but then she added, “I’ve been thinking there are ways that I could have used it.”

To the back of our group, Cassie spoke up. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. I don’t know what you’re thinking of, but it probably wouldn’t have worked. If it’s a new thing, it almost never works the first time and that’s even less likely in the middle of a fight. Now if you’ve been practicing something day after day, that’s the move that’ll work.”

Tikki sighed and lowered her head. “I don’t know. I’ve never practiced it, but it didn’t seem hard…”

“Take it from me,” Cassie told her. “Everything I do is supposedly simple but it never works out that way.”

Tikki took in a breath, possibly ready to argue the point. She didn’t get to. Jadzen rapped her had on the table a couple times.

“We should begin the meeting now. Everyone please sit down at the table. We need to plan our next steps.” Jadzen looked us over.

I was inclined to listen. I had a nagging feeling that what was left of the Ascendancy’s force would try something soon.

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Semicoop

Crystal Heart: Exotic Ingredients

Semicoop

Ok, this is probably the ‘biggest’ Semi Co-op comic I’ve ever made (and please don’t get used to it, haha) but I just NEEDED to include a map of the island.

During the UK Games Expo, we played a Crystal Heart role playing session, lead by Eran from the webcomic Up To Four Players! We’ve mentioned it last week in the blog post, but we wanted to give this awesome experience some extra love. I could just turn the whole crazy fun session into a comic book, but since I’m not going to, I’m going to leave it at this little snippet for you to enjoy. And if you like it, you should really go and check out Up To Four Players’ their Crystal Heart comic on www.uptofourplayers.com to learn about from their Crystal Heart setting using the Savage Worlds system.

We’ve played this session together with the fantastic people of Behind the Box and Chris and Lindsey have also shared their thoughts on the Crystal Heart session in their UK Games Expo Overview video. For me, this probably also was the highlight of the weekend. Eran is a brilliant GM and I would love to join another session one day. And Chris, Lindsey and Mike were fantastic players, it was lovely meeting you and making this awesome gumbo with you all. 😉

Switching from fantasy to sci-fi, we were baffled to hear that Fantasy Flight Games have announced that they’re pulling the plug from Netrunner! Even though we aren’t really active players anymore, we’re always up to date on the game and events due to the amazing active Netrunner community in our city. Hopefully, it’s not really the end, the timing of it all seems just wrong.

It’s almost time for Gen Con! Or, in our case: Gen Can’t because we’re not going to be there. Nonetheless, we’d like to wish everyone that is going a very good time!

What was your most unfortunate event during an RPG session?

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In My Daydreams

Warriors: Part 2

In My Daydreams

Castle Rock Compound, Colorado, Earth

Rachel woke.

She’d been dreaming of flying through space, the stars blurring and stretching she flew. She’d dreamt of this before but this time it felt real. The cold of space didn’t hurt her while intangible, but she knew it was out there waiting for her or anyone else who made the mistake of phasing into reality.

That was one of the other differences from past dreams. In the past, she’d suspected that others were there too and even thought she’d heard voices but this time she knew it for sure. The voices were as clear as anyone’s she’d ever spoken to.

“Come with us,” they told her, their sound as empty as the dark space they flew through. She knew they weren’t talking. They were in her head.

“We need you. All of your people need you—the hidden Artificer needs you, your brother and your friends need you, and the other humans too.”

She’d said, “I don’t know you and I’m not going anywhere until I know more. If you want to talk, talk. I don’t want you in my head until I’ve got a solid reason to allow you in.”

That was when she’d woken up alone in her dark dorm room, her chest heaving. Grateful that she had her own room this year because it meant that she only woke herself up, wishing she had someone else to talk to at the same time, she considered texting Tara. Then she shook her head. It wasn’t worth waking her up for a dream. Tara deserved to sleep and so did the other upperclassmen she knew best—Travis, Rod, and Samita.

She turned on the light, realizing that she was not alone in the room.

A being of hazy light, it had a woman’s shape and a hint of her grandmother’s face as well as her own. Its whiteness against the red stone walls made her think it ought to be in a Patrick Nagel painting.

All she said was, “Whoa. You’re real.”

The being of light met her eyes. Its eyes had no white. They were black but sprinkled with stars. “We are real. Come with us. You are one of our descendants. Come with us and save your brother and your friends.”

She looked it up and down. “You already said that. How can I trust you?”

It held up its hands. “You know us already.”

She considered that and the dreams she’d been having practically since Nick left, all of which featured glowing figures in space. If she were honest with herself, she had to admit that this made a degree of sense and that she didn’t have much choice but trust it. Given his track record, she found the idea that he’d found trouble out there in the stars entirely too believable.

“What do you want me to bring?”

It did nothing, appearing to consider the idea. “Yourself. Nothing more is needed. Phase out and we will show you the way.”

“Nothing?” She barely thought about that before throwing off her pajamas and putting on her utility belt, feeling her costume spread out and cover her body. Grabbing her gunbelt—which included two guns and magazines of ammunition—she added, “No clothes? What about a toothbrush? Shampoo?”

“All will be provided.” It paused. Then, “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready,” she said and phased out, grateful it hadn’t somehow forced the issue before she put on her costume. There’s no way she was going to perform a rescue wearing Snoopy pajamas.

The Fringe of the Issakass Alliance

Lee stood on the surface of the small moon, grey dust sticking to his claws—all of them. He wondered if he’d lost his pursuer and doubted it, but if that were so, he had things he needed to do. If not, well, he had other things he needed to do.

Halas appeared in front of him, looking worse for the wear even though he, like Lee, could repair his body as needed. He wore the form he’d used when they were traveling across the multiverses when they were young, an inchoate cloud of dust.

To Lee’s eye, the dust seemed tired. It had always moved and swirled, almost ready to take form, but here it was just a cloud.

Lee wore a form he called the “multi-dimensional dragon,” a form that to creatures capable of seeing only three dimensions appeared to be stretched and wrong with too many limbs and bodies or not nearly enough.

“Well,” Lee said, “it appears that you’ve caught me again,”  and waited for the next part. He knew what was coming.

“Caught you,” Halas said. “No, I’ve killed you. Remember our mutual friend Bakanan?”

Lee did. Bakanan had never been as good at fighting, but made up for it with his strength. Even as Halas finished his sentence, Bakanan materialized above them, all claws, teeth and scales in his own version of the multi-dimensional dragon.

Their struggles broke the moon.

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In My Daydreams

Warriors: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Agent 957, Hideaway, Landing Starport

It had been an utter disaster. Agent 957 couldn’t see it any other way.

The sun beat down as he stood at the edge of the field, outwardly supervising the marines and the few spacers who’d survived as they ransacked the ships, trying his best not to let anything show.

If the marines had lost respect for him, he didn’t see it, but helmets covered their heads so it wasn’t as if he could read their facial expressions. Besides that, Ascendancy policy was to keep soldiers as compliant with authority as possible. They could be screaming inside and he’d only know it if he deliberately asked.

The spacers were allowed a little more agency, but not much.

The spacers never looked him in the eye. He wasn’t sure whether that was due to hatred or fear.

He kicked a can of… something—water or food, maybe. That got a few looks. He saw them out of the corner of his eye, but the spacers turned their attention back to unloading and organizing the supplies before he had time to glance their way.

It was all his fault. Between the destruction of their battleship and the death of its commander, the Ascendancy forces had been in such disarray that they hadn’t seen the herd coming toward them or realized that the force shields were down until the creatures were pouring into the camp.

If he failed to capture Jadzen Akri and the council after all this, he’d need to go into hiding—and maybe even if he succeeded. He’d lost a battleship and then most of its crew.

He took a series of slow breaths. No, he told himself, the commander lost the battleship. I lost the crew and even then it’s not all my fault. They’re supposed to be trained to handle this. They knew about the megafauna on this hellhole. They should have been watching.

As he began to feel better, he thought again about how the resistance had damaged the ships—all of them. Whoever had done it had used something to poke holes in the shuttles’ engines and control mechanisms, consistently targeting the exact same spots on all of  the shuttles with an eye toward making sure there were no spare parts.

Whoever they were (and he had ideas), the attack showed the same techniques as half a dozen incidents across Human Ascendancy space. His implant had the details.

He could give up any ideas he had about going into hiding. Whoever had done this had destroyed not only the shuttles’ engines but those of his own fighter, making it impossible for anyone to get off the planet and signing his death warrant at the same time.

Footfalls came from behind him. He knew whose they had to be and if they were upset, he’d die.

He turned, seeing them, all of them current or former members of the Ascendant Guard. Neves, the biggest of them—tall, dark-skinned and with massive muscles. Neves had some connection with the Abominator servants still on Earth.

“Well,” Neves said, “that was a massive fuck up. We were too far away to even hear about it before it was too late.”

“I know. You were the only ones I could trust. Did you find them?”

Kamia, pale skinned with hair so blonde it was nearly white, laughed. “No. You sent us to the caverns, but they’ve had years to hide and we had more than fifty miles of caverns to search. Their people were clever. We lost men to their traps and tracked their signs through caves without once ever catching them.”

Agent 957 frowned. “What about Abominator technology?”

She shook her head. “I couldn’t sense any in the caverns. I caught a hint of Abominator out here while I was in inside, but I assumed that was a mistake.”

Neves shook his head. “No mistake. The survivors reported that one of the ‘Xiniti’ carried what sounded like an Abominator gun.”

Kamia’s eyes narrowed. She didn’t say anything at first, but added, “I’ll watch for it. I could use another.”

Agent 957 glanced at her waist where three oddly shaped guns hung in their holsters (not to mention the other items in their pouches). They couldn’t all be sentient weapons.

Next to Kamia, Four Hands shook his head. “Don’t even think about acquiring another. You know what the masters’ weapons were like. That way lies madness.”

One of the few of the Abominators’ genetically bred zero-g repairmen to make into the Guard, Four Hands stood a foot higher than the average member of his people. Wearing powered armor that protected his body from the planet’s gravity, Four Hands had hands instead of feet and a mind designed to understand technology.

Turning away from Kamia, Four Hands addressed the agent. “I received an ansible communication that reinforcements are on their way. It’s anyone’s guess as to when they’ll be here, but they’re coming. That means that when they get here, they’ll find out about this.”

He waved a hand toward the rows of damaged shuttles. “We’d like to offer you a chance to save your career and life. We don’t believe in capturing members of the resistance. We believe that all of them, from the youngest child to Jadzen Akri, need to die. We need you to help us control what’s left of the troops. In return, we’ll vouch for you to our supervisors. You’ll be a hero and better yet, you won’t be executed. What do you say?”

Agent 957 let out a breath. “Yes.”

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Crying Grumpies

Challenger Decks, Y Magic volvió a mi vida.

Crying Grumpies

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Después de la fantástica tarde que pasamos con Mailman jugando a Pokemon me quede con ganas de buscar otros juegos con barajas preconstruidas a los que hincarles el diente. Y una noche mientras se subía uno de nuestros videos al Youtube me puse a perder el tiempo en la red social de videos. Uno de los videos que encontré era un revview sobre el último producto que Wizards of the Coast ha puesto a la venta, las Challanger Decks. Barajas preconstruidas completamente legales y muy similares a las que utilizan los profesionales para jugar en Standard. A pesar de mis experiencias pasadas con el juego me dije vas a comprar una de cada.

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En mi vida he intentado jugar al decano de los CCG tres veces. Con doce años cuando pise una tienda de juegos por primera vez. Me compré un mazo de cuarta edición y un habitual de la tienda se dispuso a enseñarme. Dos turnos después estaba muerto por culpa del infame combo Channel-Fireball, inmediatamente me agencie un mazo de SATM. La segunda unos años más tarde y ya en el instituto fue cuando un compañero me monto un mazo con proxies lleno de moxes, lotus timewalks, forks y demás cartas del estilo. Pasamos grandes ratos en el recreo hasta que un día me dio por mirar cuanto me costaría jugar de verdad con esa baraja, completamente descartado. La última ocasión en la que lo intentamos fue cuando Mailman se compro un par de barajas de inicio y una caja de creación de mazos. Por desgracia lo que salió de ahí fueron mazos de mierda y partidas más bien aburridas que no estaban a la altura de la diversión que nos aportaba Warhammer Invasion, el juego al que jugábamos en ese momento, lo dejamos correr. Como veis mi vida y el Magic nunca se han llevado muy bien pero siempre le he reconocido sus méritos como un reglamento accesible y bastante sólido, juego rápido y una gran comunidad de jugadores.

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Las Challenger Decks han cambiado estas experiencias pasadas que os cuento. Estas barajas, por el momento hay cuatro pero con el éxito que han tenido estoy seguro que cuando cambie el entorno habrá nuevas, son barajas listas para jugar de sesenta cartas con sideboard de 15 cartas. O lo que es lo mismo una baraja completamente legal con tan solo abrirla de su cajita y pensada para adentrarte en Standard, uno de los formatos más demandantes a nivel económico que existe. Pero no es solamente una baraja legal sino que es un mazo moderadamente competitivo que adapta alguno de los mazos con los que se han ganado los últimos protour. Si hacemos caso a los comentarios de muchos videos sobre ellas han ganado recién abiertas más de uno y dos torneos semanales en tiendas.

Hasta ahora este tipo de mazo preconstruido, los de otros juegos también, venían con un par o tres de cartas buenas y el resto eran morralla. La diferencia aquí es que nos encontramos barajas con playsets de cartas míticas o raras. Esto viene con un coste adicional, el precio de este producto ronda los 30€ por baraja en contra de los 15€ habituales. Eso sí el valor de las cartas compradas en el mercado secundario se mueve entre los 70-90€. Esto ha hecho que muchísima gente se compre estas barajas para revender las cartas. Si hay que encontrar un problema es que los mazos solamente están en ingles.

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En mi caso lo que hemos hecho con Mailman ha sido tener una fantástica cajita con las cuatro barajas para que cualquier día que quedemos para tomar un café por la tarde podamos pasar un buen rato con barajas entretenidas de jugar. ¿Nos volveremos locos y nos pondremos a comprar sobres? Lo dudo ¿Nos compraremos futuras barajas del estilo si salen a la venta? Muy probable, porque así Magic es DIVERTIDO.

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Semicoop

UK Games Expo 2018

Semicoop

We are utterly spent, but very content. THE UK GAMES EXPO IS OVER! We had a wonderful time and were super impressed with the atmosphere and everybody demoing games and running events. The main two halls were big enough to never be bored for three days, plus it had a lovely open gaming area, but if you felt like a change of scenery the nearby Hilton was like a tiny convention on its own.

We’ve played a lot of games, ranging from unpublished prototypes to games that have been out for a while. Of the unreleased games, we really liked Holding On: The Troubles Life of Billy Kerr by Hub games, Ruthless by AlleyCat games and Heroes of Tenefyr by Broken Mill games, which all will have Kickstarters or be released this year so keep an eye out. We’ve also played The Captain Is Dead, which is a fun co-op Star Trek parody, and Rising 5, which is a cool co-op game in which you’re trying to solve a Mastermind-like puzzle. We also bought and were gifted some games by publishers so the coming weeks will, deadlines allowing, be filled with trying them all and see if they’ll be nice comic material. 🤓

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jun 4, 2018 at 5:06am PDT

But enough about games, the best part is meeting new people and friends at cons. Last year at Essen was our first con experience which led to a lot of new friends so the UKGE was like a great big reunion! We hung around with Actualol a lot and had a great time playing and chatting with readers, content creators and the Netrunner crew out of Enschede who had come out in force to the UK!

Next, to these general short encounters, we also did two big things with awesome people. We took part in an epic Crystal Heart roleplaying session DM’ed by Eran of UptoFourPlayers about a party of Syn agents, played by Behind The Box, Mike and us, trying to win in a Gumbo cooking contest! It has probably been 10 years since we played a proper pen and paper RPG, but everybody had a great time and Eran always made sure you would know what to do and what the options were. Aviv joined us near the end and quickly drew this amaaaazing sketch of the final battle.

No Pun Included invited us to join there musical panel show which was a ton of fun too! Tom Vasel, Jon who Gets Games and Rachel squared of against Rahdo, Actualol and Heinze to see who would be the best at guessing which games were the subject of ten songs written by Elaine of No Pun Included. We had a great time and as far as we heard everybody had and hopefully the video will be online soon (don’t worry, we’ll let you know) so you can see Rachel’s epic winning move!

Have you ever been to a convention? If so, what is your best memory?

The post UK Games Expo 2018 appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Crying Grumpies

Firefly: no pueden quitarnos el cielo

Crying Grumpies

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Es muy, muy, muy difícil que una serie me llegue a emocionar. Es casi imposible que eso me ocurra con una serie de ciencia ficción. Porque, en cuanto a ciencia ficción, hay series malas, series que me encantan (Farscape, Almacén 13), series que me flipan (The Expanse)… y luego está Firefly.

Aprovechando que Netflix vuelve a incluir en su oferta tanto la serie entera como su apoteósico final, Serenity, quiero escribir unas pocas líneas acerca de la que aún considero la cumbre nunca superada de la ciencia ficción televisiva.

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Malcolm Reynolds, capitán de la Serenity, rebelde, fugitivo y un tipo bastante decente.

Firefly es una serie absolutamente arrebatadora. Sobre todo, porque nunca pretendió serlo. Se trata de uno de esos raros momentos en que el arte, la suerte la inspiración y el amor por la historia que se narra superaron de lejos a la vertiente industrial. Lo es porque contó con un Joss Whedon inspirado, tanto en la producción como en el guión, la dirección… y, obviamente, la creación. Lo es porque el reparto era sencillamente perfecto, con unos actores que, literalmente, eran sus personajes.

Pero también lo es porque Firefly nunca pretendió ser ciencia ficción: y es que, si nos pusiéramos muy tiquismiquis, podríamos clasificarla de western espacial.

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La Serenity, carguero ligero clase Firefly.

También reconozco que me identifico totalmente con Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, ex combatiente del bando perdedor de una guerra civil de su sistema solar, las Guerras de Unificación, rebelde antisistema que no se conforma con haber perdido frente a una Alianza tecnócrata y fascistoide y se lanza a los mundos fronterizos para proseguir con una vida tan alejada como sea posible de normas, reglas y estados.

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La tripulación en la cabina: Wash, Zoe, Jewel, Mal y Simon

Pero ¿qué decir de Inara, de Wash, de River, de Zoe, Jayne, Simon, Jewel, Derrial…? Personajes redondos que poco a poco se nos van revelando conforme sus motivaciones y personalidades cobran más y más dimensiones. Whedon, con la inestimable ayuda de sus actores, los va convirtiendo en personas con las que empatizamos y cuyos triunfos y derrotas sentimos como nuestros. Es este componente emocional el que atrapa al espectador.

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Homenaje a Firefly en Community, otra serie de culto.

Podríamos hablar mucho, también, de la tremenda influencia de Firefly en posteriores series de ciencia ficción e incluso en todo tipo de shows televisivos que no han dudado en apelar a su calidad y su condición de serie de culto, incorporándola en chistes y episodios enteros.

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Firefly ha sido homenajeada numerosas veces en The Big Bang Theory.

Que nada, que en realidad solo quería revivir un poco los gratos recuerdos que me deparó Firefly y la tristeza infinita que sentí al acabar Serenity, con vosotros. Y deciros que aprovechéis para volver a verlas, que serán minutos muy bien invertidos de vuestro ocio. Y a los que nunca la habéis visto, deciros que os envidio: no hay como ver Firefly “virgen”. Por eso apenas he mencionado nada de la trama: disfrutadla.

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Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin y Nathan Fillion: esta foto nos hizo soñar a muchos con una reedición de la serie.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 12

In My Daydreams

Moments like that cause you to rethink what you’ve been doing. I’d left 60 bots out of my calculations. In addition to the others, I had 20 observation bots, 20 spybots and 20 EMP bots. I’d left out the observation bots and spybots because they weren’t much use in a fight and the EMP bots because I’d been assuming Ascendancy soldiers would be using equipment hardened against EMP bots at my tech level.

When I considered the question in that moment, the implant gave me the Ascendancy equipment’s known specs and I compared them to my bots.

Instants later, I fired off ten of the 20 EMP bots, targeting all the nearest soldiers. On Earth, I might have used one, but now I knew what would work here.

The bots set off a simultaneous blast of static that filled all the channels my suit and implant were monitoring. Both devices worked well enough to filter it out, but reports scrolled down my readouts. Over my implant, I flashed Kals what I’d done, making clear the important detail that their helmets shouldn’t be able to filter her voice out anymore.

She probably could have guessed. The moment the EMP bots exploded, the soldiers ripped at their helmets, claws out, tearing chunks away.

She shouted, “Surrender!”

When they held their hands up in the air, she told them, “Watch to see if anyone attacks us. If they do, attack them!”

With that, I finally had time to look around again both literally and figuratively. Above us, the spybots showed the few Ascendancy soldiers retreating, jumping away from us. It looked to me that they were going in the direction of the starport, the last place I’d seen the main group heading.

We’d won. Paying attention to the ground gave me a sense of the price. Four of the houses around us were burning. I wasn’t sure what it said that I could only remember two of them exploding.

Beyond the houses, the bodies of soldiers littered the ground, a few of them covered with goobot goo, not all of them hit by me. Jaclyn and I had been working on options for her beyond punching people. We’d come up with a sling and several types of ammunition (one of which included depleted uranium) that she could fling at people (and vehicles) from a distance.

Many of the soldiers had broken legs, smashed arms, large burns and were sometimes missing sizable chunks of their bodies.

Jaclyn stood next to Kals, bending over Maru’s body. Behind losing his intestines, his lower body appeared to be covered in blood. “He’s dead. See there? That’s his descending aorta. The soldier ripped it open. My guess is that he’s lost almost all his blood. I’ll bring him to Iolan, but he’s got no pulse.”

Jaclyn picked him up and disappeared in a blur.

“Over there,” Crawls-Through-Desert’s pot flew down the street and we all followed, escorted by our squad of mind-controlled soldiers, stopping at one of the eggs. After removing a floating platform from the garage, we all climbed aboard and flew toward the caverns. We left the soldiers on the ground, commanding them to stay there—which they would—until the end of time or until someone noticed they were there.

No one followed us or attacked us which surprised me. I’d expected an attack on the way back, but on the other hand, they didn’t have many people and we’d found a way to get around their ear protection.

We rode across the near-empty plain between the caverns and Landing, floating over the green grass with Cassie, Tiger, and Katuk ready in case any of the local megafauna decided to take a piece out of us—Cassie and Katuk to shoot them, Tiger to bark at them.

Kals didn’t say much during the first half of the ride. When she did, she began with, “You know, I never even liked him. He was a friend of my dad, sure, but after my dad died, I thought that his devotion to my mom bordered on creepy. That’s true of a lot of people. The resistance is just short of worshipping her half the time. Maru though, he was around all the time and made it visible to me in the way that the others didn’t. Also? Maru was good at his job. Mom thinks in the big picture. Maru thought in the small details. He made things work.

“I don’t know where we’ll find another person like him. Mom needed him a lot.”

She stared out at the grass. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell her that he died for me.”

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Pre-Announcement

Require Cookie

On July 2nd (my birthday), we’re going to be dropping a pretty big announcement, so this is just a quick note to prime the pump and make sure everyone is still seeing some form of address from us (newsletter, Facebook or site updates).

Stand by, this is going to be pretty fun.

And yes, it means we’re coming back from hiatus. 🙂

-Stormy

And it is “we” although it is mostly Stormy at present.

-Shade

 

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In My Daydreams

Release The Hounds: Part 11

In My Daydreams

Then I let go of his other leg and stood up, leaving him stuck to the ground.

I checked my HUD for threats, seeing more Ascendancy soldiers dropping in from above. One dropped off to my right, clearly expecting that I wouldn’t be ready to fight yet. I didn’t hesitate. As he turned to rake me with his claws, I punched him in the chest—hard. The armor gave and he flew backward, tumbling a few times and not getting up off the street.

I turned my attention back to our group, finding that the townspeople had retreated into Tikki’s globe—which had expanded a good ten feet in diameter.

Kals and Maru fought Ascendancy soldiers but didn’t use their voices to do it. That would have been a mystery, but the implant cleared it up. The Ascendancy regularly fought other Abominator influenced human civilizations. Their troops’ helmets filtered out external motivators and allowed Ascendancy motivators to command them through the helmet while allowing environmental noises.

That left Kals and Maru to fight using their fists or guns. They were good at it. They used pistols to keep the Ascendancy soldiers at a distance and then when soldiers closed, they were both fast enough to dodge while the other one fired a pistol.

They took care of two of them that way that I saw—possibly more.

That’s to say that they worked as a team. They had to. They were better than a normal person, but not fast enough to face an Ascendancy soldier alone. While they weren’t without armor (their jacket and pants seemed stiffer than clothes), they weren’t as armored as the soldiers. I suspected a solid hit could kill either of them.

I checked my ammunition levels. I had five killbots and I knew I had to save them. If I didn’t, I’d encounter something big and they’d be gone. Beyond that, I had 100 standard bots, 50 boombots, and 32 goobots.

Once I ran out, I’d have to depend on my sonics or my laser. In the meantime, I decided to do what I could to make their lives easier.

I shot one that was coming straight for me with a goobot, making him immobile and fired off a series of standard bots at one of the two soldiers that had landed near Kals and Maru. As expected, the bots didn’t pierce the soldier’s armor, but the series of five hits to his helmet and chest knocked him sideways and put me higher on his kill list.

He leaped at me, reaching out with his claws and leaning sideways to avoid my shot even as I aimed my arms in his direction—except that I used the sonics. I expected that his equipment would filter out an attack on his ears, but I attacked his technology, hoping maybe I’d hit a frequency that damaged his filters.

It didn’t happen soon enough.

He landed off to my left, flanking me, striking my ribcage. Protected by my suit, I didn’t take any real damage, but it knocked me backward. I didn’t fall over, but I did stumble and he took advantage of it, reaching out with both his arms to grab at me, probably with the intent of ripping my armor apart.

Before that happened, his helmet made an audible cracking noise and he froze for a second. I fired the laser under my left arm, burning a hole through his right leg.

The soldier fell over and I stepped backward to avoid being hit by him.

At about the same time, another Ascendancy soldier slashed at Kals with his claws. Kals stepped back, avoiding it, but slashed at the soldier with a knife. He avoided it by jumping sideways, landing to her right, flanking her.

Maru and she had been fighting with Tikki’s bubble of time distortion at their backs, making it impossible for anyone to approach them from behind. It also meant that they couldn’t back up because the moment they touched the bubble, they’d find themselves moving slower, allowing themselves to be attacked while they were halfway in and halfway out.

Kals couldn’t back up to avoid her attacker because she’d be vulnerable to more attacks, couldn’t go left because she’d bump Maru and couldn’t go forward without opening up her back to the soldier flanking her or becoming the target of another soldier.

Maru stepped sideways, moving in front of her and aiming his pistol at the soldier. When he pulled the trigger though, it didn’t fire.

The Ascendancy soldier leaped at him, grabbing Maru’s pistol hand and then ripped right through Maru’s armor, tearing out his intestines with the other hand.

Kals drove her knife into the soldier’s neck, cutting most of the way through. The soldier fell.

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Semicoop

Century of the Golem

Semicoop

 

Century Golem Edition is one of those games we enjoy every time we play it! The art just simply makes us very happy and the game is a nice little puzzle in which players try to build an efficient gem economy. We’ve only played it with two players and I’m curious how it plays with three or four people. Thank you again Fred for gifting us this game!

Last week was crazy and both of us have been working non-stop on deadlines, so we actually played zero games. None! That’s quite rare for us. We’re flying to the UGKE on Thursday and we’ll only play a game of Pandemic Legacy before that, luckily we’ll probably play a ton of games in Birmingham next weekend! We’re bringing a limited edition Apollo sticker for everyone that comes and says hi! So don’t be shy we love to talk to as many people as possible!

After UKGE hopefully, things will slow down a bit but it seems we’ll be busy until summer, so we might need an assistant golem, or a dishwasher golem or maybe a board game golem that makes sure we keep playing enough games!

 

What golem do you need in your life?

The post Century of the Golem appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 10

In My Daydreams

I sent everyone a picture of the troops jumping from one eggshell to another along with the thought, “Are we upwind or downwind of them?”

It wasn’t as if I could feel that inside the suit.

“No wind,” Cassie sent back, pointing her gun upward and shouting, “Incoming!”

My bots showed the Ascendancy troops two rows off from us, but that didn’t matter. They knew where we were and they were leaping between the houses in the nearest row to get at us.

The first one to jump died before he landed, hit by a bright beam from Cassie’s gun that burned through his chest and out his back. As for myself, I fired off goobots. Some people might see that as taking the situation insufficiently seriously but I saw it differently. I only had so many killbots along and didn’t know if my standard bulletbots or boombots would pierce their armor.

The goobots, on the other hand, stuck to armor.

I hit the guy right behind Cassie’s hit with a goobot that covered the guy in goo with strands of goo flying far enough behind him that they stuck to the nearest house. He never reached the ground. His momentum carried him in front of the house, sticking him to it fifteen feet above the ground.

Claws didn’t help him get away. His arms stuck in the goo as it hardened.

Out of the corners of my eyes, I saw the rest of the fight even though I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved—Katuk firing beam from his arms and then the middle of his chest, Jaclyn jumping to meet one of the soldiers in the air, Marcus stretching upward to grab someone in the air, and the townspeople’s marksmen firing constantly.

It would have gone perfectly if they were less agile or stupider, but instead of continuing to come in from the direction we expected to see them, they changed course, splitting up, landing on the street to the right or the left of the group.

I wheeled around to help. While I don’t know exactly how close the Ascendancy’s troops were to Haley or Travis in performance, my estimate is that they were close enough.

I couldn’t hit either one easily when they were close enough for hand to hand combat and I couldn’t hit these guys either. According to Haley, it was agility, but that understated their better than human senses. The combination of both was hard to deal with though.

I fired a goobot at one after he landed on the street in a crouch, but he smacked the bot into the street and jumped away before it expanded onto him.

With a jump and a slash of his hand, he made a long gash across the stomach of one of the townspeople. He would have gone for the person’s belly again except that Maru leaned in to kick the soldier in the chest, knocking him backward into a roll. He jumped forward toward Maru except that Maru had pulled out a pistol and shot the soldier in the faceplate of his helmet.

The soldier fell backward and lay on the street.

Meanwhile, Tikki had pulled the injured townsperson into the darkened sphere of time manipulation that she’d called up. I barely had time to speculate that she might be able to accelerate healing when I noticed another soldier leaping toward the road from an eggshell house.

I tagged him with a goobot, which, like the last one, expanded to stick to the nearest house. Only this time the house was two houses down the street from where we were, something we were grateful for because the house exploded.

Pieces of the house fell into the street, all of them covered with black scorch marks, and still burning. The same could be said of the guy I’d covered with goo.

I didn’t have time to wonder who would rig their home to be that easy to explode or think too hard about the guy who’d just died. More Ascendancy soldiers were landing on the street than I’d seen with my bots, meaning that they were coming from another direction as well or that I’d been wrong about there being ten of them earlier. It also meant we were in a real danger of being overwhelmed.

One landed on top of me as I checked my HUD to see if anyone needed my help.

The Ascendancy fighter hit the base of my neck with enough force to leave me paralyzed or dead if I hadn’t been wearing armor. Since I was armored, I fell forward. I didn’t have a clever countermove for handling this, but my reaction time was good enough that I grabbed the man’s legs. So even though I fell forward, so did he, hitting the street.

It didn’t damage either of us much, but I had the presence of mind to let go of one leg and fire a goobot up his body as we hit the ground, gluing his entire right leg, left thigh and right arm into one position.

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Crying Grumpies

Una tarde de Pokemon, Algo ha cambiado en mí

Crying Grumpies

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La entrada de hoy no es una entrada de review, opinión, baraja, ni nada por el estilo, es una reflexión a partir de la fantástica tarde que pasamos Mailman y yo hace unos días. Para poneros en situación hace unos meses para el proyecto Ares compré un par de barajas preconstruidas de Pokemon. La tarde de la que os hablo quedamos con Mailman para tomar un café. El no llevaba encima su baraja de Leyenda de los Cinco Anillos así que cogí de la estantería las barajas del juego de coleccionar bichos  y me dirigí al bar.

Y la magia ocurrió.

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Una hora más tarde con el café ya en el estómago y cada uno cogiendo el camino a su casa habíamos jugado un par de partidas y pasado una maravillosa tarde. Hacia años que no me lo pasaba tan bien jugado a un juego de cartas y después de un buen rato meditando creo que he llegado a algunas conclusiones de los motivos para que esto ocurriera.

El primer motivo que me viene a la cabeza es que son barajas bien construidas y con un nivel de poder similar. La mayoría de veces cuando afrontamos sentarnos en una mesa para jugar un juego en el que se construye mazo nuestra baraja refleja nuestra idea de juego. Si no es una baraja descargada de internet no suele tener el playtesting necesario para que todas las cartas funcionen de forma cohesionada. Muchas veces esto lleva a que la balanza se incline de una forma clara hacia una de las barajas que haya en la mesa. Aquí sin embargo tenemos unas barajas pensadas para introducirnos al juego. Con un nivel de poder relativamente bajo, dudo que pueda presentarme a un torneo y hacer un buen papel, pero al contrario que otros sets de inicio a los que hemos jugado las barajas son consistentes, divertidas y viendo algún video de torneos de alto nivel enseña un estilo de juego similar.

Cryin Grumpies - Leyenda cinco anillo - Legend of the Five Rings - AEG - FFG - The Grumpy Shop

Otro de los factores que me ha tenido que ver es el tiempo. Los juegos de cartas a los que Mailman y yo solemos jugar las partidas suelen ser largas. Ya sea Leyenda o Netrunner es fácil que las partidas se alarguen hasta la hora y por desgracia ya no tenemos el tiempo que teníamos antes para jugar cuatro o cinco partidas en una tarde. Ahora tenemos una hora y media o dos como mucho para jugar cuando nos vemos. Si a uno de los dos le sale una partida rana estar una hora siendo humillado no es divertido. Aquí una partida rana es media hora perdida. Las partidas que jugamos fueron partidas que se decidieron en un último turno superajustado. Con esto me refiero a que es sencillo meter cuatro partidas entretenidas y con tensión cuando jugando a nuestros juegos más habituales hablamos de una partida y nada nos garantiza una partida emocionante.

164824_200w

Ganas de jugarlo

Quiere esto decir que vaya a lanzarme a comprar cajas de sobres de Pokemon como un loco o que vaya a abandonar por entero los juegos largos o el formato construido. Ni por asomo a ninguna de las dos. Si bien Pokemon me ha dejado un grandioso sabor de boca la inversión que requiere un TCG para disfrutarlo en modo construido me sigue pareciendo una locura. Pero os puedo decir que tengo visto un kiosko con unas veinte cajas de colecciones antiguas donde algún día me acercaré a ver si me las saldan y es muy posible que vaya comprando las dos barajas preconstruidas que sale con cada nueva expansión.  Dejar el formato construido, el de montar barajas, ni se me pasa por la cabeza. Jugar con barajas preconstruidas no da lugar a jugar mazos bizarros con formas diferentes de alzarse con la victoria una de cada cien partidas y los que me conocéis sabéis que eso es mi salsa. Sobre buscar juegos más cortos tampoco creo que lo haga, pero posiblemente cuando tenga poco tiempo es más posible que me decante por jugar unas partidas de Pokemon o Magic, atentos a mi próximo articulo, mientras que los días que tenga una tarde entera por delante me decante por jugar varias partidas de Netrunner o L5R.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 9

In My Daydreams

“Do it.” The turret popped out of the bottom of Crawls-Through-Desert’s pot.

Asan and Sian ran toward the nearest force field pole and the nearest section of wall stopped glowing. We all ran inside and the blue glow appeared behind us.

The plant waved a branch toward the hill. “Run into town. Once we get out of sight we’ll decide where we want to come out. Don’t go into any buildings without my permission.”

That left us running up the same path we’d taken when we’d landed on Hideaway even if it wasn’t the same place. Right next to the starport, the force fields only protected a path up the hill. Here, near the lower edge of town, the force fields protected an area almost as wide as the town.

On the far side of the force field, the Ascendancy troops would have to go entirely down to the starport and possibly around it in order to catch up to us, assuming we stayed on this side of the town. We’d probably have to, considering that the caverns were also on this side of town.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad plan. If we started running from where we’d been, it was mostly open fields between here and the caverns, meaning they’d be able to take potshots at us from a distance the entire way. This way, it would be hard to guess where we’d come out of the force field, and even if they had people who could take down or fly over the walls, we knew the streets of Landing better.

With any luck, we wouldn’t have to find out either how effective their armor was or how effective their weapons were on us. Thinking back to how much time Hal had spent running me through space combat simulations, I felt all too aware that I hadn’t done as many first person shooters set in space, meaning I didn’t know the Ascendancy’s hand to hand combat tools and techniques anywhere near as well.

Also, the soldiers’ body shapes and sure movements reminded me of Haley and Travis. That worried me.

It didn’t take long before we’d reached the first full block of houses. We jogged down the dirt road, moving down the cross street and out the view of anyone who might be watching.

Thinking about that, I released a couple spybots so that if anyone did fly down from the sky I’d see it.

Kals caught up with me as we ran, sending a message directly to my implant. “How did it go? I know that it worked because you made it here, but how many more do we have to worry about?”

I told her. “This is about half of the uninjured survivors. The other half is searching the camp for anyone they can still save.”

She stared at me for a moment. “That’s a lot more dead at once than I expected. How was Maru?”

I checked the spybots feed in my HUD. Nothing. So I answered her, “He did fine. He helped get the herd moving. He didn’t try to betray us.”

She grinned. “I didn’t think he would. My mom was worried about him. She didn’t think he should go so soon after everything Alanna made him do. She was worried he might take crazy chances to prove himself.”

“Maru?” He didn’t seem like a crazy chances kind of guy.

She checked over her shoulder. “I didn’t think so either. Hey… I need to go back and push some of our people to keep up. Talk to you later.”

I checked behind us in my HUD. She was right. Three of the rifle-carrying townspeople were lagging behind. Kals turned and ran back to join them, running and talking alongside them, keeping her voice low.

The most interesting thing to me was that my anti-voice defenses never buzzed, meaning that she wasn’t using her power to get them moving. It was something to respect at least.

I glanced over at Maru. He ran next to a few of the other townspeople without saying anything. For all I knew, he could be having a long and drawn out conversation via implant with one of them. On the other hand, in his place, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to use my implant. So it might be that he was just running next to them, but didn’t want to talk because he didn’t know what they would say.

Crawls-Through-Desert whirled around, stopping in front of a block of eggshell shaped houses. “We’re close to leaving Landing. If we follow this street out, we’ll have some cover from trees and there’s a ridge that we can follow. It should give us cover at least part of the way there and we’ve got a floating platform hidden nearby. Follow me.”

Near me, Jaclyn said, “It’s nice not to be in charge.”

At the same time, I saw a flash of light, but not in front of me—in my HUD. I found it after searching frantically through the pictures. It wasn’t the flash I found though. It was the flash’s creator.

The spybots were high enough that their pictures showed only the upper part of row after row of egg-shaped buildings, some larger than others. At least ten of the Ascendancy’s troops hung by their claws on the sloping walls, leaping toward us.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 8

In My Daydreams

I couldn’t do anything about the death and destruction now and I reminded myself that we’d done this because didn’t have the ability to meet them in a fair fight without losing a lot of civilians.

Looking past the force fields, I saw that not everyone had died. One hundred, maybe two hundred of the Ascendancy’s people had run out the other side of the field and were watching as the last of the creatures ran across the field and out towards the forest and fields on the other side.

As much as they must have been terrified and freaking out after watching their ship die and their crewmates trampled by giant space elephants, some of them were with it enough to begin firing at me. Flashes of light hit my suit and I felt heat across my chest.

I dove, dipping below one hundred feet, the height of the force fields. They stopped firing or at least stopped hitting. I wheeled around, heading back toward the rest of our group. “Hey everyone, you saw that, right? Do we have any reason to go after the rest of them?”

“No,” Jaclyn waved at Katuk and the both of them turned around to join Maru, Cassie, Marcus and the dog.

Even as I turned, more shots came across the field at me, none of them hitting for the moment. Checking my HUD showed that some of the Ascendancy soldiers had taken cover behind the corners of the fields and were shooting at the group of us. We weren’t close, so they weren’t hitting, but they’d hit if we stuck around.

I flew across the dead and damaged, finding that Cassie and Katuk were firing back, Cassie with her gun and Katuk with a gun that had formed on the right arm of his armor.

Through my implant, Jaclyn said, “Nick grab Cassie, Katuk take Maru, and I’ll take Marcus and the dog.”

Marcus’ body warped and shifted as he dove toward Tiger, surrounding the dog’s body with grey goo and sprouting wings. “Form of winged dog crate!”

Tiger whined and bent over to sniff his stomach, barely having time to try it before Marcus grabbed Jaclyn’s shoulders and she started running.

“Tell you what,” Cassie told me as stepped toward her, “put me over your shoulder and I’ll keep on firing.”

“Don’t shoot my legs, okay?” I picked her up and gave the rockets fuel.

Gasping as the Rocket suit shot forward, pushing my shoulder into her stomach, she said, “This is the worst way to fly!”

Even as she said it, she’d already started firing. Beams of bright light shot backward, throwing up chunks of soil, bouncing off the force fields, and keeping the Ascendancy soldiers back behind cover.

She didn’t shoot my legs, but I was happier when I wasn’t watching her fire.

We kept up with Jaclyn and Katuk, staying low and whipping around the corner. Cassie stopped firing. “It looks like they’re heading toward the landing field.”

“They probably don’t know about the team that destroyed the shuttles.” I landed next to everyone and let Cassie stand on her own two feet.

Cassie watched the Ascendancy soldiers go. They were running about as quickly as Cassie or Maru could run—much slower than Jaclyn, but fast enough that they’d be down there in minutes.

Katuk watched them for a moment. “Crawls-Through-Desert, the Ascendancy group is running in your direction. Do you require assistance?”

The plant’s response came in a short burst. “How many of them?”

Katuk glanced toward the field and said, “Perhaps one hundred.”

I followed his gaze. He was right. They’d left maybe half of the survivors and sent them into the field to search for people to save. I didn’t begrudge them that. I’d have helped if I could.

The plant said, “We’re going to hide. Get over here and extract us. Watch for the Agent and the Guardsmen and while you’re at it, don’t underestimate the rest of them. They’re probably all powered and all marines.”

The group heading toward the landing field had already disappeared behind the town of Landing. The plan had been to hit the group and then withdraw. Crawls-Through-Desert’s group was only large enough to do its job—take out the force field. We hadn’t gone any larger because Hal’s prediction was that the survivors had a good chance of heading to the tunnels if Agent 957 still led them after the attack.

Jaclyn turned to the group of us, “You know what this means?”

Marcus’ mouth twisted. “More dog crate duty.”

“More flying,” Cassie holstered the gun. “Let’s get it over with.”

Maru frowned. “We don’t have time to waste.”

“Then let’s try to stay together. Follow each other’s position with your implants if you get separated.” Jaclyn glanced over at Marcus and he started to change.

Cassie looked up at me. “This time around just carry me. It’s still going to be awkward, but at least I won’t get the wind knocked out of me.”

It felt like it took more time to get ready than fly over there. We passed the town of Landing in a blur, touching down next to the lower edge of the town’s force shield, allowing us to look down the hill at the shuttles. At first look, the damage wasn’t obvious. They were all intact. The force shield around the landing area was even still up. The Rocket suit’s sensors showed warm spots under the shuttles where the beams cut pieces out.

Crawls-Through-Desert, Tikki, Kals, a small group of armed townspeople, and Asan and Sian, the techs responsible for the force shields stood waiting for us there.

That was the good news. The bad news was that we could see the Ascendancy troops on the other side of the landing field, standing out against the grass, the force fields giving them a  blue glow. Judging from the soldiers’ armor and equipment, I knew they’d be over here soon.

The plant’s fronds rustled. “We need to move.”

We weren’t going to be able to carry all these people across the fields and over to the caverns or take on all of the soldiers directly.

Sian and Asan looked at each other. “We can open the shields and cut through town. We know where the explosives are. They don’t.”

We looked at each other. It seemed like a bad idea whose time had come.

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Semicoop

Board Game Revolution!

Semicoop

The good thing about logging your plays of board games is that you know how many times you’ve actually played it! …The bad thing is that you’re confronted with how little times you’ve played certain games. 😉 And sometimes I’m convinced that we’ve played a game more than ten times, but it often turns out that we’ve played it only five times or so. I would like to say that we would like to improve on the numbers, but lately, we’ve been getting new games a little quicker than we can play them. It’s amazing to discover all these new games, but it can also be frustrating that we don’t have the time to play certain gems a little more often. The 10×10 list (playing 10 games, 10 times in one year) is, of course, a wonderful way to achieve this! Although I think I would prefer a 20 x 5 list in our case. We should make this for the summer!

The UK Games Expo is coming closer and for those who are attending, we have some news! We’re going to be guests in the No Pun Included live show on Saturday night at 9 PM together with Tom Vasel from The Dice Tower and Rahdo from Rahdo Runs Through. Efka and Elaine are funny people and there will be music, so it’ll be a great evening and we’re looking forward to it! Exciting times!

Which of your games would probably start a revolution?

The post Board Game Revolution! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Wardog y El Mundo

Medio cocido

Wardog y El Mundo

Aquella mañana me levanté de un humor excelente. Pese a la primavera, que normalmente obra en mi el mismo efecto que la Cartilla Micho en Paquirrín: me embota la cabeza. Me encontraba lleno de energía y de buen humor. Y ya digo que la primavera me zombifica a unos niveles alarmantes. De querer instalar Windows Millenium a un servidor web o así.

Salí temprano de casa. El sol saludaba desde el este, apenas calentaba, pero ver el sol por la mañana ya me anima. Llegué a la oficina y aparqué casi en la puerta. ¡Qué suerte! A ver si va a ser verdad eso de que a quien madruga, $deity le ayuda. Bajé del coche casi sonriendo. Que yo soy una persona seria, no soy de ir por ahí sonriendo porque sí. Se me cayeron las llaves al suelo. Me agaché a recogerlas y debajo de una rueda de mi coche vi un papelito marrón. ¡Hostia puta! ¡Un billete de cincuenta euros sin padre que le quiera! ¡En España y en el suelo! Pues ahora mismo te adopto yo a ti, hombre…

Ea, ya voy contento para todo el día. Por la esquina dobla MKII, todo pulcritud. Traje perfectamente planchado, corbata nueva, rosa con detalles amarillos. Camisa blanca de anuncio. Toque de gomina. Vamos, que le ves y el tío no parece informático ni nada el pobre. Le silbo. Mira en mi dirección y se sorprende y todo. Va a decir algo pero tropieza con la raya de un lápiz, un cabello de Antonio Lobato o la integridad de un presidente del gobierno de una monarquía parlamentaria cualquiera y está a punto de estamparse contra el suelo. Menos mal que se pudo agarrar a una mierda de perro. De un perro grande. Bastante grande. Que come mucha fibra.

Rompo a descojonarme mientras el pobre hombre intenta incorporarse, tirado en el suelo todo lo largo que es, con la mano derecha agarrada aún al mojón canino y la otra al maletín. De repente se me corta la risa. MKII ya se ha incorporado y se dirige hacia la puerta.

-¡Qué asco! ¿Vienes, Wardog?

Le miro sin ver. Miro las puertas de Suprakillminds. Saco el billete de cincuenta de mi bolsillo y lo miro. Es auténtico, no hay duda. Miro hacia el sol. Es auténtico. Brilla y ya da un tenue calor. Ese calor perfecto, el calor justo para desayunar en una terraza junto a la playa. Huevos con jamón, zumo de naranja, café y tarta de manzana con mermelada de albaricoque. Respiro hondo y no hay ni rastro de alergia. Nada. Todo bien. La mano de MKII gotea comida de segunda mano.

-¿Wardog? ¿Te pasa algo?
-No entres ahí-, le digo.
-¿Cómo que no entre?
-Presiento una presencia maligna. Perversa.
-Sí, claro, Wardog. A lo mejor Satanás trabaja ahora en Grandes Cuentas.
-No,  peor.
-Anda, abre y déjate de tonterías.

Abro la puerta como si mi mano no fuese mía. Todo a mi alrededor  flota en una neblina espesa, bañado en glicerina. Los sonidos me llegan amortiguados y las imágenes a 17 cuadros por segundo. Un comercial de esos que pasan cada mucho tiempo por la oficina ve a MKII y se acerca a saludarle efusivamente. Es de esos que se abalanzan sobre tu mano y la estrujan con energía. La mierda vuela por todas partes. El sol arranca destellos dorados a los fragmentos de hez húmeda. Es casi hermoso.

Dejo las iridiscencias y a unos cuantos humanos esquivando y descubriendo mierda atrás. Salgo corriendo hacia mi despacho. Vuelo por las escaleras, no pienso esperar siquiera al ascensor. Demasiado lento. Derrapo por los pasillos, ayudándome con el hombro en algunos giros cuando choco con las paredes. Algo está pasando y quiero saber qué es. Tiene que ser algo muy jodido. Lo presiento. Lo noto en la boca del estómago.

Salto la mesa apoyando la mano en el teclado para despertar el ordenador. Tiro la mochila en un rincón e inicio sesión ansioso. Miro mis monitores de red. Todo verde. Todo. Incluso ese equipo de fabricación mierdero que revienta diez condensadores de la placa base al mes. Hasta ese está verde. Mierda. Ni una alarma. Ni un login fallido de root. Si es que casi ni hay SPAM, coño.

Para cuando MKII llega al despacho ya he comprobado hasta la velocidad de giro de los ventiladores de todos los servidores. On y off site. Y todo es asquerosamente normal.

¡Bimbambidubi! ¡Dubi!

-¡AAAAAHAAAAA! ¡Sistemas! ¡Tú debes ser el mal!
-Pues no, te llamo de recepción.
-¡AHAAAAA! ¡Y traes noticias nefastas!
-Pues no, que te llaman de $empresaDeTelecomunicaciones. Te paso.

Me pasa.

-¿Diga?
-Buenos días, le llamo de $empresaDeTelecomunicaciones, mi nombre es Lhuirgsssfh. ¿Usted es Wardog, verdad?
-Hola, Lhuirgsssfh, sí soy yo.
-Disculpe, es, Lhuirgsssfh.
-Perdona, Lhuirgsssfh. ¿En qué puedo ayudarte?
-Nada, es sólo para informarles de que van a sufrir un pequeño corte en las líneas de internet porque les vamos a aplicar una mejora en la velocidad del 100%.
-¿Por qué?
-Hemos mejorado nuestras instalaciones y premiamos a los clientes más fieles que…
-No, ¿por qué hoy?
-Porque… ¿No quieren que les ampliemos la velocidad?
-Sí, queremos, pero ¿tiene que ser hoy?
-No le entiendo, señor…
-No, Lhuirgsssfh, no lo entiendes. Gracias, Lhuirgsssfh. Buenos días.
-¿Oiga? ¿Oiga?

Cuelgo el teléfono.

Me quedo petrificado. MKII se me acerca y agita una mano delante de mis ojos. Le meto una hostia. No me gusta que me pongan cosas delante de la cara. Lo odio.

-¿Te pasa algo?
-Algo jodido va a pasar.
-¿Por qué lo dices?
-El karma.
-¿Qué karma ni qué leches?
-El karma me está compensando con prepago.
-Estás apañado.
-Aún no está aquí. Pero lo siento. Siento que se acerca. Se aproxima algo gordo. Te va a dar por leer TLCL. O por aprenderl Perl. O peor. No sé.

Me puse a trabajar con un mosqueo de mucho cuidado. Sería por el mosqueo o porque estaba demasiado concentrado, pero pasé dos horas escribiendo SQL y no miré siquiera los nombres de campo. Estaba en zona permanentemente. Una máquina de escupir consultas. Hizo falta recuperar unos ficheros de la copia de seguridad y estaban justo los de la fecha que precisaba, justo la versión concreta que hacía falta. Daisy estaba entretenida tuneando las reglas de un cortafuegos, ajena a todo, sin asesinar a nadie orgánico ni nada. Todo perfectamente idílico.

Salí del despacho. Yo no puedo estar así. Es superior a mi. Yo estoy hecho para resolver problemas. Me viene de familia. Es algo genético. No somos de los que se lamentan ante un problema, de los que se revuelcan en su desgracia. En mi familia, ante un problema de la clase que sea inmediatamente nos remangamos y nos ponemos a solucionarlo. Esto es contra natura y sólo hay una forma de solucionarlo.

Eché a correr pasillo adelante y metí una moneda en cuanto llegué a la máquina de café. Saqué un solo largo con extra de azúcar, me apoyé sobre la máquina y me concentré en relajarme, no pensar y paladear el café hasta separar los sabores por grupos: ácido, amargo, dulce. Concentrarme en los matices. Disfrutar única y exclusivamente de tomar un puto café de máquina.

Indefectiblemente, esa acción puso el universo en su sitio de una puta vez. Alguien me estaba llamando. $Hyperboss nada menos.

-¡Wardog! ¡Wardog!
-¡Ah, hola, $Hyperboss!
-¡Estás en Babia!
-Nada, estaba pensando en cómo solucionar un problemilla. ¿Qué pasa?
-No, no pasa nada, hombre. Mira, te presento a Broderinlau Bacpac. Este es Wardog, el informático del que te hablé.

Estrecho su mano y le hago el escáner completo: polo con muñeco de los caros, reloj deportivo de varios miles, peinado de cuarto de hora, carillas. Lentillas de color, cinturón de piel, pantalón de pinza. Iphone X, pulseritas de cuero hechas a mano, otras de cuerda rojas y amarillas. Tensión arterial 11-6. Mochila de portátil impropia. Un pijo de tres pares de cojones.

-Hola, encantado-, me dice el tío.
-Encantado era un príncipe, yo soy Wardog-. $Hyperboss pone los ojos en blanco por el chiste malo. Broderinlau no reacciona. No parece entender. Anoto: intelecto limitado.

Se hace un silencio entre los tres. Una mosca se posa en el pelo del pijo. Resisto la tentación de darle un manotazo. Mírala, hija de puta como frota sus patitas.

-¿Y bien? ¿Mucha faena, Wardog?- me dice Bacpac.
-Psé, lo normal.
-Ahm.
-Seh.

La mosca se va y vuelve. Se le posa en el hombro. ¿Será suya?

-Broderinlau necesita que le eches una mano.
-¿Una nueva incorporación?
-No, no, qué va. Es mi cuñado.
-Ahm. ¿Y la mano tienes que ser la mía o vale otra cualquiera?
-Ya estamos con las coñas. ¿Te acuerdas de Brainrotten & Fugue?
-Que si me acuerdo…vaya que si me acuerdo.
-Pues hemos comprado también a su competencia en la zona.
-Y…
-Y mi cuñado se estaba encargando de la informática de allí.
-¿Tú?
-Claro, a mi me gusta mucho esto de la informática.

Quieto ahí. A ver, BOFHs y Sysadmins de bien y de pro: nosotros no decimos “nos gusta mucho esto de la informática”. Es posible que digamos que “nos gusta mucho esto de la cocina”, o “nos encanta la carpintería” o “nos embelesa la contemplación de una colostomía” pero para nosotros la informática no es una cosa que nos guste. Es lo que hacemos. Se da por hecho que nos gusta, nos apasiona. Pero no nos gusta “esto de la informática”. Hay un matiz. No trabajamos en informática por aproximación, no, estamos inmersos en ella y hacemos cosas con ella. No es nuestro fin, es nuestro medio. Y este sujeto es un peligro.

-Vaaaaale. ¿Y puedo preguntar cuál es tu problema?
-Nada, poca cosa, algunos problemillas para la integración con vuestros sistemas.
-Ouyeah. ¿Te han pasado el manual de integración?
-¿Qué manual?
-Da igual. ¿Me puedes definir mejor el problema, por favor?- respiro tan hondo que la mosca que pateaba por el hombro de Bacpac se tiene que agarrar con las seis patas.
-Nada, que el servidor donde están los datos del ERP da un error al arrancar.
-¿Y eso es un problemilla?
-Sí, se cuelga bastantes veces, pero normalmente con apagar y encender ya iba tirando…

Me lo quedo mirando en silencio. Digamos, por no callar, que este señor es un administrador de sistemas. Me da igual si titulado o no, eso no importa. Partimos de la base de que tiene que administrar una máquina que mueve toda la empresa. Esa máquina tiene un problema: se para. Su mejor aproximación es que “se cuelga” y su solución es “apagar y encender”.

-Vaaaaale… ¿Y qué sistema operativo gasta el muñeco?
-Uno de esos que son todo letras en blanco, pero no recuerdo cuál. Son todos iguales.

Ay su madre.

-¿Y recuerdas algún error que hayas visto?
-Mmmm… algo que decía ioerror at sector y un montón de números…
-Pues estupendo. Parece que tienes un disco duro roto.

Bacpac mira a su cuñado con gesto de mofa. Me pone la mano en el hombro y con una condescendencia tal que en el momento me apetece hacerle una llave de judo me dice:

-Imposible. Yo sólo uso Seagate en mis servidores-. Puto judo. Debería aprender a hacer el one inch punch como es debido.
-Pues muy bien. Pero te falla uno. Déjame que le eche un vistazo.
-¿Ahora?
-Sí, ¿por?
-Es que no lo he traído.
-Ya. Vienes a preguntarme por qué no arranca el servidor y no te lo traes. Bien.
-Es que he venido en moto.
-En fin… pues cuando puedas, me lo traes y lo reviso.

$Hyperboss chasquea la lengua.

-Nos corre prisa, Wardog. Hay que integrar ya mismo.
-¿Sabe qué hubiese estado de puta madre? Saberlo. Eso hubiese sido la hostia.
-Bah, si estáis hartos de integrar empresas ya.
-Sí, pero no nos gustan las sorpresas. Necesitamos planificar para que las cosas salgan bien.
-Lo que os gusta haceros notar…
-¿Hacernos notar?
-Sí, presumir de que sois imprescindibles y eso.
-¿Lo somos?
-Eeeeh, no, claro, no hay nadie imprescindible.
-¿Entonces?
-Que no es para tanto.
-Habrá que ir a la empresa de su cuñado entonces, ¿no?
-Sí, sí, si serán cinco minutos, Wardog.
-Pues voy a recoger mis cosas.

Discutir más es tontería. Es una simple cuestión de cercanía. Su cuñado versus el informático más quejica de la empresa. No hay color.

Volví a mi despacho, saqué la caja de herramientas de las ocasiones especiales y me puse a llenarla de repuestos, pendrives, y todo lo que se me ocurrió que pudiera necesitar en la guarida de Bacpac.

-¿Qué haces?
-Prepararme para un zafarrancho guapo. Un servidor K.O. en la nueva adquisición de $Hyperboss.
-¿Qué nueva adquisición?
-Exacto.
-No entiendo.
-Baste decir que el informático es cuñado de $Hyperboss.
-Santo Dios.
-Y el Cristo Súper Saiyan.

Cojo mis cosas y salgo en busca de $Hyperboss y Bacpac. No los veo, así que me bajo a la recepción, pensando que estarían abajo. Pues no. Utilizaremos el comodín del público.

-Oye, ¿tú sabes dónde está $Hyperboss?- le pregunto a la recepcionista.
-Sí, ha salido a tomar algo con un señor.
-¿Un señor con una mochila a la espalda y el pelo pringoso?
-Sí.
-Gracias.

Las prisas. Pues entonces habrá que adaptarse: yo también me voy a tomar algo, hombre ya. Dejo los trastos en la recepción y me voy al bar de siempre a meterme entre pecho y espalda un bocadillo de anchoas y un pincho de tortilla, tubito de cerveza y un café, que estoy en época de crecimiento a lo ancho. Una vez ahíto me vuelvo a la oficina y justo coincidimos $Hyperboss, Bacpac y yo en la puerta. La gomina sigue en su sitio, la mochila en la chepa. Oye, que igual es eso, que tiene chepa y lleva la mochila con en fondo cortado para disimular. Ahora le quiero quitar la mochila. A ver para qué pienso yo estas mierdas.

-¡Hola Wardog!- me dice Bacpac.- ¡Cuando tú digas nos vamos!
-Ya.
-¿Ya?
-Ya.
-Venga, pues coge el coche y me sigues. Pero yo voy en moto.
-Ya, ya me lo has dicho antes.
-Si ves que corro mucho me haces luces.

Ay diosito, que es un acomplejado con el tamaño de su pene. Si lleva un portátil ahí dentro, será de 17 diecisiete pulgadas por lo menos.

-Procura no correr poco-. Son doscientos kilómetros de tentaciones. Es posible que pueda contenerme y te libere de tu sufrimiento.

Durante doscientos kilómetros estuve viendo el culo de Bacpac haciéndose chiquitito en las rectas y demasiado cerca en las curvas. Tiene una moto muy potente que solo sabe conducir recto. Es tan metafórico en sí mismo que no haré más esfuerzos.

Callejeamos lentamente cuando llegamos a destino. Una pequeña ciudad dormitorio y después, un polígono industrial medio abandonado. Filas de pequeños locales languidecen víctimas del tiempo y de la falta de cuidados. Pinturas desconchadas, carteles descolgados y deslucidos por todas partes. Basura rodando y vegetación aprovechando cualquier grieta sin nadie que se lo impida.

He de decir que me sorprendió cuando Bacpac se metió en el aparcamiento de la empresa. No era un edificio como los que acabábamos de pasar. Era la puta imagen de Brainrotten & Fugue. Está claro que si competían entre sí, eran rivales dignos. El nombre, escrito en letras de forja sobre el arco de la puerta de entrada reza “Hold & Caust”. Sin embargo yo leo “El trabajo os hará libres”. Bacpac me hace señas para que aparque el coche en un cobertizo junto a la entrada.

Bajo del coche y me estiro. Hacía mucho tiempo que no olía este aroma a decadencia. Me cuelgo mi mochila y cojo la caja de herramientas. Miro hacia las ventanas y veo la sombra inconfundible de la plantilla mirando quién llega. Me subo las gafas con el dedo corazón y enfilo, una vez más, hacia un edificio marrón.

Bacpac me abrió la puerta de entrada y pasé para ver la recpeción marr… ¡Hostias! ¡Esta empresa es como un coco! Por fuera es marrón y fea, pero por dentro es blanca, limpia y hasta te puede gustar si te gusta masticar.

Tras un mostrador de diseño moderno, un recepcionista que bien podría ser modelo nos saluda con una sonrisa mientras atiende diligentemente a alguien al teléfono con un manos libres bluetooth y teclea con agilidad en un ordenador que no alcanzo a ver.

¿Pero qué mierda es esta? ¡A mi no me cambiéis las cosas, joder! ¡Esta empresa está mal! ¡Mal!

Bacpac me guía hacia la planta superior, a las oficinas. La distribución es francamente inteligente. Un enorme espacio totalmente abierto, con mesas redondas en las que se agrupan trabajadores según departamentos. Los muebles de archivo son bajos y no hay muchos papeles rodando por las mesas.  Hay varias mesas más pequeñas por la sala que parecen servir para discutir asuntos diversos. Las plantas diseminadas por la sala están verdes y bien cuidadas. La luz natural entra a raudales por ventanales enormes con estores blancos.

Pero lo que me la puso morcillona fue que todos, todos, absolutamente todos los equipos de la oficina eran iguales. Una plataforma tan homogénea, y tan nueva, con sus sistemitas operativos tan iguales, tan actualizaditos… Un suelo técnico de verdad, entero, sin placas rotas, sin cables saliendo de donde no deben. Todo está bien hecho. Lo único que está encajonado son las impresoras, inteligentemente alejadas de las zonas de trabajo para que el ruido de operación no moleste a los trabajadores. Hostias, si es que estoy viendo a uno poniendo papel como si no le costase trabajo. ¡Esto es una puta locura!

-Oye, Bacpac, ¿tú cuánto tiempo llevas aquí de informático?
-Oh, un mes o así.
-Oh. Ya. Entiendo. ¿Estás solo?
-Sí, $Hyperboss me preguntó si podía con esto yo sólo y despidió al otro informático.

Esta maravilla no podía ser obra de este mentecato. Ahora ya me quedo más tranquilo. No todo está del revés hoy. No sé qué hubiese pensado de mi intuición femenina si me hubiese equivocado con este engendro semihumano.

Me lleva al final de la oficina y enfilamos un pasillo. Justo antes de entrar, escondido tras un biombo con ruedas hay una mesa que parece un revolcadero de monas sobre la que domina el paisaje un puto  iMac Pro con sus 27 pulgadas de puro exceso.

-Y esta será tu mesa, supongo.
-Tengo buen gusto para los ordenadores, ¿eh?
-El mismo que para las motos.
-Sí…

Ahí le tienes. Un tío que no tienen ni puta idea, con un cuñado forrado, aprovechando el buen trabajo que hizo otro y el pobre padece el síndrome del impostor invertido.

Creo que no conozco a ningún compañero de profesión bueno de verdad que no padezca el síndrome del impostor en uno u otro grado. Algunos incluso tienen sus negocios y sé que lo pasan realmente mal cuando tienen que facturar a sus clientes porque no creen merecer ese dinero. Lo que hacen les resulta fácil, u obvio, o simplemente rutinario y no le dan valor ninguno. Y son auténticos genios. Gente que te levanta una empresa completa de cien puestos en dos jornadas, que te entrega un desarrollo a medida casi sin necesidad de correcciones en días y aún no se valoran. Tíos que saben sin la cafetera anda baja de presión por SNMP y monstruos de la robótica que te montan autómatas increíbles en tiempos absurdos.

Pero Broderinlau Bacpac instala el driver de la impresora y se toma tres días libres extenuado. Para él programar es poner un acceso directo en el directorio de inicio del usuario local de Windows. Para él monitorizar significa poner una segunda pantalla al ordenador. Y aquí está, guiándome hacia la habitación donde guardan los servidores.

-Es por aquí, Wardog.

Le sigo por el pasillo y abre una puerta a la izquierda. El aire frío del aire acondicionado se vierte en el pasillo y pasamos.

Lo primero que echo en falta es ruido. Todo está apagado. El rack, pulcramente situado centrado en una pared para poder trabajar bien por tres lados no emite ningún ruido. Es el ruido que más miedo da a un sysadmin. Sólo el leve zumbido del SAI se eleva sobre el ominoso silencio.

Abro la puerta del rack, abro el gancho de la bisagra y retiro la puerta.

-¡Ostras! ¿Sabías que eso se puede hacer?
-¿Tú no?
-Eh… claro, por supuesto. Se nota que eres bueno.

Buenísimo. Sé quitar la puerta de un armario.

-Veamos. Hay dos servidores. ¿Por qué?
-No sé, aún no me he puesto con eso-. Claro. Estabas con el Mac de quince mil pavos. Es normal. Qué va a hacer un sysadmin sabiendo qué hacen sus máquinas-. Pero el que está roto es este.
-Vale, veamos…

Tiro de la consola, que estaba plegada y enciendo el monitor.

-¡Hostias! ¿Y eso? ¡Qué chulo! ¡Yo tuve que conectar un monitor y un teclado!
-¿Has visto? Dime contraseñas, anda.

Arranco el equipo averiado para ver qué le pica. Arranco el otro servidor para ver qué hace. El servidor averiado se queja de un disco. Igual el que tiene la luz roja encendida. Igual, ¿eh? Tiro del clip y saco la unidad para examinarla.

-¿Cómo has hecho eso?
-¿Hacer qué?
-Sacar el disco.
-Telequinesis. ¿Tú como los sacas?
-No, fuera de broma. Yo saqué el servidor así- dice mientras tira de él hacia afuera y se desliza sobre sus raíles- levanté esta tapa y no vi por dónde meterles mano.
-Tío, pulsar, bajar y tirar. De toda la vida.
-Anda. Que los discos son eso. Yo pensaba que era sólo para ventilación.
-Sí, ventilación. Sí sopla fuerte el aire aquí.
-Y qué pequeñitos son, ¿no? ¿Ahora los ponen de portátil?

Sorpresa, llevo un disco compatible en la mochila, sólo que no comparten caddy, pero eh, habiendo destornilladores… Dos minutos después el servidor estaba arrancado y reconstruyendo el RAID. Qué suerte que en previsión de que el Karma me había advertido había cogido un disco de cada de los que tenemos para nuestros servidores y uno de cada de los que habíamos retirado y aún funcionaban. Como treinta discos traigo. Y pesan.

-¿Qué estás escribiendo, Wardog?- me pregunta Bacpac por encima del hombro.
-Estoy entrando en comunión con este sistema. Por favor, respeta este momento.

Un vistazo por encima me dijo que no le pasaba nada, que no se estaba colgando, sino que mostraba el error de disco e iba más lento porque es un RAID 5 y estaba tirando de información de redundancia. Ya. Se acabó la crisis. Miro el otro servidor. Es idéntico al que acabo de reparar. Idéntico. Un poco más de investigación me dice que son gemelos y que se replican para que si uno muere, el otro se ponga en marcha. Ha parado la oficina por inútil. Típica configuración con failover impresionante para una oficina de 30 personas.

-¿Y cuánto tiempo dices que has tenido esto apagado?
-Nada, ni una semana. Cada vez que lo arrancaba salía ese error, y para prevenir males mayores, apagué todo. Hay que asegurar.
-Hay que asegurar. Ya. El servidor ya funciona. Por favor, avisa al personal que pruebe si todo está correcto. Es posible que vaya lento durante unas horas mientras reconstruye la información del disco, pero ya pueden empezar a trabajar.
-OK, voy a decírselo.

Espero a que salga por la puerta y cierro. Marco el móvil de $Hyperboss.

-Dime, Wardog.
-Que esto ya funciona.
-¿Y qué era? Seguro que una chorrada.
-Sí, un disco duro roto. Lo he cambiado.
-Vale.
-Oiga, esta empresa tiene una pinta estupenda, por lo menos la oficina. El informático que montó todo esto es un artista.
-¿Tú crees?
-No hay más que verlo. Está todo perfecto. Todo.
-Entonces, ¿Broderinlau está haciendo un buen trabajo?
-Su cuñado es un inútil.
-¡Wardog!
-De verdad, $Hyperboss, yo no sé en qué estaba usted pensando cuando despidió al otro informático para dejar sólo aquí a su cuñado. ¿Por qué ha hecho eso? Los dos sabemos que su cuñado no está capacitado para esto. Le ha dejado el mantenimiento de un submarino a un tío que sabe cambiar el tubo de escape a un Vespino.

$Hyperboss guarda silencio unos instantes.

-Mira, Wardog, yo quiero mucho a mi hermana, y ella al mentecato de su marido. Ella cree que es un genio y él no hace más que entrar y salir de empresas cada dos meses.
-Vaya. Qué triste.
-De verdad, Wardog, que esto quede entre tú y yo. Es un inútil, pero también un vanidoso y es incapaz de admitir que no tiene ni idea. Si le di el reloj este del iPhone para configurar y lo único que consiguió fue que no arrancase, se quedaba la pantalla congelada.
-Qué crack.
-Lo que te pido es que por favor le enseñes, que se pueda defender para que tenga un sitio fijo para trabajar y mi hermana siga siendo feliz creyendo que su marido es el director de informática de una empresa que por fin le valora.
-Ya. Que le enseñe.
-No te pido que le enseñes todo, sólo lo necesario para que no la cague, ¿me entiendes?

Que no le enseñe todo. ¿Por qué todos los que no están en informática creen que se puede cuantificar el conocimiento? ¿Creen que se traspasa como se traspasa una carpeta? ¿Creen que la arquitectura de una red se entiende en cinco minutos? ¿Que no hay particularidades? ¿Procedimientos? ¿Creen que no hay conocimientos técnicos básicos que se adquieren durante años de aprendizaje fuera y dentro del mundo laboral? Yo no entiendo ese concepto de “no enseñarlo todo”. No lo entiendo.

-Perfectamente.
-Gracias, Wardog. De verdad, esto es muy importante para mi. Te pago los días que estés ahí al triple, dietas, lo que quieras, pero que no tenga que echarle, por favor. No quiero que mi hermana se caiga de su nube, es una mujer muy sensible con el tema de su marido.
-No se preocupe, $Hyperboss. Y por el dinero descuide, hoy mismo le enseño todo lo necesario para mantener esto sin liarla.
-¿De verdad?
-De la buena.

Qué triste. Una mujer enamorada de la imagen que proyecta un mentecato. Más triste aún Bacpac, vagando por el mundo haciendo ver que es quien no es, y más aún, sin darse cuenta.

Bacpac regresó por fin de avisar a todo el mundo, venía sonriente. Seguro que les ha dicho que por fin lo ha arreglado.

-Ya está todo el mundo trabajando, genial, Wardog. Ojalá hubiese tenido yo un disco de esos antes.
-Ya, el disco. Claro. El disco. Ojalá los vendieran en las tiendas de Apple, ¿eh?
-Ya ves.

Inmune al sarcasmo.

-Mira, Bacpac, he hablado con $Hyperboss y me ha pedido que te guie un poco… en la administración de sistemas, que te enseñe un poco cómo va todo esto de la informática de mayores.
-No, si no hace falta, Wardog, ya me apaño yo bien.
-No. Mira, te explico. Eres el sysadmin de una empresa absorbida. Yo soy tu jefe. $Hyperboss es mi jefe. ¿Hasta aquí todo bien?
-Pero es mi cuñado.
-Vale. Pero cuñado no aparece en el organigrama. Así que vamos a tu mesa que te explico.

Vamos hacia su mesa y me siento ante el pantallón del Mac. Coloco el teclado, el ratón y el pad. Con los antebrazos arrojo el resto del contenido de la mesa al suelo, primero el derecho y luego el izquierdo.

¿Qué haces?

-Primero de todo, orden.
-¿Pero quién te has creído que eres?
-Tu dios.
-¡Ja!
-Já. Yo soy lo que te separa de cagarla tan fuerte que te tenga que despedir tu cuñado.
-¿Y eso quién lo dice?
-El que ha visto que has apagado en caliente más de veinte veces un servidor de treintamil euros porque te estaba avisando de un fallo en un disco duro redundado. Ese. ¿Quieres que te lo explique tu cuñado?

Se lo piensa con el móvil en la mano. La oficina está extrañamente silenciosa.

-A ver dime, qué tengo que hacer.
-Enséñame la documentación de la red y las contraseñas.

Recoge una carpeta del suelo y me la da. La ojeo. Me la guardo en mi mochila.

-Y ahora los ficheros de estas impresiones. ¿Sabes dónde están?
-Sí, claro. Entra aquí- me dice señalando en su pantalla. Me va guiando hasta los ficheros que documentan la red y contienen las contraseñas de administración. Compruebo que corresponden con la documentación impresa, los subo a un servidor de Suprakillminds y a continuación los borro.
-¡Pero qué haces!
-Preparando la clase. Un segundo.

Creo un usuario para mi y otro para El Máquina II con superpoderes. Cambio la contraseña de root y de administrador en todos los servicios y sorprendentemente no explota nada. El informático anterior es para darle un abrazo, joder. Degrado el usuario de Bacpac a lo más rastrero que puedo. Cierro sesiones y me levanto.

-Siéntate que empieza la clase.

Se quita por fin la mochila y se sienta. Pues no tiene chepa. Me mira con los brazos cruzados.

-Mira, tú no quieres que te enseñe y yo no tengo ganas, así que vamos a hacer esto rápido. Ésto- le digo delimitando con los dedos el espacio comprendido entre la pared y el biombo- es tu espacio de trabajo. Única y exclusivamente. No puedes tocar nada fuera de aquí. No puedes tocar ningún servidor. No puedes tocar la distribución de la red. No puedes cambiar un puesto de sitio. No puedes instalar ningún tipo de software. No puedes contratar internet con otro proveedor que no sea el actual. No puedes ni pinchar un pendrive en ningún ordenador. Puedes navegar por Internet, ver las noticias y escribir tus memorias. ¿Alguna duda?
-¿Y si se rompe algo?
-Nos lo dices. O contratas a una empresa local y te inventas una avería gravísima. Nadie te va a reclamar nada.
-Ya, claro. Como que $Hyperboss es tonto y va a pagar a una empresa estando yo aquí. Él no tira el dinero.
-Eso creía yo, pero tienes quince mil euros encima de la mesa y no ha pestañeado siquiera.
-¿Entonces, qué es lo que puedo hacer?
-Venir a trabajar, tomar café, conseguir que otros se coman tus marrones e irte a tu casa con el deber cumplido. Ya eres director ejecutivo del departamento de informática de Hold & Caust. ¡A que es acojonante!

Cojo mis cosas y me encamino a la salida. Pero recuerdo una cosa más…

-Oye, Bacpac, una curiosidad. ¿Qué llevas en la mochila?
-¡Ah! Vas a flipar. Mira, mira… Aquí lo tienes- dice sacando un portátil,- una maravilla. Diecisiete pulgadas, Intel Xeon, sesenta y cuatro gigas de RAM, disco SSD de un Tera…
-¡Ja! ¡Lo sabía! ¡Pichacorta!

Me alejé con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja de su mesa dejándole con cara de desconcierto. Marqué el número de $Hyperboss.

-Dime, Wardog.
-Hecho.
-¿Ya?
-Ya.
-¿Tan pronto? ¿Qué has hecho?
-Le he nombrado director ejecutivo del departamento de informática.
-O sea, que le voy a pagar el sueldo para que otro haga el trabajo.
-Es usted un lince.
-Bueno. A la larga me sale barato.
-Tampoco se fíe. Algo me dice que el Karma aún no ha cobrado.
-¿Qué dices?
-Nada, nada, cosas mías…

Tengo un miedo atroz.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 7

In My Daydreams

As the creatures gained speed, I realized that I could hear their feet hitting the ground from the air. It was the sound a thousand bass drums might have made if they’d been played by elephants with a poor sense of rhythm, a cacophony of thumping noises that overlapped each other.

I’d worried that Cassie’s gun or my sonic weapons might warn the Human Ascendancy’s forces of our attack, but it didn’t matter. The creatures’ running drowned out everything we could have attempted.

Thanks to the Rocket suit, I had the best view of anyone. As Jadzen Akri had described, the Ascendancy troops weren’t organized. People at the far end of the camp stood at attention while on the other end of the camp, they stood in groups, many of them holding weapons or holding their ears.

At the same time, people from the organized end of the camp walked out of formation, accompanied by guards. When they reached the groups of milling people, the groups would break up and join the formation.

Through our implants, Jaclyn asked, “What are they doing? Do they know we’re coming?”

“No,” I watched as one group shot a man from the formation only to line up themselves as another shouted at them from another side. “It looks like one group is trying to get control and the rest are resisting the motivators, but I don’t think their hearts are in it.”

I angled the sonics downward as a group of the beasts began to veer away from the main group. Giving them a blast of high pitched noise followed by tiger-terrier barks inspired them to rejoin the main group. For all I knew, the barks were enough.

Maru spoke through the implant link. “It’s the agent. The spacers and soldiers aren’t comfortable with him running things, but they also aren’t comfortable openly rebelling. The motivators will have them in minutes. It’s not hard to use that.”

He might have said more but Crawls-Through-Desert’s voice. “We’re in position and turning off the shields. Are you ready?”

Jaclyn said, “Yes. We’ll be another 30 seconds. Does that look right to you, Rocket?”

I used my helmet’s HUD to measure the distance. “That works.”

It didn’t feel like thirty seconds and maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we gained speed as we went. It felt like we did. As we grew closer, the formation broke. Why it had held, I didn’t know. Maru might have. It was most likely simple to explain. My best guess was that it had been hard enough to get people into formation that they didn’t want to let them out.

I saw the people run in all directions, grabbing for weapons or trying to escape.

No one appeared to be listening to anyone when the glow of the force fields faded, leaving the open area past the town of Landing unprotected. At the same time, the shields around the shuttles turned into thin lines and began to cut.

The shields around the towns stayed up, but it did no good for the Ascendancy’s people. They couldn’t go through.

The Rocket suit didn’t include cameras good enough to see emotions on people’s faces as the first wave of creatures hit and I felt grateful for that. There were so many beasts and so many people that the creatures weren’t even trying to hit. They were only trying to run between the gap between the two towns with glowing force fields—except that there were so many of them that they had to stay close.

The Ascendancy soldiers dodged, and ran. A few of them flew, but it didn’t matter. They couldn’t move quickly enough to avoid being trampled. They were buried under a gray wave.

That’s not to say that they didn’t try. Weapons fired. Lines of bright light hit creatures in the herd, killing them or hurting them, but not enough to stop the herd from coming.

A few of the one man fighters made it into the air, but they made it into the air with wings broken and damaged grav plates. The constant wobbling made it clear that they were lucky to be in the air at all.

One started to take shots at the herd (or maybe at us) before its wild shots made it clear that it couldn’t hit anything. It wheeled around to limp after the other fighters.

When the gray wave of beasts finally broke and the herd made it out the other side, we could see what we’d done. From one side to the other, everything appeared to flat, from vehicles to people. It wasn’t literally flat, but it felt that way.

Tents, small buildings, and small vehicles had all been smashed. People too.

That had been the plan, but a plan was abstract whereas the blood and broken bodies were real.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 6

In My Daydreams

The shouting didn’t do anything.  A few of the giant elephant/rhinoceros things looked over at us without much interest. The ones nearest the dog made grunting noises and began to sniff the wind, a good idea except that we were upwind. Then a few began to move forward, away from the barking, swinging their heads around to look for the noise.

When they saw the dog, one of them made a deep noise somewhere between a growl and a roar. Some of the smaller ones bolted away, but the large one turned toward us.

We weren’t intimidating enough, and why would we be? Judging from the Rocket suit’s readouts, the nearby creatures ranged from two to thirty tons.

I narrowcast a barrage of noises at the large one, hoping that one of them would hurt it, but even better, hurt it in a way that made it run away instead of at us.

It didn’t run, but it did back up a step.

Not intimidated at all, Tiger kept on barking and even growled at it. The creature growled back and I considered giving up the sonics, but didn’t. I’d used the setting where an algorithm cycled through sounds, and we weren’t done.

As it hit a collection of high pitched notes, all of them at noise levels that hurt the human ear, the creature wheeled away and ran after the smaller ones, stopping some hundred feet away and turning to face us. The smaller ones had stopped just past it, turning sideways to watch us out of one eye.

Tiger kept on barking but he didn’t run ahead, staying near Jaclyn, and then it stopped running when she did.

By that time, we’d all stopped shouting.

Cassie gave a short laugh, put the gun back into its holster, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, that’s going to be harder than you’d think. You want me to start shooting at them? We’ve got to get these suckers moving.”

Jaclyn exhaled. “I think you’ll have to. Can you burn them without hurting them much? Because we don’t want to kill them. Maru, you said you could affect them. Can you make them uneasy? Because if you start with that, and then we start with the dog and whatever noise Nick made with the sonics, and if we were far enough away from each other that we got a bunch of them moving… Well, we might get all of them going.”

She looked over at Maru. “Are you going to be able to keep up or will I have to carry you?”

In a quiet but still penetrating voice, he said, “I’ll be able to keep up.”

She nodded. “Once we get them going, we’ll need to keep them on track. Tiger and I will stay on the right side. Nick go to the left. Everyone else can go where you’re needed, but you’ll probably end up at the back at first.

“Alright, we know that Maru’s going to start. Cassie’s going to shoot—“

Cassie shook her head, raising her voice to say, “I’m giving them a light show first. If that doesn’t work then, yeah, I’ll shoot.”

Near Cassie, Katuk said, “I will create light and fire off my weapons as well.”

Jaclyn nodded. Turning to look at Marcus, Jaclyn asked, “What are you doing?”

Marcus grew to 12 feet high with skinny legs and arms and a featureless face. Tentacles grew out of his back while his League uniform turned into a black suit.

Jaclyn’s eyes widened. “Slenderman? Seriously? They’re alien herd animals. They don’t know their memes.”

Marcus shrugged, using his shoulders and all of the tentacles. “I need the legs to keep up with you guys and I really think they’ll find the tentacles scary.”

Jaclyn started to reply, stopped, took a breath and said, “Fine. Just keep up, but don’t rule out imitating Tiger. I think that would work better.”

Maru cocked his head and looked up at Marcus. “I don’t know if you’ll scare the beasts, but I think you’ll scare the men. We have legends about things that look like that.”

Marcus peered down at him, mouthless face opening to say, “No kidding. That’s crazy.”

Jaclyn held up her hands. “Whoa. Let’s not go down this road. Maru do your thing. Everyone else, wait for my say so, but then do what you do.”

The first time Maru had been shouting with the rest of us except that his shouts had the queer tone that activated our defenses. This time he imitated the creatures’ grunts and the noises the large one had made as the smaller ones ran off, but still with that same queer tone.

His voice rose in volume, activating my suit which started to buzz. At the same time, the herd beasts turned to look at us, making grunts and multi-note whistles that sounded nervous to my ears. As he grew louder, so did they, and it wasn’t just the nearest beasts that seemed nervous. Every one of them in sight began to look around or sniff the air.

When Tiger began to bark, a few of them ran away, darting across the field. A few of them followed. Then Jaclyn waived to Cassie and I.  Cassie raised the gun and pulled the trigger. Instead of a burning beam that killed what it touched, bursts of bright light came from the gun in no particular rhythm.

More beasts began to run. Not all of them kept on running once they started enough ran that I could hear footsteps thunder across the field.

I fired off the sonics and this time I wasn’t narrowcasting. Everyone could hear and not just my target. I set the sonic device on my left arm to blast the frequencies that worked earlier on and off. I set the device on my right arm to randomly blast other frequencies at extreme decibel levels and sometimes dog barks.

During my first barrage of the new sounds, the creatures began to run. I took off, flying toward the left side of the herd, but aiming my sonics toward the middle. Behind me, the rest of our group began to follow the herd.

For all that it was true that the creatures could not possibly recognize Marcus’ shape, I couldn’t deny that the combination of spindly limbs and waving tentacles was creepy.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 5

In My Daydreams

Thirty minutes later found us outside in the warm sun, standing upwind of a field that was inland and slightly to the north of the settlement.

The creatures in the field reminded me of both elephants and rhinoceroses. They had grey, wrinkled skins, tusks like elephants, but with the long, wide snout of the rhinoceros and a small horn on the top of the snout. Their upright, triangular ears made me think of wild boar. Their wide legs made me think of tree trunks.

They had all of an elephant’s size, and maybe more. I wasn’t sure how tall elephants were, but the smallest of these creatures had to be taller than 30 feet at the shoulder.

As they grazed, scooping up huge mouthfuls of the green, waist-high grass, I could only wonder how much they ate in a day.

Jaclyn stood next to me, looking out at the herd. “I hate this,” she said.

I glanced over at her. “Yeah?”

She sighed. “You remember back when Rook kidnapped Cassie and we broke into his base? You got stuck running all of that. You offered it to me and I didn’t take it.”

“Right,” I remembered it well. She’d been right not to let me hand it off to her. I’d started it moving and it wouldn’t have been fair to dump it on her.

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I hope we all live through this. If we don’t, it will be my fault.”

“Not entirely. We’re all going to make our own decisions. Some of them won’t be the best, but they’ll mostly be our own fault.” I watched her face. This was a bad time to have a crisis of confidence.

I couldn’t read much. Her face barely moved until she gave a half-smile. “It’s nice of you to say so, but remember what you did. When you heard they were pumping the base full of nerve gas, you sent Izzy and me back and you went on alone. We only came in at the end. I wish I could do that. Then I know you’d all be safe.”

She let out a breath. “If Marcus dies, I won’t even be able to explain how he died to his mom and dad. The block’s still working full force for them.”

It was my turn to sigh. “Yeah. I don’t know what to say. I’m sure Agent Lim will help you come up with something, but I’m sure that’s not what you want. Do you want me to take over?”

She grinned. “No. I know this one’s mine, but you can have it if I go down.”

“That’s kind of dark.” Maybe this was a crisis of confidence.

She laughed. “It’s realistic. We have to plan for it even if it’s only temporary. You know the plan and they’ll listen to you. That’s what we need. And don’t worry about me. I’m sure that half of the reason I’m worried is that they wouldn’t let me leave the dog back in the cave.”

Tiger paced up and down in front of the group of us and looked over at Jaclyn before sitting down. He seemed bigger than I remembered. He’d been listening better than I expected as well. As willing to eat humans as the adults appeared to be, Tiger seemed to have been born to be domesticated. He’d learned to follow Jaclyn’s orders better than dogs from home.

As I thought about that, the implant gave me a vision of dogs like Tiger fighting Xiniti at the side of Abominators and their human slaves. Though I could feel that there was more to learn, I didn’t go into it. For the moment, I knew enough. They’d probably been created by the Abominators to serve humans, much as normal dogs did on Earth.

Near us, Marcus eyed the herd, possibly painting it in his head. Cassie had pulled her gun from its holster on her thigh and was pointing it past the herd toward the settlement—probably using its sensors. Katuk stood completely still and watched the beasts.

That wasn’t everyone. Maru had volunteered to go with us. He knew the creatures, the terrain, and my tech blocked his powers. If Alanna’s implant modifications tried to force him to betray us, he wouldn’t be able to. That wouldn’t be true back in the cave.

He walked up to us. Short with dark hair, he wore a jacket and pants that changed color to match the grass as he walked. He wasn’t invisible, but he might be from a distance.

Stopping in front of us, he bowed. “How are you handling it? I hate moments like this. You’re ready, but you can’t do a thing until someone else gets into position.”

Jaclyn let her hands drop to her sides. “I’m doing fine. We’re all going to do fine. In case you didn’t know, Nick’s my second in command. He’ll do fine too.”

Maru smiled. “That all we can hope for. I plan to do fine too. And in case you didn’t know, my voice won’t compel the creatures down there like it does humans, but it will help.”

Nodding, Jaclyn said, “Thanks for telling me. I guessed when you volunteered, but I didn’t know.”

Crawls-Through-Desert’s voice sounded in our heads. “We’re on track to be in position in two minutes. You can start.”

“Got it,” Jaclyn sent back and the plant ended the call. By then we were all looking at her. She said. “You heard what I heard. It’s time to get moving. Remember that you have to be scary enough to start them running but not scary enough to start them fighting. Let’s go!”

We started running on to the plain, aiming for a herd of creatures that seemed go on for as far as we could see. People shouted. The dog began to bark. I turned on the sonics, wondering what frequency would work best.

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 4

In My Daydreams

“Now,” Jadzen said, moving her eyes across the group, “we have at least three different problems left. First, while there may be more of us than them, they’re all trained military and we aren’t. Second, they still have the shuttles, fighters, and military equipment. We don’t have much military equipment. Third, they had members of the Ascendant Guard, the First Ascendant’s elite forces, on the Annihilation—two of whom we’ve been told about—Neves and Kamia. There may be more. In addition, they have a motivator—Agent 957. We have members of the Xiniti nation, but they can’t solve all of our problems. We will have to fight along with them.

“Our plan is to make their numbers a disadvantage, damage or destroy their ships, and hope that between the Xiniti and ourselves, we can handle what’s left.”

I raised my hand. “You know where I’d start? Those force field generators you’ve got. I was looking over the design with my implant and it looks like you could set a timer that would turn off the force field. After that, though, you could change the width of the projection to something really thin, maybe monomolecular, and rake across the ships. I don’t know how long the power would last after that, but you’d poke holes in the ships and it would open the whole place up for the animals.”

Two men on the other side of the circle from me laughed. Both wore homespun clothes with grey, blocky weapons holstered on their hips. Short and narrow-faced, they might have been brothers. I thought I remembered seeing them with Alanna’s tech group.

“We’re not laughing at you,” one of them said. “I’ve been telling Sian over here that someone would figure it out eventually.”

The other guy—Sian, presumably, gave a slow grin that reminded me a little of Lee. I didn’t feel the telltale hint that he was an inhuman, eldritch being from beyond time, but I did have a gut feeling that the two of them were casual killers.

Sian leaned over the glowing map between us. “We’ve been using the technique for assassinations back home. We have a list of spots where making little holes will disable a shuttle. Asan and I are still calculating if the shield generators will have enough power, but they should.”

The other guy—Asan—said, “Look, from what we’ve got so far, I’m 99% certain it will work.”

Jadzen didn’t let them go any further. “We’ve been watching the Ascendancy camp from a distance and they seem to be fighting among themselves—not an all-out civil war, but we saw what appears to be the naval commander’s body on the ground near one of the shuttles. Since then, there have been a number of murders among the naval staff—“

Sian muttered, “The agent’s consolidating power.”

Jadzen glanced over at him and frowned but continued, “and they don’t appear to have organized any kind of patrol schedule with the fighters yet or replaced the codes on our shield generators with their own. Since the starport is now nearly empty of people, Sian and Asan will use the shield generators to damage the shuttles and the fighters. Meanwhile, our people will herd the native megafauna toward their main camp. When they arrive, the shields will be down except for the shields around the towns themselves, and the animals will be able to charge and attack whatever they like.

“We know that after we do this, they’ll retaliate. It’s possible that they’ll try to find us in the tunnels and it’s certain that someone will have the technology to find us. We’re going to hope that they’re too busy to try, but if that happens, those of us remaining in the caves will resist. We’ll let those of you outside the caves know if we can’t handle what we’re facing, but your primary responsibility will be to find and capture or kill the leadership—Agent 957 and the Ascendancy’s guard.”

It sounded reasonable even if finding the leadership in the chaos of a big fight would be harder than it sounded. I asked our group with my implant.

Katuk sent back, “Our implants can monitor Ascendancy battle communications if we’re in range. I believe we have a realistic chance.”

I checked the implant’s data on secret communication methods that they’d broken and the Xiniti had broken quite a few—both enemies and allies. I doubted that the Hrrnna and the Alliance would be happy to find out how much the Xiniti had access to, but I wasn’t planning to tell anyone.

Jadzen went on, assigning people to specific duties, but we were set. As she talked, I checked with the group. “Just to get this straight, but we’re all going in with the animals, right?”

A few feet down the circle from me, Jaclyn gave a lopsided smile, sending back, “That’s it. They’ll be sending people with us to start the animals going and Crawls-Through-Desert will be directing us and supporting forces from a distance since he’s experienced at that sort of thing.”

Near Jaclyn, Cassie shook her head. “That’s what I meant when I said we’d have a lot of chances to die. We’re going into battle on the backs of a herd of crazed animals. It’s going to be fun, but is it crazy? Hell, yes.”

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 3

In My Daydreams

We stepped into the hallway. It was little more than walls of an indeterminate gray material broken up by one door after another, all of them leading to rooms just like mine.

As we walked toward the stairway, I asked Marcus, “What about Sydney? No one ever said anything, but when I’ve seen either of you in the last year, you’ve mostly been together.”

Marcus’ walk slowed for a second. “That’s been complicated. We’ve been interested in each other, but it’s never been the right time. Her dad got shot at her brother’s high school graduation. After that, Sean stopped speaking to her because she admitted that Camille was her half-sister and tried to get to know her. That went on for almost a year and for most of that time Haley, Sydney, Camille, and I were all of the Heroes’ League that was active in Grand Lake. I know you were around, but you were busy with college and Stapledon, you know? Anyway, we didn’t feel comfortable messing with our ‘working’ relationship.”

“Yeah,” I said and we stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

He shook his head. “Her dad cheated on her mom for years, so she doesn’t exactly trust guys, right? She’s dated and then dumped three different guys since I’ve known her. Plus, she knows she’s kind of screwed up and she didn’t want us to hate each other. Anyway, we were both freshly out of relationships this spring and beginning to think that maybe we could try something, but then this trip came up. So that’s where that is.”

I blinked. “Okay. Wow. I had no idea.”

He leaned against the wall, nodding. “We didn’t make a big deal out of it. Right now I’m feeling like it all worked out for the best. Tikki’s so much more relaxed. Her parents are both dead and she lived under a dictatorship, but she’s optimistic and sees life as an adventure. And I don’t feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time, you know? It’s fun—well, except that we may all die, but, I’m feeling optimistic about that now that they can’t hit us from orbit with a battleship.”

I looked up the stairway. They had to hear that we were down here even if they didn’t know what we were saying. “Sometimes plans work,” I said.

Marcus grinned. “I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’ve been useful for this whole trip.”

I put my foot on the step. “You were useful when we saved Tikki from those Waroo mercenaries.”

He cocked his head. “You know, that probably helped. There’s nothing like showing up when someone’s getting attacked to establish that you’re one of the good guys. Still, I didn’t do much even then. You and the plant did more fighting.”

We both started walking up the stairs. Almost to himself, Marcus asked, “I wonder where the Waroo are now?”

“No idea,” I said, but by then we were off the stairs and standing in the big room on the second floor.

People filled the space. It felt like the big group scenes just before the final battle of a Star Wars movie—or at least of A New Hope or Return of the Jedi. People stood or sat, wearing colorful clothes from cultures that I didn’t recognize but my implant did, labelling them with notes that I could click on and explore. Some clothes were made of shiny futuristic materials. Others appeared to be leather (some of it scaled), furs, or coarse fibers. Those had been made here.

Despite the resemblance to Star Wars, everyone looked human except for Katuk and the plant. Like everyone else though, they circled around a projection showing the colony and the land around it, featuring the positions of the enemy. Since I’d last been awake, the Human Ascendancy had filled the starport’s landing field with military shuttles. Beyond that, we’d seen that they’d filled the area between Landing and the next town over with camping soldiers and spacers.

Everyone turned to watch us as we joined the group. Then, out of nowhere, people began to shout, hoot, cheer and clap. They backed away, opening up a path so that we could make our way to the middle and stand next to everyone else.

Tikki kissed Marcus and people reached out to clap our shoulders or touch our costumes. It was a strange sensation. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever been in the middle of a group of people that I’d helped right after I helped them. Most of the time, we disappeared into the shadows.

As I reached the middle, Kals smiled at me. “You don’t know how much people in the resistance have wanted to do something like that. We’ve had ships, but we’ve never had anything that could take on a battleship. We’ve got a chance to live now.”

Next to me, Cassie leaned toward me, her ponytail swishing behind her head. “Wait till you see the plan we worked out. We’ve also got plenty of chances to die.”

Past Cassie, Jaclyn kept her voice low and arms crossed, “It’s not that bad. We did our best for everyone.”

At the front of the room, standing with the window opening out to the glow of the colony’s buildings and streets behind her, Jadzen raised her arms and said, “Please, we are all thankful for what they’ve done, but we all know that there’s more that we all have to do.”

After a few seconds everyone stopped talking, reminding me of being in elementary school—if Jadzen Akri were a third grade teacher and she was organizing her class to kill the fourth graders.

That, in turn, made me wonder if we were in the middle of a retelling of The Magnificent Seven or, bearing in mind that we were marooned on what was metaphorically a desert island, what if this were a retelling of The Lord of the Flies?

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In My Daydreams

Release the Hounds: Part 2

In My Daydreams

I woke up to find Marcus knocking on my door. “Rise and shine. It’s time to save the world.”

He sounded as tired as I felt. I got up, finding that the space next to my bed was only barely wider than my body, making me wonder how people who were overweight were handling this. The best thing I could say about the room was that it was larger than a Japanese capsule hotel room, but those might have been better designed. From what I’d heard, in capsule hotels, the bed was the floor. My room had space under the bed for storage. It contained the Rocket suit and my clothes, but no one could get stuck between the bed and the wall in their rooms.

“I’ll be out in a second,” I said and started pulling the stealth suit on. I left it in stealth suit form. The time for fake clothes had passed.

“Do you mind if I come in? I’ve got a question I don’t want to talk about in the hall.”

“I… Okay. Go ahead.” I unlocked the door with my implant and pulled on my shirt. Marcus stepped in and sat on my bed as I pulled on my pants. Whatever. We’d been dressing in the same room for more than two weeks now.

The pseudo-Xiniti silver color made me think of the space suits you’d see in movies from the 1950s. At least he wasn’t wearing a fishbowl style helmet. That would have been embarrassing for both of us.

My pants and shirt sealed together into a seamless bottom layer for the Rocket suit. Marcus leaned back against the wall. “After this is over, I’m thinking of asking Tikki to come home with us.”

I turned to look at him. It was the first time I’d seen him completely serious in a long time. “Do you think she’d want to?”

He shrugged. “No way to tell without asking, but she doesn’t have parents. She knows us better than she knows anyone here. It’s a new world either way, but this way she’d be with me.”

Sitting down on the bed next to him, I thought about it. “I can see that, but she’d have a whole new planet and a totally different culture to get used to.”

Marcus nodded. “A free culture, though. Here, her only choice is to live in hiding or in a dictatorship. That’s barely a choice. We can show her the basics and our implants can set up a package for cultural expectations and rules—not to mention English. I checked. She could access all of it through her bracelet.”

I checked. He was right. The implant could set up a basic “cultural orientation” package for other people to download. We could direct its attention to specific cultural practices, but it could use its default guidelines and handle it automatically too.

“Wow,” I shook my head. “I had no idea that was possible. It’s too bad we can’t hand this all over to people at home. I’m sure there are a bunch of cultural anthropologists that would kill to find out what the default guidelines for a ‘cultural orientation package’ include.”

Marcus grinned. “Yeah, I bet,” but then he took a breath. “The only thing that worries me is race. She’s not going to get it. They handle what we’d call race totally different here.”

“Really?” As I said it, the implant explained what he meant. Race wasn’t a thing here. The Abominators used skin, eye, and hair color to indicate which version of a project they were on, starting either from dark or pale skin. Most of the human genelines that the Abominators created could pass for Asian, Middle-eastern, Latin American, or Central American, depending on the geneline. Genelines that passed for European or African were genelines that the Abominator creator didn’t change after the first version and then kept them isolated.

Before Marcus could explain it, I said, “My implant just gave me an infodump. How did I miss that and why didn’t you?”

“Easy,” Marcus stopped leaning against the wall. “You didn’t talk with many people outside our group, right?”

“No.”

Marcus grinned. “Exactly. You, Jaclyn, and Cassie all look like the powered zealots that the Human Ascendancy would pull out when things get tough. So most people were too nervous to talk to you, but they did talk to me. I wondered why but its because I pass for normal here. So that’s why the council was so nuts every time we met with them and why they wouldn’t listen to us. I don’t think they believe you’re a nutjob but they think you look like one.”

“Wow.” I thought about all the cues I must have missed. It made me feel like I needed to rethink every reaction I’d received since arriving. “I wish you’d said something earlier.”

He nodded. “Yeah, that’s fair but I didn’t get it either until right around when we caught Maru. I just knew something felt different. That’s when I looked it all up.”

I thought a little more. “So maybe she won’t understand it, but it seems like the kind of thing the basic cultural package should include. She’d probably be fine.”

Marcus closed his eyes for a moment. As he opened them, he continued, “Yeah. She probably would be okay. Good point. Now I have to get up the nerve to ask her about it.”

He blinked. “Oh, crud. Jaclyn just messaged me to ask if I got you yet.”

I opened the door. “I guess we’d better go.”

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In My Daydreams

Loose the Hounds: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Hideaway, Landing Starport (Which Was Normally an Empty Field)

Agent 957 watched as the last of the ships from the Annihilation landed in the empty field the colonists used as a starport. Their fiery exhaust lit up the night. Since they’d filled up the slope between Landing and the colonists’ next town with fighters, dropships and marines, they now had no choice but use the field.

Ten shuttles left almost no room in the space within the shielded area. They’d considered landing outside, but they’d had seen footage of the planet’s native megafauna. Some of them were larger than a shuttle. It wasn’t worth the risk.

They’d considered landing in the colonists’ fields until the Annihilation’s Executive Officer noted they might need to harvest the crops themselves if no one came to rescue them. When the communications officer said that they’d already sent a distress signal, the Exec had reminded him that the Xiniti must have as well.

Everyone knew what that meant. When fleets clashed, rescue missions were diverted. Sometimes they couldn’t make it through until the end of the conflict.

If it wasn’t bad enough that they were on a planet covered with psychotic, killer animals, the soldiers and spacers would have to camp outside. The first house the Marines investigated had blown up, killing the fireteam that entered the house.

Knowing that the colony included many of the Human Ascendancy’s most notorious terrorists, the marines’ commander had ordered the marines to set up shelters and inventory the supplies and weapons. They needed to know how much time they had before they had no choice but live off whatever food they colonists could grow.

Commander Hesses’ personal shuttle landed last.

Agent 957 reflected on how unfortunate it was that the commander could not be persuaded to go down with his ship. He’d waited for every last soldier or spacer to leave but left before the self-destruct command activated.

Agent 957 knew that he’d have to handle this himself. Left to himself, the old man would pay more attention to keeping his people alive than catching the colony’s leadership and fulfilling the mission. The man was good to his people but wrong for this mission. It was time to take care of that problem.

Somewhere inside himself, Agent 957 raged against all of it. Damn that ship for reappearing. He didn’t know whose it was, but it was some government’s pet project. The ability to use blink and jump in a ship that small in combination with black shields, and a gun capable of damaging a warship?

Whether it was a new power, the Xiniti, or some Alliance race like the Hrrnnna, he didn’t like knowing that there were nations that were ahead of the Human Ascendancy. Whatever group it was, they’d supplied the Xiniti with new technology, making the creepy, little maniacs more dangerous if that were possible.

Agent 957 put that out of his mind as he stepped in front of Commander Hesses’ shuttle. Anticipating the moment, he’d sent all of the people up the slope toward the colony. It would be best to make it quick.

The shuttle door opened and two spacers stepped out, both of them in combat ready spacesuits—thick-skinned and layered for protection against kinetic weapons and covered with more than one shiny coating to protect against lasers and other energy weapons.

Even in the low glow of the force shields, he could see that the uniforms were poorly designed for ground combat. Once day came, the mirrored surface would be a beacon or at least hilariously inadequate for hiding in a forest.

Commander Hesses followed them out, a small, stocky man wearing the same sort of space suit as his guards. He looked at Agent 957, seeing, Agent 957 knew, a big man wearing layered armor that blended into its surroundings. It might not do as well against energy weapons, but it did have protection against them.

Hesses opened his helmet. “Your command over this mission is finished. With the destruction of my ship, our mission is no longer to assist the Genetic Management Office, but first of all to survive to be rescued. You’ll find that I’ve forwarded these orders to all of my people.”

Agent 957 gave him a shallow bow. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Capturing the resistance’s leadership is vitally important to the survival of the Human Ascendancy. Surviving is impotant, but not as important as removing the threat Jadzen Akri and her people pose our civilization. If you don’t believe that, your usefulness to our society has reached its end.”

Commander Hesses said, “Just like that, then? You’re going to kill me or have my people do it for you?”

Agent 957 said the word that when said with the correct modulation caused any military personnel hearing it to freeze and wait for orders.

Something near Commander Hesses hummed and he laughed. “That’s right. We’re prepared. Don’t think that you’re the first to try something like this.”

Ten more people followed Hesses out of the shuttle, all of them holding weapons.

“Motivators—“ Commander Hesses began, but then he stopped.

Agent 957 tried a different modulation of the word and Commander Hesses and all his people froze.

“Kill Commander Hesses,” he said.

And they did.

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