Crying Grumpies

Genesys y el creador de mundos

Crying Grumpies

gns01_altrules

Cuando FFG se hizo con la licencia de Star Wars anunció  tres nuevas lineas de productos, ahora lleva una decena casi. Una de esas nuevas líneas era un nuevo RPG que mejoraba el sistema de dados narrativos introducido en la tercera edición de Warhmmer RPG. El sistema a mi me gusto mucho pero Mailman después de dirigir la partida del libro básico lo dejo ahí, una lástima. Recientemente me ha entrado de nuevo el gusanillo por dirigir alguna cosa, más concretamente algo de Cyberpunk después de ver Blade Runner 2049, pero no sabía que sistema de juego utilizar. FFG que tiene poderes para leer mentes anunció Genesys, un nuevo RPG. Un sistema de reglas multiambiente, una nueva versión de su sistema de dados narrativos adaptable a lo quieras.

Para más información sobre como funciona el sistema de tiradas de dados os mando a la entrada que escribí sobre Al Filo del Imperio, el primer libro básico de la linea de Star Wars.

gns01_book_shadow

Lo primero que hay que mencionar de Genesys es que como sistema multiambiente lo que nos presenta a lo largo de sus páginas es un esqueleto de las reglas de juego. Unas lineas generales para que con un poco de trabajo el Master y los jugadores adapten a cualquier mundo que quieran. Quiere decir esto que es un juego incompleto, pues no. Quiere decir que después de leerme el libro me puedo poner a dirigir una aventura, pues tampoco.

El libro podríamos partirlo en tres o cuatro grandes secciones. La primera nos presenta como debemos hacer las fichas, como funciona el sistema de combate, interacciones sociales o como resolver las acciones. En este apartado se nos introduce la mecánica que hace más especial el sistema como son las ventajas y desventajas que es una forma por parte del juego de modifica los éxitos y fallos de nuestras acciones.

Por ejemplo:

El PJ intenta abrir una puerta usando sus herramientas de ladrón.

El PJ obtiene un éxito pero sin ventajas ni desventajas. El PJ abre la puerta y todo sigue como el Master tuviera pensado.

El PJ obtiene éxito y obtiene X mejoras. La puerta se abre y los PJ sorprenden al guardia del otro lado ganado X dados de mejora en su primera ronda de combate o si saca las suficientes ventajas desaparecen los guardias al otro lado porque están de ronda en otro lado.

El PJ obtiene éxito pero saca X desventajas. El PJ abre la puerta pero se le rompen sus herramientas o si saca una tirada muchas desventajas detrás de la puerta aparecen unos guardias que no iban a estar ahí.

El Pj no tiene éxito en su tirada y obtiene X ventajas. La puerta no se abre pero en la siguiente tirada para abrir la puerta obtiene X dados de mejora o La ronda de los guardias se entretiene y aparecerá más tarde dandoles un tiempo extra a los jugadores para intentar abrir la puerta o buscar una ruta alternativa.

El PJ no tiene éxito y saca diversas desventajas. La puerta no se abre y saltan las alarmas, se rompen sus herramientas, etc.

Existen una superventaja y una superdesventaja que aportan mayor epicidad.

images-2

Los dados personalizados, los de arriba buenos los de abajo malos

Esto se aplica a todas las tiradas del juego y podemos tanto usar tablas donde nos plantean formas de utilizar las ventajas y desventajas como tomar un acercamiento más narrativo. Gracias a esta mecánica cada tirada tiene una importancia capital en el desarrollo de la partida y no es solamente tira contra dificultad X, si la sacas pasas la tirada y si no pues fallas.

En esta sección nos encontramos que no vienen reglas especificas para un género determinado. No hay magia, reglas para hackeo o duelos entre espadachines. Esto es el esqueleto del sistema y para todas esas cosas extras tendremos dos opciones, ir al apartado de reglas opcionales o crearlas nosotros mismos.

Realms of Terrinoth

El primer libro de Ambientación anunciado

El segundo apartado son los ejemplos de diversas ambientaciones. Aquí de forma muy resumida nos encontramos ejemplos para jugar partidas de fantasía, weird war, ciencia ficción, space opera, steam punk o mundo moderno. Encontraremos opciones para la creación de PJ de razas que no sean humanas, equipo o enemigos que vayan acorde con el mundo que vamos a usar así como unas guías muy generales para dirigir en dichas ambientaciones. Para acabar cada tipo de ambientación viene con un resumen escueto de un universo propiedad de FFG dentro de la misma. Reinos de Terrinoth para fantasía, Tanhauser para Weird War, Steam States para Steampunk, Android Netrunner es el escogido para ciencia ficción y el universo de Twilight Imperium el que nos proponen para Soap Opera. En ningún caso estos escenarios de campaña están desarrollados  lo suficiente como para jugar sin un esfuerzo previo. En breve se pondrán a la venta suplementos de mundo donde vendrán reglas adicionales así como la ambientación más detallada.

La tercera i cuarta sección se entremezclan, son las reglas opcionales y como aplicar todo lo dicho hasta ahora para personalizar el juego y adaptarlo a tus partidas. Aquí tenemos un sistema de magias, hackeo o vehiculos completamente desarrollados para nuestras partidas pero que en ningún caso son absolutos. En breve os colgaré una adaptación del sistema de juego al universo de Nacidos de la Bruma que está preparando Grima, un amigo que al final os dejará sus impresiones del sistema. A mi parecer el sistema de hackeo le faltan cosas, el sistema de vehículos no veo que permita jugar una partida con Mechs. Dentro de estás reglas opcionales tenemos las reglas de tono o modificaciones al sistema para jugar partidas de horror cósmico, superheroes, etc.

La cuarta y última sección esta dirigida a como modificar el juego creando nuevas mecánicas, habilidades, talentos especiales. Aquí también encontraremos las guías para crear los antagonistas.

gns01_scathingtirade

Con el libro diseccionado ya puedo deciros que me ha parecido un pepino. Como master y jugador que odia que las partidas sean una sucesión de encuentros con enemigos creo que es un sistema que se adapta a mi estilo de juego. Si bien es cierto que antes de dirigir requiere de realizar bastante trabajo creo que no tiene por que ser una tarea tan extensa como mucha gente se plantea. De hecho en mi caso que quiero hacer una partida de Netrunner con Worlds of Android, un libro de ambientación del juego de cartas que algún día reseñare, y el libro básico puedo arrancar mi campaña. Que seguro que hay un momento que alguno de mis jugadores quiere crear un talento que haga X y en ese momento es cuando me tocará desarrollar algo específico, o cuando enfrente a mis jugadores con clones con capacidades psiquicas. Pero hasta ese momento poco tengo que hacer que no encuentre en el libro.

Claro que siempre puedo plantearme una ambientación desde cero y eso será una tarea titánica, pero también lo sería si mi objetivo fuera crear un hack para Dungeons and Dragons. No solo tendré que crear un mundo sino que posiblemente me tocará crear mecánicas especificas para el mismo. En la mencionada ambientación que está preparando Grima no tenemos que hacer nada a nivel de mundo más allá de tener un buen conocimiento del mismo por haber leído los libros, pero tendremos que crear desde cero un sistema de magia complejo y con unas reglas muy marcada pues lo que nos ofrece este libro no se ajusta para nada a lo que vemos en las aventuras de Vin.

images-3

Vamos que a nivel teórico me parece un grandioso reglamento. Como aún falta un poco para jugarlo poco más puedo contaros. Os dejo una mini reseña de Grima, a falta de encontrar su nombre grumpy, sobre el juego y en cuanto esté preparado os colgaré su adaptación de la primera trilogia de Mistborn para Genesys.

Desde el primer momento que jugué a Star Wars de FFG con su peculiar sistema, me di cuenta que ahí había un potencial muy grande y Genesys no es más que una caja de herramientas que te permite sacarle el máximo potencial.

El libro es simple y directo, te explican las cuatro cosas básicas del juego así como unos escenarios de ejemplo y unas guías y sugerencias para acotar casi todos los escenarios posibles (desde fantasía medieval con horror al más puro estilo Darkest Dungeon hasta Space ópera con superhéroes a lo Guardianes de la Galaxia).

Obviamente es sólo una guía y te sugiere (en más de una ocasión) que la adaptes como mejor te plazca (y hay bastantes reglas para ello).

Además viene una guía más detalla de qué se puede y qué no se puede hacer con las ventajas y desventajas, algo que se agradece mucho (sobretodo en situaciones sociales).

Los únicos puntos que no me gustaron son que la ficha de personaje es poco customizable, que la necesidad de meter dibujos de las franquicias de FFG rompe mucho la estética del libro y que el sistema de talentos no toca el tema de la magia (Aquí Chef, eso es para que te compres el libro de Reinos de Terrinoth).

  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Grumpysodio IV: Los últimos Talibanes

Crying Grumpies
SWVIII00

 

Confieso que siempre me ha parecido un fenómeno extraordinario: los fans de la saga que a cada nueva entrega se sienten “traicionados” o que creen que la última película ha “traicionado el espíritu original” de la saga. Los talibanes de Star Wars. Los que vivirían viendo la trilogía original en bucle, porque todo lo demás les parece anatema. ¿Todo? No. A la inmensa mayoría les encanta el Universo Expandido, que a mí me pareció siempre una soberana gilipollez y un sacacuartos más que evidente. Porque seamos sinceros: lo que los talibanes de Star Wars añoran es… su infancia.

No perdonan que se hayan hecho nuevas películas y que, de repente, aquello que era su patrimonio exclusivo de friki sea del gusto masivo. Hay que entenderlo: son muchos años soportando burlas y abusos en el colegio como para que ahora los que se reían de uno por gustarle las naves espaciales y los caballeros Jedi lleven a sus retoños al cine y hagan toda una historia de Instagram al respecto. Lo entiendo. El cambio es malo. Envejecer, también.

SWVIII01

 

Ahora que he soliviantado al 90% de los lectores de Crying Grumpies, voy a proceder a hablar del Episodio VIII. Y, de paso (no puede ser de otra manera) del VII también. Porque mi teoría abarca sobre todo la nueva trilogía. Así que, antes de proseguir:

ALERTA DE SPOILERS A CASCOPORRO.

SWVIII02

 

Los últimos Jedi es un paso adelante, y bien largo, en la mitología de la “galaxia muy, muy lejana.” Lo es porque alimenta un nuevo modo de contar la historia de la Fuerza, de la lucha entre bien y mal, entre democracia y tiranía, que es de lo que ha ido siempre Star Wars. Y lo es porque reconoce de una vez por todas varios factores.

1) Que es cine comercial y de fantasía, y no ciencia ficción dura.

2) Que de hacer caso a los integristas, se estancaría en las mismas cosas una y otra vez.

3) Que para contar historias a las nuevas generaciones no se pueden ignorar 40 años de cine de fantasía, ciencia ficción y aventuras.

4) Que la historia estaba agotadísima y no cabía hacer una secuela: había que hacer un reboot entero. Aunque sea medio a escondidas.

SWVIII03

 

Este último punto es importante porque es de lo que se encargó Abrams. Estamos acabando el segundo decenio del siglo XXI, chavalada. No puedes seguir contando historias en las que los protagonistas son invariablemente hombres de raza blanca. Es penoso, es patético, es racista, es sexista y te separa totalmente tanto de tu potencial público como del zeitgeist, del espíritu de los tiempos que corren. A menos que solo quieras contar historias para los nostálgicos. Fíjate qué palabra. Fíjate a quiénes llamamos “nostálgicos” en política española.

SWVIII04

 

Dicho esto, Episodio VIII tiene fallos, obviamente, como también los tuvo el Episodio VII. Y el VI. Y el IV. Y las precuelas (que fueron, salvo algunas secuencias, un enorme, gigantesco fallo). Lo curioso es que muchos fans se quejan de estos fallos con una saña que nunca mostraron con las películas anteriores (o, ya puestos, con el Universo Expandido, que habría que ver como una inmensa colección de ideas que, por mediocres, jamás entraron en el canon).

SWVIII05

 

Los integristas de Star Wars se quejan de que en el Episodio VIII los Jedi cobren nuevos poderes que nunca habían existido antes. Toda la parte final, para ser exactos (el duelo entre Kylo Ren y Luke Skywalker). Se quejan de las maniobras en combate de Poe Dameron, que violan las leyes de la física (es de suponer que de la particular física de Star Wars, en la que los rayos láser son visibles y en el espacio se oye el sonido).

Pero no se quejaron cuando en el Universo Expandido a alguien se le ocurrió una espada de luz… negra. O cuando Boba Fett escapó del Sarlacc, contra toda probabilidad. O con la inmensa estupidez del clon de Palpatine. O con el clon sensible a la Fuerza. Ni se quejaron cuando el ejército más poderoso de la Galaxia era derrotado por ositos de peluche con tecnología del paleolítico.

SWVIII06

 

Como todas las películas, y como todas las entregas de Star Wars, el Episodio VIII tiene un tema principal y un tema secundario. Si en el Episodio VII el tema principal era, lógicamente, los nuevos inicios, los nuevos comienzos, en este caso el tema principal es que lo viejo ha de dar paso a lo nuevo. Por si hubiera dudas: se repite una y otra vez. Mensaje a los integristas: vosotros ya no sois el público principal de estas películas. Hay nuevas generaciones que querrán verlas y pasárselo pipa y soñar con espadas de luz y naves espaciales. Vosotros tuvisteis vuestro momento. Dejad paso a los que vienen detrás.

Y el tema secundario más importante es que los planes fallan. Todo el episodio VIII trata exactamente de eso: de una sucesión de planes (por parte de la Resistencia, por parte de Rose y Finn, por parte de Kylo, por parte de Snoke, por parte de Rey…) que fallan y fracasan una y otra vez. Nada sale en ningún momento como se espera. Y el heroísmo es, justamente, aceptarlo y lidiar con ello.

SWVIII07

 

Dicho esto: ¿la película tiene fallos de guión? Sí. Los tiene. También ha sufrido un exceso de tijeretazos, que parece ser la auténtica marca Disney. Solo así se puede entender que una película que amenazaba con ser excepcional dentro de la saga, como Rogue One, sea casi incomprensible durante los primeros 30 minutos. ¿La película arriesga demasiado? Sí, y en ocasiones paga el precio. Toda la secuencia de Leia en el espacio sobraba, como la mermelada en las tostadas de mantequilla.

Pero vamos a lo realmente importante: ¿la película entretiene? Mucho. ¿Emociona? También. Es exactamente lo que se le pide a una entrega de Star Wars. No que rompa los cánones del Séptimo Arte, que para eso hay otras historias y otros directores. Ni que siga dando vueltas una y otra vez en torno a lo mismo, como quisieran los ultrafans acérrimos. Es así de simple: cine palomitero para divertirse, con un extra de humor (algo que venía echándose de menos en la franquicia).

A otra cosa.

SWVIII08

 

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Complaints: Part 3

In My Daydreams

Geman frowned but didn’t argue at Kals’ suggestion that he and Dalat used the meeting as an excuse to drink.

Maru’s mouth tightened, reminding me of a growling dog. “Kals, you may be assisting, but you can’t speak on their behalf.”

I spoke even as Kals began to open her mouth to respond, “It’s okay. She’s gotten everything right. I didn’t know about the meeting being an excuse to hang out and drink but it’s definitely true that we weren’t randomly searching people’s farms or property. We were just looking for Katuk. Our implants weren’t detecting him and we were worried that something had happened to him. It turned out that he was safe.”

“That’s right,” Jaclyn stepped forward. “Speaking only on a practical level, we need the freedom to talk to people whenever it works best for them and for us. Some people will have time during the day and others in the evening. And if it looks like we’ve got a person missing, we’ll look for him. This isn’t the kind of planet where I’m comfortable assuming someone’s okay.”

Katuk cleared his throat. “I’m sorry that my disappearance made it necessary for the others to search for me. I felt it was necessary to disappear for a time and didn’t realize that the others would want to search for me. Had I understood that I would have coordinated it with them first.”

Maru swallowed and nodded, not taking his eyes off the Xiniti. “Thank you, Katuk. All of us here appreciate how far you must be from your people right now.”

“All those with me are members of my clan,” Katuk said.

“Not all of you,” Maru said, looking over at Kals and Tikki. “Kals. Don’t you have duties that would prevent you from assisting them? You’re involved in our greenhouses, livestock, and farming. Surely you have enough to keep you busy.”

Kals shook her head. “We’re in the slow season for me. We’re collecting data, but I won’t know how well this year’s crops went until the harvest. Once the harvest is in, then those of us in crop design get to work. Right now I can collect the data I need in a few hours. Besides, you know what my real duties are. As one of the few with fully active abilities, my first duty has to be defense. And that means I need to be with them. Otherwise, I won’t be able to help.”

Maru’s jaw dropped ever so slightly. “You shouldn’t have said that—“

Chin down and staring at him, Kals said, “Why not? They’re on our side. For the good of the colony, we need to be coordinating with them, not spying on them and if I were spying on them, I couldn’t do it from the greenhouse.”

Maru turned to look at Jadzen who shook her head. He turned to Tikki. “As a new member of the colony, I’m sure you have duties that you could be doing—“

Tikki shook her head. “I’m afraid that I don’t. Because I’m a life support specialist, they assigned me to help maintain the greenhouses, but the greenhouses are in good condition. We do maintenance, but there’s not much to do. They keep on telling me it will get busy later in the year, but it isn’t yet.”

Behind Maru, Alanna shifted forward in her chair, no longer looking like she was semi-comfortably nursing a hangover. She gritted her teeth as she stood up. “You both just dropped your duties to help the Xiniti? We know what’s really going on. These Xiniti are human and somehow they’re not triggering the rash…”

She shook her head. “You’re putting the colony behind men who will disappear when the job is done. You should be thinking of the colony first. Is it slow for your teams? Then you should be helping another if you’re done early. The earthworks team is working night and day on the barricades. Kals, you know you could be helpful there. And you, life support girl? I’m going to talk to your superiors. My team could use more help and I know you’re an engineer—“

“No,” Kals kept her eyes on Alanna. “You’ve known me on and off for most of my life, Alanna. I’m my mother and father’s daughter. There is nothing I won’t do for this colony and right now, we need the Xiniti, whether they’re biologically Xiniti or human. Iolan thinks there’s a mole. I think he’s right. I’m almost certain Geman and Dalat are controlled without their knowledge and I’ve seen hints ever since I’ve been here that someone knows that Mom is coming when she goes back. You’ve heard the stories. They shouldn’t have known she was coming. They shouldn’t have known her plans. You and I both know it.”

Alanna stood up straight, staring at Kals, face reddening. “Are you accusing me?”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Grumpysodio III: Star Wars. Que estos sean Los últimos Jedi, por favor.

Crying Grumpies
image

Hace ya dos años que Abrams nos devolvía Star Wars en todo su esplendor, con Episodio VII. Tanto nos la quiso retornar las sensaciones del primer film de la saga galáctica, que acabó por hacer una copia de la cinta original, completamente obviable y anodina, que pasará a los anales de la historia cinematográfica como: “El remake más caro e innecesario del mundo”. Con él fuera, todos teníamos la esperanza de que Rian Johnson diese un giro a Episodio VIII y que pudiésemos ver algo decente, pero desgraciadamente no ha sido así.

Primero de todo, avisaros de que en este post va a haber SPOILERS a cascoporro. De hecho, no me voy a molestar ni en explicar el argumento de la película y asumiré que todos los lectores la habéis podido ver (que no disfrutar).
image

Empezaremos por lo bueno, para que no me llaméis hater: La saga ha mejorado en actores. Kylo Ren es, a la postre, lo que buscábamos en él. Tiene personalidad propia y su relación con Rey se ve beneficiada por la química entre Daisy Ridley y Adam Driver. Un actor y un personaje con una profundidad que el Anakin Skywalker de Hayden Christensen sólo puede soñar. Por otra parte, la primera batalla espacial (dejando de lado el momento “Encarna de noche” al más puro estilo Martes y Trece) está muy bien y es muy épica.

Y ya. Porque iba a decir, como algo positivo, que Star Wars: Los últimos Jedi no es una mala película, pero es que tampoco me parece buena para nada: está mal montada, los chistes entran cuando no deben (como ejemplo, el momento Spaceballs de la plancha) y el guión es un auténtico desastre sin sentido. Y lo peor de todo, no emociona. Abrams por lo menos consiguió que saliese del cine cabreado. Acababa de ver una buena película de aventuras, pero un calco de la original y una oportunidad perdida para revitalizar Star Wars, que llevaba esperando cuarenta años. En cambio, el director de Maryland, no ha conseguido que su film llegue a ningún sitio. Los espectadores que salían del cine al que fui, se miraban entre sí buscando una valoración de sus acompañantes y la mayoría obtenían la misma expresión: “Meh”.

image

Tras madurar mucho mi opinión, he llegado a la conclusión que a los nuevos mandamases de la exitosa franquicia de Disney, no les gustó nunca la saga galáctica. Ese afán por destruir lo antiguo y dar cabida a personajes e historias nuevas que a nadie le importan, es la pista definitiva. Porque eso es lo que le ocurre a esta película, se pierde en explicarte una historia mal contada y llena de agujeros y gazapos (no me hagáis repasar lo de Leia viajando por el espacio cuál globo del Viena por el cielo de un centro comercial, ni ninguna de las otras escenas ya sobrada y justamente criticadas) y se olvida de contarnos las bases de esta nueva trilogía: ¿Dónde y cuándo apareció La Primera Orden y porque es tan poderosa? ¿Quién es/fue Snoke? ¿Dónde andan de Los Caballeros de Ren?

Ya no es que se carguen el universo expandido tan sólo para revivir a Chewbacca y matar a Solo y Luke, es que no son fieles ni a ellos mismos. Lo mejor hubiese sido que en vez de nuevos episodios ligados a la trama de los Skywalker se dedicasen a hacer nuevas historias. El sello Star Wars vende mucho, y es normal que quieran explotarlo. Es más, no conozco a nadie que se haya quejado de Rogue One, al contrario. ¿Porque no seguir esa vía del éxito y dedicarse a destripar y destruir la trama canon?

image

Y encima tenemos Johnson para rato. El director de Looper será el encargado de hacer los episodios 10, 11 y 12. El mismo tío que ha matado a Luke. El mismo tío que ha matado a Phasma, un personaje prometedor, haciéndola luchar contra un pringado llamado Finn. El mismo tío que esta semana ha defendido que puede crear nuevos poderes Jedi porque cuando lo hicieron hace 40 años tampoco existían. ¡Claro tío listo, es que ellos estaban creando algo y tú estás haciendo jodidas secuelas! Se le llama coherencia de la historia. A nadie le chirría ver orcos, elfos, enanos y demás en la Tierra Media, pero sí de golpe a Peter Jackson se le hubiese ocurrido hacer que Frodo volase y disparase bolas de fuego por el culo, la gente se habría quejado, como se han quejado de ti.

En conclusión, si el purgatorio cinematográfico existe, allí irá a parar este Episodio VIII, tan visualmente atractiva como fácilmente olvidable, tan despegada de sus predecesoras que es otra saga a parte, tan poco Star Wars que podrían haberse ahorrado el gasto y destinarlo a una nueva John Carter de Marte. Eso sí, ha conseguido que los críticos más acérrimos de Abrams estemos deseando su vuelta para el Episodio IX, aunque sea para hacer otra copia sin alma de El Retorno del Jedi

Los Grumpies más optimistas podéis estar tranquilos, parece ser que Surfer Grumpy ha decidido tomarse un descanso de su magnífico nuevo blog surfero para escribir una crítica mucho más positiva de este film. Por mi parte, voy a beberme un gran vaso de leche azul, que acabo de exprimir las tetas gordas de Kylo y no quiero que se vayan las vitaminas.

  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Achievement unlocked!

Semicoop

… The things we do in life, eh, mostly board gaming! If you’d make a list, you would be impressed by how awesome you must be! 😉

Last week went by in a flash! We didn’t play too many board games, only The Networks, Biblios and Elder Sign. Oh and yesterday on the train we played a game of Pandemic on a tablet, which we won! … barely. 😀 While the world was spinning into utter chaos and with our outbreak counter on 7, we just managed to cure the last disease. Ignoring most of the cubes and just go for exchanging cards and curing the diseases might not have been our best strategy. 😀

And our game of Elder Sign went just terribly last week. We both were incapable of throwing whatever we needed. For example: even after spending four clue tokens on four dice – the dice just refused to give us a scroll icon. After that and every room in the museum holding a terrible monster, we just quit the game. The Elder Gods just managed to curse our dice that night. We’ll have our revenge one day.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jan 12, 2018 at 1:44pm PST

What games offer some pretty great goals for on this achievement list?

The post Achievement unlocked! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Complaints: Part 2

In My Daydreams

When the colonists dropped off breakfast, Jaclyn took advantage of the fact that we were all together to tell everyone the story and then bring us all downstairs to show us the puppy. When we were all back up in the suite, Cassie shook her head and finished off the last bit of some kind of meat. Swallowing, she told Jaclyn, “That was so crazy and such a terrible idea that—“

“It’s like something you would do?” Jaclyn finished.

“Well, yeah,” Cassie said. “But I’d know better than to take in a dog. I tried once when I was kid and my dad gave me hell. He gave me a big speech about how a dog is a big responsibility, but nowhere nears as big as yours is going to get.”

Jaclyn gave a short laugh. “I know. Believe me I know. I want to leave him here because they’re so easy to train, but if they won’t let me, I guess I’ll bring him home.”

Kals looked down at her hand. The puppy had licked it. “We don’t have dogs as pets. I’ve never seen one of those things act friendly.”

Katuk furrowed his brow, “Why would you keep such a dangerous creature?”

Jaclyn shook her head. “I shouldn’t, but if they’re not going to train him, I’m not going to let them kill him. We already killed both of his parents and more. There’s got to be a point where you learn what you don’t have to kill.”

Katuk paused, but didn’t add anything to that.

Jadzen Akri and the others showed up about thirty minutes after we’d finished cleaning up. They didn’t knock and wait for us to open the door either. They went into the big council room and after a short period where we could hear them talking in there, Maru stepped into the suite, saying, “Excuse me, everyone. Jadzen and several members of the revolutionary board will see you now.”

We followed him back into the big council room. It felt larger as well as oddly less frightening than it had the night before. Still, the room felt very big and very official with the chairs around the table the front and people sitting in them.

As we entered, Kals looked up at the front of the room. “They’re playing this as if they were investigating some major violation of a Council editct. That’s annoying. Someone must dislike you.”

When we sat in the seats facing the group. Jadzen looked on calmly while Iolan fiddled with something he’d found in the pocket of his suit coat. Alanna slumped in her chair, possibly hungover, possibly remotely accessing something through the bracelet she wore. Three other people that I didn’t recognized at all were also up there in addition to Maru and Geman. Geman yawned and then nodded at us.

Jadzen looked over the group of us. Everyone but Crawls-Through-Desert had followed Maru through the door and into the auditorium. She frowned as she saw Kals and then Tikki. “Kals, you don’t have to be here. Take Tikki and go.”

Kals shook her head. “Mom, I was with them during almost everything they did yesterday. If they’re in trouble, I’m in trouble.”

Tikki glanced over at Marcus, smiled at him, and reached out to squeeze his hand. “That goes for me as well, but also it’s a fascinating opportunity to learn what my fellow colonists think is unacceptable behavior.”

Jadzen gave Tikki a disjointed expression that made it clear she found Tikki’s response odd, but when she looked at Kals, she wore a tired expression similar to the one I remembered seeing on my parents’ faces when they were told I’d taken apart a neighbor child’s toy or a grownup’s lawnmower.

Without saying anything else to us, Jadzen said, “Maru, please start.”

Maru stepped up to the podium. “Greetings everyone and especially to those of you who have come from so far away to protect us. We value your sacrifice. For everyone’s good, we have a few issues to bring up. We received a few reports that your attempts to look for the mole were disruptive to regular operations of the colony as well as colony morale. You interrupted a regular meeting by Geman and Dalat. You all searched throughout the colony, giving no explanation of why you needed to be there. Other individuals in addition to Geman and Dalat were also interrupted from their work to answer questions.

“These sort of practices make it more difficult for people to practice the trades that keep the colony secure and fed. We need you to stop interrupting people during work hours and to stay off people’s property without permission.”

Maru stopped, giving all of us a polite smile. “Do you have any questions?”

Kals responded before any of the rest of us. “I was there for all of that. You know as well as I do that Geman and Dalat usually use the meeting as an excuse to have a beer. The only reason they searched the colony was to find a teammate who they thought might have gotten lost. I can’t speak to interrupting the other people with questions, but I don’t know how else you conduct any kind of investigation.”

Iolan’s eyes widened as she began to speak. I had a feeling that when he’d sent us a message to remain calm and pleasant, he’d been trying to avoid exactly this sort of thing.

The problem was that Kals wasn’t wrong. Being restricted from talking to people during most of the day would slow things down a lot.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Lifesigns

Tieshaunn

I’m still alive, even if I wish I wasn’t, at times. Sickness and all.

Will explain more soon.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Complaints: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office, System 2411, Edge Sector

Two ships flew through space. One, a long cylinder bristling with laser turrets in addition to its main gun, led the way. The other, a wedge-shaped ship not even a tenth of its size, followed off to its side.

Knowledgeable observers would have recognized the larger ship as the Human Ascendancy Extinction class warship named Annihilation. The smaller ship would have been recognized as a Stinger class heavy fighter number 1123 of the Far Hunter Squadron. There were no knowledgeable observers or even sentient creatures in the system except for those on the ships themselves. The only other being that could have observed them was busy and while she would have recognized the technology and purpose of the ships, her interest in science was great and her interest in fighting only marginal unless it presented an interesting technical problem.

Human Ascendancy warships were conservative in design and offered no interesting technical problems. Therefore, her attention lay elsewhere.

Agent 957 flew the Stinger. It was moments like this one that he lived for. He’d taken his ship all the way back to K’Tepolu after he’d failed to capture the criminals and their Xiniti escort. K’Tepolu had been the sensible choice. It worked for whatever he wanted to do—investigate as his mission dictated or desert and try to escape the consequences of losing them. He might have tried if the Annihilation hadn’t been there.

Instead he’d given the pictures that the mole had passed along to a professional astrogator he’d hired, explaining his mission, the last heading of the criminals’ ship, and the fact that the Xiniti ship appeared to have access to jump and blink space despite its small size. The astrogator had access to a database showing the skies of hundreds of thousands of planets and ran a search on the mole’s pictures. With that started, he’d searched out anywhere the colonists or Xiniti could have gone on that strange collection of linked asteroids.

He’d learned that only one of the Xiniti was biologically a member of the Xiniti species. The rest were human. He couldn’t find out where they’d originated from, but members of other races who joined the Xiniti nation were no pushovers. He made sure to pass that information on to the warship. As the only allies he had, he’d have to bring them in on this no matter how little he wanted to.

Though he did find Kee Oataki’s shop and technology training facility, he found that no matter how much he threatened, no one would let him speak to her. “She’s presently unavailable,” a scruffy Zeeta crawler told him. Then, making a gesture that his implant identified as rude, the Zeeta had gone back to a discussion that involved equal parts jump drive theory and its favorite serialized vid.

The public, online records of a fight in the marketplace gave him a better picture of their fighting styles. Two of the human “Xiniti” had fought a few of the barbarian waroo there. The agent didn’t recognize their fighting styles, but it was clear they’d been well trained. It was also clear that “Tikki” could manipulate time, making her recapture a priority.

Though viewing the fight had been easy, getting the waroo to talk about it turned out to be impossible. Agent 957 didn’t at all expect to understand the creatures, but he was surprised that even though they were known mercenaries, they wouldn’t talk about the fight and wouldn’t draw up a contract to hunt down the people who’d nearly killed one of their own. They’d refused. “You have no understanding of our laws. We will handle this in our own way.” When the astrogator’s report came back with a positive identification of the planet and star system Hideaway, the waroo had been willing enough to take the information.

With any luck, they’d appear in time to destroy the Xiniti escort in their rage. If they didn’t show up, he had the firepower to do it himself.

That brought him back to the moment. Hideaway lay in the middle of a cluster of systems arranged such that their gravity wells made blink space practically useless. The Annihilation and his ship would spend a week in jump space before they reached the planet.

The mole had been surprised to find that Agent 957 had found Hideaway’s position on his own and unsuccessfully tried to hide fear. No matter. Agent 957 had made it clear that the mole’s service had been invaluable. Did the mole have anything left to report? The mole did. There were mines. Agent 957 had made a note of their positions and notified the warship.

It was time to make the jump. Agent 957 checked with the Annihilation to  make sure it had the coordinates correct. Then the agent aimed his ship toward the cluster of stars ahead and turned on his jump drive.

* * *   

The next day my implant woke me at eight in the morning—which was good. It meant that I’d be awake before any of the colony’s leadership came to complain. It was also bad in that I needed more sleep after waking up in the middle of the night to follow Jaclyn around and watch her dog poop.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

España 20, España Indiferente

Crying Grumpies

España_20-CryingGrumpies-Dracoideas-1.jpg

Hasta ahora todos los wargames de cartoncitos a los que hemos jugado caen en la gran familia de los Card Driven Games, para algunos grognards hay algunos que no son ni wargames, y me apetecía acercarme algo más a los Hex & Counter más tradicionales. Por ese motivo durante la campaña de financiación de la traducción de España 20 a cargo de Draco Ideas estuve a un paso de meter pasta. Pero me pillo en un mal mes y me decanté por esperar a que saliera en tiendas. La noche en que montamos las mesas para el torneo de X-Wing de las DAU Históric amb Alpha Ares al acercarme a la tienda que había montada lo vi y me dije por la mañana cuando abran me lo compro. Así que hoy después de una partida interruptus y una partida completa os traigo mis primeras impresiones.

España_20-CryingGrumpies-Dracoideas-3

España 20 es un conjunto de dos juegos dentro de la serie Napoleonic 20 de Victory Point Games. Los juegos de la serie comparten sistema y ambientación. Como habréis adivinado por el nombre de la serie la ambientación son las guerras napoleónicas, en este caso concreto son cuatro batallas que ocurrieron en España durante esa época. El principio en el que se basa toda la serie es la sencillez. Pocos counters, alrededor de diez por bando de ahí el nombre de la serie, unas reglas que son fáciles de digerir, especialmente si las comparamos con cosas como El Imperio del Sol o la serie Next War, y partidas de una hora.

Esta sencillez juega tanto a favor como en contra del propio juego. Los dos juegos que he mencionado un poco más arriba están en las estanterías de El Local esperando a ser estrenados, la complejidad de sus reglas no ayuda a sacarlos a mesa, mientras que a la semana de poseer España 20 ya estaba enseñandole a jugar a Arqueo. Eso es muy bueno. Pero eso también es el motivo de que al acabar la primera partida acabáramos con una sensación de que nos faltaba algo. No se si la escasez de counters y la limitación de estrategias derivado de ello es la causa o que la batalla que jugamos se decantó muy rápido pero la partida nos dejo muy fríos a los dos.

España_20-CryingGrumpies-Dracoideas-2

El sistema de juego es bastante estandar y muy simplificado aunque incluye variantes como niebla de guerra o líderes que añaden un poco más de chicha. Los counters tienen valores de fuerza y movimiento, algunas unidades tienen los valores coloreados para indicar tropas de élite o irregulares que en caso de jugar con las reglas adicionales tienen diversos efectos. En combate se comparan las fuerzas de los ejércitos en una tabla y 1d6 nos indicará como proceder. Incluso usando las reglas adicionales todo muy sencillito, rápido y fácil de aprender.

Muy loable es el esfuerzo de Draco Ideas que ha traído una muy buena edición del juego. Muy buena calidad en los counters y cartas. Por preferir hubiera preferido un mapa de cartón montado aunque entiendo que no lo usaran por el encarecimiento que supondría. Si tengo que poner una queja es sobre el reglamento. No tanto sobre la traducción sino sobre el original. El reglamento consta de dos libretos, el de reglas genéricas y el de reglas específicas para las batallas que trae el juego. La cosa es que el reglamento genérico no viene adaptado a las batallas sino que utiliza ejemplos de otros juegos de la serie. También podría mejorar algo la maquetación del mismo, a veces cuesta ver donde están los ejemplos al estar en las páginas siguientes de las reglas o se ven muy pequeños. Aunque no dispongo de los reglamentos originales son el tipo de decisiones que están fuera de las capacidades de las empresas que se encargan de las traducciones.

En fin España 20 volverá a ver mesa seguro, en un par de semanas, para poder acabar de valorar el juego como se merece pero lo tiene todo un poco cuesta arriba. También es cierto que creo que como juego de iniciación en el mundillo es una muy buena opción.

espac3b1a_20-cryinggrumpies-dracoideas-4.jpg

P.S. Añado una nota varios días después de escribir la entrada, aunque no de publicarla pero algunas cosas han cambiado. Creo que parte de la indiferencia que nos dejo el juego viene por las expectativas. Ayer a la hora de comer estrenamos el Memoir 44 con Arqueo, el otro juego que compramos en las Dau. Con este juego que recrea la 2a Guerra mundial tenía muy claro a que me enfrentaba, simpleza y rapidez a costa de profundidad, y tras el primer escenario hemos mirado el reloj para ver si daba tiempo a una segunda vuelta intercambiando bandos. Quizás el problema es que me acerqué a España 20 con unas ideas que no eran las correctas y con la próxima partida y sabiendo a que me enfrento el regusto será mejor.


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Updating Late Thursday

In My Daydreams

Hey folks,

I’m sorry to do this again so soon after the holidays, but I’m going to have to push the update back.  My car stopped being able to go into reverse last week (I hit a garbage can as a result) and then stopped working altogether.

Today I bought a new (to me) car after work. That meant that I also got to clean out my old car,  go to the Secretary of State ( alias the Department of Motor Vehicles), and experience the wonders of bureaucracy and paying money to the government.

I arrived home at 8pm and ate supper at 10pm and first got a chance to write at 11pm.  On the bright side, I am writing, but I’m not going going to be done on time.

Look for an update tomorrow (late in the evening).

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Catdemic Legacy

Semicoop

With the Golden Standees behind us, it’s time for ‘normal’ comics again!

We’ve started Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and won the January game – a good start of the game! … And then we played February, which started out amazing for us but soon turned into an avalanche of horrific outbreaks. We obviously didn’t win, but we’ll have our revenge soon. We’re really loving the game so far, it’s different from Season 1 in a very interesting and challenging game. We’re really curious what’s going to happen further on in the game. 🙂

We’re trying to finish some campaign games we have laying around which we’re just playing with the two of us. Finishing Legacy of Dragonholt felt good and we’ve paused our Arkham Horror LCG campaign in absence of the last scenario pack and so we decided it’s time to finish Mechs vs. Minions. We’re now down to the final mission! Which is looking like it will take us a few tries before we can beat it. After we’ve finished Mechs vs Minions it’s time for us the finally start playing the Tail Feathers campaign. And we still need to figure out with who we want to play Charterstone or if we want to play it with just the two of us, but we’re not sure if we’ll get a full game experience with just two players.

Summing it up: we’ve been playing Mechs vs Minions, Pandemic Legacy Season 2, Kingdomino, Mysterium and Battlecon! Quite a varied menu of board games if I say so myself!

What game would certainly improve with the addition of some animal characters? 😉

The post Catdemic Legacy appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Como se nos presenta este año…

Crying Grumpies

Bienvenidos todos a un nuevo año y a una esperamos nueva era de nuestro querido blog.

Como muchos sabréis o habréis deducido por muchos de mis posts, una de mis formas de ocio favoritas, son los juegos de cartas. En estos últimos tiempos, he dedicado partes importantes de mi tiempo de ocio en juegos como Android Netrunner (D.E.P., muy a nuestro pesar), Doomtown Reloaded (del que espero me lleguen pronto las nuevas cartas surgidas de Kickstarter), o el digital Hearthstone, al que aunque no le doy suficiente como para llegar a Leyenda (de los 5 anillos… chist), voy haciendo las misiones diarias y las peleas de taberna…

Y seguro que os esperabais un post hablando de cartas… ¡pero no!, ¡soy yo, Dio! Este es un post para complementar el de Chef con más recomendaciones para el 2018… ¿Ha colado?

Comics:

Aunque sigo comprando novedades de Marvel y todo lo que publica IDW de Transformers, me siguen tirando cosas clásicas, y no… no voy a recomendar la nueva edición de lujo de Sandman de Neil Gaiman, o los tomacos de Marvel Limited Edition, que pesan un quintal… Mi recomendación del año en cuanto a comics, va para Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, un manga con solera, que este mes empieza la publicación de su tercera parte (y una de las más reconocidas), Stardust Crusaders, donde Jotaro Kujo, se enfrentará al enemigo de su tatarabuelo Jonathan Joestar (el antes mencionado Dio, hehe).

 

No os voy a dejar sólo con una recomendación de manga, así que antes de que salga el tercer tomo, os recomiendo encarecidamente los dos ya publicados de The Wicked + The Divine, un comic de Image, en el que Kieron Gillen y Jamie McKelvie nos cuentan como cada noventa años, 12 dioses son reeancarnados para inspirar a la humanidad durante dos años y luego se mueren… Y da la casualidad que en la época actual les ha dado por ser estrellas del pop…

 

Videojuegos:

Acabo de descargar el King of Fighters’94 en mi Nintendo Switch, pero no me hagáis caso, son locuras mías, esperando que para 2019 salga la quinceava iteración de la saga de lucha de SNK para celebrar el 25 aniversario de la misma… Con lo que este año me tendré que consolar con dos juegos, Detroit: Become Human, el próximo juego de David Cage (creador de los aclamados Heavy Rain y The last of us)…

Y otro que hace que en el trabajo practique a hacer combos con el mouse… Dragon Ball Fighter Z, que sale a finales de mes… ¡y ya está agotada su edición coleccionista! Quien quiera piques online, que deje un comentario y nos damos tortas hasta decir basta.

Juegos de mesa / cartas (ahora si):

Aunque en estos momentos, dedico mucho tiempo a intentar dominar la nueva versión de Leyenda de los 5 Anillos (escuchad el podcast la Biblioteca Isawa), este año toca recomendar Star Wars Legión, el próximo juego de miniaturas de Fantasy Flight Games, con miniaturas más grandes que las del Imperial Assault y estilo de juego clásico (tipo Warhammer), en el que hay que coleccionar, montar y pintar un ejercito y del que ya hay anunciadas una cantidad de novedades abrumadora…

Pero si queréis algo más tranquilo, y lo encontráis, Arkham Horror: el juego de cartas, es crema de la buena, de 1 a 4 jugadores.  Aunque sea un LCG, no es necesario tenerlo todo como en los competitivos como Android Netrunner o Juego de Tronos 2ª edición, y eso es de lo mejor que tiene el juego, compras la caja básica, en el que tienes una campaña de 3 partidas, con 4 dificultades diferentes, y luego, se puede continuar con una de las dos cajas de campaña que hay ya publicadas, El legado de Dunwich o El camino a Carcosa, con sus correspondientes packs de ampliación, que dan 8 partidas más cada campaña.

Libros:

Pues tampoco será novedad, pero ya que pronto estrenarán la película, recomiendo Ready Player One, de Ernest Cline para quien no lo haya leído aún. Tanto como aquí como en la películoa podréis ver un montón de referencias a cosas de la cultura friki de los 80-90, por lo que a parte de una lectura entretenida, os tocará el corazoncito con muchas dosis de nostalgia pura.

También es muy recomendable El portal de los Obeliscos, de N.K.Jemisin, segunda parte de La Tierra Fragmentada, ganadora del premio Hugo a la mejor novela por segundo año consecutivo y que sale a finales de Enero, yo estoy a medio leer el primero de la trilogía, la Quinta Estación, y me ha parecido de lo más interesante que he leído últimamente.


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 10

In My Daydreams

Wondering if I should check with the others before I did anything, I decided it was most likely Jaclyn, Cassie, Tikki, or Kals and if not, I could probably tell the rest via implant.

In fact, I was being too paranoid already. The most likely possibility was that one of them had opted to use one of the bathrooms outside our suite rather than risking walking everyone else up. The toilet was kind of noisy.

As I walked through the door that led into the main area of the council building, I reflected that if that were true, explaining what I was doing was going to be awkward. Well, if I did find that the footsteps led to one of the other bathrooms, I’d do my best to sneak away before they got out.

The main area of the council building was an open room large enough hold almost everyone in the colony. Even if that was only all of the colony’s adults, that might mean as many as 2000 people. I followed the footsteps across the front of the auditorium, noting the rows of seats to my left. Anything could be hiding there in theory, but my glasses’ thermal imaging didn’t show anything hot enough to be alive.

I reached a short hall on the other side of the auditorium. It continued into another suite like ours, but before that a stairway opened up downward to the right. I followed the steps downward, noting that they appeared to be made of the same white substance as the egg-shaped outside walls. Even before I reached the bottom, I noticed that the thermal footprint remains were more distinct. Halfway down, I heard the first noise. It was a series of high pitched barks—more yips than barks—and then Jaclyn’s voice.

“Shh.”

I jumped down the final flight of stairs, landing in front of a closed door, but one with a telltale glow at the bottom of the door. The light was on inside and since I knew who was there, I said, “Jaclyn?”

The door opened. Jaclyn stood in the doorway wearing the pajama version of her stealth suit—a red top with white pants. I remembered programming in the specifications.

She sighed. “I knew someone would notice eventually, but I thought it would be Cassie.”

Then she turned to look behind her. A dog with grayish-brown, curly fur bounded toward me, getting on its hind legs and placing its paws on my stomach. A closer look showed me that it was more fuzzy than furry and the clumsiness of its walk told me that it was more puppy than dog despite its size. More clues came together—the thickness of its limbs, the size of its paws, the resemblance to a terrier.

It sniffed my crotch and then dropped to all fours to consider the smell of my feet. It gave my left foot a lick.

“Wow. Is that what I think it is, and why did you take it in?” I looked around. “You’ve been keeping it in a closet?”

To be fair, it was more of a storage room. It was at least twenty feet wide, maybe larger, filled with boxes, a bowl of water, and bowl of last night’s leftovers.

Her head sunk for a moment, but then she looked me in the eye. “It’s not a closet. Look, I got up early the morning after we killed those things and went out running. It was there where we’d killed them, sniffing around. I know it was dumb, but I couldn’t leave it there. We’d killed its parents and I’ve always liked dogs…”

She shook her head. “This sounds even dumber out loud than when I was imagining explaining it.”

The puppy grabbed my pants leg and started pulling on it. It had a strong grip.

“No! Stop. Over here.” She pointed directly in front of her. It stopped, looked at her, and let go of my pants. Then it sat in front of her. She crouched, scratching it behind the ears, and saying, “Good boy. Who’s a good boy?”

She let the puppy lick her face a couple times, wiping off the spit with her hand. Then she stood up. “He really is a good dog. Dogs at home don’t learn commands that quickly. They should be training them instead of hiding from them. I’ve been hoping to show them, but for now, I just need to take him outside. You want to come along?”

I glanced down at the dog which had already wandered off to the food dish to scarf down a few gobbets of meat. “Sure.”

We brought the dog out to a courtyard off to the side of the auditorium. Since it was surrounded by the building, we didn’t have to worry about the dog running off—though we did have a scare when it darted toward one of the walls, disappearing behind a bush. When we caught up with it, we found it dismembering a creature that appeared to be a cross between a rat and a grasshopper. Rats don’t have six legs or wings, and grasshoppers don’t have fur, but this had both.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked her as the puppy finished eating and then did its business behind another bush.

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I think the colonists could train them, but you know how big they get. The colonists aren’t going to like the idea. We could bring him home, but…”

I tried to imagine that. It wasn’t as if Jaclyn could keep it in her dorm at the University of Michigan. The best idea would be to keep it in HQ in Grand Lake. I imagined trying to take it for a walk. It wouldn’t be so bad when it was a puppy, but when it was fully grown…

“I hope we don’t bring him home,” I began, but I was interrupted by a message.

It was from Iolan. It was marked important, but if we’d been asleep, it wouldn’t have been urgent enough to wake us up. We’d have gotten the notification after waking. I opened it. It said, “I’m part of the group meeting at Jadzen Akri’s house tonight. Things have gotten… off topic. We’ll all be visiting tomorrow morning. Whatever happens, be cooperative and pleasant. Don’t give anyone an excuse to be angry. It’s not too big a thing. It’s just that there have been a few complaints about your investigations. I’m doing my best to calm people down over here.”

The message ended and I asked, “Did you—”

“Get the message? Yes.” Jaclyn’s mouth was a flat line. “It sounds like a bad time to bring up the dog.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 9

In My Daydreams

In the end though, it wasn’t something that I could do anything about aside from passing on the speculation to everyone else—that and the fact that Kals’ could get around our current defenses. Everyone’s response could be summarized in Jaclyn’s, “Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you tell us that before?”

“I didn’t know until just before you told us you’d found Katuk. Everyone was worried about that and I kind of forgot. Anyway, we were going to work on it tonight. Well, I was assuming we would, if that’s okay.” I looked over at Kals.

She gave a quick nod. “Whoever controls all of you controls all of us. I’m not going to let that happen.”

Cassie looked around the table. “Sounds like the two of you are going to have fun. Now what are the rest of us going to do?”

I thought about it. “The Xiniti implant has an entertainment folder. Plus there’s the ansible.”

Shaking her head, Cassie said, “I don’t even know what kind of entertainment you’d find through the ansible. And have you checked the Xiniti entertainment folder?”

“No.” As I said it, a long list of titles flowed through my mind.

“Don’t.” Cassie’s tone of voice mixed the sound of finality with utter disbelief. “I did, and they’re this weird mix of soap opera and war story. At any given moment anyone in the story might change gender or maybe everyone will change gender. Units will break up and reform for reasons that won’t make any sense. Also, some of them are musicals. And there are religious rituals. And there are sports where your gender can change mid-game… Plus, you know how the implant rushes to give you all the information you need every other time you use it? Well, it doesn’t with the entertainment because that would affect your interpretation of the creators’ artistic intent. Xiniti art is supposed to be enjoyed and interpreted by your whole unit or group marriage.”

She clenched her right hand as she leaned forward over the table. “If Katuk’s listening, I hope he understands I’m not hating on his culture, but I don’t get it at all.”

Marcus waved his hand in the air. “You know what we could do?”

Almost in unison, Jaclyn and Cassie said, “No Monopoly!”

“Okay…” Marcus leaned back, cocking his head and waiting for a moment before he added, “But I don’t know what we’d do then. Maybe Hal could list any games he thinks he could simulate and then we’d choose?”

I didn’t pay much attention after that. It wasn’t surprising if you thought about it, but Hal’s specialty was simulating battles. That meant that while games using military strategy and tactics might be a special interest, he had a general interest in all games, ranging from children’s games to drinking games and including sports, boardgames, war-games, and role playing games. As long as it had been uploaded on to the internet, he knew the rules.

By the end of the night everyone was playing some game (I didn’t pay attention to which one). I spent most of the night tweaking the algorithm that countered motivators’ voices—which meant that Kals divided her time between playing and testing my tweaks. That’s to say she alternated between playing and giving me orders.

This would have been fine if we were alone except that we weren’t, and as soon as Marcus realized how we were testing he began to offer suggestions. “Have him cluck like a chicken. No, wait… I can come up with something better than that—”

At which point Kals interrupted him to ask, “What’s a chicken?”

After Marcus explained, Cassie then suggested that they, “See if he knows the Periodic Table of the Elements from memory.”

I did—all the elements known on Earth plus a few Grandpa told me about. Tikki knew a few more—several, actually. At Marcus urging, Kals had her recite them too—which made her laugh once she was done.

That wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting given that the whole colony seemed to exist to avoid control by motivators, but I was beyond trying to make sense of people. I was more concerned about the sounds that came out of Kals’ throat, using my suit and the implant to record and analyze them,  and sometimes offloading work to Hal.

Even with Jaclyn’s help in preventing Cassie and Marcus from making more suggestions (“Just stop it.”), we didn’t completely figure it out before I realized that I was too tired to think clearly. Chalking it up to the problem being hard and everyone being stir crazy, I went to bed, finding that it wasn’t easy to sleep.

I couldn’t quit thinking about alternate solutions and sonic tricks Grandpa had told me about. When I did finally fall asleep, I didn’t stay that way all night. Around four in the morning, I woke up, realizing both that I heard footsteps in the main room, and that I needed to pee.

While the possibility that it wasn’t one of us did occur to me, it was far more likely that one of the four people on the women’s side of the suite needed to go the bathroom too. Since my “pajamas” were simply a thin version of the stealth suit, I grabbed my glasses/HUD and walked out of the room.

The glasses’ thermal imaging left no doubt about what had happened. Glowing footsteps led from the women’s doorway toward the end of the room where two doors stood. One led to the bathroom. The other led deeper into the building.

The glowing footsteps went past the bathroom and out the other door.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

2018, La que nos espera

Crying Grumpies

Fry_Throwing_Money-Crying_Grumpies-The_Grumpy_SHop

 

Al igual que el año pasado en vez de hacer un listado de lo mejor y peor del año que nos dejo hace unos días prefiero mirar al futuro. Prepararme para los gastos que tocará afrontar debido a mis aficiones. La verdad es que este año a priori parece que va ir mucho menos cargado que el anterior, claro que si solamente me hubiera ceñido a lo que escribí ahora sería un poco más rico.

Libros

Oathbringer-ArchivoDeLasTormentas-BrandonSanderson-StormlightArchive-CryingGrumpies

Esta sección la he tenido que retocar una vez escrita. Inicialmente las compras se iban a limitar a Oathbringer, tercer libro de Archivo de las Tormentas y última entrada por ahora en el universo de Brandon Sanderson, y a medida que fuera leyendo los libros de Malaz, en breve os colgaré la reseña del primer volumen, ir comprando los siguientes. Pero al revisar el post he recordado una conversación con Antonio, mi librero de referencia, donde me avisaba que para este año se espera la publicación del primer libro de una nueva trilogía de Joe Abercrombie ambientada en el mundo de la Primera Ley, y eso no nos lo podemos saltar.

 

Videjuegos

Sin haber acabado aún el Zelda Breath of the Wild hablar de comprar videojuegos me parece feo. Pero antes de acabar el año sí o sí me agenciaré el Super Mario Odissey. Otro que tengo claro que caerá es sin lugar a dudas Wargrovee, un Advance Wars en un mundo de fantasía. Y por añadiros un quizás el nuevo Spiderman para PS4

Cómic

New_Warriors_Vol_1_1-CryingGrumpiesEste año espero poder tomármelo con calma en este frente. Continuar las colecciones que tengo abiertas, en su mayoría integrales de europeo clásico como los de Blueberry, Spirou y los Casacas Azules o TPB de Indie americano, Lazarus, Saga y Este del Oeste. Nuevas incorporaciones veo pocas en el horizonte, de hecho solamente una. Panini reedita los New Warriors, serie que me leí entera de prestado cuando Forum editaba Marvel y en mi opinión de lo mejor de la casa de ideas de la década de los noventa.

 

 

 

Juegos de mesa, rol y miniaturas

wallpaper-confresurrection-01

Un frente complicado, a parte de seguir dándole a Leyenda de los Cinco Anillos, un paquete de nuevas cartas al mes, no tengo muchos juegos nuevos en mente. Cada vez más metido en el mundo de los wargames de cartoncitos posiblemente caiga la edición en castellano de El Imperio del Sol, dicen que es el mejor juego del frente del Pacífico durante la 2a Guerra Mundial. De muñecos a parte de completar las bandas que tengo de Malifaux tengo muchas ganas de ver que se saca de la manga Sans Detour con su nueva edición de Confrontation.

gns01_book_shadow

Para acabar con la parte lúdica sentados alrededor de una mesa tengo que mirar a FFG y su reglamento para juegos de rol Genesys. El juego lo tengo y a falta de probarlo me parece una maravilla, por ahora no han anunciado ningún suplemento pero se rumorean diversos escenarios de campaña como Android Netrunner, Terrinoth o Twilight Imperium. Si acaban saliendo a la venta seguro que me haré con una copia de Android y los otros Dios dirá.

 

 

Y eso es todo lo que veo en el horizonte y no es poco. Estoy seguro que alguna cosa más acabará cayendo en el carrito de la compra y de casi todo tarde o temprano os acabaré hablando por estos lares. Felices compras, digo Feliz Año Nuevo.


  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Por un 2018 más grumpy

Crying Grumpies

Poco más puedo añadir que lo dicho en el video. Gracias por vuestro apoyo y desde la grumpycueva os deseamos un FELIZ 2018 GRUMPY.


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 8

In My Daydreams

I couldn’t argue with him. I didn’t know what the vegetables or the meat were, but I liked them. I wasn’t sure that they were good enough that my life would be fulfilled if I got killed by an angry Xiniti after supper, but as Marcus implied, it was better than dying hungry.

“So what do you think?” Marcus asked, “You think they told him?”

Jaclyn paused with her fork in the air. “How would he not know something like that? It was a big enough deal to make us Xiniti citizens. That can’t happen every day. How would he not hear about it?”

“Easy,” Cassie raised her hand, waving it to get our attention. “They’re a military culture. If you don’t need to know, they don’t tell you.”

Marcus nodded. “Sounds about right. That’s what Grandpa hated about the army. The way he told it though, people had ways to find stuff out. Rumors got around. So even if you didn’t know the whole story, you knew something.”

I thought for a second. “I guess we probably shouldn’t say anything about that unless he does.”

Jaclyn frowned. “It still doesn’t seem right for them not to tell him and if that’s really the reason he’s angry and feeling ignored was just an excuse? Then we’re not going to get anywhere until we address it. By the way, I’m not arguing with you. I’m saying this because it needs to be said once before you go in.”

We all looked at each other across the table. Thinking back to Geman and Dalat this morning, I said, “We probably ought to switch back to a normal conversation so that he doesn’t think we’re talking about him.”

For the rest of dinner, we talked normally.  Kals talked about the day to day life in the colony and the Human Ascendancy. Tikki talked about adjusting to the colony. We answered questions about living on Earth without ever calling it Earth and continuing to pretend we were from somewhere else.

As we picked up the dishes and washed them in the sink, Marcus sent me a message via implant. “Ready?”

I nodded and we left the main area and walked into our room. It was dark, but not pitch black. Light came in through the doorway behind us and if that weren’t enough, my glasses brightened the room enough that it only felt dimly lit instead of dark.

Katuk lay in his bed, staring into the air with wide eyes and blank expression, an expression I recognized. It was the look of a person watching television, a computer screen or using an implant. Katuk never moved as Marcus and I stepped into the room, but the senses provided by standard Xiniti cyborg enhancements would have allowed him to notice us no matter what was going on in his head.

Marcus turned and walked directly up to Katuk’s wooden bed. “Hey Katuk, Nick and I stopped by to say we were sorry. I know we don’t pay as much attention to you as you need. Being human, we’re not wired the same and so we don’t naturally know what’s normal for you. I don’t know if you do this with other Xiniti, but you’re going to have tell us what you need. Otherwise we won’t know. Nick?”

Katuk remained motionless, but Marcus turned to me. “Your turn.”

I watched as Katuk took a long, slow breath. “I don’t have anything to add to that. Marcus said everything important. I should give you my personal apology though. No one intended to exclude you. I didn’t either. If I did, it was completely unintentional.”

Katuk didn’t say anything.

Marcus glanced at me. “Is it possible that he didn’t hear us?”

I looked down at Katuk. His eyes, wide and dark, aimed upward at the ceiling. “It’s pretty much impossible that he didn’t unless he really worked at it. Xiniti senses plus their cybernetics can take in more information at once than we can—at least most of us.”

Marcus sighed. “Okay. Then I guess he’s ignoring us.”

He began to turn toward the door, but as he took a step, Katuk spoke. “I will do my duty. Please leave me alone.”

“Thanks,” I said, watching to see if he’d say anything else.

He didn’t.

After a little while longer, Marcus and I walked back into the main room of the suite. When we sat down around the table with everyone else, Jaclyn asked, “How did it go?”

Marcus and I looked at each other.

Marcus shook his head. “I have no idea.”

“We both apologized and Katuk said he’d do his duty, but to leave him alone.” I shrugged. “That’s all we’ve got. Marcus did tell him that we were unfamiliar with what he needed out of us and that he have to tell us for us to know, but I’m not sure if that helped or hurt.”

Marcus rested his arms on the table. “It seemed like it needed to be said.”

Jaclyn looked toward the doorway as if expecting some reaction from Katuk. When nothing happened, she said, “I guess that’s something. As long as he’s willing to work, we might still get somewhere. That’s more than he said to us.”

Thinking about it, it seemed to me that she was right. On the other hand, a more paranoid part of my mind wondered if any motivators on the planet did know enough to affect a Xiniti. Kals said she might, but more experienced motivators would know more.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

The Golden Standees 2017 – People’s Choice!

Semicoop

HAPPY NEW YEAR! May the dice rolls be in your favor in 2018!

2017 has come to an end, and so we present your part two of the Golden Standees: The People’s Choice awards! Contributed by readers and we asked Colin and Aileen from TinyWoodenPieces to make an award and they did an amazing job! It’s great to see them in action again. <3 We would like to thank all of our readers for the fantastic past year. We can’t wait to get started with 2018 since we have a lot of great ideas we want to explore and present to you and the world.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Dec 31, 2017 at 12:43pm PST

What are your gaming goals for 2018?

The post The Golden Standees 2017 – People’s Choice! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.f The Man Who Knocked Out Lady Light

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

LL Shield.jpg

“Can’t believe they’re letting one of you freaks out,” the young warden said, his tone going past deriding and straight into hateful. “Can’t believe you actually managed to get out on good behaviour, either.”

Philip just smiled, his metallic face betraying only a kind of calm serenity, as he nodded to the younger man in the uniform, holding the release papers he’d just been given. “All thanks to your exceptional guidance, Sir,” he replied, his voice sounding serene, but strange – even at the best of times, he was a ponderous talker, the transformation imposed upon his body making fast talking all but impossible. “I wish you well.”

The man snorted, throwing one last look at the figure in front of him, looking like someone had put a steel statue into a cheap suit and tie, then he turned away and walked back into the prison.

Philip put the documents into the cheap suitcase he’d bought just for this occasion, which also contained what few other possessions he had accumulated throughout his stay in prison. Though even after a few months past twenty years, it wasn’t that much. A few books. A hand-carved chess set from that nice banker fellow, who’d ended up breaking out. A few other odds and ends.

Turning around, he walked across the prison’s front yard, as he heard a few cheers from the prisoners in their cells, those who could look out onto the yard. He waved at a few, approaching the gate, and smiled at the guards there. They smiled back, congratulating him on his early release and his good conduct, and he thanked them quietly, though he was elsewhere with his thoughts.

Outside, a heavy van was waiting for him, to drive him back to civilisation. Feeling the gravel crunch underneath his heavy steps – even in a suit, he wore heavily reinforced boots, as normal shoes could not possibly have survived his prodigious weight – he approached the van whose door was already open, and got into the back.

The driver – an employee of the Corrections Office – nodded to him, and the door slid shut on its own, while Philip leaned back. The electric engine started up, so quietly he barely noticed it before they started moving.

When he’d gone into the slammer, electric cars had just started replacing the old gas engines. He could still remember the sound of them, the smell. He wondered how the big city smelled now, after almost twenty years of having no car exhausts to dirty the air.

Probably not all that much better, all things considered.

The ride was quiet, neither he nor the driver trying to have a conversation. The destination was set, and he’d honestly felt like he’d talked enough already, for one day. Nevermind that he still had to talk to his parole officer, before he got set up in whatever housing the government had arranged for him.

Not that he intended to stay there for long. No, he was going to find himself a job, and get himself a nice, quiet place of his own. He may have lacked much in the way of desirable job skills, but he had power and there were always job opportunities for people with powers.

Outside the car’s window, the landscape flew by, even though he couldn’t hear the rush of the wind or much of anything else, on the inside. It was all so quiet.

“May I open the window a bit?” he asked his driver. “I haven’t felt the air rush by in years.”

“Sure thing,” the younger man replied. “Just, do it on the right side of the car, please. I get a stiff neck if the air blows against it all the time.”

“Of course, of course,” Philip said, and carefully slid over to the right side of the car – one always had to be careful, when they were made of over a ton of metal – to press one of the buttons on the door, lowering the window.

The wind blew against his face – they were going really fast – and brought with it the early November cold.

He could’ve tried to describe the feeling, to describe what it meant to him to feel this again, after two decades of being stuck inside a prison, but he’d never been any good with words. It was nice. Proof that he was free again, or as free as a former supervillain with a dozen murders – even if all but one of them had been accidental – on his rap sheet could be.

Letting his arm hang out of the window, stretching, feeling the wind rush through his fingers, as the van took him towards New Lennston, the city built upon the grave of his childhood home.

***

“Building’s got wi-fi like every other place,” the tired-looking woman told him as she unlocked the door to his erstwhile home. “Free access, of course. Phone’s functional and so is the electric heater. You can come and go as you please, but no bringing trouble home. No parties, no drugs… well, no violating your parole in general. Don’t disturb the other tenants and you’ll have a nice, quiet time here, until you’re back on your feet.”

She stopped, looking him up and down. “Though I doubt there’s much that could knock you off your feet in the first place,” she observed with a surprisingly friendly smile.

Philip took the time to take a closer look at her, as well, having paid her little attention beyond basic politeness yet – his mind was still with his parole officer and the talk they’d had – and found himself surprised to realise that she was actually younger than him. A thin, short woman wearing a cheap brown-and-gold dress, shoes with heels trying to make up for her lack of height, with frizzy brown hair, she couldn’t be older than forty, at most.

“You’d be surprised, ma’am,” he replied, speaking as slowly as he ever did, taking extra care to clearly enunciate every word. It made him seem stupid and slow, he knew, but it was better than garbling everything he said and being completely incomprehensible. “I’m C-list at best, as they say. Lots of guys and gals out there who could make mincemeat outta me. Not that I intend to get into any brawls or anything.”

She put her fists onto her hips, glaring up at him – she was five foot nothing in heels and he stood at six-five, so she had to crane her neck to actually look him in the face. “I sure hope not, good man! You’re here to better your life, not get thrown back into prison!”

He nodded with a smile. “Of course, ma’am. I’ve learned my lesson, even if took way too long for it to happen. And don’t worry about no drugs, they don’t work on me anyways.”

“Oh, that’s good, then,” she said, calming down. “Alright. Well, go in. Get yourself comfortable. If you want anything new for the place, you’ll have to pay for it yourself, but I figure you ought to save that up for when you get a place of your own.”

He nodded his head. “Will do, ma’am. Thanks. I’ll say goodbye for now, then.” Then he remembered an earlier thought of his. “Ah, and if there’s any heavy liftin’ or stuff that needs lots of muscle to do ’round here, don’t hesitate to ask. Child’s play for me.”

“Hm, that’s actually quite useful. I’ll keep it in mind, Mister Dudkins,” she said with a smile. “Have a nice evening.”

After a moment of watching her go, he entered the tiny basement apartment. There’d been no way he could have gotten one above the ground. Modern buildings were pretty heavily reinforced these days and New Lennston was nothing but modern buildings, but even so this apartment building was rather cheap and even if there was no threat of him breaking through the floor, he’d still cause a ruckus by walking around, tormenting anyone who lived below him. A ground floor apartment would have solved that, but the ground floor had only the housekeeper’s apartment and a communal area, so that was out, too.

Still, this was clearly not just something thrown together for him at the last minute. The apartment he found himself in was clearly meant to be here, and nicely (luxuriously, by prison standards) furnished. It had a tiny kitchenette in a corner, a door leading, presumably, to the bathroom and a heavily reinforced bed in the corner opposite of the kitchen, on the side of the room opposite of the door leading in. A counter split the room in two, with a gap in the middle to step through. There was a tiny table in the front area with several seats around it, including one that was clearly added for him – a heavily reinforced monstrosity of a chair, made of steel pipes and the kind of heavy, thick cloth-like stuff they used for military equipment.

Philip couldn’t help but smile, letting the door fall closed, taking his boots off and walking around barefoot (socks were just useless to him, nevermind that his nails always tore them up anyway). His own room. Sure, it was temporary, a place provided by the correctional office, but still.

After twenty years in prison, he finally had some privacy again.

He stopped briefly at the chair, and at the bed. Seeing them was both amusing and touching to him.

Amusing, because he didn’t really need either – a side effect of his transformation made it so he couldn’t really feel uncomfortable easily. He could sit anywhere, or stand still for hours, like a statue. He could sleep anywhere, in pretty much any position, with no real discomfort and he only had to sleep a little, anyway. And he knew that those facts were in his file.

Touching, because it meant his parole officer – who’d been responsible for arranging this – or someone else involved, had gone out of their way to get him some creature comforts, for no other reason than to make him feel more comfortable. They didn’t have to, there was no need to supply him with anything but the standard stuff. No law that said he had a right to appropriate furniture.

He remembered something, something his dear mum had said, long ago. Scratch off the glitter of them people, my boy. Don’t let it blind you. Scratch off the glitter and the grime, and you’ll see that most people are pretty decent underneath.

His jacket came off, hung up on the coat stand next to the door. Meanwhile, his mind was occupied reminiscing about his mother, as he sometimes did – though not nearly as much as he had over the first few years in prison.

She’d been wrong, of course, but not in the way he’d thought. After everything had fallen apart, he’d thought that she’d been completely wrong, that there was nothing but more grime underneath, and grime underneath the glitter, too. He’d thought, if most people were decent, why had his life become such a nightmare?

It had taken him many, many years of therapy and introspection to realise that it wasn’t people as a whole who sucked. That just misery sought its like, and so he’d grown up amongst mostly just miserable people, because they’d gathered together to wallow in their misery rather than try to improve their lives.

His mother, too, had been like that. Admitting so had taken him years to do, and it had hurt worse than almost anything else he’d ever experienced. He’d only made peace with it a few years ago, really.

She’d talked about such a nice, good world, about how people were decent, but she hadn’t really believed it herself. Or if she had, she’d let it blind her to all the grime around her.

Glitter and grime, they both blinded in their own way.

Looking past the door to the bathroom, he found a small shower cabin with enough buttons to fly a jetplane, it felt like, a sink and a toilet. Hot water came quickly, upon testing. Another luxury which meant little to him, yet was still much appreciated.

The kitchen was also functional. He had everything, a microwave, an oven, a herd, a sink, a fridge and even a freezer on top of it. Small, but good enough to put some beers in.

Drugs – alcohol included – couldn’t affect him at all, but that didn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the taste, now and then. Good food was also appreciated, especially after two decades of prison goop.

Behind the counter, facing his bed, was a small desk without a chair – he was likely meant to move the reinforced one there, to use the computer atop it.

Said computer was one of the new ones, as different from the ones he remembered (but hadn’t really bothered with) back in his youth as a space ship was from a row boat. There was no… what was the term… tower. No tower. The whole thing was just the screen, and it was as thin as his middle finger. A keyboard that looked thin enough to roll up lay in front of it, with no visible connection to it, as well as a mouse, also cordless.

Fortunately, he’d taken a computer course a few months back, so he knew that the screen was also touch-enabled, and he knew his way around all this modern tech these days, though he had to take great care with the delicate keyboard, mouse and touchscreen.

He tapped the screen, and it booted up, taking barely a second to show the desktop. The indicator showed that it was already connected to the internet. That was going to be useful.

Internet everywhere. Not something he’d ever have imagined, back in the day. And free, at that. They’d declared it to be a necessity, like access to water and such, about ten years ago.

He still remembered the ruckus it’d caused in the prison, because it’d meant that everyone would get more Internet privileges. Or so they’d thought.

In the end, it’d just provided some distraction, for him, before things had settled down once more. He hadn’t really cared, having never really found much use for the web himself, while in prison.

Now though, he figured he could take some time to get to know it. The Internet had just started getting wide-spread, in the early eighties he’d (mostly) grown up in. It wasn’t until after he’d gone to prison that it’d really picked up.

Having completed the exploration of his apartment, he unpacked his suitcase – he’d have to go buy some clothes, soon, though at least he had less problems with that, too, as he didn’t sweat or have any real body odor – which contained just his chess set, his books (they were put into a small shelf next to the bed) and a few figurines he’d carved throughout his time at the prison. None of them was even remotely good-looking (he’d never developed any real skill at it) but they were dear to him, anyway, so arrayed them on a higher shelf, basically just a wooden board lying on two large nails driven into the wall.

He’d spend years working on these, though they’d ended up barely resembling their inspirations. Probably no one but him would recognise any of them except for the last one.

The first, his mother, who’d brought him into this world.

The second, his brother, who’d raised him.

The third, his father, who’d broken him.

The fifth, his friend, who’d guided him.

The fourth, Lady Light, who’d changed him. She was the only truly recognisable figurine, but only because he’d carved her crest onto it. The circle and moon, radiating light.

“You’ll see. I’m not going to screw it up this time,” he spoke to the figurines. “This time, I’ll do it right.”

***

Part of his parole was that he needed to have a job. For paroled metahumans, that often meant joining the army or a government-sponsored super-team.

However, he’d decided against that, and gotten support on it from his therapist. The whole point of his rehabilitation was to get away from fighting and violence. To find a more constructive application of his power.

In his case, that turned out to be construction work, for now. It wasn’t what he intended to stick to, for the long term – he wanted to do something else, something more exciting. He may have been in his late forties, but he wasn’t willing to settle down with a boring, if stable job just yet.

Still, it was kind of nice, having a light workout and making money the honest way. Right now, he was only getting very basic pay, but his parole officer had said that, with his powers, he’d likely earn a ridiculous amount of money once he was fully employed. He could even freelance, let construction companies lease him for his power.

Wearing a pair of heavy jeans pants and his custom boots, his steel-grey hair slicked back, he looked like a statue of the quintessential worker, the kind they tended to put up everywhere in the Sovjet Union, wiry muscle under metallic, unyielding skin. He’d never been too hard on the eyes, though he wasn’t exactly an adonis. Still, his transformation had made his body at least flawless, and cleared up all the marks and scars on his face.

Some people might have resented turning into a being of living steel, permanently, but Philip had never found issue with it. So he didn’t quite fit in anymore. He’d never fit in as a normal human, either, so no loss there.

Besides, it made construction work really easy when you could just pick up a nail and push it into whatever material it was supposed to go into.

So there he was, sitting on his heels as he pushed nails into the junction of steel beams, fifty feet above the ground. He was secured by a safety line that wrapped around his waist, though it wasn’t for his own safety. A fall from this height wouldn’t even inconvenience him, but it would be lethal for anyone he fall onto. And then there was the property damage that a solid ton of metal could cause, falling from such a height.

And so he worked there, doing in minutes the work it took a whole team to do over an hour.

“Hey, Dudkins!” the foreman shouted from below, making him stop and lean over the edge to look down.

“Yes Sir?” he shouted down, looking at the short, stocky man with the moustache (he’d tried growing one himself, once, but having to use a steel grinder to shave and trimm had been a chore, so he just stuck to a smooth finish).

“Just how much can ya lift? One of our machines got stuck in the mud!”

“Shouldn’t be a problem, Sir! I’ll be right down!” he replied, and took the safety line off, before he aimed carefully and jumped.

For the briefest moment, he felt weightless again, but it was over all too soon and he slammed into the ground, throwing up dust as he absorbed the impact with his knees. “Where’s it at, boss?” he asked the foreman.

Said man was staring at him, startled. Maybe he shouldn’t have jumped, but taken the slow way down.

“Um, yes, right. Fucking rain’s made the ground too soft – wish we didn’t have to continue work at this time of the year – and our excavator’s gotten stuck after some earth slide out from under its tracks. We could probably get it out with some effort, but I figured, maybe you can fix this faster for us.”

”Gladly, Sir. Lead the way.”

***

They walked across the construction site – some kinda new mall at the outskirts of New Lennston. The city was growing fast, even after what he’d been told were some pretty horrific S-Class events that’d come one after the other, but they had delayed construction, which was why they were still working at it rather than take a winter break.

Of course, construction work could get quite tricky when you had to deal with the kind of heavy rainfall – soon to turn into snow, certainly – that New Lennston had to deal with every year.

They walked across the muddy site, which was actually harder for him to do than driving nails into steel beams, because his feet kept sinking into the mud. Weight-to-surface-area-ratio and all that.

The excavator stood in the mud, tilted to the side. It’d been driving by a square hole dug to be filled in with concrete later, when the weather got more dry, but part of the side had collapsed, sliding in and almost causing the excavator to get stuck.

Several of the guys were standing around it, looking quite curious as they saw him approach. Even the driver of the excavator, sitting in the driver’s cabin, was looking at him with more curiosity than annoyance.

Of course. A prime opportunity to see what the new metahuman on site could do.

Philip couldn’t help but smile. It’d been a long time since he’d been able to put on a bit of a show. It didn’t exactly excite him as much as it had used to, but still.

No reason not to give them something to talk about later.

”I’ll get that out of there in no time, Sir,” he assured the foreman, walking forward, ignoring the light rain that fell on his bare torso. With his power, it was just smarter to be topless when he thought it likely he was going to use it.

That, or have something which could stretch, which he did not, currently.

He reached the excavator and stopped. He didn’t need to prepare to use his power, didn’t need to focus on it or reach for some kind of inner reservoir. He’d heard of such things, from others with powers, but it had never been an issue for him.

No, for him, his power was a part of him. It was him. To use it, he had to think no more than to breathe. The only reason he was stopping to do this was to put on a show.

Lifting his arms, he flexed them, casually – and each time he did, his muscles grew a bit, all over.

Metal groaned as it expanded, but it wasn’t true growth, like some he’d seen who actually grew bigger – his skeleton, his organs, none of it grew. Just his muscles.

Another flex, another increase. He’d gone from tightly muscled to the kind of build which other men used steroids to reach, his muscles bulging, almost overflowing.

Some of the men laughed, some rolled their eyes, others looked impressed or envious as he flexed a bit more, without growing his muscles any more, posing a little for effect with a broad grin.

Then he reached down and grabbed the track that’d been submerged in mud and, using his knees more than his arms, lifted it up.

Really, he could’ve done it one-handed, but he did want to put on a show.

Glitter glitter.

Taking a few careful steps, making sure he didn’t sink into the mud himself, he moved the machine back onto safe ground, and carefully put it down before he stepped back.

The man gaped, then started to applaud, some of them laughing as he flexed again, shrinking his muscles back to their normal size, and bowed theatrically.

”Alright, alright!” the foreman shouted. “Put a sock in it, people! I know he’s all shiny – literally – and new, but we are already way behind schedule, so get back to work!”

And that put an end to it, the group breaking up so everyone could get back to their tasks, a few taking a detour to thank him and invite him to drinks later.

Philip accepted, gladly, setting a date for tonight, and got back to work.

***

It was only many hours later – two hours past the usual closing time – that they were let off work. The others were all quite thoroughly worn out, and even Philip had started to feel a little strained towards the end.

Superhuman stamina was not the same as endless stamina, and construction work was exhausting at the best of times.

Still, he couldn’t complain too much. He’d put in a honest day’s work and he’d won, if not the affection, then at least their curiosity and some camaraderie.

And so it came that they left the construction site in a group of twelve men – the others had begged off to get back to families or prior commitments – walking towards a nearby bar which the guys swore was the best around.

Philip stayed quiet, mostly, watching and listening to the others, occasionally answering a question or laughing at a joke – most of them dirty – but mostly just observing as the younger men around him – there was only one other guy his age with them – joked and walked to their goal, sweaty and worn out after a long day’s work.

He was neither sweaty (he couldn’t sweat anymore) nor worn out and this was one of those rare times where he wished he could at least be the former, to relate better to these yougn men.

Still, he wouldn’t trade his powers for nothin’, except perhaps a chance to redo his life from the beginning.

Probably not even for that.

Finally, they approached the bar, and he froze, his jaw dropping as he saw the name spelled in dimly glowing letters above the wooden entrance.

Drunk Donkeys Don’t Die.

”Holy… the Deedeedeedee is still there?” he exclaimed, staring at it as countless memories came up.

He actually felt some tears in his eyes.

“Huh? Yeah. It got rebuild barely a year after Old Lennston croaked it,” one of the younger guys, Daniel-something, explained. “Why, you know it, Oldtimer?”

“Know it? Son, I basically lived in there, back in the day,” he croaked, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands, creating a piercing noise of metal grinding on metal, making everyone flinch. “Or at least, I left a liver or two behind.”

The men laughed, some reaching out to pat him on the back. Punch him, really, so it’d get through.

”C’mon, let’s go in. Maybe you’ll even recognise some people!” another one said, and they all but dragged him into a memory.

***

Drunk Donkeys Don’t Die looked exactly like how he remembered it, except for the pictures on the walls that’d changed, photographs of famous customers – both good and bad – often with rap sheets or wanted posters added, and new screens to show sports games on, or shows from the arena fights.

He was looking around, drawing no small amount of stares as he did, until a cry split the silence inside the smoke-filled pub.

”Ferrolit!” a man in his thirties, standing behind the counter, shouted, leaning forward onto it. “God fucking damn it, is that really you!?”

Philip gave a start, surprised to hear his old cowl, and looked back at him.

Young – in his thirties, really, but young-looking – thin as a stick with messy, curly brown hair…

”I’ll be darned,” he breathed, his voice carrying through the room even though he was whispering. “Jonas? Jonas Winfield?”

The boy – now a man – grinned from ear to ear and leapt over the counter, running over to him.

”Fucking Ferrolit! I never thought I’d see you again, you crazy badass!” he shouted, grabbing his extended arm and slapping the other on his shoulder.

”Likewise,” Philip replied, still stunned to be seeing him again.

”Who’s that, Winfield!?” some of the patrons shouted, watching the scene with bemusement on their faces. The guys he’d come in with were staring as well, quite obviously surprised by the reception he was getting.

”Seriously?” Jonas asked them, turning around as he leaned against Philip’s side. “You’re seriously asking that? Does none of you look at the Wall of Fame?” He gestured at a part of the wall that was separated from the rest, showing several wanted posters and photographs. The men looked, quickly finding his image – a shot of him sitting in a booth of the old bar, leaning back, arms spread like the world belonged to him and grinning, a scantily clad girl on each arm.

”This is the Ferrolit! The Man who knocked out Lady Light herself, with one punch, and got away with it!”

Previous | Next

Vote

 


Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Ferrolit
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 7

In My Daydreams

My connection to Hal froze for long enough to make me wonder if it had been dropped, but then he said, [The encryption is complex. It will take some time to decrypt it.]

“How long?”

[Unknown.]

“Okay. Let me know when you’ve figured it out.”

[I will.]

With that I dropped out of contact with Hal and become more aware of the digital conversation I’d left—the one with Jaclyn, Cassie, Marcus, Tikki and Kals. “Your voice blinked out,” Jaclyn told me. “What did you do?”

“I gave Hal the encrypted file and asked him to decrypt it.”

Tikki grinned at me, a flash of white teeth. “Of course you did. He’s made for it.”

I shrugged, “More or less. He’s more for simulating battles than encryption, but you need to know a lot to make a good simulation.”

Still grinning, she said, “I know. I’m familiar with battle simulation AIs. One of my friends loved fighting and got me interested in the technology. I still keep up a little. Yours ought to be on a flagship. It’s one of the big ones, the kind you’d use to simulate multiple fleet actions, ground invasions and espionage, complete with the personalities of the commanding officers.”

I’d momentarily forgotten that she was an engineer. Life support didn’t include AIs or combat technology, but the better starship engineers had secondary specialties.

She reached for another piece of meat from her plate and ate it. As she opened her mouth to eat, her mouth seemed a little too wide or had too many teeth? I couldn’t be sure. You never knew what the Abominators put into their gene lines. The Xiniti implant didn’t either.

I didn’t have time to go down that rabbit hole though. I had another question. “Kals was wondering if she could stay here for the night.”

Jaclyn looked at her and then me. “I assume you’re meaning in our room and not yours. Because squeezing into Nick’s bed won’t help with Katuk.”

Kals rolled her eyes. “You people worry about sex all the time. Trust me. I’m not here for that. I’m here to get away from my mom for a night.”

Jaclyn took a breath. “Fine, but you’re not the only one. Tikki’s staying here too.”

Cassie stopped eating only long enough to add, “She’s staying on our side too. Sorry, Marcus.”

Pouring a green sauce over the vegetables on his plate, Marcus said, “Yeah, yeah. I knew that. Besides, I do want to help with Katuk. I’m thinking that Nick and I ought to apologize on behalf of everybody and see if that works.”

Jaclyn frowned, shook her head and then took another helping of vegetables. “Cassie and I already tried to apologize, but he didn’t accept it, but maybe the two of you will have better luck.”

“I’m hoping,” Cassie said, continuing to eat. “All the stories I ever heard about how the Xiniti destroyed whole worlds didn’t include anything about how mopey they were. You’ve got to get this guy out of his funk.”

Grateful that all our talk was taking place through our implants, I thought, “We’ll see what we can do.”

That’s when Hal reported back. With no warning, I knew the contents of the encrypted data file. Katuk’s father had been a criminal, a Xiniti outcast who had killed his unit in a dispute and then slowly gone mad, only recovering his reason after being captured by a crew of mercenaries. That crew of mercenaries had eventually been hired to attack Earth—which was where Cassie, Jaclyn, and I had killed his father.

Of course, we had.

The implant informed me that in cases like this, the Xiniti had a much greater chance of going violently insane as a direct result of the stress from years of distrust during the process of growing up. The Xiniti were far more affected by the distrust of beings in their marriage group. Exposing them to other species and alien ways of thought helped them reduce and resist it.

Making a split second decision, I passed it to the group—all of us including Tikki and Kals.

Everyone stopped eating. Jaclyn blinked. “That’s much worse than I was expecting.”

Kals stared at me. “You’re all Xiniti because you killed one of his parents and you didn’t know that you had that connection until now. That’s… scary. He’s got every reason to hate you.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But on the other hand, his father had been gone for years before we killed him. His father’s death might have lifted the social stigma from him, making it all better.”

Kals glanced over toward the room Marcus and I shared with Katuk.”Do you think he agrees with that?”

I followed her gaze. “No idea, but Marcus and I should find out as soon as we’re done eating.”

Marcus looked up from the table. “At least I’ll get to die on a full stomach.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/FI: Our Witches at War Episode 20

EPU - What's New
Our Fighting Fleet returns as a two-part Our Witches at War episode! You've seen some of Part 1 before, but now it's been integrated into the main narrative of Season 2. As the Operation Hammer team make their way home from Neukarlsland, Gryphon arrives in Britannia, where the Imperial Fuso Navy has an interesting problem for him in Our Fighting Fleet, Part 1: "H Ltd., Shipwrights"! 2017/12/27
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 6

In My Daydreams

I leaned back against the shed’s cool, smooth surface. “Wouldn’t your mom notice that you’re gone?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. She notices everything, but if we were home, I’d be living on my own, so she’s got no right to stop me. Besides, we do it all the time after parties. Sure, we’ve got the force fields, but some of the small animals that sneak in are as bad as the big ones. Walking home in the dark isn’t safe, so no one complains.”

I thought about it. “I don’t see a problem then. I know we’ve got more beds than we’re using, but you’ll have to talk to Jaclyn and Cassie to know for sure if they’re okay with it. The thing is, it’s not going to be a party. You know about Katuk. So that’s going to be going on in the background. Also, if you want to help me make our suits mute commands, well, that’s not going to be fun, but we could work on it tonight.”

Her eyes flicked between the shed, the cluster of egg shapes that was the farmhouse, and field around us. “We should start back. The underweasels live out here around the edges. They’re not very big, but they come out after dark.”

“Then we’d better go.” I’d let my stealth suit absorb my helmet while we talked, but I reformed my glasses out of the helmet mass around my collar. When I put them on, I didn’t see anything like a pack of weasels hiding in the soil around us, but I did see a number of warm bodies hanging in the trees off to the side of the field. None of them were larger than a small dog, but there were too many to count.

We started walking back toward the main road. I set my glasses to give me a 360 degree view of my surroundings, noting that Kals continued to check around herself in a way that gave her 360 degree awareness as well. She did it subtly too, not turning completely around to look, but instead turning to talk to me and then glancing behind her.

I didn’t see it as ominous. I’d been taught to do the same thing by Lee. It just meant that the Human Ascendancy taught their motivators basic martial art skills. Given that the Human Ascendancy appeared to use them as leaders, soldiers, and secret agents, I’d have been more surprised if they hadn’t.

We managed to avoid getting attacked before reaching the main street. As we walked, she said, “I might be able to help you with Katuk.”

I turned my head toward her. “Does your voice work on Xiniti too?”

Her eyes darted from one side of the street to another before she said anything. “I’m not sure. We learned techniques for different aliens, but I never got to try it on any of them.”

I searched my implant. The Xiniti didn’t have any recorded incidents where the Ascendancy’s motivators had been controlled, but they also recorded mysterious incidents where units of Xiniti had disappeared. So maybe it did work. Paying attention to Kals again, I nodded. “Okay. They’re not saying he’s gone crazy, but if that does happen, do what you can.”

When we did walk through the door at the Council’s building, we found Cassie, Jaclyn, Marcus, and Tikki eating some kind of meat and vegetables. The meat had the redness of a steak, but a texture that looked a lot like sushi. Crawls-Through-Desert sat next to a window, unmoving, leaves pointing toward where the sun would rise in the morning.

I glanced toward our room. The air on Katuk’s side of the room was warmer than the other side. Alright, Katuk was there. Maybe I’d be able to talk to him when I went to bed? Then the smell of the food hit me, a mixture of cooked meat, spices, and vegetables. I decided that Katuk ranked lower than supper and sat down at the table along with everyone else. Kals sat down along with me. It didn’t matter. The heaping bowls meant that there was more than enough.

Eating meant that I didn’t say anything for a couple minutes. Kals recovered sooner than I did, stopping to ask, “Did he say anything more before disappearing into his room?”

Cassie shook her head. “Nope. It’s all still the same as ever.”

Marcus stopped eating long enough to add, “But I learned something interesting. If you go through the Xiniti files in your head, you’ll find out that the mission groups that the Xiniti form every fighting force around? They use the same word for them as they do marriages.”

I blinked. “That makes a lot of sense. If the Xiniti spend most of their lives in an asexual state, marriages wouldn’t quite mean the same thing. I could see how they might be the same thing as a military unit in that situation.”

Cassie used her implant and I could feel Jaclyn, Marcus, and even the more distant presences of Kals and Tikki. “What I don’t get is why he’s freaking out now. He’s been with us for a week now. And sure we ignored him a little today, but was that more clueless than the rest of the stuff we’ve said? We’ve got a Xiniti implant sure, but we know almost nothing about Xiniti really.”

Jaclyn thought at us, “I know. I’ve been looking through his personnel files, trying to find out if there’s anything there we need to know. There’s something encrypted in them and the implant won’t decrypt it.”

“No kidding?” I opened the files myself, ignoring everything until I found the encrypted information.

Then I passed it over to Hal.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

The Golden Standees 2017

Semicoop

2017 is almost over, so it’s time for our third annual GOLDEN STANDEES! The award show where we give out very niche awards to things we enjoyed this year. If you curious about the previous winners take a look the 2015 and 2016 editions.

We wish you all happy holidays and an epic New Year with lot’s of good times, but don’t forget next week…

the People’s choice golden standees!

We would love to see what games or which content creator you think should be given a golden standee! On Twitter, we’ve had some fun discussions about awards, but it isn’t real until you’ve submitted it! We will share all awards on our social media accounts and make a selection to be published on the website. Don’t be afraid if you feel like you are not “creative” or don’t have art skills! We’re looking to have fun and we all know that a simple stick figure drawings can be just as funny as a great cartoon. You can also take a cool picture, everything is welcome. Remember that we are looking for ‘funny’ awards, not the award for “Board Game of the Year”, etc.

We offer you a *.PNG , a *.PSD template and the font that’s being used. You can download the files here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/f9xybby0wq891id/AAByA6g63GRHvx6PMd7B6RQga?dl=0

The final deadline for contributing your own award is December 29th 2017 and you can send it to goldenstandees@semicoop.com.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a message. If you don’t have any experience with graphics software, but you do have an amazing idea for an award and want to draw it on paper – that’s fine too! You can just scan your drawing and mention your award name and the winner and we’ll make a fancy Golden Standee for you. If you want to do this, I do advise you to download and print an image of the Golden Standee from the URL above to make sure you are using the right dimensions.

We can’t wait to see what creative ideas you come up with!

We have some free time the coming weeks so we’ll be playing more Legacy of Dragonholt together, which just decided to crank up the intensity and slap us in the face about a wrong decision. We will also have some gaming sessions with friends playing Eldritch Horror (does that game ever get old?) and Pandemic Legacy Season 2. Behind the scenes we’re also planning for 2018 which will have a ton of great Semi Co-op things for you to enjoy!

Do you have great gaming related plans for 2018?

The post The Golden Standees 2017 appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.e 17 Good People

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

“I really don’t see how that’s your fault, Jess,” Jake spoke over the phone, his voice soothing her upheaved mind. “It’s not like they told you and you gave permission.”

”But I’m in charge of them, Jake. I’m supposed to notice this stuff and reign them in,” she countered, putting her head down onto her desk – well, it was Rounds’ desk, usually, but since she didn’t have an office of her own, she’d been using his – while still holding the phone to her ear. “I’ve been a pretty horrible leader, but this, this is beyond the pale. Rounds is going to put me on a spit and roast me over a fire. Slowly.”

”Now there’s an image I’d rather do without,” a mellow, smooth voice butted in.

Jessica, known to most as Amazon, fearless melee fighter of the New Lennston United Heroes, screamed like a little girl and nearly fell off the office chair she’d been sitting in.

”Jess? Jess, what’s going on?” Jake asked through the phone, though she was too focused on the new arrival to reply.

Percy Norton was an odd sight amongst superheroes. He was tall – that was quite common – with naturally messy dark blonde hair, muddy dark-blue eyes and a body that could best be described as scarecrow-ish: tall, thin, the limbs seemingly a little too long to really fit. Wearing thick winter jeans, boots and a red sweater, he looked like any guy you might see on the street, especially now, leaning against the frame of the door to his own office, his arms crossed, his mouth smiling.

”B-boss,” Jess stammered, shooting up onto her feet. “I, I didn’t know you were back already! Where are the others? Did you have a nice journey? Why didn’t you tell me you’d arrive sooner, I’d have welcomed you all back, and probably organised the ju-“

She stopped when he raised a hand, making her blush as she realised how she’d run her mouth.

”Jess, breathe,” he spoke calmly, walking closer to pick up the phone. “Hi! Jake, right?” There was a response which Jessica missed and Oh God my Boss is talking to my boyfriend.

”So, did Jess finally get the nerve up to asking you out?” Rounds asked, making Jess blush furiously.

”I’m still in the room, you know…” she mumbled, embarrassed.

”You were the one? Good for you, young man,” Percy continued as he walked around his desk, shooing her out of  his office chair and sitting down, sighing as he did so.

It really was an extraordinarily comfortable chair.

”Well, I wish you both the best of luck,” he kept on talking, leaning back on his chair, while Jessica moved around the desk, self-consciously fiddling with her sleeveless red bodysuit.

Then he suddenly turned serious, the cheer leaving his face. “But just to be clear – break her heart, and I’ll break you, got it?”

Jessica sputtered and threw herself across the desk to get the phone, but was stopped when he raised a leg and pushed against her shoulder, pushing her down onto the desk instead.

”I’m not a little girl!”  she complained, flailing weakly, the phone out of her reach.

Of course, Rounds ignored her as he listened to Jake’s response, breaking out into a smile again. “That’s the spirit! Anyway, I actually have some business to attend to with your beau, but we definitely need to meet soon. I’ll introduce you to the folks around here and we’ll tell you every embarrassing story relating to Jess that we know of.”

“Hey!” said woman protested in outrage, but was summarily ignored.

”Have a nice day, Jake,” her boss finished. “Yes, I’ll pass it on. Goodbye!” And he hung up, before he focused on her ag ain. “I’m to pass on his love and the promise that he’ll prepare your favourite dinner food tonight.”

The thought of Jake’s molten-cheese-and-jalapeno covered nachos made Jess’ mouth water and slightly eased her outrage and embarrassment. Slightly.

”That’s nice, but I’m not some little girl that needs to be protected!” she complained petulantly, only to receive a sharp sting to her butt, making her yelp and leap off the desk, her hands flying to her butt.

”I don’t know, you’re still pretty defenseless, as usual,” a sultry voice all but purred at her.

”Rachel,” Jess said, recognising her without even needing to turn around. Though she did that, to keep her butt out of the older woman’s line of fire. “You suck.”

Despite her words, she was honestly glad to see her again. Rachel was the true second-in-command of the team, Rounds’ right-hand woman and his most probable heir, once he moved up to take the Feral Family’s place as a Shining Guardian (that he would, none of his team members doubted). It was doubly impressive, because Venatrix had been a villain, once, until she ran into Rounds and he recruited her for their team, about two years before Jess herself joined.

Even though she’d changed sides, Venatrix – Rachel to her friends – had kept the basic  style of her old costume (as a reminder of how far she’d come, she said), wearing a one-piece sleeve- and legless bodysuit in black with blood-red accents, mostly arranged to emphasise the curves of her slender figure. Her arms were covered in black gloves reaching up to her biceps, leaving only a little skin exposed, and matching thigh-high spandex socks covered her legs. Her feet were bare, the socks only extending into stirrups for the feet, rather than cover them fully. She wasn’t wearing her equipment, other than her right gauntlet, a slim metallic one which glowed with an inner light, a glowing, crackling whip – like electricity – dangling from her hand.

Jess’ butt was intimately familiar with said whip, as were those of all the other team members – Rachel really enjoyed whipping them into shape, as she called it – save for Rounds himself.

Rachel’s ruby-red lips stretched into a grin, her mediterranean features currently free of her usual mask, her blonde hair tied back into a simple ponytail. “I’d make some lewd joke about just what I’m sucking or would like to suck, but honestly, I’m just glad to see you again, Applebutt,” she replied, letting her whip retract back into the glove as she spread her arms.

Jess rolled her eyes, but complied and walked over to hug her. “I’ve missed you, Gutterbrain,” she said, feeling misty-eyed.

Rachel chuckled and rubbed her back. “I’m back now. We all are,” she said softly, before pulling back a bit to kiss Jess on the cheek. “And what is this I hear about my third-favourite butt having found a boyfriend?”

Jess blushed again, looking aside. Oh God, I have to keep her away from Jake, no matter the cost!, she thought in quiet horror, while she replied out loud, “It’s not such a big deal. M-me and… Jake… got together.”

“Finally!” her mentor-slash-molester exclaimed, rolling her eyes while holding Jess at arms’ length. “I thought you two would never get to it.”

”I’ll say!” bombastic voice exclaimed, followed by steps that shook the floor.

Before she knew it, Rachel had let go of her and Jess was enveloped in a literal (and two-fold) bear hug, lifted clean off her feet by the huge figure currently busy squeezing the life out of her.

Ursa Gemini was a giant of a man in any sense of the word – his manifestation had caused him to grow to a good two and a half metre in height, his frame filled by enough dense muscle to make a whole Mister Universe pageant feel inferior and his body covered, mostly, in dense, yet not coarse fur, leaving only his hands (except for the backs) and his face uncovered. As well as his butt, as he liked to joke, but Jess tried not to think about that. He was followed everywhere he went by the other reason for his name, a silvery glowing after-image which was actually bear-shaped, usually mirroring his actions – currently adding onto the hug, partially phasing through him to hug her tightly.

”Marcus… air… breathe…” she gasped, even while trying to return the hug – though even on the best of days, her arms didn’t fit even halfway around his mighty torso.

“Sorry Jess,” he replied, though he neither sounded nor looked sorry as he put her down again.

She looked up at him with a grin and gave him a hug around his (slightly slimmer) waist. “Glad you’re back, fuzzball.”

”Glad to be back,” he replied, scratching the back of his head. “Wall duty is not the way I wanna spend my time. Nevermind that Faith and the kids are ready to put me in chains so I can’t go away again.”

”Have you seen them yet?” Jess asked, then looked at Rachel. “What about Tony?”

”Of course,” Rachel replied, snorting in mock indignation. “We arrived here in the morning, we just didn’t tell you so we could surprise you.”

”Well, Rachel was supposed to call you,” Marcus corrected her with a grin. “But I guess she was so busy sobbing over finally being with her master again she forgot.”

Said crybaby hissed at him and kicked his shin, to no effect – it’d take armor piercing rounds just to tickle the furry giant.

Jessica chuckled, and turned away from the two of them and their antics to look at Rounds, only to turn and come face-to-face with another member of her team.

”Eeeeek!” she cried out, as he’d moved up to stand right next to her, his face only inches away from her own when she turned. “Laurence! I’ve told you not to sneak up on me!”

The slender man with the blindfold sporting his eye emblem over his actual eyes – or rather, the lack thereof – stood there in casual jeans and a black sweater, having eschewed his usual costume much like Percy had (even Marcus was wearing his customary armoured silver-and-green briefs and boots), having of course managed to sneak in unnoticed, at least by her. He liked living up to his name, Eyespy, in more ways than just the one his power allowed him to.

”You told me so,” he agreed, nodding his head with a sly grin. “I never agreed to it, though.”

She tried to slap him over the back of the head, but he ducked under it with a cackle, easily dancing out of her reach.

Still, she was feeling way too happy to get too annoyed at him. Looking around at her friends, grinning, she noticed that one was still missing. “Where’s Bismuth?” she asked about their team’s heavyweight; using her cape out of habit, as she preferred it over her real name.

”She’s on her way,” Percy assured her. “She’s visiting her sister, first. Seems like there’s not much time left.”

That put a stop to the good mood in the room, as they exchanged looks.

”Have you heard about what happened last night, yet?” Jessica asked in a subdued voice.

Percy’s gaze turned stern. “I have, in general. But I’d like you to give us all the details.” He looked around the room. “Well, almost all of us. We can fill in Bismuth later.”

She nodded, feeling a weight return to her shoulders, and sat down on a chair in front of his desk. The others sat or leaned against the walls.

This wasn’t going to be easy.

***

The key slipped into the door’s lock, but she stopped there.

I shouldn’t have told Heck to leave, Dalia thought, though it was really too late to repirmant herself for refusing her friend’s offer to accompany her and help her explain everything.

Vasiliki had enough on her plate, already. Who would’ve thought Amy’s Mindstar? And B new.

That was another thing on her mind. She’d been crushing on Amy – though she’d told no one – pretty heavily, ever since that night at the club (even if she’d been too drunk to remember most of it). Now she knew that that gorgeous, witty, sexy, nice older girl was a major supervillain. That put a damper on her fantasies. A bit.

Is my crush even real? Or did she make me feel that?

She wanted to believe that Basil’s sister wouldn’t have done that to one of his friends, that she wouldn’t have done that, period, but considering her reputation…

So much for supernatural luck, she thought, and that brought her back to her current problem.

She closed her eyes, lowering her head. Deep breaths. Opening them again, seeing her current getup – she’d switched her costume for some clothes she’d stashed at Vasiliki’s place (at B’s insistence) for emergencies, in her case skinny jeans that she’d thought were sexy when she bought them but right now just seemed ridiculous, especially since she couldn’t bend over in them without half her ass sticking out. Her top was similarly tight, showing more cleavage than she’d intended to show, when she’d bought it and she wasn’t sure she’d have been able to button up her jacket if she’d tried. The only sensible part of the outfit were the winter boots she was wearing, and that was because the shoes she’d stored there weren’t up to the weather at all, and so Vasiliki had lent her one of her many, many, many pairs of boots.

I’m just procrastinating, she thought at herself. C’mon Dalia… you weren’t nearly so skittish attacking a floating city full of mass-murdering supervillains…

B and Heck wouldn’t hesitate at all.

She took another breath and turned the key, unlocking the door, pushing it open with the same motion.

The apartment was a mess, as always. Maybe a little less so – at least the dirty underwear wasn’t present, currently.

”M-mom? I’m home,” Dalia said, her voice nearly breaking as she couldn’t immediately see her mother on her customary spot on the couch in front of the TV.

Was she alright? Had her power done something worse than usual to her? Surviving at the villain’s city, getting away safely… that must’ve taken huge amounts of luck.

Oh God… Her eyes filled with tears. I-is mom even, is she, did my power…

Her arms began to shake, tears running down her cheeks as she started to hyperventilate…

”Dalia?” a rough voice spoke, as the door to the bathroom opened, and her mother walked out, dressed in her night clothes and an alcohol-stained bathrobe. Her hair was a mess and her face blotchy and she was the most beautiful sight Dalia could ever remember seeing.

Her mother’s eyes widened when she saw the tears on her face. “What’s wrong, b-“

She was cut off when Dalia all but leapt across the entire room, throwing herself into her mother’s arms, nearly bowling her over.

”You’realrightyou’realrightI’msosorrysorrysorryI’msogladyou’realrightI’msorry…”

***

Percy was drumming his fingertips on his desk, his gaze never leaving Jessica’s face, his own utterly unreadable.

”Well… fuck,” Rachel said gravely.

”I’m not sure whether those kids deserve a pat on the back for their achievements, or a thorough spanking for their misdeeds,” Laurence spoke up next. “Either way, though, this is going to be Hell of a shitstorm.”

Jessica lowered her head, feeling wretched.

Percy stayed quiet for another minute, then…

”I am disappointed, Jessica,” he spoke gravely, using her full name as he rarely did. “You handled the crises that befell this city well enough, but I am disappointed in how you dealt with our juniors.”

Every word was like a slap in the face, and she felt tears threaten to leak out of her eyes. Stop it, stupid eyes! Don’t cry! You want them to stop treating you like the team kid!

”That they came up with this idea, that is on them,” he continued, leaning back on his chair, folding his fingers in front of his mouth. “That they went through with it, also on them. That you did not foster a relationship with them in such a way that they would at least have tried to gain your approval. That you didn’t impress unto them the discipline and forethought needed to see what a colossaly stupid idea it was. Those, those are on you.”

”I… know,” she admitted. “I’m sorry. You trusted me to deal with these things… and I failed.”

”That, you did,” he agreed, his voice soft. “Learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again next time.”

”N-next time?” She looked up, surprised, only to find him smiling sadly at her.

”Jess,” he began to reply, and she felt herself instantly relax again, as he went back to using the short form of her name, “I am well aware that I left you in a difficult position. And that many of the things that happened under your watch were beyond your control. Even if they’d been and you’d genuinely messed up this badly, I’d still refuse to condemn you for it.” He sighed, parting his hands to run them through his hair. “There will be consequences for this… Patrid will become utterly horrid, at the very least, and there’ll be consequences both for our juniors and for you, personally,” he continued, making her flinch again. “Child Protective Services, the DMA, our own Board of Directors, all those and more are going to raise a stink over it.”

She paled, especially at the mention of the DMA. They could very well have her locked up, if they determined that she’d been negligent in her duties to oversee the juniors to the point of criminality, or at least ruin any prospect she might have to advance her career as a hero anywhere in the United States…

”We’ll stand behind you, of course,” he pressed on, his eyes remaining focused upon her face. “We’ll do whatever we can to smooth the, ah, ‘shitstorm’, as Laurence would say, out.” He stopped taking a deep breath.

She looked up at him again, feeling just a little hopeful that this would be it, for now – she really needed to get to Jake and have him hug her a bit to feel better – but his gaze only became more stern.

”Now let’s get to these youths. Brennus, Hecate and Tyche,” he moved on to the other subject, and she felt her bowels clench up. “What were you thinking letting them run around freely?”

She clasped her hands tightly, lowering her head once more.

Then a pair of arms wrapped around her, from behind, as Rachel leaned over the back of said chair and gave her a hug.

Jessica had seen this one coming a long time ago, though, and she did have a response prepared.

“I did talk to them about joining up,” she replied calmly. “Only Hecate showed the faintest interest, but she claimed that she had personal reasons to refuse. Tyche showed no interest in joining any group which didn’t involve her friends and Brennus wasn’t interested at all. While I could’ve pushed to force them in, it’d likely just have driven them further towards the villain side and I didn’t want to risk that.”

Percy frowned. “I know it’s rather… customary to turn a blind eye towards vigilantes who toe the line, but I’ve always tried to impress upon you that just because something has become a habit, perhaps even a necessary one at times, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Vigilantism is illegal and teenager vigilantism doubly so.” He took a deep breath, then let it out. “I’ve often butted heads with certain parts of our organisation which prefer to toe the government’s line and be lenient over this, and I stand by my point – children should not be on the frontlines. When I left you in charge in my stead, it was with the understanding that you’d do your level best to do with it as I would, which you haven’t.”

Jessica turned pale, averting her eyes from him. If he’d slapped her, it’d have stung less.

He wasn’t finished yet, either.

“This isn’t just your fault, Jessica and believe me when I say that I’ll make my opinion known to everyone else involved in this, particularly that stunt with the Rabid Eight.” His eyes grew even harder. “Though I would like to know why you let them talk you into allowing the juniors to confront a group of super-powered serial killers.”

“I…” she started to speak, but cut herself off. It felt so long ago, even though it had only been a scant few months. “We-“

“We decided that a show of force was necessary,” a new spoke up, startling everyone but Laurence.

Jessica turned around and looked at the newcomer. Patrick Patrid, in his customary white three-piece suit, of course.

What was not customary, though, was the heavy frown on his attractive face (she’d had a crush on him, when she’d first joined the team, until she’d realised just what an asshole he could be).

“A show of force… involving children,” Percy replied, locking eyes with the man.

“Brrr,” Rachel shuddered, still holding onto Jessica, and she felt she had to agree with the sentiment. When these two met, the room temperature always seemed to drop. They almost always clashed in terms of ideals and opinions as to matters at hand. They both wanted to do the right thing, but Percy cared about doing the right thing right, and Patrid wanted to do the right thing and have it look right. PR clashing with morals.

It didn’t help that Patrid was such a damn enigma. What the sense was behind a PR manager being one of the most powerful members of the US division – and by extention, the United Heroes as a whole – Jessica could not, for the life of her understand. Nor how such a sly man – watching him give interviews and manipulate everyone without anyone noticing was as creepy as it was impressive – apparently stood high in Lady Light’s trust.

“The children were all we had,” Patrid replied, unfazed by Percy’s glare as he stepped in, carrying a file folder under one arm. “I told you that going to the Wall was a mistake, did I not? But no, you said dodging the draft would’ve been wrong.” He threw the folder onto Percy’s table. “Here’s some uncomfortable truth, Rounds. New Lennston was on the verge of a gang war. If it wasn’t for the Hastur Incident wiping out the majority of the Black Panthers and the Morning’s Children, said war would have happened. While you all were off playing soldier. We had to make a show of force. Show people that even with the adults gone, the juniors could still hold the fort.”

He stopped, smirking as he adjusted his tie, before unbuttoning his jacket and sitting down on the sole remaining chair facing Percy’s desk, to Jessica’s right. “Besides, with Irene finally cleared for action, we just had to take advantage of the chance to give her one hell of a debut. That we managed to do the same for our pop princess was a bonus. And before you complain, Mrs Whitaker was there the whole time, merely invisible. None of those crazies would’ve come close to actually hurting any of the children.”

I don’t care if all the Shining Guardians were there as well!” Percy shouted, slamming a hand on the desk. “You put those children into battle against serial killers! Then you allowed them to assault an Acre with nothing but a bunch of other children as support! The Hastur incident was out of your control, perhaps, but don’t you think all that contributed to them thinking last night’s stunt was a good idea instead of a suicidal one?”

Patrid’s smile turned into a frown again, and he put his hands together in front of his face, almost as if to pray; one leg crossing over the other.

Even his shoes are white, Jessica noticed, having decided a long time ago that it was better to stay quiet whenever these two clashed.

There’s something you and me agree on, for once,” Patrid groused. “Last night was a disaster in too many ways to count. However, I still stand by my decision to advise the director towards the fight against the Rabid Eight; and the Acre had to go down before they managed to grow a Blossom – I would have loved to call in reinforcements, but there simply was no time, Rounds.”

“And is that why you didn’t call in adult professionals to deal with the Rabid Eight? To discourage the gangs? There’s roaming teams specifically for such situations! When I left New Lennston, I thought you’d call in one, maybe even two of them,” Percy replied, calming down as well.

“We – by which I mean, the Director, Jason and I – considered but dismissed the idea,” Patrid explained. “For a number of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that all our roaming teams are currently tied up, we chose not to dislodge a team from another crisis herd.” He tapped his fingers together, looking around at the others in the room. “You all know about Irene Whitaker by now?”

Percy, Rachel and Laurence all just nodded.

“That girly seems to be pretty amazin’,” Marcus hollered. “I thought people were dreamin’ it up at first.”

“It’s all true, the good and the bad,” Patrid said. “She’s incredibly powerful, even more versatile, occasionally unstable and very much dedicated to being a hero. Numerous parties within the UH expect her to become one of our top capes within a few years, so the director wanted to give her as impressive a debut as possible. After a long discussion on the subject, we decided that the Rabid Eight, while dangerous, where not a serious threat to her, nor to the other children while both she and her mother were present.”

He stopped, looking up at the ceiling. “To be fair, there’s barely anyone in the Northern Americas who’d be a threat with Mrs Whitaker around, but that’s beside the point.” He shifted a bit on his seat, turning slightly towards the others. “Anyway, we decided it was worth the minimal risk, for the sake of showing the gangs that we don’t even need outside support to overpower them. This whole discussion is quite thoroughly beside the point, however,” he pressed on, glaring at Percy. “It’s not their lawful, if risky, deeds that we should be focusing on, but the utter catastrophy of last night. Whether or not you agree with me on whether or not we should employ teenagers in combat against supervillains, we both agree that last night should not have happened and we must make sure it does not get repeated. Can we prioritise that, for now?”

Percy glared at Patrid, who only gave him a smirk in response, the air between them crackling with tension.

Jessica sat there quietly, all but holding her breath as she waited to see what’d happen next. Leaning against her back, Rachel was doing the same, and she was pretty sure the guys were no more relaxed.

Patrid’s and Percy’s arguments had a tendency to drag on for a while, and jump from subject to subject, over and over. The last time, they’d ended up shouting at each other for nearly four hours.

This time, however, it seemed like they’d be spared the experience, as Percy averted his eyes and sighed, leaning back on his chair again.

“Fine,” he replied. “This isn’t over, though.”

“It never is,” Patrid agreed, looking almost pleased.

***

At some point, her mother had pulled Dalia over to the couch and sat down, guiding the girl to lie down on the couch, her head on her mother’s lap as she sobbed bitterly.

Jana was looking down at her baby girl, her face showing both worry and affection, stroking her hair and humming some half-forgotten tune to her, trying to soothe her.

Strangely enough, she hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Not that she was feeling all that well, but compared to the alcohol-fueled, half-conscious nightmare that the last few months had been, being able to just be a mother to her child was like a balm upon her soul.

Even the pain that seeing her baby girl so broken up caused her was welcome, because it meant there was something she could do. It was a good pain, a pain that was not a punishment but a signal, that she had something important to do.

Taking care of her baby, as it were. Something she’d neglected for far too long, to the point where she’d nearly killed herself.

Her heart still clenched up at the memory, when she’d found her baby girl on the floor in her bedroom, an empty pill bottle beside her. Sleeping pills, which Jana had bought to help herself sleep between shifts at work. According to the doctors, her baby had survived by sheer, incredible, stupenduous luck – that it was more than just luck was something she’d realised later, not that it had made her feel any better.

That her own life had fallen apart shortly thereafter, even as her baby girl was met by such a string of incredible luck, had felt… just. She’d deserved worse, for failing her so.

But the cuts, the bruises, the occasional broken bone, the lost tooth, the hangovers and the burns… none of it hurt as much as realising how badly she’d failed as a mother. None of it continued to hurt as much as seeing her baby pull away from her, just when she’d realised how much she’d neglected her, when she’d finally seen that she had to make amends and be a mother again.

She’d been happy for her, of course. To hear that she’d made friends, that she’d won entry into the most prestigious school of the entire state, and that her marks were up near the top of her class.

Even when she’d realised that her baby girl had become a hero – oh, she hadn’t told her, but neither had she been too careful about what she’d said and what she’d held back, and Jana had drawn the connection the first time she’d seen ‘Tyche’ on the television – she’d been relieved, not worried. Her baby had found something good to do, something to dedicate herself to.

She would never begrudge her that.

Now her baby had walked in, wearing that ridiculous costume of hers (some part of Jana wondered who’d agreed to make such a revealing outfit for a teenage girl, and desperately wanted to give them a good beating) and looking like the world had ended.

But she was unharmed, and she was there, with her.

Jana gave her as much time as she needed, stroking her hair and humming the melody to a lullaby she’d used to sing her, back when she’d been little, before she’d screwed everything up. She didn’t even remember the text to it, or the title. Something about a bridge.

It took over half an hour for Dalia to calm down. Finally, she pulled back, kneeling on the couch as she rubbed her face with her hands, after taking off those scale-like gloves, fortunately. Jana only pulled her hand back slowly, letting her fingers run through her gorgeous red hair.

“S-sorry,” Dalia said, before hiccuping the way she usually did, after crying.

“You have nothing to apologise for, sweetie,” her mother said, standing up carefully – she didn’t want to ruin things now by stepping on a shard or something, she had to worry about Dalia, not be worried over by her – and leaning over to give her a kiss on the forehead, just as the younger redhead hiccuped again. “Let me get you a cup of water.”

She walked over to the kitchenette of the decadently large apartment that they shared – said kitchenette being a corner of the huge living room which was larger than the whole kitchen in their old place had been – to pour some water into a plastic cup – she’d locked all the glassware away a while ago, not that it’d helped much, as she’d just found other stuff to break and hurt herself on – and take it back to her hiccuping baby, picking up a towel along the way that she wetted in the sink.

Dalia was still kneeling on the couch, looking miserable as she leaned against the backrest, so Jana held the cup to her lips rather than hand it to her, and helped her drink. Once the cup was empty, she used the wet towel to clean Dalia’s face up with gentle touches, sitting down and turning so as to face her.

“There we go,” she spoke softly once that was done. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

Dalia looked away from her. “You’re not even asking why I’m wearing this costume…”

Jana chuckled, brushing some strands of hair away from her face, pausing to look at them – she really needed to take better care of her hair, it was starting to look truly horrendous and she had neither Dalia’s youth nor her power to make up for the lack of care. But that was for another time.

“Dalia, I may not be the best mother out there, but if you think putting on a skintight outfit and a mask is enough for me not to recognise you, then you’re quite thoroughly wrong,” she replied, putting the towel and cup aside. “So, what’s got you so tied up in knots? You know you can tell me anything, right?” She reached out to touch Dalia’s cheek, but her baby flinched back. “Dalia?” she asked, worried.

Dalia started to take deep breaths, almost as if about to hyperventilate as she tried to look everywhere but at her.

Jana was about to try and calm her down, to prevent her from actually hyperventilating, when she something seemed to give in, and the words began to spill out.

She stared at her daughter as she shared everything that’d happened since she’d gone out to be a superhero the first time. Everything, even things she probably shouldn’t have told her, about her friends and other heroes, but she let her speak anyway, as it was clearly important to her to tell it all.

When she heard about the insane stunt they’d pulled last night, she almost shouted at her for being so reckless, but her outrage quickly got lost in the rest of her tale.

And then, the true reason she’d been so broken up.

Jana listend in quiet horror as Dalia explained to her how she now believed her power to truly work. What it’d done to the girls who’d tormented her. What it’d done to Jana, herself.

She felt a pain in her heart, hearing of what’d happened to those girls, though she couldn’t find it in herself to feel too bad, not after what they’d done to her own daughter. Though she did sympathise with their parents, even if they’d been responsible for raising those girls to be what they’d become.

But what it’d done to her, and why Tyche believed it had happened…

“No,” she said, simply, firmly, and pulled her startled baby into the tightest hug she could manage, crushing her against her chest. “You’re wrong, baby girl,” she spoke, sobbing, as a huge weight fell off her heart.

“W-what?” Dalia gasped, surprised by the sudden gesture and the words, wiggling to tilt her head up and look at her.

Jana looked down at her baby, and smiled. “I thought… what I was going through, that it was just punishment for having failed you… but instead, instead it something much, much more important.” She leaned down, kissing her baby on the forehead. “I’m not angry at you, Dalia. I’m glad. If me suffering like this is all it takes for you to be safe and happy… then I’ll take that bargain, and be grateful as well.”

***

It had taken nearly an hour before Percy had sent Jessica out of his office, to pick up the juniors.

Now she’d brought them back, all seven of them. From the stoic (as usual) Tartsche all the way to Gloom Glimmer, who was looking incredibly uncomfortable, fidgeting around and looking at everyone and everything but Patrid, as if afraid of what he’d say or do.

She wondered about that – Irene had never shown herself to be uncomfortable around or fearful of Patrid; then again, she’d never screwed up like this before.

They filed into the office, the space in front of the desk having been cleared of its usual seats – those stood by its sides, so the adults could face the juniors, and were currently taken by Rachel and Patrid – with seven simpler chairs standing there in two rows, upon which they sat down quickly, Harry sitting front and centre.

Jessica felt proud of him. Whatever anyone might say, Harry had been a great leader, after Bismuth had graduated from the juniors. He’d taken to it with the same calm determination that ran through every aspect of his life, from the way he made breakfast in the morning to how he’d wooed and won over Thomas.

She wasn’t so sure that’d help him now.

“Hello, kids,” Percy greeted them with a pained smile. “Especially you four,” he looked at Irene, Melody, Goudo and Aimihime, the four who’d joined after he’d left the city. “I don’t think we’ve met yet. I’m Percy Norton, also known as Rounds.”

They all replied with variations of ‘welcome back’ and ‘nice to meet you’, except for Irene who just nodded, fiddling with one corner of her heavy cape while chewing on her lower lip, and Goudo, who barely inclined his head, sitting on his chair with a rigidity that belonged on a statue, not a human.

She didn’t get that boy, at all.

Jessica walked around their group and joined Marcus and Laurence, leaning against the wall on the left side of the office, from Percy’s point of view.

“In case you don’t know yet, these are the other members of our team – that’s Rachel, also known as Venatrix, Marcus, wo’s clearly Ursa Gemini and Laurence our Eyespy. Some of you may remember Bismuth, though she’s not currently present – she’s visiting family,” he introduced them all, with each adult raising a hand or just plain smiling at the teens when their turn came up. “And you already know Jessica, Amazon, and Patrick, who’s our public relations manager.”

Percy didn’t leave time for any further pleasantries, though. “Now, while I’d love to take the time to talk to each of you and get to know you better… and I’d certainly like our first real gettogether to be under a better star… I must say, what I feel primarily right now is disappointment.” And with that, his mirth at seeing the teens faded into sadness and anger, making almost all of them cringe. “What in God’s name where you thinking!?”

The junior heroes exchanged looks, briefly, before Harry spoke up.

“We wanted to help, Sir,” he said, his voice betraying the nervousness his face so stoically hid. “We talked to each other and… we decided that it was worth the risk, since the director said that it would take time to verify the information and muster a proper strikeforce, but Dusu’s victims were, are, dying now.”

“So you set out to assault the fortress of a group of mass murderers capable of creating city-destroying monsters, without verifying the information, without adult supervision, relying on the words of a boy you barely know, whom as it turns out you didn’t know the first thing about, according to this report!” Percy stabbed said file on his desk with his finger, before flipping it open, leafing to a particular page. “Reacts with unstable berserk state to Osore’s power… possible split personality… supposedly Mindstar’s brother, if that’s even true as we don’t have the means to check whether they actually are related, or she just made him believe so. Did any of you have any inkling of any of this?” He looked at everyone in turn, getting headshakes one after the other, except for Osore – who’d obviously known of Brennus’ response to his power, to use it deliberately – and, perhaps not so surprisingly…

“I knew about that,” Irene admitted in a small voice. “Not the split personality thing, but him being Mindstar’s brother. It’s true. Daddy told me, shortly after I first met him.”

Jessica gulped, crossing her arms as her hands clenched into tight fists, trembling as the mention of that bitch brought up memory upon memory…

Not now, Jess, she admonished herself, taking deep breaths to force that down. She could have a meltdown later, when she was with Jake again. Right now, she needed to focus.

Meanwhile, Irene shrank a bit into her chair under the looks she got from the others, including the juniors, except for Melody, who just reached out to take and squeeze her hand.

It’s not her fault, she’s just twelve, no matter what she looks like…

“And you didn’t think it was necessary to bring that up?” Percy asked in a soft voice. “Irene, please look at me,” he pressed on when she didn’t respond. When she did, he continued to talk softly. “According to this file, there used to be a standing order to consider Mindstar for a death warrant, if she was found to try and subvert the boy; which may appear harsh to some, certainly to me, but makes some modicum of sense, seeing how she is based in this city, he is unaffiliated and she’s subverted many people before. Don’t you think you should have told us, to prevent a tragedy?”

“W-we’re not supposed to… talk about secret identities,” she stammered, looking both guilty and… distracted? What did she have to be distracted about. “I would’ve told people, if it’d come to that, I swear.”

Percy pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is such a mess… and on top of the disaster this turned out to be…”

“Disaster?” Melody spoke up, her artificial voice sounding confused. “I know we failed to find a cure, but we have Dusu. She can be tried for her crimes now! And the Dark’s probably pulling the rest of those villains apart as we speak, if he hasn’t already. And we all got away safe and unharmed. This was far from a disaster, in my opinion.”

Percy focused on her, but she didn’t flinch back, looking at him with polite defiance on her face.

“That’s one way to look at it. May I tell you how I see things?” He waited for her to nod, then said, “You assaulted these monsters without a plan, got captured, broke out purely because they underestimated you, then you only survived because, let me enumerate – the gods-damned Godking of Mars happened to be in a generous mood; Brennus turned out to have a hidden, violent personality that could mop the floor with some mooks who were otherwise taking you apart; Mindstar flew in to protect her brother; a complete unknown showed up to fight off some manner of time-and-space-bending mad science creation-” For some reason, the teens all flinched or threw confused looks at each other, but Jessica didn’t have time to ask what was wrong, before Percy pressed on, “and then the Dark happened to save you because Irene’s power, against her will teleported her to him rather than face what appears to be a major combat esper. There was so much luck involved in you surviving this, if you hadn’t also found out that Tyche’s power is literally supernatural luck, I’d seriously recommend you each buy a hundred lottery tickets right now!” He leaned back, nearly throwing his own chair over as he tried to calm down. Then he looked at them again, still furious. “Nevermind that two of you violated your parole – you are aware that this may cause Goudo, at least, to be convicted of violation and be sent to juvenile prison, are you?” Most of them paled at that, looking at the Japanese teenager – who showed no reaction at all, looking calmly ahead. “As for capturing Dusu – Mister Patrid, don’t you want to take that one?”

Patrid nodded, as Jessica felt her stomach drop. It was not a good sign that the two of them were together on this. Poor kids

“So, you captured Dusu,” Patrid said in his usual calm, smooth tone of voice, looking no more agitated than ever, even slightly amused, as was his default expression. “Did any of you bother to consider what to do with her next?” He stroked his chin with one hand. “While she does have more warrants on her head than I can easily enumerate, the fact of the matter is that now, publically persecuting her is going to be a clusterfuck,” he spat the curse like a grenade, making everyone but Percy and Goudo flinch. “You took her from Japanese territory, during an illegal, unsanctioned assault on a villain base. You are all underage and mostly untrained, two of you being on parole for being members of a criminal gang in one case, as well as that and a number of offenses in another case. When all that comes out, the press, the justice system, perhaps even the Japanese government are going to go on the warpath.” He ran his fingers through his hair, showing agitation for the first time. “Kids, we’re already on incredibly thin ice with the Japanese, for numerous reasons,” Laurence’ head snapped up, suddenly, turning towards the door of the office, but no one but Jessica seemed to notice. “They’ve only been waiting for an excuse to boot us out of Japan, and you may have just given them a perfectly legit one! We may well l-“

Running steps came closer to the office, and then Widard all but tumbled inside, stumbling as he nearly fell over. “Rounds!” he shouted, white-faced. “Bismuth! The police precinct! Dusu!” he gasped the words, bending forward to put his hands on his knees, as everyone stared at him in surprise.

Jessica felt her stomach drop down into her feet as she almost instantly made the mental leap to what was going on.

Percy didn’t seem to be far behind. “But… she’s visiting her sister…”

“She’s dead,” Irene whispered in a small voice. “She’s dead and Bismuth…”

Jason nodded, looking up at Percy. “She walked into the precinct’s metahuman containment cellblock and, and sealed the entrance up. There’ve been screams heard, from inside.”

Percy leapt up from his seat. “Everyone, costume! NOW!” And just like that, the adult heroes all rushed out of the room.

***

Widard finally faught his breath, standing up and looking out over the juniors, as Melody looked at her friend, squeezing Irene’s hand. She didn’t know why Irene was so torn up – or why she’d edited Diantha out of the report like that, it had to have been her – but she was clearly distraught.

“Kids…” Mister Widard said, looking at each of them in turn with great sadness in his eyes. “I’m… so glad you’re all alright. Please don’t do that again.”

Somehow, Melody felt worse about saddening him than she’d felt about being chewed out by… damn near everyone else, since coming back. Even Steph and the other handlers had been outraged.

He didn’t give them a chance to apologise, though. “I’ve got to go… help take care of this situation. You all… we’ll talk later. There’s going to be a big meeting, I’m sure.” And with that, he, too, left, leaving them alone with Patrid.

Whose mere presence was still making her skin crawl, especially now that he was just quietly sitting there, studying each of them in turn.

“You are dismissed,” he said, finally. “Go to your rooms, I’ll… also need to take care of this. Another nightmare…”

They all filed out as she shook his head, looking calm yet seeming quite tired, somehow.

“Patrick,” Irene said with a soft voice, not moving from her perch atop her chair, drawing his gaze to her, even as she let go of Melody.

I’m sorry, but please, I need to talk to him alone, she whispered into Melody’s mind.

Feeling even more worried, Melody nonetheless did so, getting up and leaving the room, listening to both Jared calling everyone else idiots for going along with the raid, and the two in the room, as they walked away…

“What is it, Irene?” Patrick asked, his voice far gentler than she’d ever heard it be.

She couldn’t see Irene, but she could just imagine her fidgeting on her seat, holding her cape in her hands like a security blanket, or a comfort one, avoiding his gaze.

“W-we need to talk,” she said, her voice trembling. “It’s…”

And then they were to far away to hear, and Jared too loud, especially since no one felt up to telling him to shut up… it wasn’t like he was wrong, really, either…

***

The entire UH New Lennston division, minus Bismuth, entered the building that served the central police precinct – a fortress-like building itself near the centre of New Lennston, with a wide, open area around it covered in cobblestones, rather than being squeezed in amongst other buildings – as a prison to hold super-powered criminals until they could be processed and sent to wherever they were to be held.

It was generally considered to be one of the most secure and heavily defended buildings in New Lennston, but it was mostly designed to keep criminals in and villains out – not to prevent the lawful heroes of the city from entering and talking to the villains, for whatever reasons they had.

Clearly, Bismuth had had no problem getting past the considerable outer defenses and into the building, which was currently swarming with police officers.

They approached the Chief of Police, an older, broadly built man with a broom moustache. He stood in front of one particular wing of the small, compact prison, whose entrance was blocked by thick, irregular crystals that seemed to have partially fused with the concrete around them – or rather, been grown out of it – shimmering in all colours of the rainbow as light reflected off of the grayish growths.

The whole place was almost eerily quiet and there were certainly none of the screams Jason had been talking about.

Jessica felt sick to her stomach, praying quietly to God that her friend and teammate was alright, that she hadn’t…

“Rounds, you know what’s going on?” Chief Mason asked, glaring at the arriving heroes like this was all their fault.

“I’m pretty sure I do, Sir,” Rounds replied, resplendent in his shining knightly outfit, silver and gold armour atop a royal blue bodysuit, a shield and lance-sword strapped to his back. “Please, we’ll explain everything presently, but we should get in there first and get Bismuth out before-“

“Less talking and more breaking through,” the Chief agreed, stepping aside. “Everyone, clear the area! Let the capes handle their own!”

The police officers grumbled, though some, at least, didn’t look too broken up about what was going on. Jessica didn’t have time to wonder about that, though.

Instead, they gathered in front of the crystals, and turned towards Eyespy.

The slender man frowned, crossing his arms. “Everyone in there is either dead or has their eyes closed,” he said. “Can’t see a thing.”

Rounds looked at the Chief. “Dusu was the only prisoner held in this wing?”

The Chief nodded.

Their leader looked at the team. “Amazon, Ursa, Venatrix, break through the crystal.”

They nodded in unison, stepping forth. Jessica reached for her power, pulling up her trusty transluscent armour, feeling herself instantly relax and become calmer as it sprang up, protecting her from the rest of the world.

Rachel’s equipment – her boots, both of her gauntlets, her visored helmet, her chestplate and armoured skirt, it all flared and crackled with electricity, as she clenched her heavier left gauntlet into a fist, building up energy.

Ursa Gemini just flexed briefly before they began to pound the crystal, quickly joined by the two women.

It was no easy work – no one of them could have broken through Bismuth’s crystal on their own, not when she’d grown it apparently as thick as the entire doorway, and anchored so firmly in the surrounding concrete – even when they broke it, it just grew whole again, and again, and again.

But all together, they managed to make headway, slowly digging through, destroying it faster than it was regrowing…

Then it suddenly shattered, all at once, shards flying inwards as it all crumbled away, Jessica having to briefly fight to be stay on her feet. Ursa Gemini just stumbled into the floor outright.

They didn’t waste a second, all of them rushing in in coordinated fashion, Rounds ahead of the others. They could see Dusu’s cell, and the blood-red crystal’s growing out of it, wrapping around the doorway, the door that was supposed to seal it off so that not even air could escape lying in crystal-covered shards nearby…

Rounds and Ursa Gemini, who’d made up the vanguard, froze as they reached the cell, looking inside.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Ursa Gemini gasped, staggering back and blocking Rachel from getting a look by accident.

Behind them, in the foreroom, Eyespy bent over and vomited.

Jessica didn’t want to see what was inside… but she had to, and so she did, stepping around Ursa Gemini to take a look.

She immediately regretted doing so.

Dusu wasn’t dead. But she certainly wished she was, that was for certain.

She was there, clothed in tatters of an orange prison suit, all but crucified upon a crystal growth. One that was as red as blood. Her blood.

A single clear, rainbow-hued crystal pierced her sternum, next to her heart. That was not what had killed her, though.

Her body had been… pulled apart, from the inside out. Crystals of various red hues had literally grown out of her, tearing, cutting, pulling… It was the most grisly sight Jessica had ever laid eyes upon, and that included everything Hastur had done to her victims.

The crystals had pulled the cadaverous woman apart and spread her out over the wall. The crystal she’d seemed to have been crucified on was actually numerous, branch-like growths come from her back, connecting her to the wall and lifting her up. Her limbs had been pulled apart, stretched, the nerves visible, fused to the crystals. Her muscles torn, her bones turned almost entirely into bloody white crystal branches within the mess of red branches. Her torso… was open, her heart still there. Still beating, somehow, even though crystals were growing out of it, leaking blood, connecting it to other crystals. Blood flowed through veins that had become like transparent, rigid tubes. Two jagged, long branches grew out of her eye sockets, branching out, like a stag’s horns sharpened into points. More crystals stabbed out of her gums, giving her a bloody grin.

Worst of all were her nerves, spread out throughout the entire construction, interwoven with the branches and her body… clearly still functional, as she twitched soundlessly, her lungs all but entirely gone, her brain sustained… barely… somehow…

No, not anymore. Her twitches grew faint as they watched; within seconds, just as Jessica was starting to take in the entire scene, she expired with a last shudder.

Almost as one, they all turned away from it, the others looking as numb as Jessica felt. Looking at the cell opposite of Dusu’s, whose door was unlocked, open, giving the one sitting inside free view into the cell to watch Dusu’s suffering.

The crystal Dusu had been crucified upon extended like red veins along the ground, leading into the cell, towards a pair of bare feet, attaching to them.

Moving up the bare shins and knees, they joined the thin sheet of crystal which was currently the only clothing Bismuth had, a kind of one-piece bodysuit that covered her torso entirely, almost like a second skin of symmetric crystals, looking like her namesake, covering her from neck to thigh and halfway down to her elbows.

Red hair hung over her face as their teammate looked up at them, her uncovered face blotchy with tears, eyes red and… empty.

Jessica’s heart went out to her, even as she felt disgusted and horrified at what her friend had just done to a defenseless prisoner.

“Bismuth… what have you done?” Rounds asked in a heartbroken whisper.

She looked at him with those painfully empty, despairing eyes. “I couldn’t… couldn’t stand it. The thought that, that she was alive… alive while my sister… while all the others, died… I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t. I’m not sorry. I can’t be. I had to kill her, else I would have killed myself, because I couldn’t… couldn’t stand to know, to even think, that she would live, while… while my… while Prisca is dead,” Rosalie Fion spoke in a soft, broken voice.

In the distance, and nearby as well, the emergency sirens went off. The special ones, made specifically to announce DiL’s appearance. Then another set, announcing that she was here.

Not one of them could bring themselves to react, as they stared at their teammate in horror and sadness.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Amazon, Bakeneko, Dalia, Eyespy, Gloom Glimmer, Jake, Jana, Jason Widard, Osore, Outstep, Patrick Patrid, Polymnia, Rosalie, Rounds, Spellgun, Tartsche, Ursa Gemini, Venatrix
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Next Update: December 26

In My Daydreams

Just letting people know that the chances of me writing an update on Christmas Eve/early Christmas Day are non-existent. Expect the next update early in the morning on Tuesday, December 26, after which I will probably sleep until noon.

The Thursday update should be on time though.

In addition, I’m betting that I won’t be updating on time next Monday either (otherwise known as New Year’s Day…), so count on another Tuesday update.

On the other hand, I’ve got the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, so you never know what might happen. I’m not going to spend it all writing, but I definitely will write.

Merry Christmas, everyone and if you don’t check back here until Jan. 2, Happy New Year as well…

image image image
  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/FI: Our Witches at War Christmas Special: Act III

EPU - What's New
The conclusion of the Our Witches at War Christmas special is here. With the evacuation of the Orussian capital underway, Eila and the 586th await the call to play their final part in The Fall of Petrograd, Act III: "Christmas Eve (Petrograd 12/24)". 2017/12/24
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 5

In My Daydreams

Then, in the same queer tone of voice, she said, “I release you.”

My muscles released and took a step forward. “I’m a little surprised that you’d tell me all of this. Some people would keep it secret so that they had a little bit of insurance against us.”

She smiled. “Whoops. I’ve ruined our plans for galactic domination.” Then she turned to look down the hill again—all of it still blazing in the light of the red sunset.

She looked away from me to stare down the hill. “Not for normal people, no, but for us? After being caught here? Hideaway’s the last place humans from the Ascendancy are free. It’s the last safe refuge for resistance members who can’t live in the Ascendancy. If they find us, they’ll work on us and by the end we’ll be empty shells whose only purpose is to trap resistance members. And if we resist reprogramming, I’m sure we’ll be killed.”

Worse, I knew that if we were still here when the Human Ascendancy came, we might end up empty shells along with them. I had a hard time imagining leaving the colony to that. We ought to be able to do something. We’d managed to survive impossible situations before.

Imagining what I’d have to do to make the “motivator-mutes” in our costumes work, I said, “You’ll have to help. I think I’ve got some ideas as to how to change the ‘mute,’ but I won’t be able to test or fine tune it without you. Maybe you could drop by tomorrow?”

Kals touched her bracelet with her right hand’s index finger. “I’ll check my social calendar… What do you know? It says, ‘Still stuck on this rock.’ Looks I’m open.”

“You were sounding almost inspirational about the colony a second ago.”

She laughed. “Inspirational? Where was I inspirational? Before or after I told you our personalities would be gutted and replaced with something that’s not really us.”

“A little before? The bit where you said it was the last safe refuge and everything…”

Looking out across the town below us, she grinned for a second. “Blame the sunset. It’s one of the few things I like about this place. Besides, it’s not as if this can’t both be humanity’s last free place and also an isolated rock in the middle of nowhere. The last I heard being both is pretty much a requirement.”

For the next hour, we walked around the edges of town, checking out the egg-shaped farmhouses and outbuildings. As the twilight turned to outright night, I got a call from Cassie. “Found him. Jaclyn jumped the force field and saw him standing on top of one of the barricades. I think she’s managed to convince him to come back to the Council building. He won’t say why he left or what he’s been doing. When Jaclyn asked what was going on, he said we should know—which makes no sense. He sounds like a high school girl. God, I remember saying that to a boyfriend once, and the only way the poor guy could have known is if he were a telepath.”

I had no idea which high school boyfriend Cassie meant. This had to have been before senior year when we reconnected—during the period before that where the most we ever did was say, “hi,” to each other while walking to class.

“And you weren’t dating Daniel,” I said.

Cassie laughed for a while. “As if that would ever happen. Besides, Daniel would have caught it without telepathy. You too. You both knew about my dad. Anyway, meet us back in the suite.”

Stopping next to a farm’s egg-shaped outbuilding, I told Kals that they’d found Katuk. Leaning with her back against one of the floating platforms, she said, “Where’d they find him?”

I shrugged. “Top of a barricade somewhere? I don’t know the exact location, but where Jaclyn and Cassie were looking.”

Kals eyed me. “Are you kidding? He’s crazy. I can think of half a dozen things that might give a Xiniti trouble out there.”

“None of us know this place,” I began, but she waved her hand as if brushing what I’d said out of the air.

“You’ve seen our wildlife. So has he. He’s nuts.” She stopped talking, starting again only after scowling for a moment. “I need to ask you a favor. Do you mind if I sleep over at your place? And I don’t mean it in the way you’re obviously taking it–“

My eyes had widened, but I hadn’t seriously thought she was proposing sleeping with me in the room I shared with Marcus and Katuk. I was going to say so, but couldn’t get a word in as she continued.

“Maru, the Council, and more than a dozen other people will be over at my Mom’s tonight. They’re plotting against the Ascendancy, so it’s going to go late and most of them are going to stay overnight. The way I feel about Maru right now, I want to tell him to choke on his own tongue and I know that you have space.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/FI: Our Witches at War Christmas Special: Act II

EPU - What's New
The Our Witches at War Christmas special mini-series, The Fall of Petrograd, continues. The harshest winter to hit Europe in decades means that Eila Juutilainen has some time to get to know the Orussian witches she's involuntarily joined up with... but does she want to? Act II: "The Wisdom of Snow" 2017/12/21
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 4

In My Daydreams

I’d already realized that I had no idea where Katuk was earlier, but I’d assumed that he was with Jaclyn. “I’m assuming he’s not in our bedroom… I lost track of him at Iolan’s. I knew he came in with us, but I didn’t see him when we left. He’s pretty quiet. I’d assumed that he went with Jaclyn and Marcus.”

Cassie had let the mask absorb back into her costume when we stepped inside and her blond hair swished as she shook her head. “Jaclyn hasn’t seen him since Iolan’s either.”

I leaned sideways to take my own look into our room, seeing that Katuk’s bed was empty. “He should be safe enough. Even if he tried to jump the force field, he’s got the full Xiniti armor and even if he didn’t, the Xiniti have been genetically modified to take cybernetics well. I doubt if there’s anything on the planet that could take him out. Check your implant. They’re crazy dangerous.”

Throwing her back over he shoulders, Cassie said, “I’ve been checking out their weapons since I got the implant. They’re one man armies except that they always travel in groups of at least four.”

Kals looked at Cassie and then at me. “Could Katuk be working with the spy?”

I shook my head. “I doubt it. Obviously he’s never been here before, but beyond that they almost never go bad as long as they’re with a group. They’re descended from tree dwelling predators that hunted in packs and they kept the pack mindset.”

Cassie frowned. “You know, we’re not really Xiniti.”

I checked the implant. It gave me years of statistics, more information than I wanted. “He should be fine. Xiniti stay sane as long as they  have a group, especially at his age. My implant says that working with non-Xiniti teams actually improves their mental stability in the long run.”

Cassie tapped her head. “Same implant. Same information.”

Kals smiled and looked over at me. “Well, I didn’t know. Thanks.”

Cassie closed her eyes for a second. “Jaclyn wants us to get out and look for him.” She sighed. “When I pointed out that he could take care of himself, she told me that she thought we’d offended him somehow and having all of us look for him might help.”

I almost pointed out that he had an implant too and that we could send him a message. Except then I decided to try it instead of criticizing. The implant informed me that it didn’t detect his signal, that he’d set his implant to privacy mode.

“Privacy mode,” I said.

Cassie looked toward the windows and then back to me. “A little voice in my head tells me the Xiniti don’t use it much. And that means Jaclyn’s right and we’d better get out there.”

“I’ll help.” Kals pushed her chair back and stood up from the table. “I know the colony better than you do.”

Cassie took a step toward the door. “Why don’t you show Nick? Jaclyn figures we all ought to buddy up and Marcus and Tikki are already out there looking. That, or they’re making out. Just don’t bring in your friends for this. We don’t want to make it a big thing.”

Then she stepped out the door.

Kals followed Cassie’s path, putting her hand on the doorknob. “Ready? Let’s go save the Xiniti warrior from loneliness.”

I got out of my chair and followed her out. “I guess we should cover the area around Landing. I’m checking my implant and it looks like Cassie’s going to meet Jaclyn in the next town over and Marcus and Tikki are already in the other settlement. There are only three, right?”

“That’s right.” Kals pointed down one of the streets. “Let’s go that way. Landing’s longer than it is wide. We’ll see most of it this way. Besides, it’s the only street that goes all way through.”

We spent the next couple minutes walking down the road. Kals would point out buildings, tell me who owned them and wave hello to the colonists riding their floating platforms home from the field or whatever work they’d been doing. The people we’d saved weren’t the only ones constructing barrier walls against the local wildlife. To guess from the people walking home covered in dirt, a lot people had drawn that duty.

The sun had begun to set soon after we started walking. When we reached the edge of town, she turned around and crossed her arms, looking at the collection of domes and the starship field further down. The walk had taken us uphill and we could see the buildings sprawl on either side of the road, some of them glowing in the twilight. Kals had said we still had a couple hours before it became dark, but the process had already started.

“There are a few houses outside the main settlement that we can hit, but I’d say he’s not in town. I didn’t expect to find him. I really wanted to get you alone because I wanted to tell you a couple more things you should know.” She watched me as if ready to sprint after me if I ran.

“Okay,” I said.

She straight in my eyes. “You should know that the Dominators or other motivators might have placed a command in any of us that can be triggered by an event or word, so you can’t really trust anyone, including me. The other thing? Your people have motivator-mutes. Did you make them?”

I nodded.

“Stop,” she said, and her voice took on the strange tone I’d heard in Julie’s voice when she used her power except this wasn’t quite the same. The suit registered a wider range of tones than Julie used.

She looked me up and down, “Can you move?”

I couldn’t.

“You need to fix that.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Selection Process

Semicoop

Our gift from our Board Game Geek Secret Santa arrived last week and oh my… IT’S CHARTERSTONE and The Game Extreme. We’re actually not familiar with The Game, but the first time we played it, it became immediately clear that it is a very challenging little co-op card game – great fun! We’d like to thank our Secret Santa once again: thank you for the amazing gifts.

But let’s get back to the beautiful white box. Right now it’s just displayed in our house for us to stare at it and we are cracking our brains over when we’re going to play it and with who. We probably want to finish Pandemic Legacy Season 2 first and then get started with this beauty.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Dec 17, 2017 at 3:47am PST

We’ve been on a roll with Arkham Horror the Card Game last week! We’ve played the first four scenarios of the Dunwich Legacy campaign and we are loving it. Our team of investigators does seem to be a little overpowered though. The combination of Rex Murphy and Zoey Samaras is just devastating. Rex finds clues very very easily and monsters almost perish at the sight of Zoey. We’ll probably try this campaign again with other investigators and see how it goes then. 🙂 But first, we have two more scenarios to go and we probably have to wait a while for the last scenario pack since it seems to be out of stock everywhere.

What game are you hoping to get from Santa this Christmas? 😀

PS. Don’t forget that you can submit your own Golden Standee for our People’s Choice awards!  More information on how to submit in this blogpost.

The post Selection Process appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Avengers Forever, Una historia para el fin de los tiempos

Crying Grumpies

avengers-forever-02-panoramic1

Como Xelenial que soy, mira que suena mal esa palabra, la parte de mi infancia que dejo huella son los 90. Eso entre otras cosas quiere decir que antes de conocer los genios de Kirby, Lee o Dikto, las epopeyas de Claremont y Byrne o la desternillante JLA/JLI me adentré en el comicbook con el amerimanga de tipos como Madureira, MCGuiness o Humberto Ramos. En esa época la entrada vino junto a la maravillosa serie animada de los X-Men, así que a la que tuve asignación semanal me lance a por toda la linea mutante. Y ahí era inevitable quedar cautivado por el arte de Carlos Pacheco, un español trabajando en Marvel. Acabada su etapa en una de las series mutantes arranco junto a Kurt Busiek Avengers Forever, una maxiserie de doce números. Por desgracia en ese momento aún no había empezado a seguir autores y al no llevar la X de mutantes pasé de ella. Por suerte hace un par de semanas subsane ese error y he quedado maravillado.

edd4337a210f7c3ea445c54bd7bfa4c3

Avengers Forever, recientemente reeditada Panini, nos narra la batalla entre Kang, Inmortus y los Vengadores para salvar la humanidad y el continuo espacio tiempo, como toda obra que involucre a los dos primeros. El insufrible Rick Jones esta al borde de la muerte y los Vengadores piden ayuda a la Inteligencia Suprema para salvarlo. En ese momento arranca un nueva aventura temporal en la que los Vengadores deberán salvar el día para poder ayudar a su amigo. Uno de los detalles majos de la serie es que para evitar afectar a la continuidad y molestar al lector obligándole a comprar mil series para entender un evento la formación de los Heroes Más Poderosos de la Tierra esta formada por encarnaciones pasadas y futuras de nuestros héroes.

Kurt Busiek demuestra a lo largo de los doce números porqué es uno de los grandes. Referencias constantes a la historia del grupo en un ejercicio de retrocontinuidad perfectamente hilvanado. Números tensos y rápidos de leer. Sobre el arte de Pacheco, ayudado en las tintas por el también patrio Jesus Merino, poco se puede decir, lineas clásicas pero con la fuerza y el estilo de los noventa. Portadas para el recuerdo como la del número 6 con el Capi, deprimido post Imperio Secreto original, postrado ante una estatua de los Vengatas originales.

Avengers Forever es un imprescindible del cómic de supers con un muy buen guión y un dibujo excepcional. Quizás hay algún punto donde las armas se apoderan del cómic como buen ejemplo del momento que se vivía en la industria y que si no se conoce la historia detrás de Kang e Inmortusa al principio puede resultar algo lioso, pero nada que impida disfrutar de este clásico atemporal.


  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/FI: Our Witches at War Christmas Special: Act I

EPU - What's New
December, 1941. The alien Neuroi are overrunning Europe. The nations of the worldnot all of them on the best of terms in the years immediately preceding the invasionmust put aside their old rivalries, and rookie witches have to learn fast if they're to have any hope of survival. Our Witches at War: The Fall of Petrograd, a special Christmas mini-series in three parts, begins tonight with Act I: "Witches in Winter". 2017/12/18
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 3

In My Daydreams

Kals stared at the table for a minute—which was the longest I’d yet heard her not talk when I’d been around her.

Finally she looked up. “The resistance has used this world as a hideout for years and Mom, Dad and Maru all spent time here on and off when I was growing up, but when Dad died, and we all had to disappear, Mom and Maru had a fight. I don’t know what they were fighting about. It was after we’d been here for a few weeks. I don’t know what it was about. They never talked about it again and when I asked, Mom wouldn’t say anything.”

“Come on,” Cassie crossed her arms over her chest. “You must have heard at least one word? Maybe a sentence?”

Kals glared at her. “It was two years ago. I can’t be sure about anything anyone said. I remember the sound of their voices and that’s all.”

My implant alerted me that Hal had sent me a message. I opened it, experiencing the entire dataset that we’d collected from the ansible as he must perceive it—blocks of data that you could organize as you wanted. Except I received the version that he’d organized. We’d given him data on ansible bandwidth usage and on the accounts that were active during that time. The admin accounts were hidden, but I’d guessed that people would be on their personal accounts before or after using one of the unlogged admin accounts. My theory was that Hal could compare what accounts were active during the periods of unusual activity after Jadzen came back from her trips and we might find the spy.

It wasn’t a bad idea, but knowing how we used the internet back home, I should have anticipated that practically everybody used the ansible all the time. Fortunately, there were differences. The shining columns of light thinned when a person’s ansible usage was little more than background noise and thickened when they were deliberately using their connection.

Knowing that, I traced the accounts that showed the most usage during the time period just after Jadzen’s most recent trip. Jadzen and Maru’s lines were the thickest, followed by Iolan, Geman, and Dalat’s. I could rationalize all of those. Iolan, Geman, and Dalat managed the ansible. Jadzen and Maru could be communicating with their information sources off world. I considered going lower down on our list of users, but bearing in mind Maru’s behavior and the fact that he was a motivator…

Maru didn’t have to control Jadzen to have her trust. As a motivator though, he could control Geman and Dalat even if he couldn’t control Jadzen, and if that argument Kals mentioned represented the moment he’d lost confidence in her… Well, then we knew who the mole was even though we couldn’t prove it yet or explain why.

I checked the other people’s usage anyway. The only name that jumped out at me was Alanna, the person on the council who’d argued against the idea that there was a spy.

Kals interrupted my thoughts. “You downloaded something big.”

As I became aware of the world around me again, I became aware that her eyes were on me. Fumbling for words, I said, “A data analysis.”

I probably shouldn’t have said it, but I was still half inside a world of virtual images and data patterns.

She leaned forward, and I caught a hint of a musky perfume. “What were you analyzing? Ansible use? Is Maru the spy?”

Cassie sent me a message through our implants, “Nice one.”

Aloud, she said, “We don’t know. Don’t tell anyone.”

Kals cocked her head. “I shouldn’t tell anyone that you don’t know that Maru’s the spy?”

The twist of Cassie’s mouth left no doubt that Cassie didn’t find her reply funny. “You know what I mean. We can’t prove it’s him, but right now, he’s our best guess. So don’t tell anybody.”

Kals voice rose. “I know better than that. Everyone around here knows better than that. We’ve been hiding from the Ascendancy for years. Why do you think it’s him?”

Not quite sure that it was the right choice, I decided to trust her. “Guesses, mostly,” I began and explained how Dalat appeared to be telling Geman not to say anything as we approached and talking via implant when we left, how Maru had appeared to talk to us and direct us to watch out for her, and how the ansible’s records showed that Maru’s account was in use around the suspicious times even if it wasn’t the only one.

Kals gave me her full attention, nodding as I talked. I finished with, “It only hangs together because we want it to. We don’t have any evidence. I’d send out bugs, but I’ve got a bad feeling that people would detect them here.”

“From what I’ve seen of your ship, you don’t seem that far behind us, but we’ve been under surveillance for most of our lives.” She pursed her lips, half-closing her eyes, but then said, “My friends can watch him. We’ll see where he goes and then maybe we’ll find some evidence.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? If he’s the spy, he might kill them.”

She waved her hand, batting away my concern. “Don’t worry about it. That’s what we did for the resistance. The kids watched without getting involved. We’re good at it. Besides, this is a small town in the middle of nowhere. Everybody’s in everybody’s business. It won’t take much at all to get deeper into his, and if he’s a traitor, he’s a threat to all of us.”

I felt like I wanted to argue with her, but Cassie started talking.

Glancing toward the room Katuk, Marcus and I shared, Cassie peered through the open doorway and turned back toward Kals and I. “Katuk’s not here. Jaclyn called me to say she hasn’t seen him since we were at Iolan’s. Did he say anything to you?”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.d 8 Bad People

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

You’re going to die.

Sam half lay and half sat on the floor, curled up and whimpering, as the others gathered around Immanuel and the glowing sarcophagus-tank near him.

“Well, this went wrong,” the gorgeous young man – whom she’d only ever met once before, when he’d welcomed her to the Installation – said with a calm smile on his face, showing absolutely no discomfort at the stump of his left arm being poked at by the Tapirapé woman in the white labcoat kneeling next to him. “So, what’s the diagnosis, Fräulein Doktor?”

He’s going to die.

The middle-aged woman rolled her eyes and pulled the two needles she’d been poking around inside his biceps with out. “The diagnosis, Herr Schwachkopf, is that you pissed off the wrong centenarian demigod and you’re lucky it only cost you your arm,” the Ascendant told him in a biting tone. “But if you’re asking whether I can make you a replacement, the answer is probably. Whatever he did, thanks to Master Konrad’s swift intervention, it’s been neutralised.”

She’s going to die.

Sammy whimpered, looking down at the stump of her own left arm, where it ended just below where her wrist had once been, now neatly cut off and then bandaged by Tsukiko. Same as her left leg, just below the knee.

If it wasn’t for Konrad, she’d have lost more than that…

***

The tide of darkness was steadily advancing, grinding down their people. Chronicle was doing her best to stem it from where she stood next to Immanuel, along with Prism and Judicator, resetting the few she’d been able to record beforehand every time they took too much damage or died.

It wasn’t enough, not by a long shot. The shadow demons kept coming, over and over, and it wasn’t just their sheer mass that was slowly killing people, like they’d killed Brad, torn him limb from limb just out of her sight, so she’d been unable to reset him before he’d been dead for too long.

There was a mind behind them, one single mind. A malevolent intellect that wanted them all dead, dead and gone and she could see its hatred, his hatred, in every motion of his demons. Coordinating them, the small ones and the big, unique ones, the ones with powers of their own.

Fifty-eight people on their side, fifty-eight metahumans, and they were being beaten by a single enemy they hadn’t even been able to scratch yet.

Chronicle saw Karasuha reform out of her bird form, dropping down onto the Dark, only to be quickly dispatched like a fly to be swatted down, and reached out with her power, focusing on her love’s recording…

***

“Sammy,” Tsukiko spoke softly, kneeling down next to her in a graceful motion, having stripped off her armour and robe, wearing only the black bodysuit underneath and her boots. “Here, drink this,” she continued in that beautiful Japanese accent of hers, holding a flat bowl to Sam’s lips. “It will ease the pain.”

Look at her pretty face. It’s going to rot, after she dies.

Sam whimpered, drinking the slightly glowing, purple brew. It tasted… warm, and kind of earthy, and the pain in her arm and leg instantly eased.

You’re still going to die.

Tsukiko smiled, leaning in to kiss her on the forehead. “There, much better now, right?” she asked, looking down at her with warm, loving eyes.

Sam looked back with wet, tired eyes in turn. She didn’t trust her voice, so she just nodded, and got a hug in return.

You’ll both die, and never be together again.

Looking over her wife’s shoulder (her ring had been on her left hand… gone now…) she looked at the glowing sarcophagus. It was one of those used to store the Ascendant’s creations, repurposed to help its occupant recover from his wounds.

Within lay a nude man. He was tall and young, in his mid-to-late twenties, though she suspected he was much older.

Konrad, Immanuel’s partner and opposite, the right hand of their leader, where Immanuel was the left one. The sword, where Immanuel was the pen.

He was Immanuel’s opposite in appearance, as far as that was possible while still being from Germany. Tall and broad-shouldered, heavily muscled to the point where his abs had more abs, though his build was still slimmer than that of many a strongman, more like a ballet dancer who’d gone overboard with his workout. His face was merely attractive, instead of drop-dead gorgeous, with a slightly crooked, yet noble nose, visible beard-stubble and long, shaggy blonde hair. If Sam had been into men at all, she’d probably have already been crushing on him already, even before seeing his power.

He’s going to die.

His right arm had partially dissolved, scars of molten flesh winding up from his fingers all the way to his shoulder, but they were healing, even though he’d been touched more directly than either her or Immanuel, even though he’d struck the monstrosity…

***

A huge impact shook the Installation, causing Chronicle to stumble. She would’ve fallen, if Immanuel hadn’t reached out and gently pushed on her shoulder, allowing her to regain her balance. He hadn’t even been inconvenienced.

“Something’s coming up,” he said, stepping backwards, the group around him automatically falling into line. Sablo, the ribbon-haired, nude woman who’d been protecting them from the Dark’s wraiths, keeping up a glowing white circle on the ground that moved with the group as they retreated along the metal walkway they were on. Even the Dark’s greater demons had been unable to breach it yet, though they’d also been unable to focus on it to any meaningful degree, either. “All of you, brace yourselves!”

Chronicle did just that, grabbing a hold of the rail next to herself, as even the Dark’s assault briefly stalled.

Near the centre of the Installation, four objects burst through it in showers of metal and salt water, shooting up into the air above, the force with which they’d broken through so immense it briefly caused the entire floating city to tilt left and right like a ship in a storm.

Everyone paused and stared up as the water streamed off what appeared to be four perfect, kind of liquid spheres, each of a different colour – white, red, black and green. Each seemed to be about twice the size of a person.

“Oh, Heng, what were you thinking?” Immanuel complained. “Blindly injecting so many samples at once… now we don’t even know which ones produced these.”

The four spheres hung in the air for a few moments, then they suddenly shot in four different directions, away from each other, without the slightest sound.

Chronicle stared up, dumbfounded. What’d just ha-

“Watch out!” Judicator cried, pointing ahead, causing her to look towards their enemy again – only to feel her blood run cold. Colder.

Several of the individualistic shadow demons had gathered up. One, humanoid with wings instead of arms and but a single red eye in the centre of its face, was floating above the others, staring resolutely at their small group, while smaller demons circled around it, absorbing attacks upon it with their own bodies, sacrificing themselves to keep it safe from the attacks of the remaining defenders – twenty, at best, by now.

Beneath it, a muscular demon with a lop-sided build, upper body far thicker, heavily corded with pulsing muscle, while the legs seemed almost comically thin, was holding a sword that was easily twice as long as the demon was tall, and half as broad, holding it two-handed and pointed at their group. Another demon, a curvy female shape with twisted, almost U-shaped horns growing out of its smooth, six-eyed head and standing on her toes, was pointing its clawed hands at the sword, eldritch blood-red flames streaming from them to wrap around the blade in a double-helix that continued to grow more and more dense, more and more bright. A third demon, featureless save for its six eyes and tentacles instead of legs, was spinning some kind of web between its long-fingered hands, casting out strands of it to form another, larger web in the air in front of the pointed blade.

“If that is what it looks like… I don’t think I’ll be able to hold out, Sir,” their protector admitted in a strained voice, without looking away from their enemy. “I’ll try to lessen the blow, at least,” she affirmed, her arms still raised, fingers together in a box-like shape.

“Wait for it,” was all Immanuel said in response.

“We need Konrad,” Judicator spoke in a mellow voice, though the note of worry underneath was unmistakable. “He’s our only hope to beat the adversary, or at least manage a proper retreat.”

“Wait for it,” their leader repeated.

“Sir, something is sapping my shield’s power!” Sablo cried.

Chronicle could do nothing but stare as the Dark’s demos built more and more energy up to unleash at them – the ribbons of almost liquid fire around the blade were so dense the sword beneath could no longer be seen, and so massive they more than doubled its size. The web between them and the sword had grown fantastically elaborate, as well.

Beyond the demons, the Dark himself stood, seemingly impassive as he stared at them, his form writing softly, dripping shadows – only it was dripping them up, rising towards the sky and fading away. A small detail, but like everything about the sight of him, about his whole presence, it profoundly unnerved Chronicle.

Then he made a gesture with his hand, casually dismissive, and his demons loosened their attack.

The muscle-bound demon raised its sword high, the blood-red flames of the female sticking to it, and swung it down with all its strength, unleashing the stored-up energy. The flames formed a huge, bloody fireball, which hit the web of light the third demon had woven – and was multiplied, huge becoming gigantic, a sphere of almost liquid flames coming straight at them, big enough to swallow a city block whole before it even exploded.

Chronicle didn’t see her whole life pass before her eyes, as the saying went. No, she only saw Yukiko, and…

A figure dropped out of the sky, wearing a black longcoat over broad shoulders and wielding a curved short-sword in his left hand. Chronicle saw long, messy blonde hair, for a moment, before the new arrival swung their blade at the incoming fireball, striking it at the very moment it came within reach of the blade.

The entire fireball was reversed and swelled in size, flying back towards the demons and their master, twice as big as it had been before.

“Friss das, Goldschmidt!” Immanuel cheered, throwing his arms up in the air, as everyone else just stared.

They couldn’t see the effects of the fireball upon the demons, as its own flames obscured the sight, but Chronicle was sure it had already passed over their position, hopefully destroying them, and was now rapidly nearing the Dark himself…

The fireball fell apart, dispersed in every direction, leaving behind a molten scar along its way; at its end stood the Dark, right arm extended towards them, the hand clenched into a fist, as if he’d just grabbed the gigantic sphere and crushed it.

Within the path of the fireball lay the molten remains of a gigantic sword, with no sign at all of its former wielder. To the left lay half of the demon who’d woven the glowing web, its left arm and most of its lower body gone. There was no way for Chronicle to tell whether it was still alive – if it had ever been to begin with – so long as it didn’t move . The female demon stood where she had, completely unharmed – clearly, she was immune to her own power’s flames, no matter how amplified.

Their savior stood up, dusting himself off before he made what Chronicle assumed to be a playful salute towards the Dark – and then he turned his back to him, facing them with a smile.

He was tall, almost two metre in height if not a little above it, and very muscular, wearing what must have once been a very expensive longcoat, now frayed and partially torn along its edges. It was unbuttoned, showing off a chest and stomach you could grind meat on, as he seemed to wear only a pair of black pants underneath, and brown boots.

Chronicle would have been deliriously happy to see a face as friendly as his, the easy, confident smile even in the face of one of their greatest enemies, but there was just something off, about those dark red, almost black eyes. Like something was… missing.

“Konrad, deine eklige Fresse ist zur Abwechslung mal höchst willkommen!” Immanuel greeted him, as their savior bowed deeply.

“Ach mein Freund, wir wissen doch beide, dass du dich stehts nach meinem Antlitz sehnst!” Konrad replied with a smile. “Jetzt beruhigt ihr auch alle mal während ich unseren Gast des Grundstückes verweise!”

He had barely finished his speech – not that Chronicle could understand either of them, she’d only just started learning German – when he whirled around and slashes his short blade in a wide, horizontal arc, just as a literal tide of demons closed in on him.

They were all obliterated, the entire mass of demons simply blown away into Nothingness, all the lesser ones gone. Only the greater demons, the ones which differed from the formless mass and had stayed back, still remained.

“Los gehts!” Konrad shouted and jumped, a single leap taking him across a hundred metre towards the nearest demon – the horned female – at such speed he seemed to all but teleport.

The demon raised a hand, bloody flames wrapping around it, but she was too slow – Konrad swung his blade and she was obliterated. Not slashed, not split in half, just entirely obliterated, leaving nothing behind.

“I rather liked that one,” the Dark complained, his voice barely restrained, bubbling with hatred just underneath the surface.

“I rather liked Brad, and Nancy and Rhoda and Jonas,” Konrad replied with a cheerful shrug. “But you k-“

“I really don’t care,” he interrupted him, as he suddenly appeared right in front of Konrad, looking down at the shorter man, as Konrad looked up with a smile. “Ich habe viele Geschichten über dich gehört, Konrad.”

“Nur gute, hoffe ich?” Konrad replied in a conversational tone, making no move to attack.

“Man erzählt mir du wärst der Stärkste der Starken. Stärker als dein Meister, falls es ihn überhaupt gibt. Stärker, sogar, als Gwen und ich.”

“Ich weiss nicht, ob ich stärker bin als ihr beide,” the shorter man replied, then chuckled. “Aber stärker als einer von euch beiden? Das könnte gut sein.” He tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. “Lust, rauszufinden ob die Geschichten wahr sind?”

The Dark struck him, delivering a right-handed punch to Konrad’s face with such force, it created a sonic boom and distorted the air around them.

Konrad didn’t even move from his spot, though the punch did snap his head to the side.

“Ow,” he grunted, touching two fingers to his bloody lip. “Been a while since I took a hit that strong.” He looked up at the Dark, smirking. “My turn.”

He raised his blade, swinging with his left hand – but the Dark reached out, pushing his hand against Konrad’s wrist, arresting the motion before he could hit.

“No fair, I gave you a free shot,” the swordsman complained, though he didn’t sound particularly put off.

“I’m not here to play games,” the Dark hissed. “Now be a good lad and d-“

Konrad’s right fist connected with the Dark’s chest – he was just plain too tall to easily reach his head – and launched him across the ruined Installation, until he slammed into the remains of the Ascendant’s and Dusu’s lab, twisting and shattering them further than they already were.

“I think my punch was bigger than your punch,” Konrad said, as they watched the remains of the structure collapse, burying the Dark beneath the rubble.

***

Konrad opened his eyes, looking around inside his healing pod, and through the clear glass front. He made no move to cover himself up at all, rather, he just smiled at everyone.

“Yeah, this is everyone who made it out,” Immanuel answered an unspoken question. Konrad frowned down at him. “Thanks to you – if you hadn’t shown up when you did, none of us would’ve made it,” the one-armed man consoled him. “Except, possibly, for Bira and her doll, here.” He looked at the Ascendant, who’d moved away from his side and was kneeling next to the quietly breathing form of Elysium, who was lying on her side, and was pushing a gadget which looked like some kind of gun with a long needle coming out of the muzzle into her ear, not paying any attention to the rest of the room.

Konrad relaxed, shrugging those huge shoulders of his.

“I don’t know that you two should be so happy,” a new voice spoke up, as a stocky, plain-faced Japanese woman with brown hair in a bun entered, her heavy, practical work boots, jeans and dark green jacket contrasting greatly with the way everyone else in the room looked.

She’s going to die.

“For all your talk, we got ourselves kicked in our collective posteriors by one enemy, after getting ourselves completely shown up by a bunch of teenagers,” Heaven’s Dancer snarled at Immanuel and Konrad, her new host’s rough appearance making her look even angrier than she otherwise would.

“Totally worth it, though,” Immanuel replied with a smile.

“Worth it? Worth it!?” Heaven’s Dancer almost shrieked at them, clenching her caloused hands into tight fists. “How, in the name of God, was this worth it? What, exactly, did we gain?”

Immanuel opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off with a sharp hand gesture. “No, don’t tell me yet.” She reached into her jacket’s pocket and pulled out a phone. “He wants to talk to you lot.” She pressed a number and then held the phone out towards them.

“Immanuel,” a raspy, deep voice spoke through it. It was so deep, it was actually kind of hard to make out what the man – and it was very clearly a male voice – actually said. A voice so deep, it made one feel like their bones ought to vibrate.

Sam had never heard it before, but Tsukiko tightend up in her arms, as if afraid. “W-what?” she asked her wife in a whisper.

“That’s him,” Tsukiko replied, but before she could elaborate, Immanuel replied.

“What an honour to hear from you so soon, oh fearless leader of mine!” he greeted him, standing up just so he could bow with a fancy flourish of his one good arm. “I thought you would be busy-“

“Save the theatrics, please,” the leader cut him off, sounding exasperated, though not unfriendly. “I already know what happened. Tell me how we profited from it.”

He’s going to die.

“Well, first of all, we know about a herefore unknown metahuman factor – the so-called Journeyman,” Immanuel began to enumerate as he sat down once more. “Someone who’s not merely a blank to Espers, but is, in fact, completely invisible – I could not perceive him even when I knew where he was, could not even perceive a blank like with DiL. I’ve already combed our records and he shows up nowhere.”

“Such information is valuable, but limited and hardly worth our losses.”

“Secondly, he inadvertantly preserved a major asset for us,” the one-armed Esper continued, standing up. “Though Bira is probably better suited to explaining this one.” He walked over to Konrad’s healing pod and began to shut it down, draining the liquid he was floating within.

“Huh?” Bira looked up, confused for a moment, then seemed to realise what was going on. She went back to work, looking at the small screen on the back of her needle-gun, as she poked around inside Elysium’s head with it. “Oh, yeah. This. Turns out, I know how Elysium actually died, way back then.”

“She was killed by DiL,” their leader stated simply. “Are you saying that is not true?”

“Precisely so, Sir,” Bira replied politely. “DiL never defeated her – Elysium killed herself, through overuse of her power.” She clucked her tongue. “It appears there was a flaw to it, after all – prolonged usage put a strain on her brain. Not enough to be a danger under normal circumstances, but after stretching two hours of real time over what must have been several years, fighting the abomination, it became too much and caused a lethal stroke.” She frowned, looking at the readouts as she held the needle still. “She probably never had to push her power far enough to notice it before, and so didn’t know to pace herself in the battle.”

“Interesting,” he said, sounding pensive. “How did this Journeyman preserve her for us, then?”

“Simply put, their battle pushed her far enough that I was able to notice the side-effects when I did a quick scan of her immediately after our escape, but not so far as to kill her and ruin the last ten years of work I did to actually get her working,” the Ascendant explained. “Now that we know, we can look out for it. I might even be able to make some modifications which will eliminate her weakness entirely.”

“Which brings me, neatly, to our greatest prize!” Immanuel butted in after stepping back from the pod, the glass sliding out of the way to let the now merely moist Konrad step out, unbothered by the temperature or his own nudity. “No, I’m not talking about us finding out about the Dark’s little rage mode,” he cut Heaven’s Dancer off before she could even speak, pointing a finger at her. “Though that’s certainly good to know…”

***

Chronicle pushed herself up, having fallen to her knees without even realising it, as she tried to get a better look at the pile of rubble the Dark had been buried underneath. “Is, is it over?” she asked, her voice shaking, holding out a hand to grab Karasuha’s as she joined them on the metal platform they’d ended up on.

Beyond them, the few remaining demons – greater ones, each and every – were standing there as if frozen, not sure how to react after their master was so suddenly punted aside.

“I can still feel his power,” Konrad replied to her question, joining their little group and grabbing onto Immanuel’s forearm by way of greeting. “Definitely a no, unless he decides continuing the fight is too big a risk and bails out.”

“Perhaps we should ‘bail out’,” Judicator spoke firmly, still holding his scales and his crystal ball up in front of himself. “Whether or not the Dark intends to continue, we have to assume that more opposition will arrive soon. Perhaps even her. I don’t think I have to tell you how ridiculously non-existent our chances of survival are if we have to fight both of them at once…”

Immanuel stroked his chin, then nodded. “Yes, that would be for the best,” he replied, looking aside towards where his former aide, currently Heaven’s Dancer’s host, joined them, her clothes torn to near-indecency, her shoes lost, but otherwise unharmed. “Let’s fall back to-“

Konrad whirled around to stare towards the rubble he’d buried the Dark under, a mere moment before all the demons let out howling screams and charged – straight towards their master.

Dozens, hundreds of demons, most of them lesser, but a few more of the greater ones, which Chronicle hadn’t even noticed before, crawled out from their hiding places around the city-sized Installation, some literally stepping out of walls or other structures, all of them charging into the rubble and digging into it, disappearing where their master had gone; the rubble beginning to shake as soon as they’d done so, pieces of it getting dislodged and tumbling down.

“What is he doing?” Immanuel asked, a hand held over his eyes for some shade as he tried to look closer.

“Whatever it is, it’s big,” Konrad replied to him, sounding quite relaxed, all things considered.

The rubble burst apart, blown skigh high in a fountain of dirt and debris as, with a titanic roar, a monster arose from amidst it.

Chronicle blinked, briefly believing that she was imagining this, yet even when Karasuha squeezed her hand hard enough to hurt, the image didn’t change.

A colossal, jet black dragon rose ouf of the dust, shrugging rebar and steel girders off its wings before it unfurled them.

A hundred feet long at least, from its head to its tail, it seemed to made out of solid darkness, its body oozing with shadows – oozing up, just as the Dark had. Scales could be made out which extended into razor-sharp spines, much like its wings, whose many sharp spines and scales made them look almost feathery. Its head sported six glowing red eyes in two rows of three, and half a dozen twisted, crown-like horns which extended backwards.

It raised one of its forelimbs, its upper torso configured more like a human’s than a lizards or any other kind of animal’s, putting five-fingered hands with razor-sharp claws up onto the remains of the building’s wall in front of it, then the other, propping itself up as it spread its wings wide, it thrust its head forward, extending its long, sinuous neck and roared.

The roar was like a physical force extending forward, distoring the air, the metal, the concrete, everything and with it came not sound, but a thought which slammed into their minds like the hammer of God.

YOU WILL ALL DIE!

The beast beat its wings and leaped forward, not landing on all fours before it pushed itself off again, half running and half gliding across the city towards them, the world itself distorting in the wake of its passing.

“Because of course he can turn into a damned dragon!” Immanuel ran his fingers through his hair, as the beast simply charged on, shedding the attacks the remaining companions were raining on it as if they weren’t even there.

As it reached the first group – five metahumans – they ran apart to dodge out of its way, but it paid them no mind, simply charging on.

One of them was clipped by its wing as it passed, and Chronicle watched in horror as the young man withered and died, dissolving into ash that seemed drawn towards the rampaging dragon.

The others were only a little more lucky than he, as the distortion around the dragon passed over them. When it was past, they had all visibly aged, some to the point of death, falling over as their bodies were left too weak to live; the others simply crying out in agony and horror.

“Don’t get near it!” Immanuel shouted at Prism, to have him relay it to everyone else. “Everyone, retreat in orderly fashion! Sablo, keep your circle up, it ought to repel this form!” He started moving backwards, but the Dark had become too large, was moving too fast.

“I’ll take care of him!” Konrad shouted, exhilerated and leapt at the beast, drawing his sword back for a big slash. “Have at you!”

The Dark slammed his forelimbs into the ground, violently arresting his charge as he used them like a pivot, whirling around; his tail slapped Konrad out of the way, all the way across the Installation and nearly into the sea, repaying him in kind for the earlier hit.

As the monstrosity completed its spin, facing them once more, it roared again.

YOU WILL ALL DIE!

Chronicle cried out in horror as that horrible voice slammed into her mind once more, staggering back and falling, even letting go of Karasuha’s hand.

Someone was screaming as the dark dragon charged onwards towards them, everyone it passed by simply… dying.

There was Arresto, who’d once survived a nuclear explosion, if a small one. The dragon simply brushed him with its wing, and he fell apart.

Radger, who could regrow even his own head, fell just as easily. So did four others, before the dragon broke through their lines entirely, simply ignoring any power thrown its way as it bore down on their group.

When its hand came down on their group, its claws slamming into the circle of protection which Sablo had pulled up, pressing against it to slowly sink into the sphere of its effect, Chronicle realised who was screaming.

She was doing it herself, screaming as loud as her lungs would allow her, completely helpless to do anything – she couldn’t even rewind herself, if he got to her, not only would she be irrevocably dead, but so would Karasuha, her Tsukiko, and all the others whose records she’d kept.

Sablo cried out in pain and her protective power shattered, the clawed hand breaking through. One of the claws cut through the nude woman, splitting her from head to groin, the two halves dissolving into nothingness as they fell apart.

Chroncile lost hold of her book, and of her bladder for that matter, as she looked up at the colossal beast bearing down on them, reaching for Immanuel with one of its huge hands.

“Cover me!” Karasuha shouted and charged towards the beast at the same time as Immanuel dodged backwards, slashing at its exposed palm.

Her blade flared up with purple light and bit deep, cutting through the black, spiny scales to sink into the flesh beneath, but the Dark did not rear back – he simply pushed on, crushing her underneath its paw.

Chronicle cried out in despair – she couldn’t reset her if she couldn’t see her – but the beast ignored that and raised its hand again, the sword already falling apart, consumed by the same effect as the one that was breaking down Karasuha’s crushed remains.

At the last moment before they fell apart entirely, Chronicle pushed her power out towards her, and she snapped back to her previous, recorded state, sword in hand – and promptly burst into numerous crows which flew apart, away from the beast.

Several of them grabbed onto the shoulders of Chronicle’s robe, pulling her away with madly beating wings, while the dragon pressed on, reaching for Immanuel, too fast and with too great a reach to dodge entirely.

Immanuel had reached Chronicle, who’d stood several meters behind him, when the claws came down on him, and though he avoided a direct hit, one of them nicked his left hand.

As it began to fall apart, another claw touched Chronicle’s hastily held-up left hand – a stupid gesture, like that would achieve anything – and then her left foot, before it slammed onto the platform, cracking it and breaking through, briefly arresting the beast’s charge by sheer dint of the sudden loss of footing.

Sam screamed, louder than she ever had, as she watched her hand and foot dissolve, the flesh blackening before it fell apart, the blackness slowly spreading up her limbs-

A sharp, clear pain came next, and her corrupted, dying limbs were severed from her body in a single stroke, along with Immanuel’s arm, halfway down his biceps.

Konrad was back, looking as serene as before and no worse for having been hit directly by the abomination. though his coat was even more tattered and torn.

The Dark roared at him, pulling himself out of the wrecked and twisted metal of the platform they’d just been in.

YOU WILL ALL DIE!

And it swung its free fist at him, but this time, Konrad was ready, and he dodged, leaping forward to slide under the strike, before he launched himself up.

Using both a long wind-up and the momentum of his leap and spin of his body, he punched the colossal monster in its sternum and hit with force way beyond his size and proportion.

The dragon was blown away, launched through the ruins behind it, through walls of steel and concrete, almost all the way back to where it had first burst ouf the rubble.

Konrad landed on his feet, then flinched, looking at his right arm – it was starting to dissolve, too, though very slowly.

Clucking his tongue, he shook his arm out, visibly expelling a black mist-like substance from it.

His arm was mangled, but not gone, and he was still alive.

Chronicle fell onto her side, starting to feel cold as her blood escaped her through the raw stumps of her arm and leg, feeling Karasuha reform behind her and pull her into a warm, comforting hug, before she began to do something with her numb limbs.

Looking around, there was barely anyone left. Prism had been reduced to a mummified corpse, Heaven’s Dancer had lost both legs and was bleeding heavily. Judicator still stood, if shakily so, but his crystal ball lay shattered all around him.

Immanuel was using his own belt to tie off his remaining arm, looking pale and not entirely self-assured anymore.

There were less than ten of their number left, gathering around him and Konrad, looking for orders, for direction, for protection.

He looked around at everyone, then at Konrad. “We retreat,” he said simply. “Everyone, move to the nearest escape pod. We have to get away before he pulls out whatever next trick he has in… store…”

His eyes grew wide as the dragon rose out of the shattered rubble, howling in rage.

YOU WILL ALL DIE!

The beast rose up on its hind legs, spreading its arms and wings wide as it roared to the heavens, even more of its body oozing upwards and dissolving into the sky.

Chronicle’s consciousness was rapidly fading, darkness creeping across the edge of her vision…

No, that wasn’t just her fading consciousness… a shadow was spreading across the Installation, as something above blotted out the sun, causing the others to look up in horror, but she was too weak to do even that…

“Du willst mich doch wohl verarschen…” was the last thing she heard, an utterly disbelieving whisper from Immanuel.

Then, Darkness.

You’re going to die.

***

“Don’t look at me like that,” Immanuel complained as the others glared at him. “I had no idea he could do that!”

“Hey hey, relax,” Konrad calmed him, patting his back. “I took care of it, and we got something out the whole thing, right?”

“Took care of it? Took care of it!?” Heaven’s Dancer shrieked. “You nearly died! He destroyed the Installation, beyond any hope of recovery! He killed everyone we had left, except those in this room, including my body, with one blow!”

Calm down,” the leader admonished everyone, and silence fell. “Immanuel, how is this worth losing the Installation and so many of our companions? Don’t tell me it’s because you figured out the Dark’s weakness, we already know several.”

“No no, oh wise and fearless leader of ours,” Immanuel assured him with a smile. “It’s not his weakness I figured out. It’s hers.” He grinned, and it went all the way up to his eyes. “Ironic, that it would be the Dark who’d finally betray her, if unwittingly – but now I know Gwen Whitakers one true weakness.” He made a fist, pumping that arm. “Now we can-“

“Leave it be for another time,” the leader cut him off. While he – probably – couldn’t see Immanuel’s face, Sam was quite sure he heard Heaven’s Dancer’s amused giggle at the sight of it.

Even Sam felt a smile tug at her lips, seeing it.

“Skyfall’s project is complete,” he continued, unperturbed. “And she has workable results to show for it. We are thus moving Project Chainbreaker to the top of our priority list. You are to provide her every resource she requires, including yourself.”

“B-but… Whitaker and Goldschmidt…” Immanuel stammered, looking, for the first time, like he was truly not sure what was going on.

“The Abomination has just appeared in New Lennston,” the leader pressed on. “While it’s unlikely either of them is going to die, they will be far too caught up in dealing with that, and with the aftermath, to interfere with Chainbreaker. Once that is complete, we’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to dispose of the both of them at our leisure.”

“But, seriously, we-“

“That was an order, Immanuel,” the leader cut him off. “Whitaker and Goldschmidt are ultimately of no consequence to our greater plans. We need merely make sure they don’t interfere with the steps leading up to our goal, which the current deluge of crises shall provide. Now be about your work.”

And just like that, he hung up.

Sam looked at Tsukiko, feeling endlessly relieved – anything, not to have to face the Dark again.

It won’t be enough, and you’ll die.

“Alright people,” Immanuel said, finally, after taking several deep breaths, his usual cheerful disposition returning slowly. “You heard our fearless leader. Let’s all get to work.” He looked at the stump of his arm, then over at Sam, who was curled up against her wife, still. “Bira, please start work on replacement limbs for Sam, first. I can make do with just one arm for the time being.” He nodded to the two of them, before looking out over everyone else in the room. “I thank you all for your bravery today. Fear not – our brothers’ and sisters’ sacrifice will not have been in vain, nor go unavenged.” He bowed his head to them. “Have a good night.” And with that, he left the room, followed closely by Konrad, who threw them a playful salute.

Sam sniffed, looking up at Tsukiko with a weak smile.

Her wife’s response was almost blinding, as she leaned down and kissed her, hard.

Sam wrapped her arms around Tsukiko and held onto her for dear life. They may have been doomed, but she was going to stay brave and fight on, even in the face of invincible opponents. Maybe they were all going to die, but she would try, at least. Even if it was pointless.

***

The cool blue waters of the Pacific Ocean made for a mostly uniform background over which Amy flew, trying to make her way back to the base of the Gefährten – though she was rapidly starting to think that it was pointless, as she had no way of making out where exactly it was.

Before, she hadn’t truly thought about it, having been beside herself with rage and worry, mindlessly flying in the direction her power told her Basil’s mind lay, but now that he wasn’t there, anymore, she had no way of tracking the place, other than flying straight towards the West, hoping to trace back the route they’d taken flying out of it.

Even so, she did it, focusing on casting her power out ahead of her, scouting for any signs of her goal, even if the largest reason she did so was not to support her boss, or make up for her lackluster performance, but simply so she wouldn’t have to think about what Basil had said to her, and what’d happened, and the ramifications of both.

However, with no goal in sight, those memories and the thoughts attached to them were beginning to creep back into her consciousness. She wouldn’t be able to ignore them for long.

Just then, though, she saw something which simultaneously filled her with elation – if the base of the Gefährten wasn’t there, then she’d never find it – and dread.

Who the fuck had summoned a meteor?

She flew towards the gigantic, glowing rock falling from the sky, tracing its trajectory towards its impact site, and could soon see, faintly, the glittering that indicated the huge metal city she was looking for.

What the fuck is going on? I hope the boss is still alive…

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: ???, Amy, Chronicle, Elysium, Heaven's Dancer, Immanuel, Karasuha, Konrad, The Ascendant, The Dark
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

6a Jornada de la Liga de Malifaux, Cerrando la Brecha

Crying Grumpies

2017-11-12-PHOTO-00006324

Con dificultades y algún retraso ya hemos llegado al final de la 1a liga de Malifaux del Local, tan solo nos queda esta última jornada para darla por finiquitada. Y como si le dais un vistazo a la tabla de partidas podréis ver de las últimas tres jornadaqs faltan bastantes partidas por jugar he decido que daremos hasta el 1 de Febrero para jugar todas las partidas que quedan de la liga. Cuando llegue ese día daremos por concluida nuestra primera incursión más allá de la brecha.

Clasificación y Encuentros

Haga click para ver el pase de diapositivas.

6a Partida

 Duración de Ronda y Día de finalización de la Liga: 1 Febrero

Banda: 50 ss

Despliegue: Flanco

Estrategia

Turf War (Carneros) modificada

Al final de cada turno después del primero gana un punto de victoria si tienes dos o más miniaturas a 6” de la casa del centro del tablero.

Esquemas /Cada jugador tiene que escoger 2, máximo 3 PV por cada uno)

Una Línea en la Arena

Al final del encuentro cada banda gana 2PV si tiene al menos 4 marcadores de intriga en la linea central.

Si esta intriga es revelada a principio de la partida gana 1PV si al menos tiene dos marcadores de intriga en la linea central

Distraer (dobles)

Todas las miniaturas No-Peón de la banda pueden realizar una acción de Interactuar 1 para darle a una miniatura oponente a 1” la siguiente condición hasta final del encuentro:

Distraído: Esta miniatura puede realizar una acción de interactuar (2) para eliminar esta Condición, ninguna otra acción puede eliminar esta Condición.

Esta intriga no se revela. La primera vez que una miniatura enemiga gana Distraido deberás revelar esta intriga. Gana 1 PV si al final del turno dos miniaturas de la banda rival tienen la condición Distraído.

Guardaespaldas (Carneros)

Escoje una miniatura Compinche o Sicario de tu banda que debe ser protegida. Si no tienes Compinche o Sicario escoge la miniatura de mayor coste.

Revela esta intriga en cualquier momento. Al final de cada turno a partir del 4 gana 1PV si revelas esta intriga, la miniatura escogida está viva y se encuentra a más de 8” de su zona de despliegue. Gana 1PV adicional si esta miniatura acaba la partida en juego y con la mitad o más de sus puntos de vida.

Vendetta (5)

Escoge una miniatura propia que no sea Lider o Peon y tenga un coste mayor que 0. Escoge una miniatura del oponente con un coste igual o superior a tu miniatura escogida. Gana 1 PV y revela este esquema si el primer ataque de tu miniatura durante la partida es a la miniatura que has escogido del rival. Si la miniatura rival no esta en la mesa al final de la partida y se ha revelado este esquema gana 1PV. Si la miniatura que elimina a la miniatura rival es la que elegiste para la Vendetta gana 3 PV.

Plantar Explosivos (6)

Una vez por encuentro, al final del Turno Revela esta intriga y gana 1PV por cada miniatura enemiga que se encuentre a 3” de uno de tus Marcadores de intriga. Elimina todos tus Marcadores de  Intriga que estén a 3” de una miniatura enemiga.

La Mesa

FullSizeRender 3

Edificios: Altura 3”. No se puede entrar en el interior y pueden ser escalados a mitad de tu movimiento. Ofrecen cobertura pesada.

Escaleras: Solo utillizables por miniaturas con peana de 30mm. Permiten escalar los edifficios sin penalización.

Pozos: Terreno difícil, reduce movimiento a la mitad.

Arboles: Quitan LOS, son infranqueables y ofrecen cobertura ligera.

Pilar Babilónico: Altura 12″. No escalable. Impide LOS, da cobertura pesada.


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 2

In My Daydreams

“Always listens to him anyway?” I followed the obvious line of reasoning. “He’s not a motivator too, is he?”

Kals shook her head. “Yes, but it’s not that simple. We’re mostly immune. If we weren’t, we’d never be able to use our power without following our own orders.”

As Cassie and I sat down at the table across from Kals, Cassie glanced over at me. “Mostly?”

Kals brushed a lock of black hair out of her face. “Mostly. It works, but it’s hard. Do you have any people with motivator powers on your world?”

Thinking about Julie, former member of Justice Fist and now a fellow student at Stapledon, I said, “I know one, but there are probably more. Her mother had the same powers.”

Cassie barely let me finish before adding, “If there are more, they don’t seem to be running things on our world. I don’t see how they could. Julie orders people to do things, but it wears off and there’s no mystery about who’s responsible. Even if she did take a country over, all you’d need is a sniper rifle or big bomb to solve the problem.”

Kals shook her head saying, “That’s not how it works. Sure, if you’re inexperienced and you’ve got no one to train you, you go the direct route and bark orders at everybody, but that’s not the way the best motivators do it.”

“Uh huh,” I said, mostly to make sure she knew I was listening.

Kals didn’t say anything, waiting and only beginning to talk as Cassie frowned and sent the words, “What is she doing?” at me via our implants. Kals pointed at Cassie. “That’s what we do. We’re taught to constantly be watching people so we can use them. I knew you’d say something first. Nick’s patient. You’re not. You become suspicious more easily than he does. I’d have an easier time getting him alone and an easier time getting started on him, but he might be harder ultimately because I think he might notice what I’m doing.”

She looked at Cassie, eyes resting on the sword and then looking toward where the table hid her gun . “I’m not sure you’d notice, but if you did, you’d kill me or something.”

I leaned forward, putting my arms on the wooden table. “What would we notice?”

“I’m was getting to that. Most of the time, we have to motivate people we have no control over, people who know we’re there for the Ascendancy, and most of all, people who don’t trust us. We don’t command them. What we do is listen, maybe use a hint of our power to make them talk a little more freely. Then once you know what makes them tick, then you start modifying their memories—“

Cassie interrupted. “—Wait a second. You’re not a telepath. You can’t do that.”

Kals raised an eyebrow. “If you’re done, I’ll tell you how I can. People’s memories aren’t set. I can’t change something that people remember well as easily, but something half remembered? That’s something I can do. Look, you can do it. If you make up a memory with enough enthusiasm and detail, they’ll begin to remember it—at least if they think you might remember something they don’t. It’s the same for me except as long as I don’t contradict something big, it doesn’t matter, they’ll listen. Once you’ve found the right memories, you modify around them and you can change their whole meaning, change the person’s loyalties, likes and dislikes. You can’t do it all at once, but over time, you can do almost anything.”

She explained it like she might have described how anything worked, and not at all the way you’d describe warping someone’s personality to make them betray everything they cared about. On the other hand, she’d trained at it for years. That was enough time to get used to the idea.

Following the next question that came to mind, I asked, “So, okay… How does that explain why Maru isn’t manipulating your mom?”

“He can’t,” she said, gesturing outward with her hands as if it should have been obvious. “Maru’s a motivator, but my mom studied with the best teachers the Ascendancy had to offer. Maru couldn’t even get into her school. He worked for one of the professors, but he didn’t go there. He trained somewhere else. They used him as an opponent so that they’d learn how to fight other motivators. It’s hard to affect each other, but it’s possible—barely. She beat him again and again. He’s not at her level. I don’t think he’s even at my level.”

I thought about that. “Alright. So he met your mom at the school she went to and she hired him, why?”

She shook her head. “She didn’t hire him. My dad also went to the school at the same time. He hired him and somehow they all got involved in the resistance because of my mom. I’ve never gotten the full story. Mom’s impossible to talk to.”

I sighed. Either we weren’t getting anywhere, or we were on the edge of something big. “I think I asked this, but why did he try to warn us about you then?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I think he hates me, but I think he hates the entire second generation.”

She leaned back in her chair, smiling. “Does that mean you think he’s working for the Ascendancy?”

Cassie shrugged. “Maybe.”

I said, “I don’t know. He might be. He’s a little suspicious, but we don’t have anything resembling a motive. Do you?”

She tilted her head, pursing her lips. “Let me think.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Tabletop VS Couch Games!

Semicoop

Digital and analog games aren’t that far apart and are sometimes really much alike in theme (and also in gameplay, sort of). So we have some tips if you love one of the listed games above! If you like Kitchen Rush, you’re bound to like the digital game Overcooked. It’s a hilarious frantic co-op game in which you have to prepare and serve meals as fast as possible! … Oh wait, that’s the same as Kitchen Rush, right? Correct, only without sand timers and more fire! 😉 If you like Junk Art: try Tricky Towersa great Tetris stacking game… with physics! And if you like the never-ending storyline of Gloomhaven, Divinity is right up your alley with about 100 hours of gameplay. And you get to talk with cats and other animals.

So our BGG Secret Santa gifts have arrived, but we won’t be able to pick them up until tonight! Exciting! We can’t wait to see what we got! 😀

Do you know more digital and tabletop games that are almost the same? 

The post Tabletop VS Couch Games! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Next Update

In My Daydreams

Hey everyone…

Everything fell apart this weekend in terms of writing. While I did get some done, it’s not enough for an update unless I stay up till 4am and risk falling asleep during work.

So, I’ll finish this update tomorrow night.

Jim

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Progress Update 8/12/17

Tieshaunn

So, I just wanted to let you all know how things currently stand.

I’m about 50% through the next chapter, “The Empty Dragon – Act 2” (of 3), but it’s turning out to be one of the most difficult to write to my satisfaction, as it deals with some seriously dark subject matter (take a look at act 1 to see just a few hints of it), which is why I haven’t finished it just yet.

I’ve also done about 20% of the work on the following chapter “Bad People”. That one… won’t be a big problem to finish, once I get to it. About a third of it is mostly just the Dark fighting the Gefährten.

Outlines for “Good People” and “The Man Who Knocked Out Lady Light” are complete, and the latter already has several scenes done in very rough first drafts.

Hopefully, Act 2 will be finished this weekend.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


Filed under: Writing
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

A Good Boy: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Castle Rock Compound, Colorado, Earth

Haley sat next to Camille in the dining hall. The wide, grey rock room was nearly empty. A few people were inside but they sat in small clusters, none of the clusters anywhere near each other.

Camille leaned in,“You can talk about it. It’s normal.”

Haley eyed her, pausing before sticking her fork into a piece of rare steak. “Everybody knows I’m worried. Talking about it more won’t make me feel much better, but they’ll get sick of hearing about it soon if they aren’t already. And besides, it hasn’t even been two weeks yet. Lee said it would be at least two weeks, so they aren’t even late.”

Camille leaned over the table toward her. “I’m not sick of hearing about it. I think anyone would be worried, and I think everyone is—in their own way.”

Travis stopped next to them, surprisingly quiet despite his height and muscular bulk. As he sat down next to Haley, he said, “I’m not worried. Nick’s smart and so is Jaclyn—except Jaclyn’s also one of the most powerful people in the program. Cassie and Marcus are tough too. They can handle anything they’re likely to face. I’d bet they’re back sometime next week.”

Haley frowned.

Eyes on her expression, Travis leaned back in his chair. “What? I’m just saying that they’ll be okay. Is something wrong with that?”

She took a breath. “No.”

Travis watched her for a little while. “I hope you’re not worried that Nick will find someone else. He’s better than that, and even though they’ve got humans up there, what are they going to have in common with us, right? Besides, it’s not like Nick’s a player. There are guys in my fraternity who’d be going crazy up there because it’s not like anyone would be able to find them once they left.”

Haley stared at him. Giving both of them a quick look, Camille began to talk, “Is anyone planning anything tonight? I think the last time we did anything together was watch movies in Vaughn’s room.”

Travis shrugged, “I don’t think so. I think there’s a group thing tonight. The summer just got started so they’re trying to build up the group before they put us through hell.”

Amy walked up with her own tray and sat next to Camille, red hair in a ponytail and wearing exercise clothing. Haley could smell that she’d just come from working out—just like the rest of them.

Sitting down, Amy smiled, “Well, at least there shouldn’t be dragons this year.”

Travis laughed. “Yeah. Haley, when you’re missing Nick, think about that. It makes everything sound better. I wonder what Marcus is doing? Probably drawing everything. The guy barely ever stops drawing. I think he might be the only guy I know who’d rather draw a superhero than be one.”

Camille smiled. “Is Marcus any good at drawing?”

Travis stopped eating for a second. “Hard to say. He’s pretty good at drawing people who are wearing costumes, but he doesn’t do sensitive people staring sensitively into the distance pictures. His drawings have people punching each other.”

In her head, Haley thanked Camille for changing the topic. She couldn’t take much more of Travis’ support.

* * *

Hideaway

I let Kals into our rooms. She looked around as she followed me inside. “This place needs a party. Without people, it just looks abandoned.”

“Is that the way it normally is?” I watched as she ran her fingers across the top of one of the room’s desks.

“Abandoned? No. We let guests stay here, but we also use it with new arrivals. Oh, and during the epidemic the colony had back when I first arrived a few years ago, this was one of the hospitals.”

We stopped next to the suite’s table. Cassie and I exchanged glances and I said, “Epidemic?”

Kals nodded. “That’s right. It came in with our group of settlers. I don’t know where it came from but it spread before Iolan could stop it and it kept people down for days. I don’t know if it had an official name or if it was one of those new viruses that show up every now and again. I just know I could barely move for a few days and my head hurt bad enough that I could barely think. It was miserable.”

“I hope we don’t bring that home,” I told Cassie.

Kals pulled out a chair and sat down next to the table. “I doubt you will. From what I remember, if you contracted it, you got sick and it didn’t take long. But never mind that, what was Maru telling you about me?”

“Not a lot—just that you might try to command me to take you away from here, leaving the colony without protection.”

Her mouth compressed into a hard line and her cheeks reddened. “Well, fuck him. I’ve never tried to do anything like that. He’s stopped complaining about what I actually do, and started making things up. If I thought for half a second that it would do any good, I’d tell my mom, but she always listens to him anyway.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Consumer Hypocrisy

Semicoop

Check out the video review of Raptor by No Pun Included! And note: we really love Food Chain Magnate! 😀

So we’ve finally played Great Western Trail…! Sort of. We started playing, loved it, but there was this weird snowballing effect going on with Heinze’s score and the train and that’s when we discovered that we overlooked one of the rules that you have to place one of your workers on a station spot after claiming the bonus tile. We had no choice but to stop playing at that point because the ‘damage’ was done. We did really enjoy all the gameplay elements and can’t wait to try Great Western Trail again!

Yesterday was Heinze’s birthday and although I actually managed to gift him non-boardgame related things (such a challenge!!), he did, of course, get some games. We now own Raptor and Jaipur! Both very fine games. We’ve played Raptor yesterday and that game is hard and fun! Since it plays so quickly, you can easily play it multiple times in a row. But you can always just check the video by No Pun Included that is mentioned above. We can’t wait to try Jaipur tonight. Since we’re both very busy lately we haven’t had the time to play longer games, so it’s great to have a few more short games to play in the evening with a cup of tea.

For the people who don’t follow us on other channels, we’ve published another video last week. We’re huge fans Blade Runner 2049 and the baseline test just screamed to be Semi Co-op’ed. And so we did. 😉

The golden Standees 2017 – Information

Like mentioned last week, it’s almost time to present our third edition of the Golden Standees Awards! And like last year, we would like to offer you a chance to contribute an award! That means we will certainly share your award on our social media accounts and that there is a chance you’ll be published on our website. You don’t have to be an artist to participate! We’re just looking for fun awards and we all know that a simple stick figure drawing can be funny (for example, XKCD!). Or take a cool picture. Everything is welcome. So if there is a game, publisher, game designer, website, YouTube channel you would like to award, this is your chance! Remember that we are looking for ‘funny’ awards, not just an award for “The Best Board Game YouTube Channel”, etc.

We offer you a *.PNG , a *.PSD template and the font that’s being used. You can download the files here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/f9xybby0wq891id/AAByA6g63GRHvx6PMd7B6RQga?dl=0

The final deadline for contributing your own award is December 29th 2017 and you can send it to goldenstandees@semicoop.com.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a message. If you don’t have any experience with graphics software, but you do have an amazing idea for an award and want to draw it on paper – that’s fine too! You can just scan your drawing and mention your award name and the winner and we’ll make a fancy Golden Standee for you. If you want to do this, I do advise you to download and print an image of the Golden Standee from the URL above to make sure you are using the right dimensions.

We can’t wait to see what creative ideas you come up with!


Which reviewer has convinced you to buy the most games so far? 😉

The post Consumer Hypocrisy appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Venus Spy Catcher: Part 10

In My Daydreams

Cassie raised an eyebrow. “And we’re supposed to believe that she’ll show up out of nowhere and demand that Nick flies her back to her old life even though she’s never done that before? Take it from someone with a difficult mom. I get sick of her, but I wouldn’t risk her life or the lives of all the people here.”

Maru frowned. “I’m sure that you’re not as difficult she is. She’s been determined to have her own way since she was a child and her mother and father indulged her too often.”

“Okay,” Cassie’s voice stayed low. “We’ve got it. She’s hard to deal with and you’re not impressed by her parents’ discipline methods. Is there anything else?”

Maru blinked. “I… don’t think so.”

He looked from Cassie to me. “Thank you for your time. I’ll be going.” Then he stepped out of the hatch and onto the ground.

When the hatch closed, we watched him go. I looked over at Cassie. She had her arms crossed over her chest and her face wore a small smile.

“What brought that on?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Not much. Anyway, I wasn’t that mean to him—at least not more than he deserved. I didn’t see anything about her that said she was willing to endanger the colony. From what you told us about the conversation you had with her, it sounded like she was telling you what she did so that we wouldn’t cause problems here.”

I thought about it. “That was my impression. I got the feeling that she cared for the people here.”

“Exactly,” Cassie pointed her finger at me. “It’s like he came over here just to make Kals look bad.”

“What does he get out of that?” I supposed that if Jadzen died, the leadership of the colony would go to somebody. If he discredited her, it might be that much more likely to go to him, but it wasn’t as if we, the local Xiniti nation representatives would be making that decision. Far from it, I would have guessed. I’d have thought that outsiders would, if anything effectively encourage the colony to go for the other direction. It wasn’t as if we had any connections here.

Cassie leaned toward the windshield, watching Maru go. “I don’t know. Maybe we should ask her.”

“I suppose we could. I’ve no clue where she is though. Oh. Wait a second.” My implant volunteered that the colony directory included her bracelet’s address and that I could contact her any time.

I sent her a text—sort of. What I actually sent her was a text sized bit of information sent directly from my brain. I’m not sure that counts, but it wasn’t direct communication. It was a snippet of communication, so a “text” is the closest I’ve got. Regardless, my communication said, “We’ve got some questions for you about Maru.”

Her reply came as, “My favorite person ever. Did he say that he doesn’t like me?” Along with the reply came a feeling of distraction and a sense that she should be paying attention to something else.

It made me wonder what feelings my text included. I sent back, “Is this a bad time?”

“I’m at work. We’re planting seedlings. I’ll drop by when I’m done.” Again it came with distraction, but also a sense of relief.

I told her thanks and concentrated on the real world, that being the cabin of the ship and Cassie in this case. “She’ll drop by when she’s done with work.”

She grinned. “The party worked. If we hadn’t had it, you’d have been the random investigator guy or I would have had to make the call. This way, you’re ‘that guy she talked to last night’. That’s much better.”

“It wouldn’t be if I’d started talking about faster than light engineering. Then I’d have been ‘that boring guy at the party’.”

Cassie pressed the button that opened the hatch. “But you didn’t. Maybe you would have in high school, but you’ve been dating Haley for two or three years now and you know she’s got no interest in it. You’ve learned how to talk to normal people without even trying to. So, what was Kals doing at work?”

I followed her out of the ship. “Planting seedlings? We didn’t go too deeply into it.”

Cassie grinned at me. “She didn’t want to bore you. Did she say when she got off of work?”

“No. If agricultural work goes anything like at home, my bet would be that she starts when it’s light and goes for eight hours?”

We started walking across the landing field. Cassie peered down at a small hole in the ground that must have been the burrow for some small animal. “I bet she’s off soon. It’s most of the way through the afternoon.”

We arrived back at the council building after a few minutes of walking. Cassie was right that work ended soon. Soon after we got back, I saw a lot of people walking the streets on the way to their houses, most of them looking like they’d been working in the dirt—covered with mud up to their knees and dirty hands.

Kals didn’t arrive until the crowed thinned out and when she did arrive, she didn’t look dirty at all. Between the combed hair, clean jumpsuit and hint of makeup, it was obvious she’d cleaned up before she came over. It fit. With a mother like Jadzen, I could imagine that she’d never consider dropping by on the way home from work.

image image image
  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/FI: OOTR: The Federation Lives Forever! Chapter 15

EPU - What's New
The Federation Lives Forever! jumps back down to Sakuragaoka to check in with the junior varsity. They seem to have found a keyboard playerbut will they ever think of a name? And are they about to have bigger things to worry about? It's Chapter 15: "Call Me Lightning"! 2017/12/04
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Small Update

Tieshaunn

I added three more examples in the Meta-Powers File. You can find them at the very bottom.


Filed under: Brennus Files
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Brennus File 17: Shifters

Tieshaunn

There was a full story update just a few hours before this one. Click here to read it, if you haven’t done so yet.

Previous | Next

Depending on how broadly one is willing to define, the Shifter classification (which coincides but is not completely encompassed by the Morphing rating) is the single most common type of power there is, outnumbering even Espers two to one, if not more so.

To understand why, one must understand the nature of Shifters. In simple terms:

A Shifter is a metahuman capable of changing their physical state.

This encompasses both shapeshifters and numerous other kinds of powers, which will be enumerated later in this document.

An important distinction, which will be touched upon later, goes to One-Time Shifters, metahumans whose shape changes exactly once, during their manifestation, and thereafter remains constant. While one may consider that to not be a dedicated power, nor worthy of the ‘Shifter’ label, there are certain common elements that justify it being included in this document.

Furthermore, there is a large number of metahumans who have Shifting as a required secondary ability to support or enable their main power, or to protect themselves from the effects of their own power (such as a fire manipulator whose body has adapted to be all but immune to heat, or a metahuman with aquatic powers being able to grow gills). These may often come to be from Origins which have little or even nothing at all in common with the kind of factors which normally lead to Shifter powers.

***

Common Origins

Almost all forms of Shifting powers come from Origins which involve an issue with form or image, be it physical and mental.

The physical ones are the most simple and tend to produce the most straightforward Shifter powers: imagine a girl, trapped in a burning building, slowly being consumed by flames; a man lost in the desert, slowly dying of thirst. Another who falls off a boat in a storm, going under the waves and drowning. A researcher in Antarctica whose base was destroyed by a storm, lost in the cold as she freezes to death. Or turn it around: a man has spent his whole life training to lift weights, against all derision for such a barbaric, backwards hobby until he, finally, wins the World Championship for Strongmen, manifesting upon receiving validation that, yes, his form is truly exceptional.

On the other side, there are mental triggers; in the age of body image issues, these often play a role in Origins, leading to the vast number of Physique powers amongst metahumans, usually as a lesser aspect of the ability (interestingly, there are about as many male as female Physique-powered metahumans out there, in spite of common cliches). Such are the single most common type of One-Time Shifters, and perhaps the most common power type of all.

On a more extreme level, severe mental pressure relating to one’s identity can result in some rather disturbing Shifter powers. A feeling of entrapment, relating often to one’s body, can also result in a Shifter power, or at least a Shifter element attached to other powers. Imagine a boy who’s bullied daily at school due to being overweight, having cruel pranks played on him that continually embarrass and humiliate him, until he’s pushed too far; a young girl tries to live up to her late mother’s image, only to always fall short, particularly in the looks department, seeing herself as far uglier than her mother (whether or not that is true is irrelevant to the example), until one particularly painful reminder that she’s just not as pretty as her mother was that makes her snap. A man was born to a purpose, raised to fulfill it, saddled with restrictions which bind him to the will of another; his whole life is just one, long series of reminders that he belongs to someone else, and he snaps, manifesting in a moment of weakness after being reminded by someone or something that he’s merely a plaything of a greater being.

***

Many Forms

Physique/Adonis
The most simple and common type of Shifter, and a One-Time Shifter at that, and also perhaps the single most commonly appearing power, these are abilities which permanently and lastingly improve and change the recipients’ body, usually to adhere to their beauty ideals (though they also at times come with a twist – it is not unheard of that a person may have their sex changed in this way). Like all One-Time Shifters, these variations can not be negated, dampened or enhanced, as they appear to be permanent, viable modifications to one’s biology.

Chimaera
While technically a subset of the Physique type, Chimaera’s can get strange enough that they deserve being listed separately. A Chimaera appears to be an inversion or carricature of the Adonis, a person whose manifestation has left them twisted, often to the point of being truly inhuman in body. It is particularly common for drug-related Origins (or those involving the incipient metahuman’s own death) to create Chimaeras, though they are far from the only causes and, in fact, a Chimaera trait may appear completely on its own with no clear reason why, appended to another power.

Transformers
Another very common type of Shifter, the Transformer has a basic, often plain human form and can switch into a single (or sometimes several related but distinct) form(s), often with powers which are only available in their alternate form.

Kimotas
A partially tongue-in-cheek subclass of Transformers, Kimotas need some manner of trigger in order to transform, be it a ‘magic word’, a particular substance or anything like that.

Darwins
These shifters do not (or do not entirely) control their morphing, but can morph in a variety of ways based on outside influence (be it environmental, or otherwise). Often crosses over into the Meta-rating.

Modals
The most common type of free-form shifters, these metahumans can shift within certain limitations, but are bound to these, such as a shifter who can take on any animal form, or who can take on any form but it’s always made of concrete.

Toolboxes
Less restrained than Modals, Toolboxes have a collection of options which they can mix and match at will. Depending on which options they have available, they can be incredibly versatile and even edge into a Meta-rating.

Freeforms
Can take any shape, with only minor limitations. Extremely dangerous.

***

Traits

Generally speaking, there are certain traits by which Shifters can be classified and rated. These are:

Consistency
Do they shift into a single fixed, or a variety of fixed forms, or can they come up with new ones on the fly (even if it’s just repurposing the same basic elements)?

Permanence
Are their changes permanent, or maintained by their power? If the former, than nullifying their power will only prevent them from changing away from their current shape, not force them to change into their ‘true’ form, as whichever form they’re currently in, is their true form. One-Time Shifters are always permanent.

Mass-Limitation
Is the Shifter limited to a fixed mass (usually that of their true form) or can they increase or decrease it? If so, within what limits (there is no known unlimited case).

Sympathy
A strange term, admittedly, but it refers to a very important trait – if one form of the Shifter is harmed, does that harm (wounds, power effects, etc) carry over to their other form(s) as they shift? Can make a huge difference in a fight.

Forms Per Minute (fpM)
The term for a Shifter’s speed – how often can they change their form within one minute? The record-holder here is definitely Hemming with the ability to assume hundreds of wholly distinct forms (usually assumed to be about 300 in a single minute).

***

A Common Issue

There is an issue, an ailment, a problem, which haunts many a Shifter, particularly those with multiple forms or the ability to assume any form; a problem so common it has its own scientific name that is widely used in literature dealing with powers, particulary the psychological toll they take on metahumans.

Shifter Dissociation.

Many a Shifter suffers due to feeling that their body is not their own anymore, or that it no longer truly represents their identity, due to changing so drastically whenever they use their powers. This can range from a slight unease whenever they are reminded of the fact to full-blown suicidal depression and has claimed many a life (for a variety of reasons) throughout metahuman history.

It is most common in more powerful Shifters and often appears so immediately and so powerfully that it may be considered, at times, to be a full-blown Power Derangement, though it is not always so, and most often develops over time as a Shifter comprehends the extent of their powers.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this, and no standard treatment has yet been invented, due to the highly individualistic nature of every single Metahuman’s power as well as their individual issues and personalities playing into this particular disorder.

***

Exemplary Shifters

  • Kraquok: One of the oldest and most famous of Shifters, Kraquok is a founding member of the Dark Five and one of the few people to repeatedly fight Lady Light and walk away (though he’s never actually defeated her). He also happens to be Severance’s archenemy and rival, an enmity that stretches back to the early 1920’s. His power allows him to grow in size and power the more damage he takes, growing faster proportional to the amount of damage he took relative to his size at the time, with no known hard limit. As he grows, he eventually develops the ability to use the Mortal Coil, one of the most lethal attacks known, a breath weapon which ages anything it touches at a frightening rate – it is all but always lethal to take even a glancing hit from it, as it is a true temporal effect, and so cuts through most defenses. His only limitation seems to be that, as he grows larger, attacks which previously caused great harm cause less and less so, and once he stops taking a sufficient amount of damage, he not only stops growing but also begins to shrink again.
  • Severance: While most of his abilities are unknown, one that is known is that he is capable of contorting and deforming his body to a ridiculous extreme, to the point where he can actually fold himself into a briefcase, for example, or squeeze himself through the gap between a door and the floor.
  • Bakeneko: Aimi’s power allows her to assemble any form she wants within the limits of her own mass out of a toolbox of options she gains through her power scanning nearby living beings (animals or plants). She ‘assembles’ a form out of several options offered to her by her power and then shifts into it and can potentially take on any form that could possibly be assembled out of pieces of all living beings, though she can not change her mass (though she can compress or stretch it, if need be, within limits).
  • Ares VII: Possibly the member of the Olympians who most closely matches his namesake both in personality and power, Ares is a brute of a man, both literally and figuratively; his power allows him to absorb non-living material in order to transform into an armoured, heavily armed form which closely resembles a warrior in arms, growing larger, denses and generally more powerful the more material he absorbs, though he can only absorb one kind of solid material at a time (he prefers steel).
  • Dionysus: The original (and current) Dionysus is a grab-bag if there ever was one, with one of his powers being the ability to take on any human or animal shape, though only one at a time. He likes to get very naughty with it.
  • Dolphin Blue: A current member of Japan’s Okinawa Sentai team, Dolphin Blue has the power to transform his body into a semi-fluid state, reshape it, then solidify into this new form. He is limited by both his total mass and the amount of time it takes to do so (several minutes per change).
  • Chrysalis: A woman or girl of unknown origin (even their original sex is unknown, though she identifies as a female now), Crysalis is a mercenary villain with the ability to spin a cocoon around herself, going into a kind of incubation period during which she designs a new shape, which she then takes on before bursting out of her namesake chrysalis. It takes hours to change form and she appears to be limited to organic ones, but she can vary her size widely (ranging from cat-size to building-size) and take on very eldritch forms.
  • Hemming: Probably the most powerful, likely the most dangerous and definitely the most evil Shifter known, Hemming is the founder and leader of the Savage Six and generally considered to be one of the single most reviled humans to ever live, rivalling if not surpassing even Weisswald. He is a monstrously powerful Shifter, capable of taking on any form he can imagine, be it organic, non-organic, solid, fluid or even gaseous. He can decrease his mass down to that of a very small mouse, or increase it to the size of a very large elephant, if not more so. He is capable of taking hundreds of forms within a single minute, morphing so fast he often eschews normal movement in favour of simply shifting himself forward, which allows him to move at super-sonic speeds. He can recreate simple technology (he’s been known to masquerade as kitchen appliances, cars, weapons; though whether he can actually be functional or merely takes on said appearance is a different matter) and adapt his body to counter anything thrown at him, meaning that most attacks will only work once or twice before he gets used to it. Being able to shift at very nearly the speed of thought (and he thinks very fast), he is effectively less of a Shifter and more of a mobile, super-fast damage effect that adapts to any resistance he meets. And that’s his lesser power, as both he and those in the know consider his Super-Intelligence to be his most dangerous ability.
    He has never been beaten and never failed to kill a target he actually went after, save for one. Pound for pound, he’s the one member of the Savage Six you least want to face in combat and anyone who knows him claims that he lacks any true weaknesses. He is also considered the benchmark against which all other Shifters are measured, as his abilities are unprecedented and unsurpassed.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Files
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.20 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Prisca was still alive.

Somehow, even though he’d deduced as much with great certainty, he hadn’t truly felt sure about it until he saw her. A weight dropped off his shoulders.

Not that seeing her was a pleasant experience. He wasn’t petty, wasn’t… concerned with her physical beauty the way he’d seen other boys be. Some part of him, a part he didn’t really understand, a part he’d started to associate with Macian, if only because he couldn’t figure out where he might have picked it up otherwise, balked at the mere thought of judging things by appearance. Of getting attached to the outside, be it good or bad.

It wasn’t a good thing, wasn’t a good part. He didn’t like such things because he didn’t, on a fundamental level, trust them. Them, or anyone, really. A small part of him that whispered, this could be fake, someone might be twisting things.

It was the same part that had advised him to keep so many secrets from his friends. To compartmentalise them, keep Tim and Aimi apart from Vasiliki and Dalia. To keep them all apart from Prisca, until he couldn’t justify it anymore. It was the part of his that had shouted betrayal when, in honest worry over his state, his friends had crossed the boundaries he’d set and gotten together to take care of him.

Even further, it had made him twitchy around Dalia and Vasiliki in a way he hadn’t understood for a long time. Their beauty had been a barrier between them, rather than something that drew him in, like it did damn near every other male they ran into.

It wasn’t something all-consuming. He could still appreciate beauty, once he could be sure it was honest. Whatever that meant. But upon first contact, it repulsed, made him stay at a distance.

With Prisca, it had, strangely, made things easier. When beauty was an initial barrier, meeting a girl who failed to live up to the common understanding of beauty so thoroughly had, actually, made things easier in the beginning. Let him reach out, connect, in a way he wouldn’t have been able to with any of the gorgeous girls in his life.

In a twisted way, Aimi was more attractive to him, at first glance, than someone like, say, Gloom Glimmer, even though the latter was literally supernaturally desirable, simply because Aimi was plain and plainness didn’t trigger that suspicious, dark part of his.

Finding out that she’d become a shapeshifter, it had shaken him on a level he hadn’t even recognised, back then. With the benefit of hindsight, he thought that that had been trhe true reason why he’d kept her at arm’s length, rather than tell her about his secret identity, like he’d done with Tim.

With all that, he’d been able to see past Prisca’s bodily and mental issues – and she had many of both, perhaps even more so than he did – to find and appreciate the person underneath. In time, he’d even come to appreciate the remnants of the beauty she should have had. The beauty Dusu had taken from her.

When the goblins kidnapped her and he’d been forced to operate on her to keep her alive, that same detachment had allowed him to stay calm and do what needed to be done, rather than balk at the thought of cutting open the girl he loved to attach machines to her failing heart.

When she’d mutilated herself to escape Hastur, when the stress and the strain of that wretched day had proven too much for her body and he, with Gloom Glimmer’s help, had worked on her again, it had helped keep him calm and focused.

It had not helped when she’d manifested her power. Her projection, gorgeous as it was, had made him twitchy again, though less so than others, as he’d already known her. But that part of his, it twitched and moaned, whispering suspicions about this new, false form.

But it wasn’t. Never was. It was hers, in a way that her actual body couldn’t be anymore. A form that came purely from within herself. Whereas her body had been twisted, broken, changed, by Dusu, making it not wholly hers any more. She’d been right about that. He’d seen that, come to appreciate what she herself called her true body, and gotten comfortable enough to, experiment. They hadn’t gone the whole way yet, what Dalia would call ‘home base’, but they’d run most of the other ones by now.

Thinking on it in retrospect, no one who knew her even a little had been even remotely surprised that she’d cut her own eyes out, rather than be twisted further by another monster.

None of that made it, however, easy or even remotely comfortable to see her now, as she lay on that bed that had become the sum and limit of her waking world. She was pale as a corpse and moved about as much as one, her lungs no longer functioning in any case – machines pumped the oxygen she needed to survive into her, instead.

Survive. Not live.

Her hair was gone, what few tufts she’d had left fallen off and cleaned up since the last time he saw her, a week or so ago (she hated it when he saw her like this, preferred it when he interacted solely with her projection, as much as possible), making her head seem inordinately large, especially in proportion to her emaciated, wasted-away body. Her ruined eyes, at least, were covered by bandages. Most of her body was covered by a blanket, save for her spindly thin arms with those long, tender, weak fingers, which lay atop the expensive silk sheets (her mother did everything to make her comfortable, no matter how small, even if it meant buying the hospital a whole set of silk sheets for the entire intensive long-term care ward), though the many tubes and wires that ran into her body were still outlined by them.

Not that he needed to see them with his eyes – he had them in his mind. He’d installed them, after all. A rushed job, at first, during her kidnapping. Then, later, he’d swung by the hospital, pretending it was merely his own perfectionism, a sense of professional pride, or at least generic heroic sensibility, which took him there, and had refined his work, making more permanent accommodations for her. Explaining to the doctors how to properly clean them, what the read-outs meant and how to do simple maintenance (but to call him if anything actually went wrong). Then, later, another rushed job after Hastur had visited her, followed by another round of refinement, all of it tapping a degree of medical knowledge and an understanding of surgery that’d humbled the professionals involved and whose origin he could not make out. He’d never studied medicine in any capacity beyond basic first aid, had never read the textbooks or anything like that. And it wasn’t like his gadgeteering, either, not really. The devices he’d made to keep her alive, including her current set, they were partially gadgets, yes. But his surgical skill, which had had the head surgeon of the hospital, one of the most decorated professionals of his craft, grumbling about how unfair powers were and how he wished he was so good, that was wholly his own, and yet he had no idea how or why.

Still, all that work… fixing her, putting her body back into (barely) working order, refining his work to make her more comfortable, more healthy, as much as that was possible… it had felt comfortable. Relaxing, familiar, like something he’d done so many times it had become routine.

It thoroughly creeped him out, as grateful as he may have been for the capability, because as far as he knew, the very first time he’d ever even performed first aid, much less surgery, had been after the fight against Snow Queen, when he’d saved Vasiliki’s life.

Still, of all the many things that haunted him about his condition – whatever it may actually be – that was one he could appreciate at least. It had helped him save her, in some small way.

Even now, looking at her, his eyes flickered left and right, reading the data on his devices’ readouts and the monitors of the equipment the hospital had provided (all of it cutting edge, courtesy of Mrs Fion again), and his heart sank. Massive organ failure. Slowly spreading brain damage, negligible now, but liable to mount and go out of control at any time, depending on how Dusu’s poison continued to work. The machines attached to her, his machines, were the only thing keeping her alive now, and even they would be insufficient soon enough.

”Basil…” Prisca whispered, barely audible with her lips barely moving.

He was by her bedside in an instant, not even noticing the distance he crossed as he pulled a chair closer and sat down as close to her as he could.

His hand reached for hers, the right one, on top of the blanket, after he took his gauntlet off. Her fingers were cold, and she didn’t have the strength to do more than lightly curl them, so he made up for it by gripping them as tightly as he dared.

”I am here,” he spoke, softly, his voice just slightly hoarse. Then he smiled, weakly, hoping she could somehow tell he did by the tone of his voice changing. “You knew I was coming.” His eyes flickered to the tablet he’d made for her, the one linked up to Eudocia, which Primrose now held in her expertly manicured hands, her long, red nails standing out starkly against the colourless metal. He looked back at Prisca.

“Of course… Eudocia told me… when you showed up… in front of the hospital,” she whispered, slightly turning her head towards him. “We were so very worried… when you left… Eudocia wouldn’t… tell me where you… went, but… she was worried, too.”

His eyes went up again, looking closer at Primrose. ‘We’, she says. But apart from Eudocia. So, her mother.

Primrose was always an interesting, painful sight to see, for him. So beautiful (twitch, twitch, balk), yet such a reminder of what Prisca might have been, should have been that it hurt to look at her. Classically gorgeous and just barely showing a little gray in her long red hair, he knew a lot of employees at the hospital always looked forward to her visits just to get a good look at her.

Now, though, she was clearly bereaved, her eyes showing a little red and her make-up barely hiding the palor of her skin. For her, for a woman as composed as Primrose Fion, this was the equivalent of another having shorn her hair short and scratched up her own face to show her grief.

And Prisca wasn’t even dead yet.

”I’ve known for a while, Basil,” she spoke softly, far more tenderly than she’d ever talked to him before (she hadn’t particularly liked him at first, though she’d never voiced her reasons or even actually put words to her antipathy to him, that he knew of. “Though I hadn’t told Prisca I’d figured it out until today.” She smirked, a little of her usual arrogance returning to her face. “I’m not stupid, you know? In fact, I am rather far on the right side of the bell curve, I dare say. My baby girl gets a boyfriend and then a hero who has no connection to this whatsoever happens to save her life not once, but twice? And keeps coming back to refine her life support? It wasn’t hard to connect the dots, especially after the second time.” Her smirk faded, and she lowered her eyes, looking at the tablet in her hands. “Now I know why you seemed to secretive and, at times, dishonest.”

Ah, that explains that, at least.

”For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I treated you so coldly,” she continued on, “and I’m grateful for all you’ve done for my baby.”

”Mo-om…” Prisca complained weakly.

Basil focused on her again.

“Basil… you did… something stupid, right?” she guessed, her voice grown hoarse, as if she was already straining it. “Eudocia… would not… have hidden it… from me… if it wasn’t… stupid.” She curled her fingers around his, again. “I’d… fall asleep… and smack you… for it, but… the docs’ say… I wouldn’t survive… falling asleep… again.”

He sighed, feeling the many weights on his shoulders. “I suppose it was. There is, no gentle way to say it. I found out where Dusu hides, so I gathered as many people as I could and went after her.”

All warmth fled the room, leaving only the sounds of the machines. Both the woman and the girl were listening, intently. Primrose was radiating a kind of hatred that made the Dark’s fury appear meager, her fingers curling so hard around the tablet’s edges, it groaned. Prisca… Prisca didn’t show any of the hate she usually did whenever Dusu came up, too weak to work herself up like that anymore.

”We got her,” he continued, just barely louder than a whisper. “She is with the United Heroes, now.”

Primrose drew in a sharp breath, a faint expression of hope on her face…

”You didn’t get a cure, though,” Prisca continued for him, her voice softer than a spring breeze. “Or at least it won’t be done in time. I can tell.”

He lowered his head, taking her hand with both of his and raising it to touch it to his forehead. “I am so sorry, Prisca. She never had a cure. Never could make one. The whole thing, it was her attempt at finding one. The poison, it was meant for her, to improve her body, to make her a pseudo-Adonis, but it failed and messed her up,” he spoke, the words tumbling out of him, unable to contain them any longer. “So she unleashed it on Hawaii hoping that someone else would find a cure that she could then co-opt for herself.” At some point along the speech, which felt like a confession to him, he started crying. He couldn’t bear to raise his eyes, to look at her mother’s face or, worse, at Prisca’s.

Her fingers curled around his as tightly as they could, weakly holding onto him as something escaped her throat.

It was a sound unlike any he could remember hearing, ever, and which he hoped he’d never, ever have to hear again. It was a sound of rage, of hatred; of grief and sadness. The sound of an old pain, never gone but scarred over, only to have it torn open again. The sound of a tearing heart, which reached out and into everyone who heard it, making their own hearts break out of sheer sympathy.

It was a sound Basil would remember for the rest of his life.

He held onto her hand as the sound continued, and was quickly joined by her mother who put the tablet onto the bed, near her legs, so she could take her daughter’s left hand into both of hers.

Basil didn’t know what to say, what to do. He had trouble carrying on normal conversations, often, nevermind this.

What could he say? There was no promise left to make that might ease her pain. No soothing words he could think of, no platitude to lessen the impact.

What could he do? He’d found Dusu, and it hadn’t helped. He’d done everything he could think of, short of trying to make a complete engram of her brainpatterns to later implant into a healthy body, but… even if that could solve this, there wasn’t the time to do it.

All he had left was to hope for a miracle, and even in an age of superpowers those were in extremely short supply at best.

”B-basil, I, I…” Prisca tried to speak, but had to break off, her voice too hoarse to continue. Her mother had to pick up a small cup with a straw, tilting it to let some water flow into Prisca’s mouth, before she could continue. “Basil, I, I love you,” she said, tears of salt and blood running down from the bandage around her eyes, and his heart broke a little more. “And, and, I don’t want you to b-blame your, yourself,” she continued. “Y-you did, you did all you, could. M-more than, than anyone could, ever expect of, of another, even, a boyfriend.” She turned her head towards him to smile weakly, her thin, pale lips – barely differentiated from the rest of her skin – stretching over her empty gums. “I l-l-love you and, and I hope, hope you’ll, you’ll find… the happiness, you deserve. D-don’t be, be too… sad, abo-“

He cut her off by pressing his lips to hers, softly, so very softly, his tears mixing with hers for a long, long moment.

”No,” he said softly. “I didn’t do more… than anyone could expect, because… I expected more of myself.”

She smiled again, while her mother just cried, lowering her head as she cradled her hand to her breast, her heart. “Silly… but that’s part of what… I love about you. One of the… many things.”

Basil had trouble seeing anything, had trouble breathing, but he forced the words out, anyway: “I love you, Prisca. I wish I could… put it into words, what you… mean to me, but words have never… been my strong suit. I love you, and I’m not going to give up for as long as I live. Not on you, not on anything.”

Her lips trembled and, for just a moment, her hand seemed to regain some strength, as she held onto his as tightly as possible, nearly cutting off the bloodflow to his digits.

The machines around them were starting to edge into red areas, warning signs starting up. Especially the brain monitor. It wasn’t going to be fast. It was going to be slow, and painful, and ugly, and they all knew it.

“P-please, g-g-go,” she croaked, voice thick with tears. “I, I, I don’t want you, to, to see-“

He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to watch, didn’t want to do nothing. Didn’t want to be there, didn’t want not to be there.

But he couldn’t choose, so he at least fulfilled her last wish.

He left.

***

He found himself back in his bedroom. Somehow, he’d managed to get from the hospital to his and Amy’s home while barely noticing it. Barely remembering to pull up his hood and hide his face.

Seeing how he’d been blind with tears the whole way, it was amazing he hadn’t run into anything or anyone, or been run over by something. Or maybe he had and he just didn’t remember.

He’d thrown his cloak onto his bed, and taken his lefthand gauntlet, the one with the variable force-field emitter off, holding it in his hands as he stared down at it. His ravenbot had flown off his shoulder and sat atop his computer screen, watching him with what might have been curiosity if it’d been an actual animal.

There was none of the numbness he’d hoped for. Even though people often talked about how they went numb when overwhelmed by tragedy, he felt none of that. There was no numbness, no deadening of his emotions, no relief.

He threw the gauntlet at the wall with all his strength, hard enough that it dug into it through the expensive wallpaper, becoming stuck.

What was even the point of that thing? What was the point of any of his inventions, his ideas, if none of them could even save the girl he loved?

He tore his armour off, bit by bit, even the boots, throwing them aside without a second thought. Tore off the top of his bodysuit, throwing it onto the bed to join his stupid, pretentious cloak.

Thought and memory my ass.

”I…” he began to talk to the empty room, but broke off. What could he even say? “I-“

There was a flash of red hair, a brief vision of a sweetly curved body in a private school uniform, and then her lips met his, her strong, soft arms wrapping around his neck.

He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, pressing her body to his, feeling her softness and warmth as his other hand went to the back of her head, fingers intertwining with her hair, pulling her even closer, deepening the kiss.

When her lips parted and their tongues touched, all the worries and the sadness and the grief disappeared, leaving just her.

He clung to her like a drowning man, and she to him, mashing their lips together, their tongues dancing lovingly inside their mouths, from one to the other and back again, they-

She was gone, gone as fast as she’d appeared, and he was alone.

He staggered back a step, raising a hand up to touch his lips with two fingers.  Feeling the warmth. Still able to taste her.

Had she really been here? A last flash of her power, as she’d drifted off to her final sleep? A desperate hallucination of his? A random memory his broken mind had called up?

His computer’s screen lit up, pure white, showing only two words from Eudocia.

She’s gone.

His scream shook the house.

***

Somehow, at some point, he put on some clothes. A black shirt with some print on it, a gift from Dalia, black jeans and black socks. Dramatic, but somehow appropriate.

He’d thrown a jacket on over it and put on his shoes and just left. It was inadequate for the cold weather – it had started to snow, even – but he didn’t care. Somehow, he found his way to the park again, to the bench he’d talked with Magnus, what felt like a lifetime ago. The park was covered in snow, but was otherwise completely empty, save for himself and his raven.

He was still not numb. He wished he was, but he wasn’t.

He was hurt. Heartbroken. Grief-stricken. Pained. Tortured. Tormented. He could go on, think of more words. Everything, everything, except numb.

The only reason he hadn’t yet thrown up was because he hadn’t eaten a thing in over twenty-four hours.

And so he sat amidst the snow on the bench and watched the busy street in the distance, past the bare trunks and branches of the trees. Cars and pedestrians passing by, carelessly, carefree. Happily.

He saw children smile and point at Christmas ornaments in the store windows, or at toys they wanted (there was a toy shop right there in a straight line in front of him, on the other side of the street).

His raven’s programming had it fly over, landing on a branch near the street so it could watch over the people, looking for trouble.

Yet all he could think of was that Prisca wouldn’t get to enjoy a single Christmas with him. That she wouldn’t get to dress up in what she’d called a ‘slutty Santa dress’ and show off her perfect dream-body.

And one of the reasons why she wouldn’t was he. Because he hadn’t been good enough, in the end. He’d gone to bat, or at least he hoped he’d gone to bat, all out, and it had still not been enough.

God, I hope there really wasn’t anything more I could have done, a treacherous little voice spoke inside of him. If there was and I just didn’t do it…

He lowered his head, hot tears burning on his cold skin before they fell down to join the snow at his feet.

Time passed and Basil still did not feel numb.

Snow crunched underneath someone’s feet, and Basil turned his head, slowly, to the right. He saw their feet, first. Beautiful winter boots made of soft, brown leather, sporting hand-crafted stitching decorations and sensible, yet still distinctly noticable heels. Even if he hadn’t seen these boots before, he’d recognise the handiwork instantly.

Feeling his heart skip a beat, he slowly raised his head, up along the long legs in black stockings, the sensible, knee-length green skirt and the hand-made cream-coloured sweater under an expensive, thin winter jacket worn open. A pure red scarf (hand-made, of course) wrapped around her slender neck to protect it against the weather.

She also wore a handmade red wool bonnet with floppy ear covers from which two long tassels extended, and held Graymalkin in her arms, the heavy cat happily snuggling against her chest as she seemed completely unbothered by his prodigious weight.

Her eyes were red, as if from crying, making their green colour stand out even more.

”Vasiliki,” he said, his voice thick. It didn’t surprise him that she’d found him. They’d taken steps, long ago, to make sure each of them would be able to find the others, if need be. For him, it was done with his ravens, with transponders sewn into select articles of clothing. For Tyche, it was just following her gut, which usually worked out. Or so they’d thought. For Hecate, it was via samples of their blood, a little from each of them, contained and preserved within a jewel for each.

He expected her to glare at him, or accuse him or just shout at him, but instead she just took a step closer and looked at the bench.

Scooting over, he watched her sit down, her knees touching and tilted to the side. Graymalkin stretched after she put him down on her lap and got up, patting over onto Basil’s lap where he walked in a circle, then rubbed his face against Basil’s hand, once, before he curled up and went to sleep.

Basil looked down at his cat, petting him behind the ears, before he looked up at Vasiliki again.

Once more, he had no idea what to say.

Her eyes searched his face, for something. He couldn’t tell whether she found what she looked for.

”I’m so sorry, Basil,” she said, her voice thick. “Eudocia, she told me what happened. I came as soon as I could.”

He looked away, unable to meet that soulful gaze of hers. “It is over,” he said, lamely. He couldn’t say that it was alright, or anything like that. He didn’t want to.

”I wish we could’ve… that maybe,” she choked on the words, and he could hear renewed tears in her voice. “I tried to come up with some kind of healing spell, but nothing worked. Maybe, if w-“

”I thought you would be angry at me,” he cut her off, unable to bear listening to her say exactly what he himself was thinking. “I would have expected you to scream at me, not…”

”Angry at you,” she said in a neutral tone. “Of course I’m angry at you, you blockhead,” she continued, her voice both softer and harder at the same time. “More than you know.”

He kept his eyes averted. “I am sorry,” he said, feeling his stomach turn over and over. “I am sorry, but I could not betray her. Even if she may deserve it, I could not have turned against her, not even when I learned that she had killed your-“

”Is that really what you think I’m angry about?” she asked in a disbelieving, pained voice. “Do you really know me so little?” There was honest, true pain in her voice, like he’d just struck her.

He was so surprised he turned his head and looked at her, at the tears running down her cheeks and the wet eyes with the red veins running through them. Opening his mouth, he didn’t know what to say but tried…

“Did you really think I’d be angry at you for standing by your family?” she pressed on, not giving him the chance to say anything. “That I, of all people, would resent you for choosing your blood over the law?” Her hands clenched on her lap, digging into the soft, warm fabric of her skirt. “I really thought you knew me better, Basil.”

It was like a stab right into his heart, as the pieces fell into place, slowly but surely. Renewing his tears along the way.

”I’m angry because you didn’t tell me,” she snarled the words. “We’re… we’re teammates, we’re friends, we’re… We haven’t known each other for very long, I know that, just a few months, and yet it feels like I’ve known you for so long, and I thought you felt the same way.”

“I do,” he croaked, now unable to avert his eyes from hers.

”Somehow, in those few months, you’ve become… my best friend,” she said, softly. “More so than Dalia. Even more so than Stephie, and I’ve known her since I was five.” Her frame shook with a sob, as she briefly averted her eyes to take out a delicate handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it, before blowing her nose. Not that it helped much, as the tears were immediately replaced. “You’re my friend, you’re my brother, you’re m-“ She cut herself off, briefly, then started again. “I care for you,” she continued, though she seemed to have meant to say something else, at first. “And I trusted you. And I thought that you trusted me.”

”I should have,” he admitted, feeling another weight settle on his shoulders.

”But you didn’t,” she pressed on, rightfully accusing him. “You didn’t trust me. You didn’t trust me that I’d not do something stupid if you told me, or that I’d leave, or that I’d turn against you. You didn’t trust me and you left me to interact with my soi’s murderer! I laughed with her, I hugged her, I treated her to food in my family’s restaurant!” She all but screamed at him, her every word cutting into his heart like a red-hot knife. “That may seem silly to some, but it matters to me.”

She finally turned away, wiping tears away with her bare hand. “But you know what hurts the most? It’s realising that you never trusted me to begin with. And that, that’s what breaks my heart, above all and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t be putting this on you now, not when you just lost Prisca,” she bent over, burying her face in her hands. “You’ve gone through so much, and you’re a good person, a good hero, but I just can’t, can’t get over the fact that the boy I fell in love with lied to me the whole time we were together!”

He hadn’t thought he could possibly feel any worse anymore, but he’d been wrong. He hadn’t even thought of it like that. That he’d been betraying her trust – and she had told him everything about herself, had never held anything back whenever it had come up, and he’d…

Then her last sentence reached his brain and everything crashed.

Graymalkin opened his eyes and looked up at him, and somehow he seemed to understand something of what was going on, as he looked just infinitely annoyed at him.

”L-love?” he stammered, looking at her with wide eyes.

She looked right back, face flushed bright red. “I know this is absolutely not the time, but… really? You never noticed at all?” she asked, sounding simultaneously amused and heartbroken. “Why am I not surprised?”

He cast his mind back, through his memories, looking for any signs of it, any hints, anything…

”I never noticed… anything…” he admitted.

”Basil, I’d say something like ‘what does a girl have to do, rip off her clothes and dance naked in front of you?’ except I did that and you still didn’t get it.”

He thought back to that particular occasion.

”But… that was for an experiment… and you need to be naked to perform some of your rituals…”

“Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar Brant-Blake,” she spoke his full name with perfect pronounciation and in the most dry voice he’d ever heard as she rolled her eyes, “When a girl, any girl, willingly strips naked in front of you and dances, no matter the reason she admits to, and it’s not a life-threatening situation, then you can safely assume that she’s trying to express some interest in you!” By the end of it, her face was glowing brighter than the Dark’s eyes.

Basil leaned back on the bench, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly, as he looked down at Graymalkin to avoid looking at her.

”Oh,” was all he managed to say.

”Yeah, ‘oh’,” Vasiliki replied, leaning back as well and putting her hands down to her left and right, the fingers of one hand briefly brushing over his fingers. “Basil, you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met and I love you, but sometimes, you’re a fucking idiot.”

”…”

He stared down at his cat, feeling like said fucking idiot.

I’ve really fucked it up completely, haven’t I? he couldn’t help but think. I lost Prisca. I failed to save her, even after trying for so long, going so far. And I broke my best friend’s heart all along the way, as well.

”I’m such an idiot,” he said, letting the tears run.

She only gave an unrefined grunt in response.

They sat there like that, being snowed upon and ignoring the cold, their hands nearly touching on the bench, but not quite, as she stared off into the distance and he looked down at his cat, rubbing his ears and making him pur.

Suddenly, the quiet contemplation was interrupted by a sudden spike of pain in his head, making his hand shoot up from Graymalkin’s head to his own, as he barely bit down on a scream.

”Basil? Basil, what’s wrong?” Vasiliki asked, frantically. “Did something happen?” She looked around, frantically, as if expecting to find a threat.

Then she fell quiet, and Basil realised that the street beyond the park had gone entirely quiet.

Graymalkin on his lap had turned his head towards said street, looking at something there with feline disapproval.

He followed his cat’s gaze, slowly, until he saw the street, where everyone had stopped moving.

Cars stood in the middle of the street, some with their engines still running, as their drivers either leaned out of their windows or stood next to them, looking up in blank horror.

On the sidewalk, people had stopped doing what they’d been doing and stared up with matching expressions. A mother knelt in the snow, hugging her child and sobbing bitterly, as the little boy stared up without comprehension. Two girls around Basil’s and Vasiliki’s age were hugging each other, tears running down their cheeks as they, too looked up.

Everywhere he looked, the same scene repeated itself, over and over, until he saw it.

A strand of light, glowing softly, so white it made the fresh snow look dirty, its tip two metre or so above the ground.

Vasiliki’s hand found his, her fingers intertwining themselves with his and squeezing them, seeking comfort.

He followed the strand of light up, and up and up, as more strands joined it, becoming a single, impossibly long mass of glowing white hear, leading up to a pair of delicate feet with nails which glowed in the exact same colour. The feet led up to long, lovely, flawless legs, bare, that joined into a gentle V-shape at the top. Above that, a flat stomach and a pair of large, but not disproportionate breasts, leading to a swan-like, flawless neck. At her sides, long, delicate arms with fingers that looked like they’d been crafted to play the piano, long, delicate and smooth, tipped with glowing nails a few centimetre longer than usual.

Atop it all, a face so impossibly, unnaturally beautiful, it could have made artists cry for being unable to ever truly do it justice, were it not marred by an utter lack of expression, her lips slightly parted open, her eyes blazing white, uncaringly, seeming to look at no one and nothing at all. Even her eyebrows were sculpted to perfection, and glowed as if they were made of light.

Snowflakes fell around and onto her, but none of them reached her skin, nor were they melted by any body heat; rather, they slid down her form, stirred by the cold wind to dance around her as they fell, creating a gorgeous dress, as ephemeral as a dream and just as beautiful.

The pain in Basil’s head intensified as above, light spread across the sky, slowly branching down towards the ground in the distance, the branches broadening to fill out and cover the heavens entirely.

Bree Whitaker’s, Desolation-in-Light’s, blazing eyes swept over Basil and Vasiliki and he knew for a fact that they saw neither of them.

Basil squeezed Vasiliki’s hand back.

Finally, he felt numb.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Basil, Desolation-in-Light, Graymalkin, Hecate, Primrose, Prisca
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Venus Spy Catcher: Part 9

In My Daydreams

Maru looked up at me, blinking, as the door opened. It wasn’t that he was especially short. It was just that the door to the ship was a couple feet off the ground.

As he stepped inside, I realized that, if anything, he might be taller than I was. The stealth suit in “silver fake Xiniti mode” gave me an inch or two.

He met my eyes or at least the part of the helmet and mirror shade lenses that covered them. “I’m sorry to interrupt. Jadzen heard that you’d talked to Iolan and then Geman and Dalat and then disappeared into your ship.

“Is anything wrong?”

Jadzen was keeping a closer eye on us than I’d expected, but given what I’d seen of her, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I shook my head. “No. We’re just investigating. Iolan, Geman, and Dalat all gave us some good ideas. We’re checking out the ansible to see if we can find anything there. After that, we’ll follow wherever it leads us.”

Maru nodded as I talked. “I see. I hope you don’t mind that I ask, but I’m sure Jadzen would like to know where you think this investigation is going. What have you learned from the ansible so far?”

I shrugged. “Nothing. Literally nothing at all. We just downloaded piles of information from it, but we haven’t had any chance to look at it yet.”

His lips tightened for a moment. “Surely you must know something. You asked the ansible for information. That means you had a question to ask. Even that might help Jadzen figure it out on her own.”

From behind me, Cassie said, “That would ruin the surprise.”

He blinked, staring at her, and I didn’t blame him. In the half darkness of the cabin, half of her costume reflected the light coming through the cockpit window while the other half was dark, reflecting the darkness in the rest of the ship. On her hip hung an Abominator gun (which he might have recognized) and on her back hung her father’s sword. Even though he probably didn’t know what it could do, its purpose was obvious.

She took a couple steps forward, stopping just behind me and to the right and folding her arms across her chest.

He took a step backward. “Surprise?”

There was no denying it. Even in practically the same costume, she did intimidation much better than I did. I could have blamed it on her weapons, but it probably had more to with her attitude—or maybe mine.

She smiled at him, her mouth slowly widening. “The surprise. If we figure out that there is a mole and then find out who it is, we want to surprise him, her, it or whatever.”

I nodded at him. “That doesn’t mean we won’t tell Jadzen. I’m sure she’ll be one of the first people to know, but we’re going to be careful about it. ‘Loose lips sink ships,’ right?”

He blinked, not recognizing the World War 2 era slogan. “Ah. Absolutely.”

“It’s an old saying on my world,” I said, smiling in the hope that maybe I’d balance out Cassie. “My grandfather used to say it. It meant that you shouldn’t say too much because you never knew who might be listening.”

Nodding, he said, “That’s educational. We’ve had similar folk sayings that date back to the Abominators, but I think that’s the first I’ve heard that talks about ocean going boats.”

“Huh,” I said.

“There is one other matter that I should bring up and I hope you don’t take it badly.” He looked me up and down, glanced over at Cassie, froze, and then back at me. “Jadzen’s daughter—Kals—was seen talking to you.”

I considered that and reached for the first thought that popped into my head. “Is that against some custom here? It seemed like everyone was talking to everyone. And she wasn’t holding herself back from talking to people…”

He gave a quick laugh. “No. There’s nothing like that. It’s more that she might want to leave and you have a starship. We’re worried that she might ask you to take her with you when you go, or maybe she might persuade you to bring her somewhere else before you leave.”

I frowned. “That wouldn’t make a lot of sense. We can only take jumpspace—which means a week either way—by which time this will either be over because the Xiniti arrived or over because the Human Ascendancy found you. Either way, that would be hugely irresponsible on my part, so that’s not happening.”

He met my eyes. “You might not have a choice. Kals may not have told you, but she’s trained as a motivator and trained at one of the better schools the Human Ascendancy has. Now, I’ve seen that you have a motivator-mute, but someday she may find you without it and then reason will not matter. You’ll simply obey.”

As I tried to figure out how I wanted to respond, Cassie jumped in. “Why are you so worried about her? Has she tried something like that before? ”

Maru shook his head. “No. It’s that she doesn’t want to be here and she’s always done what she wants instead of what people tell her to. She’s very much like her mother in that way. Jadzen joined the resistance even though much of the Ascendancy hates it, and where would we be if she hadn’t? Kals wants her old life back and if she makes it off this planet, we may lose everything. Before you say anything, I’m not suggesting she’ll betray us willingly, but there are motivators good enough to get you to tell them anything you know.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Brennus File 16: Meta-Powers

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “Meta” rating is the most nebulous power classification there is, encompassing a wide variety of effects with only one commonalty: they are powers about powers. From the power nullifier all the way to the power granter, any metahuman whose abilities affect their own or others’ powers earns a Meta rating.

No two powers are ever exactly alike (there are cases of two people having the same power, but in that case, they literally have the same power, not a power each which are exactly alike) and this counts double for Meta powers – not only is the power itself always unique in some form, but it’s also most likely going to show differences in how it interacts with any other power, some obvious, some subtle – and it’s the details that can be the most important.

Furthermore, responses to Meta-powers have to be as varied as the abilities themselves – against a power nullifier, a power mimic or a power thief, you’ll usually want to rely purely on normal human troops, while fighting a power shifter or someone who grants powers to their minions requires that one throws as many and as powerful metahumans at them as possible to overwhelm their power advantage.

So why not just split the classification further? Well, because, for one, there are already so many different ratings and complicating it even further is not well-advised. Furthermore, there are some common themes that run through all Meta-powers, perhaps not pertaining to how to combat them, but to where they come from and how they may function.

Above all, though, ratings are not meant to be the be-all end-all in figuring out how to deal with a threat. When you’re in the heat of combat and you hear “Meta!”, that means you assume the worst and verify the situation first before proceeding. Metahuman assets are pulled back until the nature of the threat is understood. It means you assume that things are going to get weird, because no powers ever get quite as weird (barring time-manipulation) as meta-powers.

In fact, weird could well serve as an alternate classification for meta-powers.

***

Common Origins

Meta-Powers as the dominant/main power all but always arise from Origins in which other powers were heavily involved – it can’t have been just other metahumans playing a role, but rather, their powers had to be a deciding factor. A much rarer form of Origin is one in which there was a distinct lack of any theme, an absence of input.

In technical literature, there are four accepted  types of Origins for Meta-Powers, and Meta-Powers themselves are classified according to those four types. The four known classes are Plus, Minus, Null and Wyrd.

Interestingly, these terms were taken from the remnants of Gwen Whitaker’s own research notes, a stack of which she handed over to a Canadian research team in 1981 in secret. Someone must have let that slip, though, and several villains, as well as at least one Intelligence Agency, attacked the lab trying to obtain them. During the resulting chaos, the lab and the notes were destroyed, with only a single page (partially) left over, on which these four words as well as fragmentary descriptions could be made out.

Someone later published those same pages and they became the basis of much speculation, due to their cryptic nature, as well as the basis for the classification of Meta-Powers.

In detail, the four Types of Origins are described as:

Plus
This term is applied to Origins where powers played a positive role. They may arise from someone being protected by a power during a crisis, being healed or otherwise supported by powers (such as a person manifesting while under the effect of a power-granting power). This most commonly results in powers which, in turn, affect other powers in a positive way – enhancing powers, granting powers, mimicing powers and such.

Minus
The exact opposite of Plus, the term ‘Minus’ refers to Origins which involve a negative relationship to powers. Someone who’s being electrocuted by an Electrokinetic, or being mind-controlled or otherwise harmed in some fashion, be it physically, emotionally or mentally. This tends to heavily emphasise powers which affect other powers in a negative fashion: countering powers, negating powers, shielding from powers, stealing powers and so on.

Null
One of the rarest kinds of Origins of all are those which are so lacking in definition as to be best described as empty. A person has lost all their memories and has not yet had time to build much of a foundation for their personality, lacking the usual lifetime of experience that powers mold themselves to. An abused child, kept locked up in a room since birth, leaves its prison for the first time. Two girls manifest powers before even being born, having not yet made a single experience for their powers to refer to.
With such an utter absence of definition, the resulting powers usually lack definition of their own and work with that – power mimics, thieves and shifters are most commonly Nulls.

Wyrd
As the name might imply, this is possibly the weirdest kind of Origin one can have – Wyrds are those who manifest due to or while a power breaks reality in the viscinity or in relation to them. A man manifests while caught in a time loop. A child manifests while being teleported away from its mother. A youth manifests as a cataclysm shatters the world around him, setting him adrift between realities. A girl manifests after her own death.
When reality itself no longer applies, the weirdest of all powers are born. Unlimited power shifters (often with heavy drawbacks), powers which interact with reality, including other powers, through non-standard vectors. The specific law of reality which was broken tends to heavily inform the resulting power (if time was broken, then the resulting power will often involve a temporal aspect; if space was broken, there will be a spatial theme).
These are the rarest of rare Origins, with only four confirmed cases known.

***

The Results

While the individual powers tend to be extremely diverse, there are some common types of effects that can be described:

Negation
All but exclusively Minuses, these powers reduce other powers in some fashion. This can range from reducing the intensity of an effect all the way to negating it entirely. However, few are so powerful and comprehensive as to categorically negate any power at all – the strongest known Negator, Ember,  found himself unable to negate the Dark’s power, with the implication that it wasn’t that the Dark was unique in some form, but that there was a flaw even in his power – aside from the fact that he had to be touching his target anyway.
Most Power Negators usually work in a lesser fashion, such as dampening powers, cutting down their effect by a set percentage, or preventing them from being used under specific circumstances.
While not technically power negators, metahumans who add negative side-effects to other metahuman’s powers are usually lumped in together with Negators.

Enhancement
In contrast, these powers arise all but exclusively from Plus Origins. Enhancers boost the powers of other metahumans to varying degrees. This can mean outright boosting its raw power (flames burn hotter, strongmen lift more weight, teleporters reach further) or affecting other parameters – making powers easier to use, negating negative side-effects, preventing backlash, and so on.

Power Control
The power to control another’s power while still leaving it in their hands. This can range from having complete control over another person’s power to merely being able to set when it is used, but not how (or the inverse) or to affect a single parameter (like being able to determine at what range a power will take effect if used, or preventing it from turning off).

Endowment
The ability to grant powers to others; specifically, while Enhancers improve on existing powers, Endowers add powers, either to metahumans, norms or both. This may well be the most coveted kind of power there is, at least as far as the world’s governments are concerned.

Mimicry
Being able to copy powers (usually with some limitation) used by other metahumans. Very rarely able to assume powers on a permanent basis, and even then only with other limitations (such as being able to retain a copied power permanently, but only being able to hold three such powers at a time). The prototypical Meta-Power.

Theft
Powers which steal powers from other metahumans. The difference between these and Mimics is that Mimics generally don’t affect the ‘target’, Power Thieves most definitely do, reducing their powers in some fashion, in the rarest cases even permanently!

Cultivation
The ability to grow powers over time, often adjusting them as they so grow. Only two known cases, both the result of Wyrd Origins.

Adaptation
Gaining powers in response to specific circumstances (such as assuming defensive abilities suited to environmental threats, or the feared Nemesis-type, who gain powers suited to fighting a specific metahuman they target).

Shifting
Similar to Adaptation, only more active, with the metahuman being able to actively choose powers, usually from a limited (but not necessarily fixed) selection.

***

Exemplary Metas

  • Desolation-in-Light: Generally considered to be the most powerful metahuman short of the Godking of Mars, DiL has an apparently unrestricted ability to choose multiple top-tier powers at will (on top of at least two major permanent abilities). One of two known pre-natal manifestations.
  • Gloom Glimmer: DiL’s younger sister and the only other pre-natal manifestation known, Gloomy’s power can provide an apparently unlimited variety of powers, though she has little in the way of actual control over what she gets – and sometimes over how to use it, even – and can only try to hold onto or push away a given ability, hoping that her power will cooperate for once. Fortunately, her control has been improving as of late.
  • Baba Yaga: A Null if there ever was one, Baba Yaga awoke with no name, no past nor much in the way of higher thought, but with the ability to permanently steal the powers of any metahuman of whom she gains a sufficient genetic sample, gaining them at full strength. Recently she’s also demonstrated the ability to bestow these same powers unto others, losing access to them herself in the process.
  • General Disarray: One of the founding members and current leader of the Chaos Corps, a British team of (borderline) supervillains and the Archenemies of Lord Buckethead’s Gremloids, General Disarray is capable of enhancing or dampening any metahuman power within about a block of himself, as well as controlling any power in use (he can’t force someone to use their power, but if they do, he controls it, so long as it happens within his range).
  • Major Mayhem: Another founding member of the Chaos Corps, Major Mayhem is a power thief. He can drain other metahuman’s powers by punching (or otherwise striking) them, draining a bit of their energy with each hit (the bigger the hit the more he takes). Powers so diminished recover over a short amount of time, unless he manages to land enough hits to drain a hundred percent, in which case it takes days for them to recover. He can himself use a lesser version of any such power (a tenth of its original strength at most, no matter how much he drains), running on a limited charge based on how much he drained. The charges don’t run out on their own, so he can store a wide selection of powers until he needs them.
  • Corporal Disorder: The first teenage (and female) member of the Chaos Corps’ ‘Brass’, Corporal Disorder can empower any physical object she touches (usually her gloves, bullets she fires or, most commonly, the pellets in a gadgeteer-made paintball gun) with an effect which scrambles the the nerve signals of anyone they hit, with the effect growing more and more discombobulating the more often the power is applied. If she hits metahumans, the effect also spreads to their power, causing it to go out of control.
  • Ember: Among his many, many, many other abilities, Ember was capable of simply shutting off the powers of any metahuman whom he managed to physically touch with his hands. The limits of this ability (other than the limited range) are unknown, though the Dark’s ability to counter it certainly proves there is at least one.
  • Queen Madeleine: One of only two known Power Cultivators, Madeleine started off with but a single ability (being able to increase or reduce her own density) and cultivated more and more powers over time. Currently, six God-Tier powers have been confirmed, including a much more powerful version of her original density-manipulating power, as well as the ability to control the effects of any one power within her sight (giving her both a main and derived meta-rating). She is now working on her seventh.
  • Cyclops: A Greek supervillain and one of the few confirmed Wyrd Manifestations, Cyclops manifested while stuck in a time loop with the ability to assume any power at all, but only one at a time. Each power comes with a time limit, after which it disappears, only to be replaced by another. Both the time limit and the number of powers he can choose from after each such cycle vary due to unknown factors, a great source of frustration for him.
  • Aphrodite III: The third Aphrodite, a member of the Olympians, can enhance or reduce the powers of any metahuman by touch, with the effect petering out over time. The longer and more intense the contact, the stronger the effect.
  • Rounds: The leader of the New Lennston United Heroes’ team, already mentioned in the Spawner file. He can create spectral copies of any metahuman he touches, which have one half of the original’s powers, while he gains the other half, for as long as the copy persists. Can make up to twelve such copies.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Files
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

The Great Western Taunt

Semicoop

Great Western Trail is a highly appraised game by many people and it’s even on number 11 of the Board Game Geek ranking list! … It’s totally taunting us standing there on one of our shelves. It’s been at our house for multiple weeks now, but we just haven’t had the time to tackle this big and great game, But we really really want to, because the game mechanics seem so interesting. Hopefully: SOON! 😀

Until then, we amuse ourselves with shorter games on normal weekdays like Pandemic Legacy. We tried beating the practice game again last week, and we lost AGAIN on the last turn. It’s definitely bad luck and not our lack of skill. 😉 We’re going to try again tonight and we hope to beat this monster and finally get started on January. I’ll let you know next week if we finally beat it or not.

The end of 2017 is nearing and that means it’s almost time for Semi Co-op’s Golden Standees! And like last year, we would like to invite our readers to participate in the People’s Choice awards! 😀 We really enjoyed giving people a platform to express their cool ideas and creativity. Remember that you really don’t need drawing skills to participate – stick figures or a photo can be really funny as well.

More info on how to participate in the blog post next week. 

Remember that we added an item to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction? It raised far more money that we could have imagined and we’re so grateful that we were able to help other people in such a fun way. We’ve made a custom Semi Co-op avatar for Ashley and this is the result!

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Nov 22, 2017 at 10:33am PST

Do you have any unplayed games in your collection that you really want to play but you just lack the time?

The post The Great Western Taunt appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Venus Spy Catcher: Part 8

In My Daydreams

My implant requested that it be allowed to present my identification as a Xiniti representative. I gave it my approval and added that I’d need to keep a connection to the ship’s AI as it was my assistant. Cassie must have had the same conversation because the door opened and we were both allowed to enter. A small glowing representation of the ship followed me just as a representation of the gun floated on her hip.

As we floated through the door, Cassie glanced over at me. “For a second I thought it wouldn’t let the gun in. Abominator tech sets off alarms for these peo… Uh… things.”

I didn’t reply as I was looking at the room we’d stepped into.

It wasn’t really a room, of course. It was actually a representation generated by my implant to help me feel comfortable.

If it was supposed to help me feel comfortable though, I wasn’t sure how well my implant was interfacing with my brain because this place was at best weird. I can only assume that my brain contains more Steampunk than I remember reading because the room was somebody’s Steampunk dream.

We stood in front of a wooden counter. On top of the counter was an unidentifiable brass machine that looked like a combination of a cash register and a typewriter. It had a flat, glass surrounded area at the top where letters and numbers appeared. For example, at that moment, the letters said, “WELCOME.” While the side that faced us was flat, the keys from a typewriter filled the other side.

No one stood there to press them, though.

Behind the counter, several bins lay on the floor, all of them filled with envelopes. New envelopes poured out of one glass tube. Another glass tube pulled them in with brass gears, flashing each envelope with a light before letting the wind in the tube pull it away, turning it into a small white blur that shot down the tube to the outside.

Leaning toward Cassie, I asked, “Are you seeing some kind of steampunk post office, too?”

She looked around, staring at the brass machine on the counter for a little while before saying, “If that’s what all the old timey tubes and gears mean, then yes.”

Well, at least we were seeing the same thing. That would make communicating easier.

I stepped closer to the counter. “Cool. That’ll be less confusing.”

Cassie stepped in front of the machine and said, “I guess. So, what’s your plan?”

“I’m working on that.” I checked the brass machine. It still said “WELCOME.”

What did I know? I knew that local admin accounts were hidden from the operating system running the ansible, that no local admins’ accounts but the default one had their actions logged, and that there was unexplained bandwidth usage before and after Jadzen Akri’s trips into Human Ascendancy space. Plus, I knew that Rinson, their ansible tech, had created the modifications to allow this and then conveniently died—becoming tiger/terrier food.

Finally, whatever I did, it couldn’t turn off the hidden accounts or the lack of logging or I risked exposing the colony’s existence and location to everyone using the ansible network.

Whoever the mole was had either manipulated or forced Rinson to create an account and then arranged for a force shield malfunction. While that wasn’t a good thing, it did have one good side effect—it meant that the mole probably wasn’t technically competent too.

That meant they might not be thinking about all the possible reporting options an ansible had—which meant that rather than use the ansible personally at a different time than their admin account, they might use one after the other, assuming that the admin account was hidden and nothing it did would be logged.

Not sure what to talk to, I decided to address the device on the counter. “I’d like a log of all the communications made before, after, or during the periods where there is unaccounted bandwidth use, starting three days ago. This should include accounts of those communicating.”

Cassie leaned in. “And I’d like a list of any calls made to the Human Ascendancy along with times during that period. Send it to his AI.”

The counter device made a clunking noise and the word “WELCOME” was replaced by “SEARCHING.”

I thought about it. It was a good idea. I came up with a few variations on the idea which basically amounted to the same search before the trip and also a search based on unaccounted bandwidth use in general, even outside of the periods when Iolan noticed it.

It seamed like a good start anyhow. It would probably take us hours to go through it or, alternately, seconds for HAL to go through it.

Then the counter device made a series of clunking noises and the word “DELIVERED” appeared. Hal confirmed that he’d received the data.

With that, we left, coming back to our senses in the cockpit of the ship, and realizing as I did, that someone’s was knocking on the ship’s door.

I looked out the window to see Maru, Jadzen’s assistant. He was alone, so it probably wasn’t an emergency. Clicking on the door release, I decided to find out what he wanted.

image image image
  • open
  • next
more
mark as read