In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 17

In My Daydreams

Into my helmet, I asked, “Why?”

Cassie paused before answering. “I don’t know. We don’t really know this guy. He’s buttering you up, trying to make a connection because his people do tech stuff too?”

“To be fair, I did kind of ask him to butter me up.” Then I turned my attention to him. “Can you prevent your people from going after the colonists?”

His eyes narrowed and he frowned a little. “I can here. As long as the colonists keep up their disappearing act until our people come here, I’ve got a good chance of persuading people it’s not worth the trouble of finding them. I’m sure they have people who know how to hide from our equipment. If our people have any whiff of them, I won’t have any choice in the matter, but whatever you’re doing now is working.”

Over the comm, Jaclyn said, “I’m tempted to give him a chance. If the Xiniti show up first, it won’t matter what weapons we have, but if the Ascendancy shows up first, we’ll need him.”

“Seriously?” Cassie’s tone couldn’t have made her doubt more obvious.

Marcus cut in. “Tikki thinks you should listen to him.”

“I do.” Tikki’s voice sounded distant—which it would. Even if Marcus had his helmet open, I’d designed the microphone to record as little as possible beyond the user’s voice.

Then I thought about what she’d said. If Tikki were just Tikki, I might not have given it too much more thought, but given that Tikki was Kee, avatar of what amounted to one of Lee’s childhood friends, I had to give it more.

I looked Four Hands in the eyes and said, “Okay. I’ll do it.”

I released the final two killbots and let them roll out of the compartment under my forearm and into my left hand. I’d deleted the software first, figuring that even if I was willing to give out the hardware, I wasn’t willing to allow someone to try to figure out every detail of the system.

Then for the at least the next twenty minutes, probably more, I described how the bots worked, including key details that explained how it had managed to get as far past Kamia’s shield as it did.

He got it. He even suggested a couple ideas that might get the bots further through an Abominator shield. Assuming they weren’t red herrings, they were worth an experiment or two when I got back home. The only bad point being that I’d have to grab an Abominator force field on the way out and for all that I always wanted to grab new technology, it never seemed to work out.

The rare exceptions seemed to be alien tech. I was still getting ideas out of the alien robot we’d grabbed. So, it wasn’t unreasonable that I might be able to grab a force field to experiment with.

When Four Hands appeared to have grasped the basic concepts involved in constructing the killbots, I asked him. “Do you know if there are any spare Abominator style shields that I could experiment on when I get home?”

He shook his head. “They’re closely held pieces of hardware. The only one I have easy access to is mine and I’m going to need it when I make a run for it.”

I couldn’t deny he had a point there. And anyway, the sonics were even more effective against shields and I knew I had no intention of passing that on. We’d need that advantage if the Ascendancy’s fleet appeared.

“Understood,” I tried to think if I had anything else I wanted to ask him before we all disappeared and hid. “So what are you going to do if Kamia and Neves track us down?”

He frowned and clasped his (upper) hands together. “I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll do my best to avoid fighting you. You’ll have a better chance against them when I’m not there. I can’t do much more than that except to miss more often than normal if you’re in my sights. Well, that and what I said earlier. If you don’t give us a good reason to search for you, I’ll do what I can to keep everyone here.”

“That’s something,” I glanced down toward the dead firepit and then out at the tent city around us. “I can’t ask for much more than that.”

He grinned suddenly, “But I can give more than that. My people have a relationship with the Waroo. You fought them on K’Tepolu. They’re enormous beast-like mercenaries. We hire them when we need muscle. There’s a Waroo ship in the system and they’re looking for you.”

“Oh,” I said, “if you could manage to not mention that I’m here, that would be great.”

“No kidding,” Marcus said over the comm.

Four Hands laughed. “It’s better than you think. I’m not sure why, but when I talked to them, it sounded like they felt like they owed you. They told me to give you one of our distress calls. You can call them once and they’ll perform a service for you. If it’s an extended service, you’ll have to haggle about details, but if it’s simple and short, they’ll do it without argument.”

He held out a metal disc and I stared at it. “I’m not trying to trap you,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell you about this if we couldn’t come to an agreement.”

I took the disc. I was already trusting him with the killbots. In for a penny…

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Semicoop

Decision Tea

Semicoop

Tea Dragon Society and Dinosaur Tea Party are two games that are on our ‘Need to check these games out at Spiel’-list! They are two totally different games, but they share the same incredibly niche theme. 😀 We can’t wait to organize a high tea game day with these two games and of course Marrying Mr. Darcy. We will totally cramp up our pinky finger because of holding it up in the air while sipping tea for so long. CAN’T WAIT. Preferably in cosplay. We’ll post a picture on Instagram when the time comes. 😉
We noticed that the list of games we want to check out on Spiel is growing rapidly. Luckily we will be there for the entire convention this time, so we might actually be able to look at all all the games on our list in real life. This is probably a terribly naive thing to think – we’ll see!

For those who don’t know, every week we try to post something extra on our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/semicoop) with the weekly comic updates, like the sketch of that week’s comic or other sketches I’ve made. By becoming a patron and you’ll receive a notification when we post something new so you’ll never miss anything!

And this coming Thursday we’ve got a surprise and an introduction of something new here on the website for you all! Definitely check back later this week, we’re excited because we’ve been working on this for quite a while already!

Dragons or Dinosaurs?!

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In My Daydreams

Hoping to Update Tonight

In My Daydreams

Last night at about 3:40am, a bunch of cars pulled up in front of our house, blasting loud music. When people got out, there was a lot of shouting with someone obviously being threatened by another person.

Someone called the police and eventually the music stopped and the people left.

I was up until 5am, watching and listening. As such, I am tired. I’ll be writing, but I can’t promise I’ll finish tonight.

Where are supers when you need them, eh?

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 16

In My Daydreams

For a moment, I heard silence as Jaclyn processed that. Then, “As long as you’re not being attacked we’re coming out ahead of what we expected. Keep us in the loop.”

“I’ll broadcast the conversation.”

“Okay.”

To Four Hands I said, “How would handing off the technology work? I don’t have the plans here. They’re mostly in my head. I can describe them to you, but honestly, there are a bunch of little things that I might not remember to say. I’d suggest knowledge transfer via implant, but you’ve got an Ascendancy implant and I’ve got a Xiniti implant and both of them might have internal programming that we don’t know about.”

Four Hands grinned. “We know more about the implants than most people. We designed and built the Ascendancy military’s, but you’re right. They include protections and the military implants are especially suspicious about unusual connections. What I’d suggest is that if you have any that I can take and then describe your methods of construction, we’ll probably be able to figure out the rest.”

I let out a breath. “I’ve only got two left.”

“That’s all?” He cocked his head to the side, looking at me.

“Back home I don’t generally need to kill people. In fact, if I did kill people when I didn’t need to, I’m pretty sure I’d get in big trouble. So, I generally don’t have more than five killbots on me because I pretty much never use them and they’re a bother to make and I have to maintain them if I expect to have them work after a month of sitting in my armor waiting to be used, much less a year of waiting to be used. All of these are about a year old. Anyway, I didn’t expect this kind of mission. I probably should have, given the Xiniti, but even then, maybe not. I didn’t need killbots when we got invaded. My standard bots were good enough. Anyway, I’ve got two, and I’m not sure I want to give them away.”

I considered ending there, but decided that it wasn’t enough. “I want to help you, but honestly, I don’t know if I should trust you. Anyone can say they want to take out the Ascendancy, but doing it is another thing. Plus, if you think about it, what you’re doing is asking me to give up my most effective weapon for analysis. You’re not offering to help me or surrender. You’re offering to let us go, but if you think about it, we don’t even need that. We’ve got a ship. In theory, we could use it to get fairly high up and fire on the group of you till you’re dead. Obviously, that doesn’t feel right to me, but we could. So, in addition, to telling me why I should give you those bots, I’d like to know why you’re trusting me at all, and also, why it makes sense for me to do this your way.”

He nodded. “I understand. It’s not every warrior that would give up one of their weapons to someone they’ve been fighting. It doesn’t make sense and you need to know why you can trust me. It’s all wrapped up with why I believe I can trust you. You’ve seen my people. We fix things. We don’t get involved in fights. We serve those who are stronger than we are. I’m unusual because I decided to fight instead of serve, but I can do both, much like you can.

“Like you, I’ve had to root out my hesitation to kill. It’s still more natural for me to run and avoid the fight than to take part in it. We have access to files on you from the spy in your ranks. Before she died, she sent us word that you hailed from a planet where Abominator bred humans had left their genes to mix randomly. I don’t know who your ancestors were but your ability to invent is unusual even among our kind. I’d like to believe that you’re descended from one of us.”

We had lied to the colonists about that, but it wasn’t untrue. Abominator bred had come back to Earth and Abominator created genes had been loosed among our population in many different ways. It was more likely that my ability and the four-handers’ descended from some common ancestor than the other way around, but who could say?

Four Hands watched me, eyes steady as he continued. “I’ve seen footage of your fights and you don’t kill every time you can and when you do, as with the stampede, it’s because you don’t have other realistic options. The fact that you hold to that despite the temptation to go another way makes me think I can deal with you and that you can deal with me. I think you’ll want to because if I prevent our people from going after the colonists, it will cause less death than the alternative. Then, if I can end the Ascendancy, it will be even better.”

In my head, Cassie said, “I’m not sure I buy it.”

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Semicoop

One of a kind

Semicoop

A few months ago, Fantasy Flight Games presented a new concept of theirs: unique games! Firstly announced was Keyforge. A card game of which not a single deck is the same. There is no deck-building, there are no booster packs, none of that. You buy a Keyforge deck and that’s it, that’s your deck! The decks even have their own unique card backs and a unique name. We’re really intrigued by this concept and are really looking forward to trying it. Later, FFG presented another unique game, Discover: Lands Unknown. This clearly is a step up being a board game instead of a card game with unique character combinations, environments, tools, etc.

And now we’re very curious how far FFG will take their new unique games concept in 2019. 😉

Last week we’ve been mostly playing Root. There is so much to discover in that box and we’ve been really enjoying it so far. We played a co-op game against the Mechanical Marquise and that almost felt as if we were playing Pandemic. And we finally continued our Gloomhaven campaign, our 13th game – hurray! My character is now level 5 and is able to do some really powerful stuff. Good times.

Are you excited about unique games?

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 15

In My Daydreams

“I don’t need to hear you out. The Human Ascendancy is horrible. They literally mind control their people, implant suggestions in their heads, force them to watch and betray people they care about… I literally saw someone’s head explode because she’d been manipulated by them. I don’t want to help you guys take over all of human space. I mean, honestly, that’s about the last thing I want.”

Even as I said it, I knew that that wasn’t the best answer possible. The best answer possible was one that would keep the conversation going indefinitely while everyone got into position. This answer amounted to shouting, “I’ll never join you!”

Shortly after that line, Darth Vader revealed himself to be Luke’s father and Luke jumped down an air shaft.

Um… Sorry for the really old spoiler?

On the other hand, shortly before that, Vader had cut off Luke’s hand—which wasn’t the best possible lead up to any conversation. I’m not the most persuasive person in the world, but I’d say that almost nobody is more likely to listen to you after you cut off their hand unless maybe you tell them you’re sorry and you’re calling an ambulance.

Even then, I’m not sure I’d trust them.

That tangent aside, Four Hands didn’t tell me that he was my father or cut off my hand. He sighed and said, “I know. I feel the same way. The Human Ascendancy needs my people desperately, but it couldn’t care less what we want. We want to come up with ideas, invent, change things, but the Ascendancy can’t let us do that. It needs us to repair their ships and come up with new ways to get around innovations made by members of our race that other people have enslaved.”

He glanced from one side to another and when he talked, he spoke in a low and distorted voice. “I’m not asking for the Human Ascendancy. I’m asking for my people. If they’re thinking I’m asking for the Ascendancy, I’ll be able to convince them to let you go.”

I looked at his face. He had the faceplate of his helmet off, showing his face. I couldn’t speak to the rest of him, but his face seemed to have barely any fat at all, barely covering the bones. Hairless, like all of the other four-handed we’d seen, his cheekbones and jaw stood out as if they’d been chiseled from rock. At the same time, his eyes darted about, looking at my face most of the time, but darting downward to look at my suit and lingering on the weapons under my arms.

“That still doesn’t sound like a good idea. You might be lying or you might be mind controlled yourself and not know it. Besides, I don’t know much of anything about your people.”

Four Hands nodded. “I understand. My people were genetically engineered by the Abominators to fix and care for their spaceships. After the Xiniti and the Galactic Alliance destroyed the Abominators, my people retreated to the few zero-g habitats, spaceships and low gravity worlds that we controlled, but that wasn’t most of us. Most of us found ourselves working for whoever controlled whatever territory we were in. I grew up in a zero-g habitat controlled by the Human Ascendancy and yes, it was as bad as you probably believe it would be. The motivators told us what to do and we did it. They rooted out any hint of rebellion and we were happy knowing it meant the Ascendancy had become stronger.”

He stopped, taking two heavy breaths, and continuing. “At least we were happy on the outside where they could see. Secretly, we hated them and invented devices that helped us keep our minds clear of their influence. The problem is that we never thought big. We came up with ways to live under them and keep our heads, but never overthrew them.”

Thinking about the direction of the conversation, I said, “And that’s what this is all about? You think that my killbots are the final piece that will allow the four-handed to rise up against their oppressors and become free? That’s a big load to put on a small device. And believe me, there are things it won’t work against. So far, the common theme is magic. They were less effective than I want against an elder dragon and a servant of the Artificers.”

He stared at me. “The Artificers? What servant? What do you know about the Artificers?”

I couldn’t tell him that I now knew two of them personally or about Live or Destroy factions. Telling him that Marcus was dating one was right out. I said, “Just what everyone knows. They left things for future civilizations. Also, we fought one of their creations. It was terrifying and horrible. I’m not going to say more than that.”

“My people don’t worship the Artificers, but they’re impressed with the technology. Anything that can last that long and still function is the work of great genius, something we respect. We don’t have any intention to fight them. As long as your device works against the Ascendancy, we’ll use it.”

The tone of his voice stayed the same—calm and thoughtful—but his brows furrowed as he looked me over again.

As he did, Jaclyn’s voice sounded in my helmet. “We’re in position.”

“Great,” I said. “There’s a problem though. He’s not surrendering, but he might be volunteering to turn on the Ascendancy.”

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 14

In My Daydreams

That blindsided me. It shouldn’t have. When you looked at it from the outside, it was logical. We used tech that looked like Xiniti tech, but if you were a techie, you’d notice the small details that would cue you into the fact that this was homebrewed instead of mass-produced.

Bearing that in mind, the question was whether denying it or admitting to it would lead to a more distracting conversation. I went with admitting to it. Talking shop with the guy might run the risk of telling him more about my armor than I wanted him to know, but the same was true in reverse.

I said, “Kind of. It’s built on more technology than just mine and we’re all from a world on the edge of things. So, it’s less advanced than what you’re probably using. It’s more a hodgepodge of technology that I was able to get a hold of and then repurpose or reverse engineer.”

None of that was false. I’d come up with the suit’s current ceramic material on my own based on Grandpa’s tech, but the current ceramic was based on alien tech I’d gotten when aliens tried to blow up St. Louis. Plus, the nanotech element was mine, but the rest was a mix of my stuff, Grandpa’s designs, and Earth tech that I hadn’t had a reason or time to redesign.

“It’s effective.” He looked the suit up and down. “You’ve survived shots from our weapons and one of your projectiles nearly made it through Kamia’s force field and that’s the Masters’ technology. Am I right in guessing that it used mono-molecular tech?”

I considered lying, but said, “Yes, mostly.”

He shook his head. “There was a period where the Masters used that technology in war, but it only lasted until they invented effective shields. Our shields are based on theirs and though we don’t use them commonly, there’s been no reason to bring back monomolecular weaponry when everything and everyone important is shielded.”

He stopped, glancing around the clearing.

That’s when I realized that we were alone—not completely alone because we were in the middle of a camp, but close to alone. We were the only ones next to the fire and while we were surrounded by their inflatable habitats, there was a forty foot gap between the fire and habitats on every side.

This was private to the degree that it could be.

He walked the rest of the way around the fire pit and stood in front of me. “Your technology might give us the power to win this endless contest we’re in with the nations around us. I know you’re not feeling friendly to the Human Ascendancy, but hear me out.”

Under any circumstance other than waiting out the clock to get Jaclyn, Cassie and Marcus into position, I would not have listened to him. Giving the Human Ascendancy a better weapon was not part of my plans ever. That shouldn’t need to be said, but I feel like it should be given that my implant was freaking out.

It wasn’t freaking out in the literal sense. The implant had artificial intelligence, but not in the “self-aware and capable of making its own decisions,” sense. Its artificial intelligence was the kind where it learned how I processed information over time and presented it in an optimal way. In this moment, it was giving me a prolonged political and historical view of the Human Quarantine.

After the Abominators, the Alliance and the Xiniti had pushed the Abominators’ genetically modified servants into a sector of space. The Human Ascendancy was one of many, but currently the most powerful. With better weapons, it might be able to unite the whole Quarantine area, something the Xiniti were deliberately trying to avoid.

With a united humanity, the Human Ascendancy had a realistic chance of breaking out of the Quarantine and reconquering territory that the Abominators lost. More to the point, for the Alliance, a united humanity was one of those hot-button political issues guaranteed to generate fear and anger. If it ever looked possible, I could count on a massive pre-emptive strike by the Alliance.

You could argue that having the Alliance attack the Human Ascendancy and destroy it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but that failed to account for one crucial fact. Earth was within the Human Quarantine. Even though we might not be a target, we’d still get hit.                                                          

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Semicoop

Build like a REAL mortal

Semicoop

Original art of Santorini is made by the amazing Lina Cossette and David Forest – http://mrcuddington.com

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Aug 10, 2018 at 12:24pm PDT

Santorini, ah, where to start? This game has it all. It has the looks, it has strategy and variety all in one box! The first day we bought the game, we’ve played it nine times and we even played in the train back home and it has hit our table often since then. It’s a game that requires basically no setup and it just plays really quickly. The goal of the game is simple: try to be the first player who moves one of their builders to the third level of a building. The simplicity is the charm of the game.

But if you do feel like you need more variety, there are God cards that can give players powers that influence the game. Most of them change the dynamics of the game completely in a surprising way. All in all, we’re already quite certain this game is going to be a game we’ll be playing for a long time.

Patreon update

It’s been only one week since we launched our Patreon page and we’ve already passed $100! That is so amazing and means that the monthly costs for the Semi Co-op web server and the software I use to draw the comics in are paid for by our readers! <3 Thank you all so much!

We also want to experiment a little with giving a behind-the-scenes peek into making a comic, like posting sketches on our Patreon page, so keep an eye out for that later today!

What is the most terrible expansion you can think of?

The post Build like a REAL mortal appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 13

In My Daydreams

Whatever I might think about this universe, though, I had a duty. I kept walking. As I walked away from the caverns the icons showing Cassie’s, Jaclyn’s, and Marcus’ presence turned inactive. They were going deeper in and meeting up to follow a tunnel that opened up out of sight on the other side of the field.

I’d run calculations with assistance from the implant and given the distance and probable speed, they ought to get there the same time I reached Four Hands and company. I’d have to stall for them to make it the rest of the way, but who knew? Maybe Four Hands wanted to surrender for real. It wasn’t likely, but it was possible.

Reminding myself that picking up the pace was a bad idea, I ran through the plans we’d decided as I walked. In truth, they weren’t plans as much as a series of conditionals along the lines of, “If a group breaks off and begins running away while the rest charge, we’ll use that maneuver Lee taught us this spring…”

I kept them in mind, putting one foot ahead of the other, stepping or jumping over puddles and mud. It would have made for a more exciting story if at some point I stepped into a puddle and the claws or mandibles of something below tried to pull me under, but nothing did.

Safe from exciting cliches, I made it to their camp.

I couldn’t help but note that their force field generators had a different design than the colonists’. Black half-globes on flat bases gave off a blue glow similar to the colonists’ generators. Off top of my head, it struck me as a bluer blue even though it was still transparent, and I also noted that the wall only extended a good twenty feet in the air. The colonists’ generators created a field that reached about one hundred feet if I remembered correctly.

I wondered if the spacers’ force field generators were adjustable. It could easily be that their default settings were for worlds where the potential attackers were smaller, but they were in for an unpleasant surprise here.

As I came closer, it became obvious that they’d noticed me. Most of them were watching in my direction. The ones that weren’t were scanning the skies and checking other directions. I couldn’t know exactly why, but it was amusing that they thought an attack could come from any direction now that I was here.

Maybe that should have given me pause given our plans, but it didn’t.

As I walked up to the force field, an opening formed in the blue, shimmering field ahead of me. I walked through it, finding myself surrounded by Human Ascendancy soldiers, spacers, and their four handed techs. The soldiers trained guns on me.

One of them pointed deeper into the camp, saying, “This way. Follow me.”

There wasn’t much of a choice. I followed him, walking between what looked like inflatable, plastic containers that the implant identified as multi-use shelters used both on and off-planet. Most of them were green with a few blues, and a smattering of brighter colors—red, yellow, and orange.

According to the implant, the shelters were supposed to adjust color to blend into the environment when on planets, but might default to louder colors designed to stick out when rescue was required.

From what could see through the open doors, most of the shelters held wounded people, almost all of them likely hurt in our attack on the battleship or in the stampede. However they were hurt, the Ascendancy soldiers didn’t appear to feel the need to pretend to be friendly. Never dropping their guns, they scowled at me the entire way.

After a minute of pushing through the small streets between the lines of shelters, we came to a clearing. There were no buildings or shelters. There was a firepit that was filled with wood and the burned remains of past fires.

To the side of the fire stood Four Hands. He wore gray, powered armor. The helmet hung from his belt next to two guns. His face remained expressionless as he saw me enter, but when the Ascendancy soldier said, “He’s here,” Four Hands watched me, waving the soldier away.

“Welcome, adopted Xiniti. I’d expected that there would be more of you.”

I nodded, wondering how his implant would interpret the gesture, but saying, “We thought sending one would be enough. If that changes, we’ll let you know.”

He chuckled. “I’m sure you will. You’re a puzzle, you know. The Xiniti rarely induct humans into their ranks. I can’t tell you how rare because they don’t publish their statistics anywhere, much less send them to the Human Ascendancy, but I don’t have records of human adopted Xiniti in the past ten years. Beyond that, I don’t have record of the precise technology that your suits appear to be made of at all.”

He looked at me, moving his eyes up and down my suit. “In fact, from what I’ve collected from our people’s suit cameras, all of you are wearing the same technology, but yours appears to be more extensive than anyone else’s. I’ve begun to suspect you might be the inventor.”

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Tieshaunn

A Day’s Delay

Tieshaunn

Hello everyone,

I’m afraid I won’t manage to finish a chapter today. There was a spontaneous decision to celebrate my cousin’s birthday today, which took up precisely the time I’d planned in for writing, so I’ll have to delay it until either Saturady or Sunday. I do have about half a chapter done, so it’s actually looking pretty well that I’ll be able to finish by Sunday evening at least.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 12

In My Daydreams

Marcus looked toward the cavern’s opening. “That’s loud. I can hear it through your bot feed, but I don’t need to. It’s just as loud in here.”

I hadn’t noticed, but when I thought about it, he was right.

“We can hear it too,” Jacklyn said. “Does he seriously think he’s fooling anybody?”

“You could make the case that they’ve lost,” I said. “If no one shows up and they actually have to live here without any help from the colonists, they probably will die. But yeah, it is a little early for them to give up, we know they summoned help, and it looks like they’re trying to exterminate the colonists. I’d say he’s probably figuring that if he kills us, he can hunt down everyone else—which is what we were kind of saying earlier. We’ve got to take out Four Hands’ people. They’ve got to take us out. Meeting with them is probably our best chance.”

I sent a ping out for HAL again, getting no reply. It was worth a shot.

“I think you’re right,” Cassie said, “but we’d better be careful about it.”

Jaclyn grunted what we were all thinking in that moment, “Huh.”

“I know that’s not what you’re expecting me to say, but what I’d do is give you a meeting spot and then bomb it or set up a bunch of snipers.” Cassie paused, “Right?”

I checked with the observation bots, focusing them on the camp. While I couldn’t identify individuals, there were four handers, more typical human spacers, and a few Ascendancy soldiers, most of them wounded. That was just on the outside edges of the camp. I couldn’t see into the middle of the camp. All the same, it didn’t seem likely that he’d destroy his own people to take us out.

On the other hand, I didn’t know him, but it seemed over the top. He’d have to view his own people as disposable to be willing to do that, and members of the military that I’d known tried to avoid shooting their own people.

Answering Cassie, Marcus said, “Remind me never to negotiate with you.”

“Tikki,” I turned to look at her, “would it be unusual or normal for a Human Ascendancy soldier to kill his own people to get a target?”

Tikki frowned, “Unusual? Yes. It would be very unusual, but they’ve done it. I think there was a motivator behind it when they did.”

With Agent 957 gone, they didn’t have a motivator or at least they didn’t have one outside the normal military structure, meaning they’d be less likely to sacrifice fellow soldiers in theory. The Xiniti implant confirmed that. Xiniti records showed that motivators who were within the military used their powers in support of the military’s goals. It was outside motivators that sent them on suicide missions.

“We shouldn’t all go,” I said. “I’ll go and then the rest of you should be ready to come in to help me if things go wrong or if we decide we have to attack.”

Jaclyn spoke before anyone else could. “No. You shouldn’t be alone. You should have backup right there with you.”

“I don’t think so. I think it makes sense to only send me because that way you only lose one person if things go horribly wrong. That one person should be me because Cassie’s gun is vulnerable to Kamia, Jaclyn’s under the weather, Marcus can’t do area of effect attacks, and Tikki’s powers are too limited.”

Even as I said the last part, I thought about what Tikki really was. If we could be sure Kee would use Tikki’s powers as effectively as Lee used his different identities, Four Hands and the others might as well give up.

Before anyone else could interrupt, I added, “Besides, I’ve got a good chance of escaping if I have to. If I use the rocketpack, I can fly away. I don’t intend to be caught or killed, but better one of us than all of us.”

After a moment, Jaclyn said, “Okay. I don’t like it, but it makes sense. But if we’re going to do it, we’re going to have a plan. You’re going to keep in touch and we’ll keep on listening. If we decide we need to move in, we’ll do it. If you get in trouble, we’ll get you out.”

We talked through our plans and options for the next half hour, talking on our comms and sitting in our tunnels. When the glowing figure began to repeat itself for the tenth time, we stopped.

“No matter how tempted you are to fly,” Jaclyn said, “walk toward them. We’ll need the time to get into position. Talk to them. Get them going. Talk tech with Four Hands if you have to.”

“It might be worth a shot.” I summoned the observation bots back into my suit and began to walk across the field. I wanted to run, but that wouldn’t give them time either.

Taking a breath, I decided to enjoy the walk, looking at the waist-high grass, the flowers, and small animals that bounded away through the grass. Grey furred, long-eared, and long-tailed, I couldn’t decide whether they reminded me more of rats or rabbits.

In a better universe, I’d have been taking biological samples so I could pass them off to scientists back home.

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Crying Grumpies

Fort Sumter, Iniciando la secesión

Crying Grumpies

Jugar a wargames de cartoncitos me hace aprender cada día cosas nuevas. Hoy no toca hablar de un wargame sino de un juego de control de áreas con motor de cartas, como el Twilight Struggle que también me ha enseñado algo de historia. Hoy jugaremos a Fort Sumter de Mark Herman y aprenderemos más cosas de la Guerra Civil Americana. Y lo haremos en veinte o treinta minutos con unas reglas muy sencillas, vamos que nos enfrentamos al primer filler de GMT por uno de los pesos pesados del diseño de wargames.

Fort Sumter-Lee vs Grant-Crying Grumpies-3

Mark Herman es el padre de los CDG con We the Peopple y ha diseñado alguno de mis juegos favoritos como Churchill. Con Fort Sumter vuelve a una época que le apasiona, la guerra civil americana, pero a diferencia de For the People, y We the People,  donde jugamos toda la campaña militar aquí jugaremos los compases previos a la guerra. En vez de mover tropas por un mapa, el tablero es un representación abstracta de diferentes conflictos, ninguno de ellos militar. El jugador que amase la mayor cantidad de PV por el control de estos conflictos ganará la partida.

Fort Sumter-Lee vs Grant-Crying Grumpies-4

Como todo CDG o Card Driven Game las cartas tienen dos opciones, jugarlas por puntos o si son de nuestra facción por su acción. En caso de jugar las cartas por puntos solo se nos dará la opción de colocar cubos en alguno de los espacios. Los espacios están divididos en cuatro palos con tres espacios cada uno, control de los arsenales, la opinión pública, los estados secesionistas y los centros de poder político. En el caso de jugar las cartas por su acción solamente podremos hacerlo si la carta es asociada a nuestra facción.

Fort Sumter recoge ideas de varios de juegos herederos del Twilight Strruggle. Por ejemplo cada uno de los tres turnos iniciales dejaremos una carta a parte para utilizarla en el cuarto turno en un minijuego que recuerda muy mucho a la fase de debate del 1960, making of the president.  Esto añade una estrategia a largo plazo muy recibida. Una mecánica que me ha gustado mucho es el objetivo secreto. Al principio de cada turno recibimos dos cartas de objetivo, nos quedamos una y si llegamos a completarla obtenemos un punto de victoria y algún beneficio adicional. Con esta mecánica se introducen objetivos dinámicos y añaden incertidumbre a las partidas.

La otra mecánica novedosa, es el lugar del que provienen nuestros cubos. Cada jugador tiene un track de crisis compuesto por 25 espacios más o menos. Estos espacios están ocupados por nuestros cubos y es de donde los jugaremos si no tenemos ninguno en nuestra reserva de cubos. Cuando un cubo abandona la mesa no se devuelve al track sino que se va a la reserva. Este tras esta divido en tres zonas para marcar la escalada de tensión entre ambos bandos. Ir superando estas zonas añade cubos a la reserva, permite al jugador que no las cruza poner el comisionado de paz que no permite que se coloque o quite influencia de un espacio o resta puntos de victoria. Si antes de que se hayan jugado los tres turnos que dura la partida un jugador vacía su track de crisis se acaba la partida, salta el minijuego final y se cuentan puntos.

Fort Sumter-Lee vs Grant-Crying Grumpies-1

Fort Sumter es un buen juego pero no pasa de eso. Reglas sencillas para luego ir saltando a otros juegos de la misma familia de mayor complejidad. Partidas rápidas y muy ajustadas. Si tuviera que mencionar un punto negativo sería su producción. Caja gigantesca y llena de aire para guardar las dos barajas, treinta tokens y el tablero. No era necesario y menos cuando ves juegos similares como Telon de Acero que ocupan el espacio de una baraja de cartas y valen una tercera parte. Otro minipunto negativo tiene que ver con la inmersión en el conflicto que esta vez no está tan logrado como en alguno de sus otros juegos. Esto último no tiene tanto que ver con la temática, como que da la impresión que al buscar ligereza y sencillez en las acciones de las cartas estas han perdido parte del croma que si tenemos en otros juegos parecidos.

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Semicoop

Semi Co-op is now on Patreon!

Semicoop

Some of you have been asking about it for quite a while and we have exciting news: We’ve launched our Patreon page! If you like our comics and you can afford it, you can now financially support us for the work we’re doing! We have some fun things like winning one of our merchandise products or winning an appearance in one of our comics as a ‘thank you’ for our patrons in our Seasonal Raffle. By supporting us with only $1 a month you already take part in the raffle. The higher the patron-tier, the more raffle tickets you get. You can read all about it and the different levels of pledges and their rewards on our Patreon page: http://patreon.com/semicoop.

Why start a Patreon now?
I’ve been drawing a Semi Co-op comic once a week for over three years now and that hasn’t always been easy. I’m a freelance illustrator (/animator) and often I have to spend my weekends on making sure there is a new comic every Monday. I started out wanting to learn about drawing comics and cartoons and because we had all of these great ideas for comics about our biggest hobbies: playing board games. With now, almost 180 comics, Semi Co-op’s audience is growing bigger and bigger and people have been asking if they could support us financially. I’ve been holding off accepting money for a personal project like this, but with my work-life getting busier and busier I feel like I don’t always have the time to draw a comic the way I would like and I long for some free time in the weekends so I can play the amazing games that you just can’t play on an evening.

Let me be clear that this Patreon is not an all-or-nothing, in the foreseeable future we will continue making a comic for our readers every week as we’ve been doing for the past three years! 🙂 But the money I receive through Patreon could maybe give me the financial freedom to spend one workday a week on Semi Co-op. That is the first big goal. Meaning I have more time to actually play games during the weekends, which will give us more ideas for funny comics and prevents me from slowly burning myself up by simply stated: always working. Being so busy I also lack the time to explore the possibilities of Semi Co-op and animation, which is something I’d love to play with more. And there we have the second goal of the Patreon: explore the realms of animation with funny animated board game sketches. 😀

We know that supporting us financially is not possible for everybody and that doesn’t make them less precious readers to us. That’s why we think it’s important that there will be no exclusive content for our Patreon backers. There are perks to being a patron, but no exclusive comics, earlier published comics, etc. We appreciate every reader and if you’re not able to become a patron, we’re just as happy with your likes/shares on social platforms. Spreading the word about our silly niche comic is just as valuable to us and we thank you for that.

Thank you for reading and thank you for your support! <3

What game do you need an extra for?

The post Semi Co-op is now on Patreon! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 11

In My Daydreams

She took a long breath. “I’m not in the best of shape. Don’t get me wrong, I can still fight, but I’m burned all over. The new costume did some good but it didn’t stop everything. If we’re going to fight these guys more often, I’m going to need better protection against heat and light.”

Marcus cut into the conversation. “Me too. I nearly died a couple minutes ago.”

The volume of Jaclyn’s reply made the speakers crackle. “What? Nick, you need to watch him better.”

Cassie’s voice cut in. “But he’s not dead.”

Marcus’ sigh was audible through the helmet’s internal speakers. “Don’t worry about it, Jacks. I’m fine. Better than you, I bet. Tikki reversed time in her bubble. I’m right back to where I was before I got shot.”

Cassie let out a breath. “Whoa. That’s awesome.”

In a quieter voice than before, Jaclyn asked, “Do you think it would work on me?”

I looked over at Tikki. She didn’t look like she’d heard Jaclyn’s end of the conversation. Kee would have had a way to listen in. 

“No,” I said, “it gets more taxing the longer it is from the event. She had Marcus in her time distortion bubble practically the second after he got hurt.”

Jaclyn sighed. “That was too much to hope for. Then, I need you to understand. I’m not at my best. I’m going to do everything I can, but I don’t have much in the tank and almost every part of me hurts.”

“It’s okay,” I told her. “We’ll figure things out. There aren’t many of them left anyway.”

Near me in the cave, Marcus grinned. “That’s right. We’ve got some good news. Agent 957’s dead.”

“Well, that’s one less—“ Cassie began.

Talking over her, Jaclyn asked, “How did that happen?”

Marcus looked over at Tikki and then at me. “I don’t know. I assumed it was Nick, but…”

“It was Tikki.” I looked over at her and she nodded. “She aged him into dust.”

Marcus looked over at me and then at Tikki. “No kidding. Wow.”

Tikki held up her hands. “I didn’t know if you were alive or dead.”

“That’s more than you told us you could do back when we met.” He looked at her.

“I didn’t know. I’d never tried it.” She shrugged.

I knew she wasn’t going to tell him until she thought everything was over, but it still felt like she was ignoring everything that happened and everything that she’d said. I wasn’t going to say anything though. Tikki’s true nature would be a huge distraction for Marcus—even more so than it was for me. Anyway, for the moment, she was all Tikki. Depending on how far into Tikki she was, she might not even know what I meant when I brought it up.

Deciding that dwelling on that couldn’t help, I brought up  the most important topic of the moment. “We’ve got to figure out what’s next. The way I understood the plan was that the people we’re escorting are going to go meet up at different rendezvous and we were supposed to do whatever it took to keep Four Hands, Kamia, Neves and Ascendancy forces away from them. The way I see it, at this point we probably have to go find Four Hands and the rest. Otherwise, they can hunt down the different groups whenever they want.”

Cassie grunted. “For a bunch of former terrorists, you’d think they’d get a bunch of people together and give us some backup.”

Jaclyn responded before anyone else. “Oh come on, Cassie. You know they weren’t all terrorists. Plus, they’re middle-aged people with kids now. They were probably terrorists when they were our age.”

I thought back to the evacuation plans the colonists had shared with us. “After they scatter to their other hideouts, it looks like they’re supposed to see how many soldiers they can field for guerrilla warfare. If any come to help, they’ll probably come with Kals—which reminds me. Have any of you seen her, Katuk, or Crawls-Through-Desert?”

Both Jaclyn and Cassie said, “No.”

“But you’re right,” Jaclyn said, “if we’re going to keep them off the colonists, we have to find Four Hands and the leadership immediately. We don’t have time to worry about where everyone else is. Without the leadership, the spacers will only worry about survival.”

“Okay,” I said. “What I’m seeing with the bots is that there are a bunch of them gathered behind a force field next to where we hit them with the herd of um… eleboars? Whatever. I don’t know if Four Hands is there, but going there might help us find him.”

“Right,” Cassie said, “they’ll call on him to deal with us.”

I thought about it. “That’s probably true.”

At that moment, a big glowing light appeared in the streams from the observation bots. I focused on that and saw that a glowing figure had appeared in the sky above the field between the colony and the caverns.

It didn’t take much to recognize the figure. It was a projection of Four Hands. Along with the visuals came booming audio of Four Hands’ voice (or so I assumed).

“Congratulations Xiniti, you’ve bested us. You’ve scattered the colonists so completely we’ll never find them all and only they know how to survive on this hellhole. We’d like to negotiate the terms of our surrender. Come to our camp and we’ll talk.”

On a gut level, I wanted to believe could be that simple, but I didn’t.

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Tieshaunn

B14.4 Breaking Point

Tieshaunn

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He found Hecate together with Polymnia atop a three storey apartment building’s roof, just half a kilometre or so away from the fight, where a dozen Mementos, Gloom Glimmer and Rounds were holding DiL back – or perhaps it was best to say that they were keeping her simply occupied rather than holding her anywhere.

Swinging onto the rooftop with his grappling hook and rope, he reeled them into the casing at his hip as he looked at the fight.

Rounds was in the air, clad in body armor styled to evoke a medieval knight’s plate armor, all in silver, red and blue. He was surrounded by only ten apparitions rather than the twelve Basil knew he could generate.

And they were all copies of Gloom Glimmer, save for a single apparition which was of Wary Wu, an elderly Chinese man with a very long fu manchu moustache and no other hair on his head, wearing a simple business suit.

Basil looked at Melody, assuming that she’d know what was going on there.

She crossed eyes with him and seemed to instantly pick up on what he was about to ask. “Interesting power interaction,” she explained with a strained smile. “He can’t copy her ability to assume new powers, but he can copy whichever powers she is currently holding. So any time she gets a particularly good set, he makes a copy of her and his power apparently considers her sufficiently different to make a separate copy, rather than replace the previous one.”

Basil turned that around in his head, then looked over at the fight again – Gloom Glimmer floated over to Rounds and they briefly touched hands, embers of silver light rising out of her body and coalescing into a monochrome copy of hers, looking like it was made of translucent silver.

Flying apart again, they dodged an attack from DiL – streams of bright blue plasma were shooting out from around here, a dozen of them, shooting out only to loop back to their origin point after just fifty metre or so – and both she, her new apparition and Rounds held out their right hand towards DiL.

Wood grew, from a single pinpoint in front of each of their hands, bursting forth into massive trees that shot out towards DiL, her plasma jets eating into them but being pushed back by the overwhelming growth – Gloom Glimmer’s power generated both greater growth at a time, and faster as well.

Hexagonal honey-coloured force-fields manifested all around her, any one only about as large as a dinner plate, and arranged in a loose, but precise honeycomb pattern, so there were gaps between the shields. They moved, pulling themselves together in three spots, overlapping for stronger defense.

The trees smashed into them and promptly grew around them, barely slowed down by the shields.

This time, he saw the shift, and thus the pain, coming, and yet Basil nearly fell over regardless.

Hecate grabbed him by the upper arm, helping him stay up. “Thank God,” she whispered, looking at the combatants.

DiL had started leaking sparks from all around her, creating a trail of them as she flew around, dodging Gloom Glimmer and Rounds’ attacks.

“Those loops were getting longer and brighter each time they went around,” she explained as he stood straight again.

“They do usually grow stronger with time,” Basil confirmed. “I feel like something should be said in regards to how utterly, unfairly powerful Rounds and Gloom Glimmer are together. Something involving multiple exclamation marks and strong expletives.”

“That would… usually be Tyche’s role,” Hecate replied softly, not looking at him as she pulled her hand away from him.

“Do you…”

“I dropped by her apartment before I came back here. She’s staying out of this fight. Took her mother to a shelter,” she replied.

He felt himself relax, a little bit. Shelters were hardly a guarantee that one would be safe from DiL, but they’d at least improve the odds.

Hopefully enough so her power wouldn’t need to further harm her mother so as to ensure Tyche’s survival, if it even worked against DiL.

Still… he would have liked to have her with them. If not for her ridiculously useful power then just…

Just to have her there.

DiL passed by nearby, the sparks she was shedding having increased in volume. Wherever they came into contact with solid matter, the disappeared with a brief flash… and took all matter within about a centimetre around them with them.

Rounds was hot on her heel, a full complement of apparitions around him – eleven Gloom Glimmer’s and Wary Wu, trying to hit her, somehow, using a staggering variety of powers.

None of them hit, be they tendrils which sprouted out of surrounding material lashing out, multi-coloured laser beams which froze anything they hit, explosions of pure force generated at the target point rather than thrown out and more.

DiL simply danced around and through them, never even having to rely on her invulnerability as nothing managed to touch her.

Some manner of combat esper power, Basil thought as he and the girls backed up to another rooftop, not wanting to test their defenses against those sparks or a possible shot from Rounds gone astray. Will she switch out as soon as she is hit even once?

Clearly, Rounds believed that to be the case, as he put his all into hitting the woman.

Gloom Glimmer, meanwhile, flew towards them and landed on the rooftop – only to stagger, trip, and nearly collapse.

Basil moved on instinct and caught her, his hands grabbing a hold of her shoulders before she could fall over entirely.

He had never seen her look so exhausted. Her face was nearly ashen, her lips as pale as the skin around them and her eyes were sunken, as if she’d gone for days without rest.

“H-hey,” she greeted him with a smile. “S-s-sorry… just need a… short break.” She slumped against him, her breathing laboured – and yet she was recovering even as she spoke, a little colour having already returned to her face.

Polymnia stepped up to them and he handed Gloom Glimmer over to her, as she wrapped an arm around her friend’s waist, holding her up.

It was then that Basil noticed something which her pigtails had previously hidden.

“Your ears are bleeding,” he said simply, looking at the trickle of blood running out of said ears.

She nodded, giving him a pained smile. “Ever since Bree showed up, I’ve been hearing this song, everywhere. The closer to her I get the louder and more painful it becomes and when she passed by me earlier, it nearly knocked me out. It gets briefly worse whenever she changes powers, too.” She raised her free left hand to touch her ear, pulling it back to look at the blood on her fingertips, while the fingers of her right hand were tapping on Gloom Glimmer’s side, like a keyboard. “It sounds kind of like the music I hear whenever Gloomy loses control of her power, or draws too deeply on it, only… louder. But with less… discord?”

“What are the chances that both of you would have a reaction like that?” Hecate asked as she joined their little circle, her arms crossed beneath her chest. “Basil has had the worst headache since DiL appeared, and he gets flashes of greater pain when she changes powers.” She looked at the two of them, worry visible on the lower half of her face.

”Very bad if we assume it is not connected in some kind,” Basil pondered the thought. “It may be significant that the both of us are Gadgeteers.” He looked at Polymnia with one eye, while watching the fight continue through his raven – by some miracle, it still worked, even though the ravenbots were by necessity not exceptionally hardened against interference.

Rounds was continuing his assault with the nearly two dozen offensive powers he had at his disposal and DiL was dodging his attacks by smaller and smaller margins as he got used to the way her power made her dodge. He would likely land a hit soon, at which point she’d switch out her powers again.

That would be the most dangerous time in any DiL battle – right after she’d switched powers, before anyone knew what she was going to do next, with no useful limitations upon what she might pull out next.

”You say you hear this song around Gloom Glimmer, as well? Do you hear it right now?” he continued to prod while they still had the time – it was very much possible that DiL’s next powerset would see them all thrust into the thick of battle again, while right now, they could do little more than stand by and watch.

Polymnia looked at her rapidly recovering friend. ”Not right now, no. I think that’s because she’s not actively using anything big at this time.”

Gloom Glimmer looked up at her, smiling apologetically. “I’ll be back in working order soon.”

”Hrm. So many questions,” Basil temporised, turning away from them with his hands clasped behind his back. “I have never heard of this particular phenomenon before.” He watched as the Mementos pulled up a huge force-field thick enough it looked more like a fortress’ wall than the usual screens such effects tended to produce.

DiL smashed right through it as she dodged a coordinated attack by Rounds and his apparitions, the force wall flaring up and crackling with electricity.

That seemed to do it, as pain burned through Basil’s mind, making him stagger again, as he heard Polymnia behind him groan in discomfort or pain.

He pressed the button on the communicator, not even sure whether it would be or ever had been of any use, but DiL didn’t give them a chance to adjust or prepare – her entire form erupted into a thick solid ash cloud, shooting out towards Rounds in a thick, very nearly rock-solid blast.

According to Basil’s heat sensors, it was more of a pyroclastic flow than just a mere ash cloud.

Rounds, fortunately, was prepared. He raised his arms and crossed them in front of himself, as one of Gloom Glimmer’s apparitions did the same while floating right next to him, the other apparitions all moving between the two of them as the concentrated flow simply… split, as if an invisible wedge had been driven into it, failing to touch them or so much as heat up the air around them while flowing past, causing devastating damage to a small children’s playground and some adjacent buildings, as well as killing a trio of unlucky capes who’d wandered too close and weren’t able to get away in time, their forms being near-instantly swallowed up by the flow.

Or so it seemed, as both of them appeared atop a nearby rooftop, one of the translucent Gloom Glimmers finishing a gesture she’d made towards them.

”That was lucky for them,” Hecate breathed a sigh of relief, even as she eyed the devastation warily – they weren’t that far away from it, certainly not at a distance where DiL would be unable to strike at them, if she did shift her attention away from Rounds.

”Not so much lucky,” Basil replied as he zoomed in on the trio. They weren’t capes after all. “That’s the triad. Wary Wu’s with them.”

He zoomed in on the notorious trio of criminals. Wary Wu stood in the back, behind his two underlings.

The elderly metahuman had been the main reason why Basil had quite decidedly voted for his team not to mess with triad business too much. At over seventy years old, he did not cut a very imposing physical figure, being short, thin, with a thin fu manchu beard and wearing a surprisingly cheap, ill-fitting suit without even a tie – but that mattered little when one considered that he’d been a cowl since his teens and was still alive, sixty years later. One challenged that kind of record at their own peril.

Of course, you just had to go and challenge a guy even older than that earlier today…

Shut. Up.

With Wary Wu were his left- and right-hand man, Drunk Da and Zealous Zhou.

The former looked even more average than his boss, a slender chinese man with long, messy black hair and a simple goatee, wearing a Chinese martial artist’s outfit – loose black pants and soft black shoes, as well as a wide-sleeved white shirt. The only part which stood out about him was the huge gourd strapped to his back, easily as tall and wide as his entire upper body.

Zealous Zhou was the only one of the trio wearing something even remotely appropriate to his vocation and the current situation – urban camo military fatigues, a tactical vest, a pair of straight short swords strapped to his sides and a rifle strapped to his back, as well as a red mask covering the upper half of his face, made of some kind of shiny resin, with a precise goatee covering his exposed chin and surrounding his mouth.

As DiL unleashed a second, larger wave of pyroclastic flow, the three of them were already moving at Wary Wu’s word. Wu and Zhou backed behind Da, who pulled the gourd up over his shoulder, taking a huge swig of some kind of clear liquid, messily enough some of it spilled over and stained the neck of his shirt.

Then he took a step forward, staggering in drunkenness, and balanced – barely – on his left leg, raising the right one and whirling it in a circular portion.

Even though he was moving barely faster than a normal person, the motion generated enough force to stir the air – and form a wind funnel that hit the incoming pyroclastic flow, parting it so it flowed past the trio without causing them any harm.

At least, no direct one, as Drunk Da yelped and beat at his own shirt, where the immense heat had ignited the alcohol he’d just spilled over it.

Zhou intervened by reaching over and ripping his shirt off entirely, throwing it on the ground, while Da beat out the flames that’d jumped onto his goatee.

While that show was going on, DiL had already unleashed another flow, even larger still – this time in the rough direction Basil and the others stood, though she did not seem to aim directly at them so much as at the capes and cowls who were massing in the market square next to the building they’d gathered atop of.

Basil was just about to retreat to another rooftop, when two Mementos dropped out of the sky, landing on the street the flow was travelling along with enough force to shatter the asphalt, and raised their huge hands, palms out towards the oncoming tide of destruction.

Space twisted in front of them, and a portal opened, catching the pyroclastic flow. Another portal opened above and behind DiL, redirecting the flow into her back.

Though she was obscured by the mass of lethally hot ash, Basil could easily tell that that must have counted somehow as her power being sufficiently interfered with – perhaps her defensive ability couldn’t deal with her offensive one? – as pain flared up in his head again.

“She’s pulling out something new!” Polymnia spoke with unnatural calm, even as she flinched in pain, her free hand rising to her ear again.

Gloom Glimmer raised her head, her eyes a bright red surrounded by utter black, and snapped her fingers.

There was an all too familiar wrench of disorientation and then the lot of them found themselves on top of a different building, four blocks away, just as dozens of glass-like, crystalline tendrils shot out of the ash cloud, spearing through and destroying three of Rounds’ apparitions – though he managed to avoid being hit himself, twisting his body out of the way of one that would have gone through his chest.

Drunk Da slapped a few of them aside with his bare hands, his power protecting him from what followed next.

Wherever the tendrils came into contact with solid matter, they fused into it, converting it into crystal, from which two tendrils shot out, aimed at random targets – sometimes metahumans, sometimes just parts of the scenery.

Those tendrils converted more matter into crystal, including several capes who’d been hit, as well as one Memento who’d shielded a trio of cowls from the attack, the victims transforming into distorted crystal statues, before a single tendril emerged from each point of impact, continuing the attack.

This last wave of tendrils did not spawn new ones, merely converting their targets to crystal.

None of them came even close to Basil and the others, but it was still a horrid show, as even with their limited view of it, they saw at least a dozen men and women die to the initial attack.

In the distance, DiL rose out of the remains of her own cloud, leaving several tendrils behind, their ends sticking into the air where they seemed to have emerged from her body – or rather, a few centimetre away from it, as they usually did.

Ribbons of some kind of reflective material encircled her form, allowing only for glimpses of the figure beneath, save for her hair, which was long enough to very nearly touch the ground below her. The ribbons reflected her surroundings, but in a distorted way, like trying to look at something through several improperly aligned, curved lenses.

“Those ribbons… defensive or utility?” Hecate asked, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Basil could still hear the sadness and the fear in it, and he wished he knew how to reassure her right then.

He didn’t want to lie to her, making false reassurances.

Instead, he watched Rounds fly up into the air again, leaving several crystallized people he must have tried to help to face DiL at a distance again, surrounded by six apparitions of Gloom Glimmer and the one of Wary Wu.

“He is getting whittled down… as is Memento,” Basil observed.

“Not for long,” Gloom Glimmer refuted, as she disentangled herself from Polymnia and stepped forth, her sock-covered feet not making a sound upon the roof even before she simply levitated upwards.

Looking at her, she almost seemed like a different person to before. Completely recovered and poised, whatever powers she currently held so intense, they seemed to distort space around her even when she wasn’t doing much with them.

This close to her, Basil could definitely sense… something. A change, in the… the cadence of the pain. As if whatever was pressing on his brain was being interfered with by another, similar emission…

It was actually kind of soothing, even if he couldn’t actually make out anything about the second one, other than the slight alleviation of pain he experienced.

So many questions. So much to unravel, once there’s some time to actually investigate, he thought, not that he wasn’t aware of how slim the chances were he’d still be around to do it.

Speaking of which… you gotta get moving, mate. You’re not doing much to help, as is.

Agreed.

A quick flick of his left hand’s fingers brought his force shield to life – it seemed to be safe from DiL’s interference, at least for now. A twitch deactivated it again.

He looked at Gloom Glimmer, who was in the process of turning away from them and flying away.

“Can you drop me off closer to the battle?” he asked her, stepping forth.

“B-Brennus!” Hecate called out, grabbing him by the wrist. “Are you… I mean, you can’t be serious – this is way out of our league!”

He looked at her hand on his wrist, then up at the shadows beneath her hood, to cross eyes with her.

Funny, how his mask was currently only covering the lower half of his face, and hers only the upper half.

Even funnier that he would even notice that, at such a time.

”Those crystals bond with solid matter,” he replied calmly. “I would bet my last raven that they will be unable to penetrate my force shield. And besides… I want to do whatever I can to help here.” He looked down again. “I am sure you understand.”

She stayed quiet for a moment, then let go of his wrist. Drawing her cloak tighter around herself, she seemed to shrink for a moment, her shoulders slumping out of her usually flawless posture – then she suddenly stood up straight again.

”Yeah. Yeah, you’re right… and so do I,” she replied, her voice firm. “I’ll come along.”

Heavy steps made all three of them – Gloom Glimmer had just been observing quietly so far – turn to look at Polymnia, who had a pained expression crossed with a smile on her face. “My sonic cage is just as good at deflecting solid matter as your force fields are, Brennus. And you couldn’t keep me away from this if you tried.”

They all looked at each other, then at Gloom Glimmer, who was looking at them with a strangely calm, serious expression – not that it wasn’t warranted, in this situation, but she wasn’t showing any real emotion right then.

“Alright. Let’s get going,” she said and gestured at them. Her power wrapped around them, distorting air and light, and they flew off towards the growing forest of crystal tendrils.

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vote for brennus

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Linux Kernel Monkey Log

What stable kernel should I use?

Linux Kernel Monkey Log

I get a lot of questions about people asking me about what stable kernel should they be using for their product/device/laptop/server/etc. all the time. Especially given the now-extended length of time that some kernels are being supported by me and others, this isn’t always a very obvious thing to determine. So this post is an attempt to write down my opinions on the matter. Of course, you are free to use what ever kernel version you want, but here’s what I recommend.

As always, the opinions written here are my own, I speak for no one but myself.

What kernel to pick

Here’s the my short list of what kernel you should use, raked from best to worst options. I’ll go into the details of all of these below, but if you just want the summary of all of this, here it is:

Hierarchy of what kernel to use, from best solution to worst:

  • Supported kernel from your favorite Linux distribution
  • Latest stable release
  • Latest LTS release
  • Older LTS release that is still being maintained

What kernel to never use:

  • Unmaintained kernel release

To give numbers to the above, today, as of August 24, 2018, the front page of kernel.org looks like this:

image

So, based on the above list that would mean that:

  • 4.18.5 is the latest stable release
  • 4.14.67 is the latest LTS release
  • 4.9.124, 4.4.152, and 3.16.57 are the older LTS releases that are still being maintained
  • 4.17.19 and 3.18.119 are “End of Life” kernels that have had a release in the past 60 days, and as such stick around on the kernel.org site for those who still might want to use them.

Quite easy, right?

Ok, now for some justification for all of this:

Distribution kernels

The best solution for almost all Linux users is to just use the kernel from your favorite Linux distribution. Personally, I prefer the community based Linux distributions that constantly roll along with the latest updated kernel and it is supported by that developer community. Distributions in this category are Fedora, openSUSE, Arch, Gentoo, CoreOS, and others.

All of these distributions use the latest stable upstream kernel release and make sure that any needed bugfixes are applied on a regular basis. That is the one of the most solid and best kernel that you can use when it comes to having the latest fixes (remember all fixes are security fixes) in it.

There are some community distributions that take a bit longer to move to a new kernel release, but eventually get there and support the kernel they currently have quite well. Those are also great to use, and examples of these are Debian and Ubuntu.

Just because I did not list your favorite distro here does not mean its kernel is not good. Look on the web site for the distro and make sure that the kernel package is constantly updated with the latest security patches, and all should be well.

Lots of people seem to like the old, “traditional” model of a distribution and use RHEL, SLES, CentOS or the “LTS” Ubuntu release. Those distros pick a specific kernel version and then camp out on it for years, if not decades. They do loads of work backporting the latest bugfixes and sometimes new features to these kernels, all in a Quixote quest to keep the version number from never being changed, despite having many thousands of changes on top of that older kernel version. This work is a truly thankless job, and the developers assigned to these tasks do some wonderful work in order to achieve these goals. If you like never seeing your kernel version number change, then use these distributions. They usually cost some money to use, but the support you get from these companies is worth it when something goes wrong.

So again, the best kernel you can use is one that someone else supports, and you can turn to for help. Use that support, usually you are already paying for it (for the enterprise distributions), and those companies know what they are doing.

But, if you do not want to trust someone else to manage your kernel for you, or you have hardware that a distribution does not support, then you want to run the Latest stable release:

Latest stable release

This kernel is the latest one from the Linux kernel developer community that they declare as “stable”. About every three months, the community releases a new stable kernel that contains all of the newest hardware support, the latest performance improvements, as well as the latest bugfixes for all parts of the kernel. Over the next 3 months, bugfixes that go into the next kernel release to be made are backported into this stable release, so that any users of this kernel are sure to get them as soon as possible.

This is usually the kernel that most community distributions use as well, so you can be sure it is tested and has a large audience of users. Also, the kernel community (all 4000+ developers) are willing to help support users of this release, as it is the latest one that they made.

After 3 months, a new kernel is released and you should move to it to ensure that you stay up to date, as support for this kernel is usually dropped a few weeks after the newer release happens.

If you have new hardware that is purchased after the last LTS release came out, you almost are guaranteed to have to run this kernel in order to have it supported. So for desktops or new servers, this is usually the recommended kernel to be running.

Latest LTS release

If your hardware relies on a vendors out-of-tree patch in order to make it work properly (like almost all embedded devices these days), then the next best kernel to be using is the latest LTS release. That release gets all of the latest kernel fixes that goes into the stable releases where applicable, and lots of users test and use it.

Note, no new features and almost no new hardware support is ever added to these kernels, so if you need to use a new device, it is better to use the latest stable release, not this release.

Also this release is common for users that do not like to worry about “major” upgrades happening on them every 3 months. So they stick to this release and upgrade every year instead, which is a fine practice to follow.

The downsides of using this release is that you do not get the performance improvements that happen in newer kernels, except when you update to the next LTS kernel, potentially a year in the future. That could be significant for some workloads, so be very aware of this.

Also, if you have problems with this kernel release, the first thing that any developer whom you report the issue to is going to ask you to do is, “does the latest stable release have this problem?” So you will need to be aware that support might not be as easy to get as with the latest stable releases.

Now if you are stuck with a large patchset and can not update to a new LTS kernel once a year, perhaps you want the older LTS releases:

Older LTS release

These releases have traditionally been supported by the community for 2 years, sometimes longer for when a major distribution relies on this (like Debian or SLES). However in the past year, thanks to a lot of suport and investment in testing and infrastructure from Google, Linaro, Linaro member companies, kernelci.org, and others, these kernels are starting to be supported for much longer.

Here’s the latest LTS releases and how long they will be supported for, as shown at kernel.org/category/releases.html on August 24, 2018:

image

The reason that Google and other companies want to have these kernels live longer is due to the crazy (some will say broken) development model of almost all SoC chips these days. Those devices start their development lifecycle a few years before the chip is released, however that code is never merged upstream, resulting in a brand new chip being released based on a 2 year old kernel. These SoC trees usually have over 2 million lines added to them, making them something that I have started calling “Linux-like” kernels.

If the LTS releases stop happening after 2 years, then support from the community instantly stops, and no one ends up doing bugfixes for them. This results in millions of very insecure devices floating around in the world, not something that is good for any ecosystem.

Because of this dependency, these companies now require new devices to constantly update to the latest LTS releases as they happen for their specific release version (i.e. every 4.9.y release that happens). An example of this is the Android kernel requirements for new devices shipping for the “O” and now “P” releases specified the minimum kernel version allowed, and Android security releases might start to require those “.y” releases to happen more frequently on devices.

I will note that some manufacturers are already doing this today. Sony is one great example of this, updating to the latest 4.4.y release on many of their new phones for their quarterly security release. Another good example is the small company Essential which has been tracking the 4.4.y releases faster than anyone that I know of.

There is one huge caveat when using a kernel like this. The number of security fixes that get backported are not as great as with the latest LTS release, because the traditional model of the devices that use these older LTS kernels is a much more reduced user model. These kernels are not to be used in any type of “general computing” model where you have untrusted users or virtual machines, as the ability to do some of the recent Spectre-type fixes for older releases is greatly reduced, if present at all in some branches.

So again, only use older LTS releases in a device that you fully control, or lock down with a very strong security model (like Android enforces using SELinux and application isolation). Never use these releases on a server with untrusted users, programs, or virtual machines.

Also, support from the community for these older LTS releases is greatly reduced even from the normal LTS releases, if available at all. If you use these kernels, you really are on your own, and need to be able to support the kernel yourself, or rely on you SoC vendor to provide that support for you (note that almost none of them do provide that support, so beware…)

Unmaintained kernel release

Surprisingly, many companies do just grab a random kernel release, slap it into their product and proceed to ship it in hundreds of thousands of units without a second thought. One crazy example of this would be the Lego Mindstorm systems that shipped a random -rc release of a kernel in their device for some unknown reason. A -rc release is a development release that not even the Linux kernel developers feel is ready for everyone to use just yet, let alone millions of users.

You are of course free to do this if you want, but note that you really are on your own here. The community can not support you as no one is watching all kernel versions for specific issues, so you will have to rely on in-house support for everything that could go wrong. Which for some companies and systems, could be just fine, but be aware of the “hidden” cost this might cause if you do not plan for this up front.

Summary

So, here’s a short list of different types of devices, and what I would recommend for their kernels:

  • Laptop / Desktop: Latest stable release
  • Server: Latest stable release or latest LTS release
  • Embedded device: Latest LTS release or older LTS release if the security model used is very strong and tight.

And as for me, what do I run on my machines? My laptops run the latest development kernel (i.e. Linus’s development tree) plus whatever kernel changes I am currently working on and my servers run the latest stable release. So despite being in charge of the LTS releases, I don’t run them myself, except in testing systems. I rely on the development and latest stable releases to ensure that my machines are running the fastest and most secure releases that we know how to create at this point in time.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 10

In My Daydreams

In a little while, I turned around to find Marcus standing, his costume fully repaired. Tikki stood beside him. They were holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes, all but glowing. I didn’t see any hint of regret or anxiety in her smile, meaning that Kee had submerged herself into Tikki again, or that she was too good an actor for me to read.

When you considered that Kee predated the human species, she’d certainly had time to gain the skills necessary to fool me, possibly by a multiple of billions of years.

Marcus pulled himself away looking at her. “We should go find everybody that we sent ahead. From the map, it doesn’t look like we’re that far from the surface. I’m worried what happens if they get too far ahead.”

It didn’t take long to catch up even considering that Tikki had only a normal person’s speed when she didn’t have a bubble up. I had good reason to think she wasn’t as limited as she made herself out to be originally, but she was staying in character for now.

The colonists appeared to be happy to see us alive, asking what happened. They’d heard the fight. More than one of them seemed impressed by description of my killbots. An older man told me, “I’ve heard of similar weapons. Don’t know if they were Ascendancy, Abominator, or Alliance. Whatever it was, I never managed to find them anywhere or I’d have ordered as many as I could afford.”

When we got within roachbot range of the end of the tunnel, I sent a couple observation bots out of the tunnel to get a good view.

They weren’t destroyed the instant they passed of the cave’s mouth—a good sign. What they showed was a little less straightforward than that. The tunnel exited from the stone formation ten feet above the ground. It wasn’t a straight drop. The colonists would be able to walk down a ledge that became wider the longer it got, meeting the ground some forty feet to the left of the exit.

If they felt impatient, they could drop to the ground. Ten feet wasn’t that far.

Like most of the stone formation, it lay next to an empty field. We were further down the coast from Landing, the settlement’s largest town. Its force shields glittered in the sunlight.

Next to Landing’s force shields lay the bodies of the spacers who’d been trampled by the herd of elephant/rhino/boar things. They’d been busy. Over the time that we’d been underground, they’d been burying bodies and added a few more. The new bodies appeared to include a few more dogs like Jaclyn’s dog Tiger as well as a few more predators. I couldn’t see details from this distance—just mounds of fur, scales, or in one case, feathers.

A set of force shields with a greenish shimmer glowed next to the graveyard. The spacers had either taken over the colonists force fields and modified them or set up their own shields. Unwilling or unable to disarm the colonists’ traps, they’d set up domed shelters inside. I doubted there could be many more than two hundred people in that space, but I didn’t know for sure.

That didn’t cover everything though. As the first observation bot swung around, showing the next tunnel exit over. I gasped as it came into view because this tunnel had been attacked. Burn marks surrounded the stone around the tunnel’s exit, but not just the tunnel’s exit. They’d also left big scorch marks in front of the tunnel, and along with those scorch marks, burned bodies—at least 50 of them. Scorched and smoking armor, space suits, and weapons lay there with them.

That group had been ambushed.

At about the time that thought went through my head, my HUD registered Cassie’s and Jaclyn’s presence, routed over to me through the bots.

“Rocket!” Cassie’s voice felt a little too loud in my HUD. “I don’t know if you can see our exit from wherever you are, but no matter how bad it looks, we’re not dead.”

“Good,” I set one of the bots in a slow circle near to the exit and set the other to a wider circle in the opposite direction. I also checked to see if HAL was in range, getting no response to my ping. “What happened? It’s obvious that there was an ambush, but I can’t tell much more than that.”

Cassie didn’t even stop to breathe. “There’s not much to tell. Our groups joined up and became a massive group—maybe 500 people. There’s no way a group like that is going to be stealthy, so we should have expected that people would be waiting for us. A couple of their people went ahead of the larger group as scouts—which saved everybody. They found people waiting ahead of us in the tunnel and turned around to tell us.

“Problem was that as soon as they turned, the whole group started firing. Plus there were more running down the tunnel after them. Jaclyn and I rushed forward with the gun raving like a madman in my head. I’m pretty sure it was the best day that thing’s had in years because I shot a fuckload of people. Jaclyn took out everyone I missed, but she got shot a lot.”

“Whoa,” I tried to formulate a sentence. Just because her suit registered her, it didn’t mean she was alive.

Jaclyn’s voice came over the HUD’s speakers. “I did get shot a lot.”

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Semicoop

What Cthulhu thinks I do

Semicoop

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Aug 15, 2018 at 1:53pm PDT

It’s Lovecraft day, so we couldn’t let that pass without a big strip about the Arkham games, which are one of our favorite game series. We agree that Cthulhu is used in a lot of games nowadays, but there is something really fun about your character going insane because he can’t find a book in a library.

Past week we’ve finally played Century: Golem and Illimat with four players instead of the usual two and luckily both games are just as fun with four as with two. Osprey Games also sent over the expansion for The Lost Expedition which is called The Fountain of Youth. This expansion comes with four little expansions which you can add to your game and so far we’ve played one game with two included expansions. We think The Lost Expedition is something a lot of people will like, even if it is just to enjoy the art by Garen Ewing.

Today we’ve also received Root and we can’t wait to try it! Looking at our social media, it seems everybody has already played it so we’re curious to see if it lives up to the large amounts of hype it has been getting.
Something we are certainly hyped about is Essen! We’ve booked our hotel and we’ll be there for the full four days for the first time! We’re excited about meeting new people and our friends from previous conventions and trying a small amount of the 1300(!) games that will be released at Essen. Our good friends Chris and Els are also coming along so we’ll have a blast! If you are coming to, don’t forget you can make your appreciation of Semi Co-op know by wearing our merchandise! 😉

Which Cthulhu based game is your favorite?

The post What Cthulhu thinks I do appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 9

In My Daydreams

Turning back to Marcus, she said, “He’s close to death, but not there. I can bring him back by reversing time.”

That didn’t surprise me. It fit with everything else. If she could slow people or speed up herself, why couldn’t she move backward in time? Then another thought struck me, “You could have brought back Maru or Alanna.”

She shook her head. “No. Well, I could have, but it’s not simple. Both of them died before I could do anything. People knew they were dead. When people die, it affects everyone they matter to. That sets events in motion that spread and can’t be easily stopped. Bringing someone back in that situation stops or changes everything that stated, pushing the future in new directions. One of my people would notice and I don’t know who or whether it would be Live faction, the Destroy faction, or both.”

Her eyes wide, she continued. “Less powerful races would think that I was a miracle worker, but they already think that after I live among them. What I fear is my people noticing that the future changed and that the cause exists outside of time. That shouldn’t be true with Marcus. He hasn’t died and no one knows but you and I. My people still might notice, but with almost no one knowing, it’s so much less likely.”

As she said the last line, she almost sounded like Tikki again.

Her eyes drifted back toward Marcus and then back to me. “I’m not going to tell him until people stop trying to kill us. It’s hard enough to survive without being distracted by heartbreak too. I don’t want to see him die again.”

Standing there in the tunnel, darkness around us and dead bodies on the ground, I took her point. I didn’t want him to be distracted either. On the other hand, “But you will tell him, right? This can’t hang in the air unsaid. I’ll tell him if you don’t, but not until the fighting’s over. I think I agree with you there.”

She took a breath and nodded. “I’ll tell him. I don’t have any choice. We’re not even the same species. As soon as I was fully myself again, I’d find him too limited and I’d grow bored. I wouldn’t want to hurt him, but I know I would. I can’t make him into one of us even though all of you have the greatest potential for that that I’ve seen so far.”

She looked me up and down. “When we talked in my store, I told you that you glowed. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were one of our young—which is one more reason to end this. I don’t know how so much of us got into your DNA. The Abominators experiments weren’t enough to explain this. And Lee, if he’s behind this, I don’t know how he managed it. It’s not all him, and he’d only be interested in contributing DNA the easy way.”

In the silence that followed that statement, I decided to ask a question that could destroy the Earth if I asked it of the wrong being, “You know who Lee is?”

She laughed, and she didn’t sound like Tikki. Tikki’s laugh had a high, but not irritatingly high, pitch to it. To me, she’d sounded innocent and optimistic and hopeful all at once. This laugh had some of that, but deeper notes among the light. Beyond that, I felt that it existed on levels beyond sound, levels that I couldn’t name or describe, but I knew they were there.

“Yes,” she said when she finished. “Lee isn’t really his name, but I’m sure you know that. Lee fought for the Destroy faction until he left, taking their greatest weapon with him. I designed that weapon. I’d only stayed to spy for the Live faction and to see if I couldn’t convince him that he’d chosen the wrong side. The battle where he first used my weapon convinced me that I couldn’t stay any longer. He remained and I despaired that anything would change his mind. Later, he left on his own and I never knew where he went.”

Deciding not to mention Earth for all the good that would do, I said, “I don’t know for sure, but it sounds like a lot of different places.”

She laughed again. “I’ve heard stories of the chase from our spies. He hasn’t changed. Now, give me a moment.”

Turning toward Marcus, she closed her eyes and the distortion surrounding him changed, emitting a dim glow as the rocky surface of Marcus’ chest turned from rocky, but with smooth edges to defined, rocky muscles and Marcus’ costume came back together undamaged. An echo of the energy blast that hit him flowed away from his chest, dissipating in the air in front of him.

Then the distortion around him ended and he lay on the ground opening his eyes and taking a deep breath.

At almost the same time, Tikki opened her eyes, bending down to hug him. He hugged her back, asking, “Are you okay? When I took that last shot, I thought I was dead.”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I was worried about you. I thought you might be dead, and I tried moving time backward to make the damage go away and I think it worked.”

“Wow,” he said, and kissed her, shifting back into his normal form as he did. She kissed him back and I thought I saw tears at the corners of her eyes.

As much as I thought that she should tell him the truth, I couldn’t blame her. Loving someone and being loved in return had to be better than being an ancient being fighting against former friends who hoped to destroy all other intelligent life.

Saying nothing and scanning the area behind us, I let them enjoy the moment.

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EPU - What's New

UF/FI: OOTR: The Federation Lives Forever! Chapter 17

EPU - What's New
The Federation Lives Forever! continues: at the senior band's invitation, the Sato Academy Light Music Club's junior band is heading for Mount Weitang, and each team has a surprise or two for the other. Chapter Seventeen: "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome" 2018/08/18
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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 8

In My Daydreams

In seconds, Agent 957’s armor fell to the ground, expelling a cloud. Some of the grey particles floated in the air, others fell out of the bottom of his helmet, creating a small pile. It made me grateful that the Rocket suit filtered the air. It wouldn’t do me harm, but I didn’t like the idea of breathing him in.

The four-handers ran away, deeper into the tunnels, unwilling to take the chance that we wouldn’t kill them. Given that there were more than 20 bodies on the ground, most of them killed by me, I couldn’t blame them.

I turned to check on Marcus. He looked worse than I’d realized.

He lay with his back to the wall, enclosed in the time bubble. I hadn’t noticed, but the shot had burnt through his costume. The grey, rocky skin, tough as it was, must have done some good, but not enough. He wasn’t moving at all.

I became aware of my breathing and the movement of my heart in my chest as the thought struck me that he might be dead.

Except then I noticed one more thing. Lines distorted the shape of Tikki’s time bubble, pulsing outward with her at the center. Around him, lines pulsed outward with him at the center. She had a second time bubble inside the first. She might be keeping him in stasis, something that was well within her abilities as I understood them, but I’d never seen a second bubble inside the larger one.

I turned to look at Tikki, but as I did, I felt something. It reminded me of the feeling I’d had when we’d passed the remains of the battle that Lee had fought while leading the Destroy faction. In memory, that one had felt full of menace.

This felt hopeful, but also afraid at the same time. I’d wondered even as the fight began if she might somehow be one of Lee’s people. We’d met Kee Oataki, and Kee, just like Tikki, had given me new ideas to consider about technology. In Kee’s case, that had been FTL equipment. In Tikki’s, she’d given me new ideas about the bots.

It fit. Kee had disappeared after we walked out the door of her shop. When we walked back in, she wasn’t there. The shop contained people we’d never seen and they didn’t know where she was. It was exactly like one of those disappearing magic shops you read about in stories. After that, we’d been told about Tikki. If Kee’s abilities were anything like Lee’s, she’d had plenty of time to get a new identity.

My grandfather’s theory was that Lee manipulated reality every time he took a new form, altering history so that it was as if that new form has always existed from the moment he took form for as long as it lasted.

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it fit my experience. Somehow Kee had changed reality such that Tikki had always been, including a history that left her parents conveniently dead, and no ties strong enough among the resistance to prevent her from joining up with us.

That would have been exactly what she wanted. Kee said that I glowed. I denied any knowledge of why, but following us would have given her every opportunity to find out who we were connected with.

The only thing that didn’t fit was that Lee had said that I’d probably sense the presence of another one of his people, but Tikki hadn’t ever tripped my ability to sense beings of blasphemous, eldritch horror (or whatever she was).

On the other hand, neither had Kee. I only become aware of what she must be after she’d brought the topic up herself and then completely disappeared.

If Kee was, as she appeared to be, the Live faction’s tech genius, it didn’t seem impossible that she might be able to hide her nature better than any of the others.

We met each other’s eyes and she said, “I know you know. Please don’t tell Marcus.”

I felt my jaw drop. “How can I not tell Marcus? Friends tell their friends when they’re dating uh… whatever you guys are.”

She shook her head. “I need to tell him. She… I… Tikki… She really did, really does love him.”

I said the first thing that came into my head. “What?”

She took two breaths. “I went too deep. I created Tikki and I forgot myself. She’s so like I was when I was young. I’d forgotten how deeply you feel emotions, how much everything hurts whether inside or outside. She wouldn’t let me do anything halfway.”

“So, Marcus is definitely alive, right?”

“Yes!” She shouted back at me, her upper lip quivering. “I’m going to save him, and then after that, when it’s over, I’m going to tell him what I really am.”

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Tieshaunn

B14.3 Breaking Point

Tieshaunn

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Basil stepped away from the tesseract, pleasantly surprised to notice that however this means of transportation worked, it didn’t leave him the least bit disoriented or otherwise impaired.

He’d arrived at a supermarket’s parking lot, in a circle of several dozen civilians who seemed to have been hastily getting food and other supplies out of the supermarket – a quick look showed that the place had been opened, electronic screens on the outside announcing that it was giving away its inventory freely, so it wasn’t looting – who seemed to have frozen in fear when the tesseract appeared, only to relax when they saw him.

A middle-aged man with a beard shadow on the very verge of turning into a short beard approached Basil after putting a stack of packages down on the ground, looking nervously at him, his eyes roving as he seemed to have trouble deciding what to focus on while looking at his mostly featureless mask.

“You… you’re Brennus, right? The superhero?” he asked, his voice nearly cracking with nervousness.

“Yes,” Basil replied, looking around. “You should all get to the shelters as quickly as possible. Do not take more than you can easily carry,” he continued, looking at a group of teenagers so ladden down with sweets and snacks they probably wouldn’t have made it home without an accident even on a good day.

And this wasn’t a good day, by any possible measure.

“We’ll… yeah, we’ll do that,” the man replied. “But… I mean, how’s…” He looked towards the distant battle, which even now was rather easy to make out, as beams of light lanced up again and ag-

He flinched, his fists clenching so tightly he thought he’d damage his gloves as another lance of pure agony shot through his head, overtaking the steady thrum of background pain.

At least no one noticed, as the onlookers got distracted by the sudden growth of… something… where the beams had just been.

Basil touched the button on the communicator the Dark had given him, creating a ping to notify them… not that he thought it was necessary, right now, but it was a good habit to get into in case they lost track of her.

“Go,” he spoke, voice hard, making people flinch. “Don’t waste time and get to safety, now!”

They got.

Basil turned away from the supermarket and left the lot, running at as fast a pace as he could maintain – he still had a way to go. The node he’d taken had been the one closest to his house, but it was still quite a ways away from it.

Nevertheless, there was nothing at all he could do to help in this fight if he was limited to his emergency equipment.

Frankly, there wasn’t much, if anything, he was likely to contribute at all, even with his best gadgets, b-

He stumbled, nearly falling over as he was hit by another spike of pain, barely a minute after the previous one.

Barely managing to turn the stumble into the start of a run, he sent another signal, just in c-

Another spike of pain, still just as painful and impossible to get used to as the first one.

This time, he fell actually fell over, his mask hitting the pavement hard enough he actually felt it.

He pushed the button, almost reflexively, before he pushed himself up again.

So fast… she usually keeps the same powerset for a minute or two at least, even when she’s under heavy attack, he thought as he scrambled forward, breaking into as fast a run as he could. Did Memento really manage to upgrade enough to pressure her so much more, or…

Another spike of pain, causing him to stumble, but this time he managed to stay on his feet and keep running.

Passing by a gap in the buildings to his right, he looked towards where the fight was going on and saw the reason for the rapid change.

Gloom Glimmer had engaged DiL. Even at this distance, he could make her black-clothed, white-cloaked form, thanks to his telescopic vision enhancements, unleashing a truly staggering display of power.

Pain flashed through his mind as Gloom Glimmer kept meeting every new set DiL expressed with another power, countering her at every step.

When she wasn’t able to react quickly enough, one of the Mementos would intercede instead, unleashing a different super-weapon.

DiL, meanwhile, showed no sign of concern. She simply floated left and right, sometimes twisting in the air, but rarely even bothering to face her opponents as she kept switching through powers. Her arms remained limply at her sides, while her hair twisted with her motions and the wind, the glowing strands destroying anything they came into contact with – including the occasional metahuman who ventured too close, or was unable to get away in time when she closed in.

Then he was past the gap, moving slower now that he was being attacked by those horrid headaches every half minute or so.

He just couldn’t get used to them.

Damn it… Damn it… I need to… to get home, he thought as he almost fell over, stumbling before he leaned against the wall of a bakery he often went to to get fresh bread, on better days. Get your act together, Basil. You can’t afford to be weak right now.

Another flash of pain cut off his attempt to psych himself up.

And another.

And another, again.

God damn it, it’s great that Gloom Glimmer can hold her sister off so well, bu-

He doubled over, dropping to his knees as yet another flash of pain lit up his brain.

Fuck.

The pain and disorientation were so bad, he almost missed the brief distortion which travelled over the ground of him, as if someone had dropped a pebble into a pond, waves radiating across the concrete… and the walls, coming all from a single point somewhere towards the centre of the city.

From the battle.

“Be advised that the Adversary has broken off contact,” Memento’s voice announced through his comms. “Due to the changed nature of her desolation field, pinpointing her location is no longer possible. Announce any sighting through your comms immediately.”

“Damn it,” Basil grunted, forcing himself up onto his feet – and then he jumped, leaping away from the bakery as a hand formed out of its brick wall and glass front, slashing at his throat with broken-glass-claws.

The creature emerged so quickly and seamlessly, it almost looked like a stopmotion effect – one moment, normal bakery, the next, a twisted gargoyle of brick, metal and glass stood there, the bakery’s front wrecked and scavenged for materials.

It stood as tall as Basil was, even hunched over and slumped, its posture more appropriate to a cartoon character than a living being. Its body was primarily made out of bricks, with metal at the joints and glass shards providing details, as well as claws and eyes.

When it opened its misshapen maw, it revealed a mouth full of countless metal and glass fangs, reflecting the light of the desolation field and the irregularly penetrating sun to create an almost rainbow-like glow.

Dozens of similar creatures rose out of the street and buildings around Basil, all roughly resembling gargoyles – humanoid, misshapen heads, claws, wings – but no two were similar beyond their basic frame, each made out of whichever materials were nearby when it was formed.

They all looked at Basil and opened their maws, hissing as they showed off their rainbow teeth.

Great. Now that I’d like another flash of pain, I’m not getting one.

Guess even DiL can’t help but kick you while you’re down, mate.

He couldn’t even dispute that.

The nearest creature, the one whose lazy swipe he’d just dodged, attacked first by throwing itself towards him, its maw opening so wide it very nearly reached a hundred and eighty degrees.

Basil shot it right down the throat before it could even come close, his snapping his rifle up for a one-handed shot which blew its head and a good chunk of its upper torso apart, throwing the remains back into the wrecked bakery, wrecking it further.

“The Adversary has produced a vast number of lesser agents,” Memento informed him, superfluously. “They appear to have only been formed out of material at ground level or above, so the civilians in shelters should be safe. Past instances suggest that destroying at least sixty percent of their number will cause her to switch up powers, which ought to reveal her location again, as well. Spread out and destroy as many as you can. If your comms order you to change location, do so immediately, you will be guided towards the biggest concentration of agents you are predicted to be capable of taking on.”

He dodged another gargoyle and placed another round in the back of its head, pulverizing it and the head of the gargoyle that’d been charging him from the other direction. The metal slugs his railgun were more than powerful enough at such close range to tear through these creatures.

Of course, there was the decidedly non-trivial problem that there were already more gargoyles visible on just this one street than he carried shots with him. And even though he could load nearly any object of approximate shape and size into his railgun and turn it into a lethal projectile, doing so limited him to one shot at a time before having to reload.

Not a sustainable long-term solution.

I wish I had my drone here right now.

Still, there was nothing else to do but fight. The creatures came towards him, not quite swarming him – only the nearest few were attacking, yet, with others seemingly content to tear down nearby walls, lampposts and other bits of construction – but there were far too many for him to stay in one spot and shoot them down one after the other.

Basil took a running leap, taking off the ground to place his boot on the foremost charging gargoyle.

Jumping off its shoulder, he brought his rifle around and shot its head apart even as he flipped over the row of charging gargoyles, landing just in time to whirl around and watch them slam into the opposite line of attackers with a cacophony of shattered glass and screaming metal.

One of the gargoyles had avoided slamming into another of its kind and came charging straight at him, its jaw opened as wide as it could go.

He raised his rifle, aiming at its throat, and pulled the trigger-

Thin arcs of blue-white electricity danced across the muzzle and down the rails, but nothing happened as several alerts appeared on Basil’s heads-up display.

The creature reached him, diving past the rifle as it apparently aimed to clamp its jaws closed around his head – only for his foot to instead slam into it, his armored boot easily withstanding the cutting power of mostly-dull metal and simple window glass, smashing the creature back before it could clamp its jaws closed.

Instead of following up on the attack, Basil retreated, one eye on the situation around himself, one on the readouts his mask was giving him.

He’d feared this would happen – DiL’s desolation field was infamous for screwing with electronics. It was one reason why most gadgeteers steered away from fighting her, as they would all too often end up as sitting ducks, rather than contribute meaningfully to the fight.

Basil had anticipated such a situation. He’d studied reports of the desolation field’s effects online – Toybox in particular had several threads revolving around just this one ability of DiL’s – and done his best to harden his inventions where possible against the electromagnetic interference it caused.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t done so for his emergency kit, as it had been built on a very tight budget and been meant as, well, an emergency solution only.

Which was why his mask’s display was starting to glitch so much, he was forced to deactivate it and flip a hidden switch on its jawline which caused the upper half to collapse into and over the lower half, revealing his eyes and forehead, with the mask now covering only his nose, jaw and mouth.

At the same time, he grabbed his rifle by its handle with one hand and by the barrel with another, as he whirled around like a dervish, cloak flying, dodging a pounce by another gargoyle.

With a twist, he folded the grip away from the trigger, nearly flat against the barrel, and pulled.

The railgun came apart as he drew a single-edged blade made out of gleaming metal from it – one of the rails meant to guide the shots, sharpened on the opposite side to provide a proper cutting edge. It was long enough to serve as a proper sabre, or perhaps a katana, though one with a straight blade.

He used the razor-sharp blade to cut the head off of another gargoyle, and pulled a second sword out of the upper half of his rifle, plunging it straight down the throat of yet another pouncing gargoyle.

That turned out to be a mistake.

The creature clamped its jaws shut, apparently unbothered by having a metre and a quarter of razorsharp steel piercing intos its chest, trapping it in there as it pressed on, easily overbearing Basil.

He was forced to let go of his sword and dive into a roll, barely avoiding being bear-hugged by the gargoyle and crushed against its shard- and spike-studded chest.

They’re not very tough.

His blade cut through the gargoyle’s legs in a single swipe, and once it hit the ground, he leaped over it and twisted around, reaching down to pull his other sword out of its throat before it could damage it.

Another slash took off its head, and that caused it to collapse into its constituent pieces.

So, you gotta destroy the head to stop them? How droll, the Man in the Moon commented.

More gargoyles turned towards Basil, and others got up on their feet again after having fallen over in that mass crash.

Others still were still busy tearing apart their surroundings, gathering parts to…

With a start, he realised they were making new gargoyles. Taking debris and assembling it into vaguely humanoid, winged shapes.

They’ll likely animate them if we give these buggers too much time.

Yes, thank you, I do notice the obvious, Basil thought back at him, though he didn’t have much time to be irritated, being busy dodging a dozen gargoyles made primarily out of very hard and very sharp bits.

Unless it’s Vas’ humongous crush on you.

Not. The. Time. Basil grimaced, finding himself forced to retreat – there were just too many of them bearing down on him, he didn’t have enough space to swing his swords wide and hard enough to take off heads, except for the occasional opening their uncoordinated attacks gave him.

When is it ever? Notice how I only talk to ya now and then? Ever wonder why that is?

One of the newly constructed gargoyles rose up, its movements jerky, uneven. It looked at him and hissed, then came stumbling towards him. Less than the originals, but still dangerous.

I noticed. No idea as to why.

Another slash took a particularly large gargoyle’s head off; Basil followed that up by rushing forward, using its collapsing body to give himself a boost, leaping over the small horde of gargoyles that’d tried to corner him against a wall.

Well, I’m not sure either, but I can only reach you sometimes. And some other times you’re just… deaf to me.

Landing on the street, Basil rolled into a sprint. He was going to get overwhelmed if he stayed where he was – he needed the gadgets he’d left at home, it was the only way he was going to make a meaningful dent in these gargoyles’ numbers.

You’re saying you’re not sure, but that implies you do have some idea as to why.

I cannot say.

So we’re back to that, Basil replied with a mental sigh.

Holding a sword in each hand, he ran down the street, trying to get closer to his house, slashing at gargoyles whenever the opportunity presented itself, hoping that at least the other defenders would manage to pick off enough of them that DiL would switch her powers before they built up too much.

That brings up another point – if one of her powers is the ability to animate these things, and another one is, presumably, whichever power allows her to hide from everyone, then what’s the third one?

No clue, but it can’t be anything good. Especially since we don’t know whether her hiding ability is her defensive or utility slot, and whether the animation ability is her offensive or utility slot. The last one could be any of the three.

He dodged around two particularly misshapen gargoyles made mostly out of shopping trolleys and broken beer bottles, beheaded another that tried to cut him off and used its body as a spring board again, to leap over another line of advancing gargoyles.

Only to have another one slam into him, swooping down from above with its wings extended wide.

They can fly after all.

The gargoyle slammed him into the ground, its hands closing around his swords’ grips over his own hands, preventing him from beheading it in return.

The shards covering the insides of its hands failed to penetrate his gloves, but they still managed to hurt, and the creature was far stronger than its spindly build would suggest – and much heavier, as well.

Basil grit his teeth and pushed back, while the creature opened up its maw, trying to literally bite off his face – but it had him at a serious disadvantage and even though he could stall it, that didn’t change the fact that even more were closing in on them.

Suddenly, he heard a gun being cocked, followed by the gargoyle’s head exploding as it was blown apart by a shot coming from Basil’s left.

The lifeless form collapsed atop him, showering him in debris and briefly blinding him as he closed his eyes to avoid getting anything in them.

When he looked up, he saw a man in a costume dive in between the gargoyles that’d surrounded him, landing over Basil in a broad stance, ready to defend him.

Though, costume was perhaps a bit much. He was wearing polished black shoes and a pair of black pants held up by white suspenders worn over a horizontally striped black-and-white shirt with long sleeves. He was standing there as if he was holding a shotgun, aimed at the advancing gargoyles, but his hands were empty.

Basil couldn’t see the man’s face, only the back of his head and short brown hair that’d been cropped down to the scalp on the sides and back, leaving only a messy mass of shiny locks at the top.

Then the man cocked his invisible shotgun and let loose another shot, blowing apart another gargoyle’s head.

He cocked it again, and another one went down, then he reloaded it, and shot down another two.

Half the gargoyles around them were gone by then, but the others were too close, so he instead switched into a melee pose and swung his arms as if he was holding a sword, slicing the heads off of three gargoyles at once.

The hell?

His saviour finished his spin, coming to face Basil, and extended his left hand towards him, showing his face for the first time.

It was covered in white make-up, from his scalp down to his jawline. His lips were coloured black, and thickly so, with thin lines extending slightly out of the corners. His right eyebrow had been traced with a similarly thick black colour, while the left one was all but imperceptible under the white make-up. Black eyeliner made the right eye stand out, as did several triangles drawn atop and beneath it, like eyelashes, while the right eye merely had a black ‘scar’ running from the forehead above down over it and onto the left cheek.

He was completely silent as he looked at Basil with an urgent expression, his blue-grey eyes as sharp as they were intense.

Le Mime. He came all the way from France?

Basil took the offered arm, hand closing around the man’s wrist as he was hauled up, then he activated the – fortunately still functional – magnets in his gloves to pull his swords back into his grip.

Le Mime whirled around and mimed drawing and firing a gun like an old west gunslinger. A shot sounded, blasting a hole through the head of a charging gargoyle.

“We need to go down the street that way!” Basil told him, gesturing towards his house when he had the french hero’s attention.

The older man – Basil thought he might be in his late twenties, or his early thirties – nodded to him and turned to face the other way, raising his arms and patting the air, before he leaned against an invisible wall, as if to brace it with both hands.

The charging gargoyles – both on the ground and flying – all slammed into said invisible wall, a few of the new ones doing so hard enough that they destroyed themselves.

Both Basil and Le Mime turned away from them and ran down the street – but there were yet more gargoyles in their way.

Le Mime ran ahead and reached into the air, grabbing a hold of something which allowed him to swing himself up and onto… a bike?

With a twist of his hand and a kick of his leg, he revved the invisible motorcycle, waving his other hand towards Basil in a beckoning gesture.

Basil didn’t stop to think, he just lept onto the unseen machine, using Le Mime’s own position to judge where he’d have to land, while he crossed his swords behind his back, making them stick to the flat, flexible magnets worked into his cloak’s emblem.

Landing behind the silent hero, he grunted at the impact – it wasn’t exactly a well-cushioned motorcycle – and wrapped his arms around his waist, while seeking and finding a pair of footholds.

And then Le Mime drove off, shooting through a gap in the crowd of gargoyles before them.

They shot down the street as the hero drove like a madman, dodging their enemies by margins so small Basil was sure they’d be caught a few times.

Nevertheless, they got through another crowd, but there were still more gargoyles ahead of them.

“I need to get to my house and get several gadgets!” Basil shouted to be heard over the cacophony of their bike’s motor. “It is roughly five more kilometres down this road, followed by a turn left and another kilometre of road!”

The silent hero looked at him over his shoulder, his gaze determined, and nodded. Then he briefly took one hand off the grip and tapped Basil’s hands around his waist.

Taking the cue, Basil let go of him as the wind pushed hard against him, and Le Mime thrust his torso back, shoving Basil at the same time as he changed his own position.

And Basil landed in a hard, uncushioned seat in a very different vehicle, as they drove over the street, higher up than before on the bike.

The motorbike’s sound had been replaced by a strangely familiar one… a rotor?

A rotor-propelled plane.

Le Mime mimed pulling a pair of aviator glasses down over his eyes, and then he pulled on a long stick in front of him, leaning back as their biplane rose up, shredding several gargoyles’ heads with its rotor before it was too high up to do so anymore.

Holy shit, I didn’t know he could do constructs this elaborate!

The biplane rose up, soaring over the sky, but Le Mime didn’t angle it directly in the direction of Basil’s house.

Instead, once he’d flown up high enough, he dove down again, one hand closed tightly around the control stick of the plane, while another held something else in front of him.

Before Basil could even wonder what it was – he was mostly focused on the sensation of his stomach rising up into his throat as they dove almost straight down towards the ground and the masses of gargoyles, the deafening combination of the biplanes ancient motor and the rush of air managing to daze even him for a moment – he clenched his fingers around it and the sound of a machine gun firing rose over that of the motor.

Le Mime simultaneously pulled them out of the dead dive, strafing over the hordes of gargoyles, dust and debris rising as their machine gun tore through dozens of them.

He repeated the process three more times before they approached Basil’s neighborhood.

“Fly by the building with the purple roof!” he shouted, hoping he’d be heard over the noise as he pointed at the out-of-place paintjob Amy had insisted on a few years ago. “I will jump onto its roof! You can keep going, I will be alright from here on out!”

He couldn’t be sure he’d be, but this guy was seriously too effective at taking down the gargoyles to be tied down babysitting Basil.

Le Mime looked over his shoulder, briefly, nodding again, and adjusted their flight towards the house.

Twisting the plane until it was nearly on its side, he flew a tight circle over it, just a metre away from having its wings hit the rooftiles.

“Thank you!” Basil shouted, and jumped, landing hard enough on the rooftop to crack some tiles and dislodge others, though he found his footing quite easily.

Waving at Le Mime, he briefly watched him fly away again, shooting up several gargoyles rushing towards the house, before he moved on.

Time to pull my own weight, he thought, walking to the edge of the roof and jumping down, only to hold onto the drain and swing himself feet-first through his own bedroom window.

The electronics were all down, as was his home’s security system, so he just broke through without much of an issue, landing on the soft carpet and standing up straight.

His room was as he’d left it – save for the broken window and glass shards strewn about – and his equipment was also exactly where he’d left it behind.

He could hear the hissing of approaching gargoyles, and the sound of their misshapen limbs upon pavement, so he didn’t waste any time, stepping towards where he’d embedded his force-field gauntlet into the wall…

And staggered as he walked throug the spot where he’d last held Prisca, a flash of green eyes and red hair conjured by his memory briefly occluding his vision.

Moments passed during which he just stood there, his arms limp down his sides and his eyes stinging.

He could almost feel her lips on his.

Almost.

It seemed so long ago, and yet like it had just happened.

Prisca, I-

Behind him, a gargoyle reached his window, fingers crushing glass as they wrapped around the broken frame, pulling it up.

Basil acted more on instinct than conscious thought, jumping onto his bed and grabbing the gauntlet.

The gargoyle pulled itself up and shrieked.

He pulled the gauntlet over his gloved hand, onto his left forearm, whirling around and raising it.

Please work.

The gargoyle lept, just as the gauntlet fired, unleashing a burst of what was essentially pure force, smashing into the creature’s wide open maw – still the easiest target to aim at – and blasting it out the window in pieces.

Basil couldn’t bring himself to even feel proud of the quality of his work. Instead, he quickly exchanged his emergency equipment for his hardened gear, attaching the drone to his left thigh for later – it only had a rather limited battery life – and blasted two more gargoyles apart as soon as they raised their heads over the bottom of the window frame.

The heads-up display of his helmet booted up with only a few minor visual glitches before stabilising, and he was finally properly equipped for this.

Or as much as he could be, facing an opponent whom he couldn’t possibly harm or even truly inconvenience.

Despair later. Fight now.

And as if on cue, there was another flash of pain, and the sound of countless gargoyles collapsing into harmless debris outside, causing him to briefly flinch and nearly fall over.

He pressed the button on the communicator the Dark had given him, and then leapt onto the window sill, looking out over the city until he could see DiL’s figure in the distance, surrounded by a nimbus of blue light. Just four or five blocks away from his home.

“The Adversary has reappeared, W8. All forces, prepare for new powerset,” Memento announced in his mechanical monotone.

Guess it’s time to find out whether we can actually contribute anything here, ain’t it, mate?

Basil lept out of the window.

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Semicoop

Owlcat

Semicoop

And… we’re back from our two-week break! I’d like to once again, thank JJ Sandee and Jonathan Ying for their amazing guest comics. 😀 I actually had time to play some board games the last two weeks! That was refreshing. 😉

Not some board games, quite a lot actually. From the top of my head: Arkham Horror the Card Game, Bargain Quest, Sheriff of Nottingham, Illimat, Hive Pocket, Santorini, Agricola: All Animals Big and Small, London, Eldritch Horror, Escape the Dark Castle, Race for the Galaxy, Century Golem, Small World, Odin’s Ravens and Jaipur!

This week’s comic is about A Fake Artist Goes to New York, a fun little party game by Oink Games. One player is the Question Master and thinks up a theme and the exact subject of the drawing that players have to draw. The Question Master hands out cards to all the players with the subject written on the back, except to the player that will be… the fake artist! He or she gets a card with an X written on the back but has to pretend like they know precisely what they’re contributing to the drawing. The Fake Artist only knows the given theme, like animals, food, etc. All players get to draw to two lines on the picture and then, everybody has to point out who they think was the fake artist that round.

Something completely different: We’ve been seeing a lot of pictures of Root all over social media and we can’t wait to receive our copy! We’ll probably receive it within two or three weeks. Exciting! Even Heinze’s brother in Australia already got his copy and was teasing us with pictures. 😉 … soon!

What’s your favorite party game?

The post Owlcat appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 7

In My Daydreams

The beam hit Marcus’ chest, but it didn’t get through his new costume. While I hadn’t been planning to go to war, I knew that he and Jaclyn were more vulnerable to heat and lasers than they were to anything physical.

I designed their costumes to disperse heat and reflect lasers.

In Marcus’ case, I designed his to adjust to shapeshifting to the degree that it could—which sometimes worked against protecting him.

In this case, he’d gone with a smaller, denser form instead of a larger or thinner form which would have made the armor thinner as well.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a form that helped a person dodge.

The costume glowed with heat and he dove to the side.

Tikki screamed and I activated the lasers, aiming them at Agent 957. I’d been trying to avoid killing anyone else, but I didn’t have much of a choice here.

I’d never been all that interested in finding out what lasers with the power to burn through a battleship’s armor would do to human flesh, but I didn’t have a lot of choices.

Fortunately for my stomach and unfortunately for Marcus, Agent 957 had an Abominator style shield. Instead of burning and cooking Agent 957’s flesh, the beams hit the shield, each of them creating a spot on the shield that burned with a bright light (that my helmet dimmed).

White with hints of red and blue, the light lit the tunnel.

I didn’t love what it was doing to the suit’s power reserves. While it wasn’t emptying them, I could see that it could given enough time.

At the same time, I could see hints of Agent 957’s face through his helmet with my HUD.

His eyes were wide and he seemed to be looking at something that no one could see. I guessed it might be suit-related information from his implant because defending against the lasers would cost battery life.

I didn’t have information on whether running a shield would cost less or more energy than pointing lasers into that same shield. I would have bet on more, but I would also bet that he probably had better batteries to work with.

Whether or not that was true, he didn’t try to stand there and just take the blasts. He shouted a few quick words and ran at me, firing his pistol.

Kals had mentioned that the Ascendancy prepared people with words that could be used to take them out. I assumed that Agent 957 was trying the common ones out on us except that none of us had grown up in the right time or place to have an agent prepare us to be disabled except for Tikki.

The words didn’t affect her in any noticeable way. She took a step forward, pulling her entire time bubble closer to the rest of us.

Meanwhile, Marcus had slumped against the cave wall near Tikki’s time bubble even before the agent said anything and Tikki’s movement had pulled him into the bubble.

I turned off the left arm’s laser and turned on the sonics, setting the weapon to find the shield’s resonant frequency on the theory that enough vibrations might take down the shield.

At the same time, I kept up the right arm’s laser attacks.

Agent 957 let out a breath, leading me to think that if he was relaxing, turning off the left-hand laser might have been a mistake. Except then, as sonics found the shield’s resonant frequency, the glowing bubble around him began to “wobble” in the air. Worse for him, light from the laser began to get through the shield—not all the time, but stray bits of light were beginning to burn his armor. At the same time, the sizzling noise that the laser hitting the shield made became louder.

His eyes widened, darting around, trying to decide what to do next, I guessed.

Making a decision, he pulled a hand-sized cylinder from his belt and shouted, “Stop or they die!”

Then he ran toward Tikki and Marcus. I didn’t know what the cylinder was, but the smart money seemed to be on a grenade or a bomb. Even as I continued to point the laser at his wobbling shield, I realized that a bomb was the perfect attack against Tikki in that an explosion would fill the space.

She might be able to slow it down, but if it ever reached her, she’d still die and Marcus with her.

All I could think at the moment was to turn off the right arm’s laser, but then, on impulse, I turned on the right arm’s sonic, setting it to match the left arm’s sonic frequency.

As I did, Agent 957 slumped in relief and smiled. He’d won. Except then his shield popped into glowing sparks and Tikki accelerated herself, moving forward in a burst, grabbing the hand with the bomb and pulling it out of his hand as her time bubble surrounded him.

When she stepped back from him, the bubble still surrounding him, he began to age, his skin turning grey and then crumbling to dust.

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In My Daydreams

Updating as Normal

In My Daydreams

Bearing in mind that Monday updates have been late for the last couple weeks, I thought I’d make sure people knew that tomorrow’s update will appear on time.

On another note, some of you are probably aware that I play tabletop role-playing games (the kind with people and dice). You might wonder what that’s like.

Well, here’s an excerpt from a description of a Traveller game I ran today. All you  really need to know is that they’ve just teleported aboard a starship and that the campaign’s big bad is on the bridge:

As the game ended, Ishugi was blocking the hallway from a group of Nak-tik-tik soldiers who were entering on one end as Lazard, Jo, and Reg ran toward the bridge.

So, the games’ ends at least are pretty much the same as what you’re getting here.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 6

In My Daydreams

That turned out to be a fool’s dream. Agent 957 barked out a command that my implant translated as, “Target him!”

“Him” in this case meant me and the four remaining soldiers ran at me, the front two firing their weapons, hitting my armor. I felt the warmth. Even as I began to aim the sonics directly at the nearest soldiers, one of them fell over, taken out because Tikki recycled one of their own shots.

Another of their energy blasts missed, flying above everyone’s heads and hitting the ceiling.

The soldier nearest me dropped his gun and jumped for me, claws out. While he moved faster than I could, he didn’t move faster than Travis or Haley, and I’d been training with both of them—Haley more than Travis. One thing I’d learned was that I could make up for less agility with timing. I might not be able to turn as quickly as they could when they were on the ground, but the moment they left the ground, they were traveling in one direction at a more predictable speed.

I stepped to the right, punching him in the chest as hard as I could in the suit, hard enough to kill a normal person several times over. These guys were covered in alien-made armor that had to be at least as advanced as mine.

Advanced as it was, I still hit with around ten tons of force on a good day. The punch threw the soldier into the wall on the left side of the tunnel with a crash that cracked the wall. The armor didn’t break, but after the soldier fell to the floor, he didn’t move.

In the meantime though, the remaining two soldiers had reached me. Before I could do anything about it, one hit me in the stomach with its shoulder, reaching around me to grab my arms. The other stood out of my reach, aiming its gun at me, hoping, I guessed, that close range and holding me in place would open me up.

It wasn’t impossible that they were right about that.

I bent forward and activated the rockets, shooting myself down the tunnel or at least it would have been that way if there were more space near the ceiling. I shot upward, trying to level out while an Ascendancy soldier hung onto me. We hit the ceiling at about the time we would have leveled out if I hadn’t been trying to compensate for the soldier’s weight, bouncing off of it and heading toward the ground.

The soldier on the ground careened sideways, trying to avoid the other soldier’s legs. Agent 957 and the four-handers dropped to the floor or leaned against the wall.

I’d gotten out of a bad spot, but it didn’t make me feel competent as much as a potential member of the cast for “The Three Stooges go to War.”

I didn’t feel more competent when we hit the ground, but on the bright side, I did land on the guy who’d been hanging on to me—for a little while. We flipped over a couple times. I wish I could say that I used that momentum to get back to my feet, but ended up on the floor next to the Ascendancy soldier and behind Agent 957 and the four-handers.

Thanks to the suit’s strength, I pushed myself up about as quickly as the soldier, charging him, and punching him in the face.

He went down and didn’t get up.

Back where I’d taken to the air, the sole standing Ascendancy soldier pointed his rifle at me and would have fired except that the wall developed hands and started battering the soldier against the floor until his gun bounced across the floor and he stopped moving.

Marcus reformed into a rocky version of himself, maybe five feet tall, but with big fists. Still obscured by her time field, Tikki stood behind him.

I’d say that we were down to a battle between the three of us on one side and Agent 957 plus the three four-handers except we weren’t.

The four-handers huddled against the wall together saying, “Mercy, we surrender!”

Agent 957 glanced over at them with no expression. That was probably standard procedure for them.

He held a wide-barreled gun in his hand but didn’t point it at anybody. Looking over at Marcus, he pointed at Tikki and said, “Kill her.”

Against the background of a quiet buzz, Marcus shook his head, “Sorry, but no. That’s not going to work.”

Looking at Tikki, he said, “You, kill him.”

Tikki looked at him and I tried to remember if I’d given Tikki an anti-voice countermeasure. I felt sure I hadn’t and hoped that her time distortion field might prevent that though I couldn’t think of a good reason that it would.

She smiled. “Your whole civilization is built on slavery. I’ll never help you.”

I thought it interesting that she talked as if she wasn’t part of that civilization.

In the same moment, Agent 957 pointed his gun at Marcus and fired.

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EPU - What's New

UF/FI: OOTR: Romance of Combined Fleet Record, Volume 1

EPU - What's New
Continuing on from Cantata for Warships in D, we present the first volume of a new subseries, Romance of Combined Fleet Record. Newly-minted Admiral Corwin Ravenhair is getting to know his fleet, now that they aren't being shot at. Meanwhile, back on Earth, others are investigating what they've left behind in Volume 1, "The Human Experience". 2018/08/08
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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 5

In My Daydreams

By shots, I mean burning blasts of energy and technically they didn’t ring out so much as sizzle through the air. Of course, a technicality of description wouldn’t make their weapons less lethal.

Marcus flattened out against the wall—though not before Tikki stood in front of him with her bubble of time distortion filling the tunnel. I was on the wrong side—the unprotected side. That wasn’t bad. I wanted to be able to do things, but it was inconvenient for Marcus.

That said, head on fights with people using energy weapons weren’t his strong point. Like Jaclyn, he’d inherited some level of toughness from their grandfather, but it worked better against physical hits.

All the same, the implant noticed that the area of Tikki’s field had increased by fifty percent. I would have loved to speculate why—had she been hiding it? Did risk to Marcus prompt a growth spurt? I didn’t have time for that.

More than one blast hit my armor, causing damage, but nothing major. I wasn’t immune to it, but I could take it for a little while. After nearly losing my arm to a fire-breathing dragon, I’d improved the heat resistance.

First, I had to slow down or stop their charge. I went with an idea I didn’t love, but thought might work. I fired off a killbot, turning off the bot’s default programming—which was to aim for a vital spot and explode on arrival. Reminding myself that innocent people would die if I didn’t do this (and maybe us too), I aimed for the heart and set it to hit the same spot on as many soldiers as it could.

I’d thought about trying it earlier, but now conditions seemed more favorable and maybe I was a little more desperate.

They weren’t quite in a straight line—it was more like two staggered columns, but it was close enough.

I felt a small push as the bot fired outward from my arm, hitting the first soldier in the heart, cutting through his armor like it wasn’t there, and then zigging to the right to hit the next soldier.

Like Haley and Travis, these soldiers had better than human agility, so the second soldier tried to dodge, jumping sideways toward the middle of the tunnel.

It didn’t work. The killbot swerved, hitting him in the chest and shooting out the back and zagging to the left toward the third soldier before the first soldier even hit the ground.

The bot killed four more in exactly the same way before it hit the eighth, going through the front, but worn down enough that it couldn’t cut through the back. As per its programming, it then exploded.

Up until the explosion, it had reminded me of the bits in “Guardians of the Galaxy” where Yondu’s arrow flew through people, killing them the same way my bot had killed the first seven.

We didn’t have the Disney corporation or the Motion Picture Association of America available to minimize the gore. The eighth soldier’s chest exploded, throwing bits of the soldier’s body, armor, and fire on to the stone below.

Bloody chunks hit the ground, some of them charred and glowing like the dying embers of a campfire. The smell reminded me of barbaqued pork.

Using the sonics, I used the implant’s command of the Ascendancy’s language to shout, “Surrender!”

Maybe they might have, but Agent 957 shouted, “Kill him!” in a way that activated my suit’s anti-voice system (now improved thanks to Kals).

Blasts of energy flew toward me, the first two hitting me in the chest. The third missed, absorbed by Tikki’s time bubble, but not destroyed.

She twisted, rotating the bolt around her, and aiming it back at the soldiers, hitting one of them and taking him down.

I didn’t think it was the one who’d fired the bolt, but it was impressive anyway, showing more control than I’d thought she had.

When you’re a fanatic soldier and you’re being urged to kill by mind control, that’s not enough to shake your morale, but it should be.

I fired off another killbot, knowing that after this I had only two left, but also knowing that it was the only bot that worked well enough to be useful. Maybe Tikki could help me convert the rest into something effective later.

The killbot took out six and then exploded on the seventh. They’d moved more when dodging than the first group. I could only guess that it had less force to work with or that the bot hit tougher sections of their armor.

Either way, we’d taken out 16 out of the 20 Ascendancy soldiers (including Tikki’s redirect), leaving four soldiers, three four-handers and Agent 957.

I decided not to use another killbot, partly because I only had two killbots left, partly because I didn’t want to see another body explode, and partly for a reason that both Lee and Hal would have approved of. Knowing that the bot wouldn’t work on Agent 957, that I wouldn’t need it to kill the four-handers, and that the killbots were a limited resource, using them on only four soldiers was inefficient.

It wasn’t a thought that made me feel good about myself, but it was true.

I decided not to dwell on it, turned on the sonics in the hope that they’d disable something, and ran toward the soldiers, hoping Agent 957 would let them surrender.

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Semicoop

Guest comic by Jonathan Ying

Semicoop

Hi, dear readers! We’re taking a break and thus, like last week, we have a guest comic for you! It’s made by Jonathan Ying, the designer of Bargain Quest! We love Bargain Quest and so do all the people we have played it so far. Bargain Quest second kickstarter has launched today, so if you’re interested in the game, you can get yourself a copy of the game… and the new expansion! Click here to see the Kickstarter project. We’d also like to thank Jonathan for the amazing guest comic. <3 We want our characters to always be dressed like this in the future. 

Having guest comics has been really cool, it has given us time to catch our breath and to see the creativity of others. Next week, we’re back with the ‘normal’ Semi Co-op comics. For now, a few words from Jonathan Ying:

—-

Hi everyone! This is Jonathan Ying! I’m a game designer and sometimes illustrator. I’m a big fan of Semi Co-op and was super excited to get the chance to do a guest comic! This particular one was a blast to draw and it covers a discussion I often consider regarding immersion and roleplaying in gaming! You can see more of what I do by going to my website jonathanying.com! Happy gaming!

What game do you find the most immersive?

The post Guest comic by Jonathan Ying appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Tieshaunn

B14.2 Breaking Point

Tieshaunn

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“Commencing fifty-ninth attempt at completing the prime directive,” the Memento in front of them said, its brassy, electronical voice carrying easily across the plaza. “Assuming command of local operations as per pre-existing protocols established with the relevant Metahuman Combat Organisations.”

Irene watched the machine – could it even really be said to be a machine? – reach out and touch the pillar of tesseracts. Golden light spread from the point of impact, circuit patterns spreading over and through the tesseracts as they folded into themselves and disappeared, until only one was left, floating at about chest height above the ground.

Her power twitched, a sensory ability falling into place which traced the spatial distortions, locating the tesseracts across the entire area covered by the Desolation Field. They’d been spread out, though not uniformly, clustering closer at key areas while neglecting ones at the fringes.

“These constructs serve as nodes for a teleportation network,” Memento explained calmly. “Touching one will project a map of the nodes’ locations and the area in general into your mind, allowing you to choose a node as the destination.”

He raised a hand, which split open and retracted the fingers, forming a cannon of sorts, as Irene felt the sensory ability recede in favour of a form of defense… desolidification of some kind, but she didn’t get a chance to figure it out before it was gone, her power realising that she didn’t need to defend herself against Memento.

A silvery beam was projected out of the arm cannon, like the wave patterns on liquid mercury you dropped something into, only it was just the waves without the mercury. Where the beam concentrated, a huge metal crate… faded into view, becoming fully solid within a few seconds.

Once the beam cut off, the crate folded open, revealing hundreds of small, about palm-sized objects, looking like watches without hands or bands.

“Every combatant is strongly advised to take on of these communicators and affix them to their body by touching the flat side to whichever spot upon them that they want it to adhere to,” he explained, as people began to appear out of the node, seemingly blinking into existence out of nowhere, up to four at a time each touching a different side of the tesseract.

Irene paid them no mind and stepped forward, feeling the cobblestone beneath her feet, thanks to the sock-like bottoms of her suit that she wore in lieu of actual shoes; a choice she’d made for a variety of reasons, from having no need to walk where it would be impractical footwear, to just wanting something cute and unusual…

And she was deflecting, letting her mind drift rather than deal with the hear and now. She had to focus, to get herself ready to dive back into the fight; so she took one of the watches, turning it about in her hand as she walked away from the crate – it was more of a container really, when looked at from close range, it’d only seemed like a mere crate due to Memento’s present body being so huge – and came to a stop a little apart from anyone else.

She didn’t feel up to interacting, right then and there. The last few minutes still weighed heavily on her, as she touched the contrivance to her left collarbone, just below where the cape she’d inherited from her mother was connected to her bodysuit, and it stuck to it under its own power, booting up with a barely audible hum.

Mother’s cape, Irene thought morosely, remembering the occasion when her mother had given it to her – just minutes before she’d fought the Rabid Eight in that stupid stunt the director and Patrick had cooked up to show New Lennston that the UH still had teeth, even with nearly the entire adult membership being away for several months (it had worked, of course – barring the two bizarre S-Class events which followed upon one another, and the Red Goblins’ idiocy, the crime rate in New Lennston had risen only slightly, way below the projections made by Argus Panopticos), the moment when her mother had pulled the cape off her shoulders and put it around Irene’s, followed by a kiss to the forehead, standing out far more in her recollection than the entire battle which had followed, than the entire rest of the day, even though it’d been the day she’d first met Melody.

“You will surpass us, my love,” her mother said, her words as clear as if she was saying them right now. “You are the best of me, and the best of your father, and one day you will be more than we could ever be.”

And she’d said that with such conviction, like it was an absolute truth, and yet so calmly and casually, like it was self-evident.

Her father had been there also, as he was now, when her mother was not. Just like then, now, he moved closer, wrapping his arms around her from behind, lifting her off her feet to give her a light hug; though his wraith had been more solid then, his power more present, not expended as it was now.

“What are you thinking about, zeiskeit?” he asked now.

“What your mother is trying to say is that, one day, she and I will be but footnotes in history books, our only notable achievement being that we gave birth to and raised you,” he’d said then. “Now go and show the world a glimpse of that.”

“I’m thinking about Bree,” she said softly, feeling his body stiffen briefly, a flinch she could only notice because she was pressed so tightly against him, half engulfed in the whispy mist of his wraith. “I tried to… to reach her.” Her eyes watered, though she managed to blink the tears away, moments before her power offered and then withdrew a power that’d deaden her emotions. “She didn’t even notice me.”

She’d been so proud, back then. To finally be stepping up to the task. To finally have enough control over herself and her power that her parents trusted her to put on a costume and go out and do good.

To finally be able to start working on the one thing she knew would delight her parents more than anything, perhaps even more than answering that question – to recover their firstborn, so their family could finally be whole, without Bree’s spectre always looming over them.

To prove to the world that no one was beyond redemption.

To save her big sister.

And on a more selfish note, to prove that she herself didn’t have to follow down Bree’s path and even if she did, that she could still be saved even then.

She used to have nightmares about becoming like Bree, about killing those near and dear to herself – first her parents, then those like Gruncle Jake or Uncle Neil or Journeyman. Later, others had joined them in her nightmares, Thomas, Harry, Aimihime, even Goudo and Jared. Even Basil and his teammates, though she knew them so little. Prisca.

Melody.

“She is beyond saving, Irene,” he spoke softly, as he put her down and gently turned her around to face him, lowering himself down on one knee to look her in the eyes as he put a hand on each shoulder. “Please, please, if you must fight here – and believe me, if I thought I could enforce it right now, I wouldn’t let you take part in this – then you must not try to save her. You must not try to reach her. The only way you can go if you want to stay here is to see her as the enemy she is and work to mitigate the damage she does… and protect yourself.”

He pulled her into a hug again, the mist-like shadows wrapping around her, engulfing her face as she was pullsed tightly against his hard chest, his arms warm and strong around her.

Even as she felt her body relax a bit, even as she focused on him to center her thoughts a bit, to keep them from continuing to fly apart, she couldn’t help but remember and consider…

You’re her father. Shouldn’t you, above all, believe that she can be saved? Do everything possible to save her? If not you, then who?

“How can I be more than both of you, if I can’t even do this?” she asked instead, her voice barely audible even to herself, catching hold of a different line of thought.

“Maybe one day you will be able to do what we couldn’t,” he replied, his voice soft in spite of the manifold distortions worked into it. “But that day is not now. Please, Irene, promise me. Promise me that you won’t try to save her, not today. Promise me that you’ll prioritise keeping yourself safe.” His grip on her tightened, as if he was trying to pull her deeper into his shadows, restrain her so she wouldn’t be able to join in the fight. “If not for your sake, then for mine. I could not bear to lose you.”

Unbidden, powers rose to prevent even that. High-speed teleportation, gaseous desolidification, a crude yet immensily powerful form of telekinesis…

No, she didn’t need those. She pushed the powers back, preventing them… herself… her steward… whomever from lashing out at her father or escaping his embrace.

Still, it served to illustrate his point well. Perhaps, if he hadn’t spent himself fighting Marchosias, then the Gefährten, he might have been able to restrain her, but the way he was now…

All he could do was plead with her and she would be lying if she denied that his heartfelt plea – for it truly was such, there was no doubt as to the sincerity of his emotions – didn’t make a part of her want to just curl up in his arms and leave, abandon the fight and just shut out the world for a while, regardless of the consequences…

But that part of her wasn’t the part that was in charge.

“I’ve got to fight, daddy,” she said softly, as she pushed her hands against his chest.

He resisted, briefly, but then he let her go, his six-eyed ‘face’ completely expressionless as he remained on one knee, briefly, before standing up again. He remained quiet.

Looking up at him, she felt her heart break a bit as she admitted to herself that he was right… to a point. “I… I promise you… I won’t try to save Bree, today,” she said, knowing that if she tried, she would fail and most likely die… “Today, I will fight to protect others from her, and I’ll do my best to keep myself safe as well, as far as that’s possible.”

And if Irene died, then who would save Bree? Who would save everyone else?

Who would answer the question she’d been born to answer?

He looked her in the eyes, six red ones to two blue ones, and nodded. “Thank you, zeiskeit.”

She nodded to him, lowering her eyes again. “What about mom?” she finally asked, after a few quiet seconds passed, while around them the capes and cowls were moving out. Most of the junior heroes had left her alone to talk to her father, but Melody was still there, waiting, watching her with those big, soulfull eyes of hers.

Probably hearing everything they said, too, not that Irene minded that.

“I’ve sent a messenger to recall her as quickly as possible,” he replied calmly, back to a more business-like demeanor. “Unfortunately, she had to move beyond the reach of most forms of quick communication… it may take a while for the message to reach her, and even more to make her way here. For the time being, we will have to deal with out her.”

She nodded. “What about you?”

He shook his head. “I spent too much. The way things stand, I can’t even provide communications with my wraiths,” he admitted, his anger over his own impotence evident even through the distortions of his darkwraith. “I’ll stay in the back, use Memento’s network to help coordinate and guide our forces.”

“Alright.” Deep breaths. “I’ll… be getting ready, then.” Her power was roiling, as active as she’d ever known it, like a pond or a small lake over-filled with fish fighting and striving to rise to the surface. She turned around to move away, but he took her by the shoulder.

“Irene, I am all but powerless right now,” he said, his voice soft. “But you know there’s a way for me to recharge rapidly.”

“A monstrous way,” she replied without turning around or even looking over her shoulder, her voice less than a whisper.

“Nonetheless, if I deem it necessary to protect you, I will walk that way, no matter the price to me… or others. Do you understand?” he countered, his voice as hard as it had been soft before.

A shiver ran down her spine as she contemplated what he was talking about… and the real meaning of his words.

To openly use, perhaps even publically reveal the true nature of his powers, kept secret for almost a century, just for the sake of protecting her.

You’re my daddy, after all, she thought, not without some wistfulness. I just wish you’d feel the same way about Bree.

Then again, perhaps you did try, and that failed, too.

She reached up with one hand and squeezed his hand where it lay on her shoulder. “I understand. I’ll make sure it won’t be necessary, I promise.” She squeezed his hand again, then she moved away, letting it slide off her shoulder as she walked over to Melody, quietly taking her friend’s hand.

Her father looked after her for a few more moments, then he turned away and moved over to Memento’s instance.

“I’m sorry,” Melody spoke softly, using her vocoder. Irene’s power wasn’t volunteering any telepathy right now… rather, it seemed to be building up to something big, by the feel of it.

“It’s alright,” Irene replied, squeezing her friend’s fingers tightly enough to be felt through her thick, rigid gloves. “Everything will be well, you’ll see.” She tried to give Melody a reassuring smile, but it clearly didn’t work well, judging by her expression.

Melody didn’t press the point, however, and Irene averted her eyes, looking out over the plaza again just in time to see Basil… calling him ‘Brennus’ just felt wrong to her, somehow, like it was missing something… approach the node, looking over his shoulders at the two of them – they were the last ones of his fellow teenagers still on the plaza, everyone else having moved on.

Another lost one, she thought, feeling a wave of sympathy wash over her. She knew about Prisca’s death, of course. She had cried when she heard, and she would likely cry more and grieve properly, once she had the time, but right now, others needed her more.

Others, like Basil. Something about him… he’d always felt different to her. Not in any way related to powers, but in a far more primal way.

It was like she’d thought moments ago.

He’s lost, like I am, she thought quietly, watching him touch the node and disappear, then she looked up and into the distance, seeing lights flash and dustclouds rise in the distance where the fight was even now going on.

We all are, really. Capes and cowls, the lot of us. Basil and Prisca, Vasiliki and Amanda, Dalia and Bree, all the others and foolish little Irene, all of us, here in the city where it all began, all the lost ones.

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In My Daydreams

Late Update (Wedding Anniversary)

In My Daydreams

Tonight is the 24th anniversary of my wife’s and my wedding. So, while I am writing an update at the moment, I’m betting that I’ll finish it tomorrow.

For those of you who aren’t married (and maybe a few of you who are) I have some advice–ignoring your wife on your anniversary is a bad idea.

I will update tomorrow, though. My apologies for doing this two Monday’s in a row.

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Tieshaunn

Of Seven, I only fear one…

Tieshaunn

Hello everyone,

this one has been a long time coming. I said I would try to explain my long absence and silence, so here it is.

Just to be clear, this is an explanation. Not an excuse. I’m not trying to excuse it because there is no excuse I could bring. I had every chance to at the very least make a short post and tell everyone what was going on, or write some short updates (or longer ones). I am not and will never try to excuse my failure to do so, only explain it.

Something happens when I’m starting to write, drawing my attention away. By the time it’s resolved I’m too tired to continue. The next day something else happens and I decide to put it off for another day. Then on the day after that some pleasant stuff happens which, nonetheless, takes up too much time for me to get to writing.

Then come exams. Some personal tragedies (five people dead and buried over the last six months, six if we count my grandmother about a year ago), including some really… baffling ones (two of those dead were suicides we didn’t see coming). More exams. Working on the side to pay the bills and support my family a bit.

Stuff keeps happening and at first I put writing – and responding on the blog – off for perfectly good reasons, but it quickly becomes a habit. I look at the comment count going up and I just think “I don’t have the energy to reply to all that today and I don’t want to reply to just some and ignore others”. That happens again the day after. The more often I put it off, the easier it gets to keep putting it off.

That pattern continues until I don’t respond to the blog, nor write anything but some random snippets, for half a year. It’s stupid, it’s laziness in its worst form, the kind of laziness a religious person knows as Sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, perhaps the worst one of the lost – or at least the most ubiquitous one.

So in the end it was just… me being lazy, getting myself used to putting it off over and over until I had to get a reality check and realise just how long I’d ignored what may be my greatest passion and a bunch of loyal fans who’ve stuck with me for way longer than I deserve.

Thus, here I am. I fucked up. Mea culpa. There’s nothing profound to justify it with, but I hope this at least explains it.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner

 

PS: Obviously I will not continue my Patreon as is. I will make a separate post in regards to it and how I intend to continue the blog from here on out once I figure out the details, so I can present a complete – and, I hope, reasonable – plan.

PPS: Rest assured, the serial will continue and will be finished. Only thing that could stop me from that would be death itself.

PPPS: The next chapter is about half-finished and should be up sometime over the weekend.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 4

In My Daydreams

I considered if we had any alternatives to making a last stand in the tunnel. We could run to the next intersection and take another tunnel, but if they were managing to track us anyway, that wouldn’t help.

I could try to bring down the tunnel behind us. The Rocket suit could do it, but I’d have to punch the wall or ceiling. It might land on me.

My laser was powerful enough to punch holes in the ceiling, but I’d still have to be close to cut any appreciable amount of rock.

Plus, with the artificial earthquake we’d just experienced, I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk messing with the tunnel’s structural integrity.

That left bots and hand to hand combat. Remembering how well that went in the Landing fight, it didn’t make me feel confident. I only had ten EMPbots left and 28 goobots. I had a bunch of standard bots, but they hadn’t been effective.

Raising my arm and pointing it down the tunnel, I told them, “I’m going to send off a spybot to find out how many we’re facing.”

“Good idea,” Marcus stared into the tunnel’s darkness. “I’m not sure how we do this except that I’m going to have to be careful. Back home, guns aren’t much of a problem for me. Here, their guns cut through me in a second. I can put myself back together, but it takes more out of me.”

Tikki bit her lip. “Are you sure you should be part of it? I might be able to hold them by myself. I’ve been using my powers more lately and I think I might be able to freeze them in time and keep them here.”

Marcus frowned. “But what about you? Wouldn’t you have to stay for that to work?”

Tikki looked up at him, eyes wide. “Yes, but I think maybe that I can keep the field here and run away. It would be my first time, but I’ve almost worked out how.”

Shaking his head, Marcus said, “But you’ve never tried it before. Don’t. If you’re going into a fight, you’re going to want to know what you can do. We can’t depend on something you’re trying for the first time.”

In my HUD, the feed from the spybot showed the dark, gray stone of the tunnel for a while, but then a human-shaped figure appeared. An Ascendancy soldier stood waiting as more approached, all of them in combat gear.

I counted twenty soldiers, three four-handers and one more guy—Agent 957. I recognized him from the broadcast he’d made telling us to surrender.

That seemed like ages ago and while he looked the same—the same square jaw, light brown skin, and red and black armored uniform—he also looked worse.

The uniform had scrapes across its armored plates. Dirt stained the fabric. He had taken off his helmet and a look at his face revealed a man with bags under his eyes with the expression of a man whose favorite football team was losing.

Landing on the ceiling ahead of the group, the spybot picked up enough sound that my implant could translate, “—they’re less than five minutes ahead of us.”

Agent 957 replied, “Then this is it. Move ahead as quickly and as quietly as possible. We’ll attack as soon as we’ve got a clear shot.”

Then he tapped a device on his belt and his suit glowed. My implant identified it as a shield modified from an Abominator design. That wasn’t good news. On the other hand, a killbot went partially through Kamia’s. Maybe his wasn’t as good.

Then he pulled his helmet back on. “Let’s go.”

Unwilling to find out if the four-handers could detect the spybot if they got closer to it, I recalled it. It dropped from the ceiling and flew a few inches from the floor until it was out of their sight.

As it flew back, I told them what I’d seen. “There are around 25 of them, all in armor. There are three four-handers and they probably won’t fight directly, but Agent 957 is with them. I don’t know what he fights like, but it sounds like he’s not open to negotiation. They’re going to shoot us the moment they see us.”

Marcus sighed. “That’s the worst case scenario for me. All I’ve got with that is to spread myself thin around the top of the tunnel and drop on them from above or reform and fire at them from behind when they pass.”

“I think that could work,” I told him. “I’ll be the obvious target. You can hide and do whichever of those fits the situation. I think I can reuse the killbots if I do it right. Maybe I’ll use the EMPbots. Otherwise nothing else affects them—except maybe the laser and I have a limited number of shots with that. Well, the goobots do too, but I don’t have very many now.”

“No!” Tikki turned to me. “You can do more than that. You could—“

And from there she described a way I might be able to modify the EMPbots phase out and through armor. It was an amazing idea, requiring some subtle adjustments, tools I didn’t have on me, and a part I didn’t have either.

I told her so and she said, “Oh, but what about—“ and she described a way I could tweak the killbots to get them past the force field. That was brilliant too, but it required me to take apart the bots which would take longer than five minutes.

And then we had one minute left. My HUD gave me hints of the sound of their footfalls before they appeared, giving us time to get into position and giving me enough time to think about Tikki and how weird it was that a life support engineer with an interest in AI suddenly had insight into my tech.

I had an idea, but no time to pursue it because in seconds, shots rang out and they were upon us.

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Crying Grumpies

Day of Heroes, jugando a las películas

Crying Grumpies

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El día 3 de Octubre de 1993 en Mogadiscio, Somalia, se lió un cifostio de los guapos. Hace unos meses en casa por la noche Ana propuso de ver La Noche más Oscura. Por desgracia la película de la muerte de Bin Laden no esta en ninguno de los servicios de streeming en los que estamos dados de alta. Pero todos ellos nos proponían ver Black Hawk Derribado que como ya habréis deducido nos narra lo acontecido en la Batalla de Mogadiscio. Me pase la peli pensando que daba para un buen wargame táctico. Al hablarlo con Arqueo me dijo que Lock’n’Load dentro de sus sistema táctico tenía un modulo con dicha batalla. Para mi cumpleaños me regalaron Day of Heroes y con cinco partidas a las espaldas ya puedo daros mis impresiones.

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Day of Heroes como os he comentado forma parte de la serie táctica de Lock & Load con lo que primero hablaré un poco del sistema y luego me centraré en el modulo en sí. LNL es un sistema que tiene dos ambientaciones diferenciadas pero que comparten reglas, WWII y Modern. Entre uno y otro las diferencias son escasas más allá que en el segundo entran en juego los helicópteros y algunas armas tienen diferentes capacidades.

El cuerpo de reglas como todos los juegos de esta índole no es sencillo, dentro de la misma escala de batallas y mucho más sencillo podemos buscar Heroes of Normandie.  El juego se desarrolla de forma muy fluida con los jugadores alternándose para realizar activaciones donde se activan todos los tokens de una casilla. Como en otros juegos  del estilo el activar lideres nos permite actuar con unidades circundantes. Los ataques y defensas sin armas de apoyo son relativamente sencillos, Potencia de ataque más d6 contra d6 más modificadores de terreno, en ambos casos existen más modificadores. 

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A partir de aquí se complica la cosa, lineas de visión y capacidad para ver las unidades, tanques, aviones, helicópteros, equipos de armas pesada, humo, agujeros de tirador y podría seguir un buen rato. Obviamente no todos los escenarios aplican todas las reglas pero la cantidad de cosas a recordar hay veces que se vuelve una puta locura. Eso sí como en otros juegos con sistema de reglas compartido ese esfuerzo solo se hace una vez y luego puedes disfrutar de muchas opciones.

Y ahora a por el escenario en sí. Day of Heroes tiene una particularidad respecto al resto de juegos del sistema y es que no utiliza tableros hexagonales isomórifcos sino que hay un único tablero y en vez de hexágonos utiliza cuadriculas. La otra particularidad es que no enfrenta dos ejércitos sino un ejercito contra una milicia y los habitantes de la ciudad enfurecidos. Esto queda representado por las unidades que dispone cada bando. El americano dispone de unidades de elite muy capaces por si mismas. Mientras que el somalí tiene dos tipos principales de unidades las milicias, débiles y fáciles de eliminar y las turbas que se merecen el siguiente párrafo por entero para ellas.

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Las turbas son unas tropas anormales. Para empezar cada turno se chequea si de los cortes en la carretera se spawnea una nueva, algunas veces en vez de turba puede aparecer un miliciano con arma especial. Cada vez que activamos una de estas unidades tambien hay que chequear si sale una nueva unidad, que jugador la mueve, si se niega mover o si aparece un miliciano. Otra de sus características es la imposibilidad de atacar, tan solo se devolverán si una unidad americana entra en su casilla. Así a simple vista no parecen unidades demasiado buenas, pero cada vez que una turba es eliminada del juego el jugador somalí gana un punto de victoria, y se eliminan simplemente por disparar a la casilla en la que se encuentran. O sea que su principal función en el campo de batalla es la escudos humanos para nuestros milicianos y dificultar el avance de las tropas americanas. Esta aleatoriedad y caos le dan al juego una sensación de opresión al jugador americano que recuerda un montón a la película mencionada.

En todas las partidas que hemos jugado el jugador americano ha acabado ganando la partida, cosa que no es sorprendente. Pero eso no ha significado que no lo hayamos pasado en grande jugando y refleja lo ocurrido. El sistema de juego como es fluido a pesar de los parones para consultar para consultar reglas puntuales. Es más ya estamos mirando un nuevo escenario para embarcarnos en más guerras modernas. Los componentes del juego son un plus de calidad aunque alguna copia más de las hojas de ayuda no iría mal. Para acabar os dejo con el enlace al canal de Lock’n’Load y su lista de reproducción con todo el reglamento explicado.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 3

In My Daydreams

I called the bot back and started running faster. It didn’t take long to catch up. Their group was only walking at a normal human rate.

I slowed as I caught sight of them. Marcus’ suit had to be registering my presence, but caution meant lowering the chance of accidentally fighting each other.

Marcus’ voice filled my helmet. “Nick! I was wondering if you died. That earthquake was massive.”

As I came to a stop next to them, he said, “Where’s Jaclyn?”

“Alive, so far as I know. She said she made it into the tunnels, but then we lost radio contact. I’m assuming we left by different tunnels—which was the plan. The colonists were going to divide into different groups. We were supposed to each be with a different one, I thought.”

Marcus nodded. “That was the plan. Cassie’s with her group. I’m with this one. Katuk’s out there too. I saw him following a group into one of the exits as we left. With all the ways these tunnels cross each other, I wouldn’t be surprised to run into them again.”

I shrugged. “We aren’t supposed to, but yeah, from what I’m seeing in the implant map, we could, or depending on how people do it, we might not see anyone.”

Marcus turned to look behind me. “All that matters is that we get out of here. However it is that we make it, I’m fine with it, but I’m getting worried. Have you been seeing anyone behind you?”

I checked my helmet. I didn’t see anyone and hadn’t since I left the caves. “No.”

Tikki glanced past me before saying, “Marcus thinks he’s been seeing people behind us.”

Noting the intensity of her stare into the darkness, I said, “I’m guessing you think he’s right.”

“I don’t know.” She swallowed and took a breath. “I thought I heard something before you appeared, but it might have been you. It might have been them. I don’t know. I’m not trained for this—not the way you two are.”

I wanted to say that I hadn’t been trained for this either, but you could argue that I had. I hadn’t trained specifically to be hunted in tunnels by humans that were genetically modified by aliens, but I had been trained to protect people. In the end, that’s what we were doing.

We started walking together behind the main group, a group that could have been any refugees anywhere, I supposed. Men, women and children walked through the tunnels with backpacks or bags that held what they needed (food, water, clothes), and what they couldn’t bear to leave.

You might have expected them to be grim, or so terrified they couldn’t go on, and maybe there was some of that before I arrived, but most of them walked and talked. The parents talked their children into continuing to walk. The children sometimes cried, but sometimes ran after each other shouting—before being shushed by their parents.

It wasn’t bad. In one sense it was terrible, but it wasn’t constant death and misery. We had to make it to the surface, handle whatever we found there, and if we were lucky, we might be able to move them back into their homes only slightly worse for wear.

That’s what we could hope for anyhow.

I watched my HUD. I’d sent a couple observation bots down the tunnel ahead of us and didn’t see anyone waiting for us. I sent them behind without seeing anything either. It would have been nice to then conclude that we were safe except that it wasn’t that simple. Every now and then our tunnel would intersect with another which meant that we then had another possible attack origin and also my bots didn’t have infinite fuel. I could bring spybots (small, easy to hide) and observation bots (bigger with a wider range) back to refuel, but every refuel meant I had less fuel to work with.

As I checked through footage from my cameras, Marcus said, “The colonists have been releasing something that kills everybody’s smell. Apparently, the Ascendancy’s soldiers are as good as my cousins at that kind of thing.”

“That’s good,” I said, flipping to the next picture. We were about three-quarters of the way up by then. If they were going to catch us, it would be from behind. The bots didn’t show anyone waiting outside our exit.

Ten pictures in, I found a dark shape that had the silhouette of a soldier in the Ascendancy’s armor. None of the other pictures showed it. It hadn’t been close to the camera. At the same time, given the speed they could run at, they were only ten or fifteen minutes behind us.

I sent it to Marcus with the comment that, “We’ve got fifteen minutes at max.”

He touched Tikki’s shoulder. “Nick got a picture of one about ten or fifteen minutes behind us. I’m going to tell the main group to get ahead of us so they don’t get caught in the fight. You can go with them.”

She shook her head. “I’m staying with you. The Ascendancy killed my parents and too many friends. I’m not going to let them kill more.”

She turned to stare down the tunnel, face tightening.

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Semicoop

Guest Comic by JJ Sandee

Semicoop

Hi, dear readers! This and next week we’re taking a break but luckily we’ve got the empty slots filled with guest comics for you! The first one is from a local comic creator and board gamer from our town. Thanks again JJ, we love it! And now for a few words from JJ himself:


I’m JJ Sandee, and I spend most of my days as a teacher at a university of applied science in Software Engineering and my many hobbies (guitars, reading, drawing, martial arts, gaming). In a past life I wanted to be a cartoonist, and produced many wonderful comics that you can still read and find links to on my website. With http://cultofbob.com being the latest creation. My favorite boardgames include the featured Small World, Union Pacific, Chronicle, Cosmic Encounter, Netrunner, Chinatown and many others. Regarding the comic. My girlfriend holds grudges and will on occasion disregard winning if it means preventing me from winning. Other players sometimes get worried what this means for us. But it’s all in jest, I’ll just get her next time. The only confession is that we have yet to play a game with Rachel and Heinze, but based on how I know them, this is my assumption of how they play. I’m sure we’ll get to playing an actual game with them sometime.

Have you come across any other board game relationship types?

The post Guest Comic by JJ Sandee appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Camping

In My Daydreams

Hey folks,

I‘m camping this weekend, but will be home by Monday. If I don’t update by Monday morning, I’ll update on Monday evening.

Jim

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EPU - What's New

UF/FI: OOTR: The Federation Lives Forever! Chapter 16

EPU - What's New
Meanwhile, in The Federation Lives Forever!, the Light Music Club junior varsity's new band is coming togethera process that may get a bit of a boost from the new friends the gang is about to make. Chapter Sixteen: "Discovery" 2018/07/27
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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 2

In My Daydreams

Nick, Hideaway, The Caverns

Far behind me, the cavern fell into itself. I felt the rumble as I ran, followed by cracking noises, a lot of them. It seemed like they stretched out for minutes, but doubted that was true. I wasn’t checking the time.

However long the quake went, it was too long. The floor shook along with each rumble and crack, finishing in a loud but muffled thump that may have been the end of the cavern, but wasn’t the end of the noise. Smaller crashes continued behind me, blowing fine dust upward into the tunnel.

That wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst came when the tunnel I was in collapsed—not all of it, but the part above me and chunks of the tunnel ahead of and behind me.

The Rocket suit registered damage to the suit’s shoulder and notified me that repairs were in progress. That was great, but it couldn’t repair me. The chunk of rock that damaged the suit was longer than four feet, jagged, and at least a foot thick.

It hit my shoulder and my head at about the same time, but it must have hit my shoulder harder because that’s what hurt afterward.

It wasn’t as if I couldn’t use my right arm, but it hurt when I moved it. I had no choice about moving it either. Chunks of stone ceiling fell along with it, burying me—not completely, but enough that I had little choice in the first horrible seconds to wonder if this was it.

I centered myself on my breathing, concentrating on letting one breath in and another out. Then I pushed myself to see the pieces of the problem, in this case the literal pieces of the ceiling and the walls. They had fallen on each other and on me.

It was a matter of pulling out the right pieces, one at a time until I could move. The big piece that had damaged the suit and maybe my shoulder wasn’t the worst. I twisted and pushed it off my shoulder. Then, one by one, I removed the others, using the suit’s strength more than I had in any single event than I had since making it.

It felt a little like playing Jenga—the game where you pull logs out of a tower until it falls—with the key difference that you yourself were integrated with the tower and when you pull out a piece, any pieces resting on top of it fall on you.

Where I could, I pushed rocks off me starting from the top, but after removing the largest, I pushed the ones in front of me forward all at once. They landed with a crash, one of the largest breaking into several more pieces.

I froze for a second, wondering if I’d start another collapse and then deciding that the best thing I could do would be to move forward and not think about it. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing I could do, but it seemed better than overthinking whether or not I should move rocks and which one.

Once I was past my personal cave in, I had to deal with the next one, a pile of rock shards that reached halfway up my chest. This one I pushed, noticing that the space behind it was clear except for small pieces of rock.

Putting my hands on a chunk about halfway up, I pushed the top part of the pile into the clear area and then walked over both.

Once past that pile, I began to run again. It wasn’t bad. Aside from small rocks and dust, it appeared that I’d gotten past the worst of the cave in.

I hoped I’d been the only one caught. I’d have been dead without my armor and for all that the colonists were genetically modified, most couldn’t use their abilities in any way. Thinking about our group, I felt confident that any of us could survive what I’d been through—Marcus better than anyone but Jaclyn.

Cassie had the most to worry about. While strong, she wasn’t as strong as I was in the suit. If enough rock fell on her, her ability to heal would only keep her alive longer. That was good if anyone else was in a position to help, but it might be worse than dying if she were alone.

Deciding not to think too hard about that either, I concentrated on the implant’s map and what I could see in my suit’s HUD. After about a minute, the composite view began to include hints of footprints, dimly glowing fragments of feet that the thermal view picked up.

I slowed a little, sending a spybot ahead. From the number and variation of footprint sizes, it had to be the colonists, but they could have been captured by the Ascendancy. Sending a scout seemed wise.

They weren’t far ahead. The bot’s view showed a crowd of people carrying bags. Marcus stood at the back, his costume in silver imitation Xiniti mode. Tikki stood next to him, her eyes following the bot.

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Tieshaunn

B14.1 Breaking Point

Tieshaunn

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Pain lanced through Basil’s head, again, only to remain there, like a nail that had gotten stuck in his brain, a steady throbbing sensation, making him feel like his head was about to burst, or perhaps collapse, or perhaps simply burn to ash.

Pain was an old friend, one he didn’t really remember, yet familiar none the less. It had made it easy to ignore the many wounds he’d suffered throughout his short career as a hero so far, helped him compartmentalise the experiences, focus on taking the necessary steps to survive, rather than be preoccupied with the pain.

It helped here, again, even though this was a purer pain than ever he’d known before, a pain that was not in his body, but his mind, yet without any emotion to cause it. Still, he looked away from it, focused on what lay beyond his inner thoughts.

Frankly, focusing on the pain seemed like a more pleasant option. Desolation-in-Light still floated above the street, seemingly blind and deaf to the world around her, not that there was much to hear as everyone near her was deathly silent save for the occasional sobs.

He’d heard rumors, read stories of eye witnesses, many put off as mere attentionseekers, liars or crazies, of DiL appearing in places, isolated ones usually, only to do nothing at all but stay a while, floating in the air, and leave again, causing harm to none. Usually it was only witnessed by one or two people, in those stories, but they remained remarkably consistent and most of the reports had had the ring of truth about them.

A small part of him, a very small one, dared hope that she would disappear here, too, leave them be – leave it at a mere scare, rather than the sheer namesake desolation that was sure to follow if she struck now.

The pain in his head redoubled as a shower of light, like liquid, glimmered around her, starting above her head from a single point, spreading into a glowing halo, before it ran down, tracing a sphere around her as it expanded until the halfway point, then collapsed again, until it gathered into a single spot beneath her feet again and disappeared, as the pain in Basil’s head returned to its earlier, more managable throbb.

Tiny spots appeared all around her, as if stuck to the surface of the invisible sphere the light had just traced, the spots growing as they spun in place, tiny rocks that grew, starting to make grinding sounds as they cracked into many smaller pieces that ground against each other even as they continued to grow and spin and dance about her.

Basil was still unbalanced by the sudden surge of pain, but Vasiliki, fortunately, was not and she didn’t wait to see what this power, or whichever others she had picked, could do. Rather, she threw something at the ground in front of them, and a cloud of greenish smoke rose up and encircled them, forming a slightly glowing dome around the bench they’d sat on.

Rising up, she reached into her purse and withdrew an elongated package wrapped in white fabric several times the size of the tiny purse, throwing it at him.

He caught it, more out of instinct than conscious thought, recognising the emergency package he’d entrusted to her a while ago, for occasions such as these.

Unwrapping it, the white fabric was revealed to be a replica of his cloak with the corvid uroboros upon the back, having been wrapped around a pair of boots and gloves, as well as a sleek, yet boxy rifle made of silver and black metal, as long as one of his legs from toe to hip and, finally, a slender mask.

Vasiliki, meanwhile, had stripped out of her clothes right next to him, revealing that she’d worn her bodysuit underneath her clothes, just with the sleeves rolled up – what he’d thought to be stockings had been her costume’s pants. She finished tugging it into place, putting her clothes into the purse before pulling the outside cover off said purse, revealing it to be her bag of holding.

They dressed up, both of them, with Basil’s shoes and jacket disappearing into her bag as well, while she pulled out her belt, her cloak, her staff, boots, gloves and various other odds and ends she’d crafted over the months, lesser contrivances compared to the power she’d concentrated into her staff, belt and bag, but formidable nonetheless. She didn’t wear a mask, rather, her hood was enchanted to always stay on and shroud her face in shadows, only showing her jaw and lips, and only if she wanted it to at that.

Basil was done before she was, finally just holding the mask in his hands, looking down at it. It was a simple thing, not a helmet but a mask, yet without straps. Rather, its insides showed a lot of moving parts, as it was designed to shift and clip onto his face, molding itself to its contours, hiding it from his hairline down to his chin. Designed to look smooth, almost glassy on the outside, its lines barely implying the shape of a face, it was of the same jet-black ceramic as his armour was, except he had left that back home.

He held it to his face and felt it shift, attaching itself to it so finely he barely felt its weight once it was done and his interface booted up, the mask becoming seemingly transparent to his eyes as the all but invisible channels worked into its surface captured light (as well as other things), serving essentially as a big camera that covered the entire front of his mask. Two small extensions had folded out the sides and covered his ears, though they quickly picked up the sounds around him and channeled them through, allowing him to hear as clearly as if there were no obstructions at all. The mask did not nearly have his full suite of sensors and communication technologies, even he could only fit so much into such a small space, but it had enough to give him half a dozen vision modes and an uplink to his own personal network, the one he shared with Eudocia, his sole remaining raven and the equipment back at his base.

The gloves and boots were simple things, too. Both were meant to let him stick to objects by manipulating the forces that allowed molecules to stick together, creating temporary bonds between their surfaces and whatever he was touching. Both could also serve as contact-tasers.

Picking up his rifle – a small railgun which could also fire a grappling hook – he looked at Hecate.

”Sound test,” he said, a flick of his eyes making it so he could only be heard through their communications network.

“Hearing you loud and clear,” Hecate responded. “Oneiros’ Shroud will be down in sixteen seconds. What should we do?”

They, of course, hadn’t just thrown up a smokescreen while within such close range to DiL, blinding themselves to any attack that may come. The spell which Hecate had named Oneiros’ Shroud was an expensive one – it had taken her nearly a whole week to prepare this one, and they’d determined to only use it in an emergency. According to her, the smoke it generated transposed whatever it enshrouded into the world of dreams… well, he definitely needed to brush up his knowledge of Greek mythology, some day.

Either way, they ought to be safe until it went down. The fact that they hadn’t horribly died yet spoke to that fact.

Still, they’d need to act, and they’d need to act in concert in order to survive and save as many people as they could.

Feeling bone-wearingly tired, Basil took a deep breath and focused on his friend. “We make a move for the civilians. Try to get as many of them as far away from DiL as possible. Try to get in contact with other capes and cowls, coordinate as much as possible.”

No point in making too elaborate a plan when there was no way to tell how the situation was going to be. For all of her appearances, DiL rarely created the same kind of chaos twice and was all but impossible to plan ahead for.

Hecate looked at him, her face unreadable beneath her hood’s shadow. “Alright. Don’t die, Basil.” She reached out and took his free hand, squeezing it tightly. “There’s still… a lot we need to talk about,” she finished, her voice thick with emotion.

He looked down at their joined hands, nodding, though he didn’t get a chance to reply properly as the shroud dissolved around them and they found themselves amidst a wasteland of jagged rocks and shattered trees.

Looking about, letting go of each other’s hand, they saw huge growths of jagged grey and black rocks which seemingly sprouted from the ground all around, utterly savaging the park and the street DiL had appeared above, as well as the buildings there. The rocks had smashed trees and cars and buildings and impaled no small number of people, and crushed others.

DiL was not in sight, but where she had been was in evidence as the rocks all seemed to have spawned from around her, and lead back and up to it, twisted rock formations forming almost hand-like shapes as they reached up into the air, wrapping around what was now just empty air.

The area that Oneiros’ Shroud had protected was unblemished, untouched by rock, the outgrowths forming a perfect circle around them, sheered off where they had reached into the mist.

“I did not know it could do that,” Basil whispered.

”Neither did I…” Hecate replied. “I guess… we got switched back… and the rocks jutting into the shroud were pulled along as it returned to its rightful place.”

Basil nodded, and looked out over the devastation, switching through various modes of vision. “Over there. Survivors!”

He took off, running towards a particularly dense concentration of body-shaped… mostly body-shaped… heat signatures, behind a wall of jagged rocks, but without his grappling hooks, Hecate easily overtook him, shooting past him as a mass of green-black smoke, surging across the wrecked park, the broken street and into the ruins of what used to be a toy shop.

By the time he got there, she was already triaging the survivors, applying her healing salve to only the most immediately dangerous wounds – she didn’t have much of it and it was by far one of her most expensive contrivances in terms of materials required to make it.

Basil joined in as she pulled a first aid kit out of her bag, throwing it at him. He cought it and went to work.

There were eight survivors in the toy shop, half of them children and more corpses than he cared to count.

Of the eight, two were in critical condition – one six-year-old boy had had one of his legs shorn off by a razor-sharp blade of stone and had nearly bled out before Hecate had gotten to him, and a woman had been impaled through the abdomen by a thin spear of the same material.

The children weren’t even crying yet, still not having processed what was going on it seemed.

Basil tied off the boy’s leg stump after Hecate applied her salve to it, and tightened the kn-

He gasped, bending over, as the pain spiked again, his vision briefly going white as his whole world was nothing but agony for a moment.

“Brennus, what’s wrong?” Hecate asked in worry as she reached over and finished tying the knot.

“I do not… some kind of headache… since she appeared… momentary spikes of white-hot pain,” he gasped, the agony dying back down to the steady throb of background pain he could actually deal with.

She spat some kind of curse in Greek and slid over on her knees, finishing his work on the boy’s stump. “Can you help her?” she asked with a nod towards the woman who’d been impaled.

Getting up and walking over, he took a closer look, as the woman looked up at him with eyes that were nearly delirious with pain, as she held onto the hand of a toddler in a stroller, the little girl staring at her mother in confusion – unable to understand what was wrong, but still grasping that something was off, he guessed.

He couldn’t help with that, but he could help the woman, and told her so, his voice calmer than he felt as he knelt down next to her.

She was young, just a little older than Amy if he had to guess and had the kind of thinness he usually associated with out-of-practice athletes – she no longer worked out to maintain the muscle tone, but hadn’t really put on much weight either. She was healthy though, clearly, and that might make all the difference.

A sharp spear – more of a rough blade, really – had thrust up out of the ground, impaling her through her green pullover. She was half bent over, on her knees and trembling from head to toe; fortunately, the blade had pierced her at an angle and had missed her spine, at the very least. It was, however, in position to have pierced through her intestines, her stomach and perhaps even a kidney.

”I can not remove the spike in these conditions,” he told her calmly. “I will cut it off beneath you, so we can move you someplace you can get the surgery needed.” Right then, the spike was likely the only thing keeping her from bleeding out, and he didn’t have the equipment on hand to operate.

She looked at him, blood running from her mouth over her lips and down her chin, nodding when she couldn’t find the strength to speak.

Basil switched places with Hecate again, telling her what needed to be done. He checked over her work on the boy – he’d passed out – and then went on to apply first aid where needed, while Hecate used one of her charms to simply disintegrate the spike beneath the woman as a store clerk helped hold her steady, then lowered her gently to the ground.

It was good, but it wasn’t enough. The woman, the boy, at least three more, they weren’t going to make it unless they got them somewhere sa-

He flinched, briefly stunned by another spike of white-hot pain, before it receeded again.

They had to get them somewhere for proper treatment, else they’d die. But they were in no state to be transported and survive it.

As cruel a catch twenty-two as any-

White-hot pain.

He shook his head, trying to centre himself again. A shorter interval, this time. Is it just going to get more frequent, until there’s nothing but the pain?

He’d counted the seconds between episodes, in the back of his mind, and he could not yet see any regularity to them. No pattern.

Not that he had the time to really analyse what was going on…

He looked up, moments before the air before the shattered storefront window twisted, condensing into a whirl of shadows, then snapped apart again, a familiar figure appearing out of it and landing nimbly on her bodysuit-covered feet.

The people in the shop, especially the children, looked at her in awe, some cheering weakly as Gloom Glimmer smiled at them, trying to look reassuringly friendly, even as Basil could see a pain that put his headache to shame behind those brilliant blue eyes.

She looked at him and Hecate. “We’re gathering up at the Memorial Plaza. Make your way there while I take these people to the medical camp.”

Basil and Hecate exchanged looks, then nodded to Gloom Glimmer, briefly telling her the most crucial details on the people there before they made their way out of the former toy shop, not even taking the time to look back as they heard the twisting snap of Gloom Glimmer’s teleportation.

***

The Memorial Plaza stood where the centre of Old Lennston had once been, making up one of the three central points of New Lennston, the others being the Town Hall and the United Heroes’ headquarters, the three of whom were connected via a ring road encircling a big, circular park with several small lakes and ponds within.

While the plaza had originally been designed for the sake of remembering Old Lennston, it had evolved past that singular purpose – there was now also a memorial to Lennston’s fallen superheroes, as well as those of its scions which had gone off to war and never returned alive. There was also one for the casualties of the police force… the place had in general become a place for remembering all that had been lost to Lennston, both Old and New.

Nineteen capes and cowls stood in front of the obelisk which made up its centrer, at the steps of which stood the unmistakable figure of the Dark, who was addressing the others.

Basil and Hecate landed near the group, just in time for another surge of pain to nearly knock him off his feet.

If this goes on I may well grow used to it…

The Dark looked at them, his expression as unreadable in its absence as ever – but his form was unlike anything they’d ever seen before – rather than the thick, almost liquid darkness of his customary wraith, his form now was smoky, billowing around his form; just as hidden as before, but somehow less… substantial, both in appearance and presence.

Exhaustion? From the fight against the Gefährten?, Basil asked himself, and immediately felt guilty – they needed the Dark in this, he was one of the most effective and efficient counters for DiL, and if it was his utterly failed excursion which drained him just in time for his deranged daughter’s attack…

Hecate punched his shoulder, staggering him out of his contemplation.

When he looked at her, he couldn’t see her face but he could tell she was glaring at him. “You can’t go around blaming yourself for everything. We each made our own choices,” she said firmly.

Basil looked away from her and down, taking a moment to absorb her words. Then he nodded, quietly, which seemed to please her as she grunted in a rather unladylike fashion and turned away to focus on the other gathered capes and cowls.

He only looked around briefly, but he didn’t see Amy… he hoped she was alright. He hoped she’d gotten out of that hellscape. He hoped she hadn’t gotten hurt.

How did I not worry about her? he asked himself as he followed Hecate quietly, staying behind her as they joined the Junior Heroes. All this time, I was just thinking about myself, while she was out there fighting, risking her life because I dragged her into that madness. I…

There was a hard impact on the ground nearby, causing Hecate and the Juniors to stagger, while Basil just adjusted his stance slightly, turning towards the source – only to get a face-full of Amy’s spandex-clad breasts as she drew him into an almost literally bone-crushing hug.

I heard. I’m sorry, she whispered softly into his head, even as she squeezed the life out of him. Deliberately, surely – she was still angry with him.

Basil raised his arms, giving her a light hug back – he really didn’t care whether more people found out about their relationship now; anyone who mattered already knew or would know regardless.

He saw Amazon glare daggers at the two of them through his raven, but most people were focused on the Dark.

Another spike of pain caused him to flinch, his legs buckling briefly at the sudden interruption to the soothing embrace.

”Brennus! What’s wrong?” Amy asked worriedly, looking at him with wide eyes as he let go of her and staggered back. Our connection was interrupted for a moment!

”Pain… ever since she showed up, there’s been this constant pain in my head,” he replied, holding his head with one hand. “And sometimes there’s a spike of even worse pain, but I don’t know why.”

”When did you first feel the increased pain?” the Dark interjected suddenly, having moved closer. At the same time, Rounds and the other adult heroes – save for Bismuth, who stood apart from the rest for some reason – came closer as well, their leader looking worried and more than a little suspicious.

Basil looked up at him, too numbed by… by everything, to really feel anything at his presence. Cycling through his raven’s memory, he found the moment. “When she first assumed a power-set,” he replied, his mind already leaping apart to a possible explanation…

The Dark nodded, as if a thought was confirmed. “You’re reacting to her power changes,” he replied with the tone of absolute certainty. “It might be useful to know if we lose sight of her to be able to tell whether and how often she changes powers.” He reached into the shadows enveloping his body, causing strands of jet-black mist to drift off, then held his hand out. “Wear or connect to this communicator.”

Basil reached out and took the flat, disc-like gadget – he wasn’t sure whether it was actually made by a gadgeteer, but it looked so compact and well-crafted, he strongly suspected that it had been – and turned it over. The palm-sized disk was smooth and silver on one side, but had several exposed circuits on the other.

Touching the circuit-covered side to his mask’s forehead, he found that it activated and synchronised with his mask’s systems easily – too easily. Wyrm’s, I suppose, he thought to himself as he pulled the disc away and attached it to his belt, where it stuck by itself.

”You’re now connected to our local network. Send a single ping whenever you sense a power change and we’ll route it through to everyone with a communicator,” the Dark instructed him.

Before Basil could reply in any fashion, even to agree, the wispy figure turned away and walked up the steps towards the monument, turning around to talk to the gathered capes.

“If I may have your attention, please,” he spoke, his voice deep and powerful enough it easily covered the plaza without any obvious amplification. Once everyone had turned to look at him, he went on. “We don’t have much time, so I’ll be brief. Most of you have never fought a battle like this before. You all think you know what to expect, from television, reports, books and whatever else told you about these fights. Most of them don’t know much. Here’s the facts as we know them: DiL is utterly invulnerable to damn near any effect ever used against her. Her personal, permanent defense makes it impossible to affect her with anything, including moving her in any way she does not wish to be moved. Sensory and mental attacks are just as useless as spatial and temporal ones. Her hair, teeth, finger- and toe-nails glow with a bright white light which acts as disintegrating contact poison that can eat through most defenses and constitutes a certain death unless you sever the affected portion of your body. She can fly and she has no known top speed – it ranges from walking speed to what is effectively short-range teleportation, especially since her invulnerability means that anything in her path will be obliterated rather than stop or even slow her. She does not rely on mundane senses whatsoever and appears completely unresponsive to such stimuli. It is theorized that she senses powers in some fashion, though she has demonstrated the ability to perceive baseline humans in the past, as well. However her sense or senses may work, they appear to pierce any kind of shroud. She is an impenetrable blindspot to Espers of all kinds, particularly Pretercognitives. Do not rely on danger senses or their like.”

“Your goal must not be to attack her but to interfere with and, if possible, counter whichever other abilities she assumes,” he clarified, looking around at the gathered capes and cowls. “She always assumes three distinct powers which can broadly be classified as offensive, defensive and utilitarian, respectively. Her powers start out world-class and grow from there. Whenever at least one of her abilities is interfered with to any meaningful degree, she changes her entire loadout and the new abilities she assumes start out at base level again. Why she acts in this fashion, we don’t know. If she’s allowed to build up for too long, the consequences tend to look like Mexico, Old Lennston, Portland or Okinawa. Do not let her build up.”

He stopped, giving them a moment to digest that. “Furthermore, the Desolation Field. Normally it extends to a radius of roughly two miles around her person. This time, she appears to have simply extended it over the whole of New Lennston and left it stationary, though fortunately she has not ‘hardened’ it as she did during her last appearance. The field blocks any kind of signal from crossing its boundary. This includes powers – Espers can’t perceive into or out of the field, even precognition is blocked. Power effects can travel across, but powers can’t reach through it – so if your power lets you, say, create a fireball you lob somewhere, it will travel across, but you won’t be able to, say, target someone for teleportation across the boundary, or affect them with any kind of mental power. Any such power will work properly within the field itself. Also, though it’s likely not useful to know, but maybe it’ll spark an idea somewhere, no one has ever manifested while within range of her Desolation field. People have manifested during her attacks, but only while outside the range of her sphere of influence, never while within it. Heterodyning also appears to be impossible while within range of her desolation field.” He paused again, looking out over the gathered crowd, as if searching for something, his gaze briefly stopping on his daughter as she stood together with most of the other teens – Outstep was missing – before moving on.

Basil looked around, once it seemed that the Dark was taking a break, and what he saw was a mixture of determination, resignation and sheer hopelessness spread liberally and to varying degrees over any face and body he could see. They all knew that this was a fight which could at best end in a phyrric victory which could only delay the destruction, not eliminate its source.

He would likely have felt some such emotions himself, but he was still blissfully numb.

“In spite of all this, our situation is not hopeless,” the Dark drew everyone’s attention back to himself. “Our biggest advantage is that DiL is not intelligent. She has no sense for tactics, forethought or subterfuge. Any such instances perceived in the past were ultimately just coincidences, never to be repeated – and they are incredibly rare to begin with. Furthermore, we-“

There was a shout, followed by another, as people pointed upwards at the sky, interrupting the Dark.

Basil looked up just in time to see a huge figure drop through the Desolation field, its decent slowed by blue-hot jets of flame shooting out of its feet.

And then another.

And another.

And more besides.

Dozens of hulking, glimmering figures dropped out of the sky, some of them accompanied by strange objects and weaponry – the closest one, which dropped down and lended with a pavement-cracking thud a dozen metre away from the gathered capes and cowls was reaching out, its hand laying flat on the side of a pillar as thick as two people and twice as tall as a schoolbus was long, made apparently from hundreds of chest-sized, silver-and-gold tesseracts shifting and moving into and through each other in a dizzying display of reality-defying engineering.

The figure next to it was no less impressive, though more familiar. A hulking humanoid made of steel, brass and gold, crafted as much for aesthetic appeal as raw functionality, was twice as tall as the Dark himself, easily four times as wide if not more and moved with mechanical perfection as it looked around them, its head encased in a dome of what read as see-through diamond to Basil’s sensors, holding a human-sized mechanical head within, its inner workings exposed, showing wires, chips and lots of clock-work-like bits which moved to give it the illusion of facial expressions, a pair of glowing red lenses making up its ‘eyes’. It looked out over the gathered capes and cowls, its expression neutral, as dozens more of its kind landed all across the city, each accompanied by a different device, some of them immediately joining in the battle against DiL in the distance.

“Huh,” the Dark looked at him in what appeared to be surprise, while a ripple of pure relief went through the other gathered metahumans. “Good to see you’re not sitting this one out again, Memento.”

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Semicoop

Crocodile-Cyborg illusion

Semicoop

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jul 16, 2018 at 1:57pm PDT

Whenever I play Clank! in Space! I can’t help myself and I see a crocodile in the pawn for the boss, Eradikus. Personally, I think cyborgs are slightly boring, so I just keep referring to it as a space crocodile. I’m wondering if anybody else has this silhouette-of-a-crocodile issue or is it just me? 😀

Last week we’ve finished Pandemic Legacy Season 2! In our first game of December. Everything went very very smoothly because we accidentally had perfectly prepared the board for this finale. We didn’t know what was going to happen in December, but nonetheless, we made all the right choices! We had a ton of fun with Season 2, we did find it slightly easier than Season 1, but that could have been because we just had an amazing team of player characters and all of them lived to see the end game. We also played at least five practice games before starting the first game of January to get used to the new gameplay. We’ll definitely be playing Season 3 when it comes out, we can’t wait how the story continues or what gameplay they come up with. Anyhow, we really recommend any of the Pandemic Legacy games. If you like Pandemic, this experience is worth your money.

For now, we’re happy that the coming months we finally have more time to just play other games! We have so many games on our shelves that we’d love to play more and try with four players. And after summer is over, we’ll give Charterstone a go.

And before I forget, a fun announcement! The coming two weeks I’ll be taking a break from making comics! Now I understand that’s mostly a nice thing just for me, but there’s also a fun part for you! We take our ‘A new comic on Mondays’ very seriously and are proud of ‘never-missed-a-single-week’ streak in the past three years. We’ve asked around if anybody was interested in doing a guest comic for us and we got responses. And thus the coming two weeks we will present you with two awesome guest comics! One made by a fellow local artist and Netrunner player, Jan Jaap Sandee and one made by Jonathan Ying, the designer of Bargain Quest. We’re really excited and thankful for their support.

Lord Eradikus’ silhouette… space crocodile or cyborg?

The post Crocodile-Cyborg illusion appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Unhidden: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Agent 957, Hideaway, The Caverns

He didn’t know where he was in the endless caves around him, but his implant had kept track of his every step, so he had a limited map. The soldiers within range fed their information into his implant as per instruction, giving him an overall picture of everything within range.

He open up a communication channel with the soldier at the front of the line. “Are we close to them yet?”

“No, sir. We’re gaining, but they started before we expected it and they planned for us. They’ve been releasing something that obscures their smell. Our best trackers are following them and the four-handers are doing what they can.”

Agent 957 grunted and cut off contact, creating a connection with the nearest four-hander. “How are you assisting us in catching the colonists?”

The four-hander made a series of quick chirping noises that the implant didn’t translate. Then it said, “Your Excellency, our equipment senses for them using multiple methods, but we are unsatisfied with our progress. The resistance has technicians that, while inferior to us intellectually, have a remarkable grasp of detail. They appear armed with tactics that defeat all our standard tracking methods. We would have lost them by now were it not for knowing that they entered this tunnel.”

He cut the connection, knowing that there was nothing he could say that would make them work better. Besides, the rare sign that had kept them on track showed that catching the colonists was still a possibility. It wasn’t as if they had anywhere to go up top. While the colonists had killed the majority of the crew and the marines with their attack, there were still some capable of pointing a weapon. He’d left them ready.

Once they got to the surface, he’d be able to call for help and this whole humiliating experience would be over. The Guard would back him up and he’d back them up—he hoped.

A tremor shook the cavern. It wasn’t a powerful as the last one.

While that was a relief (he’d never liked the idea of destroying caverns while he was inside one), the fact that one more thing wasn’t going according to plan worried him.

With a sigh, he reopened the connection he’d just closed. “What’s going on with the earthquake device?”

The four-hander made an untranslatable buzzing noise. Whatever the Abominators had done to their minds had left most of them with uncontrollable tics. 957 couldn’t blame the four-handers for it, but he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t irritating.

When the four-hander finished making the noise, he said, “I haven’t received any word on the device, but since the shocks aren’t following the expected pattern, I had to assume that it was destroyed before it could finish.”

Agent 957 exhaled, thinking back to the plan. Kamia was supposed to have made enough noise to distract the Xiniti and the humans with it. For someone to have destroyed the machine meant that Kamia and the people with her might have been killed, an unnerving possibility given Kamia’s near legendary status as a killer of Xiniti.

He hoped that she’d survived. As terrifying as he found her, anything that could take her down could end his chance at redemption or even survival.

He opened up his connection to the four-handers and soldiers under him, “Hurry, we need to catch them before they reach the surface!”

Four Hands, Hideaway, The Caverns

He couldn’t help but stare back into the darkness when he realized that the bunker breaker had been destroyed. It wasn’t a good sign, but the overall picture was still good. Neves, Kamia, and their people were headed to the surface. Maybe they’d kill some colonists on the way. Maybe they wouldn’t.

Agent 957 was acting as their attack dog, leading a team that was chasing the main group of colonists to the surface. Whether he or his people survived or succeeded wasn’t important. All that was important was that he was relentless, giving the colonists no time to think before they hit the surface.

Once they arrived there, they’d face an ambush that would end them if Four Hands was lucky. If he wasn’t, well, the colonists would have to fight the leftover crew members for control of the villages. The villages might be booby-trapped, but they were behind force fields. The colonists would never survive this hellhole of a planet without them.

On one level, he had to admit that it bothered him to place Agent 957 and his people in the way of the Xiniti force. Between the Xiniti’s reputation and what the small force here had achieved so far, he felt sure the man would die. Four Hands felt that the Ascendancy sacrificed too many of its troops and the people with Agent 957 were good soldiers.

On the other hand, Four Hands knew that Agent 957 had left the four-handed to be destroyed many times with no effort to avoid it. The two-hander deserved whatever came to him even if his troops didn’t.

Four Hands remembered daydreaming that he’d joined the resistance when he was younger. He’d returned to that thought many times over the years, only realizing what a joke it was when he’d joined the Guard and been given access to their collected intelligence.

There were no records of any four-hander in the resistance or any evidence they’d ever been asked to join. In that sense, the resistance was no better than the Ascendancy.

They deserved whatever came to them too.

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