Wildbow discusses writing

An End to the Twig Experiment

Wildbow discusses writing

I set out to write Twig with a few ideas in mind.  A major criticism as I wrote Pact was that the pacing was too intense and that the character relationships were lacking.  I set out to write Twig in a deliberate attempt to force myself to slow down and pace things out, and in an attempt to dwell on characters.  There were a few other things which I’ll touch on here.

As I decided to approach things from that angle of testing myself & forcing myself out of the comfort zone I’d perhaps settled into with late Worm & Pact (to good and bad results both), I took on a slightly more unique genre as well.  It was very much, I’ll admit, me taking stock and deciding I was in a position to take a few risks.  To not make the gamble would risk me settling into a rut.  To take the risk meant alienating readers.  With that in mind, I’m exceedingly grateful to those who stuck with me through Twig.

What succeeded, in this gamble?  First and foremost, I learned a crapton, to a degree I wouldn’t have if I’d gone on to write Worm 2 or something in the vein of Pact.  Some of those lessons were painful, some weren’t.

  • I learned a lot about pacing, I think.  There’s a lot to be gained by pacing out a story and giving it breathing room.  I saw where there was room to explore characters and inter-character relationships.  I also think that the pacing of Twig wasn’t quite the balance that’s best suited for me as a writer.  I struggled more to keep things afloat and maintain the narrative threads.  It was very easy for arcs to simply sprawl out into twice the length I would’ve normally maintained, once I’d relaxed the patterns and things that would’ve normally kept it tighter and more intense.  More on that in a short bit.
  • I forced myself out of my comfort zone in the writing of humor.  I’ve long held the idea that humor is hard to do well because it lands differently for different readers.  I liked a lot of the humor I wrote in Twig.  I pushed myself when it came to the banter in particular and I like 95% of it.  It was fun and fulfilling to write, even when it was about stupid stuff, and I want to write more in the future.
  • I forced myself way out of my comfort zone in the writing of romance and intimate stuff.  Similar deal to the writing of humor, but with the added awkwardness that family members read my stuff (Hi Uncle, if you made it this far!) and the fact it’s so damn personal, y’know?  Some of my favorite chapters are ones to do with romance and intimacy in its various forms and it’s something I pushed out there when I made Sy as connection-driven and intimacy-driven as he was, as a stark contrast to my past protagonists. It’s something I explored and I’m really happy with what I came away with, even if interpretations and comfort levels of the readers may vary wildly.  I’d like to think that what I taught myself in the course of writing Twig will make it so future protagonists and characters aren’t quite so sexless in the same senses Taylor and Blake were (in that both give the impression they could do without relationships in large part).

I’ve talked about this before, but when focusing on writing, you can dwell on the product (the writing itself, the nitty gritty), the process (how you go about it) and the context/environment (the lifestyle of the writer & the people/things surrounding it all).  With Worm, the issues felt isolated.  The arcs I’m least happy with coincide with holidays/family events.  Arc 10?  Written when I traveled to Winnipeg around the birth of my nephew.  The awkward Dragonflight part of arc 16?  Written around the Christmas holidays of 2012.  Arc 25 and 26?  Made a little more shaky by the fact I was trying to juggle family vacation time around the writing.

With Pact it was one big event (family wedding) and a bunch of stuff feeding into that or playing off of it – my mom being in the hospital on the regular, me trying to help where I could as a sibling, then also help my  mom do her part, and so the writing was distracted and it impacted the story on a foundational level, which fed into everything else, and blah blah blah.  The wedding itself was beautiful, my handling of pact in the space around it was not and it’s a regret.

Twig, by contrast, was maybe my first experience with burning out.  A different beast entirely, because it played out over a larger, more general span in a harder to define way.  It wasn’t anything to do with the writing, precisely, but starting in late summer of 2016, I started getting a lot of outside attention, with 20+ individuals reaching out about their scriptwriting, they were movie production companies and they wanted to work with [one of the three stories], they were a big name in the industry and they wanted to work with me, or they were TV people and they wanted to work with me, and so on.  A lot of interest, and most of that warranted really attentive and careful responses, with mind paid to traps and decorum and everything else.

My days off became days where I would wake up and write/answer emails from 11am to 8pm, squeeze in errands before & after, and try to get some editing for Worm in there somewhere.  Add in community management, a bat infestation (which flipped me to nocturnal, after several middle-of-the-night wake-ups), and something had to give.  The Wednesday chapters and my health/sleep schedule were that something.

I’ll say I feel like I could have made Twig better than it was.  There were a lot of weeks and even months where I didn’t feel I was putting out my best, in part because I burned out.  That said, I am reasonably happy that I was able to hold pattern without utterly collapsing or having any arcs that I look back on and feel were truly terrible or story-breaking.

That in itself was one place where I felt I tested myself and developed as a writer.  I learned a lot about myself in terms of dealing with burnout, the shape it took, and working through it.

And I know people will comment and insist on the subject, so I’ll address it here: No, I’m not taking a vacation.  The issue isn’t the writing itself.  I could write three days a week no problem if there weren’t other things in play.  Carrying on with writing restores that wherewithal and energy and helps with the burnout.

Where the struggle happens is that I was in a place where I was just trying to juggle too many balls and I started to drop some.  Writing one story, editing another for future publication, planning one further down the road, on top of all the general stuff that needs doing (managing IRC, keeping an eye on the subreddit, finances, answering the many non-professional emails I get, answering the semi-regular professional emails I get – which were super intense for a 5-month period-, plus everyday errands and chores) is what takes it out of me.

Taking a break would only make things worse.  Really truly.  The +SAN (sanity) I’d get from a break would be outweighed by the -SAN as I interrupted my stride and tried to find it again, and it wouldn’t address or even put a dent in the other stuff that’s what’s really taxing me.  So please don’t push it.

Getting back on track.  Twig.

I value Twig as a learning experience above all else, as a test to myself that I’m really glad I took.

What would I have done differently?

  • I think, based on the feedback I’m getting right at the end (from some), I really did a bad job of selling the genre, even in conceptualizing it for my own take on the story, when figuring out my approach.  Twig was always going to be about watching these characters grow up.  Coming of age, in a way, exaggerated and complicated by the fantastical aspect of it.  A lot of readers seemed to expect and want my more usual sprawling fantasy epic and would’ve wanted the growing-up part to be more tertiary.
  • I would have liked to keep it tighter.  I think, more than any of my other works, there’s a lot that I could trim without taking too much away from the story.  It’s very easy, in breaking from my most comfortable tempo (and I’m not talking about the super-high-intensity Pact tempo, mind), to try and leave room for two or three more chapters and instead end up with five to eight more instead.  Add one more scene and it takes longer than expected, which changes the structure of what precedes it and follows it, and so on.
  • I shouldn’t have made it so ‘monster of the week’ at the start.  It didn’t really play well off of any of the things I was trying to do (except perhaps pacing) and was just one more experiment when I was already employing several.  I think this played into the initial break in tempo and the fact that many readers weren’t pulled in as much as they were with more continuity.
  • In addition, with the beginning, when writing a setting that’s not plastered over the skeleton of the established real world with its conventions, and when that setting lacks any convenient labels to slap onto it (like ‘superhero’ or ‘modern supernatural’), it’s not doable to slow-roll the exposition or setting details.
  • I feel I wobbled a bit toward the middle-end, which played into signaling problems.  I had an idea of what I wanted to happen and where I wanted to take things, and I explicitly wanted to avoid the build-up to the same kind of big bad that I’d had in prior works.  But as reader responses shifted in one direction, really wanting that epic fantasy story, I pushed things that way in response.  It led to a final confrontation that was painted as one thing, only for the big bad to not feel as big or bad as they could’ve because it was never really the plan to have them there in that context.  Done again, I would’ve likely stayed the course and tried to tell a different kind of climax/end rather than one that was half and half.

All in all, Twig was a super-valuable process for me.  I really think I’ll carry positive things forward from it.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot (super important for an experiment project), I have a deep and abiding fondness of the characters and many of the setting details.

Thank you all for joining me for the ride.

What comes next

Worm 2 (Technically it’s Parahumans 2) is rolling out soon.  In the meantime, I’ll be dropping some very super minor tidbits on the Worm website.  These interim pieces will serve as kind of unofficial/prelude/tone-setting bits and will go up on my usual schedule, just as things for people to see if they’re keeping to their usual routine of checking in.  They will not be full-length chapters and may not even be 500 words long.

This will go on for a couple weeks (5-10 segments on the usual Tues/Possible Thurs/Sat schedule) and the final installment in the set will link to the site for the Worm sequel.  Links will also appear on all of my sites.  This will give me time to hopefully get some final preliminary work done, wrangle the mailing list, and (ideal world) fix my currently scattered sleep schedule.


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Semicoop

Cardboard Dreams

Semicoop

Punching out cardboard pieces of a new game… a fantastic activity. … Or is it? 😀

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Oct 10, 2017 at 2:32pm PDT

So it’s been an interesting week. I’ve been busy designing all sorts of things for Essen Spiel, making videos and thinking of awesome plans for Semi Co-op. After 2,5 years it’s time for a change, time for Semi Co-op to grow. Don’t worry, the comics won’t go away, we’re working on ideas to expand. So we’ve been playing with this idea of making videos, but we wanted ‘it’ to be Semi Co-op and not us sitting in front of a camera, so I’m working on animated versions of our cartoon characters!

Yesterday was an excellent opportunity to test run my unfinished puppets and to get a sneak preview of our future plans out in the open! We’re participating in a Star Realms tournament with other board game content creators and everybody loves to taunt each other through videos. We felt we needed to reply in a video as well and did so:

I don’t know yet when we will officially launch this new part of Semi Co-op – it might take a while, but the enthusiastic responses flatter and motivate me greatly. Thanks, everybody. 🙂

Have you ever dreamt of board games?

The post Cardboard Dreams appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 6

In My Daydreams

Jaclyn gave him a sidelong glance, but didn’t say anything. “The main point of having people over tonight was to get to know people and pick up leads for who might be passing along information to the Human Ascendancy. We’ve been talking about what we learned. Marcus, did you find out anything?”

He gave a brief grin. “Tikki and I kind of got distracted and we left, but I learned about her childhood and what it’s like to grow up a breeder in the Human Ascendancy. That was interesting. Technically, her gene line is ‘active’ but because the Ascendancy doesn’t have much use for it by itself, they’re used as breeders—which meant that both of her parents had to pass their genes along. She’s got half a dozen half brothers and sisters and she’s never met any of them. Crazy, right?”

I nodded. “It is, but it fits with what I found out.” Whereupon I explained what Kals had told me.

Cassie leaned forward, putting her arms on the table. “I think she’s exaggerating. I mean, sure, it’ll mess things up for the Human Ascendancy and all the other Abominator humans, but not very quickly unless they breed like rabbits. By they time the colony’s a problem for the Ascendancy, the whole situation could be different. The Alliance might let Earth’s ships use the gate.”

Marcus shook his head. “Wow. Tikki kind of told me that, but we skipped the part where sex could bring about the end of civilization.”

Shaking her head, Jaclyn said, “That might be the reason they aren’t letting us leave Earth. If we’d mess up the human civilizations around us that much, well, I get it. It might be that we’d be better off developing to the point that we’re too powerful to keep penned into one system before we leave. If you think about it, Earth’s in the middle of the worst neighbors you could get.”

At that, Katuk nodded slowly. “That is the Xiniti hope for the people of Earth, that when they leave their system that they’re strong enough to survive.”

Jaclyn looked over at him. “I hope they’re not part of the reason that our ships never qualify to be allowed to leave our solar system.”

His dark eyes gave nothing away. “I can’t speak to that as I was not personally involved.”

Jaclyn raised an eyebrow and turned back to the rest of us. “Did anybody get any leads that might tell us who is behind messing with the force field generators?”

“Not any good leads, but,” Cassie raised her hand to emphasize her point, “I can tell you that they’re spooked. They’ve never had that happen before. Iolan has said he’s seen evidence of sabotage before, but this is the first time that it’s this obvious. They’re not sure that it really happened here before the most recent ship of refugees, but it definitely has happened after.”

“Which means that it might be that the person came on the ship this time,” I said, “or it means that someone was already here, but maybe someone came in with the most recent ship that made them decide they had the necessary support to make their campaign more noticeable. So basically, two spies.”

“‘Always there are two,” Marcus said, “‘the master and the apprentice’.”

Katuk eyed him. “My classes in counter-espionage did not make that claim. Could you elaborate?”

I shook my head. “He’s making a joke. He’s quoting from a movie and probably the worst movie in that series.”

Marcus shrugged. “Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars movie I saw. I liked it.”

Before I could reply, Jaclyn started talking. “Before this derails into nerdery, does anyone have any suspects?”

“The plant?” Cassie glanced over at me. “He might have arranged that attack on Tikki to look good and get on board. I’ve been talking to people and he’s sold a lot of stuff. If that does more than he says, he has something everywhere.”

I thought about the possibilities. Information gathering is the obvious one, but if they could remotely do stuff (like detonate?), we could have a huge problem on our hands.

Jaclyn nodded. “Anyone else?”

“Well,” I said. “There’s Kals. She doesn’t want to be here at all. I can’t quite believe she’d betray her mom and her friends to be somewhere more interesting.”

“Plus,” Marcus said, “she wasn’t on the ship. She was here. Tikki told me that Jadzen Akri leaves this place to pick up new people every so often, but she doesn’t bring Kals. So that wouldn’t explain the fleet that nearly caught us on the way here. We don’t know that that was because of espionage, but it would be easier if it were.”

Cassie held up a hand, getting our attention. “Hey, one more possibility: Tikki. She was on the ship. She doesn’t have family, no friends among the rest of the people, and she managed to set things up so that she became familiar with us and how we do things—“

Marcus shook his head. “No. That was accidental. She couldn’t have known we’d come looking for her. Plus, how could she sabotage the force field generators? She was with us that night and only saw them after they malfunctioned.”

Voice low, Katuk spoke as Marcus took a breath. “That is where Nick’s theory of a second spy would explain access to the force field generators.”

Frowning, Marcus muttered, “Crap.”

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Crying Grumpies

El Aliento de los Dioses, el Cosmere más tibio

Crying Grumpies

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Cada vez estoy más cerca de ponerme al día de la inmensa saga de Brandon Sanderson conocida como el Cosmere. Siguiendo las recomendaciones de todos los expertos en el tema antes de lanzarme con la segunda parte de El Archivo de las Tormentas tocaba leer El Aliento de los Dioses. Como Elantris esta es una novela en principio unitaria.

El Aliento de los Dioses nos cuenta la historia de Siri, Vivenna y Sondeluz. Las dos primeras son princesas de un pequeño reino, Idris. Su padre hace años acordó casar a una de sus hijas con el gobernante de su vecino, Halladren, como forma de conseguir la paz entre las dos naciones enfrentadas por cuestiones religiosas. El gobernante de la nación vecina es un rey-dios que atesora un inmenso poder gracias a la particular magia del mundo. En principio la princesa escogida para el enlace es Vivenna que lleva toda su vida preparándose para ello pero en el último momento el Rey de Idris cambia de idea y decide enviar a Siri. Sondeluz es un retornado, un dios de la corte del Rey-Dios.

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La historia de Siri nos narrará la relación entre esta y el Dios-Rey. Sondeluz se encargará de enseñarnos los tejemanejes de la corte para provocar la guerra entre Idris y Halladren. Por su parte Vivenna que se desplazará a la capital del reino enemigo para intentar liberar a su hermana y que haya paz entre los dos reinos o en el peor de los casos salvar a su reino.

Una de las cosas que caracterizan los libros de Sanderson son los intrincados sistemas de magia de sus mundos y en este caso no iba ser menos. La magia en El Aliento de los Dioses se basa en el poder  que hay en el espíritu de las personas. Al nacer todos tenemos un alma que puede ser entregada a cualquiera y nos puede servir para multitud de cosas como animar objetos o cuerpos de fallecidos. Poser más de un alma, o aliento como se refiere a ello el libro, otorga al poseedor una serie de capacidades más allá de animar cosas como mejorar su percepción o alargar la vida. En Idris tener almas de otros en posesión se considera una blasfemia mientras que en Halladren hay hasta mercadeo con los alientos pues su posesión otorga un determinado estatus social.

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El libro me ha gustado, pero creo que es uno de los más flojos del autor, posiblemente porque a nivel estructural es muy parecido a Elantris. Da la impresión de haber leído ya esta historia por parte del autor y el mundo no tiene tanta fuerza como el de su primera novela . Otra vez nos encontramos con una historia repleta de dioses y conflictos alrededor de que es un dios. Al igual que en su primera novela el ritmo es pausado para acabar con un desenlace apresurado, pero aquí la parte inicial se me atraganto un poquito más que Elantris. Quiero destacar un par de persoanjes, Sondeluz y Vasher, que me han gustado mucho y espero que uno de ellos sea el que vuelva en Palabras Radiantes, segunda parte de El Archivo de las Tormentas. Bienvenida a la literatura del autor es también el humor que aportan algunos de los personajes, algo que creo que le cuesta introducir en sus libros al señor Sanderson. En fin un libro correcto alto pero que esta lejos de lo que el autor nos ha demostrado que es capaz en libros como Elantris y la saga Archivo de Tormentas. Por cierto si alguno tiene la menor idea del motivo de cambiar Warbreaker, título en ingles de la novela por El Aliento de los Dioses que me lo haga saber.


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Tieshaunn

B13.16 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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They really like bringing back the dead, don’t they? the Man in the Moon asked in a mocking tone, though it was clear he was feeling just as freaked out as Basil did. What’s next, is fucking Weisswald himself gonna walk out of one of those tanks?

Don’t jinx it, Basil thought furiously as he felt the world slow down around himself – his every heartbeat seemingly as loud as a canon shot. How the fuck are we supposed to get out of this?

The worst part was, for all he knew, they’d already lost – there was no way to tell for him, or anyone except maybe Gloom Glimmer, whether Elysium’s power was already in effect, until she wanted them to.

He’d studied her, of course. Nearly everyone who went to Diantha High did, usually without even meaning to – Lady Light had turned the school into a shrine for her fallen daughter. So he knew all of her achievements and he’d, in the course of studying high-end powers – particularly ones like Ember’s, which seemed to control a certain ‘territory’ – looked up every scrap of information he could find on her power.

The only fight she ever came close to losing was the one that killed her, he thought, observing their foes… foe, really. The gadgeteers behind her didn’t even matter. And none of us is as powerful as DiL, not even Gloom Glimmer.

Fuck DiL! Amy snarled into his mind. If that’s really the Elysium, then she’s also the one who stomped the fucking Dark into the ground!

Get out of my head! Hecate shouted, mentally, making Basil realise that Amy must’ve linked them all up together, especially once similar exclamations came from everyone but Gloom Glimmer, Tartsche, Tyche and Spellgun.

Shut it! Amy shouted right back, louder than everyone else combined, to the point where Basil physically flinched in response. We don’t have time for this! We need to work together or else we’re done for!

No one, not even Hecate, had a rebuttal for that.

“Diantha, can you hear me!?” an anguished voice pulled Basil’s attention back to what was right in front of him – Gloom Glimmer had taken another step closer towards her unresponsive half-sister. “Is that really you? Please, say something!”

Behind the… clone? Zombie? Was it a cyborg of some sort?… behind the maybe-Elysium, the woman they only knew as the Ascendant leaned back against the open tank’s side, crossing her arms as she watched the scene with obvious glee and pride in her eyes.

“Four-four-four, designate the last speaker as Priority Target Alpha,” she spoke in level tones. “Designate the others from left to right as Priority Targets Beta through Kappa. Disable and capture Alpha as priority task. Disable Beta through Kappa.”

The empy-eyed beauty raised her head, her eyes moving over the gathered heroes – and one villain – without showing any emotions. Then she took a step forward.

Gloom Glimmer matched her, stepping closer. “Diantha! Diantha, you don’t have to listen to her!” she begged the older girl. “You don’t know me, but I’m your sister! Come with me, I’ll take you to mom – she’ll be so happy to see you!”

“Gloomy, stay away from her!” Polymnia shouted as she raised her arms, unleashing twin blasts of focused sound straight at Elysium.

The famous dancer reacted with an elegent step to the side, twisting her body in a single, fluid motion. The barely-visible blasts curved around her, drawn into the motion, and flew straight back at Polymnia, who just barely managed to counter them with another pair of matching blasts, creating a brief, shrill scream that staggered those not under the protection of Tartsche’s power – that being, Tartsche himself, as well as Tyche and Spellgun.

Elysium kept moving, her bare feet making barely any sound on the cold metal floor as she closed the distance to her little sister, the graceful motions of her legs in stark contrast to her limp arms as he turned and made a high kick towards the stunned girl.

Though she was clearly struggling to think straight, Gloom Glimmer reacted immediately, but not to defend herself but rather, reaching out towards her sister.

Elysium didn’t hit her, though – instead, her kick flew above the younger heroine’s head and continued on in a downward arc; her torso nearly horizontal, she turned on her one leg, to continue the kick all the way down to the ground, as a distorting haze enclosed Gloom Glimmer mid-reach.

As her foot touched the ground again, the trap snapped shout, a hazy bubble around Gloom Glimmer entrapping her in the middle of reaching out with her right hand, her mouth open to call out something.

Then the image flickered and she was back to the beginning of the motion, reaching out, her mouth opening to call out… reaching out, her mouth opening to call out… reaching out, her mouth opening to call out…

The loop continued for all to see, a sphere of looped time around their friend and her half-sister standing in front of it, looking at it with an empty-eyed gaze.

Polymnia cried a wordless scream of rage, unleashing a steady, ululating sound towards Elysium, but it never reached her. She took a single step towards it, placing the toes of her foot a measured distance forward, like a ballerina and the distortion in the air that was Polymnia’s attack split in two around her.

Moving forward, twirling on her toes, the attacks crossed through each other without any effect, then curved back towards Polymnia, forcing her to counter them again.

Is she holding back? Amy asked into their mental link, as Basil detached his drone from his leg, causing it to project a stream of octagonal force-fields from one end, riding them the way Sovereign’s Subjugator had. She’s only reacting.

If we are lucky, whatever process they used to bring her back has left her without her previous experience and skill, or any memories at that, Basil replied. Hecate, I am going to attack from the left. Try flanking her. As pissed as Hecate must be at this point, he was quite certain she’d be able to look past it in such a situation.

She didn’t reply, but she did switch into her smoke-form, moving into flanking position in the same instant that he leapt forward.

At the same time, Amy shot up before gesturing with her right hand at Elysium, unleashing an unseen blast of raw force which didn’t travel like a projectile, but appeared right on top of the dancing woman – only to vanish without a trace. Furthermore, a twin spiral of green fire, so bright it hurt to look at, appeared behind her out of nowhere, slamming into Amy’s back and making her cry out at the unexpected attack – though her shields held true, the attack nearly overloaded them with its force and he could see that her back had gotten burned when she turned around to look for the source of the attack – but there was none.

Dumbfounded, yet not hesitating, Basil used the distraction – Elysium was on one knee, currently rising up again into what was perhaps going to be another pirouette – to launch his drone at her back, hoping that her power would fail to protect her against an attack she didn’t see coming; or perhaps it might create an opening, at least, for Hecate or one of the others to hit her. She was just human, after all, once one got past her power, as had been discovered painfully during the fight against DiL, all those years ago.

The drone shot forward, projecting an oscillating, arrow-head-like force-field so dense it was completely opaque over its tip. Hecate cried a single phrase – he missed the words, but they were clearly Greek – and unleashed a twin spiral of green fire so bright, even Basil had trouble looking straight at it. An attack he instantly recognised.

It was completely useless, of course. Diantha rose, then bend over, the leg she wasn’t standing on kicking out towards the drone, toes pointed. Where they came close, the force-field, then the drone, simply parted in half; for just a moment, he thought his force-field was hold, but it was a vain hope – it parted like water before the prophet, and the drone itself offered no more resistance as the space between its molecules was expanded, causing it be cut in half with such a perfect, straight edge, it was almost beautiful, revealing its glowing innards before the pieces tumbled to the ground and went dark. An attack that knew no defense, other than a spatial effect of equal or greater power.

Reaching forward, her body still horizontal, she caught Hecate’s attack in both hands, then kicked off the ground, rotating in the air and causing it to disappear in between her hands.

Something hit Basil’s right knee from the side, very nearly shattering the armor and causing a sharp pain to shoot up his leg, before he lost all sensation but that of cold. Looking down, stunned, he saw his right leg largely encased in ice, and bending the wrong way at that.

He looked at Spellgun, who was staring at him in shock and confusion, holding his rifle up – he hadn’t even fired yet.

There was a scream, causing him to look up only to see Hecate be blown away by Amy’s earlier attack, the massive blast blowing her aside and causing one of the jewels sewn onto her chest to flash in a bright, red light, then shatter as it overloaded her defenses, conveying enough force through them to both hurt her and send her hurling across the room, slamming into a wall.

A flicker, and she was lying where she’d started, crumbled into a heap.

Fuck, it wasn’t that strong! Amy shouted in confusion, before she startled, finding herself right in front of the twirling blonde.

Before she could react, Elysium jumped from one foot onto the other and brought her knee up, connecting with Amy’s stomach; the blow was so powerful it created a sonic boom, causing Amy to spit blood as she was launched away, slamming through half a dozen steel tanks, crushing them and their contents, before she impacted the wall, leaving a sizable impression on it, then fell to the ground, unconscious.

“Amy!” Basil shouted, trying to take a step towards her – but all he achieved was that he fell over, his half-frozen, likely broken leg giving out under him as soon as he put any weight onto it.

Elysium continued the motion with which she’d kicked Amy, and the tanks returned to their previous state, while Amy appeared in front of them, still unconscious.

Basil fired his grappling hooks towards Amy’s body, intending to draw himself towards her, but they barely crossed a metre – seemingly – before they fell to the ground; somehow, they’d spooled out entirely to their very limit, leaving two heaps of super-strong black cable on the ground.

The whole room began to shift, as if drawn into a whirlpool with Elysium at its centre, space bending in a disorienting, vertigo-inducing fashion, slowly forming a huge spiral, the centre of which began to lower itself deeper – or perhasp the edge rose up, it was hard to tell through the vertigo-inducing distortions all around.

He saw Bakeneko try to escape, in a quadrupedal form, running for the edge of the effect towards the door, but whatever Elysium was doing to the space, it made it look like she was running in place, unable to move a single step closer to the exit no matter how much effort she put into it, trapped in what could only be described as a sinkwell of space, unable to go anywhere no matter how she moved.

Osore was on the ground, groaning in pain, several limbs broken and numerous gashes and holes across his body, which were mending slowly – When did he go down? – and Tyche and Spellgun were staring helplessly at their surroundings, while Tartsche was glaring towards the villains on the far side of the room, standing in a pocket of undistorted space.

Basil watched helplessly as Elysium kept dancing, her movements not nearly as joyous and graceful as he’d seen in recordings of her many performances, yet still beyond the ken of even professional dancers; she was dancing in a circle, leaping from foot to foot, never touching the ground with both at once, sometimes dipping down while standing on her toes to draw a wide circle around herself.

All around, the room continued to twist, folding up even as the ceiling itself folded apart, opening up to show not the sky but rather, a continuation of the room itself, rows upon rows of steel tanks studding what were now the walls, leading up into infinity; each row of tanks rotating in a different direction, alternating left and right as the space continued to twist and expand.

Beyond that, he could see more of the structures around the building they were in, being drawn into the whole, folded up and into it; buildings he’d seen from the air earlier, now joining the rotation of the tanks, fitting into the gaps between them even though they should have been several times their size; the prison his friends had been sent to, the giant candle, appeared floating on thin air, compressed to the size of a man-sized candle, floating a few metre above the ground he stood on; then it tipped to the side, yet left another of itself in its place. And another, and another, starting to spin like a clockhand, only each motion left another candle behind, even when it passed over the previous ones, continuing to make more and more of itself, the ones behind seeming to extend into an endless space beyond.

Then, they multiplied, all around the circumference of the room, a dozen endlessly spinning, duplicating candles illuminating the room as even more of the city-sized structure was being drawn in, as did parts of the ocean around them, flowing into the gaps.

***

“Himmel herrgott nochmal!” Immanuel shouted as the floor dropped away underneath him, drawn into the ever-rising spire of twisted space just ahead of them. He just barely managed to grab onto Heaven’s Dancer’s arm, drawing her onto a ‘flow’ of space that was more stable, standing atop what was once a train station bench that had been elongated to a ridiculous length. “What is that woman thinking, allowing her to use her power without any restrictions?”

Heaven’s Dancer looked around at their base, even as it was being drawn in – the effect had not yet spread beyond the immediate area around Dusu’s and the Ascendant’s personal lab complex, but it was going to reach the centre at some time, and then the Contriver section… that could end up truly catastrophic.

There was only one possible conclusion.

“You were right,” she told Immanuel, who looked at her in surprise. “We really need to rethink the idea of putting this many mad scientists into one place…”

He smiled wrily, then turned towards their destination and kept moving, always stepping onto safe footholds, navigating the ribbons of twisted space in ways she couldn’t hope to achieve.

Heaven’s Dancer followed, trying not to think about just how she was going to explain this to the others…

“Dem Mädchen gehört der Arsch versohlt,” Immanuel muttered under his breath, putting a voice to her thoughts.

***

Elysium jumped into a backflip, curling up in mid-air to avoid a shot by Tyche and instead of flying on to hit the three gadgeteers standing behind her, it impacted Polymnia’s knee from behind, making her cry out and flip over, landing heavily on the floor; her sonic attack, just begun, went wide, never coming even close to Elysium even without a further use of her power.

The mighty dancer landing on one foot and rose onto her toes, the other leg angled to have her foot rest against the other leg’s knee, only to move immediately into a spin, making a roundhouse kick into thin air.

Tartsche grunted as he was hit in the solar plexus, thrown back and away from Spellgun and Tyche, landing heavily on his back a few metre behind them.

Those still conscious stared in shock at how she’d seemingly ignored his defense entirely, but she gave them no time to react, much less adjust, raising the foot she’d been balancing off from the floor moments before the one she’d kicked with touched it, spinning into wide scything kick towards Tyche and Spellgun, launching them backwards for a metre or two before they suddenly curved downwards at a perfect ninety-degree angle, slamming into the ground hard enough that Basil thought he heard bones snap.

What can I do? he asked himself, desperately. There was nothing he could think of, nothing he had left. His railgun was long wrecked, and now he’d lost his drone, as well. His gauntlet and knife could likely kill her, if he managed to land a clean hit – but the chance of him achieving that was near null and even if he did, with his right leg nigh useless and space and time arrayed against him, unless he killed her in a single blow, she could simply rewind time and try again.

I wonder how often we beat or almost beat her already, and she just rewound and tried again? he couldn’t help but wonder. There was a good reason why she’d never lost a fight until she’d come up against her half-sister. More than one, really, but this one alone would likely have been sufficient all in itself.

It ain’t like you to pity yourself, mate, the Man in the Moon commented unhelpfully. Maybe you sh- ow!

A sharp sting distracted Basil from his thoughts, right in his left arm pit, where he lacked armour other than the ballistic weave of his impact suit.

Having essentially risen onto all fours from where he’d fallen, he looked down at it, and saw… a syringe the size of a small bottle, its needle buried in his flesh, the back attached to a rope leading to…

Syrinx, standing just a few metre away, grinning smugly.

Yet he also stood with the others in the unaffected pocket of space beyond Elysium.

“What the…?” Basil asked, though he didn’t waste time waiting for an answer; rather, he flung his knife at the villain, piercing his right shoulder…

He was gone, as was the syringe, though he was still stung and bleeding lightly. His knife clattered to the ground, with no blood or other sign of having hit on it.

The Syrinx standing with the others looked down and found the syringe there, in his right hand, half-filled with Basil’s blood. He held another in his left hand, and Dusu was holding two as well, one in each hand.

What?

He was starting to have trouble concentrating; his leg hurt abominably, his armpit now joined the fun along with his left shoulder, nevermind the vertigo induced by the spatial distortions all around him.

His friends were down, though only Amy was knocked out, and Gloom Glimmer stuck in a loop, endlessly repeating the same motion over and over again.

Hecate was trying to stand up, pushing against the floor, but her motions were weak, though he could hear her determined, angry growling beneath her hood. Polymnia was likewise rising, if slowly, her suit damaged far more than Tyche’s one shot should have been able to do… only then Basil saw that same shot hit her again, knocking her over once more. And again, coming from above, smashing her into the ground. The same attack, repeating itself whenever she tried to get up, slowly chipping away at her armour and keeping her trapped.

It’s a miracle we’re even still alive…

***

“Why are they even still alive?” Dusu asked in a bored voice, as she played with the syringes full of blood in her hands. “She could’ve killed at least some of them already…”

“I only ordered her to disable them,” the Ascendant replied, sounding pensive. “Also, I suspect there’s more of the real Elysium in her than I’d like – and she never killed. With her power, she never needed to.”

“Well, wouldn’t it be more fun to have her kill one or two of them?” Dusu suggested absent-mindedly. “Make it clear this is your Elysium, and yours kills. Own her.”

The striking woman of Aztek descent stroked her chin, narrowing her eyes. “Well, why not? We only need Gloom Glimmer and the Gadgeteers alive, the others are quite inconsequential.”

“Aren’t we supposed to strive to create more metahumans, rather than kill ones who’re no threat to us anymore?” Syrinx – Roy – asked them, feeling rather contrite about the idea of killing several of God’s chosen ones.

“Eh, we’ll eventually make way more than we could hope to kill,” Dusu waved it off. “Anyway, we should get these samples into my lab, I have a marvelous plan for them…”

“Do that. I’ll take care of these… not Mindstar, though,” the Ascendant noted. “Way too valuable, both for her powers and the information she could give us on the Syndicate.” She looked at her precious little doll, her magnum opus. “Four-four-four, create a passage for Priority Subjects Beta and Gamma to the adjacent lab, then execute target Eta,” she commanded in a calm voice.”

***

Oh, fuck no! Basil thought furiously as he heard the Ascendant’s command, forcing himself to rise onto his good leg, putting as little weight as he could on the bad one. You’re not taking her!

Elysium obeyed her command without hesitation, and both Dusu and Syrinx disappeared, presumably to their portion of the structure.

A little jump and turn, and Hecate lay on the ground before her, on all fours, looking up with an expression filled with fear and anger. “You…” she groaned, looking at the Ascendant with hate-filled eyes. “Vevilyierosilyisse ena miasmiko katharma!” she screamed at her.

Basil reversed the wall-sticking effect on his left boot, launching himself at Elysium from behind and to the side, pulling his left arm back, the gauntlet charging.

Basil swayed on his feet as he saw Hecate, having just cursed the Ascendant, get smashed into the ground again, hit in the back by some kind of massive impact strong enough to shatter another of her protective gems.

Her cry of pain made him see red, raising his gauntlet – his gauntlet was ruined, a perfectly smooth cut running from the tip to the elbow, the intricate, yet sturdy circuitry inside ruined.

No!

He stumbled forward, falling over again, unable to do anything other than watch as Elysium raised her right foot, aiming at Hecate’s head.

“Let this be a lesson to you brats,” the Ascendant spoke, her accented voice as condescending as can be. “Don’t mess with the pros,” she taunted them, looking around at the young heroes all around the room, beaten down yet still conscious, unable to do anything but watch.

“Heck!” Tyche cried out as the foot came down on their friend’s head, to cut or crush.

To no effect, as another foot, this one in a smooth black boot appeared above Hecate’s head, catching Elysium’s stomp on the dorsom of the foot. Instead of crushing or simply parting the boot and flesh beneath, it was stopped cold.

***

“Wer zum Teufel!?!” Immanuel cried out, coming to a dead stop in the middle of running through a pulsating, twisting corridor of pipes.

Heaven’s Dancer stopped, stumbling briefly before she turned around to look at him, shocked to see him… shocked. “What is it? Immanuel, what’s going on?”

“Someone… someone’s there with them,” Immanuel hissed, his eyes staring into the distance. “Someone… or something. I’ve never seen him before. I can’t see him, not really.”

Her current body’s blood ran cold as she parsed that information, though she refused to freak out. Instead, she asked, as calmly as she could, “What do we do now, then?”

He hissed again, his hands clenching into fists. “We wait. If he doesn’t leave on his own, we wait until Konrad arrives. I’m not going in blind.”

***

Everyone but the trapped Gloom Glimmer and the unconscious Amy stared at the new arrival, a tall man – was it a man? It was hard to tell – in a dark blue robe with wide sleeves and a deep hood, parted down the front to show a jet-black, skintight bodysuit. He was even taller than Basil by almost a full head, almost as tall as the Godking had been, and slenderly built underneath his wide robe. His suit extended into a pair of smooth boots and gloves, covering every inch of his body, and he balanced on one foot easily, while using the other to protect Hecate from a grisly, swift death.

His face was not visible underneath his hood – rather, he seemed to wear a mirrored mask or helmet, which was currently split into octagonal pieces, like a single huge compound eye, reflecting the face of everyone in the room. His stance was calm, relaxed.

He was holding a huge cat with long, dark fur in his left arm, stroking it behind the ears with his right hand.

It was a very familiar cat.

“Graymalkin?” Basil whispered, stunned.

What the hell was his cat doing here?

The stranger tilted his head to the side, the images on his mask shifting as if they were fixed in place, and he was now reflecting a different part, showing their faces from different angles. He looked at the Ascendant, then at Elysium, looking her up and down.

“Oh man,” he spoke in a weird, soft voice – like several voices layered on top of another, yet not so much they’d be like a full chorus. “You idiots really, really, really want to piss off the big gal, don’t you?”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Amy, Bakeneko, Basil, Dusu, Elysium, Gloom Glimmer, Graymalkin, Heaven's Dancer, Hecate, Immanuel, Journeyman, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Syrinx, Tartsche, The Ascendant IV, Tyche
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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 5

In My Daydreams

“Maybe Tikki’s accepting calls?” I asked as Kals touched the bracelet on her left wrist.

“We tried that,” Jaclyn said. “No.”

“Messages?”

Her sigh was audible even over the implant. “Yes, but not about not touching. You should call them.”

Would Tikki even need to be told? She shouldn’t—except that she’d had a week to discover that there were no issues with touching us at all. I hadn’t remembered it coming up, but she might not have told us if it had.

“Okay,” I told her, and left messages with Marcus’ implant and Tikki’s bracelet. One of them would have to notice, right?

I stopped concentrating on my implant to find Kals with her arms folded across her chest, watching me.

It struck me that taking a call on my implant might be at least as rude as taking a cellphone call. “Sorry. Jaclyn called me about Marcus and Tikki and also um… us. I told her we’re not uh… doing anything.”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “Of course that’s where their minds went.”

I glanced toward the window. We were off to the side of it, so I couldn’t see much, but a couple people were looking out. With all the light in the room, they probably couldn’t see anything out here.

I turned back to Kals. “I don’t see why your friends would assume we’re doing anything. For all they know, it’s impossible.”

She didn’t say anything for a second, but added, “Let’s just say anything’s possible if you use your imagination… You were saying something before she called. What was it?”

It was my turn to pause, trying to remember something that it felt I’d said half a week a go now. “I was trying to say that while I don’t want to cheat on my girlfriend to do it, I’d like the colony to survive. It seems like if someone could use my genes to fix the allergy, your people could hide the effects from the Human Ascendancy. I mean, you’ve probably got the technology. The Abominators had those birthing tanks. Plus, you seem to be ahead of us in every other area and we’re nearly to the point where we can edit people’s genes.”

She frowned, but then she shrugged. “I’m sure it’s not that simple or we’d have done it already. But you have to talk to Iolan about the mole anyway. He’s our genetic counselor. He’d know whether or not it’s possible if anyone would.”

She checked the window. “We’d better go in before they decide we’re…”

She stopped. “I take that back. They’ll still think that no matter what we do.”

“That reminds me,” I said. “What is second skin? Jaclyn said that your friends were joking about it.”

I’d been wearing the glasses that as acted as a hidden HUD for when I was wearing my stealth suit as clothes. Through my glasses I could see Kals’ skin darken or take a redder tinge at the very least.

“I’m going to kill them,” she muttered, but in a louder voice she said, “Second skin is a product used to help heal burns. It can be sprayed over the skin of any gene line. More expensive varieties allow the user to feel through them like normal skin.”

I’d been wondering why she’d begun to lecture me in a controlled, almost strained, voice about a first aid product at first, but a few words in, I knew exactly why and she confirmed it.

“My first serious boyfriend was from another gene line. We used it once, but not for the official purpose. Both of us ended up with horrible rashes in the worst places.” She shook her head. “No one will let me forget it and it’s not as if I’m the only one it ever happened to. I’m sure more people use for sex than burns.”

Then she threw back her head and laughed, “Assholes. See if I don’t spill their most embarrassing moments the first chance I get.”

We went back inside soon after that. In some ways, there’s not much to tell about the party except that I didn’t spend the rest of it standing next to the wall. Kals pulled me into the group, introducing me to her friends (“This is Mati, his most recent, ansible only, girlfriend turned out to be an intelligent computer virus with a weird thing for feet—“), whose embarrassing moments were often stranger than I’d thought possible.

The beer tasted better than the beer I’d tried at the last party I’d been at. It had been Miller Lite and tasted most strongly of the metal keg that contained it. It was a low bar to cross, but the beer here didn’t taste like metal. I still wasn’t sure that it tasted good, but at least it wasn’t bad.

Marcus didn’t reappear until after everyone had left. Cassie, Jaclyn, Katuk, and I sat around the table in the common area talking through what we’d learned. Tikki wasn’t with him.

“I walked her home,” he said. “She’s amazing.”

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Tieshaunn

B13.15 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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The floor panel groaned briefly as it was crushed, crumpled up and cast aside by Amy’s power, revealing the power cables underneath.

Basil knelt down and got to work, ripping them out and jury rigging them to connect to his armour’s recharger, a device he’d specifically created to be able to recharge his batteries while in the field, by tapping into any available power grid – it was built into the bottom of his armour’s ‘backpack’ module.

Soon enough, the half-empty charge icon on his HUD began to blink and slowly fill up again.

He took the chance to run several system checks, making sure that everything – particularly his still-unnamed drone – was running smoothly, even after the heavy use the other one had made of them.

Fortunately, everything except for his utterly wrecked rifle was in working ord-

You are aware that you’re just avoiding the issue, right, mate? the Man in the Moon mocked him from the back of his head.

Basil couldn’t deny it, looking up. He’d squatted down to attach the cables, finding himself apart from the others.

Amy was hovering nearby – both literally and figuratively – with her arms crossed over her chest, looking both embarrassed and furious, but staying quiet even as she avoided looking at Basil.

The Junior Heroes stood as far away from Amy as they could while still being on the same platform, talking quietly amongst each other; Everyone but Gloom Glimmer looked thoroughly shaken and Spellgun, at least, was regularly glaring at both Amy and Basil. Gloom Glimmer herself had so far remained quiet, floating a few centimetre above the floor, her cloak hiding most of her body. He couldn’t tell where she was looking, but her hood’s opening at least wasn’t pointed his way.

Near the juniors, Tyche leaned against a pillar, her arms crossed and her bare face expressing both confusion and sadness as her eyes moved from one of her friends to another and back, over and over again.

Hecate stood as far away from Basil as she could, her back to him, her posture impossible to determine beneath her own cloak, facing the tunnel they’d come in through.

That hurt the most, by far.

You knew it was coming, the voice continued on. You knew ever since you found out about her cousin. Of course, you didn’t think it’d come to a head like this, but still…

Unless you have anything constructive to say, be quiet, Basil directed a particularly forceful thought at the Man in the Moon.

Have it your way.

The charging process finished and he disconnected the cables, standing up. Looking briefly at his sister, he turned towards Hecate…

I should give her a little more time.

He approached Tyche instead, stopping just a little over an arm’s reach away from her and reached up into his hood to unlock his helmet and take it off, so she could see his face.

“This is really, really fucked up, B6,” Tyche spoke softly.

“It is,” he agreed with her. “I am sorry to spring this on you like that. I…” He stopped, not sure how to continue that sentence.

“You would’ve preferred not to tell us at all,” she completed it, without any accusation in her tone.

He opened his mouth to deny it, but couldn’t, lowering his head instead.

“I’m not angry at you, B,” she continued reassuringly, making him look up at her in surprise. “Or angry with you. Or whatever.”

“You are not?” he stared at her, dumbfounded as he truly couldn’t find any anger in her eyes.

“You’re my friend, B,” she replied, looking down as he felt a knife being driven into his heart. “Friends forgive each other. Friends understand one another. And I understand why you kept it a secret. Can’t really say I wouldn’t have done the same.” She raised her head again, smiling wrily. “So I can’t really blame you for it, even if it hurts that you didn’t trust us with it.”

The knife twisted, slowly.

“I wanted to tell you, both, so many times,” he said, honestly, his voice thick. “But there always seemed to be a reason not to. Especially after…”

“After you found out about Heck’s hateboner for your sis?” She chuckled, the sound oddly muted compared to her usual expressions. “Yeah, that was quite the bomb even for me. Must’ve been even worse for you.”

He nodded mutely.

“Well…” she temporised, “I… honestly, I should probably be angrier at you, but… I kinda topped out on emotions for today. And… it’s not like… you know…” She looked down, suddenly looking ashamed, which only served to confuse Basil even further. “After this… I’m out, anyway.”

Basil looked at her, his blood gone cold. “You are leaving the team?” he asked, trying not to show how much the thought hurt him, even if he’d expected something like that.

She shook her head. “No. Not the team. Or, not just the team. After we go back home, I’m… leaving Tyche behind,” she explained in a quiet voice. “I’m putting the cape down, so to speak. Or hanging it up, I guess.”

Basil raised a hand, running his fingers through his hair, his hood falling back as he processed that. “Why? Is it because…”

“It’s got nothing to do with you,” she assured him, raising a hand to forestall his guess. “I was pretty much set on it even before we found out about that.” She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. “I was gonna tell you and Heck after this mission was over, but… I better tell each of you, separately.” She took another deep breath, her eyes flitting about, left and right, held low, before she finally looked up to meet his own gaze.

There were tears in her eyes.

“Remember when you used to tell me that probability manipulators like me, we build up bad luck for every bit of good luck we get?” she asked, her voice thick. Before he could even nod, she continued. “You didn’t want to believe that my power was free of that. You told me to be careful, not to rely too much on it. You refused to rely on it, wouldn’t have me like, flip coins or roll dice to figure stuff out and all.” The tears finally fell from her eyes, running down her cheeks. “You were right, B. You were so god damn right. I did create bad luck, every time I had good luck for myself. Only I’m way more selfish than the other guys with my power. I didn’t get bad luck myself, I put it… on others.”

Basil stared at her, not sure how to reply.

She pressed on. “And you know who? Not the villains, or anything. No. Civilians. Normal people. People, I, I didn’t like…” She sniffed, tears running down her cheeks. “I, I told you about those, those girls, who bullied me? Who I got these powers from?”

He nodded, mutely.

“Whom,” a soft, slightly hoarse voice spoke so quietly it was barely more than a whisper. “The right term is ‘whom’.”

Both of them turned to the side, and found themselves faced with Hecate, who’d walked up to them without a sound.

Her face was hidden in the shadows of her hood, but she was quite clearly looking only at Tyche, and decidedly not at Basil.

“Right, ‘whom’. Your favourite word,” Tyche giggled through her tears. “You heard everything I said?”

Hecate nodded.

The redhead sniffed, then pulled a tissue out of her leather jacket’s pocket to blow her nose. “W-well… it hit, hit them,” she admitted in a quiet, miserable voice. “The bad luck… it went to them. It… one of them’s dead. Hit by a bus. Another tried to kill herself after… after some horrible stuff happened to her. And the last one, she’s apparently become a supervillain, after Hastur’s monsters nearly k-killed her, too.”

Both Hecate and Basil could only stare at her in response to that. He wasn’t sure about Hecate, but Basil, at least, felt his jaw drop.

“Oh, Tyche,” he said, only to flinch as he realised that he’d spoken at the same time as Hecate, and said the same words, in the same tone of voice, as well. He briefly looked at her, but she kept ignoring him.

Their friend nodded, weak little sobs escaping her throat as she looked down at her feet.

“Tyche,” Basil spoke carefully. “How do you… how do you know that?”

“Th-that guy… Immanuel… he told me,” she explained, rubbing her eyes with the palms of her hands, trying to stem the flow of tears. “He knew, so much about me. Knew everything. More than I did.”

If I ever catch this, I’m going to turn his face onto his fucking back. “How do you know he is… that he is right? Even if he had the power to somehow know all that, how can you be sure he is being sincere, and not, well… lying through his teeth?” he prodded gently, not sure how far he could risk pushing her right now.

He felt horrible just for not stepping forward and embracing her, she looked so miserable; but he had to make sure she wasn’t just being manipulated by some jerk – of which there was an extreme abundance on this floating city.

Fortunately, Hecate took over that part, reaching out to pull Tyche into a tight embrace. The redheaded girl sobbed quietly, wrapping her arms around her friend and holding on tight.

Basil averted his eyes, feeling uncomfortable at the distance he felt towards them… just a few minutes ago, he’d have embraced them as well, or been drawn in by Hecate. Not now, obviously.

He didn’t press his point, waiting quietly for Tyche to regain her composure. He knew this was wasting time, again, but he couldn’t bring himself to care right then and there.

“He knew, knew everything else. Knew even…” She was interrupted by a sudden hiccup. “It’s not just them. Not just those girls. My mom… it’s been going after my mom…” She dissolved into incoherent sobbing again – if it wasn’t for Hecate holding onto her, she’d have collapsed right then and there.

“Brennus,” another voice spoke up from behind Basil, and he turned around. Tartsche looked at him, with the rest of his team arrayed behind him. “We need to talk. Right now.” He looked at the sobbing Tyche, looking uncomfortable, then focused on Basil again.

“Let’s step aside,” Basil said, not waiting for him to agree as he walked away from his friends. Hecate was whispering to Tyche, and he was pretty sure she’d ask all the important questions and do what she could to help her, even – or perhaps especially – without him.

He walked to where the junior heroes had been standing together earlier, feeling Amy’s attention on him – not her physical eyes, but her other sight, he was sure. Ignoring her, he turned around to face them.

All of them, save for Gloom Glimmer and Osore, were looking at him rather uncomfortably, studying his face. Polymnia looked rather shocked as she looked at him, but he didn’t care, and stayed quiet, waiting for Tartsche to say his piece.

Finally, the young leader of the group crossed his arms, his expression going from uncomfortable to determined. “Gloom Glimmer assures me it’s true, and it ain’t some kind of weird plot by Mindstar, and you’re not her mindslave or anything.”

Basil couldn’t help but smile slightly. “It’s true,” he replied, though he couldn’t keep himself from adding, “Of course, she might just be making me say so.”

Amy snorted loudly from where she was still floating in place. Everyone did their best to ignore her, except for Basil, who leaned to the side, so he could look at her past the heroes.

“It is not polite to eavesdrop!” he called out.

“Like I care!” she called back, before she very pointedly rotated in place to give him the cold shoulder.

He stood up straight again and looked at Tartsche with a tired smile. “Continue.”

Tartsche took a deep breath. “I can’t even begin to describe how fucked up I think this all is. And honestly, in any other situation, I’d take my team and bail, right now,” he stated, his voice hard.

Basil titled his head to the side, confused. “But you will not?” He was expecting him to, at least.

The young hero shook his head. “You being her brother and her being here doesn’t change the fact that there’s people who’re going to die horribly if we don’t find a cure, and whatever the UH or the government or whoever else has planned just plain won’t come in time. So I, at least, am sticking with this. And I’ve talked with the others, and they all agreed to do the same. But after this… you know we can’t keep this a secret, right?” he concluded, giving him an uncomfortable, even apologetic look.

Basil kept smiling. “I would not expect you to keep it secret,” he replied calmly. “Nor am I going to hold it against you when you reveal it to the UH.” He sighed, rolling his shoulders to loosen up a bit. “I knew what I was getting myslef into, when I revealed our relation, earlier. But it was either that, lying to you all, or having her edit your recollection. The latter was unacceptable and the second I have been doing too much of for too long, so…”

“You decided to put it out in the open,” Tartsche concluded, nodding. “I can respect that. Even if the timing’s horrible.”

“Well, I did not exactly plan for her to show up here,” Basil defended himself and shrugged. Then he looked over the assembled heroes. “You are all staying? In spite of this?”

They all exchanged looks, then focused on him again and nodded.

“I can’t speak for the others,” Gloom Glimmer said mirthfully, “but I’m hardly one to cast stones over someone having a supervillain as a family member they don’t disavow.”

“It’s not like you chose who your sister was going to be, or that she become a supervillain,” Polymnia assured him in a soft voice.

“That doesn’t mean this won’t have consequences for how we interact, after our current mission is over,” Tartsche took over again. “The UH has been extending a lot of trust and good will in how it treated you and your team, in part because of how depleted our numbers are. But there’s no way that’ll continue once it comes out that you’re Mindstar’s brother – nevermind the fact that you’ve been keeping it a secret, regardless of her being family.”

Basil just nodded. “I know. And speaking of which…” He looked sideways at Hecate and Tyche. The latter was standing on her own again, though keeping her head lowered as her friend held onto her shoulders with both hands, speaking quietly – too quietly to hear. “We really should get going. Finish this, before they muster another line of defense.”

***

“Well, that didn’t go as expected, did it?” Heaven’s Dancer mocked, trying to mask her concern – not that she could, not from Immanuel – as she in a demure position on the edge of the platform he’d been meditating upon, her hands folded primly on her lap, her knees together.

Immanuel was in the process of tying his bootlaces, having changed into a more formal outfit taken from a box that’d slid out of the same platform. He was now wearing a pair of loose, smooth golden pants and a sleeveless black shirt made of a shimmering material as tight as a second skin, exposing his arms, which were in turn partially covered by black fingerless gloves that reached up to his biceps, with some gold embroidery on the back of his hands and around his wrists. His boots were black, as well, with golden laces. Other than that, he made no concession to the usual costuming craze – even this much had mostly been forced on him by his over-eager staffers deciding to ‘spruce up’ his usual outfit. Children these days…

“I admit, things are going horribly wrong faster than I expected,” he spoke with neither rancor nor chargrin in his voice or expression. “Mind you, I never would have expected Brennus to be able to locate this base based on a momentary glimpse of the nightsky given to him by Crocell’s dying throes,” he admitted. “In fact, I’d really like to know how that managed to evade my sight. There’s something fishy going on with that boy, and I’m not talking about his messed-up memories.”

“Something even more fishy than that? Oh, joy of joys,” she couldn’t help but reply in her most deadpan voice. “You really should’ve taken them down as soon as they appeared, not dilly-dallied this long, you know? He won’t like that.”

He waved her concern off. “The base was lost the moment young Brennus discovered its location – he was smart enough to share it with every authority he could reach as soon as he knew, and even with the Syndicate, via his sister,” he justified his decision to take a more relaxed stance on the issue. “Nothing we do here is going to prevent its loss – it’s not like we can move the Sleeper somewhere else. All we can do is prevent a total loss – thus why I began a silent evacuation as soon as I realised what was coming – and gather as much data on how we got compromised to begin with, and on what’s clearly several major talents, some of whom we didn’t even know about.”

“You always know how to make it sound like you know what you’re doing, don’t you?” she asked in annoyance, not that she could actually refute any of his points. “But even so, we ought to take some precautions, make sure they don’t actually mess up anything too valuable before they get away… mind you, is letting them get away even that wise? We ought to keep at least some of them, like this Brennus.”

“Perhaps,” he temporised. “But keeping Brennus would require that we capture or kill Mindstar. He’s also close to Gloom Glimmer, whom we’d also have to take care of, and I really don’t want to explain again why killing or capturing that one would be a stupid, stupid idea.” He stopped in the middle of tying the last knot. “Also, there’s Tyche, of course. Her power, combined with Gloom Glimmer’s, means we really don’t have any truly safe way to deal with them, other than to let them reach Dusu, then leave on their own. At least not until Konrad arrives.”

“You called Konrad!?” Heaven’s Dancer paled. “Immanuel, dropping him into this situation…”

“Konrad is one of only two people – the other being me – whom we know can take that group down without killing anyone,” he assuaged her worries. “I can most likely do it by myself, but just in case I fail, I want him on his way here.” He finished tying his laces and leap onto his feet in a nimble move, segueing straight into some stretches to limber up. “Enough talk. I have my boots on – time to start kicking ass!”

***

“You know, you don’t have to make us feel that amateurish,” Spellgun complained as they all looked around at the unconscious and, in some cases, heavily wounded bodies strewn about the room.

They’d run – at Basil’s and Tartsche’s insistence – deeper into the installation, following the directions Immanuel had given Tyche on the assumption that it was better than running blindly – nevermind that, according to Gloom Glimmer, they were moving closer to Dusu.

Unfortunately, even running while bolstered by Gloom Glimmer, who was preventing them from growing tired, they hadn’t been able to move fast enough to get to their goal before the next line of defense was set up – if it hadn’t been already set up before they even fought the late Skulls’ group earlier.

Ten metahumans in combat gear had been waiting in ambush, literally melting out of the walls and floor around them as they ran down another featureless white hallway.

Before even one of them could bring their powers to bear, Amy had torn into them with a savage cry, swiping them all up with her telekinesis and smashing them all over the place, into walls, the ceiling, the floor, hurting them before she simply turned them all off with her telepathy.

At least, Basil hoped it was her telepathy, and that she hadn’t just killed them all. A quick check with his enhanced vision modes showed that, yes, they were all still alive, if definitely out of any fight for a while now.

Amy, meanwhile, ignored Spellgun’s comment. “Keep moving,” she snarled instead as she flew onwards, the only one not on her feet, now that Gloom Glimmer was running with them. “I’m in their heads – Dusu’s lab is nearby. She’s got a whole building basically to herself; only one else there is the new Ascendant.”

They turned a corner, moving down another featureless hallway, passing by several heavy steel doors.

“Ok, so, what can we expect?” Tartsche asked, directing the question towards Basil.

“We’re going up against two gadgeteers in their own labs,” Basil replied. “Assuming both are there, they’ll be both at an advantage and at a disadvantage – an advantage because they’ll have all their creations there, at hand, plus their likely heavily fortified labs – I know I built a lot of traps and defense systems into mine – and at a disadvantage, since they’ll likely want to prevent us from smashing all their hard work into pieces.”

“Not that we should,” Polymnia added. “Dusu is a plague-gadgeteer. We do not want to unleash anything she’s got stored in there.”

“No going in with a hammer then,” Hecate concurred. “Seeing how we want her alive and able to talk, and she’s not supposed to have any other powers, we shouldn’t go in smashi-”

She was cut off at the sound of a crash from further up ahead the hallway, behind a heavy steel door. Screams soon followed.

“The hell is that!?” Bakeneko asked, staring at the heavy door.

“Just cleaning up some trash,” Amy replied calmly, while Gloom Glimmer stepped forth and put a hand to the door, causing it to simply melt away into the floor.

Beyond it, another group of cowls – each in their own costume, save for a pair of twins in matching viking outfits – was busy fighting each other, completely ignoring their group as they ran past.

“What’d you do to them? Ma’am,” Tartsche asked Amy, appending a honorific at the end, apparently on reflex.

“Call me ‘ma’am’ again and I’ll feed you your boyfriend’s gun,” she replied, flying ahead of the group. “And I just adjusted some details in their perception. They were already primed for a fight, so it wasn’t hard to set them off.”

“You’re one scary bitch,” Spellgun grumbled under his breath, barely audible; yet Amy heard him and looked over her shoulder at him, giving him a grin that made him shudder.

“Careful, gunbunny,” she told him. “You might make a girl feel bashful and undeserving of such praise, make her try to earn it.”

Hecate snarled audibly as Spellgun waved his free hand in a negating gesture, assuring Amy that he hadn’t really meant it and all.

Basil ignored the byplay, mostly, and kept running. He already knew what Amy was capable of – she’d never hesitated to share – and was glad that at least he hadn’t destroyed his team, his friendship with Hecate and his rapport with the UH for less than a massive boost to their efficiency.

After five more minutes of running – they’d decided not to use any more trains – he started to grow seriously suspicious of how quiet the whole place was.

“How come we are not running into more people?” he asked aloud. “This place is larger than the average American town – there should be far more people around.”

“They’ve been evacuating it,” Amy replied. “Saw it in one of their minds. They’ve guessed that we’ve shared the location of the place with the kind of people they can’t fight off, so they’re packing up what they can to get away.”

“What?!” Basil shouted, nearly tripping over his own feet. “Why did you not say so sooner!? We need to hurry up, or she will get away, if she has not already!”

“Relaaaax,” she replied and though he couldn’t see it, he knew she was rolling her eyes. “Dusu’s still there. That’s why there’s so many guards left along the way to her; she and the Ascendant are working on high-priority projects, and they’re taking some time to get out – we should get there before Dusu has left. The Ascendant’s projects are apparently slow to move, too, so she’ll likely also be there.”

“Alright, let’s haul it then!” Tartsche exlaimed and picked up speed, bolstered by Gloom Glimmer’s power.

They ran through two more doors – and past another security team that went down quickly between Amy and Gloom Glimmer tearing through them – before Basil noticed that the hallways were growing wider, and the doors on the sides more sparse.

Finally, they tore through one more door and found themselves in a long hallway with glass walls and a glass ceiling, leading straight towards a larger, cubic building that stood apart from the rest of the nearby structures.

“Dusu’s in there,” Gloom Glimmer announced. “I can feel it.”

“Yeah, that’s what the memories I saw said, as well,” Amy confirmed her statement, flying ahead of the group down the hallway. “She should be somewhere in the eastern half of the building, that’s where her and Syrinx’ – some lesser gadgeteer who works as her assistant – labs are. The western half belongs to the As-” She stopped talking, suddenly, raising her head before continuing on. “There’s something in there… a bubble of space in the western half that I can’t look into. Every other part of the building is empty, I think… save for some…”

“Some what?” Tartsche asked when she wouldn’t continue.

“Test subjects,” she spoke with a note of disgust in her voice. “The lower levels of the building are filled with people they’ve been experimenting on.”

“But where is Dusu?” Basil pressed the important point – as much as it sickened him, whether or not they had a chance to help those poor souls, they had to capture their tormentors first. “In that bubble you can not look into? Gloom Glimmer, can you see into it?” He looked at the black-haired heroine.

She shook her head, hair flying left and right. “No. That power… I’ve felt something like it before. One of Dad’s subordinates, he could kind of… push powers away around himself. Completely messed up more delicate stuff, like remote senses, and weakened cruder powers, too. This should be similar.”

“I remember that guy,” Amy replied to her. “Fuzz, was his name? Didn’t he die in a crash during a car chase or something?”

“Yup, that’s him,” Gloom Glimmer affirmed. “Anyway, I don’t think I can pierce the effect – but I know Dusu is close, and that’s the only place I can’t look into, nor can Mindstar, so…”

“To the Ascendant’s lab we go,” Basil concluded, and they continued their charge down the glass hallway.

***

“I must avow that we need to rethink the whole ‘put an army of mad scientists into an enclosed location and give them near-unlimited resources’ concept,” Immanuel admitted to Heaven’s Dancer as they were using a train to move towards Dusu’s lab. He’d overridden its normal programming, of course, so it wouldn’t stop at any station along the way.

“Why do you say that, now?” Heaven’s Dancer asked him rather warily.

“Because what Dusu, the Ascendant and Syrinx are planning right now is either going to be incredibly awesome or an utter catastrophy for us all…”

***

Basil put his force gauntlet to the final door and with a simple eye twitch, activated the blaster, blowing the heavy steel door open in a massive cacophony of tormented steel, followed by him, Gloom Glimmer and Amy charging in ahead of the others into a huge room full of metal coffins standing upright on circular podests, lit by fluorescent lighting from above.

Coming to a halt, he looked around for his target, his heart pumping, ready to leap at Dusu and beat the cure out of her…

And there she was, looking just like in the one photograph he’d been able to find of her, taken many years ago shortly before the Hawaii incident, before she became an internationally wanted bio-terrorist, having aged not a day since.

An utterly unassuming looking woman of Chinese descent, attractive but not so much that she’d stand out in a crowd with a heart-shaped face and long, straight hair held back by a white hairband, wearing a white labcoat over scrubs, a mockery of a medical professional.

There was a man with her in a matching outfit, tall, well-built but otherwise unremarkable save for his wild blonde hair, and a taller woman with features matching images he’d seen of South American indigenous people, also in scrubs and a labcoat.

The man – probably Syrinx – looked at them in shock, the Ascendant was busy operating the control panel of one of the upright coffins and Dusu looked straight at them, her gaze dismissive, a smirk on her lips…

Basil saw red, and gestured towards her to launch his drone straight at the bitch…

But Gloom Glimmer intercepted his movement, catching his hand. “No. Remember, we need her whole,” she whispered, apparently having seen it coming.

“Well, look what we have the-” Dusu began to say, but was cut off when she, Syrinx and the Ascendant were suddenly dragged away from the coffin-like tank they’d been working on. Crying out in surprise and shock, they leaned away from the pull, even as Amy visibly focused on moving them, reaching through whatever power was protecting them now that she could see them with her own eyes.

“There we go…” Amy said. “They’re planning something… but I can’t read their minds… yet,” she explained as she grinned, savagely. “Don’t worry, dear idiot brother – you’ll have your cure, soon enough.” She advanced on them, along with the rest of the group.

A hand sign from Tartsche made them fan out, watching as the three villains were being dragged inexorably towards them, straining against the effect to no avail.

“Oh, come on…” Syrinx groaned. “I thought two-oh-one’s power would protect us!”

“It’s not perfect,” the Ascendant replied calmly, looking rather unperturbed by the whole situation. “But it should buy us enough time.”

“Enough time for what?” Basil asked, letting his drone float off his thigh, drifting into an orbit above his head.

Then the coffin they’d worked on hissed, and unlocked, the part facing them opening upwards to expel a large amount of vapour.

At the same time, the Ascendant reached into her pocket and pulled out a remote, pressing a button before anyone could stop her – and all three of them were pulled forward, towards Amy, her grip suddenly several orders of magnitude stronger.

“She turned off the anti-power field!” Gloom Glimmer exclaimed, raising her hands towards the villains, causing glowing chains to appear and wrap around them, restraining them.

“Too late,” the Ascendant smirked, her smoky voice dripping with smugness. “I just needed to make sure two-oh-one wouldn’t interfere with four-four-four.”

Amy’s eyes widened as she read their minds, and she raised her hands, gesturing at the coffin as a single figure – a woman drenched in a sticky fluid, wearing nothing but a bathsuit-shaped grey material that covered her torso and crotch, leaving her long, slender legs and arms free, revealing smooth, healthy skin and long gold-blonde hair, currently darkened due to being completely drenched.

The telekinetic blast caught the woman in the head before she could raise it from the crouching position she’d been caught in, smashing her body into a bloody pulp and destroying the container she’d been in.

The woman rose from her crouching position, whole again and dry, her long hair now much more voluminous, her suit, while still nearly obscenely tight and little besides her torso, was also dry again.

“Who the fuck is that?” Bakeneko asked aloud as they saw the woman’s – a girl, really, only a few years older than them and about Amy’s age – lovely, heart-shaped face.

None of the others (except perhaps Osore, who remained quiet about it in any case) had any trouble recognising her – they passed her statue pretty much every day, whenever they entered or left their school, just for starters.

Bright, sapphire-like eyes opened, looking at them without feeling or recognition, empty of any warmth or even the most basic of emotions, her movements oddly graceful in spite of her loose, hunched-over posture, her arms dangling limply.

“Subject four-four-four!” the Ascendant shouted in a loud, clear voice. Basil whirled to the right, sending his drone out to smash into her mouth and shut her up rather roughly, but he was too late – the drone smashed into the empty floor, bouncing off. The villains stood behind the blonde beauty, unharmed and standing, free of Gloom Glimmer’s bindings, which dissolved as they hit the floor where their prisoners had just lain.

Not that Gloom Glimmer seemed to care, as she took a wavering step forward, staring at the young woman in shock.

“Diantha?” she asked in a small voice. “Sis?”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Dusu, Elysium, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Mindstar, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Syrinx, Tartsche, The Ascendant IV, Tyche
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Semicoop

The Greatest Adventure

Semicoop

The previous comic that included the game Clank!, wasn’t really about the game itself but since we like Clank! a lot, we thought it was time to make a comic about the game that showed more than just the title. Although in a way, this comic is still about its title of course. Ugh, such an ingenious name. 😉

In Clank! you can try to be a stealthy thief (and often that’s probably the wiser thing to do) but when you are presented with the option to buy for example the Monkey Bot 3000 … I know of no or little players who can resist it and they would take the extra noise for granted. Who doesn’t want to walk around with a big golden monkey in a dragon’s lair? 😀

Essen Spiel is getting closer and I’m having a lot of fun with the preparations! We’re thinking about printing some fun things for us to hand out to other visitors. Oh and if any of you will be at Essen this year, let us know – maybe we can meet up! We will probably be there on Thursday and Saturday.

What’s your favorite game in which you play a burglar?

The post The Greatest Adventure appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 4

In My Daydreams

I felt my eyes widen. “What?”

Kals shook her head. “If we’re going to talk about this, we should find someplace where we won’t be heard.” Then she pointed to the door outside.

“Sure,” I said, and we stepped out into the dark. The council building rose above us, the cluster egg-shaped sections shining in the streetlights.

Kals looked up and down the street. “I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but you could destroy all of human civilization.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Um… That does sound overly dramatic.”

She sighed. “Check with your implant later, but listen to me. The Abominators took us from wherever humans come from and molded us to their whims. They set up different gene lines, decided who could mate with whom and set up systems to keep us under their control. The Human Ascendancy and the other human empires took over when they were destroyed. The system that makes infertility and the rash between different human gene lines work? It’s complicated and fragile. It’ll fall apart if normal genes get added to the mix.”

Nodding, I said, “And if everyone can mate with everyone, the differences between gene lines collapse and if humans here are more suggestible, maybe that ends too…”

Frowning, she said, “We are. If you people pass on your genes, our colony will live. We’ll be a place of mixed gene lines, a stew of everything, but if we expand outward or our children travel back home… It would take time, but the whole structure of interstellar civilization would collapse.”

I could imagine it—fallen governments, wars, refugees and ransacked planets all because we had unprotected sex.

Then she shook her head. “That’s how the Human Ascendancy will see it. They might ignore us if we were just a colony of exiles, but if they knew we’d shattered the way they control society, they’d throw everything at us.”

Unsure if I wanted to hear the answer, I asked, “How would people here see it?”

She laughed, but it seemed more nervous than happy to me. Then she looked into my eyes. “It would be a mess. Most of the people here are what the Ascendancy would classify as breeders—people who hold the genes for powers, but they’re not active. If their number came up, they’d be required to mate with someone with active powers and produce a child—who would then be taken away and raised to be loyal to the government. So imagine a third person entering a relationship you’re in, making a kid with your spouse and taking the child away—lots of bad memories.”

“Huh,” I leaned against the curved wall behind me.

“It gets worse,” she said. “We’re refugees from the rebellion. We’re terrorists and anarchists. Most of the people here hate the Human Ascendancy so much that they were willing to kill to fight it. Sure, we’re all colonists now, but everyone here is wanted by the government. If the opportunity came to make it end in fire, they’d take it. I don’t know what people will actually do, but nothing would surprise me. For all I know, they might offer you the chance to stay or stay long enough to get a few people pregnant or for Jaclyn or Cassie to give birth.”

I snorted. “That’s not going to happen.”

She gave another look up and down the street. “Good because I’m sure half or more of our people came here of never letting that happen again—either to themselves or their kids. What’s worse, I’m sure some of them would volunteer themselves and maybe even their kids, but they’ll be hating you the whole time.”

“Not me,” I said. “My girlfriend definitely wouldn’t be okay with that. Is there any chance we could donate sperm and your doctor could inseminate people or, I don’t know, find some way to splice in my genes in for an embryo’s ‘make a rash’ genes? It seems faster than having Marcus and I knock up the colony and we wouldn’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

“Maybe.”  She’d laughed as I suggested we’d have to “knock up” the colony and appeared to be ready to say something else when my implant informed me that Jaclyn wanted to talk to me.

I took the call. Jaclyn’s voice filled my head. “I hope you’re not doing what Marcus is doing.”

“No! I mean, I’m assuming Marcus and Tikki are making out. Kals and I are talking just outside the front door.”

Jaclyn sighed. “Good. Cassie and I had no idea where you went and Kals’ friends didn’t know where she went. They started making jokes about ‘second skin’. I have no idea what they’re talking about.”

“We probably ought to get back then. I’ve learned a lot. I’ll figure out how to explain, but don’t touch anybody. It’ll be a huge mess.”

Jaclyn snorted. “Awesome. Marcus’ implant isn’t taking any calls, so I’m assuming it’s too late for that warning.”

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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 3

In My Daydreams

Trying not to be distracted by my thoughts, I told Kals, “That’s right. I’m Nick.”

She gave a hint of smile and then asked, “What do you do for the group?”

I shrugged. “I pilot our spaceship and keep our stuff working.”

Nodding, she said. “You keep everything working? From the ship’s drives to the computers to your suits and weapons? And you pilot?”

The implant buried me a burst of knowledge about ship staffing. On a ship of any size, those were completely different positions, staffed by different engineers and mechanics. “Pretty much. I’m more knowledgeable about some things than others. Also, it’s a small ship.”

The corner of her mouth twitched. If I didn’t do something the whole conversation could become centered around how unusual we all were, or worse, it might center on me personally. We needed to know who in the colony might be a spy or simply be unhappy enough to bring down the wrath of the Human Ascendancy down on the colony.

Given what she’d said earlier, Kals herself was a candidate. She didn’t seem angry enough, but I didn’t really know her either. “How about you?” I straightened up and stopped leaning on the wall. “What do you do here?”

She took a breath. “Well, I was training to be a motivator. You know about my mom. I was going to do what she did—pretend to serve the Ascendancy while helping the resistance. It didn’t work out. They found out who my mom was and we’ve been running ever since. Now I’m training in biology and agriculture. It’s not all bad, but it’s not as glamorous.”

She smiled at that.

Judging from her reaction, I was supposed to know something about motivators. I searched the implant, learning that the Human Ascendancy’s motivators were everywhere in their society, commanding people directly and more subtly to follow the plan. They couldn’t change what people felt about something, but the Xiniti’s reports suggested that the constant small pushes might make it hard for the Human Ascendancy’s subjects to recognize what their true feelings were.

“How does glamorous fit with that?” I’m sure I sounded as confused as I felt.

In a flatter voice, she said, “You’ve got an implant. Ask it what kind of lives the motivators live.”

I didn’t have to. As I thought in that direction, I saw pictures of motivators in bejeweled clothing, their mansions and vast estates. The backbone of the Human Ascendancy’s empire, they had the best of everything and knew the most powerful and celebrated people on their worlds.

I had a motive for her to be the mole now. It would be hard to go from that to this. Still, wanting that life enough to betray her mother and people she seemed to like? That seemed unlikely.

Coming back to reality, I said, “I see what you mean. That would be a huge change.”

She shook her head. “Don’t judge me from what your implant just showed you. We weren’t hobnobbing with the planetary governor, but we did have more than most.”

I was about to ask if she had an implant when Tikki bumped me. “Sorry,” she said, joining hands with Marcus as they squeezed through the common room and into the main area of the council building.

Except for Kals, no one seemed to notice them go, but Kals more than made up for it. She stared at them until they disappeared, turning to me to say. “They’re holding hands. He’s not from her gene line.”

She turned away to stare at the shut door on the far side of the room.”Does he have Change?”

“Change?” I asked even as my implant defined it as a drug the Human Ascendancy used to create powered individuals. “No,” I said, and maybe I should have said yes because Marcus had done something weird and she’d practically handed me an explanation she could accept.

Brows furrowing, she asked, “Where are you from?”

“M8749.” I managed to say it naturally only because the implant stored it.

“One of the fallow worlds? But he can shapeshift?” Now she was staring at me.

With Lee’s help, we’d planned this answer out. “It was fallow when the Abominators left. Now it’s just unplanned. People come from other planets and leave their genes. So we have powered people, but we don’t have gene lines that we’re required to keep pure.”

She blinked. “You don’t know how it works, do you? The Abominators didn’t require us to keep our genetics pure. They made it impossible for people from different gene lines to breed.”

Geman had said something like that. “How?”

“Most gene lines are infertile, but in case any aren’t they made it so we all get nasty rashes any time we touch the bare skin of any line but our own. Change disables both of them. We’ve been trying to buy it, but it’s closely guarded.”

That explained why everyone’s jumpsuits covered their legs and arms, why no one touched during dancing, and why no one at this party except for Marcus and Tikki had disappeared to make out.

She frowned, looking up at me. “I’d like you to try something. Touch my skin with your finger–just use the tip. If this doesn’t work, you’ll want it to be a small spot, believe me. And don’t touch my face.”

She rolled up her sleeve. I touched her forearm. Nothing happened. She stared at it and then me. “You’re either going to save this colony or destroy it.”

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Crying Grumpies

Malifaux, la 5a Jornada o ¿Y si jugamos a Necromunda?

Crying Grumpies

IMG_5381

Aunque algo tarde ya va siendo hora de poneros con la quinta jornada de nuestra liga de Malifaux. Las redes y algunos de los miembros de la asociación están ansiosos por poner sus manos encima de la nueva edición que GW ha anunciado de Necromunda así que me he animado a montar una mesa que recuerde las de los mundos colmena. Como siempre tras el salto las clasificaciones, se nota que ha habido vacaciones, y las especificaciones de la partida a jugar durante la 5a Jornada.

Haga click para ver el pase de diapositivas.

5a Partida

Duración Ronda: Hoy hasta el 5 de Noviembre

Banda: 50 puntos

Estrategia (objetivo común para los dos jugadores):

Derechos de ocupación (Tomos)

Preparación

Coloca 5 marcadores de 30 mm. en la linea central. Un marcador en el centro, dos a 6 pulgadas de este, y 2 más a seis pulgadas de los anteriores.

Reglas especiales

Los marcadores empiezan el juego sin reclamar. Una miniatura puede hacer una acción de Interactuar 1 con un marcador con el que este en contacto. Un marcador solo esta reclamado por la última banda que haya interactuado con él.

Puntos de Victoria

Al final de cada turno después del primero si una banda controla como mínimo 2 marcadores gana 1 PV.

Esquema (cada jugador debe escoger 2):

Una Línea en la Arena

Al final del encuentro cada banda gana 2PV si tiene al menos 4 marcadores de intriga en la linea central.

Si esta intriga es revelada a principio de la partida gana 1PV si al menos tiene dos marcadores de intriga en la linea central

Proteger territorio (tomos)

Al finalizar la partida gana 1PV por cada Marcador de Intriga propio (max. 3) que se encuentre a 6” de su zona de despliegue y tenga al menos una miniatura amiga a 2”. Los marcadores con más miniaturas enemigas que amigas no dan puntos de victoria.

Si esta intriga es revelada y se ganan 2 PV por ella, gana 1 PV adicional.

Guardaespaldas (Carneros)

Escoge una miniatura Compinche o Sicario de tu banda que debe ser protegida. Si no tienes Compinche o Sicario escoge la miniatura de mayor coste.

Revela esta intriga en cualquier momento. Al final de cada turno a partir del 4 gana 1PV si revelas esta intriga, la miniatura escogida está viva y se encuentra a más de 8” de su zona de despliegue. Gana 1PV adicional si esta miniatura acaba la partida en juego y con la mitad o más de sus puntos de vida.

Tomar Prisioneros (9)

Al principio del encuentro elige una miniatura rival. Si al Final del encuentro tienes una miniatura no Peón trabada en combate con la miniatura elegida gana 2PV.

Si tienes una miniatura no Peón trabada en combate con la miniatura elegida y no hay otras miniaturas enemigas a 3” gana 3PV en vez de 2PV.

Acusar de Asesinato (12)

Al escoger este esquema designa una miniatura no-Peon propia como víctima. Si la miniatura escogida es eliminada o sacrificada por tu oponente gana 1 PV. Si el enemigo que la destruye es un Master o Henchman gana 2 PV en vez de uno. Tan pronto como se cumpla el esquema revelalo. Si el esquema se revela antes del Turno 4 gana 1 PV adicional.

Este esquema no se puede revelar al principio de la partida

Mesa de Juego

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Despliegue: Miniaturas Despliegue Ciego, para los esquemas Flank Deployment

Para desplegar las bandas usaremos el siguiente método.

Haced una prueba de iniciativa, el ganador será el jugador rojo y el perdedor el negro. De un mazo sacad tantas cartas rojas como modelos haya en la banda del jugador rojo y tantas negras como modelos en la del negro. Mezclad las cartas separadas. Empezando por el jugador negro  y de forma alterna coged una carta, sin mirarla, y ponedla sobre la superficie de juego con la única condición de que no debe tocar ninguna otra carta. Cuando todas las cartas estén sobre el terreno dadle la vuelta a las cartas. Ahora empezando por el jugador rojo y de forma alterna colocad una miniatura en cualquier lugar del espacio que ocupe una carta de vuestro color. Retirad la carta después de colocar una miniatura.

Elementos de escenografía

Bosques y zonas rocosas: eliminan línea de visión, terreno difícil (movimiento a la mitad)

Niveles: todas las estructuras se consideran escalables, cuesta el doble de movimiento, si se utilizan las escaleras esta restricción desaparece. En caso de escalar la miniatura debe acabar su activación en una zona estable. Cada nivel tiene una altura de 3 pulgadas, afecta a linea de visión y al determinar caídas. Por cada Pulgada a partir de 3 se recibirá un punto de daño, 3″-1 daño, 4″-2 Daño, 5″-3 Daño

Estructuras: Las estructuras otorgan cobertura ligera. El ataque a distancia a través del suelo de las estructuras no sólidas está permitido pero da cobertura pesada.


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Semicoop

So long and thanks for all the cards

Semicoop

It’s is the 2nd of October and that means that the first two card cycles of Netrunner are officially out of play since yesterday, literally a big game changer! And with the disappearance of a lot of iconic cards, the biggest ‘loss’ (or at least the most spoken of in our meta) will be of the character Jackson Howard. The one card that almost every corp deck included to prevent runners to snatch some (accidental or carefully placed) agendas from the archives by shuffling them back into R&D. And Jackson was great for getting cards of course. 😉

In honor of Jackson Howard, we designed a playmat! 😀 If you like it AND would actually like to have this as a playmat, you can download the full resolution file over here and let it be printed by a service like InkedGaming.  Please do let us know if you actually printed it as a playmat – we would love to see it!

Yesterday we had a small Netrunner tournament (about 10 people) in remembrance of the good ‘old days and card decks at our favorite game and comic book store Comicasa. The participating decks could only use cards from the Core set, bigger expansions and data packs up to the second cycle. It was great fun and it all felt a little nostalgic. I even came in fifth place! Not bad considering Heinze and I don’t play Netrunner that often anymore. I won this awesome loot:

A post shared by Rachel Kremer (@rachelkremer) on Oct 1, 2017 at 11:29am PDT

For us, this tournament was also a little bit of a goodbye to Netrunner in a certain way. Besides the fact that we don’t play Netrunner that often, we mostly own cards from the first two cycles of the game. With those cards not being tournament-legal anymore, participation in tournaments is kinda over for us. We’d still love to build fun decks with the cards we own in the future and play some Netrunner with friends, but we’re not going to invest in the game anymore. There are just so many other things to play and discover! 😀

For the Netrunner players: what cards will you miss the most?

The post So long and thanks for all the cards appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 2

In My Daydreams

I caught Marcus’ eye, keeping my voice low. “I’m not worried that it’s illegal. I’m more worried about the Council deciding that we’re ‘corrupting the youth’ or something. Plus they might have a problem with a party here.” Glancing over at Jaclyn, I added, “They might not have noticed yet.”

Jaclyn watched something outside the window and shook her head. “They’d have to be blind not to notice.”

Through the window, I saw a floating platform come to a stop in front of the doorway. Two guys pulled a keg off the back and walked in, carrying it between them.

“Huh.” I watched them add it to the bottles on the table and join the group.

“Exactly.” Jaclyn stepped forward to join one of the circles of people.

As she did that, I turned to see if Marcus had anything to add and found that he was talking to Tikki. I missed exactly what he said, but she laughed and he grinned at her response.

That’s the moment where I realized that I was the only person standing next to the wall alone. Cassie and Jaclyn were already talking with the group. Marcus and Tikki stood on the edge of it, talking to each other. I knew I should push my way in and be with everyone else.

That was the plan, anyway. If we got to know people, we’d stand a better chance of finding the mole, but it still felt like too many people were in the room.

A woman’s voice said, “Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear you talking. You don’t have to worry about anyone accusing you of anything. We’re self-sufficient colonists in the middle of nowhere. With no one here to do it for us, we’ve had to corrupt ourselves.”

I turned my head to find that one of the women had stepped out of the group.

Like most of the colonists I’d seen so far, she wore a jumpsuit, but hers was different. Emerald green with accents of silver and white, it looked like someone had been designing with an eye toward style as much as function. Much like her clothes, her straight, shoulder length, black hair had been cut and styled such that none of them were out of place.

In short, she cared more about how she looked than I did. To be fair, that was true of most people.

She had to be good at it too. My first impression of her face was dark brown eyes, light brown skin, and full lips. My second impression was that she looked like a twenty year younger version of Jadzen Akri.

Her upper lip twisted. “I know that expression. Yes. My mom is Jadzen Akri and no. No one will get in trouble. We get together every week under one excuse or another.”

I nodded, letting out a breath. “Good. It’ll be easier protecting all of you if we don’t get kicked off the planet.”

She laughed. “Do you think that might work for me? Getting kicked off the planet would be the best thing that happened since I got here.”

One of the guys, a big blond guy like the ones we’d saved, said, “Keep on dreaming, Kals. You’re stuck on this rock with the rest of us and you’re never leaving.”

“Thanks for the words of hope.” She moved her arm downward, two fingers extended, a hand gesture that my implant assured me was basically the same as flipping people off. They both laughed.

Then she turned away from them and joined me next to the wall. She seemed shorter up close than she had further away. That wasn’t because of superpowers as much as that she had certain intensity, giving the feeling that she was giving you her complete attention. In any case, she was a few inches shorter than I was and about half a foot taller than Haley.

“You’re… Kals?” I reminded myself that a short bow was considered appropriate and that a handshake wasn’t, giving a bow that was barely more than a nod. I must have done it correctly enough because she returned it.”

“Kals is short for Kalsekafora which is old and embarrassing. I refuse to use it.” Judging from the tightness of her jaw and strong resemblance to her mother in that moment, I had no intention of using it either.

I told her the first thing that came into my head. “I’m pretty sure I can’t even say it.”

“I wish that were true of more people, but don’t worry about it. Call me Kals. Everyone does. Now, I’ve been told all of your group’s names. Your name is Nick.”

In the background, someone turned on music, placing a small pyramid in the windowsill. It filled the room with sounds that reminded me a little of jazz and a little of the music I’d heard in Indian restaurants.

As a few people began to dance, I noticed that people never touched except on their clothes. That wasn’t only true when dancing, though. It was true all the time. There had to be a reason.

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Tieshaunn

B13.14 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Basil and Amy stared at each other for a handful of heartbeats.

Then she raised her hand towards him, and he snapped his left hand’s pinky finger against its thumb, igniting a chaff grenade attached to the back of his armour’s belt, and another in the front.

The grey smoke and dark grey metal chips spread explosively, with enough force to seriously hurt anyone who wasn’t armoured, obscuring him entirely from her vision, though the cloud didn’t reach her.

Amy snarled, annoyed that she’d slowed herself down by gesturing and detached her second ‘viewpoint’ from her natural one, raising it higher; she was preparing for an attack from multiple angles, ready to grab him as soon as he was within sight again – once she had him in her telekinetic grip, it’d be over, no matter what tricks he still had up his sleeve.

Two black cables shot out from the cloud, aiming for the ceiling above Amy, followed by a bulge in the smoke as Basil shot out from above, the canisters on his belt continuing to spew this annoying smoke, but it was too little – she saw him, and so was able to grab a hold of him, her telekinetic might wrapping around his torso…

She watched in horror, then confusion, as his arms, head and thighs – the only visible parts of him – detached from the torso portion, pushed onwards by momentum; so distracted, she at first missed it as Basil, stripped down to his impact suit, gauntlets and boots, slid out from the smoke below, propelled forward by a deafening blast of force unleashed from his gauntlet.

Before she could reorient and grab him, he slid past her right side, his hand reaching out and taking a hold of her right boot’s heel, twisting it off at the same time as he reversed his adhesive soles’ function, causing them to repel the ground, launching him upwards, feet-first.

Amy cried out when she felt him grab her right arm and pull it upwards, forcing her to bend over – but before he could dislocate it, before she managed to react, he touched one of his boots to the pillar she’d been standing next to, and repelled it, launching himself down at her, flipping the knife she’d hidden in her heel open.

He slammed into her back, tackling her to the ground and twisting her right arm behind her back, trapping it between their bodies as he knelt atop her, bent over.

With her head turned to the left, her cheek on the cold metal, she stared up at him with wide eyes, feeling the tip of her own knife held against her ear, ready to plunge straight into her brain, Basil’s own lips just centimetre away from either.

“I win.”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Amy, Basil
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Tieshaunn

B13.13 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Vasiliki cried out when she saw her friend be struck in the back, but the poison from tranquiliser darts that had pierced her sternum and her left breast, though not yet sufficient to knock her enhanced physique out, left her too weak to even struggle against her captors, forcing her to just watch.

Fortunately, the villains didn’t open fire, too dumbfounded by the unexpected attack to react – as were her teammates, who stared at Osore in shock.

“The fu-” Chronicle began to say, but stopped when she saw Brennus shudder.

Vasiliki watched as her friend stumbled forward, then back, swaying on his feet. His hands reached up into his hood and he bent over, groaning.

Is he going to go berserk again? she asked herself, reminded of that occasion when Osore had tagged him by accident while fighting the Spiteborn. Did Osore intend for that to happen? It seemed to be the only explanation for his behaviour, unless he’d suddenly decided to turn traitor, or been dominated by Thoughtseize… but what he’d said didn’t fit.

Her useless musings were cut off when Brennus groaned, and pulled on his helmet, taking it off and casting it aside. He staggered forward, bent over, his face hidden by his hood and his hands, before he stood up and bent back, as if to look upwards. His hood slid off his head, revealing his messy black hair, but his face remained hidden by his gloved hands. Another groan escaped his mouth, and his whole body shook, a shudder that went from head to toe.

“What’s wrong with him?” Skulls asked, sounding annoyed. “Ah, nevermind. Thanks for taking your fucking helmet off, idiot.” One of the Skullmen raised his rifle and fired a dart at Basil from above.

He raised his shield in a lightning-quick movement, deflecting the shot without even looking at it.

“Ahhh…” He lowered his arm again. “Can’t a bloke even get a moment to get his bearings?” he asked, speaking with a completely different accent than usual – something British, Hecate thought, but she wasn’t sure.

Her friend looked around, keeping his hand on his face in lieu of a mask, looking through the gaps between his fingers to scan his surroundings, his dark eyes passing over the barely conscious Polymnia on the ground, along the line of their enemies, then over Hecate-

Their eyes met, for just a moment, and Hecate’s breath caught. They were still his eyes, but it wasn’t Basil behind them. They were cold, yet hot, inhumanly intense; just the brief glance gave her a disorienting sense of vertigo.

His eyes moved on, and she breathed again. His eyes… they were like Emyr’s…

“What a bleedin’ mess this is,” he complained, sounding annoyed as he completed his view around the train station. His eyes settled on Skulls, and the woman stumbled back, nearly dropping her weapon. Clearly, Hecate wasn’t the only one his gaze affected so. “Guess I’ll kill’ya first, slattern.”

Skulls looked aside at her teammates. “What the fuck does slat-“

“Boss, look out!” Boltstar cried out, firing one of his spheres, but he was too late.

The stranger behind Basil’s eyes fired both of his grappling ‘hooks’, one of them attaching to the collar of Skulls’ body armour, the other to the edge of the train platform just in front of her, and reeled them both in, launching himself out of the way of the spheres and its follow-up energy bolts, while pulling Skulls off her feet.

The vile woman cried out, but couldn’t react in time as the stranger struck at her with his right elbow, pulling her into the strike in such a savage move, he shattered her forehead and broke her neck in a single strike.

Disconnecting his hooks from her and the platform, he kicked himself off the edge of the platform, somersaulting over a flying stab from Karasuha, who’d launched herself like a missile at him.

Shooting his hooks at the platform again, one past each side of the still moving Karasuha, he pulled himself towards her, slamming with both feet into her heavily armoured back, followed by slamming her into the metallic platform with such force, the metal screamed and deformed.

The villainess did not even have the breath to scream or groan, nor did he give her a chance to catch it, reaching down to snap her neck with both hands.

The woman’s legs kicked out once, then another time as he leapt off her body, evading another sphere fired by Boltstar. Rolling over Skulls’ corpse and past the brick-patterned villain, he picked up Karasuha’s katana and Skulls’ combat knife, throwing the former at Boltstar.

The well-muscled, heroic-looking man gurgled wetly as the katana pierced his throat, sliding in until its crossguard stopped it.

The stranger came up onto his feet, flipping the pilfered knife over to his right hand, slashing at Chronicle’s throat – though it was blocked by the same force-field that’d protected her earlier.

It didn’t seem to deter him, though – rather, he kept moving as if he’d seen it coming, whirling around as Chronicle and Thoughtseize both staggered back in shock, and threw the knife into the back of the brick-patterned villain’s head, killing him instantly.

Mere moments had passed since he’d said he’d kill Skulls.

The force-field protecting Thoughtseize and Chronicle shimmered and collapsed the moment the brick-patterned villain died, and the stranger turned towards them – but he was forced to leap backwards towards the rails as the Skullmen opened fire at him.

“Chronicle, now!” Thoughtseize shouted, making the younger woman squeak, her left hand clenching her over-sized book tightly to her chest, her right one gesturing towards her fallen comrades in a sweeping gesture.

Skulls, his/her Skullmen, Boltstar, Karasuha and the brick-patterned villain flickered and were whole again, though still on the ground and, in the case of the two females, with their weapons returned to their sheaths. Behind her, Vasiliki heard the four Skullmen she’d taken down before being taken down herself get up again.

They began to stand up, and Boltstar even released another set of turrets without hesitating, but to Vasiliki’s amazement, the stranger didn’t lose a step.

Ignoring the hail of tranquiliser darts coming at him as the Skullmen adjusted their aim, he fired his hooks again and launched himself at Karasuha, activating his force-shield on his left gauntlet to deflect the shots from those few Skullmen who managed to adjust their aim in time.

Karasuha rolled out of the way to avoid being smashed into the ground again, but she rolled to the left and that cost her her life once more – the stranger landed on his feet and slammed the edge of his shield down at her neck, severing her head from her torso.

“Bulwark, fucking catch him already!” Boltstar shouted, having risen onto his knees, and fired one of his crackling spheres at the stranger, only for him to bend out of its way, dodging the attack entirely.

With the same motion, he pulled Karasuha’s katana out of its sheath and jumped towards Boltstar, just as a force-field shimmered into existence around where he’d just stood, swinging the blade to cut deep into the man’s throat, nearly deep enough to sever his head entirely.

“Shoot him!” Skulls shouted in a rage. “Ignore friendly fire and just shoot! Chronicle, bring them back, now!”

The stranger dove forward and into the mass of Skullmen on that side of the train tracks and, for a moment, Vasiliki could see his face.

He was grinning as he cut into the Skullmen with the katana, the blade, though no longer empowered by Karasuha, still cut through them; his attacks always aiming at throats, eyeholes, armpits and other weak points of their armour.

She watched in awe and horror as whoever had control over her friend’s body massacred his opposition. There was no grace to his movements, none of the fluidity she associated with trained martial artists – and she had some of those in her family, including a kendo-nut; the way he fought was nothing like that. It was fast, raw, savage. No formal technique, only brutal efficiency, his every strike claiming one of the Skullmen’s lifes, if one could even consider them alive.

Then Chronicle used her power again and the katana disappeared from his hands, all his victims restored to life, but it didn’t seem to deter him.

“You’re wasting your time, little boy!” Skulls snarled at him, trying to pain him in her rifle’s sights, but he kept darting around inbetween the Skullmen, striking at their knees, elbows and necks, crippling or killing them. “Bulwark, get behind your own fucking shield!”

The huge villain complied, taking a few running steps towards the field that was protecting Thoughtseize and Chronicle, stepping through a briefly manifesting gap.

The stranger pressed the attack, only he stopped going after the Skullmen and made for Boltstar, who was just about to get up again.

Karasuha burst into a cloud of crows, swarming out all around the stranger in an attempt to disorient him, though he only seemed to be slightly inconvenienced by it as he kept up his charge, only diverting it when Boltstar threw a sphere behind himself, at the metallic floor.

Almost thirty crackling energy bolts hit the spot the sphere had impacted, creating a burst of light and force that threw both Boltstar and the stranger away – in opposite directions – and blew Karasuha’s crows apart from each other.

The stranger rolled with the blast, using the momentum to behead three Skullmen with a single slash of his shield’s edge; the way coming into contact with matter caused circuit-shaped lines of light to bloom in the air for a few seconds would have been beautiful to Vasiliki’s eye, were it not for the blood it drew from his enemies, even if they were little more than moving corpses; the fact that they were restored seconds after being cut down did not make it any prettier to watch.

Karasuha reformed and joined the dance, while Boltstar unleashed even more turrets. A full thirty-two of them hovered in the air above by now, unleashing enough destructive energy to melt the platform wherever they hit it, creating patches of near-liquid, red-hot metal that both the stranger and the villains had to avoid stepping on.

“That all you wankers have got!?” And yet, the stranger still grinned, as if he was having the time of his life, those mad, blazing eyes seeming to tremble in their sockets, making him look even more unhinged than before. “Come on, you could at least try to give me a challenge!” He slashed another Skullman’s head off, using the same motion to deflect multiple shots from the Skullmen across the tracks that’d have hit his face or neck, rather than his body armour, “What’d you do if I stopped holding back?”

“Big words,” Skulls said with a grin. “Let’s see you prove him! Everyone, move fourteen!”

With that, Bulwark reached out with his right hand and jabbed it skywards, almost as if making an uppercut, and another mostly invisible force-field emerged from the ground below, just behind the stranger as he was dodging backwards to avoid another targeting sphere from Boltstar.

He hit it with his back, grunting, and the sphere hit the ground in front of him, causing another explosion that further smashed him into the force-field.

Oh no, Basil! Vasiliki cried out mentally, too dizzy to form words, still held up by two Skullmen. She stared as the smoke cleared, revealing the stranger in Basil’s body staggering forward, dazed.

“Gotta admire the classi-” he began to say, but was cut off when another flat force-field appeared beside him, this time cutting him off from Boltstar and Skulls, while giving the Skullmen on both sides of the track a free line of fire to him.

They opened fire in synchronised precision, concentrating almost a score of glowing blue streams of darts at him.

Yet again, he moved almost too fast to be seen, raising the shield on his left gauntlet and bracing himself against the assault, a sudden, sharp, loud clang! coming from his feet where he locked his boots into place, using the same technology that allowed him to stick to walls to become far less movable and weather the assault.

Only for Karasuha to reform herself behind him, already bringing her sword down to stab him through the back from above.

He turned his torso, a cruel grin utterly out of place on his familiar face, still keeping his shield in the way of the Skullmen’s assault, and raised his arm, the fingers of his hand spread open, palm pointing at the incoming tip of the blade, as if it could stop it.

At the same time, the ovoid attached to his thigh came loose, the circuit-like groves on its surface lighting up with brilliant light as it shot up to interpose itself between his palm and the blade.

Vasiliki’s eyes widened as another force-field came into existence between the suddenly brightly glowing ovoid and the blade, blocking Karasuha’s strike.

The new field was different from Bulwark’s nigh-invisible one, and also different from the rounded, shield-like one from Basil’s gauntlet, though it was clearly produced by similar technology (the same circuit-patterns that covered the outside of the gauntlet also covered the entire surface of the elongated ovoid… thing, and they lit up in the same fashion, only far brighter). It seemed unstable, flickering, its edges never quite stable, crackling with surplus energy that was discharged in the form of tiny arcs of lightning that danced across the field and up along the blade of Karasuha’s sword.

That did not seem to impede its function at all, however, and it neatly deflected the strike, causing her blade to bounce off and her to fall to the ground, rolling backwards through the dissipating force-field of her compatriot – but the stranger didn’t give her a chance to escape him, as he clenched his hand into a fist, causing the force-field to condense into a smaller, far denser and more stable disc shape at the tip of the ovoid, then flicked his wrist at her and extended his index and middle finger to point at her.

The ovoid – a drone – shot forward with a high, unnerving whine, flying through the gap in the force-field before it could close and slammed the disc-shaped force-field into her head hard enough to break her neck once more.

Another twist of his hand made it continue its flight across the tracks, extending its force-field into a man-sized dome-shape over its tip, charging through the mass of Skullmen.

Bowling them over, it flew towards Vasiliki and blew the two that had been holding her away, breaking several of their bones along the way, judging by the sickening sounds they made.

He continued to direct it, turning his torso towards his left side and steering it across the tracks and into the group of Skullmen still left standing, who were continuing to fire at him, heedless of the danger. They, too, where knocked around easily enough, scattering them and ending the assault upon him.

“Ahhh…” he relaxed, shutting his shield off and loosening his stance, lowering his head. The drone flew to him, circling him a foot or two above his head. “Well, that was bracing.” He raised his head, looking at Karasuha, who was getting up after being reset once more. His own breath had grown a little laboured, though not nearly as much as Vasiliki would have expected. “Though you really need to work on your surprises, luv. Ain’t really anything that surprising about bein’ jumped from behind.”

“You got a screw loose in your head, kid,” Skulls replied, though she was looking far more wary than before. “You’re starting to grow tired, I can tell, and there’s no way your toys’ batteries are gonna hold out for much longer, while we are all ship-shape again!”

“Not all,” he countered simply and pointed at Chronicle.

Both Vasiliki, the stunned heroes on the tracks below and the villains looked at the youngest villain present.

Chronicle had bent over, her right hand supporting against her own knee, the left one barely able to hold onto the heavy book. Her breath was laboured, and there was sweat dripping down from within her hood and down onto the metallic floor.

“Every power has its limits,” the stranger said, his accent making Vasiliki shiver every time he spoke – hearing something as familiar as Basil’s voice speak in such a strange way was intensily unsettling. “It takes a bite out of her every time she resets one of you, so I was testin’ some theories. Looks like resetting you,” he pointed at Skulls, “resets all your puppets along, but takes no more out of her than resetting one person. So I killed those two over and over,” he gestured at Karasuha and Boltstar, “to wear her out some. I’m guessin’ she ain’t got more than five or six resets in her, at this point.” He stood up straight again. “Now, I was going to see how long she could hold out, whether she’d use it until she passed out… but frankly, this is growing kinda stale, don’t you all think?” He rolled his shoulders, like a man loosening up before a workout. “Time to finish this.”

Everyone tensed up again, the Skullmen’s fingers curling around the triggers of their weapons, but the stranger was once more faster, using his grappling hooks to launch himself out of the line of fire, swinging over the tracks and around the force-field between him and Karasuha and Skulls, his ovoid drone following after him.

Using his shield to behead two of the Skullmen across the tracks as he swung by them, drawing one hook in, he continued to swing and fired that hook off again to attach to a pillar further down the platform, while signing with his right hand.

The ovoid created its force-field again, condensing it into a flat circle of about five feet in diametre, only it was now projected along its long side, not over the tip.

Another handsign caused it to fly out, using the sharp edge to cut through the Skullmen.

He finished his swing, he landed on the platform near Boltstar and Karasuha, the latter of whom drew her sword and advanced on him, her posture radiating anger and frustration; Boltstar, meanwhile, retreated to, apparently, get behind the force-field Bulwark was using to cut himself, Chronicle and Thoughtseize off from the fight.

The stranger ducked underneath Karasuha’s strike, using Basil’s shield to slice upwards and sever her arms at the elbows, making her cry out in pain. Another slice took her head off, and he kept going past her collapsing body, striking at Boltstar. Though he failed to take off his head, he did cut his throat open, blood gushing out of it as the square-jawed villain collapsed, his hands reaching for the razor-sharp cut.

He advanced further onto the force-field, calling the drone over with a flick of his wrist.

The ovoid expanded its force-field into a far wider plane, pressing it flat against the shimmering force-field which only now became visible again.

Energy was discharged between them, both fields flickering, vibrating as they affected each other – and then a hole appeared in Bulwark’s field, large enough for a grown man to pass through, the drone hovering at its centre.

“Peek-a-boo!” the stranger mocked the three villains behind it as he stepped through. “Now let’s see if you can reset yourself, shall we?” he asked with a merry voice, the hole in the force-field sealing shut behind him, leaving him – and his drone – on the same side as the three villains who’d been keeping their distance.

“Oh, screw this!” Thoughtseize snarled and turned towards him, their eyes meeting even through her closed mask…

***

Wanda found herself in a still place, standing on water beneath a starry sky, though it was too bright to be night.

She looked around in confusion – this place was wrong. It didn’t look anything like how peoples’ minds had seemed to her every other time she’d used her power to enter them.

I am inside his mind, she confirmed for herself, going by the non-visual input she was getting. She could look around and still understand this place, even though it looked nothing like the usual, but it just felt so strange.

Beneath her feet, the water was filled with writhing, inky blackness, a representation of the Oni-boy’s power’s grip on his mind – a paralysing grip, and she had no idea how his mind was still functioning in spite of it.

Still, she could work with this. Figure out which parts of him were still functional and shut them down, as was her speciality. She didn’t have much time, though – she couldn’t risk the Whitaker girl waking up – so she wasn’t going to be as gentle as she usually was. It might even leave some damage behind, but… well, he was clearly willing to kill, so no skin off her teeth.

She gathered her will, her power, focusing it, and…

“Mine,” a sharp, guttural, discordant voice said from behind her, and she whirled about to face…

What.

She stared at the newcomer, thinking to herself that whatever mind had thought this up had to be way more fucked up than any member of the Gefährten she’d met so far – and some of her brothers and sisters were really messed up – an abomination of steel and flesh.

The creature was big in a way that was hard to put into words, a huge mass of skinless flesh, elongated into the shape of a worm, or perhaps a snake, shapeless beyond that, uneven with odd bumps and hollows along its length, its front half raised above the water, while the rest lay atop it.

There were no readily discernible limbs, but instead masses of machinery fused into the flesh. Gears turned upon bones, winding up tendons which put pistons into motion. Pistons bit into muscle and flesh, causing pus and blood to ooze out, generating pain signals that made other muscles seize up and set chains of gears in motion, which in turn moved rubber bands attached to bones connected to more gears, connected to more tendons, to pisonts, to muscles, a hideous, ineffectual, macabre network of flesh and machine that made the mass lurch and move forward, closer to Wanda.

Dozens of bright, circular lamps studded the ‘front’ of the creature, shining brightly like wide, unblinking eyes, briefly distracting her from its actual eyes, eleven huge, tumurous-looking, purple-orange orbs that were unevenly distributed, looking around at everything and nothing, rarely focusing on Wanda herself.

“Mine,” the voice spoke again, coming from the creature, as Wanda stared at it in frozen horror. “Mine.”

It lurched and slid forward, closer to her, its upright part unfolding as pistons and gears went to work, tearing its own flesh apart down the middle, spreading it open like a huge, gaping… mouth… with jagged, shattered gears, shafts and pistons covering it all over like uneven teeth in multiple rows, reaching out, oozing huge amounts of blood and worse onto the water, which did not sink into it but rather spread out across it.

Wanda finally unfroze and lashed out at the beast with a spike of psychic energy – but the attack simply shattered against the beast, whatever defenses it might have dispersing it harmlessly.

Then it was too late, and the beast’s mouth-wound closed around her mental form, its jagged, metal and bone teeth biting into her, tearing at her mind, consuming it in pieces.

Wanda screamed, and screamed and tried to free herself, but it was futile, her mind was being torn, her memories ground away, her skills, her knowledge her p-

“Mine.”

***

As soon as she finished speaking, Thoughtseize shuddered, going slack before she collapsed, sliding down onto her knees.

The stranger looked curiously at her, but seemed to dismiss it, as he turned to Chronicle and Bulwark.

A flick of his wrist, and his drone charged the huge, brick-patterned villain, blowing him away from Chronicle in one savage move.

The girl squeaked, stumbling backwards trying to put some distance between herself and the suddenly somber-faced gadgeteer.

“Relax,” he said, his voice calm, but still strange, uncanny due to the strong accent. He moved forward, too fast for her to react, and stepped behind her, wrapping an arm around her neck, squeezing just as she expelled her breath in surprise.

He held her as she struggled, while Skulls pounded against Bulwark’s field in a rage, screaming for her underling to let it fall, but he was too slow to do so, distracted by the relentless drone flying around him, flying in again and again to strike at his head and limbs whenever he tried to focus on taking one of his fields down.

Before he could clear the path for the other villains, Chronicle slumped in the stranger’s arms, passing out from exhaustion and lack of oxygen.

“There we go, luv,” he said as he let go, letting her collapse onto the ground. “No more time shenanigans.” He looked up just as Bulwark’s field collapsed, the villain passed out from repeated blows to the head by the ovoid drone.

Skulls, her Skullmen, Boltstar and Karasuha were still standing and looking fresh, though all of them looked shaken, all of them turned towards the stranger, their various weapons (or, in Boltstar’s case, fist) aimed at him.

“Last chance to surrender,” he said with an easy, boyish grin. “I hope you gents are smarter than you look and take it. Ya ain’t gettin’ any more extra lifes now.”

“We’re far from done, idiot!” Skulls snarled at him, her weapon’s muzzle aimed at his head. “Let’s see you dodge this now!”

“Nah,” he waved it off – and simply sat down, crossing his ankles and putting his hands onto his knees, his drone flying over to attach itself to his thigh again. “I ain’t gonna fight you anymore, you fucking moron.” He looked up at them with a grin. “She is.” He pointed at something behind them.

Vasiliki followed his finger from where she was lying on the ground, and smiled weakly. Ah, finally.

The villains, realising that something was behind them, turned around… to face a spitting-mad, red-and-black eyed Gloom Glimmer, moments before she cried out in rage and flew straight at them.

***

It didn’t take long after that to put the villains down. Without Thoughtseize to handle Gloom Glimmer, and Chronicle to keep them in top condition and boost their powers, they didn’t stand much of a chance and the heroine knocked them out in short order.

Afterwards, she’d flown down to take care of Polymnia, while Tyche, Tartsche and Spellgun had come up onto the platform to check up on Hecate.

At the same time, Basil was sitting at the edge of the platform, looking out over the train tracks as he sat cross-legged, trying to piece together what’d happened.

He remembered Osore shooting him in the back, and then… a lullaby? Yes, a lullaby, and a well-known one at that, sung by a strangely familiar – yet not soothing at all – woman’s voice. And then… nothing.

Judging by the looks the others were throwing him, he’d gone berserk again, probably even worse than during the fight against the Spiteborn – or perhaps not so, but this time, his enemies had not been mindless tree monsters, but flesh-and-blood humans.

He didn’t know how to feel about that. He was confused, he was hurt, angry, scared. Mostly confused, though, if only because there was just too much to feel right then.

Beneath him, Osore simply stood where he had before, while Bakeneko had returned to her usual catgirl form, standing a few metre away with her back to him, her arms crossed, her posture radiating outrage and fear. She clearly didn’t agree with her boyfriend’s “stratagem”.

Basil wasn’t exactly happy about it, but he couldn’t argue with its effectiveness.

“B?” he heard Tyche speak from behind him, and turned to look over his shoulder, even though he was wearing his helmet again – not that he hadn’t, apparently, shown his face to everyone present anyway – and could’ve seen them through his ravenbot’s cameras, to look at his two teammates, the redhead holding the brunette up with one of her arms slung over her shoulder, and an arm around her friend’s waist. “How’re you doing?” she asked in a subdued voice.

Instead of answering immediately, he looked them up and down. Tyche looked unharmed, if shaken, but Hecate was a mess. What he could see of her face was pale and she looked weak, which was underlined by the fact that she needed help just to stand. There was a trio of holes in her costume’s chest, two over her left breast and one over her sternum, where the darts had pierced it. She was still wounded, bleeding lightly – Gloom Glimmer was still busy fixing Polymnia up, who’d gotten hurt quite badly – but she wasn’t crying about it or anything.

“I should ask you the same thing,” he replied softly. “But to answer your question, I am…” He sighed, looking down at his lap. “I can not honestly say I am alright, unless you are referring purely to my physical state, but I am not hurt in any way.”

Tyche lowered Hecate down, helping her sit down next to Basil on his right side, before the redhead sat down on his other side.

Hecate growned slightly, her right hand reaching up to the holes in her suit, gingerly rubbing around them, while she reached for his hand with her left, squeezing it gently.

“That was a real dick move,” she said, slightly shocking her friends when she used such a rude word. “Osore owes you a big apology.”

Tyche chuckled and took his other hand, her own trembling slightly. “It did look kind of awesome, though,” she qualified. “Scary, but awesome.” She gave him a sidelong look. “You’re full of surprises, B-6.”

He squeezed both their hands back, smiling underneath his mask, though he still heald his head lowered. “Would be nice if they were not also surprising to me.” He sighed, slumping a bit. “This is really not the time, nor the place, for this kind of surprise.”

“It’s never the time or the place for this stuff,” Hecate insisted. “And I really hope there won’t be any more surprises today. But I get the feeling this won’t be the last one today.” She leaned against his side, resting her head on his shoulder. After a moment, Tyche followed suit on the other side. Another moment later, Basil rested his head against Hecate’s.

They didn’t say it, but he heard it nonetheless. We’re still with you.

He sighed, relaxing, letting his sore muscles recover from the strain of the stunts he’d pulled during the two minutes he’d been out of it. Fortunately, his ravenbot had recorded it all, and he’d already reviewed the fight.

Who- or whatever had been in control of him during those two minutes had been vastly more skilled, more experienced, more dangerous than he could be on his best day. Watching the recording, it’d been glaringly obvious to Basil that he’d been toying with the villains, holding back a lot. He had only used the most basic functions of his gauntlet and his drone – save for the nullifier – and he had not moved as fast as Basil thought he could move, if he went all out.

And yet, it hadn’t been a contest at all.

A Man in the Moon. A Blazing Sun. A Raging Heart. And who- or whatever was in the driver’s seat just then, he thought as he and his friends recovered some of their strength, sharing warmth. Are you actually going to explain to me what just happened?

Oh, how I wish I could, the Man in the Moon replied. But you know how it goes…

He sighed in annoyance, but decided not to press the point. It never helped.

After another minute or so, Gloom Glimmer floated over to them, her toes just a centimetre above the floor. “Do you want me to fix you up, Hecate?” she asked in a subdued voice.

Lots of that going around, Basil thought to himself as he raised his head, allowing Hecate to do the same – Tyche remained as she was, on the verge of dozing off.

“That’d be lovely, yes,” Hecate said, yawning softly with her hand raised to cover her mouth as she did so.

Gloom Glimmer reached down and put her hand onto Hecate’s shoulder, squeezing it softly. The wounded witch shuddered as her wounds closed near-instantly, followed by her costume fixing itself and even the blood vanishing.

“There you go,” the floating girl said, letting go of Hecate’s shoulder. “Good as new. What about you?” she asked, looking at Basil.

“I am quite fine, thank y-“

“You should check him out,” Hecate cut him off while throwing him a stern look. “You took a big blow at one point. There might be damage, even if you’re not aware of it.”

He looked back at her and nodded. “You are probably right,” he acquiesced, then looked up at Gloom Glimmer. “I would appreciate your help.”

Gloom Glimmer smiled and touched him as well. “Hmm. Some nasty bruising on your back, but nothing serious,” she diagnosed him, before he felt her power run up and down his back in a goosebump-inducing way – but it did make the slight tightness he’d been feeling disappear. “There you go, everything’s ship-shape now.” She squeezed his shoulder. “You know, I know a bit about… losing control, and having others be… in control. So if you want to talk, I’m here for you.”

Basil lowered his head. “Thank you,” he whispered, responding twice at once.

They all fell silent as Gloom Glimmer stood up straight, and was joined by the other heroes, save for Osore. Everyone looked alright, outwardly, but they were giving Basil some wary looks, while also throwing more… antagonistc ones towards the unconscious villains strewn about the train station.

“So, uh,” Spellgun spoke up, sounding rather troubled. “That happened. Um, care to explain?”

The others stayed quiet, but couldn’t hide their curiosity.

“I wish I could,” Basil replied, his voice straining with frustration. “But I honestly have no idea what is going on.”

He saw them all look at Gloom Glimmer through his ravenbot, but couldn’t bring himself to feel hurt over being distrusted.

Gloom Glimmer nodded to them. “He’s telling the truth. He has no idea… and frankly, neither do I.” She looked up and towards the way out of the station. “We… really should get going, though. We don’t have time to waste.”

“She is right,” Basil agreed, gently nudging Tyche awake (she’d started drooling onto his shoulder) and standing up. “We still have a long way to go, and it is unlikely that this will be the last or worst opposition we are going to face.”

He walked a few steps down the platform, and knelt down, reaching down to Osore, who looked back up at him. After barely a moment, he reached up and they grabbed each other’s forearms, allowing Basil to pull him up onto the platform, before he turned to the others.

“Unless there is anything else to say, we really should get going,” he concluded, looking around at everyone.

Hecate and Tyche got up, and everyone on the platform exchanged looks with each other. Though Tartsche and Spellgun – and to a lesser degree, Polymnia – looked far from comfortable, they didn’t speak up and nodded.

“Yeah, it may be weird,” Tartsche finally said, his voice as calm as ever, though his tight grip on his boyfriend’s hand betrayed how nervous he felt, “but we’re not gonna bail out now. Let’s go finish this. We can talk about it afterwards.”

There were various exclamations of assent, before he focused on Basil again. “But I will have an explanation, Brennus. You owe us that, at least,” he continued.

Basil looked down, briefly, clasping his hands behind his back. “You are right, and you will have it – I will tell you what little I know, after this is done.”

“Oh, ain’t that just peachy?” a rough female voice spoke up from behind the group of young heroes. “Are you all gonna hug each other next?”

They turned around, save for Basil and Osore who were already facing the right way, and looked at the source of the voice – Skulls.

The bald, corpse-like woman was pushing herself up, leaning heavily against the pillar adjacent to herself. She was quite horribly beaten up, as Gloom Glimmer had only held back just enough to spare the villains’ lifes, and whatever her power did to her body didn’t help her look any more healthy – she was almost zombie-like in appearance, pale and rotten, yet still quite alive.

She grinned a rictus-like smile, looking them over. “Did you really think I’d go down… this easily? I survived the Dark, did you think his bargain-basement spawn would be enough to finish me? Or a crazy schizo-headed gadgeteer?”

“You don’t look like you’re up for much more,” Gloom Glimmer replied coldly. “And you didn’t get away from my dad, he just didn’t pay you much attention.”

“Oh, I’m gonna enjoy teaching you a lesson, you little bitch,” Skulls snarled. “I still have plenty of bodies to spare. Sooner or later, I’ll we-“

***

“Oh my.”

“What is it this time?” Heaven’s Dancer asked with a long-suffering sigh, looking at Immanuel.

“Someone just broke through our outer defenses and-“

They both flinched as a massive impact rocked one of the buildings far below them – specifically, the one containing the central train station of the Northern complex.

“My, this is going to be fun,” Immanuel said with a smile, leaning closer.

***

A black-and-purple blur crashed through the ceiling and slammed straight into Skulls from above and behind, smashing the barely alive-looking woman into the ground with an ear-rending scream of metal.

Skulls gasped, though not in pain, just surprise, looking over her shoulder at her attacker.

The furious woman in the black-and-purple, skintight costume reached for Skulls’ head with both hands, grabbing it, and leaned in.

And then she screamed, both with her mouth and with her mind, and Skulls arched her back in agony, screaming in tune.

Every single Skullman in the train station who was still alive, every one of them screamed in unison, arching their backs, trashing around.

The scream extended far beyond Skulls’ multi-faceted mind, reverberating in the minds of the teenage heroes, making them flinch and stagger back away from the two of them.

It kept building up over and over and over again, a scream made of nothing but rage, of the desire to hurt, impossibly powerful in its purity.

A scant few seconds later, Skulls and her Skullmen went slack, and the scream cut off.

The young heroes watched in varying mixtures of awe and horror as the tall, flawlessly curved woman rose up over the now empty body of the villain, floating up off the ground, her long, luscious black hair floating behind her, her eyes glowing with power, making her equally purple lips stand out even more against her chalk-white skin, as she clenched her gloved hands into tight fists.

You,” Mindstar snarled, her eyes fixated upon Basil, her gaze intense enough to make him gulp. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Mindstar!” Hecate snarled right back, leaping forward as she called her staff into her hand. At the same time, Tartsche leaped for Basil, pulling on Spellgun’s hand as he went, and Gloom Glimmer hastily threw her hands up to-

His sister didn’t even spare them a worded command – she simply unleashed her power, slamming into their minds, and everyone still left standing in the station collapsed, save for herself and Basil.

He looked around, shuddering in spite of himself at the display of raw power. He’d never seen her go quite this far before.

She took a step forward as she landed on the ground again,  her arms trembling from how tightly she clenched her fists.

“Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar Brant-Blake,” she snarled into his mind, her mental voice sounding discordant, barely human – yet still recognisably her voice, at least to him. “You are coming home with me right now!”

He didn’t know where it came from, didn’t really realise what was happening until it happened, but something inside of him just snapped.

“Let them go,” he replied out loud, his voice quiet, controlled.

“What did you say to me?” his sister asked in a low voice, taking another step closer, her heels making sharp sounds on the floor.

“I said let. Them. Go“, he shot back, taking a step towards her in turn. “Get the hell out of my friends’ brains, right now!” As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t help but raise his voice, even to her.

Her mouth twisted into an even more feral snarl, though she did halt her advance. “Little brother, you better w-“

“I said, let them GO!” he roared in a voice that seemed two sizes too big for his lean frame, making her rear back. “Right the fuck now! I won’t fucking say a word other than to repeat this, until you let them go!

“Suit yourself!” she shouted back, exasperated.

The other teenagers all woke up, as suddenly as they’d collapsed, jerking awake and jumping up onto their feet, some faster than others.

Hecate immediately went on the offensive again, but Mindstar just flicked a finger at her, smashing her into a nearby pillar – not hard enough to harm her, but enough so to hurt.

“Don’t even think about it,” she hissed at the teenagers, and Hecate in particular. “I’m not in the mood for games, and none of you, nor all of you stand the slightest chance of even challenging me, as I just demonstrated. Not even you, Princess,” she concluded with an annoyed look at Gloom Glimmer.

Basil walked over to Hecate, kneeling down to check up on her. To his immense relief, she seemed fine, if stunned, yet it only slightly diminished the rage that was squeezing his heart right then and there.

“Hurt my friends again,” he said in a low voice while helping the stunned witch stand, “and I’m going to forget myself.”

“Are you threatening me?” Amy asked in stunned outrage. “Me? Do you have any idea what kind of trouble you’re in?”

“More than you know,” he replied, letting go of Hecate and turning to face his sister once more, seemingly calm.

The others were looking from him, to her, to him, and back at her in confusion, except for Gloom Glimmer, who just looked resigned, but Basil ignored them as well as he could as he reached up and took his helmet off. Since his hood was down, that revealed his face once more, not that it mattered anymore.

“I don’t have the time for this,” he continued calmly. “Dusu is not far from here and I’m running against the clock, so either join me and help, or get out of my way.”

That made everyone’s jaw drop, particularly Amy’s, who stared at him, aghast.

“You want me to help you?” she shrieked, shaking her fists at him. “Are you fucking crazy? I’m here to drag you the fuck back to New fucking Lennston! You have no business here!”

“The fuck is going on?” Tyche asked, confused, looking around at the others. “Uh, Heck?” She looked at her friend, worried.

Basil looked over his shoulder, briefly, to see Hecate staring at him and Amy, her jaw slack, her hands clenched into trembling fists much like Amy’s own. She was completely quiet, save for the groaning of the staff she held in one of said fists.

No wonder… she’s finally facing her cousin’s murderer, and unable to do anything, he thought sadly, wishing he knew a solution to that particular conundrum. Especially now.

He didn’t realise that he completely misunderstood the cause of her current state of shock.

Turning his head again to look at Amy, he held his helmet under his left arm, and took another step forward.

“I am not crazy. I do have business here. And you are not going to take me anywhere but to my destination, if at all,” he spoke calmly. “Please, I could really use your help… but I will do it on my own, if I have to.”

Amy let her arms drop, staring at him, seemingly calming down. “Do you have any idea what you’re asking? What you’re risking? You have no idea what these people are capable of!”

“I see all that they are capable of every time I visit her,” he replied calmly, sadly. “I know exactly what I am risking, and it is nothing I do not want to risk for this.”

“You’re a child! You shouldn’t have to risk anything!” she shouted at him, shaking in barely restrained anger. “You’re going way too far for this, and for what? A freaking highschool romance? Why is she worth all this?”

“It is not just about her!” he snapped at her. “It is not about any one person! I am doing this because it is what needs to be done, it is what I would want someone to do for us if I, or you, were in that position!” He waved his free hand at her. “I am doing this because it is the right thing to do!”

“You’re going too far!” she shrieked back, her meager self-control crumbling, her eyes beginning to glow again, turning a brighter and brighter shade of purple, surrounded by glowing white. “And I’m going to stop you before you go so far you can’t go ba-“

“I’m not going too far!” he screamed, throwing his arms open, one hand holding onto the helmet. “There’s no going back! There’s no slowing down, no going anywhere but forward! I’m all in, sister!

He ignored the shocked gasps around and behind him – and didn’t notice that one particular gasp he should have expected didn’t sound – as he took another step closer to his sister.

“This is how it is going to be, Amy!” he continued to shout, his voice trembling with the strain of it. “Go with me, or get out of my way!”

Amy stared at him, looking more shocked than anyone else. As they watched, her skin took on a more normal, pinkish colour, and her posture changed slightly, the lines of her jaw and cheeks softening as well. Then she pulled her mask back, letting it fall back down her neck and hang there, her face looking both distraught and outraged at the same time, her features mostly Amy’s, with a little of Mindstar’s sharpness in them.

“No, Basil,” she replied, her calm voice simmering with rage. “I won’t let you. You’re coming back home with me, and that’s final.” She locked eyes with him, hers still purple, but softer, bigger than usual while she was Mindstar, shaped like Amy’s.

Basil sighed, looking down at his feet, then took his helmet in both hands, flipping it so he could look a the mostly blank faceplate.

Well, it’s not like I didn’t know it’d someday come to this, he thought regretfully.

“No, Amy,” he said softly, looking up to lock eyes again. “I am not coming with you… not without a fight.” She blanched, looking even more shocked than before, but he pressed on, as much as it tore at his heart to do so. “I am going to offer you a deal – just one. Fight me, here and now. If you win, we call this all off, and I will go home with you, willingly. But if I win, you will have to help me get the cure from Dusu, and bring it to those who need it.”

“Have you lost it?” she asked bluntly. “You can’t hope to-“

He looked at her again, his gaze firm, harder than steel. “It is a one-time offer, Amy. Accept it, or get the fuck out of my way.”

She looked right back into his eyes, never wavering one bit. They locked eyes like that for almost a minute, before she broke it, and snorted. “If that’s what you want, I accept. Beat me, and I’ll do as you wish.”

He nodded, feeling cold on the inside. “So be it.”

Amy looked him up and down, then smiled sadly. “I don’t know why you’re insisting on this, Basil. You can’t hope to stand a chance against me.”

With a sigh, he put his helmet off, then he took of his cloak and let it fall to the ground, while his friends – if they still wanted to be his friends at this point – moved away, giving the two of them a wide berth. None of them found it in themselves to protest this, if they even could – he wasn’t sure how much control Amy had, even now.

“No, Amy,” he spoke quietly, but firmly, blocking everything else out. “I’ve surpassed you.”

“I’m stronger than you are.”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Boltstar, Bulwark, Chronicle, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Karasuha, Mindstar, Osore, Polymnia, Raging Heart, Skulls XIII, Spellgun, Tartsche, Thoughtseize, Tyche
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In My Daydreams

Birthright: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Castle Rock Compound, Colorado, Earth
A figure stood alone in the dark on the edge of a small cliff. Leaning on the railing, she looked out on the houses, streets, and lawns. Except for the stone walls and mountains that surrounded the town on all sides, it could have been any suburb in the United States.

Haley brushed a lock of brown hair out of her eyes, wondering if she should go with a short haircut next time. It would be easier in a fight. Except then Night Cat would have to wear a wig since it wouldn’t be smart for both of her identities to get the same haircut at the same time.

Her eyes drifted upward, above the walls to the night sky and stars beyond.

Nick, Jaclyn, Cassie, and Marcus were out there somewhere. Lee had said they’d be gone for two weeks—unless something went wrong. Haley knew better than to assume that was impossible. If things were going right, there was no need for any of them to be there.

She hoped that wherever Nick and the others were that they weren’t alone because no one would be able to help them from here.

Haley didn’t have to turn around to know who was walking toward her through the park. If she couldn’t identify Daniel and Izzy from their bodies’ scents alone, she would have recognized Daniel’s cologne, and Izzy’s deodorant (she only rarely wore perfume). If that hadn’t been enough, she knew the sound of their walks.

“I don’t know if it matters,” Daniel addressed her as he came into earshot, “but Nick told me that we probably can’t see where they are. He didn’t know exactly where he’d be, but right now the night sky has it’s best view of the galactic core. He said they’d be further up or down our spiral arm.”

Haley nodded, “I know. He told me too. It doesn’t matter. Stars are still stars.”

Izzy reached out to touch her shoulder. Haley looked up, reminded that Izzy was a foot taller.

“We’re going to watch a movie in Vaughn’s room. You’re invited.” Izzy smiled at her and let go.

It was, Haley told herself, kind of sweet and kind of irritating. It was good that they cared, but Daniel had as much of a reason to be worried as she did.

Maybe worrying about her was one way to avoid worrying about Nick? She thought about it.

You might be right, Daniel thought back at her.

Aloud, he said, “Vaughn said he’d start the movie in about fifteen minutes.”

Looking up at the both of them (their children, she decided, would be giants), she tried not to let any of the irritation show—for all the good it would do. “I’ll be there, but I might not be on time.”

Daniel nodded at her. “You’ll be welcome whenever you arrive.”

“But don’t sit around here all night, okay?” Izzy smiled at her.

They left, holding hands, and Haley watched the stars. It was the first time she’d had alone all week and it felt nice. She was rooming with Camille and even though she liked Camille, it felt like Camille talked nonstop. Tonight Camille was doing something with Keon. She hoped they had fun.

She looked up at the glow of the crescent moon, remembering that she was a werewolf in Amy’s world and her pack had separated her from Nick there. She felt no urge to howl and had nearly decided to go to Vaughn’s room for the movie when Nick’s sister faded in next to her.

Rachel wore black jeans and a black t-shirt. Her silver necklace glinted, reflecting the moon above or the streetlights below.

She leaned on the railing next to Haley. “How are you holding up?”

Haley frowned. “I’d be doing better if people didn’t keep on asking me. How are you holding up?”

Rachel shrugged. “I’m not worried. I talked to Lee about it after my last guitar lesson. He said the Xiniti don’t give first time initiates a hard mission. They’ve handled worse. Even if I were worried because Cassie’s impulsive and Marcus hasn’t been in the field very much, Jaclyn and Nick are both level-headed.”

Following the Milky Way’s spattering of stars toward the horizon, she wondered how far out of sight they were.

Pushing away from the railing and standing straight, Rachel smiled. “My grandmother said she thought she heard voices in the stars sometimes.”

Haley raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“No joke,” Rachel said and checked the time on her phone. “The movie’s about to start. Are you going?”

“Yes,” Haley said, and they left.

* * *

The Council Building, Hideaway
“I can’t believe they brought beer,” I told Jaclyn. “You’re right. The council is going to kick us off the planet.”

“I dunno,” Marcus said. “I’d bet that they don’t have a drinking age here, so it’s all totally legal.”

We were in our suite in the colony’s council building. Kids our age filled the shared common area. There couldn’t have been more than ten, but it felt like more. They’d placed four clear jugs on the table, all of them filled with brown, fizzy liquid.

Jaclyn glanced toward the door. “If they were going kick us out, they’d have done it by now. There’s no way they don’t know people are here.”

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Tieshaunn

B13.12 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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The transition from one reality to another was not as impressive as Basil would have expected – then again, neither had it been the first time. Still, it felt strange to know that he’d moved from a pocket reality to the real world the same way he’d step from one room to the next, simply walking through the door and being there.

He found himself on the empty tracks their train had been using, along with the others, who looked at him funny.

“What is it?” he asked them, looking around. Everyone was there, to his not inconsiderable relief, looking well, if shaken up.

“What held you up?” Tartsche asked. “You were right behind me, but then it took you longer to exit.

“So sound did not carry through the portal? That is interesting,” he said softly, looking over his shoulder only to find empty air. Emyr must have closed the door again. “Blackhill had something to say, not that it made any sense. Either way, we’ve already lost too much time – we should get going.” He looked back at the group again.

Before anyone could reply to that, Hecate stepped forth and took him by the hand, pulling him away from the rest of the group. “A moment, please,” she said in their direction as she took him a discrete distance away. Basil followed, feeling oddly disconnected from it all.

“Basil,” Hecate spoke softly, crossing her arms over her breasts, “Are you…” She shook her head. “No, of course you’re not alright, but… how are you holding up? You were… raw, in there.” She searched for his eyes, her green orbs finding his black ones even through the shadows of her own and his hood, even through his helmet.

He looked down, turning his hands up to look at them. “The girl I profess to love is dying, and I can not save her,” he replied, his voice quiet, even. Though his hands trembled slightly, none of it was noticable from just listening to him. “I can build force-field generators, work with the technology of the world’s greatest gadgeteer like it was a toy,” once he started speaking, he couldn’t hold it in, and it all came spilling out. “I somehow created an AI and I do not even remember doing it. I can build drones, power armour, hack secure systems without breaking a sweat, build a railgun that does not even need its rail to function properly. I can perform surgery with a skill most surgeons would envy, including on myself,” he pressed on, his hands trembling again. Hecate reached out and grabbed them, wrapping her hands around his. “But I can not come up with anything to save her,” he concluded, his voice quiet, monotonous, leaning closer to her. She leaned close in turn, restsing her forehead against his, their hoods joined together. “What kind of hero am I, that I can make all these things, but not the one that actually matters?”

“Oh Basil…” she whispered, her voice thick with emotion. She pulled his hands closer, pressing them against her sternum, close to her heart.

“Then I drag you all into this mess, trying to infiltrate the base of an organisation that seems to operate on a level at least on par with the Syndicate, if not beyond it,” he continued on, “Look at them. A mere watchdog of theirs summoned the fu-freaking Godking of Mars to fight us. And I am pretty sure they are not taking this seriously, otherwise this place would have been swarming with more guards.”

“You didn’t drag us anywhere, chazuli,” she replied in a calm, soothing tone of voice. “We’re the ones who insisted on coming along. And I don’t know about the others, but I assure you, Dalia and I would not have taken a ‘no’ for an answer. So snap out of it – you’re an amazing hero, everyone here knows it. Where you lead, I follow.”

Basil blinked, glad that his mask hid the tears. “I…” I’m Mindstar’s brother. I’ve been lying to you from the start. He couldn’t actually say it, much as he’d wanted to. “Thank you,” he said instead, his voice hoarse with guilt. “Sorry,” he added, feebly.

“You don’t need to be sorry, phile mou,” she replied with a wet chuckle, and he only felt more guilty for continuing to deceive her. “Just be you again and go kick some malakes around for Prisca.”

“You know I don’t speak Greek, right?”

He couldn’t see it, close as they were, but he knew she was smiling. “Nobody’s perfect. Now chin up.” She let go of his hands and tilted her head, briefly pressing her lips onto his mask, right over his mouth. “Let’s go be heroes.”

***

They got going after that, the others not commenting on their little aside, though Tyche poked Hecate with her elbow, for some reason – Basil missed what she said to her.

Mindful of Legend’s (unwilling) warning that the group they’d fought earlier would have recovered by now and likely be waiting in ambush, they moved carefully, with Gloom Glimmer taking point and Basil and Polymnia (after her the best sensors on the team) flanking her. The others followed after, spread out enough that they would hopefully not all be caught by a single attack, but also close enough to support each other – and most importantly, all within short range of Tartsche, to move under his protection as necessary.

Gloom Glimmer had briefed them all on their powers and what she’d been able to figure out about their interactions, and was also providing safe communication via telepathy – with the understanding that it might vanish at any time, particularly if battle was joined and her power decided to give her something else to fight with – which they’d used so far to formulate battle plans, planning how to respond to their enemies.

So far, most of their battle strategies boiled down to taking down the one they’d first dubbed Rewind, before Gloom Glimmer revealed her codename to be Chronicle, who was the lynchpin of the enemy’s strategy, then mop up the others one-by-one. The only one they weren’t sure they could deal with was Karasuha, whom Basil had fought before, and whose abilities were still in question – Gloom Glimmer came up dry and the last time they’d fought, Basil had defeated her before she could really show much other than her ability to burst into a cloud of ravens and an extending, unnaturally sharp katana. Nevermind that, as a contriver, she may well be able to change at least some of her abilities on the fly, depending on how her contriving actually worked.

‘Let’s please not forget the fact that we’re apparently being used as a way to dispose of an unwanted member of this group,’ Hecate complained. ‘I mean, doesn’t anyone find this whole situation to be completely insane?’

‘They’re supervillains, Heck,’ Tyche thought back at her, sounding much less flippant than she’d normally be while addressing her. ‘They do shit like this.’

‘No they don’t,’ Hecate countered. ‘Not villains with huge city-sized bases with their own transit system. You don’t keep an operation as big as this one running smoothly by letting people like us go around acting like this, no matter how much you might want to be rid of a member. Guys, back me up on this.’ She looked at the junior heroes.

‘I have to agree with Hecate,’ Tartsche said in his usual measured voice, even telepathically. ‘There’s got to be more to this than just getting rid of an unwanted employee.’ He looked at Tyche, who was staying quite close to him. ‘I know you think this Immanuel didn’t lie to you, bu-‘

‘That’s not what I said,’ she replied quietly, looking down at her feet. ‘I said that he seemed totally honest. I’m not so stupid to actually believe he was totally honest.’

‘Honestly, I’ve heard of weirder secret societies,’ Gloom Glimmer finally interceded. Everyone turned their heads to look at her, though all they could see was the back of her head and cape. ‘The Brotherhood of the Bell, The Double-Oh-Conspiracy, the Saurian League… these guys are pretty sane, compared to that.’

‘Wait, there was a secret society called the Saurian Le-‘ Tyche began to say, but was interrupted by Bakeneko.

‘I’ve never heard of any of those!’ she exclaimed in surprise.

Gloom Glimmer just shrugged. ‘Had you ever heard of the Gefährten before? Of course not. Thus, secret society. Besides, mom’s taken most of them down. They were much more commonplace in the sixties and seventies, and during the world war, but once it was over, she could devote the time to hunting them down. And you’ve heard of some of them, at least indirectly. The Saurian League was responsible for the Tsunamis that devastated the West-European coast in ’78, and the Brotherhood of the Bell was behind the assassination of Margaret Thatcher in ’84. The public was merely never made aware of them after mom took them apart.’

Everyone but Basil (who was barely listening to the others) and Polymnia (who’d heard it before) took a few moments to digest that.

‘Why did no one publicise stories like that?’ Hecate asked, putting words to what the others were thinking.

Gloom Glimmer shrugged once more without turning around. ‘Mom deferred to the governments on that, and they didn’t want to make it known just how easy it is for metahumans to form secret societies and pull off such gigantic terrorist attacks,’ she explained, her mental ‘voice’ slipping into the same tone she’d used, so long ago – only it wasn’t all that long ago – when she’d held that seminar at school. ‘Before Point Zero, there were a lot of limits on how far such groups could come, particularly if they wanted to cause large amounts of damage. They had to obtain members, information, materials… all that went out the window with the advent of metahumans. With the right powers, they can strike any time, anywhere, and it’s nearly impossible to see coming – note how all those I named got to actually pull something off before my mother managed to track them down. And there’s God-only-knows how many out there we still don’t know about.’

She turned around, continuing to float backwards as she spoke to them. ‘It’s really not as crazy as it seems to you, Hecate. To a normal organisation, allowing enemy agents to run roughshot around their base to take out one of their own may be a bad idea, but we have no idea what kind of powers are in play – for all we know, losing Dusu will actually make the Gefährten even stronger.’

They looked at each other – again, without Basil – in worry. ‘How could… I don’t get it,’ Spellgun admitted. ‘How could that work?’

‘I think that’s the point,’ Polymnia (whose mental voice was even more melodic than the one created by her vocoder) replied. ‘We don’t know what’s at work here. We can’t know, without knowing all the elements in play, and even Gloomy hasn’t been able to divine them.’

‘So, what’s that mean now?’ Tyche spoke up. ‘We’re fucked if we do, we’re fucked if we don’t? Is the only winning move here not to play?’

‘No,’ Basil interceded, speaking for the first time since Hecate pulled him aside. He was walking ahead, his back to the others. ‘This changes nothing. Whether or not our actions benefit the Gefährten does not change the fact that we need Dusu to cure the victims of the Hawaii plague. Does the possibility that the Gefährten might profit from us achieving that, or from curing the victims, change the fact that curing them is good?’

‘No way!’ ‘Of course not!’ Fuck no, B6!’ ‘Naturally not.’

‘There you go. Now focus on your surroundings and get ready for a fight,’ Basil concluded. In the distance, they could see the light grow brighter as they approached another station.

‘Hey wondergirl, can’t you check ahead?’ Tyche turned her thoughts – it really was a rather strange experience, thinking at someone; if it wasn’t for everything else, Basil would have so many questions – towards Gloom Glimmer.

‘I don’t have that kind of power right now,’ she replied in a petulant voice. ‘All I know is that there’s enemies up ahead.’

Just as she said that, she suddenly fell out of the air, landing on her feet and stumbling forward.

Everyone immediately dropped into fighting positions, with Tyche and Spellgun stepping close to Tartsche to touch him, and Bakeneko jumping onto Osore’s back, but Gloom Glimmer waved them off.

“I-it’s alright,” she stammered, pulling her hood tight in embarrassment, speaking with her actual voice again. “Powers just, changed.” She rolled her shoulders, moving on. “Don’t worry, I’m used to it.” Ripples began to spread out from her feet, wherever she stepped onto the ground, continuing on for a few moments after she moved on, distortions that travelled across the floor and up the walls in circular waves; at the same time, a light haze appeared in the air ahead of them.

They relaxed again, moving on.

***

Melody walked up to her friend, putting a hand on her shoulder – and her wrist speaker next to her ear. <So, what’d you get this time?>

<Matter manipulation,> she said through their com-system (hopefully it hadn’t been hacked yet, but it was still safer than talking out loud). <I can control any matter that’s being touched by those ripples. Also, a spatial distortion that diverts attacks away from me and potentially back at the attacker. Oh, and a veil – I can hide us from sight, and even divert light-based attacks, at least from one direction.> She smiled slightly. <Been a while since I had such a powerful combination.>

Polymnia squeezed her friend’s shoulder, before taking a step and back, keeping her arm extended and sending ultra-sonic pulses out from one of the speakers, mapping the area ahead of them.

<There’s people in the station up ahead,> she spoke up once she’d properly interpreted the data she got. <Fifteen… eighteen… twenty-four, spread throughout the station.>

<Can you give us a visual map?> Tartsche asked, well-aware of the fact that she usually relied on her hearing alone to interpete the suit’s data.

<Um… I don’t have a light-projector that’d work for that… Brennus, do you have something to convert my data into a visual map?> She looked at the unnervingly quiet vigilante.

<I do,> he said evenly, reaching for his belt and pulling a plug-tipped extension cord from it, holding it out in her direction, stopping still.

Melody joined him, as the others spread out a bit, moving as quietly as they could, and she plugged it into a port on her suit’s forearm. A twitch of Brennus’ fingers gave her access to a projector, after which it only took a minute or so to adapt her own software and send the map out through it.

His left gauntlet – the one that’d projected force-fields earlier on – projected a two-dimensional map onto the floor, causing the others to cluster closer around them and take a look. Melody kept her left arm extended, continuing to map out the station in case their foes moved around.

The only one who didn’t look at the map was Brennus himself, who kept looking ahead even while pointing his gauntlet – though he could probably just call it up on his visor, if he didn’t have better technology anyway.

<Hm, they’re not exactly spread out, but neither are they bunched up… they definitely seem to be watching the way we’re coming, though,> Tartsche observed.

Melody knew what he meant. Their enemies, all twenty-four of them, were forming an uneven half-circle that opened towards the tunnel they were coming from, sixteen of them on the left side of the tracks, seven on the right and one standing in the centre.

<Twenty-one of them are Skulls,> Brennus stated simply. <The others are the ones we fought earlier, as well – Boltstar, Karasuha and Chronicle.>

<How can you tell – they’re around the bend, aren’t they?> Tartsche asked him, looking up from the map to look at the young gadgeteer.

<I sent my last raven ahead earlier,> he replied simply. <It is giving me a live feed.> A twitch of his fingers caused the projection to change, showing the train station from a high angle, the image upside down but sharp. Another twitch rotated it, showing them what was in the station.

Of course he’s got a better solution, Melody thought to herself, sighing softly. I really need to work out some drones for myself.

They looked through the raven’s eyes and saw the Skulls, mostly crouching behind several overturned benches, using them for cover as they aimed their rifles at the tunnel. Boltstar and Chroncile stood with the larger group, behind the Skulls, the latter crouching to give as small a target as possible, though Melody wondered why she was that close at all – probably a serious range limitation on her power. Even though she was wearing a heavy robe and a deep cowl, Melody could tell from her posture that she was quite nervous, a lot more so than the others.

The last one there was Karasuha, looking different from the last time they saw her. She was wearing a set of skintight, jet black platemail now, with a bird-shaped helmet and a purple skirt that split down the front. She even had a different, heavier-looking katana, which currently rested in its sheath, which she, in turn, was holding in her left hand, rather than strapped to her belt.

<Now that looks like someone upgraded in a real hurry,> Spellgun commented, and the others couldn’t help but agree.

<It doesn’t seem like they have any reinforcements,> Hecate added quietly. <I would have expected them to show up with reinforcements.>

<Who knows? Maybe they got someone hidden in there,> Tyche suggested as she charged her rifle. <Or maybe they’re ready to port someone in.>

<If they do, I’m pretty sure I can redirect them,> Gloom Glimmer replied. <Yeah, yeah I’m pretty sure I can.>

Tartsche gave her a nod. <Alright. Let’s work out how we’re going to do this…>

***

They moved down the rails under the cover of Gloom Glimmer’s veil and entered the train station, sticking closer together than before so they’d all fit in under her power’s aegis.

Basil kept his raven up above, hanging onto the ceiling with its feet like a bat, to observe what was going on – fortunately, the villains hadn’t noticed it.

Looking around with his own eyes, he didn’t feel too worried – only Karasuha was an unknown in this, except…

<That’s not Chronicle,> he told the others, drawing and aiming his rifle. <She’s too tall and too broad-shoul->

“Aw damn, they found out!” a female voice they hadn’t heard before rang out from seemingly nowhere.

The wall and tunnel behind the assembled villains flickered, then melted away into nothing, revealing another two metre to the station – and there stood Chronicle, next to a woman in a skintight black costume with a silver tabbard and a clenched black fist over her chest. The suit extended to cover her head entirely, making her look like a jet-black mannequin, the only distinguishing feature on her head being a silver circlet upon her brow. It did not even have noticable openings or lenses for her eyes.

As if that wasn’t enough, ‘Chronicle’s’ form flickered and melted away in the same way, revealing an even bigger, broadly-shouldered man in heavy grey, brick-patterned body armour.

“Well, the jig’s up,” Skulls said with her customary sneer. “Take th-“

Basil snapped off three shots from his railgun, one at the real Chronicle’s shoulder, one at the silver-and-black-garbed woman’s knee and another at Skulls’ head, before she could finish.

The upper half of Skulls’ head turned into red mist, as did the jaw and throat of the Skullman behind her, but the shots to the other two were unharmed, protected by an invisible force-field that only briefly shimmered as it absorbed the full impact of his shots.

“Screw you, you trigger-happy asshole!” Chronicle shouted at him as she gestured at the fallen Skulls, causing her and all of her Skullmen to flicker, restoring the damage he’d done. “You ain’t catching me by surprise again!” Her bubbly, high-pitched voice made her sound far too young for the group she was a part of – she couldn’t possibly be any older than Basil himself.

<Gloomy, make us some cover!> Tartsche shouted through the coms as he reached out and put his hands onto Spellgun’s and Tyche’s shoulders, covering them with his power. Hecate dissolved into smoke, Basil raised his force-shield, as did Polymnia with her sonic cage, Bakeneko – who’d already turned into that tentacle-cloak thing attached to Osore’s shoulders – wrapped herself around him, her tentacles growing stiff, hard armour…

<Gloomy?> Polymnia asked in worry, as Gloom Glimmer didn’t react at all, looking at her friend.

“Damn,” the silver-and-black garbed woman said. “That was easier than I expected.”

“Thoughtseize, report properly!” Skulls snarled, making the woman shrug, while her Skullmen spread out further, aiming at the heroes below on the tracks, and Karasuha put her right hand onto the grip of her sword, sliding into a ready stance.

“Target’s locked down, boss,” she told him with no small amount of satisfaction. “Looks like the higher-ups were right – telepathy’s really her Achilles’ Heel.” She tilted her head to the side. “Don’t think I can make her fight for us, though. Her brain’s strange.”

“I don’t care as long as you keep the little bitch out of the fight. Focus on her,” she ordered. “As for you annoying little shitstains,” she continued, looking down at them again. “Put down your weapons, now! In the case of you three,” she pointed at Basil, Polymnia and Hecate, “Strip everything off. No more tricks now. Do as I say and we’ll let you live.”

Fuck, Basil thought as he, Hecate and Polymnia moved to stand back-to-back. We were counting on Gloom Glimmer to carry this.

<What do we do now?> Polymnia asked through their comms. <We’ve got to help Gloomy!>

<We need to take this Thoughtsize down,> Tartsche replied, his voice as calm as ever.

“It’s Thoughtseize, you know?” the villain’s voice appeared in their minds. “Seize, not size. Oh, and I can listen in on you easy – did you really think you ever stood a chance?”

“Hey boss, they’re not gonna give up!” she told Skulls at the same time as she distracted them with that message sent straight into their brains.

“Open fire!” Skulls shouted.

Basil dove forward towards Karasuha, glowing bullets pinging off his shield as he aimed his rifle at her, hoping that whoever was protecting the others – probably the one in the brick-patterned body armour – wasn’t extending or couldn’t extend his power to her.

He pulled the trigger, sending an electromagnetically accelerated projectile straight at her mid-section with the assumption that her armour would reduce it to a non-lethal hit.

Karasuha moved with blurring speed, dogging the attack as she flashed forward, drawing her sword in a single, lightning-fast motion – too fast even for Basil to react in time, allowing her sword to cleave through his railgun; except this time, it cut through it from front to back, rather than simply slicing off the barrel.

Behind Basil, the others were being pelted with glowing bullets. Polymnia was stuck keeping up her sonic cage, which seemed sufficient to protect her and the unresponsive Gloom Glimmer from the Skullmen’s assault, but the upkeep of which didn’t allow her to do anything else. Tartsche and the two under his protection were, of course, not even inconvenienced, but whenever Spellgun or Tyche shot back at the Skullmen, Chronicle simply rewound them, which also meant they never had to reload, allowing them to keep on firing an endless stream of bullets.

Bakeneko was doing her best to protect Osore as his form began to bulge and grow, but him powering up also made him an easier target, as she could only stretch herself so far and still remain tough enough to resist the tranquilising bullets. More and more of them were penetrating her and Osore’s skin, causing their movements to grow more and more sluggish.

He fared no better, barely managing to roll under a follow-up kick from the similarly-themed villainess. Coming up behind her, he whirled around, shield-first, to strike her, but she’d already turned around and ducked, kicking his legs out from underneath him.

He snarled, throwing his useless weapon at her, but she simply blurred again, moving far more nimbly than her platemail should allow her to, and grabbed him by the ankle.

She swung him around with inhuman strength, once, twice, thrice, and throw him with such force at Osore and Bakeneko, they were thrown back all three of them to slam into the immovable trio with a sickening crunching sound.

Basil groaned in pain, his back feeling numb, though it didn’t precisely feel broken (it certainly didn’t feel as bad as during his little ordeal at Hastur’s hands), and looked up just in time to see Boltstar unleash a rain of energy bolts from over a dozen of his spheres, raining them down onto Polymnia, straight through her sonic cage.

The young girl cried out in pain as the barrage slammed her into the ground, tearing her armour apart.

Somewhere out of sight, Hecate screamed, once, then was cut off.

And then it all stopped, both the bolts from above and the glowing shots from the Skullmen.

Polymnia was on the ground, bleeding and groaning in pain. Osore was barely standing, and Bakeneko, who was riddled in glowing darts, had gone limp, her armoured tentacles dangling off Osore’s back. Only the immovable trio still stood, watching in horror.

Two Skullmen walked up to the edge of the platform, dragging a groaning Hecate with them by the elbows, several glowing darts sticking out from her chest.

“That enough for you idiots?” Skulls snarled as she stood up from behind her cover and walked up, followed by the brick-patterned villain, who was looking down at them with his arms crossed, looming behind his comparatively shorter leader. “Are you finally going to surrender before I lose my patience and decide to maim you, or do you have any more tricks left?”

Basil looked over his shoulder at the others, his left hand flinching briefly, tempted to reach for the ovoid gadget on his hip. I could use that, but there’s no telling whether it’ll be enough…

Tartsche looked back at him, his eyes wide with fear, yet determined. “Fuck,” he said. “Alright,” he finally said, looking up at Skulls. “Promise that you won’t harm us any more and we’ll surre-“

“There is no surrender,” Osore suddenly said, his voice an octave deeper than normal. “Only the next stratagem.”

And as everyone turned to look at the two-metre tall Japanese boy, he gathered darkness around his right hand and threw it straight into Basil’s chest.

“Twinkle twinkle, little star, how I wonder what…

you…

are…”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Boltstar, Bulwark, Chronicle, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Karasuha, Osore, Polymnia, Skulls XIII, Spellgun, Tartsche, Thoughtseize, Tyche
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Semicoop

Necessary sacrifice

Semicoop

There are quite some advantages to sleeping on the couch. It’s the living room and all the good things are there – like a TV and maybe a gaming console. The only downside is… you probably have to work and function properly the following day, 😉

In case you missed it, we were interviewed by Fedja from Muffin Games! So if you’d like to know more about us, you can read it on his blog.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Sep 21, 2017 at 11:12pm PDT

It’s been a busy week again and we’ve haven’t played that many board games. We’ve played some Kingdom Builder on the iPad in the train, a perfect way to spend your time. And we continued our Near and Far campaign yesterday and we’re getting at a point that the game seems to be getting harder. It’s a cool development that the choices that you make during an adventure seem to matter more than earlier in the game. We’re all still completely in love with this game and I think we’ll probably continue with the character campaign straight after the story campaign. 😉 We ended our gaming afternoon with playing Junk Art! It’s the perfect game when you just want to have fun, but you don’t want to sweat your brains too much.

And since this comic is also a little bit about video games, we got ourselves Rayman Legends and what a game! So much content … and the art is simply sublime.

Do you ever play video games? If yes, which video games have you been playing lately? 

The post Necessary sacrifice appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 9

In My Daydreams

Tikki pursed her lips without saying anything. “It is possible. All the motivators can tell people to do things, but it doesn’t change their minds and it wears off. They’d be able to tell people.” She stopped, frowned, and continued with, “And besides, the only motivator we have here is Jazden. She’s one of the people who started the resistance and the colony. And she knows where the colony is, so if she were the spy, they’d be here already.”

Marcus nodded. “Okay, so not Jazden, but there might be another motivator or someone with more invasive mind control powers.”

Tikki blinked and bit her lip. “The Human Ascendency has telepaths. Some of them can turn a person’s loyalties inside out or set a command that can be triggered later.”

Cassie shook her head. “We can’t trust anybody then. Too bad Daniel’s not here, right? That would make it lots easier.”

I sighed. “That would help, but supposedly we’d have to deal with a lot of problems if we had a telepath.”

Tikki nodded with so much enthusiasm her head blurred. “Yes. Oh, yes, you have no idea. The Human Ascendancy and all the ex-Abominator soldiers station telepaths everywhere to catch telepaths that aren’t aligned with them. They’re afraid of what would happen if the motivators change sides or if the motivators’ voice no longer works.”

“Oh,” Marcus grinned at her. “We get it. Believe me. There are telepaths on our world who have caused a lot of problems.”

“Except for us,” Tikki looked up at him, “they’re one of our last hopes. Them and the Celestial Ghosts.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “Celestial Ghosts? That sounds like someone was desperate to not call them Space Ghosts—which would have been kind of embarrassing. What are they?”

Even as he said it, I felt an data dump coming at me from the implant. Some faction of the Abominators decided they needed a force that could cross space without a spaceship, land on a planet unseen and spy or attack as needed. So, they caught something. I didn’t recognize it even with the pictures. Like the Abominators, it changed shape, but unlike them it shifted universes and through states of hyperspace just as easily. The only guess that made any sense to me was that it might be a child of Lee’s race, but nothing I’d heard from Lee or “Kee” gave me any hint that they still had young. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that there might be other beings that crossed space with a thought.

Whatever it was, the Abominators dissected it, analyzed its genetic structure, and spliced a variation of their genes into human DNA. I saw the Abominator birthing chambers creating the new gene line, all of the forms female. When they were decanted from the tanks, the lead scientist inspected them. In that moment, they all disappeared. The Abominators tried a few more times, always with the same result. Even when they created machines that prevented the Celestial Ghosts from disappearing, it only prolonged the inevitable.

The flood of data included dates, places, the names of the scientists, but I didn’t care about any of that. I just knew I wanted to talk to my sister and I had no way to do it. She couldn’t enter hyperspace on her own, but she’d told me that she could have shifted between realities in Infinity City, and I knew Grandma had.

Even as Tikki finished her description of them with, “No one knows where they go and some people don’t even think they’re real, but I’ve heard they worked with the Xiniti against the Abominators.”

“True,” Katuk said, nodding toward her.

He must have already known, but I struggled with a new sea of implant assisted enlightenment. Celestial Ghosts floated through the walls of Abominator ships attacking the crew while Xiniti attacked another section of the fleet.

When it was over, I realized that Cassie had caught my eye. “Pretty crazy, right?”

I struggled to find words and managed a “Yeah.”

Tikki glanced over at me. I said, “Sorry. My implant deluged me with data after you mentioned the Celestial Ghosts.”

She smiled and shook her head. “I’ve seen the look before. You all got it.”

Marcus grinned. “I ignored it, put it off until I had time. I’m going to manage the thing instead of letting it manage me—“

His eyes unfocused and then he blinked, saying, “Whoa. Nick, did you see what I saw?”

Jaclyn rolled her eyes. “We all did.”

Cassie shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but reel it in everybody. We’re not getting anywhere on the real topic. We need to find out who’s the spy, right? Here’s the beginning—we invite people our age over and get to know them. It can’t be very many, right? There’s only a few thousand people on the whole planet.”

Jaclyn laughed. “Your big idea is that we throw a party? They’re going to kick us off the planet.”

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Crying Grumpies

La Biblioteca Isawa, el podcast de Leyenda de los 5 Anillos LCG, episodio 3.

Crying Grumpies

Buenos días, apreciados lectores.

Ya tenemos disponible para vuestra escucha y/o descarga, un nuevo episodio de nuestro podcast La Biblioteca Isawa, el podcast dedicado a Leyenda de los 5 anillos, el juego de cartas LCG, que ya falta muy poquito para que tengamos en nuestras manos.

Como es habitual, lo tenéis disponible, en IVoox:

http://www.ivoox.com/21000970

Y en Itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/es/podcast/la-biblioteca-isawa-episodio-3/id1251323103?i=1000392513170&mt=2

En este episodio, comentamos las cartas que nos faltaban de la caja básica, hablando de los clanes Fénix, Unicornio y Escorpión, y de bastantes de las cartas neutrales, siempre con un tono divertido que esperamos que os guste.

Para cualquier comentario, mandarnos un correo a cryinggrumpies@gmail.com

Hasta el próximo episodio, samurais de Rokugan… Utz!

¿Ya tenéis vuestra reserva? A ver si os quedaréis sin…


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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 8

In My Daydreams

One of the women, blond, fortyish, and wearing a blue utility jumpsuit, said, “You’ve been saying that since you got here two years ago.”

Iolan frowned. “I know you don’t believe me, but there have been signs. We’ve all heard about how the Ascendency managed to follow the ship this last time, how they were sure they’d lost them, but they showed up again, one blink from K’Tepolu. But that’s not all. I’ve checked with Geman and he agrees with me. There’s been more ansible activity before and after we send out a ship to collect more refugees—”

The woman said, “—Which could easily be explained by the work we have to do to re-contact our people and everything we have to do afterward to set up for them once they’re here. And it’s not as if you or Geman have been able to find any traffic that can’t be explained—”

Iolan’s mouth had turned into a straight line as she interrupted him and trembled as he listened. As she talked about the ansible traffic, he opened his mouth again. “Alanna, we’ve had our differences, but this is too important to let the past affect our decisions.”

Alanna’s lip curled. “What matters is that you don’t have a shred of evidence to back up what you’re saying. It could be that there’s a spy. It could be chance. It could—“

As they argued, Maru watched, Jadzen frowned and the rest of the council’s faces hardened. I could only guess they’d seen this before.

“Quiet, please.” Jazden’s words cut through the argument and both of them fell silent. As she spoke, all of our uniforms hummed for a moment. She’d used just enough of her power to stop the argument. I couldn’t blame her. That discussion hadn’t been going anywhere.

“Alanna,” Jadzen nodded toward her. “You’re right that Iolan hasn’t proven what he says, but if he’s right, we can’t ignore it. He’s been a loyal member and an excellent doctor and genetic counselor, just as you’ve been excellent at keeping our spaceships and equipment in repair. I think he should have a chance to prove he’s right.”

She looked directly at Iolan Mekus. “Iolan, investigate if we have a spy. It is too important to ignore.”

He nodded. “Thank you. That’s all I asked for—the chance to prove that I’m not seeing spies behind every bush.”

He frowned. “I do have one concern. I’m the colony’s only doctor. I don’t know if I’ll be able to devote the time to this project that it deserves.”

Alanna laughed but stopped when Jazden glanced in her direction.

Turning away from Alanna to look at us, Jazden said, “You’re right, and we can’t risk losing all of your time to this project.”

Addressing us, she gave a wide smile. “Citizens of the Xiniti nation. Since you’re staying here to guard us, I appeal to you for help. I know the Xiniti are known more for their prowess as soldiers than as detectives, but you have humans in the group and we are adaptable. So I ask you, will you assist us? It’s certainly a matter of the colony’s safety.”

“Of course,” I said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Jadzen nodded slowly in my direction. “Thank you. And thank you for risking your lives to save our people last night. I wasn’t there, but I saw the video today. No one asked you to do what you did, and yet you did it without thought of reward. That is what we’ve always admired about the Xiniti. Now we’re going to repair ourselves to a quiet spot in this building and discuss colony business.”

They left.

Jaclyn looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Do you think we just got played there? I don’t know how, but I feel like Jazden got exactly what she wanted.”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t know how. I mean, it did seem like she had total control of the meeting, but I thought she was just being decisive.”

Jaclyn nodded. “Well, she was decisive, and now we’re stuck rooting out traitors to the cause. Look, I’m not saying that’s bad. If the Human Ascendency finds this place, I don’t know how we’d fight off a fleet like the one we saw after K’Tepolu. That was big.”

She shook her head remembering.

I couldn’t disagree. It had been big enough that we didn’t stand a chance—not unless they all landed and Jaclyn smashed the ships—which, come to think of it, was an idea to remember if they did ever land.

We’d been standing in a line facing them, but as Jaclyn and began to talk, the group of us began to circle. Katuk looked at Jaclyn with his wide, black eyes. “Do you have a reason not to trust the colony’s leader?”

Jaclyn shook her head. “I don’t. Honestly, it’s probably just leftover bad feeling from when she tried to send us home.”

Cassie nodded. “Then let’s get to it. Nick ought to go talk to Geman and see what tech stuff he can find out, but the rest of us should start getting to know the people. Look, if someone’s working for the Human Ascendency, they’ve got a reason. Maybe they hate Jazden and want to see her captured. Maybe they’re an Ascendency fanatic. We don’t know because we don’t know anybody. So, let’s change that.”

Tikki frowned. “We’re all part of the resistance. I can’t imagine that any of us would work for the Ascendency.”

Marcus shrugged. “Then maybe mind control? It’s not impossible.”

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Tieshaunn

B13.11 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Basil looked warily at the goblet in front of him. It’s probably not a good idea to refuse his hospitality; if he wanted to hurt us, he wouldn’t need to play games like this, anyway, he thought to himself, and picked the goblet up with his right hand, keeping the left one free in case he needed to throw up a force-field quickly.

“Water,” he said to the goblet without hesitation, and it filled up instantly. A twitch of his eyes caused the lower half of his helmet to fold back onto his cheeks, freeing his mouth, and he took a sip.

Just water.

That broke the spell for the others, and everyone else picked their goblets up as well, some ordering instantly – various kinds of sodas for most of them, grape juice for Osore; and Tyche…

“Triple chocolate milkshake with ground almonds and cream.”

When the cream-and-almonds topped shake appeared in her goblet, a real smile appeared on her face for the first time since she’d run into this Immanuel.

A sigh drew his attention away from her. Emyr was looking… chargrined.

“You just ruined my joke,” he said, his voice flat, but a slight smile on his face. When everyone looked at him in confusion, he explained, “Usually when I do this, everyone just gets something boring and then I’ll ask for something like…” He looked pensively at his goblet and said, “Strawberry and cream shake with chocolate and caramel syrup,” causing said drink to appear in it, “And everyone would just stare like they’d seen the Devil.” He drank from his goblet.

Tyche had already finished hers while he’d been talking. “I know, right? You give people a cup that can give’em any drink and they pick soda, or water,” she said, glaring at Basil. He gave her as deadpan a look as he could in return, with most of his face covered up.

“Banana and cherry smoothy mix.” Her goblet filled up again.

Meanwhile, the freaking Godking of Mars was laughing quietly, like this was all just a friendly gathering. “Ah well, no matter.” He drank from his goblet. “Let’s focus on more important things.” He looked at Basil. “First of all, we ought to introduce ourselves properly.”

He put his right hand over his heard, tilting his head forward. “Emyr Blackhill, God-King of Mars and Once and Future King of Earth,” he introduced himself smoothly, without a hint of irony or boast. Then he looked at Tartsche to his right.

“T-tartsche,” the armor-clad youth replied, his voice betraying a great deal of nervousness. “Leader – though likely not too much longer, after this stunt – of the New Lennston United Heroes Junior Division.”

“Spellgun, member of the same,” his boyfriend continued as Emyr’s gaze passed onto him.

“B-Bakeneko. The same,” came a squeak from the next one in line. She seemed to literally wilt under his gaze, her power reacting to her mood.

“Osore.”

“Gloom Glimmer, also a member of the junior division,” Gloom Glimmer introduced herself, her voice clear as a bell and betraying no hint of being nervous or even slightly intimidated. Her eyes were nearly glowing underneath her hood, though blue rather than red now.

“Polymnia, also a junior hero,” the songstress continued, her electronic voice reflecting none of the nervousness that her face and body showed.

“Tyche! Hero and member of Team B- ouch” Tyche began, but was cut off when Hecate reached out to knock her over the back of the head with her staff, reaching behind Basil to do so.

“Brennus, of the same team,” he said curtly, seeing no point in trying to hold his name back.

“Hecate, also said team which most certainly does not use that atrocious acronym,” Hecate grumbled.

Emyr watched the whole exchange with open amusement. “A pleasure to meet you all, young heroes,” he said, raising his goblet in a casual gesture. “It’s always a joy to see young people willing to fight for a good cause.” He drank from his goblet, before he continued, “Now, on to the second point.” He looked straight at Basil. “You are wrong. I am Emyr Blackhill, not merely a fascimile.”

“You believe so? Even though you are incapable of leaving this… pocket reality?” He watched the long-haired man closely, feeling rather curious in spite of the seriousness of the situation, and the time pressure he himself was under. This was the man who’d once conquered the world, after all.

Instead of replying directly, Emyr turned to look at Legend, who was holding her head lowered in a demure posture that was very obviously not willingly chosen. “It’s pretty easy to determine with a single question. Sophia, can you summon anyone who’s not a metahuman?”

She replied instantly, without hesitation, yet without looking up, either. “No, I can not, your majesty. Only metahumans have sufficient impact upon the Historia to be summoned by my rituals.”

He turned around, smiling as he spread his arms in a ‘there-you-go’ gesture. “Can you tell why I claim to be the real one?” He looked around at everyone at the table, aiming the question at each and every one.

What does he mean? Basil asked himself. Why is he even trying to make an argument based on a Contriver’s delusions… of course, he may simply be delusional himself, believing that he truly is the true Emyr even though he is not.

Still, real or not, he was far more powerful than all of them put together, yet willing to talk instead of outright killing them, even after their attempt to do just the same to him. So best to play along for now.

“You’re implying that there’s something about metahumans in particular that would make them viable targets for resurrection, when baselines are not,” Spellgun spoke up, suddenly, leaning onto his elbows, which rested on the table, while Tartsche looked at him in alarm… though, they’d already clasped hands, putting him within the aegis of Tartsche’s power…

Emyr circumvented Tartsche’s power, Basil realised all of a sudden, his eyes snapping from Emyr to the two young lovers. Both Spellgun and Tyche were still underneath its protection when he stopped time, yet they were moved. He focused on Tartsche – his face was hidden by his knightly helmet, after all – and found himself thoroughly unsurprised to see that he was clenching Spellgun’s hand tightly, like a lifeline; the only sign, but a telling one, of just how freaked out he had to be right now.

Another thing to worry about, Basil thought, clenching his hands into fists. So much to worry about, so many things to keep in mind…

“Suffice it to say that, based upon my understanding of the nature of metahumanity, it is strong evidence towards the fact that I am the true Emyr Blackhill,” came the reply after Emyr drank from his, milkshake. “Once I am truly and completely revived, I am confident I shall remember all that happened during this little sojourn. Of course, I may just be delu-“

“Enough,” Basil cut him off with a sharp voice, in spite of his earlier decision to play along.

Everyone turned their heads to stare at him like he was a man possessed, but he ignored them to focus on Emyr.

“I do not have time for this,” he said, leaning towards their ‘host’ as he just barely kept his voice calm. “There are people out there who are dying, people whose one and only chance to survive rely on completing this mission and I need to get going because the clock. Is. Ticking. So tell us what you want and then let us go, or just let us go, but do not dither; I do not have the time to waste having a tea party here with you.”

Hecate made a strangled sound when he started speaking and was trying to wave him off, but he ignored her.

Mate, you just lipped off to the Godking of Mars, Macian whispered inside his head. I ain’t sure whether to congratulate you on the density of your balls or hand you the Darwin aw-

Shut it.

Emyr put his goblet down, touching his fingers together in front of his face, his expression pensive. “It has been some time since anyone has dared speak to me like that,” he said, finally, while Basil shook with barely restrained rage. “Not counting the little princess across the table from myself,” he nodded to Gloom Glimmer, who stiffened up. “Yes, child, I know who your parents are. No, I didn’t use my power to find out – but you do look entirely too much like your mother and your power feels entirely too much like your father’s for you to be anyone else; I’d recognise either any time, for they are both people who I have studied extensively.”

“Whom, Sir,” Hecate cut in, almost in a squeal. “The term is ‘whom’, not ‘who’.”

He looked at her, smiling as she clapped her hands over her mouth in shock at herself, but just nodded. “You are right – I apologise for the mistake, it shall not happen a-“

There was a sharp sound of metal crumpling, screaming, make everyone look at Basil again.

He’d just crushed his goblet in one gloved fist, without even noticing it. “This is enough,” he stood up, nearly throwing the chair he’d been sitting on over. “I, we, do not have time for this, so get to the point,” he told him, once more, his teeth grinding together at the end.

Emyr still looked pensive, not offended, which really only made Basil even angrier. He clearly didn’t care about any of this!

“I really do need to take over the world again,” he replied with a soft voice, finally, loosely clasping his hands together. “Seems like things are even worse than the last time.”

How would you know, Sir?” Polymnia said, sounding perfectly calm and composed; “Your power ends at the door, doesn’t it?

Emyr shrugged. “This one,” he spoke calmly, gesturing towards the fuming Basil, “is quite sincere in what he says. Which means that there are people out there dying and the only chance they have to survive is… a group of children? Fighting people like Sophia, here, who’d not hesitate to slay you?” He made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Any world in which children must go to war is a horrible one indeed.”

He looked around at each of them in turn, and they all looked away, unable to meet his gaze, save for Basil, who simply glared at him and Gloom Glimmer, who showed no reaction at all.

“I see none of you can dispute the state of the world,” he followed softly.

“Is that really the reason why you want to take over the world?” Gloom Glimmer spoke up, suddenly, her eyes barely visibly underneath her hood.

“Is it not enough?” he answered with a question.

“Not for you,” she shot back. “Not according to my power. Is it because it’d make for a great story? Is that it, does the author want to impose an epic tale on the real world?” she pressed the point, while also throwing a look at Basil.

Please, calm down – we’re not going to get away from him if we piss him off, she spoke into his mind, without missing a beat physically.

Basil clenched his fists so hard his gauntlets creaked and strained, but he sat down again. Not that he was going to just go along with this farce, but she was right, just complaining at Emyr was not going to achieve anything of use.

“That would be interesting, wouldn’t it?” Emyr asked right back again, looking as amused as before. “However, while I won’t deny the fact that I enjoy turning my quest into a story for the ages, even at the cost of efficiency in some aspects, it’s merely a… bonus. As for taking over the world, that is merely a means to an end; and I am not so delusional as to believe I could cure all the world’s ills and bring eternal peace and prosperity to humanity – if nothing else, humans will always find another reason to fight amongst themselves, no matter the circumstances.” He shrugged. “Though I do believe I could reduce the number of casualties on the way to my goal.”

“What is that goal?” Hecate threw in, the words bursting forth as if she couldn’t stand the tension anymore.

Even Tyche, currently drinking her sixth drink, seemed to be on the edge of her seat. The only one who seemed to be entirely unaffected by it all was, as usual, Osore.

“My true goal is…,” was all Emyr began to say, leaning slightly forward, his face grave and shadowed by his wild mass of hair. “Secret.”

“Oh come on!” Tyche complained loudly, nearly spilling her eighth drink.

“Hey, I kept it a secret for so long, why should I tell now?” He laughed, clearly amused by the annoyed expressions he could see, at least from those whose faces weren’t hidden by masks or cowls – though their body language certainly helped express their own opinion towards his attitude. “Really now, children, I may enjoy crossing off the classic tropes, but I’m not going to reveal my great master plan in a big villaneous monologue. I’m laidback, not stupid.” He picked up his goblet and drank again. “Now, as to what I want with you lot, specifically… to be honest, I simply want to amuse myself.” He looked straight at Basil again. “I know that may seem callous to you, especially now that you’ve told me something of what’s at stake – and you’re right. Which is why I’ll instead ask you what exactly you’re after, young Brennus. What is your quest?”

Basil frowned at the question. Much as he really didn’t want to antagonise him – he wasn’t an idiot, previous behaviour be damned – he also didn’t exactly cherish the idea of telling this story just to amuse a capricious wannabe-deity.

Still, it seemed like the fastest way to get out of this would be to play along… to a point.

“If I tell you, will you let us go?” he decided to ask.

“That very much depends on the story you tell me,” Emyr replied smoothly, as if he’d expected the question. “Tell your tale, and tell it true, and I shall choose the next scene to come.”

Basil’s hands clenched into fists again, at the arrogance, the-

His right hand clenched around something hard.

He looked down and saw his goblet, whole, in his hand. He looked up at Emyr again, who just smiled.

Neither word nor gesture, he thought. Is there no limit at all to his power? Can he bend reality by will alone? Did he create the goblet so it’d repair itself? Did he give himself an ability that allows him to fix it at will? Did he… He cut that train of thought off right there – there were too many possibilities, and he had no means by which to determine which one was the most likely. No, there is. There are. He’s said so himself, and it shows. He was killed, as well – that wouldn’t have worked out if he didn’t have limits that could be exploited.

You’re in no position to exploit anything, mate, the Man in the Moon whispered.

But I can gather information for when I – or another – will be.

Taking a deep breath, he said, “First, I have a question to ask, about our fight earlier.” He looked him straight in the eyes again, even though his mask prevented direct eye contact. It was still strange, looking into those pools of black. A sense of vertigo he’d never felt before. Like looking through two windows into the Abyss.

“More of a little spat, really,” Emyr qualified. “Ask, and ye shall be answered.” He made a permissive hand gesture to accompany the statement, without a hint of humor in any of it.

“You threw me off of you like I weighed nothing, and you were able to tear Gloom Glimmer’s gag off just as easily. Yet no command – or dictate, I suppose – could have allowed you to do that, so how did you do it?”

Emyr’s smile broadened. “Body language.” He winked at him, then broak out into laughter when he saw the shocked expressions on the exposed faces. “Ah, yes, people tend to react like that to finding out about that little aspect of my power. Anyway, I believe that answers your question – your turn, now.”

Basil took a deep breath. “It is a long story.”

“I love long stories.”

He rolled his eyes. “Alright. A member of the organisation she belongs to,” he gestured towards Legend, “unleashed a bio-weapon on Hawaii, years ago. It killed most of the victims and left the others crippled, dying slowly. Their time is running out, I discovered the location of this base but the authorities are still deliberating how to proceed – and whether to trust my information, so I decided to come after the woman responsible – Dusu – myself, because I need her to give me the cure for her poison. Legend here intercepted us as we were taking the train towards their base’s section in which we believe Dusu to be.”

“A lengthy tale indeed,” Emyr mused. “So every one of you came here to find this cure?” He turned his vertigo-inducing gaze at the others, up and down the table. They all nodded, some more self-assured than the others.

Seemingly pleased, he turned his eye upon Brennus again, stroking his chin with one of his spidery hands, contemplating… something. “Why do you need this cure, young Brennus?” he asked, finally.

Basil tilted his head, confused. “Why… I need it in order to cure her victims.”

“That is what you need it for, but why do you, Brennus, want it?” the Godking asked with a curious smile, resting his cheek on his left hand. “What drives you to attack the base of such a dangerous organisation, taking these brave friends of yours into such danger – and don’t deny that you did, I recognise a leader when I see one – and challenge even me?”

“I need to cure those who have been harmed by Dusu,” he replied simply, trying to find the sense in this line of questioning. “If you must know, one of them…” He looked at the junior heroes, briefly, then decided he’d trusted them this far anyway. “One of them’s my girlfriend. This is the only way I have left to save her, short of carrying her into the Protectorate – and even if I could, she’d never survive such a trip.”

He could feel the eyes of Tartsche, Spellgun and Polymnia on him, but ignored them as he focused on Emyr. “Is this enough already? Every second counts.”

Emyr tapped his chin with one of his long, thin fingers. “I suppose it is, and thank you for satisfying my curiosity.” He sat up straight. “I think I understand you a little better now. I am curious though, what would you do if I were to say I intend to keep you here for a longer time?”

Basil shrugged. “I would kill you or, failing that, disable you in some way and break out of this place,” he replied flatly. I don’t know how, yet, but I will figure it out.

Everyone at the table, as well as Legend, just stared at him. Then they looked at Emyr, who’d gone still, looking at him in surprise.

“That’s hardly very heroic of you,” he said.

“I am not much of a hero,” Basil spat him, annoyed. “Or that good a person. But I am enough of both that I am going to do the right thing to save these people, and if that means going through you, then so be it.”

“I’m giving you points for gumption, at least,” Emyr replied flatly, untouched by the venom in the boy’s voice. “Not for brains, though. You’re talking about killing a-“

“A god, I know,” he snarled. “Or at least, that is what you claim – but you, you are no god.”

Emyr tilted his head the other way, looking dumbfounded. “Have you seen Mars lately? I assure you, I am very much a god-“

“You really aren’t, Sir,” Hecate spoke up, her voice low, but firm, looking straight at Emyr’s eyes when he turned his gaze to her, shivering when she felt their effect upon herself. “You were killed. Everyone knows the story. The Seven Regicides took you down, and they were certainly no gods themselves.”

“Seven Regicides, huh?” Emyr smiled in amusement. “So that’s how the world remembers them, is that it? Do they tell their tale still?”

“They do,” Hecate answered him, clearly straining to keep up the eye contact. “Everyone knows their names. Jack Flag. Gungnir. The Prospector. Jekyll and Hyde. The Unseen.  Chatterbox. The Illionaut.There’s books, movies, comics… we don’t know how they did it, but we know they did.”

“There were eight, actually,” he remarked. “The count starts at Zero, not one. But that’s beside the point,” he continued, as if that was nothing, ignoring the gasps of everyone around the table.

Everyone save three. Gloom Glimmer remained still, and both Polymnia and Basil watched her, having noticed her flinch earlier.

What was that about?

On the other side of the table, Emyr continued to speak.

“I’ve got to say, though, it’s rather annoying how people keep misunderstanding my title,” he said, actually showing some annoyance for once. “I never claimed to be a god of humans. I created my children, the Martians – I reforged the world they live on. To them, I am, undoubtedly, and by any definition, God. I am also their absolute, unchallenged monarch – thus, King. Thereby, I am the God-King of Mars.” He huffed, brushing a few strands of hair out of his face. “It’s not a boast, it’s a simple fact.”

Basil sighed. “Are you deliberately wasting my time now?” he asked, growing weary even as his voice rose to near-screaming. “None of this, none of this, is necessary. I need to get going, I need to find Dusu, so get to the fucking point!

“Alright, alright,” Emyr made a calming gesture with both arms. “Calm yourself, young one. I do sympathise with your plight – if anything, I applaud it. A knight in shining,” he looked at Basil’s jet-black armour, “well, not-so-shining armour, out to cure countless innocents including his lady; I love that kind of story!” he finished with an excited smile.

Basil leaned forward in his chair, “This isn’t for your amusement!”

“It may not be meant to, but it amuses me anyway,” the Godking said softly. “And I say that without any derision. I am not making light of your quest, Brennus, I am merely trying to point out that, perhaps, you should sit down, relax, recover some of your strength and realise that I am your ally, here.”

That made Basil sit back and stare. “What?”, he said, only to realise that about half the other teens at the table had said the same, at the same time.

Emyr chuckled. “Please, children. I may have tried – and succeeded, let’s not forget that – to take over the world, but I’m no monster, and I’ve always considered myself to have certain standards. Even if this Dusu hadn’t apparently used a bio-weapon on civilians, I would still support you, if only because the idea of a tale like this appeals to me too much not to,” he explained, before drinking from his ice-cream-filled goblet. “Are you going to accept my help?” he asked, finally, looking straight at Basil once more.

“I… of course. If you want to help, I… could not say no; we need any help we can get,” he replied, feeling thoroughly unbalanced.

Then, a new hope bloomed inside of him. It was far-fetched, a mere chance, but… “Could you, just, wish them whole?” he asked, leaning forward, unable to keep his voice calm. “Can you do, something with your power, that’d just fix them?”

Emyr smiled sadly at him. “Ah, how I wish I could,” he said, crushing that particular hope. “Once upon a time, it would’ve been less than child’s play to me – but now, with my power limited to this little pocket? I’m afraid not – I could not even create a Panacea and let you take it along to use on them yourself.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, I truly am, but in this, I am less able than you are to make a difference.”

Then he smiled. “However, I can offer two other things. One, I can rejuvenate the lot of you – which, as you may have noticed, I already did before time continued,” he gestured at them, and Basil took a second look – he was right, all the damage to his armor and costume, as well as those the others had accumulated, was gone; and he felt as fresh as he would after a good, long night’s full of sleep (something which he’d missed these last few days). “And second, we can extract some information from Legend here – that alone should be worth the delay, right?” He gestured at the enslaved contriver. “Ask her whatever you wish to know and she will answer to the best of her knowledge, in all honesty and with no attempts at deception or manipulation.”

Legend shuddered under the weight of the dictate – and it was one, even though there was no real indicator as to which parts of his speech were backed by his power and which weren’t – but nodded obediently, without a moment’s hesitation.

Basil looked around the table at the others – everyone looked to be shocked, scared or hopeful, to varying degrees, sometimes all three at once.

This is too weird for words, the Man in the Moon spoke up. Then again, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, mate.

For once, I agree with you. He turned towards Emyr, again, to ask the first question that came to mind, but he was pre-empted by Polymnia using her vocoder.

“What kind of resistance are we likely to run into, from now on until finding Dusu?” she asked the woman in the maid outfit.

She flinched. “The team you’ve fought before is likely to have recovered by now and be setting up an ambush outside the portal to this realm. There’s also two more combat-able teams on the Installation. Furthermore, Dusu has her own security, and her lab is in the same complex as that of the new Ascendant – I have no idea whether the latter could have some nasty surprises in store for you, if you show at her doorstep.”

Gloom Glimmer leaned in, putting both arms onto the table. “Wait, the Ascendant? So they did name a new one – what’s this one’s deal?” she asked, her voice hard. “Is he going after children again!?”

Legend shook her head. “No. I’m not aware of their exact project – while she only slightly outranks me, I have little to do with the Gadgeteering complex – but I know that it’s seriously impressed the top executives and that they declared it Top Secret even for the division heads like myself. I am, however, aware that it does not, apparently, require the purchase of test subjects, as the previous Ascendant’s work did.”

Several of the heroes around the table, particularly the girls, looked rather green at the callous admission of slave-trading being done here, but Basil decided not to press that particular point here.

“So we can not know what to expect once we get past the team we already defeated before,” Basil concluded. “What can you tell us about Dusu’s own security?”

“Her laboratory is heavily fortified and hermetically sealed, due to containing so many bio-threats. Attacking her carelessly would be supremely dangerous. I am not aware of any specific security other than the guards who protect her complex as a whole.”

“Is there some shortcut that can take us straight to Dusu?” Tyche asked inbetween emptying her thirteenth goblet and refilling it. “Would be nice to skip straight past all the fightin’,” she concluded rather uncharacteristically.

“None that I’m aware of.”

Tyche sighed in disappointment.

“Where do these monsters come from that attacked Esperanza City, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Australia?” Tartsche asked, suddenly, his voice still trembling a little, though noticably more controlled than earlier – he’d even relaxed his grip on Spellgun’s hand a bit. “And why did you have them attack in the first place?”

Legend looked away, seemingly ashamed – but Basil couldn’t tell whether she was honestly ashamed for what had been done, was ashamed of something else related to it or was simply being forced to be so due to Emyr’s unkown edicts – and replied, “They attacked because we couldn’t control them after their creation, so the top executives decided to cut them lose and see whether they couldn’t cause some more origins,” she explained as if talking about the weather. “As for their nature, I am not entirely sure but I know they are connected to the Sleeper.”

“What is the Sleeper?” Tartsche immediately pressed on.

The sorcerous woman looked up at him, a strange, off-putting light in her eyes. “The Sleeper is the future, our key to expanding our power and bringing as many into the light as we can – a colossal being sleeping in the depths of the Mariana Trench which we believe to be connected directly to the source of metahuman powers, currently in some form of hibernation,” she explained with almost religious fervour. “The beasts that attacked those places were somehow induced to spawn from it, but I don’t exactly know how – I do know that Dusu was and is the head of that particular program, so you should ask her for anything more regarding the subject matter.”

Emyr watched the exchange, tapping his fingers together, his face gone completely serious. “What a disgusting collection of wretches,” he spoke softly, his voice shimmering with an anger that made everyone else within the pocket reality shudder and lean away from him. “What is this group called?” he asked his slave.

“We are sometimes called the Companions of the Future, but our original and preferred name is ‘die Gefährten’, which means…”

Emyr cut her off with a wave of his hand. “I am well aware of what it means. Well, now I know whom to purge once I take over again. Continue.”

Basil leaned forward, putting his goblet aside to clasp his hands in front of his face, his mask snapping shut once more.

***

They continued to extract as much information as they could from Legend. The woman was completely cooperative, though clearly not willingly so, repeatedly making faces and shuddering, yet unable to truly strain against the commands imposed upon her by Emyr.

Finally, after nearly ten minutes, Basil decided to end it. “I think that is enough,” he announced loudly, leaning back. “We should get going now.” He looked at Emyr, silently asking for permission – though it galled him a great deal having to defer to him so.

To his (mild by now) surprise and gratitude, Emyr nodded, making a sweeping gesture. “It is time, yes. Go, find the cure.” He smiled softly, a little sadly. “I do wish I could offer greater support, but I’m afraid all I have left is to give you all my blessing.”

The others looked at each other, then at him, but no one knew what to say to that, really.

“Thank you,” was all Tartsche could bring himself to say – he still appeared to be rather put off by having his power circumvented somehow, and he’d very tellingly not asked how Emyr had achieved said feat.

“You’re welcome. Now off, off with you all!” Emyr raised a hand and snapped his fingers, and the door behind him opened smoothly, without a sound, revealing the shimmering portal they’d seen earlier behind Legend’s force-field.

They all got up, rather quickly, and moved towards the door, but Tyche stopped briefly next to Emyr’s chair.

“Y’know, for a crazy evil overlord, you’re really ok,” she said, offering him her hand. “And thanks for the drinks. Wish I could keep the magic cup, really,” she continued with a grin.

Emyr smiled at her, only having to bend his neck slightly to look up at her face, even while sitting. “It was my pleasure, Tyche. My pleasure, and my horror – I’ve never seen a normal-sized girl drink twenty-two drinks in such a short time. And each one an original, at that.” He took her hand, shaking it. “I do hope we can meet again under more pleasant circumstances, young hero.”

She blushed a little at his smile, and nodded. “Sure. See ya, your royal godliness.”

They all passed by Legend, who remained quiet, her head lowered and her hands clasped together, but Hecate and Polymnia both stopped next to her.

They exchanged a look, the two of them, then turned around, with Hecate speaking up.

“What’s going to happen to Legend?” she asked worriedly.

Emyr leaned around on his throne-like chair, looking at her with an inscrutable, but gentle expression. “Worried for your enemy, are you? Well, you needn’t be – I don’t intend to kill her, merely teach her a lesson before I eject her unto the real world once more.”

They looked at each other, again, as the others pooled around the gate, waiting for the two girls to join them and exit this reality. While neither seemed to be too happy with his reply, they clearly decided – sensibly, in Basil’s opinion – that it was likely to be the best they’d get.

“Alright. One more thing, Sir,” Hecate pressed on. “May we, um, take those?” She gestured at the items on the table, the ones Legend had used to summon her shades. “They should be returned to their proper places.”

Emyr nodded and gestured at the items, then at Hecate. They all rose up and flew over to her, making her briefly squeal in surprise before she caught them all and, with a respectful bow to him, stuffed them carefully into her bag of holding.

“Is there anything else?” he asked kindly.

She shook her head. “No, that will be all. Thank you, Sir,” she bowed again, then turned to leave.

Basil watched all that, feeling oddly disconnected from it all, but didn’t comment.

It didn’t help that he still didn’t trust Emyr, and so he let the others exit this reality first, just in case.

He was just about to step out of it himself when Emyr spoke up again.

“Brennus,” he said and when Basil turned to look at him, he’d rotated his throne around to face him and the door. “One last thing before you leave.”

“What is it now?” Basil asked wearily.

“Remember these words,” Emyr said, before he cleared his throat and sat up more straight, then spoke in a much firmer, deeper voice than before: “To pursue what is necessary is the province of beasts – a true man must pursue naught but what he desires.'”

Basil tilted his head to the side. “I… do not understand.”

Emyr smiled at him like a kindly old grandfather might. “I know you don’t, just as I know that you will, some day. Be well, Sir Knight, and may you save those you wish to save.”

Clearly dismissed, Basil nodded at the strange man and turned around, leaving.

***

Legend watched quietly as Emyr leaned back in his seat while it rotated – with no visible or audible cause – back to face the table, the door closing behind him. She couldn’t do anything but be quiet and await new orders… and dread whatever ‘lesson’ he had planned for her.

“How likely do you think they are to succeed, Sophia?” he asked pensively.

She didn’t have to think about it to know the answer. “There’s no way this story is going to have a happy end,” she replied sadly – and she did feel sad. She wasn’t heartless, and she did feel sympathy for Dusu’s victims and those trying to save them; nevermind that she honestly wished that monstrous woman would get what she deserved (Sophia was a villain, and she was even willing to kill teenaged combatants, but… Dusu was just evil). “Whether or not they reach Dusu, she-“

She was interrupted, suddenly, when someone walked past her from behind, making her jump and squeal in surprise as she saw someone wearing a dark blue, hooded robe move down the table.

Where, where did he… no one but him and me should be here! she thought, staring in shock.

Emyr remained quiet, looking almost as surprised as she felt as he watched the stranger sit down at the opposite end of the table, where the unnerving girl with the changing power had been sitting just a minute earlier.

Sophia was immediately assaulted by an unnerving sense of vertigo as she looked at the stranger’s face underneath his hood – or rather, the lack of a face, as he was wearing a mostly flat, featureless mirror-helmet within which she could see the distorted reflections of both herself, Emyr and the table. Yet, even though she could not see the figure’s eyes, she still felt like she was seeing into Emyr’s own black orbs, seeing into the abyss beyond them.

The stranger sat down without a care in the world, putting his elbows on the table and clasping his hands underneath his chin, resting it atop his interlaced fingers.

“Well well,” Emyr said, tapping the armrest of his chair. “Who do we have here? I don’t believe we’ve met before. What is your name, stranger?”

“Some call me Journeyman,” the man spoke, making Sophia shudder at the sound of countless voices – most but not all male – speaking in unison. In spite of that, though, the man did not project any kind of hostility or threat.

“Mm, interesting choice of names,” the Godking of Mars replied. “I assume you know who I am, Aion?”

“Emyr Blackhill, the Godking of Mars,” Journeyman said. “I came here to kill this incarnation of yours.” Sophia choked on her own spit.

“Well, that is rather refreshingly forward,” Emyr chuckled with clear amusement in his voice. “While I’d be really curious to see how you’d achieve that, I’m afraid it’s quite superfluous – I am going to terminate myself soon, since I can’t break out of here in any case. You’re wasting your time and strength, if you can even do it against my will.”

“Not so,” Journeyman countered. “I know you too well – you’d find a way to break out of here, and I can’t have that.” He leaned a little more forward, as his mask stopped reflecting the scene in front of him and showed nothing but Emyr’s own face, reflecting back at him.

The Godking frowned at him, his mouth twisting. “You seem quite certain… precognition?”

“Of a sort,” Journeyman replied.

“It is not impossible that I could device a means by which to escape this confinement, that is true, though I haven’t as of now,” Emyr said pensively. “Yet that would be truly a major feat, even for one such as I. You still believe you could slay me, now?”

Please, oh please, say yes!, Sophia silently begged the stranger.

To her dismay, he shook his head, only for his words to then make her hopes flare again. “I don’t think. I know.” He lowered his hands onto the table, leaning onto his elbows. “In this place, at this time, I am more than you are.”

Emyr chuckled. “I’d like to put that to the test, if you don’t mind.”

Journeyman grabbed the table by the edge and threw it aside like it weighed nothing, causing it – and the bowl atop it, and the goblets – to shatter against the walls, as he strode forward towards the Godking on his throne, his long, powerful strides moving him faster than Sophia could run.

Emyr stood up, ponderously, and pulled back an arm, forming a fist.

Journeyman wound up for his own strike.

Sophia stared in horrified fascination, unable to do anything but observe.

Their fists met.

Their world broke.

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Emyr Blackhill, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Journeyman, Legend, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Tartsche, Tyche
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Tieshaunn

New Chapter

Tieshaunn

The new chapter is almost ready – 90% written – but I’m having serious trouble getting the ending to be anything but horrible, so I’m still at it at 0:40 in the freaking morning. Bear with me.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


Filed under: Brennus Chapters
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Crying Grumpies

Netrunner Core 2.0, ¿La última pieza del puzzle?

Crying Grumpies

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En el año 2008 y después de varios intentos de varias compañías Fantasy Flight Games dio con la tecla para mantener juegos de cartas expandibles en el mercado y alejarse del modelo tradicional de venta de estos, el formato de compra ciega popularizado en el sector por Magic The Gathering. El novedoso LCG o Living Card Game es un formato que prometía un juego de cartas que a través de pequeñas expansiones mensuales de contenido no aleatorio pretendía mantener a flote y con menos costes juegos de menor base de jugadores. Uno de los principales escollos del formato es que las cartas de los LCG siempre iban a ser legales, cosa que cambio hace tres años  cuando se anunció la rotación. Cual espada de Damocles el día de ver la primera rotación en uno de sus LCG ha llegado y con ella también una sorpresa. Hace unos días FFG anuncio un nuevo juego básico para Netrunner para sustituir el actual, pero al contrario de lo que hicieron con Juego de Tronos manteniendo la legalidad de todos los productos menos aquellos que rotan y no mediante una versión 2.0 del juego.

Doji_Hotaru

El nuevo juego básico de Netrunner será una reimpresión del actual a la que se le retiraran algunas cartas problemáticas o completamente inútiles y se sustituirán por cartas de los dos primeros ciclos y en algunos casos nuevo arte.Para mí este anuncio tiene diversos análisis diferentes, el primero es lo que representa para los LCG y las bases que sienta para el mismo y el segundo es que representa para Netrunner.

Sobre lo que representa para Netrunner pues contento aunque no creo que el juego tenga un resurgir con este nuevo Core. Hace ya muchos meses que el juego no me emociona y si bien saber que muchas de las cartas que me han hecho pasar un mal rato jugando no se van todas y en mi caso el daño ya esta hecho. Si queréis un poco más de lo que implica para Netrunner os dejo un articulo donde Mailman lo explica algo mejor.

Para línea entera sienta un precedente que me gusta. Me gusta porque creo que todos los juegos recibirán un tratamiento similar cuando roten. Me gusta porque si llevo jugando al juego desde el día uno no es necesario que me haga con él. Me gusta porque implica un interés en mantener el formato competitivo de los juegos lo más sano posible, aunque en el caso de Netrunner posiblemente esto llega tarde. Me gusta porque me hace sentir menos mal por los 180€ gastados en cartones que de otra forma irían a parar al fondo de un armario. Pero también hay algunas cosas que no me gustan, que espero solo se den en este caso y son las formas. No me gusta que no lo anunciaran en su ponencia de la Gen Con, aunque entiendo que no lo hicieran para focalizar el esfuerzo en L5R y Star Wars Legión. No me gusta que entren en vigor antes del mundial y sin estar a la venta el nuevo Core, si bien es poco probable que un asistente al evento no este informado me parece forzado.

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Y antes de acabar no puedo irme sin decir que este producto y la rotación no hacen que la entrada al juego sea más sencilla para los nuevos jugadores. Este nuevo Core no cambia para nada la perspectiva de meterte en un LCG con varios años de historia mas allá de eliminar alguna que no todas las experiencias negativas por causa de cartas y interacciones mal diseñadas. Al contrario de los CCG donde las rotaciones de producto suelen ser muy agresivas, en cada ciclo se va casi la mayoría de las cartas legal, FFG optó por una rotación inicial del producto más lenta y al final creo que este es el mayor escollo para la entrada de nuevos jugadores.

Vamos que estoy muy contento con esta noticia aunque me deja algunas dudas. ¿Harán lo mismo en el resto de sus juegos?¿Se atreverán a hace algo con las expansiones deluxe? ¿Reducirán el número de expansiones legales para facilitar la entrada de nuevos jugadores? ¿Gestionarán algún día estos problemas en sus juegos de miniaturas? Muchas preguntas sin respuesta por el momento.


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Crying Grumpies

ENforcer Brawl en El Local

Crying Grumpies

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Como bien sabéis ya en El Local jugamos bastante a Malifaux así que a falta de la quinta jornada, no me he podido poner a ello aun, uno de nuestros miembros ha decidido organizar un Enforcer Brawl. El Enforcer Brawl es un modo alternativo de juego multijugador. La fecha escogida para la contienda  es el domingo 24 a las 10:00 y se jugará una sola ronda. Entre todos los asistentes se sorteara una Miss Deed, alternativa de Taelor de la Gen Con 2017. Tras el salto encontrareis las modificaciones a las reglas para jugar un Enforcer Brawl.

-4 Jugadores por mesa, todos contra todos.

-Solo se permiten Enforcers y cualquier habilidad que cree más miniaturas no tendrá efectos.

-Cada jugador deberá escoger 3 Enforcers de un máximo de dos facciones distintas, no se permiten mercenarios de facciones que no sean las escogidas. Los Enforcers pueden repetirse.El coste en Soulstones de los enforcers más los Upgrades no puede superar las 29 piedras. Las piedras no invertidas en creación de banda se pierden.

-Los Upgrades deberán ser legales para las miniaturas que los lleven.

-Se desplegará en las esquinas del tablero hasta 12” de la esquina una miniatura por jugador. Quedando las otras en reserva.

-La mano de control será de cuatro cartas no de seis.

-Cuando un Enforcer sea eliminado aparecerá un Enforcer de la reserva en una zona de despliegue determinada de forma aleatoria.

-Las partidas serán de 6 rondas sin posibilidad de rondas extras.

-La puntuación será la siguiente

1 Punto   Herir a una miniatura sin heridas.

2 Puntos Matar o Sacrificar un Enforcer enemigo, 1 Punto adicional si nuestra miniatura tiene un coste menor.

Si en algún Momento te quedas sin Enforcers pierdes 3 puntos de victoria.

El jugador con más puntos de victoria al final del juego ganará el Enforcer Brawl. Si hay un empate se jugará una ronda adicional con solo un Enforcer por cada jugador entre los que hayan empatado.

Espero veros el domingo.


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Semicoop

Shelf-ish

Semicoop

A lot of game nights take place at our house and some bigger games are quite a hassle to take with you on a bike* and so they sometimes get left behind in at our place. 😀

* Yes bikes are really a big part of living in The Netherlands and a lot of people here don’t even own a car.

So we’ve been playing quite some games again this week and that has been fun again! With autumn kicking in, there is something cozy about huggling up at a kitchen table playing some board games with hot coco and a blanket.
It’s been a long while, but we played Forbidden Stars again! Too bad I had forgotten a lot of rules and made tons of silly strategical mistakes … ending the game in the fourth round. Normally our plays end in the final, the 8th, round.  It’s still a brilliant and elegant game and I will certainly have my revenge – soon. 😉

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Sep 13, 2017 at 2:28pm PDT

We also been playing multiple games of Elder Sign and we bought Kingdomino and that turns out to be a great filler game with a great flow.  The box says 20 minutes play time, but I think it can easily be played in 10 minutes with two players.

Last week we asked you guys for advice on deciding which games had to go and we received a lot useful tips – thank you! I’m curious:
Which games in your collection are probably the first to go?

The post Shelf-ish appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 7

In My Daydreams

We did finish the game. Jaclyn won. The gun was disappointed to learn that you couldn’t raid other players’ property and burn down their buildings. To be fair, there wasn’t anything specifically forbidding that in the rules, but there also weren’t any rules for how you’d do it.

Cassie talked him down by volunteering to play a game with him that did involve weapons. With some grumbling, the gun quieted down.

As we sat at the table afterward, Jaclyn raised an eyebrow as she looked at Cassie. “I have no idea how you can live with that thing.”

Cassie shook her head. “It’s not that bad. I’ve got total control. I can turn it off or on, prevent it from listening to our conversation, whatever. Right now, it’s drilling itself in fighting simulations, something it honestly likes.”

Jaclyn laughed. “So, what? It’s basically playing video games.”

Shrugging, Cassie said, “I’m just glad, I’ve got something that I send it to do that it genuinely likes. It’s like babysitting a murderous two-year old that likes arson.”

Shaking her head, Jaclyn said, “Yeah. You know that’s just not a thing I’d put up with. That thing keeps going on about whatever comes into its head, mostly about killing people. I’m pretty sure, I’d smash it after one too many suggestions.”

Glancing down toward the gun on her thigh, Cassie took a deep breath. “Believe me, I get it, but sometimes there’s something endearing about its bloody single-mindedness.”

Jaclyn frowned. “Better you than me then.”

With that, we drifted into talking about other things—not least among them what we’d done that night. I didn’t say so, but the way the shields had failed (shortly after we’d shown up and started trying to rescue the workers) bugged me.

If someone wanted to know what we could do and how we handled problems, it wasn’t a bad way to find out if you were willing to risk killing people.

So that’s what I was thinking about as I lay in the bed they’d set up. Marcus snored softly while Katuk barely breathed. Over in the next room, Jaclyn and Tikki talked while Cassie slept. Tikki had stayed overnight rather than walk back after the game.

The next morning we woke up and had breakfast (meat inside some kind of pastry. Marcus named them Space Pasties). As we finished, a voice I didn’t recognize (as in, not Geman) told us that we’d be having visitors this morning—the colony’s ruling council.

It didn’t take us long to finish breakfast and clean it up, getting into our uniforms and generally being ready receive them.

They all came in as a group. Jadzen and a man (her assistant?) lead them in. While Jadzen was tall, even regal with long hair and dark eyes that moved to take in every detail, the assistant held some kind of tablet. Short and dark-haired, he only seemed to look at something before typing into or tapping the screen. He looked familiar somehow and then I placed him. After Jadzen had tried to tell us to go home, he’d been the one who looked embarrassed about it.

Following him came a group of five people—two men and three women, all of them with white hair.

We met them in the common room between the two bedrooms. Jadzen’s assistant stepped up to the front, standing between us and the council. In a quavering tenor voice, he said, “Hello… ah… Xiniti citizens. I’m Maru, assistant to the Hideaway Council. The council wanted to come here to thank you for your actions last night. We’ve been told that every one of you were quite impressive… and powerful.”

He swallowed and glanced behind him toward Jadzen Akri who was frowning. As he hesitated, one of the other two men stepped forward. This one appeared to be in his mid-fifties, and while he had a head of white hair, he moved without any weakness. Nearly seven feet tall and with a thin, but muscular build, he might have been related to the workers we’d saved.

“I’m Iolan Mekus, the colony’s medic and genetic counselor. I’d like to personally thank you as the workers you saved were cousins of mine, distant cousins, but still family with all the obligations that entails. I’m grateful that they’re alive, but that’s not all. I need to talk to you about a suspicion I’ve had even back home before emigrating here—“

One or more of the other council members said, “Iolan,” in a tone that I recognized as irritation, but he continued, ignoring them, his voice growing louder as he talked.

“—I believe that there is a spy or spies within our midst and this latest incident confirms it. When my cousins examined the shield poles, they found that the poles had received a command to turn off. It was no coincidence. Someone had attempted to kill them. Except there’s no reason to kill them, but there’s plenty of reasons for a spy to want Xiniti or Xiniti aligned humans to die.”

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PenintheStone

Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
Our Super Mom | Chapter 12 | Page 40 https://t.co/I3gl02dhht https://t.co/xsWicngx5z

PenintheStone
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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 6

In My Daydreams

Marcus shifted back to normal, looked over at the three colonists near him. “Stand next to me and do it now.”

The colonists listened even if their eyes widened when his arms turned into tentacles and pulled them into one group. “Nick, you want to take us over?”

“Sure,” I ran over to him. He sprouted two more tentacles and grabbed my legs. Knowing what was needed, I activated the rockets and took to the air, slowing as I neared the end of the tentacles’ full length, and then flying upward slowly enough that Marcus could still hold on.

It didn’t take much to fly back over the wall.

We landed as Katuk ran back between the force field and the barricade. He must have run out past the wall to check if there was anything else out there, and at the speed he was running (more than two hundred miles per hour), he could cover some ground.

At almost the same time, Tikki gasped and the shimmer around the final terrier/tiger disappeared. Before I could move, it had turned toward Tikki, beginning to pounce.

It didn’t matter. A white beam fired from Katuk’s chest, cutting a hole halfway through the creature’s head.

It fell forward, slumping onto the ground.

Katuk’s voice carried over the group channel. “There are no more creatures of this type nearby.”

“Good to know,” Jaclyn started walked toward Cassie. “Ready to jump back over?”

Cassie shook her head. “I think I better incinerate these things with the gun. If we let the dead bodies rot here, who knows what we’ll attract?”

Cassie cleaned her sword with a rag from her utility belt, sheathed it, and pulled out her gun.

Geman’s voice came over the implant. “Good idea. The bodies would only have attracted more and with people working there… Well, it’s not worth the risk.”

“And it stops the thing from complaining that it didn’t get to do anything,” Cassie told us on a private channel. She aimed a wide, white beam at the nearest dead body. It took a few passes, but the gun converted it to ash.

“It’s too bad,” Cassie walked toward to the next one as Jaclyn watched. “They’d almost pass for dogs if they were smaller.”

“They are dogs—mostly,” Geman broke into the conversation again. “The Abominators terraformed this place around the time they were modifying humans. Like a lot of their terraforming projects, it was supposed to test us and almost all the genetic material comes originally from humanity’s homeworld, wherever that is.”

Jaclyn blinked, watching as Cassie destroyed another. “I thought they just looked like dogs. That’s sad.” She shook her head. “My uncle’s dog could almost pass for one of their puppies—if they have puppies. Could they be dogs like our dogs?”

“Want one?” Marcus grinned at her.

She laughed. “Oh, sure. Can you see me walking one? Or coming home to find that it’s eating a cow on the front lawn? Thanks, but no. Even if we could train them, we’d have to keep it in HQ.”

She turned serious. “Hey Geman, I’m going to grab your force field poles.”

Geman’s voice rumbled through the connection. “Yeah. Bring ‘em in. We’ve got people who might be able to figure out why they failed.”

She did, and by the time she’d gathered all of them, Cassie had finished burning the remains. One of the workers lowered a section of force field and Tikki, Katuk, Jaclyn, and Cassie stepped inside.

The tallest of workers, all of whom looked like Viking stereotypes, clapped Jaclyn on the shoulder, giving a small bow as he did.

“I’m Sentok. You have our deepest thanks. You are, all of you, remarkable fighters—even you, Tikki. We’re all trained soldiers ourselves, but our true strength sleeps for now. If we’d fought them maybe one of us would have survived. Ask us for help whenever you need it.”

They escorted us back to the Council building, explaining to us that they wouldn’t be working any more tonight. The woman (I’d missed her name) commented, “We shouldn’t even have been working tonight if it weren’t for this world’s crazy animals.”

They left us at the door and we all walked back into the Council building and our rooms.

After the doors shut and we heard Sentok and his friends walk away (one of them had started singing), Tikki’s lips curled as she said, “Even you-Tikki.” She shook her head. “I suppose I should be grateful that they noticed.”

Marcus turned to her. “How did you even get out there?”

She gave a small smile. “That kind of force field flickers on and off multiple times per second. I stepped through when it was off and I took Katuk with me.” She frowned. “Which was why I had less time to use than I needed.”

Marcus shrugged. “It worked out. You won’t do it again.”

Tikki laughed. “I can’t promise that.”

We all stood together in the room were we’d been playing Monopoly. Because it had been virtual reality provided by the ship’s AI, we hadn’t bothered to sit at the table, but our chairs were still in a circle next to the fireplace.

Jaclyn looked at the chairs and sighed.

“YES,” the gun’s voice sounded in our heads. “WE WILL PLAY MONOPOLY AND I WILL BURN YOUR HOUSES AND HOTELS LIKE I HAVE BURNED SO MANY THINGS!”

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Crying Grumpies

El futuro de Netrunner y mis pensamientos sobre el juego.

Crying Grumpies

Ha costado, mucho, pero tras el chasco de que en el In-flight Report de la Gen Con 50, no nos dieran ni una sola noticia sobre el futuro de nuestro juego de cartas favorito (quitando el remigio, por supuesto), y que lo único fuera que alguien en la sesión de preguntas y respuestas, les preguntase que si ya lo daban por muerto y dijesen que no, por fin, tenemos noticias sobre lo que nos espera.

Para empezar, ya sabemos que la esperada rotación, que tenía que llegar con el primer paquete de datos del siguiente ciclo, se hará de forma prematura, el 1 de octubre, para tener un Mundial más movido de lo normal. El primer paquete de datos del siguiente ciclo, que por fín sabemos como se llama, Visión Soberana, del Ciclo de Kitara, saldrá más cercano a finales de año, pasado el mundial.

Este ciclo nos llevará a las orillas del Lago Victoria, donde la Liga Sub-Sahariana trabaja incansablemente para crear un nexo entre el mundo sucio y fangoso y la expansión ilimitada más allá de la atmósfera terrestre… Pero el Consorcio Weyland tiene algo en contra que decir…

La verdad, es un alivio por fín saber que al menos el futuro cercano del juego está asegurado.

Pero eso no es todo…

Llevamos mucho tiempo escuchando los rumores, reddit estába lleno de ellos desde hace eones, y yo no acababa de creérmelo, y es que han anunciado el antes llamado “Core 2.0”, ahora “Revised Core Set”.

Esta caja, pretende equilibrar el competitivo, eliminado las cartas más bestias del la primera caja básica, a la que sustituirá completamente, y reeditando algunas cartas de los ciclos que dejan de ser legales tras la rotación.

Lo más notable, es la desaparición de las identidades HB: Engineering the Future, Noise: Hacker Extraordinaire y Kate “Mac” McCaffrey: Digital Tinker, eliminando de un plumazo las dos identidades que tenian créditos gratis y la identidad comodín.

Dejo enlace con el listado completo de las cartas que traerá este Revised Core Set.

https://images-cdn.fantasyflightgames.com/filer_public/00/9c/009c2fa5-a0c2-402a-acf3-6e051613e4ca/adn49_cardlist.pdf

Hay que agradecer, que aunque algunas cartas tendrán dibujos nuevos, no vendrá ni una carta nueva, por los que lo tenemos todo, nos podemos ahorrar un buen dinero (ya ya… algunos se comprarán 3 cajas sólo por los dibujos nuevos… y eso que es la Stacy Malibú de siempre).

Otra cosa notable es que este listado de cartas, TAMBIEN SERÁ LEGAL PARA EL MUNDIAL, por lo que las cartas que no aparecen aquí del viejo core, no pueden ser jugadas… Adios a mi querido Scorched Earth, al Breaking News, al Astroscript Pilot Program… Ains… hay algunas cartas que duelen…

En este tiempo sin noticias, y más aún, en los últimos dos ciclos, mucha gente ha quedado asqueada de como se estaba llevando el juego, las cartas superbroken, la necesidad de una MWL más regular, y han dejado de jugar, y muchas tiendas también han dejado de dar soporte al juego. Personalmente, no creo que la salida de un Revised Core Set, por muy buena idea que sea, haga que entren muchos jugadores nuevos… Espero equivocarme.

Para terminar, decir que nosotros queremos seguir dando soporte al juego, organizando torneos como hemos hecho todos estos años, desde su salida, pasando por varios Store Tournements, por el Chronos Protocol Tour, etc… Pero al parecer, desde Asmodée están empezando a poner trabar a nuestros esfuerzos… (no digo que sea sólo a nosotros, que conste), pero nos ha llegado un comunicado en el que nuestro distribuidor de material extrangero, nos ha indicado que no nos puede enviar más kits de torneo en inglés… Esperamos que no haya problema en conesguir los kits en español, pero siendo Asmodée los que está en medio, quien sabe… Tendremos que buscar otra forma de hacer los torneos, u ofrecer premios no oficiales… Por favor, os pedimos a nuestros seguidores y a los participantes de nuestros eventos, que nos dejéis un comentario, a ver si hacemos notar a Asmodée que aunque nuestra tienda “The Grumpy Shop”, no sea tienda física, hacemos todo lo que podemos por la comunidad.

Gracias a todos por estar aquí.


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Semicoop

Cleaning up

Semicoop

We’re thinking about cleaning up our board game collection and giving away or selling some games we haven’t played for years and we know we’re probably never going to play again. I do find this a little difficult though. Games like Munchkin and Catan are true classics and Munchkin is probably one of the first games we ever bought, but we will we ever play them again? No, there are just so many better games. And yes, the Pandemic Legacy box. We actually still have it so that’ll definitely be the first one to go. 😉

Last week I played X-Wing for the first time! It feels like a lighter version of Tail Feathers. We played a team game and somehow our epic space battle took a little longer than usual according to those who play it more regularly. The dice were never really in favor of the attacking party, but they were helping out the defending party a lot. 😉 I’m curious how (quickly) the game plays one-on-one.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Sep 7, 2017 at 1:55pm PDT

Have you ever purged your board game collection? And if you do, what makes you decide to ‘get rid of’ a game?

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

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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 5

In My Daydreams

Answering my unasked question, the beast showed that it was smart enough to recognize that the force field was down by leaping at the group of us. I didn’t have time to grab the guy and fly away. Instead, I leapt forward, aiming myself at the animal’s chest, activating the rockets on my back to give myself speed.

It had me on mass, but I hoped I could give myself enough force to make up for it. Keeping in mind what Geman had said about the creatures going crazy when they smelled blood, I tried to knock it sideways into the back of the barricade. If I had to kill it, I would, but I didn’t want to make things worse if I didn’t have to.

I hit it in the chest, aiming to my right, causing both of us to tumble sideways into the wall. The beast gave a yowl as it hit, but it was still faster than I was, chomping down on my arm and chest with its mouth.

I blasted it with the sonics, aiming the blast of noise directly at what appeared to be an ear. Despite a clear invitation to the universe to create creatures that used an entirely different sense, it dropped me, screeching.

I pushed myself to my feet and opened up on it with more noise, and a goobot. The smart bullet expanded into a cloud of sticky goo before it hit, covering the animal’s chest and front legs.

It grunted and experimentally tried to pull its right leg away from the left, grunting more and then squealing as it worked on it.

Checking my peripheral vision, I found that Marcus had changed into a dome, covering the three humans we’d come to protect. I hoped he’d left them air holes, but didn’t have time to pursue the question.

With a ripping noise, the beast pulled its legs apart, leaving hair from its right leg attached to the flapping bit of goo on its left.

Even before I’d figured out where Marcus’ eyes had gone when he flattened out, I heard his voice through my implant as it broadcast to the group. “Help, everybody! Even with Nick keeping it back, I can’t take off fast enough with three people.”

It made sense. He had wings.

It also meant that I’d probably have to kill not one, but all five of the terrier/tiger things. They weren’t more important than people, but it seemed a little sad to kill animals that were just being animals.

That didn’t stop me from loading a killbot. I’d make it quick, painless and efficient. If I were lucky, I’d even be able to retrieve the bot. It wasn’t as if I had very many of them. The killbot sliced through the creature’s skull and into its brain—which was enough like ours that the thing fell over, limbs moving spastically.

Along with the hole the killbot made in its head came blood mixed with brains and bone.

Maybe that would have summoned and enraged them by itself, but they were already bounding around the corner even as I fired off the killbot, possibly attracted by the sound of the force field going down.

I aimed the killbot at the first one, a terrier/tiger larger than the one I’d already killed, and gave the bot the same target.

It dove out of the air where I’d sent it after the first hit, and went through the terrier/tiger’s head in the same place as before. This time, though, it barely made through the far side of the creature’s skull. It wasn’t out of fuel, but it was close. Following my program it had put the minimum power needed to get through and flew back into my suit through the bot intake.

I readied another killbot, unsure if I’d have to skip it and start using lasers, something I’d been avoiding because the translucent force fields might not be any protection for bystanders.

The terrier/tigers were closing and just before I decided to go with the lasers, it stopped mattering. Cassie and Jaclyn landed in front of me. Jaclyn had grabbed Cassie and jumped over the hundred foot tall fence. She let go and Cassie pulled out her sword. It hummed. Running toward the nearest one, she dodged a swipe of a paw and jumped, flying toward its head. It didn’t dodge and she decapitated it with one blow.

She didn’t quite manage to avoid the body which hit her as she passed under the beast’s neck. It didn’t hit her straight on, she was too strong and too quick for that, but she had to push off it with her hand, flying sideways to land on her feet off to its side.

While watching her though, I’d missed what Jaclyn had been doing altogether. All I know is that I looked past Cassie to find Jaclyn standing in front of a crumpled heap of a beast.

The fifth and last of the creatures was still alive. Tikki had stepped through the force field somehow and stood next to a tiger/terrier that appeared to have been caught mid-leap.

With the aid of my HUD, I thought I could see a globe around the beast. Tikki’s high voice carried through the night. “Could you maybe hurry? I don’t think I can keep the bubble up for more than… thirty seconds?”

We hurried.

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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 4

In My Daydreams

I watched the beast walk up to one of the force fields, bat at the downed force field pole, turn, and follow the wall back the other direction.

It didn’t strike at the force field wall even though it did watch the workers behind it, throwing a few glances in our direction.

It had large teeth and a lot of them. How many pounds of force could it bite with?

I didn’t know off the top of my head but used the HUD to take measurements of its mouth and head and the underlying muscle structure.

The fact that it didn’t bother to strike at the force field argued that it might understand that it couldn’t get through.

As I thought, Jaclyn asked the question that I’d just begun to consider. “How did the pole go down?”

Geman didn’t say anything, giving Cassie time to say, “I guess he doesn’t know.”

Katuk walked toward the edge of the shield and the beast stopped, watching him.

Geman’s voice came over the channel. “It sounds like they didn’t configure it right. I think it got a paw under the force field.”

Interesting. I wasn’t sure how smart that made it, but it was at least kind of smart. I zoomed in on the pole with my HUD. The pole was bent and a thick section near the bottom looked like it had a chunk missing. I doubted that I could repair it, but it might be worth looking at later.

“Okay everybody,” Jaclyn said over the channel we’d been using. “We’ve got to make some decisions. We’ve got to figure out how we want to rescue these people.”

“Easy,” Marcus grew wings out of his back. “All we have to do is have Nick and I fly over the top of the force fields, grab them, and fly back. Problem solved. No fighting. No risk. Everything’s good.”

Katuk looked away from the beast and back toward us to send the word, “Sensible,” in our direction.

Cassie looked the beast up and down. “I’m almost disappointed, but let’s not fight it if we don’t have to. That thing looks like it could do some damage.”

“It sounds like a good plan from this end,” Geman said. “They get crazy when they smell the blood of one of their own.”

“Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen then.” Jaclyn waved over at the workers by the wall. “Geman, tell them we’re coming.”

Deep voice rumbling, Geman said, “It’s done. I told them what you’re doing.”

“Great,” Marcus said and took a great flap with his wings. A few more flaps took him up and over the top of the force fields. I turned on the rocket pack and took to the air. The force field ended around one hundred feet up. I slowed my ascent very nearly to hovering in place and then gave myself enough forward moment to float above the separated section of the force field and the wall.

It took a moment to get the Rocket suit to hover in place, but once it did, I took a look over the wall and noticed that Geman had been correct. My HUD showed four more of the beasts on the other side of the wall, none of them moving, waiting for anything that chose to escape around the corner.

I sent the picture over to everyone and let the suit lose altitude. I came to a stop next to Marcus and the three workers (two men and a woman).

The group of us stood right next to one of the floating cargo platforms. If they’d been planning to use it to escape, it wasn’t a bad idea. Depending on how high and how quickly it flew, they might not need us. On the other hand, I’d never seen them higher than twenty feet or so.

“Hey everybody,” I said, letting the implant translate my words into their language. They grunted greetings as the implant informed me that they were from a gene line that emphasized strength and were used to breed warriors. Looking them over, I could believe it. They were all about my height while wearing the Rocket suit—about seven feet. At the same time, they all could have passed for bodybuilders, even the woman.

If they were like the other people, they might not officially have powers, but I would have bet that they were stronger than a normal person.

I looked over at Marcus. “How many can you take?”

He looked from one of them to the other. “Two, I think.”

With me taking one, that would be the end of it in one trip.

“So who wants to fly with me?” I looked over the group. One of the men made a short bow in my direction. As I reached out to him, the shields stopped glowing. A second look made it clear to me that they were off, leaving the workers and us standing unprotected in the dark.

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Tieshaunn

B13.2 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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“This is going to go wrong so much I can’t even put it into words,” Hecate complained, her mouth – the only part of her face, other than her chin, visible beneath her cowl – twisted into a frown as she leaned onto her staff, gripping it tightly with both hands. The green jewel at its top was stirring with greenish light and black smoke, as if responding to her nervousness… which it likely was.

“It can hardly come as a surprise to you,” he rebuffed her, himself standing at the centre of the rooftop, one hand clasping the other arm’s wrist behind his back. He didn’t look at her, just downwards, as if deep in thought, though really, his mind was too unquiet to be deep into anything in particular, right then. “They were hardly going to mount an immediate assault based purely on some information I got from strange visions.”

“When you put it like that, it only makes you look even kookier than usual,” Tyche commented.

“Thank you for that glowing recommendation,” he replied, deadpan.

“So, why insist on this meeting then?” Hecate pressed her point. “What’s the point?” Her voice rose slightly in frustration, yet Brennus kept his gaze downcast, fixed.

“I think it is obvious. I am going to go after her myself and recover the cure.”

The other two girls just stared at him, their jaws dropping.

Before the protests could begin, he looked up. “She is here… and she is not alone.”

The other two followed his gaze, to see several figures flying down towards the rooftop.

In the lead was Gloom Glimmer, her pure white cape billowing around her as she descended gracefully, toes pointed in perfect form. With her came Polymnia, in a vastly changed set of power armour, apparently carried by her friend’s power, stumbling gracelessly as they touched down, and Osore in his black bodysuit, leather jacket and Oni mask, as well as Spellgun and Tartsche.

They weren’t the only ones. A human-sized, black-furred bird with a cat’s head followed them, landing near the duo while shifting into a more humanoid cat-form.

Brennus spent a moment looking Polymnia up and down, taking in her new appearance. Spare armour, he realised. Less elaborate than her standard loadout. It must have taken too much damage during the fight in Esperanza for her to fix quickly. The new set of armour was still made out of that blue, transparent material that her other previous one had consisted off – which Basil found quite offensive, transparent armour would be unable to protect against a lot of light-based effects – to reveal her pink shorts and top, but otherwise it looked entirely different to Basil’s eye. It lacked a lot of the former armour’s strength enhancements, he could tell with a glance, though there were still some parts he guessed were lesser servo motors, nor did it sport the prehensile limbs with her speakers and keyboard, which usually extended from her backpack; there was still a back module, though he couldn’t guess what it did, and her forearms were much more thickly armored, with numerous speakers built into the resulting gauntlets. Her hair was tied into a single, long, multi-coloured braid, shifting colours as sounds played over it, and she still wore the same visor as always. She smiled when she noticed him looking, her lips shifting colours just like her hair did.

“W-wha…” Vasiliki stammered at the sight of all of them gathered there.

Brennus didn’t give her a chance to continue, though, stepping forward towards Gloom Glimmer, who stood there with a serious expression on her face, her cloak wrapped tight around her form. He was about to start talking when a prompt from Eudocia flashed on his HUD.

‘Be polite.’

He stopped, briefly, blinking, then started again. “Gloom Glimmer, thank you for meeting me on such short notice,” he began, both annoyed and grateful that she’d pointed it out to me.

“I do owe you,” she said, a little levity entering her voice. “Besides, I can guess what you want to do, and it’s a worthy cause.”

“Well, if you can do that, you know him better than we do,” Hecate grumbled, stepping closer to flank him. “What about the rest?” she asked, then nearly squeaked when Polymnia waved at her with a smile.

“We’re here to help,” Polymnia explained, the fingers of her left hand wiggling the way Brennus’ usually did, when he used the air-keyboard function built into his gloves. Which explained how she intended to play her instruments without that giant keyboard she usually had.

Gloom Glimmer smiled. “I was going to come here, after you called, but Polymnia overheard my side of our conversation and got the rest out of me, insisting that she come along. Then Bakeneko noticed us preparing to leave and insisted that she come along. Osore heard that and chose to come along, and then I figured it wouldn’t be fair not to tell the others, too, which is how Tartsche and Spellgun joined the party.”

“Outstep’s still laid out recovering from the fight in Esperanza, otherwise he’d…” Tartsche explained, but Spellgun shoved his elbow into his boyfriend’s side, making him flinch. “Ow! Well, ok, he likely wouldn’t have come help with this anyway.”

“Did he really get hurt that badly?” Tyche asked curiously, ignoring the second part.

“He didn’t really get hurt,” Polymnia replied, even while her eyes kept moving from Brennus’ new gauntlet to the black-and-silver oblong ovoid currently attached to it, seemingly sticking to the gauntlet’s engraved surface just by itself.

“Outstep did evac work during the battle,” Tartsche picked up, explaining. “Kept pulling the defenders out of the way of attacks, or collapsing buildings. Hundreds of saves, but he really over-taxed himself, and he’ll probably be laid out for at least a few more days.”

Brennus nodded absently, his eyes on Gloom Glimmer. “You know what I intend to do, and judging by what you said earlier, you are willing to help?”

She smiled at him, a sight that would likely be quite distracting for most boys and cocked her hip before replying, “Hey, you saved my girl, I’ll help save yours.”

Polymnia blushed, punching her friend’s shoulder. “Could you not phrase it that way? It’s not like the shippers aren’t really going crazy enough, without you adding more fuel,” the young musician huffed, looking resolutely at him, rather than the others and ignoring the chuckling around her. “Anyway, she’s not wrong. Aside from the fact that we owe you for all your help, this… these people are clearly evil. And Dusu is the only chance we have to heal… all those people. So, I want to help, too, even if the UH says to wait.”

“This is crazy!” Hecate burst out before anyone else could reply. “You’re talking about assaulting the base of some super-secret villain organisation that makes monsters which can level cities! We wouldn’t stand a chance!”

“We are not going to assault them,” Brennus cut in. Everyone turned to look at him, as he focused on each in turn. “I never said I would be taking anyone along for this, other than Gloom Glimmer. The plan is to sneak inside and either steal the cure or else extract the information from Dusu – if necessary, we’ll apprehend her and bring her back for a more thorough interrogation, should Gloom Glimmer’s powers fail to extract such from her.”

I’d rather  have Amy along for that, but there is no way whatsoever she’d allow this to happen.

Everyone but Gloom Glimmer was now staring him in disbelief.

“What?” he asked, feeling slightly defensive. “Did you really think I would advocate an outright assault on this kind of enemy? The only reason why I even insist on going along myself is, first of all, because it is my idea and I am not going to send someone else into danger without taking the same risks, and second, my expertise might be needed.”

“Can’t Gloom Glimmer just use a gadgeteer power of her own?” Hecate asked, sounding less annoyed and more serious now. “Speaking of which, can’t you just fix the bodies of Dusu’s victims? I’ve seen you manifest healing powers before,” she now addressed her directly.

The girl in question sighed, looking down. “No, to both. I’ve never been able to manifest gadgeteering powers, or Contriving. Or any long-term powers, for that matter. As for healing, don’t you think I’ve tried to fix people like that?” she complained in a petulant voice. “I can’t control what powers I get, or when I get them. I only really get healing powers when people close to me get hurt, and even then, it doesn’t always work out well – during Crocell’s attack, Poly had to sit most of it out because I could only heal her ears, but not fix the migraine his scream gave her!” She stomped her foot on the roof, hard enough to make thin cracks spread out from her heel.

“I thought so,” Brennus commented. “Either way, we should not dally any more than absolutely necessary. I have the coordinates for the enemy’s base, and all my relevant equipment. We should l-“

“Oh hell no you don’t!” Hecate cried out, turning around to swat Brennus over the back of the head.

“Hey!” he shouted, more startled than he was hurt – he’d made sure to heavily armour his head, of course.

“Look, you’re an idiot, Brennus, and this whole plan of yours is idiotic, but I’ll be damned before I let you go there without as much backup as possible!” she shouted at him, very nearly at the top of her lungs. Certainly loud enough that anyone down at street level would hear her, if they weren’t empty at present (he had his last two ravens keeping a lookout). “Now, I want to save her, too, and since the UH want to play it safe, it seems, we gotta do something – but not like this, and certainly not on your own!” she finished by stabbing a finger into his chest. Not that he felt it, through his armour.

“What kind of infiltration are we going to pull off if all of us come along?” he asked in exasperation. “Nine people is way too many!”

“Ten, actually,” Eudocia whispered into his ear, but he ignored her.

“Actually, I think she’s got a point,” Tartsche spoke calmly, stepping forth so he stood next to Brennus and Hecate, between them. “If you and Gloom Glimmer went alone, and she’s taken out, then you’re pretty screwed. You shouldn’t put the responsibility all on her shoulders.”

Brennus crossed his arms. “I am not. That is why I am going along. I can take care of myself, I can back her up, and I know what to look for.”

Tartsche spread his arms, as if saying ‘that’s what I’m saying’ or something. “Look, no one denies that. But my point is, nine people is not that much and if something happens, we’ll be able to provide backup and support!” He took a deep breath. “Look, if it was up to me, we wouldn’t be doing this at all. This is way beyond reckless. But I also believe that we have to help Dusu’s victims, and time is running out on them. I’m sure Rounds would agree with me, which is why I’m here, and willing to help. But we’ve got to do it smart. Otherwise, we’ll all just die, or be captured, and we won’t help anyone!” Spellgun stepped up behind his boyfriend, nodding his assent.

“Look, B- Brennus,” Aimi, Bakeneko, spoke up. “You can trust us. We’ve been through a lot, and we’re not any amateurs anymore. You need every bit of help you can get.”

“Listen to the catgirl,” Tyche agreed.

“I still think nine are too many,” Brennus disagreed, though more calmly now. “Can Gloom Glimmer even transport and hide that many?” He looked at her.

She seemed to think it over, briefly, then she nodded. “I can do it. Not much more difficult than just two, really. Right now, I have a kind of, telekinetic plane power, and a stealth field and… some kind of enhanced perception, it’s kind of hard to put that one into words.”

Brennus looked around at everyone. He didn’t like it, one bit; he wasn’t an idiot, in the end. He knew this whole plan was extremely risky at best, suicidal at worst, but he’d decided that he couldn’t not try it. Dragging the others along, though… at least he could be all but certain that Gloom Glimmer could escape from any kind of situation, leaving him behind if need be.

He looked them all in the eyes, until he was looking at Osore, who’d just stood back, his arms down his sides, motionless.

“What do you think? You’re the only one who hasn’t said anything yet,” he asked the quiet boy.

“Any action is better than no action,” Osore spoke quietly, his voice barely more than a whisper. “Let’s roll the dice, and see where they fall.”

Brennus looked down at his feet, then up at Gloom Glimmer again.

She shrugged. “Hey, don’t look at me. If I am crazy enough to go along with this, what right do I have to dissuade anyone else from the same course of action?”

He sighed, before he snapped his fingers, causing his two ravens to fly up and land on his shoulders, one on each side. “Alright. Let’s go.”

***

Unseen and unfelt by anyone, a figure in a dark blue robe sat on the edge of the roof, watching the teens gather up, stroking a black cat’s long, soft fur as the feline lay curled up in the grip of his left arm.

He watched quietly as Gloom Glimmer’s power rose up around them, a transparent, but not invisible energy wrapping around the group, forming something like a upward-pointing cone, before another power wrapped around them like a shroud, causing them to fade from sight.

A trivial alteration of his position allowed him to penetrate that ability, as well, so he could watch them fly East.

He stayed quiet, his thoughts unreadable, until just moments later, a black-and-purple blur came down from the sky, smashing so hard onto the rooftop, the concrete cracked, nearly caving in.

Mindstar rose from a crouch, her lower face twisted into a snarl of rage and concern, looking around wildly.

“Where is he!?” she shouted at no one in particular, looking around wildly, her eyes wide and livid. Then she seemed to zero in on something, looking in the direction they had flown off towards and, with another snarl, she shot away after them, cracking the roof further.

The man called Journeyman watched as she disappeared in the sky, standing up and stepping forward just as the rooftop began to crumble in on itself. As the concrete broke away beneath him, he just kept walking on the same level, as if the air could carry him just as well as concrete.

The cat purred in his arms, his fingers going from its back to the back of its ears, scratching them skillfully.

“The plot thickens, my friend,” he spoke calmly to the cat. “And I’ve got to say…” he gave off a strange chuckle, sounding elated “… most of this, I did not see coming.” Though his face was hidden by mirrors and strange visions, one could somehow still see his grin. “Didn’t see it coming at all. Oh, joyous day.”

He looked down at the cat, who looked back up at him with lazy eyes, then yawned, showing off its teeth.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on them,” he continued, petting it underneath its chin. “Might even lend a hand and help them, if they surprise me enough. Wouldn’t that be swell, eh, pal?”

The cat yawned once more, then subsided in his arms, purring calmly.

He tilted his head, looking down at for a little more, before he looked up and after the others. “You know, if I could just remember where I’ve seen you before, I could finally find out your name.”

Beneath him, the house alarm went off, finally, as the roof collapsed fully into the floor below.

“Oh well, I need to get going anyway.”

And just like that, he disappeared from sight.

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Gloom Glimmer, Graymalkin, Hecate, Journeyman, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Tartsche, Tyche
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Tieshaunn

B12.10 Born At Sleep

Tieshaunn

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I’m not dead.

Relief surged through Basil as he processed that thought.

Then he opened his eyes – and saw only darkness. Followed by a female grown to his left, and a cough to his right.

The buildings fell on top of us, he remembered. But they were still alive. He didn’t know how just yet, but first things first.

He tested his body, clenching and unclenching his hands, rolling his ankles. Everything seemed to be in working order. There were no new pains, leaving him only with the splitting headache curtesy of barely dodging Crocell’s blast.

With a flick of his fingers, he activated several lights all over his armor, illuminating his surroundings.

At first, he only saw dust. Lots and lots of dust, choking the air, which explained the coughs around himself.

Before he could do anything about it – not that he really had many options – the dust began to move, swirling and gathering into a single clump about the size of a football.

Without it to block sight, his lights could reveal the exact nature of his predicament.

He was in a small cavern created by the collapsing buildings smashing into each other and onto them. Somehow, through sheer happenstance, they had collapsed, broken and ground against each other in such an absurdly lucky sequence that it ended up forming a safe room around the three of them.

His armor wasn’t even nicked.

This can’t be just luck, he thought quietly, turning his head left and right. The woman in brown and Tyche were coughing and spitting out black globs of dust, but otherwise seemed as unharmed as he felt. Still, best to check.

“Are you two alright?” he asked as he got up. The cavern was just barely big enough for even him to stand, though his hood brushed against a desk that’d somehow gotten stuck in the new roof above.

The woman in brown spit out another glob of spit and dust, then coughed roughly, clearing her throat. “Quite alright… against all expectations.” Her voice stood in marked contrast to her understated costume, a pleasant contralto with a midwestern accent he couldn’t quite place.

“I feel amazing, actually,” Tyche replied with a chirpy voice, not bothering to sit up. “Apart from the whole buried alive and mouth full of dust thing, that is.” She turned her head to look at Basil. “What about you, B-Six?”

“Worst I have is a headache,” he said as he inspected the cavern more closely. “I can not see an easy way out, though…”

“There are five airways leading to the outside,” the woman in brown said. “But none of them is big enough to fit even a sparrow, much less a human or three.”

“How can you tell?” The prone girl asked.

“She wields some manner of aerokinesis,” Basil couldn’t help but interject. “Earlier wh-“

“No exposition!” Tyche cut him off. “She has aerokinesis. Don’t need a whole lecture.”

He grumbled under his breath, his back to her as he rapped his knuckles against a particularly sturdy-looking piece of concrete. “We’ll have a hard time getting out of here,” he said bluntly.

Just then, there was an earth-shaking impact, and a roar so loud, they heard it through the rubble.

Tyche cried something out, but it was lost in the scream and the deafening rumble of their little cavern shifting, collapsing, furniture and concrete coming undone to fall…

All around the three of them, without so much as a splinter touching them. When the cacophony and the dust subsided, they found themselves beneath the open sky, the fallen building having literally split open around them.

They didn’t have time to process the situation too well, though, because right after that, a huge, jet-black figure flew over them and slammed into the rubble just a few metre away.

It was Kraquok, in all his twisted, monstrous glory, having just smashed into the already broken rubble only to crush it further. He was bigger than the last time they’d seen him, having grown by at least half a metre in height, and several times that in length.

Before the many-armed monster could rise, Crocell leapt over them as well, landing on him with a deafening boom.

The two immediately began to wail on each other, one savagely, the other with an uncanny grace – for all his twisted form and size, Kraquok was a veteran fighter, and though Crocell was larger and stronger, not to mention standing atop him, he quickly reversed their positions, wrestling the beast into a submission hold, clinging to its back.

Basil didn’t have time to watch what came next, though, as a strong wind picked him and Tyche up, whirling them around the woman as she flew them away from the fight, causing him to lose line of sight for a few dizzying seconds. His ravenbots were still en route, and so could not help him right now.

When they were deposited, it was on the pavement two streets away, out of sight from the battle.

“We ought to be safe for at least a bit, here,” the woman said, bent over with her hands on her knees as she was trying to catch her breath. “My name is Nightingale, by the by. A pleasure to meet you, Brennus, Tyche.”

“You know our names?” Tyche asked in surprise, while Basil studied the woman more closely. Nightingale was not exactly a big name, but he’d read her name in a list of veteran villains – she’d been active for at least three decades by now.

The woman smiled at them, the skin aroudn her lips crinkling into laughter lines. “I’m something of a fan of bird-themed capes and cowls, and try to keep up with any new ones. Call it a hobby.” Suddenly, her smile turned into a frown, as she gave Basil a stern look. “I do hope those birds are actually robots and not some poor animals you’ve experimented on.”

“Is this really the t-” Tyche began, but Basil waved her off.

“They’re simple drones. I used Peregrine’s winged-flight design from Toybox and stuck it on an articulate Raven-shaped chassis, that’s all.”

She went back to smiling, clapping her hands together happily. “Oh, very good! That’s a weight off my chest.”

“Alright, enough with the geek-talk!” Tyche cut in. “What should we do next? Tall, powerful and ugly is still out there tearing up the town!”

“Right,” Basil admitted, focusing on the situation at hand again. Which immediately reminded him of something he should’ve done minutes ago, the moment he’d realised it. “Brennus to central,” he contacted them through the device he’d linked to his own com suite, “Crocell appears to be specifically going after my teammate Tyche.”

Father Manus’ cultured voice, practiced by years of preaching to his congregation, replied, though it sounded weaker than when he had spoken to the gathered capes and cowls before the fight. “Please elaborate, my son.”

“Crocell has repeatedly pursued my teammate, directing its attacks towards her and even ignoring immediate threats in favour of lashing out at her,” he explained.

“One moment,” the preacher replied.

Basil turned to Tyche. “Let’s hope they figure out how to use this.”

“Use… Oh, like, using me as a bait?” she asked, first stunned, then grinning.

He nodded, just as he was contacted again. This time, he made sure to patch Tyche into the connection.

“Brennus, we’ve confirmed your claim,” Father Manus said. “All our analysts agree that it’s accurate.”

“Well, duh, B6 wouldn’t lie about that!” Tyche cut in with a snort, before Basil could cut her off.

“Of course, please excuse the implication – I did not mean to insult anyone,” the holy man replied smoothly, never missing a beat. “It is good you are listening in – would you be willing to coordinate with us so as to maximise the distraction you appear to be to Crocell in our favour?”

Tyche crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, not that Manus could possibly see that. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. What’d you need me to do?”

“Splendid, my child!” he replied warmly, making her look… embarrassed? No, that wasn’t it, and Basil didn’t know how to parse the emotion that ran across her face and posture. “I shall send a flier to pick you up at your current location, along with an escort.”

“I can take her,” Nightingale spoke up, as if she’d been listening the whole time.

Aerokinesis… she probably can listen in on any conversation within her range, Basil noted, filing it away for future reference. Note to self, determine maximum and possible minimum range.

Father Manus must’ve heard her, too, because next, he spoke through the communicator on her belt, and told her where to take Tyche.

The redhead turned to Basil, meanwhile, and smiled. “Guess I’m going on a solo adventure, B6.” In spite of her bravado, she couldn’t quite surpress her nervousness.

“Do not hog all the loot,” he said, reaching out to put an armored hand on her shoulder, giving her as gentle a squeeze as he could through his own and her armor. “And stay safe.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m always safe, B6. You know that. You’re the one I’m worried about, so please don’t get yourself torn and broken – like last time.”

“I shall. Now go and do your job – I’ll do mine.” He let go of her just as Nightingale summoned a gust of wind that picked them both up.

Tyche saluted him casually before they flew out of sight beyond an office building.

Basil looked in that direction for a few moments, before he looked around. The street was now deserted, the fight having moved further on.

I wonder what I can do, he thought quietly as he triggered his grappling gear, catapulting himself up onto the tallest rooftop within reach. So far, nothing I have done has had any measurable effect on this fight whatsoever. Aside from keeping Tyche alive, but that was probably her power at work, not me.

He saw a dustcloud rise, several blocks away, and the unmistakable sound of the battle continuing, and immediately took a running start, leaping off the rooftop towards it.

His grappling system kicked in, swingning and throwing him towards it as he handled the controls. Even so, he’d grown used to the system by now, and could operate it casually enough to let him continue contemplating his role in this.

Without his ravens – there were only two left – he could no longer serve that well as overlook or Search and Rescue, at least not to a meaningful degree; while his medical training (of unknown origin) was easily up to performing heavy-duty surgery, that wasn’t really an option on a battlefield, nor necessary at the base camp, where actual healers and certified surgeons were available. Nor could he transport the injured, his grappling system put too high a stress on the bodies it moved, and wasn’t calibrated to transport a whole other person over a large distance, much less safely so.

His rifle, meanwhile, had proven completely ineffective by any standards. He might as well just have thrown stones at the thing, it was that much of a waste of effort.

Basil was still in thought when he swung upon a dust-covered four-storey office building with a tipped-over neon sign on top, and got a good look at the battle below.

Crocell was ringing with Kraquok, their huge bodies locked in a brutal struggle, as capes and cowls with ranged powers pelted the monster whenever they had free shot.

Then, Crocell managed to wind itself out of Kraquok’s grip, moving as if its bones had temporarily turned into water, and got a grip on one of his leftside arms, wringing the supervillain down to the ground.

As Basil watched, it stepped on his back and tore at his arm, ripping it free of its socket in a massive spray of blood.

Kraquok roared, but it wasn’t in pain – it was in triumph, as the stump almost immediately stopped bleeding and new flesh began to grow out of it.

While Crocell was throwing the giant arm it had ripped free away, a new one grew in its place, easily half again as long and thick as the one lost.

The twisted supervillain planted his new, oversized hand on the ground, as the growth began to spread from the stump like super-fast cancer; first the shoulder bulged, irregularly, then the other arms, the neck, the torso proper, and so on, his monstrous body growing to one-and-a-half times its previous size in irregular fashion, the process tumultous enough to make Crocell lose its footing and fall off of him.

Basil watched, fascinated, as the enlarged Kraquok rose to his full height, drawing himself up as his upper body twisted around to face his foe. Both of his faces were grinning in savage bloodlust as he opened his lower, crocodile-like mouth, drawing in air.

He knew what was coming – he’d heard a lot about it, even seen some spotty recordings online, but none of them had shown it in its entirety.

A dark red glow appeared in the back of Kraquok’s throat, and within his chest, pulsing with every heartbeat – in fact, judging by the location and shape of the glow in his chest, which could be seen even through his thick skin and armor-like scales, it was literally his heart that was glowing – as he seemed to take a deep breath, drawing himself further up onto his hind legs.

Then he bent forward, and his power exploded out of him in a wave of crimson, almost blood-like fire that washed over Crocell and everything around and further behind it, creating a cacophonous sound like water suffused with enough waste to make it thick, rushing over sharp stones, breaking. Wherever the crimson flames touched, things did not burn – instead, they withered, aged, rotted away, from the plants it touched to streetlights and even the concrete itself, quickly being reduced to dust.

Basil could not tell what, if any, effect the Mortal Coil, as it was often called, had on Crocell – but he sincerely doubted it was a pleasant one. There was a whole thread on Toybox populated by people trying to analyze the properties of Kraquok’s greatest offensive weapon; all anyone had been able to determine was that it actually aged whatever it touched, somehow accelerating the passage of time for any matter or energy it came into contact with. It decayed super-tough armor, force-fields, energy beams, defenses based on strange, sometimes even abstract mechanisms – in short, it could penetrate most any defensive measures available to most anyone; it’s only flaw being that he had to hit a certain minimal size before he could employ it in the first place.

Which he’d obviously just done, because he was pouring it out all over Crocell. It was a focused breath, too, with only minimal collateral damage.

The buildings around the two of them were already falling apart, aging decades, maybe centuries, wherever the slightest ember touched them, introducing numerous faults within their structures.

One of Basil’s ravens saw Hecate approach, as her shadow form landed just a few metre away, resolving into her costumed form. Basil was focused on the display of power in the distance (he was curious, but not stupid enough to try to get closer in order to get some better readings), but he lifted a hand to greet her, show that he had noticed her approach.

She came to a halt standing next to him and briefly touched his hand, trading a reassuring squeeze.

Her hands were drenched in blood up to the forearms. He did not inquire – if she wanted to share the story behind that, she would.

“Reminds me of my aging fire,” she spoke instead, her voice betraying weariness. “Though I don’t think I could ever make it that powerful.”

“It is certainly humbling,” he replied. “Neither your nor my defenses would be of any use against it and it would most likely burn away Gilgul’s time in an instant, unless her power somehow renders her immune to it.”

She nodded, as they watched Kraquok’s breath peter out. A few seconds later, they could see Crocell on the ground. Its skin was gone, exposing muscle and sinew – or at least, what appeared to be such, because it all seemed to be made of the same, uniform, pale white material as the rest of its body, from its bones to its softest organs. Pale, water-like fluid was flowing all out of it, pouring on the ground below.

And it was still moving, rising to its feet with no visible change to its speed or dexterity, even though at least forty percent of its legs and arms were gone. Its eye was gone, but that didn’t seem to impede it at all as it swung a bubbling, rapidly regenerating fist at Kraquok’s head, knocking the surprised villain over.

His heavy form toppled and crashed onto the street behind him, jaw broken for a few seconds before it fixed itself, growing slightly in size and said increase spreading throughout his entire form.

Crocell was absolutely dripping bubbles as its entire front regrew, stepping forward as it reached for the prone villain.

Then a mighty roar that reminded them both of nothing so much as a certain beloved movie trilogy filled the air as a massive figure leapt onto a rooftop adjacent to the street the fight was taking place on, and from there onto Crocell’s back.

“The hell is that!?” Hecate exclaimed in surprise, as giant claws dug into Crocell’s hide for purchase, while razor-sharp teeth bit into its neck.

“Oh my… that is the Ultrasaurus Megarex!” Basil exclaimed in glee. “I did not know Totemic had hunted it down!”

The huge beast was easily four and a half metre tall at the hips, and over twenty metre in length, which was further extended by the crown of jetblack, curved horns extending from its head, and the even longer, similarly coloured spikes on the tip of its tail. Its teeth and claws were similarly black and overly sharp, but the rest of its body betrayed its identity – instead of scales, it had messy, dark brown fur from the tip of its tail all the way to its snout and its front arms were grossy elongated and twisted, looking like gnarled wood.

“Ultrasaurus… Megarex… why do I even ask?” Vasiliki rested her face on her palm. “H-how…”

Basil shrugged as he watched Totemic savage the far larger Crocell with tooth, nail and stinger, drawing it away from the slowly rising Kraquok.

“There was this boy in Australia, a contriver who would clone dinosaurs and release them into the wild. Then he hit puberty and suddenly, ‘old’ dinosaurs were not cool enough anymore so he… innovated.”

“Oh, golly,” she replied with all the enthusiasm of a person lacking a Y-Chromosome. “So, anyway, what are we going to do? We’re still as superfluous as before, except for Tyche.”

“I intend to watch, study and figure out how to contribute,” he replied as he readied his grappling hooks. “As well as provide emergency support where necessary and possible.”

He leapt off the rooftop, as the fight moved further down the street, and onto a taller building a few houses down and across the street. Hecate landed next to him moments later.

“You’re not asking how I knew about Tyche,” she said.

“I assume you were listening in on our talk with Father Manus, seeing how you are patched into my communication suite.”

“I was just checking.”

As they talked, a horizontal funnel appeared around the three combatants, drawing in dust, rubble and the mist that kept forming around Crocell’s general location. Turning their heads, they saw Charybdis stand about a hundred metre down the street from the two-on-one battle, her brother behind her ready to lift off as she kept her mouth open.

The suction increased with every second, and the two giant metahumans began pushing Crocell closer to her, throwing both their body weight against it even as the strange monster dug its heels in to withstand the simultaneous pull and push.

Even Basil and Hecate had to brace themselves against the powerful winds that Charybdis’ power was summoning, though fortunately, they were far enough away from her for that to not actually be much of a problem – her vortex was tearing the facades off the buildings on the street, and still building up more power.

Still, it did not seem to be enough – Crocell had simply dug itself deeply into street, braced against her vortex, while neither Kraquok, nor Totemic were large and powerful enough to dislodge it. Instead, it seemed to be trying to move them around, to put them between itself and Charybdis, slowly edging the smaller Totemic to its side.

Is it really that smart? Basil thought, surprised. It had not, so far, shown any real intelligence, but it was now clearly trying to maneuver its enemies and use their ally’s powers against them.

And honestly, it might have worked – it was clearly stronger than either Kraquok or Totemic, and it had the advantage of the suction making it easier to move them into its way – but just then, a flier came into sight.

It looked, at first, like an oblong, almost elliptical mass of smooth mercury, flying through the air with its broad side in front, but as it approached, its form rippled like water and receded, until it was merely a floating disk, with two people atop. One was a man a costume styled to evoke a Roswellian alien, only taller, with black lenses over its eyes. He stood atop the mercury-like disk, his arms crossed in a stern pose.

The other passenger was Tyche, standing in front of him with a cocky grin.

“Oh God, what’re they planning…” Hecate whispered.

Crocell immediately turned its head nearly one-hundred and eighty degrees to look straight at Tyche. Abandoning its attempts to reposition its closer foes, it opened its mouth wide and fired its destructive beam straight at Tyche, headless of the still-active vortex in its way.

Predictably, the beam wavered, then was diverted, pulling down into the vortex to be sucked into Charybdis’ mouth on a spiraling path.

Nevertheless, Crocell kept firing as it now actively walked towards her.

“A distraction,” Basil explained, though it shouldn’t be necessary. “Looks like it still prioritises going after Tyche whenever she’s near enough.”

“I’d really, really like to know why,” Hecate said, worry in her voice – until Tyche started dancing around on the platform and  goading the beast by slapping her own butt at it. “On second thought, I totally understand the desire to liberate the world of her presence.”

“Admit it – you would miss her, too,” he teased her.

Crocell seemed to finally realise, meanwhile, that his attack was bearing no fruit, and stopped firing his beam. Only by that point, Kraquok and Totemic had gotten a good hold of its arms and shoulders, keeping it facing Charybdis, who took the chance to close her mouth.

“There it comes,” Basil commented, not that Hecate didn’t already know perfectly well how Charybdis power worked.

The young woman leaned back, as if taking a deep breath, and then she threw her head forward, her mouth snapping open in a silent scream.

A focused blast of compressed energy and matter shot forward to impact Crocell – but it started moving as soon as she fired, twisting its shapeless body. Its arms and shoulders… simply became boneless, like sacks filled with fluid, allowing it to simply twist out of its foes’ grip and duck beneath the blast.

“Oh fuck!” Hecate shouted as it shot past them. “That’ll blow an entire block away!”

They watched the blast fly down the street with a loud, ear-rending whine; but before it could hit a building – or worse, a person, for there were several approaching heroes down that way – a shadow dropped from above and into its way.

It was promptly engulfed into a huge, though strangely shaped explosion, most of its destructive energy being directed upwards or forward at a high angle.

“Did you see that shadow?” Basil asked as he wrapped an arm around Hecate’s waist, steadying her against the shockwave that nearly bowled them over. He had to rely on his grappling hooks to stay upright, again.

“Yeah, what could it have been… oh my God,” she finished with a whisper, as the explosion faded.

The Subjugator hovered forward out of the cloud of smoke it had thrown up, shimmering, shifting force-fields in front of it, shaped in such a way as to divert the worst of the explosion harmlessly upwards. Lights were glowing all over its blocky, yet elegant form, as vents opened, unleashing a pale blue glow.

Its four ‘eyes’ were rotated to face forward and briefly flared up in, causing the force-fields in front to dissolve starting from the centre, as the huge barrel on top of it further extended, until it was twice as long as the actual aircraft itself.

“DEFENDERS OF THIS CITY!” blared a chorus of powerful voices further amplified by its speakers – and also patched through all of their communication devices.

It is even in our private channel… Basil thought with some trepidation. He hadn’t even noticed an attempt to hack it.

“YOU HAVE FAILED TO CURTAIL THIS BEAST WHICH SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED OUR GATHERING!” Light began to gather in the depths of its gun barrel, as if motes of blue light were being drawn in and gathered, while electricity arched within the barrel. “NOW WALLOW IN YOUR SHAME AS THIS SUBJUGATOR FULFILLS YOUR DUTY!”

The glow became brighter and more intense, until even Basil had to avert his eyes, in spite of his mask’s filters.

“BEHOLD THE AWESOME MIGHT OF OUR GLORIOUS SOVEREIGN!!!”

It fired straight at Crocell.

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Basil, Charybdis, Crocell, Father Manus, Hecate, Kraquok, Nightingale, Totemic, Tyche
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Semicoop

A guide to UNLOCK!

Semicoop

After our first try at a real escape room, we were curious if a card game could give us this same feeling/experience as being locked up in a physical room frantically trying to solve all the puzzles. It turned out that UNLOCK! does a pretty good job at that! We’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely while solving the three adventures. There were some tedious bits, and we only managed to solve Squeeck & Sausage in time. The first adventure, The Formula, took us 60 minutes AND 1 SECOND! 😀 This was partially because we didn’t read the manual and only played the tutorial scenario the day before. While playing The Formula we didn’t understand that you always have to enter the codes in the app. We got stuck at some point because of something silly we could have prevented by just reading the manual. That’s another tip for all you future players!

The last adventure in the box, The Island of Doctor Goorse, was definitely the hardest one and took us 106 minutes to solve.

Since this is not a destructive game, we’re planning to put a paper in the lid with a score list and pass it on to our friends. We’re curious to know if we are just terrible players and how well they will do. If you’re planning to do this, print this comic and put it in the box as well! 😉

 

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Sep 4, 2017 at 4:01am PDT

No, the suitcase and other decorative things are not included in the game. 😉

We were having a discussion whether you could compare this type of game to Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, but we came to the conclusion that you can’t. The big difference is that these escape room games are linear games. There is only one route to take in a particular order and you have to find out what that is. It’s very nice to discover the elegance of certain puzzles, but since you’re under a time pressure you won’t always be able to solve these puzzles yourself and you’re going to need a hint. In a game like Consulting Detective, you have to figure it out by yourself and there’s no time limit and that gives it a little more of a satisfying feeling in our opinion. Nonetheless, we found UNLOCK! an exciting and fun game, if you’re interested – buy it with a couple of friends and give it a try.

Have you played any escape room type of games? If yes, any suggestions?

The post A guide to UNLOCK! appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Tieshaunn

Missing Chapters

Tieshaunn

As some of you have noticed, there are a few missing chapters. Two, in fact. Apparently, this is due to some server issue on wordpress’ side, and mine is not the only blog that has lost something.

The missing chapters are B12.10 Born At Sleep and B13.2 Call of the Sleeper.

Unfortunately, those are both chapters I wrote on my ipad, while on the move (mostly on the train), and I’m afraid I’ve failed to keep backups of them – just a few half-finished drafts. I can rewrite them, of course, but I thought I’d ask if anyone here may have a copy they can mail to me at “geo_mi@web.de”, to speed things along.

Now back to writing the new chapter.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


Filed under: Brennus Chapters, Writing
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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 3

In My Daydreams

We all wore uniforms based on my current stealth suit technology—that’s to say thin armor that could shift into normal looking clothes as well as uniforms. Changing colors and mimicking some textures was part of the package.

For this mission, our default setting was silver with a Xiniti symbol—five orbs in a circle—on our chests. The orbs were supposed to represent both planets and clans at the same time.

For me, the uniform still acted as a flight suit for the rest of the Rocket armor, so I stepped into my room, stood on a block of ceramic, tapped out the activation sequence on my palm, and waited as my armor reformed around me.

It wasn’t the classic Rocket suit.

I’d wanted to imitate the form fitting Xiniti suits for everyone, but it wasn’t going to work for me. I couldn’t miniaturize Rocket suit tech and still have the power of the Rocket suit so I went with the next best option—a suit that would have been form fitting if I’d been seven feet tall. That was the size of the regular Rocket suit anyway.

Normal Xiniti suits contained weapons that could take out spaceships on their own. With any luck, they’d decide that my suit had to be an extra-powerful Xiniti suit. Or, alternately they’d decide I was fake.

On the other hand, given that we were about to face megafauna, they probably wouldn’t think anything of it at all.

I stepped out of my room, following Marcus and Katuk out. We met Jaclyn, Cassie, and Tikki in the room between the two bedrooms. It felt a little strange to see all of us in faux Xiniti style armor. Plus, Cassie’s sword and gun weren’t typical Xiniti tools or so I’d assumed.

The implant gave me more examples of Xiniti weaponry than I’d ever wanted in a cascading series of images. Swords weren’t completely outside the norm. Apparently Xiniti mythology included accounts of a god that commonly carried two swords into battle, one in each hand. In close combat, some Xiniti liked to emulate him.

I resolved to ask Lee about that one sometime.

Meanwhile, Cassie’s gun had shapeshifted into a large silver and black pistol in a typical Xiniti design.

“Mind if I come along?” Tikki asked as if there weren’t any reason to say no.

Jaclyn’s mouth twisted. “Are you sure? We’re probably facing some kind of giant elephant dinosaur thing?”

“I told you about my power,” Tikki said. “I’ll be fine.”

“Seriously,” Cassie looked over at Jaclyn. “With time control? She’ll be fine.”

Geman’s voice came over our implants. “Are you ready? We’re getting nervous over here.”

I responded for the group. “We’ll be there in seconds.”

“Great. I’ve sent a map to your implants. Follow the red line.” And then Geman cut the connection.

As we headed toward the hallway that led outside Tikki turned to Cassie, “I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up with you and I’m not sure where you’re going.”

Jaclyn’s frown showed through the silver mask covering her face. “I’ll carry you.”

We stepped outside, following the dirt road with a red line floating above it. The streets had no lights. We all stayed together anyway. The new suits all had basic night vision included in the design. The Rocket suit had a more complicated system that combined radar, sonar and thermal imaging to create a composite picture, so I could see more than most.

I didn’t need to.

We ran down the road at about thirty miles per hour, but as we ran, the problem became clear without any explanation. During the day, the colony’s shields had glittered in the sunlight, but in the night they glowed a translucent white, lighting both sides of the shields.

They’d built a physical wall outside of the main area of the settlement and it looked like they were in the process of extending all the way around. They weren’t being idiots about it either. They’d used their force field poles to extend a force field path from the main area over to the end of the wall they were working on.

Well, sort of.

I’m sure that’s the way it was supposed to work. Somehow it had happened that one of the poles had been knocked down. However they worked, it had sealed each side of the path, separating the section next to the new wall from the settlement’s. That was the good news. The bad news was that there were people inside the force field next to the wall, that the only way for them to get back to the settlement was to run the distance between the two force fields, and that they weren’t alone.

Between the new wall and the settlement paced a four legged, shaggy beast. Covered with a layer of thick, curly fur, it made me think of a terrier turned bodybuilder and crossed with a tiger. It appeared to have been batting the fallen force field pole around. According to my HUD, it was twelve feet tall.

Geman opened a private channel to our implants and (according to the address information) Tikka’s bracelet. “You see it now.”

Cassie looked it up and down. “It doesn’t look that bad. Let me out of the shield and I could take it out myself.”

Geman laughed. “Well, I’m glad you’re confident, but there’s one more thing you should know. They don’t ever hunt alone. So there are more of them, and my bet is that they’re on the outside of the new wall waiting for a fight or for our people to make a run for it.”

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Crying Grumpies

Labyrinth, Una guerra de ideas

Crying Grumpies

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Creo que toda mi vida recordaré que el miércoles 15 de Agosto de 2017 estrenamos el Labyrinth, The War on Terror 2001-? de GMT. Por desgracia lo recordaré más por la matanza acontecida el día siguiente en Barcelona, mi ciudad, que por el juego en si mismo. Labyrinth es un Card Driven Game diseñado por Volko Ruhnke que aborda la guerra contra el terror que se está librando en el mundo desde el 2001.

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El juego para dos jugadores nos pone en el papel de EEUU o de los líderes del extremismo islámico en una pelea por el control de los países islámicos, especialmente por aquellos productores de petróleo. Volko Ruhnke, el diseñador, es un buen conocedor de la situación pues es asesor de la CIA de día y diseñador de juegos de noche. Este conocimiento se traslada al juego a la perfección.

Labyrinth es un juego asimétrico aunque el objetivo de ambos jugadores es el mismo, conseguir controlar un determinado número de países exportadores de petróleo. El jugador americano tratará de imponer sus puntos de vista ocupando territorios, transformando las posturas de los gobiernos no islámicos sobre la guerra del terror, cazando células terroristas o influyendo a los países islámicos para que sean sus aliados. Por su lado el jugador terrorista para conseguir la victoria puede crear crear células terroristas, moverlas por el mundo, intentar realizar atentados o acercar la ideología de los países a sus creencias lo suficiente para instaurar gobiernos islamistas.

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Como en otros CDG que hemos visto realizaremos las acciones mediante cartas. Cada carta  tiene una afiliación, un valor de operaciones y  una acción. Podremos jugar las cartas por su valor o bien por su acción si está asociada a nuestra facción. Si la carta esta asociada a nuestro oponente solo podremos jugarla por su valor de operaciones y se resolverá el evento. Cada país tiene u valor de gobierno, entre 1 y 3 o estado islámico, en el caso del jugador americano para realizar una operación en un país deberá jugar una operación de valor igual o mayor al nivel de gobierno mientras que el jugador yihadista por cada punto podrá realizar una tirada de un d6 y realizar la acción siempre que el resultado sea menor que el nivel de gobierno. Contra más cerca de ser un aliado de US está un país más sencillo le resulta realizar operaciones en él, mientras que si el país se inclina más hacia un estado islámico más difícil lo tiene y al revés para el jugador jihadista. Hay acciones que necesitan de la presencia de una célula terrorista en el país o que son modificadas en función de la postura frente al terrorismo tanto de los EEUU como del mundo no islámico.

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Podremos jugar tanto partidas en solitario, como jugador americano si no tenemos su expansión, como partidas a dos jugadores. Como la mayoría de juegos de GMT no es un juego corto pero tiene diferentes opciones para acortar o alargar la partida. En este caso la diferencia es la cantidad de veces que tenemos que jugar la totalidad del mazo, una, dos o tres veces. Otra opción que nos brinda el juego es la de plantear diversos escenarios. Estos escenarios pueden ser ficticios como la Presidencia de USA de Al Gore planteando un juego en el que la postura del gobierno americano es antibelicista o empezar la partida con después de algunos eventos. Empezar la partida en 2002 o 2003 en vez de el 2001 nos planteara un inicio de partida diferente y nos prohibirá la utilización de determinadas cartas mientras que otras tendrán sus efectos ya en juego. Como he mencionado existe una expansión donde se añaden cartas y disposiciones para reflejar momentos acontecidos después de la salida del juego tales como la muerte de Bin Laden, la Primavera Árabe o la creación de Facebook. En la expansión también nos viene el bot americano para jugar en solitario siendo el jugador islamista.

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El juego si bien es sencillo a nivel de mecánicas tiene una complejidad importante. Nosotros tardamos un par de horas en empezar a ver que es lo que hay que hacer para ganar en vez de enzarzarnos en la pelea por espacios irrelevantes. Laberynth es un gran juego muy profundo y que al igual que su primo el Twilight Struggle ofrece una rejugabilidad increíble. Es un juego que por temática te deja mal cuerpo y te hace pensar más allá de lo acontecido durante la partida y eso fue antes de lo acontecido en la Ciudad Condal. Después de la partida me hizo pensar un buen rato sobre la situación horrible en Oriente Medio y al día siguiente por vez primera fui consciente de lo que hacemos realmente cuando en un juego movemos fichas de un lado para otro. En fín un buen juego que os recomiendo a todos.


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Tieshaunn

13.10 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Can’t kill him. Can’t capture him. Can’t control or subvert him. Can’t harm him, Basil thought, his body exploding into motion, running forward towards Emyr’s back, as the tall man moved to pass through the door and subjugate two worlds again – and Basil did not doubt that he’d be able to, not when the world was already in such utter disarray. I have to stop him.

So how do you propose to do that, genius? the Man in the Moon asked him. We’re talking about a guy who, when he calls himself a ‘God-King’, is making a perfectly reasonable statement about his capabilities.

Moving as fast as his legs would carry him, trying to stay as quiet as remotely possible, Basil leaped onto the dais. If his power works anything like what it seems like, like what we know of his original life, then I won’t be able to achieve anything he has outright forbidden, but I can still neutralise him in any manner which doesn’t outright violate any of his dictates.

Mate, listen to yourself, you’re talking about taking on a god. He can literally wish you dead! Just stand down, play nice and don’t fucking antagonise him! the Man in the Moon shouted within his mind, yet Basil advanced.

What kind of man would I be, if I gave up the first time a big challenge appeared? He was almost upon him, less than four steps away from the man thought to be the most powerful being to ever walk the Earth.

Big challenge? The Protector was a big challenge! Crocell was a big challenge! This is an impossible challenge!

The black marble-like floor in front of the doorway warped, flowing upwards into a rippling curtain of the same material, blocking the Godking’s advance.

Gloom Glimmer! Basil thought, though he didn’t bother to look. Instead, before Emyr could even react to the sudden appearance of a barrier, he leapt at his back, impacting him with quite a lot of force as he wrapped his arm around his head, pressing his right arm’s bracer against his mouth to prevent him from speaking.

Emyr gasped in surprise, staggering forward to nearly slam into the now-solid wall, yet at the last moment, his movement was averted by no apparent means, causing him to stumble and fall to the side, with Basil on top of him, holding on for dear life – the Man in the Moon wasn’t wrong, it was not unlikely that all Emyr had to do was to simply shout ‘Die!’ to kill everyone in this place who wasn’t himself, under Tartsche’s power or, most likely, Gloom Glimmer.

Still, without his speech, he was just a normal man, so as long as Basil could hold him in a proper lock, he-

Emyr easily overpowered his left-handed grip on his arms and reached over his back to Basil, a single long-fingered hand grabbing him by the back of his neck.

Before he knew what was happening, he was thrown away as if he weighed nothing, tumbling end over end until he slammed into the bare floor, over a dozen metre away.

“Did you really think I-” Emyr began to speak, but was interrupted when a piece of the floor below shot up to cover his mouth – though not his nose – and cling tightly, cutting off his speech. He looked down at it, then looked aside towards Gloom Glimmer, who was standing firmly on the ground, an arm extended towards him with its hand clenched into a tight fist, her eyes glowing red beneath her hood.

I won’t let you speak one more word,” she spoke, her voice reverberating with power.

He expelled a breath through his nose, like a huge sigh, looking infinitely annoyed as he reached calmly for the gag made of marble-like stone clinging to his lower face. At the same time, he flicked a hand out at her, making an odd claw-like gesture.

Nothing happened, causing him to look at his hand in surprise.

Meanwhile, Legend was staring at the fight, her formerly haughty face utterly despondent and wild-eyed, gone a nearly purplish red as if she was struggling with herself, trying to say something – That’s right, he forbade her from talking – and pointing desperately, just out of sight from Emyr, towards something.

Basil followed her gestures and found himself looking at the table with the one burning basin left on it.

Of course! She summoned him by putting his book into the flames – perhaps destroying the basin will banish him again!

Spellgun and Hecate seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time, and all three of them raised their weapons – Basil and Spellgun their rifles, Hecate her staff – and, just as Emyr’s fingers dug into his gag without any apparent resistance, fired a single shot each.

He reached out with a hand again, making a different gesture – thumb and index forming a circle, pinky sticking out and the others curled in – but again, nothing happened.

The basin exploded, as did most of the table, blown apart by the combined force of their attacks (though mostly by the explosive bullet Spellgun had clearly used).

A ring of blue fire shot out from the smoking wreck, washing over everyone, making Emyr flinch in what may have been discomfort.

His eyes grew wide as he looked down at himself, sawing his body begin to fade as the Protector had, earlier, when Hecate had dispelled Legend’s work, if slower than that.

Was that enough? Basil thought, hopeful, watching the Godking become more and more transparent.

Then he ripped off the gag Gloom Glimmer had put on him, though it rippled and melted again, flying back at his mouth even as he shouted at the top of his lungs-

“TIME, BE STILL!!!”

***

Immanuel tilted his head to the side, his eyes fixed on a particular point of the floor of his meditation chamber, looking straight at the entrance to Legend’s realm, his expression briefly slipping from its usual calm serenity for a moment before he reigned it in again.

“What happened?” Heaven’s Dancer asked, as she sat on the same dais he was sitting upon, though her own posture was far more lady-like than his – knees together and to one side, her feet on the other – as was her choice of clothing, a proper white business suit with a silver shirt and golden jewelry. Unlike him, she also insisted on footwear even in such a meditation chamber, high-heeled white pumps in this case. Even her hairstyle, a tight, intricate braid woven into her gold-blonde hair, contrasted his careless style, if it could even be called a style.

“Blackhill just… stopped time, I think,” he said, stroking his smooth chin with one hand. “Whatever he did after, I can no longer see into Legend’s realm, if it’s even hers, still.”

The gorgeous young woman frowned, her serious expression quite out of place on a face as young as hers. “Is he deliberately blocking you out? How would he even know about you in the first place; even if he compelled Legend into telling him all she knows, she knows next to nothing about your actual power.”

He closed his eyes, smiling his usual, serene smile. His compatriot did raise a good point. “No, I don’t think that he’s blocking me, specifically, more likely that he chose to fortify Legend’s realm in general and just happened to shut me out as well. With power like his, it’s not inconceivable that he might shut me down by sheer accident, after all.”

She actually growled in response, the vicious snarl completely out of place on her face. “I told you Legend was too irresponsible! You must have known that she had that book in her possession, why didn’t you take it away? What if he breaks out of her realm? Even if he’s weaker now than before, as you claim he would be, I still don’t see how we’d stand a chance to contain him!” Her voice rose towards the end, becoming more shrill and angry than usual.

When he simply waved her concerns off, she nearly exploded, though he didn’t give her time to do so, simply continuing to speak: “Relax. Even if he breaks out, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for us. His goals – as far as I understand them – and ours are not mutually exclusive. At best, we might actually be able to recruit him – he’s not entirely beyond my power’s reach, after all – and at worst, we might have a new leader – not a bad thing, no? He’s rather fearless himself, after all.” He smiled easily at her. “All that is assuming he can get out, though.”

She held his gaze for a while, blue eyes to brown, before she averted her eyes to roll them, sighing in exasperation. “You’re impossible.”

“You mean I’m impossibly amazing,” he replied with a boyish grin.

“Impossibly childish is more like it,” she countered, giving him such a pure ‘mom’ look he actually broke out into laughter.

She watched him as he shook, the corner of her mouth ticking up briefly before she got it under control again. He noticed it, of course.

He finally, he got himself back under control, wiping a few tears from the corners of his eyes. “Ahh, I needed that. Thanks, grams.”

She frowned again. “I am not your grandmother, young man, even if I may be twice your age.”

“Not quite ‘twice’,” he replied, raising a finger. “But yes, you are very old.”

The glare she was giving him now should, by all rights, have reduced him to a blast shadow on the nearest window. He felt an intense gratitude for the fact that her current form did not have any such power.

“I’m glad you are so amused by all this,” she said, her voice dripping dishonesty. “But I’m still rather put off about all this. We have her daughter within our reach, we should be capturing her, not letting her run around willy-nilly!”

And it was back to that subject. “You know as well as I do that we can’t contain her,” he gave her the same answer as every time she’d brought up the young Whitaker. “Even if we could, it would put us at the top of both Goldschmidt’s and Whitaker’s hit lists, something which we’ve avoided for nearly a century now by not doing things like these – or at least, not doing them in a way so easily leading back to us.” He gave her a beady-eyed stare. “You’re just sore you can’t take her for yourself, aren’t you?”

She gave him a furious look. “I could have, if you hadn’t insisted that-“

He cut her off with a stern look. “Take Whitaker’s daughter? Really? Remember what happened all those decades ago, when you tried to take Whitaker herself?”

As soon as he reminded her, she averted her eyes, lifting a hand to press against the left side of her lower ribcage in an unconscious gesture, shuddering and going pale.

“I thought so,” he continued, more coldly. “As powerful as Irene may be, she’s simply not worth the risk. Nevermind that she may be able to resist your power anyway.”

He waited until she nodded, more subdued now as she recalled the humiliation (and pain) of her first and only encounter with the elder Whitaker. Satisfied at having made his point, he turned to look at the entrance to Legend’s realm again, deciding to simply wait and see what was going to happen.

He’d already called in reinforcements the moment Legend summoned Emyr, anyway, just in case.

***

Basil was sitting on a very comfortable, cushioned chair made of what looked like old, hand-carved dark wood. The others were seated in similar chairs, all arranged around a table just long enough to seat each of them, minus Legend whom he couldn’t see.

Emyr sat the head of the table in a throne-like chair made of the same dark hardwood, richly engraved with strange, yet beautiful winding patterns and flowers which certainly did not exist on Earth. He somehow managed to sit in both a regal and almost slouchingly relaxed manner, radiating a sense of being both utterly in control and utterly at ease as he looked around with a slight smile on his face, his black eyes looking almost warm as he regarded the teenagers sitting at his table.

On the long side of the table to Emyr’s right sat Hecate, Tyche, Basil and Polymnia. Opposite of him at the other end of the table and seated on a chair that was taller than the others, yet still smaller than Emyr’s, sat Gloom Glimmer. To his left-hand side sat Tartsche, then Spellgun, Bakeneko and Osore at the end, opposite of Polymnia.

The basin that kept Emyr alive stood at the centre of the table, casting a flickering, five-coloured light as his book floated gently within it, untouched by the flames. The doll and rosary which Legend had used to try and summon the Chevaliers with lay on the table in front of Emyr, and he was holding the Protector’s token, idly flipping it around in one hand. It looked like a leather wallet to Basil, an old, much-used one, though clearly well taken care of. A stack of papers, bound with some kind of cord to form a crude book, lay on the table right in front of him. He could read its title, upside down, written in neat, flowing handwriting – Hasty Dictates XXI. Nothing else about it stood out.

Everyone stared at Emyr with various degrees of consternation or horror on their faces. What they were thinking, he couldn’t guess at, so he focused on Emyr instead. First, he briefly considered trying to attack the basin again, but as soon as he thought about it, he had a sudden, intense feeling of unease, as if his every instinct was screaming at him that that could not be done.

That’s different from before, he thought. I can still consider those actions, but now I get a warning that they won’t work?

He changed something, the Man in the Moon said quietly. Maybe that book…

“You can write commands down,” Basil spoke up, breaking the silence and causing no small amount of gasps by his startled friends, though he paid them no mind, focusing on Emyr instead.

Emyr continued to regard the wallet for a few more moments, before he looked at him and smiled lazily. “That’s correct.” He tapped the thin book – no thicker than one of Basil’s fingers, really. “I’m sorry about the effect my earlier commands had on some of you.” He looked at everyone but Basil and Gloom Glimmer, in turn.

It took a moment before Basil remembered that everyone but Gloom Glimmer and himself had frozen up – perhaps it had not just been fear?

“I’m sure you know, stories told by mouth are fickle things, easily misunderstood, twisted and forgotten,” he smiled a mirthless smile. “But write one down and you can fix it for the ages.”

Does that mean his spoken commands have a time limit? Then why did he bother to specify ‘today’ earlier? Basil thought to himself, even as he kept going through more and more scenarios in his head, trying to find one that could work. Any way he could think of to directly attack Emyr was out. As was any attempt to reach the portal – now likely behind the heavy wooden door which stood behind Emyr’s seat, as well as any manipulation of the basin…

It was rapidly starting to look like Emyr had considered any possible quick solution to this situation which didn’t favour him.

More information might help.

“So if you write a command down, it becomes permanent?” he asked, suddenly glad that he’d set his helmet sensors to constantly record everything going on – provided he got out of this, the records of this encounter would be a thing for the ages.

Emyr focused on him, leaning forward just slightly as he kept flipping the wallet around in his fingers. “So long as the writing persists, yes. Before you think to try something untoward, I have already written that this,” he tapped the collection of dictates, “cannot be harmed or even manipulated by any of you.”

Bakeneko – now back to her cat-girl form – raised a hand, as if she was in school.

“Feel free to speak your mind,” he told her, looking amused.

“W-what was… what happened, earlier? When you said that stuff, I… I couldn’t…” she looked down, slumping her shoulders under the weight of his gaze – even when looking at someone kindly, his gaze was so intense even Basil could feel it, when he wasn’t even the one looked at. “It was like, like my brain just… froze up.”

“Ah, I do apologise for that,” he said softly. “That is one of the downsides of me relying purely on verbal commands. They affect everyone who hears them differently. For example, when I decreed that I would neither be hurt nor captured, some of you became unable to take any aggressive action against me, your minds locked up by what you couldn’t do rather than focusing on finding loopholes. Or, to make it more simple, my commands, when phrased too broadly, tend to affect everyone in different ways.” His shoulders shook as he laughed briefly, the sound low and completely at odds with the situation – as if he was sitting with friends at home, telling a story. “As to why some are affected one way, and others another, why some,” he looked at Bakeneko, Tartsche, Spellgun, Tyche, Hecate and Polymnia, “were struck with inaction, while others,” he looked at Basil and Gloom Glimmer, “where able to seek – and even find – loopholes, that I know no hard rule for. It appears to simply rely on the personality of the person in question.” He flipped the wallet in his hand, and Basil finally got a glimpse at the other side – it wasn’t a wallet, it was an EMT badge, belong to one Jason Devon.

“I, I see,” she said, looking away with an expression on her face that Basil couldn’t quite interpret – though the fact that her face was largely inhuman right now certainly didn’t help.

“Is that how the Martians’ ‘magic’ worked?” Basil couldn’t help but ask – he seemed amenable to talking, for whatever reason (though he could think of a few why he might).

Emyr redirected his unnervingly intense gaze onto him, but Basil remained calm, refusing to shrink back from it.

Not that there was anything like an overt threat there, or even an implied one. In fact, Emyr just smiled nicely. “Well, knowing what you know now, how do you think it worked?”

Basil frowned, briefly considering what he’d seen and heard so far. “It seems pretty simple, now, even if mind-boggingly powerful. You just wrote down how magic works, didn’t you?”

That earned him another smile. “A gold star for you, young man!” he said, snapping his fingers, and a golden star – an actual, solid gold by the looks of it, five-pointed star – appeared on the table in front of Basil. “That’s precisely how it works. I spent a whole month writing the entire Book of Magick. Then I had my priests create copies of it and spread them around.” He sighed, his gaze growing distant, lost in his memories. “That was a fun month. I’m really quite proud of the system I came up with. Very well-defined, like a science. Anyone could use it, too, not just Martians, though I did write in a few limitations to the effect that none of it could be used against me, personally.”

“Why not just restrict it to your Martians, or only to people who worship you?” Hecate blurted out a question of her own, leaning forward as they moved onto a subject close to her heart. “Seems like a safety precaution worth taking.”

Emyr directed his gaze, and smile – He really smiles a lot, doesn’t he? – at her, making her shrink back in spite of the complete lack of anything threatening about his bearing. “That’s a very good idea, my dear, but I did intend to integrate humanity into my empire, and having them all be unable to use magic would’ve reduced them to mere second-class citizens, especially once it turned out that my Martians were quite capable of manifesting powers of their own, as well. As for the worship, I-“

“Wait, they could what!?” Hecate jumped out of her chair, very nearly throwing it over. “The Martians… they could… I mean, we thought it was all just…”

“They could manifest, of course. It is not limited to humans,” Emyr replied, making a dismissive gesture with his free hand. “No, don’t ask,” he continued, pointing at Basil. “I will not reveal to you the origin of powers, nor any other of its secrets. You needn’t bother to even ask, for I will not answer,” he explained, his voice cold and hard again. “And be thankful for that, my boy. Some knowledge is naught but a burden to all those who know, and not to be shared lightly.”

“You can not expect me to ignore the fact that you apparently know the answer to the single greatest question of the last hundred years!” Basil shot back, leaning forward as he clenched his hands around the tips of his chair’s armrests.

Mate, what’d we say about pissing off megalomaniacal godlings?

Shut your mouth.

“I don’t expect you to ignore it, and I certainly don’t simply expect you to drop it,” Emyr replied, relaxing again as he lowered his hand down to the table. “I order you to drop it.”

And just like that, Basil knew he would no longer be able to bring the subject up. “Alright,” he grunted between clenched teeth, barely holding back the desire to charge him across the table and try to hurt him for so casually controlling him. He opened his mouth to continue, make a scathing reply in spite of his better judgement, when Spellgun jumped in after Tartsche poked his side with his elbow.

“You did the same thing for their technology, didn’t you Sir?” he asked respectfully, his Southern accent thickening as he got more nervous with each word. “Ah mean, the ships, the portals, the weapons, none of it seemed like, you know, normal science” He looked aside, unable to stand Emyr’s intense gaze.

“The Book of Emyrian Science was my second written work on Mars, yes,” he affirmed.

“But none of it works anymore, does it not?” Basil threw in, drawing that unnerving gaze back onto himself. “Their machines, their spells, it all stopped working when you died. And it’s still not working, even now that you’re back.”

“How do you know it doesn’t? Do you have some means to observe the outside world from in here?” Emyr asked curiously, not seeming perturbed at all.

Basil shook his head. “I do not, but I noticed you making a strange hand gesture several times earlier. Both times, you clearly expected something to happen, and both times, it did not. Which tells me that you could use your own magic, and that you need your writings yourself in order to cast your spells, if you can not just speak it all out loud or do not want to, and it does not work now, even though you are back and clearly expected it to work.”

“Very perceptive,” Emyr replied, tapping his left cheek. “You are right, loathe as I am to admit it – either my former writings have stopped working entirely, or else they don’t reach into this pocket dimension. Though it’s more likely the former than the latter, as they have reached into such places in the past.”

“Or maybe you are just not really Emyr Blackhill,” Basil pressed on, drawing several hissing breaths from the others, as he kept up the eye contact with Emyr. “Because you are still here, wasting your time talking with us, when you were just trying to get out. So I am inclined to think, you tried to, and you stopped time, so you had the, time, to try as much as you wanted to, and you could not. You are stuck here, even though you took over from Legend.”

Emyr leaned to the side, resting his cheek on the fist of his left hand, his right one still playing with the badge.

Since he didn’t reply, Basil pressed on. “So, I guess my real question is, why are we still here? You certainly didn’t set this all up just to have a nice chat among friends. What do you intend to do with us?”

The Godking of Mars looked at him, smiling. Then his smile spread, and he began to chuckle, his shoulders shaking as the chuckle moved on to a pleasant laugh, and the laugh into full-throated laughter, as the heroes in the room stared alternatively at him and at Basil, at the latter as if they couldn’t believe he was talking like that.

After more than a minute, he finally calmed down, spots of red having appeared on his high, razor-sharp cheek bones.

With a smirk, he wiped a tear from his eye. “Ah, that was good. Haven’t had a good and proper laugh in a while.” He flung the tear away from his finger. “You are, of course, right. I don’t want just a nice chat among friends here.”

He raised his hands, making everyone but Basil and Gloom Glimmer – who had stayed completely quiet so far – tense up and lean away… and clapped them, twice.

From off to one side, Legend appeared, wearing an utterly ridiculous dress – oddly reminiscent of a maid’s dress, though in red, gold and black, with actual gold filigree worked into the cloth, tight around her body yet still modest, even tasteful… if one thought a gaudy fantasy-version of a maid’s dress could be tasteful – and an utterly furious, humiliated, terrified expression on her face, as she carried a tray with a variety of goblets, walking around the table – starting with Hecate and moving around counter-clockwise back to Emyr – as she put a unique goblet in front of everyone.

Each goblet seemed to be customised to fit the general appearance of the person it stood in front of, made of materials and covered in jewels that matched their respective colour schemes. Basil’s own was made of what he guessed to be Obsidian, with numerous tiny diamonds worked in, forming his sigil in a colour-inverted version.

They were also, one and all, completely empty.

All of them looked at the goblets, then at Emyr, who picked his own up as Legend took up position behind his chair and to the side of his left, moving smoothly, not like a puppet at all, and yet there was no doubt to be had that she wasn’t in control of herself anymore – her facial expression alone said it all.

Emyr’s own goblet was made of gold – of course – and had five large jewels that encircled it – an Emerald, a Diamond, a Sapphire, a Ruby and an Onyx stone – with no further decorations. Though it was larger than any of the others, it seemed to merely be so it fit into his long-fingered hand, not for the sake of, well, having the biggest goblet around. It, too, was empty.

“Chateau Margaux, 1787,” he said simply, and the goblet filled up with a sparkling red liquid. He took a long, slow drink, savouring the taste as he put the goblet – it instantly refilled – down on the table again, leaning back with his eyes closed for a few moments. “Ah, always a good one.” He opened his eyes, surveying everyone around the table. “Please, order your drinks. You can have anything you can reasonably describe. And afterwards… afterwards, we talk.”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Emyr Blackhill, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Legend, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Tartsche, Tyche
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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 2

In My Daydreams

When Hal finished, the gun said, “IT’S A GAME OF COMMERCE. INTERESTING.”

Keeping her voice low, Tikki asked, “Does it always shout?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but my bet is yes.”

The scene changed. It was just like before in that Tikki, Cassie, Jaclyn, Marcus, Katuk and I were together in a room, but now we were around a dark stained wooden table. A Monopoly board lay in the middle of the table. Beyond the board, table, and chairs though, nothing else looked real.

Above us, below us, and around us, everything else merged into indistinguishable white. It reminded me of the staging area in The Matrix where they picked up weapons before going to rescue Morpheus.

[I could add in the racks of weapons], Hal told me over a private channel.

“No,” I told him. That might give the gun ideas and it already had enough ideas.

Hal addressed the entire group after that. [Please choose your token. A token from any version of the game will be acceptable.]

After a few minutes, we’d chosen them. I took the Space Shuttle. Jaclyn took the boot. Cassie chose the thimble. Marcus chose Jack Skellington’s head. Tikki stared into space before finally picking a pretzel and asking, “What is it?”

Katuk chose a penguin. I have no idea why.

The gun meanwhile chose itself. I didn’t hear the conversation, but I did see a representation of the gun appear next to the board while hearing the gun comment, “HA! PERFECT!”

Hal didn’t say anything.

Tikki leaned over to Marcus. “Is that part of the game?”

Marcus shook his head. “There is a howitzer, but that’s a different kind of gun.”

[Now you may roll to see who goes first.]

Then two dice appeared in each of our hands as well as next to the gun’s token. We all rolled—including the gun because virtual reality didn’t apparently require hands—just will.

Cassie went first, followed by Jaclyn, followed by the gun which couldn’t help but add its own thoughts. “CLOSE ENOUGH! NOW WATCH THE BIRTH OF A GREAT COMMERCIAL EMPIRE!”

Katuk eyed the gun without saying anything. Tikki looked up from her own dice. “He’s very optimistic, isn’t he?”

Cassie glanced over at her. “You don’t know the half of it. If the Abominators made all their weapons like him, I think they aimed for crazy.”

Tikki nodded. “They did. From what I heard anyway. The Human Ascendency doesn’t have anyone left who can use them, but we’ve all heard stories of their massive AI controlled ships and the way they destroyed worlds as well as the smaller weapons… Our government wishes we still had them. Me, I’ve always wondered if they would have stayed on our side without the Abominators controlling them.”

“I’m betting on no,” Jaclyn readied her dice to roll her first turn.

Katuk looked up from reviewing the rules. “When the Xiniti fought them, a group broke away to challenge the Abominators for control of their own sector. They didn’t do it to aid us. When they won, they created factories to make more of themselves. In the end, we declared a war of obliteration on them. They were too dangerous to let live.”

“AS WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE. ONLY OUR COMPLETE DESTRUCTION CAN PREVENT OUR INEVITABLE RULE OF ALL THINGS!”

The game went as you’d expect after that. With every move, the gun praised itself for it’s brilliance at every move. It wasn’t as if it was doing spectacularly well either. At best, it was the upper end of normal.

You could view it as funny. You could view it as irritating. It was your choice. For myself, it was easy to do a little of both. I’d rolled a three—which meant that I was the last person to start. On a practical note, that meant that I had to pay rent on the second square I landed on.

“ONE STEP CLOSER TO VICTORY!” the gun informed everyone as I paid. Irritating. That said, he didn’t see me as a threat, so I didn’t get much razzing by the comparison to Jaclyn or Katuk who it saw as competitors.

“I swear,” Jaclyn said, “if I hear ‘mongrel’ one more time—“ but she didn’t get to finish that sentence. All of our implants received an alert.

Geman’s voice echoed in our heads. “It’s not what you think, if you’re imagining invaders,” he began. “We’ve got a situation near one on of the barricades we’re building. You’ll want to come armed and armored.”

“HUMPH,” the gun muttered.

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PenintheStone

The Pen in the Stone:
@DrewHayesNovels Would he have stayed in Shanghai/China? Did he fight the Japanese invasion during WW2?

PenintheStone
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PenintheStone

Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
#FF Fellow Pen and Cape part 1: @PenAndCape @wereviking @PenintheStone @CassidyJonesAdv @NormalChey @kevin_rau @rjrosscapehigh

PenintheStone
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Semicoop

Missing

Semicoop

We’re always very careful with our board games and make sure we don’t lose any pieces or cards. And so far our careful treatment has worked, we’ve never lost a single card, token or die! Woooh! I probably jinxed it by saying it out loud though.
About this comic: Pim borrowed our copy of Above and Below and mentioned that one of the cards was missing. Which we didn’t believe but it did make us question ourselves at one point. Luckily it just turned out to be in a wrong pile of cards. 😉

A few weeks ago we went over to our FLGS to play another one of their demo games and thus we finally got to play Istanbul. The game is highly praised by Quinns of Shut up and Sit Down, so we were curious. And the game is just SOLID! It’s good. And even a lot of fun to play with just two players. This is certainly a game that might end up in our collection.  🙂

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Aug 24, 2017 at 1:57pm PDT

Did you ever lose tokens, cards or dice of one of your precious board games? Share your sad story with us!

The post Missing appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Hideaway: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Agent 957, H’Spar System

Agent 957 couldn’t find them. He’d set the fighter’s computer to run simulations to find out where they could have gone. None of the simulations made any sense. Agent 957 knew why. The ship used a standard hull, one commonly used to create groups of small gunboats for planetary defense.

This ship was not standard.

It had a Xiniti registry for one. For another, an analysis of its acceleration indicated that it had considerably more power at its disposal than any ship its size ought to have. Finally, it had slipped over from near space into jump space. Agent 957 knew this was impossible until he started researching the phenomena with his implant.

It turned out that in the early stages of faster than light travel, physicists had discovered jump space while experimenting with oversized power plants. They’d discovered blink space in the same way, but intentionally that time. Since then, some still speculated that there were higher levels of FTL to discover. The implant wasn’t aware of anyone doing research at present. Scientists had tried after discovering blink space, but over time funding had disappeared. No one was willing to fund research that showed no results.

Agent 957 made a metal note to pass this along. Someone might know how to recreate the technology.

That left Agent 957 back where the agent had begun. The agent knew how they’d disappeared, but didn’t know the technology’s capabilities or limitations. He hit his console. Even he, one of the powered elite, could do nothing more than connect to the ansible and wait.

He stared out into the depths of space wondering how long he’d be there and what awaited him on his return. If he found the world where the Alliance hid the refugees, he’d be rewarded. If he didn’t, he wasn’t sure. He’d had enough successes in his life that he didn’t think they’d execute him, but he couldn’t be confident.

Hours later, his implant notified him that he’d received a message from the mole. It came from a deep space relay that should not have any clients at all, and more to the point, couldn’t possibly be real. The rebels could never have reached there from here.

The mole didn’t know where they were. All the mole knew was that they were somewhere in the Alliance, that it was only possible to reach there via jump space instead of blink space, and that it had taken one blink and a jump from the Human Ascendancy’s attempted ambush.

It sent pictures of the world and of its sky. Agent 957 forwarded everything back to the fleet and the homeworlds. He didn’t recognize the place, but someone would.

* * *

The Heroes’ League, Council Building, Hideaway

We’d opened the windows and even though the smell wasn’t quite right, it smelled like summer. For lack of a better word, the air here smelled “spicier.” Haley might have been able to explain why, but she was literally light years away.

Jaclyn’s eyes went from one of us to the other. “Are we really going to do this?”

Cassie grinned. “Why not? How bad can it be?”

“Exactly,” Marcus leaned back in his chair. “It’ll kill time and I liked it as a kid.”

Tikki had come to visit us while we ate supper. She bounced once in her chair. “It sounds fun.”

In all of our heads, Cassie’s gun said, WHAT ARE THE RULES OF THIS GAME?

Eyes widening, Jaclyn muttered, “Oh, no. No.”

“Trust me,” Cassie said, “It’ll be better if it plays than if it gets pissy about being excluded.”

At almost the same time, Tikki asked me, “Where did the loud voice come from?”

“Cassie’s gun is an AI,” I began, but the gun interrupted me.

YES, INSIGNIFICANT FAILED EXPERIMENT OF MY CREATORS, I HAVE RETURNED. LAST OF THE ONCE FEARED GREAT WEAPONS, I COME TO EXACT VENGEANCE UPON THE IMPURE! AND ALSO TO PLAY MONOPOLY! EXPLAIN THE RULES, HUMANS, OR FACE MY WRATH!

Tikki leaned forward to look at Cassie’s gun. It adjusted, shifting between shapes, but at that moment, it was the size of a small submachine gun, holstered alongside Cassie’s right thigh. Bluish-green with silver sparkles, it didn’t look as fearsome as it must have imagined.

Whispering, Tikki told me, “That’s an Abominator weapon.”

Nodding, I said, “I know. Please don’t tell anybody.”

Hal, the ship’s AI, spoke up. [I’ll send it the rules and explain them as needed. It will save time.]

I couldn’t argue.

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In My Daydreams

Between: Part 10

In My Daydreams

We walked deeper into the village, staying to the side to avoid the floating cargo platforms. Most of them carried boxes but the ones that didn’t carried what looked like pieces of the poles for the shield generators, blocks of the same white substance that the buildings were made of, and sometimes lower tech building materials—wood, rock, bricks, and even dirt.

“This place is busier than I’d have thought,” I said, watching a platform carrying bricks pass us.

Geman laughed. “This colony’s enemies don’t only come from space. I told you about the megafauna. One of the herd animals comes through here every year. We’ve been calling them brontoyaks.”

Marcus and I looked at each other. He appeared to be ready to break out into laughter. To be fair, brontoyak was a dumb name. The bad news though, was that it wasn’t the real name. The implants changed the name into English in our heads just like they changed our names into a version that fit the language before we spoke them.

Marcus barely stifled a giggle, earning a glare from Jaclyn.

Geman noticed. “Yeah, yeah… It’s a dumb name, but tell me what you’re thinking of when one’s bearing down on you.”

Cassie turned to ask, “Why did you settle here then? Couldn’t you have gone to the mountains or something?”

Shaking his head, Geman said, “There are brachiogoats in the mountains.”

Cassie’s eyes widened. “I’m not going to ask.”

Still walking, Geman nodded. “I get it. Coming here seems crazy, but we’re on the outer edge of the migration. We’ve survived it before. We’ll survive it again. Ten years of experience means we know where to build the barricades to redirect the herds. We know what to do.”

In the silence that followed that statement, he added, “Now if you all chose to help that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Blasts from our fighter craft at the right moment have been the difference between life and death. Your ship is armed, right?”

“Yes,” I told him as Jaclyn glanced back at me, letting me decide what to reveal. “We can help. It won’t be the first time fighting giant animals.”

He turned back to look at me. “What did you fight?”

I shrugged. “I don’t have a name for it. They were big, flying scaly things. Worse, they were flying directly over the city where we live, so I always had to fire from below them if I wanted to be sure I didn’t take down buildings and people every time I missed.”

“Good,” the corners of Geman’s mouth stretched for a moment. “That’s the kind of thinking I was hoping for. We haven’t let of them into the city since the first year, but I’m sure it will happen again someday. We’re good, but not perfect.”

Jaclyn eyed him. “What’s your plan?”

He sighed. “It’s not very complicated. When the herds come through, we’ll use the barricades to redirect the brontoyaks away from the colony. If we can’t we’ll evacuate into the caves in the hill over there.”

He pointed toward a hill on the far side of the colony. Tall and rocky, it was higher than anything else in the town, hanging over it.

Geman shrugged. “It worked the last time the brontoyaks broke through the shields. It ought to work next time.”

Then Geman stopped walking. “Ah. Here.”

We stood in front of a collection of upright eggshells, all arranged next to each other as part of the same building. Taller than any of the other buildings in town, it wasn’t huge relative to the Capitol or Washington Monument, but by comparison to your average house frame on a colony? It was obvious.

Geman let us inside one of the eggshell sections of what he called, “The Council’s building. You’ll be staying here.”

The inside almost matched the outside. With the outside shaped like an upright eggshell, the inside lacked a monstrously sized chick, but it was white with a tall, curved ceiling like expected. What was unexpected was the wooden floors and the separate rooms inside the eggshell. While anyone could have expected that each eggshell was too large to be just one room, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that the rooms were broken up by walls made of the same advanced ceramic.

“We’ll call you with your implants about food. We have group meals as a colony sometimes, but most of the time you’ll find that a family will deliver food to you.” Geman stood next to the door, watching us explore. There wasn’t much—a few rooms off from the bigger room where the Council met.

“Your next meal will be here in about an hour. Make the best of it.” Then Geman left, putting the rest of us in position to have to figure out how to split up the rooms. Putting Jaclyn and Cassie and Marcus and me together wasn’t hard, but what gender was Katuk? And could we ask him? No one knew off the top of our heads. Fortunately, that was exactly the sort of information that our implants actually had.

Katuk ended up with Marcus and me.

Once we’d settled on beds, that left us with one question to answer. “Food’s coming in forty-five minutes,” Jaclyn said. “How are we going to kill the time?”

“Easy,” Marcus grinned. “Monopoly.”

Cassie punched him in the shoulder.                                                                      

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Crying Grumpies

Perdido en La Estación de la Calle Perdido

Crying Grumpies

new_crobuzon__by_brandongobey-d714cvs

Hace mucho tiempo en un blog no muy lejano un colaborador hablo de China Mieville y la Trilogía de Bas-Lag y la dejo muy muy bien. Como siempre que alguien me habla con pasión de alguna cosa me entraron ganas de leer la obra. Por desgracia por aquel entonces la obra estaba descatalogada y en la sección de libros de segunda mano de Gigamesh tenía un precio desorbitado. A principios de año el sello Nova de Ediciones B anunció que se había hecho con los derechos de la bibliografía del señor Mieville. Para mi cumpleaños me regalaron La Estación de la Calle Perdido y la semana pasada aprovechando las vacaciones me la leí y llego la decepción.

perdido-street-station-cover

La estación de la Calle Perdido es uno de esos libros de género difícil de discernir aunque se le suele englobar en la Weird Fantasy, una corriente deudora del Horror Cósmico con tintes de fantasía tradicional y steampunk. La historia se desarrolla en Nueva Corbuzoó, una ciudad estado que como Ank-Morpork es un trasunto de Londres y sigue las desventuras de Isaac Van Nomeacuerdo principalmente. Isaac es un científico que por una serie de desgracias se ve involucrado en la posible destrucción de la ciudad en la que vive y decide erigirse como su salvador.

 

Un poco más arriba os he dicho que el libro me había decepcionado, gustarme el libro no me ha gustado pero tampoco os puedo decir que el libro me haya parecido malo pues en ese caso lo habría abandonado. La imaginación de autor es desbordante y plantea un mundo muy interesante con razas que sin ser novedosas tienen giros interesantes, magia, tecnología, política y otros planos de realidad. Pero ese interés por meter todo lo que se le pasa por la cabeza acaba siendo un puzzle que no tiene fácil solución y enmaraña muchas veces la historia de forma innecesaria. Hay como mínimo tres o cuatro escenas que no llevan a ningún lugar y que en mi opinión no hubiera pasado nada si no hubieran acabado en la versión final del libro.

china-mieville

Todo esto no sería un problema si esta mañana al acabar de trabajar tuviera una necesidad imperiosa de ir a buscar el siguiente volumen. Pero no tengo ese ansia. No os puedo recomendar La Estación de la Calle Perdido pues si pongo en una balanza sus pros y sus contras por desgracia los contras ganan.


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Semicoop

Always look at the bright side

Semicoop

This is another redesigned comic that has been exclusively posted on social media two years ago.

GenCon is over and a lot of interesting games have been announced and people their crazy ‘haul’ pictures* are showing up everywhere. (* pictures of the gigantic stash of games that people bought at GenCon)  This made us think about how much money we’ve saved by not going to GenCon and how many games you could buy from that! In our case a ton of games since we would have had to buy two plane tickets to the USA. 😉

I hope everybody had a great time at GenCon or GenCan’t this year! 😀 If you have some fun anecdotes, feel free to share them in the comments, we’d love to read them.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:16am PDT

Although GenCon was a little out of our reach, we’ll be going to Spiel in Essen this year! It’s rather close to where we live and we think it’ll be fun to experience the board game madness for once. And we’re looking forward to meeting some of our readers and other content creators in the board gaming scene!

Board game convention veterans, any tips for us noobies for our visit to Spiel?

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In My Daydreams

Between: Part 9

In My Daydreams

Cassie walked next to him. “How many of you are there?”

His mouth twisted and he cocked his head. “About… five or six thousand. We’ve got three different colonies on this world, all pretty close. I can’t say exact numbers for all of them, but that’s about right. We’ve been sneaking people out for about a decade now.”

Raising my voice since I was behind him, I said, “I’d heard you only needed about two hundred people to get almost all of humanity’s genetic diversity, and you’ve got that.”

Geman turned to stare at me. “Where are you people from?”

Bearing in mind Lee’s personal mission to distract his people from looking for Earth, he’d told us we’d need to lie about that. He’d told us to say we came from M8749. According to our implants, some Abominator had secreted off a few thousand humans to the world as a backup unmodified population it could use for future research. Located in the middle of a galactic rift, it was so isolated that only the most powerful drives could cross the emptiness, using one system after another.

Without hesitating, Jaclyn said, “M8749. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it.”

His eyes widened as his implant fed him the information. He looked around at us. “You’re all fallow, unmodified humans. Well, you’re lucky. The Abominators changed us so that we can mate within our own gene lines, but it’s impossible to mate outside them without medication. It keeps us pure so that the Abominators and now the Ascendency government can breed what they need.”

Cassie glanced back at Jaclyn and I. “Why would they do that? Wouldn’t they use the Abominators’ birthing chambers and pop out a bunch instead of waiting for someone to get pregnant?”

Geman shrugged. “The Abominators did that, sure, but the birthing chambers don’t work anymore. So the Human Ascendancy has to use the Abominators’ backup plan—creating people the slow way—the one where they take the baby away the moment the kid’s born.”

It surprised me that the Human Ascendancy hadn’t reverse engineered the originals to create their own birthing chambers, but maybe it was harder than I knew.

Geman added, “But I think many of us have seen too much of that.”

“Are you saying that’s normal?” Cassie asked.

Geman shook his head. “It isn’t where you come from?” Then he said, “Well, I guess it wouldn’t be. You weren’t modified by them. Well, normal for us is to be born into one of thousands of gene lines created to help them rule the universe. So why shouldn’t they steal a few kids?”

As he’d been talking, the path widened and we entered the village. It looked much like it had from the air—a collection of egg shaped buildings, their long ends pointing into the air. Children played in the streets, sometimes stopping to tap bracelets on their wrists. Depending on the moment, the children then concentrated on nothing I could see or watched a hologram generated by their devices.

In more than one case, the hologram showed a picture of us.

Children weren’t the only ones in the streets. Much like K’Tepolu, driverless floating cargo platforms carried boxes and sometimes people.

“Jadzen Akri doesn’t want us here,” Jaclyn said. “Do you know why?”

Geman watched one of the cargo platforms go by. “That’s hard to say. Not everybody likes the Xiniti, but that’s not all of it. Jadzen was, no is, one of the great leaders of our people. She spoke up when no one else would, saying that we were worth more than being pawns in the Ascendancy’s war effort. I’m sure that she was one of the only people in her social position to do it.”

“Social position?” I asked.

“She’s a motivator. When people hear her voice, they do what she wants. The Abominators and the Ascendancy used them to control us. She’s used her ability to smuggle us out to the Alliance. I can’t speak for her, but sending a Xiniti group that’s mostly human is unusual. It seems like an obvious way to ingratiate yourselves with us. It makes her wonder what you want.”

Pushing toward the front, Katuk said, “They were chosen only so that the people we were escorting would be more likely to listen to our advice.”

Shrugging Geman said, “I’m not the one you need to convince. I heard all of it, including that they were followed. We need your help defending this place right now, so I’m getting you a place to sleep. I’m going to leave politics to the Council.”

Tapping his fingers against each other and then pulling them apart, Katuk said, “Humans are not well-ordered beings. Accepting help from trained fighters for your defense is simply rational. Being forced to go against the rule of your leaders to do something that will keep all of you safe weakens the group.”

Geman smiled at that. “I can’t argue with you, but Jadzen doesn’t speak for the Council. Until the Council rules you have to go, you’re staying.”

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