PenintheStone

Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
The hits just keep on coming. Don't miss the biggest fight in Our Super Mom. Check out the newest panels.... https://t.co/pw4FwqPqjY

PenintheStone
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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 9

In My Daydreams

I fired the sonics at both waroo on the theory that sound would hurt anything with ears and it turned out to be a good theory. The waroo’s charge stopped and they tried to cover their ears with their front paws.

I kept the sound on them, hoping they would run away, but suspecting they’d charge me to make it stop.

Contacting Marcus through our implants, I asked Marcus, “Can you grab her and fly away? I’ll keep them off you.”

“It sounds better than fighting alien bears and evil space ponies.” He twisted and ran toward Tikki, wings growing on his back.

At about the same time, the hrrnna used their small forelimbs to pull pistols from holsters on their chests. At about the same time, a series of popping noises came from the plant’s direction. Then in my helmet’s 360 degree vision, blue sparks spread from a spot on the hrrnna’s chest.

It fell over as the hrrnna on its left dodged sideways, causing other aliens on the walkway to scatter. The hrrnna on the right aimed its gun at Tikki, charging as it fired.

I turned, deciding that hitting the hrrnna with sonics took priority over the waroo, but it wasn’t necessary. The bubble shaped space around Tikki changed, stretching and rippling like everything outside a spaceship in near space. Surrounded by the bubble, the hrrnna slowed to a crawl. It looked like slow motion replays from a baseball game or maybe from The Matrix, but slower, much slower.

Whatever it was that the hrrnna had fired appeared as an orange ball within the bubble. It had fired three times before the bubble appeared, and the three balls glowed, each on a slightly different trajectory, all of them aimed at Tikki.

Unlike anything else within the bubble, Tikki wasn’t affected. She blurred, knocking the gun out of the hrrnna’s hand. Waiting until all of its legs were off the ground, she pulled each leg toward herself and pushed the hrrnna’s body away from her until it was diagonal in the air.

I would have watched longer but a roar told me that the waroo had realized that I’d stopped aiming the sonics at them. I jumped to the side of Tikka’s time bubble (or so I guessed), partly because the waroo were charging straight at me and I wanted to avoid them, but also because the hrrnna’s burning orange balls were flying in my direction and I didn’t want to be there when the bubble dropped.

Once I landed, I unloaded the sonics at them again, causing the waroo to freeze, but not for long. This time they ran straight toward me.

Off to my side, Marcus was shouting, “We’re from the Xiniti. We’re here to help!” into the bubble. Past Marcus, the plant had hit the only loose hrrnna with what I was calling a taser bullet. It fell in a shower of blue sparks.

At almost the same time, the bubble fell and everything inside sped up to real time. The orange balls turned into orange streaks. Two of them hit one of the waroo on its side. It had been trying to avoid the bubble, but that meant presenting its side lengthwise in the wrong direction at the wrong time. One shot hit its first torso segment, releasing red and black gooey liquids. The other hit the meat of one of its legs, blasting through its furry exoskeleton and leaving chunks hanging. The creature howled and fell over.

The third shot flew over it and down the street. I hoped it didn’t hit anybody.

That wasn’t all for the bubble’s effects though. Tikki’s attempt at hrrnna tipping had been successful. The creature landed on its side with audible cracking noises.

Meanwhile, Marcus had elongated his legs, using them to reach Tikki in one step, grab her and fly away, shrinking his legs on the way up. Tikki didn’t resist.

I activated the rocket pack, shooting into the air after them. The remaining undamaged waroo snapped at me, but not with any real chance of catching me. After that, it pulled  something from its pouch, and sprayed it on the other waroo’s wounds, keening all the while.

I contacted K’Tepolu’s emergency address with my implant and reported the attack, giving video that my implant had logged to support my claim, and telling them that the hrrnna and waroo would need medical attention.

The computer voice on the other end asked, “And who will be paying for their medical care?”

“Them?” I replied. “Their insurance company? I don’t know. Is that my problem?”

In an emotionless voice, it responded, “K’Tepolu has a financial understanding with the Hrrnna Confederacy. The Hrrnna will receive care. The Waroo Peerage lacks any similar agreement.”

I landed behind Marcus and Tikki on one of the platforms for fliers. Tikki was moving her hair away from her face and back over her shoulders. “So, you’ll just let them die?”

The voice responded, “That’s correct.”

“Then I’ll pay for it.” Hopefully the Xiniti wouldn’t be annoyed.

“That will be acceptable.” The connection ended.

I followed them off the landing platform and onto the gravity train’s boarding platform. The train wasn’t there yet and there wasn’t much of a crowd, so we stood together, but basically alone.

As my suit absorbed my helmet, Marcus grinned. “I guess that worked. It was kind of scary for a second there. I thought they might try to beat us up, but when the hrrnna pulled out guns? That was terrifying.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I don’t know what those were—“ except then my implant told me and we both said, “plasma guns“ together. “Anyway, I didn’t know if they’d make it past my armor since this is just a version of the stealth suit.”

Tikki reached out and tapped my armor. “I’m no expert on armor, but it might have.” Then she nodded at me. “I’m Tikki, and I’m so sorry you had to come all the way out here for me. I didn’t know the ship was leaving. None of us have implants, so we have to use comm bracelets. Mine has been having problems connecting. I just got all the messages here on the platform.”

She held out her left arm to show me a cream colored bracelet that stood out against her skin. As she did, my implant informed me that it’s customary among the Abominator bred humans here to bow, but younger people would nod except in formal situations. I could tell that information was connected to specifics about Abominator breeding practices, but I didn’t have time to pursue it.

Giving a nod, I said, “I’m Nick,” and began to say, “Why did you come out here anyway—“

A rustling noise came from behind me. The implant interpreted it as, “You’re leaving and you’ve got a ship?”

We all turned to find the plant hovering next to us in its pot. “I need to get out of here.”

Marcus and I looked at at each other, but before either of us could say anything, the plant continued, “Look, I helped you. Don’t flake out on me.”

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Semicoop

Sheep are coming

Semicoop

I was rather surprised by the news that there will be a Game of Thrones themed version of Settlers of Catan. But it’s true! Fantasy Flight Games will be releasing A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch this year. It has elements of the original Catan game, but it sure seems to take the game a step further. I’m curious what the critics will say about this one!

For us, this was a great excuse to make a Game of Thrones themed comic. 😉 I mean… if there ever was a moment to publish one this would be it, right? And no spoilers about the new episode in the comments, please, thank you!

Last Saturday we decided to take a full day off after these hectic weeks we’ve been having. We sat down at our FLGS and played their demo version of Splendor! We once played the app version of Splendor, but it didn’t really stick. So we thought it would be fun to give this classic and popular game another chance ‘in the flesh’. And it was great fun! We enjoyed it better as a physical game than the digital version.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jul 15, 2017 at 9:31am PDT

We realized we never really taken a good look at their collection of demo games, so now we made a list of which of games we’d like to try, but don’t really feel like we need to own. Or do we? We would just like to try them first. So we’ll be hanging around there more often this summer I think.

Do you ever play demo games at a games store before deciding to buy something?

The post Sheep are coming appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Update Will Be Late

In My Daydreams

Hey folks…

I generally finish writing updates on Sunday evening. This Sunday evening I’m going with my wife to a concert that’s a two hour drive away. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that I took tomorrow off from work. So, I’ll finish at some point during the day.

My apologies, but on the bright side, it will work out.

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Tieshaunn

Cerdaemon’s Brennus Character Generator

Tieshaunn

I completely forgot to post this, and I’m so sorry, Cerdaemon! I certainly didn’t mean to obfuscate your great work!

So, as the title says, Cerdaemon was so kind as to write a character generator for the Brennus RP, and it’s an amazing one – here take a look:

Cerdaemon’s Brennus RP Character Generator

Don’t worry, the link is safe!

So, this reminds me of the subject of the RP. Which is to say, the need to rewrite it, both to provide more comprehensive rules for anyone to make characters with, as well as to bring it closer to canon, now that I’ve revealed enough about the actual mechanics to actually do so.

I’ll probably have to make a whole project out of that, we’ll see how it goes, but it’s definitely on the horizon!

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner

PS: I’m working on the new chapter right now. It’s… gonna be a big one.

PPS: By big, I mean both in word count and impact >:D

PPPS: The new chapter’s working title is “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. Make of that what you will.


Filed under: Brennus RP
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Crying Grumpies

Geek Grumpy vs la mid-generation de las consolas

Crying Grumpies
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Nintendo vs Master System, Game Boy vs Game Gear, SNES vs Megadrive, N64 vs PS1 vs Saturn, Dreamcast vs PS2 vs Gamecube vs XBOX, PS3 vs XBOX360, PS4 vs XBOXOne y ahora llega la mid-generation: PS4 Pro vs XBOXOne X, pero… ¿Le importa a alguien?


Uno de los debates eternos entre los frikis del mundo ha sido, es y será la comparativa entre las consolas de la generación en curso. Los motivos por los que alguien escoge uno u otro dispositivo para jugar en su casa pueden ser varios. En mi caso hay tres muy claros. Prefiero consola por encima de PC porque me ofrece la tranquilidad de jugar a lo que quiera sin preocuparme de actualizar hardware ni gastarme un duro más durante unos 8-10 años. El catálogo de exclusivos es fundamental, los juegos propios pueden ser lo que decante mi decisión hacia una marca u otra. Y, para acabar, mis amigos. Si todos ellos tienen una consola y quiero echar unos online o intercambiar juegos (aunque eso suene ya muy de puretas), puede que ni los exclusivos cambien en mi decisión.

¿Cual es la principal razón para comprarte una consola?

— Crying Grumpies (@CryingGrumpies) June 14, 2017

¿Cual es el motivo que MENOS te importa al comprarte una consola?

— Crying Grumpies (@CryingGrumpies) June 15, 2017

Hace unos días lancé un par de encuestas en twitter, preguntando cuáles son los motivos que os empujan a comprar una consola y cuáles los que no os importan un carajo. La conclusión más relevante del sondeo es que la potencia de la consola quedó en última posición entre las razones de compra de una u otra máquina y es la segunda característica que menos se tiene en cuenta, por detrás de la retrocompatibilidad. Entonces, ¿Si los teraflops están tan devaluados en el mundo de las videoconsolas, porque necesitamos una mid-generation?

Recordemos un punto sobre la generación intermedia de consolas: según sus fabricantes, éstas no van a recibir ningún juego exclusivo. Si bien es cierto que incorporan 4K, se sobreentiende que nadie que no quiera cambiar su modelo antiguo tiene porque hacerlo. ¿Son sólo un lujo para gente con TV UltraHD? Permitidme dudarlo.

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Creo que las consolas mid-generation son el caballo de Troya para convertir el mundo de las consolas domésticas en un nuevo mercado de PC. Los tiempos de vida de las generaciones será cada vez más breve, y acabaremos sometidos a la tiranía de la poténcia del hardware. Y qué queréis que os diga, sí eso sucede, yo me bajo. A día de hoy ya tengo la posibilidad de comprarme un super equipo gaming con el mejor hardware del mercado y no lo hago, porque prefiero la tranquilidad que me da un sistema cerrado. Puedo comprar los videojuegos third party más baratos en Steam, pero prefiero dedicar mi tiempo y dinero a los exclusivos de Nintendo o Sony. También podría jugar online con la comunidad más grande de CoD o Battlefield, pero me gusta tener en mi TV un sistema centralizado de entretenimiento con Netflix y demás.

Señores de Sony y de Microsoft, los usuarios de consola no tenemos las mismas prioridades que los de PC. Dejen de intentar reventar el sistema que tienen montado para atraer a usuarios de otros sectores, los hardcore gamers jamás se pasarán a las consolas, pregunten a alguno de ellos que piensan sobre jugar a Overwatch con un mando de PS4, por ejemplo. Eso sí, los que ahora jugamos si podemos abandonarlos.


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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 8

In My Daydreams

The sheer size of the open market worked against me. One thing worked for me though—racial prejudice. The Abominators had used humans as their superpowered stormtroopers before the Xiniti destroyed them. Even though humans and aliens seemed to interact peacefully here on the edge of both human and Alliance space, the aliens gave humans extra space.

It hadn’t been so obvious on the trains where different cars were designed for different species’ needs (chlorine atmosphere, for example, or chair sizes), but the aliens gave humans enough space for three. I didn’t blame them either. Many of the humans here weren’t normal. They looked like supers—whether it was due to glowing eyes, bulging muscles, or wings. Whatever their looks, the humans here wore pistols on the belts, rifles across their backs, and wore armor.

“Do you think you can find her? I can take a few of the bots.” Marcus pulled out his own pair of sunglasses.

We stood next to the base of one of the silver gray towers, flipping from the view of one spybot to another. Above us, the trains hummed, moving away from or into the station above us. Smells of spices, grilled meat, and body odors from aliens and humans alike filled the area. Given the strangeness of some smells, I couldn’t be sure

No one interrupted us. I imagined it was because we were visibly human in addition to showing up as Xiniti citizens to anyone with an implant.

After a time, Marcus said, “I think I found her. I’ll send you coordinates.”

He sent me video along with the coordinates. Tikki stood in front of one of the floating boxes I’d seen earlier except electronic goods displayed across the top. Two bipedal slugs stood behind it, talking to customers.

“That looks like her,” I said. She wore the same green and white jumpsuit as in the pictures, holding a small cylinder and asking questions of one of the slugs.  Whatever the slug said persuaded her to buy. She pulled a device from her pouch, and tapped on it. When she was done, she pocketed both devices.

As she stepped away from the booth, we got to see the other side of hatred for humans. Three hrrnna, horselike aliens the size of ponies, blocked her way. Eight limbed, their front two forelimbs were ready to grab.

She started talking to them, smiling, but her eyes darted between them.

Marcus said, “I’m going,” and wings erupted from his back, his costume parting as they extended. It was good to see that it worked. Programming the costume to adjust to his shapeshifting had been a pain.

I tapped my palm and a helmet extended from my costume and surrounded my head, absorbing my sunglasses. A glance around me confirmed that no one was close, so I activated the rocket pack and shot into the air.

I angled myself forward because I wanted to avoid the level’s ceiling, wheeling around because the coordinates Marcus gave me placed her behind me and to the right. I called back all the spybots, ordering any that were low on fuel back into my pouch. The rest were to fly over to where Tikki stood and give me a 360 degree view of what was around her so that I’d have warning if the hrrnna had friends.

I’d shrunk the window showing Tikki and turned it transparent so that it wasn’t as much of a distraction. Out of the corner of my eye though, I still watched it. A few seconds into my flight and about the time that I passed Marcus, the situation changed. One of the passersby stopped to stand next to Tikki and  talked with the Hrrnna.

“Stand” wasn’t the best description though. It was a plant riding in a floating pot. It floated. I wasn’t sure if this was the same plant I’d seen before, but it was of the same species. Several blade-like leaves grew out around a stalk in the the middle of the pot. The leaves operated the pot’s controls. Small branches grew out of the stalk. The branches rustled as it faced the hrrnna.

I wished that the spybots were closer so we could get sound, but I didn’t have time to fiddle with them. I’d made it there, allowing me to discover that the spybots had missed an important detail—there were more aliens behind Tikki and the plant in addition to the hrrnna in front. My implant labeled the two bear-like ones with dual segment torsos and six limbs “waroo.”

I landed between Tikki and the waroo, saying, “Your people sent me to help. They’re just about to leave,” to Tikki.

She said, “Thank you. These sophonts were just about to let us go.”

One of the waroo said, “Going to rip you to bits, murderers.”

The plant’s fronds rustled and my implant translated them as, “I hope you brought guns.” It also labeled the plant as an “Emperor’s walking blade” plant.

“Kind of,” I said.

Marcus landed next to me, absorbing the wings back into his body.

The hrrnna hissed and the waroo backed up a step. Interesting, I thought. Shapeshifters get extra points for scariness around these guys—and then I remembered that the Abominators had been gray skinned shapeshifters. Of course, Marcus didn’t look like a Abominator. They’d been five limbed and hadn’t been shaped at all like a human, but once transformed Marcus had grey skin and however many limbs he wanted. Seeing him couldn’t calm things down at all.

“Hey,” I said, “we’re not here to fight you, but as members of the Xiniti nation we’re here to protect her. So if you attack, we will, and you’ll be seen as criminals in the eyes of the Alliance.”

“Won’t be much of a change,” one of the waroo growled and they charged us. So did the hrrnna.

“Dammit,” the plant said, and a turret popped out of the bottom of its pot.

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One Step Away…

Require Cookie

Okay, so this is about Jonesy, and how he comes to rule the world, but it’s going to take a couple of steps before we get there.

Okay, so first, we have to go waaaay deep – creation myth deep. In the beginning, there was a whole lot of nothing. After Chaos died and this cycle of the universe/multiverse began, it took life a while to seep in.

There were thirteen worlds who had mirrors, but no life – like those seeds that sprout little white buds but don’t go anywhere.

Those thirteen worlds lived and died in seconds – at least on the universal timescale – and the mirrors of those thirteen worlds found each other, formed around each other and fell through the empty space of the universe together.

These mirrors were different – because their planets had no life, they had no echoes and no ghosts within them, only their own somewhat-sorta-sentience that we’ve seen before.

And over time – lots and lots of time – this grew into something more.

Let’s put those aside for a moment.

*

Half a step away from our world, a dimension far closer than one might imagine, there was an agent born – Jonas, a man who would never be content with the role that the System that designed him for.

The thirteen fell to his Earth, and with one touch, one wish, he was ruler of the world.

Overnight, everything changed. Earth became aware of Faerie, and chaos ensued. After a…settling period (in which so, so many people died), Jonas’ Earth started to resemble one of those cyberpunk dystopias.

Governments were replaced with corporations. And everyone was to work towards improving, bettering and furthering the Earth as an initial point of what Jonas intends on becoming a space empire. (He doesn’t dream small).

He converted most of the thirteen mirrors into ships – ones that could traverse space and dimensions – like the offspring of the Enterprise and the TARDIS. The goal of these ships? Visit worlds about to undergo a mirrorfall and scavenge unique technology and resources.

And for a while this worked well.

Then one crew rebelled.

*

The captain of the ship had always been loyal – though far more to his crew than to Jonas, and had already been reprimanded at several points for doing things like “not being as ruthless as necessary” and “rescuing a child from dying world”.

They ran. Jonas pursued.

They came to our Earth.

Jonas stepped through the worlds, and met Jonesy – his twin, his doppelganger, and someone who had the same potential that he did.

Jonas gave Jonesy all of his knowledge – showing Jonesy exactly what he was capable of, kissed his cheek, then ran off to pursue the missing ship and the rebellious crew.

*

And it was at this precise moment that Jonesy decided to kill himself. To prevent himself from becoming a monster. To snuff out that potential before he became an evil overlord.

But as we know, Taylor stopped him.

*

In the aftermath of learning what his alt-universe self was capable of, and being denied what he felt was an honourable way out, he was left with nothing to do but sit and think.

And he realised that he could do it – rule the world – but do it better.

 

 

 

 

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Crying Grumpies

Castlevania de Netflix: La breve maldición de Drácula

Crying Grumpies
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Corría el año 86 (sí, Millenials, 1986), cuando Konami presentó Castlevania, el videojuego. En este mítico y maravilloso plataformas de acción, que podéis disfrutar en vuestra Mini NES si no la habéis vendido por 300€, adoptábamos el rol de Simon Belmont y nos adrentábamos en el castillo del mismísimo Drácula para acabar con su no-vida.
El 7 Julio de 2017, Trevor Belmont, uno de sus antecesores, visto por primera vez en Castlevania 3: Dracula’s curse, llega a Netflix para dar caza, a través de una serie de animación, al chupasangres más famoso de la historia.


Es precisamente en Castlevania 3 en lo que se ha basado Warren Ellis (Authority, Planetary, etc.) para escribir el argumento de la serie: Trevor, de la familia de cazavampiros y monstruos varios Belmont, está viajando por toda Valaquia sin más objetivo que beber y maldecir a aquellos que exiliaron y excomulgaron a su familia, pero la muerte de Lisa Tepes a manos de la iglesia cambiará todos sus planes.

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Lisa, había llegado al castillo de Drácula para aprender ciencia y así poder ayudar a sus conciudadanos, pero acabó enamorada y casada con el vampiro. Años más tarde, el arzobispo la acusa de brujería y la condena a arder en la plaza pública de Gresit. Esto desatará la ira de Drácula, que maldice toda Valaquia y avisa al país de que en un año lanzará sus ejércitos del mal contra la población para eliminar todo rastro de vida humana.
Es durante una de las treguas diarias -los ejércitos de Drácula sólo atacan de noche- cuando Trevor, que está cruzando Gresit, se ve en la obligación moral de ayudar a un anciano que está siendo atacado por miembros de la iglesia. Esa acción lo llevará a descubrir la leyenda del “Caballero durmiente” y a meterse de lleno en la lucha por salvar a la humanidad.

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Warren Ellis ha hecho con estos breves cuatro capítulos un notable homenaje a Castlevania y nos deja con ganas de más, mucho más. El escritor inglés consigue balancear perfectamente un conflicto entre la iglesia católica y un grupo de filósofos socráticos con unas escenas de acción de una violencia brutal. No en vano Netflix ha puesto un vistoso cartel de “Not for kids”, aunque aún estoy pensando si es por la sangre o la imagen que da de los clérigos.

El único “pero” que le puedo poner a la serie es la animación, que lejos de ser mala, carece de la fluidez que me gusta ver, incluso llegando a tener algún momento power point.

Poco más se puede decir de estos ochenta minutos de inicio de aventura de Trevor, Sypha y Alucard. Han gustado, y por eso Netflix ordenó, el mismo día de su estreno, una segunda temporada de ocho capítulos para saciar la sed de Castlevania de los chupaséries más ávidos. La maldición de Drácula ha sido breve, pero intensa. Os dejo con la intro de la serie, que ha sido otra de las cosas que me han encantado de ella.



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Semicoop

Onomatopoeia

Semicoop

We recently got Clank! thanks to our readers on Facebook! We decided we wanted our readers to decide what game we were going to buy from the Amazon credits we got thanks to you. And Clank! won by a landslide. We’ve played it a few times now and it surely was a good choice. It’s a fun combination of Ascension, Android: Infiltration and that feeling in Pandemic that everything might go terribly wrong when turning over a new card. I think we’ll be playing it a lot with our group(s).

A brilliant part of the game is that players can (in)directly take out the risk-taking players by increasing the chance of a dragon attack by buying more cards from the trade row. This is how I won last time, if he would have reached the surface, I would have lost by a few points.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jul 9, 2017 at 6:13am PDT

Do you know other game titles that sound like foley sounds or exclamations? 

The post Onomatopoeia appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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Crying Grumpies

RECUPERANDO CLÁSICOS: OJALÁ ESTUVIERAS AQUÍ

Crying Grumpies
wywh000

 

¡Estoy tan aburrida! La vida de la joven Lynda en un pequeño pueblo de la costa sur de Inglaterra, a finales de los años 50, es asfixiante. La rigidez de las normas sociales, la hipocresía y represión sexual y la falta de un futuro mínimamente emocionante están pasando factura. Además, llueve sobre mojado: tras la muerte de su madre, cuando Lynda tenía 11 años, ella no ha vuelto a ser la misma. En realidad, va cuesta abajo.

wywh001

 

1.- Up your bum!

Ojalá estuvieras aquí hubiera podido pasar desapercibida, una película más de época de las que tanto abundaron en los años 80 en la producción británica, de no ser por un elenco en estado de gracia y un directos como la copa de un pino. David Leland, también guionista y creador de la historia, tenía muy clara la historia que quería contar y cómo hacerlo. Y el resultado final fue una película que sobresalía del resto.

wywh002

 

Claro que contaba, para eso, con una actriz impresionante, de esas que aparecen pocas veces en una generación. Emily Lloyd, pese a su corta edad, consiguió dar vida a su personaje con todos los matices dramáticos y cómicos. Entendámonos: en manos de otra actriz, el personaje hubiera podido virar hacia la sobreactuación histriónica o hacia la inexpresividad. Quizás hacia lo meramente erótico. Lloyd evitó todas las trampas y construyó una persona de carne y hueso, insegura, desafiante, malhablada, cansada, furiosa. Un retrato, a la vez, de toda una generación, la de los baby boomers, en el momento de saltar a la palestra.

wywh003

 

Y, cerrando el tema interpretativo, estaba rodeada de actores serios. Actores de peso. Actores británicos, vamos. ¿Hace falta más explicación? Tom Bell, el Dzherzinsky de Reilly, as de espías (un día escribiré largo y tendido sobre esa maravillosa miniserie) y el temible McVitie de The Krays, merece mención especial por un personaje oscuro, a caballo entre el nihilismo y la absoluta cutrez, mientras que otros personajes (la tía Mille, el padre de Lynda, David) quedan un tanto desdibujados antes la potente presencia escénica de la protagonista.

wywh004

 

2.- Bugger off!

La historia es el choque de dos generaciones. Pero es el de las dos generaciones que, seguramente, más de frente han chocado en la historia: la de la Generación Perdida, aquellos que combatieron en las Guerras Mundiales y para los que la vida no era sino un sinfín de rituales que cumplir y normas que obedecer, y la de sus hijos, los baby boomers, la generación rock. La primera generación plenamente moderna de la historia social reciente. Lynda es el extremo de esta generación, y lleva su desafío hasta las últimas consecuencias. En este sentido, y con la perspectiva feminista contemporánea en mano, se establece un interesante debate en torno al final de la película: ¿quién acaba cediendo?

wywh005

 

Pero si el filme sobresale del resto es porque, además de una historia extraordinariamente bien narrada y de unas interpretaciones rayanas en la perfección, cuenta con una dirección asombrosa. Leland se dio cuenta de que el entorno era tan determinante como los personajes. Y hace del pequeño pueblo (el minúsculo local de la Legión Británica, el campo de cricket, el salón de baile…) un personaje más. Un personaje que define, a través de la claustrofobia que transmite, las vidas de sus habitantes, ordinarias, apagadas a veces, mezquinas otras.

wywh006

 

3.- What a drip!

Frente a todo ello, Leland cuela planos altamente simbólicos: el paseo marítimo (que en el caso de la costa británica tiene, además, una connotación tremendamente triste, de abandono) y la bicicleta de Lynda se convierten en referentes de libertad. El mar, en este caso, es una promesa nunca cumplida: la de salir y ver mundo. La de vivir.

wywh007

 

Conviene darle una oportunidad a Ojalá estuvieras aquí (o una segunda oportunidad, si ya se vio en su momento) para recordar que el cine británico es capaz de lo mejor, en ocasiones. Para escuchar el acento del sur de Inglaterra de un grupo de actores extraordinarios y, sobre todo, para disfrutar de la potencia interpretativa de Emily Lloyd, que después de esta película y del superéxito Cookie (Susan Seidelman, 1989) tuvo una carrera muy irregular y acabó retirándose debido a problemas psiquiátricos, un retiro del que ha ido saliendo esporádicamente. Pero sobre todo merece la pena darle una oportunidad para ver (y aprender) lo que se puede hacer con talento, una buena historia y no demasiado dinero. Cine del bueno.


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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 7

In My Daydreams

Soon after we reached the inter-asteroid train, Jaclyn called us. A transparent picture of her appeared in my vision along with her name. We answered and with the obligatory greetings made, she said, “How far are you from us?”

“Don’t know the distance, but it took us about thirty minutes to get here,” Marcus began. Then he glanced over at me. “Does that sound right?”

“Yeah, I think that’s how long it took,” I said. “I bet it’ll be about the same on the way back—plus or minus traffic.”

The walls outside the train turned into a blur. I didn’t know exactly how quickly it was moving, but bullet train speeds would not have surprised me.

“That’s good,” Jaclyn said. “We’re back at the ship. We joined up with Katuk, the Xiniti who’s joining the group and he’s… interesting. You’ll have to meet him. You’ve got no choice.”

Next to me, Marcus snorted. “Sounds like they get along.” He didn’t send that over the channel.

“So that was the good news,” Jaclyn continued. “Here’s the bad news. The colonists are pretty sure they’re being tailed. They thought they’d lost their tail, but they’re not sure, so they want to go immediately.”

I said, “I don’t see a problem with that. We’ve got parts and spares—plus a story to tell where we won’t be overheard.”

Marcus broke in with, “You’ll be wanting to sit down. Think about the scariest thing that happened on the way here. It’s related to that.”

Jaclyn didn’t say anything for a second. “Are you kidding me? This is all falling apart. Ignoring everything with cosmic implications for a second, we can’t go. One of the colonists got off their ship and hasn’t come back. They sent me a file on her over the network. I’m sending it to you. She was last seen at a street market. It’s closer to you than us. I was going to run out there, but Katuk said it wouldn’t work. They don’t have lanes for me and there’s someplace between here and there with a chlorine atmosphere. Is that right?”

I thought about it. “Your new costume doubles as a space suit. I never did test it in a chlorine atmosphere.”

“Even if it worked, the connecting tubes still don’t have pedestrian routes,” Jaclyn said.

“We’re on our way,” Marcus said.

“And be careful,” Jaclyn said. “I’ve been checking in on what the Xiniti are legally allowed to do. There aren’t any limits for them, but I’ve got a feeling that the local government might not be as lenient on humans.”

“Understood,” I said, and she cut off the connection.

I opened up the information she sent, hoping that implant viruses weren’t a thing. The file included pictures of Tikki Tegrush, twenty years old and trained in starship life support systems. Her file noted that she was in training to become a starship engineer and had the basics of FTL and normal drives. It also noted that she was of gene line 72-9502 (whatever that meant) and that her parents and siblings had died in a rebellion on Subsector Capital Five in the Human Ascendency.

The pictures and video showed a woman with light brown skin, long reddish-brown hair, and wearing a silver and green form fitting jumpsuit. From the design of the neck, it was obvious that the jumpsuit doubled as a space suit. Other pictures showed her next to glowing murals she’d created.

“No kidding,” Marcus said as we both finished with the file. “I was looking at that stuff at the art store. In fact, I bought a couple of the beginner kits. Maybe she can show me how it works.”

“If we find her,” I said.

“That’s what I like about you,” Marcus said, “optimism.”

It took less than ten minutes for us to reach Asteroid Twenty-Two, level seventeen–where we transferred from the inter-asteroid gravity train to a cross asteroid train.

“Oh my God,” Marcus said as the train slowed to a stop, floating next to a platform held in the air by a series of towers.

I stared out the window. The “street market” was an open area that went on for miles. Booths, pedestrians, and floating platforms filled the space. Along with the huge variety of sapient beings who were there to shop, musicians performed and food vendors managed the lines in front of the local equivalent of food trucks.

I assumed that they all took implant managed credit as I wasn’t going to find an ATM around here.

“I knew it was big,” I said as we went down on the lift, “but I had no idea.”

“I’ve seen smaller towns,” Marcus said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”

When we reached the bottom, I opened up a pouch on my belt and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. Then I started tapping on my palms. Spybots flew out of my pouch and took to the air. As they did, I used my implant to inform the station that they were weaponless drones, the reason for their use, and the radio frequency they used for communications.

Then I stood next to Marcus, watching pictures from all the bots appear on the inside of the sunglasses. After using the Xiniti implant, it felt painfully low tech.

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Tieshaunn

Toybox Update!

Tieshaunn

The Toybox chapter has been completed!

The next one will be a donation interlude that will, among other things, touch upon some subjects that have been discussed/asked about a lot in the comments. Look forward to it, it may be up as early as the early morning of Monday, going by CEST!

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


Filed under: Update
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PenintheStone

Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
Our villain brings the pain as the battle rages on. The action continues in the newest page of Our Super Mom.... https://t.co/L6g2LX2xrj

PenintheStone
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So Jonesy ends up ruling the world.

Require Cookie

No questions, I assume?

😛

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Crying Grumpies

Muerte al mundo abierto

Crying Grumpies

GrandTheftAutoV-CryingGrumpies-TheGrumpyShop

Hoy vengo a Grumpear un poco, quizás he tenido un mal día pero el tema lleva molestandome un tiempo. MUERTE A LOS MUNDOS ABIERTOS. Cada vez hay más juegos de consola que abrazan este concepto y aunque muchas veces lo implementan perfectamente  bastantes más es una forma de alargar los juegos de forma inecesaria y que aporta poco o nada a la experiencia de juego.

Vaya por delante que esto es una opinión personal y que como mundo abierto voy a entender aquellos juegos repletos de misiones secundarias que son algo más que encontrar coleccionables desperdigados por el mapeado en lugares poco accesibles e inesperados. El principal motivo por el que los mundos abiertos me desesperan es por la sensación de perdida de tiempo.

El primer juego en el soy consciente de haber jugado esta mecánica fue el primer Gran Theft Auto que salió para PSP.  A priori era un juego que no me interesaba pero me lo regalaron en un amigo invisible del trabajo, me lo pase bastante bien durante las escenas iniciales del juego pero a medida que avanzaba me sentí abrumado y acabé dejándolo. Este patrón se repitió con el segundo intento de disfrutar de un juego de Rockstar, verdaderos maestros del género, y después de un rato paseando por las praderas del lejano oeste del Red Dead Redemption. En ese punto me di cuenta de que este tipo de juegos no era lo mío y me aparté de el como de la peste. Pero poco a poco las mecánicas características de estos juegos se han ido filtrando en otros juegos.

Creo que es importante ver o mencionar diferentes juegos que han ido incorporando estas mecánicas. En algunos casos bien implementadas y en otros que no me han dejado acabar el juego.

La saga Arkham

El primer juego dedicado a Batman de las nuevas generaciones era un maravilloso brawler con escenas de sigilo.  El escenario con un planteamiento muy metroidvania era chiquito en comparación con las futuras entregas y más allá de los coleccionables el foco del juego era contar una historia. En la secuela y precuela aparecieron las misiones secundarias aunque por suerte aquí no eran obligatorias, pasábamos a un mundo mucho más grande pero en el que no te volvías loco yendo de un lado para otro para a menos que fueras un completista. Pero llego el cuarto y en principio último juego de la saga y con él llego el terror. Un escenario inmenso, un coche que molestaba más de lo que ayudaba y la obligatoriedad de alejarte de la historia principal para enfrascarte en misiones secundarias que no eran más que una repetición constante  de las mismas situaciones y con un interés narrativo a la altura del betún. Y no podrías disfrutar del final real del juego si no las completabas al 100%. Resultado horas perdidas frente al televisor haciendo cosas intrascendentes para acabar yendo a Youtube para ver el final de la saga. Quieres poner mil coleccionables perfecto y finales alternativos guay, pero no me hagas un mega final para tu saga que este después de un buen rato de cosas superfluas.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Uno de los juegos que me maravillo de la generación play 3 y Xbox 360 fue Mirror’s Edge. Un juego que tumbaba los convencionalismos de los plataformas llevando las mecánicas de salto de la tercera a la primera persona. Por desgracia la propuesta no calo entre los jugones y no vendió todo lo bien que debería. Esto último no impidió que años mas tarde saliera una secuela y por desgracia cayo en los mundos abiertos. En el primer juego cada misión que Faith debía acometer tenía un entorno determinado, era vibrante, estresante y diferente, no tenías que ir una y otra vez por el mismo camino. Pero en el segundo llego el mundo abierto y si bien ahora los caminos eran mucho más abiertos y podíamos ir por donde quisiéramos. Pero cada tres pasos un menú ofreciéndonos hacer alguna cosa corta un juego donde la gracia es la fluidez. Vamos un despropósito que me hizo abandonar el juego a las pocas horas de juego. Una verdadera lástima pues estoy seguro que este segundo juego se cargo la franquicia.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wyld

Y ya para ir acabando con mi ración de bilis toca hablar del último juego que me lleva de cabeza con esto del mundo abierto y haz lo que quieras que no es otro que Breath of the Wild. El juego insignia y único titulo de mi flamante Nintendo Swicht me tiene enamorado por una parte y me tiene hasta los huevos por otro. Visualmente es una delicia de juego, las mecánicas son fantásticas hasta que toca ponerte a cazar para tener alimentos con los que curarte, perseguir bichos para hacerte con sus armas pues con el uso estas se rompen y que cada treinta pasos te desvíes porque en la lejanía hay un templo y si no vas completándolos no aumentas tu vida y resistencia. Total que la cantidad de cosas que has de hacer para avanzar en el juego me abruma. Sentarse a jugar y pasarse una hora a los mandos para acabar con la sensación de no haber conseguido nada es descorazonador y hace que no me apetezca encender la consola.

Como habréis visto mi problema más que con los juegos estilo GTA es con aquellos juegos que se alargan de forma innecesaria o intrusiba. Y con todo este rollo no digo que no deberían meter mecánicas nuevas en otros géneros, por ejemplo las mejoras de equipo y habilidades de los RPG o Metroidvanias en muchos casos añaden una sensación de progreso que suele ser bienvenida en muchos juegos. Pero estos mundos gigantes que aportan poco o nada más allá de alargar los juegos en mi opinión se las podrían ahorrar, centrarse en contar una buena historia y estoy convencido que muchas veces acabarían con un mejor juego.


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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 6

In My Daydreams

I became conscious of her brown eyes watching my reaction. Running still sounded like the wisest choice. I stayed still and didn’t say anything.

After a pause, she said, “Was it the King? The Queen? The Warlord? The Wise Ones? The Schemer? The Beauty? The Traitor?”

I tried not to show anything more than curiosity on my face. “Are there more?”

“Enough,” she said, leaning back in her chair and frowning. “I shouldn’t name any more. You need to understand this even if you don’t know. Someone close to you is not what they seem. They might appear to be human, but they’re closer to what you imagine gods to be like. All people exist in more dimensions than they’re aware of. People who associate with gods, or whatever they are, stick out. Your friend sticks out a little. You glow.”

“Oh.” I let the implications sink in and all of them were bad. If I glowed at close range, then I’d get attention whenever one of them or maybe even their followers came near me. Almost as bad, when I thought about it, were the names she’d used. The Traitor had to be Lee, but if that were so, then the Warlord was someone else. If the Warlord were the Live faction’s best at leading troops and Lee were the Destroy faction’s, that would make sense. At the same time, if the Warlord were better than Lee, that would be a bad thing.

Then I thought of something. “How do you know that I glow?”

Still watching me, she said, “It happens if mortals associate with them long enough. I’m surprised that you can’t. If I read you right, you’ve been exposed to more power than most.”

I thought back to the sword and how I’d drawn it out of nowhere.

“You pulsed,” she said. “What were you thinking about? Whatever it is, don’t think about it if you fear immortals might be watching.”

“I probably shouldn’t talk any more about this, then.”

She let out a breath. “You’re doing the right thing for now, but not forever. I don’t know which of them you’re connected to, but whoever it is has made a substantial investment of time in you. Even though I can’t know it, I believe we’re on the same side. In the end, we’ll be better together than apart.”

I nodded. “I’m sure you’re right about that in the long run, but right now I’m just here because I need new parts. I don’t think I can commit to something out of nowhere.”

Leaning back and nodding, she said, “I understand. If you change your mind, you’ll be able to find me.”

After that, the doors hummed again, the windows let more light through, and I felt a breeze in the room. It left us with an uncomfortable silence that she broke by asking me about the material my clothes were made of. Bearing in mind that I wore a self-repairing material that could be programmed to look like different colors, textures, and shapes, it opened up a conversation.

She knew more about nanotech than I did too, and while my costume wasn’t made of nanobots, it did use nanotechnology. Even if it wasn’t as comfortable as before she’d brought up Lee’s people, I still found her easy to talk to and learned as we talked.

Marcus came back mid-conversation with lunch. “They’re kind of like gyros,” he said. I unwrapped the sandwich. It was in a material that looked like white and red stripped paper, but felt like leaves. The sandwich itself was wrapped in flat bread that really did look like pita bread. The meat was purple. I looked up at him.

“Don’t ask,” he said. “You’ll be happier.”

Deciding that the same went for the vegetables and the green sauce, I bit in. The sauce turned out to be tangy with spices I didn’t recognize at all. The meat was tender and juicy—perfect. The vegetables were weird but didn’t stand out among everything else.

By the time we finished eating, the parts were done, placed in boxes along with the protective wrapping and bagged. On the way out, I paid using the Xiniti implant and said, “Thanks,” to Kee.

I meant it too. In the conversations we’d had, she’d given me an entirely new way to understand FTL drive design and given me ideas about how to fix persistent issues I’d had with the Rocket suit.

As we walked out, I wished I’d talked to her about the Xiniti implant. It connected to the ship by default. It needed to connect to my armor. I had ideas. The implant had documentation explaining the protocols and hardware required.

We were out on the street when I decided to step back into the shop for one more question. I told Marcus, “It’ll be quick, I promise.”

He laughed.

It felt wrong before I even reached the door. I couldn’t have described how, but I knew that something had changed. It might have been as simple as the hum of conversation coming from inside. With the entire asteroid being climate controlled, the door didn’t have to be closed to keep out wind, rain, or snow, so I stepped inside to find the room completely different.

It still had machines for fabricating parts, but they didn’t fill the room. The room was larger and the machines stood next to the walls. People (or at any rate sapient beings) filled it. The signs and multi-colored banners on the walls made it feel festive. Humans and aliens I’d never imagined stood next to the machines, talking about FTL theory, robot design, and hundreds of other topics. The sound of a lecture drifted in from the room next door.

A six-armed shaggy lump next to the door rose as I leaned in, rumbling “Welcome to Tinkers. Is this your first time?”

“No,” I said, “my second. Is… Kee here?”

The Xiniti implant translated what sounded like a hacking cough as “No, I’m afraid she’s been out all morning. Would you like me to take a message?”

“Never mind,” I peered into the room. “I’m sure I’ll find her when I need to.”

Stepping back out, I said, “Thanks,” only to find Marcus next to me.

“Wow,” he said, and then switched over to a Xiniti private communication channel. We were the only ones on it. “She wasn’t human, was she?”

I thought about it as we walked down the street. “I’m trying to remember if she ever said she was. She said a lot of things that implied that she was, but…” I shook my head. “She wanted to find out who we were connected to and she mentioned some options, but I don’t think she mentioned herself in the list. I think she’s from the Live faction and I think that her thing is encouraging technological development in the younger races.”

“Right,” Marcus said, “so when it all comes to a head, they’ve got power. It sounds familiar, you know.”

Marcus glanced back at the shop. “If she’s from the Live faction, it would explain why she did what she did with the shop. She trusts us because we’re hiding. On the other hand, if she’s from the Destroy faction, she might have swapped it because it doesn’t matter what we know. She’s going to kill us all anyway.”

I glanced over at him. He shrugged.

“I’m betting on Live,” I told him. “Otherwise, why set up a shop that teaches people?”

We turned into one of the walkways that led toward the street level trains. Marcus nodded. “I like that idea.”

That didn’t stop me from getting the parts inspected at a part store I found on the network, though. The proprietor, a six foot tall bipedal slug, looked them over and said, “High quality FTL drive parts based on a Hrrnna design. Nice. They’d be good for a gate or maybe a deep space exploration ship.”

I paid him and we left.

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The One who Didn’t Belong

Require Cookie

Who is the person who doesn’t belong, in the room where previous Incarnations create the new Incarnation series? – the Leaking Pen

 

Ok, so there’s this.

A short story, showing a very, very short peek into the inner workings of the world behind the Agency. Behind Central. Further up and back.

Since the view with Cookie was always the long term, there are a lot of things I poked at, little hints dropped here and there.

You’ll notice some things, things that characters say or do, that hint that the world-building seeming incongruous to a certain point. It’s not plot holes (ok…99% isn’t plot holes, you are talking to the person who accidentally switched which one of Raz’s parents was white…oops).

There’s talk in canon of angels in all of their forms starting out as rocks and trees – basically as motionless beacons, just looking for major interference that would set off an alarm if that happened.

Some kind of giant leap forward happened, taking them from immobile alarm systems to people who actively guard the masquerade.

Because guarding the masquerade isn’t what they are supposed to be for. Hiding magic from humans was never in their original job description, so to speak.

So what the fuck happened?

Something the fuck happened.

The vague shape of things is that at some point, the fae insinuated themselves into the hierarchy, which is why the Agency is protecting the masquerade, which isn’t to protect humanity, it’s to keep the smelly, unevolved humans away from the fae.

The man in the short is one of the top brass in this organisation.

 

 

 

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PenintheStone

Drew Hayes (RT The Pen in the Stone):
Since I have book coming out this month (Fred #4: The Fangs of Freelance on July 25th) that means I am in maximum marketing/shill mode.

PenintheStone
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Semicoop

Ceci n’est pas un comic

Semicoop

Last week has been crazy. It’s a shame that the crazy times are work and family related and not board game related, meaning I actually have little to discuss in this blog post, sorry!

Since last weekend we have Clank! and Hanabi in our collection which we hope to play soon when things clear up a little. This also means more games to store somewhere in our house! I’m afraid we will very soon reach the point that we might have to give away some games we own that we don’t like enough to keep in our collection. But that is going to be terribly hard (for me anyway). There are a lot of games we don’t play very often, but we do think are amazing. Should those games make space for other games or should we keep them, even though we play them maybe once every three years or so?

I’m curious.
Do you keep every board game you’ve ever bought (even though you hardly play it) or do you sometimes clean up your collection?

The post Ceci n’est pas un comic appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 5

In My Daydreams

We spent the next hour talking about jump, blink, and near-space physics and how they related to drive design. As we talked, it became obvious that she didn’t just know more than I did, but that her knowledge eclipsed mine. At the same time, she never talked down to me. It felt like the better sort of independent study. She asked questions and I answered, but from my answers she somehow noticed knowledge that I was missing and explained it to me.

The longer we kept talking, the more faster than light drives made sense. It felt like talking to my grandfather, Dr. Nation, or anyone who could talk about technical issues at exactly the level I needed to understand them. My mind burned as connection after connection fell into place.

She sent papers for me to read later to my implant and by the second hour we were working on the parts. They were common parts even if Grandpa’s modifications to the drive weren’t typical. Even there she had observations on things that might need to be changed.

We’d set up a simulation of the drive based on the schematics I had, Grandpa’s maintenance documentation, and a couple remote connections to the ship.

“What you need,” she said, “based on your usage isn’t simply parts for a larger ship, but parts with increased durability, so dedicated blink drive, or even jump gate parts if they fit. What materials were you planning to use for the drive’s field radiators?”

I named what Grandpa had used and then added, “But some of the alloys you showed me might work. The ones the Hrrnna ships use could handle it, I think.”

She smiled. “That’s a good idea. The Hrrnna made their fortunes in mining colonies. Many of the best FTL engineers come from their shipyards.”

Four hours later, the machines were fabricating parts based on Hrrnna designs and materials, altered for my ship’s specific design oddities. As for myself, I understood how the reviews could describe it as a social movement as much as a business. The FTL drive parts weren’t cheap, but five hours is an awfully long time to spend with a customer. Marcus came back three times while we were talking, going back to the art store the first two times and on the third asked, “I’m going to get lunch. Do you want anything?”

I hadn’t been thinking about it, but when I did I became aware that I was desperate for food. “Yes, but does anyplace around here even serve food we can eat?”

Then I thought, and how weird is it going to be?

My face must have showed a little of that last thought because Marcus grinned. “Their network says there’s a restaurant serving human food a little further down the street. I’ll have them make yours bland.”

Then he stepped outside. I had a moment’s worry about his safety, but it went away as I reminded myself that he was wearing one of my new self-repairing costumes that now doubled as a space suit.

“He’s thoughtful,” Kee said.

“Yeah,” I said, realizing that I hadn’t noticed.

“There’s something I need to ask you,” she said, “and I don’t know if I should. The two of you seem safe but this is a big thing.”

She looked me over as if she could see inside me. Then she asked, “Who is it?”

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

Her mouth turned into a thin line and in the background machines hummed, followed by solid clicking noises. At the same time, the sound of the room took on a dead quality. A glance at the window made me think that it was thicker than it had been—if that was even possible.

“I think you know what I’m talking about,” she said. When she’d been talking about FTL drive physics, her voice had risen and fallen to emphasize points and she’d laughed easily. Now she kept her voice low.

“If you’re like me,” she said, “you know that telling the wrong person invites the destruction of everyone you’ve ever cared about.”

I felt sure I knew exactly what she meant by that, but I didn’t say anything. Lee had told me what to do if I met another one of his kind—ignore it and keep on walking. At close range, they’d be able to tell that I’d been associating with one of them and I might be able to recognize them in the same way I could now recognize Lee in whatever shape he chose to wear.

Pretending not to notice them meant that they might conclude that I’d spent time with one of their kind unknowingly. It wasn’t a good chance, but it was better than talking.

He’d never told me how to handle a human associate of one of his kind who’d recognized that I was one too. Leaving would have been the best idea, but if all that humming didn’t mean that the doors were shut, I’d be surprised.

She watched me for a reaction. I don’t know if I gave her one, but I tried not to.

Taking a breath, she said, “You’ve trusted me enough to let me look at your experimental drive, hear me out and I’ll let you go whatever you say.”

Nodding, I said, “Sure.”

“If I’m right, you were told a story like this… A long time ago, one of the first (or maybe the first) species broke apart. One group wanted to teach the younger races. The other wanted to destroy them, but couldn’t destroy them all directly. So the group that wanted to destroy the younger races seeded the galaxy with traps for the younger races, but they also tried to destroy those in the Live faction. They’re still hunting them down. So, the Live faction survives by hiding.”

She looked at me again. “Which one is it? There aren’t many of them left.”

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Tieshaunn

B13.a Toybox (1 of 2)

Tieshaunn

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Title: Peregrine swoops in!
In: Boards > Professional > G. Introductions > 2012
Peregrine (Original Poster)(Cape)(Independent)
Posted on July 30, 2012:

Hello everyone,
I guess I should introduce myself here and all. My cape (I can already say that, right? Even though I haven’t gone out yet?) is Peregrine, and I’m a Gadgeteer! Big shock, I know.

I had my origin almost two months ago, and I finished my first build soon after (click here for a photograph!). Yeah, I’m that girl who survived the PanAm crash and had my very own Cast Away experience, though I only spent a little over a week there before I got my power and managed to get back to civilisation (as far as one can consider Scotland to be civilised). There was a big media hubub about it, you can just look it up online if you’re curious.

Anyway, I’ve decided I want to be a hero! I’ve been working on some really cool stuff, but I’m having trouble with some of my inventions and I don’t know why! I have really no idea how Gadgeteers are supposed to work or anything, and I’d be really grateful for every bit of help!

So, a friend of mine told me about Toybox and how it’s for Gadgeteers from all sides and so here I am!

A few questions straight away – hopefully it’s appropriate here:

  1. Is it ok to talk with villain gadgeteers, too, or are there rules for keeping capes and cowls apart on this board?
  2. Is there a specific section for people who trouble getting their power to work right in the first place?
  3. What’s the word on making money as a Gadgeteer? Are there any safe ways to do it without belonging to, like, the Knights of the Round or the Queen’s Men or the United Heroes?
  4. Do I really have to worry about Syndicate people or other criminals abducting me to put me to work for them? Everyone keeps talking about how many people would do that to a Gadgeteer.
  5. Do I need to register somewhere to be considered a proper superhero? I’d rather not be a vigilante, certainly not a criminal. Also, can I do it if I’m still underage?
  6. Are there rules against giving equipment to normals so they can help me fight crime?

Anyway, I hope you’ll take good care of me and that I’ll be able to become a good and proper member of this huge community!

(Showing Page 1 of 16)

SirLamorak (Cape)(Knight of the Round Table)(Rounds Ambassador)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Dear Peregrine,
let me be the first one to welcome you, both as a fellow gadgeteer and a fellow cape. It always brightens my day to see another member of our kind take up the charge of fighting the good fight, even if I wish fewer would start quite as young as you are.
About your questions:
1. It’s alright to talk to our cowled members – nothing illegal about it, so long as you don’t knowingly help them commit or cover up a crime. This is supposed to be a board for Gadgeteers first, Capes and Cowls second. Keeping that in mind, though, I’m afraid that not all members of Toybox uphold its rules as they should (to be fair, it’s not just cowls who’ve broken them in the past), so do be careful about what you talk about with whom, especially when it comes to sharing images about you, your laboratory or any other personal information – same rules as anywhere on the Internet apply, only even more so.
2. Yes, there is one in the professional section (i.e. the Gadgeteer-only one) of the board. Just follow this link to the introductory thread.
3. There are too many ways and pitfalls to enumerate here. Look up this thread and this presentation as well as this video channel as a start, and go from there. You can also contact both the Knights of the Round Table, the Queen’s Men and the United Heroes via e-mail or phone, their contact information is on their respective websites – I assure you, they’re always happy to help a gadgeteer make legitimate money off their work, even if said gadgeteer is not a member!
4. That is a danger I’m afraid you’ll have to live with, especially considering your age and, I’m sad to say, your gender; it is because of that that I always recommend to new gadgeteers that they find a good team that can protect them, at least until they reach that point where they can take care of themselves. I have sent you a PM with both my own and my team’s contact information, do not hesitate to call for help if things take a turn for the worst.
5. You’re in luck insofar as Great Britain has very lax laws in regards to independent heroes – so long as you stick to some basic rules, you will not be branded a vigilante and merely be considered an independent hero. However, the fact that you’re still underage (and obviously so, going by what I’ve seen of you on the news) is going to be a problem, look here for laws regarding underage capes (being a cowl is illegal anyway, obviously, regardless of your age).
6. Not rules per se, except that you aren’t allowed to arm teenagers and children anymore than a normal person would be allowed to. However, it rarely goes well for a variety of reasons. I would recommend against it, unless you have no other option or it turns out that your power is particularly suited to it.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask, be it here, on the boards or via PM directly to me. Also feel free to call me up if you need help – even when I’m busy, I’ll be able to arrange some time for you!

Nuckelavee(Cowl)(Red Raiders)(Syndicate Ambassador)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Welcome to Toybox, Peregrine! It is always good to meet a new gadgeteer, be they cape, cowl or other – that’s what’s so great about Toybox, after all, that we can all talk with each other here, regardless of what group we belong to outside of it!
First of all, allow me to dispel at least some of the worries the rumor mill and my caped friend up there may have caused you. While it is true that the Syndicate is always very eager to recruit new gadgeteers to our ranks, we don’t go around kidnapping them and turning them into slaves – putting aside the fact that, unlike a lot of other groups, we do have standards, that is a horrenduously impractical way to get someone to work for you, a waste of resources all around. If you don’t trust in our decency, at least trust in our pragmatism, please!
Also, you’re a teenager. The Syndicate does not move against teenagers unless they keep poking us and even then only rarely. Children (I’m sorry if this sounds patronising, but it must be said) are off-limits except under the most dire of circumstances and breaking that rule is a quick way to get a very terminal visitation from your supervising member of the Five or, if you’re really out of luck, the Big Boss himself.
Now don’t take this as a free card to keep coming after our people, please! If you attack us, as capes are wont to do, then we will fight back and I’d rather not see you hurt, personally.
As far as making money is concerned, while it is admirable that you are so determined to stick to the legal way, I do feel it prudent to inform you that there are many ways to get money from my associates, not all of whom are even illegal – in fact, you could get our support while still being a cape, so long as you are willing to commit not to directly interfere with our operations (you’ll be free to go after any other criminals and cowls, of course). Regarding the legal way, I think my caped colleague up there has given you all the primer you need at this point.
I have sent you a PM with my personal contact information – please feel free to contact me if you need advice or help, especially if you suspect some rogue is coming after you, specifically!
Also, I notice that my colleague up there failed to explain that both he and I are ambassadors for our organisations to Toybox; as such, if you have trouble with either of our groups, or feel that you need to contact either one, he and I are the ones to talk to, as are the ambassadors of other groups.
Enjoy your time here on Toybox and Godspeed to you, Peregrine!

Dory (Cape)(Jasonites)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Welcome to Toybox and the Cape community in general, Peregrine! Please don’t pay too much attention to Nuckelavee there, he’s a jerk who pretends to be a jerk pretending to be reasonable.
If you want my opinion, I’d strongly recommend that you join a team and as soon as possible; even if you only stay with them for a while, it’ll give you some much needed protection and support during your most vulnerable phase.

Nuckelavee (Cowl)(Red Raiders)(Syndicate Ambassador)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Peregrine, don’t listen too much to Dory, he’s only cross with me because I openly pointed out his ineptitude as a weapons designer before.
He does make a good point about swiftly joining a team, though.

LordBuckethead (Cape)(The Gremloids)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Bah, don’t listen to them, Peregrine! A gadgeteer can absolutely make it on their own, as you can see in the case of Britain’s glorious future Overlord himself! For twenty-five years now he has braved every opposition and forged his own path, and his alone!
That being said, it is prudent to make trustworthy allies, so that you’ll have people who can back you up in a pinch. This doesn’t require that you join up with any group – there are many capes who’ll be happy to enter into a loose alliance for the sake of support!
Speaking of which, we Gremloids and I, Lord Buckethead himself, would be all too happy to provide you with support if you find yourself in dire straits – you can contact us via PMing me, or via the contact information on our website.
Personally, I would also be very happy to arrange trades, if you could like some good and proper laser weaponry 😉

Peregrine (Cape)(Independent)
Replied on July 30, 2012:
Ohmygodareplyfromlordbuckethead! I’m a huge fan, it’s such an honour to get to talk to you, Sir! And yes, I would love to trade something, if I even have anything worth one of your amazing laser pistols!
@SirLamorak: Thank you very much, that was really, really helpful!
@Nuckelavee: Thank you for being so kind, but I’m pretty sure you’re portraying things a lot nicer than they really are…

Nuckelavee (Cowl)(Red Raiders)(Syndicate Ambassador)
Replied on July 31, 2012:
You are free to think as you wish, of course, but I do hope you’ll approach all things with an open mind – you’ll find that, as far as cowls go, we from the Syndicate are very much the most reasonable.

SirLamorak (Cape)(Knights of the Round)(Rounds Ambassador)
Replied on July 31, 2012:
As much as I respect Lord Buckethead, I think it’s necessary to point out that there was a great deal of luck involved in him surviving long enough on his own to get to where he is now.
Please don’t take him as a role model and if you do, at least avoid blowing yourself up repeatedly…

LordBuckethead (Cape)(The Gremloids)
Replied on July 31, 2012:
Bah, the Spiffy Spacelord makes his own luck! And blowing yourself up is a valid combat tactic, provided you have a means to survive doing so!

Nuckelavee (Cowl)(Red Raiders)(Syndicate Ambassador)
Replied on July 31, 2012:
While I am loathe to agree with him on anything, I do agree that blowing himself up seems to work out just fine for this bucketheaded idiot.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3, 4

(Showing Page 4 of 4)

Brennus (Cape)(Independent)
Replied on August 2, 2012:
Wow, that escalated quickly.
Welcome to Toybox, Peregrine! I’m a fellow newcomer myself and one who intends to stay independent at that, so I hope we’ll both make it!

End of Page. 1, 2, 3, 4

***

Private message from Brennus:

Brennus: Yes, I did use the wing designs you put up for public use. They worked out wonderfully.
Peregrine: I’m so glad that worked out! I wanted to have my own peregrine drones, but I just can’t work out the programming to make them even remotely autonomous! How’d you do it? Would you be willing to share?
Brennus: I’d love to, but I’m afraid that the programming I use requires my own custom programming cores to work, and I’m rather reticent about sharing the specs for those. I’m sorry.
Peregrine: Don’t sweat it, it’s not like I’d just share my best designs on a whim, anyway. We barely know each other, after all. Though, maybe we could arrange a trade? Something of equal value?
Brennus: Theoretically yes, though do note that you’d need a lot of cores to get a whole swarm together. What do you have in mind?
Peregrine: How do you feel about having your own jetpack?

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters, Patreon Tagged: Basil, Dory, Lord Buckethead, Nuckelavee, Peregrine, Sir Lamorak
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Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
Oh snap! The gloves are off! I think Paragon has lost her cool and I don't know if there is any going back now!... https://t.co/ypK5tjicMZ

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Tieshaunn

13.9 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Basil fired a shot, aiming squarely for the man’s head.

The Protector – or whoever was pretending to be him – made no move to dodge, nor show any reaction at all, really, when the blast hit him on the side of his forehead, glancing off with sparks and a sharp sound. It didn’t even stir his hair.

The man tilted his head, squinting at the shooter. “Now now, young man, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – how about an introduction first?” he asked, his disposition still very genial, in stark contrast to the situation at hand. He flourished his cape and bowed with perfect grace. “Jason Davon, also known as the Protector; I wish we could have met under less ominous circumstances, young ones.”

They just stared at the legend from the West Coast, not sure how to respond. Basil even lowered his rifle, though partly because he didn’t think it stood a chance of actually harming the man anyway.

In the end, it was Tartsche who gathered his wits about him first, taking a few steps forward (putting himself between the Protector and the rest of the group).

“It’s, it’s an honour to meet you, Sir,” he said, his voice cracking slightly at the beginning. “I’m… I mean, my name is Tartsche, and I’m a member of the United Junior Heroes.”

The Protector nodded, still smiling that maddeningly calming smile, even as Basil and the others re-ordered themselves behind Tartsche.

Spellgun and Tyche moved up to flank the untouchable hero. The former dropped to one knee in a shooter’s position, leaning against Tartsche’s leg, while Tyche simply reached out and touched Tartsche’s shoulder, as if to support him. Both of them promptly vanished from Basil’s sensors, much like Tartsche had moments earlier, as he dropped and immediately re-activated his power.

“It’s nice to meet a fellow hero,” the tall man spoke, watching them curiously, with no hint of anxiety or worry. “What brings you here?”

Bakeneko slid up to Osore, who was already starting to bulk up, if slowly, attaching herself to his back with her arms wrapped around his neck, her body from the neck down shifting into a mass of furry tentacles tipped by stingers, though the whole process took several seconds to complete.

“We’re hunting a super-villain,” Tartsche replied. “We were just about to take a train to a station near where we believe her to be, when we were drawn into… this.” He gestured around at the empty space around them, and at the mystic drawings above.

Gloom Glimmer floated forward, taking up position to the right of Tartsche, her cloak billowing in an unseen, unfelt breeze, while Polymnia joined Basil on the other side and further behind. Hecate stayed behind, quietly whispering something as she dug into a leather pouch on her belt.

The Protector tilted his head the other way, studying them all, one after the other, as if he had all the time in the world. “A commendable effort – quite a shame you had to end up in this situation, of all.” He sighed, looking around at the empty area, then raised his voice: “You know, it’s quite rude not to greet your guests!”

Once more the woman’s voice boomed from every direction at the same time, so loud Basil had trouble making out the individual words.

“AND IT’S PATHETIC THAT YOU’RE TRYING TO STALL, PROTECTOR! NOW FIGHT THESE INSOLENT RUNTS AND TEACH THEM THE FOLLY OF CHALLENGING THE COMPANIONS OF THE FUTURE!!!”

He had no such trouble making out the individual exclamation points, though.

The Protector frowned, growning softly as he closed his eyes. Then he took a deep breath, opening them again, looking at them all with eyes as gray and hard as steel. “Brace yourselves, young ones!”

“Wait, what’s g-” Tartsche began to protest, but he was cut off when the Protector charged straight at him, reaching for his throat.

His hand came into contact with it, only to fail to get a grip, or so much as budge the teenager by a hair.

Everyone else immediately opened up; Spellgun and Tyche all but put their weapons’ respective muzzles to his chest and pulled their triggers, Osore fired a twisting, uneasy-to-look-at fear blast from his fist, Gloom Glimmer threw out what appeared to be ropes of light, only they were buzzing like actual buzzsaws and Polymnia opened up with the speakers on her wrists, projecting beams of sounds so intense they visibly distorted the air.

None of it did a thing, other than Spellgun’s bullet, which covered his chest in rapidly spreading, purplish ice, and maybe Polymnia’s sound attack, which made the man look annoyed. Everything else either slid off of him or was deflected without any visible effect upon him, even Gloom Glimmer’s contribution. Hecate, meanwhile, slid down onto her knees, her head held low as if in surrender – or contemplation.

Basil, who’d refrained from firing on him – he’d already seen that even a headshot was less than an inconvenience on the man – instead threw himself at Polymnia, tackling her out of the way the Protector’s heat vision shot through where her chest had been just moments before.

“I very much dislike sonic attacks, young lady,” the man spoke reprovingly as he flexed his chest and arm muscles, blowing off the ice Spellgun’s bullet had coated him with. “Please refrain from annoying me so.”

Gloom Glimmer rose up behind him, her fists raised above her head and clasped together, bringing them down on his head with all her strength, creating an impact so powerful it blew everyone else but the three under the protection of Tartsche’s power and Hecate, who was kneeling in the blast shadow of the three, away.

Basil briefly lost sight of what was going on as he and Polymnia tumbled across the smooth floor, until they ended up a tangled mess of stiff, armored limbs.

His head ringing, he clumsily disentangled himself from her before she accidently broke his bones when she tried the same – they really were tangled up quite badly.

Fortunately, Polymnia was better off than he was, and clear-headed enough to free herself without issue, getting up on her feet faster than he did.

Getting up on his knees, he shot out his grappling hooks, attaching them to the floor in front of him just in time to brace himself against the gale-like winds; raising an arm, he wrapped it around Polymnia’s waist as she dropped down as well, helping her hold out against the pressure.

Together they watched as Gloom Glimmer rained blows on the Protector, who seemed to have been smashed down onto the ground, spreading spider-web-like cracks several metre in every direction except beneath Tartsche, Tyche and Spellgun – the ground beneath them was as spotless as before.

The Protector himself was on his back, looking up at the furious teen raining down earth-shattering blows upon him, seeming none the worse for wear – if anything, he looked pensive.

Finally seeming to have had enough of the torrent of blows, he rose up, forcing Gloom Glimmer to fly up as well, her machine-gun-like storm of blows stopping finally, ending the gales of air that the shockwaves had created.

Not a scratch on him, Basil thought in awe. He’d heard how tough the Protector had been – until DiL, no one had ever managed to cause him serious harm – yet it was one thing to read about it (or see in the countless tv specials and movies it was shown or mentioned) and actually see it in action.

“You know…” the man began to speak, rising up slowly towards Gloom Glimmer, “I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen you before – and I never forget a face. Yet I just can’t seem to place you…”

“You knew my older sister,” Gloom Glimmer replied while bringing her hands together in front of her, creating a red spark that quickly grew to the size of a peach hovering between her palms. “She killed you.”

She threw her arms out, launching the sphere at at him.

The Protector made no move to dodge or defend, simply allowing it to hit his chest.

There was a sharp crack and the sound of air rushing in, stirring his cloak, but nothing else happened.

“FOOLS!! DID YOU THINK A MERE TELEPORATION TRICK WOULD BE ENOUGH TO BRING DOWN THE PROTECTOR HIMSELF!?! I DO NOT CHOOSE MY MINIONS LIGHTLY!!!!”, the woman’s voice boomed, making Basil wish he had a pair of Polymnia’s ear protectors at hand. It was actually rattling him through his helmet.

Four exclamation marks on that last one. That can’t be a good sign. He looked around, switching through various scan modes, trying to pick up any useful information.

All he got was a headache from the scrambled images his sensors gave him as they tried to make sense of the discombobulated energies that seemed to flow through this pocked reality without pattern nor purpose.

The Protector, meanwhile, looked around in annoyance, before turning to Gloom Glimmer again, as another attack simply splashed off of his chest, as did several shots from Spellgun, each of whom delivered a different effect.

“So rude,” he said with a sigh, shaking his head before he turned to look at Gloom Glimmer again. “I’m sorry, but did you just say you are that baby’s sister?” he asked with a politely curious expression on his face.

Osore tackled him, having grown to nearly twice his size and several times his original weight, but bounced off to no effect. Bakeneko tried to strangle him with her tentacles, her stingers going for his eyes.

The Protector ignored them entirely, other than gently brushing the stingers aside after they failed to penetrate his eyes.

“Yeah. I’m Gloom Glimmer – Lady Light’s and the Dark’s second daughter,” the hooded heroine spoke softly, her arms hanging down her sides. She wasn’t trying another attack, for whatever reason, nor could Basil detect any kind of invisible energy emanations from her – not that that said much, as he doubted he had enough sensors to pick up everything she could do. The only thing he could pick up, other than that annoying background radiation, was the soft glow that encompassed them all, red for him and his comrades, blue for the Protector.

The latter looked at her, stunned. “That child was theirs, huh? Did they manage to save her?” he asked, his voice turning hopeful as a sniper round from Tyche’s rifle flattened itself against his cheek, before it slid off.

Gloom Glimmer’s head jerked back, nearly causing her hood to fall off and reveal her face – what little Basil could see of it seemed… shocked.

“She destroyed your city. She killed you! And what you worry about is whether she was saved?” she asked, incredulous.

He tilted his head to the side again, floating up so he was at eye level with her. “Of course. What man wouldn’t want to see a child safe?” he asked, softly. “She was but a babe when she appeared; am I right in assuming that she’d just been born when her powers… manifested?”

“Actually, it happened even before, before she was born,” she replied, lowering her head as her hands clenched into fists. “She manifested in the womb and…” She bit her lower lip, the only part of her still visible, falling quiet.

“Ah, I’m very sorry,” he replied gently. “Though I’m glad that Lady Light survived it.” He smiled reassuringly. “To answer your question, I hold no ill will towards her, no more than I would hold towards a newborn that soiled itself.” He clasped his hands behind his back as several bullets and a blast of raw fear splashed over and off the back of his head and his back. “One must only be accused of that which they choose to do, not that which they have no control over in the first place.”

Something he said seemed to strike home, because Gloom Glimmer made a soft sound, hiding deeper into her cloak, drawing it around herself like it could protect her.

Basil stopped his last attempts to shoot at him – at this point, he was just wasting ammunition. The others seemed to come to the same conclusion, as the barrage of attacks that the Protector had ignored so far ceased.

Bakeneko helped Osore get up again, using her arms to straighten the arm he’d broken when he tried a flying punch at the old hero’s back.

“What has become of her?” the invincible man asked.

“She’s been destroying towns, cities and whole countries, ever since,” she answered truthfully. “Appearing and vanishing with no rhyme or reason. No one’s managed to stop her in twenty-six years.”

“That’s horrible,” he said simply, as he looked over his shoulder at the trio standing below. His eyes glowed red, firing off a burst of heat vision that failed to harm them, thanks to Tartsche’s power; not that he seemed to have put any effort into it – an attack more like an afterthought.

Not that it would take more than an after thought for him to kill us, if he actually tried, Basil thought to himself as he went through his options.

His rifle was useless. His gauntlet might be able to protect him from a few hits, but that was all it was good for. Its offensive setting required melee range, and he was not so foolish as to get within close range of that man.

Which left… he looked down at his strangest invention yet, attached to his thigh via a simple magnetic charge.

The silvery-black ovoid, covered in circuit-like patterns much like his gauntlet, looked as innocious as anything he’d ever made.

No, not yet. There’s no guarantee that it’d do anything against him, and I can’t afford to lose it.

He looked at Polymnia, hoping that she might have an idea, but all he saw on her face was worry and fear. No help there.

The others seemed to be similarly dumbfounded as to what to do, except for Hecate, who was hunched over now, her hands cupped on the ground in front of her, as she kept chanting in Greek, or perhaps Ancient Greek – they both sounded the same to Basil, melodious yet non-sensical other than the odd word here or there that seemed to be the origin for an English one.

Since she seemed busy – and fortunately, the Protector had been ignoring her entirely so far – he focused on the dialogue between the two strongest persons in the room.

“-r power,” the Protector said, still addressing Gloom Glimmer. “It feels strange. Familiar, yet off.”

She turned her head away. “It’s the same as hers… just weaker.”

“Are you certain?” he asked, looking surprised. “It feels nothing like hers… almost the inverse, I’d say. Or perhaps the opposite?” He stroked his chin, looking closer at her. “Are you absolutely certain it’s the same?”

“I-“

“ENOUGH OF THIS!” the woman shouted in anger. “YOU ARE DELIBERATELY WASTING TIME! I TOLD YOU TO FIGHT!!!!”

The Protector sighed again. “I’m sorry about this,” he spoke, looking at Gloom Glimmer – though Basil was pretty sure he was adressing all of them. “But I can’t refuse her commands, much as I’d love to.”

His eyes flared red, sending forth twin beams of bright red light straight through Gloom Glimmer’s chest – to no avail, as she simply dissolved into a black mist that surged forward, enveloping his head, rushing into his mouth, his nose, his ears.

Within moments, she had entered completely into his body.

“Nice idea,” he said, chuckling in amusement, seemingly unbothered by the experience. “But I’m every bit as tough on the inside as I am on the outside, little miss.” He rolled his eyes. “Yes, even my brain. Please, you’ll just end up hurting yourself like this.”

Even as he spoke, he turned around, looking at Basil and Polymnia.

“Gadgeteers, huh? Don’t you have some trick up your sleeve that could make this interesting?” he asked Polymnia and him, as he flew closer.

Even standing (well, floating) straight, he moved forward almost too fast for Basil to react, reaching for them with one hand each.

If he touches us, we’re dead, Basil thought as his mind raced to find a way to escape him.

Fortunately, Polymnia was able to move fast enough to do so for him, grabbing him by the waist and leaping away with a massive effort of strength, even for her.

She leapt at the Protector, though.

“What are y-” he began, but cut himself off when he realised they were sailing over the Protector, who flew on for a moment before he turned around, tracking their arc.

Before he could nail them with his heat vision – if that was what he intended – a bullet hit him from Spellgun, straight in the face.

It had little effect, other than to coat his face in ice again. He simply sneezed, shattering the ice and expelling Gloom Glimmer in one move with such force, her mist-form slammed into Basil and Polymnia, bowling them over as they landed and she solidified again.

Ow, Basil groaned as they ended up with both girls lying on top of him. Polymnia in particular was very heavy. There was the sound of shouting and shooting, followed by the grinding sound of bursting ice, but he couldn’t see it because someone’s butt was on his face.

He growned, pushing the two girls off of him as he got up on his feet.

The Protector was trying to get at the immobile trio, again, to no avail, as they fired at him with their various rifles. Only Spellgun’s contrived shots seemed to even register, even if only as annoyances rather than actual threats.

Fortunately, for all of his power, even the Protector seemed incapable of penetrating Tartsche’s defense, be it with his eye beams or his fists, causing an almost comical, brief scene where he seemed to flail as if drunk, his hands sliding off of their heads, throats and weapons, his heat vision failing to so much as heat up anything it touched.

“Hm, interesting,” he said, as he floated back gracefully. “Reminds me of when I fought that baby, she was similarly protected… actually, did anyone bother to give her a name?”

“Desolation-in-Light, Sir,” Tartsche replied respectfully. “We call her Desolation-in-Light, or DiL for short.”

The tall man frowned at that. “That’s a horrible name. What kind of imbecile came up with it?”

Basil couldn’t be sure, given Tartsche’s knightly helmet, but he would’ve bet on him blushing a bit.

“Uh, I actually don’t know who started it. I just… uh, I grew up with it, Sir,” the invulnerable boy responded, sounding as calm as ever.

“Well, it fits as well as any,” Spellgun drawled while he reloaded his rifle. “It’s tacky, yeah, but ‘Desolation-in-Light’ kinda fits l-“

“Bree!” Gloom Glimmer screamed, her voice nearly cracking as she rose up on her feet, her arms thrown wide open, cloak billowing around her. “Her name is BREE!!!”

She threw her arms out forward and unleashed a new power, a beam so bright it blinded Basil even through his visor, creating a sound so loud it deafened him, as if the air itself cracked.

The beam lanced forth, slamming into the Protector – not Spellgun, as even Basil thought it would, for a moment – and then it was too bright to see.

When his vision cleared again, there was a furrow in the otherwise perfect floor, whatever material it was made of disintegrated by her beam even though it hadn’t come close to touching the ground.

There was no sign of the Protector.

Gloom Glimmer didn’t seem to care, as she whirled to glare at Spellgun, her eyes glowing red. “And if I hear any of you use that idiotic appelation ever again, I’ll force-feed you your own colon!” she screamed, her voice distoring towards the end, resembling her father’s much more than her own.

“Duly noted…” Spellgun said in a barely audible whisper.

The others just stared at her, even Basil.

What the…

Then there was a rush of wind, and something crashed into ground just a few metre away, throwing up dust as the ground cracked more, making Basil and Polymnia stumble.

When the dust settled, they saw the Protector rise to stand straight once more, his face twisted in discomfort.

There was a hole in his chest, right above his lung, perhaps even penetrating deep enough to damage it, the edges not burned, but smooth, bleeding heavily.

Even as they watched, it was visibly healing.

What the…

“Fun fact,” the Protector spoke, his voice as strong as ever, so likely no lung damage… if that would even inconveniene him. “I never knew before I fought… Bree’s her name, right?… before I fought Bree, but I actually regenerate!” He looked down at his own wound, watching it heal. “Ugh, this looks disgusting, yet kind of amazing.” He reached for the wound, poking it curiously. “Ow,” he flinched, pulling his hand back. “Pain, right. It’s been a while since I felt that.” He shook his hand, causing the blood on his finger to simply fly off, unable to stick even to the cloth of his costume. “I’m not surprised you managed to hurt me, though,” he said to Gloom Glimmer with his customary genial smile. “Only ones who ever managed that before were your parents, and your sister.”

Gloom Glimmer just stared at him, her mouth hanging open, though whether it was at him having survived her attack or his flippant attitude, Basil couldn’t tell.

What he could tell was that her beam had been far wider than the wound they could see; yet the rate at which his body…

Basil squinted, looking closer.

Not just his body – even his costume was repairing itself!

Either way, at the rate it healed, it shouldn’t have had time to fix a bigger wound just yet. Meaning that, most likely, only the most concentrated part of the beam had actually done any damage at all.

Sighing, he walked over to Gloom Glimmer, as an unnatural calm descendet upon him. He’s just toying with us, he thought. He hasn’t even used his compelling voice, yet. And he should be much faster than he’s shown himself to be, yet. So either he’s been revived in a weaker state, or else…

He’s holding back, the Man in the Moon spoke up. This guy’s a hero, right? Like, he’s the hero. The guy the fanfic writers always pair up with Lady Light. He wouldn’t want to really hurt any of us. For crying out loud, he doesn’t even hate the bitch who killed him!

Basil came to a stop next to Gloom Glimmer, throwing a glance at Hecate, who seemed still busy casting her spell, shielded from the effects of the fight by the blast shadow of the immovable trio. She was bent over her staff, holding onto it with her left hand, while her right one was held above its head, fingers moving as she seemed to be incanting a spell.

He tapped Gloom Glimmer’s shoulder, then tapped his temple when she looked at him. Her eyes widened briefly, before she got his meaning, and then he felt a slight pressure on his mind. He also looked at Tyche, making a few subtle hand signals, out of sight from the Protector and, hopefully, his master, as he couldn’t reach her communicator through Tartsche’s power. She nodded, leaning over to Tartsche to whisper something.

The three of them reappared in his sensors readings.

The contriver, she commanded him to fight us, Basil thought, focusing the thought to be transmitted the way he’d learned from Amy.

Yeah, which is why we’re so screwed, Spellgun replied through their mental link. Owww… I’m already getting a headache! He flinched, scrunching his face up.

Sorry, it’s hard to separate my feelings from my power, Gloom Glimmer replied mechanically, with no real guilt in her mental voice.

Fair enough, I guess… Spellgun admitted.

We are not as screwed as it may seem, Basil spoke up.

What do you mean, B-Six? Tyche asked.

Barely a second had passed since the conversation began.

I mean that he has been holding back this whole time, he explained. He has not even tried to attack Hecate, our most vulnerable member, and he has mostly focused on attacking either the ones under Tartsche’s power – first with an attack that would not have hurt any of you even if it had connected – or Gloom Glimmer, who can take anything he can dish out.

How would he know that? Tartsche asked, his mental voice even calmer than his real one. He clearly didn’t know what her power’s like beforehand.

People often forget his expanded senses, Gloom Glimmer answered before Basil could. He could probably tell I had defensive powers up.

But why would he be holding back like that? That bitch gave him an order, and he doesn’t seem able to refuse it! Tyche asked, sounding the least calm of the ones who’d spoken yet, her mental voice far shakier and brittle than she’d seemed even earlier during their reunion.

She only ordered him to ‘fight’ us. Not win against us. Not defeat us. Not kill us. Just to fight, Basil explained his earlier epiphany. He wants to lose, which is why he has not bothered to dodge a single attack so far, nor made a serious effort to harm any of us. As long as we keep fighting and his mistress doesn’t notice that he’s play-acting, we’ll be able to use that, right, Hecate?

Keep him off my back for another minute and I might have something that’ll work, she replied. Now hush, I’ve got to concentrate!

You heard the lady. Let’s keep up the show before  his mistress realises he’s just messing around! Tartsche spoke firmly. Gloomy, can you put up a proper terrain? Both Polymnia and especially Brennus need more than just flat ground to fight at their best. Spellgun, save up your best shots, just use the ones that can distract him. Tyche and I can’t contribute much here, I’m afraid, but we’ll try to give him credible reasons to be ‘distracted’ whenever possible. Let’s get Hecate her minute!

Everyone agreed in the affirmative, as Basil chambered a new round in his rifle. No more than five seconds in total had passed, since he had drawn Gloom Glimmer’s notice.

The Protector either hadn’t noticed that they’d been unusually quiet for that time, or, more likely, had deliberately ignored it.

Hell, if he can see electricity and into your brains, he can probably tell that you guys were connected via some mental power, the Man in the Moon spoke up. It’s pretty grating how many powers this guy has.

Basil didn’t bother to reply, not that he had the time, as Gloom Glimmer stomped her foot on the ground, sending forth multiple ripples that spread everywhere around them, except where Hecate was working on her spell.

“Oh, what’s this?” the Protector asked curiously, squinting as he looked closer at the effect. “I’ve got the oddest feeling that I’ve seen this before…”

Gloom Glimmer brought her foot down in another stomp, and the ripples disappeared instantly.

Everywhere they’d touched, the ground bucked, and burst into motion.

Pillars rose, sometimes in clumps, sometimes alone, all around them, as the flat floor was turned into a maze of vertical pillars, followed by several horizontal ones that shot out once the main ones had formed, interconnecting them.

Finally! Basil thought, exulting as he triggered his grappling hook system, launching himself up in the air. Now I can fight!

Behind him, Polymnia leaped up, grabbing hold of a horizontal pillar with both hands to vault herself up even further.

“You kids do know that hiding from me isn’t going to work for long, right?” the Protector asked merrily as he flew up and around a pillar, appearing right in front of Basil.

He fired off his second hook to the side, diverting his flight at the same moment to avoid smashing into him.

My rifle’s useless, but if he’s actually not trying to fight, I can probably risk going in close to use the discharge function.

The Protector pursued him easily, cornering without any heed for inertia, his arms crossed in front of his chest as if to say he didn’t even need them to fight. Which he didn’t, not really.

Basil landed with his feet against the side of a particularly tall pillar and detached his hook.

Before he could fall, he kicked himself off, going straight for his pursuing opponent.

The tall man’s eyes widened as Basil flipped around in the air, slamming into his midsection with both feet – not that it so much as budged him.

“You can’t possibly have ex-” he began to say, opening his arms, but Basil didn’t give him a chance to finish.

He put his flat palm against his chest, right over his heart – the wound Gloom Glimmer had dealt him was already gone, fixed together with his costume, so he didn’t waste time aiming for it.

Holding onto his left wrist with his right hand, as he felt gravity reassert itself and start to pull on him, Basil triggered his gauntlet’s entire store of energy.

Instead of the blast he’d expected, that’d throw him back and maybe rattle his invulnerable foe, there was no effect whatsoever on Basil himself – instead, the Protector disappeared from his sight, faster than the eye could follow, as several pillars behind him were broken, collapsing into rubble.

What? he thought, stunned, beginning to fall.

“WHAT!?! WHAT WAS THAT!?!?!?!?!” the crazed voice shouted at the top of its lungs (Basil assumed), managing to sound both offended and shocked at the same time.

Basil wasted no breath even trying to answer her, in no small part because he didn’t know himself.

Firing his grappling hooks, he absentmindedly swung himself onto the nearest pillar, looking out trying to find the Protector and maybe figure out what’d just happened.

In the distance, he saw a silver-and-white figure rise from the rubble – zooming in showed the Protector, unharmed, though with a stunned expression on his face.

ed vYeah, you and me both, Basil couldn’t help but think.

The Protector looked at him, his eyes flaring a bright red he’d have seen even without his visor’s zooming function.

My cue to dodge!

He jumped off the pillar, barely a moment before its tip was disintegrated by twin heat beams, turning the pillar into a molten-tipped candle as he swung into the forest of rocky pillars again, rapidly casting his hooks out and reeling them back in, all but flying between them.

The Protector came after him easily, apparently unhindered by the camouflage the pillars should have provided Basil.

I don’t even know all of the senses this guy could be bringing to the mat, Basil thought, chargrinned, trying to stay ahead of his pursuer, to draw the chase out and buy Hecate the time she needed to complete whatever she was working on.

“That felt weird,” he said as he caught up, forcing Basil to cast one hook out backwards the way he’d come, to swing around the back of the man, trying to stay out of his front arc. “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an effect quite like that before… what’d you do?”

“I discharged several tons’ worth of kinetic force into your chest in one shot,” Basil said, leading the man on a merry chase, waiting for his gauntlet to recharge, tracking its capacitors’ progress in drawing electricity from his batteries and charging the kinetic projector. I need to find a way to recharge soon. “I did not expect it to do… that.”

“Hmm,” the legendary hero stroked his chin, absent-mindedly cutting through Basil’s currently in-use hook-line with a flash of heat vision, causing him to tumble down before he used the other to catch himself and swing around a pillar. “So instead of dispersing or absorbing it, my own force-field translated that into movement… curious.”

“Absorbed,” Basil mumbled, while he caught sight of Polymnia, lurking behind a nearby pillar, the fingers of her left hand driven into the stone to dangle from. She looked back at him and made a quick series of hand signals with her right hand.

Gloom Glimmer dropped the telepathy, he realised, I should’ve noticed.

He nodded back at her, having understood the signs, and she smiled back.

Swinging around the pillar, he came face to face with the Protector again, just as the man was reaching out to grab him by the throat.

Disconnecting his remaining hook, he dropped, bending backwards to dodge his reaching hand, and cast it out again, pulling himself towards Polymnia’s pillar, hoping that whatever she was planning could buy them some more time.

Not that he’s exactly making it hard.

He passed her pillar, the Protector hot on his heels, and Polymnia struck as soon as the undead hero flew by her ambush.

Throwing herself around the pillar by the strength of one arm alone, she landed on the caped hero’s back, pressing both of her gauntlets to his ears.

<I’m really really sorry about this Sir I swear I’m actually a big fan!> she said, before she let loose with her sonics.

Even though Basil was already a dozen metre or so away from them, even though his helmet was shielded, he nearly tumbled down to the ground as the noise shook him to the bone.

Landing on the side of a pillar, held up by his grappling hook, he watched Polymnia ride the Protector down as the man lost control of his flight, tumbling downwards. The utter, mind-rending noise she was projecting was so powerful as to visibly distort the air around them as they fell, and it seemed to affect her, as well, in spite of all the protection built into her equipment, though she doggedly held onto her quarry, continuing to blast her cacophony into his ears at contact range.

That is, she did until he reached over his head and grabbed her by the forearms, his fingers crushing her gauntlets as they squeezed, making her cry out as he pulled her off of him and threw her with bone-crushing force into the ground below.

Polymnia impacted the ground with a cry of pain, cracking the stone as she was half-buried in it.

Both Basil and the Protector looked down at her for a moment, shocked at the sudden turn of events – yet neither had the chance to so much as make a sound before a sound like a sonic boom, only far more shrill, sounded, and the Protector was knocked out of the air.

“YOU-” Gloom Glimmer screamed, tackling him as he tumbled down, knocking him back the way she’d come, her body sheathed in a shroud of black sparks.

“-DON’T-” She punched him with a fist sheathed in green light, the energy of which exploded in another shrill boom, shattering all the pillars within ten metre of them as he was thrown out of sight, Gloom Glimmer in pursuit.

“-GET-” Her scream reached them, nevertheless, along with another boom in the distance that destroyed another cluster of pillars.

“-TO-” The Protector flew by Basil with such force he only managed to stay on his own pillar due to his grappling hook.

“-HURT-” Gloom Glimmer rushed by, a black-and-white streak of raw fury. Basil took the chance to leap down to Polymnia, using his grappling hook to break his fall at the last moment and land right next to her.

“-MY-” There was another shrill boom, further away.

“-FRIEND!!!” came a last cry, and an explosion like no other.

Green light washed over Basil and Polymnia, a wave of it flying by above to cut through what pillars still stood, though fortunately there weren’t any left near enough that they were in danger of being crushed.

Basil knelt down, checking Polymnia over. Her gauntlets were ruined, crushed, though surprisingly not far enough to break the her bones underneath (she’d likely have some impressive bruises nonetheless), but she herself seemed largely unharmed.

He helped her, carefully, to sit up out of the shallow grave the impact had made for her, making her groan as he steadied her with one arm behind her back.

“Where does it hurt, and how badly?” he asked calmly.

She looked up at him, blinking in a daze. Her lips moved, but no sound came out.

Her brain’s scrambled, he thought, as he tapped her hand with his free one. Somewhere in the distance, the fight continued.

Polymnia blinked once more, then flushed in embarrassment, and the fingers of her left hand began to move, slowly at first then faster.

<My forearms feel like they’re one big bruise and my back is no better off, but otherwise, I’m alright,> her vocaliser spoke, projected through a small speaker on the collar of her armour. She smiled reassuringly. <It pays to be a brick.>

“I would still like to check your arms and back at the earliest opportunity,” he said as he helped her up onto her feet, straining a bit to lift the bulk of her – she wasn’t wearing power armour right now, but it was still far more bulky and heavy than his body armour was, and she was no lightweight herself, though he knew not to comment on that.

<I really hope Hecate knows what she’s doing,> Polymnia said once she was more or less steady, though still trembling and hunched a bit due to the pain. <Gloomy won’t be able to keep this up much longer, not against someone that powerful.>

He frowned, and pulled an extension cord out of his belt, attaching it to her own belt’s port.

<Do you mean to say that she is going to run out of whatever powers her abilities?> he asked, concerned. He’d seen Gloom Glimmer run out once before, after all, during the Hastur fight.

<Precisely,> Polymnia replied. <No one’s ever been able to accurately measure her actual limit or how fast she drains it, but using this many big powers in such quick succession? We need to finish this, and soon.>

He looked toward the direction of the fight, tapping a reply with his fingers. <Yes, I believe we have distracted him long enough at this point. Let us go check up on the others.>

She gave him a nod and he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her close before he cast out his grappling hook, vaulting them both – with some strain on the motor – back towards their friends.

***

“HAH! SOON THE ACCURSED DEMON CHILD SHALL BE BESTED AND YOU ALL SHALL BECOME PRISONERS OF THE COMPANIONS ONCE MORE!!!!!!” the raving contriver’s voice boomed from nowhere and everywhere as they reached the immobile trio, Hecate and the pair of Osore and Bakeneko again.

Osore had shrunk down again, which meant that Bakeneko’s tendrils were mostly lying on the floor as he stood there, as calm and still as a statue.

“Brennus, Polymnia, you’re alright!” Bakeneko cried as she scrambled off of her boyfriend’s shoulders, taking a few unstable steps on her tentacles as they began to fuse together, then reached them in her catgirl form. Then she stopped, looking Polymnia up and down with a closer eye. “Are you alright!?” She stared at Polymnia’s crushed gauntlets, looking worried. The others, save for Osore and Hecate, did the same.

<I’m fine, thanks for asking,> Polymnia replied. <Just a few bruises and a few grand in damages.>

Tartsche turned his power off, joining them along with Spellgun, but Basil ignored them, going over to Hecate along with Tyche.

The Greek sorceress was still on her knees, though she was no longer working on her staff, which lay on the ground next to her. Instead, she was holding a wooden goblet covered in hand-carved Greek lettering. A warm red flame, threaded through with flickers of silver, was burning within, the goblet remaining clasped in both hands.

“I’m ready,” Hecate announced in a soft voice, looking up at them, her face illuminated from below by the flickering flame, casting it into dancing shadows. “Stand aside, please.”

Basil and Tyche nodded, stepping aside as Hecate rose to her feet, her boots’ heels clicking on the floor as she put her weight on them.

“WHAT IS THIS? THE LITTLE APPRENTICE THINKS SHE CAN CHALLENGE MY MAGIC IN MY OWN REALM?”

Hecate raised the goblet up, as if presenting it to an unseen goddess above. “I don’t think – I know.”

“WELL, DO YOUR WORST!!!!!!!” the voice boomed in mocking tones.

The sorceress lowered the cup as she took a deep breath, then turned it over, spilling the flames into a circle around her.

They didn’t fade, nor burn the ground, just remained there in place, forming a perfect ring.

Finally, Hecate lifted the cup to her lips and whispered a single word.

“εύρηκα.”

The flames gushed forth in a sudden wave of red and silver, an ever-expanding ring that washed over Basil and the others without so much as singing their clothes, a gentle warmth that briefly caressed them before continuing, though it did make his sensors briefly go crazy.

Nothing happened in most places they passed, except when they touched something towards the direction that the Protector had first come from.

A veil shimmered, then was burned away like a moth in the flame.

Beyond it, a woman appeared, standing behind a half-circular wooden table with five engraved stone bowls standing atop it in regular spacing, blood-red flames burning in each of them. Something was floating within the flames of the central bowl in front of her, unburned by the flames. Further behind her, a door-shaped sheet of light floated in mid-air.

The woman behind did not look much older than Amy, to Basil, and she was dressed in an outfit somewhere between a dress and a robe, exposing a decent amount of skin without being obscene, all in red with golden details, wearing no mask but a golden circlet atop her raven hair. She radiated a soft purple aura, in contrast to the red of Basil and his friends, and the blue around the Protector.

Her brown eyes widened in shock as she stared at them.

Basil fired three shots, as soon as he could make her out, aiming for each shoulder and the object within the central bowl.

The shots all deflected off an invisible force-field, sending forth ripples across it that revealed it to be a hemisphere enclosing the woman and her ritual table.

Of course she still has shields up, he thought, annoyed.

His attack seemed to knock the woman out of her shock. She sputtered something, her voice breaking before she could form words – now at a normal volume – before she threw her head back and screamed: “To ME, my Protector!”

There was a boom in the distance and then the Protector landed between them in a flawless three-point landing, shattering the ground.

He looked… slightly worse for wear; whatever Gloom Glimmer had done had actually caused him some harm, small tears in his costume and a few scratches on his otherwise flawless face; but even that was already disappearing, repaired by his power.

Looking over his shoulder, he frowned at the sight of his mistress; then his body went rigid as he saw whatever was in the flames of the central bowl.

“How did you get that?” he asked, and his voice was cold for the first time, filled with barely restrained anger.

The woman did not seem cowed at all. “It is of no importance to you, my Protector! Now kindly defeat these children so we may put them back into their cells. And kill the witch who dared defy me, the mighty Legend!

The man stiffened, again, as did the others at the far more specific wording of this command; the only one who advanced was Hecate, apparently uncaring of the danger, walking slowly towards them while holding her staff in her left hand.

I really hope this works, Basil thought in worry, as he watched his best friend approach one of the most powerful metahumans they had ever met.

The Protector, in turn, began to walk towards her at a normal pace, moving stiffly, but with determination on his face.

Gloom Glimmer came flying in, trailing black sparks as she aimed straight for the Protector.

His lips moved, mouthing the words ‘Good Luck’ at them.

Hecate lifted her staff and stomped the ground once with the butt, causing a shadowy scythe-blade to emerge from its crystal tip, casting green reflections all around it.

Grabbing a hold of her scythe with both hands, she brought it down on the Protector in a diagonal slash, from his left shoulder to his right hip, the blade passing through him without any visible effect.

The invincible hero staggered, falling to one knee. Gloom Glimmer aborted her charge at the sight, staring at the scene in surprise – much like everyone else.

“Ah,” the Protector gasped, as the central bowl behind him burst into a flash of green flames, the object that’d been floating in it being thrown out before the flames faded. “Thank you kindly,” he said softly, his form beginning to fall apart at the edges, dissolving inwards. “Might I ask for your name, young one?”

“I’m Hecate,” the young witch replied. “May you rest peacefully in Elysium, Jason Davon.”

He smiled at her. “Nah… I think I’d rather try for reincarnation a few times… and then… maybe… the Isles… of the… Blest…” His lower body and arms fell apart, his skeleton beginning to shine through his transluscent flesh, now also starting to fade.

“I’m sure you’ll prove worthy,” she told him, her voice soft as they all watched him collapse and fade away into nothing.

For a few moments, silence reigned.

“What… what the fuck did you do!? How could you do that!?!” Legend screamed, breaking the reverie.

Hecate raised her head, her posture becoming much more straight. “You’re not the only necromancer here,” she spoke with undisguised contempt in her voice. “I may never stoop so low as to drag the dead up from their just rest, but putting them back to rest… now that I can do very well.” Basil couldn’t see it, but he thought she was smirking. “And breaking a spell is always easier than casting it, is it not?”

Legend snarled, undisguised hatred in her eyes. “You will PAY for this insolence, for violating my very realm!”

She reached for a pouch of hers, drawing forth two small objects – a hand-stitched, ragged doll, made out of rags in the shape of a little girl and a rosary made of silver and pearl beads and a wooden cross, and threw them into the flames of the bowls to the left and right of the central one.

“Rise, my Champions!” she shouted throwing her arms up towards the sky as the flames shot up into twin pillars of flame.

Several spheres of glowing power impacted the force-field around her, originating from Gloom Glimmer’s cloak, but to no avail – whatever contrivance was protecting her held true.

Two figures began to fade into existence, and everyone present instantly recognised them.

One was a person in full-body platemail on which a sword and a blue fleur-de-lys were engraved, wielding a heavy shield that sported the same symbol and a longsword with the fleur-de-lys engraved onto the pommel.

The other was a man taller even than the Protector had been, wearing faded military camo pants and heavy, worn-out boots and a white tabbard with the fleur-de-lys on his breast, his head that of a Hawk, as were the large wings emerging from his back.

The first and third Chevalier, Basil thought in surprise and no small amount of horror. She can raise the dead just like that!?

Everyone braced themselves, ready for combat, but it was Gloom Glimmer who acted first, reaching out for the third Chevalier with one hand to make a grasping motion and pull her hand back, as if to drag him.

Just as the man fully manifested, opening his sharp, hawk-like eyes, he disappeared and re-appeared right within striking range of Hecate, who wasted no time swinging her scythe.

Another bowl lost its fire, the summoned spirit fading into nothing.

Legend screamed in rage, as Gloom Glimmer and Hecate repeated the same process with the first Chevalier, banishing the woman before she could even become aware of what was happening – if those were even really the dead returned, and not just fascimiles created by Legend’s power.

The enraged contriver snarled at them, as she pulled another object from her pouch and threw it into one of the two remaining bowls’ flames, another pillar of fire shooting up briefly – but whatever shade she tried to summon, Hecate and Gloom Glimmer managed to strike it down before it had even fully formed.

“Nononononononooo!” Legend screamed, pounding her fists on the table. “How dare you? Howdareyouhowdareyouhowdareyou!?!?! I’ll kill you, kill you killyoukillyou!!!!!!!”

Seven exclamation marks on that one, Basil thought, walking forward to stand by Hecate’s side.

“Looks like you’re done for,” he drawled, surprised to find that his voice was full of contempt as well – contempt he actually felt himself.

Something about this woman just plain pissed him off, and it wasn’t the grandstanding or the fact that she was a villain affiliated with the very people who’d crippled Prisca.

Well, not just that.

No one should so dishonour the memory of fallen heroes, to call up these mockeries and make them her slaves.

“Surrender now, let us go and we’ll just knock you out and tie you up,” Basil commander her coldly, as the others closed ranks around to the left and right of him and Hecate, with Gloom Glimmer floating above, her cloak billowing out. “You’ve lost.”

“Nono, NO!” she screamed, slamming both fists onto the heavy wooden table. “You… you can’t beat me!” She calmed herself, slightly, using both hands to brush a few errand strands of hair out of her face.

Taking deep breaths, she stood up straight, looking down at them from the dais her ritual table stood upon. “I am Legend, Mistress of the Fallen Ones, the most powerful Contriver on this Holy Ground.” She gestured at the doorway behind her. “This is the only way out of my Realm, and only I, its Mistress, can open it and allow foreign ones like you, to leave.” Her hand made a wide sweep towards them. “None but I can pass my Fortress spell.” She gestured at her sole remaining bowl. “I still have one more Basin of Resurrection left to use, to summon a servitor who’ll obey my every command.”

She reached into her pouch and pulled out… an old paperback book.

What could that be? Basil thought, zooming in to read the title, and promptly choked as he recognized it.

“Hecate, Gloom Glimmer, you have to stop her!!!” he screamed as he raised his rifle to unload all his ammunition at the book, hoping that, maybe, one would get through.

“Now despair, as I summon my most powerful servitor!” Legend shouted, pulling the last basin directly in front of herself and dropping the limited first-edition copy of Five Sun’s Dawn into its flames. “Come forth, oh mightiest one! I, Legend, command thee to appear before me and serve me!” she shouted, throwing her head back and raising her fists up into the sky, as if to call down divine wrath.

Several shots from Basil’s, Tyche’s, Tartsche’s and Spellgun’s weapons bounced off the shielding spell to no effect whatsoever, other than to cause a few ripples that disappeared almost as soon as they appeared.

A pillar shot up.

A shade began to form, tall and gaunt.

Hecate raised her scythe for a powerful two-handed blow.

Gloom Glimmer cried out, making a grasping motion.

The shade disappeared just as it solidified, reappearing before Hecate.

The scythe fell to cut through the shade.

“Stop,” the shade whispered, turning its head towards the young heroine.

She stopped mid-swing, her scythe inches away from cutting into him.

The shade solidified into a person, standing tall as he looked down on them.

A gaunt man, easily a whole head taller than Basil himself, with a thin, not unattractive face; high cheekbones sharp enough to slice bread were accentuated by a slightly beaked nose and a sharp chin. His eyes were as black as the night, even more so than his raven hair that reached in an unkempt, almost barbaric mass down to his waist; the iridae so dark it was all but impossible to make out where they ended and where the pupils began. He was garbed in a tight, dark red robe with golden trimming and vine-like patterns of the same golden material at the rims of the wide sleeves, the foot of the robe and his high, closed collar. It fit snugly around his slender, yet not too thin torso, showing little muscle and pretty much no fat. From the ends of the sleeves, long, almost spidery fingers poked out, slender and dexterous looking, the kinds of fingers one expected to see on the hands of a pianist.

A pale blue glow emanated from his body.

He bore no crown, nor did he need one – his aura of power, of command, was so mighty as to be nearly physical, tying them all in place; whether it was an actual power, or the sheer weight of his reputation, Basil could not say, as the man whom had once made a credible claim to the title of ‘Godking’ looked at them with a slightly curious, surprised look.

“I will not be slain today,” he said calmly, with an absolute conviction that broke no argument. “I will not be captured today. I will not be controlled today. I will not be subverted today. I will not be harmed.”

Dude, you are so fucking fucked to all fucking hell, the Man in the Moon threw in unhelpfully.

“This is no scenario I envisioned for my resurrection,” Emyr Blackhill spoke, keeping his voice soft, and yet it was deep, reverberating with an odd harmony that made them all shiver down to their bones.

Raising a hand, he looked at the slender limb, the wide sleeve falling back to reveal a bare forearm. He turned it around, looking at it from several angles. “Why do I glow blue?” he asked no one in particular, fortunately, frowning softly.

Then he looked up at the teenagers in front of him, looking left to right. “You glow… red? You’re not the ones who brought me here, are you? Am I right?” He directed that question at Hecate, who still stood in front of him, having taken a step back in fear.

“You are,” she replied instantly, her voice almost but not quite cracking, quivering with fear.

“Relax, child,” he told her softly, and the tension immediately drained out of her stance. “Now tell me what’s g-“

“Emyr Blackhill!” Legend shouted at him, her voice loud and clear. “I am the one who summoned you, oh mighty one! Thus, I am your-“

“I really do not enjoy being interrupted,” he cut her off as he turned around with a reproachful look. “Do not speak again without my leave,” he ordered her, and her mouth clamped shut as her eyes grew wide in horror.

He looked at her, his back to the teens behind, uncaring of any threat they might pose. “Hm, you glow purple, not red nor blue. Probably has to do with you being the former mistress of this realm. Answer my question.”

“Yes, that is why I am surrounded by a purple corona. It designates me as the true Mistress of this realm, not a former one,” she replied, before her mouth closed shut again, her voice full of equal parts of contempt and terror.

Emyr snorted softly. “How conceited of you.”

He walked towards her, until he came up to the shield that surrounded her dais, reaching out with one hand to touch it. Ripples spread from where his palm pressed against it.

Legend’s lips twitched into a hopeful smirk, as he was held back.

“Hm. This little spell is nothing before me,” he said calmly as he pressed his hand forth. The shield popped like a soap bubble, and Legend turned as pale as a corpse.

Emyr stepped onto the dais, his legs long enough to clear its height in one, albeit very wide, step. Upon it, he towered over the average-sized Legend, even more so due to his wild mane of hair.

“This table shall move out of my way,” he spoke, and the ritual table with the basins atop slid out of the way and to the edge of the dais, almost but not quite falling off.

Then he walked onto the doorway, and reached out with one hand, trying to push it through.

His hand could not pass through.

“This is the exit out of this realm, am I correct, Legend?” he asked, sounding unperturbed by being denied exit.

“Yes,” she replied.

“You will address me as your Majesty,” he rebuffed her.

Her fists clenched in impotent rage as she stepped aside, turning so her side was towards Basil and the others, looking at the man who would so command her. “As you wish, your Majesty,” she said, though she clearly didn’t want to.

“Let this doorway be open to me then,” he commanded, and tried to step through again.

Basil’s heart nearly stopped, and he was sure he wasn’t the only one who held his breath – only to let it out explosively along with everyone else but Emyr himself, as he failed to exit once more.

He tilted his head to the side. “Something which can stymie my power? Now this is impressive.” He turned around to look at Legend again, stepping closer to her. “No wonder you were able to summon me. Now how can I leave this realm?”

“You can’t, your Majesty,” she replied, her trembling voice putting the lie to her attempts to look self-assured as she stared up at the looming figure of Emyr. “Only I can use the doorway, and those who bear a red corona, provided they have my leave, for I am still the Mistress of this Realm. And even if I wanted to, there is no way a servitor could exit this realm, your Majesty.” Some of her earlier sneer returned to her voice as she spoke.

Emyr stroked his chin, still paying no attention whatsoever to the teens beyond her. Not that any one of them had the nerve to try and attack him right now.

“Hm, I see,” he said, a slight contempt and a great boredom evident in his voice. “A wise precaution, though it is thoroughly insufficient of course.”

Everyone just stared at him, the teens not daring to speak, and Legend unable to.

Emyr raised a hand, scratching the back of his head briefly as he rolled his shoulders, loosening them up as if he had no care in the world.

Then he looked down at Legend in slight contempt, making an imperious, sweeping gesture with his right hand, as if to encompass the entire mystic realm.

“Insufficient,” his voice boomed, speaking with a commanding tone that shook the very ground, “for I shall be the Master of this realm now!”

His corona turned a light, barely perceptible purple, as Legend’s own turned… blue.

She stared down at her hands, taking a step back, and fell over onto her butt, her face slack with shock.

Emyr shrugged and looked at the teenagers. “Excuse me, but I do have a planet to reclaim, and another to conquer… again. I shall take my leave now, and take care of you all later, once I have re-established my regency,” he spoke to them before he turned around and walked towards the door. “It shouldn’t take too long, all things considered.”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Dalia, Emyr Blackhill, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Legend, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Tartsche
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Tieshaunn

Patreon Vote Results

Tieshaunn
  1. Toybox: 23 points
  2. Anguish & Succor: 17 points
  3. Amateurs: 16 points
  4. Argonauts & Wings of Lead: 14 points
  5. Of Apes and Togas: 12 points
  6. Justice, like Lightning: 8 points

Looks like it’ll be Toybox!

Fear not, though, for there’s still three donation interludes to come and, well, there’s a nice list to tap from…

New chapter will be done soon… this thing is turning out to be a monster of one, thus the delay.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 4

In My Daydreams

I’m also fairly sure that decorative plants don’t give people “the frond” when someone cuts in front of them on the way out the door. Being no authority on rude galactic gestures, I might not have noticed, but the Xiniti implant was.

Marcus laughed as the door shut and the train silently pulled away from the station. “I wonder what it thinks of vegetarians?”

“I’m not going to ask it,” I said and looked out the window. While the train traveled inside closed walls that made it feel like a subway sometimes, it flew above the commercial areas. Wide open streets with shops, restaurants and offices lay below us—at least for a while. Then we started moving up, passing through levels. There were more levels that could pass as a futuristic downtown, but there were also levels that passed as factory and warehouse districts. There we passed over streets choked with floating packages and nothing I recognized as a living being.

We didn’t stop, but we passed railway stations that were filled with cargo—huge boxes floating in lines, waiting for the next cargo train. Soon, we were out of that asteroid, traveling through one of the struts we’d seen while flying in and able to look out the window at space, the asteroids and the asteroids’ connecting infrastructure.

I’d done searches on the sort of shop I needed and it was on one of the inner asteroids. We passed through several more asteroids on the way. One appeared to be devoted to growing food. Several levels were different sorts of alien food crops as well as recognizable Earth crops. I saw wheat and corn. One asteroid had been set aside for a race that needed chlorine in their atmosphere. They were red, bulky and covered with a thin layer of slime.

Finally we reached our destination K’Tepolu Two (the second main asteroid). We got off the main train and took a smaller train line that was limited to traveling up and down one street on one level of the asteroid.

This level of the K’Tepolu Two had a high enough ceiling that the line ran above the street. We took a lift down to the main level. “Lifts” were essentially square shaped platforms that moved up and down. I assumed that they had some way to prevent people from falling off or scraping themselves against the wall around the lift, but if that was true, it was invisible.

The lift reached the street without a sound and Marcus asked, “So where are we going?”

Walking down the sidewalk and into a walkway that led through the line of shops to the next street, I said, “A shop, but a specialty shop where I can make what I need if they don’t have it.”

He nodded and we followed the walkway across three more streets. None of these had train lines. Train lines ran down every six streets, making the third and fourth streets the ones with the cheapest rent.

It felt like it.

The streets weren’t empty, but there were less creatures and more gravity sleds carrying cargo. As with every street on this level, the shops reached from the street to the ceiling two stories up. On the main streets, facades made each shop different whether it was architectural styles or color. Here, facades were rare. Most shops looked like the material they’d been shaped from—a nickel-iron asteroid. Like the streets, they were silver/gray. Sometimes the name of the shop had been carved in the metal. Most of the time, a full color sign glowed in the air with nothing visibly holding it.

Marcus looked around the streets. “You know, this place feels like some of the not very nice sections of Chicago. How close are we?”

I stepped around a tiger-like creature that lay across half the sidewalk. One of its tendrils clutched a bottle. I said, “A quarter of a mile. The shop’s called ‘Tinkers’.”

“Tinkers?” Marcus’ expression went slack. Then he pointed, “Down there?”

I followed the direction of hand. He’d asked his implant and he was right. My implant confirmed it, spelling out “Tinkers” in the air and drawing a line that pointed at the building.

It didn’t take long to get there and except for nearly being run down by one of those floating package carriers, it was uneventful. Apparently we should have registered our intention to cross with our implant and it would have relayed it to the traffic system. That’s what a synthetic voice from the package carrier shouted at us anyway.

Marcus looked back as it sped away. “We just got chewed out by an AI. That’s so weird.” Then he pointed further down the street. “Did you notice that art supplies shop? I wonder how art is different here?”

I noticed the shop and my implant called up lists of what they sold, reviews and ratings for the store. “You can go down there if you want. I’ll probably be here for a while.”

“I’d like that,” he said. “I’ll pick up food on the way back. There are a couple restaurants around here.” He started walking away and then stopped. “You’re sure you’re okay with it? I’m supposed to be backing you up.”

“No problem,” I said, checking the crime statistics for the area. They weren’t any worse than the main roads on either side.

He left and I walked up to “Tinkers.” The reviews my implant showed me about the place described it was almost as much a movement as a shop. Owned by a human named Kee Oataki, it’s purpose was to encourage innovation—which was why it rented space for modifying equipment in addition to simply selling it.

Like many of the shops on the street, Tinkers had no facade over the nickel-iron storefront. Unlike any of the others, they’d melted words related to Tinker and creation in multiple languages all over the front. My implant recognized the words and translated them, noting the original language.

I stepped inside. It wasn’t a big shop and I wasn’t completely sure I would have recognized it as a shop if I were at home. Machines filled most of the room and there weren’t any shelves with stocked items. My implant informed me that the machines would fabricate standard equipment by default and that it could show me the controls to modify the rest.

A woman stepped out from behind the equipment. “I’m Kee Oataki. What are you here for?”

She had short, straight black hair, brown skin and wore a blue and brown jumpsuit that according to the implant worked as spacesuit as well as work clothes. I guessed that she might be in her early forties.

I pulled out the bag I’d been carrying. It held the parts I had to replace. “I need to replace parts for my ship’s near-space drive. They’re slightly non-standard.”

She nodded and started asking questions. The first was, “What size is your ship?”

I told her, “It’s about one hundred tons.”

She picked up one of the pieces and started to inspect it. “That’s ridiculously over engineered for a one hundred ton ship.” Then she added, “But it’s clearly worn and needs replacement. What have you been doing with the drive?”

I considered lying, but I needed her help. I knew as much about the ship’s components as Grandpa had bothered to document. I knew the basics of how each drive worked and what I could do with them, but I wasn’t an expert.

I had to trust her. “It’s an experimental drive,” I began and explained about the modified power plant and the near-space drive that Grandpa had modified to a point that it could now handle jump and blink space.

Her eyes widened as I explained. “You weren’t exaggerating about it being experimental. Let’s see what we can do.”

Sometimes you’ve got no choice but to trust.

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Tieshaunn

Patreon Interludes Choice!

Tieshaunn

Here’s the complete list of options:

  1. Argonauts: a short on the Mars mission mentioned way back in the early chapters, now approaching their destination.
  2. Toybox: an Interlude in the style of a webforum, in this case the (in)famous Toybox, online playground for Gadgeteers.
  3. Of Apes and Togas: Includes at least 1 Ape and 1 Toga. No monkeys!
  4. Amateurs: a Day (well, Night) in the life of Severance.
  5. Justice, like Lightning: Life in Brazil
  6. On Wings of Lead: A short about the life of Malphas.
  7. Anguish & Succor: The new Chevalier tries to understand why her predecessor turned from the right path.

As for the voting system – please vote on the Patreon Site, not here on the blog; that’ll make it easier for me to tally the votes properly.

Rank the choices from most to least preferred; please don’t leave anything off the list. The ranks are worth 0-6 points, with your top vote being worth the most, obviously. Whichever option gets the highest total of points will be the one I’ll write out as an Interlude to close off this month.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn


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Crying Grumpies

Cruzando la Brecha, 3a Jornada de Malifaux

Crying Grumpies

Malifaux-Jornada3-CryingGrumpies-ElLocal-Cabecera

Los días pasan y ya vuelve a ser hora de cruzar la brecha para jugar la 3a jornada de nuestra liga de Malifaux. Si en la primera jornada nos fuimos a una iglesia en las afueras y para la segunda visitamos una fortaleza en ruinas, esta vez nos toca jugar en la gran ciudad. Para la ocasión estrenaremos la escenografía oficial del juego, los caminos que nos compramos en el Salute 2017 y la gran posada de 4Ground.

Malifaux-Jornada3-CryingGrumpies-ElLocal-Clasificación

Esto ya os lo sabéis. Sobre las lineas tenéis la clasificación con tres jugadores que empiezan a despuntar con dos victorias, destacar los dos 10-0 de Álvaro, y algunos con deberes por hacer y partidas por jugar. Debajo los resultados pasados y emparejamiento de aquí al final de la liga.

Malifaux-Jornada3-CryingGrumpies-ElLocal-Calendario

3a Partida

Duración Ronda: Hoy hasta 13 de Agosto (para esta jornada doy algo más de tiempo entre otras cosas porque me voy de vacaciones en un mes y estaré un par de semanas fuera y no podré colgar la 4a Ronda)

Banda: 42 puntos (primera subida de nuestra liga de tipo escalada)

Estrategia (objetivo común para los dos jugadores):

Reconocimiento (Máscaras)

Organización: Divide el tablero en 4 Cuadrantes de 18”

Puntos de Victoria: Al final de cada turno posterior al primero gana 1PV si tienes el control de dos o más cuadrantes.

Para controlar un Cuadrante debes tener más miniaturas no Peón en el cuadrante que tu oponente, que esté a 6” de el centro de la mesa y situada por completo en un Cuadrante.

Esquema (cada jugador debe escoger 2, no se pueden ganar más de 3 puntos por intriga):

Una Línea en la Arena

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

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

Distraer (dobles)

Todas las miniaturas No-Peón de la banda pueden realizar una acción de Interactuar 1 para darle a una miniatura oponente a 1” la siguiente condición hasta final del encuentro:

Distraído: Esta miniatura puede realizar una acción de interactuar (2) para eliminar esta Condición, ninguna otra acción puede eliminar esta Condición.

Esta intriga no se revela. La primera vez que una miniatura enemiga gana Distraido deberás revelar esta intriga. Gana 1 PV si al final del turno dos miniaturas de la banda rival tienen la condición Distraído.

Guardaespaldas (Carneros)

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.

Escolta (4)

Escoge una miniatura Líder o Compinche. Al final del encuentro si esta miniatura se encuentra en la mitad enemiga del tablero gana 1 PV. Si la mixtura se encuentra en la Zona de Despliegue enemiga gana 2 PV en su lugar.

Si se revela esta Intriga y se ganan puntos por ella gana 1 PV adicional.

Plantar Explosivos (6)

Una vez por encuentro, al final del Turno Revela esta intriga y gana 1PV por cada miniatura enemiga que se encuentre a 3” de uno de tus Marcadores de intriga. Elimina todos tus Marcadores de  Intriga que estén a 3” de una miniatura enemiga.

Mesa de juego

Malifaux-Jornada3-CryingGrumpies-El Local-SetUp

Despliegue: despliegue estandar (6)

Elementos de escenografía:

Camino: Sin efecto, quedaba chulo.

Pozo: Altura 1, Cobertura pesada.

Edificios: si se pueden abrir se puede entrar en su interior a través de las puertas, se deberá retirar los techos y jugar de forma normal. Las paredes eliminan LDV, las puertas otorgan cobertura ligera. Cada piso tiene una Altura de 3” y se deberá subir por trampillas o escaleras.

Pocilga: Terreno dificil, las vallas y demás elementos decorativos tienen altura 1 y otorga cobertura ligera, la Pocilga tiene altura 3 y otorga cobertura ligera.

Letrina: Altura 3, otorga cobertura pesada.

Pasarelas: Hay dos alturas diferente 3” y 6”. Las miniatruas pueden quedarse debajo de las pasarelas si caben. Otorgan cobertura Ligera.

Canal: altura 0, terreno impasable

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.

Balcones: los balcones otorgan cobertura ligera contra ataques a la misma altura o inferior, no otorgan cobertura a ataques desde niveles superiores. En el caso de que una miniatura sea empujada sufrirá una caída que se resolverá con un volteo de daño que no puede ser burlado de 1/1/2, solo puede ser reducido por piedras alma. Cada nivel por encima del primero añadirá un + al volteo.

Valla: altura 1, cobertura ligera,  cuesta 1 pulgada atravesar

Lápida: altura 1, cobertura pesada, cuesta 1 pulgada atravesar

Lago: terreno impasable

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


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Tieshaunn

About the Patreon Interludes

Tieshaunn

Hello my dear fans,

So, I was working at the factory today and that takes about 0.42% of my brainpower, so I used the rest to plot out some stuff for Brennus and the Dreaming, and think about my writing in general, and I realised that my current system for Patreon Interludes just plain does not work.

Currently, I’m basically giving my Patrons a vote at the end of each arc to have an Interlude be about a subject of their choosing – which, considering how long my arcs tend to be, means it’s unlikely there’ll even be one each month. Yet you guys pay me each month.

Yes, that money is not specifically for Interludes, but for updates in general, but I still don’t like it; thus, I’m changing the system.

From now on, there will be one Patreon Interlude a month, usually towards the end of it, regardless of whether the current arc is finished or not.

Though it is a little late for this month, I’ll still try  to put one out (the next Brennus chapter is a prime candidate for having a breather before its resolution), so, here’s the current pool of Interludes:

  1. Argonauts: a short on the Mars mission mentioned way back in the early chapters, now approaching their destination.
  2. Toybox: an Interlude in the style of a webforum, in this case the (in)famous Toybox, online playground for Gadgeteers.
  3. Of Apes and Togas: Includes at least 1 Ape and 1 Toga. No monkeys!
  4. Amateurs: a Day (well, Night) in the life of Severance.
  5. Justice, like Lightning: Life in Brazil

Now, before we get to the vote proper, there is still the matter of the two of you who’ve pledged $25 or more to my Patreon – you get to suggest another option, each, after all.

Since this needs to happen fast, I’ll ask you to give me your suggestions until Tuesday evening, 23:59 CEST. After that, everyone who’s pledged $5 or more will vote until Thursday, 14:00 CEST and the Interlude will then be up by Friday, 11:59 CEST!

The vote itself won’t be a simple 1-Voice vote. Rather, everyone will rate all options in order of preference, with first choice being worth the most “points” and last choice the least. Whichever option gets the most points will be the one I’ll write.

That should be all. See you soon with the new chapter!

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


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Semicoop

Art heist

Semicoop

The art on the cards of Codenames: Pictures is so deliciously weird and effectively confusing during the game. We love it!

So last week was my birthday and Heinze gifted me a dexterity game I’ve always wanted ever since I saw it: Junk Art! The simplicity of building weirdly shaped blocks just speaks to me. And if it’s a game: even better! My mother for one clearly didn’t understand why I would be happy with a box of coloured blocks as a gift for an adult, but I guess that ‘misunderstanding’ is worth a comic on its own. 😀

The game is just a fun quick dexterity game that appeals to most people. I think we’ll play it quite often with our friends since most of them got giggly enthusiastic when I explained the concept of the game.

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:32pm PDT

There is a clear winner in our little Facebook poll of which game we should buy from our Amazon credits… and the winner is: Clank! We would have enjoyed every game on the list, so naturally, we are excited. 😉 Thank you all for voting!

Which do you prefer? Codenames or Codenames: Pictures?

The post Art heist appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 3

In My Daydreams

We watched him go. Gray skinned with big all black eyes, Lee wore a silver robe that would have made many UFO fans confident that they were right after all. What they wouldn’t have known is that the silver robe could reform into a Xiniti battle suit, complete with weapons.

I only knew it because my implant provided the information—just like it provided me the location of every Xiniti on the station. Aside from Lee and ourselves, that meant exactly one other, Katuk, the Xiniti who was meeting us here.

There were several more off the station. Their ship was docking at an airlock not far from us. Not coincidentally, Lee was walking toward that very same airlock. Within minutes, he’d boarded the ship, and within an hour after that, the ship passed through the gate.

The station made ship traffic and gate use available via video or implants. I told the implant to notify me if anything happened to his ship and when it appeared to be a minute from going through the gate.

It’s not as if we watched his every step though. Once he disappeared into the doorway at the wall of our bay, we could only watch him in our heads—assuming we wanted to. We had bigger issues to deal with.

I didn’t know how the others felt, but as Lee disappeared through the door, the full weight of the situation fell on me. It was all ours to handle now. We’d be responsible for keeping fifty colonists and their spaceship safe and then protecting the colony for however long it would be before their regular protection arrived.

We turned four chairs to face each other and sat in the ship. The spaceship’s windows now looked out into what was basically a spaceship parking garage. Though cool in its own way, it was much more mundane than staring out at the stars.

Jaclyn said, “We should make a plan. From what I’m seeing about the mission requirements, the more quickly we get the colonists out of here, the better it will be.”

I wasn’t sure specifically why, but a quick look at the mission files came back with the information that all the colonists were wanted by the Human Ascendency, one of the larger “nations” inside human space. It included hundreds of worlds. The files described it as being closest to Abominator culture of all the human nations. Somehow this was relevant to the fact that they were “breeders” and that agents of their Genetic Management Office would be coming after them.

I decided I’d have to read them in detail later, but I said, “I guess so. There are a few parts that I’d hoped we’d have time for me to replace—“

“What?” Cassie interrupted me. “Don’t they work?”

I shook my head. “It’s not that. They’re all parts for faster than light travel. You replace them before they go bad because you don’t want to discover they’re bad when you need to jump or worse, while you’re jumping.”

Marcus cocked his head, “What happens then?”

I shrugged. “I’ve never had it happen, but I’m sure it’s bad. Best case scenario, you’d pop into normal space before you went very far. Worst case, maybe you never come out of jump.”

Marcus blinked. “Yeah, let’s not do that.”

Raising an eyebrow, Cassie asked, “Don’t you have spares?”

I shook my head. “Not really. I can’t fit everything we need in a ship this small. K’Tepolu’s big enough that it probably has spares as well as specialty shops to construct them if it doesn’t.”

Jaclyn’s eyes narrowed. “Whoa. How long would that take.”

“Not long,” I said. “They’re atypical, not insanely weird. Maybe four hours of work if I have to rent space to do it myself.”

Sighing, Jaclyn said, “I’d been thinking we’d meet the colonists together, but we should split up. You and Marcus go get that done and Cassie and I will meet the Xiniti and the colonists.”

Marcus frowned. “It’s not that I don’t want to go with Nick, but don’t you think he can handle getting the parts on his own? I’m not going to be much use except maybe for carrying them.”

“It’s smart,” Cassie said. “We don’t know this place. Nick might need backup.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Jaclyn said.

Thirty minutes later found Marcus and me riding a train through the asteroid. I use the word “train” loosely since while it was a series of cars connected to each other, there were no rails. Also, people tend to use train when they mean something that runs on the ground on Earth. This train ran on the main walkway, above it, or below it—probably for the convenience of the architect.

It felt like riding on a train in Star Wars. Some of the other passengers were human. The rest were alien—more alien than you can get out of slapping a prosthetic forehead on an actor. For example? I’m fairly sure I saw a sapient plant—that or I saw a decorative plant in a moveable pot.

I’m fairly sure decorative plants don’t drive their pot.

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Tieshaunn

I don’t like doing it, but…

Tieshaunn

I’m sorry about it, but I have to delay the chapter until Tuesday. Had some surprise family visits today, and they ate more of my writing time than they should have.

Why Tuesday and not Monday? Well, that’s because Monday is Workday, and I doubt I’ll manage to finish it then. So Tuesday it is, for now.

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn

PS: I’ll still try to finish today, but it doesn’t look good.


Filed under: Update, Writing
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James and the Fae (2)

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Impact on his life? He is one of an exclusive number of humans to be a fully-qualified Court of Kings lawyer, and given the maddening complexities of fae law, this is an achievement to be appreciated, even if he himself is a bastard of unequalled measure.

The Court of Kings is the ultimate court (heh.) of appeal when it comes to fae law – as there are incalculable inconsistencies, and laws on the books that should have been removed centuries ago – traditions that conflict with more modern styles of thinking, and laws that simply can’t be applied equally across the fae races.

So anyone who has the stamp of approval from the Kings is someone in high demand. He’s someone who can name his hourly price, and will have people pay whatever he asks.

He had mostly tried to lead a “human” life, leaving fae business behind at the end of the working day – this being especially true whilst his wife was still alive. After Charlotte died, however, he has moved deeper and deeper into Faerie, now working exclusively for fae clients.

A primary of which is the Magpies – for which he is the primary legal counsel. And more than occasional sounding board for Magpie – subtle reminder here that I mean Mags’ mum. 😛

Fun Fact 1: Magpie did ask him to be the father of her human child. He thought about it, but declined – so in some alt-universe, Mags and Stef are sisters.

Fun Fact 2 [Grab your pitchforks]: When Charlotte died, and he went to the hospital to see her body, he invoked Death and demanded (yeah, demanded) that she trade Charlotte for Stef. Death, naturally, told him it did’t work that way.

And then may have brought Alexandria to Stef’s bedside.

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James and the Fae (1)

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So on top of everything else, James knows about the fae.

[Unfinished ficlet about him finding out.]

*

James stared at his fingers, irritated at the slight scuff on his nails – the manicure usually lasted longer. Even if he was a student, he had an image to practice, an image to maintain. There were expectations on his shoulders, and those expectations did not include plebeian, scuffed, fingers. He steepled his fingers, hiding the offending nail, and looked up to Harper to finish his impromptu dissection of the man’s gaming system. ‘If I am to understand your rules correctly, this avoids any and all legal ramifications, and puts forth a case for remuneration and damages.’

There was real, palpable relief in Harper’s eyes – from the outset, the man had been taking the situation far too seriously, and he had done his best to match him – this wasn’t a game – lawyers were far from the evil robots everyone seemed to think they were, but there surely couldn’t be a market for the type of Dungeon, Dragons and Legalese that Harper had been suggesting. There was something more going on – and even if it was nothing more than a thought experiment, or some incredibly strange waste of time, it had been an enjoyable diversion – the laws – the purported “rules” were full of so many possibilities, if only one knew how to properly exploit them.

‘So then,’ Harper said slowly, stopping to swallow, as if his mouth were dry. ‘I- I mean-‘

James leaned forward, closing the space. ‘You’re free and clear,’ he said, ‘now, why don’t you tell me what this really was.’

‘I could kiss you right now,’ Harper said, and he seemed to go limp as he reached for the half-empty beer.

James quirked an eyebrow at Harper. ‘It’s not as though I’d stop you. You are…attractive enough,’ he said, unwilling to put himself on the line any further than the simplest of compliments. Harper was attractive – deep brown eyes, tan skin that was blotched with patches of paler vitiligo – unlike a lot of engineering majors, though, Harper actually seemed to take some pride in his appearance.

Harper’s look turned cagey for a moment. ‘Are you gay, James? You’ve never said anything.’

‘Bisexual,’ he clarified. ‘And I find that intercourse is rarely relevant to discourse.’ He sat back against the supple leather of the chair. ‘Now, talk or kiss me, but please do put your mouth to some use.’

Harper took a sip of his beer. ‘Do you believe in the Socratic paradox, James?’

James reached for the words, and nodded. ‘I know that I know nothing. There is wisdom in understanding the bounds of your own ignorance, the places where you need to reach for outside counsel, and the areas you can refine when you choose to better yourself.’

Harper, with an exaggerated calm, put down his beer, and began to unbutton his shirt. ‘I could make your world a far larger place, James, but I am unsure if you’re willing to play Alice, and tumble down the hole.’

James pushed himself away from the chair, reached across the table, and grasped the free edges of Harper’s shirt. ‘I won’t liken myself to a girl in a mathematical parable, but I am a willing student.’ He bit the inside of his cheek. ‘Show me.’

Harper’s hands came to rest on his, and after a moment, the shirt was open – the rest of the buttons torn open. Beneath the shirt, Harper wore a tailored undershirt.

‘This is nothing I haven’t seen before,’ James mused, allowing his fingers to brush down Harper’s chest. Harper wasn’t particularly muscled, and seemed to be that kind of thin that came with forgetting to eat, rather than by design, still, he was pleasant enough to touch.

‘What do you think,’ Harper asked, as he freed his undershirt from his pants. ‘That you’re going to see?’

‘I wager a hundred pounds that you’re not human.’

Part of him knew that, in his place, a hundred other men would have claimed that the words had slipped out, that the words had come from some irrational place, some extrapolation of an old childhood wish.

He’d never wished for fairies, never desired to run to Narnia or Neverland…and right now there was nothing he wanted more than to pull Harper’s shirt off, and see something amazing, to find an unexpected wonder.

‘Help me with this,’ Harper said, and together, they lifted his shirt.

James rested his hands on Harper’s hips as Harper finished taking the undershirt off.

Harper’s chest appeared human – there was nothing that gave it away as anything other-

Movement caught his eye.

A triangle of green and purple rose up above Harper’s right shoulder, which grew larger as James watched. A matching shape rose over Harper’s left shoulder, and slowly, with no overtones of hallucination or dream, a pair of large wings unfurled behind Harper’s back.

James reached forward, his mind stalled, all the words of his vocabulary held prisoner behind silver bars of silence. Harper’s wing strained forward – there was no prehensile movement to it, just the basic articulation like a-

His fingers came to rest on the wing.

James opened his mouth, and a small, perfect “oh” of surprise made its way through his shock, through his silence, but no more words came as Harper’s mouth came to close over his.

The kiss did nothing to help with his shock, but it wasn’t something he was going to back away from. He reached forward, and pulled the- ‘What are you?’ he asked, pulling back just enough so that their lips separated. ‘I need to know what to-’

‘I’m a fairy,’ he said. ‘Is this what you were expecting?’

‘No,’ James said, taking the opportunity to draw Harper closer – with his wings extended, it was easy to shift the taller man onto his lap, as they seemed to-

Magic and physics spun in his mind as Harper kissed him again.

James wrapped his right arm around Harper, explored the man’s back, feeling the points of connection between Harper’s wings and his back. There was no smoke, there were no mirrors. This wasn’t some random mutation – not that something so beautiful could be called a mutation, like it was some stupid black and white movie monster.

The wings were smooth, shiny, like- Keratin. It was probably made of keratin. There were a couple of different sensations under his exploring fingers – as if the wings were made of membranes and panels, like a dragonfly’s wings.

The wings flapped, and Harper pulled away, moving to stand on the low table. ‘At this point,’ he said. ‘Humans usually have questions.’

‘Turn around,’ James said. ‘I want to see them properly.’

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Stef in Kensington Gardens

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It’s James’ fault that Hook came into Stef’s life.

So, Stef had this old copy of Peter Pan, and loved it. It was one of the first books she ever read to completion by herself. (Yeah, she was reading really young. Genius happens when you instinctively know to stay quiet in your room, or face getting yelled at).

So it’s no surprise that the Lost were aware of her, but with limited resources, there are only so many children they can look after; and though the emotional abuse was rife, Stef’s life was never in danger from her situation.

This kinda changed one day.

Charlotte didn’t know how much James hated Stef – she never figured it out, even to the day she died – so would insist that occasionally, James go out for a day with Stef. Usually, he was able to make this a “take your kid to work day” and pawn her off onto an assistant. This day, however, he wanted some fresh air, so they went for a walk, and ended up in Kensignton Gardens.

Which suit Stef just fine, for reasons as demonstrated by this picture:

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So Stef’s happy and quiet, and sits and reads under a tree while James sits at a park bench and reads the paper. Then he gets a call on his cell phone – the call to let him know he’s been made partner in his law firm – whereupon he folds up his paper, and rushes off to celebrate with his beloved wife, leaving Stef behind.

Stef…notices after a little while. But doesn’t react. She’s about five. She has no idea how to react. She knows her father hates her – there’s no way she can’t. But some part of her still believes, deep down, that he surely couldn’t have abandoned her. So she reads. And there are people around, and they all have bystander syndrome – assuming she’s with one of the other families.

And hours pass. She reads the book over and over. She gets scared. She cries. She keeps reading.

And from thin air, a man dressed like her beloved Captain Hook – the way she always imagined, a regal king gone slightly dusty. The bright twinkling eyes of a grandfather. He bows, and introduces himself. He sits with her. He uses some Lost magic to make them just out of sight for people who might look in their direction. Not…invisible, your eyes just slide away. She’s no longer a child alone. No longer a target for any bored kidnapper.

And he feeds her cheese sandwiches. And apologies for the paltry fare – even though the choice was a deliberate one. He wanted to give her something simple. Something that was safe and homely and the antithesis of being abandoned and alone.

He tells her stories. Stories that aren’t in the book. Adventures and fights against the Lost Boys. He gives her his coat to keep warm.

The sun fades, and he tells her that he’ll take her to Neverland when the second star to the right becomes visible. No part of him would leave a child alone at night.

But Stef’s parents finally show up – having just realised that none of their staff was caring for their daughter. James, of course, blames her for taking valuable time away from his celebration.

When she looks around, Hook is gone, so is his coat, and the crusts from the cheese sandwiches. But there’s the smell of salt an the sea in the air, and she knows it was all real.

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James Mimosa (1)

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So Stef has talked about her father in various ways and had little thought asides. The most that has been established in V3 canon, I believe, is that he is an abusive asshole that loved his wife, and had zero love whatsoever for his daughter. Well, that’s true, but it’s so much worse than all that.

Why he hates Stef: Charlotte’s pregnancy with Stef was problematic, both mother and child nearly died several times. Charlotte rode out the last couple of months on strict bed rest, expecting every day to lose her life, her baby’s life, or both. And James watched this, hoping and praying that Charlotte – objectively the only person in the world he truly loves – would survive, hating the unborn child more and more every time Charlotte was in the least little bit of pain.

And when Stef was finally born, Charlotte lapsed immediately into postpartum depression, so James just held onto his life, and cursed Stef’s very existence. He saw her, from the moment she entered the world, as nothing more than the monster who tried to kill his wife.

Why didn’t he secretly have her killed off? It’s something that’s well within his power to do so. But – Charlotte loved her daughter, if only in her own way. [The postpartum depression and associated fallout meant she never quite bonded with Stef; on top of having this image of what he daughter should be, versus the child she really had.] So he wasn’t going to take away something that Charlotte wanted.

After she died…honestly? He sees her as a breathing organ donor, and nothing more. Something that could be harvested, should he ever get hurt – or just feel the need for a new kidney.

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Hiatus. For Real This Time.

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Ok. So. This has been a long time coming.

I tried to keep going. But- There’s nothing left in the Cookie tank at the moment.

I would love to come back one day. But it’s not on the horizon right now. Real life and junk.

I’ll do a longer post later. But for now, I’m honouring my promise. I always said that if it looked like I was going to quit, I would post every spoiler that I knew.

I’ll be dealing these out as they come to me. Or in whatever order they’re asked.

Ask me anything. No answers are off the table.

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Crying Grumpies

La Biblioteca Isawa, el podcast de Leyenda de los 5 Anillos LCG, episodio 1.

Crying Grumpies

Ha costado de editar, pero ya tenemos aqui, para todos los que esperan con las uñas comidas el próximo juego de cartas de parte de Fantasy Flight Games, ¡el primer episodio del podcast Grumpy sobre Leyenda de los 5 Anillos, el juego de cartas LCG!.

Recordamos que el juego tiene prevista su salida en el ultimo cuarto del año, con una salida/preview en la Gencon del mes que viene, así que ahi ya veremos todas las cartas y componentes que traerá el juego.

Así que aquí tenéis los enlaces a Itunes e Ivoox tanto del primer episodio (donde hablamos de la estructura de turno con nuestros colaboradores, Chef Grumpy, Grimagor y Salvi), como del piloto de presentación.

Piloto en Itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/es/podcast/piloto/id1251323103?i=1000388952205&mt=2

Episodio 1 en Itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/es/podcast/la-biblioteca-isawa-episodio-1/id1251323103?i=1000388975349&mt=2

Piloto en Ivoox:

http://www.ivoox.com/18550286

Episodio 1 en Ivoox:

http://www.ivoox.com/19406305

Esperamos que os guste, suscribios y mensualmente tendréis vuestra ración de audio venida desde… ¡La Biblioteca Isawa!

¡Reserva aquí tu copia!


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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 2

In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu lay ahead of us. It wasn’t a planet. It was a collection of asteroids connected by tubes. As statements go, that was an understatement. Two huge asteroids, one following another, lay in the middle, connected to each other by round, gray structures wide enough for spaceships to fly inside. That was the only attempt at a pattern that I could see in the construction. The rest of the asteroids stuck out from the main ones with no rhyme or reason, sometimes with a tube to another asteroid, sometimes isolated.

Even more disturbing from an engineering perspective, there were multiple levels. While some asteroids had a tube to only one asteroid, many of them had six tubes (four to asteroids on their level, one pointing up and the other down). Most had more than six tubes and they were almost always diagonal instead of straight.

It wasn’t even possible to come up with an overall shape for the conglomeration of parts. Few of the asteroids pointed in the same direction, some stuck out from the main group—with another two or three attached to the end and additional tubes that led deep into the mass of asteroids.

Jaclyn summarized my thoughts in a sentence. “What a mess.”

Marcus laughed. “And here I was thinking that it was cool. I mean, that says space. You can’t build stuff like that on Earth. It’d be crushed under its own weight. Plus, look at all the spaceships.”

It was hard not to see them. We’d seen a lot near the jump gate—which had rings several times larger than the last jump gate we’d been through and that one in turn had been several times larger than Earth’s. It had flashed white and a stream of ships of all sizes had come out. When it was over, it had flashed again and several more had come through.

K’Tepolu, for lack of a better cliche, reminded me of a beehive. Spaceships, small and large, flew between the asteroids, dodging the connecting pieces and landing inside the open bays.

Something dinged inside my head. The words “K’Tepolu Station” appeared along with it. I mentally agreed to take the call.

“Xiniti ship… Beeblebrox?” The perfect, androgynous voice didn’t quite seem to know what to make of the name. It didn’t sound like a Xiniti ship.

“That’s us,” I said.

“Since this is your first trip here, we’re giving you a berth on one of the outside asteroids. We’ve sent your ship the berth number as well as your approach route. If you choose to manually control your ship, please follow our directions precisely. If you don’t believe you can do it, let your ship’s computer do it. Timing is essential. Imprecise approaches risk collisions.”

I don’t know if I would have tried it without the implant, but with the implant it wasn’t bad. They weren’t kidding either.  Ships crossed my path both before and behind me. With as many ships as I’d seen, it made sense, but I wondered if they might be overdoing the coordination.

On a whim, I started the song “Major Tom” playing.

As we approached our landing spot, Cassie watched our destination asteroid grow bigger as the ships behind us branched off, decelerating as they aimed for their own landing bays.

“Did you notice that there are landing spots on every asteroid? It’s like they added them to each new piece instead of designating one starport.”

My implant volunteered that that was exactly what they’d done. I opened my mouth to tell Cassie, but she shook her head, saying, “I know.”

When I brought the ship inside, the directions said to turn off the maneuver jets. I did, and the gravity panels on the floor and ceiling moved us along.

As we floated down through the hangar, ships stacked on shelves on both sides of us, I asked Lee, “What kind of place is this?”

Lee leaned back in his chair. “Ask your implant… I’ll give you a hint though. It’s from that movie. The one with spaceships?”

Everyone looked at him.

“You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” he said, and then he grinned.

Marcus shook his head, “Star Wars? How long has it been since you watched a movie?”

Lee shrugged. “Not important, but before I go, I should tell you a couple things. First off, you’ve probably got an effectively unlimited expense account. You’ll have to check your implant. They might be less generous with young Xiniti who have to prove themselves. It’ll cover docking fees and food at the very least. If yours is unlimited, don’t abuse it. It won’t look good. You don’t want to fail this test that way.

“Second, most people will leave you alone. Humans are scary because of being the Abominators’ soldiers. Humans who are part of the Xiniti nation  are doubly scary because everyone knows how you become part of the Xiniti, but… There are some people who will see it as an invitation. Watch out for them.”

The ship floated upward, landing in a row next to several other similarly sized ships. The row was only five deep, but there were rows on either side as far as I could see.

We stopped moving. Lee said, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to leave. I’ll see you when I’m done. If you’re done first, don’t wait for me, but do leave a message for me. The Xiniti implant has a name that will find me. Any questions before I go?”

I checked my implant, knew Lee’s alias as well as the name of the Xiniti we’d be taking on, the ship and colonists that we’d be guarding… It seemed complete. “I’ve got one question. If we could bring relatives, could I have brought Rachel too?”

Lee stood up from his chair, letting the restraints fall to its side. “Sure, but it would make things complicated. Her intangibility means more than you think and we don’t have time to sort that out right now. Let’s just say she’d have connections to more than just the Xiniti, and we don’t need that.”

“Okay,” I said.

Then, taking the form of a Xiniti, he stepped through the nearest hatch, stopping for a moment. “One more thing. If you go back without me, don’t go through the system with the battle.”

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Semicoop

Heads or tails

Semicoop

 make heads or tails of someone or something
Fig. to understand someone or something that someone has said. (Usually with the negative.) I can’t make heads ortails of Fred. No one can make heads or tails of this problem.

Heinze often has quite brilliant ideas, but sometimes they are a little bit too complex to explain to others right out of the blue. 😉 This one is rather simple if you have basic knowledge of binary numbers, but else… well, it can be rather difficult.

So we have these affiliate links on our website to board games on Amazon.com and we’ve now referred enough people that we can actually buy a board game ourselves from the credit we’ve received. Since we owe that to you, our dear readers, we wanted to give you a chance to influence how we spend it! You can vote on our Facebook Page, which game we should get! Right now Clank! is quite ahead of the rest, but please do vote if you disagree with that. 😀

A while ago we received a copy of Lucidity by Fox Tale Games, a push your luck dice game with a nightmare-ish theme. Despite all the horror, we’ve had a lot of fun playing it. And it looks just great:

A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jun 4, 2017 at 8:24am PDT

Lucidity is currently on Kickstarter and the project was funded within 48 hours! If you think Lucidity looks interesting, you should definitely check out their Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/foxtale/lucidity-six-sided-nightmares

Do you know any game mechanics that might be a little too complex?

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In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 1

In My Daydreams

From a Report by Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office…

Location: K’Tepolu System
Date: Day 139 in year 9043 of the Human Ascendency
To: [Name Redacted], Director of Breeder Reclamation

It’s my hope that the War Council will no longer be involved in our operations, but rather that their involvement will be limited to providing assistance that only they can provide and making any requests they might have clear. As they’re not in my chain of command, they should not be making any sort of attempt to give me orders or use our resources for their own projects.

Our management of the breeding stock has provided them with thousands of years of effective soldiers, spacers, and technicians with no loss of quality or deviation from the designs of the Architects. It could even be argued that we’ve been responsible for some slight improvements and efficiencies in the process of their creation.

I inform you of this because their current involvement in my mission very nearly caused me to lose track of the escaped breeders.

One month ago I was requested to watch a group of breeders whose purity officers suspected that they were preparing to escape. This was a mixed bloodline group associated with Cterrek, one of the larger cities in the K’tek system. The group is believed to have been contacted by the Institute for Human Freedom, a charity funded by many Alliance worlds. Our intelligence personnel have reason to believe that the Hrrnna funded its creation and continue to give money to the group.

After the breeders disappeared, it was found that the breeders had been saving money at higher rates than the norm.

There’s no law against breeders saving money. In fact, it’s been found that the more control breeders have over their own lives, the better they accept our occasional interference.

Contact with foreign powers, however, is illegal. That, I’m disappointed that we didn’t detect. When I was last in contact with them, our people were still searching for the methods they used to avoid our detection.

However they did it, they disappeared from their residences, their jobs, and all their relationships in one moment. The next time we became aware of them, it was because one of their own number contacted us through their world’s network. The next we knew, we’d assigned personnel to track them, not least of which included me.

I went immediately to the nearest starport, requisitioned a starship and began following them as I am now.

Within a few jumps, they made it outside Interdicted Space. Our forces could have caught them if I’d had the ability to compel their obedience instead of the other way around. When we jumped to the edge of Interdicted Space, my ship was surrounded by heavy fighters given the responsibility to keep citizens within the Human Ascendency.

I was then ordered to cease pursuit and to report to one of several systems to assist them in border patrol operations. Though they weren’t in my chain of command, they’d convinced local officers that my ship was necessary to their efforts.  With some work, I was able to contact our headquarters to countermand the order and given leave to pursue my original mission.

By that time, I had hopelessly lost the breeders’ ship. Only an ansible message from a mole among the breeders put me on track. I was able then to follow them to K’Tepolu.

I’ve hidden my ship among the asteroid belt near K’Tepolu and have continued to be updated regarding current events by the mole.

I have learned the following:

1. The breeders are receiving some level of cooperation with the Alliance government. As suspected, the Alliance has designated a world for breeders to settle. The mole does not know the coordinates, but does know that it’s within a few jump gates of K’Tepolu. When they do leave K’Tepolu, we’ll have the opportunity to destroy them or to follow and learn the colony’s location. My recommendation is that we hold off and discover the colony’s location as well.

2. My recommendation that we hold off is connected to another piece of information I’ve learned. The Xiniti will be escorting the craft to the colony. My ship has no chance against the Xiniti standard ship or a Xiniti crew. If it were to turn out that the Xiniti are not directly protecting the ship, my recommendation might change to capturing and interrogating the escort for the location of the colony. That would depend on the nature of the escort.

3. If recapturing or killing the breeders is regarded as more important than discovering the colony, we currently have an opportunity to strike. The Xiniti have not yet arrived. The only major risk is that the authorities at K’Tepolu might learn who attacked the breeders and prevent future Human Ascendency ships from using the port. The economic damage from that could be considerable.

Awaiting your response,

Agent 957

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Tieshaunn

B13.8 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Basil knew he wasn’t the most… sensible person out there. He often overlooked people’s feelings, not out of malice or a lack of care, he thought, but simply because they tended to seem so… unimportant, compared to everything else on his mind. The inventions, the science, the fight against evil, the fight for good… compared to all that, there was precious little time to worry about how others were feeling, oftentimes, and there’d been steadily less and less time, to boot.

Still, he would have needed to be blind, deaf and an imbecile not to notice that something was seriously wrong with his friend. Dahlia looked like she’d been crying a lot, in a very short time. The little bit of mascara she tended to wear even underneath her mask, against his recommendation, had run down her cheeks in two quickly fading black streaks; her eyes were bloodshot and all of that was visible because she wasn’t wearing her mask.

Stepping forward, he put himself between her and the junior heroes, if only for appearances sake, reaching out to put his hand on her right shoulder, as Hecate was hanging onto her left one, her arms around Dahlia’s torso.

He squeezed it, feeling her tremble, then calm a bit. “Welcome back,” he spoke as softly as he could, trying not to show the anger he was starting to feel.

Someone had hurt her badly. He could tell. He could see it in her eyes.

That someone was going to hurt a lot, if he could in any way arrange it.

First, though, he had to take care of her. Or at least help do it.

“Thanks, guys,” she said in a wavering voice as she reached out, grabbing him by the shoulder and pulling him in so she could hug him along with Hecate.

He barely managed to get his rifle out of the way before he was being crushed against her – she definitely wasn’t watching her strength, squeezing as hard as she could. Not that he, or Hecate, were going to complain.

After a good half-minute of that, he finally pulled back, though gently. They weren’t exactly in a situation where they could afford to spend too much time on this, as much as he felt it necessary.

“Tyche, what-” he began, trying to inquire as to what happened to her while they were separated, but she cut him off as she looked up from embracing Hecate, her eyes painful to look at, but determined.

“I know where she is,” she spoke, her voice firmer than before, as if the little group hug had actually helped her a bit. He certainly hoped it did. “I know where Dusu is, and what way to take to her. But we need to hurry.”

Basil was still trying to process that statement when Hecate spoke up. “It’s ‘which way’, not ‘what way’,” she corrected Dahlia, her voice wavering, as if she was on the verge of tears herself.

“Drop dead, Grammazon,” Dahlia replied with a smile. “Any-way, we should hurry before more of these losers show up, right?” She looked at everyone else.

“I have a few questions, actually,” Tartsche spoke, coming closer with the others. “But you’re right, we should get away from here. First, though, I must insist we check you.”

“Check me?” Dahlia asked in confusion, though Basil immediately picked up on what Tartsche meant.

As reasonable as it was, he still felt like slapping him over the head for possibly putting her in more distress. “He means that he wants to make sure you are not under some form of mind control or other coercion, and that you are actually who you say you are,” he explained calmly. “Remember the infiltrator protocols I made you memorise?”

She nodded, as understanding dawned on her face.

“Wait, you guys have your own infiltrator protocols?” Spellgun asked, sounding surprised.

“Of course!” he and Hecate replied in tune.

The junior heroes, minus Gloom Glimmer and Osore, looked at them in surprise.

Tartsche was the first one to recover. “Well, anyway, we don’t actually need that right now, provided that Gloom Glimmer’s power is cooperating?” He looked at his teammate, who’d pulled her hood up to hide her face, again, her cape falling over her shoulders to hide most of her form, other than the toes of her feet, clad in the black cloth of her suit.

She nodded, stepping forward. “I have just the power for that,” she spoke, her voice a little more normal than usual, without the odd harmonics beneath it that tended to freak Hecate out so much. “Do you consent to me using an Esper power on you, Tyche?”

“I get a choice? ” Dahlia asked, surprised. “I figured you’d insist on it anyway.”

Gloom Glimmer shook her head. “I’d rather do this with your permission. It’s rather invasive, after all, and you have no way to tell whether I’ll look at more than just whether or not you really are who you say you are and whether you’re under the influence of another power.”

The redhead surprised them all by chuckling, as if amusing. “Go ahead,” she said with a sad, brittle smile. “Can’t be worse than what’s already happened.”

Basil’s grip on his rifle tightened, hard.

Gloom Glimmer reached out with both hands, as Hecate stepped back, letting go of Dahlia’s torso to hold her hand instead. She put her hands onto the redhead’s temples, gently, and lowered her head, standing there quietly for a few moments.

Then she stepped back, letting her arms fall down and disappear beneath her cloak. “She’s clean,” she announced, as her hands rose again, dropping two blue-and-white pills onto her palm, swallowing them quickly. “Can’t find any sign of mental tampering and she’s definitely whom she appears to be.”

Tartsche nodded, looking relieved. “Great. Sorry about that.” He gave Tyche an apologetic smile.

“Nah, don’t knock it,” she replied easily. “Only good sense. So, are we  gonna get going before these bozos wake up?” She nodded towards the downed villains.

“Yes, let us get moving,” Basil agreed. “You can tell us what you found out while we are on the move.”

He looked around at the others, to see if anyone disagreed. No one did, and so they left, running (in Gloom Glimmer’s case, floating) after Dahlia as she ran down the hallway.

***

The group quickly passed by the entrapped, unconscious Chronicle and ran down the hallway that Basil, Polymnia and Gloom Glimmer had come from earlier.

“So, how do we get to Dusu, and how do you know where she is?” Basil asked Dahlia, keeping pace with her with some effort – apart from Tartsche, he was the only one in the group who didn’t have an enhanced physique, and unlike him, Tartsche hadn’t just come out of heavy melee combat with a sword-wielding lunatic.

“We’ve got to get to the train station – they have trains running through this entire place!” Dahlia replied, looking at him over her shoulder.

He was glad to see that, now that she had something to do, she looked better, if marginally so.

“We’ve got to take the D1-line West – I came with the East line – to the D-hub, then take the D-line North to the main hub. From there, we can take the A-Line to the A-hub, and the A3-line to the last stop. That’s where Dusu’s lab is ‘posed to be, according to the guy I got this from!”

“Who’s that?” Hecate asked, as she stuck close to her friend without any apparent strain.

I need some proper power armour again, Basil thought in annoyance, even as he listened closely. Lugging this much gear around is such a pain, no matter how much I reduce the weight.

“Some guy named Im-Immanuel,” she replied, tripping over the name. “A creepy German guy, not that that’s anything unusual.”

“Immanuel, huh?” Gloom Glimmer spoke up while flying closer, briefly touching Basil on the back.

He almost yelped when he lifted off, floating along with her, though he reigned it in – and his legs immediately made their gratitude known.

“Yeah, weird name, right? Do you know him?” Dahlia asked, looking forward again.

Basil frowned. He’d have expected her to keep looking over her shoulder and rely on her power not to trip up or run into anything. It might have been nothing, just a whim, but it felt more significant, considering the state she was in.

“No, unless he’s the famous eighteenth-century philosopher,” Gloom Glimmer replied. “It’s not the most popular name ever, but it’s pretty common in the German states, as well as other parts of continental Europe, though usually in a different spel- ah, but this isn’t important at all.” She popped another one of her pills.

Basil took note of that, if only because he’d finished analysis of the one he’d filched a while ago, and knew just what they did. Or didn’t do. I wonder whether I should tell her… but then again, I doubt Lady Light of all people would be lying to her daughter out of malicious reasons.

“Well, he hinted that he was, at least, old enough to know Weisswald, even though he looked like an early twenties sex god,” Dahlia said casually.

“Yeah, that makes him even more trustworthy than just the fact that he’s in this place,” Bakeneko threw in with a sneer.

“I know, I didn’t trust him, either, but…” She paused, apparently searching for the right way to phrase things. “Everything he told me has been true so far, and… he said he wants us to find Dusu.”

“Did he say why he’d want that? It sounds mightily suspicious,” Polymnia spoke as she jogged along.

Dahlia nodded, without turning around. “Yeah, he said he thought she wasn’t really worth the effort to support anymore, and this is some kinda last test for her to prove she’s worth being around, otherwise she might as well get whatever she deserves.”

“Now that’s just gotta be bo-” Bakeneko began to say.

“That makes sense,” Gloom Glimmer interrupted her, speaking quietly. “The Gefährten have done this before, like that mess in Chicago a while ago. That was them putting the former Ascendant to the test.”

“Wait, the Ascendant is a member of these madmen!?” Tartsche and Spellgun asked in concert, sounding shocked. Everyone else was staring at Gloom Glimmer as well, at the same time.

“Yes, I… heard about it from Dad. The Ascendant is a legacy that’s belonged to the Gefährten since the beginning, really. But the former holder wasn’t living up to his duties – making more people have origins and manifest – so they gave him one last chance to prove he was worthy of the name. Now that he’s failed, there’s probably an all new Ascendant, somewhere around here,” she explained.

They took a right turn down another hallway, finally leaving the waxen section behind. Not that cold steel was any more comfortable or anything, just more… normal.

“So this is a reasonable course of action for these people?” Basil asked, wanting to make sure.

“As far as I know, yes,” Gloom Glimmer replied firmly. “I’m not an expert on them, obviously, but it fits.” She fell quiet for a moment. “Say, where’d you meet this guy? He must be pretty high up in the hierarchy here, to make a decision like that.”

Dahlia gestured up towards the roof and ahead. “On the top of that huge-ass tower in the middle of this fucking place. Some kind of meditation chamber, it was.”

Basil, Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia traded glances; he could tell they realised what that meant.

“What did you just think?” Hecate asked, looking back at the three of them over her shoulder, running ahead with Dahlia. “You three were trading very knowing looks there.”

“Gloom Glimmer used a danger sense earlier, when she found Polymnia and me,” Basil explained. “Among other things, it told her that there was a massive threat at the top of that tower, someone more dangerous than even the Dark.”

That caused a few moments of silence.

“Oh,” Dahlia said, almost gasping. “Fits, I guess… he was really extraordinarily scary, as nice as he was…”

“What can you tell us about him?” Basil pressed the issue, as he reconsidered just how much he could afford to trust her right now – if this was someone more dangerous than the Dark, so likely more powerful than the Dark and someone who was also old enough to have known Weisswald, then it stood to reason that he might be powerful or skillful (or both) enough to evade detection by Gloom Glimmer, as powerful as she might be.

“He… he was really way, way pretty, like,” she began to reply, her speech a little stuttering. “Like, the prettiest guy I’ve ever seen, ever,” she continued, speeding up. “He didn’t use any obvious power or anything, not that I noticed.”

They reached a small train station that was, like most of the complex so far, completely abandoned, both train tracks empty.

Slowing down, then stopping near the edge, they gathered around Dahlia, though they kept a little distance, so as not to crowd her; only Hecate remained right next to her, still holding onto her hand, squeezing it in support.

“He just… well, he just talked to me. But… he knew a lot. WAY too much,” she whispered, looking down at her feet. “He knew, he knew about my equipment… he knew how my power worked better than I do… he knew my name.” She shuddered, as several people around her gasped, and Hecate stepped even closer, letting go of Dahlia’s hand to wrap her arm around her waist instead, pulling her into a hug.

“Oh Tyche, I… I’m so sorry,” she whispered, putting her other arm around her, as well.

Dahlia turned fully towards her and embraced her in turn, hiding her face against the side of Hecate’s hood.

Basil was pretty sure she was crying.

He… he wasn’t sure how to describe how he felt. Wrath was too soft a word to describe it.

Worse yet…

If he could find out hers, does he know that of the others here? Or would he only find out if we came too close, if he found out via his power?

He looked around at the others, seeing various degrees of shock and outrage on their faces… and no small amount of fear.

Gloom Glimmer was hard to read, her face and body almost entirely hidden, but her mouth was set in a tight line. She had no reason to be worried herself – her identity was public anyway, and anyone who tried to go after her family rather than her deserved what they got, but she seemed angry nonetheless.

Polymnia, Tartsche, Spellgun and Bakeneko looked fearful. Each of them had a secret identity, and (likely) family to care about, even if Aimihime, at least, didn’t like her father all that much.

It was impossible to read Osore and Basil frankly didn’t know a thing about the boy other than that he was ethnically Japanese. He really should have asked Aimihime more about her boyfriend, what kind of friend failed to even think of that…

He couldn’t see Hecate’s face right then, but he knew her well enough to know that she must be terrified, seeing how tight she was with her (very expansive) family.

Basil himself… well, if there was a villain out there – mayhaps a really powerful telepath? – whom could find out secret identities easily, or whom had an organisation with the resources to do so, even for obscure, young heroes like Dahlia, then that was a problem, but not so much for himself. His only family was Amy, and she certainly didn’t need any protection from enemies who’d be interested in someone of his level.

Still, I need to talk to Amy about this… assuming she doesn’t kill me after this stunt.

Just then, the train arrived. A quick look at the driver’s cabin as it passed showed that it was automated, and the doors opened smoothly.

They entered, together, Dahlia disentangling herself from Hecate to do so.

Inside, the train car was… surprisingly normal. Simple, lightly padded seats with red cotton covers. Everyone sat down, with nothing better to do, except for Basil, who leaned against the window right next to the seat that Dahlia and Hecate sat down on together, putting Dahlia between himself and the Greek witch; Gloom Glimmer didn’t so much sit as move into a lotus position in mid-air, lowering herself until she was level with the seat that Polymnia sat on, since the latter’s armour took up a little too much space to make for comfortable sharing of the seat.

The others also paired up – Bakeneko and Osore, and Tartsche and Spellgun, the four of them facing him and his team, while Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia sat at a right angle to the rest, their seats facing the back of the train.

“Is that why you are not putting your mask on?” Basil asked in a soft voice, looking down at Dahlia as he folded his arms in front of his chest.

“Oh, that?” She looked up with a surprised expression on her tired face, fresh tear tracks visible on her cheeks, through her mascara. “I completely forgot about this, sorry…” She pulled a tissue paper out of a pocket of her leather jacket, spitting on it a few times before she wiped the mascara off her face, then she pulled her mask back on. “I guess, yeah, I didn’t see the point, so I forgot about it,” she said, her voice now slightly muffled by the mask.

Basil relaxed, just a little bit – he hadn’t even noticed, but he was glad she had the added protection against strikes or shots to her head, even with the opening for her red hair in the back, he’d been more tense than he would otherwise have been while she’d been so exposed.

“What else can you tell us about this Immanuel? Did he give you any hints as to what his power is, or his true designs?” And how much did he really know about your power? Basil wasn’t sure he wanted to draw too much attention to that, not with the junior heroes around. Anything he said might move up the ladder, in time, and a probability manipulator would be a prime target for recruitment, maybe even more so than himself.

“As I said, he was… nice,” she spoke, her head lowered and her hand holding tightly onto Hecate’s. “Even while he… spoke about some… troubling things… private things.” She looked up at the junior heroes. “I’m sorry, you’re all great and all, but…”

Tartsche raised a hand, looking surprisingly calm in spite of the situation. “We understand. You don’t have to tell us about that. Just tell us any salient information you may have on him.”

“Um… there’s one thing that stuck out. He seemed to have some kind of… well, when I asked him where you guys all were, he immediately knew, and could point it out to me,” she replied quietly. “Like, knew it down to which level of the tower you were in, or that B-Six here and the Popprincess broke out with some anti-EMP stuff. But he said it was ‘a pain’ to keep track of you.” She looked at Gloom Glimmer.

They all looked at her, and Basil, at least, felt very curious about what that could mean.

“That could mean he’s a pretercognitive,” Gloom Glimmer explained calmly. “I know that some aspect of my power messes with them, though I don’t know what, exactly. I can’t do it deliberately, at least.”

“Preter-what?” Aimi and Dahlia both asked at the same time, and with nearly the same voice.

“Pretercognitives are particular sub-category of Espers…” Basil began to answer…

“What did I tell you about Exposition, Brennus!?” Hecate snapped, pointing an accusatory finger at him.

Oh, come on… “Two sentences or less…” he grumbled, remembering one of her many, many lectures.

“And you remember the penalty for breaking that rule?” she pressed on.

No more free food at your family restaurants, he thought as he nodded. “Yeah.”

She nodded. “Good. Continue.”

He grumbled something under his breath about people who were ungrateful about getting detailed information and continued, trying to ignore the amused looks everyone else was giving him.

“Pretercognitives are a sub-category of Espers, specifically Post-, Peri- and Precognitives; that is to say, people who view, in some manner, the past, present or future. They are the rarest form of Espers and some of the most powerful and interesting powers out there, particularly the various forms of Precognition, belong to that class,” he said, stopping before he could actually recount the sum of his knowledge about the subject – and he’d researched it extensively, for various reasons.

Gloom Glimmer nodded. “Also, they’re known for having strange interactions and suffering interference from some kinds of powers, of which mine appears to be one. Sometimes, they work on me just fine and sometimes… not.”

“Alright, so we can reasonably assume that he has some form of Pretercognition, though he may also simply have been patched into their computer and surveillance systems – there ought to be more security around here than we have noticed so far,” Basil followed. “Anything else?” He asked, after the others nodded.

Dahlia shook her head. “Not really. I mean, he might have been a telepath, to figure out so much about me, but… he also knew stuff I didn’t know about, so… I dunno.”

“Where all the things he knew that you didn’t know just about your power? Because if so, he might have some kind of power analysis ability,” Hecate proposed.

Her friend shook her head, though. “No, he knew more than that.”

They looked at each other, Basil, Hecate and Dahlia, before falling quiet.

That’s it then. I don’t have the foggiest idea what kind of power he might have, beyond it being some form of Pretercognition, which might mean anything, Basil thought to himself.

“Uh, this is all fun and all,” Spellgun spoke up, making everyone look up at him. “But we’re kind of ignoring the fact that, whatever his power is, it probably doesn’t matter if Gloomy is right and he’s just going to let us take on Dusu. We should maybe focus on that, first, then worry about him.”

“What if he, however, objects to us leaving after we’ve performed this little ‘test’ for his subordinate?” Basil countered, perhaps a little more sharply than he needed to.

He really was, rather extraordinarily so, angry, even if he had so far managed to keep it simmering beneath the surface.

“Then we deal with that later,” Spellgun stood his ground, setting his jaw. “Let’s focus on our immediate problems, and worry about the rest if and when we get to it.” He looked around at everyone in turn, as if challenging them to disagree, but no one spoke up.

He does have a point, after all, Basil thought. “So be it then,” he agreed, finally. “Our next issue, then…”

“Excuse me,” Polymnia spoke up, raising a hand as if she was in school. “I do actually have something huge to talk about!”

They all looked at her, but she was looking just at Basil… or rather, at his left gauntlet.

Ah, right, I forgot that this would happen…

“Brennus, you have a force-field projector!” she spoke intently, her vocaliser sounding far too human. “That’s a huge thing! When did you come up with it, when did you find the time to build it? What else can it do, other than that shield? And do you think you can make more? And what is it with that thing attached to your thigh?” She finished by pointing at the ovoid that was magnetically attached to his thigh armour.

Everyone’s attention was on him, now, ranging from curiosity to concern to… well, he wasn’t sure what Hecate was thinking, exactly, but she seemed amused.

“My gauntlet’s a force-field projector, yes. I came up with it after we worked on the Arc Caster… well, it’d be more accurate to say that working on the Arc Caster allowed me to finally finish some fragmentary ideas I have had for a while now. I cannibalised some other projects of mine and assembled this prototype.” Polymnia looked like she wanted to say something, but he pressed on, turning to the other new invention he’d brought along. “As for th-“

He was interrupted, suddenly, when the lights went out, from one moment to the next, followed by red emergency lighting turning on.

Everyone who was seated jumped up, reading powers and weapons, but the train kept driving, though slowing down.

“What happened!?” Tartsche asked, his voice firm. “Gloom Glimmer, do you see anything?”

“No! I was looking out for anything dangerous or such, but I didn’t see anything coming!” Gloom Glimmer replied as she floated up by a few inches, her cape billowing open. Her hands were clenched into fists. “But we definitely just… enterd the territory of some kind of power. A dimensional shift? Yeah, I think that’s it – we’re in some kind of pocket dimension.”

The train slowed further, then stopped, and the doors opened.

Basil traded glances with Hecate, before he turned around to look at Gloom Glimmer. “Can you get us out of here? Straight out, with some kind of power?”

She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry… dimensional travel is a rare one, even for me,” she replied. “And this place… it is protected, somehow. People aren’t supposed to get out, even with that kind of power, I think.”

“So then… how can we get out?” Tartsche asked, holding an assault rifle in each hand. Basil was pretty sure they were loaded with lethal ammo, unlike the usual rubber bullets he fired back in New Lennston.

“I figure we have to find whoever made it and get them to let us out. I’m certain they’re in here with us, somehow,” she answered.

“No use in dallying then,” Basil said, loading a new shot into his rifle. “Let us go out and look for them.”

***

As soon as they stepped out of the train car onto a dark floor made of regular squares, Basil immediately noticed something new.

“I am glowing red,” he said flatly, looking down at his left hand, turning it so he could look from every direction. It – and the rest of his body – was surrounded by a halo of soft, almost imperceptible red light.

Looking around, he saw that all the others were surrounded by the exact same glow.

“Any idea what this means?” Spellgun asked, holding tightly onto his rifle.

“I… think it has something to do with… not being part of this reality?” Gloom Glimmer said. “Ugh… I think this is a contrivers work, it’s not usually this hard to figure a power out… but I think we should look out for anyone with a differently coloured glow about them.”

“I can’t ask for a straighter line than that!” a female voice boomed from all around them.

Basil raised his rifle, turning in a circle to survey their surroundings quickly.

They were in a huge, bare room, so large that the walls and ceiling couldn’t be seen – just a floor made of perfectly regular, glossy black squares, fitted so tightly they seemed almost like a solid piece, illuminated by a light that seemed to have no source, casting soft shadows on the ground.

The only break in the pattern were the train tracks and the car they had come in on, which seemed to come from and go to nowhere.

Then, in the distance with the train car in Basil’s back when he looked in that direction, a glow appeared, a glowing white point that extended into lines spreading over the sky.

“Uh, guys, I’m feeling some really, really, really powerful magic around here…” Hecate said in a hushed, almost awed voice.

“Oh shit,” came from several mouths all at once.

Basil stayed quiet, aiming in the direction of the light with his rifle, even as the lines formed mystical designs, pentacles, circles and other diagrams, several layers of them, interlocked and shifting.

Finally, a person appeared in the distance, walking closer.

He were tall, a man built like a bodybuilder’s ideal, muscular without being  ridiculous about it, he wore a silver bodysuit and a white cape, his smooth black hair slicked back over his head, his face open, friendly and honest. The kind of face you could instantly trust in a crisis, who’d console even the most despondant, panicked innocent. His smile was all the same, only even more so.

He was surrounded by a soft blue glow.

Dahlia was the first one to manage coherent words at the sight. “Guys… isn’t that… the Protector!?

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Dahlia, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Legend, Osore, Polymnia, Spellgun, Tartsche
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Tieshaunn

B13.7 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

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Their enemies burst into motion before their teammate even had time to slide down the wall. The man covered in dancing lightning threw his arms out, unleashing four solid blue-white spheres the size of footballs that rose up into the air above the burgeoning fight.

At the same time, the woman in the bird-mask reached out and grabbed her shattered sword, without even looking at it, and dissolved into a murder of shaggy, black crows.

Just then, Gloom Glimmer waved her hand at them in an imperious gesture, sending forth a ripple that travelled through the wax floor, as if it was liquid.

Their enemies saw it coming, of course, and reacted much faster this time; the man in blue and Skulls jumped over the ripple as it reached them, avoiding contact – only to stagger as they sank into the ground, up to their knees, the wax seeming to liquefy, then immediately solidify again, trapping them.

The woman with the book landed on her feet, staggering, as the ripple moved towards her, barely holding onto her shredded book. Basil could see her eyes widen as she saw it coming towards her, with no way to dodge.

“Boltstar!” she shouted, almost a squeal, sounding younger than he would have guessed – he mentally re-assigned her as a girl rather than a woman.

The man in blue twisted around at the hip, throwing out a hand towards her. A crackling, unstable sphere of white-blue energy shot out, hitting the ground just a few feet in front of the girl with the book, where the ripple was.

The very moment it touched the ground, the four spheres he’d thrown up into the air flared up, releasing bolts of painfully bright lightning, one each, striking that point.

The wax was vaporised, making the girl with the book cry out – but the explosion also disrupted whatever power Gloom Glimmer had sent out, protecting the girl with the book from its entrapping effects.

Boltstar twisted around once more, shooting another crackling sphere, this time towards Basil – no, towards Gloom Glimmer, who was floating just over his shoulder and behind.

It hit her in the chest, the spheres above immediately releasing their lightning once more, converging upon her sternum.

He didn’t have the time to check on the effect it had on her, as the crows converged as well, reforming into the purple-clad villainess, to his left and out of his rifle’s firing arc, swinging her broken sword down at his weapon, still enough blade left to possibly slice through the barrel, or at least seriously damage the weapon.

It didn’t work out, as he triggered the force-field on his left arm’s gauntlet, the circular shield springing into existence, flaring up with circuit-like patterns of light as it absorbed and spread out the force of her blow, deflecting the sword.

There was no time for a counter-attack, however, as she immediately dissolved into a multitude of birds once more, obscuring his vision as some of them charged his head, fluttering their wings right in front of his face and cawing up a storm.

No, not playing that game, he thought, triggering one of the defensive modifications he’d done to his armor with a twitch of his eyes. The crows screamed as they were charred to death by a powerful electrical current, at least those who had been in direct contact with any part of his equipment, from his rifle to his cloak, as he rolled to the side, bringing more of them into contact with the cloak and dodging any possible attack at the same time.

He couldn’t smell the charred flesh of the dead animals – he’d sealed his helmet, just in case one of their enemies used a gaseous attack – but he saw their burned corpses twitch on the ground before going still.

The remaining crows pulled together again, reforming into the woman; not a willful action, because she reformed right in front of him; her costume was charred, burned, whole sections of it missing to reveal pale skin underneath; the only thing that protected her modesty being the burns covering most of her torso as she staggered, nearly falling over.

Basil shot her in the knee, the power of his rifle dialed down to where it didn’t tear the limb off, merely shattering the bone and making the woman cry out as she fell.

“Chronicle!” she screamed in pain even as she fell – and then she flickered and leapt at him, whole and unharmed, her the pristine blade of her katana slicing through the barrel of his rifle like it was made of butter.

What?

He rolled back, still holding onto half of his rifle, and saw the man – Boltstar – standing atop the wax, as if he’d never sunk into it, releasing another four spheres to rise up in the air as Hecate and Spellgun, who seemed to have engaged him, stared in surprise.

Coming up into a crouching position, he realised that those two weren’t the only ones suddenly unharmed – Skulls was free as well, once more and so were all her drones. The entire two dozen downed Skulls that his friends had taken out earlier were standing, unharmed and fully armed, surrounding them all.

And then the real fight started.

***

What just happened? Irene thought, feeling panic rise inside as she dodged one of Boltstar’s spheres, not wanting to test her defenses against twice the power it’d had before. His first hit had burned a hole into her costume, though it’d only delivered a painful, but not serious impact to her chest underneath; but that had been before he’d doubled the number of turrets, as she thought of the spheres above.

She combined her dodge with a spin, letting her see the result of the sphere impacting the wall behind her, across the hall – eight lightning bolts hit in a massive explosion, making her feel quite glad she’d dodged – while she completed her pirouette, to face the core of her opponents – Skulls, Boltstar and Chronicle.

The crow-woman was busy fighting Ba- Brennus, now that she’d been rejuvenated, but he was as slippery as usual, dodging her strikes or deflecting them with his new force-shield – Seriously, he came up with a force-field? Dad is going to descend into paroxysms – while he actually pressed the attack, striking at her with the butt of his ruined rifle, swinging it like an improvised tonfa, having reversed his grip on it.

She didn’t have time to admire his tenacity, though, because the dozens of Skulls around them had drawn her team’s attention from Boltstar and there was nothing to stop him from lobbing more of those targeting shots of his, every one of them triggering the eight turrets above to devastating effect, forcing her to dance through the air, cloak flying wildly, even as taser shots from the Skulls were bouncing off her skin, tearing tiny chunks out of her costume.

It was quite clear that her current power loadout was not up to the task of fighting off this assault, but to risk letting go of them… what if she got something unsuited to the task? Just one hit from Boltstar’s turrets would most likely knock her out, forcing her into her safe mode and leaving her friends to fight alone.

I need some breathing room, she thought, only to realise that she did have the means to get it.

Flight, impenetrable skin and reinforced organs, enhanced reflexes and liquefying ripples. The solution was there.

After dodging another one of Boltstar’s spheres, she threw her arms open, causing ripples to spread out from the ground underneath her, carefully restraining them so they did not liquefy the ground enough to trap anyone – that would’ve hit her friends, as well; no, instead, she caused the wax to buck, the ripples enlarging into waves, liquefying just enough to hold onto the feet of everyone, causing them to be thrown about, yet not lose their footing, disrupting the fight for a few precious moments.

She used them to stop holding onto her current abilities. Her power, which had already been aching to change, immediately switched them out, the current set rapidly fading away to be replaced by new ones.

Taking on new abilities was always a strange, yet familiar experience to Irene. The old ones would… fade, as if sinking down into a deep ocean, only for new powers to rise up from the darkness, taking their place. The strange part being when they settled in and knowledge of them filled her mind, as if she’d always had them. Not always complete knowledge, but knowledge nonetheless, letting her put them to use straight away, even if she didn’t always immediately understand every aspect of them.

A new form of flight, tapping into gravity around her, rapidly flipping it to keep her in place, accompanied by a light sense of vertigo before her inner ear adapted; it would allow her to corner at extreme speeds by flipping and enhancing the effect of gravity on herself, with the side-effect of being able to turn herself into a powerful projectile if need be.

A defensive power, a kind of discorporation, that would have her body instantly turn into smoke upon being hit, avoiding damage of all kinds.

Finally, an offensive ability, unraveling her limbs into countless tendrils that could snap out and crush or slash targets with incredible strength.

Irene frowned. The abilities didn’t fit. The flight was too powerful, taking up too much of her potential in one power that was wasted in such tight confines. Her defense made both the offensive aspect of her flight, as well as her main attack power useless, as she’d discorporate upon impact, negating any damage she might cause.

Her body burst into smoke as countless taser shots penetrated it, causing no damage whatsoever. The same held true for Boltstar’s shot, which simply flew through her, rather than trigger a shot from the eight turrets above.

It was then that she discovered another problem with her current powerset – while her tendrils were numerous and fast enough to strike the taser bolts out of the air, but she couldn’t suppress the smoke-defense, as it was completely automatic.

No, I need something else!

She flew up, still in smoke form – at least it still let her flight work, though it was slower than she knew it could be – and reformed above the battle, just in time to hear a massive caterwauling sound.

Below her, Melody’s attack left the villains reeling, though it did nothing to her team – the junior heroes all had protective earbuds, courtesy of Melody herself, and Hecate either had her own defenses or something made by Brennus.

The villains were not so lucky – the only one who seemed to resist was the crow-woman, who burst into a murder of crows, much the same way Irene had burst into smoke to evade attacks.

Osore was the first one to capitalise on the distraction, as he unleashed his literally fearsome, black blasts, shooting two Skulls in rapid succession. His body was already bulging, at least twice as heavy as he had been at the outset, sucking up the fear around him. Having the Skulls rejuvenated might have given the enemy more firepower, but it also gave him more fear to feed on, even if their emotions were suppressed – his fear blasts took care of that.

Still, the fight was not going well. Hecate was on the defensive, having erected a bubble made of a green force field as half a dozen Skulls focused fire on her.

Boltstar, meanwhile, kept shooting at her, preventing her from pulling herself together and focusing; at least until something hit his knee hard enough to shatter it, making him fall down and scream in pain.

Brennus. Somehow, his rifle was still functional, even with half the barrel missing.

Irene immediately reformed her body and let go of her current powers, mentally pushing them away, reaching for something new, something useful.

She started to drop as her gravity power faded, only to catch herself as a duo of new powers set in. A powerful aerokinesis, starting around her, stirring up the air to hold her aloft, more floating than flying, growing stronger as it spread further around her; the other was stranger, a power she’d had before, though rarely. A kind of pericognition tied to her sight, letting her glean progressively more information on powers the longer she focused on a person within her line of sight.

Boltstar, came the information as she focused on the man who’d been focusing on her in turn, charges up over time to create up to four turret-spheres that he can release and recall at will; trigger-spheres release lightning bolts from turret-spheres. Charging up new spheres takes longer than existing spheres persist.

She frowned, even as she dodged another one of his trigger-spheres, simultaneously recognising another use of her aerokinesis – anything that entered its growing sphere of influence, she could feel through the way it disturbed the air, giving her an edge up on dodging attacks.

This, this is good, she thought. I love it when I get a good one like this. Still, how did he make eight turrets when his limit is supposed to be four?

His form flickered, again, and he was standing once more, unharmed like before – and repeated the exact same movement as last time, releasing another four spheres, which spread out towards the walls, for a total of twelve.

Not his power, she thought. Someone else’s.

She sent a blast of air at him, forcing the man to dive out of the way instead of sending another trigger-sphere at her, buying herself time to focus on the crow-woman.

Karasuha. Contriver, specialising on enchanting items with animal-spirit th-

No, not her, she thought. It wasn’t Skulls, either – she’d already figured his power out. Which left only the last one, Chronicle. But she was out of sight, outside the tower in the hallway.

Got to get a good look at her, Irene decided, and dove down, both dodging Boltstar’s next attack – which utterly destroyed an entire fourth of the fifth and sixth level of the prison tower, as no less than twelve turrets fired upon it.

Irene dropped down in free-fall, catching herself just five feet off the ground and generated a gust of wind powerful enough to bowl over the Skulls around her, buying everyone but Basil, Spellgun and Tartsche some breathing room.

The former because he was busy kicking Karasuha’s ass, beating the woman senseless with punches and kicks, the latter two because Tartsche had his power active over both himself and his boyfriend, keeping them absolutely safe.

Osore had swollen in size, his body deformed, a huge pot-belly forming as his skin started to turn into a purplish red colour, his mask beginning to fuse with his face; Bakeneko rode on his shoulders, shifted into a cape-like mass of furry tentacles that lashed out at the Skulls around him as he waded through the enemy’s lines, smashing left and right with his enlarged fists, while firing more fear blasts inbetween to spark more fear, and thus more growth.

Then, the Skulls flickered, all of them, and they were whole again, as Osore dropped in size by almost a foot, the effects of his power on them reversed along with the damage.

Irene averted her gaze, looking through the gate at Chronicle.

Can record people and objects by touch, reset them to the state they were in when recorded. Requires line of sight to trigger reset. Favourable interaction with powers of her teammates.

She could see it now. Resetting Boltstar to a charged state, so as to release more turrets. Resetting Skulls, which somehow also reset his entire collective, fixing them all at once. Resetting Karasuha… there had to be an interaction there, as well, with her contrivances. She wasn’t going to check – Contrivers tended to give her a headache at the best of times, she really couldn’t afford that now.

If I take Chronicle down, it won’t matter. She’s the key member of her group, she thought, twisting into a spiral to avoid another trigger-sphere and letting loose another gale-blow, this time aimed at the main Skull, knocking him/her into the wall just as he/she had been about to shoot Melody in the back.

She might have made that blow more brutal than it needed to be, but… fuck it, he deserved it.

Next, she shot forward, flying so low her breasts nearly dragged over it, her cape billowing in the gales she used to propell herself.

Shooting past Boltstar before he could take him, she blasted him out of sight from Chornicle, helped by the fact that the girl saw her coming and dove out of the way, away from the gate into the tower.

The others reacted instantly, all except Karasuha, who didn’t have the leisure to do anything but try to fend off Brennus. Boltstar threw a trigger-sphere at her with what seemed to be alarm on his face, for the first time in this battle; no less than half the Skulls, including the main host, opened fire in her direction.

Gale-like winds shot out from her, violently, blowing the taser-bolts away as she also moved herself forward and around the corner, just barely dodging the crackling trigger-sphere.

Buoyed onwards by the explosion behind her, she shot down the hallway towards the fleeing Chronicle, relinquishing her aerokinesis to her power’s urge to change – the hallways were too narrow to use it effectively. Unfortunately, her power-sight went with it, torn away along with the power over wind to make room for another.

A new power rose up as she fell towards the ground, a familiar, warm one. It was a power she often drew upon, ripples and waves in various forms, affecting both matter and energy; every time she used it, she felt safe, even when it had nothing to do with defense. It was a big power, always, no matter what form it took, explaining why she had lost the costly power-sight as well as the rather costly aerokinesis.

She hit the ground rolling, the way her mother had taught her to take a fall and, as she came up onto a crouching position, she slapped the ground in front of her with an open palm.

Ripples spread from the point of impact, through the floor, towards Chronicle, over the walls and even onto the ceiling.

She could feel them spread, rapidly, propagating through the wax and the other materials beneath it, overtaking Chronicle who was only moving with the speed of a normal, if fit girl.

As soon as they had spread far enough, she triggered the ability, the way her innate understanding guided her to do.

The ripples congregated into six different points, focusing, and then the wax shot out in six spikes towards Chronicle, spearing through the heavy robe she was wearing, though not hitting her body – pinning her in place, standing up, coming out from all around and ahead of her.

“Shit! Shit, fuck you, fuck you you bitch!” she shouted, struggling, trying to break out of the waxen spears holding her in place.

Irene charged at her, pushing the ripples away, new, simpler powers coming up; a burst of speed, enhanced strength, toughness and a sense for weakpoints and resistance.

Using the speed she flashed forward, until she was right behind the girl. Using her enhanced sense, she hit the back of her head with just the right amount of strength to knock her out, without causing lasting damage. She didn’t actually want to risk killing anyone.

The girl’s body grew slack, the strength going out of it.

“That’s what you get for being a potty-mouth,” she quipped, grinning, before she whirled around to flash towards the door.

Before she could even reach it, there was a massive, ear-bursting blast of sound, and Boltstar was slammed into the wall, through the gate; he hit it so hard he left behind a man-shaped impression after falling off, unconscious.

Irene took the corner and got ready to intervene, but there was no need – Karasuha was already down, and so Bas- Brennus had joined forces with Hecate and Melody, the two of them hiding behind his force-field, while systematically taking down the Skulls whom Osore – who was halfway towards looking completely like one of the mythological Oni his power had styled itself after – and Bakeneko were not already taking care of. Tartsche and Spellgun were supporting their efforts from another angle, and without Boltstar’s deafening, powerful blasts and, most importantly, Chronicle’s continuous resets, they were mopped up quickly.

The main Skull went down last, snarling as he/she tried to dodge a shot from Melody’s gauntlets, only to take a blast of smoking green fire into his face after it curved around Brennus’ force-field.

And just like that, it was over.

They looked at each other, as they surveyed their enemies. “Wow, that was…” Irene began.

“… intense,” Spellgun finished her sentence, stepping away from Tartsche, out of his protection.

Irene nodded, approaching Melody. Her friend looked like she had taken a few hits, chipping away at her armor, as well as some bigger hits.

“What happened?” she asked, worried, letting go of her powers.

“I got caught in one of turret-sphere-guy’s blasts. Only at the periphery of it, but it was enough to shake me up,” Melody replied, making a pained expression.

Irene felt her face screw up, briefly, trembling all over as she had to fight herself not to whirl around and cut loose with the fiery blast that had just come up, obliterating the unconscious Boltstar for his offense – but at the same time, she also got a kind of healing power, a slow, but versatile ability to fix matter.

Helping her friend was more important than punishing the guy who’d hurt her (not to mention more ethical), so she stepped forward, reaching out for Melody.

The musician reached out in turn and took her hand, clasping fingers; whether she knew Irene had a power that could heal her, or just wanted to show some affection, it was enough to use the ability.

Melody shuddered as the power spread through her body in ripples, starting from her hand where it touched Irene’s, repairing both the (fortunately superficial) damage to her body, and to her equipment, working from the inside out. A sigh escaped her lips as the pain disappeared.

Brennus walked up to them, followed by Hecate.

“Would you mind using that on my rifle?” he asked, holding out the two pieces of his weapon.

“Not at all,” she replied with a smile, taking them and holding them together as her power worked on the weapon. “Though, it doesn’t seem like this was enough to break it…”

Hecate snorted derisively. “If that idiot had known Brennus at all, she’d have known that he builds redundancies into his equipment.”

Brennus chuckled as Melody looked curiously at the weapon. “Yeah, I built it so it can work with up to seventy-five percent of the barrel gone, though the more it loses, the more both accuracy and range drop.”

“That’s a smart design philosophy,” Melody praised him.

“You probably won’t like this, but you really remind me of my dad sometimes,” Irene joked. “He’s always on me about having safeties, redundancies and generally being prepared for everything possible.”

He tilted his head, as if surprised. “Hm, is that just your father? What about your mother?” he asked with curiosity clear even through the distortion in his voice thanks to his helmet.

“She pretty much says the same, but she’s not as obsessive about it as dad,” she replied lightly.

The others joined their circle, Osore back down to his normal size, Bakeneko clinging to him, back in cat-girl form, her arms wrapped around his neck from behind. Tartsche and Spellgun were holding hands, as usual, but in such a way that both of them could still hold their rifles – Spellgun in his right, Tartsche in his left, as he didn’t have to worry about recoil.

“Not to break up the fun, but what are we going to do next?” Tartsche asked calmly. “This thing is already borderline-FUBAR – should we retreat, or do we press on?”

“My goal has not changed,” Brennus replied while inspecting his repaired rifle.

‘My’ goal, not ‘our’, Irene thought.

“I am going after Dusu and getting that cure. If anyone wants to retreat now, I will not hold it against you, nor will anyone else who is sane,” he said calmly.

Tartsche frowned, seeming almost insulted. “Like I’m going to abandon you in this place, alone? No, I’m in this to the end. I’d just rather advance with a plan – do we even know where to find Dusu? We already know that Gloom Glimmer can’t locate her.”

Irene sighed, still annoyed that her power was betraying her on that count – but at least it’d helped properly in fighting the enemy, so she’d cut it some slack on that front.

Still… She took out her bottle of pills, swallowing three of them. Better safe than sorry. I almost lost it a moment ago, after all.

As soon as she took them, the constant pressure that was her power – like water held back behind a valve, constantly trying to break through – eased, calming her.

“We will just have to interrogate one of our captives,” Brennus replied calmly. “At least one of them ought to know where she-“

“Tyche!” Hecate shouted, suddenly, bursting into smoke that rushed past Irene.

She whirled around, surprised, to see her reform at the gate, throwing her arms around a stunned-looking Tyche, bowling the girl over as she hugged the life out of her.

“You’re alright!” Hecate cried, sounding like she was sobbing.

“Ugh… breath… can’t… dying…” Tyche flailed her arms, though she didn’t actually seem to try and push her friend away.

“Oh, sorry!” Hecate shouted, leaping up onto her feet. Then she reached out, offering her friend a hand, and pulled her up onto her feet in turn – only to wrap her arms around her again, this time more gently. “I was so worried, though! What happened?”

Irene watched the reunion, a smile on her face. I wonder if she feels the way I felt when I found Melody? She could feel a power rise up, to find just that out, but she resisted it, pushing it back down again. That would have been a waste, surely.

Brennus joined them, putting a hand on Tyche’s shoulder where Hecate wasn’t draped over it.

“Welcome back,” he said, softly, the relief audible.

“Thanks, guys,” Tyche smiled a brittle smile, hugging both of her friends, one with each arm.

Irene frowned, studying her closer.

She looked… horrible. Her face looked like she’d been crying, her eyes were bloodshot and her mascara was running down her face.

Her face! Irene thought in shock. She’d taken off her mask, thrown it back like a hood, her face free for anyone to see. Why? What had happened to her.

“Tyche, what-” Brennus began, obviously noticing the same thing while pulling back from the hug.

“I know where she is,” Tyche cut him off, as she leaned into Hecate’s embrace. “I know where Dusu is, and what way to take to her. But we need to hurry.”

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Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Bakeneko, Basil, Boltstar, Chronicle, Dahlia, Gloom Glimmer, Hecate, Karasuha, Osore, Polymnia, Skulls XIII, Spellgun, Tartsche
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Tieshaunn

Upcoming 16/06/17

Tieshaunn

The chapter might be a little late, but it’s coming soon! And by soon I mean an hour, at most two (if something happens to completely distract me).

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn Tanner


Filed under: Update, Writing
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In My Daydreams

Space: Part 8

In My Daydreams

After passing through three more star systems, I was almost certain we were free of well, whichever of Lee’s people was watching the place.

I glanced over at Lee. “Do you know who it was?”

Lee shook his head. “I lost track of where everybody was long ago. That place was never part of the galactic main. It happened to be strategically useful to the Live faction at that time. I only ever came back because it was important to me—not because it was important.”

He frowned. “Whatever else may be true, we can be sure that they sensed something when Nick drew the sword even if they didn’t get the location. They think I’m out and about. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been watching there.”

Leaning back in his seat, he added, “Knowing that almost justifies the risk of going there. I’m going to have to sell what I do next though. My people will be watching. They just don’t know it yet.”

He looked up at the windshield and pointed, “Go that way for the jumpgate. K’tepolu is one jump from here. Once we use it, we’ll be logged into the system, but it shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. A lot of traffic comes through here and there’s more than one unofficial jumpgate out on the fringes.”

I checked the sensors. He wasn’t wrong. Even though the system didn’t seem to have an inhabited planet, there were more than thirty ships in the system, all of them heading toward the jumpgate.

As I watched the screen, the colors changed, or if they didn’t change, a golden glow surrounded the screen.

I looked around the cabin. The glow didn’t go away. If anything, I saw more colors. Looking out the window was easiest. A little added color didn’t make much difference against the darkness outside.

The screens on the dashboard made me feel queasy—conflicting colors fought to be seen and the words were overlaid with additional words.

I hoped I wouldn’t throw up.

“Looks like you’re in final stage of implantation.” Lee tapped on the dashboard. “I’ll fly. I’m told it’s disorienting.”

Behind me, someone (probably Jaclyn) tried to say something. She sounded like she was speaking in tongues.

I don’t know how long it went on. I felt half out of my body the whole time and couldn’t think straight, much less read well enough to know how much time passed. However long it was, it did stop. Rainbows of color shrunk into straight black lines, golden light disappeared, and my nausea disappeared, leaving me sitting in front of the dashboard in a ship in space.

Everything was normal, but I knew better. In the same way I could feel my legs, I could feel the implant. I knew its main functions: communication (including language translation and computer user-interface), and cultural knowledge and history with a focus on the Xiniti. I investigated the languages, learning that it knew thousands, all the major galactic languages, many minor languages, and a smattering of languages from other galaxies.

Remembering that the Xiniti we’d met told us that our implants would have the mission details, I requested them. It responded, “Information will become available as needed.”

In short, they’d feed us information at the Xiniti’s pace.

From behind me, Cassie said, “Everyone’s finally coming around.”

I turned around. Jaclyn was blinking her eyes and shaking her head. Marcus was stretching his arms. Cassie, however, sat up straight in her chair, watching all of us.

“What happened?” I asked. “Was it easier for you?”

“Get this,” Cassie said. “You know how I was worried it wouldn’t work with the Abominator stuff in my head?”

“Yeah?” I said.

She laughed. “It actually made it easier. The implant has to configure itself to communicate with us? The Abominator stuff already does that, so it plugged into there and I was done.”

It occurred to me to check what the Xiniti implant allowed me to communicate with and then I knew the answer. All of us were included, but that wasn’t all. I sensed the ship’s computer, “HAL”—Marcus’ nickname for the ship’s AI (an alien AI that specialized in fleet strategy and tactics), and a presence that was near Cassie and labeled “indirectly accessible.”

Knowing what that had to be, I concentrated on the ship’s computer.

The results were far better than I expected. At first, I realized that I no longer needed to look at the dashboard to know details about the ship’s speed, the amount of fuel in the tank, the fusion plant’s current power output… I knew the answer, but more than that, I could adjust anything with my head that I normally would have adjusted with my hands—including the weapons and shields.

I could even adjust my perceptions so that it felt like I was flying through space, leaving me barely aware of my body in the chair.

Were all the pilots using implants, I wondered? They’d be reacting almost at the speed of their thoughts. Had Grandpa had one?

I let myself become aware of my body again, but continued operating the ship without using my hands. “Wow,” I said aloud. “Does everybody have these?”

Lee shook his head. “People from richer worlds? Yes. People in the military? Yes. Most people have less invasive modifications or none at all.”

Reflected in the windshield, Marcus shook his head. “Have you opened the files on Xiniti customs? They’ve got more than fifty major clans and they’re all different from each other. This is crazy.”

“It is,” Jaclyn said. “I hope the implant suggests the appropriate responses because finding them… There’s a lot to look through.”

I would have responded except that the implant flashed a red arrow at me. It pointed toward three gray rings floating in space. Earth’s gateway had rings too, but these were much larger and understandably. The ship’s sensors now showed more than forty ships nearing the rings.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Cassie said, “but I’m going to let my gun communicate through my implant. It knows a lot about Abominator stuff. Plus, it’s a little wearing to be only one who can hear it sometimes.”

It became audible midway through a rant it was aiming at um… the universe?

“—AND NOW, MONGRELS, I RETURN FROM EXILE! FEAR ME OR BURN!”

Jaclyn’s jaw dropped and we all turned to stare at Cassie.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Welcome to my life.”

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In My Daydreams

Space: Part 7

In My Daydreams

Then he turned back to the group of us. “Nick might remember that when we talked about my people, I told him that I wouldn’t notice them, but that he would. That’s because I was assuming that they’d be hiding the same way I’m hiding. He’s not. He’s broadcasting his position so that anyone who can sense us can hear.”

I glanced over at him. “Would flipping into near space help? It wouldn’t with a starship, so I’m guessing it won’t…”

Lee shook his head. “It won’t help. Shifting into blink space might work, but depending on who it is, well, that still might not do it. Stay in normal space. Don’t speed up. Don’t slow down. Pretend you don’t feel anything.”

“Okay,” I said. I tried not to think about what might be up there. While Lee hadn’t even ever told me his species’ name, I knew enough. It was near immortal, alien, and that those still living feared all sapient life but themselves. It would destroy Earth if we hinted that Lee had been there teaching people and it would call more of its people to finish the job.

While I’d never been sure whether they sounded more like Lovecraft’s Outer Gods, Marvel’s Thor mythos, Kirby’s New Gods, Babylon 5’s First Ones, or Zelazny’s princes of Amber or Chaos, I knew that I hoped never to meet another.

Concentrating on the controls, I watched our progress toward what I calculated would be the optimal point to switch into near space. It was only a few hours away.

“I know you’re probably all feeling scared,” Lee began, “ and you’ve got every right to be because if they recognize me, you’ll all die. But here’s what you have to remember—they can’t recognize me. All they can do is recognize that you’ve been affected by me, and you can control that—at least a little.”

“I’m game,” Jaclyn said. “It sounds better than dying. What do we have to do?”

Lee grinned. “Put simply? Don’t look up. Because you’ve spent so much time with me, your perception passes slightly into other places. If you look up where I told you I’d watch, you might see something there, and if you do, it will see you. Don’t do that.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jaclyn blink. “I wasn’t going to, but thanks.”

“Great,” Lee said. “One more thing. Nick, if you’re tempted to bring a sword into existence, don’t. You shouldn’t be able to without that gem Amy made, but don’t. Okay?”

“I wasn’t either, but I definitely won’t now.” I thought about that as I said it though. If the thing started chasing us, that might turn out to be a good idea. I decided to ask Lee about it if it came up.

“Good. Now, since you’re going to be at this for a couple hours, why don’t you watch a movie or something? I’ll watch the sensors.”

“I’ve got this,” Cassie said and pulled a tablet out of her backpack. After some fiddling around, the movie appeared in the back of the cabin. That’s literally “appeared.” The video appeared in the air without a screen.

A few minutes in, I looked over at Cassie. “Bring It On?”

“It’s a good movie,” she said and continued to watch it.

Not having much of a choice, I did. It didn’t escape my notice though, that I was watching a movie about cheerleaders stealing routines from each other while trying to avoid the notice of a being that would literally destroy everyone I cared about, starting with us.

Still, there wasn’t much else to do, and, if you want me to be honest, it wasn’t a bad movie. As soon as the credits began to roll, though, I turned back toward Lee. “How are we doing?”

“Not bad. We’re not dead and we’re nearly to the jump point. See for yourself.” He waved his hand at the controls.

He was correct. We were in the middle of infinite inky blackness, stars in the far distance and no planets worth mentioning nearby. This was the ideal spot to transition into near space. With luck I could hit jump around the jump point.

“Transitioning to near space,” I said. The stars stretched in the blackness.

Cassie spoke up. “Does anybody else feel like it’s following us?”

“Oh no,” Jaclyn said.

Marcus said, “I barely feel anything.”

When Cassie had started, I’d been too distracted by the ship to notice, but after? I felt it too. It felt like something big and empty was coming after us.

Lee said, “Remember, it’s trying to provoke fear. If you don’t show any, it won’t know you can sense it. Do what you would have done without it.”

The only good news I could find in that was that I’d always been planning to jump at this point anyway. Even so, I didn’t hurry. I took a couple more breaths, found that we’d reached the point where I normally would have jumped, and jumped the ship.

All the windows showed impenetrable gray, but I could still feel something. Could it have followed us into jump? Was I just afraid? I didn’t know. I’d been planning to blink anyway, so I watched for the right moment. When I changed states, the gray turned to white. After a minute, we were expelled into normal space and a normal star system.

Lee assured me that this one had a planet where the native life was sapient mushrooms. “Or,” he added, “maybe they’re normal mushrooms with hallucinatory side effects when eaten? Maybe both.”

Two near space transitions/jumps/blinks later, we still didn’t feel anything following us. Had we gotten away? I hoped so.

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In My Daydreams

Space: Part 6

In My Daydreams

Lee watched as we flew over a piece of what probably had been a planet. Maybe it had only been a moon, but it was round on the outside, jagged on the inside and big.

“They tried to hide there at the end of it,” he said. “They didn’t know it was the end yet, but I’d gotten my forces out of the area. Once they were safe, I used a new weapon we’d devised to fight them. It destroyed their shields, broke apart magical bindings and protections, and shattered the system’s planets. It damaged the star.”

I looked out toward where the computer said the white dwarf had to be. I’d wondered about that.

“But we won, and we’d taken out the Live faction’s most powerful fighters.” Lee stared out into the darkness. “They’d destroyed galaxies between them.”

Jaclyn turned away from the window and looked down at Lee in his chair. “What was the weapon? Do you still have it?”

Lee chuckled. “Not a bad question. You don’t have a word for the kind of weapon it is. Your species isn’t making them yet even if their precursors exist. Here’s something that you will understand though—it’s powered by the cores of several different galaxies.”

Oh. I wondered if it had any connection to his swords. If it did, I’d held more power than in my hands than I should have.

Jaclyn nodded. “Why fight in the first place? I get that your Live faction wanted you to leave the younger races alone and let them live. I understand that Destroy faction wanted to destroy them. What I’m wondering is why bother?”

“Same reason as violence ever happens—fear,” he said. “But, there’s a reason for the fear. We don’t experience time like you do. It’s not completely linear, so we live parts of our future out of sync with our timeline. A long time ago, some among our people saw their deaths at the hands of races yet unborn. They were ganging up to destroy us. Others were seeing their deaths at the hands of their own kind, but the younger races were on their side. You can guess the way things went from there.”

Jaclyn frowned. “When you see things, are they inevitable?”

His mouth twisted as he looked at her. “That’s complicated. Among all the parallel universes, there’s only one of us, but we exist in any universe we choose to. Normally death is no big deal. We manifest another avatar and go on, but we were seeing true deaths—our sources destroyed. That’s the kind of death you can’t ignore. It may only have been a possibility once, but with the Live faction dead or lost and Destroy’s policies working? We’re already halfway there.”

Before Jaclyn could say anything, Marcus asked, “What do you mean with, ‘Destroy’s policies are working’?”

“The Issakass,” Lee said. “They’re reptilian—kind of irritating to deal with, greedy, penny-pinching… But they’re not homicidal maniacs who stop killing their enemies only to kill each other. The problem is that that’s what they are now and I know why. It’s one of the archeological finds my people littered the galaxies with. The question is whether we’ll have to kill all of them or only most of them.”

He shrugged. “Destroy won’t be disappointed either way. It’ll be the end of trillions of beings. Since there’s no way to fix them once they’re infected, it’s a question of mass murder or genocide.”

Jaclyn shook her head. “I’ve got to admit I was a little disappointed you weren’t coming with us, but I’m glad we’re not going with you.”

Lee glanced out the window toward the darkness that surrounded us. “I don’t think you’re ready for that kind of mission yet. As for me, I’ve had to handle worse.”

For a time after that, all we did was look out the window. It wasn’t as exciting or even as depressing as you might imagine. Solar systems are huge and even after a gigantic, planet shattering battle, this one still didn’t resemble the ones in movies where you dodge endless asteroids.

More than anything else, it felt empty. We were close enough to the sun that we would have been within the orbits of the inner planets if there were inner planets, but there weren’t. The sun should have been a presence, but it wasn’t. I could find it with the computer’s aid, but it didn’t stand out much from the darkness around it.

If I wanted to, I could use the ship’s sensors to zoom in on ruined ships and worlds, but I didn’t. I kept my eyes on the sensors. I knew it had to be paranoia, but I felt like something might be watching us. The sensors didn’t detect life though—not even archeologists or salvage operations.

I didn’t know where it was, but if I had to guess, I would have said “up”—more or less where Lee said that he’d watch the system.

Before the feeling passed from “nothing to worry about” to “I probably ought to tell Lee,” Cassie said, “This is going to sound crazy, but I think we’re being watched, and I think it’s up there.”

She pointed in the same direction I’d been worrying about.

“I’ve had the same feeling,” I told them.

Jaclyn, (who had gone back to her seat by then) looked at each of us, and said, “You mean I wasn’t imagining things.” Then she eyed Lee. “That’s bad news, isn’t it?”

Lee took a deep breath and looked out the window, staring upward, frowning. “It’s bad news.”

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In My Daydreams

Space: Part 5

In My Daydreams

“That’s not quite accurate. I doubt that very many ships can do this, but the main reason ships have near space drives is so they can hitchhike on larger spaceships. If you’ve got a near space drive, you can get close to a larger ship and get pulled into jump space with them.

“After that, you can stick with them or go off on your own. You can do the same thing with a jump gate—stick with the registered destination or choose one. So we won’t stick out that much.

“The plan is that we’ll use abandoned or uninhabited systems to get to K’tepolu and after that we’ll use the gates like everyone else. The great thing about K’tepolu is that it’s a crossroads. It’s in range of so many jump gates it’s impractical to trace them all. On the way back, we’ll use one of the K’tepolu gates and then disappear on our way home.”

I turned back to the dashboard and checked the sensors as well as the view from the window. We weren’t in danger of hitting anything.

Lee turned back to everyone. “Let me tell you why we’re making this so complicated. Remember how Nick used a magical connection to me to create a flaming sword out of nothing? When I do it, it’s no big deal, but Nick’s not me. We don’t know if that got my relatives’ attention, but we can’t leave it to chance. I’ve set up a series of distractions in a number of universes and it’s time to make one here. So, I’m combining the Xiniti job with my own errand since they coincidentally need me to be in roughly the same place.”

He grinned at us. “My people probably won’t check the jump gate logs, but it’s best not to risk it.”

I continued to check our sensors, reading information from the fusion power plant as well as our relationship to the gateway. We were on our way to putting Earth between any jump gate user who might be watching us.

Once we’d done it, I activated the near-space drive. The shipped hummed and then the stars outside blurred and stayed blurred. In the screen on my dashboard, Earth blurred as well with a few bright lights glowing on the surface. Similar bright lights glowed among the stars.

Marcus said, “Everything just went weird outside. I take it we just jumped?”

“Technically,” I said, “we transitioned. You transition into near space because we didn’t actually jump anywhere we changed states.”

Cassie snorted.

“What?” Marcus asked. “Was I supposed to know that? Or were you laughing because Nick said ‘transition’?”

Oh, I realized. That could get confusing.

Cassie said, “No. The gun was talking. It hasn’t been off the planet in few thousand years and it’s looking forward to shooting people in space again.”

Marcus laughed out loud. “Didn’t it get to kill enough things when the dinosaurs invaded? The way I remember it, you were burning down hundreds of them at a time.”

Cassie didn’t laugh. “I don’t think he’s got a limit. He loves his job.”

“I’m so glad we give homeless homicidal weapons a forever home,” Jaclyn said.

For the next couple hours we watched the blurry stars begin to stretch—not much, just a little, but enough for Marcus to say, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Star Trek out there.”

I shrugged, “Well, the near space drive will pass light speed. It’s just that it’ll still take years to get anywhere. Still, it is cool.”

I checked the dashboard. “Actually, it’s time for another transition—this one into jump space. We’ll move into blink space almost immediately after that.”

“That’ll be interesting.” Reflected in the window, Marcus leaned forward.

I tapped a button. The engine hum grew louder and then faded. As it began to fade, the blurry starscape of near space faded into endless gray.

“Or not,” Cassie said.

“Yeah,” Marcus said. “People stare at that for a week?”

As I checked the dashboard again, Jaclyn stared out the front. “That’s what he said, but it’s not all gray. I think I see patterns. Don’t you?”

“Shh,” Lee held his finger to his lips. “They might hear you.”

She gave a sidelong glance. “Do you mean that?”

He brushed a lock of long black hair back behind his ear. “Eh, maybe, but people see strange things in jump space. Physics get weird and all. You know what I mean.”

Jaclyn turned to look at him directly. “I’m betting you’d know more about it than the rest of us.”

“Transitioning into blink space,” I said as the windows all darkened. Even so, it was obvious that the gray had turned bright, bright white.

It didn’t last long though, maybe thirty seconds at most and then we dropped into normal space again. Let’s put that more accurately—we dropped into ruins in normal space. The screens showed no planets, only asteroids. It also showed spaceships, some of them the size of small moons, all of them broken.

Jaclyn gasped as the jagged remains of a particularly large starship passed in front of us. Tumbling after it came either a mech or a space suit for a race of giant aliens—this one had ten limbs and reminded me a bit of an octopus or possibly Cthulhu. It was hard to say.

It wasn’t the only one.

Since I couldn’t find the system’s star visually, I checked the astrogation system. It had a star. It was a white dwarf, and I’d been wrong about not being able to find it visually. It was there. It just wasn’t very bright.

“As I told you earlier,” Lee said, “you’re best off traveling through normal space till you get past the star and the inner orbits. Make for the open spot.”

Marcus stood up and walked over to the windows on the left side of the ship. “What happened here?”

Jaclyn had gotten out of her seat at about the same time and stood near the front. “Are you going to tell us?”

“It’s the site of a battle, one of the many between the Live and Destroy factions. I commanded Destroy’s armies and fleets in the fight and they won. It was a difficult battle, taking place in multiple universes at the same time. I coordinated troops between them as well as with versions of the battle where the time stream ran faster or slower.”

He looked up into the darkness above the debris. “It was probably my greatest moment in their service. I came back here afterward too, but then only to think. I’d pick a spot up there and look down at the mess. Now though, it’s just a dead place with many jump points—which makes it an excellent place to sneak through.”

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In My Daydreams

Space: Part 4

In My Daydreams

Whatever it was, it wasn’t doing anything immediately. If it turned out to be useful though, it wasn’t going to be easy to copy it for the team back home.

“What’s next?” Cassie glanced over at Lee.

“It depends,” Lee said, and then he asked the Xiniti, “What’s the mission?”

“Your mission will be to slow down the Issakass expansion on the galactic rim. Their mission will be to protect some human colonists on the way to their colony and for a few days thereafter. There are other forces on the way to the colony, but they have other duties and won’t be able to keep to an easily predictable schedule.”

It stopped, watching us, waiting, I assumed, for more questions. When no one said anything, it continued.

“You’ll proceed to K’tepolu where you will meet the colonists as well as the fifth member of your group, a Xiniti. Your implants will recognize him. It is also the point at which your mentor will depart.” It looked up at Lee. “We’ll contact you in the normal way.”

“Understood,” Lee said.

Not long after that, we left. We’d had other questions, but the Xiniti’s answers amounted to “Your implants will have those details.” Rather than listening to him repeat that again, we’d agreed to say good-bye.

We left, avoiding the jump gates hanging next to the station in space. Each enormous metal rings had spikes extending outward pointing in the direction of the other two. I aimed our ship under the approach and departure lanes. Ships could come through more quickly than I’d be able to notice much less dodge.

Xiniti ships crowded above and below the gates, all of them shaped like flatted eggs, most of them sized for one occupant.

As if to justify my fears, a long wedge shaped ship came through in a blur. I recognized it as a warship—a small one, probably a corvette, and definitely not a Xiniti ship. It wasn’t surprising. Earth’s gate was a relatively safe one in human space. From all I understood, the Abominators had genetically modified humans into stormtroopers and set them loose in space. For safety’s sake, alien ships around here either were warships or were accompanied by them.

As we reached the other side of the path, I turned the ship to point toward the galactic core. At Lee’s advice, I’d already chosen the route. He’d told me K’tepolu was the destination weeks before we’d even left Earth. He’d also had a few specific spots he’d wanted to hit along the way. I aimed for my intended transition point.

I heard steps and realized that Jaclyn stood between where Lee and I sat. “Hey Nick, I don’t want you to feel like I’m questioning what you’re doing at every turn, but I’m wondering why we’re flying away from the jump gates. I thought you told me once that very few spaceships had the ability to create their own jump points.”

From further back in the cabin, Cassie said, “I’d been wondering about that too.”

Marcus said, “I assumed he was going to fly around the Xiniti space station and come back.”

“It’s kind of a long story,” I said.

Lee chuckled.

“Well,” Jaclyn said, “unless you’ve been holding out on us and there’s another way to jump, we’ve got hundreds of years to hear it.”

“Okay. Give me a second and I’ll explain.”

Jaclyn turned and sat down in the nearest seat. “I’ll be right here.”

I checked the route for obvious potential collisions, set the time for transition and turned my chair around. With my back to the dashboard and a great sea of stars, I faced everyone in the cabin.

We had seats for fifteen and only four people to fill them, so it felt empty. Jaclyn sat immediately behind us, hands folded across her chest. Marcus sat in the second row, drawing on his tablet. Cassie sat in the third row. Her sword and her gun lay on the floor (which was either good or bad since they could both breach the hull). She wore a navy blue costume with the US flag on her chest. Her light blonde hair reached her shoulders.

Cassie leaned back in her seat, but watched me. “Lecture away,” she said.

“The first thing I should mention is that Lee doesn’t want to leave a trail back to Earth and every time a ship uses a jump gate, the trip is logged. That means that if we used jump gates the whole way someone could easily trace us back to Earth. Lee doesn’t want to leave one and he doesn’t want us to claim to be from Earth either—“

“I’ll tell you about that before I go on my way.” Lee turned around, interrupting, but then turned back to the dashboard.

“Anyway,” I said. “There are three kinds of jump space. There’s ‘near space.’ It’s the slowest and it takes about a week of acceleration to reach faster than light speeds. Even so, it can take years to go places. It’s also the easiest to use. There’s also ‘jump space.’ It takes about a week to get anywhere in reach of a jump, give or take a couple days, but it’s reliable. Finally, there’s ‘blink space.’ Conditions have to be perfect, but it takes less than a minute to travel and you go further.”

Jaclyn nodded. “Are you saying we’ve got a jump drive?”

Marcus stopped drawing. “Or a blink drive?”

“Almost,” I said. “It’s more complicated than that. Here’s the thing. Every major system in the League jet was scavenged from alien spaceships and then repaired and improved by my grandfather. He couldn’t find a jump drive that would fit in a hull this small, but he could find a near space drive. They’re all over because you need one to use a jump gate. They don’t have the power to to get you into jump space, but they can keep you there if something else pulls you through.”

I looked them over. They were still listening. “You know how Grandpa repaired and improved everything? Well, he redesigned the power plant to be more powerful and smaller. Then he did the same to the near space drive. Now, if we’re in near space, we can accelerate faster than normal. When we’re at the right speed, I can up the power and jump. After that, if conditions are right, I can throw us into blink space. It’s not as good as real jump drives or blink drives. Honestly, it’s a hack, but it works.”

Shaking her head, Jaclyn said, “Can other spaceships do this?”

Lee turned and answered before I could. “No. Nick and his grandfather are unusual in how they think about technology. All anybody else would accomplish is to go into jump and not come out.”

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Tieshaunn

Brennus File 14: Espers

Tieshaunn

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ESP, short for Extra-Sensory Perception, is easily the most common “power” in myth, folklore and popular culture – countless people are supposed or have claimed to be able to be able to see the future, see  things that weren’t there, talk to people who’re not present and receive messages from gods, spirits or the dead, among many other.

Perhaps it’s thus not surprising that the Perception classification – whose holders are usually referred to as ‘Espers’ – is one of the, if not the broadest one there is, covering a staggering multitude abilities, from the obvious to the strange. While classifications like Gadgeteer and Contriver cover a very specific powerset which stands apart from most, Perception is more of a catch-all classification for all powers that share a general theme.

To be precise, Esper powers cover all abilities that deal primarily with information in some manner.

Unsurprisingly, such powers are extremely wide-spread, though primarily as secondary or tertiary abilities, either in edition to or as support/enablers of other, greater powers.

Note: “Perception X” refers to the end result of the power, while “Esper”, usually, describes the source – for example, an Esper power might also warrant further ratings beyond mere Perception. However, they are just as often used interchangably in colloquial speech. Only scientists and cape geeks tend to insist on proper usage.

***

Sensory Enhancement

Hands down one of the two most common kinds of Perception powers are those which directly enhance or alter the Esper’s senses. Sharper, even telescopic eye-sight, enhanced hearing that goes to the point of echolocation, a nose that can make dogs turn green of envy, a touch so fine it can locate people through the tremors they cause by walking, all those and more make up a large part of Esper powers; they are also the ones most commonly to appear as tertiary abilities, without a direct connection to the main power, but supporting it in some fashion – such as Polymnia’s extremely enhanced, fine hearing, which aids her in her work with sonic technology.

Sensory Expansion

The other most common class of Esper powers has a great deal of overlap with Sensory Enhancement, often going hand-in-hand with it – powers which expand senses, allowing one to perceive things they normally could not. X-Ray vision, Ultrasound-Hearing, thermal vision, remote vision and many more make up this class of powers. Again, Polymnia’s hearing would fall under this classification, as she is capable of hearing the full range of sound, not just the frequencies which normal humans are limited to. Mindstar’s ability to have a second “viewpoint” which moves independently from her body also technically falls under this header.

Sensory Alteration

A rarer, weirder form of Esper powers are those which alter senses entirely. This can be such things as permanent Synesthesia (such as perceiving sound visually, or hearing smells) or any other sensory power which completely alters/replaces one’s sense.

Enhanced Communication

Often considered to have one of the most desirable powers for teamplayers, these Espers are capable of sharing information in exceptional ways, allowing them to enhance or outright replace traditional means of coordinating groups of people. Their power may allow them to transmit their voice across an entire area, create a network of telepathically connected minds or otherwise allow for information to be shared across distance or through obstacles which would normally prevent it.

Expanded Communication

Perhaps one of the weirdest of Esper powers is the ability to communicate with beings or objects one would normally not be able to, or in ways that are normally not possible. This can mean “talking” to animals, or being able to interface with computers with just your mind (this would usually be rated as a Control/Perception hybrid), speak to inanimate objects (such as paintings, statues, trees) or even the dead (whether or not one actually talks to the dead is another matter entirely). Chayot’s ability to read and project emotions are a form of expanded communication, though in her  case it comes at the cost of the usual means of communicating with other people.

These sub-types are the most simple, straightforward ones and require little explanation beyond simply being defined. What follow are more abstract abilities which make up the most interesting kinds of Espers.

***

Pretercognition

The three forms of Pretercognition are considered to be related due to sharing several attributes; in fact, as they stand apart from the ‘lesser’ Esper abilities, there have been repeat proposals to split them off into their own, separate power category.

All forms of Pretercognition collect, process and/or apply information, either from the past, present or future; how they do that is a question which has yet to be answered. Even pericognitive powers (those dealing with the present) seem to have leaps in the information they process which cannot be explained by sensory information available to the metahuman. If the vectors by which information is gathered are obvious, then the power in question is probably not any form of Pretercognition.

Furthermore, all forms of Pretercognition interfere with one another, especially with those of the same type; even when working together, unless Heterodyning is achieved, Pretercognitives are going to give each other a headache as their powers attempt to account for one another. This is most prominent with precognitive powers (the first predicts the second, the second predicts the first predicting the second, the the first predicts the second predicting the first predicting the second, etc) and least prominent with postcognitive ones. Pericognivite powers sit in-between, appropriately enough.

To be clear, one most not necessarily be precognitive to mess with another precognitive – peri- and postcognitive ones can do it, too, and vice versa.

Only very, very few pretercognitive abilities are resistant or outright immune to such interference, either because they deal with such specialised knowledge as to not butt heads with others, or because they are just so powerful they can out-perform all other pretercognitive powers; this last type is the rarest one, obviously.

Regardless of interference and barring a few lucky exceptions, overuse of any form of Pretercognition carries a great deal of risk with it:

  • Overusing Pretercognition tends to lead to powerful migraines – from mere headaches to crippling, day-long pain; in some extreme cases, it might cause the brain to hemorrhage or worse.
  • Pretercognitives who rely too much on their powers instead of using their own smarts may find that they go down strange, even non-sensical paths, as their powers run unchecked, building upon spotty foundations of mental leaps, lacking or plainly wrong information and a complete lack of (human) common sense.
  • All forms of Pretercognition – especially Precognition – carry the risk of making a mistake along the way, not noticing it, and going down a completely wrong path, as they draw conclusions based on faulty facts; this can and does often prove fatal, if not for the Pretercognitive themselves then at least for those who rely on the information they can provide the most.
  • There are certain powers/individuals who appear to be blind spots to Pretercognitives, and whose interference can thus seriously screw them up.
    • DiL, unfortunately, is the most well-known example, but there are others, as well.
    • Gloom Glimmer appears to turn into a blind spot intermittently.
    • Tartsche is a blind spot whenever he activates his power.
    • Pristine, much like DiL, is one all the time. However, some particularly powerful ones can work around her as she is a rather predictable person, even by mundane means.
    • Ember appears capable of becoming a blind spot at will, or even selectively, blinding some to himself and not others.
    • Emyr Blackhill appeared to have no protection from Pretercognitives whatsoever, yet he consistently defeated such powers – they would appear to work just fine on him, until they’d suddenly turn out to have been partially or completely wrong, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
    • Lady Light and the Dark have both shown themselves able to outwit Pretercognitives of all kinds; whether this is due to innate powers or due to a deeper understanding of powers is a secret they have so far kept.

Pericognition

The ability to intuit or just plain know facts in the present, as opposed to past or future information.

Pericognition refers to a great variety of powers, dealing with acquiring and processing information in the present, and so may often appear to be some form of sensory or communicative ability; while there indeed is a lot of overlap, the classification of Pericognition refers specifically to powers which gather and process information through unknown vectors, often seeming to work solely within the metahuman’s mind.

Such abilities can express themselves in a variety of ways, such as supernatural skill at planning, super-intuition, an extreme skill at reading people, combat intuition, the ability to use math or some other construct to analyse your surroundings, etc.

Of the three forms of Pretercognition, Pericognition is the one that’s most often overlooked, even though it is, in many ways, the most useful one – as it relies on facts in the present, it is not as easily fooled or led astray as Post- and Precognition.

Postcognition

Gathering information from/on the past, Postcognition manifests in powers such as being able to feel emotions an item’s owner has felt in the past, or see what has happened a few hours ago in some location, or otherwise access that which has already happened.

In many ways, this may well be the most ‘normal’ form of Pretercognition, as it’s not inherently too different from watching or reading a recording, even if it may go beyond just that.

Different kinds of Postcognition are reliable to different degrees – some seem to be all but absolute, always giving out correct facts unless interferred with by other powers, some appear to be able to go wrong somewhere along the way; however, the precise mechanisms by which Postcognitives work are as unknown as those of any power, ultimately.

Precognition

The master discipline of Pretercognition, this is the legendary power to perceive the future in some manner. It is, quite possibly, the most desirable power out there, provided it can be given proper support (which is why almost all Precognitives – even more so than other Espers – are part of some team); cape and cowl organisations worldwide recruit Precognitives as aggressively if not more so than even Gadgeteers.

Of all forms of Pretercognition, and ESP in general, Precognition is by far the rarest one – and even then, it rarely manifests in anything as straight as being able to outright see the future. Examples would include the ability to look someone in the eyes, mentally think of a course of action and see a colour which indicates how likely that person is to follow said course; or a danger sense that goes off like an alarm whenever one (subconsciously) perceives a threat coming, perhaps with the added advantage of intuiting an optimal response.

More powerful ones may be able to view a single possible future, and be unable to see ahead again until they have caught up to it; or they can only see their own future, from their viewpoint, or only the future of other people, from their viewpoint – never their own. Or any of countless other possibilities.

Straight-up seers who can look ahead at will or with only minor limitations, perceiving the whole of the future they focus on, are one of the, if not the rarest power there is, and the few known to exist are all top tier capes and cowls.

Precognition is the most fragile form of Pretercognition, likely because the future is ever-shifting, affected by countless constantly changing factors; as such, Precognitives are the ones most likely to go down completely wrong paths due to a single piece of misplaced or misinterpreted information; and they are the ones who are most strongly affected by other pretercognitive powers, as well as by blind spots interfering with their visions.

On the upside, even though other pretercognitive powers can seriously derail a precognitive’s predictions, they are also the ones who’re the most difficult to account for, and the ones most likely to be able to trump “lesser” forms of Pretercognition – though it may cause them one hell of a migraine to do so.

Precognition and Free Will

The age-old question – if someone can predict the future, is there even such a thing as free will? Can the future be changed, even if one knows what’s coming?

Barring a few specific exceptions of Precognitives whose powers forbid them from changing the future, the answer is “Yes, free will exists and the future can be changed.”

If there is a Precognitive out there whose visions are absolute, never wrong and impossible to change even by the metahuman himself, then they have yet to become known. As far as anyone knows, Precognition only gives one information of possible futures, not the one, inviolable future.

***

Common Origins

Usually, Espers come from Origins that are defined by a lack of information. The particular circumstances and nature of said lack are what then informs the individual Espers’ power.

Some example Origins:

  • Being lost in a dark cave, but not trapped; there is only one way to go, really – what is problematic are all the hazards along the way that one is incapable of perceiving and accounting for.
  • Struggling to make friends in a new town, but unable to penetrate the pre-existing social circles due to lacking knowledge of local customs and history, leading to a painful, perhaps humiliating rejection.
  • Having just stolen a huge package of drugs, the thief is struck by fear and indecision – they have the drugs hidden at home, but what to do now? Can they keep them hidden? Did someone notice they took them? Should they try to sell them as quickly as possible, or wait until the heat dies down? What’s the safe course of action?

***

Gadgeteers – Just another form of Espers?

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of proponents of the theory that Gadgeteers are actually a specific form of pretercognitive Espers. While such claims have yet to be proven, they are not without merit. The two most common theories are:

  1. Gadgeteers are subconsciously precognitive, reaching into the future to find technology which will or may exist in the future, and reconstruct it in the present.
  2. Gadgeteers are subconsciously post-/pericognitive, absorbing, analysing and correlating information through unknown means to develop their advanced technology.

Opponents of this theory often bring up the fact that Gadgeteers neither cause, nor suffer from pretercognitive Interference; however, proponents argue back that Gadgeteers may well just be such extremely powerful Pretercognitives, or so over-specialised, that they do not clash with other Pretercognitives or simply steamroll them with their own power.

Either way, the debate as to the true nature of Gadgeteering, ESP – and all other powers – goes on, still unresolved.

***

Espers and Intelligence

As one may have noticed, none of what has been said so far touches, in any way, on Intelligence.

Superhuman Intellects are a staple of fiction, and yet the closest thing to super-intelligent people, Espers, don’t tend to be more intelligent than normal people – in fact, since most Espers originate from situations in which they lacked or were unable to obtain information in some way, many of them tend to be less intelligent than average.

Espers have more information available than normal. Some have something in their heads – or maybe attached to their heads – which processes information better than any human could, before passing it onto them. However, they still must make decisions with their own intellect, based on the information which their power gives them – ultimately, they are no smarter than anyone else.

True Super-Intelligence was long thought to be a myth (with two exceptions), and to this day, there is no publically confirmed case of true Super-Intelligence.

Hemming may actually have such an ability, at least according to Macian – however, it has not yet been proven, nor is the specific mechanism by which it works known; does he simply think faster than normal? Does he have multiple brains to mull a problem over with? Does he just have really powerful pericognition that makes him act as if he was super-intelligent?

No one knows yet.

Lady Light, the Dark and Super-Intelligence

There is no question that Gwen Whitaker and Peter Goldschmidt are scientific geniuses. After all, their research somehow led to the advent of apparently supernatural, reality-warping superpowers. And even before that, they were far ahead of their time, making numerous scientific inventions over a wide variety of scientific fields, while also being very accomplished fighters, detectives, tactitians and writers.

After gaining powers, they each created huge, international organisations which essentially equal, if not outstrip, most nations in terms of political and economic power. Even though they are not invincible (in spite of Lady Light’s reputation of such), nor have the strongest powers there are, they have consistently remained at the top of the world of metahumans, over almost a hundred years of activity. They have even shown, consistently, that they can outwit, if not outright defeat, most pretercognition they have found themselves at odds with (when they can’t just plain overpower them on account of being physical powerhouses).

To which extent that is caused by them being just naturally that smart, and how much their powers play into it is unknown – some argue that they have to be just naturally super-geniuses, as they already performed so extremely well before Point Zero. Others argue that they were smart before, and only became smarter, not just more experienced, after, by gaining powers that enhanced their already considerable intellect.

Even more extreme is the theory that they were the first metahumans to begin with – long before Point Zero. Whatever they did on that day then allowed for others to become metahumans, or perhaps it would have happened anyway, and Point Zero merely hastened the process. Perhaps the two – the Advent of Metahumans and Point Zero – are not related at all, their connection a false correlation!
Much like with anything else about Point Zero, Lady Light and the Dark refuse to speak on the subject, if they even know the answer.

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