Crying Grumpies

La Biblioteca Isawa, el podcast de Leyenda de los 5 Anillos LCG, episodio 2.

Crying Grumpies

¡Ya tenemos aquí el segundo episodio de la Biblioteca Isawa!

Ya se conocen todas las cartas, al menos los textos, que pueden leerse en l5r.gamepedia.com , aunque faltan algunas imágenes que esperamos tener pronto, ya que estamos en semana de Gencon y ya todo será revelado.

En este episodio, Grima, Salvi y yo mismo, contamos con la colaboración de Yushi, otro antiguo jugador del coleccionable, Escorpión para más señas, y hablamos de las previas que se vieron en su día de los clanes Grulla, Dragón, Cangrejo y Dragón, dejando el resto y las neutrales para el episodio 3.

Por lo que no tenemos a Chef, que está de vacaciones, pero al siguiente, seguro que lo tenemos de vuelta.

Enlace desde Itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/es/podcast/la-biblioteca-isawa-episodio-2/id1251323103?i=1000391088465&mt=2

Enlace desde Ivoox:

http://www.ivoox.com/biblioteca-isawa-episodio-2-audios-mp3_rf_20348029_1.html

Como siempre, esperamos que lo disfrutéis y os esperamos en el siguiente.

Para cualquier comentario, mandarnos un correo a cryinggrumpies@gmail.com

Hasta el próximo episodio.

Hay hay hay… ¡No te quedes sin tu caja básica!


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 8

In My Daydreams

Katuk glanced toward the poles with no noticeable interest, his dark eyes flicking from one to the other. “They’re low energy use, air permeable shields optimized for worlds with large, ground dwelling animals. You’ll note that they’ve also made use of the air protection as well.”

I looked up. Glittering lines ran between the poles. From what I could see, they hadn’t filled in between the lines. So they weren’t afraid of normal sized flyers—only big ones. I supposed that might be good news.

Katuk stared at the ground. “If I remember correctly, they can be configured so that the lower ten feet are permeable to smaller creatures but not permeable to larger ones.”

I thought about it. “Can they be configured to work against aerial bombardment?”

Katuk’s eyelids lowered and then rose as he began to speak. “I’ve never heard of it. I doubt that their design would allow it.”

“Just curious,” I said.

Katuk looked up at the sky, clearly imagining ships dropping asteroids or firing meson guns at the surface. “There are force fields that protect cities, but I doubt they own one.”

“I guess I would have been surprised if they did.” Thinking about it, that meant that if the Human Ascendancy did find us we’d have to defeat them before they got close to the planet, help them hide on the planet, or maybe the old ship we’d seen might be big enough to help.

Jaclyn pointed toward the starport buildings. “If we want to find out about their defenses, we should ask that guy.”

A man had stepped out of a door in the starport’s cluster of eggshells. Tall, dark skinned, and wearing a blue jumpsuit, he turned toward us. In a deep voice, he said, “Come over here.”

“That’s the guy,” Cassie said, and we all started walking toward him.

“I heard him,” Jaclyn shook her head.

As we caught up to the man where he stood on the edge of a dirt landing circle, Marcus said, “Hey, it’s Hideaway Starport.”

The man smiled. “That’s me.” He bowed at us, and reminded by our implants that it was polite to bow back at the same angle, we all did.

He said, “I’m Geman, and you are?”

As Cassie, Marcus, and Jaclyn introduced themselves, I looked at his jumpsuit. From the design, it appeared to be a spacesuit too. “I’m Nick,” I told him when it was my turn. “Are you a pilot?”

Geman laughed. “So, if you’re a pilot, you’re going to ask me, why am I directing spaceship landings?”

“Pretty much,” I said.

He shrugged. “We’re small. We’ve got three pilots and no one with experience directing air traffic. So, we take turns because at least we’ve got the pilot’s end of the experience.”

Taking a look back at the three eggshell structure behind him, he said, “It works better than you’d think. Between being secret and being in a no blink space zone, we’re not exactly busy. We’re so far from busy that I’m leaving an empty building back there.”

Marcus glanced over at Geman, “What happens if somebody shows up?”

Geman sighed. “All of us pilots have implants. If someone shows up, we’ll talk them down or scramble both fighters.”

His twisted expression showed how little he expected that to do.

Leading us across the landing circles and down a path between two force fields that led toward the village, Geman talked as he walked. Grass grew on either side of the path, but the path itself had been worn down to dirt.

“Now,” he said, “you’re probably wondering about the force fields.”

“Yeah,” Marcus said, looking out at the grassy field beyond the glittering wall.

“Well,” Geman said, “there’s a reason this place wasn’t settled. The animals are huge. There are a dozen different huge herd animals eating the grass and half a dozen different predators eating them. We stay inside the shields and only go out in powered armor.”

Marcus checked the walls each side of the path and I followed his gaze. There wasn’t much of anything to see. I didn’t have any right to complain. I was on another planet with plants and animals and humans that didn’t grow up on Earth—not to mention the aliens. Still, all I could see were trees, fields, and grass. We could have seen that on Earth.

I didn’t have a right to be disappointed. The tree sized plants that didn’t have any bark were alien and weird in the right way, hinting that this wasn’t Earth and that there were mysteries we might even understand by the time we left. Still, when someone suggests that the planet you’re on has giant animals, it’s disappointing when you don’t see a single one.

Jaclyn nodded. “I’m not trying to criticize, but it seems to me that the colony is in a bad position. If you’re ever cut off from the outside, you probably don’t have all the parts you need to repair the shields or your powered armor.”

Geman stopped walking and turned toward her. “Don’t I know it. We’ve stockpiled parts and repair tech, but you’re right. If we’re ever out of contact for more than a year, the shield poles, the armor, the ships and the fliers will stop working one at a time. We’ll be able to move the shields and cover less ground, but it will be a lot harder without the armor.”

He shook his head and then he shrugged. “Fortunately that’s never happened. Besides, we’ve got too small a population to grow without some severe inbreeding. No one talks about it, but we’re doomed anyway.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Malifaux, la 4a Jornada o estrenando la mesa Japonesa

Crying Grumpies

IMG_5276

En medio de las vacaciones llega la cuarta jornada de nuestra liga de Malifaux. Como era de esperar durante la tercera jornada por las fechas no se han podido jugar todas las partidas y ahí esta la ventaja de las ligas sin subidas de experiencia pues las partidas que faltan ya se jugarán. Para la pàrtida de este mes he decidido estrenar escenografía de nuevo. En este caso una mesa que llevo varios meses preparando, el pueblo japonés que he construido con elementos de 4Ground, Sarissa y TTCombat de nuestra visita al Salute.

Como siempre empezamos por la clasificación y los resultados y emparejamientos.

Haga click para ver el pase de diapositivas.

4a Partida

Duración Ronda: Hoy hasta el 15 de Setiembre

Banda: 42 puntos

Estrategia (objetivo común para los dos jugadores, Max. 4 Puntos):

Derechos de ocupación (Tomos) (ligeramente diferente de la del manual)

Preparación

Coloca 5 marcadores de 30 mm. en la parte central de las partes A,B,C,D,E de la muralla.

Reglas especiales

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

Puntos de Victoria

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

Esquema (cada jugador debe escoger 2, Max. 3 Puntos por esquema):

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

Asesinar (Cuervos)

Este esquema empieza la partida sin revelar. Si el Líder enemigo es sacrificado o matado revela este es que y gana 2 PV. Si ocurre antes de el turno 4 gana 3PV y no 2PV.

Proteger territorio (tomos)

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

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

Hacerles sufrir (7)

Después del primer turno cada vez que una miniatura Maestro o Compinche elimine una miniatura Secuaz o Peón enemiga gana 1PV. Después del primer turno gana 1PV si la banda enemiga no tiene miniaturas Secuaz o Peón. Limite de 1 PV por turno, máximo de 3 PV por partida.

Esta intriga se debe revelar en el momento en que se gane el primer PV.

Murder Protege (11)

Anota el muñeco oponente de mayor coste, en caso de empate decide. Gana 2PV si el modelo es matado o sacrificado antes del final de la partida.

Puedes revelar esta intriga y en vez de ganar 2 PV ganar 3 PV.

Mesa de juego

FullSizeRender 2

Despliegue: Standard (7)

Elementos de escenografía:

Muralla: Altura 4, impasable y quita LOS. Puede ser destruida tratando cada sección como un muñeco con el siguiente perfil.

Inmune a estados

Defensa 5 Salud 3

No realiza flip de defensa

Tiene un (-) en el flip de daño

Durante el turno en el que es destruido sigue quitando linea de visión pero se puede cruzar.

No son escalables.

Tenderetes de madera: Ht 2, no obstruyen LOS, dan cobertura ligera

Casas: HT 5, se puede entrar en el interior utilizando las puertas pero se pierde LOS. Otorgan cobertura pesada. No son escalables.

Templo: La base del templo tiene ht 1y otorga cobertura pesada. Las columnas otorgan cobertura ligera y tienen ht 3. La campana otorga cobertura pesada.

Arcos Torii: Ht 6, otorga cobertura ligera.

Canal: altura 0, terreno impasable

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)


  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Torneos de tiende de X-Wing y SW Destiny 2017

Crying Grumpies

20664855_2203042543255593_128608094671148057_n

Como cada año ya ha llegado el momento en que en una galaxia muy lejana se inician las hostilidades mayores. El camino al gran conflicto conocido como el mundial empieza con los Store Tournament o Torneos de Tienda y este año nos hemos animado organizar torneo de X-Wing y Destiny. Si quieres asistir después del leer más encontrarás más información.

2o Torneo Grumpy de Tienda X-Wing

Día: 2y 3 de Setiembre

Lugar:

El Local, Asociación lúdica

C/ Amilcar 119 Bajos

Barcelona

Formato: 2 mangas clasificatorias el sábado, mañana y tarde, y top 4 el domingo

Plazas: 16 plazas por manga

Precio inscripción: 10€ (8€ premios y sorteos, 1€ Consumición, 1€ Mantenimiento de la asociación)

Horario:

Clasificatorio Sábado mañana: 09:00

Clasificatorio Sábado tarde: 16:00

Top 4 Domingo: 10:00

Premios y sorteos según participación:

Kit Store X-Wing 2017,  más información sobre los sorteo próximamente

Para inscribirte al torneo mándanos un correo a orders@thegrumpyshop.com indicando preferencia de horario para el clasificatorio, mañana o tarde. Nosotros te responderemos informándote si hay plaza y con un enlace donde formalizar la inscripción y el pago, así como instrucciones para enviar la lista.

20622226_2203046869921827_655234256494661777_n

1r Torneo Grumpy de Tienda Star Wars Destiny

Día: 3 de Setiembre

Lugar:

El Local, Asociación lúdica

C/ Amilcar 119 Bajos

Barcelona

Formato: 5 Rondas de suizo con Top 4 (puede variar en función de asistencia)

Plazas: 32 plazas

Precio inscripción: 10€ (8€ premios y sorteos, 1€ Consumición, 1€ Mantenimiento de la asociación)

Horario: Apertura de puertas 09:30, inicio 10:00. Durante el suizo se hará una pausa para comer

Premios y sorteos en función de participantes:

1-8 Jugadores: Kit Torneo de Tienda

Sorteo de un vale de tienda con valor de 15€ por cada 2 participantes por encima de 8

Para inscribirte al torneo mándanos un correo a orders@thegrumpyshop.com. Nosotros te responderemos informándote si hay plaza y con un enlace donde formalizar la inscripción y el pago, así como instrucciones para enviar la lista.


  • open
  • next
Semicoop

GenCon or GenCan’t

Semicoop

People who have been following Semi Co-op on Facebook and/or Twitter might already know this comic. We posted it about two years ago on social media, but very little people actually saw it back then. With GenCon coming up this week, we think this comic is still very relevant so it has been redrawn. 😉
Flying over to the USA just for GenCon is not really an option for us, so we’re happily joining the bigger crowds at GenCan’t – which can be enjoyed from the comforts of your home, a friend’s place or your friendly local gaming store!

So you can even win prizes at GenCan’t by participating in their photo contest or join the raffle. Check out their Twitter account (@gencant) for up to date information. They also have a big list of free Print & Play games which you can play. In other words: there’s a lot to explore and GenCan’t is a wonderful reason to play a lot of games this weekend.

What games will you be playing during GenCan’t? Or if you’re actually going to GenCon: what games are you looking forward to?

In other news: sad news has reached us last Friday. Our fellow board game comic makers, Tiny Wooden Pieces, will be uploading their final comic this Friday. We respect and understand their choice, but the comic and their insights will be sorely missed. They’ve done an amazing job these past three years and they were a true inspiration. Thanks, you guys and good luck with your future endeavors. 🙂

The post GenCon or GenCan’t appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 7

In My Daydreams

I checked with the ship and could see Crawls-Through-Desert next to the refrigerator sized box in the ship’s cabin. In a moment, it was floating out the hatch next to him. I could see that as good news given how much space it freed up, but at the same time, I’d never meant to bring him here and I didn’t know what was in the box.

We all turned to see the plant on the box floating in the air next to the ship.

“Hey,” I used the stealth suit’s speakers to give me some volume. “What’s in the box?”

The plant slowed, branches rustling and bending. Some combination of the implant and my brain interpreted it as having a New York City accent—from the Bronx, maybe? My only knowledge of NYC accents came from movies.

“Stuff that every colonist needs—batteries, solar chargers, water to hydrogen processing equipment and mini fusion plants. All for a low, low price.”

I blinked. “How would they even buy? How would you process payments here unless you take physical cash?”

The plant laughed. “You’re from a low tech world, aren’t you? They’ve got an ansible. They run it behind so many fake addresses it’s practically anonymous, but it works and they’ve got money. Check your implants, you’ll know what I mean.”

I checked. The ansible didn’t call itself the Hideaway ansible. It claimed to be a deep space relay in a completely different sector. I checked if there was an Earth ansible. There wasn’t, but the Xiniti base next to the jump gate did have one. It didn’t have a connection to Earth’s internet and if they listened to our radio or TV broadcasts, they didn’t make them available over the ansible, but how crazy was that?

On the other hand, with the number of extraterrestrial visitors we’d had, it stood to reason that they’d want a connection to galactic civilization.

A quick check told me that ansibles cost a lot of money—the kind it would take to buy your own private planet on the edge of Alliance space. So, at least one of the colonists had a lot of money. My first guess would be Jadzen Akri. She seemed willing enough to order people around.

It seemed like a fairly obvious security problem for Hideaway, though. Even keeping the fake address in mind, it only took one loose lipped colonist to tell everyone where the planet was. Or did it? If I weren’t the pilot, jump space and normal space would look the same everywhere and if the crew deliberately attempted to confuse the passengers, they might not have any clue where they were.

Well, except in this case, they were a blink and jump from K’Tepolu. That wouldn’t narrow it down enough to be easy, especially considering our non-standard drive, but it made it easier.

“I’d like to look over what you’re selling these people before you leave,” I told Crawls-Through-Desert. “We’re supposed to be protecting these people.”

“You betcha, kid.” The plant and box landed in front of me.

Jaclyn turned to me. “Are you even going to recognize something dangerous?”

“Within limits,” I said.

The box opened as I spoke, containing many small devices, all of them embedded in a translucent foam. Light glowing at the bottom of the box made devices at every level visible. They weren’t a consistent shape though many of them were cylinders that could fit in the palm of my hand. Some were almost the height of my knee, but wider. It didn’t take much to identify the devices as exactly what he’d said they were.

I could have taken them all apart to check for bombs, but after randomly inspecting the insides of a few different devices, I believed it.

Cassie questioned it while I dug through the box. “Don’t you think just happening to have exactly the sort of thing that colonists might need is suspicious?”

Crawls-Through-Desert’s leaves and branches rustled. “Not at all! I saw my opportunity and I took it. I needed to get off the station and hide so I bought products that colonists would need. When I saw Tikki, I knew she and her people would need what I was selling. My only miscalculation was choosing human colonists. I wouldn’t have been attacked if I’d been with anyone else.”

“No kidding,” Cassie watched the plant as it floated next to the box. “It seems like the fight worked out pretty well for you though. We didn’t have time to vet you or your stuff because we were in a hurry to leave.”

The plant said, “Eh. I’d have preferred not to get this far out from civilization. I’m going to want to leave after a while, and now I’m betting I’ll have to get a berth on a military ship. That’s a pain.”

I put the casing of the last device back on it and placed it into the box. “Done. It looks like what it says it is.”

Cassie shrugged. “Then I guess you’re free. Just don’t scam them. We’re all stuck here for a while.”

Crawls-Through-Desert flew a little higher as the box shut itself. “I conduct myself with the greatest of all possible personal ethics.”

The box flew off to join it in the air and they floated away toward the eggshell village.

Jaclyn eyed Cassie. “I hope that thing’s just an opportunist. Anyway, I guess we’d better go check out the starport.”

Marcus grinned. “Yeah. For all we know, the guy might only stay there when he knows he’s got something coming in. He might have already left for the day.”

“No,” Jaclyn said. “I’ve been watching.”

“Me too,” Cassie said. “By the way, has anyone else been really looking around this place? Do it right now. What do you see?”

I looked. Plants surrounded the place, many of them two feet around with green stems. There were trees with hard, bark-like protection, but they weren’t the most common large plants. That wasn’t the most interesting thing though. There were white poles of some kind of artificial material around the edge of the starport and the village next to it. Just past the poles, the air glittered up to a height of about one hundred feet.

I could easily see putting up a force field on an alien planet, but one hundred feet seemed like overkill.

image image image
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 6

In My Daydreams

Jadzen blinked and her mouth tightened. I guessed that people didn’t argue with her under normal circumstances. Before I could say anything, Jaclyn started talking.

“We don’t want to argue, but we’ve got our orders. We’re supposed to escort you here, but to stay until reinforcements come. My understanding is that they’ll come soon.”

Standing straight and looking Jadzen in the eye, Jaclyn acted as if this were a meeting of equals instead of whatever Jadzen thought it was.

Jadzen glanced over at Katuk, the sole Xiniti here. “I assume that you’re the leader? We don’t need you to stay. We’ve been hiding people here for years now. No one who doesn’t know where it is can find this place.”

A yellow alert appeared in my helmet’s HUD. Knowing those were minor, I ignored it. I could check it out later.

Meanwhile, Katuk’s eyes widened. “I’m not the leader of this mission. No one has made clear to me that there is a leader, but that one,” he pointed at me, “may well be the leader.”

I shook my head. “I might be the leader on the ship, but not always on the ground. We switch off. Anyway, she’s right,” I nodded toward Cassie. “Our mission requires us to stay here until reinforcements show up.”

Jadzen’s mouth twitched. “We’ve never needed protection before.”

Cassie shook her head. “Did you ever get met along the way with a small fleet of ships? You got tailed to K’Tepolu. There’s no reason to think they can’t tail you here.”

Jadzen stared at the group of us, her eyes finally settling on Tikki. “Then follow your orders. Tikki, remove your luggage from the ship before it leaves.”

Tikki said, “Yes, ma’am,” and went briefly into our ship before she ran over to join the line in front of The Bug’s Revenge.

While Tikki ran, Jadzen left, escorted by a group of men and women. One man looked back, his mouth twisted in an expression that I interpreted as embarrassment. Then he turned back to the group as they walked away, eventually disappearing behind a long white spaceship with a brown smudge on its side.

Even to my eyes, it looked old and the implant supplemented my guess with knowledge. It was an Edge class human transport. It had been popular with settlers more than one hundred and fifty years ago. The implant couldn’t sense it’s serial number, but it noted that the hull’s shape matched the shape of earlier models in the class’ history.

The other two spaceships parked at the airport were deep space fighters. The implant didn’t peg either of them as being as old as the transport, but they were both twice as old than I was. While Alliance technology didn’t appear to change as quickly as ours did, I doubted that forty year old fighters could be cutting edge.

Katuk interrupted my thoughts, using his implant to connect to all of us. “Her attitude isn’t unusual. The Alliance was grateful that we destroyed the Abominators, but they fear us. The humans saw us destroy their masters and kill no small number of their own kind. It’s understandable that they fear us too, but I would have hoped that they might trust you.”

Marcus watched them go. “Yeah. The fact that we were human didn’t make things any easier. Of course, they’re running from humans. So they might not be willing to trust us just because we’re human.”

Katuk’s brow furrowed. “Interesting insight. We forget how divided other species are.”

Jaclyn snorted. “You haven’t seen divided. Go read about our wars, or for that matter, the Civil Rights movement. Then you’ll begin to get it.”

Katuck’s voice continued as she spoke. “Yes. That is exactly what I lack a true understanding of. In my people, Xiniti are Xiniti and that is all. In that sense you are all Xiniti and your perspectives count as much as mine. We do have people who ask if you truly can be in the same way that you wonder if I can truly understand your history.”

This felt like it was going to enter into territory that we’d never be able to handle. I considered what I could say, but then I noticed the notification I’d ignored back when Jadzen had been speaking with us. I decided I probably ought to check that.

As that thought struck me, Cassie spoke, “Hey everybody, I think it’s time to reel it in and start thinking small. We’re here to protect these people. We’re not here to figure out who the real Xiniti are. I think our next step ought to be figuring out what their defenses are like, right? They knew when we came out of jump, so all the mines must signal them or something. I think we need to know where they have mines and what else they’ve got. My bet is that if we go over and bug their starport staff, we’ll be able to find out everything we need to know.”

Marcus nodded, “And we’ll also find out that it’s only one guy, I bet.”

“Whose voice is kind of hot,” Cassie added.

Jaclyn looked at her. “Is that what your speech was really all about?”

Cassie shook her head. “No, but it’s a bonus, right?”

I checked the suit’s alert. When Jadzen had been speaking, the suit had activated a defense I’d made against people capable of controlling minds with their voice. It had activated at a low level, so it might be that she used it unconsciously, but it might be that she used it subtlety.

“Hey,” Jaclyn said, “where did that plant go?”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Deep Water Prision, la BP y los dramas carcelarios

Crying Grumpies

DeepWaterPrision-YermoEdiciones-Bec-Raffele-CryingGrumpies-4

El año pasado para el Salón del Cómic de Barcelona Yermo Ediciones puso a la venta Prometeo de Bec y Raffele, una obra que se cayo de mi lista de la compra porque no se puede comprar todo. Cuando me quise dar cuenta habían a la venta tres volúmenes y como no tenía claro si me iba a gustar puse la compra de la serie en el congelador. Hace un par de meses Yermo anunció Deep Water Prision, una obra de los mismos autores en formato integral autoconclusivo. Que mejor forma de decidirme si me agenciaba Prometeo que leyendo algo de los mismos autores y que al ser conclusiva no me iba dejar con la miel en los labios. Hoy nos mudamos a las profundidades del mar para vivir un drama carcelario con tintes ecologistas.

DeepWaterPrision-YermoEdiciones-Bec-Raffele-CryingGrumpies-2

Deep Water Prision nos traslada a un futuro cercano en el que Estados Unidos ha construido una prisión sumergida en el fondo del océano. Un futuro en el que se repite una catástrofe medioambiental como fue la fuga de petroleo de la BP de hace unos años pero a lo grande, cuando una plataforma petrolífera se hunde. Con esta premisa arranca nuestra historia, un drama carcelario mas bien clásico en el que asistiremos al intento de fuga de unos prisioneros que poco a poco se irá mezclando con las consecuencias de la gestión de la crisis del petróleo y como la empresa intenta tapar sus trapos sucios.

 

El guión de Bec es correctísimo, sigue casi todas las convenciones del género y tiene algún giro interesante, aunque hay un elemento que me chirría un montón como las anguilas gigantes pues me esperaba un mayor protagonismo de estos bichos. Con buen ritmo  en general si que hay alguna página en la que la historia se hace algo pastosa por la longitud de algunos bocadillos. El dibujo realista de Raffele es precioso, brillante en su mayro parte y sabe tornarse oscuro en aquellas escenas que lo necesitan. Pero también es verdad que no es el cómic más dinámico que he leído.

DeepWaterPrision-YermoEdiciones-Bec-Raffele-CryingGrumpies-3

Deep Water Prision es un tebeo muy recomendable. Con mucha crítica al mundo actual, tanto en el plano político como medioambiental y militar. Deja cosas en el aire pero la historia que cuenta esta bien acabada y cerrada. Me ha dejado con más ganas de las que tenía de acercarme a Prometeo.

 


  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Summer Special week 2

Semicoop

Week two of the Semi Co-op summer special! We’re still having an adventure somewhere in Europe so we don’t have a lot to talk about. Maybe we can lighten the burden of waiting for you by learning about some smaller board game content creators that you can binge while you wait for us to return!

First up is Take Your Chits. A Youtube channel that has just started eight weeks ago, but who has already reached more than a thousand subscribers (congrats!). Christian does a light rant/discussion/thought sharing about an aspect of the hobby. It’s funny in a nice cringey way and makes you think about some aspect of your favourite hobby you didn’t think about before. Also the video’s are short which can be nice in a genre that is filled with >15 min videos.

Second is the Rules Girl. Think Watch It Played but much faster using the power of animation and skipping everything but the most important rules. This is perfect for when you will play a game for the first time at a friend but you don’t need to know every edge case of the the rule book.

Een bericht gedeeld door Kevin (@theendsofboardgames) op 25 Jul 2017 om 7:52 PDT


On Instagram we think @theendsofboardgames is a fun concept, showing only the end states of the games Kevin plays. These pictures seem a little too organised to be actual games states though, our table looks like the game exploded by the time we’re done with them (are we weird?).

Lastly, of course, we want to point you our favourite creators Actualol, Tiny Wooden Pieces and Up to Four Players who we’ve mentioned in the past but have always been amazing in showing support and sharing comics that they liked!

Who is your favorite “unknown” board game content creator?

The post Summer Special week 2 appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 5

In My Daydreams

Of course, they hadn’t mined the entire solar system—just the best places to come out of jump space. We’d appeared on the dark side of the planet. Mines surrounded the area in a sphere. Unlike a normal minefield, the people hadn’t designed the pattern to hide the mines. They’d designed it to make them extremely obvious.

Checking the sensors showed that that the mines weren’t close to us. A ship large enough for a jump or blink drive would have had enough space to turn around and jump out. So, this wasn’t so much an attempt to kill as much as a pointed invitation to leave. I imagined that all the nearest jump points had been mined.

If we turned on the shields and let Hal calculate the route, we might be able to blow through them before much damage had been done. The same wouldn’t be true for the colonists’ ship. It would go down in flames. In space, mines could aim themselves at their targets. Plus, they’d probably mined near space too, so that wasn’t an option either.

Of course, that assumed that the mines were owned by unfriendly forces.

Before I could call back the colonists to ask them if they knew more, a message came from the planet. A deep, deep voice said, “This is Alliance world Hideaway’s starport. Identify yourselves.”

The colonists’ ship replied first. The male voice I’d heard before said, “This is The Bug’s Revenge. We were hired to carry Jadzen Akri and her followers to Hideaway by the Alliance government. The ship accompanying us carries members of the Xiniti nation who were escorting us here.”

“We’ve been given your public ID. Send us your private ID to allow us to confirm. If you don’t think you’ll pass confirmation, I’d advise leaving the way you came in.”

In an even voice, the man on The Bug’s Revenge said, “No worries, Hideaway. Transmitting ID.”

“Xiniti ship Beeblebrox is also transmitting ID,” I said, hoping there weren’t any problems. K’Tepolu hadn’t cared about our ID. Of course, a big, outlaw station might care less about a ship’s identity than a hidden world of refugees.

The deep voice spoke again. “Identities confirmed. We’ll send you a path through the mines.”

As quickly as he said it, the ship received the message and I read it. Not sure how much of this anyone else had heard, I checked the ship’s settings, found that communication was private by default, and shared that with everyone.

I heard Cassie’s voice in my mind. “I’m keeping the weapons ready. I’m assuming you want the shields on.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that she could take control of those, but on the other hand she was sitting at the weapons and shields console. “Yeah,” I said, “we need the shields until we get through the minefield. I don’t think we’ll need weapons, but you never know, I guess. Just don’t make us look menacing, okay? I don’t want them to think we’re going to attack.”

“Course not,” Cassie said, “but they don’t seem to have the same philosophy.”

She had a point. The mines didn’t widen to give us a comfortable distance as we flew through them. The colony had given us a route that gave us all the room we needed to maneuver and no more. I flew only as quickly as I felt comfortable—which is to say slowly. I could only wonder why they’d do it.

They’d given The Bug’s Revenge a route with more distance from the mines. They made it out before us.

All the same, it didn’t take too long because for all the dots in the sensors, I’d been right about them protecting choke points. Once we were away from the spot we’d appeared at, space was as empty as its name implied.

Following Hideaway’s starport’s instructions, we flew around from the night side where we’d come out of jump into the planet’s day. The starport lay near the mouth of a river on a massive continent at least the size of Africa. My strongest impression of the place could be summarized in one word: green.

Plants covered everywhere I could see. Tall grasses blanketed the fields. Trees and flowering bushes covered the rest of the land near the settlement, some of the flowers as much as two feet wide.

The starport, however, was something of a disappointment. Mind you, I should have known what it would be like when I’d seen the houses—hundreds of identical egg-shaped buildings that must have been the product of sort of kit.

Despite that, I still wasn’t prepared to discover that the starport had a collection of three egg-shaped buildings and half a dozen dirt circles, some larger, and some smaller. That was the landing pad. The deep voice directed us to land near The Bug’s Revenge.

People descended from the spaceship in a large group, all of them centered around a blonde woman in flowing robes. The question of who lead the group couldn’t have been clearer if she’d worn a crown. They all watched as she descended and followed her as she strode up to our ship. My implant identified her has Jadzen Akri.

We’d only had one very short flight of steps to work with, so we were all there waiting for her.

“You’re the Xiniti escort,” she said, looking us over, and undoubtedly noting the humans, a single Xiniti, and a floating plant. “Interesting. Tikki get your things and come with us. The rest of you can go. You have our thanks for your service in getting us here safe, but there’s no further need for you.”

Cassie met Jadzen’s eyes, jaw set, voice even. “No. Our mission’s not over and we’re staying until it is.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
PenintheStone

Scott Bachmann (RT The Pen in the Stone):
Paragon pleads to save civilian lives but will it work?!? Is this just a ploy to get our hero to let down her... https://t.co/vjXpHtcngM

PenintheStone
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 4

In My Daydreams

“Monopoly?” Jaclyn raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “Seriously? Why?”

I shrugged. “To kill time. We’ve got a week in jumpspace and as you can see,” I pointed toward the infinite gray outside the window, “it’ s not very interesting. Plus, I was joking a little too. We probably ought to come up with ideas for how we’ll handle it if we have to defend the colony. There’s no question they’re being followed.”

Jaclyn shook her head. “Skip the Monopoly then. Let’s get prepared.”

Cassie laughed. “That figures.”

Katuk said, “On smaller Xiniti ships, we often do simulated drills of attack and defense patterns. On the larger ships, of course, we have facilities for physical training.”

Jaclyn frowned. Tikki unstrapped herself from her seat and looked around the group. “So what’s Monopoly? Is it a game?”

“It’s a game,” Marcus said, “a really, really long game. It’s fun, but it’s not short.”

Tikki nodded along as he spoke. “What are you trying to do?”

“Get rich,” I said. “If I remember it right, it became popular when a lot of people were poor on our world. So it was a fantasy, I guess. What you try to do is buy property, charge people rent, and become the wealthiest player.”

Watching me with his big, black eyes, Katuk said, “That sounds like a dangerous game. You’re taking money from those you play with and work to acquire more than the others. It seems as though it would breed jealousy and division. Is that the custom on your world?”

I thought about it. “I don’t know. I don’t know the history of other worlds well enough to say that we’ve got more of that than other places.”

Hal, the ship’s AI, spoke before anyone else, his “voice” sounding over our implants or in Tikki’s case, her bracelet.

[If I might interject, I’ve prepared a number of simulations that will put your group through common offensive and defensive situations. You’ll be able to experience and therefore assess group members’ personalities and training in combat.]

“If everyone’s okay with it,” I said.

Everyone was—except for Tikki, and she wasn’t against it as much as unsure. “I’d like to, but I don’t have an implant—just this bracelet—and I’m not part of their team, so I don’t know where I’d fit in?”

She looked down at the bracelet.

Hal responded, [The bracelet will be adequate for this function. As for your presence… Their purpose here is to protect civilians. Having a civilian who isn’t a simulation will be useful. Did you participate in the Human Ascendancy’s militia units?]

Her mouth twisted. “It’s required. I wouldn’t have been able to attend school without it.”

[Then I’ll arm you with standard infantry equipment in some scenarios.]

The week settled into a rhythm after the first day. We’d run through combat scenarios. Hal simulated combat on ships and between them, on planets, and in the atmosphere above them. Run through Xiniti implants, it felt like we were there. I could hear the rain, and even more impressive, feel and smell it.

I’d become awake later with my body feeling like I’d slept in a strange position. This was more or less true. And the AI wasn’t wrong. We did become familiar with how people fought. I didn’t have much to learn about Jaclyn, Marcus, or Cassie because I’d been training with them for years. Katuk though? I learned through fighting with him that the Xiniti we’d killed wasn’t an exception. Katuk moved almost as quickly as Jaclyn in his armor even if he wasn’t as strong. He made up for the relative slowness with his weapons—laser, plasma gun, and a sharp blade.

Especially at the beginning, Katuk would forget that he wasn’t part of a squad with the exact same abilities. To be fair, we were close. Jaclyn had the speed, Cassie had the weapons, and I had both except that I had to be flying but didn’t have his reflexes.

Marcus didn’t have any of that—which helped. Katuk remembered the differences because Marcus’ shapeshifting didn’t fit the Xiniti paradigm at all.

Tikki, meanwhile, reveled in all roles Hal used her, appearing as armed support, a kidnapped civilian, powered and unpowered enemies, and even as a spy. Virtual reality let Hal slip her into spots where we didn’t expect to find her, playing them to the hilt—even the ones where she had to fight us. It may have been the game, but I felt like she’d been trained in hand to hand combat.

So training took up the days. At night we separated to the degree that we could. I read, watched a movie, or messed with Rocket suit improvement ideas. Marcus drew, Cassie talked with people, and Jaclyn delved deeply into her implant’s culture and history archives, sometimes asking Katuk and Tikki questions.

On the last night of jump, Tikki said, “We should play it.”

“What?” I asked.

“Monopoly!” Tikki looked around room, grinning. “I’m sure I’ll never have the chance to play it again. So how about just once?”

“No,” Jaclyn shook her head. “I’ve never liked that game.”

“I’ll play,” Cassie said. “It’s still better than looking out the windows.”

“It’s not that bad,” Marcus told Jaclyn. “What have you got to lose?”

Narrowing her eyes, Jaclyn said, “I don’t know. More time to that game?”

“If it will make things easier,” Katuk said, “I’ll play.”

I was about to say the same when my implant informed me that we were about to drop out of jump. I hadn’t been the only one notified either because everyone strapped in. Watching as the ship counted down, I connected with the ship, feeling its sensors, weapons, and shields.

We dropped out of jump, the gray fading into the blackness of normal space. Even as we did, I knew that something was wrong. The sensors showed me hundreds, possibly thousands of small dots. I turned on the shields, turned the ship, and radioed the colonists’ ship, telling them to do the same.

The space between us and the planet had been thoroughly mined.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

Brennus File 15: Spawners

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Spawners, Mook-Makers, Birthers, Queens: the names are many, but they all refer to the same class of abilities – those which generate ‘agents’ which are separate from the metahuman himself…

Which is actually not a very good way to classify powers with, because there is a vast difference between the various different ways in which this power may manifest and what may be a well-advised strategy in dealing with one type may lead to catastrophy when applied to another – for example, if a metahuman’s agent is independently intelligent, knocking them out may not cause it to disappear; instead, you’re now stuck with an inhuman monster that’s off its leash (and likely pissed at you for hurting its master).

But first, let’s focus on where Spawners come from.

***

Common Origins

Spawner origins tend to share one common theme – a lack or loss of people. They are also overwhelmingly negative, with only a very few confirmed cases of positive-origin spawners known even within the metahuman community.

The kind of lack often informs the power – is it focused on a single person or on a multitude of people? The former might generate a single agent, while the latter the ability to spawn a great many of them.

Often, spawners and controllers come from very similar, sometimes near-identical origins, but it’s the focus which determines the result. For example, a bullied teenager might manifest either spawning or control abilities, depending on whether their origin focuses on the people who are there (and who could be controlled) or the people who aren’t there (and so need to be generated/replaced).

***

SAVRIC

In general, Spawners can be classified by way of several categories relating to their agents’ abilities, its source and their control over it. This scale is mostly academic, as it’s too cumbersome to use in the heat of things, but it’s quite popular in online debates, among others. It is known as the SAVRIC scale:

Source (S): Where does the agent come from? Does it appear out of nowhere (0), is it constructed out of surrounding material, such as a golem made from rocks (1), does it have to be made in advance, such as in a lab or through a ritual (2) or is it permanent and does not need to be summoned at all, but has to be moved about (3)?

Amount (A): Does the spawner generate a single agent (3), a limited amount (2), a whole swarm (1) or an unlimited/unknown number (0).

Variation (V): Is the agent always the same (3), does it vary along a limited template (2), can it take any form, but depending on extraneous factors (1) or can it be (nearly) anything (0)?

Range (R): How far from the spawner can the agent(s) move and still be of use? Are they limited to within their immediate presence (3), can they act within a short range (2), long range (1) or is it unlimited (0)?

Intelligence (I): The most worrisome aspect that one uses to categorise spawners is how intelligent their agents are – debates whether its actual intelligence, sub-conscious control via the spawner or something else notwithstanding – and thus, how independent they are. Do they lack any intelligence at all, being merely remote-controlled puppets (3) or are they without intelligence, but possessed of simple robot-like principles and commands they stick to, or which can be programmed into them (2)? Do they have an intellect comparable to some kind of animal (1)? Are they perhaps even as intelligent as humans or even more so (0)?

Control (C): How much control does a spawner have over their agents? Is the agent absolutely controlled (0), does it have leeway in interpreting commands (12), can it outright resist commands (2) or does the spawner have no control whatsoever (3)?

A spawner is thus rated from 0-3 in each of these categories, with their average being known as their SAVRIC score. While it’s not usually equivalent to how dangerous one is, a low high score is generally considered to be bad news, especially due to spawner’s prospensity to negative origins and the accompanying derangements and other issues. Fortunately, low scores, especially in regards to Variation and Intelligence, are extraordinarily rare.

The only known spawners with a SAVRIC score of 0 are Weisswald and the Dark.

***

ImPermanency

One of the most important distinctions between Spawners is whether their agents are lasting, permanent beings, or are merely projections that only exists for as long as they are maintained. Does knocking a spawner out cancel out their agent? Does killing them do it? In the case of Weisswald, for example, the answer to both of those is a resounding no. His Spiteborn, once created, are independent, living beings, if utterly twisted.

Also important is that power nullification can cancel out impermanent agents, but can, at best, knock permanent ones out (until they leave the area of effect), if it affects them at all (Spiteborn can be prevented from using their more exotic abilities, such as their black blasts or, for the more powerful ones, their telepathic abilities, but can otherwise operate as usual).

Fortunately, there appears to be some form of trade-off involved – barring extreme cases like Weisswald, the Nightmare Sun or the Dark, Spawners seem to trade off one ability for another – those who produce many agents usually have weaker, dumber ones, while singular agents tend to be more versatile and powerful. More intelligent agents also tend to be harder to control, providing another trade-off.

True permanence in particular is extremely rare. Most agents, at the very least, die or disappear upon the death of their master.

***

The Question of Intelligence

One of the most hotly debated subjects in regards to Spawners relates to those who produce agents with near-human or human-level intelligence (rumors of beyond-human intelligence are usually roundly dismissed as hoaxes or delusions).

The first and most common question is this – are they truly intelligent, independently from their creator? Or are they merely being controlled by way of the spawner’s subconscious, acting as he would expect them to act? The most common evidence brought up towards the veracity of this theory is that agents tend to act in a way that seems to fit their Spawner’s personality, or else their suppressed desires. A common counter-argument is that the same can be said about most powers, that they usually tend to fit the personality of their bearer to some degree, and that the minds of these creatures may just be formed to fit their master.

The second and, perhaps, more problematic question is this – at which point is an agent intelligent (and permanent) enough to count as alive? As sentient? At which point would human rights need to be applied to them, or should they not be granted to non-humans – even if they are of human origin – at all?

Perhaps fortunately, there has never been a case where an intelligent agent came forward to claim equal rights under the law (as far as anyone knows, at least), nor has anyone ever accused another human of murder for killing a permanent, intelligent agent. However, as the number of metahumans grows, so does the number of Spawners, making permanent, intelligent agents more and more common (though they are still a vanishingly low percentage of their kind – if one made a separate category for Spawners who generate intelligent, permanent agents, they’d likely be the second- or third-smallest group of metahumans, exceeded only by high-powered Gadgeteers and, at the very top, the highest end of meta-powers, such as DiL’s, Gloom Glimmers and Baba Yaga’s).

***

Duplication

One of the most common forms of Spawning (though it is still quite rare) is the ability to duplicate oneself or, in very rare cases, others. This can range from being able to split oneself into two, to being able to create a slavishly loyal copy of another person, or an unlimited number of such.

Generally speaking, Duplication, like most Spawning, tends towards being a solo-power, though Self-Duplication in particular appears to be the one most likely to have other, usually ancillary powers.

***

Sub-Spawners

A surprisingly common sub-set of Spawners are those who get Spawning as a sub-rating – usually Gadgeteers and, most commonly, Contrivers, who can create some manner of agents to act in their place. They may range from summoned demons/fairies/elementals/etc to clones, to robots, to weirder things.

Like other sub-ratings, Sub-Spawners are usually described by appending the Spawner rating after the main rating, usually via a backslash, for example:

Legend: Contriver 9/Perception 8, Spawning 11

***

Exemplary Spawners

  • The Eighth: One of the most feared Spawners in recent history, the Eighth was a metahuman (presumably) who appeared in Egypt during the mid-2000s. Appearing as a slightly above-human sized locust-like monstrosity with vastly enhanced strength, toughness, speed and senses, as well as winged flight, the Eighth would create permanent, apparently perfect copies of itself each time it killed another human (animals didn’t count, though it killed any it came across), eight at a time. Furthermore, it would poison humans with its scorpion-like stinger, sending them into a murderous rage – any kill these victims would rack up would cause the Eighth which poisoned them to generate four copies of itself. While the individual Eighth did not appear to be too intelligent, and nor did they seem to have a true hive mind, they did cooperate on instinct, raging across Egypt like a biblical plague. Fortunately for the world, they were discovered early and could be eliminated before they managed to multiply beyond any hope to contain them. As no core Spawner was ever found, it is assumed that the first Eighth was the source, but became just one of many once it multiplied the first time, with no one member of the swarm being the ‘original’ any longer.
  • Hydra: An old-school villain from the late 20s. Any time he took a hit, he’d split into two, with each duplicate being able to further split upon taking damage. No real limit on how many duplicates he coul dmake, but they got progressively dumber the more were made, until they couldn’t even stand up straight anymore. He usually couldn’t go beyond about a hundred selves before they became too stupid to be of use. He was killed in battle against a rival crimelord in 1929.
  • Zomboy: Creates duplicates of himself that begin to rot pretty quickly, dying off within about an hour of their creation, but has no upper limit as to how many he could do, except that he can only make one at a time (they take about 3 seconds each). While he lacks an ongoing connection to his copies, they are all of like mind and predisposed towards cooperating with each other and the original. When a Zomboy dies, be it due to outside influence, its time running out or deliberate suicide, all remaining Zomboys gain his last sensory input and thoughts.
    The original Zomboy does not decay rapidly, nor does he have their immunity to pain and slightly enhanced strength and toughness (neither of which reaches supernatural levels, though).
  • Necromonger: A major villain of the early seventies. He could create permanent duplicates of himself by touching human corpses, shaping them into his own duplicates. If he used it on metahuman corpses, they’d have the original’s powers. He was killed by Lady Light and the Dark after he crossed the line, killing over twenty teenagers with powers who’d been gathered for an attempt to make a super-school, creating duplicates out of their corpses. Even with their combined might, putting all Necromongers including the original down proved to be one of the original duo’s most challenging tasks.
  • Argus: A Greek superhero and anxillary member of the Olympians. He can create stationary duplicates of himself that share senses with him and can fire laser beams from their eyes. While he can only have up to twelve of them up at a time, they last until he creates new ones or are destroyed (though they are partially insubstantial, and so very resistant to most damage), and operate even when he’s knocked out or asleep, though with only very basic intelligence (usually following pre-programmed commands). He usually has at least two of them watch over him while he sleeps, and several more stationed all around his area, the city of Drama.
  • Matryoshka: A Russian metahuman, and a member of the Frozen family. She’s just a living skin, no internal organs or bones. By wrapping herself around a victim, she takes control of their body and drains nutrients from them. She can spawn duplicates of whomever she’s currently got inside her, who are under her complete (verbal) control. The more duplicates she makes, the faster her victim wastes away, and once they die, the duplicates made off of them die, as well. She has trouble letting someone go once she’s wrapped herself around them, making a non-lethal application of her power very difficult.
    For someone with such a ghoulish power, she’s a surprisingly pleasant young woman (though her actual age is likely impossible to determine, seeing how she woke up one day with no memories of her past and her power already active).

  • Crawler: A preteen boy from the Midwestern USA, he has command over a permanent agent the size of a small bus, a monstrosity of many limbs, huge muscles and armour plates capable of shrugging off anti-armour fire. While the agent doesn’t appear to be any more intelligent than a very smart dog, he is very independent of Crawler, and has been seen taking actions which directly contradict given orders, usually for the sake of keeping his master safe. They live a nomadic life, moving from town to town with no clear goal known; they are both rather peaceful, unless provoked (which, unfortunately, happens rather often). The agent, commonly known as Crawler (while his master is addressed by his true name), appears to become vastly more powerful (or perhaps he simply stops holding back) when his master is in danger of immediate harm and is very prone to highly destructive rampages while so empowered.
  • The Dark: The King of Supervillains can create apparently-permanent, human-level intelligent Darkwraiths, each with a custom powerset and absolute loyalty to him, going so far as to wear (at least) one of them in lieu of a costume. His Darkwraiths are at least as intelligent as normal humans, if not more so, can be created out of thin air, in any number he so wishes, have custom powersets and skills and are both able to operate at any distance from him, as well as absolutely loyal to their master, giving him a perfect SAVRIC score of 0.
  • Merkabah: Usually considered one of the most powerful Gadgeteers alive, the terrorist known as Merkabah seems to specialise in creating mechanical monstrosities she unleashes (apparently) at random to cause massive havoc. She has also demonstrated the ability to create organic monsters, so her exact capabilities are unknown; the fact that almost no one has ever seen her makes her all the more mysterious.

***

Rarities amongst Rarities

There are some rare, confirmed cases of Spawners coming from positive origins – and all of them were or are notable in some way:

  • Michele/Michael: Generally considered Italy’s pre-eminent superhero, Michele was once a priest who achieved his manifestation after what gaining what he claims to have been an Epiphany following an intense meditation on the bible, the world and his place in relation to both. He considers superpowers to be Gifts from God, and using them for selfish and destructive deeds a blasphemy worthy of Sodom and Gomorra.
    His power allows him to generate a multitude of semi-corporeal, angelic duplicates of himself, with several secondary abilities which he himself shares – flaming weapons, the ability to use lethal strikes without harm (he slashes someone with a sword but instead of cutting them, they merely feel pain as if they were and are drained of strength, for example), flight, healing hands and a very annoying (for villains) subconscious precognitive ability that guides him towards ‘Sinners’ (i.e. metahumans who abuse their powers).
  • Rounds: The leader of the New Lennston UH division, Rounds is generally considered to be a prime candidate for succeeding the Feral Family as a Shining Guardian, should the current Doc Feral not find a worthy successor from within her family. He manifested after defeating a notorious supervillain with his bare hands, while defending several innocents, his younger sister amongst them, from said villain, and shortly thereafter joined first the Junior Heroes and then the United Heroes proper.
    His power allows Rounds to create duplicates of up to twelve individuals by touch, one each. Each of these duplicates has any powers the original may have at half-strength, while Rounds himself gains half-strength versions of their powers as well (essentially splitting the target’s powers between himself and their duplicate). The duplicates are loyal to him, even if made out of supervillains, though they retain their original personality and can be quite hard to deal with even while being loyal. Destroying a duplicate also deprives Rounds of their associate powers. The exact time limit for how long each duplicate can last is unknown, though a time limit definitely does exist.
  • Drakaina: The original Drakaina was a gadgeteer who specialised in creating crude (by today’s standards) robots with limited ability to act independently. While not much is known about her, it is known that she gained her power after managing to build her very first robot, after many years of failures and disappointments. Her original, pre-manifestation creation is enshrined in the headquarters of the Drakainas and taking a trip to Toronto in order to visit said shrine and see the (officially) original gadget is considered something of a pilgrimage amongst Gadgeteers.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Files
  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Summer Special week 1

Semicoop

It’s the Semi Co-op summer special! The next three weeks will be a little different. Rachel reimagined three board game covers using the rule of the archetypical Eurogame box art rules. This all started when we came across this Reddit thread:”What is the most “eurogame” eurogame in your opinion?“.

For those who don’t know what a Eurogame is, a little explanation:

Eurogames or German-style games are games with low luck and low player conflict. Victory is, most of the time, achieved through gathering the most resources or point and not through direct combat. Think of games like Agricola or Catan, it’s all about building an engine that provides you with the right resource to grow the fastest. Games with a lot of dice rolling for shooting each other and random events tend to be called Ameritrash because this type of design used to be more prevalent in the U.S than in Europe. Think of games like Risk and Eldritch horror where winning can be decided by getting lucky on dice rolls.

An interesting historical reason for this difference in game design was the aversion against products that glorified violence in post-war Germany which resulted in the popularity of economic games. Because of the lack of explosions and big monsters in these games, the themes used to be things like trading in the Mediterranean (there is even a Dice Tower top 10 about this specific theme!) and the box art used to be kinda bland.

Luckily these two schools of game design have come together these past years creating new hybrid designs like Gloomhaven or Above and Below. Mixing the exciting themes and stories with solid designs that are powered by player decisions and not just random luck. This is great because we love some thematic flavor in our Engine builders and some strategic options in our dice filled luck-fests.

Enough of the board game history lesson! We’re off having adventures in the real world, we hope you have a great summer with some great games!

What do you think is the most boring board game box art ever?

The post Summer Special week 1 appeared first on Semi Co-op.

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 3

In My Daydreams

Frowning at the goo, I decided that Crawls-Through-Desert could clean it up and wondered how I’d make that stick. Meanwhile, Jaclyn had thought of something.

“Seven of us in one room? For a week? That’s going to be interesting and by interesting I mean, it’s going to be interesting if we’re still talking to each other by the end of it. But that’s not all, do we have food for a week?”

Marcus held up his hand. “I’ve got the one. Yes. We’ve got food. The ship’s got a machine that takes biological matter and converts it into food bars based on its profile for different species’ nutritional needs—“

Jaclyn’s eyes narrowed and she stared at Marcus. “Whoa. Wait a second. Where’s this biological matter coming from? Because there’s only one place I can think of where we’d get spare ‘biological matter’,” she glanced at the bathroom in the back, “and I don’t want to eat it.”

Tikki shook her head. “I wouldn’t worry very much. All the food systems that repurpose biological waste as food follow very strict guidelines so they’re perfectly safe. Well, except for ones the ones the Duguns use, but no one else uses those anyway. The Duguns evolved from carrion eaters after all.”

“No,” Jaclyn began.

Waving down Jaclyn’s objections with both hands, Marcus said, “It’s all real food. I bought it from the grocery store and everything. It’s normal stuff—meat, vegetables, spices… I even gave it recipes I liked—“

In a lower voice, she said, “What kind of recipes?”

“You know, normal stuff—pizza, hamburgers, pot roast, ribs… Plus stuff that Grandma makes. Plus food I like from the D’Onofrio side of the family—and that includes the restaurants. Awesome stuff. Oh yeah… And also some Indian, Thai, Korean, Vietamese and Mexican food because I like it. I tried for sushi too, but I’m not sure how well that worked.”

Marcus grinned. “Seriously. You’re going to like it.”

Cassie glanced over at him, raising an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say it made food bars? None of that stuff sounds like food bars.”

Jaclyn nodded along as she talked. “Exactly. Plus, what about breakfasts? You didn’t say anything about that.”

Marcus shrugged. “Breakfasts are in there. It’ll be fine, and yes, they’re all food bars, but trust me, you’re going to like them. I tried a few and they taste more like the meal than you’d ever expect. Plus, one more thing… We’ve got a couple months of food even with seven people. We’ve got this week covered.”

“Cool,” I said. “What happens when food gets low? It sounds like we’ll run out of ingredients eventually. Does it substitute stuff in?”

“Kinda,” Marcus said. “I read in the manual that there’s a point where it prioritizes nutrition over aesthetics. I think it still uses the spices though.”

“That’s right!” Tikki said. “I don’t know if all of you know it, but I was training to be life support engineer. They’re required by Alliance law to prioritize nutrition over taste because of some disturbing incidents early in Alliance history where the crews started eating each other when the food grew low.”

I thought about it. “I can see where that might be a problem in multi-species crews—“

“It was,” Tikki said. “There was a passenger ship early in Alliance history where they lost their engines and had to eat the beings that died to survive.”

Jaclyn stuck out her tongue. “Yuck. It sounds like the Donner party.”

Katuk looked from one of them to another. “What’s the Donner party?”

I said, “Travelers on our world got stuck in the mountains during the winter and ate their dead to survive.”

Katuk said, “Sensible. The dead no longer need their bodies and would have wished their companions to survive. It’s simply another way to serve.”

Cassie laughed. “Humans don’t see it that way. Most humans would be horrified to discover cannibalism.”

The Xiniti peered at her. “Certainly it would be wrong if the subject was killed to be eaten, but not if they were already dead and the living needed food.”

Jaclyn shook her head. “By our customs, it would be wrong either way. Sure people have done it, but only if they were desperate. Even then, they should have done something else.”

The ship notified me that we were near the gas giant and I extended the ship’s scoops and aimed for the gas giant. For the next hour, the ship gathered and processed water into fuel. Sometimes gas clouds would fill our view—the whole of the spaceship surrounded by a cloud.

Despite the clouds and the planet’s gravity, it didn’t take long to skim and process the fuel. The colonists’ ship did the same behind us and so we both were ready to jump as soon as we left its atmosphere.

“Last chance to go back to your ship,” I told Tikki. “Otherwise you’ll be stuck with us in one small cabin for a week.”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry about me. I’m having much more fun with all of you here. Everyone else is there with their family and I’m by myself, so I don’t know anyone there very well.”

“Okay, then,” I told her. “Remember that when you’re competing with the rest of us for the bathroom. You had a chance to avoid it.”

She laughed. “I’ll remember. Besides,” she stopped smiling, “even though my powers are limited, they’re active. The breeders try to be nice, but they’re still uncomfortable around me. Even sharing a bathroom is more comfortable than that.”

Not sure exactly what she meant, I nodded and brought the ship into near space. The colonists’ ship joined ours and the stars stretched as we flew away from the gas giant. When we had enough distance, I shifted us into jump drive, pulling the colonists’ ship along with us.

Once the gray, shadowy shapes of jumpspace appeared in the windows, I stepped out of my chair. We’d be here for five to nine days, depending on how well the assumptions I’d made matched the system we were heading for. However it worked out though, we were stuck here together for a while.

“Anybody want to play Monopoly?” I asked.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.c On Wings of Lead

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Malphas never set himself an alarm clock – he didn’t even own one, there was no need. As the day began, he felt his people wake and go about their morning routines, the vibrations of their increased movements propagating through the material he’d filled with his power, reaching him, the contrast to the relative calm of the night enough to wake him from his restless slumber.

He turned onto his side with a groan, the ground he lay on molding itself flawlessly, instinctually, to his body, far more comfortable than any bed could possibly be; people often thought that his room spartan, with few anemities other than his ever-growing collection of comic books and a single poster, but the truth was, furniture, even a bed, was superfluous – not when he could control the tenements at will, thanks to all the power he’d channeled into the material over the last two years, ever since he created their first incarnation. Even now, as he woke, the ground rose up, pushing him into an upright sitting position, then extended into a chair that was sitting on – once he wanted to rise, it’d be easier to do so from this position than from the ground.

Next, he reached out with his right arm, as a tendril of semi-liquid metal extended, handing him a cup of steaming hot coffee it’d brought from the communal kitchen, in his private metal cup-

The cup slipped through his non-existant fingers as a horrible, stinging pain shot through them, through his arms and into his shoulder.

He screamed, doubling over and off his chair, hitting the ground face-first as the pain – and the knowledge – of his missing limb took over his mind, not even noticing it as the ground melted to receive him, making it look like he’d dove into jelly, sinking in before he rose back up, curled up around the stump of his right arm.

For several minutes, he lay there in just a pair of ratty grey sweatpants, his slender, dark-skinned chest heaving, trying very hard not to hyperventilate – he’d done that a few times, the first few nights after Blauschwinge’s attack, passing out from the strain and the shock.

Fuck. Fucking fucking fucker, fuck you! he thought, as the memory of the arrogant, mad-eyed villain rose up. The contempuous snarl on his face as she grabbed Volca using his power to simply chop through her body, from shoulder to hip, with one hand, ripping her in two. Lag’s anguished cry, as she ran to her dying cousin, touching her, taking her wounds onto herself.

Taking her death unto herself.

Then, as if that wasn’t horrible enough, he’d flown out, dodging several spikes Malphas had shot his way, those he didn’t simply allow to splash harmlessly off his body, and then smashed his tenements with a single blast, warping and twisting them so violently, even his power hadn’t been able to counteract its brutal deformation, hadn’t been able to evacuate everyone in time before they were crushed, killed.

Never, not once, since he’d gained his power had he failed so thoroughly. It hurt more than losing his arm, in its own way, to have failed the people he’d sworn to protect.

Another lance of pain shot through the space where his arm should be, into the useless stump sticking out from his shoulder, making him bite down on another scream, silently thanking his foresight in sealing up his room, save for a pipe leading outside for air, before he went to sleep, so no one would hear his initial screams.

It took him almost ten minutes to recover enough that he could gather his wits about himself and rise up on shaky feet, using his power to wrap several tendrils around his waist and left shoulder, to steady himself. Another tendril had caught his falling cup earlier and now passed it to him.

Strange, I didn’t think of that, he noticed, his mind still numb from all the pain, almost moaning as the hot black liquid – he hated sweets, never developed a taste for them, and always took his coffee black – ran down his throat and soothed him, while also helping him wake up.

Gulping it down in one go, using his power to make the cup so smooth every last drop would run out, he dropped it, letting it melt back into the rest of the tenements.

Only after taking a few more breaths did he finally look at the stump. It’d been tied off, bandaged expertly, first by Aap Oordra, then later by the staff of the hospital which he and Volca had forced him to go to.

Not that he’d protested much, once the adrenaline had started to fade and the full magnitude of the pain made itself known.

Speaking of which, it was coming back again, so he popped some painkillers from a small can that rose out of the floor, then retreated back into it.

They wouldn’t kick in for a while, but just knowing that they would was already helping, putting his mind a little more at ease.

Taking some deep breaths, he slowly counted down from ten, took a look at his poster – it always lifted his spirits, ever since he’d hit puberty – then simply walked through the wall leading to the hallway outside his bedroom, stepping out fully armoured with metal drawn from it, making his way to the shower room on the top level, where he resided.

Behind him, the floor of his room overturned itself, drawing in the sweat and tears in, channeling them out of the tenements and into the drain, leaving no trace behind.

***

One thorough shower later, the eleven-year-old was clean and relatively fit again, as the painkillers slowly kicked in and he’d removed the last traces of his troubled sleep.

Not that he had long to enjoy it, thanks to his stomach immediately deciding to rumble loudly, announcing its need for food.

I haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday, he realised, startled, even as he felt relieved that he had the top level for himself and no one was around to hear it.

Seeing no pressing business to take care of, he dove through the floor, using his ability to feel all throughout the structure to avoid hitting any of the tenants that moved through the intervening levels. All of them were already quite used to him diving through the tenements in such a fashion, and no one even flinched.

Malphas tried very hard not to dwell on how much emptier the tenements were, compared to before the attack. Not only had he been unable to save eleven of his people, but several more had chosen to move out, scared off by the brutal attack, even though the attacker had been brought down almost immediately afterwards (though Malphas wasn’t sure whether he’d survived or not – that mercenary working for Aap Oordra had taken his body with him, saying he’d take care of everything). He’d told them that they were welcome to return at any time, and he hoped that they’d remember that the tenements were still the safest place to be in in the Undercity, but for now, he felt the absence of twenty-three of his own.

There were few things Malphas hated as much as losing his own.

Fortunately, just as his thoughts were about to turn to all the others he’d lost over the years, he reached the communal kitchen and mess hall that he’d built into this newest iteration of the tenements, while fixing the damage from Blauschwinge’s attack. It was bigger, now, extending all the way up to the roof of the plant above, and broader, the outer walls multi-layered, disconnected from each other while still being reinforced, hopefully making it more resistant against any similar attacks.

He’d taken the chance to add several upgrades that people had been asking for for a while now, including expanding the shared kitchenspace into a proper mess hall, with enough room to provide seats for as many people as could possibly fit into the tenements.

When he got there, he was instantly distracted from his gloomy thoughts as he saw an increasingly rare sight at the tenements, though this one was one he was unambigiously feeling good about.

Volca sat at a table near the actual kitchen, sipping coffee from a huge mug. She was wearing sweatpants and a blue sweater, and her hair was still wet and clinging to her head and neck.

The other tenants kept their distance, mostly moving around her table to get to the coffee machine behind the kitchen counter, and in general doing what they could not to offend her in any way. Ever since Lag’s death, she’d become increasingly irritable and violent, to the point where, during the first days, Malphas – himself still recovering from having lost his arm – had been forced to put her down a few times to prevent her from hurting others.

He’d just about started to consider locking her away for a while, or splitting a part of the tenements off to give her a space of her own, when Aap Oordra had shown up, out of the blue, and offered her and Malphas a job. It hadn’t taken much prodding for her to accept it, though Malphas himself had declined – he didn’t like the thought of being away from his tenements for too long.

She’d calmed down since then, with no more incidents that’d required his intervention, though that was at least partly because she spent less and less time down here, and partly because she was always so tired when she did.

Still, he worried, and he was also curious about things were going, so he decided to join her after getting his own meal.

When he walked to the counter, the cook, Marley, saw him and picked up the pot of coffee from the machine, letting it flow down onto the bare metal counter. A cup formed out of it, catching the glorious java, and a bowl as he simply dumped some stew onto it, already used to the routine.

“Thanks,” he said, his voice much deeper-sounding thanks to his helmet. The short, wiry man behind the counter just nodded (he was mute, as far as Malphas new), picking them up and walking over to Volca. “Mind if I join you?”

The young blonde looked up at him, taking a moment before she responded – not because she had to think it over much, he was sure, but simply because her brain was not quite as awake as the rest of her body, just yet – and nodded. “Sure thing. Your place anyway.”

He nodded back and sat down, his armour immediately fusing with the bench. He picked up the cup of coffee, the lower portion of his helmet folding open (he’d styled it to open kind of like that alien from that old Schwarzenegger movie) to let him drink.

Ah, coffee.

He noticed Volca staring rather intently at him, as he drank, and gave her a questioning look.

“Ah, sorry,” she said, averting her eyes and raising her mug to take a sip. “Just… I can still barely believe that you’re a freaking preteen. Never would’ve guessed.”

He felt his face heat up a bit. “Um, yeah. That’s why I always go around in full armour, you know? I need people to take me seriously, not see me as just a kid, so I can take care of everything.”

She snorted, almost laughing, putting her mug down and looking incredulously at him.

“What?” he asked, defensively. His helmet snapped shut again.

“Malphas, dude, you’re so far beyond being ‘just a kid’ it ain’t even funny anymore,” she replied, grinning at him over her steaming hot mug. “If there’s one thing you don’t need to worry about, it’s anyone ’round here not taking you seriously.” She looked him straight in the eyes, her gaze as intent as her words.

He looked down at his food, looking at his food rather than at her, feeling embarrased. “You think so?” he asked her, not really taking it all that seriously. He knew how adults were about that, treating children like they weren’t able to think properly or something. Like they couldn’t be trusted with anything.

It always annoyed him, seeing how the adults themselves couldn’t really be trusted with anything, ever. One look at the state of the world showed that.

Except for guys like Aap Oordra, he’d rarely met any adults who seemed all that better than kids at being smart. A lot were worse, in his experience, like Volca used to be.

“Yeah, I mean, dude, look around you,” she replied, seeming to wake up fully for the first time and leaning forward over the table even as she gestured at everything around them. “You built this. All of this. On your own. You’re taking care of dozens of people, all alone. You were, what, nine when you started it?”

“Ten,” he grumbled, annoyed. “I started this two years ago. Am almost twelve, now.”

“Yeah, I betya even Double-L and the Dark weren’t this badass at your age! And, and, I mean, dude, you lost an arm defending this place!” She almost shouted that last sentence, then suddenly became a lot calmer, sitting back again and averting her eyes. “The people here love you, Malphas. You don’t need to hide a thing from us, you know? No one who matters is gonna think less of you for being young.”

He had trouble believing that. Especially since it came from Volca, the same woman who thought it was a good idea to put chili powder into coffee and hot chocolate.

“I’ll, uh, I’ll think about that,” he replied. “So, uh, how’s work, anyway? I barely see you around here anymore.” She’d barely spent three nights in the tenements, since the night Lag died. Not that he couldn’t understand that, even disregarding her new job.

She groaned, slamming her head onto the table. “Don’t remind me. Aap’s a fucking slavedriver,” she said, muffled. “I don’t just have to work full-time, I also have to train. ‘Until you’re up to my minimum standards’ he says. ‘So I don’t have to worry you’ll get yourself killed by some random crook’ he says.”

“Uh, training? What kind of training?” he asked, surprised. He hadn’t heard about that.

“What kind of training? Easier to say what kind of training he’s not giving me!” she complained loudly, making several heads turn their way, though the other tenants still kept their distance, giving the two metahumans their room. “He’s having me study to get my GED, and to get a proper, legal license both for the job and as a cape. A cape, me! Plus combat training, and investigative training, and negotiation practice and it ain’t the normal stuff either, you know? I looked it up, the kinda stuff he makes me learn, even the cops’ special forces don’t do that much! I dunno who trained him, but it must’ve been a complete sadist! Today’s my day off from training – not work, just training – otherwise I’d be out jogging with a backpack full of rocks while getting quizzed on crime scene procedure. And his pop quizzes! Any time we’re not on the clock, he might attack me, out of the blue! To test whether I’ve been practicing all the reversals and tricks he’s teaching me! And he says we’re just getting started!”

Malphas couldn’t help but gulp, feeling glad that he’d dodged a bullet by refusing Aap’s job offer. Even though he’d been really, really eager to accept, if only to spend more time with him. Aap was freaking awesome. The coolest adult he’d ever met, ever.

Still, what Volca was telling him sounded like the proverbial training from hell.

“That… sounds a little extreme, yeah,” he agreed with her. “Does he, uh, what does he do, while you train?”

She shrugged, while remaining bent over, her head on the table. “Most of the time, he trains with me. Does all the stuff he makes me do. ‘cept when he takes on some extra work and is busy. Then he has Wa- I mean, Cartastrophy watch over it instead.”

“Well, at least je doesn’t make you do anything he ain’t willing to do himself, right?” he pressed.

She looked up, finally, looking annoyed, and waved it off. “Nah, he’s pretty cool ’bout that. He’s done it all when he was little, already, and he does it again with me. And he even pays me for the hours I spend training. Well, will pay me. Haven’t got my first paycheck yet, just a signing bonus.”

He tilted his head to the side. “A signing bonus? How much did he pay you?” he asked, curiously. If he’d understood it correctly, Aap had just returned from being some kind of prisoner of war – how much money could he already have, really?

“Ten k,” she said, grinning. “First time I made this much money the honest way and all at once. Or any way, really.”

His eyes nearly bugged out. “T-ten thou? Seriously? Where’s he get all that money!?” That may not have been all that much up top, but ten thousand dollar were one hell of a fortune down here.

She waved an arm. “Savings from before he went to war. Plus, he got money from the government. Basically, they paid him his salary as a non-com for every single day he spent as a PoW. And on top of that, bounty for turning the Ascendant in. Guy’s a freaking millionaire, not that he seems to care about it, ‘cept how it lets him set up his new business.”

Malphas jaw was hanging open in shock as he processed that. He knew Volca was gonna be making money now, real money, not the occasional take from some crime, but if that was just her signing bonus

“Ah, this reminds me,” she continued, laying her arm on the table and resting her chin on her hand, looking straight at him again. “You’re gettin’ some of that, too.”

“W-what?”

“The bounty, silly,” she grinned at him. “Aap’s insisting that everyone who helped with the fight at the water works gets a cut, ‘cept for that stoic mercenary he’d hired – he got paid already, or sumthin’.”

“Seriously? I, uh, I dunno what to say. How much am I gettin’?” he asked dumbly, not sure what else to say.

“Bounty was a few million. Got paid out to him and he’s giving us all an equal share, after taxes and all. That’s you, me, Cartastrophy and himself, so about, a little less than a mill each, once the money comes in.”

He felt the people move about in the tenements, going about their business, some leaving to get to whatever small jobs they had, or just to scavenge or do other stuff. Time passed.

Volca got up and went to get herself some beef barley soup, then came back, sitting down to eat. Time passed.

“You know, I’d say it’s funny seein’ ya look like a statue, but then I realised you always look like that, anyway,” she commented, when he’d still not said anything halfway into her meal.

“Uhhh…” He shook his head, trying to recover his wits again, then groaned when the jerky motion made pain shoot through his stump.

It wasn’t important, though, because, damn it, he’d never even seen that much money, nevermind had been told it would be his. And now Aap Oordra wanted to give him nearly a million dollars, when he’d basically taken down the Ascendant and his cronies all on his own?

“I, um, I really don’t know what to say,” he replied. “What, uh, what do I have to do to get the money?” he asked the only thing that came to mind, or at least the only one that wasn’t him just babbling incoherently.

“Just come with me to the office,” she replied between two spoonfuls of soup. “You can talk to Aap and get all the info.”

“Leave the tenements? But, I need to-” he began to protest, but she cut him off.

“Dude, it’s gonna be alright if you’re gone for just a morning or something,” she said, annoyed. “Besides, what do you think is gonna help this place more? You being here this mornin’, or you havin’ nine-hundred kay to throw around?”

He looked away, embarrassed. She was right, of course, but… leaving the tenements, his place of power behind… it wasn’t just that something might happen to people around here, it was, it wasn’t something he really felt comfortable doing. Ever. Even leaving them to go after the Ascendant, it had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done.

Volca finished her soup and got up. “So, you comin’? I got a schedule to keep, so I can’t hang around and wait, big guy.”

He looked at her, then he looked around at the other people in the mess hall. Most of them were focused on their food or their conversations, but a few noticed him looking at them and looked back, smiling and waving.

Everyone here was ragged, their clothes old, some of them handed down half a dozen or more times, within the tenements. Food was just a thin beef barley soup, water and coffee from a scavenged coffee machine they’d somehow fixed up, but which kept breaking, over and over again.

Forget nine hundred thousand, I could do so much for people around here with just nine hundred dollars, period.

That thought was what decided him, finally, and he stood up, nodding to her. “Alright, let’s go.”

***

“You know, I haven’t seen the sun in months?” he asked Volca, as they left the Undercity through an old, abandoned subway station, stepping out onto the open street and drawing no few looks. He’d left his armour behind, putting on some real clothes – well, more than just underpants and sweatpants – for the first time in a long time, and that alone was making him incredibly nervous, but even so, at his age, and with just one arm, he was drawing stares.

At least his sweater hid the bandages around the stump, so it wasn’t evident that it was a recent injury, and not just something he’d been born with or whatever.

He didn’t like it, feeling both pitied and exposed, two things he really did not want to feel.

“You should get out more,” she replied, walking ahead confidently, her hands in the pockets of her jeans. New jeans, not brand-name stuff, but still, new and well-fitting, and a stylish black sweater, her hair up in a messy ponytail, and just a touch of actual make-up on her face.

Maybe it wasn’t just him who was drawing stares. He’d never really thought about it, but walking with her now, out of costume and all, he couldn’t help but notice that she was really quite… attractive.

It was quite annoying really, ever since about two months ago, he’d been noticing girls more and more. The poster on the wall of his bedroom being Exhibit A of his newly awakened interest in the formerly icky half of the population.

At least most of the women living in the tenements – ‘cept for Lag and Volca, and now just Volca – weren’t all that pretty, so he hadn’t gotten tongue-tied or anything in front of people yet.

At least Volca was someone he’d known since before he’d started noticing girls, so he could talk to her normally.

“Maybe I should,” he told her, as they walked down the street. “The breeze feels nice.” It was a windy day in the Windy City, and it was really refreshing. It even made his stump throb less painfully.

All the noise around them wasn’t nearly so nice, though. The Undercity wasn’t exactly tranquil, but up here, it was a cacophony. Cars driving around, people walking, talking, shouting. Electronics, everywhere, beeping and screeching and more.

He focused on the way ahead, trying to shut the worst of it now, but it did distract him briefly, so he missed the first part of Volca’s next sentence.

“- sometime after the next months starts,” she said.

“Huh? Sorry, I got distracted, what’d you say?” he asked her, wishing he could look up at her face as they talked, but he didn’t have the tenements around him to feel where he was going, and know when he was about to walk into someone, so he was focusing on where he was going, moving much slower than usual and not just because his legs were shorter without his armour.

“I said I’ll probably be moving out once I get my cut of the bounty and my first paycheck,” Volca repeated.

He stopped dead, looking at her in shock. She moved on a few more steps, before she noticed that he’d stopped and turned around to look at him, looking confused, first, then sympathetic as she seemed to pick up on his mood.

“Y-you’re leaving?” he asked, dismayed. It wasn’t like he didn’t understand… the tenements were a place for people to hide out and rest, until they got their life back on track, and it was also the place where her cousin had died, and she was making money now, too, but…

But… he hated it when people left. No matter how good the reason.

She smiled sadly at him, moving closer and bending over as one of her hands slid to the back of his head, pulling him forward to touch her forehead to his.

“Hey, don’t be sad big guy,” she spoke softly. “I won’t disappear. I’ll still visit, and I’ll be helping out – you and the others down there, you did so much for me and Nina, there’s no way I could just abandon ya all. But I gotta find a place for myself, now that I can.”

He averted his eyes, even as he leaned against her, enjoying the gentle touch – a rarity, even when one discounted the fact that he was wrapped in several inches of steel most of the time. “I know. I’m sorry for being silly, it’s just…”

“You’re not being silly, big guy. Just… being you. And I freaking love you for that, you know?” She pulled back, then leaned in again, giving him a warm kiss on the forehead.

When she pulled back, the warmth stayed, spreading from his forehead through his head, and down towards his chest as he looked up at her. They were both a little teary-eyed.

“Thanks, Volca. And… congratulations, I guess. I should’ve said so sooner, but… I’m really glad you’ve found something like this.”

She laughed quietly. “Thank you, big guy, but really, that’s just thanks to Aap. I still dunno why he insisted on hirin’ me, it’s not like he can’t do everything I can do, just better, anyway. But I sure am grateful that he’s such a weirdo. Anyway, speaking of said weirdo, he’s gonna put me through hell if I’m late, so let’s get a move on!” She ran her hand through his close-cropped hair, then turned around and walked on.

He stared after her for a few moments, then he gave a start, and followed her.

***

They reached her new jobplace soon. It stood near the Downtown area of Chicago, though Malphas didn’t know enough about the upper city to identify the precise location. There were a lot of shops around, but also a few apartment buildings, plus a homely little park with a playground.

The building Aap’s business was in must have once been a bar or something. Only two storeys tall, it was made of red bricks, with a solid wooden double-door that a short flight of stairs led up to and stained-glass windows.

What stood out the most, though, was the sign above it. A circular carving of a monkey wearing one of those Sherlock-Holmes hats, holding a magnifying glass and a baton, and next to it, in bright golden letters, the words ‘Blue Monkey Investigative and Protective Services’.

He was just about to ask Volca what those weird hats were called, when the door opened and the absolutely prettiest girl he’d ever seen walked out.

She was tall, taller than Volca even though she was clearly at least a year or two younger, with chocolate-coloured, unblemished skin that didn’t match her more white-ish facial features, but strangely complemented them, and bright, gorgeous purple eyes, as well as rich brown-black hair currently up in a braided bun. Wearing black tights, calf-high boots, a skirt and a pink keyhole sweater, she drew the attention of every guy on the street with a line of sight towards her.

“Oh, Hennessy,” Volca greeted her with a chargrined smirk. “Looking good as ever, but shouldn’t you be in school?”

The gorgeous girl rolled her eyes at Volca, but didn’t reply, instead looking at Malphas and giving him a gentle smile that made his knees weak.

Holy shit… How the fuck could girls be so distracting without even talking?

Then another person stepped out of the door, turning around with the same motion as she seemed to be talking to someone inside.

“-dare forget it, or I’ll make your life hell!” she shouted, sounding angry in a cheery kind of way, before she turned around.

She was a freaking goddess. Even prettier than the purple-eyed girl, and that was saying a lot, her skin was as pale as her friend’s – at least, they seemed to be friends, as she stepped forward and took the other girl’s hand with hers – was dark, her hair a rich golden colour and her eyes a mesmerising green-blue, like liquid jewels. She was wearing jeans so tight they seemed painted on, high-heeled boots that made her as tall as the other girl and a complementary blue sweater with a keyhole cut out and she was even more stacked than her friend.

Some part of Malphas mind was realising that he was staring at her with his mouth hanging open, but most of it was just endlessly repeating blue screen.

“Oh, hello Evelyn,” the blonde goddess – or was angel more appropriate? – greeted Volca, before she focused on him. “Oh, and who’s this cutie?” She grinned, walking down the steps, her friend following after her as she came to a halt in front of him and bending over to put herself at eye-level with him. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

He tried very, very, very hard not to stare at her breasts, which weren’t really hidden all that much from view in this position. He really, really tried.

“Uhh… ahhh…” he replied dumbly, really wishing he had his armour – then at least he could seal his helmet and not seem like a complete idiot. “Um, my name, uh, it’s, uh…” What was his name again?

“God, Camille, lay it off with the charm,” Volca complained.

The angel rolled her eyes, laughing before she focused on him again. “I’m not doing anything to him, silly. Just being friendly.”

He finally tore his eyes off her, her cleavage, and looked up at her face, gathering his wits for his reply. “Um, I, my name, my name’s Adrian, m-m-miss.” He gulped, trying to somehow wet his dry throat.

“Hello Adrian. My name’s Camille,” she replied, her voice as melodic as her body was gorgeous, and stood up – mercifully – offering him her left hand to shake.

He took it, shaking it. “A, a, a pleasure to meet you, miss,” he said.

“Likewise. And this is Hennessy,” she introduced her gorgeous friend. They shook hands, too, as he felt a wave of calmness come over him, helping him relax and gather his wits again.

“Nice to meet you too, miss,” he said, though she didn’t reply. Not that he cared, he was still mostly focused on the other girl.

Suddenly, Volca spoke up. “Hey, do you two have some time free?”

The girls looked at her, then at each other, then at her again. “Sure we do, why?” Camille asked curiously.

“Well, I got work to get to, and I thought, maybe you’d like to show Adrian around the place a bit, and stuff?” Volca suggested.

He whirled his head, staring at her in surprise, but she ignored him entirely, focusing on the two younger girls instead.

Camille grinned, looking at him again, and he felt his face flush with heat. Even more when her eyes briefly dipped to the stump of his arm, then up to his face again, with just a hint of pity in them – though it didn’t bother him at all right now. “Sure! We can hang out a bit, maybe grab a bite to eat?”

“Sounds great,” Volca said. “Ok, Adrian, you have a fun time and we can take care of business later, you ok with that?”

“Uh, ah, um, ahhhh.”

She nodded sagely. “I knew you’d agree. Have fun you three!” She waved at him, and walked past the girls into the building.

He stared after her, for a moment, feeling both bewildered and a little bit betrayed, before he turned his eyes back to the an- Camille.

She grinned at him, like… he didn’t know what to compare it to, it was too dazzling.

Instead of pressing the point, she held out her free hand for him. “C’mon, sweetie, let’s go have some fun!”

He took her hand, unable to form words, and let her pull him along, he on one side and Hennessy on another.

He didn’t even notice that his arm wasn’t hurting at all anymore.

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters, Donation Bonus Tagged: Chayot, Dearheart, Malphas, Volca
  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 2

In My Daydreams

No one waited for us when we came out of blink space this time. On the other hand, bearing in mind that we weren’t using the jumpgate system anyway, I didn’t feel the need to follow the standard paths through space.

I’d taken advantage of our speed in jump space to allow us to blink in a spot that allowed us options that jumpgates didn’t because they were still too close to planetary gravity wells.

We came out in system 2411 within Edge sector. The numbers instead of a name meant that it had no populated worlds and hadn’t ever had populated worlds during any recent civilization.

What it had was two stars, three gas giants, and an assortment of lifeless worlds. The gas giants were the best part because we needed fuel after that jump and we could skim water off of any of the gas giants. Then we’d only have one jump to go before we reached the colony.

I aimed the ship toward the nearest gas giant, notifying the colonists what I was doing, and let go of my awareness of the ship, setting it to notify me if anything important changed. Snapping back to reality as opposed to a virtual world where I was the ship, I first became conscious of the smells—human sweat, dirt, and something else.

I swung my chair around, noting that Cassie had taken the weapons and shields console next to me in the front. She hadn’t done that before, but that wasn’t the only detail I’d missed. I’d known that Cassie and Jaclyn had brought Katuk, but with everything I’d barely had time to say anything to him.

He looked like any other Xiniti—humanoid but with gray skin, a large, bald head, and wide, black eyes. He wore a silver, form fitting suit made of liquid metal that by all accounts contained powerful weapons.

Another thing I hadn’t noticed? That the plant’s pot was three feet wide and that the plant itself was almost as tall as I was. It had placed its pot next to the wall, but now it floated into the middle of the room with the rest of us.

Tikki sat next to Jaclyn. They’d been talking as I turned. Close to them, Marcus put a sketchbook and a pen back into his bag and looked over at me. “We lost them, right?”

“I think so,” I said.

Cassie shook her head, eyes watching something we couldn’t see. “We lost them. There’s nothing on the sensors. Plus, I checked with the AI. Hal says that if they’d followed us, we’d have seen them by now.”

Then she shook her head and blinked, seeing us instead of stars. “Those implants are amazing. I get the same level of integration with the ship that I get with the gun.”

Katuk spoke in English, his voice so quiet that I wondered if Xiniti ever spoke aloud among themselves. It didn’t matter though. My implant amplified the words in my head.

“We’ve had implants for more than seven hundred years,” he said, not meeting any of our eyes. “We’ve modified our bodies to work better with them than without them. I’ve received additional implants that would rip you apart without severe modifications that we’ve worked into our DNA.”

I flashed back, remembering the Xiniti we’d fought. He’d been a terror. It had mostly been speed, but the way it cut into Bloodmaiden’s armor back then argued for strength too.

Jaclyn nodded. “I can believe it. The Xiniti we fought moved fast. Normal humans can’t handle that much speed.”

Katuk did look up as she talked about the Xiniti we’d fought, but lowered his eyes when she stopped. Interesting. I could see how he might be curious.

“So,” Jaclyn continued, “you’ve been plotting the route. What’s next?”

I smiled a little. “It’s the last jump. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it actually has to be a jump. We’ve been using blinks and they take basically no time at all. I mean, a minute is pretty close to instantaneous when it comes to interstellar distances. The problem is that jumps are a week long for the people inside the spaceship. It’s not always a week, but it’s go between five and nine days, so roughly a week.”

Marcus laughed. “A week? Why?”

I shrugged. “It’s complicated, but basically it’s due to gravity. There are too many heavy things in this system to go into blink space and that’s true of all the systems in this area. They’re all a little too dense.”

Crawls-Through-Desert grunted (according to the translator) and said, “I’m going to go dormant. Don’t chew on my leaves.”

Then it floated back toward the wall and began to excrete some kind of sticky goo from its leaves that stuck the pot to the wall.

Someone was going to have to clean that up, and I had a bad feeling that it would be me.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Mega Civilization, 12 horas creando culturas

Crying Grumpies

MegaCivilization-ElLocal-PArtida-CryingGrumpies-TheGrumpyShop-1

 

Este fin de semana usamos la máquina del tiempo que son los juegos de mesa para revivir y cambiar los albores de nuestra historia. Después de casi un mes de planificación para conseguir juntar suficientes jugadores sacamos a mesa el Mega Civilization. En mi caso nunca había jugado al juego clásico así que no podré compararlo con anteriores ediciones.

MegaCivilization-ElLocal-PArtida-CryingGrumpies-TheGrumpyShop-2

Lo primero es sacarnos de encima los detalles técnicos del juego. El MegaCivi es una nueva versión del clásico publicado por Avalon Hill en 1980 y diseñado por Francis Tresham y Mike Uhl. De esta nueva edición se responsabilizan Flo de Haas y John Rodriguez, esta publicado por 999 Games y Pegasus Spiele en el año 2015. El juego admite entre cinco y dieciocho jugadores y es uno de esos juegos en los que mejor quedas por la mañana sin nada que hacer hasta la tarde. Los componentes del juego están a la altura de la edición de lujo que es.

Cada uno de los jugadores va a comandar una civilización antigua a través de las eras con el objetivo de ser el que más puntos de victoria acumule cuando una civilización alcance la edad de Bronce. Las reglas del juego son bastante sencillas. Cada turno duplicas las unidades que tienes en mesa, te mueves, construyes ciudades y acumulas recursos que podrás intercambiar con otros jugadores para conseguir capital suficiente para comprar mejoras para tu civilización. Repetir hasta que alguien llegue hasta el final del track de avances de civilización, momento en que la partida termina y se contarán puntos de victoria. En el caso de que se produzca algún combate entre jugadores o NPC todo se resuelve forma muy elegante mediante la eliminación de tokens, uno por jugador empezando por el jugador con menos unidades en el espacio.

MegaCivilization-ElLocal-PArtida-CryingGrumpies-TheGrumpyShop-3

El verdadero meollo del juego es la fase de comercio y las calamidades. Los recursos están separados en nueve barajas numeradas, a mayor valor mejores recursos contienen. Se obtiene un recurso por ciudad que se controla de la siguiente forma, una ciudad una carta de la baraja uno, dos ciudades, una carta de la baraja uno y una carta de la dos, y así hasta nueve. Dentro de estas barajas hay dos o tres tipos de recursos, según número de jugadores, y dos cartas de calamidad. Las cartas de calamidad como os debéis imaginar son cartas que te hacen perder unidades y ciudades de diversas formas y pueden ser cambiables o no cambiables. Las cartas de recursos tienen diferente valor en función de la cantidad de ellas que tengas del mismo tipo. Una carta de acero vale dos si no recuerdo mal pero dos valen ocho. Durante la fase de comercio los jugadores pueden intercambiar paquetes de como mínimo tres cartas pero solamente dos de las que has negociado tienen que ser reales. Por ejemplo yo te puedo decir que te doy dos pescados y un acero y darte un pescado, un acero y una calamidad. Esta es la principal vía para deshacerte de las calamidades que te caigan pero solo puedes hacerlo con las que puedes intercambiar.

Y aquí llegamos a uno de los principales peros del juego que son las calamidades y su aleatoriedad. En mi caso a cuando la partida se estaba decidiendo, últimos tres turnos robe cuatro de ellas y pase de estar en posición para ganar a no tener opciones para ello. Y en mi caso   ocurrió casi al final de la partida, a Calamar le costo tres horas salir del pozo en que le metieron después de comer y Arqueo paso las cuatro últimas horas de partida sin poder hacer nada. Entiendo que esta mecánica está para que nadie se desmarque demasiado pero perder una partida porque el juego te ha echado no es lo mismo que perderla por equivocarte en el momento crucial.

MegaCivilization-ElLocal-PArtida-CryingGrumpies-TheGrumpyShop-5

Volveré a jugar al Mega Civilization, sin duda pero también es cierto que se me quedo un poco corto y la decepción de mis últimos turnos no ayuda. Creo que es un juego demasiado largo, en el que me pase 10 horas realizando una vez tras otra las mismas acciones. Creo que el juego a cuatro o cinco horas mejoraría un montón y no se perdería mucho, y sobre la repetición de mis acciones tengo la sospecha que se debió a mi situación de salida en las islas del mar Egeo, la peor de todas y que no permite un juego de expansión agresiva.


  • open
  • next
EPU - What's New

UF/GA: The Vocaloid Variations: The Mother of Invention

EPU - What's New
Earth, 2052. One pair of traveling musicians, caught on the wrong continent at the wrong time, could really use a break from the monotonous grind of the mid-21st century's slow-motion apocalypse.. and they're about to get it, but not in a way they could have anticipated. Here is The Vocaloid Variations: The Mother of Invention! 2017/07/25
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Los mejores trailers de la Comic-Con 2017

Crying Grumpies
image

La Comic-Con 2017 de San Diego nos ha dejadu un buen puñado de interesantes trailers. Aquí juntamos los que más nos han gustado/interesado para que no tengáis que hacer ni el esfuerzo de buscarlos.


Stranger Things (Season 2)

¡Vuelven los chicos de Hawkins para Halloween! Si os gustaron las referencias y el espíritu espíritu ochentero de la primera temporada, este tráiler a ritmo de Thriller os va a encantar.

Star Trek: Discovery

El espacio: la última frontera. Estos son los viajes de la nave estelar «Enterprise», en una misión que durará no-sabemos-cuantos años, dedicada a la exploración de mundos desconocidos, al descubrimiento de nuevas vidas y nuevas civilizaciones, hasta alcanzar lugares donde nadie ha podido llegar. Vamos, lo mismo, más nuevo y, esperemos, mejor.

The Defenders

Puede que los superhéroes de Netflix sean unos borrachos, medio locos o delincuentes, pero son superhéroes, al fin y al cabo. Aunque no quieran montar un supergrupo, van a acabar luchando juntos por el bien de su ciudad. Ojo a Sigourney Weaver que como mala promete, ¡y mucho!

Westworld (Season 2)

La primera temporada fue el estreno más importante del 2016. El trailer de la segunda temporada nos deja algo bien claro: los androides tienen que empezar a ser ellos mismos.

Inhumans

El fracasado proyecto de película sobre los Inhumanos de Marvel ha acabado siendo la nueva gran apuesta de la ABC. Este trailer final tiene mejor pinta que el primero, aunque no se si eso es decir mucho.

The Flash (Season 4)

Es complicado comentar el trailer de una cuarta temporada sin hacer spoilers, así que simplemente dejaré el enlace aquí para que los que sigáis este divertimento, con Barry Allen como protagonista, podáis echar un vistazo rápido a sus nuevas aventuras.

The Gifted

Una nueva serie sobre mutantes. Trás los pasos de Legion, The Gifted se aparta de las películas sobre X-MEN para crear su propio espacio. El piloto está dirigido por Bryan Singer. Imprescindible.

Kingsman: The Golden circle

Los sastres “Jamesbonianos” de Mark Millar se internacionalizan. Tras el exitazo de la primera película, era imposible no estirar el chicle y tener una secuela. No sabemos si el film estará a la altura, pero el trailer sí.

Ready Player One

Aquí no hablamos tan sólo de la adaptación de la fantástica novela homónima, sino que este film va a cargo de Steven Spielberg. Si necesitáis algo más para hypearos es que sóis de piedra.

Justice League

Sigue sin convencer el universo cinematográfico de DC, prueba de ello son los rumores de que ese Flashpoint, que veremos en la peli de The Flash, puede cambiar absolutamente por completo el tono de los films. Por el momento tenemos un nuevo avance de la Liga de la Justícia que, gracias a Cthulhu, parece ir más en la línea de Wonder Woman que de Batman v Superman.

Lego NinjaGo

Todas las pelis de Lego molan. Esto es así. Nueva franquicia a llevar al cine, nuevas risas y nuevo éxito asegurado.

Thor: Ragnarok

Mi trailer preferido de la Comic-Con de este año. Podrían haberle llamado “Guardianes de Asgard: Cara B”, aunque no es una cosa que moleste, más bien al contrario. La música de Magic Sword pone los pelos de punta.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Los que quedamos enamorados con la primera entrega de Pacific Rim nos llevamos un chasco al saber que Guillermo del Toro no dirigirá el segundo film, pero este anuncio de reclutamiento nos ha devuelto a las filas de los creyentes. ¡Larga vida a los Jaeger!


  • open
  • next
Semicoop

Cardboard Kennel

Semicoop

For some of you it might be time for the summer holiday! We will be leaving shortly which leaves us with a bit of a conundrum what we can create on such short notice. But we’ll surely be bringing some games to pass the time between the beautiful views and being stuck in a tent because of rainy days.

But being on vacation also means time away from the game collection which is a shame! We’ve started with our Near and Far campaign and are having a blast so far! Ryan and his crew have really delivered an immersive world full of super cool things and interesting choices. The game does come with lots of different components which is why we decided to create a laser cut insert with a very swanky character tray.

Een bericht gedeeld door Semi Co-op (@semicoop) op 22 Jul 2017 om 3:11 PDT

Speaking of people doing cool things for board games, this week there are three worthy causes for your money. First up is the campaign for the second African board gaming convention. Board game designer Kenechukwu Ogbuagu is raising money online so attendance can be free for visitors, promoting board gaming in Nigeria. We think this is a very cool way of organizing and funding a convention, so we wish him the best of luck and the visitors the greatest of times!

On the internet side of our hobby, Shut up and Sit Down and Rodney from Watch It Played are both doing campaigns to continue their work getting people excited about playing games! We’ve featured both in our comics and we’re long time fans, so we hope they keep doing the cool things that they do.

Spreading the joys of board games can also be done by lending games to friends and people (you trust not to bend cards). We currently have three games left by friends and will lend people games they want to try or play some more in their own time. While three games doesn’t quite make a board game kennel we do love taking care of other peoples games :).

How often do you borrow or lend games?

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

  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

Between: Part 1

In My Daydreams

Excerpts From the Interstellar News Network:

New Developments in the Issakass War
The Issakass First Fleet that had been attacking the Hardor Imperium appears to be in disarray following the destruction of its flagship. The flagship had been directing an attack on Hardor Prime when it turned and rammed another battleship of its own fleet.

At approximately the same time, the ships of the Issakass fleet began to fire upon themselves, resulting in losing 50% of their fleet before they managed to withdraw and turn off their weapons.

When the flagship was boarded after the battle, Hardor forces discovered that the command staff of the Issakass flagship had been killed with bladed weapons, in some cases beheaded. Laser scoring from within the bridge indicates the personnel were aware of the attacker, but unable to stop the being.

Additional inspection of the flagship’s computer systems indicate that it had released an update to the fleet’s friend or foe recognition database that misidentified Issakass ships as hostile vessels. It’s believed the fleet’s automated weapons’ use of that database caused the fleet to fire upon itself.

Until four years ago, the Issakass were best known for their merchant ships which could be found throughout the galaxy. Armed with devastating weapons whose designs are based on technology recovered from archeological sites, the reptilian Issakass are now engaged in a war of conquest that includes nearly sixty systems and more than five fronts… (More)

Traveler Advisory: The Border with Human Space
Travel within human space is restricted due to the violent and dangerous nature of the inhabitants, but those who must travel within its boundaries should use Xiniti patrolled jump gates. Of particular note is the Precursor archeological site in System 5151 of the Human Quarantine.

More than fifty ships have disappeared while investigating the site. Thirty of the fifty were armed…(More)

Human Ascendancy’s Fleet on the Move
A naval task force from the Human Ascendancy, humanity’s oldest and most aggressive post-Abominator nation has been seen on the border of Alliance and Human Quarantine space.

Reports indicate that they may be traveling toward the K’Tepolu system…(More)

* * *

We came out of blink space into the H’spar system with not one, but two ships behind us. One ship would have made sense. The colonists’ ship (named—I’m not kidding—The Bug’s Revenge), a bulky and slow design usually used for cargo, lumbered after us. Behind it, however, flew a much smaller ship. I knew the wedge shape. It was a Stinger class deep space fighter, a ship used throughout the galaxy.

The Human Ascendancy assigned them to government agents that needed to travel through hostile systems, a phrase that accurately described most systems in human space—even within the Human Ascendancy.

It hailed us. “Bug’s Revenge and Xiniti ship surrender. You can’t outrun us or out fight us. Your only hope is to stand down and appeal to our mercy. Breeders, your escape was an impressive feat that only makes your gene lines worth more, not less. Come back now and your indiscretion will be forgiven. Resist and we’ll destroy you despite your value.”

The Bug’s Revenge broadcast a woman’s voice. “Ascendancy ship. Thanks for your offer but we’re not stopping. We don’t want to go home and breed warriors for the military.”

Turrets (at least five) popped out of the Bug’s Revenge’s skin and that hull glowed. Interesting. It wasn’t like my ship’s shields, but they had shields too. It appeared that theirs had been integrated into the hull.

The Stinger fighter took the pointed invitation to leave and zagged toward the right.

It would be nice to say that all our problems were solved and we continued peacefully on to the next jump gate, but that wouldn’t have been true.

What actually happened is that I used my implants and extended my thoughts in the direction the ship had turned, seeing one thing I’d expected and many things I didn’t. What I expected to see was the gas giant H’spar and the four populated ice worlds that orbited it. What I did not expect to see was a Human Ascendancy carrier cruiser. It was launching fighters.

Even with The Bug’s Revenge’s unexpected fitness for fighting, we didn’t have a chance and I knew it. That, of course, made it all the more irritating when the ship’s AI started communicating with me.

[I’ve run several thousand simulations and you don’t successfully fight your way across the system to the next jump gate in any of them.]

“I guessed,” I told it.

[I’d recommend a strategic withdrawal.]

“In process,” I said and opened communications with the colonists’ ship.

“Start your near space drive and follow us,” I told the captain.

“That won’t do any good,” he said. “We won’t reach the next system for years with a near space drive and they’ve probably mined near space around the system’s second jump gate.”

“Have you ever followed another ship through jump? Follow us and make sure your FTL envelope matches ours. Ours will change twice, once to jump and once to blink.”

“That’s impossible for a ship your size,” he said, his voice growing louder.

“It’s not,” I said, and transitioned the ship into near space. The Bug’s Revenge followed. The lack of other options had made me more persuasive than normal.

We passed through jump space into blink space and out into normal space with the colonists’ ship behind us, and one less secret.

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.b Chickenleg(s)

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Radost Extreme Security Prison, somewhere along the Arctic Border of Siberia
A few months ago

Radost prison was widely considered to be the least joyful place on Earth, even more so than the infamous Nporpecc towns that had dotted the Siberian districts for over almost two decades. Abuse, mutilation and brutal deaths had merely been a near-certainty in those, not an absolute one, like in Radost.

Radost was, after all, not merely a prison, even if that was in its name. Yes, it was primarily one, and one meant for the worst of the worst. It was where the Red Council sent those captured metahumans whom they were unable to break and indoctrinate into their purpose, yet were too valuable (or too difficult) to simply execute.

That alone, however, was not the only reason it was so reviled a place, nor why it was more heavily defended than the seat of the American President himself. An entire army battalion was stationed here on permanent duty, at triple rationing both for the soldiers themselves and their families back home, to keep the men happy in spite of the horrible weather, the depressing, often horrifying duty and the constant danger of both prisoners breaking out and people from the outside trying to break in. The ground level of the prison was fully equipped to serve as a major military base.

The battalion was one of the best-equipped in all of the Sovjet Union, including the newest advances in military technology – even some precious gadgets, up to and including a half-strength company using power armour – and an entire company of metahumans. Rather than the proper command structure, there was an actual general in charge of the base, aided by two members of the Politbüro, allowing him to call in reinforcements as needed, without having need to explain himself before the fact, up to and including airstrikes and even, in the most extreme situations, a tactical nuclear strike.

There were, in fact, three nuclear warheads stored on site, spread throughout the underground complex beneath the military base, to act as a fail-safe in case of the outer defenses being defeated, or an irrecoverable uprising of the captives.

Radost had not always been so heavily defended; much of its security, including the option of said nuclear strike, had been added in during the late nineties, after a certain metahuman came to national attention. In fact, much of the paranoia surrounding the prison there was one particular person that they had feared would eventually try to break in, considering the bounty waiting inside.

Another reason was that it was also one of the biggest sites for human experimentation in the world, the men and women working in its laboratories having been charged by the Red Council to unravel the mysteries of metahumanity, so that it may be fully twisted to the council’s purpose. Though a truly daunting task, it was well-aided by their blanket permission to experiment upon the captives of Radost at will.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these scientists were mostly in favour of triggering the fail-safe in case their victims ever broke out.

Even less surprising was the fact that General Vlasiy Lagounov, who’d been in charge of this god-forsaken place for the last five years, did not relish being the first of its wardens to fail so thoroughly that it would become necessary to do so. Putting aside the fact that it’d almost certainly ruin his career, which he’d planned out many years ago and which involved working his way up the command chain of the military until he could land a cushy job in the Ministry of War, he was also spectacularly unlikely to survive it, seeing how he was just a normal human – no nepravil’nyy narod was allowed to hold the rank of even the lowest of commissioned officers, much less a full general – so he’d always planned to defeat any assault upon Radost, in case it ever happened (it never had, before), by way of overwhelming force, superior tactics and the plain fact that no one who could bring as many metahumans to bear in a battle as he did could penetrate so deeply into SU space without causing all their espers to go crazy and see it coming a week away at the least.

Of course, there was the matter of said one threat that had originally caused the security arrangements to become so insanely enhanced…

“Ba-ba, babababaaa-ba, ba-ba-baba,” a sweet voice sang, barely audible through the heavily re-inforced tungsten doors.

That she was audible at all was already a reason to panic, and Vlasiy had to use all of his self-control not to start shaking all over, as he ordered his remaining men to draw up a defensive line.

Half an hour, he thought bitterly, disbelieving, as he watched his remaining men – three of the folk, thirty-three proper warriors and two of the researchers – draw up a line, taking cover behind hastily errected walls, formed out of the very tungsten that the entirety of the room was made of via one of the metahuman asset’s power.

They’d been forced to retreat into the deepest, darkest portion of Radost, which was named, appropriately enough, Koschei’s Chest. The entire section, an underground building as large as the Kreml, was made out of a single, solid piece of tungsten, shaped via powers, to hold Radost’s most dangerous prisoners. It hung, suspended by magnetic engines, in the centre of a vast underground cavern, the walls of the cave dotted with countless weapons that faced inwards, as well as one of the fail-safe’s nukes, dedicated solely to the task of, not destroying the chest, but collapsing the cavern on top of it, in the hopes of burying those held within. Currently, only two of the eight available cells were occupied, one holding an American prisoner of war, and the other…

Vlasiy shuddered, preferring not to think about the other one. He hoped that the rebels would at least show enough sense to not set that one free.

Just being there, in the hub room that lead to all of the cells, made him shudder, even though he tried his very best not to look towards the solid wall of heavy metal beyond which he was sealed away (there were no doors into the cells of the chest, one needed to have access to the right kind of superpowers to access them, if they could even disable all the defenses installed to prevent just that).

“Baaaaa-ba, baba-baa, ba, ba, baba, baaaaaa-ba…”

The singing – if it could be called that – became louder, coming closer, making the men shudder and raise their weapons – all of them, enhanced, weapons built by one of the three assets still with him, rifles with special ammunition, each shot capable of punching through a tank’s armor and out the other side, front to back. Weapons that, even with their near-limitless resources, they could only have a score of at hand at any time, due to the effort that their creator had to invest in maintaining them and producing the proper ammunition. The ones who didn’t have such weapons had lesser gadgets to use.

Fat load of good it did us so far, Vlasiy thought as he stood in the third row of tungsten cover, behind two rows of soldiers and assets, holding his own gun – made by one of the assets, as well, to his distaste – in one tightly clenched hand, while the other held a cylindrical object, a detonator to set off the fail-safe, which he’d already armed, as per regulation, when the attack on the base above had begun – though he kept its cap on for now, not that that would slow him down much, it could be flipped open with a twitch of his thumb to reach the button underneath. He was gripping it so tight his knuckles had turned white.

As there was nothing more he could do, for now, but wait and see what she would do next, he looked at his assets, feeling ill at ease – the rebellion was led by more of the wrong folk and only one of the three had been properly conditioned, the others being ostensibly loyal enough to the Union to be stationed even here.

The one who’d built his gun was a woman, a slight one, one of the Joyous Folk. Thin, with pale skin that rarely saw the sun and short, stringy blonde hair. She stood there in a simple smock that reached down to her shins, her feet bare underneath, stained with grease and who knew what else, as were her bare hands up to her elbows. Her only other item of clothing was a metallic collar around her thin neck. She held her head lowered, her brown eyes focused on a spot somewhere on the ground. Number two-four-four-nine, she’d broken under the strain of the conditioning and needed commands even for such basic actions as swallowing the food she’d just chewed, showing only the barest amount of initiative where the use of her power was concerned, building ever new weapons that were either used in Radost or shipped out to be used in other places. Of the three Folk, she was the only one he didn’t worry about. A single command of his was all it would take to make her choke herself to unconsciousness (he’d had her do it before, both to test her conditioning and to amuse himself), or pick up a gun and shoot herself in the head.

The other two were more problematic, being still in command of their own will, an absurdity, if a necessary one, as broken dolls made for horrible soldiers. Sergeant Petrov, a tall, broad-shouldered man with blonde hair and muddy blue eyes, wearing a proper uniform with a black armband bearing the crest of the wrong folk who served in the military, a simple red circle with a black hammer and circle in it. He was the one who’d reshaped the walls and floor into cover, as well as reinforced the door keeping (hopefully) their adversary out by merging it and the wall and floor into one solid piece. Unfortunately, his power only had a rather short range and so he couldn’t act outside of this room any more than anyone else in here could.

Vlasiy always felt a measure of regret when thinking about Petrov (which wasn’t even the man’s real name), as the man would have made an amazing soldier, had he only not become one of the folk. Upstanding, steadfast, loyal, efficient. He didn’t just look like the model soldier, he acted it. Still, he was folk and so Vlasiy did not trust him, as regretful as he felt about it.

The other, Sergeant Utkin, was a study in contrasts with Petrov; short, hairy, slender, he barely filled out his uniform. His face had heavy jowls, a hooked nose and thin lips and his personality was as unpleasant to deal with as he was unpleasant to look at. But he was powerful, having the ability to repel any other folk’s power, potentially even reversing it back upon themselves. Such an ability should have made him a prime candidate for the Foremen, but he’d been deemed too unsightly and too unreliable in combat, being often too slow and too cowardly to serve well. Thus his posting in Radost, where all of the inmates had powers of their own, and where he could serve well. Frankly, he disgusted Vlasiy more than almost any other folk he’d ever met, but he couldn’t deny the man’s usefulness, especially now, in the wake of the enemy approaching.

His eyes moved on, over the rows of proper soldiers he had with him. They were good men, well-trained men, loyal men, loyal to him, to the army, to the Council.

“Baaaaaaaaa-ba, ba-ba, ba, ba… ba-ba, yaaaaaaa…”

There was almost no way it would be enough, not facing one of the worst internal enemies the Sovjet Union had ever had to deal with.

But he’d be damned if he was going to be the first warden of Radost to fail.

“General,” Petrov spoke up calmly, suddenly, turning to face Vlasiy. “With all due respect, perhaps we should entertain the-“

“Babababababa-baba yaaaaaaaa-gaaaaa!”

Vlasiy barely had time to cry out as something shot through the solid former door, ignoring the reinforced material and the further protections installed in order to discourage just that.

He saw something akin to a ghost, a vaguely humanoid outline, transparent, silvery-grey, rush forward, trailed by a stream of after-images, moving faster than he could even hope to raise his gun, running straight through the hailstorm of bullets, lasers and plasma that his men unleashed, through their cover, through his men.

Everyone it, she, passed through collapsed with a scream, only to scream more as they hit the ground. What Vlasiy could see of their bare skin was horribly disfigured by a network of grotesque swelling, an effect he recognised instantly – it was one of her known powers, taken from the Wraith of Screams, one of the cursed children of Orenburg, causing the nerves of any it passed through to grow massively, making the slightest stimulus a source of incredible pain.

The wraith finished its charge through the ranks of his men, coming to a halt inbetween him and his subordinate folk, growing more and more solid as its after-images caught up with it, until she stood there, looking at him with a demented grin.

She’s wearing clothes, was the first thought that came to mind. For twenty years now she’d been out there and never not once had she put on any clothes before, to his knowledge. He knew a lot of soldiers kept images of her, hidden, against orders, because of her beauty and how uncaring she’d been about being seen like that, and even Vlasiy had to admit, it wasn’t unwarranted, as distasteful as it was.

The young woman looking at him could have been at home in a propaganda video of the Ministry of Education, advertising the wonderful life and opportunities that awaited young men if they joined the army, or the agricultural corps, save for the fact that she had eyes as red as bloody rubies and the rest of her body was a purer shade of white than fresh snow, though even her Albinoism didn’t detract from her almost adorable facial features.

Her hair had been cut, compared to the images he knew from her file, though it was still tied in a braid, now reaching to her knees rather than being several times the length of her body. Her torso was covered, barely, by a slashed black t-shirt sporting the logo of some American music band, the straps and sides of her red bra showing through, stark against her skin. It stopped a few centimetre above her belly button, only to be followed, further below, by a multitude of skirts layered atop one another, all of varying lengths, with the shortest ones – starting at the length of a miniskirt – furthest outside and a long, ankle-length skirt as the base; most of the skirts were slashed similarly to her shirt, while others were basically just a miltitude of ribbons attached to a waistband. Her feet were still as bare as ever, though he thought he saw something metallic flash on her left ankle, before his eyes snapped up again, along with his pistol.

He knew it was most likely pointless, but he still pulled the trigger, firing a sphere of super-heated plasma straight through her head.

Her form shifted into a multitude of after-images, each leaning a different way, making her body as insubstantial as air, the shot passing through harmlessly. Behind her, a pillar of tungsten rose up, catching the blast before it could kill Two-four-four-nine.

She reformed, and opened her mouth. “If you mess with Baba Yaga, you’ve got to be gaaaaa-ga!”

Three more voices joined in on her that chant, causing him, and his men, to look at the sealed door as they actually managed to be heard over the screaming of his afflicted men; though considering how they’d been heard all throughout the entirety of Radost since the very start of the attack, that wasn’t surprising at all.

The whole door had melted away, gone without a trace, opening up the way to the metal walkway that lead to Koschei’s Chest.

Three young women, identical to the one standing next to him, stood at the entrance. The middle and left one were holding hands, while the right one had her wrists touching, fingers splayed forward and moving like a spider’s legs, apparently being the one coordinating a curtain of plate-sized octagonal force-fields that flew around in front of them, deflecting any shot his men sent their way. Perhaps due to a quirk of the power, or perhaps out of sheer arrogance, she actually went around blocking every single shot individually, rather than just create a single, solid curtain around them.

The middle woman – was she the real one? Or a decoy? Was there even a real one? – wagged a finger at him, grinning like a loon.

More men fell down screaming as the wraith passed through them, even as others went still, some passing out, some flat-out dying as either their brains, their hearts, or both, gave out due to the massive shock of such intense sensations.

“Utkin, what the hell are you doing!?” Viasiy shouted, turning around to look at the one asset he still had to throw against her – only to find him on the ground, unconscious and bleeding of a head wound. The ceiling above had extended into a dull spike, blood dripping from its rounded tip. “W-what the hell are you doing, Sergeant Petrov? Traitor!” he shouted at Petrov, who stood next to the their fallen trump card, one hand holding onto Two-four-four-nine’s hand, almost protectively.

What?

“I’m sorry, General,” the man spoke with a firm, calm voice. “But I’m hereby tending my resignation.” And he ripped his armband and hat off. “As is my comrade here.” He nodded towards Two-four-four-nine and used two fingers of the same hand that was holding onto his armband and hat to grab a hold of her collar, using his power to tear it off without harming her.

Vlasiy opened his mouth, red-faced, to shout the empty woman’s termination code, but Petrov was faster, flinging his left hand out at him, sending the armband, the hat and the collar flying.

The three objects melted as they flew, into a single, grey-black mass, and slapped onto his lower face, spreading out, wrapping aroudn his head, thoroughly gagging his mouth and nearly doing the same to his nose.

He tried to raise his gun, to at least shoot and kill one of them, but only felt something close around it, locking it in place. Looking down, he saw a stalagmite of tungsten reach up, wrapping around his hand and gun. If he pulled the trigger, it’d just destroy his hand.

No, no, fuck no, not to a traitor! he thought furiously, hatred evident in his eyes as he glared at the Devil’s Bride and at the two traitors, using his thumb to flip the fail-safe’s switch open – but he never got to bring his thumb down on it, as another stalagmite rose up and encased it, securing the transmitter.

“Imbecile,” Petrov snarled. “I had several minutes’ worth of time to let my power seep into the entire room. And my name is not Petrov, that’s a slavename.”

The threat so neutralised, he turned aside to address his former adversary, only to give a start as he realised that the Devil’s Bride was standing right in front of him now, on her tip-toes, looking curiously at his face.

The tall folk gulped, taking a step back. “Ah… apologies,” he said, his eyes tracing the rest of the room. All of the soldiers were on the ground, either dead or passed out, except for those who’d been caught in their own deflected shots – those were definitely dead. “I would, ah, I mean, we,” he looked at the dead-eyed woman whose hand he still held. “We would like to, to join the revolutionary army, ma’am.”

“Not ma’am,” the Devil’s Bride said, tilting her head to the side as she made an annoyed clucking sound. Her voice had a very odd accent, musical, but definitely not Russian. Unlike any those in the room had ever heard before. “Baba Yaga. Name is, Baba Yaga.”

The man paled a bit more, sweat appearing on his brow, but he seemed to compose himself. “As you wish, B-baba Yaga.”

Her annoyed pout turned into a stark, white-toothed grin, her pale pink lips stretching wider than one would have expected, and she reached up, making the folk flinch back – but all she did was pat him on the head.

“You is good boy,” she spoke. “Baba Yaga like good boys. Tell name to Baba Yaga!”

Is she a simpleton?, Vlasiy thought, stunned. Was that it? Had the boogeywoman of the Sovjet Union been a mere simpleton the whole time?

“Pytor, ma- I mean, Baba Yaga. My name is Pytor,” the man replied.

“Good. People need name,” Baba Yaga said in a sing-song, putting emphasis on the word again. “What hers?” She pointed at Two-four-four-nine.

Pytor’s face changed to one of deep sadness. “I don’t know, m- Baba Yaga. They took her name, along with everything else. All she has is a number. Two-four-four-nine.” He spoke the numbers as if they were the worst of blasphemies, his face twisting in disgust.

Baba Yaga’s grin disappeared. “Is no good,” she said. “Is, no good. People need name.”

Suddenly, her form seemed to shudder, as if a pair of after-images were trying to lean out of her, briefly. Then they stepped out of her entirely, solidifying into two perfect copies of herself, both of them facing the way out. One jumped into the arms of the other, and they disappeared in a streak of neon light, racing towards the elevator shaft.

Baba Yaga leaned back on her heels, her toes rising off the cold metal ground, clasping her hands behind the small of her back as she looked alternatively at him and at the dead-eyed woman.

“You two, together?” she asked, grinning like a nosy teenage girl.

It was clear that Pytor had not expected that question, which likely explained his hesitation before he replied, “No, we’re not. I just, someone’s got to take care of her.”

The albino woman grinned, swaying back and forth on her heels, as if she had not a single care in the world. It was intensily unsettling.

Before Pytor could speak up again to ask what was going to happen, the streak of neon-lights returned, depositing both copies of the Baba Yaga, as well as a man in a heavy brown-red overcoat, a mining hat and with a multitude of shovels, picks and other earthworking equipment strapped ot his various belts and buckles, his broad, scarred, rather unattractive face looking a little green.

“Brother Kopatel!” Pytor exclaimed, recognising him easily from innumerable propaganda posters and news spots, as Baba Yaga reabsorbed all of her copies, leaving only the (ostensible) original, who immediately cuddled up to Kopatel, wrapping her arms around his left elbow to hug it tight to her chest as she looked up at him with an adoring expression.

Both Vlasiy and Pytor stared, unable to parse the sight as the man ignored having the most powerful woman in the entire Union hanging off his arm, focusing instead on the former sergeant in front of himself.

“You must be Pytor, correct?” the revolution’s unlikely-looking leader asked as the nausea faded from his broad face. “Baba Yaga tells me you want to join us, and  that you’re honest about it.”

Pytor blinked, briefly surprised, before he all but visibly berated himself for it. Of course there’d be something to tell whether he was telling the truth or not among the multitude of powers she’d gathered by that point.

Vlasiy, meanwhile, was quietly despairing, knowing that his fate was now completely in the hands of his enemies including, if he was truly cursed, those very prisoners he’d helped keep imprisoned so as to be experimented upon. Tears leaked from his eyes, even as he couldn’t help but notice how unlikely these two men made the situation seem – Pytor, the tall, broad-shouldered, blonde-haired and blue-eyed statue of a man, cowering, deferring to the short, stocky and at best plain if not ugly Kopatel. It would have been hilarious were it not something he’d have to witness like this.

“That, is correct, Br- Sir,” Pytor replied. “Me and, well, actually, I’m not at all sure what she wants, but, I’m sure she wouldn’t want to stay with the Union, if she was still able to choose.” He looked at the dead-eyed young woman.

***

Kopatel’s eyes softened as he looked at the broken young woman – a girl, really, young enough she could have been his daughter, perhaps even granddaughter. If she was a day over twenty, he’d be very surprised.

As usual when he met one of the so-called Joyous Folk – something which was happening more and more, now that he was actively fighting the Red Council – he felt both a crushing shame and a near mind-rending rage.

Shame, because he had, however unwittingly, been complicit in doing this to people. Rage against the men and women who’d abuse other humans so, who’d used the ideals that’d driven him and Ludmilla to perform such monstrous actions.

“Do you remember your name, young one?” he asked the girl, his rough voice as soft as he could make it, stepping closer.

It was a stupid question, a foolish one. Their name was one of the first things the Ministry of Harmony took from its victims, followed by their dignity, their memories, their will and, finally, their very mind. But maybe, somehow, he’d get lucky and this one would remember something. It had happened before, some folk were able to recover from anything the ministry could do to them, if slowly, incompletely. Usually this was dealt with regular re-conditioning, or outright execution, if they were judged not worth the trouble, but gadgeteers were always worth the trouble, in his experience.

The girl shook her head, never raising her gaze for even a moment, and his heart broke a little more.

She looks so worn out, he thought, as he reached up with a calloused hand, taking off the glove he wore on it to gently brush a few strands of thin, barely cared-for hair behind her ear. There were dark bags under her eyes, her cheeks were nearly corpse-like in paleness and her lips barely rated that description, having the same colour as the skin aroudn them. She hasn’t been treated kindly, even for one of the ‘Joyous Folk’.

“I try to take care of her, when I can,” Pytor said, looking away in shame. “But there’s only so much I’ve been able to do. If she’s not in her workshop, she’s usually…” He screwed his eyes shut. “Well, there’s… there’s not many women around this place, and it’s not like she could say no, even if she wanted to…”

“I understand,” Kopatel said, throwing a murderous glare at the entrapped general, who stared back in fear. “I’m glad at least one person was looking out for her.” He took a deep breath to calm himself, when he felt a tug on his arm.

He looked down at Milena who, for once, looked completely serious. “Give name,” she spoke softly, her accent so familiar by now it didn’t even strike him as odd anymore. “Give her name. Teacher and Baba Yaga can help, but she needs name.”

Kopatel noticed Pytor’s head turning, focusing on Baba Yaga when she spoke of helping her, looking as shocked as Kopatel would have, back when he first got to know the scary, strange young woman that currently clung to his arm, but he’d long since figured out that ‘the Devil’s Bride’ was far more complex a person than her reputation made her out to be.

“Perhaps it should be Pytor who gives her a name, he’s the one who’s been taking care of her so far, after all,” he replied gently.

“No. You give. You gave Baba Yaga, two of them! Give her, too! Give name!” she said, insistently, squeezing his arm much harder than her frame would suggest she could do. Not that that meant anything anymore, these days. “Teacher can teach and heal, Baba Yaga can protect, but you give name.” She looked at him, her red eyes reflecting the light in odd ways, almost like a cat’s. It was a hypnotic look, completely apart from her powers, even when she wasn’t so intent on something.

Of course, by this point, he had plenty of experience resisting her wiles and managing her moods. “Alright, I’ll name her,” he gave in, not that he really had any problem with it. Looking at Pytor, he got a nod, and so turned to the broken girl.

He looked her up and down, noting the stains of grease and other fluids on her arms, some on her bare feet – he frowned at that, that was just petty cruelty, not to give her shoes in a place like this – and in her hair, on her smock.

She kind of reminds me of Ludmilla, he thought, remembering the way his big sister used to look after a day of working on their father’s car, or the tractor. She’d always been handy with mechanical things – if he’d known then what he knew now, he’d have expected her to become a gadgeteer, not get the powers that’d made her the Sovjet Union’s beloved Red Star. Better that she didn’t, he thought, realising that she’d probably have been taken to the Ministry of Harmony, if she’d had such a power.

Like this one was, he continued to think, feeling the weight of it all on his shoulders, as so often lately. But at least I can still save you, little one. Or try to, at least, but Svetlana can probably help, and Milena will certainly try… though honestly, she might just as well make things worse… no, it can’t really get worse, can it? Another sigh. So much to consider, and he really had so much else to do besides, but he couldn’t just ignore this.

At least he knew what name to give to her. “I need some water,” he said, turning his head aside, only to see a sphere of water floating there, wobbling softly. Of course, she already has some, he thought as he scooped up a handful of water – it felt more like jelly, staying in his palm rather than flowing out – and stepped forward, his arm sliding out of Milena’s embrace.

“Ludmilla,” he said, just saying the name causing a pang in his heart – but he was used to that, anyway – and tilted his hand over her head, letting the water run over her hair and face, loosing its jelly-like consistency as it left his hand. “Your name shall be Ludmilla, from now on, until you find the one you had before, if you can, or choose another.” Finally, he dipped his fingers in the sphere of water, which had turned into scented oil, and drew a simple cross on her forehead with it, using his thumb. Far from sufficient, but he found that religion could be quite soothing, and the rites existed for good reasons, after all.

Briefly, the newly christened Ludmilla’s eyes flickered upwards, before she looked down at the ground again, showing no other reaction at all.

Still, it was some reaction. Kopatel smiled, nodding at Pytor. “We’ll take good care of her. We have some people, who do nothing but try to help those who fell victim to the Ministry of Harmony,” he told the taller man.

“Will I be able to visit?” Pytor asked, almost shyly. “I’ve, uh, grown rather fond of her, and I would like to make sure she’s, she’s doing well,” he tried to explain.

“Of course you will,” Kopatel said, almost feeling himself grin. “I’m sure it’ll help her, to have someone familiar, too.”

Then he sighed, and turned serious again. There were still so many things to take care of. “Baba Yaga,” he spoke. “Please take Ludmilla to Svetlana, explain the situation to her.”

Milena grinned, her teeth shiny, and gave him a playful salute, before she created two duplicates again – likely with the same two powers she’d used to bring him here. He winced, slightly, as they picked her up, one under each shoulder, and disappeared in a streak of neon light.

The original Milena of course remained there, and wrapped herself around his arm again, purring happily like the cat he sometimes thought she might have been before her awakening.

He turned to Pytor again. “Alright. Let’s get to business,” he began, wishing for a moment that Milena wasn’t clinging to him like that – he couldn’t clasp his hands behind his back like this, or cross them, and so that left his right arm with nothing to do, really. “This is the man formerly in charge of Radost?” He nodded towards the trapped general.

Pytor stepped up to stand next to him – making sure that Kopatel was inbetween him and Milena, he noticed – and looked at the trapped man with distaste. “Vlasiy Lagunov, yes. He’s been in charge for a few years now. Dunno how he got promoted – he’s not smart enough to be put on a front, but loyal enough to be trusted with this place,” he explained, making Vlasiy glare at him in anger.

“Sounds familiar,” Kopatel sighed. “The Ministry of Protection cares more for loyalty than actual skill, as usual.”

“Make things easier… for us, right?” Milena asked with a smile, looking up at him.

He looked back, smiling at her and giving her a pat on the head, causing her to beam like a little girl who’d just been given a new doll.

It was sad, and scary, how needy for affection she was… nevermind that she’d latched onto him for it.

Think about that later, old man, he thought to himself, focusing on the outraged-looking general again. “Is there any particular reason why he’s gagged and restrained like that?”

Pytor shrugged. “He has a gun in his right hand, and the detonator for the fail-safe in the other, so I restrained him from using them. And I gagged him so he wouldn’t be able to speak… Ludmilla’s kill phrase,” he explained coldly, never averting his glare from the general.

“Hm. No need to worry about the fail-safe, we disabled that before the attack even began,” Kopatel explained, savouring the shocked expression on the general’s face as he did so. “Ludmilla is out of his reach, now, and Baba Yaga could do over a hundred horrible things to him before he’d ever manage to pull the trigger, so he’s going to behave, right?” He added his glare to Pytor’s own.

The general began to sweat and went pale, his gaze flickering over to the albino girl on Kopatel’s arm, before he nodded frantically.

Pytor twitched his hand and his restraints literally melted away, merging with the floor below them, as the general fell on his ass.

“W-what are you, you going to, to do with me?” he asked, his voice trembling, looking up at the three folk in fear. Particularly at Milena, at that.

“I’m not going to feed you to Baba Yaga, if that’s what you fear,” Kopatel said with no sympathy or mercy. “She doesn’t eat people anymore.”

“Much. Baba Yaga doesn’t eat them much anymore,” she corrected him, wagging a slender finger at his face. “Baba Yaga still needs a little bit to get their powers… but this one doesn’t have powers, anyway, so Baba Yaga wouldn’t eat him anyways.” Before the general could relax, she turned to look at him, smiling a beatific smile. “Besides, Baba Yaga can do way worse than just eat someone.” The man went even more pale, and Kopatel was pretty sure he was just seconds away from wetting himself.

“That won’t be necessary, I think,” he told her, and the general. “I’m sure he’ll be cooperative, so we can just put him into prison – a real prison, not a torture house like this.”

Milena shrugged. “Ok. Now Baba Yaga wants to know!” she pointed at a nearby door. “Who there? He’s strong, strong power!”

It didn’t escape his notice that both the general and Pytor went a little pale when she pointed at said door, which told him all he needed to know. There was a reason this place was called Koschei’s Chest, after all.

“Koschei’s in there, isn’t he?” he asked, a sinking  feeling in his gut. Of course they didn’t kill him. Just said they did. Of bloody course.

Pytor nodded. “Yes, he is. The original inmate,” he spoke with a hushed voice. “The Endbringer himself.” He shuddered. “They tried to kill him, but never figured out how, so they put him in there.”

“Never did?” Kopatel looked at him, surprised. “Did anyone try nullifying his power, perhaps?”

“We’re not idiots,” Vlasiy threw in, suddenly, finding his voice again and even managing some indignation. “We have four joyous folk with power nullification in there, nearly half of all in the Union, hooked up to life support, using their power on him twenty-four-seven, but…” He fell silent again, losing his nerve as Milena focused on him.

Kopatel looked at Pytor to continue the general’s sentence, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“They can’t turn it off,” he explained, looking at the door. “Power nullification, it prevents him from using his power, but it can’t turn it off it seems. He might be powerless to harm anyone, or break out, but he’s as immortal as ever.” He frowned, looking disgusted and regretful at once. “I wish we could, we could get them out of there, they… they deserve better than spending their lifes in there watching over a monster, but if Koschei were to break out…”

Kopatel shook his head. “I know how you feel, Pytor, I feel the same way. But we really can’t risk him breaking out. That door will have to remain sealed, I’m afraid, and we’ll keep maintaining Koschei’s Chest, for this.”

Both the general, Pytor and even Kopatel himself relaxed a bit, after that declaration. He’d seen the carnage, after all, back then when Koschei had rampaged through the Union. Over three million people dead, most in horrible, painful ways, in less than a month. And it had only taken him so long to do because he’d lingered, played with his victims and the towns – later cities – he took, rather than immediately move on to the next one.

Since the Tyrant had died, until the Blazing Calamity appeared, no one had even gotten close to rival Koschei’s murderous reign of terror. It was a miracle really, that the Union had managed to keep his existence a secret from the world at large, or at least, a secret from the population at large. The Ministry of Discourse was efficient, if nothing else.

“Problem is easy!” Milena spoke up, interrupting his morbid thoughts. “Baba Yaga take his power, then kill him e-“

“NO!!!” all three men shouted in horror at the mere thought, making her give a shocked start.

Kopatel took a deep breath. Damn it, I can’t afford to lash out like that around her, he thought, pinching the bridge of his nose. Then he looked her again, noting how she was looking at him almost in fear.

“I’m sorry, but no,” he said, speaking gently as he reached out with his free hand to cup her cheek. “We absolutely can’t risk him breaking out, under any circumstances – or worse, if you ate even a piece of him, he might be able to hurt you, maybe even kill you. I won’t allow that.” There was also the unspoken truth that, as much as he’d found himself caring for her, he didn’t trust her yet to have such a vast power – and he may never do. Koschei’s power should never have existed to begin with.

She relaxed, smiling up at him, making him almost feel guilty for distrusting her so. “If you say so, Baba Yaga doesn’t mind.” She hugged his arm again, clinging tightly, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder.

He sighed, disaster averted, and turned towards Pytor again. “Who else is locked up in here?” he asked.

“Just one more,” Pytor said, pointing towards the door opposite of Koschei’s. “An American, that they caught back during the Afghanistan War. They tried to re-educate him, but it failed, and he kept breaking out again and again, killing the folk and army troops they sent after him, so they finally just gave up and locked him in there, since they still wanted to study him.”

“He  strong,” Milena supplied. “Strong power, very strong. Not as strong as Baba Yaga or Koschei, but strong. Stronger than both of you, and him,” she pointed at the unconscious folk lying tied up nearby, “all together.”

“I see. Sounds like it’s past time to release him,” Kopatel spoke firmly, even though he knew it might not be the smartest thing to do – if the man was even still sane, he may still lash out against them, once freed, and though he didn’t doubt that Milena would be able to defeat him, but she might not be able to protect them all. And even so, it’d be a rotten thing to release the man, only to have to kill him. “Baba Yaga, please stand ready to subdue do him – non-lethally  if need be.”

She nodded as she waved a hand, causing the solid piece of tungten that was the door to melt down into the ground, revealing… darkness beyond, as the stark white fluorescent lighting didn’t reach far into the room beyond, illuminating only a small half-circle at the front.

Milena’s grip on his arm tightened, hard. “Baba Yaga will get him out!” she half shouted, charging into the cell, startling him and the other two men.

Kopatel gulped – he couldn’t see what she had, but if it freaked her out, it had to be horrible – and followed her, with Pytor hot on his heels.

Light filled the cell, as they entered it, from a miniature sun that Milena created, floating up above.

He stopped, gasping at the sight of how they’d restrained the American folk.

He was lying on his back, arms and legs spread wide, wearing only a ragged, torn pair of jeans. Beyond that, Kopatel couldn’t see much of him, because of all the stakes.

Huge stakes, each as thick as Milena’s forearm, a dozen of them, stabbing through his joints, his limbs, his chest and his stomach, transfixing him to the ground. Each extending up to the ceiling, fusing into it, and fused to the floor below him, the whole thing a part of the very cell. The stakes that ran through his limbs further split into forks just above where they pierced his flesh, so he wouldn’t be able to slide upwards and putting further weight onto him.

And yet, he was still alive, his power evident in its use, forming shadow patches of fur that covered him in places, mostly concentrated around the wounds the stakes had caused. For a moment, Kopatel thought that the man’s head was also covered by his power, until he realised that he had wildly grown hair and a matching full beard, both even darker than the fur his power created.

Milena stood in front of the grisly scene, looking down at her feet… where, Kopatel could see, there was a drain to which several groves led, draining the blood that kept flowing freely out of the man’s emaciated body.

He joined her, putting a hand on her shoulder, though he wasn’t sure whether it was for her sake, or his – he hadn’t ever seen someone be imprisoned like this.

“Why?” he asked, no one in particular.

“He broke out of almost a hundred different holding facilities,” Pytor replied, his voice hushed. “Kept breaking out other prisoners, too. This is the only way anyone could find to lock him up with, that didn’t require dedicated power nullifiers – and those are all in the other cell, keeping Koschei.”

Before Kopatel could reply, there was a strange, rough sound, making them all give a start. Looking around, he saw no source, until it sounded again – coming from the prisoner himself.

“Wa… ter…” he spoke, his voice rough and weak, speaking Russian without any accent Kopatel could make out.

He didn’t hesitate, circling the man and kneeling down next to his head, pulling his own water flask from his belt to gently, carefully, drip some of its contents into his mouth.

The man drank it up, slowly, with surprising restraint. “Thank… you,” he said, his voice stronger now. “Mind… helping me… out? Haven’t… had a chance… to stretch my legs… in years.” He grinned, dark purple eyes twinkling with humour.

Kopatel didn’t know how to respond to that, and instead focused on just one detail. “Years?”

“He’s been like this for four years now,” Pytor spoke, his own voice awed – and more than a little ashamed. “No one wanted to risk him breaking out, so they just… kept him here. Didn’t even try to study him, even though that was the whole reason he was locked up in here.”

“We have to get him out,” Kopatel said. “Now.” He glared at the general, making the man shrink back, even though it wasn’t even really his fault.

Pytor nodded. “We’ll need to support the ceiling somehow – it’s basically one thick slab, disconnected from the rest of the cell. If we break the stakes, it’ll drop down, impale him again or crush him. And us, with him.”

“That no problem,” Milena spoke coldly, as she spread her arms wide. Shafts of light, looking a lot like the force-fields she’d used to defend against assaults earlier, appeared out of nowhere, forming pillars that lead from floor to ceiling, humming with power.

Nodding to her, Kopatel stood up and drew his heaviest shovel, a rough, practical one, that could be a lethal weapon even without his power’s help. Pytor stepped closer as well, raising both hands, ready for chopping motions.

“You can’t do this!” Vlasiy threw in, his voice high-pitched. “He’s American, he’ll try to kill us as soon as he’s free to move!”

No one paid him any attention as Kopatel and Pytor went to work, chopping through the stakes that held the man transfixed to the ground. At first, there was a groaning sound from above, as the ceiling shifted slightly, but Milena’s force-field pillars proved capable of holding it up, and so they soon cut through the last stake.

With a pained groan, the prisoner shifted on the ground, relaxing almost imperceptibly, as the stakes began to slide out of his body, slowly, his power trying to eject them. Kopatel lent a hand, as did Pytor, pulling them out – which wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, normally, but the man was clearly hardier than any normal person, than most folk, even, and would likely not die to this, after all this time.

Once the last stake had been removed, the man gave a sigh, closing his eyes in relief. “Ahhhhh…” His wounds were healing, visibly, his power gathering around them more intensily now.

“Come, friend,” Kopatel said, grabbing one of the man’s arms and pulling it over his shoulder. “Let’s get you out of this hell-hole and up under the sky.”

“Sky,” the man whispered, groaning in pain but not putting up any resistance as Kopatel hauled him onto his feet. He was lighter than Milena. “Sky sounds good.” He leaned against Kopatel, his bushy hair scratching his cheek, but he didn’t mind, as he helped him walk out of his cell, both of them utterly ignoring the general.

Milena joined them, giving the prisoner odd looks, though she stayed quiet. Pytor followed behind, as more of Kopatel’s compatriots came in, men and women in military uniforms, most of them unpowered, but led by two winter soldiers.

He briefly gave them orders to sort out the corpses for burial, and take the captured folk up for questioning. He also told them to lock the general up, who didn’t put up any resistance – just watching with wide, unbelieving eyes, like he still couldn’t quite grasp what had happened.

You’ll get what’s coming to you, just like everyone else, Kopatel thought quietly, taking the elevator up this time – Milena was always eager to ferry him around at the speed of sound, but it didn’t do his stomach any good, nor did the prisoner seem to be in any state to take that kind of stress.

Their small group moved through Radost, ever upwards, and then through the military base above. Men and women, both folk and not, saluted them, but gave a wide berth, though whether that was out of respect for him, as their leader, or fear of Milena, he didn’t know – and frankly, he didn’t want to know the answer. Neither was something he’d be all too happy about.

The base itself was in rather bad shape – he and his troops had fought here, not Milena, who’d directly invaded Radost itself to prevent the use of the fail-safe, and that any harm be done to the prisoners.

It did not escape anyone’s notice that the Baba Yaga had had an easier time taking down Radost’s greater defenses than the entire rest of their force had had taking down just the military base – and even there, she’d helped indirectly, as most of the enemy folk had been in Radost itself, standing guard, rather than up above.

Kopatel put that thought aside as they reached the main exit of the base. Outside, the sun shone, a rare day without snow or clouds above even so far up North. There were others, prisoners, test subjects, who’d gathered there, looking up at the sun for the first time in years, in many cases. Men, women, old and young, even, to his disgust, some children, who were looking up at the sky as if seeing it for the first time.

He really, really, really hoped it wasn’t the first time, that they hadn’t been kept in there for so long as to not remember the sky, or worse, been born in that hellhole, but he knew those hopes to be in vain.

Still, he felt at least a little pride as he saw his people taking care of the prisoners, giving them clothes, food and comfort. The Frozen Family was ahead of everyone else there, in spite of their monstrous appearances, they were the most gentle, dedicated to helping the victims of the Union recover, especially the children. Even Matryoshka, whom had been called one of Russia’s worst serial killers, was there, handing food out to the children of Radost, along with blankets, being perfectly gentle. The fact that the clones she was using had been made out of a local soldier, well, Kopatel couldn’t even feel disgust over her power right now, not in this situation.

“Still as pretty… as ever,” the prisoner he’d been helping up whispered, drawing Kopatel’s attention back to him. He was looking up at the sky, his purple eyes brighter now, standing out starkly against his dark hair and beard, and the pale skin visible. Then he said something in English, too quickly for Kopatel to understand it.

“What’s your name, my friend?” he asked, feeling quite curious about this strange, hardy man, a man who still seemed sane after such monstrous treatment – nevermind his achievements.

The man opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again, briefly averting his eyes. Kopatel started to worry that he might have been deprived of his name, in spite of his other resistance, but then he looked at him again.

“Kevin. Kevin Paterson,” he said, his voice low, but perfectly understandable.

“I’m Kopatel, in case you didn’t know,” he replied with a smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home soon.”

The man chuckled dryly. “Home, yeah,” he said, turning his head away and looking into the distance. “Don’t have much of one… but I’d still like to go back to it.”

***

Soon enough, Radost had been emptied of both its staff and its victims – save for Koschei, of course – though people would remain, trying to sort out everything that had gone on, as well as to pack up the corpses. Not of the soldiers and scientists – those who’d been killed, rather than be taken prisoner – as those would simply be burned, but of those victims who’d already died, or else taken their own life as soon as they had the chance, rather than risk being captured again.

That last one, that haunted Kopatel more than almost anything else he’d seen there, apart from the children – at least Milena had harvested their powers from their corpses with minimal damage, was still harvesting, in fact, so they’d be able to help bring down those who consigned them to this fate.

Kevin had left, together with most of the others, and the surviving staff of the base and Radost was gone, as well. Kopatel stood at the entrance to what had once been the mess hall, in which they’d laid out the corpses of all the fallen folk, watching with heavy eyes as Milena went from corpse to corpse, taking their powers for herself while their bodies were still fresh enough for that to happen.

Pytor had joined him, at some point, along with several other members of his Novaya Armiya – Matryoshka from the Frozen Family, a woman whose body seemed to be made of ribbons of black and white, wrapped rightly around the body of an enemy, even now feeding on him; Sergeant Sergei of the Winter Soldiers in their troops’ customary outfit, a heavy white suit, so thick one couldn’t even tell she was a woman, her every feature hidden entirely (even now, she eyed Milena with both fear and annoyance, his whole group unable to completely bury their enmity for the young woman who’d defied them for so long) and Padeniye of the Overlords, a tall, slender man with bright pink hair, wearing a heavy winter jacket and tinted goggles, as well as broad, ever-present grin.

Together they watched as Milena went from body to body, using a thick syringe to draw blood, before wrapping her lips around it every time to drink. Every time she did so, she froze for a few moments, her eyes rolling up, eyelids fluttering as if in pleasure – though, she’d explained to Svetlana, and Svetlana to him, that pleasure was not what she felt at all – rather, every time she took in a new power, she briefly had to integrate it, which caused her all but lose all awareness of her surroundings as her brain locked up, then basically restarted, almost like a computer.

“I thought she had to eat folk to get their powers,” Pytor whispered, as if afraid of drawing her attention.

“We thought so, too,” Kopatel replied, not bothering to whisper. It wasn’t like Milena didn’t have over a dozen powers that enhanced her senses in some way, anyway. “Until it turned out that she only needs sufficient genetic material for her power to home in on the target. About a quarter of a litre of blood is sufficient for that, and the process isn’t even lethal, though, far from pleasant for the folk she uses it on.”

“I, I see,” Pytor spoke, looking pensively at Milena’s progress. “And she can take them from corpses, too. I never knew that.”

“They have to be relatively fresh, but yes, she can.” It’s monstrous, in some ways, but at least it means when we lose our people, their powers aren’t lost to the cause, he couldn’t help but think. The question of whether to allow Milena to take powers from fallen compatriots had kept him up for several nights, but in the end, there hadn’t really been a choice – the Union still had a vast advantage in terms of sheer numbers of powers, they needed every edge they could get, and all distrust towards Milena to the contrary, she’d more than kept her word of cooperation so far.

“Did she ever actually eat people?” Pytor asked, suddenly, drawing him back from his contemplation. “All the atrocities she is said to have committed, did they really happen? Or was that all just propaganda?”

Kopatel shook his head, looking uncomfortable. “I’m afraid it wasn’t, she really did use to eat people, and all the other things, she did most of those, as well,” he explained. “She didn’t know not to,” he felt the need to defend her, drawing a confused look from Pytor, while the others in their group stayed quiet, already aware of the story. “It turns out that, whatever happened during her awakening, it wiped out her mind. All her memories, her skills, gone – a newborn, really, in the body of a woman, with the power of a goddess. She just, she had nothing, but the instinct to gather powers, and so attacked any folk she found, mindlessly, for years. The fact that she kept being attacked by the Union’s troops…” Sergei flinched, growling quietly, “It only made things worse, as she responded in the same way. Wasn’t until she ate a power that allowed her to absorb skills from people, that she started to think again and… well, then she joined us and now she’s our big trump card.”

“Yeah, we’d have been toast if it wasn’t for our adorable little monster,” Padeniye spoke up, his voice mocking, yet oddly affectionate. “Turns out the Union even had plans in case the entire council was wiped out. If we hadn’t had Baba Yaga here, they’d have crushed us soon after we revealed ourselves.”

Kopatel nodded, not bothering to reprimand the villain for referring to her as a monster – in his case, it was a term of endearment, rather than an insult, and he was, in many ways, the one member of their group’s inner circle who was the most friendly with Milena, other than perhaps Matryoshka.

Pytor kept watching Milena, meanwhile, rubbing his chin in a contemplative manner. “You named her, right?” he asked. “I was wondering why she doesn’t go by Devil’s Bride anymore, but then again, I suppose she might never have known about that name in the first place?”

“Yeah, I figured, Baba Yaga was appropriate, considering how powerful she is,” he replied with a slight smile. “I also gave her a proper name – Milena – but she prefers to go by Baba Yaga.”

“She’s… not at all like what I expected,” Pytor admitted after a few moments.

Kopatel couldn’t help but snort. “You haven’t seen nothing yet.”

***

Saratov, a few hours before the Crocell Incident

Kopatel entered what had once been the Great Father Stalin Technical University of Saratov, now the unofficial headquarters of the Novaya Armiya, followed closely by Milena. The entrance hall, once a grand monument to Stalin, had largely been stripped bare, both to get rid of all the propaganda materials and for raw materials. People were hustling and bustling about, largely ignoring him and his companion, even when she sped up, rushing past him towards the stairs leading up, her bare feet slapping the cold, hard stone floor – getting her to wear anything at all had been one hell of a herculean task, as Svetlana would call it, but even her beloved teacher couldn’t get her to put on any shoes.

At least she wears underwear now, Kopatel thought, shuddering at the memory of the nude girl. There was no way he’d ever be comfortable remembering the state she’d been in when she’d first joined his cause, feral, barely human in many ways. She’d latched onto him, like a starving person latched onto someone with food, only what she’d wanted had been something much more simple, and so much rarer – affection. Understanding. Someone who’d treat her like a human being, even if she hadn’t know what that meant back then.

He followed her up the stairs, though at a more sedate pace, looking left and right. The University’s primary use was for taking care of former prisoners and victims of the Union’s love for ‘re-education’, especially those poor people who’d been turned into ‘Joyous Folk’.

Here, in this place, they did something which Kopatel could be unambigiously proud of, even if it was met with a lot of derision among his less scrupulous allies, who  thought it was foolish to divert so many resources to rehabilitating these people, rather than waiting until after the war was won – and it was a war that they were waging, even if, at first, they’d thought it would be over quickly – or worse yet, use them against the Union.

Fortunately, he hadn’t been alone in crushing any ideas about actually using the Joyous Folk’s brainwashing to their advantage, to make them fight for the revolution – the few people who’d advocated it had either quickly changed their opinion or else been demoted heavily, if not expelled outright.

Now, he walked these hallways, looking into rooms where people of all ages were being treated, with kindness and patience. The program they used to de-program them had been invented by Svetlana – another of many things they owed her a great deal for – and seemed to be working, even if it necessitated that she spend most of her time here, to adjust it to the individual needs of every new arrival, meaning she couldn’t travel with him to help take care of Milena.

Still, it was more than worth it, if only to see such sights as Ludmilla, sitting at a table and quietly tinkering with what would likely be a gun at some point, a soft smile on her lips, while Pytor leaned against the wall and watched her with unconcealed affection in his eyes. She was far from being whole, would likely never recover the person she’d been before… but thanks to their efforts, thanks to Svetlana’s brilliance and Pytor’s love and, in no small part, his own efforts, she’d at least be able to find some happiness.

Another reason why they had to win, no matter the cost, so as to safeguard these people. A thought that wasn’t just his own, as it had driven Pytor into near fanatical dedication to the cause, causing him to rise in the ranks until he was now, effectively, Kopatel’s right-hand man.

How fast everything moves, Kopatel thought, moving on to catch up to Milena, who was entering the door at the very end of the hallway. Sometimes, I feel like I should be too old to keep up.

“Teacher!” he heard Milena’s shout from inside, followed by a grunt and a laugh. When he entered, he saw Milena hanging onto the woman who’d been working inside, apparently doing some paperwork.

In many ways, recruiting Svetlana Mikhailov – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she’d recruited herself for their cause – had saved the revolution. The slender, attractive woman in her late thirties, with the long brown hair in a severe knot and the slim glasses on her small nose was a genius, plain and simple. She was the one who’d helped Milena make the step from a feral almost-monster to the bright, if still volatile, young woman she was now. She’d devised the means by which they helped victims of the Union’s many re-education methods to break free and recover from their brainwashing, and she’d also been responsible for actually forcing him and the other members of the inner circle to actually sit down and write out a charter for their group. Such a simple idea, and yet they’d never even considered how much it’d help to have a clear idea of what they actually intended to do, and how to do it, it’d helped keep the group together even after the Union turned out to not be nearly as broken as they’d thought it was.

Being a folk herself, if not a particularly powerful one – her power merely allowed her to harden her own body, becoming nearly invulnerable, without the super-strength that often came along with such powers – she’d had no problem working with all of them on various tasks, though she focused primarily on keeping the revolution sane and civilised.

Her biggest project, though, beyond all of that, beyond even her work rehabilitating the Joyous Folk, was Milena. She’d taken the child-like woman under her wing, teaching her everything from proper speech (still a work in progress) to not horribly murdering anyone who annoyed her even slightly (also a work in progress).

Milena had taken to her almost as much as she had to Kopatel himself, making Svetlana one of maybe three people in the world who could manage her at all.

There’d been some voices of concern, at letting a woman who’d come out of nowhere have so much influence over their most powerful asset, but they’d been dissuaded both by the fact that they needed someone who could handle Milena, even an unknown like Svetlana, and the woman’s own skill at persuasion.

“Good afternoon, Pavel,” she greeted him with a smile, even as she affectionately rubbed Milena’s head. “I trust that your mission was successful?”

“Very much so, Svetlana,” he replied in the familiar term, at her request. “We’ve secured Volgograd, thanks to, in large part, the efforts of your student.” He nodded towards Milena, who was literally hanging off of Svetlana’s arms, held up only by their mutual grip on each other.

“Which student? I have many of them?” she asked mischievously.

“Your favourite!” Milena exclaimed, grinning.

“And who’d that be?” Svetlana pressed on, looking down at the girl with a soft smile.

“Baba Yaga! Baba Yaga!” Milena continued, pouting up at her now.

Svetlana responded by letting go of her, dropping her on the ground. “Are you now? If so, then surely you can tell me all what the binomial theorem is about, right?”

“Bah, numbers! Baba Yaga doesn’t like numbers!” the albino girl replied, looking up indignantly from her position on her knees, in front of the older woman (though they weren’t that far apart in terms of age, if one only went by biological age). “Doesn’t need them! Baba Yaga has powers for that, anyway!”

Svetlana’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Am I to understand, then, that you haven’t rehearsed your formulas?”

Milena blushed, looking away as she mumbled a confirmation.

Her teacher sighed, throwing him an annoyed look that made him cringe – technically, he’d kind of promised to make sure Milena would do her homework, while they were busy, but it’d had fallen by the wayside in all the fighting that went on. She didn’t comment further on that, though, instead walking to one of the heavily ladden bookshelves that filled her office and pulled one particular book out, laying it down onto a circular table near her desk.

“Sit,” she ordered Milena in a firm voice, pointing at a chair in front of the book.

Milena puffed her cheeks up in indignation, but obeyed, getting up and sitting down on the chair, the silver chain she’d wrapped around her left ankle – a present from Kopatel – flashing in the light, while a collection of small bells she’d attached to it – each taken from a different shop, and one even looted from an enemy’s corpse – jingled softly.

“Now read that and memorise all the formulas,” Svetlana told the girl, giving her a pen and some graph paper. “Write them down here.”

“No! Baba Yaga doesn’t need them!” the girl replied, glaring at her teacher, her red eyes flashing with anger.

Svetlana didn’t even flinch, looking back calmly, her expression hewn out of ice. “Yes, you do. And yes, you will.”

Milena kept glaring.

“Study. Now.”

The student went to work, grumbling under her breath.

How in God’s name does she keep doing that? Kopatel asked himself. He’d suspected some form of mind control, at first, but even if that kind of power would work on Milena – it didn’t, she had too many powers to counter it with – no one had detected anything like that, not even the Winter Soldier’s power analysts. I wish I could be half as commanding. It’d certainly help leading this madhouse.

“Well, Pavel, how are you doing?” she asked him, smiling again as she stepped away from the quietly working Milena, her long brown skirt swaying with every step. “You look a little tired and… hungry.” Her eyes narrowed, instantly making him feel like he was in trouble with his mother. “When’s the last time you ate?”

He gulped. How did she manage to make him feel like a schoolboy, every damn time? “Uh, I had a, I mean, yesterday…” He didn’t even try to lie, it never worked.

“I thought so. Sit down then, I’ll get you some food,” she stated simply, walking towards the door.

“That’s really not necessary, I’m used to going without food for a while,” he raised his arms, trying to get out of it. “Besides, I still need to talk to the Overlords and organise the garrison we’ll install in Volgograd, and-“

She pointed at a chair at the table that Milena was working at. “Sit.”

He sat.

She left, then soon came back with a plate full of steaming hot potatoes, a little meat and way too many vegetables, putting it down in front of him along with some cutlery.

“Eat.”

He ate.

“You really have to take better care of yourself, Pavel,” she lectured him as she watched over his meal, and Milena’s lesson, waging a slender finger at him. “You’re too important to risk your health, for any reason, especially one as silly as this, understood?”

He just nodded, quietly, so she wouldn’t also lecture him about talking with his mouth full. That had been too embarrassing the last time it happened, he’d rather not repeat that. Ever.

Milena snorted in amusement.

***

Someone shook Kopatel awake, roughly.

Blinking, he sat up, reaching for the one-handed shovel he kept on his nightstand, but stopped when he recognised Pytor.

“Wake up, Kopatel!” the man urged him. “We need your help.”

“Wh-what’s going on?” he asked, both worried and annoyed. He’d just laid down to rest, after Svetlana had forced him to eat a proper meal. Just a nap, and – he looked at his clock – it had only gone on for a few hours, anyway.

“One of the girls we brought back from Volgograd, she’s freaking out in a bad way,” Pytor replied, referring to the group of girls they’d liberated from the harem of Volgograd’s mayor – a disgusting man, who’d abused his power to take in any girl that caught his fancy, among many other horrible things – and brought here to give them some psychological treatment. “I was hoping you might be able to talk her down, she’s upsetting the others, as well, badly.”

He got up, quickly, looking around for his clothes – he was down to his underwear at the moment. Finding them discarded on the ground, he began to dress in his full uniform – it was important to keep up the image, he couldn’t just show up in mundane clothes. “What about Svetlana? She’s way better at this than me.”

“She left,” Pytor replied. “Got a phone call and said she had something private to take care of.”

Kopatel grunted as he pulled on his heavy boots. That was another thing about Svetlana, something even he couldn’t ignore lightly. She’d often disappear, sometimes after getting a mysterious phone call, sometimes out of nowhere, and come back whenever, never telling anyone where she’d gone or what she’d done – and sometimes, she’d go missing for days, even a week, one time. It didn’t help make the more distrustful parts of the Novaya Armiya like her any more, though he was willing to overlook it, seeing how much she’d helped them and continued to.

“I’ll see what I can do. Where’s Milena?” He put on his jacket, and started strapping on all his various earthworking tools, through which he usually channelled his power.

“The last time I saw her, she was at the playground building a sand castle,” Pytor told him calmly. “I don’t know whether she’s still there.”

“Alright, let’s go see what can be done about this.”

They left the bedroom, Pytor first, guiding him down several flights of stairs until they got to the ground level. Kopatel could hear the commotion already, hysterical screams, sobs and hushed whispering.

A small mob of people, both patients and therapists, as well as some guards, had gathered around the entrance to the former mess hall. Kopatel ignored them, forcing his way through.

Inside, people had mostly formed a large half-circle around a young woman who was crouched with her back to the wall, holding a large kitchen knife as she looked around, staring at everyone with wild, blood-shot eyes. She was a pretty thing, and young, barely an adult, with curly blonde hair and a heart-shaped face that was twisted by fear and despair. She was holding another girl, younger by at least half a decade, but with similar enough features that they had to be sisters, or otherwise very closely related, with one arm around her neck, holding the knife to her throat with the other. The younger girl was just crying, and not struggling at all as she stared down at the large knife.

Several other women and girls, near her age and of similar beauty, were huddled up nearby, some hugging each other, some standing apart, screaming, sobbing or just softly crying.

“Back! Back, please!” the young woman with the knife shouted, swinging it left and right, as if trying to point it at everyone at once. “Y-y-you mustn’t stop me!” she begged them, her voice high and shrill.

“What’s going on here?” Kopatel asked one of the soldiers who stood closest to the woman.

The young man looked at him, looking upset. “I, I don’t know, Sir. She just, she started freaking out, threatening to kill her own sister! I have, I have no idea what’s going on!”

Kopatel nodded, patting the man on the shoulder. “Alright, I’ll take over from here,” he said, moving past the young soldier and into the half-circle.

“Stay back!” the woman screamed at him, tightening her grip on her sister. “Don’t come closer!”

“Shsh,” he hushed her, raising his hands as he stopped approaching. “I’m not going to do anything to you, I promise,” he spoke in as soothing a voice as he could. “My name is Kopatel. What’s yours, young lady?”

She stared back at him, her lip quivering. “M-motya. My name is Motya,” she said. “Y-you’re not, not going to stop me, either. No one is. I have to do this!” she cried, pushing the knife closer to her sister’s throat, making the younger girl flinch in fear.

“Why do you have to kill her?” he asked, softly, slowly sitting down to seem less threatening, though he also palmed a tiny shovel, really just the blade of one, ready to use his power at the earliest opportunity.

“B-because it’s the only way to save her! I’ve got to, it’s the only way to make sure he won’t take her again!” she shouted, sobbing.

“You mean, the man who took you two? And them?” He nodded towards the sobbing young women – all of them near Motya’s age, though none nearly as young as her little sister.

She nodded, shuddering. “He’s still alive. He escaped your people, and he’ll come for us. I can’t, can’t let him get her again, I have to, to protect her!”

His eyes moved from her to the younger girl, growing heavy with sadness and no small amount of anger. She was a gorgeous girl, even prettier than her older sister, and there was a fiery look in her green eyes, in spite of her fearful expression.

“We’ll keep you safe,” he said, not sure what else to do. This wasn’t something he was really any good at. “I promise, we’ll keep you all safe, so you don’t, you absolutely don’t need to do this, do you understand me?”

She shook her head, gasping for air. “I, I have to make sure! I can’t protect her any other way, I have to, I have to do it!”

“Why not?” a new voice asked, from just behind Kopatel, nearly making him jump up in surprise. “Why not protect, with other way?”

The source of the voice moved up next to Kopatel – Milena, on all fours, her long braid dragging over the ground as she looked at the sisters, wearing one of her favourite outfits – her customary collection of slashed skirts and a belly-free shirt, this one white with three back circles evoking the outline of a mouse’s cartoonish head on her chest.

“I, I can’t!” the young woman wailed. “He’s so strong… and they have so many of the folk… I’m powerless, I was powerless before and he’ll just, just take us all again! But not her! Even if I have to kill her myself!”

Kopatel frowned, not sure how to respond to that – though he probably didn’t need to. Milena had more than enough powers that’d allow her to disarm the woman, without risking any harm to either of the poor women. Provided she actually wanted to save the younger girl, that is.

“Then you must be stronger,” Milena said simply, without any hint of gentleness in her voice, crawling forward. “Be stronger and protect, like Baba Yaga.”

“I’m not, nothing like you,” the woman replied, her eyes transfixed by Milena’s gaze. “I’m weak, I’m not even folk, certainly not, not as strong as, as you.” Her grip on the knife tightened, holding it so hard her knuckles turned white.

“Not as strong as Baba Yaga,” Milena said, stopping to pick up a chipped mug from the floor, shaking it out without averting her eyes from Motya’s own. “Don’t need to be as strong as Baba Yaga, only need to be strong, and protect!” She moved closer by a few steps, holding the mug in one hand.

“H-how?” Motya asked, trembling from head to toe, her eyes filled with fear as the infamous folk moved closer to her.

“Baba Yaga will make you strong,” she replied, putting the mug down between them.

Then she used the nails of her left hand to slive her right forearm open, making several people cry out and Kopatel jump to his feet, as her blood spurted into the mug for a moment, before the wound closed, drawing in the blood around it, but leaving what she’d put into the mug – aimed expertly, not a drop wasted.

Everyone stared in confusion as she gestured towards the side, without looking, and a bottle of water flew over into her waiting hand, with which she filled the mug, mixing it into her own blood.

The resulting fluid was glowing ever so softly, in the same colour as her eyes.

She pushed the mug, causing it to slide over to Motya, until it stopped right by her side, within easy reach.

“Drink,” Milena commanded the older-looking woman. “Do as Baba Yaga tells you to. Drink.”

The knife fell from Motya’s trembling hand, clattering onto her sister’s lap, as her hand went for the mug, as if against her will, picking up the mug.

“Motya, don’t!” her sister shouted, even as she scrambled away from her, but it was too late – she lifted the mug to her lips and drank the watered-down, glowing blood, with eveyone in the hall staring, fascinated by the whole scene.

She put it all down in one go and, as the last drop slid past her lips, her hand went slack, letting go of the mug to have it tumble down onto the hard-wood floor, shattering completely – but no one heard it, as Motya bent over screaming, screaming so loudly it actually hurt Kopatel’s ears, making him take a step back.

Milena remained in place, unperturbed as she watched the girl bend over so far her forehead pressed onto the wooden floor, hugging her own stomach as she screamed in pain.

Kopatel thought he saw her shudder, then, just a bit – though he could only see her from behind, so he wasn’t quite sure; shudder much like how she did when she took a new power, as if in pleasure.

Motya screamed again, and then her clothes  turned green, and solid, and then erupted into jagged growths of crystal, spearing outward in every direction, into the ground, the ceiling, through the wall behind her, towards the rapidly retreating crowd, towards her own sister, thrusting at Milena as well, though they were repelled by an invisible force-field around her.

Kopatel thrust his shovel into the ground, channeling his power into it through it, and raised a half-circular wall between her and himself, and the crowd, and her sister, encircling her and Milena.

It almost wasn’t enough, as shards of green crystal punched through the rock, concrete and earth he’d drawn up from below, but fortunately, they didn’t extend much further than a metre or so past his wall, failing to cause harm to anyone.

That, that’s Vismut’s power! he thought, shocked, remembering the powerful former Foreman, a comrade of his when he’d still fought for the Union, but had died… died to Milena, when she’d still been the Devil’s Bride…

When the crystals failed to continue to grow, he lowered the wall again, to see what was going on. It crumbled apart, as the sound of breaking crystals filled the otherwise completely silent mess hall, the jagged growths of crystal falling apart into thousands of tiny shards, leaving behind the utterly destroyed wall and floor around Motya, stripped bare of the material she’d inadvertantly converted into those crystals.

The young woman was on all fours, staring down at her hands, naked as the day she was born, while Milena was facing her, in a similar position, on all fours atop the only patch of ground within the circle which hadn’t been transmuted into crystal.

She grinned as she watched Motya raise her hands from the ground, leaving behind crystalline handprints. More crystals were growing out of the earth, where her legs were touching it, slowly spreading over her body. Her face was stunned, utterly stunned.

“Now you strong,” the Baba Yaga said with no small amount of smugness. “Now you protect properly, like Baba Yaga said.”

She looked over her shoulder at Kopatel, grinning proudly at him.

All he felt was a cold chill run down his spine, a single thought dominating his thoughts.

By God, how many wars am I going to have to fight, to keep her safe from the world?

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters Tagged: Aap Oordra, Baba Yaga, Kopatel, Lady Light, Ludmilla, Matryoshka, Padeniye, Pytor, Sergei, Vismut II
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Simpatía por el Diablo

Crying Grumpies
SympDev000

 

Ni John Dillinger fue el tipo carismático y glamuroso de las múltiples películas basadas en su vida, ni Robin Hood fue el elegante ladrón y experto con arco que hacía suspirar a las damas inglesas por los bosques de Sherwood. En realidad, por lo que sabemos de ambos personajes, fueron tipos bastante desagradables: rudos, violentos y peligrosos. Sin embargo, como en muchos más casos similares (Bonnie y Clyde, Jesse James) la tendencia a mitificarlos y endulzar la leyenda ha sido más poderosa que la realidad, a menudo indeseable. ¿Por qué? ¿Qué hay dentro de nosotros que nos lleva a sentir simpatía por el Diablo?

En primer lugar, es muy probable que la emoción. Llevamos vidas anodinas, sometidos a la rutina y el tedio, y personajes como estos nos recuerdan que existe siempre una posibilidad (ínfima, minúscula, pero una posibilidad) de arrojarlo todo por la borda y arder con mucha más fuerza… aunque durante mucho menos tiempo. Tampoco es desdeñable cierta atracción por la muerte. Dentro de esa magnífica dualidad Eros-Thanatos que rige nuestra psique, el segundo elemento, Thanatos, es el que más hemos reprimido. Por fuerza: si queremos vivir, así ha de ser, y si queremos vivir en sociedad, más aún. El asesino es solo un suicida extrovertido, dicen, pero ambos son sirvientes de un mismo Amo, encapuchado y con guadaña.

SympDev001

Fotograma de Gun Crazy, película inspirada en Bonnie y Clyde
 

Sin embargo, tengo la sensación de que hay una vertiente política en todo esto. Me da en la nariz que, más allá de las connotaciones clásicas de la política moderna (izquierdas y derechas) ejemplos como Bonnie y Clyde, como los hermanos Jesse y Frank James o como Billy el Niño nos resultan atractivos porque, contra toda posibilidad, se enfrentan al sistema. Y todos, de un modo inconsciente, sabemos que el sistema no funciona. Que, en realidad, nunca ha funcionado. Que se trata de una gigantesca estafa.

Tanto en el cine como en la literatura hallamos numerosos ejemplos de esta atracción por el diablo. Dejadme recordar (y analizar) solo algunos. Me dejaré en el tintero virtual decenas de ellos, está claro, pero creo que daré con suficientes casos como para reforzar mi teoría. Y si no lo hago, seréis testigos de mi fracaso.

SympDev002

Errol Flynn como el Robin Hood más famoso del cine
 

Robin Hood sea tal vez el santo varón de los bandidos. Poco se sabe del personaje inicial: existen varios pretendientes al trono de “auténtico Robin Hood”, y todos ellos muestran, por las escasas referencias de que se dispone (documentos de ámbito legal de los siglos XIII y XIV, principalmente) referencias a un salteador de caminos violento y pendenciero. La leyenda comenzó a fraguarse en el siglo XV, aunque es muy posible que las tres primera baladas que nos han llegado de él sean versiones edulcoradas de las originales. Aun así, en ellas Robin es un tipo agresivo y violento. En ninguna de estas baladas Robin reparte nada de lo que gana entre los pobres.

Posteriores historias, a partir el siglo XVI, comienzan este proyecto de idealización del bandido: no es de extrañar, teniendo en cuenta la turbulenta historia de Inglaterra en esta época. Durante los siglos XV y XVI se llega a equiparar, en los festivales paganos de mayo, a Robin con el May King (la atávica figura masculina de la fertilidad) y hay registros de quejas (siempre por parte de nobles y clérigos, perfectamente insertos en el sistema) por este tipo de celebraciones, que derivaban, aprovechando la figura del bandido, en actos de desorden público y motines. Entendámonos: aún no hemos llegado a la versión clásica de Robin y ya se ha convertido en una especie de santo pagano de los disturbios.

SympDev003

El mito se perpetúa: en la piel de Russell Crowe
 

La deificación del personaje (cada vez menos violento y más cercano a cierto socialismo utópico) irá trazándose desde entonces, gracias a las plumas sucesivas de Shakespeare (Los caballeros de Verona, Como gustéis) Jonson (El pastor triste: una historia de Robin Hood) Parker (La verdadera historia de Robin Hood) Percy, Ritson y, de un modo más notable, Pierce Egan y Howard Pyle, hasta llegar a su forma moderna con el Ivanhoe de Walter Scott.

Inglaterra siempre será un lugar agradecido para con sus bandidos y salteadores de caminos. Sí, es cierto, los torturaba, ahorcaba, despanzurraba y desmembraba, pero posteriormente escribía magníficas historias sobre ellos. Prueba de esto es la magnífica colección de penny dreadfuls y murder ballads que proliferaron desde el siglo XVII, cuando se narraban en baratos pasquines las hazañas de aquellos que iban a ser colgados en Tyburn. La película Plunkett & MacLean (Jake Scott, 1999), libremente basada en la vida de dos salteadores de caminos reales, James MacLaine y William Plunkett, narra especialmente bien todo ese cruel proceso de odio/adoración al fuera de la ley. La existencia de todo un género literario y cinematográfico como las historias de piratas lo corrobora.

SympDev004

Ejecución en Tyburn, Londres, en el siglo XVII
 

Del verdadero Billy el Niño se sabe mucho menos que lo que se cree que se sabe. Solo sobrevive una foto confirmada y la certeza de que mató a ocho hombres. Ni siquiera se llamaba William: su verdadero nombre fue Henry McCarty (se hizo llamar William H. Bonney a partir de 1877), y nació en Nueva York en 1859. Su primer roce con la justicia fue a los 15 años, y muy poco después era ya un fugitivo buscado. Practicó todo tipo de delitos: fue ladrón, atracador, cuatrero y, finalmente, asesino.

En el caso de Billy, lo que lo convirtió en mito, incluso en vida, fue su corta edad, su violencia y sus repetidas fugas de varias cárceles. Oh, y su asesinato a manos del sheriff Pat Garrett. Sobre todo eso. Porque hay momentos que definen la historia de todos los que se ven envueltos en ellos, y este fue uno de esos momentos. Muchos testigos afirmaron que Garrett, en lugar de ir a detener a Bonney, lo asesinó a traición. Los rumores crecieron hasta tal punto que el sheriff se vio obligado a desmentirlos en su libro La auténtica vida de Billy el Niño. Más allá de que te veas obligado a desmentir a los diversos testigos; más allá de que los expertos consideren el libro una sarta de falsedades, más allá, incluso, de que varios hombres hayan proclamado desde entonces que no lo mataste, y que murió de viejo… Más allá de todo ello, Pat, la marca que te convierte en un desgraciado es que tuviste que poner el nombre de Billy en el título. Eso sí es un fracaso.

SympDev005

Única foto conocida de William Bonney, “Billy el Niño”
 

El proceso de beatificación de Billy comenzó en 1911 con una película muda dirigida por Laurence Trimble. Desde entonces ha habido películas y seriales para parar el TransContinental, aunque un servidor se queda con el tono crepuscular y contestatario de Pat Garrett y Billy the Kid, de Sam Peckinpah, y con la inolvidable composición de Bob Dylan para el film, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.


 

SympDev006

Los hermanos James, Jesse (izqda.) y Frank
 

Si en algún lado se busca la definición de bandido, al lado va la foto de Jesse James. Junto con su hermano Frank y los hermanos Younger, protagonizó la historia más triste, y a la vez más violenta, del submundo criminal de la época. Los James pertenecieron al bando derrotado de la Guerra de Secesión. Sin embargo, antes de hacernos una idea equivocada y pensar en los románticos caballeros sureños, es necesario aclarar que en Misuri la guerra civil fue especialmente cruenta: una colección de masacres, salvajismo, torturas, juicios sumarísimos y ejecuciones de familias enteras, llevadas a cabo por ambos bandos. En este marco se comprende mejor la violencia extremada de Jesse James, que comienza cuando, al atracar un banco, y sin mediar provocación, descerrajó un tiro en la cabeza al director de la sucursal: lo había reconocido como uno de sus torturadores, de la época en que fue prisionero de los unionistas.

Así, la posterior carrera criminal de los hermanos James fue también un acto de guerrillas de posguerra. Lo que hoy denominaríamos, tranquilamente, terrorismo. Pero por eso mismo, y por pertenecer al bando perdedor, y por oponerse al sistema, y por morir a manos del «traidor» Robert Ford tras haber resistido el embate de nada menos que los Pinkerton (la agencia de asesinos-a-sueldo-disfrazados-de-detectives), Jesse entró en la leyenda por la puerta grande. En su lápida original, su madre hizo inscribir esta frase: «En amoroso recuerdo de mi amado hijo, asesinado por un traidor y cobarde cuyo nombre no es digno de aparecer aquí».

SympDev007

Las pintazas de Jesse James, bandolero y guerrillero
 

Como con los bandidos de la Inglaterra de Jorge II, la leyenda de Jesse comenzó casi al instante, en forma de dime novels y folletines. También como en aquellas épocas, hay una murder ballad de autor desconocido que podría constituir el primer gran esfuerzo por convertir a Jesse en santo varón de los bandidos. Pero sin duda, el cine es el medio que más ha contribuido a su hagiografía: recomendables son Sin ley ni esperanza (Philip Kaufman, 1972), Forajidos de leyenda (Walter Hill, 1980), y sobre todo El asesinato de Jesse James por el cobarde Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007) la versión históricamente más precisa de la vida y muerte de nuestro hombre. En este filme aparece el maestro de las murder ballads, Nick Cave, cantando la famosa canción… para desespero de Robert Ford, que tiene que escucharla.


 

SympDev007

De izquierda a derecha: Frank Morris, Clarence y John Anglin
 

Frank Morris y los hermanos Anglin (John y Clarence) no hubieran sido figuras especiales por los crímenes que cometieron. Ninguno de ellos era violento (los hermanos Anglin jamás empuñaron un arma) ni tenían sangre en las manos cuando se conocieron en la infame prisión de la isla de Alcatraz. En cierto modo, es aquí donde nacen, o, si más no, donde nace su mito. Porque fueron las únicas tres personas que huyeron jamás de ese penal. Y lo hicieron a su manera: con inteligencia y perseverancia.

Es fácil ver en Morris y los Anglin víctimas del sistema. Lo eran. Morris era un tipo extraordinariamente inteligente, y de haber nacido en otras circunstancias hubiera sido un científico de renombre o un genio artístico. Su CI lo situaba en el 3% superior de la escala. Pero nació pobre y se quedó huérfano a los 11 años, y así comenzó un largo periplo por casas de acogida. Lo que en EEUU se denomina «entrar pronto en el sistema». Los Anglin, por su parte, procedían de la extrema pobreza, y ejercían, como sus 11 hermanos y el resto de su familia, de mano de obra itinerante en las diferentes cosechas. En este caso es fácil estar a favor de ellos. En este caso lo difícil es justificar sus condenas.

SympDev008

Bonnie Parker posando y derrochando estilo, año 1933
 

Tanto da. La historia de su fuga es tan famosa (los muñecos de papel maché y pelo real, los túneles, la balsa hinchable…) que la leyenda comenzó cuando, probablemente, aún no habían abandonado la bahía de San Francisco. La película La fuga de Alcatraz (Don Siegel, 1979) y varios documentales han cimentado la fama de los hombres que cerraron el famoso presidio. Que las autoridades intentasen hacer pasar por suyos restos que no lo eran no hizo sino acrecentar la fama de los fugados. Diecisiete años de investigación por parte del FBI fueron incapaces de hallarlos, pese a los rumores de su aparición en Brasil. Quizás sea mejor así. Quizás se ahogaron en las gélidas aguas de la bahía. Por mi parte, quiero creer que lo consiguieron y que están en alguna playa de Sudamérica disfrutando de la vida. Nadie que luche tanto, tan inteligentemente y tan tenazmente por su libertad merece nada menos.

SympDev009

Bonnie y Clyde en su foto más famosa, 1933
 

Dime una historia de amor entre asesinos y te responderé Macbeth. Dime una historia de amor entre asesinos con metralletas y la respuesta será siempre Bonnie y Clyde. Como personajes han trascendido todos los límites históricos y se han situado en lo más alto de la mitología popular. Bonnie Parker y Clyde Barrow entraron en esa dimensión legendaria más o menos al mismo tiempo que Robert Johnson cantaba al diablo por los polvorientos caminos del profundo Sur. Durante los tres años largos que estuvieron juntos mataron a decenas de personas (sin hacer distinciones entre civiles y policías) y robaron cuanto banco, gasolinera, tienda de ultramarinos y farmacia encontraron a su paso.

Lo curioso de la historia de Bonnie y Clyde es que la leyenda nació casi al mismo tiempo que cometían sus fechorías. Un país sumido en la más absoluta de las miserias, con gente muriendo literalmente de hambre debido a los juegos de malabares de unos cuantos ricos en la Bolsa, vio de pronto a la pareja como una especie de ángeles vengadores de la clase humilde. Unos ángeles vengadores, además, jóvenes, guapos y enamorados. Si alguien quiere hacerse una idea de lo que fue aquello, solo tiene que mirar Asesinos natos, de Oliver Stone (1994). La prensa estaba a sus pies. La policía iba tras ellos.

SympDev009

Faye Dunaway y Warren Beatty como Bonnie y Clyde
 

Y como siempre que esto sucede, la policía empleó sucias artimañas: una emboscada mercenaria preparada por seis agentes de diferentes cuerpos, no para capturar a los criminales, sino directamente para asesinarlos. El coche en el que viajaban quedó tan desfigurado tras la salva de disparos (ametralladoras, escopetas y pistolas) que humeaba y tenía pequeños incendios. Los cadáveres de Bonnie y Clyde fueron casi imposibles de embalsamar de tantos balazos como tenían. El sistema no perdona a quienes se burlan de él.

La historia de Bonnie Parker y Clyde Barrow nunca se olvidó, pero, si acaso, se cimentó con la película Bonnie y Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) con Faye Dunaway y Warren Beatty como protagonistas. No está de más ver la versión apócrifa de Joseph H. Lewis, Gun Crazy, con Peggy Cummins y John Dall, cargada de un erotismo mucho más sofisticado que la de Penn, y con una fotografía y persecuciones de coches sencillamente insuperables.

SympDev010

John Dillinger: pintas, estilazo y maldad a raudales
 

Con esto doy por concluida mi exposición. Héroes o villanos, o ambas cosas, siempre nos hemos sentido atraídos por quienes quebrantan un sistema que percibimos, en lo más hondo, como injusto. El mito es hermano de la maldición, y, con la posible excepción de los chicos de Alcatraz, todos nuestros protagonistas se enfrentaron muy pronto a su final. Pero, eso sí, se convirtieron en leyendas. Y nosotros, sencillamente, necesitamos leyendas.
 


  • open
  • next
In My Daydreams

K’Tepolu: Part 10

In My Daydreams

“I…” I thought about it. Did I trust some random plant I’d just met? I didn’t know him. On the other hand, he’d taken Tikki’s side.

Tikki’s eyes widened. “Of course you can come with us. You helped me. It’s the least we can do.”

Thinking about it, I knew that we had at least three jumps before we got to the their colony. Maybe he’d be willing to get off earlier?

“Just to warn you,” I said, “we’re non-Xiniti members of the Xiniti nation, and we’re escorting her people to a place I’m not even allowed to name that’s out in the middle of nowhere. So you may not want to go the whole way and you’ll want to keep it quiet.”

The plant made a humming noise that the implant translated as a grunt. “That’s something to remember. The Xiniti have a hell of a reputation and I don’t want to be on their bad side, but I’m still coming with you. A business deal went bad and my customer put up a bounty. I’ve got no chance to survive here. Somewhere else? Maybe.”

Tikki frowned. “He won’t get you in trouble, will he?”

I said, “I hope not.”

Marcus shook his head. “I doubt it. The way I understand it, we can get things done however we want as long as we get them done.”

Tikki sighed. “Good,” and then she smiled at the plant. “I know everyone else’s name, but not yours. “What should I call you?”

The plant’s branches rustled, giving a fleeting impression of the sound of wind. “My name is Crawls-Through-Desert.”

She cocked her head. “That’s… an interesting name for a plant.”

It’s branches hummed again. “It means that I go places where no plant should go. Knowing where I am right now, I can’t say my people named me wrong. By the way, what’s your ship’s berth? I should have my things delivered.”

I thought about that for a second. “We don’t have any cargo space, so I hope you don’t have that much stuff.”

The plant’s branches rustled again. “Don’t worry about it.”

About that time, the train glided to a stop in front of us. After it disgorged its passengers, we stepped inside and found seats.

As we were settled into our seats, Crawls-Through-Desert stuck its pot to the wall with some kind of adhesive. I missed exactly where it came from.

Tikki looked between Marcus and me. “How do humans join the Xiniti? I thought they hated us.”

Marcus shrugged. “I’m just here with my cousin.”

“They don’t hate us,” I said, keeping my voice low. “From what I’ve seen, I think they might like us a little. Anyway, it’s a simple thing. We killed a Xiniti outlaw and they made us citizens.”

“Damn,” Crawls-Through-Desert said, angling his leaves in my direction, “you’re very dangerous or very lucky.”

Tikki shook her head. “They’re strange. I don’t think any of us in the Human Ascendency ever have understood what they wanted. They destroyed the Masters, but they never destroyed us—and they could have. They’ve destroyed whole star systems when our people attacked them and when one group found ancient technology…”

She lapsed into silence, leaning back into her seat.

“So what’s your power?” Marcus asked. “It looked like you were controlling time.”

She pursed her lips. “I think that’s what it is. We have active powers, but the Abominators viewed my  gene line as a failure because we can only use our abilities a few times a day. The only reason they didn’t destroy us is because they get speedsters when they breed us with the right lines.”

Marcus asked her something else, but Jaclyn called my implant. I answered the call.

Jaclyn’s voice appeared in my head. “How are things going? Are you going to be back soon?”

“About thirty minutes. We’ve got Tikki.”

“Thank God,” she said. “The colonists aren’t waiting. They’re still freaking out about being chased and they want to go the moment we’re ready. So don’t drop Tikki off with them. She’ll ride with us. Anything else I should know?”

I didn’t want to tell her, but I had to. “We’re bringing along a plant.”

“You bought a plant?” I could hear disbelief in her voice.

“No, Tikki got attacked by some hrrnna. A sentient plant helped defend her, and when it asked to hitch a ride, she said ‘yes’.”

Jaclyn’s voice rose. “Why didn’t you say ‘no’?”

“It’s in trouble. People want to kill it here, and she’d already said it could. I’m thinking we’ve got a couple stops before we get to the colony. We’ll drop it off at one of them. My implant says they’ve got decent populations and a lot of through traffic at their gates. He should be fine. Better, we’ll be using gates, so he won’t see our drive or anything else he shouldn’t.”

“If you’re sure,” Jaclyn said, “but this better not blow up in our faces.”

Half an hour later, we were on the ship. Crawls-Through-Desert’s cargo had been delivered. It was the size of a large refrigerator. Jaclyn shook her head as I stared at it, but there was nothing to be done. We all strapped in and I floated the ship out of of our berth and the landing bay.

Soon we could see stars again as we got into line with the colonists’ ship, a long oval shaped ship with stubby wings. None of the other ships registered to use the gate were obviously from the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office. We went through the gate with the colonists’ ship following us. The world outside turned white and our ships flew toward Alliance space.

We didn’t arrive there alone.

image image image
  • open
  • next
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
  • open
  • next
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.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
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.

  • open
  • next
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.

image image image
  • open
  • next
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
  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Geek Grumpy vs la mid-generation de las consolas

Crying Grumpies
image

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.

image

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.


  • open
  • next
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.

image image image
  • open
  • next

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.

 

 

 

 

  • open
  • next
Crying Grumpies

Castlevania de Netflix: La breve maldición de Drácula

Crying Grumpies
image

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.

image

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.

image

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.



  • open
  • next
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.

  • open
  • next
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.


  • open
  • next
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.

image image image
  • open
  • next
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
  • open
  • next
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
  • open
  • next

So Jonesy ends up ruling the world.

Require Cookie

No questions, I assume?

😛

  • open
  • next
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.


  • open
  • next
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.

image image image
  • open
  • next

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.

 

 

 

  • open
  • next
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
  • open
  • next
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.

  • open
  • next
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.”

image image image
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

B13.a Toybox (1 of 2)

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

Welcome to the Toybox Online Message Boards
You are currently logged in, Peregrine (Verified Gadgeteer)
You have access to the professional section.
You are viewing:
• Threads you have replied to
• AND Threads that have new replies
• OR private message conversations with new replies
• Thread OP is displayed
• Ten posts per page
• Last sixteen messages in private message history
• Threads and private messages are ordered by user custom preference
You have no infractions

***

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?

Previous | Next

Vote


Filed under: Brennus Chapters, Patreon Tagged: Basil, Dory, Lord Buckethead, Nuckelavee, Peregrine, Sir Lamorak
  • open
  • next
PenintheStone

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

PenintheStone
  • open
  • next
Tieshaunn

13.9 Call of the Sleeper

Tieshaunn

Previous | Next

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.”

Previous | Next

Vote


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


Filed under: Patreon, Update
  • open
  • next
more
mark as read