In My Daydreams

Updating Late

In My Daydreams

The update that should be appearing late tonight will appear late tomorrow night. I started on it last night and while I did get somewhere I didn’t get far enough to be done on time.

Tonight I’m going with a friend to see a band and I can’t imagine that I’ll be in the right state of mind to finish.  For those of you wondering what I’m going to see, the friend in question is into 70s era Genesis and the band is called “The Musical Box.”

I guess they’re semi-official in that Genesis loans them the original props. So, this will be interesting.

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Semicoop

Double agenda

Semicoop

 

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:15pm PDT

This week’s comic features one of our patrons, Darrel! He won an appearance in one of our comics during the Winter raffle! This coming Thursday, we’ll be giving away prizes in our Spring Raffle! So if you’re interested in winning a signed print of one of our comics of your choice, one of our merchandise items or… an appearance in one of our comics, you can become a patron over at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/semicoop! 😀

The comic is about the semi co-operative game Battlestar Galactica. We’ve always been fans of the (new) series and certainly don’t mind games with hidden traitor mechanisms, BUT we’ve actually never played this game yet. And now it’s out of print, so it’s time to start asking around if anybody owns a copy we can borrow. I hope we do get to play the game one day. 🙂

Last week, Leder Games launched their Kickstarter for an expansion for Root! And since we really like Root, we figured this would be a great moment to make the propaganda poster we designed for this comic, free to download for anybody who would like some nice Root-decoration! You can download them here for free, but do note that you can only print and use them for personal usage. Enjoy!

Games with a hidden traitor element: yay or nay?

The post Double agenda appeared first on Semi Co-op.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 31

In My Daydreams

Jaclyn couldn’t take them all out, but she tried. She moved too quickly for me to see, but with the Xiniti implant, I processed her movements well enough to notice the blur of where she’d been.

Ordinary people didn’t even notice that and had to rely on the explosion of blood and the way the Ascendancy soldiers’ bodies toppled off their torsos to the ground.

That didn’t mean the Ascendancy soldiers couldn’t hit her though. One of them, an Ascendant Guardmember by the symbol on his chest, shot her in the thigh with a yellow beam.

She tumbled as he twisted to take another shot at her.

I tried to point my laser in that direction, but it didn’t matter. A beam of light burned away his head.

His body flopped to the ground as my implant outlined Katuk—who had now started aiming at other soldiers. Cassie meanwhile had burned down several at once.

Jaclyn made it to her feet, setting off again, but my implant informed me that she wasn’t moving as quickly as before. She’d moved from extremely fast to not quite as fast, but it was still faster than the Ascendancy soldiers could react to.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many shots she could take before she couldn’t move at all.

Not that it made much of a difference in the moment. For all that we’d done, the Ascendancy still descended upon us in waves. In my helmet’s 360 degree view, I could even see them coming from behind.

They weren’t targeting us yet. The colonists were still fighting, but it was only a matter of time.

I fired the sonics at a group of soldiers as they landed in front of me, burning them with the laser on my other arm. Meanwhile, Kals shouted a word that made another group stop in their tracks, unmoving.

Behind me, Marcus had elongated his legs. From where he stood next to a group of skinny trees, he used one of our particle accelerators as a sniper rifle. As he burned the soldiers from above, Tikki stood below, absorbing anything that came her way into her time bubble and sometimes turning the bubble to redirect it back toward the Ascendancy.

In the middle of all of that, I called Rachel again. “I don’t know where you are, but they’re in the camp now and colonists are fighting them hand to hand. So, basically, we just lost. Now would be a great time for the Ghosts to show up.”

Rachel’s voice came over the comm. She was all but shouting into it as the hiss and crackle of different energies burned through the air in the background. “I know! I called them. They’re not coming.”

“What?” Now I was yelling. Behind me, the gun under Crawls-Through-Deserts’ pot burned three Ascendancy soldiers in a shotgun-like blast of light.

“They see the future. They’re attacking the Ascendancy ships fighting the Xiniti fleet. They said you’ll think of something.”

“Ugh.” I tried to think of a response with more words than that.

“Look, I know. Don’t argue. Do it and we can all go home. Keeping you alive isn’t getting any easier.”

An Ascendancy soldier that had landed in front exploded, starting with his head and ending partway into his body. Rachel floated behind it, holding her pistol. Then she faded out and I heard static over the comm.

In the chaos and screams, I thought of my next best option after Rachel and opened a connection to Tikki with my implant.

She took the call and time seemed to stand still, presumably because mind to mind communication was so much faster than speech. I couldn’t assume it had nothing to do with the powers Kee showed as Tikki.

“Hey,” I kept my voice calm and low. In reality, she was on Lee’s level of power and I was about to end forever any chance at a life she liked. “You know how you said you’d tell Marcus that who you really were? We need that version of you right now. We need Kee more than Tikki. I mean, if you think you can take everyone out as Tikki, I’m fine with that, but I suspect you’ll need to be yourself to make this work.”

The pause before she spoke seemed to be unending, but I knew it wasn’t because nothing seemed to be moving around us.

“No.” Tikki’s face tightened. “If I reveal myself, the Destroy faction will come here. You won’t survive it and neither will I. Thanks to Lee, I know they’re active now. He’s been fighting one or more of them. I’ve felt the aftereffects of their battles.”

“You don’t have to reveal yourself to your people. You told me that you were the one that truly understood your species’ powers and that you’d designed the weapon that Lee stole from the Destroy faction before he disappeared. I’m pretty sure you told me that you could hide using your abilities better than he could—better, I’m guessing, than any of your people, right?”

I knew I had her attention then. By that, I mean I knew it because I could feel it. Lee had told me I’d feel something when I encountered one of his kind and Kee hadn’t triggered it much at all.

Now though, I could sense something big in the air around me, an almost physical weight. It was the kind of weight you might feel if you met a being billions of years old, that consciously existed in an infinity of universes, that had the power to unmake the planet with a thought, and you’d said something that made it decide to give you its full, undivided attention.

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Tieshaunn

14.7 Breaking Point

Tieshaunn

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Pain filled every picometre of Basil’s world. White-hot, razor-sharp, with no source and no end, it would have knocked him out if the sheer intensity of it didn’t force him to stay conscious.

He couldn’t say how long it took, but after what felt like an eternity of nothing but agony, it the sensation abated – slightly – as a different sensation appeared, a single point of darkness within the blazing glare.

Focusing on it, he managed to slowly draw his focus away from the pain – and as soon as he did, it instead snapped back to his body, and to his senses.

Basil found himself on all fours, his forehead on the ground, a dull ache that could barely be considered pain in his forehead, far eclipsed by the roar of pain that seemed to set his every nerve af-

No. Don’t focus on that.

He forced himself to lean back, kneeling upright, but unable to stand up properly, as his vision cleared. Part of it was red, though, and he reached up to wipe at his left eye, his hand coming away with blood… blood that had run from his eye down, like tears. But also blood from his forehead.

What?

“S-sir, are you… alright?” a new voice spoke up, drawing his attention to his side.

A scruffy-looking man in an EMT uniform had knelt down next to Basil, without him even noticing it at first. He was looking at Basil, with both worry and.. fear, in his sight.

“I can not honestly say that I am,” Basil replied, only to find that just moving his jaw and tongue intensified the pain considerably.

It was getting bad enough that his eyes were losing focus, the world turning blurry again.

“Are you, um, going to repeatedly smash your head into the ground again? Is that… something to do with your power?”

“What? Why w- oh.” It clicked. Somehow, for some reason, he’d started banging his head against the floor, using the purely physical pain of the act to distract himself from the pain that DiL was causing to him again, now that Lady Light had…

He looked down at his wrist. The glittering band she’d created was still there – he hoped that was a sign that she was still alive.

The last thing the world needed right now was to lose Lady Light. Especially with another world war starting up.

Deal with the here and now first, mate

The EMT was still watching him, waiting for an answer.

“It would take too long to explain, Sir. Might I impose on you for some aid?” He gestured at his bleeding forehead.

“Ah, of course, let me take care of that,” the older man said, and opened a small kit he’d been carrying. “Least I can do to help defend this city, young man.”

Basil nodded, though he stayed quiet as the wound was disinfec-

Ow. Another power change.

It’s only gonna get worse, mate.

He pressed the signaling device’s button, doing his best to stay still until the wound was cleaned out and covered by a large, adhesive bandage.

“There you go,” the scruffy EMT said, standing back up. “What are you gonna do now?”

Basil stood up as well, rolling his shoulders and flexing his fingers.

Then he pointed straight towards the locus of the fight, where spears of what appeared to be red light were shooting up, like a flower in full bloom.

“Throw myself straight into that.”

The man looked at it, then at Basil, and for a moment, he was sure the older man was actually considering dragging him away from the fight. Not that he’d stand a chance to succeed.

In the end, though, he didn’t go through with that impulse.

“Yeah. Godspeed, son.”

Basil nodded, and ran off, going straight for the nearest teleportation node.

***

As soon as Basil closed in on the battle, he realised that it had fundamentally changed – and not just because his headache was getting exponentially worse the closer he came to DiL.

Where before the defenders of New Lennston had been focused entirely on countering DiL’s powers, while minimizing the risk to themselves and the damage to the city, all that had now been abandoned in the face of DiL’s new-found vulnerability.

There was no restraint now. Scores of metahumans, capes, cowls and civilian alike, were all but throwing themselves at her, unleashing a dizzying flurry of powers upon her, with but one goal – to penetrate her remaining defenses and end her.

The sheer killing intent radiating off all of these massed metahumans seemed to have an almost physical presence.

Anyone but DiL – and maybe a handful of other metahumans in history, her parents among them – would have been struck down in seconds.

Since this was DiL though, Basil emerged out of the teleportation node only to immediately lean backwards, almost bending double, as he just barely avoided having his head sliced off at the neck by a thread of bright blue light that’d reflected off of her current defensive power, and which did slice the computer store in half, in which he’d bought some parts to construct his ravenbot nest, so long ago.

That almost removed your head as something to worry about, mate.

He ignored the returned voice, straightening himself up to look at the fight, to look for any chance to contribute, to help.

DiL was still where she’d fallen when Hanabi’s fireworks first went up. He could barely see her, lying on her side, her modesty barely preserved by her glowing hair, which had spread out around her, slowly digging into the street by dissolving any material it came into contact with, and preventing any ground-bound fighters from closing in on her.

Oscillating dodeca fractals the size of dinner plates were flying all around her, dozens of them, interposing themselves between her and any attack that came in – and even when they only hit a part of an attack, they redirected the whole of it, often but not always multiplying it as well. Her defensive choice, it seemed.

Her only choise, apparently, as there were no other power effects originating from her noticable in any fraction.

That had to mean something, even if the fractals alone were doing great work of messing up all efforts to actually get to her and finish the deal.

Even Basil felt thoroughly dizzy, watching the chaotic mess around her, yet he still did it, trying to see past the power effects and focus on the actual being behind it – though he did keep his senses sharp, ready to dodge any attack coming his way.

When a gap opened amidst the fireworks, he finally got a straight glimpse at DiL – and the expression he saw on her face gave him pause, preventing him from taking any action, if he could even have done anything.

Or rather, the fact that she had any expression at all.

DiL looked confused. It wasn’t an angry kind of confusion, or a sad one, or anything like that.

It was the expression of a child, a toddler, in a grown woman’s body, staring at the world around herself with complete and utter befuddlement.

Innocent, ignorant, of what was truly happening.

You can’t be serious, mate.

Basil staggered back, then dropped into a backwards roll, dodging two or three redirected attacks which chewed up the spot of the street he’d just been standing on, sliced the lamp post behind him in half and a painfully bright shower of rainbow-colored sparks.

She’s…

She’s a monster! You’ve seen what she’s done! You studied it, and now you’re seeing it live! Take those crappy rail-blades of yours and make with the stabby!

Basil shook his head, pulling back further. He needed… he needed to think. To work this out.

God, my head hurts so bad…

He closed his eyes as another bright flash of pain went through his head, DiL’s powers changing – but where before, the flash would have passed as they settled, it continued.

Waves of golden energy rippled out from DiL, travelling across the ground, in every direction, spikes of near-liquid matter shooting up at everyone they passed underneath.

At the same time, another offensive power, glass-like shards, like shattered force-fields, spraying up into the sky, only to suddenly change direction, becoming beyond-razor-sharp projectiles that rained down on everyone and everything within the Desolation Field’s range.

Two wheels of fire formed above DiL’s prone form, as big as trailer truck’s largest wheel, spinning rapidly in place, then starting to also spin in a lopsided circle above her, unleashing volley upon volley of fireballs that sucked the heat out of everything they touched, flash-freezing it instantly.

And another, a fourth power, a cord of green energy that flitted and whirled about, like a string of yarn being held in front of a ventilator – and wherever this one touched, flesh bloomed forth, twisted teratoma growing arms, legs, eyes, hair, entrails, a chaotic jumble of flesh, growing upon anything at all – from the unlucky humans to be touched, to the very concrete and metal lamp posts.

Basil could saw it all being unleashed, in split seconds, and he knew there was no way for him to dodge it all – there was just too much, all at once, and that didn’t even account for the ongoing torrent of paralyzing pain.

He saw shards of razor-sharp force-fields come flying, at the same time as the green cord flicked his way – only for all of it to impact a concave force-field, invisible but for the purplish bursts of light that traced their way through it where the attacks impacted it.

Amy?

Looking up and right, he saw his sister, floating high above in the air, one arm outstretched, palm open and facing him, as her eyes burned with purple light, her jaw set in an expression of intense focus.

Her right arm was outstretched as well, gesturing as she manipulated dozens of force-fields, shooting about to block attacks, protecting others as well as herself, grabbing some to move them elsewhere – and then she did the same with Basil, a gesture of her left hand causing the force field that’d just saved his life to wrap around him and launch him into the distance, straight away from DiL’s location.

“No, Amy, I-” he tried to shout, but he didn’t have enough of a breath in him, and the only thing that came out was a groan.

Amy, let me help!

No, Basil. You stay safe, came the response, calm and clipped, if only because of how focused she was on the battle itself.

Before he could reply, the connection cut off, and the force field holding him winked out, leaving him to tumble through the air, above rows of buildings.

He tried to right himself, to see where he was going to land and what he could do to avoid splattering on the ground or a wall, when it became evidently clear that Amy hadn’t just been blindly tossing him about – a blue-tinged cloud formed in his flight path and caught him, turning a darker shade of blue as it seemed to literally drain the kinetic energy out of him.

It quickly flew down and deposited him on a broad balcony above the entrance to the Lennston Historic Museum.

Right next to Gloom Glimmer, who was leaning on the elaborately carved stone balustrade, trying to make it seem casual with her arms crossed on top to lean on, yet revealing a mountain of exhaustion, of many kinds, with literally everything from the set of her shoulders to the pained smile she gave him.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” she quipped lightly, her shoulders sagging almost imperceptibly as the cloud she’d conjured dissipated. “People are going to start talking.”

Basil’s reply was another pained groan, as he almost fell over, just barely catching himself with one hand upon the balustrade, the other going to his head, holding it as if he could physically hold it together against the onslaught of pain.

In the distance, DiL kept spewing out more and more powers, dozens now, the oldest ones only slowly fading away – too slowly, causing the number of powers to keep going up.

And they were, seemingly, all offensive, and brutally so, yet far more crude than she tended to display, pounding her surroundings with neither rhyme nor reason – they did not appear to specifically target anyone or anything in particular.

“Brennus? Hey, Brennus, focus!”

Gloom Glimmer’s drew Basil’s focus back to himself, her warm hands – warm, even through the soft gloves of her full-body suit – touching his cheeks, turning his head away from the staggering display of powers.

“Look me in the eyes!” she commanded him, and his blood-shot eyes met pools of red on a black ground.

It was like stepping out of an over-heated building out into a cool autumn night, the blanket of darkness drawn over his mind soothing away the pain, shielding him from the glaring light of DiL’s power.

The sudden relief – though he could still feel some pain, it was barely a pinprick anymore – was so intense it almost caused him to collapse on the spot.

Ho-ly shit, mate, this girl’s a godsend.

She looked up at him – he was once more struck by how much shorter than him she was, when she wasn’t floating around – and her surprisingly red lips tilted into a gentle smile.

“Better now?”

He nodded, slightly, her hands still cupping his cheeks.

She used her thumbs to wipe tears he hadn’t even noticed he’d shed from his cheeks – at least they weren’t bloody, this time – and then let go, taking a step away.

He almost followed her, a part of him yearning for that gentle touch in the face of all the pain and heartwrench he’d gone through over the last twenty-four hours.

Almost.

“Y-yes, much better. Thank you,” he said, and found his voice to be surprisingly hoarse, as if he’d been screaming at the top of his lungs for a good long time.

Maybe he had.

“What… how are you doing this?” he asked, after a moment of thinking through a much clearer head.

She shrugged. “I theorized that your – and Polymnia’s – headaches within the Desolation Field are due to your high synchronization with your powers – too much data is bleeding over into your brains, more than they are equipped to deal with. I am… basically using a power that lets me take some of that load off. Like running several computers in parallel to deal with a greater data stream at once. You should probably notice that your gadget ideas aren’t coming as hard and fast as they usually do,” she explained, almost on a single breath.

Basil blinked, processing the amount of information she’d just dumped on him – and the implications it made.

He was pretty sure only a handful of people, at best, would’ve known to explain this to him.

A brief moment of introspection revealed that his power was working more slowly than usual, the ideas and observations it fed him even more fragmented than they already tended to be.

“Yes, it is. Not that I mind,” he replied, leaning heavily on the balustrade. “Thank you.”

Her smile briefly lost the sadness and worry it’d carried, and became a thing of beauty indeed. “You’re very welcome,” she said, softly. Then she giggled, drawing a curious look from him. “This power, I’ve used it a few times, to drain other peoples’… skills would be a wrong word. Their intellect, perhaps. This is the first time I’m using it to help someone.”

“I suppose even a power like that has more than one use,” he said, turning back towards the distant spectacle.

It wasn’t distant enough, really. DiL had already demonstrated that she could easily cover the entire area within her field with attacks, though she was currently not doing so, for whatever reason – though it was likely to be just chance, considering the chaotic expression of powers.

Some of them didn’t even seem to do anything, other than generate weird visual effects.

If he squinted, he could see a dot of purple light flying above the locus of it all, fighting tooth and nail against the onslaught.

“I wish I could help,” he said, feeling his heart wrench with worry and guilt. Worry, for the defenders as a whole, but for his sister in particular. Guilt, because it should be him protecting her, not the other way around.

It made little sense, her being the older and more powerful sibling, and yet it was a true thing, a conviction that he should be there, between her and any threat.

“So do I,” Gloom Glimmer agreed, leaning onto the balustrade again, watching the distant fight, her eyes, though inhuman in their coloring, expressing very human fear and sadness. “So do I.”

“Why?” he couldn’t keep himself from asking. “Why are you still here? With your power… why are you not helping, if you want to?”

He didn’t mean to make it sound accusatory, and he was quite certain he hadn’t, yet she still flinched, as if struck.

“I’m burning too quickly through my powers, against her,” she replied, her eyes still transfixed onto the distance. “Fewer powers, weaker ones, coming up slower… I’m afraid to go in there, fight, only to end up having to be saved again, distracting someone who might otherwise k… ki…”

She squeezed her eyes shut, unable to say the word.

“Who might… stop her,” she finished, finally settling on a less troublesome word.

“I understand.” That was basically what’d just happened to him, charging in mindlessly, only to have to be saved by his sister.

Boy, what a freaking pity party.

Shut. Up.

There was quiet, for a few moments.

Then Gloom Glimmer opened her eyes again, unshed tears adding a shine to her red-on-black orbs. “That’s not true,” she said, only to elaborate when he turned his head to look at her, confused. “I mean… it’s not the reason… it’s not the only reason why I’m, here. And not, there.” She gestured at the fighting.

A quick glance showed Basil that DiL had essentially become a wellspring of powers, spewing more effects out in chaotic waves than were arrayed against her.

He should’ve been terrified, or at least concerned, that she was exceeding her previously assumed limitations, but he truly did not have the energy left to do so.

Eh, so things are incomparably worse than anyone assumed them to be. What else is new around here?, the Man in the Moon commented, quite unhelpfully.

Basil did what he could to ignore him, and focus on Gloom Glimmer, his eyes looking at the side of her face.

She continued to speak, without being prompted: “I think, the biggest reason is, that I’m afraid. Not of, dying – though, I am. I am terrified of dying. But even more so, I… I can tell, my power is straining itself to keep up. I’ve pushed it harder, today, than I ever have before, throughout my entire life.” A gulp followed, then: “I’m afraid of pushing it further. Of pushing too hard, of dropping down into this… this vast well of darkness, from which my powers rise, and not coming out again. Or worse, coming out, but…” Her voice turned into a whisper, “Coming out like her. A monster.”

Tears started to run down her unmarred cheeks, as she watched people die in the distance.

Basil averted his eyes. “A well of darkness,” he said, trying to focus on something other than the emotions in her statement.

“Well is, the wrong word, perhaps. An ocean, really. A vast sea of pure blackness, from which powers rise up, like lights drifting towards the sky. It’s weird, I know, but that’s how my power appears to my mind’s eye,” she explained. “I’ve lived with it, for as long as I can recall, and I’ve always feared what might lie below it.”

Quiet fell between them again, with only the cacophony of battle to make it anything but flawlessly so.

Occasionally, Gloom Glimmer would reach out with one arm, gesturing at a distant figure about to be struck by an attack, moving them, teleporting them or otherwise shielding them from harm.

He couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

“What?” she asked, eyes filled with those same unshed tears.

“I do not think it could be such a bad thing,” he answered her, as their eyes met once more.

“What do you mean?”

“You, looking at what is beneath that ocean,” he clarified, smiling as reassuringly as he knew how to. “I do not think you could ever truly be a monster.”

Tears slipped out of her eyes, which were overflowing with pent-up emotions he couldn’t even begin to imagine.

“Take it from someone whose entire existence is defined by jaw-dropping Ignorance – to not know, even the most basic things about oneself, there is no greater fear. No more binding chains. I wish I could know. No matter what I found out, I want to know it. And so should you. Because, maybe knowing it, discovering it, will doom you. Or maybe it will set you free. But remaining ignorant means that the chains will be the only option.”

He shrugged, breaking eye contact as he turned away from her again. “In the end, Knowledge… is… Freedom.

“I… I don’t know… I mean, I…” She shook her head, putting both hands onto the balustrade, squeezing the cold rock so hard it cracked. “I’m so…”

Three twinkles of red light glimmered in the distance, approaching rapidly, and Basil’s body moved almost before he made the choice to, one hand going to the distracted Gloom Glimmer’s shoulder, shoving her out of the path of the first beam of almost solid red light, as thick as Basil’s thigh, which would have punched a hole from the crown of her head all the way through her body.

With that same shove, he also moved his chest out of the way of the second beam, even as it split into a dozen lesser beams, just barely dodging having his torso turned into swiss cheese.

“Darn, I got distracted, I-” She froze, staring at him, the black and red draining out of her eyes, soft, almost jewel-like blue returning.

Basil opened his mouth to tell her… something… but he couldn’t even make a sigh, feeling nothing but blood bubble out past his lips.

Looking down, he was confused to see three holes through his torso, each as thick around as his biceps. One through where he assumed his heart to be, one through the right lung, and another straight through the lower left side of his ribcage, having disintegrated his floating rib, and more.

Oh, bugger, he thought, as shadows encroached his vision, as they did his mind.

The world tilted, spinning, his body collapsing like a puppet which’d had its strings cut all at once.

The last thing he saw was Gloom Glimmer throwing up a force field to shield herself from another attack, even as she reached out for him with her other hand, her face twisted in shock – but unharmed.

At least I did not fail twice on the same day…

Then, the pain was gone for good, as was everything else.

***

In the middle of the desperate fight, suddenly, the entire battle was interrupted.

A scream tore its way out of Mindstar’s throat and mind alike, propagating outwards by means both natural and not.

It was a scream unlike anything anyone within its reach had ever heard, except perhaps the Dark himself. A primal thing, beyond thought or reason, beyond even such prosaic things as rage or grief.

The scream – though that was an inadequate word to describe it, for the actually, physically audible component was but the smallest fraction of the whole – distorted reality around her, blowing away everything – every single power’s effects, every speck of dust, every body close enough to be caught in its innermost wake, every thought and emotion; everything was blown away out of a rapidly expanding sphere of nothing but that colossal distortion.

Even DiL seemed to feel it, her whole body flinching, head turning to look straight up at Mindstar.

Basil’s sister continued to scream as she directed her burning purple gaze down upon her quarry, and shot towards her with such force she out-sped her own wake.

Powers emerged from DiL once more, a dazzling number, too many to count, but Mindstar created a pentagonal force field in front of her.

It shattered, as soon as it came into contact with the onslaught of powers, yet another was right behind it to absorb more of it.

And another.

And yet another.

Dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands of layers, generated at beyond the speed of thought, layered upon one another, blocked DiL’s aimless, omnidirectional assault, and Mindstar shot straight through it, impacting her foe.

Said impact was so forceful it blew the dust away once more, the pressure wave throwing several capes and cowls off their feet or sending the flying ones tumbling, those who’d somehow resisted the impact of her scream – resisted the continuing effect of it, as she didn’t stop screaming, be it in body or in mind, even now.

The ground cracked, and collapsed, buildings falling apart as the city immediately around where she’d hit sagged into the ground.

To those still able to see was revealed an utterly discordant sight – Mindstar was straddling DiL, screaming at the top of her lungs as her fists rained strike upon strike down on the prone maiden of terror.

With each strike came a burst of purple energy, as if she had her fists wrapped in her own force fields, enhancing their power.

Blow upon blow rained down upon DiL, pulverizing the confused girl’s face, splattering red and grey gore all over the ground around them, and upon the raging villainess’s costume and mask.

More blows came, until nothing was left of the head but liquid and some chips of white bone, but she was not done yet.

Fists opened into claws and ripped into the headless body, sinking into flesh like it was clay, tearing it apart.

One arm was broken and twisted off at the elbow, tossed aside carelessly, while the other was torn straight out of the socket with a sickeningly wet sound. Breasts and ribs went flying, pulped into unrecognizable masses by the sheer force of her hands clenching around them. Lungs, stomach and heart, torn and crushed. The spine, pounded into the ground until it was so much fine paste.

Only when everything above the waist had been returned to little more than a red cover upon the ground, the still-glowing mass of hair surrounding them and covering the purple girl’s fists up to the elbows, did her assault, her rage and her scream abate.

She stumbled up onto her feet, staggering, barely staying atop her delicate heels as she turned away, arms hanging down, shoulders slumped.

Above her, the Desolation Field dissipated, the day turning into night once more, and the light faded from DiL’s hair, leaving long, golden locks behind, with a single, purple eye lying amidst their coils.

Men and women, heroes and villains, they all stared down in sheer shock, as the purple girl staggered aimlessly around within the crater she’d made, mindlessly repeating the same whispered words, over and over.

“Basil… Basil… I’ve got to find… Basil… I can’t… can’t feel… Basil… Basil… Basil…”

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 30

In My Daydreams

It didn’t take long to realize that the leader wasn’t obvious. With implants, you didn’t need to do anything visually to know who was running things. Plus, as my implant informed me, armies had policies for hiding who the officers were.

They didn’t have policies that hid what an aerial view from my bots showed. The colonists may have stalled the charge earlier, but now the army was massing close together. When they rushed us, they weren’t going to stop.

I contacted Crawls-Through-Desert who seemed to be acting as Captain Tolker’s lieutenant or something like it.

After I sent him a series of pictures from the bots through my implant, he said, “I’ve told Tolker. We’re adjusting. Do what you can to hold them back.”

I passed the images over to everyone else—including Tikki and Kals who had fished out their bracelets from somewhere and connected to us.

“Shit,” Cassie said, “we’re screwed. Jaclyn, take this. You’ll need it.”

She unbuckled her belt and held her sword out.

Jaclyn stared at it. “No. I don’t want to use that thing.”

“We’re not on Earth. There are no cops or jails. You’ll need it.” Cassie waved it at her and Jaclyn took it and buckled it on.

“All hail Blender.” Cassie grinned at her.

Jaclyn shook her head. “Don’t call me that.”

She took out the sword and turned it on. “I’m going to be lucky if I don’t cut off my own leg.”

Marcus imitated the hum of a lightsaber. “Nah. You’re going to be great.”

Even as he said it, I saw the Ascendancy troops begin to charge. From above, it was a line of blue-white shields followed by a mass of people in armor. Worse, the line went around our entire camp completely unbroken.

They all ran forward at once, focussing their fire at specific spots in the colonists’ lines, shattering shields. Other colonists moved in to fill the gap, but I could see it wouldn’t last long.

I wasn’t the only one. Jaclyn jumped over both front lines, landing in the middle of the Ascendancy’s troops.

Before I could fly after her, Katuk ran after her, jumping after her, not quite landing as far into the Ascendancy’s soldiers as she did. I realized that that might have been intentional when I saw that she’d pulled out the sword blade.

It flashed in the sunlight, decapitating a body with every strike.

It didn’t take long before Katuk caught up with her, hitting any Ascendancy solders that came too close with lasers.

I breathed a little easier because Jaclyn wasn’t alone, but it wasn’t enough. The Ascendancy troops didn’t stop fighting. They continued except that they assigned people to fire beam weapons at Jaclyn and Katuk.

Energy weapons could hurt Jaclyn. I’d seen her skin get burned by hot plasma. While she walked away from it without even getting any special care, it still hurt her.

I hoped that if she got so hurt that she couldn’t fight, Katuk would be able to get her out of there—or that she’d recognize what direction things were going and retreat on her own.

I didn’t have time to fly out there to help.

Jaclyn and Katuk weren’t the only ones able to jump over the battle lines. Ascendancy soldiers did exactly that as the lines got closer, attacking the colonists’ line from behind.

Of course, we didn’t just let them. Cassie burned down soldiers as quickly as she could, but it meant that she wasn’t firing into the advancing front line. She was firing carefully within our side, burning down Ascendancy soldiers while trying to avoid shooting colonists in the back.

As for myself, I ignored the feed from my bots as a fanged and clawed soldier landed in front of Dalat as the thin man attempted to fire at it.

It eviscerated him before he landed a shot. Geman, seeing the death of his fellow pilot, fired his rifle into the creature, the shots not making it through the soldier’s armor.

It ripped out Geman’s throat.

I landed next to it at that point, throwing a punch that hit with nearly ten tons of force, more than enough to get past its armor. Its chest exploded, throwing bloody spray and bits of rib cage backward.

I had a bad feeling that image would haunt me later.

I hit two more soldiers, saving a couple colonists from being torn to shreds even as I processed the fact that Geman and Dalat were dead. I hadn’t known them well, but they’d deserved better.

Ahead of me, the Ascendancy line had broken through ours, but at the same time, they were in complete disarray. Between Jaclyn and Katuk, this section of the Ascendancy’s line had a hole. Body after body lay on the ash-covered ground, some of them put there by me, all of them burned or dismembered.

But as I said before, it wasn’t enough. Even as I saw that we had the beginnings of a horrible Pyrrhic victory, the bots showed me that at three other points around the circle, the Ascendancy had broken through and were entering the circle, killing colonists as they went.

Captain Tolker was directing them to fall back and reform a new line over colonists’ communication channel—except then he cut off mid-sentence. I looked over the battlefield to see him lying on the ground with a bloody clawed Ascendancy soldier standing over him.

Over the channel, soldiers screamed and asked for help. Crawls-Through-Desert shouted at the soldiers, getting some of them to form ragged groups that were again firing back.

Even though the Ascendancy soldiers weren’t doing as well near us, they seemed to know they were doing well everywhere else and bounded toward us in great leaps, determined, I assumed, to make up the difference.

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Semicoop

Blow this case wide open

Semicoop

 

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Mar 10, 2019 at 4:10pm PDT

I mentioned Chronicles of Crime a few weeks ago in the blog post and by now we’ve finished the “main campaign” and we’re very impressed by it and a little frustrated that we somehow missed a clue. 😉 Nonetheless, I’d really recommend the game if you’re into these type of murder mystery games. It has a really nice and fresh take on the genre, the only downside in our opinion is, is that it would be less fun if you would play it with a bigger group. In our experience, you can easily play Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective with five to six players, but Chronicles of Crime is really centered on the board on the table and on the single device you’re using. It played perfectly with just the two of us though.

In other very cool news regarding this game, Lucky Duck Games has released the community editor for the game! That means everybody can go and make their own case. We’re really excited about this and we’re secretly dreaming of making our own Semi Co-op case for the game, including our own art of course. Who knows, sometime in the future… 😀

Last night, it was once again time for another D&D session! Number four! Our DM went all out with the scenery and as you can see in the pics on the left, it looked amazing! These are the perks of having a DM that also enjoys games like Frostgrave and other miniature games. Many kudos to our DM, he is patient with our group and really knows how to tell a story, I can’t wait and see what our journey will bring us and how players will really get into their characters.

What’s your favorite crime investigation game?

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 29

In My Daydreams

At the same time that the Ascendancy forces began to charge, bright light came from the sky toward the Waroo ship, hitting it in an explosion of light. The ship didn’t fall out of the sky.

Knowing that, I knew that the Waroo were okay or okay-ish. Their shields were still up. If they’d fallen, chunks of the ship would be falling from the sky, burning all the way down. All the same, they couldn’t be as much help. They were maneuvering to respond to the fighters, blasting upward with their weapons.

That meant the obvious, they weren’t firing at the Ascendancy troops, meaning the Ascendancy had no reason not to kill us all.

They attacked.

The big guns they’d been aiming at the Waroo ship found new targets. One hit the shelter, burning a big black spot on its side. I didn’t know exactly what material the shelter was made out of (the implant suggested a few options), but I wouldn’t have expected it to be able to take one shot.

The way the flat wall warped around the burn made me doubt it would be able to take many more.

Another gun’s shot hit one of the trees and the shield generator next to it. They’d known they couldn’t get all the generators back up, but if they’d brought up any, it would make things that much easier.

With the crash of the tree and the crunch of the generator, that spot became impossible.

At almost the same time (Jaclyn was probably first), Jaclyn and I said, “The big guns!”

When we were planning what we’d do if the shields all went down, we’d come up with our approach. We couldn’t take out everyone, but we could take out individual targets.

Jaclyn said, “Cover me,” and ran into the oncoming Ascendancy soldiers. Katuk ran forward, aiming for a different gun at about the same time, saying only, “As discussed,” to Cassie who started firing on either side of him with her gun.

I couldn’t do the same thing to support Jaclyn, but I tried. I aimed the sonics and sometimes my laser at the people on either side of her and sometimes ahead. They did what they were supposed to do. When the laser hit, the soldier went down and thanks to the sonics, the tech of the people near her didn’t always work.

That’s not inspiring, but when the guy who ought to be firing at you is tapping on his helmet or opening up his energy rifle to figure out why it went dead, you don’t get shot as much.

Jaclyn plowed through the people between her and the gun, sometimes moving around them before they could touch her, sometimes throwing them to the side, knocking them into the next soldier.

I didn’t pay as much attention to Katuk, but blasts from his rifle and Cassie’s gun hit the Ascendancy’s troops again and again.

Some soldiers tried to hit us, but it wasn’t as if we were the only ones there. Everyone who’d come to the shelter was firing back, many of them experienced soldiers from wars I’d never heard of and that I didn’t have time to download from my implant.

It turned out that we had whole lines of troops with force shields in the front of our lines. It wasn’t as good as the force field walls around the shelter, but it was better than nothing.

Captain Tolker and Crawls-Through-Desert shouted commands. Kals did what motivators did, countering attacks by Ascendancy motivators and encouraging the colonists to stand firm.

Geman and Dalat stood with the rest of the infantry, firing their rifles. They’d shown no signs of betraying us to the Ascendancy so far. It was sad that they’d come here, both of them probably feeling like they had to in order to prove themselves loyal. Geman had mentioned a family. I didn’t know about Dalat.

As I thought about that, Jaclyn reached her target, smashing the big gun with a single blow, turning, and running back through the Ascendancy’s troops, jumping over our front line to land back where I was. Katuk came back soon after, having destroyed his target as well.

In the meantime, the Ascendancy’s advance had slowed. Our front line’s shields were holding. It wasn’t perfect. People were going down under the barrage of fire, but for the moment, they were holding the line.

It wasn’t as if we were winning. They’d put their shielded people at the front too. Their people would fall just like ours would.

In a war of attrition though, I felt sure that they were going to win. I needed to figure out where the Ascendancy’s leadership on the ground was so that we could maybe get them to surrender. Killing them would just pass the leadership role on to the next person in line.

I sent my surviving observation and spybots into the air to take pictures of the Ascendancy’s troops. They had to be planning something to break our current stalemate. There ought to be some sign of that.

Tolker and Crawls-Through-Desert had to be trying to come up with something too. I hoped that they’d coordinate with us before trying it. Then it struck me that that went both ways, so I sent our group as well as Tolker what I was doing.

This whole situation was fragile enough that if we didn’t work together, dying was a possibility that was beginning to feel more real the longer I thought about it.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 28

In My Daydreams

I wasn’t sure whether Neves was dead, unconscious, or unconscious and dying. Either way, there was something bugging me.

“How did you get him? I thought he absorbed punches.”

Looking down at Neves’ body, Jaclyn said, “I knew that punching him would give him faster and harder to hurt, so I ran from him, thinking that maybe I’d be able to wear him down and then maybe run him past a bunch of Xiniti so they could shoot him with energy weapons. The problem was that he realized it and used a burst of energy to catch me. I punched him then because I had no choice. It knocked him sideways like I intended, and powered him up like I was trying to avoid, but it broke his… absorption field? and hurt him a little.”

She stared down at Neves’ body. “I guessed that the less energy he had to work with, the less force he’d be able to absorb. So, I did what I could to wear him out again, and get some help. That way, when I did punch him again, I’d be in a position to finish it.”

Noting the burn and hole in his chest from my laser, I said, “I’d say it worked.”

Her lip twisted. “I guess. I didn’t really want to kill him. I just wanted all of us to survive.”

“Speaking of which,” I said, “that’s still open. We’d be best off getting back while the Ascendancy’s still disorganized.”

We both turned to look at the small army of soldiers surrounding the shelter.

“Assuming it still is,” Jaclyn said. “Let’s go.”

Jaclyn cleared the crowd with a short run and a long leap that took her almost to the edge of where the internal ring of shields had been. I flew after her, catching up while she was in the air.

We landed at about the same time. The first thing I did upon landing was to turn around to look at the Ascendancy’s troops.

They were still there, standing in the sunlight past the inner ring. Some watched us. Some stood, unmoving. I guessed that the unmoving ones were involved in politicking and discussion about who was going to run things.

I felt sure that Lee would be attacking them all right now if he felt that he had a chance of winning—whatever he viewed his winning condition to be. Captain Tolker wasn’t sending us out to attack. I assumed that he didn’t think we’d win and I couldn’t say I disagreed.

Even now with the Waroo blasting at them from a distance, keeping them from fully committing to a charge, they were still better armed and all of their forces had powers while ours didn’t.

Despite that, I wished Lee were here. I didn’t know for sure how he’d handle it, but if Lee were here, I’d suggest that the Ascendancy’s soldiers should go over their wills one last time.

We’d worked out some ideas in case they attacked, but we’d be using them for the first time together here.

Kals walked up as everyone else did. She didn’t stamp her feet as she walked, but gait made me think that she should be stamping her feet. As Jaclyn explained what happened to Neves, Kals stopped next to me.

“We need to do something and Captain Tolker says we need to wait. We can’t just sit though. We need to do something.”

A shot from the Waroo ship slammed into the ground, killing at least ten Ascendancy soldiers that were moving closer to our camp. The rest scattered and  ran back toward the main body of their troops as Ascendancy forces fired back with their bigger guns.

That in turn brought a response from the ship. A beam struck a group of troops clustered around a long barreled energy weapon, leaving them blackened and the gun bent and broken.

“I know, but we can’t strike out with no plan. We can’t outfight them one to one. We need to make them lose the will to fight. Otherwise they’ll swamp us with numbers. Um… How’s your mom?”

Kals took a breath. “Dying, and everyone knows it. We’ve said our goodbyes. I was thinking that maybe if we were lucky, we win soon enough that we could bring her to Iolan’s lab and…”

She stopped. She wasn’t crying, but the corners of her eyes glistened. If we weren’t in the middle of a fight and if I didn’t have my armor on, I’d have put my arm on her shoulder and maybe given her a hug or talk about it and let her cry or something.

In armor, a hug wouldn’t work.

I said, “I’m sorry,” and put my left hand on her shoulder anyway.

Looking up at me, she said, “Thanks.” Glancing over at my arm, she added, “Nice try, but please stop. Right now, I know I don’t have time to cry. Right now, we need to kill them all.”

I withdrew my hand and I felt like I should say something, but in that moment my implant notified me that we’d received a communication from the Xiniti—real ones, not us.

“Xiniti trainees. We understand why you didn’t go as told and respect it. We didn’t tell you that to force you to leave your clients unprotected or your mission unfinished. We did it because we don’t like to lose promising young ones. Now, like us, you may die on this mission.

“Our surveillance indicates that the Ascendancy has sent down fighters to attack the Waroo ship and that the Ascendancy have resolved their leadership issues and will attack soon. We’ll try to assist you.”

From the Ascendancy forces, came a loud shout and the sound of thundering footsteps.

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In My Daydreams

Updating Tomorrow

In My Daydreams

I’m writing, but this isn’t going to be finished tonight unless I stay up until 5 am or something unreasonable. So, the next update will appear tomorrow.

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Semicoop

Not to be taken lightly

Semicoop

 

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 26, 2019 at 11:43am PST

Heinze and at least three of our friends are colorblind, so we think lights above a game table are quite important to prevent confusion and unintended errors during a game… and it makes all the difference if we want to shoot a picture for on our Instagram account, of course. 😉

Last week, we celebrated our 12,5 anniversary together and made some fun photos for the occasion. They ended up looking like we’re running a YouTube channel called “Between the boxes”. Surprisingly, a lot of people actually thought that would be a good idea. We love the enthusiasm, but we think there are enough YouTubers that share their views on board games in front of a camera. If we are ever to try and do something more serious with Youtube, it’ll certainly be animated sketches. We might already have plans for that, maybe. Yes, who knows. One day. Tee-hee-hee.

Back to gaming – our biggest gaming surprise of last week was Dice Throne! We picked up one of the boxes of season 2 in a whim at our FLGS. It turned out to be a really fun game and right up our alley of fun games that don’t take over 3 hours to play. I mean, we also enjoy the longer games, but they don’t get played too often. Dice Throne is one of those games that you can easily get on the table and play in like thirty minutes. Oh, and those game trays that come with the game are a true delight.

And, in case you missed it on our social media channels, this is the latest extra comic, sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com:
#020 – Horrible

Are lights above your (gaming) table something you pay extra attention to?

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 27

In My Daydreams

“Is there any chance you could come here because the shields are down and the only thing that’s keeping the Ascendancy from destroying us is the Waroo and the fact that Jadzen killed their current leader. I can give you everything over implant if you turn yours on. It’s safe now.”

I directed my implant to send Jaclyn a summary of everything that happened since she left once it detected her.

Her implant came online almost instantly and she said, “On my way. When you see me get in his way and take a shot at him with your laser. Don’t punch him or shoot the sonics at him. Remember when we fought that guy back on Earth? I think he was called Payback? Neves absorbs force too, but I’ve got him. I just need a second to turn around.”

I considered asking why, but I supposed that the speeds they could move at, a turn would be enough time for him to avoid her.

I imagined that might go both ways and said, “OK.”

Then I sent a copy of the conversation to every else so that they knew what was going on.

Cassie replied with, “Good luck,” and we waited. 

We didn’t get to wait quietly without anything to do though. It went more like this:

As I talked with Jaclyn, the colonists has already begun firing on the Ascendancy troops and the Ascendancy didn’t reply by engulfing us in waves of troops. No. The troops backed off. I could only guess that they still hadn’t figured out which of them was now in charge and what their mission would be.

I couldn’t blame them. If Kamia had been in charge and then the position fell to Weffrik Aut, they might not know who was in charge. 

From the implant, I knew that the commanding officer ought to be the person with the highest rank and earliest date of being raised to that rank. The problem was that the members of the Ascendant Guard could take over any force that wasn’t the Ascendant Guard.

That ought to be easy enough to figure out, but the Guard turned out to be fairly flat in terms of ranks. The majority of Guard members had the title of Guardsman and nothing more.

That meant that it wasn’t clear who was in charge when you had a large number of Guardsmen around. Worse, in the Ascendancy, the question of who became the leader of a force could ignore rank and commission date in favor of force of the officer’s personality, political reasons, and how much the men respected the officer. 

As a result, the Xiniti targeted Ascendancy officers as often as possible, hoping to throw their forces into chaos.

Knowing that we were benefitting from that gave me hope that I’d have time to help Jaclyn before the Ascendancy forces figured out what to do about the Waroo, giving us time for the Ghosts to appear, or maybe for one of us to come up with a better plan than simply enduring.

I barely had time to think that all through before the implant notified me that Jaclyn was near—about half of a mile behind the Ascendancy soldiers. Stepping away from everyone, I blasted into the air, staying low to minimize the number of people who’d easily be able to target me. 

I’d seen what they tried to hit the Waroo ship with and I didn’t want to find out what it would do to the Rocket suit, much less my body.

I passed over the soldiers in a blur and they did take some shots at me, but moving over them at nearly 500 miles per hour meant that they didn’t have long to take that shot.

Having passed them, I saw Jaclyn and Neves running in the gap between two sections of forest. He ran behind her. I couldn’t help but note that his gun was missing. Knowing that the energy rifles they used could hurt her, it made sense that she’d have destroyed it early on in their fight.

Another thing that I noticed was that even though they were both moving at more than 200 miles per hour, he appeared to be more tired than she did. I couldn’t say exactly how I knew that—whether she raised her legs higher off the ground or held her head straighter.

Either way, I dove, firing my laser down at him. He aimed his hand at me and a blast of white energy hit me, not doing appreciable damage.

I don’t know what kind of damage my laser did to him, if any, but my dive left me directly in front of him.

I expected him to attack me, but he never got the chance. Jaclyn ran in, throwing a punch that began at her waist and extended to hit him in the face, getting an additional boost of strength from the way she pushed off with her leg.

It wasn’t hyperbole to say that she’d thrown all her body’s strength into that punch. I didn’t have time to think about it, but if I had, I would have been worried because from what I knew, that should have powered him up.

It didn’t.

Instead, something in the air in front of his body made a cracking noise, throwing off flashes of light, and Jaclyn’s fist continued through with a thump that threw soil in all directions.

He didn’t move after that.

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Semicoop

Every story has a story

Semicoop

Hello everyone!  I’m Sarah and I have one half of the two-person team that invented Story Builders. I’m a teacher and a mother and of course, a gamer.  My partner is an engineer, a computer geek, a father and that’s right, a gamer.

You know that moment where you have an idea that seems so obvious you’re sure it’s already been done?  And of course, you look it up and, yeah, it already exists.

Except sometimes….  It doesn’t.

Once upon a toy I had an idea, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an interlocking toy with pictures on it that can be used to *literally* build a story?”  Such a simple idea, I thought.

As fate would have at the exact same time that toy idea came to mind, there was a game in development that both us really liked that seemed impossible to actually make.  It required dozens of completely unique objects that would chain together to make ‘quests.’  You can’t just make a game that requires a bunch of unique toys.

Or so we thought.

The day those two ideas met could be thought of as the day Story Builders was truly born.

Well, even a simple idea can explode with passion.  We have spent the past two years obsessed with Story Builders.  The two of use really fed off one another to bring something to life that can truly call itself a game and a toy.  I could ramble on endlessly on the value of play and social intelligence.  But if your reading this you already know.  This is a wonderful world we live in, the world of play!

Big thanks are due to Rachel and Heinze for their wonderful comic and letting it be a venue for me to share my story.  Now, go share yours.  Go play.

Story Builders is on Kickstarter right now, click here to check it out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/storybuilders/story-builders-games-and-toys?ref=ag7s83

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Wardog y El Mundo

Crisis, capĂ­tulo 7: Cobertura

Wardog y El Mundo

Como siempre, lo podéis leer aquí http://crisis.mundowdg.com/index.php/2019/02/28/7-cobertura/.

Si queréis. No es obligatorio. Todo esto es just for fun.

Eso.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 26

In My Daydreams

I accelerated the rockets, but not too quickly. I didn’t want to give Jadzen whiplash. For the little good it would do, I held her below me so that if I did get hit, she’d have something in between her and the blast.

It was a nice thought, but if I did get hit, I felt sure the explosion would surround me, roasting her instantly even if I somehow survived. Plus, if I didn’t survive, she’d hit the ground while moving at nearly one hundred miles per hour. Between my speed and her injuries, I didn’t hold out much hope there.

It didn’t matter, though.

The Ascendancy’s soldiers were too busy firing at the Waroo ship to fire at me—that or I didn’t notice. Either way, I flew back to the shelter where Marcus, Tikki, and Kals were still standing with Captain Tolker and the colonists, all of whom were pointing their weapons outward, ready to fight.

Katuk ran below me, his hands and guns a blur of burning white beams—which might be the other reason the Ascendancy troops weren’t firing at me. They were too busy dying.

It felt eternal, but in reality, it took less than a few seconds for me to get back to the shelter. I landed as carefully as I could, laying Jadzen on the ground as Iolan ran forward to look at her wounds.

“I have some things in the shelter, but not everything I’d want to take care of those wounds here.” Then Iolan pointed at one of the colonists, telling him to, “Get my kit from inside.”

Her voice low, Jadzen said, “I’m not going to make it.”

Iolan shook his head. “No. You might survive. You owe it to yourself and to the rest of us to let me try and save you.”

She smiled at him. “I knew this was a possibility. I had a good life and if by dying, I buy us some more time, then I think that’s a good trade.”

Iolan frowned, “Jadzen, I know you believe that, but we aren’t anywhere near as strong without you as with you. I know you’d die for us over and over, but you shouldn’t have to.”

The colonist came back with a small black bag. Iolan took it. Nodding at the colonist, he said, “Thank you. Jadzen, I’m going to do what I can to save your life.”

Kals kneeled down next to her, “Mom, let him try.”

I missed whatever they said together. I could have listened in, but giving a friend time alone with her dying mother seemed like the right choice. I looked up, trying to get a sense of our overall situation.

The Waroo blasted away from above, but they were only one ship and the Ascendancy turned out to have weapons made to be effective against that size of a ship. They didn’t take it down, but beams hit it from below and it wobbled in the air.

I didn’t know for a second whether or not it would fall, but it didn’t. It flew upward and kept moving, diving down to fire back at the troops. Overall, I approved. I didn’t like the idea that they’d repay me for saving the life of one of their people by having a whole ship die.

Unfortunately, it also meant that they weren’t able to keep up a steady stream of fire like they had been when they were closer to the ground. Plus, it meant they were hunting down the groups with the anti-ship weapons when they could, meaning that keeping the Ascendancy away from the colonists wasn’t their only focus.

I called Hal, telling him that it would be great if he could get over here and give us some assistance. It would be even better if he could do it in a way that wouldn’t make the Waroo think he was a threat.

Then I called Rachel. She didn’t have an implant, so I used the League’s comms. “Is there any chance that the Cosmic Ghosts could appear right now? We could use the help.”

The sound of her sigh came over the line. “I’ve been trying to get their attention and they are coming, but I don’t know when. They’re kind of godlike and they don’t seem to have much of a sense of urgency.”

I looked out at the Ascendancy troops. The ones that the Waroo weren’t firing on had backed off and appeared to be talking. “That’s not good. My sense of urgency is getting better and better developed by the second.”

“Tell me about it. I’ll try to bug them again.”

I’d barely heard the connection click off when Jaclyn’s voice came over the comm. “Anybody free? I’ve figured out how to take Neves down, but I’m going to need a distraction.”

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Semicoop

Takenoko!

Semicoop

 

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 19, 2019 at 1:11pm PST

For those who are wondering what the name is of that game with the cute panda… it’s Takenoko! We somehow keep confusing the name with Tokaido. And when we were at Spiel in Essen last year, and Teotihuacan was a big hit, we had another “what was it called again?”-game title with a T to add to the list. Only with the latter, we still can’t remember how to pronounce it, even despite the video that Ella Loves Boardgames made.

I was busy with work last week and only got to play a few games: Cerberus, Century Golem, Charterstone and Chronicles of Crime. Heinze had a week off and also played Eldritch Horror (jealous!) and Keyforge.

I didn’t mention it here yet, but we’re continuing our partnership with CoolStuffInc.com with which we’re really happy. We reach a far bigger audience that has an interest in board games and best of all is that I’m financially able to make an extra comic for their newsletters which I can share with our readers. 🙂

With the continued partnership, we’ve made a little change to our Patreon page. From now on, we’re going to share our weekly comics on the same day on our Patreon page for paying patrons as they are published on CoolStuffInc.com. Speaking of our amazing patrons, we’re at 48 patrons already! That’s so immensely cool and I’m very very grateful for their support.

And, in case you missed it on our social media channels, this is the latest extra comic, sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com:
#019 – Growl

Do you ever mix up certain game titles?

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 25

In My Daydreams

I zoomed in on the conversation, deciding that I wanted to know what Jadzen was telling Weffrik Aut to do. I supposed that I could have used my bots to listen in. I still had a few, but using the sonic systems as a shotgun microphone struck me as less likely for the Ascendancy’s soldiers to notice or stop.

I fiddled with the system for a few seconds and I began to hear their voices. The sound wasn’t perfect. It contained bits of static and sometimes a word or two from conversations behind them would become a little too loud, but I could hear them talk.

Jadzen leaned into Weffrik, looking up at him and speaking in a low voice. I doubted that anyone could hear her but Weffrik and me.

“Here’s what you’ll do, you’ll take me and bring me across the clearing. You’ll keep your troops here and you’ll tell them to keep out of either the inner or outer ring of shields. You’ll do it now.”

“I will.” Weffrik kept calm, keeping his voice at a steady, low volume. “May I ask why?”

She gave him a thin smile. “No. You may not.”

“Then I refuse,” He grinned and pointed a pistol at her. “Everyone knows who you are. You were trained by our best motivators and now you’re a traitor. The Ascendancy prepared a few of us in this crew for you. I’ve got rules and commands for how to deal with you that have embedded so deeply that I don’t know what they are and you’ll never root them out.

“So I ask you again, why do you want me to take you away?”

She didn’t say anything at first, but then she pulled out her own pistol, pushing it into his armored chest and firing on him at point blank range.

Iolan had told us that motivators had similar physical abilities to Cassie and I’d seen Kals use them, but I’d never Jadzen do so.

Light poured into Weffrik’s chest, but he didn’t die without striking back. His own pistol fired a beam of light that slid across the gray armor she wore, scoring it, but not staying in place long enough to penetrate until it reached her arm.

It burned through the armor and into her left bicep. Her eyes widened and she gasped. At almost the same time, Weffrik fell to the ground, all of his rules and commands for handling her dying with him.

I barely had time to wonder what the rest of the crew would do now when she pointed her gun into the sky, firing a ruby red beam that was visible even in the daylight. It made me think of a flare gun—which it basically was.

Then as the nearest Ascendancy troops began to aim their weapons at her, she fired back, moving fast enough that they didn’t seem to be able to hit her.

Being in the middle of them must have helped. It was the same problem a circular firing squad would have—every miss would hit someone on your own side.

Whatever training she’d had must have been amazing, but there was no way she’d be able to kill enough of them to make it back to us. She probably wasn’t even trying. The whole exercise struck me as the military version of suicide by cop.

I activated the rockets and broadcast, “I’m going after her,” to everyone via my implant.

Katuk sent back, “I’m with you,” as I shot across the battlefield in a blur of motion. Katuk kept up with me, dodging and weaving his way through our people and then the Ascendancy soldiers. Where blindingly fast movement wouldn’t get him through, he fired off the Xiniti guns on his arms, burning through Ascendancy soldiers and setting them on fire.

Jadzen was lucky that we were close. She’d already taken one hit to her leg by the time I’d reached her and another to her gut. Still, she was standing as I landed next to her, blasting everyone on one side of her with the sonics, alternating between sound and tech destroying frequencies.

Katuk fired shot after shot into the crowd around us. I can only guess how it seemed to the Ascendancy soldiers, but if I had to, I’d bet that we were blurs of silver combined with the sound of high pitched pain and an unending rain of searing light.

“Don’t take me,” she said. “I need to die here. They’ll never leave us alone if  there’s still a chance of capturing me.”

She grunted but didn’t resist as I grabbed her and turned to figure out my best route if I wanted to prevent her from getting shot again.

“You shouldn’t die too,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t want to explain to Kals why I flew all the way out here and then left you,” I said, deciding on a flight plan and sending it to Katuk.

The rockets pushed us into the air before I could ask why I’d die, but I didn’t need to. That became obvious as we rose above the mass of Ascendency soldiers. It wasn’t just the obvious risk of flying above a bunch of people who wanted to shoot you down.

It was also the U-shaped spaceship that flickered into view above us as if it had turned off its cloaking device. My implant identified it as a Waroo ship commonly used by mercenary crews.

Even as I guessed what might be coming next, it began to rain fire down on our position.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 24

In My Daydreams

Cassie turned to watch Jadzen walk toward the Ascendancy troops. Her lips twisted. “It had better be brilliant because there’s not much she can do if she’s just going to walk over there. I’m sure they’d be able to detect if she’s a suicide bomber or if she’s carrying a gun to shoot them or something.”

I thought about it for a second. “She’s a motivator. Maybe she’s hoping to use that? The impression that I got from Kals was that Jadzen was among their best before she decided to turn against the Ascendancy. I mean, Kals was in the same program or something and she could get past my anti-voice defense. We probably avoided getting taken over a few different times because she told me how she did it and I changed my system.”

Cassie cocked her head and then said, “I hope it’s something like that. I was figuring suicide bomb or that maybe she’d get close to the leadership and have the Waroo hit her position, killing herself and taking them out. That’s what I’d do, but I’d survive it. She won’t.”

Thinking about it, it made sense. She wouldn’t want to be reprogrammed into working against everything she cared about. Having the Waroo kill her and as much of the Ascendancy leadership as possible would give us a chance of fighting our way free and ending their reason for searching for her. They might still go after the Council or Kals, but neither had the political weight Jadzen had.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made and that led to another thought, “What was I going to do about it?”

I passed those thoughts over to Cassie and then the whole conversation we’d had plus my thoughts over to Marcus and Katuk once I noticed that their implants had come online as well.

“That sounds right. Captain Tolker’s keeping everyone close. He’s not making it too obvious, but he’s got techs next to the shield generators. I think he’s hoping to get them back up again.”

I got a flash of Marcus’ perspective. He looked at Tikki who’d stepped over to one of the shield generators.

She frowned. “They can’t be fixed. Shield rams cause a surge in the shield matrix that burns out the generator and jumps to the next shield. I might be able to fix in an hour if I had the right parts and the pair wasn’t too bad.”

Kee was barely even trying anymore. Tikki had never claimed to know very much about shields and now she was diagnosing them. I wished she’d told Marcus back in the caves. I didn’t feel like pretending either. On the other hand, thanks to my implant, I knew the basics of shield technology if I thought about it and Tikki might not have an implant, but she had equivalent tech.

Maybe she was doing a perfect job and I was the problem.

Katuk stood next to Cassie and I. Over the implants, he said, “She must have some way to contact the Xiniti. If you check your implants’ tactical display you’ll find that our people are massing in spots around the edges of the Ascendancy’s forces. It looks as though we intend to attack certain units from both sides and then attack the main Ascendancy group from behind.”

Marcus broke in before I could reply. “Captain Tolker wants the three of you to come closer to the shelter—inside the inner ring if you can. He says to do it quickly, but be casual about it.”

Cassie laughed. “Right. We’ll do a casual retreat.”

“That’s what he’s suggesting.” Marcus shrugged.

Katuk, Cassie and I looked at each other. We weren’t far from the inner ring. If all Captain Tolker wanted was for us to be inside, it wouldn’t take much.

We moved, ash crunching under our feet as we made for the nearest open area between shield generators. We weren’t alone there at all. Ascendancy troops stood only ten feet away from us. They watched as we walked away, crossing over the line where the black and white ash ended and the normal dirt, grass, and leaf covered floor began.

They didn’t move to stop us, saying nothing either.

I didn’t feel safer as we crossed over, but I suspected that we must be or Tolker wouldn’t have made the request.

I checked Jadzen’s position. She’d passed beyond the inner shield ring and was walking toward a cluster of Ascendancy troops. Weffrik Aut, a seven foot tall Ascendancy soldier stood in front of the cluster. His hands held a rifle.

When she reached him, they stopped and began talking. I couldn’t hear them from this distance, but I could see their faces. Hers struck me as superficially friendly. She kept a controlled smile on it as she talked. Weffrik Aut’s face showed a wide smile as she walked up to him, but one that appeared increasingly uncertain as they talked.

By the end, he’d become expressionless. One of the nearby soldiers started talking and she replied to his question, leaving the soldier with his hand on his chin, staring at her.

I wondered if Jadzen might be so good that she’d be able to cut through whatever protections they had against her voice and take over the Ascendancy forces.

At the same time, I doubted we’d be that lucky.

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Semicoop

Dreaming big

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 15, 2019 at 1:17pm PST

Ahh, one can dream… who knows? Maybe Netrunner will return one day? And if those ships have really passed, we would really love to see an Arkham Files themed movie! 😀 Somehow, some scenes of Fantastic Beasts really gave us those vibes.

Last week we decided to start off with Chronicles of Crime! At first, we didn’t want to start the game before we had finished Detective, but curiosity got the better of us. The tutorial was obviously really easy but explained the game well. One thing we noticed is that the scoring is very forgiving compared to, for example, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and Detective. In the first scenario, there was one question we could have answered “better” and we still scored 130/100 points. The second case, we had one question completely wrong and we still scored 120/100 points. The bonus on solving a case relatively quickly seems to be a little bit too high. But nonetheless, we’ve really enjoyed the game and we were (positively) surprised how “dark” the plot was. We’re looking forward to playing the other cases!

ICYMI: The latest extra comics, sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com:
#018 – First Player

What game would you like to see be made into a movie?

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 23

In My Daydreams

What do you do when the moment you’ve been trying to avoid happens? This was literally all that we’d been trying to prevent from day one. Jadzen Akri would either surrender to the Ascendancy or die and there were so many soldiers that we probably wouldn’t be able to stop them.

It’s nice to imagine that you’d be able to pull a brilliant plan out of your butt in this situation, but when there’s nothing between you and hundreds, possibly thousands of enemy soldiers, you know better.

The reason you know better is that nothing is coming to mind at all.

At least that’s how I felt then.

You could argue that it could be worse. The Ascendancy troops on our side weren’t in any hurry to charge us after Cassie took her shot. The Abominator gun had burned through at least fifty of them in the short time Cassie had used it.

All that meant was that they’d target Cassie once they got over their shock.

I wasn’t at all sure what I’d do after I got over mine, but it turned out that I didn’t need to.

Jadzen Akri stood at the top of the shelter and said, “I surrender. If you’re willing to take me and only me, we’ll stop fighting.”

My suit buzzed, meaning that it was filtering out the command that went along with those words.

“You have to promise not to hurt anyone from the colony as I surrender or after as well as to leave the colony alone. You know that it’s only a matter of time before the Alliance brings enough ships to defeat you. They’re not going to allow the Ascendancy to take a piece of their territory.”

My implant assured me that she was correct about that. Losing territory to the Ascendancy would be a major black eye to whatever party was in power in the Alliance legislature now.

With Kamia dead, there wasn’t any reason to fear an attack on my implant. I turned on its network access, finding that I wasn’t the only one who had. I had messages waiting from the Xiniti on the planet. I resolved to listen to them when I had a spare second.

I didn’t at the moment.

In whatever part of my brain organized moments of worry, it struck me that Kamia might regenerate and so I glanced over at her body. I didn’t see a person. Only ash and her blackened, burnt and warped armor remained—that and her Abominator guns. They were glossy and undamaged.

In the ash that must once have been her head, I saw a glint of metal—probably an implant.

I turned my attention back to Jadzen, noting that in her hand she held the disc I’d given her, the one that called in my favor from the Waroo. It had changed color to a dull, flat black. From my implant, I knew that it had now been used. The device contained an ansible, allowing her to reach them anywhere they happened to be.

I wondered what she’d asked of them and if they were close enough to do any good.

From the other side of the shelter, a voice said, “I accept your offer. I’m Weffrik Aut of the Ascendant Guard, the current commanding officer of the Guard here and the acting commander of the Ascendancy’s ground forces.

“If you mean to surrender, leave your people and walk toward me.”

Jadzen climbed down from the top of the shelter, stopping to talk to Kals, Iolan, and a couple others.

Kals stood in front of her, saying something I probably could have listened to if I’d thought to zoom in on the sound at the time. It didn’t take sound to guess what she was saying. I got it all from the wideness of her eyes, the movement of her hands as she spoke, and the tension in her shoulders.

Her mother reached out and pulled her into a hug. It wasn’t long, but it was long enough. She said something to Kals as she pulled away.

Then Jadzen stepped around her and began walking toward the Ascendancy troops. The colonists stepped out of her way, many of them saying a few words, bow, or touch her armored shoulder as she passed.

They knew she was doing it for them, but I doubted they’d seen the disc.

Cassie turned to me and I heard her voice in my head. “We should do something. I wish I knew what—”

BURN THEM? An echo of the gun’s voice traveled over the link.

Cassie rolled her eyes. “I wish it were that simple, but after all she said about not doing what she’s doing right now, she’s got to have an angle. I don’t know what it is. Do you?”

“She called in my favor from the Waroo, but I’ve no clue what she asked them to do.”

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 22

In My Daydreams

Nick, Outside the Inner Ring of Shelter 454

Kamia’s mouth tightened and Katuk’s left leg kicked out. He fell over sideways into the ash. Glancing at me with a frown, she pointed her gun toward Katuk, intending, I assumed, to finish him off.

I aimed myself at her and activated the rockets (which had never gone inactive), making it the second time I’d tried that on her, but also the second time it worked.

It didn’t work as well as the first time, but I did hit her and she didn’t finish Katuk off. Her shield surrounded her, allowing me to knock her over, but not to do any real damage. Unlike earlier, her shield wasn’t sphere shaped, so she didn’t roll backward—not on the shield anyway.

She flipped over, coming down on her feet as I flew over her. I tapped the button on my palm that brought me upright and the suit’s internal systems flipped me over, leaving me floating above the ground, pointing in Kamia’s direction.

She turned her head, keeping both Katuk and me in view. He’d stood up again and his leg had stopped wobbling, bits of ash sticking to his silver armor. For a moment, I couldn’t tell whether Kamia viewed Katuk or me as the bigger threat.

But then the moment ended. Kamia pointed her gun at Katuk. It made sense. Even though I floated behind her, Katuk stood between her and the inner ring of shields.

Ignoring whatever pain she must have felt in her collarbone, she ran toward him as his body wobbled again. He fell to the ground, getting off a shot that shattered against her shield.

It wasn’t as if just stood there doing nothing, though. I dropped to the ground, firing off a laser beam at almost the same time I activated sonics on the other arm.

In the chaos of the moment, I didn’t get the sequence quite right. To get the most out of the laser, I should have fired it only after I knew her shield had gone down, but I knew I couldn’t wait that long.

She’d be at Katuk before I shot her at all if I waited. I fired both devices, hoping the laser might interact with the sonics and the shield, taking the shield down or at least distracting her.

I aimed the laser at her head to make it more distracting.

It didn’t matter, but not because Kamia wasn’t distracted. The shield did react to the sonics. For lack of a better word, it vibrated. My implant provided hundreds of new concepts and terminology related to force field design and implementation along with relevant equations.

Technically, “vibrated” didn’t cut it as an accurate description, but outside of specialized technical discussions, it worked.

Her Abominator shield reflected my laser in all directions, but mostly upward, making the day even brighter and throwing lines of light into the colony’s shield. They crackled as they hit.

For all that, she still didn’t have time to shoot Katuk as he lay on the ground, struggling to bring his own weapons to bear. It wasn’t because the sonics took down the shield, allowing the laser beam through. It wasn’t because I gave up and punched the shield. I didn’t have time to try that.

It was because Cassie appeared out of nowhere, ducked under the laser light reflecting off Kamia’s head and cut through the shield, sticking her sword through Kamia’s armor and into Kamia’s chest.

When Cassie pulled out the sword, Kamia fell, losing more blood than I’d thought a body could contain. It pooled on the ground next to her body.

I remembered seeing Cassie leave the inner ring when we got close to the shields but I’d lost track of her.

Katuk pulled himself up, pointing his arms outward, ignoring Cassie and me. We didn’t feel bad about it at all. The problem with killing the leader of this group of the Ascendant Guard was that when she died someone else received a field promotion and whoever that person was, they didn’t like us.

The Ascendant Guard and all the nearest Ascendancy soldiers charged us, firing their weapons. Katuk fired back and so did I, but Kamia’s death had one more side effect. We didn’t have to feel afraid of using alien tech anymore.

Cassie pulled out her gun and pointed it in the direction of the charging soldiers. The bright beam burned anything that stood in front of her. In moments like that, you almost wish that your helmet didn’t dim the light enough to allow you to see all of it.

I’m not going to go into detail, but the Guard’s shields did not hold. Bodies turned to ash before my eyes. People screamed. The charge stopped in its tracks, allowing us to aim for an opening in the shield.

We turned and ran for it, allowing us all to be looking in the right direction when a group of Ascendancy soldiers hit one of the shields on the far side with a shield ram.

It does exactly what you’d expect. The shield went down on the far side and then, one by one, all the other shields winked out.

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Semicoop

Gaming Valentine

Semicoop

 

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 8, 2019 at 3:51pm PST

It’s almost Valentine! And any board game can be romantic… with a little rhyming skill as we’d like to show with this week’s comic! And who knew that Cragheart from Gloomhaven had a soft side to him? 😉 In 2016, we’ve published our first board game poems which were about Netrunner and Eldritch Horror.

Last Friday there was a board game night at our local bouldering hall! We had a blast and played thematic games like K2, The Climbers and other fun games like Sakura and Dinosaur Tea Party. People were enthusiastic about the game night and they’re thinking about doing this on a more regular basis! Yay! It’s so great to see people get enthusiastic over playing games and having a great time. 🙂

This game night made up for our lack of playing games this week because I was simply too busy with work. We did play a game of Arraial last night and this time we did not forget the 2-player rule to take out eight cards. Last time we played it, we were already wondering why the rounds took so long, whoops!

This week we’ll continue our Gloomhaven campaign and hopefully, Heinze and I manage to squeeze in some more board gaming time.

 

ICYMI: The latest extra comics, sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com:
#017 – Ready to Ride

Share your board gaming poems with us in the comments!

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 21

In My Daydreams

Admiral Makri Tzin, Human Ascendancy Flagship, Hideaway System

Admiral Makri cringed as the flagship’s alarms began to ring again, watching his screen as more ships came out of jump.

There shouldn’t be that many ships ready to jump into this system, he told himself.

Despite the inertial dampers, he still felt it as the flagship accelerated and turned along with the rest of the fleet, changing formation to protect the Xiniti fleet’s most likely targets.

The Ascendancy reinforcements and the Alliance fleet that had followed them had changed everything and nothing. It had looked good in the first few seconds when he’d seen Ascendancy carriers and battleships materialize. When the Alliance battleships followed them through, all of them Hrrnna designed and manufactured, he’d known it was about to become more complicated.

It had. It turned out that the Ascendancy fleet hadn’t been one fleet but two—the Third and Fourth Edge Fleets, both of them recalled from patrolling the edges of the Human Quarantine to fight here.

As for the Alliance fleet, it had similar numbers to the Ascendancy fleet, but he could only make guesses as to the organization. The Ascendancy often fought Alliance forces, but that was mostly Xiniti or the Alliance Quarantine fleet which was designed to face Ascendancy forces. He knew those ship designs.

This fleet had no consistency. It had all of the standard, rectangular Hrrnna designed Alliance ships, but also ships shaped like spheres, saucers, wedges, and ramshackle designs that could never survive any atmosphere.

What he’d wanted to believe is that the Alliance was low on ships and thrown together their emergency reserves to fight here. It took only seconds of fighting for him to abandon that theory. The ships fought well, coordinated with each other as if they’d trained for years, and kept in formation.

Seeing that, he knew what they were. Everyone knew that the Xiniti patrolled the Human Quarantine, keeping the Ascendancy from expanding beyond the borders the Alliance had set after defeating the Abominators. He’d always assumed that the Alliance was weak, letting the Xiniti handle their problems, but this put a lie to that statement.

If he’d been in the Alliance’s position and if the Alliance weren’t weak, he’d have set up a force ready to take up the slack in case of emergency. Say, in case the Ascendancy united the human states within the Quarantine and decided to expand.

That’s what the Alliance fleet was—a multi-species force designed to work with the Xiniti. Admiral Makri doubted this was anything more than a small part of it. If he survived, he’d have to make that clear to the Ascendancy leadership. They had plans for what to do when they united humanity, but if they weren’t planning for this. They needed to.

Between the Alliance fleet and the new Ascendancy fleets, he wasn’t in a much better position than before they’d come out of jump. Certainly, there was more potential for cooperation than before, but the reality of the situation was that they’d left him to fight the Xiniti in almost the same situation as he’d been before they came through.

In many ways, it was now harder because a skirmish from their battle could interfere with his.

Instead of the game changer he’d been hoping for when they’d come through, he was back in the same place, slowly losing ships to the Xiniti.

He needed to do something. He checked the screens to find out what had just come through—more Xiniti. The ships peeled off to assist the Alliance. He’d have felt relief at that except that it meant that the Xiniti ships facing his fleet needed no assistance.

He’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but he had a mission.

Using his implant, he queried the most recent reports from the surface. Kamia had organized an attack on Jadzen’s position. They’d taken the outer ring and were hoping to destroy the inner ring soon.

It wasn’t going as quickly as they’d hoped. The colonists and their Xiniti helpers were resisting. No one knew how long they’d be able to keep it up. He needed to be ready in case it failed.

He connected to his implant, telling the battle computer to start simulating the reactions to different versions of his orders. “The core of it all is this.   We need to hold the space around the planet. We can’t let the colony survive if they defeat our ground forces. I need to know the different problems we might face if we try to burn the planet black when our forces down there lose.”

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 20

In My Daydreams

Kamia’s shield’s collapse surprised me almost as much as it did her, but I knew that it might be coming and more to the point, I was flying straight at her.

Of course, the fact that she didn’t expect her shield to go down, didn’t mean she wouldn’t try to dodge. When you considered that she’d been fighting Xiniti and winning, she had to be more than who owned Abominator weapons.

Even as I closed with her and despite the Rocket’s suit’s speed, she moved. She didn’t move enough to avoid being hit, but she did move enough to avoid taking both my fists to the middle of the chest.

I hit her in the left shoulder.

Her body armor didn’t protect her enough. Dull red, accented with black at the edges, it cracked as I hit her and to my ears so did she.

Technically, I heard it through my helmet’s internal speakers, but it was a moot point because I wasn’t wrong about that. I’d hit hard enough that a chunk of her armor had shattered and fallen off. I could see jagged white bone poking out through her skin underneath.

I didn’t absorb that all when I hit her shoulder,  and knocked her sideways, twisting left to avoid the blue of the inner ring of shields. Then  I dropped to the ground, running at her even as I wondered if she’d still be standing after that hit.

I’d broken her collarbone. Lee had made me break different bones in practice enough times that I knew what it looked like.

She should have issues with using the arm at the very least. She probably wouldn’t be able to use it at all. If I broke the other collarbone as well, or maybe a leg, she might have to surrender.

At least that’s what I told myself. In reality, it couldn’t be that simple. Her shield flickered back on and as it did, Kamia pushed the piece of collarbone back inside her skin with her other hand, grimacing as she pushed the broken halves back together.

I’d seen that before too—mostly when I fought Lee or even sometimes Cassie in practice. Kamia could regenerate.

Worse than that, while I’d shot all the nearest Ascendancy soldiers in their helmets, distracting them, distractions like that don’t last very long. They last for seconds and we were past that point.

Two Ascendancy soldiers, Ascendant Guard members judging from the shields glowing close to their bodies, swung around to run at me. Both of them were nine feet tall if my HUD was to be believed. That meant bigger than Travis, my previous standard for large, intimidating humans with claws.

Wearing the Rocket suit put me on the level with people larger than I normally was, but not this large.

They stood in between me and Kamia, blocking her from my view. It would have been nice if they were the only ones who’d had that idea, but far from it, all the nearby Ascendancy soldiers were heading my way.

In that moment, the smart choice might have been to activate the rockets and do some “strategic repositioning,”—otherwise known as retreating.

As good an idea as that might have been, it didn’t occur to me. I knew Kamia stood behind the two giants ahead of me and I knew I had to stop her from getting near the inner shield ring.

So I didn’t fly over them, I aimed the laser under my arm at one of them and put it on full power while bathing the guy in sonics meant to attack his shield.

This wasn’t an Abominator shield. It fell under the combined assault and the beam pierced the Guardsman’s armor and chest. From the soldier’s wide-eyed expression, that wasn’t what he’d expected to happen.

He fell over and I turned my attention to the other Guardsman. At any rate, I tried to do that. No matter how much downing the first Guard member might have surprised the other, he hadn’t stuck around to think about it.

He’d started moving almost from the moment I fired, running towards me with his claws out, throwing clouds of ash into the air with his every step.

In one of those sequences you hear about or sometimes see on TV, everything around me slowed down and I realized that he moved faster than I could react. There was no way I’d be able to dodge his claws. His claws glinted with the same gray color I knew from Haley’s claws. I didn’t know how strong this member of the Ascendant Guard was, but knowing that he was larger than Travis, he might be stronger.

I couldn’t assume that his claws wouldn’t pierce my armor. Travis’ could under the right circumstances.

I leaned leftward, hoping I could catch him with the sonics or the laser beam before his right claw met my chest.

It didn’t work, but not because he hit me. It didn’t work because I was no longer alone. Twin beams of burning light hit the Guardsman’s shield and it fell. Katuk’s beams cut into the Guardsman’s legs and the body toppled.

Katuk stood next to me as Kamia pointed her gun at us.

Not one for long flowery speeches, Katuk met her eyes and said, “One of us will get you.”

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Tieshaunn

Breaking Point 14.6

Tieshaunn

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Lady Light’s glowing form slammed into a growing stone-form that’d begun literally growing out of thin air around DiL, to the size of a five-story building in an instant, and disintegrated the whole thing in a blaze of light.

In the back of Basil’s calmed mind, he felt a short ache, as DiL changed her powers moments after assuming them, only to do so yet again when Lady Light disrupted her new abilities, before Basil could even see anything.

”Did you know your mother could do that?” he asked Gloom Glimmer, referring to that massive wave of light.

She took a step back from him, her cheeks red with tears and warmth, brushing her hair back behind her ears. “No. Yes. Kind of?” she temporized, seeming off-kilter. “In theory. I know she can, but I’ve never seen her do it, and it’s really risky to use it like thi-“ She realised she was babbling and clamped her mouth shut, her teeth making a sharp ‘click’.

Basil smiled at her, trying to be reassuring, even as his mind fired on all cylinders.

He really felt way too good. Prisca’s death, his failure, Amy, his memory… it was all still there, but for the first time he could remember, he felt like he could deal with all of that.

He also knew that this wasn’t how her aura was supposed to work. It bolstered those aligned with her, while weakening those which were opposed, but he’d never heard of it having this profound an effect on someone… another power interaction, perhaps?

Something to look into – if Lady Light, of all people, couldn’t help him solve his issues, then no one could. Especially if the theory he was building in regards to her power was correct.

Gloom Glimmer leaned in closer, looking concerned, as if trying to look deeper into him. Maybe she literally was, who knew? “Are you… are you still… you? You seem… different. From usual. And from… that time Osore hit you… too.”

”Mmmhm. Yeah. Your mother’s aura is having the oddest effect on me. Like the opposite of what your sister’s aura was doing to me, only even more so.” He chuckled in a way he’d never do, normally. Carefree. “I can not even remember the last time I felt so… light.”

He turned his head away, looking out over the rooftops. “Anyway, we should go to Hecate and Polymnia. Join up and figure out what to do.”

”Y-yeah.”

”Do I need to carry you?” he asked her, turning back to look at her again as she walked up to stand by his side.

She blushed again. “N-no. Thank you. I don’t have much power, right now, but I can still hop some roofs.” As if to underline that, she took off, running and leaping over the gap between their and the next house’s roof, moving as nimbly as any parkour runner.

He looked after her, blinking in surprise; then he shrugged and followed her.

***

They reached Polymnia and Hecate – both fortunately alive and well – within a minute.

Before anyone could say anything, Gloom Glimmer all but jumped at her friend, who equally rushed towards her, and they embraced each other so tightly, Polymnia actually lifted Gloom Glimmer off her feet (she was taller than her while in armor).

Basil joined Hecate while the two girl friends exchanged quick words, clearly intensily relieved that the other one was still alright.

”Hey,” Hecate greeted him again, giving him a brief hug. He wanted to hug her back, properly, but he was pretty sure she wouldn’t be quite comfortable with that right then, so he just gave her a one-armed squeeze. “How’s…” She trailed off, her eyes flicking from him to the other two girls.

”Much better,” he replied, releasing the breath he’d held. “Lady Light’s aura is lessening the effect, if not countering it outright.”

”Oh. That’s good,” she sighed, relieved. “So, no more nosebleeding?”

He tilted his head to the side. “I should have thought of checking that,” he said after a brief delay and took his mask off again.

“Let me,” Hecate interrupted him when he began to reach up, pulling a delicate green handkerchief from her bag. Spitting on it, she rubbed at his upper lip, nose and chin. “Just some dried blood,” she told him, while he held still, having experienced one of Vasiliki’s little ‘cleansings’ before, and learned that it was futile to resist. “Seems like the bleeding has stopped, yeah.” She smiled in relief, pulling her hand back and showing him the dark stains on it.

”Thank you. That is a relief,” he replied. DiL changed her powers again, halfway through the reply, and he sent another signal through the device the Dark gave him.

”You’re different,” she observed, her eyes hidden underneath the enchanted shadows of her hood. “Is everything… I mean, are you still… you?” She sounded afraid as she asked, though he couldn’t tell whether she was afraid he might be someone else, or that she might offend or anger him by asking, or both.

”I am pretty sure I am,” he tried to assuade her, smiling to take the tension out of it as much as he could. “It is not like I have recovered any memory that is missing, but… my head seems clearer.” He turned said head to look at the distant battle. Lights were flashing, and he was pretty sure that Lady Light was wielding a glowing sword the size of a schoolbus, using it to literally slice DiL’s current defense apart – some manner of fractals in the air, visible only by how they were distorting light around them, rather than due to reflecting it directly.

A dull ache announced another change in powers, and Lady Light reacted faster than Basil could press the button, letting that huge blade dissolve into light and reforming it into something too small to make out at this distance.

”Yeah, her aura is… I mean… wow. I didn’t know she could crank it up like this,” Hecate replied, whispering in awe. “She must be covering the entire area inside the Desolation Field.”

Another dull ache, a second after whatever Lady Light used now impacted some kind of distorted shadow inbetween her and DiL, dispersing it with a massive, yet silent shockwave.

“I don’t know how long she can keep it up, though,” Gloom Glimmer interjected, stepping closer to them, her right hand clasping Polymnia’s left, tightly. “She must be burning the candle on both ends to get this kind of output, and I… I don’t know why she’d be so reckless, this time.” She looked quite troubled.

“Maybe because you’re here,” Polymnia suggested, her voice soothing. “She launched that wave the moment you were in danger of actually being hurt, didn’t she?”

Gloom Glimmer’s shoulders slumped, along with her head.

Before anyone could follow up on that, they were interrupted by static crackle from Memento’s communication devices.

To all those who are still able to fight,the Dark’s multi-layered voice spoke to them, made even stranger than usual by coming from multiple speakers at once. We are preparing a significant attack on DiL. Lady Light is going to buy us the time we need to do so. Until you are given the signal to attack, conserve your strength, take care of each other and prepare yourselves.

“This is Rounds speaking,” the leader of the New Lennston United Heroes followed up, sounding winded, but still determined. “I concur with the Dark’s plan. Everyone, take care of yourselves and each other. Stand strong and don’t give up hope.”

“An attack…” Gloom Glimmer whispered, her gaze still focused downwards, mostly at her feet. “I’ve never heard him phrase any move against Bree like that,” she elaborated, when the others looked curiously at her, though she didn’t raise her head. “Could he actually have a plan to… get at her?”

Her voice was thick with a mess of emotions Basil couldn’t even begin to decipher. Though he was pretty certain guilt factored in.

He’d become all too familiar with guilt, lately.

”But, what could… how… she’s untouchable!” Hecate protested.

”Hanabi was able to affect her, during the Okinawa fight,” Basil interjected. “And no one has heard from him, since. It might be that he’s been preparing some kind of weapon, maybe even a Magnum Opus.”

”That sounds like something Dad would do,” Gloom Glimmer agreed. “Track him or her down and whisk them away to prepare for this.”

They all took a moment to digest that, the only motion between them being Basil’s fingers when he signaled another change of powers.

”Wow.” The simple whisper was all that Hecate seemed able to say, in response.

“That’s… really amazing, really… but what do we do?” Polymnia asked, her right hand’s fingers tapping out the words while her eyes were on Gloom Glimmer, her expression concerned. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but apart from Gloomy, we’ve all been pretty useless so far, and she’s out of power for now. Or nearly so.”

Hecate took a deep breath, holding her staff close to her chest with both hands, as her hood briefly twitched towards Basil, before focusing on the other girls instead. “I think… we should just, try to protect people. Get them out harm’s way, wherever we can. Search and rescue.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was doing before. Rounds has all the juniors – except Gloomy – on Search and Rescue. Not that I wouldn’t do it anyway, I’m pretty good at it. Tracking people via sounds and all, I can do that, and I have the strength to carry them to safety,” Polymnia just kept speaking, until she suddenly stopped, blushing when she realised she’d started rambling.

Hecate nodded, straightening up a bit. “Alright, let’s-“

”Someone is coming,” Basil interjected, a mere moment before a blur rushed up onto the roof and crossed over to them so quickly none had a chance to react, before it slowed down and stopped.

”Yo, glad  to see you’re still alive!” Outstep greeted them, his grin visible as he wasn’t wearing his usual racer-inspired helmet, instead donning a red-tinted visor covering the upper half of his face. “I’m running high-speed evac to the medical station, who needs a trip?”

“We’re all fine, thank you,” Polymnia replied, looking him over. “Glad to see you’re still alive… I think.”

”Aw, come on now, Jugs,” he grinned, blurring over to her right side, one arm wrapped around her shoulders, “We both know you’d be inconsolable if I actually croaked off.”

She turned her head, looking at him with a saccharine smile. “Call me ‘Jugs’ again and I’ll liquefy your balls from the inside out,” she spoke in her usual, chipper tone of voice.

He stepped back from her, raising his arms as if in surrender. “Alright, alright.” He looked them all over again, still smirking. “So, anyone need some rapid transit, if not medical evac?”

They all shook their heads, even Gloom Glimmer.

”A-are you sure?” Hecate asked her. “Polymnia said you’re almost out of power…”

Outsteps gaze snapped over to his dark-haired teammate. “That true, princess?”

She gave him an annoyed look – a glare, almost – and Basil was actually surprised he didn’t physically feel the temperature drop between them.

”I’m fine,” she all but snarled. “Got two new powers already. I’m good to go.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” he replied, deadpan. “But seriously, if you need a timeout, tell me. You ain’t no use to anyone if you get yourself killed by your mass-murderin’ sissy. Nevermind what your dad will do to me if he thinks me the least bit responsible for it.”

Gloom Glimmer’s left eye twitched when he mentioned her sister, but she just turned away from him. “I’m staying, as are the others. So go help someone who actually needs your help, Outstep.”

He shrugged, looking them all over one more time. “Alright. God be with you, Gearhead, Witchgirl, Princess, Jugs.” He turned into a blur and rushed down from the rooftop, before anyone could react.

“He’s such an asshole,” Polymnia complained quietly.

”He kind of reminds me of some of my relatives,” Hecate whispered, lowering her head. “One of my uncles and his sons are pretty much all like that.” She sighed.

Basil put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently. “Your family is way too stubborn to die,” he told her, softly.

She choked on a laugh, her shoulders shaking briefly. “Y-yeah. You’re right.” She took in a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. “Let’s get going.”

“Yes, let’s,” Gloom Glimmer agreed, as the air began to shimmer and distort around her, though curiously – at least, to Basil – her eyes remained blue on white.

He wished he could just sit down with her and talk about her power, try to determine the ins and outs of it. Maybe run some tests, put her under some of his scanners…

Not the time, not the time, he admonished himself. Not that it ever seems to be the time.

Instead of pursuing that line of thought, he checked his communicator, as did the others, to see where Memento thought they could do the most good, each of them requesting the system give them search and rescue tasks.

Unsurprisingly, there were loads of them.

“I suppose we ought to split up,” he commented, seeing the sheer volume of the requests for help.

“No,” Hecate countered. “At least, not entirely. We should go in pairs, I think, so we can support each other.”

“True en-” He was interrupted as the ground shook, causing them all to stumble before they caught their balance again. The buildings beneath and around them groaned, what window panes remained unbroken shattered, but the overall structures held. “Hrm, this is only going to get worse. Yes, I agree, we should go in pairs.”

“I think I should go with Hecate,” Polymnia spoke up, causing them all to look at her in surprise. She just shrugged at their questioning looks. “Don’t look at me like that. I think it makes sense to split so there’s only one gadgeteer to a pair, in case our tech does break down after all. That is still a threat, being within the Desolation Field. And I think I should be the one to go with Hecate, because I have more functioning tech left than Brennus, so I can support her better, while he will have Gloomy to cover him.”

Basil exchanged looks with the other two. “It does make sense,” he agreed with his fellow gadgeteer.

“I suppose we ought to get going, then,” Hecate said, looking at him one more time. “Good luck and… don’t die. Seriously.”

“I will not die. That is a promise,” he replied, calmly, as his eyes briefly found hers in the shadows of her hood.

Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia exchanged similar words, before they split up, the two girls running off and leaping onto the next rooftop.

”Let’s not dawdle,” Gloom Glimmer said softly, her eyes following her friend until she dropped down to the street.

”Aye.”

They left towards their own target.

***

“You didn’t have to do that,” Hecate whispered to Polymnia, once they hit the street and started running. Using the occasional smoke-leap, she was easily able to keep pace with the physically superior gadgeteer, even had the advantage now and then, when they had to cross particularly treachery spots, like collapsed buildings or car wrecks melted together into jagged spikes, and worse.

“Perhaps not, but I think it’s for the best,” Polymnia replied in a conversational tone, once again at odds with what she was actually doing, running and leaping in the direction the arrows on their armbads were showing them. “I know things are messed up between you two right now. Some distance might be good, so you can get some perspective. And so you won’t be getting too distracted while on mission.”

Hecate blushed, glad that the (slightly) younger girl couldn’t see it under her hood. I’m such a mess.

”Thank you,” was all she said in return, her voice thick with emotions she couldn’t really put to words, even if she’d tried.

Somehow, she was quite sure Polymnia got it, anyway, as she just smiled at her and said, “Don’t worry too much. I’m sure it will work out.”

They turned a corner, and immediately saw where they were meant to help – a five-storey building had collapsed inwards, rubble piling up into a mound the size of a two-storey building, but even without Polymnia’s hearing, Hecate could make out people screaming from within.

“We’ll have to dig them out carefully,” Hecate said to Polymnia, the two of them walking up to the rubble. “If we’re too careless, it might collapse entirely and crush the people within.”

“I can hear children in there,” Polymnia stated with a serious expression, stepping forth and climbing onto the rubble. “Let’s start from the top and work our way down.”

Hecate joined her, as they got to work as quickly as they could. “How does Gloom Glimmer do it?” she asked in a whisper which a normal person would likely not have understood, even if they’d been leaning in to listen.

“How does Gloom Glimmer do what?”

***

“How do you deal with your father being who he is?” Basil clarified as he and Gloom Glimmer jogged down the street, pushed onwards by her power, which was generating sonic waves that reflected off the buildings and street around and beneath them, coming back to push the air against the two of them from behind, buyoing them onwards and onwards.

Gloom Glimmer, whose long-legged strides would have been entirely silent even while running, with her feet being essentially clad in soft – if padded – almost velvet-like fabric rather than proper shoes, kept quiet for a few seconds, easily keeping pace with him, her billowing, heavy cape only magnifying the effect of the pressure from behind, even if it occasionally looked a little silly how it’d push at her and flutter around.

Just when he thought she might not have heard him over the melodic, drum-like waves of sound she generated, she opened her mouth again.

***

“She doesn’t, really,” Polymnia replied quietly, looking sad even as she continued to tear through the rubble, tossing chunks the size of her torso aside as if they weighed nothing. “He’s her daddy, but he’s the Dark. She loves him, but he’s a murderer and enabler of murderers, and all kinds of other criminals and crimes. She wants him to be proud of her, but she can’t feel that way about him. It’s a real mess.”

”I… I guess,” Hecate replied, surprised, in spite of having asked in the first place, that she got such a reply. Even so, her arms and hips kept working, lifting off broken pieces of concrete with rebars and wiring sticking out or attached to them, not as quickly or as easily as Polymnia, but faster than normal. “I didn’t actually think you’d…”

“She’d want me to tell you,” Polymnia assured her, softly. “Perhaps hoping that it’d help you work through what you found out about Brennus.”

Hecate choked, swallowing, her eyes stinging with tears – and it wasn’t the dust causing them. “I just… I don’t understand how… how he could keep it from me, for so long… and… even though I told him otherwise… even though I really, really get family, I… she’s so… how can he just… accept her, after all that she’s done?”

***

”I do not, really,” Basil echoed Gloom Glimmer’s own reply, while using the gauntlet on his left arm to smash through the shards still stuck to the frame of a broken window in the third storey of a small apartment building, his getting carried off by Gloom Glimmer’s power and over to where she was helping two older men carry their respective wives out of a shattered supermarket, leaving trails of bloody footprints behind them.

”You don’t mean that like I did,” Gloom Glimmer observed, somehow, even over the distance.

Basil climbed into the apartment. The window had been broken by the body of a cape, who’d been sent flying through it and landed on a couch opposite of the window with such force, the couch had shattered and he’d smashed into the wall.

Kneeling next to him, Basil quickly examined the young man – perhaps just a teen, though older than himself, he was wearing an outfit reminding him of a classic Wild West Gunslinger, with a zig-zagging, blood-red pattern worked into his black leather pants and matching vest and hat, as well as a red scarf wrapped around his lower face, to hide his identity. He was still holding onto a heavy, magnum-sized revolver in his right hand. Basil could see three blood-red bullets in the cylinder, as well as burned, cracked brown in the other three, likely already spent shots.

He might have been a cowl, considering the dark tones and harsh lines of his outfit, or perhaps one of the ‘edgy’ kind of capes that were all the rage in the USA these years.

Either way, the bleeding wound on the back of his head looked bad, and he was likely only alive because the couch had cushioned his impact.

Basil was quite sure he should have bled out by now, considering how much blood was on the wall behind him, on the floor around him and sticking to the back of his head, but he hadn’t. Perhaps some enhanced toughness or low-level regeneration.

It wasn’t doing him much good beyond barely keeping him alive, though, so he used his first aid supplies to wrap up his head, sheathed his revolver in its hip holster and then carefully lifted him up over his shoulder.

One wasn’t supposed to move injured people, especially not in such a fashion, but it was liable to be less dangerous to him than remaining there, unconscious and unable to get to safety if the destruction spread here.

“What I mean is that I have not been, nor am I dealing with it,” Basil continued the conversation, walking to the door with his unconscious cargo, straining a bit under the man’s weight. “I have been telling myself that she is my sister, that I love her and she me and that that should come first. Some half-formed but never pursued thoughts of redeeming her. Add a great deal of procrastination on the subject and spotty memories, and…”

He opened the door easily enough, from inside, stepping out into the stairwell and immediately making his way down.

”And that’s not all,” Gloom Glimmer’s voice reached him, so clear it was like she was sitting walking right next to him. “You mentioned issues with your memory. Malign ones, most likely. Do you think someone is actively manipulating you?”

She left it unsaid that his sister was the most obvious candidate for such manipulation, but he knew she thought of that possibility.

He would have liked to defend her, to say that Amy wouldn’t do such a thing, that she herself was being affected… except now, thinking – reasonably – clearly for the first time he could remember, he was honest enough to admit that…

”Yes, I think so. And yes, much as I hate to think so, Amy may well be responsible. I think she is also being manipulated, but it would hardly be a challenge for her to pretend that she is, on the off-chance that I might become suspicious,” he replied, and his heart broke a little to admit it out loud.

God, I wish Henry was here. He gets this stuff so much better than I ever could.

He stopped, just a step away from the front door of the building.

Where’d that thought come from? Who was Henry, and why…

No time. Focus on the here and now.

“I can feel… something, off,” Gloom Glimmer said, percussive air helping him move faster towards her and the four survivors she’d found. “I’m sorry, I might be able to do more, but I’m running on fumes here. But there’s definitely something or someone connected to your mind that’s not supposed to… but it’s so subtle, I would never have noticed it, if I didn’t know to look for it in the first place.”

He joined her and the other four, handing the wounded metahuman off to one of the two men, whose wife could walk on her own, and described to them how to get to the next teleportation node, based on the map that he’d seen when he’d used Memento’s network himself, while applying some first aid to them – the other man’s wife was worse off, with a cut on her thigh quite close to a major artery, and a bad hit to the head, but there was just no time for him and Gloom Glimmer to escort them, not when they could move on their own and there were so many other people to help.

”Focus,” he admonished her, gently, without accusation in his voice, watching the survivors leave. “There’s more important things to worry about, right now.” He looked at his armband, and saw that the arrow was pointing him down the road, opposite of where the survivors had gone.

She looked at him, her gaze so overflowing with sympathy and sadness it made him flinch – inwardly, at least. “There always are, aren’t there?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“Hrm.”

***

After nearly five minutes of careful work – and some rather close calls, when the ongoing battle shook the ground and threatened to collapse the rubble – Hecate hit something weird.

The concrete shifted and revealed… nothing. And yet there was something there, something flat, hard and invisible, through which she could see some movement deeper within, obstructing her progress.

“Some kind of force field?”

Polymnia stopped and leaned over, taking a look. “Something’s been preventing me from mapping the insides of the rubble with sonar… perhaps that’s it?”

“Can somebody hear us!?” a voice shouted from within, a young woman’s, perhaps. “Please, you’ve got to move the rubble aside! I don’t think he can hold out much longer! Don’t worry about it collapsing!”

Hecate looked at Polymnia, who seemed as surprised as she herself felt.

“Might as well,” Polymnia stated, and they leapt off the rubble, starting to just tear it away by main force, throwing aside chunks from the base.

Within seconds, the rubble shifted and slid off… an invisible box, about the size of a minivan, outlined by dust.

Within were eight civilians – two women and six younger children, all of kindergarten age – sitting on the ground, and a man standing in the center, his legs spread apart, his arms reaching out, palms facing  away from him, as if pushing against something.

He was wearing black pants with suspenders and a horizontally striped white shirt with black stripes, as well as white and black make-up on his face and oily black hair now matted with blood.

“Le Pantomime!” Polymnia called out, rushing forward as the box disappeared, and the man fell forward.

She caught him as gently as she could, and Hecate stepped up as well, worried. She’d heard of the hero from France – he was quite famous, even across the pond.

To her horror, she saw a terrible wound on the left side of his head – she could actually see a bit of his brain!

“How… how is he still…” She gulped, staring at him.

“He saved us… caught the rubble when it collapsed, after a piece hit him on the head,” the woman who’d called out earlier explained. Hecate barely spared her a glance, since she didn’t seem to be hurt, but she was pretty sure they’d happened upon a daycare of some sort. She kind of looked like a daycare worker, to her, not that she’d ever been in an actual daycare.

“We’ll get him the help he needs,” Polymnia soothed them, calmly, her eyes on the teary-eyed children clinging to the two women. “And we’ll get you all to safety, I promise.”

Hecate nodded, kneeling down to take care of the children. That was something she had experience with, at least.

***

Basil leapt over a slagged car wreck, following the arrow on his armband, moving on his own for now – their armbands had sent him and Gloom Glimmer in opposite directions, and he could only hope that they’d be reunited after, but for now, he was on his own.

They’d been guided to four more crisis points, after he’d saved the gunslinger, and had managed to get no less than nine people to safety, capes, cowls and civilians both, though they’d come across several corpses as well.

Gloom Glimmer had taken those much harder than Basil had – he couldn’t rightly say that he was all that upset about seeing dead people, much as that unnerved him.

Reaching a street corner, the arrow rotated, guiding him towards a roundabout, when it suddenly disappeared.

The display said ‘Target Deceased – Await New Directions’.

Not again.

He started to move back, tapping his fingers as he felt DiL change powers yet again – the fifth time this minute – and started to move back towards where he’d split from Gloom Glimmer, just in case, when his armband beeped.

Looking down at it, he saw a new arrow pointing away from where he’d come.

Great. I really hope you know where you’re guiding me, Memento.

He ran through the shattered streets, his progress much slower than he would have liked – there were cracks and fissures all over, and parts had been flooded where pipes had burst open.

There were corpses everywhere. Floating in the water, slumped over broken cars, mailboxes, torn apart by huge claws or impaled on shards of glass or rebar, and worse besides. Men, women and children, dead by the dozens. Hundreds or thousands, probably, across the city.

There was nothing he could do for them, so he moved on, following the arrow, while regularly glancing at the flickering, often distorting feed from his ravenbot, flying far above, keeping an eye towards the battle, so he’d have at least a moments’ warning to dodge, if anything came his way.

At least Lady Light seems to have DiL well in hand for now, he thought, only to immediately chide himself for jinxing it.

As if to affirm it, he felt a sudden drop in air pressure, at the same time as he sensed DiL changing her powers again, followed by the building to his right all but disintegrating as a projectile shot through it faster than the sonic boom that followed it, blasting his ravenbot out of the air.

Basil managed to avoid instant death just barely, reversing his boots’ wall-walking function yet again – and even so, he would likely have been hit, at the very least losing his legs as he shot backwards, if he hadn’t been gripped by an additional force and pushed away faster.

Dust and debris filled his field of view, the street cracking – but they could not hide the white glow within, light blazing forth so powerfully it penetrated even the thickest dust cloud, turning billows of gray matter into something almost ethereal.

He landed on his feet, barely managing to catch himself, and staring at the center of the glowing dust cloud.

DiL’s presence was all but entirely gone from his mind, the pressure she created entirely blotted out by her aura, as she rose out of the dust, a humanoid figure shrouded in so many layers of nearly solid, sometimes liquid, light, it was impossible to make out any details, her side towards him as she flew up and towards DiL again, trailing ribbons of pure light behind her, less than a hundred meters between them…

Only to stop, and turn in mid-air, the motion nearly inhumanly graceful in spite of its abruptness, and his black eyes met a pair of bright, blue ones, even through the layers of light enfolding her and the distance between them.

He remembered the sensation of staring into Emyr’s eyes, back in that twisted world Legend had created – a thoroughly discombombulating experience, it had made him think of staring into an infinite expanse of darkness, losing perspective and with it, very nearly his balance. There had been an intensity to his gaze, as if he was somehow projecting his will through the mere act of crossing eyes, that had caused Basil to hesitate for a moment.

Gazing into Lady Light’s bright blue eyes (so reminiscent of Gloom Glimmer’s) was so much more disorienting than that, by several orders of magnitude. If Emyr’s eyes had been windows into a vast, dark depth of will, then these were… were…

He did not have the words to describe them, no simile that encompassed the sensation.

Without even noticing himself falling, he found himself sitting on his butt, briefly seeing double as he stared up at her in a daze.

Lady Light distant form twitched, the humanoid silhouette he could barely make out moving as the ribbons of light shifted with the barest hint of a delay, the gesture as graceful as it was unreadable, at this distance, and turned away, flying off towards DiL again, moving so quickly she left behind several after-images.

Basil looked down at his right wrist, where he felt something close around it. A band of… something, like nearly solid light, wrapped around his wrist there. It looked white, at first glance, but as he raised his hand, it shifted through all colours of the rainbow, each motion causing a change in its colouring and pattern.

It felt warm, solid and heavy.

Looking at it from various angles, he knew what it meant.

‘I will find you again.’

***

Memento’s armband had ended up leading him to a young woman in a flowing costume, layers of rainbow-coloured fabric forming a hooded robe with wide sleeves, soaked through with some kind of clear, viscuous fluid which also surrounded the site where she lay, having been blasted through a wall and into a backyard, just off the street. A loading dock, perhaps, for some smaller company – it was hard to tell, considering how damaged everything was.

A quick check showed that she was unconscious, and had a bleeding wound on her forehead, but was alive and not in immediate danger of dying after some basic first aid to stem the bleeding, so he picked her up in a fireman’s carry – not the best way to transport someone with a head wound, but he had to choose between being gentle and being fast and that wasn’t really a choice at all, not in this situation.

Getting to the nearest teleportation node was mercifully less eventful than his way to the woman, and he even had some attention to spare to reboot his ravenbot and have it fly back towards him; fortunately, it had only taken cosmetic damage from the sonic boom of the attack which had deposited Lady Light so close to him.

I wonder what she saw, he could not helpt but wonder. He felt it in his gut, she’d seen right through him there and whatever she’d seen or sensed had piqued her interest.

If Lady Light can’t help me…

He looked ahead, focusing on where he was going – the broken streets were very treacherous, with crevisses, holes leading into sewers and other traps for the unwary pedestrian – as he also considered his brief meeting – if one could call it that – with the lady and also ran several ideas through his mind, his power having apparently taken a lot of inspiration from hers, with ideas for manipulating matter and energy in weirder ways than he could ever recall doing…

Fuck, why does it have to work so well now? I wish I could be like this while in the lab and with a few weeks or months’ worth of time to just tinker around and experiment.

He didn’t even know whether his lab was still uncollapsed. The structure was reinforced, and on the outskirts of New Lennston, away from the center of the fighting, but still…

Due to the interference from the Desolation Field, he couldn’t even reach it to find out whether or not Eudocia was well. Her casing wasn’t that tough, and even light damage to her insides could cause the delicate energy fields within to collapse. Rebooting her from such a collapse, if he even managed to, would mean resetting her to her initial state, all her experiences and growth irretrievably lost.

Can’t think about that, not now. I need to focus. Put it off until I can find her and then we’ll see how things stand.

He ran even faster.

***

Through some stroke of luck, he reached the node at the same time as Gloom Glimmer did. She was generating sonic blasts which bounced off the street, gently juggling several people atop them and moving them towards the node.

The survivors – a family, mother and several children – were staring around with varying degrees of fear and wonder on their faces, as Irene dropped them next to the node and explained to them how to use it.

The mother held her youngest in one arm, and the other two held each other by the hand, while one held hers, as they touched the node together and disappeared.

“Brennus. I’m glad you’re… safe…” Gloom Glimmer began to greet him, until her eyes fell on the rainbow-hued armband, widening at the sight of it.

“A brief run-in,” he explained, as he walked onto the childrens’ playground that the floating tesseract had teleported to. “I did not even get close to her, but she must have sensed something, and she made this band.”

“Mmmhm,” she temporized, brushing a lock of fine black hair back behind her ear. “It’ll let her track you down, so long as you’re within her range.”

He nodded, his suspicion confirmed. “Looking forward to it. If anyone can help me…”

She nodded right back. “It’ll be mom.”

They used the node to teleport to the field hospital, appearing within a huge tent, filled with people – some in scrubs or less formal clothes, taking care of the majority of those present: the injured.

Dozens upon dozens of them, capes, cowls and civilians alike, arranged  in an odd spiral pattern around the nod, with a circular empty space around it, the rigidity of the pattern broken up at seemingly random intervals by intersecting pathways.

On second thought, there’s an odd rhyme to it, Basil thought, looking around, before his eyes fell on an obvious metahuman standing nearby, facing them with a clipboard held in their hands.

She was a woman or girl – probably a girl, based on what he could see of her face – wearing a skin-tight, black bodysuit, though skintight in a different way from what he usually saw – thicker, suggesting padding and even some manner of armoring. It wasn’t completely black, though – there were dark blue patterns on it, only visible when the light hit them at the right angle, tracing the contours of her body in a way  that emphasized her modest curves, without being the least bit obscene. The flat soles of her boots and the palms of her hands, as well as the undersides of her fingers were all blue, and there was an emblem on her chest, fitted so delicately to her body’s shape, her breasts didn’t distort it at all – a single circle, followed by four ovals around it, like ripples extending from it, only they weren’t centered around the circle; rather, the circle was near the bottom of the symbol, with the ovals’ long extending further above than beneath it.

Her face was hidden by a black mask which covered the top half, and reached up to the crown of her head, keeping her long, straight blonde hair out of her face, while leaving her lips – painted dark blue to match the color scheme – and jaw exposed.

“Calculass,” Gloom Glimmer greeted her with a smile, holding out her hand towards her.

The girl smiled back, if a little nervously. “Gloom Glimmer. I’ve heard a lot about you – wouldn’t have thought the opposite was true. It’s an honor.” She shook the offered hand.

“Dad taking on a new apprentice isn’t something to ignore – he’s never done it in my lifetime. So I made some inquiries,” Gloom Glimmer replied with a smirk. Then she pulled her hand back, smoothing her face out more seriously. “Where do we put this one? Wounded cape, head trauma and several broken bones.”

“Possibly internal bleeding, as well,” Basil added quietly, studying the girl more intently now. The Dark’s apprentice… that did not exactly bode well. Some kind of math-related power? An esper? The name’s pretty obviously pointing in that direction.

Calculass didn’t hesitate to reply, pointing to the beginning of the spiraling pathway. “Third branch, then left, right, left, cot twenty-nine,” she advised, far more confident and steady in her speech than just moments before.

“Thank you. I hope we’ll have some time to hang out in the future, under better circumstances,” Gloom Glimmer replied with a smile, walking past her. “Also, love the costume,” she added with a thumbs up.

“Thanks. I’m kind of shocked that costume design is one of the boss’s fields of expertise,” Calculass grinned at her, briefly.

“That ain’t even the weirdest hobby dad has, believe you me,” Gloom Glimmer called out, raising her voice as they moved further away, sticking close to Basil. “And you’ll get to know way more of them, you poor, unfortunate fool!”

Basil didn’t see whether Calculass reacted, before the sound of another incoming teleport took up her attention again – his own was on walking the right way to where to put down his charge, while his raven was looking around at the wounded all around.

There were so many of them. Calculass’s system – at least, he assumed she’d been the one to plan this layout – managed to cram an incredible amount of people into the tent, while still allowing for easy movement. People had been distributed based on the wounds they were suffering from, and whether or not they were metahuman. There were even allowances made for those whose powers made being treated, or just being near others, problematic.

It was kind of impressive, managing to impose order on such a chaotic situation.

Guess that’s to be expected of the Dark’s apprentice.

They reached the assigned cot, and Basil put the woman down on it, as gently as he could. Two nurses got to work before he’d even stepped back.

He turned towards his companion, to suggest moving out again, but stopped.

Gloom Glimmer’s expression was fragile in a way he could not recall seeing before, her eyes glued to a boy half her apparent age lying in the cot next to the woman, his eyes glassy, yet occasionally blinking as he stared up into nothing, a good fifth of his head simply gone, from just above his left ear over towards the center of his forehead. Wires and catheters were connecting to the exposed brain-matter, then to some kind of gadget which apparently kept him alive, somehow.

Occasionally, the device would spark, and the boy would twitch randomly before settling down again.

She didn’t seem able to look away.

Basil took her arm by the wrist, gently tugging on it, guiding her out of the tent and into the bright, distorted daylight outside. The field hospital had been set up at the outskirts of the city, where the surrounding woodland stabbed into the urban sprawl, and had been tamed into a park, which had in turn become a popular place for family picnics.

Now, it was overrun with emergency vehicles coming and going, dropping a share of the injured and otherwise needy here, before moving on to pick up more people, or deliver others to another field hospital (they were being spread out amongst multiple locations, if they couldn’t be moved out of the Desolation Field entirely, to reduce the chance of DiL wiping them all out with a single attack).

Gloom Glimmer looked around at the chaos, her expression downcast. “This…”

Whatever she was about to say was cut off when another, familiar voice interjected with a shout.

“Ba-Brennus!” called Amy, flying over from where she’d been helping to load people onto and off of several vehicles.

A not inconsiderable part of Basil relaxed a great deal upon seeing her safe and whole.

In fact, she looked utterly untouched.

Before he could get in a word of his own, she was upon him, pulling him into a nearly literally bone-crushing hug.

“Ugh. Spine. Still. Needed,” he gasped the words out, barely, though he couldn’t honestly say he disliked it.

He would’ve hugged her back, if he’d been able to move his arms to any meaningful degree, but since her grip on him wouldn’t allow him to, he merely patted her sides with his hands.

No one around seemed to have the time or inclination to pay attention to them or care about what was going on, and he was pretty sure that wasn’t due to Amy using her power. The situation was just that messed up.

“I should kill you, you damn idiot,” Amy croaked, squeezing even harder for a moment, before she mercifully let him have his lung function back.

“I was worried about you, too,” he replied with a groan, trying not to show just how much her hug had pained him. Damn these cracked ribs. “You don’t look like you’re hurt at all, though,” he replied, and he couldn’t help but sound a little bit accusatory.

She somehow managed to look both embarrassed and annoyed at the same time, rubbing the back of her head while shifting on those ridiculous stiletto heels of hers. “Boss’s orders. We’re to hold back until the big attack starts, make sure to conserve our powers and stamina.”

“What is his plan, anyway?” Basil asked, curiously, assuming that she, as one of his lieutenants, surely had to know.

“Dunno,” she replied.

Or maybe not.

“This whole thing is rushed like crazy. From what I get, he was hoping she’d take longer to reappear, or skip one battle and use his grand plan the next time, after more prepwork. But I guess New Lennston’s too important to not go all out in defending it,” Amy elaborated.

“He’s always loved this city, even when he hated it,” Gloom Glimmer agreed with a thoughtful nod, her left hand’s fingertips touching her chin. “Plus, losing New Lennston to DiL, after we lost Old Lennston to her… the hit to morale would be tremendous and it definitely is unacceptable.” Another thought seemed to come to her, and she looked up at Amy. “Where is Dad, anyway?”

“At the memorial plaza, preparing to set off the big pl-“, she started to reply, only to be interrupted by a deafening shriek.

The sound was akin to a woman’s wail, amplified a million times over, with odd, discordant harmonics mixed in to make it more cacophonous than Basil would have thought possible.

Its origin was emminently obvious – DiL herself was not visible, but the chaotic twist of space around her was, as her new power twisted realtiy in a way that gave Basil vertigo even by looking at it from halfway across the city.

From that central point, jagged lines of twisted space were reaching out, spreading across the sky and into the ground, before fading back again.

Whatever they touched was destroyed, matter twisted up in such a fashion as to reduce entire buildings to rubble, condensed into deformed masses a fraction of their original size.

He couldn’t see far enough to tell how it affected any metahuman it hit, but those whom flew high enough for him to see and got struck by one of those flowing arcs dropped and didn’t come up again.

Several tendrils lashed out towards Lady Light’s glowing form, causing Gloom Glimmer to gasp where she stood next to Basil, but they were deflected with a flash of light, and she pressed the attack, trying to force DiL to change away from such a lethal power.

Not that any of the powers she took were ever harmless.

“Fuck, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do much at all, even if I was allowed to,” Amy shouted, and yet was barely heard nonetheless.

Gloom Glimmer raised her right arm to snap her fingers, and the cacophony died down, letting everyone relax and focus on their duties again.

Considering how dire the conditions of most of the people being treated were, that was vital.

“How long can you keep that up, princess?” Amy asked, rubbing underneath her ears with two fingers each, as if to rub the pain away.

Basil really missed his full helmet now – the hearing protection in his spare mask wasn’t nearly up to its level.

”This power’s pretty fresh,” Gloom Glimmer replied, without looking – she was wholly focused on the spectacle in the distance. “A few minutes, I’d guess. Up to twenty, if we’re lucky.”

”That will not do,” Basil stated simply. “She has to change her powers again, and quickly – if not for our sake, then for that of everyone else in this city, particularly the other medical camps.”

Gloom Glimmer frowned, clenching her left hand into a fist, tightly enough it started to tremble. “Yeah… and we can’t… shouldn’t… just rely on mom, so-“

A new, yet all too familiar voice cut her off, reverberating through the artificial quiet Gloom Glimmer’s power had generated.

“I hope you don’t mean to finish that sentence the way I think you do,” the Dark spoke, as calmly as was possible when your voice sounded like a ghostly chorus.

Gloom Glimmer’s face brightened up, as she all but flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around what may have been his waist – it was hard to tell, with how formless his current appearance was – and made a gleeful squeal.

“Don’t think you being cute is going to distract me from the issue, young lady,” he continued, even as he hugged her back tightly enough she almost seemed to disappear into the shadows, and mussed her hair with one hand.

“I’m not trying to distract you! Just glad you’re ok,” she replied, stepping back after one more tight squeeze, combing her hair back with her fingers.

You are glad that I am alright?” he asked, six glowing eyes growing incredulously wide as he bent over so much he nearly made a right angle, putting his face at the same height as hers. “You’re the one who’s been in danger, young lady!”

“That’s all part of wearing the cape!” she replied, looking up at him with a smile, looking positively re-energized. “Speaking of which, it seems like my powers are finally, properly, back.” She looked down herself, and Basil followed her gaze to see that she was levitating a step or so above the ground, in the center of a circle of swirling dust.

She raised her hand, and tiny motes of light in all colors of the rainbow began to dance between and around her fingers, seeming to somehow… suck in the light, the area immediately around their small group growing darker, even as the motes burned brighter.

“Irene, my sweet, don’t you dare go out there now!” the Dark stepped in, reaching for her hand with his own.

Gloom Glimmer pulled back, floating to put a few meters between them. “You know I can’t just stand by – I have to help mom. Wish me luck!” she replied, completely ignoring his protests, as she saluted Basil, and shot off towards the fight.

“No listen to m-  why do you just ignore your father!” he shouted in exasperation, his hands disappearing in the shadows of his head, as if he was reaching past the wraith to pull on his hair. “Why’d you have to take after me so much!”

Amy put her hand over her mouth, her shoulders shaking as she tried not to make a sound.

It didn’t help, as he whirled around and pointed a long, misty finger at her.

“You. After her. Keep her safe.”

He didn’t wait for a reply, or even an acknowledgement, and simply turned around and walked away, back to where Basil could see Rounds and several other of the higher-ranked capes and cowls congregate.

“Damn. Babysitting duty,” Amy groused, her arms and head dropping. “Noooooot looking forward to this!”

Basil took her hand into his, squeezing it tightly. “Just make sure you’re safe,” he said, his eyes returning to the distant battle, following the fast-flying form of Gloom Glimmer as she approached the blazing sun that was her mother.

“I should be the one saying that, considering your track record…” she continued to grumble, before floating up a bit to kiss him on the top of the head. “Be safe, little brother.”

He pulled his mask down, and kissed her on the cheek. “You too, sister.”

She nodded at him with a wry smile, then turned around and flew away – only to jerk to a stop, his hand having shot up to grab her by the wrist before he even consciously chose to.

“Basil?” she looked at him, her eyes widening when she saw the overwrought expression on his face.

“I…” he began, struggling himself to put what he was feeling into words.

Why do I feel like this is the last time we’ll talk to each other? he thought, miserably, unable to find the right thing to say, as he felt his face contract, nearly crumbling.

She floated closer, wrapping her arms around his head to pull it against her bosom, her feet a good deal above the ground.

Don’t be silly, she spoke into his mind. We’ll talk again so much, we’ll both grow sick of it and refuse to talk at all anymore.

He didn’t have it in him to laugh, or even chuckle. Instead, he looked up at her, his arms having found their way around her lower waist, hugging her tightly.

I love you, Amy, he said in his head, unable to get the words past the knot in his tongue.

She gave him a brilliant smile in return, looking down with the gentle expression he’d missed so long. I love you too, Basil.

Once more, she kissed him, this time on his forehead.

And then she flew off to fight an enemy he could do nothing against.

Looking after her, tears running down his cheeks as he put his mask back on to cover at least the lower part of his face, he couldn’t help but feel the same as before, like that had been a farewell.

Just like the last time he’d seen Prisca, held her, kissed her. Felt her disappear.

And yet again, there was nothing at all he could do.

***

Silver light flowed from Rounds’ palm, where it met Bismuth’s cheek, washing over her like a second skin, clinging tightly for a moment before the silvery Bismuth stepped aside, separating from the original.

At the same time, two new windows, paired together, appeared in his mind, one to the half of her power that he could use himself, and another to the silvery apparition, giving him an innate sense of her state and location.

Ten other pairs were already in his mind, filling it nearly to the brim, much like the ten – now eleven – apparitions filled the space around him.

Just one more, and he’d be at his limit.

The sheer power accumulated in him was already such that he felt it pull at his very sanity. Overwhelming, to have all these options at hand.

Lamarr’s spatial manipulation alone may have distracted him for hours, if he wasn’t currently limited to the area within the Desolation Field.

Bismuth stepped back, her head held low, mirrored by her apparition. Even if he couldn’t feel what his apparitions felt – and they usually mirrored their progenitor’s feelings – he’d have no trouble figuring out what was affecting her.

The many things that were wearing down on her.

So much to work out. So little time.

He turned his head away from her, not to dismiss her, but to focus on more urgent matters.

His eyes fell on the shadowy, almost wispy figure that was the Dark, standing at the edge of the terrace this camp had been set upon, looking out over the devastated city, and the battle raging on in the distance.

Watching for his daughter, Rounds thought. I suppose even he has a modicum of decency.

He hated it. Hated, that the children were fighting. That they were risking their lives. That they were being exposed to so many horrors.

That he hadn’t been there to shield them from it.

He would never agree with the wide-spread practice of putting children in costumes and throwing  them at the horrors of the world, telling them to be heroes, no matter what the statistics said.

But here, if anywhere, there was nothing he could do. Even if he could forbid it, most would fight anyway, to protect their home from her. And  there was no way he’d be able to divert the resources to restrain them, at such a time.

Shaking his head, he walked over to his enemy and stood by his side, followed by his silvery apparitions. Three of them – Wary Wu’s and two of Gloom Glimmer’s – were focusing on the fight, constantly feeding him new information, which his half of their powers picked up on and further processed, before throwing it back at them, in a constant back and forth.

Normally, copying esper powers like this was a great boon to him, but right now, with both DiL and Gloom Glimmer in the fight, they were all but useless.

At least he was pretty certain they’d warn him in time in case he had to block an incoming attack.

Pretty certain, but not completely so, which was why all the other apparitions where also focusing on the battle for him, ready to leap into action.

He himself, meanwhile, rolled his shoulders, the body armor he wore over his suit shifting, glittering with reflected light as the individual plates it consisted off changed their orientation slightly. He’d never liked how sparkly and ostentatious it all was – at times he felt like he was wearing jewelry, rather than armor – but that arse Patrid had beat the importance of proper public relations into his head a long, long time ago.

“I hope you didn’t come over here to ask me for a copy of my power, Rounds,” the Dark spoke without turning to look at him. Not that he wasn’t perfectly capable of looking straight at Rounds while seemingly facing the battle. And also focusing on that in equal measure.

With a chuckle, Rounds shook his head. “If it’s anything like Lady Light’s power, then I want no part in it.”

That caused him to turn his head and look down at him.

He’d never admit it out loud, especially in front of him, but even after all these years, getting the Dark’s full attention was a thoroughly discombobulating experience.

“She allowed you to make a copy of her?” he asked, intently, his voices not sharp, but definitely more forceful than during his almost casual remark before.

“She let me try,” Rounds replied, putting an emphasis on the ‘try’ part. “It didn’t go over well.”

The Dark chuckled, turning away again – and as soon as his immediate gaze left Rounds, he felt like a weight had dropped off his shoulders.

I wonder whether he uses a power to cause that, or whether it really is just his presence.

“I imagine it wouldn’t, no,” the wispy supervillain continued. “She must trust you a great deal, if she revealed herself to you so.”

“I suppose so,” Rounds said, his eyes back on the fight in the distance.

Lady Light and Gloom Glimmer seemed to be trading off now, moving back and forth, alternating in their efforts to curtail DiL’s destructive performance.

As much as he hated seeing her in such danger, he couldn’t help but admire how well Gloom Glimmer was managing to keep up with her mother.

Still, holding her off was not going to be enough – in fact, either DiL was slowly adapting to them, or sheer coincidence was causing her powers to last longer and longer, the seconds stretching on between each switch. Occasionally, Rounds could even make out individual powers without the use of his added abilities, before she was forced to change yet again.

Unsustainable.

He turned his head away, and looked at the other figure standing nearby.

Hanabi’s form was hidden behind his voluminous, old-fashioned purple, black and gold robes and the tall, black hat he wore, from which a curtain of white cloth fell, obscuring his face – in fact, his entire head.

He was kneeling in front of a circle of thin bamboo rods tipped by various, weirdly shaped fireworks in all colors of the rainbow, driven into the ground where he’d had Rounds crack the pavement for his preparations.

A rough map of the area within the Desolation Field had been carved into the earth, with more bamboo sticks driven into various points, holding up even more fireworks.

At the same time, a dozen heroes and villains were setting up full-sized fireworks all around the city, mirroring the markings on the map, he knew.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” he couldn’t help but ask, as nervously as he ever felt.

The whole thing had sounded way too good to be true, when it’d been explained to him.

“Nothing is certain,” the Dark replied calmly, staring out into the distance. “It should work, based on my understanding of the powers involved, and the principles behind them. But you know the difference between theory and practice.”

Rounds grunted in affirmation, not sure how to reply to that.

Well, there was one reply…

“I really, really hope this will work.”

“So do I,” was the answer, though he didn’t sound like he meant it.

Before he could dig into the meaning behind that, he felt an odd tremor, one which went through the ground and the air at the same time, rippling through his body in the oddest way, like he was being stretched and compacted at the same time, for less than a second.

Wha-

He turned to look at the battle, at the alarm his apparitions of Gloom Glimmer expressed through their link, only to see Lady Light’s blazing form dart towards her daughter, so fast he could barely follow in spite of his enhanced senses, touching and repelling her, launching her out of the way of an advancing ripple in the air-

And then Lady Light and five other fliers just disappeared, all at once, along with a diagonal cross-section of a nearby building.

The Dark took a step forward, in seeming shock, and Rounds was not far behind, when the aftermath hit them.

Air rushed in, towards where the attack had hit, filling in the vacuum created, violently stirring up dust, leaves and rubble before it died down again.

Did she just kill… no, don’t be stupid. She wouldn’t go down like this!

His apparitions stepped forth, focusing any applicable power they had, but the Dark was faster than they.

“Some manner of spatial manipulation… offensive teleportation? I can still feel Gwen, but she’s… far,” he said, more to himself than to Rounds, as if to reassure his own worries.

In the distance, Gloom Glimmer’s form flickered, violently, and a massive blast of blackish something lanced out, smashing into DiL, splashing over her form – and evidently penetrating her outer defenses sufficiently to force her to change her powers again, as the signal sent from the young vigilante whom could feel these changes told them.

Still, Rounds’ stomach dropped into his knees, and not just because the effect of Lady Light’s city-spanning aura was gone now.

They’d just lost their strongest, best fighter, and there was no way to tell how long it’d take her to return to the battle.

“Damn it, we have to mobilize our people again – I won’t have Gloom Glimmer try to hold her off on her own!” he shouted, raising his hand to his ear to transmit the order.

A soft, almost gentle voice interrupted him, speaking with a strong accent.

“It is nearly done, Lord Dark,” the kneeling form of Hanabi spoke, his voice barely rising above the sound of the blowing air, or the distant battle. “My greatest performance shall begin presently.”

The Dark relaxed, almost imperceptibly – if it wasn’t for all the esper powers at his disposal, Rounds would have missed it.

“Your timing is as impeccable as your artwork, my dear man,” he spoke, calmly, nodding his head towards the heavily enshrouded villain from Japan. “Begin as soon as you are able.”

Hanabi inclined his head, deeper than the Dark had, and took out a burning stick incense-covered wood, reaching for the many fuses of all the fireworks worked into the array in front of him, all tied together at various points in such a fashion that the flame would reach each firework at the same time.

Which would trigger all the fireworks spread out across the city, simultaneously.

Still…

“Impeccable timing? You are joking,” Rounds all but snarled, though he wasn’t really angry at the Dark – at least, not in this case. “If only we could have launched that a minute sooner, we’d still have-”

“No,” the Dark disagreed, his voice firm. “This is better. It will be harder for us, but better this than having Gwen participate.”

His voice turned soft, almost human, as they watched Hanabi light the fuses.

“No mother should have to watch her child die, much less participate in the killing.”

Rounds opened his mouth, not sure whether to disagree, agree, or laugh at the sheer, gutwrenching wrongness of it all, but he closed it again, not sure at all about it.

“Prepare yourselves,” the Dark spoke, and his voice was repeated across the entire city by every single one of Memento’s communicators. “Our grand gambit is almost at hand.”

The lit fuses disappeared into the fireworks, flashing with heat and light – but instead of launching the fireworks, they consumed them, burning them up in a single, bright flash.

All over the city, a hundred and eight matching fireworks shot up into the air, trailing paths of rainbow-colored sparks in ever-shifting, complex patterns that made one dizzy to merely look at them.

The glowing tips of these rising spears flew up as high as the Desolation Field allowed them to go, turning its bright, shifting colors into an even greater mess as they added their own, darker lights.

Then the lights spread, connecting to each other in a grand net of light, before each strand collapsed into total blackness, a dark, dark net spreading out over them – only to disappear.

And with its disappearance, DiL dropped out of the sky, crashing down onto the grand plaza of New Lennston.

With his enhanced eye sight, courtesy of the Falconer’s apparition, he could see her nude form, lying amidst the glowing mass of her ridiculously long hair, her face as expressionless as ever, yet conveying something almost akin to confusion, as she lay there, her arms and legs touching the ground as dust settled on her unblemished skin.

Then, the dust began to swirl around her, forming an expanding sphere, as everyone stared at the jaw-dropping sight.

“The gambit was successful! DiL’s absolute defense has been nullified – penetrate her lesser powers, and we can finally put her down!” the Dark shouted, spreading his message all over the defending forces. “Put an end to this wretched tale!”

He hadn’t even finished his announcement, when a great cry rose.

A hundred voices and more joined together in utter, unbridled awe, fury and sheer, unrestrained hope, screaming it to the sky, as everyone who was even remotely able to do so charged into the battle.

Even Bismuth joined her voice to the others, her passion reignited as she shot forward, launched by a pillar of crystal shooting up beneath her feet.

Rounds stepped forth to join them, only to stop at the edge of the terrace, looking back at the wispy, barely substantial form of the Dark.

The King of Supervillains stepped up next to him, standing at the very edge of it as well. “You should go,” he said. “I’m too weak to contribute right now, but I’ll do what I can to coordinate our assault.”

Rounds’ reached for his sword, drawing it out of its sheath, gripping it tightly. “What you said earlier… the same applies to you, doesn’t it?”

The Dark turned his head again, looking down at him. “What do you mean?”

Rounds looked up at those six unblinking red eyes, trying to ignore the sheer weight of their gaze. “No mother should see or help their child die – nor should any father.”

The shadowy figure looked at him, for a moment longer, before averting his face, focusing on the battle again.

When he replied, his voices were so soft they were almost human again.

“Monsters don’t count.”

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Semicoop

Input Error

Semicoop

In programming games like Lords of Xidit, there’s a big chance that some things don’t go as planned and that your entire “plan” falls apart.

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A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jan 26, 2019 at 3:12pm PST

Lords of Xidit can be quite unforgiving on this part. If, for example, another player first takes away the last of the units and then walks right up to that enemy you planned to defeat, you end up just walking one step behind that player without getting anything. We personally didn’t really mind, because the rounds play out rather quickly – better luck next time! We really enjoyed our first play, the game really surprised us and we are looking forward to playing it again. The only downside to this game is that it requires at least three players, so we can’t “just” play it whenever we want.

So we managed to squeeze in some board games last week! We played a game of Fog of Love and for the first time, lost the game! David and Roxanne both were really unhappy in their relationship. We’ll see if our characters are more in tune next time we play the game. A friend of ours also brought a game called “Castle Flutterstone”, it meant for children, but that should never stop you from playing something, right? In this dexterity-game, you launch fabric bats at the cardboard castle, or rather, you try to shoot them through the windows. Like this.  It’s fun and silly and will keep you entertained for at least ten minutes. 😉
We ended that night with an amazing game of Clank! in which one of the players delved deeper into the dungeon to grab the most valuable artifact of the game WHILE THE OTHER PLAYERS HAD BOTH LEFT THE CASTLE. And despite this act of foolishness the player managed to escape on the very last turn with only one health left. And… he… won. I would describe that as the best first game of Clank! experience one could have, period.

We also played our second game of Rajas of the Ganges and this game really elegantly fixes the problem of counting up points for 10 minutes after the game is over. By turning the victory condition into a race it retains all the fun of a worker placement game but it adds the excitement of a racing game.

ICYMI: The latest extra comics, sponsored by CoolStuffInc.com:
#016 – Nowhere to run

What was the last game that pleasantly surprised you?

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 19

In My Daydreams

I wouldn’t have been able to find her without the implant. There were too many people moving too quickly for me to pick out details. Beyond that, the frequent blasts of energy didn’t help, forcing my helmet to darken to protect my eyes.

The implant buffered the last few minutes of whatever I’d seen or heard and could sort through it with a computer’s attention to detail. So when I started to look for her, the implant tracked her through the last few seconds and made her blink in real time.

I wondered how many things I could have used that for since we’d gotten here.

Even with the implant, it still wasn’t easy to pick her out of the crowd when needed. She ran with other members of the Ascendant Guard, shielded by even more Ascendancy soldiers.

I needed to get over there and take her out before she took down the inner ring’s shields except there was a problem. Like us, they had implants, and unlike us, they weren’t afraid that Kamia would target them if they stayed connected.

The upshot of that meant that if they saw me flying that way, almost everyone in the Ascendancy forces could shoot at me. That meant that even if I were willing to die to take out Kamia, I might not make it over there.

For the record, that kind of noble suicide was far from my first choice.

The problem was that I didn’t see another obvious option so I decided to do my best to avoid becoming an inspirational story.

I shot upward and then down like a ballistic missile, going on the theory that  most people don’t look up and that even if they did, they wouldn’t be shooting at me much on the way up and I’d be moving too quickly for them to get off a good shot on the way down. Also, I was assuming that even if my theory was wrong, I’d still take less damage than if I flew over the top of the group.

It didn’t turn out to be that simple.

By the time I flew over the top of the remaining shields in the outer ring and dove toward Kamia she’d already moved closer to the wall. Worse, I realized that Cassie wasn’t firing at her with the gun—which she should have been because Cassie knew how much of a danger Kamia was.

Instead, Cassie frowned and put the gun into its holster, pulled out her sword, and ran in our direction. At the same time, I realized that Kamia had smiled. It didn’t take much to figure out why.

At the same time, the notion that they wouldn’t fire at me much on the way down? That turned out to be wrong. Despite all the different noises, at least one of them must have picked out the whine of the Rockets amid the white noise of energy blasts.

Then they’d passed on my position to all their best friends and everyone who could took a shot at me. Fortunately, while I might have been wrong about how easy it would be for them to hear me coming, I’d planned ahead.

As I flipped over, I’d fired off as many of my regular bots as I could. They might not be able to penetrate the average Ascendancy soldier’s armor, but that wasn’t their job here. I set them to target the front of soldiers’ helmets and explode.

Once they hit, I turned on the sonics, setting them to alternate between high pitched frequencies that would hurt or maybe deafen the soldiers and frequencies that I’d found worked against their shields.

While it didn’t destroy them in an instant, it worked okay. Small explosions in the soldiers’ faces left them stepping back into other soldiers while the Guard members with working shields didn’t do any better. They had to wipe bot bits and soot off their shields.

That didn’t mean I wasn’t a target though. Ascendancy soldiers that weren’t right below me started firing from the moment I started downward. I didn’t get hit more than three, maybe four times before I twisted and aimed for Kamia.

The bad news was that it wasn’t exactly a surprise to her that I was coming. She didn’t have much warning, but she had enough to turn and bring up her gun. At the same time, her expression—a dropped jaw and wide eyes—didn’t show confidence.

This time her gun’s opening shot grazed the side of my suit without penetrating and I aimed both arms sonics at her shields, giving the strongest blast I could without risking damage to the sonics themselves.

Her shield went down in a flash of blue-white light.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 18

In My Daydreams

Cassie wasn’t going to turn the tide of battle all by herself, but you never knew for sure. I remembered having to pick up Cassie from the top of a office building in Washington D.C. during an invasion by humanoid fish creatures. We’d arrived to find that fishman corpses covered the roof. It wasn’t all her work, but the majority of it was. I don’t know how many she killed that day, but it was definitely in the hundreds.

Kamia didn’t know that story, but it didn’t take much to guess that Cassie could cause problems. The Ascendancy troops were already avoiding that section of wall—or even anywhere near it.

The burned bodies lying on top of the ash Hal created acted as a warning sign. If that weren’t enough, one of the Ascendancy soldiers must have caught a particularly powerful blast. The beam had turned everything above his knees to ash which fell apart, leaving only the soldier’s boots and the still smoking remains of his legs.

Gruesome? Yes, but it was also a convincing argument for staying out of Cassie’s range.

Cassie wasn’t someone who let you get out of her range though. When they started avoiding her section of shield, she ran to wherever the Ascendancy appeared to be strongest and swapped herself in for whoever happened to be there.

If that weren’t enough, Rachel was also out there using an axe I’d made for her. It looked like a purse, but transformed into a playable electric guitar—which transformed a little bit more to turn into a double bladed axe with an edge like Cassie’s sword.

Guitars are sometimes called axes, so it had seemed funny at the time I designed it.

Not that I saw all that at the time, but that’s what was going on in the background. It’s demoralizing when an axe appears out of nowhere and decapitates the guy next to you.

So, despite the fact that the Ascendancy had broken through the ring and outnumbered the defenders several times to one, they hadn’t broken through the inner ring.

From the distance came the sound of shattering wood and then a deeper rumble. I couldn’t be sure, but I suspected that might be Jaclyn and Neves fighting.

As I felt the rumble in my feet, Kamia turned her head toward the fight around the inner ring and then back at me, firing her gun.

If she’d ever wanted me to convince our group to change sides, she’d given up on it, possibly because I’d never given her a reply. That was okay though because I’d been watching her and that meant I didn’t get hit in the middle of my chest or my head.

Her shot hit my right side and I felt the heat. A few error messages appeared, but less than the last time.

She ran through the open section toward burning chaos of the main battle, joining the soldiers that were still running through. In the moment I fully intended to go after her, but she must have been communicating with the other Ascendant Guards the entire time. As she ran, plasma bolts hit my side and back.

I’d upgraded the heat protection on my back as well—which was good because that level of heat might have started the fuel in my rocketpack burning in past suits.

That didn’t mean that I didn’t see error messages appear in my HUD, but they weren’t as bad as they could have been. I took in the situation in an instant, realizing that I had two attackers—both of them the flying Ascendant Guard members I’d seen earlier.

Neither of them wore force shields which made sense. That could interfere with flinging plasma bolts at people. Plus, both of them were covered in flame and I could easily imagine a shield causing problems with that.

Again, not that I spared much thought on it. In the moment, I knew it without thinking about it. My next actions had about the same level of thought.

I shot into the air and a twisted around, firing the sonics at the one that was coming straight at me with a dull, roaring noise. The man went out of control, putting his hands to his ears and careening off to the right, hitting one of the outer shields with a burst of blue light and falling to the ground.

He didn’t get up.

The other one hit me in the air, wrapping his arms around me and preparing, I suddenly knew thanks to my implant that he was about to send out more energy in a burst than he’d normally use in hours.

I threw his arms off me by pulling my arms away from my sides, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough to avoid the blast.

So I shot him with the laser under my arm. His eyes widened and his mouth made a noise halfway between a gasp and a scream. Then he dropped to the ground, fire exploding all around him.

Trying to get the image of his face out of my head, I tried to find Kamia in the crowd below.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 17

In My Daydreams

They came through in a giant wave. The colonists ran or fell, burned by the Ascendancy’s energy weapons or ripped to pieces by the claws of their soldiers.

It wasn’t as if the colonists left them unopposed, but the sheer numbers of the attackers verses the numbers of the defenders meant that for every beam aimed at the Ascendancy soldiers, the soldiers aimed three or four back.

The colonists weren’t stupid. They retreated to the inner ring as their people fired out at the soldiers.

Anyway, that’s what was happening around me as I stood next to Kamia, having knocked her to the ground. What was happening near me was a little different. The soldiers ran past with barely a look at the two of us. On the one hand, that surprised me, but on the other, I supposed it was possible that they’d been told that Kamia could take care of herself.

Worse, it also struck me as possible that they’d been ordered to leave the Xiniti and us to Kamia and Neves.  Whatever the reason, I realized that unless I stopped her now, she’d take down the inner ring too.

She rolled sideways in a move that ended with her standing on her feet. She smiled, her face all sharp features, thin like the rest of her body.

“You should give up,” she pointed her gun at me. “There’s no hope now. They don’t need me to get the inner shields down.”

Keeping my eyes on her, I said, “Really?”

“They’ve got shieldbreakers. I get the shields down faster and easier, but they’ll do it without me eventually. I’m not here to handle the shields. I’m here to handle you—Xiniti born and Xiniti adopted.”

It struck me that if we were talking, she wasn’t fighting, and that I should encourage her to keep that up. I might learn something worth knowing in the process.

“Surely we’re not that big a deal,” I began.

Keeping her gun pointed at me, she said, “You’re enigmas, all of you. When the Xiniti bring in outsiders, they have standards and all of you appear to be keeping up the quality as well as the mystery. Where are you from?”

“Can’t you tell from my accent?” I felt confident she couldn’t.

At that, amid the hiss of energy weapons and screams, she laughed. “It’s such a nice accent. It’s average in every way—the way we all imagine humans speak the Masters’ tongue but no one does. You speak like Xiniti who are completely dependent on their implants to understand the most common human tongue and yet you’re human.

“Not only that, but you’re using technology that’s out of date, strangely sophisticated, and capable of matching or even besting our own. Not only that, but all of you appear to be powered, but none of you appear to be the product of the Masters’ designs.

“One of you even appears to have a Citizen’s Mark. We in the Guard have been talking and the only thing we can think is that you’re the product of some backwater world where a Master was able to do whatever they wanted, unsupervised by their clade. Perhaps you put together your tech with the remains of the Masters’ technology and your own designed brilliance.

“We could use you. I can understand how the Xiniti might impress you if they’re the first advanced society that you’ve encountered, but you have to understand that they’re not human. They don’t truly have your needs in mind. The Human Ascendancy is all about uniting humanity into one unstoppable force like it was in the days of the Masters.

“Now, with the Masters gone, we’re forging our own path and we want all of humanity to benefit. If you were to persuade your people to join us, we could find a place for you near the top of the Ascendancy, possibly even in the Guard if you want that. The Xiniti pick capable people and we respect that, but unlike them, in the end, we’re your people.”

She watched me, waiting for a response, a sign that I was interested. I glanced away from her toward the battle. I didn’t know how long I wanted to pretend to care, but if keeping her out of the battle wasn’t helping I needed to do something else.

The last thing I wanted was to lose the battle because I was worth more to the defense than Kamia was to the offense.

They were holding their own. I didn’t know how long they’d be able to do it, but energy lanced out again and again from behind the shields, burning soldiers to death.

Though the Ascendancy had taken down a section of the outer ring on the other side, they weren’t yet able to overwhelm the inner ring. The colonists’ attacks were keeping them back and the sections of the outer ring that were still standing stopped them from spreading out as much as they ought to.

Plus, there was one side effect of keeping Kamia busy that I hadn’t thought through. Cassie could use her gun. Every time she blasted away, she turned groups of Ascendancy soldiers to ash.

Kamia’s eyes widened as Cassie burned a line of ten soldiers to death.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 16

In My Daydreams

I’d never been hit by Cassie’s gun at full blast. In training, we’d sparred a few times with it, but never at full power.

It would be nice to say that I don’t have anything to compare the pain to, but that would be wrong. Fire from a dragon hit my arm a year earlier, cooking it all the way through. That had been intensely painful in the first instants and completely painless after that when my arm became little more than cooked meat.

This felt much like that. The heat hit, surrounding my entire chest, combining with the pain to make it hard to breathe, much less scream. It had one crucial difference from my experience with the dragon though. It didn’t cook me. As the heat hit me, the suit’s air conditioning turned on, flooding the inside of the suit with cold.

Better, even though there were error messages, there weren’t many. The suit hadn’t melted. If it worked as designed, it hadn’t absorbed much of the heat.

The error messages stated that the suit was repairing damage, but didn’t indicate any special danger—which meant all that I’d done to improve the suit’s resistance to heat had worked. I still didn’t know if I’d survive a dragon so old it was practically a god, but surviving an Abominator gun was good enough for the moment.

This time around I couldn’t assume that Lee would be there to pull my butt out of the more than metaphorical fire.

Not waiting for her to fire a second shot, I jumped 30 feet sideways. My helmet’s near 360 degree vision and the Xiniti implant’s passive recording and recall left me with a good sense of Kamia’s expression as I leaped sideways. Her eyes widened and she leaned forward, mouth in a straight line.

I opened up on her with the sonics. They seemed to be working on everyone else’s shield. Why shouldn’t they work on hers?

Her shield flickered. For a moment, it definitely went down, but the shield generator restored it within seconds.

She aimed the gun at me again, firing—except this time I moved again, jumping forward as colonists behind the shield ring fired on her and all of the Ascendancy soldiers behind us.

The Ascendancy soldiers, in turn, were firing at the shield ring, but also sometimes at me.

Hearing and feeling a boom that shook the ground, I spared a moment’s thought to wonder where Jaclyn and Neves were fighting, but I didn’t have time for more than that. Whatever else might be true, I was the only thing between Kamia and taking down the shield for the moment.

Ignoring the possibility that it was already too late, I activated the rockets and hurtled toward her again, aiming for her shield and taking hits from Ascendancy forces as I flew.

She’d changed her shield to be form-fitting rather than round earlier and so this time when I hit, she fell over, her shield making her too slippery to grapple.

I slid across her onto the ground, pulling myself up at about the same time she did. She began to move her gun in my direction and as I jumped to the side of her, she dropped her arm and ran toward the shield ring. She didn’t just run, but she jumped, landing within 20 feet of the wall.

At about the same time, the Ascendant Guard caught up with us and a big Guard member hit me in the lower side with his shoulder in a move that wouldn’t have been out of place on a football field.

I came around with a palm hand strike to his nearest shoulder, knocking him sideways, flipping him over. In that moment, I decided that risking being shot might be better than getting tackled by hundreds of soldiers.

I gave the rockets fuel and shot upward, looking for Kamia and seeing her running toward the shields. Even as I began to turn toward her, one of the Guard jumped up, grabbing my legs.

I wasn’t sure what he thought he’d do, but he wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the moment. The flying Guard members started throwing energy blasts in my direction despite the Guard member hanging on me.

Not wanting to give the guy on my legs time to start ripping my armor off or to make it easy for the flyers to get me, I did what I planned to do anyway, aiming myself toward the shield ring and Kamia. With any luck, I still might have time to distract her.

The guy on my legs didn’t improve the Rocket suit’s mobility, but on the other hand, he also didn’t have time to attack me since he was too busy trying to hang on.

With blasts of red energy passing me in the air, I caught up to Kamia as she neared the shield. My hit caught her in the shoulder, knocking her over, but even as I did it, I could see the blue of the shield fade.

A section of the outer shield went down and the Ascendant Guard, followed by Ascendancy soldiers rushed toward it.

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In My Daydreams

Trees & Shields: Part 15

In My Daydreams

The Guard members’ shields popped as my weapons found a frequency that resonated and poured on the power.

Kamia’s didn’t go down. It probably wasn’t exactly the same technology, but I knew it could go down. Earlier, my killbot had gone partway through as had Cassie’s sword. 

As the other Guard members’ shields fell, the colonists’ blasts seemed to hit them in almost the same moment. Several hit the ground, but not all of them. Their armor both absorbed and reflected the beams. 

They dropped behind soldiers with working shields even as those soldiers stepped forward to stand in front of them.

Of course they did. For them, shields went down every day. They were experienced veterans. They had to have a plan for that.

Part of that plan must have included targeting the attacker because they did.

That wasn’t a shock to me, but I hadn’t been thinking about it in exactly those words. And anyway, in that moment I wasn’t thinking about much other than the hiss as beams hit my armor and the heat I felt inside.

I upped the power sent to the sonics and fired, initially attacking the shields and then changing to attacking technology as the shields went down.

I had mixed results. In the crowd of Ascendant Guard soldiers, shields went down wherever I aimed my sonics and the barrels of guns went dark or sections of armor froze, causing the soldiers to fall, their legs or sometimes all of their limbs unmoving.

The mixed part of the results came from my armor. The latest version’s materials used some inspiration from alien tech which meant it was doing better than any previous version at dealing with the lasers, plasma blasts, particle accelerators, or whatever. At the same time, it wasn’t invulnerable.

The repair systems were getting a workout and eventually they’d run out of material to work with. I had more, but it was on the ship.

Aside from that, fighting an entire Ascendant Guard unit wasn’t the point of flying over the wall. The point was to stop Kamia and she wasn’t staying with everyone else.

She’d slipped past as I traded shots with the Guard. Using my helmet’s near 360 degree view, I saw her nearing the shields and knowing that she’d take them down once she got near enough, I leaned sideways and shot myself at her, the rocket pack blazing.

Not wanting to throw her in the direction of the shields, I hit her in the side, the sphere-shaped Abominator shield allowing me to send her sideways like a billiard ball.

Except, this wasn’t a pool table. Everything outside the inside ring had once been forest or part of the clearing. That meant we stood in an apocalyptic landscape created after Jaclyn knocked down almost all the trees and then Hal burned everything but Jaclyn with the ship’s main gun.

It reminded me of nothing more than the ashes in the cave underneath the old Hardwick mansion in Grand Lake.

Just like in the cave, the ground was covered with ashes and sometimes shattered human bones. Unlike the cave, we stood in bright sunlight and in addition to the ashes on the ground, there were entire tree trunks that had burned black and were ready to fall apart at the slightest touch.

Kamia’s sphere rolled across the hellscape, throwing ashes into the air in a line, hitting a fallen tree and making it explode into ash confetti.

At the same time, the constant barrage of Ascendancy soldiers firing on the outer ring stopped wherever she rolled. I had no idea at first if it was because they were well trained or because the Ascendancy’s technology had a, “don’t fire on the Ascendant Guard,” feature.

The implant assured me that it was the latter as the thought passed through my head.

I didn’t have much time to reflect on it at the time, though, because I was following her.

The Ascendancy’s tech didn’t have a feature for keeping me safe, but I flew close behind her, trying to get close enough to knock her away from the shield ring.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds for two reasons. First, because the ground wasn’t in the slightest bit flat, causing the sphere to roll in unpredictable directions or shoot up into the air at any moment.

Second, because Kamia was far from a passive, predictable target. 

Once she’d blasted through the fallen tree, she shrunk her shield into a form-fitting shape. Showing no sign of dizziness from rolling across several hundred feet of ash covered ground, she landed on her feet, pulling a gun that could have been a close relative of Cassie’s, sparkles glowing around its barrel.

Thanks to my helmet’s view of the surrounding landscape, I could note one other detail. The entire force that been following Kamia with the intention of rushing through any section of shield she destroyed? Well, they were still following her—which meant that the entire army thundered after me and now that she’d stopped, they were gaining.

As I neared her, she fired.

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