Sunday, January 31, 2016

City of Curses: Face: Morris and the Hole (Fate Core)

Morris and the Hole.

My jaw stung from dealing with Staph's Drop.  The catacombs under the university always seemed to go on forever.  But eventually the horse trails end.

Near the bottom of the catacombs, just before you reach the geysers and the acid lakes, is little spot.  I never expected to find something that felt like a small town in the giant sprawl that's Crux.  But down here, you can find it.  A tiny collection of hovels gathered around one man's hole.

I made my way over to the bar.  The tavern known as The Hole has no walls.  It just sits in the open, next to a bottomless hole in the ground.  Pulleys hang down from it, where the tavern owner also keeps a elevator that goes down to the Bottoms.

People don't go to the Bottoms, not unless they really like useless trash, acid and weird animals you don't want to see more than once.  

A Face: The Owner of The Hole. 

Morris is an odd Tiefling.  He's a wholesome businessman.  Yet he operates in one of the most remote parts of the Catacombs.

Morris is a bald tiefling with glowing green feline eyes.  His clothing is dirty, brown leathers.  His horns are tiny stubs, while his skin matches the dark stone around his home.  Morris wears a single onyx ring.  He keeps an old, lavender handkerchief.   Morris doesn't like to talk about the handkerchief, preferring to deflect any questions about it.  The tavern owner looks like he is of middle age.

With a kind voice, he offers refreshments to weary archaeologists and delvers.  His prices tend to be high.  He'll mention his goods have their value due to scarcity.  But Morris is more glad to see people, so he's willing to haggle.

Morris lives alone.  He's enjoyed settling down in a remote place, for his own reasons.  He likes being alone these days.


The Tiefling tavern keeper had been born to a Rosefolk Priestess of the Black Rose.  Born Moira, she'd been forced to attend more ceremonies for the Black Rose than other children her age.  She never liked the dresses or the expected life her mother had planned for her.  Moira preferred dressing in a boy's veil, like all Rosefolk.

She ran away from home.  The beatings for being a tiefling didn't cause her to leave.  The arguments over clothes didn't push her to find a change.  The constant assumption that as being a fiendblood she was guilty of some inherent sin, that drove her to leave.  On her thirteenth birthday, Moira left.

Being accused of something she didn't do, she crawled into nearby catacombs.  Moira dressed as a boy, calling herself Morris.  Morris learned the ways of the Rogue class, eventually moving into the catacombs full time.  Morris enjoyed the long quiet in the catacombs.

He won the Hole in a good hand of Elements.  Ever since, the stone-gray tiefling has been a happy face deep in the catacombs.  But Morris retains his mother's attitude on various things.  He is a wholesome person, and doesn't tolerate some behaviors.  He has no walls because he doesn't turn away the needy.  But thieves and criminals, he does his part to either help them find justice.  He doesn't always swing the blade, but sometimes Morris finds ways to bring vigilantes into the Catacombs to do so.

Morris is a member of the Eternal Order of the Eagles and the Crows, the fraternity of monster hunters and vigilantes that operates through the Church of the Twins.  Morris is a Crow, although he dislikes some of the darker things Crows do in the name of justice.

Morris vyn Guid

Aspects: Fiendblooded Owner of The Hole; Ran Away To the Catacombs; A Wholesome, Smiling Face; 
A Crow: As a member of the Crows, Morris knows how to inform the rest of the Order of evil or other matters of their interest very quickly.
Access To The Bottoms: Morris has very easy access to the Bottoms, the ancient landfill and refuse pile at the very bottom of the catacombs.  As such, he often can find or come up with items he needs very easily.
Expeditionary Contact: Morris knows what expeditions are coming or going on around.  Further, he often knows more about them than their members do.  He easily can tell you what different groups are after, where they are headed and how to reach them.

Available Drinks At The Hole.
Jug of Water, 1 Sphinx.
Red Fungus Rum, Half-Sphinx.
Giant Ant Mead, 3 Wands.

Friday, January 29, 2016

In Transit Monsters 36 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Previous | Start | Index

Charlie (H +2 Days)

My BrainSys activated about eight hours later.  Even though I had been unconscious, my Oneiros clicked on.  It reached out.

My dream-avatar floated alone in darkness.

"What happened?"  I paused.  Then I answered my own question.

"That thing."  Ugh.

"Talking to myself is a bad sign."  It wasn't.

My dream-avatar gazed into the dark.  What was this dream?  Where was all the darkness coming from?  I motioned to the darkness, turning my hand into a raw beam of sunlight.

It didn't illuminate the darkness.

"That's strange.  What about the others, then..."  My Oneiros felt around me, connecting to whatever minds it could touch.

My peripheral oneiros felt like this warming, white sensation.  I could sense the vibrations of four minds around me.  Whiskey's familiar presence.  Beyond that, I could sense Uniform's nervous unconscious BrainSys.  Last was Foxtrot's own darting, quick unconscious mind.

I blinked.  There was a fourth mind.  One I couldn't account for.

"The darkness."  I turned to the dark my dream-avatar floated in.

The fourth consciousness manifested as the darkness around me.  Around us.  My oneiros could sense it all around us.  Every direction.

I decided to break from my Oneiros.  I opened my eyes.  Darkness shifted into infrared light.  The bright energies of me, Whiskey, Uniform and Foxtrot were shone.  Something bigger, shifting with bright greens moved in the background.

It dragged us further down.

"No."  I closed my eyes.  It had overwhelmed us so fast.

We weren't ready for this.  We couldn't fight things like this.  Nasr had no idea there would be anything like this.  The behemoth sliding around us, like some sort of living forest of tentacles.

Everyone was breathing.  But only I had waken up.  Great.  We hadn't lucked out and died.

I closed my eyes.

Oneiros Active.

I returned back to the darkness.  I paused for a moment on what to do.  Then something in me just started to burn.  It burned hot.

My dream-avatar blazed with blue fire.  I let my self image glow bright blue.  Then I extended my dream to everyone else.

The darkness around us didn't seem to react to my fiery form.  I reached out until Whiskey appeared in front of me.  Her body was tiny.  She blinked her eyes up at my burning body.

"Uh... C?"  Whiskey blinked up at me.  "Are we..."

"It knocked us unconscious."  I told her.

"C...  Why are you a really big fire-woman in this dream?"

I ignored Whiskey as I reached out for Uniform and Foxtrot.  I needed all four of our minds.  Whiskey's mind joining the combined dreamspace would amplify the computation creating it.  I needed that computational strength.

Uniform materialized next to Whiskey.  Unlike Whiskey, though, Uniform's dream-avatar didn't look like her realbody.  Her gray hair wasn't short.  Instead, it hung down to her waist.  She also was wearing a dress.  She blushed when she say me.

"What...  Oh."

"She isn't explaining to me either."  Whiskey said.

Foxtrot came next.  Like Uniform, her dream-avatar wasn't the same as her realbody.  She must've not expected to be using her dream-avatar, or at least not the one she had preset.  Foxtrot's avatar wasn't female.  It looked flat chested, her red hair still short.  A bit of facial hair could be seen on her chin.

Foxtrot shot me an irritated look.

"Why not wake us up?"  She asked.

"We can't just wake up."  I told her.  "It's all around us."

"We need to wake up to escape then."  Foxtrot pointed out.

"We need to think before we act."  Uniform chimed in.  "Charlie probably wants a plan, Foxy."

"Plan, huh?"  Whiskey squinted her dream-avatar's eyes.  "C, you already got something in mind?"

"Not really."  I admitted.  "But I can sense... it... the mind of it around us.  It's dragging us somewhere."

"You wanted a perimeter to see where the Enemy was."  Foxtrot shrugged.  "Guess you got that.  We shouldn't have come this close to Fontana."

I tried not to grind my teeth.  A part of me wanted to ask about her feelings for me.  But I didn't want to even acknowledge that.  I didn't want to acknowledge why Foxtrot preferred being androgynous in dreams either.

"It's all around us."  I got back to the subject at hand.  "I... it's unconscious."

"Okay."  Foxtrot paused.  "I don't understand.  It's unconsciously dragging us?"

"No."  Uniform nodded, her eyes widening as she realized what I had said.  "It's all around us in the dreamspace, Foxy."

"Oooooh."  Whiskey turned out to the darkness.  "Can it hear us?"

"I don't know."  I admitted.  It hadn't done anything in reaction to my Oneiros yet.  "I don't even know why my Oneiros put it here."

"An alien brain can't interface with dreams."  Foxtrot said.  "That seems kinda... not possible, right?"

Uniform shrugged.  "My gnostic analysis relies on the body of a subject to work.  It doesn't care, just so long as their is some sort of cellular material to start with."

"Everything has a quark in it."  Whiskey agreed.  "All matter is based on matter.  Living matter just organizes in particular fashions.  You can recreate that pretty easily.  I guess, maybe there's a dream-equivalent of a quark or a molecule or something."

"A memetic transitive property?"  I blinked.  "Geez, that sounds absurd when I say it."

"You share dreams with Kyra all the time."  Whiskey pointed out.  "So, there is some sort of animal nerve cluster at work in the Enemy."

"It's just darkness."  I waved a hand at it.  My fiery form didn't trigger any sort of reaction.  "It's done nothing to me."

"IDK, C."  Whiskey looked pensive.  "It could be a problem of programming, y'know?"

"That still doesn't sound like a plan."  Foxtrot said.

"Well..."  I looked at the darkness.  "I hoped we could do more with combined dreamspace."

Uniform blinked.  "Combined.  Obviously.  Foxtrot, what's the limit on your aetherskipping trick?"

"Where I do a transit and move my self from place to place?"  Foxtrot furrowed her brow.  "You already know that."

Uniform looked exasperated.  "Ok.  We all know you're embarrassed that Charlie knows you like her and that you like to wear boy's bodies in your dreams.  I'm just trying to get you to help with the conversation."

"She can't go long distances and she can't move too much material."  Whiskey chimed in.  "Transit tech is very low energy.  The costs in a transit are light, if it's opened and closed quick.  We're big enough that our internal cybernetics can provide the right amount of power for it."

"But I lack the computational strength to move large volumes of people or move big distances."  Foxtrot shook her head.  "I got it.  Enough about my failures, Uniform.  How's this a plan?"

Uniform looked at me.  I then understood.

"Like before, we provide the computation."  I nodded.  "And you then transit all four of us out of here."

Foxtrot's eyes widened.  "I... don't think I can do that."

"Uh..."  I looked around at the darkness.  "I think we can.  If I open our brains more.  Several layers deep."

"Layers?"  Foxtrot looked at me.  Not her usual look of defiance.  Something that made me want to impress her.  Or was it him here?  She looked at me like Ghale had.  Like I had something amazing she'd never seen before.

"Yeah."  I couldn't look straight at Foxtrot.  It felt nerve wracking.  "Before, I just acted like a messenger for our minds.  But we could intermingle more.  My Oneiros could reach down deeper in the brain, with more intensity.  We could all become... I don't know the best way to put it."

"How do you know how to do that?"  Whiskey asked.

"I just do."  I said.  "It's something with the Oneiros.  I can feel it out, like another hand or an extra mind inside of me.  I just know that I can reach out our minds together, fused."

"I..."  Foxtrot shrugged.  "It's either this or wait to see what happens at the end of the tentacle-monster-thing's rainbow, huh?"

We all gave her nods.

Foxtrot rubbed the back of her androgynous head.  "Go ahead, Charlie.  Let's get out of here then."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In Transit Monsters 35 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Previous | Start | Index | Next

Ghale (H + 1.1 Days)
I sat next at Martin's bedside.  His bedroom had a nurse's transit installed into it.  Medical equipment had been moved into place around him.

"It's... kind of nerve-wracking."  I told him.

Each ragged breath from Martin sounded like it cost him.  It sounded like the air had been pressed out through rags.  Martin looked paler than I'd ever seen him.  It made part of me wince a bit in sympathy.  The machines felt like they were Martin's entrails and organs.  The cleanliness of the space only made it worse.

It felt like we were inside Martin's own body.  A cybernetic maze of things keeping my elderly friend alive.  He gave me a weak smile.  I was glad to see him.  I had missed my friend.

"Ah."  Martin nodded.  He seemed distracted.

"You must be bored."  I gave him a mild grin.


"Get any writing done?"

Martin shot me a look.  "You ever write anything while feeling like a burlap sack of shit?"

"Only burlap?"

"The efficacy... of words..."  Martin closed his eyes.  "Ugh."

I suppressed a giggle.  Martin without his poetic words wouldn't be worth the visit.

"At you're trying.  I'm glad you're still alive, Martin.  I wish...  I wish I could've stopped by sooner."

Martin waved a hand.  "Eh.  Just blood, gore...  shit.  The usual."

He smiled.

I put my hand in the old man's.  After a moment, he coughed.  Then, in his characteristic Martin way, he looked back over at me.

"The news... has been almost as hagged as me."  Martin's raspy voice perked up a bit.  "How goes our mad project?"

Of course.  I'd been avoiding talking about the project's launch.  A part of me didn't want to stress him.  Another part didn't know what to do or what not to do.

"Its... It's going ok."  I nodded, more automatic than anything else.

"You think you're going to stress me, don't."  Martin waved a hand.  "Give me some good news at least.  I'm sick tired of hearing or seeing cities burning in my BrainSys."

"You saw the Chicago fire?"  I asked.

"Every goddamn feed is covered in pictures of it."  Martin shook a little.  "The Joiners have gone from killing their kids to lighting old buildings on fire."

"There's too many rioters and not enough police."  I sighed.  "Almost everyone with that sort of experience died fighting offworld."

"We're a planet of kids, old farts and cowards."  Martin agreed.

We exchanged grim looks.

"I... I haven't looked at any report for the last sol or so."  I told Martin.  "Besides, I couldn't do anything with the knowledge anyway.  Charlie is still just doing reconnaissance."

"Ah.  That isn't as exciting as cities being on fire."

"I guess I could ask Charlie to see if Mars is flammeable."

Martin chuckled.  "I'm glad you started talking with her.  Some of this mess...  at least some of it turned out ok..."

"I should've...  I guess I owe Miri something in all this."  I shook a little.  "She's going to die soon, Martin."

"I wish I could hold the signal for you."  Martin frowned.  "I... hate being laid up like this.  You shouldn't..."

His voice broke off as he went into a coughing fit.

"Martin?  Are you ok?  Do I need to call a nurse?"

"I'm fine."  Martin wiped his mouth.  "It's... fine.  Just give me a moment."

I nodded.  I looked away.  We'd been two parts of the same machine for years now.  He'd been right.  What would I do when I got the report of Charlie's death?  It would be just a blank signal, wouldn't it?

"Martin... I don't know..."  I shuddered for a moment.  "I don't know her.  Yet... I do.  It's so wrong.  Morgan's still upset with me over it."

"I imagine never meeting his daughter will do that."

"I've missed this up at every stage, Martin.  I talked him into killing her the first time.  The second time I just dangle her in front of him before shoving her off to be killed."

Martin nodded.  "She won't die, Ghale."

"Don't spin it."  I told him.

"I'm not."

"Then how do you know this won't end with me crying over a girl I've only known for less than two months?"  I wiped tears from my eyes.

"I never married, you know."  Martin said.  He gestured over to a empty chair.  "My sister still didn't come to see me."

I blinked at him.  "I didn't know you had any family left alive."

"She..."  Martin coughed again.  "There are some bridges you can't ever unburn, Ghale.  You... you and miri remind me of my sisters.  I screwed that up too many times before."

"It's hard to indict others when you seem them repeat your mistakes, huh?"

"Twice as hard to fix it if you don't know the fix."  Martin winced at the chair.  "Maybe I tried too hard to fix it.  Maybe I should've been a better person.  I wish could go back sometimes.  To before I said those damned things."

"What did you say?"

"Angry things."  Martin looked out, as if gazing back.  "Words are... I don't know.  I never could really put my feelings down right.  I never was around.  Neither of them ever seemed to want me in their lives."

"Better to know them rather than never then?"  I guessed at the meaning behind his words.

"Everyone turns to dust, I think."  Martin said, his words becoming more raspy.  "And the failures, they just feel like condemnations against all those who taught you, raised you.  Age does that, I think.  Makes you just remember the shit you fucked up."

A minute or so later, I got the no return signal from Mars.  Charlie hadn't responded.  My daughter the monster most was dead.

Monday, January 25, 2016

City of Curses: The Audacity of Gunslingers (Flash Fiction)

A brief tale set in the City of Curses, #Crux.  Agu Burning-Storm is a Tengu Gunslinger, and she's never found her people as fascinating as the foreigners in the city below her.  But sometimes, she can take things a bit too far.  Here's a #flashfiction of a sort on it.  IDK if this is complete, but it feels like it is a complete beat.  I need to collect these stories at some point I think.


Audacity is what gunslingers do.  It made her clan elders frown at her.  But so long as Lady Burning-Storm gave her usual mad approval, Agu knew they couldn't stop her.

"My past lives are too boring to be left in charge."  The raven-head tengu girl laughed to herself.  Even though Tengu couldn't truly fly, Sato Agu Burning-Storm glided through Crux with glee.

This foreign land always fascinated her.  Even after drinking Blue Rose Tea on her twelfth year, Agu never could find the ways of her people or her own past lives interesting. No more interesting than the strange people that walked the streets below them.  She had the memories of a dozen folk, but none of them had taken up the same class as she had.  Agu became a gunslinger.  She adopted the ways of the gaijin.  On top of that, her people hadn't exiled her for it.

Agu enjoyed the thrill of the wind fluttering in her wings.  Her red dress skirts fluttered in the wind.  She wore a dark crimson jacket over, covered with a bandolier and her gun's gear.  Agu had long dyed her head's feathers red, blue and white.  All colors of the Ithish flag.  More of her way of flicking disrespect at her people.

She landed on rooftops in Old Crux.  The long glide across the sleeping straits had filled her with a rush.  Agu giggled and dropped down to the street below.  With the sunsetting, the streets had become eerie and filled with twilight.  The evening crowds moved from one street to the next.  Drinking.  Singing.

"Ah."  Agu had a big tengu smile on her head.  Of course no human would notice it.  Oh well.

Agu began her rounds.  She'd visit several taverns and pubs in the Old Crux.  It had the most history of any part of Crux itself.  The quarter had the most colorful folk to meet.  People and stories Agu loved to hear.  One day she hoped to be the source of some of those tales.

The Tengu Gunslinger moved toward the Wayfaring Star.  The pub had a few regulars Agu had grown to adore.  But the strange wagon in front of it this night made her take pause.  The smell.

...Tojo mixed the powders proper as his master showed him.  Few knew this secret, but they would make the fireworks do their work.  A admixture of powders whose familiar smell made the Tengu apprentice feel a bit sick.  But still, Tojo did as he was told...

Agu's past life made her stop.  That smell.  The old memories of a Tengu Alchemist apprentice from five centuries before.  They told her what that scent was.  Gunpowder.

She popped her head into the wagon proper.  Her beak parted the canvas.  A trio of humans blinked back at Agu in surprise.  Their coats were a familiar red.  Agu tilted her head.  She didn't recognize them.

"Pray tell, what are you doing with this much gunpowder?"  Agu asked them.

They blinked at her.  One of them, a blond human, pulled out a pistol.  She or he, Agu could never tell, pointed it in her direction.  Agu looked down at it.

"Get back!"  The blond cried.

Agu rolled her dark eyes.  "Honestly.  You have a three barrels of blackpowder right behind you.  Aren't you a little worried about a spark?"

The blond blinked, looking down at the weapon.  The other two muttered curses.  Agu gave another hard-for-humans-to-notice smile.

The Wayfaring Star sat on a hillside.  The incline never had been huge.  Without thinking, Agu kicked out the blocks holding the wheels.  The three humans stumbled in her direction, grabbing for her throw the hole she'd made in the canva.  Agu then jumped onto the wagon, jarring it forward.  Forward and downhill.

She landed atop one of the three gunpowder barrels within the wagon.  Agu laughed, pulling out her own pistol.  The revolver clicked as she balanced on one of the barrels.

The audacity of her actions made the three humans stare at her.  The wagon rumbled as it picked up speed downhill.  Agu tilted her head.

"We're moving now."   Agu said.  "I wonder what these barrels are like when they hit something?"

"You can't!"  The blond exclaimed.  The other two didn't bother asking.  They just leaped out of the wagon, trying to get away from the doomed wagon.

"Traitors!"  The blond yelled.  "I refuse to let-"

Agu slammed her pistol into the blond's head.  The human's head snapped forward.  Agu tossed the blond over her shoulder.  Then she jumped through the back of the runaway wagon.  She opened a wing, gliding a bit on it, then grabbed onto a awning.  Agu hung there with her captive.

"I wonder what this all had to be about."  The gunslinger pondered.  The wagon continued to rumble, crashing into a set of stairs.  It then exploded.

She decided the discretion or something, whatever had to be the better part of valor, was needed here.  Maybe she should've asked before she had just blown up the wagon.

"Oops."  Agu added.

She needed to learn to ask questions before she did things like this.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In Transit Monsters 34 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Previous | Start | Index | Next

Foxtrot (H + 1.1 Days)
I popped atop a building, within one of the crumbling egg-domes of Fontana.  I could see Uniform, Charlie and Whiskey.  The centipede-tentacle things swarmed all three.

"Shit."  I spat.  "I've got to go... I'm sorry..."

I set the girl and the dog down.  The blind girl shuddered as I put her down.

"What?"  She glared around at me.  "What?!"

"I've got to go..." I hesitated.  "I gotta go.  I'll be back in a spiff."

"Hey!"  The girl yelled at Foxtrot.  "Don't leave me here!"

Sorry, I thought, I didn't listen to Charlie, and she'll probably think I did this to her on purpose.  Again.

It wasn't fair.  I didn't want to dump stuff like this on her.  Why couldn't she see how much I liked her?  Why did every time we meet, it ends up in a fight when I just want to show how much I want to care?

I popped back to the street.  Charlie and the rest fended off the tentacle-centipede-things.  They worked together, but the dozen or so things were putting up a fight.

I popped closer to them.  I immediately saw why the three were having trouble.  The ground wasn't stable.

Then I felt it.  It flowed over me like drifting off into a dream.  But a waking dream.

Oneiros Protocol Online.  Networked with Charlie_BrainSys.

I knew what the other three were thinking.  I could see ghostly, translucent images of each of us moving beside our own bodies.  Each image moved seconds before they did.  Charlie had connected our minds together.  At the most root level.

I knew that Whiskey knew to call them Sewer Spawn.  Sewer Spawn burrowed all over the place.  Charlie realized this meant that each inch of ground around them in Fontana had spawn in it.  Uniform, starting with Whiskey, pushed her gnostic tech to speed up our healing.  She could get our blood to coagulate faster if we were cut open.  That would prevent the lower Martian air pressure from bleeding us each out.

I popped into the middle of our group.  Charlie's dream directed me.  I followed it.

A thought, not a voice, came to me.  The axes!

I knew what Charlie directed me toward.  Between them, in the morass of tentacles I popped in.  I grabbed the three axes, hugging them tight to my chest.

I popped out again, high above the fray.

Each of us had our own techs and special ways of supporting one another.  But what Nasr had drilled into us had nothing to do with those specific parts of our nature.  He showed us what made us monsters and not like other humans.  He trained us to use what made us monsters.

Humans had a upper limit of strength and speed they could attain.   Human bones shattered when pushed hard enough.  The Enemy and its troops seemed invincible to all sorts of human methods of warfare.  Bulletproof.  Human soldiers couldn't resist their tentacles' tightening strength.

We could resist them.  Hecate and others had made us that way.

I hurled the axes down as I fell from above.  I'd taken an angle from Whiskey's own calculation.  Each axe I set spinning at intervals the others had crunched the numbers to time.  We formed our own supercomputer.  I could see the ghostly image of each axe, putting them into precise motion as I needed to.

Three of the closest sewer spawn exploded in orange-and-black ichor.  Each axe hit them with enough force to kill them.  I popped back to the ground, rolling myself sideways to absorb the velocity.  Uniform caught me.  She sent her gnostic healing to steadying my bones.  That kept my body from breaking itself apart on impact.

Whiskey took one of the black axes first.  She had always been the smallest of us.  She took advantage of that.  Whiskey wielded her axe in more surgical strikes than I had done.  Whiskey didn't kill any with her blows.  She just stripped each of their ultra-hard carapaces.  That exposed their alien organs to the harsh martian air.

Like us, they didn't do as well in the lower pressure I saw.  Nasr had taught us about how the pressure could kill.  Pinkish-orange fluid boiled as Whiskey sliced them open.

I recovered in time to see Charlie and her axe fend off the one or two trying to grab Whiskey.  The ground around us rumbled.  Charlie held her footing.  Each of her swings squelched and squished as she hit as hard as any of us could swing.

Ten down.

I turned to see Whiskey moving toward the last pair of the tentacled things.  They quivered for a moment, as if they could sense her movement.  But they still launched themselves at the Goetic Engineer.  Whiskey drew her arms back, covering her face.

I could feel Whiskey's thoughts as she called her Goetic tech up.  Blue sparkles took her axe, turning the carbon-black head into two sharp spikes.  Each flew toward the running spawn.

They impaled them.

Then we fell out of the dream.

"Whiskey!"  Charlie yelled.  She tried to reach Whiskey as the hole we had been fighting in drained more and more into Fontana's sewers.

"You okay?"  Uniform asked.

"Is-"  I couldn't take my eyes off of Charlie.  She held Whiskey up, even as the dust cloud enveloped them.

"I don't know."

The dust cloud enveloped us as well.  A few minutes past.  Then I heard Charlie's coughing.

"Everyone ok?"  Her voice called.  "I think we caused a cave-in."

"Or those burrowing centipedes just were dragging us down with them."  I retorted.  "I don't think we can climb out, but-"

"Uniform, you ok?"  Charlie's irritated voice cut me off.  I winced.  Maybe I should've just said I was ok.

"Yes.  We're both fine."  Uniform gave me a gentle pat.

Then I saw Charlie and Whiskey walking toward us.  The sunlight dove in from the hole above.  But the sewers around us looked more like deep dark caves.  Pitchblack, lightless before us.

"I can get out of here."  I pointed out.  "But I don't know if I can take two of us.  We're... kinda big for my transits."

"Whiskey, you got any ideas?"  Charlie turned to the Goetic Engineer.

"Charlie, hey."  Words started to stumble out of my mouth.  "I can help get us out of here-"

"Don't.  Talk."  Charlie growled.

"I just want to help-"

"Foxy, don't push it."  Uniform warned, her eyes darting between the Charlie and me.

"I told you to wait."  Charlie's voice seemed to echo worse in the sewers around us.  "I said, wait."

"I thought I could just run in real quick for a look and-"

"And you got into trouble."  Charlie shook her helmeted head.  "It's always this or that with you.  What?  You think I want to order you around?  You think you just get to disobey orders because you think you should be in charge?"

I froze.  That wasn't it at all.

"Charlie, let's get out first."  Uniform raised her hands, trying to calm her.  "I know Foxy doesn't think sometimes, but she didn't mean that."

"I don't know what to think."  Charlie's voice lost a bit of its gravel.  "I...  Foxtrot, you know I don't want this job, right?  Couldn't you give me a bit of a break?"

I felt the urge to cry, even though I knew I didn't have the tear ducts.  We never had those.

"Charlie..."  I stumbled to find the right words.  I could say something.  There had to be something to fix this.

"I can make a ladder I think."  Whiskey said.  She held her side.

Uniform moved over to her.  Uniform inspected it.  She turned to Charlie.

"She's got a cracked rib.  Something in the fall must've hit her."  Uniform passed her hands over Whiskey.  "I can start a process on it, but... combat would stall that."

Charlie shook her head.  "Whiskey, you still up to making a ladder?"

Whiskey nodded.

"Charlie, I'm sorry."  I blurted.  "I know I fucked up here.  I know you think I do these things out of spite or something against you, but I don't mean to do that, I really don't and now Whiskey is hurt and this always ends with us fighting or something and I just want to find a way to explain why I always do this to you and the truth is that I really..."

I stopped myself from saying 'love' at the end of my sentence.  The three others stared at me.  Whiskey tilted her head.

"Wait."  Whiskey paused, as if processing something difficult.  "You-  Charlie you understood that, right?"

"I- that was a such..."  Charlie just shook her head.  "Uniform, could you translate for those of us who don't speak at the speed of sound?"

Uniform put a hand over her face.  "Three words, Foxy.  Three words."

"Uh..."  My mouth didn't want to move all of a sudden.

"Oh come on.  You always go on for hours about it normally."  Uniform turned to Charlie.  "She's in love with you.  Even since she first came out of Chamber."

Charlie's head jerked back as if slapped.  "Love?"

"Uniform!" I pursed my lips in annoyance.  Of course no one else could see that.

"Oooooh."  Whiskey nodded.  "It all makes sense now."

"I really don't want to talk about this now."  Charlie said.  "Let's get out of the hole, then we can worry about whatever awkward feelings people have, ok?"

Whiskey turned to get back to her goetic work.  I turned back to the dark sewers around us.  I focused on them.  I hoped they could make my embarrassment go away.

A long, pinkish-orange tentacle erupted from the dark.  My eyes widened.  I popped backward.  I transited right before Charlie.  I could see her eyes through her helmet.  Her cheeks looked red and puffy.



"I don't want to hear-"

I grabbed her and turned her head toward the thing emerging from the dark.

A morass of orange and pink tentacles slid up the pile of debris we'd skidded down on.  The massive thing had to be bigger than each of us.  Tentacles curled away from three massive limbs.  Each limb grasped onto the ground in turn, rolling the giant thing like a wheel.  A wheel made of tentacles and thin, slimy antennae.

Whiskey and Uniform turned their heads as well.  Whiskey let out a low whistle.

Then she added, "oh.  Just great.  Something bigger."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In Transit Monsters 33 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Previous | Start | Next (34) | Index

Charlie (H Day +1) 

I cringed under my helmet.  Whiskey continued to work on the bunker for us, while the others scouted in pairs.  They were establishing a perimeter.

@Kilo: The city looks intact from my position.  It could have a great place to establish a HQ from.

@Whiskey: We could also build a few different sites across the surface.  Like this bunker.

@Charlie: We need to know where the Enemy is.  All we have are satellite images from Earth.

I turned around the corner into the Bunker proper.  Whiskey sat on the ground.  Her goetic nanos gave the room an air of blue sparkles.  Surfaces glowed hot white.  Each melted and cooled into panels, then each shifted around into their place.

"How much longer?"  I asked her.

Whiskey pulled her helmet off.  She gave me a wink and sat it down on the ground.  She then she stood up.  The Goetic Engineer strode over to a nearby metallic wall.  She kicked it.

No dent.  Just a dull thud.

"Pressurized.  About five feet of solid granite and other materials."  Whiskey whistled as she spoke.  "And everything sized up for our use, too.  Two rooms, this one and the sleeping quarters down stairs.  Although getting the carbon into form is going to take longer than I like."

@Kilo: Foxtrot is on the other side of this city, Fotani or whatever it's called.  I read her position.

That was good news.  Foxtrot had scouted with Uniform.  Along with what Kilo's pair and other teams that had reported in, they'd made good progress.  It meant that almost 200 degrees around us were accounted for.  At least everything within thirty klicks of us.  Given another day or so, they'd have a decent perimeter.  Sixty klicks of safety.

@Whiskey: Fontana.

@Kilo: Whatever, it isn't like anyone lives there now.

@Charlie: We don't know that.  Zeus Protocol didn't completely glass over Mars.

Whiskey gestured at my helmet.  I shook my head.  I didn't need to take it off.  Not quite yet.

@Foxtrot: @Charlie, do you read?

It took Whiskey and me about thirty minutes to reach their position.  I hadn't called for any of the rest.

"Why just us?"  Whiskey asked as we crested the ridge over Fontana.

"I'm hoping we can figure this out before we make contact any Enemy spawn."  I told her.  "To be honest, I'm still kind of making this up as I go."

"Oh."  Whiskey said.  "You've been doing good so far."

"Uh... thanks, but you're kind of biased I think."

"Maybe.  I just assumed Nasr had taught you some sort of secret leadership thing."

"I wish he had."  I let out a long breath.  "I don't think anyone else like that I'm in charge, Whiskey."



The two of us continued on.

"You can't keep avoiding talking to her about it."  Whiskey said.

"I don't want... I'm not going to deal with it."  I grunted.  "If I leave it be, maybe it won't turn into anything bad."

"She collapsed a building on you."  Whiskey pointed out.  "She couldn't win her argument, so she knocked it down on you."

"Let's just... Whiskey, please let us push this off until later ok?"

I hated dealing with this sort of thing.  I hated Nasr putting all this on me.  I didn't like telling people what to do.  I never could stand doing that.

"Sure."  Whiskey said.  "But you need to deal with it."

I shook my head as we approached the lone giant standing in the city of Fontana before us.  I frowned at that.  I had assigned Foxtrot and Uniform together.  They shouldn't have separated.  I had told her to wait.

@Charlie: @Uniform, where is Foxtrot?

@Uniform: Oh.  You're here...  Foxy... she decided to...

A building the distance exploded as a figure leapt from it.  Then the figure disappeared in mid air.  A distant boom echoed from the short-distance transit.  I turned back to Uniform.

"To explore on her own, it looks like."  Uniform's voice sounded resigned.  "I told her to wait."

Tentacled things lept after Foxtrot as she moved.  She could run, and she did so.  She'd held the record for fastest runner in our entire group, around forty meters per second.  Something followed her.  No, somethings followed her.  A lot of somethings.

I let out another grumble.

"I told her to wait."

"She wants to help."  Uniform tried to explain.

"Help?  By not listening?"  I shook my head.  "Now she's had our first contact with the enemy.  Couldn't she just have waited?"

Foxtrot appeared closer, popping within sight of us.  Still far off from their position.  Her short distance transiting could keep the tentacled spawn from catching up to her.   I checked my BrainSys.  They were geological scouts.  That kind of spawn were often found burrowing into sewer and utility lines.  They would dissolve them, leaving tunnels that other spawn could use.

"Sewer Scouts."  Whiskey pointed at a group of five that popped from under Foxtrot's feet.  "She isn't running from one group, she's setting off new groups everywhere she goes."

"Great."  I said.  "Whiskey, we need some sort of weaponry.  Uniform-"

"She's carrying something."  Uniform said.  "I can see... she has a normal with her.  And a dog?"

I blinked and turned my eyes to Foxtrot.  I focused my mind like Uniform had.  Implants revealed what she'd seen.  My BrainSys estimated that Foxtrot would reach our position in less than a minute.

Whiskey tugged on something under the sand.  Her goetic sprites whirled over wreckage buried in the martian dirt.  Metal creaked.  It melted.  A moment later Whiskey held up three axes.  Their dark neosteel heads gleamed in the dim martian sun.

"Axes?!"  Uniform exclaimed.  "We need something more than that!"

"Not enough time."  Whiskey winced.

"We'll have to make them work."  I added.  I reached for an axe.

Where the axes laid in the ground became alive with tentacles.  Dozens of sewer spawn emerged from underneath us.  The three of us tumbled as the morass of alien, mouthless centipedes grasped us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Transit Monsters 32 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Previous | Start | NextIndex

Foxtrot (H +1 Day)

Mars is nothing like Nubia.  The sand, the rocks, they all feel older somehow.  I felt so much lighter.  So much faster.

@Foxtrot: I finally get to run.

@Uniform: Yeah.  She let you loose.  You look so much happier than you've been.

We both were scouting around the city Charlie had assigned us.  The last Dream-Meeting she'd spoken to each of us about our assignments.  One at a time, with no one else to experience the same dream she'd given us orders through.  Again, I felt frustrated by her.  Everytime I try to explain my feelings to her, all she would do was turn on me.  Why did I keep trying?

Uniform and I crested a ridge that overlooked the remnants of Fontana.  We couldn't reach the signal that connected to the Net.  The Enemy jammed our signals outside of the microtransits Charlie received.  Each microtransit connected back to Earth.  But scouts like Uniform and I couldn't rely on them for data.

What we both knew about Fontana came from the data Charlie's Dreams had given us.  The city looked like these hideous scars in the red skin of Mars.  Both of our BrainSys started to click as they picked up the Radiation readings.

@Foxtrot: Some radiation here.  But... IDK.  What's your take on it?  Your the one with Gnosis.

@Uniform: It isn't lethal levels, but I can generate some RAD protection.

@Foxtrot: Kewl.  @Uniform, why doesn't she get it?  What do I have to do?

@Uniform:  IDK on that Foxy.

Uniform put both of her hands on my helmet.  I felt something flow into my body.  Blue-glowing nanobots outlined my skin.  I looked at my hands outside the suit.  It always felt weird when she did that.

@Foxtrot: It wouldn't be so hard if they hadn't put her in charge too.

@Uniform:  She was Nasr's favorite.  Anyway, I thought you'd given up after that scrap in Nubia.  She screamed at you.

@Foxtrot: Charlie didn't understand, U.  I mean... I just thought I could show her something beautiful.  How was I supposed to know that those buildings were going to do that?

We continued to walk down into Fontana proper.  Zeus Protocol had shattered the enclosed structures of the city.  The domes looked more like broken eggs than human habitation.  Sand and dust had found their way all over internal streets.  Each looked tiny.  Given our larger size, that made sense.

Mars lacked the right pressure for normal humans to survive in.  So they had made their cities inside larger buildings.  They'd exploited AI and transit tech to bring entire parts of cities over.

@Uniform: Everything looks so small.  Nothing like the vids.

@Foxtrot: Like a village of tiny people living in walls, you know?

Then my BrainSys gave me an alert.  I tilted my head in a particular direction.  I checked it against a map.  The Fontana City Mall.  Less than a klick away.

@Uniform: You pick that up too?

@Foxtrot: Yeah.  We should report it in.  @Charlie, do you read?

Even though there were jammers all over Mars, Charlie's oneiros had a remarkable range.  The EM blocks didn't seem able to stop her ability to connect to the dreams of others, even klicks away.  She'd been staying with the rest, acting as a mobile comm array for the rest of us.

@Charlie: I read you Foxtrot.

@Foxtrot: @Charlie, we're picking up a BrainSys signal here.  What do you make of it?

@Charlie: I... There is something.  One signal that doesn't make any... Okay.  Stay there.  We'll gather up at your location.

@Foxtrot: I could go and look.  It might be someone who needs our help.

@Charlie: I think it might be an AI or something, Foxtrot.  Wait for help.  That's an... order.

I gritted my teeth.  I turned to Uniform.  Instead of texting, I spoke aloud to her.

"I'm going to look inside that place."  I started to walk in the direction of the Mall.

"Foxy, can't you just wait for Charlie?"

"She's on her way."  I spun back around to face her.  "You wait for her.  I'll just look and pop back."

"You know, for claiming to like her, you really don't like to listen to her."  Uniform grumbled.

I gave my friend a thumbsup.  Then I ran toward the mall.  Then I popped.

Charlie can use Oneiros to connect with everyone's minds.  Whiskey can make anything she wants.  Uniform can fix us or shield us from radiation.  But me?  My big tech did one thing.  That bit of awesome always felt great to use.

I disappeared as my body transited on its own.  I popped only a few hundred feet away.  I could only go where I could see.  But I kept popping.  It would be faster than just running on my own.  I ran, each step yards away from my previous step.

Then I came to the mall.  I stopped.  At my eye level I could see a window that opened into the inside of the building.  It had big open spaces, big enough I could fit into.  I scanned around, trying to see a good place to pop into.

My eyes froze when I saw the tiny figure run away from the glass.  A girl with dirty hair and a dog.  I blinked at that.  Fontana had been nuked, I didn't expect to see anyone alive.  I popped into the building, right behind them.

"Hey!"  I called at the tinier human.  "Don't be afraid!  I'm here to help!"

The girl kept running.  Great.  She couldn't outrun me.  I'm fast.

"Leave me alone!"  The girl turned a corner.  One of hands clung tight to the dog's neck.  It seemed to help guide her.

"C'mon. I know what I look like-"

"I'm not listening to another one of you die."  She reached out to a nearby wall.  Her hands tried to grab at a door.

"Are you okay?"  I moved up to the girl, easy and fast. I had to crouch to fit under the ceiling of the space, though.  "Look, I could help you.  We were sent over to fight-"

"I don't care."  The girl fumbled the door open.  "I don't want to know.  I don't want to hear the tentacles grab you in the night-"

I pulled the door closed.  The tinier girl tried to resist against my strength.  It didn't budge.

"The Enemy is all over this place.  We didn't know people were still here."

"Zeus Protocol is sloppy."  The girl responded.  "And you can find tentacles all over this town.  My BrainSys is busted, so they don't come after me, ok?"

"We could fix that for you, and get you a transit off this rock."  I explained.

"No thanks."  The girl grumbled.  She didn't look at me, instead gesturing as if to someone behind her.  "Just leave me alone.  I don't care who you are.  Even if you have a transit, I don't want to go back, ok?"

"Are you..."  I tilted her head.  "Oh.  You are.  I'd thought you'd have... noticed."

"Yes, I'm blind."  The girl sighed.  "You sound like a drafted kid too.  Just leave.  Go home.  They don't have the people to keep you from deserting, ok?  Maybe if your lucky, you can find a hole like mine and the tentacles would go after you.  Maybe you can turn off your BrainSys or whatever it is that makes them come out at night."

"I'm not a normal soldier.  My name is Foxtrot.  Maybe I could help you out?  We aren't what you think."

The girl sighed.  "Foxtrot, leave me alone.  I don't care who you are just that-"

The girl moved her head around.

"What is it?"

"Whatever you did, they're coming."  The girl said.  "I can hear one of the tentacles."

I looked around.  "I don't hear anything."


Something small and bulbous slammed into my chest.  It hurled me away from the door and the blind girl.  The tentacled thing must've been a meter long.

"-leave."  The girl finished.

"Ick."  I exclaimed.  My chest throbbed as the meter long thing tried to wrap itself around me.  Metal-bonded bones didn't creak against it.  Instead, I popped away from it.

The meter long thing flopped onto the floor.  It looked like a centipede, except it had tentacles and no legs.  A single maw licked the air around it in a repeated fashion.  My mind searched files for whatever these were called.  Some sort of drone, I just couldn't recall what kind.

"You two okay to travel?"  I asked the girl.

"What do you mean?"

"You and the dog, you look geared for the pressure outside."

She shrugged.  "You can't outrun that thing."

"It's confused at the moment."  I popped again.  The drone flew toward where I had been standing.  "C'mon."

"What are you doing?"  The girl screamed, as I grabbed her and the dog.  I picked them up in my arms.  I concentrated hard, opening my personal transit bubble a bit.  We popped away from the lone drone, back to the window where I'd first found the girl.

"Getting us away."  I told her.  She shook in fear, struggling in my arms.  "Hold still."

"What are you?"  The blind girl exclaimed.

"Saving your life, atm."  I told her.

I looked out the window.

"You can't outrun them."  She said.  "There's more coming."

I winced.  Outside the window, I could see she was right.  Thirty or so more centipede-shaped, tentacled drones emerged from under the dirt.

It looked like we had more to deal with.  I hate it when Uniform is right.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Center Cannot Hold: The Skein

The Skein is a plane of dreams in the setting of #Crux.  The Skein connects the minds, and serves as the spawning ground of dreams and ideas.

All reality, planar or otherwise, all that exists, comes from a single point in the multiverse: The Aether.  The Skein grew out of the Aether.  But where the Aether burns as eternal possibilities cast in flame, the skein is a web that all minds touch.

The Skein is where dreams dwell.  They are born and they die.  Each time a mortal mind imagines, it spawns something new upon the web of the Skein.  Ideas are hard or difficult for most to kill.  Their imaginations are tied to the Skein, only the most psionic, most potent minds can control what they create in the Skein.

Walking into the Skein itself is mind boggling for mortal minds.  The vertigo of walking physically through one's own dreams can drive madness.  The Skein is the land of dreams, but physically walking in it is far different.

Skein Magick

Divine magic tends to draw itself through the psionic matrices of the Skein.  Some religions exploit this.  The Cult of the Revolution can channel fervor through the Skein.

Because all mortals share a dream connection through the Skein, it's possible for all sorts of mind magic.  Sendings, detect thoughts, and so many others exploit this planar interplay.  Skein magick also touches on the substance of dreams themselves.

There are enchantments and other wards to alter or introduce particular dreams into sleeping mortals.  These can vary from restoring lost memories to creating vibrant artwork via dreams.  Fey and other potent beings also enjoy using the skein, often using skein-based magic to help reinforce their control over their subjects.

There are also beings that live within dreams.  They feed upon the emotions and ideas that bubble up into the Skein.  These creatures sometimes can become parasites, sometimes driving victims into bouts of dreamcrafted madness.

Example Skein Artifact: The Blurring Edge.

It's a mad bit of metal held in the hand.  The weapon seems to vibrate on its own.  The steel is blue, the same color as the sky above.  Runes cover the hilt.  Each rune tastes of dizzying psionic magic.  The kind that leaves holes in one's memories.

The Blurring Edge has the shape of a sword.  But it slices away memory, not flesh.  Those cut by it bleed thoughts, not blood.  When struck by it, it reverberates into the plane of Dreams, the Skein.  The verberation cuts into the mind, slicing memories.  The wielder can learn to strike at particular memories or dreams.  But sometimes the Blurring Edge cuts off more than just the one memory it hits.

An expert swordsman who bonds with the Blurring Edge can erase memories as easily as limbs.  It blurs.  Sometimes those struck by it wake up later, bleeding and unaware where the wounds came from.
Aspect: Cuts Away Memories.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

City of Curses: The City Watch And The Founding Families.

#Crux, the City of Curses is a dark setting of industrial fantasy, guns, curses, horrors and the people that have to live with them.  This time, I explore the Prince's City Watch, ever corruptible remnants of a more primitive age.

The Prince's Due

"Eh?"  The City Watchwoman turned her nose down at me.  "You mishear, Ursyklon?"

I winced.  She had her hand on her pistol.  I gripped tight to the box.  "We've had a bad month-"

"You know, it's collection time."  The City Watchwoman shook her head.  "The Prince calls his due for people on this street."

I winced.  "I..."

"Do I have to make this serious for you?"  The woman brushed back a lock of her dark Tomasi hair.  I saw scars on her neck.  I knew the price for not working back in the Wolf Quarter.  The City Watch always squeezed for some sphinxes each month.

I never was the fighter my littermates had been.  Price of being the runt.  Instead, I pulled out a ring.  I held it up where the human could see.  She grabbed my hand with hers.  I tried not to whine as she gripped it hard.

"What's this?"  She asked.  It felt like she was about to rip my arm out of my socket.

"A family heirloom."  I closed my eyes.  "A bit of magic.  What I got left."

The City Watch woman smiled.  She let go of me.  She pocketed the ring. 

"There you go."  She told me, speaking as if I were a child she had been scolding.  "See how much easier it is when you work with one of the families?  Prince will always reward you, if you pay your due."

The Loyal Families.

Crux's City Watch trace their origins to the time of the city's founding.  They had been a collection of knighthoods.  Individual families, each rewarded for their loyalty to the Prince.  Each family runs their own promised part of the City Watch.

The City Watch has passed from father to son, mother to daughter.  Entire bloodlines granted the title of City Watch.  But they aren't just the muscle that keeps the Prince's decrees.

The City Watch also collects money.  Each month the Prince requires each Family to render a due to the Prince's coffers.  They collect whatever way they can.  So each Family has its own methods.  Because they have the means, the weapons and the personpower, Crux's City Watch are the largest criminal operations on the Maru Sea.

Crimes the City Watch engage in, ranges from smuggling to protection rackets throughout Crux.  They always make the due they owe the Prince.  If anything, each Family seems paranoid about missing payments.  Some City Watch whisper what horrible things happen to those who miss a payment.  Things have snuffed out entire in the dead of the night family lines.  Forgotten City Watchfolk, whose bodies surface in the Locke or Cross rivers.

The Families tell their most frightening stories about the guild that kills those unable to pay.  The one that is never spoken of but in the most dread of whispers.  The Firewalkers.

Fire Walkers.

No one knows anything specific about who the Fire Walkers are.  Once every twenty or so years, their guild reemerges to collect thousands of books.  The subjects vary, but they always ask questions about texts.  If the book is guilty, they take it and burn it.

"Does this speak of Arde?"

"Which nothing does it refer to?"

"Which history of Ranza is it?"

The Esoterium Machina has spent the better part of two centuries try to stop the practice.  But the ever secretive Fire Walkers are only seen in rare instances.  They are assassins first.  They deal in shadows for the Prince.

But the Tengu claim they aren't people.  Tengu tell that the Firewalkers are flames that wear the forms of men.  That their bodies were cursed by something foul.

The Ursyklon have never liked the Firewalkers.  They always preferring to hide rather than see feel their burning presence.  The Inculti, the fire vampyres, though, feel a kinship to them.  The Inculti often aid the Fire Walkers if asked.

The Firewalkers never touch the soil of Poorfellows.  That island in the Sleeping Straits seems to keep them at bay.  Whatever it is, it hasn't kept them from using others to collect their due of books every twenty years.

Monday, January 11, 2016

In Transit Monsters 31 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Lhyst (H Day +1)
My BrainSys gabled static woke me up.  Again, it wasn't working properly.  The alarm work just give me static, and that was the most I could get the implant to do.

I let out an annoyed moan.  "Stupid BrainSys."

I turned over in my pallet of blankets and other detritus I'd gather for my bed.  I'd rather sleep than have to deal with Mars.  Again.

A wet, sloppy dog tongue slammed against my cheek.  Stupid dog.  I should've eaten him a month ago when I first found him.  "Damn it Red."


"Yeah, so?"  I sat up.  I felt around for him.  My fingers found his fur.  After giving him a bit of a scratch, I let him help me up.  "Ever consider giving the blind lady a break, dog?"

Red shook his fur.  I knew he didn't understand me.  But finding the mutt had kept me alive.  He gave me a reason not to put a bullet in my brainpan.

I got up.  Red barked.  I grimaced as I felt around for my gear.

"Hold on.  Let me get dressed first, mutt."  I'd also would make sure Red was outfitted too.  Mars lacked the atmospheric pressure either of us was used to.  We could survive out in the open.  Maybe for a few minutes.  Then we'd hemorrhage and die.

Or whatever it was the pressure difference did.  That part of training I never paid much attention to.  I figured I'd be dead by then.

Us drafted girls with severe depression are like that.  They tried as hard as they could to make me battle-hardened.  I still did what you are supposed to do when you see strange, horrible alien cthulu things the size of cities.  I ran the hell away.

It'd been months since I'd managed to survive the idiocy that is Zeus protocol.  I guessed I must've gotten some sort of radiation poisoning.  I hadn't hacked up any blood.  Or whatever radiation poisoning does, other than making you blinder than a bat.  I'd ask my BrainSys, but that's been fried ever since Zeus Protocol.

I'm not the brightest, I know that much.  But who thinks nukes fix anything?

"You ready now?"  I asked Red.  I heard him bark from inside his suit.  Both of our breathers weren't pretty.  They'd do the fancy trick of keeping us alive though.  Both breather-suits would keep pressure against our bodies.

But I only had what my fingers could feel on that.  None of the AI in the suits worked.  Not that I wanted a way for anything to follow me.

If the suits didn't have enough pressure, we'd pass out and die.  If I couldn't hear a leak, that'd would kill us.  If the breathers couldn't process enough oxygen for us to breath, we'd both die from that too.  I hoped we'd find places like my hideout, where conditions could keep us alive to explore.

But Red and I might have to go exploring outside our comfort zones.

"Well, at least our options are limited."  I told Red.  "Imagine how horrible it'd be if we had to think of something to do?"

We needed more food.  I hoped to find something that might restart or fix my busted BrainSys.  Our water processor still trickled in the back of my little bolthole.  I remember my fathers back home.  Maybe the UN had lied to them and my Fathers thought me dead.

"Let's go, Red."

Yes, I don't know what color the dog is.  You feel better now?

Red and I walked out of my bolthole into the ruins of the Fontana City Mall proper.  Fontana had been one of the largest cities on Mars.  Its mall had been as big as the ones back in the Midwest US or Canada.  The big ones, meant for people who have to be indoors for most of their year.

Mars is like that.  One big red, sandy winter alright.

A good part of the mall had survived the nukes intact.  Red and I did our usual patrol of it.  We'd been looting and stripping pieces of it clean as we'd went.  I couldn't met any other survivors.  I didn't want to.  Not anymore.

The last three people I'd met had been around only for a day or two.  A mother and her two sons.  She been nice.  Kind to me.  Her named had been Ariah.  Her voice sounded like golden wheat swaying in the wind.

"I can fix your BrainSys, Lhyst."  Ariah told me.  "I think we just have to do a cold reboot.  Mine's still working."

She'd been working at the mall, at some implantation store.  Ariah told me stories of dealing with customers.  I almost told her I'd deserted rather than fight.  Her skin had been soft.  Warm.

The three of them didn't make it through that night.

Tentacles.  I could hear them slithering.  I did what I always did.  I hid.  The Enemy never came for me.  It came for others.  Slime would cover them.  The screams were the worst.  They would wail, louder and louder for help.  Then bam.  No more screaming.

"No more others."  I told Red.  "Just you and me.  No more screaming in the night."

Red didn't reply.  Then again, he's a dog.  He prolly didn't understand.  Ariah had been nice to me.  Like Belle had back home.

"Nice people die around me, Red.  You know that right?"

No response again.

We continued on our scavenging.  I'd crawl through piles.  Every once and awhile, the dog would sniff at something.  Or drag something to me.  Our little system of digging around like rats in a maze.  Sometimes we found something worth it.  Most of the time though, stuff we'd been through already.

It happened when we were in the food court.  The two of us were behind the counter of the old SuperMickeyD when it happened.  The automated bots there didn't respond to my commands.  We'd already raided the refrigeration unit before.

I flipped through the pieces of tech behind the counter.  Dead things that didn't respond to my fingers.  I tossed them aside.

Then a cold, flat piece of glass started to beep at me.

"Wait a sec."  After a minute of listening, my hands picked up the alarming tablet.  "Ok.  This is working."

I tapped my fingers on it.  The beeping changed to a chime.  I couldn't see it.  I hoped whoever owned hadn't locked it down too much.  I tried using its voice recognition.

Ten minutes later, I resorted to banging the thing like a rock.  "Great."

My fucking eyes.  Again.  All it would take was something, anything, that didn't need my fucking eyes to work.  Without even a BrainSys to interface with tech, I couldn't do a thing.  The tablet could've been on the other side of the galaxy for all it mattered.

...Network found.  Connect?

"Wait."  I tried to confirm with my BrainSys.  Had it started working again?  How?  Did that tablet turn something on?

Unknown error.  Rebooting system.

@Charlie: This one is responding over there.  I think it might be an AI or something.

I furiously tried to get my BrainSys to stop.  Texting?  Who could be texting me out here?

Red started to bark at something.

"You see anybody?"  I asked the dog.

I lifted a hand over to him.  He pulled me off in a direction.  We came to the window the food court had that overlooked Fontana.  I felt cracks in it as I pressed my fingers to it.

"Red, I can't..."  I paused.  My hands felt something vibrate the glass.  They shook.  They shook in a regular pattern.

"Footsteps."  I shook my head.  First texts, now something had to be coming toward the Mall.  From the outside.

"They can't be footsteps."  I told myself.  "Nukes?  No... not big enough..."

Did Mars have quakes?  Frustration made me want to scream.  I had no idea.  Instead I grabbed Red.

"Home.  We need to get back to the hole, Red."

The dog gave a knowing bark back to me.  We went back to our bolthole.  I hoped whoever it was, that I wouldn't have to listen to tentacles take them away in the night.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Not All Victories Last Forever: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

I decided to write my thoughts on TFA.  #TheForceAwakens.  One quick thing before I go deep into it: Rey.  I love stories with strong female characters.  What a fucking awesome way to introduce a new badass!

Also, there might be cursing.  Just so you know.

Star Wars is kinda religion for me.  For me and a close-knit cadre of friends, it formed the core of our identity for awhile.  We didn't dislike Star Trek.  But the Expanded Universe formed this mythological panorama for us.  When they said they'd chosen to abandon the EU as canon, well, I started to refer to myself as "Protestant."

I think I have to retract my opinion.  The hot sloppy doggedness of the new Star Wars changed my mind.  Fuck me.  I didn't expect them to do something Lucas wouldn't do.  Neat.

Ok.  Time to get into this mad ramble then!

The Changes

The thing about The Force Awakens is its unabashed callbacks. This makes it different from the prequels.  George Lucas, naturally, doesn't like that.  His choice to step away from the project is unfortunate on one hand.  But on the other, is an example of a creator enabling others to play in their creation.  Which is strange to have Disney being the enabler.  Very strange indeedy.

The prequels didn't callback to the original trilogy.  At least, not well.  TFA gets away with it by making a obvious choice.  It chooses to treat Star Wars as Myth.  That alone alters the formula.  Yes, it seems to repeat the beats from A New Hope.  Which is the point.

Star Wars is Myth.  Its structure can be an inherent guide.  Characters have filled in key roles.  The Hero.  The Guardian.  The Mentor.  The Trickster.  The Wookiee.  They've crossed the critical junctures, which happen to be the same ones as A New Hope.

Which gets to my favorite point: Rey and Finn.  They both fill the role of new protagonists in this new part of the saga.  Where Luke is the Hero of the last part, these two walk into the role.  Rey herself seems almost "super-jedi" at parts of the movie.  Yet, Luke had minimal training before Yoda.  He could do many of the things Rey did.

Here's the core role: Finn and Rey are the young heroes who learn the legends are true.  Both make the refusal.  Both are offered the chance and refuse.  Anything that feels like repetition, that's because myth is one of those intrinsic human storytelling things.

Comings and Goings

I could go into the music or something else about TFA.  But there is this deeper message in the movie I think my head will prefer to wrap itself around.  The saga welcomes in a new generation.  That's necessary.  The callbacks are needed to remind us what this universe is like.

Hence Han telling us in the trailer "We're Home."

Even though it feels like we've done this story before, The Force Awakens has a darker message in it.  It tells us we can't rely on the victories of the previous generation.  Our heroes will falter or fail to keep the darkness at bay.  That you have to face the darkness in your time.

The First Order has no old people in it.  Looking back at it, you don't see that at first.  But most of the aged at in the Resistance and the Republic.  The First Order are a violent insurgency.  The kind that arises that wants the return of Tyranny.

In Orson Scott Card's novel Empire, one character explains succinctly.  Americans will accept a Rome-style Emperor, if he'd promise to preserve their constitutional rights.  That's the truly frightening thing about the Nazis we forget.  The context.  The meaning of fascism comes from a honest, decent place.  The Dark Side is born from a well-intentioned place.

It's the idea that sometimes you should wrest power because it's necessary.  You should become the monster for the sake of the greater good.  That's one of the themes of Dune.  These are the core issues of Darth Vader as a character (before the Prequels over explained it).  Winning the war didn't fix the galaxy.

The Force Awakens tells us the legends are true.  It seems that the First Order has betrayed the last generation's ideals.  The First Order, these are young people convinced that the galaxy needs strength.  That they need to grasp power.

The warning is pretty simple.  The war doesn't end.  There is always another hideous weapon.  There is always a shadow that needs confronted.  The Force Awakens tells us that each generation should prepare. Always prepare for when their legends become true.

And that's why I loved Episode VII.