Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's not a game

That's what the Regent insisted. The white tiger bristled as he pointed a claw at the machine.
"It's an emergency time shunt!"
"But it is housed in a 20th century video game cabinet!" I countered.
"That's because I have to keep it isolated from the rest of the chrono-network! I even decorated it with radiation and biohazard warnings and monster stencils to...oh."
I crossed my arms. "Are you familiar with the term 'attractive nuisance?'"
He brushed a mote of dust off of his pastel jacket. "Alright, I see your point. So Koen thought this was a video game, started fiddling with the buttons..."
"And the joystick."
"Yes, that too...and shunted himself out of the timestream."
"Koen does still exist, correct?"
"Oh yes of course! He's in that zone where the remnants of destroyed civilizations go."
"Remnants of mean the WASTELANDS?"
"Well yes, that's what the locals there might call it..."
I grabbed the joystick and began navigating through the interface. "Very well. I must invert the reactivity of the shunt and..." I was cut short a pulse of energy that scrambled my neuroreceptors. I fell to the ground with a loud crash.
The Regent peered into the console. "Ohhhh...It’s reading a Paradox Error. It seems you’re already in there!"
"Yes..." I rose to my feet. "I was stranded in the Wastelands before...I was fortunate that a Time Lord followed my emergency beacon and rescued me."
The Regent looked down, adjusting one of his ruffles. "A Time Lord, eh? I wonder if it’s anyone I know...So you can't go back in. Maybe that Qlippothic can rescue him."
"Hardly..." I leaned my forehead against the console. "I shut down for lack of fuel. I might still be there if someone hadn't repaired me."
I saw a reflection of a familiar blue planet in the screen. I turned and scanned the panorama of space through the observation window.
"Something is not right..."
"You mean the quantum signature differential? Yes. That will equalize eventually. A hundred years or so."
I ran the equations to calculate how much energy would be required to phase an entire planet.
"You mean to tell me you tesseracted your homeworld into this other universe?"
"Yes. Our native dimension was collapsing. I couldn't have done it without you and your...our family."
"But Regent...your Earth is out of position for this date. The orbit is stable, but it should have been...” From behind the corona of the Sun I saw the gentle curve of another planet come into view. Another Earth. “...There?”
The Regent huffed as he ambled towards the liquor cabinet. "Oh that...well I had Xavael scout nearby dimensions. I told him to send me the coordinates of the first one he found with no human life in the Sol system. We were in a race against time, you see. So that's a dead world over there." He scratched his chin. "When the Space Race hits they'll probably recolonize it. Say, where is Xavael, anyway?"
As I began calculating the chances of two Earths remaining stable in the same orbit, the deck of the Regent’s timeship flooded with light. Another voice rang out. "REGENT!"
We turned in alarm to find the angel. His white robe was torn and stained with bloody handprints. He held the body of a pale demon with shredded red wings.
“Founder!” I screamed. “What has happened to you?”
Xavael spoke, anguish souring his otherwise pure voice."Forgive me, Regent. I followed your directions too closely! The native Earth you see has no one living, but it is not uninhabited. That world has fallen to the Undead!"
"Koen..."  The demon drew a tagged breath as he lifted a trembling finger at the Regent. "You rescued your world from Oblivion only to deliver it to a fate that is far worse..." Bloodwing's body began to crumble in his beloved's arms. "I had imprisoned Darien in Steelhed... but now he is free..."
I stepped back as the full extent of his dying works sank in.
The Founder's uttered his final words before decayed into dust. "The Darien Mason of my world has made Steelhead a Necropolis...and soon your world shall fall to his insatiable hunger for flesh!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

from the planet's heart

(continued, albeit via altered sequence, here.)

We had located the Dazdi factory in a remote location in Siberia. There the coven harnessed the technology they had stolen from a lost ship centuries ago and enhanced it with their traditional enchantments. Objectively, I would describe the site as an automated facility perched on a geothermal vent, guarded by dozens of metal tripods that bore a distant resemblance to the legendary hut of the coven's founder, Baba Yaga. Bloodwing had a more colorful description, "an abomination sinking its greedy fangs into the heart of Tera herself!"

 The assault team was composed of Bloodwing, Xavael, Ash, Koen and myself. Dr. Mason coordinated the attack remotely from New Babbage. tesseracted into the heart of the facility to catch them off guard and quickly disabled the support systems. As one, the tripods keeled over and crashed into the permafrost. It seemed almost too easy. A scan of the energy readings in the site's reactor core soon confirmed this.

"This was a trap," I stated as I looked up from my scanners a second time. "They intended for us to destroy this facility. A weapon detonated far below us where the shaft meets the Earth's core. The output from the core has increased exponentially."

"Qli," Dr. Mason's communicator hissed and popped from static, "are you saying there is no way to block or divert the rise of the heat? What sort of damage are we looking at to the surface?"

"If it was only the surface!" I removed my faceplate so Dr. Mason and the rest of my family could see gloom that was gathering in my eyes. "This venting of the core will shatter the tectonic plates. The Earth's surface will soon be unrecognizable. Combined with the burning away of the atmosphere..." 

"The End of Days?" whispered Xavael.

I nodded. "We are six hours away from an extinction level event."

 "NO!" Koen stared at me with a determination that was uncharacteristic, but almost reassuring. He pointed at Dr. Mason through the view-screen we had hastily assembled.

"Dad! Remember when you blew up the Foundation building by accident when you fired up the engines on the Gygax? The only difference between an engine and a weapon is the direction of energy!"

Dr. Mason gestured frantically at the young intern holding the imaging unit for him on his side to keep still. "I don't have any invention that would consume that much power at once!"

"Yes you do, Dad...we've got two of them right here! Divert the energy to Qlippothic and Ash's Galvanic Tesseractors. Our wake won't even be felt in this dimension as we take the grand tour through hypertime!"

My brother Ash and I stared at each other, calculating the infinitesimal chance this plan would save the Earth. The chances of us actually surviving such a shift were too low to calculate. Bloodwing crossed his arms. As our living ancestor, he had the final say.

 "We are listening, Koen."


Monday, June 6, 2011


The Digital Knights had the situation well in hand. It was time for me to help rescue Dr. Mason from a "Mainlander" wearing the clothes stolen from me by Marcus Mason.

My weapon was bulky. It was a rocket launcher designed for dispatching Baba Yaga's ships. I had one shell left. The scope, however, was perfectly calibrated. The target was fast, but clumsy. Not using its full potential. Was Marcus not fully integrated into Ash's circuitry? Or was Ash resisting?

The target wounded Koen's darkforce with an isomorphic disc. I aimed for the Ash's strike zone. Unlike a human target, a head shot would not terminate. Only disable. Dr. Mason was helpless.

Target is preparing for a death blow. Target is open. Fire.

The target fell in an explosion of brass. The torso was still smoking as Dr. Mason and Koen rose from their defensive positions.

Koen stared at the damage and shook his head. Dr. Mason gazed back at me through his binoculars. I read his lips...

"You hit the chest. Soul-shard..."

I lowered the scope. Founder forgive me. I had to save my family. He would have done the same.

I felt the shockwave of an explosion behind me. I turned around and witnessed the city of Cala Mondrago erupt in flames.

The power plant ripped open from the inside, from which rose as nimbus of lighting in a vaguely humanoid shape. Energy arced from its hands, exploding every structure it crossed. Flames raced across the power lines, dancing from shop to shop and tent to tent. The "Genies"...their sentient power source, had rebelled, just as in the tales of the of the ancient city that preceded New Babbage.


I threw the weapon aside. I depleted too much energy to tesseract to Cala. I was too far away. I could only run.

I tripped on something in the sand and fell. I rolled over and stared up with my mechanical eyes at the stars, their pristine view obscured by smoke drifting from the city.

I did not sense him approach, but the shadow of Bloodwing loomed over me. His pale frame hovered, slightly indistinct. His eyes burned in crimson fury.

"Elder! Forgive me! I have failed! I have failed..."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I gathered up one of my robes and some bandages and raced out of Lynn's carriage. With a bit of self-generated illumination it was simple enough to follow the bloody footprints of my doppleganger beneath the desert stars. I found her collapsed in an alleyway between the shacks of two merchants that had shuttered their gates for the evening.

She was still breathing. She groaned in protest as I turned her on her side. As I suspected, she was bleeding out from the apertures in the small of her back meant for my engine. The same precaution Dr. Mason designed to keep me alive was now imperiling the life I addressed her in hopes she retained at least some of my faculties.

"Qlippothic. I am going to tesseract with you to Dr. Mason. He needs to install..."


The deafening crack of an Eldritch Bolt sent me sprawling. My senses reeled as I struggled to regain control of my neural net. My double crawled over me, her eyes wide and her grin twisted in madness.

"Oh how rude of me! I'm terribly sorry. I appreciate that you've taken good care of my body while I was gone, but..." She glanced up at the crescent moon, then leaned down again to whisper where my ear would be. "This form is a bit inconvenient for my plans."

She rose, taking my folded clothes from where they fell as she did so.

"You brought me a pink loincloth?" I heard muttering incantations as she fumbled with the garments. By the time I saw my attacker's face again, the voice had dropped a register. What were my features and brown hair had turned to coarser features and a 5 o'clock shadow. A strong resemblance to Dr. Mason, but thinner and without the mustache. I heard Lynn calling out my name a few blocks away.

"If you value your friend's life, you will tell no one you saw me." He stepped on my faceplate with his bare foot as he departed. "Now go save your fellow tinkertoy. And don't forget...Uncle Marcus is watching you!"

His vicious laughter echoed in my memories as Lynn helped me to my feet.

"Did you find her?" She asked.

I shook my head. "She...did not last. She is gone."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

to shuffle off this mortal coil

I sat on the rug in Lynn's gypsy carriage. She watched nervously from a few paces away as I opened the chrome case and lifted a pen-sized cylinder from inside. The desert sun fell in a strong beam through the small window, illuminating dancing particles of dust that crossed its path. The light that hit the chrome reflected glowing curves across the walls.

"You said that if you take this medicine, you'll never be human again?"

I still felt the weight of the boiler unit my father fused to the small of my back. I had to be prepared for a sudden transformation at all times, he said. All it did for me in this state was ache and chafe. Was I ever completely human with this contraption attached to me?

"That is correct."

"And this is the only was to rescue your brother?"

"I'm afraid so."

She smiled gently. "It wouldn't change how I feel."

I could feel the blood rush to my face. Another human trait that I'd miss.

I pressed the tip of the cylinder to my arm. I heard a rush of air and a tingle as the nanobytes spread through to every cell...and everything went black. Was that screaming echoing from a distant mountain range?

I saw the world again through thick glass. Darkness washed away the color save for a few candles. I heard the rush of air through my boiler, and my strength slowly returned to me. I lifted my arms...articulated brass. I touched my face. A smooth metallic mask. My true face. Again.

Lynn was facing away, sobbing against the wall.

"Lynn? Do not cry. I am here. The metamorphosis..."

She turned to face me with horror in her eyes. I struggled to regain balance as I rose to my feet. Her jaw fell as she backed away.

"You're Qli? HOW? If you're really...then who...?"

She pointed towards the door, left swinging open. The bloody footprints on the carpet leading out did not escape my attention.

"Lynn? Do I even want to know...?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A pair of metal talons ripped through a canvas tent in the deep desert, shattering poles and crushing the metal inside. Shredded rugs and fabric flew off with the wind. Dented segments off brass armor glimmered as they fell in a pile with kitchen supplies and cracked picture frames containing portraits of the Mason clan. The colossal construct pointed an acrlight down at its handiwork and began to sift meticulously through the remains.

A small wooden framed picture of an earlier Qlippothic - one of a Victorian lady in her finest garments, carefully tailored to fit the coal grate on her abdomen and the twin smokestacks looming over her back - rolled clumsily away in the rising wind, tracing a line of indentations in the sand, only inches away from the ankle of the real Qlippothic. On this night she had become completely human save for the turbine surgically fastened to the small of her back, a grim necessity should she suddenly shift to a construct form with no power source at hand. Her leather and linen dress was draped by the ever-present wind around the rioutous colors the red headed gypsy she was embracing. She held her tightly not out of love, but fear.

The gypsy clutched the silver amulet hanging below her multihued scarf, whispering an enchantment of invisibility. Qli felt her skin hardening to metal, the metallic spreading from her engine in all directions until at least her hair vanished beneath her reflective mask. The beauty of the setting crimson sun behind them was ripped away by the arclight suddenly pointed towards them. No movement by the walking behemoth. Qli and Lynn's intertwined shadows stretched across the sand.

Qli did not finish scooping Lynn into her arms in the instant the monstrosity lunged at them, claws at the ready.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

with a silver whistle and a golden scale

I heard the distinct roar of Ash's jetpack engine outside my tent. I rushed to greet him, and remembered to bow as the local custom. My nanobytes were still malfunctioning, and I did not wish to accidentally damage him again through direct contact. He drew a parchment from his belt as his wings retracted behind him.

"The translation on this invitation is poor, but its essence is nonetheless disturbing."

I was taken aback by the twinge of anger in his normally measured voice.

"This Magistrate of yours," he continued, "is she a Heterodyne?"

I shook my head. "She has never made such a claim."

"It is not her place then to judge who is a 'true' Jäger."

"Ash... No one is questioning your service to the Jägerpatrol."

"I am a discrepancy, which must be rectified."

I demanded an elaboration.

"There is already a time-displaced Jäger in our family line. She is living proof that the brau is compatible with Mason DNA, which still resides in my soul-chip."

Before I could question him further, he spread his wings with a sandstorm and vanished in a sonic boom.