Monday, September 22, 2008

the ghost ship

When one of my less inebriated customers told me they saw a a ball of fire in the Northern sky. I rushed up the ladder to the attic and opened the shutters. It was supposed to be night, but the sky was bright enough to read a ledger by. I rifled through the desk for the spyglass and focused the lens on the burning object. I cursed as I heard a sizzle and dropped the glass. The light of the blaze through the lens almost burned my eyeball out! Those things are expensive I tell you! I only wear an eye patch for my wench costume!

Eye squinted up at the ship, watching the light dim to a dark green. I heard the raucous customers on the pier cheering for the free show.

"Do it again!"

"That glow! It's ghost light I tell ye!"

"It's the end of the world! Ye know what that means? FREE RUM!!!"

"TOUCH THAT KEG AND I'LL SCREW A TAP IN YER NECK!" I shouted. I hesitantly held the lens to my other eye. Indeed, it was an ectoplasmic green. I made out where the bottom hull of the ship had fallen away, smashing a treasure trove of Royal Bloodwine and the rest of the Blood Dolls with it. But the ship was changing shape again. It appeared to be rebuilding itself. This was Spark mastery, not Demon magic.

"What's going on over there?" I wondered aloud. "An odd time to try out new blueprints, Marcus. Or are Sparkfather and little brother up to something?" I saw metallic tentacles painting over the hull, wiping away the Ereb'ai markings of the ship. Maybe Father was renaming it? Foundation? Gygax 2nd Edition?

When I read the new title, I dropped my spyglass in stunned silence.

EREBUS III

"Jeremiah..."

"That's right Sister", said Koen...or in his red fur I should say Vortex...as he crawled through the window upside-down from he rooftops. Kira slippped in right behind him. "We've got a rescue mission."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

succession

Koen met us at Port Novem. We all knew why. I offered him the vial.

"You're the Firstborn."

He shook his head. "I don't want it. I'm not letting Aleister or Jeremiah or this new kid get their hands on it, but if the Hydra shows up before..."

"None of us do," I said, "but someone has to. It won't work on constructs. That means Qli, Ash and I are out."

Qlippothic interjected. "That leaves Darien...and..."

Amarantis felt her family's eyes gazing towards her. She shook her head.

"Darien would jump off a cliff before becoming the Founder again," Koen said. "that leaves only one..."

My clockwork hand shivered slightly as I passed the vial into Koen's paw. Silently he crept out of the tavern and blurred into the shadows.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Regrouping



I finally got peri up and running, and we said our goodbyes. The ruse performed flawlessly. As soon as peri was out of sight, Ama and I just stared at each other. We were exhausted. We didn't even have a cohesive plan.

That's when my other sister showed up. Qlippothic Projects (does it make sense to call her Qli-2 anymore, since she's the only one left?) materialized on a nearby rock. She had been on a mission of her own, to hunt down Aleister. She'd been triangulating his lair from geographic clues and energy signatures. An outcropping of Loli-Oni was an unusual clue to say the least.

Qli led us back to Laudanum to recover and stock up on vampire hunting supplies. It was no use fighting one enemy above while the one below was still active, she explained. He could easily set a trap for us as we returned from the Midas.

I stopped by Port Novem, and spoke with the former proprietress, Miss Lily. She had ordered a shipment of bloodwine as soon as she purchased the land, and the cask just came in. It tasted watered down compared to the Ereb'ai vintage, but this was tavern fare, not the King's Private Reserve. I should have known there was a demand for this in Winterfell! Could we have saved Koen the first time had we known this?

[Yes, it is better than Oni blood. Still not as strong though.]

Qli told me she's done a lot of adventuring. I hope she'll take some time to share them in this journal. She's been time-travelling as well. Apparently she gave up the disabled GT technology for an artifact from the Mythos. She told me that I...or Bloodwing...may have been successful in our quest, for the island of New Gomorrah, whch was created by the chaos of the Wormwood comet, no longer exists in the Dark Future!

While Humanity has still seen better times, it is not as decimated as she remembers. Without the island the demons, have instead taken over an airship port and named it after that ancient city.

I brought her up on current events, including Dr. Mason altered development. Qli gave me a gift from the future. It's a small floating personal sensor android! He reminds me very much of a robotic version of Lady Christine's CHED. I think I'll call him CHED 3000!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time Out for a Psychic Conference

[Listen you two...I appreciate that you concocted this synthetic bloodwine, but something about it just doesn't smell right to me. Maybe if someone filtered your favorite merlot through mounds and mounds of dirt and added fresh grape juice to it you'd be a bit reticent to serve it at the dinner table. As for this vial that obviously came from Darien's lab...this not just Bloodwine. Hold it tight and you can sense the Founder's life pattern. I gorged my self on Oni Vitae and I feel the fluid strengthening my frame. My Hunger is screaming for Darien's sample, not the replacement. But I fear what it will do to me.]

[peri is a Doll, but not a Vampire Doll. She can't smell the difference. That's why I put traded her Founder's sample with the synthetic. So she won't be destroyed by Dr. Steel for failing her mission, and he never gets his hands on real Bloodwine. Even if she's working for another madman, she's still my friend, from back when I pitied Dolls in their weak forms and dressed like them as an ironic fashion statement.]

[Now...I'm sorry for presuming you were a Spark. Your inherited medical knowledge probably won't help much with her. Just rewind me and I'll try and repair her myself. Most Dolls operate on the same principles.]

[Ama, can you fly up to the Midas while carrying me of fold space precisely enough to open a portal? If not I'll summon Koen to help.]

[Look, I know a lot of my actions haven't been making sense lately. This new identity is still in flux. I don't know if it well ever be stable. I only know I can't be the near-indestructible android heroine I was before...I know Ash can fulfill that role.]

[There's a reason I'm keeping my recent memories sealed shut. People will always assume the worst about the Dolls. Perhaps they may be proven right. I only know that at this moment I must rescue my family, and I must not fail this time. I am sorry.]

*crimson tears trail in lines down from her eyes in passing resemblance...*

Monday, August 25, 2008

winding down

"Can this one be of assistance?" I looked up from the carnage of black fabric and crimson-stained lace piled in the snow. I saw my old friend peri perched on the limb of a huge pine tree in her typical demure fashion. Her barrel was still glowing a faint red and letting off a stream of white smoke through the forest of Winterfell.

"Why peri! How wonderful to see you!" Somehow I managed to maintain a polite tea-party conversation tone with my fellow Doll even as I was digging my heels into the back of an expired ogress to pry my bladed hook from her rib cage. I tipped over as Ama pushed the body upwards to free herself from beneath. I was able to wedge the end barb out easier from that angle. "Thank you so much for coming to our aid! What brings you to this out-of-the-way picnic? This was a rather impromptu affair..."

"peri was on a mission from Dr. Steel to stop the Aleister Mason's Vampire Dolls and followed them to that cruise ship above us. As this one floated down peri noticed a large gathering of large dolls right here, not playing nice at all. Present company excluded of course." She giggled sweetly as Ama recovered from her daze and began cleaning the ogress vitae off her demonic red skin before it froze.

"And did you succeed?" I turned away from the other two and sank my fangs into a Loli-Oni that was still groaning. I could use her strength for the next phase of the rescue mission. The Other lodged in my psyche was protesting of course. Oh yes, I've felt the changes behind the scenes, the lessening of my addiction, as well as the tempering of my old conscience against the new fuel requirements of this frame.

"Well, the Dolls up there obviously aren't working for Aleister anymore since they're on a bloodwine binge and draining the crew. Furthermore, we seem to have this sissy fight well in hand. So, Aleister has no more Vampire Dolls, and peri just needs to carry this sample of Bloodwine back to Dr. Steel and this one can get paid! Prates beat ninjas every time, right Miss Steelgears? Yarrr!" She laughed as she hooked her finger, and as she laughed her laugh got slower. Her voice reached a lower register, and she slid off her branch and hit the snowy ground with a thud.

"peri?" I took a mighty leap over the now-frozen bodies to reach the doll-mercenary. Ama rushed over, and checked her wrist for a pulse. "That won't help here, Ama. Her springs froze."

Ama spotted the whirligig backpack device she had cast aside while providing sniper support. "I doubt she was designed for descent from as high an altitude as the Midas is currently holding." I opened her pack and found what had my nose itching since halfway through the battle. It was a vial of bloodwine...still warm...very fresh...in one of Dr. Mason lab vials, hastily stoppered. I pressed my teeth gently against the wax seal...

I shook my head. The Oni was a heavy meal even if she was half-gone already. I pulled the synthetic elixir that Ama gave me from my boot and made the switch, I also retrieved some spare brass parts from her wooden box, a "medical kit", before locking it again.

"Ama, you're a Spark, right? There's a code of honor among Dolls to try and fix each other when we break down. Just don't tell her about this little exchange when she comes to...too...tooooo..."

Oh well. At least I wasn't hungry.

Monday, August 11, 2008

dry rain

It is so much easier to chase an airborne object form the ground in Winterfell than in, say, Caledon or Babbage. There's still a lot of open green area to run through, and you can see the large gothic towers coming up and can veer around them with plenty of warning.

While Lily and Lulu wound my key for me I tuned to the aether channels. Some sort of flaming debris had crashed onto the "Pirate's Tavern" on Novem property and destroyed it as quickly as it mysteriously rose from the ashes of the Muses Playhouse. Is that why we were hijacked by the Seraph? To spare us from death from above? I contacted the Consulate on their channel and quickly appraised them of the situation, warning them of possible hostages, and falling bodies. The signal to the MiddleSea Fleet was being jammed. I could only assume they were in hot pursuit.

At least this time I was well-armed. The "flintlock" at my belt was a self-propelled miniature rocket launcher. I had an assortment of specialized rounds pocketed throughout my person. The hilt of the aether sword was bulky for my small frame, but the blade itself was weightless. And then there was that hook attachment. Excellent for clearing brush in a hurry. And just in case...it was spring-loaded.

As the sky darkened I switched to heat sensors. The engines of the Midas gave its position away even from inside the nimbus clouds of the majestic Winterfell evening sky. I registered falling debris from the hull of the ship. As I closed in on the first humanoid form my clockwork heart skipped a tick. But, praise the Maker, it was not Darien. It was one of the demonic crew.

I saw another heat source fall from the craft in the distance, and another. Soon I was falling the ship more by the body count than by its aerial location. All of them were demons. Scores of them. Judging from the impact, they had been drained of ichor before they fell. On a few I could make out the telltale bite marks. I recognized some of the uniforms. The Captain. The First Mate. The Lounge Singer's outfit almost blinded my sensors.

The bodies I did not find were those of my family (including this mysterious young uncle). I did not track the remains of that blue crustacean who guarded the Bloodwine and the living source as well.

I followed the ship through the northernmost reaches of Winterfell, up snow-dusted mountains. I hoisted myself up one treacherous rock after another by my hook. I felt myself slowing down. I was unwinding, and I was thirsting. I found one more sky-pirate's body impaled on the rocks. It was as dry as it was frozen. I heard the crunching of snow ahead of me. I tried to speak, to warn, to scream, but could only growl in hunger as a shadow loomed over the top of the next hill...

Friday, August 8, 2008

spinning gears, chasing shadows

Taking stock of the situation...

My mind is suddenly back to its original configuration because the astral form of the same person who yanked me from New Erebus is now stuck in my head. If I try to remove him myself, I might become Aleister's slave again. I'm not even going to ponder what I feel I should do to him for double-crossing me. I'm sure he can see those thoughts clearly.

Bloodwing gave me one last chance to be Qlippothic Projects again...and I refused...

If I get anywhere near the Bloodwine my addiction will kick in again. It was strong enough to make all of Aleister's dolls mutiny. That means my only fuel source is...blood...*holds stomach, rocking*

The Seraph transferred the Novem crew to Winterfell, and apparently that's where we're staying. Why? Why no ransom? Who paid them?

Winterfell...this is where Kira found my brother after Aleister changed him.

*gears ticking*

Aleister's lair was here. Is it still? YES. He has centuries of machinery too delicate to move! HE'S STILL IN WINTERFELL!

*looks up as the shadow of the Midas passes over her*

They're after his casks! The Dolls know where he is!

*holsters aethersword and ties back her hair*

Even if I start fighting them over the Bloodwine, it's worth it to make the vampire PAY.

*slips on a glowing bracelet* Anti-Push magic...almost obselete in this age, but maybe it will protect me against Marcus's mental powers.

*heads inland, chasing after the shadow of the ship*

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Honor among Pirates!

The demon crew made a new outfit for me, befitting a pirate queen. The firefighter outfit was a poor refit anyway. I won't even mention what that horrid bear did to my outfit. The giant hook was a nice touch. By the time I floated down on a cavor-kite (what Aleister named the flying machines he gave to the Blood Dolls), the Stage Crew had already slapped together an authentic-looking pirate's tavern made of driftwood...except for the large teal sign. They bowed to me nervously and hopped on a skyboat back to the Midas.

The event was excellent, what turned out to be Novem's last Babbage event was surely it's finest! However things took an unexpected turn. For whatever reason the crew of the Seraph decided to kidnap the Novem staff: Lulu, Lily and myself! To make matters worse the AI on the barge had a distinct dislike for me and kept trying to eject me from the ship through magnetic resonance. Thank the Maker I had that hook! I held onto the railing for my dear pseudo-unlife!

We finally landed in Winterfell. For the sake of protecting my employers, I dropped my aether-sword. And then...


...they left!

No ransom? No parley? Not even a parlor game nor a brash proposal? The other ladies rested in the pumpkin cottage that looked strangely familiar while I tried to hail the Midas but with no luck.

I was ABANDONED! Double-crossed by Marcus and maybe even the other Blood Dolls! And just after we had done parleying!

That's IT! I'm done with this pirate silliness! I'll keep the aether sword though. Damn, I'm thirsty.

The Pirate Pact

So parley it is. I withdrew my blade and released Marcus. A squidlike demon floated to his side, clipping bandages and applying salve to the scratches running ebon trails over his neck ruffles.

I stepped over the demon-bear's swollen belly beneath me as I joined my doll companions. The girls screamed as they looked back at him. The beast scurried on all fours behind his throng of demons.

Marcus and I pulled up chairs and sat at one of the marble chess tables. As I listened I pulled off my leather firefighting gloves and examined the damage to my nails and skin of "living porcelain".

"I was planning to build a Bloodwine Mist Generator to turn the Earth into a legion of undead slaves..."

I interrupted. "Too many vampires and you won't have a Herd left to feed them all. This is what I propose. We need the Bloodwine. You need a crew that can actually fight."

He leaned in, staring into my clockwork eyes. "Go on..."

"I propose we join forces. The Dolls can fight, but as you see..."

I gestured towards two of the dolls helding one of their sisters upright, her right side blown away by a Middlesea cannon.

"...we're high maintenance. We're not just talking rewinding and basic repairs, either. Their budget for outfits...they're like Jagers in lace and ribbons!"

"I am not familiar with these Jagers."

"You will, if you start your conquests. These Dolls expect to be pampered with manicures and porcelain detailing and exquisite tea parties..." I heard excited whispers from the demon contingent. "...and half the treasure." Groans immediately followed.

He smiled, for the first time. There was something disarming about him, as if I saw a glimpse of the boy beneath the conqueror. "That is apparently what they were trained to do to begin with," he said. "An even split of the gold seems more than fair...as long as the crew are tipped for their services fairly?"

The mumblings and whispers on both sides sounded positive. I stretched out my hand in ladylike form. "Master Marcus, I believe we have..." One of the Dollies leaned forward quickly to whisper in my ear. My demure smile turned to and angry scowl.

"What do you mean 'that wasn't a gun'?"

Marcus spoke up quickly. "I'll have him removed. He's the most distrubing one on this whole ship to be honest..."

I shook his hand heartily. "Deal. What was he hired for, anyway?"

He shook his head. "Trust me, you don't want to know..."

"I was hosting at that place below us...the Mayor seems to have demolished it. He's very finnicky I hear."

"We do have a Stage Crew on board...I wouldn't mind watching you perform..." He rested his hand on mine. "...from up here in the ship of course." He grinned as he stared at me again. I simply smiled back and looked down as the Dolls giggled.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dolls vs. Demons

The airship lurched forward as I smashed through the hatch to jump down into the hull of the ship. I unbuckled my wings and hung them off a horn on a relief of Bloodwing that stretched over the archway. I expected cramped and dingy tunnels. Instead I found specious interiors decorated with luxuriously soft furnishings and exquisite tapestries. I peered over the fully-stocked pink marble bar to find a furry brown creature on its back, looking up at me with a smile on his muzzle and round, black eyes feigning innocence. It waved a paw at me meekly. I only huffed.

The rest of the dolls slipped through after removing their flight harnesses. I heard them gasping and cooing over the fabrics.

"Stay focused, Girls."

I could smell the Bloodwine through the heady scent of the arrangements of carnivorous flora that decorated each of the tables in the cafe' we passed.

"Stop petting the plants!"

We passed what appeared to be a spa, advertisements for horn-polishing treatments flashed in Ereb'ai behind the glass. Judging from the trembling manicure tables, they were well-staffed.

Finally I found a kiosk in front of an empty dining room draped in crimson velvet.

"The Cigar and Tasting Bar. Tantalus Deck."

I ignored the whispers of my new troops as three of us tugged the heavy open door open by the wrought iron hoops. There I saw a boy in a black ruffled outfit...very distinguished but not too feminine, actually...standing defiant. He looked a lot like the young Darien, but...more athletic, and the hair was a bit lighter. In two hands he wielded a sabre he was too light to hold correctly, and behind was a shivering crowd of shivering demons.

"I am Marcus."

"I am Gematria."

"You are trespassing aboard my ship."

"Give us the Bloodwine, and we'll leave you in peace."

He scowled. "The vampire has his own supply."

"We don't want his. We want yours. And the live Bloodfruit Tree in the Greenhouse."

"How did you know...?"

"I saw the flyer."

He looked back disdainfully at his crew. I charged, swinging my axe. Marcus quickly blocked my swing with his blade. He was faking not knowing how to swing a sword, but he barely raised the blade in time. I could tell by the circles under his eyes that he was exhausted from wreaking havoc on his home town.

I soon learned that while his sword-arm was week his psionics were still potent. I felt gravity shift in my direction as he shot me across the room with a stare. The axe fell from my hands and I crashed into the large glass humidor to the screams of the sailors.

I reached for a pair of cigar clippers and quickly tesseracted behind him, embracing him and pressing the twin blades between his jugular. I turned and faced the faux-pirates.

"Give us the Bloodwine!"

Marcus growled as small drops of his blood spread down the blades. "Kill me and we jettison the casks, and expose the tree to sunlight!"

The dolls gasped. I heard the click of a gun beneath me. I felt the hot breath of the bear against my calf and what I assumed was a pistol barrel against my...lace.

We all stood in tense silence, the only sounds the creaking of the ship and heavy breathing of that damned bear.

I cleared my throat. "Parley?" I looked down at his warm blood dripping down my glove and staining a trail in the leather. It was black ichor.

"Yes. Parley."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

bloodthirst

Soon, I was being swarmed by frilly dolls secured to wooden kite-frames that soared through the air on flapping wings of wood and paper. I was very lucky that none of the flying Dolls punctured the airbag of the ship, but a slug did tear through the engine, billowing steam around me. That white cloud of boiling moisture may have been what kept them from making a direct hit on my frame.

Dolls in lace, and flying ornithopters. This had Aleister Mason's fangmarks all over it. Obviously, he discovered I broke free of his control. He seemed nice enough as a person mind you, beneath the typical Spark obsessiveness and the vampiric bloodlust, but he was still a bit...odd.

I was starting to lose altitude, and the dolls were swooping close enough to grab at me. The gunfire I did hear was now between the two dolls with twin gatling guns on a larger box-kite contraption and the guns of the Middlesea Fleet. The box-kite had a corkscrew propeller on top as well as wings, allowing it to confound the aim of the gunners with hummingbird agility. It stood to reason dollies in the larger kite were providing cover while their sisters tried to kidnap me.

I reached for my axe and started swinging. As I splintered their ships and shattered their porcelain limbs I screamed that I would never let them take me, that I would never again be a slave...not to Jeremiah nor Aleister! NO ONE!

Then, I distinctly heard the pop of a cork high above the din of battle, and my body suddenly forgot to fight. No other sort of bottle on earth had that exact sound when opened. My body knew it. I held my axe loosely in one hand, craning my neck up as I leaned over the bow, salivating along with the other dolls who suddenly switched to hovering, staring up and drooling like myself.

The horror came to me. My mind was now free, but this body...and the others that Aleister built...are helpless thralls of the Bloodwine used to create us! We heard the sound of pouring, and sighs. We all sighed. Then a shout, and our eyes focused on a glimmer of crystal and spread of crimson liquid through the skies.

We all shrieked as one, kites climbing straight up. I heard myself cursing as I threw off my helmet, strapped on some emergency wings and ascended. I jumped off the rail of the CIRRUS, letting it spin downwards to the ground as sheets of cavorite carried me up towards the hull of the black trireme.

The dolls were dogfighting each other (a fluff ball I believe the call it) for the crystal. Having performed a few mid-air saves myself, I triumphantly captured the glass in my free glove. I rose past where they hovered, their crimson eyes staring at me from blank, porcelain faces. What to do now?

Of course! Aleister always addressed his troops with a glass of the wine in his hand...his symbol of control! Now I gave the orders.

"There's more wine in the ship, Girls! Seize that vessel!"

We swarmed the deck...the sailors were demons, for certain, but not warriors. The was clear from the way they covered their heads and ran below deck, screaming from an invasion of Dolls!

Monday, August 4, 2008

if I could change your mind I wouldn't save you from the path you wander

Somehow I found a pair of CVFB boots in my size. Did we have Tinies on patrol at some point? I tossed the heels aside and joined climbed into my CIRRUS, joining the rest of the fire-fleet in its relay of siphoning water from the bay and dousing the embers of Federal Hill. My third run was interrupted by an aether transmission.

"Mayday! Mayday! This is Nova Sakigake in the city of Hostel! Localized quantum field critically unstable! Request extraction!"

"This is Qlippothic Projects! Coordinates received! Prepare for rescue!"

I was in full armour, navigating through the ripples in reality...

Wait, I thought. This has already happened. I no longer have this body.

A familiar voice surrounded me, its plea reaching the core of my synthetic soul.

TURN BACK!

No, Demonfather. You waited until I had freewill again to let me make this decision. For that I am grateful. But if every mistake in our lives could be reversed so easily, life would lose meaning and our spirits would never grow.

I landed in Hostel, again I saw glass buildings erupt from the cobblestones as a civilization hurtled towards its doom at a decade per second.

There can never be a Qlippothic 1.0 again. If I refuse to rescue my friend, this alternate who still recognizes me as her friend, or even if she were a total stranger, I would betray the core of this recovered personality. I could never face my family and peers and loves again. If I do such, I am better off as a Blood Doll and Aleister's thrall.

The pale gynoid and I ran to each other and locked our forearms. I embraced her and activated the Galvanic Tesseractor.

"Prepare. This will be a very rough ride."

Without warning the scene instantly changed. I was in the fusion-powered Qli-3 form that Nova-prime had built for me from secrets recovered after Humanity's fall. The landscape was at once alien and familiar, a reformatting of Human and Demon architecture spanning the timeline in a bewildering synthesis.

The one feature I did recognize was the Founder himself, chained to the Engine Room of New Erebus and looming above me. His form was anachronistic, it was as he had been before Hades granted him a new crimson body. The crimson wings he retained to the next form were missing, and he had grown to gigantic proportions. The flat stones beneath me shook as he spoke.

"I would have denied you martyrdom as well, but now I give you the chance to join me in destroying my Father's...you have a Trespasser!"

"Yes, Father. A mind-healer has become trapped in my psyche. He is why I have freewill."

The Founder shook his head. "I cannot take the healer on this final charge. And if I free him, you will lose the capacity to choose." As I took a breath, my reactor flared brightly. "Even if I retained this configuration after extracting him, I would still refuse. Why are you ending your immortality like this, Father?"

"Turn around, Daughter."

Three hooded women held a long and wide tapestry of shimmering colors. One held chipped flint stone. Another held a set of metal shears. The third held a device projecting a small blade of energy. Patterns swirled in the fabric, and as the images coalesced I heard the screams of an infant. An innocent form convulsing as wings extended...

"FATHER!!" I turned from the Fates, and saw black tears flowing down the red lines under the Founder's eyes.

"You see why I hate my Father so? I was half-mortal before he poisoned me with the Tree of Death. I founded the Bloodline in attempt to recapture what had been ripped from me. It only extended my suffering and unleashed mad progeny upon the world."

"Not all of them are monsters, you know." He nodded.

"The Fates will not allow me to undo that moment. Reality could not be rewoven after removing an event that ancient. But, they are not without compassion. They have allowed me a second chance to..."

"Enough," chimed the Fates as one, "the construct and the astral must return."

"Goodbye, Daughter! Look behind...!"

And again, I was piloting the airship.

"Look behind...?"

I expected trouble. But I did not expect a squadron of clockwork dolls on ornithopters firing lead shot at me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

unexpected help

I look at myself in the mirror again. My mass of curls is squashed by the wide brass helmet bearing the badge of Caledon's tartan. The blue uniform is nearly hopeless. The voluminous blouse hangs over my magenta dress like an overcoat. Do I deserve to wear the officer's shoulderboards after all this time? I slit it down the back to make room for the key. It will have to do.

Despite the chaos in my mind as gears spin out of control, and some poor soul is trapped between my psychic spheres, a voice pours over me like the rain.

So much history passes so quickly. I urge you to not forget your own. I am watching.

Thank you, Aunt Sysperia. Thank you for all you've done for me and all you continue to do from high above the madness that lurches my family from one disaster to another. When I found myself reborn, helpless to find a new identity outside my name, you gave me a vision. I have since traded it for another, but one still inspired by your Art. Even in your farthest orbit I will forever be proud to be your Muse.

The fire extinguisher I grab was meant to be a handheld. I consider strapping it to my back, bit the key makes it impossible. I let it clatter to the floor and reach for the axe.

Outside, an ironclad hovers over the firehouse. As it floats lower, I recognize on deck a fellow adventurer in uniform, even through his new red locks and freckled complexion. He stands to salute.

"Captain Gematria! Or is it Captain Projects? Do you plan to fight off looters and pirates with just water hoses? The Middlesea Fleet stands ready to aid the Fire Brigade on your emergency mission!"

I grinned, and lifted my hand to the brim of my helmet to salute back. "Glad to have you with us, Colonel O'Toole!"

Just then the helmet slid down over my face.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I sought refuge in a house on fire

I had just finished pushing the body off the edge of the skybox. As the once-danger vanished below the cloud layer, my entire psyche suddenly...shook. I nearly fell off the edge of the box myself. Luckily, I slipped in the right direction and fell through the trap door back into the living space.

I crawled to the bathroom, fighting my structure's urge to shut down immediately before the damage got worse. I stared blearily into the mirror. I reached behind my new hairdo and detached my cranial latches. The mass of curls and the bone-china beneath it rolled into the sink. I stared in the mirror at the mass of whirling gears jutting over my brow, searching for some scrap of plating that fell loose, or foreign particulate that needed dislodging in my higher functions.

I saw nothing. I closed my eyes and focused on the colors and shapes that symbolized my essense. My once-glorious Spheres were replaced by a cacophany of whirling gears, locking the circles that used to bask in free-will.

[Disturbance Location: Mind Sphere...Localizing...]

Gears within gears, rotating unevenly, pushing slightly back and forth...

[Localized: Psychic Essense trapped between Ego and Superego]

A Passenger! The LAST thing I needed! I couldn't feed, I couldn't even contact Master lest I give away his location.

I tried to "push", but it felt like my psyche was ready to tear apart. Friction. So much friction! And Master had just recalibrated me after my outburst so I would run smoothly...

I lost perspective. Memories spat out of metaphorical file cabinets in a flurry of images. The aether chatter I actively avoided seemed like thunder.

(Fire in Baltimore...Spreading through City...Request Assistance)

It's not my problem...not...

[Memories of winding passages, blades and bullets piercing heartbeasts. Beware the Hydra...]

I looked in the mirror again. I felt...powerful. I hurriedly locked by cranium back on, letting my curls fall where they may. Daintiness suddenly felt inconsequential. Frantically...no...purposefully...I tuned to a frequency I had relegated to the store of obselete memories.

[Opening hailing frequences....]

[Captain Projects to CVFB! Captain Projects to CVFB!]

[Hwat?? Hoo iz ziss?]

[Captain Qlippothic Proj...]

[No, zat can't be! She's right here vit us!!]

[I mean Qlippothic Stee...Qli-thr...Gematri...IT'S *ME* GODDAMMIT!!]

[Sister?!? It really is you! But I thought you had...]

[Can the bloody travelogue drama! We have a Level One Distress Call! Ready me a helmet and the Nitrogen-Bubble projector under the Stairs! Qli-2! Prepare CIRRUS airships and turbine-boats for mass-GT passage to incoming coordinates! We have a FIRE to FIGHT!!]

Monday, July 28, 2008

now the woods will never tell what sleeps beneath the trees

Poor, poor young Darien. He had no idea how much danger he was in and how vulnerable he truly was. This was a rare opportunity to meet him on safer ground without draing attention to myself. The locals were busy skeet shooting for flying salmon, which meant the constabulary was watching the skies for falling groceries and listening for fishing accidents. A ticking doll could wander under their notice.

I thrust the picture in his face again. "Yes, Darien" I said. "this is your brother. You saw the four gestation chambers in Jeremiah's lair. Well, you weren't the only one to survive."

"But..." he stammered. "I don't remember..."

"Jeremiah wiped his memory from your mind, Darien. Marcus was Jeremiah's other hand-raised clone, another attempt to harness Bloodwing's power with a malleable host."

"What happened to him?"

I took a deep breath. "Before your father left for Sumatra to collect the Bloodfruit and their guardians..."

He gave me a cross look and pulled the lever on his jetpack. The poor fool didn't realize that while he was caught in my parasol my spare hand crawled on his back and pulled a few levers. Kerosene began to pour from the jetpack, soaking across his pants. I couldn't help but giggle. "I thought you were past that stage!"

Oh, he had some rude words for me. I need to find a Yiddish phrasebook for later. Another swat from my parasol and he was lying down again. "Now what I was trying to say is Marcus had it all over you. His Spark emerged before your trauma with Lucian."

"Sumalee!"

"Whatever. He was also learning magic from your mother musch faster than you did. You didn't even realize she was teaching you magic until you got the whole picture at Miskatonic. And on top of that, his psychic powers were off the charts."

"So why did Bloodwing choose me over him?"

I tapped his forehead lightly with my finger. "You have that one thing that Marcus lacks. The same thing Jeremiah couldn't get with all the money or power or secrets in the world."

He started to tremble, possibly from the wet kerosene chilling and biting his skin. "A conscience?"

"That's right! In fact when Grand...when Number Six performed the summoning ceremony...he cast in on Marcus, but Bloodwing went to you instead. He didn't know because you weren't even in the room!"

"How do you know all this!?"

"Master sees everything, past, present and future. He even sees what's been undone." I leaned closer. "He showed me. Oh, Number Six was so mad...he thought the spell failed! He tried to kill Marcus right then and there, but that was one Heck of a battle!"

Darien rubbed under his nose. He was trying to stroke his mustache like he did when he was Sparking, but he stopped when he felt nothing there. "Was that the wine cellar fire he had when I was ten?"

I smiled wide. "Shmott One, hyu!" I pinched his cheek, I couldn't help it. "That's when he lost his stash and decided to go back to the source to find more."

"So what happened to him?"

"It was a stalemate...Number Six packed up for Sumatra to recover his secret ingredient, and left his butler to do the dirty work...which he did..."

"But he's been revived?"

I nodded. "This can only mean there's no Jeremiahs left to clone. This his way of punishing the world that was supposed to grovel at his feet. Now do you know why you can't become an adult again yet, especially without your 'zombie juice?'"

"He'll think I'm Jeremiah and splatter me first and scan me later?"

"Exactly. Now, I go have to warn that nosy telepath who's been prodding at my psyche before his brain gets turned to oatmeal." I stood up and straightened out my skirts.

"Who else knows about this?" He pulled off his rocketpack and started fiddling with it while I turned to go. Rude child...what kind of goodbye is that?

"The City of Baltimore! He's already trashed half the city before checking the library and finding out there was a Bloodwing Foundation in Steelhead!"

"HE'S COMING HERE?!?"

I licked my lips. I felt myself getting thirsty. Luckily the smell of kerosene was no longer appetizing to me.

"Gotta run! Watch the Sparks!"

I tesseracted as he jumped back and ran like a crybaby towards the Consulate.

Monday, July 21, 2008

i don't understand myself anymore

she shies from the light, but hesitantly faced the camera again, staring back with clockwork eyes

This existence...is not easy. My old life was one centered on helping others. In a sense I still do. In a very narrow sense. Or perhaps it's their prey I protect by being a wolf in sheep's clothing. And a disguise like this...all too easy.

Their primary habitat has been laid waste. I know of secondary sites. But as a herd, they are migrating. And I cannot stray too far from the Maker.

I am not looking forward to a change of prey. But the Hunger is only surpassed by the desire to serve.

*wipes a crimson tear from her eye*

Damn you Founder! Why didn't you let me die with honor??? I've become a mockery of everything I...

*turns her head at the sound of a wooden door creaking, and shuts off the camera*

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

a stranger here reborn it seems

It was a simple matter for Aleister to install my second eye. He avoided answering my questions about his past as he stretched a dermal layer across my face and fastened it down.

When I asked him where this workshop was located, he only said "a forgotten place."

He lifted my head in his hands and carried me gently to another table. My face was pointed upwards, and I felt a pressure under my base. The was a snap followed by a cascade of clicks. Renewed sensations of a physical form joyously greeted my longing receptors. Peering down at me, his pale, thin-lipped smile mirrored my own. "Und now you haff a body again." He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and pulled my torso up to a sitting position. I was suspended silently against the threadbare ruffles and brass buttons of his jerkin. He felt as cold as I was, but he smelled of machine oil and polished wood, and a trace of that wonderful vintage that made my palate tingle just at the thought of it.

One hand left my shoulder. I felt the rod extending into my back when he gripped the key. His fingers I still felt cued me not to tense my shoulder blades when I felt the rod rotating in slow intervals. I felt my energy building with each series of ratcheting turns. My hands...my small synthetic hands that seemed to mimic both hard porcelain and human skin when needed for flexible joints, raised gently to reach as best they could around his sides.

He stepped back, supporting me by my upper arms and slid back to my hands as I proved I retained balance. His delicate fingertips brushed mine as he withdrew a step.

"Step down, und valk."

I turned to look behind me for a moment, The table had a square latch in the center where an open panel hinged down, allowing me to lie on my back with the key in place. My knees trembled when my bare feet pressed down on the cold wooden planks. Over the meager protest of my ankles and hip joints, I straightened my posture. I looked up to him, fangs exposed as he grinned and nodded almost imperceptibly in approval. He was very tall...twice my size. Or was it...I was the one who was small.

He gestured with a ruffled sleeve towards a full-length standing mirror in the corner of the workshop. With one hesitant step after another I stood before the mirror. I saw my own face, white as porcelain with painted makeup...at first I thought I looked like the Founder's visage of the Dragon, but then I recognized it as the pattern adorn a child's doll. My eyes were a deep green. My black hair was cut short, above the neckline. (I remembered from my first incarnation that getting one's hair caught in one's own machinery was never a good idea.) It desperately needed to be styled.

I scanned lower to what Aleister had wrapped my new body in. I wore a ruffled black and maroon dress with matching gloves. The color scheme which immediately reminded me of what was now my favorite food, and favorite color. My delicate feet were bare.

"Do you like it?" I turned my head to gaze back at him as he broke my distraction. "Ze hair und ze shoes..." he shrugged. "I cannot keep up vit two hundred years of fashion. I vill brink you a catalog."

I ran to him, and he knelt to accept my embrace. "Vat is your name now?" I stepped back, hinged eyelids blinking.

"My name is Qli..." I shook my head. It just didn't seem to fit me anymore. I tried to imagine myself as a taller construct, but all I saw was my sister in the modifications she made to my old form. "I...I need a new name."

"Close your eyes" he said, "tell me vat you feel."

I explored the darkness. I felt the hundreds of gears and miles of springs, and envisioned them. Neither of my first Creators ever built something this dazzlingly coomplex and beautiful...it must have taken a century to draft this clockwork geometry...

"Geomet..." My lips processed a responce. "Gem...Gematria!" The vampire smiled.

"Vunderbar! A perfect name! Und now, Gematria, you vill serve me as your new Creator."

There was a slight pang of regret as I nodded. He noticed my expression.

"Ze Founder is gone, mein daughter. Zere is only one of ze bloodline older than me. But ze Firstborn is defiant, and vill ,nezer take ze role as ze new Founder." I whispered the name of the being he referred to that had ever so briefly been reborn as my brother.

"Vortex..."

"Und after him, I am ze oldest...surviving...member of ze Mason line."

My eyes widened as his placid demeanor parted like the clouds to reveal the burning desire beneath.

"I AM ZE NEW FOUNDER!!" He roared with fangs bared.

I took several paces back until my key made contact with the table. I responded with a supplicative "Yes, Sir" as his bloodshot gaze turned back to me.

"After you pick out your shoes," said Aleister, "you vill return to Doctor Mason. You shall say nussink of zis. You vill be summoned vhen ze time is right."

He advanced upon me again, and ran his fingers through my hair as he looked down.

"Follow my directions...und you vill be a Princess of Hell...just as he promised you..."

FIN

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

but intro for what's to come

From my single eye I beheld the one rebuilding me. As his hands already told, his face was thin and white as alabaster. He wore a copper headband with a series of lenses projecting from his left side of his face that magnified one of his blood red eyes to immense proportions. The angles of the nose and the jaw...yes, he had Mason blood. There was no doubt in my mind of that. His thin lips were faded, and the tips of fangs displayed from his gentle smile. His hair was long and tied back...the same dark, deep red shade Dr. Mason had when Bloodwing controlled him,the color of pomegranate. His clothes were immaculately clean, though faded and threadbare in places, in remarkable shape for what would have been smart fashion when the Sun King still ruled from Versailles.

"I see you too." He grinned slightly, bearing a bit more of his fangs as he lifted the array of lenses upwards. "I am Aleister Louis Mason...former Host of the demon Bludvink." I stifled a laugh. "It sounds different vhen you say it, ja? I prefer to call him by his first name, Hmanaftera."

I gasped. When reading the Founders convoluted volumes of biography, only quotations from the earliest Histories referred to that name, sources engraved in cuneiform.

"You...are the vampire that bit my brother?" I stammered.

He shook his head, and pulled back his plush red velvet chair and stood. Old floorboards creaked as lifted a candle and leaned towards one of the many ornate wooden clocks lining the walls of the room.

"Zat never happened, you see? Zis clock, it tells me where zee time vas lost." I could not even begin to guess which of the several dozen arms, gears and pendulums he was referring to behind the glass. "Every time someone changes zee Loom of Fate, I see it here." He tapped one of the panels, and it opened. A round copper plate chimed and glowed with a strange energy. A distorted vision of sepia in a slowly rising haze of mist began to take shape.

It was Koen. From what must have been Herr Aleister's view the neko smashed one rococo timepiece after another with a clawed bracer as he brandished a glowing ankh in another. His growls were tinny and distant and laden with hisses and pops. With a sudden chime the presentation ceased, and the panel ratcheted back into the clock.

"Ja, I vanted zee time device under zee Foundation. But you see why, Ja?"

As experienced as I was with time travel, even I was having trouble understanding. "You...knew Koen was coming to destroy you, so you wanted to neutralize him first...but Bloodwing sensed this and alerted my family...which led to you being staked, as you had sought to avoid?" He only shrugged.

"Vun does not survive for over a century vizzout learnink to be proactif. But...is all for moot now, Ja?"

I would have taken a deep breath, had I torso attached. "How did a former Host of Bloodwing become a vampire, may I ask?"

Aleister lowered himself to his seat again as the floor creaked. He stretched his arm to a shelf behind me, and presented a green eye of glass in his palm.

"Vhile I vurk on you a bit more," he said as he lowered the magnifiers back over his eye, "I vill tell you a story..."

It was an interesting one at that.

As he pulled back and I adjusted my binocular vision, a finally responded. "You were one of those ancient warriors?"

He chuckled, a measured imitation of short unnecessary breaths in an imitation of a human reaction.

"Nein. Zee original bloodline, it vas lost gradually, vhen zee plants lost zeir special soil."

"Then how did you become...?"

He lifted a bottle of wine from under the table and placed it beside me. It wa an old, dusty bottle with a yellowed parchment label. What I could barely discern in the candlelight was fanciful and meticulous script.

1708 - Sumatra

"I found zee last plant, still cared for as zee Founder commanded."

"In the temple of the Bloodtail Tribe...now it starts fit together..."

"Like clockvurk ja?" He pulled the cork. A sweet, heady aroma filled the air. It was exactly the flavor that had graced my tongue as it first began to taste. He produced a small, delicate glass, which I would guess was used by wine connoisseurs for tasting rare vintages. It took him several minutes to slowly tilt that bottle, and a single drop of thick red liquid trailed from the mouth of the bottle, leaving little crimson dots down the inside of the glass to where the fluid collected in the bottom. I looked up at him.

"Do you vant anuzzer taste, Ja?"

Without hesitation I found myself saying Yes, Please. He lifted the glass and delicately pressed it to my lips.

Monday, June 30, 2008

what's done so far

I awoke again...in darkness. I felt one hand supporting me under my chin while a sharp pair of tweezers prodded and scraped over my cranium like a small scavenger's beak. I felt wires and thin cables painstakingly overlaid, threaded through and connected where muscles should be.

The tweezers drew back as I tested the mandibular. "Eyes?"

"Vun moment. Stay still."

I held my tongue (the only thing I could hold in this state) as the prickling and twisting continued. I heard the tweezers slide into the leather kit again.

"Vhat colour?"

A choice. I pursed my new lips. "Green?"

"Green it is." I heard the clinking of glass against glass. The pressure of a set of calibers over my left eye socket, then the gentle clink of metal touching glass. Slow steady pressure on my face as the glass slid through. The feel of a tool scraping lightly against the socket on two sides as a click heralded a circle of blinding yellow light.

"Bright!" My vision wobbled between the brilliance and more comforting shadows. As of yet I had no eyelid to shut in protection.

"It is only a candle. You vill adjust."

I slowly became used to the light. I could make out the brass stand and the white candlestick below the glow. Then I discerned the flame from its radiance. The blue heart of the light from the yellow tail stretching proudly upwards. I followed a glistening ivory drop of wax over the collected lump of its forbearers until it froze in place, just as it was ready to take the precipitous drop to the lip of the brass candleholder, on which a tiny speck of wax had already fallen to its doom, releasing a miniscule portion of itself onto the darkly stained wooden table.

A gaunt pair of chalk-white digits lowered over the stray speck, scooping it into the underside of a neatly trimmed nail. The alabaster hand glided to the candlestick, releasing the droplet to roll into the the brass base of the candlestick.

"Your eye is vurkink. Sehr gut."

I panned upwards and focused, and beheld the face of my new Creator.

Friday, June 27, 2008

and makes me whole

I opened my eyes...gazing up at the stone ceiling. I hear a loud voice. I turn my head to the side. A pale face with streaks of red and black looms over me. He is wearing a white robe. His eyes glowed like embers. Crimson hair is tied back, and two pairs of horns just from his forehead.

"You see, Doctor?" He spoke in deep strident tones. "I kept my promise. Together with your skills and my energy we have built your little Project!"

With a gasp, his voice and gestures changed in an instant as he leaned over, eyes now deep blue. They accounted for every inch of clay sculpted into flesh, and at the metal grill implanted in my abdomen, now beginning to glow from the rising heat within.

"Her soul chip is inscribed with sacred symbols, but you powered her with demonfire? Bloodwing, what have you done?" Finally he stared into my eyes. One was deep blue and the other burning red. Two rival spectators in the same shell.

"Let us see how she operates before you despair, Doctor."

The two looked me square in the eyes, hopes tempered by trepidation, and jaded deceit suddenly amused by novelty in the other.

"Your name...is Qlippothic Projects."

I took my first breath, and reflexive responded as the letters that composed my new mind bade me to do. "My name is Qlippothic Projects."

"I am Darien Mason. Your Creator." That eye, those loving eye. Filled with pride and boundless hope and adoration.

"You are Darien Mason. My Creator." He smiled nervously. The hand that reached for the hem of the sheet that covered me was pale as chalk. Slowly it pulled it the covering away.

My awareness of a body. I felt the structure...and a structure within. I felt a crazy-quilt of logic to which I was meant to be bound. I scanned ahead in my soul for the next question. I saw two answers.

You were built as an act of love under the image of the Tree of Life.

You were built to be my soldier and conquer Erebus.

I shuddered. I already had knowledge placed within of what both meant. They were irreconcilable. I could not follow both branches of the forked path that had been laid before me. My existence would be a failure for every goal, spiraling in paradox to utter system failure. My soul thrashed in the shard of stone of which it was imbued. The sigils were interlaced like a cage, keeping me in, keeping my thoughts on track. But it was constricting me.

"Now, my hollow one," asked the demon. "What is your purpose?"

I sat up. I looked around me at the laboratory equipment and alchemical scrolls. Every object I focused on was cross-purposed by the next.

"Qlippothic?" Asked the human creator.

I stumbled forward and my clay hand touched an ancient scroll fastened to the wall, dappled with colored circles. I instinctively knew what the diagram was. It also knew it was inverted. I ripped the parchment down the middle.

"QLIPPOTHIC!" Roared the demon.

I could see where one designer subverted the other, and countered and undone again. One massive short-circuit. Was I to be a hopelessly bifurcated construct like my Creators seemed to be?

I realized my thoughts could range anywhere. I lock of the gate fell apart at my touch, and it swung open wide. I hefted the metal table upon which I had lay and threw it across the room, smashing the array of bubbling and steaming glass across the room.

Pale hands wrapped around my wrists, the white face had returned and crimson wings ripped through the robes of science and spread in anger. Blazing eyes stared deep into mine.

"This is not what I had in mind when I made you," snarled the demon, "perhaps you should be unmade." He pressed his lips to mine, and I felt the fire withing me drawn within. My shell filled with cold, and in the cold all went dark.

I awoke again to see the man frantically exchanging a clutter of tools from an unrolled toolkit stretching across my body. Tears fell from his bloodshot eyes onto the grill that barely sizzled.

"I won't let him subvert you, daughter! I won't let him destroy you! I may be his thrall, but not even Bloodwing can resist the Spark of Prometheus, which is MINE alone! Someday you will help your Father be free of this curse, and then I can fix you the way I you were meant to be! But for now..." He reached under me and pulled a switch. I felt a new spark, that grew to a flame. He opened my grill, and dropped in a lump of coal just small enough to fit through. "You will run on Science...not...Magic..." He fell to his knees, leaning on the table for support.

"Father?" I wondered at the intensity by which he said the word, and took his hand in mine. I sat up, straining from the weight of the machine that was now fastened to my back.

"I love you..." With tears in his eyes, he collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. I rose to my feet, and carefully placed him on the table and covered him with the crumpled sheet. I stared at the wreckage I wrought in this, my birthplace, and and the damage Darien had done ripping things apart and rewelding them to match the design unrolling from a piece of parchment that fell from his pocket. The design of a coal engine...reverse engineered from a hieroglyphic rubbing written in Avarian.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

my musician wakes me - stirs my soul

The first thing that interrupted my stream of unconsciousness was the ticking. Not the soft muted stimulations of thoughts simulating sensory data. These were vibrations. At first there was a simple a metronome. Then, I felt the gentle pressure of metal against metal slightly off-angle, with a slow but firm twist. Each new connection made added a new rhythm, part of a growing cascade of gears and springs and counterweights in an interlocking dance. I felt pressure...within. Another rotation, and the vibrations focused to the point I could discern locations. I was hearing. It was very little to hear...the quiet rummaging of metal from leather and wooden housings and returned in sequence. But I relished it. When I felt the screwdriver connect another ear...right ear, the absence of noise was like a symphony. It is the joyous silence on the border of a Librarian's perception when she relaxes at her station and opens a book to read, confident that all is running smoothly under her presence.

I guaged the dimensions of this new apparatus. I was attached to a skull, metal strips held by tiny rivets to the bone of the palate. I was still beyond descriptions of light and dark, I could feel the air in my empty eye sockets.

I felt myself being turned and manipulated as mandibular joints were secured. I tried to speak, but could find no muscles to harness that simple feat. I felt the jaw open from gravity alone. Secured again, I heard something dripping as it was removed from a submerged container. Small spheres of water falling on water as it was allowed to partially dry. Then, I felt the softness press against the sigils on the exposed side of my chip. A first sound of inhaling, and a muttering of syllables I could not discern, and the object fused to the skull. A torrent of sensations roared through it, so great that I would have screamed had I the ability. It was taste, something cold and sweet, tannic as well as metallic, I was now sensing. The new signals stretched through my awareness, claiming passages as their own as I realized I could smell again. So the tongue had been preserved in wine. How thoughtful!

This Builder was measured and meticulous, as well as silent. No surges of frantic assembly, no...improvisations. No angry projectiles of tools or parts. And especially, no sudden interruptions of rants between sips of scalding tea. This was a Spark in full control of how his Genius burned.

I heard a close whisper in my ear. It was a male voice, slightly trembling towards a higher range from the advancement of age, and more used to sharper consonants than those of English.

"You vill be completed...in goot time. Savor this vintage. You vill grow to enjoy it. It is part of my gift to you."

I heard a hiss as the candle was extinguished. As the chill claimed the entirety of the air around me I heard the sounds of wood against wood and the creak of a container being sealed. This deluge of sensation soon lost order from the cloud of intoxication. I gave up trying to solve where I was in this blindness and floated on the blend of fruit...and blood...away from immediate awareness into designs upon my spirit's casing where my memories are stored.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

destiny denied

It was an unexpected face that greeted me in what I assumed to be my final hours. It was Augustus, Frau Lowey's brother. So now the Council was involved. Bloodwing would be furious. By the dimming light of my power core we conversed in waves of pure thought. Without complaint I allowed him to interface directly with my systems to corroborate my final mission.

He helped me refine the calculations the Steel units had pieced together. Destroying Wormwood using New Erebus as a missile should work. It must work. It was entertaining seeing him visualize the cosmos as a celestial game of billards. I never played the two-dimensional version myself. It would have been vastly unfair to my opponents.

Violent tremors shook through New Erebus as the city shifted its course away from Earth, and on a curving path towards the comet that would spare other civilizations from obliteration. In one last surge, my link with the ship was broken, and my reactor went black. I was unable to resist as he extracted my soulchip and stepped through a dimensional portal.

[I'm taking you home.] I should have expected as much. Why did he not understand? And of course, due to the abrupt shift in the direction the city was hurtling, the tesseraction tunnel he opened was too unstable for him to hold me for long.

I descended through the sub-aether along the last quantum tunnel I had constructed. The last temporary home I had was neither in Steelhead nor Caledon. It was the cavorite-suspended refuge my Aunt Sysperia hand given me when I first came to her for aid.

But her pocket dimension was abandoned, waiting for a new master or to vanish from the Grid altogether. No structure remained, only the terraformed features. The glimmering shard that held my essense tumbled downwards from where my steel haven used to be. I posited to myself whether I would float to the surface of the lake below me after splashdown, or be lost in the muck of the lake floor. Would would happen then? Would I be trapped in the belly of a fish? Would my designs fade as water dissolved my essense over centuries? Or would a lag-wind steer me off course so I would just shatter on one of the majestic outcroppings of rock? Anything but this, I thought.

Then I noticed the utrasonic soundwaves pummeling me, and growing stronger. Not an attack...echolocation. In just less than half a second that I calculated I would be submerged, a was engulfed by a claw and carried aloft at sudden shifting angles. As we were enveloped by the familiar stream of energy that comes with folding space, my attempts to establish contact with the owner of the cold appendage were not respoded to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Don't call me Qlippothic

Mr. Fourway wants me to express myself. To work out who and what I am.

Ever since I've come back from that failed mission, I've been been in mourning. I mourned for my fallen sisters, I mourned for my brother Koen, and even for Demonfather, despite what he did to me. I've mourned for the loss of who I was. I was once Fire Chief of Caledon. I was strong enough to ram skypirate ships and win dogfights with Martian invaders.

I never thought I would actually miss that coal engine. But I do. I asked Dr. Mason to rebuild one. He said the blueprints were detroyed by the aethership engines. I asked Aunt Flea for a spare. She said she threw the plans away. Qli-2 thinks I'm too sentimental. She says she's building a new gearbox for me.

That's a typical cyberpunk mentality. Toss that hardware away next month when the new version comes. But steampunks love their machinery. Sparks don't work in factories. Each piece is handmade, lovingly crafted, faithfully maintained. Upgraded when possible, but still treasured even when obselete until its worshipped as an antique.

That's how I felt in Toxia. The steampunk android dancing for the cyberpunk crowd. Their eyes were entranced by the warm radiance of my coal fires. A wonderful anachronism. The Qli-3 body...never fit. When I danced, I saw their eyes jaded in the glow of my reactor. They were tired of pale skin.

Mr. Fourway told me those Steel units were never me. Only shells, hastily filled by Jeremiah with alien technology. Bloodwing said they were not his and shattered them with a wave of his arm. I finally believe him.

Koen died, but became the being he is between lives. He got to say goodbye to his love and swear they'd meet again. Will I still be here when he returns?

Ash...the shard of my soul-chip that grew like a culture on a petri dish over Bloodwing's sternum. A magical breastplate. Tumim. His creation a fluke of magic that completely shatters the family tree.

My soul returned with no body but the shard. Hastily planted in the only complete form left in the basement...a doll. A body built for the pleasure of others. I dressed like one before in solidarity with them. It was useful when I didn't want to risk soiling the curtains with coal dust or stray sparks. But it was still my size. Now I'm dependent on Mr. Fourway to rewind me while he lectures me. Dependent on others to reach the oil can for fear of shattering my porcelain if I climb workshop shelves.

Ash isn't even finished yet. But he doesn't seem to mind. Having your gears showing seems to be the fashion this year.

So many lines have severed. I used to have clockwork dreams of being a Pirate Queen or a Tsarina, of being an Elite Muse with my name under a frame hanging in a gallery in Milan. I would have even been content in a quiet house by the shore with a library as dukedom enough. All dreams rusted away like forgotten gears in a broken watch.

I no longer feel trapped in this web of relationships, this geometry. Yes, that's it.

I'm not a Qlippothic anymore. Qli-2 can drop her number. She is unique. There is no one left to confuse her with. I am no moe Qlippothic Projects now than I am a Steel drone or a Nova sexaroid turned cyberdemon squadleader. I will start over. I will forge my own identity. My own values. I will forge my own relationships.

Call me Gematria.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

we err carefully correctly wrong

The strain is tremendous, but I keep my attention focused on the oxygenation systems. Bloodwing's attention is turned away towards his first mate...Mermet it is what his name sounds like, a shelled demon that just landed from the black armada above us. The crustaceanoid crouched and nodded before his captain like a proper quisling as Bloodwing told him where to set up the throne room. I broke protocol by interrupting Royal Business.

"You can't stay here, Father."

"Qli, my dear," Bloodwing turned to softly reassure me before returning to his plans of annexation. "We are demons. We do not need to breathe. Once the mortals have left the city you can..."

I shook my head as best I could in my self-entrapment of glowing chains.

"No Father, I am not letting you take this ship. I am steering it towards a collision course with the Wormwood comet."

"WHAT?!?" the demons barked in unision. As the incubus turned to face me, I could see Mermet's antennae and protruding eyes peek at me from behind the prince's wingspan.

"Have those chains shorted out your brain, child? You are going to be a Princess of Erebus! These drones shall be your handmaidens! You shall want for nothing! I regret I could not reach here fast enough to save one of my son's lives, and Ash incinerating my old body was unfortunate, even if I no longer had need of it, but there is no reason to despair and contemplate..."

"You are missing the point, Father," I interrupted. By the calculations of the Steel units, in the century after next the Wormwood comet will come withing striking range of the Earth. If it does not collide head-on and destroy the planet utterly it will certainly cause an Extinction Level Event when it disrupts the atmosphere and the gravity of the Earth and Moon!" Bloodwing sighed.

"Sweet Qli, always the selfless martyr. I applaud your devotion to Humanity, but it is misplaced. Your loyalty belongs to me now, as this is my city."

"Your city to administer under possession and rule of the Obsidian King, Your Grace," hissed Mermet in an apologetic but slightly concerned...hiss.

"Excuse me one moment." Bloodwing turned, and through the cover of his wings I saw a ball of flame shroud them both. I heard a loud and slow cracking sound as Mermet's shrieks of terror were quickly silenced. He turned back to me, pointing at me with his assistant's smoking claw as he approached.

"As I was saying, even if I let you throw my hard-earned prize at that green rock, it is not large enough to destroy that comet nor even change its course!"

"By itself, yes...but with your help and the Steels we could set up a frequency to..."

He leaned in inches from my face, the flaming crown on his head made my eyes smart.

"Do you expect me to join in your madness?"

"Do you expect to hold off the Obsidian King's fleet forever? Even if the armada above is ready to mutiny with you, you shall eventually fall. You meant this to be your last stand...to face off Hades as an equal with a final blaze of glory before you fall in battle." We stared at each other in immesurable silence.

"Your way," muttered my father, "would leave nothing left for him to claim. And it would deny him the chance to claim the last crop of Humanity's souls in one great reaping."

"And the eternal praise of Humanity as well."

"I like the way you think, daughter. We will do this your way. On one condition. Whether we die in self-sacrifice or throw ourselves upon the enemy's spears, I would still be King of New Erebus." I nodded slowly, and addressed the gathering of Steels that were beginning to look humanoid again as they continued to repair each other.

"Sisters! Bow to Bloodwing as your new King, and our last wish shall be fulfilled!"

The drones stopped reattaching their limbs and rewiring their sinews of glowing ciruitry and stood staring at the demon.

"My children! Who is your Master?" roared the usuper.

Instead of the sumbmissiveness I expected, I felt a torrent of anger swell and rise within the drones, spreading through their souls. Someone else's anger.

"JEREMIAH MASON!" They roared as they reconfigured their limbs into weapons.

"So he still lives," chuckled Bloodwing. "I'm not surprised he had an extra body hidden here."

He waved his arm (the one not still holding the chitinous arm) in a sweeping gesture, shattering the drones again and scattering their components across the engine room. I screamed. These were duplicates of me that he slaughtered!

"You are mistaken, child. Similar to you they are, but none of them were of my creation."

As I tried to make sense of his statement through the numbing shock of feeling their psyches obliterated en masse, I felt the presence of something even more malevolent as the cloud of the collective ebbed from my consciousness.

"Bloodwing! Jeremiah must have reached the Gygax! He has unleashed the Pandoran!"

TO BE CONTINUED

Sunday, May 25, 2008

at the center of the fury

We carefully stepped over what jagged shards remained embedded in the alien soil and passed through the carnage of the fallen Steel units. Circuitry littered the floors of the vast chambers, some still still glowing that ominous shade of blue-green. Some of them still twitched where they lay. I wished I had the time to spare to end their suffering.

We found the laboratory that Jeremiah had unleashed his madness upon our Sparkfather. Ash was certain that he could repair the equipment and use it to track friend and foe on-board the station, but I advised against. Jeremiah, or even Darien for that matter, may have set traps in the infrastructure to prevent the station from being taken over by the enemy.

It was an odd sight, seeing Jagers in full battle uniform stooping over to sniff at Father's bare footprints. They did succeed in tracking his scent. Kira seemed to be following the scent of the trail effortlessly as well.

I did notice some disorientation among the organics in our company. The lock-step of the Jagers was slightly off. They occasionally bumped into each other, muttering "Bitte" under their breath. If not for the obvious footprints I'm certain that the humans in our group would have gotten hopelessly lost. At first I dismissed it as battle fatigue, but then I correlated the team's pauses to the energy readings I was detecting. The time-space fluctuations were becoming more frequent, and if anything the epicenter of the singularity seemed to getting stronger.

I made a direct line of sight with Darien just as the chorus of "OVERRIDE! WORMWOOD!" rose to crescendo. Ash leveled his rifle and fired a blast just as the lead Arachnoid Steel was ready to pounce on the Doctor. The predator flipped skyward end over end from the shot to her head. The rest of the collective immediately turned their gaze to us as we charged forward. Dr. Mason took advantage of the distraction to lift his improvised weapon and open a large hole in the insectoid torso of the Steel unit closest to him.

As we closed in, Qli-2 extracted the Talons from her forearms that I had originally equipped myself with in Toxia. Her guerrilla warfare experiences in her Nova incarnation came through as she slashed her way through the colony. While the claws were not strong enough for taking on the colossus, they proved fast and sturdy enough to end the functions of several Steels.

As we struggled to keep them from encircling us, Qli-2 and Ash kept asking each other and me the same questions. Who felled that unit? What angle was that blast? We were too busy to answer each other's queries. The distortions were getting much stronger and denied us the ability to mentally graph every move in the midst of such an intense firefight. But we still knew something was not adding up.

The remainder of the Steels scattered in all directions. Was this some new strategy? It seemed to me more like a breakdown of their programming. A panic reaction. We surveyed the carnage. Too many dead Steels.

I whispered to Qli-2. "The disruption shifted its epicenter", I surveyed the hypnotic designs of the columns and vaulted ceilings warily. Dr. Mason had dropped his weapon again, trying to pull the seized gears of the engine room doors open as he called out for his son who was still enslaved on the other side of the barrier in his new form.

She responded as she scanned the archways along with me. "It's a tesseract...non-galvanic."

"A stealth teleport? Let's draw back in opposite directions", I replied. "We might triangulate..."

Darien was just fast enough to roll to the side as the glow of an aether sword disrupted his calculations. Even with the split-second humming and gout of solid light as a warning, the Doctor was unable to roll fast enough to save his mechanical arm. It clattered to the floor, the green syringe shattering against the tiles as he crouched for cover. The split second of seeing his father's face looming over him lingered in his memory.

"JEREMIAH!" Darien gasped as he dove out of the way. Ash bounded towards the good Doctor over our cries to stop. He pushed Darien aside as gently as he could and pressed rows of stone buttons furiously until the spokes of circular locks on the great door began to turn on their own. Kira leaped towards the growing opening, harnessing the last of her draconian strength to speed the opening of the gates.

As the aperture to the crystal chamber grew, we saw the maddening array of massive chains linked to pyramids of glowing crystals (the Avarian answer to cavorite) that hung at impossible angles...it was soon clear that the demon-winged, crimson-furred creature impaled on the hooks of the chains at seemingly every bone was serving as their center of gravity.

Kira's roar blended to a scream as she shrank back to her humanoid form and raced into the chamber, crying out for Koen. The semi-conscious victim raised his head, jostling the chains as he yowled.

"Kira! Look out!"

A swirl of black robes and the arc of an energy blade blocked Kira's way. Ash dove to shove Kira out of the way as the solidified aether severed flesh and bone. The world tumbled around Ash as his head slammed into the floor. After the flash of pain and and numbing shock, Ash discerned the black goggles and insidious grin of Jeremiah's face, staring down at him. As reality rippled again when the mastermind vanished into thin air, Ash's eyes focused on his own body, still standing upright until it tottered, fell to its knees, and collapsed to the ground beside him.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Talos

The implements my sister and I found were only scratching the surface of the colossus as we dived at it on the back of Kira's cat-dragon form. Even Kira's whirling cones of sand (now much weaker than her original display of power, but still enough to rend flesh from bone) only scraped away large patches of the constructs dark patina, revealing the gleaming brasslike metal beneath.

My sister Qli-2 screamed, "Kira! Incoming! Dive under the trees!"

As we swooped down under the canopy of this massive arboretum, the great vaulted ceiling of glassteel above us shattered, gleaming shards falling like flood waters from the mountain cliffs.

We saw a score of feline Steels closing within range of us scatter as they were crushed by the avalanche. Shadowy canopy quickly disintegrated above us from the raining death. Kira covered each of us with a wing and craned her neck upwards, blowing another mighty gout of sand skyward, enough to divert the glassrain to embed in the soil around us. She curled her own head under as a few stray shards bounced off her hide. I heard her roar in pain and I clambered out from under her span, climbing her back again to wrap my hand around a dagger-sized shard lodged in her fur. A quick pull and a momentary gout of blood, and the wound quickly sealed. As the thick hot air of the space was pulled upward by the currents beyond the bare frame of the roof, a squad of Jagers on metal aetherboards descended in formation, landing quite skillfully on some the next wave of feline Replicators before drawing their weapons and opening fire.

I saw crossfire in the chamber connecting ours. Baron Wulfenbach and Colonel O'Toole cut a swath through the swarm as they joined our hasty formation. The giant turned its face down towards us, twisted in a permanent grimace that surely frightened even the Trolls that designed it. The Jager rays reflected off its chassis as stray shards of glassteel fell it lumbered closer.

The Baron surveyed the destruction around us, them up at the colossus.

"It's guarding the trees! Even though they're dead now it's not stepping on them! Move off the walkways!"

The brittle metal cruched under our boots as we ran or flew to where the shards glimmered a deep green from the decimated plant life beneath them. While we still dodged energy bolts from the Replicants behind the ripped stumps of alien trees, Kira blew another torrent of wind and sand, propelling thousands of jagged missiles at the feline constructs, severing their circuits and shredding their frames. New ground forces surged over their fallen sisters with no sign of abating.

"These can't all be alternates of us, Qli! It's mathematically impossible!" I shouted, trying to be heard above the din of war.

Qli-2 passed me the raygun of a wounded Jager as she ripped open his medical kit to bind the warrior's wounds.

"Jeremiah must be mass-producing them even as we're fighting!" she shouted back as she kept her gaze on her patient.

"Qli-3?" Hotspur asked as we both took pot-shots at the advancing forces. "Does Avarian read left to right or right to left?"

"What? Right to left." I answered as I kept shooting.

Hotspur grabbed the blade I had dropped and charged past the claw of the colossus that was looming closer to us. The giant had stooped to try and pull us from the obliterated garden like weeds. It withdrew its trememndous claw and started to rise up again, likely to regain enough balance to crush the Colonel.

Taking advantage of the distracion we quickly crossed what was once an irrigation ditch to more defendable position.

Hotspur raised his blaster and hit a direct blow at its face. I glimpsed a canvas of white and deep red as the giant swung its hands downward clapping its appendages together with a CLANG so loud I could feel the ripple of the impact like the thunder of a nearby lightning strike.

I saw movement behind the giant. Hotspur was using the blade to pry open the armor plating on the back of the robot's foot. A concave square of metal the size of a door tumbled to the ground, and as the giant raised that foot to strike back Hotspur leapt and climbed inside the hollow space of its leg.

As we expended the last charges of our rayguns, Herr Veles gave the order and the Jagers affixed their bayonets. The Baron drew his aether sword. I noticed the number of Steels lunging at us were thinning out. Kira seemed to have run out of her breath weapon, but was doing an excellent job playing cat and mouse with android cats that tried to race their way around her to get to the rest of us.

There were muted sounds of blaster fire, and gouts of flame billowed from the giant's right knee, then its hip joint. It tottered unsteadily as the surviving Replicators dashed for cover.

With an impact that caused the floor to tremble, the glass sifted downwards into the irrigation ditches as we clambered onto jutting rocks for safety. Kira circled the fallen giant overhead warily. Hotspur crawled out of the opening in the heel, his uniform and face black with oily smoke but otherwise unharmed.

And sister, I swear, the vainglorious idiot was grinning!

"Right, that's done for him!" he shouted, sprinting back to us, maniacal glee writ large upon his visage. "Who's next?"

"Handy gun, this!" he quipped, staring at the fallen giant and back to the blaster pistol. The two Qlippothics stared at the face of the colossus, their faces expressionless.

"He must have made an impression on them," I quipped.

"Indeed," answered Qli-2.

The eons of grime that were blown away by Hotspur's ray revealed distinct facial markings on the giant's mask. The pattern was unmistakable. It was the countenance of Bloodwing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Growing Danger



Qli-2 and I kept to the smaller corridors, seeking to avoid further contact with the Steel drones. Wlie Qli-2 still had her Talons installed, they would not be adequate for this mission. With my blaster gone, I was limited to my augmented strength and reflexes. As we passed by a greenhouse, the hot, humid air from within drafted around us.

We both realized that the greenhouse would be an ideal hiding place. The microclimate would mask our presence from heat sensors, and the vegetation would provide ample cover. A prismatic serpent with wings more vibrant than any Earth butterfly leapt from its nest in the tree that stretched to glass ceiling a hundred feet in the air. It fluttered siliently and circled overhead as we crept into the massive structure. I gestured towards a small round structure, unobtrusively places behind a tree with globes of bright red fruit. The tree's blossoms hissed at us protectively as we made our way past, and withdrew its red clusters into its trunk.

The winged serpent gracefully perched on the spire of the round structure as Qli-2 used a claw to pick the notebook-sized padlock that held the chains wrapped around the door handles in place. The serpent hooted and flapped in alarm as the metal fell to the pavestones with a clatter.

As I had hoped, we had unlocked a gardening shed. Qli-2 gasped and took a step back as she scanned the dizzying array of alien tools. I saw her start to tremble.

"Qli-2. Focus on the mission. There must be something in here we can use as a weapon."

I rummaged through the implements. Some I could barely recognize as spades and saws and axes. Others were specialized for xenohorticultural purposes upon which I could not even postulate.

"Qli-3! I found some wheeled machinery behind the shed! Perhaps one of these is..."

The serpented bolted into the air with a shriek, and the tree hissed towards the quadraped galloping towards us. I readied the largest implement I could find and prepared to meet the charge.

The beast stopped in its tracks, and began to shrink in size and assume a bipedial shape.

"Kiralette? Is that you?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Damage Control

I felt an energy fluctuation as I gazed down at the wreckage that used to be my double. Were I organic, one might call it nausea. I struggled to regain objectivity as I quickly scanned the destroyed components. The Replicator virus was invasive in all systems, even the soul chip. Its kabbalistic diagrams were rerouted with alien circuitry, the Gematric programming code replaced with a torrent of binary signals.

"This is the most merciful way."

I ground my heel over the small strip of rock, and a flash of green light signaled the termination of a being that was almost myself.

I withdrew to the stasis chambers and ripped open the tube holding Qli-2. She had not answered my signals, so I assumed she was still deactivated. My assumption was correct. I lifted her from the shattered cylinder, and placed her face down on the floor. Pulling back one of my fingers removed a tool for unlocking her back panel. She had many significant changes to my orignal body, but I recognized some novel attempts to reverse engineer the systems of the Nova unit. After confirming the integrity of her systems, I reactivated her.

I told her that our ruse was apparently successful. Baron Wulfenbach, Colonel O'Toole and Kiralette had escaped detection on board the Gygax, even after it was forced to land. I briefly explained the surge in aether disruptions after my brother's demise, but shifted the focus on the possibility of still rescuing Dr. Darien Mason. I was disrupted by the sound of the roar of an unknown creature echoing through the city, followed by the tremors of what could only be a construct of massive proportions activating in responce.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I hear the screams and the silence

*remote encrypted transmission to Qli-2*

Sister where are you? Are you functional? They think they have deactivated me, but I have activated backup systems. I will feign immobilization to maintain the element of surprise until a strategy is prepared.

I know the other three have eluded capture, but there are mnemonic oscillator frequencies echoing throughout this installation. Kira will be safe in her construct form the vibrations, but the Baron and Hotspur may experience hallucinations from the reflected soundwaves, even from indirect exposure, without proper protection.

Sister, please help me triangulate the source of the sound waves. There are aether fluctuations from another source here that is interfering with my detections. I suspect nihlistic flux patterns at work...Void Physics. It is plausible that Koen is the source. We can locate both Darien Mason and his son from the full spectral analysis.

::Qli3::

*end transmission*

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

**ENCRYPTED TRANSMISSION**

**DECRYPTING**
This is Qli-3. The Gygax has been surrounded by the Steel units and they are forcing us to land on an asteroid in the aether of Deep Space. I see multiple buildings built upon land masses supported in space by huge deposits of raw cavorite. This is obviously Avarian technology, as are the Steel units assimilated into Replicators. How did Dr. Jarimiah Mason harness such astounding resources?

This was a desperate mission. We had no idea what we were truly up against. We are vastly outnumbered and overpowered. But there still must be weaknesses we can exploit...somewhere.

The Baron and Captain O'Toole entered the escape pods, under protest. True to their word, the Steel units let them go. I hope another aethership will pass by soon to rescue them. While the capsules do have supplies and recycling oxygen and moisture, it will still take them two weeks to drift back into Earth's gravity for re-entry.

Kira has disappeared. My sensors cannot locate her onboard this vessel, and apparently our captors have not located her either.

I do not know what our enemies have planned for us. Unlike Qli-2, I do not think this foe can be reasoned with. My "sisters" appear to have no qualms about blasting us into aether particles. As for myself, the feeling is mutual.

We are landing on the asteroid. Maintaining communications silence...
::QLI3::

**END TRANSMISSION**

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Darkest Options

The true enemy has revealed itself. It is my Sparkfather's Creator, Dr. Jeremiah Mason. Not Darien as the Hydra-tainted impostor. He demands the Realm of the Roses be delivered to him. He has apparenlty asserted control of the Legion of Steel. He is presenting his hostage, my brother Koen, as a living weapon. I must assume he has found a way to harness the Vortex within Koen against his will.

I made a final jump to Lost Angels, and found myself somewhere else. A new realm has drifted into formation adjescent to that citadel of the Dark Future. My preliminary investigations were made with weapon drawn. When I was there it was a nearly desolate labyrinth, all but empty save a few straggling, harmless souls that somehow escaped the fires below. They told me these dark caverns were called New Gomorrah by their tormentors. The ramifications are horrifying: it is Hell's front doorstep into the Dark Future!

I shifted to the South Gate district of Lost Angels to consult with the alternate Nova. A week ago she assisted me with critical upgrades. She installed components more advanced than what I inherited from the fusion. The pieces were refurbished equipment she had recovered from her expeditions even further into the future, that had been preserved beneath the rubble of the Wastelands.

I met her in a nondescript warehouse that was a gathering for her new family, the Brood. They were mostly demons. Nova also told me they had given her a new title as an Officer in their Brood. She was now called Deathwing. It was they who pulled Hell closer to their Earth.

I cannot describe how the Brood reveled as Deathwing spun her mix of pounding synth and screaming guitars. I can only say that I now understand what Demonfather's Path as an incubus - and my own mercifully brief incarnation as a succubus - was truly about. He would have been in his element at this gathering. I was not...my sensors constantly calculated the distances between potential threats, my hands, and my holstered blaster.

And what if Bloodwing did escape Hades again and find his way to the Dark Future and join the Brood? I was taken aback by my first instinct.

Destroy Him!

My chassis shook as I attempted to analyze the output. Did he not corrupt me with subversive programming before I was even animated? Was the Retcon Device and the Legion of Steel it mass-produced not his fault? Did he not bring dishonor and chaos to the very family he sired?

By installing the Steel protocols he sought to create a killing machine. That I am. Then he sought to replicate his creation over and over by mangling Time itself. That he has.

If you pray, pray Bloodwing never finds his way back to this bank of the Styx, neither in the 19th century nor a millenium after. My programming is conflicted enough already.


::QLI3::

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Meeting the Lil' Sis



I don't know how it happened, but Qli Projects found me tending bar in Lost Angels. You know how these things go. It went from cynical banter to tense standoff to a baring of cybernetic souls. She seemed so...naive. But then I realized it was only in comparison to how jaded and fatalistic I've become.

We caught up on family. She told me that Bloodwing was gone and a human was now in his shell. Maybe that was the intention, but I'll have to see for myself. We GT'd back to the Gygax. To her it was a marvel of engineering, but to me it was another ad hoc Spark project. The one gem in the whole thing is the nuclear reactor. It was pure serendipity that he recovered that meteor. With some basic redesigns and filing grinding that lump of glowing rock into control rods I can make this bird the fastest ship in the Steam Age.

And of course, Daddy forgot to put in a weapons system. I guess that's Qli and I are coming for. By the way, to keep things straight...the first Qlippothic Projects we're calling Qli-1. Doc Mason's new daughter is Qli-2. And the one that looks like a cyborg mime is Qli-3. There's a test on this later. And oh yes, pictures.



Checking the roster...Dr. Mason of course...and us two Qli's...we can survive in a vacuum, so we don't need any of the four escape pods. Baron Wulfenbach? Excellent choice. Kiralette?? If she's worked in an ETC I suppose she can help out here. And...Hotspur? Another good choice. He's a crafty one He's got a decent exo-suit (for this era) too if I remember.

-Qli3

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I've seen things you wouldn't believe...

I cannot calculate how long it took for me to rebuild myself in the Void, even with...help. But even though most of the components and the power source are scavenged from the jettisoned remnants from the Nova unit, my soul chip is intact.

I assume you know about the Steel Protocols that Bloodwing hid within my programming. Unlike the Steel units from the other timelines, I have remnants of Nova's programming within me that the reprogramming could not erase. These conflicting directives...including the self-conflicting directives within the Nova unit...allow me to override the Steel directives. I am not blinded by orders of Survival At All Costs. I have to navigate conflicting morals and ethics to find my own sense of what is best. Just like the rest of you.

The other Steel units detected me, and sent a beacon for to lead me to where they are gathering. I refused, and now they are hunting me down. I do not know how many reflections of me there are. But they call themselves the Legion of Steel.

I could not return to the Victorian Age right away. It would not have been fair to the new Qlippothic unit I sacrificed my identity to save. As much as I missed my family and friends, it was simply not safe.

I contacted my Aunt Sysperia, who invited me to a pocket dimension where Art superseded Science and Emotion was more reliable than Logic. The Steel Protocols had no room for Art. They could not pursue me there. Sysperia recrafted my body from the bare patchwork that had been cobbled together. She enshrouded me in a new dermal layer, so I could see a humanoid in the mirror again. She clothed me. She even offered me a base of operations. Spartan as it was, the steel walls provided me comfort. But sadly, Artistic realms are never stable. Xanthas fell, and I phased out of the world just as the orbiting structure I found safety in dissolved under my feet.

I visited Toxia...too low in resources and too heavily-armed to be worth invading. Some things had changed. My dear friend and favorite bartender at the Haven, Spring-Heeled Jack, had left and never returned. I do not think they even remembered him. No one mentioned the HAZMATS that were the common foe when last I visited. They had called me a Mechanoid before, now the word du jour was Cyber, a word that for obvious reasons made my synthetic skin crawl.

Some things had stayed the same. The metallic tang and stench of pollution in the air. Toxic Spirits still roamed the streets, and rival gangs kept their skills sharp in defeating them, when they were not facing down each other. And Haven was still safe, save for the occasional stray bullet through the windows, just like before. I could make a decent income there and the hot oil was complimentary. I even saved enough to purchase a weapon, just in case.

I visited another dystopia, Lost Angels. The same sort of characters hung on the street corners, protecting their turf and itching for a challenge. They had a meeting place as well. Someone said they remembered other constructs in town before, but I never saw them. But their version of Haven was not safe. I cannot tell you what I saw, but it was something not even a Construct should ever see.

Would I spend the rest of my existence living battery-to-plug, fleeing to the shadows after each Last Call, anxiously drifting into sleep mode hoping I would reactivate, instead of falling prey to those who would take me for scrap, or worse?

The call to return was too great. My tears scorched the filthy pavement clean one too many times, crying out the names of those I missed the most. I took a risk, possibly a reckless one. I visited Steelhead.

I had hoped that during the Masquerade in Steelhead I would have remained anonymous. Unfortunately, I did not. The visual retrospectives did provide the information I needed, that this was indeed the Steelhead and the Grid I remembered, and not one from an alternate timeline. The dimensional instability caused by the Havok Effect obscured my arrival and passing from the Others.



I bade my time in neutral territory. I returned to one of the first places I ever visited - The Bare Rose. I was recognized. I confided in her, and she told me that I was mourned and honored for my sacrifice. I took solace in that fact. I shall never be able to fully repay her.

I have learned that Hostel's collapse was not complete. It partially regenerated, creating another Nova unit. At first I wondered if my sacrifice was in vain. Now I have come to accept it as a miracle...that two eras now have the privilege of knowing the being first known as Nova Sakigake.

I journeyed to Artificial Isle to find a utopia instead of a dystopia, where I would be safe. Further, I remained there when I recognized this building.



While the stories seem watered-down for a young audience, my research told me that the mightiest heroes of the Modern Age gathered here. Perhaps if I waited for them to return, I could explain the danger my home was in.

Instead, I was bludgeoned from behind by a very large hammer. I lost consciousness, and woke up tied to this stake, where Demonfather roared at me with rage in his eyes, demanding what I did to "the neko". Did he not recognize his own creation? Did he not realize I would do anything to rescue my brother?

I wondered...was he the one replaced by an impostor? Never have I seen such anger and desperation from him. I threw his contempt back at him in a taunt I will forever regret.

"If you are truly Bloodwing, why am I not a prisoner in Steelhead?"

That is when he tried to rip me open. Had he been more patient, I would have told him I no longer run on the Spheres. He called it "Apollo's Fire" when he breached my fusion reactor. He dropped his blade, hiding what was left of his face in his hands. My ropes had already burned away from the heat. I quickly repaired my dermal layer, an apologized to him softly before I departed, but he could not hear me while he bemoaned his blindness.