Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jason Jones Samples Cuisine

Jason Jones gave a sigh of relief as he entered Kongwen - by his guidebooks' report, the center of supernatural activity in Manchuria. He had gotten really, really sick of walking over the last few days. He walked a little distance further, looking around, but not forgetting to hold his shoulder bag carefully, though theft seemed less common in this smaller city. After a minute of travel past shouting hurrying pedestrians and street vendors - one of the latter shoving what looked like an adult magazine in his face. Somewhat discomfited, Jason looked elsewhere, a moment later seeing what he'd been looking for - a bicycle vendor!

Jason pulled out his phrase dictionary as he walked over to the vendor. "多少价是否成本?" he stuttered out, pointing at a bike that looked around his size. (How much for that?) The vendor smiled broadly, pointing to a sign next to him. In thick block type, it reads "150元 20$". Jason put the dictionary away and paid up, receiving a bright yellow bicycle for his money. He walked it through the thicker crowds, buying potstickers on the way (he was hungry!), and then began bicycling back to where he'd seen the centaurs.

When he'd gotten near the site of the fight, he stopped to eat his potstickers. Fortune did not favor him. The wind turned just as he was about to take a bite, and a wave of foul-smelling industrial odors from the north filled Jason's nose. In surprise and revulsion, he dropped his potsticker on the ground. "Dang you, ammonia!" he shouted to the unheeding sky, and biked onward.

He learned that it's harder to track centaurs than he'd realized - and harder if you're bicycling on a Chinese forgery while you're trying to do so.

Twilight had fell by the time Jason reached his destination. The centaur he was following seemed to have realized that Jason, or someone else, might follow him. Jason came very close to falling off a small cliff that the centaur had circled around for seemingly just that purpose, and several times had to hunt around near rocky ground (that didn't hold tracks) before he could continue following the trail. But the potstickers that he managed to eat kept his mood up (they were delicious! - though he wasn't quite certain what meat was in them), and he arrived at the centaur campfire in a good mood.

Four centaurs squatted around the campfire, roasting some sort of meat. Two were - definitely female - the other two were male. All of them looked up as Jason approached, then looked down again. "Go away," one said in a thick accent.

This was not what Jason had anticipated. He'd expected a fight, or at least anger - not this apathy. He said, "I want to find the monsters."

This provoked a reaction. The centaur who'd spoken before - who, Jason suspected, was the one who fled him after the first fight - laughed sharply. "You want find - monsters? You kill Zhang. You kill Won. Now we starve." Staring unbelievingly at Jason, the centaur said, "They take you to monsters!"

Jason looked around the campfire with new eyes. The centaurs were dreadfully thin in comparison to the ones he'd seen in America, and the meat they were cooking was pitifully small if it was to be split between them. A twinge of remorse wakened in his heart, but he pushed it aside. The centaur who had spoken was jabbering to the others in fast-paced Chinese, and in the moment of inattention, Jason looked to the sky. A speck of blue moved slowly across the white clouds. He laughed - bringing the centaurs angry gazes back to him. Jason gulped. He needed a plan.

Thinking quickly, he opened his satchel bag and took out his remaining potstickers, wrapped in a waxed paper bag. "You get this, and - some dollars - if you lead me to the monsters. Not prisoner. Not captive. OK?"

The talking centaur raised himself wearily to his feet. "OK. You give us food now," he dictated.

Jason hesitated, then handed over the bag. Each centaur took a potsticker, gulping it down greedily. One of them ripped a chunk off the roasting meat, handing it to Jason. "You guest now. No kill. Eat."

Jason looked at the meat with a great deal of uncertainty. Then, slowly, he bit down and ripped off a chunk.

It could have been worse.

-

Jason Jones slept uneasily that night. The ground was rough beneath him. The chill of the night was unfamiliar to him. And he worried that the centaurs would betray him after all, and take him bound to their "Great One."

The next day, he set out with his centaur guide, riding his bright yellow bicycle. He was off to find the monsters.

Chemists Do It...

They gathered around the great black table, solemnity inscribed on their faces. None of them were younger than forty. This was not a place for young men. Ritually, the leader asked, "Are we certain that this must be done?"

There was a respectful pause; then the others chorused, "Yes."

The leader nodded. "So be it, then."

Beakers and flasks and cylinders, filled with solutions clear and colored, were brought around the central vat. Bunsen burners were lit and set to heat the dread cauldron in the center. Water was poured in first. Then came the others - aluminon, potassium ferrocyanide, and other strange and rare chemicals. In they went, in the proscribed order and sequence, and colours swirled as precipitates formed and melted away. Never did gases of poison or acid swirl into the air - these chemists were too experienced for such disastrous errors.

Then the time came. The chemists stood back carefully, and their leader brought forward a great cube of white metal, six decimeters in each dimension. With a shout, he dropped it in. The cauldron erupted in smoke of a thousand hues, and, guided by the carefully prepared channels above it, formed runes rededicating the staff of the Chemistry Department to the chemical gods.

The staff cried out in ritual exaltation as the smoke swirled - then the smoke faded away, leaving only colorful stains to be remembered by. It was done, as chemists do it: on the table, periodically.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Salokin

public class Salokin {

private static boolean isEvil = true;
private static boolean hasBeard = false;
private static boolean hasMonsterTruck = true;

public boolean deceive(boolean x)
{
return !x;
}

public int delude(int x)
{
return ((x + 13023) * 320 % 60312 / 55 % 3203 * 3202562 % 1203);
}

public void TeachOughtThatDothVaryFromTheDoctrineOfTheApostlesAndOtherDoctorsApprovedByTheChurchsCensure
(InnocentMan i)
{
i.heresy++;
God g = new God();
i.blaspheme(g);
}
}

The Search for Love

David is waiting. It's a rare silence that falls around him now. Corpses lie stacked around his feet; he kicks one aside idly, then reaches into his pocket and lights a fat cigar. Smoke curls up gently into the sky.

David is waiting for the holder of his heart; the one who bound his heart with hoops of steel. Many have attacked him, hungry for his blood, or fearful that he complete his mission. He is more than a match for them.

The cigar burns out half its length before the silence ends. Wild screeching sounds from far above; as David rises to his feet, strange and feral creatures fall from the ceiling. David whips out his shotgun, faster than any normal man, and blows his attackers out of the sky. He sidesteps their ruined bodies and pulls his cigar out of his mouth, stomping it on the ground. The attack has begun.

Creatures surround David from all sides; some screaming and charging, others hanging back and launching attacks from afar. He dispatches them all with equal skill, smashing them down with incredible strength as he whirls through the battlefield like a dynamo of death. One creature he blasts apart with a shotgun blast; in the next moment, he uses that same shotgun to smash down a charging screamer and drops another enemy with a pistol held in his off-hand. The enemy cannot touch him. It is glorious.

But in the heat of battle, David for a crucial moment neglects his purpose. He forgets to keep watch for his heart-bound one - and when he sees her, walking obliviously by, he fears it is too late. Charging recklessly, he tries to break through to her, shouting his battle cry ("死んでいただけませんか!"). The creatures, sensing his intent, mass to stop him; in no direction are they more numerous but in that of his beloved. David attacks with even greater vigor and skill - and, with a perfectly-timed explosive blast, the enemies before him are blown aside, and the path is clear. David runs as fast as he can; but before he can reach his target of love, she vanishes through a doorway, and a half dozen more creatures drop from the ceiling to block his path.

She is lost to him.

David howls in wordless rage and sorrow. The enemy is driven back before him; soon, they scatter, daunted by his horrific prowess. But the damage is done. The battle is lost.

David resigns himself to wait, lighting another cigar. She will come again. He will see her, before all is lost.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Anger

(Read Worry first to get a better understanding)

My suspicions are confirmed. Night fell, blackness replaced what little light there remained and I sank. But then my heart leapt up, I trembled in anticipation. She walked in leisurely, though gloomy for the ages, covered in black and terribly late. She dolefully and quietly accosted me and then told me she felt sickly, never looking me in the eye. And then she turned around full circle and quickly walked out the doorway.

And then left without a trace.

I have no-one but myself to blame. I was the one who screwed up. I was the one who went where I shouldn't have. Where I don't belong. Where I would never belong. I should have just stayed content where I was. But I could never be content. I thirsted, I lusted for more, ever more. I trespassed unto their land, where I had never been before, and surely will never go again. I went too far. I pushed forward and slipped. By God's hooks I tell you, can they not just take it as a compliment, can they not simply accept it, can they not let it be.

I am so filled with rage I cannot more wirte correctly. I scorn all men I scorn myself I am the sole giulty party I am a criminal I cannot be forgiven I cannot firgive myself

but I must move on

Worry

I sit here and I worry.

Have I erred? Have I committed such sins great and terrible upon innocent ones? Or is such the better of the possibilities? Mayhap if it is not about me at all, what if it concernes someone else? Yea, though my thoughts do run wild what if some very crafty fellow hath gotten the better of me? I peer into the side of my window, but no light emanateth, no happiness runneth towards it, no signs of life or any matter, motionless it doth lie, as I sit, and I wait, and I worry.

For now she should have come hours ago.

Nay, criticise me not, I know to presume, 'tis the truest of human nature, I do it bold so, yet can I be attacked for it? Hear me, I discourse only my own faults. Cuiusvis hominis est errare, nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare. Have I played the fool? What impunity have I so wrought on the conscience of men such so that I am condemned as this? Our language flows fickle, words taken for granted can take on meanings anew whenever least convenient for the speaker, words that were spoken the the kindest jocundity, words sweet and pure, that carried with them not one dram of ill intent, yea, they doth turn sour in the air, and pollute the minds and opinions of humans who hear them. But the time has passed. The stream of time cannot be reversed by mortal men. I can only wait, and pray.

My fears become compounded as the time passes. To presume I was at fault now seems a trifling matter, not worthy of such depiction, not deserving the letters with which they are spelt. Nay, can a stranger be at the heart of the matter? Surely her heart is not as such a malleable matter, surely she must put up some resistance to this affront, surely my efforts cannot all be for naught. A man, bold and swift, built Herculean, silver of tongue, smooth of style, irradiating, emanating machismo, doth come and talk false words to her ear, doth promise matters impossible, and he doth run with her, run to a house of wickedness, and into my hell. What if she is gone from me? What if she never returns? I cannot know.

For now there is only the lonely void.

Slimenian Rebirth

(Continuing the story of the Slimenians, from here and, later, here.)

We put the treads in reverse, and kept them there for days. The army jogged to keep pace with us at first; eventually they fell behind. They stopped at nightfall. We didn't. I had smashed the Schwartzmann's treads, but it could not be long before they were repaired, and not long after that until the Schwartzmann pursued us. We needed all the time we could get, if we were to stop the Schwartzmann Tank.

As we traveled, some of the braver of the surviving crew members climbed out onto the front of the tank, to try to clear away the junk we'd improvised for armor and salvage what munitions we might. I dared it twice myself. On the second attempt, a sudden lurch nearly severed my tenuous grip on the hull and tossed me down to the ground a hundred feet below. After that, I stayed in the command room, supervising, barely able to keep myself from bouncing in frustration and powerlessness. Every delay, every cliff too high to roll over and every tree that jammed the treads brought the Schwartzmann Tank closer to us, as it followed in our tracks.

At the seventh daybreak after the great battle, after seven days of sleepless, ceaseless travel, the rebel tank rolled back to the wreckage of the Emperor's shield, the Schliemann Tank. Dr. Cid was still there, tinkering with the wreckage. As we approached, he waved to us, grinning broadly, and shouted things we could not hear. As the tank came to a halt, and all the crew walked out to greet our beloved leader, Dr. Cid's grin faded. "Where are all the others?" he asked.

I was too slow in answering. He answered his own question. "Lost. I had not thought that in victory, even against Slival, you should lose so many..."

I approached him, and slumped down sadly. "No," I said. "We didn't win. The Schwartzmann Tank is coming. And if we don't stop it this time, everything we have won is dust; Slival shall be a worse dictator than the Emperors ever were."

It did not take long after that to explain all the rest to him. Unlike the rest of us, he was not cowed for long. He rose to his feet, asked rhetorically "If you could go so far, destroy half the Empire's might, when you did not even possess (at first) a tank of any sort, what cannot you do with one?" and immediately set to work. We were all ordered to our positions, as we were when first we set out to repair the tank; attach this cable! Fetch a wrench! Test these links before I put them to use! We kept a ready crew in the tank for fear that the Schwartzmann Tank might appear without warning; but the sun fell below the horizon without his coming. We labored beyond the sunset, for as long as we could in the twilight's dim night; then, at last, all of us set to sleep.

We were awakened by the dreaded sound of tremendous treads rolling across the land; the Schwartzmann Tank, come for us at last. It was too dark to see as anything but an outline; still, we set to fight, rousing the sounder sleepers and preparing for battle. We fired the first shot, by some miracle - a rocket arced out of the cannon and lit it briefly by the sputtering light of its exhaust.

In return, the Schwartzmann fired a large iron plate, knocking our rocket (saved from the time of the War, as all of our weapons more advanced than rocks were) from the sky. Then it launched a barrage of tumbling bombs, each twice the size of a slime by diameter. We rushed to counter, and fire lit the night sky.

Our armor was in tatters after the first battle with the Schwartzmann tank, but in a single day, Dr. Cid had worked miracles to repair it. The side armor from the Schliemann Tank, only somewhat warped by the blast that destroyed the Schliemann, was levered up and bolted to the front of our own tank. It was a crude solution, but it saved us from certain destruction. Slival's bombs and rockets were largely deflected. The few that made it through our counter-fire damaged our re-armored hull, but did not destroy it. And as our guns took their toll on Slival's still-damaged hull, we thought that he depleted his own supply of archaic munitions; for his fire slackened and slowed as we continued undaunted.

Of course, then he sent in the infiltrators. They had served him so well in the last battle; why not again? As they arced over behind their iron shields, Dr. Cid, seized by a fit of inspiration, shoveled poison-gas shells (looted from the wreckage of the Schliemann Tank) into the cannon. Our enemy's weapons burst against the protections of their own; and, in so doing, left deadly clouds that the infiltrators sailed through mere moments later. The results were predictable; blinded and weakened, the infiltrators bounced off the hull and fell to a grisly end. Slival's ploy had failed.

He knew better than to try another wave of infiltrators - Dr. Cid was ready with more gas canisters. Instead, he launched one last desperate barrage, blowing great holes in our armor as we struggled to knock his shells out of the sky. It was very, very close, and one rocket actually blew so far through the armor that parts of its shattered nose-cap lodged in the floor of the command room. But he exhausted his weapons, and we were still firing.

We thought we'd won. We thought that Slival would retreat, or else fight it out to the desperate end, firing even as his tank burned around him. We misjudged him, and goggled in surprise as the doors to his tank opened and his men poured out around him as he charged across the battlefield toward us. The Schwartzmann, dread tank, terror of all for decades, was struck by our last rockets as he charged, and finally erupted in a column of black-rimmed flame, blasting Slival and his crew forward. We strove to aim our cannon downward as we loaded them with poison-shot; but he was already past our cannon's furthest depression before we could fire. We tried to run him over; but the jerry-rigged armor repairs dug into the ground, locking us in place. And Slival lowered his terrible black iron helm, gathered himself, and smashed through the door. The enemy was inside. All we could do was rush down to fight him, before he smashed our engine in the same way.

The fight was utter chaos. Our crew somewhat outnumbered Slival's, but Slival was an army in his own right, turning whatever slime he encountered into a fine spray of jelly. Our prospects looked poor as Slival barreled unhindered through our ranks toward the engine room; but then Dr. Cid stepped foward to block his way.

Slival stopped, then. He pinned Dr. Cid against the wall - not pressing - examining him curiously. In a voice somehow more normal than I'd imagined, he asked, "Why did you betray the Empire?"

Dr. Cid had no strength to match Slival's. He, as Slival, had lived through generations since the Empire's founding; but, in contrast to Slival's unholy longevity, the years had clearly marked Dr. Cid. All he had were his wits, and his courage. He said to Slival, "Why did you betray the Empire?"

Slival answered immediately. "Power. Immortal greatness, at last within my grasp. And you?"

Dr. Cid answered, with a long sigh: "Conscience."

Slival thought about this, as the fight raged behind him. Slival's crew were falling faster than ours; but it was all for naught if Slival struck our engine. He at last decided, "Conscience? A crutch for fools and weaklings. I set it aside long ago. You are no fool; thus, you are weak. And I have all I can bear of weakness." Then, with a twitch - a twitch! - the spikes of Slival's black iron helmet were in Dr. Cid; and the life drained from his eyes.

Slival was then, I believe, about to enter the engine room, and end all our efforts. The most courageous thing I ever did was to stand before him then and say, "You are weak."

Slival puffed up in fury, and I, stammering, continued. "Y-you lost your tank. You lost your crew-" who were, even now, surrendering to our superior numbers. "-and soon you will lose your Empire. I have destroyed tanks. I have toppled an Empire. Which of us, then, is weak?"

I was gambling everything on the old stories, telling of a Slival who, in the time of the War, fought for blood, for power, but most of all for primacy. I challenged him: "We will fight. Here. One on one; slime against slime. And the victor takes it all."

He did not bother to respond, but rather charged, nearly crushing me in his first attack. I dodged aside, and smashed him as he turned. He shouted in fury, and charged again, lightning-quick. Again, I dodged (losing a bit of slime off the side as he passed) and hit him.

Slival was not stupid. He recognized the pattern, and settled down into a more cautious attack, jabbing at me with his iron spikes. I dodged, but I could find no method of attack; any attempt would end with me spitting myself. I was near despair; but Dr. Cid's words came to me. "If you could go so far, destroy half the Empire's might, when you did not even possess a tank of any sort - what cannot you do with one?"

I had a plan now. I dodged back, leading Slival carefully towards the control room. He followed, twice nearly impaling me with unexpected strikes; but then I was there, and next to the cannon I lifted a bomb and tossed it at Slival in one smooth motion before he could react.

We were both knocked back by the force of the explosion. When I recovered, I saw him on the floor; helmet cracked and broken, spikes all snapped off. He was trapped, pinned by the helmet in a corner. I picked him up, and, acting on the spur of the moment, tilted the upper cannon as high as it could go and launched Slival out of it. As I watched him fly, I said, "The earth cannot welcome him; but perhaps the night can."

We worked for a little while, cleaning the mess, moving Dr. Cid's body in preparation for a proper ceremony. Then - all exhausted - we finally went to sleep. As I closed my eyes, I could see the sun rising at last.

-

It was all easy after that. Imperial resistance was token - nothing could resist the might of the tanks. The cities and towns welcomed us jubilantly. The Emperor was found trying to dredge another tank; we captured him and held him until we decided what to do with him. We also seized the Emperor's fleet - his last mad project, a fleet (on an island that has never had any ships larger than fishing-boats) designed to seek out new land. We thought to burn it - for in those days we were concerned with repairing the damage the Empire had wrought, not wasting precious resources on a hopeless search for land beyond the horizon. Ridding ourselves of two problems at once, we decided to launch the Emperor out to sea with a token crew, threatening him with death should he ever return. An execution, we thought, was a poor start for a new era; and exile was unlikely to cause complications.

Our government was, I think, wise and kind - imperfect, but better than what had preceded it. We ruled for many years. And sometimes I would gaze out at the night sky, and wonder if Dr. Cid had found any peace beyond us; and if Slival had found some strange redemption, before the end.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Firebats

This is the problem with trees. It's hard enough to get into them, what with the spikes and all. But once you wedge them aside and start climbing - assuming you've kept your gloves intact, of course - the firebats start coming at you!

Look. I'm no wimp. I can deal with a bit of fire, here and there. Heck, I once stuck my hand into a campfire - just to find out what it felt like! (The verdict? Hot.) But firebats are nasty. They come at you, quick as lightning, and if you're not just as quick you're down and rolling and you've lost all the progress you made.

Plus, you're on fire.

And probably covered in painful stone spikes.

So how do I deal with firebats? Simple. I don't. Every time I'm going for a tree these days, I bring some friends, and have them stand nearby and -

What? Shoot the firebats? Then you'd have tumbling balls of fire coming at you - impossible to dodge! No. That'd only make things worse.

What my friends do is lure in the bears.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monster-Killer

After the disaster, nearly everyone gained power of some kind; strength. Speed. Something.

Nearly all of the survivors, that is.

Some of them tried to ignore it. That didn't last long. Factions formed quickly; some based on ethnicity or former nationality, others just centered around particular strongmen. That's not my problem. I don't choose sides.

But there are those who choose no faction. They're mad or senseless. While everyone else tries to build back up, for their own reasons, of course, the marauders just try to tear everything down. Every one of them has their own reason. Sociopathy. Pyromania. Spite. Or old-fashioned madness. And their power means that, like any of us, they have the capability to do terrible damage.

It's my job to kill them.

I may be the most powerful person alive today, though the loss of the transoceanic lines means that it's impossible to tell. I do know that I have the strength to lift a small building, with the right leverage, and grenades and other explosive weapons can't really do any permanent damage to me. It hurts like anything, but it's not enough to stop me. I haven't yet found the weapon yet that will. That's why I'm still breathing.

I don't look much like I used to. Before the disaster. I mourned. Everyone did. My husband. My children. My parents, my nephews and nieces... my brother... and me. I'm alive, at least. But... I'm not who I used to be. Form reflects function.

Nothing's what it used to be. All the old foundations and certainties are gone. But I've found my purpose. I keep the new civilization safe. I kill monsters.

In Danza Square

Once upon a time, a Nichele and a Davan and a Kevin were good friends. They 'hung out' all the time! But time passed, and the Nichele longed for greater things. He felt confined by their customary surrounds; constrained; condensed.

Davan and Kevin could not understand him. They were fine! They had lots of fun.

But the Nichele could not tolerate this. He decided to go off, on a great journey. So he got on his motorped, and shot off. "Vroom vroom!" went his motorped, and he traveled.

For a while he just saw places he'd seen before. "Boring!" he said. "This is no different than where I was before!" So he kept traveling. Vroom vroom!

Then he came to a land unknown to him. It was outside the bounds of his experience - though an old acquaintance, Leon, waved to him as Nichele passed on his motor-ped. "This looks different!" he said. "I will explore this!"

There were many strangers in the land Nichele had found. He quickly discovered where he was: Danza Square, land of the free and the brave! He had even heard of rebels against the evil corpor-tyranny that lived here. He went on a quest to find them!

First, Nichele asked people where the brave rebels were. Most of them didn't know! "We don't know where the brave rebels are," they said! But one young woman told him, "Seek the black tree," and vanished.

Now Nichele had a lead! He searched all over Danza Square, looking for the black tree. But he couldn't find one! He could only find normal green and yellow trees. He was close to giving up when he looked at the facade of the bunker in front of him. It had a tree spray-painted onto it - in black paint!

Nichele knocked on the blast door. "I would like to join the brave rebels!" he shouted. Eventually, a looking-slit opened in the door. A pair of eyes looked out. "You are too young to join the rebels!" he said. Then he closed the slit! Nichele shouted, "No I'm not!" but no-one listened.

Nichele was sad.

Then he learned the calculus! So it was okay after all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Slimenian Revolution

(Continuing the history of the Slimenians, from here.)

We had ample warning of the Schliemann Tank's approach. The cloud of dust it raised as it approached was visible well over the horizon. Before it came within firing range, our small crew was already in battle stations, and the cannon were loaded and armed with the ancient shot found in its dusty storage rooms. We'd had little time to practice, and never with live ammunition, but all of us were ready. Equally, all of us were quite intimidated, as the Schliemann Tank - larger than our own, the symbol of Imperial power and repression - rolled into view.

While we were repairing our own tank, Dr. Cid had told us something of its weaponry. The Monster Tanks' guns were ingeniously designed by the invaders' engineers. They were equipped with their own powder, capable of firing nearly any projectile that would fit in the barrel - though, admittedly, not with any great accuracy. Accuracy doesn't count for much when you're shelling a village, he explained; or when attacking another tank the size of a small mountain. In the war that made the Empire, the tanks were loaded with conventional weapons; stones, arrows, and (as the war progressed and the tanks regularly met in battle) large bombs and rockets. When the war ended, these weapons were locked away and sunk offshore. They were too dangerous to be preserved; dissidents and terrorists might use them against the Empire. Instead, engineers led by Dr. Cid were set to work on other weapons, better suited to the tanks' current use: crushing all resistance to the Empire's rule. They devised shells containing inextinguishable flame, deadly gases, and other payloads meant to demoralize and intimidate. These were horrifically effective against the populace of rebellious towns, and a major cause of the Empire's peaceful state for the last eleven years.

The Schliemann Tank opened fire with a quick series of blasts. Upper and lower cannon fired as soon as they came in range, and only ceased after five or six weapons were launched from each cannon. They looked like glass skulls, jugs filled with poison and fire. We returned fire (not quite as quickly, alas) with our own weapons - of rather better quality. Sprays of pebbles prematurely shattered most of the enemy munitions, and our own (slow-tumbling bombs and swift-flying rockets) crashed unstoppably into the enemy armor, blowing great holes out of the finely polished facing. Their armor was tough; the Schliemann Tank had been the first Emperor's own private vehicle, after all, and with it he had won the war. Our own tank (from what Dr. Cid remembered) had been rather minor by comparison, and its armor was correspondingly weaker - especially after it spent generations being worn away by sea and salt. But the few of their acids and firebombs that hit merely etched away at the worn surface of the remainder.

Our own weapons tore away at the Schliemann's hide. They must have seen the way the battle turned, and reinvented an old tactic: launching their own crew at us with the cannon. The intent, as in the war, was to land them on our tank, there to sabotage and (ideally) commandeer. We shot them out of the sky with arrows and bombs and sent them screaming down to the fuming sea of poison-gas and fire left remnant from their failed shot.

Left short-crewed and unexpectedly outgunned, the Schliemann commander set to flee, reversing his tank's treads. We followed, much to Dr. Cid's complaint, as the fire and poison we rolled through both required and rendered potentially lethal repairs on our treads. Our guns continued pounding away at its armor was we rolled (at walking pace - these tanks are large, but not particularly swift) across the battlefield, knocking larger and larger holes. Then a particularly large bomb, not initially used due to the difficulty of moving it, finally blew straight through the Schliemann's weakened armor - and the two rockets already in flight behind it blew through the intervening decks and into the Schliemann's engine room, turning it into a pillar of fire a half-mile high.

We were jubilant. We had defeated the symbol of Empire - the greatest instrument of tyranny in all the land! - and our losses totaled two crewslimes killed, three injured by a freak hit through a gunport, and another injured by a misfire! Even Dr. Cid joined in the celebration, dancing and cheering - but, when the impromptu party finally ended, he told us the unfortunate facts. The Schliemann was manned by the honor-guard half of the Emperor's Own. They had not been engaged in serious combat for eleven years, and all the veterans of the War were either retired or dead by now. (Dr. Cid was a very old man; by some combination of species and luck, he'd managed to outlive very nearly all his contemporaries.) Their main duty was to look pretty when they were assigned to drive the Emperor on parades.

In contrast, the other half of the Emperor's Own were cold-hearted killers. They crewed the Schwartzmann Tank, and were sent on virtually every reprisal and repression mission requiring any force larger than a squad. They were commanded by Slival; the infamous gray warrior, always clad in black armor and possessed of an unholy lust for slaughter. It was said that he was on the invaders' side in the War, and joined the Empire after their defeat only to gain further opportunity for slaughter. When the first Emperor died, his successor named Slival First Warrior of the Empire (a title which the first Emperor had kept for himself). He was kept in line only by the 'carrot' of wanton slaughter and the 'stick' of the Schliemann Tank. He would prove a far more threatening opponent than our first had been, Dr. Cid informed us.

Somewhat sobered, we quickly repaired what battle damage we could, then moved to seize the advantage, leaving Dr. Cid with a few helpers to salvage useful parts from the wreckage of the Schliemann Tank. We rolled into town after town, greeted with near-universal jubilation, especially as word spread. The Liberators! The Saviors! Word spread of us faster than we could travel, thanks to the Imperial roads, and soon we were accepting volunteers by the dozen. We promised universal freedom, a restoration of the monarchy, an end to the lower-class status of the supernaturals - though we didn't promise that one quite so loudly when speaking to the native Slimenian audience. It was glorious. We felt unstoppable. Garrisons fled at our approach.

Then, one night, word arrived from the capitol, delivered by a desperate slime who nearly killed himself with haste. It was the worst we could have dreamed. Slival had assumed the throne, deposing the Emperor - without even pretense of justification! Without the threat of the Schliemann Tank to keep him in check, there was nothing to keep him from power. He put a steward in control of the Empire and, as the heroic slime had departed, was re-arming and fueling the Schwartzmann Tank. Imperial loyalists, largely composed of the garrisons we had never bothered to pursue, had been gathered into a force numbering in the thousands.

We were horrified. We had won a battle, but now we were very afraid that we were about to lose the war. We immediately began repairs long-delayed, strapping whatever we could find to the tank's hull to serve as armor, and sent a call out for warriors as far as we could in the limited time we had. By the time the tell-tale dust cloud appeared over the horizon, signaling us to abandon further repairs and hurry to the guns, we had a force of ten-thousand brave Slimenians; slimes and supernaturals alike. They had six thousand, but their six thousand was armed and trained; and what's more, they had the Schwartzmann's deadly cannon behind them. We had to keep the Schwartzmann occupied.

As the armies charged, meeting in a tremendous noise of clashing arms and squishing slime, the Schwartzmann opened fire with all guns. They must have found some ancient weapons locked away beneath the Imperial Palace - weapons even Dr. Cid didn't know of. Their barrage began with gigantic golden rockets and bombs - more powerful than the munitions we possessed, to judge by the holes they blew in our laboriously improvised armor. Unlike the Schliemann's commander, Slival remembered the tactics used in the War - he next launched waves of Emperor's Own protected by great iron shields, proof against the rockets and bombs we fired to try to knock them out of the sky. For a few precious moments, we had a respite as Slival held fire to protect the infiltrators he'd landed on our tank; then they were in the gunports fighting the gunners, and Slival opened up again.

It swiftly became clear that we were losing. Our armor was being blasted to shreds while we, engaged in fierce combat with the Emperor's Own, were unable to return fire. It was uttermost chaos - no-one could tell what anyone else was doing in the brawl. Struck by desperate inspiration, I smashed an Imperial into one of the lower cannon, pointing unusually low, then fired it with bomb and rocket. More by luck than by skill, the Schwartzmann was hit, knocking them out of commission. I seized the intra-tank vibraphone and shouted, "Retreat! All treads in full reverse! Retreat!"

The driver was dead, but his subordinate, thankfully, had things under control; we were retreating almost at once. Our army seemed blessedly victorious, beginning to envelope the enemy 'line' (though the battle was far less ordered than that term makes it sound). Even without us, with the Schwartzmann temporarily paralyzed, they were able to drive the Imperials into full retreat. They even tried to take the Schwartzmann from the base, but Slival dropped poison gas on them from above, and they were driven back.

The day was a victory, but mixed. We had killed the Emperor's Own that landed on our tank, but a third of the crew was lost - including our leader. We knew that the Schwartzmann could still beat us if it came to another battle. It would not be long, as the Schwartzmann's treads would doubtlessly be rendered operational again soon. We needed a plan.

Placed temporarily in command by the death of our leader and my own initiative, I closed my eyes and imagined the spires of the Imperial Palace - just a few short miles from where we stood, agonizingly close. Then I ordered retreat, to the wreckage of the Schliemann Tank.

Still To Be Continued!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Womons and Lasers

From the bubbling sulphuric depths of Lake Nikolas, comes hitherso a terror so unspeakably horrid, evil, and that it cannot by mortal words described be. They march on, oblivious to all worldly harm, resisting fire, lightning, and the forces of corrosion, yea that magic casts bolts on their hide, not do they singed be. They crawl and shuffle, limp, writhe along the damp ground, their cybernetic parts rust not, their organic shells nay suffer forces of any natural fury, whipping wind lashes, they cry not, yea shrill, so when feeling grips, nay whithersoever terror chokes the innocents, be they there: Womons with Lasers.

Years pass, time drips, slug-like, what once pure and white as snow, womons, clean as light, upon the forces of darkness did they encounter, lasers emanated eightfold ways and their hearts piercèd be, nay do they cry out, tremble, for thus they have been host to the Contagion.

Seasons change, sun and moon run through the heavens, do they battle, men of the mortal sphere, pikes and spears and swords, of tempered blood and steel into each others' breast pierce, nor do the times light forsake, darkness in their stead strangles the continent. A shadow sweeps smooth, silk, swiftly swerving swatched swamps, for not come they in any time of the light, nay, the darkness is home, they do come. Prepared you be: Womons with Lasers.

Jason Jones Versus China

Jason Jones landed in Manchuria around 2:00 AM, local time; still alert and energetic from the sleep he'd gotten on the flight. The airport was, to his eyes, cramped and dirty - he knew that the one he'd set out from back in Iowa was hardly a paragon of the form, but it was angelic in comparison. The halls were perpetually crowded. Twice Jason's small satchel, holding money, travel books, cell phone, and a half-empty bottle of water - all his possessions on this side of the Pacific - was nearly stolen before he even got to the street. Only constant vigilance prevented the thieves' sharp tugs from wrenching the bag from Jason's grasp.

Jason entered China proper in a fit of coughing. The air was nearly visible that day; everything looked a little gray. (Though that might just be the natural state of the rarely-cleaned buildings.) Vendors filled the street, haggling with pedestrians on every side. Both vendor and pedestrian were cursed by the many bicyclists moving slowly through the press, and all were slandered (from what Jason could tell from the tone of their voices) by the taxi-drivers jerking spasmodically through the crowds.

Jason was utterly overwhelmed. He walked through the crowds for half an hour before the press began to lift. Sitting in an unoccupied doorway, he consulted his travel books and English-Chinese phrasebook (all dog-eared heavily), then walked another ten minutes to find a taxi. "多少美元前往空文?", he slowly said to the driver - mangling it in the process, Jason knew. (How many dollars to Kongwen?")

The taxi driver held up three fingers. "三!", he said. Jason carefully reached into his satchel and peeled off three ones without revealing the size of his tiny hoard. He handed them to the driver, who beckoned him impatiently to get in. "走!" he yelled impatiently. Jason opened the passenger side door and sat down.

Even before the door closed, the driver leaned on the accelerator, nearly hitting a woman laden with plastic bags. The taxi was small and dirty and smelled of cigarette smoke. There was no meter. The driver seemed to cheat death at least once every five seconds; careening around corners, shooting through incoming traffic. Jason Jones found it easier, helpless as he was, to close his eyes; and then, as the driver finally escaped the city's bounds and began simply speeding along the long road to Kongwen, Jason fell asleep.

He woke with a start, as a sharp crack echoed in his ears. His first thought was that the driver had somehow managed to pop a tire - hardly shocking, considering the way he'd been driving. As Jason lifted himself from sleep, his second thought was that the crack had been a rifle shot.

His second thought was right. But it was the least of his problems, he quickly realized as the cab came to a halt. Three 'centaurs' surrounded the cab; all looking much the same as the ones he'd seen in Iowa, perhaps a little shorter in the black, wing-sheathed legs, perhaps a little thinner in their equine midriff, but much the same in their human heads and hands. The main differences he noticed were the fluent Chinese one of them spouted at the taxi driver, handing him a bill of some denomination, and the automatic rifles held in the others' hands. As they manhandled Jason out of the taxi and the driver shot away at, if anything, an even higher speed, the centaur doing the talking pulled another rifle off his own back. As the centaurs began to push Jason along, one keeping a safe distance while another jabbed Jason in the back, the third asked Jason "You. You know who are?"

Jason was still somewhat dazed; his rude awakening had left him poorly prepared for centaur ambush. He'd expected to have to hunt down the centaurs; not have them find him! So he did nothing more than shake his head in response to the unexpected question.

The centaur continued in broken, heavily accented English. "You marked. Everyone want you. The Great One (Jason couldn't tell whether there was sarcasm or awe in his voice) want you. The Enemy want you. They offer dollar. Much dollar for you."

Jason cleared his voice as the centaur paused momentarily. "I'm a little surprised. I didn't know that I was so valuable."

The centaur leader responded, "You very value. We poor. Few dollar. Maybe he want you dead. Maybe tor-ture. Maybe tea! We don't care."

Jason was finally waking up now. He had multiple automatic rifles pointed at him; but he didn't care. He was getting angry. He hardly listened as the leader continued, "We not bad. If we not poor, maybe you free. We not tool. A little dollar, and we - forget - you here. OK?" he asked, gesturing with his gun for emphasis.

Jason was already moving. Blood pounded in his ears as he twisted, knocking the barrel behind him upwards as he simultaneously elbowed the centaur in what he hoped would be the solar plexus. A loud whoomph of outrushing breath informed him that he was right, and Jason grabbed the gun as he fell to the ground. A deafening crack meant that someone had fired, but Jason felt no pain. He rolled, bringing his stolen gun up to smash the rearmost centaur in the knees. He couldn't see what the other centaurs were doing, and his blow seemed to have little effect, so he rolled to his feet behind the centaur (who turned too slowly to keep up) and shot him with a three-round burst to the back.

Blood sprayed. Jason grabbed the corpse for a moment, propping it up to serve as cover while he came to his feet. The leader had finally sighted his gun, firing on automatic, but Jason was unharmed for precious seconds. He steadied his own gun and fired, knocking the leader back with a shot to the torso, then turned to fire on the centaur he'd incapacitated with the sternum-targeted elbow.

He was already yards away, and moving incredibly quickly, propelled by his black leg-wings. Jason cursed as foully as he could (for an Iowa farmboy) and fired several shots in his general direction. He missed. Repeatedly. He cursed again and turned to the leader.

The leader was bleeding his life out onto the dirt. He'd somehow found the strength to prop his gun on his chest, but he couldn't quite aim it at Jason. As Jason approached, kicking the corpse out of the way, the leader gasped out, "How you... killer? Just boy! Three! We not killing you! Just talk! Just dollar!"

Jason waited patiently until the leader finished, and then shot him in the head. He felt a fierce thrill of exhilaration at the murder. His bloodlust raged within him; then, seeing the lack of further enemies, subsided.

Jason began the walk back to the road; there to consider his options further. There was centaur blood on his hands again; perhaps for the third time. He wondered for the first time if this was a bad thing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slimenian Decay

In days long past, it is said that the Slimenian people were nearly destroyed. A terrible foe from across the ocean sacked Slimenia, and scattered the surviving Slimenians across the land like dust in the wind. One slime, according to this legend-history, had the strength to not only recover his people and defeat his foes, but to bind foes and friends alike beneath him as subjects. He was the first Slime Emperor, ruling over all Slimenia as a reputedly benevolent tyrant.

But that was generations ago. Now we, the last free slimes of Slimenia - along with our elderly guide, the venerable Dr. Cid - undertake a desperate quest. In the time since the founding of the Empire, we have cowered in our hole on the far side of the desolate Krak Mountain. But the flight of Dr. Cid, the Emperor's chief of technology and forbidden mechanisms, caught our attention. Our leader, far bolder than his father before him, persuaded us to action, and we snatched the good Doctor out of the hands of his pursuers.

In our hidden base, he told us many secrets: of the true founding of the Empire, established on the foundation of monstrous slavery. Of the freedoms our ancestors had, and that Cid had watched slowly slip away. Of the old King before his untimely death, with the rest of the royal family, in a freak meteor strike. And he told us of the great Monster Tanks of olden times, the weapons of the war that created the Empire. The two most powerful tanks, the great Schliemann Tank and Schwartzmann Tank, were retained for use in the Emperor's personal guard. The others had been sunk offshore - but, Cid told us, he knew of one that was still accessible, and could be salvaged.

We traveled there, wandering dangerously close to the golem mines in the northeast and the ghettos of the supernaturals, driven nearly to extinction under the Emperors' reign. We found the ruins of the time-worn tank peering above the waves; once it must have resembled a great tree, taller than a score of pines, but now its bright colours were dimmed all to gray, its cannon clogged with sand and salt or broken off entirely by the ceaseless waves.

This, Cid told us, was our best prospect. This was our best hope to free Slimenia! He set to work at once with an enthusiasm undimmed by his years, co-opting us as needed - fetch this part, lift this gear, pull this rope. Slowly, we dragged the tank onto the beach (aided by a tremendous pulley manufactured by Cid's tireless instruction), and began to repair the most essential components - the treads.

We had hoped, somehow, that we would escape detection while we made repairs. We were wrong. Within two weeks, the secret police had noticed our strange purchases at market, where we went to get food and mechanical supplies. (You may think us foolish for visiting town while fugitive from the law - but even a slime must eat.) They sent armoured knights supported by slime conscripts to take us either into custody or the grave.

They did not anticipate that we would have a titanic tank at our command. The treads smashed them. Not one escaped.

The empire was slow and complacent. It had been over a decade since last they saw a true threat. They delayed for another week, waiting on their troops' return, then sent a swift-flying jinxlet to see what had become of them. The jinxlet didn't find us, as we'd driven the tank away from the short battle - so it was a full fortnight before other scouts were sent out to try to find the cause of the disappearing soldiers. When we were discovered at last - our efforts to shoot the fleeing scout down with our newly operational cannon in vain- the Empire finally woke up. The Emperor himself was informed, and he ordered the great Schliemann Tank dispatched to destroy us, with the Schwartzmann Tank held in reserve.

All in all, we'd been given one and a half months to repair our tank. One and a half month, until the Emperor's Own were dispatched to crush us.

They would regret it.

To be continued.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jason Jones Learns About Manchuria

As Jason Jones takes the long flight to Manchuria to find the source of the mysterious creatures that have recently troubled his life, he does a bit of reading from a books he bought in the airport. Let's read over his shoulder, shall we?

- Manchuria has extreme climate variances from season to season, alternating between bitterly cold winds off the northern tundra to sweltering heat from the south! (Jason reconsiders his luggage.)

- Manchuria was invaded by Japan in 1931, beginning Japan's attempt to annex China. Fighting continued throughout the 1930s; some munitions remain to this day! (Jason thinks about the likelihood of his wandering into such munitions while searching for the centaurs and such, and resolves to keep a wary eye out at all times.)

- Manchuria was one of the first regions in China to industrialize, and remains a major industrial power; most of the rural inhabitants are concentrated in the south. (Jason worries about smog, and hopes that he will not gain some horrific cancer from the trip.)

- Manchuria is bounded by rivers to the north and east, and by the Greater Khingan Range in the west! (Jason begins to fall asleep!)

- Certain regions in Manchuria, largely in the Southwest, are marked by unusual rates of disappearances and cryptozoological (that is, mythical) creature reports. Tourists are cautioned against visiting. (Jason wakes up.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Red Moon

(This is an experiment in writing stories based on song titles of whatever's playing on my iTunes.)

Once upon a time, the moon and the sun moved together in the sky. The moon once travelled together with the sun in the sky, perfectly synced. They were a team of sorts, ever travelling one beside the other. The days were always bright, even through clouds, and the nights were nearly absolute. The moon was very happy, and often said that it would be happy thus forever.

The sun, however, was discontented. It looked down on the people below and saw that they were blinded by the light of day, and unable to see in the night. To fix this, the sun moved itself far from the moon, so that in the day, only the sun was visible, and in the night, the moon shone alone.

The moon was very upset at this! It had lost its only friend for no reason that it could understand. At first it tried to speed up, to catch the sun; but the sun just moved faster itself! The people got very confused. Eventually, the moon gave up. Now it was angry. And it burned a terrible red.

This red was not an ordinary red. Every night, as the moon rose and cast a crimson hue o'er the night sky, people would become sickly and weaken. Animals and trees and people alike all became sick when the red moon rose. Some of them even died! It was a desperate situation. A very brave, very clever shaman named Katherine decided to act. She went to a big tree, and performed magical rites on it. "Grow, tree, grow!" she said. "Grow until you cover the moon!"

The magic tree grew very tall. It grew taller than the mountains. It grew taller than the sky. It grew straight up to the moon! Then it grew until it covered all the moon. Now there was no more evil red glow hurting everyone! All of it was absorbed by the tree's branches. But this hurt the tree a lot! It died pretty soon, but its branches stayed covering the moon.

A sun priest, called Stephenson, went to the sun to ask for guidance. "O Sun," he intoned, "the red moon that was hurting everyone is gone now. But now the night is dark again! No-one can see!" The sun was very surprised at this. It hadn't realized that the moon was red at all! It was always up when the moon was down, and down when the moon was up, so it never saw any of this. It told Stephenson, "The moon lit up the night before! You must go and find the reason why the moon was red, and now is dark. Then you must fix it! If I go help, the world will be dark in daytime, and light in the night-time. Thus, you must fix this problem yourself."

Stephenson was a little annoyed, but he was a sun priest, so he did what the sun said. He journeyed many miles, across rivers and hills and forests. Eventually, he came to the great magic tree, which he had seen from miles away. He tried to chop it down, but the tree was far too big. So he climbed up it!

Katherine tended the tree regularly, so the very next day, she saw the marks that Stephenson's axe had made. She was very angry! "Who is trying to destroy the great tree, that keeps everyone safe from the evil moon?" she wondered. Then she saw the footprints in the dirt that covered much of the lower part of the tree. "Someone is climbing up the tree - probably to do some evil! I must stop them!" she said, and commenced to pursue.

Stephenson climbed the tree for two days and two nights. He rested on outlying branches, and fed on tree-sap and acorns. Katherine followed him, even faster! By the time Stephenson reached the moon, Katherine was just one hour behind.

Stephenson looked at the branches that covered all the moon. He was a little intimidated! After some thinking, he chose a spot that looked thin, and chopped through the branches. Red showed through! He felt a little sick, but continued chopping, widening a larger area. On the earth below, a tiny dot of red began to appear, like a gleaming eye.

Katherine caught up, though. She yelled at Stephenson. "Stop your chopping! You are hurting everyone on the earth!" Stephenson yelled back. "I was told by the sun itself to do this! You must not interfere!" They called each-other many mean names.

Eventually, the moon tired of this. "I do not like the sound of bickering. Or you." it informed them. "Why do you appear here, on my surface?"

Both Katherine and Stephenson were very surprised. Katherine recovered first. "Why are you so angry, moon?" she asked. "Why do you hurt everyone with your red glare?"

The moon responded, "Of course I am angry! The sun, my only friend, has abandoned me - then I am trapped by a gigantic tree for months! I am very angry at everyone. That is why I am this furious red!"

Katherine said, "But the sun moved so that you could light the night while he lit the day! That way, everyone could see!"

The moon was unsatisfied. "I do not care about you people! I only care about my friend!"

Katherine suggested, "Perhaps we could get the sun to move back beside you?" but Stephenson shook his head as she spoke. "The sun does not compromise very much. He would just yell at anyone who suggested it."

Katherine and Stephenson stood on the maze of branches covering the moon, thinking. Then Katherine came up with another idea. "What if you moved at a different speed than the sun? Then you could see the sun sometimes, and the night would still mostly be lit." Stephenson nodded. "Yes, I could get the sun to agree to that, I think."

The moon grumbled, "Chop these accursed branches off me, and I will go to sleep until you get this compromise of yours - which I do not like very much, I will say." Stephenson and Katherine chopped busily, and the moon went dark. Then Stephenson went away, to talk to the Sun. Eventually, though much yelling, he got the sun to agree, and, two days later, the sun and the moon saw one another again.

And the moon glowed white.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maglev

Hovering things are nifty! When I was a boy, all the sweet tanks hovered. This is impractical! Ground-effect engines are both 1) hard to power for a multiple-ton war machine's mass and 2) prone to being interfered with by wind! This is sad. I am making a sad face!

Walking things are sometimes nifty. If you think about it, people are pretty neat! Imagine the complexity necessary to carry us smoothly over the ground. Tendons and muscles contract and expand, joints turn, everything works like a clock-work mechanism. (A rather squishy clockwork mechanism.) It is pretty interesting! Tanks are also neat - in concept, not so much in the bit where they kill people. (Tanks: cool. Tanks shooting things: cool. Tanks resulting in the deaths of sentient beings: morally questionable.) So having a tank that walks is hella cool! Still virtually impossible because of the force required to move gigantic metal legs at any sort of pace, but far more impractical things okay for our purposes. Especially if you can give them all sorts of nifty things that real tanks can't have, like racks of machine-guns and homing-rockets and particle beam projectors. This is the principle behind 'mecha'! In practice there are often other odd things going on, like jump-jets and transforming and combining (!), but the basic foundation is sound.

When hovertanks fight mecha, mecha have a tendency to win! This is basically because mecha are absurd, and so have hella more guns than the relatively-realistic hovercraft. Then the hovercraft explode! This is very sad.

In the "Advance Wars" video-game, the evil-bad-guy BLACK HOLE faction was all about hovertanks. They had light hovertanks and medium hovertanks and hovering troop transports and jeeps, but their most powerful unit was a tank on legs. Every other faction stole the designs! (It's okay, the good guys would never use super-powerful walking tanks for evil.) In the games, the tank (called a "Neotank") is pretty much the most expensive and powerful land unit - in an example of "power creep", it supplanted the Medium Tank from the previous game in that position, and was supplanted in turn by the MEGATANK from the next game. You just can't stay on top!

The MEGATANK fills pretty much the full height of the DS screen in the game in which it appears. Still, it's expensive, slow, and hard to supply. (It only has three shots for its main guns, if I recall.) The walking tank, I do believe, remains superior; in games as in life.

Worth Noting

So Darius was all "dude ask Delaine about the thing with the thing" and I was all like "you are a very silly man" and he was all "what why" and the simplest explanation possible was the following transcript from the future.

Ceol: Hey dude!
Delaine: Who are you?
Delaine: How did you get this number?
Delaine: Out! OUT!
Ceol: WAUGH
Ceol: WAIT
Ceol: I come in place of Darius Zachariah.
Ceol: I believe you know him.
Delaine: Oh yeah, I hate that guy.
Delaine: Why isn't he talking?
Delaine: He is online and stuff.
Ceol: He's too shy to talk to you because he fancies you.
Delaine: o lol
Ceol: So anyways:
Ceol: What does CGR stand for?
Delaine: How do you know that name?
Ceol: Oh, Darius shows us all the transcripts of his conversations with you.
Delaine: That's totally sensible and not stalkerlike.
Delaine: Anyway, CGR stands for
CONTINUITY ERROR
ABORT

In summary: Continuity errors are a pain to fix. Don't try to solve problems requiring hard facts by engaging in hypothetical conversations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nicholas and the Tree

one day
nikolas was out for a drive
he stumbled upon
a tree
he said to himself
"this is not a normal tree"
"i can tell by the branches"
indeed, the branches were bizarre
they formed curious shapes
nikolas sought to imitate the branches
he contorted his limbs to imitate four of them
suddenly
the tree spoke
"you are a very silly man"
nikolas was surprised
he tried to speak with the tree
"you are a very silly tree"
"i was doing naught but replicating your pose"
but the tree did not respond
nikolas was perplexed
he formed his limbs into another pose
one representing the sorrow in the core of his being
for he could not carry on a conversation with something as boring as a tree
his pose reflected such sorrow
that the tree was touched
"you see"
the tree said
"you attained much greater satisfaction by expressing yourself"
"rather than imitating others"
nikolas was surprised
and happy
he would grow to be great friends with the tree
and he kept creating original content
and licensing it under creative commons
because creativity stems from other work
but it is not taken directly
so he would allow others to adopt his poses
and the poses grew more elaborate
and varied
contributed by people of all walks of life
they learned
that these poses were especially touching if they were strung together in sequence
and this
is how nikolas
created
dance

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The World

The world was formed in four days and four nights.

On the first day, Man appeared; and it was good.

On the second day, a burning core of iron was shaped by Man's clever hands; and it was good.

On the third day, a thousand layers of iron and rock were layered atop it with artifacts of Man's ingenuity; and it was good.

On the fourth day, the waters and the airs and vapours were layered atop the rock by Man's terraforming technology; and it was good.

On the fifth day, Man rested, and in his sloth, lost all he had gained; falling to Earth berefit of wisdom and knowledge.

That is the tale of the Earth's creation.

The true way to win at origomi wars.

Nick, you forgot the true way to take out any number of enemy troops, meteor, meteora, and meteoraga. The spell just needs any troops killed during your enemies turn and don't throw them away. Instead just crumple them up and act very angry. When its your turn, just throw the crumpled up troops at your enemies forces while shouting, "My level nine spell for the day, Meteor!!!" this will take out any troop by demolishing it and moving it off the playing field for you. The spot where the meteor lands is now a crater and cannot be passed by land based creatures such as tigers, only by flying troops such as the crane. If your opponent calls this cheating, simply state that you had to do some impressive folding to get a sphere from a flat paper.

Note, the spell can also be cast using outside materials such as bouncy balls, slime, small grenades (you can call these comets), or any other spherical object.

Indignity; The Game of Origami Warfare

Many nights, as I lie awake yearning for sleep to drape her soft blanket o'er my
fevered brow, I conceive of ideas that seem brilliant. Sometimes, when I awake and think of those ideas in morning's light, they are revealed to be foolish thoughts of a half-dreaming mind; at other times, they survive my scrunity and bear fruit. This is one of the latter.

So: Indignity. This is a miniatures game of sort, in which you assemble a small army of paper creatures (frogs, cranes, tigers and giant crabs) in order to destroy your foe. Each unit has a cost; frogs cost but a single point, while cranes cost four points, tigers and flying cranes cost five points, and the terrifying Giant Crabs cost ten points. Each player assembles an army of a single hue, preferably out of sight of the other, and then deploys them at least six index-finger-lengths from an agreed central point. The player with the shorter index finger begins the game. Note that henceforth all distances are assumed to be in index-finger-lengths of the player taking action (moving, attacking, etc.), from the middle of the knuckle to the point of the finger.

Each player takes turns, moving all their creatures and then allowing their opponent to do the same. If this proves a trouble, try to move them in some order (say, from left-to-right) so that the creatures moved may be easily distinguished from those not yet moved. To move a creature, its owner must first find some point of it with his index finger, then alternate fingers, touching them point-to-knuckle, to find a destination. Frogs may move three index-fingers-length; tigers and cranes may move two, giant crabs a mere one, and the rare and precious flapping cranes may fly four index-fingers-lengths.

Three index fingers' length.

When a creature reaches an enemy, it may viciously attack, crumpling and (for the particularly violent) ripping at its paper enemy. Each creature, according to its offensive potential, may deal some number of indignities unto a foe; frogs and cranes deal one indignity in an attack, while tigers deal two with claws and fangs, and the terrifying crabs swipe with giant limbs for three indignities. Creatures also have different tolerances for indignity; frogs, upon suffering a single indignity, are instantly slain and tossed off the battlefield, while cranes must have both wings crumpled (in two indignities) to be defeated, tigers need all legs lost (in four indignities) to fail, and Giant Crabs need both upper and lower legs (of which, strangely, they possess only four) to be crumpled away to die; that is, they must suffer eight indignities before falling.

There are a few things that protect creatures from indignity. Firstly, in movement, the controlling player must be able to touch the target with his index finger within the length proscribed by the creature; that is, a frog cannot attack a creature if, in movement, it is but a half-finger too far away. Secondly, cranes, possessing long necks as they do, may defend themselves on being attacked. Should any enemy attack them, they may retaliate before being struck, dealing one indignity. This injures any attacker and renders them invulnerable to frogs. Thirdly, to prevent enemies ravaging through the ranks and striking targets as will, attackers may only approach within a half-finger's length (from the middle knuckle to the point) of any enemy if they intend to immediately attack the closest one. Measure this only when necessary.


The frogs may attack the cranes, but the tiger, though within movement range, is 'shielded' by the cranes. The cranes and tiger, for their own right, may only attack the closer frogs, unless they were to circle around.






Animal NamesPoint CostMovement (in finger-lengths)Indignities SufferableIndignities InflictedNotes
Frog1311-
Crane4221Retaliates
Tiger5242-
Flapping Crane5421Retaliates, flies
Giant Crab10183-

From left to right: Giant Crab, Tiger (sadly headless), Crane, and Frog. Frogs are just wads of paper or aluminium. It makes them more enjoyable to toss.

For the sake of simplicity, units may be moved in groups, such that a group of, say, frogs, may have their movement measured all together, and them moved as a mass. This does not apply to combat unless ALL of the units in a group can move to the target (without crossing within a half-finger of another), and does not change the distance which any member of a group may move; it is merely a short-cut for the assistance of those who choose to use large numbers of units, most notably frogs.

Mass frog movement.

Normally, in this sort of game, optional variants may be suggested. The default victory condition is the utter annihilation of the foe; however, should one choose to play a series of games, one might keep a points-tally from game to game rather than a simple win-loss record. In this case, points might be awarded for surviving creatures (per their purchase price), with half-points given for a loser who preserves some number of his troops by retreating out of the bounds of engagement; let us say, for on this scale index-fingers grow impractical, six feet from the centre of the battlefield.

REASONS FOR RULES
-The half-finger radius is there to preserve sanity. Otherwise, it seemed far too easy for fast creatures to rampage through troops, attacking with pinpoint accuracy the units against which they have some advantage; frogs slaughtering tigers, tigers murdering herons, etc. If it is too much a trouble to manage, try taking it out and see if its absence is too much a detriment.
- I had considered taking turns unit-by-unit, rather than army-by-army. The trouble with this is that it gives rather too much advantage to the single unit - why bother moving frogs when it means that you can't move your Giant Crab? This is a rule that should probably remain in place.

THINGS WHICH WON'T MATTER
-When two players are particularly mis-matched in finger-length (say, an eight-year-old against a twenty-year-old), the person with the shorter index finger should use the other player's finger as a measuring tool rather than using their own.
-When resolving disputes, these three factors should be your guides and goals: simplicity, aggression (favoring the attacker), and amusement value.

I think that's all; I may edit this later.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The O'ercrow

The O'ercrow is a legendary weapon. It is a crossbow of both deadly accuracy and precision. Forged from the summer's rain after the Gods' tears, it shoots bolts of pure solid ALUMINON. They sail through the rough winds, through the briny sea (a homogeneous solution), and strikes the poor victim right through the heart, every time. It is precise up to seven significant figures. It is immune to corrosion, physical changes, and psychological warfare. to be continued?

Those Damn Sith!

Seriously, what's with the Sith?

Look. Strange though it is, we have several groups of Sith in the established Star Wars universe. There's the original Sith - aliens of a particularly malevolent bent, who taught the original evil-force-wielding Sith their nastiness. There's the Sith Empire - lurking somewhere out beyond civilized space several thousand years before the movies, occasionally sending out agents to cause trouble. Eventually they fight the Republic (the good guys) and, presumably, lose, because they're not heard from since.

You think that's the end of it? Not close. Then there's the other Sith Empire, which comes in about halfway between the original empire and the movies chronologically. It rises when some easily-corrupted Jedi find ancient evil artifacts lying around in Sith tombs, destroys most of the Republic, but is eventually beaten back and destroyed on Yavin IV - triggering a superweapon that also wipes out all sentient life on the planet. Dang Sith

Then, about two thousand years later, it's the time of the movies. Some few remaining Sith - perhaps a continuous line from the last empire, more likely corrupted by some artifacts - start plotting to take over the galaxy. Bam - Clone Wars, Palpatine becomes Emperor, Anakin falls to the dark side, another Sith Empire. This one doesn't last as long as the others. Luke and the Rebellion take Palpatine back a single generation after it rises, though it takes fifteen years after that for a peace to be signed.

But that's not all. Oh no. First, throughout those fifteen years of fighting between the New Republic (the successor state to the Rebellion) and the fragmented remnants of the Empire, all sorts of things are popping up - Force witches, Sith artifacts that corrupt Jedi trainees, Palpatine rising from the dead with a combination Death Star/Super Star Destroyer, more Sith artifacts that corrupt bits of the New Jedi Order... you'd think they'd just fry the damn Sith ruins from orbit.

Even after the Imperial Remnant signs a peace with the New Republic, things don't quiet down. Aliens from beyond the edge of the galaxy invade and wreck most of the New Republic. Then yet more Sith appear and try to corrupt Luke's nephew, who's one of the more skilled Jedi remaining after the invasion. He's already tottering after the dubious actions he took against the extragalactic invaders, so he's an easy mark.

Here's the thing: the Sith are Jedi that cuss. Basically, in the Star Wars 'verse, if you can sense the Force and then have the gall to possess human emotions, you're immediately shunted to the Dark Side. If you get angry when a Sith, say, kills your dog, then you're corrupted and turn on your friends after killing him.

I do love reading/watching/playing the stuff, but George Lucas has some really odd ideas. I felt this should be noted.

All due credit to this blog post, which played some part in the thought process beyond this post. Tomorrow will be... less derivative, I hope.

Walking

The woman, being of average, that is, middling-short caucasian, appearance, saving only her minor disfigurements, such as the pock-marks that covered her left cheek, gained from a close call with the plague two years ago, and the scars on her right forearm, earned fighting off bandits that threatened the caravan, walked, staggering somewhat under her heavy load of supplies, needed for the refugee camp waiting five miles away, and the weight of her lack of sleep, of which she had been deprived while keeping watch for more enemies, such as the hell-hounds that had attacked five days ago and killed the caravan leader and two of the other refugees, leaving her the de facto leader, for the last three nights, down the road, away from the city, though in truth it was no more than a middling town by modern standards, of Sanctuariel, burned when the Southerners, seemingly everywhere as the Empire's army collapsed under the weight of the many calamaties that had overcome it in the last six years, came and slaughtered half the inhabitants, including the woman's husband and two children, before being forced off by the Sixth Legion, only half its pre-plague strength but still strong to defeat these Southerners, who counseled the survivors, mainly women and children, to seek shelter down the road.

Video Game Spotlight: One of Multiple

I've been playing two video games recently - well, more than that, but these are the new ones. They are: Drawn to Life, a DS game, and Halo 2, a... well, I'm sure you've heard of it.

In Drawn to Life, you play the role of a benevolent Creator, who shaped all things, yet abandoned his people. The game begins as you return at last, called back by the prayers of your desperate followers. To aid them in their plight, you shape a Hero from a mannequin and set out to destroy the evil that has covered the land. (I will note that my Heroes tend to look rather more like monsters than heroes. GRR ARR)

And the thing is? You draw everything. As the opening narration begins, you draw the earth and the forests and the people. When you create your Hero, you literally draw him; hands, arms, torso and head. And he runs around by your will, animating whatever silliness you drew. As you progress, you run into obstacles, items, scenery; and all the most interesting things, you draw. As you play, you unlock various things to buy; new color palettes, 'mixed-color' options (like stripes or waves), stamps, and so forth. The main gameplay is a basic platformer. It's okay, especially once you get wings, but it's nothing special. The special part is when you're riding on a yellow-and-purple striped whale (that you coloured) holding a ray-gun (that you drew) while attacking evil shadow-bats. Now that's something.

It's hella neat, and I've been having a great deal of fun with it. Could barely tear myself away to write this, in fact.

And of Halo 2, you ask? It's actually a fairly old game; I think it came out in 2004, but I only recently got the chance to play it. Here's the thing. It's old. It's a console game – not my preference, I find the controls awkward and odd. And, on the difficulty my insane brother chose to start it on, it is completely impossible. We must have died together fifty times before he gave up and downgraded it from 'LEGENDARY' to merely 'Heroic' difficulty.

My thoughts on weapons: The Beam Rifle is the Sniper Rifle. (I think it's slightly better, Ethan thinks that it's slightly worse.) The Sentinel Beam is only okay, but it feels utterly right using it to take out Flood, smashing their scuttling hordes with an orange beam of fury. The Carbine and Battle Rifle are fun, though being a compromise between the sniper weapons and close-range weapons, they tend to have problems at both extremes. In general: I dislike the Covenant (evil alien side for the uninitiated) getting weapons with ammo - it's sort of against their motif - but I won't complain too much. Non-energy-based weapons isn't exactly something Humanity can have a monopoly on - especially given the rather heterogeneous nature of the Covenant.

On our first night of playing after the difficulty switch, we covered ten times the ground and died perhaps five times.

So, in conclusion: My brother is insane, Halo 2 is still pretty fun, and drawing things is neat.


If people complain enough, this will not become a new feature.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nikolas the Lazar-Like Man

Niklas was a man who did thing
with greate gustoe
and one day in a clam
he took hold of a reign that was the
beginning of an age

for he was spawled out lazar
and kelsey came and saw this
and he did beat and berate him
until

he died of a briken harte

and kelsey was a king
until one say

the sun shone and the men died
they fizzed and bubbled

and it was good

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Uttermost Horror (now in liquid form)

I back away from the glass, terrified. In front of me, they scream and batter the window with their hands. Their hair is disheveled, their hands formed into claws, their eyes -glowing- but there can be no doubt as to what they are. As they smash through the glass and pour through the opening, I breathe their name: womons.

They are all over me before I can move. They flow like a sea of darkness, smothering me, confining me. I can't move! I can't see! The womons are all over me. I can feel them - everywhere.

I scream.

For a long, horrible moment, I fear that no-one hears.

Then I hear a great shout: "LO, I AM ARRIVED!" The womons scatter, forming into loose clumps all around the room, staring at the new arrival. He is ten-feet tall, five feet wide, with muscles like an ox and horns to match. He looks at the womons and snorts, pawing the ground. Then he charges, putting them to flight.

Dortmond certainly has changed since he left for Utah.

With his immense girth and Mormonic strength, he puts the womons to flight, beating the intransigent with great golden tablets. Then he walks over to me, where I cower in a corner. I look up to him (as, I suppose, I always have) as he pats me gently on the head. "It's all right, little one," he tells me. "Everything's going to be all right now. There's no need to worry." Slowly, I rise from my tense position - then immediately return to it as the door crashes open.

Dortmond turns to glare. "WHO ARE YOU?" he demands, furious.

The visitors are unfazed. "We're here to stop you!" one declares, brandishing his badge. He's a solid eight-feet tall, and glows blue in the dim light. The other one (shorter, glowing an equally dim red) continues, "Poor Dave has enough problems with romance! And after a freak accident with a batch of lab pheremones and an unlikely number of clear-sky lightning strikes renders him ready - for LOVE - you would deny him that?" Nichols and Keegan have also changed since I last saw them. They stand bold against the ferocious Dortmond.

I feel the need to ask one pertinent question, nervous though I am to intervene in this clash of titans. "Does... um, does this seems sort of... um, improbable to anyone... else?"

Nichols nods. "Well, yes. This is actually just an internal debate with added visuals. You hooked your subconscious up to a device of your own invention designed to help resolve internal conflicts, with HD+E quality video. We're just visually enhanced figments of your imagination."

I think about this, and decide that he's probably right. I ask him, "What happens if I decide to ignore your interventions on my behalf, and... um... strike off on my own?"

They somehow vanish, and the womons are back; and this time there is no escape. They cover me once more. And I do not scream.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jason Jones Westward

Jason Jones was arguing with his father. "I need to do this," he told Mr. Jones. "I'm the only one who can, maybe: there may be a reason that those slicing creatures I told you about didn't attack me, while... while they killed everyone else. If I stay here, they may come again, and things would be even worse."

Mr. Jones looked skeptical as he leaned back in the lounger. "And there's your fear of the police, too."

Jason nodded. "Well, yes, but that's not the main thing. The police may learn... some things I don't really feel comfortable about, but the real threat here is from the centaurs and the slicers and whatever else is out there, attacking people."

Jason's father answered, "I'm not certain if I really believe all this about the centaurs, and the slicers, even though I saw too much of it myself. But... you think they came from China, from one comment the chieftain made, right? China is a pretty big place. Surely you don't think you can search all of it yourself."

Here Jason was on firmer ground. "I've done some searching since I got back. When I look for stories of things like what's been happening around here, everything - well, mostly everything - points toward Manchuria, in northern China. That's still a pretty big area, but I figure that once I get there and start poking around, I can start finding out more about these creatures pretty quickly."

Mr. Jones sighed. "A lot of guesses, isn't that? No, don't answer me." He stood up and walked over to the computer. "After the deaths, and the exposure of the centaurs, there's going to be a lot of people here soon. Media, FBI, CIA, the works. And they're all going to want to know where you are." He beckoned Jason over, and turned around as he approached, scrupulously looking at a blank wall on the other side of the room. A plane-ticket buying site was on screen, with everything filled out for a one-way flight to Manchuria and ready for purchase. Jason clicked the 'buy' button and printed it. His father continued, "I didn't buy you a plane ticket, or see you get one." A wallet full of cash lay on the desk next to the computer; Jason picked it up. "I didn't give you any money, or see you get any." Jason's father turned around and gave him his cell phone, which he'd entirely forgotten about. "I called a cab to the airport, but I don't remember why. And I seem to have forgotten your cell number, funnily enough. Keep it charged, would you?"

Jason was overwhelmed. "Thanks, Dad," he said with true gratitude in his voice. They walked toward the door together.

Mr. Jones looked at Jason, seeming to appraise him for some virtue or flaw of character. With no clear verdict visible on his face, he said "I have a few last things to say to you. The others... I didn't really tell them about this. They may call you. You'll have to decide what you want to tell them." He paused a moment, organizing his thoughts. "You do realize that when your mother suggested that we send you to Manchuria, it was a joke, right?" Jason nodded, but his father didn't seem to expect an answer. "And... I know I may have given your some... bad examples in the past, but violence doesn't solve everything. It... sometimes it hurts more than it helps. I..." Not a man of great eloquence by nature, he seemed to have run out of words.

Jason, on the front porch, hugged him and said, "Maybe." Then he got in the waiting cab as his father turned his face away. The driver accelerated, and Jason Jones's home receded into the horizon.

-

Hours later, as the plane readied for takeoff, a large blue parrot landed on the wing of the jet, right next to Jason's window. He looked at it. Quietly, he told it, "Hello there, little bird. You're a long way from home - but then I think you've been away for a while, haven't you?" The bird seemed to nod. On its head, Jason saw a thin wedge of red feathers, pointing upwards. Jason looked at it for several seconds more, trying to see anything else odd - but then it seemed to have enough as the jet started its engines and took wing. For a moment, it was tossed about in the backwash of the engine; then it recovered and soared upwards, flying to the west. Jason watched it until it vanished into the blue.

End Arc Two.

Resurrection of THE BAD JOKES!

1 What would you get if 700 stamps were running 100 miles per hour?
2 A stegosaurus could grow up to how many feet?
3 What do you get when you cross a camel and a whale?
4 Why don't oysters give to charity?
5 What do you call a bison in the back of a pickup truck?
6 What do you call 10 robbers on a surfboard?
7 What does a mother ghost say to her children when they get in the car?
8 Where does a duck go when it has the flu?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Greatest Book Ever

I was indeed fortunate to, having retired to the library after a day of arduous labour, and mental stimulation, discover among the tin of weathered volumes this book, the excellence of which cannot be described, but rather should be shown in full-fledged colour-photographs.

I hereby present to you: Fishing for Fun, by Herbert Hoover (the president!).






D'ni

This, in short, is the story of the D'ni. In ages long past, the D'ni discovered the art of book-making. But their books were not as ours. Through some combination of precisely manufactured paper, ink and glue, long training, and perhaps some strange genetic heritage, the D'ni were able to create Linking Books: Books which, through a portal of sorts on an inside page, allowed the transport of people and objects to another world. Merely placing a single hand upon that portal would instantly transport you into the realm it pictured; though there was no guaranteed way to get back. There were, as with all things, details and complications (did the creation of Linking Books actually create new worlds, or merely allow access to existing ones? How does one get back after traveling through? Can Linking Books be used as weapons?), but they are not essential.

After long millennia, the D'ni civilization collapsed in rebellion and plague. Only a handful of D'ni survived; some trapped on the other side of the Linking books, a very few others escaping the ruins of the D'ni entirely. Atrus, grandson of the last living D'ni councilor, became the central figure in the slow revival of the D'ni; as was his father, Gehn, on the other side. The tales of their rivalry, and of Atrus's battles with his own sons, stretched across years and worlds; but they, too, are not essential.

What is essential is that, in their long existence, the D'ni devised their own number system, independent of the Arabic numbers we use today. The Internet will give you a better description than I can (as I learned regrettably late), and one can observe the principles here, on the project that took me an hour or so this afternoon. Amaze your friends! Cypher your writings! Hone your mind! The possibilities are endless.

...yeah, I really, really wish I knew that article existed before I started the project.