December 1, 2018 at 5:48 pm #11602
Eventually, Al got bored with watching Hopper have all the fun. And if it was his own bird, he probably wouldn’t let anyone else play with it either.
So he went for a walk and the first person he found to alleviate his boredom was Alessandra (since he’d avoided the others, and tracked her).
She was seated on a big, lichen-dotted rock surrounded by old growth evergreens. He sat on a rock opposite.
“Well, since it appears we’s gon’ be workin’ together,” he said without preamble, “An’ since o’ course the fate o’ the world’s at stake if any o’ what y’all say is true, well, I’m gon’ tell ya about one o’ my superpowers. Got me a few. But I’ll jist tell ya the one. Reckon I’ve found over the years that I’m almost never wrong. An’ yeah, it can be a burden. But I tell ya that so’s I can tell ya this: I think now might be one o’ them once-inna-decade things where ol’ Al’s wrong about somethin’. Now don’t tell Redback, he’d jist be more insufferable. But thing is, a week ago I was convinced all o’ y’all immortal types was batshit crazy an’ about as reliable as sunshine in an’ arctic winter. Now, no question I was right about the former proposition. But the latter…well, the three o’ y’all never-dies I did the last little jaunt with, gotta say they was all stand-up folks. So help me understand where I went wrong. Person lives a few millennia. A few millennia spent, near as I can tell from hearin’ y’all talk, snipin’ at one another an’ treatin’ the more short-lived masses like ants. How’s a person like that get past theyself ta work as a team on a job as important as this?”
Al looked at her expectantly, waiting for an answer as though he’d just asked for directions to the nearest Stuffer Shack.December 1, 2018 at 11:39 pm #11617
Alessandra looked up at Al as he approached. She’d been lost in thought, remembering a more carefree time in her life, back when she’d had a small home in Greece. Two thousand years ago or so? No, twenty five hundred, that was it. Nice place, by the sea. A small town, good fishing, colorful people. She’d just up and left the courts, taken twenty years away from their scheming. It had been…nice.
She nodded at Al as he sat down, listened with a quizzical expression on her face. When he finished, she frowned slightly and considered the question for a moment, then nodded to herself. “That’s a fair question, I suppose.” She said slowly. “I suppose, to a certain extent, they don’t.” She said after a second. “I mean, I try certainly. I go out amongst normal people as much as I can. I try to have hobbies. I like cars, and novels.” She shrugged artlessly. “Books actually help a lot. Reading human characters, getting inside their heads helps me empathize. It can make how I act a little stylized, but its still a step up from most of my contemporaries.”
She took a deep breath through her nose and let it out slowly. “As for getting over oneself, I suppose it helps that I, at least, am surrounded by other immortals who are as far out of my league as I am out of a normal mortal’s. It’s good for keeping me grounded.” She smiled slightly, then asked, “Am I making any sense?”December 3, 2018 at 8:50 am #11652
Since the other two had vanished, I turned to Ilario:
“So you are a fencer and lancer. Any good masters you studied under? I have to admit, that I honed my craft mainly in the field and any formal system I forgot about a few decades later again. Any good tricks against spirits and horrors up your sleeve?”December 3, 2018 at 1:50 pm #11666
Ilario was leaning far back in an arch, his hands in fists at his back, when he noticed Al and Alessandra wandering off. Finally, the stubborn crick in his spine popped and he straightened with a relieved sigh, his eyes still watching the other two and a brow raising with an amused smirk.
Then, someone was speaking to him, and he spun around to smile at Shrike. ”My good man, I am the master!” He quipped with a wink, ”There was extensive training under a couple of people before, and during my time in, the Kaer, but the rest of what I know has been developed by yours truly.” The elf wafted his hands down his chest to present himself anew. Then, his expression fell slightly and he cocked his head as he admitted, ”Well, for the most part.”
His head twitched in a very slight shake, bringing himself back to the subject at hand. ”As for dealing with spirits and horrors, that’s what the magic is for!” Ilario said with a grin, then raised his right hand and wiggled his fingers as well as his eyebrows, ”These digits aren’t just magical in bed or with a blade, you see.”
December 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm #11674
- This reply was modified 5 months ago by Foxglove.
I nodded: “Good to know, but I was thinking more about specific tricks. We’ll likely be facing some very twisted abominations and I’ll be up in their face, so I’d like to know if you throw around fireballs or rather set your self ablaze and cut them to shreds with a blazing blade.”December 3, 2018 at 2:46 pm #11681
Ilario’s eye-waggling smirk froze for a brief moment as the flirtatious remark flew past his companion without even a blink from the man. Ah, too subtle. He would have to do better than that.
In a blink, the expression was gone, replaced by realization as he finally grasped onto what Shrike was actually asking. ”Ah-hah, I see. My apologies, my good man.” He said with a slight bow, ”Not so much the blazing sword, I’m afraid. My methods for dealing with such beasties are only within two ranges: long, and up close and personal. I have learned, over the years, a particular martial arts style that can handle spirits, but it is bare-handed, at best. As for long range, I conjure up a spirit or two and let them do the fighting for me…”
He paused, his eyes glazing over for a moment as a thought seems to seep into his brain. He suddenly snaps out of it, snapping his fingers in irritation. ”Blast!! I knew I’d forgotten something. My little darling would be perfect for this jaunt!”
Ilario shakes his head, making a mental note to give the girl a call, then turns his attention back to Shrike, ”I could possibly teach you a move or two in the ‘spirit-punching style’, as a friend of mine likes to call it, but I’m not entirely sure we have the time to do so.”
#15-7December 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm #11682
“Don’t worry, I know about Neija… Never got over the fact that you are doing yourself almost as much damage as to the spirit.
Now, something you should know: Most spirits won’t consent to go into Foveae. Those who go do tend to get ripped to shreds. No, once we are in there, it will be your innate abilities you have to rely on.
…And the little something my boss organized for me.
You see, Al mentioned that we recently visited Boston. While I was there, I picked up an info dump from the local S-K Matrix, including the formula for something called Blight. It’s a toxin tailored specifically against magic beings. Makes them vulnerable and strips them of their powers. There isn’t much of that to go around yet, but I received the first batch for field testing. That includes the use for poisoned blades. For obvious reasons I’ll hesitate to use the gas grenades, but I have a few special bullets filled with the stuff.
When the time comes, you’ll want to coat your blade with the stuff. Just be careful not to touch it yourself.
When we take the plunge, it might just save your life.”
I smiled then: “And also, you are not my type”December 3, 2018 at 4:23 pm #11695
The elf’s brows furrowed at Shrike’s words on how spirits react to the Foveae, irritated at the thought of not being able to use his most prominent magical skill and considering how best to work around that. Those same brows then shot up at the explanation of the Blight, his eyes widening before his expression fluxed back to considering, though this time with a spark of excitement.
Magical-poisoned blades? Now that he could get behind.
His train of thought was broken with the other man’s last bit of explanation, and he blinked as his mind took a moment to process the unexpected change in subject. Ilario smiled sheepishly, however, and gave a chuckle and a shrug, ”Fair cop, my man. Though, I must say, you have an excellent poker face.”
Ilario pulled his dagger, idly flipping it around his palm and through his fingers as he spoke, ”I’m certainly glad that you’re hep to this ‘matrix’ thing, I never could get a decent enough handle on it. Then, he added with a grin, ”That Blight you found sounds absolutely swellegant! And I am upright thrilled to try it out!”
The dagger stopped its dance, ending with the hilt gripped in his hand. ”Happen to have any other tricks up those magical sleeves of yours?”
#16-8December 3, 2018 at 4:51 pm #11697
“Only grit, spite and contrariness… and a penchant for Small Unit Tactics. That was the main reason I got into this whole matrix business in the first place. Easier to throw AROs around then to explain everyone where to stand.
Other than that, no, I’m the guy who was a big fish during the 5th world and now has to tread water again to stay afloat.”
I smiled again. Somehow the surrounding nature had a calming effect on me, despite the witches brew inciting me to do rash and stupid things.
“The point is: Keep those knives ready, because steel prevails when magic fails.”December 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm #11700
”Hah-HAH! Good man! Precisely my way of thinking!” He quipped, his grin wide. His variable expression then turned soft and adoring as he sheathed the dagger and patted it and its rapier companion at his hip, ”These beauties have kept me alive during the times the magic was low. ‘Twas how I made my living, actually!”
Ilario held out his hands, as if he could project an image from them, and his smile took on a slightly impish tint, ”Think of the past swordsmasters. Any number of them. The ones that went down in history for form or forging.” He allowed a pause, letting Shrike’s mind bring up whatever names it would, and then, ”Those men? A good chance that most of them…” he paused again, this time for dramatic effect, and gestured toward himself with a smug smirk and a wink, ”were yours truly!”
December 3, 2018 at 6:17 pm #11704
- This reply was modified 5 months ago by Foxglove.
Al chuckled at Alessandra’s response. “Yup. That does make sense in a backwards kinda arrogant way. Y’all read books ta understand what ya call ‘normal’ people. Most ‘normal’ people read books or watch trid ta try understandin’ exceptional people. But I reckon exceptional is as exceptional does. I can think of a dozen ‘normal’ folks left a hell of a positive mark on this here benighted orb, an’ all in under a century. Then there’s supposed ta be all these never-dies, been around a hunnerd times that long, what’ve they done ta make anything better? Or are ya gon’ tell me all the great figures o’ history were never-dies, jist passin’ from one temporary do-goodin’, norm-helpin’ identity on ta the next?”December 4, 2018 at 9:32 am #11763
“Some of them were, yes. Ehran the Scribe, for example. He’s been a few people down the centuries.” Alessandra replied, a trifle sharply. “And as you point out, we work in circles, not straight lines. How many more of those ‘normal people’ had an immortal watching over a shoulder or whispering in an ear?”
Alessandra shifted, crossing her legs and resting her wrists on her knees, leaning forward. In that pose, she looked more like a grad student explaining a paper than a millennia old evil sorceress. “And its not trying to understand ‘normal’ people. I go out amongst ‘normal’ people, but its not to understand them, per se. Books help connect with motivations, emotions, cares. The characters can still be exceptional.” She shrugged. “Why would anyone, immortal or not, ever want to be ‘normal?’ I want to understand human- metahuman now- drives. Immortals have them, of course, but we tend to play long, complicated games. Passion is nearly non-existant in the courts of the High Sidhe, for example. Oh, we fake it well enough, but the sort of thing that inspires love, or sudden, murderous violence, or a woman laying down her life for a belief?” Alessandra shook her head. “That doesn’t fly. In the courts, that’s a liability. Which may explain why I’m as far down the totem pole as I am, considering my age.”
She looked quizzically at Al. “Speaking of backwards arrogant, you don’t think that lecturing an immortal about acting and agency is arrogant?”December 4, 2018 at 11:32 am #11802
“Heh heh. Well, if’n ol’ Al was gon’ lecture someone, sure wouldn’t discriminate on age. Hell, that’d go against my rainbow coalition bona fides. I may not be Awakened, but I’m nothin’ if not woke.” The grin on his face suggested he was just having fun. But of course it was only a suggestion. “As fer arrogant, hell, only difference between arrogant an’ confident is bein’ wrong or bein’ right, so I’ll refer ya ta the aforementioned superpower.”
He paused, taking a moment to mentally congratulate himself on his verbal agility.
“Anyhoo, I’ll allow that ear-whisperin’ bit’s food fer thought. Maybe y’all done more good than us normals are hip to. Like I done said, I underestimated the last batch, so I’ll try not ta make that mistake with yer lovely self.”December 4, 2018 at 12:31 pm #11807
[Evening, Thursday March 25, 2077; Hopper’s T-Bird, Salish Border with Sioux]
“Saddle up people, we’re good to go!”
Once all were on board and safely tucked away Hopper punched the throttle and the T-bird leapt forwards like a startled deer. Brushing the tree tops they hurtled towards the border using all of Hopper’s skill to stay in the radar shadows of the hills and forests of this beautiful neck of the woods.
Then, swearing under his breath, Hopper announced “We’ve picked up company, a patrol drone…one of you want to deal with it before I have to do something drastic? If it gets the word out we’ll have Wildcats breathing down our necks before you can sneeze. The Sioux don’t exactly welcome smugglers, or anyone for that matter, with open arms!”
#89December 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm #11808
Involuntary one of my eyebrows rose: “You worked as sword teacher? Seriously? You are a lot more patient man than me. I tried to teach a few times in my life professionally, but as far as I remember I never got beyond the first two hours. The last time I did was about a 100 years ago when this whole Karate craze went around in the West. Teenagers are just the worst kind of people to teach. Constantly horny, know everything, full of themselves, convinced of their own immortality and really hard to keep focused…”
I stopped and shrugged: “Anyway, cudos to you for being able to deal with those.”
I was interrupted by the announcement.
“Let’s see if I can do something about that.” With that I slumped in my harness and took a look at the matrix around me.
The first thing was to stop the thing from narcing on us.Spoiler:
December 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm #11831
- This reply was modified 5 months ago by Jack_Spade.
Ilario had given a shrug to the comment about teaching, though he had become slightly preoccupied as he pulled out his commlink and began trying to remember how to make a call on the blasted thing. ”Best way to keep one’s skills sharp is to teach them to others, my good man.” He frowned in irritation at the little box in his hand, then decided perhaps a message would be better than a call.
He was typing (slowly) when Hopper called them all into the bird. He cursed under his breath, speeding his typing as much as he dared, hastily sent it off, and rushed in to join the others before they could leave him behind.
He had just finished strapping himself in when the thing lurched upward and forward, drawing a strained grunt from the man and sending his hands down to grip the edges of the seat again. Oh how he wished they were already there and hoped that this flight would be short.
Then again, if they arrived too quickly, his poor, little darling might miss them. With how fast she could fly, it wouldn’t take her long, but there was still travel time involved.
#18-9December 5, 2018 at 5:37 am #11850Spoiler:
I stired and got control back for my body. “The drone should be no trouble anymore. It collected a little psychosis rendering it mute, blind and forgetful for a moment. But let’s press on. I’m way worse at this than I’m letting on and it barely worked out.”
I turned to Ilario: “So where were we? Oh right, keeping your skills sharp by teaching them. I guess that’s very true. But in that sense I’ve tought a lot of courses on battlefields and taverns over the years. Hands on experience.”December 7, 2018 at 12:03 am #12030
Alessandra had just began to stand, going to summon an air spirit to slap this drone out of the sky when Vindariel slotted the damn thing, neat as you please and without so much as shifting in his seat. She cocked her head, staring, nonplussed, and waited for a lull. “Huh.” She said after a moment. “That was…graceful.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “I must know, Shrike. What in gods’ name possessed you to learn how to deck? And did you have to relearn it twice like most of the career keyboard cowboys?”
December 7, 2018 at 3:29 am #12042
- This reply was modified 5 months ago by BrickyardBabe.
I blinked a bit at the question: “A little bit of column A a little bit of column B. I took some interest in the early 1990ies to learn the basics since the conventional method of getting a new identity had become pretty hard, since now the system tracked if you tried to use a dead persons identity to get a new passport. Kept it up until the first Matrix made naked hacking too dangerous.
I got back into it during the late 60ies as you no longer needed the specialized hardware, a datajack drilled into your head and could do it on your phone. But I never learned how to do that cyber combat thing – I’m still strictly using exploits, and electronic warfare principles. Takes a bit more time, but you also don’t risk getting your ‘ware fried so easily.”December 11, 2018 at 7:46 am #12312
[Evening, Thursday March 25, 2077; Hopper’s T-Bird, Just over the Sioux border]
With the drone silenced and temporarily forgetful the crew hurtle on for a few minutes more before Hopper suddenly banks the craft hard to the left, the resulting G-forces crushing the somewhat rattled team in to their cushioned seating
>Sorry! We just buzzed a mobile listening post! Dammit, I checked the route was clear this morning, someone has fragged us! I’m going to have to drop you and lead them away…no time for niceties, I will slow just enough and you jump, I’ll try and make it a field rather than trees but the rest is down to you. Try not to break a leg, that’ll make it damn hard to evade anyone that comes looking for you!
They skimmed the trees on the valley they had just exited and like some mad fairground ride plummeted in to the next valley leaving their stomachs behind them. As Hopper jinked round another clump of trees he remotely opened the side door of the bird…
>Grab what you can and get ready to jump. We need to time this right or I’ll fry you with the jetwash…any questions? Good!
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