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Thread: The Never-ending Story Thread²

  1. #561
    [Hey Tracer, good to see you around. ]

    Sarn: Well.. That was a bust.

    SM: Right, sir. What do we do now?

    Sarn: Sir? Why are you calling me Sir? Weird people...

    SM: Uhh... Right Capt- err... Sarn. No reason. So...

    Sarn: So...

    *Sarn and Sok Munkey's eyes fall upon a vehicle in the parking lot. It's a 1968 Ford Mustang, painted a dark metallic blue. It's miraculously undamaged, in spite of the havok all around, and seems to glow with a heavenly aura.

    Sarn: So... Think you could hotwire that?

    SM: Worth a shot.

    *Five minutes later, Sarn and Sok Munkey sit in the Mustang, still parked outside the CSotD. Sok Munkey is in the driver's seat and is fiddling with some wires under the dash. The interior of the car is like nothing either of our brave heroes has ever seen.

    SM: The interior of this car is like nothing I've ever seen.

    Sarn: Yeah, he said that.

    SM: Who did?

    Sarn: The narrator. Don't you pay attention to him?

    SM: Is that where that weird voice keeps coming from? I've been ignoring it.

    *I get no respect.

    Sarn: You really should pay attention to him. It'll help us avoid conversations like this in the future. Besides, sometimes you can learn about stuff that can be helpful.

    *Thank you.

    Sarn: Anyway, what do all these flashing buttons do? I don't think I've ever seen anything like this.

    * *cough* redundant.

    Sarn: Shut up.

    *Sorry.

    SM: I don't know. The wiring down here's pretty creepy too. I't's like nothing I've ever se-

    *Ahem.

    Sarn: Well can you get it started or not?

    SM: I don't know. Check the glove box. Is there an owner's manual?

    *Sarn opens the glove box and retrieves the owners manual. On the front cover it reads, "Owner's Manual: 1968 Ford Mustang (modified)"

    Sarn: Owner's Manual: 1968 Ford Mustang (modified)

    *Why do I even bother?

    SM: Modified? What does that mean?

    Sarn: Wait there's something else in the glove compartment.

    *Forget it. I'm not narrating this.

    Sarn: Whatever. I'M GOING TO REACH INTO THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT NOW, AND SEE WHAT ELSE IS IN HERE. OH LOOK, I'M STICKING MY HAND IN THE GLOVE BOX. I'M PULLING MY HAND OUT NOW. MY FIST IS CLOSED. I'M OPENING MY FIST. LOOK AT THIS, I'VE FOUND A KEY. IT'S GOT A KEYCHAIN THAT SAYS "FORD." Maybe it will work for this car. LOOK AT ME, I'M GIVING THE KEY TO YOU, SOK MUNKEY. YOU'RE TAKING THE KEY. YOU'RE INSERTI-

    *Oh for christ's sake, this is getting annoying. I'll narrate. Sarn hands the key to Sok Munkey, who inserts it into the ignition. The car roars to life.

    SM: Where to, boss?

    Sarn: I don't know. Let's drive.

    SM: Sure thing. You wanna see if that manual says anything about these extra buttons?

    Sarn: Yeah... Where's Hawthorne when you need him? Let's see... "The care of your 1968 Ford yadda yadda... Checking the oil... blah blah... wiper fluid..." Ahh, here we go. This looks promising. "Special features on your 1968 Ford Mustang."

    SM: Should I get on the freeway?

    Sarn: Yeah, I guess... I'm just gonna read up a bit.

    *Meanwhile, travelling along the freeway at an undisclosed location...

    Voodoo Snowflakes: Where are we going?

    Detective: Your friend Sarn Cadrill was spotted in a town not too far from here. We're headed there to see if we can pick up some clues.

    Voodoo: Ahh... Hey, you ever gonna light that cigarette?

    Detective: What? oh yeah.. I guess...

    *The detective rummages around in his back pocket and comes out with a Zippo lighter. He flicks it open and brings it to his lips. His cell phone rings. He tosses the Zippo in the back seat and pulls the unlit cigarette from his mouth, and, tucking the cigarette behind his ear, reaches for his phone.

    Detective: Yeah? I see... Just now? How long ago? I'm on my way.

    Voodoo: What was that about?

    Detective: Seems our friend Mr. Cadrill was just at the Convience Store, not 10 minutes ago. That brute behind the counter scared him off.

    Voodoo: Joey? He's a good employee. He loves his Job. And the Convience Store of the Damned has been good to him. The Convience Store of the Damned is good to its employees...

    *Voodoo Snowflakes eyes seem to film over.

    Detective: Well... Uhh.. anyway, let's go check it out.

    *The unmarked car screeches to a halt and drives across the median on the lonely highway. Moments later, the detective and Voodoo Snowflakes are cruising back the way they'd come.
    Last edited by Sarn_Cadrill; 01-16-2006 at 07:36 PM.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  2. #562
    …no detective ever had to come to Knowhere valley on business.

    It is also true that few police ever had to do business in Knowhere valley. It was the sort of town whose law enforcement needs could be fulfilled with the statutory number of patrol cars and a handful of highway patrolmen. The sort of town in which most crimes could be resolved with a warning, a citation, or a worst a night to let things settle and people to sober up.

    But there was something else about Knowhere valley. Something that traced back to the essence of law enforcement. The thing was… Once being a cop worked it’s way into your system, nothing short of a bullet could ever get it back out again. It’s been said that good cops don’t die, they only fade away, but in truth its quite the opposite. Good cops never fade, they can only die cops.

    Knowhere valley was the sort of town where diners and cafes had police band scanners instead of musak. The kinds of town with residence who keep a single well maintained pistol locked up tight, right next to the well polished badge, and the honorary pocket watch. Knowhere valley was safe, and the local precinct had only a cursory role. The town was protected by ghosts: not the ghosts of or the recently passed, or of the honored ancestors, but the ghosts of the still living, the ghosts of retired law enforcement…

    …The thing about being a cop, was that no matter how hard you tried, you could never stop being a cop.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  3. #563
    <NSP: For reference since I didn't make it too clear, the Astrovan doesn't fly so much as bounce. The introduction is based on the LucasArts adventure game Grim Fandango. The end of Thatchett's quote goes "...like eagles on pogo sticks!" Like I said, I didn't really make it clear enough, but nothing really changes ultimately. />

    Thonk.

    Thatchett: Ow.
    Hawthorne: Sorry. It's not as easy as it looks.
    Thatchett: Just be glad I ain't eaten yet.

    Thonk.

    Thatchett: You know, this was easier a minute ago. You remember, with more soaring and less pogoing?
    Hawthorne: But we were going way too high.
    Thatchett: Yes, and now we--

    Thonk.

    Thatchett grumbles and returns to his disinterested survey of the yo-yoing landscape. Hawthorne grips the wheel of the Astrovan with enough force to strangle a fully-grown gorilla, staring out the windshield with white-faced intent. Apparently oblivious to his surroundings, Bhac reclines against the passenger side with his legs spread over the back seats. His eyes closed and his face a perfect mask of serenity, he faintly whispers a count under his breath.

    Thonk.

    Bhac smiles and resumes his count.


    Thatchett: So, the nature of this trip notwithstanding, is there any bloody possibility of eating sometime before the skinny guy with the scythe and black robe shows up?
    Hawthorne: Listen, we're going down the road looking for Sarn and SM, or Voodoo Snowflakes if we can't find them. I'm sure when we get somewhere they will have food. You're just going to have to wait.
    Thatchett: But I--

    Hawthorne looks away from the windshield for a brief instant to wave at Thatchett.

    Hawthorne: With all this-- huh?
    Thatchett: Bird!
    Bhac: Zero.

    Boom.

    Several things have just occured. Let us begin by observing the events outside the Astrovan just as Hawthorne directed his attention toward Thatchett. Against all possibility, a giant bird popped into existence directly in their path with what could best be described as a sproinging sound.

    It had, as is the way of such things, a truly uncanny ability to be exactly where the Astrovan was going to be at the same moment the Astrovan decided to be there. Roughly one half second after beginning its existence, the bird felt the hard touch of high-velocity rubber on its leathery wings.

    At approximately .67 seconds after beginning its existence, the bird ceased to exist. This could be viewed as something of a fortuitous occurrence for the bird, seeing as the remainder of its life was going to be rather short and wholly unpleasant. However, by that time, the Astrovan had begun a rather different journey. It spiraled off the road, flying off into what at first glance appeared to be an unimportant stretch of desert.

    A long moment of terrible silence followed.

    With a grinding squealing noise, the Astrovan impacted the hard rocky ground. The front end of the car crumpled up like a tin can. A wave of compression pulsed through the car's body, shattering its delicate internal frame.

    True to literary form, two chafing pieces of metal produced a spark which touched a broken gas line. The Astrovan exploded in a wet orange ball, quickly doused by billowing clouds of black smoke.

    Now that these events have been described, it is important to note at this point that none of these events have actually happened.

    Now we see what is being observed by the three characters, who have been up to this time occupying a space inside the Astrovan.


    Hawthorne: Thatchett?
    Thatchett: Yes, boss?
    Hawthorne: What just happened?
    Thatchett: You hit a bird.
    Hawthorne: After that.
    Thatchett: I think some crashing may have been involved.
    Hawthorne: Do you remember that part?
    Thatchett: Um. Not exactly.
    Hawthorne: Me either. Where's Bhac?
    Bhac: Here.
    Hawthorne: Where is 'here,' exactly?

    A dense gray mucky fog surrounds them with an oppressive density. Black clouds drift in and out of the fog. A ghostly perfect gray light emanates from somewhere unseen. Nothing but fog can be seen anywhere.

    Hawthorne: More importantly, what are we standing on?

    Suddenly they are beset by the overwhelming feeling of a rubber band breaking. A sound, not so much heard as felt and seen, accompanies the change.

    They find themselves observing a man and a woman in medieval dress in the midst of a heated debate. The man seems awkward and timid, trying to cling to the woman while she pushes him away. The woman laughs wickedly with a mad gleam in her eye.


    Woman: Are you honest?
    Man: My lady?
    Woman: Are you fair?
    Man: What means your ladyship?
    Woman That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.
    Man: Could beauty, my lady, have better commerce than with honesety?
    Woman: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. Go thy ways to a monkery!

    Hawthorne and Bhac exchange glances and then carefully avoid each others gaze. Thatchett cocks his head at the tableau with a raised eyebrow. With another feeling of a snapped rubber band, the three find themselves once again alone in the murky gray.

    Thatchett: There are some things you should never have to see.
    Hawthorne: Amen.
    All: ...
    Hawthorne: So what are we doing here?
    Bhac: We crashed the Astrovan.
    Hawthorne: I had nothing to do with that!
    Bhac: Of course you didn't.
    All: ...
    Thatchett: So what ARE we doing here?
    Bhac: We cra--

    Sproing.

    They find themselves on a wide yellow pasture, a gentle wind rippling across the long uncut grass. The deep blue sky is mired by only the burning white sun. Hawthorne and Bhac stand across from each other, clothes torn and blood dripping from many, though ultimately superficial, wounds. Each has a long high-powered pistol trained on the other.

    They cock their guns.

    Six eyes swivel back and forth between the two. In the tall grass, no one notices a small tumbleweed appear between the duelists. Hawthorne smiles. Their fingers tighten on their triggers. There is a loud echoing boom, cut off by a--

    Sproing.


    Thatchett: He done gotcha, boy.
    Bhac & Hawthorne: Er...
    Thatchett: So it's true what they say about those things.
    Bhac: It, ahh...
    Thatchett: I just didn't expect your skull to crack open like tha-- ow!

    Hawthorne quickly removes his foot from Thatchett's paw.

    Hawthorne: I, ahem, think that's all we need to say about that. Erm, yes. So, ahh...
    Thatchett: What the hell was that?
    Hawthorne: That's what I'm wondering.
    Thatchett: No, the foot thing!
    Hawthorne: Oh, that. Ehm, sorry, you know, hard to see in this mess.
    Thatchett: Bugger hard to see, that's my FOOT you're talking about!
    Hawthorne: Well, ahh...
    Bhac: As amusing as this is, I think perhaps now is not the time for such discourse.
    Thatchett: Bugger that, it's my-- aaaooww!
    Hawthorne: Wasn't me!
    Thatchett: Like hell it was--

    Sproing.

    Thatchett: --nt. What are you looking at?
    Hawthorne: You might want to move, T.
    Thatchett: Huh? Oh.

    Thatchett looks up, to see nothing but a round black silhouette. After an instant he realizes the black is descending toward him with shocking speed. He tries to run, but finds his feet rooted on the spot. He cowers, but feels an icy touch on his head.

    Sproing.

    A short but well-fed woman with long auburn hair wearing a white shirt and black pants with a matching trench coat is standing in front of a parking garage. She looks down with the look of someone fighting an internal battle against an enemy rapidly outflanking her.


    Woman: So, ahh, you want to maybe go get something to eat...?

    Sproing.

    The three exchange looks.


    Hawthorne: In all seriousness, what the --ing hell is happening?
    Bhac: There is a theory--

    Sproing.

    --which suggests that if anyone ever discovers what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. There is yet a third theory--

    Sproing.


    Bhac: Um. Right.
    Hawthorne: Yes?
    Bhac: There are certain suggestions which have been proposed about the nature of the world we're living in. There are some places, places at the end of roads, where people say they have seen a vast empty space filled with...
    Hawthorne: With?
    Bhac: Possibility.
    Thatchett: So what are we talking about here?
    Bhac: It's a magic door to other possibilities.
    Thatchett: So what is it?
    Hawthorne: It's a place where what you imagine comes true?
    Thatchett: So what is it?
    Bhac: It's a new possibility of creation.
    Thatchett: Oh, so you mean it's a super-condensed three-dimensional field in which thought directly influences waveform collapse. Why didn't you just say so?
    Bhac & Hawthorne: ...

    Sproing.

    They find themselves looking at a small scruffy-looking unwashed dog wearing a pink collar, wagging its tail at velocities adequate for launching a small passenger jet.

    Thatchett wimpers.

    Sproing.


    Thatchett: Ok, I can do better.

    Sproing.

    Sasha reclines languidly on a small mattress. The sheets have collected around the foot of the bed and appear to have remained there for some time. She holds a multifunction screwdriver between her knees and a battery of fasteners between her lips while she fiddles with some small mechanism. Various gears are strewn inside a hemispherical metal base while she connects a small circuit board to an internal bracket on the device. A small LCD is propped under her chin with wires leading up to the object in her hand.


    Thatchett: Ayayae.
    Hawthorne: ...
    Bhac: Right.

    Sproing.

    Hawthorne: ...
    Thatchett: Did you...?
    Bhac: Yes.
    Hawthorne: ...?
    Thatchett: And was she...?
    Bhac: Yes.
    Hawthorne: ...!
    Bhac: Thatchett, can you...?
    Thatchett: Right you are, boss.
    Hawthorne: Owwww!
    Thatchett: That there is payback biatch. Doesn't taste very good though.
    Bhac: Right. So what we need to do is--
    Hawthorne: Wait. What are we doing here? And don't give me any of that "we crashed" business.
    Thatchett: Well we did.
    Hawthorne: But that doesn't help!
    Bhac: Here's what I think...

    What does Bhac think? Where, when it actually gets down to it, are Hawthorne, Thatchett, and Bhac? Most importantly, when is Hawthorne going to realiz--

    Hawthorne: Dude!
    Thatchett: Dude?
    Bhac: Dude...?
    Hawthorne: DUDE!
    Bhac & Thatchett: ...
    Hawthorne: Where's my car?!
    Last edited by Majiir; 01-18-2006 at 12:42 AM.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  4. #564
    Whenever I smell gasoline, I think of Sasha. That’s the last sensation I had before I blacked out: the bitter smell of gasoline, and the first thing I saw when I woke up was her face. She said she'd fix my Van, free, No strings attached. I should have known then that things are never that simple. Yeah... When I think of Sasha, I think of two things, Gasoline, and Trouble… And that other thing too…

    * * *

    Bhac steps over and rests a very heavy hand on Hawthorn’s shoulder.

    Bhac: As I was going to say, I think you two should just calm down for a moment.

    Hawthorne: Calm down! I just shot you!

    Thatchett: And I just had to see Sasha Nekkid! How are we supposed to keep calm?

    Bhac thinks for a moment, and then ignoring Thatchett, addresses Hawthorne again.

    Bhac: Have you ever tried connecting a tri-phase generator to a redian-style frequency modulator without first verifying that the time domain contains only real roots?

    Hawthorne: Well… Yeah… Everyone does that at least once… Don’t they?

    Sproing.

    Bhac: What we are experiencing right now is very much the same thing…

    Hawthorne: You mean… Transients?

    Bhac: Quite… Transient realties…

    Thatchett: What the gibbons are you talking about? And Since when did Bhac understand anything about all this techno mumble jumble.

    Sproing.

    Bhac (still ignoring Thatchett): I think… that was no ordinary bird.

    Thatchett: It was a BIRD! You know, wings, Feathers, Tastes good with or without catsup. BIRD!

    Bhac: What I mean to say is… I think Mayaal…

    Hawthorne: Who’s Mayaal?

    Bhac: That is unimportant… All you need to know is that in just a little while things should settle down.

    Sproing.

    Thatchett: I’ll tell you what needs to settle down, MY STOMACH! How about a waveform with some food for a change?

    Hawthorne: Didn’t we just pass one with a bunch o-

    Thatchett: No… Those were rocks.

    Hawthorne: Really? The sure looks like baked potatoes with sour cream and chives…

    Thatchett: Trust me… My nose known…

    Hawthorne and Bhac: *groan*

    Hawthorne: So… Um… Why don’t you just try to “collapse a waveform” with some grub in it?

    Thatchett: Where do you think the Potatoes came from?

    Hawthorne: Oh.

    Sproing.

    Hawthorne: Wait a minute, when a you connect tri-phase generator to a redian-style frequency modulator containing imaginary roots… AFTER the transients waveforms settle down, it usually Explodes!

    Bhac: Really? Bad analogy on my part then…

    Hawthorne: You sure?

    Bhac: Yes.

    Splat.

    * * *

    The thick smell of gasoline drifted over the ravine, the burnt out husk of the Astrovan was perched precariously, high-sided on a pile of bramble and no less than three complete ex-trees. Three bodies, two human, one canine, still sat in the vehicle, their seatbelts having successfully prevented them from being throw through the windshield, and into the soft patch of daises just ahead. Somewhere in the distance, sirens could be heard.

    Day and night began to pass as if in time lapse, the greenery around the Astrovan slowly recovering from the introduction of the Astrovan. Days, weeks, months, years passed. Rust form, bodies decomposed, flowers grew, trees grew, life continued.

    And then Suddenly, Reality exploded


    * * *

    Hawthorne was the first to regain consciousness, or at least the nearest thing that can be considered consciousness. His eyes had trouble focusing, and his head was splitting. He tried desperately to make out the figure in front of him, and was meet with what appeared to be a large black monolith on human shoulders in front of him.

    Hawthorne, instantly recognizes it as a welding mask.

    Hawthorne: Hey Sasha.

    Sasha: Hey! I didn't expect to see you again any time soon.

    Hawthrone: Neither did I.

    A big sheepish grin slowly creeps across Hawthorne’s face.

    Sasha: What?

    Hawthorne: Nothing, nothing… Just glad to see you again, that’s all…

    Sasha: What happened to you guys?

    Hawthorne: I really don’t know… I think we hit a bird or something, and then we crashed.

    Sasha: A bird? I sure doesn't look like you hit a bird?

    Hawthorne: We were… up… in the air…

    Sasha: I know, the hydraulic shocks… I saw them… But it still doesn't look like you hit a bird.

    Hawthorne: What does it look like?

    Sasha: I looks like your Astrovan just suddenly appeared in the garage of a local convince store with you three asleep inside.

    Hawthorne: What?

    Sasha: Yeah, Joey, the guy who works here called me. Said it looked like the car needed fixing and I’m the only mechanic around.

    Hawthorne: What’s wrong with the van?

    Sasha: Punctured gas tank, that’s all as far as I can tell. I fixed it up for you, no charge. Oh yeah, your apparently your oil light was on… I fixed that too.

    Hawthorne: Thanks… Listen… I…

    Sasha: Sorry, I can’t stay; they need me back in Spring Valley pronto…

    Hawthorne and Sahsa just smile at each other in silence, finally Sasha climbs into a black 1995 ford escort wagon with a large tow crane attached to the back, and drives off into the night. Hawthorne climbs out of the pile of old tires that had served as his bed, and began to wake the others.

    Thatchett: Mmmph… Let me sleep…

    Hawthorne leans over to the sleeping dog and whispers in his ear.

    Hawthorne: Viddles.

    Thatchett springs to life.

    Thatchett: VIDDLES! WHERE? FOOD!

    Hawthorne: Get up you lazy dog.

    Thatchett grumbles miserably and he climbs down from the tire pile and helps Thatchett wake Bhac. The three groggily wonder over to the Astrovan and take their seats.

    Hawthorne: So… Apparently, we survived… I’m not entirely sure…

    Bhac: Your van is a fine piece of engineering, I would have expected more reality shock once the plot folded back in on itself.

    Hawthorne: Oh Really? Thank you I guess… So what are we supposed to do now? Continue on as if we did not just crash into a bird mid-air and spend the last 30 minutes tripping through the more ideologically diverse dimensions?

    Bhac: Thanks to the anti-plothole device you now have installed in your van… None of that did happen… well, It did happen, but then it was just sort of… Written over…

    Hawthorne: Written over?

    Bhac: Yeah.

    * * *

    What the F*** just happened? Did our three travelers really just go on a dimensional acid trip through reality and decency? Did the Bird really exist? Is Mayaal really behind this confusing and complicated turn of events? Did Sasha re-fill the gas tank after she patched the hole? Find out in the next inevitable episode of NeS!
    Last edited by West Wind; 01-18-2006 at 02:49 AM.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  5. #565
    *Ante, TLTE, Mimiru, CM, Subaru, Midvok, and Gebohq sat in a circle around a few glo-sticks. Most of the group was ragged and short of temper, between the battle, the healing, and the... uh... being served hand and foot by the local tribesmen. See? I said most of the group. The impromptu camp was nestled between a group of trees and a rock wall adjacent to the Bateke Plateau.*

    CM(Mimiru): I'd really feel a lot better if we had a real fire here...

    Mimiru(CM): Right, because we could really use a beacon telling the Potentials exactly where we are.

    CM(Mimiru): Hey, don't get all snippy with me, I just thought it'd, you know, keep the wild animals away.

    TLTE: That's enough out of both of you. If you really need to have a lover's quarrel, you can do so elsewhere where it won't jeopardize the rest of us.

    Mimiru(CM): *sigh* Whatever, old man. I was right anyway.

    *CM(Mimiru) Sticks out his (her?) tongue at Mimiru(CM) in defiance.*

    Ante: Look, it's high time we got some rest. There's no telling what the Potentials could have in store for us at this point, so we need our wits about us. We should sleep in shifts, so as to keep someone on watch. I volunteer to take the first watch.

    Gebohq: But I've been sitting in the lap of tribal luxury for who knows how long, I think I should get the first watch...

    Midvok: In my life of space piracy I've run into enough evil twins, clones, cyborgs, and extra-dimensional dopplegangers to have just a bit of trouble trusting people who show up claiming to be long lost friends.

    Mimiru(CM): Besides, Geb, you've been spending so much time on your own with nothing but a horde of servants that we wouldn't want to give you the burden of "responsibility" so suddenly.

    *CM(Mimiru) begins to chuckle, but is quickly silenced by a glare from Ante.*

    Ante: We're in a dangerous enough spot as it is. I don't feel like being given away by your lack of restraint. Anyway, Subaru's already passed out, and we managed to lose that Stafford character a ways back... now, I'm going to take first watch because, honestly, I have something I need to work on. Next will be TLTE... from there, TLTE, I'm sure you can figure out a schedule.

    Gebohq: Do you at least want a little company?

    Ante: No. I need some thinking time to work out a theory.

    Gebohq: Fine. Whatever.

    TLTE: While I feel we should organize the shifts based on who's least drained from today, I'll concede to your scholarly pursuits. Just don't forget to wake me.

    Ante: Right...

    *The heroes slowly turned in for the night. Ante sat diligently watching the woods and listening to the sounds. However, the sound he paid closest attention to was the sound of his companions' breathing. One by one, he heard the sound of inhalation and exhalation even out until he was certain that everyone had fallen asleep. Waiting a few minutes just to be certain, Ante picked up and started walking back the direction the group had come from.

    As he approached the rubble that once housed Mustang's Gambit, the moonlight broke through the dense forest. Atop the ruins of the cave was a beastly figure: tall, humanoid, but azure of skin. A small pair of horns jutted from its temples, and its toned body was adorned by a white and gold robe. The creature appeared confused, yet angry.*


    Ante: I see you've made it out of your prison.

    Creature: And it would appear a worm has come to mock me without so much as showing me its face. Do you know what it is that you mock?

    Ante: You would be Vashuko, elemental lord of Air, who was feebly trapped by your own pride by a group of "heroes". Mere humans.

    *Ante stepped toward the rubble and into the light of the moon.*

    Ante: You rashly chased them down after watching your brethren be destroyed by thier own power in what would become known as the Battle of Victoria, an event that rippled through time so violently that it created a waterfall that would cascade north until it became the Nile River and led to the prosperity of many peoples who existed centuries before the battle.

    *Vashuko twitched at the accurate, yet condensed, retelling of the fall of the elemental lords.*

    Vashuko: Your arrogant speech is not amusing. Perhaps you should convince me as to why I should not gut you here and now?

    Ante: Well... as I'm sure you've sensed, the story is not the same as it once was. It is no longer tied to the Ancient One. He is gone. Or perhaps the story is gone. At least as you knew it. Therefore, attaining his power is no longer a viable course of action for you. However, you can attain your paltry revenge, as the descendants of the heroes who once imprisoned you are near. Though I doubt you'd be able to handle them.

    Vashuko: So, in the time that I've been gone, the line of heroes has strengthened...

    Ante: Oh, it's not that. In fact, many of these heroes are laughably inept compared to your former opponents. It's just that an Ultimate Convention is in effect. You cannot possibly win. Not against them anyhow. However, there is a power that may be able to assist you.

    Vashuko: I have no need of power offered to me by a puny human.

    Ante: Not even the power to bring back your brethren?

    Vashuko: ...

    Ante: I see you might be interested... Far to the Northeast, in a place known in our times as Siberia, you will be able to find what you are searching for. It is located near what appears to be a Plot Hole. But do not be deceived. The hole is actually a lack of existence. I'd suggest not running into it or trying to use it to your advantage.

    Vashuko: And do you have a single good reason that I should trust you?

    Ante: I helped to engineer the use of explosives that caused the destruction of your prison.

    *Vashuko eyed Ante for another moment. Growling in disgust at owing a human for his release, Vashuko took off into the sky on a gust of wind, flying to the Northeast.

    Ante turned back in the direction of the camp only to feel a dull blow to his chest followed by the sensation of travelling through the air uncontrolled and landing on rubble. Looking up, he saw what appeared to be a cyborg, eyes glowing red and a wing adorning his chestplate.*


    Cyborg: You would be the Hero known as Ante. I am Hermes, fastest of my master's creations. You have no-

    *Ante leapt at Hermes, pulling out a dagger hilt and pressing a button on it. The crescent blade of the lightdagger extended but missed its mark, as Hermes had already escaped to the side. Hermes raised his weapon and fired, aiming not only at Ante, but at several points to either side of him. The shots seemed to come simultaneously, and though Ante dodged to get out of the way, he took a glancing shot to his left arm.*

    Ante: Tch. You are a speedy one... But-

    *Ante pressed a button on a small, unassuming device on the left side of his belt. The world around him seemed to stop. No wind was blowing, not a creature made a sound. Hermes appeared to be reacting in slow motion. Ante ran around Hermes and thrust his lightdagger into the joint under Hermes' right shoulder. He pressed the button on the device on his belt once more.*

    Ante: - I'm not the Hero you think I am.

    *Hermes disappeared, teleported back to Qwerty's lab after having sustained damage, his artificial mind trying to process how this human managed to get behind him.

    Back in the Congo, Ante fell to one knee, clutching his chest.*


    Ante: *Huff* Guess that... *Huff* proves that it works... *Huff* though the HTM's side effect leave much to be desired when used outside of the Dreamstate...

    *Meanwhile (NeSCount: starting over at 1), back at the camp, the sleeping heroes were gazed upon by several sets of glowing eyes with varying colors.*
    Last edited by Antestarr; 01-19-2006 at 09:11 AM.
    Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.

  6. #566
    "When I think of Sasha, I think of two things; gasoline and trouble. Yeah, and that other thing. It came to me when we were sitting there with our thumbs out. Not that anyone ever drives this road. That was the problem..."

    Earlier:

    She caught the katy and left me a mule to ride...

    Sasha pushes her speedometer into the red on a back road heading to Spring Valley. Her glance strays past the gas gauge and she freezes.


    Sasha: Oh sh--

    Hawthorne pulls the Astrovan out onto the highway, his mind anywhere but on his fuel. The tires struggle to gain purchase on the patch of gravel dusted on the road in front of the gas station. When they catch asphalt the van lurches and screams away.

    A hot wind howls through the open windows. The dull repetitive landscape slides by slowly. Thatchett turns to Hawthorne, composing an eloquent sermon on the beauty and current absence of food in his life, but stops when he sees the set expression on Hawthorne's face. His eyes drift down to the tape deck.


    Thatchett: Hey, want music?
    Hawthorne: Huh? Oh, put something in.

    ...crazy 'bout her, that hard headed woman of mine ... she don't believe in our love, ah look what a hole I'm in...

    Hawthorne's hand leaps out and smacks the eject button, knocking a cigarette off the console.


    Thatchett: Oi, I didn't think you smoked, Bhac.
    Bhac: I don't.
    Thatchett: What's this, then?
    Bhac: ...no idea.

    Hawthorne's eyes hover on the cigarette for a moment that dragged on a little too long, then he returns his attention to the road.

    They drive on.

    After a time, he looks down at the gas gauge.


    Hawthorne: Oh sh--
    Thatchett: What is it?
    Hawthorne: We're almost outta gas.
    Thatchett: Whaddya mean, we were just at that gas station.
    Bhac: Did anyone think to fill up?
    Hawthorne: I just thought--

    Bump.

    The engine goes silent and the wheel gets heavy. Hawthorne shoves his foot on the clutch and manages to get them to coast for another mile. At last the Astrovan succumbs to physics and stops. Eight feet touch the rocky ground; eight legs stretch.


    Thatchett: What now?
    Hawthorne: You know the drill.

    Bhac wanders off down the road and Thatchett goes in search for a convenient tree. Hawthorne settles down to wait. He reaches into the van and pulls out the cigarette before sitting down with his back against the door. He stares at the cigarette for a long time with a glazed look in his eyes.

    "...I keep turning the last couple days over and over in my head. Those... guys showed up and nothing's been the same since. Now they're gone, mostly, and I'm sitting here by the road with no gas, no food, nothing. Why am I still following them? Spring Valley wasn't really my kind of digs, but I could stay there for a while. So why am I here, now, wanting to go forward?

    They say you can't cross the same river twice. There's some literal-minded cutesy nonsense about that, about the river moving, never being the same. But I doubt it's got anything to do with that. It's like we're some fish swimming upriver and by the time you get wherever you're going, nothing is the same. There's no going back now, only forward. Most folks don't know what they're swimming for and they end up going downstream. It seems easier 'till you get to the sea and you realize... you're dead.

    I know why I'm going. I've gotta find him. That's all there is to it. I owe him something. Something he'll be missing..."
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  7. #567
    Hawthorne slumped up against the van and allowed himself to slide uneasily to the ground. Gently rolling the cigarette around between his thumb and forefinger he tried to direct his mind backwards in time.

    How long had it been? He struggled deeply looking for a time or a date. It was very difficult to keep track of “When” out on the road. “Where” and “How” were equally devaluated. But “Why” was a word that held meaning, and for Hawthorne, it held a time as well. In a way the event was too important for numbers.

    He had known Thatchett for… well for several years, after he had hit the road. The rest of these guys for a couple of days… And Sasha for less than 24 hours. He knew what he wanted to say. He knew what he wanted to be important, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Some things were important. If not for you then for no-one else. That was just the way it was.

    Night was falling around Hawthorne and the others as he sat next to the Astrovan rolling the cigarette and his memories around and around. The air became sharp and brisk yet the Astrovan and the pavement both emitted a strangely comfortable heat. After a while Bhac appears from behind the Astrovan and takes a seat on the ground next to Hawthorne. They exchange comradic glances in the silence, yet Hawthorne never breaks concentration on the thin tube of tobacco filled paper.

    Bhac concentrates deeply on the cigarette trying to decipher it’s meaning in the eyes of Hawthorne. Hawthorne had remained mysterious even to the Left Hand of NeS, and his current state was not one Bhac expected to see him in. After a while Hawthorne finally became aware of Bhac’s express interest in the cigarette and turned his attention towards him.


    Hawthorne: I… Umm… You know? I think this is one of Sasha’s… She must have left by accident. Right?

    Hawthorne makes a sudden motion to flick the cigarette off into the darkness, but Bhac spots him palming the cigarette with near master skill. He follows the unseen object as Hawthorne discreetly transfers it from one hand to the other, and then passes it off gently to a pocket. Hawthorne stretches innocently and then reclines further against the Astrovan enjoying the twilight of the wastelands.

    Bhac: I am going to head off for a little while.

    Hawthorne: You need to what?

    Bhac: I have some business I need to take care of.

    Hawthorne: Here? Twenty miles from the intersection of Barren Wasteland Road and Lost to Civilization Lane?

    Bhac: Not here. But I can arrange my own Transportation.

    Hawthorne: Whatever…

    Bhac: The point is. I am-- likely to need you help.

    Hawthorne: My help? Am I coming with you or something?

    Bhac: No, that’s the whole point! I may need somewhere safe where I can send someone. And I might need you help taking care of a “guest”.

    Hawthorne: Is this about that strange thing we installed in the van?

    Bhac: Indeed. Now Listen. If I send someone your way, I want you to take care of them and get yourself as lost as possible. I trust you will have no difficulty in that department.

    Hawthorne: You mean Lost as in driving circles or—

    Bhac: --Lost as in not easily found.

    Hawthorne: How will I recognize this person?

    Bhac thinks quietly for a moment as a mischievous grin crosses his face.

    Bhac: They will hand you a single unlit cigarette.

    Hawthorne: That—That works.

    Bhac: Good.

    Hawthorne: You mind telling me a bit about what is going on here?

    Bhac: Yes.

    With that Bhac rises to his feet and walks off into the barren wastes. He hikes through the increasing darkness without looking back. He did not like doing things like this, but sometimes it was best to have a sleeve to hide an Ace up in case you happen across and extra. After nearly an hour of silent trekking, Bhac comes to a stop around the far side of a large bolder. It would be difficult to open a plot hole even this far away from the astrovan. How Mayaal had managed that bird was still quite a mystery to him. After several false starts he managed a plot hole big enough for him to pass through, and entered—and exited into the Siberian wastes just outside of an old cold war bunker.

    * * *

    Meanwhile (NeSCount: 2) Sarn and Sok Munkey are beginning to greatly regret turning off the main highway.

    Sarn: How can we be lost? We have only been driving five minutes?

    Sok: Trust me, when you have got no idea where you are staring from or where you are going to, it’s pretty easy to get lost in just under five minutes.

    Sarn: I told you we would have been better off on the highway.

    Sok: In a stolen car?

    Sarn: It’s not stolen. It’s just— been temporarily re-purposed.

    Sok: Stolen.

    Sok begins looking very nervously at the rear-view mirrors.

    Sok: Is just me, or are we being followed?

    Sarn: Nope, no way are we being followed.

    Sok: Then why are there something like sixty cars driving in both lanes behind us?

    Sarn: Exactly! Who has ever heard of someone being followed by sixty cars? Now if one car had been behind us all this time, I might be worried. But Sixty cars? Is probably just a funereal.

    Sok: No Hearse…

    Sarn: They probably figure we are the hearse.

    Sok: I don’t think so…

    Sarn: Listen, I’m the brains of this operation, and I say we have nothing to worry about!

    Sok: Really?

    Sarn: Yes, Really.

    Sok: Including that police car blocking both lanes of traffic up ahead?

    Sarn: Yes, Including that Police car blocking both lanes of traffic---WHAT!

    Sok: Look for yourself.

    Up ahead an unmarked police car had indeed parked itself across two lanes of traffic. It’s Single stick on flashing light clearly marking it’s position and profession. Sok Instinctually began to slow down.

    Sarn: What are you doing?

    Sok: Stopping.

    Sarn: In a Stolen car?

    Sok: I Thought you said it was temporarily re-purposed?

    Sarn: Silence! I must come up with a plan.

    As the stolen car slowly rolls to a stop the sixty or so cars that had been patiently following for the past narrative segment split up almost automatically and take surrounding positions around Sarn and Sok’s stolen car. In the flashing shadows of blue and red countless figures emerged from the stopped vehicles. Despite the generally hunched and geriatric look they spread out professionally, each one instinctually taking cover behind an opened door or on the far side of the hood. A half dozen arthritic, yet expertly trained sharpshooters train their focus on the car in the center of the circle.

    Sarn: Ok, Here is the plan. We are a bit out numbered, but if we split up into three Sparkteams we might be able to even the odds.

    Sok: Three? There are only two of us?

    Sarn: You are correct, however they don’t know that. So while the third sparkteam draws their fire. The Second Sparkteam, lead by you, will attempt to hotwire and move that blocking vehicle. Meanwhile, the third sparkteam, lead by myself, will re-enforce our position here and prepare for a rapid getaway.

    Sok: You’r crazy, you know that, right?

    A trenchcoated figure emerges out from behind the blocking police car.

    Detective: Sarn Cadrill, Sok Munkey, Step out of the car, now.

    Sok: I… I think we should probably do what he says.

    Sarn: Brilliant plan. We will lead them along and let them think we are willing to comply, and then right when they least expect it, we will strike.

    The two “heroes” step slowly and timidly out of the car. Before either of them are ableto apprise their current situation they are both assaulted by a bony physical form and the sudden stench of extra strength Bengay(tm) cream. Two retired police officers cuff and pat down their new detainees, and then march them over to the detective.

    Detective: Sarn Cadrill and Sok Munkey, You are under arrest for crimes including Burglary, Kidnapping, and Grand Theft Auto…

    The contingent of retired law enforcement officers slowly began to meander back into their cars and disappear back into the night. Half the retired population of Knowhere valley disappeared back into the night, thankful for one more chance to be a cop…

    What “business” does Bhac have in Siberia? How will Hawthorne and Thatchett get out of there current predicament? Who is this Mysterious guest they might be receiving? What will happen to Sarn and Sok in the hands of the Detective? Will Anyone Else ever post on the NeS? FIND OUT EVENTUALLY!
    Last edited by West Wind; 01-24-2006 at 10:03 PM.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  8. #568
    *Artificial light is a marvelous thing, particularily when it comes to movies. The atmosphere that can be created by a simple room with an artificial, harsh light is astounding. Our hero, Sarn Cadrill finds himself in such a room as we speak. Along one side is a large mirror. Sarn gazes into the mirror, knowing that several men (and /or possibly women sit on the other side gazing back at him). Sarn stares at the mirror, not because he's trying to see what's on the other side, but because by staring at the mirror, he can see exactly what those on the other side see. Sarn sees this as an advantage. As he is gazing into the mirror, the door opens. A chubby police officer strides in and sits down across the table from Sarn. His nametag reads "Officer Phillens"

    Phillens: Well, well Mr Cadrill. You've gotten yourself into quite a predicament haven't you?

    Sarn: How dare you adress me like that, ensign. I'll have your stripes! Stand at attention when you come into the room!

    Phillens: I.. What are you...

    Sarn: Don't you talk back to me, mister, or I'll have you over the barrel. STAND. TO.

    Phillens: I...

    *Sarn slams his hand down on the table and rises quickly to his feet. Flustered, Officer Phillens snaps smartly to attention.

    Phillens: Officer Jeremy T. Phillens reporting as ordered, Sir!

    Sarn: Now then, that's more like it. Mr. Phillens, why have I not been offered refreshments?

    Phillens: I... I don't know, Sir.


    Sarn: See to it, Mr. Phillens. I'll like coffee and three chocolate chip cookies, please.

    Phillens: Yes, sir. I mean... Aye Aye, Sir. Right away!

    *Phillens turns sharply, and bolts from the room.


    Sarn: Bright young chap. If he can remember to follow his training, he'll go far...

    *Meanwhile on the other side of the mirror:

    Officer #2: What just happened?

    Detective: We're obviously dealing with a professional. He knows how to shrug off an interregation. Let's see if I can't break him myself.

    *The detective walks into the room, and has a seat at the table.


    Detective: Mr. Cadrill...

    Sarn: Captain, if you please.

    Detective: Captain. I'd like to help you if I can. In order for me to help you, I'm gonna need you to be straight with me. I'm going to ask you a few questions. Please answer as truthfully and completely as you can.

    Sarn: I'd be happy to oblige, sir.

    Detective: Sarn, tell me about the robbery, the night you met Hawthorne.

    Sarn: Oh, well that. See, I'd just gotten out of the hospital, just recently. Unfortunate incident with a giant chimichanga, you understand. Anyway, I had amnesia for some time. Still a little fuzzy around the edges, but that's another story. Anyway, I went to this bar, to try and meet up with some friends. Next thing I know, we're holding up the gas station across the street with a bottlecap. I'm not sure what that was about. It was all Geb's idea anyway.

    Detective: Geb?

    Sarn: Aye. Geb's my good friend. We go back all the way to college. I met him just after...

    Detective: Just after what?

    Sarn: Well, nevermind that. Anyway, I met Geb at the bar that night, and he said the Heroes were short on funds, so we worked out this plan to rob the gas station.

    Detective: Don't you think that's kind of an... unheroic thing to do?

    Sarn: Well now that you mention it. But then, Geb was acting really strange that night, and I've heard some weird stuff lately about him, listening to the narrator. He's off in Africa somewhere... Or maybe Russia. It's all rather strange, and with the amnesia and all...

    [i]*The Detective scribbles on a notebook.[/b]

    Detective: We'll get back to that. Tell me about this Hawthorne character.

    Sarn: Well.. Hawthro-

    *Suddenly, Officer Phillens bursts into the room and comes to attention.

    Phillens: Officer Phillens reporting with coffee, Sir!"

    Detective: What's gotten into him?

    Sarn: How appalling. I'll handing this. Ensign!

    *Phillens jumps and spills coffee over his shirt

    Sarn: What is the meaning of this? You should certainly know better. Why didn't you bring coffee for my companion? And what is the matter with your uniform? Don't you know how to do laundry?

    Phillens: Uhh, no Sir. I mean yes, Sir. Sorry, sir!

    Sarn: Dismissed.

    *Officer Phillens Bolts out of the room, nearly dropping the coffee cup in his haste.

    Sarn: Now then, where were we? Ahh yes... Hawthorne...

    *What will Sarn reveal about his relationship with Hawthorne? Where is Voodoo Snowflakes, and will Sarn be able to see her? Find out next time.

    [NSP: I was going to post much more, but I'm out of time, so I'll let it go from here. Btw, potential tie-in with Geb here and the detective's investigation]
    Last edited by Sarn_Cadrill; 01-25-2006 at 02:52 AM.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  9. #569
    Dawn was breaking, to some extent. At least it broke in the dictionary sense of the term. Bits of it scattered across the night clouds in little orange pieces, eating away at the silvery blue sky. At last a tiny yellow prick of light blinks over the dark rocky silhouette of the distant rocky hills. Hawthorne sits against the Astrovan covered by a heavy olive army surplus blanket. The only signs that he is alive are small clouds expanding from his nostrils and an occasional blink. As a golden sliver of the sun slides upward, a lump in the blanket stirs and makes a sound which could vaguely be described, when transliterated into vowels and consonants, as "Urrgurruf." Thatchett's nose appears at the edge of the blanket. He sniffs for a moment, then stops and lies still, leaving his nose poking out of the blanket.

    Thatchett: We still here?
    Hawthorne: Yep.
    Thatchett: I miss anything?
    Hawthorne: Yeah, you missed all the excitement. 'Bout two hours ago ... a bird flew by.
    Thatchett: What was it doing?
    Hawthorne: Getting somewhere, apparently. More than I can say for us.
    Thatchett: My thoughts exactly. So. What's our plan?
    Hawthorne: Well, I'm thinking if the water's not frozen we head back to that gas station where we woke up. Should be about three, four hours back.
    Thatchett: And if it is frozen?
    Hawthorne: We wait half an hour for it to thaw.
    Thatchett: Let's just go.
    Hawthorne: Ok.

    So they start out. Hawthorne tosses the blanket in the back of the van and pulls out two canteens. One is slightly smaller than the other and sports a cylindrical harness. Thatchett shakes after Hawthorne buckles the canteen to his back.

    Thatchett: Urf. Cold.
    Hawthorne: You're gonna be thankful for that in a bit.

    Hawthorne throws his canteen over his shoulder and they begin to walk. After about twenty steps, Hawthorne stops dead in his tracks.

    Hawthorne: Hold that thought.

    He runs back and locks the Astrovan, then rejoins Thatchett.

    Thatchett: Right.

    . . .

    The Detective stirs. He opens his eyes and takes in the Knowhere Valley police station waiting room.

    Detective (to himself): Wonder why they even bother with one of these. Everyone's a --ing cop in this town, not like anyone's gonna get a chance to come in here unless they lose their damn cat. And I doubt there'll be a line.

    He stands and brushes off his coat, puts on his shoes, and walks down the silent dark hallway to the station's washroom. He runs his hands under a hot tap and looks up at himself in the mirror to be confronted by two days of chase on his jowls. He shakes off the water with a grimace and steps out. He leans in the doorway of the waiting room, watching the sleeping form of Voodoo Snowflake, uncomfortably wedged onto a standard police-issue three-inch-too-short sofa. A sad yellow light slips between the shutters over the windows. Voodoo stirs and looks up at him with groggy eyes.

    Voodoo: Mmm... any news?
    Detective: How long did you watch?
    Voodoo: He was going nuts over coffee or something.
    Detective: We didn't get much after that. Just some gibberish about some zombie hunters and a red spaceship with an unlikely-drive or somesuch nonsense.
    Voodoo: A... red spaceship?
    Detective: Yeah. You know something about it?
    Voodoo: I remember... something. A red car maybe. And a guy who liked breakfast burritos.
    Detective: ...breakfast burritos?
    Voodoo: I think so, but I could be wrong.
    Detective: Breakfast burritos...

    The Detective pauses for a long moment. Finally he blinks and reanimates. He pulls a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and chooses one prime specimen and places it between his lips as replaces the pack.

    Detective: You want some coffee? No kind of coffee like police station coffee.
    Voodoo: I think I might like that.
    Detective: And then afterward I've got questions for the Ape.
    Voodoo: Monkey, sir?

    The Detective laughs humorlessly.

    . . .

    Thatchett: Are... we... there... yet?
    Hawthorne: We've only been walking an hour.
    Thatchett: One... hour... too... long. Hey, what's that?

    Hawthorne looks up and sees a white form shimmering in the distance. As they draw closer, they see it is a woman in a long white dress, fluttering in the still air. Closer still they begin to feel a growing breeze, pushing past them.

    Hawthorne: Is it me, or is she pulling the air toward her?
    Thatchett: Let's go back.
    Hawthorne: But there's only one way to the gas station.
    Thatchett: C'mon, c'mon, let's find another way.

    They pause, but the shimmering woman approaches them swiftly. She pauses before them, a cool wind swirling around her like a dry autumn day. They try to make out her exact features, but find it impossible to focus on any one part of her for long enough to paint a complete picture of her. Hawthorne catches a glimpse of auburn hair, green eyes, pale skin, high cheekbones, and a slender tall figure. Thatchett catches whiffs of ice and dry leaves and river water and... blood. When she speaks, she sounds like many voices speaking at once; both gay and sorrowful, malicious and charitable, old and young. She speaks in clipped syllables which run together in strange haunting ways.

    Shimmering Woman: Youu are the oness I was sent to meet?
    Hawthorne: I... er...
    SW: I understaand youu have a wayy to become losst?
    Hawthorne: I... think... yes. We have the, er... van. But it's a ways back and we're out of gas.
    SW: Such thingss mean little to uss. Let uss go. Noww.

    With a swooshing feeling, they find themselves standing back at the Astrovan.

    Hawthorne: It's all well and good, but we don't--
    SW: Silence.

    She gestures toward the van.

    SW: We go noww.

    Hawthorne and Thatchett exchange a look. Thatchett shakes his head. They get in the front seats and suddenly find the Shimmering Woman behind them.

    SW: Goooo.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  10. #570
    *At the police station... Voodoo Snowflakes and the Detective are sitting in the waiting room.

    Detective: Soon as the interregation room's clear, I'm gonna be asking Mr Munkey some questions about these events. In the mean time, you should try and get some more rest. You've been through quite a bit for a forgotten character.

    Voodoo: Yeah but... I was kinda thinking... maybe...

    Detective: Not gonna happen. At this stage of the interregation, it's imperative that we control every aspect. If you talk to him, there's no telling what could happen. He's been cooperative so far, and I don't want things going sour now.

    Voodoo: It's just that... I haven't seen him, and I can hardly remember what he looks like. I don't want to forget again.

    Detective: I understand how you feel, but this is a critical time... Maybe after we're done with...

    *The Detective trails off as he notices that Voodoo's attention is no longer on him. He follows Voodoo's gaze and sees two police officers leading Sarn Cadrill out of the interregation room in cuffs.

    Voodoo: Sarn...

    *Sarn looks up from the floor and sees Voodoo and the Detective. Recognition dawns on his face and a smile spreads over his lips.

    Sarn: Voodoo. I was afraid I'd never see you again.

    Detective: What are you doing, Officer Phelps?! I told you not to transport the prisoner until I'd secured the area. Get him out of here!

    *The two officers quickly drag Sarn Cadrill out of the room. Voodoo and Sarn's eyes lock until he is taken from view. The detective sighs and shakes his head.

    Detective: I've got work to do...

    *The Detective stands and walks out of the room, shaking his head in disgust.

    Meanwhile, in another section of the police station, Sok Munkey is sprawled out underneath the toilet in his holding cell, making adjustments to the piping. A loud buzz fills the air and the cell door slides open. Behind the door is a uniformed officer.


    Officer: Prisoner. Present yourself for transport.

    *Sok Munkey gets up from the floor and stretches his back.

    Sok Munkey: You know.. With a slightly different plumbing configuration you could cut stray odor by 46%.

    Officer: I wouldn't know anything about that. Please present yourself for transport.

    Sok Munkey: Well I'm here. What more do you want?

    Officer: Please extend your arms in front of you, close your fists, and hold your arms approximately 6 to 8 inches apart.

    Sok Munkey: Dang you guys are lazy. You want me to slap on the cuffs myself too?

    *Sok Munkey chuckles. The officer doesn't respond.

    Sok Munkey: Right well.. I'm just messing with you.

    *Sok Munkey stands with his arms in front of himself. The officer clears his throat. Sok Munkey glances at his hands, and then closes his fists.

    Sok Munkey: Right then. Now what?

    *The officer steps forward and locks Sok Munkey's wrists into the cuffs.

    Officer: Prisoner. Proceed forward through the doorway, turn left at 90 degrees, and procced down the hall slowly.

    *Sok Munkey steps forward.

    Sok Munkey: You guys have no sense of humor.

    -----

    *Hours later, Sok Munkey is lead from the interregation room and replaced in his cell. The officer that was leading him back walks back down the hall to the waiting room. The Detective is sitting in a comfortable looking chair in the waiting room. Voodoo sleeps restlessly on the too-small couch.

    Officer: I don't understand. Why won't he talk? The other suspect babbled on and on about spaceships and what-have-you and this guy won't even crack his lips.

    Detective: I've seen it before. They're running us through a ringer here. One guy won't talk, the other makes up some crazy story. They're trying to confuse us. There must be more going on here than I originally anticipated. I'm gonna have another chat with Sarn Cadrill.

    *Later, in Sarn Cadrill's holding cell...

    Sarn Cadrill: The accomadations in this room are terrible, Detective.

    Detective: Yeah well.. It's kind of a jail cell, after all. I need to ask you a few more questions.

    Sarn Cadrill: No. No more questions. You have Voodoo, and I won't say another word until I have a chance to talk to her.

    Detective: What, now you're gonna get tough with me, you little punk? You were more than happy to tell me all about your little adventure earlier.

    Sarn Cadrill: Everything I've done, Detective, I've done for her. Now I'm not gonna do anything else until I see her.

    *Officer Phelps steps into the cell.

    Officer Phelps: Detective, we've got some new information. I think you'll want to hear this.

    *The two step out of the room.

    Detective: This had better be good.

    Officer Phelps: You're not gonna believe this, sir. But the car we impounded, the '68 stang? It's not stolen.

    Detective: What are you talking about? Cadrill admitted to finding the car and taking off with it.

    Officer Phelps: Aye, he did sir. But the car's registered to him. It can't be stolen by it's rightful owner. And it gets better. Have you had a chance to look under the hood?

    Detective: No, that's not my cup of tea.

    Officer Phelps: Nor mine, sir, but even I can tell something's weird about this. The car's like nothing I've ever seen. *cough* Wires running every which way, weird electrical equipment... And the engine... Don't even get me started on the engine. It's like the stuff you read out of sci-fi novels.

    Detective: What are you saying, the car's modified?

    Officer Phelps: No.. More like it's not even a car. Like it's some kind of... spaceship.

    *The Detective's eyes narrow.

    Officer Phelps: Except now it won't even start. The technicians are trying to get it running, but they're like monkeys composing a symphony. This is is way out of their league...

    Detective: I'm gonna want to have a look at it. Cadrill's to have no contact for 24 hours. I want him to stew a bit, and we'll see if he starts talking... As for Munkey, tell him Cadrill's confessed to something outrageous, and see if that yanks his chain. And see to it that Voodoo get's a hotel room near here. It's too dangerous for her and Cadrill to be in the same building. I want 2 hours with that car. Arrange it for... *The Detective glances at his watch. six o-clock, and in the mean time, I'll be in my office. I don't want to be bothered.

    Officer Phelps: Aye, sir.

    *The Detective storms off down the hall. Officer Phelps shrugs and begins talking into his radio.
    Last edited by Sarn_Cadrill; 01-27-2006 at 07:19 PM.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  11. #571
    They had somehow managed to drive away, and indeed, they had driven for hours upon hours but to them it had seemed only mere seconds. They had slowly climbed out of the low wastelands and into a magnificent mountain range. All afternoon they had slowly weaved their way up and down mountain passes, revealing a never ending expanse of green and fertile valley. And In nearly every valley there had been a small village or hamlet, nothing more than a sparse dotting of houses and the traditional general store, and yet these small communities radiated inviting comfort. Hawthorne, Thatchett, and the Shimmering Woman had driven on until nightfall, where upon finding a small grove off the side of the road near the top off one of the lower passes. The Shimmering Woman had disappeared into the surrounding forest, offering to gather firewood despite Hawthorne’s request otherwise, and occasionally her ghostly form could be seen drifting between trees or bushes.

    Hawthorne had climbed onto the roof on the Astrovan, and was gazing upwards at the early evening sky. The previous night seemed impossibly far away. Where it had been a cold and wet night, this one enveloped him in a blanket of warm air. The scents of the forest drifted in from the trees, stimulating and entertaining the nose Thatchett, and indeed the lesser nose of Hawthorne. The night sky itself was composed of a thousand different colors, deep violets and magnificent shades of hazy blue drew magnificent patterns in the heavens, their somber beauty broken only by the sparkling of a million stars, each one as clear as the first light of dawn.

    After several tries, Thatchett finally succeeded in scrambling up the sloped front of the Astrovan and sat down next to Hawthorne with a large rawhide bone in his mouth. Hawthorne lazily reached over and scratched him behind the ears.


    Hawthorne: I thought you did not approve of doggy treats?

    Thatchett: Well… the thing is… real rawhide… I mean… She gave it to me.

    Thatchett craned his neck in the direction of the forest where the shimmering woman had last appeared.

    Thatchett: I was not about to insult a beautiful and generous woman by simply declining her gift.

    Thatchett stretched himself on top of the Astrovan alongside Hawthorne and began chewing contently on his new treat. For some time the two sat in silent contentment, until Hawthorne, again scratching Thatchett behind the ears, asked him a question.

    Hawthorne: Thatchett, Buddy. Remember when we hit that bird up in the air?

    Thatchett: Yeah, sorta. My minds all a blurr about that whole thing.

    Hawthorne: Mine too. But by any chance did you smell anything right before we hit the bird?
    Thatchett stopped chewing on his bone briefly, and struggled to recall the moments leading up to the near eternity of confusion that followed in his memory.

    Thatchett: Yeah boss, I did. It smelled something like cotton and old leather only not at all like that… I mean, it was warm and bright, but like leather too… It’s hard to explain.

    Hawthorne: Humm.

    Thatchett: And you know what boss… I remember smelling it before too. Remember when Sarn Attacked Bhac and then disappear. Only to re-appear later? He Smelled like that too.

    Hawthorne: Quite… And how about now? Do you smell anything strane now?

    Thatchett: What do you mean boss? It’s the forest, I smell quite a lot of things. Trees, squirrels, hawks… everything boss, and quite a bit of it is really strange when you’re not expecting it.

    Hawthorne: But do you smell anything strange, like before.

    Thatchett looks peculiarly at Hawthorne and turns his head slightly.

    Thatchett: Now that you mention it boss, I sorta do. Like when Sarn and the Bird appeared.

    Hawthorne: I expected as much.

    With that Hawthorne began to relaxed further into the old army blanket he had been using a pillow.

    Thatchett: What do you think is going on boss? Is something going to happened?

    Hawthorne: Quite the opposite really, Nothing is happening right now.

    Thatchett looks around nervously.

    Thatchett: You mean something is going to happen then?

    Hawthorne (with a slight grin on his face): No, I mean this is all just a dream, some sort of illusion or something.

    Thatchett: Really?

    Hawthorne: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

    Thatchett: So… What are we going to do?

    Hawthorne: Relax for a bit. It’s been a long time since I could just relax under the stars like this. It’s a beautiful night. We will deal with the dream tomorrow.

    Thatchett stared quietly at Hawthorne for a while, and then finally making his decision returns to his Not-Quite-So-Real Rawhide bone. Hawthorne continues to star deeply into the heavens, but while his spirit soars above, he can still feel the weight of the only real thing left In this dream, the weight of a few grams of dried leaves rolled in paper very gently slipped into his pocket.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  12. #572
    POLICE IMPOUND, 6:02 pm

    *The hood to Sarn's Mustang is popped. The Detective and a technician stare into its innards.*

    Detective: "What is this, some kind of future spacecar?"

    Technician: "We just can't tell sir. The level of technology is staggering."

    *The hard-boiled Detective waits as the tech thinks back.*

    Technician: "I've pulled out every trick I know, but nothing works. It's as if I'm a monkey attempting to compose a symphony."

    Detective: "Huh."

    Technician: "Or a dog attempting to fly a jet fighter."

    Detective: "I see."

    Technician: "A pineapple steering a firetruck."

    *The Detective ponders this for a moment.*

    Detective: "What about just pressing the buttons? Have you tried that?"

    Technician: (shakes head) "We pushed them all. Twice."

    *He shrugs.*

    Detective: "Alright. Do the buttons again, then dust for fingerprints."

    Technician: "Sure thing."

    Detective: "Then go one more round with the buttons. I've got some leads to investigate."

    *The Detective zips up his trenchcoat, jams a fedora on his detective head and leaves the police impound yard.*

    INTERROGATION ROOM B, 6:37 pm

    Officer Phelps: "Did you do it?!"

    *Phelps is leaning over the single desk in the dingy interrogation room, his face mere inches from the seated Sok Munkey's.*

    Sok Munkey: "Do what?"

    *Phelps recoils from the Sok Munkey.*

    Officer Phelps: "Don't play this game with me, Sok Munkey. You *do not* want to play this game with me."

    *Phelps starts pacing around the small room.*

    Officer Phelps: "We've got the goods on you and your little gang. There's enough evidence in your file to put you away forever."

    Sok Munkey: "What gang? What are you talking about?"

    *Phelps stops his pacing and jams his face back in Sok Munkey's.*

    Officer Phelps: "Do you thinks this is funny? You think this is all a big dance show for your entertainment? Maybe you'd like me to dance around some more?"

    Sok Munkey: "Uh..."

    Officer Phelps: "Don't hand me that! We know you can make a decision."

    Sok Munkey: "...alright."

    *Officer Phelps begins dancing a jig.*

    Officer Phelps: "Is this what you like? Well? Is it?!"

    Sok Munkey: "Um, I guess so..."

    *The riverdancing continues.*

    Sok Munkey: "Uh, it's probably okay for you to stop that."

    *Phelps sits down and pours Munkey a styrofoam cup of water.*

    Officer Phelps: "I'm glad you're ready to talk. Let's everybody just calm down...here, have a drink."

    *Phelps pushes the cup towards Munkey, who moves to take it. Just as his fingers reach the cup, Officer Phelps springs to his feet and swats it into the wall.*

    Sok Munkey: "Yikes!"

    Officer Phelps: "This is it, Sok Munkey! The jig is up! Do you get me?"

    Sok Munkey: "No. I'm extremely confused."

    *Phelps sighs heavily.*

    Officer Phelps: "I didn't want to be the one to tell you, but..."

    Sok Munkey: "What?"

    Officer Phelps: "We're holding Sarn Cadrill. He threatened to..."

    Sok Munkey: "What? What did he do?"

    Officer Phelps: "...blow up the moon."

    Sok Munkey: "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard."

    Officer Phelps: "Is it?! Is it really?!"

    Sok Munkey: "Yeah. It sounds like you're just trying to yank my chain or something."

    Officer Phelps: "Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, Mr. Munkey! I am very, very sorry!"

    *A tense silence ensues.*

    Sok Munkey: "Um, shouldn't I have a lawyer or something?"

    *Officer Phelps starts shouting at the ceiling.*

    Officer Phelps: "Oh, he wants his lawyer does he?"

    Sok Munkey: "Who are you talking to?"

    Officer Phelps: "Fine, you'll get your attorney. You'll get...your attorney."

    *Phelps storms out of the interrogation room.*

    Sok Munkey: "Thanks."
    Last edited by Tracer; 01-30-2006 at 01:14 AM.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  13. #573
    Cold early morning air stung Hawthorne's nose. He woke slowly, feeling nothing but a dark blur beyond his senses. For a long time he felt an overwhelming touch of familiarity, of being in a place he rarely considered - home. He resisted opening his eyes, clutching at the last fragment of the dream until it abandoned him completely.

    Then it came back to him with a snap.

    She - whoever she was - had returned after a while. Against Hawthorne's protests, she built a fire by the side of the road, and it drove back the encroaching chill of the high mountain air. The fire warmed him and Thatchett like an expensive drink, coursing heat through their veins and softening their resolve. They prepared a simple meal of some european-style sausage soup and spent the evening swapping tales and laughing while she looked on. They retired late but satisfied, and had slept soundly all through the night.

    Hawthorne opened his eyes.

    Dim blue-white light streamed through the windows as it filtered down through dense low clouds. Tendrils of fog whispered between the spires of evergreen. Silvery dew encrusted every surface. Thatchett lay sleeping peacefully in one of the back seats with a flannel shirt piled over him, tiny remnants of rawhide around him.

    Hawthorne carefully opened the door and slipped out into the morning. Spicy pungent odors invaded his senses, driving out almost everything else. He picked up a slight rustle as a slow breeze wove its way down the mountain. Glowing fog was everywhere, corroding his certainty that it was indeed morning. He realized it could be any time of day.

    And for that matter, anywhere.

    Hawthorne had never seen this place on a map, not that he ever bothered with the things. He adopted a straight-line system of navigation. See destination, go straight toward destination. If the road splits, take the best looking road. Repeat until you get there. It had always worked. Until now. The last village was about ten miles back. If he needed to, he could go and call... who? For the first time he felt the bitter realization that he didn't even have Sasha's number.

    Sasha.

    The cigarette still weighed heavily in his pocket. Hawthorne fingered it absentmindedly and remembered. Dream. Dream, dream.

    Where is she?

    The shimmering woman had vanished last night and Hawthorne could see her nowhere now. The fog seemed closer now, oppressive.

    Suddenly he felt the a dry feeling in the back of his throat. For the space of a few heartbeats he could barely breathe. A heat burned into his face like staring into kiln. Then it was gone. Almost at the same moment, the fog began to retreat.


    Shimmering Woman: Youu slept welll?
    Hawthorne: Oh. Yes, thank you.
    SW: So youu are ready to staart againn?

    Hawthorne fiddles with the thin lump in his pocket anxiously.

    Hawthorne: Yes, but a question before we do.
    SW: We have no time for gamess.
    Hawthorne: Of course. I was told to expect a... trifle from you at our meeting.
    SW: You were... told?
    Hawthorne: Yes.

    Suddenly the shimmering woman recoils angrily.

    SW: Youuuu--!

    In a flash, Hawthorne sees a dark blue sky, empty save for the hot white disc of the sun. He hears a yelp from Thatchett next to him. A loud grinding noise drives into his brain with a jolt of adrenaline. Then he is back staring at the shimmering woman. Like a movie jumping to the wrong reel, she has snapped into a serene pose with a beatific smile.

    SW: Of courrsse, youu have but to name your price.

    Hawthorne smiles inwardly but maintains a carefully blank expression.

    Hawthorne: No, this trip is fee enough. I just wanted to make sure you were the right person.

    The shimmering woman relaxes, revealing a previously unnoticeable tension.

    SW: Yes, yess, of course.
    Hawthorne: Shall we?

    He climbs into the van and again finds her mysteriously behind him. Thatchett is already awake and sitting alert in the passenger's seat. The fog seems to slowly burn away in the late morning light. Hawthorne flicks on the engine and waits for the first currents of warm air to course from the air vents.

    Thatchett: We ready?
    Hawthorne: Yeah. Hey, T?
    Thatchett: Yeah boss?
    Hawthorne: Remember when we saw Sasha...?

    Thatchett looks puzzled for a long moment, then blinks in recognition. He nods emphatically.

    Thatchett: Oh yes. I'm telling you, that wasn't me.
    Hawthorne: I know. You remember what you did?
    Thatchett: Erm. I think so. What are you...
    Hawthorne: Nothing. I just thought of it. I just wanted you to remember.
    Thatchett: Ahh, couldn't forget, boss.
    Hawthorne: Good.

    Hawthorne slowly pulls out onto the road, carefully checking to make sure no one else is driving in the fog. A few minutes go by and he begins to make out more details on the tight winding roads as they climb higher into the mountains. Finally they rise above the fog and find themselves on a sunny road glistening with moisture, a dense carpet of white rolled out around them. Hawthorne begins to accelerate. Thatchett looks at him nervously, but says nothing. The shimmering woman looks out both sides of the van disinterestedly. They come to a straight section of the road ending in a tight s-curve. Hawthorne continues accelerating and shows no sign of slowing down for the turn.

    Thatchett: Um, boss...?
    Hawthorne: Hold on, little buddy.

    A horrible grinding noise rips through the cabin as the Astrovan collides with the thin metal guard rail protecting the curve. The wooden supports rip effortlessly out of the wet ground as the van piles over them. The scream of the metal fades into another scream, a primal scream of anger and terror. It deafens both Hawthorne and Thatchett as they sail out into white nothingness.

    Hawthorne opens his eyes and sees a dark blue sky, empty save for the hot white disc of the sun. He hears a yelp from Thatchett next to him. A loud grinding noise drives into his brain with a jolt of adrenaline. The wail is cut off abruptly. He tries to stand, but finds himself unable to move. His throat is dry and he struggles to breathe. He closes his eyes against the burning of the sun. He hears a car door close and footsteps approaching him. There is a squishing sound, then the feeling of sweet water running down his face. He gulps desperately at the water, but feels a gentle hand pressing him back down. After a moment the desperation passes and he feels his strength returning. He rolls over and opens his eyes to see a man repeat the process on Thatchett.

    After a few moments Hawthorne tries to sit up and finds the process easier than he feared. He shakes his head and looks up again. The man stands over him, offering a red calloused hand. Hawthorne grabs it gratefully and pulls himself up. He looks into a face much like the hand, tanned and red with dark short hair and a beard. The man wears a white shirt rolled up at the cuffs and tired looking blue jeans.


    Red-Faced Man: Sorry about that, mate. You boys ok?
    Hawthorne: I... think so. What happened?
    RFM: See for yourself.

    Hawthorne looks around seriously for the first time. He realizes he is back on the road where they had first encountered the shimmering woman. The sun is higher in the sky than he remembered, and the horizon shimmers thickly with the heat. A few feet away he sees a dirty white Volvo semi cab balanced precariously on the edge of the road with a spectacular set of skid marks leading up to it. A large heap of shimmering white robes is caught under the front tires and spread out on what remains of the truck's front end. From a distance it seems like the truck hit something very hard, very fast.Thatchett wanders up next to Hawthorne.

    Thatchett: What happened?
    Hawthorne: That's what I'm wondering.
    RFM: Those pesky things, always causing trouble.

    He nodded, as if that was all he needed to say. He said it in a distant Australian accent, like someone who had been born in Australia and spent the rest of his time in too many places to have just one accent. He stuck out his hand to Hawthorne.

    RFM: The name's Ron. Pleasetameecha.

    Hawthorne takes the hand and shakes it a little dizzily.

    Hawthorne: Hawthorne. And this is Thatchett. We, ahh... ran out of gas. We were headed to the service station a few miles back.
    Ron: Yep, filled up there myself. What are you guys driving?
    Hawthorne: Huh? Oh, an old Astrovan.
    Ron: Great, that'll work. My girl's pretty busted up, I don't think she'll run much farther. You want, we can see how much we can get outta her and siphon off more than enough to fill your tank and then we can head on.
    Hawthorne: But wouldn't it be better if you went back--
    Ron: Naw, best to go forward in a case like this. You fellas mind me coming along for a ride?
    Hawthorne: No, it's the least we can do.

    Ron nods and pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. He lifts one out of the pack and offers it to Hawthorne.

    Ron: Smoke?
    Hawthorne: Oh, no, thanks, I don't...
    Last edited by Majiir; 02-02-2006 at 11:06 PM.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  14. #574
    And now for something a little different...

    Scene: a non-descript talk show-type stage. There is a comfortable-looking couch, and next to it, a small desk and a chair. Gebohq is sitting in the couch.


    Geb: I am? Cool.

    You're still in your double's body, Geb.

    Geb: Rats.

    A man in a suit with brown, parted hair sits behind the desk. He has some notes handy.

    Geb: Hi, Mr....?

    He doesn't have a name, Geb. He's just a random minor character, made for this post.

    Geb: Well what should I call him?

    Mr. Interview Guy? I don't care. He's just here to supply the questions.

    Geb: If he's just going to ask questions, why couldn't you do that?

    Because I wouldn't be sitting next to you. I have better things to do.

    Geb: Oo-oo! Maybe we could have the Questioner question me!

    I won't ask how you know that.

    Geb: Or maybe we could have--

    Shush! Beyond the space around Gebohq and the interviewer is darkness.

    Geb: Where the hell is this place?

    Look, it's just a random setting of no importance. After this post, you'll be back where you were, as if none of this ever happened.

    Geb: Well what's the point then? Why don't the writers do something about my situation?

    Interviewer: Hello, Gebohq. Thank you for stopping by.

    Geb: Mr. Narrator? Blast it, come back!

    Interviewer: Your reputation is well known. Gebohq, the heroic coward. Figurehead of the Never-ending Story for over sixty pages now... how's it feel?

    Geb: Um... it's cool, I guess? Who wants to know?

    Interviewer: Our audience, of course! Give our guest a round of applause, please!

    *The clapping of a full audience can be heard, but can't be seen.*

    Geb: We still have an audience?

    Interviewer: You've been a hero all your life, Gebohq. Why a professional hero?

    Geb: Well, uh... I like it. It's what I can do. Sort of. I like to make my sister proud of me...

    Interviewer: Your sister, Losien. How's she doing? Do you get along well with her?

    Geb: Sure I get along with her. Though I haven't seen her in a while. I hope she's alright--

    Interviewer: Life's been pretty crazy for you, hasn't it?

    Geb: I guess. That's how it goes in the NeS. But being in my evil double's body still freaks me out for some reason. Where's that other-me? What's he up to, pretending to be me? I've heard a lot of confusing stuff lately, and I don't know what to make of it.

    Interviewer: Tell us.

    Geb: Well, apparently there's some bad guys out to get us, called the Potentials. They want to kill us, according to Arkng Thand, but we don't really know why. But you see, the thing is, I remember Thand talking to who I think were the Potentials not too long ago, back in the dream-state-place. I dunno... I mean, NeS has always been pretty crazy, but I worry more these days, it seems.

    Interviewer: Worry about what?

    Geb: Well, NeS as we knew it almost died, back on page fifty. I prayed at the last minute and, somehow, I saved it. I pulled it back together, squared it away, if you will, but I don't know if I did it right, you know? I mean, things seem more... serious now. The Ever-ending Plot is probably still out there, plotting with evil-me in MY body with MY sword, and there was hell on earth, which I think we stopped, and now I'm in Africa with God knows what after us and.... and it feels like there's nothing I can do about it. I can't just hack away at the bad guys like I did before, it seems. And if I'm to understand things right, our group of heroes aren't even together anymore. No more heroes of NeS. There's something wrong with that, Mr. Interview guy.

    Interviewer: Hmm... yes, very interesting. Have you ever thought about settling down? Our viewer poll shows that they connect more with heroes with a love interest.

    Geb: I don't think I want to play this game any longer. Damnit, writers, let me do my hero thing!

    *Silence. Gebohq bolts up in anger and storms off into the darkness. The interviewer stares with a vacent expression towards Gebohq as he stomps further away. Gebohq grows more fustrated as he fails to find an exit, and after a few moments, returns back to the couch, crossing his arms. He eyes the interviewer, who is continuing to stare blankly at him.*

    Geb: If you're waiting for a response, you're not getting one.

    Interviewer: You don't have to answer the question, if you don't want.

    Geb: I don't! Wait, what?

    Interviewer: You don't have to answer the question, if you don't want to.

    Geb: Then... what are you waiting for?

    Interviewer: An answer.

    Geb: But I thought you just said.... oh nevermind. Settling down?

    Interviewer: Yes. Our audience is interested in knowing your love life.

    Geb: Well I don't have one. I'd like to blame it on being a hero, but... *sigh* Well, I'm just no Romeo, is all. I'm not very confident when it comes to those sort of things, and it's what they want. Women, I mean. Confidence... my sister's horrible with it, but not as much as I am. I'm just better at forgetting, is all. Better at being more dense. Fighting evil and getting the ladies... that's what being a hero is supposed to be about, right? But you can't do either without confidence... it's like one big joke, isn't it? Sem was right -- the writers are bastards.

    Interviewer: What about Maybechild? Didn't you work up the courage to finally tell her how you feel?

    Geb: How the hell do you know that?

    Interviewer: ...

    Geb: Right. Yeah, I guess I did. I haven't really seen much of her either. I think that's the way she wants it now. Oh well, there's plenty of fish in the sea, right?

    Interviewer: Optomistic, as always. 42% of our viewers said that it was your optomism that they admired the most.

    Geb: Really? Huh. Well, it seems harder to stay optomistic these days. Maybe it has to do with being in this other body of mine. It feels wrong. It worries me a little that I find this mechanical hand cool...

    Interviewer: Let's wrap up this interview with this final question: what do you think is in store for you in the future, Gebohq?

    Geb: Well, I hope we're going to tackle these Potentials that are after us, and then I'd like to straighen out this stuff with evil-me. You know, get my body back, show him what's-for. Get the heroes together and then who knows? Fight more bad guys, probably. It's my job, after all. Man, talking about this makes me feel better for some reason, I don't know--

    Interviewer: Thank you for your time, Gebohq. And now, a word from our sponsors.

    Geb: Wait! Freakin' hell, I hate commercials.

    *The scene blacks out.*

    (NSP: I felt compelled to do something a little different, but this in no way needs to affect the story at hand. If you all feel inspired by this, though, that's cool Hopefully I'll be writing actual stuff sooner than later, but my "real life" is still getting in the way, so we'll see.)
    Last edited by Gebohq; 02-04-2006 at 02:48 AM.

  15. #575
    * the picture fades back in flickering *

    Annoying commercial Announcer: ...and remember! if your friendly CSotD clerk fails to mention the spiffy reward card you get 2000 reward points!

    *And the scene in room 9 opens at the Somewhere Inn of Knowhere Valley on Isolation Lane. It's one of those rooms in a budget trucker outfit you might see in a movie where the characters are in the middle of nowhere and don't have many options for places to stay when getting chased by some crazy trucker. It isn't really nasty or infested with roaches. But the Somewhere Inn of Knowhere does have an infestation ... of squirrels. How the squirrels got there is up to debate, some think a guest at the Somewhere Inn of Knowhere left them there for reasons only known to that particular unknown guest, others have their own theories. Anyways the walls are slightly illuminated from the flickering glow of the TV, its sounds are now fading into the background.

    Narrator: Do you think all that information was necessary to describe the scene?

    VS the Writer. Maybe not all necessary to the audience, but some parts might be useful to heros or villains that actually listen to the narrator. Eh, but I guess all the audience needed to know that the scene is a hotel room.

    Narrator: But then just saying it is a hotel room is too vague.

    VS the Writer: *sigh* Well anyway what I was trying to get to before you interrupted my train of thought is that Voodoo is there in the room sleeping but even though she isn't curled up on a little couch in a police waiting room anymore she still isn't getting any good sleep.

    *a child's voice sings in voodoo's dreams taunting and laughing

    There once was a girl
    who came from
    all the way back
    from who knows when
    But who she was
    and what she did
    those details are
    pretty much forgotten

    *the scene's sounds garble together - annoying T.V. announcers, voodoo tossing and turning in bed and mumbling, a child's laughter, and the slight hint of squirrels scratching somewhere in the walls*

  16. #576
    Ron produced two five gallon jerry cans from the back of his rig along with a short length of hose, exactly the length of hose one would find particularly useful for siphoning gas out of a semi.

    Ron: Always be prepared, that’s what I’ve always said. Ill let you have the honors on account of me having a lit cigarette in my mouth and all.

    Ron sets the jerry cans down next to Hawthorne then leans up against the truck enjoying his cigarette. Hawthorne quickly siphoned off a suitable amount of gas, and then he and Ron, each with one five gallon steel plated fuel vessels under their arm and Thatchett chasing along after their heels set off back towards the mini-van. The sun was high in the sky, yet even burdened down with the fuel the three made good time back to the Astrovan.

    Once back at the site of the disabled Chevy, Ron produced a pack of chewing gum and a quarter, and Hawthorne dug around back for a roll of duck tape. Between the three items, several bouts of cursing, and Thatchett’s insistent begging for a piece of the gum, they managed to securely patch the hole in the gas tank and refuel the Astrovan.

    Ron: You’ve ever run her on diesel before?

    Hawthorne: (Laughing proudly) I’ve run her on crude before, diesel’s just fine.

    Ron: Right’o

    Hawthorne: You heading in any direction in particular?

    Ron: Yeah, That way (Ron points in the direction of the endless pavement). There’s just one road in these parts, and it’s best to keep to just one direction along it, if you know what’s best for you.

    Hawthorne: Right’o

    The three intrepid travelers climb into the Astrovan, Ron picking up on the invisible clues and yield’s the passenger’s seat to Thatchett. Windows down and radio up, they roll off into the dusty distance.

    * * *

    The detective dodged through several back alleys before breaking his stride, he made a cursory glance over his shoulder. A part of him wanted to get father away from the station, but there was a phone booth just up ahead and he knew if he was found any father off people might wonder. Content with his location the detective produced a notebook from the depths of his trench coat and approached the phone booth. He thumbed through to one of the greasier pages and dialed a number written there. While the phone rang he flipped back to that day’s notes. VIN#, serial from the engine block, even the D.O.T. identifiers from the tires.

    Under his breath he counted the sixth ring.

    When he had been a fresh detective, still very wet behind the ears, he used to get this feeling in his gut every time anyone even mentioned a “Corrupt Cop”. It was like the dry heaves with a stomach full of cheap vodka, the kind of feeling that makes you go red in the face and want to knock some chubby street cop out cold for taking payoff.

    Eight ring.

    He still fell like that, but somewhere along the way something had changed. The Idea of payoff or kickbacks still got deep beneath his skin, but years on the force had taught him two things. The first was that sometimes the only way to do good is to elicit the help of bad people.

    Ten Rings… Suddenly the line engaged.

    The Voice on the other end was a milky white mix of anger and anxiety toped off with the high overtones of adolescence.


    Voice: What do you want?

    Detective: You owe me…

    The line dropped suddenly silent. The Detectives calm and regular breathing met by short, shallow, and panicked gasps. After several moments of dead air the voice finally responded.

    Voice: S***, What are you doing calling me like this! You bail me out of some pee-wee charges just to turn me over to the fed’s like this!

    Suddenly the line clicks off. The detective quietly rests the headset back on the hanger and leans against the back of the phone booth twirling a cigarette between his fingers. After approximately five minutes the phone rings, and the detective instantly snatches it up to his ear.

    Detective: You happy now?

    Voice: I’s good enough, for now. What the f*** are you doing calling me from Knowhere valley, that place is crawling.

    Detective: I’ve got some number for you, I need the dirt… ALL of it.

    Voice: What kind of numbers?

    Detective: VIN.

    Voice: s***… You called me for that!

    Detective: I think you like this one.

    Voice: Fine… Give me the numbers, Ill call you back in 20 minutes.

    Detective: I’ll give you an hour.

    The air on the line becomes tense again, the voice trying desperately to divine the meaning of the detective’s statement.

    Voice: … One hour, now let me have them.


    * * *

    The soft drumming of the pavement cracks.

    The humming of the tires.

    The howl of the wind through the open windows.

    The gentile purr of the engine.

    The regular pulse of the power lines.

    A lesser driver would have found himself at the mercy of such a vicious wasteland, but Hawthorne was untouched by the tendrils of hypnotism creeping around in the shimmering desert heat.

    Ron was right, there was just the one road, strait as an arrow and as merciless as the open ocean or frozen artic.

    They were making good time, for all that was worth. But much to Hawthorne’s surprise they were getting excellent mileage. The linear feedback transmission was dumping pure power into the wheels, and with nothing more than a hairs touch on the accelerator Hawthorne was able to keep speed. Both Thatchett and Ron had fallen asleep, the smaller and slightly less hairy of the two snoring loudly in the passengers seat.

    Hawthorne kept rolling the Shimmering woman through his mind. Something was not right. Mythology was not something he put allot of though into, that was more of Thatchett’s field, but he knew a Siren when he heard one, or at least in this case saw one.

    How could something that could create that night of depthless beauty out on top of the van fall so short as to be run over by a Semi? A Volvo no less?
    He was not about to underestimate the power of illusion. Several years with Thatchett had quickly taught him that… He would have to keep his eyes open and his guard up.


    * * *

    The Detective wandered in front of a nearby coffee shop and had made a few superficial calls from their phone. He had called several of his least favorite contacts in the various departments of records, already knowing the answers they would eventually provide. He quckly began to regret his venture into the little coffee parlor as he desperately tried to convey the concept of a “small black coffee” to the witted woman behind the counter. He had ended up paying a full three dollars for something called a “Tall Columbian Dark Blend”, and it still had whipped cream. Sitting down in a table in the corner, he read back over his notes again and again.

    For a full half hour he was engrossed in the graphite scribbles, before a chime from his wrist watch informed him that it was time to go. Back into the alleys. Back to the Phone Booth. He waited silently staring at the phone.

    Exactly on cue the phone rang, and the detective swiped it before the first ring was complete.


    Detective: What have you got?

    Voice: What the f*** is this all about? Where did you get these numbers?

    Detective: (chuckling slightly) Did you get anything or not?

    Voice: Who the h*** do you think your talking to? Of course I’ve got your info. But this is it, were done. Clear. Level. Got it? I’m dumping my gear and going legit after this. Those two years in county lockup would be a vacation compared to what will happen to me if the fed’s find out what I just did for you. You got it?

    The detective smiled to himself. Years on the force had taught him two things. The second was that sometimes the only way to help someone was to let them dig their hole a little deeper. He was a good kid, really. Bored with public school, parents who would rather see him in jail that have to put up with him at home.

    He had caught the kid dumpster diving behind a high-class office park. He could have sent him away for a few years on trespassing, possession of lock picks, and half a dozen other petty data crimes. But the kid would have been in and out of jail for the rest of his life. Now, he was pretty sure that when the kid said he was going legit, he meant it.


    Detective: (still chuckling slightly) Level. Fine, just give me the info.

    Voice: Good. Fine. The VIN number looks clean, first pass. Anybody could tell you that. Registered to some Sarn creep, first and only owner. Classic car. The usual. But It’s all bogus. Good bogus, don’t get me wrong. Whoever created these records was good, real good. Serial number from the block and tires match up and everything. They even went back into the backups and changed it there too.

    Detective: Sounds like a perfect job.

    Voice: Almost. Except for one thing, I keep my own backups. I can tell you right now that if you had checked one week ago, that VIN number would have come up as unregistered. No Record, Nothing. Same with the tires and the engine. No Service records or bills of sale, up until some time this week, that car did not exist officially.

    Detective: Cute little story, but what does the magic trick do for me?

    Voice: Ahhh, You’ve got the idea. Find the guy holding the smoke and mirrors and you find someone who knows something about what is going on behind the scenes.

    Detective: You traced the source of the changes?

    Voice: Pro job. Bounced across half a dozen satellites, most of them military, encrypted the whole way.

    Detective: And?

    Voice: It was once big circle… Came right back. Inside job.

    The phone line crackled with suspense.

    Detective: You have a name?

    Voice: Yeah… but liste-- *CRASH*

    Detective: Paul? You there Paul?

    The phone hung silently, the conversation asymmetrical as the detectives breath was matched by pure silence. Finally, the phone jumped to life in a brilliant aural flash, instantly recognized by the detective as a gunshot. Without hesitating the Detective dropped the phone back on the hook and walked away with a brisk pace.

    Halfway back to the station the Detective stopped short in his tracks.

    Someone wanted Sarn to beat the wrap, someone on the inside. A corrupt cop.

    There was that feeling again. His stomach turned itself in knots at the idea. Worst of all, the detective could not help but find himself thinking of Paul.

    He had been a good kid. This time he really would have gone legit…

    * * *

    There had been a small pull-off on the side of the road. Ron had said it would be safe enough for a quick stop, and had taken off to stretch his legs, apparently unused to the cramp quarters of the middle seat.

    Hawthorne and Thatchett sat in the shadow of the Astrovan.


    Hawthorne: Thatchett… I’ve been thinking.

    Thatchett: Does it involve food?

    Hawthorne: No.

    Thatchett: Then you’ve been wasting your time.

    Hawthorne: Remember when we were under that shimmering woman’s illusion, and I asked you about the smell?

    Thatchett: Yeah?

    Hawthorne: You smell any of that now?

    Thatchett: (Takes several loud sniffs of the air) Nope, not a trace boss.

    Hawthorne: Good.

    Thatchett: Why are you so worried?

    Hawthorne: It’s just, thinking about illusions and such. What’s to say that as soon as she realized that we were suspicious she faked her own death and created a better illusion, this time using everything she had learned about us so far?

    Thatchett: What are you saying boss? We are still in some sort of dream?

    Hawthorne: If we were, how could we tell?

    Thatchett: I could smell it…

    Hawthorne: That’s just it, we know she can make us hallucinate smells; the fact that she missed the background smell was just an oversight.

    Thatchett: Soo… What are you saying? There is no way to tell if we are still dreaming or not?

    Hawthorne: That’s about the size of it.

    Thatchett: Just for argument’s sake, if we were still hallucinating… what could we do about it?

    Hawthorne: Good question. What’s a Siren’s Greatest weakness?

    Thatchett: Siren?

    Hawthorne: Yeah, I guess.

    Thatchett: Donno…
    Last edited by West Wind; 02-08-2006 at 02:21 AM.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  17. #577
    As the oddly intense Congo night burns on, events unfurl in close proximity.

    Antestarr watches the defeated Hermes' retreat with eyes both brilliant and inscrutable. Gradually, his body language becomes less tense and prideful, and he turns on his heels as he runs back toward the Heroes' camp, mindful of-

    Bhac's other creations. Together, they form a tightening perimeter around the camp: Chaos, Apollo, Zeus, Athena, and the unnamed Leader of them all. Their singularly human characteristics belie their robot precision as they encircle the sleeping Heroes, unfazed by the absent watchman, completely unaware of-

    The Potentials. Mindful of an opportunity, they are melted into the darkness, invisible by even the synthetic standards of the killing robots. Erronem watches the assassins and their prey thoughtfully, stroking a stereotypically heroic jaw: near him, Alexan scowls petulantly, his aura pulsing and fading with barely checked power: and near to his person, the wretched Phoenix, whose perfect eyes gaze out of the ruin of his face, locked on-

    The Last True Evil. He sleeps restlessly, wary of being next on watch. His hand unconsciously tightens around his steel sabre handle, then relaxes, then tightens again. His other hand is in his coat, stroking a variety of gun-handles. Near him-

    Gebohq. Trapped in Gebiyl's body, Geb finds it as difficult as TLTE to achieve a meaningful rest, his arms locked around his chest, swaying slightly.

    And at that point, they both enter the same dream.

    -------------------------------------------

    But it is not a dream: like so many dreams in the NeS, it has a meaning, more of a vision directed by some unknown force. Or perhaps not so unknown. In the dream, Gebohq and TLTE are fighting. The dream is common enough: since it was their last duel that cost TLTE his "life", and nearly Gebohq's as well, they have both revisited it in their minds. This dream is particularly vivid, seeming like page 51 revisited, the grand and final battle of the Never-ending Story...or not quite.

    Gebohq aims his blade at TLTE and realises with a start that they are not in the darkened Arena - they are in the antechamber of Deitopos. Arkng Thand's tower. The realisation does not slow his attack, however, and he swings a broad stroke at TLTE's head -

    - which TLTE ducks under, lashing out with a spectacular kick that knocks Gebohq off his feet, through the grand double-doors into Thand's library. As he chases after his friend as he sprawls backward onto the floor, TLTE suddenly becomes aware that, unlike page 51, the EeP is not controlling his actions. He is completely aware of his own self, and completely in control.

    And yet, he wants Gebohq dead. He NEEDS Gebohq dead. The thought seems to coarse through him like an awesome current: it awakens senses in him that have been dormant for what seems like years, overriding the admiration and fellowship he bears for him. It feels...right!

    So he charges after him in this "dream," and what he does not know is that as Gebohq rises to his feet, preparing to meet him, he feels exactly the same. Gebohq is aware on some level that he does not hate TLTE: he respects and admires the reformation of the man, pities his life's trials, and values his opinion and his friendship. And yet...he HAS to kill him. It is as much a part of him as is the impulse of drawing his next breath.

    So they attack each other ferociously, trying desperately to kill each other with that unjustifiable but irrefutable certainty. Their swords spark violently as they race down the aisles of the library, dishonouring the scholarly air with their gasps and snarls, beating the hallowed ground with militant stamps and toppled book-cases.

    Finally, their swords lock. Gebohq pulls backward, trying to move out and angle a quick slash at TLTE's throat, but the Russian growls and throws them both through a bookshelf. There is a massive crash as the shelf topples and splinters, books soaring through the air, onto the ground, over the fallen and dazed swordsmen.

    A few silent moments pass. Finally, Gebohq musters, crawling over the stunned TLTE, gritting his bloodied teeth as he reaches for his sword a few feet away -

    - only to see the shining spectre of Arkng Thand over them. Thand appears almost angelic in a crisp white suit and beard, and his face is pleasantly docile. In his hands, he is reading Machiavellli's
    The Prince. Behind Geb, TLTE recovers and looks up in awe at the NeScholar.

    Arkng Thand: You are close now, Gebohq. You and TLTE, and the rest of them. Things are going to start moving very quickly soon.

    Gebohq: Why...what do you mean?

    Thand's lips part, almost in a smile - but he looks almost apologetic. It is the most emotive that either of the Heroes have ever seen him act.

    Thand: You'll see what I mean soon. I would advise you, however, to read this book someday.

    Gebohq: The Potentials -

    Thand: Yes, and others. I'm afraid I can't explain more: they're almost upon your camp.

    TLTE: They're almost on us?

    Thand: Quite. After this is over, you'll be coming to see me. You-

    Gebohq: You'll pardon me for saying so, Master Thand, but I think there are several more important matters for us to attend to right now than consulting you again.

    Thand: You do, do you? Trust me, Wielder of the Story...you'll be back to see me. And then matters will become very complicated.

    TLTE shakes his head ironically.

    TLTE: Any advice for us, then?

    The question is almost in jest, but Thand eyes them both with utmost seriousness as he answers.

    Thand: However strange and complex it may get - and there are times ahead that will test your resolve - never lose sight of your purpose in this story. Never forget -

    And then, for the barest of moments, Thand's face changes. For a split second he is not the darkly cynical, virtually omnipresent old man: his face is young, his skin smooth and flawless, his eyes piercing and beautiful, his hair abundant and curled. He looks like a figure out of a classical painting, reminiscent of-

    Thand: Never forget who you are.

    - and then he is the old Thand, the enigmatic figure again. Smiling at them, he turns and walks away, shouting over his shoulder.

    Thand: Now, weren't you two in the middle of something?

    Suddenly, Gebohq and TLTE notice each other again, and leap at each other-

    - but the dream is broken, and they both jerk upright, shaking and breathing hard. Their gaze catches and they stare at each other, disbelievingly, for all of a moment.

    And then all Hell breaks loose.
    Last edited by The Last True Evil; 02-15-2006 at 03:50 AM.

  18. #578
    <NSP: Sorry for the shortness of the post and the length of time it was coming. />

    Hunger. It's a terrible thing to be hungry. To thirst for something, to feel it scratching in your belly; a sickly warm and empty thing. It drives greater men mad, and lesser men... we don't talk about them. Some men hunger to be greater, to dominate, to wield a hammer and chisel and scribe their mark upon the world. Some men wish to plough more fields than any other, to leave behind them a trail of illegitimate crop, unloved and unharvested. Most men simply want to fill their bellies and live to see another day.

    I'm not one of those men.

    Strictly speaking, I'm not a man.

    My name is Thatchett. I'm a dog. But I'm not like other dogs, as you can plainly see. Most dogs are like most men. They're hungry for two things. As you might say, a meal and a pair of legs. But as for me... I'm looking for something. I'm looking for an answer. A lot of people say that kind of thing and don't really mean it. They're just looking for the for the food and the legs. Five, six years ago I met a man who was looking, just like I was looking.

    We kicked around for a few years, and we tasted real hunger. That kind of hunger when your belly is empty and your body aches and your mind screams. When tomorrow will never come and there's nothing like it. That's when you learn life's not about the answers, it's about the questions. You learn you don't want answers. And today...

    Today I've got the feeling an answer ain't long coming.


    . . .

    Ron's heavy breathing fills Hawthorne's ears. Thatchett tries carefully to make sure his ears are the only thing filled by Ron's breath. His red face hovers between the front seats, bobbing up and down with each breath.

    Thatchett: Which way we goin', boss?

    Hawthorne remains silent, staring ahead. Before them, the road separates. To the left, the paved highway continues to the rising rocky horizon; to the right, the back of a lonely rusted yield sign marks the beginning of a dusty gravel road vanishing around a distant hill.

    Without speaking, Hawthorne shuts off the engine and gets out of the van. He walks around to the side of the road and kneels beside a fallen sign, scraping away dust and dirt. He stands up and stares at the sign, rubbing the dust off of his hands. Thatchett appears next to him.


    Thatchett: Nature preserve? What the bloody hell is there to preserve in this joint?
    Hawthorne: Nothing. That's why it's here. This must have been the back entrance. Hey, Ron!

    Thatchett gives Hawthorne a quizzical look as Ron squeezes out of the van and staggers over to them.

    Ron: Yeah?
    Hawthorne: You' been down this road before, right?
    Ron: Yeah, what of it?

    Hawthorne kicks the sign.

    Hawthorne: You know anything about this place?
    Ron: Nature preserve? Naw, I ain't one of them yuppie types what go in for that kinda thing.
    Hawthorne: Yeah... interesting that we should end up here. I've usually got a pretty good memory for that sort of thing, but I don't remember this road.
    Ron: You sayin' you bin here before?
    Hawthorne: Hmm.

    As silently as he had left it, Hawthorne returns to the van and straps himself in. He starts the engine, revving it absentmindedly while Thatchett and Ron get back in. After a moment he eases the van off the pavement and takes off down the gravel road. They immediately begin descending on a slight incline as the road weaves down through the desert.

    . . .

    The place was uncomfortably still and quiet. Dim music thrumed in the background, washing over the gleaming brown counters like smooth clean water. Every surface shone dimly in the diffuse light, flickering occasionally with the neon signs in the window. A few people huddled comfortably in booths, their conversation as spotless as the bar. One lone figure hunched over the bar, still adorned by his long stained tan coat and weathered hat.

    The barman walks over, polishing a glass. The figure grunts. The barman stows the shining glass and pulls a bottle from under the counter, pouring a couple fingers of gold liquid into the mucky glass in front of him.


    Barman: I think that about does it for you, fella.
    Detective: Hmph.

    Two drinks and they act like a guy's getting a fresco tattoo. What kind of place is this? Even their booze is posh.

    The detective stands up, smacking a ten dollar bill down on the counter. He pulls his collar up and stepps out of the place. He stands outside the door for a long moment, staring up at the sun gleaming on the handful of tall buildings in downtown Knowhere Valley. He pulls out the pack of cigarettes and places one between his lips, his cupped hands hovering in front of his mouth for an instant. He takes a deep breath and looks up again. He starts to walk back to the station.

    There was that one time. What was the guy's name... Fisher? Good cop. Guy took himself a little too seriously, though. Had a head full of Bogart and Hollywood morality. Got it in his head that he had a handle on justice. Ticked off the wrong people. Guess his skull wasn't thick enough to stop the bullet. Guy who took him out was spotless. Dirty as a gutter, but I couldn't lay a finger on him. He had friends in high places. Not like Fisher... not like me.

    The Detective stops and looks up at the police station.


    . . .

    Thatchett: What the hell's that?!
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  19. #579
    The gravel sounded a hard rain across the undercarriage, a roaring background of pings and clangs punctuated the dusty desert air. The dirt road had disappeared some time ago, and they were now following a barley-etched path along the side of a shallow ravine. A thick plume of sand and dust followed them, and marked their path for minutes after their passing.

    The sky was an empty blue, silent and dry. Eventually a small black dot found its way above the dist plume. A hungry desert scavenger following a thousand years of instinct drifted slowly above the rusted pickup truck as it sailed over the sandy plain. One of the occupants reclining in the cluttered bed of the pickup locked gaze on the bird but his mind was deep inside some other task…

    The other two occupants were also transfixed, in their own ways. All three of them clean cut and dressed in a simple blue uniform bearing the insignia of the United States Air Force. The driver was cramped to one side of the cab, the entire of the passenger seat and a significant portion of the driver’s seat occupied by a carefully packaged console and several other delicate components. A map was stretched out over the plastic wrapped console, a single course drawn out in red pen. A man of details would have noticed the bags under the drivers eyes, they way he squinted to see through the dust and glaring sun, the seatbelt carefully fashioned around the console yet the driver’s safety belt undone, and even the innocent map was no simple road map, but instead an unmarked topographic map, devoid of names or numbers.

    The back of the pickup was similarly over burdened, two barrels marked clearly with a red flame, another two unmarked, and several large wooden crates stripped of nearly all markings. The rest of the pickup bed was cluttered with miscellaneous parts, several sheets of metal, three green knapsacks, and the other two clean-cut men in uniform.

    The shallow ravine had gently grown into a shallow canyon, full of exposed sandstone walls and large sandy boulders. Once the valley had opened up enough, another trail led down from the bank to the valley floor, and it was down this path the pickup continued without slowing.

    After a half hour in the desert sky, the bird finaly broke its pursuit in hope of more meaty game, but the young man’s gaze continued where the bird was not. He was a well-built man though by no means muscular, with brown hair cut square and clean. He reclined easily against one of the barrels marked with the foreboding red flame. The other young man in the truck bed had fallen fast asleep leaning against a stack of sheet metal some time ago, lulled to sleep by the maelstrom sand and stone.

    The canyon winding lazily though the empty plain, now guided by a shallow creek crawling slowly though a bed of mud on one side of the canyon floor, the occasional canyon spur jutting off and quickly resolving into various rockslides. A sudden widening of the canyon reveals a near circular spur, bounded on nearly all sides by shear cliffs of almost 50 feet. The pickup turns into this shaded spur, and comes to rest in the center of a small encampment.
    The encampment consisted of several green canvas tents. The three tents on the far side were closed to the elements. To the left was a large tent open on all sides under which several tables served to hold a large collection of electronic consoles, monitors, and other equipment. Left again was a tent closed on three sides, filled with a large quantity of metal lattice and a large lumpy object concealed by a yet another canvas. To the right of the three closed tents was a small tent outfitted as a garage and serving to store several barrels along side and also sheltering a massive sleeping generator from which thick black wires webbed their way to the other tents.

    The three young men climbed out of the pickup and began unloading its cargo in a sleepless and well practiced motion. By the time the pickup had been unloaded and secured in the makeshift garage the sun had already crept beyond the rim of the canyon, and a premature night had fallen. The three young men, freed from hunger and thrust by the enthusiasm of youth, retired finally to the center of the closed tents. Inside two stacks of simple bunks and a simple portable kitchenette in the back. Everything inside was simultaneously portable and radiating an air of durability, folding aluminum and thick canvas composing the majority of the furniture. The young man from the back of the pickup walked over to one of the bunks and stuffed his knapsack underneath onto the thick canvas floor. He removed the blue uniformed shirt and hung it over the edge of the bunk, then while still dressed in his white undershirt and well pressed pants collapsed into the bunk. The other two young men finish up similar actions and finally flip off the electric light, the last light of the desert sun illuminating the tent just enough to read the lettering on the young man’s uniform shirt, burned in dark black letters on the blue dress shirt: “Lt. Hawthorne”.


    * * *

    Hawthorne, Thatchett, and Ron climbed out of the Astro Van into the shaded canyon floor. Surrounding them where aluminum skeletons still draped with dusty shreds of canvas. Various parts and electric components were scattered around, and the in the very center was launch gantry constructed of aluminum lattice. The Gantry and its load the only elements seemingly untouched by the endless wash of time.

    Ron: Well I’ll be buggered.

    Thatchett: I might be going out on a limb here… But I don’t think this is a wildlife sanctuary.

    The three stare transfixed and the gantry’s load. A Large hawk-like construct perched and still seeming ready to scream off into the sky.

    Thatchett: Hey Boss, what do you figure that’s all about? … Boss? … Boss?

    Hawthorne has wondered away from the other two, following a thick umbilical that tied the gantry to one of the tent ruins.

    Thatchett: Whatcha doing boss? You all right, you look kinda pale?

    Hawthorne continues to ignore his companions please, and begins to shuffle through the dust with his feet. Finally, Finding what he was looking for, he reached down and produces a dust caked pistol from rubble and sand. His eyes empty and his face expressionless he levels the pistol at Ron.

    Ron: Whoah mate! What’s this all about then? You’re the bloke who drove us here, remember?

    Thatchett scurries quickly for cover beneath the Astro Van, while Ron and Hawthorne continue in a frozen stare down. Without warning or prophesy of any type Hawthorne looses a single deafening shot which echoes clearly though the canyon. No sooner than the crystalline silence return than Ron collapses to the ground in a dusty thud.

    Thatchett: Boss! What did you do that for? What’s gotten into you?

    Hawthorne Continues to ignore Thatchett’s pleas and turn to face the Gantry. Again he levels the pistol, this time aiming for the heart of the artificial bird. A silent standoff continues between Hawthorne and the artificial bird, neither wavering in the face of their opponent. Finally, as suddenly as Hawthorne had loosed the last shot, he released his grip on the gun which fell again to the domain of ruin and dust. He then proceeded towards the Astro Van, and color suddenly returning his face takes a seat next to the Van and the frightened Thatchett.

    Hawthorne: It’s all right buddy, It’s not real.

    Thatchett: What’s not real?

    Hawthorne: Any of this… We are still hearing the sirens song, still stuck in her trap… But I think I’ve finally figured out how to get free.

    Thatchett: What is it boss?

    Hawthorne: Let me ask you a question, and I want you to think about it seriously for me.

    Thatchett: Sure…

    Hawthorne: Why does a Siren Sing? Just lie back and don’t think of anything else except for that question.

    Thatchett: Boss?

    Hawthorne: Trust me.

    The two lie silently next to the Astro Van, Hawthorne relaxing quietly and Thatchett locked in deep though. Time passed, but it impossible to assign any earthly quantity to such a passing. A thousand things happened in front of their eyes and yet neither of them saw anything. Finally Thatchett broke the silence:

    Thatchett: Boss?

    Hawthorne: Yeah?

    Thatchett: I’m thirsty.

    As if looking around for the first time Thatchett suddenly realized that he was collapsed in a ditch off the side of a highway, canteen still strapped to his back. Night had fallen, and his mouth burned of thrust.

    Thatchett: Boss… Where are we?

    Hawthorne: My guess, an hour’s walk from the Astro van.

    Thatchett: Sooo, This is the real world?

    Hawthorne: Best I can tell, now, let’s get going.

    Thatchett: Where too?

    Hawthorne: Back to the Astro Van, and quickly. Someone sent that siren after us, and I’m guessing that this all comes back to that device Bhac had us install.

    The two drag themselves to their feet, and after a refreshing drink from their respective canteens head back in the direction of the Astro Van.

    Thatchett: One more thing boss?

    Hawthorne: Sure.

    Thatchett: How did we get away from the Siren? I mean all you did was ask me a question.

    Hawthorne: (quietly) We stopped listening.
    Last edited by West Wind; 02-21-2006 at 09:00 PM.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  20. #580
    Hawthorne and Thatchett walked in silence. They watched the last tiny scraps of the sun slip into an inky violet sky. The early night was warm but not stifling. At last they crested the last hill and came upon the van. It looked just as they had left it hours or days before, silent and still as only a sleeping machine can be.

    Thatchett: So what about the gas thing?
    Hawthorne: Huh?
    Thatchett: You know, the gas... thing.

    Hawthorne gestures vaguely, loosely indicating twisting something about six inches in diameter.

    Hawthorne: Oh, I have a thought for that.

    As they come nearer, Thatchett hesitates, sniffing the air.

    Thatchett: You smell that?
    Hawthorne: What?
    Thatchett: Smells like... nevermind.

    They walk on for a moment. At last Hawthorne pauses by the van, giving it an appraising eye. A yellow sticky note has been pasted to the drivers' side window. Hawthorne pulls it off easily and holds it up to catch a scrap of inky light.

    "Thought you'd run out of gas.
    Couldn't find you, hope you
    didn't decide to walk for
    it. The next town is about
    40mi. Your deus ex machina,
    -S"

    Hawthorne smiles and shakes his head.


    Hawthorne: You live up to it.
    Thatchett: Back on the road, then?

    Hawthorne leans over and scratches Thatchett between the ears.

    Hawthorne: I think so. She says the next town is forty miles or so out. We've still got a couple hundred bucks, right?
    Thatchett: Should have.
    Hawthorne: I think it might be time for a real dinner. Coupl'a steaks maybe?
    Thatchett: Damn you.
    Hawthorne: Huh?
    Thatchett: I'm too thirsty to drool.
    Hawthorne: C'mon, we should be able to get there in less than an hour.

    . . .

    A muffled angry voice fills the empty halls of the Knowhere Valley police station. The detective stands silhouetted against a frosted glass door.

    Detective: What the f- do you mean, inadequate evidence?!
    Sergeant: I mean, sir, there was inadequate evidence. We couldn't hold them. The car was registered to him and we didn't have any evidence of anything other crime or standing warrant.

    The detective slams his fist down on the sergeant's desk, knocking a cup of pens to the floor. The sergeant leans calmly out of his chair to collect the fallen instruments as the detective storms out of the room. The report from the slamming door rattles all the glass in the building.

    The detective stands outside the station and spits out his cigarette with a grimace. He fiddles around in his pocket for a moment and produces a set of keys, walking swiftly over to his car parked in the lot next to the building.

    The minute hand shifts a few degrees as the detective drives, but he feels the hour hand rushing past. After an eternity, he rolls up in front of the Somewhere Inn on the other side of town. The squat C-shaped building looms out of the darkness, highlighted by mercury vapor lights. He pulls up in front of unit G. Darkness spills out from between the curtains. He gets out of the car, leaving the engine running and the lights on.

    It begins to rain. Small drops spatter on the ground at first, but large chunky drops quickly follow.

    The detective hammers on the door. Time screams by once again. At last he feels more than hears a softening inside the door and the scrape of bolts drawing aside. The bleary face of Voodoo Snowflakes appears in the crack of the door. Without a word, he grabs her and pushes her toward the car.


    Voodoo: But I--
    Detective: We gotta go now.

    They get in and the detective throws the car into reverse, pulls back a few feet, cuts the wheel, and squeals out of the parking lot. The car leaves a steaming wake behind it. They turn onto the highway with a skid, traced by deep black lines. The car screeches off into the night.

    . . .

    As they drive, Thatchett notices the terrain begin to change in the dim light of the moon struggling through high clouds. The rocky cresting geology of the desert slowly fade into rolling hills, as the heartless flora begins to soften. Scattered trees, dark shadows against the silvery black background.

    As they approach a large town sprawled out on the road before them, the light of the moon vanishes entirely and heavy raindrops begin to fall on the windshield. The air in the astrovan becomes wet and thick, the dim rapid thumping sound of the windshield wipers filling the space. Thatchett looks tiredly out of the window again.

    Suddenly the van swerves and Hawthorne curses.


    Thatchett: What happened?
    Hawthorne: Some idiot just blew off the stop sign.

    As Hawthorne pulls off at the exit into the town, Thatchett watches a pair of red lights sparkle and vanish into the rain.

    As swiftly as it began, the rain ceases, leaving behind a soft mist rising from the warm ground. The clouds are orange and pink with the light of the city as they pull into a diner.


    . . .

    The sergeant looks at the last of the water cascading down his window. He holds a phone pressed to his ear with a worried expression.

    Sergeant: No sir, they're gone. The manager at the motel says Voodoo Snowflakes has vanished from her room, and no one in town saw them leave. Yes, sir. We can have cruisers out in five mi-- No, sir. Yes, sir, I'm sorr--

    The sergeant shakes his head and hangs up the phone.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  21. #581
    Down the highway somewhere outside of Knowhere a faded yellow sign is briefly illuminated by headlights...

    B.U.M.P.

  22. #582
    Street lights rush past. It's just beginning to get dark. Ancient keltic warriors might call this the Time Between Times, but all Sarn Cadrill knows is it's hard to drive in this light. Particularily when it's raining, as it is now. When he'd stopped by the impound lot to pick up the car, he now realized belonged to him, the attendant had given him a strange look, explained the car wouldn't start. Sarn had climbed in behind the wheel and turned the key and the vehicle had roared to life while the attendent looked on dumbfounded. Sok Munkey had climbed into the passenger seat and they'd roared out of the impound lot.

    Sarn was on a mission. As he'd walked out of the police station, the mention of a certain name had caught his ear, and he'd listened in, feigning disinterest as he'd waited for his personal belongings...


    flashback

    Sarn Cadrill stands in the police station waiting room, waiting for the receptionist to gather his personal belongings. Sok Munkey sits on the couch nearby. Two officers walk through the reception area chatting.

    Officer 1: ...what's wrong with that detective. If you ask me, he's getting way to personally involved in this thing.

    Officer 2: Well you heard about his last case didn't you? Apparently this one hits a little close to home.

    Officer 1: Yeah, well if you ask me, he needs to give this to someone else. The last thing we need is a detective with a vendetta. I mean look what he's done to that girl... What was her name?

    Officer 2: Voodoo... something... Raindrop or lightning bolt... Something to do with weather...

    Officer 1: Yeah... Snowflake I think. Anyway, he takes her out of a steady job and holes her up in that crap hotel on 23rd st, and who knows where they...

    The two officers continue out the reception area.

    back to present

    Now Sarn races through the streets, watching the street signs as he flys past. Sok Munkey calls out the names of the streets.

    SM: 20th, 21st, 22nd.. Sarn, slow down! You're gonna miss it.

    Sarn mashes the brake pedal, and the mustang fishtails around the turn onto 23rd street, sending up a spray of rainwater. There just ahead neon lights flash into the darkness advertising vacancy at the Nowhere Inn. Sarn pulls the car into the gravel parking lot. His mind is focused on one thing. He climbs out of the car, and strides purposefully through the hotel doors into the lobby. Sok Munkey hurries after him.
    Last edited by Sarn_Cadrill; 03-06-2006 at 03:28 PM.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  23. #583
    The diner turned out to be one of those all night cowboy bars that inevitably have an orange florescent cowboy on the sign and a proud declaration that they have the best steak’s anywhere around. In fact, places like this usually do.

    Hawthorne and Thatchett drew the eyes of many of the patrons when they entered. A dozen or so cowboys and cowboy wannabes looking up in various degraded states of sobriety and glared unsteadily in their direction. It was too late for tourists… to early for regulars… and the night had been uneasy enough to put everyone on edge.

    Hawthorne, feeling the tension in the smoke laidened air, bypassed the hostess entirely, and simply took a seat at a booth along the far wall accompanied by Thatchett, who was desperately to look as dignified and easy going as a dog can do sitting at a table made for bipods over 10 times his size.

    Two of the more restless patrons got up from the bar and make their way slowly over to Hawthorne and Thatchett’s table, but before they were granted the opportunity to accost our heroes they were preempted by an absent minded waitress who seemed oblivious to the dangers of getting between “drunken regulars” and “out-of-towners-who-don’t-know –when-not-to-walk-into-a-bar”.


    Waitress: What can I get y’all?

    Hawthorne: Give me two of your biggest steaks, rare as the chef can make them, Two of whatever beer you have on tap…

    At this point the two regulars began chuckling menacingly.

    Cowboy #1: Little dog gonna drink some beer? Ha ha ha!!

    The other cowboy pats the waitress heavily on the back.

    Cowboy #2: Better be careful around that little dog there darling… he looks like a mean drunk! HAA HAA HA HA!!!

    Hawthorne: … an Iced Tea, and a salad bowl full of water.

    The waitress, finally realizing what was going on, and trying to make the best of a bad situation tried to get away as quickly as the situation permitted.

    Waitress: Ill… Ill…. Ill have you drinks out in a minute…

    With the waitress out of the way, the two regulars continued their approach to the table. But before they could begin their usual routine of threats and harassments, they were again interrupted, this time by Hawthorne.

    Hawthorne: Excuse me gent’s… Care to have a seat? Drinks on me if you’ll take them…

    The two regulars stood around in confusion just long enough for the waitress to return, timidly, with two beers, and iced tea, and a salad bowl full of water, and following Hawthorns Gestures, placed two beers in front of the two regulars, the iced tea in front of Hawthorne, and the Bowl of water on the bench next to Thatchett. The two regulars took their sets in front of the beers, and having taken a sudden liking to the stranger and his dog, took a deep swig…

    * * *

    The detective had driven hard through the rain, for some time it had even seemed that the rain was following the detective, but somehow he had managed to either outrun or outwit the storm. The night air was cool, and the moisture and fresh scent of rain still carried in the wind. For the first time since he had peeled out of police station he relaxed. He knew that if they were going to try to chase him he would have seen signs of it by now… But the police scanner was silent and the road was clear. For the first time he broke eye contact with the road and took a look at his passenger.

    He half expected to see her curled up frightened or sleeping in the passenger seat, but instead he found her staring him right back. She seemed neither angry nor aggravated nor scared, but he could still see some sparkling of a fire deep down behind her eyes. He then suddenly realized for the first time, that she was still dressed in only a terry cloth bathrobe…


    Detective: I…umm… I mean… Ill get you some clothes when we stop in the morning, we need to put some distance between us and knowhere valley.

    Voodoo: You mind telling me what the hell is going on?

    * * *

    Back at the bar, the two cowboys had wandered back to the bar after having spend two beer’s worth of time describing the Lay of the Land to Hawthorne and his inquisitive little dog. Hawthorne and Thatchett in turn had begun enjoying their steaks, which turned out to be 18oz of the best-cut best-cooked meat either of them had eaten in as long as they could remember. Breaking the silence of the meal, Thatchett looked up from his steak and addressed Hawthorne:

    Thatchett: You mind telling me what the hell is going on?

    [NSP] I will indeed tell everyone What the hell is going on, probably tomorrow if I get the chance.
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  24. #584
    Rain sheets down the sides of the building, falling from the battered canvas awning in a cacophonous torrent. Indeterminate blue-white light ripples like flash bulbs around a murder victim. Distant thunder rolls over the streets from beyond the hills on the outskirts of town. Yellow light pours out of the open double-doors, staggering a few feet and then retreating in defeat. Bad lounge music filters out, riding hot smoky air laced with sweat. The lights on the sign running up the building flicker in time to a secret beat.

    HOTEL
    No Vacancy

    A smooth-shaven young man with short dark hair and a clean tan trench coat steps out of the hotel. He stands next to another man in a dirty trench coat and a slightly battered fedora. The older man snuffs out a cigarette into a nearby ash tray with a faint hiss barely audible over the rain. They stand next to each other silently for a long while as he fondles his silver lighter and they stare at the rain.


    Younger Man: You seen all you wanna see, boss?

    The older man's lips remain pressed together, his jaw working against an invisible foe.

    Older Man: You ever think about it on a night like this?
    YM: What?

    The older man gestures widely at the rain and the city beyond.

    OM: Out there a woman's getting raped by her husband. Later she'll lie on a puddle of her own blood and wish she was dead. Maybe she will be dead. Tomorrow you and me will step in there and look at a crusty brown carpet and a cold gray lump of meat. And there's not a damn thing we can do about it except catch the guy and send him down.

    It was always the same thing, thought the younger man. He gets philosophical after a murder. Tonight's different though. These people, they aren't just getting killed, they're vanishing. You know they're dead wherever they are 'cause you can smell it in the room. The cigarettes in the ash tray are burned down just so, and there's a smell in the air like hot copper even though the room is cold.

    Thing is, the bodies aren't turning up. That bugs him. It always bugs him when he can't see his man. Whoever this guy is, he isn't the guy they round up and parade in front of old lady witnesses. He's the guy they cuff to the wall and quietly arrange the right jury for a quick trial and a one way ticket south.


    Partner: We haven't seen anything like that yet, boss.

    The older man growls deep in his throat.

    Detective: Yeah. Even that is too honest a crime for this place. When this case is over I'm getting outta here.

    The detective reaches into his coat and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He shakes one loose and starts to put it to his lips, but stops. Viciously, he crushes the cigarette in his fist and drops the crinkled lump to the ground. Without a word or a glance, he holds his lighter out toward his partner.

    Detective: I'm quitting. Take this thing.
    Partner: What am I going to do with it?
    Detective: Don't know. Don't care. Just don't get caught. Bates is on circuit this month, and you know what he did to the last arsonist.
    Partner: The one who burned down his apartment building? Didn't he burn his lease agreement and then burn his landlord before he even got around to the building?
    Detective: That's the one.

    His partner hesitates.

    Partner: I'll keep that in mind.

    They stand silently and stare at the rain a while longer. Cars buzz past in a steady synchronous thrum. The lights in the shop across the street wink out and an elderly arabic man locks up, walking away and vanishing around the corner. A fat balding sergeant, glistening with sweat or condensation waddles over to the detective and his partner.

    Sergeant: You boys seen enough?
    Partner: Yeah...
    Detective: ...we've seen enough.

    The sergeant wanders back into the hotel. He makes a few gestures at the shifty man standing at the front desk. The sergeant pulls a packet of peanuts out of his pocket and munching on them intently. A car pulls up at the awning with a hard metallic shriek. A red-uniformed valet steps out, the rain magically opening a space dry for him to pass.

    Valet: You really aught to think about getting those brake pads replaced.
    Detective: Huh?
    Voodoo Snowflakes: I said you should really get your brakes fixed.

    The detective looks up, disoriented. A flashing red stoplight hangs in the air outside the windshield. A glistening road carries on in all directions, forward leading back onto the highway, left heading toward a sleepy cluster of dilapidated suburban buildings, and right to a glowing white sign loudly advertising 24-Hour Self Serve Pump N Drive in orange and blue. A truck turns right in front of them and drives up the onramp. The detective turns right and pulls into the gas station. Green light spreads away from the fluorescent tubes under the cursory protection offered by a series of horizontal metal sheets. A long-haired stubbled teenager dozes in the small hut in the center of the station. He jumps several inches when the detective hammers on the plexiglas window.

    Detective: Cash. Pump eight.

    Voodoo stifles a yawn as they pull back on the highway.

    Voodoo: So where are we going anyway?
    Detective: Somewhere safe.
    Voodoo: Where's that?
    Detective: You ever stopped to notice the law? Not when you're getting pulled over or someone's stolen your stereo, but the rest of the time? Really looked?
    Voodoo: I guess not.
    Detective: That's 'cause you don't see things you see all the time. A cop is a cop forever. Good or bad, doesn't matter. Even if you're a bad cop you're still a cop first. And there's one place where no cop ever goes, no matter how bad it gets or how much time he drinks himself there.
    Voodoo: Where?
    Detective: His mistakes.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  25. #585
    INTERROGATOIN ROOM A

    *Sarn Cadrill sits handcuffed to the table in the dingy interrogation room. Everybody seems to have forgotten about him.*

    Sarn: "Hello? Anybody?"

    *Suddenly, the door flies open! In walks an US Navy Admiral.*

    Admiral: "Sit down, Mr. Cadrill."

    Sarn: "Uh...

    *Sok Munky blinks. He has been sitting in the same chair for several days.*

    Sarn: "...okay."

    Admiral: "What's your problem, Sarn?"

    Sarn: "My problem?"

    *The Admiral levels Sarn with a glare from his cold, hard military-grade eyes. Sarn squirms in his seat.*

    Sarn: "I don't know?"

    Admiral: "Don't screw with me, Cadrill!"

    *The Admiral leans in close to Sarn and accusingly jabs a finger in his direction.*

    Admiral: "You've been busted down from section leader three times and put in hack twice, by me! And let's face it, you're family name ain't the best in the fleet. You need to be doing it fast and cleaner than the next guy. Now what is it with you, Cadrill?"

    Sarn: "I've been in police custody for the last few days, but I think they forgot about me or something."

    Admiral: "Don't screw with me, Cadrill!"

    Sarn: "I'm very hungry. Do you have any food?"

    *Agitated, the Admiral begins pacing the room.*

    Admiral: "But now I've got an even bigger problem."

    Sarn: "I'm sorry."

    Admiral: "...I need to send two pilots from this squadron to Mirimar."

    *That awesome "danger zone" song from Top Gun fades into the background.*

    Admiral: "For six weeks you will go up against the top once percent of all naval aviators. The best of the best."

    *He leans in close.*

    Admiral: "But I'm warning you, Cadrill; you screw up just this much -"

    *The Admiral indicates a very small distance between his thumb and pointer finger.*

    Admiral: "- and I'll have you flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog [CENSORED] out of Hong Kong!"

    Sarn: "...I don't understand."

    Admiral: "You two characters...*dramatic pause*...are going to Top Gun."

    Sarn: "Swell, but I think there might only be one of me."

    *Just then, Mr. T enters the room dressed in flight gear.*

    Mr. T: "'Ah pity tha' foo'!"

    Sarn: "Oh boy!"

    *The Admiral undoes Sarn's cuffs, and escorts him and T out of the police station.*
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  26. #586
    The detective stares at a light stain on the carpet. A tall glass rests poetically next to it, a few inches away. Above it on a low table, a telephone lies off the hook. The sheets on the lone double bed are crinkled and obviously well slept-in. The room's only illumination comes from the lamp on the table, releasing a dim buzzing light around the room and casting deep shadows in every corner. A single dark spatter mires the cheap wallpaper beside the bed, gleaming slightly in the faint light.

    Outside, rain sheets down the glass quietly. The detective hears a muffled commotion and the door opens. His partner shoulders his way in between the police tape and the sergeant standing guard. He covers the short distance in three steps and stands beside the detective.


    Partner: I talked to the manager, he didn't hear anything. Guy'd been around for about three weeks, paid in cash for a month. No ID, but he thought he might have been military.
    Detective: What made him say that?
    Partner: Didn't say.

    He gestures at the blood stain on the wall.

    Detective: What do you make of that?
    Partner: Blood stain?
    Detective: Right.
    Partner: We haven't had any blood stains so far. Don't suppose you found a weapon?

    The detective laughs mirthlessly and repeats his ritual of pulling out a cigarette. After he places one between his lips he reaches into his pocket a second time and hesitates. He pulls out a closed fist and then shakes his empty hand, letting it fall to his side. He sighs.

    Detective: Eight disappearances. No signs of violence until now. This is recent though. When was he last seen?
    Partner: Manager says he came through sometime after five. At eleven he noticed the phone line had been open for at least three hours. I guess the guy never made a call. He came to see what was up, no one answered. Then he called us.
    Detective: So the guy disappeared sometime in the last seven hours. Come on, let's get back to the office.
    Partner: You don't want to do a search?
    Detective: We won't find anything.

    . . .

    The sky began to lighten first in a deep violet, then in lightening blues and greens. Clouds hid the horizon and rushed overhead. The last of the stars winked out and the sun rose sullenly in shades of rusty gray. Voodoo Snowflakes and the Detective drive on.

    . . .

    Detective: Run it through for me again.

    The detective sits at a wide desk leaning back in a well-padded tan leather office chair. He leans his head back and closes his eyes while his partner sorts through the piles of paper strewn on the floor. After a moment, his partner stands with one sheet and takes a deep breath.

    Partner: Eight disappearances. Five males, three females, between the ages of twenty-two and fourty-five. Six at hotels or motels, one at a hostel, and one at a private residence as a renter. All disappeared sometime between the hours of five in the evening and six in the morning. During those time, the hotels admitted a total of nineteen guests. None of them correlate. Activity was normal in all cases, though we know that no one came or left the private residence during the time the subject disappeared. No signs of external entry were found in any case, except for the third hotel case in which a door led onto a fire escape was open. There were--
    Detective: No, no, no. They all paid in cash and no one remembers any IDs, right?
    Partner: Right.
    Detective: And they all paid in advance?
    Partner: Looks like... most of them paid for at least one week.
    Detective: No correlation in times?
    Partner: None; arrival or scheduled departure.

    The detective comes to life with a start and slams his fists down on the desk, scattering papers.

    Detective: Dammit, what do these people have in common?
    Partner: At least four of them were reported as seeming military in bearing. Whatever that means. They're all just vanishing like mob witnesses in the pictures.

    The detective pauses and stares into space for a few minutes. His partner scans the papers silently.

    Detective: How long you been out of the academy? Two, three years?
    Partner: Eighteen months, sir.
    Detective: You've got quite a future ahead of you. I need coffee.
    Partner: I think Alice has gone home.

    The detective stands and pulls his coat off the rack by the the door with stereotypically frosted glass.

    Detective: Doesn't matter, she doesn't make it any good anyway. I know a little all-night place down on seventeenth.

    . . .

    In the world of literary license and subtext, where narrators and deus ex machinas go to drink and be alone...

    Sharp ticking sounds fill the smoky club. After a handful of clicks, a metallic wiping sound replaces them, covered by the raindrop sound of a snare. A deep bass thumps in with an irregular melody. The piano begins to play in tight, controlled notes, flowing away from the black stage. Then the clear shining notes of the sax cuts over them all in crisp biting golden sound. It sweeps out in a groove as irregular as the bass, yet somehow carrying an overwhelming subtext of pure harmony. The lights come up, deep silver. The sax player's dark skin barely shows faint blue highlights in the dim light, his instrument shining like an otherworldly contraption as his fingers move effortlessly over its keys. Then it is silent as the rest of the band takes over, faint shapes swirling in the background. The sax returns in hypnotic tones for one last round, weaving its indefinable magic into the air. Finally the last notes roll off the stage and the band is silent with one last metallic whirr.

    Deep in shadows, the jazz man smiles.

    What's that they say?

    The melody is always unexpected.
    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five." (Groucho Marx)

  27. #587
    In the Writer's Realm...

    *Tracer the Writer bangs away on his keyboard giggling to himself...*

    Tracer: "...and then she says, 'Gebohq, we're promoting you to The President'. Hee hee!"

    *Somebody taps Tracer on the shoulder.*

    Tracer: "Huh? Oh, hi guys."

    *Tracer swivels around in his chair to see the writing team of Gebohq, TLTE and Sarn Cadrill. Sarn reads Tracer's current NeS installment off the computer screen.*

    Sarn: "'Gebohq: My mutant powers have given me the speed and strength of a spider. I will use them to save the continent.'"

    Gebohq: "Tracer. We need to talk."[/b]

    Tracer: "Oh?"

    Sarn: "'Winston Churchill: But not without a dance.'"

    Gebohq: "It's these new posts. They just don't make sense."

    Tracer: "What do mean? I think I'm doing a great job."

    Sarn: "'Gebohq: Yes, a dance. Let us all join hands and sing with the noodle orchestra.' Tracer, are you insane?"

    Tracer: "Hey, I don't get all critical over your posts."

    Gebohq: "It's not that we don't appreciate your contributions to NeS, Tracer, it's just that lately you seem a little burned-out."

    TLTE: "Yeah. You haven't been getting a solid eight hours of sleep each night -"

    Sarn: "- or eating well-balanced meals -"

    TLTE: "- and frankly, it's affecting the quality of your work."

    Tracer: "Oh, please. You three are just jealous of all the fan mail I've been getting lately."

    *Tracer makes a sweeping gesture towards the pile of opened letters on his desk. TLTE coughs.*

    TLTE: "Um, nobody wanted to say anything, but we all know you write those yourself."

    Sarn: "We see you putting them in the mailbox down the street every Tuesday."

    *Tracer nervously looks around for an escape route. Sarn picks up a letter and begins reading.*

    Sarn: "Dear Tracer: your work is gloriously magnificent. The very paper you write on turns to gold."

    Tracer: "Uh..."

    *Sarn picks up another.*

    Sarn: "Dear Tracer: I think you deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and billions of dollars for you work on NeS."

    *Sarn goes for a third piece of correspondence.*

    Sarn: "This one is a warning that you'll be brought up on charges if you don't file your income tax."

    *Tracer cracks.*

    Tracer: "What do you people want from me?!"

    Gebohq: "Nothing at all. We just think you need a little vacation."

    Tracer: "Vacation?"

    TLTE: "Just a nice few days to recharge, recuperate and get away from it all. You'll come back feeling great, and the quality of your work won't suffer."

    Tracer: "I guess that sounds okay..."

    Gebohq: "Right on! Let's go!"

    *The three of them stand Tracer up and begin walking escorting him down the hall.*

    Tracer: "So, where am I going? Hawaii?"

    Gebohq: "No, we were just going to lock you in the broom closet for a few days."

    Tracer: "Broom closet?!"

    Sarn: "It's all we can afford."

    *Tracer struggles, attempting to get away, but the three writers bodily lift him up.*

    Tracer: "You can't do this! The people love me!"

    Sarn: "No, you just love yourself."

    Gebohq: "Go on now! Have a nice vacation!"

    *The trio heaves Tracer into the closet. The door is slammed and locked.*

    Tracer: (muffled) "Gebby! I'm your friend!"

    *Geb, TLTE and Sarn walk off.*

    TLTE: "So what do want to do about his stuff?"

    Gebohq: "Extended dream sequence."

    TLTE: "Sounds good."
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  28. #588
    *Ehm.. meanwhile, outside of the hotel, Sarn has suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, just outside the door. Sok Munkey is waving his arms in front of Sarn's face, but Sarn stares ahead blankly as though he doesn't see anything.

    Sok Munkey: Sarn! Sarn, what just happened?

    Sarn: ...

    Sok Munkey: Sarn, can you hear me?

    Sarn: ...

    Sok Munkey: SPELUNK!

    Sarn's body convulses as gale force winds are expelled from his nose in a sneeze worthy of Zues.

    Sarn: *sniff* Wha... what... what just happened?

    Sok Munkey: I don't know.. You were headed for the door, and you just stopped. You've been standing there staring at nothing for the last fifteen minutes.

    Sarn: I had.. some kind of vision. There was this obnoxious black man with a mohawk... and some guy in a suit... I can't really remember what happened.

    Sok Munkey: Sarn... You're psychotic.

    Sarn: eh. Well.. let's find out where Voodoo is.

    Sarn pushes open the door and steps into the hotel lobby.

    -----

    Meanwhile, our two heroes actions are bringing far more interest then they could realize. Deep in the realm of 1337, Mayaal observes the words that are the very force of the NES. He speaks to himself, admiring his control over the NES.

    Mayaal: That "vision" that hero Cadrill had should be more than enough to send him over the edge. By this time tomorrow, he will be nothing but a shell, an extension of my own body, and through him my will shall be accomplished and the NES will flourish.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  29. #589
    Gebohq, The Last True Evil, Antestarr, CoolMatty, Mimiru and Subaru are deep in the middle of fighting the robots built and sent by Bhac. Though the heroes have their present opponents outnumbered, the odds would seem to be in their opponents' favor, due to their skill and power. In the real world, this would likely be the end for our heroes, or at least a bitter victory. However, this conflict is playing out in a classic dramatic fashion, thanks at the moment to Gebohq. He is energetic, despite having been asleep moments before, and dare we say, is acting as a good hero and leader right now. Striking with what little he has and weaving around his antagonists, assisting and commanding the heroes around him... while exciting, Gebohq is making the victors of this conflict painfully obvious to all those watching. Since we all know that the NeS has no audience, that would leave...

    *camera pans away from the heroes and to a group of three hidden nearby*

    ...the Potentials.

    Erronem: This is not looking good. The heroes will barely be scratched at this rate.

    Alexan: Gebohq must have had a meta-story moment. It's the only way he could have the strength to fight and lead as he is doing now.

    Phoenix: We should strike now, while they're distracted by these constructs.

    Erronem: No! The chaos would only serve to be in their favor, in one way or another. No, Gebohq must be removed first, if we hope to be secure in our victory. Stay here, and do not engage until the heroes have finished their current conflict, not a moment sooner! I will go alone, and remove Gebohq before Bhac's creations lose their chance to wound the others.

    Phoenix: Do you think that's wise? Perhaps one of us should do it instead?

    Erronem: It has to be all or nothing... it must be done.

    Erronem moves away from the other Potentials, preparing for his attack...

    *camera pan back to the heroes*

    Mimiru (in CM's body): Could someone help me out here?

    CM (in Mimiru's body): Not now, honey! I got my own problems here!

    Gebohq: TLTE! Give us some cover fire! Hang in there, Mimiru!

    CM (in Mimiru's body): Hooray!

    Gebohq: NOT YOU! THE REAL ONE!

    CM (in Mimiru's body): Oh...

    Gebohq pivots on one foot as he sweep-kicks one of the robots, then sprints towards Mimiru (in CM's body).

    Gebohq: Antestarr, focus your attacks on--HURK!

    Gebohq's sprint comes to a sudden halt. Gebohq looks down to see the ground below him wrapped around his legs and hips.

    Gebohq: What the heck...?

    Erronem walks out from behind his cover and towards Gebohq. Everybody turns to look.

    Subaru: Is that another Geb? No wait, it's not...

    TLTE: Oh no... it's Gebohq's Potential...

    Geb: I got this! *struggles to get out of his spot*

    TLTE: No, Geb! Don't fight him! EVERYBODY ATTACK THE POTENTIAL!

    The Last True Evil and the others are too slow, however, as Erronem approaches within five feet of Gebohq. Erronem plants his staff on the ground, and a heavy rock dome encloses over him and Gebohq. The Last True Evil nearly smacks himself against the rock dome, and bangs his fist against it.

    TLTE: We have to break this down or else--

    TLTE yells as a dagger hits the arm that he was using to bang on the wall.

    Ante: No good!

    Bhac's constructs waste no time in continuing their fight, and the heroes find themselves fending for their lives.

    Ante: CoolMatty and Subaru, we'll try and draw them by Geb's position. TLTE and Mimiru, hit them with everything you got! We'll take down the dome at the same time if we're lucky!

    Mimiru: But we might hit you too!

    Ante: You'll have to take that chance!

    TLTE: We're the only chance Gebohq has of living...

    (NSP: Part one is done. Part two (the reason I wanted to write this part) coming up -- the conflict between Gebohq and Erronem!)
    Last edited by Gebohq; 03-15-2006 at 04:13 PM.

  30. #590
    (NSP: Part 2! Apologies if I'm putting a cramp in anyone's plans, but as you know, making plans for NeS is a bad, bad idea. Besides, I REALLY want to write this post, and it's an ACTUAL post. Here's hoping this post strikes with you all emotionally.)

    The darkness covers Gebohq. There is a serene stillness in the air that almost calms him, despite being planted to the ground. It is as if he could deny all the troubles of the outside world. He could hardly hear the sounds of battle, outside the walls that enclosed around him, in any case. The darkness dims, however, as a fiery glow casts a small light in the smaller space. In front of him, Gebohq sees Erronem holding his staff, on top of which, some metal, which seems on fire, that acts as a torch. Erronem releases his grip on the staff, which stands on its own accord in place, and takes a step closer to Gebohq. A tightness constricts Gebohq's breathing -- Erronem's mere presence pushes at Gebohq with all the thoughts of "what if" and "what could be." Gebohq looks up at Erronem's towering form, but can read no passion of joy or anger in his nearly-silouetted face.

    Geb: Who are you, and what do you want with me?

    Erronem: My name is Erronem. I am a Potential... your Potential. Some might say I am a personification of sorts. I want you dead.

    Geb: Why not kill me now, then? Or when you first saw me? Do you have an evil monologue I need to hear first?

    Erronem: No, Gebohq. I could not kill you then, and can not kill you now for one simple reason -- your will is too strong. Your desire to stay alive is, in most cases, all this story needs to protect you. Despite how it may look, if I were to strike you now, you would somehow live through the ordeal. I must break you first.

    Geb: Oh, that's a villianous train of thought, if I ever heard one! Let me guess -- you're going to tell me what a bad hero I've been, right? How I'm such a coward, and run away at the first sign of danger?

    Erronem: No. That is something you deal with all the time, something you chose to fight, a part of your potential that you are most adept at facing, despite what others may say. No, hero of the Never-ending Story, I will show you a part of your potential which you may never live up to...

    Erronem steps to Gebohq's side. Through some unknown magic, the space they are in disappears, and is replaced with the familiar surroundings of the Arena, shortly after the events of page 50. Gebohq sees himself lying on the ground, with Maeve sitting nearby, apparently keeping watch over his prone body. She doesn't seem to notice Erronem or the "real" Gebohq standing nearby.

    R. Geb: Maeve! Look over here!

    Erronem: This is just a memory, Gebohq. A look into your past. A moment which you seemed to have forgotten, as is so often the case when not written down, word-for-word, in this story.

    Maeve stirs in surprise as she sees Gebohq sit up off the floor. She moves to support him as he does so.

    Geb: Ugh... where am I?

    Maeve: Geb, you finally got up! Are you OK?

    Geb: Yeah, I think so... Maeve?

    Maeve: Yeah. The others had me keep watch over you. You were out while everyone else recovered. TLTE told us what happened... we're not sure what you did, Geb, but we're all still here, thanks to you!

    Geb: I'm still in The Arena? Where is everyone...?

    Maeve: Yeah. Most of them left, Geb, and as soon as I get a hold of Maybechild, so will I--

    Geb: MAYBE! Where is she? Is she alright?

    Maeve: Yeah, she's alright. She's out in the hall by the entrance, busy gathering the ones that stuck around--

    Geb: Thank God! I need to see her!

    Gebohq starts standing, and Maeve tries to gently hold Gebohq down.

    Maeve: Geb, you better not...

    Geb: I told you I'm fine! I need to kiss her like there's no tomorrow!

    Maeve: Geb, wait...

    Gebohq gets up, ignoring Maeve, and starts walking off.

    Maeve: SHE DOESN'T LOVE YOU!

    Gebohq stops in place, standing still and silent.

    Erronem: I think even you are beginning to understand why I am showing you this now.

    The "real" Gebohq does not respond, however. He simply watches as his memory counterpart turns to Maeve.

    Geb: W... What do you mean?

    Maeve: She talked to me about what you said to her last, Geb. She couldn't bring herself to tell you how she felt then, and I don't think she could bring herself to tell you now. She didn't want to hurt you.

    Geb: And you telling me makes it better? I think I'd rather ask her myself--

    Maeve: Don't, Geb. You're a nice guy. Don't be a jerk now.

    Geb: What was it, then? Was I not strong enough? Is it my hair? Was I not Prince Charming?

    Maeve: I don't know! She just said it didn't "click" with her, you know?

    Geb: Bull****!

    Maeve steps back, a bit shocked at Gebohq's burst of anger. The "real" Gebohq tightens his face as he watches his other self look confused at his own violent reaction. After a few moments, Gebohq starts to walk towards the hallway entrance, after which his memory counterpart does the same.

    Maeve: Don't do it!

    Geb: I'm just going to talk to her!

    The "real" Gebohq walks next to his other self, watching his counterpart looking at the ground. Erronem strides on the other side of the real Gebohq's counterpart, so that he is facing the "real" Gebohq.

    Erronem: Are you giving up so soon that you would march to your doom?

    R. Geb: I don't know what you're talking about. This is all in the past.

    Erronem: Allow me to spell it out for you, Gebohq. On page 50, you could not bring yourself to hurt Maybechild, because you were afraid of what might happen, even though she was trying to kill you. She was being controlled by the Ever-ending Plot, true, but you knew full well that she meant every insult that she threw at you. Yet you professed your love to her, and she looked at you... and at that moment, you felt something profound. You felt as if she loved you back... that the Never-ending Story meant for you two to share love together... that you would feel whole. The leading hero should have a love interest, yes? A romance that ends happily ever after? And yet here you are, being told that the one you love, in fact, doesn't love you back.

    R. Geb: Is that all you have to throw at me? So she doesn't love me. I'll deal. There are other women out there. I'll find one.

    Erronem: You can not hide your denial from me. You are living in an interactive story, Gebohq! A leading man is meant to have a leading lady! How many leading women do you see in this story? You are not an international man of mystery, Gebohq, and you know it. You do not expect to find a woman for you, much less one who is interested in you. You thought you found someone, in Maybechild. You would not throw that away so easily.

    R. Geb: I have to throw it away! She doesn't love me. What's the point in fighting a rejection that I can't change?

    Erronem: Is that how you really feel?

    Just then, the two of them see Maybechild at the end of a hallway, walking away from them. The "real" Gebohq watches as his other self runs faster to try and catch up.

    Geb: Maybechild!

    Maybechild stops momentarily, then continues walking, not turning around.

    Maybe: Hello, Geb. I see you finally got up. You better get your rest, I got some work to do.

    Geb: We need to talk. Maeve told me how you feel about me.

    Maybechild stops again, but says nothing.

    Geb: Uh, look... I, uh... I care about you.

    Maybechild continues to stand in her place, her back towards Gebohq.

    Geb: And I... I want to work together... do the hero stuff. And... I'd like to still be friends.

    Maybechild remains unresponsive, appearing to be looking through some paperwork that she is holding.

    Geb: So uh... I'm here, if you want to talk. Uh, otherwise... well, I don't know. What do you want to do?

    Maybechild puts the papers in her carrying bag, still not facing him.

    Maybe: I'll see you with the others, by the black van at the Arena entrance.

    As she begins to walk away, the "real" Gebohq rushes towards Maybechild, but finds himself incapable of moving just mere inches from reaching distance of her. The scene freezes, and Erronem strides in front of Maybechild, so that he can see Gebohq.

    Erronem: What were you hoping to do?

    R. Geb: I had to see her face! It's been so long! I need to know what her eyes were saying!

    Erronem: This is just a memory, Gebohq. It can only tell you what you already know. And this... this is the moment when you will break.

    R. Geb: NO IT'S NOT!

    The scene begins to slowly fade. Only Maybechild continues to remain as Gebohq and Erronem face each other. Gebohq tightens his face, as if it is holding back a great flood behind it, a flood rising within himself.

    Erronem: Look at her. It's obvious that she cares about you. Why does she not return your love? Did she not feel that moment you did? Was she waiting for you to do something? Is she even sure she does not love you? Has she said anything about how she feels about you since then? Are you meant to never know? Could it be that your potential for finding true love... does not exist?

    Tears pour from Gebohq's eyes, cracking his face. Maybechild disappears, and Gebohq sobs.

    Erronem: How pathetic.

    Geb: So what? I'm a sad man! Is that what you want?

    Erronem: Do you think that's what she wants?

    Geb: God damn it! I can't be happy all the time!

    Erronem: Should you not be happy that this is what she wants?

    Geb: I should be! I am! I don't know if that's what she wants!

    Erronem: Doubt is a terrible thing. You should cast it aside.

    Geb: I CAAAAAN'T!

    Gebohq loses all self-control in his face as his sobs turn violent.

    Erronem: A pity. You will have to die with that doubt on your conscience.

    Erronem grabs his staff. The rock that imprisons Gebohq falls away, leaving Gebohq to fall on the ground, heaving sobs of tears. Erronem steps closer, the fiery metal forming around the staff to form the blade of a sword.

    Erronem: I hope this death will grant you peace.

    Erronem lifts the fiery blade over his head, ready to bring it down on Gebohq's body.

    What will happen next? ...What do you mean the writer doesn't know? Oh right, this is an interactive story, written on the spot by a bunch of writers. You'd think they'd have more of a "plan" with this sort of thing...
    Last edited by Gebohq; 03-16-2006 at 05:19 AM.

  31. #591
    [This is exciting. I think I'll try my hand in this story-arc]

    Gebohq cowers on the ground, in tears as Erronem stands over him, blade raised high, ready to strike. A smile forms on Erronem's face. His blade comes down, arcing towards Gebohq's exposed neck...

    *CLANG*

    The crash of steel on steel echoes through the valley. Erronem staggers back in shock. Standing over Geb is CM (in Mimiro's body), a sword propped against the ground protecting Geb.


    CM: You may have broken Geb, but you have not broken me!

    Erronem: You fool. Can't you see that he desires this? He does not want to live. Let me end his suffering!

    CM: If you desire it, you'll have to get through me.

    CM pulls his sword up in front of him, and broadens his stance. His face is resolved.

    Erronem: Hmm, Mimiru. Your skill at swordplay is not unknown. But do not think that I don't know what is going on here. You are not Mimiru. And Mimiru's lover is a mediocre swordsman.

    CM: Think what you want, but I'll not allow you to harm our hero.

    Erronem: Are you blind? I've done more damage already without even raising a sword. Gebohq's time is up. He is broken. A new era will begin in the never ending story. And it will begin on this day.

    CM: Some of us like the old ways.

    CM charges forward, raising his sword to strike. Erronem is momentarily caught off guard, but still manages the deflect the attack. The two begin to do battle. At first, CM's aggression seems to be bringing him the advantage, but Erronem is a master swordsman, and his experience and patience turns the tides of the battle. After only a moment, it becomes apparent that Erronem is merely humoring CM's desperate attempts.

    Erronem: Ha. You are not worthy of the body you inhabit, Cool Matty.

    CM says nothing, focusing all his attention into the battle. Even so, he cannot gain the upper hand.

    Erronem: I grow tired of this. I have a task that I must accomplish, and you are standing in my way.

    Erronem lunges with his sword. CM blocks, but does so awkwardly, leaving himself exposed. Erronem spins, and drives his sword into CM's stomache. CM falls to the ground gasping, shock playing out in his eyes. Erronem laughs and pulls his sword away. His eyes fall on Geb...
    Last edited by Sarn_Cadrill; 03-16-2006 at 04:39 PM.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  32. #592
    Erronem takes a measured step forward, standing pridefully over the crumpled, weeping figure of Gebohq. The Potential is in that precise moment the absolute foil of the wretched form beneath him - as Erronem's bright, alert eyes squint in disgust, as his perfect features curl in distaste, as his entire heroic musculature contracts to raise the killing blow, he is the absolute epitome of the Ohq, ascending to the rank of caricature and almost completely dissociating himself from his NeS incarnation.

    Erronem: You are an unfortunate specimen, Gebohq. Still, I wish it had not come to this. Know that in better circumstances I would have enjoyed your friendship and counsel.

    Gebohq is unresponsive, a ruined, heaving mess. He offers no resistance. Cool Matty is sprawled out nearby in Mimiru's body with a serious stomach wound. He is drifting in and out of consciousness, similarly disabled.

    Erronem: Still, take comfort. You swore to protect the NeS, and in death, you are saving it...

    The killing blow is dealt.

    But it is not dealt to Gebohq.


    Erronem: I...

    He slumps forward onto one knee, and releases his staff to grasp at a large hole in his chest. His stunned gaze trails slowly up to The Last True Evil, Smith and Wesson smoking in his hands, standing defensively over Gebohq.

    Erronem: ...I can't believe you...how...

    TLTE: Your efforts were solely focused on Gebohq. Classic tactical tunnel-vision. And anyway, I'm ridiculously good at stealth.

    Erronem: Don't understand...I must kill...

    TLTE: I understand you enough, though I can't fathom your motives.

    Erronem slumps backward, coughing and gasping. TLTE stands over him, holstering his gun.

    TLTE: Your final moments are approaching, tovarish. Be still.

    Erronem: If I don't...you...

    TLTE: Why would you try to kill a semblance of your own Potential? Why are the Potentials fighting us?

    And suddenly, Erronem reaches up and grabs TLTE, pulling him down so that the two are face to face. TLTE tries to fight, expecting the dying Erronem to do something desperate...but he stops when he sees the real anguish and fear in the Potential's eyes.

    Erronem: ...the end...

    Then, Erronem's grip loosens. He falls back into the jungle canopy, and does not rise again.

    TLTE stares down at him, trying to make meaning of his last words. Around him, battle is raging - the NeSHeroes and their cybernetic antagonists - but this fails to pierce a growing sense of unease in his mind. Some belated sense of doom, perhaps...and a realisation that something has been wrong all along, like a picture subtly yet horribly off-centre.


    TLTE: Gebohq? Are you alright?

    TLTE leans down to help Geb, but the NeSHero recoils from his touch.

    TLTE: Geb, it's OK! Erronem is gone!

    Gebohq: Don't let him come back...he shows you...

    TLTE: What? What did he show you?

    As if answering his question, the air around TLTE seems to grow colder, darker. A black dread steals into his heart. TLTE spins around, gun at the ready -

    Phoenix: I think I can help you.

    Part 2 tomorrow...

  33. #593
    (It's about past tomorrow now, so I'm taking this and running with it. I'll try not to go too far)



    TLTE: Help me? Why do I have a feeling that I don't want your help?

    Phoenix: That may be true, of course.

    Geb: ... TLTE, take him down, now! They'll... say things, to weaken you! Don't give him a word in edgewise!

    TLTE: Is that right?

    Phoenix: I have nothing to hide. Erronem failed for his lack of awareness, not his skill in knowing the opponent's weakness. But luckily for me, I exceed him in both areas. You see, you're much more unstable than poor Gebohq here. And being your Potential, I've got quite a bit more fighting skill.

    TLTE: So you wish to break me. That simplifies the matter greatly!

    TLTE fires his Smith and Wesson at Phoenix, but Phoenix is already moving, heading towards TLTE... or maybe Gebohq?

    Phoenix: You don't have time to play games, tovarish!

    TLTE: Peh, I don't recall granting you status of comrade!

    Phoenix: No? But we have so much in common!

    Phoenix, now in close range of TLTE, attacks. He reveals a sabre that looks all-too-familiar, and brings it to bear on TLTE. TLTE easily evades the attack, but oddly, Phoenix does not counter as expected. Instead, he continues past TLTE, and swings at Gebohq, who is still sitting on the ground, recovering from his unstable mindset.

    Phoenix: I warned you TLTE, no time for games!

    Phoenix stops his blade, directly at Geb's throat.

    Phoenix: Are you aware, Gebohq, of the consequences of fighting your Potential? I assume Arkng Thand did warn you of them, yes?

    Geb, already traumatized, is unable to put forth a response, and continues crying, lost in thoughts about Maybechild.

    Phoenix: I will make a small correction, then. It is not merely fighting us that will bring about dire consequences to you and NeS, but killing us. Unfortunately, it seems that Gebohq here will be the first to experience the absolute terror and pain that results from killing your Potential. So I offer you a choice, TLTE. One that you certainly will not like. Allow me to kill Gebohq, before his Potential breathes his last. By doing so, you save Gebohq of the intense pain and terror, and you delay the end of NeS for a short while. Or, strike me down with your Smith and Wesson, and join Gebohq in eternal pain and terror, as the NeS slowly deteriorates under the inbalance.

    TLTE: Poshyel k chyertu, Mudak! (Go to hell, arrogant idiot!)

    Phoenix: Balvan! (Thick headed fool!) You are trapped in a forced hand! Sacrifice your friend here, and save the NeS, for a while! Or kill me, and save your friend, sacrificing the NeS, and the sanity of both of you forever. I think the choice is obvious, TLTE. Choose quickly! Erronem will draw his last soon!

    And the plot thickens! What will happen next? What of Phoenix's ultimatum? Stay tooned to the Neverending Story!

  34. #594
    Back in Nowhere Valley, we join our Heroes Sarn Cadrill and Sok Munkey, entirely oblivious to the dire situation happening on the other side of the world.

    Sarn is just now entering the lobby of the Nowhere Inn, Sok Munkey right behind him. The two can see a dingy lobby, with frayed carpets and stained furniture. The lighting is dim, and the entire lobby sticks of an unplacable, yet distasteful smell. Behind the counter sits an old man. Time has not been gracious to his wrinkled face and balding white hair. He leans back in his chair with an air of utter disregard. Sarn approaches him.


    Sarn: Excuse me, sir. I'm looking for someone.

    Man: This aint no yellow pages directory. You looking for a room?

    Sarn: Well uhh.. maybe. But I-

    Man: 45 bucks a night. 55 with maid service. Cash up front.

    Sarn: I might like a room, sir. But first I have to-

    Man: Give me the cash. I got vacancies.

    Sarn: Damnit, quit interupting me. I have to find some-

    Man: You got a problem, son? Don't like trouble 'round here.

    Sarn: No sir, no trouble. It's just that someone stayed in this inn. I need to know if she's still here, or if you know where she went.

    The man's eyes seem to mist over a bit.

    Man: Ahh, this is 'bout a girl. Why didn' ya say so? I remember back in '39, I's sweet on this young girl. Never did like me back though. Thet the problem yer havin'?

    Sarn: Well no.. I mean.. I don't know. I think she likes me, but... I haven't had much of a chance to talk to her.

    Man: Well if she done runnoft on ya, might be a good indicator, she aint interested.

    Sarn: It's more complicated than that. Can you just tell me if you had a Voodoo Snowflakes checked in?

    Man: Voodoo? What in tarnation kind of a name is thet?

    Sarn: Uhh...

    Man: Well, lemme see here...

    The man pulls a large registry from under the counter and begins browsing through its pages...

    Man: Hmm.. I aint got a Voodoo Snowflakes...

    Sarn's shoulders slump.

    Man: But I got a V. S. here... Maybe... Looks like they paid the bill this morning. No checkout though.

    Sarn: Who paid the bill?

    Man: Don't say. Paid cash. I remember though. Was some guy in a trench coat. Had a smoke 'tween his lips, but twernt lit.

    Sarn: Please, what room is she in? I have to see her.

    Man: Looks like, room 12. Head out the lobby doore thar, and go left.

    Sarn calls out a hasty thank you as he runs from the room.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    Lassev: I guess there was something captivating in savagery, because I liked it.

  35. #595
    (NSP: Just a little random something. This story needed a post.)

    Somewhere in Siberia...

    Morthrandur: Hmm... I'm drawing close. But do I make a left or a right at this patch of woods that looks identical to every other patch of woods within a hundred mile radius...

    An ancient demonic figure strolls up next to Morthrandur and stands there, looking for direction, just like Morthrandur.

    Morthrandur: Oh, hey there. Didn't expect to see anyone else out h--HOLY COW! VASHUKO!

    Vashuko: You know my name. Who are you?

    Morthrandur: Oh, me? No one you'd know. Just another mysterious dark figure in the fabric of this storythread.

    Vashuko: I see...

    Morthrandur: You know how it is, sewing doubt and dissent among your enemies, showing them the true meaning of power, seizing opportunities when they come by... that sort of thing.

    Vashuko: Stop prattling. I've got searching and seizing of my own to do. There's a Paradox nearby, and I intend to find its source.

    Morthrandur: Really now? That's very interesting, because LOOK BEHIND YOU! IT'S A SERAPHIM!

    Vashuko: What?

    Vashuko turns to look behind him, and Morthrandur apparently dissapears in a blur of speed.

    Vashuko: There's no Seraphim there... what the-- ARGH! I can't believe I fell for that! When I get my hands on that... whatever it is... oooooooo....

    Vashuko storms off, presumably in the direction of the Siberian bunker that Shattered Geb and Young are inside. Morthrandur reappears moments after Vashuko heads off, and begins to trail the ancient demon...

    Morthrandur: Note to self -- act more dark and menacing in the future...
    Last edited by Gebohq; 03-25-2006 at 07:46 AM.

  36. #596
    In the harsh dark of the Congo jungle, TLTE and his Potential, Phoenix, face each other down.

    Over TLTE's shoulder, the greater majority of the remaining NeSHeroes - those not incapacitated already - continue to battle with the mysterious and powerful robotic foes. The fighting is thick and furious -

    - and then suddenly - shockingly - the robots and many of the Heroes are struck by a biblical wave of energy that comes from nowhere. The resultant shockwave is deafening, and tosses the rest of the NeSHeroes into the nearby jungle canopy. In the space that the fight had just occupied, a kingly figure with a petulant expression materialises, casting a bright and powerful aura that dispels the thick haze of night.


    Alexan: I will wait no longer! These insects and their robotic opponents are mine to destroy!

    The robots, mustering first, rally towards Alexan: but they are halted in their tracks by another massive blast of energy conjured seemingly by the Potential's will alone, scattering them once more. Alexan balls his fists in an ironically impotent gesture, striding towards them again, his aura crackling and humming.

    Alexan: You are nothing before me! I am omnipotent!

    TLTE does not turn to look at Alexan during this entire dialogue: he hears and feels the incredible power behind him, but his gaze is firmly locked on the disfigured, bent shape before him, as he hovers over Gebohq with a jagged doppelganger of his own military sabre.

    TLTE: You are Phoenix...my Potential?

    Phoenix: I am. I am every decision you have and haven't made, lived, enacted. Put another way, I am the rest of you that never existed.

    TLTE: You wouldn't kill Gebohq, if you were really me. I am sworn to protect him!

    Phoenix: Short sighted fool! We have killed Gebohq in so many potential realities, in so many ways...we have lacerated, we have vivisected...we have immolated, we have dismembered...and in many...we have enjoyed it.

    The blackened, scarred features twist into a smile. TLTE's hand flashes into his coat, reaching for a Smith and Wesson - but then...

    TLTE: You...are me.

    Phoenix: Not only that, I'm the you that actually pulled the gun out and attempted, ridiculously, to kill me.

    TLTE: So I can't kill you, obviously.

    Phoenix: It'd be the metaphysical equivalent of being faster than your own reflection.

    TLTE: I have to try.

    Phoenix: I knew you would...

    TLTE: Then step away from Gebohq, and face me.

    Phoenix grins again, then pulls the blade away from Gebohq and turns to face TLTE. As he does so, TLTE locks eyes with Gebohq and shares a meaningful glance...or does he only think he does?

    Phoenix: So kill me, then.

    TLTE quick-draws a Kalashnikov AK-47. The steel barrel glints as he presses the stock against his shoulder, drops effortlessly to one knee, and fires -

    - but Phoenix, incredibly, strikes the bullet OUT of the air with a deft swipe of his sword.


    TLTE: What -?

    Phoenix: The potential of our character is immense, as great as Cool Matty's, or Antestarr's, or even Gebohq's.

    TLTE: RRGH!

    He jams his finger down on the trigger, unleashing an entire clip at his Potential -

    -which is again deflected, incredibly, by Phoenix firing an identical AK-47 at his bullets, striking them in mid-flight and casting them harmlessly aside.


    TLTE: That's impossible!

    Phoenix: That's our character. Oh look, I have one more bullet.

    Which he fires, burying 7.62 x 39mm lead into TLTE's shoulder.

    TLTE: Aaah!

    He drops to the ground, a hazy grey agony swimming over his vision. A moment later, the twisted features of Phoenix leer over him, the oddly perfect eyes coldly surveying him from the wreckage of his body. His sabre is in his hands. TLTE only laughs bitterly.

    TLTE: To be killed...by my own Potential?

    Phoenix: I have no interest in killing you, TLTE.

    TLTE: What...do you mean?

    Phoenix: The Potentials...Erronem and Alexan and myself...we came here to kill the NeSHeroes. But -

    TLTE: Why? Why do you seek our deaths?

    Phoenix only laughs.

    Phoenix: You'll soon find out. I've only just worked out, myself, but...we were all played for fools.

    TLTE: So what...what do you want?

    Phoenix: I want you to kill me. To kill me and live in agony, as Gebohq will when Erronem soon breathes his last.

    TLTE: Why do you want to die?

    Phoenix: Because our existence is pain, TLTE. Our story is always - always - a tragedy. How many billions of lives have I lived...how many stories...and all of them end in pain and sorrow and death!

    The strange and beautiful eyes mist with tears, and a wizened hand dashes them away.

    TLTE: Why? Why does our essential character marry itself to tragedy?

    Phoenix: Why does the Gebohq character rally and lead and save? Why does the Krig character fight and laugh? Are we all cursed, or blessed? Slaves to the WriterGod? Perhaps we are the necessary black to the NeS, and the concept of story itself... But no more. NO MORE!

    He spins his blade around, wicked-quick, and hands it to TLTE. Slowly, Phoenix lowers his withered body over the steel.

    Phoenix: Kill me.

    TLTE: No, I won't!

    Phoenix: You don't have a choice...

    TLTE: I won't do it, nothing you can say will make me destroy you!

    Phoenix: I don't have to say anything, TLTE. I will simply...show you...

    And suddenly Phoenix's face changes. The skin, already scarred and dark, appears to bubble and boil: blood explodes out of the ruptured flesh, as the landscape of his features tear and are destroyed.

    Phoenix: Do you understand me now? We are, time and time, over and over, irrevocably, unchangingly, pain and death, pain and death -

    The face is burning now, warping and charring and yielding under horrific pressure - but it is no longer Phoenix's face, or even TLTE's: it is Gebohq's. Gebohq's face roils as his terrified features wither, but is it Gebohq's now? The macabre leans into the terrifying as Gebohq's face gives way to Cool Matty's, again broken and lacerated and immolated in the most shocking way before TLTE's very eyes -

    Phoenix: - pain and death, pain and death, pain and death, pain and death -

    - and now the dying face is Antestarr's, now Mimiru's, now Maybechild's, now Ford's, now Subaru's, now Losien's, the love of his life is being flayed and burnt alive in front of TLTE and the shame and horror is almost unbearable, because it is his fault, it is unavoidably his fault -

    Phoenix: - pain and death, pain and death, pain and death, PAIN AND DEATH, PAIN AND DEATH -

    Then, across the terror and agony that clouds his entire mind, a sickening sound of steel meeting flesh. Phoenix's face lights with triumph, for the longest moment...then clouds and grows distant. He slowly topples out of view, leaving TLTE stunned, wounded and alone. For the longest time, he doesn't move at all. But finally, his cracked lips part and he croaks...

    TLTE: Pain and death...

    ...before lying on his side, like Gebohq, his eyes distant and haunted, his lips repeating the epitaph of his true self.

  37. #597
    The night had broken out into fits of fresh rain, slowly draining the radiant desert heat out of the air, and replacing it with air so fresh that one would question if it has ever been tainted with the vile scents of reality before this instant. Hawthorne and Thatchett had finished their meals in silence, one in a quiet anticipation, and the other in silent remorse.

    Instinctually, Thatchett made his way over towards the Astro-van only to discover that his master and friend had wandered in the opposite direction. Hawthorne was walking slowly, as if in no hurry to arrive at whatever possible destination might await him. His head was fixed skyward, hands thrust deep into his pockets, and his feet occasionally stumbling on unsexed obstacles lurking in the darkness around his feet…


    * * *

    Bhac threw himself quickly around the corner of the concrete hallway, his dark figure sticking to the wall as if to imitate Pan’s freed shadow. The soft yellow lighting and gentile hum of the old cold war bunker had worked their way into Bhac’s nerves and had released much of the stress that had been building there for some time. He did not like working like this: Plan’s within Plan’s within Plan’s, these were Mayaal’s biddings not his own. He darted around another corner and found himself standing face to face with a very suppressed looking soldered. Without hesitating Bhac slammed the soldier against wall, suspending him above the ground solely by applying pressure through his open palm against the soldiers sternum. He stared momentarily at the panicked face of the young Russian before finally crushing his ribcage against the wall in a satisfying crunch. Releasing the body from it’s fatal pin, Bhac continued down the bunker hallway, A dark a crooked smile creeping slowly across his face.

    * * *

    Meanwhile, returning to the state of 1337, Mayaal continues to gaze through an array of plot-holes in front of him, each one opening into a the scene unfolding simultaneously thought the story. Sarn’s mad rush through the Hotel, TLTE’s confrontation with his potential, Morris and Ares’ meaningless stumbling through the Congo’s deep jungle, even Bhac’s needless slaughter as he rushes through the Russian bunker all unfold before the mighty Mayaal. Yet one plot hole does not unfold in such a manner, it’s narrative void returns only a grey stare of nothingness, it’s events obscured from his eyes, a deep thorn driven into Mayaal’s Psyche.

    He had managed to divine a significant amount of information already. He knew about the plot-altering device that had been installed in their crude vehicle. And his siren’s calls had revealed far more than he would have expected, but yet despite all the evidence he could gather, Mayaal could not understand Bhac’s actions. This was not how Bhac operated, Bhac did not set carefully placed gears in motion and hide behind shadow-veils, yet that was exactly what he had done and Mayaal was feeling somewhat unnerved (As much as a literary demigod can feel unnerved). Still, with Sarn on his side, whatever “plans” Bhac may have made will soon be insignificant.


    * * *

    The had walked several hundred feet out away from the parking lot, it’s soft artificial light no more than an gentile glow in the distance. The sky itself seemed to radiate a dark twilight, not the black void of space, but a deep velvet decorated with delicate fragments of starlight, yet for all the worlds suspended in the heavens, there appeared world around Hawthorne and Thatchett appeared as nothing more than a silhouette against he sky. Hawthorne took a seat on the silhouette of a fallen tree, and after clearing his mind one final time, attempted to answer Thatchett’s question.

    Hawthorne: You wanted to know what was going on?

    Thatchett: Yea Boss. Strange things are going on, and for once you seem to know more about what the bugger is going on that I do… And it’s kind of bugging me.

    Hawthorne: (Chuckles Slightly) What do you think I used to do? I mean before I went out on the road and met you? What kind of job do you think I had?

    Thatchett: Well… I never really though about it. I guess you would have to have been some sort of mechanic or something, maybe a student who’s out searching for the meaning of the world, that kinda thing.

    Hawthorne: I used to be in the Air Force… Me, in the military! And I was good at it too. Rose through the ranks faster than anyone else in my class. Natural ability, natural leader, born to achieve… That sort of thing…

    Thatchett: Go on…

    Hawthorne: I was assigned to the engineering corps, and before I knew it I was being assigned to all sort of top secret projects. Stealth recon gear, long range automated artillery, Guidance systems… I was assigned to projects across the board. The one day they pulled me for a “Special” project. A Carrier maker, that sort of thing, that’s all they would tell me. Turns out it was three of us, three fresh faced kids. I was the highest ranking of the lot, so I guess you could say I was in charge, but nobody saw it like that.

    Thatchett: What sort of project was it?

    Hawthorne: Power Generator.

    Thatchett: Power Generator?

    Hawthorne: Yeah, free power, easy to set up too. A generator could be easily deployed along with any armored division. Power enough to run any equipment you could manage to haul along and more,

    Thatchett: What was it? Fusion? Nuclear?
    Hawthorne: No. They never told us who figured it all out; the just gave us a pile of heavily classified research reports and asked us to put together a prototype. As far as we could figure it had to do with unexpressed dimensions.

    Thatchett: Unexpressed Dimensions? What?

    Hawthorne: According to the reports, the are literally millions of unexpressed dimensions forming little pockets that float around our universe.

    Thatchett: You mean like parallel dimensions?

    Hawthorne: Not quite, more like X-Y-Z dimensions. You see, according to the reports there is no reason why we live in a Three-Dimensional world. Supposedly there are an infinite number of dimensions floating around, however in our case only three of them “unfolded” to create our universe. It could have just as easily have been two, or six, or eleven. The rest of these Dimensions that did not unfold just kind of stuck around. They were trapped inside our universe but were unable to unfold, like wallpaper bubbles. They are floating around all the time, yet we can never see of feel them because they are just unexpressed axis.

    Thatchett: Ok… And how did you plan to use this for power?

    Hawthorne: Apparently, many of these “pocket” dimensions floating around have tremendous internal energy. Best we can figure they managed to capture some of the energy from when the big bang first created our universe. So our goal was to build a mechanism that could extract the energy from these “pocket” dimensions.

    Thatchett: Did it work?

    Hawthorne: (Hawthorne suddenly breaks off, where he had be willing to discuss his past up to this point, he was suddenly reluctant to continue any further)

    Thatchett: Did you build it? I’m guessing it did not work which is why you left the Air-Force? Right?… Buddy?

    Hawthorne: Yeah, right… It didn’t work.

    Thatchett: So what has this go to do with anything going on right now? With Sarn, Voodoo, Bhac, Sasha?

    Hawthorne: I… I don’t know. But for some reason I feel like someone wants to get that power generator working again, and that they are counting on me to do it.

    Thatchett: I bet it’s that Geb creep. Remember him? I did not trust him for one second, and we haven’t seen him since he tried to steal the van with those other two creeps. Sure sounds like it’s him, don’t it boss?
    Hawthorne: I … I don’t think so..

    Does Hawthorne’s past have anything to do with NeS’s future? What are Bhac and Mayaal up to? Where has West Wind the Writer been and why has it taken him so long to post again? Find out, or more probably not, in the next exciting volume of the NEVER ENDING STORY!
    "Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either
    condition."... G. K. Chesterton

    “questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself”

  38. #598
    *Mimiru, in CM's body, stood face to face with a green-eyed robot, shield emblazoned upon its chest. Mimiru tightly clutched CM's metal staff in her left hand and his rusty dagger in her right, crossing them in front of her in a defensive posture. She had been facing this robot for several minutes now, hoping to reduce the threat, praying she could get to the side of her beloved who she hadn't seen since he left to confront Erronem. Something was wrong in the air. Something beyond the ultimate convention.*

    Athena: You hesitate too long, child.

    Mimiru: What?

    Athena: By not striking me down, you've sealed the fate of yourself and your lover.

    *An explosion rocked the ground next to Mimiru, sending her sprawling across the jungle. A yellow-eyed robot stepped out from behind a tree, gripping a weapon far too small for the damage it just caused. The lightning bolt on his chest matched the light of his eyes as he viewed his handiwork.*

    Zeus: The master has made this far too easy. He needn't have dispatched all of us.

    Athena: Do not lower your guard, Zeus. They may have more surpi-

    *Athena's voice was cut off by half of her face being ripped apart by a blast from an inconcievable distance. Her body vanished, returned to Qwerty's lab for emergency repairs.*

    Zeus: Apollo! What are you doing?! We needn't prove ourselved over one another!

    *Another robot body fell from the jungle canopy. It stared toward the sky with its white eyes, stunned that it had just flown over a kilometer against its will. An armored figure dropped atop it seemingly from nowhere. The man gripped the robot's weapon hand and twisted it, a popping sound emanating from the wrist as black fluid flowed out of rubber tubing.*

    Apollo: I... I'm sorry...

    *Apollo was transported away, the figure atop him standing to his full height. Ares stared at Zeus with a look of disgust.*

    Ares: So, these are the best they can come up with? Illegitimate copies of my brethren from Olympus?

    *Mimiru looked up from her prone position on the ground to see the god of War standing, girded for battle, an aura of hatred emanating from his being. The robot, Zeus, looked back with its cold, emotionless face.*

    Zeus: It's impressive that you could take down two of us... Let your WriterGod know of your bravery... or should I say foolishness?

    *As Zeus trained his weapon on Ares, the god stood tall, unafraid of the robot's weapon. Zeus shook its head and cocked his gun. A bright orange blur erupted from the dense jungle, latching itself onto Zeus' back.*

    Morris: Nya! Y'know, Ares and I have felt something a bit screwy with the story ever since he picked me up on the highway a while back... things seem to be going our way, then not our way, then our way again. Unfortunately for you, I still haven't gotten any catnip or nachos, so I'm gonna have to take out my anger on you.

    *Morris bit deeply into Zeus' neck, shearing through the metal plating and into a vital fuel port. Zeus immediately transported back to Qwerty's lab, leaving the cat in the jungle with the god.*

    Morris: Yeuck! It's all oily and warm. Like a poorly refrigerated blowfish.

    Ares: You know, the Fugu contains the most potent neurotoxin known to mortals...

    Morris: That'd explain the indigestion I had in Beijing that one time.

    Voice: Impressive...

    *A robot stepped forward, bearing two blood red daggers. It stepped forward and bowed to Ares.*

    Unidentified Robot: That you would show up here was... unexpected. My brethren were fools to think they could take on a pair of the original villains.

    Ares: They were fools to defile the names of my fellow gods. I've still got plenty of rage left if you'd like to try and avenge them.

    UR: No... that won't be necessary. I, for one, know when to back down. Though I do have a word of advice: Watch your actions carefully, or you may find that you've been used. Especially in times like these.

    Ares: You know, I thought you might have something useful to say. Instead you toss out insults insinuating that I don't know what I'm doing. Get out of my sight before I put you in a hole so deep even Hades won't be able to find you.

    UR (chuckling): Very well. I hope we meet again under more... entertaining circumstances.

    *With that, UR vanished from the jungle. Mimiru composed herself, standing up and brushing off CM's robes. She looked toward Ares cautiously as she spoke.*

    Mimiru: I... thank you. I don't understand why you helped, but my appreciation knows no bounds.

    Ares: Don't take this the wrong way. It was a personal fight between me and them. Though I suppose you can go tell your "leader" that's the second one he owes me... Now, you better get to your girlfriend. Things aren't looking too good over there.

    *Mimiru blushed momentarily, realizing she was still in CM's body, before the color drained out of her face at the connotation of Ares last sentence. She rushed toward the clearing where Gebohq, Erronem, TLTE, Phoenix, and CM lay in varying states of well-being.*

    ----------------------

    Alexan: You are nothing before me! I am omnipotent!

    *Antestarr observed the chaos. The robots seemed uninterested in the Potential as they gathered themselves together from the shockwave. Mimiru picked herself back up and clashed with one with green eyes which seemed able to defend itself perfectly. Subaru stood beside Ante, looking for an opening to attack Alexan.*

    Alexan: Foolish child. Do you really expect to find an opportunity to strike me down? I know all probabilities, for I have forseen the fractured expanse known as the future. Each one burned into my mind. There is nothing you can do that I haven't predicted.

    Subaru: But how can I be certain until I try?

    Ante: Wait!

    *Ante's yell fell on deaf ears as Subaru charged toward Alexan. Alexan watched as conjecture became reality, as possibilities fulfilled themselves along the path he knew was right. The NeS would be saved this day, as per his decision for the best path. Subaru attempted to spin kick Alexan, but he had already dodged. She threw a palm at his chest, but he grabbed her wrist before it could connect. He looked into her eyes and grinned.*

    Alexan: You know, child, it's futile to battle your destiny.

    *Alexan released a concentrated blast of energy into Subaru's midsection. Her body twisted and flew through the air at impossible speed.*

    Ante: Not good.

    *Ante activated the device on his belt. The world seemingly crawled to a stop around him. In the distance he could see that Mimiru had drawn the robots away from Alexan and from Gebohq and TLTE's battle with their Potentials. Ares was standing on what appeared to be yet another robot, one which had likely been hidden somewhere to attack from the darkness. Gebohq and TLTE were both on the ground in some kind of apparent pain. CM, Erronem, and Phoenix lay on the ground bleeding. Subaru's body traveled through the air slowly, yet surprisingly fast for this world where all motion had seemingly stopped. Ante ran to Subaru and caught her, bringing her gently to the ground. Ante shut off the device on his belt. Alexan watched.*

    Ante: Subaru! Keep it together! From the looks of things, we'll be needing you!

    Subaru: But... I couldn't... I couldn't stop him.

    Ante: Don't worry about that, he's mine. You just worry about keeping your strength up to help our friends. *muttering to himself* old habits....

    *Ante laid Subaru gently down on the ground as she slipped from consciousness. He then stood and faced Alexan. As he approached, he stumbled, the pain in his chest excrutiating.*

    Alexan: You pay a great price to use such power, Antestarr.

    Ante: Nothing a little aromatherapy won't cure.

    Alexan: Pardon me if I don't laugh... I've heard that joke a million times.

    Ante: Oh, did you hear the one about the horse that walked into the bar?

    Alexan *chuckling*: Oh, Antestarr... I must commend you on your ability to surprise. Since severing your ties to your writer it's become harder to follow you. And your new toy... what was it called, the Hyper Time Modulator? Forcing your body to move in writer-time is brilliant. It's a shame your body can hardly weather the shock of it.

    Ante: Physical pain is nothing compared to...

    Alexan: Compared to the loss of everything you believed in? Watching as The Symbiont's life ended with the life of the story as you once knew it?

    Ante: Heh... you'd think losing that would be hard... it may have been at first. Until I finally understood. She gained her own will that day. One that the writers often tamper in.

    Alexan: And that's why you created the child? So that you might manipulate the will yourself?

    Ante *defensively*: Only enough to stop the writers from directing her around. It's high time she was free!

    Alexan: If you only knew where this path leads you.

    Ante *calming back down*: Look who's talking. You who bathed in the bloodink, who tried to absorb what has been and what can be. To see all. Yet your pride has clouded you from something you once held dear.

    Alexan: Oho. And what might that be?

    Ante: Your worth.

    *Alexan seemed a bit shaken by these words.*

    Ante: It's often said that a man's work is what defines his worth to the world. Some of us work to protect. Others work to further this world of ours, this Neverending Story. Still others seek to secure its future. But you... you allowed yourself to work towards your "omnipotence" and failed to see the point at which you became another man's tool.

    *Alexan's expression turned livid.*

    Alexan: Don't twist the truth, Scholar! I have the power to destroy you on this spot.

    Ante: No. You don't. From the moment you went on this quest to save the story by murdering the heroes, there was a reversal of roles. You three Potentials became the heroes, and we became the villains. Honestly, how else could we have survived an ultimate convention turned against us while so many were trying to kill us?!

    *Ante walked closer to Alexan.*

    Ante: You know, Sakura are beautiful... most of the year they are an unassuming, gnarly tree. Some might even call them ugly. But in the spring, thier blossoms bloom, turning the entire tree into a gorgeous pink. This lasts a mere week before the blossoms die and fall off the tree, giving way to green leaves. It's a shame... you were probably too busy to stop and notice such things... but now it's time for your petals to fall.

    *Ante slipped the blade of his lightdagger into Alexan's stomach.*

    Ante: Sleep well... 'hero'.

    *Ante walked back to Subaru and shook her gently.*

    Ante: Subaru... wake up.

    *Subaru stirred and groaned in pain.*

    Ante: The others likely need your help right now... I can't stay with you, I have something very important to take care of.

    Subaru: No... I... we need you!

    Ante: You should be alright with Gebohq and TLTE here. I want you to give TLTE this.

    *Ante handed the device from his belt to Subaru, along with a note.*

    Ante: I have to go.

    *Ante turned his back to Subaru and walked off into the darkness. She reached out after him, unable to call him back. A moment of silence passed. After what felt like an eternity, she gripped the device and the note firmly in her hand and stood up, determined to help her friends who were still there.*

    ----------------------

    *Deep in the Siberian bunker, Gebiyl struggled with his thoughts, which seemed more crowded than usual today.*
    Last edited by Antestarr; 04-09-2006 at 09:14 AM.
    Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.

  39. #599
    (NSP: It seems that time has finally come... There's no easy way to say it. I'm not writing for the NeS anymore. I don't feel I should write my characters out of the story, nor do I have any "last" things I wanted to do with them. I didn't want to just drop out, however, so here's a little post, within the Writer's Realm, to reflect real life, as it usually does...)

    Within the Writer's Realm, Geb the writer has gathered all the other writers into the common room.

    Geb the writer: Did someone remember to get Tracer out of the closet?

    Sarn the writer: Umm...

    *zip-pan to the closet, with a mal-nurished Tracer the writer sits, huddled and clinging to the mop.*

    Tracer the writer: They'll come back for me... they said they'd come back for me... I don't wanna die alone...

    *zip-pan back to the common room*

    Sarn the writer: Yeah... He, uh... said he'd be running late.

    Geb the writer: Right. Well, unfortunately, this can't wait. I fear if I don't say this now, I may never say it...

    West Wind the writer: We're finally getting a raise?

    Geb the writer: No...

    Majir the writer: You really appreciate all our hard work and you're going to throw a party for us?

    Geb the writer: That's a good idea, but that's not what I was going to say--

    VS the writer: You've come to confront everyone here about your crippling fear of getting close to people?

    Geb the writer: What? No. And I don't have a fear of getting close to people.

    VS the writer: Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, man.

    Geb the writer: Right... look, I've gathered you all here because...

    Geb the writer rubs his hair back, and takes a deep breath.

    Geb the writer: ...because I've decided to quit.

    All the other writers sit, stunned by his words. Silence....

    TLTE the writer: Why?

    Geb the writer: I wish I could tell you, TLTE. This is just something I have to do. You'll take care of things for me while I'm gone, right?

    TLTE the writer: Of course, friend...

    Geb the writer: I have complete confidence in you, TLTE. In all of you. Long live NeS!

    TLTE the writer: Long live NeS...

    Ante the writer: Long live NeS...

    All the other writers join in saying "Long live NeS" as Gebohq picks up his things and heads for the exit.

    Geb the writer: I don't like saying goodbyes...

    Geb the writer hands TLTE the writer a sealed envelope.

    Geb the writer: Please read this outloud to everyone when I leave... I couldn't say it myself.

    With that, Gebohq exits. There is a moment of stillness. The other writers slowly gather around TLTE the writer, who opens the envelope and reads what is inside...

    April Fool's! I'll be back in an hour, after I get lunch. Get back to work, slackers!
    Last edited by Gebohq; 04-01-2006 at 05:43 PM.

  40. #600
    *Suddenly, the closet door comes flying off it's hinges. A frazzled Tracer emerges, madly hacking at the air with his broom.*

    Tracer the Writer: "I too have an announcement!"

    *Nobody listens.*
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

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