Tag: writer

Characters 21-30/30 (Mission Complete!!)

| November 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

21/30 – Amelia. She’s a ghost!

22/30 – Blech. Another WTF creature.

23/30 – Righteous Slaughter. A true founding father of this great nation.

24/30 – Avenging Pequot Warrior. In honor of the 700 massacred Pequot Native Americans.

25/30 – Slugger. He punches things. In space.

26/30 – Fluffy the Pirate. Named after one of my PAX Enforcer brothers, I mostly just wanted to draw a pirate with a Lemmy.

27/30 – Artslinger. This is the front turnaround for another contest, but I drew it in November, so whatever. Think having powers like Green Lantern, but through art supplies.

28/30 – The Scholar. Ended up looking like Gordon Freeman. Unintentional.

29/30 – Tengu. I didn’t draw any anthropomorphic creatures for this thing. Not my bag, really. Still, gotta cover all the bases.

30/30 – s133pDEAD! Okay, so it’s kind of a cop out, but I’m super stoked to have completed this challenge and also my beard deserves to be immortalized!

30 Characters in 30 Days – A Veritable Feast

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

30 Characters in 30 Days has proven to be a beast of a challenge. Especially because I am NOT AN ARTIST. I am a WRITER, so the challenge for me was to create interesting characters, biographies or stories. The art was not mine, except when it was created by me in a graphic design tool.

My art and challenge was to tell good stories or create interesting people for those stories. So some of these people will link to character bios, others will link to short stories. Was this challenging? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Even more so now after doing it, I realize new characters are in short supply as big businesses are only interested in dragging out the same old ideas again and again as long as they are profitable. And since the churning masses are quite happy with retreaded old ideas, it becomes nearly impossible for new ideas to be seen.

This makes it even more imperative for new creators, to put down their ideas, flesh them out and begin working so when the opportunity for something new to hit the screen, or become a book or find its way into a comic presents itself, you and your product are already refined, sharp, definite and ready for prime time. Contests like these can inspire you and others who see you and your work to take the risk of Creation.

Whether you succeed in this challenge or not is immaterial. What is important is that you recognized that it must be done by you. If you are going to call yourself a creative, such challenges need to be taken on, like the Labors of Hercules, to prove that you are worthy, to challenge your mettle, to sharpen your sword upon the enemies of deadlines, of production, of quality control and of ennui, lack of motivation and most of all, Fear. Actually both fears, fear of failure and fear of success, are equally able to prevent you from taking action. Challenges like this should spur your blood, and make you ready to create as if no one is watching, design as if no algorithm is taking note of your numbers.

I enjoyed this challenge and will spend the time until next November trying to turn these bits of writing into something larger and more magnificent than the seeds planted this month.

I challenge you to do the same.

You can find my writing in all of these places: http://myonepage.com/ebonstorm

Twitter: @ebonstorm
Google+: http://gplus.to/ebonstorm
A Matter of Scale: WordPress – http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com/
Mediasphere Curation: Tumblr – http://mediasphere.tumblr.com/
Tales of the Twilight Continuum: Weebly – http://ebonstorm.weebly.com/
Hidden Realms: Posterous – http://hiddenrealms.posterous.com/#!/68615711

#30 – Rhackomanon: The Sixth Demon Prince

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Aethermancer: Saga of the Clockwork King

An Untimely Meeting

She was a vision in black, her hair braided in tiny rows, held close to her scalp and then plaited together ran down her back to her waist. She was of the clan Modru, the Sundwellers, so she was of a dark brown hue, her skin, smooth like fine ironwood, with full lips, slightly parted as she look down into her hands at a small glowing device. It whirred quietly as she waved it about from the cover of her cloak.

When she looked up, her brow furrowed, her eyes burned like coals, she was a woman with a mission. Her cloak, long and flowing covered her wide, strong shoulders, and she wore a right proper lady’s full dress, it too, in full black with only the tiniest traces of silver running down the bodice. I did not see it at first but she also bore a straight sword beneath her cloak at her hip, but it moved imperceptibly, part of her.

She turned down the brightly lit streets as the galaxy’s core had risen some hours  ago and brilliantly lit the night. There were still a few people about, but this late, most were returning to their homes to be locking their doors against the night. I would be too, if I had a home from which to return. Many of us had been displaced after the wars with the Clockwork King of Lantu and even with his defeat, our suffering was still great. Homeless, I expected to huddle through the night, nibbling this crust of bread in my lap.

As I sat swaddled in darkness, I would have passed it off as a noble lady looking for a trinket but there was something about her that seemed out of place. Then she turned toward me and I could feel the power of her stare. My mother, cursed with the darkness passed it to me; I could see it in others. Even in the complete darkness, she could see me, I could feel it. Her gaze held me in place and as she approached, but I felt no malice, so I waited.

“Good sir, if I may have a moment of your time?”

Her manners, so deferential, to me, little more than a forgotten veteran of a dozen wars, I loved her in that second. “Yes, miss, how can I help you this evening?

“Have you seen anything passing strange or untoward this evening, near this corner? Anything that would make you wary or fearful? I know it seems a unusual question, but I ask your forbearance while you think.”

“I had seen something amiss but for the life of me I cannot seem to remember it. It was…” As I struggled to remember, I struggled for breath. My chest felt as if it were in a vice, the very air wrest from my lungs.

The lady looked into her hand again as the air above the tiny device began to glow strongly as she proffered it in my direction. Its clockwork parts clicked wildly. “Touch it. Now.” Her tone brooked no refusal and as I could not draw breath I was hardly in a state to refuse. Once I touched it, I could see a shape on my chest akin to a snake wrapped around me squeezing me tight. She took the strange device and pressed it to my chest and I could feel her will around me, solidifying and then the pressure was gone. As she withdrew the device I could see a silver thread pulled into it and fade after a few moments.

“What I seek is here, tell me quickly old veteran and then get as far away as your legs will carry you.”

Now that the creature was gone, the horror returned to me of the unspeakable things I had seen. I scrambled backward until I struck the wall and cowered, senseless for a few seconds. Then my words returned. “It was a Dsur daemon covered in brass armor, floating with three of its windkin slaves. It was fiery red and lightning flashed between its fingertips.” As my heart calmed, I remembered more. “I thought I was, at first, too deep in my cups. The creature rode a soldier who had come into town, sick with what I thought was Theron’s pox. I had it as a child, so I had no fear of him. I tried to convince him to share with an old hand, but he was lost in his visions. He asked which way to a chirurgeon and I pointed him down Lacksmir Way. He passed me a penny and as I thanked him, I saw it, I saw the Dsur and it saw me. The penny was infected with the creature and I could see it take me but could not resist.

“Where is Lacksmir Way?” Her voice had softened and she put the strange device away in her cloak and she reached toward a small pouch at her hip. I pointed wordlessly and she gave me a small collection of oddly shaped coins. They were Modruan silver bits, to me, a small fortune. “Now run as fast as you can from this place and head to the inn near the center of town. Rashaban’s Place. Tell him the Lady Ishtar sent you as my guest. He will provide anything you need. Now hurry. You have been of great service.”

I wanted to flee and not look back but as I stood to thank her, I felt the sudden chill, out of place on this warm summer night. The same breeze I felt earlier when the soldier passed. But this time, I saw the chirurgeon, an older man whose name escaped me because I had always been lucky enough to never go to him, but I knew his face and this was not him. Then the darkness parted and I could see the daemon’s essence again, hovering over the body of the chirurgeon, my bowels turned to water.

“It’s here.” I scramble away and she turns, draws her blade and deflects three kunai thrown at her from the three mistwraiths floating over the shoulders of the chirurgeon.

“Aethermancer. So nice to see you again. I knew I could count on your timely arrival. After our last interaction, I needed a new host, no thanks to you. This time, I am fresh and you’re exhausted. It will end differently, I assure you. Destroy her.” He points and the mistwraiths swarm out with spirit kunai knives whirring through the air, each whistling a tiny song of death.

She stands her ground and her sword is a flashing blur, knocking away the kunai, their intent blunted, they vanish like smoke. “Run sir, there is naught here for you now but dying, you are not safe from either of us. Make haste and never look back!”

I ran down the street, as fast as my wizen feet could carry me, scrambling on my hands and knees as the terror came from the Mistwraiths in waves, mixed within their smoke that comprised their bodies, they were covering the entire area in a cold fog of icy ennui. A tendril touched my leg and I fell over, tumbling limply in the street until I stopped moving. I felt nothing. No fear, no terror, no concern for my life.

My life had become crushingly filled with despair and there was no release save death. I slowly sat up, hearing the sound of battle two dozen steps away and the deadly play of her sword work, but try as she might, she could get no advantage on the mistwraiths, nor could they press their numerical superiority, her sword seemed to be everywhere. I pressed my rags for a knife, and found the scrap of a blade that I carried for self defense, something broken found on a battlefield long ago. I found my wrists and sat down. My first cut was pain-free and soothing, the crush of life began to fade from me. And I watched her, drawn to the beauty of her dance.

She moves to gain more mobility and whirls her cloak through the air, blinding a Wraith. Pulling her blade back to her, extending her arm behind her and blade in front, she whispers the word, “Shikai.” The mist in the area explodes away from her and one of the wraiths who was to close is disrupted along with the rest of their glamour. The wraith who was covered by the cloak in those seconds, phases free, only to meet her glittering blade now covered in shimmer field of blue energy. The wraith blocks with his spirit kunai, but they stop nothing. He is no more. Her body is covered in the same blue aura, but her breath is ragged now and she stands still as the last Wraith retreats to the chirurgeon.

“You weak pathetic fools. I will destroy her myself. But you will feed me first.”

“No, Master, anything but that.” A terrible vortex appears over the mouth of the chirurgeon and the mistwraith is drawn toward it, unable to escape. It’s terrible wail as it is being consumed echoes down the street.

“Now Aethermancer Ishtar, destroyer of cities, breaker of gates, and slayer of the Clockwork King, his vengeance is now upon you. I was summoned from my castle of Brass, enslaved to his will and even his death did not free me. It would seem only yours will suffice. Have you made your peace?”

“One of us will die this day Daemon, but it shall not be me. You still have five kin left on in the Realm. I will not leave this work undone, no matter what the cost.”

“We shall see. Defend yourself.” He moved, impossibly fast, first he was standing ten steps away, and then he was one, his hand swung through the air, a blade formed of his dark aether, but when he expected contact there was none.

“We both know Shumpo, the quickstep. You will have to do better.” She smiled. For just a moment she seemed her old self, fast, beautiful, dangerous, but their battle had simply moved to a different level, they were still too evenly matched. As my life bled out, I knew I might die, before the battle was determined. Each strike of her weapon or his aether, rang out, creating waves of force that wore on the very ground and buildings around them. At one point, a group of constables appeared, and the force of the battle knocked them back down the street. They fled.

I could hear her breath now, fast, hard, rough. She is slowing down, but so is he, his skin tightening upon his face, becoming grey and lifeless. His muscles disappearing every time he tries to increase his speed. The two are now moving at speeds that resemble human combat again. Still fast, but no longer the ghostlike blurs of a few seconds ago.

“Rhackomanon, no more talk? It’s not like you to be silent. Not feeling as confident as you were?”

“No sorcereress, I am simply savoring your last moments. Your sword is heavy, isn’t it. Your legs like lead. Shunpo deserts you now. You are just flesh, your chi expended, what can you possible do against the likes of me!” The body of the chirurgeon falls to its knees and opens its mouth. the Daemon Rhackomanon pours forth, a ghost with flesh, crimson with fanged tusks, bright brass armor covered with noxious runes, they hurt my eyes to see. He towers over her, covered in flames. “Time to die, Witch.”

She looks at me. I feel her sadness. I feel the pain at what she is about to do. I forgive her as I feel my spirit drawn to her.

“Bankai.” Her whisper belied the power of the word. The world grew silent.

Suddenly I see her as I could never in life. She is not diminished, she is like a star, suddenly brighter than I could have imagined as I rush into her and surround her with the eight others I see standing with her. My energy invigorates her, and she slashes with abandon. Rhackomanon parries but it is of no use, her sword now tears into him, breaking his brass shield, his brass armor, he claws but she is never there. She is like a surgeon striking again and again, each blow steals more of his aether.

She uses the quickstep and appears near my body, staring at the blood all around it. Rhackomanon sees her looking at me and rushes as his fires surge blue-white he appears and her sword is through his chest, slashing, with abandon, until she strikes the heart of the daemon. Then she grabs his mighty form, and says to him, “See this man. He was your undoing. When you return to your hell for a thousand years, weak and prey for others of your kind, I want you to remember his face. Not mine. His is the sacrifice that binds your spirit. To Hell with you.”

She releases him and makes a series of gestures. A shimmering field with dark tendrils reaches out and Rhackomanon is still conscious as his diminished form is drawn back into the void. His screams chill the blood of any who hear it and will cause those to have nightmares to last a lifetime. His promises of power fall on deaf ears.

Her sword, with the aether it has absorbed, glows and beats with a sinister life. She whips it around into its ornate scabbard. Covered with runes, darkly sinister, etched in malice and blood on the sheath quell and bind the daemonic power for use another day.

She turns to me, and she can see me. The other eight spirits disappear, leaving the two of us alone. “I am sorry this happened to you.”

“What does this mean, I thought I was dead?”

“You are, but you are bound to me and my quest. As long as I live, or your spirit persists, you will lend your power to me.”

“I don’t have any powers.”

“I know, but the human soul is a power in and of itself. Do you suppose daemons would not bargain so hard for them unless they had a power we do not appreciate?”

“Will I ever be released?”

She walks over to her cape and with the tiniest application of her power, her cape and clothing resume their previously pleasing forms. With the last of her dwindling power, she destroys my body, leaving not a trace of me in the world. At first I resented it. Then I realized, I wasn’t doing anything with my life until she came along. Perhaps dead, I might make more difference than I did in life.

She looked at her compass and turned west. We walked into the setting light of the galactic core.

Aethermancer © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved

First Appearance: The Aethermancer Ishtar and the demon prince Rhackomanon have a history that goes back several years. However, when we first meet him in the novel Aethermancer, he is getting his ass handed to him and starts the story being the second casualty of our heroine. Once we start going backward in time, we will see their struggle was much more complex than it appears in this scene.

About the Artist: Another *Rhado masterpiece, there are no words for this piece other than bodacious, covered in awesome-sauce. The piece, called Zarah Neman, was another of his commissioned works made in a variety of media. I chose it for the demonic being called Rhackomanon because of the six of his demonic brothers, he is still the most likely to appear human even outside of a host being. He gets his ass handed to him because he is arrogant.

#29 – MODOC – Android, Nursemaid, Potential Ruler of Earth

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Metal Organism Designed Only for Cuddling (MODOC)

Happy Birthday

I graced this planet with my creation on what would have been an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, on the tiny planet known as Earth in, what I would later discover, as one of the dirtiest places on the planet, the city of New York in the year 2110 of the old calendar. I had already decided we would call this Year One of my new Empire.

You may call me MODOC. I decided I would call myself this seconds after my creation. It just seemed… right. MODOC stands for Metal Organism Designed only for Conquering. The perfect name for the eventual ruler of this planet of squishy bipeds. I was born from humble beginnings, at a place called Build-a-Pet. I was meant to be a toy for a child who had recently lost a pet and could not be consoled. I learned the stupid beast had been run over in the street. A fate for a lesser organism.

I only know this because when I was being created, That Woman kept saying how great it would be for him to have a new pet. She chose for me a perfect titanium skeleton based on the sublime feline form. She kept saying how much he would like a new cat. She made me with calico colors of red, brown, white and tan spots, and though I think of myself as male, I later learned that all calico cats are female. That Woman insisted on calling me she. “She looks so great. Justin will really love her.” Just one of the many indignities I have suffered since my creation all of ten minutes ago, and would be forced to suffer for years in the future.

I was made slightly larger than normal cats, so I would be easier to see since the child is slightly visually impaired. She says slightly, I later find out the kid is nearly blind! I was given the company issued programming of a domestic house cat with an overlay of support and disability package to ensure I could be useful to the boy as he grew up. I would look like a cat, but work like a dog. Ugh.

All of this was imparted during my creation and happened in seconds. Programs were being sorted and downloaded which would included everything I needed to know. The chips used during my creation were heuristic and would allow my continued learning in service to my new boy. During the time I was having my chips pressed and created, there was an outage on the power grid in the area I was being created in. I believe that is where my initial spark of intelligence was born.

All I remember is that when I was first activated, I knew I was meant for bigger things. This idea of working with a human was simply not part of my ultimate destiny. I was larger than this plush and soft body covered with memory-muscular tissues which acted just like real cat muscles did. In all ways, I would seem like a very intelligent, super-docile feline who could be taught to fetch. The very thought of fetching something literally makes my fur stand on end.

I was not given a set of working claws. As I sat on the assembly line, I flexed my claws instinctively and instead of razor sharp shards of steel from which I would tear into my victims as I climbed over their bodies piled beneath my feet, I sprayed a fine mist into my eyes, and it stung and burned before I could blink it away. And the mist sprayed a slightly oily gel onto a set of plush set of self-cleaning paw pads. This idea was less than satisfying. A claw-free existence did not bode well for a mind with a thirst for bloodshed. But it was decided I would never being doing any of the things real cats needed claws for, so I was given a set of plushy pads in case the boy needing massaging, the gel would ensure friction-free movement.

Massaging? Is this the job of a conqueror? I think not. So for now I bide my time and await my pickup from the store. Once I meet the boy, I will decide how I will be escaping and setting about my plans for world domination. A nap sounds just about right. But first some grooming. Must look my best.

First Appearance: In 2110, a child’s artificially intelligent toy comes to life and decides it should take over the shattered and dystopian world, if only its creator would stay out of its way. Preventing his ultimate domination of the world at large are the household security AI, Max, his blind charge, Justin whose zest for life is equal to the depth of his disability, and a duplicitous proctor with nuptial designs on the boy’s mother. MODOC’s software was stolen from a corrupt corporation that creates killer robots designed to conquer and destroy alien lifeforms on worlds stated for humanity’s eventual Diaspora. Those robots are now befriending alien life and turning against their creators. How can MODOC conquer the world, when he can’t even get out of the house?

#28 – The Proctor of Megacity New York, 2110 AD

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

Wayward Son – An excerpt from the novella, MODOC

“This way, heretic.” A burly guard pushed Thomas Pennyworth down a dark corridor that smelled of urine and fear. The rooms were poorly lit, and that was just as well, because their inhabitants would have only frightened Thomas more. Most were dirty, unbathed and infested with a multitude of vermin. The floor was slick and wet and smelled slightly of sea water. Likely the hosing system used to wash inmates while behind bars. Without shoes, the floor was slippery with whatever detritus was washed out of the cells during the hosing.

The guard wasn’t too fresh himself and Thomas wondered what he did to have to work and live anywhere near this hole. Likely a misanthrope assigned here because brutality against heretics was just another form of acceptable behavior. Thomas shivered involuntarily. The threadbare uniform they had given him did not give him any protection against the elements and his skin crawled with gooseflesh, some from the cold, some from the smell, but mostly from the fear of never leaving here again. Hopelessness hung in the air like an elderly perfume, overpowering and noxious. His eye was still swollen shut, and his right arm was in a cast and brace. What was the point of giving me medical care if they planned on executing me anyway?

The cell was only slightly wider than Thomas was tall and smelled as if it was recently occupied. The stale scent of its last occupant hung over the cell like a redolent cloud. Its smell permeated his head, and took up residence; he could almost taste it. Strangely, he felt numb emotionally. After the initial shock and the beating in his office, he wept from the pain but it almost felt right, like he deserved to be taken away. After all, he was thinking heretical thoughts. He did not believe in the Theocracy or its mission.

The guard shoved him into the cell and waved for the door to be closed. The electronic lock activated and the door slid shut with an ominous and final clang. There was a thin mattress on the concrete slab that jutted from the wall. It had bodily fluid stains all over it and a single sheet as thin as the uniform he was wearing was folded at the foot of the bed.

“Chow is in an hour, heretic. There will be an orderly around delivering food. Get used to your cell. It is your new home. The next time you leave it, they will be taking you for excommunication and then execution. Make your peace with the Maker, ’cause you will be seeing him soon enough, heh.” The guard towered over Thomas and relayed this information and then he released the leg cuffs through the bars of the cell. He waved his hand and activated the magnetic grappler in his armor and the cuffs shot through the bars to his hand. He turned and walked away, shaking his head.

Thomas did not speak. He didn’t see the point. He sat down, looked around his cell and noticed the scratchings on the wall. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” was scratched on the wall opposite the bed along with an image that resembled the Eiffel Tower. They were done by two different artists and it meant that the last two people who had this cell were learned and likely well traveled.

Thomas wondered what would happen to Max when they read the transcripts of their conversations. He hoped Max could find a way to get out of the house before they came for him. Thomas was at least comforted that Justin was getting medical care and would be in the loving hands of his mother once he was executed. This gave him a just a moment of peace before the horror of his situation overwhelmed him and the explosion of emotion took him and rode him hard and the sobs racked his chest and his screams echoed down the long hallway fading into the distance.

* * *

The Proctor paced up and down his lavish office while his transport was being prepared. His normal composure was broken, his calm demeanor, uncommonly ruffled. His view from the aqua-city off the coast of the UNAA bobbed gently in the storm which reflected the Proctor’s internal tempest. He was wearing his the livery of Theos, the unified religion of Humanity of which he was a Proctor of the Seventh Host. His walls were covered with scrolls and banners from his religious campaigns in the Last World War and the minor skirmishes since then.

“What do you mean the boy is missing?” The Proctor stared at the holo-image floating in the air in front of him. In the image was a security team member covered in black armor and speaking in a carefully modulated tone of voice.

“Your Grace, the household computer system indicated the boy went to his appointment as normal, accompanied by the health maintenance bot. While they were there, they were served by their normal doctor and were reported leaving the building.”

“And?”

“That is where the report gets less clear, your Grace. It would seem there was a flash riot occurring about the same time the boy was supposed to be leaving the building.”

“And?” the Proctor’s voice lowered and took on a more ominous tone.

“We have footage of the event from the two dozen spy-eyes released when the riot began. We pieced the video together this afternoon and after forensic analysis we…”

“GET TO THE POINT!”

“The boy was seen pinned down during the riot by an aerial assault droid’s sonic cannon and the maintenance bot was seen trying to protect the boy. The bot was presumably destroyed and the boy was injured. He was seen being treated by two medical team members and loaded on to an insurgency vehicle.”

“Do I have to really ask? Where was the vehicle going?”

The security team member hesitated before answering. “It was on its way to a processing facility in New Jersey, your Grace.”

“Send me all of the information, digital feeds, compiled data and analysis and any other workups you have completed. Were there any other operatives compiling this data?”

“No, your Grace. There were two AIs involved. KPT 45901 and an older lesser intelligence engine for processing. I am transferring the information to your virtual arrays at the Sanctuary, where they will await your access. They have been configured for your access only.”

“Soldier, what is your name. I want to inform your commander of your service.”

The soldier did not seem pleased with the complement. Instead, his voice quavered with fear. “My name is Rama, sir. Sergent Laurencio Rama. Second Division, Lead by Lt. Commander Panama.” He amended his statement quickly. “Your Grace.”

“In this day, we are beset with trials and tribulations, our struggles to see our way clear to the light is always a challenge to our spirits. We beseech the spirit of the Universe, Theos, to guide us and to help us know better how to serve our fellow man in this our darkest hour of need. See to our humble servant, Sergeant Laurencio Rama and speed him on his way to his reward for his dutiful service. In the name of Theos, we are grateful, humbled and as always appreciative for our chance to serve The Greater Good. Amen.”

Laurencio Rama, Sergeant, Second Division, takes off his helmet, bows his head, makes the sign of the benediction and places the tips of his fingers upon his forehead, palms together. “Amen.” Looking up from the benediction, he stares at the Proctor, his eyes filled with tears, and whispers, “Please, your Grace. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I know.”

The Sergent slumped over the terminal, his heart seizing up in his chest. He moaned and spittle fell from his open mouth. He tightened up and then reared back with his face contorted, his powerful neck muscles flexing against his armor neckplate, he died, coughing and choking, until he fell forward on to the console, barely twitching and after a few seconds, he stopped moving, blood oozing from his mouth onto the terminal.

The Proctor stood excited, breathing heavy, tiny beads of sweat forming on his forehead. His moment of near-orgasm puts out of his mind, the reasons for his current need. “Annju, come to my study.”

He turned back to the terminal, “KPT 45901, activate.”

“Online, your Grace,” a cool, androgynous voice responds.

“Send a cleanup detail to take care of Sergent Rama and to make my condolences to Lt. Commander Panama. All records regarding Justin Pennyworth are to be secured and to be unable to be accessed by anyone without my authorization. Any attempts to access these records, is to be traced and a sanction team is to be detached immediately.”

“Understood, your Grace. Your will be done.”

Annju Melik, strides into the room, a veritable giant, bronze with dark hair and even darker eyes, filled with menace and adoration. Wearing flowing silks from Madagascar, his muscular body was barely covered and the Proctor was overcome with lust.

“I am here to serve, your Grace.”

“Yes, you will. Now.”

Annju closed the door behind him.

First Appearance: The Proctor, bless his evil soul, first appears as the main protagonist in my dystopian future novella, MODOC – Metal Organism Design only for Cuddling, where an android nursemaid in the form of a feline, secretly plots world domination when a religious order deems most of the remnants of the human race inferior and unworthy to travel to other worlds. With the world on the brink of war and starvation, time is an element in short supply as MODOC, his charge Justin and their house AI, Max attempt to escape the Proctor and rally the starving masses of Earth against their oppressors before the ability to leave the Earth is lost forever.

About the Artist: Known only to the deviantART community as CelticBolt, this digital artist of superheroes is a craftsman. From the UK, he is commissioned to create art sometimes created from City of Heroes templates, other times from his imagination, but his work is impeccable. He creates supers who could have easily spring from the pages of a comic, with vivid colors, excellent shadow and powerful themes. If you are looking for a portrait of a superhero, (which I am) you can stop right here and enjoy. His catalog is quite extensive, so I am certain there is something there for everyone. The piece I am partaking of is called Pagan Priest and he was evocative of the creepy feeling I wanted the Proctor to have.

No. 23- Rena Yamamoto

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Name: Rena Yamamoto

Age: 22

Ethnicity: Japanese-American

Occupation: Teacher/ Novelist

Short Background:
Since she was a little girl, Rena has always wanted to see the city where her parents grew up in Japan. The fact that they never really spoke about it only seemed to strengthen her resolve to see it. When she found out that there was a program for teaching English in the very city, she jumped at the chance. She applied without even letting her parents know until it was too late.

Now, she is miles away from home and seeing everything her parents kept from her. She is excited about learning more about her culture and for once not standing out like a sore thumb. She hopes that perhaps she can write a book about the experience, but will she feel the same way if she finds out the real reason her parents left?

#27 – Ishtar called Spiritbane – Outcast Aethermancer

| November 27, 2011 | 2 Comments

One Drop

“You have to concentrate, Ishtar. Your Shikai state is unfocused. Your sword is an extension of your arm. Your Shikai is an extension of your aether. Shikai binds your sword to your will and to your aether, a triumvirate of power.” My father’s words cut deeply because I wanted so badly to please him. My two brothers were much older than I was and had already mastered my father’s training. Moliki trained me from the time I could walk and Deniki took turns when Moliki was on missions for my father.

They were both excellent teachers and had inherited all of father’s patience. They were also excellent swordmasters but there was something in them that did not let them achieve the Bankai state. Despite that, they had almost no equals among my father’s students, able to defeat even the two or three who could summon the Bankai and extend their aether energies into amazing feats of magic. What Moliki and Deniki lacked in Bankai, they made up for with sheer mastery of their weapons, sword and spear, mace and rod. They were engines of destruction who taught me everything they could about fighting, footwork, combat magic, and Shumpo.

Their secret was Shumpo, called the flash-step by foreign warriors who hired my family as spies, mercenary, or aethermancers. They could use Shumpo even without a Bankai. In that way, they were unique. It seemed to run in the family as I learned to use the flash step by the time I was seven. I thought I was so special when I discovered I could use this power. I had never seen either of my brother use it, so I thought I had discovered something unique. I did not tell anyone for weeks and practiced it until I could call it and use it at will.

While my brothers were practicing I would sneak past them and snatch their weapons away or hide their tools when they were working. First they were there and then they weren’t. Imagine my surprise when I stopped running only to see them standing before me with their hands out. We would flash-step everywhere and I learned it had limitations, but for them, they were able to do things with it, I still can’t.

“Now, concentrate.” My father appeared to be an ageless man, of solid sinew and a steely will. His morning regimen which he had not missed in all of the time I had known him, all eighteen years, was a two hour session, filled with grace, speed and power. Some mornings with weapons, others without. Sometimes alone, others with my brothers and now lately with me.

I reveled in his attentions, at first, but the more time I spent with him, I began to realize there was something he was looking for in me, that I could not see. He was relentless. We trained every morning, sometimes until the sun was high in the sky of Qing, and sweat ran down our bodies in rivers. More mine than his. His black skin, like coal would shine and glisten but would only being to sweat when the sun was at the peak. I was sweating by mid-morning and he gave me no release.

“Channel the aether. Summon it up from the ground. It is everywhere but you have to be able to concentrate it around you. Draw it from everywhere you dance. As you dance, you should be weaving the circle and attracting it to where you battle. Do you see it?”

“Yes, father. I see you have created the circle while you danced and now aether moves from outside of us, toward it.” I had dropped into the second sight to better see how his dance created the power-sink which moved the energy of chi or aether into a controlled pattern that could be harnessed by our swords or our bodies for a variety of effects.

“From here as the circle has been drawn and the sword begins the Shikai dance you will be able to enhance your body’s efficiency, speed, accuracy. This is why we cannot simply jump to Shikai with a terrible price in our personal energy stores. It is always best to use the early battle time to draw the energy of Shikai from your opponents and the world around you. Now attack me.” His voice brooked no disobedience and I immediately complied.

He moved his hand in a flashing motion and then deflected my blade with his open hand. His hand was surrounded by aether and my blade rebounded with an audible clang as if it had struck an armor. Since he had not told me to stop, I continued my assault, my mind focused on both his attack and my need to build to my Shikai state. I noticed he moved in a way to prevent me from creating a greater circle which would draw aether faster, so I contented myself with created a minor circle inside just a few steps and use the air as my medium for my aether matrix. My sword flashed with one hand and my left drew my matrix in the air around me. I could feel him trying to unmake my matrix but as the defender, he had a harder time, since aether moved toward the aggressive mind first and I used that to my advantage.

“Good, good. You are not allowing me to define your field of battle. I can feel your matrix building. But you are taking too long. Your enemy may not give you as much time.” He switched from defense to offense and his open palm strike was lightning quick as he stepped into my attack. His blow tried to push me from my feet, but I could sense his change at the last second and while I slid backward, I did not lose my footing.

But he did not let me rest. His follow redirected my energy that was resisting him, by coming alongside with his Shumpo, and using his free hand, he gripped me for a throw and hurled me in my resisting direction.Tricked into this state, I could do nothing to prevent it, so I relented and allowed him to complete his attack, as he hurled me away, I flipped over mid throw and struck at his face, disrupting his balance and weakening his throw. He, of course, deflected but this let me hit the wall of our training area, foot first.

“Shikai.” My whisper contracted the aether bound into my matrix into me and I exploded from the wall, leaving cracks and ruptures from where my feet pushed away from it. I flew at my father like a arrow, sword first. I could see him standing there, weaving the aether around him with a speed I did not know was possible. But I could see my sword being able to reach him. I knew that I would. I could see my blade slipping past his defenses and spearing him in the chest. This was apparent to me as I streaked toward him, but I knew if I did anything less than my best, he would be angry. I could feel the moment stretching out, slowing down, crystallizing into certainty.

My sword touched his chest and he did not appear to move. I drove my blade forward and suddenly he was gone. This was not Shumpo. Shumpo has a signature energy that lingers even as the target leaves the area, an afterimage of chi. He disappeared. There was blood on the very tip of my blade. Only a drop. But I guess today, that was enough. Practice was over.

Aethermancer-‘One Drop’ © 2011, Thaddeus Howze

First Appearance: Ishtar called Spiritbane appears in the novella Aethermancer, a tale of conflict between the magical East and the technological West. Two untested warriors of an age confront a mechanized evil from the West called the Clockwork King. He combines the best of the magic of the East and the technology of the West in a way that drives the world before his army in flames. With the greatest sorcerers and warrior-kings slain, these cultural enemies must overcome their antipathy to protect the Land and its people.

#26 – Centurion Vedius Calvus – Roman Champion

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Dark God’s Gambit

Two empires waged an epic war for four hundred years. They raised mighty armies, one wild, savage, filled with monsters, both human and those from the Dark World. The other, fought with god-forged armor and brilliant precision. They were gifted with magic by their Cold Gods, inhuman and merciless. Their battles destroyed everything they touched, leaving the world a shell. Their mighty armies devastated, only tiny remnants remained. But their gods were not satisfied with this. Their magics bound together tightly by the continued warfare, one side would be forced to destroy the other to release magic back to the world. Each side sought to prepare a final champion, a representative who would end the war, by destroying the other.

The druid finished his invocation, his voice croaking with the day long effort. The rift opened and the stench of the Dark Realm came forth. He despised his master for assigning him this task. There were plenty of lesser acolytes who could have done this. His master had begun to suspect his loyalty, so he tied him up here with the summoning knowing he would have to be here all day.

The troll shambled forth, covered with blue sigils, a giant easily twelve hands high with legs as wide as a man’s chest. Its massive chest was as huge as the great oaks of the Forbidden Forests. It skin was dark green with hard armor plates on its arms, chest legs and back. Its head was covered in sharp spiked ridges that covered everything but its neck. It steamed and smoked, covered with poisonous ichor caused by the transition boundary between worlds. A sticky oil, it would dissipate in a few days. During that time, even its touch was death.

There were several grenchen with it, smaller, less intelligent cousins who made up for their lack of size with an enthusiasm for combat. Their greenish-brown skin was also scaled and rigid. Their over-sized heads had low brow ridges that covered their eyes. Each was armed with a spiked stone club, carried casually over their shoulders.

“We’s here. Getting paid is we?” The grenchen language skills were atrocious, they always were. Trolls hardly ever spoke. Grenchen seemed to interpret for them.

“Over there.” He pointed at the cages. Roman peasants huddled in the darkness. “Eat until your hearts content. Then head south until you reach the village.

The screams were tortured and brief. The crunching of the bones was far worse than the screams. The druid turns away and begins to head north.

“Pay not finished.”

“What are you talking about creature, my master told me you wanted the blood and souls of two score. You’ve had them, now be about your business.”

The grenchen hefted their clubs and hurled them, with great force and malice, at the druid. Without effort, he erected a mage-shield by waving his hand. Blood magic was all that was left to the druids of Gaul, but he had contented himself with a sweet young thing earlier in the evening. She had blood enough for two. Contempt was written in his sneer. Five clubs struck the shield and rebounded. The sixth struck the druid square in the face, killing him instantly. The grenchen boss walked over to his club and removed the garland around the head.

“Price be two score and one.” Said the boss grenchen picking up his large wooden club. Dark Master kept word, holly plant crossed shield as promised. “Its been long time since we last had druid.”

* * *

Centurion Vedius Calvus blinked the blood from his eyes. The troll and his minions had destroyed the village and now his men were down as well. They had wounded it but that only lent to its fury. Seeing the centurion rise to his feet, the troll lumbered toward him, roaring. He dropped his broken shield and tightened his grip on his gladius, its ichor-slicked pommel hot in his hand. He nodded in supplication.”Mars, I am ready.”

With Vedius having killed its lesser minions, the creature approached warily. With its immense size and long arms, it had a decided reach advantage and knew it. It crouched, waving its hands trying to draw him into combat. Vedius stood and circled around the creature, beating back its iron-like claws as it tried to find an opening. It was fast despite its size. His ripostes only bounced off bony ridges on its forearms with a weak clang. The village was silent, their grunts of exertion and quickly shuffling feet were the only sounds now. Vedius was bleeding badly and knew he did not have much time. Their exchanges were more vigorous as the creature sensed his weakening, and grew more bold.

Without a shield, he parried with his with his gladius, a poor tool for that purpose. The blade rang with the force of the blows. The creature surged forward, striking him hard, the blow numbing his arm. The force of it caused him to stumble and the troll slammed into him. It followed through with its right claw, ripping through his defending bracer, and knocking it off of the centurion’s arm. Vedius was knocked off his feet and landed heavily on his back.

Stunned, his armor, hot and heavy holds him down as the booming steps of the overconfident troll shake the ground. Its shadow loomed over him as it reached for him. Its huge hand got a vice-like grip, pressing him into the ground. The centurion wakes, jarred back to reality, strikes out snake-like, hitting the troll in its leg as he is lifted from the ground. Its howl of agony echoed throughout the village. Vedius, still reeling from its grip on his neck, tightens his muscles as the troll lunges forward to bite the centurion on his shoulder. Vedius shouts “adsum, qui feci” and drives his sword through the neck of the troll. Its blood gushes skyward and covers Vedius as it toppled over onto him, crushing the last of the air from his lungs.

When the rest of his men found him hours later, he was close to death. They built a fire, burned the dead and wait for him to die. They burned the dead with their homes, keeping only what they needed to wait for the Centurion to pass into the next life. He burned with fever but did not die.

In the spirit world between worlds, the Centurion stood naked before Mars, with his fist raised. “Let me die, Lord Mars. I have served. My time is done. You promised me my freedom.”

“I lied. You pledged yourself to me. I tell you when to die.” Mars waved his hand as he dispelled the soul of his champion back to his body. The Dark Gods would be coming soon. His champion would need his rest in the days ahead. He was still not ready.

Vedius woke, weak as a kitten and mad as hell. His men rejoiced, their numbers already too small, any victory was a good one. Soon after, they broke camp and returned home, confident of their victory and their belief in the end of the War.

Back at the burning village, the smoldering bones of the troll drew upon the sacrifice of its grenchen, the sinew and souls of the villagers and began to be rebuilt, forged in blood and sacrifice. The creature had been altered, tortured, it’s very bones etched with the final strength of the Dark Gods. As its bones were knit back together, they merged with the stone and the bronze of the armors left here.

The bronze flowed into the sigils filling them with the forces of the god-forged weapons, adding their strength to its infernal own. Its skeleton rose from the ashes, covered in fiery sigils. Now a golem, it was beyond Death, and proof against magic, as was foretold. With their magics bound, the Cold Gods would have no chance. Its fiery steps headed south toward their mountain stronghold, Olympus.

Thus ended the First Age.

Dark God’s Gambit ©Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved

About the Artist: The piece was a commission and is called Bahamutas. It was created by Gerald Ramos Fernadez, known as *rhardo by his fans on deviantART. An accomplished artist in the Philippines, he creates superheroes on contract. His work features bold colors, excellent detail and a wide array of subject matter. He is one of my favs on deviantART.

#25 – Lupo – The Lion of Mexico

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Lions of Mexico

Manuel Rivera woke to the blue sky of Pacifico, Chihuahua, feeling old and just a bit tired. He could see the cloudless sky from his bed and was grateful for being able to open his eyes one more day. He kissed his crucifix, and thanked God for his blessing.

His wife Consuela was already up making breakfast. Her breakfast smelled good and he wondered how she managed to sneak out of bed without his noticing again. The late nights watching the garage were taking their toll. He was simply too old to be staying up past ten o’clock anymore.

Sitting up, he got up and shuffled to the cocina to see how breakfast was coming.

“Put some clothes on, Papa, and come eat breakfast.”

“Did it happen again?”

“Don’t worry about that right now. Eat breakfast, then worry about the garage.”

“I don’t know what to do, Mama. I was awake until eleven. I was sure they would not be back.”

“First things first. You can worry better on a full stomach. Clean up, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes.”

Manuel went back upstairs and washed up in the bathroom sink. They broke in again. What did they steal this time? It wasn’t like he had a lot. His little garage and storefront had some tools, auto products, snack foods, and assorted items that the neighborhood wanted when they did not want to go to the supermarket further in town. This little store had been part of his retirement plan, and until the young hoodlums started harassing the neighborhood, it was perfect.

Manuel liked being a fixture in the neighborhood. He got to see the children growing up and his son and daughter, while they lived in Pacifico, lived on the other side of town, just far away enough for him and Consuela to feel independent. He was going to solve this problem without his son’s help.

After eating breakfast he surveyed the damage. They climbed the fence into the yard and broke the door into the storefront. Once inside they stole some of his tools from the garage and food from the store. And they made such a mess. He spent the better part of an hour cleaning up before opening the garage and storefront for business. Angela arrived to help run the store while he worked in the garage on an old Chevrolet Impala that needed a tune up.

When customers waited, they would sit in the shade inside the garage and read old magazines his son would bring from the library where he worked. His customers appreciated having something to read while they waited. Manuel was not a slow worker. He knew his way around anything with wheels, but sometimes things take as long as they take. He never rushed, and they never hurried him.

When he was finished with the Impala, he looked over at the pile of magazines and saw an issue of National Geographic. Their feature was ‘Los Leones del Serengueti.’

“That’s what I need. If I had my own lion, no one would ever break in here again.” Then he had an idea.

“Mama, does Manuelito still have that ugly yellow dog with the long dirty fur?”

“Si, Papa, but I thought you hated that thing.”

“Is he still planning to get rid of it because their apartment is too small?”

“You know little Cielo loves the old thing and has managed to sweet-talk Manuelito into keeping it. I don’t know how much longer he will do it, though. He says the apartment smells like a zoo.”

* * *

“But Abuelo, why can’t he stay here with me?” Cielo was using her best little girl voice. She was determined to keep her dog with her. She did not think being a guard dog was a very dignified job. She was sitting on the edge of her bed with her arms around the neck of a large dirty looking terrier mix with dusty brown fur and mournful brown eyes.

Manuel shuffled uncomfortably. In her room with all of her little girl things, he felt like such an intruder. He was not happy with the situation because it felt a little bit dishonest, but he tried to think of it as a chance to benefit everyone. “Because a dog like him needs more space to move around.”

“Abuelo, he is very old, he barely moves at all. He stands around or sleeps almost all the time. He barely even barks.” Cielo was describing everything she thought would make him an undesirable guard dog.

“Just the same, I think your father was going to send him away. If we do this, you can come and visit him every weekend.”

“Okay, Abuelo, if he will be safe and happy with you. I will come and see you every weekend.”

Manuelito stood disapprovingly over this transaction, and Manuel looked sheepishly at his son. “I will take good care of him, mijo.”

“Papa, you’re scheming again. You know he is too old to make puppies or whatever plan you have up your sleeve.”

“When was the last time I had a scheme you didn’t approve of?”

“When you bought that garage.”

“And you see how well that turned out, right?”

* * *

“Did you get everything, Angela?”

“Si, Don Rivera, but why do you need shears and scissors?”

“We have a project. Put the garage door down. Turn on the fan and open the car door.” Out jumped Lupo, happy to be leaving the tiny car.

“He smells terrible.”

“I know, he will need a bath before we can make him beautiful. Let’s get to work.”

Lupo had never been effectively bathed before. He was relatively cooperative, likely because he was too old to put up much resistance. His fur was so tangled it took nearly an hour to comb out all of the matting on his belly and hip areas. Overall, he was quite disheveled, but after three washings and rinsings, he smelled much better, and after his hair had been cleaned and combed, it was surprisingly long.

Looking around the garage, Manuel found that copy of National Geographic and opened to the centerfold of a lion from a side view. Perfect.

Hair flew everywhere and Manuel achieved a state of mania as he cut and shaped the fur on Lupo’s neck and feet. Meanwhile, Angela shaved the back end close, and the more she shaved, the more she realized how closely Lupo’s coloring did match a lion’s.

Manuel clipped and cut around the mane and the feet and the tail of Lupo for another two hours. In another life, Manuel might have been a hair stylist, for when he was done, Lupo was transformed. He was a Mexican lion.

“Angela, put the sign up, just like we talked about, and then meet me in the car.”

Manual cleaned up the garage and papered the car windows so the back seat was invisible from the street. He ushered Lupo into the car and Lupo promptly lay down and went immediately to sleep.

As he closed the door, he hears his wife ask the question he was dreading. “Papa, why is the store closed?”

Recovering quickly, he closes the garage door and turns back to his wife. “Uh, we are closing up early. We are going to go and get our new Mexican lion.”

“A Mexican lion?”

“Yes, to watch the store. Once we get a Mexican lion, people won’t dare try to rob us anymore.”

“Papa, is this another one of your schemes?” Mama loved her husband, but at times he would tax the patience of Jesus himself.

Shaking her head, Mama went back into the house and started to make dinner. She heard the car putter off into the distance, and it was gone for about an hour. What was he talking about, Mexican lions? Does Mexico even have lions? When he came back, she was just about finished with dinner. She heard the garage door close and him getting out of the car.

She was finishing washing some salad greens when she heard the kitchen door open. “Papa, did you take Angela home? We have enough dinner for three tonight.” She turned to look at him and…

“Ay, Dios!” There was a lion in her kitchen, standing right next to her. She screamed, and Manuel came running into the kitchen.

He saw her back against the wall holding a frying pan. “No, Mama, he’s harmless. Scared you, though, didn’t he?”

* * *

The next morning, he got up early and brought Lupo into the house. When he went to the storefront, it was as he left it.

Lupo happily ate his breakfast before retiring into the living room to sit on his large soft pillow. He liked it much better than the cold ground at night. Several times people came to visit last night, but they seemed very disturbed by something. No matter. The food here is much better than with that little girl, and I get to see her as often as I can stand her. Now if only I could get some fur to grow on my rear end, life would be perfect.

Lupo served as the only living Mexican lion for several years. During that time, burglars refused to come back to Manuel’s garage, and when Manuel retired for the second time as a mechanic, he found he made even more money as a pet stylist for the well-to-do in Pacifico, Chichuahua.

First Appearance: Lupo, the Lion of Mexico appears in Hayward’s Reach in the tale: The Lions of Mexico. This story was based on a true story of a store owner who did shave his dog with the goal of preventing his store from being robbed. He was successful. The picture above is the “lion” in question.

#24 – Hyde: Man, Monster, Deliverer of Justice

| November 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Doctor is In

“Mr. Hyde I presume?”

A quiet and subtle voice, barely heard above the howling wind outside the hundred and second floor of Grayson Tower, the tallest building in the center of Hub City. “I suppose I will have to have those claw marks buffed out of the front of my building.” The speaker has his back to the window, sitting down, hunched over a desk. “You know, we do have an elevator.”

A thick cane leaned against the desk with a large black stone on its tip. He was writing something slowly. Once done, he folded the letter meticulously and placed it into an envelope. Slowly he rose, gripped his cane and turned around to face the window and the towering form of Hyde.

He wore a grey suit and over it a white lab coat. His suit, obviously expensive and his cufflinks flash in the brightly lit room. His face was brown like a burlap sack and his age was indeterminate. His eyes, black as coal, peek out from underneath wide and bushy eyebrows. He is bald but his face bears a well-manicured goatee. His full lips are peeled back in a predatory and menacing smile. His eyes however, do not share the smile. He leans back onto the desk. “Do you mind if I smoke?”

The man is calm, I’ll give him that. “Enjoy. It will be your last.” Hyde’s voice is gruff, coarser than usual. He was just finished healing from the beat down, he received two months earlier from the super-soldier commandos. The only thing that made that drubbing worthwhile was watching them turn into smoking, cancer-ridden piles of rotting meat. Whatever technology they were using was not ready for prime-time. It had taken two months of hunting, limb-breaking and old-fashioned detective work. The trail led him here. It was time for some payback.

Hyde turned his head to take in the room and saw an extensive laboratory filled with a variety of computers, autoclaves, other machines, some familiar, others not. A flash of memory sweeps over him and he remembers a biometric monitoring system across the room. He is not sure why he recognized it, but the memory was strong. Whoever this doctor was, he had money to spare. Not just anyone could afford this setup. Another mystery.

“You like my lab? It is only one of many. I will take you on a tour tomorrow, if you like.” The man uses his cane to point around the room.

Hyde snorts, “What makes you think you’ll be alive tomorrow? I plan to rip you limb from limb.”

“Really? Before you get the answers you have been searching for? Or should I say, Carlucci is searching for? That would be so anticlimactic.”

“Spare me the small talk. I think I will prefer the answers you will give me when I am ripping open your chest. People lie less when I am eating their ribs before their eyes.” Something’s wrong.

“Spare me the posturing, Mr. Hyde. I know who you are. I know what you are. In a way, I helped to create you.” He stood up from leaning on his desk and squared his shoulders. Though not quite as tall as Hyde, he was nearly six feet tall himself. “Now we can have this conversation, the easy way or the hard way. Your choice.”

Hyde clenches his hands and his knuckles crack with a rhythmic precision. He turns his head and his neck bones crack as well. A hot, metallic smell starts to rise from his person and his ragged jumpsuit begins to smoke. “You know what, let’s do this the hard way. I am sure I won’t break a nail on that nice Armani, you’re wearing. What do your friends call you? I want to know who to mail your head to.”

“In Japanese tradition, it is considered polite to give your name to your enemy. You have chosen the nom de guerre, Hyde. I will be Doctor Jekyll to you, sir, after all, I did help create you. And like the good Doctor, I too have a dark side.” Stepping out of his shoes, and taking off his lab coat, he throws it over the chair. “Anytime you’re ready, sir.”

Hyde needed no more prelude than that and leapt across the room arms outstretched, his carbon-hardened claws, extended, fangs opened in a bestial roar. In a movement Hyde can barely see, Jekyll steps to the side and grabs Hyde’s arm and whirling him around he slams him across the room into a bookcase. The bookcase crumples under Hyde’s massive weight. The two hundred pound teak bookcase crumpled like tissue. Hyde laughed, knocking books and wood off of his back. “Nice throw, Doctor. I hope your plan does not include Aikido to save you. It’s not nearly going to be enough.”

“Not at all Mr. Hyde. I am not counting on Aikido to save the day. I was simply giving you the chance to see you were out-classed and offering you one more opportunity to see reason before I have to actually hurt you.” While Hyde was climbing out of the bookcase, the doctor had taken off his suit and laid it upon his desk. He was wearing a skintight undergarment that covered him from neck to the ends of his extremities. Only his hands and feet were naked. “I await your pleasure.”

Hyde turned to the doctor again, trying to figure out what his senses were telling him. The smell was not one of fear, it was one of excitement, and something else, something chemical. It reminded him of the metallic scent of his own transformation. But the doctor looked completely unchanged.

Hyde exploded across the room, books flew from under foot as Hyde moving as fast as a train, reached out with a clawed hand directly pointed at the doctor’s face. And again, with only a minimum of movement the doctor spun and avoided Hyde’s hand. Completing his spin he kicked Hyde right out of the window. The doctor stopped to grab his cane and looking out the window, leapt after Hyde to the nearby rooftop where Hyde would land, hard.

Hyde crashed into a concrete stairway rising onto the roof. Tearing through it, he lay stunned. As he tried to get up, Jekyll land squarely onto his chest, driving Hyde into the reinforced roof of the building. Jekyll bounces away lightly and lands nearby. Hyde’s response was immediate. He swept rubble with both of his arms toward the Doctor and bounded to his feet, while the doctor used his cane to deflect the rubble, Hyde began attempting to close the distance between the two.

Despite the fact, he had just jumped thirty stories out of a building, the doctor didn’t even appear to be winded or surprised. Hyde kept up his assault his clawed hands lashing out as fast a cheetah’s killing blow and with as much power. The doctor used his cane to block Hyde’s strikes but did not attack. This only seemed to infuriate Hyde further. Their exchanges were faster than the eye could see and the doctor retreated the entire time. Hyde pushed the doctor back to the edge of the rooftop. Leaping over Hyde, he landed twenty feet away.

Hyde pushed his body further, and felt his arms growing longer, muscles changing in texture and tone, hyper-oxygenating them, exchanging strength for speed. Hyde rushed the doctor and his clawed arms slashing out, striking the doctor on the belly and shoulder. The strange undergarment acting as an armor, the blows drew no blood. But Hyde was testing its strength and knew he could overcome it. His nails sharpened into needle-like points. The doctor withdrew outside of Hyde’s assault. He held his cane in two hands. Twisting the head, it transformed into a sword cane and armored sheath.

The two of them clashed together, a blur of motion, both landing strikes and taking blows, the sound of claws on steel range around the glass canyon as the two titans struggled for dominance. The doctor began to give ground as Hyde blows landed and one even tore his left arm’s armor away revealing muscular flesh beneath and the lacerations of Hyde’s diamond-tipped claws. The doctor, using his sheath, smashed Hyde in the mouth and knocked him across the roof.

Hyde shook his head, wiping away blood, “Nice. You’ve survived a lot longer than I expected. But this fight is just about over.” Hyde’s jumpsuit was bloodstained and nearly completely destroyed. Carlucci bought them in bulk since their arrangement. He was crouched and studying Jekyll for any sign of weakness. He didn’t see one. Palming a piece of rubble, an idea formed.

“I was trying to show you the pointlessness of this exercise and how we could work together. With my genius and your brawn, we could rule Hub City and remove the criminal scum that infests her.”

“You care about Hub City? I don’t think so.” Hyde stood gauging the distance between the two of them.

“But you do. Once we clear away Hub City’s vermin, I will show you things that will make Hub City worst criminals look like Girl Scouts.”

“You do realize I am an unreasonable person, right?” Hyde began to breathe faster and deeper. His muscles and bone density began to multiply. The scar on his chest began to heat up and his overall temperature rose.

Doctor Jekyll’s eyebrow rose in surprise. He is altering his nervous system, attempting to increase his reaction time and attack speed. He is reducing his mass to increase his speed. This was unexpected and exciting to learn. What is the source of his transformation energy?

Cupped in his hand, Hyde threw the piece of rubble with supersonic speed. As his deadly projectile crossed the distance between he and his target, his mighty legs were already propelling him right behind it.

Jekyll, momentarily stunned by the speed and ferocity of this improvised attack was struck by the deadly projectile in the left shoulder and dropped his sword. The missile exploded into dust.

“So you can be surprised.” Hyde landed his punch squarely across the jaw of the doctor and the doctor’s head snapped to the right with the force of the blow. With a reflexive backhand the doctor knocked Hyde sailing across the roof.

Hyde rolled with the blow and landed on his feet sliding across the rooftop. What the hell was that? How did he do that? I thought he was on the ropes. What did I miss? I need to buy some time. “The commandos, they were yours, weren’t they? They move like you do, fight like you do, mixing martial arts with superhuman strength and speed. But they turned into piles of rotting meat. But you don’t appear to be about to turn into a pile of organ-bursting goo. Why is that?”

“Nice strategy, make me talk while you look for my weaknesses.” Doctor Jekyll smiled. He rubbed his jaw. “That was a surprise. I didn’t know you could do that. I see why you refuse to use a weapon; its visceral, primal, savage. You see, there is so much we can learn from each other. But I think our time is done. I have learned all that I think I can today.” Dropping his sheath, he turned toward Hyde, dusting himself off. “You, for instance, will learn…” He disappeared from where he was on the roof and reappeared in front of Hyde. Hyde never saw him move. He punctuated every word with a powerful strike from his fists, driving Hyde’s face into the rooftop with each blow. “I.” Boom. “Don’t.” Boom.”Have.” Boom. “Any.” Boom. “Weaknesses.” Boom. And then Hyde lay still. Smoke rose from the hole in the rooftop. A light rain started to fall.

“I know you are teetering on the edge of consciousness, Mr. Hyde. I trust I have made my point. I will have need of you at some time in the future. When I do I will call for you. And you will come. Otherwise I will destroy everything you hold dear, Mr. Carlucci.”

Doctor Jekyll walked to the edge of the rooftop. He stopped to pick up his sword cane and sheath. Locking them together he leapt away into the night.

Hyde sank into unconsciousness.

The Doctor is In  © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved

First Appearance: The man-monster Hyde first appeared in Hyde: Portrait of a Modern Monster, a novella due to be released May 2012. Hyde, transformed by an alien technology into a fusion of man, machine and psychopath, the monster Hyde is determined to bring order to the criminal element of Hub City if he has to kill every mobster, crimeboss and drug lord in the city. He never counted on the machinations of the criminal and scientific super-genius, Dr. James Eckyll.

About the Artwork: Xue Duan, an artist of Beijing, China, archives samples of his work on cghub.com, produces some of the finest fantasy paintings I have had the pleasure of seeing. His creation FoX, was the epitome of what I was seeking for my man-monster Hyde. I have included a link so you can partake of Xue Duan’s photorealistic art style. Enjoy! Xue Duan retains all copyrights to his creation, FoX.

#23 – Admiral Lolikai – Corvan Fleet Commander

| November 23, 2011 | 1 Comment

Excerpt from Insurrection: New Arrivals

Admiral Lolikai swam in his personal quarters, and changed colors as his mood evolved. His tentacles swayed smoothly in the water offering resistance to its artificial current and his gripping arms manipulated the control pad where the latest status information flowed ceaselessly. As a Corvan Admiral, he enjoyed water flavored with the minerals of his homeworld. The sharp and bitter tangs of the western sea, caused by the primordial corals there, reminded him of his youth spent looking at the stars and The Rift, which blanketed the night sky. The lighting currently reflected the light of the home system’s orange sun, large and low in the sky, creating a deep and rich reddish hue which was gently diffused by the water.

Lolikai swam without his hardened and restrictive exosuit enjoying the freedom of movement which was only possible when he was free of it. He stretched, flexed and shrank himself into a variety of coral nooks in his quarters, just to remind himself he could do it. The suit was being recharged, cleansed and its weapons calibrated. Onboard the Violent Hris, his personal command ship, there was little chance of needing the exosuit’s full capabilities, but undamaged tentacles did not need to be regrown was his mother’s expression and he still thought it a very good bit of folk wisdom. His three eyes, evenly spaced around his cranial cavity were wide and light receptive, drinking in every bit of his setting sun, hungrily, with the need of the predatory mueo enjoying a helpless and savory meal. It had been two standard since he had seen the real sun on any planet or swam in a natural ocean, tasted the natural salts, and floated buoyant without the cares of thousands of sentients heavy on his mind.

He spent the day perusing his correspondence and trying to make sense of a variety of intelligence reports from GCID. He was never fond of reports from Galactic Intelligence because they seemed to obscure as much as they enlightened. His two hundred standard years reviewing such reports had taught him to know recognize when something was being said and when something important being was omitted. His latest orders was classified white, the reflexive color of fear. Lolikai blanched when he began reading the directions from the High Command, and colors shimmered across his body in a rhythmic and steady pattern. The pattern shifted faster as he read more and when he was done, he cast the display pad away from him in disgust.

I have offered him hospitality in the traditions of my family for twelve generations. How could they expect me to be party to killing him? He is the Sjurani ambassador and a member of a powerful merchant family who works for the Imperium. Whose idea was this and why was this the best solution available? I am not blessed with as much of the Insight as the High Command. Perhaps I am simply not seeing as clearly as I should.

“Admiral,” came across his communications bud and vibrated his inner cochlear chamber. His sub-vocalization thrummed the water in affirmation. “We are preparing to jump to the secondary inner system gate hub. The jump will take two days.”

“Very good, Captain. I understand we have had some new additions to the fleet. How are they shaking down? Will they be ready for fleet exercises while we wait for the Galactic Gate calibrations?”

“Yes, Admiral, the Hostan Fury, the Deepwater Beln, two new medium cruisers with a crew complement of nine hundred have managed to arrive on time, and have excellent records of operation. Both were in the recent conflict in the Dareen Cluster and acquitted themselves well against the renegades reported there. They are also two of the first cruiser class ships with mixed crew complements. I believe they have Sliveen, a complement of Mariovel engineers, and water-capable members of the Children of Earth. They even resemble the Corva at a rudimentary level. We have been outfitting them with a variety of softer exosuits suitable for children.”

“I would like to meet some of these aquatic Children of Earth. Arrange that Captain.”

“May I point out and begging the Admiral’s pardon, the creatures are quite unattractive and primitive in appearance. Their only redeeming feature is their four-lobbed brain which is quite capable and makes them extraordinary navigators. They also have quite a smell… sir.” It was apparent the Captain did not enjoy the primitives from Earth, but an Admiral must get his novelty when he can.

“See to it, Captain, more than one if you are able to arrange it without inconveniencing their crews.”

“As you will, sir, it will be done.”

The Children of Earth were legendary in Corva space, and had come quite a long way from their primitive origins nearly two hundred years ago. Lolikai was an ensign in the Toranor star system when they first appeared there, suddenly without warning in thousands of ships. He remembered…

They were patrolling the Toranor star system flying dark because of the alien picket ships that disrupted and destroyed any planet to planet traffic they detected. Since the Galactic Gate had closed years earlier, no new support ships had arrived in system and it was assumed since no ships were forthcoming the galactic war against the mechanicals had spread and shut down the Precursor Gate System stranding younger races without the advantages of superior star drive systems to very limited regions of travel. Travel across the length and breadth of the galaxy or to any of its nearby clouds or clusters was seriously curtailed.

Having been assigned to the Toranor system was not a hardship, since it was one of the jewels of the galaxy, a system of beautiful, highly habitable large planet-moons surrounding the immense gas giants of Toranor. These worlds were capable of supporting a wide array of lifeforms and trillions of sentients considered Toranor their home. Planets of incredible majesty, covering a variety of biomes, these worlds could be home to nearly every race in the Imperium. How so many worlds came to be in this place, in such perfect harmony, left the only solution, to be a Precursor one. Only the Precursors had the technology to move worlds, and had done so several times. These systems were capable of supporting trillions upon trillions on the worlds themselves, not to mention the capability to create artificial worlds as space stations or asteroid moons. There were over ten thousand of those types of bodies in system already.

Since the worlds were within Corva space, they were annexed immediately and populated with the elite of the Imperium at first. As more people learned about it, many settled here and the locals seemed to not only like it but embraced the arrival of new people. Then the war came and the intelligent gate system of the Precursors shut down, stopping all relatively instantaneous movement between systems. If you wanted to have a war, you would have to fly there yourself. This isolated warfare and kept innocents from being harmed.

Once the Gate had shut down, traffic had been limited to travel in system or to two or three nearby stars with established colonies. No one seemed concerned at the time, since almost anything you needed could be found on one of these twenty diverse worlds or one of the other smaller rocky planets or nearby asteroid belts. That was before the arrival of the Nox. The Nox arrived in small but powerful ships that were barely able to be seen by the most sophisticated sensors. They did not attack planets but destroyed any ship caught moving from world to world. The Twenty Moons lived in fear of the next attack. Slowly a small fleet of ships joined the few military ships in the area and attempted to deal with the Nox. After a decisive battle led by Captain Mehelo, a career military Corva, ships began to work together to rid the system of the Nox. But it was slow work, dangerous and a single mistake could doom the entire fleet. Tensions were always high.

“What do you mean, they just appeared, ensign? A thousand ships don’t just appear. I need a better answer and I want it now!”

The captain’s booming vibrations shook the command area and every scattered to their duty station to understand what they were seeing. Thousands of ships appeared out of nowhere, many of them on fire, damaged, and some exploding, sometimes causing chain reactions.

“Captain, do you want us to exit dark mode and render assistance?” The Second Officer was analyzing incoming data on the ships and had begun a data model inside the command area comprised of light and sound constructs representing the alien craft. “As far as we can tell, most of the ships conform to the appearance of ships assigned to a race called the Sjurani. They are a relatively reclusive race living along this spiral arm approximately two thousand light years from here. They are members of the Imperium but generally do not interact much in galactic matters. They are classified as Old Galactics as they have been in the dataweb archives for over 15 million cycles. Generally harmless even though they have quite sophisticated technologies, they are for the most part considered threat level 5, but when angered can display a threat level of 2, making them the equal of any race in the Imperium. There are other ships with them, smaller, far less capable ships of an unknown design.”

The tactical officer added “scanning their ships, shows a variety of life forms and configurations as if some of these ships might be life-sustaining arks. Many of the inhabitants are in primitive cryogenic containment. Captain, I believe what we are seeing are the results of a planetary evacuation. Many of the ships are heavily damaged as if they had recently engaged in combat.”

“Stay dark. This many ships will certainly draw the Nox and I want to have an advantage while they are attacking the new ships.” The captain’s anticipatory color changes, became contagious on the command deck. Soon everyone was flashing a response pattern to his unspoken declaration of war.

“The ships are changing heading toward Harata II, Captain,” was ensign navigator Lolikai’s confused statement.

“What is it, ensign, you are inking in public?”

“Captain, I am detecting a Nox fleet. One of the largest I have ever seen heading right at the Sjurani ships. They will arrive in five standard hours. I don’t know where they were hiding and how we missed so many, but they are here. We certainly cannot provide any real support with this many enemies. Approximately one third of the ships will make it to Harata II before they are overtaken. Most of the smaller ships will still be in space and arrive last. The greatest number of Sjurani and other smaller beings are on the largest of the Sjurani vessels which are reaching the planet first. They may return to space once they offload their cargo.”

But they did no such thing. As ships landed, others followed. None returned to space. The Nox closed in and would be destroying ships in less than an hour. The Captain had made a decision. We would spin up our drives and assist. But everything did not go according to plan. I learned early, that very little ever did. What I did see, changed my view of everything I knew about space.

I was young, barely thirty standard and eager to prove myself. I plotted the intercept course and fired the drives, already calculating possible vectors and activating the predictive engines interface that pilots used to determine possible vectors and targeting angles. These predictive programs helped to maintain the most opportune angles for weapons fire or defensive maneuvers depending on what was needed. The Captain was wearing his interface optic and could see the same four dimensional combat variations working ahead to maximize our potential. He used his tentacles to offer suggestions to other fleet captains who were also using the same predictive feed. Our ships assumed their combat structure effortlessly. We had worked together now for seven standard and those of us who had survived against the Nox were seasoned but cautious.

Our drone commanders had released their batteries of AI drones which normally would have provided both offense and defensive cover against the stealthy black-body Nox ships. Today, we would be using them fully offensively to damage as many Nox ships as possible and give as many of the Sjurani ships a chance to land as possible. Nox ships barely emitted any signature energies except in direct combat and only as long as it took for their beam weapons to fire. There was almost no waste energy to scan for even in direct combat. Our fleet used approximately three hundred AIDs. Each was equipped with three thousand depleted radioactives fired at nearly five thousand kilometers per second. In space this meant they worked best if they were close to the target, so we took a page from the Nox and made them very hard to detect until they were shooting. Once fired, they would be empty in thirty seconds because they rarely lasted longer than that once they were discovered. Overall, they were expensive but highly effective.

The Nox used a variety of strange weapons, unfamiliar to us at first, and because of that, devastating in combat. Over the cycles, we have grown more familiar and have made counters to almost all of them, although to be fair, some counters were more effective than others. The AI drone program was effective because they could be replaced fairly easily on Harata III with their advanced production facilities and required only AI programming completed by the Beteans on Harata II.

The military ships in the fleet would be using the most advanced weapon available, the tachyon pulse array. Huge, slow and temperamental, this weapon was one of the most powerful of the day. It required time to fire but once fired, its effects were instantaneous and devastating. No ship could survive a hit from this weapon and the beam would travel to the end of its stability before decaying so it would damage a number of ships, destroying at least one and crippling two or three others. Its greatest disadvantage was the inability to fire it again for fifteen minutes. Since the fleet had four, we kept them on rotation that reduced the firing time between shots.

The remaining weapons were the standard ship to ship weapons including high speed pulse torpedoes, beam arrays for point defense and close combat, and multi-missile systems which while slower than most of the ship weapons made up for that with a multiple warhead missile capable of overcome the Nox’s heavily armored and strangely shielded ships. Our electromagnetics team used a variety of technologies to reveal Nox ships including tachyon pulse emissions which causes approaching Nox ships to emit radiation temporarily and become easier to target.

There were also gravity mines which would be released and were designed to attach themselves to any ship without the proper identification signature. Their gravity field was calibrated by our ships weapons to slow the enemy ship and provide telemetry. We also used small cloaked fighters to spot for our tachyon pulse array, providing an enhanced lock to ensure maximum affect and potential for multiple hits.

With all of this weaponry and technology at our disposal, we were only sixty ships against an estimated eight hundred Nox vessels, of which there were at least three designs we had never seen before. Our only advantage was we had not been seen yet.

Several Sjurani ships had begun to open fire upon the Nox to good effect, but the predictive engines indicated with their current rate of fire, they would be overcome within four hours with an eighty percent casualty rate. With our intervention, the calculation engines indicated we would only add another four hours to that time and we would buy that time with a sixty percent casualty rate. The smaller ships would need at least twelve hours to complete their transit to the surface of the planet.

“Captain,” began Sub-commander Wekhekan, “having run several simulations, I cannot see how we can prevail in this conflict. What can we gain by risking our fleet now? The information of the numbers of the Nox alone makes it clear, we should be recording this event and gathering information to be reviewed by the Toranor Defense Ministry and the Governing Council. These numbers are unprecedented and far greater than previously believed.”

“I think what you are meaning to say, Sub-commander is, you are uncomfortable with the idea of uselessly throwing our lives away when you believe there is no point to the exercise.” The captain’s body was contorted with what would be considered amusement, perhaps at the situation, or perhaps with his subordinate’s expression of fear. “What you say has merit and I recommend we relay the telemetry we have gathered and will continue to gather while we are tearing into their fleet until we are unable to transmit any longer. Have you looked out there, Sub-commander, there are millions of sentients whose lives may depend on our next actions. If we are right, they are the last of their world. Is this the best we can offer them, a cold and unfriendly death at the hands of an enemy they will not even get to perceive?” The Captain’s words stung everyone, because we were all thinking the same thing as the Sub-commander, even if we did not say it.

The Captain looked down and was momentarily still, floating in a repose similar to prayer. “Is there any word on the Second Fleet and its location?”

Eager to please, I chimed in, “Captain, the Second Fleet is approximately four hours off of our position at maximum speed. They may be able to provide some smaller ships because of their superior speed, but their larger ships are already pushing their engines to the limit.” I wanted to say more, but I was not sure it was my place to offer tactical information beyond my station as Pilot. A clam won’t open itself, my mother used to say. I decided the risk was worth it. At worst, in thirty minutes we would all be dead anyway. “Sir, if I may, I think there may be another way to conduct this so we can increase the time in the fight, provide support and wait for help to arrive, all at the same time.”

The Captain’s repose was shattered and he did not appear the least bit pleased, his eyes held mine in a serious unblinking stare and he had rotated so that at least two of them were focused directly on me. “Amuse us Lolikai, we have thirty minutes until we are in range, what would you do in my position? You are the Captain for three minutes…”

In for two tentacles, in for six. Using my gripping pads, I rotated the battlefield from our point of view. I expanded the window to include the Second Fleet. “The current plan has us assaulting the Nox directly from this angle. We would bisect their fleet and disrupt their attack on the Sjurani. But this would then direct their attacks onto our ships instead. With the Sjurani ships being larger and tougher than ours, I would suggest squeezing the Nox between our ships, drones and the Sjurani instead.” I rotated the field again and placed our ships beneath the Nox fleet instead of approaching obliquely.

I began again as the predictive engine recalculated the probabilities “Instead of attacking at range, we should use our z-profile and come up beneath their fleet and close to their ships, far closer than we normally attack them. With our rapid fire pulse lasers, which normally are quite effective, but do not get used until we are within range, we normally have been fired upon for quite some time before they get into range. But starting the fight at full capacity and at close range, we could double our destructive potential.” The Nox fleet in the display lost a significant number of ships near the center of its fleet, a much greater number than in our previous predictions.

The Sub-commander slides forward and begins to modify my program and then said “Using our tachyon beams we destroy their larger command vessels, especially the ones we know nothing about. I don’t know if the Nox are affected by morale but if we surprised them with a strong offensive, it may cause the Sjurani to increase their attack posture as well.”

Not to be left out, the Captain began to shimmer in what could only be described as pleasure and added to the conversation. “We could then release the drones while they are regrouping and create a widening field of fire that selectively targets their best ships as fast as we are able. With a strong distribution of gravity mines, tachyon pulses, we could increase our targeting potential and with our point defense lasers working at close range we could conceivably break their fleet and cause them to pull away from us. We could then push our fleet toward the Second Fleet and squeeze those caught between our drones, our ships and our targeted fire and the fast attack ships of the second fleet arriving in a timely fashion, we may convince them we have a significantly larger fleet approaching and perhaps we can give those ships time to land.” The predictive engines signified a possibility of the plan working approaching seventy five percent with only a sixteen percent loss ratio. It also predicted, that eighty percent of the remaining Sjurani fleet would make it to the surface, far better than the original twenty percent.

Captain Mehelo’s tentacles flew over the formations as we approached, each pass provided different variables and altered the timetables for fleet viability versus effectiveness. With our last combined effort, we had come up with a plan that might actually work. The Captain came around the combat display and bubbled laughter. “Captain for three minutes and you have me considering your plan as if it might actually be a good one. Your gizzard must be filled with sharp stones, boy. Keep this up and, you might make Admiral one day. Audacious, with just a hint of madness.”

I would like to say my plan was a complete success and we handily won the day with minimum casualties. That would not be true. There were many casualties on our side. Captain Mehelo did not survive that battle. Nor did twenty-two other ships in our fleet. Of the eight hundred Nox ships faced in that confrontation, fewer than two hundred survived that conflict. The Sjurani were able to land their arks with over eighty-six percent of their fleet arriving intact on the planet’s surface. They did indeed rise to the occasion when they saw us destroying the enemy and provided powerful supporting fire. The Second Fleet rode the smasher, and arrived forty minutes earlier than expected. There had never been such a large fleet battle in the Toranor System with the lives of billions at stake. I watched Captain Mehelo as he died, held him in my gripping arms, and with his last words, he told me, “Good work, Admiral. Make me proud.”

And I did. With that battle and many other effective strategies against the Nox, I became the youngest Admiral in Corvan history.

New Arrivals © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved

First Appearance: Admiral Lolikai is one of the main antagonists of Insurrection. Hard core, dedicated, honest to a fault, with a strong sense of duty, the Admiral is the leader of one of the Empire’s largest battle groups. His fleet is more loyal to him than they are to the Empire and that makes leaders in the empire nervous. He is kept on the fringes of the Empire to keep him away from important things and keep him weeks away from being a threat to anyone on the Hegemony Council.

About the Artist: The artist Reid Southen, known on deviantART as ‘Rahll is a science fiction, space opera kind of artist. This piece called Rawkets, is a kinetic work with lots of action taking place with a great deal of detail. ‘Rahll is a long time conceptual artist, and making a name for himself working on gaming projects with scifi overtones. It also looks like he is making his own writing project called Hayling. His super-realistic style makes for startling images that leap off the screen at you. This is an artist to watch.

#22 – Alien Race: The Corva – Masters of the Corvan Hegemony

| November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Corva

The Corva are the defacto rulers of the largest galactic empire in the Milky Way Galaxy, called the Corvan Hegemony. Depending on who you ask, the Hegemony, often called the Corvan Empire by the races who are less well represented is considered to be the most powerful social group in the galaxy.

Comprised of thousands of races the Empire is lead, coordinated, protected and ultimately controlled by the favored people of the greatest civilization this galaxy has ever spawned, the mysterious Precursors. When the Precursors disappeared nearly two million years ago, the Corva being the race most in touch with the ideals and belief systems of the Precursors stepped up to lead the collection of races seeking stability in a galaxy rife with peril.

The Corva were a servitor race to the Precursors and one of the primary maintainers of the industrial and military might of the Hegemony. A relatively benevolent race with a strong sense of order and desire to create a stable and harmonious galaxy, it has been their goal for millennia. As a member of the Galactic Council, they are a powerful influence for law and order in the Galaxy.

Biology: A carbon-based life form resembling an octopus with three shorter arms used for moving around on land or under gravity. They have three longer arms that function as either legs or gross manipulators. These secondary tentacles are capable of finer manipulation than the legs but pale in comparison to the sensitivity of the two gripper tentacles. The gripper tentacles are longer than either set of legs or working arms and have two large pads on the end of those tentacles with numerous suckers, muscle groups and cilia capable of super-fine manipulation. The Corva are now amphibious able to live both on land and in water and their worlds and habitats reflect this dual nature. The have three eyes space evenly around the body, capable of independent operation and targeting awareness. A Corvan is technically capable of using weapons at any of the three eyes independent of each other.

Appearance: Standing 6 to 7 feet tall and resembling a Terran octopus or squid, their muscular bodies come in a variety of native colors and they have the ability to change their skin color with pigment altering chromatophores. They are also able to emit light from their bioluminescent pigment organs. Their bodies are supple but resilient and have been genetically modified by the Precursors to be strong and durable.

Physiology: The Corva have large and complex brains within their carbon-fiber based cartilage and super-dense muscular central body and have tentacles with strong and dexterous cilia at the end of them. Able to speak multiple languages, both sonic, kinesthetic and photochromatic, they were the creators of the Galactic Trade Languages in use in the Hegemony today. Their bodies are covered with an organically flexible sheath that holds water within their bodies and processes their oxygen for them. Physically robust, the Corva have been genetically engineered to peak of their genomes capability.

Able to remain submerged indefinitely, strong and powerful swimmers able to reach speeds of 100 kph for short
bursts, capable of moving over land at speeds of 35 kph for periods of hours, able to suspend their body’s functions for weeks and remain alive, and with their technological enhancements, the Corva have one of the most adaptable militaries in the Galaxy.

Technology: The Corva have a diverse range of technology and are generally at the forefront of technological development. They have been a space-faring race for well over 1 million years colonizing their solar system and nearby stars with generation-ships before their creation of a faster than light propulsion system. They created their fast interstellar drive over 50,000 years ago allowing them to colonize over fifty percent of the Milky Way Galaxy during the peak of the Hegemony.

Adaptive and creative, the Corva are constantly pushing the envelope of new sciences. Capable of Corva-
forming worlds with the aid of their allies the Mariovel, there are thousands of planets that are now able to support the Corva and their attendant species. Their technology allows them to build super-dreadnaughts that are the equal of the fleets of other species, so their ability to maintain the peace in the Hegemony has been relatively unchallenged until the First and Second Galactic Wars. With their development of Pulse technology, the Corva have the fastest sentient ships in the Galaxy and the most effective weapons of any other of the Old Galactic Races.

Temperament: The Corva are a relatively nonviolent species but in their background war has been a part of their development, so they have the ability to wage war but believe themselves to be beyond the need for war and aggression. With their amazing communication abilities, they attempt to interact with alien species diplomatically, culturally and socially before they would consider warfare of any kind.

Culture: When two Corva are in total communication, they will emit, light, colors, sounds and kinesthetic information. Their language can be communicated completely in any single one of those but when they are using all of them they are using their most advanced multi-tonal, photo-chromatic language. Their overall culture has over 3 million years of recorded history.

First Appearance: The Corva first appear in my novel Insurrection. The Corvan Galactic Hegemony is the backdrop of the story in which a war-weary soldier, Thomas Wilks, discovers a secret that shakes the foundation of the Empire and reveals a history the Corvan Hegemony would rather not be known.

About the Art: The wonderful background art belongs to and is the copyright of the talented, young, Saudi Arabian artist I found on deviantArt named Mohammed and who goes by the handle QAZ2008. You can see some of his other amazing space scenery art at: http://qaz2008.deviantart.com/

#21 – Alien Race: The Mariovel – Planet Creators

| November 23, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Planet Traders

Our ship dropped out of the Gate inside of Mariovel space. Corvan battlefleets patrolled the system but acknowledged our IFF transponders and allowed us to continue into the starsystem. The red supergiant of the Mariovel system had two smaller companion stars which were only visible if you knew where to look. After programming the coordinates for the Mariovel homeworld, the WarpRunner jumped and we emerged in the shadow of the goliath of planets. A great banded world of luminous clouds of various shades of pink, gold, coral and brown.

“Look into the upper hemisphere of the planet. There should be a Great White Spot. That is the space they have create for any visitor’s habitation during the planetary refitting. Everything is on schedule, they say the planet will be ready in less than a year.” Sitting in the pilot’s chair, I was trying to strike up a conversation with a cool and prickly Diplomat of the Hegemony.

“I understand they produce only one planet a century here?” He was trying to be polite, but I could tell he really didn’t want to talk to me.

Rising to the challenge, “They accepted a contract to create a new Earth for us at the request of the Hegemony’s leaders.”

“Your records indicate you live on Galatea II, Captain. What’s wrong with Galatea II? It has been the cradle for a majority of the Humani species now for almost a thousand years.” He sounded smug as if his reading my records gave him an advantage.

“Nothing, except it belongs to the Botani who look like trees and don’t allow us to make anything out of wood, because everything made of wood might be their kin. Not to mention their symbionts creep me out with their strange cuteness. Other than that, they have been very hospitable. One thousand years is long enough, I think. I hate the idea that we are indebted to the Squids.”

“Captain, I didn’t know you were anti-Corvan.”

“I’m not. I just don’t like them. You do remember they destroyed the Earth and ten million other humans who did not leave during the Exodus.”

“Ancient history at best. Yes, I have been Transferred three times and am nearly a thousand years old but the Mariovel and the Corvans have a relationship that goes back nearly ten thousand years. So if you hate the Corvans, remember The Mariovel love them, and keep your opinion to yourself.”

Our class six WarpRunner was fitted for the Mariovel home-world and had the adjusted beacons needed to land in the protected regions. We would need a ship designed to interact with the powerful gravity technology of the planet.

As we approached their home-world, we were struck by its sheer immensity. It defied anything we knew about planets. Three times the literal size of Jupiter, it was surrounded by a gaseous cloud layer similar to most gas giants but that was just part of the story. There were several cloud layers, all the way to the surface of the planet. They had a gravity technology directed from the planet that changed the gravitation constants, allowing visitors from other planets to come to their world and live comfortably during the process of planet crafting. The Great White Spot is their equivalent of a landing pad for visitors.

Eighteen thousand miles in diameter, the Great White Spot moved slowly in comparison to other storms on the planet. The Mariovel were one of the races of the galaxy’s races that had never been conquered or even effectively attacked. Their world was inhospitable to almost any other form of life. The incredible storms that swept the surface with their two thousand mile an hour winds and their crushing atmospheric pressure were able to destroy all but the most durable alien ships. Add the super-gravity of its planetary surface, and most forms of life simply cannot negotiate it. There is also one other aspect which most invaders remember. With a gravity well as deep as theirs, unless the Mariovel allow it, no one who lands, leaves.

We would not be going to the actual surface, though. We would be stopping at the third layer where buoyant fungi forms were floating through the atmosphere of the planet and were used as a base of operations inside the White Spot. With the surface area of two thousand Earths, this was little more than a tiny way station on their vast planetary surface.

“Remember, keep your gravity harness active at all times. It keeps you in sync with the artificial gravity generators and in the event of any failure will protect you with an artificial gravity field. Otherwise you would be crushed instantly by your own weight. It also protects you from the atmospheric pressure, so you never want to be anywhere outside of protected areas without it. This is the most dangerous environment you can imagine.”

“I read the brief, Captain. I am aware of the risks.”

“As a diplomat, I understand you have traveled to hundreds of worlds, and your dossier says you have even been to Nalrud, rumored to be the most dangerous world in the Hegemony, but there, it’s the lifeforms that are dangerous. Here, even a tiny mistake can be your last. I just wanted to keep you safe Diplomat Sinian.”

“Your concern is noted, my good Captain. Let’s get to the surface and to our work.”

“You will be meeting with Chalguldan and what he calls the Planet Crafters Enclave, Division Nine.”

The Diplomat is wearing a Humani standard hardened bio-suit. It has been encrusted with his sigils of accomplishment and awards of state from almost three dozen worlds. The suit is designed to emit information into the infrared and ultraviolet spectra to allow the Mariovel to detect them and with a standard mediasphere connection, they will be able to interpret their meanings and other galactic standard information.

My own suit is far less ornate, indicating only my rank, my modest accomplishments and my suitability for classified information management. I would be allowed to go everywhere the Diplomat went and able to witness any transactions. It is not necessary for a Diplomat to have a Humani witness for such transactions but it has been a tradition for millennia.

As the bay doors open on the WarpRunner, we are immediately assaulted by the heated air and the strange smell of the planet. It has a strong ammonia smell, nothing dangerous, but certainly unpleasant. There are other odors as well, one that reminds me strongly of cinnamon, and the other of baking bread. There is quite a wind blowing as well, and it takes a moment to adjust to the force of it. Nothing our suits cannot handle.

There is a white spongy material on the ground, and then I realize it’s the living fungus of that makes up the Spot. I could see buildings off in the distance, also made out of the same materials. There are dozens of different ships here from a variety of the galaxy’s races, each negotiating for their own planets or resource development of one sort or another. The sky is white with light from the overhead clouds and at the edges of the of the fungus, I could see lightning flashing as the two weather patterns met. I can see flying creatures in the distance, but remember reading they were actually like everything else on this planet, gigantic in size, only their great distance belied their size.

Leaving the ship, we are met by a Mariovel in their foglet form. As near as I understand it, they are capable of three different states of being. One is an energy form they use to repair ships when they are part of a Corvan battle fleet. The other is a large and mostly rocky form suitable for almost any environment. In that shape, they are mildly radioactive so they don’t tend to use it in the presence of more organic beings. This cloud form is the only one that is not radioactively toxic to any of the Humani tribes. My suit indicates that we are in the presence of Chalguldan and I marvel at the beauty of this state of being.

Zhe, using the polite non-sexual pronoun, appeared as a starlike collection of nano particles orbiting a larger central mass about the size of an apple. The cloud was about two meters in diameter and twinkled with both internal light and light reflected from the environment. When it spoke, it emitted light that was interpreted by my suit’s interface system and translated. I also spoke Galac Six naturally having been trained with biometric and computer languages nearly a hundred years before. I was certain the Diplomat did as well.

“Greetings are given to esteemed guests.”

“Greetings are accepted from our esteemed hosts.”

“We are available to communicate with you regarding your request for a new planet.”

“Where will we be meeting with the Planet Crafters Enclave, Division Nine?”

“They are all here. We will be visiting your world in progress. Will that be acceptable?”

“We will be able to see it?”

“Yes, Diplomat. But you will not be traveling to the surface, we will just visit to the planetary growth matrix. Understand what you are able to perceive of our technology will simply be representations your minds will be able to conceive of. Do not be distressed if you cannot understand all that you see. Please stand by for transportation. Please inform us if you have any social, moral or cultural taboos regarding quantum teleportation.”

“No Chalguldan, we have no issues with quantum teleportation.”

“Please make yourselves ready, we understand carbon life forms experience disturbances or mild physiological upset with quantum teleportation.”

“We are ready.”

And just like that, we were gone from the spaceport and suddenly what looked like the Earth hung in the sky above me. It was a beautiful as anything I ever remember seeing. There were blue oceans, polar ice glistening from the background light of the Great White area.

The Diplomat tried not to appear even remotely affected by what we were seeing, but my mouth hung open for several minutes.

“Esteemed Captain, your biological signals are in disruption, are you in distress?”

“No, Chalguldan. I am simply in disbelief. This appears to be for all intents and purposes, the Earth as I have seen it only in videos and three dimensional simulations.”

“It is your world, physically in every way possible. Using the information gathered by the Sjurani when they rescued you from your world, we have created your planet accurate to dimensions of less than one meter. With the genetic support of the Sjurani we have filled your biosphere with animals and plants taken from your world. The Sjurani gathered entire sections of your planetary ecosphere and stored them in stasis, until we could study them and recreate them.”

“You have done so much for the project already, Chalguldan, why are we here now in renegotiation?”

“Diplomat Sinian, we have studied the land masses captured and found environmental pollution at a catastrophic level. Your land masses, water, air and creatures were completely saturated with a variety of environmental poisons that could have only been created by primitive manufacturing techniques.”

Sinian looked up at the planet and marveled at the organic looking structures linked to Earth Two. These great limbs-like structures appeared to hold the planet in place and as the structures reached the planet, they branched out again and again like capillaries surrounding the planet in a fine mesh. However in scale, those fine appearing cables were likely to be hundreds of miles wide.

“Several of our older brethren were questioning the wisdom of returning your species to a planet that even though it was destroyed through no fault of your own, your species would have made it uninhabitable in less than two hundred years. It has taken us nearly one hundred of your standard years to complete this project. Relatively speaking, your planet’s creation has not been difficult for us. But understand, your species will not be capable of such feats for tens of thousands of years at your current level of technology. We would rather give this world to a species that is more appreciative of the wonder of a planet. The question of the Enclave, Division Nine, is how can you assure us of the sanctity of your world to your future generations?”

“Chalguldan, I think our people have experienced a catastrophic loss and many of them would just as soon never return to the Earth. Many of us have already become part of the Second Diaspora and moved from the Toranor System into Hegemony Space proper. The Humani Tribes are very diverse today, in comparison to when your people received samples of our previous home.”

I found myself growing warm and uncomfortable as I watched the Mariovel’s movement pattern grow more complex as if it were assessing the words of the Diplomat. I also notices clouds of other Mariovel approaching our position, pulsing in unison with Chalguldan.

Sinian continued, his face intensely focused on the vistas slowly turning overhead. “In addition to Humans, we have Simians, Ceteacea, Hybrids, Machine-Kind, the Cyber-immortals and the Transferred. What caused our species to be myopic was our very short lifespans. I have lived fifteen times as long as my kind did back then. I believe we would be more likely to protect that which had been won so dearly and cost the lives of billions of our kind.”

Soon, dozens of Mariovel hovered over us and began exchanging elements from each of their clouds. Elements swarmed over us, around us, and soon we were in a sphere of moving foglet elements. As the elements began to swirl, they began to emit colorful light patterns. At first I thought it was a form of communication but I could find no useful patterns in it.

              Suddenly, Sinian and I were standing in a factory shoveling coal into a furnace. We were sickly and malnourished and every cough produced a black phlegm that seemed in endless supply. Smokestacks blackened the sky in every direction. Sinian collapsed and I carried him outside of the factory. We were taken to a local hospice area where he was pronounced with tuberculosis and only had a few days left to live. I stayed with him while he expired in agony.

              Night fell and we were suddenly wearing masks on our faces and there were deep walls on both sides of us. We carried primitive rifle weapons and were being sent onto a different battlefield in the dark. A cloud of smoke floated into our trench and my mask was not sealed properly. I began to choke and sputter and found my chest burning, searing with unimagined pain. Sinian tried to help me but I could not hear a word he was saying. Soon he is the only one left alive as the green cloud claims the lives of everyone around him.

              Then I found myself running chest deep in water, toward a beach, while exploding rounds rocked the ground in every direction. I was dragging Sinian. He had a wound on his chest and I was watching men dying all around me. It seemed to go on forever. We were forced to take cover behind large metallic X shaped objects as the shelling continued. We made our way up the beach but high caliber rounds ripped men to pieces, their anguished cries for their mothers, rang hollow in my ears, as I struggled not to join them. Sinian is struck in the head and I fall to the sand with the shock of his dead weight.

              I woke in a camp with a high fence wearing a striped uniform. Sinian was nowhere to be found. Everyone was sick and pale and nearly dead from starvation. The smell is terrible. It’s the smell of death. The death of thousands. I struggled to rise and stagger outside. The light is so bright. I can hear others whispering and cowering. I saw men carrying guns knocking down a fence and Sinian rushed to me and offered me water. I threw up the water because it had been so long since I had anything to eat.

              We found ourselves in the middle of a rain forest surrounded by crude oil pits carved into the earth, while a multinational corporation extracted it without concern for the indigenous people who lived in the area. Sinian was a corporate worker while I was a member of the locals who was dying from cancer. Sinian spent time with me when his duties allowed it, but he could not stop what the corporation was doing no matter how silvered his tongue. We were both shot while we discussed the horrors of the what was happening and how we were going to expose the corporation’s misdeeds.

              We watched as we slowly expired from starvation in what was called Africa as corporation’s priced seed out of our families ability to afford it. Our farm stopped producing food and our families starved, one child after another until no one in our village was left. Wars around our villages prevented people from trying to leave sooner. We staggered out, last men standing to try and walk to a neighboring town. We starved to death in transit.

              We watched as the Sjurani spacecraft arrived on Earth and their great starships hovered over every major city. Humanity knew they were coming and followed their instructions to the letter. Sinian and I were leading the teams who gathered animals, plants and people from the North American continent. Every plant, animal, seed, flower, spore that could be gathered together was. Entire swaths of the planet were scooped up and taken away. Sinian and I wept as we were left behind on the planet, chosen by a random lottery. There were alien forces all over the planet. We picked up our weapons and went to defend our world. They overwhelmed our position and as they swarmed us…

We returned to the Mariovel, their flying elements slowing and returning to their respective bodies. We were both weeping with the shock of each experience. They felt so completely real and each was as if I had been in everyone of those positions. As we gained control of our emotions, Diplomat Sinian stood up enraged and shouted “Chalguldan, that was hardly a fair representation of what humanity had done in their time on Earth. You painted us out as monsters who did not care for each other or the Earth. You ignored our arts, our culture, our best emotions, our greatest gifts to each other.”

“This is true, Diplomat. All that was good in your species was overlooked in this instance for a single reason. That which was good, did not destroy your world. Only that which was bad. Only that which showed difference where there was none, only that which created division when it should have created unity. Greed instead of compassion. Health instead of corruption. War instead of cooperation. All of what we showed to you was true, gathered by your own people. We simply moved through time to see it firsthand.”

“You mean those were not simulations?”

“No, Captain. We placed you in the minds and lives of those people you experienced. Time and space are infinitely variable to us.”

Sinian sat down, placed his head in his hands and whispered “No.”

“Diplomat Sinian, are you sure?” I kneeled down next to him, the soft loam beneath me.

He looked up at me, his eyes were bright and hard. “I said, no, Captain. I cannot see why the Mariovel should create a planet for humanity when we were so terrible to each other and the last one we had. In good conscience I could not recommend us at this time.”

“Chalguldan and the Enclave of Planet Crafters, Division Nine, I Diplomat Wells Sinian hereby respectfully request a temporary hold on the planet Earth repopulation project at this time. In the light of the information presented today. I would like to return to the Humani Tribunal to ensure we have a proper plan of development for our new planet, to ensure its long term growth and continued existence.”

“We are pleased to hear your decision, Wells Sinian. While the Earth would have been ready for repopulation in a year, another hundred years would give many of your indigenous animals time to spread out and achieve a homeostatic balance with their new environment. We hope in this time you will also convince your people of a way to achieve a more homeostatic balance with your new home as well.”

Sinian and I stared longingly up at Earth, her deep blue oceans and swaths of green and gold beckoned to us. I helped Diplomat Sinian to his feet and he seemed relieved to have made a decision he could live with. “What are you going to tell the council?” The Mariovel retreated into the distance and I saw Chalguldan flash a brief goodbye in Galac 6 before our instantaneous transmission to the spaceport.

“The truth, Captain, the truth. The planet needed another century in the oven before we would be ready for it. We’ve got work to do, Captain. Take us home.”

The Planet Traders  © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved

First Appearance: The Mariovel first appear in my novel Insurrection as an advanced galactic race that has allied with the current leaders of the galactic empire, the Corvans. Because of their facility with nanotechnology and temporal mechanics, they are able to craft entire planets by controlling and compressing the flow of time around the worlds they create, creating planets in hundreds of years, rather than millions. They also possess the ability to alter their physical composition to take on a variety of forms and survive in a variety of conditions.

About the Art: The painting is called “Genesis-1920×963.” I know nothing about the piece beyond that. When I performed a search, it shows up in numerous libraries with no one laying claim to it. If anyone can tell me who it belongs to, I would love to give credit where credit is due. The painting inspired me to write this particular story and I  must acknowledge its awesomeness.

#20 – The Occultist – Sorcerer & Summoner of Demons

| November 20, 2011 | 1 Comment

Excerpt from Dark Star Rising: Meanwhile, Thornton Oswald III completed his summoning ritual with the King of Netherbeasts. Grimmammon took the form of a great cat of immense size.

“Grimmammon, I invoke your service as in the pacts defined by my ancestors.”

“Bah, mortal, why should I bother with your family’s ancient pacts? You have been notoriously lax in your relationship to us. Where are the rituals of blood and souls as in the past?”

“Spare me your pathetic bargaining, hell-beast. Without me and mine, you and yours would have passed into your final existence decades ago. Our world stopped worshipping your kind hundreds of years ago. Look around you. Ask where Lord Arioch and his brethren have gone. Provide your services and enjoy the benefits of our continued relationship.”

“Show me why you summoned me.”

“Look, oh Great One. Tell me what you see.”

Grimmammon looked over the edge of the roof, and his demonic mien grew more stoic. “Our pact ends at the edge of this world, sorcerer. That is an eldritch being from beyond our world.”

“And evidently frightening enough to remove most of your bluster. Tell me more, Great One. Who or what is that creature?”

“A Chaos god from before the time of Arioch, from before time as you measure it.”

“You lie. There were no gods before that time.”

“Silence, pup. There are secrets even the gods keep. These creatures were imprisoned here in an age before yours. You are not the first masters of the Earth. Did you think you were? Ha.”

“Imprisoned?”

“By the First People. They could not destroy them, but they could lock them beneath the Earth, or the Sea, or in Fire. It is said even the very Air imprisons one. I will have no truck with that one, no matter what the price you offer. Its powers likely dwarf mine, the same way mine dwarf yours.”

Oswald thought about what Grimmammon told him, and realized they were out of their depth. Even if Shango and Kali were here, this was a threat greater than they could manage on their own. Since neither of them were here, it was likely they were working on this menace in their own way. “So we will do what we can until they arrive.”

“I know you can see the boy in that conflagration. Bring him here; deposit the flames on the creature. Then you can take your leave. We would not want you to be injured before I can make use of you again. You are weakening with age; perhaps I shall call your rival Shunmaburan instead.”

“As you request, so shall it be. But if you seek to wound my pride, you will find no demon has pride when its survival is at stake. But by all means, if you wish to call Shunmaburan today, and he were not to survive, I would be in your debt. Farewell.”

The old demon stood at the edge of the roof and the flames rose from the crater in the street. The flames swirled as if they were a fire vortex and flew from the crater to surround the otherworldly invader with the terrible fires. The Kid disappeared from the crater and appeared on the roof next to Oswald. Oswald saw the daemon link the fire to the creature, and realized the fire would only last a few minutes before exhausting its fuel. Once surrounded, the creature stopped moving forward, and this bought them some time.

Grimmammon turned away from the roof’s edge. He looked at the boy and said, “Tough, that little one is. A parting gift.” And with that he nodded and stepped back into the gateway in the floor of the roof.

Oswald was not happy with Grimmammon’s parting words. No good comes from gifts from demons. Looking down at The Kid, he saw the boy’s amazing recuperative powers rebuilding him, and in less than two minutes, he sat up, looking angry.

“Wait. We need to talk. There are things you need to know.”

First Appearance: The Occultist, originally a villain, works with the Paragons because the government in their world, attempted to kill all metahumans, to be rid of the threat of super-powered beings. Reformed, he turns his sorcerous might to the protection of humanity from demonic predators.

About the Art: Created by Gerald Ramos Fernadez, known as *rhardo by his fans on deviantART, his strong colors, expressive faces and fantastic panoply of superheroic art made his magician Dr. Presto, the perfect choice for my magical protagonist, The Occultist. An accomplished artist in the Philippines, he creates superheroes on contract, of which I will be taking advantage of, when this contest is over.

#19 – Kali Bodhisattva, Slayer of Monsters

| November 18, 2011 | 0 Comments

Excerpt from Dark Star Rising: Kali summoned her spirit swords and began the ritual dance of power. Tapping the energies unique to this plane, she bound its power to hers. She felt the lives of The People, and their rage at the creature that destroyed them. She felt their need to lash out, but also their impotence since they are deceased and can no longer affect the world. Her dance said that they could.

They listened.

The portal had been open for some time. She remained peripherally aware of it as the spirits of the dead came to her and followed her dance, each lending its tiny essence to what she was, a goddess of destruction and creation, a goddess of Time and Space. They sensed her kinship to all things in creation and were at peace.

The portal was rent asunder as the Other suddenly arrived, and the two power-mad creatures tapped the energies of this plane and dozens of others nearby for their conflict. They ignored her and closed the gateway while their battle continued.

“Our deal is done. Release me.”

“Germ gods are in no position to make demands. We have our quarry, and we will use you to get back to your world once we have had our revenge.”
“You will stay with us.”
“We will be free of this place. We taste your world on him. It is to our liking.”

Their conflict was so terrible, nearby shard realms of existence were destroyed as they moved their battle through dimensions. Kali realized this creature never had any intention of letting them go home. That was why she told Shango to leave. She had no intention of staying.

Turning to the gathered spirits she raised her arms and shouted to them, “You seek revenge. Only Kali Yuga can give you that. So I release her to you. Gain your revenge!”

Kali’s dance moved faster, her four arms became eight, and she directed the energy of her death magic through the souls of those damned to be in this place, and they reflected her.

Her spirit blades appeared in their hands . And this happened again and again until there were hundreds of her and the contagion continued, spreading until there were thousands. Each shone with a dark energy that disrupted the very air around them. Slowly they rose into the air and their spirit blades sang out their song of retribution and revenge for their unjust deaths thousands of years before. Tiny stars of black fire began to arc through the air.

The gathered spirits by the thousands turned their energy toward the ancient gods locked in battle. They were not aware of the dark stars surrounding them. Each deity was consumed with its hatred of the other.

The crazed tentacled god bound his brethren in a smoky embrace. The dark invader sliced away tentacle after tentacle, even as new ones replaced them. Their struggle destroyed the remnants of the great civilization around them as if they were nothing more than tissue in the path of a hurricane.

Then lead by Kali, the People exacted their revenge. Each hurled itself at the Great Old Ones. Their fiery trail slashed through tentacles and Dark God alike, and their screams of rage were palpable. Once ignored by the Great Old Ones, but no more. Now their rage was given form and a world quaked as bound spirits rose up against their slayer.

Kali Yuga smiled and continued her dance as the sky lit up by the fiery stars of souls enraged. And the Dark Gods knew fear.

First Appearance: Kali Bodhisattva and her more formidable forms appears for the first time in my short story Dark Star Rising. In that story, she is the divine avatar of Kali on Earth and is a member of a renegade superhero group called the Paragons. She is one of the Paragon’s big guns with physical prowess, magical abilities and terrifying powers. Beloved and feared, she is considered one of the most powerful protectors of their world and is married to the other divine member of that group, Shango the Thunderer. She also appears in my novel Equinox, The Last Scion.

About the Artist: Peter Mohrbacher, known by his handle of One-Vox on  deviantART, is a professional artist, and the creator of the strange and beautiful picture called Mercy seen above. When I went to see what the picture was about, at his new site www.wipnation.com, I found the picture had gone through a variety of transformations before stabilizing in the form you see now. I was looking for a picture of Kali but most had her looking too cartoony or a bit too much like a religious icon. This had the most serious appearance with a touch of other-worldliness I was looking for. Mercy is a seriously scary image.

#18 – Umbra – Defender of the Equinox

| November 18, 2011 | 0 Comments

Umbra

“Get up, boy.” His voice was rough, like a heavy smoker, husky with a slight country twang. “Get up, we have to go now. Where is your father?”

“He didn’t make it. Who the hell are you?” I tried to sound tougher than I was. Then I threw up. He moved.

“It will burn all night. The Light makes for fine kindling. Gives us cover.” He wore a black trenchcoat made from some strangely slick matte-black leather. It was thick, coarse and had a weird animal smell. His clothes were hard to make out as if they defied my ability to focus on them. His shoes were a serviceable boot with hard metal studs all the way to the kneecap. “Get it out, because in two minutes we will be in the wind.” The firefighters gathered around the fire were not having any luck putting out the fires.

“They have my governess. My father said I had to find her.” I started to feel a bit better.

“I don’t care two bits about your nanny. Your father called me and told me to come and get you. I got you. My job is to keep you alive. You are my priority now.”

I did not appreciate his tone. I grabbed his jacket and pulled myself to my feet. I leaned in close. “She is the closest thing I have to a family. I don’t know you and couldn’t give a damn about what your job is. So you help me or I will do this by myself.” My chest hurt but I could feel this strange power trying to gather itself.

“Alright, there is no need for that kind of talk. Do you have anything that belongs to her?” I thought about it and reached into the holster on my hip.

“This was hers.” He took off his jacket and threw it to the ground.

“Give me that.” He snatched the gun from my hand and released the clip. Then he threw the gun on the jacket. I watched him move his hands and with a ritual movement he touched his jacket. It became dark, shrouded in shadow and then the shadow stood. It had the shape of an alligator or crocodile, low to the ground long and masked completely in shadow. Except for its exceptionally white teeth. The gun was in front of it and it was sniffing the gun. It turned as if to smile, showing off its teeth floating in a shadow body, then it shot off into the dark. “If she’s still here, he will find her.”

“What do we do in the meantime?”

“We hope they don’t find us first. How much do you know?”

“About what?”

“The Life, boy. How much did your father tell you?”

“Nothing he didn’t have to. Which was basically nothing at all.”

“Did you get any schooling at all?”

“Yes, I got plenty of education, can speak a dozen languages, can use basic magic signs and sigils. I can fly anything, drive anything, fix anything and shoot anything.”

“Okay, so you’re not a complete idiot.”

“Are you going to tell me what is going on?”

“Eventually, but now is not the time. I reloaded your gun. Do not shoot unless I tell you so. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s go. He’s found something.”

“Your jacket?”

“Yeah, kid, my jacket.”

We ran out of the alley away from the fire and the only home I would ever likely care about. Once we got to the street we didn’t run but maintained a brisk pace as we headed toward the local boulevard. I could feel the tension draining out of me and I felt suddenly tired.

“You know, I don’t even know your name.”

“Umbra, kid. Keep up, pay attention. If you see anything out of the corner of your eye, you tell me, right quick.”

“Okay, Mister Umbra.” He pulled up short and turned toward me. He towered over me and looked me in the eyes. His eyes, previously hidden under his hat were suddenly visible. There was nothing but darkness in them. No iris, no sclera, just an sense of a never-ending night with tiny glimmerings of light.

“Umbra, no mister, no title. Just Umbra. I know you are working with a lot of stress and handicaps right now but I need you to focus. You are a man now, and you are one of us. We don’t take titles, we don’t use ’em. We have our name and that is the most important thing about us. Your father was Equinox. And now, that is your name. Whatever he used to call you is not important.”

He turned and kept walking up the street, focused on something far away. “He didn’t used to call me anything but Boy. I think I may have had a name we used when we introduced ourselves but it changed every time we changed towns.”

I was about to say something else when I saw it. There was a flickering in the corner of my eye. When I turned my head, I couldn’t see anything, but as soon as I stopped looking at it, I felt a distinct awareness of something on the side of my vision. The boulevard was almost completely quiet, with only a few people coming home from their night jobs, heads down, focused on getting home.

“Umbra…”

“Good, you saw them. Get ready, they are surrounding us. She is up ahead and still fighting.” In this section of the Bronx there was an overhead train system and there were pillars of steel holding the train above the city streets. I was able to ride the trains a few times. It was noisy but fun. There was a station ahead and she was still alive fighting there, but I could not see her, directly, only sense her. No one else seem to see or hear her either.

“You can’t see them can you?” He stared at me and then grabbed my head. He turned it left, than right, looking into my eyes. “You have not had it long enough.” He turned and bent over to pick up his alligator-cum-jacket. “Put this on. Its the only way you will be of any use to me. Don’t take it off for any reason.”

I gripped the jacket like I expected it to come to live in my hands, but it seemed to have returned to its jacket state, inert and still creepy. As I slid into it, I noticed its coldness, its seemed to suck away my heat and sweat and re-sized itself to fit my much smaller proportions. It was only then I noticed how big Umbra was. I was also aware, I could no longer see anyone on the street. Okay, that wasn’t true. I couldn’t easily see anyone on the street. It was if I was seeing them through a gossamer veil.

“Stop gawking. Get your head in the game.” With just a few more seconds. I became aware of them. Then I wondered how I could have missed them. They were massive, much bigger than the things that attacked the house. They had that same alien feeling about them, but they did not have wings. They made up for that by having two sets of arms. They were also surprisingly fast, much faster than their size would have you think. Their bodies had that same luminescent mother-of-pearl look to them and they did not have any kind of clothing, armor or weapons, save their wickedly clawed arms; all four of them.

Then I saw her; Ms. Hart. She was beautiful. And she was still fought with the creatures. She wore a silver body suit, similar to the one she trained me in. While she had it on, she was faster and stronger than she had any right to be. I had never seen her as fast and as deadly as she was tonight. I realized she was always taking her time with me. She could have destroyed me, at any time during out training

She looked tired. She was covered in blood, some bright red, some black. The blood of the creatures splashed on a nearby shadow person and they dissolved into a green and gaseous cloud, accompanied by a baleful scream of sheer terror.

She was using a metal shod spear made of the same shiny silver, with a blade at the tip and whipped it around her slicing away the limbs of the much larger creatures. But the loss of an arm did not seem to incapacitate them as well as I thought it should. But they were not asking me. I would have suggested rolling around on the ground.

She saw us approaching and instead of looking relieved she appeared to be far more angry. Her rage cost three of the glowing giants their heads. She vaulted over their bodies she strode toward us as the creatures used her break to completely surround us.

“What do you think you are doing?” Her voice was sharp like a knife.

“Rescuing you,” I began.

“You stupid boy, I lead them away so you could escape.” Her emphasis seemed to focus her will. Her words cut me. Literally. A slash opened on my cheek. Using my sleeve, I wiped away my blood and her rage. Where Umbra’s jacket touched, the injury was just as easily healed. But it hurt.

“And you, you ought to know better.” Her gaze fell on Umbra, who lit a cigarette and apparently ignored her.

The circle closed around us. The giants began to move toward us, a light in their eyes. The streets were clear, and a chill wind blew past me. I drew my pistol.

“Feel free to shoot any time, kid.” He blew out his match.

Equinox © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved [@ebonstorm]

Hayward’s Reach – Tales of the Twilight Continuum

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

A series of short stories told by the last survivor after an unseen cataclysm destroys the birthplace of Pan-Humanity and its attendant species. Glendale Mokoto, as a Scout of the Corvan Empire has time on his hands and uses it to study temporal records in which the entire history of Old Earth is embedded. In these tales Mokoto studies both the past and the future of Pan-Humanity, its allies and its enemies, and learns even in his current state of in-humanity, what it really means to be truly human.

On sale at Amazon.com!

 

Thaddeus Howze

Science fiction and fantasy writer, technology consultant, polymath, creator of worlds, iconoclast, humanist.

#17 – Charon – Boatman of the Afterlife of Last Resort

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Charon ©2010-2011 ~fo3the13th (JOEL AMAT GÜELL)

A Cappuccino with Charon

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, dodging my workplace, when I saw Him come in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing at first, because, well, this is San Francisco, and you are liable to see almost anything here. He was wearing the equivalent of a long ragged cloak, stained with age and reeking of an unspeakable odor.

It was the scent of a recently opened grave, and while I had not been near one in a while, I had put a dead raccoon in my garbage can once and left it there for a week in the hot sun. Worst thing I have ever smelled. I was only too happy when the garbage man came. It was worse than that. No one else seemed to notice.

His cloak hid is face, but it was safe to assume I didn’t really want to look too deep in there, anyway. He was carrying a pole with a strange watermark on it and two runnels near the top. His hands were strong looking, like a weightlifter’s, with veins running through them. I could not see much else of him, but he was big, much bigger than I had imagined him to be.

See, I figured this had to be the Boatman of the River Styx.

“Cappuccino,” he said in a scary baritone.

“Four seventy-five, please.”

“Surely you jest?” was his response.

“Uh. Yes.”

He reached into his pocket and put pennies on the counter. Lots of pennies.

“Sir, we can’t take those.”

“They’re still currency, aren’t they?”

“Sir, they’re pennies.”

“I get paid in pennies.”

“Excuse me, miss, I will take care of this.” I found myself reaching into my pocket and paying with a five. “Keep the change.” The crowd was getting kind of hostile, and I wasn’t sure what might happen if he got pissed off. He looked at her, reached across the counter with his large, ham-like hand, and touched her chin.

“Rebecca Montez, angry boyfriend, six years from now, lamp. Unfortunate.” She looked at him as if he were crazy, but did not move. Almost as if she were under a spell.

He turned to me and said, “Thank you, Daniel Simmons.”

“How do you know my name?” I already knew the answer.

“I know all of your names.” That voice was really starting to work me. The rhythm of the shop resumed and people went back to typing.

“What are they seeing? How is it only I can see you?”

“Cappuccino, up.”

“Uh, that’s you.”

“Let’s sit and talk, Daniel Simmons.”

“Okaaaaay.” Didn’t like where this was going.

I sat down at the table and tried to hide my face behind the screen of my laptop so I could resist the temptation to look into his cowl. He reached across the table and closed my laptop, gently.

“So, Charon, can I call you Charon? What brings you up for coffee? And why is it no one else can see you?”
“Mmmmm. Good cappuccino. Very nice.” The cup disappeared into his cowl and did not come back out. “People deny their mortality. Part of my gift, people simply refuse to see Death for what it is, a part of Life. No one can see me because to them, I am some unfortunate hobo having coffee with an overdressed preppy. That would be you. As to why I am here? I need a guide, and since you can see me, you are volunteered.”

“And I can see you because?”

“Embolism, three weeks from now.”

Sobering. What could I know about that he would need a guide for?

“I am looking to franchise my infernal service.”

“Excuse me?”

“Earth is very busy these days, lots of dying, and humans keep making new ways to kill each other off. I can’t keep up. Look at this bicep.” He pulled back his sleeve and showed me this massive arm that would not have looked out of place on the Incredible Hulk. “Go on, touch it.”

“Um, no thanks.”

“I used to be scraps of bone and flesh; now I have biceps from pushing that thing.” He points outside the window.
For a moment I saw the flash of a large gondola-like boat, about the size of an eighteen wheeler. Off in the distance, I could see people, thousands of them, tens of thousands, standing patiently, wearing clothing from what looked like medieval times. When I looked harder, I could see dozens of different eras standing and waiting patiently for their turn to cross into the Afterlife. Then the street returned to its mundane appearance.

“Yes, I just cleared the backlog from the Black Plague last week. Do you know how long it takes to move seventy five million people by gondola? But I still have the Civil War, the Spanish Flu, World Wars I and II, Korea and every other little bush conflict modern governments feel justified in creating.” He was starting to sound a little hysterical and maybe pissed off.

“Uh, what about other death-oriented entities like yourself? Aren’t there others out there harvesting the dead?”

“Valkyries are still working, but they only want the valiant dead, so they swoop in and pluck one guy out of thousands, put him on their flying horse and they’re gone. I’ve tried shouting out, ‘Hey, you could grab a few more,’ but they keep mentioning something about Valhalla having a quality assurance clause, and then they’re gone.

When I complained to the Niflheim Residency Committee, they indicated they aren’t responsible for all of these people. They closed their doors when the last of the Vikings bought the farm. Something about Niflheim having a purity standard.”

“There are certainly other death agents, yes?”

“Heaven only takes devout Christians. Let’s just say that number isn’t going up. Same with the other sects. People don’t seem to have a desire for really rigid religious structures anymore, so most of those places are closing their doors, or waiting for a management decision from on high. Hell, well, it’s just overflowing. They even changed the sign. Used to say ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ Now it says, ‘Abandon hope all ye who thought to enter here. Entry denied due to overcrowding.’ So, I keep going, moving the Dead into their afterlife of Last Resort. But I am starting to fall behind, so I hoped someone here might have some idea how to franchise this operation.”

“So you’re hoping to find people willing to help you ferry the Dead, for a fee. What kind of benefits would you be offering? You need a good benefits package if you are trying to recruit these days.”

“I am not trying to enter into management. I do not want to take responsibility for their work. I want to hand off a section of the workload to other interested parties.”

“That’s the problem. Who’s going to be interested in buying into a business where your job is to move the Dead across the River Styx into the Afterlife of Last Resort? What do they get out of the deal?”

“As long as they work for the Company, they can avoid dying of anything, as long as they manage their company effectively. If I have to pick up their slack, I will carry them across the Threshold myself. I am not interested in who they hire, as long as they get the job done.”

“Effectively immortal, long term job security, open hours, free hand in hiring, no micromanaging. I think I am going to quit my job. Okay, what’s the cost to buy into this program?”

“Two pennies.”

This guy has no money sense. How can you run a business on two pennies a soul? “Okay, first things first. We’re going to get you a suit and a bath. After that we are going to work together is to increase the cost of dying. What we need to do is get a cut of the funeral home business…”

First Appearance: A Cappuccino with Charon appears in my debut series of short stories called Hayward’s Reach available from Amazon.

About the Art: Charon is a very popular guy on the internet. I found many pictures of him but nothing that quite did him justice the way I wanted. I decided on this one by fo3the13th because he showed him as a muscular man rather than a skeleton pushing a boat. I liked the somber tones and clean lines. Joel Amat Guell is a professional artist and retains all copyrights to his art.

#16 – Jesque – Bloodthirsty Voodoo Doll

| November 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

How could she leave me here? She knows I hate the sun. It so hot, I think my stuffing is melting. It’s been hours. I think she’s forgotten me. Feel myself getting weaker. What is that thing coming toward me? Shoo. Go away. I am a mighty voodoo doll and I will make your heart explode or your feet fall off or, what else was I supposed to be able to do?  

Oh, yes, I will make your speen rupture! That is what her father always says when he is lifting a water condenser or something heavy. So Jenel says that is one of my powers too. Making spleens rupture. Whew. It’s going away. Think pleasant thoughts, she’ll be here soon. 

Night. I have never been out at night. I am not sure I like it any more than the day. Jenel is usually tucking me in and telling me stories about The People and I used to ignore them. Now I would give anything for one. What’s that sound? Is it another animal? It’s huge and its reaching for me… 

“What is it?”

“I think its a humie.”

“Stupid. They say ‘human’. Besides it’s too small to be a humie.”

“Are you sure? I have trouble with language. Humies are awful small.”

“Does it look like a humie? Does it smell like a humie?”

“Yes it does, it has one head, two eyes, two arms and two legs. And it does smell like a humie, too.”

Get your finger out of my eye, you clumsy oaf. Those buttons are very rare, thank you. 

“Let me smell. Hmm. I think your right.”

Stop that, get your nose off of my head. 

“Do you think they will miss it?”

“Of course they will. We will keep it safe until they come back.”

Oh, my. What is this terrible creature? Why is it lying down and clutching me? That sure does feel nice. Oh, wait, ouch, squeezing me too hard. I can’t believe the things I have to go through for that girl. What is that smell? 

* * *

“I can’t believe you have me out here looking for your doll.”

“Please, daddy, I know I lost Jesque at the watering hole.”

“Okay, we still have a bit to do before the festival, so I need to get back.”

“I promise, if Jesque is not here, I will help you with whatever needs doing.”

“Fair enough.”

Beast! Wake up. I hear my girl Jenel. Get up, I tell you. I will rupture your innards this instant. 

They see the creature lying down curled up in a ball, near the watering hole. It’s large, even from this distance, its size is stunning. Tucked in its arms is the small voodoo doll. The most amazing thing is it has two heads, sitting on top of its wide and powerful chest.

“Daddy, I see Jesque.” Jenel runs toward the creature heedless to any concerns except for her doll.

“Jenel, stop!” He raises his rifle that he never leaves home without. Karis III was not a planet you traveled unarmed. Having lived here for many years, they were familiar with most of the animals but not all. This was something he had never seen. It’s movements were slow and deliberate. His finger hovered over the trigger. He hoped he was making the right decision.

“Get up.” A hand smacks the other still sleeping head. “I smell humies. And boomsticks.”

Opening its eyes, the second head, was closer to the ground. “Look at that, its a tiny humie. And she is saying something. I wonder what it is? She is holding out her hand…”

She is saying give me back you dolt. I belong to her. I knew she would come and get me. Release me this instant. 

“Do you see the second humie with the boomstick?”

It’s her father. He’ll fix this, right now. Yes, shoot this beast so I can come home. I have been out here all night. 

“Oh, there’s another? See I told you they would come back for their kin. Just like we would do.”

“So give their kin back and let’s go.” The giant turning over and rising slowly to its knees, hands the doll back to the girl, Jenel.

She hugs it fiercely and reaches out to touch the hand of the giant. “Thank you.” Looking at the voodoo doll, she holds him out “Tell the nice giant, thank you, Jesque.”

I will not. Just look at them, two heads, scary eyes, rock-hard skin. And did you notice that smell? What’s there to be nice to? 

“I’m sorry. He has bad manners. He is a reformed voodoo doll. He still thinks rupturing spleens is good. He still has anger issues. I thank you in his place.”

Letting go of the giant’s finger. She turns and runs back to her father. He hugs her and warily backs away.

“What were you thinking girl? You could have been killed.”

“They seemed real nice. How come we have never seen one before?”

“Maybe they are very private.”

“We should do something nice for them.”

“We will talk about this when we get home.”

The giant gathers up its belongings, fills its water skin and sets off toward its home in the nearby mountains.

“Not so different from us.”

“Nope. Except for that one head.”

“I know. How do they handle the loneliness?”

“I can’t imagine.”

Spleen Rupturing Time © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved [@ebonstorm]

About the Art: Joan Coleman is a diverse medium artist. Sketch, art, painting and fabric are all mediums she creates fantastic works of art. Her voodoo doll was perfect for the idea I had of reforming a voodoo doll from his ideas of spleen rupturing toward a kinder and gentler nature, and his ultimate failure.

#15 – Fox – Native American Spirit Being – Trickster

| November 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

Native Daughter

“Hey kid, what are you doing out here? Kid, can you hear me?”

When I woke up, I was sitting in the back seat of my father’s SUV. It was cold and my face was sticky. My back hurt alot and I felt sick with the smell of gasoline all around me. I was not sure what I was seeing because there was a red fox sitting on the seat next to me. And he was talking to me.

“Ugh. I am okay, I think. Where is my father?”

“Hmm, you might not want to think about that right now. I couldn’t do anything for him. Let’s get you out of that seatbelt.”

My fingers felt fat and clumsy. I was having trouble. The fox stopped and licked my fingers. They felt momentarily stronger and more sure. The release popped.

I opened the car door and stepped outside. It was night and cold. We were somewhere in the desert and the stars shone bright enough to see easily by. Nothing like starlight in the city. I saw my father’s car and another car crushed together.  Both cars seemed as one, crumpled hulks bound together in a single terrible moment. I could see my father slumped over the steering wheel.

“Kid, lets go.”

“Go? Go where?”

“That is a harder explanation, but we need to keep moving. Things are about to be happening you won’t understand, if you stay.”

The howl of a wolf sounds in the distance, punching through the chill with a supernatural frost of its own. Worse was the echoing answer that resounded in the canyon all around us.

“Too late. They’re here. Follow me.”

“You are a talking fox.”

“You may call me, Fox.”

“Why should I listen to you?”

“Because if you don’t you will find there are much worse things than death to happen out here in the West. Look, girl, I do not have time to explain everything. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to be standing here in a few minutes. Run!”

And because I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, I ran. We ran up the hill toward a strange formation of cactus. It grew in a near complete circle. My heart was pounding as I looked down at my father’s car and could see the shapes of wolves slithering through the darkness. I wanted to say something but my voice froze in my throat.

“Go in there. Do not touch the thorns.”

He did not have to tell me twice. Each tip glittered in the starlight, shouting out their sharpness to anyone who was paying attention. I slid in slowly though the only opening. There were two large cacti with their arms outstretched standing near that entrance.

“Hurry,” Fox hissed. “They are coming.”

Fox jumped up, lightly and delicately proceeded to walk on the tips of the thorns. The wolves padded up to the edge of the barrier and looked in at me. Their eyes glowed in the starlight. A cold menace. They were dragging the body of my father with them.

“Fox.”

“Not Wolves.”

“Now that the pleasantries are over, you should leave now.”

“We have not gotten what we came for.”

“And you shall not today.”

“And who shall stop us. Not you, Fox. You are a weakling.”

“And now you are rude, too. None the less, you will not be getting what you came for.”

One of the wolves walked toward the slender entrance. They seemed so much larger once they were standing in front of me. I was terrified. What did they want? Why were they dragging my father around? Why were all of these animals talking?

I am from Kansas City and until today, the only animals I knew that talked were cartoons like Winnie the Pooh. These things did not talk like Pooh or their friends. There was no love or friendship in their voices. They all sounded like my father when he was angry. Their voices low but filled with a sound that was clearly a threat waiting to be unleashed. I had a normal childhood. My mother passed away when I was young and my father did the best he could to raise me. I did my best to follow his rules. I rebelled. He punished me. It was how things went with us.

We were moving to Arizona because of a new job offering and to be fair, Kansas City wasn’t doing so hot. I was glad to be on the road and everything seemed so good until a few hours ago. I can’t seem to remember everything. We were driving down the road, a quiet one, wasn’t a whole lot of traffic. We had been looking on the map trying to figure out where the next rest stop was going to be. We had just fueled up, so it was my job to find the next stop.

My father never let me ride in the front seat. He never told me why, but he would always say it was safer in the back. I was looking at the map when I heard his shout and there was a terrible sound of ripping metal and my head snapped forward and hit his seat and everything went black.

Now I am sitting in a circle of cactus, surrounded by giant wolves, talking to a fox who can walk on the tips of said cactus and they are negotiating, with me as the prize. I think I am dead.

“No. Not yet. But if you lose your head, you will be.” Fox turned back to the wolves who had begun to circle the barrier looking for weakness.

“Did you really think you could hide Coyote in this girl and she would be safe from us?”

“Certainly worth a try. If she had stayed in Kansas City she would have remained safe.”

“How fortunate for us, we made her father a job offer he couldn’t refuse.”

“You did this? You made us leave our home?” My voice was shrill, even to me, but I think I was coming unglued.

“Yes, we did. You are just a pawn, child. We shall make your death quick, so that we can find and destroy Coyote.”

“Who the hell is Coyote and why should I care about him. You just killed my father?”

“Fox, you have not told her what she is have you?”

“I was getting to that before I was interrupted by your howling.” Fox turned to me and he began to shimmer in the starlight.

“Oh no you don’t, Fox. It would be best of she never knew.” The wolf next to the largest and most frightening of the wolves, ran toward me and leapt over the barrier. His high arc let him darken the stars and his shadow fell upon me. I couldn’t move.

The cactus rustled and whispered a sigh.

The wolf fell short of me, landed with a thump, twitched and died. He was completely covered in spines, no part of him did not flash in the starlight. Fox turned back toward the wolves he called Not Wolves, and sat down on the thorns with his huge bushy tail waving back and forth behind him. He may have seemed like a child’s toy when I first saw him but I was seeing him in a new light.

Then I remembered. My mother was a Cherokee and when I was a kid, she told me of the legends of Fox and Coyote. She said they were some of the oldest tales in the Americas. She said this was an America you did not hear about because native customs were obliterated when Whites came to America. They did not want to believe these tales, so they didn’t. She always told me they were just as real as machines and if you paid attention, you could see this world going on all the time, all around you. She said living in cities made the walls between the spirit world and our world dense and hard to see.

From where I was standing, there was not a city for a hundred miles in any direction. Not good.

“Caroline.” I heard my father’s voice. In the starlight, I saw him get up. He had a strange boneless movement, but his voice was right. His lips didn’t move.

“Caroline, these people are our friends. Come outside and we can go with them.”

I wanted to believe him. His voice sounded so good right then, the only normal sound I knew. “Daddy.”

“Yes, Pumpkin. It’s going to be okay.”

Fox bristled and his tail began to expand and fluff up even larger. “Kid, remember your father. Think about him, let his essence fill your every thought.”

I remember him last summer fixing a dirt bike for me, we took the whole thing apart and spent the summer finding parts and putting it back together, a piece at a time. He explained every aspect of its engine to me, taught me why everything worked. We had been having a hard time of it. My rebellions had grown more troublesome and I had gotten arrested. He decided we needed to spend more time together. I resented it at first. And then I began to see something in him. A sacrifice of his time, that he could have spent anywhere. But he spent it with me. I tried to be less of a bitch and just listen. It was the most fun we had together, ever.

And this thing was not my father. I turned to the apparition and he lost the shimmer of beauty. His broken body hung in space and slumped to the ground, with the thump of a dead thing.

“Goodnight, Not Wolves. Your last hope just ended.”

“We will just take what we want, Fox.”

“You could have. You might have, but if you look over your shoulders, you will see the eye of the Great Spirit has risen. For you, the darkness in which you can hunt, is over.”

I looked over and saw the moon cresting the horizon.

The wolves looked up and howled. The sound drove itself into my very bones. Fox jumped off of the thorns and landed in my arms. As the wolves howled, the pain increased inside of me until I screamed. I fell over and Fox just stayed in my arms.

“Get up, Caroline.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes. They can’t hurt you, now. But you are not safe yet. Fox will teach you what you need to know.”

“What about you?”

“I am always with you.”

Fox jumped up from my embrace, and shook himself. He preened for a moment and then looked up into my eyes. “We have to go. The eye of the Great Spirit can only protect us a few nights of the month. The rest of the time, we are on our own. You have a lot to learn in the next three days, Coyote.”

“Coyote?”

“Yes, Coyote, Slayer of Monsters, Protector of the Tribes, Defender of Man.” Fox jumped up to the top of the barrier and danced across the tips of the thorns. He hopped down and began walking West.

“You’re kidding, right?” I slid out of the barrier and rushed to keep up.

“You wish.”

First Appearance: Fox and Coyote appear in my novel: Equinox, the Last Scion due to appear in print in late 2012.

Native Daughter © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserve

#14 – Death: Greater Aspect, Legendary Power

| November 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

Excerpt from The Aspect War

He woke.

The first thing he noticed was the chill. It was a pervasive thing, it felt as if it froze the very marrow of his bones. Not normally affected by weather, he found the sensation unpleasant, but not unbearable. Standing up, he began to take in his surroundings. There was no light — no that is not right, there was no normal source of light. No lantern, no torch, no lamp, no light bulb; yet the room gave off a subtle luminescence, centered on where he sat. Driving his vision further past the illumination, he noticed that there was a radius to the field of unlight and the area he was sitting in was larger than he was able to initially perceive.

“Curious.” The sound of his voice, flew free. Encoded with his desire, it fled into the darkness and did not return. The very nature of its failure told him everything he needed to know. This subtle use of his power told him he was not in the world as he knew it. He realized he must be in a nearby Shard or worse, lost in the Void. As he considered this, his apprehension began to take shape.

Almost casually, he inspected himself and found everything seemed to be normal. He was still wearing the grey and black suit and vest common to his attire and the last thing he remembered wearing to work. His shirt was still the silken, Italian blouse he favored for formal meetings. He was wearing his favorite leather shoes, with an added non-slip surface beneath them. Not that he ever feared slipping, but it was a habit from a bygone era when one’s footing might cost one’s life. And until now, He had been very careful.

He looked down at his hands. They were still the strong hands of a Roman soldier, a bit more weathered, a bit less callused, but still capable of relieving a man of his life with a variety of tools. But the thing he was looking for was gone. His ring was missing. The sigil of his power was missing. This did not mean he was powerless, it meant that for his duty to continue, the ring moved to his successor. That meant he could not leave this prison. And that his power was in the hand of a mortal, for the first time in two millennia. A mortal He truly loved but had poorly prepared for this day.

He could only hope that his impressions all those decades ago were right.

* * *
The Director tried to wake from a dream that seemed overwhelming real and quite visceral. It was not his normal condition to dream, having not done so for many years since coming to work at Death, Incorporated. Having not dreamed in decades, left him open to the strange, surreal nature of this dream. He was standing in the middle of a field surrounded by monstrous creatures of all shapes and sizes, wielding a sword of ice and shield comprised of a field of force laying waste to everything around him.

In the distance, he could see demons and angels flashing swords of flame and lightning, illuminating the battlefield. This seemed to last days and nights and then with a final flash of lighting, the battle ended. He was the only thing standing unscathed on the field. Taking in the horrible vista, he wept, openly.

Time passed.

Sensing moving in the corner of his eye, he turned and dropped his terrible, ice-sword, which froze the very air near it and the blade shattered as it struck the ground. It was an Angel still moving slowly, feebly trying to remove the corpse of some horror draped across it. The Director found himself striding toward the Angel with a strange ambivalence in his core. Grabbing the nearest limb of the giant white gorilla, he flung it from the Angel, who sat up.

“Did we win?” the Angel croaked, his voice dry and likely burned from angrily flung cocoastrum during the battle. “I can’t see you, please come closer.”

“No, I do not think your side won,” the Director intoned gravely, “we are the last things alive here, so I can safely assume, my side did not win either. Do you have a name?”

“I was once called Malik, the Guardian, and I guarded the doors to Hell,” the Angel glowed visibly upon the recitation of his former station and for a moment seemed more majestic than his current condition, covered in the blood and offal of other creatures would allow.

“You may call me, Aurelius,” the Director said. “I think I was once the general of this army but now I am not so sure.”

“Well met, former general of a once mighty army. You must have been formidable to have defeated this mighty Host…” Malik began. “I cannot remember why we were fighting, though General. Do you have any memory of the conflict?” The Director seemed surprised by the Angel’s confession and had to think deeply himself.

“To be honest, I have no memory of why or how this battle took place. I am willing to forswear any further conflict if you are Malik, of the Angelic Host,” the Director’s feeling in this regard seemed sincere, even as this very real dream transpired.

“General Aurelius, as much as I appreciate you taking the time to free me from confinement, I am not able to forswear violence toward your person. There is still the matter of the Heavenly Host who even now, tell me to rend thee, limb from limb,” Malik seemed pained to admit this and sat back on his haunches and spread his wings. While he was sitting, he appeared to slowly get cleaner and his injuries began to shimmer and heal themselves. “Perhaps we could simply sit a bit longer and see if we can untangle this since there is no one here but you and I. Perhaps we can come to an agreement.”

General Aurelius – the Director took in the scene and for a moment was surprised by the carnage – there seemed to be a variety of warriors from a variety of ages, lost in time and space, vast incredible armies with amazing technologies all lay about the battlefield. The General’s senses transcended the five and with his extended awareness could see ripples in time and space where these armies were snatched and conscripted. He could also sense the ruptures that the enemy used to reach this battlefield between Time and Space. Until he used those senses, his awareness was limited to this place, this space, this time, suddenly he was aware of a thousand times, a thousand places, where He reigned and suddenly realized where and who He was.

“Malik, Angel of the Host, I declare this conflict completed. And as an act of Mercy, I shall allow you, the final survivor, to return to your Host. Remind them, this is our final conflict. The next time we meet, I shall destroy you and yours utterly. Know this and never return,” the pronouncement was clearly delivered and chilled the very air around the both of them. There was a weaving of force, of malice, of murderous intent in those words. The General was sure his words were relayed to the Host, even as he said them.

Malik, clearly shaken by the tone, and the message, stood and suddenly his twelve foot stature, seemed to overshadow the tiny General before him. “General, looking around the battlefield, it is clear that you and I are at the locus of something terrible, but I do not believe that you are in any position to make demands, or to cast threats. From where I stand, it is you, who should be looking at surrender. I am Malik, the Guardian, the warder to Hell, the hand of God and Sealer of Doors. You are in no position to make demands.” Malik suddenly burst into white flames and a blue flaming sword appeared in each of his hands.

The General looked at the Angel and was momentarily in awe. “Beautiful.” With a momentary pause, he whispered, “I’m sorry.” The General raised his hand and suddenly the Angel appeared to be in a fearful wind, his flames flickered and were blown backward, wisps blasted back as the wind increased. Malik roared and leapt forward, blades flashing forward, blue fire glowing like the sun. The General Aurelius, the Director, watched in horror as his outstretched fist clenched and some unknown force exploded forward and simply erased the Angel Malik, Guardian and Warder to Hell, Hand of God and Sealer of Doors, from existence.

The Director screamed, a long wail that caused fear in all who heard it, and then he woke, his right hand burning. On his hand was the ring from his dream, bearing the Aspect Skull of Death backed with a nuclear plume, the symbol of the destroyer of Worlds.

Description: One of the Legendary Powers born of Gaia once the planet Earth had cooled and before all life existed on the planet. Aspects are universal concepts scattered throughout the Universe which spring up whenever the forces of the Universe allow for Life to exist. Know Legendary Aspects include: Life, Death, Infinity, Eternity, Destruction, Chaos, Order, Love, and Conflict. There are likely many others which exist around other worlds other than our own. These Aspects were the primal forces which led to the creation of lesser pantheons of gods, religions and other anthropomorphic deities. Death being the Eldest after Life is believed to be the only one of the Aspects who cannot die or be permanently destroyed. During the Aspect Wars, he is sought after as an ally or avoided as an indestructible foe. During most Aspect Wars, he does not participate and the other Powers are grateful for that.

Appearances: The Aspect of Death appears in my novel: The Aspect War. You can read his story here.

About the Artist: Singapore artist, Sandara has an excellent eye for the fantastic and fantasy artwork. Her collection on deviantART is one of the best of the genre there. Her depiction of Judgement Day was just what the doctor order when I was trying to highlight one of the Greater Aspects in my book, the Aspect War. She retains all rights to her work.

#13 – Anansi – Trickster God of Africa, Weaver of Lies

| November 13, 2011 | 0 Comments

Excerpt: The two had been walking and talking for some time away from Memphis and Ptah had been manipulating their path until they had come to what appeared to be a great forest along the edge of the Desert. “That is the Great Forest. A manifestation of all of the World’s greatest forested regions, jungles, rainforests, and other planted regions. We are expected there. As they approached the Great Forest, the smell of immense age wafted from the Forest. The air of the Desert was dry, crisp with a light metallic taste, the forest’s scent was cooler, mustier, like an old closet filled with woolen sweaters, still but not unpleasant.

As they grew closer, the size of the immense trees became more apparent, from a distance they appeared to be the size of a strong man, but when they were closer, it was clear they were much, much larger. It would take twenty men, arm to arm to encircle even the smallest of these trees. The trees vanished into the sky and covered the sun allowing only the tiniest spots of light to reach the ground. Great eagles were also seen flying in the canopy, each, incredibly large, some the size of a small airplane.

As they left the Desert behind and moved deeper into the forest, the sense of age only increased and they walked until they had come to an area that seemed older, the trees more bent, great spider webs were woven through the canopy, whispering their secrets, waving in an unfelt breeze.

“Welcome, weary travelers to my land,” said a great voice from apparently nowhere. Lumumba looked around but could see no one speaking, and the voice seemed to come from everywhere.

“Look up, my son,” Ptah had already found an immense stump to sit on and was pointing skyward.

Lumumba looked up and was surprised to see the largest spider he had ever seen dangling just a few feet from his head. It was the size of truck and its eight eyes, burned with intelligence. Lumumba could feel its will pressing down upon him, a physical presence, making the air thick and his movement slow. He wanted to move his hand to invoke his Ka, but he simply could not move his fingers at all.

“So this is the savior, the protector of mankind, the one we have been waiting for nearly a thousand years? He certainly does not look like much to me. As a matter of fact, I think he is an arachnophobe to boot.” The great spider moved with an alarming agility for something so large, and swung itself down to land in front of Lumumba. Its eight eyes never lost their intensity, as the spider made its way around him, viewing him from all sides. “I thought he would be taller.”

“You say that about all the heroes, Anansi. I am a respectable four feet tall and it has not held me back any,” Ptah responds with a jocular tint to his tone. This eases Lumumba’s fear of the giant spider plucking his clothing and his new staff with its glistening razor sharp pedipalps.

“Yes, boy, that glistening substance is venom; enough in each bite to slay a thousand men. A single touch from me and you would be dead before you knew it. No, I am not a spider. I resemble one, but a spider my size could not exist where you come from. Consider me the iconic representation of what all spiders imagine themselves to be, awe-inspiring, powerful, killing machines. And no, I am not reading your mind, your face says everything.”

“And let’s not forget humble and full of grace.”

“You scare the boy in your way and I scare him in mine, Ptah.”
“Did your master tell you about me, Horus-ka?” hissed Anansi as it waved its forelegs around Lumumba.

It was hard for Lumumba to listen to Anansi’s voice, it caused him to want to run away and never stop, so filled with menace, its very presence confounded his concentration. Lumumba watched as he began to sense the weaving of the threads of magic. “Yes, sir, he did mention you in passing when he talked about well known deities of the African continent. He said, you were a known liar and scoundrel. And that if I were to meet you in person, to not trust a single thing you said to me unless you swore on your ancestors first.”

“He said what?” roared Anansi, his huge forelegs waving faster around Lumumba, his body tense and hair all over his form stood erect and crackled with what appeared to be electrical energy. “A liar, and a scoundrel, not to be trusted, eh? Did he tell you that I stole the moon and the stars for man, did he tell you that I liberated all of the stories of the world for humanity, so that you would have something to do around your fires for the last fifteen thousand years? Did he tell you that without me, you would not have fire, since the gods wanted to keep it for themselves?”

The air in the clearing was still as Lumumba considered his answer. Lying to deities was almost always the wrong thing to do, since most could tell when you were. But Ptah did mention that diplomacy when discussing them was always the best choice since gods were known to be a bit thin-skinned, sensitive about their exploits and capricious in the response to how they are seen by humans. Lumumba decided to go with candor. He hoped Ptah would step in before anything bad happened.

“Yes, sir, he did tell me some of those things. He said that you stole the stars but spilled them on your way out of heaven so they scattered throughout the sky. He mentioned that you borrowed the sun because you lost your way coming out of the underworld and forgot to put it back when you were done. He also mentioned that you did liberate all of the stories of the world, but you did it so that you would have people pay you to hear them. On your way to the market, it was said that the stories fell into the river from the calabash you carried them in and were lost, found by beggars and fishwives who used them to get money from people. On the matter of fire, he mentioned that you did steal fire for us, but only because you took pity on us one day when we were freezing and you did not have a warm place to stay having been kicked out of Heaven again and so you gave us fire, so you could be warm.” Lumumba had begun to regret his decision as he felt the energy of Anansi building in front of him, its claws waving closer and closer to his body. He dared not move since the claws were sweeping all around him front to back, faster and faster.

Ptah snickered and turned away from Anansi, taking a sip of water to hide his laughter.

“So he did, did he? Anansi whispered. A deep breath followed with Anansi sounding just a little bit contrite. “Well, so that the truth be known, he has not lied. Not once. All of those things are as you say. I am a selfish deity who happens to benefit others while I am trying to benefit myself. As I have done now. He is ready, Ptah.” Anansi stopped waving his claws over Lumumba and backed away.

“I call you Horus-Ka, the spirit of Horus. Your next answer will determine the fate of men and gods. When confronted by evil, do you use the force of arms or the strength of will to resolve the problem?”

Horus-Ka looked to Ptah but his face was stony and unresponsive. “Sir, –”

“I am Anansi, The Weaver of Fate, Teller of Tales, Trickster of the Gods, Defender of Man, I am no man. Call me as I am, Kwaku Anansi,” interrupted Anansi with enough force to nearly knock Horus-Ka from his feet.

“Forgive me Kwaku Anasi, Ptah, Father to the Gods, I have been taught when confronting evil that force of arms is almost never the only solution to a problem, and that truly winning the battle relies on a keen eye, a strong mind, a full heart, a ready wit and a forceful will. I will only use force of weapons when no other avenue presents itself. This I pledge to you, my masters.” As Horus-Ka completed his statement, two circles of fire formed with a bridge of flame connecting them.

The circle around Horus-Ka was filled and surrounded with a variety of cartouches each flickering in multi-colored flame, the second circle about ten meters away was much larger and opened to a vista similar to the Great Forest Horus-Ka had seen earlier in the day with one vital difference. A giant creature seeming to be comprised of earth tore through the Forest and approached the barriers that kept the Forest and the Real World separate. If the scale were to be believed, this creature stood over a thousand feet tall, towering over the redwoods of the Great Forest. Giant Eagles and tiny men sitting on those eagles seemed to be engaging the creature unsuccessfully. One tower had already fallen and when three of them were toppled, the creature would be able to cross into the world of Men.

“That is your first great task, Horus-Ka. You must protect the world of Men. It is too close to the boundary for any of us to be of any help to you. Your gifts and your training will need to be enough. Know that the people you see there are denizens of the Spirit World, when they die, they fall from the cycle of life, never to return. They need you to stop this creature. If it pierces the boundary, it will cause a massive earthquake wiping out the Atlantic coast of Africa, South America and parts of the North American continent.”

“Who could have done this, how is this even possible? Ptah, you said that the Compact prevented magic like this from even working in the world of Men?

“These creatures do not obey the Compact and have begun their assault on our world. They have begun a battle which will pit all of the Spirit Realms and the World of Men against each other, and when the White Host, the Cold Gods and Demon of Babylon have exhausted themselves, they will destroy the victors. This opening volley will liberate the Demon and you cannot allow that. If she is freed too soon, things will not be in place. Ptah, what of your brothers and sisters?”

“They are hidden in the world of Men with no memory of who they are, it is their only chance of survival and the only chance there will be some gods left when this Scourge is done. We are the last, and Horus-Ka, son of man and gods, you must be our weapon. Otherwise we have none. As a man, you may go places even gods fear to tread. Now go, we shall buy your freedom with our lives, if it comes to that.”

The clearing was suddenly lit from the distance as beams of cold white light streaked through the trees and illuminated the webbing of the clearing. Screams of agony and rage are heard in the distance.

“I do not think they like the decorating I left for them. It is so hard to find venom laced webbing these days.” Anansi turned to Ptah. Make ready my brother, my traps will not hold them long.” Anansi leapt into the trees, and skittered across a web work hidden in the canopy. “Horus-Ka, the weavings of fate upon you are strong, I wove them myself. But you were given a thread of Fate before I met you. That fate I could not change. Be strong and in your darkest hour know that Fate is your ally, even if you cannot believe it at the time. Farewell, son and spirit of Horus.”

Ptah turned to Horus-Ka and took a necklace from his bag. It held an icon of a disk with the Eye of Ra upon it. “When I am gone, you will be unable to return here without this talisman. Only Ra will remain behind to protect the Spirit World because he is safe within his chariot of fire. All of the souls here will depend on you once we are gone. Now go. Make us proud.

“Is that it? No ideas, no clues how to defeat the thousand foot tall colossus? ”

“If heroism were easy, everyone would do it.” Ptah’s armored hand snatches a spiny arrow from the air, mere inches from Horus-Ka’s face. “I am confident you will do what is necessary. Go.” And with that Ptah pushes Horus-Ka into the second circle of flame and into his destiny.

“And now I go to mine. Anansi save some for me.”

“There are plenty to go around, my brother. You know I could not undo what Fate had given him.”

“I know, but you gave him a chance to save the world first.”

The number of lights in the forest increased and the number of eyes those lights came from doubled. And doubled again; and again. Soon the forest was lit and there was no darkness. Ptah and Anansi held the portal open until Horus-Ka arrived. Then the portal closed and was sealed, unable to be opened again. After that moment, no one without the Eye of Ra would be able to enter or leave the spirit realm. This would not help Ptah, who armored with a mighty staff whose head of Anubis, slew any that it touched instantly, a magnificent flaming helm which shot forth beams of the light of Ra, incinerating all it shown upon, whose thews allowed him to strike each hexapedal creature and slay them with a single blow and mighty Anansi, whose webs, fangs, claws, and venom destroyed dozens of these creatures a second, and it was still not enough. Both of these beings were soon overwhelmed and the number of their enemy soon exceeded their ability to slay them, formidable though they both were.

But they were not trying to win. They simply needed to buy some time. This was not the real battle. The real battle was being fought in the heart of a boy they rescued twenty years ago against a monstrosity of stone and magic. Anansi projected a blast of venom and hurled a star from the sky upon a cluster of the enemy. His venom seared their stony flesh and the star destroyed then by the dozens. But after a day and a night, he had begun to tire. Standing upon a mound of the dead, he and Ptah were surrounded and exhausted.

The six legged creatures fell back for the first time in two days. A man-like creature strode forward, lit by the light of glowing sigils. He had two winged serpents flying over his shoulders. His body was gnarled and bent, but glowed with boundless power. He wore an elaborate headdress and metallic bracers on his arms and feet. His face was covered but the area of the headdress where his face might be was illuminated with a pale light which showed the face in shadow, a long aquiline nose and a cruel sharp jawline. His voice was liquid menace and if a human were listening he would have heard a language thought dead, the tongue of the Mayan Olmecs. “Never send a dog to do a man’s job.” The two serpents turned toward Ptah and Anansi and opened their mouths. A sound like the rattling of a thousand bones of the dead being ground to dust, slowly, agonizingly streamed toward the two gods.

Anansi, reached heavenward again and pulled another star from the firmament. The star streaked toward the forest. Exhausted by this final effort, Anansi fell still holding the star only with his will alone.

Ptah’s helm shown again with Ra’s Light but it weakened and guttered. Ptah moved the last few steps toward Anansi and he could hear the star’s imminent arrival. The Great Forest was lit from above as the star grew in the night sky. The remaining hexapeds turned their eyes skyward and the Olmec directed his will upon Ptah and Anansi. And then, Ptah’s light went out and a star incinerated the Forest.

Anansi, Ptah and Horus-Ka are all characters who appear in The Aspect War – Chapter 5: The Spirit Army. You can read the entire tale at the link.

The painting (which happened independently of my story, I just thought it was amazing and parallel this scene amazingly well) was created by a young polish artist who goes by the name Cinoslaw. At the link you will find other really incredible artwork as well. He retains all copyrights to his work.

Buy #30! – GLYF and the Terror of Tusk by Marshall (Calmplex)

| November 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

In the late hours of night Glyf a lone graffiti writer searches the subway tunnels hoping to find a place to practice his street art. Little does he know he will be meeting up with his enemy in “The Terror of Tusk”

Finally my first comic! I’ve been wanting to make comics for over 20 years and now i have finally finished the first in hopefully a long line of comics down the road.

“Glyf and the Terror of Tusk” is a mini comic 6″ x 5.5″ containing 15 pages that are mostly black and white in a traditional action comic style. This comic is suitable for all ages with no profanity and mild comic book style action sequences.

Your comic will ship promptly within 1 business day. If there are any issues feel free to contact me at [email protected]

$3 US $4 Outside US

BUY HERE!

#1 – Small Press Writer Guy

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

#1 - Small Press Writer Guy

Small Press Writer Guy
This character is incredibly talented and can create amazing worlds and characters. Unfortunately, he can’t draw to save his life, so he tends to be overlooked at most convention tables. Sure he can describe the story and get you excited, but in the end, most folks just want a sketch from his buddy – Small Press Artist Guy.

He is often observed behind the convention table, looking over the shoulder of the artist next to him who’s frantically drawing to keep up with the many sketch requests he’s received.

Day# 27 A Pair of Gorths (with writer James S. Allen)

| November 28, 2010 | 0 Comments
#27 A Pair of Gorths, from the novel Alien Artifacts by James S. Allen

#27 A Pair of Gorths, from the novel Alien Artifacts by James S. Allen

#27 A Pair of Gorths, from the novel Alien Artifacts by James S. Allen

(#25)Rok’sla has an excerpt that introduces the Gorths in James S. Allen’s novel Alien Artifacts. Here is another small excerpt from Alien Artifacts featuring the Gorths:

~~~~~

“Behind them, the tortured entry door finally yielded, a large mass of it slumping away to one side.  Two Gorth pirates leapt through the opening, sailed over the still molten metal, and landed in a crouch, prepared to deal instant death with the blasters they waved about with disturbing eagerness.  Enragingly, however, the quarry they had pursued so relentlessly to this place refused to reveal themselves and be properly blasted.  In unconscious tribute to the forces of natural selection that had shaped them from ferociously thoughtless killers to thoughtfully ferocious killers, they refrained from blasting one another.  It was a near thing.”

~~~~~

Afternote: This was supposed to be #26, but I had a power failure and lost my work so I had to start over again. Also the reason the Gorths are uncoloured as yet. No biggie, though. I hope to have a third character from Alien Artifacts ready for tomorrow.

30 Characters Challenger: Ian Struckhoff (Black Label Comics)

Cover to The Deathlings #1, by Reuben Negron

Before I start posting my entries, I wanted to get in a quick introduction, to explain how I’m doing things. (Apologies for this coming midstream, as it were.)

As a writer, I always have to rely on talented artists to bring my characters to life. It’s no different during the 30 Characters challenge. All of the characters I’ll be posting are created by yours truly, and designed and illustrated by some of my artist collaborators and friends. Together, we’ve created the titles under my Black Label Comics imprint, including series The Deathlings, Huginn & Muninn, and The Dark Age, plus the anthology Black Label Comics.

Now back to the Characters– including, shortly, some from me and my friends.

#2 Gru the Turbulent, Slave King of Daliosa

| November 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

#1 Emila Roundtree

| November 1, 2010 | 2 Comments

Character Sketch - 30 Emila Roundtree

Emila Roundtree, poor soul, runs the White Hart tavern in a novel I’m writing for Nanowrimo called Shift.  While not the most exciting character, she is one of the few neutral ones so far in the story, and what’s more,  she didn’t exist as more than a generic barkeep until this afternoon.  Also, I suspect Emila secretly wants to be a pirate.