Wednesday, July 31

The Challenge

It was foolish to try and scale the cliffs of the Crater. I decided to take Yagi with me in the ornithopter. I equipped myself in my old Dominion uniform with an array of equipment. Aether sabre. Bonesaw. Shears. Reanimation serum. Inoculation pistol. Yagi had...a pink dress and matching colored katana with sheath. I’m not even going to ask.
Just before daybreak we hovered from the roof of the Consulate in our aircraft and rose towards the smog-smudged morning. As we soared over the edge of the crater we were greeted with an array of flashes from below. I took some evasive maneuvers but soon realized this was not the first weapon in Hans’s arsenal. They were cameras. Mr. Hans invited the press.
They were lined up all along the edge of the crater. Adding to the chaos was a spotlight blinding me from above. A dirigible! Hans wanted to make a public spectacle of this. Such a glory hog! Fine then. So much for the element of surprise.
As I struggled to maintain control of the ornithopter the tip of my right wing clipped a spire of melted steel. I made an abrupt landing, bouncing a few times before spinning to a halt. I climbed out of the cockpit and passed Yagi the blueprints.
“You seemed to show some Spark talent on the tests...see if you can fix this.”
She unfolded  the paper until it covered her completely.
“But Doctor...?”
“Just see what you can do, my dear.” I slid down the wing and  
Ah yes, there he was. Just as described. If not uglier. It looked like he's welded on more boilerplate than...Boilerplate! And yes, he was leaking liquid nitrogen. It was like he brought his own fog machine. Well, lets get this over with, I thought. The zeppelin had arclights aimed at both Hans and myself, so the challenge was navigating the ruins instead of actually finding him.
"Cold Dead Hans, I presume?"
"None other! Oh and you brought one of your little DOLLS with you! How pathetic!"
"What's pathetic is you being so hopelessly insane that you can't admit the limitations of your own invention, even after it kills you! Look at yourself! You're a one trick pony...just like the Deadly Ringer! And the same way I smashed his Sonic Neuron Disruptor I’ll leave you in a pile of useless scrap!”
“Now THAT sounds like a challenge! Now, just to make things fair...”
A detonation. A flash. A crushing pain in my skull.
“It’s just a Reality Enforcement Device, Doctor. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with them. This will be purely a battle of our Sparks, not muddled by your demon-worshipping sorcery!”
“I’ll have all the time in the world to lecture you on the false dichotomy between Science and Magic after I extricate your cortex from that walking junkpile you call an exoskeleton! And by the way...why the HELL did you invite the media?”
He pointed his elongated gauntlet at me. “I want the ENTIRE Steamlands to witness your defeat! Once I rid the world of you, the rest of your family will fall one by one! Even the mighty Bloodwing!”
“You really ARE a narcissist aren’t you? Are you trying to make this into one of those dreadful so-called ‘reality shows’ that the mainlanders...”
“ENOUGH!” he bellowed. It’s RUMBLE!
The sounds of drums and horns echoed through the crater. It was coming from the zeppelin.
“You’ve got to be kidding me...”
Another voice boomed from the airship.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh for the love of...COPYRIGHTS, man! COPYRIGHTS!”



Thursday, July 25

The Crater

That was the proper name for it. Calling it "Old Babbage" immediately branded you as a gawking tourist. Perhaps a lecture is in order.

New Babbage is indeed built upon the ruins of an older civilization. Most citizens never see the remnants of what came before. They're not curious enough. Nor can they see through the ever-present smog through the barriers at the colossal expanse at the very edge of their city.

Or, if you care to try your hand at the sheer suicidal cliffs, you can scale the Crater. The Clockwinder has forbidden anyone to go there, of course. But of course some fools cannot be stopped.

The legends say these predecessors enslaved beings of pure energy to power their machines. Ultimately, these beings broke their chains and laid their captors to waste. Having seen this happen to Cala Mondrago with my own eyes, I am not inclined to disbelieve. A handful of "lightning genies" wiped an oasis off the map. How many would it take to shatter an empire?

I must assume the Crater is where these spirits were chained. Among jagged crags and crumbled structures one can still unearth artifacts from that lost culture. Some pieces that are recognizable hint their technology was at least as advanced as what we have today. A sobering reminder that all we Steamlanders have accomplished can so easily be lost.

What is not shared information even among the treasure hunters...excuse me, amateur archaeologists, is that some of these artifacts still radiate magic. At this point Joe Babbager will cover his ears. No room for magic in the City of Progress! Well I've got news for you. Despite your city's best efforts and detonation of those accursed Reality Enforcement bombs, there are things...and people in this city that cannot be explained any other way. Ask the proprietor of the Bucket of Blood about the unseen forces, if you dare. Peruse the Special Collections Library at the local branch of my alma mater, Miskatonic University, if you are willing to pay with your sanity. There are numbers that our math-centric Clockwinder simply cannot calculate. Just ask my son Koen.

This is where my new enemy has thrown down his steel gauntlet. It is a challenge I cannot ignore. His victim gave me a sketch of this monstrosity who calls himself Cold Dead Hans. A brain jar in powered armor leaking liquid nitrogen...I don't think he'll be difficult to spot.

I'll have to pack carefully. I took my old uniform and combat medic gear out of mothballs. I'm certainly going to need them. I'm not going to tip my hand and reveal what...and who else I'm going to bring to this duel.

Hans. I am ready for you.

Thursday, July 18

The Patient and the Prodigy

[Notes from Dr. Mason's files]


PATIENT: Miss Tanis di'Gaetano. Middle-aged. Herbalist (Occultist?) of family tradition. Patient asked to see me specifically. Brought to Wilde Hospital by airship from ruins located at [REDACTED].

INJURIES: Multiple fractures. Frostbite. Anomalous scars (see below). Patient was heavily sedated but I was able to gather some information about her attacker. She was collecting rare herbs known to grow among the ruins. Frostbite on hips (and it's a record heatwave in the Steamlands).

"The mushrooms I found were writhing...almost animate, angry, but gleaming metallic gold a bristling with spikes like cacti. The parade marshal thing in massive body armor slammed me onto my side right on top of one so it pierced my flesh and organs under the ribcage on my right side."
NOTE: Punctures on right side are fully healed! She should have died from a punctured lung! Taking samples of yellow residue on healed wounds to the Consulate for analysis. Obviously this fungus have regenerative properties. Could this be a non-addictive alternative to Mason Reanimation Formula?

"Then it put [it's] gauntlets on [my] hips and [unintelligible] roared hearty laughter. It was gloating and taunting when I woke up in vicious pain..."

Frostbite pattern does indeed suggest giant mechanical hands. The "body armor" is radiating cold? At least 12 feet tall...

parade marshal thing in massive body armor slammed me


Spoke to Baron. While a Jaeger might indeed decorate body armor with cords and medals, no Jaegers in these Steamlands match that description. Who would decorate a robot like a Hussar or Jaeger? Need a description of the head...hat? Helmet? Jaegerspeak?


ASH NO! Let's get that one out of the way...

Clara Tyngvassen? No. Decorated with cord, not pink ribbons.

Hotspur O'Toole? Nope. Wonderfully silly idea.

Dr. Obolensky I almost wish it was but he's still dead. Spoke to him by ouija board in March. More's the pity. Rogue creation escaped from his lab before it exploded? Unlikely. Would have seen it by now.

Iason Hassanov? Absolutely not, but could there be other wanderers from Hassanov Empire?

Doctor Steel Sadly no. He would have been singing. Still MIA.

Drosselmeyer Possibly? NO. Called Reanimators Guild. Still in custody.

Aliester Mason...
Possibly? Antiquated decorations are his style. But it doesn't sound like clockwork armor. I could see him donning a knight's armor to protect him from the sun. Interest in alchemy...looking for new ingredients for a bloodwyne recipe?

Marcus? Father? Both unaccounted for...

Wired inquiry to Union of Mad Scientists. Had to pay up on back dues. BLAST! There goes my absinthe budget!

 WILDE HOSPITAL 16 July Patient is improving. Further description of attacker:

"Huge metal mask with a permanent grin and moveable lower jaw. Helmet, yes, rather Trojan, with a huge dark red feather plume on top. (I did say parade marshal.) I didn't get the impression anything was inside but maybe a brain encased in steel."

He told her he was issuing a challenge to ME.

(PLEASE don't let this be family member!)

N.B.W.C. 17 July Telegraph facsimile from U.M.S.H.Q.

PATENT: Portable Liquid Nitrogen Cold Fusion Reactor for Powered Armor

Patent does not include Brain in Jar.
Patent REJECTED due to heat differential issues. Leaking Nitrogen. Deadly to user.

Hans joins Guild of Evil Geniuses. No surprise there.

Registered Villain Name: COLD DEAD HANS (Seriously? SERIOUSLY?)

DISCOVERY: Tests confirm mushroom residue contains healing properties (see attached report).

LIKELY SCENARIO: Hans refuses to see flaws in own invention, fatally injured. Hoarding mushrooms to stay alive? Undead?


RESEARCH: "Surgeon Spores" used by pre-Babbage civilization. Thought extinct. Side effects described as "severe" but no details.

N.B.W.C.18 July

"YAGI MASON" (???)
Young child (girl) found wandering Wulfenbach Island. Claims to be Ash's companion. Delusional? Prank? Ash's amorphous pet "Yoggy" is missing. Not unusual occurrence. Conducting tests...

RESULTS: UNICELLULAR!!! Pseudopods. Massive strength. Completely malleable. She is/was Yoggy.

She knows Mason history! BW's gift... FOUNDER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE THIS TIME?

Qli, Ash, Koen still missing.
Velvel: "the angel is not with me"
I refuse to summon the Founder. He's caused enough trouble!
Is there anyone else available? 

Halting construction of Quantum Synchronizer I was building to rescue my children. I'll take it with me.

Yagi has wrecked my lab. Entirely by accident mind you. Luckily still under my annual repair budget. But still, can't keep her here. Can't risk another explosion. I have no choice but to take Yagi with me. She may prove an asset. She seems to have Ash's knowledge of firearms...

Sunday, July 14

Yoggy's Tale

I am Yoggy. I do not have a shape. Ash is metal. Ash has a shape. Ash worked at the place and took care of me and I guarded the place. Ash chased me and it was fun. The place belonged to Baron. Baron has a shape. Frauley also came to the place. Frauley has a shape. Jagers came to the place too. Jagers wear hats and have big shapes. People fought by the first place, so we left. Ash went to a new place very high up in the sky where things do not fall. He took me with him.

When things do not fall I can make shapes. Look at me Ash! I have a shape! I have legs and arms and head and body just like you!

Ash is busy. Always busy. Looking at things. Going places. He does not see my shape.

Where is Ash? Qli came and took me to a place where things fall again. This place has a mountain that bleeds fire. I see the Baron-flag at the place just like the first place. I cannot make a shape here. Qli tells me Ash is gone. Now Qli is gone.

No. NO. Ash is not gone. He is here. See the closet? I open the closet. Ash is metal. These pieces are in the closet. Ash keeps extra pieces for when he loses a piece. Here are feet and legs and other pieces. Ash is not gone. I will put his pieces together and Ash will be here. Ash will play with me again.

This tall round thing is the chamber. The chamber is where Ash sleeps. I sleep in a cage but the cage does not stop me because I have no shape. Ash sleeps in the chamber when he is broken and comes out fixed. I push all the pieces in the chamber and press the buttons.


It does not work. Why? Silly Yoggy! Ash forgot the shape!

I am going in the chamber with the pieces. I am in the pieces keeping them together. Ash needs a shape. I press the buttons inside. It is hard with to press buttons with a shape that is not yours.


***LOADING: VOCAB.mem...MATH.mem...ETHICS.mem...MASON.mem... WULFENBACH.mem... STEAMLANDS.mem...



All these things where I think! This is why Ash was so busy! He was thinking of so many things! I do not know all of his things but I know a lot. I know this will not work. That is why I stopped.

There is a voice outside the chamber.

"ASH! Have you returned?"

I know the voice. It is Bloodwing. I open the chamber.


I step out of the chamber. I try to walk but I fall and flow out of the metal. I still have no shape.

"What is his monstrosity of a PET doing in here? What is the meaning of this!"

I speak. I knew a few words before and I know more words now.

"I try to fix Ash. I put Ash together but no Ash. Chip missing."

"Ash...did not tell me you spoke."

"Now I speak. Now I find Ash."

"Ash is lost to us. Lost in time and space. No where. No when."

"No. We find Ash."

"Your loyalty is commendable. But if here were anywhere still alive I would sense him."

"The Doctor Mason will make a new Ash!"

"Now listen here, you...whatever you are. Ash was born from a series of accidents stemming from my illness and very painful death. I will NOT face the fires of Apollo again to make another such being. Even if I did...and even if it worked the same way as would not be your Master."

"Then I will wear his shape and look for him!"

Bloodwing yelled. He was angry. "Put his components away where you found them! If you adored him as your Master then do not disgrace his memory by tossing his armor about like toys!"

He turned to walk away. I grabbed his leg. Ash would say words at a picture of Bloodwing because Bloodwing was his Master as Ash was my Master. I do not understand all the words but I know the important ones.


It got dark outside. The ground was shaking. Bloodwing's eyes started glowing.

"You know the Oath and understand what it means. You swore your fealty to your own words...and of your own free will. This I cannot ignore, even from as peculiar a creature as yourself. What shall I give you as a reward?"

"I want a shape! I want a shape so I can find Ash!"

"Wherever Ash is now, he should be proud of you. Yes, in return for your loyalty I shall give you a new form. It shall be young so that you have time to learn, something Qli and Ash never got to have. Do you have a name?"

"Ash gave me a name. He calls me Yoggy."

"Ya'Gi? That is a beautiful name. You shall have a girl's shape then. Do you see the mirror?"


"Do you see the girl in the mirror?"


"Touch the girl in the mirror, Yagi Mason."

I flowed to the mirror and touched the girl picture. I fell. Bloodwing is gone. The girl in the mirror is fallen too.

The girl is me.