Monday, August 26


He could not measure how long he tumbled through the void between time and space. He took solace in the certainty that he had sealed the hull breach before he was torn away. Wherever and whenever Qlippothic and Koen would land, he surmised, they would at least land intact.

"Our construct integrities are compromised!" Qli shouted, her voice distorted in the Paradox around them. "Redoubling Probability Shield Strength!"

He was certain he heard Qlippothic's voice. For barely a nanosecond he saw two wrecked constructs latched onto each other as they careened through the infinite in a trajectory only a Time Lord could possibly chart. He telescoped his limbs in the fruitless hope of finding someone or something. If only he could get some sort of bearing...there. A pinpoint of light in the visible spectrum, on a three-dimensional vector no less. It was following him like a spotlight, even as he flipped himself inside out a few times while trying to stabilize his course. It appeared to be getting larger, or closer. He began postulate if he was falling into a trap until he identified the exact frequency of the light.


"He is not here, Ash Mason."

There was gravity again. He rose from the smooth marble floor. The tall semicircle of stone before him was likewise flawless and the same deep shade of green. At the top of arc, several wizened blue humanoids in orange robes peered down at him. One of them spoke.

"Only you can bring him back." An orb of energy slowly descended to the floor beside him and dissipated, leaving a device behind. "The ring must be recharged so you may both return."

Ash quickly adjusted to the darkness of the Digital Grid. As the Guardians taught him, he held the lantern forward, letting it guide him towards wherever like emanations remained. The terrain was unformatted and treacherous, jagged rocks as sharp and brittle as obsidian. He followed the trail of carnage - ghost images of destroyed machine parts that floated where their controllers were disintegrated, still too radioactive from the destructive blasts to de-rez. Very rarely did programs linger in such a state. The Grid was all too eager to absorb their living energies back into the realm's essence.

But Ryder was not a program. He was human. Ash rested the lantern and fell to his knees when found his comrade's remains.

Ash's eyes cast a red glow on the shimmering identification disc in his hand.

"You did find a workaround...the Guardians told me that the ring will always adjust to fit its wearer. You reformatted your ring into an identification disc and drew energy directly from this plane. But is it still compatible with Oan power batt..."

His modulated voice trailed off as his irises clicked wider. He watched the sparks spiral within the circuitry embedded in the disc. A disc recorded a program's thoughts and feelings. Ash had learned to read the code of the discs. His grip trembled and his voice began to crack.

"Ryder? loved me too? And just like me, you were too afraid...?"

He cradled the disc against his chest. His sobs echoed across the smooth stones.

In a flash he rose to his feet and assumed a combat stance, raising the disc in preparation to throw even as oily tears fell to the ground where he stood. Was that laughter he heard? Or phantoms from the entirety of another man's life that he held in his hand?

He lay the battery at Ryder's feet. Ash turned away, still too shaken to watch as the battery's aura engulfed Ryder's body.

"I have made this same mistake before." He spoke to the disc despite his certainty that nothing inside it could respond. "I swear to you, Ryder. I will never make that mistake again."

Hesitantly he turned to face the power battery again. Nothing remained of his former companion.

"Let me be worthy to continue your duties in your place, Ryder. Like you, I shall craft my own Oath."

He extended his arm until the rim of the disc touched the core of the battery. Sparks danced throughout the circuitry of the disc and traveled through to the lines of his own uniform, green light overwhelming its red hue and even washing over his own disc that was still fastened to his back.

"The Blackest Night where evil spawns
Trembles from the emerald dawn
By my Will I'll set things right
Let there be - there will always be

Hovering near the roof of this dark world, Ash aimed the brilliant arc of the battery at an obsidian cliff face that resembled a tidal wave frozen a moment before the strike. The outline of the symbol of his new charge scorched into the glass. A perfect circle in the center dissolved away, and Ash leaned forward and vanished into the tunnel. Unbeknownst to him, a wildly spinning comet crackling with yellow lightning hurled straight through the portal moments before both the insignia and the tunnel vanished from the cliff's face.

Sunday, August 11

The second wave

I was hard pressed by this moral dilemma. My sworn enemy was being destroyed before my eyes by my new assistant. But this assistant had only recently assumed the form of a little girl. Only now that she has entered her first combat and flown into a battle rage do I see the full extent of her powers.

An explosion of tendrils from her hair continued to toss the massive robotic shell of Cold Dead Hans about like a pewter mug in a tavern brawl. Her petite form was rapidly melting away. Extra sets of eyes and a huge mouth expanded from her torso. Despite my injuries I pulled myself up from behind the crumbled wall where I had sought cover.

"Oh Good Lord! She's going to EAT him! YAGI! STOP!"

But it was too late. She launched herself into the breaking light of day with one gracefully fluid pounce, fully intent on swallowing him whole upon landing!

I was not prepared for what happened next. Hans stretched out a slightly dented arm. His hand appeared to twitch in a sign of disrepair. But when Yagi made contact with his hand there was a flash of light, and she was blown backwards across the basin of the Crater with an inhuman scream. By the time she landed her mass had snapped back into her petite form. She rolled several times before stopping, face down in front of a collapsed column.

"I always suspected that learning the Voorish Sign might someday come in handy..." With the groan and strain of metal and the crumbling of more artifacts as he came to his feet, Hans rose again. His armor was pocked with bullets and the ludicrous decorations he adorned it worth were mostly ripped away. Somehow that unspeakable roll of...what was that, felt? Whatever that was he was using as a mustache remained glued to his face. Perhaps even worse, that audacious mass of red feathers was still dancing on top of his head, taunting like a rude sock puppet every time he spoke!

"You truly ARE, mad, Mason! Only YOU would try putting a shoggoth in a dress!"

He lumbered unsteadily towards me, and I, refusing to forfeit this challenge, rolled over the edge of the wall and miraculously landed on my feet. I stared up at his crude approximation of a face again.

"I am more than willing to continue this battle, Hans."

"So be it!" He reached for his massive jagged blade to find it had been torn away in his misadventure with Yagi. Being faster on the draw by default then, I raked my diamond-encrusted bonesaw across his breastplate. He looked back to me as his hollow chuckle echoed across the crater.

"Is that the best you can do, Mason? Why don't you surrender right now. I might even let you continue to live as my personal..."

Mercifully his gloating was drowned out by the roar of a great cat, immediately followed by the shouts of children. I haven't heard such uncouth raucousness since the end of my three-hour lecture on hygiene to the scamps at Steelhead Elementary!

"MORE children, Mason?"

"Those aren't mine!"

From the edge of the canyon I saw a red neko brandishing a blade on some sort of personal hovercraft.

As he dipped the nose of his conveyance and dove towards us, dozens of screaming, feral children rushed down from behind him, bounding over the jagged rocks and piles of rubble like it was their playground.

"You've made your opinions known, Hans. Like you, I'm in no mood to fight with children today." I drew my opera glasses and focused on the mob.

"Oh good heavens! That one's wearing blonde dreadlocks as a blouse! They might even be..." I cleared my throat. "Cannibals!"

"We'll reschedule," he mumbled as he started lumbering off. I nodded good day to him and started to limp away as fast as I could towards the ornithopter. Which was not far, as I suddenly remembered the ornithopter had been reconfigured as a chain gun by Yagi. Despite my grave reservations, I ran towards Yagi to see what state she was in. I tripped over a rock and went sprawling, turning over just as the screaming reached a deafening pitch...

Saturday, August 10

Not going as planned

When the shimmering arc of my aether-sword reflected off of the iron carapace of my current nemesis known as Cold Dead Hans and shorted itself out on the first stroke, I should have known things were not going to go my way.

After smacking him in his fists with my helmet several times, I'd forgotten about the sword. I fell upon his massive iron hands again, catapulting myself backwards against a crumbling stone column at the expense of several ribs. But it did give me a few vital seconds to come up with a new plan.

Such as little Yagi climbing over a nearby boulder and emptying the contents of a chain gun at my foe.

Splendid work! Such strength for such a small frame to carry a weapon of that caliber and fire off the entire belt without suffering from the recoil!

"Erm...Yagi..." I asked as I sat up and examined the dents in my helmet. "I don't remember mounting a chain gun on the ornithopter...."

She dropped the smoking weapon with a clatter and jumped down from the boulder. She cheerfully ran over to me.

"That WAS the ornithopter! I rebuilt it just like the blueprints you gave me!"

I was at a loss for words. I took the moment to wipe some blood from my face with a handkerchief.

"Just like....? Oh Red Fire! I gave you the WRONG blueprints! You rebuilt our ornithopter into a chain gun! My, what raw Spark talent you must..."

I was summarily booted high into the air by that scoundrel Hans, landing in a nearby pile of rubble.

"IMPUDENT CHILD!" he bellowed, towering over Yagi and crouching to snap his steel jaws at her. "I consider it beneath me to attack one as small as yourself, but since you do seem to be yet another drone in the doctor's arsenal..." and at that very moment with a rusty screech he wrapped his gigantic metal claw around Yagi's torso and lifter her up, shaking her like a rag doll!

"HANS! You COWARD! You unhand that little girl this instant!" I drew my bonesaw from its sheath and raised it level in a direct challenge.

"THIS is no little girl, Doctor! She has proved as much! Scream all you like as I crush one of your"

Indeed, even as he tightened his grip, instead of exploding in a mass of gears and sprigs as Hand would have expected, his steel fingers flowed through her, and she oozed out of his fist like mud, landing in a pink shapeless mass on the ground and reforming into her pretty diminutive self!

With an inarticulate roar the metal giant raised his fists and slammed down on her. Again, he form was displaced but not destroyed, and reformed again.

"No, Sir." She looked up at him with dead calm on her face. "I am not metal. I am something else."

And with that, the locks of her pink hair began to writhe like snakes and expand to frightening proportions!

I stood agape as the tentacles of her hair lashed at Hans, wrapping around the his massive ankles. In defiance of all laws of physics she turned the tables and effortlessly lifted Hans in the air! Her writhing limbs proceeded to thrash him against the stone remnants of the ruins around us, smashing thousands of years worth of forgotten history. But in just this one case I was more than willing to forgive this loss to Archaeology. Hans for all his previous boasting could barely get a word in edgewise.


I had to dive behind the remains of a wall nearby to avoid the shrapnel of steel smashing against rock. I was almost ready to gloat when I heard Yagi utter a battle-cry that chilled my very soul!

"Take THAT! And THAT! Take...take...TEKELI-LI! TEKELI-LI!"

I shook my head in horror and disbelief. No. No. This cannot be! Where did she learn those words? Where...

And that is when the awful truth dawned on me. This little girl not long ago was but a amoebic creature with only a rudimentary intelligence. The Baron had found it in the laboratory of another scientist who, like many of our ilk, had met an unfortunate demise. An Antarctic laboratory. Since the creature posed neither threat nor resistance, they brought it back to the Steeltopian Embassy, where my son Ash who was stationed there took responsibility for it as a pet. The creature reminded him of something from the Cthulhu mythos, and as such named it Yoggy, after Y*G-S*TH*TH, the entity beyond space and time whose name I dare not fully transcribe here.

What horrid mistake have we committed by adopting this once-benign being? How has my demonic ancestor compounded it a thousand times by granting it intelligence and an affinity for a human form? The threat of one malevolent cyborg paled in comparison to the newly revealed danger before me, even as my nemesis was being defeated. I feared what havoc my small champion would do next.

"Founder preserve us..." I whispered, "Yagi really is a SHOGGOTH!"