Thursday, March 25

none will be saved


Qlippothic screamed as her Sephiroth shattered in a cascade of deepest hues as breathtaking as it was heart-wrenching to behold.

Darien lay silent on the floor, his white lab coat scorched and cut to ribbons, oozing with the emerald serum that had replaced his blood as his body continued to smolder.

"Daddy?" Moaned Wren as she crawled out from under him. Looking down, she saw that she was undamaged. Her father had taken the full brunt of the explosion for her. She flipped him over on his back. She covered her mouth as she gasped. She was no stranger to gore at this point, but to see her father in this extreme condition...

Her expression turned to relief as she watched his organs draw back into his body by themselves. His open fractures abruptly snapped back into place. He slowly sat up. Both lenses of his goggles were shattered, but the emerald glow in his eyes shone even brighter than before, cutting through the smoke filling the laboratory like a foglight.

"QLI!" He quickly limped past the equipment array, ignoring the still exploding showers of sparks. He reached the table where his Firstbuilt lay just in time to see the glow of her eyes fade to complete darkness. Her cranium was warped from the explosions inside. Leaving the top of her metallic skull misshapen and and dulled from the heat. Her face, at least, still kept its serene mask.

"Qlippothic..." Darien shook his head as he cupped his hand behind her head, ignoring the sizzling sounds as it burned his flesh. "My God, Qli...I'm sorry...I should have listened to you..." Glowing green tears hissed as they landed on near-molten brass.

"Daddy?" Whispered Wren as she quietly followed him to the table. "Is she...repairable?"

He shook his head sadly. "No Wren. The Sephiroth were unique. Irreplaceable. Her soul was bound to them. Unless..." He tapped his fingers on Qlippothic's chassis as his burning gaze fell down towards the revived urchin. "Wren? How would you like an upgrade?"

A thunder of shattering glass and splintering wood echoed through the consulate as the clank dropped through the roof, landing upright on the laboratory floor with a tremor that shook the Consulate.

"No, Doctor Mason..." boomed the construct as it lumbered across the cracking tiles, "this madness ends now." The pistons of massive claws whined as they stretched forward, opening to reveal the large bores aimed squarely at the Scientist. "By the authority granted me by Baron Klaus Wulfenbach in matters of the Consulate, I place you under arrest for the murder of my sister..."

Ash was unable to complete his sentence as a blur of a tentacle lashed around his exoskeleton and slammed him through a wall of equipment. The tentacle slowly retracted through Darien's sleeve as he sneered at the fallen android.

"Foolish CLANK! You dare to think you can stand in the way of SCIENCE!" His voice grew increasingly bestial as he spoke, almost as much a bubbling roar than speech. Wren stared at the tentacle a moment, then quickly ran for the exit as Darien continued. "Even though her spirit was consumed, the experiment was a SUCCESS!" Darien advanced slowly as crimson wings erupted from his back and quickly warped into misshapen and tattered banners. "For the span of three minutes and forty seconds we recreated the effect of the ancient Arcane Towers that once powered this region!" he cackled. "Magical energy is flooding into New Babbage as we speak! This is a new reality that only *I* fully comprehend! The Steamlands shall BEG me to teach them my revised laws of physics for this BOLD NEW ERA, the PAX MASONICA!!!"

Ash's retort was a crack and flash of his Tesla cannon as lightning wrapped around the Scientist, hurling him backwards through the air. A jagged metal I-beam pierced through his chest as his limbs trembled violently. Several sickening popping sounds erupted from his frame as the electricity dispersed within the next few seconds, leaving his barely recognizable body to hang limp from where he was impaled.

Ash manually pried open the containment unit of his now depleted exoskeleton. With an expressionless metal face he scanned the damage to the room, and focused his sensors upwards at his creator.

"Life signs: Negative. Pandorus neutralized..." He telescoped his legs to reach the ceiling. He wrapped his arms around the charred corpse and began to pull it free from the beam. "I had no choice..."

"NOW YOU HAVE NONE!" Shrieked the shape that expanded around Ash as it sprouted a ghastly array of writhing limbs. The android struggled only a moment before it was crushed inwards. The metal shell fell backwards on its stilted legs to collapse in the corner. Its chest was ripped open, and the dust that was once its soul-chip floated from it to mingle with the thick layers of smoke.

Bony limbs stretched to the floor, dozens of claws on the misshapen appendages scraped deep gashes of chaotic patterns in the tiles. "SUCH DELICIOUS POWER! MORE! MORE!" The roof peeled upwards as the gargantuan horror that was once Darien James Mason savored the screams of terrified mortals outside.

"IT IS ALL MINE!" It screeched through what now seemed a nearly insectoid jaws. "NEW BABBAGE! CALEDON! STEELTOPIA! STEELHEAD! THIS WORLD SHALL BE FOREVER..."

The whistle of mortar rounds drowned out the tirade as the monster shuddered under a barrage of Reality Enforcement Bombs.

Minutes later when the dust cleared, Darien found himself half buried in rubble. He was choking on dust, and coughing very red blood down his chin. Half a brick fell from the mound behind him and glanced off his skull as the ground shook again. Opening a swollen eye as best he could, he strained his neck to stare up at the colossus of Lord Smashington as its eyes shone down on him.

"Don't stop to gloat, Doctor Obolensky," whispered Darien as his chest heaved with rattling breaths. "Just finish this...finish..."

"TURN IT OFF!" screamed Qlippothic as she stared at the images glowing within the metal hoop of Aleister's machine. "TURN IT OFF!"

Koen sat in the corner, his hands covering his face and his tail curled into his lap. Aleister turned a dial and the scene of Lumina, Koen, Amarantis and Wren gathered at a black obelisk faded to black.

"My Timewindow has shown you vat vas der most likely outcome of der Doktor's experiment," stated the vampire calmly. "I could not stop Koen from using der Retroaktif Continuum Device interfered vit der frequencies..."

"But it worked this time," interjected the neko.

"I zink you vill agree, zat in zis instance...der ends justified der meanz, Ja? Huntil vee can cure Darien of der madness, vee must keep you avay from him. At all costs."

Qlippothic lay quietly on the table for a few minutes before she spoke again. "Agreed. I will stay here on the Bloodwing's Revenge and help you devise a plan to cure my father. Now please reconnect my motor processors."

Monday, March 22

More interruptions!

Oh, that little brat. She really made a mess of things this time. Nothing an old Reanimator can't fix.

More interesting news...a mission of mercy (and professional courtesy) may be the perfect chance to conduct a test run of my Paradigm Resequencer. Yes, if the variance is to restricted to the Theta bandwidth, I can limit the power supply...

*wanders off*

WREN! Pack your bags! We're taking a little trip down Memory Lane!

Tuesday, March 16


With a rolling sound, Darien pulled himself out from under the line of machines to his chest and looked up at Wren, who had tilted her head to the side to look down at his goggles curiously.

"Wren, what did I just shout?"

"Something like...'Salad Oil?'"

Dr. Mason extricated himself from the underside of the tangle of wood and brass and set up, the wheeled planks shone under the gaslamps as he adjusted the ropes that held them against his back.

"Hrm. The consistency is about what I'd need..." He rad the tip of his black rubber glove along the inside rim of the massive engraved iron hoop. "Though vegetable oil has a lowing burning point. A light mineral oil, perhaps. I'm sure the Clockwinder knows where to find some."

Wren set the toolbox she held for him down and wrapped her arms around his leather apron. "Father? Will your project be ready soon?"

Darien removed his goggles, revealing his eyes now awash in a malevolent emerald aura. "Oh yes, my sweet Wren. Very soon."

The Scientist chuckled as he patted his your assistant's shoulder. Only a few feet away, Qlippothic's brass frame lay helpless on the table, cables wrapping in an out of her circuitry at every point and weaving back into the machine. Darien had already disconnect her voice modulator as punishment for challenging his theories. Her burning eyes glowed brighter as she watched the ceiling, through which one could see a figure clad entirely in black silently securing a device with suction cups to the skylight.

Monday, March 15

wake me up inside

"I know you do not remember me," sighed the angel as fingers traced the supple skin of the demon's namesake wings, "that is how we agreed it should be until the Age of Steam..."

A glint of recognition shined in the demon's eyes. "Velad?" His straightened his back as his bewilderment gave way to smiles. "VELAD!" He thumped the angel's back between the wings, ringing the breastplate. "The Valkyries must have taken you after all! Now how can help me cure this poor fool..."

"You only remember Velad! Our love began when the world was must remember!" The angel leaned in and pressed his lips to the demon's.

Bloodwing body trembled as lost eons smashed into his reeling mind like boulders falling onto Pompeii.

"I am sorry to deceive you, Beloved..."

The Founder struggled as he realized he was ensnared by a shining cocoon of protein strands emmanating from the cracked shell of the black neuron, the white and gold gossamer threads were melting against his lips and prying their way into his eyes and ears.

"...but I am not truly here. I am only the sum of your forgotten memories of me. To save your son and our daughter..."

"Our WHAT?"

I held the glowing infant in my arms and raised her to the night sky, the shining orbs of light floating around her like a cradle of stars...

"This cannot be!" he screamed. "What deranged trap did I lay for us from ages forgotten! Darien has tied her to his machine!"

A school of diagrams swarmed about the demon in a riot of sirens and bells. Above even that din he heard the barrier high above shatter, soon eclipsed by the jade avalanche of poison reigning down from above.

"Awaken me, Beloved! Summon me!"

He bounced madly from memory to memory, trying to find a single name. "Forgive me Velad! I can't..."


no longer a boy but barely a man was I when I was pursued by


as we kissed the devils cheered and poured shining coin and jewels upon us from the balconies


hold my hand, beloved! push!

His voices of his memories were drowned by the roaring inundation bearing down upon him. The thundering emerald tide ripped him free from the strands as he clawed desperately for something solid to moor himself.


Bloodwing's shape was consumed by the flood, his fading shadow spiraled away in a whirlpool of reanimation serum.

Black tears streamed down the demon's cheeks. "Our child does not stir! We never had a chance to name her, Xavael!"

The angel cradled the silent infant to her breast as she lay. "I sense our daughter is hollow inside, but I shall summon light to grow her soul.

The infant groaned a delicate cry as one pure color after another collected from air around her.

"We shall call her the angels' word for hollow. Welcome to our family, sweet Qlippothic!"

Sunday, March 14

Thursday, March 11

my defenses are down a kiss or a frown

Bloodwing stared at the black crystalline neuron embedded only a cell's breadth away from the nexus of Darien's life-force. He looked back to the soulblade, still glowing in his pale hands. He furrowed his brow as his crimson wings shook in agitation.

A stray thought from the realm of the Spark above flitted down between his feet, and hovered over the neuron, tapping it frantically with its antennae. The translucent image on its body was that of a knife switch on a panel, upon which was hastily etched PULL INCSOF EMRGNCY.

The demon grimaced. "I get the point! Now get out of the way!" The creature darted as the Founder raised his arms and drove the blade downwards, shattering the neuron. His blade dissolved instantly as he covered his eyes from the flood of light now surrounding him.

"Bloodwing?" A gentle voice echoed. "Can it truly be my beloved? After all this time?"

"Beloved...?" Bloodwing felt a hand rest on his lower back and a warm kiss on his cheek. Was that a breastplate pressed against his chest? He resisted the strong unexpected urge to lean into the embrace and purse his lips. He should not be letting his guard down like this, he thought. He hesitantly opened one eye. "Your affections are quite earnest...but forgive me if..." He opened both eyes wide from shock.

"When..." His eyes drifted from the white feathers to the brass armor of ancient cast. He stared slack-jawed into the rain-cloud eyes of a face with with features delicate and smooth as marble, adorned with shoulder-length hair he was at a loss to place between red and blond. He felt his will dissolving in a sugary tide of fascination.

"When did I fall in love with an angel?"

Tuesday, March 2

Did you miss me?


Did you miss me, my friends?

We now have a Second Life 2.0. Why not a Darien 2.0? I'm already the worst-kept secret in the Steamlands, aren't I?

Sure, I may have gained a few pounds, perhaps my mustache needs to grow back a bit...and don't be alarmed by the emerald gleam in my eyes. But yes. The Scientist has been back among you for quite some time. With a lovely little feature, I've woven my secret adventures back into the Caravel, starting here.

I've even taken on an assistant, a poor little match girl I found frozen on the streets of New Babbage around Christmas-time, that I promptly revived. I'm quite proud of little Wren, with her sometimes slightly overzealous desire to serve me that drives the flame of her gaslamp heart.

And it gets even better! Qlippothic has returned from her adventures in the deep aether to power my latest experiment! The three of us are going to put a little magic back into New Babbage!

*cackles insanely for a good 30 seconds*

Oh. Is this thing still on? Sorry.


through my mind I'll spool thread

Bloodwing descended to the region brain-stem, an island of bone surrounding the nerve that jutted skyward like a mighty red oak. Silently, he circled the nerve, his pale feet matching the bone as his burning red eyes searched for the weakest point.

"There." He pointed with an ebony claw to the coils of energy he saw dancing within. "Where the astral cord joins the body. The seat of his mind and his soul. One strike...and he will cease to be. Nothing left for the Boatman..." He hung his head as he pondered in silence. "But what of me? Will I be freed?" He heard no answer, only the rush of Darien's blood like distant thunder.

The Founder bent his left arm, and placed the back of left hand over his heart, palm outward. He clenched his right fist, and brought it to his chest to grasp it with the left hand.

"Soul Blade."

A gout of black and red energy bubbled from his fist to coalesce to a blade the size of a gladius. Bloodwing braced his knee against the trunk and raised his arms upwards to strike.

"Forgive me, Darien..."

"Forgive me, Greyblade, for asking this of you."

Hands crusted in goblin blood ripped open the mail vest of the comerade who lay in his lap, paralyzed. He had already broken the end of the spear that pierced through his back, above his heart. They were the only ones left alive on the battlefield, strewn with the corpses of monsters and the bodies of mercenaries already rescued from misery by the Choosers of the Slain.

"I would ask the same of you, were I maimed this way, Velad. I shall trace a boat around your shell and pile the timbers beneath you, then wait for the Valkyries will return for you."

He lifted Velad's helm and dropped it to the side. The fallen warrior's blond hair fell over his face. Greyblade carefully parted his locks to fall behind him. For a few moment, they chuckled nervously as they stared into each others eyes. Velad's always beaming, beardless smile to a vacant expression, still as pondwater. A pair of his comrade's tears splashed onto his cheeks and rolled down his face.

"No, Greyblade. I am not what I seem. I am trapped here in this world, my spirit barred from leaving. Helpless like this...the scavengers..."

Greyblade nodded. He sensed something was unusual about his companion, and the blow that severed his spine would have killed any mortal.

At Velad's direction, he placed his friend's hand over his heart, just below the splintered shaft. He lifted Velad's lifeless right arm and curled it into a fist, then rested it on his open palm. Greyblade's eyes widened as a shaft of white and gold stretched from Velad's hands, tinged with a spider lattice of red and black.

Greyblade smiled gently as he kept Velad's hands pressed tightly together. "I knew there was something special about you, my friend. I too have a secret..."

Bloodwing shook his head to bring his thoughts back to the present. "I remembered...Greyblade? That was a thousand years could I..." He blinked at the traces of white and gold that traced over his soulblade like saplings rustling in the strong breeze. He looked down. His foot was braced squarely upon a black crystal nestled between the bone and the nerve. A demon's neuron. A lost treasure of Bloodwing's own memories that fell from him like dust from a comet as he passed through the eons to lodge in the bodies and souls of his progeny.

He stared back at his blade, and down again at the crystal, that was causing his foot to tingle with a curious, unexplainable urgency. "Surely...this is no trick of Fate..."