Friday, November 26


Somwhere in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath Steelhead, the total darkness was disturbed by a perfect rectangle of swirling violet hovering in the passageway. Close to the damp limestone floor, a pair of beady rodent eyes stared on in confusion. His whiskers twitched as he sniffed the dank air. His curiosity getting the better of him, he crawled over the beam of the forgotten iron rail for a closer look. He could now see the glow was coming from inside a frame made of cubes of black glass. A hot blast of dry air reeking of sulfur assaulted his nostrils, carrying snowflake-shaped particles of ash trailing drunkenly along. Was that a roar he heard from the other side?

The rat dove for cover as a minecart shot from the portal. The occupant of the cart, a figure in blockish armor, clutched the front rim as the cart landed on the existing tracks, rolling several more yards before it smashed into the dead end of the passageway and falling into pieces. The rider tumbled into the wall and the contents of the cart scattered everywhere.

It was an effort for the man to gather his belongings and rise to his feet. His armor was ridiculously bulky, and lacking in joints for elbows and knees. When he finally stood, his outfit made him resemble a shiny brick. In a swift motion he drove a wooden stick into the limestone. Just as inexplicably the fist sized lump of coal at the other end spontaneously burst into flame, bathing the passage in torchlight.

His gauntlet wrapped around the shaft of a crudely designed pick he had recovered from the wreckage. The business end of the tool was transluscent and glimmered in the light. He ambled unsteadily in his stiff outfit towards the portal and raised his pick high.

"I still have difficulty believing it takes a pick of solid diamonds to break volcanic glass!" he snarled, and smashed the tip into one of the columns of obsidian. The portal shattered into fragments, dispersing the violet glow and descending the passageway into silence.

"That was easier than it should have been." He glanced at the rat as it fled. "A RAT? I haven't seen a rat since I got lost in..."

He was distracted from finishing his sentence when his pick shattered into a small shower of gems.

"The laws are different here! I must be..."

Just then, the shaft of the torch he had embedded in the stone was consumed in flame, and promptly disintegrated, plunging the passageway back into impenetrable darkness.


Monday, November 22

Battle Beneath Steelhead Bay: Extrication

Through the most horrendous series of misfortunes, three members of our family were now helpless and in need of imminent rescue. My firstbuilt daughter Qlipppthic was dissolving in the toxic remains of an ancient abomination on the bay floor. The fallen angel Xavael was nearly consumed by the same substance and withdrew into the body of his mortal host, Velvel Danielovich; who unlike his immortal counterpart required air, of which at the bottom of the bay there was none. My neko son Koen, attempting to rescue Mr. Danielovich in turn, used his hermetic skills of Void Alchemy to pass through the hull of our submerged vessel to rescue him.

However, we seem to be caught in a lethal cascade of failures. We were ambushed by the Illuminautilus, a huge vessel built in the form of a colossal squid, once the centerpiece of my father's pirate fleet and increasingly megalomaniacal schemes. However, I know for a fact that my father is currently in another dimension entirely. Not only does this barnacled juggernaut seem to have risen from Davey Jones's locker on its own accord, but some gigantic organism seems to have filled the cabin and made the ship into its shell.

Our pilots, the gynoids Nova and Six, are trying to wrench our ship free of the monster. As I was hanging onto the rails for dear life, Koen's calculations were thrown off. The Revenge lurched as he phased back in, and his diving suit is now fused into the hull of our ship. I hear him yowling for help through his helmet which leans toward me where it is frozen into the wall!

I lurched forward as Six fired the engines. I wrapped my arms around Koen's helmet. I was barely able to squeeze my fingers between the latch for his helmet. I strained an twisted it free, and the bubble of iron and glass crashed to the wooden deck.

"Do you have Velvel?"

Koen struggled helplessly. "No! I had to let him go or he'd have been sliced in half!"

"Can you squeeze through the helmet?"

It would have been impossible for a human at the odd angle in which he was trapped, but being part cat, Koen was able to wiggle through suit's round metal collar past his shoulders, after which I pulled him free.

"It was either that or the brain jar, son."

"Don't even go there."

"Doctor!" Shouted Nova from the bridge. "Velvel grabbed one of Qli's spheres that floated up from the wreckage and turned back into Xavael! S/he seems to be drawing the rest of the Sephiroth back into hirself!"

I winced at her post-apocalyptic grammar, but my heart sank at the implications of Xavael reclaiming the Sephiroth. Qli's soul was bound to them. If that bond is already severed, will there be anything left of her to save?

Koen grunted as he tried to lift the diving helmet.

"Can ya help me put this helmet back on the suit before..."

And at that moment the ship was battered again. An audible tear an instant later the canvas diving suit flipped inside out and through the helmet, functioning as a mannequin-shaped hose, flailing it's limbs wildly to slap Koen clear across the cabin as it's ripped leg functioning like the nozzle of a hose, pinning me to the wall with a column of icy brackish water which quickly began to fill the cabin!

Thursday, November 18

Battle Beneath Steelhead Bay: In Its Clutches

We had very nearly witnessed the death of an angel. This substance left behind from the destruction of Ya Yimawa dissolves ectoplasm, and it nearly consumed Xavael. The angel was able to retreat within its mortal host before the destruction was irreversible. However, Velvel Danielovich, a mildmannered merchant of Steelhead Shanghai, who left a long record of criminal enterprize and revolutionary activity back in Imperial Russia (so we hope) was very much out of his element at the bottom of Steelhead Bay.

My son Koen grabbed a spare respirator as he used his Void Alchemy to leap through the very solid hull of the Bloodwing's Revenge as if it were an illusion. One of our floodlights kept trained on the man, treading water in his work clothes as Koen swam to his aid. Koen helped him affix the rebreather to his face and began to pull him towards the ship. Koen was safe in his diving suit, but Velvel would quickly succumb to shock and frostbite in the icy depths if he wasn't brought on board soon.

I said to Nova and Six at the helm. "We need to contain this...ambergris. It's toxic enough to be a terrifying weapon in the wrong hands. Qlippothic's life force is embedded in the soul chip, we may still have a chance..."

I was interrupted by a steady pulse of vibration that could be felt throughout the ship.

"That's not coming from us..." Six said as she peered at the engine dials. "That's something outside. Something big."

"Another vessel?" I asked. "Could Lunar have lifted the ship ban for Operation Mongoose already?"

Koen held Velvel, who had slipped into unconsciousness. Koen was pointing to his ear. He must be in pain from the pressurization, I thought. But then Koen pressed the transmitter on his diving helmet.

"Doc, the water temperature just shot up ten degrees! There's something down here using a REDICULOUS amout of energy!"

We saw a column of glowing lights slide into view behind the two. It was far enough away that our lights couldn't make out the outline. It had to be a hundred yards long at least! The mysterious lights vanished, but we could still the pulsing.

"Koen! Get the hell out of there!"

"You don't have to tell me twice!" He activated the heavy water propulsion unit on his diving suit. The challenge was going to be catching him as he phased through without damaging the equipment. I got back to folding up the surgical theatre with renewed haste.

Nova called back to me from the helm. "Get to the aft of the ship and stay away from starboard!"

I dropped my equipment and ran to the back of the ship. The Bloodwing's Revenge shook violently, slamming me against the shelves. I looked out the porthole to see our ship was entangled by something metallic, rusted and barnacle-ridden. A crack in the plating as a tentacle entwined tighter revealed glimpse of pale organic fibers beneath. Was this a ship or a monster? Or something even more hideous?


I turned to stare in horror. I hear Koen's muffled scream through his helmet, which was embedded halfway through the ship's hull!

From the port side, a huge eye pressed against the window. Its black iris contracted as it stared at me. Around it I saw the beast's exoskeleton of shipwrecked plates. My heart froze when I saw the faded emblem of the Mason line over the almost indecipherable markings:


Tuesday, November 16

Beneath Steelhead Bay: The Remains

I watched in horror from the portside window as the half-submerged boxcar at the water's edge finally collapsed, rolling end over end off the precipice and into the brackish depths. We lost precious seconds offloading the nurses Wren, Lo and the traumatized Dr. Beck, but the young ladies had to wheel Dr. Beck's gurney out of range of the Revenge's aft engines before we could pursue the disintegrating lair of Ya Yimawa to its final resting place on the silt layer. After those who disembarked joined Amarantis and the wounded Jagers at the bivouac we had prepared, Nova and Six spun our vessel back towards Steelhead Bay and dove into its murky depths.

That gleam in the ship's floodlights? I would have dismissed it as a scrap from an airship wreck, but a father knows his daughter's mechanical limbs when he sees them, even in that sorry state. Koen looked back at me, still in his black formfitting diving outfit. His ears drooped, and gloom spread over his scarlet-furred face. The widnening ebon-slitted corneas of his furrowed crimson eyes stared back at me in quiet desperation. I could not answer him yet.

Brilliant arcs swiveled methodically as we descended along the trail of rusted metal and human bones left by the boxcar's descent. Was that a flare sinking beneath the water ahead? was the angel. The plan was for Velvel to observe from the roof of his tower, but his alter ego seemed to have a destination in mind.

"Captain Nova? We need to follow Xavael."

"Understood, Doctor."

The craft slowed to a halt, hovering several meters from the glowing angel. Xavael wore no breathing apparatus, wings pulsed slowly as particulates from the sea floor floated around the figure in white. The angel gestured to us. Hands clasped in prayer. A hand pointed to the mass of pearlescent ooze resting on the sea floor surrounded by a concentration of the boxcar's debris, including another piece of Qlippothic's chassis.

The angel gestured, and a glowing staff grew outwards in both directions from his utstretched hand. One end spread into a trident and stopped. Xavael prodded the mass, and his weapon's tines began to dissolve.

"Doc..." whispered Koen as he pressed his gloved paws to the glass. "Those objects Xav makes are extensions of his..."

Outside the ship, the angel's weapon continued to dissolve up the shaft as its owner stared in disbelief at the climbing ooze.

"...his own SOUL!" I shouted. I pounded against the glass, screaming at the top of my lungs in the blind hope that I would be heard through the ship's hull. "LET GO OF IT, XAVAEL! LET GO BEFORE IT DETROYS YOU!"

The angel's horrified face shot back towards me, and pale trembling hands released the weapon, which quickly faded into the darkness. A final flash of light, and a very mortal Velvel Danielovich was left in the Fallen One's place, drowning before our eyes.

Tuesday, November 2

Steal Head - Hanging By A Thread

Koen turned his face away as Qlippothic tesseracted onto the deck of the Bloodwing's Revenge in a blossom of electricity.

"I'm going back down. Increase the air pressure, the water level is rising inside."

The neko nodded, and pulled another lever on the machine that connected the airship by a canvas-like tube to the abandoned train car that became the monster's lair. Koen was ready to wish his sister good luck when he noticed her shoulder was ripped open, her brass-like sheen jaggedly torn revealing the gears and pistons beneath.

Koen gulped nervously as Qli jumped down the tube a second time. It was still too close of quarters to teleport in blind, even after seeing the inside. He leaned into the ship's speaking tube.

"One patient!"

A door to the cabin swung open automatically, and two pairs of small white gloved hands pulled Dr. Beck by his shoulders down the ladder that had been covered with metal to make a chute, just for this purpose. Dr. Mason caught him with a white towel before his head hit the operating table at an uncomfortable angle. His young assistants helped place him on the operating table.

"Checking for life signs...pulse is weak, face is pale...corneas unresponsive to light...mouth is filmy. Rehydrate intravenously."

The tube installed in the corner of the cabin ceiling squealed and Qlippothic's voice could be heard through the squeals and pops of the Marconi waves, but barely understood through violent sounds of ripping metal and wet crunching.

"Attacking with maximum force. Target is absorbing blows. Natural weaponry compromising armor in multiple locations."

As Wren and Lo held Beck's arm and slid in a needle attached to a rubber tube, Dr. Mason cut away the patient's filth-encrusted clothes and sprayed him down with a cleaning solution in a brass cylinder while he searched for wounds.

"No sign of concussion." He murmured as he wrapped Beck in a clean white hospital gown. "The coma must be shellshock...Nurse! Monocle!"

"Attempting to restrain subject." Qli continues. "Physical strength rivals...exceeds my own."

Lo reached across a long tray of shining bladed implements to pick up a glass circle ringed in brass and connected to bronze filigree in the shape of a handle. It was the only piece of jewelry he wore regularly, aside from the Wulfenbach cravat pin he wore on official business. He clutched it and pressed it to his eye as he leaned over Beck, staring straight into his dilated cornea.


Dr. Mason recoiled in horror just as the craft shook from another crash below.

"QLIPPOTHIC! AMA!" He scrambled to his feet and shouted into the voice tube. "Beck's soul is ABSENT! There are TWO astral cords! Triangulating!"

He knelt on the floor squinting into the lens through the hull of the ship. As greenish wisps he could make out the shapes of the Jagers, continuing to fight on despite their horrific wounds. His mechanical daughter's energy spheres shone brightly as she was bent and thrown about the creature's lair like a ragdoll by a force his lens could not see. There was the demon-daughter, pulling a stunned Jager from the muck before he drowned.

"Ama! The beast is using a talisman! Somewhere close to you! Qli! The monster has Dr. Beck's soul in..."

"Understood, Father! Attempting to pry open..."

The young nurses covered their ears as the sound of tearing metal and the monster's roar of hunger made the entire airship tremble.

"The boxcar's slipping into the bay!" Shouted Koen. "We cut the tube or we slide down with them!"

Dr. Mason looked down at the young assistants. "You two. Take Dr. Beck off this ship, now."