Thursday, December 30

the year that was

Has it really been a year since I came out of seclusion following my return from exile? Has it truly been a year since I liberated Wren from the cold embrace of Death?

My research in New Babbage for Baron Wulfenbach was hampered by the Reality Enforcement Devices being used wantonly around the city by magiphobic miscreants! As I became more dependent on my reanimation formula due to damage sustained in my return, the life-renewing compound began to dangerously unravel my sense of reason. I became convinced the only way to make New Babbage safe for my brand of research, as well as supernaturals of all stripes, was to build a Paradigm Resequencer to usurp administrative control of the local laws of physics. So mad had I become that I had coerced my firstbuilt daughter Qlippothic into serving as a power source for the device!

Unbeknownst to me, Bloodwing’s spirit re-emerged from the conflagration of the destruction of Erebus as his original enchantments were set to do, inside his Seventh Son (meaning, myself). However, instead of being able to control me as he did before, he was preoccupied trying to rescue my brain from the inundation of the reanimation formula, which was mutating me into an abomination my studies call a Pandorus.

As the Elder raced through my neurons searching for a cure, he discovered lost memories of his own: he was once betrothed to a fallen angel. Bloodwing was able to call out the angel’s name to awaken hir just before he was engulfed. That angel was Xavael, who had assumed the form of a mind-mannered but nonetheless shady merchant named Velvel Danielovich, who had already followed Bloodwing’s trail from Russia to Steelhead!

As all this was going on, Koen (who had escaped from Erebus and abandoned his post as co-ruler of that realm) was spying on me, but my assistant Wren was on his tail. Koen finally fell into one of her bear traps, but before he bled to death he was saved by none other than Aleister Mason, the very vampire that had once Embraced him.

Aleister patched his wound, and showed him what would be the tragic result of my experiments in the Time Window onboard his dilapidated clockwork airship, The Bloodwing’s Revenge. It was a nightmare world (which we now call in shorthand the Most Likely Scenario) where I had succumbed to my madness and murdered Qlippothic and Ash as I grew into a Pandoran monster, just before being put down by Dr. Obolensky’s mechanical colossus, Lord Smashington.

Koen crept into my laboratory and ripped Qlippothic from my equipment and extracted her via cables connected to The Bloodwing’s Revenge. As they made their escape they were ambushed by demon-wasp drones of the Vesprium, an ancient foe of Bloodwing's kingdom. The Revenge had stumbled upon the Vesprium’s aerial hellgate, a beachhead for the invasion of Earth!

Determined to find my daughter and the vampire, I journeyed to New Toulouse to seek guidance from the spirits there. They put me in contact with the current ruler of Erebus, the Vortex. Only when the Vortex tricked me into opening a package containing my father Jeremiah's still-animated hand did I discover that the Vortex was being controlled by my brother Marcus.

When my father’s hand throttled me, it absorbed all of the reanimation serum in my body, enough to regrow Jeremiah's body entirely and cure me in the process. Jeremiah had also unintentionally absorbed the spirit of Bloodwing that was trapped inside me. During my father’s shocking physical transformation into Bloodwing I saw the Vesprium attack the Vortex on the other side of the portal I’d created. Bloodwing recognized this as part of a concerted attack and flew off to assist the Revenge. My gestalt daughter Amarantis found me too weak from the ordeal and sent me back to Wilde Hospital in Babbage to recover.

By the time Bloodwing arrived at the invasion site, the Revenge had been crippled to the point that Koen and Qlippothic had to combine their abilities to carry the ship forward in time to escape. In transit through time, they spied another version of me held prisoner in a strange realm called Fallen London. Their ship arrived in the Twentieth Century outside the Dieselpunk capital of Seraph City, where by a seemingly spectacular coincidence Qli’s oldest friend/adopted sister Nova Sakigake and her lover Six were running a junkyard and repair business. Their ship, the Sixes and Sevens, rescued the Revenge from a nosedive after the ship arrived in broad daylight, causing Aleister to sparkle…and explode...shattering the wooden hull.

The three gynoids went to work upgrading what was left of the Revenge. Qli journeyed to town to purchase equipment and a future (but apparently unchanged) version of Wren slipped her a crumbling copy of a newspaper from Qli's year of departure. She judiciously memorized the information about the Vesprium and erased the rest of it from her memory after she incinerated the paper. She kept the encounter secret from the rest of the crew.

Koen journeyed to Seraph City to…explore. He spotted Wren as well, selling newspapers on the streetcorner. Still smarting from the leg trap back in New Babbage, he gave chase, racing up to the roof of a skyscraper where he was cornered by a swarm of future-Wren’s clawed bionic rabbits! He was saved only the intervention of the Regent, Seraph City’s resident Time Lord…who was in fact an elderly version of Koen himself!

The Regent told Koen that the Revenge was currently in the future of the Most Likely Scenario that the younger Koen had just witnessed through the Time Window. Further, it was the Regent who pulled Nova and Six from elsewhere in the timestream to be at their rescue point, so that the Revenge could be rebuilt and return to the Steamlands to defeat the Vesprium. The Regent gave Koen his staff to use to close the hellgate upon their return.

Back in time, over the skies of the Steamlands, Bloodwing was reunited with his lost love Xavael, pushing their magicks to the breaking point in a desperate attempt to repulse the Vesprium fleet. Bloodwing would have plummeted to his death if not for the intervention of Iason Hassanov’s aerial ironclad. The colossal Vesprium Queen herself squeezed through the hellgate as her drones were being vanquished to destroy the demon and angel personally…with Bloodwing’s son Vortex still impaled on her stinger!

Bloodwing and Xavael were spared the fate of the Queen’s venom by the return of the fully modernized Bloodwing’s Revenge along with Nova's ship, the Sixes and Sevens. While the Queen was distracted, the angel and demon pulled apart the Vortex collective to set them free. Koen’s eight siblings took flight and escaped, but the falling Marcus Mason who had taken Koen's place in the collective was caught in midair by Darien’s robotic raven assistant Kane Qork. Marcus refused to be trapped in a brain-jar where his body-stealing powers would be held in check, and purposely made Kane deliver a fatal wound. Marcus plummeted to the sea, but was swallowed whole by the mysterious Illuminautilus that waited below.

Koen used the Regent’s staff, tethered by an energy line back to the Time Window on the Bloodwing’s Revenge to reverse the polarity of the hellgate, drawing the Queen back through the portal. Bloodwing’s spirit was pulled out of Jeremiah’s body as well and vanished when the hellgate collapsed.

The hellgate’s energy was channeled through time to the MLS Seraph City and into the Regent’s duplicate staff, which he used to save his Earth from the tide of obilivion set in motion by Qlippothic’s destruction at his world's point of divergence from ours. Xavael appeared as he collapsed to help him regenerate. Meanwhile, Bloodwing reincarnated into the body of an urchin far below, bringing the tale of the Most Likely Scenario to a close for us.

Jeremiah returned to Erebus with Koen’s siblings to search for Bloodwing, and Jeremiah also made a noble but doomed attempt to rebuild the underworld kingdom of Erebus as a democratic republic. Betrayal is commonplace in that realm...

The remaining Masons, including Amarantis, turned their attentions back to Steelhead to help hunt down the primordial horror Ya Yimawa (referred to in dread as “Old Steal Head” by the local scamps) that was preying on the townsfolk. The refurbished Bloodwing’s Revenge drilled a hole in the monster’s lair - a half-submerged boxcar on the shore of Steelhead Bay as part of a coordinated effort with Baron Wulfenbach’s Jagerpatrol to both rescue the enthralled Dr. Ryne Beck and defeat the monster. Both objectives were achieved, but Yi Yiwama tore Qlippothic apart in the process, leaving her soul chip to slowly dissolve in the monster’s life-force dissolving muck left behind in his destruction as the boxcar.

As the Revenge searched for Qli’s remains, Xavael was nearly destroyed by Steal Head’s toxic remains. The Revenge were attacked by the Illuminautilus, a mechanical nightmare that was formerly Jeremiah Mason’s mobile undersea base. A defective clone of Jeremiah had been left to grow inside the vessel after it was sunk by a sabateur. The clone had become a Pandorus, expanding to fill the interior of the ship until the vessel became the creature’s shell. It consumed the contents of Steal Head’s lair, including Qli and the Ya Yiwama's soul-dissolving compounds.

As Qli was preparing for oblivion, she was saved by the dying Marcus, who was trapped in the Illuminautilus with her. Marcus revealed that he and Darien were mortal enemies even in childhood, not raised separately as they were tricked into believing by their father’s memory-erasing devices. Marcus also revealed the source of their brotherly hatred – that he may in fact be Koen’s biological father. [I refuse to discuss this. -DM] Before his spirit passed on, Marcus gave Qli his genetic code, which her nanobytes used to build a human body with Marcus’ unique abilities intact to protect her spirit from dissolution.

Monitoring the battle between the Revenge and the Illuminautilus from orbit aboard my aethership the Clockwork Caravel, my construct son Ash broke the spirit of my orders to stay with the ship under any circumstances. He piloted the ship full steam and sails into the atmosphere where the Caravel literally disintegrated around him, and he hurtled through the atmosphere like a meteorite all the way to Steelhead Bay where he purposefully collided like a cannonball into the Illuminautilus at maximum velocity, thereby destroying it.

Qlippothic was rescued from the belly of the beast, and much to our surprise she had attained a human form. This form was stable until a few days ago. Now she can no longer control the nanobytes that are shifting her back and forth piecemeal between her human and android forms. Koen is flying her to a steampunk city in the desert called Cala Mondrago to recover until Nova and Six come back with replacement parts for the Revenge. Hopefully they can repair Qli’s nanobytes as well.

Did I mention Bloodwing was back? Apparently he was trapped in a world made entirely of cubes, and constructed a portal of obsidian and “redstone” to make his way back to our world. He has yet to recover from his ordeal in the Minecraft world, so his powers are still very weak. Last I heard he was staying with Mr. Danielovich but considering a Sheriff position in the Dakotas (a new steampunk Wild West sim).

Thank you, from our family to yours, for allowing us to share our adventures with you! May the exploits of Mason Labs and House Bloodwing continue to enthrall you next year and for many more to come!

Thursday, December 23


Ash hesitated a moment before he opened the Consulate door. The Jäger on staff opened it from the other side with a wide toothy grin. The robot stood to attention and saluted.

"I read hyoor report! Using your hyoor body as a missile, Ja! Vot a great Jäger hyoo made, Ash-Lad! Velkum back to Schteeltopia!"

Ash accepted his vigorous steel grip of a handshake.

"Tenk hyoo, Herr Veles." He replied in the Jäger accent out of respect, though lacking fangs himself. "I was under orders not to abandon the Caravel, so I had no choice but to re-enter our atmosphere to save the Masons."

"Hyoor vater muscht be a bit upschet, Ja?"

"Collateral damage is inevitable," he replied in a deep modulated tone. "A sign of a good war, as you say. We are more concerned with Qlippothic's altered state."

The Jäger furrowed his shaggy green brow. "She ist hyooman now, Ja? Not invinschible like ush?" He chuckled with a bestial snort thrown in for good measure.

"I am afraid so. There is nothing I can do to help her now, so I spoke with the Baron after raising the Bloodwing's Revenge, and have returned to my station to assist the Consulate and the Emperor."

"Very gut! Now schtop schtanding out in der cold! Hyu gots ischicles on hyu!"

Ash crouched as he slipped through the human-sized doorframe.

"No holiday decorations?"

"Hyoor friend keeps eating dem!" He pointed up the iron spiral staircase.

He head burbling sounds from the staircase above.

"Yoggy!" Ash strode to the staircase. He looked up and was immediately knocked to the floor by an amorphous blob with a gigantic maw of disturbingly human-looking teeth.


The creature's call was loud enough to make the Consulate shake. Veles covered his hat with his furred hands as flakes of plaster and white dust fell from the ceiling.

Lying straight as a board on the marble floor, Ash's monocle rotated upwards to scan his companion more closely. This is the first time he had ever heard Yoggy attempt human speech.

"I am happy to see you too, Yoggy," he continued as the beast created from a forgotten Spark's lab lapped at Ash's exposed circuitry with its huge tongue, throwing off showers of sparks. "I measure from your weight on my abdomen that your mass has increased by 21 percent since I saw you last."

"burblburbpburble," it replied insistently.

"And..." Ash flared his nostrils. "You are in dire need of a bath."

With that, Yoggy stood up as straight as an amorphous blob could, as if imitating his caretaker's normals stance, then in a blur slithered it's way back up the staircase.

"Do not make me use the firehose again!" He raced up the stairs as a smirking Captain Veles exited the Consulate for an extended lunch, wishing to get neither his fur nor his hat waterlogged.

Tuesday, December 14

Battle Beneath Steelhead Bay: Aftermath

Herr Baron,

Yes, you are correct. The full force of Ash colliding with the Illuminautilus was indeed the killing blow. The calculations it must have taken for him to project himself as a missile from orbit are truly mind-boggling. This is another one of those victories he will never brag about that cause one to step back and be grateful that he is on Our Side.

The Revenge was helpless in its coils at the time of impact. My improvised sealing of the hull was a temporary measure at best. The shockwave snapped our vessel free of the beast (with tentacles still attached) but also wrecked what was left of the engines. Both craft sank to the bay floor. Three Mason ships destroyed in one battle. Both my aethership the Caravel, and Aleister's retrofitted Revenge were both sacrificed to defeat the vessel that was once my father's. My mind still reels when I reflect on this. Nova, Six, Koen and I finally did abandon ship, purposefully flooding the cabin it in order to float to the surface, where your lifeboats were waiting for us. Again, my gratitude to Frau Lowey and the Jagerpatrol.

I was still in shock from all that transpired to understand what Frau Lowey was trying to tell me about Qlippothic. When we reached shore I approached Ash, who to be honest did not look in much better shape than the Revenge. His limbs were shorn down to the skeletal structure. His jaw dangled uselessly from the side. I stopped in my tracks as I beheld the shivering figure wrapped in a blanket in his arms.

"Who is this?" I asked. "Why is she wearing Qlippothic's faceplate?"

She groggily reached out to me, and I caught her pale, trembling hand in mine. There were goosebumps all the way down her arm.

"Genetic transfer complete..." She whispered as she stared up at me with eyes as blue as my own through the metal face. "All systems...functional..."

Wednesday, December 1

Battle Beneath Steelhead Bay: Earth Below Us

Far above the clouds, a magnificent space-faring vessel reminiscent of the galleons of old floats in the darkness of space. This masterpiece, for all its glory, is almost completely abandoned; save for a single android.

His name is Ash. He is a juggernaut of brass and steel, an accidental creation harvested from a tragic clash of magic and science. Since his moment of sentience he has unquestioningly accepted any duty offered to him. As a member of the Steeltopian Guard he helped to thwart a revolution. His valor in service to House Wulfenbach led the Jagers to adopt him as one of their own.

The escape of an exiled family. The ultimate weapon of Spark vengeance, interrupted. An interstellar mercantile trader. Explorer and rescue craft. The Clockwork Caravel has been all these things. For over a year Ash has kept solitary duty. On the bridge he maintains control of the ship's functions from a single seat with a combination of telescoping forearms and brutal jury-rigging scores of levers and dials with steel wires. He adjusts a dial to the rise of static and a cacophony of voices.

"Hull breach sealed! It's a good thing I brought the elephant clamps!"

"DOC! What are ya doin' with elephant clamps on a pirate ship? Wait, scratch that! I don't even wanna know!"

"Doctor! This is Captain Nova! We're still trapped by the Illuminautilus underwater and it's destroyed our cannons!"

"Velvel to Revenge. Xavael tells me the magic orbs are safe...but...Miss Qlipppthic is..."

Ash pulls the wooden lever for the aether engine with such force than it snaps. The splinters float in the cabin around him as he aims the vessel towards the Agni sector.

The reflective solar sails fold inward and the masts tilt to lie across the deck. Arcs of emerald dance across the engine array welded to the aft. The sparks ignite the void of space, propelling the ship behind a green nimbus of fire. The bow of the ship begins to glow. Red to blue to white, blazing a bright trail as it scrapes through into Steamland skies.

Ash pulls a clutch, drawing the masts straight again. Sails pop open and glow bright as the sun for a minute and a half, adding drag to re-entry before the sails shred into confetti. Fourteen seconds later the masts combust and shatter and are lost in the aether-flames that widen and spread over the aft of the ship.

The pilot's gleaming hands keep the brass-handled joystick steady, even as the rest of the ship shakes violently around him. In his tight personal quarters, the rows of glass figurines strapped to the shelves (forged in the furnace from Dr. Mason's empty absinthe bottles) begin to glisten. Delicate transparencies of friends and foes alike liquefy and merge.

Outside, the engines sputter and the Caravel loses its arc, plummeting towards the Grid. Levers, switches and dials in the empty cockpit pass threads of galvanic energy across the wires in intricate dances spanning microseconds before the entire chamber explodes, along with the rest of the Clockwork Caravel. The blossom of emerald flares in the skies, and far below a trail of ball lighting heralds Ash's return to Steelhead. Retaining his velocity he folds space, he pulls himself tight into a ball as the shockwave of metallic frame slamming into the head of a colossal cybernetic squid echoes across Steelhead, shattering windows and causing minor landslides of boulders and stacked lumber.

From the roof of Velvel's Shanghai Bazaar, the proprietor again loses his balance from the shockwave and tumbles over the shaled roof. A second later, he smiles as he levitates to several yards above where he fell, the brass contraption strapped to his back spewing jets of violet energy downwards behind him.

"Now THAT was an entrance!"