Friday, October 18

burn the skies

Were this another battle, the Founder would have torn the airship pilot open to make an example of him, but time was of the essence. The look of terror on the mortal's face as he grabbed him by his lapels, and his pitiful scream and the demon threw him out into the subzero mists would have to suffice.

The machines of this age frustrated him. The ship's wheel was familiar enough. The levers and switches, however...

"One flying beast to do you dive?" A pallid hand tapped a series of levers until he wrapped it around the black knob closest to the wheel.

"Down, beast!" He pushed with such force that the lever snapped. He felt the vibrations in the floor rattle clear up his spine as gears shattered against the paneling below deck. The dirigible lurched forward, and its nose tipped into the mists. The cabin windows clouded over with maddening spiderwebs of frost. Like an army of ghosts the icy vapors howled as they rushed into the cabin where the door had been, encircling the demon.

"The fury of the sun...trapped in an orb of a thousand winters, now shattered..."

He was interrupted by the uncontrolled chattering of his own teeth. He felt a tingling, a sickness hanging in the mists. A sickness that wilted the powers waiting just beyond the veil.

"The bomb that Darien warned me about. poisons the air..." He frowned. He had once been entombed in ice as punishment for squandering love. He had once lost his wings and his might when his dying organs were replaced with those grown for his human progeny, to the point that he was in all respects mortal...and helpless. Now he stood to suffer both catastrophes at once...and then be destroyed by the Fires of Apollo in another crater.

He glanced at one of the dials, wiping the frost off the glass cover. It seemed to say they were already below the ground level before the glass shattered.

"This is the end of enough! I saw this city fall the first time and I'll not see it fall again! The fools know not what is still buried beneath this pit waiting to arise and again consume this world!"

To Bloodwing, the fallout from the Reality Enforcement Device seemed like a thickening layer of grime that obscured the glowing runes engraved in his psyche, the ancient Ereb'ai script that when uttered with proper diction and force of will unleashes the chaos of the underworld. He fought the growing numbness to curl his fingers in an arcane gesture. It was the first spell he had learned as a should not be this heard, he thought...


He smiled as blue flame danced around his arm. All turned bright in a deafening roar.

Koen clutched Ash's emerald disc so tightly the blade dug into the palm of his hand. The muscles in that hand itched as he heard Ash's voice in his mind, attempting to calm him as the ice crystal surrounding their force bubble gave way to billowing flames. Koen's young battalion clustered even tighter around him, to the point where he battled to draw every breath.

[[It is most fortunate for you and your companions that hydrogen flames are orange, and not yellow.]]

As the sky over the crater blossomed in orange flames, Darien fell back as the ice fell from his clothes in huge chunks. When the ice from his goggles evaporated he saw Yagi was already on her tip-toes reaching into the circuitry of Hans' massive suit of powered armor.

Of course, he thought. This whole time no one had realized she was a shoggoth when they brought her (in her previously amorphous shape) to the Steamlands from Antarctica. She was the only organic in the entire crater who didn't need some form of protection from the inhospitable temperatures.

He immediately realized that the blanket of flames that stretched across the dome of the crater was descending. It had already engulfed the spot of high ground where Koen and his child soldiers had sought shelter. The flames were rolling down in his direction.

"Oh dear G-d, no..."

He sprinted to where the two girls, Sprog and Blue, had just been thawed by the searing heat. He gathered them close and fell over them, using his own body as a shield as the inferno claimed everything.

Thursday, October 10

taken to task

Everything was still in the crater, where the temperature had fallen to levels only seen on the polar ice caps. Everything, that is, except the robotic spider climbing over a dome of ice that softly radiated an emerald light, within which Koen and his feral pack of young survivors huddled for protection from the elements.

The spider leaped off the dome and landed on the rocks below. The brain floating in the cylinder mounted on the spider swirled about when it landed, and the spindly metallic legs meandered back and forth as the jar tilted this way and that.

"ACH!" shouted Hans' voice through a hissing speaker. "I can feel the cold even through this thing! I've got to get out of here!" The pair of eyes connected to the brain aimed downwards towards a small bulb on the spider's frame.

"The compass is frozen!"

Hans skittered one way in one direction, and then the other. He stopped to look up at Dr. Mason where he was frozen in place, reaching for the control panel of the villain's former exoskeleton.

"Obviously I've been here before..."

Hans scrambled closer to Dr. Mason and lifted a needle-like limb to tap at the weapon fused to Darien's hand.

"Bastard! He used it all! I'll have to steal his formula at the Consulate!"

Dr. Mason would have roared in outrage if his mouth was not sealed shut. But Hans scrambled away, humming some half-remembered Yuletide carols horribly out of tune. He paused for a moment to wonder at the faint golden aura in the haze before him.

"Is that sunlight? I must be closer to the rim than I..."

He was interrupted by the emaciated and jaundiced boy wrapped in tatters that lunged at him with bestial hunger, clutching a radiant yellow disk in his hand.

"AHHHHH!" Hans screamed as Ryan wrapped his free arm around Hans' brain jar. Elongated and narrowed teeth snapped at the glass.

"GET OFF ME!" The thing's metallic limbs flexed and stabbed at the boy, piercing the flesh and even poking through the over side of his body in several places. The boy did not seem to notice. A scornful voice pierced the villain's brain.

((What was that about hurting children, Cold Dead Hans?))

Ryan raised the disc and swiped downwards, shearing off one of the limbs. Hans screamed pitifully as the boy scraped off more pieces of what Hans had dubbed his Cerebral Escape Unit.

((You've ruined EVERYTHING, Hans! You were supposed to CAPTURE the city, not DESTROY it!))

"MARCUS! But I never INTENDED to..."

((That only makes it WORSE! That proves it. Darien was right for once, wasn't he? You DIDN'T invent that reactor! You STOLE it out of the timestream. A DEFECTIVE one at that!))

Ryan began slamming the disc against the jar, creating a shower of sparks with each strike.

"STOP THAT!!!" Disembodied eyes refocused at the faint scratches left in the glass.

((Oh don't worry Hans. You won't freeze solid when this undead child opens your container. He's going to gulp you down like a fresh Babbage oyster. Not that I've ever eaten any myself...but I digress. I'm going to LOVE reading your thoughts and memories as your brain is torn apart and digested. I might even find something USEFUL in your skills-RNA.  Starting of course with the combination to shutting down that accursed reactor...))

"NOOOO!!!" he screamed. "It's FIVE ONE NINE SIX! Five one nine six I tell you! PLEASE! Please don't let him eat me! I'm begging..."

((Did you get that, Darien?))

((Yes,)) His brother silently signaled back. ((Thank you. I owe you one. That is if you can melt this ice...))

((Oh, that won't be necessary. BOY. You need to pick the jar up with both hands and smash it on the ground to open it up. You want that juicy brain don't you? Now just put me down...))

Ryan hurriedly dropped the disk and hefted the damaged Escape Unit over his head. Before he could hurl the device, both the boy and the brain froze in place.

((Things are going to get warm soon enough, dear brother.))

The disk wobbled back onto its side and began rolling away.

((Soon enough...))

Above the freezing mists of the crater, a figure with great crimson wings ripped the metal door off the cab of the dirigible. The pilot screamed as he was hurled out of the craft.

The faint droning sound of the airship overhead that was a constant presence before grew quickly louder.

Koen looked up in alarm as a plummeting metal door smashed against the ice dome. Even as his companions squeezed him tightly in panic, the energy of Ash's disc caused the jagged shards and the mutilated door itself to bounce effortlessly off the shimmering sphere surrounding them.

Darien tried to raise an eyebrow as a thoroughly frozen body fell several yards away and shattered. Such a waste, he thought.

Koen tried his best to calm down his companions.

"We're gonna be alright guys! We're gonna be..." His feline eyes narrowed as the nose cone of the dirigible emerged from the fog of ice. flames danced across the surface of the fabric.

"Hans, you hack!" thought Darien. "You didn't even use a cavorite airship, did you? You probably filled it with helium or..."

"OH HOLY SHIT TAKE COVER!" screamed Koen as the airship burst into flames with a deafening roar.

"...hydrogen. Of course it would have to be hydrogen..."

Monday, October 7


The Founder's order rattled my brain within its skull, granting me a few more seconds of consciousness in this freezing hell. He was right, of course. I can't forget what happened the last time one of us smashed a reactor core. I lowered Blue's axe. There had to be another way to stop the reactor in Hans' abandoned chassis from detonating.

I had to wait for one of the young tribals to capture what was left of Hans and somehow extract the code. But the ice crystals were so thick in the air now that I could only see a few yards in any direction. I was certain to freeze to death. Unless...

I drew my inoculation gun from its holster and pressed the nozzle to my left arm. I swore I would never use the reanimation serum on myself again. Not after I nearly turned into...something like Yoggy. But the serum prevents the blood from freezing. I remembered that very well from reanimating Wren.

A kick like a mule. The burn of reverse-frostbite. I quickly turned and fired the last two doses into Sprog and Blue. I heard them wail, but at least it meant they were still alive. My movement abruptly slowed to a crawl as my clothing grew heavy from accumulating layers of ice. My fingers were inches away from the digital keypad of Hans' stolen invention. But it may as well have been on the other side of the galaxy. I would not freeze for several hours with the reanimation serum in my veins. But nonetheless I was powerless, as the crystals that had gathered on my clothing grew so heavy and thick I could no longer break them off with the flat of Blue's weapon. First my legs were pinned. Then my arms. Soon I was reduced to viewing the world past my goggles in a thick and unyielding layer of ice!