Monday, December 14

Season's Greetings

Some time ago, the Mayor of a certain steampunk city asked me to contribute some material for the next edition of Tales of New Babbage, worthy of print and possibly even a radio play. I told him I was retired. He told me there was lucre involved. I pulled out the typewriter. After some lively discussion back and forth, I came up with a narrative to his liking.

Sadly, he came back later and told me it almost made the cut. Not enough urchins in it, apparently.

No matter. My loss is your gain.

Here is the prequel. The fad is to read this afterwards, apparently, but it's your choice.

Here is the tale itself.

My Yuletide gift to all of my friends still in Second Life. I miss you all.

Be Well.

Monday, September 21


My Fellow Steamlanders,

Steelhead is gone. Yes, a slice of it has been saved with a new sign over Nevermoor, but the land of the Weird West, Gaslamp Fantasy and Steampunk Nouveau has passed into legend. It was my home for nine years. Fifty-four years if you count SL's sun rotations, but I digress. 

I wandered in because a friend needed a dance partner for the ball. I never left. I became their Demon Sheriff. Then I became their doctor and the resident Mad Scientist. I invited friends into the world who are still with us, and still entertain you. I made the first clumsy design for Steelhead's flag. I might have even been their Mayor for a day, just before Lunar-san took the oath...the lines of succession were murky back then. I made more than my share of mistakes I admit. But I acted out of love for my home and my neighbors. I pray that my exploits have entertained you more than they have agonized you.

And as that wonderfully bohemian harbor of eccentricity fades into memory, so must I. Please consider me retired and in seclusion. My kin are scattered about the continuum of time and space on one heroic campaign or another, but out of reach. As for the Demon? He continues to weave through the shadows of our dreams. I pray he leaves us alone for another seven generations before his ghostly countenance seizes the mind and body of yet another unsuspecting soul and claims it as his own. 

Thank G_d. I am Free. Be Well, My Friends. 

Sincerely and Bittersweet,

Dr. Darien James Mason

P.S. Please forward any remaining concerns to my attorney, Mr. David Littman, Esq., in New Palermo.

Wednesday, July 30


Seraph was a busy place, full of businessmen running to meetings and housewives running to buy the latest fashions and musicians running to the next gig. But when those horrible air-raid started wailing, it all changed. Businessmen started running to their housewives and the musicians tried to run away from the housewives before the businessmen caught them. Me? I ran for the nearest back alley to keep from getting trampled.

I heard a roar overhead like on of those new-fangled jet engines and The whole sky was lit up.

You know how when you're real lonely you hear a voice in your head? Or when something really dangerous is going on it tells you how to get out of it? Well maybe you don't but I got one. But this one's a real pain usually. And half the time he doesn't make any sense. Except this time I really needed him.

Say my name, Child! Even once! It is your only chance to live!

I hated saying his name. It always got me in trouble. Especially with Old Koen. But he wasn't here and even if he popped up right in front of me we wouldn't have enough time.

"Okay!" I screamed. "BLOODWING!"

Through the screaming and explosions I could hear the name echo off the bricks and metal of this beautiful city. Bloodwing. Bloodwing. Bloodwing...

I was actually flying this time. I have no idea how but I was. I rose up past that metal statue of Seraph herself, that shining beauty with the six wings that He liked so much. I could swear she was crying...

No. She was melting. And my city was crumbling around me. Louder than than I could scream. And I screamed until my throat was raw.

Nothing but a sea of glowing metal and shattered rocks. FOUNDER DAMN YOU ALL THERE WAS NOTHING! I didn't ask much of you, Seraph. You taught me to jump over across building and dodge the freeway traffic. You mass-produced enough food that I could always find enough scraps. I never went without a hot manhole cover when it cold. Seraph raised me! She was the only mother I knew! WHO DID THIS TO YOU? WHY?

At the edge of where my city once was, I saw a clunky old robot tapping away at some machinery. He looked up at me with one glowing eye for a moment, like he was sorry. Then he went back to work.

It started raining and it seemed like the whole planet lifted me up higher on my wings with a thick blanket of steam. I fought the current and touched the ground. I couldn't see a damn thing from the steam.


Somebody was still alive!

"Yes! Hello! HELLO! Over here!"

I didn't see him until he was a few feet in front of me. A neko with red and black tiger stripes wearing scraps.

"Wait," I said. "I know your voice! You're Koen! But you're not the old Regent with gray fur and you're not the new guy with white fur!"

"You got a good ear. I was a kid in black fur but...we diverged at some point, but I AM Koen. You're right about that. Listen, kid..."

He started telling me about Neo and the Wastelands. About how anything that's left of a city or world that gets wiped out ends up in some never-never-land where nothing works unless you build it yourself and you gotta fight and rummage for every scrap of food.

"The good news is, don't have to stay here. As a matter of fact, Neo says you're not allowed here. There's rules against demons. And that's definitely what you are now."

"So that means I'm gonna be stuck in Old Koen's time box forever?"

I heard the same voice behind me. "No, Brian. I know a place where you'll be safe."

I felt his white paw on my shoulder. "And inside the TARDIS..."

"The voices stop. Right." It was something about there could only one Founder in one time, and his box was out of time. But it was true. I was a normal kid in the box even if nothing inside the box was normal.

That was a while ago. Now it's different. I am hearing that voice again, but it's from the guy's head. Which I rested on a table in the Zero Chamber because I don't like carrying around heads even if they're not dead yet.

So you've already felt my presence. That will make things much easier. I apologize, child. I was ready to pass into Oblivion, but...

"I know. I'm a seventh son of a seventh son. I don't know who this huge family of mine is because I never met them in my life...and I sure as Hades won't ever find them now."

Stranger things have happened. I am tired of manipulations. I will allow you to make your own decisions...

"Unless they put us both in danger. Yeah, that's what you said the first time. Can we just get on with it?'

Impatient...just like...

He closed his eyes and dried up into a skull. Then the bone and horn turned to powder and powder to dust that blew into nothing. It didn't even hurt this time. Then that feeling, like when someone's injecting medicine in you and it burns up your arm all the way to your heart and from there it flashes everywhere else inside you. Those damn wings and the horns. And even the clown face. I was the Founder again.

The walls of the Zero Chamber all mirrored. I took a long look at myself. Something was different. This wasn't exactly the same Founder that took over after that big black hole swallowed Seraph the first time. That guy was tired. Lonely. Too depressed to barely do anything. Almost... senile? I could feel this time, the Founder wasn't slipping into the back of my mind. He cared about me and what was happening to his family outside this box in the big crater.

"'s the only family I have now. Let's save them."

I felt a surge of confidence. I think that's what it was.


The TARDIS computer didn't recognize me with confidence I guess.

"Vocal Identification not recognized. Please identify."

"I am Brian Mason! I am BLOODWING!"

Friday, July 18


I grimly gazed towards the sooty night sky as the shoggoth raised its pulsating mass in a faltering column, blocking my view of the smudged, crimson moon. The abomination that just hours ago took human form now loomed over me like a tidal wave drawing its power to crush and consume all that lay its path. Its deafening roar shook the wasted earth so strongly that I could not hear the sonic boom that accompanied the globe of electricity that blossomed between the monster and myself.

I knew that energy signature well. It was a galvanic tesseraction.

Qlippothic heard my distress call. My daughter was back. Maybe there weren't enough of us left to stop Yagi. Or perhaps...we now have half a chance.

The monster's roar stifled into a piercing shriek as Qli invoked a Voorish Sign.

[Darien. Help me. My life is ebbing...]

I felt the Founder's mental tap. But wasn't he just...?

[Here, fool!]

Yes, there he was. A mop of crimson hair interrupted by a pair of broken horns rolled to a stop against a boulder.

"Yes, new priority," I grumbled. "Rescue the Founder's head."

I dashed like a drunken sailor and tripped again. The heat of the conflagration had apparently melted the rubber soles of my old army boots and they ripped clean off my feet. I hurriedly scrambled back up, slowed further by the pain of the jagged terrain jabbing at my wool socks. I was perhaps five strides away when Koen leaped down on all fours lifting Bloodwing's head by the hair.

[Must you?]

I someone else shout "I'm open!" and he swung the head and hurled it up towards the crater rim.


Another neko caught what was left the Ancestor. From the energy flaring from the battle I was escaping I could see it was a white-furred neko in...a rather garish outfit.

[Koen? Two at once?]

"Yes. I'll explain later. Brian! Catch!" He tossed the head to a young boy in a student's uniform.

[After all this I am carried by a child like a piece of sports equipment?]

"Oh stop kvetching, Grandfather!" He pressed a medallion connected by a chain to his watchpocket to a golden obelisk with the Founder's symbol engraved in the side. The metal began to ripple like water.
"Get him to the Zero Chamber!" The boy ran through the shimming metal. The obelisk was so narrow, I thought the boy must be cramped inside with the Founder. What a hopeless place to hide!

Then this other Koen slipped through the surface of the structure himself just as his assistant did. I cocked a brow.

"No. It can't be..."

I could barely make it a familiar pneumatic wheezing as the obelisk faded into nothing.

"Well I'll be. I guess Koen did finally make something of himself."

"I heard that!"

The scruffy red-furred Koen lifted me over his shoulder like a sack of fish and hurried after his young compatriots.

"Oh yes, Koen!" I grunted as my ribs smacked against his improvised metal shoulder plates with each step. "Carry me back to the Apocalypse where its safe!"

"At least we've seen the worst of it!"

It's times like these I seriously consider retiring.

Friday, June 13


By some miracle, I had survived death by ice and fire. The children I had fell upon to shield them from the explosion survived as well. They fared much better than I, however. I was helpless as I watched what transpired next.

Ash had found Bloodwing. The android lifted the demon off the ground by his throat. Ash's web of emerald circuitry was clearly damaged, flickering menacingly in random locations like distant thunder. The demon's mighty wings sagged under their own weight as he struggled in his grip. Koen was trying in vain to pry Ash's fingers from the Founder's pallid throat.

"I was just beginning to understand what love was!", thundered Ash with a rage I had never imagined he would possess. "Even before she evolved, Yagi was already more than a pet!"

He grabbed Koen by the scruff of the neck and threw him away with a yelp and a loud crash into a pile of debris.

"I loved her like she was my child!" he continued, "And your carelessness has destroyed her! YOU SHALL PAY!"

"You...were not programmed for vengeance..." choked the demon.

Ash froze in place as his aura flared and faded several times before he responded. "THIS IS JUSTICE!"

"She...she fulfilled her promise to me, and I to know as well as I that..."

I would never hear the rest of the founder's argument. There was a deafening roar, and...

Must I commit this to the page? Must I describe the carnage as the demon's body was ripped from Ash's grip by the shapeless mass of eyes and teeth? What was going through Ash's short-circuiting brain as he realized Yagi had stolen his kill?

Ash never relented his grip from the Bloodwing's neck. Mechanical irises dialed wide as he stared at the horned disembodied head. He stared back at the demon's face as the abomination rose upwards in a fluid column, expanding from the unholy power it had just absorbed.


Ash dropped the head with a thump and a trail of crimson hair (I could swear I heard the demon still mumbling) and took several steps back.

"YAGI!" he shouted with authority. "STOP!"

He was trying to make her obey like when they were stationed at the Steeltopia embassy. Even then, I'm told, she rarely listened.

Yagi  roared again. I believe speaking to her like a pet was absolutely the last thing she wanted. A pseudopod spun around her several times, building up force until it crashed down on her would-be father, kicking up a great plume of dust and more rock shrapnel.

No, I thought. This can't be happening. What was supposed to have been a simple duel between mad scientists had rapidly escalated out of control. No matter how we responded, New Babbage seemed to keep edging closer to the same destruction that claimed its predecessor that had once occupied this godforsaken crater.

My protective gear, as damaged as it was, had finally thawed enough to allow movement. Likewise, the serum injection had run its course inside me, restoring my energy and mobility. I rose to my feet and pulled my communication device from my belt clip. I turned the dial to a frequency reserved dire emergencies.

"CQD...CQD...Babbage Crater...Priority: MYTHOS...MYTHOS..."

The shoggoth drew its mass together in a vaguely pyramidal shape, and began oozing in my direction...

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.