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98-year-old Girl Scout since 1932 continues to sell cookies Share By: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk Updated: February 12, 2020 - 3:17 PM In December, the Girl Scouts of the Central California Coast Instagram account featured a post celebrating alumna and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, specifically because “she was a key swing vote in many important cases, including the upholding of Roe v. Remember, earning a Girl Scout Gold Award is an excellent way to give any college or scholarship application that “something extra” to help you stand out from the crowd. For additional information on college scholarships, contact your high school guidance counselor, reach out to the financial aid office of the school(s) you wish to attend ... As a Girl Scout, there are lots of ways to have fun, make friends, and do things that have a positive impact on your life, your school, and your world. In grades K-5, Girl Scouts earn badges, join troops, hike and camp, and participate in the cookie program. In middle and high school, girls can also explore careers in science and technology ... Staub, a former Girl Scout, owns The Party Fairy LLC and volunteers for organizations across New Jersey to help combat opioid addiction. A nonprofit organization committed to nurturing young leaders, Girl Scouts will present its Phenom Award to honorees in recognition of their career and community accomplishments to date, as well as the ... I'm excited to join Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast and the dynamic team in place,' said Jody Skenderian. 'As a former Girl Scout, and a current Girl Scout mom, I know first-hand the tremendous benefits of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. I look forward to applying my experience in strategic Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast CEO Sharon Reece will be retiring in the fall after 21 years as the group’s top official. Learn about her service to scouting in The Ventura County Star. In Santa Cruz, CA, Girl Scouts are learning a vast array of skills from self defense to outdoor cooking. Enjoy! Josh Ohio, United States About Blog Jodi Carlson is a mom & wife with 25+ years of Girl Scout experience sharing it all on a blog that helps leaders plan meetings with ease. Leader Connecting Leaders is a blog for Girl Scout Leaders & other scout groups to find ideas to run meetings & earn badges. Together to shape the girl leaders of tomorrow. Coming soon to a shopping center near you: A new Girl Scout cookie. The Toast-Yay!™ is a French toast–inspired cookie dipped in icing. It will debut when Girl Scout Cookie season returns in 2021. Baffa is a former science educator and has held positions as a research associate, and nonprofit executive director in the Ventura County area before joining Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast as Director of Outdoor Experience and STEM. About the Ocean Exploration Trust The Ocean Exploration Trust was founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard.
Review: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
2020.08.19 02:17 ArthurDrakoniReview: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
This review was first published on my blog, but I am reprinting it here per the subreddit rules. 2019 was a year where I got to experience a lot of alternate history books in audio form for the first time. It was also, like 2018 before it, a year where I finally got around to listening to several alternate history I'd been meaning to get around to. Case in point, the book we'll be reviewing today. We're taking a look at the classic alternate history novel The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson . The Years of Rice and Salt takes places in a world where the Black Death killed ninety-nine percent of Europe's population. The story follows six or seven individuals, though three in particular, as they are reincarnated over the ages. Robinson makes it easy by having their names start with the same letter. The main characters we follow having names starting in K, B, and I. Secondary characters have names with Z, P, and S. The novel spans hundreds of years of history, and spans numerous nations, giving it a truly global feel to it. The novel is divided into ten segments of varying lengths, and I will discuss each of them individually. For now, I will give some overall thoughts. I'd been putting off listening to this one, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. I absolutely loved this book. I loved its vast global scope, and how it features nations and cultures you don't often see in alternate history. I also loved the use of reincarnation as a plot device. It was certainly an interesting twist I haven't really seen in too many other alternate history novels. The story uses the Islamic Hegira Calendar for dates. The Islamic year 1 being when Mohammad felid Mecca for Medina in 622 AD. However, I've rendered the dates in the Gregorian Calendar for convenience sake. There's a ton of historical and cultural references throughout the novel. You don't necessarily have to catch them to enjoy the novel, but it adds to the experience. Thankfully, the Kim Stanley Robinson website has this handy reading guide that catalogs and explains them all. Well, enough of all that, lets dive in. Our first segment is titled "Awake into Emptiness." It takes place from 1381-1424. It follows a Mongol warrior named Bold who is serving in the army of Timur. Timur has sent Bold to scout ahead into the Hungarian Basin. Bold find a land almost totally devoid of humans. Bold travels through the depopulated Balkans until he is captured and sold into slavery by Arab slavers. During his time aboard a slave ship he meets an African slave named Kyu. As the ship makes its way to China, Kyu and Bold discover that their lives are destined to be intertwined. This segment sets things up for the rest of the novel. The descriptions of the depopulated Europe were evocative and haunting. There are multiple mentions of cathedrals being only partially built because everyone died in the middle of construction. Medieval cathedrals took decades, if not centuries, to be fully constructed. Often, those who began work on the cathedrals would do so knowing that they would not live to see them completed. There's a particularly sad scene where Bold encounters the sole European in all of his travels. The man can't speak any of the languages Bold know, but he gets his point across with gestures. He was just a fisherman, and was out fishing when the plague hit. He came back to find everyone, including his wife and children, dead. Now he's all alone, and due to the language barrier, Bold isn't much company. They share food and camp together, but the very next day the man is gone. His footsteps lead to the riverbank, which strongly suggests he might have committed suicide out of despair. What would it be like, I wonder, to be like the lone European? What thoughts would go through one’s head as the sole survive of a once prosperous village? To know that you might be alone forever? Chilling stuff indeed. Bold and Kyu eventually get sold to the admiral Zhang He. He was the commander of the Ming Dynasty's fleet of treasure ships. They were massive ships that traveled everywhere from the South China Sea, to India, and even East Africa. The goal was to proclaim China's power and influence to the world, and to collect tribute. Zhang He is a staple in alternate histories about China colonizing the New World. Ironically, that doesn't happen in this book til after Zhang He. We'll talk more about that in a bit. We also get a frighteningly detailed explain of how eunuchs, of which Zhang He was one, are made. Another significant aspect of "Awake into Emptiness" is how it sets up the character meeting in the Bardo at the end of each segment. The Bardo is an afterlife of sorts in Tibetan Buddhism. It is where souls go as they wait to be judged and then reborn. I should probably go over the difference between reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism. Hindu reincarnation is like water being passed from one cup to another; your outside changes, but the essence of who you are stays the same. Buddhist reincarnation is more like one candle passing its flame to another; there is a deep connection between you and your reincarnations, but they are ultimately different people. Tibetan Buddhism differs in that it is a bit more like the Hindu view of reincarnation. The character we meet in The Years of Rice and Salt were part of a Jati in Tibet that got killed in an avalanche. A Jati is type of village or community; sometimes it can also mean clan or group of that nature. Throughout the book the Jati constantly find each other, often without meaning too, across their reincarnations. East Asian cultures, and other Asian cultures to an extent, place emphasis on finding your place within the web of other's lives. The part of this section that muse about the nature of reincarnation and Buddhism have an almost poetic quality to them. There's also some parts that end with "but if you want to know what happens next, read the next part." This is a nod to the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. The second segment is titled "The Haj in the Heart." The bulk is set in the 1560. It begins in India with two sisters named Kokila and Bihari. Life is mostly good, and they get married. Then Bihari dies in childbirth, and Kokila poisons their husbands, for which she is executed. Kokila is then reincarnated as a tiger named Kya, who is also killed, but not before she saves a wandering Sufi mystic named Bistami. While on a Hadj to Mecca, Bistami hears of a caravan in North Africa heading to the depopulated land of Al-Andalus. The caravan is led by the charismatic sultan Mawji Darya, and his beautiful wife Katima. Bistami finds himself drawn to Katima, almost as though he knows her from somewhere. This is the only time, barring the last segment, our characters get reincarnated multiple times in one segment. Bistami at one point finds himself in the court of Emperor Akbar. He was a real ruler of the Mughal Empire. It was an off-shoot of the Mongol Empire established by Central Asian Mongols who settled in Northern India. Akbar was a Muslim, but promoted religious tolerance and understanding. He often held meetings with representatives of the different religions within his empire. Unfortunately, subsequent Mughal rulers didn't share his open-mindedness. I previously mentioned the poetic nature of this book, and it's true in this segment as well. There is a particularly great scene where Bistami visits the tomb of a great Sufi mystic. He undergoes a religious experience and has visions, including of his past lives. The poetic nature, combined with the musings on the nature of reality, reminds me of The Man in the High Castle, another of my favorite alternate history novels. I should probably talk about Sufism. Sufism is a type of Islamic mysticism. They tend to be a bit more peaceful and less politically inclined than Sunni and Shia Islam. Most Sunnis and Shias, the two main branches of Islam, do not like Sufis very much, and don't consider them real Muslims. If you've ever heard of the Whirling Dervishes, those are Sufis. The Medieval Iranian poet Rumi is another famous Sufi. It does make sense that the Beber, or Amazigh, as they call themselves, were first to resettle Europe. Towards the end of its history Al-Andalus was ruled by several BebeAmazigh dynasties such as the Almoravids and Almohads. I also liked that the alternate Black Death hit all of Europe, not just the Christian bits. Al-Andalus, and the Muslim settlements in the Balkans, were just as depopulated as the rest of Europe. It made it feel a bit more realistic. Granted, having ninety-nine percent of Europe be whipped out wasn't that realistic, but it is a thing I'm willing to accept for the premise of the novel. Amusingly, even the characters discuss how odd it is that Europe was totally whipped out. Katima and her caravan are shown to be more open-minded and liberal than most Muslims. This is partially because they follow Sufism, but also because they are Berber. Traditionally, most Berber women have not worn the hijab, and woman have play major roles in Berber life. The caravan eventually moves further north and founds a settlement at the former site of Bayonne, France. They name their settlement Baraka. Katima's husband dies, but there's no precedent for women ruling on their own in Islam. In fact, the Hadith even forbids it. Thus, Bistami and Katima declare that those Hadith's don't matter and forge their own. Granted, there's some precedence to this. Muslims believe that the Hadith is less authoritative than the Koran, but still important. Several Muslim women, in places such as West Africa and America, choose to ignore the Hadith to justify not wearing the hijab. The closest the Koran comes is saying that women must cover their breasts. Throughout the book there is a theme of trying to reconcile Islam with women's rights, and secular liberalism in general. The Sufis, and those like them, are trying to establish a light in the darkness, but these lights can easily be snuffed out. Case in point, more conservative Muslims from Al-Andalus come to overthrow Katima, forcing everyone to flee further north to Nantes. They name this new settlement Nsara. Interestingly, when everyone arrives in the Bardo they perceive it as being similar to the Islamic afterlife. Does the Bardo appear different to everyone? They do seem to realize that it isn't the Islamic afterlife, and do start to remember their past lives before getting reincarnated. We'll talk more about all that in just a minute. The third segment is titled "Ocean Continents." It takes place in the 1620s. Japan has been a thorn in China's side for centuries. The emperor orders a huge fleet of ships to conquer the island nation. However, a few ships get blown across the Pacific and discover two previously unknown continents. The section follows the crew as they explore this brave new world. This is the part where China finally discovers the Americas. Overall, I did enjoy this segment, but the novel does show its age in places. When the Chinese first arrive, they meet the Miwok people of Northern California. The Miwok are overall portrayed well, even if it occasionally dips into "paint with all the colors of the wind" territory. The narration mentions how the natives barely use the land, and how everything is pristine. We now know that Native Americans played a big role in cultivating land, and played a major role in shaping North America's ecosystem. They just did so in a way that wasn't always recognizable to the Europeans. In fairness a lot of this scholarship has only come on in the last decade or so. Robinson wouldn't have had access to it. The bigger issue is when the Chinese arrive in the Aztec Empire. At first, it looked like we might get a nuanced look at the Aztecs. They performed human sacrifice, but they did so because they believed it was necessary to thank the gods for giving them the world. Those chosen as sacrifices lives like kings in the year leading up to the sacrifice. They were also one of the few societies to give mandatory education for both men and women. I was hoping we'd see all this, but Robinson fell onto the lazy stereotype of the Aztecs as bloodthirsty barbarians. It got even worse when one of the Chinese fired a gun, and the Aztecs ran around like chickens with their heads chopped off. There is a reference to something this is claimed to have happened when Pizarro conquered the Inca. The problem being that there is no historical evidence that the Inca trampled each other to death when Pizarro fired his gun. It is likely a fabrication by post-conquest chroniclers. Anyway, when we get to the Bardo we see that it is falling under the sway of the Chinese celestial bureaucracy. Does that mean Chinese Mythology is real too? Overall, not a terrible segment, but could have been better. The fourth segment is titled "The Alchemist." It takes place in the Khanate of Samarkand in the 1640s. It follows three alchemists named Bahram, Khalid, and Iwang. The start off performing experiments to turn lead into gold. However, they soon start making discoveries that will overturn all pervious knowledge. The age of alchemy is over, and the age of science has begun. I've always loved the history of science, so this segment was pretty fun for me. The characters make discoveries in all sorts of fields, but the Khan is only interested in military applications. There's a particularly amusing scene where Khalid complains about Sufis being a inch of hippies with their heads in the clouds. He's blissfully unaware that he was a Sufi in a past life. Another scene mentions that Armenia is a Muslim nation. That's particularly odd given that pervious segments mentioned them, along with Georgia and Ethiopia, as one of the few Christian nations that avoid the plague. There's also mention of small communities of Christians in Egypt and the Maghreb. The characters do speculate that the Armenians might be faking it to get better trade deals, but it is still odd. Samarkand in our world had some very famous universities, with some very impressive mosaics. All in all, another great segment. The fifth segment is called "The Warp and the Weft." It takes place in North America and follows a ronin named Busho, but his friends know him as Fromwest. He is severing as a guest to the Haudenosaunee people, and tells of how his homeland was invaded by China. Busho must convince the Haudenosaunee, and the scattered tribes to North America, to unite and modernize so they can resist colonization from the Chinese and Muslims. Overall, I thought that Robinson did a much better with his depiction of the Native Americans here. The Haudenosaunee people are more commonly known as the Iroquois. They are nation originally made of the five tribes: the Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Oneida. In 1722 they welcomed the Tuscarora tribe to the nation. Interestingly, this segment mentions that the Haudenosaunee have expanded to nine tribes. Just who are these additional tribes? The Native Americans were exposed more gradually to Old World diseases than in our world. They've had more time to recover their population. This does give them more of fighting chance than the Native Americans did in our world. Still I can't help but feel that the fate is the Haudenosaunee is just a tad optimistic. Granted, they've got Busho to help them. Perhaps it is optimistic, but I'm willing to take it. I've always wished alternate history featured the Native Americans more. I've also been fascinated at the idea of Native Americans successfully resisting colonialism. From what we hear, the Chinese invasion of Japan was incredibly harsh. There was no divine wind to save the Japanese this time. Busho wonders if the gods were made because of the Muslim missionaries in Nagasaki. It's a sly joke, because around the same time in our world, Christian missionaries were in Nagasaki. In fact, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the two biggest Christian settlements in Japan. I wonder if the souls that would have been those missionaries got reincarnated as Muslims? The Bardo segment is also interesting. The Jati try to resist drinking the elixir of forgetfulness to try to retain the memories in their next lives, and find each other. The sixth segment is titled "Widow Kang." It takes place in South China in the 18th century. The widow Kang Tongbi has been plagued by strange dreams and strange happenings. She speaks in strange foreign languages, and finds herself draw to the Buddhist monk Bao Ssu and the Muslim scholar Ibrahim ibn Hasam al-Lanzhou. It's almost as though she knows them from somewhere before. The parallelism was very strong in this story. At times it almost felt more like straight-up historical fiction rather than alternate history. The Machu overthrew the Ming Dynasty, thus establishing the Qing Dynasty, just as in our world. There's also a hysteria over supposed queue cutting, just as in our world. Queues are long braided ponytails the Manchu pushed upon the Han Chinese. The Han weren't required to adopt Manchu clothing and hairstyles, but the Manchu put indirect pressure on them to do so. There were also numerous instances of anti-Muslim persecution carried out during the Qing Dynasty. Yeah, if the goal of the novel was to speculate about a world without Europe, this was not one of its better moments. Now, I must be fair here. Robinson utilizes a more leftist view of history that emphasizes intangible forces of history over individual choice. Additionally, there the wrinkle of people being reincarnated. Reincarnation might account for why this world had a Renaissance so similar to our world. Presumably, the Europeans got reincarnated too. Perhaps the Manchu were destined to overthrow the Ming Dynasty. It's interesting to speculate, but let's get back to the story. Kang eventually marries Ibrahim after he helps her with some hypnosis exercises. They work together on try to find a way to reconcile Islam with Buddhism, and Chinese culture in general. There one scene where Kang disparages Islam for the way Muslim women are treated. Ibrahim point that Chinese women don't have it much better. Kang concedes that women have it pretty bad all the world over. Kang also takes to collecting poems and mantras. Her favorite? It has to do with rice and salt. There's also an amusing scene where, when discussing the possibility of past lives, Kang insists that she's always been Chinese. By this point, we know she's also been African, Berber, Muslim, Indian, Iroquois, and even a tiger. It seems that Ibrahim, a few other Muslims, believe in reincarnation. In our world, there are some Muslims who believe this, but they are fringe groups, and don't represent mainstream Islamic thought. Granted, with the changes to history, maybe their beliefs became mainstream. I just loved Kang and Ibrahim's constant back-and-forth. They argue, but they also clearly care about each other. We also hear that many Sufi settlements have gotten crushed by Wahhabis. They're a brand of ultra-conservative Islam; Saudi Arabia is run by them. Sadly, this isn't too dissimilar to what happened in our world. Attempts to reform Islam pretty much always ended badly. Our seventh segment is titled "The Great Age of Progress." It takes place from 1829-1864. The Ottoman Empire has long thought of itself as invincible. That all changes when they get into a war with the League of Travancore; an alliance of states in India. Travancore is a land of mechanical wonders and scientific advancement. The segment follows an Ottoman doctor named Ismail as he is taken to Travancore to experience these wonders firsthand. Well, this certainly made up for the parallelism of the last segment. I love seeing industrial revolution alternate histories in non-Western nations. I also like that Travancore is an alliance of Indian states rather than a single nation. India is just as ethnically and culturally diverse as Europe, after all. The scene where Travancore invades Konstantiniyye is an ironic echo of the Ottoman's sack of Constantinople in 1453 AD. Of course, this time the Ottomans are in the role of the Byzantines. Wouldn't it be ironic if they were the Byzantines reincarnated? We also see that the Haudenosaunee League is an ally of Travancore, and are doing quite well for themselves. Several Buddhist monasteries have also become centers of science and learning. Buddhism originated in India, but faded away due to the actions of Brahmins, that is, Hindu priests. They knew they had to try to discredit Buddhism, or they'd be standing in the unemployment line. It is fitting that Buddhism has returned to the place of its birth here. We also find out that some European survived in the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands. A few also managed to survive in England. Unfortunately, the Ottomans prized these surviving English for their exotic beauty. The Ottomans made a point of keeping the English members of their harams ethnically pure. Eventually, this resulted in some pretty nasty inbreeding. Yeah, those poor English would have been better off if the plague had taken their ancestors. We skip ahead a bit where Ismail is serving as Tranvancore's ambassador to Yingzhou. It's China's colony on the west coast of North America. We discover that the Japanese people and culture have survived in spite of China's efforts to whip them out. There's even a strong underground resistance movement brewing in Yingzhou. There's mention of flood occurring in California, and interestingly enough, there was indeed a flood in California around the time this segment is set. The eight segment is titled "War of the Asuras." It is set in the 1950s. Tension between China and Dar-Al-Islam have been brewing for years. Now they've finally boiled over into an all-out war. In time, this war will be known as the Long War. The segment follows three Chinese solders named Bai, Kuo, and Iwa. This segment was maybe not my favorite, but all the same, not terrible. The Long War can best be described as World War I leading directly into World War II with no break in-between. The Long War lasted sixty-seven years in total. The war is so intense that our character beginning to lose their grasp on reality. Also, apparently the Muslims blew-up the top of Mount Everest so that K2, a mountain in Afghanistan, would be the tallest mountain in the world. There was no real point to this, and it probably didn't affect Chinese moral very much. It probably also wasted time and resources for the Muslims, and seemed more petty than anything. On a brighter note, Japan has used the chaos of the war to regain their independence. The ninth segment is titled "Nsara." It takes place from 1999-2002. Budur Radwan is a young woman living in the United Alpine Emirates. She longs to be free and independent like her aunt Idelba, who works as a physicist in Nsara. Budur decides to seek on a train bound for the great Sufi city. She finds Nsara to be a land of wonders, and is drawn to the study of history and archeology by one of the city's madrasahs. Life is good, but the effects of the Long War still linger. How long can this temporary peace truly last? This segment gets fairly metafictional as Budur and her classmates discuss the nature of history. They even speculate on how things might have gone had history turned out differently. One of the class's first projects is considering women's role in history, particularly as it relates to Islam. Their professor Kirana Fawwaz is convinced that it is possible to reconcile Islam with feminism if you throw out the Hadith. She even claims Mohammad was a feminist. Yeah...she must be using a different translation of the Koran, because everything I've read of the Koran paints a rather unflattering picture of the prophet. Feminist is...not a word I'd use to describe him. For example, he once ordered a village of Jews to be put to death for refusing to convert to Islam. Then there's the whole marrying an underage girl and consummating the marriage with her thing. There's a little old lady in the class who says that religion has brought nothing but suffering to people, especially women, and should be done away with. Well, I guess I know what happened to the soul that would have become me. As someone with a history degree, I can attest that many of the conversations Budur and her classmates have are quite accurate. There would certainly be even more archeological sites in Europe than there already ate in our world. We even get to briefly see some surviving Native Europeans in the Orkney, Shetland and Faroe Islands. They're under the watchful eye of the Haudenosaunee. So we've got Native Americans overseeing what is, essentially, a European reservation. Oh how the tables have turned. One of Budur's friends is named Tristan, and he makes music based on that of Medieval Europe. Strange that more isn't made of his status as one of the only ethnic Europeans we meet. Unless his name isn't really Tristan, and he's the Years of Rice and Salt version of a weeaboo, but with European culture rather than Japanese. I probably should have mentioned before that the Muslims renamed Europe as Firanja. Well, the Middle Eastern and North African ones did. The Central Asian one's call it Firanjistan. Most of Western Firanja speaks a language that, while similar to Arabic and Berber, is unique to Firanja. Though Skandistan speaks a separate language related to the Turkic languages of Central Asia. Firanja was placed under heavy reparations following the Long War. The terms also forced them to allow Buddhist monasteries to be established in their cities. I guess it makes a sort of sense that Muslim madrasahs and Buddhist monasteries became centers of learning. In our world, many universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, started off as places to train/educate Christian clergy. Budur travels to a science conference in Iran to help deliver a message to her aunt's colleges. Specifically, about the potential to split an atom, and create new bombs. This is presented as something that the world must not know of, but I'm not sure about that. Mutually Assured Destruction, and thus deterrence, could have saved quite a few lives during the Long War. From what we hear, it got so bad that women and children got drafted. On the other hand, Dar-Al-Islam does seem just crazy enough to push the button. Don't forget what they did to Mount Everest. On a happier note, we do see that the Buddhist monasteries are making bricks to rebuild the summit of Mount Everest. Budur also attends an archeology conference. One of the presentations is of a village in Tibet that got caught in an avalanche. It is the very village the sent the Jati on their journey across the ages. I also liked how the Middle East is called the Middle West, as a nod to how Sinocentric this world is. There's mention of scientists wanting to create a new calendar, with the date of their meeting being year one. Something similar happened in our world, but the Apollo 11 mission was used as the year one. Post-war Firanja bares more than a passing resemblance to Germany during the Weimar Republic. It is mentioned that the Sultanate of Rum has experienced particularly bad hyperinflation. As the segment progresses, there's increasing political turmoil, and many radicals begin to blame mi routines such as Christians, Jews, and Armenians for Firanja losing the Long War. There's mention here, and in several other segments of a people called Zotts. Apparently, that's the Arabic word for Gypsies/Romani. With all the political chaos brewing, it's a good thing the Haudenosaunee keep a military presence in Firanja. It would seem the Sufis' efforts weren't in vain after all. Nsara appears to be a liberal modern city. And yet it is also mentioned that several parts of Firanja, such as the United Alpine Emirates and Skandistan, are rather conservative. It goes back to the theme of trying to reconcile Islam with liberalism, pluralism, and multiculturalism. Quite forward thinking for a book published in 2002. Personally, I'm not sure it's really possible. Of course, I'm not sure any religion can truly be reformed. Better to discard them and find our truths and meanings in something more solid and rational. Our final segment is titled "First Years." It takes place from 2030-2088. The segment follows a Chinese man named Bao Xinhua throughout his life. He participates in a democratic-ish/socialist-ish movement lead by the Chinese-Japanese philosopher Zhu Isao. We then follow him as he is assigned to a diplomatic post in Burma, gets married, and then moves to Yingzhou and becomes a history teacher. I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but I promise this is a good segment. It appears that, despite winning the Long War, China wasn't much better off than Firanja. Of course, it was less than China won and more that Dar-Al-Islam lost. It might seem a little odd that the book doesn't really give as much attention to the social revolution China experienced, but it makes a sort of sense. The wheel symbol is very important in Buddhism and religions like it. It symbolizes reincarnation, rebirth, and the cycle of ages. As you get closer to the center, the arc of the wheel gets smaller. So there's that, or perhaps Kim Stanley Robinson felt that, much like this review, the book had gone on for long enough and it was time to wrap things up. The revolution has aspects of socialist movements, but the philosophy behind it is very much a product of the world of The Years of Rice and Salt. The real winners of the Long War seem to be the Travancore and Haudenosaunee leagues. Though there were times where the characters referenced Yingzhou as though it comprised all of North America. From what I've gathered, Yingzhou seems to refer to China's colonies in America, and North America as a whole. Sort of like how America can mean either the Untied States, or the Americas as a whole. Similarly, Inka seems to be South America as a whole, and the Inka Empire. Anyway, there certainly does appear to be a growing sense of multiculturalism, pluralism, and international cooperation. All things that are founding principles of Travancore and the Haudenosaunee. In general, though not completely without flaws, the world does seem to have become a more peaceful place. There's also reference to a United Nations analogue called the League of All Nations. Based on what we've seen both here and in the previous segment, it seems that this world is less technologically advanced than ours. Airships are the primary civilian aircraft, and there doesn't seem to be much mention of any nation having a space program. There's also not really any mention of television, movies, or computers. Granted, maybe the characters we follow don't watch much TV, or go to the movies very often. Still, the lack of computers and the Internet is pretty notable. It also a shame that, throughout the book, we never really get to see what sub-Saharan Africa is like. How did they evolve in a world without European colonialism? It's mentioned that places, such as much of Firanja and Inka, still suffer from widespread poverty, but on the flip side, much of the world has improved quality of life. In the last segments we did see some Inka in Firanja, so it does seem that they and their culture have survived. There's certainly a sense of cautious optimism for the future throughout the world. Bao himself finds a sense of community and belonging in Yingzhou. His housing complex is much like a modern-day village. He and his fellow Jati members might not have achieved Nirvana, but they did pretty well for themselves. It kind of reminds me of the ending of Candide. Despite all of the hardships, the Jati made it out alive, and are happily tending to their garden, literally and metaphorically. Well, everyone but the K character. Of course, Bao does find himself with a new student named Kali towards the end of the book. Perhaps she'll come around in time. I'd say, overall, the world of The Years of Rice and Salt isn't necessarily better or worse than ours, but it is very different. And so, at least for now, the journey of the Jati is at an end. Well, I think at this point it is pretty obvious that I loved this book. I also loved the audiobook adaptation narrated by Bronson Pinchot. This was truly epic alternate history. It spanned, continents, cultures, centuries, and lifetimes. It shinned a light on cultures and peoples you don't often see in alternate history. It was an amazing journey, and I'm glad I was along for the ride. I'm glad I finally got around to listening to this book. I can't recommend this book enough. Check it out today, you'll be glad that you did. Link to the original review on my blog, though you won’t find anything you didn’t find here: http://drakoniandgriffalco.blogspot.com/2020/01/book-review-years-of-rice-and-salt-by.html?m=1
2019.10.16 15:18 JPM11SThe Flash #6 - To the Finish Line
DC Next Proudly Presents…!
The Flash: Who We Leave Behind
Part 2,To the Finish Line Written by JPM11S Edited by AdamantAce and Dwright <Next>> ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ My name is Barry Allen and I am the fastest man alive! When I was eight years old my father, Jay Garrick, the original Flash, sacrificed himself to save the multiverse. One month later, my mother died while surrounded by a tornado of red and yellow lightning. For years, I worked as an ordinary CSI for the CCPD, but one day, I was struck by lighting and given the gift of a lifetime when I gained the ability to run faster than the speed of sound! Now, I try to live up to my father’s legacy and protect the twin cities from those who seek to do it harm as the Flash! ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ Last we left our hero, he had just teamed up with the former Robin, Dick Grayson, and new Gotham vigilante, Helena Wayne, the Huntress! Together, they teamed up to stop Lashawn Baez, a new metahuman who, whenever touched, imploded and teleported a short distance away! After being talked down by Barry and Dick, Lashawn turned herself in on the promise she would get to see her dad. Later that day, Barry asked the pair who the former Flash was, well aware that he needed training from someone after his defeat at the hands of a guy with a rock. The answer? Maxwell Crandall. ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ Coast City - The Day It Was Destroyed Even for the fastest man alive, things had happened so fast. The Justice League had engaged the villainous android, Amazo, in what they had thought would be a quick battle, but that assumption was quickly challenged once the robot’s ability to absorb their powers proved to be… overwhelming. If it had not been for his best friend, Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, summoning an untold amount of willpower and tearing the android to shreds… well, Maxwell Crandall, the Flash, could only guess at what would have happened. Coast City had been destroyed in the fight, however, and while the day may have been saved, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Hal snapped and, for the last ten minutes, they had been trying to subdue him, but to no avail. The fight with Amazo had simply taken too much out of them, but luckily, reinforcements were on the way. Max breathed a sigh of relief when he laid eyes upon the Titans soaring through the black smoke that filled the air of Coast City. At long last, their last chance at calming down Hal had arrived in the form of the Green Lantern Kyle Rayer, sidekick to Hal Jordan, along with the Titans, who could in aid disabling the rouge Lantern. He watched as Kyle drifted down towards Hal, his emerald aura leaving behind a faint trail. “Hal!” shouted Kyle, landing in front of him, “What are you doing?” There was a slight edge to his voice. “Look around! It’s…” despite his rage fueled demeanor Hal still struggled to get the words out, “It’s all gone! And it’s all their fault! Bruce! Clark! Diana!” Kyle took a step closer to Hal, putting his hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, Hal. You all did the best you could. Sometimes things like this happen. We don’t always win.” “What the hell are you talking about!? We’ve never leveled a city before!” Hal, calm down. You’re getting emotionally compromised.” “A Green Lantern doesn’t get emotionally compromised!” Kyle took a deep breath. “Do you remember when I found Alex?” Kyle harkened back to the untimely demise of Alexandra DeWitt, his girlfriend, whom he found cut up and stuffed in a refrigerator for him to find by a supervillain years ago. Hal nodded begrudgingly. “Do you remember how angry I was? How you had to calm me down?” “Hal shuffled his feet. “I do.” “Let me do that for you! After all we’ve been through! Let me help you!” “This… this isn’t the same, Kyle. Everyone I’ve ever known is gone. All my friends… my family.” “That’s not true. I’m still here.” “Then what are you doing on their side!? They deserve to pay for what they’ve done to my city!” “This isn’t a game of sides, Hal!” “Just get of my goddamn way or I swear I’ll make you!” “No, you won’t hurt any of them. Any of us.” Kyle reached out to Hal. And then it happened. In the blink of an eye, Kyle’s head snapped back, accompanied by the awful sound of crunching bone and the screams of Earth’s greatest heroes that made Max’s stomach turn and bile begin to burn up his throat. He was just a kid… Everyone stood dumbfounded, all but Batman, that is, who walked up to the green clad corpse, black cape flowing behind him, and pressed his fingers to the Lantern’s neck. Max couldn’t see Batman’s face, but he imagined that he was grimacing more than usual. The emerald ring situated on Kyle’s finger suddenly flew up into the sky and chirped in it’s electronic voice, “Ring status report. Green Lantern 2814 deceased. Space sector scan 2814 for sentient replacement initiated.” The ring zoomed off into space. Max’s eyes glazed over as his mind began to swirl with emotions he’d not felt in so long. It barely even registered to him when Hal, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Woman began a fearsome fight, fists pounding so hard against each other that the air rippled with shockwaves. No, he only thought of everyone he’d lost up to that point. How he couldn’t bare to lose anyone again. Elizabeth. Jay. Victor. Jesse. He had the power to stop things from getting any worse, or at the very least, he had to try. So he opened himself up to the mystical energy that he derived his powers from, the Speed Force, savoring the feeling of lightning flowing through his veins, giving him so much power and energy that it leaped from his body in the form of pale blue lightning. In the blink of an eye, he materialized next to Hal and, even quicker than that, let loose a flurry of super fast punches and punctuated with a swift kick to the stomach. Hal recoiled from the sudden shock of the attack, but quickly regained his composure and swung at Max with a blazing emerald sword that sprung to life from his ring. Without even thinking, Max vibrated his molecules so that the sword simply passed through him, though that only managed to enrage Hal even more so. The Green Lantern continued to lash out, each swing of his sword becoming all the more wild. Max merely ducked, dodged, and weaved out of the way, a simple feat for someone of his speed. But, for the briefest second, he had become lost in their dance, registering far too late when Hal let out a roar of frustration and formed a craftsman’s vise around his crimson suited body, trapping his arms and ushering him in so much pain he couldn’t think. “You always were one of the worst of us.” Hal muttered, flipping him over and smashing him into the ground. Once, twice, three times at least. Max cried in pain, not just from the barrage of if impacts tearing him apart, but from the sheer notion that his best friend, his only friend left, Hal Jordan, was potentially gone… forever. Deep in his bones, though he may not admit it to himself, Max knew that there was no bouncing back from this. ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ Central City - Present Day The pale morning light streamed through the single cracked window of Patty’s apartment, bathing Barry, and the rest of the room, in a soft glow. It peaked at his eyes, trying to pry him out of his slumber, but it seemed to be failing at this task. Since he had moved in with Patty about a month ago, he had grown accustomed to much more… obnoxious ways of waking up. For all but a month of his life, Barry had lived in the suburbs that surrounded Central City, had grown accustomed to waking up to the sound of chirping birds or, if he slept in long enough, someone mowing their lawn. Now, every morning, he was ripped out of his slumber by the sound of banging doors, flushing toilets, couples screaming at each other for god knows why, and god knows what else. Barry loved Patty very much and was certainly enjoying living with her, but he’d be lying to himself if he said he’d gotten a good nights sleep since then. No, a little bit of light was nothing now. And then it came. One of those sounds he’d grown to hate even more than an alarm clock. The violent sound of a flushing toilet permeated through the cracked teal walls of Patty’s apartment, meeting Barry’s ears and causing him to jut awake. With a tired groan, he rolled off the couch and onto the scratched wooden floor, a soft thud as his head hit the ground. Despite having been bonked on the head, Barry continued to wallow in his sleep-like state. He’d done that so many times at this point, he’d gotten used to it. The thought of it actually made him quite sad, if he was being honest. As he slowly joined the waking world, thoughts and ideas and plans for the coming day began to stream once more into his head. And once one thought in particular crossed his mind, he instantly dragged himself up limb by limb and shook his head, as if that would help him wake up. Today was the big day! The day when he’d finally find the former Flash, Maxwell Crandall, and ask him to train him! A month ago, Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne, a former Robin and Huntress respectively, had come to the twin cities in search of the Flash, who they assumed was Maxwell Crandall. Eventually, Dick discovered that the Flash was actually Barry Allen! While they were having a rooftop conversation, Barry asked Dick the identity on the former Flash and surprisingly, he was given the answer. It had taken quite some time, but Barry managed to find the whereabouts of Mister Crandall: an apartment in Metropolis. He needed a plan though. After all, he couldn’t just run to Metropolis, grab the guy, and come back. No, this was going to take some time, time he wouldn’t have on an ordinary day. But a sick day, perhaps? Barry certainly had enough of them saved up. Now he just had to fake being sick! Barry heard the door to Patty’s room creak open, followed by her soft footsteps as she entered the living room where Barry was. “Good mor… yawn… morning, Barry.” she yawned, brushing her blond locks out of her face and pulling down the loose fitting sweater she had put on. Barry moaned. “Hey, Patty. Where’s cough the thermometer. I feel cough awful.” Patty began to walk over to Barry. ‘Uh-oh. She’s going to check for a temperature and I don’t actually have one. What if I vibrate my forehead though? Can I even do that?’ A week or two ago, while filling out some paperwork for work, Barry’s hand had started to cramp. As is common in that situation, he began to shake it, but he is far from a common person. Without even thinking about it, Barry had started to vibrate his hand. And so he concentrated on his forehead, childishly picturing the molecules shaking around, excitedly knocking into each other like bumper cars, generating just enough heat that it’d feel hot. Patty placed her hand against Barry’s forehead, and much to his surprise, she looked rather worried. “You’re burning up!” “Yeah, cough, I’m going to call cough in sick.” ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ Barry looked up in awe at the glimmering and glittering skyscrapers of Metropolis, towering so high into the bright blue sky that the tip was but the size of a pinhead from the base. He had always thought the skyscrapers of the twin cities where impressive, but compared to Metropolis? The City of Tomorrow? They were nothing in comparison. And the people? Barry had been walking for thirty minutes now and not one person had bumped into him while staring down at their phone. It was a large city though, one of the largest in fact, so Barry was sure that his luck would run out at some point. As if the universe read his mind, the shrill sound of an alarm began to blare across the street as a pair of robbers stumbled away from a store, arms full of the latest KORDless Phones. Barry’s shoulders tensed and he began to finger the Flash ring on his finger, a second away from suiting up as the fastest man alive, the Flash, as he watched the thieves bolt down the street. But then a blur of red and blue rocketed through the air, drawing the attention of everyone within eyesight, and hovered before the robbers. Superman. “Gentleman, if you would be so kind as to return the items you stole, it’d be much appreciated.” His words were kind, but there was no mistaking the look in his steely blue eyes that glared down at the quivering weasels. He wasn’t asking. With a meek nod, one of the robbers complied with the order, the other staring at the Man of Steel, as if he was contemplating whether or not he could make a break for it. After a few seconds though, he too walked back to the store, his head hung in shame. Barry’s mouth hung open in complete awe at what he had just witnessed. And exactly that, witnessed. He’d heard stories about how Superman dealt with petty crime, but, if he was being honest, he’d never really believed them. Not that he thought people were lying, of course, but rather… exaggerating. Seeing was believing, however, and Barry couldn’t help but pick his jaw up from the floor and form a wide grin. ‘I wish I could do that,’ he thought. Suddenly, the big blue boy scout himself hovered over to Barry Allen and landed before him, extending his hand and asking, “Barry Allen?” “Ye… yes that’s me.” Barry stammered. “Glad I recognized you after all these years. Are you free? I’d love to have a chat with you.” Barry quickly nodded yes, so awestruck that he couldn’t quite manage to form words. ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ With a soft plop, Superman and Barry landed on one of the rooftops that surrounded the street they were just on. “Sorry to come up to you in public like that. It’s just that… I saw you and…” “And?” “You just remind me of your father is all. And the ring on your finger...” A small crept onto Superman’s face. “I assume you’re the Flash that’s been running around lately?” “I am the Flash. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that out loud. Feels weird…” “I can relate. So, how did you get the powers?” “Oh… I don’t think you’d believe me, sir.” “Son, I’ve fought an imp from the fifth dimension, nothing you can say is going to faze me.” “If you think so… Well, you remember the storm six months back?” Superman nodded solemnly. “It took your father’s life the last time it appeared. I’m so sorry, by the way, that we weren’t there for you after. It’s just that… Batman, bless him, convinced us all that leaving you and your mother alone was the best thing to do. Something to do about not wanting to attract villain’s attention or something. But then your mother died and…! I should have been there!” A tear began to roll down Superman’s cheek. “Sir…” “It’s alright, Barry. He was just an inspiration to me… and a good friend. Reason I put on a costume, as a matter of fact. Sorry, please continue with your story.” “Oh, uh, no problem. Well, I was struck by some of the lightning by that storm and I, like, entered some sort of… hallucination… almost like dream-like state. Then I woke up and… turns out I had healed from crippling chemical and heat burns. I saved some people then another Flash, who was blue by the way, showed up. And he’s apparently like… my grandson or something! Well, I don’t actually know that he is my grandson, just that he’s the second. So, we went to the eye of the storm and I had to throw a ball in it, but it didn’t work, so, the other Flash had to sacrifice himself. He told me to find some room, and I did, and he left me a message and gave me this ring!” “You’re right, I don’t believe you.” Barry’s face dropped. “Really?” “I’m kidding. But yeah, if you would ever want to, I’d be more than happy to meet you for lunch somewhere and talk about… everything, I suppose. All the adventures me and your father went on. Maybe even what he was like. Not that you don’t know what you’re father was like, I mean more along the lines of how he was as a hero. Tell me, do you know why your father decided to wear that helmet?” After a few seconds of reflection, Barry said, “No, I don’t actually.” “Your father loved mythology. He just couldn’t get enough of it! I remember always seeing him lounging around the Hall of Justice, speed reading through a literal library of Roman mythology books. Well, his grandfather, your great-grandfather, fought in World War One and kept his Doughboy helmet after the war was over. Now, the helmet looks quite like the god Mercury’s, the Roman god of speed, so, seeing as he had the power of super speed, he decided to put little wings on it, just like Mercury’s. He liked to joke it would make him go faster.” “I had no idea.” “Like I said, lunch.” “Is there anything else you can tell me?” “How does a bit of advice sound?” “Sure.” “You’re going to lose people, whether it be in your personal or superhero life. You can’t let that stop you for even a second though, because the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Suddenly, Superman’s head darted to the side. “I’m sorry, Barry, but it seems I’m needed elsewhere.” He smiled. “Have a nice day.” The Man of Steel turned to fly away, only to be stopped by Barry. “Hey, uh… do you think we could… um… race? Like, later I mean.” “I’d love that.” A smile lit up Barry’s face. “Wow! I didn’t think you’d say yes.” He started to wave. “Bye!” “I raced your father back when as well. I’ll see you later then.” And with that, he flew away. ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ A large door stood before Barry, a small yellow plate at eye level read, “Maxwell Crandall”. For sixteen years, this man had been the Flash, the fastest man alive, protector of the twin cities. And then it all came crashing down around him. After all that man had already lost, what had happened to him, Barry could only speculate what he’d been like once he finally met him. But what if he didn’t even answer? It wasn’t even something he had considered. The Flash was about legacy!What if Mister Crandall was simply to broken or jaded to continue? Barry could hardly blame the guy if he was. He had come all this way though, so it would be foolish to stop now. So, taking a deep breath, Barry rapped his knuckles against the door and waited… waited for what could potentially be a defining moment in his hopefully long career as the Flash. A squeaking sound came into earshot, inching closer and closer until finally, the door groaned open. “Hello.” spoke the former Flash. Needless to say, the man before Barry was hardly who he would have expected. Maxwell Crandall, the former Flash, appeared to be in his mid-forties, with unkempt, faded blonde hair that greyed on the sides. His hair came down in strands across his forehead, obscuring the deep lines in his forehead and a little bit of the lines around his eyes. And there was also the fact that, in the face of the fabulous, practically magical technology present in the world, he was in a wheelchair. Yet, despite his… worn appearance, to say the least, there was still a glint in eyes… a look that would have fooled anyone but Barry. He recognized that look… that look. The one you put on when you were pretending that you were alright, that there wasn’t something eating you up inside, driving you mad with grief or anger or fear or all the above. Barry had worn it himself for so long after his parent’s death and, for better or worse, he knew exactly what Mister Crandall was feeling, and how difficult it was going to be to get in the door, much less convince him to train him. “Hello,” Barry smiled, “Are you Maxwell Crandall?” “Speaking. To whom do I owe the pleasure?” “My name is Barry, Barry Allen, that is.” If it had not been for his heightened perceptions, Barry swore he wouldn’t have noticed when Mister Crandall’s face dropped for a fraction of a second. “Nice to meet you, Barry Allen. May I ask what brings you here?” Barry decided to be straight forward. “You were the Flash.” “What makes you--” “Dick Grayson told me.” “I’ve never heard that name before.” “Please… I just… I need your help.” “I’m sorry, but I don’t think someone like me could be of any use to you. Now, if there’s nothing else you wish to say…” he spoke as he began to close to the door. “I’m the Flash!” Barry blurted out, not giving any thought to the consequences of screaming that in an apartment complex might be. It was a desperate action, one that had to pay off. “And you were the Flash. And before you, my dad, Jay Garrick, was the Flash. I need your help, please. I have these powers, these fantastic powers, but I have no idea how to use them.” “Judging from the news reports, assuming you are who you claim to be, you’ve been getting on just fine without any help.” “That’s the thing, I haven’t. I mean, I can stop bank robbers no problem, but I’ve only ever came up against people with powers twice and both times, it didn’t go well.” Mister Crandall paused for a moment, as if he was weighing his next words carefully, before he sighed, “Come in.” He opened the door all the way and ushered Barry inwards. His apartment was sparsely decorated, though it seemed to be more by choice than anything else. The walls were mostly barren, a framed, dust covered picture tossed here and there to break up what would be an endless sea of beige. A well worn couch sat pressed into one of the corners of the room, a small coffee table flanking the open side with another dusty picture on top of it, though Barry couldn’t quite make it out. Across from the couch, an expensive looking T.V. had been mounted onto the wall with a small set of drawers beneath it. The former Flash motioned for Barry to take a seat on the couch, which he quickly obliged. “There’s a ring on your finger,” spoke Mister Crandall, “May I see it?” Barry slipped said ring off his finger and handed it towards Mister Crandall, who took it gently in his fingers and began to examine it in great detail. “Your Flash Ring is really quite astounding… did you make this yourself?” “No, it was given to me by… well, that’s a long story actually.” “I thought not. This ring contains technology from the future.” “That… actually makes a lot of sense, all things considered.” Mister Crandall gave the ring back to Barry, “You wanted my help.” “Yes, I… uh… I’d like for you to train me.” His response was quick, “No.” Despite having expected the response, Barry was taken back by the force behind it. “May I ask why?” “Because my training has proven to be ineffective and I am in no condition to provide it even if it was.” “I disagree.” “Then, I’m sorry to say, you’re wrong.” “Am I though? I know that everyone you’ve trained has accomplished great things.” “And look at where they ended up.” Barry paused, not quite sure what to say in response. “I know what it’s like to lose people, but… but that doesn’t mean that we don’t stop trying. Because once we stop trying… ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’.” “Edmund Burke?” “Superman, actually.” “Regardless, I… I’m not going to help you put yourself in harms way. If you got hurt or even died...” “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be putting myself in harm’s way with or without you.” Mister Crandall looked away from Barry. “What happens when I get hurt then? I already got stabbed with a rock by some guy who made everything go slow. What’ll happen if I ever have to go against the Rival?” Seconds seemed to feel like minutes as Barry awaited a response. A response that could very well change the course of both their lives. “You make a good argument.” “Is… is that a yes?” “Why yes, I do think it is.” ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ What was once a soft, pale glow cast over the entire reddish brown track suddenly burst into a bright, harsh light as the overhead blared to life. “Where’s Max?” said Superman as he drifted down towards Barry, who was standing at the track’s starting line. “Mister Crandall? He said something about needing to pack some things before we left.” he said as he jumped up and down, shaking his arms about the place like he was trying to release some sort of nervous energy. “I see. Well then, take your starting position.” Superman assumed a three-point stance, only for Barry to look at him, confusion evident in his eyes. “Is something the matter?” the Man of Steel asked. “No, no, it’s just that… what are you doing?” “It’s a three-point stance. Some call it a runner stance as well.” “Oh, well, okay.” Superman smiled. “Would you like me to show you how it’s done?” Barry nodded his head meekly. With a small laugh, the Big Blue Boy scout walked over to Barry and began to instruct him in how to assume the position, pausing every now and then to let the boy move his limbs into the right place. When he couldn’t quite manage that, Superman helped guide them to their proper positions. After a few minutes, Barry had taken what he know knew to be a three-point stance. “On your mark,” said Superman, “Get set. Go!” It wasn’t even close, and as the runners bolted out from the starting line, that fact became all the clearer. As much as Barry may have pumped his arms and gave it all, felt the lightning crackle from his body, by the time he reached the finish line, the Man of Steel was there waiting for him, and had been for some time. “How fast are you?!” asked Barry as he skidded to a stop. “Not as fast as you’ll be someday, I’m sure.” he smiled. ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ The adventures of Barry Allen continue in The Flash #7, Mirror, Mirror!
FirstPreviousNextWiki We had to make a few adjustments with Volcon, but fortunately, the Admiral’s request wasn’t going to take us too far out of our way. I found myself wondering about how convenient that was, but without having him in front of me to ask, I just shelved it for later. We made our preparations, loaded up the cargo, and got ready to leave Bekter’s Rim behind. I was frankly happy to go; while it had been nice to get off the ship for a while, the crowds and the frantic pace of everything always became exhausting very quickly. Even with dwindling entertainment options aboard-ship I was looking forward to the sedate pace of a medium-length jump. Not to mention the last time I’d seen Janice she’d been furtively carrying something aboard with a barely subdued excitement in her face that I’d never seen there before. Hopefully she’d see fit to share whatever it was with the rest of us soon. “Diaz!” I said with a mocking smile. “It’s good to see you decided to come back. After the second day of not seeing your face, I started to worry that you’d jumped ship.” “Never, Captain,” he replied with a genuine smile of his own. “Did have fun, though.” “Great, get your shit aboard. I want to be gone before noon.” Omar and Clinton were next, chatting animatedly while Clinton maneuvered a box of some sort through the small walkway in the cargo bay. Omar still walked with a limp, but he’d recently gotten the cast off and seemed much happier for it. Those two had been pretty much inseparable since shortly after Omar had come aboard, always working on some project or other or cutting up during crew gatherings. Sister Estrada was the last aboard, another I’d barely seen since we’d arrived. Apparently there was a chapter of her church here on Bekter’s Rim, so she’d spent the whole visit there, in fellowship with her brothers and sisters. “Did you have a good stay, Melva?” Despite that I still thought of her as ‘Sister Estrada’ and probably always would, she’d asked us all to call her Melva, said we were like family and family didn’t need to stand on titles. Still insisted on calling me Captain most of the time, though. “I did,” she replied. “As much as I love all of you, it’s nice to be amongst my flock from time to time.” “Baa,” I said playfully, as I reached over to close the ramp. Our first stop was four days out, a mining operation in a deepspace asteroid field. They’d lost their primary power core so we were bringing them a new one, as well as a full set of replacement augurs. After that was a one-day jump to an uninhabited system where’d we’d drop off some survey drones before going on to our last delivery destination, which was one of Volcon’s major industrial and distribution hubs. We’d pick up some more jobs from there, but first we’d take a day to go check out another uninhabited system that the Admiral wanted us to investigate. His message had said there was no reason to believe that it would be anything dangerous, but he’d encouraged us to use the tools at hand to protect ourselves as necessary. The round-about way he’d worded things, as opposed to his normal no-nonsense manner, indicated that he didn’t entirely trust that the datastick wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, but his meaning was clear enough. It was two days into the trip that Janice finally came to find me. To say she was bubbling with excitement would be a vast overstatement, but her usual surliness was nowhere in evidence. She asked me to follow her so I did, trying to keep curiosity in check. Instead of the cargo bay or the engine room, she lead me to the room that had been set aside for her, which I’d never once seen her use before this moment. Inside, I saw something new: her belongings. Next to the bed was a ratty backpack of the sort you usually saw marketed for wilderness vacationers, but this one was obviously several years old and had been repaired by hand many times. On the small table next to the bed were several small items, including a comb with broken teeth and a thin gold necklace. I looked at her incredulously. “You actually moved in?” “Yes, yes,” she said with a trace of her normal attitude as she swatted that away. “That’s not why I brought you here.” She pointed to the table where there was a portable terminal; a step up from a datapad, but easier to carry than a stationary terminal. This one looked sleek; unlike almost everything else she owned, it was obviously brand new. Likely this was where the money she’d asked for had gone to. I took a closer look at the screen which was turned on and had lines of code rapidly scrolling across it. “So, what am I looking at, aside from a very expensive terminal?” I glanced back at her, and she actually had the grace to blush a little bit, though it didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. “That code is your local datasphere running through a filter,” she said, as if that explained everything. I schooled my features to a deliberately vapid expression, and blinked ostentatiously at her several times. She scowled and explained further. “It’s what StyxRatt sent. I’ve already run your entire datasphere through it three times; you had some minor viruses in some of the darker corners, by the way.” “Um, okay? So this is… what, a virus scanner?” “This is a virus scan in the same way that a capital ship has pop-guns,” she retorted scornfully. “This terminal, running StyxRatt’s software, will completely clear all known infections, and several unknown ones from our local datasphere several times a day.” “Okay, that sounds nice, I guess,” I said, apparently missing something. “You guess?” she looked incredulous. “After everyone’s been bitching and moaning for the last week about updates, you guess?” “Wait,” I said, finally catching on. “Are you saying this will clear out whatever viruses the black ships have infecting the datasphere?” “Yeah,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Why else would it even matter?” “So we can sync and get updates?” I said, excited. “Finally!” “Are you sure you should be Captain?” she said. “You’re a little slow on the uptake.” “Oh shut up,” I replied, not even mad. “Not everyone speaks datasphere as a second language.” I sat down on the edge of the bed, thinking it through. We wouldn’t be able to update until we got to our final stop, since the mining station had a datasphere that was likely about as up-to-date as ours was; likely they’d want us to update them instead of the other way around. But this was huge, not just from a crew satisfaction angle. Updated navdata and system configurations for the ship and subsystems would probably grant small performance upgrades across the board. I could almost hug her, if I didn’t think she’d likely shank me for my troubles. I glanced at her and noticed that her earlier excitement seemed to have evaporated; I was missing something again, but I didn’t think asking straight out was the best tactic. “So what made you finally move in?” I asked, looking around the small room. “I thought you said you liked the maintenance tubes.” “I needed the room to work on this,” she said, looking around as well, anywhere but at me. “I couldn’t build this terminal in such tight spaces.” I looked at her, skeptical; while it was probably easier with the room, I doubted that she couldn’t manage it if she’d wanted to. She caught my look and scowled. “What?” she demanded. “Is that really the reason?” I asked, making my tone as gentle as I could. “Yes!” she snapped, then looked down. I waited a minute in silence, and she finally spoke again. “I’m not a freeloader, alright? I earn my way.” I sat back, eyes wide at the vehemence in her tone. “I never said you were,” I replied, keeping my voice even. “You’ve been a big help, ever since we were first contacted by StyxRatt.” “Not like you, or Clinton or Lorna. Julio and Shanna are always working, making things happen, and even Melva cooks and makes everyone feel better.” She dropped her head again at this admission, which confirmed my suspicion that Sister Estrada knew quite a bit more about Janice than she let on. “All I’ve done is decode a few messages and eat your food, live in your ship and take up your air.” “Hey,” I said, scooting over next to the girl. “Listen, you’re part of my crew. If all you ever did was stalk around and glare at me, that’d be enough. But you’ve helped out with a lot more than decoding a few of StyxRatt’s bullshit ciphers and I value your contributions as much as anyone else’s.” “Whatever,” she said, refusing to look at me, her hair falling down around her face and muffling her voice. “But now I did this. I got you and everyone the datasphere again. I got it working, and you didn’t even seem to appreciate it at first.” I sighed in order to keep from laughing. I remembered being this young and unsure of myself, though it seemed a lot longer than a decade ago. “I didn’t appreciate it at first because I didn’t understand what it meant,” I explained. “You’re a very smart kid, and this stuff seems simple to you, even when it’s not. All I ever really wanted to do was fly away. My understanding of the datasphere, except where it specifically applies to ships, is about as complex as basic queries and watching my shows.” I punched her shoulder lightly. “Doesn’t mean I’m slow on the uptake, though. I’d like to see you plot our next jump and see how long it takes you.” “I’d probably do it in half the time,” she muttered, but I could hear the smile she had hidden behind the curtain of her hair. “You know what, maybe we’ll just have to see about that,” I warned her, then stood up. “Come on, let’s go tell the crew. It’ll be a few days before we can make use of it, but having something to look forward to will put everyone in a good mood.” =+= The mining station job had gone as smooth as butter, as had the survey drone drop-off, and we were now coasting in to our final delivery destination. Volcon had definitely come through with some good jobs, and I was entirely happy with keeping a steady working relationship with them, so long as there were no open-ended commitments. I liked nice, tidy jobs where we could fuck off to a vacation planet for a week if we wanted to without having to check with anyone else; not that vacation was on the agenda any time soon. As soon as we were done with this delivery, we’d be heading out to do the Admiral’s job; hopefully that would be as uneventful as he’d indicated, but he wouldn’t have sent us unless it had something to do with the war against the black ships. The delivery location was an industrial station, called The Forge, situated in a system with a lot of rocky planets which were the site for multiple dedicated mining operations, and the whole lot was essentially owned outright by Volcon. The Forge’s primary purpose was refining the raw materials from the various mining operations for shipment elsewhere to be manufactured into useful commodities, tools and machines. It was a big operation, and there were ships constantly coming and going; aside from producing materials, it also served as one of several centralized warehouses for Volcon’s commodities. As such, it was heavily defended for being a relatively small station and we were made aware of that upon jumping into the system, when we were hailed almost instantly. But with legitimate credentials and the one-time passcode from Kristina, we were able to get docked in short order. The factor was waiting for us when I dropped the ramp. “Evening Captain Rickard,” the short man said cheerfully. “Sorry about the abrupt welcome, but we’ve our share of pirates out here.” “Not a problem,” I said. “We were prepared for it ahead of time.” “Yes, the notification we received also said that you’d likely want to take on cargo here as well.” “We will, though not yet,” I hedged. “I have a quick survey job in TDG-14526-D, then I’ll be coming back to take on cargo.” “Understood,” he said. “Volcon is naturally the biggest customer here, but we do have several smaller businesses which have set up shop aboard station who might be interested in your services. Most of the ships that dock here are Volcon freighters or bonded contractors so they may be willing to pay a premium for delivery, although Volcon will always make it worth your while.” “You’re… surprisingly fair for a Volcon employee,” I said, impressed. “Well, I have to use the services those businesses offer,” he admitted. “So it’s worthwhile to stay on their good side. Plus my wife owns the local brewery, so if you’re looking for recommendations…” He trailed off hopefully and I laughed. “We will certainly check out the brewery and see what she has to offer,” I agreed. “For now though, we’d like to offload and get out to our survey job as quickly as possible.” “Certainly,” he said, then gestured the porters and their loading machines forward. The unloading and inventory was quick and efficient and within the hour I was back on board, bank account significantly fatter, getting set to plot the course. We did run into a bit of a delay, however, once we’d synced the datasphere and navdata; Janice reported that the Volcon datasphere was riddled with the viruses planted by the black ships, and that it would likely take an hour or more before it would be clear enough to plot the navdata without giving anything away. Once that delay was past, I got to work, and we were away soon after. Once we got to TDG-14526-D, if there was no threat present, the Admiral wanted us to plant four passive probes at polar orbits, so that the star system could be constantly monitored without the planets or the star itself screening any possible activity. If a threat was present, we were to remain unobserved, record what we could and get out of there as soon as possible. TDG-14526-D was only about six hours away via hyperspace, so with luck we’d be back in less than two days with most of that time spent flying around in-system to plant the probes. An hour before the drop, I asked Diaz, Omar and Clinton to report to their stations for a dry run. “Alright boys,” I said, “we’re about to deliberately drop into what may be hostile territory. I want you to do a final system check on weapons, shields and drones. Then we’re going to talk about the Secret Weapon.” “Do you really have to call it that?” Omar complained. “If you’re not going to tell us what it is, at least don’t use corny nicknames.” “I dunno, I kinda like it,” Clinton argued. “Does kind of suck that you wanted me to hook it up to the power grid, but wouldn’t tell me what the hell it is, though.” “Muahahah,” I replied. “Stop your bitching and let me know once you’ve completed your checks.” It took five to ten minutes before they all reported back in, eager to find out what Admiral Clarke had given us. “Alright, that’s everyone,” Diaz said. “Spill it, Suze!” “Hey, it’s Captain at the moment,” I corrected him with mock sternness. “Alright, so I need all non-essential systems to shut down. According to what I’m told, this thing draws some serious juice.” “Yeah, hopefully it’s worth it. Non-essential systems includes shields, while this thing is running.” I’d given Clinton enough information to know its power requirements, so he knew what he was talking about. “Now listen,” I told them. “My keeping you all in the dark was mostly just for my own amusement, but this is actually pretty serious. Admiral Clarke tells me that he could probably be court-martialed for giving this to us.” I waited until they’d all acknowledged the seriousness of what I was saying. “Our Secret Weapon is a signal stealth device, much like the black ships use. The TU had been researching something like it for a while, but only figured out the technology after their first contact with the black ships.” “Holy shit,” Omar’s voice came across the commlink as a whisper. “We’re gonna be invisible?” Diaz asked. “No, we won’t be invisible any more than the black ships are,” I replied. “And I’m sure as shit not going to paint my ship black, since that’d be a good way to get blown out of the sky by a nervous TU frigate. We’re just going to have to be careful and rely on being a small ship in a big, dark universe until we can be sure there’s nothing there to worry about.” “Understood.” “Great. Now let’s fire this thing up and make sure it’s not going to overload anything before we put it to the test against a real threat.” I watched as the power draw dropped dramatically as shields, guns, drones and other less important sub-systems went offline. “Prepared to activate the Secret Weapon,” said Clinton, none of his former jocularity evident in his tone. “At your order, Captain.” “Do it.” Do it? I thought. I should have said ‘engage’ or ‘execute’ or something. The power draw suddenly jumped to nearly full capacity and a warning flashed up on the center console. “How are we looking?” I asked expectantly. “There’s definitely some serious draw for a single system,” Clinton replied “but we’re good. We could probably bring some of the lesser subsystems back online.” “So, it’s working?” “Well, it’s on.” I heard him fiddle with some stuff. “How would we know if it’s working?” “Um.” I considered. “I guess if no one shoots at us?” “I guess that’d be a good indication,” Clinton agreed. “Am I the only one who expected something a little more dramatic?” Diaz spoke up, and I laughed. “No, you’re definitely not the only one,” I told him, then sighed. “Alright, shut it down for now. I’ll have you bring it back up right before we drop out in…” I looked at the timer. “Twenty minutes. Take a break if you need to, but be back in place in ten minutes. Got it?” “Copy,” Clinton said, and I heard Omar’s voice echo a half a second later. “Sure thing, Captain,” Diaz added. I signed off and slipped out of my seat. Maybe if Melva was still psychic, I’d have time for a cup of coffee. Sure enough, when I got to the galley she was leaning against the counter enjoying a cup of her own. When she saw me, she grabbed my cup from the cabinet and poured it full. “What would it take to get you declared a saint?” I asked her as I prepped my cup. “Seriously, Saint Java of the Spacelanes, or something.” “Well, I’d have to perform a miracle for starters,” she answered. I took a long drink of my coffee, gasping as I swallowed it down a little too quickly. “Sister, you perform miracles every day.” “Well, perhaps something a bit more dramatic, then.” I laughed quietly and focused on my coffee. I wanted it gone before I had to get back to my seat. Sister Estrada, unusually, took advantage of my silence to talk. “It seems that her accomplishment with the datasphere has done something for Janice,” she said in a conversational tone. I grunted since I’d just taken a mouthful of coffee and she continued. “Not only has she finally moved into her room, but she was in here visiting earlier; not grumping and scowling at everyone and everything, but actually making conversation, with Lorna.” I nodded; I’d also noticed the difference, ever since our brief talk in her room. I wondered if the priestess had talked to her about it. “What a difference feeling valued can make,” she commented a little too casually, then smiled at me in such a way as to make it clear that it was anything but. “Well, I’ll let you finish your coffee. I know you’ve got work to do.” Without another word she left the galley, leaving me by myself wondering what she was trying to say. I didn’t have long to ponder; I gulped the last of my coffee and returned to the cockpit for the drop out. We returned to normal space with the sensor stealth field active, but none of our other defenses. I felt naked knowing that there was no shield between us and any potential hostiles, especially when we had no way of knowing if the stealth field was even working. Tensely I ran a system scan, though it wouldn’t likely pick anything up if the black ships were around; only proximity scans seemed to do anything, and they’d have to be right on top of you for that to work. The telemetry came back as I’d expected, so I plotted the first coordinate for the probe. “Clinton, I want you to keep visual scans toward the star,” I told him. “Diaz, do the same with the nearby planets.” “Copy,” came Clinton’s reply, shortly followed by Diaz’ acknowledgement. Half an hour passed and nothing had shot at us; my shoulders started to relax, and I told Omar to get ready to deploy the probe. Since we didn’t have enough power remaining to operate the drone console, he’d just have to space it from the airlock, but it was designed to right itself into a stable orbit before going into passive mode, so that was alright. “Alright Captain, it’s away” Omar said, once the probe had been spaced. “Good,” I replied. “Prep the second one, then go take a break. I’ll want you to spell Clinton in a while, since this next flight’s going to be a few hours.” I’d also ask Lorna or Shanna to relieve Diaz after a bit; since we weren’t using the gun, all I needed were eyes on the visual displays. Meanwhile, I worked on the plotting the course back to The Forge once we were done. “Captain, there’s something,” Clinton paused. “Something, near the star. I can’t make out what.” “Kick it over to my display?” I told him. “You got it, now.” The image popped up on my console, and I peered at it. Definitely something. “Try to zoom in? Apply digital enhancement?” “Working on it,” he replied. The image got a bit sharper, then the light filtration kicked up, making the shape considerably more visible. “Shit.” “Shit is right,” I said, looking at it. It was hard to describe, but it was definitely something that appeared to be mostly black, silhouetted against the bottom edge of the star, nearly into the corona. There was also an odd reflective distortion that made the outline of the object difficult to discern. All the same, I would be willing to bet that it was a black ship. I slowly brought the ‘Hostile Witness’ to a stop, even though we hadn’t reached the next probe drop point. “Stealth field is up, right?” The power drain told me it was, but I was happier when I heard him confirm it. “What’s the plan, Captain?” Diaz asked. “We’re going to sit right here, not make any sudden moves, while I finish plotting the navdata. You’re both going to keep an eye on that. Then as soon as we can we’re getting the hell out of here.” I turned my attention to the navcomputer and prayed that the stealth field was actually doing more than just drawing power. I kept glancing at the display of the ship expecting it to move any moment, but after about ten minutes of nervous rechecking, I was able to focus on the navdata. Just a little more luck, and we’d be gone. Maybe ten minutes, tops. “Shit,” Diaz’ voice came over the commlink. He didn’t cuss basically ever, so my attention snapped back to the visual display. The black ship was retracting whatever the reflectors were, and it was definitely moving. “Captain, it’s getting closer.” He was right, I realized. “On it,” I muttered, swinging the ship around with the maneuvering thrusters, before kicking the throttle up. The ship was far enough out that we could probably make it if I could get the last few calculations done. The new navcomputer was a big help, but it wasn’t enough of an upgrade to manage the calculations by itself. Maybe the black ship’smovement was coincidence; it hadn’t opened f- “Captain, it’s firing missiles!” Omar’s voice cut threw my thoughts. When will I learn not to jinx things! I slammed throttle to full and the lights flickered before the ion drive stabilized. There was no way we were going to outrun missiles, but I definitely didn’t want to let it get in range for kinetics or beam weapons; it definitely looked big enough for beam weapons. I kept talking while I pummeled my brain to build the last equation in the navcomputer. “Clinton, Omar, kick off that useless-ass stealth field, and get the shields online. Diaz-“ “Wait, Captain,” Omar cut in again. “Wait? No, get the shields up! Now!” “Wait, Captain!” Omar insisted. “The missiles, they’re completely off trajectory!” Cursing, I checked the display and saw that he was correct; the ship itself had picked up speed, but the missiles were scattering as if completely unguided. “Why would they do that?” I demanded, doing my best to divide my attention between the last calculation and the display. Evasive maneuvers would be counterproductive until the ship got close enough to use its other weaponry; until then, straight away was the best option we had. I wondered if it had an interdiction field, too; it was larger than the scout we’d encountered last time, so I considered it likely. “I think it’s the stealth field,” Clinton’s voice returned to the conversation. “It can see us plainly enough, but you can’t blind-fire a missile at that range. They need guidance and guidance systems need to be able to lock onto something.” It made sense. Now I just wished I could make this equation make sense. Focus. Focus! “I’m trying to get us to jump, but be prepared to fight,” I said. “That will mean shields, so be ready to swap.” Fuck, don’t forget to carry the seven, I told myself. Okay, that looked right. I didn’t have time to recheck it, though. I hit Enter and watched the navcomputer resolve the equation. I glanced at the visual display, and the black ship was still gaining on us, quickly. If it wasn’t in range yet, it would be soon. Time to roll the dice. As soon as the jump solution displayed, I confirmed it and reached up to slap the jump button. “Go!” I yelled, expecting the flash of hyperspace and the viewscreen cover to close, but the star field ahead stayed steady; I looked back at the navcomputer and saw the displayed error: Invalid Navdata. “Captain! It’s charging some sort of cannon!” I jerked the yoke blindly to the side, and keyed navcomputer back to the last equation I’d entered. “It’s firing!” I jerked the yoke back the other way, not taking my eyes off the equation. If we didn’t jump soon, it wouldn’t matter anyway; we weren’t sufficiently armed to deal with a ship of this size. The lights flickered and audible warnings began to blare, then the ship shuddered with impact. I heard Diaz shouting, followed by a ripping buzz from underneath the ship. Then I saw it, a rounding error two steps back. I corrected the equation and made the resultant changes in the latter steps before scanning my work one last time. This was probably our last chance. I slapped the Enter key again, waited for it to resolve, then confirmed and hit Jump as soon as I could. A blinding flash of light, a small lurch and we were away. FirstPreviousNextWiki
1810-16 -- Bellona Foundry / Arsenal constructed due to proximity to coal mines. While "Old Gun Road" is an obvious reference to this arsenal, parts of Huguenot Road and Forest Hill Avenue are also remnants of the road used to access the arsenal by land.
between 1847 and 1851... Richmond and Danville Line chartered and built built and increases settlement in the area; daily trains from from Manchester to Robious and the Coal Mines pass through what would become Bon Air.
1877 -- Bon Air Land and Improvement Company begins
1877 - -- Richmond Jeweler Lewis G. Jahnke buys a large farm from the Duval brothers and two years later sells it to his brother A. Franz Jahnke Sr. This 350 acre estate, at 7737 Jahnke Road, would be known as Shady Echo. Google Map The Jahnke Family would become very involved in Bon Air social life.
1885 -- Through the efforts of Rev, Hazen, the Bon Air Chautauqua Society was founded with 24 members seeking ""to promote a closer acquaintance and more intimate fellowship among the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle readers of Bon Air, to stimulate and encourage each other [sic], to further the interests of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and to extend its works by all proper means."
1888 -- Reverend David B. Winfree, Baptist minister, dies. Another pillar of the community was Midlothian Masonic Lodge leader Doctor Phillip S. Hancock, who served the Midlothian and Bon Air communities as their doctor for over thirty years, dies in 1893.
1910 -- "Virginia Home and Industrial School for Girls" (Later known as Kilbourne Farm(1918), the State Industrial Reformatory Girls (1930s) and now Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center) opens on a 206 acre farm in Bon Air.
1910 -- George Gregory purchases 1092 acres of James River land from Anne B. Hoas, comprising the "Rattlesnake" and "Locust Grove" tracts. (These would later become the Southampton / Stratford Hills neighborhood).
1912 "Water's Store" burns down, meaning the mail had to be delivered to the train depot.
1913 Gregory purchases the Southamption Bridge Corporation. Despite the streetcar grading to Bon Air being completed, the streetcar line never opened, and the tracks were torn up for scrap during WWI.
1914 -- University of Richmond moves from downtown Richmond to the former Westhampton Park campus.
1914 -- Albert Jahnke removes the creek dam that created Jahnke Lake, thus removing a lake between Fernwood and Shady Echo that had been a central point of the social life of the Bon Air community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
1915 -- Lewis Larus, Jr. Purchases a vast tract of land overlooking the James River, where he would build his "Stoney Point" estate with gardens designed by Charles Gillette.
February 1917 -- the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors authorizes the "Bon Air" police officer to buy and install a telephone in his home so citizens and the county could contact him in case of emergencies.
1923 -- The Bon Air Hotel dance pavilion was enclosed and converted into the Bon Air Center. It was established to "promote and foster the literary, educational, and physical interests and welfare of its members."
1928 -- The Bon Air Improvement Company hires the Louisville Real Estate and Development Company to sell off its remaining lots. The auction occurred April 30, 1928.
1939 -- Virginia State Police HQ relocates to Midlothian Turnpike "State Police moved their offices from 12th and Main Streets in downtown Richmond to a seven-room farmhouse located on 65 acres of land 3 1/2 miles west of Richmond on route 60." A 1000-watt radiotelephone tower (WSPH) was built there in 1940. A 1,650 feet State Police Airfield operated at this location starting in 1946, and was used to locate Whiskey stills and fleeing felons.
1945 -- Nellie "Sneed" Wilkinson takes over the 1916 Bon Air Post Office from Julia Powers (superintendent from 1916 - 1945). She would hold this position as it moved to 2060 Buford Road (by the Bon Air Hotel) in 1952 and moved again in 1960 to 2611 Buford Road (near the Bon Air Shopping Center). Ms. Wilkerson retired from this position in 1969.
1958 -- Brighton Green Land Corporation was formed by the partnership of Bernard Savage, George Sowers, Sr. and Oscar Napier, with brochures advertising “Brighton Green is the Bon Air Community designed for your generation”. (additional sections of Brighton Green were added until ~1968)
1960 -- Chippenham Parkway built as a limited access highway to relieve traffic on the parallel and heavily traveled Cherokee Road. Later, there is speculation that this parkway will serve as the northern extension of a new the proposed Route 892 which would be known in its entirety as the "Chippenham Parkway."
1963 Bon Air Presbyterian moves to its current location on Huguenot Rd.
1966-1967 ... Crestwood Presbyterian (formed as a church plant from Bon Air Presbyerian), meets at Crestwood Elementary, calls a pastor in 1968, gets a new pastor in 1970, and does not have a full time sanctuary until 1974.
November 2015 Chesterfield County board of supervisors passes the Bon Air Special Area Plan that includes master planning for sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, and design standards for areas between the Bon Air village core and historic Old Bon Air
2017 / 2018 -- James River at Stony Point a 280-unit luxury apartment complex completes construction and opens beside Stony Point Fashion Park. The project, originally called Alta Stony Point when proposed in 2013, had been delayed by Huguenot Farms Area Association complaints, and upheld for 4 years by a court injunction.
"Take a guess." Came a tired reply, the technician swinging around to look at Xavier. Night shifts weren't supposed to involve a manhunt of a gorilla. Gorillahunt?
"Not the time. How long before the plane is ready?" Xavier snapped angrily peering over the technician's shoulder to check the screens. The technician couldn't help but notice that Xavier clearly had received the benefits of a night's sleep, even if he was rudely awakened.
"Flight to Pennsylvania will be ready in forty-five minutes, the one towards Africa will be ready in about two hours."
"Good. Where in Africa?"
"Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. We're working on clearance for that right now."
"God bless you. Thank god we have someone competent watching things that aren't that blasted dome."
Xavier left the room, making his way down the empty hallways. Grodd and the dome were the two big things he had to worry about as of right now, and of course they'd both escalate at the exact same moment. There was enough resources to at least watch the dome, so he had made the choice to fly out to Pennsylvania to meet up with the speeders and figure out what's going on there. Grodd had attacked, and Barry was apparently undergoing serious surgery as he waited for an airplane to be prepared.
The dome was doing some weird things, but he couldn't do anything about it. He just needed to make sure that Barry and the rest of them were safe, and update them on the situation with tracking Grodd. The plane would take about a day to get from the west coast to the location they tracked him to, and there was already local assistance from the local embassy and the CIA. As long as the speedsters didn't do anything rash, this would be the final checkmate.
Someone fell in step with him. "Mr. Mendez, something's happening with the dome. We need your advice. Could you stop by the—"
"I'm leaving for the east coast for something. Talk to Waller." Xavier cut him off, abruptly stopping by the elevator. He didn't need to use it, he was already on the right floor, but previous experience with tagalongs had given him a pretty good evasion tactics.
"That doctor…" Jay sighed.
"Next time, bring him to Moses Taylor Hospital. We have friends there."
"Alright, that sounds good. Where's that? I don't have that where I'm from, I think."
"It's in Scranton… Downtown area I think?" Xavier said, trailing off at the end.
"Ah, yeah. I know nothing about Scranton."
"Anyways. I'm glad you're all OK." Xavier said, smiling.
"Just a little scared. Where did Grodd go, do you know, Jay?" Jerry asked, a shiver running up his spine.
"No…" Jay sighed. "I just focused on getting Barry to the hospital."
"We tracked him as soon as we could. We've got a plane flying out to where we tracked him to."
"Where'd he go?" Wally asked, perking up at the good news.
"Could we get coordinates?" Jerry turned to Xavier.
Xavier froze. "Why…?"
"I mean, for myself at least, I want to help. If we have the jump on him, then…"
"I'd help!" Wally nodded, smiling. "I fought him once, I bet I could give some pointers to what we could do."
"I can't do that. I think you guys can understand that. I'm going to go in and talk to Barry now, alright?"
The three men watched Xavier leave, simultaneously so underpowered compared to them and yet holding every advantage over them. Jerry wondered how simple it would be to just use their power to ensure cooperation from the FBI agent, but figured it'd be unlikely that Barry would be too appreciative of it. Somehow the guy kept playing mysterious boss to them all, and Barry kept buying into it. Wally seemed to be chafing under it as well, and his only solace was that Jay's alternative life gave him information that Xavier didn't want him to have.
"Jerry, Wally." Jay whispered.
"Hmm?" Jerry looked up, hopeful. Could it be?"
"I… know where Grodd is. Do you two want to go?"
"Absolutely!" Wally shouted, prompting the two adults to signal him to be quieter.
Jerry just nodded. Maybe he did have some friends.
A quick double rap on the door, and seconds later, Iris's face filled a small crack. "Oh my god, Xavier. Thank god you're here."
Xavier sat down in a nearby chair, Iris sitting on the other side of the room across from him. Barry sat up in his bed, bandages circling his head and an I.V. drip resting in his arm. Other than that, though, Xavier noticed he seemed to be fairly unharmed.
"Dumb gorilla doesn't know me. Would've killed a normal man, sure, but not me."
"I think it also helps that you were at the hospital within milliseconds of the injury." Xavier remarked, a wry smile growing on his face. Barry somehow was a stupidly positive person regardless of the situation.
"Hey, Iris, could you turn on the television? This room is too quiet."
"We're talking, Barry! Quiet?"
"Cmon, Iris." Barry pouted. "I'm the one with a deadly injury. You could at least give me that!"
Xavier and Iris exchanged exasperated glances, and Iris reached out for the remote. "Mr Deadly Injury, that's not what the doctor said. They just wanted to keep you here for a bit to watch you."
"I don't even need to be here for that, to be honest. Could just swing by at the push of a button."
Xavier rolled his eyes. "You're good, then?"
"Yeah, the doctor just… wants me so he can make sure… nothing's wrong. What's going on in San Francisco?!"
"What? Oh, that."
"What in the world?"
Jay would wonder what five minutes would've done. Had he waited five minutes, Xavier would've come out of that door and ask them to head to the west coast, to help with San Francisco. He had no idea what was happening there, that didn't happen in his world. But those five minutes never happened, as when Xavier did come out of the door to ask them, they were already staking out Gorilla City.
Wally was shocked. He had never really been outside of his home city, even with his superspeed. Why he didn't immediately take a tour of the world on receiving his powers, Jay didn't fully understand. He did, and Jerry mentioned that he did as well. He missed Jerry.
Jay took the lead, pushing aside foliage and scaring off animals as they made their way closer and closer to the hidden city.
"What're we looking for?" Wally whispered, head on a swivel to try and locate every new noise around him.
"We're looking up." Jay whispered, causing Wally's head to tilt up.
"Oh my god."
If the sight of the jungle top was not breathtaking already, the view of what appeared to be an entire city hidden in the rooftops above them. Dark wood planks poked out from the leaves, hinting at a much bigger structure above the leaves.
"How do we get up there?" Wally asked, rooted to the spot.
Jay slammed a fist on a tree, the outer bark falling to the ground and revealing a ladder inside. "Climb."
Barry cruised down the countryside, watching his speed and headache to make sure he wouldn't find himself in some new hospital with another very confused doctor. He had been given permission to help with the problems in San Francisco, assuming he checked back in at the hospital when called for. When he had left the hospital, however, full speed had almost instantly given him a splitting pain in his head, so he slowed down to a car's speed and had been slowly speeding up to find the fastest speed he could go without debilitating pain.
A rub of his ear against his shoulder filled his head with voices, Batman coordinating a group effort against the creatures attacking the dome. He couldn't recognize most of the voices, keeping quiet as he made his way through Illinois. He tried to piece together what was going on from the things said, but soon found that to be too difficult.
"Flash here. On my way. Can't do much." Barry whispered into the channel.
"Can you do cleanup on stragglers?" Batman replied instantly, as the other voices faded from conversation to just important warnings.
"Will running into them at a vaguely high speed help?"
There was a moment of silence, before Batman spoke up again. "Guess you'll find out."
Barry spent a few more minutes passing through the Great Plains, wondering if he'd even be any help. He'd not have to worry about actually fighting anything, just chase after things running away out of the group's zone of control, and knock into them. At least, he hoped that would work. If he actually had to do anything more than that, he'd be in trouble. How did he fight the mirror dude's creatures? He couldn't remember.
Some time later, the pink dome appeared on the horizon. Barry snapped back to reality, focusing back on the coordination effort. He wasn't sure how long he zoned out, something he probably should mention to the doctor when he was finished. He didn't want to scare the doctor and have him stay in Pennsylvania, unable to help.
Jerry went up the ladder first, his head poking out into the city above. Below him, Jay and Wally waited, awkwardly promising themselves that they'd never climb a ladder with someone else on it. Jerry pulled himself up, allowing himself a whispered "oh my god" despite their agreement of silence.
Soon, the other two exited the ladder, with Wally gasping and Jay nodding. Jay had seen Gorilla City in his world before, and this one was not different significantly. The entrance itself was tucked away in a corner, with pathways leading north, east, and to the center. In the center was a strange building, almost like a throne room, with a huge bonfire burning in front.
"How do they keep the fire from spreading?" Wally whispered, leaning towards the adults.
Jerry craned his neck, trying to look past the top of a tree in the way. "Probably not that hard. Basic boy scout stuff."
"You were a boy scout?" Jay asked, matching the volume of the other two to remain quiet.
"For a few years, yeah. That's not what we're here for, though." The three looked to the other corners, each appearing to be their own individual purpose. One appeared to be residential, with gorillas mulling in and out of small rooms that appeared to be fashioned after apartments or dorms. They couldn't tell what the other two corners were, with the corner across from the fire obscured from view and the final corner appearing to just be a set of buildings with little activity.
Wally was the first to suddenly wonder what their corner was. If the other two corners didn't have similar entrances, then the corner they were in must be more distinct than a simple entrance. He turned around, and found himself staring up into the eyes of a gorilla quietly watching them from a guard tower.
Jay and Jerry turned around, gasping. "That isn't there in my Gorilla City."
"Fools. You should have never come here." The voice of Grodd boomed in their head. "You will not leave here alive."
Barry reached the dome, slowing to a stop. He didn't spot anything running away, so he did a jog around the dome, taking in the full extent of the fighting. The damage was extensive, with heroes everywhere trying to limit the effect of the otherworldly creatures on the nearby civilians and structures.
"I'm here, Br--- Batman."
"Good. A pack are breaking off heading north."
Barry quietly started moving, dodging and weaving through packs of the creatures as he moved north. He spotted the group on the run, a bunch of wolfish creatures charging through a golf field leaving a trail of fire in their wake. He did what he could to put out the fires with his wake as he ran after then.
On reaching the creatures, he matched their speed, studying them. They seemed to not be paying attention to things around them, focused only on the journey in front of them and avoiding whatever was in their path. Barry slowed down, falling behind them. Worst case scenario, running into the wolves would knock them off course – little should happen to him, given the speeds and mass involved Barry himself would have Barry stay safe. He began speeding up, using the handful of fire trails to allow him to build up slightly more speed as he put the fire out.
"Now's a good a time as any." He said to nobody, if only to get himself to finally do it. He charged forward, finding himself in front of the wolfpack after a mere moment. He turned around, running backwards to see what happened. The rest of the wolves slowed down, looking back confused. A small pillar of smoke was rising from the point of impact as the only remnant of an otherworldly creature formerly being present.
A grin appeared on Barry's face, and the wolves looked at him almost as if they knew what was about to happen. A second later, four more wisps of smoke replaced the wolves facing him.
"Maybe this'll be easier than I thought.
The gorilla jumped at them, splitting the three up as they scrambled away. Gorillas from all around were now moving towards the trio, with Grodd himself appearing from the center building.
The first gorilla readjusted himself, eyes darting between the three humans in front of it. The youngest darted at him first, reaching him before anything in its mind could update. The punch, however, barely felt like anything, the kid clearly not strong enough to punch a gorilla with any relevancy.
Jay charged forward, ducking down and slamming into the gorilla's legs. The gorilla flew back, slamming into the guard tower and slumping to the floor. The three turned around, watching the gorillas move in closer. Jay watched Jerry and Wally charge forward, following his example of charging into the gorillas and knocking them back – sometimes into a wall or another gorilla, and sometimes off an edge and down into the jungle below.
The three closed in on Grodd, the gorillas growing harder to push through as they went. Grodd was clearly doing something to their head as well, as they were beginning to make small mistakes that caused fairly large consequences. A missed dash, spacing out enough to let a punch land, a trip or stumble. Nothing huge, but each mistake had the gorillas capitalize on it.
Jay already knew they would lose. But he hoped that they could do enough damage to take out Grodd for good, and then one of them could escape. The Speedforce wouldn't allow them to die, either way. At least, he hoped the Speedforce was active in this world already. Barry might have been a good reason to believe that it wasn't, but it was too late to be able to pull out, especially as Jerry and Wally probably thought they were still winning.
They made good progress and even Jay started to believe they could succeed. Gorilla after gorilla were dispatched, and they moved closer and closer to the center. The mistakes grew more and more common, but the gorillas grew less common.
However, once they crossed the final threshold to where Grodd stood, everything went terribly. A burning pain filled their head, any thought of success and revenge drowned out by crushing defeat and pain. He watched Jerry and Wally fall to their knees, clutching their heads in pain. He joined them quickly, not having much mental fortitude despite facing his Grodd in the past.
Grodd walked up slowly to Wally, leering over the kid. "Pick on someone your own size!" Jerry shouted out. Grodd froze, and Jerry screamed out in pain. Grodd made his way over to him, laughing. Jay was sure he was intentionally slowing down his actions, probably to further torture them.
When he reached Jerry, however, he wasted no time in smacking Jerry, sending his body ragdolling off the elevated city. He leaped towards Wally, picking him up and tossing him in the same area that Jerry flew.
The pain in Jay's head disappeared. But he had forgotten something. How did he get here? He had something, something he was able to fight against Grodd with, if only he had remembered it. Did he leave it somewhere?
"It must be horrifying to forget your one talent, your one claim to fame. Now you are reduced back to your wretched and pitiful human existence. I wanted to talk to you, but I suppose now that you don't remember certain things, it is less than useful."
"You are terrible." Jay spurted out, a spike of pain the immediate response.
"And you are pathetic. I only allow the soldiers to save you as I can see you will not return. Spread fear to your friends and allies. I am Grodd."
He could run. He had superspeed. Then Jay hit the ground.
He probably shouldn't have ignored the doctors, but he was doing good work. The headache had gone away, and he was intently focusing on the next group of creatures or a runaway pack that Batman would alert him to.
Part of him was curious about the entities, looking so different and yet eerily similar to the ones he'd grown up hearing in horror stories. But the first wolfpack aside, any creature he matched pace with immediately began attacking him, so he gave up quickly on trying to study the attackers, and chose simply to rush through them and smoke them away.
Batman wasn't able to provide any insight into the way the creatures reacted, but it worked consistently and since he was the only speedster on site, he was the only one able to replicate it. Supposedly, a Supergirl had attempted some kind of meteor strike type attack once, but that only resulted in the victim being squashed into the ground.
Barry felt good. For once, he felt like he was contributing, even if the rest of the people around were something along the lines of a Justice League B-Team. He wondered where Superman was. He also wondered where Wally and the others went – they ran off sometime after Xavier talked to them, and haven't gotten in touch since.
He admitted to himself that if he wasn't just 25% of the rogue speedsters that Xavier had influence over, Xavier would have probably found a Vaudeville Hook long enough to drag him back to Pennsylvania. Thankfully, even though the doctor was no doubt hopping mad at the lack of a returning Flash, and Xavier was probably still having to ensure that the doctor wouldn't be a security threat later, things were going well.
Barry blinked, and the scenery changed from smoke and monsters to a dark sky backdrop and the focused face of a teenage girl staring forward.
"Hi! Are you OK?"
"Just a little scared of heights." Barry replied, staring at a strand of hair caught on the girl's face to avoid looking down.
The girl swooped low, flying just above the buildings. They were flying over a city, but a city he couldn't recognize. "Is this better?"
"Where are we?"
"Lexington, Kentucky. Batman told me to bring you to Central City Hospital?"
"No… Moses Taylor. In Scranton. I know people there."
"That sounds fine. Batman, do you copy?"
"Yes, Kara. Will provide you directions once you reach eastern Pennsylvania."
"Kara Zor-El, Supergirl!" the girl said proudly.
"You're a saint. Let me know if you need any help ever."
Xavier barged through the door, waving off the receptionist as he headed directly for the Critical Care Unit. The internal alarms would go off, but once someone realized it was him they’d turn it off. He knew he shouldn't have let Barry pull any heroics, the heroes at the dome had things under control mostly even without his help.
Room 37 was at the other end of the hall, an infuriating distance to leg. But when Barry had basically been helicoptered in, it made sense to put him the closest to that elevator. A rap on the door was merely a formality as he entered without an invitation. He stood there, hunched and panting, listening to the doctor knock out the few words to pass on as much necessary information in as short amount of time as possible.
Xavier stood up, an exasperated smile greeting the person in the room he had yet to introduce himself to. "Xavier Mendez, FBI, The Flash's friend. Bless you."
"I just helped where I could. I'm Supergirl." The girl replied, extending her hand.
Xavier met it, and shook. "We owe you one. The rest of the speedsters ran off to Africa to go fight a gorilla with mind powers. We shouldn't have let them go, he thrashed them less than a week ago, but they didn't exactly give us prior warning. We let Barry go though, I'll take full blame for that, though.
"You need help with the gorilla? I haven’t seen Africa before."
"Give me a contact, and I'll reach out if and when we need to. We haven't heard from the people who went, and I have a detachment of some very qualified people on their way, so we'll see how that goes."
"Sure! I'll have Batman forward something to either you or Barry."
"Can it not be to me? He shouldn't be able to access the systems he uses to pass on information, and each time he does it's technically a national security threat. Just have him tell Barry and he'll pass on the information."
"That sounds fine. I'm going to go back to San Francisco to help some more now that you're here, alright?"
"Alright. Thank you for doing what you do." Xavier said, nodding. He waited a few seconds after Supergirl had left before turning to the other conscious person in the room. "So, doc. What's the call?"
2017.08.26 23:26 NK_RyzovUnited Americas Timeline [Chapter 12: World War III, the Homefront – 1939-1946]
Far from the blistering deserts of the Outback, the atolls of Micronesia, the turbulent waters of the South China Sea, and the jungles of the Philippines, the people of the USAO on the home front fought their own battles. In the early years of the war, the citizens of the states and territories of the Americas were for the most part isolated from the war. Until 1943, there were no Australia-like attacks on the New World. However, the entire nation was mobilized. News of the startling advances the British were making in Australia shocked millions of young, often unemployed men into enlisting. Those unable to serve, went to the munitions factories. The experiment with female soldiers on the frontline was still restricted to the extreme circumstances of the Australian states, though it had the effect of opening up more non-combat roles for women from other parts of the USAO. That being the case, however, most women contributed to the war effort by leaving the home and going into the factories. Even children were not left out. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the United States were mobilized to collect cans, bottles and scrap metal to be recycled and routed into wartime industries, and school children worked on “Victory Gardens”. Many teenagers who were too young to serve in the military went to work in the factories, often dropping out of school in pursuit of the allure of patriotism, adulthood and money. The enemy also contributed to the war effort: hundreds of thousands of British POW’s were brought in to work on farms, mostly in Australia and North Luzon, though plenty were shipped across the Pacific to farms in Polynesia and the Americas. Along the gulf coast of Texas and Mesoamerica, and the shores of the Great Lakes, huge shipyards rolled out all manner of naval vessels, and despite occasional submarine attacks against the former, the USN was rapidly beginning to close its naval gap with the Realm. In the sprawling industrial belts of the Great Lakes, Texas, Gran Colombia, Central Mexico and the Southern Cone churned out panzers, trucks, artillery pieces, small arms, ammunition, uniforms, aircraft and more for the boys and girls on the frontlines in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines. With all this mobilization, however, US President Joaquin Navarro (who narrowly won the 1940 presidential election to a Liberal-Conservative coalition, which aimed to negotiate with the Realm; the turning point in the election was the news of chemical and biological weapons being unleashed at the battles of Millstream and Fitzroy Crossing) was unwilling to deprive the American people of a sense of normalcy. The 1940 summer Union Games were held in Dallas, Jefferson. The opening ceremonies celebrated the valor of the soldiers on the frontline, while also reminding the American people of the peace that was hopefully soon to come. Athletes from New Holland, Tasmania, Swan River Colony, Visayas, Micronesia, Palau, Guam and Mindanao were very few, due to their states being under British occupation; and those who were able to make it to Dallas often preferred to enlist in order to fight for their states. The summer games were broadcasted to the frontline, on both radio and television; for some soldiers in the Outback, this would be the first time they had ever watched anything on a TV. Perhaps the first time they got a glimpse at the rest of the nation they were fighting for. However, there was also an underlying atmosphere of suspicion. A number of scandals emerged following the invasions of Australia and the Philippines. Revelations regarding the extent to which the British had spies and saboteurs imbedded in the USAO. The federal government attempted to hide their findings, but eventually they were leaked to the public. The truth was that over the last century, the British had maintained a vast espionage network, involving tens of thousands of agents, with unknown numbers of safe houses and weapons caches. An entire underground economy of spies, some of whom were part of multi-generational sleeper cells going back as far as the 1870’s. They normally operated independently, infiltrating communities down to the grassroots level, as well as government agencies, companies, the military, and important sectors of the national infrastructure – working to sabotage and subvert American war efforts, as well as funnel secrets and vital intelligence to the British. In addition to the separatists in Mindanao and Australia, the British had established connections with separatists and dissident groups across the USAO. All over the political spectrum, too. The monarchist Brazilian nationalists, white-supremacist Bloody Shirts, militant factions of the Workingman’s Party. And many more. As well as outright criminal organizations with no political agenda. Schools, streets, markets, and workplaces that were vital to the war effort were all adorned with propaganda posters warning employees to be on the lookout for suspicious activities. And these fears of saboteurs and spies were not unfounded. Every week it seemed, there were terroristic attacks or incidents of sabotage (successful or otherwise), carried out either by British operatives or their “allies”, who were funneled money and weapons by the British. In the Darien Gap, the reserve forces of the Panamanian and Alta Colombian National Guard regiments were deployed to combat a ragtag group of mercenaries who were living in the lawless region of impenetrable jungle; the Gap had become a safe haven for British operatives, who wished to hamper the American war effort and economy by attacking the vital rail lines and highways that ran through the region. In Brazil, a resurgence in the Brazilian Violence had strings connecting right back to the Special Branch. It was around this time, that “Patriota” militias began to emerge in Brazil. These were pro-US government paramilitary forces who, in opposition to the monarchists and nationalists, believed that Brazil’s rightful place was in the USAO. Invigorated with American patriotism, these groups felt that the Feds were going “too soft” on the rebels. However, the biggest incidents took place on February 3rd of 1943, following the defeat of the last British forces in Australia and the first American and Japanese landings in Borneo. The three capital districts – Liberty City, Unity City and Independence City – all came under attack by British operatives, armed with automatic weapons and explosives. During the Battle of Unity City, British agents captured the National Acropolis – the complex where the USAO’s massive Senate and House of Representatives convened. They took over 100 hostages, 54 of whom survived after the US Republican Guard’s elite “Constitution Rifles” (tasked primarily with defending Unity City), together with the Unity City Police Department and the Secret Service, staged a bold incursion into the compound via unmarked maintenance corridors. Meanwhile, to the north, British agents attempted unsuccessfully to capture the Whitehouse during the Battle of Liberty City. After evacuating President Navarro to a fortified panic room, the Secret Service – armed with the latest M2 select-fire rifles – held off the British armed with black market Thompsons and BAR’s. When Liberty City’s Republican Guard units finally mobilized (a delay was caused by bombs that went off at their barracks), they began to encircle the SB agents, prompting them to radio in a secret weapon. A Scandinavian seaplane liner off the coast of Bluefields, Mosquito Coast, was contacted and took off for Liberty City. This civilian flying boat was in truth retrofitted as a bomber, loaded with mustard gas munitions. Thankfully, it was intercepted and downed by a pair of Severesky P-35’s of the Nicaragua Air National Guard. And finally, the Battle of Independence City saw armed gunmen attempt to massacre all 11 Supreme Court Justices. However, the Independence City Police Department – notoriously known as some of the most trigger-happy police in the USAO – held the line against the British terrorists, keeping all 11 Supreme Court Justices safe. In all three incidents, most of the British operatives swallowed suicide pills to avoid capture and interrogation. However, these were just the opening shots of the next theater of the war to open up: the Americas.
2017.04.09 16:44 SagebryshSideways in Hyperspace: Chapter 21: Butterfly Effects
Previously on Sideways in Hyperspace Malacca Elevator Station, Main Ring Spaceport Level Geostationary Orbit 22,236 Kilometers from Earth May 2219 The wide open corridor came to an abrupt end in a cavity of twisted metal. A starship had engaged its warp drive while still inside its hangar bay and gutted everything around it as the warp field turned the adjacent areas inside out. Clean white LED lights glared harshly on portable magnetic stands, lighting the ruined corridors in a bright, sanitary glow that highlighted every bit of human misery that had taken place within. UN Special Investigator Bartholomew Morrow floated serenely at the edge of the corridor, staring into the gaping wound in the deck with its view of the stars beyond. The station wasn’t spinning, it had been spun down after the battle in an attempt to prevent further damage coming to the ruined structure. He pursed his pale lips and pushed off the edge of the hallway, sailing slowly across the void rent through the decks. The stars shone with a hard brilliance through the gash in the hull, but Bartholomew ignored them, his mind was focused on matters closer to hand. Following the deaths of the Senior Undersecretary to the Executive Administration, the Junior Undersecretary to the Executive Administration, the Senior Defense Secretary to the Executive Administration, the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of the Marines, the Senior Secretary of the International Space Agency, the Junior Secretary of the International Space Agency and the Senior Administrative Representative to the United Nations Security Council, the UNDF had spent several days hopelessly flailing around like its head had been cut off. In a way, it had been: the Secretary General still lived, but the majority of her senior staff and all of their aides had been struck down in the opening volley of the battle for the Malacca Elevator. Those first days after the battle had been dark; with the chain of command weakened, admirals and commodores had done what they thought best at the time; given their heightened state of fear and suspicion following the attack, that had led to more than a few deaths. Sol was teetering on the edge of war as the UN drunkenly threw fists in every direction. A new senior undersecretary had been recruited to fill the void left by Gideon Churchill’s demise, and she was rushing to fix gaps in the senior command structure, but it was taking most of her time, and having their center of operations gutted made recovering from the personnel lost that much more difficult. One of the first things that Fairuzeh Najafi had done after assuming the position of Senior Undersecretary, was to bring Bartholomew in from UNIBRA to oversee all investigations into the Malacca Elevator Station attack. She wrote him a blank check for his clearance levels and gave him authority to assume command of any Interpol or UN affiliated Exopol units he needed pursuant to finding and apprehending the criminals responsible for the Malacca tragedy. His feet caught on the far side of the gap in the corridor and the magnetic locks in his boots activated. He took a knee to shed excess velocity then quickly stood again, striding down the corridor. Ahead of him was a small knot of Interpol agents and crime scene investigators, clustered around a heavily damaged airlock and a large number of white outlines marking the former locations of human bodies. Bartholomew clasped his hands behind his back as he strode up to Burke Iwata, senior UN crime scene investigator for Interpol. Burke was the top forensics expert as well as being in charge of all system-wide forensics. He typically didn’t do field work; the Special Investigator was coming to believe it was probably a coping mechanism for dealing with the deaths of many of his colleagues. However, he couldn’t let the man get distracted by the minutiae, they had to look at the bigger picture. “Burke,” Bartholomew said into his suit microphone. The senior crime scene investigator held up a suited hand in a gesture of pause, huddling closer to a digital forensics expert. They had hooked up a tablet to the remains of a docking clamp computer and were going over the registries and event logs line by line. Bartholomew keyed into their suit channel and listened to them work. “Do you have it? The Special Investigator wants something concrete.” Burke’s voice asked over the channel. “I’ve got it,” the digital forensics expert responded, “It tried to self-destruct when the computer was isolated from the network, but that file purge failed because the computer also lost power at the same time. I’ve been able to reconstruct about half the program so far.” Burke whirled on Bartholomew, making eye contact through the glass of their suits, “We’ve got something here.” Bartholomew raised an eyebrow and motioned with one hand, “What did you find?” “This was the docking bay that the UNDF Mercy Given was docked to,” Burke said, motioning to the airlock, “Her current commanding officer was alerted to the attempted boarding action and broke free of the dock with point defense lasers.” “They couldn’t undock because the computer systems on the clamps were down right?” Bartholomew asked him, going over the timeline they’d established. “Worse, the clamps actively resisted their attempts to break free, a program was inserted into the clamp computers by the network mainframes that changed all the docking codes one minute after the kinetic weapon strike,” Burke explained, “That code was designed to wipe itself after the battle was over. The only reason we know about it is due to incomplete deletions on damaged equipment.” “So the hackers propagated hostile code into all the systems before taking down the network?” “That’s just it,” Burke answered, “They didn’t take down the networks. This program was inserted into the clamp computer one minute after the blackout began on the timeline.” Bartholomew’s eyes narrowed, possibilities running through his mind, “Come with me with,” he motioned to Burke with his hand and turned to stride off down the corridor without bothering to see if he was following. “How do you suppose they did it?” Bartholomew asked Burke over the suit channel. “What? Take over the networks?” Burke asked him. “Dozens of military grade firewalls, smart system monitors, quantum encryption, enough metaphorical digital weaponry to fight off Mars, whose entire government could be described as a digital weapon,” Bartholomew said, “And the Free Sky Tribe got through all of it. How do you suppose they did it?” “They must have some truly superhuman hackers,” Burke offered with a shrug. They both knew the Free Sky Tribe were the ones responsible. “Why? what did you think?” “I think I need to pay a visit to Taoudenni,” The Senior Investigator replied, “I need to check on someone.” Pacifier Class Scout Battlecruiser UNDF Mercy Given Circular Orbit 900 kilometers from Earth May 2219 Maeve O’Donnell awoke with a start, bolting upright and finding herself in an infirmary bed somewhere. It was clearly aboard a ship, but Maeve had no idea what ship or who had pulled her out of space. “Hello?” She croaked nervously through parched lips, summoning a nervous looking senior grade nurse. “Captain you’re awake,” the small rounded woman said to her, “that’s great news, let me fetch the doctor, and I’m sure Lieutenant Commander Eisley will be pleased to know you’re conscious.” “Lieutenant Comman...Where am I? Is this the Mercy Given?” Maeve asked, “The last thing I remember, I’d been thrown off a piece of the station and activated my emergency transponder.” “It is,” the nurse confirmed, as she helped Maeve sit upright, “We pulled you out of space a day ago and you’ve been unconscious since then. You were floating out there for over twenty hours, you’re lucky to be alive.” “Get me some water as well please,” Maeve instructed, her voice still cracked and hoarse. “Of course,” the nurse soothed her, “I’ll go fetch Dr. Modi.” “How many died?” Maeve asked in a low but decisive tone, freezing the nurse in her tracks at the edge of the small curtained partition. The nurse turned back towards the captain, opening and closing her mouth uselessly. “How many?” Maeve demanded again. “Twenty-eight thousand confirmed casualties, “The nurse confessed, “and forty-one thousand missing and presumed dead.” Maeve closed her eyes. A deep, boiling hatred had taken seed inside of her, ready to be unleashed in vengeance, “Thank you,” Maeve said softly, “Please go fetch the the doctor and Lieutenant Commander Eisley.” Maeve listened to the sound of the nurse's footfalls fade away as she scampered off quickly. The Mercy Given was a much larger vessel than the Leyte Gulf, designed to support a long term solo scouting mission and thus sported a small spin gravity ring embedded into the superstructure. Maeve hadn’t gone over the deck plans on the Mercy Given before the attack started, but she assumed she was in the ring by the renewed presence of up and down. The thought of her old ship caused Maeve to wonder what had happened to the Leyte Gulf in the attack. Had she survived? Had the attackers made off with her? She thought of poor Katie, cut down in the ruined station. Katie had always been optimistic but level-headed, compassionate and good on her feet. Maeve had put years into grooming the young woman into a future officer, and having that future cut short in such a violent and brutal fashion hurt Maeve in a deeply personal way. The sixty thousand dead was a number, it was meaningless, an abstraction. But Katie had been real, she was a person, she’d been alive one moment, discussing plans, talking, worrying about the strange earthquake that had knocked out power and network communications. And then the next moment, she was gone, or more accurately, she was all over the corridor. But she was gone, she stopped being a person, they’d reduced her to chunks of meat. Maeve had spent a long time on the spacelanes, she’d seen the sort of rot that could set in and drive people to horrific acts of barbarism against their fellow man. But the speed, coordination, and ferocity of the attack caught even Maeve off guard. She’d seen a civilian ship firing point defense cannons out of shipping containers and the soldiers had been armed with high-powered weapons and enough breaching charges to tunnel straight through the station. The planning that must have gone into their feat, to catch the United Nations so thoroughly off guard and ransack one of their most central installations, Maeve would have called it impossible had she not witnessed it first hand. The timing of it all as well, coming so close on the heels of the release of the information on the Reshapers made Maeve really suspicious for some reason she couldn’t identify. She knew about apophenia, but something about this situation didn’t just feel like synchronicity. Doctor Ritesh Modi hustled into the partition, breaking Maeve from her train of thought, “Captain, it’s good to see you’re awake,” He said as he began powering up various diagnostic equipment that was monitoring Maeve and checking their readouts. The young looking Indian man was a flurry of motion as he checked her pulse, temperature, and a host of other attributes. “Yes, yes, she said brushing off the formality. “Who attacked us?” “The Free Sky Tribe,” the doctor replied absentmindedly as he slapped a brace over Maeve’s arm and took her blood pressure. “Anton Hellas?” She asked skeptically, “Really?” The Free Sky Tribe were violent rabble-rousers, they sent people explosives and stirred up unrest, but launching a coordinated combined arms strike on a military space station seemed like a sudden and massive escalation of their abilities. “That’s what they tell me,” Ritesh mumbled, still focusing on checking over all of Maeve’s vitals. “That makes no sense, they blew a chunk off the damn station, where did a bunch of violent political activists get a weapon capable of that?” She questioned him. “My dashing good looks may make you think I’m some sort of tactical genius, but I’m in fact just a Doctor, you’ll have to ask Lieutenant Commander Eisley about that,” he teased with a smile. “She’s on her way here?” Maeve asked. “I sent Nurse Goldstein to fetch her,” he explained, stepping back from the bed and crossing his arms, “You’re still severely dehydrated, and you have about seven new and interesting forms of cancer that are being treated. I want to keep you in here on the IV for another day and then you can get back to the bridge. You’re lucky, your suit had run out of oxygen by the time you were picked up but it doesn’t seem to have caused any change in your brain patterns from the scan on file. There’s probably no permanent damage but we want to be cautious just in cases like this, take things slow.” “Sixty thousand people are dead, I should be on the bridge right now,” she retorted. “They’re dead,” he reminded her, “there’s nothing you can do for them, and their ghosts can wait a day for their vengeance, you are not to get out of that bed.” “Can I at least have my phone, then, so I can keep working?” She almost begged. “That would sort of defeat the purpose of having you stay here and rest,” he replied, still smiling slightly, “Which I am going to insist you do after you finish your talk with Lieutenant Commander Eisley.” He handed her a cup of water which succeeded in cutting off her rebuttal long enough to gulp down the entire cup. She gave him her best I am the captain of this ship look, she could muster in her present condition, but he merely chuckled. “Captain you’ve been through an extreme event. People die from things half as severe as the trauma your body took. You had blood pooling in your head and feet from your rotation for hours. You were overheating in the suit and sweat yourself into dehydration. Your air tank ran out and could have caused brain damage, and on top of that, you were exposed to a high level of ionizing radiation from your proximity to the battle in space. You’re lucky to be alive, sit down in that bed.” His voice suddenly grew stern as she tried to shrug off his explanation and climb to her feet. She froze like a deer in the headlights at being scolded like a little girl. It was that moment that Lieutenant Commander Pandora Eisley walked into the room. The tall lanky Luna-born had a commanding presence, Maeve had to give her that. “Dora,” Maeve smiled, “Please tell me what’s going on.” “Captain,” The black skinned woman let out a breath at seeing Maeve awake, “I’m sort of amazed you’re alive, Doctor Modi feared you might never wake up when we brought you in.” “Yeah, I’m still here,” Maeve responded irreverently, “What happened? Ritesh said that the Free Sky Tribe were the ones behind the attack.” “They were,” Dora confirmed, “After we finished repelling the boarders...you’d gone dark by then, so we started responding to emergency signals by other vessels in the area, helping them fight off the hostile ships.” “The Free Sky Tribe are a bunch of wannabe revolutionaries, where did they get the firepower to punch a hole through our space station?” Maeve demanded. “From us,” she replied, “Investigators are still trying to determine how.” “It just doesn’t quite add up,” Maeve insisted, “They were rabble rousers, when’d they become so organized? You sure it was them?” “I saw them myself Captain,” Dora answered, “Most of them were just kids. They were wearing old industrial spacesuits and armed with surplus military gauss rifles. We have a few prisoners.” “And yet they managed to catch us off guard enough to kill sixty thousand people,” Maeve said. “And steal fifteen warships,” Dora added. “Damn,” Maeve sighed, “Fifteen?” “They attempted boarding actions on eleven others but were repelled. We have a few dozen prisoners and a few hundred of their bodies,” Dora cited as evidence. “Why do this now?” Maeve asked, “I know all about their ideology, but what caused them to escalate so dramatically all the sudden?” “At a guess,” Dora ventured, “It was the aliens being revealed.” “What do the aliens have to do with their so-called struggle against capitalism?” Maeve queried. She had a similar suspicion but she wanted to get the other woman’s perspective on it. “Chaos theory,” Dora replied with a shrug, “The aliens were the first stone that started moving on the mountainside, but once that rock went tumbling down, it set other stones in motion, which set others in motion, building, and building, and building, until it’s a landslide.” “You don’t think the worst is over?” Maeve asked. “I think it’s just beginning,” she answered. United Nations Blacksite PC-26 Prison Compound Taoudenni, Republic of Mali Earth May 2219 The Axolotl class dropship fell like a stone out of space and into the clear blue skies of a scorched and depopulated North Africa. Climate change had wreaked havoc upon the whole world, but the arid regions of the tropics had fared the worst. Rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall turned what had already been some of the world’s hottest and driest regions into dead zones, places where the air became so hot during the day that it was impossible to breathe, where hyperthermia would set in within minutes and death within hours. It was in the midst of the killing heat, beside a long abandoned salt mine, that the UN had built a sprawling and partially buried prison compound. There were no fences or barbed wire, there wasn’t a need for them. A series of compact automated pillboxes surrounded the compound on all sides in a staggered formation, providing overlapping fields of fire in all directions. Between the automated defenses and the heat, escape was considered a death sentence. The autonomous dropship fired its engines in a suicide burn as it cleared a faint wispy deck of clouds. It twisted on its four columns of fire and made a series of wide circles over the prison as it killed off excess velocity before finally swinging down to land atop the roof of the prison. Bartholomew Morrow didn’t wear any protective equipment to shield him from the insane heat of the Saharan afternoon other than a black, wide-brimmed hat in a style that had gone out of fashion several centuries prior, and a pair of small mirrored sunglasses. The guards stationed behind a glass observation panel on the roof looked at Bartholomew with a mixture of awe and fear as the tall, pale, Lunarian strode through the murderous sunlight and up to their door. The dropship continued to idle on the landing pad, waiting for him like an obedient pet. The Special Investigator’s fingers twitched as haptic interfaces dumped maximum grade clearance authorizations into the computers of the guards and they hurriedly opened the door to the airlock, letting him in before the heat could do him any harm. “Special inspector, what can we do you for y--” the taller of the pair had started to say before Bartholomew cut him off with a hand gesture. “I’m here to ensure Kamay Alcoseba remains a prisoner of this facility,” he said softly, “I won’t require assistance, I already know where she’s located.” “Investigator Morrow, with all due respect, no one has ever made in more than five hundred meters from this building after an escape attempt,” the shorter of the guards offered nervously, “And we’d know if someone tried, we uh,” he fumbled before just admitting it, “We have a betting pool, see how far an escaped prisoner will make it before the heat or the gun turrets take them out, the current record is four hundred and six meters.” Bartholomew dismissed the pair with a look of barely restrained disgust and stalked off down the corridor. He passed through several more manned and automated security checkpoints before entering the desired wing of the prison and making his way to the cell of former pragmatist Kamay Alcoseba. He input his authorization code into the smart-glass wall of the cell and turned it from opaque to transparent. Kamay was a small, dark-skinned woman with short brown hair and intensely green eyes. She huddled under the prison blanket in the thrall of some unpleasant dream. Bartholomew felt himself breathe a sigh of relief that his worst fears might not be true, but he refused to relax his vigilance and opened the door to the cell. The girl mumbled something in her sleep as Bartholomew closed the distance in one long stride and prodded her into wakefulness. She instinctively shrank back into the corner of her cot as consciousness returned to her, but her eyes grew wider as she realized who was standing before her. “Investigator Morrow,” she said quietly, making eye contact with him and cocking her head inquisitively, “What brings you to my humble abode?” Bartholomew studied the girl critically, “Give me your hand,” he told her. She looked at him, confused for a moment, and looked at her hand. “Yes, let me see your hand,” he said, grabbing it away from her. With his other hand, he retrieved a small metallic cuff from his pocket and clipped it around her wrist. She yelped as a series of needles bit into her skin and the field scanner went to work. It should have displayed everything from her DNA and blood type to current hormonal levels but instead, it merely threw up an error state. Bartholomew felt his blood run cold. Despite his attempts to maintain a straight face, he knew by the sly grin Kamay was wearing that his expression had betrayed him. She looked at the bracelet with curiosity, then looked back at Bartholomew, “Oops,” she said, “I guess so much for that.” Bartholomew began to reach for his gun the same moment the bomb in the android’s chest exploded. Marathon Class Starship UNDF Leyte Gulf FSV Emma Goldman Docked at IRDSV Bahar Min Al-Barzakh FSV Vladimir Lenin 1.86 Light Years from Sol June 2219 Not every colony ship bound for the stars during that first slower then light push into the unknown had been funded by a planetary scale government. Many smaller independent governments, nation states, freeport stations, religious orders, and ideological sects also funded their own expeditions to the stars. In 2102, the Islamic Republic of Emirates launched the Bahar Min Al-Barzakh to escape the increasingly inhospitable conditions of the Arabian Peninsula. The vessel was designed from the ground up as a holy relic of their faith. A grand mosque unlike any that could have been constructed on earth dominated one end of the starship’s spin gravity drum, and her hull was covered from nose to stern in the religious iconography of the faith. Only the most devout pilgrims were permitted to join the voyage they began to Sirius those long years ago. Their effort was not to be though. Forty years after launch, a blight spread through the drum, and the ecosystem collapsed. Starvation, unrest, and eventually a complete breakdown of order on the vessel whittled down its occupants until none remained. The Bahar Min Al-Barzakh became a tomb ship, a ferry for no one but the dead. The ship remained dead and empty for decades with the automated systems upkeeping the long dead husk of the colony as best as they could without maintenance. High efficiency and low-maintenance fusion reactors powered on the lights and brought a day-night cycle to a shattered and desolate muddy plain studded through with abandoned towns and forests of dead trees. Seasons passed, rains fell, and the colony remained dead and empty, home only to bacteria and insects. And then, in 2204, Anton Hellas stole his first starship. He’d stolen a lot of ships over the years, but never anything with faster than light capability. The Martians sicced their navy on him and he led them on a merry chase across Sol while he tried to find a place to stash the ship. After months of digging through old historical records and reconstructing the demises of several dozen ill-fated colony missions, he settled on the Bahar Min Al-Barzakh as the perfect candidate for a hideout and began moving people and supplies there. He renamed the colony ship the Vladimir Lenin, and over the years it came to be the embodiment of the revolution. The Free Sky Tribe had brought plants and animals back to the drum, cured the lingering effects of the blight, buried the colony’s dead, and turned the drum green again. The towering religious structures became the main headquarters for the Free Sky Tribe and were rapidly defaced with graffiti and propaganda by inspired feeling revolutionaries. The Vladimir Lenin was held up as an example of what could be achieved through collective action, cooperation, and mutual aid among fellow Spacers. The idea of the Spacer tribes had been around since the Gravity War, created by the writings of Professor Soto Ishihara when he formalized the Open Sky Movement. But aside from the highly successful communal settlements on Triton, the tribes were simply an idea, an abstraction from basic cultural and anthropological knowledge. But aboard the Vladimir Lenin, Anton had made a true spacer tribe, in every sense of the word. Margaritifer was proud to be a member of that tribe. She was proud to wear the Canis Major constellation tattooed around her eye that meant she had drawn blood in battle, and it was that sense of pride that kept bringing her back to the brig of the ship that had once been called the Leyte Gulf and was now called the Emma Goldman. “Hi Henry,” She said softly, running her fingers across the armored glass plate that formed the external wall to the cell. The cell’s occupant, Henry Osborne, the ship’s former captain, was used to her visits by this point. She’d been the one to put a gun to his head, to break the standoff on the bridge and take him captive, and some part of her wasn’t yet content to stop gloating about it. Eli had told her she might end up being captain of this ship someday, and as she stared down at the ruined man who had once been captain, she felt a grin spread across her cheeks. Henry himself had long since stopped responding to her attempts to antagonize him. His captors had mostly left him alone after locking him in the cell, sometimes even forgetting to bring him meals. He had a feeling they were going to shuffle him around, sit on their hands, and look the other way when he happened to float out an airlock one day. However, he’d been told repeatedly that he would get a trial, and that was something he was somewhat looking forward to as the circus he was sure it would be. “Not going to talk?” She asked him, leaning against the glass wall. Henry remained in the bed, hands clasped together in his lap, staring up at the ceiling. He really had no animosity towards the teenager. She was a brainwashed kid who’d been handed a gun and told to go kill the bad people who had hurt her and her family. He felt bad for her, strange considering their respective sides of the glass but Henry had granddaughters older than the girl before him. “What would you like me to say?” He asked her softly. He didn’t move, but his eyes turned to meet her own. Margaritifer peered through the glass, considering the small pale man with his wiry black hair. “You could apologize for the crimes you’ve committed,” Margaritifer said after a moment of consideration. She had no authority to speak on his behalf, either in favor of his life or his death, so she was mostly bullshitting. She wasn’t sure what kept bringing her back to to the man, but she knew that she relished the defeated, haunted look in his eyes. “And what crimes would those be?” He asked her sincerely. “You’ve supported and adhered to a system of governance that is inherently oppressive and in fact causes millions of deaths every year. You use weapons and violence to assist in the enforcement of the status quo. Your organization aids in suppressing the direct actions of workers fighting for their liberation, and you directly supply firepower and legitimacy to our oppressors.” She confidently counted off his list of crimes on her fingers. She knew he was guilty, everyone knew. He was guilty by virtue of his type, and his type was obvious. “All of that huh?” He allowed a note of amusement to thread into his voice. If the anticipated kangaroo court in any way resembled the teenager's current ravings, then he was going to be struggling not to crack up during the proceedings. “You think this is funny?” She snarled. “We’re going to throw you into space you know?” “I know,” he sighed, his eyes returning to the point above his bed that he’d been staring at previously. “Yeah, you just keep ignoring me,” she sneered sarcastically, folding her arms in front of her chest, “But your day’s coming soon, judgment for your crimes against the spacer people.” He said nothing, and Margaritifer floated off, bored of the old man. She pushed off his cell door and drifted down the corridor, slipping out of the small brig and back into the main hall. The Emma Goldman was a constant riot of activity. As soon as they’d made the jump to warp and escaped the battle at the Malacca Elevator, the celebration had started and it had yet to end. She passed teenagers getting drunk in the corridor, a group placing freeball in a mess hall, and even a couple having sex in a nest of crates and containers. She ignored all of it and cycled through the airlock into the main hangar deck of the Vladimir Lenin. The huge airlock atrium was covered in opulently carved religious symbols, texts, and scenes that Margaritifer didn’t understand in the slightest. She floated down the length of the gallery, which its overly decorated airlock hatches, and approached a crowd that was forming near the access ramps to the drum. Somewhere around the core of the crowd, a standoff was taking place between two groups that Margaritifer couldn’t quite identify. She pushed off a wall and used the inertia to shove past some of the outer onlookers, trying to see through the gaps in the bodies. She collided with Becca Ivanova and the other girl whirled on her, ready to throw a fist before she realized it was Margaritifer. “Oi! Watch it Mags, be careful or I lay one in you,” The teenager scolded her. “What happen?” Margaritifer asked, gesturing towards the center of the crowd. “Dunno,” Becca admitted, “Some fight, I see three teeth go flying.” “I hear,” a man neither of them knew but who also bore the marks of a warrior around his eye said to the two of them, “I hear some boys get an idea to take a ship and go earn some more glory for themselves, the boss ain’t happy.” “Folks getting antsy, wanting to get back into the fight,” Becca said, “I can’t blame them, I wanna claim some Martian teeth.” “The boss has a plan,” Margaritifer assured her, “He always has a plan.” The fight in the center of the crowd was escalating. There was the sound of a bone breaking, and the crowd collectively gasped as a single shot rang out through the gallery. The crowd pushed back off itself in an attempt to back away from the escalation, but the people behind them contained their retreat. Margaritifer shoved forward as people pushed the other direction and came to the edge of the crowd with Becca close behind her. Anton Hellas and several heavily tattooed warriors stood in the center of the group. A huge blob of blood was pooling in front of Anton’s face from a newly shattered nose and the body of another warrior was drifting across the clearing, trailing droplets of blood in its wake. Three of the high ranking warriors held captives in chokeholds, while they struggled futilely against the most elite soldiers of the Tribe. “I understand your frustration, my brothers,” Anton said condescendingly to one of the men being restrained, “The injustices in the world are many, and the urge to act is strong. Not in weeks, not in days, now. I understand well this struggle.” He paused and his eyes swiveled towards the crowd, “But we will have order!” He roared, “We have to work together if we want this revolution to stand a chance. You are allowed to leave if you feel we’re not doing enough, that is your right. What you are not allowed to do is take one of our ships with you.” Margaritifer realized that the group Anton had been fighting had pulled open an access panel and were trying to hack the door controls to release the clamps on their ship. The panel remained open, but Anton stood defiantly before it, daring any to challenge him. The crowd continued to back away as the excitement seemed to be passed, allowing Margaritifer to push closer to the scene of the action. “Whatcha gonna do with them, boss?” She heard someone in the crowd call out to Anton. Anton turned and considered the men being held captive, their eyes were wide with terror as Anton’s malice burnt away their pride and left them gibbering messes of fear. “I should toss them outside in a suit and let them walk to Sol if they want to strike it so badly,” he spat venomously, making one of the conspirators wet himself. “But I will not do that, my brothers,” he said, patting one of them on the cheek, “We will need men like you, in these days ahead. You are so quick to rush back into battle, but your hour is coming sooner than you know,” He turned away from the scene of death and violence. “Throw them in the brig,” he ordered, “And get that body cleaned up.” He shoved slightly off the corpse and pushed through the crowd, making for the ship he’d claimed for himself, a battleship that had been known as the UNDF Art of War and was now called the FSV Leon Trotsky. Margaritifer was left floating in the emptying atrium, silently going over Anton’s words in her head, her eyes alight with wonder. Autonomous Cargo Drone Lighthorse FI-1986 Hyperbolic Stellar Warp Trajectory 1,500 Kilometers from Europa June 2219 After one hundred and nineteen days in a warp tunnel, the Lighthorse dropped gently back into the rest of the universe. It flipped itself nose for tail as the computer recalculated its position and fired the engines, decelerating the drone ship down from its hyperbolic warp trajectory. It dropped it into a parabolic capture orbit around Europa, allowing the frozen world to snag it with its gravity. The drone finished its capture burn and coasted into an elliptical orbit around the icy ocean moon. Its transmitters and antenna arrays connected with the Europan Republic’s satellite communications network and routed itself a connection to the Fabrique Intersolar server network. The drone confirmed its identity with the mainframe and dumped the digital portion of its cargo into the company servers. It would take the drone and its payload of rare earth metals several hours to slingshot around the moon and rendezvous with the company’s Andrea L. Athabasca Memorial Station, but its data raced on ahead of it. The narrow AI in the company server farm unpacked the data from the Lighthorse and began distributing it to appropriate channels. Emails were forwarded onward to family members across Sol, company transcripts and bookkeeping auto-updated themselves as the systems added the Lighthorse’s load of metals into the company ledger, and instructions to and from various stakeholders and division heads were shuttled around in milliseconds. The AI didn’t notice anything unusual about the data, it wasn’t programmed with any sort of linguistic processing, so the AI saw nothing odd with the massive data packet flagged by Zephyr Athabasca to be sent to the Excursion Branch of the Tartarus Accord. It simply interpreted the instructions and sent the data onward to George Rathmore, the highest ranking member of the Excursion Branch the smart system had an email address for. George was sitting in his office in Annwn City, sipping coffee and gazing out over the domed skyline, idly wondering if physically forty-five was too young to consider a reasonable age for a second anti-senesics treatment when the email from Zephyr arrived in his office computer. George was the senior corporate correspondent for the Europan division of the Excursion Branch of the Tartarus Accord. He maintained communications lines between Excursion and all the various corporations now operating ships in interstellar space out of Europa, which, given their favorable tax status relative to the other nations of the Accord, was most of them. Most of the communications were short and cordial, but affairs between the corporations could sometimes become heated if they stepped on the government’s or each other’s toes in the course of their operations. George had a sort of perverse love for drama of that sort, it kept him busy and made his life interesting. Seeing Zephyr’s email pop up on his system caused him a small moment of excitement as he realized it was in all caps. But it was the content of the title that sent his eyebrows racing after his receding hairline. ALIENS IN HYADES it read, and its source was Zephyr Athabasca, CEO of Fabrique Intersolar. He knew Fabrique was operating mining ships in that area as part of some sort of pipe dream project and his curiosity was sufficiently piqued that he opened the file then and there. The centenarian felt his blood run cold as he looked through the images and videos that had been included in the file, along with a lengthy description of the loss of a starship to alien strip mining. Zephyr didn’t know the name of the creatures her people had encountered, but George did. He recognized the images almost immediately, the design of the alien ships, it was something he had seen on the news repeatedly. Hell, since the Martians had released the story, it was all anyone seemed to talk about anymore, in comparison even the massive terrorist attack on the Malacca Elevator had barely generated ripples in social media. George checked the date of the message. Zephyr had launched the Lighthorse from Aldebaran five months ago. She’d found the aliens everyone was looking for, the ones everyone was rioting over, the ones that it was feared planned to dismantle the solar system. And it was in the last place anyone was looking, out from the galactic core, instead of in towards it. There were Reshapers in the Hyades. Sideways in Hyperspace is also available in full at Sidewaysfiction.wordpress.com Chapter 22: The Lightspeed Generation If you're enjoying Sideways in Hyperspace, consider putting in a vote for us on topwebfiction or supporting us on Patreon. We're on the hunt for beta readers, if that's something you're interested in, send us a PM.
2017.03.16 20:20 RegalLegalEagleThe Weight We Carry Ch25
It's been a while since I had anything new I know! And again I'm sorry! Life has been life and things have been things. But I wanted to get something out before family arrived to eat away at more of my time! It's a slow chapter I know but things will pick up again soon I promise! In the mean time I found a very talented artist who was willing to sketch out some of the Unity tech for me to start giving you all a bit of a look into the world of TWWC. So find the art here. And look for more soon! My Stories Previous Chapter Forest #34 Formerly Mark Twain National Forest Missouri 10:21 A.M. Local Time January 16, 2035. It wasn’t often that I got called back to central command such as it was but the raid on Divinity City last month had stirred things up. Not to mention the Unity response, though that seemed to have been part of something larger. It took a good two weeks for them to move on and pull away from where we had been hiding out but they never seemed to make as big of an effort as I’d expected to root us out. Instead they’d followed the trail of whatever the hell the Chimera were and headed north. Once the coast was clear I had time to get out of the area and report in. I’d always hoped that the Missouri ridges were full of cold war era bunkers and the like but we hadn’t been so lucky. There were old complexes here and there scattered about but what passed for central command of the U.S. Military resistance was a makeshift fort hidden in the old Mark Twain forest not too far from Taum Sauk Mountain. It might be the highest point in Missouri but since I’d spent so much time in Colorado I wasn’t impressed. We had pulled off the MSR about twenty miles ago, and now turned off the SSR to start slowly heading up an old fire road. Most of the area had been overgrown since the invasion. Sometimes it felt like a month ago that everything went to hell, but the trees had 15 years to start growing back in without many people around to tend to them and as they got bigger every year I got older. Just felt strange. We moved slow, and flashed our headlights twice before coming to a stop. When we saw a green flash we began to move once more, this time turning off the old road and into the woods. The path was carefully hidden but if you paid attention you’d notice the line in the trees big enough for a truck to pass through. The camo netting up in the tree tops became more apparent as we drove deeper and then we could see Fort Clemens, though some of the guys called it Fort Huckleberry instead. I slowly shook my head as I saw it. This was supposed to be the future and the center for the U.S. military resistance was in a wood fort straight out of the 1800s. Of course the M8220 flak cannons were basically WW2 era, and the various antennas and satellite dishes sticking up over the edge of the wooden wall around the fort didn’t belong in either era. The solar panels carefully placed around were also stolen from Unity outposts. I suppose that’s how we’d kept ahead of the Unity this whole time. Just use whatever worked. A hidden wood fort in the forest didn’t show up on aerial recon. They had some sort of thermal sheeting in the netting as well to make sure we didn’t all show up on thermals. The cannons might be old tech but they worked and we could keep them maintained, and the communications gear kept us in touch with everyone else out there. Though most messages were encoded into civilian transmissions since that was easier to hide. Not to mention all the Unity tech we repurposed. There might not be any cold war bunkers set up around here but for the last ten years we’d been digging our own with stolen Unity construction equipment. Most of the forces spread out around the area had a decent tunnel system to call home, but Fort Clemens was for meetings and worked as a central staging point. That way each individual unit would only know two locations, so if one cell got hit the others could go to ground. Fort Clemens was fortified enough that if they came for it in force we’d be able to put up a hell of a fight for it. Or better yet seeing as they’d need to amass quite the force to take it we’d instead have enough time to just abandon it and slink away into more tunnels. As I was thinking about that I noticed the number of trucks leaving the fort even as we approached. They must be confident no Unity assets were in the area to move around so much stuff all at once during the day. There was a mix of Unity trucks and even pre-invasion military trucks that still ran on diesel. I wonder where they got the fuel… Either way we were soon pulling up to the outer wall of the wood fort and the MPs were waving us to the parking lot next to the gate. Besides the transport trucks there were a number of pickups parked here like the one Felon and I were in, which likely meant they’d called in a number of commanders from other posts. Something big was going on. “Did they say to expect so many other guys around?” Felon asked then as I shook my head. “Far as I was told this was just going to be me debriefing General Mathews about what happened in the city and what we know about the attack on Fort Sierra.” I replied as we got out of the truck. The cold immediately gripped at me now that I was out of the heated truck. Thankfully the snow had melted over the last few days but we were expecting more by next week, and it was still hovering around the low 30s. But it was clear out. One of those bright cold days that had seemed to become the norm these last few winters. The weather had become a little strange since the invasion. Besides there being less snow despite being just as cold as it used to be I had noticed that there hadn’t been any major tornados that I’d heard about in… years. Could be because I was focused on my mission spying on Divinity City, but I feel like if there had been anything big I still would have heard about it. Some of the guys talked about Unity controlling the weather but my money was on the Russians using most of their nuclear arsenal on themselves as the true culprit. I couldn’t imagine what the weather was like in Eastern Europe or Siberia after the invasion. Considering how cold it had been here that first year with all the ash in the air caused by the war it had to have been even worse over there. I thought about that decision sometimes. The willingness they showed to wipe themselves out to try and take as many of the aliens with them as they could. The Russians were firm believers in scorched earth right up to the very end weren’t they? I realized my old mind was wandering as I walked towards the gate and gave the MPs a salute which they returned as we walked into the fort proper. Around the outside of the fort walls were cabins and longhouses that served as the living quarters for most of the men, only the officers lived inside. Though maybe that was all about to change. There were soldiers all across the fort I could see loading things into the backs of even more trucks. It looked like they were getting ready to pull out of the fort. Considering the amount of MPs and uniformed soldiers scattered around working it was almost like being fifteen years in the past before the invasion and seeing a real military again. Mhhh… not enough PT belts though. While many things were missed from those old days I couldn’t remember a single regular bemoan that we didn’t use those anymore. I made my way towards the intel building off to the side of the compound next to the communications hub. So far they didn’t seem to be unloading anything from either of these buildings. That or they were already done. When I got close the MPs didn’t even wait for a salute as they opened the door for me. Time was you couldn’t breathe on the intel building without getting your ID checked but these days the fact that I was human was good enough. As I stepped into the building… why did I keep calling it that? It was a cabin. A log fucking cabin. A two story cabin maybe but that didn’t change things much. I just shook my head a little and walked past the analysts who were around the large table in the center of the floor with a map of the midwest on it. While I’d seen the map plenty of times I noticed how many more pins and markers were on it than usual as I headed upstairs. “Shall I come up Sir?” I paused at the base of the stairs and looked back at Felon almost having forgotten he was with me. “Ah no, the General prefers our meetings to be private. See about getting yourself some coffee.” I waved towards the corner where they kept a pot of sludge like liquid that they called coffee around here. “You want a cup Sir?” He asked and I shook my head before continuing up the stairs to the level above. Here were two more MPs guarding the door to the General’s office but much like downstairs they just opened it for me as I approached and snapped a quick salute which I returned out of habit. Inside I could see my superior Brigadier General Bartholomew Plainview. His office was fairly simple, big desk across from the door, two chairs, and then maps. Maps everywhere. He currently had a few of those maps laid out on small tables around his office and he was currently leaning over one of Missouri and Kansas. “Ah, well if it isn’t the old man come at last.” He mentioned as I shut the door behind me. “You’re older than me Bart.” I mentioned as he just grinned my way. “Ah but you’ve been an Oldman all your life! Most people are born young but not you.” I shook my head a little as he made the joke about my name yet again. “You have your convict downstairs I take it?” “You know the military has a proud history of Felons serving in its ranks.” I pointed out having also expected that joke. “Yes, but normally it’s the marines.” He muttered as he straightened up from the map he had been leaning over. “So what’s going on around the fort? We’re moving out? Do you know something I don’t about a Unity attack?” I asked then and he shook his head as he moved over to one of the chairs before his desk and waved me to the other. He normally liked to sit with his fellow officers like that rather than with him behind his big desk. I figured he wanted us to feel more at ease. Or he just wanted us to think that and he was playing some other long term game. Hard to tell with him. “Most of the tunnels are finished now. They’re going to start splitting things up and distribute them around the area. As we both know the aliens are terrible about checking all the caves around here.” He mentioned as he rubbed his chin. “Well there are a lot of them.” I mentioned as I sat in the chair beside him so we could sit and talk face to face. “Even more now that we’ve dug some of our own. You’ll likely be reporting to my own little cave once I get settled in though I’m moving last to try and minimize any disruption to my work. You’ll also be given the coordinates to central command since I’m sure the JCS will call you in regularly.” I blinked a little as he dropped that last bit on me. “The joint chiefs?” I asked and thought about all the other trucks I’d seen from commanders. “Which ones are here?” “All of them.” I knew he had saved that bit of information just to see my surprise but it worked and I blinked a few times at that. “You’re kidding. All of them are here? Why? Is this something to do with the map downstairs?” Considering the pins and markers perhaps there was a build up for the first time in a decade. “They’ve decided the time is ripe for us to start larger more focused operations against the Unity. Mostly they’re concentrating on the greater midwest but that leaves Divinity City to you.” As he pointed at my I rubbed my chin in thought. I wasn’t set up for hard strikes and he knew that. “What about the New Year’s broadcast?” I asked. The Governor had made a big display on New Years to march out all those new Tin Cans they had in shiny new armor and even a few new battle suits. “That’s precisely why they want to hit them harder. We need to prove we’re still alive and well and that we’ll kill Tin Can collaborators just as surely as we do aliens.” He trailed off then and I knew he had a follow up. “Speaking of, any word on the Chimera?” “Not a damn thing.” I admitted. “They stumbled across Fort Sierra while looking for them and despite the fact that we destroyed a Cuttlefish and killed a few hundred of them they stopped chasing us almost immediately. We were out of the caves after less than a week. Whoever or whatever these Chimera are the Unity want them. Bad.” He nodded at that and rubbed his chin as he thought it over. “I should let the Joint Chiefs hear what you have to say so I might as well wait on my other questions. What do you know about them anyway?” “Who? The Joint Chiefs?” I asked. “Are you trying to quiz me about our superiors? Wondering if I have a file on them?” He grinned when I asked that and so I just nodded. “You are wondering that aren’t you.” “I like you Oldman, you’re the only ranking officer I have working for me who wasn’t intel or special forces before the invasion. Without waiting for orders you survived the invasion and set up operations around what you realized was their new capital before any of us did and you’re still alive. Not to mention the network of agents you set up in the city is remarkable. You were wasted on humanitarian aid.” I didn’t agree with him on that point but I just kept quiet and took the rest of the complement. “So, do you know the Joint Chiefs or should I tell you?” “You act like someone in my position doesn’t pay attention to who is commanding officers are.” I replied and he just smirked once more. “You’re stalling aren’t you? Your memory is failing and you’re used to having your little folders with you.” I rolled my eyes and took a breath before recalling what I could. “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is Walter Goldstein, formerly US Marines, killed a Bregnan in hand to hand on the day of the invasion and now looks like a Bond Villain thanks to the scars across his face. He was in charge of the resistance from Georgia to North Carolina in the early days and made a name for himself as the Gator by hiding in the swamps out there. Current Unity bounty of two point five million luxury chits last I heard.” I started off. “Don’t call him Gator though. He thinks it’s a stupid name. From what I hear his guys like it though so.” Plainview shrugged and I went on. “Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gloria Andrews, the only ranking Air Force officer I know of from before the invasion. Took down a Unity Carrier on the day of the invasion by crashing a Globemaster into it, though I’ve still got no idea how she survived the crash herself. Since then she pioneered the Valkyrie program and is responsible for what little we have left of an Air Force. Current bounty two million chits even.” I listed off next. “You know used to be a time when saying the Air Force was full of fifteen year old girls was just a joke.” I shook my head a little as he said that. The Valkyrie were mostly teen girls on Ultra-Light craft armed with M-79s and other grenade launchers who would zip over the tree line and hit Unity patrols who had no idea how to deal with aircraft that were little more than a wing with an engine and a seat. Again I thought about how we used anything that worked to fight these alien invaders. “Ah next would be Admiral Ashton Kelly who like most of the others who earned their dolphins survived the first attack, unlike most of the others he then spent the next few years in his Virginia class raiding the Eastern Seaboard. Last I heard his bounty was one point eight million. Then there’s our ally and northern guest Jacques Danjou from the Armée Canadienne. I am including him right?” I asked and Plainview nodded. “Sure. He’s considered part of the Joint Chiefs for now so tell me what you know about him.” I took a breath as I thought it over. “I’m not as familiar with whatever was going on in Canada but I do know he’s organized what’s left of the professional Canadian military with the Mounties into a decent fighting force. They’re known for raiding the mag trains, and he personally killed a Unity Battlewalker with a satchel charge if I’m correct?” I glanced at Plainview who nodded and I continued. “One point five million chit bounty on him. Am I including civilian members?” I asked next. “All of them you can name.” He confirmed. “Well last would be Cassius Harrison our Chief Militia Liaison, also known as the Nighthawk. Responsible for the Baltimore Uprising of ‘23, the Pittsburg uprising of ‘25, and the Chicago uprising of ‘27. General pain in the Unity’s ass, and while I can’t say much for the professionalism of his partisans they’re obviously effective or else the Unity wouldn’t have a two million chit bounty out for his head.” I leaned back in the chair then as Plainview kept staring at me as if expecting more. “Ah… the Unity claims he was in fact a crime boss before the invasion but he claims he was law enforcement from Baltimore. I’ve never met him so I couldn’t say either way.” “My thinking is law enforcement though all of those records were destroyed so I don’t know for sure.” Plainview replied. “But I was more waiting to hear what you know about our last civilian and the Sec Def.” That caught me by surprise as I blinked a few times and he could see I was caught off guard. “Oh. You didn’t know about our Sec Def?” “No. I wasn’t aware we had a Secretary of Defense any more. Is there still a civilian government we’re supposed to be reporting to?” It was the first I’d heard of it. “I don’t think so. Just her. I’d never heard of her before a few months ago but the other Joint Chiefs report to her so I guess it’s as legitimate as anything else we do these days. It’s a woman by the name of Alexandra Grainger-” He was about to go on but I couldn’t hold back. “Fuck me. She’s still alive? I never would have thought I’d see her again.” Now it was his turn to look surprised. “You’ve met her?” He asked and I nodded. “Over in Kaohsiung City. We didn’t tangle with the PLA much but there was some strange shit going on near an industrial park. She shows up and we were all told she was in charge, a civilian ordering us around. It was strange. But she was from DARPA and had a whole team of tier one with her, and before that I wasn’t even aware DARPA had any armed units at their disposal. The whole thing kind of creeped me out. You know how most spec ops guys are total meat heads and jocks right?” I asked and he laughed but nodded. “Well these guys were all very quiet. Never socialized, spoke very little, just… creeped us out.” “Well it sounds like you know more than me.” He said then. “Until now I had no idea she had been with DARPA. There’s no files I can find with her on them and I couldn’t figure out how she became Secretary of Defense. All I know is she was in charge of everything west of the rockies since the invasion. Showed up a few months ago to take command here, and get this those apparently DARPA guys you mentioned? She’s still got them. Or new ones. They were even in exosuits and had gear I’d never seen before.” I couldn’t help but arch my brows a little as he said that. “What like… salvaged Unity gear?” “No. Or… didn’t look like it. Looked like our own stuff. Maybe prototypes from before the invasion? Hell if I know. But even the Unity doesn’t know who she is because there isn’t a bounty on her by name. However they’ve apparently got a standing offer on the west coast for ten million chits, full first class collaborator citizenship, and a total pardon for information leading to the arrest of the Western Rebel Leader is all they named her as.” I couldn’t help but whistle when he told me that. “So whatever she’s done out west they aren’t happy with her.” I rubbed my chin as I thought of her all those years ago. Kaohsiung City had been a shit show from the start but she’d been the worst of it. She had been professional and polite but something about her behavior had been so cold and detached… Always referring to any civilian deaths as acceptable collateral damage. I wasn’t sure how I felt finding out she was apparently in charge of us all. Then again if she’d done so much on the west coast to get the Unity to put an offer like that for her then she had to be damn good at her job. “So, now that I’ve got you up to speed you won’t be caught off guard when she wants you to present your briefing before the Joint Chiefs.” I arched a brow as he told me that and held up my little folder of papers. “I’m talking to them? I’m not just telling you and then you tell them? Isn’t that how the chain of command is supposed to work?” He smirked at that and ran a hand through his white hair for a moment. “Sometimes. But I think they want to get to know you since they already know me.” I leaned back when he told me that and frowned a little. “Why?” I was never comfortable being the center of attention. “Because old man you’re in charge of our agents in an around Divinity City. They want to know what you’re like.” I let out a sigh then as I thought about being sat in front of a panel of superior officers. I’d never done it. Ever since the invasion things had been more casual. I usually just spoke to Plainview who would pass on my intel to whoever needed it. Sometimes I worked with General Carter since he officially ran the regulars out here but that was pretty rare. “Okay, but I have some questions before we get out there.” I mentioned and started to reach into my folder but he was standing up and patting my shoulder. “Later. The Sec Def expects us to be punctual so let's go.” I frowned as he waved for me to follow but did get up to walk after him. I should have expected this from him. He liked to keep me guessing and give me as little info as possible in regards to this sort of thing. I think he felt it made me into a better intelligence officer because I had to keep thinking on the fly but honestly it just bothered me. But he was my superior so all I could do was gripe into my whiskey tonight. Once we were downstairs I saw Felon in the corner next to the sludge pot start to get up but Plainview waved him back down. “Not this time Master Sergeant. Officers only. Enjoy the sludge.” I just nodded at Leo as we walked past and he sat back down. From the cabin we headed to the central hall. It was mostly just used for assemblies of the local commanders when they wanted to set up long term goals and various objectives all at once. I rarely went since my mission around Divinity City almost never lined up with what the others did. Much like the rest of what we had going on here it was a mix of eras. 1800s wood fort like construction, a solar panel on the roof, some antennae off the sides, and then there were the guards I noticed as we approached. They had to be the DARPA team that Plainview had mentioned. When I’d seen Grainger last they hadn’t had exosuits that’s for sure. Unlike the shiny armor of the Tin Can collaborators this was more of a rough robotic frame with a face mask and beneath it each of the men still wore fatigues. But I didn’t see any rank tabs or unit patches. Not even name tags. Just US flags on the shoulders. “Identification please sir.” One asked as we approached the main door and Plainview handed his over quickly but I needed a moment to remember what pocket I had mine in. I rarely used it. Once the soldier had both IDs in hand he actually ran it under a scanner as I had more time to look him over. His weapon wasn’t standard. Not that anything was these days. But I wasn’t even sure what it was. It reminded me of a FN-SCAR but seemed to be sized differently. The grip and the handle looked right but the rest of it seemed larger. However there wasn’t any top rail or sights that I could see. Perhaps it was integrated into the suit’s mask? Not to mention I had no idea what he had on the bottom rail. It wasn’t any M203 variant I was familiar with. “Here you go sirs. You are expected.” The soldier handed back our IDs and I looked into the blue eyes of the face mask. Couldn’t tell if it was backlit or just colored glass. Gave the impression of looking back into a skull though which was unnerving. I noticed they didn’t salute Plainview and he didn’t salute them so I just followed him in, taking one look back as we entered the main hall. I realized the fatigues were misleading. They were too… puffy to be regular. They had to hide some sort of armor within rather than hardened outer plates like the Unity forces preferred. I turned my focus back on the structure around us as we stepped into the main hall from the entryway. There were about 4 dozen seats arranged before a slightly raised platform with a long table on it, behind which sat the Joint Chiefs. Goldstein, Andrews, Kelly, and Donjou were all in dress uniform as if we were in the Pentagon and not in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest in an old fashioned wood fort. Harrison at the end of the table was wearing an old Baltimore Raven’s sweatshirt and slacks. Then in the center was Grainger. She was wearing a dark grey business suit with a white shirt and a bright pink tie that almost made me want to laugh. Who the hell wore ties anymore let alone a bright pink one like that? Her hair was just as short as it had been when we first met 16 years ago. God… 16 years? I shook my head slowly as I looked around the rest of the room. Of the four dozen seats a good three quarters were full of the other commanders from around the midwest. Looked like they really had brought everyone in that they could. Though all I caught from their briefing was the very tail end with Grainger speaking. “Details of specific missions will be left up to each of you individually but the message we need to send is clear. Hit them hard. Hit them often. Tin Can collaborators with their new toys or regular Unity forces we are still here and we are still fighting.” She scanned the room for a moment and paused as she looked at me before finishing up. “Dismissed.” With that the others got up to start to head out and I nodded as they walked by. I knew a few, but mostly just from meetings here. I rarely worked with any of them. Once they had filed out I walked towards the front of the room to a small table set just before the stage with the Joint Chiefs on it. Plainview sat behind me in the first row of regular seats and I set my folder on the table, preparing the few papers I had brought for the briefing. If I had known I would be presenting before the last high ranking officers of the military and our new Secretary of Defense I’d have prepared better. I felt like I was in school again having not done nearly enough studying before a big exam. At least in this nightmare I had my clothes on still. I looked up at them and then froze up. How did I address them? Ladies and Gentlemen didn’t seem right but I couldn’t think. Thankfully Grainger spoke up. “Please state your name for the record." That made me look around for a moment and I saw a woman off to the side I had missed who seemed to be typing out what was said. Really? I wanted to laugh at how absurd that seemed to me but instead I just coughed and spoke up. “Colonel Ryan Oldman formerly of the 43rd Sustainment Brigade.” I stated and then waited. “Colonel Oldman, I know this is likely the first time you’re presenting before the Joint Chiefs but don’t worry about formalities right now. We just want you to tell us what you know. For starters let's talk about the Chimera. What do we know?” I took a slow breath as I looked up at Grainger and the others on the stage. Now I really understood why it was those panels before Congress were set up like this. Having them tower above you really tried to give you a sense of being small and insignificant before them. But I didn’t think that was the goal here so I just forged ahead. “Virtually nothing.” I figured I’d just start strong and go from there. “We do know the Cuttlefish that was eliminated at Fort Sierra came across the site by accident during a recon mission for the Chimera. Then rather than pursue our forces hard as we pulled out of the area Unity patrols seemed to follow after signals from the Chimera still, and completely ignored my own forces in the area. They showed no signs of concern for their losses and gave the area around the Ozarks only a cursory search before moving on. Camp Golf, my command center, wasn’t even inspected despite its proximity to Camp Sierra and our facility at the Bagnell dam also went undiscovered.” I paused then and pulled out the one piece of paper I had with all I knew about the Chimera. “Based on information gained from a Unity prisoner they do emit some form of signal that can be traced. However the signal appears to be weak and Unity forces can only get a very rough estimate of their position. Either this signal, or the signals used by the Unity to track them do seem to have an… adverse effect on wildlife in the area. Particularly dogs. In several reported cases our trained dogs in Hunter units have gone… ah… mad in the middle of the night. Exhibiting signs of increased aggression or fear and often clustering together, trying to pull their handlers towards the center of our camps.” “Colonel are you aware that similar events are being reported from as far away as Memphis, Springfield, and Des Moines?” I looked up as Grainger asked me that and shook my head. “No, Ma’am I was not aware.” “Colonel have you had any sightings of these Chimera? Anything?” She followed up. “No, Ma’am.” I waited and she nodded. “Do you think they are hostile?” She asked next. “At the moment I would say… not currently. Not to us. However a casualty report from Unity forces that I was able to recently acquire…” I pulled the page from my folder. “Suggests that they are hostile to the Unity. I have been able to account for about two hundred and fifty Bregnan casualties over the last month from my forces in the area. There are however four hundred and…” I glanced at the paper. “Thirty six reported Bregnan deaths in the same time frame in the area.” As I mentioned that the Joint Chiefs began to shift a little and quietly muttered to one another. “Colonel.” I looked over at Goldstein then as he spoke up. “We were informed that you had Hunters exfil a captive agent from Kansas City last month? Is he in stable position?” “Yes Sir. All operatives were able to extract successfully. Cover identities for all but one agent were burned in the process but we’re working on getting them new ones. However the captive had been tortured quite severely in the short time he was held and has since been put into a medically induced coma. Even when he was awake it was hard to get anything out of him.” “What was it you could get from him?” Grainged pressed then before I could continue on my own. “That something strange is going on. The only reason we were able to extract him at all was because he was being held at a nightclub and not an official Unity facility. Furthermore we had assumed the nightclub to be part of a crime organization within the city and until his capture we had no idea it was connected to Unity forces at all. Our agent did mention dead scientists but we were unable to verify who he meant. However one of the few things he kept repeating was something about a woman in red. We’re unsure of the significance but he said it often enough that I made a note of it.” The Joint Chiefs glanced at one another and Grainger leaned forward before adjusting her glasses. “Colonel, the Unity often claims that their invasion and occupation of our planet is in our own best interest. Despite their considerable invasion force Unity regulars have clearly been sent elsewhere in the past fifteen years, and they have factories around the planet working non stop to produce arms and armaments that are intended for use elsewhere. All of this suggests that they have threats elsewhere in the galaxy. Could these Chimera be a part of that fight?” I blinked as she asked that and thought it over for a moment. “Mmhhh… I don’t know Ma’am.” I answered honestly. “The Chimera being… Rival aliens could be possible? But if so why are they here? Why not communicate with us directly? Why have a signal that the Unity can trace?” I shrugged then. “There are too many variables.” She nodded then but rubbed her chin thoughtfully before continuing. “What of the quarantined farms in your area?” I pulled out another paper then. “On the day of December 12th on my way back from a standard asset meeting in Jeff… ah that is Jefferson City my vehicle was stopped next to the Anderson farm which was in the process of being burned down even then. All we were told is that there was a disease on the farm and to report any aggressive animals in the area to Unity personnel. While scouts had reported four people on the farm prior I personally counted seven bodybags. After that it wasn’t until January 3rd that the next farm was quarantined some eighteen miles away.” I tugged a small marked map from my folder then, looking up at the panel before me. But they just waited for me to continue so I did. “Since then a total of five more farms have all been promptly quarantined and then burned down. Fields, structures, everything. None of the farmers reported being sick to any of my forces in the area before the Unity teams would descend upon a farm to quarantine the area. On top of that, none of the farms have been in proximity to one another, and in all cases where my scouts could observe more body bags have been removed then there were people at the farms.” Then I stopped since I wasn’t sure what else to say. “Do you suspect a connection between the farms and the Chimera?” Grainger asked then and I couldn’t help but shrug yet again as I tugged out my map of the possible path of the Chimera heading north west away from the Ozarks. “The farms have been directly east of Divin… ah Kansas City while the possible path of the Chimera has them going north west. Ma’am… frankly I have no idea. I’ve got far more questions than answers myself. The fact that they mentioned aggressive animals at the farm and then the reports of dogs going mad in relation to the Chimera makes me think there is a connection but what it is? I have no idea.” I glanced at the woman in the corner typing out what I’d just said and shook my head a little. I sure was going to be eloquent on paper wasn’t I? “Very well Colonel. Thank you for your report. Notify us when your agent recovers or if you learn anything else. From here on out the Joint Chiefs and I will be staying in the area, so expect to hear from us again soon. Commanders in the neighboring sectors are also going to be stepping up their attacks, but I want you to keep quiet for now and avoid confrontation whenever possible. If we can get them to believe the area directly around Kansas city is safe then they might move forces elsewhere. Dismissed.” As Grainger nodded I nodded back and got up, handing my folder to Plainview who was stepping forward to get into the chair I’d just left. I guess they had questions for him as well. (Continued in Comments)
2016.12.11 00:46 DaregvedaI recently ran LMoP for five brand-new players to D&D. Here's a write up of the first few sessions, including sketches and illustrations from my girlfriend (and party fighter).
So I've been playing D&D on and off for the last 15 years or more and recently started up a game of 5e for a group of 5 players who had never played a tabletop RPG in their lives. However, these folks are seasoned geeks, all of whom I met at our local geek-culture board/card game nights. I decided to run them through LMoP both to get a good grip on DMing 5e (I've DM'd plenty of other editions but not much 5e) and to see how they found the starter adventure, which I'd heard was pretty good. I've been meaning to write more, so I thought I'd do a write-up of the starter adventure. During the course of the game, my girlfriend also (who plays the party's dragonborn fighter) made lots of sketches and drawings, some of which I've posted on Reddit already. Together, I thought they might be entertaining and provide a way people to see how a group of newbies approached the module. I helped them out with character creation, but gave them total freedom over all their choices because I wanted them to play whatever sounded the most fun. The group consists of 3 girls and two guys aged between 22 and 39 - here's what they ended up with:
Asarath Erasychion - Female Moon Elf Warlock of Great Cthulhu. From a proud noble family, but ran away from home when her parents took a dim view of her dabbling in the dark arts.
Devious 'The Deforestationator' - Female Tiefling Wild Magic Sorceress whose unpredictable powers caused devastation to the wilds near her home and claimed the life of one she loved.
Fraarh (formerly of clan Dimirev)* - Female Gold Dragonborn Great-Weapon Fighter, exiled from her clan after claiming responsibility for a crime she didn't commit in order to keep the clan's honour intact.
Gatix Doublebit - Male Gnome Ranger** (Using the Revised UA ranger), expert archer and woodsman out to find the orc war chief responsible for his master's disappearance.
Inigo Montoya - Male Elf Rogue (Like I said, I gave them complete freedom over all their choices :P), dashing swordsman out to avenge the death of his father.
Party Portrait - They almost look professional, don't they? * The lovely artist behind all the illustrations accompanying this post. ** For the first session this player was Dwin Sternbrow - dwarven cleric - but switched characters after that. ... Session 1 - Huge LMoP Spoilers from here onwardsI've done my best to relate the events as they happened and how I described them based on abilities used and the numbers rolled on the dice. Lower rolls typically mean lapses of concentration, bad luck or some other factor causing an attack or skill to fail and that is reflected below. I decided that they deserved to start off their first ever D&D game with a classic tavern brawl. The various characters are enjoying a quiet drink in a small tavern within the walls of Neverwinter when a bunch of rowdy half-orcs barge in and start to cause a ruckus. They come over to the table that several of the soon-to-be-party are sat around and start running their mouths. As it becomes obvious that violence is about to break out any second, we roll initiative for the first time of many. This encounter mainly served as a simple introduction to 5e combat against some fairly weak enemies. Fraarh goes first - being an ex-soldier she read this situation and was prepared to defend herself at a moment's notice. She crits with her first ever attack roll and cuts a half-orc down with a mighty swing of her greatsword. Asarath uses her 'Awakened Mind' patron ability to speak right into the mind of one of the half-orcs from across the room. She whispers the dark secrets revealed to her by great Cthulhu and I ask for a Charisma (intimidation) roll. One natural 19 later and the orc grants advantage until the end of her next turn as I decide he's confused and shaken by this sudden voice in his head. Devious chants some strange-sounding arcane syllables and thrusts out her hand. She and the party discover the joys of magic missile as she spreads her projectiles out amongst the attackers, slamming bolts of force into them. The 4 remaining half-orcs get their turn, landing a couple of good shots, one of them even crits Fraarh - landing a brutal blow with his club for 8 of her 11 health. Inigo and Dwin (dwarf cleric who only lasted one session) wade in shortly afterwards and quickly dispatch the remaining attackers. Gundren Rockseeker, a dwarfish commoner, witnesses the fight from across the bar and decides that this bunch of individuals seem to be able to handle themselves quite well. He and human warrior Sildar Hallwinter approach the group and offer them a job - to drive his wagon of supplies from Neverwinter to Phandalin for a modest fee and the promise of more lucrative jobs once the task is complete. Inigo negotiates hard for an increased fee, as well as some extra supplies on arrival in Phandalin. A deal is struck and Sildar and Gundren set off immediately on horseback to make best time to Phandalin. The characters get to know each other a little bit on the journey to Phandalin and Asarath, who is from a noble elven family, makes sure to show everybody her scroll of pedigree. Their reaction isn't quite as enthusiastic as she had hoped. After a couple of days of travel, the party leaves the High Road and turns onto the Triboar Trail. Not far along the trail, they come across a pair of dead horse corpses in the road. Asarath immediately hops off the wagon to go and investigate, while Inigo is far more cautious and immediately sprints from the wagon to the treeline for cover, suspecting something is amiss. Sure enough, a pair of arrows fly from the nearby trees and catch Asarath full in the chest. She drops unconscious from her injuries as two more goblins burst from cover to rush the wagon. Fraarh is quick to engage both of them in melee, bathing them in her flame breath and hacking with her greatsword. Inigo stealths through the trees and sneak attacks with great precision while Dwin and Devious fling ranged cantrips at their assailants. The battle quickly swings in the party's favour as the goblins drop one after another, but not before the players learn how death saves work, courtesy of Asarath. Fortunately, Dwin is able to stabilise and heal her up and they learn how to benefit from a short rest. At this point, I level the party up to 2 and we cover off how levelling up works, as well as what their new class abilities do. I wanted the party to be level 2 before entering the Cragmaw Hideout, since there's some fairly nasty stuff in there for level 1 characters. Inigo investigates the dead horses and tries to lift one up to get at the saddlebag underneath. He's unable to lift it by himself, but a nat 20 on Fraarh's strength roll sees her dig two clawed hands into the dead beast and flip it over. The party finds an intact potion of healing as well as an empty map case - how curious! By this point they've deduced that these horses probably belonged to Gundren and Sildar, so they set off in search of the missing duo, quickly tracking the trail of the goblins towards Cragmaw Hideout. Outside Cragmaw Hideout are two lowly goblin lookouts and thanks to Inigo scouting ahead in a stealthy fashion, the party is able to get the drop on them. One of them dies quickly, but the other one... well... The other one proved a little more slippery (everything from the paragraph beginning "Most recently..." is basically what happened, including roughly how I narrated the string of misses by the party and the goblin's attempt to flee. Illustrations on that page are courtesy of Asarath's player). Once inside Cragmaw Hideout, the party quickly realise that there is a small issue in that all but one of them could see in the dark - Fraarh will require a light source to venture any distance into the cave. Asarath helpfully summoned dancing lights further up the main passage, which immediately alerts the sleepy goblin sentry on the bridge. He screeches a warning out to his buddies in the waterfall area, who trigger one of the collapsible walls and flood the main passage. Asarath and Devious are swept unceremoniously from the hideout and take some bludgeoning damage for good measure , Dwin and Inigo managed to scramble to cover on the side-paths and Fraarh simply stands firm as the torrent of water breaks over and past her. Rushing back into the cave, Asarath snipes the goblin scout and one-shots him with an eldritch blast before he can call for another flooding. The party quickly decide that dancing lights will be used with a good deal more caution from here on out. Starting to explore the hideout for real, Inigo discovers the wolf den near the entrance and quickly backs off as the wolves strain at their chains and bay menacingly. Asarath offers them some of her trail rations as well as some very careful petting and, with a successful animal handling check, manages to take the edge off both their hunger and their aggression. She decides to take a risk on unchaining the wolves, who sniff uneasily around the party. Asarath pets them some more, hoping one might decide to stick around, but the wolves decide that freedom seems like a rather nice prospect and slink out of the cave. Inigo seizes the opportunity to try and climb the chimney in this area; 1d6 falling damage later, he suggests exploring other areas of the cave. The party progress nicely through the rest of Cragmaw Hideout and in the fight against Yeemik, Devious' Wild Magic goes off for the first time. As she fires off a volley of magic missiles, a strange pressure grows in the air and sparks begin to crackle around her. An inexplicable gust of wind sweeps through the cave and whips around her as the air fills with hundreds of dancing, multi-hued butterflies and flower petals. They surround her in a swirling, mesmerising pattern. Devious' player loves this. The illusory petals and butterflies disappear shortly afterwards, except for a single solitary butterfly that remains, flitting thoughtfully around her. Fraarh is a little worse for wear at this point, having briefly been knocked unconscious while fending off four goblins by herself. They discover Sildar, release him from his restraints and introduce themselves, requesting that he stays put until they can secure the rest of the cave. When the party reach Klarg, they're a little beat up but have no time to recuperate as the noise of their fight just outside his chamber has alerted the bugbear. Klarg comes racing out with his wolf at his side and with two more goblins in tow. He singles out Fraarh as the toughest-looking opponent and barks the order to his subordinates to leave her to him. Fraarh is in very rough shape at this point but seeing this as a challenge to her honour, she steps up to face off with him, earning inspiration in the process. After getting in a solid strike with her greatsword, she catches a 4d8+2 morningstar crit, which caves in part of her skull with a sickening crunch, takes her within 4hp of outright death by massive damage and pre-empts any possible accusations of me giving her player preferential treatment on account of being my girlfriend. The party prevail despite Dwin also being downed by a series of vicious scimitar strikes and they recover the stolen goods marked with the symbol of Lionshield Coster. Asarath sets about skinning the wolf, recovering 'enough fur to make a scarf' as well as 'some meat for later'. With the hideout cleared out, some loot to their name and a grateful Sildar Hallwinter offering additional payment for safe passage to Phandalin, they set out once again. Session 2 - Arrival in PhandalinThe reason Dwin barely featured in the previous session's commentary was because his player was pretty ill on that day and couldn't contribute a whole lot. He asked to switch up characters for the subsequent sessions and I helped him roll up a gnome ranger instead. I didn't tell him how the new character would be introduced and none of the other players knew the switch was about to occur. The party come very close to completing an uneventful trip between Cragmaw Hideout and Phandalin. However, I've got to find a reason for the dwarven cleric to leave the party and introduce the civilisation-shunning ranger into the party. The solution to this problem, like most other problems, is lots of ogres. As the wagon trundles down the last stretch of road towards Phandalin, two slavering ogres wielding the trunks of fallen trees come bursting out of the treeline and make a beeline for the party. Fraarh and Inigo manage to head one of them off. Fraarh engages the brute in melee while Inigo uses his cunning actions to dance around the ogre's flank, sneak attacking for solid damage. The other ogre reaches the wagon where Dwin is sat and brings its tree branch in an overhead arc, splitting open the dwarf's skull with a single blow (I legitimately rolled a lucky crit on this attack, reducing the character to 0 with one strike). Seeing the urgency of the situation, Devious pelts the ogres with magic missiles and as luck would have it, her Wild Magic triggers again. The air takes on a metallic taste, a strange sound reverberates through the air and all of a sudden every hair on her head bursts outwards like a dandelion husk. Once again, the players absolutely love this and even the ogres are briefly taken aback by the spectacle. Soon, one ogre falls and the other is in bad shape, leading the party to think they've got this one in the bag. At this point, a third angry brute charges from the forest to enter the fray and things are looking grim. Fortunately for them, an arrow flies through the air and plants itself squarely between the ogre's shoulder blades as a young gnome breaks from cover and lends ranged assistance to our 'heroes'. It's not long before the party have accomplished the significant feat of defeating three ogres and they agree to join forces with Gatix Doublebit for the forseeable future. The group arrive in Phandalin and get their first proper chance to experience some freeform roleplaying and social encounters. They enlist the help of Sister Garaele with tending to the unconscious and badly-injured Dwin and then deliver the wagon-load of goods to Barthen's trading post, where they listen to him muttering and complaining about being strongarmed by the Redbrands of late. Moving on to Lionshield Coster, they take much more of a liking to Linene than they did to Barthen, since she's rather more sharp-tongued and savvy. She assumes that the women in the party are in charge, much to Fraarh and Asarath's amusement and offers to give them a hefty discount on supplies in lieu of outright payment for the recovered goods. The party agree and pick up some studded leather and a longbow, as well as picking up extra rope and a number of other items. Asarath shows Linene her scroll of pedigree but still doesn't quite get the reaction she's hoping for; she then proceeds to buy up Linene's entire stock of ink, parchment and sealing wax. Once again, they hear tell of how much disruption and grief the Redbrands are causing around these parts. When they go back to check on Dwin, he informs them that he doesn't think he's cut out for the adventuring lifestyle and is going to take some time in Phandalin to reflect on his future. The party run a few more errands around town and agree to help Sister Garaele locate the spellbook of the wizard Bowgentle. As it happens, this is the same wizard to whom Fraarh's 'trinket' item belonged - a purple handkerchief monogrammed with the letter 'B'. By this point, it has become apparent that the Rebrands are a problem that is going to need dealing with, so the group decide to confront the ruffians. They go to the tavern to plan their move, but take so long in doing so that the Redbrands find them instead and it's not long before violence breaks out. Soundly defeating the thugs, the party relieve them of their red cloaks and interrogate one of the survivors. They learn for the first time about the existence of an individual called 'Glasstaff' as well as hearing about somebody named 'The Black Spider' - a name they'd heard mentioned in Cragmaw Hideout. They also learn that what they'd suspected so far is true - that the main hideout for the Redbrands is under the ruined Tresendar Manor east of town. They throw the surviving two Redbrands in the town jail. The jailor is very nervous about holding them as he fears reprisal from the gang but the party assure him that they'll be putting an end to the Redbrand threat first thing in the morning. Tired from their trip and a little spent from the fights with the ogres and the Redbrands, they head to sleep at Stonehill Tavern. The party levels up to 3 at this point, to the excitement of all involved.
Fraarh decides to walk the path of the Eldritch Knight and picks up Shield, Burning Hands and Grease
Inigo specialises as an assassin, given his predilection for stealth and ambushes
Asarath receives the Pact of the Chain boon and gains the ability to summon a familiar
Devious gains access to 2nd-level spells and metamagic picks Scorching Ray, Careful Spell and Empowered Spell
Gatix joins the Beast Conclave, gaining the ability to summon a faithful animal companion
Session 3 - Tresendar Manor The party awaken to the sound of shouting in the town square. They look out of the window and see that Danrose, the town jailer, is being beaten and humiliated by the Redbrands in the town square. A Redbrand patrol doing the night rounds discovered that some of their fellows had been thrown in prison and were not at all happy about it. They race downstairs to confront the thugs, who turn tail and run at the first sight of the party. Devious hasn't woken up enough for a fight yet and just casts sleep instead (about half of her hair has grown back at this point). Two of the three Redbrands have barely any hit points from being beaten last night and so the whole group falls asleep. Waking up to find themselves bound by rope and threatened by lots of pointy things, the Redbrands are given the choice of death or exile and sent packing into the wilderness in nothing but their underwear. Heading up the hill to Tresendar Manor, the group quickly locate the trapdoor to the cellars and begin to investigate. Fraarh makes rather too much noise rummaging through the various barrels of supplies and alerts the Redbrands in the makeshift barracks next door. The door to the west flies open and the ruffians unleash a volley of arrows, all of which either whizz past her head or clatter harmlessly off her armour, much to her delight. The party take down their attackers without too much trouble, but Gatix and Asarath decide it's probably time they summon their respective companions to assist with future fights. Gatix heads back upstairs and ventures a short way into the woods beyond the manor. He lights a fire and sits by it to meditate. He pushes his consciousness out into the surrounding wilderness and senses the myriad creatures going about their lives in his proximity. He feels the collective attention of the woods turn towards him as he communicates his need for nature's assistance. After a few moments, a young black bear pads into the clearing and approaches the fire. It sniffs the air and then regards Gatix for a few moments, before using one paw to scrape dirt over the fire and put an end to his ritual. It licks the gnome's face, nearly knocking him over and signifying that it has chosen him as its companion. Meanwhile, Asarath draws arcane symbols on the floor of Tresendar's cellar in the blood of one of the fallen Redbrands. Chanting strange and terrifying phrases, she calls upon great Cthulhu to favour her with a familiar. The air in the room takes on an oily, greasy feeling and the cistern of clear water suddenly looks like a vat of swirling oil. A hideous quasit clambers from within its depths and spreads its wings, flapping over to land on her shoulder. The room returns to its normal state in an instant, the ritual over. Fraarh spends some time meditating to form her Weapon Bond with her greatsword. This is not as drawn-out or weird as the previous rituals. Venturing further into the cellars, the group comes across a crypt containing three sarcophagi, each with a human skeleton laid on top. Asarath reasons that these skeletons must be members of the Tresendar family and as such are the closest thing she's met so far to actual nobility. She proceeds to present her scroll of pedigree to them, but receives even less of a response than she normally gets. At this point, Inigo ventures too close to the northeast door and the skeletons all lurch to their feet. Devious goes first in initiative as they rise and fires off a magic missile. She feels an incredible surge of power within her body as she does and the rising pressure inside her threatens to rip her apart from the inside. She throws out her arms and attempts to release the massive surge of raw energy as three great bolts of lightning shoot from her and reduce all three skeletons to dust. The encounter immediately ends as she one-shots everything with her first action. After some more exploration, the party take out the jailers in the cells but don't release the prisoners until they can be sure the coast is clear and promise to come back. It's not long until they encounter the Nothic in the central cave and spend about an hour in real-time roleplaying telepathic communication with it. Asarath is fascinated by it, Inigo is keen to feed it the flesh of the dead Redbrands in exchange for information and the other party members begin to warily chat and bargain with it. They promptly name the Nothic 'Bob'. It's not long before they realise it has a rather impressive stash of treasure in the crevice it calls home and they manage to make several trades, giving it shiny gems and trinkets in exchange for magic scroll and a beautiful greatsword, whose hilt has been forged into the shape of a pair of draconic wings. They even learn that 'Glasstaff' is really Sildar's friend Iarno Albrek, because the Nothic has read his mind as he came to oversee one of its feedings. Not wishing to harm the Nothic, they decide to try and find a way to send it home so that they don't have to kill it, but so there's no chance of it preying on the citizens of Phandalin after its food source is cut off from the imminent defeat of the Redbrands. With Fraarh armed with a new +1 greatsword, the party prepare to tackle the rest of the Redbrand hideout... I hope this has been an interesting read so far - I'm thinking of posting Part 2 in a day or two if the response to this one is good. There are plenty more illustrations to show off and some great anecdotes to recount, let me know if you'd like to hear more :)
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