Monday, December 31, 2012

The 11th Hour (Part 2)

A brief excerpt, as continued from before, from the last chapter in my upcoming novel, Rogue Blood.

* * * * *

Steady silence. Uplifted and ready.

“Hold up, Lieutenant,” Emery said, nodding behind them before edging back to his post at the riot barrier.

As Stanford turned he was greeted by the approach of Alison who was accompanied by Captain Harrishire in full garb wearing a pointed expression. The three met at a crouch and spoke point blank.

“We need to move,” Stanford said.

“Not yet, sir,” the firefighter reasoned. “If you could use our help, that is. We haven’t even tapped the 300 gallons onboard the quint. Let me and my crew get our longest hose up beside you and we’ll shoot a thousand PSI up their ass.”

“Your timing couldn’t be any more perfect,” Alison empathized, watching Stanford mull it over.

“We’s just waiting for a hush to settle after that last outburst. Some of the boys were gettin’ anxious from all the fireworks,” he added.

As if on cue, Emery expressed his doubtfulness to Stanford with a look.

“There’s no guarantee, but it’s only been the odd few that are packing heat,” Stanford confessed.

“That’d been our guess too,” Harrishire said. “‘Sides, we all know the risk. We heard about you guys. How you went in to that burning tenement last week. A few of us were there that day, prol’ly figure we owe ya one.”

Stanford nodded. “We’re in no position to refuse help.”

“Good.” The firefighter momentarily peered over the riot barrier. “Looks like these guys could use a stiff drink.”

Not a person laughed, nor could anyone deny that humor was a confidence builder.

The lieutenant looked down at the receiver then to his sergeant, wondering if he was the only one whose confidence wasn’t shattered. He opened the radio channel and held the receiver out. “Emery?”

“We keep our heads down.” Emery surveyed the field as he spoke. “Teams to the sides, flush against the buildings. Wall at our backs protects the flank. Keep it tight, focus on the center of the street, and stay in parallel step.”

“Positions,” Stanford commanded, then replaced the receiver on Emery’s belt. “Go make ready and meet us back here,” he told Captain Harrishire.

The firefighter hustled back the way he came while Alison remained. Stanford noticed she had a duffle full of renewed medical supplies slung over her shoulder.

“Don’t even say it,” she said. “I’ve come this far, and you can’t do everything by yourself.”

Stanford managed a grin, though the rest of his grim face held firm. He grabbed her arm. “You’re a good soldier.”

Alison tossed her head and smiled sardonically. “I hate war.”

In two minutes the counterassault forces were ready. Frasier, Dawkins, and Lois were lined up on the far side of the avenue with a handful of patrolmen and able-bodied volunteers from the crash site, including a retired cop and an off-duty reservist. On the near side stood Stanford, Emery, and Alison with their small team of firefighters towing a 240-meter, two-and-a-half inch diameter fire hose connected to the ladder truck. Almost fifty meters of the hose was required to bring the nozzle up to the assault point, leaving less than 200 meters for Stanford and the firefighters to wrestle with. And as Stanford flagged his arm directing his companions on the far side, initiating the parallel sweep, so too were the Forsaken lying in wait.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 11th Hour (Part 1)

A brief excerpt from the last chapter of my upcoming novel:

* * * * *

Tak tak tak tak!

Small arms fire leaps through the crooked spray of a ruptured fire hydrant. Neon blood flies through the air, the swirling red glow of emergency vehicle lights refracting off the gushing water. A fleeing woman is hit in the back, a bullet biting into her spine as she collapses into paralysis.

Brak-ak brak-ak!

A SWAT officer twists in position from behind his makeshift cover, riddling the hostile with burst fire. Another SWAT pitches forward to cover the downed woman, shielding her from further harm. Behind them, fingers bathed in sticky fluid, an EMT fastens gauze to a forehead gash.

WwwrrROOOOOAHHhh!!!

A sound that is heard more in the mind fills the place; stifled sobs, and garbled shouts of warning flung in the direction of danger a moment too late. The primal, incoherent rage of a mob echoes off broken storefronts and down the canyon of avenues. The rush of blood and water. The beating of human and inhuman hearts. Staccato fireworks. Together they compose a private orchestra of madness to the afflicted, personal to every one. War.

And Stanford’s SWAT and Alison Merrick were caught right in the middle of it.

“On your feet, Detective,” Stanford grunted. He scooped the woman up at his feet, dragging her to safety. Safety was a single makeshift riot barrier—formerly an emergency stretcher for the injured off the plane—propped against a trestle standing in the gutter.

“He’s up,” Alison breathed, helping the police officer to his feet.

“I’m up,” McEvers announced, eyes blinking furiously. He had taken a partial shovel blade to the forehead while wresting it from the hands of a hostile during an intense struggle. Free flowing blood made his face look as a river map, and blinded his eyes.

Emery made a staying gesture with his hand, trying to restore calm to his allies. “S’alright, Lieutenant, I don’t see any others,” he said, glancing back at the gunman he had shot. Then he rose up over the barrier’s edge and began spraying the street with suppression fire.

The sudden and unprovoked onslaught of the Forsaken had been furious at first. Many of the rescue teams and civilians at the crash site had been forced into fighting out of sheer self defense. The latest one Emery had killed was only the second to be wielding a firearm. By now, wary of the return gunfire by SWAT and police, the Forsaken were only being held in check, viciously testing the defenders’ lines, and using suicide guerrilla tactics to terrorize and surprise the stressed and stranded mass of accident victims and rescue workers.

Stanford looked down at the blonde woman in his arms. She cried between sobs, saying, “I—uh—c-can’t feel my—legs!” He saw that she was wearing jeans and a jersey top—a civilian. One who had come to help in the hours after the crash. Added to the list of those whose lives were permanently altered that day.

“Help her take the victim,” he paused, “to an ambulance,” Stanford said, handing the woman he carried off to Alison. The blonde woman had cringed and made a forlorn noise at the word “victim.” Stanford realized this and quickly repeated himself. “Can you do that, McEvers?”

McEvers, now able to see, nodded while mumbling something, still groggy from his head wound, and ducked under the paralyzed woman’s arm to aid in carrying her.

Shouts and a brief scuffle erupted across the street. There was broken glass and the popping echo of discharged ammunition. A rear view mirror clanged off the riot barrier as a broken segment of brick thudded into Stanford’s upraised arm, there to block his face.

Y’okay?” Emery spat, setting off a few more rounds.

Stanford didn’t answer. It wasn’t the hardness of the brick’s impact that the lieutenant felt. No. It was the softness of the blonde woman’s body as he lifted her. The firm resolve of her spirit to persevere throughout all that had happened. Courage and vulnerability intertwined. It reminded him of his wife—Sarah—and his family. His family who had come all this way to check on him. It informed him of how, unlike all signs pointing to the contrary, everyone was in the same. Either no one was safe or everyone was. Either no one was a potential victim or everyone was. And who would be next?

Stanford crouched beside Emery as the two of them caught their breath. Stanford slapped his helmet off and yanked Emery’s spare two-way off his belt.

“We have to march on them,” the lieutenant spoke into the receiver. “Press them back. Give them something else to target. Not them,” he shook his head, indicating the crash site and the village encamped behind him. “Not us. We can’t sit here any longer.”

Emery copied Stanford’s head shake, but little else.

“Sir, that’s no good!” came Dawkins’s reply. “We don’t have the manpower for that.”

Stanford stared hard at his sergeant, listening for any more feedback.

“Dawkins’s right, sir.” It was Frasier. “I don’t see any way for us like that.”

Lois’s voice came next. “We’re doing all right here, what’s the point?”

Stanford took the receiver down, still eyeing Emery. “What do you say? There a way like that for us? There a point?”

Emery frowned. He knew. Stanford was asking them to stick their necks out to get to his loved ones. Knew that the man had been hurting inside, for a long time. Even with his opposition to the others’ balking dissent, Stanford was going to be voted down three to two. And Emery knew what it had cost him.

“Whatever we do, we stay together on this. Family,” Stanford said. “We need to find a way.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eats, 2012

The wondrous spread.
Candlelit cornish game hens stuffed with a wild rice mix, homemade mashed potatoes, zesty mandarin & sliced almond salad, dinner rolls, and sparkling cider.
The 7-Up was a holdover from earlier in the day—to ease my stomach after a bout with the flu!
Christmas 1 - Flu 0
:)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Working Out? (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

* * * * *

Alison, her head jerking right then left, threw her arms up over her face, having no choice but to follow her interrupted momentum to the floor, where she suddenly laid splayed out on her back.

Conner watched as Ali got up to a sitting position, then she noiselessly picked herself up and walked back to the center of the mat. A couple of kendo partners practicing a weapon kata, who knew the siblings well, perked up at the fall. It was not uncommon for them to trip or occasionally knock the wind out of one another, but this was something else. Ali blinked away the dizziness and probed her rattled jaw with her tongue, but said nothing as she brought her hands up and inched closer to engage her troubled brother again.

She noticed how he was favoring his left side and had winced a couple times already after tweaking something in his upper body.

Conner offered no apologies, but collected himself and started in with another string of right-handed jabs. “My life affords me enough time to consider my mistakes,” he explained. “I don’t have the luxury of incessant busyness—never having time to worry about the last mistake you made because you’ve got to move on to that other thing.

“I just can’t move on so soon after what happened. And you can’t push me along,” Conner said, his voice ringing with the sound of finality, bringing their sparring session to an impromptu close with a high toe kick. He turned and began to walk away from her.

Ali blocked the kick and slipped to Conner’s weak side as she mistook his resigned body language for arrogance. “So that’s what this is about,” she rebuffed, reaching out to execute a basic judo throw.

Conner’s head whipped back in shock as Ali applied pressure to his shoulder, and he squelched a cry of pain. Ali released him and Conner collapsed to his knees.

Alison rested a light hand on her brother’s back as she kneeled to inspect him. Conner’s lower lip was trembling, and his body had been sweating at an exaggerated level—a clear sign of the physical pain he was hiding. She was about to ask of his condition when another thought leapt into her mind.

“Can you even remember the boy’s name?” she asked, not a sliver of judgment in her tone.

Conner, mouth ajar and body heaving from fatigue, looked up ahead. Near the exit, Conner saw a young boy standing in the doorway, waving his hand as if gesturing for Conner to come join him. The eager youngster was laughing, pounding his foot in excitement, and wagging his head to spur the slow adult into action. Everything else around the boy was blurry, indistinct, and Conner couldn’t tear his eyes away. Then something interrupted the scene, and Conner watched as the boy’s parents caught up with him and all joined hands as they left.

Conner turned to his sister, eyes blinking tears amidst the sweat. Maybe it was the pain, the exhaustion, or the distance of time. All he could do was shake his head.

“I know,” Ali whispered. “Because I remember. I remember pressing my lips to his, blowing air into his dying lungs. I remember doing the repetitions, trying in vain to keep his heart from failing. I remember you were there, too, and how much I cried until it hurt when it was over and he was gone. I think I cried mostly because of you. But I still remember. His name was Oscar.”

Ali leaned over and kissed her brother on top of the head before she stood up to follow a couple and their bald child out. She didn’t like leaving him, but Conner was right when he had implied that she was a slave to her lifestyle. Someone somewhere needed her, someone not capable of helping themselves.

Conner stared at his hands, both quivering and shaking. He focused, breathing and heart rate becoming normal; a slight buzz floating around the few areas where he had been hurt two days ago. He felt lightheaded, just for a moment, and then settled, his concentration fully in hand. His emotions were in check; he had passed the emotional and physical test. He gazed up at the huge digital clock built into the wall overlooking this part of the gym.

No more time to lose.

* * * * *

One more pair of teasers upcoming!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The First Robin

Though this character didn't make a literal appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, he was certainly there in parts and in spirit. I give you:

NIGHTWING, RICHARD JOHN “DICK” GRAYSON
Male Human Legendary Strong Hero 4/Fast Hero 7/Smart Hero 1/Charismatic Hero 2/Daredevil 4; CR 18; LA +1
Medium Humanoid (height 5' 10", weight 175 lb.); Age late 20s

Init +5; Senses (core) Listen +8, Search +6, Spot +8; Sense (house) Listen/Spot +17, Search +15
Languages English, French (speak only), Mandarin (speak only), Russian (speak only), Sign, Spanish (speak only)

Defense 28, touch 28, flat-footed 28; Defensive Martial Arts, Dodge (+5 Dex, +13 class)
hp 129 (18 HD); Mas 15
Fort +12, Ref +13 (+15 vs. falls), Will +7 (+11 vs. fear effects)
Action Points 12

Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +17/+12/+7 (1d4+6 nonlethal/lethal, 19-20) or
Melee unarmed strike +15/+10/+5 (1d4+6, 19-20) and
Melee unarmed strike +15/+10 (1d4+4, two-weapon) or
Melee rattan stick +19/+14/+9 (1d4+5, 20) or
Melee rattan stick +17/+12/+7 (1d4+5, 20) and
Melee rattan stick +17/+12 (1d4+3, two-weapon) or
Melee by weapon +15/+10/+5
Ranged rattan stick +19 (1d4+5, 20, 10 ft.) or
Ranged wing ding +19/+14/+9 (4, 20, 10 ft.) or
Ranged by weapon +17/+12/+7
Space 5 ft. by 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +12; Grp +15
Atk Options Agile Riposte, Combat Expertise, Improved Disarm, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Spring Attack
Special Qualities legend traits (2), mask traits

Abilities Str 16 (15), Dex 20 (18), Con 15, Int 14 (13), Wis 14, Cha 16
‘(-)’ indicate original ability scores.
Allegiances good, justice, the Bat Family, "the night," his late parents, Blûdhaven, the Teen Titans, the Outsiders; Rep +9 (+1 as Dick); San 62
Feats Acrobatic, Agile Riposte, Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Combat Expertise, Combat Martial Arts, Combat Reflexes, Defensive Martial Arts, Dodge, Elusive Target*, Focused, Improved Combat Martial Arts, Improved Disarm, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Mobility, Secret Identity (see Past), Simple Weapons Proficiency, Spring Attack*, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (rattan stick), Weapon Focus (wing ding)
* Bonus feats acquired from the Legend template.
          Note: As a member of the Teen Titans, Nightwing chose to receive the Weapon Focus (rattan stick) feat for free as his membership perk.
Skills (core) Balance +17, Bluff +6, Climb +9, Computer Use +5, Concentration +10, Disable Device +7, Disguise +5 (+5 to avoid ID), Drive +8, Escape Artist +14, Hide +12 (+4 w/one-quarter concealment), Intimidate +6 (+16 vs. Intimidate), Investigate +12, Jump +13, Knowledge (current events) +5, Knowledge (streetwise) +7, Knowledge (tactics) +6, Listen +8, Move Silently +15, Read/Write English, Read/Write Sign, Repair +4, Search +6, Sense Motive +5, Speak Cantonese, Speak English, Speak French, Speak Russian, Speak Spanish, Spot +8, Swim +7, Tumble +19
Skills (house) Athletics +18 (+2 on Jump), Computer Use +5, Control +16 (+2 on Balance, Concentration), Deduce +15, Disable Device +7, Disguise +5 (+5 to avoid ID), Drive +9, Escape Artist +15, Knowledge (current events) +5, Knowledge (streetwise) +7, Knowledge (tactics) +6, Perceive +17, Persuade +9 (+16 vs. Intimidate), Read/Write English, Read/Write Sign, Repair +4, Sneak +20 (+4 on Hide w/one-quarter concealment, +2 on Move Silently), Speak Cantonese, Speak English, Speak French, Speak Russian, Speak Spanish, Tumble +22
Talents (Strong) Improved Melee Smash, Melee Smash
Talents (Fast) Defensive Roll, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge 1 & 2
Talents (Smart) Savant (Investigate)
Talents (Charismatic) Coordinate
Talents (Daredevil) Action Boost, Fearless, Nip-up
Starting Occupation (core) Athlete (Climb as permanent class skill, +1 on Balance, Tumble; Archaic Weapons Proficiency)
Starting Occupation (house) Athlete (Athletics as permanent class skill, +1 on Control, Tumble; Archaic Weapons Proficiency)
Wealth Bonus +16

Possessions (carried weight 9.5 lb.) "Wing ding" domino mask (conceals Starlite night-vision lenses [equivalent to 120 ft. low-light vision], universal communicator [d20 Future] w/range of 3 miles; built-in inertial navigation unit [prevents disorientation/nausea during aerial acrobatics, +2 on Ref to prevent/during falls]; w/integrated HUD [d20 Future] & provides +5 equipment bonus on Disguise to avoid ID; PDC 20 [Res +2], 0.5 lb.)

2 glove gauntlets (as ultra-lightweight brass knuckles; each contain 4 wing ding mini-Batarangs [as mastercraft (+1), lightweight shuriken; Dick often installs wire-spring devices (equivalent to nets) that launch when they hit, or explosives (4d6 concussion) into his mini-Batarangs]; self-destruct cuff charges [5d6 concussion, Ref DC 15 half]; 100,000 volt hand-held taser [as taser except delivers 3d4 shock, +1 DC]; & stores spare rattan sticks; 2 lb. each)

nightwing suit (not armor, acts as a survival suit [d20 Future], w/nomex biweave construction [acid/fire resistance 5]; light-sensitive darkening material provides +4 on Hide in at least one-quarter concealment, & +2 on Move Silently; 3 lb.); w/attachable armor mods (as undercover vest, provides +1 to Defense, -2 armor check penalty, +1 lb. in weight)

2 rattan sticks (mastercraft [+1], lightweight, & considered light weapons; telescoping; highly durable [+5 hardness]; 1 lb. each)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Working Out? (Part 1)

Here's the opening scene to chapter 6 of my upcoming novel:

* * * * *

An arched foot tore at the air above Alison’s head as she neatly ducked underneath the kick. “What do you mean by that?” she heard it said between grunts of exertion, sidestepping a stiff, follow-up left jab that she partly absorbed on her upper arm.

“I talked to Pa last night,” Alison replied, strafing to her left. “He called about the inner city fire and police action we had two nights ago.” She bobbed lightly and tried a straight kick aimed for the midsection. “Hasn’t heard from you in three months.”

Conner caught Alison’s kick with both hands; cupping her heel and forcing her back while stretching out for a sweep. “That’s not so long,” he grunted again, unable to snare Alison’s hopping leg.

Brother and sister stared at each other with clenched teeth, sweat beading on their faces where the padded headgear didn’t cover. Conner winced and let his sister’s captured leg fall. The two of them lowered their guard, standing a few paces apart on the mat.

“It is when he’s used to hearing from you almost weekly. He likes to know what’s happening at the chapel. You should be glad for that. Pa says the last time you and he spoke you sounded as if you had something important to say, like you were afraid to talk about it, and you never did.”

“I’ve been busy,” came Conner’s feeble admittance.

The two of them began to circle again: Alison anticipating his next advance; Conner probing for any weaknesses in her defense.

“You’ve been busy?” Alison asked, incredulous. Her eyes again took note of the gi Conner wore underneath his sparring pads, a choice he seldom made, and she thought of the wordless shrug he had given in response to her earlier question about his dress.

“I know it may not seem like it to you, with your twenty-four-hour shifts and constantly being on call, but there’s plenty going on in my life. I’m sorry if you or Pa or anyone else can’t be there for all of it.” Conner punctuated his words with a slow combination of rights, lefts, and leg checks, working his sister back into a defensive rhythm.

Alison threw up her padded palms, intercepting each of Conner’s deliberate blows. “I seem to make time enough for these visits,” she countered.

And that was true enough. Alison usually got a few hours off to herself, when she wasn’t going out to eat, doing wash, or sleeping, which she frequently used to meet with her brother at the nearest gym for their routine sparring session. It was a way for them to both workout and stay in contact, being that they were the only family who lived in the city.

“It’s not like I forgot about calling them on their birthday, or that they even exist.” Conner drummed a series of jabs into Alison’s blocking hands.

“Yeah,” Alison echoed in ironic tones of obviousness. “They’re family.”

Conner briefly flung his arms out wide in a helpless gesture, giving Alison an open shot. She didn’t take it, content to stay on the defensive. “Heaven forbid that my life has changed at all over the last six months.” Conner sent a quick leg kick to Alison’s shin with stinging results. “We’re not kids with scraped knees anymore, Ali.” A right cross; parried. “There are some things a parent can’t help to heal.” A right snap kick; dodged.

“And avoiding our parents is the answer?”

I’m not the one who’s avoiding, he thought.

Conner hunkered down to come even with his sister’s line of sight, the touch of a glower turning his features hard. “And what would it justify?” He stepped in to her, applying a clinch. “Him? Me?” Words were mumbled in the strain. “Wouldn’t help … digging it up all over again.”

The two of them fought for balance, grappling as they bent over at the waist like palm trees in the wind. Conner winced and Alison squirmed out of his hold.

Though Conner had some amateur training in kickboxing, Alison had only a few self-defense courses under her belt. Conner usually pressed the action and Alison would fend him off, typically using attack pads instead of her body to receive the blows. Tonight, however, they had foregone the simple notion of a workout, and it seemed, to Alison anyway, that Conner was amping up the aggression.

“Justify?” Alison echoed, scrambling to the other side of the mat. “This isn’t about right and wrong. It’s—”

“No, that’s exactly what it is,” he said, stalking her along the perimeter of the mat. “It’s about how I’m wrong, and you’re right for coming here to set me straight.”

Alison pranced around for five to ten seconds with Conner in steady pursuit, both of them breathing heavily through their mouths. Eventually, Conner had paced her enough and launched into a feint toward her leading side, provoking her into backtracking. As she did this, Conner vaulted ahead, erupting with a pair of low shouts, as he landed two solid punches to the sides of Ali’s jaw.

* * * * *

Continued in Part 2

Monday, November 5, 2012

A couple o' candy givers

Meet, "Backyard Chef," a stage 1 Halloween costume. I'm thinking I should add an apron, my ichiban Japanese bandana, and switch out the spatula for a fake knife next year and go as, "Uraniwa Chef."
Witch Mommy. Which mommy? Se*y Witch Mommy. (I couldn't actually bring myself to type it out for real.)
Hope everyone had a happy Halloween! Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Hitman

Another character as seen in the Japanese animated movie tie-ins, this one from the self-titled short:

DEADSHOT, FLOYD LAWTON
Male Human Strong 2/Fast 2/Gunslinger 4/Sniper* 5; CR 13
Medium Humanoid (height 6' 1", weight 202 lb.); Age mid to late 30s
* See Urban Arcana

Init +4; Senses (core) Listen +8, Search +1, Spot +16 (see below); Senses (house) Listen/Spot +18 (see below), Search +1
Languages English, Russian

Defense (core) 26, touch 25, flat-footed 22; Defense (house) 26, touch 20, flat-footed 22; (+4 Dex, +11 class, +1 equipment)
hp 91 (13 HD); Mas 14
Fort +6, Ref +11, Will +5
Action Points 8

Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +12/+7/+2 (1d4+1 lethal/nonlethal, 20) or
Melee by weapon +12/+7/+2
Ranged TacMil sniper rifle +16/+11/+6 (2d10 ballistic, 20, S, 360 ft., 15 box) or
Ranged gyro-jet pistol +16/+11/+6 (2d6 ballistic, 19-20, S, 180 ft., 8 box) or
Ranged M4A1 +17/+12/+7 (2d8 ballistic, 20, S/A, 210 ft., 30 box) or
Ranged by weapon +15/+10/+5
Space 5 ft. by 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +11; Grp +12
Atk Options Burst Fire, Center Mass, Close Combat Shot, Double Tap, Improved Dead Aim, Massive Shot, Point Blank Shot, Skip Shot, Windage
Special Qualities none

Abilities Str 13, Dex 18 (16), Con 14 (13), Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 11
'(-)' indicate original ability scores.
Allegiances “the hit,” himself, Secret Six; Rep +5 (+0 as Lawton); San 60
          Note: As with all members of the Secret Six, Deadshot receives the Secret Identity feat for free as his membership perk, but he forsook this after his incarceration, replacing it with the Renown feat when he took the mantle at the “world’s deadliest marksman.”
Feats Advanced Firearms Proficiency, Burst Fire, Dead Aim, Double Tap, Far Shot, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Renown, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Skip Shot
Skills (core) Climb +8, Demolitions +7, Concentration +7, Drive +8, Hide +11, Jump +7, Knowledge (current events) +5, Knowledge (streetwise) +8, Listen +8, Move Silently +12, Read/Write English, Read/Write Russian, Repair +5, Sleight of Hand +10, Speak English, Speak Russian, Spot +16 (+2 when following a target with video scope), Tumble +10
Skills (house) Athletics +14, Demolitions +10, Control +10, Drive +8, Knowledge (current events) +5, Knowledge (streetwise) +8, Knowledge (tactics) +6, Perceive +18 (+2 on Spot when following a target with video scope), Read/Write English, Read/Write Russian, Repair +5, Sneak +18, Speak English, Speak Russian, Tumble +10
Talents (Strong) Extreme Effort
Talents (Fast) Evasion
Talents (Gunslinger) Close Combat Shot, Defensive Position, Weapon Focus (gyro-jet pistol)
Talents (Sniper) Center Mass, Critical Shot, Improved Dead Aim +4, Improved Far Shot, Massive Shot, Windage
Starting Occupation (core) Mercenary** (Climb as permanent class skill; Personal Firearms Proficiency)
** See Dark*Matter
Starting Occupation (house) Mercenary (Athletics as permanent class skill; Personal Firearms Proficiency)
Wealth Bonus +16
Possessions (carried weight 27.9 lb.) TacMil sniper rifle (w/range finding laser scope, combined flash/sound suppressor; see Future; 14 lb.), mastercraft M4A1 carbine (w/KAC accessory rail system featuring an electro-optical scope, suppressor, vertical handgrip, and a folding stock; see Weapons Locker; 7 lb.), 30-round 5.56mm glaser ammo box (see Weapons Locker; 0.2 lb.), 15-round 7.62mm distraction ammo box (see Future Tech; 0.2 lb.), 15-round 7.62mm jammer ammo box (see Future Tech; 0.2 lb.), 15-round 7.62mm microphone ammo box (see Future Tech; 0.2 lb.), 15-round 7.62mm surveillance ammo box (see Future Tech; 0.2 lb.), wrist-mounted gyro-jet pistol (can be fitted or removed with a move action; see Future Tech; 2.5 lb.), 8-round flechette ammo box (x4; see Future Tech; 0.4 lb.), stylized survival suit (see d20 Future; 3 lb.), shepherd chip (see d20 Future), mastercraft video scope (w/HUD and targeting software for TacMil sniper rifle, M4A1 carbine, and gyro-jet pistol; slaved to survival suit through wrist-mounted gryo-jet pistol allows use of scope range w/o penalty for difficulty of use; see d20 Future)

Next up, the Boy Wonder!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Killer

Straight out of the Team Nolan produced tie-in, Batman: Gotham Knight, and the chapter entitled, "In Darkness Dwells," I give you:

KILLER CROC, WAYLON JONES
Male [unique] Overt Crocodile Moreau Strong 2/Tough 4/Street Warrior* 5; CR 11
Large Humanoid (height 7' 5", weight 686 lb.); Age mid 30s
* See Urban Arcana

Init +1; Senses Listen +0, Search –2, Spot +0; low-light vision
Languages English

Defense (core) 17, touch 11, flat-footed 16; Defense (house) 17, touch 17, flat-footed 16; (–1 size, +1 Dex, +7 class)
hp 113 (13 HD); Mas 18; DR 1/—
Fort +11, Ref +3, Will +2
Action Points 10

Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +18/+13 (1d8+8 lethal (see below)/nonlethal, 20) or
Melee bite +16 (1d6+8 piercing, 20)
Melee by weapon +16/+11
Ranged by weapon +10/+5
Space 10 ft. by 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Base Atk +10; Grp +27
Atk Options Blind-Fight, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Grapple, Power Attack, Streetfighting (+1d4+2)
Special Qualities freak traits, low-light vision, regeneration lethal/1

Abilities Str 24 (18), Dex 13, Con 18 (16), Int 7 (11), Wis 11, Cha 7 (9)
'(-)' indicate original ability scores.
Allegiances himself, the underground, cannibalism, evil; Rep +3; San 17
          Note: Waylon suffers from borderline avoidant and intermittent explosive disorders, with a cannibalistic tendency to crave raw meat.
Feats Athletic, Brawl, Blind-Fight, Improved Brawl, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Grapple (see Urban Arcana), Improved Natural Healing (see Urban Arcana), Power Attack, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Streetfighting.
Skills (core) Bluff –1 (+2 in the underground), Climb +9, Diplomacy -1 (+2 in the underground), Disguise +0 (–20 to pass for human), Gather Information –1 (+2 in the underground), Hide –1, Intimidate –1 (+1 [or more] vs smaller creatures, +2 in the underground), Knowledge (streetwise) +4, Move Silently +4, Read/Write English, Speak English, Survival +2 (+6 in urban areas), Swim +11
Skills (house) Athletics +11, Disguise +0 (–20 to pass for human), Gather Information –1 (+2 in the underground), Knowledge (streetwise) +4, Persuade +1 (+1 [or more] on Intimidate vs smaller creatures, +2 in the underground), Read/Write English, Sneak +6 (–4 on Hide), Speak English, Survival +2 (+6 in urban areas)
Talents (Strong) Melee Smash
Talents (Tough) Damage Reduction 1/—, Remain Conscious
Talents (Street Warrior) Improved Streetfighting, Improvised Weapons, Street Cred, Urban Survival
Starting Occupation (core) Criminal (Disguise, Move Silently as permanent class skills; Brawl)
Starting Occupation (house) Criminal (Disguise, Stealth as permanent class skills; Brawl)
Wealth Bonus +1
Possessions various personal items

New Species Traits Crocodile Moreau
          Crocodile moreaus are a blend of human and gator. They tend to have hairless bodies with longer torsos and arms and shorter legs. Characteristic features include a wide, grinning jaw, and leathery flesh. Tails, if present, are always vestigial. Croc moreaus are common in the sub-tropical region of North America, throughout Central America, and in Egypt, India, and Southeast Asia. Most are shunned and end up performing in circuses or joining with gangs and pirates.
          Variable Size: Covert and moderate crocodile moreaus are Medium-size. Coverts and moderates have a 5-foot-by-5-foot fighting space and a 5-foot reach. Overts are Large-size, having a 10-foot-by-10-foot fighting space and a 10-foot reach.
          Bite (Ex): Moderate crocodile moreaus have large, pointed teeth, providing them with a natural bite attack. Each bite deals 1d4 points (overts deal 1d6 points) of piercing damage (plus the character’s Strength modifier) and threatens a critical hit on a natural 20.
          Dry Skin: Crocodile moreaus have dry skin which needs periodic moisturizing to remain healthy. The moreau must remain submerged in water for at least 10 minutes every 12 hours to maintain healthy skin, otherwise it suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to AC for every 12-hour lapse thereafter. Overts must be submerged every 6 hours or suffer the same result for every 6-hour lapse. However, crocodile moreaus enjoy one side-effect to unhealthy skin: their dermis becomes so abrasive as to cause their unarmed attacks to deal lethal damage.
          Low-light Vision: Crocodile moreaus' eyesight is equally as good in bright light as it is in dim light.
          Proficient Swimmers: Crocodile moreaus always treat Swim as a class skill.
          Limited Regeneration (Unique trait; Ex): Waylon can regenerate nonlethal damage at 1 hp/round, but cannot regenerate lethal damage (see the section on Special Abilities in the d20 Modern Core Rulebook).
          Note: Croc’s limited regeneration ability is unique to him and not common among other crocodile moreaus.
          Ability Scores:    (Covert) +2 Str, -2 Int
                                     (Moderate) +2 Str, -2 Int, +2 Con, -2 Cha
                                     (Overt) +4 Str, -4 Int, +2 Con, -2 Cha

Height and Weight
Trait
Base Height
Height Modifier
Base Weight
Weight Modifier
Moderate
4 ft., 8 in.
+2d12 in.
125 lb.
x (2d8 lb.)
Overt
5 ft.
+4d8 in.
185 lb.
x (2d8 lb.)
Starting Age
Adulthood
Additional Years
15
+1d3

Lifespan
Middle Age
Old
Venerable
Max
30
45
65
+1d8

Sunday, October 7, 2012

91 Beautiful Years

I want to share some thoughts about this great woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother.…


I like to think she was the ever-present mind of our family. Its good sense. She loved us all unequivocally, and it was through that love that she communicated that good sense.


If Grandpa was the heart of the family, Grandma was certainly its mind. She minded all her own affairs with grace and diligence, and often minded the affairs of others' too, and we were always better off for it—even if we weren't entirely grateful for it, at first.


The heart and the mind. Even though those two are now no longer kept within the bodies that once housed them, they are not gone. Just as the soul persists, passing on from the body, the heart and the mind do as well. The heart and the mind live on through us.

Georgia Marie Wright, 12 June 1921 - 29 September 2012
Eldon James Wright, 1 May 1918 - December 23 2010 
Our responsibility is greater than ever now. Their legacy is now ours. My only hope is that we are contented and at peace with that. At peace with where they are. I know I am.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Descent Into Dreamland (Part 2)

The response:

* * * * *

Jessica’s lips parted and Marcus imagined he could hear her breathing through her mouth as if her chin was perched on his shoulder. A sparkling tingle danced around the lower portions of his stomach, then wormed its way down into his intestines.

“And then you have the ‘x-factor,’” Marcus said, struggling not to squirm. “Dark matter. It’s the only scientific phenomenon that can account for everything from predictable atomic entanglement to the most incredible examples of high strangeness. Take, for example, studies that have been done in researching WIMPs and MACHOs—”

“Mmhmm.” Jessica’s expression seemed to ask him which he thought he was. She closed her eyes as she listened, running her hand along the inside of her collar.

Marcus huffed through his nose in spite of himself. “Most of our experts agree that dark matter exhibits some sort of property that allows what happens so easily at the atomic level to occur, albeit rarely, at the composite level.” Marcus’s eyes were drawn to a faraway place, but the words that followed were not his.

Jessica spoke. “Normally, we’re like rows upon rows of magnets moving together along a line, each of us restricted by the parameters of our dimensional reality, the sameness of our polar destinies. But on occasion, when dark matter is at play, it causes us to flip on our axis and become attracted to what lies on the opposing plane—the nearest influence—and a transference occurs.”

“That’s right. When you get right down to it, it’s all transference. We understand transference between atoms because of quantum mechanics and the relative ease at which one can examine a single particle compared to that of a composite system, like you and I.

“It’s more fluid at the atomic level,” Marcus breathed, lost somewhere between Jessica’s neck and the curving lines of her blouse. “But forced at the composite level.”

His eyes were uncontrollably drawn to the smooth bare skin of her thigh, revealed as one half of the split-seam on her skirt shifted. Marcus swallowed hard and continued.

“The question is, what can force a xenoform to transfer with a person? We think it might be psychological or emotional, with dark matter pulling the strings from above. But might there be an element of entropy in all of this? Some think so. The apparent disorder between two bodies, like their temperature and energy signatures, and how they coincide is an entropic relationship. So too when an individual is eclipsed by a stranger, resulting in a supernormality, becoming shadowbred—the umbranati.”

Jessica was moving her hand in small patterns now, a conductor leading an orchestra, but she missed not a word of Marcus’s ramblings.

But what are the warning signs? The question seemed to echo from out of nowhere in Marcus’s mind.

“Changes to our static initial conditions,” Marcus answered aloud. “We are all ingrained with static initial conditions from our shared evolutionary background. Like a factory-made motherboard, it keeps us up to spec, but prevents us from vibrating at a harmful frequency on our own plane.”

Jessica’s eyes fluttered open. “Now you’re getting into chaos theory.”

Marcus looked up then responded as if she had asked him if he loved her. “Of course.”

“Let me see,” she began, tapping a finger to her lips. “Chaotic behavior is normally only observed in systems that are predictable, such as technology or in pure science, but in this regard has a theoretical application. I believe the seminal theory is called the ‘inverse differential butterfly effect,’ or ID-b effect for short.”

Marcus’s head bobbed back and forth like his neck was on a spring. The standard butterfly effect stated that influence could be exerted on a system by small changes in the initial conditions of that system. The common example being that if a butterfly flapped its wings in Central America, that initial condition would trigger a storm in Texas. What Jessica was referring to was similar but with a different outcome. He was staring at the perfect woman.

Jessica took a sip of the tea and then held it in front of herself, rotating it between her hands. “For the theory to hold, the subject in question must be dynamic and fixed. We, as composite systems, are dynamic in that we consist of many parts that act independent of each other, and fixed in that our future planar states are derived from our current planar states. This is what you meant by static initial conditions. Although, cosmologically speaking, we are resistant to initial conditions, but sensitive to ultimate conditions. Simply put, we are shaped more by what happens to us over the course of a long life than what happens to us at birth. Therefore, it is said to be the inverse. And the changes we see are small and incremental, thus it is said to be differential as well.”

“Exactly,” Marcus said. “Repeated and prolonged exposure to metaphysical stress has a direct influence on the body. Coupled with an influx of dark matter and you have a recipe for an eclipse.” A strange attractor that attracts strangers, he mused.

Marcus placed his hands behind his head. “It stands to reason then that if one knew their metaphysical self was under attack they would naturally struggle to resist, otherwise, because the transference is incremental, one may never know they are being eclipsed until it is too late.

“And once again,” Marcus chuckled, “there is an equivalent parallel to all of this in quantum mechanics. In QM, one can measure energy in waves, and the superposition or overlapping of waves is called interference. Constructive interference is when the waves of energy are acting in concert, while it could be said that destructive interference is when the waves are resisting each other.…”

“And an analogous relationship exists where transference is concerned,” Jessica inserted, lighting a cigarette and placing it between her lips. “A person’s willingness or resistance to conform to metaphysical stress is proportionate to their detriment or benefit by way of their planar state, their metaphysical self.

“Take Jung’s concept of the ‘shadow’ and how it relates to individuation, or the finding of oneself; it may be a more natural process than we give it credit for. What if when a person is eclipsed by a supranormality they are simply expressing individuation on a cosmological level? Evolution bridging time and space. Even with all this understanding, even if it were so easy to diagnose, there’d be no way we could stop people from feeling, thinking, or changing. As I’ve told you before, Mr. Holdman, theory and the practice of theory in the real world are never as related quite as we would like.”

“No,” Marcus admitted. “But after all the research and advances of the last century it is up to us. We are charged with—”

“Yes, Mr. Holdman, I know.” Jessica smiled briefly and then her head tilted backward as her eyes rolled up into her skull. Her body went rigid as the balcony and the golf course it overlooked began to dissolve into a prismatic jumble.

Marcus’s features shifted in mild alarm, and a slowed sense of consciousness dawned on him. “No, wait!” He stood up out of his seat and leaned across the table. In his haste, he bumped Jessica’s teacup and it rolled off onto the floor. But there was no shattering of glass, shattering of glass, of glass, of glass, glass.…

Marcus’s lips drew nearer and nearer to Jessica’s mouth, the edge of a smile tracing it still, but he never got there. Her face had already begun to pixellate, begun to pixellate, to pixellate, to pixellate, pixellate.…

The teacup was no more. Jessica was no more. Marcus was no more. No more, no more, no.…

* * * * *

And the rabbit hole stretches on.…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Visit to Hayfork, CA

Went up to visit family the weekend of the 15th; been far too long, barely remembered everyone's names! From right to left: 1st cousin Kari and her kids, Kenny, "Grams" (not a child of Kari's ;), Craig (the eldest), watashi, and the "baby" Karissa.
A bunch of us enjoying lunch after church while chatting about fantasy football, Japan, the Korean language, and the strange things people eat. Just a typical roundtable discussion.
91 years young!
Grandma and her eldest boy, Dad.
And one more guff-ball shot, tongues a-flexin'!
Love you guys!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Descent Into Dreamland (Part 1)

The science of it all:

* * * * *

“Have you ever done something and not known why you did it?”

White light shown down on the concrete of a Grecian balcony patio that overlooked a golf course below. Posh model homes were hidden behind every hill and filled every curve from where the balcony overlooked the green. Leaves cast in every shade hung from the limbs of trees that concealed the horizon and blanketed the sky. Fragrant honeysuckle grew along the trellis that encircled the patio. Taking in the view from here was like seeing a 3-D image from a page out of a Magic Eye book come to life.

A woman with long luxurious black hair contemplated the question as she leaned forward on her elbow, chin resting elegantly on the back of her hand. “Hmm, I’m not exactly sure what you mean.” Realization dawned on her mature face as she stirred the hot tea in front of her with the end of her little finger. “Like after doing something when you think back and it seems as if it had been someone else?”

“Exactly!” Marcus Holdman, the man sitting across from her, beamed as he straightened up. “Sort of makes you really wonder at the gravity of our work; you know, how it changes everything, and yet how it all fits just the same.”

The woman lifted her finger from the tea and sucked the liquid off with a kissing sound. “We are but delicate vessels languishing in a sea of worlds within worlds, and perforated throughout,” she said, quoting a famous line spoken by the original Intrepid, Sir William Samuel Stephenson. “Like a sponge.”

“No kidding,” Marcus agreed. “But seriously, the theory of planar metaphysics and all its tropes never ceases to amaze me.” He looked up and saw her smile, interpreting it as a placative response. “Come on, indulge me.”

“Oh, I’m right there with you, Mr. Holdman, as always.”

“I know, and I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess it’s predictable by now, but you’re the only one I truly enjoy discussing this with.” There was a pause, and then a word carefully left his mouth as if it were fragile enough to break. “Jessica.” He reached over and laid his hand on top of hers.

The woman gently retracted her hand as she reached up and replaced a strand of hair behind her ear. Crossing her shapely legs, Jessica leaned back in the chair and nodded. “Go on.”

Showing no obvious signs of disappointment at the rebuff, Marcus blinked once then continued.

“Well, as you know, I like to start at the beginning,” he said. “So, try to stay with me, because there is a point to all this.

“Now, if you take what we refer to as the known physical universe and posit that for anything done there is something not done, that means there will always be at least two of everything that exists or could exist. Apply this theory to the birth of the universe and you get the many-worlds interpretation of existence.”

He licked his lips as he went on. “And within many-worlds theory you have the framework by which to model anything you experience in reality. Reality is thus measured in terms of planes of existence—the supraphysical world—or dimensions, if you will.”

Jessica’s swoosh-like eyebrows rose as she spoke. “Yes, there are numerous ancient religions and philosophies which support similar claims in their own beliefs: Neoplatonism, and Theosophy, to Kashmir Shaivism, Kabbalah, and Rosicrucianism. The idea of the plane, vibrating plane, or the invisible world is not a new one, Mr. Holdman.”

“Right, and in science also we have quantum physics models that show how an atomic system can exhibit any eventuality in its own space. But what about large-scale systems, such as a universe, or all the things contained within one? There must be a way to example quantum relationships at the macro-level, and that’s where the MWI comes in.”

Jessica could see where he was going with this. She leaned her head back in an odd state of repose, pointing her toes and bouncing her leg on her knee as she spoke. “In esoteric cosmology, the manner in which the universe, or multiverse, progresses is by means of emanation: a gradual unfolding or expanding of the world around us—like a ripple on the surface of a pond, except that nothing exists outside the ripple until it has gone beyond that point. Not unlike the spreading action of spatial expansion associated with the big bang theory. Are you suggesting that this is a spot where these two conflicting ideas seem to agree, Mr. Holdman?”

He couldn’t help fidget at her response. “Well, for the initial relative states of everything that ever could be, yes.” He loosened his tie. “Look at it this way, science holds that everything that ever could or would be has always existed since the beginning of time. Nothing is gained and nothing is lost, matter and energy only go through various state changes. Esoteric cosmology, however, says that for every change in a system’s state there are two new divergent resultant systems for that change, each progressing in their own world, in their own dimension. If you combine these two theories you’re left with a multiverse of near-infinite planes that each progressed independently but coherently.”

“Meaning every universe that could ever exist has always existed.…”

“Precisely.”

* * * * *

That's what he said!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Finder's Keeper (Part 2)

Here, answers only lead to more questions.


* * * * *

Nick easily walked among the dregs—in a sense, his own people—and even greeted a few with a kind word and a touch on the shoulder. Gray tried his best not to appear stiff in Nick’s shadow, though the eyes that returned his gaze told how they knew more than he.

As the two moved into the common room proper, a row of aged aluminum toilets—likely pooled from retired naval vessels—lined the wall nearest the stern. Gray looked up and saw a young girl, not more than eight, resting on top of a toilet in the act of defecating. The girl’s father stood over her, his back partly to Gray, as he urged her to be quick about it. Strangely, Gray saw pity in the young girl’s eyes as she watched him turn away.

The room felt crowded with only twenty people occupying it—space for ten more at most—and Nick had to lead Gray around and sometimes over slumbering individuals and their duffels. Thick candles and oil lamps were positioned here and there to give light where it was needed; the only electrical fixture in the room was a flickering shop light dangling from the ceiling over the toilets.

“No room to swing a cat, ‘ey?” Nick said over his shoulder to Gray.

The smell of stewed beans and potatoes and strong coffee filled Gray’s nostrils as the two of them approached a large iron furnace that was built up into the ceiling on the other side of the flat. A brewing kettle and several pots rattled away where they rested on a grill over one section of the fire. Gray surmised that Nick had provided some portion of the cookware or the spare coffee beans and potatoes, but just how much did these people rely on him, he began to wonder.

Neighboring the furnace, a large man, with the mustached face of a St. Bernard, stepped aside as Nick reached past him and pulled back one corner of a drape that obscured the inside of a private stall. There, lying on what appeared to be a heavily bedded gurney, and doubtless the finest divan on the entire flat, an elderly gentleman reclined in obvious discomfort.

The old man’s skin was slick with sweat, and red blotches were visible on the backs of his hands, his jaw, and his neck. His eyes were shut but his mouth hang open, a hollow, sucking sound emanating from the back of his throat each time he inhaled. His scalp was spotted and the few wisps of hair that decorated his head looked painted on. Judging by how loosely his clothes sat on him, the old man couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. Above all else, however, it was clear that the elder, whose pained expression was somehow still proud, had the look of an honored patriarch.

Nick turned to Gray in earnest and whispered. “The first time I went to look for’t was after I brought some spare blankets and the coffee from storage. Tha’s two days ago.” Nick lifted a finger and gestured toward a couple other stowaways across the room. “Since then the old man’s affliction has spread to some others, though not serious yet.”

Gray listened, emotionless.

“Is he eatin’?” Nick asked the big man still standing nearby.

The saggy-faced giant, who had kept vigil over the old patriarch since all this had began, shrugged and shook his head.

Nick leaned over to inspect the dwindling store of food. “There’re some fish and a small crab out on the landing, why don’t you go and fetch ‘em,” Nick instructed the large man. “Don’t worry none, you’ll be safe.”

Gray glanced at the big man as he left and then moved over to have a better look at the old patriarch.

“The cap’n is not an unfeeling fellow,” Nick began softly, placing a hand just above the old man’s forehead to check his temperature. “But there’s only so much he can do.”

Gray watched Nick out of the corner of his view, eyes moving from Nick’s lips to his eyebrow to the tip of his nose and back again as he spoke.

“The cap’n used to be one of ‘em, you know,” Nick continued. “Until by some odd stroke of luck, or someone else’s misfortune, this ship fell into ‘is hands. Ever since he’s been perfectly willing to carry one’s like these on ‘is back, so long as they’re out o’ sight.

“Fact is, he still has a ship to maintain and a crew to pay, and the crew generally don’t put out too much charity for one’s like these, so that’s where I come in—the unofficial go-between,” Nick said, wobbling his head from side-to-side like a champion horse jockey.

If Nick was disingenuous, Gray didn’t know it.

“And I’ve been with many a-crew, and one or two cap’ns besides, but this lot are some of the most ornery and paranoid by far,” Nick said. “It’s because of this that I’ve had to sneak into the paying passengers’ cabins a time or two. And they don’t like that much, I can tell you,” Nick added with a snort.

“But now I have what he needs,” Nick said, turning away from the old patriarch to face Gray. Nick produced a fistful of swabs, a flask of light brown unguent, and a bottle of what looked like cough syrup from inside his jacket.

“The medical kit you stowed in the fore flood chamber,” Gray confirmed.

Nick nodded. “It’s from the coxswain’s safe. I’ll be found out if I run around with it, so I just keep it hid out of sight till I need it. As for the crew, they’ll never know it was missin’, or need it I’ll wager.”

Nick’s carefree words caused the corners of Gray’s mouth to curl downward into a faint, cloudy expression.

An indecipherable murmuring issued forth from the old man and Nick bent his ear to the bedridden patriarch’s mouth to listen. Nick was patient as the elder spent what little energy he had saved up to make his wishes known. Nick responded periodically between the patriarch’s inaudible whispers, “Yes … yes, no worries.… No, it’ll not be long … rest easy. Oh … him?”

Nick cocked an eye at Gray as the old man settled back. “Say, come to think of it, I don’t think I ever got your name, friend,” he realized.

Coolly, Gray replied, “Friend will do.”

A crooked smile spread across Nick’s face as he rose to leave. “Aw’right then. Stay with him, I’ll not be five minutes. They’ll need more skin ointment and fever medicine ‘n what I’ve brought.”

Gray showed no outward signs of having heard Nick just then, seemingly entranced by the orange glow of the furnace, and that was good enough for Nick, given “Friend’s” outward aloofness. Without a further word, Nick was out the door and on his way.

* * * * *

Next up, a bit of chapter 5.

"…bringing balance back to the situation…"


Friday, September 14, 2012

A Finder's Keeper (Part 1)

Three chapters in, crossing the Atlantic…

* * * * *

Nick and Gray kept to the lee side of the ship, shielded from the powerful gusts, and crept from jutting deck equipment to low rise to shadowy niche. Gray fetched a look out over the gunwale to glimpse how the churning water measured along the freeboard, surging up and down as it was. The two slipped past the forward cargo hold kept with supplies and raw ore, the kind that most tramp freighters were apt to carry, Nick’s destination instead being the aft hold where the other stowaways stayed. Night was at its deepest now and many onboard were sleeping, but those whom Nick sought—he was sure—were not enjoying that luxury. The weather deck was still slippery underfoot, as the boat pitched from port to starboard, and the two skulking stowaways had to pay mind to their footing. Too much mind for either of them it seemed to notice spying eyes surveying them in the dark.

A creature of habit, Nick dropped to all fours as he scanned for trouble along the walk to the steel stairwell that spiraled down below decks where the dregs were kept. Only crew would be out and about in this torrential weather, and Nick had been lucky so far. Though apt to set caution aside—especially when all it did was make you look guilty—Nick waved his hand to signal that the coast was clear anyway.

The two steathfully attained the upper deck landing of the aft hold. Their feet settled on a grating that covered the floor here, sending overflow through a chute to a porthole on the side of the ship. They stepped over a tiny crab and a few floundering mackerel that were trapped amid the seaweed that hung from the grate.

Nick looked at Gray, addressing him as he would a greenhorn upon his first day on the job. “Okay, now listen up. What you prol’ly know already is that this boat is a kind of travelin’ slum sanctuary, right? Takin’ on transients and what not—the payin’ ones in the cabins, the rest of us down below,” he said, gesturing for Gray to give him a boost as he reached to disable the door lamp which hung from the ceiling. “Now you might’n’t’ve thought the cap’n wanted stowaways like yourself onboard, see, but what you didn’t know is that the captain of Le Esprit is somethin’ of a smuggler—a smuggler of people, that is.”

Having disabled the lamp they could now go through the deck door without turning on the landing light, which would shine up the stairwell. “Now, most of them that come onboard are just yer average transient, and that’s fine and well for them. But I’ve heard tell the cap’n has a nose for miscreants, ya see, and he lets ‘em come on board, free of passage and all, just so’es he can turn in the nastiest ones to the authorities on the far side of the pond.”

“And he never thought to do anything about you?” Gray asked offhandedly, admiring Nick’s adroit hand at killing the lamp without damaging it, and then springing the lock on the door noiselessly.

“Aw!” Nick returned in a hush. “I’m not that bad! The cap’n and I have a gentleman’s understandin’, see. I take care of the dregs, keep ‘em quiet, get ‘em what they need, you know?

“‘Cept the first mate and ‘is crew don’t like me very much.” Nick’s brow furrowed quizzically. “Guess that’s why the cap’n keeps the whole thing a secret, so long as I don’t wreck ‘is business, that is.”

Gray wore his eyebrows doubtfully high and nodded to himself as he digested the story.

Nick was quick to respond, reading his cohort’s face. “Hey! I’m not a thief! I fix things. I’m a fixer.”

The two stifled a snicker as they continued along a creaking corridor with doors facing the starboard side. The aft hold was broken up into separate flats, each built to facilitate a certain number of stowaways. The two came to the first door and Nick put his shoulder into it as the portal lurched open.

Immediately the two were struck with how much warmer the air was on this flat. One wall just inside the room was lined with a bank of tinged and dented lockers where passengers that lodged here could store their belongings. Beyond the lockers was a common room where men stood in tight clusters with a tin cup of coffee in hand while they chatted, the women gathered between them under heavy blankets, and a heavier scowl—everyone clad in layers of wool and denim. Makeshift cots consisting of a basic frame layered with soiled cushions and rolled-up towels—some of which lay hidden within crude stalls along the walls, each doubling as a shower—and the rare cradle fashioned from a split oil drum complete with the wailing sound of a baby inside it were scattered about the room. To their credit, Nick and Gray shared no signs of pause as they entered.

* * * * *

But why? More to come!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A eulogy.

Quinto
A dog that I love
Quinto
Love for a dog
Quinto
A dogged love
Quinto
Doggedly loved


1997-2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daughter of the Demon

And lastly, a femme fatale and conflicted lover of the Bat.

TALIA AL GHÛL “HEAD”
Female Human Fast 3/Charismatic 6/Mastermind* 4; CR 13
Medium-size Humanoid (height 5’ 8”, weight 141 lb.); Age unknown (apparent late 20s)
* See Urban Arcana

Init +4; Senses (core) Listen +5, Search +3, Spot +3; Senses (house) Listen/Spot +15, Search +6
Languages English, Arabic, Farsi (speak only), Hebrew (speak only), Hindi (speak only), Latin (read/write only), Mandarin, Russian (speak only), Spanish (speak only), Tibetan (speak only), Urdu (speak only)

Defense 21, touch 21, flat-footed 21; Defensive Martial Arts, Dodge (+4 Dex, +7 class)
hp 63 (13 HD); Mas 12
Fort +6, Ref +10, Will +8
Action Points 10

Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +11/+6 (1d4+1 lethal/nonlethal, 20)
Melee rapier +12/+7 (1d6+1 piercing, 18-20)
Ranged MP3-S pistol +12/+7 (2d6 ballistic, 20, 40 ft., S, 8 box)
Ranged by weapon +11/+6
Space 5 ft. by 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +7; Grp +8
Atk Options Opportunist, Point Blank Shot
Special Qualities none

Abilities Str 12, Dex 18 (16), Con 12, Int 16 (15), Wis 12, Cha 18
'(-)' indicate original ability scores.
Allegiances global harmony, her father, Batman (Bruce Wayne), evil, the League of Assassins; Rep +4; San 49
Feats Aircraft Operation (helicopters), Arcane Skills (see Urban Arcana), Archaic Weapons Proficiency, Combat Martial Arts, Deceptive, Defensive Martial Arts, Dodge, Low Profile, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Simple Weapons Proficiency, Weapon Finesse
Skills (core) Balance +6, Bluff +12 (+6 toward men), Climb +3, Computer Use +5, Concentration +3, Decipher Script +6, Demolitions +6, Diplomacy +15 (+6 toward men), Disguise +10 (+6 toward men), Drive +5, Forgery +9, Gather Information +14 (+6 toward men), Hide +7, Intimidate +9 (+6 toward men), Knowledge (arcane lore) +7, Knowledge (business) +6, Knowledge (current events) +8, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (streetwise) +8, Knowledge (tactics) +7, Knowledge (theology and philosophy) +8, Listen +5, Move Silently +9, Perform (dance) +6 (+6 toward men), Pilot +5, Read/Write Arabic, Read/Write English, Read/Write Latin, Read/Write Mandarin, Ride +6, Sense Motive +12, Speak Arabic, Speak English, Speak Farsi, Speak Hebrew, Speak Hindi, Speak Mandarin, Speak Russian, Speak Spanish, Speak Tibetan, Speak Urdu, Spellcraft +4, Spot +3, Survival +4, Swim +3, Treat Injury +7, Tumble +8, Use Magic Device +6
Skills (house) Athletics +6, Computer Use +5, Control +5, Deduce +6, Demolitions +6, Disguise +10 (+6 toward men), Drive +5, Forgery +9, Gather Information +14 (+6 toward men), Knowledge (arcane lore) +8, Knowledge (business) +6, Knowledge (current events) +8, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (streetwise) +9, Knowledge (tactics) +8, Knowledge (theology and philosophy) +8, Perceive +15, Perform (dance) +8 (+6 toward men), Persuade +20 (+2 on Bluff [+8 toward men], +6 on Diplomacy, Intimidate toward men), Pilot +5, Read/Write Arabic, Read/Write English, Read/Write Latin, Read/Write Mandarin, Ride +6, Sneak +12, Speak Arabic, Speak English, Speak Farsi, Speak Hebrew, Speak Hindi, Speak Mandarin, Speak Russian, Speak Spanish, Speak Tibetan, Speak Urdu, Spellcraft +4, Survival +4, Treat Injury +7, Tumble +9, Use Magic Device +8
          Note: As a member of the League of Assassins, Talia has chosen to receive 2 free ranks in each of Demolitions and Survival as her membership perk.
Talents (Fast) Evasion, Opportunist
Talents (Charismatic) Captivate, Charm (males), Favor
Talents (Mastermind) Equipment Connections, Exceptional Minions, Minions, Plan X, Uncanny Dodge 1
Starting Occupation Adventurer (Demolitions, Survival as permanent class skills; Archaic Weapons Proficiency)
Possessions (carried weight 7 lb.) Benelli MP3-S autoloader (mastercraft [+1], 9mm; 2 lb.), formal outfit (3 lb.), rapier (mastercraft [+1]; 2 lb.), various personal items
          Note: As a high ranking member of a powerful organization, Talia has access to most any item she needs, including restricted, illegal, or military items.
Wealth Bonus varies (can get as high as +30 depending on her activities)

Monday, August 13, 2012

A private entreaty made public.

Three years ago this week, I was fully entrenched in my new life as an assistant language teacher in Japan. Today, again in the U.S., I look back at the statement of purpose that helped to get me there.

A ten-year-old boy dances out of bed and hurries down the hall; light flickers across his face as the TV screen comes to life, and he is immersed into a world of ninja, katana blades, nunchaku, and mutant turtles. In high school that same boy writes a picturesque adventure story about heroes who live in a world of silk and chrysanthemum, ruled by mighty shoguns and daimyos all of which are loyal to the will of Tokugawa. In college, he studies intently the many colors and cultures of the world—from the science of music and food, to the heart of history—thrilled by them all but drawn time and again to the majestic traditions of Nippon. Fond as they are, these are only memories, and though I have come to learn much about this island of Japan, my true knowledge of it is no less foggy.

Long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with the world of Japan, both its fact and its fiction. Like others of my generation, I have grown up enjoying Japanese anime, eating noodles, rice, and egg rolls, practicing karate, and saving up for when I could afford an authentic samurai sword to hang on my wall. As with learning a second language, you have to go to the place of origin if you really want to master it. Fortunately, I have grown very comfortable using the English language (in speaking, in writing, in storytelling, etc.), and now I see a great opportunity to take my language and my talents to a place I have often only fantasized about, and share them with a people who are eager to learn, and who will no doubt teach me even more.

I am the ideal candidate for a position as an ALT with the JET Program(me) because I am an “every day person.” By that I mean every day I try to make good use of myself. Every day I examine what is around me and figure out how I fit in. Every day I look to find the value of something new, something old, or to take something old and make it new. I know when words are important, and when its better to remain silent. And every day, I try to place myself in a setting that complements my abilities, and strive to make sure my abilities complement others. As such, my teaching experience is extensive for someone of my age, boasting hundreds of days of in-class work with students from kindergarten to senior high school. Primarily, my strengths as a student and teacher lie in the humanities, namely social sciences, literary analysis, reading and writing, history, and religion (though I am capable in all areas, including math and science). My teaching style is low-key and calm, where I am much more likely to wait and listen while observing a situation before moving to act. Though when action is needed I tend to be decisive while exercising discretion. My experience in public speaking and working in many different classroom settings has well prepared me for group instruction, having little stage fright. As a camp counselor and one-on-one tutor I have learned effective ways of mediating disputes in a social setting, by myself or in concert with others. And my work has not been limited only to the local level, as I have thrice served as part of the back stage crew as a member of the Future Farmers of America at national leadership conventions, meeting and escorting celebrities and keynote speakers and coordinating staff and equipment. Thus too, I have tested experience working as a member of a team, as teachers at a school must do.

During my stay in Japan, I would hope to create a personal and meaningful relationship with the school and the community that supports it. I would hope to take part in after-school programs to better acquaint myself with the students I teach, and to work closely and gainfully with the teachers to whom I am assigned. In general, my aim would be to make life-long friends with whomever I came in contact, ensuring our friendship would not end after my contract has run out. In the future, employers would see my experience working with JET as a high-water mark for consideration in hiring me. And, though it would not supersede my responsibilities as an ALT, my hope is that through the inevitable cultural exchange that would follow, further opportunities to pursue my interests in anthropology and archaeology would arise as well.