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

Thanks D&D!

Here's another piece I wrote for

Swords high, daggers low!

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:

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, BlĂ»dhaven, 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!