Saturday, October 26, 2013

picking up the pieces

I heard Ash's voice in my head again from the green chakram thing because I accidentally cut myself on it when the world was blowing up, so he had a direct link to my nerves, which lead to the old headcase.

[[You may open your eyes now, Koen.]]

Okay, so I opened one eye. Still couldn't see anything.

"Dave? Wouldja mind letting go of my head?"

"Oh yeah...sorry Boss."

It 's desolate as always down in this crater next to New Babbage that everybody knows about but is afraid to even talk about.  Because they don't want whatever happened down here to happen up there. But I think it just did.

"No more flames, that's a good sign. Is it safe? I'm feelin' a little woozy. How much oxygen we got left with all of us..."

[[Not enough. Scanning. Atmosphere is safe.]] 

A big rush of air, hot and dry like the Wastelands. Thank Bast! Let me tell ya I don't think any of these kids have ever taken a bath in their lives!

[[Scanning life forms. All accounted for...except two.]]

Whoa! Was that a shot of anger I felt coming out of him? Ash is always the cool calm and collected one, at least in front of strangers.

[[I must investigate. Severing connection.]]


[[Rephrasing. Disconnecting. I will seal the wound. Please stretch out your paw.]]

Yeah, the fur on my arm was pretty soaked. Luckily my fur was the same color as my OW SHIT THAT HURTS blood. And there he goes floating off to reconnect with his body. His soul chip must have been fused into that thing.

"Boss! Is that Ryan down there?"

In a flash I'm four-pawin' it down there.  I don't know how it happened, but Ryan was STILL frozen under thick ice and holding that Doctor Brain dude over his head like he's gonna throw it down!

"Now this? This doesn't make any sense!"

"The energy shield for my armor is integrated into my escape unit."

Everybody jumped back. That has Cold Dead Hans' voice! He's still in that jar!

"I was able to use it to protect this carrier instead of the one of I built. If only I set to protect from internal explosions..."

"Yeah well you won't be so smug when that ice melts off! And that's gonna happen fast. You stay there. I gotta check up on my Dad."

He was cursin' somethin' at me but I didn't give a shit. There's the blown up armor thing up ahead. Gettin' closer.

"Don't touch that puddle, kids. I think that was the pink girl..."

"Mister Koen's Dad? Is you still livin'?" I heard crunching sounds.

Oh. Freakin'. BAST.


I think I'm gonna be sick. He's burnt to a crisp...hunched over...

"Kira...Sprog? Pea?"

I perked an ear. There's breathin'. Two people breathin'!"

"Sorry Dad let me just...lift you off here..."

He wasn't so badly burned on his front. His gas mask was still on. The girls have some blisters and singed eyebrows but...they're alive!

"Well done."

"HEY! This ain't the time for jokes! That was my..." I looked up. Yep, it was Him.

"No pun intended, child."

"Hey Boss, who's da guy wit' da wings?"

"He's...he's my Grandpa. You guys try ant tie down Ryan again and get that jerk in the jar. Me and the big guy gotta talk."

They high-tailed it out. They never seen a demon before.

"Yagi and Darien are gone? Is this how you planned it?"

"They are unfortunate casualties of war. But their sacrifice was not..."

I got pushed aside. HARD. I'm lookin' up and Ash is back in his body and he's lifting BW up by his throat!

"Ethical parameters overloaded! Moral compass shattered! FATAL ERROR!"

Oh NO...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Don't get me wrong. It gets cold in the Wastelands. There's only a handful of trees and some cracked concrete bunkers here and there to hold enough of that searing heat in when the sun goes down. I've got enough fur to make it by curling up in a crack with my fangs chattering like crazy.

But this is something else. The Crater is filling up with huge flakes of snow wadding up into blankets on the ground. I'm not hopping over sharp gravel anymore but my paws are digging into biting snow to keep from slipping into whatever hazards are still out here. I swear it's colder than Dad's freezer, and getting dark and colder still. We're going to die out here unless...

There. something glowing. Yes, I can make out the circle under the snow. It's Ash's power circle...thing. I have to dive my arm in, almost crushing my face against the snow. My fingers getting so numb I can't tell if they're still connected. Should I even be OW!

It's an electrical jolt jumping from my fingers up my arm and rattling my spine. I feel the hair on my neck standing straight up as I pull back, covering my eyes from this all this blinding green!

Wait...I'm feeling warm. I can still see the snow dumping down but none of it's landing on me. I look down and the snow's melting away. No, not melting. Evaporating. The ground's dry already!

We've practiced this for the sandstorms.

"SHELLLLTERRRRR!!!" I shout over and over while I hold the ring up high.

The kids pour in from all directions, crowding around me and still shivering. Most of them have frostbite. Hopefully not the kind you don't recover from.

I call a sound off. Everybody accounted for except Blue and Sprog. And Ryan.

"Did anybody catch that brain thing?" Silence. "Alright, we gotta find the others. Anybody know which way...?"

I felt the ring tugging hard.

"Okay! Moving huddle! THIS WAY!"

I don't know how the girls are gonna hang on or we even should be saving Ryan. But we don't leave our buddies behind.

"Is you gonna say some rhymin' words and make glowy stuff, Chief?" one of the kids asked me as he PULLED ON MY GODDAMN TAIL to follow me up an icy slope.

"What, me? No. I'm no hero. Just a survivor like the rest of us." I looked back and squinted at him. The ring was stuck to my hand so I shook my finger at him with the other. "And if you pull on my tail again I'll..."

"Chief? You're floatin'!"

And damned if I wasn't.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

the wager

"Guys. I'll handle this. Watch Ryan. Gag his mouth in case he gets bitey."

Neobrokrug was cordial enough whenever he showed up. But if you ever asked for help with something that wasn't rent related he usually talked right past you. It's not that he's cruel. He just doesn't care about organics. I think he's just not programmed to care. Or maybe that part of him got lost. Or maybe there was another robot built by whoever built him to care for the survivors and he broke down. Doesn't really matter at this point. I just know he's got no heartstrings to tug.

I tiptoed over the daisy chain of junk that looked like it fell out the back of an airship shipping rejects from a mad scientist's fire sale.

"Um. Hi Mr. Neobrokrug."

"Hello Koen!"

His voice was...nice, but creepy. Too nice for the hell he managed. He didn't look at me. He was too busy tapping on a broken pane of glass. I think they called them "App-tablets" or something. I peered over his shoulder. It looked like he was magnifying on the robot dude with the bad haircut. Kind of an X-ray...something in his chest, pulsing blue.

"Is that a reactor core?"

"Yes, cold fusion. You know people will spend centuries trying to build it. One day they will and they'll learn the way this fellow will. With a cataclysmic explosion."

Aw Bast. He's way too casual about this.

"Well y'know...New Babbage won't mesh too well with the rest of this place."

"I wouldn't say that. We have more than enough room...more than enough room..."

Did I mention he was creepy? I had to keep my spine straight just talking to him.

"So there's no chance of disconnecting his core before it explodes?'

"It is possible..."

"I could!"

"I have gone through a lot of trouble to get ready."

I rolled my eyes.

"Look...Neo...can I call you Neo?"


"Do you know what will happen if you phase New Babbage into the Wastelands? You're going to have survivors, right?"

"Of course."

"And there's going to be Sparks in there, I guarantee it."


"Steampunks. Mad scientists. Gifted engineers. Maybe even the Clockwinder."


"And I haven't even mentioned the Bolsheviks and the Church of the Builder and Cult of Dagon..."

"Rule #48: No summoning of beings from the outer planes..."

I edged closer as he leaned over to twist some dials on a half-melted block of plastic.

"And do you know what steampunks do when they lose everything? They start over. They'll drink cactus-juice tea from broken china and throw formal balls in tattered gowns like nothing ever happened. And one thing about steampunk's infectious. People start being NICE to each other, at least in public. No more people fighting each other for scrap that you bury in the sand in random places for us to find. You're gonna need a new distribution model."

"That...will take some minor adjustments..."

"And with the Sparks? They'll just take the scrap and build more stuff. And I'm not talking nailguns here. Unless it's to build a Tesla tower. And then everything else to run off of the Tesla tower."

"I won't allow that."

"They'll keep trying. They won't just survive. They'll rebuild. With their manners and their technology they'll bring something we still don't have."

"You have everything you need here. You just need to find it."

"They'll bring civilization."

Neo's tablet thing sputtered with sparks and he dropped it from his free hand.

"This won't be the Wastelands anymore. It'll be New New Babbage. Not your Museum to the Folly of Mankind or whatever you want this to be. This won't be your limbo anymore. This will be a place..."

He turned his head and looked straight at me. Mismatched robotic eyes clouded by the exhaust seeping out from under his helmet.

"You are welcome to try."

"How much time...?"

"Two hours at most."


They rushed up and lined in formation. Just like I taught them to. I watched enough of that militia across from the slough (mulisha they call it) to learn a bit about keeping a unit together. Two of the kids in the back were carrying Ryan.

"Say Neo, is that a hover-board?"

"It is an antigravity conveyance. I used it to carry..."

"Thanks!" I jumped on and kicked the switch on the engine. The back of it started glowing as I fought to keep balance.

"You two in the back? See that hill down there? Meet me there. The rest of you, knock that big thing down. Pry it open if you can. If you open it don't smash anything. Just pull stuff out. Lay it on the ground. Hopefully my Dad can defuse it in time. EVERYBODY MOVE!"

I've never seen a bunch of kids look so fierce. I plowed way ahead of them on the board. Just as I got close enough for them to see me they both started running!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

the stakes

“WE’RE THE SPIDERS! YOU’RE THE FLIES!” they shouted as they laughed and chased me from the scorching desert into the shadowy ravine.

I was running on all fours, bounding from one wall of the narrow fissure to the other trying to dodge the nail gun. I felt one slam into my shoulder and knock off the metal bowl I was wearing for armor. I spun and arched my back as the crunch of boots sprinting through sand and grit grew louder. A couple of Spider gangers trotted in, blocking my exit. One of them had clammy yellow skin. A ghoul. He was carrying a stick with a sharp bird beak wrapped at one end as a weapon. The other one had his face wrapped up, but I’m sure he was human. That was the bastard with the nailgun. I shoved my paws into the loose dry dirt and pulled out the rusty machete I hid there last night.

“Oh clever manimal he is!” taunted the ghoul. “Y’claws ain’t enough? I got me own!” That was true. Even in this mutated form I still didn’t grow claws. Not that they’d come close to being as nasty as those bony bloody fingers the ghoul was stretching. Ghoul-boy flicked his tongue like a snake. “Let’s have at it then!”

I let out a deep roar that echoed through the ravine. That’s when the rest of the kids pushed themselves out of the nooks and crannies in this rocky passageway. They were all the same dry red clay color from their camouflage. The three kid gangs were always chasing each other off, but we had a common threat. So I was able to get them all to hid in one place, and armed to the teeth.

“We’re onto you!” I pointed at the two Spiders. “Luring kids into your parlor or whatever you call it with a trail of candy! You! You’re a ghoul...I’m not judging you for WHAT you eat. But when you don’t gnaw on people your own’re gonna PAY. But YOU!” I pointed at the guy with the nail gun. “Corwin is it? Corey? Doesn’t even matter because you...and your undead buddy right here...are officially SCRAPPED!”

Bleue and her NPAKs - the older kids - laid in with the missiles. Crossbows, nailguns, and I think I even heard some gunpowder. Those two bastards dropped pretty fast. Once they ran out of ammo then Kira...I mean...Kira junior...just call her Sprog... and her Runts moved in with their spiky clubs to make sure they weren’t playing dead. Finally the youngest contingent...Pea and her Sand Brats...moved in with their knives and cleavers. I looked away for this part.

That’s when I heard the scream.

“Mistah Koen! Mistah Koen!” I was still getting used to being called Mister. But in the Wastelands when you’re sixteen you’re practically middle-aged.

“The ghoul bit Ryan!”

“OH HOLY...!”

I rushed over. The two spiders were...well, out of commission. But Ryan...shit, he’s just this little blond boy with bad teeth, kinda Russian accent. Always hyper, But now he was lyin’ still. Bad sign. I started wiping down my blade.

“I’m sorry kid, but we’re gonna have to ampu...tate...?”

The bite was on his neck. That wasn’t gonna work. And he was already getting jaundiced.

“Aw no no not you Ryan not YOU...”

I’ve gotten used to a lot of crap in the Wastelands. Humans eating each other. A robotic landlord named Neobrokrug that didn’t care if you lived or died. A robot ice cream truck that still gave out ice cream. But the ghouls still scared the shit outta me. I knew a couple that didn’t attack living folks on sight, but still it’s a horrible way to exist.

Pea stood behind me, looking down at him.

“Pea?” I asked. “He’s gonna turn. He’s one of yours...if you guys wanna put him out of his misery you better...”

And that’s when the ground started to shake. Boulders started falling into the ravine. We were blinded by a cloud of dirt and sand.


But of course that’s not what happened. We all huddled together crying and screaming. Well I wasn’t crying and screaming. Well it was so noisy it was hard to tell... By the time got the grit out of my eyes I could see the sunrise. Wait...we’re in a damn ravine...where the HELL is the sun coming from? Hmm, the end of the ravine opened up. What is this, a crater?

“Mistah Koen? I think that’s Neo...”

I’ll be damned if it wasn’t. Imagine a skinny robot made of junkyard scrap, with a fake plywood cube over one hand and a dented army helmet. That’s Neobrokrug. You never saw the guy unless he was collecting rent, smacking someone down for illegal weapons or...
“Aw shit he's pulling in more Wastelands!”

Remember how I said this place was an ashcan for destroyed cities? Somewhere in time a city is on the brink of annihilation. It’s Neo’s job to rescue...well maybe preserve is a better word...a good chunk of it before disaster wipes it off the map. He was surrounded by cobbled-together machinery that looked even dicier than him. Bleue pulled out her binoculars and peered down the crater.

“Koen. You really need to see this.” She passed the binocs to me.

“The girl in the pink dress?” Bast, she was dressed like one of my dad’s clockwork dolls.

“To the right of her.”

Some kinda flashing was a battle. Some giant robot with scraggly beard and hat like a Jaegermonster...and a guy in a soldier’s uniform fighting him. Aether saber....medic’s belt...aether goggles...mustache...

“Holy crap that’s my DAD!”

I lowered the binocs, trying to make sense of what I just saw. Were we back in the Steamlands? No, this was an overlap. A huge chunk of the Steamlands was on its way to us. Everybody knew about the Caldon remnant. That was one of the first regions that made up this hellhole. Finally enough of the dust cleared that I could make out the outline of the city on the horizon.


Saturday, June 29, 2013


The Regent had a video game machine in one of the rooms. I started playing it. It was called the Wastelands. Guess what.

It's not a game.

I've been trapped here in the desert for almost a month now. I'm not sure where or when this place is. Nobody here does. It's a bunch of ruins all jumbled together. Caledonian, Aztec, Suffugium, 20th century America, dinosaur bones...I think this place is one cosmic ash heap where memories of fallen empires go.

Blazing hot in the day, freezing at night. I've never been so hungry. Even a New Babbage rat sounds good to me now. You wouldn't believe what passes for food out here. Still trying to find any scrap sturdy enough to make into a weapon.

But at least I'm not alone. There are kind folks. Other kids. Some I even recognize.

Kira's here. She must have reincarnated. There's a shack down in the slough where I caught her scent. Everyone here knows her, but I keep missing her. She must be scavenging on the other side of the desert when I'm out. I will find her. I will...

Wren's here. She says she ran out out fuel and woke up centuries later after someone repaired her. Gotta admire your handiwork, Doc.

I teamed up with this girl named Bleue. We're meeting at Kira's and forming a tribe. NPAK Runts I think we're calling it. Pooling our resources. Protecting ourselves.

Did the Regent set me up on purpose to get me off his time machine? I don't know. I hope someone finds this message. Back to the hunt.

Monday, June 17, 2013

a first chance at a second impression

I sat and watched from the holographic monitor as Qlippothic lifted the neko to his feet.

"It is not your fault, Koen. I pushed you too hard. Unlike Ash and myself I should have allotted you time for food and sleep."

I savored the last spoonful of caviar and placed the glass back on the silver tray my Companion was holding beside me.

"She's right, you know..." I cast a glance at the brown-haired boy in the butler's outfit, who earnestly nodded in agreement.

 "And I wouldn't have taken it..." he grumbled as he wearily punched a line of holes with his can opener. "So we launched too early...did we prevent the chain reaction?"

I looked away while she removed her metallic shell and put on one of the Doc's lab uniforms from the cabinet I didn't rip open."We did absorb the initial shockwave. In fact...the chain reaction was much stronger than we had anticipated. Had we attempted to launch on schedule we may well have disintegrated."

"What about the rest of the blast?"

"Shunted forward in time to the same 1908. The authorities will have several years of preparation to evacuate the area."

"If we get back to warn them!"


I stood up and leaned down to address my young Companion.

"I don't expect too much trouble from these guests, Brian. But fetch my galvanic staff just in case."

"Yes Sir!" And off he scurried with the tray. I refocused my attention on the hologram.

"Why aren't you still in the power core, Qli?"

"Something is wrong. We seem to be...stuck."

"Stuck? Did we land somewhere?"

"Not quite...more accurately I would say we are contained inside another time machine."

"Oh crap...we hit a TARDIS?"

Brian passed my staff, and with it I rapped on the outside of large plate that had been hastily welded to their vehicle. "I'm afraid you did!" I shouted. "You've materialized in the middle of my library!"

"Oh Bast! We're sorry! Ummm I guess we need your help in getting unstuck?"

With a tap of my staff the welding dissolved and the plate fell with a crash on the carpet. I used the staff as leverage to hop over the jagged tear in their orb. I adjusted the ruffles in my collar as took a closer look at their machinery.

"Oh yes...classic Mason galvanic tesseraction principles. Unrefined yet functional. That's the advantage to something this simple, you see. Far less factors to what can go wrong... Unless you try something like jump-starting it with a geothermal explosion, of course..."

"Koen? Isn't that the same staff you used to close the Demon Wasp portal?"

"Astute as always, Qlippothic. Oh my apologies, I don't think we've been formally introduced. My name is also Koen. But you may call me the Regent."

"NO NO NO this isn't possible! You looked like an old ME! Now you look like a white tiger with green eyes in a pastel fop suit?"

I huffed in disapproval. "The strain of shifting my Earth into a dimension that wasn't collapsing was too much for that old body, so I regenerated. This shouldn't surprise you. And seriously, the whole chimney-sweep look you've got going now is just embarrassing!"

"NO! NO [expletive deleted] WAY! I'm not going to look like that! You dress dorkier than our DAD and I didn't think that was even POSSIBLE! Prove it! Prove you're the Regent I met in Seraph City!"

"You have seventeen stitches on your left ankle from Wren's bear-trap."

He slunk back to the floor in resignation. "Crap...crap..." He reached in his pocket for a small device and began typing furiously.

I called out into the library. "Brian? Two servings of catnip please..."

He glared back up at me. "YOU POSTED ON MY BLOG?"

"OUR BLOG, young man!"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

another fine mess

Now where was I? Oh yeah...

We launched a major assault on Baba Yaga's Siberian base. Oh you shoulda seen it. Hell the snowstorm was so heavy I barely saw it myself. But I sure heard it. And felt it with each explosion. Qlippothic and Ash were crushing robot huts right and left. Bloodwing and Zavael were counterspelling like crazy and generally unleashing cosmic whoopass on undead witches. The Jagers were shooting anything that moved and stomping on them when they were done just to make sure. Those glowing Digital Knight guys that Ash rescued from that other Grid were buzzing around slicing robots with their frisbee-things.

No, I'm not on medication. This really happened. This is pretty standard as far as Mason adventures go. You must be new here?

Well anyway, I was in my inframask suit darting around slashing mummified witches and robot tentacles. Eventually we ran out of things to smash and we generally agreed that we won. The only problem was that the witches set their reactor to self destruct. Instead of panicking like I normally do, I figured out away to hook the reactor up to Qli's galvanic tesseractor and reconfigure the chamber as a time machine, using that explosion to start the engine instead of leaving a huge crater in the middle of Mother Russia.

The Knights knew circuitry like the backs of their hands (which had circuitry on them actually, so it makes sense) and helped us rewire everything. Xavael cast a spell called SEAMLESS ARMOUR which usually is used on SUITS of armor, but he said he heard it got cast on a leaky boat once so he figured it would work on a time machine. And Doc Mason as usual was directing everything from the safety of the New Babbage Consulate.

"Is everything ready?" he asked from a staticky screen perched over my shoulder while I was spotwelding.

"Yes! We double-checked and triple-checked!" I snapped back.

"As a point of testing I've dilated the time in the immediate vicinity to give us the equivalent of days of preparations instead of the actual hours we had left," stated Qli from inside the tube where she was plugging cables into the joints of her brass armor.

"Yeah, it works great. But unlike you Qli some of us need to eat and sleep once every few days!"

"It's quite normal for you to feel cranky in your present state..." interrupted Doc. "Blah blah blah cans of tuna in the lower cabinet..."

FINALLY! I ripped off my goggles and jumped down and started tugging on the cabinet until it blew open with a shower of sparks. Doc started yelling at me as I reached for the fire extinguisher. Ash looked up from where he was riveting the bulkhead as the whole chamber started shaking. "I believe that was the wrong cabinet."

"Is Doc cursing at me in Russian now?"

"No." Qli answered. "You've launched us into hypertime! The feedback through Doctor Mason's connection he sent him into a backwards loop."

"Yeesh. He's gonna tan my..."

Another huge explosion. I wrapped my arms around a support strut as everything that wasn't nailed down got sucked through a hole in the wall where Ash was still hanging on. One of the other cabinets burst open. I saw the cans of tuna spinning in mid-air, hurtling towards the infinite void. I leaped...

"NO!" Screamed Qli as I hit a sliding sheet of metal with full force.

"What happened?" I asked as I waited for the room to stop spinning.

"Ash covered the rupture from the outside and hung on long enough to spot-weld it before he..."

"Before he what? Where...where is he?"

"He is lost." Qli placed a can of tuna on the floor beside me as I curled into a ball. I grabbed and hurled it across the room. I was too busy yowling.