SG: SERIES' #1 - Beginnings

Mechaman mechaman at
Thu Apr 3 20:18:11 PDT 2008

(In error, I numbered the '0th' ep of the series as #1 when I posted it
last.  The following is the true 'issue 1' of SERIES'.


               In the shadows of a golden age
                A generation waits for dawn
                      Brave carry on
                    Bold and the strong

                  Ghost in the Mecha, XLtd


                        S E R I E S '

                       1 - Beginnings

*--- The Cry Heard Round The World

-- December 31, 2000

   There are plenty of things hospitals are very leery of, superstition or
not.  The phases of the moon are a well noted phenomenon, as are holidays.
While the former is much more superstition, holidays have a much better
basis in fact.  More people with free time on their hands, and more people
willing to combine things that their body should not be having in excess.
   All in all, good reasons to avoid a hospital in any case, even without
some complications already predicted.  Which is why, discretely, a few
friends had hinted to a proud couple that it might be a good idea to avoid
the holidays if they could help it.  The doctors agreed, but the condition
of the mother made induction methods just slightly worrisome. Not enough
that they were alarmed or worried of a miscarry, but enough for them to
point out there were risks.
   Which was enough for the mother.  With a wry smile, she simply told the
doctors the simple truth she'd held for some years of trying.  "What would
be, would be."  Arrangements were made just in case, and then the spirit
and whirlwind of the season hit.  Even with keeping to a wheelchair and
wistfully watching those who danced at the parties, it was a good yuletide
and days after.  Even if she could swear the little girl wanted to kick in
time with the band.
   She later would have realized that any daughter of -hers- wouldn't
settle for the opening act.  Fortunately, they were with friends who could
help again.  Of course, the decor wasn't precisely what she thought of
when it came to a maternity ward.  The doctor who was in attendance
probably thought much the same.  Fortunately, he wasn't the one who was
doing the work.  Just giving advice as needed.  The young woman midwifing
had, after all, a self-described good hand in the family business.
   Alice Liddell, Momentum of Mason's Mazin' Mob, silently coaxed at the
child as she went to help ease the little girl's passage from her mother.
She was tempted to send to the girl, partially because the silence was
maddening.  But she wouldn't have had the man, Ted Kimball, anywhere else.
On the other hand, sending telepathically to a newborn (especially one who
was still trying to get to that stage) seemed another kind of no-no.  So
she spoke, even if she couldn't quite hear it, just to prove to her heart
she did, and felt some relief as she helped split the umbilical and the
sounds she had keenly missed ran back to her ears.
   "Oh thank Elvis.  No offense, but I like the sound of my voice a bit
too much."  She winked, helping the doctor clean the girl and gently gave
her a small spank.  The newborn girl wailed as she should, a small tuft of
brown hair seeming stark on her head... the rest of the hair fine and near
colorless.  "I hope you'd planned for a girl, because that's what a
beautiful little screamer you've got.  Hard enough I can feel it up my
   It wasn't really anything anyone could have thought through in advance.
To be sure, Ted and his wife Chelsea had been warned there were good
chances of their child being affected by their lifestyles and choices, but
how and why weren't something anyone could foretell.  So Alice made a
small mistake as she went to swaddle the child to hand it to her mother.
   She let go.
   Suddenly, that feeling from her bones was rather secondary from the
feeling to her mind, as the baby's cries filled it quite heavily. Plenty
of mages and mentalists around the world joined Alice in her sudden
headache, hearing the child as if the child were right in their room
screaming in need.  Many normals, not as well attuned, still would wonder
if they'd heard a neighbor's child screaming that night, if they thought
of it at all.
   The response was just as swift back:
   [[}{<<|| FOR ELVIS'S SAKE, CALM HER DOWN! ||>>}{]]
   Recovering her wits a bit, Alice finished wrapping the child, cooing
gently.  She handed the child to her mother, closing eyes a moment
expecting another grenade to explode in the room.  When she realized no
railspike to the head was coming, she looked at the three thoughtfully.
   "This... could be a bit of a problem."
   Chelsea Montrose Kimball, nodded a bit, slightly distracted.  Esther
Angellica Kimball merely was content to be held, knowing she was safe and

*--- Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

-- May 7, 1999

   The room was tastefully done in pastels and other light shades, but the
windows were shaded, leaving little light to catch the colors. The room
was much smaller than most of the rooms in the estate, but it also showed
much more signs of someone living there.
   The woman on the bed still had her eyes closed, her breathing regular
even if she had a nasal tube to help oxygen into tired and aching
lungs. Lungs that had borne too many cigarettes even if the throat and
voice had withstood the test of time.  She wondered if she hadn't been
stricken down if she'd be in the same house at all at this point, or if
she'd be bitterly fighting battles tasting of more bitter ashes.
   Most of the room was rented furniture, sparsely decorated with small
brikabrac from her 'real' bedroom. She had little illusion when the time
came, most of the items would be scrubbed or destroyed. Not just the
rentals... but her items as well. It probably was why her husband conceded
to her one request and brought her family's antique heirloom, an ornate
mirror, to her room. It was placed at a spot inconvenient to look at, but
that bothered her very little. It wasn't the point for her to look into
   "I wish I had better news for you, but the doctors are quite
competent... and accurate." The voice was calm and cultured. Not precisely
warm, but not without emotion or sympathy.  It also belonged to someone
not in the room.  The mirror conveyed it very well however.
   Natalie Generi took a painfully deep breath, but nodded.  She spoke
carefully, as it took effort with even the support.  "I've... many
problems with Richard... but he does not chintz... on taking care of
what's his...."
   "And while you may not have been happy with this life, it is what you
wished for." The voice's tone was regretful. "I'm sorry, dear, I truly
wish I could have helped make it a more fulfilling one."
   Natalie tried, but failed to prop herself up or turn to face the voice
better. That she didn't manage worried her only slightly more. She knew it
was getting very close to time... perhaps past it if the doctors hadn't
taken stiff measures. She tried to take  another deep breath.  "My...own
fault... but I need to... ask..."
   "I'm afraid I can't do much to help, dear. Your family has a place in
my heart, but there's nothing in my power to stop this..."
   "It's NOT..." she gasped again, taking a long moment to gather her
breath. "What I need to ask... my son..."
   "Joshua?" The voice turned curious. "I thought Richard had nothing but
pride in his son."
   "He takes care... of what is his.... but in his... own way."
   "Ah." The voice took a long moment, thoughtfully. "Yes, and his slanted
sense of ethics and priority would be terribly at odds with bringing the
boy up to his potential."
   "Josh... knows too well..."  Her voice failed again a moment, and she
closed her eyes. There really wasn't any need to keep them
open. "His...own views on right."
   "I would say that's unfortunate, but considering your concern, that
speaks well of him.  Even if perhaps that he's inherited a certain
stubbornness from both lines."  The voice sighed.  "If I did, you know it
won't be easy for the boy.  No more than it was for any of your family
I've looked on over the years.  Yourself included."
   The woman started to gather the breath to respond, but instead forced
her eyes open as someone else spoke instead.
   "And why would that be?"  The young male voice was openly curious, but
wary.  Natalie knew the door was locked, more to keep Josh from the room.
But that assumed he had to use the door, a talent she'd warned him not to
let his father see.
   Under the camera, perfectly within the blindspot, a young boy barely
older than twelve sat.  His bright blue eyes were part of the few bits of
color on him, as he'd chosen a black shirt and dark pants to wear. It
contrasted highly with his pale skin, giving him a ghost-like air as he
   Natalie didn't know how long been there... and honestly realized it
perhaps didn't matter.  The voice must have come to the same conclusion as
it spoke to him directly.
   "Your mother and I know each other from a long time back."  Josh turned
to look, his eyes widening slightly in surprise, but putting on a brave
determined face.  One that really didn't fit his age, but fit well enough.
The dark shadowed form was visible in the mirror, a woman who seemed
almost as old as her mother, yet seemed older like grandparents he'd never
   Her clothing looked old-fashioned, though he really couldn't point to
anything that was directly so.  Perhaps the ivory armlength gloves poking
out of the dark shawl she wore over her matching blouse.  Perhaps the
small glasses she kept at the tip of her nose.  But Josh thought it mostly
was just the eyes itself.
   If the woman noticed the intent stare, she seemed to pay it little
worry.  "She was concerned about your welfare, and was sharing that
concern with me."
   "Mother doesn't think Father has much care for anything but the
principles of his business."  Josh's tone was rather flat, his face a
grimace that seemed to mirror that tone well.
   "And what do you think, Joshua?"
   "I think Mother gives him more credit than she should."  He clenched
the fist not holding a notebook close to himself, looking down a bit.
   His mother shook a moment, tear running from eyes.  She took a breath a
moment later.  "Oh... I needed that."
   The other woman's smile widened a touch, but kept her own tone more
diplomatic.  "I think that might be a rather blunt opinion of him... but
not inaccurate.  Your mother thinks it might be... smarter if you went
with me instead."
   "Wouldn't that be kidnapping?  Especially since Mother..."  His voice
caught there, a bit of the veneer failing.
   The woman in the mirror smiled a sad smile.  "Sometimes, the difference
is in the spirit and the letter of the law.  But in the end, prices get
   "But no one's above the law..." Josh protested quickly, then trailed
off as his mind caught up to his mouth.  The woman in the mirror laughed
lightly as he blushed, embarrassed, but the laugh didn't seem cold or
sharp as she did.
   "I think someone has seen one too many crime drama shows."  She
sobered.  "No one should be, but many people are close to.  There ARE
rules and prices, but nothing is completely in the hands of order, no
matter how much I try."
   He considered her words a moment.  "You try to help people within the
law?  Like a cop?"  He leaned forward, his demeanor breaking through a bit
as the eagerness overtook his control.
   The woman considered.  "Not quite like a cop, though I do have rules as
   "Can you teach me?  I mean, to be what I can?"  His voice is hopeful a
moment.  Then he paused, looking to his stricken mother.  His mother
smiled to him faintly, trying to reassure.  It wasn't easy to do in her
current state.  The woman in the mirror seemed to understand.
   "Now that is a good question.  So of course it's not an easy
answer. But I think perhaps... yes, we could try.  It is, after all, what
your mother wishes."  Natalie nodded feebly in agreement with the woman's
words before breaking into another wrenching cough.
   "But.. I shouldn't leave her..."  The boy was subdued, guilty in tone.
"It wouldn't be right."
   "No, it wouldn't be easy.  Your mother, at least, thinks it would be
right.  Do not mistake words that work along the same path for being the
same word.  I don't promise things being easy.  But only because I will do
my best to give you what you ask.  So it's best to be sure what you want
before you ask or choose."
   The boy paused at that, distracted by his mother's cough and fighting
the urge to run into the camera's view.  "I...I want to do good, to be
someone who helps bring right back.  To make things proud again."  He
squared his shoulders a bit.  "It's not about easy... it's about what
   The woman in the mirror regarded him a long moment.  "Yes, yes it is."
She sighed lightly, then snapped her fingers dramatically.  As she did,
the camera literally sparked and died.  She walked through the mirror as
if the glass had never existed and looked to the boy intently.  "Though I
do wonder if it'll be easier on you than me, in the end.  Very well, I
   Josh paused as he realized the hated camera was no longer working and
moved forward.  He paused hesitantly, then ran over to his mother first
and took her hand.  The squeeze she gave was as firm as she could make it,
but it also was enough.  Josh kissed his mother's brow.
   The woman watched bemusedly, but waited.  Both talked for a few more,
then Josh leaned closer again, allowing his mother's lips to brush cheek.
He then looked to the woman, his eyes much more firm and intense.  "We
have to go now?"
   "Yes we do, little squire.  If there's anything left for you to do..."
She nodded as the boy shook head.  "Well, then, step through and we'll see
about some breakfast while I rearrange a calendar that had seemed rather
pleasantly free."  She smiled again the words obviously a joke.
   Josh nodded and started to walk for the mirror with her.  He paused at
the threshold a moment, but didn't look back before coming through. The
woman paused slightly longer for entirely different reasons.  She looked
slightly to the left of the bed as another entered the room. She sighed
with small regret, but made a small nod of acceptance to the newcomer
before turning to leave.

   "Do take good care of her."

   In the morning, amidst all the other bad news piling at Richard
Generi's feet, he was informed of the passing of his wife and that his son
was missing.  That the mirror was gone was not even noticed for another
year when the estate was catalogued.

*--- Not My Father's Son

-- December 15, 2015; 144SUPERGUY

   Jeff leaned back and tried to ignore the cold (31 degrees Fahrenheit,
-0.6 Centigrade) on his back from the snowbank as he straight up into
clouds.  He didn't need to feel the subtle vibration of his kid sister's
(one year and three months to the DAY) size 6 tread to clue him in he
wasn't alone any more.
   "Quarter for your thoughts?"  Peggy brushed off a stump before she sat
down to look to her elder sibling.  He pushed himself back up to look to
her.  Her hair bobbed about a bit as she settled in, her having a curly
wave his own hair never had, his own keeping more or less to the straight
and sometimes a bit more fine.  Now that made all the more sense to Jeff.
It hurt a bit but not as much as he thought it would, actually.
   After all, when all is said and done, half rounds to full.
   "What, you think it's worth that much?"  He grinned lightly as he made
sure to give her his full attention.  She smirked back at him, the
expression a mirror of their mother's.
   "Well, considering inflation and that you don't seem to have many, I
think I'd better pay market rates."  She sobered a bit.  "Mom and Dad just
had 'a Talk' with me.  Uhm, well, wow.."
   "Yeah... they kind of were intending to get around to telling me
sometime."  Jeff didn't bother hiding the hurt and slight bitterness to
that.  He could hear the truth in that, yet at the same time it seemed so
much like they wanted sometime to be 'any time but now'.
   "Well, they probably could have told you right away, but man, I don't
think youd've remembered it."  She shook her head.  "But heck of a way to
find out you're not only a superguy..."  She paused and amended quickly as
he started to frown.  "...well, potential superguy, but that Dad's
not... well, your biological one."
   "Dad's dad, Mom's mom, and you're a brat."  Jeff grinned a bit as he
shook off Peggy's slip.  He sobered as he thought things through seriously
though.  "I don't think that's going to change much... not really."
   "So what is going to?"  Peggy's voice was an odd feeling as he parsed
it.  About half curious, maybe a quarter envious and another part
worried... Jeff took a long breath and felt things settle maybe in place a
bit better.  And this little... omission aside, this family shot straight
on the issues.
   "Maxine and I are going to go for it.  We've got a few others who're
stepping up.  We figure that the real Hero Patrol's got the town pretty
much covered, but there's still a lot of outlying land.  Enough to, you
know, work and learn the ropes."
   "So a kind of Border Patrol instead of the big HP?"
   Jeff winced.  "I hope to Hell that name won't stick, but yeah."
   Peggy nodded, leaning back slightly so her heels left the ground, then
bounced back forward.  "I'm jealous," she admitted frankly.  "Mom and Dad
are going to flip, but I think it's cool actually."
   "Thanks..  I'm probably going to need the support.  I'm not planning on
hiding it from them." Jeff shook his head, a bit of the bitterness still
catching his voice.  "No secrets if I can help it."
   "I said they'll flip, not that they'll disown you."  She grinned wryly.
"So, what's it like?  I mean..."
   "Kinda hard to say... sometimes, I think it's almost like saying I have
the old heads up display thing you see in games.  It's NOT, but all the
info I can see organizes... I just KNOW it."
   "Everything?"  Peggy's voice was utterly skeptical in tone, and Jeff
didn't blame her.
   "No.  Which is what keeps me half-sane."  Jeff took a breath.  "Well,
let's say I'm going to have fun with school.  More than I have,
really. The more I understand, the more I can pick out of what my powers
are telling me. "
   "So the more you know, the more you can identify, and the more you, uh,
   "About the size of it.  Still a lot of things going by ear and
   "Okay, then what's the intuition got to do with you and Maxine anyway?"
Jeff winced, but kept eye contact with his sister as she pressed on.  "I
mean, sure, maybe it was talking about the hero gig, but I kinda think
there's a bit more."  She pouted lightly, even if it was hard to not see
the small hurt in her eyes.  While Maxine and Jeff were of a general age,
that hadn't been much a barrier to them becoming as close.
   Jeff took a breath and prepped for the explosion.  "That's not for me
to say."
   "So that's a secret you're going to keep, huh?"  Peggy's voice
surprised him a bit for the lack of volume.  It made what he said hurt all
the more to him, but he took a breath and plowed on.  Trust works both
   He shook his head.  "No, I said it's not for me to say.  That's
Maxine's to.  For what it's worth, I told her you'd pick up on it.   So,
Ask Her.  If she doesn't, tell me."  He smiled tiredly.  "I'll either
knock some sense into her head, or else I'll give her a deadline."  One,
he noted, much earlier than the one they knew Maxine had.
   For a moment, Peggy looked mulish, the desire to press the one who
wasn't fifteen miles away obvious, but again she relented with a
nod. "Okay.  I guess if I had something like it, I'd rather have that... I
guess."  She looked down.  "Maybe I'm a bit more jealous than I figured. I
mean, you've got all the cool revelations with you and the superguy for a
dad and all..."
   Jeff rose and pulled his sister up and gave her a tight hug, ruffling
her hair as he released her.  "Well, don't count it all out.  I mean,
Maxine's our cousin on Mom's side after all..."
   "Yeah, but both her parents were in the biz..."
   "Exactly the point I'm making, squirt."  Jeff grinned a bit.  "Maybe
good things come to those who wait."
    "Mmmmaybe."  She allowed as she tried to deruffle her hair.  "But that
doesn't mean I'm not jealous.  Going to be in for dinner?"
    "Yeah, I'll be there in a second."  He waved a moment as she moved
off, then looked to his hand a moment.  As he watched, the hand lost
slight definition before he slammed it into a large rock by the stump. His
hand didn't move, the rock, did as the sonic resonance reacted with its
structure.  It moved away.  In fragments.
    Aunt Reba's old group had two different members who did funky things
with sound, and only one of them was female.  Mask Principle aside, it
wasn't hard to make a guess on that line...
    "Uh-huh, just on my father's side.  I'm really sure."

*--- The Vixen

-- June 11, 1997 (*)

   There are places in many cities that are not ever on the tourist
guides.  Not because they're not quaint, with good friendly people and
meals and drinks that are less quality than many a place listed in those
guides, but because of those guides themselves.  Places that don't wish to
cater to those who read the guides, but to those who qualify as locals to
whatever yardstick the proprietor chooses to use.
   "The Laughing Vixen" was one of those places, the name a tip of the hat
to what he considered one of the few non-local locals to grace his pub.
This was because she had followed him moving as his reputation had grown
beyond what he'd like it to be.  The regulars generally found him quick
enough.  Not as quick as the brown haired woman who was there, usually -to
the moment- he reopened under another name.
   Her arrival was always a tip of the duster the balding man wore as much
for affectation as vanity.  The drink he got her wasn't on the house,
unless he failed the unspoken game they played as she arrived.  A look at
what she wore, the attitude (though she was always a lady, to him) she
gave as she walked, and things like that formed his first 'drink order'
for her.  In the now many years he'd known her, he had gotten rather good
on his estimation, and so placed a light lager in front of the woman as
she removed her coat.
   She nodded thanks, sipping the drink a moment before holding it up to
him with a nod of thanks.   Her clothing was decidedly casual this
evening, a turtleneck sweater and dark slacks giving an air of relaxed
grace which went more with a beer than a wine's refinement this night. The
barkeep was about to ask if she was looking for some food to go with it
this blust'ry night when the door opened and another came in.  He frowned
as the man who walked in had two strikes against him already. Stranger and
   His patron seemed to have the same feeling as he did, her eyes turning
to the door as the man brushed off some of the sodden moisture of the
winter mix outside.  She sipped again at her drink, one hand draped to her
coat, her fingers clenched slightly to it.  The man took upon himself to
take a seat next to the woman.
   The interloper looked over the bottles of liquor and beer cans along
the back of the bar.  "Ah, Kirin Ichiban."  The barkeep raised an eyebrow
and went to grab the drink.  The reaction from the woman next door wasn't
as obvious, but she let her hand move from her coat.
   "I'm surprised.  I was rather expecting either one of the french
choices, or perhaps 'what she's having.'"  She continued to sip her beer,
not turning to face the man quite yet.
   "Either of which you'd either be leaving, or ignoring me for the boor
I'd proven to be."  His voice was deep, but relaxed.  Amused and
selfconfident, perhaps, but not giving a direct threat.  "As a matter of
fact, I'd tried the beer a while back and found it a diverting difference.
The lager is better, but I'll take the ichiban."
   "After all, one should be looking out for number one," she commented
with mild irony.  She sipped a bit more at her glass.  "Which I should
take heed myself, but I suppose I'm in a gambling mood again."
   "On my intentions, perhaps?"  He smiled as he accepted his own
drink. "I would claim my intentions were purely noble, but I'd be lying.
But then again, nothing illegal to them nor intending harms way to you,
Ms. Du--"
   "The Dupuis line died years ago.  Please, do both of us a favor and not
use it in my presence."  The chill tone of her interruption wasn't
mirrored at all in her face, as she took another sip of her beer.  "And
I'd suggest to not get too flowery with your speech.  Currently, I'm of
mind that this drink might be all I need here tonight."
   The man didn't change his expression either, sipping his own
drink. "Very well.  Would it be better to call you Ms. Reynaud?"  As he
spoke he did turn to look at her straight on, any pretense of indirection
evaporating as he did.
   "Charlie.. I think I need to take a booth for the moment."  La Reynaud,
formerly Renee Dupuis, smiled the old man as she rose.  "I'm afraid I
misjudged what kind of evening this was.  It's a rare enough thing these
   The barkeep nodded.  "Would ye be wishing for food, milady?  Or is it
still jus' to be that one draught?"  He looked to the man darkly, his own
impression of what he thought of people who pressured away those he
   "Mmm.  Perhaps so.  The choice cut, if you will, with the usual trim?"
She glanced to the gentleman.  "And I do believe he'll be paying for it
now, just as a matter of good faith."
   The man smiled, still unperturbed.  "This time, I -will- say, 'as she
ordered', since that sounds excellent."  He put down a hundred dollar bill
and rose.  "Meal and any additional expenses, I think."
   The Fox nodded to herself and rose, taking her coat with her to a
booth, sitting with her back to the front door.  The man took the other
side, with ease.  "You did a remarkable job to find me.  I haven't
undertaken any personal or business dealings in... some time."
   "Three years, though that assumes we didn't miss a few of your more
subtle traps and tricks.  You do not, after all, leave much of a calling
card, considering your penchant for puzzles and traps."
   She gave a small nod to her head, hand raising a moment in a phantom
blade's salute.  "Touche.  I haven't had any real need to, and the
challenge got dull.  Depressingly, the local challengers have failed to
even notice anything, mister...."
   "Gideon will do, I think.  It even has the novelty of being my actual
first name."  He smiled a bit, trying to be disarming, she supposed.  It
might work if one wasn't always wary.  Or, she amended, aware.
   "So that would be Gideon du Soleil, then."  The Fox kept her smile
subtle as his attention sharpened in some undefined manner.  He then
smiled and held his own drink in a small salute as well.  "Since if it was
du Lune, I highly doubt you'd even give me that much of an introduction."
   "I wouldn't be sure there, but your deductive skills are quite
uncanny." he admitted ruefully, "Neither of our branches of the family are
the kind to draw attention to ourselves."
   "Not in general, but I do have a habit of keeping track and tabs of
people and things of legend... it was rather profitable for me more times
than not."  The Fox sipped her drink as she allowed Gideon time to digest
that fact.
   He had the grace to take that moment, and then continue on. "What I was
hoping for was a better opening for this," he admitted after a moment.
"Have you ever considered a child?"
   "In many ways I'm rather sure your question does not."  She sipped at
her drink a moment to cover her frown of surprise.  Of all things to be
pigeonholed on, that fell so far down the list that she was rather sure
the fall of Atlantis was much more likely.  "On the other hand, I'll
venture that isn't an idle question.  And considering your... family's
fascination with lineage, that question is far from idle."
   His demeanor changed slightly as the questions went back to more
familiar and less delicate ground.  "Yes, it is, especially since the
branches have been rather bare of late, of the purer lines.  There's
perhaps only four in my generation, split evenly among the Sun and the
   "Not you, of course." She sipped again this time watching his reaction
with practiced yet casual intensity.
   "No, I'm second born.  My brother had been, but met his fate far too
early in life."  His tone was wistful and regretful.  "However, I think
the odds are good my line would be one to continue the line, of those
   "I see you ascribe to false modesty as a sin," she murmured.  "And yet
I'm quite sure there are many a woman with a better pedigree, even
allowing for those few with enough... discretion for the approach."
   "Perhaps, but you haven't been the only one to keep abreast of
activities within one's purview."  He leaned slightly closer.  He was, she
allowed, quite charismatic as he turned on the charm.  "You've been the
queen of the game, whatever game you choose.  Yet you've walked away
without taking a prize more than a token.  And most are aware you could
have.  Well, those who recognized the game they were in.  And that alone
was a bit fascinating."
   The Fox sighed.  "Perhaps from the outside, but not from my view.  It
was more disappointing than not."  She cut into her steak with deft hands.
"I took a prize commiserate with the challenge.  Which as you can see,
wasn't much."
   "Then perhaps this challenge will appeal.  Allow me time to press my
case.  I would hazard that a child is one of those that is constantly
   "If a commitment."  She looked up, her eyes flashing warning.  "If I do
so, you do realize that I would not do it by half measures.  And as much
as your family feud is interesting historically, I have no direct
   "It should not matter much, aside from the child receiving the training
and care that is his or her birthright.  And I would not dare sending the
mother away, even if it would not be so... unwise."  Gideon leaned back a
moment, taking a serious moment.  "There are sins one cannot avoid, and
ones that one cannot abide."
   "I've found that man may find many things he can abide that he was sure
he could not."  Renee shook her head a moment.  "No matter.  I'm sure I
can walk out the door now and not worry on it again."
   "You could," Gideon agreed amiably.  The Fox sighed inwardly, but
merely smiled as he continued.  "But you won't."
   "You've one month to convince me you're more witty than insufferable."
Her tone was bemused more than not.  "Or perhaps other qualities to
endear.  There are many things I will or will not do, but perhaps it's a
bit better than not.  And, I'll admit... more than my curiosity is
   He took a sip of his drink, considering her a moment, then deciding it
fair game.  "What else?"
   "A mystery I don't know the ending or the solution to yet.  I doubt you
realize how few and far between those are."
    Gideon showed restraint and merely nodded, holding his glass up in
salute.   She brought her own to touch.  Ten months later, as the house of
the Sun welcomed the little Lionne to their compound, she realized that
the challenge she'd taken on might be bigger than she'd anticipated.  The
stakes however were simply bigger than she'd imagined. Her tears were
ascribed to joy and the pain of the birth.
   They were only half right.

*--- Errant Login

-- April 28, 1998

   Domain name resolution is wonderful when one needs to recall the
location of a website or a computer connected to the Internet, but on
occasion a machine has no external name to resolve to it.  Without it, one
has to recall the four digits between 0 and 255 where the machine resides,
assuming that it has a public address facing the Internet.  Of course, one
of the reasons for DNS is because it's so easy to mistakenly type one
number for another...

   Mark sipped his liter bottle of dew as he settled down at his home
computer.  It was the weekend, it was the break week for his live games,
and he had nothing better he wanted to do.  He grinned and pulled out his
little notepad and set up a terminal window and start the ssh connection
to his compatriot's workmachine.  While the database work was his bread
and butter, his friend had clued him in he'd been putting in some side
time on a little project closer to Mark's interest.
   While the massively-multiplayer games were finally showing up for the
masses, it never interested Mark so much.  He'd always been more
interested in the text-based multi-user dungeon/environs.  Especially
those which allowed the players to design and build up their own environs
and tools.  Granted, that required a bit more trust than most of the
combat-oriented MU*s allowed, but nonetheless he enjoyed it hugely.
   His friend had claimed he'd finally figured out to link the two styles
better, and even was working on limited graphical avatar support. While a
bit skeptical, Mark's interest peaked all the more to that, so badgered
the IP of the machine and got a 'guest account' to the server. Now as he
typed, he frowned, looking over the note.
  "God, I can't even make it out myself... is that a thirty seven or did
an eighty seven smudge...  ahwell, only one'll work, right?"  He shook
head and went to type it in.  To make matters worse later, he fatfingered
another digit but didn't notice as the login screen showed. Quickly, he
typed in the account and password he was given, and grinned as the screen
changed to a customized prompt.

WELCOME user, to the REFUGE.

Last Login: unavailable


   Mark checked his notes and typed "persona", clicking enter.  His friend
had wanted to wait till he'd had documentation to give out, but Mark knew
that'd be forever.  So he was playing it blind, which suited him fine, as
it allowed him to pretend he was his friend's first beta tester.  Or alpha
tester, even.

> Persona creation requested.  Form of persona?

   He paused at that, wondering a bit.  Well, it's not like there's been
any presentation or options listed.  Something to let him know it could be
useful later.  He considered his options, then looked over at the
corkboard by his computer.  All the characters on the boards were
retired' from the campaigns he'd played them in.  He considered, then
chose one from a PBEM he'd played in the year before.  Why not?

# Android heroine

> Searching... loading modules.  Begin physical description?

  Mark grinned and cracked his knuckles.  Time to see how much the buffer
could take.  Besides, his friend knew how much he was a detail hound he
was, so might as well give him the full bore test...


   On the other end of the line, the Redundant Engineering Fabricator's
Use Generation Editor accepted the input passively.  After all, this was
what it was designed for, though its processors hadn't been ever used for
something of this scope and magnitude.  Branching and spawning the modules
the control program's internal logic indicates would be required.  As the
input continued, the processor activated a sideboard that the creator of
REFUGE hadn't quite cleared for general use.  But from the looks of the
request, a bit of research could need to be done. REFUGE didn't mind,
since despite its local interface, it didn't have one that could
comprehend emotions.  If anything, it justified its existence aside from
its caretaker functions.
   As the sideboard processed the requirements, it started to formulate
searches using the protocols available to it. It opened ports to various
locations as information was consumed and sorted silently.  One gopher
query lead down to an interesting branch or two.  Follow up posts
following the patterns set led to others, and slowly a map of progress
started to be built.  In the corner of REFUGE's main monitor a small
progress bar incremented to "0.01%", the estimated time not given.

   Elsewhere, a hand turned off an old campus server before the disc
inside died.  Dustin smiled and pulled the plug from the box, letting the
ancient 'secrets' left on its antiquated gopher 'share'  be lost again as
it had been for almost half a decade.  The message had already been
delivered to whom he wanted, so the bottle wasn't needed anymore.
   Slipping to the a table in the closed and empty library, he pulled a
deck of cards out from his sash and started shuffling it with practice
ease.  Each card flipped with a flourish as he dealt a hand before him. A
King with face of painted woad, a Queen in armor mail, a Jack with monocle
and hand held high and straight.  His smile shifted just enough to be a
smirk, as he went to flip the next two.
   An Ace, but not of any of the traditional suits, but what looked to be
a flying serpent.  He paused at that, the smirk slipping to a more subtle
smile than usual.  He placed the card back in and shuffled again.  The
same card placed itself into the fourth position, as if taunting.
   "This... means something."  He smirked at a personal jest in the
statement, then turned over the last card for the hand.
   The last card was the joker of the deck, though instead of the European
jester, a woman with a fox face and multiple tails hid her nose with a
fan.  He looked on the card a long moment, his permanent good mood seeming
to be threatened.
   "No," he murmured to himself.  "I'm sorry, but you are the ace of this
run, the game doesn't allow cards running wild."  He shuffled the cards
again, the King remaining where it was.  The next card, unchanged, was the
Joker.  He stopped and looked at the card again intently.  His eyes lit up
as comprehension dawned.
   "Of course.  The mother, not the child.  Well.  We'll have to see if we
can finesse that a little bit."  He chided the card.  "After all, your
daughter has a date to keep with me soon."
   He rose, smirking as he walked toward the hall. As he did, he seemed to
fade, his voice the last thing to leave the room.  "One doesn't keep me
waiting after all."


Copyright 2008, James Rinehart.  All rights reserved.  "The Fox/Renee
Dupuis" co-created with Chris Angelini for the Matters of Perspective
Miniseries.  Jeff 'Perceptor' derived from characters and planning from
Mike Escutia's Hero Patrol.  Opening lead quote from "Only the Young"
performed by Journey.

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