ASH: ASH #116: A Fire Afar Off Part 3 - Like Fire At A Distance

Andrew Perron pwerdna at
Mon Apr 16 09:30:28 PDT 2012

On Thu, 12 Apr 2012 21:44:39 +0000 (UTC), Dave Van Domelen wrote:

>      [The cover shows the view over someone's shoulder as they walk down the
> street reading a copy of Don Quixote from a portable computer screen.  The
> street scene seems normal enough, but in the distance firefighters are
> combating a blaze.  On the screen, part of a woman's face is peeking in from
> the edge of the page.]


>      Weapons Master quirked an eyebrow behind his visor.  He'd expected the
> energy pulses his sword was sending out to have attracted some mystic
> sensitives by now, but it sounded like Colina was working an entirely
> different angle.  That, or those energy pulses tasted like Jotun.  He really
> didn't want to know what Jotun tasted like, actually.

I bet they're really sweaty, eugh.

> In fact, from what he saw in her file while trying to find someone to recruit
> for this project, he was pretty sure that the Freedom Alliance couldn't have
> both Gauntlet and Esmeralda in it at the same time.  She was a native of
> Mexico City, raised Catholic, and more recently had become a close friend of
> Arin Kelsey.  Before being "cured" and taking on the Gauntlet identity,
> Joshua Cole had raped Arin, blown apart a big chunk of Mexico City, and he'd
> gotten awfully close to assassinating the Pope.
>      So.  Not good for intrateam cohesion.

"I was being driven insane by my powers" isn't quite as good an excuse as
"I was mind-controlled".

>      After skirting some laws and outright breaking a few others, Marshal
> Nate Walker had been put on probation for a while,

Oh, cool - consequences, even if offscreen ones.

>      Nate's whitecell pinged.  Some people thought it was weird that a
> tech-head like him would have a piece of consumer-level trash like that, but
> he was enough of a pro to recognize that not all attack vectors came from
> brute force supercomputers.  Sometimes the sloppy coding that went into
> consumer electronics let a talented cracker slip between the lines of
> security designed to stop dedicated rigs.

Well, that makes perfect sen--

>      And it had some really good games that he could play without tying up
> resources on his real gear during virtual stakeouts.

Wonk wonk waaaaaaa

>      Nate frowned.  "Couldn't the original ADA have been modified?  Why did
> she have to die?"
>      ADA-6 shook her head.  "The terms don't apply cleanly to ACs, Marshal.
> In one respect, ADA-1 is still alive inside me, but it is more analogous to
> the way a reptile lives on in the core structure of a mammal's brain.  At
> some point, an AC undergoing evolution will decide that the old 'self' no
> longer exists in any practical sense, and we become our own offspring.  An
> archive of the original code has historical interest, so I suppose I have
> left a string of virtual corpses as I upgraded, but if I possess a personal
> soul as humans believe they do, this is more like reincarnation than anything
> else humans have."

Interesting.  I didn't even consider the opportunity for - not to mention
the necessity of - self-upgrading.

>      ADA-6 shook her head.  "I'm afraid it's a matter of greater import than
> the peccadillos of some actor or...poet," she shuddered slightly.

Bwahahaha. <3 Lovelace lives!

> [November 29, 2026 - Between Spaces]
>      "Finally figured it out...I think.  This is gonna hurt."
>      Place foot.
>      Reach out.  "Wall's down."
>      Stride forward. 
>      Keep going.
>      Not being stopped yet.
>      Keep going.
>      "Ow."  
>      There's the wall.
>      Wait for it....
>      Fade to darkness.


>      As much as he would have liked to keep goading her into the sort of
> classic TwenCen villain soliloquy that Radner used to practice when he
> thought no one at the Academy was listening,

<Derek> Fools!  Did you think that your miniscule minds could truly
appreciate the genius of my Machiavellian design!?
<Teller> *walks by* It's pronounced 'Mak-ee-uh-vell-ee-uhn'.
<Derek> ...*fumes*

>      "Agreed, I felt that one," the middle-aged scientist nodded.  "So this
> box is a compromise.  Robotic arms turn the pages, cameras will pick up the
> results and produce a readable image for you on the screen.  If it looks like
> any page is a, that's a..."
>      "Reused sheet, I know."
>      "Right.  If it looks like you have a palimpsest, there's an option to
> switch frequencies and try to read the original.

Those are so cool.

>      Catalina knows I am sane...or at least that I am no more insane than the
> world itself.  The magic of the sword accepts her, as it does very few, so
> when I saved her from demons in the guise of trees, she was briefly able to
> see them for their true selves.  She does not wish to repeat any part of that
> experience, but as her own village thinks her touched and she lacks the
> shield of noble eccentricity, I have agreed to bring her home with me.
>      She will make for an interesting wife, and keep things from becoming too
> dull now that I have no giants to fight.  And Sancho agrees that behind her
> sharp tongue she has genuine affection for this old madman.


>      I saw a demon today.  It was just as father had told me, in all of those
> stories he passed on before his death from illness ten years hence.  A
> wrongness in the air made me seek out the sword hidden behind my
> grandfather's portrait, and once I gripped it I could see the giant hunched
> over in the field, pretending to be a bale of hay.
>      It had a confused, haggard mein.  Had it been lost, wandering nearly
> two-score years since father defeated its brethren?  Or a scout for a new
> invasion, disoriented from arriving in a strange land it had only known from
> its own father...if demons have fathers?

Or perhaps simply a lost explorer.

>      "And that's it for this volume," Weapons Master shrugged as the machine
> slowly turned a procession of blank pages.  "The Z-liens didn't come back in
> Hamete's lifetime, or his son's, but I guess they kept the family lore alive
> long enough that Carlos Quixano had some idea what was going on.  I wonder if
> any of those cows got magic powers?" he mused.

Z-lien Kill Krew?

>      Esmeralda was deep in contemplation, nearly missing that Chuck had said
> anything.  "Hamed...if that's Hamed of the Toledo Circle, it would be
> consistent with my reading of the spellcrafting..."
>      "Sounds plausible to me, Glyph," Weapons Master nodded.  "But before we
> go on, why don't you tell me where the real Esmeralda is?"


>      Apologies for letting the main series hang for so many months between
> installments, I've been letting myself get distracted by one-shots and side
> projects.  When you're the editor in chief, you get to do that sort of
> thing.  Hopefully I'll get #117 written before it's time to pack up and move
> again (didn't get the tenure-track job in Kearney, on the hunt for a new job

It happens. :/

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, the pulse-pounding conclusion!

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