[ASH] REPOST: ASH #123 - City of Night Part 4: The Midnight Oil

Drew Nilium pwerdna at gmail.com
Thu Nov 11 13:52:16 PST 2021

On 10/11/21 1:33 PM, Dave Van Domelen wrote:
>       [The cover is an homage to the stapler-taking scene in the
>        movie Office Space, with Solar Max having his stapler (which
>        is mostly red but has his orange and yellow insignia on it as
>        well) taken away by a shadowy silhouette with an insincere
>        grin standing out white against the blackness.]

X3 Awwww yeah, here we go

>       The normally untalkative Oni was, oddly, the one to break the silence
> following Solar Max's suggestion that they use the Multiversal Office as a
> pathway into Berlin.
>       "You weren't there, Hotspur.  We were just guarding the door."
>       That broke the tension, and while no one actually laughed or even
> snickered, there was a palpable sense that most people wanted to.

Heeheehee :3

>       "Are you sure that's safe?" Gerhard Hesse, the STRAFE representative,
> asked.  "I've seen some of the paperwork generated by the new Combine Office
> of Alternative Personhood [see Time Capsules #13 - Ed.], but they've only
> been working on this for a few months.  An awful lot of our most useful
> people to send into Berlin might still have some classification issues."

Oh, I'd forgotten about that. <3

> And trying to clear up that mess would
> cause a diplomatic fecal-nado with the MC.

X3 What a good term

>       "I'll want a decent-sized team at this end in case things go completely
> pear-shaped and darkness demons come pouring out the door," Solar Max added,
> "and that should also include a few veterans of the Office to make a second
> attempt if we never come out.

Darkness demons in business casual!! D:

>       "There should be more than one mage," Terrastar pointed out.  "Assuming
> that the Office will admit me to the EU branch, I doubt there'd be any issues
> surrounding my...paperwork."
>       Arc was the first to reply, "Non.  I'm more concerned that your status
> as a royal heir on your Earth would give you too much power in the Office,
> and the EU is not willing to grant you access to our section of the
> Multiversal Office."

Ah, an excellent point. X3;;;

>       "Think like a villain?" Sadi smirked.  "Indeed.  Helping my patron run
> a city of 'villainy,'" he looked like he was about to make air-quotes but
> only barely restrained himself,


>       "It's so empty," Poniente noted as the door shut behind them, leaving
> the sextet fully within the interdimensional reality.  "There's no soul to
> this room, even though it looks like someone just stepped out for coffee,"
> she ran a gloved hand along the top of the reception desk, coming away
> totally clean.  "It's...waiting."
>       "The Office wants to be used," Meteor nodded, "but it's a trap.  Like a
> pitcher plant.  Maybe accepting its invitation would benefit us in the long
> run, but..." she shuddered, her speed rendering it almost a buzz.

I feel like I've acquired a new perspective on things since I wrote the issue of 
ALNHT?R? with Library Lad and the Office... I should come back to that sometime...

>       "I don't sense any electricity," Oni looked about the reception room,
> then up at the overhead lights.  "The surface details all look like one would
> expect from a modern office, but the lights...just work.  No current, the
> light isn't really light either.  We just think there's light."
>       "And that isn't ominous at all, is it?"

Indeed. o3o;

> The plant does have an aura of life, but it's
> incredibly faint and indistinguishable from the aura of this desk, or the
> carpet.  I think the entire dimension is alive, its spirit spread out over an
> unimaginable volume."

ooooooh fascinating

>       Meteor paused.  "I think you're right.  Which is weird, because it's
> Saturday, you'd think it'd feel less alive.  Assuming the Office observes
> weekends.  It's always Monday somewhere, I guess?"

Mission to Margaritaville!

>       "Worst case, it means Lady Sable's already sent some people through from
> her end..." Pasteur smiled in a very discomfiting way.

Oh dear.

> One of the stranger
> results of this new world "translating" the refugees of M'emba's home reality
> was that many of the common folk shared one of a handful of appearances.  It
> was never something she recalled being a significant issue back home, the
> similarity was sometimes noted but was never a real problem.  Here, they
> formed what amounted to clone cohorts, down to the DNA.  Most of them even
> shared a given name, such as Tyrone, but even those who didn't have the
> "family" name had come to be referred to by the most common name of their
> genetic type.

Hmmmmm, I see, I see

>       "What would you ask of me, honored rock?" M'emba arched her eyebrow.
>       "If you don't recognize a communication spell, shaman, then we might not
> have any use for each other," a woman's voice spoke as lips formed on the
> surface of the stone.  "But if I could not recognize sarcasm, the same would
> be true."

X3 <3

>       "My gods are dead, because we killed them millennia ago," the stone
> replied.  "Judging by what the gods did in this world, I'd say we made the
> right decision.

I mean, fair.

> Now, this is purest supposition, but I have learned
> that the existence of magic means that wild coincidences are more likely than
> people would think.  I believe that our would-be new goddess might have found
> a way to feed upon the power of your dead god...or someone enough like him
> for you to feel the similarity."

Awwwww shit! (I mean, we, the audience, knew that, but awwwww shit!)

>       "So, the only way to find out more is to open the door," Sadi shrugged,
> stepping forwards.  "I'll open it and get out of the way, while one of you
> sturdier sorts stands ready to greet the room?"

"Greet the room" is such a good term for it.

>       Every cubicle within view was occupied by a featureless female humanoid
> figure, like a mannequin made from the thinnest porcelain.  None of them
> looked towards the door or gave any sign they could see or hear anything
> other than their workload.
>       "What are...?" Poniente started to ask as she edged out of hiding.
>       "Matrioshkas.  The Impossible Five have infiltrated the Multiversal
> Office somehow," Solar Max replied.

!!! Holy shit :o Didn't expect that!

>       "Yes, I know it's the weekend," she replied to the annoyed voice on the
> other end.  "Otto's taken the whole trust fund.  Yes, you know I have ways of
> knowing, but check for yourself.  None of his other little hacks got away
> with much before the watchdog programs kicked in, you need to get someone
> on...WHAT?  The system thinks he's an adult now?  How the...it thinks this is
> the year 2052?"

Oh no. X3

>       "Makes sense," Meteor observed as the rest of the group slowly left the
> reception area, Pasteur last of them.  "If any one of the shells could remain
> under Matrioshka's control long enough to do useful work, she wouldn't have
> needed to spawn off so many."
>       "Or she got a LOT of work done," Pasteur pointed out.
>       "Thanks, I was trying to not think about that," Arc sighed.


> "I guess we
> just have to hope that whatever the Impossible Five's mission here was, it
> failed.  I don't suppose we can figure out how long ago these shells were
> abandoned to their fate?"

Oh huhhhh, I see

>       "Meteor, try a quick in-out and see if anything reacts?" Arc suggested,
> and Solar Max nodded.
>       As soon as the speedster started to move, the nearest Matrioshkas leapt
> from their cubicles and barred the way, with Meteor almost slamming into them
> before reversing course.

Well then. o.o

>       "Czzzn't kkkktrrrl..." the normally silent shell sputtered before
> bursting into nanoparticle dust.
>       As one, all of the Matrioshkas swarmed towards the assembled heroes
> (and one villain).
>       "Oni must've hit a security override!" Solar Max shouted.
>       "I hate fight scenes!"

I love 'em :3

>       The next minute or so was a flurry of porcelain shards and dust as the
> mindless and effectively directionless shells executed some sort of failsafe
> that even the Office hadn't weeded out of them.  Unlike the fight around
> Monaco, though, they did not seem particularly dangerous and were quite
> fragile.
>       Before long, the office was faintly dusty for the first time in perhaps
> its entire history, the dust being made up of self-destructed nanoparticle
> armor.


>       "And we might as well go back now," Pasteur said, poking up out of the
> cubicle and pointing past the group.  "The Berlin door is gone."

Awwwww shit, knew it couldn't be that easy

>       "That's something, at least.  The Office wanted them to continue
> existing.  I presume that any humans caught at one of those desks would never
> have to worry about starving to death, either.  For all its power, the Office
> seems to need workers, even such minimally living ones as your shells.

Hmmmmmm yes.

> Time travel theory has
> never been very reliable, maybe our home still exists somewhere and somewhen
> in the multiverse, but we do know that there are still barriers between many
> of the alternatives, even leaving aside the infamous 1998 Barrier.  Best to
> make the most of what we have in this new timeline, and continue the long
> game."

Awwww c'mon, it's fun! *is split among seventeen fractal selves*

Drew "fweemish vroomly" Nilium

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