[ASH] ASH #125 - City of Night Part 6: Doorway Into Night
pwerdna at gmail.com
Sun Nov 14 09:31:25 PST 2021
On 10/11/21 2:18 PM, Dave Van Domelen wrote:
> [cover is dominated by a polished black wood mask that is carved
> in the image of a man's face, but there is only darkness behind
> the eye and mouth holes. Fainly reflected in the wood is the
> helmet of Solar Max's armor.]
> TerraStar and Sadi Pasteur
> might technically both have connections to Khadam, but had no reason to trust
> or like each other, and sat quite distant from each other.
> Delta Rose, who
> had been invited to this meeting for purely informational purposes, likewise
> sat alone.
Yaaaaaay it's her~
> If you'd told Claire Auger in 2022 that one day she'd be representing
> the EU on the world stage like this, she'd probably have had a mild nervous
> She was the muscle. But when the nominal brains of EUROPA had
> been killed or otherwise taken out of action, she'd stepped up. Now she
> barely gave it a moment's thought. Arc was the leader, so she led.
Fuck yeah. <3 <3 <3
> Looking at the timeline, Lady Sable was clearly laying groundwork for action
> in Berlin months before the arrival of the extradimensional deathgod whose
> power she seems to be using. Whatever her real plan is, the deathgod's
> arrival was a very helpful coincidence, but she was already in motion on
> "Thank you. While the phrase 'common knowledge' may not really be
> appropriate in a field of study containing only a few score serious scholars,
> nonetheless it was common knowledge that none of the powerful magical
> artifacts looted by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s remained in Berlin.
> Those which hadn't been destroyed during the waning days of the war were
> themselves looted by the allied powers, ending up in vaults in a number of
> different countries.
Yeah that sounds right.
> Hemera. Very obscure goddess of the dawn, and as
> far as merely linear and causal archaeology can tell, what worshippers she
> had were absorbed by Eos. In some tellings, she is the daughter of Nyx, in
> others the sister..."
> "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown," Simon Smith interjected quietly, yet
> somehow everyone heard.
> if she could set the
> sisters' powers against each other and then leverage it into stealing part of
> each's aspect to carve out her own space as a new primal god. My theory is
> that she might seek to embody the idea of 'darkest before the dawn' in some
> fashion, and the power of a deathgod could certainly feed into that."
> "They INCLUDED," Pasteur took back the spotlight,
> A large bronze doorway, said to be modeled after
> the one through which Nyx and Hemera passed each other each morning. So,
> there's our way in. Lady Sable brought a door inside and we just need to
> find a way to go through it," he finished smugly.
> the door can only be held open during the brief period of time that is dawn,
> that's the price of using this mystic resonance."
> "Something tells me that this will be an all or nothing strike anyway,"
> Arc replied.
That certainly sounds dramatically correct.
> She smiled in a way that was meant to be reassuring but really really
> I know you don't trust
> me, and frankly I don't trust any plan with too many single points of failure
> to it. Backup, backup, backup.
I mean, legit
> My time connected to Heraclius gave me quite
> a lot of opportunity to examine the shackles that could bind a mortal soul to
> a semi-divine one, and I thought of several ways to sever that bond.
> Unfortunately, all of those planned rather required being on the outside of
> the bond, so thank you for getting me out.
> "And we're fairly confident the deathgod wants to be free, based on
> information from M'emba," Poniente added, anticipating the objection. "Yes,
> we have no idea what to do with the freed deathgod, but worst case scenario
> it runs away and is a problem for later.
This sort of thing is true for a lot of ASH plans, huh. X3
> "I have one," Lightfoot raised his hand, then put it down somewhat
> abashedly. "Well, two, but since one of them is to say I got the Chinatown
> reference, only one good one.
> "Then why not put the gate on Venus?" Lightfoot asked. "Dawn there
> takes a really long time. And I could take everyone there while the gate is
> built onboard the ship."
> It *might* still
> work, but I would rather not risk failure on a technicality that it's never
> dawn if the Sun is never fully up."
> "I trained at the Vikna facility, I remember this time of year the Sun
> does make it all the way up, but it takes quite a while that close to the
> Arctic Circle," Agent Rivera offered. "Plus, we already have facilities
> there, and if the battle spills back out the gate the wrong way it's easier
> to contain than doing it just outside Berlin."
Nice nice nice. <3
> Default, though,
> is the speedsters plus Terrastar in as our first mystic asset, since she's
> tough enough to handle anything that might arrive in the way of
> reinforcements, and Poniente is a bit less tank-like."
> "And here I thought I was a graceful flower of femininity," Terrastar
> smiled sweetly, holding her ultradense mace as if it were a bouquet.
I love her. X3 <3
> No one wanted Pasteur or Smith to go through the portal. In particular,
> Pasteur himself had no desire to go through it. It wasn't that he mistrusted
> his own work on the gate, he just was very squishy by comparison to even
> "You have no idea how hard I'm biting my tongue right now, trying to not
> invoke Murphy's Law," Scorch muttered.
> "I'm still getting signal from outside," Solar Max ignored the comment.
> Ignoring Scorch was something he'd gotten used to before the pyrokinetic had
> finally gotten around to growing up.
> There was a pause in which he guessed Solar Max was nodding, then
> realizing that the oversized powersuit didn't convey that in the way his
> normal armor did.
> "Yes. The comm link is secure, so set the deadman's
> switch. All they have to do is pull the cable out, and the artifact gets
> introduced to the wonders of modern high explosives."
> "Hold off a moment," Contact suggested. "We're doing a scan for minds
> nearby first...okay, not getting any pings, no one around to notice the
> cameras turning on." No one was bothered by Contact's use of the plural,
> even though he'd integrated more fully with Paul Mahler's memories lately, he
> still tended to think of Paul as a passenger in his head rather than as a set
> of memories and what amounted to elaborate inner dialogue.
Plural feelings, there.
> "Relax, heroes," Terrastar had said as she crushed the skull of one of
> the attacking Vogue Ghouls with her mace, sending a shower of red and gray
> against a piece of outdoor sculpture. "No souls in these, Sable has already
> turned them into...zombies, I suppose you'd call them. She must be running
> low on power if she's starting to eat the souls of her followers, that's good
> for us."
Holy well then. o.o;;;
> Obviously, the masks were important, so Tom had tried removing one in
> the hopes that it would free the victim, or at least let them die in a single
> piece. That...had been a mistake. The masks were bonded to the skulls of
> the wearers, but the bodies themselves were already decomposing, and a head
> had come off in his hands. And kept snarling after being removed.
> tried other non-lethal methods in case the masks could be taken off safely
> later, but the bodies kept getting back up and the only solution was zombie
> movie rules. It was a lot cooler when you were watching it on TV or in a
> theater, and not getting pieces of what used to be people on your boots and
> in your hair.
> They wore masks similar to those of the cannon fodder, but it might be
> more accurate to say that they WERE the masks now. A collection of carved
> wooden pieces floated in a rough approximation of a body, connected by
> twisting tendrils of shadow. Whoever these had been, whatever abilities made
> them useful to Sable at one time, they were now shadow golems of some sort.
> In fact...Terrastar paused to concentrate...yes, they actually had more than
> one soul each. Sable had torn the souls from the bodies of the "zombies" and
> infused them into new shells, more powerful shells.
Ha ha holy fucking shit. o.o;;;;
> "AH, YOU HAVE COME TO MAKE SACRIFICES OF YOURSELVES!" a new voice boomed
> from everywhere and nowhere. "YOU SAVE ME THE TROUBLE OF FETCHING YOU!"
Love a drama queen. <3
> All of that went through Terrastar's mind in an eyeblink. She'd been
> trained in small group tactics by the best her universe had to offer, and her
> assessment of her allies amounted to, "adequate, at least for now."
> The form of Lady Sable...at least, the form she wished to project...
> coalesced from shadows as a titanic and voluptuous woman in flowing gowns of
> shadowy lace.
> Nothing at all what the woman looked like underneath the
> glamours, even allowing for the size, but Terrastar knew the value of
> projecting a false impression and didn't begrudge the mage that bit of
I mean, fair.
> While she might be putting on the airs of someone
> above it all, Polla was fairly confident that Sable was still a petty bitch
> underneath it all, and odds were good that she'd pick one of her previous
> opponents to kill immediately.
> Total invulnerability doesn't help if your brain screams at you that
> you're a soft fleshy bag of meat and you're gonna die.
> The mote of darkness was blown from inside Lady Sable like one might
> blow a crumb off a table. Gently, or so it seemed, for all that it was the
> force of a spirit of the wind itself being applied. Poniente was asking much
> of her patron, and no doubt would be long in paying off the debt. That's how
> magic worked when you hadn't gotten around to killing your gods.
I mean, fair.
> Sunlight streamed in from the midmorning Sun, and if none of it actually
> touched Sable, it was clear that she was in pain.
> "NOOOOOOOOOoooooo...!" her cry started as booming and godlike and
> quickly dropped into a mortal whine.
Awwww yeah full Wicked Witch.
> Sable was now purely human again, the same pathetic figure he'd seen
> last Halloween, her self-image so poor that she didn't benefit from the usual
> "glam up" that powerful supernaturals tended to get.
> But so little was moving. The worst of the traffic snarls caused by
> failure of systems and by panic had been cleared, and relief supplies were
> moving about the city, but it would still be days if not weeks before
> anything resembling normal would resume.
Yeah, legit. @.@
> Arc nodded. "On the bright side, Sable was fueling her magic more with
> the fear of death than actual death, so most of the populace survived. She
> wanted to get everyone to the brink of death, the 'darkest before the dawn'
> as it were, before pulling the trigger.
> Solar Max glanced at his helmet's heads-up display. Estimated 99%
> survival rate. "Yeah, *only* one percent dead. When people play at being
> gods, that's a low body count.
Yeah fair. @.@
> And this got resolved before the starvation
> got really bad, although we'll probably see a few tens of thousands of people
> we pulled out not make it because the Vogue Ghouls decided they weren't worth
> a ration.
> Oh, and they tell me the suicides aren't done
> yet, despite everyone's best efforts. PTSD is *rough*."
> Arc stayed silent. She knew her Combine counterpart was speaking from
> experience. Rumor was that some of the tragedies visited on the Academy of
> Super-Heroes had been planned by their own government, a way of toughening
> them up and weeding out the ones who couldn't cut it.
hahaaaaa yeah x.x
> She held out her hands and cupped them as the tiniest spark of darkness
> settled into her palms. The dying ember of death itself, of her banished and
> forgotten god. A distant echo of his mighty voice roared in her mind's ear
> as she dissolved into the darkness and was gone.
> "Or hadn't HAD," Solar Max's tone suggested a scowl. "Poniente and
> Peregryn agree that the spark of godpower that Sable was using was merely
> freed, not destroyed. Three guesses where it would go, and the first two
> don't count, as my grandpa used to say."
> "If we're very lucky, she's not our problem anymore, and has gone
> looking into other realities for other survivors of her cult," Arc proposed.
> "But we're probably not that lucky.
> "And then there's Sadi."
> "He's still around, though," Arc furrowed her brow.
> "Yeah, that's the problem."
> "My laaaadeee Nish...Nik...Nyx," she stumbled to form the words.
> "Please aid your ssservannn..." she nearly passed out from the effort.
> There was only silence and light. Such bright light.
> "It's coming up," Gerd sighed as he and Anna looked out their apartment
> window. The sky was lightening, promising a dawn, just like the day before,
> and the day before that.
> "I don't think I can take that for granted, not anymore," Anna
> shivered. "That night felt like it went on for years."
> "Maybe once everything settles down, we should move somewhere else,"
> Gerd suggested.
> "Somewhere SUNNY," Anna emphasized, and they shared a chuckle.
> The tops of nearby buildings lit up with the Sun's rays, and the
> Karstens just watched the light creep down until the Sun itself became
> visible over the urban horizon....
> Since writing the first scene of this issue, I started playing Final
> Fantasy XIV. It is purely coincidence that I have characters talking about
> "primal gods," given that I decided on the term several years ago when I knew
> functionally nothing about Final Fantasy XIV (and not much about any Final
Nice nice nice.
> A big part of it, though, was that I didn't feel obliged to get it out
> the door so that the storyline could move on. With no one else writing ASH
> universe stories that depended on the timeline advancing (Pi, Singer, and
> Rossi all moved on to professional gigs, and Burton's always been on his own
> side story timeline), I didn't have that "I'm being a problem for others"
> pressure to get it done.
> Will there be an ASH #126? I wouldn't rule it out, but I have no plans
> for the next arc, and clearly I'm doing more of my writing in short and
> non-serial pieces lately. Arc-format stories might have to wait until I
> get another collaborator who is interested in that sort of thing, or I get a
> Burning Need to write an arc.
> Still, 125 installments of serial fiction, plus side stories,
> crossovers, art, and guidebook files over the course of 27 years or so is
> pretty impressive as a hobby.
It really is. :> And that's a good number to pause on.
Drew "satisfied" Nilium
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