Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Fourteen [BUFFY]

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE PRESENT

Although the rally wouldn’t start for a few more hours, by late afternoon hundreds of dedicated First Principles members had already arrived at Weatherly Park, determined to stake out the best places to watch. For the next hour, people slowly trickled into the park, but then suddenly it was if a dam had burst and hundreds and hundreds of people hurried to secure a place. By sundown almost four thousand people gathered before the stage, surrounded by tall speakers, electric lights, huge “First Principles” banners, and several crews from Sunnydale’s television and radio stations. Although far smaller in size than the crowds that assembled annually at other Sunnydale events—such as the Thanksgiving Day parade—First Principles was considered quite the phenomenon by most reporters, especially considering the organization was barely three weeks old.

Anticipation was in the air. Many in the crowd had already attended at least one First Principles meeting, but most of them had also brought a friend or a relative, and some had even brought their whole family. Non-First Principles people had found it hard to turn down something that promised patriotism and community, especially since the Fourth of July was just a few weeks away. Many of the reporters in the audience considered it remarkable that the crowd was in such high spirits considering how warm it was--Sunnydale was always warm in the summer, but today, as predicted, was the hottest day the town had suffered yet. On the outskirts of the crowd,
vendors set up stands charging exorbitant prices for bottled water, while other vendors sold hastily manufactured First Principles T-shirts. The vendors were in perhaps the best spirits of anyone—the organization had given them carte blanche when it came to merchandising, and had even taken the unprecedented step of refusing a cut of the profits. It was as if money simply didn’t matter to First Principles.

The crowd continued to swell. Dedicated First Principles members grew even more tense and excited as the beginning of the rally drew closer and closer. They walked around excitedly and often jumped up and down to get a better view of the empty stage. Energetic conversations regarding the importance of community, vigilance, and all of the other tenets of First Principles took place throughout the crowd. When the beginning of the rally was less than half an hour away, the crowd began chanting “First Principles! First Principles! First Principles” Slowly at first, but then faster and faster. Within minutes it was loud enough that several networks had to cut to commercials in the middle of their live broadcasts.

“Will, you sure picked a great day to make us stand in a crowd of several thousand people,” Xander said as beads of sweat rolled down his face. His shirt, half-unbuttoned and with rolled-up sleeves, was soaked with perspiration.

He looked over at her. She didn’t respond, but instead kept her attention focused raptly in the direction of the stage. He didn’t think she could actually see it, considering how many people stood between her and it, but she stared intently all the same. He kept a hand on her arm, both to make sure they weren’t accidentally separated and to keep any First Principles goons from snatching her away.

He shifted his weight and looked around, hoping the damn thing would get started already. He scanned the crowd and something nagged at the back of his mind. He looked around again, and then gently pulled Willow with him as he squeezed through the crowd and walked around for several minutes, eyeing everyone carefully. It was as he had thought: Every single person here is white. Sunnydale’s no Philadelphia, but it’s not Finland either. And not a single wheelchair or cane or seeing-eye dog—no disabled people. No gay couples holding hands. It’s like Mayberry, only Barney Fife’s about to get up on stage.

The crowd had been chanting loudly and rhythmically but hushed instantly when Wittingstone appeared on stage, dressed as always in his dark suit and pinstriped shirt. He was momentarily dazed by the spotlights, but quickly found his way to the microphone and adjusted it. Thank the gods this is the last time, he thought, looking out over the crowd. He glanced to the side and saw that Michelle was pouting—she was slated to introduce him, but Wittingstone had decided to go it alone. It doesn’t matter anymore. No more niceties or shaking hands with strangers or having to smile as idiots jabber on. Just one more speech—a very special speech—and I can go back to being myself. 

He looked out at the audience again and began to speak.

***

Castillo was nude. It was what the ritual required, and although his entire body was covered with deep scars that even a vampire could never fully heal, he felt no hesitation or embarrassment. He walked, with a slight limp, around the summoning circle and carefully checked for the slightest error. This was no mere spell of communication with other planes like he had cast before—this was to be a full-scale manifestation, and the ritual had to be carried out with precise attention to detail or serious problems could result. Still, the fact that he was a relative novice at magic did not dissuade him from undertaking the dangerous ritual. He’d come too far to stop now, when what he had been waiting four years for was finally within his grasp.

When he had checked the circle and was satisfied, he paused for a moment to look out over the city. He stood on the top of Kingman’s Bluff, a place of great mystical power in Sunnydale. He had been surprised to find that the hilltop had been damaged somehow, with trees uprooted and grass overturned. It hadn’t been like that when he had scouted it several months ago, but this would not disrupt what he was going to do.

With all of the lights coming from the busy city below, he couldn’t tell where Weatherly Park lay. But he knew the crowd would be assembled and that Wittingstone would be delivering the proper speech, as instructed. It was time to begin.

The ritual was long and complex. It included recitation of several difficult incantations, but Castillo had studied them carefully and did not stumble. One portion of the ritual required the fresh hands of young men. He removed these from their jars carefully but gleefully—he had handled their collection personally, disposing of troublemakers within First Principles at the same time. He interlaced the fingers of two of the severed hands—one from each man—and continued with the ritual.

The wind picked up as he completed the summoning spell. He stood back and waited patiently. Soon the wind grew stronger and stronger. The smallest speck of white appeared in the center of the circle. It was really there, however, not a representation or a blurred image as Castillo had communicated with before.

He watched as the speck slowly, very slowly, grew larger. A thin smile showed on his face as he
contemplated the enormity of what he had done. It worked—the barrier is weakened. Once the hatred comes— and enough of it will, if Wittingstone does not fail me again—Solasheyk will be strong enough to shatter the rest of the barrier. Of course, this little box had better do as promised or the frost demon will melt as soon as he arrives.

Castillo walked over to the wooden chest. It was sitting unceremoniously on the hilltop, several yards away from the summoning circle. Except for the runes carved carefully into it, it looked like little more than a child’s toybox. He bent down to examine it one final time. The Cask of Winters. The power to unleash the very essence of cold itself, to chase away one season and replace it with another. And everyone thought it was just another Norse myth. When will they learn that every myth is a forgotten fact? Perhaps when Sunnydale in summer becomes like Moscow in winter. When everything Buffy Summers loves is buried under a dozen feet of snow and trampled on by a demon from the netherworld. When I am finally satisfied and avenged.

He cast the spell of opening he had obtained from Anya days before. It was a simple incantation, and completed in seconds. The runes of the chest began to glow a bright white in the darkness. Castillo looked back to the summoning circle. The white speck had grown larger, pulsating slowly, and was now the size of a fist. He reached down and with a steady hand flipped the lid of the chest open.

He was blown back several feet as a mystical blast of cold and ice shot streamed forth from the chest and headed towards Sunnydale.

***

Dawn breathed a sigh of relief as she noticed that the oppressive heat was finally starting to dissipate thanks to the cool breeze that blew through town. She picked up her pace, feeling energized in the cooler air. It was still warm—but better.

“So I still don’t get what the big deal is about this guy. Vampire? Okay. You’ve slayed like a hundred thousand of them.”

Buffy shrugged. “I’m not sure why Spike’s freaked out either. I mean, I’m surprised Castillo’s back too— usually when I throw bad guys off cliffs, they stay down. But I wouldn’t worry about it. Castillo’s a powerful vamp, but nothing really special. I don’t really even remember that much about him. I think he was smart—like maybe he stayed awake in World Lit while I napped? But I can handle him.”

“You sure?”

“Yep. This time I’ll just plunge a stake in his chest before I throw him off a cliff.”

Dawn smiled as they hurried through the streets of Sunnydale. They had left Spike to his own devices back where the tunnel had collapsed and were now planning a quick stop at home to clean up before heading to the rally.

“Well, he has to have something up his sleeve,” Dawn observed as they turned on to Revello Drive. “I mean, organizing First Principles and all that—a lot of trouble just to have groupies.”

Buffy’s reply was cut off by the shriek. She turned and readied a weapon, only to see an hysterical woman rushing towards them, tears streaming down her face.

“Isn’t that your friend?” Buffy asked.

Ex-friend. Jamie.”

Dawn stood there with arms crossed but was almost knocked to the ground as Jamie crashed into her. The larger girl wrapped her arms around Dawn and sobbed. Dawn rolled her eyes at Buffy, who shrugged slightly but looked concerned. Buffy knew what Jamie had said about Willow, but she hated to see someone in such obvious distress.

Dawn was disgusted by the feeling of  Jamie’s tears running down her neck, and pushed the girl away. She wasn’t one to forgive easily, and as Buffy well knew, she could hold a grudge.

“What do you want?” Dawn snapped.

Jamie blubbered incomprehensibly but Buffy managed to pick out a few words.

“Who’s dead?” Buffy asked, suddenly becoming alarmed.

“He—he said he didn’t need me, but that the other’s had ca—caused trouble by drawing your att atten— attention!” Jamie sobbed.

“What others? Where?” Buffy demanded.

She pointed feebly towards a side street.

“We’re just a few blocks from the house,” Buffy said, looking at her sister. “Take her home and get her cleaned up. Call her mother maybe. I’ll check this out.”

“I don’t want to take her home--you know what she said about Willow and Tara. I hate her!”

“First Principles is messing with people’s minds, Dawn. Like it did yours. She probably didn’t really think all that stuff, but right now I don’t care. We can’t just leave her wandering around at night.”

Buffy strode quickly down the street, her senses alert and ready for action. It took several minutes for her to find what Jamie had spoken about. Two crumpled forms were on the ground in a narrow alleyway behind a row of houses. Buffy knew corpses when she saw them, and these two were definitely dead. She walked over to get a better look--it was difficult to make out details in the darkness. She checked their necks first and found the twin puncture marks she had expected. This one looks like that guy Dawn liked—Timothy. Not sure about the other one. She crouched down closer and then looked around. What happened to their hands?

***

“This is all about the whole Spike thing, isn’t it?” Anya asked indignantly. “So Xander sends the first pretty girl he can get his hands on to come here and show off that he’s found someone too. Well frankly, I don’t care. I’m over him, and I just don’t care.”

Anya held her chin high but couldn’t help noticing how pretty this girl really was. She regretted the fact that it had come to this, but she put a hand to the door and prepared to slam it in the girl’s face.

“Listen!” Amara said, jamming a foot into the doorway. “I’m not dating Xander. I swear. But I can’t seem to find him and I’ve been trying to tell him he’s in danger.”

“Danger?” Anya opened the door slightly.

“Yes. This guy I used to work for—Castillo—is back in town. He’s planning on unleashing this big winter demon thingie. But first he has to get enough people in town mad enough, because that’s where the demon gets its power. But as long as it has a human to channel through, the demon can use its power to influence people—getthem to hate each other, and make itself stronger.”

“Listen lady, I know demons okay? I am one. And this all sounds—“ Very possible actually. I remember being told the stories as a child. “Solasheyk the Frost Demon, also known as the Winter Wraith and the Norse Scourge?”

“I don’t know,” Amara replied impatiently. “But once Castillo makes it cool enough for it to fully manifest, and I’m sure he’s figured out a way, Sunnydale’s going to be flattened by the worst blizzards it has ever seen!”

“I don’t think Sunnydale has ever seen any blizzards,” Anya replied. “Though I’m not sure.”

Amara shook her head in frustration. “Just tell Xander, okay? I’m leaving, and I won’t be coming back. Just let him know.”

“Why do you care so much,” Anya asked, narrowing her eyes.

“He’s a sweet kid,” she answered simply. “He made me laugh once, a long time ago. I owe him one. That’s all.”

***

Xander slipped the earplugs in just as Wittingstone began to speak. He had purchased an ample supply of them for construction work, but he had never been so grateful for them as he was now. Although he couldn’t hear what the speech was about, he didn’t see any reason to end up like Dawn or Willow, and prepared accordingly.

Willow and every single other person in the audience was listening carefully, however. No one was chatting away in the audience or thinking about what they were missing on television. They were all focused on Wittingstone, registering every word he spoke.

“One way or another, this is the last meeting of First Principles,” he announced, gathering their attention immediately. “Tonight will see either our greatest victory or the realization that it is too late for First Principles to triumph.” He paused momentarily while several in the audience shouted out “Greatest Victory!” “My friends—no, my community, we are on the cusp of something special tonight. We have a chance—or should I say it is our destiny—to make Sunnydale a First Principles community through-and-through.”

The crowd cheered wildly as Wittingstone worked to remember the next portion of the speech. He knew that Mr. Castillo would not be forgiving if he were to fail. Not that that’s likely, he thought. Nothing in the world exists for them now but me.

“Yes,” he continued. “The time for waiting, for talking, for contemplating is over. We’ve talked before about the importance of being proactive. Well tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I want each and every one of you to be proactive. In fact, I want you to consider yourself as soldiers, fighting a war to protect your community from those outsiders who even now surround our homes and threaten our way of life.” Wittingstone stopped briefly to allow the audience to boo and jeer “outsiders.” This lasted several minutes, and he could tell the crowd was becoming angrier and angrier.

Xander noticed this as well, and started edging Willow towards the edge of the crowd. He was surprised to see that she didn’t carry the same expression as the others, however. She just looked . . . defeated. He saw her lips move and realized she was trying to speak to him. He removed the ear plugs and put them in his shirt pocket.

“I said I’m tired. I’m ready to go home. It’s getting chilly. Why did you bring me here?” They were the first words Willow had spoken since they had left Xander’s house.

He looked at her carefully, confusion evident on his face. “I’ll get you out of here,” he shouted, unsure of whether her sudden change of heart was a good thing or a bad thing.

Wittingstone continued on as Xander and Willow pushed through the crowd. “Yes, warriors,” Wittingstone said. He noticed the breeze and knew Castillo had actually gone through with it. “Warriors are who you are. And the war is going on right now, between community and loneliness, between tradition and experimentation, between morality and degeneration. There is a war going on, right now, between First Principles and outsiders. These outsiders are dangerous—they don’t share what makes our community great. They envy us. And given a chance, they will tear us down. But there’s still time to win this war—if each of you begin to fight it right now!”

The crowd reacted to Wittingstone’s last words as if a bomb had gone off. They cursed “outsiders” at the top of their lungs and started reaching for anything that could double as a weapon—folding chairs, tree limbs, baseball bats. Seconds later the enraged crowd surged en masse towards the street. Wittingstone left the stage quickly and motioned for his driver. “Bring the car around. I’m finished here. We’ll wait things out in Los Angeles. Be quick about it!”

“Why aren’t we moving?” Willow asked. Xander held her close to him as they stood with their backs up against a tree. The crowd flowed around them, holding weapons aloft and scanning for “outsiders” everywhere.

“I’ve got two answers for that, Will. The first is that I’m glad you’re back to normal—at least considering everything that’s happened—and I want to make sure you’re okay. The second—well the second is that I think this crowd is going to riot, and I don’t want to be on the streets of Sunnydale when it starts. Anyone who’s not a believer in First Principles is going to be in trouble.”

“Where’s Buffy?” Willow asked dreamily. She rested her head on Xander’s shoulder.

“Somewhere on the streets of Sunnydale,” he replied.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Foolkiller (Ltd. 1990) [COMICS]

When I first got really big into comics, around 1986, the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead issues were just coming out and I remember poring over each 64-page issue learning about all of the (usually violently) deceased characters in the Marvel Universe.  Reading and re-reading those issues gave me a warped introduction to the history of the MU, and a strange sense of appreciation and even false nostalgia for a lot of its forgotten little corners.  One of the characters I first came across in the Book of the Dead was a 1970s character, the Foolkiller.

There's truth in advertising with the Foolkiller: he kills people who are fools (or at least, people he thinks are fools).  Three people have worn the Foolkiller costume, and their definitions of fools have varied dramatically, creating room for the character to be seen as a deranged serial killer or a Punisher-like vigilante.  The first Foolkiller, Ross Everbest, was a religious zealot who "purified" those in the late 60s/early 70s counterculture; he only appeared in a couple of issues before getting killed.  The second Foolkiller, Greg Salinger, considered fools to be those who embraced crass commercialism, among other things.  After killing one supervillain and tussling with heroes on a few different occasions, Salinger was caught and sent to a prison for the criminally insane.  The 1990 Foolkiller limited series (10 parts) picks up a few years from this point and soon introduces the third, Kurt Gerhardt.

Issue # 1 opens with Greg Salinger in prison during a session with his psychologist.  Canny enough to tell the shrink what he wants to hear, Salinger gets permission to write letters to the outside.  He sends his very particular views to newspapers and talk shows for months until a right-wing t.v. talk show host named Moody (who's very much a G. Gordon Liddy type) responds and invites him on the show.  Meanwhile, a white collar type named Kurt Gerhardt alternates between bouts of anger and depression; his father was killed during a mugging, his wife leaves him after he loses his job and can't find work for months, and so forth.  He eventually hits a new low when the only job he can find is working at the Burger Shack, and when robbers come to hold up the place, Kurt tries to intervene to impress a friendly coworker (Linda Klein) and gets knocked out.  While he's at home recuperating from his injuries, he tunes in to the Moody show and sees Salinger ready to debut as a guest.  The first issue features no costumes and no fool-killing, but it works well at setting the stage for what follows in the rest of the series.  My favourite part though, is that awesome cover.

In Issue # 2, Moody's talk show features a retrospective on the Foolkiller persona: how the first Foolkiller, Ross Everbest, was a religious zealot soon killed by the Man-Thing, while the second Foolkiller (and present guest) Greg Salinger was quite different, a "poetic critic" of hedonism and all-encompassing capitalism.  "The fools got the world they wanted," Salinger says when he appears on the show.  After watching it, Gerhardt writes to Salinger in prison, and they begin to exchange letters.  Knowing that his letters could be monitored by his shrink, Salinger tricks the shrink into allowing him to use a prison computer to "keep a therapeutic diary" when what he's actually done is set up an online bulletin board in order to converse with Gerhardt through pseudonyms.  After months of correspondence, Salinger directs Gerhardt to a warehouse.  A woman named Merle Singer, part of her face thoroughly scarred, is waiting and gives Gerhardt a box.  Inside, of course, is the Foolkiller costume and disintegrating gun.  In a rather cliched scene, Kurt stumbles upon a robbery outside and uses the gun for the first time.  This issue is a good example of the series as a whole insofar as the interior artwork verges on the poor to mediocre line, but the scripts and overall plot is really good.  One thing the series misses is a good letter's page where the interesting themes raised by the series could be discussed (the letters' page for The Question, for example, were a hotbed of philosophical debate).

Issue # 3 shows the aftermath of Gerhardt's first killing--he's sickened by what he's done, but also a little bit thrilled by finally having fought back.  Gerhardt ends up donning the costume for the first time and hits the streets, disintegrating a random drug dealer, an attempted rapist, and a would-be robber on a subway in a scene that must have been intentionally reminiscent of the Bernhard Goetz affair.  Later, after witnessing a murder, Gerhardt trails a drug boss back to his penthouse suite and tries to kill him, only to have a bodyguard throw him out a window!

Badly hurt, Gerhardt manages to escape the drug dealers and call Merle for help in Issue # 4.  As she patches him up, she says she did the same thing for Salinger many times--he helped her deal with the old boyfriend who used sulfuric acid to scar her face.  Later, back at his apartment, Gerhardt slowly recovers from his injuries.  His coworker from the Burger Shack, Linda, shows up for brunch and brings him some cash so he can pay his electric bill.  She offers to teach him self-defense, and although Kurt has doubts about whether he should remain the Foolkiller, he goes through three rigorous months of a self-directed regimen of strength training, pain endurance, and so forth.  The issue ends with him tracking down a gang in Central Park that's been attacking cyclists; it sees the debut of his new costume--an open-neck leather shirt with a funky gold medallion and an S&M style leather mask!  Suffice it to say, I far prefer the classic costume.

"Brutal" and "over the top" are good ways to describe the opening scenes of Issue # 5 as Gerhardt kills the Central Park gang.  There's eyeball-popping (literally) disintegrations, a thug getting cut in half by the purification gun, etc.  If you don't mind a bit of gore, it's entertaining.  The appearance of the new Foolkiller in public creates a media sensation; the drug lord who had Gerhardt thrown out the window in Issue # 3 appears (his name is Backhand) speaking to the true drug kingpin in the city: Emilio Mendosa, a white-collar type.  Gerhardt sends Backhand a warning that he's coming for him, and in the meantime kills an HIV+ prostitute who wouldn't stay off the streets and then an abusive husband/dog murderer.  This issue is far more in the vigilante justice vein, with lots of ultra-violence and little reflection.  Much like the Punisher, you sometimes start rooting for him despite your better judgement.

Issue # 6 sees Gerhardt celebrating the fact that he's found a new job working for a credit reporting agency.  Things are starting to turn around for him, and his relationship with Linda is part of that.  He still corresponds with Salinger but starts settling into his new life when petty irritations start to mount; there are annoying co-workers at his new job, rude people on the streets, and so forth.  Gerhardt dons the costume and storms a crackhouse belonging to Backhand, disintegrating several addicts and (accidentally) Backhand's young son!  It's a well-written issue that I think plays into the "Angry White Male" narrative that was often circulating in the 1990s (Michael Douglas in Falling Down is a good example): the idea that society has become so alienating and grating that it wears a man down to the point where he has no choice but to give up or fight back.

In Issue # 7, Gerhardt realizes that his actions have consequences: he's tormented by having murdered a child.  He can't eat, he can't sleep, and verges on having a full mental breakdown.  He hits the streets again and interrupts a pimp beating a sex worker; when the woman defends her abuser, Gerhardt kills them both!  He resolves to look beyond the obvious fools and target the root of the problem: those in power.  It's pretty good, thought-provoking stuff.

Because you demanded it!  The obligatory Spider-Man appearance takes place in Issue # 8, which is shocking because normally he appears in Issue # 3 of a new series.  Even writer Steve Gerber must have just been humouring his bosses, because apart from a prominent position on the cover, Spider-Man only cameos in the book and doesn't even meet Foolkiller.  The issue begins with protests in D.C. over the Gulf War; when the protests turn violent, Peter Parker starts taking photographs.  Gerhardt, in his Foolkiller guise, starts zapping away, but by the time Parker can change into his costume, he's too late and Gerhardt has escaped.  Gerhardt uses his job at the credit agency to investigate Darren Waite, a developer who's been having tenants evicted to make way for yet another high-rise office tower.  While waiting for a chance to strike at Waite, Gerhardt murders a right-wing pro-war t.v. hack (a different one than Moody) and then lefty protesting war toys and action figures!  The issue finishes with Gerhardt offing a flag vendor who wouldn't give a mom a discount to buy a flag for her son.  Jeepers!

Issue # 9 ramps up the drama.  While surveilling one of Waite's properties, Gerhardt spots Backhand (who works with one of Waite's associates) and goes after him.  Backhand escapes, however, and Waite is alerted to the fact that the Foolkiller is coming after him.  He offers his minions $ 250,000 for the Foolkiller's head.  Nonetheless, Gerhardt still plans to take Waite down, knowing it'll be a suicide mission.  He sends a last message to Salinger and goes undercover as one of Waite's employees.  His chance comes and he assassinates Waite during a gun battle on a helicopter!  Somehow, Gerhardt survives the fall to a nearby rooftop.

A great opening scene in the series finale, Issue # 10.  For three weeks after the events in Issue # 9, right-wing talk show host Runyon Moody has been "killing" Foolkiller doubles and chastising the major for failing to apprehend Darren Waite's killer.  But when one of the doubles doesn't fall down when shot with a blank by Moody, Moody has just instants to realize the real one's in front of him!  Meanwhile, in prison, Salinger is ecstatic about how well his protege is operating, but his therapist discovers his trick with the model and bulletin board and is able to link Gerhardt with the Foolkiller.  Police start trying to find Gerhardt, who manages to avoid arrest while murdering some other fools and planning one last mission: he wants to go after Backhand and his boss, Emilio Mendosa.  Although Backhand (a pretty generic bad guy) escapes, Gerhardt has a fitting end in mind for Mendosa; he forces the man to dress up in the Foolkiller costume and run out the front door of a building surrounded by police; the cops, of course, shoot to kill.  Gerhardt reaches Merle's warehouse and has her splash acid on his face to conceal his identity and, when recovers, gets plastic surgery to have a whole new face.  It's a clever ending that leaves room for more while still offering a satisfying conclusion.

Foolkiller must be (seemingly) the only comic book series ever not collected into a trade paperback, and it's worth tracking down.  It has a good, suspenseful story, raises some interesting issues to think about, and provides a very different take on the classic vigilante idea.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'rell: Entry # 4 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

MASTER ENCRYPTLOCK ENGAGED

RUN TIME 247/12765 10:13

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

Yesterday, my erstwhile barracks-mates bonded: Vasonja threatened me with an ignited lightsaber, Dornahan attempted to take control of my mind, and Ayden followed me around in the shadows and spied on me.  Apparently they have learned all-too well the lessons of the "Jedi."

We are in the west wood now, attempting to find Carn Sokol.  In this case, curiosity has obviously got the better part of my wisdom: after all, whatever battered and bloodied and tore at his mind would likely not have much trouble doing the same to us.  And with my luck, the other initiates will leap into the fray lightsabers-blazing and make things even worse.

Yesterday they slaughtered an entire "pack" of lizard-like Sibbets.  I could sense the anticipation they had to finally battle something, and feel the joy that welled-up inside them as they ignited their deathswords for the first time.

And these are the self-same who "are the guardians of peace in  the galaxy," "use the Force to defend, never to attack," and who "respect all life, whatever the form"?  Apparently Sibbets don't count--soon I expect we'll find that certain Sarama do not either.  It was a mistake to bring them along, one I will not make again.

They whine and complain like little children on an intersystem voyage.  They keep hectoring me to tell them everything: soon I will, and they will I had not.

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 247/17265 10:25

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 49 [RPG]

[24 Kythorn 1372]

At a dock in Silverymoon, the kenku trapsmith Ralkin farewells Katanya and Flindle, the gnomes he escorted safely from Startop Mountain. As thanks, Katanya gifts him with two small gems that her brother had cut during their stay in the city. Katanya says that she and her brother have decided not to return to Mirabar but are planning on starting over in Waterdeep, and that Ralkin should look them up if he ever visits the city.

Passing through a wealthy part of Silverymoon on his way back to the Blind Dwarf Inn, Ralkin runs into a familiar face. Having just come from having her hair styled and dyed to subtly resemble flames, Mellia is surprised to see the kenku again after he left the group a couple of tendays ago. The two talk, and Mellia explains that the group plans to travel to Thay to rescue Cain, who has been, in her words, "misplaced." She tells Ralkin that the others have gone through a magical portal at the behest of Terrigo Multivar in order to buy passage for a future journey to Thay. Ralkin says he happens to be looking for work, and the two agree to meet the next morning to travel to Multivar's residence together. Later that day, Ralkin sells the gems given to him by Katanya to a funny little man who says his wife needs a new pair of shoes.

Late that night, inside the complex on the other side of the mirror-portal, Myst's ward against intrusion wakes everyone from their slumber. The four-armed master of the complex, T'Klack, has suddenly appeared in their midst, and reaches out to grasp Gelkar's corpse. T'Klack slowly starts to fade away, explaining that Gelkar died in battle and is entitled to the honour of becoming part of his trophy room. Myst reacts quickly, and his hand begins to glow with arcane energy. When he touches T'Klack, the being seems to grow somewhat confused. Fargrim and Daisy then work together to yank Gelkar's corpse out of T'Klack's hands just before the threat fades away.

Dolcetto says the group is going to have to be watchful of the bodies of their slain companions. Later, while she and Fargrim are on watch, Dolcetto announces her intention to reconnoitre the area. The dwarf refuses to let her go, however, saying that she's gotten herself into enough trouble already.

[25 Kythorn 1372]

At Wayward House, Mellia successfully casts a new spell that she has been developing for several days. The spell allows her to send a short message to someone she knows, regardless of distance, and it then allows a short response. She sends a message to Cain, telling him that the group is coming to rescue him and asks him to confirm his location. His reply is somewhat vague and ominous, but he confirms that he is indeed in Thay.

When Ralkin arrives, Mellia tells him that anything he can do to speed her companions' return from the mirror-portal would be appreciated. She gives him a note and two potions to give to the others. Ralkin is taken to meet Multivar, and the kenku queries the old wizard about the stolen amulet the others have been tasked to retrieve. Multivar seems evasive, but describes the amulet as being black and in the shape of a spider. With little further ado, Ralkin jumps through the mirror-portal at the appropriate time.

He appears in front of the complex, startled to find that an acidic rain is falling from the sky and sizzling against his feathers. Turning around, he's even more startled to see a massive two-legged monster with a long tail and huge teeth running towards him, followed closely by a halfling clad from topknot to toenails in scaly hide armor! Ralkin hastily pulls open one of the slats in the metallic doorway and leaps through, less concerned with what may be inside than with what is definitely outside. The halfling follows, and introduces himself as Syd, and the large beast, which he calls a megaraptor, as Garry. Syd says he doesn't know where he is, and asks Ralkin for help. The kenku is cautious, however, and instead begins to call out to see if any of his former companions are present by imitating Mellia's voice. As he does so, Garry gives a loud roar.

Hearing the roar in the room where they had been resting, Daisy rushes around the corner to see Syd and Garry. Daisy is as excited as a child at a Midwinter feast, and receives permission from Syd to pat Garry. Meanwhile, hearing what sounds like Mellia's voice, Fargrim and Dolcetto come around the corner to find Ralkin instead. Fargrim greets Ralkin and introduces him to Dolcetto as an excellent scout, but the sorceress and the trapsmith are not particularly friendly to one another. Soon, introductions are made all around. Syd's ability to converse telepathically is found to be particularly off-putting to Dolcetto. Syd explains that he was camping one night in the Evermoors when he awoke to find a strange, four-armed creature had bit him! Although the halfling tried to struggle, he found that his limbs would not respond. The next thing he knew, he was laying in front of the large, square metallic doorway that led into the complex. Hearing a nearby roar, Syd spotted a beast that he was able to calm and befriend, giving it the name Garry.

After Dolcetto explains the group's purpose in coming to the complex, Syd agrees to help them find the amulet in exchange for help in returning home. Dolcetto tries to enlist a similar commitment from Ralkin, but the kenku is busy examining the trigger for the razor-wire trap in the ceiling. An attempt to deactivate the trap goes awry, and Ralkin finds himself caught in the sharp net! Dolcetto says he should be left there a while to learn his lesson, but Fargrim cuts him loose. Ralkin carefully gathers together the razor-wire for future use.

Later, after Dolcetto has explained that the group was just in a terrible battle that claimed the lives of two companions, Syd displays the ability to cast healing magicks. Conversation turns to what Daisy calls the "invisible man" who guards the display room of weapons. Intrigued, Ralkin moves towards the door and realizes that he can converse with whatever is on the other side. Daisy happily chatters to it, and Dolcetto, perhaps reluctantly, agrees to leave it alone for the time being.

Even with some healing from Syd, the adventurers are still hurt and decide to rest another night. The bodies of Gelkar and Markus are rolled up inside sleeping bags and tents. Dolcetto works on writing a new spell in her book, while Daisy and Syd make music. Fargrim asks Myst about the unusual shovel with healing properties that Gelkar wielded; Daisy is able to hold it with no difficulties, but the dwarf finds it saps his strength. Myst, however, knows little about it. The sage is able to hypothesize, however, that the longsword taken from Iskenvar may host a rare and difficult-to-create enchantment that makes it usable only by those with orcish blood.

[26 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, the group moves out in a marching order set by Dolcetto. She also gives the group instructions that if they are attacked by more large creatures like the flesh golems, they should fall back into a narrow corridor so only one of the constructs can advance at a time. When the group reaches the ghastly trophy room, Ralkin examines the lift mechanism and is convinced it must be trapped. He is lowered down on a rope and removes a gear from the assembly in the hopes that doing so will deactivate the trap. When the others try to activate the lift, however, it seems to be broken. Using a magical spool of rope that was in Gelkar's possession, Dolcetto arranges for everyone, including Garry with two corpses tied to his back, to reach the lower level of the complex safely.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Thirteen [BUFFY]

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: FOUR YEARS AGO

Everything was quiet—almost eerily quiet, as there were no crickets chirping, alarm clocks ticking, or police sirens blaring like there would be back in Sunnydale. Cordelia tried not to disturb the silence as she carefully and slowly rolled out of bed and dressed in jeans and a warm jacket. She walked to the door and lifted up the latch ever-so-slowly, glancing around to make sure no one was awake. She slipped out the door and closed it quietly behind her.

It really is beautiful she thought to herself. Without the light pollution of the city, the stars were brilliant and sparkling. Mountains in the distance loomed up large and imposing, while the snow nearby, illuminated only by the moon, stood out in a confusing mix of foreground and background.

She hurried across the snow towards the direction of one of the slopes, hoping she had timed her escape correctly and that he would be there to meet her. In truth, there was no need for her to have been so cautious— Cordelia was seventeen and it wasn’t as if she needed the others’ permission if she wanted to have a midnight rendezvous with Chad on the slopes. But sneaking out was so much more exciting and romantic that it simply seemed like the thing to do.

In actuality, however, she hadn’t escaped the cabin without being noticed. Xander had been awake the whole time, and had correctly surmised the purpose of her leaving. He hadn’t been able to sleep a wink that night, feeling restless while his thoughts dwelled on Amara. Although he knew intellectually that it was simply a crush, puppy love, an infatuation, it didn’t change the fact that he couldn’t help but think about her. She was everything he had been looking for, and surprisingly, she actually liked him too. And she’s not even embarrassed of me like Cordelia. He rolled over and arranged the blankets again, trying to get comfortable for again. A few minutes after Cordelia left, he gave up and started getting dressed. If she can go out in the middle of the night to meet her boyfriend, I can do the same thing. Though not with her boyfriend. Or my boyfriend. With a girl! Xander often bantered with himself like this in his head—most of his famous one-liners occurred when he decided to verbalize this internal monologue.

He also lifted the latch of the door slowly and passed through. He started walking in the direction of Amara’s cabin. He wasn’t expecting to see her, though he hoped he might. Instead, he thought that a brisk walk might tire him out enough to help him finally fall asleep. When he reached her cabin, he was disappointed but not surprised to see that the lights were out. I guess I could act like a stalker and try to wake her up anyway, he thought, but quickly rejected the idea. He still wanted to see her tomorrow and not scare her off.

Xander jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder—he had been so sure he had been alone outside, except for Cordelia and Chad, of course.

“It’s only me, silly,” said Amara. She was dressed just as he had seen her that morning, and looked ready to jump on a board and fling herself down the slopes at any minute.

“Amara! Hi,” Xander gave a nervous little laugh to relieve the tension he felt. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I would walk about a little.”

“And stare at my cabin?” she said with a grin.

“Exactly. One of my favorite hobbies really: standing outside of some girl’s house, staring at it for hours on end with a creepy look on my face. Explains why I’m so popular back in Sunnydale.”

“Doesn’t it though?” she said rhetorically. “Well, I’m up too. Come on then,” she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the cabin. “We can go exploring.”

“Exploring?”

“Yeah. The lodge has been closed down for years. Who knows what’s in there? Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”

Xander hesitated. “Amara, have you heard the stories about the resort being haunted? Poking around a strange place after midnight is sure to bring any ghosts right down on us.”

“You’re silly,” she said, smiling at the look of earnestness on his face. “Ghosts aren’t real. And if they are, you’ll be there to protect me, right? Besides—it’ll make the whole experience that much more fun.”

He still wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. The lodge looked strangely menacing in the moonlight, and he spent enough time back home walking into spooky places and encountering dangerous things. But this is not the Hellmouth, he reminded himself. And if she wants to go look around, why not?

They walked around the building a few times before finding that one of the boards covering a window at the side of the building was loose enough to pull off. With a solid pull, Xander also managed to wrench the window up, enabling them to peer inside. Even with the moonlight, it was so dark they couldn’t see anything but a small patch of the floor.

“Wait here,” Amara said, sprinting off into the night, only to return a few minutes later with a gas lantern in hand. “Isn’t this exciting?” she said. “I feel just like Nancy Drew in one of those old books.”

Xander had already been in enough “exciting” situations to last a lifetime, but he couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. In fact, his experiences made him feel like an old pro at this “skulking-about-spookyplaces- at midnight” game.

They climbed through the window and lit the lamp--it illuminated only an area about twenty or thirty feet away. They noticed that the floor was covered with a thick layer of dust, which they kicked up everytime they walked, causing it to swirl about them and be reflected in the lamplight. Around them, couches, chairs, and small tables were all covered with dingy white dust cloths.

“This must be the lobby,” Amara said. “See, there’s the bar.” She pointed at another object covered with a dust cloth. “And there’s the fireplace.”

Man, Chad would be pissed if he found us here, Xander thought, but then caught himself. Good. He can go crying to Cordelia all about it.

Amara grabbed his hand again and left it there this time. “And up there must be the guest rooms,” she said, pointing to a curved staircase, which led to a balcony overlooking the lobby. Doors must have led from the balcony to the guestrooms, but they were too far away to be seen with the lantern.

“So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow,” Xander said, becoming unnerved by the place. “More skiing—or breaking and entering? You know there’s this great restaurant we found down in the town and—“

“Oh Xander, didn’t I tell you?” she said, apologetically. “This is my last night here—I have to leave in the morning.” Her face looked odd in the lamp light—almost translucent.

“Ah,” he replied, obviously disappointed. “Well, we can still write, right? I am mighty with the pen,” he joked lamely.

“I . . . don’t think that’s a good idea. You how it always works out. It’s okay in the beginning, but then we start receiving letters from each other less and less often, until one of us simply never writes back and then . . . It’s better to just end it on what we had—a great day together, something memorable.”

“Of course, you’re right,” he said, trying to smile. The award-winning Xander jinx comes into play once again, he thought, but then resolved to try and make the best of it.

They started up the stairs slowly, still holding hands. Xander held the lantern with his other hand and shone it about every few steps. The lamp jiggled as they stepped on one stair that creaked loudly, just like in an old horror movie. They chuckled a little at their own hesitation and continued up the stairs to the balcony.

Suddenly, they heard that same stair creaking and realized that they weren’t alone.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Chad were having a great time on the slopes, enjoying a midnight ski. Cordelia was still shaky, but Chad was there everytime to steady her. She was attracted to him, partially out of the belief that Chad was simply much more mature than boys her own age, including Xander. In fact, when she was away from Xander, she had difficulty remembering what it was she ever saw in him. It sure isn’t his taste in fashion, she realized, watching Chad ski quickly down the slope in front of her, showing off as if it were a slalom race.

She plunged her skipoles into the snow and pushed off, hoping to catch up to him and surprise him. He had turned by then though, and stood watching her as she wobbled in his direction.

“You’re learning fast,” he said admiringly when she finally reached him. “But it’s getting cold and we’ll have to walk back up since the lifts are turned off. You know, I have some hot cocoa in my cabin—we could warm up there.”

She smiled to herself at this obvious line. But still, hot cocoa and Chad didn’t sound like a bad combination. Even with the “Slayerettes” along, this trip isn’t turning out so bad after all, she thought, as they turned to begin trudging back up the slope. All of the girls in Sunnydale are going to be so jealous when I tell them about Chad.

They heard the loud whine of the snowmobile coming towards them before they saw it. Chad didn’t know what to think—he kept one locked up securely behind his cabin for maintenance of the resort and emergencies, but he was pretty sure no one else in the area had one. And besides, they weren’t allowed on the slopes.

The pair stood waiting expectantly as the snowmobile approached. Chad could see that it was his, but he didn’t recognize the two curious looking figures who were riding it. They were dressed completely inappropriately for the weather, as far as Chad was concerned, in not much more than jeans and leather vests or jackets with Tshirts underneath. As the snowmobile grew closer, they realized it was going fast and headed towards them.

And then they realized it wasn’t going to stop!

Chad panicked and stood there frozen, with his mouth gaping open, but Cordelia pulled him out of the way just in time. The pair of skiers fell on the snow, with Cordelia finding herself on her back, half buried in a soft spot, and Chad struggling to extract himself from Cordelia’s skis and poles.

He managed to reach his hands and knees just as the snowmobile came back for another pass.

“Duck!” Cordelia shouted, but it was too late. The man on the rear of the snowmobile thrust his hand out and grabbed Chad by the back of his jacket, and incredibly, held him aloft for several dozen feet before throwing him face down in the snow. The man on the back of the vehicle jumped off on top of Chad, while the driver turned the snowmobile around and headed back towards Cordelia. Still unable to get to her feet, she screamed as she realized the man planned to ram her with it! She screamed again when she realized from his face that he was a vampire.

From out of nowhere, a blur of pink and blue jumped towards the vehicle’s driver and tackled him, knocking him off of it and into the snow. The snowmobile careened wildly and then tipped over on its side, its tracks still moving in the air as its motor continued running.

“Buffy!” Cordelia shouted. She could hardly believe her eyes. Buffy was there rolling around in the snow with a vampire in nothing more than her pajamas.

“Now’s . . . not really a good time for conversation,” Buffy spat out, as she struggled to gain the upper hand on this vampire. He was on top of her now, trying to sink his fangs into her throat. He was incredibly strong, but she knew how to use her leverage. She kneed him in the stomach and then put both feet on his chest and kicked out, sending him sailing into the air only to land relatively softly in the snow near Cordelia.

Buffy jumped to her feet and sprinted after him, landing a solid kick to his jaw as he tried to stand up. With one quick motion, Buffy grabbed the top of one of Cordelia’s skis, still attached to the latter’s foot, and kicked it hard. It broke with a snap. Buffy held the broken piece and turned it away from her just as the vampire leapt on top of her. He disintegrated as they landed on the snow, covering her with a fine shower of dust and ash.

“Get it off me!” shouted Cordelia, trying to wipe scattered remnants of the dust off of herself. “And then go help Chad!”

Buffy ran over to where the other vampire was, but it was too late for Chad. The vampire got up and looked at Buffy, his teeth and lower jaw dripping with warm blood. The Slayer! he thought to himself, suddenly unsure—but it was too late to back off now. He deftly stepped to the side as Buffy charged him, and thrust his elbow out, hitting her with a glancing blow on the side of the head. She staggered slightly, but spun around and drove a fist into the small of his back and then executed a perfect jump side kick to the back of the head, knocking him into the snow. He rolled down the hill several feet, before slowly standing up and running for the snowmobile to escape.

Buffy pulled the same trick on one of Chad’s skis, arming herself with another makeshift stake before she headed down the slope after the vampire. She reached him just as he had started to push the snowmobile back on its wheels, which were still spinning. She aimed carefully with the stake, but he dodged at the last second and the stake slammed into the vehicle, splintering into useless pieces.

He backhanded her with a vicious swipe, but Buffy managed to roll with the blow. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do now though, unarmed. There simply weren’t many ways to kill a vampire—a stake through the heart, sunlight, holy water, decapitation. None of those are an option she realized as the vampire, seeing her vulnerability, changed its mind and decided to attack.

He grabbed her with both hands around her throat. She thrust her hands straight up between his, and broke his grip. She punched him quickly in the solar plexus with a solid right uppercut and then swung her left fist around, catching him the jaw. She saw the snowmobile still on its side, spinning ineffectually, and instantly devised a plan.

The next time he lunged for her, she clotheslined him with her forearm and simultaneously swept his legs out from under him. He landed on his back right in front of the snowmobile. With a powerful kick, Buffy tipped it over. As soon as its treads found traction, the snowmobile zoomed forward.

Ugh! thought Buffy as the vehicle crushed the vampire’s skull. I hope that counts in the decapitation category, she thought, because if it doesn’t that thing is going to be so disgusting to fight. As the snowmobile kept on running driverless down the slope, the small explosion of dust and ash from the vampire’s corpse told her that her fears were groundless. She ran over to Cordelia and helped her up.

“How did you know I was here?” Cordelia said, glad that Buffy had come but slightly disappointed that she hadn’t been as sneaky as she had thought.

“I heard the snowmobile motor and woke up and saw that you and Xander were gone. And then I just followed it.” With the stress of the combat over, Buffy finally realized how much she was freezing—she wasn’t even wearing shoes. “Chad’s dead. I’m sorry, Cordelia. But now we have to think about Xander have you seen him?”

“Huh? Xander?” Cordelia said, still trying to process Chad’s death. “No . . . I don’t know.”

They hurried back up the slope to their cabin, and Buffy hastily pulled on some warm clothes and boots while Cordelia locked the door securely and began piling firewood onto the fire.

“Hey Buffy?” Cordelia said.

“What?”

“Where’s Willow?”

Buffy looked around frantically. “She was here. I know she was. I told her not to go anywhere! We’ve got to go look for them.” She ran over to the bundles of firewood, trying to find anything that would suffice for a stake. If only I would have brought my Slayer bag . . . I thought that by leaving it, I was leaving the Hellmouth behind. It was stupid to think that I could ever escape the horror movie that has become my life simply by leaving Sunnydale.

Something heavy hit the door, causing its hinges to groan.

“They’re coming!” Cordelia shouted. “Buffy, they can’t come in here unless they’re invited, right?”

“I don’t know—we don’t really live here, we’re just visiting remember?” she said, as she began pushing one of the beds towards the door. The door splintered open before she could reinforce it—but she was ready. She picked up one of the makeshift stakes from the mantle where she had left it and flung it at the door just as a vampire stepped through. It disintegrated and Buffy readied for another. But all was quiet.

“Enough of that, Slayer,” she heard a voice call from outside. Buffy peeked out the windows and realized the cabin was surrounded by vampires. “We have something you might want,” the voice continued. Castillo was furious that two of his employees broke with the plan and had attacked the Slayer on the slopes. He had had this “Buffy” watched long enough to know that she was a match for any random attack—only a careful, orchestrated plan would defeat her.

After all, he hadn’t lured her all the way to Arctic Ridge with tickets she had “won” just to have his employees mess it up at the crucial moment. But his underlings had received a fitting punishment for their disobedience, he realized, and he could always adjust his plans to fit changing circumstances.

“Oh yeah, what’s that?” shouted Cordelia sarcastically. “A trip to Bermuda?”

Willow’s face suddenly appeared in the door, with a large hand on the back of her head. She didn’t look hurt, but she certainly looked scared. She was still wearing her pajamas and shivered from a combination of fright and the chill air.

“This,” said Castillo, in a voice as cold as the world outside.

Next Chapter

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Diary of Jizana M'Rell Entry # 3 [RPG]

RECORDING ROD ACTIVATED

MASTER ENCRYPTLOCK ENGAGED

RUN TIME 245/12765 22:00

BEGIN VOICE RECORDING

I guess it's been a while since I've recorded on this stupid thing--I only hope the new encryption code works.  I'm going to have to jump around, there's just been too much going on for me to play narrator like in a docuvid.

Several days ago we found these ruins to the south of the academy.  All this time I had been investigating these ruins in the library and I came across this one book, on restricted level four of the library, on Sarama, and I was pretty sure these ruins had something to do with it.  Anyway, the other initiates were either being lazy or gutless that night and I had to do what Sian would call some "pretty persuasion."  (speaking of whom, I have to find out where she is and contact her as soon as we get off this blackhole planet.)  So we went, and I'm in this old, abandoned building, with the ancient seal of the Jedi inscribed on it, and I hear this voice from out of nowhere talking to me--it told me it could give me knowledge that the other Jedi never would, and that he was an old Jedi Master.

I didn't think too much about it with everything going on, but later when I was working in the library, still trying to figure out more about Sarama, the voice came to me again and told me that it would make the restricted books accessible if I agreed to share the information I gained with others.  It seemed like a fair trade--after all, I do believe knowledge should be disseminated and that keeping it locked up only does more harm than good; and after arguing with the Jedi about it, it's not like I could turn around and do the same thing.  But something about the whole idea seemed too easy and I thought it was too risky.  Still, I kept the offer in the back of my mind.

And I guess I should have told you about the break-in earlier.  Well, there was a break-in earlier.  At the embassy, and me and one of the new recruits (whom I've been forced to show around, by the way) helped stop this lizard-like humanoid from breaking in and sending a message out on one of the holocomms.  We eventually tracked it back to the west woods, but couldn't follow it any further because the woods are so dense and because it's apparently "off-limits" by order of the Most-High Jedi Knowledge Tyrants.

So where I was going with this was that a few days after, Orowisp, one of the others in our barracks, was apparently attacked by something or the other and was screaming all over the place.  Because someone had saw someone running from the direction of the embassy towards the west woods again, I thought it was probably another of the lizard creatures.

Not that I'm a huge fan of Orowisp or anything, but it always pisses me off when creatures go around picking on other creatures because they're bigger or stronger.  And that lizard creature we encountered was bigger, stronger, and had some nasty Force powers.

So I did it.  I went to the library and after waiting around long enough and keeping myself open to the Force, the lift tube opened and level four was accessible.  I went in quick, grabbed what turned out to be a datacard on Sarama, replaced it with my orientation card, and then left--I couldn't have been in there for more than three minutes top.

These encryption codes better be good or else this is likely to be my last entry.  So what did I find on the datacard?  Only something that would shake the galaxy and forever change the way Jedi and the Republic operate.  I won't go into it all, but basically the datacard is some kind of log by Carn Sokol, telling about how the Republic went all imperialist on this planet Ishtar because it had certain natural resources, and tried to "quarantine" the native Saramans; but somehow it all went haywire because the Saramans had powerful telepathic abilities, and although peaceful, caused amazing amounts of pain to the Republic scouts and miners.  So Sokol, in an act I can actually admire somewhat, went against orders and secretly removed all of the Saramans from Ishtar and relocated them to another planet, covering up his tracks the entire way--except that Daxanarion and Gen Brightwater were in on it.

So what does all this matter?  Guess which planet Sokol moved the Saramans to--Ossus.  And guess what the Saramans look like--lizard creatures.  And according to Sokol, if word of this ever got out there would either be a bloodbath or a revolution.

It's clear to me what happened to Orowisp was probably an attempt by one of the Saramans to communicate with her and she simply couldn't handle it.  Although, Sokol did speak about a faction of the Saramans who didn't want to be removed, and it could be this faction is trying to cause trouble.  I should also note that I saw Sokol sneaking off to the westwoods the other night--he must be in communication with the Saramans too.

Now I'm sure you're wondering Mr. Recording Rod, as I'm asking myself, "What is Jizana going to do with said world-shattering information?"  And the answer, of this day is, "I don't know."  I tried explaining some of it to a few of the other barracks mates whom I trust, without telling them so much that the Jedis will be able to suck it out of their minds (like I think Daxinarion tried to do to me earlier), but they thought I was being hypocritical and some of them stormed off.  And they were right, because I am doing to them what the Jedi do to us, that is, keep information away out of these paternalistic or selfish desires.  But if word gets out that we know what we know, and we're still on planet, I don't think any of us are going to make it off planet alive, unless our brains have been sifted, filtered, and reconstructed by the Shadow Division.

All of us in the barracks received a message from Carn Sokol (coincidence? right.)  that in a few weeks we'd be heading off planet to visit EPS industries on Hebia Prime.  There's a chance, if I can gain access to an unsecured holocomm, that I could inform certain members of the political and journalistic worlds about this whole Sarama cover-up.  This would at least force the Republic to confront what it's doing when it colonizes and then "quarantines" the natives while removing all of its natural wealth off-planet.  Because imagine how many planets this happens to where the natives don't have a Jedi Master around to "save the day"?  Of course, in the short run who could predict what would happen to the Saramans on Ossus?  And, no one may believe me since Ossus is a hidden planet and I doubt I could smuggle the Sarama datacard off the planet.

Right now the datacard is in a secure place, but I don't know for how much longer.  Vasonja came to me last night and told me that the "unseen" (i.e., the voice from the ruins) had been appearing to her and telling her that I was hiding information.  She went to Daxinarion, and now apparently the whole faculty knows about our trip to the ruins and that the "unseen" is contacting us, and is especially interested in me.  If the "unseen" was watching where I hid the datacard, and tips off the Masters, I could soon have the mental abilities of a Refresher Droid.  I have a back-up plan though.

My life sure has gotten "interesting" all of a sudden, hasn't it?

END VOICE RECORDING

RUN TIME 245/12765 22:32

RECORDING ROD DEACTIVATED

Next Entry

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Death of Buffy, Part 2"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 44

(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (story), Cliff Richards (pencils), Joe Pimentel & Will Conrad (inks)

Setting: After Season Five

T.V. Character Appearances:  Xander, Spike, Dawn, Giles, Willow, Tara, Anya, Buffybot, Clem

Major Original Characters:  Trio of Demon Brothers

Summary:  Having obtained the scroll they were seeking, the mysterious trio of demons dither before deciding to read it.  Whatever is written inside is bad, and the demons decide they need to find a witch to help them.  Meanwhile, Xander attacks Spike and nearly dusts him before he's stopped by Willow, Tara, and Anya.  They tell Xander that they need Spike to help patrol now that Buffy is dead.  Anya suggests fixing the Buffybot to help convince the world that Buffy is still alive, and Spike reluctantly shows where he's hidden its pieces.  They manage to get it working, though it still has several problems.  Weeks pass while the demons look for a witch and the Buffybot helps patrol Sunnydale.  Dawn takes a moonlight walk alone in a cemetery, upset over the activation of the Buffybot as a replacement for her sister.  When she's attacked by vampires, Spike saves her.  Later that night, in Willy's Bar, Spike is entranced by the demons and forced to reveal that he knows a powerful witch (Willow).  Afterwards, Spike finds Willow first and tells her what he was forced to tell the demons.  She decides not to wait, and instead seeks them out.  When she finds them, she says she's willing to listen to what they want, but first she has some questions about resurrection spells!

Review

The issue starts in an intriguing way, and I'm genuinely curious what's on this mysterious scroll.  And even though the human-looking demons haven't been given names yet, watching them bicker is pretty funny.  This story-arc is a really nice continuity implant to fill in the details of what happened during the summer between Season Five and Season Six; we see who came up with the Buffybot idea, and I assume we're about to see how Willow gets the info on how to bring Buffy back.  Very entertaining and interesting overall, and definitely much better than

normal for the series.

Notes

*  There's a lot of talk about why they have to keep Buffy's death a secret or demons will overrun Sunnydale because it has a Hellmouth; but the Hellmouth has been around for a long, long time, and the Slayer's presence in Sunnydale is only a few years old.  Who protected the city then?  Perhaps the Mayor?

* The trio of demons apparently once had a fourth brother: the very creepy Doc.

* In good foreshadowing (if it wasn't retroactively written!), we see Giles call and inquire about how much a plane ticket back to England would cost.