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Saturday, May 31

This. Is. Awesome.

Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Seriously.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 12:20 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Dungeon Contraband

Wizards of the Coast is due to release a new version of its classic game Dungeons & Dragons on June 6. There’s just one problem for the subsidiary of Hasbro: In various unofficial forms, it's already out. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 8:40 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Friday, May 30

PX Poker Night: Part 12 – Good Dog

Guppy and Hammer worked together to lift the last piece of rubble off of the crab-like thing. It made a buzzing squeal noise that sounded like a bad recording of a dog’s whimper.

“There,” said Hammer. “Your dog is free. Now we need your help with—“

The lights went out.

Cold tiny fingers clawed at his arms. Hammer blindly swung outward, knocking one of the Greys down with ease.

Guppy made a low moan of terror.

The ball of light, which dimmed along with the lights in the ship, suddenly illuminated, blinding them. It zipped out of the room.

Hammer swung blindly with one pistol in his hand. The “dog” was gone, along with the light. The Greys were lifeless on the ground, having fallen where they stood. And Guppy pointed a shaking pistol at him.

“Guppy, what is wrong with you?”

“They’ll never take me!” screamed Guppy. He squeezed the trigger. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:08 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 2e – The Freeport Institute

Kham sat at the bow of the boat. It was a bright little vessel of polished wood with a white sail, and it moved gently across the lake in front of the breeze. He looked down into the water, past where his trailing hand disturbed the surface. It was spirit-thick and gray.

Was that movement?

Kham pulled up his hand and a mottled shape ballooned past him not far below, then another—huge marine creatures. Up ahead, the water slapped.

The fluorescent green back of one of the things cleared the surface for a moment, and then dove.

Kham saw it still. It was coming right at him—bigger and bigger. Then it reared out of the water fully, looming above the boat like a cliff. He couldn’t wait for it.

He stood and stepped off into the water. Falling. Falling. Eyes closed. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:03 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Thursday, May 29

PX Poker Night: Part 11 – The Ship

Hammer started hefting some of the pieces off when Guppy ran in, panting.

“Guppy?”

“Hammer!” shouted Guppy, eyes wild.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s back!” shouted Guppy. His eyes were practically bulging, panting from the exertion. “It’s back!”

“What’s back? It’s got to be pretty bad for you to be in here…” Hammer gestured around him.

Guppy was careful to not look around. “I…uh…”

“What is it?” said Hammer, lifting another piece of rubble and tossing it aside.

“The thing…at the Kalms’ house…”

“The dimensional shambler?”

Guppy nodded. “It’s back!” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:30 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 2d – The Freeport Institute

Sebastian opened the leather case. Four vials of a syrupy gray liquid were within. He uncorked one and sniffed at it. “Strange. I’ve never seen this before.”

“Potions?” asked Beldin.

“Alcohol?” suggested Vlad.

“Poison?” added Ilmarė.

“Oh for Althares’ sake, give me that!” Kham snatched the vial out of Sebastian’s hand. “Here’s how you find out what a man’s been drinking.”

He took a swig. And then the world went sideways. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:28 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 10 – First Contact

The crystalline ship lay among the wreckage of the aircraft on the north side of the base, about a half-mile from the barracks and NCO club.

Guppy hopped out of the truck. Caprice stumbled out of the door on the passenger’s side.

The van was flipped on its side. Headless bodies were littered around it.

Guppy and Caprice picked up the discarded M-16s. “Hammer?” asked Caprice.

The doors to the van swung open and Hammer crawled out.

“You okay?” asked Guppy.

“I was until you hit me with the snowplow,” muttered Hammer.

“Good job on the guards,” said Caprice. “What did you do, explode them with your mind?”

Hammer shook his head. “Wasn’t me.”

“Then what did this?” asked Guppy.

Hammer’s gaze was unfocused, staring past him. He slowly rose one finger to point. “Them, I think.” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:16 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 2c – The Freeport Institute

“Get your beads here!” shouted yet another cart vendor. “Get your shiny beads here!”

Ilmarė couldn’t see the vendor but knew what was going to happen next. Sure enough, beads went flying in every direction. She leaped over them.

Hayden had fled into Scurvytown. Prostitutes and drunks were everywhere.

“The Sea Lord’s Guard!” shouted Hayden. “Run for your life!”

Ilmarė cursed as a mass of panicked bodies fled in all directions. Some of them slipped and fell on the beads, piling up on top of each other. She could leap over obstacles, but it was impossible to navigate through the panicked throng.

“Stupid humans,” she snarled. They’d stomp each other to death just to get away from the Guard.

“That’s enough,” said Sebastian. He pointed towards the sky. “Incendiaries globus!”
[MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:11 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Tuesday, May 27

PX Poker Night: Part 9 – The Van

Hammer kept firing and running.

The guards weren’t concerned about precision. They sprayed the area with weapons fire whenever they thought they could get a shot. It was all Hammer could to do keep their heads down.

What the hell was taking Caprice and Guppy so long?

Then he was at the van. It reverberated with an odd humming sound.

“Delta team, this is SONNET,” came a man’s voice from inside the van. “Situation critical. Backup requested.”

Hammer threw open the door to the back of the van and hopped inside, yanking it closed behind him. He surprised two other men in bulky helmets similar to the guards, sans armor. Their attire gave the distinct impression of humanoid insects.

A large electronic device filled the back half of the van. Visible through a small glass window in a safe-like door of the device was a glowing piece of crystal. A chemically powered crystal slowly ticked digital time.

The men drew their own pistols. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:12 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 2b – The Freeport Institute

“Now,” said a stuffy professor from Canceri with frizzy white hair and bushy eyebrows, “Vhen you mix de two components—“

He was cut off by Hayden’s entrance. The student barreled past him, spilling alchemical solutions hither and yon. He launched himself through an open window.

The mixture of chemicals on the floor began to sizzle and pop.

A second later, Ilmarė skidded through the room. The elorii slid along the slick floor without losing her balance and then hopped up, clearing the window with ease.

Vlad stomped into the room, looking around for his prey.

“Oh no!” shouted the professor. “If de saltpeter mixes with de charcoal and sulphur…”

He didn’t need to finish. Vlad tore Grungronazharr from its sheath and held it before him. “Get behind me! [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:10 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 8 – The Snow Plow

“Whatever this SONNET thing is, it’s got to be in that van,” said Hammer. “O’Shea? On my mark, you ram the van. Keep the plow up and in front of the windshield for as long as you can.”

“Right.” O’Shea revved the engine.

“Bach, Long had the only M-16. So you’re going to have to get it off his dead body. It’s about forty yards out from the van. Think you can get to it?”

Bach’s expression was grim. “If O’Shea can provide enough of a distraction, maybe. What about you guys?”

“We’re going to loop around back and come at them from the other side. Hopefully, one of us will make it.”

“This is a s&!++y plan,” said Bach.

“It’s the best we’ve got,” said Hammer. He drew his Glock. “On my mark. Ready? Go!” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:18 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 2a – The Freeport Institute

The Freeport Institute was located in a large building in the western-most end of Drac’s End. In fact, it cut off most of the rest of Drac’s End from the Merchant District, with the exception of the houses in the Cluster.

“You sure this is the place?” asked Vlad.

Sebastian nodded. “I have a contact with one of the professors here.”

They stood in front of a series of small buildings gathered together at the far west end of Drac’s End.

Ilmarė peered down one of the tight passageways between buildings. “You humans call this place an institute of higher learning? Calling the passageways between the buildings here streets would be laughable. I wouldn’t even refer to them as alleys.”

“I agree.” Sebastian craned his neck, looking for his contact in the bustle of students moving to and from the dorms. “It makes the tunnels in Solanos Mor look roomy.”

Beldin grunted. “I rather like it. Reminds me of home.” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:15 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Monday, May 26

The Real Meaning of "Girl" by Beck

Just discovered Beck's fabulous "Girl" (I know, it takes me years to discover songs). I've seen a lot of controversy over whether this is a love song, or a serial killer's internal monologue, and a lot of theories in between. Here's what I think:
I saw her, yeah I saw her with her black tongue tied
Round the roses
Fist pounding on a vending machine
Toy diamond ring stuck on her finger
With a noose she can hang from the sun
And put it out with her dark sunglasses
The narrator sees a girl (noticably not a woman) pounding on a vending machine. She has a diamond ring on her finger, which he mocks, calling it a toy. Her marriage, it's clear, is something she's not mature enough to understand. He also feels she's either self-destructive of hopelessly naieve, and that although she wears dark sunglasses (cause she's that cool), she actually has a huge ego. Her ego's big enough that if she were to hang herself, she'd block the sun out. She's obviously into goth-type attitude/attire, as evidenced by her "black tongue tied" and "dark sunglasses." Judging from the tongue-tied, I'd guess she's a theater major or English major fond of spouting epithets that don't make her sound any smarter.
Walking crooked down the beach
She spits on the sand where their bones are bleaching
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
As she walks down the beach in a crooked line, a line that most people walk straight (and thus representative of her winding, indecisive life), she spits. Again, not a nice image for an object of affection, but more importantly she doesn't even know what's she spits on. Alternately, she's too oblivious to notice the bones of the creatures on the beach, as she's so wrapped up in herself.
She doesn't even know what's wrong
And I know I'm gonna make her die
Take her where her soul belongs
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
Nothing that I wouldn't try
So "gonna make her die" -- does that mean Beck wants to kill this poor girl?

I doubt it. It's more likely he's going to break her heart. He feels he's a real man, better to bring this girl into a real relationship than the stupid marriage she's locked into. He's been watching her all this time and plans to grab her attention ("steal her eye") and is quite determined to do it.
Hey, My...girl
Hey, My...girl
The refrain is the real crux of the song, and Beck knows it. On his own site he blurred the lyrics. Sure it sounds like sun-eyed girl. Or cyanide girl. Of course, both are right. Despite her goth attire, the girl is hopelessly naieve (sun-eyed). But she's also hopelessly self-destructive as a result of that toy diamond ring. So if someone's going to kill her foolish spirit, Beck's the one to do it...or at least imagining he could do it.
I saw her, yeah I saw her with her hands tied back
And her rags were burning
Crawling out from a landfilled life
Scrawling her name upon the ceiling
We move forward in time. Now see the girl again. Her hands are tied (literally, she doesn't know what to do now), her clothes are a mess. She's now desperate to prove she has value after the wreck of her marriage ("land-filled life"), as so many of us wish to "scrawl our names" -- but she's scrawling it on the ceiling, not the floor. If she's outside, this is a hopelessly futile gesture. If she's inside, it still denotes her naieve outlook of looking up instead of down at the landfill she just crawled out of. Always up and onwards!
Throw a coin in a fountain of dust
White noise, her ears are ringing
She's still taking stupid chances, maybe playing the lottery -- she throws bad money after good by tossing a coin in a fountain, but it's a dusty fountain (traditionally tossing a coin in a fountain is lucky). She's also not listening. She hears white noise instead of any actual advice. So who's next great hope for this hopeless girl? Beck, of course.
Got a ticket for a midnight hanging
Throw a bullet from a freight train leaving
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
She doesn't even know what's wrong
And I know I'm gonna make her die
Take her where her soul belongs
And I know I'm gonna steal her eye
Nothing that I would not try
The ultimately irony here is that Beck probably caused the dissolution of her marriage. And now he's going to tell her he's breaking up with her too. He's got a ticket to tell her, and then get the hell out of there fast -- throwing a bullet from a train, which is both fast and lethal (to her hopes and dreams).

This is, in my opinion, a rather morose perspective on a relationship; an extremely jaded view on a relatoinship with an immature girl who's trying to be a grown-up but doesn't have the emotional maturity to handle it. And Beck is comforting himself, perhaps, by teaching her an important, painful life lesson that her marriage was never of any value in the first place.

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:32 PM | 4 comments links to this post


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Game Review: The Darkness

Despite the age-old Mafia tropes, The Darkness takes the themes explored in The Crow and Spawn and amps them up to eleven, without ever losing focus on sacrifice, violence, and even love. I wasn't entirely convinced that saving Jackie's soul was feasible (I earned the anti-hero rating from the game), but the very notion of redemption being possible is a breath of fresh air to the first-person shooter genre. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:20 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 7 – Things Fall Apart

“The guards at the van shot Long dead,” interjected Hammer.

“Then he got too close. Now it’s unfortunate about Campbell—“

“Unfortunate?” asked Smith. “He’s dead, for Christ’s sake!”

“And as far as I’m concerned we may be staring at his killer,” said Sprague. “Hammer, I want you to handcuff Creed to the chair.”

“Sir, if you’d just listen—“ began Hammer.

Sprague reached down and came up with a pistol pointed at Hammer’s head. “I said,” Sprague repeated slowly, “handcuff him.” He cocked the pistol. “I am NOT going to ask you AGAIN soldier!”

In a flash, Hammer’s Beretta was out aimed at Sprague. “Put the pistol down.”

“Where the hell did you get that?” shouted Sprague.

“Everybody calm down,” said Guppy.

Smith slowly edged around the side of the table towards Sprague…

The lights flickered. For a split-second Sprague looked away. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 12:06 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Part 1 – The Crematorium

An insect-like figure approached the dock as they disembarked. The man’s features were completely concealed underneath a black hood with two large lenses. A mouthpiece pulsed as the man inhaled and exhaled.

“You are not velcome here,” he said, muffled by the mask. “Ve do not receive visitors.”

“A fellow Cancerite,” said Sebastian with a slight smile. “We are conducting an investigation. We’d like to view a certain corpse, if you haven’t burned it.”

The only response was the figure’s mouthpiece pulsing in and out.

Sebastian nudged Beldin. “Show him the Sign of Drac.”

Beldin reached for the medallion around his neck and held it up.

“Is dis a joke?” said the figure.

Beldin looked at his medallion. Someone had replaced it with a symbol of the Undir Benevolent Association.

“Damn you, Kham!” shouted the dwarf. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 12:03 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Sunday, May 25

Why We're Here

If you've ever read a Jack Chick track, this will make perfect sense.

WhyWeHere_Page_02

Okay, you have to be a fan of Lovecraft's work as well to get it...

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posted by Michael Tresca at 11:59 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 6 – Was That a Gunshot?

Hammer jogged his way across the field. He skidded to a stop as he saw Campbell lying in a pool of his own blood.

“Hot Pants? You in there?”

Long picked up the M-16, eyes glazed. “I don’t like this.”

There was a low moan from behind the door. Hammer kicked it open and the door gave easily, lock and all.

At first he thought Caprice was dead. But then he realized that he was on the ground, clutching his head.

Long reloaded the M-16 with a spare clip off of Campbell’s body.

Hammer got down on one knee. “You hurt?”

“The sound…” groaned Caprice, rolling around. “You can’t hear it?”

Hammer helped him to his feet. “What sound? What the hell happened?”

Caprice tried to clear the cobwebs, blinking. “I…I’m not sure. Campbell went nuts. Then there was a gunshot…”

Hammer nodded. “He shot himself in the head.”

“Jesus…” Caprice looked down, gingerly stepped around Campbell’s corpse. “What the hell?”

“I don’t know.” Hammer patted the pistol snug in his waistband. “But I think it has to do with--”

“IT’S IN THE VAN!” shrieked Long at the top of his lungs. He was charging towards the van, firing wildly. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:49 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Consequences of Vice: Prologue

Kham sauntered up to entrance to The Tombs, much more confident than before. One of the guards exchanged words with him. He flashed the Order of Drac hanging from around his neck. Then the portcullis winched open. There was no crowd at night, driven off by the night air and sharp encouragement from the Sea Lord Guardsmen.

“Where did you get that medallion?” asked Ilmarė. She touched her own just to confirm it was still around her neck. “I thought Finn took yours?”

“He did,” Kham ducked under the portcullis. “But that’s not important. We’re getting in, aren’t we?”

“I don’t know that we even want to be here.” Ilmarė followed him in.

“Well if i' ain't my girlfriend!” shouted Price. He was dressed in a nightshirt and cap.

Ilmarė pinched the bridge of her nose between forefinger and thumb. “Osalian help me.” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:43 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Saturday, May 24

DVD Review: Taking Lives

With a subdued Jolie, a bizarre appearance by Kiefer Sutherland, lack of chemistry between the two leads, and a supporting cast that doesn't speak English as their first language, Taking Lives would make for a boring movie even if it were an action film. As a slow-building drama it can barely stir to life. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:53 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 5 – Unused Dormitories

The door slammed behind him. There was the jangle of the padlocked chain around the door handle as Campbell locked it. The door didn’t actually lock from the outside.

There was only a peephole as Caprice’s window to the outside world. It was clear it wasn’t meant to be used for incarcerating prisoners.

Caprice could get out if he wanted to. The windows weren’t barred. The only obstacle was Campbell and his M-16.

“You notice anything weird about that van?” he asked through the thin door.

Campbell sighed but didn’t say anything.

“Why were they all wearing motorcycle helmets? That’s not standard issue.”

“Like you know anything about standard issue,” said Campbell. “You’re not an officer either.”

“Yeah, well you’re a pretty poor imitation of an airman so we’re even.”

Campbell turned suddenly and punched the door. It rattled from the impact. “You know, your face is starting to piss me off.”

“My face?” asked Caprice. He tried not to laugh. The man couldn’t even see him.

“You’re really starting to piss me off,” said Campbell. “You think it’s funny? You think you’re better than me?”

“I uh didn’t say that,” said Caprice. He didn’t like Campbell’s new tone. It had shifted from surly to aggressive. He backed away from the door.

“I’m gonna come in there and…” Campbell trailed off.

Caprice stared at the doorknob. Nothing happened.

After a minute of silence, Caprice asked. “Campbell?”

He peered through the peephole. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:33 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Chapter 27: The Consequences of Vice - Introduction

This is a free download set in the Freeport setting, "The Consequences of Vice," written by William Simoni. You can download this adventure at: http://64.17.155.164/gr_files/freeport_WE_consequence_vice.pdf. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

This adventure is more of an outline, so there was a lot more freedom to modify the NPCs and events. That said, the PCs were surprisingly “on script,” visiting the Crematorium first (before even speaking to Aljandros) and even chasing Hayden Judson on cue.

Even the ambush by the rival mercenary group was a close fight. This NPC vs. PC battle is probably the most climactic sorcerer vs. wizard combat to date, and it illustrated the inherent advantages of being a sorcerer. Although the PCs were nearly defeated, even with the odds stacked in their favor the PCs were not able to press the advantage. Just to clarify how the fight matched up:

At heart, this adventure is much more about street politics. At one point the PCs wondered just how this all fit in with Lucius, but then one piece of information is dropped that makes Kham forget all about him. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:22 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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Friday, May 23

What Your Cat Thinks

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

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posted by Michael Tresca at 10:36 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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PX Poker Night: Part 4 – The NCO Club

Sprague’s predator gaze focused on Caprice as he entered the room. “You. Why weren’t you at your post?”

Caprice’s expression of resignation meant he knew exactly where this was going. “I took a walk.”

“You took a walk?”

Caprice shrugged. “If you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty boring around here.”

“Boring, huh?” Sprague laughed. “You hear that? He said this place is boring!”

Nobody laughed except Lundy, who was too stupid to know not to.

Sprague stood up. “Now you listen to me, asswipe. I’m the king here and this is my kingdom. And you’re not a prince, or a knight, or even a serf. You’re a god damned peasant, and you live or die in this place by my good graces. Right now you’re teetering on a knife’s edge, so I suggest you choose carefully what you say next or I’ll bounce your ass out of here so hard your momma will feel it.”

“That’s a very nice speech,” said Caprice, “but don’t you think—“

“That’s it.” Sprague tossed a key to Campbell. “Take this joker back to the unused dormitories and lock his dumb ass in there until I decide what to do with him.”

Campbell cracked his knuckles. “With pleasure.” Campbell walked over to Caprice and grabbed his shoulder. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:19 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Madman: Conclusion

They met back at The Last Resort.

Kham looked terrible. He had bags under his eyes. Sebastian sat across from him, equally haggard. He wore a heavy cloak over his shoulders. “There’s been another death at The Tombs. A man committed suicide.”

“Not that uncommon in The Tombs,” said Kham. “What of it?”

“My contacts don’t believe it’s a suicide. They think it’s a murder.”

“Great,” said Beldin. “As if there aren’t enough deaths to go around.”

“That’s not the interesting part,” said Sebastian. “The boy’s name was Frederick Haddon.”

Ilmarė froze in mid sip of her tea. “Haddon? You’re sure?”

Sebastian nodded. “Yes, that Haddon. Federick Haddon was Aljandros Haddon’s eldest son.”

“Looks like you should have used some of your pixie dust on more than just Aljandros’ wife,” said Kham wearily.

“With a family like that, I’d kill myself too,” said Ilmarė.

Kham picked up his mug and abruptly shoved off from the table.

“Was it something I said?” asked Ilmarė. [MORE]

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Thursday, May 22

PX Poker Night: Part 3 – The Air Traffic Control Tower

To Hammer and Guppy’s surprise, Caprice opened the door to the air traffic control room.

“What are you doing here?” asked Guppy, half-standing up.

“Happy to see me?” asked Caprice. “I decided to check on you guys. I haven’t seen any of you since I got here.”

Hammer nodded. “Today’s the first time we got stationed together.”

“You think they’re separating us on purpose?” asked Guppy.

Caprice nodded. “Yeah. Where’s the rest of the team?”

Hammer shrugged. “Wherever they are, they didn’t make it here.”

“They’re trying to split us up,” said Guppy mournfully. “Mother trucker.” [MORE]

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The Madman: Part 5 – A Dream Vision

Kham looked up, disturbed, and the city was gone to be replaced by a flat landscape punctuated by mounds and hillocks and a few stunted trees. He stood with the others.

There was a pressure building as though a storm was in the air. Kham sensed water nearby and the wind blew the smell to him. It was still dark, but he could just make out and count nine shapes, standing stones, placed around him.

First the quality of the air changed, then the ground beneath him. Kham’s heart felt too big for his chest. Something was coming.

There were cut-off screams. One after another, the people near him winked out like stars. He was alone, looking for the thing.

He sensed it at the last moment as it reached out for you, lifting him up. Kham could do nothing but lay there, tiny under its inspection. He couldn’t help but look up into its eyes… [MORE]

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Wednesday, May 21

PX Poker Night: Part 2 – Randy Campbell

Randy Campbell was a fit, well-built, singularly unattractive man. And he had the unpleasant privilege of being stationed with Caprice on guard duty at the front gate.

“Hey,” said Caprice.

Campbell glared at him.

“So what do you guys do here all day?”

Campbell didn’t even look at him this time.

“Not much, huh?”

“When we piss off Sprague, we get guard duty. And I get stuck with you.” [MORE]

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The Madman: Part 4 – Interview With Alexander Halliwell

“Blimey!” said Price. “Yew think that's good, yew should talk ter 'is neighbor.”

“His neighbor?” asked Kham.

“He's crazy, it's true. But then, I can never tell who's behind bars because they're crazy, us awer 'em. For instance, earlier dis year we 'ad a murder. That's right, Cuthbert Yates. Good fellow, I used ter play Three-Dragon Ante wiv 'im every week. He was seein' ter da needs ov Alexander Harriwell when da murder 'appened.”

“In the cell next to Lucius?”

Price nodded. “Yah. And if you’re real nice ter me, I might be able ter swin' an in'erview wiv 'im fer you.” He fluttered his eyes at Ilmarė.

“I’m sure Ilmarė would be very grateful.” Kham leaned forward to whisper in Price’s ear. The guard’s eyes widened. He looked at Ilmarė and licked his lips.

“Done then.” Price fumbled with the keys to Alexander’s cell and opened it.

Ilmarė glanced sideways at Kham. “What did you tell him?”

“Nothing,” said Kham. [MORE]

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Tuesday, May 20

PX Poker Night: Part 1 – Frank Long

“What’d you do to get stuck in a place like this?” asked Hammer.

“You know. Got a divorce. Got into debt. It affects a man.”

Hammer nodded. “Knew someone like that. Good man.”

“Yeah? He on the base?”

Hammer shook his head. “He’s dead.”

“Wow. Too bad, man. Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, he had everything going for him. Had turned his life around. I try to look out for his widow and his kid.”

Long nodded. “We didn’t have kids at least. I got transferred out here when my place burned down.”

“Burned down, huh?” Hammer peered at the bald black man. “What’s your job here?”

“Fire/Rescue,” said Long with a straight face. “I used to be a firefighter.” [MORE]

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The Madman: Part 3 – Interview With Lucius Roby

Lucius stared at Vlad. “I don’t think he will stay away. So here is a kindness I would like you to pass on to him for when he sees that the King does not offer him what he hopes. To divert the King’s attention away from Arcanis and back upon the dream city, he must think of Cassilda’s song:

The stars that burn their charcoal death
Shrink back, they feel the hoary breath
Of he who ransoms great Carcosa
He flees where queen and prophet meet
Where twin suns fall but never set
Escapes the tomb of lost Carcosa.”

Ilmarė bit her lip. She stepped out of Lucius’ cell. Vlad followed her.

“What?” asked Vlad.

“Yet another amazing coincidence,” said Ilmarė.

Beldin joined them. He locked gazes with her. “I know, I heard it too.”

“Heard what?” asked Vlad.

“That song,” said Ilmarė. “If Lucius hasn’t received any news of the outside world…”

“Then how did he quote the exact lyrics from Talbot’s play?” finished Beldin. [MORE]

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Monday, May 19

PX Poker Night - Prologue

Guppy extended his hand to a trim, wiry redheaded man with blue eyes and a freckled complexion. “Name’s Hank,” he said with a smile.

“O’Shea,” he responded. “Second Lieutenant Mike O’Shea. I’m Executive Officer here at Platte.”

Guppy smiled again. “That is wonderful. Then perhaps you can tell me who is in charge here?”

O’Shea gave him a sideways glance. “You don’t know? You really are new. That’d be Major Louis Sprague. He’s base commander.” He looked Guppy up and down. “And he don’t like foreigners.”

“I’m just as American as you!” said Guppy, getting defensive. “I eat hamburgers and wear jeans and—“

“Hamburgers?” asked O’Shea. “I thought you people didn’t eat cows.”

“No,” said Guppy. “I eat cows just like any red-blooded American.”

“Your accent’s awful thick.”

Guppy sighed. “Look, perhaps we are getting off to a wrong start. I merely want to know what we’re supposed to be doing here. I’m honestly not sure and you’re the first person I’ve met here.” [MORE]

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The Madman: Part 2 – Preparing for the Interview

“Blimey! What 'ave we 'ere then? Look there, it's da bi' ov fluff what kicked me befawer. Couldn't keep away from me, could yew love? Know what I mean?”

Ilmarė rolled her eyes. “Of all the guardsmen in the world, it had to be this guy.”

Her comment sent off a sniggering fit amongst the guards.

“Aw, don’t be like that!” The guard puckered up. “Give me a kiss an' I'll let yew in.”

Ilmarė reached for her thinblade.

Kham put one hand on her shoulder. “Maybe we can use this to our advantage. Try, you know…being nice.”

Ilmarė glared sideways at the val. “I don’t do nice.”

“Try.” [MORE]

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Sunday, May 18

Chapter 10: PX Poker Night - Introduction

This scenario, “PX Poker Night,” is a D20 Call of Cthulhu scenario from Dungeon Magazine #96 by Dennis Detwiller. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers! Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:
  • Game Master: Michael Tresca
  • Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca
  • Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
  • Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero) played by Bill Countiss
There’s an odd trend in D20 Delta Green scenarios: they seem torn between making the conflict about pseudo-sci-fi topics and blatantly supernatural, magical beings. For an example, see the other introductory scenario for Delta Green, Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays, where a supernatural Coyote helps the agents out. In PX Poker Night, it’s a dimensional shambler.

PX Poker Night has a lot of great ingredients but not much guidance on how to use them. There are no less than twelve characters (not counting the agents, who replaced three of them) that handle the day-to-day duties of Platte Air Force Base. Encountering each of them takes a considerable amount of work, but I really wanted to flesh out their personalities so there were some good foils to role-playing against. I basically just fast-forwarded through the various shifts, wherein one PC got to hang out with one NPC each day. A short amount of role-playing ensued to allow them some time for dialogue. Once all nine were introduced, it was time to introduce the poker game.

I toyed with the idea of playing an actual poker game, but role-playing with the various characters took up plenty of time already, so I just skipped to the crazy event. The other problem I noticed is that the scenario doesn’t provide information in an easy-to-find fashion. Breaking into the armory where the weapons are stored--probably the most important part of the scenario--is obscured as part of a map key.

I debated about adding in the dimensional shambler, but since the agents had already encountered one from before I decided it was time to reintroduce a recurring villain. And the dimensional shambler also provided an excellent form of menace that guided Guppy right into his worst nightmare.

This was one of those games where not everyone showed up, leaving us with just three agents. That’s not usually a problem if all three are stalwarts of sanity. Except one of them is SO NOT.

Defining Moment: The defining moment came when Guppy went bonkers. This was the first time the Tower of Sanity actually collapsed. Mind you, he had it coming…the crystal generator was making everyone bonkers anyway, and it just took a little shove to push poor Guppy over the edge. Of course, being alone with aliens in the dark will do that to you.

Relevant Media
  • The Warning: by Nine Inch Nails. You don't hear songs that talk about alien contact very often, much less from NIN. But here it is!
  • Dungeon Magazine #96: The source for this scenario. You can also get it for free by joining the DG mailing list.
  • Oddcast Virtual Host: Need a talking creepy grey alien but don’t want to role-play it? Oddcast has the answer: pick the virtual avatar, pick its voice, and then type in what you want it to say. [MORE]

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The Madman: Part 1 – Interview With Egil

Egil nodded. “Kham, I know you once knew Lucius.”

Lucius was Kham’s connection to Egil. Though the two were never close friends, they grew up in the same town in Coryan. It was Lucius who provided the common link between Kham and Egil, and it was Lucius who convinced Egil to take Kham in, so many years ago.

“Since his incarceration, Lucius has suffered from night terrors, but I’m encouraged by his progress. I see no evidence of untreatable long-term insanity in Lucius; the brief and predictably spaced attacks have been controlled by strong sleeping drafts. Thanks to my influence, I have managed to get Lucius a stay of execution, but his retirement to The Tombs is due for review.”

Egil paused, obviously concerned.

“Judge Shamus McGowan will decide whether to release Lucius or keep him in The Tombs, but he is uneasy on one point. It concerns the stance of Lucius’ family. All communication on the case has been with Corinalous val’Abebi.”

Kham blinked. “My dad?” [MORE]

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Saturday, May 17

Darkest Calling - Conclusion

Drake was waiting for the agents in his office. He poured a shot of scotch for each of them.

“To Blade,” he said, tears in his eyes. It rattled the other agents. They had never seen anything but rage from the old man.

They clinked their glasses. “To Blade!”

They all downed it at once. It was strong stuff from his special stash.

“What happened back there, Drake?” asked Hammer. “We got a message we were disavowed?”

Drake put down the shot glass. “You were. If those assholes in Majestic-12 had their say, they would have dropped the lot of you.” [MORE]

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The Madman - Prologue

Sebatian woke up, drenched in sweat. Egil was standing his doorway.

“Are you all…” Egil began, but then stopped. His eyes were wide. “I…I heard a scream.” Egil looked away.

Sebastian took a few deep breaths and looked around. He was in the Temple of Althares. He had sought solace there to gather his thoughts and meditate, like he once did in Solanos Mor. Sebastian’s infernal heritage always haunted him, sometimes filling him with such murderous rage that it terrified even him.

But this was different. Egil refused to look at him. Sebastian had hoped that he could cleanse himself of the taint of murder, of the insanity that was The King in Yellow.

Something rustled at his back. And at that moment Sebastian realized how wrong he was. [MORE]

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Friday, May 16

Darkest Calling: Part 4b – The Well

Out of the darkness strode John Takoda and his men. They were all there: Knightly, the renegade police officers, the entire tribe had turned out to see the last sacrifice. They watched in complete silence.

“Your O’odham needs some work,” said Takoda quietly. “Why are you fighting your destiny?”

“Fighting?” Blade snarled. “Give me my hatchets and I’ll show you fighting.”

“You do not understand.” They tied him up again, his legs too this time. Then they tossed Blade into the back of a jeep. “Think of the dark spirits you have defeated.”

“He’s trying to trick you,” whispered the voice. “Don’t listen to him.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” snarled Blade.

“I think you do. First you defeated the Traveler. Then Thin Jack. Then the Skinwalker. I dispelled the Festering Shambler. There is but one more spirit and one more sacrifice to be made. Will you not go honorably?”

The jeep bounced along as they drove out to the spot of the sacrifice. [MORE]

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Chapter 26: The Madman - Introduction

This is one of a series of adventures in the Cthluhu campaign, Tatters of the King, "The Madman," written by Tim Wiseman. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

• Dungeon Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
• Beldin Soulforge (dwarf fighter) played by Joe Lalumia
• Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
• Kham Val’Abebi(val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
• Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster
• Vlad Martell (human fighter) played by Matt Hammer

This is the first of a series of primarily role-playing scenarios. I mingled Black Sails Over Freeport with Tatters of the King, which makes for an interesting (if somewhat wacky) combination. I had fun connecting the dots between the two campaigns and sprinkling it with Arcanis-isms, but the overarching plot is yet to be fully realized. It will take another adventure or two to make it clear just what’s happening.

Ironically, the most important character wasn’t Egil, Lucius Roby, or even Alexander Halliwell. It was Price, the Sea Lord Guardsman who was harassing Ilmarė from the last adventure. In Tatters of the King, Price does nothing but “shift his weight” and act as a security blanket for PCs who might not be fond of visiting a crazy man in a confined cell. But once the role-playing started I just rolled with it. Before we knew it, Price was Ilmarė’s ticket in to the Sea Lord’s Guard…whether she liked it or not.

The other important part of this adventure is that Sebastian committed cold-blooded murder. He’s begun having nightmares (nightmares just for him from Tatters of the King), and when he wakes up…well, you’ll see. [MORE]

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Thursday, May 15

Darkest Calling: Part 4a – The Well

“I’ll call for help!” shouted Guppy. He flicked it on. The biometrics read his thumbprint…

Guppy stared at it. “I…I don’t understand.”

“What?” asked Hammer. “What is it?” He looked over Guppy’s shoulder. “Oh s**t.”

“What?” asked Archive.

“We’ve been…” Guppy couldn’t continue. He just held up the cistron, glowing in the dark of the well.

In the darkness the screen was clearly visible. It read: DISAVOWED. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Conclusion

Kham finally returned to The Last Resort. He was concerned that Fleshripper might make him do something rash, but its murderous urges were blessedly absent.

Kham slumped into a chair with his other companions. Egil ran over to him. He hadn’t left the resort since the night before. “Well?”

“The debt is repaid,” Kham said wearily. “Finn won’t try to kill you.”

“Thank Althares!” shouted Egil. He nearly sobbed and hug Kham tightly. “Thank you!”

“All right, get off me,” said Kham. “Bobbin, I need a drink.”

Bobbin hurried off to get him a drink. They were surrounded by the sounds of hammering and sawing. Men were already working hard to put things back in order.

He did a double take. The workers weren’t men; they were orcs.

Kham turned back to the others. “Did you notice that…” he caught their dour expressions. “Don’t look so happy to see me." [MORE]

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Wednesday, May 14

Darkest Calling: Part 3 – The Elder Stars Ritual

Blade looked through his binoculars. “That’s John Takoda. A shaman on the Papago Reservation.”

Takoda was a tall, thin man with parchment-like wrinkled skin and long gray hair tied in a ponytail. He wore jeans, a checkered shirt, and cowboy boots.

They carefully bound the man to the ground. He showed no signs of resistance. Then, lifting a knife over the man’s head, he began cutting into his flesh.

“That’s it, go, go, go!”

The agents rushed forward, pistols out. “Hands up! On the ground, now!”

The Native Americans looked up, surprisingly calm. Takoda put his hands up. “Jacob Ironshirt. You have come, as Coyote foretold.”

“Put the knife down,” said Blade. He pointed the pistol at Takoda.

“You have interfered with things that you do not understand. Our people are to be protected, as will all men, women and children of this earth if I am allowed to complete the rituals of banishment.”

“Down!” shouted Hammer.

Takoda shook his head. “If we do not, the lands will be subject to darkness and death, bringing the time when the stars are right ever closer. Our people have long understood sacrifice, a concept lost to your modern ways.

“This is not the way to do it,” said Hammer. “I’m not going to ask you again!”

“I have volunteers who understand that the interest of the tribe come first,” said Takoda. “But now it seems Coyote has sent you to me to serve a higher purpose.”

Takoda resumed the carving of the man’s flesh on the ground.

“Take him out!” shouted Hammer into his mic.

There was the crack of a sniper’s rifle. Hammer’s pistol flew out of his hand. He swore, clutching his bleeding fist. “Son of a bitch, they missed!” [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 10e: Dirty Business

The Finn Syndicate headquarters was a large building in the center of the Eastern District, right on the Field of Honor.

Kham expected enforcers to shove him down an alley, blindfolded. Much to his surprise, he walked right through the double doors unmolested. A large sign read, “Undir Benevolent Association.”

Inside was a row of pillars and steps leading up. The main pillared hallway continued to the left and a smaller hallway branched off to the right. A sign indicated where the offices were.

Kham wasn’t sure if he was applying for an application or meeting with a crime boss. He knocked on the door labeled “Finn.”

“Come in,” said a gravelly voice.

Kham pushed open the door. Inside was a puffy, overweight val’Borda reading a document. He took off his pince-nez. “Kham, good to see you,” he said, as if he knew Kham all his life. “Come in.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, May 13

Darkest Calling: Part 2b – Police Investigations

The Phoenix police kept them for hours before they were finally released.

“Looks like you’re legit,” said Knightly. They were all uncuffed.

She perched herself on a desk in the Phoenix police station.

Guppy looked around. It was a different police station than the one that the Skinwalker had escaped from. ”Hopefully we don’t have to burn this one too,” he muttered.

“What?” asked Knightly.

“Nothing,” said Guppy. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 10d: Dirty Business

“Are you sure this is going to work?” asked Egil.

“It better,” said Kham. He had carefully laid out all of his possessions on a table. The Last Resort was empty of all but a few. “Lucky for you, Baldric was grateful enough to give me Edward’s stolen artifacts. Also lucky for you, Falthar agreed to spot me the money up front for them. So now it’s time to deliver the goods in person.”

“In person? But they’ll kill you!”

Kham shrugged. “I don’t think so. I think Finn’s a reasonable man. So I’m going to try to be reasonable.” He strapped on a belt purse full of coins. “Just in case, I’m not going in with anything else of value.” [MORE]

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Monday, May 12

Darkest Calling: Part 2a – Police Investigations

“Drop your weapons and lay face down on the ground with your hands on your head!” shouted the loudspeaker from the helicopter.

”What the hell is this?” asked Hammer.

“That would be the Phoenix police department,” said Blade. “We’d better do as they say.”

They did as they were told. The helicopter landed and four officers left the craft to handcuff them. Two were in plain clothes and three were in uniform.

“We’re federal agents!” shouted Blade over the roar of the chopper. “Check our badges!”

“Right, sure,” said an attractive redhead with her hair tied back in a ponytail. She was dressed in dark-rimmed glasses, a t-shirt and jeans. “You don’t look like agents.”

“You don’t look like a police officer,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 10c: Dirty Business

“Your new project, what’s the name of it?“

Sebastian pulled out a knife from his belt. Talbot watched the blade.

“The Yellow Sign,” said Talbot. “I was inspired after the opening celebration of Milton’s Folly. It will be—“

“You must not write it. To write that book is to spread the taint of the Unspeakable One’s madness. You’ll kill more people. Maybe thousands. And you might inspire another playwright.”

“Then I’ve done my job,” said Talbot. “Is it not the artist’s role to inspire? And by so imitating, create a new form of art?”

Sebastian grabbed a chair, placed it in front of Talbot, and sat on it.

“You’re not listening to me. You can’t write that book.”

“You’re not listening to ME. I must write it. Writing is my life.”

Sebastian stared into Talbot’s face. “I don’t want to do this, Talbot. You understand what you’re forcing me to do?”

Talbot said nothing. He just stared back at Sebastian. [MORE]

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Sunday, May 11

ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead

I was interviewed by Jonathan Maberry for his book, ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. It will be released by Citadel Press (a division of Kensington Publishing) in August 2006. Jonathan interviewed a total of 250 experts in forensics, law enforcement, medicine, science, the military, the legal profession, journalism, and pop culture for the book. Which puts me in a lot of good company (I feel bad for the other guys). You can preorder it here.

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Dungeon Crawl Classics 20% Off Sale

Your friendly local gaming store is having a sale! For the entire month of May we're sponsoring a 20%-off sale on all Dungeon Crawl Classics modules -- but the deal is only available in game stores. Look for the flyer to the right in your local store -- and visit our store locator to find a participating retailer!

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Darkest Calling: Part 1 – The Abandoned Vehicle

There before them was the corpse of a woman. She was naked, face up, spread like a star and bound by ropes to stakes pounded into the earth. Her body was decorated with fresh cuts, creating a pattern of spirals, stars, crescents, and swirls. Everything between her abdomen and her knees had been eaten away.

Guppy stumbled away, gagging.

Hammer leaned down over the body. “This is Kate.” He snapped on a pair of plastic gloves and began talking into his cistron. “No clothes, jewelry, money, identification, or camping equipment. Bleeding indicates the pattern was carved into her skin while still alive, administered shortly before her death.”

Blade peered over Hammer’s shoulder. “The patterns on her body are a mixture of Tohono O’odham and Kokoham styles symbolizing creatures from the underworld.”

“Some of them are reminiscent of constellations,” said Archive on the other side. He got down on his knees. “See this? There are two gray dots painted on her left foot, one above the other.”

“The fatal wound in her midsection suggests an attack by a large animal,” said Hammer. “There’s a thick, orange substance on the wound…” He swabbed it with an evidence kit. “It smells vaguely of bile.” Hammer moved on. “The body is greenish around the abdomen. Her fingers, toes, eyes, and face have withered, and bloating suggests she’s been dead for at least two days.”

Guppy, who had been heaving off in the scrub but not actually vomiting, finally returned. “There is a circular depression of sand where nothing grows over there. It looks like it collapsed, like a sinkhole.”

Before anyone could respond, the thud-thud-thuding of a chopper overhead interrupted their conversation.

Hammer reached for his Glocks. “Looks like we’ve got company.” [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 10b: Dirty Business

Beldin smashed the door open to discover Captain Baldric pinned to the bed with his own cutlass. A pulsing, transparent pirate hovered over him.

“Give me back me treasure!” it shouted.

“A pirate ghost.” Kham slapped his forehead.

Baldric coughed up blood. He choked out, “Krubach…”

“Krubach?” said Ilmarė. “Captain Wendron Krubach?”

Krubach turned to face her. “Ye! Give me back me treasure!”

“Oh great, he remembers me too,” said the elorii. [MORE]

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Saturday, May 10

Darkest Calling: Prologue

“What’s the cover story?” asked Blade.

Hammer frowned. “Native American extremists attacked the police station after believing some kind of messiah-like figure was killed in a shootout with federal agents.” As an African-American, he didn’t like the tone the cover-up had taken.

“They made Charlie Two-Horses out to be the underdog?” asked Archive in disbelief.

Hammer nodded. “It’s easier to believe that than a guy running around stealing skins.”

Blade sighed. “Whatever. The mission was considered a success overall or we wouldn’t be on this next case. We’re looking for Kate Draper, a Majestic friendly. She disappeared investigating a missing person in the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in the Sonoran Desert.”

“Isn’t that your people?” asked Archive.

“Yeah,” said Blade. “Which is why I’m mission leader. Again.”

”What is it with this place?” asked Hammer. “You’ve got all kinds of supernatural weirdness in Arizona.” [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 10a: Dirty Business

Much to everyone’s surprise, Captain Baldric hobbled out of his room to survey the damage.

“Well, now that’s a sight ye don’t see e’ery day,” he said.

“Baldric.” Ilmarė climbed what was left of the steps to greet him. “What are you doing here?”

“Checkin' in with me first mate, o' course,” said the crusty pirate captain turned politico. “But he nere showed.”

“Oh, he showed up.” Beldin tossed Edward’s head at Baldric’s feet. “Just not all of him.” [MORE]

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Friday, May 9

The Last Resort - Part 9b: Cultural Treasures

“Three!” shouted the crowd.

“There were two rival cults after the same target,” said Beldin. “Seems the Brotherhood is very disorganized these days.”

“Two!” shouted the crowd.

“Aren’t all religions?” Ilmarė said with a sneer.

“One!” shouted the crowd.

People cheered as they lifted their masks and shouted at the top of their lungs. Some guests tossed their masks into the air. People hugged and kissed. Henry was in the middle of finishing up his game of Three-Dragon Ante with the remaining actors.

Then a huge crate exploded through the doorframe. Kham landed on top of Henry’s table, managing to not dislodge a single chip. With another leap and trailing a lot of blood, he dove out the front door.

The crowd cheered. Then it stopped cheering when a ten-foot tall giant snake-man smashed through the railing overhead, landing in the middle of the floor. It snaked after Kham.

“A samat, here?” Ilmarė shouted.

“Well, now we know what happened to Kham,” said Sebastian. [MORE]

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Thursday, May 8

Chapter 9: Darkest Calling - Introduction

This scenario, “Darkest Calling,” is from the Call of Cthulhu supplement “The Stars Are Right” by David Conyers. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Darkest Calling is one of those scenarios that set up a moral dilemma in the hopes that the PCs will opt for the greater good and will thus just go along with the plot. To whit, a shaman commits murder as part of a ritual to banish extradimensional horrors. He’s the good guy in the greater scheme of things, and the scenario hopes the PCs will see it that way.

But they didn’t. Although they understood why the shaman was doing what he was doing, there was no way they were going to go along with the scenario. The scenario also puts them in the position of impossible odds: it’s assumed the agents go to speak to the shaman on a reservation alone with no backup. What a surprise, the PCs are overwhelmed and become the next sacrifice.

Except the agents were far too smart for that. They figured out the ritual pattern and laid a trap. So I had to play dirty and have some unexpected allies be in on the ritual too.

It doesn’t help that the scenario suffers from an error that is crucial to the PC’s success. According to the scenario’s logic, the first victim should have a dot on his left hand, the second should have two dots on her left foot, the third should have three dots on his right foot, the fourth should have four dots on his right hand, and the fifth should have five dots on his forehead. The PCs find Kate Draper with two dots on her left foot, making her the second victim. Paco Yuma, listed as male in the scenario, is described as having “a single gray dot painted on her hand.” So already we’re switching genders. Then it reads, “the middle right symbol has a single dot on the head (TRUE) matching the dot pattern on Paco Yuma’s head (FALSE, it’s on his hand), while the lower right symbol has two dots on the left hand matching the dot patterns on Kate’s left hand (FALSE, as the dots were on Kate’s left foot). This tripped me up something awful and I had to reread it a few times during play before I realized it was an error.

The other problem is that the agents are basically tied up and thrown down a hole. They wait for days before being sacrificed. No agent (and I would argue no PC) will just wait around without having a plan. To my surprise, their plan almost worked.

Almost. This is a huge turning point in the campaign. Things are about to get ugly and political.

Defining Moment: The defining moment in this game was when Archive was called upon to make an impromptu speech. He did an excellent job. And of course, the finale – this scenario marks the departure of one of our long time players as he leaves for Australia. We’ll miss him! [MORE]

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Skinwalker: Conclusion

They were driving back to Phoenix in the van. Blade was at the wheel.

“So that was the Skinwalker?” asked Caprice.

“There were two,” said Archive, “the Skinwalker itself and a Navajo witch.”

“The man we killed at Blackmoon’s house was known as Charlie Two-Horses,” said Hammer. “Judging by the pelt we found in his cabin, he was also the wolf that attacked us.”

“But that doesn’t explain the thing down in his basement,” said Guppy with a shudder.

“That was the Skinwalker,” said Archive. “The place you found the bodies was its lair.”

“So Charlie digs up the Skinwalker,” postulated Caprice. “He promises it bodies in exchange for the same powers. Then he goes on a killing spree. The woman—“

“Anna Price,” added Hammer.

“Anna finds him digging around down there and the Charlie decides she’ll be his first victim.”

“Until we caught him in the act,” said Blade grimly. “It looks like he was stitching skin together for the thing so it could grow.”

“It’s a good thing we caught it when we did,” said Archive. “There were remnants of egg shells in the cabin too.” [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 9a: Cultural Treasures

Kham crept through the window to Edward’s room. Edward was snoring peacefully next to a medium-sized sea chest and a large wooden crate. The man could sleep through Bahamut roaring, he decided. It was probably from having to be on board a ship with the very boisterous Captain Baldric.

He padded into the room. The crate was jimmied open. Edward had revealed its contents, probably to a buyer.

Kham rapped lightly on the side of the crate with his knuckles. “Cal? Are you in there?”

There was no response. Kham took a deep breath. He was being paranoid.

He carefully lifted the lid off and, with no small effort, lowered it gently to the ground.

Kham peered into the crate. Inside was a python-headed serpent with clawed humanoid arms. It had smooth scales, marked with black and brown bands.

“Definitely not Cal.” [MORE]

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Wednesday, May 7

Skinwalker: Part 5 – Two Horse’s Place

“Do you remember what happened?” Hammer asked Blade. “Anything?”

“I was throwing up something...” Blade wiped his eyes. “It was red and purple…it snaked down…there.” He pointed to one corner of the room.

Guppy got down on his hands and knees. “Yep. There’s a loose floorboard here.”

Blade leaned over and, inserting one of his hatchets into the gap, pulled upwards. The wood bent with a creak and then, Blade’s arms straining, flipped upwards. It bounced off the floor and clattered into an opening down below.

Hammer took a deep breath. “Who wants to go first?” [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 8c: News from Home

Beldin was wiping his axe on one of the bed covers when two large orcs appeared in the doorframe.

“Where’s Egil?” asked one of them.

“Not here,” said Sebastian. “Something I can help you with?”

“Yeah,” said the first thug. “Finn wants to speak to him. Where is he?”

Sebastian watched Ilmarė enter a room with Talbot across the hall.

“I’m not sure.”

“Listen,” said the other thug. “Either you tell us where Egil is, or we decide you’re Egil and get the money that way.” He thwacked a fist into an open palm for emphasis. [MORE]

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Tuesday, May 6

Wit & Wisdom

"A thief believes everybody steals."

--Author Edward W. Howe, quoted in the BBC.com

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Nick Ozment's Fiction: Frank Hunter vs. the Crawling Brains

A hilarious romp through a 1950s B movie from the perspective of Eddie Reed who wakes up during a film's opening credits to realize he's playing Frank Hunter, a Big Game Hunter and husband to a 44D Blond Bombshell named...quick, check the wedding announcement...Cindy. Whew! After an awkward but exciting (he kisses his wife, hubba hubba) opening scene, Eddie quickly orients himself to the task at hand by recalling all those sci-fi/horror flicks from his childhood. Monster Brains from Space are on the prowl and he has to save the world before the Saturday matinée ends! Will Frank figure out a way to end this 'deadly menace' before it's too late?! Will he get beyond second base with his wife - and slip past that dang Hays Code before 1968? You'll have to tune in and find out! [MORE]

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Pledge for Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity

From Shane Ivey of Pagan Publishing:
With the success of the limited edition of Delta Green: Eyes Only and
its upcoming release to distribution, Pagan Publishing and Arc Dream
Publishing are working together on a new collection for Delta Green.
Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity will feature all new resources,
including some material that we've all wanted to see since the
earliest days of Delta Green.

But we need your help.

Both companies' financial resources are tied up in our current product
lines. We have the time and the motivation to finish and release
Targets of Opportunity, but we don't yet have the bank accounts to
manufacture it.

So, we're offering the fans of Delta Green an opportunity -- you do
feel lucky, right? -- to help us put this book in your hands.

If we collect enough "pledges" through Fundable.com to cover the
various and high costs of manufacturing "Targets of Opportunity,"
we'll do it now. For each pledge, we'll ship you a copy of the book by
priority mail. (Or by airmail for fans outside the U.S., but the
pledge needs to be higher to make up for the high cost of shipping.)

I won't give a firm delivery date until it's much closer to shipping,
but if this works I expect you'll have the book in your hands this
fall.

If this doesn't work, we'll hold off on it until we save up enough
cash the old-fashioned way to release it. That would be ... later. [PLEDGE NOW!]
What are you waiting for? Pledge man, PLEDGE LIKE THE WIND!

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Giant Robot Jellyfish Attack!

Yes, this is real...
[MORE]

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Skinwalker: Part 4 – Police Station

Colorados stood in the Phoenix police station, sharing the print outs of the fingerprints. “It’s an exact match.”

“Whatever it is, it’s dead,” said Hammer, recovered from his wounds with several stitches along his arms and chest.

“Nist didn’t have a twin,” said Colorados seriously. “There’s only one way his fingerprints could be on your vehicle when he was dying at the bottom of that chasm.”

“Skinwalkers,” said Blade.

“Right,” said Colorados. “Since Nist’s body still has its hands, it had to be the skin. Which would take incredible precision.”

The whole conversation was making Hammer uncomfortable. “We killed it. Find out who the man was in Blackmoon’s house and you’ll have your murderer.”

Then the lights went out. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 8b: News from Home

Kham hopped lightly from window to window. He had to remember to thank Falthar for his excellent potions.

He was about to make the leap to Edward’s window when he saw another darkly garbed figure leaping from windowsill to windowsill ahead of him.

Incapable of resisting, Kham gave chase.

He landed on the sill without making a sound…and nearly fell out the window at the sight of of a looming, hawk-nosed face. It was the nobleman’s mask Kham had seen before.

Inside, a snoring Thralen val’Ossan was asleep. Emric Ossan-Drac slumbered in a bed next to him. Between them stood the female assassin.

Kham pulled two pistols from his overcoat. He took careful aim…

The ensuing gunshots rattled the room. The assassin spun as the pistol blasts strafed her. Emric and Thralen bolted straight up out of their beds.

“Get down!” shouted Kham as he reached for two more pistols.

“That’s two Kham,” the assassin whispered in a husky feminine voice. “There won’t be a third time.” [MORE]

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Monday, May 5

Skinwalker: Part 3 – The Old House

“Are you Michelle Blackmoon?” asked Blade.

The woman squinted her eyes at him. “Who wants to know?”

Blade flashed his badge. “We’re federal agents.”

“Don’t even start with that zoning crap!” shouted Blackmoon. “You can’t tell me how many cats people can have. I’ll have as many cats as I wanna have!”

“We’re not here about the cats, ma’am.”

She looked past over his shoulder. “You got anyone else with ya?”

Blade turned around.

“Was that scarecrow there before?” asked Guppy.

“I don’t think so,” said Caprice.

“That’s not my scarecrow,” said Blackmoon. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 8a: News from Home

“This Yellow Sign…have you written anything else about it?”

“Oh, yes,” said Talbot, swaying a bit. “I recently wrote The Revenant King. It was a bit of a departure for me. It included Cassilda, the Pallid Mask, and Hali.”

“I’m quite the performer myself you know.” Ilmarė stroked Talbot’s arm. “I’d like to give you a private showing, if you’re interested.”

Talbot blinked. “I’m always interested in new talent,” he said with a wicked grin. “I don’t have a room here, but…”

“Not to worry,” said Ilmarė. She threw some coins at Bobbin, who promptly handed her a key. “I’ve got one.”

“You’re very resourceful. I like that in a woman.”

“I’m sure you do,” said Ilmarė, struggling to conceal the disdain in her voice. “Tell me, do you have plans to write anything else involving The King in Yellow?”

“As a matter of fact, I’m working on a new book called The Yellow Sign.”

Ilmarė nearly stopped short. “Well, here we are.” She opened the door.

Talbot stumbled in and immediately began taking off his shirt. The problem was that he forgot he was wearing a mask. He only got one arm free before he realized his predicament. Momentarily blinded and thoroughly drunk, Talbot decided to let his budding new actress help him get undressed.

There was the soft thud of the door closing.

“Hello?” [MORE]

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Sunday, May 4

DVD Review: The Gate

This is a movie about a kid's love for his big sister and rockets, both of which help him overcome the forces of evil. With special effects ahead of its time, demons that are anything but cute, and a climax that is both terrifying and inspirational, The Gate is an entertaining piece of eighties horror history. After the hell poor Glen goes through, he deserves the sappy happy ending.[MORE]

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Skinwalker: Part 2b – Three Buttes

There was a thump on the roof of the van.

“I’ve tried so, not to give in.”

“Did you hear that?” asked Caprice.

“I said to myself this affair never will go so well.”

Hammer took out his Glocks. “Yeah. It’s big.”

“But why should I try to resist when baby I know so well,” the radio crooned.

“And heavy,” said Blade.

“I’ve got you under my skin.”

“I’ll get it off,” shouted Guppy. He slammed his foot on the brakes… [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 7c: The Chosen One

Four men walked over to Egil’s former room. Three stood in front of the door, masking the fourth as he fiddled with the door’s lock. They quickly entered the room and closed the door behind them.

A few seconds later, Sebastian knocked on the door. “Egil, is everything okay in there?”

There was the sound of clothing being shredded over and over.

“Sounds like a no,” said Sebastian. “Beldin, if you please.”

Beldin lifted his axe and hacked at the door. The doorknob splintered apart as the door swung open.

The four men had thrown back their cloaks, revealing bright purple robes with the yellow sign emblazoned on the front. They each wielded a wavy-bladed dagger. Judging by the feathers floating around the room, the cultists had plunged their daggers into the bed several times.

“The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign.” Sebastian sighed. “I hate those guys.” [MORE]

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Saturday, May 3

Skinwalker: Part 2a – Three Buttes

The paramedics showed up too late. All of the victims were dead by the time they got there. It took over an hour before the agents were able to return to their van. It was not in the shape they left it in.

“What the hell happened?” asked Hammer.

“I thought you two were with the van?” asked Blade.

“We were helping Colorados scope out the crime scene!” Hammer shouted back.

“Hey, buddy,” said one of the paramedics. “Someone was snooping around your van before, thought it was one of you guys.”

Clothing was scattered everywhere. Vests, BDUs, even underwear.

“What did he look like?”

“Weird guy in a tattered overcoat and a broad-brimmed hat. Was sniffing your laundry. Holding big handfuls of it under his nose. Looked like he was liking it too.”

“Son of a bitch,” said Blade. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 7b: The Chosen One

Sebastian and Beldin entered Egil’s room. Kham closed the door behind him.

“How did it go?” asked Egil, wringing his hands.

“No time for that now.” Kham looked sideways at the door. “Listen, we have to get you out of this room.”

“Finn’s men are here already?” Egil couldn’t stop staring at the door. “I told them I would pay them at midnight!”

“Not Finn’s men,” said Sebastian. “Someone else.”

“There’s someone else?” [MORE]

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Friday, May 2

HEY!

I can't blame Stanley Bing (AKA Gil Schwartz, according to Wikipedia) for this, but it still ticks me off because I happen to do this for a living. His readers sent in hundreds of bulls**t jobs. And they picked 20 favorites - jobs that are the most satisfying, lucrative and least useful. Here, in readers' own words, are the best bulls**t jobs.
1.Communications manager
Essentially you're getting paid well - in the six figures up to 50 percent of your base for bonus - to write e-mails, memos and articles for senior management that their employees have no interest in reading. Oh, and through these written communications we're supposed to inform and engage employees so that they're proud of the company they work for. [MORE]
Just to be clear, this job (MY JOB) beats out Professional Clairvoyant, Robot Operator, and Door Monitor. No respect, I tell ya...

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Skinwalker: Part 1 – The Sinkhole

“What is it?” asked Blade.

”A cell phone.” Guppy clicked it on. “It was recording video.” He pressed another button and it began to play.

“The cave-in appears quite recent, within the last month or so, and by the looks of things here, I’m not the first one to find it,” said a redheaded, bookish-looking woman with glasses. “I shined my light down into the chamber below, and there was something large and smooth down there.” Behind her, a humanoid figure loomed, raising a shovel in two hands. “I’m going down for a look after…” There was a grunt and then the camera spun crazily, filming the opening of the pit as it fell from its owner’s hands.

“Oh that’s not good,” said Guppy. [MORE]

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The Last Resort - Part 7a: The Chosen One

Kham stared intently at his hand. He had the unique Bahamut card, the Dragon God. Except that he couldn’t add Bahamut to his flight without losing the gambit. The card specifically stated that as long as he had Bahamut and an evil dragon in his flight, he couldn’t win the gambit. All he had were evil dragons in his hand.

On the other hand, the strength of the Bahamut card was too tempting to pass up: Bahamut had a strength of thirteen. He was bound to be the highest with Bahamut in his flight!

Making a decision, Kham snapped the Bahamut card down.

“A strong showing,” said Henry. “With Bahamut and your Copper Dragon, you’re at a strength of twenty-three.”

Kham leaned back in his chair. “Let’s see you beat that!”

Behind him, a half-naked Thomas Rhymer fled The Last Resort. [MORE]

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Thursday, May 1

Skinwalker: Prologue

Guppy was driving. They were on their way back from the latest mission in Arizona. Blade sat in the front, staring off into the space, deep in the thought. Archive tapped on his keyboard. Hammer and Caprice were debating on whether or not the man they killed in the mine was really a vampire.

He tried to keep his eyes on the road as they passed by an odd ruin atop a wide ledge. Black crows blanket the trees. An ugly, rusted van was parked nearby.

As they passed, Guppy caught sight of a tall man in a dark overcoat and hat dropping something—something wrapped in what looked like a bloodstained sheet—down a sinkhole.

“Do you see that?” asked Guppy.

Blade was staring at the man too. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:20 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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The Last Resort - Part 6: A Secret Rendezvous

Aljandros’ men started up the stairs to the second floor, muscling past the hotel’s guards.

WHAM!

A door was busted open. A woman screamed, but it was not Imelda.

“Oops, sorry!” Aljandros shouted into the room.

It was then that Sebastian noticed the whip.

“I really don’t think—“ he began, but the sound of another door being kicked open cut him off.

WHAM!

“AHHA!” shouted Aljandros.

An attractive woman was half naked inside the room, covering herself with just a sheet. The man whom Sebastian presumed was Thomas Rhymer was struggling into his pants.

The thugs knocked Rhymer down. Aljandros cracked his whip. Imelda screamed.

“Now wait a minute…” began Sebastian.

The thugs started kicking Rhymer.

“Hey, now, that’s enough…”

Aljandros was shouting at the top of his lungs.

“That’s it!” Sebastian extended one palm towards the room. “FUCO ASPERGO!” [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:16 AM | 0 comments links to this post


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