Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alien Past Pt. 3

Ella would never in a million years be able to describe accurately the feeling of bonding with the Aurem, she felt full, yet hungrier than she had ever been in her life. She felt like she was seeing things with new eyes, there were new colors, new sensations. Even the pain she felt from the wreck was a different experience, before it was horrifying as she faced her own mortality, but now it was exhilarating. All around her was twisted metal and twisted bodies, and yet she could feel each breath coming easier and easier, and with those breaths she could feel herself recovering and mending. “I am alive,” she whispered, and her voice shocked her a little. There was the faintest echo to it.

As she began to move herself from the wreckage she heard something faint, like skittering, but not from insects, it sounded like metal skittering across metal.

A voice called out, hollow in the darkness, “Is anyone in there?

“I'm here,” she said with force. She was shocked at her own energy. She was no longer scared and alone in the night. the night had become more than dark, more than blackness. It was a tapestry of overlapping colors, shades, and light. How could she have ever been afraid of this? Her smile was all joy when something heavy hit the ground behind her.

The thing was shaped roughly like a man, but the dull gleam showed it to be covered in metal of some kind. It was very slim, and hunched over in a way that implied motion, even in stillness. Blue light glowed coolly where a human's eyes would be and a steady ticking came from within it's chest, like the radiator pipes in winter. It was a machine man; it was a Doll.

“Are you alright? Do you require aid?” it's voice was reedy and high. “Do not be alarmed, We are here to help, we work with the fire department. We are called Lear.” It tilted it's head, as if waiting a response.

Fear had surged through her for a moment, yet now all Ella had were questions. She normally would have suppressed them, but found the words leaping unbidden to her tongue. “I'm Ella, why do you say 'we'? Are there more Dolls helping the rescue? How bad is the crash? What happened to the train? Is anyone dead?” her eyes were wide in shock, she had never been this forward before,. She didn't act this way.

Lear cocked his head, as though it could not really grasp what was going on. “you appear unharmed, though we notice a stress differential in your voice.” it moved quickly across the room, a blur even to her improved vision. Then the light from it's eyes was shining directly into hers. “Interesting! Unanticipated. You are not human. It could explain-,” it stopped there, pulling it's face away from hers and stood perfectly still.

“Explain what? What do you mean?” her mind whirled trying to piece the information together, and then, “You mean because of the Aurem?”

Lear stepped back from Ella's verbal assault. When it moved there was the skittering of metal on metal. Ella noticed for the first time Lear's hands and feet. They each had long fingers and toes that ended in small, delicate almost, claws. When they passed over metal the noise was a faint skittering.

Lear said, “This train wreck was not an accident.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alien Past Pt. 2

Smoke curled from the cigarette in Johnny Torio’s hand. he was finely dressed, and sat ramrod straight at the back table. It was mid day and his speak easy was empty of all but the most serious drinkers. the band was tuning up in the corner, getting ready for the night’s entertainment. Torio’s eyes missed nothing and betrayed no emotion.
There was a sharp rapping at the metal security door. The doorman looked through the slot then back at Torio. “It’s Peebles, looks agitated,” he said.
Torio sighed Nicky Peebles was one of those guys on the periphery of The Outfit, not a made man, but sometimes useful. He nodded to to the doorman. Peebles entered, his suit was worn, his tie slightly off. he was a short man, with a kind of nervous energy about him, always reminded Torio of an agitated rat terrier.
Peebles sat across the table from him his rumpled hat twisting in his hands, “Mr. Torio, sir. how do you do? I hate takin’ up your time, sir really I do. but this is important-”
Torio put out his cigarette, “To the point Nicky.”
Right sir, right away. You know that I have a friend in the North Side Gang? Yeah well, he tole me that O’Bannion is movin’ somethin’ big by train. Cross country see?”
Torio gave him a condescending look and meaningfully lit another cigarette. “This matters to me, why? If it is already on the train it is too late to do anything about it.”
Oh, but I ain’t got ta’ the best part, sir. that train got inta an accident, see? An’ I know that it will be at least two hours ‘fore the North Siders can get anyone out there!”
He looked at the jumpy little man, took a drag on his cigarette, and then said, “I don’t know if I should believe you Nicky, I just don’t know.”
Oh this is the real McCoy sir, honest.”
After Nicky left Torio sat for a bit, then called over Jimmy, “I need you to get Valence over here, quick.”
Boss, gotta say I don’t like dealin’ with that freak. He’s got the creepy eyes, and his voice always echos. Ain’t natural boss, all I’m saying.”
I know Jimmy, but hes the best driver we got, and if Peebles is right we gotta’ get out to that train, but quick.”
Alright boss whatever you say,” Jimmy said as he headed toward the door.

The streets were cold and wet from a rain that chilled the bone, Jimmy felt a shiver run down his spine. He wasn’t a smart man, but he knew that he was caught between two places he didn’t like. He didn’t want to deal with Valence and he couldn’t defy his boss and keep all his digits in tact. “Next time Jimmy, just keep your head low,” he muttered to himself under his breath as he pulled his coat around himself tighter and lifted his collar to keep the rain off his neck.

Valance could usually be found at the Green Door Tavern up on Orleans Street, he usually had a drink in one hand and some choice bit of calico in the other, Valance liked those girls with a bit of innocence left in them. It was like he fed on it. Jimmy wasn’t a big fan of those types, those creepy SOB’s who preyed on the weak made his teeth itch. Like that priest who tried to touch him as a boy until Jimmy showed him whats for.

In spite of Prohibition the Green Door Tavern maintained a steady flow of customers looking to take the edge off the day. Its bright green door not only gave the bar its name, but also let the newer clientele that they were in the right place. Jimmy usually didn’t bother with the Door since avoiding Valance was easier if he stayed away. He knocked on the door and the guard let him in once he showed that he worked for Torio and not the feds. Valance was at a booth in the back a high ball glass filled with whiskey and an arm full of tomato. With a shake of his head Jimmy walked over to Valance’s table and had to clear his throat loudly to grab his attention. “Hey, Val! Torio wants you to take care of some business out north, drop the dames and head out.”

Valance gave Jimmy a smile that made him feel sick to his stomach, something about that cat just wasn’t right and Jimmy had tried figuring out why Valance seemed so strange to him while others never bothered to pay attention. Valance’s smile made him seem like some sort of monster, all teeth and the rest fading away, but the more he complained about it, the more he was certain he was the only one who saw it. Valance spoke, his voice harmonizing with itself, “Fine Jimmy, tell Torio I’ll be there in a minute, I got him.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alien Past Pt. 1

Ella Dagnell took a deep breath and mentally reviewed her meager belongings she had packed for her trip. Her suitcase was filled with sturdy, joyless clothing which suited her purpose just fine, this along with her handy Oliver typewriter meant she was ready to leave her cozy apartment in bustling Chicago and go to the devastated town of Castle Gate, Utah.

“Dammit Ella, Why the hell ya’ doin’ this?” Daniel, her erstwhile boyfriend, whined at her.

Her hands paused briefly over her well worn folded clothing, “Daniel, Daniel I HAVE to. it’s...it’s for work. I-I have to.”

Ella tried to ignore Daniel’s continued complaints as she gathered up her courage. Her reddish brown hair was in tight little ringlets around her face, a style that wouldn’t last long where she was headed. She went to her sink and ran water over her hair, pulling the wet mess into a tight bun on top of her head.

“You shouldn’t be out in a man’s world, you sure as hell aren’t cut out for it! You should be staying here and marrying me like your parents want you to!” Daniel’s words stung, she knew she wasn’t the type to adventure out, but she had seen how confident flappers and the glamorous women who went in and out of speak-easies had seemed, and she wanted to be like them. She didn’t want to be the girl who baked cakes for the church raffle, she wanted to be Zelda Sayre.

For months Ella had been begging her boss at the local newspaper to give her a real story to cover, she had been covering ladies interest stories for the better part of a year and she felt that if she had to cover one more fluff piece about one of her neighbors baking a pie and winning a prize she would scream. Her persistence had been met with a patronizing dismissal until two days ago. The entire news room stood in stunned silence as her boss, John Radcliffe had read them the telegram, there was an explosion in a mine in Castle Gate, and there were no survivors. Perhaps Radcliffe figured offering the job to Ella would result in her turning it down and giving him some peace, or maybe all the men had turned it down before he approached her but Emma found herself assigned to the story with a train ticket leaving to Salt Lake City that evening.

The train station was bustling with the activity of work commuters in the evening, men going home to their families. The preliminary estimates of the mine disaster painted a grizzly and heart wrenching picture. Of the 171 men in the mine, 117 of them were married with children, those men would never be arriving somewhere again. The people rushing by her, oblivious to the heartache and misery of their fellow man overwhelmed Ella, she felt she could barely catch her breath as she boarded the train to Salt Lake City.

Ella tried to let her mind wander on the train ride, but there was something off about the woman sitting in front of her. Something about her eyes seemed off, Ella had made eye contact for a brief moment and felt as though two people were looking back at her.

“Excuse me miss,” the woman’s voice brought Ella out of her own head for a moment, “I was wondering if you are feeling well, you look as though someone has walked across your grave.”

Ella smiled weakly, “Yes, I’m fine, just a bit shaky from the travel is all. Trains make me nervous,” Ella hoped that the woman would buy her excuse and be done with her, but instead she handed her what at first glance appeared to be a book, but on second glance revealed to be a hidden flask.

“Don’t worry, it’s the good stuff,” the strange woman grinned and nodded to encourage her, “I can’t stand that coffin tarnish.”

Ella had never had liquor before and the burning warmth that spread through her was strangely comforting. She felt peaceful in spite of her destination and found herself growing drowsy. Soon she was drifting off to sleep, the sounds of the train fading off into the distance.

There was a screeching sound and then sudden movement, she awoke only long enough to register that something was wrong. She had time to breath in and shout. Everything was still, everything was silent and she was in pain.

Ella tried to move, the horrible wrenching sensation in her side stopped her from trying more. She tried to see what was going on but something was blocking her vision. Breathing was getting difficult. The air was thick and heavy, smoke and the smell of burning filled the air. There was something else there too, a smell like the air after a rain.

“Ella,” a voice in the darkness, almost a whisper.

She frantically looked around, “Wh-Who is there?”

“That's not important, you're hurt, you need my help,” it said.

“Well help me! Get me out of here!” she started to crawl toward the voice despite the pain.

“Stop moving, you'll hurt you self more.”

Her breath came in short painful bursts, “Who are you? Where are you?”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she felt something near her. Slight blue sparks occasionally flared but there was no one there, just the sense of something. The was a stack shock on her hand. “I am what your people call an Aurem. I was bonded with the woman in the car with you. She has died, I couldn't save her. I can save you, but you have to let me.”

“ Let you? What do you mean? If, if you can help me, then please help me!”

“ We will have to bond, to join. In order to help you we need to become one.”

“Bond?” Ella was close to passing out again. Her pain allowed her to feel every detain of it. Her whole left side was in extreme pain. Focus, she thought, what does he mean, “join” with me? She thought back on everything she knew of the Aurem. They arrived over a hundred years ago. Some people thought the Aurem were Angels or Demons. They needed a human body to live in. “You want to control me?”

“Not control, never control, you will still be you. You will also be me as well. We will be something new.” The blue sparks flashed more frequently as it spoke.

Tears and something thicker ran down her face. I don't want to die, she thought, I haven't lived, there is so much I want to do. She took a long painful breath, the muscles in her side screaming in protest. Her voice was hoarse, “OK I give you permission. Do it.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jake again, I got to thinking about some random gaming stuff. I started writing with the intent of talking game design, but what came out was this. I am sorry, enjoy.

OK so I was reading through Mage: the Ascension 2nd Ed(not revised) earlier and I got to think as to why I really loved that game. It is out of print now, and I despise the core system it was built with, but there was something there. Something that Mage: the Awakening does not have. The newer game is far more mechanically sound, and yet I do not get excited about playing it.

Now I know someone is going on about nostalgia, and stuff like that. How the new one isn't what I first played and I will always be basing my judgments on my childhood(well teenage) impressions of the game. And while I think there might be a small piece of truth to that I have to disagree. When the Star Wars prequels came out I didn't hate them because I had this nostalgic film over my eyes and anything different was bad. I hated them because they are poorly filmed, badly directed, terrible movies.

Now I am not saying I hate new Mage either. I think they did a lot of cool things with new Mage and made a much cooler mechanical game. There it is. There is the problem. I think they may have focused too much on mechanical balance between characters. They tightened the screws on what a Mage could and couldn't do.

They wanted Mages, vampires, werewolves, and whatever else they could think of to all be on par with each other mechanically. They did it because that was how everyone had always played the world of Darkness(now slow down, I am generalizing here, but seriously remember those games in the nineties, they were crazy, right?!). And in balancing them in combat and such, we lost a lot of the things that made Mages, and by extension everything else in the world of Darkness, unique.

I think that the power imbalance of the old system added to the fun of playing the games. So long as everyone got enough of the spotlight, and got to do something relevant with it, why did it matter that the werewolf was stronger and invincible. Of course the werewolf is strong and invincible. THAT'S WHAT THEY DO!!! that is their whole shtick. Vampires had to be careful around them, 'cause you never knew when one was going to just go off. That made them focus on the things they could do to control the wolves. With those to it was always a alpha male thing, trying to establish dominance. While the Mages could not compete with them...most of the time. But when a Mage was sneaky, and planned things out right, he could destroy everything. And that is the moment every Mage player in a mixed game remembers.

Oh great now I sound like I am pro-PvP, which, I am not(mostly). Where was I going with this? ...oh...right, I was going to talk about how you could simplify the system down to something very different that would run a lot smoother...wow, that rant kind of got out of hand there. Well I guess I will save that topic for a later date and end with this. Mechanical balance can(not always, but mostly) wash out the uniqueness of a character within a game. Scratch that, mechanical sameness does that. Fluff is fine, but if all the differentiates a magic spell and a vampire power and werewolf gift is fluff, you are doing wrong. There needs to be a mechanical variance between powers/special abilities/perks/knacks/whatever.

New thing! New thing!

This is your friendly neighborhood Jake announcing That Carol and I have started a new project(I know, right, what is this the thousandth new project?). This time we are writing a round robin story. This is more a writing exercise than a real attempt to publish anything, so I(The Jake) welcome any comments or critiques any of you loyal(and man, you would have to be loyal if you stuck it out this long) readers. I don't know if Carol wants that...oh well, just act as though all the critiques are coming my way. It'll be like a game, a secret game. So that is it for today. I will post the first page(well page is a rough estimate, it's a little more than a page) tomorrow.

Till then, fare well!

(ooh! another game you could play...guess which part is written by which writer. Doesn't that sound FUN!!)