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Jul 15, 2007

I behave like a self-involved babychild and my posts are worthless.

Sexual objectification and racism are okay with me as long as we talk about the pretty colors.

I am an adult living in an age of enlightenment who chooses ignorance and demands it in others.

I want a steam nickel


Nov 16, 2006

I'm an air-conditioned gypsy

A couple of the old goldmined threads. No archives needed.

agagames fucked around with this message at Nov 23, 2008 around 10:25

Nov 27, 2005

The Zybourne Clock was a goon project to create a sci-fi electropunk RPG using RPG Maker software. It is now best known for being a spectacular failure that makes every other failed goon project pale in comparison.

Initially started in BYOB by Rex Meteorite and Occupy Japan, the project was launched in mid-December 2006 with great fanfare. Recruitment/discussion threads were started in BYOB and Games, multiple banner ads were bought, and contributors even set up an offsite server and forum to co-ordinate development. Over 50 active contributors were claimed, some initial work was shown off, and things were looking pretty good.

Barely 2 weeks later, the whole project had imploded under a shitstorm of drama and neglect. The external site was closed, and the still-active banner ads pointed to threads that were now either locked or gassed. Although most of the action happened on the external forums, most accounts state that things immediately turned cliquey and circlejerky, and drama spread unchecked as there was no effective organization or leadership to settle disputes or co-ordinate efforts.

Although the project was short-lived, The Zybourne Clock lives on in the form of hilariously bad concept art and dialog that get brought up from time to time. Foremost among these is Johnny, a beer drinking, cigar smoking card player with a prominent moose knuckle

Ideal Gas
May 16, 2008

Statistical conformity through random motions

Barry Lemonade posted:

ingwit is the best poster

a hot gujju bhabhi
Apr 5, 2007

GriszledMelkaba posted:

Be serious and chill no jokes what is it.

it was supposed to be a goon made game, and as you can imagine they all just argued and whined at each other and never got a thing done

curses, crumb!

Jan 1, 2005

Oh starting to remember this. they had a bunch of people with actual game making experience.

they were the first to get the boot

a hot gujju bhabhi
Apr 5, 2007

this is where that "picture four balls on a cliff" thing came from isnt it?

Oct 29, 2004

So don't. Stay here with me.

Gnack posted:

this is where that "picture four balls on a cliff" thing came from isnt it?


Jan 1, 2005

i don't think they even had a rough storyline ever made, they just started to make stuff

Nov 27, 2005

Gnack posted:

this is where that "picture four balls on a cliff" thing came from isnt it?

time works the same way...

Oct 29, 2004

So don't. Stay here with me.

There was a map that had cities in the middle of nowhere and BOOKWORLD though, that was pretty funny

Yad Rock
Mar 1, 2005

~*u put ur fingers in other ppl's mouths all day, don't u doctor*~

good idea crumbum but i dont think this thread is going to work. most of the ppl in helldump are unable to tell the difference between real zybourne poo poo and the stuff fyad made up to mock it (hint: ingwit posts are mockery)

Jun 30, 2006


Dinosaur Gum

Oct 1, 2007

lonely hero man sitting on the crest of the apocalypse
and our boy says something like, "uhhhh…..hey, sir"

GriszledMelkaba posted:

Be serious and chill no jokes what is it.

Jan 1, 2005

Slime Dad posted:

good idea crumbum but i dont think this thread is going to work. most of the ppl in helldump are unable to tell the difference between real zybourne poo poo and the stuff fyad made up to mock it (hint: ingwit posts are mockery)

it's all part of the zybourne experience

Nov 16, 2006

I'm an air-conditioned gypsy

reflir posted:

There was a map that had cities in the middle of nowhere and BOOKWORLD though, that was pretty funny

Nov 27, 2005

Slime Dad posted:

good idea crumbum but i dont think this thread is going to work. most of the ppl in helldump are unable to tell the difference between real zybourne poo poo and the stuff fyad made up to mock it (hint: ingwit posts are mockery)

it's not that hard

and they fired someone with game developing experience for developing the game


theres a couple posts in one of their threads but theres not much more detail other than they invited him to a storyline writers meeting in irc (lol) and when he saw how unorganized they were about the whole thing he gave advice

Jul 15, 2007

I behave like a self-involved babychild and my posts are worthless.

Sexual objectification and racism are okay with me as long as we talk about the pretty colors.

I am an adult living in an age of enlightenment who chooses ignorance and demands it in others.

Feb 20, 2002



Cover (Gauss)


The Chronospire. Its ancient gears have revolted uncountable times, yet still they turned despite being old and rusted. The heavy wrought iron hour-hand of the enormous clock face squealed ever closer to the midday hour. The weatherworn wooden face of the clock stared dignified on the city below, its frontal side pockmarked with the steam pipes through which provided the steam power that drove the machinations of the enormous machine. The grinding, external gears, corroded by rust, as if time ate away at itself, turned slowly and surely with each passing moment. It was a face as well known to the citizens of Capital as their own parents faces. It was the centerpiece of the empire and measured the most important resource on which the people of Capital depended: time.

The Chronospire (Ferrinus)

Somewhere, well above the polluted haze of the city, it was another beautiful day. The sun refracted down through the smoky clouds in a saffron hue, yellowed and redded. This saffron light glinted off the second hand as it swang up past the half hour mark and back towards its own origin, completing a circuit of time it began not long ago and soon would begin again. When it finally righted itself upright at the hour mark, the clock struck midday. This set off a raucous of noise that rose like a din down to the bustling city. The steam erupted violently from the open ends of the pipes which protruded outward from the clock. A loud whistle, announcing the arrival of noon, had sounded. The steam wispily snaked upward, through the light which was coming down through the haze. The large hands of the clock flickered and wavered as the steam passed through them, for they were holograms, projected from the enormous hologramographer mounted to the sleek metallic side of the spire.

There used to be real hands on the clock, but that was a long time ago, in an age long forgotten. Then, iron and wood were abundant. Now all that remained was this: the three dimensional light refracting holoparticles emitted regularly by the machine, giving the allusion of the original Chronospire, destroyed in the Ascension Wars before CAPITAL solidified its empire.

Far below, a man squinted upward, watching the midday steam ritual with a somewhat confused expression on his face.

Midday already he said in a quaint, educated tone. MymyI really must be on my way.

Dirk MacLauren returned his gaze back down to those things that were in front of him: both down the lane, lined with venders and kiosks and to the task at hand which he disparately needed to accomplish. He patted softly the leather bag at his hip and looked around unsuspiciously.

Pray, logic and chance, give me but a little more time undetected.

Dirk McLauren (Ferrinus)

His prayer rose weakly in the air, mingling with the deep leaden circles of the tolling Chronospire. That done, Dirk set off down the street called, according to the old-style pitted street sign, Strass Magnus, his boots making soft leather noises on the uneven cobblestones, accompanied by a strange click and hiss whenever his anterior foot struck the stone. This burrough was a good area to be for someone moving culvertly under the enemys nose: quiet, not meant for use of people driving steamcycles, autocarts, or other high-end mechinations, populated only by vendors in their ramshackle shacks and shoddy kiosks lining the side of the street hawking their wares, and the customers milling about busily lining the middle of the street Strass Magnus. Dirk could purposefully be lost himself here, as was what he wanted to be. He was one of the best, most discrete transporters, thats why Dr. Zybourne chose him for such an prominent mission.

As he advanced haltingly down the lane, he observed the sellers and buyers. An old woman offered fresh Warenni lake cabbage to a mother holding her child. Warenni lake cabbage, Dirk thought, my dear plasmic soul the things still available in the city of Capital! This must be why they call this city the City Where All Roads Meet Together As One. A strong-looking man shirtless except for an apron, wearing pants and iron boots, hacked at a chine of beefslab with a cleaver, its primitive steam motor chugging pleasantly, his muscle culture sweated and gleaming. One old man, grinning to show a number of four steel teeth in his gummy mouth, rocked back and forth working a threadlewheel with his feet. McLauren past them all, making like just another innocent citizen in the crowd, excusing himself with unremarkable Sorry darlings and Pardon mes. If only they knew.

But maybe they did? he considered. Any one of them could be an agent of CAPITAL. That old woman could be an assassin in an activated deluder screen. The mother could be likewise a spy, her baby actually a camera in swadding clothes. There was no reason reason the old man's threadlewheel wasn't a disguised EMP weapon. And that butcher, that thicknecked butcher? Easily two dwarf thralls in a humanistic mechsuit. Even the dog (Dirk had also saw a dog while he was observing) the dog possibly might be no dog at all, but a dog with a communicator emplanted in its canine brain, each wag of its tail against the cobbles transmitting datum to its fell masters. There was no telling what fever dreams Dr. Malaprop wrought in CAPITALs whispered-about science labs, playing a seamstress God for his tyrant and miscreant superiors in their towering arcology mansions. But, No, Dirk reassured himself, he had made clean his escape, Dr. Zybourne had seen to that. He was still safely undetectable. He patted the leather pouch again and reached the end of the street.

The Dog Communicator (Evilkosh)

Now he had to choose; to his left the wider lainway broadened into the downtown area, meaning more people to cloak him but also more faces to see his identity. In front of McLauren was the entrance arch to one of the city of Capitals last remaining train stations. Opposite the direction of the downtown was uptown, deeper into the cityscape where he did not want to go. He needed to rest. His war wound was acting up to bother him, the place in his leg where during the War of Ascension (when CAPITAL had risen to power) an EMP bullet had lodged and discharged its crackling blue energy, incapacitating him for many weeks while medical doctors fitted him with then state-of-the-art steam parts and prostheses, now outdated of course. He needed to sit. He need to refuel his bummishing leg. So he went into the train stations massive entrance.

Inside, the train stations impressive architecture and curved glass ceiling crossed with black metal beams could be described as cathedralesque, if the Changing hadnt made such buildings and terms quaint obloquies. That old Zybourne, Dirk ideated, what has he gotten himself into this time? Posh, his health hasnt been well for a long while and yet he still sets out, or rather, he chuckled to his self, sets ME out on these crazy hush hush missions without barely telling me what is going on! Dirks smirk settled into a bemused half-smile. He did care for the old man. He had been running errants for him for a long time. But he was worried. Not only about Dr. Zybournes falling health, but about the state of things in general, as concerned the political maneuvers of CAPITAL and the insecurity of the surrounding territories. Ah, well, he thought again, its for brighter minds then my own.

The steam engines blasted along, arriving, departing, each keeping to its schedule, obeying the law of time that governed the transports and all those aboard. It was like a giant body, each tunnel an artery, trains starting, stopping, pumping forward, the people flooding in and out of the brass doorways, and up, out into the streets. The locogyrator on each train amped up and whirred rapidly into a blur of motion in time. Dirk stared at all of this, feeling a weariness in his good leg. He espied a bronze bench, unoccupied and thought that though his mission were dire, he would rest for just a moment, enough to catch his breath and relive his joints and refuel his steam leg.

A schematic for the model of SteamLeg with which Dirk MacLauren is fitted. (Ferrinus)

By science! Dirk swore, Aging may be inevitable but why does it happen so quickly! Not ten years ago I could do this sort of thing in my sleep, and often did!

He sat himself down on the bench and grasped the leather satchel close to this chest. Looking around wearily, he made sure no one suspicious was watching him. Very carefully, he thought, very carefully His hand slowly dug through the flap of the bag, probing its innards. Very carefullyGah, where is it? He groped blindly, keeping a lookout in all directions. Finally he stopped and a smile found his face. Aha! He recoiled his arm slowly, keeping the pouch pressed closely to his body. As his fingertips withdrew into sight, a small hard candy in a red wrapper was held tightly between them. He unwrapped the candy with relish, looking at it greedily. Dirk had a sweet tooth and was glad he managed to smuggle some of the Butterstream Spirals into his bag before he left. He focused on the candy, anticipating its dropping into his mouth. It truly is the little things in li-huh?

Dirk sits in the train station (theinhko)

His eyes racked focus to a young girl standing in front of him. She had certainly snuck up on him! He looked around anxiously but did not see any other people, save those hurrying in and out of the trains, the obsequious masses.

Hi Mister. She said in a small voice, fitting her frame. Her wide doe eyes stared up at him. The candy hovered in midair, his mouth agape, waiting for it to fall. It tumbled out of his fingers right as he began to speak-

Hello darling, wh-cough-bleaaough!! The candy slipped into his throat and he choked on it. The girl took a step back, frightened. After a mighty effort he managed to dislodge the lozenge from his airway and back into his mouth. He braced himself on the bench and caught his breath.

Are you okay? the girl asked.

Yes, yesIm fine, thank you. He was sweating a little.

Ummm do you think I could have one of those? We dont get candies like that here, she inquired forlornly in a sad voice. He raised his eyebrows, as one does when surprised. He thought they had everything here in Capital. He knew that the Buttersteam company was located outside of Capital, but he figured they imported everything. He recalled that they were once called Buttersteam Spirals, named after the device used to make them, the SteamButterer, and the company which made it, The Buttersteam Company. Then, as always happens with technology, the Steambutterer was replaced by the Streambutterer, which still ran on steam, but differently, and was still made by Buttersteam Co. His brow furrowed.

An ad for Butterstream Spirals (Hernando)

You dont have these here? He asked. She shook her head mournfully. He looked around again to make sure nobody was watching. He looked again at the girl. She was perhaps eleven or twelve, her unblemished skin gleamed pale alabaster when all else radiated the reflection of the harsh station lighting. Her features, soft and fragile seemed to rise above the harsh surroundings. He sensed an innocence, a frailty that appealed to some part of his own hidden nature. She just looked at him quietly, with trusting wide eyes, her thin frame seemingly unanchored to the floor as if the nearer trains passing might blow her away. He loosed a breath. Very well. Hold on a moment.

He brought the leather satchel to his knees and opened it carefully. As the flap of the pouch flipped open, the girls eyes widened.

I have another in here give me a moment. Where did that thing go? Dirk said, half to himself, half to the girl.

He didnt notice the iridescent glow strangely emitting from the bag. The girl however was fixated on it. What is that? she whispered in quiet awe.

Hmm? What is wha- he looked down and saw the luminous glow coming out of the satchel. Quickly he closed the flap again and looked around to make sure no one saw it.

That, that was nothing. Here, Dirk procured another Buttersteam Spiral from his pocket. Have this. Theyre delectable.

The girl hesitated, glanced quickly left and right, perhaps seeking the approval of a misplaced parent and then, with upmost trepidation, took the candy. The cool touch of her fingers curling around the lozenge amazed Dirk and he noted how fragile and bird-like her hands were, as if her bones were the hollow flutes of a fletchling wren. She raised the candy to her mouth with a motion going one way and at the same moment Dirk drew his hand the other way, tearing the wrapper away before her tiny lips touched it and letting it flutter wanly to the floor. The rush of the murmurous crowd and the pistoning of the trains throbbed in his ears. And in his mechanic knee throbbed the hot conflagration of steam and the burn of swelling heat.

The girl sucked the treat slowly, one foot turned in against the other shyly, eyeing her benefactor from under tremulous lashes. Whats your name? Dirk inquired. Miranda the girl answered. Would you like to hear a story, poppet? Dirk asked and then continued without waiting for her answer. There was a man once, a very tried and sweet man who wanted nothing more in the world than for there to be peace and quietude, especially so in his own little plot of garden, a paradisal solitude filled with blooming daffodilia and blossoming jonquil. And an area where the children will play But powerful people had other plans and some of them wanted to burn the garden and some of them wanted not to burn it and those of them that wanted not to burn gave to the man a wonderful treasure, a treasure made of such stuff as dreams are made of. And this man, this poor worn down man had to take this treasure in secret, yes, and flee far far across the land. It was, I fear, his sad lot in life.

Oh mister, thats terrible. What happened to that man? Miranda asked, the lozenge gone, melted on the pink tongue that peeked softly between her mouth.

Hes still running, I am sorry to say. Or, if not running, moving as best he can. Dirk chuckled then sighed, preparing to rise. Ah well sweetling, I could sit here and dandle you with tales all day, but I have things to do. Yes, this old bluff barrel of a fool needs to see the horizon by sundown.

The girl watched him struggle to rise, opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again, to speak. Please mister, I saw something in your bag. Something glowing. What was it mister? Was it a jewelry for me? Please say it was something for me. Mister, what is it?

Dirk paused for a moment, considering plots which might've employed this child as a spy, paid in food, to inquire. Exhausted and drawn to the child's innocence, the walls of his secrecy melted for a moment.

"This, my darling, is a device. A device many men and many women have died to see, to understand, and to own. In many ways it is like one of your toys, but a toy for adults. This, darling, is The Zybourne Clock."

Suddenly, barely visible in the dim light, the child's eyes changed. The hazelnut brown tones unglued into silver, melting into swirls of pearl and mechanical shades. Her body lost its shy posture and rapidly conformed to a rigid, upright stance. Her mouth opened slightly and with programmed precision, she moved her wrist slowly towards her tiny lips.

The Young Miranda (Ferrinus)

"Orange Fox to Deitrus. Orange Fox to Deitrus. The Golden Egg has been located. I repeat, we've got it. Over".

Frozen with guilt, McLauren slowly began to run through the crowd. The girl screamed, "surprise sex! surprise sex! He tried to touch me! Help!".

For Dirk McLauren, Wedesnday January 19 2381 has begun very poorly.

The Deluder Screen (Evilkosh)
(Images may not be entirely in the right place as I couldn't fit them in in the document where I saved this.)

McCaine fucked around with this message at Nov 23, 2008 around 00:59

Nov 27, 2005

Zybourne Clock (ザイボーン・クロック, Zaibōn Kurokku?) is an upcoming roleplaying game created with RPG Maker. First announced in 2006, Zybourne Clock takes place in a fictional, steampunk-style world. One of the stated goals of the ZC project is to create a massive video game that will feature over 100 hours of gameplay and full voice acting, and lack clichd characters, settings and storylines, centering around a mysterious device called the Zybourne Clock. Due to repeated harassment by members of the Something Awful forums, the project has become secretive, making current information difficult to come by.

May 26, 2008

by The Finn


Zybourne's flagrant disregard of the power of the clock has knocked many balls from many cliffs, resulting in a merging of dimensions.

mysterious loyall X
Jul 8, 2003

McCaine posted:

Incorrect, because I possess the entire thing

Also, there is no dimension, state of being, realm of ideas, or possible world in which the zybourne clock is not funny

zshare that sh1t

mysterious loyall X
Jul 8, 2003

oh nm

Power of Pecota
Aug 3, 2007

It is not that bad, there is hope, there is charity, there is compassion blah blah blah Charles Dickens three ghosts visit Scrooge and he wakes up to life blah blah blah

Slime Dad posted:

good idea crumbum but i dont think this thread is going to work. most of the ppl in helldump are unable to tell the difference between real zybourne poo poo and the stuff fyad made up to mock it (hint: ingwit posts are mockery)

I know I posted Ingwit stuff, but I realize it is mockery, it's way funnier than the actual Zybourne Clock stuff.

Jul 26, 2003

Slime Dad posted:

(ingwit posts are the best posts)

Nov 27, 2005

in case you needed a reminder that OMG ITZ JAMES is a loser even by BYOB standards

Feb 20, 2002



Cover (Sparr)

***Chapter 1***

Far off, away from the iron reach of CAPITAL, in the grand shadows of the Kriegpeaks, lay the rural town of Palestar. Nestled snugly in a small valley, carved out during the first terraforming of Rasenni, Palestar slept in the quiet oblivion of rural simplicity. The steamwagons routes didnt pass near; the zeppelin fleets did not fly overhead. If it were not for the hum of the quotidian, one would not know that Palestar existed in the same time as the surrounding large cities, as if, perhaps, it existed along its own, slower paced timeline, a relic of an antequarian culture, bereft of the trappings of the present.

A Map of Rasenni (Sparr)

But that hum, that murmur, was everpresent in the ears and the hearts of the people of Palestar. They lived their simple ways, plowing the grasslands, raising the livestock, and forging and assembling much of the steam technology used throughout the continent. Indeed, the first thing an observant buyer might inspect before purchasing a steam device was the plaque of manufacture, lovingly crafted, polished and riveted onto the steel body of the machination. Made in Palestar.

The Steamsmiths of Palestar took great pride in their work. It was a craft handed down from father to son, grandfather to father, great-grandfather to grandfather, as far back as the mind could remember or the tongue could give speech. Each device was carefully conceived, produced and completed. Each gear turned smoothly, each steamcircuit glinted brightly, each gasket held firm, each piston pumped furiously. The work was the external manifestation of the spirit of the people of Palestar and also made useful gadgets used continent-wide a blending of heart and science the motto of the Palestarian.

The Village of Palestar (Ferrinus)

It was late this night, and though the remnants of forgefires wisped up from many of the Gearhouses, there was one Gearhouse whence the smoke rose furiously still. This was no steam-release from a turbostove, nor a jettison of vapor from a mechfiddle, no in this Gearhouse none of the typical revelry of Palestar was to be found. This was the smoke, dark and rich, from a brightly burning forge, alive with the potential of its creativity. Manning this forge, his face blackened with soot, his white moustache and hair bespecked and peppered, his round glasses glinting furiously back into the fire as if symbolizing his contention with the flames, his thick arm pounding down rhythmically on the bronze, shaping it to his will, was Angruff Camgroove. He spoke with a deep voice, matching his stocky body and hard gaze which pointed directly into the fire.

Inside Angruff's Gearhouse (Ferrinus)

You need be flattening it, boy, like so, the hammer drang out a knell, tis not the strength HERE, he raised his huge muscular arm, but your WILL that bends the metal to your shaping. He dropped the hammer again, pounding roughly the malleable hot metal. Angruff turned around, his dark eyes glaring at the shadows with a look that could turn stuff to stone. Are ye listening to me, whelp? Youll not make a steamsmith if you sulk in the back like some kind of gangromit.

A soft but hard voice emanated direly from the shadows in the back of the shop, cold as steel, yet fiery as the forge, Ill sooner make of myself a gangromit than a steamsmith, sulking or no.

Angruff lifted the great steamlamp and marched back to the corner, holding the light up to the pale face of the young man who stood in the back. What say ye, boy? Talking like some kind of somebody. Angruff spit on the floor. You too good to wield a hammer, your majesty? Or are ye planning on being a wee-one your whole life with nary a coin nor a square yard to your name? He thrust the huge mallet into the young mans hands. Only with this will you make your way. That and this! He tapped the young mans forehead roughly. Heart and science lad, heart and science. You havent either and yer nearly twenty.

Angruff Camgroove (Ferrinus)

I remember all of this from the last time you told it to me, Angruff, the young man whispered , And I dont know how to tell you any more planely: Im not interested. I dont want to be a steamsmith, I dont want to live in Palestar, and I dont want to hear any more lectures. The young man handed the hammer back to Angruff and began to walk out. The hammer clarnged to the floor as Angruff grabbed the young man by the shoulders and spun him around.

Ye don want anymore lectures? Fine, mark this the last, then. But Ill have my say. Steam is the lifeblood of society, its more than just the perfect energy source. Its the staple of our town, the foundation of all those big cities youre dreaming about. Its a living force, Sylus, a living force with a destiny and a voice. Steamsmiths, men of Palestar, have been bred to hear that voice, in our dreams, in the clarnging of our hammers, in our hearts. Its the gift of science, Sylus. The gift of logic. If you cant hear that voice, or feel the life of steam in your heart, then you are left with silence, with emptiness, and nowhere you run will keep you from that.

Steam has a destiny? Sylus questioned sharply in a rhetorical tone, not expecting an answer, Ill tell you steams destiny. The same destiny as rockfume and betasteam. A forgotten antiquity, joked about, with a wistful tear of memory in the eye, over a round of ale in a common pub. Ill tell you of the destiny of steam: a man looking back over his shoulder while walking over a cliff! Dont you know what CAPITAL and Malaprop are doing in their labs? The EMP tech, the biotechnology, the nanotechnology, the experiments? Or do you only concern yourself with the hammer and the dinner plate?

Angruff was literally steaming with anger. Curb your tongue, Sylus. You may think yer king of the whole bloody world, but yer still my son, and under my roof youll show me respect, or yell get a thrashin.

Sylus turned to Angruff, the moonlight reflecting coldly on his pale skin. And you might consider yourself king of this hovel, but you arent and never will be my father.

Angruff lashed out and caught Sylus on the cheek with a heavy swing of his fist. Sylus crashed to the floor, crumpled in a pathetic heap. drat you, Sylus. I took you in, Ive tried to teach you, even to love you, and all you can do is provoke me. You dont do anything. You dont talk to anyone, aside from that strange Nina girl, another mistreant, and you hate everything and everyone. Well best of luck to ye, lad, I hope whatever dreams rattle around in your block bring you some joy, because with an attitude like yers, theyre all yell ever have. Angruff stormed out of the Gearhouse, muttering further reproaches under his breath, his silhouette disappearing into the family cabin.

Sylus remained motionless on the floor for several moments before righting himself. He sat up and dusted himself off, staring vacantly with a blank expression into the darkness. Seething with anger, he brought himself to his feet, which stood beneath himself. The fire in the forge had died out and he was left inhaling the sweet vapors of wood particles that constituted the aftersmoke. But underneath his anger there was something else, he tried to deny it, to ignore it, but it festered beneath the veneer of his wrath like an ulcerous laceration in his soul, if men had souls, which they didnt, according to plain logic. It was the part of him that knew what his uncle said was true. Not about the steam, or the technology, or any of that. But the part about his wild, irrational anger, his solitude, the futureless path he had chosen to walk. He berated himself. Irrationality went against the tenants he held so dearly: rationality, science, logic. Let the drat mystics and charlatan magickians peddle irrationality; he, a staunch and true atheist, a man of science, was above such ridiculousness. But in examining his past actions in retrospective introspection he found even he himself falling well short of the high standards he believed he held himself up to.

Sylus Camgroove (Sparr)

He walked into the cold night, gazing up into the firmament, where a thousand thousand lights burned brightly, distantly, and the two globes of the moons reflected their pale gaze apathetically. The truth that burned inside of him was clear as the clarnging of a steambell. His defenses gave in the cold and lonely night, his truth revealed under the myriad of stars and planets and perhaps other cosmic objects not visible, but postulated as existing by science. He wanted a future. He wanted friends and family. He wanted to make something of himself. But not something common, not something any other man could do, but something great. He wanted his future to shape the future of all; he wanted his friends to be the dynamic, interesting people he heard about from the merchant travelers in the pub. He wanted more.

He loosed a piteous sigh, and gazed upward towards the heavens, as they used to be called, where deep in the midst of brighter, closer stars burned Aster Perditus, the pale star, the guiding light and namesake of this meager village. In the emptiness, the solitude, Sylus spoke what his pride and counsel kept in company.

Pale star I am like you, distant, lost, hardly visible among a sea of inferior replicas. But like you I burn bright! It is an optical illusion of distance that makes us seem dimmer than others, far dimmer than we are. But long after the closer, seemingly brighter, stars have faded and expired, you will shine on, and so shall I. I do not know what the future holds, or how I should come to see even the very beginning of the dreams inside of me, but I know that to let those dreams go is a pain greater than I could bear. So what more can I do? But trudge forward, and await the day that something becomes clear. The day that something happens? He sighed again and indeed trudged forward, albeit reluctantly, in the very footsteps of Angruff, into the family cabin and out of the dark.

High above, many light years away, Aster Perditus twinkled softly, its visible light having traveled millions and millions of miles through the solitude and vacuum of space to alight on some wanderers eye, here, tonight, in the town bearing its colloquial name.


Sylus slept poorly that night and erose in the morning, displeased and sleepy. Angruff had had breakfast much earlier and had already sequestered himself in his Gearhouse, not bothering to leave any scraps for his stepson. Sylus could tell the steamsmiths mood by the fierce whanging of his hammer that reverberated through the walls with the incandescent fire of his paternal anger. He reheated some parggle hash and then retreated into Palestars ample fields, giving the workshop a wide berth. Nina, Sylus friend since they were both young children, was due to return from the nearby burgh of Creche Mereve that night. She would motor there every few days to sell floral rarities to the urban wealthy that had to import the beauty of nature into their ferrocrete and brass-button lives, and made some few chits for her efforts. Then she would return to Palestar for a week or so, repeating the cycle when money ran low, as it always did for her and the many siblings she supported while her father was laid up with a chronic case of steamlung. Sylus wasnt happy with this arrangement, least of all because the city was dangerous for girls like her, with more hopes than sense in the purse she called a mind.

Nina (Ferrinus)

So he whiled away the day climbing the hills and laying in the tall grass, gazing at the clouds, letting his thoughts drift along with their gauzy mistiness, until finally evening began to descend like an opaque purple marble suspended in a cooling pressure tube.

When he thought it was time, Sylus went and stood on the main road, where Nina was sure to arrive, and waited. Soon a faint huffing of vulcanized rubber wheels on hard-worn dirt reached his ears, overtaking the idyllic sound of imperceptible evening breezes ambling among the tree leaves. He turned and saw, a gleam in the gloaming, a dust cloud on the horizon growing closer as it approached him. Soon Sylus could make out Nina on her old steamcycle junker nearing where he stood. The hunk of metal chuttered to a gradual standstill, a billow of dust following in its wake.

The driver was a young woman of eighteen or nineteen in a long purple dress hiked up at her knees revealing cool ivory legs astraddle the steamcycle chassis. Incongrous to this patched finery, on her feet were two unfeminine mukluk boots. In the sidecar, bouquets of pale white, silver and eggolden lilylips jostled delicately for space with finely crafted Palestar clockwork honeysuckle, wafted along on their opaline petals the scent of nubile creamcolored melon necter. The girl had on a leather cap with goggles. It was Nina.

Nina pulled off the cap, revealing an alluring bob of indigo hair that shimmered in the warm nights breath, falling in waves among the hum of the distant waxing moons and dance of tiny fireflies. Hold it, buster! she said. Where do you think youre going?

Im not going anywhere, twitterhead, Sylus said. I was waiting for you. How was business? he asked Nina.

Oh it was fine, she said as she parked her cycle and climbed off. One of the upper gentry bought a whole bouquet of clockwork flowers--its cuz Angruff makes them so pretty--and now I have enough to buy Nan a new set of shoes and Nikolas that steamhorse hes wanted so much. See? She proudly held up a chit card. Oh! Sylus, that bruise on your cheek . . . did Angruff hit you again?

A Clockwork Gyroflora (Ferrinus)

Sylus turned away, filled with the heat of his shame. It was nothing. Yes. Maybe. It doesnt matter now. When Uncle Dr. Zybourne comes by next month to show off his latest curiosibles, Im leaving with him, willy Angruff or nilly.

Nina fixed Sylus with one of her patented stern looks. Sylus Camgroove, you are doing no such thing! Why would you want to leave Palestar? Were the last of a dying people. We dont have to worry about wars, and binanotechnology, and cheap mass-produced goods that devalue the act of consumption. Besides, Dr. Zybourne isnt even your real uncle. You only call him that because of all the toys he used to give you.

You dont know that, shut up, Sylus retorted. He could be a real uncle. I wish he were, anyway. He knows more about science and steam technology than Angruffs ever dranken away.

Now that is enough mister! Its not fair to bring up Angruffs drinking. You know it never gets in the way of his working and Palestar has a proud tradition of tankards and hydrobrews.

Sylus was going to answer but his words were drownded out by a mechanical chirping and behind that also a mechanical flapping, like the sound of metal wings beating the air. The two of them, Nina and Sylus, looked up and saw a perfect metal egg swaying through the air, impelled by its ornithopter sails. It alit on a nearby stump.

Sylus, doesnt that look like one of Dr. Zybournes crazy inventions? No one else could design something that delicate.

Quiet Nina, its opening. It must be important.

The egg split in half in a perfect line along the middle and opened wide, allowing an even smaller clockwork bird to hop out. The bird cocked its head, regarded Sylus, regarded Nina, and then its beak clacked out, emitting a beam of steam and light.

Zybourne's Concept art for The Owlbot (Sparr)

-ello? Hello? Is this darned contraption working? Dr. Zybournes figure in half-scale miniature crackled into view on the stump. Ah. Like so. Hello Sylus my boy! It is I, your uncle Dr. Zybourne. And I assume darling Nina is at your side as always? Delightful as ever, dear. The image flickered then smiled, Nina blushing and smiling at his smile, forgetting the hologram couldnt see her. Sylus, if you have received this hologramographogram, it means that I, that all of us, that Rasenni itself, are in grave danger. Do you remember my opus magnum of which I often spoke, the Zybourne Clock? The device of temporal manipulation housed within a fastness, the fastness within a fortress, this fortress within a crater, the crater itself encased by an organic light energy forcefield, that I hoped would allow me to alter the timeline to prevent the Changing and the Ascension Wars that during which CAPITAL and Emperor Haagenbgen obtained its power? Dr. Malaprop has discovered the existence of this Clock, though he does not yet know its exact location.

Zybournes hologram paused for effect. Nina chirruped in fear at the mention of Malaprops name. Sylus clinched his teeth, remembering the wholesail slaughter of his family and Haagenbgens laughing face, and struck the stump with an enraged fist.

Yes Dr. Malaprop: head of CAPITALs Ministry of Science and my former colleague but no-longer friend. He helped me conceive of and design the Clock. At the time I was unaware of the evil lying awaitful in his demon-haunted soul. Then his accident occurred that destroyed half his face and damaged the speech centers in his brain. I believe this tragedy also wakened his deeper, darker part. Before we parted I learned that he had adapted my blueprints and built a device called the Golden Egg that is inextricably linked to the Clock. The hologram glanced back and forth and lowered its voice. I cannot speak more specifically of it here, sufficer to say that the Egg is a main key to the Clocks unspeakable power. He raised his voice again, with a whirr of clockworks and hiss of steam.

Yesterday afternoon, Dirk McLauren, my most trusted and skilled double agent, obsconded with the Golden Egg from the Ministry of Science. His orders were to smuggle it through Capital and deliver it to the Sentinel Reach. Unfortunately once Dirk reached the train station, he was compromised by a Miranda Construct. Fortunately this model failed to ingage its kill terminus, and Dirk was unharmed. However he apparently neglected to refuel his steam prosthesis and it failed when he attempted to run. Witnesses report that he made it three steps before the steam leg gave out with a choking bluff of smoke and he very gradually sank to the floor, helpless and virtually motionless as CAPITALs agents stood and watched. They dragged him barely kicking from the station, and now he is presumably imprisoned as I speak in the Ministry of Science.

Zybourne cleared his throat, somewhat embarrassed. I have discovered that Dirk never had the Egg in his possession. That means it is still loose somewhere in Capital, possibly at his house, like on the kitchen counter or maybe shoved under a pillow, Im not sure. Sylus, I need you to do me, as your generation terms it, a solid. Travel to Wallistons Hill and there you will meet a man named Johnny Fiveaces. He owes me a favor and if you explain the situation, he should know what to do. Can you undertake this task I ask of you?

Sylus nodded. Yes.

Good, the recording answered. Now this next part is extremely important. It takes three li-huh? There was a sudden crash and the hologram sputtered as Zybourne looked off-screen. Why you there, you gentlemen! You cannot enter here into this domicile! This is a private residence and aaaaaaaaaaaaaa The recording abruptly ended.

The Clockwork Owl (Evilkosh)

Zybourne! Uncle Dr. Zybourne! Sylus yelled, reaching for the device. But the birds beak had slammed shut and silenced the old mans kindly voice. Hes in danger! I have to get out of here. I have to go rescue him.

Nina placed a soft hand on Sylus arm, gently imploring him with eyes that had seen him grow from a child into a frustrated but brilliant young man chafing under the traditions of his forefathers. But you heard what Dr. Zybourne said. We have to meet this Jonathan Fiveaces at Wallistons Hill.

Then I have to go to Wallistons Hill. Wait, Nina, did you say we? I cant allow you to come and be placed in dangers way. We were kids together and I remember when we would play in the creek behind your house and your drawers would get all muddy and Id just sit there with my hands in my pockets, because it was kind of weird and I didnt like getting my hair wet. And I remember you now, as the young woman you now are. And I know you cant come with me, for its my destiny alone I now face, my own star that I must follow.

Why? Nina questioned. Dont you think I care about you too, as a close friend I mean? That I dont also remember that creek, and the fields, and even your first pounding at Angruffs Gearhouse?

Sylus turned from her, his brow dark with thoughts left unvoiced. Why? Because youre just a girl and you cant understand what Im going to go through for this. Not just for this but for Palestar and, and all of Rasenni. Nina fell silent, hurt and rebuffed. Now listen. I cant reach Wallistons on foot. Ill have to take your steamcycle. You have to let me. You know as well as I its the logical thing to do.

The statement hung tepid in the air between them, clinging to the silence like the purple fabric of Ninas dress to the smooth sweat-dappled line of her calf. Sylus felt as if in that quiet, in that pulsing aftercalm of their argument, he could feel Palestar shifting, stirring in the bed of its untouched remoteness, a giant of steamparts and tried and true ways, its limbs made of stalwart men like Angruff Camgroove, but the burgeoning scurf of its rising dream fashioned from the conflicted pride of himself, Sylus, only son of a low steamsmith, an orphan, made so by wars he had taken no part in, to this day could not comprehend, as if its particulars had been relayed to him through the eddies of time on a rusted and unreliable radio transmitter. At that moment, yes, he felt Palestar shift, and with Palestar the whole world with himself at the center, and in the subtle motion, his destiny resolved itself.

Forget it Nina. Ill take the steamcycle irregardless of what you think. Consider this a goodbye. Im sorry this was the way it has to be. He stalked off, leaving the girl alone in the dusk, the movement of darkening nature around her as uncertain and wounded as the heart that throbbed directly behind her trembling breasts.

* * *

That night, Sylus packed a certain amount of provisions into a bag and stole quickly from Angruffs cabin, the man who had selflessly provided shelter, love, and guidance to him all those years. He left behind him a note, hoping it would say all he had been unable to. He made his way without any noise through the sleeping shadows and comforts of Palestar, arriving at Ninas house. There, he took her steamcycle, wheeled it out of town until no one would hear its engine, then revved it up and took off without a backward glance. If he had bothered to look down at the sidecar, perhaps he wouldve seen a few purple hairs, those hairs connected to a head, the head connected to a body, the body being Ninas who, nestled in secret among the lilylips, clockwork honeysuckle, and supplies, smiled her inscrutable female smile.

Nina's Steamcycle (Ferrinus)

Jan 4, 2008
Can't post for 1037 days!

McCaine posted:

(Images may not be entirely in the right place as I couldn't fit them in in the document where I saved this.)


Nov 27, 2005


Oct 1, 2007

lonely hero man sitting on the crest of the apocalypse
and our boy says something like, "uhhhh…..hey, sir"

uses pedals and steam jets (for propulsion)

Feb 20, 2002



Cover (Pullingaces)

Sylus had made the trip from Palestar to Wallistons hill many times before in the past, but this was the first time that he ever made it alone. Yes, alone He was by himself, completely free of those nets that had been holding him back. The wishes and dreams he had wished and dreamed were coming quickly to fruition. He felt an eerie sense of freedom, of terror and of excitement. He wondered what kind of man this Johnny Fiveaces was. Could he really be trusted? Wallistons Hill was known infamously across the continent for its brews, its criminals and its dangerousity. How did Zybourne ever come to associate with people of that sort? Sylus was beginning to realize there was a lot he didnt know about Uncle Dr. Zybourne, and even more about his mysterious clock, and yet more even still about he himself, Sylus.

His head was aspin with all the thoughts that were inside of it, in his mind. Much like the rolling hills that sped passed him blurred into some kind of unrecognizable streak, his mind swam through the many multitudinous ideas to which he had been introduced in the last few hours. How different his life had been not two days previous! Time is so strange! The previous years had compressed together in one indistinguishable lump of days, months and years, while the previous hours had opened an entire world. He was without hope, without future, then out of the sky, like a fictional angel, came the egg, and with it, its gift of deliverance. He revved the bike and zipped down the dirt path. Off in the fields, the irrigation-farmers on their geartills and camtractors watched in amazement as Sylus speeded by.

It wasnt long before, far away in the distance in the direction in which Sylus was driving, he began to see the elevating foothills and atop the highest hill, Wallistons Hill, the slight figure of the town of the same name, also Wallistons Hill take form. He let out a barbaric yawp at the top of his lungs, feeling the air pass quickly over his face.

Approaching Walliston's Hill (Ferrinus)

Nina started at the noise, being timid and easily shaken by nature. She peered through her delicate canopy at the boy she had known as Sylus but who now was impassioned into some unrecognizable man. Her mind struggled to comprehend Sylus, what he had become, what he may become in the future, later, when more time had passed. Her head hurt. Not with the thinking, but because the mechanical stem of one of her gyroflora was poking her behind the ear and she was worried it might be bleeding. But she couldnt move for fear of exposing herself to Sylus before they reached their destination, though she could shift slightly because he wouldnt be able to hear in the loud wind. She hoped with her whole heart that the journey would soon be over, yet part of her was frightened of what Sylus would do when he found out she had stowed away. His anger and hot blood when he spoke about taking her motorcycle had scared her, but it had also excited her, and that scared her even more. She looked at his face through the lattice of stems. It was full of ecstatic joy, a look she had never seen, but also full of a kind of fervent madness, a look that now that she had seen it, wished she never had.

The engine of the steamcycle roared along, leaving its trail of smoke in the wake. Atop Wallistons Hill, the unexpected waited patiently.

Map of Walliston's Hill (Mechanigma)


The city of Wallistons Hill was sharply divided into four parts: the commerce district, where all the shops of merchant traders and stores full of exotic trinkets and bubbles were; hightown, which consisted of the rich, opulent houses of Walliston Hills elite upper class; lowtown, which was, like The Slums of Capital, a filthy series of alleys and hovels, where the poor majority lived in undignified privation; and finally the casino district, the glitzy yet shady area where all the bars, saloons, casinos, gambling houses and brothels were. It was said one could buy anything, black market, legal or no, in the casino district. Sylus had only ever been to the commerce district, trading or peddling for Angruff, always forbidden to enter any of the other districts. Much to his excitement, the bar where he was to meet Johnny was in the casino district.

Sylus wheeled the bike carefully through the narrow alley ways of Wallistons Hill. Pedestrians of all shapes and sizes lined both sides of the street and vehicles of all kinds prowled up and down leaving the air a thick miasma of smoke, steam and fumes. He even spotted a decrepit old man chutting away on a betasteam scootwheel, coughing and hacking from the steamlung he had developed over his many years in the foul city.

The Casino lights flashed brightly down both sides of the streets. Feathered courtesans in glinting sequenced dresses leered luringly at Sylus as he maneuvered through the labyrinthine streets. He could not be called in by any Sirens song right now. His purpose was clear in his mind; he was on a mission, a quest, not a jaunt for idle pleasures. The sidewalks were crowded with peddlers, pedestrians, nightwalkers, thugs, scum, cutpurses, pickpockets, beggars, murderers and those who, fallen into poverty, resorted to whatever means necessary to procure money for their survival. Sylus tried to take it all in while strenuously avoiding eye-contact with anyone in particular. From this part of the casino district, Sylus could see the outline of the huge palatial houses of hightown. How different the privileged elite must live in those marble mansions than the dirty street dwelling lowlifes that meandered around the casino district. In Palestar, nobody owned a house even remotely that size. There was no wealth, but no poverty either, everyone lived in more or less an equilibrium of modesty that had, at the time, bored Sylus out of his mind, but looking at the sharp contrast now between the paradisal estates of hightown and what he could only imagine the filthy hovels of these pathetic wretches that writhed past him with downfolded faces, made him feel for the first time a twinge of respect for the small but efficient community of Palestar. Just as he was contemplating these ideas in his mind, his eyes focused on his destination. Tucked behind a large casino, on a small off-shoot alley, it stood dark and forebidding.

Sylus pulled up and parked the steamcycle outside the bar next to the most awesome magnabike he had ever seen. The magnabike twinkled in the starlight, its silver and chrome shining brightly. One day, Sylus thought, one day Ill have a bike like that instead of this clunky junker. The bars faade was that of an old style saloon, but with a mechanized sign that lit up and whistled, reading THE BLOODY PISTON. The walls looked like sea-wracked detritus, the dark paint was peeling and cracking and electrografitti sparkled out the indecipherable glyphs of some lowtown miscreant gang. Four large steamstacks rose out of the top of the bar, yellowed sickly smoke pragled thickly upward into the sky. Sylus groaned softly to himself. He had been so excited at the prospect of doing something that he was unprepared for the dirty reality. Angruff had sheltered him from these kinds of places for all of his life and he felt a creaking sense of dread with the turning over of each engine and the gaze of every passerby. His faith, not that he had faith, and even chuckled to himself that the archaic term was still used to denote belief in someone, in Zybourne was dwindling. Somehow, staring at the unpregnantable saloon he doubted ever more that he would meet this so called Johnny Fiveaces and believed ever more that he would end up with his throat slit in a dark alley somewhere, while some scumtrog stole away with all his possessions. Sylus final thought before he pushed his way through the swinging synthwood doors was that he was glad he at least spared bringing Nina to such a vile place.

The Bloody Piston (Ferrinus)

Inside The Bloody Piston, Sylus found himself crowded into a foul-smelling, nasty looking crowd, with mugs of Steam Ale slogged around, slushing onto the floor, onto the bar, onto him. The noise was unbelievable as a Post-Steamcore Grind Band belted out a set on the small and dirty stage at about four times maximum volume. Leather clad journeymen cackled madly and heavily painted women with illicit looks and scant clothing laughed along in a horrifying dissonance. Thick smoke filled the air and swaggerettes, swiggars, dip, chaw and chum seemed to fill every crooked mouth. Sylus assumed what he thought to be his toughest face and began to push his way through the crowd towards the bar.

After reaching the bar, Sylus dusted off his jacket, unsure what foul mixture of fluids had soaked into his clothing. The bartender approached him, a stout, short man with a long beard that in his bearing reminded Sylus of Angruff, setting him on edge before the man even rattled out in a rude and slurring voice: Whaddya want, kid?

Give me uh a..uh.. Sylus glanced at the menu, not wanting to seem new to this sort of thing. Give me a Double Marmled Gangromit. The name too reminded him of Angruffs little speech and the bruise on his face seemed to burn at the thought. The bartender looked at him skeptically.

You sure thats what you want?

He had gone too far to turn back but the hesitation in the bartenders voice worried him. Sylus assumed his tough demeanor and said in as deep a voice as possible, Thats right. Whats the matter, you out?

The bartender appraised him silently for a moment then cracked a gaptoothed grin. No, kid, we got plenty. Just a minute. Hahahaha.

Fine. And dont call me kid. Sylus added, puffing out his chest.

Oh sure, sure, buddy. Whatever you say. The bartender said ironically, as he walked away. Sylus exhaled. He wiped the sweat off his face and leaned back against the bar. He scanned the bar for the man who might be Johnny Fiveaces. Every face was an unkempt, scarred, tough-as-nails study in manliness. Any one of them could be him. Men gambled and drank at every table. But none of them seemed to fit Zybournes description. Or maybe all of them did, too well. Blast, Sylus thought, even if I do find him here, what good will it do me? Hes probably too drunk or too stupid to be of any help, how is he supposed to help me get into Capital if he spends his time in a parggle sty like this? All the excitement and joy he had felt on the ride here had evaporated, leaving only the residue of fear and incertitude in his soul.

Sylus was jolted into the present when a strong hand clapped him on the back. He spun around quickly with fright and anger in his eyes. It was the bartender holding a mug of thick black liquid. Woah there kid, the bartender sneered, dont do anything rash. I got your order here. Sylus blushed furiously and took the mug with a muffled thank you. The bartender stood and watched him.

The Beer Menu at the Bloody Piston (Hernando)

What? Sylus said irritateably.

Oh, nothing. Is there anything else? The bartender said in the same sneering tone.

Actually yes, now that you mention it. Im looking for Johnny Fiveaces. Im a friend of his. Sylus said as matter-of-factly as he could manage. Apparently it wasnt matter of fact enough because the bartender stood back and looked at him suspiciously. Even the people to the sides of him who had been wrapped up in conversation turned to look at him when he mentioned the name Fiveaces. After what seemed like an eternity, the bartender answered.

Youll find him in the back room. Mind your step. Gone was the bartenders glib tone, replaced with a hollow vagueness that frightened Sylus even more. He turned his head and looked at the small alcove in the back where supposedly he would find this Johnny Fiveaces.

Thanks. Sylus tried to mimic the bartenders earlier tone. He turned away and began walking toward the alcove.

Hey kid! the bartender cried out. Sylus spun around again. Dont forget your Double Marmled Gangromit! Hahaha! Sylus grimaced and quickly stalked back and retrieved the mug. He hurried away from the laughter of the bartender and his companions.

As Sylus approached the musky alcove in the back, he noticed the noise died down significantly. The raucous excitement and wanton revelry were replaced with a nervous tension, the toothy grins replaced with stoic emotionless faces. In the far back, was a solitary poker table. Around this table were seated the four toughest looking men Sylus had ever seen. Three of the men wore studded leather jackets and had ceremonial tattoo markings on their faces and necks, they sat with a quiet apprehension, calm but with an edge to their calmness that betrayed a deeper sense of nervousness and caution. These men were Thuglodytes! Sylus had heard of the ruthless gangs that prowled the wrong sides of towns. Under one of the mens coats, the leader, Sylus presumed, since his shoulders bore the largest spikes, the telltale bulge of an EMP pistol, or at least what Sylus took to be an EMP pistol, since to be truthful, he had never seen a pistol, even an archaic gyroPistol, much less one of the new EMP models that CAPITAL was producing, much less a concealed one, but Sylus had a nose for seeing these things, made itself visible as the large man shifted from side to side. But to his surprise it was not this motley crew of alleged well-armed Thuglodytes that drew Sylus attention, it was the fourth man, sitting with his back literally in the corner, who commanded the small alcove.

A Thuglodyte (Evilkosh)

Sylus knew immediately from the mans body language, which Sylus, being very observant, could easily read, that he was in complete control of both himself and his situation. The man reclined with the comfortable ease of one with nothing to fear;his right leg was positioned on the corner of the table, gently rocking his chair back and forth, throwing convention and manners to the wind. His other leg swung out carelessly to the other side of the chair, his foot tapping absently to some internal rhythm. This position might have rendered a lesser man vulnerable, but for him, it was the vulnerability of one who had the balls to seem vulnerable because of the surety of their more than sufficient capability. His brown leather workmans pants creaked with his motion. His left arm hoisted a huge mug of the palest ale, held at nearly a right angle as if upon some invisible armrest, showing to the observant observer the strength of his bicepts. His right arm, supported by his propped up knee, non-chalantly held his cards, which he never looked at, having easily memorized them, being an expert card player. His jacket and shirt, like his pants, were of a tough brown leather, workmans clothes, sturdy and dependable, probably much like his spirit. But around his scruffy, sinewy neck, he wore a bright orange scarf, which may have seemed to clash with his otherwise drab and utilitarian apparel, but made clear the juxtaposition of his outlook on life: one can be unpretentious and pragmatic, while still keeping a sense of flair and style. It was as if the scarf cried out for anyone foolish enough to challenge its wearer to make their move and suffer the consequences. His face, though covered with the stubble of several days not shaving, showed signs of the gentlemans moustache and goatee, which framed his taut, frowning lips. Held within these lips was a repungent swiggar, its wispy smoke drifting upward into a haze in front of his steely gaze. He had those features common to the ancient northern peoples of City5, the proud, rounded nose, the small but aware dark eyes that flashed dangerously behind his streamlined slickshades, his dirty brown hair was tossled carelessly down his brow, to the top of his eyes, and cascaded in a careless yet alluring wave from the supremely low sloping brow so common to people of that region. Without a word, Sylus knew that this man meant business. He truly had that heros makeup that Sylus had read about in the ancient romantic texts of Rasennian literature.

When he spoke, his thick, heavy voice purled out of his clenched teeth like the smoke of his finely rolled swiggar, sounding like gravel and rocks dragged over a well-trod dirt road and then scraped across a grate with a rake, Well boys Gonna have to see your wagers and raise. All in. He smirked wryly, and spoke with the confidence of one who was sure to win or made a strong bluff. The Thuglodytes looked at each other, first in disbelief, then with wry twisted smiles.

The lead Thuglodyte squared his shoulders at the cocksure man and gargled roughly, Hahaha, you havin a go with us, love? All in? Look round you, sunshine, you lose this one and youll be all out. Literally, if you take me meaning. The others joined in with the laughter. The man seemed undisturbed.

Heh, he whispered through his swiggar, if you aint got the stones to put yer money where yer big flappin mouths is, then maybe Ill take my business to a classier joint where they dont allow little girls to sit at the big boys table.

The smile on the face of the lead Thuglodyte dropped. He glared and spoke dangerously with a wicked tone, Careful, boyo dont forget yerself. Wed sooner skin ya and hang ya up for Merton to serve as an entre than brustle words while ya lie through yer chompers. You want all in. Were all in. Go all in, boys. All three of the Thuglodytes pushed their piles of chips forward. Johnny raised an ironic eyebrow and made a mock whistling noise.

Either you all got some really good cards, the punks looked at each other and laughed, or, the man continued, you really like losing money. Me? Id wager on the ladder. Lift your dresses, sweethearts, and lets see what goodies you got.

The Thuglodytes put their cards down on the table. The man looked at the first hand, Not bad, not bad. Whats that, five in a row? He looked at the next hand, Two pair, gic, mate, you really did well! He looked at the leaders hand, And what about you big boy, oh whats this, a straight flush? Now that is a rare hand. Ive only ever seen one or two in my whole life!

Well theys gonna be the only ones ya ever do see, ifn you dont pay up, chop chop, the lead Thuglodyte exclaimed arrogantly. But the man hadnt revealed his hand yet. He smirked, sardonically, with an ironic twinkle in his eye and said sarcastically with a vicious, caustic tone, Heh, the thing about gambling, he began as he laid down his first card, the Ace of Clubs, is that sometimes you win, he laid down his second card, the Ace of Hearts, but sometimes, he laid down his third card, the Ace of Diamonds, just sometimes, and then his fourth card, the Ace of Spades, you lose. He held the fifth card flippantly between two fingers, with just his middle finger visible to the incensed Thuglodytes. After making certain they got the message, he laid down his final card, the Ace of Time. Looks like time is on my side, fellas, and it looks like your time, and your money, just ran out.

Sylus held his breath as the tension grew to the breaking point in the cramped, quiet alcove. The Thuglodytes looked at each other, grimacing, while the winning man, scooped up the chips on the table into his own pile and then leaned back arrogantly in his chair once again.

Five acesthats.impossible. the lead Thuglodyte said in a breathless whisper. The Ace of Time? This cant be. There is only one explanation for this. He slowly reached into his jacket. The other Thuglodytes followed suit. The band stopped playing outside and all eyes focused on the situation developing in the little alcove. Sylus backed himself up against a wall, trying to seem as small as possible. The only one who didnt seem disturbed was the man who had won. The silence was louder than noise. Sylus was sure that here and now he would die in some hopeless crossfire, on the muddy, dungy, dirty floor of the most horrible place he had ever been in his whole life. Hero stories arent supposed to turn out like this, he thought, I havent even made it to Capital yet!

The Ace of Time (Maltag)

Just as these thoughts raced across his mind, the lead Thuglodyte whipped his hand from his jacket. Sylus shook viciously and spilled a little of the thick black liquid in his mug. But, to Sylus utter amazement, the man held a black handkerchief.

The Thuglodyte wiped the sweat off of his brow. Yes, theres only one explanation, mate. You really is as good as they say, Johnny! We heard stories of how there was a bloke who was uncanny at poker since the Rasenni Gaming Commission instituted the fifth suit, Time, someone whose specialty was the Ace-Five-of-a-Kind. Bravo, mate, truly, that was smashing!

This Johnny nodded slightly, the same smug smile on his face as he watched the brutish Thuglodytes file out of the alcove and back into the bar, probably to drown the memory of their loss in a sea of booze. Only Sylus remained in the alcove, as Johnny methodically counted his winnings.

Lets see here. One thousand two thousand Johnny looked up as Sylus shifted. Is that my refill, junior? Bout time. The service in this place is worse than a Bookworld brothel. Johnny pushed his empty mug forward on the table. Sylus stood speechless for a moment, still reeling from what he thought would be a big exciting brawl.

Uhwhat? No. No. I dont work here. This is my drink! Sylus said angrily. Johnny eyed Sylus skeptically through his glasses.

Kid. You aint took a sip off that mug. You look like yer about eleven and scared out of whatever wits you got. Heh. Take a hike before you get hurt.

Before I get.hurt? Sylus spluttered. You..Iyou dont Im not Sylus couldnt believe that this could be the man Zybourne meant. He was rude, obnoxious, annoying, arrogant and reckless. Johnny reclined in his chair again. Sylus held the mug forward defiantly. He raised it to his lips and took an enormous chug, as much as he could pour down his throat without choking. The thick viscous liquid was like burning tar, tasting like something between the floor of a parggle sty and steamrefined combustion fuel. He thought it would burn a hole in his throat and that all of his insides were on fire. He stumbled around, dropping the mug to the floor, grasping at his throat and spitting out as much of the foul slop as he could. BLEEAOOURGH!!!!! Sylus screamed helplessly as his eyes watered and he threw up all over the floor. He doubled over in pain, then fell to his knees as his body refused admittance to the foul liquor that was in his glass. Johnny watched with an amused disgust, then returned to counting his chips until Sylus finally stood again, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

By all that is rational and true, I have never tasted anything like that. I thought I was going to die, Sylus said, embarrassed. Johnny just smirked and then resumed ignoring Sylus. Sylus stood, his eyes unfocused as the room righted itself again. The foul second-taste of his lunch was on his lips and he grimaced dolefully at Johnny.

Something I can do for you, or you just planning on staring at old Johnny all day? I do autographs but youll have to pay.

Sylus looked around in amazement. An autograph? What? No, drat it. Look. Im supposed to find someone here, a Johnny Fiveaces. Dr. Zybourne sent me.

At the mention of Zybournes name, Johnnys ironic smile faded. He looked Sylus up and down again, as if really seeing him for the first time. Zybourne you say.hmm. Well thats me, kid. The names Aces. Fiveaces. Johnny Fiveaces. And I guess after that little show you know why. He flipped a card out of his pocket at handed it to Sylus. Sylus examined the card, it was a custom made Ace of Time, made into a business card. In fancy script it read: Johnny Fiveaces: Gambler Gunslinger Wanderer.

Johnny Fiveaces (unknown...)

Sylus couldnt believe this blowhard was supposed to help him get into Capital and help rescue Zybourne. He stuffed the card into his pocket. Yeah okay, well, Dr. Zybourne said you could help me. He said you were trustworthy Sylus added, though I doubt it now under his breath. Johnny grinned mischievously at Sylus.

Well kid, that all depends. What seems to be yer trouble? Girl problems? Johnny winked, I can definitely give you a hand there, theres a dancer over in the Quantum Boa that owes me a few favors

Sylus blushed furiously despite himself. NO! Nothing like that. Listen to me for a minute will you? I got a hologramographogram from Dr. Zybourne, saying that something called the Golden Egg was in danger and that he needed our help to find it and get it back also at the end of the tape I think Dr. Zybourne is in serious danger. It sounded like CAPITAL sentries were at his door.

Johnny once again lost his ironic grin, his eyes growing steely at the mention of the egg. His grimace increased when Sylus mentioned Zybournes predicament. He pented his fingers together and whispered through his clenched teeth, The golden egg drat it. I told that old man And Dirk? What was he thinking? This is no good. And it figgers that Id be the one around to have to clean it up, He turned his attention back to Sylus, Yeah kid, I can help you. But were gonna need some help getting into Capital. Fortunately, I know just the man. We better get moving though, if Zybournes in trouble, I dont want to waste any time. Johnny paused, then resumed, How did you say you knew the old man?

Sylus squirmed uncomfortably. Well, he always came around once every year or so and brought me presents. My step-father said he was my uncle.

Johnnys eyes squinted grimly. Well kid, let me tell you a little something about li-huh?

There was some kind of commotion outside the Bloody Piston and a crowd was gathering by the entrance. Sylus and Johnny looked at one another and both could tell that they had the same idea simultaneously: to go and check out the ruckus. As they approached the saloon style doors of the bar, a single scream pierced through the air, a scream Sylus recognized the voice of who screamed it, because he had heard it many times in the past, though not as desperate as it sounded now. It was Nina.



Sylus and Johnny ran outside, Johnny grabbing a mug of ale off the bar on his way. Outside, Nina stood by the steamcycle, brandishing a gyroflower at the three Thuglodytes Johnny had just aced at poker. They leered and made playful grabs at Nina as she whirled around, frightened and desperate.

Nina! What in the name of all that is rational are you doing here? How did you get here? Whats wrong with you, I told you not to follow me! drat it! Sylus spluttered, looking harshly at Nina.

Sylus Im sorry I I couldnt let you go alone! I stowed away under the goods in the sidecar, I thought you could use my help!

Johnny smirked, looking over the steamcycle. Gic, kid, this clunky thing belong to you?

Sylus turned angrily to Johnny, Yes, it does, and its not a thing, its a girl, and her name is Nina!

Johnny laughed, Heh Actually I meant this piece of garbage you call a bike. Its older than your clothes, junior.

Ninas arms went akimbo. First of all, thats my Steamcycle you big jerk. Secondly, we have a bit of a situation here. Thesethese thugs were trying to hurt me!

Johnny laughed again. Steady now darlin, dont get all twisted up. Sylus, why dont you mind yer broad and Ill dance with these ladies, he said, turning to the Thuglodytes. So, girls, ya got somethink to show this old one eyed Jack? He held a card threateningly between his fingers and winked at the leader.

Ive ad about enough of yer big mouth, mate. You might be some kind of poker whiz, but you aint so tough. Its about time you put yer farggin money where yer mouth is, the lead Thuglodyte growled. He shoved off his studded jacket, revealing his bulky taut shoulder-girdle. He flexed his arms a few times, his veins popping out over his biceps and chest.

Cram it, musclehead, Johnny said, yer about to make a big mistake. Why dont you just fold now and get out with yer rear end intact. Or, you can ante up and see how fate deals but take my word, it wont be a winning hand.

A crowd was gathering around the group, the favorite form of entertainment in Wallistons Hill being a street brawl. The Thuglodytes were notorious for causing trouble and even notoriouser for ending that trouble with a vengeance. Barflys, shady grifters, streetwalkers, drunkards, hagunots, and urchins crowded around chuckling gleefully, yelling Fight! Fight! Sylus held Ninas wrist and stared at the spectacle that was evolving. He could tell this wasnt a good idea.

Johnny! We need to get out of here. Were drawing too much attention to ourselves! Sylus yelled over the din of the crowd.

Johnny irregardlessly disregarded the warning. He just stood grinning at the Thuglodytes, brandishing a card in his hand. The Thuglodytes looked at each other and the leader took a step toward Johnny. Just as he did a loud siren sounded, its wail carried over all the rooftops of Wallistons Hill and the terrible noise of the crowd died instantly. Sylus stood frozen with fear as he walked slowly over to Johnny. It seemed like the siren was the only noise that had ever existed and all else was silent. It went on like this, in Sylus mind, for an eternity. Then as quickly as they had gathered, the crowd dispersed in a panic. People shoved one another into the street, kicking, tearing, pushing and biting to flee into the alleys and the shadows.

The Thuglodytes gave Johnny one last look that said Yer not worth it and joined the fleeing mob, disappearing into the night. Only Johnny stood calmly and raised his mug of ale to his lips. But a rotund hagunot, jostling his way through the crowd, bumped roughly into Johnny and caused the greater portion of his ale to spill all over his face and scarf.

You son of a bitch! Johnny screamed. He threw the mug down in disgust, it shattered into a thousand pieces, an interesting juxtaposition to the crowd which had also shattered into many pieces because of the siren which still wailed in the air. Sylus clapped a hand on Johnnys shoulder.

Johnny Fiveaces, what is that siren? Sylus said.

That means trouble, kid. It means CAPITAL is on its way, and I dont mean for a friendly game of cards. Theyve been looking for me every since I well theyve been looking for me for a long time. And dont think yer not on their targets neither. CAPITAL dont make mistakes and if they know yer involved with the Egg, theyll do whatever it takes to catch you dead or alive.

Sylus grimaced at the news and looked over at Nina who was trying to pick up the gyroflora that had fallen out of the sidecar. Damnit! Sylus thought, what did that fool Uncle Dr. Zybourne get us into? The gravity of the situation hadnt hit him before now, that he and those he cared about, he looked again at Nina, would be in actual danger because he received that message. He looked at Johnny who was mopping his face with his scarf, a look of disgust on his face. Could it be that we have to trust this bozo? Well, we dont have any choice, Sylus concluded, weve got to go with him and hope that he can get us to Zybourne.

Johnny, Sylus began, we need to get going too. You have to get us into Capital. We have to find Zybourne and the egg before its too late. Please. Youre our only hope.

Johnny unwrapped his scarf and threw it on the ground. I was gonna drink that beer, drat it. He looked up at Sylus, a weariness in his usually bright, dancing eyes, and nodded solemnly. All right kid, first we have to go by Prey Bark to find the bloke I told you about what can get us into Capital. Johnny glanced dolefully at Nina and the steamcycle. I cant fit both of you on my bike, so youll have to take that junker, at least to Prey Bark. Think shell make it?

Sylus looked back toward the parking lot of the bar. All the spaces were empty but two. In one, was Nina and the steamcycle, which for some reason looked rustier and dirtier than he ever remembered seeing it. But even worse, the only other vehicle left, Johnnys vehicle, was the sleek magnabike Sylus had admired before entering the bar. He blushed furiously. Yes, the steamcycle will hold up just fine, he said curtly lets just get out of here.

The Magnabike (Evilkosh)

Right, kid, follow me, Johnny winked as he unrolled a new and unspoiled scarf, the same vibrant orange, and wrapped it about his neck.

Uhboys Ninas little voice squeaked from behind the sidecar, we might have a leettle bit of a problem.

Sylus and Johnny turned to see three CAPITAL soldiers standing in their way. They were fully decked out in their army attire, armed to the teeth with the latest EMP technology. They wore their tight rounded hats with the short brims pulled down close to their eyes. Over each soldiers right eye sat an electronic headphone/eyesight which allowed them to communicate and view statistical data through their own visual interface a creation of Dr. Malaprop and integrated into their brains. Each brandished an EMP rifle and a bandolier of ammo, the blue liquid electricity crackling menacingly inside the glass casing of each slug. Each had several grenades at their waist, some of the old style that merely exploded, others the even more dangerous EMP grenades that not only exploded but had a fierce charge, turning the grenade into a strong electromagnet.

The Typical CAPITAL Soldier (unknown...)

The first soldier stepped forward, his sandboots kicking up dirt from the streets, and spoke in a monotonous, semi-robotic voice:

Under the orders of CAPITAL we demand you drop any and all weapons, put your hands on your head and surrender yourself to our custody for the crimes of high-treason, espionage and public disturbance. Jonathan Fiveaces aka Johnny the Ace aka The Jack of Time aka The Prince of Poker aka Johnny Four Aces and One King aka Don Geojohnny aka Jean Suite aka Juan The Jack Cardlos you are also wanted on the additional charges of extortion, loansharking, grand theft, assault and battery, armed robbery, evading police, vandalism, solicitation, rioting, being AWOL and speeding.

Johnny grinned at the soldier and said, Heh you forgot murder! The soldiers eyes widened and in one graceful motion, Johnny flipped a gleaming card from between his fingers and struck the soldier in the throat. The soldier grasped futilely at the wound, his blood spurting out into the street.

Three of a kind or should I say two of a kind now never beats an ace in the hole.

The other two soldiers sprang into action. One lurched at Johnny, preparing to fire his EMP rifle, but Johnny grabbed the barrel and tilted it upward, wrestling with the soldier over control of the gun. The other soldier started toward Sylus, the glinting point of his bayonet pointed directly at Sylus heart. It was only in seeing the soldiers mad charge that Sylus realized he was unarmed and helpless. But he heard Ninas voice from behind him call out, Sylus, catch! He spun around and already flying in an arc toward him was his old steamhammer, the one Angruff gave him when he came of age that he had never used in the shop. His fingers closed over its sturdy handle and he spun with its momentum in a full circle, swinging the hammer with all his strength and catching the surprised soldier, who could not stop his forward movement quickly enough, square in the chest. The hammer clarnged against him and Sylus felt the sick crushing of bone beneath the hammers weight. The soldier crumpled in a heap. Sylus stood amazed at himself, staring at the hammer in his hands and remembering Angruffs speech.. Only with this will you make your way.. How ironic, Sylus thought, it was truer than Angruff knew at the time. The soldier Sylus had struck groaned and rolled over onto his back. The EMP bullets on his chest had cracked and were violently shaking on the bandolier. Sylus didnt know how EMP technology worked few did but he knew this looked like a bad thing.

Johnny, Nina! Get down! He shouted, flinging himself to the pavement like a hound on a pargglechop.

Nina saw what was happening and ducked into the sidecar, shielding her head with her arms. Johnny looked around the head of the soldier he was still struggling with and saw the EMP rounds rattling on the fallen soldiers chest.

Nina (Gauss)

Aw poo poo. He said. He winked at the sweating soldier and promptly kneed him in the groin, and pushed him back towards the other soldier. He tripped over his comrades fallen body and landed on top of him. Just as this happened, the containment field on the EMP rounds fractured and a violent EMP blast destroyed the two bodies and everything within ten feet, leaving a massive crater in the ground. Johnny flew back in the air from the force of the blast and landed in the middle of the street.
Aw.poo poo. Johnny repeated slowly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a swaggerette and lit it. Lying supine in the street, the swaggerette hanging from his lip he called out to Sylus, Nice work, kid, but I think some of the town is still standing.

Sylus got up and dusted himself off. Nina sat up in the sidecar, her eyes wide. Come on Sylus, lets go, more will be coming! Nina called.

Sylus took one last look at the hammer in his hands, the memories of his apprenticeship as a steamsmith flitted across his mind, and thinking of the surprised, scared look on the soldiers face who moments ago was alive but now, because of his actions, was not, knew that he would never live the quiet life Angruff had planned for him.

Sylus fights a CAPITAL Soldier (Mechanigma)

Im coming, Nina. Get up Johnny, we better leave.

Johnny laughed and sat up on the pavement. He took a long drag on the swaggerette and looked at Sylus.

By rithma, kid, that was a helluva thing!

Johnny picked up the EMP rifle of the soldier with the card in his throat and his ammunition belt, the soldier also had an old style gyropistol in his hip-holster. Johnny took it out and threw it to Sylus.

Here, you know how to use this thing? I dont trust you with that drat hammer.

Sylus caught the gun. Without saying a word, he turned from Johnny, mounted the steamcycle and took off down the street. Johnny laughed again, looked around at the destruction, got to his feet and walked over to his bike. With a loud and intimidating roar, the engine of the magnabike amped up. He pulled back out of the parking lot, took a last wistful glance at the Bloody Piston and sped down the street so fast he caught up with Sylus and Nina in a matter of seconds.

J. Bansal
Nov 17, 2005

by Peatpot

McCaine posted:

He recalled that they were once called Buttersteam Spirals, named after the device used to make them, the SteamButterer, and the company which made it, The Buttersteam Company. Then, as always happens with technology, the Steambutterer was replaced by the Streambutterer, which still ran on steam, but differently, and was still made by Buttersteam Co. His brow furrowed.

this is the worst thing ever written

change my name
Aug 27, 2007

Legends die but anime is forever.

RIP The Lost Otakus.

In the dark alternate future of the steam driven desert wasteland, all soldiers will be required to wear cotton confederacy uniforms

Jan 4, 2008
Can't post for 1037 days!


This set off a raucous of noise that rose like a din down to the bustling city.

i think this might be worse jesus

J. Bansal
Nov 17, 2005

by Peatpot

stay here whilst i go and get some steamcreams

Jan 1, 2005

dont cross the steams

Nov 26, 2007

"This is the omega parchment"
"It's impossibvle to decipher"
"Those that have tried have gone insane"

Male. Bi. Unix.
Mar 2, 2007

mccaine take all the text files or whatever you have, zip them up, and put them on rapidshare. i fuckign love the zybourne clock

Feb 20, 2002



***Chapter 3***

Johnny whipped the magnabike around for the billionth time and doubled back to meet up again with Sylus and Nina, powering down his vehicle with an almost unhearable hum. Arrgh, I cant believe how much time your dumb hunk of dring-metal is costing us. Whatd you do, slap that thing together out of baby scraps back at whatever podunk backass sheep-pilt you came from? If I were on my own, Id have been to Prey Bark and back at least three times by now.

Yeah. Sylus said over the chuffing of the steamcycles engine, well nobody asked you to come. I know how to read a map. I could get us there no problem.

Johnny scrached at his stubble. You wouldnt stand a chance, shortstack. Sides, they wont let you in without my help. Im kind of a big thing around these parts.

Guys! Stop fighting! If we cant even keep peace among ourselves, how can we expect to fight off CAPITAL and Dr. Malaprop? Nina tugged her cap closer over her hair, then crossed her arms under her breasts. Oh, you, you . . . men! She sniffed. Youre too busy arguing to see that Prey Bark is right there on the horizon over that hill.

I knew that. Johnny insisted. Course I knew that. In fact thats why I came back here, is to tell you were almost there. Aint she beautiful? He pointed an ace at the settlement just crowning the top of the road on which they were driving and hovering.

Prey Bark came into view magnificently, its gleaming glass and metal spirettes twisting thinly into the blue sky, like the slender fingers of a tiny woman made of ice and chrome. Already they could hear the soft plash of waterfalls and smell a woody, stolid scent, almost like knowledge itself. Thats Prey Bark all right. They say she was originally an off-shoot from Capital, a research center affiliated with the science division of CAPITAL thats purpose was to provide a place for academicians and thinkers alike to dedicate themselves completely to the study of knowledge. But with the Changing and the Bookist monks leading the retreat of the Bookians into Bookworld, Prey Bark changed. Their leaders saw it as their duty to perserve the traditions and genuflections of the Bookians here in Rasenni. Now theres no rhyme or reason to their studies, least none than sane people like you and me can see. Johnny cast a sidearm glance at Sylus. Well, me at least, sprat.

Prey Bark (Sparr)

They crested the hill as Sylus ignored Johnnys parting shot. A thick ruff of trees and lush vegetation nearly completely hid the pearlescent outer walls of the bastion of learning. As their respective bikes coasted up to the gate, two guards in thick light fibre armor and internally stictched shirts stepped out of adjacent guard posts built into the main gates smooth columns. They wore headphone-cum-eyesights on leather straps around their heads and hefted EMP musket type guns.

Who are they? Nina whispered. They dont look like scholars to me.

Outland Rangers, Johnny hissed back, loud enough for Sylus and Nina to hear. You cant expect a bunch of tome-sniffers to defend themselves against attack. These guys keep the peace between here all the way up to Overture and Shakiris Drop. Let me handle this. He raised his voice. Mornin, gentlemen. Fine day to let us through, wouldnt you wager?

One of the guards pulled off his eyesight and squinted to get a better look at the person who just then hailed him. Johnny Fiveaces! Decided to show your face around here again? Lets hope this time you keep your cards up your sleeve and your one-eyed jack tucked into your mooseknuckle, not like last time.

It was Johnnys turn to squint behind the lenses of his slickshades. Is that Trazz Sogglup? I didnt recognize you without my boot busting ten shades of red outta your fat mouth! They clapped each other on the back amiably, like old friends.

Thats Sergeant Sogglup to you now. Im moving up in life. So what brings you here?

Johnny spat into the dirt and wiped his mouth with the back of his palm. Business from the old man. Were here to pick up Scholtz. Is he around?

Is he around?! Sogglup sucked on his teeth. Like a lead bioturd. Theyll be overjoyed to get rid of him. Go on in. Well catch up later.

Big ups to you Trazz. Say hi to the kidlings for me. The gates swung open and Sylus Johnny and Nina rolled in their bikes which, after being taken by waiting attendents, they walked up the immaculate white gravel path, admiring on all sides perfectly crafted nature, pools of water like reflective mercury, copses of sprig pines and tri-elms, waterfalls poring from openings in the glass edifices of the study center. Other people were on the green as well, men and women with flightly looks in their eyes, barely noticing the new comers, seemingly gliding along in their long silver robes intricately ensorcelled with patterns and lacing. Many of them had books in their hands, or scrolls, or thin sleek nanoreaders, jacks plugged in behind their ears, so that one could almost see the information falling in innummerable blue specks behind their heavy eyelids.

Sgt. Sogglup (Ferrinus)

They approached the door of the main study hall, made of some blue stone. What a beautiful place! Nina breathed. It reminds me of Palestar somehow, with the grass and the trees but . . . more refined? I guess, Sylus said but how will we know where and which one is Scholtz?

Oh youll know, Johnny smirked. Old Scholtzys hard to miss. Aint two people in the world like him, except himself and, well, the guy he sees in the mirror. And you can place your last chip on that. No one in the world like him.

* * *

Mr. Reginald Finlay Marion Scholtz ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He munched with great pleasure crisp tofa hens, supped on steaming beef stew, and slathered doughy pillowed biscuits with a shining silver knife, honeystickle thick on his muzzy lips. Lounging indulgently on a divan in the middle of one of Prey Barks chapelline librarys, he talked to no one in particular, addressing the scholars, scientists, and archivists, all silent, that moved around him in soundless orbits, their eyes raised to the far above ceiling, their mouths moving tentatively around formulae and postulates.

Ah but this, I say, is how one must live! Scholtzy, you dear dirty dumpling, youve really landed yourself in a right pot of creamery this time, and make no mistake. Really truly verily, this is yardles above scrumming about in the trenches, mud up ones knickers, a slag cannon saying how-ye-do to a mans more tickable parts, blood and mash bespattering the slippery vestibule. As me grandsire had it (rest his mouldering bones): You dont know what you have, until you havent had it no more. Indeed and what more needs saying? Nothing more, is what.

Looking around and hearing no one was listening, Scholtz scooted his chair closer to the ivory table and plopped a strawberry into a golden fingerbowl filled with sugarsilk. Still, upon progressive rumination, the conclusion is absolutely unavoidable that protracted periods of idleness handily snub the crooked wick of the intellect. And gor! do it chafe, especially when some specimens of the humanish ilk flit about paying more respect to nanoreaders and ancient toilet tissue than to a long-standing member of the bloody resistance! He eyed the librarys other occupants pointedly, with his actual eye, not the biometric one that hell use for other stuff later. Again, no reaction forthcame. Ay me, Scholtz sighed with palatable resignation dripping from his breath, I wouldnt half mind some excitement again, come strawberries, slag cannons, or what may. He pulled his bowler hat down over the top half of his face so that it made a shadow there over it, preparing to doze. Wouldnt half mind it at all.

Scholtz (unknown...)

Just then there was a noise of commotion in the outer hallway. --didnt know? How could you not know that I was aiming to make it with that librarian? Didnt you see the things her hips were doing to her robe? If CAPITAL had a law against that kind of walking, shed be doing ten years harvesting sprouts in the eastern lumishroom mines. Cant drink suds here, cant smoke, and now a guy cant even get his cog greased, thanks to you kid! Scram!

Scholtz knew that voice, knew it from years of training missions, covert operations, and suprise ambush attacks on the forces of CAPITAL. Johnny, is that you?

Reg? Gimme a sec, Reg. I got some deadweight holding me back, its got two eyes, one ugly mug, and no brain cells.

Jonathan Fiveaces, as I do live and breath! Never thought Id see the day when Id see you again, my dear boy! Johnny burst into the room, his orange scarf streaming behind him as fiery as his temper. Following the scarf were two young persons Scholtz had never seen before, one a troubled but resolute looking young man with a noble and determined face, and the other a young girl, capped with bright indigo hair, innocent yet perhaps, but with an inner fire that would soon be stoked Scholtz suspected.

Johnny, youve brought friends. Why you must introduce us. Its only proper-like. Scholtz averred.

Johnny ran a hand through his hair, clearing his throat as he eyed his shoes. Yeah, right, this one here is that deadweight I was telling you about, calls himself Sylus. The other one, the broad with the decent cans, thats Nina. Shes all right, long as she doesnt talk.

Scholtz smiled broadly on his generous fleshy face. My my my, you havent changed a jot since last I knew you, have you? Ah that mustve been during the Vandermaus debacle . . . by my trough, Zybourne almost had our heads on platters when that one fell apart. Never seen the old boy so worked over in all my years. He turned to the two unfamiliar friends. Greetings, sir and madam. R.F.M. Scholtz at your service, a bit round in the middle, but sound as a mechfiddle, just ask the lads up the pool, what? He preferred his hand to the both of them, shaking vigoursly.

The Vandermaus Debacle (Gauss)

Mr. Scholtz, Sylus ventured, you arent really what I was expecting. Ive heard your one of the best recconoitereers the Resistance has but um you dont look it.

Please, call me Reg, or Scholtz, or Scholtzy, just dont call me late for the Feast of Dawkins Day, a ha ha! Now then, what about me is so--oh this? Scholtz asked as he saw Sylus questioningly glance at his eye. Just a jammy bit of black market biometrics, wouldnt you know? Werent less than half a plat-chit, by the wag of me chin. But thats just between you and me, love. He put an affectionate hand on Sylus arm. Its connected to my camera like thusly. The lens of the gizmo clicked once, then didnt again.
Now Ive got a pretty picture for our tech boys to study, or to distribute to the major newsfeeds if its quite the monstrosity against human decency that Ive captured. But I think this onell keep in my private collection, as is my druthers, eh? Now whyve you come a-calling to this, my temporary home among the ashy fruits of mans dismal labor?

Mr. R.F.M. Scholtz (Sparr)

Johnny had a swaggerette half way to his ruggedly stubbled mouth before he remembered the rules about not smoking in the library, or anywhere not in the library, or in Prey Barks hollowed walls. Ah . . . fuggit. Its like this Reg: its business from the old man. Hes in trouble and McLaurens been captured by one of them Miranda constructs again. We need you to get us into Capital so we can retrieve this thing Dirk thought he was carrying, some technowhatsit called the Golden Egg, and rescue Dirk I guess . . . though if you ask me, that macs queerer than a deck fulla lavender spades. Some time in one of Malaprops psychotubes would do him some good. Sjust my opinion though. He forlornly chewed on the tip of the unlighted swaggerette then, in a sudden gesture of contremps, threw it with unerring accuracy at a marble bust where it stuck in the forehead and thrummled like a cold white arrow. Nina fixed a look at him disapprovedly. Oh come off it doll. Got the shakes. A man does crazy things when hes got the shakes. He lowered his slickshades to get a better view of her. Not like youd know from experience though. Heh.

Sylus charged at Johnny, brandishing his fists with calm controlled fury. Watch what you say to Nina, Fiveaces. Youve got a mouth as big as your nose, and if you open either again, Ill break them both, got it? The muscles of his arms, tempered by years of reluctant steamsmithing, tensed with the potential for punchery.

Like a brown flash, Johnny whirled Sylus around and slammed him into the smooth wall of the library, upsetting a nearby bookshelf. The scholars, until then oblivious to the ado, chittered in dismay and fell on to the upset books, gathering them like a mother Slugblat does with her clone brood. Listen here, hayseed. You just messed with the wrong hombre. He held an ace mere fragments from Sylus carotid artery. Youd best wise up or your life bloodll be doing the razor blade shuffle all over that dish rag you call a shirt. You dig that or do I have spell it out on your face with my vibraknuckles?

Nina made to rush to the man defending her honor, but Scholtz stopped her with an outthrust arm. Now gentlemen, gentlemen! I insist you desist this tomfoolery! I simply cannot tolerate this sort of unconsidered impulsive violence in the middle of my noonday brunch! Do I make myself clear?

There was a moment of taut suspense as Johnny and Sylus didnt move. Then the gambler lowered his card and brought the corners of his mouth up in a smile. Crystal, Reg. Crystal. He brushed some imagined dust off the shoulder of his coat and walked away, still smiling.

Johnny and Sylus (Flying Chip)

Scholtz fluttered his hands in pleasure at the diffused situation. Oh thats just grand, seeing two grown men act their respective statures. Reminds me of me grandsire, before the grippe took him, bless and salutations. Right. Well, I was here on the good doctors orders awaiting a delegate from Bookworld, but as the cad in question hasnt yet arrived, I cant see the harm in taking a brief diversionary trip to Capital to say a jolly pip to old blunderbuss himself, Malaprop. Why dont you come with me Johnny, while I say my fare-thee-wells to the Headmaster and gather the necessary armaments? The two headed for the far door. Sylus and Nina, my dears, meet us at the front gate, wont you? Ta.

As soon as they were alone, Nina wheeled on Sylus. You lunkhead! What was the big idea, trying to take on Johnny like that? You couldve gotten killed! Sylus was about to defend himself when Nina fell into his arms. Ah, but I knew you cared about me, and now you cant deny it, can you?

Sylus brusquely pushed her away. Dont be such a girl. It had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with teaching that city scum some manners and self-control. I dont care about anyone--you know I dont allow myself such irrational weaknesses. I only do what I think is right, no emotion involved.

They left the library in silence, heading through the complex of bright airy halls and rooms, Sylus walking too quickly for Nina to pause and admire the delicate architecture of which Prey Bark was so famous. Turning a corner, Sylus stopped suddenly, having almost plowed down a withered old creature being leading by a young girl in a white robe. Pardon me, sir. he said with embarrassment.

The ancient looked around with rhoomy pearl-colored eyes as his slender charge steadied him. He (if indeed it were a he and not grown so old that its gender had become irrelevant among all the creviced wrinkles) was swathed in vollifulous robes that seemed to bend his small frame even closer to the floor than it already was by the leaden weight of times impervious hoof. He seemed disoriented, his strangely elongated, rounded skull swinging back and forth gently, to the rhythm of some ethereal wind only his ears could hear, his lips smacking dryly, trying to work up enough moisture to burble a word or two or three. The little girl settled the cloth of his garments, smoothing the many and varied arcane symbols and cabalistic runes.

Grandpaps, it was only a rude but dignified stranger. Please, lets get going. Its time for your fourthnap. We both know if you miss fourthnap you get awfully cranky. Sorry sir, but Grandpap Zam Zum is nearly blind and hardly knows where he is anymore. She let her grandfather put his full weight on her and tried to get him to toddle along with her.

Sylus inclined his head. Of course. Im very sorr-- he was cut short as Zam Zum laid a skinny hand on his own, long and lank and brown. Oasis! the odd old man wheezed. Oasis of hope in the waste of our days! You boy, you boy, waterstrong and earthsolid. You boy, you boy, firefierce and skyclad. I see, ah old Zam Zum sees, to Bookworld you must go, ah yes. To Bookworld to see the Master. Listen to Zam Zum. His eyes see what the mind denies! The chosen is this who stands before me. Oasis of hope flowing in the ashes of dismay . . . He was about to say more when a wrack of cough and flem seized his leathery lungs and shrank him further, doubled in silent spumes of throat wheeze.

What, what was that about? Sylus put forth, clearly shaken by the touch of the sere claw. Who are you, grandfather?

The girl patted Zam Zum on the back, calming his coughing fit. They say grandpap is half-Bookian and its that half of him that sometimes gives him visions from the mystic deeps of the Archivex Historicum beyond usual human understanding. Thats what they say, anyway. Sorry, sir, we really have to get going. If grandpap doesnt have a grape phosphorous after one of his visions, hell get colicky for sure. Good day to you. Good day to you both. She shuttled him down the hall.

The Prophet and his Granddaughter (Ferrinus)

Sylus, Nina asked, do you think what that old man said was true, about Bookworld and being chosen?

Sylus shook off his unease one last time, and started walking again before he answered. Theres no such thing as the Archivex Historicum and nothing is beyond human understanding. Now lets get going. I have a feeling Johnny wont wait too long for us before he decides to go to Capital and take on Malaprop and the rest on his own.

Back at the front gate, Sylus and Nina were awaited by the portly Sogglup who was chatting with Johnny while Scholtz, his greatcoat puffing and huffing, made some final adjustments to the steamcycle with an heptagonal chinkspanner. When he stepped back to admire his handicraft this backward-oriented motion moved his considerable figure enough to reveal that a second sidecar had been added to the cycle. Seeing Sylus and Nina walking toward him, Scholtz doffed his cap and said Didnt I say I excelled skill-wise in tinkerage? Always handy you know, with what-you-call-ems, lugnuts, boltnuts, wrenchnuts, brassnuts, anything what desires a good twisting with powerful fingers and the grippability of mine digitals, if I may be unhumble, is not surpassed anywhere in this world or whatever else drams may come. Just loves to get me hands elbow-deep and filthed, cant be helped none.

Johnny turned and ground his latest swaggerette beneath his heel. Ah if it aint my two favorite bumpkins. Hey kid, youll wanna hear what Trazz here has to say.

The good solider dug at his haunch and let loose a muffled belch. I was just telling Johnny that if you need any help getting into CAPITALs stronghold to look for a gal by the name of Alex Trugritte. Shes one of our own, a real bitch on wheels, but drat if she doesnt know how to push paper. Ive sent her down there to deliver some requisition forms but if you mention who you are and what youre about, Im sure shell help. She and that McLauren dope used to be real tight.

Johnny clasped Sogglups hand manfully in his own, in the way that two men do it when it comes time for parting. Thanks a bunch Trazz, you old meatbag. Its been real good seein ya again. You always were a friend to me, true as toned steel, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Remind me to buy you a drink when we get back.

Aw now Johnny, Trazz said embarrassed, dont talk like that. Its not like we wont see each other again.

Heh, guess youre right. Must be getting soft in my old age.

Scholtz was already crammed into the sidecar. Oh what the bloody ever. Lets get going already. If Im not in bed by ten o clock, I get the brown rumbles and Im afraid that makes me less than an ideal traveling partner.

Sylus didnt know what the brown rumbles were but, as he looked down the road in the southerly direction of the vast metropolis of Capital, he felt that they were nothing compared to the dangers and tribulations that he was destined to meet there, where all roads, all lives, all destinies, met together as one in the horrible organic unity that most called the unknown future, a horizon beyond the one he now looked at, a horizon in a dark land where his potential manhood, solid and patient, waited to be born.


Meanwhile, in the deep recesses of the CAPITAL science division, one Dr. Malaprop stood alone in his laboratory, poring over an old tome that lay open on the table. The laboratory was dark and sinister, much like the malicious intelligence in which with it was occupied. Large glass tubes, hooked to electric devices and smaller tubes lined the walls. All sorts of devices ranging from the ancient steam technology that Malaprop so despised, to his own creations: the biologically integrated nanotechnology, what CAPITAL was billing to the people as the wave of the future: binano tech. Jars of bodyparts, fetuses and other typical scientist things floated in a yellow-green formaldehyde. Malaprop walked away from the closed tome, which he had closed, and began pacing up and down the steel floor of the laboratory, and spoke into the thick darkness.

Yes yes this is all exacting as I accepted. Those fools! The Emperor thinks he knows what the eggs purport is, but in fact, he knows knot. If that mormon Dirk McLauren wasnt such an idiom, the egg would be in my clasp as I speak. But of course Zybourne highers incompliment and uncappable underthings, and even by that allergic virtual, foibles my incestuous plants. Cursive! But, fret not, self, for the egg is not lossed. Even now, my pinions rack the streets, interrobanging witlesses. Once they have reprieved the egg, I will be able to enactuate my ultimate design: power over time!

Malaprop ran a gloved hand across the non-metal side of his half-metal face and a dark sigh escaped from his lips.

Oh that fuelish steam technology My new recreations have nearly made it absolute. In every knockin granny, I see my brand of binano tech replicating all that which was once steam powered. Soon all the progresses in the world will be descendant on my brainchitlin. But none of that will be revelant if I cannot refrain control of the clock!

He slammed his fist down on the table.

If I do not recover the egg in a timely mantra, Ill have to move foreword with the other part of my equally diamolocule plan: the forced abdiction of the emperor and the presumption of his thorn. That daughtering old fool thinks I serve him and CAPITAN loyally Hah! I put myself first, as a true programmatical dividualist. I care no more for Haagenbugen or CAPITAL then I do these prophetic test subtexts. They all think that because of my antique disposition Im inculpable of leadership well once my maginations begin to unfold themselves, I, who am not in charge now, will be in charge then! Malaprop laughed evilly, and stalked out of the dark and sinister lab.


Nov 26, 2007

bwahaha the soldiers wear confederate uniforms with a logo based on the communist painting, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge

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