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Chapter 3; The Mask is Strange,

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  • I'll need answers from the other 2 before going forward with this.

    No rush, it looks like things will be slowing down for Chrstmas, and that's okay. I have 2 short-stories to insert into this game soon... and one has to be printed up out of blank pages.


    • Guliop-Ri

      Rama sees the two incoming MiG 21 on the gear in the gravcoupe.
      “Um… Kapitan… “ he says getting Lori’s attention and pointing out the contacts.
      “Out” Lori says in pilot voice. “Stay here with Kasakabe” she tells him as he gets out of the Isotta. Lori is putting on the restraint harness for her seat.
      “Kasakabe, two Alien craft approaching. Remain here I will return within ten minutes.”

      The Isotta shoots into the sky and the thunderclap of a sonic boom gets everyone’s attention on the island.
      “Enemy come. Lori get” Murotsu tells Chris and the others.

      With just over two minutes warning Lori does not have time for subtle or elegant maneuvering. Instead she curves the Isotta onto a crossing collision course pushing the vehicle to its top speed at low altitude of nearly 3000 kph.
      As she pops up and heads for the two North Korean jets the Isotta also intermittently shows up on South Korean radar.

      It takes the operators in S. Korea a moment to even spot the target and tracking it is difficult as it keeps fading in and out.
      “What is that?!” one asks. “I don’t know but it is going to fast to be an airplane!” another says. “A missile?”
      “Where did it come from?!”
      The radar operators call their watch officer over to look…

      As Lori approaches the two MiGs she puts the gravcoupe into a moderately fast spiral / spin of about a half kilometer in diameter. The sonic wake and vortex of the vehicle turns into something resembling a tornado following the vehicle. It is a maneuver no human pilot could manage at nearly 3000 kph.
      She crosses in front of the two MiG’s at just over 500 meters in a near miss that again, no human pilot could possibly match with her vehicle doing 3000 kph and the MiG’s going nearly 1000 kph.

      As she passes she stops the spin in an 20G maneuver (the vehicle manages to compensate for 10G of that) and then spins the car around its horizontal axis at 20G’s to bring the laser to bear on the two planes as she applies full acceleration to stop the Isotta and then re-accelerate towards the planes.
      It was an unnecessary maneuver. The two MiGs fly into the invisible tornado that is the wake of the Isotta. The violence of the nearly 500 kph vortex causes both planes flight lines to be severely disrupted and before the pilots can recover both have crashed into the China Sea in spins that were unrecoverable due to their low altitude.

      Lori checks the ECM systems and jams out the radars that had been intermittently tracking her. She heads back to pick up Muro and Rama.


      Rock took the kids to the Akihabara for the day to let them get their fill of video games and anime while Kotomi met with the company reps she had previously mentioned.

      When everyone arrived back at the hotel there was a message waiting for Kotomi.
      The front desk tells her “Miss Fukuyama (she is traveling under the name Kyou Fukuyama on a Brunei passport that Lori obtained for her as she is wanted under her real name by several nations), you have a message.”

      Reading it her mouth hangs open. She starts to tear up. Ushio Okozaki is at Taiwan?! I must go immediately! Kotomi rushes off to her room and then to find Rock.

      She and he agree that he should head back to Damien’s compound with the kids while she takes a flight to Taiwan.
      I need to let Lori know. I could really use her or even Kasakabe for support and just in case something happens…

      The next morning Kotomi is at Tokyo International getting ready to go through security to her gate for the flight. The security personnel give her passport odd looks and they ask why she is going to Taiwan and abruptly changed her flight schedule. She uses lines Lori rehearsed with her on a perscomm link.
      “I am Kyou Fukuyama a teacher at a orphan’s school in Brunei. I am Nisei (a Japanese who lives abroad or is a foreign national now). My employer asked me to go to Taiwan to pick up several new students instead of returning directly to Brunei.”

      That is sufficient to satisfy the officer questioning her and he lets her go.

      She heads to Taiwan on a business class ticket.

      Aboard the plane she is working on her FTL ship design. A Japanese businessman sitting next to her, bored, sees it and asks “Are you a rocket designer or engineer?”
      She answers “I am Kyou Fukuyama a teacher at a orphan’s school in Brunei. I am Nisei. My employer asked me to go to Taiwan to pick up several new students instead of returning directly to Brunei.”
      He thinks she’s a bit nuts and leaves her alone…


      “Controller, send two fighters orbiting over Seoul out to check that contact” the officer at the AIC says.
      The two fighters acknowledge their orders and head for the point of contact about 30 km northeast of Guliop-Ri. They head out at a leisurely 300 kias at 2000 meters altitude. As they arrive in the area they don’t see much to report.
      Then one pilot asks “There appears to be a large fire near Guliop-Ri. Should be check that out…?”


      • Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post

        “Controller, send two fighters orbiting over Seoul out to check that contact” the officer at the AIC says.
        The two fighters acknowledge their orders and head for the point of contact about 30 km northeast of Guliop-Ri. They head out at a leisurely 300 kias at 2000 meters altitude. As they arrive in the area they don’t see much to report.
        Then one pilot asks “There appears to be a large fire near Guliop-Ri. Should be check that out…?”
        Good post, but I have to hold that last bit in abeyance.

        Those are not ROK fighters, they belong to the USAF.
        So, having a Political General in charge is just the start of their troubles.
        They start to head your way, and are immediately recalled to keep Seoul covered... can't leave such a prestigious place without air-cover even if nothing is happening there.
        You'll probably be fueled and on your way before the joint command even agrees what they want to do there.

        and, there is still the situation with Vondonna. With such fast reflexes in this gang, I don't want to get ahead of you.
        But, how a 200mph Caribou is going to stay ahead of the reaction that is about to happen is something I don't know myself.


        • Chris does a double-take for a moment, then realization dawns on him as he looks at the now quite possessed Vodonna.

          "Easy? No. I didn't think it would be easy to rescue a planeload of children from the world's most notorious psychopaths." Chris says, rather laconically, leaning with one arm up against the cargo doorway of the plane, the other hand resting near one of his pistols.

          Vodonna looks at Chris, as if it's the first time she's seen him, angling her head like something's decidedly not right. "" She says. "Her human eyes see you standing there. But something's different."

          Chris chuckles to himself. "Let me guess.....she can see me, but you can't?"

          "HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS!" Vodonna screams, coming to her feet.

          "We all have our talents. Nice to meet you Merrin. It is Merrin, isn't it? Heard you and some similarly powerful beings ran afoul of one another in some other space warp or somesuch. And that now you go around punishing worlds for their sins or something like that. But for the life of me," Chris points an accusing finger at Vodonna, "I can't figure out why someone so ungodly powerful who's supposed to be punishing evil would join up with the worst offenders this world knows of. Sounds like you need to do some soul-searching of your own."

          Chris turns a bit to see what the status is on the fueling of the Fokker and his own plane. "Oh, and let this little one go, it's embarrassing that you use a little girl like that. You want to punish a world for it's sins, then fine. But you can't punish something that you're more evil than to start with. Believe me, I know all about walking in the shadows and the darkness.....but if you're of the darkness you will never shine a light. Think on it, some of us have better things to do, like take care of little kids you've been screwing with."
          Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene


          • "Trying to taut me into a face-to-face meeting? Trap me, perhaps? Better men, better things have tried." The puppet continues to speak, Zel still cowering and looking up with a horrified expression.

            "A brush with me awakens many things, but you already know it was not I that started that little project back there. Things will be different for you now that you can see things-"
            Sushi tackles him/her with a shriek and hands that are glowing blue. Vondonna's body is larger than Her's, but before the fight can really start, but Sushi grabs her head and says; "Look at me, Merrin, I'm with them NOT YOU!" Then she turns the head to look at Damien, who is trying to get to his feet. "Vondonna, he needs you, wake up!"
            Splitting the attention of the victim and the master between two emotion-charges faces is desperate, but it works. The magical static prevents Merrin from regaining control.

            Barely even conscious, Vondonna is propped up in Damien's lap ... and Sushi whirls to face Chris.
            "What the hell was that all about? You have second sight now, you?" Clearly disgusted by the idea that you might be able to do something like that, something that would require a vast amount of energy and brain-busting concentration on her part, she shoulders her way past him and goes out to stand on the beach. The destruction of those MiGs is just a brief flash back the way you just came.

            The way will soon be clear for you to take off, and make your way out of here. Radio traffic is hard to follow, but the real action seems to be in the bit of water between North Korea and China; that fleeing Yacht went up in flames a moment ago.


            • Chris walks up behind Sushi. "I'm not entirely sure what I have, Sulshanna. It's not something I was born with, or something that we teach here. I almost died years ago, and a Medicine Man that found me told me that I had hidden from death and the trickster, and that the only ones that could do that were spirit or ghost walkers. Ever since, I've been able to read intent, like when we fought those guys in Bulgaria, I could tell which one was going to go for his gun first, and which way they were going to move. Not see things before they happen, but see that someone's about to do something. At least that's the practical part of it for me. It also seems that I'm able to hide from the trickster, or in this case Merrin.....And as for him, I don't care if I have to personally crawl up his arse dragging a Trident Missile behind me, I'm going to kill that SOB."
              Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene


              • At some point Murotsu is going to tell Chris as far as killing Merrin goes: Pointing over her shoulder "Punji there!"

                (trans: Get in the back of the line you dirty rotten bd I get to kill him first! You can wait your turn for sloppy seconds!)

                She isn't known, as virtually all Ral Ranthans are, for having any tact...


                • Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                  .....And as for him, I don't care if I have to personally crawl up his arse dragging a Trident Missile behind me, I'm going to kill that SOB."
                  "Oh, forget what I said, I get snappish when I'm tired. Feel like I could sleepfor a week after all that .... Kill him? With a Nuke, eh? He was 2 hallways away down there, and we all turned and left."
                  Chris will probably give her a look, so she holds up her hand. "No, I didn't mean it like that, it was the only smart thing to do. C'mon, lets all get loaded up. Once we are on our way, I have a few things to tell you once I can be sure we won't be interrupted."

                  And, I really need to move this forward. Lets cut ahead a little and just say you make it out of there fine. There really isn't anything left to stop you, and we wouldn't have nothing but a bad ending if it did.
                  So, to move along by going a little way back--

                  She heads to Taiwan on a business class ticket.

                  Aboard the plane she is working on her FTL ship design. A Japanese businessman sitting next to her, bored, sees it and asks “Are you a rocket designer or engineer?”
                  She answers “I am Kyou Fukuyama a teacher at a orphan’s school in Brunei. I am Nisei. My employer asked me to go to Taiwan to pick up several new students instead of returning directly to Brunei.”
                  He thinks she’s a bit nuts and leaves her alone…
                  And then he leaves, as if he's going to the bathroom or some such thing. 2 minutes later someone else sits down in that seat, quite casually. That other fellow won't be trying to reclaim his seat.
                  The Pariah smiles in a calm, perhaps reassuring way.

                  "I hear you have been getting along very well. Lori did not even bother to return my Email. That's good, very good. You have been the most successful group of people that I have spoken to about... that other matter. However, if you have just started a war between Korea and Japan that could complicate things a bit." He orders a double Scotch from the stewardess. "War isn't exactly the thing that puts your species in the best light."

                  no doubt, Kotomi will have questions, and he will answer them ... let me take care of the answers he gives.
                  He has few questions for you, or none of any consequence.
                  Naturally, Kotomi would like to know more about the problem ... Merrin, and he has a lot to say, but where to start? The beginning would seem to be the right place, and Kotomi would insist on doing this right. To be sure, he can manage that, but Pariah has trouble getting it rolling. Finally, he says "I have to tell this the way I heard it, in the first person. So, stay with it, and yes, you can record it, in case you were feeling guilty about that little device that you just activated in your pocket."
                  (this saves me a lot of time, have a whole story to cut & paste here).

                  Pariah closes his eyes, and his voice becomes a bit hollow, older and distant.

                  My earliest memories are of darkness, damp caves, and of a Monster who sometimes fed me.

                  Sylvorum Elf-stalker was flying black cloud of teeth and talons. His mastery of the silent glide made him the terror of the Sentinel Spires Mountain range. That Dragon’s reputation was so foul that no intelligent beings would deliberately enter his territory.

                  This was my father.
                  Of my mother, I know nothing. Sometimes, when Sylvorum would delve into his stores of intoxicating brews, he would mutter about some female named ‘Chrys’. Perhaps that was short for Crystal, perhaps that was her name.

                  I was a disappointment to my father. His habit of tormenting his prey before eating it nauseated me. His treasures; a bed of cold hard stones and bits of metal, was of no interest to me. Causing forest fires to forage for crispy treats among the ashes seemed pointless to me. This, and other things, caused a deepening rift between us as time crawled by.

                  When by myself, I was content enough. Miserable, lonely, confused, yet content. Men, Dragons, Fey or what have you, we all seem to have a remarkable ability to be happy enough to go on living.

                  Then one day my Father summoned me from my favorite waterfall with a roar that started landslides in two nearby provinces. He ordered me to guard a new treasure he had acquired. It was called a Barbarian Princess, something he intended to trade for its weight in gold. How wonderful...

                  I soon confronted a strange sight, a little pink biped with a mop of black fur atop her head and clutching at scraps of other furs that were obviously not her own. The ‘princess’was small and dark of hair and eye, but her spirit was strong enough to confront me directly. I was not nearly as terrible as Sylvorum, yet it must have required considerable courage to face me and ask “Are you going to eat me?”

                  The very idea of eating something that could converse with me was so repulsive and ridiculous that for a moment I was non-plussed. What in all creation would make her ask such a question? Being somewhat innocent, I thought about this, and eventually came up with a perfectly reasonable answer; this little talking beast must be close to starving! Why else would she be wondering what I would like to eat?

                  I foraged about the forest and soon returned with a collection of things that I thought might be edible. I really had no idea what humans were at this point, let alone what they might eat. The collection I placed before her was somewhat… varied. She took a few things, ate a little bit and placed the rest on a rock shelf behind her. Then, she thanked me and complained about nothing, introducing me to the concept of politeness. When she was done, I cleared the mess away (some of the things I had brought were offensive, even to me) and shooed away something that I had thought was a truffle, but was now leaving the cavern under it’s own power. I then settled down to guard duty, although it was unclear to me what I was supposed to be guarding her from. She told me her name was Annarinda, and engaged me in conversation.

                  Her people had lived on the northern plateau for many generations. Drought and a series of other natural disasters had driven them south. In the lowlands they had not found the terrible armies that their Grandfathers had warned them about, but soft, fat simpletons who fell like wheat before their axes, when they were not running away. The Barbarian Warriors were so overjoyed at their success that they sent word back for their families to join them. So Annarinda had come south to join her Chieftain father, and rejoiced in his prosperity. The bounty of the lush south would see her people through the winter. For a change, none would starve of freeze to death. I had no objection to any of this; it was nature’s way that the strong would survive, and her people seemed happy enough.
                  And then Sylvorum had happened along…

                  The Barbarians had not been interested in Gold or gemstones, these things being inedible. Now, driven by my father’s ransom demands, they would have to attack strongholds they had earlier bypassed, and take terrible risks for this “treasure”. Despite the low regard my father held for me, I was intrigued by this.

                  For her part, Annarinda absorbed the details of my rather staid and boring life with rapt fascination. I became proud of my ability to entertain her, something I did with honest words without any Draconian embellishment or boastfulness. She even commented on my command of her native language, she said she could practically see the meaning of my words in her mind. I was too amazed to speak for a moment. Command of mannish tongues was the first step in learning spell magic, something that my father had continuously postponed. I corrected her, it was her facility with Draconian that allowed us to converse. Annarinda thought about this for a moment, and then smiled in a sly and secretive way.

                  “Can you hear me?” she asked. I had, of course, but then I realized something, a crucial fact that stopped my heart for a moment.
                  Her lips had not moved.

                  (to be continued....)


                  • (to continue-)

                    “Can you hear me?” she asked. I had, of course, but then I realized something, a crucial fact that stopped my heart for a moment.
                    Her lips had not moved.

                    A witch! I nearly fled from her; I almost barged out of the cavern and brought Sylvorum down on us both. Before I could move more than a few feet, she explained it all to me in a strobe of mental images and ideas, and made the truth known to me in an instant. I sum it up in one word; Psychic. All creatures are supposed to have this power, although nearly all are latent as stones. Nearly all beings are deaf to the wonders that their own minds are capable of. One in a million can call this power forth in useful forms, and bend it to their will. This was my Annarinda, one in a million.

                    The next few days were a learning experience that was more like an unfolding, a revelation. It is impossible for me to tell you what it is like, this process of discovery. Spend the first half of your life at the bottom of a well, and then climb out and tell me what the sun, the stars and the world around you looks and feels like. Do that, and you will have taken the first step in understanding us. Annarinda’s mental energy was far less than my own, yet her power flowed like a mill stream, with every erg of it available for useful employment. At first, mine was like a rushing flood, crashing about with no purpose. She trained me to bring it forth, and I shall never forget the day that I took my first journey outside my body.

                    We no longer needed our voices to communicate, and in ways I had never dreamed of. Of course, I needed a certain amount of training in this and other things. Annarinda might have been a minor power by any standard, but her psi-power flowed like a well-dammed mill stream; every erg was efficiently utilized. I, on the other hand, was like a raging torrent, tumbling through rapids without rhyme or reason. Under her tutelage, I found a rhythm that I could exploit. With a joy undiminished by oceans of time, I recall the first look I had at the outside world without leaving the cavern.

                    Annarinda was not teaching me to gain advantage over me, or worm her way out of her predicament. It is such a rare thing for people with out abilities to meet that we naturally feel drawn to each other. As far as I know, I am the only Dragon thus gifted, so this spontaneous camaraderie is unusual for me, but that is just the way it was with Annarinda. That is how I remember it… and why should not choose to do so?

                    Then came the night we went on a journey beyond ourselves. What a ghastly, wondrous feeling of total freedom and utter poverty it is to be separated from one’s own body! Your plasma tries to re-form itself in a tiny, wispy image of the flesh left behind. We did not fly so much as we seemed to dash with incredible speed from on vista to another.

                    Lamdmarks blinked by, and it was fortunate that I was not the pilot, but piggy-backing Annarinda’s guidance. Otherwise, I would have succumbed to vertigo before we had even left the places familiar to me. Soon, we seemed to be hovering above an encampment of more humans than I had imagined could be living in the whole wide world. There were thousands of them, climbing into bed-rolls or lingering around fires. Our senses focused on a solitary female tending a small campfire. I was still so unfamiliar with humans that I could not sense a family resemblance, but there was a connection between her and Annarinda, who used her small powers to scratch letters in the dirt. The older woman smiled at this, and sat still for a moment, and then more words that I could not understand began to form.

                    I knew that a conversation was taking place, but this being was not broadcasting to us. Annarinda must be reading her mind. How is that done, I wondered. I gathered my energy into a needle-like projection and sent it lancing into her skull. This proved to be the wrong approach, and I regretted it immediately. Humans are mental pack-rats, storing away all sorts of worthless trivia in every corner of their heads. I felt like a librarian buried in a pile of manuscripts. I withdrew, and changed tactics, as well as the shape of my explorations. I cast a gossamer net of my own awareness over her head, hoping to catch active thoughts, and I succeeded.

                    How strange, how beautifully alien these thoughts were when I first heard them. A parent that actually cared for her offspring, and expressed it! “Be brave, we all pray for you. Daddy is doing everything he can, soon this will all be over. Baby… is a dragon near you?”

                    Whoops! I had not been as stealthy as I had thought. I withdrew to meet Annarinda’s cold regard. Had I no respect for other people’s privacy? Had I no idea of the fear I could engender in anyone I might encounter? The combination of Dragon and thought-reader could cause blind panic among the masses. This advice I headed form many years, only revealing the true extent of my powers to you all when it was time to assume the mantle of Empire-builder.

                    (Kotomi might try to interrupt the story at this point, but Pariah will ignore her and continue his recitation)

                    We returned to the caverns unnoticed by Sylvorum, of course. My father occasionally observed us, but all he noticed was that our conversations had ended, and that we seemed to be just sitting there, staring at each other. He was glad of this, the old fool; he took this to mean that I had finally become bored with her. I knew this because I had taken to reading his mind… what there was of it.

                    A few nights later he summoned me to his side. He was loudly agitated, and has consumed a good part of his supply of fermented Griffon’s milk. My sire was incensed at the slow pace with which the Barbarians paid the ransom he demanded. He proclaimed, with the solemnity and grand gestures of the cataclymicaly drunk, to return Annarinda to them the same way her ransom was being paid; one little piece at a time.

                    Annarinda was still half asleep when she found herself perched on my back, my mental directions clamping her hands tight on my scales as we flew off into the night. Our nocturnal escape was exhilarating at first, then confusing, then dreary and ultimately became frustrating. Barbarians move, you see, and it was not until dawn that we finally found them. Also, Dragons rarely fly at night, air currents after dark mainly travel downwards.

                    { While we are on this subject, I have heard that there are so-called Sages who have used maths to calculate that Dragons cannot actually fly. I have ceased banishing such men because I have come to agree with them. Dragons do not fly, we simply beat the atmosphere into submission. }

                    (one more part to go...)


                    • (and at last)

                      When we finally located Annarinda’s people, the sight they presented was yet another life-changing experience for me.

                      My father’s outrageous demands had driven the Barbarians to extreme measures. When we arrived, they had just stormed the walled city of Visograd, and sacked it. I say without hesitation that this was a fortress that no Dragon ever born could have taken down, and these tiny yet vehement creatures had razed it in a matter of days! It had cost them dearly, but they had learned something about themselves in the process. They learned that they could do incredible things when they stopped and planned their work.
                      I have never forgotten the value of this kind of wisdom.

                      Annarinda’s mental shout saved us from a shower of arrows as I swept in and landed in the midst of them, staring about me with the same shock and curiosity that was being directed at mine own self. I had never understood just how many human beings there were in this world. Annarinda dismounted and ran to her father, and soon our story was known to them, as was my name. Soon I was experiencing what no non-psychic can ever understand. I basked in the admiration of the little souls all around me. In that moment, I think I came close to understanding something important… and then the moment was gone.

                      I sensed him before they saw him. I heard the cries, the wails of despair before I could even turn to face him. Sylvorum Elf-stalker scythed his way through the crowd with the sun at his back, his wings making hardly a sound. His approach was all the more nightmarish due to the speed of his approach. He was focused on me, and his eyes promised nothing but bloody murder for me and mine. I snatched Annarinda up in my weaker claw and vaulted straight up into the sky.

                      My father, now determined to be my killer, heaved his wings and his breath started blowing through his nostrils like an ox. Yes, his rage at my betrayal gave him strength, but it also narrowed his vision. When he found us, Sylvorum has assumed that I was trying to claim the ransom for myself. When I bore my friend aloft to save her life, he went berserk. To him, I had betrayed my race, and become an affront to nature and tradition.

                      He would have caught us eventually, but escape was not my plan. I cast my new-found power over the old monster’s skull, and his thoughts were mine! Then, with one claw burdened and useless, with half his mass and none of his experience, I turned to battle Sylvorum to the death.

                      Much has been written of this battle, songs were sung of it. My own recollections are hazy, muddied by the red haze of combat, and cannot do the bard’s tales justice. I was wounded seven times, blows struck by reflex that I could not possibly dodge. Other moves, such as brilliant snap-roll that should have put him on top of me, were turned against him. I stung him until he thought he was dying of a hundred tiny cuts. Soon he found himself with bleeding wings, flying so low that a stall would surely ground him. Now, he attempted to marshal his fiery breath against me. At the moment when a Dragon must release his breath, I wrapped my tail around his throat and kicked him in the stomach as hard as I could. I can testify that at that moment, he felt a taste of the horror he had visited on so many others, just as I intended he should.

                      His throat and chest erupted, and I was swatted out of the air by a chain-reaction of explosions that destroyed him utterly. Sylvorum landed in the forest, where his corpse burned and smoldered for two days. I crash-landed near the place I had taken off from. I was weak and bleeding from half a dozen places, but before I could surrender consciousness, I had to check on my precious passenger.

                      Historians and apologists have had much to say to excuse me at this point. It is all garbage and nonsense, of course. I looked at the pulped and bloody mess in my claw, and I knew the truth at once, I knew that I had killed her.
                      At some point, one convulsive tightening of my claw had snuffed her out like a candle.

                      Was it quick, too sudden for her to cry out to me? Did she hold herself quiet in some transcendental triumph of willpower over pain, not wanting to distract me from a battle that would determine the fate of her people?

                      Dragon’s tears are said to have interesting qualities, some of them becoming gemstones. Do not make the mistake of showing me any jewels; I give such baubles away for a reason.
                      Annarinda’s people, good, honest folk, took me in and did what they could to shelter me from my grief. Somehow, they prevented me from doing harm to myself. These beautifully simple creatures thought that I had done something good. Even in my decrepit state, I was able to help them; who in their right mind would attack a tribe with it’s own pet Dragon?

                      That is all Pariah has for you, it took him a while to get that out and you airplane is on approach to Taipei.
                      "Its from an autobiography that he started and never finished, when he was trying to build a cult of personality around the Imperial throne he had created. That would have been 2 centuries after the events described.
                      For more current information on the Dragon that you people just opened the game on, you could ask your new pal, Sushulana.
                      Just don't hope for something objective or unemotional."


                      • Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post

                        The way will soon be clear for you to take off, and make your way out of here. Radio traffic is hard to follow, but the real action seems to be in the bit of water between North Korea and China; that fleeing Yacht went up in flames a moment ago.

                        How far away where they
                        you think you a real "bleep" solders you "bleep" plastic solders don't wory i will make you in to real "bleep" solders!! "bleep" plastic solders

                        CPO Mzinyati


                        • Kotomi does have questions but the story hardly explains Merrin or how to doing anything about him....


                          • Kotomi listens intently to Pariah’s story.

                            I have suffered incredible loss in my own life she says to him quietly. My parents died in an aircraft accident. They never got to tell me all of what they wanted.

                            I discovered with Lori and Kasakabe a truth I never knew my first time riding into space with them. Kotomi turns her laptop towards Pariah and plays:

                            “Listen to the words carefully mister Pariah. I hear what is happening to my own life in those words.” Tears stream down Kotomi’s cheeks.

                            “I did not ask for this! I cannot be the savior of this world! It is not in me! What do I do?! PLEASE TELL ME?!” she sobs.


                            • Originally posted by andrewza View Post
                              How far away where they
                              The Yacht was about 50 miles East North East when it was flamed. Most of the action is farther out.

                              Those N. Korean pilots that lacked the skills to track down a couple of low-flying aircraft in the dark can at least understand which direction east is and how to attack anything headed for their own coast from China.

                              And there is some action... but really, how surprising is it ... to know that a smuggling ring has high-powered connections in Beijing?
                              But, its safe to say that the North Koreans are getting the better of the situation, for now. All those fighters that were scrambled because of you are not a common sight in these skies.
                              Once the smoke clears, things may be a bit different, but by then you all need to be long gone.

                              The fleeing aircraft will be at the limit of their endurance, but they will make it to Taiwan in the morning. Probably.
                              The question for Dutch is, does he want to abandon is new boat here and fly along with them, or try to get far enough away from here by dawn to slip away into the vastness of the Pacific?
                              Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                              “I did not ask for this! I cannot be the savior of this world! It is not in me! What do I do?! PLEASE TELL ME?!” she sobs.
                              "You were on your own last time, and you did very well. This time, you have a whole team around you, a good one. Are you moved to tears because you don't trust them?"
                              That was pretty cold-blooded, but worse is to come.
                              "What do you do? Well, you can stop concealing the information I gave to you from certain others in your group. You and your 2 friends from the future have been holding back a lot.
                              And, as I told you, you stop Merrin by convincing him that he is wrong about your world, your race. You can do that, and if you can't then maybe someone else you know can."

                              BTW- TaC and Andrwza can PM with to tell me what their characters know about Merrin thus far.
                              Damien knows very little, only that Pariah has been a good source of information and that Merrin is some sort of weird alien that caused the situation in N. Korea.


                              • Meanwhile...
                                There is another story for me to tell, and it seems like we are still in the Christmas break time. Something for you all to digest when you get back and contemplate the next moves.

                                This is in the Caribou, covered by the FW and the Isotta as it weaves its way south at the most economical speed. (and lets just get it done, I don't want to wade through more arguments over what's really just 10% of the theoretical range limit)

                                More then just a couple of people will want to know what the deal is with Sushulana knowing about Merrin, or just the situation in general.
                                "The situation is, now that we backed off from hitting him in one of his lairs, he will move to hit us in our's. That's not something peculiar to him, its just how basic tactics work back home."

                                Luchaan; "Is there such a thing as a place he can't get into?"

                                She sighs and shakes her head. "If there is, I can't imagine what it could be. No, hear me out, I'll tell you about the time he got into a place that was designed to keep him out.
                                Merrin has an enemy that stopped him in his tracks once, and for centuries after that Thal and he were each other's worst enemies. Thal was a Litch, like a self-made undead... his way of keeping himself in the war against Merrin after his body would have died of old age. He was an arch-mage, so powerful and brilliant that he developed 2 whole classes of new magics.... yeah Zel, go ahead and give me that look after all you have experianced, shows how narrow your mind is. So look at something else besides me until I'm done.

                                This is how their feud ended, 1300 years after it had started;
                                The city of Fangore, the place I grew up, had become an abandoned, semi-ruined corpse of a city. It was the perfect place for Thal to fort-up. He had warded the place.... that means magical traps, against Merrin specifically. It would have been like trying to drive a tank through a minefield in the dark for Merrin, so the rest of us were assaulting that place without him. Lots of us, but going up against Thal was still a terrible risk ... so I was looking ahead so hard that someone was able to sneak up behind me and cold-cock me. When I woke up, my gear and all was gone, and damn I was mad. So, I went ahead, more tracking whoever had attacked me than looking for Thal now. I found them, but I didn't know it was them yet.
                                Well, here is what I saw; Thal was in this ruined mansion, in all his glory. He was a serious nightmare... dressed in immaculate black & white robes with a squared-off hood, wearing a Sphere of Annihilation like a bit of jewelry in a gold crown, but you could see his face and hands. Or rather, where his face and hands used to be, it was just bones covered with charred flesh, black and pebbled, shiny like charcoal. Pearl-white teeth, and pin-pricks of ice-blue light where the eyes used to be."
                                She winces and shakes her head. The difference between hearing about the appearance of a Litch like that and actually seeing one is about as big a gap as hearing about what its like to be shot at and experiencing it.

                                "But, it was the other thing in that room that really caught my attention. He has this woman on a torture device, and it looked just like me!
                                Yeah, I was kinda on Thal's blank-list too, but nevermind that.
                                Thal turned at saw me, and he figured it out a split-second before I did. You see, it wasn't until the thing on the cross transformed back in to Merrin and landed on Thal like... well... like 30 tons of enraged Reptile, that I got it.

                                Merrin was the one that knocked me out, changed himself to my shape and appearance, and put my stuff on. But, that wouldn't have got him past those wards. He turned his powers against himself, its like he hypnotized himself into thinking he was me! Yeah, I know, impossible, but he blanking well DID it. Of course there was a trigger left in place, something to bring him out of it, and it must have been tripped the instant that anyone realized what was happening.

                                Thal was bad news, no doubt about that, but Merrin really ended him that night. The destruction was so total that by dawn most of what was left of the city, and Thal's inner sanctum, was collapsing in to the ocean.
                                Hell of a night, way more wild than the one I just had, but what I'm saying is; Thal was absolutely brilliant, absolutely powerful, and thought he knew all there was to know about Merrin.
                                ... and that old Dragon still out-foxed him."

                                She looks at Chris; "I don't really know what a Trident missile is, but I have to ask- do you think it will be enough?"


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