People say, no one comes out. Just a big no-man's-land, a whiteout miasma of mist and fog. If this were the history books, there'd be a big map in there with a big splotch right in the center saying, "Here there be dragons." But this isn't, and there isn't. Right now, it's just got a big question mark. The Mapmakers don't go in there anymore.
Once in a while, guy gets it in his head that he's gonna go climb the mountains in there. Get to the top, put a way station up there, so people that get themselves in a pickle can go on up and find somewhere to stay alive. You can bet your shiny boots he's not coming out again. Guess there's got to be thirty, forty dead bodies all over that wet ground out there, rottin' away in the mist. Maybe now all that's left is their guns and their glasses. Not much to shoot in there, or if there is, it never comes out to say hello.
Tied a rope around one of 'em once. Sent him off as far as he could go. A few miles of rope is an awful long way. Took a whole town's worth of stock and then some just to get it together, and even then you had to store it in a whole building. So we put up a set of shacks just for the rope and tied on a new coil every time he started running out.
Guy died in a couple of days. Least, we saw the rope stop moving for too long. Didn't even take up a mile. Decided we'd just leave him there, pull until the rope came free, that kind of thing. So we hauled his body back, turns out he didn't even get to the mountains. Didn't even get lost...after all, we gave him a full pack of food and a whole lot of water. Something about that mist just kills you. So, the whole lot of Mapmakers just threw up their hands and gave up. Didn't no one have the guts to call them chicken. It ain't being scared; it's just smart thinking.
'Cept one person tried it again. I won't lie; we all said she was crazy. Girl stood just inside the fog and sat there a while, too far away to see, too close to have run off. We all left her there, figured if she wanted to die, that was her business, no place here for someone without half a brain in her head anyway.
She came back half a day later, told us what was what. It's sleepy-juice, that's what it is. All that white stuff makes you tired. Like breathing the sweet smoke off a pile of black mushrooms, it'll make your head spin. You sit down, think you'll close your eyes for just a while, don't wake back up again. Dream yourself to death. That's what she thinks happened to all those people. After all, don't drink water for a couple days, you dry right up and die. And it's real smooth too, she said. Get too afraid, think too hard about keeping on, and you don't notice you're that tired 'til it's too late.
Girl said she'd sign up for the Mapmakers, go off and see what was in that killer place. Well, we all wished her luck and sent her off, said don't blame us if you die, but you got a lot of guts.
Haven't seen that girl in a couple years now. Some guys say ever' so often, she comes back for a pack of food and a few canteens, then heads out again. Stack of maps on her back. Guys tell me she can stay in there for weeks, months at a time. Got used to the sleepy fog, I guess. Don't know how she didn't just roll over 'n die like the others. Hope she'll come back with her map roll full of drawings. We folk back here got hemmed in by the fog a long time ago, and we need to know what's out there to the east.
Rumor has it she'll come back Resonant. Got to find the thing responsible for all that fog first. Resonant's a hard thing to get to, a hard thing to be.
But if anyone can do it, she's got it taken care of.
(Author's note: I am so sorry I felt the need to write a thing in Bastion-speak. But I did. It was like lancing a wound or something, just had to let all the Bastion-speak out.
This is the Resonant Universe, only I will do my best to write all the rest of it not in Bastion-speak.)
Monday, July 9, 2012
(Hurrr I wrote a thing at work at some point long ago. Here it is. Takashi is kind of the zen old man type. Also, yay inconsistency, but I hacked in some stuff in the middle that hopefully shows the characters transitioning between their thoughts? Lame draft is lame.)
"My name is Takashi Kuro. I was the first Light. I wish I were the last."
He sat on the edge of the Red Capitol's cathedral, recorder in hand. The steeple was still unfinished, as no one could quite figure out what to put on it, so he leaned back against the empty column and clicked the gadget on again. "Akakyo grows. We're still a no-human community, and right now we're at two thousand people. I remember when I could count us on ten fingers."
Down below, a few people walked here and there, and from the zipline that led up the mountain came a cheering blur that dropped off just inside the town walls. At the city gates, far to the east, a crew of Lights herded an incoming party through the huge steel doors. Takashi bundled his knees closer to his chest and wrapped his arms about them, lacing and then merging his fingers. The recorder lay trapped inside the wrapping, its microphone poking out.
"Visitors today. I think humanity has given up trying to contain the Blight, although Akakyo was originally considered a quarantine zone. I declared a few of us to be ambassadors, people who will talk to the still-normal humans and try to establish good relations." He took a deep breath and sighed, a holdover response from his human days. Need for lungs or not, it made him feel a little better; he smiled for a moment and closed his eyes. "They have good intentions, and we have a perfectly clean record of interactions with them. Not a single mistake. They're grateful for our good spirits, and we're grateful for their tolerance.
He felt the fibers in his cheeks relax and let his smile drop. Dragging his gaze back to the incoming humans, he watched as they entered one of the security buildings. There, a crew of Lights would search the visitors and confiscate any explosives, hazardous chemicals, flammables, recording devices, and cameras. Guns and knives, ironically, were not much of a threat. "But I can't manage the energy to talk to them right now. I'm getting old. I was never a robust strain, not even from the start. I'm tired."
He peered up at the mountaintop and the rich red cabling that ran up its sides. His own bared mass was dull, rusty, and washed-out by comparison, and no matter how much he tried to flush in a more lively shade, he could only get it vaguely pink. His colors had been failing for a while; the muddy brown pants and tan shirt he wore today were typical clothes for him. At least human skin was a shade of tan.
"I've been shot, burned, stabbed, drowned, and exiled. Sometimes I'd take the first four over the last."
He stood, the mountain wind rushing over his skin, stirring what little hair he bothered to create. Clicking off the recorder, he took one step, then two, and then a third that left him soaring through the air and forty feet down to the ground. He landed with a heavy, wet thud that squashed his legs, forcing him to reshape them and climb slowly to his feet. The couple of passersby in the area seemed more concerned about his landing than his fall, and one of them -- ah, yes, Vasily, the Russian lab escapee -- reached out to help him up.
Takashi paused a moment, held back a sheepish look, and took the hand in his.
Even the lightning zap of his hunter's instincts had dulled to a faint buzz as he felt foreign biomass against his own. How long would it take for him to fade out? What happened when he did? He stood there a little too long, then shook his head and forced a smile.
"Sorry. I'm a little absentminded today." He withdrew the hand, nodding even in the face of Vasily's knotted brows, and formed up his legs and rose back to his feet.
"Wait up." Vasily jogged over on his animal legs, red and orange coursing together into lithe limbs and dainty feet. He barely made a sound as he slowed to a walk beside the Japanese man.
"Do you need something?"
"It's nothing. I simply wasn't thinking." Takashi waved away the question with another smile that felt even more false than usual. He wasn't fooling Vasily, and he knew it, and the young man was eyeing him now and crossing his arms.
"Takashi, there are lots of humans around here these days. We just got another pack of them. They want to stay a couple of days, discuss a documentary about Akakyo and how we're doing over here."
"It'll be all right." He never let his expression change, but the writhing in his chest and the hand that rose to still it, betrayed his tension. "We'll discuss it...turn them away if need be."
"You're wearing a lot of brown these days. It makes you look tired. Dried up."
"Vasily." He turned and started to raise his arms, lowered them. No, he shouldn't touch the young ones casually. He should set an example, make contact only when necessary or when deliberately trusting.
Just like I kept away from you, Yuriko. He couldn't help looking down at the ground.
"Takashi, something's wrong, and I know it, and you know it. We all know it. People are talking about it. I figured I'd end up asking the question. You know, the one about -- that."
A burst of fear stirred in him, the first energy he had felt in...weeks? Months? A little bit of the old flame color bled into his chest.
"Question?" No. I'm not dying. Not yet. I have a people to lead. And what will they do without me? His fingers trembled.
"I didn't want to be the one to ask it."
"Vasily, just ask, the worst I can say is--"
"What do you want done with any remains?"
"There won't be any."
The words echoed in Takashi's mind, drifting back and forth among all the others there. Yuriko. Sakura. The researchers. Hiroshi Kaneda. Winding between their memories and the fragments of their personalities was the silent knowledge that had been forming there for months now, the one Takashi had never wanted to bring to conscious thought. Saying it now made it truth, made it real.
Vasily had stopped in the street, and Takashi turned to see him ten feet behind.
"What do you mean?" The young man was still like a statue, no breath, not even a flutter of his hair. His eyes widened just enough to let the tension seep into his face.
He forced his lips to move, and his chest felt heavy as lead. "I don't want to die."
"I...don't want to you, either. But everyone does. At least, I think even we do, someday. If not naturally, someone will blow us up."
"I can't teach a protégé in time." Takashi laced his fingers and stared down at them, then up at Vasily. "I'm losing my capability. Soon after, I'll only be good for thinking." The words flowed out faster than he could control them, and that was best, because he wasn't sure he could force himself to say it straight out. "I don't need this body to keep thinking.”
He placed his hands on Vasily's shoulders, slowly, deliberately, with meaning and intent, and the younger Light took a shuffling step back. The contact had told him everything, even if the words hadn't.
"Then--who? We're not--we can't--think of what you're doing!" He threw up his arms, knocking Takashi's away. "What good are you to us if you're just a--a drifting mind? If you're sitting in limbo? We...that's not life or death at all..."
"Whoever takes me with them, has to make good use of me."
"You're not a tool!"
"You're wrong." Takashi motioned to the city gates. "Who built these? Who constructed a city for us, so we could hide when we must? Who has been the tool that you all have used to speak to human society? Who bolted together the infrastructure of our customs? I am nothing but a tool."
"You're a man, you damn fool." Vasily stomped one clawed foot, scraping up dirt around his nails.
"I know you cared most for me of anyone here, Vasily." He offered a smile; the young man shoved it away with a sweep of his arm.
"Stop talking like it's over. Look, I'm sorry I asked. They made me ask. I didn't want to. I didn't want to think about it--"
Takashi waited for the stuttering to fade out into silence. "It isn't over, Vasily. But it will be soon, and then life will go on for all of us."
"You can't do this, you -- you silly old man! Giving up, that's when you die, you know? Don't talk crap like this. I figured we'd just find the dust when you went out fighting for us, y'know? Someday. Not today. Not tomorrow, either. You're a hero. So don't give up and blow away in the wind. That's not...how you're going to go out."
"Then I won't." He cut off Vasily's protest with a finger. "And believe me, I do know what I'm talking about. After that death, there is life. And I don't want to die."
"You stupid -- you'll just be a shadow. That's it. Just a ghost, artificially held together in someone else's mind." Vasily's anger turned to fear as it crossed over his face. "I...don't know what we'll do without you."
"No, you don't know what you'll do." He smiled, genuinely this time, and felt his eyes crinkle and remembered that once he might have had tears. "The decision is made, then. Take me with you, Vasily, when the time is right."
The young Light skittered away. "No. I can't. And how can anyone ever know when it's time?"
"You can. If the last thing I can do in life is give someone else the strength to go on, then I will." The tension in his chest settled, the fibers all lying flat and loose, stretching out with air as he took a deep breath. "As for when? Well, I'm not sure anyone knows."
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
This is where alcor's brain barfs ideas all over a page. This is not a story -- it's just a bunch of ideas.
- None -- generic transforming creature. Has two default forms: puddle and human. All Lights can turn into humans at will because their bodies "remember" what being human was like, and so they can intuitively assume that shape. However, augmenting their skills as a human (higher strength, etc.) beyond typical Light acceleration, is difficult due to this intuition problem. All Lights can turn into puddles simply because that's what you get if you don't hold yourself together.
- Flight -- one of the Light's forms can fly. Flying is a very difficult task, because seriously, have you ever been a bird? No. So you don't have any knowledge of how animal flight really works, not viscerally, and you'll land on your head or your ass enough times before you can master the art of mass distribution, muscle power to weight ratio, proper wing construction, so on and so forth. But eventually, you can fly.
- Heavy Infantry -- one of the Light's forms is impressively strong and heavily armored. It's a melee tank with legs. This takes training to beef up the form while still maintaining control of its shape and functioning, just like Flight.
- Biomechanical -- being able to assimilate metal parts into a form. This can provide additional armoring against things like fire, and can also make Lights capable of running huge machines by themselves. It means that the metal is literally part of you, and you have an intuition for mechanical functioning.
- Bioelectrical -- being able to connect yourself to electrical wiring. This isn't as badass as it sounds, because it's pretty much limited to small signals, so you can't exactly hook yourself up to the local transformer. Also, no, your brain does not know how to read computer data. However, if you have the right technology, you can just merge electrical chips and so forth right into your body's signals, because suddenly the issues involved in foreign object rejection and sickness and cutting nerves and so forth, are completely moot. The result is basically a cybernetic interface, insofar as we can make one. (If a Light ever figures out how to make a biological transistor, well then, we can talk real interfaces.)
- Polyform -- the Light has a large number of forms that it can use. This is for people who got the knack of shapeshifting faster than everyone else and has a better intuition for the way different shapes work.
- Disguise -- you're a real expert on people specifically, and can imitate them down to a very detailed level. This isn't something people can just do by thinking about others; you have to study the person, really know where every wrinkle and mole and birthmark is. Portrait artists and the like get a boost to this.
- Wide Range -- you can get big, really big. You can eat a city block and just kind of shrug. You're the kind of creature everyone is trying to kill unless you lie low, but you're a real whiz-bang in a battle because you just roll everything in your path. If you actually specialized in this, you are either one lucky bastard, have iron self-control, or you were infected out in rural Montana where no one cares if you take out N square acres of forest once you wake up for the first time. Most Wide Range folks get burned out within a few hours of their appearing.
- Water Tolerant -- unlike many Lights, you're really good at holding form. Thus, you can go underwater without being washed around and losing coherent shape.
- Chemically Tolerant -- you can consume more hazardous material than most people, such as compounds that might ordinarily kill Light cells.
- Chemovore -- you specialize in eating a certain kind of chemical. For all others, you are normal, but you are superior to Chemically Tolerant in this area.
- Projectile Weapons -- you can create and project spikes, thorns, liquid, or other sorts of distance weapons.
- Non-Destructive Mind-reading -- if you can come into contact with someone's neural tissue, you can actually read their thoughts without destroying the tissue. You have to be in contact with someone's actual brain, which presents its own problems, but you can, under the right circumstances, pull thought and memory out without harming the human very much.
- Fast Eater -- consumes mass at a higher rate than most. Helpful for getting rid of your enemies in a pinch, or being discreet.
- Infrastructure Growth -- you can create and maintain load-bearing structures using your mass. You are stronger and can withstand more pressure, stress, strain, etc. than most.
- Low Metabolism -- you don't need as much food as others to survive, so you can go for longer without it and feel less overbearing desire for it.
- Flesh Maintenance -- you can actually keep human (or other) flesh living by interfacing with it and allowing it to draw nutrients from your body. As such, you can wear another person's skin, keep an organ living, and so forth. This is especially good for, say, getting through biometric security.
- Weak-Willed -- you can't control yourself as easily as others. You have to disappear more often for food, or you screw it up and eat humans, their pets, and/or pieces of various living spaces so on more often than you'd like. People should watch their couches around you, and maybe their arms and legs.
- Water Intolerant -- you get dissociated more easily than most when coming into contact with water. Don't go swimming. Ever.
- Predator -- you will go out of your way to eat living creatures instead of safer matter. This can be more or less harmful depending on whether your living creature of choice is an animal or a human.
- Difficulty Disguising -- you always look a little Light-ish in human form, no matter what you do. You can't hold yourself to a form as well as others.
- Small Range -- you really can't grow very much past your original human size. You're fine at melee combat, but you suck at actually holding a line because you can't secure it by yourself. You have to be a team player.
- High Metabolism -- you have to eat a lot. This is distinguished from Weak-Willed in that you can easily redirect your desires to more acceptable targets, but you still have to consume more mass than most others on a day-to-day basis. (Combined with Weak-Willed, this is a recipe for getting incinerated.)