Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Moving on to New Digs

The plan was to base the podcast off of this site and have the actual audio files hosted elsewhere. Turns out elsewhere was such a headache, and that by the time I was done setting it up I had a better site than this one. So, from now on I will be using podcast.twofistedmagic.com as the new homepage.

If you found this page by way of Geek Radio Daily, I apologize, but hopefully this is the biggest SNAFU I will have to deal with.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Show Time Approaches

The world is now aware of Two-Fisted Tales of Magic thanks to the good people at Geek Radio Daily. Nothing like a deadline to motivate. First story is finaled and ready for recording. My goal is to have three or four episodes recorded and ready for chatter at any given time.

It shall be done!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Promo Content

Night had fallen hours before. My desk lamp was the only light in the office. The night was hot and I was down to my undershirt and suspenders as I worked. The light glinted off the bullet in my hand as I carved the last line of the rune. A curl of lead fell from the slug and onto that evening's edition of the New York Imperial Times. I set the bullet down on the paper next to the dateline, May 13, 1931.

I carved the Demon's name into five more bullets just like the first and loaded them into my revolver. It was going to be either him or me, and I only had to the end of the new moon to finish my 38 caliber banishing.

Set in a magically twisted 1930's, Two-Fisted Tales of Magic is a new podcast by Ted Wade. The Great War has broken the walls to dimensions once relegated to folklore. Humanity now shares the earth with Dwarfs and Orks from the Kingdoms of the Hollow Earth, Fair Folk of the Fae Realms, and Creatures of the Demon Reaches. Far from helpless, humanity can call upon magic through wizardry, superlative physical powers, and weirdly enhanced technology.

Two-Fisted Tales of Magic, Coming in April 2010
two-fisted-tales.blogspot.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

The World Remade

New York City, 1933

I was standing at the window of my third floor office with my first cup of joe for the morning.

Down below, the Model A's and Auroras had all pulled over to make way for the marching column of Imperial troops. It looked to be a full company of men and orcs with a destroyer demon and ogre heavy weapons squad. A truck followed along behind. It's canvas cover had been removed and a tripod supporting a trio of loudspeakers stood in its bed. A man's voice blared out from them exhorting loyalty to Emperor Manfred and Count Jasper Adney. The voice also demanded collaboration in flushing out the Resistance.

I shook my head at how the world had been remade by the Great War. Prior to the Winter Solstice of 1916, extremely few people believed that magic was real, or at least real enough to be a weapon of war. One of than was a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm with enough clout to pull a modest budget from the war spending. What Manfred Haeschlin intended was to summon an army of demons for the war effort.

He succeeded in spades.

Not only had he breached the barrier to the Demon Reaches, but the walls to dimensions once relegated to folklore were also fractured. Fair Folk of the Fae Realms, dwarfs and orcs from the Kingdoms of the Hollow Earth, and Lord knows what else were now lose on the world.

As if that weren't enough energies from the other dimensions now permeated the world. Some people unconsciously used that energy to make themselves superlatively skilled at fighting, gunplay, singing or what have you. Others used it consciously, shaping into spells both beneficial and malign as modern day Merlins. Emperor Manfred was one of these. That, and the demons, was why he was Emperor and Kaiser Wilhelm's fate was unknown.

The Empire tried to keep a monopoly on all things beyond the mortal ken, but enough got by to give the Resistance and the Free States a fighting chance. In New York City, the Resistance could call on three Superlatives, a couple of Weird Scientists, a handful of demons and me, the one wizard in the city not Sworn to the Empire. We all knew it was worth our souls if we were found out, but sometimes you just couldn't sit back and let things happen.

In that meantime I paid the rent as just another private dick tailing philandering spouses and tracing skips. Sometimes a case gets interesting. The mobs had adapted to the new players and new rackets. The streets had many, many new ways to make people disappear. Like I said, interesting.

And I just knew, one of these days, interesting was going to get me killed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nanowrimo Complications

I have discovered three things that can interfere with hitting the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in November:

A 3 month old baby
A sick 3 month old baby
A sick 36 year author

String those together and you end up with a project that is only 30% of the pace needed to get the job done. I will keep up with it and try to catch up. I am however, willing to commit as much as six weeks to this first draft.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Getting Serious About This "Writing" Thing

For the sake of my mental health, I have decided that I should give up the idea of being a career engineer in favor of being a writer with an engineering day job.

In pursuit of that, I have signed on to NaNoWriMo to get my second novel written. I will put my first, Intangible Assets below, (I have yet to put it through a proper word count yet) will go through another draft and I plan to start shopping it around with publishers at the start of the new year. Additionally, I intend to vocalize Intangible Assets as a podiobook after the re-write and getting the recording software and hardware.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 5

The band had barely started the next number before the spectacle occurred. Back by the receiving line, a voice called out, “Just as I thought, another boring family event.”

The voice belonged to a young man in a fleece lined leather jacket. He pulled of a pair of gloves before handing them and a pair of goggles to the butler at the doorway. His hair was windblown and tangled. Sam guessed his age to be late twenties. His face bore more resemblance to the pictures of Alexander Braker rather than Mildred, as opposed to Jonathon. He smiled at the crowd, snatching a glass of champagne from a passing servant.

“Seeing as how I’ve missed all of you due to my tardiness, I’ll take this moment to wish you all a swell time at this, ahem, party. Brother, to your health.”

Several guests rose their glasses to the impromptu toast.

“Another relation?” asked Sam.

Rachel nodded.

“Randal Braker, the youngest of the sons. He shows up at a club and you know that there are going to be some good tips following along behind.”

“Does he do anything with the company?”

“Aside from spending the family money, I doubt it. He is having too much fun as the black sheep.”

“Humph, must be nice. Still, someone is working their way along the line of succession, so keeping an eye on him should be on our list.”

“Oh, I could do better than that,” said Rachel. Sam had to look back at her and saw a vaguely hungry look in her eye.

“Hey, stay on the job, alright? Run into him on the outside and you can play how you want. Right now, we’re trying to keep someone from getting killed.”

Rachel sighed and gave him a pout.

“That’s your problem, Sam, always on the job. There’s always room for a little fun. I promise I’ll stay good for tonight.”

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 4

     After all this time Sam should have been prepared. He thought as much. Despite all that, he was caught short by the vision that Rachel presented in her party dress. Her dress was modest, but it was beautiful in how she wore it. It was thin strapped and swept to the ground with a slit on the side that was perhaps a shade too high. The pearl white highlighted the Mediterranean color to her skin. A stole added to the modesty of the dress. Sam knew that she could have chosen to wear a potato sack and make it the envy of the strictest social critic.

     Sam was decked in his tuxedo, a reminder of days that were more reliably flush than his current stretch. Fortunately, high fashion for men changed very little over the years.

     The party was at the Braker estate just outside of Tarrytown. The trip required the crossing of a pair of checkpoints. Fortunately, there was nothing happening to put the soldiers on alert. They waved Sam’s 1928 Chrysler through with barely a look at Sam’s papers.

     The drive gave Sam the chance to pass on the plans he had come up with. Rachel listened with half and ear. Sam knew that he might as well be whistling into the wind. Rachel had yet to fully stick to a plan he had laid out. From her point of view, a plan was just another thing to remember and get in the way of her winging it.

     Their trip came to a conclusion at the far end of a curved driveway leading up to a large colonial style mansion. Sam’s old beater, being well cared for, didn’t look too terribly out of place. Being his own driver, however, left Sam and Rachel walking back up the drive.

     Other guests were arriving in a steady stream. Ladies and gentlemen, both in the new status system and in the old vernacular were ushered up to the door by black liveried servants. Meanwhile, their drivers would park their cars and then headed for a waiting room set in the garage.

     Sam and Rachel joined the queue forming in the foyer. A grand staircase rose to the upper levels of the house. The line led to the left of the foyer. Every so often a nobler personage would be cut into line ahead of Sam and Rachel. In some cases the entire line appeared to be bypassed.

     “I wonder what the hold up is,” said Sam.

     “You’re not used to these grand soirees, are you?” replied Rachel. “Well then, you get to experience your first receiving line. We’ll be introduced to the Baron and presumably his family. Just smile and say polite things.”

     Eventually they made their way into the ballroom. Dozens of people already filled the space. The dance floor had just enough room to show a parquet wood floor. The three sides around the dance floor were carpeted and filled with tables. A temporary stage bore a piano with enough room for a string quartet. The strings were playing a waltz for the dancing couples. The far end of the room was mostly tall glass doors and windows. Sam couldn’t make out what was beyond them; the reflections from the room were too strong.

     The line moved forward steadily until Sam and Rachel came upon a man in a tailed suit and white gloves.

     “May I have your invitation, please?”

     Sam dug into his coat pocket and retrieved the engraved invitation. The Baroness had it delivered to his office the previous day.

     “Thank you, sir.” The butler then turned to the room and raised his voice to be audible over the quartet, “Mr. Samuel Watson, and guest.”

     Sam escorted Rachel down the three steps to the sunken floor of the ballroom. At the foot of the steps they were greeted by a plump woman of middle age. Sam recognized her from his research into the Society Pages; this was the elder Baroness Braker, wife to the deceased original Baron and the mother of the current Baron. Her hair had completed its turn to grey, and the lines on her face showed that her life had been far from care free.

     “Mr. Watson, it is a pleasure to meet you.” She put on a brave face, but something painful was happening behind her eyes. The maid standing behind the Widow Braker pressed a handkerchief into Mildred’s hand. Sam guessed that it had to do with his name. This night was also the anniversary of the death of her eldest son, also named Samuel, under mysterious circumstances.

     “The pleasure is mine, Lady Braker. May I introduce my associate, Miss Rachel Evans.”

     The two women clasped hands for a moment and exchanged pleasantries. Sam and Rachel then moved down the line and met with the current Baroness Braker. Sam introduced Rachel to her. With that done, Amelia Braker turned to her husband.

     “Jonathon, allow me to do this introduction personally. This is Mr. Watson, the private investigator I hired for this evening. He comes very highly recommended and is experienced with matters supernatural.”

     The Baron seemed to be barely into his thirties. He had sandy hair and a round, almost boyish face. He wore a pair of pince-nez glasses. The handshake he gave Sam was firm and he looked him square in the eye.

     “It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Watson, although I regret that you came here in an official capacity.”

     “You don’t believe that protection is necessary tonight?”

     “No I don’t. I don’t believe in this whole curse hogwash. I presume that the emphasis on your supernatural expertise means that you are here in that capacity.”

     “Your wife brought me here to be of whatever service might prove necessary. I certainly hope that that would be none.”

     “Well, if it puts Amelia’s mind to ease, I suppose you will earn your fee, Mr. Watson. In the meantime, please, enjoy yourself.”

     With that, Baron Braker turned his attention to the next person in line. Sam took the hint and moved with Rachel into the ballroom proper. A young man dressed as a waiter escorted them to a table where place cards awaited them.

     “Mr. Samuel Watson’s guest,” read Rachel.

     “Sorry,” said Sam, “I suppose that I could have gotten your name engraved had I made arrangements with the Baroness.”

     “No, actually it worked out better. I recognize a few people from the clubs. It would have been awkward trying to explain the various names I work under.”

     “Have you seen anything interesting?”

     “You mean on the Other Side? Yes, I’ve seen that Lamar Steele is here. That one is right on my list of club habitu├ęs that I recognize. Better yet, however, is Mildred Braker’s maid has a touch of magic about her.”

     “Interesting. I suppose I should look into that part. Let’s get a feel for the rest of the party before we go chasing leads.”

     “Great, let’s start with the dance floor. Maybe they’ll do a tango next.”

     Sam groaned at the thought.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 3

     The streetlight outside of McTaggart's Pub was broken, leaving a patch of darkness at the front door. A sense of anonymity was maintained by those who worked there. The lack of atmosphere tended to keep the clientelle limited to serious barflys and those who had business there. So far as Sam knew, no one named McTaggart had been involved in the business for ages. Ownership had changed hands several times with none of the new owners bothering to change the name. He was sure that he could track down who claimed to be the current owner, but that would be more information than he needed.

     Instead, this anonymous little pub was one of the more regular haunts of the mysterious figure known as Liberty. The leader of the Resistance of New York tried to remain accessible to the people in his command, particularly to the more powerful members.

     Sam counted in that second number as the one mage in the city's Resistance. He went by the codename Quisitor and served both as magician and investigator. Anyone considered for membership in the Resistance would undergo Sam's scrutiny, almost always with the subject in complete ignorance. Sam had managed to spot a couple of potential plants the Empire had attempted to emplace.

     Despite the best vigilance, there was still concern for security.

     No one looked up as Sam entered the pub. The three people who seemed to be drinking kept their heads down. Sam knew they weren’t there for the booze any more than he was. One thing he did notice was that each man had his right hand concealed.

     Sam stepped over to the bar.

     “Help you, Mac?” asked the bartender. He acted more interested in his bar rag than in any service he might render.

     “Yeah, how about something from Kentucky?”

     “How old you want it?”

     “Twelve years at least.”

     Empty right hands appeared as the tension in the room melted. The bartender smiled and poured a shot of bourbon into a highball glass.

     “The man’s in back, I take it?” asked Sam.

     “Yes he is. Head on back.”

     Sam drank down the liquor and headed to the back room. He knocked on the door. A man with a Thompson opened the door and stuck his head out. He scrutinized the room as if he never received the silent signal from behind the bar. Once his vigilance was satisfied, he ushered Sam into the cramped room.

     The room was scarcely larger than the card table in the center. A single bulb cast its light onto the table and little else.

     What the light did show was the man seated behind the table. Sam knew that if the man stood he would be about six feet tall. He was broad shouldered and wore working man’s clothes. The only sign that he pretended to anything more than salt of the earth was the vigilante style mask that covered the top half of his face. Despite Sam’s position in the effective inner circle of the Resistance he did not know Liberty’s true identity.

     “Quisitor,” said Liberty, “always good to see you.”

     “Same. Thanks for meeting with me.”

     “Have a seat. What brings you back into the cold?”

     “I have a job, and I have some questions about how the Resistance is hitting my subject.”

     “I’ll tell you what I can, but you do understand that your job will only give you slightly greater need to know.”

     “I understand. My client is the Baroness Braker, wife of Baron Jonathon Braker, owner of the Albany Wichita Railroad.”

     “I am familiar with the railroad,” said Liberty, “they tend to get more military transport contracts than their competition, but not to any great degree.”

     “It seems that they have been getting hit hard by the Resistance of late.”

     “One of our cells, they go by the name of the James Gang, has made the AW Railroad a favored target.”

     “Any reason for that? Something personal?”

     “Purely speculation, but I think that they have some sort of source of information on the inside. I can’t say for certain because I make a point of not asking.”

     Sam nodded. That type of security was de rigueur for the secretive organization.

     “I understand,” said Sam, “that the original Baron, Alexander, was a collaborator.”

     “Yes, he was, and I can answer your next question right now. No, the Resistance had nothing to do with either his death, or that of his son.”

     “And no interest in going after the current Baron?”

     “None at all.”

     Sam leaned back from the table. Liberty seemed to be a step ahead of him, and as a mage, Sam preferred to be the one in that position. Still, he was getting nearly all of the information for which he knew to ask.

     “One last thing,” said Sam, “I got the impression that Baroness Mildred Braker, Alexander’s wife, seemed to be a near pariah immediately after the invasion. Would you have any idea why?”

     “Actually, I would. Back before the Invasion, Mildred Braker was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It was her husband’s connections that kept her from imprisonment or being stripped of her family assets.”

     “A collaborator and a member of the DAR. I can scarcely imagine what their home life must have been like during the war.”

     “Unfortunately, she has been a good lady of the Empire since then. I would gather that she got set straight since then.”

     Sam stayed quiet for a moment or two.

     “Anything else, Quisitor?” asked Liberty.

     “No, I don’t think so. Thanks for the time.”

     “Stay safe out there.”

     “Always my first interest,” said Sam. He turned toward the door, but was stopped by the guard. The man pressed a button on the speaker box by the door. A second later, a soft buzz came from the speaker, and the guard opened the door. Sam gave a small wave to the barkeeper and headed toward the front door.

     As he walked down the street, Sam’s mind was divided. One part stayed alert for anyone watching or following. The other part ran down the information that he had just learned. He felt that he had a good base to work the party two nights later, but he still wondered if there were one more question he should have asked.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 2

     There was time before the ball for Sam to get some research done. Back copies of the New York Imperial
Times would be his best source to start with.

     The first copy of the Times that he looked at was that day’s purchased from the boy just outside of Molly’s denire. The little short order place on the corner of his office building was one of Sam’s frequent haunts. Aside from his regular breakfast, Molly also served one of the best cups of coffee in the city.

     “Morning, Sam. What can I set you up with?”

     As always, Molly was right there with a cup of coffee and a menu. It never mattered that Sam was a creature of habit when it came to breakfast, Molly always had the menu. The point wasn’t that she might convince Sam to try something new, but instead, it served to cover the occasional copy of the Liberty Press she would pass along. Sam could tell that there was no new news from the underground press that day just from the feel of the backside of the menu.

     Sam had more on his mind than just breakfast this time. He took a couple of minutes of perusing the menu for appearance’s sake.

     “Two eggs, over easy and bacon, Molly.” The usual and nothing but. The food came over quickly and Sam tucked in with gusto. It wasn’t until after he finished eating that he got to the next part of the stop.

     “Molly, if I may take the liberty that was the best meal I’ve had in ages. My compliments to the man in back.”

     The diner matron smiled at the apparent compliment.

     “Why that’s so kind of you. I’ll make sure the word gets back. Have a nice day.”

     “You too, Molly.” Sam left a Mark on the counter with a healthy tip. He then left the diner, knowing that his need for a meeting with Liberty, the leader of the New York City Resistance, was on its way.

     The New York Public Library had undergone a major upheaval in the aftermath of the invasion. Much of the history and political philosophy works were put under lock and key. The Empire did everything it could to make it appear that the American Revolution and everything that happened afterward never happened. That included the newspaper archives. The only parts that were accessible were those that had been written under the Empire’s watchful eye.

     Sam worked two sections of the paper at the same time. Heading backward into the library’s archive, he found that the Albany-Wichita Railroad predated the Invasion. There was no mention that the ownership had changed when the Empire took over. Only those who had proven useful would have been allowed to keep possession of such a resource. That implicated Alexander Braker, in Sam’s mind, of having been a collaborator, if not an active traitor. Since then, the Barons Braker had kept a close working relationship with the Empire.

     The Board of Directors, beyond the family holdings, might have been an Empire in miniature. Among its members were members of the aristocracy, the Order of Illumination, and other Commerce Lords. Sam found names for most of them, including Lamar Steele, the representative of the Order of Illumination and the wizard who encouraged the whole idea of a party on the anniversary.

     In reference to the deaths whose anniversaries the gala was intended, the deaths of the two previous Barons Braker were covered as fully investigated accidents. The timing of Samuel’s death was noted, but only as an ironic point of interest.

     As an organ of the Empire since the invasion, the Times had to operate under the eye of the censors. Even so, Sam found stories of acts of sabotage and robberies of the Albany-Wichita Railroad. If some few stories had made it through, then there were probably twice as many that didn’t get reported. The stories that were printed were slanted into diatribes against the Resistance and sedition in general.

     The society pages had the stories regarding the Baronesses, both the mother Mildred and wife Amelia. The tones of the stories early on after the invasion regarding Mildred Braker were surprisingly frosty. Nothing out and out insulting, simply less than glowing descriptions or short shrift as if she were an afterthought. Over the course of many charity events and memberships in all the right organizations, she seemed to have redeemed herself of whatever stain her reputation had suffered.

     Amelia Braker (nee Emerson) appeared to have been embraced since her debut ten years previously. By the time of her marriage to Jonathon, whatever social stigma was on the family was entirely in the past.

     The search through the archive took Sam the best part of the day. He decided that an early dinner would be called for. So it was back to Molly’s for a bite. After the meal, Molly handed over the check. Sam pocketed it and paid with a good tip.

     Back in his office, Sam took a look at the back side of the check. McTaggart’s Pub, 10PM. Sam burned the check with a bare thought of magic.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 1

     There was little chance that Sam was going to forget about the meeting. Calliope was not going to let him, for one. She had been cleaning up the office while Sam was out on other jobs. He could not recall the office ever being tidy. Now it was cleaner than he had ever seen it.

     It was also not that having an appointment was that unusual. Work had been fairly decent, certainly enough to keep the landlord off his back and Calliope paid.

     No, the reason this meeting was special was that this was a meeting with a member of the gentry. Sam was a staunch Resistance man. Still, he had to keep a professional cover. So if a baroness wanted to meet with him, the least he had to do was hear her out. If this case worked out, then there might be more work with the better paying upper crust.

     That was why Sam found himself seated across his desk from one Baroness Amelia Braker. She was a young woman of about thirty years. She had brown hair tending toward red, and wore it in a fashionable cut just below her jaw line. Her dress was conservative, a matching skirt and jacket set of the lightest blue.

     On the lapel of the jacket was an Order of Commerse pin. That particular order was comprised of the business men who controlled most of the economy of the conquering Empire. The more equity that a person controlled, the higher his title within the Order. Baroness Amelia Braker was the wife of Baron Jonathon Braker, chief executive of the Albany-Wichita Railroad.

     Calliope had just made an offer of tea or coffee to Sam’s guest who politely declined.

     “I would much rather if we could just get to the matter at hand, Mr. Watson.”

     “Of course…,” Sam hesitated as he struggled to recall the appropriate honorific, “Your Excellency.” It was tempting to allow his voice to show the faint distaste he felt. He corralled the impulse as not good for either his cover or professional opportunities.

     “Please, Mr. Watson, Mrs. Braker is sufficient for now.”

     “Thank you, Mrs. Braker. Now, how may I be of assistance?”

     “I have been given to understand that you have experience in matters beyond normal.”

     Beyond normal. That was a first, even for Sam.

     “I presume,” said Sam, “that you mean the supernatural?”

     “Yes,”

     Sam paused to consider. He didn’t question that reputation. He’d had jobs dealing with ghosts and tangled with vampires. They tended to be interesting in manners less conducive to his health. Hopefully that didn’t mean that she knew he was a mage in his own right.

     “If you could give me some details, then I can give you what advice I can.”

     “I may be in need of more than just advice, Mr. Watson. I wish to hire you to provide some protection for a party this coming week.”

     “Protection from what?”

     “Pardon me, but I must explain regarding what I fear will happen. My husband’s father and brother had both died under strange circumstances. Jonathon, the Baron Braker, his father, Alexander, fell down a flight of stairs and broke his neck. His brother, Samuel, died after falling between rail cars on one of the company’s trains.”

     “Was there anything to imply that the two incidents were connected or anything more than accidents?”

     “First of all, Samuel died five years to the day after Alexander. I have difficulty believing that it was a coincidence.”

     “Then what makes you think it was not normal foul play?”

     “I am not entirely certain. There were guards at both scenes that saw them acting strangely, as if there was something behind them. Either all of the guards were involved in a conspiracy, or something frightened the two barons into accidents. The men in question are above reproach, or so say the Sheriff’s investigations into the deaths. The second option, however bizarre, strikes the family as the only one possible.”

     “I get the impression that you are not entirely sold on the idea of a curse.”

     “I am not,” said the Baroness. “There are some details that I, having married into the family, to which I am not privy. I have heard rumors among the staff that there was a message sent to Alexander that announced the curse. The stories range from a simple letter to the head of a dog being left in his bedroom. Despite my efforts, my husband refuses to discuss the matter.”

     “What of the elder Baroness? Has she told you anything of the matter?”

     “Humph. So far as Mildred is concerned, I am a nice little porcelain ornament for her son’s arm. She would prefer that I not have a brain in my head, and so she treats me as such. That has left me little choice but to make arrangements on my own.”

     “Has Mrs. Braker made arrangements?”

     “Yes, in fact the entire idea of the ball was the idea of one of the members of the Board of Directors. His name is Lamar Steele and he shall be representing the Order of Illumination.”

     “Steele is a mage?”

     “Yes.”

     Sam had to consider the point. Steele would surely establish some means of magical protection for the estate. Sam had little doubt about his ability to conceal his power from casual inspection. The defenses should be little problem in that regard. What would be more difficult would be to work whatever spells he might need without drawing attention.

     “I believe that I can help you, Baroness. My rate is fifty marks a day and I will need a couple of days before the event to do some research.” The rate was twice what same usually charged, but he reasoned that the rich were different.

     He was proven right when the Baroness didn’t even blink at the price. With a handshake, they sealed the deal and Amelia Braker took her leave.

     “Calliope, how do you feel about heading for a little soiree?”

     “Sorry, Sam, not my scene. Besides, I already have a date.”

     “Hmm. Can you tell me where Rachel is working tonight?”

     “Sure, she’s at McCallum’s Joint tonight, and she just got a little black dress that she has been wanting to wear out.”


     Sam nodded as he picked up his hat.

     “Thanks. In the meantime, I need to get to the Times. I need to dig up what I can on this family before the party begins.”
     

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Walking Death, Chapter 15

The New York Liberty Press
“A Free Press is the Guardian of the People”

Resistance Strikes Back

By Dryw
A Resistance raid conducted on a top secret Imperial research laboratory in Long Island resulted in the disruption of the delivery of a heinous new chemical weapon intended for the Detroit Siege.

We have learned that the raided laboratory was developing a scientific/magical gas referred to as Ambulamort. The planned effect of this gas was to turn normal people into undead, ghoul-like creatures that would become cannibalistic and turn on one-time allies. The research facility was using the captured Resistance fighters as experimental test subjects.

Not only did the Resistance rescue several of its own, it managed to capture a sample of the vaccine the Empire developed for its own troops. The sample has been sent to Denver for mass production.

Sources in the Imperial Army are claiming that renegade scientist Frieda Kellner was one of the Resistance members who broke into the Long Island research center and it is believed that she escorted the sample to its destination.


Black Falcons Grounded

By Dryw
Last week the famed Black Falcon Squadron arrived in New York City for some leave time while their planes were being modified. Certainly we can all remember the aerobatics conducted upon their arrival.

What few people realize is that their planes were to be modified to spray the dreaded alchemical mix known as Ambulamort upon the brave defenders of Detroit.

Thanks to the members of the NYC Resistance, this evil plan has been thwarted. Members managed to plant a number of gremlins into virtually all of the planes of the Black Falcon Squadron. Five of the twelve pilots of the squadron died when their planes fell to pieces in mid-air. Of the seven remaining, the gremlins caused the Ambulamort to spray into the cockpits of five of the remaining planes instead of the targeted areas. Those pilots were reportedly taken into quarantine, although some witnesses claim that the planes turned randomly on any available target.

Famed ace Sir Dieter Baldric escaped the fate of the others when he successfully landed his disintegrating plane. His replacement plane had not been modified to release the Ambulamort.




Frieda set down the newssheet.

“I think I am going to be quite infamous after all of this attention. What I don’t understand is why the reference to my going to Denver. Does this Dryw not know that I am remaining in New York?”

She was seated in one of the two chairs that Sam kept for clients in his small office. The other chair was being used by Rachel, with Sam behind the desk. He was pouring out bourbon into three tumblers.

“I can’t say for Dryw whether he knows or not,” said Sam, “but you have to remember that the Imperials read that too. Nobody’s life is on the line on the difference of you being here rather than in Denver.”

Sam handed out the liquor.

“Besides,” said Rachel, “it will be a big help having you around. You know, for your expertise. Spanner’s good, but he’s more the engineering side of things.”

Frieda nodded at the compliment.

“I do appreciate your assistance in helping me get settled. This city is quite different from Berlin.”

“Well then, Doctor,” said Sam, raising his glass, “welcome to New York.”

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Walking Death, Chapter 14

There was a brief moment of confusion at the front door of the facility involving Rachel’s Demonic Legion uniform and a jumpy Resistance gunman. Liberty called a cease fire before anything unfortunate happened.

“Alright, men,” said Liberty, “incursion order, just like we practiced.”

“About that,” said Rachel. “You don’t want to go in there.”

“Why?”

“Dr. Kellner released the Ambulamort.”

“What? Is she insane?”

“She said to trust her. One of the scientists was hiding behind the tanks, and he was threatening to release it and kill all of Long Island. Kellner just up and beat him to the punch.”

“Of course,” said another man Rachel recognized as Spanner, the Liberty’s expert on super-science. “I recall from the debriefing that Ambulamort was designed with a short period of activity. There is no chance that a widespread contagion will break out. The gas should not spread out much past the local area.”

“How far out is local?” asked Liberty.

Spanner’s eyes seemed to look up to the heaven’s as he contemplated the answer.

“Three blocks, but it will depend on how well constructed this facility is. I can’t see that the Imperials would risk exposure through an accidental leak.”

“This was hardly an accident, Spanner. I’m going to call the assault team back and let the Imperials deal with any repercussions. We may have just pulled disaster out of the jaws of victory.”

“I think,” said Rachel, “that you can take this up with Dr. Kellner herself.”

Liberty and Spanner looked back at where Rachel was looking. Frieda was running out the door.

“Take cover!” she yelled.

At that moment, none of the Resistance members were going to question her call. Frieda almost made it to the truck parked just inside the main gate when fire blossomed out of the high windows of the old warehouse. The front door flew off its hinges on a wave of flame. Amid the orange and red were wisps of green. The gas carried outward, trailing flames that burned along the wisps like fuses. By the time the flames died, all of the Ambulamort had burned.

“Sir,” said Frieda, pulling herself off the ground, “the Ambulamort has been neutralized. And I have a sample of the inoculant.”

“Then this area is secure,” said Liberty. “Everyone exposed to the gas, get in the back of the truck while you are still toxic. The rest, pile in the best you can or take a car. We are leaving now.”

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The inside of the facility was pure devastation. Save for a few support beams, there was not an upright element left standing. Small fires burned what combustible material remained after the explosion, while a gas main fountained flame.

At the foot of the broken gas main laid a pile of ruptured gas canisters. Jagged teeth of shrapnel and a portion of the roof added to the pile.

From under this pile of detritus came a slight movement. More than the leavings of the explosion settling in upon themselves, there was a stirring. Part of the pile sloughed to the side and revealed a charred-black hand.

The hand curled in on itself and grasped a beam fallen from the ceiling. The beam moved with surprising ease, allowing a hideously burned form to rise from the ashes.

Pain filled the mind of Dr. Felson as he rose unsteadily to his feet. Scarcely a few square inches of skin remained unburned, and a piece of metal, he estimated its size to be roughly that of his hand, was embedded in his abdomen. Either the burns or the shrapnel should have been fatal.

The Ambulamort, he realized. The antidote was only intended to treat skin contact exposure. The shard must have carried a massive dose directly into my blood stream. If I remove the shard, I fear that the antidote will scour the Ambulamort from my body, leaving me to die once and for all. That woman has condemned me to this unlife.

Kellner, I remember her now. She was the defector that had the Institute in such an uproar. She is responsible for all of this, ruination of my body and work, denying me my glory. She shall feel my vengeance; all of them shall feel my vengeance.

With a scream of pain and rage, the re-born Dr. Felson stumbled toward a hole in the wall left by the explosion that ended his old life.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Walking Death, Chapter 13

     Frieda searched through the pockets of the unconscious scientists. On each of them she found a small bottle of pills and a phial of liquid. She turned to one of the newly released men of the resistance.

     “You,” she said, as she removed the cap from the bottle and swallowed a pill.

     “Call me Cross,” he said.

     “Right, take one of these pills, and pass the rest around to the other men.”

     “What are they?”

     “Prophylactic counteragent for the Ambulamort.”

     “Pardon me?”

     “She means,” said Rachel, returning with a rifle under each arm and a pair of gun belts resting on her hips, “that those pills will keep you safe from the gas. So do what the doctor says and pass them around.”

     “That is correct.” Frieda pocketed the second bottle of pills. Those pills would be the seeds for Resistance labs to mass-produce the antidote.

     The freed Resistance men took up the weapons.

     “There are offices to the far side of the laboratory,” said Cross. “I’ll take some men and clear them out.”

     “The cavalry is on its way,” said Rachel, “so don’t take too many risks.”

     Cross turned back to the succubus with an answer on his lips when a bloom of fire flashed behind him. He fell with an astonished look.

     The women and men took cover behind the wall of the test pen. Another ray gun blast sizzled the corner over Cross’s fallen form.

     A man’s voice called out from beyond the pen.

     “That was your warning. I have enough Ambulamort to destroy all of Long Island. You have the choice, and that same ultimatum applies to whoever is coming for you.”

     Frieda knew that voice. It was Dr. Felson, the scientist who created the Ambulamort. It was in his files that she learned of that abomination of science.

     She moved herself down to the corner of the pen. With the aid of one of the men, she thought that his name was Philly, she pulled Cross back under cover. He was alive, but barely.

     The voice continued.

     “I want to see your weapons out in the open or else I release the contents of every last canister in this facility.”

     Frieda risked a glance around the corner. She saw Felson behind a hand truck laden with pressurized tanks. Stenciled warnings of Danger and Poison stood out against the green tanks.

     Looking back to the Resistance members with her, she asked, “You have taken the antidote?”

     The others nodded.

     “Good.”

     Before any of the others could say anything, she spun around the corner and fired her ray gun. The blast struck her target cleanly: directly below the pressure valve of the center tank. The ruptured tank took out its neighbors, and a noxious green cloud spread though the room.

     “Are you insane?” cried Rachel.

     “I know what I am doing. You and you,” indicating Rachel and Philly, “get outside and make sure the assault team stays clear. I will take care of Dr. Felson.”

     Rachel waited for Philly and another Resistance man to heft the unconscious Cross and then lead them to the front.

     Frieda cleared the corner and approached the position Dr. Felson had taken cover behind. She knew from the files that the Ambulamort couldn’t possibly spread as far as Felson had threatened. The gas was too heavy and became inert too quickly. The gas should not spread much farther than the confines of the warehouse laboratory. One tank had completely lost its top in jagged teeth. The neighbor canisters had ruptured in the explosion. She approached the newly emptied hand cart; both hands on her gun. Green mist swirled heavily on the ground. Through it she could just make out the prone form of Dr. Felson.

     He was laid flat out; his hand stretched out to his errant ray gun yet did not move. She knelt down to check for a pulse, but the deep crimson stain just below his ribs put paid to her worries.

     She looked about for the utility lines. The files had also showed that Ambulamort was combustible at high concentrations. Add in a little natural gas, such as carried in the line she identified, and the dire weapon would be neutralized. Frieda took up Felson’s ray gun, bypassed the capacitor safeties, and wedged it behind the natural gas lines as a detonator. Then she ran.