Friday, May 8, 2009


((14 - Hypno Angel))

Spider is falling.
She's falling down through the empty void, falling past dozens of crystals.
She's falling towards some huge crystal below.
But no, she's falling towards one of the smaller ones.
No, wait, she's falling towards the Archimedes--
Or is she falling towards the Corkscrew?
She falls, faster and faster, until she--
--wakes up.

Giraffe dreams of fire.
Her world is burning, burning, all heat and red light and--
But it doesn't hurt.
She's burning, but she doesn't hurt.
She looks down, and sees her hands, wreathed in crimson flames, but...
Unscathed. Not burning.
Giraffe stands on a crystal plain, looking up at the creatures in the sky above.
Shapes of leathery dark, they loom like skylit shadows.
She makes them burn.

Zebra dreams of her forge.
She stands over it, hammering at the anvil.
Clang, clang, clang, her hammer drops over and over again.
She's making it for... someone...
She knows them, but for some reason she can't quite place them.
They tell her exactly what shape to make it, but...
That doesn't make any sense, they must've meant something different.
The man... tries to explain... gesturing...
She's trying so hard, so hard.
Then he falls!
He's... he's down, and she can't fix him.
She tries, she tries, she tries to get him up.
But he won't.
He won't sit up. He won't.
A voice... comes through.
"Zebra. Oy!"
She recognizes that voice, from... somewhere...
She looks upwards, trying to find the source.
"You alright?"
When she looks back to the man, though, he's gone.
She frowns, speaking to herself.
"Who? Where... what happened to him?"
Around her are cages. Great steel bars and walls, everywhere.
She steps back, then looks around, turning full circle to see everything--
She wakes up.

Goat dreams of himself, floating in the empty void.
After a moment, he's standing on... something. Nondescript.
Far up above, there's something else.
Something to stand on. He wants to be there.
He tries to leap, jumping up as best he can.
It's nowhere near enough, and he falls heavily back to what he was standing on.
He really wants to be there.
He wants it so bad...
The void is red, bloody red, sickening, vicious red.
He can leap.
Goat pushes off the platform with far greater strength than he's ever imagined,
feeling the raw power sending him hundreds of feet upwards in a single bound.
He drifts clear past the second platform, watching it recede,
before running heavily up to reach him again, and he's falling towards it--
Goat wakes up.

Skunk dreams of herself.
She's back in Face, back in the enforcement complex.
Back in the jails. Not where she belongs.
She should be outside, putting people in here.
She reaches for her knives, to try to cut through the wooden bars.
They're not there, but as she raises her arms again...
They are the knives.
She steps forward, and slides her shimmering hands into the wood, cutting easily.
Slowly, she steps out of the cage, and it falls apart behind her.
She sees Owl before her, but... blurry. Gone.
With a start, Skunk realizes that Owl too is in a cage--a cage of crystal.
She tries to cut the crystal, but it is harder than her.
The crystal sends spikes, reaching for her, but she is hard as steel, and they shatter against her.
She retaliates, hardening herself rather than sharpening, and swings a fist at the crystal.
It shatters into a thousand pieces, and--
Skunk wakes up.

Owl dreams of shapes.
Some curve, some have straight lines, some have loops.
There are hundreds--thousands of them. Occasionally they overlap, repeat.
Each one has... a sound. A meaning.
Slowly the shapes come together in lines, forming more meanings, more ideas.
They make sense. They flow. They're logical, like her.
They don't change, they keep their meaning. They're like memories.
But... more than that.
Their meaning is... more real than meaning itself.
They don't change themselves, they change what they touch.
What they mean becomes real.
Owl watches as worlds are written from nothing, a thousand times over, and rewritten again by worlds of words.



((13 - Theme From Voltaic))

"Are we there yet?" inquired Goat, anticipating the answer.

Jaz was busy setting levers and hitting buttons on the shining wall, reading up once in a while to pull a string, which generally caused a completely mechanical clunk somewhere else. "No, not nearly. It'll take at least sixteen hours to get to Sector Seven. I suggest you find a comfortable place to sit."

Owl shifted restlessly in her seat. "Are you sure the clunking sounds are okay?" she questioned.

"The clunking sounds are better than okay, they tell me Oliver's doing what I tell him."

Skunk glanced around suspiciously. "Where is Sector Seven? And who's Oliver?"

"Oliver? You're in him, now. He's my ship." The pilot patted the wall fondly, smiling around at the room.

Owl frowned a little. "You named a ship. ... you named a big clunky thing."

"I named a big clunky thing once," said Goat, almost wistfully.

"He's my only company out here, for months on end. 'Course I named him." She adjusted her goggles, pulling a strand of spiky blonde hair out of the strap. "And I'd be careful with your tone, wouldn't want to get him offended, now. Could decide not to BE so clunky, hm?"

The older woman held up her hands in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, sorry. Sorry... Oliver." She looked around, half expecting the ship to accept her apology.

"Good old Elephant," Goat reminisced. "She was so... made of metal. And damn good at keeping things cold." The teen grinned, staring off into space.

"So where is Sector Seven?" Skunk asked, ignoring Goat's rambling.

The pilot turned back to her controls. "A long way. Listen, the way I see it, I owe you a story. You told me yours..." she paused slightly. "Well, as best you could. And I'm sure you're pretty confused, and I haven't exactly been illuminating so far, which I apologize for. You scared me. Don't like being scared by things I can't kill."

"What?" The policewoman frowned. "Say what you mean, no mind games."

Jaz looked at her. "Alright." She pointed to a row of symbols over the door. "Can you read that?"

Owl glanced over. "Some of them are familiar, but I can't read it..."

"No..." Skunk scowled. "Why?"

Jaz nodded, as if this explained a lot. "It says, 'We... found something. Somethin' big. It's...alive.' "

Owl shuddered. "Why does it... I mean, who..." Protectively, the rememorist crossed her arms over herself, and bit her lip.

"From the first sighting of a demon."

"Who wrote it?" Goat asked.

"Me. But I copied it from audio logs by a man named Derek Connelly..." She began to read again, from a different section of wall. " 'Thirty-nine years old, previously of the colony ship Templar, headed towards Vega.' "

"Why would you WANT that on your wall!?" Owl asked in bewilderment.

"My ancestors came from that ship." Jaz' voice was calm, showing no sign of anger.

"Oh..." Owl swallowed.

The pilot waved a hand about the room. "Most of the quotes around the ship are from him. They... well, the early ones are a warning that we still know so little. The later ones are the reasons we fight."

"How is this related?" Skunk glanced around the room, clearly dissatisfied. "Besides the demons, I mean. You still haven't told us what's actually going on."

Jaz shrugged. "It's... who I am." She gestured to another quote, a long section covering most of a wall, and began to read.

" 'We've decided to stay here. It's... not like we can go anywhere, and it's not like we're going to do anything with our lives. So we might as well stay here and try to make a difference. Study the demons. See if we can learn how their power works. Some of us say it's magic, etheric tenet, beyond understanding. Others say it's just physics we don't know yet. Either way, we don't really know what's going on. Also, find out who made this place, and how. Not sure how we're going to do that. And... fight the demons. Kill the fuckers before they kill us.'

She spun on her chair, slowly turning to face the three. "He's dead, now, eight hundred years dead. "

Owl opened her mouth to mention the inappropriate language, but shut it. Maybe demons were a just reason for such words. "Eight hundred? That's... people haven't been that long. It's impossible."

"Yours haven't, maybe," Jaz shot back, arching an eyebrow.

"We don't know that," Goat pointed out. "We don't bother counting the years, remember?"

Owl shrugged. "We would if they reached the hundreds. I'm sure of it. Hundreds of years is something to be proud of. Think of all the stories that would happen in eight hundred years."

"Yes. And that's what's confusing me." Jaz' brow furrowed. "Because there's only one place you could have come from."

"We told you," Owl said plainly. "Face."

"No, I mean, before that."

"Before?" Owl asked, a little shocked.

"Well then, enlighten us," Skunk responded sarcastically.

"My ancestors were scientists. I'm a scientist, we all are. Scientists and warriors." The pilot gestured to the three survivors of Face. "You're... well, you're not."

Owl laughed uneasily. "How'd you guess?"

She continued. "Connelly, in his logs, mentions being cast out, a mutiny. We crash-landed our ship here... but what happened to the main vessel? What happened to the people that threw us out?"

Goosebumps rose over Owl's tan skin.

Skunk looked skeptical. "You think they're our ancestors?"

Jaz nodded. "It makes sense that you wouldn't know... without the scientists, you wouldn't have kept records like we have..."

"But... but..." Owl looked very upset. "Our ancestors would have cast you out! That's horrible. I can't believe we come from people who would do such a thing."

"I can," Skunk said nonchalantly, ignoring the dirty look Owl cast her. "But why does that matter? I mean, so they cast you out. How did that lead to this? And if not, why are we even talking about it?"

Jaz sighed. "We're talking about it because that lack of records is extremely important. Without records, you have no history, and without history, you can't learn from your mistakes."

"Plus it kills time as we get to Sector Seven," Goat said.

"Mistakes?" Owl gasped. "We were exploded off our home by a disgusting... thing! That's no one's mistake, young lady."

"A disgusting thing that was safely locked in a crystal cell before you came along, with all respect," retorted Jaz.

"I'm start to regret attempting to ride it," admitted Goat.

"Think about it. What if there were other places like Face?" Jaz' voice burned with intensity. "What if there were other people like you, uninformed and thus foolish? And without memory, they'll just do it again and again."

"..." Owl opened her mouth to continue the argument and found nothing. "Are there?" she asked instead.

Jaz shook her head, rubbing her eyes in weariness. "I don't know."

"Hey, you're talking like this is all our fault." Skunk growled.

"And look at Goat. We DO learn from mistakes." Owl smiled at the boy.

He grinned back at her eagerly. "Next time, I'm gonna jump farther," he resolved.

Jaz looked up at Skunk. "Yeah, I suppose I am. Sorry, it's just... it's so hard for me to imagine not being surrounded by the grim knowledge of the demons and all they've done. It's hard for me to process that it really isn't your fault."

Owl frowned. "Why would the demons be our fault?"

Skunk arched an eyebrow. "So you're saying that the reasons demons have been showing up is 'cuz people like us free them from their cells or whatever?"

"No. Yes. Somewhat." Jaz clenched her teeth, clearly getting frustrated.

Skunk rolled her dark eyes. "Then what ARE you saying?"

"Listen, I know it's confusing, but we really don't KNOW anything, so trying to EXPLAIN anything is fucking HARD." Jaz exploded at the woman. "Your sarcasm REALLY doesn't help."

"Language!" slipped past Owl's lips that time.

Jaz bristled, then stood with a slight nod of apology. "This is what we know: There are demons. They are trying to kill us. They escape from their cells by themselves, sometimes, and it seems to be happening more and more frequently, though that could just be me.

"Me and my people, we hunt them down, and we kill them. There are also the crystals, the Shadows, which are... jailers, I suppose. We don't really know much about them.

"And sometimes, apparently, once in a while, people like you, THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, make my job harder by letting more demons free." Speech finished, the pilot looked around the room at each of the three in turn.

Owl looked down at her feet. "Um... why aren't people acting as jailers?" she asked. "If you can find the demons, you should... stop people freeing them. Explanation works better than killer crystals." She looked back up to Jaz.

"I don't know whether you understand just how many demons there are out, there, how many free and how many still locked up."

"Of course we don't," Skunk said sharply.

"Is it a lot?" Goat wondered.

"Too many to guard?" Owl frowned.

"There are thirty-seven Sectors of my people, each with a few hundred people. Each Sector covers a few hundred THOUSAND kilometers. It's all we can do to stay alive and cling to what rock isn't really just more jail cells in disguise." Jaz' voice was level, tinged with a note of bitter resignation. "We help each other out and if we can, we take a few demons out on the way. There are infinitely more demons than us that are already free."

Owl gulped. "That's not good news."

Jaz smiled grimly at her. "There isn't much good news."

"Yeah." Skunk fidgeted, crossing her arms. "Well, fuck."

"Language, Skunk, I swear!"

Jaz sighed in exasperation. "Lady--Owl, is it?--I think you're just going to have to get used to it. The kind of life you'll most likely lead now... it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

The older woman let out a frustrated breath, tucking a strand of her wildly curly hair behind her ear. "I understand... but it could get worse without profanity."

"Better I curse than I punch someone in the face."

"... good point."

Jaz thought for a moment. "Unless that someone is a demon."

At this, a corner of Skunk's mouth quirked up, the closest to a smile she'd shown the entire trip.

"Center," Goat whispered, almost unconsciously.

Owl turned to the young man. "What?"

"Center, apparently." He blinked at her.

"Why did you say it?"

"I... don't know." The boy didn't seem terribly bothered by the fact.

Skunk leaned against the wall, looking disdainfully at the two of them. "Cuz we're all lunatics here, apparently." She paused. "Uh. Is there a bathroom anywhere around here?" She asked, almost sheepishly.

Jaz pointed. "It's through the door and to the left."

Skunk nodded once and hurried out without another word.

Jaz watched her go, then pulled a string. It opened a small drawer, and she pulled out a thin grey cylinder, and pulled a cap off of the end. Finding a spare bit of wall, she drew an eye, followed by a line of symbols underneath, all in red ink.

"What are you doing?" Owl wondered aloud.

"I'm making notes, for later."

"Are you... drawing words?" The rememorist watched Jaz work, leaning in to see better.

Jaz looked surprised. "Yes."

"But... not pictures of what they mean." Owl slowly tried to piece together the alien concepts. "You're just drawing them. The words themselves."

Jaz turned to face the older woman, looking up from her writing. "Yes. It's... how we keep records, other than audio logs. It's faster, easier. Look, words are--"

"I know words," Owl interrupted. "I remember them for everyone. But how do you put a word on a wall? Or on anything else?"

Jaz made sort of shaping-gestures in the air. "Yes, but... it's the way we put them down, on things, with letters."

"...Letters?" Owl repeated, feeling the strange word out.

She pointed to a single symbol, the first in the disjointed line she'd drawn. "This is a letter, the letter 'R.' And this an 'E,' and an 'M,' and another 'E,' see, and another 'M,' and this is a 'B,' and... well, another 'E' and 'R.'"

Owl watched Jaz' finger move along the symbols. "What do they do? The letters. Why do you have to repeat them?"

"Making them is called writing, and then looking at them to figure them out is called reading. The letters make sounds, in our brains, based on what we've been taught they sound like." She was still sort of gesticulating, as if she could squish the knowledge of the written language into a ball and give it to Owl all in a chunk.

Owl blinked, trying to take it all in. She fingered the stone on her necklace. "Writing is drawing letters. Reading is seeing letters. Letters are sounds because we say they are," she summarized. "What sound is 'R?'"

Jaz nodded. "Right. 'R' is... well, it's like the beginning of Right, actually, and the end of the letter name. Rrrrrrr."

"R is rrr... what are the others? "Oh, and how does a word end?" she added. "I mean... how do you put letters together?"

"When you stop saying it," muttered Skunk, who had skulked quietly back in without their notice.

Owl glared at her. "When you're WRITING," she clarified.

"Well, the 'E' is confusing, because in this particular word it has two different sounds. The first 'E' just sounds like its names, eeeee, and the second... look, it's really complex." Jaz rubbed her face.

Owl turned back to her new teacher. "Why aren't there two letters for 'E?' One for each sound."

"I need to sleep," Jaz muttered. "We should all get some rest," she added, louder. "I'll teach you in the morning, okay, Owl? It's not like we don't have time."

"Okay!" Owl answered happily.

Goat suddenly jumped up, hitting his head on the ceiling. He landed with his arms on the ground, and got up, eyes lit.

Owl looked at Goat somewhat worriedly. "Are you okay?"

"Writing!" the teen exclaimed. "It's like sandwich-making, but with... letters!"

Skunk made a 'pffft' sound, looking distastefully at the boy.

He carried on regardless. "I can't wait to master this new form of sandwich-making." The boy paused, thinking. "Actually, I can, now that my head hurts. Yeah, let's sleep."

Owl smiled at the young leaper. "Maybe you'll feel better in the morning."

The pilot looked around at the cramped space, and shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry it's not more comfortable, but Oliver's really a personal vessel. I can give you some blankets and you can bunk down in here, or you can go back to the kitchen area if you want, it doesn't matter to me."

"I don't care," Owl said. "As long as we have blankets and non-crystal ground."

"Alright." Jaz pulled a string by the doorway, and a trapdoor in the ceiling dumped a pile of blankets and a single, moth-eaten pillow into the middle of the room. She skirted the pile and tapped a few keys on the control-wall, then returned to the doorway.

"I'll sleep in the kitchen area," Goat said, heading that way.

"I'll stay here," Owl shrugged, grabbing a sheet.

Skunk said nothing, just picked up her pack from the ground and pulled out some dried mushrooms and a blanket.

Watching her, Owl's stomach rumbled. "Actually... what's in the kitchen?"

Goat stood proudly, puffing out his chest. "Looks like I've been called to duty! Goat, sandwich-maker extraordinaire!"

Letting out a small laugh, Jaz turned to head to her bunk. "Have fun with that. I'll see you all in the morning."



((11 - Planetarium))

The circular room was full of a thousand points of light, each one a crystal floating in the Void. The map spread, filling the room with soft luminescence.

"So, yeah. Your world... well, it's one of many." Kasby started. "Many, many crystals... all of which floating in what we call the Void. That's all this space in between crystals." he continued, waving his arms about to denote the space. "Um, any questions so far?" he asked hesitantly.

"I guess the mines were pretty redundant," Spider mused, cocking her head sideways as she walked through the space. She poked one of the floating crystals, and a line of scrawling symbols flowed out of it, sparkling in the air.

Giraffe inspected the images closely, trying to avoid touching any of them. Each was a simple square dot of light, of varying sizes. Scattered throughout was the occasional faded red square, marks of broken worlds. Zebra was not so cautious, and tried passing her hand through one. It was as immaterial as a speck of dust, the pattern of light playing across the back of her hand.

"YEAH," Spider said loudly, all of a sudden. "I have a question!"

Kasby cocked his head towards her. "Yeah?"

"We went inside the crystal place, right? And there were these spikey things that tried to IMPALE us, and then there was this thing that went like wooosh, and then the shadows were like--" she made a series of energetic gestures. "And then I kicked it, and this red light slash weird moving flying THING came out... AND the red hurt, but then we were glowing..." As her gestures got more frantic, slowly Spider's eyes started to glow with a pulsing red light. "And then it EXPLODED"

"Whaaaa, your eyes, Spider!" Giraffe exclaimed. Zebra and Kasby took a step back. Had they really just seen that.

After a moment of calm, her eyes faded back to normal. She looked from face to face. "What!?"

Zebra frowned. "You aren't aware of what just happened?"

"I know that our... crystal exploded," she started, "but--"

Giraffe cut her off. "Your eyes... were red!"

"You can see why we're a bit taken aback," Zebra added, perplexed.

"Uhuh," Spider gave her a questioning look.

Kasby paused for a long while before talking again. "It... must have been the light from the projector. Reflecting off your eyes. Don't worry about it." he said, turning away. "What was your question, Spider?"

She rolled her eyes. "My question was... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? What WAS that stuff?"

"Um... sorry, my brain's a bit jumbled, I think, and..." He trailed off, frowning. "Well, normally we have a whole year to be taught all this, and..."

"I'm a fast learner," she said stubbornly.

"Please, do tell," Zebra added calmly. "It's a bit important to us, you see."

Giraffe nodded. "Just a wee bit."

"Oh!" Kasby said, giving his fingers a snap. "I know!" He shuffled over to one of the shelves and slid it open. He dug through, and the sound of plastic clacking came out. He found what he needed, pulling out a small, plastic rectangle. He slid it into a larger machine, just beneath the control panel on the wall, and turned to them with a smile. "Listen close... I think these can help."

((12 - Survey Island Theme))

The machine hummed and whirred, emitting a quiet whining noise. After a moment, a voice came out, as if heard over a great distance.

"Er, right. So I figure someone oughta make a recording or something, more than just a blag or what, in case, you know, later generations wonder how the feck they got to be where they are.

"First thing's first. My name's Derek Connelly, thirty-nine years old, previously of the colony ship Templar, headed towards Vega. Right now, I'm chief navigator of the as-yet-unnamed bucket o' bolts we're flying to god-knows-where, now that we've gone and got ourselves ejected.

"Astrogation says they're getting readings on the place we're headed. The emissions spectra sure as hell seem a lot like those of a planetary nebula, but it's... much more dense, an' full to the brim of energy spikes like nothing we've ever seen. Hopefully as we get closer, we'll be able to find some solid resources. The air scrubbers on this piece of crap weren't meant to last more'n eight weeks, and we been let loose ten days arready.

" ... I guess that's about all for now. Connelly out."

"... was that supposed to answer our question?" Zebra grumbled.

Kasby held up a few more of the tapes in his hand. "Um, no, not quite. There's a few more you should hear."

"Whaaaaaaaaaaat?" Spider looked around in confusion. "All I heard was 'energy spikes,'" she said, waving her hand over her head. "Are those the spikes that tried to kill us?"

Kasby turned to her. "Not really. The energy spikes Connelly talks about are just really big energy sources..." He trailed off again for a moment. "Look, they do a better job of explaining than I do! Just listen to a few more, and maybe it'll start to make sense." The young pilot popped in another tape, and the voice began again.


"Sorry about the gap, Connelly recording again. It's been, ah, two weeks since my last entry. Busy times here on the beloved tin can. Week back, Arsibalt had the oh-so-witty idea to call the thing "Feynman," after that twentieth-century physicist. No one could think of any reason not to, so now I'm 'Derek Connelly, Navigator of the Feynman.' Sounds fancy, don' it?

"More importantly, we hit the edge of the nebula. Place is full of... fog. Plain ol' H2O-based water vapor condensate fog. Fog and oxygen, plenty breathable. Kind of... disturbingly habitable. We're not really sure what's up with that, but hey, we're not complaining.

"Furthermore, we found this... massive crystal. 'S about... a thousan' miles in diameter, perfectly dodecahedral. Mostly quartz, with some veins of various metals running through it, far as we can tell. Definitely weird.

"We're going further into the Nebula. Exploring. Uncharted waters an' all that. See if we can... make some sense of this ridiculous place.


"I been keepin' track of the days. She should have only a few more now.


"Connelly out."


"Connelly here again. Recording more, even though I just made one day before yesterday.

"Erm. We... found something. Somethin' big. It's... alive.

"That's right.

"Something alive.


"The SETI team is going nuts.

"We lost it in the fog, but... more as I know it.

"Connelly out."


"We found it again, about an hour back. A party went out in one of the lifeboats, see if they could get a better look at it. And boy, did they ever. It was sort of... snake-like, long and red and definitely reptilian. Almost looked like a Chinese dragon, if y' can believe it.

"Ah, yeh, and that's the other thing. When they got close? It started spittin' lightning at 'em. Fortunately the lifeboat's got a solid hull plating, so they were fine, but... damn, they all came back terrified. Feeling... like they'd just found something evil. That's just weird, yeah?

"We're also findin' lots more of the crystals. They vary in sizes, some of 'em are half a dozen meters across, an' the biggest we found was a cube thirteen thousand miles long a side. 'S crazy.

"Still... going deeper. Looking for more life, if we can. Who knows, maybe we'll find something intelligent in here?


"Two days left, now.

"Connelly out."


"The crystals are getting denser, now. We saw two of 'em yesterday. An' furthermore, we found another one of the... things. Living things. This one was... real different, too. Kind of... insectoid. Had wings like a bug, and an exoskeleton. Didn't see much of it, though. It flew off when we got close.

"We've decided to see if we can get to the center of the nebula. Maybe... find something solid, somewhere livable. Hydroponics is going stable, and we're thinking we can tap some of the resources in the crystals...


"Assuming there were no... complications... ah, shoulda been today. Christ, I wish I coulda been with her... but... wherever she is, wherever... wherever he is, I hope to God my son knows that his father loves him dearly, and is praying for his safe journey... somewhere. I... I love you, Jeremy.


"... Connelly... Connelly out."


"Yesterday... yesterday did not go well. Heh. A whole mess of buggers came at us, wings and teeth and... hell, I'm sure everyone else on the ship will disagree with me on this one, but I swear to christ they had magic. They could... turn invisible, and... I dunno, knock people over from far away. Like, psychokinesis or somethin' ridiculous like that.

"Anyway, we managed to fight 'em off, but... hell, we lost Engineer Saria, and two of the physicists, Takagi and Anders.


"The crew's... started referring to 'em as demons.

"No one's arguing with that.

"Connelly out."


Kasby ejected the tape and turned to the listeners. "Those things you ran into in the tunnels? That's what Connelly is talking about. Demons, on their way out."

Spider stared at him. "Demons. You're shitting me."

"Not like we have a better name for 'em," shrugged Kasby. "Same with the thing that attacked us before, in the ship."

"Huh. They've never bothered us before..." The architect paced around the map-room, puzzling over all the crystals.

"That... that would be thanks to us. Or, more recently, to me... in any case, I think you'll understand a bit more with the next tape..." Kasby pushed in another tape and hit the button once again.


"It's been five months since my last entry, 'cause... there hasn't been much to report. I've started keeping a journal instead. Only keeping these audiojournals for big events. And ah, this one's big. We finally figured out what this place is.


"It's a prison. One gigantic prison complex, full of crystal cages for a thousand demons. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of beings could have made something like this...

"Whatever they were, though, they're long gone now. 'S just... the demons, now. The demons and us.

"Connelly out, for now."

"What." Zebra stared blankly ahead, trying to put together puzzle pieces.

"So, uh, how come we've been living on the outsides of a demon cage? That's a little bit... weird..." Spider looked a bit disbelieving.

Kasby looked to the three women. "Starting to make sense now?"

"NO!" Spider yelled.

"Our home as a demon prison. Perfect sense" Zebra said calmly, following it up with a more impassioned, "Of course not! Am you crazy?"

"Alright, alright! Jeez!" He threw his hands up defensively. "I have my own theories on that point. But... well, might as well finish these off. Last tape." He slid it in and pressed play.


"We've decided to stay here. It's... not like we can go anywhere, and it's not like we're going to do anything with our lives. So we might as well stay here and try to make a difference.

"Study the demons. See if we can learn how their power works. Some of us say it's magic, etheric tenet, beyond understanding. Others say it's just physics we don't know yet. Either way, we don't really know what's going on.

"Also, find out who made this place, and how. Not sure how we're going to do that."

"And... fight the demons. Kill the fuckers before they kill us.


"That's... that's it, really.


"My boy's one year old today. Happy birthday, Jeremy. Your father loves you.


"Connelly out."


"So, that's why I'm here, I suppose." said Kasby. "But why you're here... well, that's a bit trickier. I think I've put it together, though," he said, with a bit of a sly grin. "See... the way all this started out, why Connely and his crew were in a lifeboat... There was a colony ship. Mostly, it was run by us scientists, or demon-hunters now, because we kept everything working.

"One day, though, the colonists decided they didn't need us anymore. Voted us off... so we left. Never heard from them again. Never thought we would." His thoughtful expression broke into a smile. "Until you three came along, of course. We didn't think the ship would last more than a few days without the people who actually knew what they were doing to fix things. Turns out we were wrong. Somehow, you folks found a way."

"So you're a demon hunter..." Spider spoke slowly, one word at a time, as she tried to process the massive influx of information. "And we came on a... ship...thing, to lots of prisons for demons... So the colonists decided it would be a good idea to build a city on a demon-prison???" The teen's eyebrows were going to get stuck in the upright position, at this rate.

"To... guard it, maybe." Giraffe was deep in thought.

"No, that would be ridiculous!" answered Kasby. "The scientists didn't figure out what this place was until long after we got kicked out. I don't think you guys ever really made the connection. You did say that you've never had any troubles with demons before. Not like you had any way of knowing what those big crystals were."

"They kicked you off their ship?" Spider blinked at their surroundings. "Then what's this?"

"We rebuilt, of course! Had eight hundred years to do it, after all," he elaborated. "This is one of a few bases we have throughout the Void."

"So, why did these...demons suddenly start causing trouble?" Zebra crossed her muscular arms, unsatisfied.

"You mean in your world?" Kasby asked the woman.

"Yes, in our world. The one that exploded, if you recall. I have yet to get a proper explanation for that." The dark-haired woman arched an eyebrow.

"Well... there are these things, lifelines, energy... they run through all the crystals, and act as a kind of reinforcement. Stop the demons inside from breaking out, and such. Occasionally, they weaken, and... well, you've seen what happens when they get too weak." Kasby said grimly. "At least, that's what alot of us think. All we really know is that usually, these energies fill in cracks when they form, and make the crystal spears. But when they break, all we can do is clean up the mess."

"The black stuff?" Spider's eyes lit up, and she snapped her fingers. "Oh. Umm..." She looked guiltily at her companions, and fell down to sitting again, cross-legged. She let her head drop, and let out a groan. "I think...I kicked a pressure point in the crystal..." Her mind went to her architectural training. "A... pillar."

"...Don't beat yourself up, Spider." said Kasby. "Honestly, I don't know how much a kick from a human could do to one of those anyway. I was detecting some weird readings even before that... it probably wasn't your fault."

But Spider wasn't listening. "I blew up our wooooorld!" she wailed.

From somewhere, a bell chimed quietly, and the lights in the room slowly began to dim.

Giraffe glanced around. "What's going on now?"

"It's just night time." Kasby said to Giraffe, while trying awkwardly to pat Spider on the shoulder. "Look, I... I know this is alot to take in," he said, trying to speak to everyone. "But... well, you had questions. I tried my best to answer them." His voice took on a gentler quality than they'd heard in it before. "I'm sorry, I really, truly am sorry for everything that happened. But you're not alone."

"Did this happen to you?" Giraffe asked, slightly sarcastically, but with a tone of real curiosity.

"... something like that," replied Kasby quietly. "It's... probably been a long day for you. Why don't you get some rest."

Spider curled up into a tiny ball on the floor, whimpering very softly, and tucked her hands under her head.

Kasby tapped her on the shoulder. "C'mon, Spider." He gestured to Zebra and Giraffe. "You two as well. I'll show you to some rooms."

Spider kicked him in the shin. "Nnnn!" She waved him away. She was already beginning to feel drowsy... The light dancing from the crystals in the room was soft, like a slow lullaby. Or water, gently flowing... she could already feel herself falling into sleep underneath the hoard of crystals.

Kasby didn't react much to the kick, but he moved off all the same, over to the doorway. "Well, if you'd rather sleep in here, shouldn't be too much of a problem... But one of you at least remember this much." He pointed to a red lever on the wall. "If anything happens, or there's an emergency, or a demon, pull this lever. I'll be there in a flash."

Giraffe nodded, settling against one wall, not really hearing him. Zebra stared at the pilot, clearly waiting for him to leave.

"Goodnight, Giraffe, Zebra, Spider... at the very least, I'm glad you're here." He added the last bit in on a gentler note, to himself, and slid the door shut behind him.

Spider curled up tighter around herself, as Giraffe and Zebra tried to make themselves comfortable against the metal floor. "Goodnight..." Spider mumbled into the silence. "Don't let the spikes...nnn......."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Illustrated by Penny Weber.

Monday, May 4, 2009


((10 - Homeless))

--everything was dark, and shadows, and that quiet humming again--

--and then out again.

Falling, falling, out into the void... Looking up, a crystal face, but... horizontal? Flat above, like a frozen sky...

And then something, a humming, a new noise, a whirring, gyrating...!

From out of the fog, a ship appeared, descending alongside them, edging below, finally swooping underneath them. It was the source of the whirring--metal and oblong and strange, full of tacked-on bits and pieces that didn't seem to belong. The narrow top of the ship was flat, and it slowed just enough that the falling trio touched down on it. Goat nimbly grabbed ahold of an exposed pipe, supporting himself.

Beside him, Owl landed in a heap. "Oof!" She collected herself, glancing around. "We're... saved?"

"But by what?" Skunk looked skeptical.

A round piece of the top of the ship lifted, and a woman popped her head out. "Well?" She jerked her head towards the hole she was standing in. "Get in, get in!" The woman was tall and broad-shouldered, with a shock of blonde hair. She scowled through the fog at them, glancing around as if nervous.

"Um..." Owl hesitantly got to her feet, only to nearly fall again as Skunk dashed past her, heading for the hole. Goat leapt past as well, following the other two women as they ducked inside. Owl finally followed suit, pausing as she did to notice the strange symbols all along the hatch, and along the edge of the hold.

The three survivors of Face looked around the inside of the ship curiously as they descended the ladder. Below was a small room, cluttered with essentials for living: mugs and cups, blankets, and everywhere, those symbols. On the walls, above the door that stood to the left, on the door itself, scrawled over everything. Owl's eyes darted across them, burning them into her photographic mind.

"So." The woman turned to them, once they were all inside. "Welcome aboard. You want to tell me what the hell you think you were doing?"

The three replied almost in unison. Skunk, unfazed, glared, "Huh. First, who are you?"

Owl quirked an eyebrow. "What we were doing?" she asked.

Goat grinned. "Thanks for saving us! I'm Goat," he said, extending his hand.

The woman took Goat's hand and shook it, almost too firm. "Jaz," she said. ((Penny Weber)) She gestured around her. "And this is Oliver. And YOU are damn lucky I came along when I did."

Again, all three spoke. "No kidding," the dark-skinned Owl muttered. "Thanks."

Goat quirked his head to one side. "But how does your machine leap?"

Skunk took a step toward Jaz. "Are you listening? I didn't ask your name, I asked who you are."

Jaz stood her ground, staring down the slightly taller woman. "I'm from Sector Four, investigating a distress call from Sector Seven. I know I'm a little far from home, but there was silence for far too long." The twin crystal swords strapped to her hip and back seemed to add emphasis to her words.

"Sector Four?" Owl sighed. "I didn't know there was a Sector One."

Their savior examined them all. "And you? What the hell were you doing up there? I'm surprised you survived long enough to fall off! You aren't even armed!"

"Hey, I'm armed," Skunk said defensively. "What do you call these?" She gestured to the array of knives clipped to her belt.

Owl's eyes zipped to her. "How many do you carry?"

She patted her belt, almost fondly. "Enough."

"Well," Goat began, "I was trying to ride a giant red thing with some kind of membranes that allowed it to leap without falling."

"And we all saw how well that turned out." Owl's temper was definitely getting the better of her now.

"I didn't leap far enough, and then we all fell," he finished.

Mostly ignoring Goat, Jaz took step a forward and grabbed Skunk's belt, examining the weapons and tools there. "Yeah, and these'll do you any good against the demons?" She looked into Skunk's eyes. "They're shit."

Skunk started a bit. "Demons?"

"What demons?" Owl frowned.

"What are they?" Goat blinked in curiosity.

Jaz stopped, and stared around her. "The fuck? You all amnesiac? Where are you from, that you don't know about the fucking hellspawn?"

"Language," Owl snapped, her motherly instinct kicking in.

"We're from Face," Goat supplied simply.

"...Face." Jaz raised an eyebrow, then held up a hand, completely ignoring Owl.

"Where the fuck are you from, that you have a flying contraption and spout shit about demons?" Skunk lashed back.

"Hang on, I can tell this is going to be a VERY fucking long story." Jaz rubbed at her temple with one hand.

"Seriously, language! Both of you young ladies."

"Shut up, granny." Skunk was clearly in just as foul a mood as Owl.

"Don't... don't you talk to me that way when we've co-survived a near death experience!"

"I don't even know how you survived that. It was a fluke."

"I was chosen, missy, same as you. We were BOTH meant to save Face."

"Well, newsflash, Face exploded."

Jaz let out a quiet snort. "Save face."

Owl turned to her. "The place," she explained.

Jaz shrugged, and threw some of the blankets in the cabin to one side, uncovering some bench-like seats. "Siddown. Y'want something to eat? All I've got is long-flight rations, but..."

Goat perked at the mention of food. "Rations? Can I turn them into sandwiches?" He paused. "And by 'can,' I mean 'may.' "

Owl smiled at that. "See, nice and respectful. I know a certain officer who would learn from that..." The older woman smiled sharply, resisting the urge to glare at Skunk. Skunk had no such restraint, and stared coldly at Owl, then Goat, distaste openly evident on her features.

"No, really, SIT DOWN." Jaz' voice made it clear should would accept no arguments. "And then I want you to talk to one another, and then I want you to tell me where the hell you're from and what you were doing, in a coherent, logical--well, logical as possible--story. And then..." She looked at Skunk. "I'll do the same. Okay?"

Owl stalked over to the bench and seated herself. Skunk did the same at the far end of the bench, eyes fixed on Jaz.

Goat, still standing, started to speak. "Well, we lived on Face. The only city we knew existed."

"The only anything we knew existed," Owl continued. "All there was around us was... mist and caves." She bit her lip. "And now there's nothing."

As she paused, Goat picked up the slack. "Well, our government sent us down below the city, on a mission! To, uh, find out what was making the cracks below the city."

Owl watched her host quietly. "We were told... we were the last hope."

Jaz was moving about the room, arranging things, but very much listening. "Below the city. What was below the city?"

"There were these caves, these tunnels, down there," said Skunk.

"And spikes," Goat added.

Skunk nodded. "Crystal spikes."

"Made by some sort of shadow creatures," Owl began. "They filled the cracks--"

Jaz spun, cutting Owl off. "Crystal."

"It was attacking us, yeah." Skunk looked slightly wary.

"Violently so." Owl rubbed at her newly-healed shoulder.

"Yes. Controlled by some sort of... darkness." Goat continued the story. "We found safety around a pillar."

Owl swallowed slowly, looking at Jaz. "The pillar seemed to... keep the spikes at bay. We spent a night around it."

"But then... Spider attacked it." Goat shrugged.

"It was full of red light..." Skunk's voice trailed off as she saw Jaz staring at her. "What are you looking at?" She glared back.

With undiminished enthusiasm, Goat carried on. "The light hurt us, but gave us power. Protected us from the darkness."

"It stopped the darkness," Owl contributed, watching Jaz's face. "Where the red was, the darkness wouldn't go."

Jaz finally moved, at that. "Shit. SHIT." She paced back and forth. "You're not kidding. You seriously--SHIT."

"Oh for the love of--LANGUAGE!" Owl cried.

Jaz rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. "Listen. This is... very bad."

"No shit," Skunk grumbled. "So spill."

Owl glowered as well. "We figured that out when our home exploded."

Jaz shrugged them both off, shaking her head. "The spikes... they're not what you should be worried about. At least, as long as you do what you're supposed to..."

Skunk's eyes narrowed. "And what's that?"

"They're..." Jaz gestured in the air, trying to grasp at words. "They're good. They protect the cells, the demon cells. That pillar? You were never supposed to get that close to it. The spikes were trying to keep you away."

Owl's eyes popped. "Demon cells? What did we do when we broke the pillar?"

"You released them. Those particular demons, whatever the fuck they were. That's... that's bad."

Skunk scowled. "Can you give us some straight answers? You said we were supposed to do something.

"Not... it's not what you're supposed to do, but what you're not." Jaz shook her head. "Which is what you did. Release the demons. The shadows, the spikes... they're like... like guards."

"I think I get it." Owl nodded slowly. "We were meant to stay in our city. We're supposed to stay put. Not bother the demons."

"Pretty fucking stupid guards," Skunk scoffed.

"Well!" Goat laughed. "It's a bit late not to do that. And I can't leap through time!" His playful smile went unreturned by his companions.

Jaz looked at Owl. "This city. Tell me more about it. Where did you come from?"

"It... I don't know. It was home," Owl answered, thinking. "Made of arches, and crystal. We all lived there. We thought it was the only place to live. It was surrounded by sheer rockface. It was the little center of the universe..."

As she spoke, Goat had begun to speak, mostly to himself. "And people would say: 'Oh no! We're stuck out on a ledge with nothing to eat, except uncombined food elements! We'll just have to eat them! What a tragedy!'"

"It..." Owl felt tears roll down her cheeks. "It's gone... but for a while it was the entire world. For generations."

Jaz bit her lip. "I'm sorry, I really am. But if you could come with me, we really need to get moving. I don't know who you are or where you came from, originally, but you're in trouble now." She opened the door with symbols on it and stepped through.

Skunk rolled her eyes and got up and followed. Owl, still crying quietly, followed as well, a bereaved expression twisting her face.

"And I'd say, 'Never fear! I, Goat, shall leap to your ledge and turn your food into sandwiches!' And they'd say, 'Huzzah! We're still stranded on a ledge, but at least now we've got sandwiches! Thanks, Goat!'" The boy's voice trailed off as he realized he was alone. He let out a forlorn sigh, and followed the three women through the door.

"So where are we going?" Skunk's tone was angry, but flat.

The passage had led to a room, cleaner than the first. The walls were still covered with symbols, though, and diagrams as well. Anatomical drawings of horrifying beasts, technical drawings of all sort of outlandish weapons, and more personal sketches. One wall of the room was a large window, with a huge panel below completely covered with dials and switches, and strings leading to other things in the room.

"Okay, what the fuck are those?" Skunk pointed at the anatomical drawings. "Those..."

"...beasts." Owl swallowed, wiping at her tears.

"They're demons." Jaz pointed to one, vaguely worm-shaped, with strange feathery wings. She gestured at a segment of it. "Here, here, and here, these are good to eat. The rest, though, is either too tough or too bitter."

"Demons," Owl breathed.

Skunk raised a skeptical eyebrow, scanning the various drawings.

"Oh, and we're going to Sector Seven. Hell if I know what to do with you guys, maybe someone there will. Maybe not. Maybe they're all dead. But there's no way I'm turning around now."

"Wait, we can't..." Owl's voice was raising to shrill pitch. "We can't leave Face! Or... what's left of it!"

Jaz pulled a string and lowered a seat from the ceiling. The whole ship had a very patched-together feel. She sat down, then spun to face Owl. "Oh? And what else would you suggest we do?"

A sudden sharp feeling echoed through the minds of the three survivors of Face. CENTER.

"Center!" Goat exclaimed, as Owl whispered the same alongside him.

Skunk looked at them. "You guys heard it too?"

Goat blinked. "Wait, what?"

Jaz's hand went almost instinctively to the handle of the curved crystal sword at her hip. She leaned forward in her chair, just watching.

"Sector Seven... where is located?" Owl inquired. "I mean, you have all these sectors... where is Seven? In relation to the others."

"It's farther outward than Four, but still pretty far in the Void." She narrowed her dark eyes, darting looks from Owl to Goat. "Quite near the... center."

Skunk's green eyes widened slightly, and Owl's jaw dropped open for a second.

Goat's constant grin just widened further. "Another city... I can't wait to see it!"

"Let's go." Owl didn't care about home anymore. That voice, that feeling, those begging people... they were still in her thoughts.

Jaz paused. "Why?"

"The Center. We have to get to the Center."

"Could be a trap," Skunk mused.

"No way, not like this." Owl's voice was firm, strong.

Skunk glared at her. "We know nothing about the center."

"The voice, you both heard it right?"


"Why would it say Center just then? Unless Seven IS the center. So yes, thank you, Jaz, we'd love to go."

Jaz looked at the woman, confused. "Why? WHY do you need to get there?"

"We need to get there... because... There's a chance to get that last hope back." Owl set her jaw. "We have to take it."

Ignoring Owl, Skunk said, "She just thinks we need to go, but we don't know anything about it. I for one would like some information first."

"Skunk! What was your family like? In Face? Did you have any?" Owl's icy blue eyes were hard. "I did. I want to see them again."

"Let's go to Sector Seven and find out," said Goat.

Jaz put her hand to her chin, thinking. "Shut up, all of you. I need to think."

Owl scowled at being ordered to shut up, but obeyed. Skunk stared oddly at her, with a dead look in her eyes. Shaking her head slightly, she turned to Jaz. Owl raised a hand to her face, as if it could shield her from Skunk's glare.

"You were right next to a demon Pillar." Jaz turned her eyes go Goat. "You said it gave you POWERS." To Skunk. "You heard voices, telling you to go the center."

"By powers, we mean it healed us and protected us from the darkness," Goat explained.

The older woman nodded with each point. "It healed up gaping holes from the spikes." She gestured at her shoulder.

"Yeah, some protection," muttered Skunk. "Now I'm stuck here with you lot."

"On the other hand..." Jaz sighed heavily, and spun back to the control panel. "I have NO IDEA what else I'm going to do with you, and there's no way I'm traveling the month back to Sector Four with you idiots. So yeah. What the fuck." The pilot sighed again. "Let's go to Sector Seven."