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Fleshwar, the Letters Page Fan Fiction...

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The Mariner
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Fleshwar, the Letters Page Fan Fiction...

Fleshwar, Chapter 1: In which, a Mourning Pricy Provinces Almost Starts Trouble.

 

The sting of sulphur faded from the air as I stepped onto the bridge of the Paradoja Magnifica.  Maria Helena sat, hands clasped, overlooking an 8-dimensional navigation  chart of the known multiverse.  Here and there were red 7-spheres encircling those universes that posed a significant threat to the existence of the one that we of the Temporal Admiralty had termed “the Ring.”  Beside her stood the man who called himself Chrono-Gangsta.  I didn’t see any other Con-men present, which was concerning.  Hopefully they would be coming soon.  She looked up at me and I felt entirely unwelcome aboard her vessel- I didn’t blame her.  The last time we met, I had told her of my plan to destroy Rahazaria and the billions of Aeon Men swarming it, and use their power to undo all the hard work she had done eliminating the other Marias Helenas.  Despite the fact that the Temporal Armada I created was thousands of timeships strong, the only effect I had was drawing OblivAeon’s attention away from Earth to utterly destroy the fleet.  That, and killing the few thousands of innocents who were left on Rahazaria.

“Admiral.” she said, coldly, but obviously too distracted by her survey to concern herself with my presence.

“Admiral.” I said suppliantly.  “Please consider sparing Reality F-I-0-S-S-R-1-M-93.”

She took a moment to look at her chart and ensure that there was a destruction order on the specified reality.  Then she returned her steely gaze to me.  “¿Por qué?”

“I know it may not seem like much, but there are people there who can help us.”

“Who?  ¿Los niños del carne?  Or the Cult of Gloom?”

I sighed.  “There are heroes there too!” I pleaded.

“Where are they now, hm?  When the multiverse is coming to an end?”

“They’re busy with... internal affairs.”

“Well, since you care so much about this universe, why don’t you go and get them to help by yourself?”

In my growing rage, I had neglected to keep hold of my thoughts.  In that moment, as in many others, I had a fit of frenzy.  I saw pulsing red as my eyes receded to the inner heavens and I felt my hand shoot out and grip Maria.  Oh God, not now...  I began to mumble, my voice growing raspy and haggard as my words became clearer.  And as my voice grew more certain, my thoughts faded, the pounding imperative of the story growing with each word.  And so, like a man possessed, I began to recount the tale of the Fleshwar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sunlight filtered through the clouds over Cooltopia.  It was, by all accounts, a beautiful day.  But that was par for the course- though the story of how had been lost to time, the principality of Cooltopia had, for generations, been more or less an idyllic paradise.  Unfortunately, Catherine Cool, current head of state, had no time to enjoy the view today.  The Coolness Five had recently been reduced to the Coolness Four by the assassin Equity, and Princess Cool was not about to let him get away with it.  Victory‘s last act had been to drive a psychic beacon so bright into her killer that all four of them could feel it.  They were currently arriving at the train station- the train had been conveniently delayed by royal decree, so Equity wasn’t going anywhere.

“Is this what it feels like to have psychic powers?” asked Dr. Howard Pound.  He had been Cathy’s first choice when she put together this team.  He was something of a scientist, always looking to understand the universe.  It had been only natural for him to build a mech suit to fight with.  Cathy could remember what the first Powerhound suit had looked like- a 8-foot-tall, quadrupedal tank of a suit.  He had been slimming it down ever since, and though adding alien liquid metal had gone horribly wrong at first, once Dr. Pound was able to reverse engineer the technology and adapt it to Earth materials, things had turned out okay.

“A coffee stain isn’t the same as a Rembrandt.” replied the target of Dr. Pound’s question.  Derek Pathe had been the court astrologer for Cathy’s mother when Cathy was putting the team together.  He, too, had been a natural pick- his psychic talents, and especially his ability to enter an astral form and see through the eyes of others, proved invariably useful to the team.  And besides, Mind Wanderer was a pretty cool name, and Coolness was what the team was all about.

“As far as I’m concerned, the sooner we get done here, the better.” said Patrick Price.  He had been the interesting pick of the bunch- well, him and Elle.  They were well-known heroes- Province, the living embodiment of Cooltopia, and Victory, the winged avenger.  Cathy hadn’t known either of them personally while assembling the team, but they would clearly fit, and the Cooldom Three seemed to be too few.  She had even been the one to start nudging them together, and it was much to her glee when they began dating.  She hadn’t known it would end like this- none of them had.  And Patrick was broken up over it.  He had torn his suit and declared, to the team at least, that from now on, he would be known as Pricy Provinces, because he understood the price of protecting others.  Cathy had expected him to be bitter- his girlfriend had been murdered- but he was stricken.

“Just... try to restrain yourself.” Mind Wanderer said softly.  He sent out a subtle psychic signal to the team, allowing them to know the extent of his own rage, just so they didn’t think of him as a hypocrite.  Pricy Provinces nodded as they entered the station.

The earthly form of Derek Pathe slumped to the ground and the astral form of Mind Wanderer ascended, zipping around the room.  Equity’s power worked with eye contact, and his astral form didn’t see so much as sense, so he was able to detect Equity when they had fought before.  The other three stayed together, searching on the ground.  This part of the station had been evacuated, mostly to avoid having a crowd meet them, and they had expected that Equity would attempt to escape through it.  But there was no trace of him.  “Something’s not right.” muttered the princess as Derek Pathe returned to his mortal coil.  “He should be here.  I locked the station down five minutes ago.  There’s no way he could have escaped.  And I sent a whole team of Gnarly Knights to ensure that he wasn’t trying to hide on a train.”

“Who are we talking about, luv?” the informal British accent of Peter Nought, former Citizen of the Fun.  “Because if it’s that creepy, two-tone bloke, we’ve already taken care of him.”  Princess Cool rolled her eyes.  “I thought your job was to stop unauthorized time travel.”  Citizen Peanut nodded.  “Yeah, but that’s not our Equity, innit?”  Princess Cool paused.  For a moment she thought that Victory’s killer might still be at large.  But then she realized- Equity was in lockup at Cool Pen.  There was no way even he could sneak out of the cell that Howard had designed for him.  She cursed at herself under her breath for being too angry to realize what was going on.  She looked up, prepared to begrudgingly thank the Wardens, but Pat rushed the Citizen and hoisted him in the air, ready to send a fist into his face.

“I don’t care whose gloomdamn Equity it is!  He’s mine, all right?  I’m gonna make him pay for what he did to Elle!”  Princess Cool watched in horrified shock as the other Wardens solidifed from thin air, as though emerging from nothing.  For a moment, she was worried that a fight would break out, but thankfully, Lupus gave a sharp glare to Pricy Provinces, and he let Citizen Peanut down.  “I’m sorry.  I just...” he began to sob.  The Girl with No Name walked over and tried to soothe him as Citizen Butter inspected Peanut to make sure that he was all right.  Lupus strolled over to the princess and looked up at her.  Citizen Jelly gave a slight chuckle, then tried to suppress it, seeing how uncomfortable it made the others.  Then the wolf began to speak.

“We seem to have made a conviction

That intrudes upon your jurisdiction.

We hope that this blunder

Will not tear asunder

Our friendship with unneeded friction.”

Princess Cool assured Lupus that it would be all right, but inside she knew that Patrick was at his breaking point, and that he might do something decidedly uncool to exact revenge against Equity...

The Mariner
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Fleshwar, Chapter 2: In Which, a Gumshoe Encounters a Dame Most Competent

 

My eyes bolted open as feeling returned to my body.  I was just able to resist the urge to smile as I noticed one less red 7-sphere than before in the map.  Then I realized that the cold, gloved hands of Admiral Helena were wrapped around my cheeks.  She seemed relieved that I had come to.  "Don't fall under now, niño.  The main event is beginning."  I shook my head, my thoughts still blurry from the spell.  "How long was I..." I asked wearily. But as my eyes cleared, I saw that we were the only ones left aboard the timeship.

"It was a long story.  You don't mind picking up at the Rook Watch again?  I had other business to attend to.  Mi hijo fell into a spot of lava."  I didn't know who she was talking about, but as she was reattaching the wheel, I nodded and rose to my feet- might as well tell the story while I could.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was a cool, clear night in Rook City.  Omnitron, P.I. was staring out the window at his office.  In the corner, the moonlight glinted eeirly off a statue of a human.  Far off, he heard sirens.  Sure, things had been better ever since the princess had cleared out the Man-Chair’s organization for good.  But the Coolness Five left after that.  What did they care about this city?  No, it was up to people like him to defend this city.  He turned as a dame knocked on his door.

“Locks are useless in this town, kid.  Come in.” he sighed and sat down, snuffing out his cigarette.  The smoke helped soothe his circuits during the rough nights, but he was aware of the biological limits of humans.  The light shined purple on her face, the blinds casting lines of darkness across her eyes and mouth.  Damn.  Waste of a good cigarette.

“I am coming here to be telling you about a murder which will be taking place on this evening.”  That got the AI/PI’s attention, and he looked up.  “Why didn’t you go to the police?” he asked with sudden desperation.

"Because...” the stranger answered quietly, “It is the police who will be committing of this murder, and the murdering will be of me.”

"Listen, babe." the blue detective said, sitting down, "I'm not about to step into the ring with all of the Rook City Police over one dame's unsupported story."

The woman's glowing eyes took on a pleading tone and she clasped her hands.  "Please, Mr. Robot Detective Man!  I am needing to be saved from the constabulary!  Would my being murdered be allowed by you?"

"I'm going to need some proof, ma'am." the robot said, more gently this time.  The stranger slid a folder across the table.  "I have been waiting for the asking of that question by you!"  As Omnitron read through the files at superhuman speed, he noted that the dame's accusations seemed legitimate.  And since upgrade 3.14 had incorporated Adamov's Laws of Robotics, he was unable to refuse her plea.  That said, it would be suicide to take on the better part of a hundred corrupt cops (if the contact list was any indication) alone.  He needed some assistance, and as he browsed through the files, he found a ready-made autopsy report.  Time of death was 2:41.  It was a minute to midnight.  There wasn't much time.

The first call went to his favorite informant.  "Hello, Take.  How is your parole?"

"Is this entrapment?  This sounds like entrapment."

"No, friend.  I simply wanted to know if you have any lingering anger against the Rook City Police."

"What?  Another corruption call?  You can count me in.  Just let me finish my... uh... legitimate business first."

Onnitron had already hung up and was now picking up the PhantomPhone.  "Greetings, PhantomPhorce!  I request one of your agents!"

"We'll send one over.  This is your last wish," an ethereal voice said as the phone vanished.  The stranger was watching Omnitron work with fixed attention.

Omnitron stood and turned to his statue.  "Mr. Locke?" he said quietly.  The statue's eyes opened and a sharp glow emitted from them.  "You have summoned the Platinum Warlock?"  Omnitron nodded.  "There is... disinfecting to be done."

Within twenty minutes, Take and the Phantom had shown up.  The purple dame was overjoyed, but then again, that seemed to be her usual emotional state.  They had plenty of time to prepare, and chatter started.

"Well, ma'am, what made the constabulary of this fair city turn their unjust gaze upon you?" asked Take.  The lady- whose named, Omnitron had read, was Maia Kir-Pro- responded by removing a small vial from her bag.  The Phantom, who had drifted around anxiously, in need of a wish, turned and started at the container.  "Is that... Void Jelly?" he asked with alarm in his voice.  The Warlock nodded.  "Yes, I can sense it as well.  I must ask... how did you acquire this?"

The stranger said nothing for a while.  "I found it lying on the ground at the docks.  I picked it up and insided it to my bag, since it looked like it was belonging to no-one."

"What did you need with Void Jelly?" the Phantom asked, accusatorily.  "I assumed that someone should be delivering it back to the Coolness Three-and-Two!"  Omnitron let out a sudden, short, cacophony.  "My apologies," he continued, "that is how I laugh.  The Coolness Five will have nothing to do with a random gal from Rook."  The stranger shook her head and protested, "But I am not a randomness of gallery!  I am also secreting my being the Wraith!"

This time, it was Take who laughed.  "You?  The Wraith?  She's, what?  A good foot smaller than you?"  As though asked, Maia slung her purse on the ground and shrank to a small size, where she fastened what had appeared to be a handkerchief around her, and fashioned it into a cape.  She then grew to just under the height of the office and clasped her purse around her waist, turning it into a utility belt.  Then, returning to under her normal size, she withdrew a roll of bandages and applied it as a mask.  "Are you believing me now?"

Just then, there was a loud knock on the door.  "Open up, spike-shoulders!  RCPD!"  The five who had gathered in the office turned.  Omnitron opened his fist into his trusty hand-cannon.  The Warlock raised his hands as arcane symbols began to glow on his metal skin.  The Phantom began to vibrate with ethereal power.  The Wraith adopted her combat stance, and Take just pulled out his butterfly knife.  "On my mark," whispered Omnitron, stepping to the door.  He slowly opened it.  "MARK!"

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Fleshwar, Chapter 3: In Which, Citizen Butter Grows Tired of Limericks

 

The ship began to creak and groan under the strain of the mighty hand of Oblivaeon.  Admiral Helena was struggling valiantly to keep the walls time-locked, but the timeless gaze of the cosmic destroyer was slowly eroding her efforts.  I slowed, then stopped.  We were going to die, and my story- I shuddered- would remain unfinished.  “Come on, niño!  I was enjoying your story,” she said, more calmly than I would have imagined, even for a woman who had stared down death in nine centuries, “especially the part about the rhyming wolf.”  “That’s it!” I said, leaping to my feet.  “Can you dip your rudder in the Void, Comodora?”  She nodded, clearly catching on to my thinking.  “If we can get proximity to Void power, then I might be able to manipulate it by utilizing the residual energies surrounding the Arcanist’s poetry...” I continued.  She suddenly looked as though she had spotted the hole in my plan.  “But how will you recite his poetry accurately enough, niño?”  I turned to her, and the world went black as I gave myself back to the story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The cult compound was heavily guarded.  Acolytes stood, with fingers ablaze in the fires of Gloom, watchful and alert as deer grazing in a meadow.  The metaphor was doubly fit, thought Citizen Butter, as they were also being stalked by a large, grey wolf.  The wolf wore a cloak that looked somewhat redundant as he stalked on all fours.  His eyes held the weathering of countless ages- although he had not seen them all himself.  His quadrupedal form was the result of a magical accident, and although entirely irreversible, the curse had been tweaked enough by an agent of the Phantom Force that he could speak again.  The Argent Arcanist, Voice of the Void, was now the Arcanist Lupus, the world’s most interesting undomesticated canine.  He was flanked by the Girl with no Name, a reject from the Halls of Duat, not because her heart failed to measure against the feather of Ma’at, but because of a clerical error of celestial proportions- her true name had never been recorded by Thoth, and so she was unable to pass from the world of the living.  She had chosen, wisely by the reckoning of Citizen Butter, to use her immortality, along with a little bootleg Egyptian magic, to kick butt and take names.  And then, there were the Citizens.  Peanut, whose skin could harden into a tough shell, Butter, who could become frictionless at will, sliding along the ground, and Jelly, whose innate connection to the Void allowed the whole group to teleport anywhere in a moment.  What a team they made, defending Earth from incursions by extra-dimensional entities and malicious time-dorks.

The Cult of Gloom was, of course, a persistent foe for the Time Wardens.  After all, their whole purpose was to try to summon their dark master into this realm.  And as the alarm sounded and the Wardens adopted a fighting stance, it looked like another great day for Bella Butters.  Then, Lupus started in.

“I sense that not all’s as it looks,

That these cultists are not merely crooks,

But something more deadly,

An unnatural medley,

Of the sort that’s not written in books.”

Butter sighed as she and the rest of the team began to feel the arcane flow of knowledge from the Arcanist.  It was supposed to be an easy day for her.  But he was right- something felt wrong about these cultists.  As she knocked into a group of them, she swore she heard... clanking.  And when No-Name tried to banish one to the Twelve Hours of the Darkest Night with the Terrifying Fires of Apophis (Egyptian magic has really specific spells), Butter couldn’t look away fast enough, and she could swear she saw metal where the cultist’s melting skeleton was supposed to be.  But the real kicker came when Peanut and Jelly tag-teamed a cultist who was covered with snakes (for effect, she supposed).  Underneath the snakes were smaller, metal snakes!  The Arcanist spoke again.

“My companion!  I need something done;

A magic to hold fast the sun-

I fear something’s amiss.

Indeed, if it is,

We had better turn our tails and run!”

The Girl raised her hands and chanted the Rites of Aten.  The sun stood still in the sky, and none of their enemies moved.  The only sound was Peanut beating on an immobilized cultist.  He slowly stopped as the Arcanist investigated the snakey cultborg.

“It appears to be as I suspected!

I-“

“I’ll stop you right there, Robert Paws-t.  We can all see it’s a robot.” Butter interjected.  “Now, someone who can answer me-“ Lupus’ ears perked up, and his tail began to wag uncontrollably.  Butter cleared her throat, “who can answer me WITHOUT rhyming...”  The Arcanist slouched dejectedly.  “... what are we going to do about it?”

Peanut was the one to answer, after a short pause.  “I think we need to talk to someone who knows a little bit more about magic and metal, right?  Like that Platinium Warlock chap, he knows.”

No one spoke against the motion, and as time began to resume around them, Citizen Jelly opened a portal and the team retreated.  All that was left were false cultists in various states of disrepair, and a shadowy figure mouthing the words “good, good...”

The Mariner
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Chapter IV: In which the Price of Freedom, is High

{More like, In which Mariner Finally gets around to Writing Another Chapter.  Also, Guise- that is, me- is in this one!  Kinda!}

    When I came to again, we had escaped the fist of OblivAeon, but just barely.  We were docked in some ancient port, and Admiral Helena was speaking to a gentleman over an ancient game of some sort about the sorry shape of the Paradoja.  I don't speak Atlantean, and so I waited for the two to conclude their business, musing over possibilities that we could employ in the present to defeat OblivAeon.  Unfortunately, before she could finish her conversation, I found myself slipping into another spell...

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

    Patrick Price looked in the mirror.  The purple robe fit nicely, he thought.  He began to hum softly and watched as swirling spheres of shadow energy began to dance around his hands.  He looked at Elle's picture on his desk.  As the shadow spheres vanished and he pulled the hood up back over his head, he whispered "This is for you."  There was a knock on the door and he pulled the robe off with as much haste as he could manage and rushed over to answer it.

    “Howard!  What are you doing up at this hour?”

    “I’m concerned about you.  This is usually more of the Wanderer’s thing, but I’ve been doing some searching through databases.  Since Elle died, the average temperature of Cooltopia has fallen by a full 0.7°.  Now, it’s not much time, and the sample space is small, but... I’m sure you see what I’m getting at?”

    “Let’s say I do and pretend I don’t.”

    “I’m beginning to wonder if the mystical rite that binds your fate to the land doesn’t work both ways.  If you’re feeling depressed about this... well, you were very close to her, and... I know how important it is that you be allowed to grieve, but...”

    “But I can’t, or it could destroy Cooltopia,” Patrick looked down and frowned.

    “That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m going to refer you to a therapist.  Doctor Kester.  He’s not who I would have picked, {but the best there is, and is also strikingly handsome!}.  He’s a close personal friend of the Princess’.  She helped his roommate get a girlfriend and move out.  {Good riddance!}.”

    “I guess I’ll give this clown brilliant rising star of the psychological world a try.”

    “No worries, Patrick.  We’re all here for you.”

    After the doc had left, Patrick eyed the purple robe again, this time with some disdain.  How had he gotten it, again?  And why had he worn it for so long today?  His memories were hazy, but he felt drained, and a little chilly, and a warm, soft cloak would do him good.  He reached his hand out for it when he heard another knock on the door.  He walked over, fumbled at the doorknob, and got knocked across the room by an ironclad fist.  Struggling to scramble to his feet, he looked up at his assailant, who had made her own entrance.  It was...  “Elle?”

    None other than the hero Victory, the love of his life, stood in front of him.  He rubbed his stomach where she had punched him.  It was tender, but it had the warmth of a future bruise.  “Elle, how are you alive?  We saw... Equity showed... I... I can’t believe it!”  He almost started to run over to greet her, but he was stopped by a sudden whisper (was it coming from the robe?)- “She’s never coming back.  Your joy is a lie, and it will leave you cold in the grave...”  He did a double take, just long time enough to notice Victory charging at him, spear in hand.  He rolled to the left, grabbing the cloak with one hand.  As he stood up, he put it on.  He might not know how this thing was trying to mess with him, but it was right.  Whatever he was fighting, it wasn’t Elle.  “That’s right,” the whispers came again, “Now show this foul doppelgänger true despair.”

    Raising his hand, and chanting in a tongue he did not understand, Pricy Provinces cast out an orb of shadow.  When it collided with the glowing spearhead it unfolded into ribbons of shadow, twisting and writhing until most of Elle’s arm was covered.  With a yell, he charged into her.  The door to his closet opened into the land and they tumbled out in the northern woods, watched by a hooded wolf standing nearby.

    “A most serendipitous matter-

    That here, with an ominous clatter,

    While vacationing,

    This unnatural thing

    Is served up to me on a platter.”

The wolf soon joined the fray, pouncing on Victory and clawing at her face.  When Patrick willed himself to look over at the carnage, he saw gleams of metal underneath.

    “Province!  Your aid I require,

    To fight off with fury and fire,

    This awful creation,

    So I urge you to hasten,

    And doff that wicked attire!”

Patrick shook his head and looked down.  He was wearing the robe again?  He thrust it off, allowing his feet to take root as he did.  Huge thorny tendrils burst from the ground and tore into Victory.  No- not Victory.  If it were, he wouldn’t be doing this.  This was some kind of... Materielle.  Yeah, Materielle.  With a twist of his will, the great brambles crushed Materielle, and he withdrew them and uprooted, walking over to examine the carnage.  “What the hell was that?” he asked.  The wolf began to speak, but he was cut off.  “Biomancer robot,” said the Girl with No Name, striding out of an ankh-shaped portal {Ooh, very original, MARINER!}.

    “The heck’s a Biomancer?” asked Patrick, turning to face the newcomer.  The Arcanist’s tail began to wag again.

    “I’ll fill him in,” said the Girl, examining the terrain.  “Why don’t you escort me back to the castle?  This sounds like a job for the Coolness Five.”