Sunday, October 19, 2008

"FLI and the Illusion Generator" Part ii

Even on a Saturday afternoon the Dead Zone was alive with activity, though it was of a different sort. As the three moved toward the arena entrance they had to weave in and out of tables now occupying half the concert floor. The stage was empty but music still pumped through the speakers, driven by the old style jukebox in the corner. The crowd, as it often was, was a blend of Adepts and Norms, and nearly all of their eyes followed the trio on their march, as if they could feel the implied tension. Slo and Agony ignored the stares, focused on their goal, but G-Wiz nodded and waved at people he knew. He felt a bit like a celebrity the way they watched them.

They crossed through the arena doors unabated. As G-Wiz closed them behind him he could hear the noise of conversation rise beyond the heavy frame. “So much for being subtle.”

“I didn’t know we were trying to be,” Agony said, not focused on G-Wiz, but instead studying what appeared to be nothing more then a normal wrestling ring. His attention lifted and settled on the strange projector like device nestled nearly hidden in the rafters above the ring. He nodded, indicating the units nesting place, “What’s that?”

Slo stepped forward, glancing at the centerpiece to G-Wiz’s Illusion Generator. “Why couldn’t it just be lighting equipment?” Slo’s words were more a test then a question. Agony turned his head and just looked at him. Slo couldn’t help but smile slightly. The look said he would have to be crazy to think Agony would buy that. He turned to G-Wiz, still by the door no doubt trying not to get caught in the crossfire, “Show him.”

Despite himself, G-Wiz was giddy at the words. He found immense pleasure in showing off his creations, and when dealing with them he felt more confident, strong. He pushed away from his diminished stance and strode to the edge of the ring. He remained gravely aware of Agony’s intense scrutiny as he activated a hidden console and began loading the OS for his Illusion Generator.

Agony stepped forward, looking inquisitively over G-Wiz’s shoulder as unfamiliar lines of code blurred across the small screen. “What’s that?”

G-Wiz hesitated for a second, casting a questioning glance to Slo. Slo gave a brief nod, sending renewed waves of elation through him. “This is my FLI OS. It runs the Illusion Generator.”


“No, FLI. F-L-I. Fabricated Life-like Intelligence.”

“Oh, like AI?”

G-Wiz shook his head, a disappointed sigh escaping his lips, “No, no. Not at all. AI is…well you’ve seen the movies. Man gives computer a brain. Computer becomes self-aware. Computer kills everyone. This isn’t like that. FLI has no real cognizance ability. Instead it’s programmed with pre-designed responses to nearly every possible situation.”

Agony took a step back far enough for G-Wiz to see his quizzical expression, “What? That’s crazy. How could you possibly be able to predict every possible situation?”

G-Wiz just smiled, “If I told you that everyone would have one.”

Agony looked to Slo. He spread his hands deflecting the insinuation, “Don’t look at me. He won’t tell me either.”

Agony seemed to accept the answer and turned back to the kid. “Okay, so then what’s the Illusion Generator? I mean I can guess part of it. It projects images into the ring right?”

“Um, yes and no. It creates a duel environment, so completely realistic you won’t be able to tell the difference.” The scrolling code stopped, the system beeping to let G-Wiz know it was fully booted and ready to go. He tapped a few keys and the screen changed. He scooted over a bit and motioned for Agony to come closer as he explained; “On the inside of the ring we project one of nearly 1000 environments.” The screen flashed a slide show with varying vistas. “Each one perfectly real, functioning and reacting just like the real world. It even feels real.” He clicked another key and two figures appeared on the screen. They immediately engaged and began filling the view with an epic battle much like the one Agony had watched the kid perform at the Rooms.

Agony straightened and regarded the kid with a look of wonderment, “Impressive.”

G-Wiz tapped another key and the screen changed again. The figures were still present, but now they were in just the ring. And instead of the large-scale onslaught they were just wrestling. Excitedly and rather competently, but still just regular old wrestling. “On the outside we project a regular wrestling match. Its outcome and direction is determined by the FLI system based on what’s going on inside. So, a devastating blow might translate into a power bomb or something.” He clicked again and the images began to blur, blending into the real battle waging behind it. “Adepts can see in, past the illusion, but Norms can’t. That means we can have all-out, full-scale Adept brawls right in front of the ignorant public.” He smiled, standing straight, arms crossed like a proud schoolboy. He turned to see if Slo was as impressed with his lesson as Agony seemed to be, only to find his undivided attention was firmly on Agony. G-Wiz tapped a few more keys and the console folded and slid back out of view. He tried to shrink as he backed out of the place he least wanted to be, the crossfire.

When G-Wiz cleared Slo motioned to the small set of steps leading to the ring, “After you.”

"FLI and the Illusion Generator" Part i

Excitement coursed through him, anticipation dominating his thought. Soon, soon he’d be here. Agent Ham was true to his word and as a direct result Agony was on his way up. G-Wiz had seen him get on the elevator through the security cameras. Now he wasn’t sure what to do. His body was trying to tell him to run, to retreat into his room, but his mind wanted to stay. Morbid curiosity he supposed, but he had to meet him. Had to know what a man with his background was like. After all, he could handle himself pretty well if it came to it. At least enough to get to his room, and there he would be safe. Resolved to stay, he tried to appear natural; lounged in his chair, legs over the arm, system controller in hand, virtual combat blazing across the TV screen and through the speakers.

When the door finally opened he froze. He didn’t mean to, he just reacted. A deer in headlights, he watched as Agony entered. He was immediately struck by the size of the man. Towering, it was a wonder he got through the door without ducking. And muscle. Not that grotesque body-builder bulk, but lean, hard girth. Solid mass like a Mack truck. He moved with a nonchalant swagger, as if he’d just returned from some errand instead of walking in for the first time. Within a moment Agony’s long strides had him directly in front of G-Wiz. Wide eyed, he couldn’t help but stare.

Agony gave him a curious look; mocking, but in a way, friendly. It was a look that said he’d seen this reaction before and was a little amused by it. He seemed to consider the kid briefly; eyebrow’s rising, “Right.” His demeanor shifted as he turned toward the large TV screen, pointing at the cyber fighters still waging their epic battle, “So, what game you playing?”

The question caught G-Wiz off guard. This wasn’t at all what he’d expected. Agony turned his head with a questioning glance, willing the dumbfounded G-Wiz to snap out of it. A micron of composure returned to him. “Technically none,” he managed to say as he began to remember the controller in his hand. He tuned back to the screen, and instantly felt more confident, now in his element, “I’m testing environments for the Fight Club.”

Agony watched as the kid performed impressive and complicated combat maneuvers inside a virtual environment that looked almost real. He glanced over at him, “You’re doing what now?”

“Testing environments. It’s my Illusion Generator. It lets us—“

“Wiz,” Slo’s voice interrupting him. He appeared out of nowhere, but G-Wiz was used to it. No one ever saw Slo unless he wanted them to. “You gonna introduce me to your friend?”

The kid could tell Agony hadn’t seen him coming. His appearance had either scared or impressed him because he wasn’t friendly or curious anymore. Now he was cautious, watching Slo carefully. “Agony, this is Slo. Slo, Agony.” Agony took his eyes off Slo long enough only to give him a questioning scowl. G-Wiz shrugged, “I saw your file.”

“Wiz.” Slo said the name mildly, but G-Wiz could feel the warning in it.

“What?” It hadn’t occurred to him that the information was secret.

“What kind of name is Slo?” Agony interrupted, attention back on him.

“What kind of name is Agony?” Slo responded now returning the favor, attention locked on the larger man.

“Hell, what kind of name is G-Wiz” him attempting to break the tension. The two men broke their stare to give him a disapproving look. “I’m not helping am I?” G-Wiz turned in his chair, sitting in it properly for the first time and tried to appear invisible as he mashed slowly at his controller buttons.

Agony and Slo turned back, eyes locked, each measuring the other with a fierce intensity. Slo broke the expanding silence first, “What do you say Wiz, shall we show Agony what the Illusion Generator is in person?”

The kid turned slowly, looking to see if Slo was serious. Agony seemed to understand the implications though. He spoke before G-Wiz could reply, “You gonna show me personally, Slo?”

“That’s the idea.”

Like everything, Slo spilled the words like they were no big deal, but G-Wiz knew otherwise. He was picking a fight with Agony. Didn’t seem like a good idea to him, but then again he wasn’t the one getting in the ring so who was he to bitch?

Adept Tales 07...mostly

Adept Tales 07 is mostly done. The whole thing is 3 parts and I just put the finishing touches on part ii. I was going to wait and post all of them together, but since it's been so long since I've posted, I figured I'd give you i and ii now.

So here it is, part i and part ii of Adept Tales 07 ~Blood and Agony~ "FLI and the Illusion Generator"

By "here" I mean in two separate posts, one for each...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To my four faithful readers

I apologize for the lack of updates. I recently got a new job and it's made writing time a little scarce. Things should be evening out soon, so bare with me. Adept Tales 07 ~ Blood and Agony ~ "FLI and the Illusion Generator" will be completed as soon as possible!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adept Tales 06 ~ Blood and Agony ~ “Slo Motion”

Excitement raged, ambiguous screams egging on the opponents. Fight night. Slo’s favorite night of the week, but not tonight. Tonight he moved through the jostling throng with a sharp eye and a worried heart. Were the Vendot among them? Had they already infiltrated his operation? It was hard to tell. Not all the Vendot operated in the open. Joshua was certainly right about that; secrecy was their bread and butter. He definitely had a vested interest in finding out. Joshua was right about that too. Lost in his worry, the night slipped away without incident, much to his annoyance. He cursed himself softly as the crowd shuffled out of the arena. He’d let his worries dominate him. He knew no one else would notice, but he noticed. As the last of the spectators exited, he cursed himself again. Somewhere during the night he lost track of G-Wiz and now he was already gone.

Even though the fights were over, the Dead Zone was still packed, music shaking the ground as Slo moved toward the doors. Outside he was struck by the deceptive Vegas chill. Huddled into his coat he headed toward his car. It occurred to him he didn’t have to be cold, but he enjoyed the simple pleasure of human gesture. Its nuances were what kept him in business, what kept him 10 steps ahead of the other guy. Except for tonight. Tonight he was off his game. He cursed himself again as he pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

Home was in one of the new posh corporate condo high-rises built overlooking the Strip. Sage owned several floors and operated Rooms out of them. Living there put him in debt to Sage, but then again, they were pretty easy on his Fight Club, so really he already was. Of course, Sage wasn’t the only downside to living in the Rooms. You also had to put up with sometimes as many as 17 roommates. This particular building was still new enough though that Slo had only a few so far, and most of those he hadn’t even met yet. He himself had only lived there a few weeks, and the lack of decoration as he entered the unit showed the others hadn’t settled in much either. All, that is, except G-Wiz.

Beyond the bare front room was one of the most impressive array of electronics spread from the kitchen into the adjoining living room area. It was bare when Slo first arrived, but shortly after G-Wiz moved in the future tech rooms had manifested. Slo was impressed by the unique design of the equipment and even more so to find the kid had even greater ideas. Ideas that were slowly making his Fight Club the most popular in the city.

As Slo crossed the barren entrance he could hear the familiar beeps and blasts of G-Wiz’s game system. Good, he was home. Slo thought he might be. The kid didn’t go out much, but how many techies did? Slo ascended the few steps separating the front room from the kitchen-living room combo and saw G-Wiz lounged in his chair sideways, legs kicked over the arms. He saw Slo and gave him a nod as he moved to the kitchen island behind G-Wiz and leaned casually against it, watching him as he continued his game. “How’d the unit work tonight?”

G-Wiz paused his game and turned with a confused expression, “Great. Didn’t you see?”

“No, I was a little distracted.”

“That’s not like you.”

“You’re telling me.” Slo brought his hands to his face like he was splashing it with water, rubbing briefly to clean away his doubts. When his hands came away, he was filled with renewed determination. “Ever hear of an Adept called Agony?”

G-Wiz thought about it for a moment, “Sounds a little failure, but not really, no. Why?”

“He’s in town. I need to know where.”

G-Wiz cracked a smile Slo had seen many times before. A laptop manifested onto his lap and he began clicking away at the keys. It seemed to Slo that the keystrokes where over done and in greater number then any computer process he’d ever encountered, but he knew the kid had a flair for the dramatic. He wasn’t the only one who held a fondness for gesture. “Agony. No other known aliases, though obviously not his given name. At least I hope not.” He continued clicking, studying the data as it streamed across his screen. “Wow, this guys got quite a rap sheet; terrorism, vandalism, militant behavior, inciting riots, inciting rebel actions.” He turned to Slo, worry playing plainly across his expression, “And you say this dude’s here? In Vegas?”

Slo ignored the question, “Can you find him?”

G-Wiz turned back to the console continuing his clicking, “Well I’ll be dammed. You’re not gonna believe this.”


G-Wiz spun the console, now floating inches above his lap, “He applied for Room assignment.”

Slo pushed away from the island and leaned in. Sure enough, there on the screen was the hacked file showing Agony’s application to Sage. “Interesting. Have they placed him yet?”

He spun the unit back, clicking a few more times, “Nope, not yet. His file’s under review, whatever that means. Doesn’t say why, though I could guess.”

“So could I.” Slo straightened, considering the information. “Can you fudge his assignment? Get him a spot here?”

The fierce clacking of keys that had resumed slowed as a new look of concern dominated G-Wiz’s posture. He turned to Slo beseeching, “Why would you want to do that?”

“I didn’t say I did, I just want to know if.”

The clicking stopped as he closed his console, “Normally, yea, but not with this guy. If he’s under review that means someone’s personally handling his case. They’ll assign him deliberately and manually.”

The chime of the doorbell reverberated through the room. G-Wiz pointed a suddenly present remote at the large TV screen dominating the opposite wall, activating the front door’s security camera, another G-Wiz creation and addition. “Sage,” he warned.

Slo looked to see the familiar figures, “Ham and Fury. Great.” The sarcasm was not lost on anyone in the room. “I’ll get it. Don’t say anything about Agony.” Slo moved to the door as G-Wiz went back to his video game, a move only part subterfuge. Slo doubted the kid had the attention span to really care what was going on. Before opening the door he schooled his face to be pleasant and cooperative, a necessity when dealing with Sage Agents. He smiled at his guests as they came into view beyond the swing of the door, “Evening officers.”

“Evening Slo, how’s it going?” It was Agent Ham who spoke. It was always Ham who spoke. Slo was pretty sure he’d never seen Special Agent Fury speak or give any indication as to what the ‘special’ was for, but he was equally sure he never wanted to see either. “May we come in?”

“Sure thing,” he replied as he stepped aside, ushering their entrance. They moved passed the empty front room and into the area Slo had just been. He gestured to his younger roomie, “You know Wiz.”

Ham nodded, “Indeed.” G-Wiz gave a week nod in reply but kept playing his game.

Two stools appeared where Slo had earlier leaned, “Have a seat. Can I get you anything?” he asked as he moved further into the kitchen.

“No thanks,” Ham replied, taking a seat in one of the stools. Special Agent Fury didn’t, instead continuing past the island to take up station where she could see the whole room.

Slo settled against the sink facing opposite Ham on the other side of the island, leaning again. “What can I do for you?”

Ham reached into his overcoat and produced a file. “We need to cash in a favor.” He slid the file across the island to Slo.

He opened the file and saw the now familiar dossier of one Agony. Popular guy, he thought as he mock reviewed the file. It was almost identical to the one Joshua had shown him, except for Sage protocols. “Quite the character,” he said, closing the file and setting it on the counter. “But what’s it got to do with me?”

“We believe he could be a valuable asset. If we can get him on our side, that is.” Looks like Joshua wasn’t the only one who thought so. Hell, Slo agreed, but he still wasn’t sure why everyone thought he was the guy to do it. What had they seen in the file that he hadn’t? Files weren’t really his area though. There wasn’t anything they could tell him that a few minutes observing a person could. He was much better in person. Ham continued, “He applied for a Room assignment. We’re assigning him here.”

Slo and G-Wiz exchanged a quick glance. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought Fury noticed the look, though she didn’t react to it. “And you want me to do what exactly?”

“Nothing much, really. Just get to know him. Be friendly, or whatever it is you do.” Ah, now he was beginning to see. Slo had a reputation for collecting people. Not in a bad way, but Slo had a way of earning stranger’s confidence. This usually led him to be responsible for them in some way. G-Wiz was proof of that, his most recent project.

“That’s it?”

Ham nodded, “For the most part. We want him to work for us, so a little nudging on your part will be necessary, but first we want to get a read on him. Convincing this guy will require some finesse. He’s not big on authority.” G-Wiz stifled a laugh, causing Ham to turn his attention to him, “We expect you’ll be assisting in this too.” He slid of the stool and straightened his coat, “We’re not asking. You’re both aware of the contract for staying here. It’s not a choice. We’re approving his application tomorrow. Be expecting him.” He signaled to Fury, ready to leave, “We’ll be in touch.” The two headed to and out the door, leaving the two in silence.

Well, he thought, that was the danger of living in the Rooms. He did take a certain amount of satisfaction though in the fact that he was essentially paying back Sage by doing what he was already planning to do. And this way he didn’t have to track Agony down. All he had to do was wait. Oh joy. All this hype, Slo couldn’t wait to meet him. And only most of that was sarcasm.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Adept Tales 05 ~Blood and Agony~ "Forces of Nature"


The dream had always been the same. The forest, the shadowy figure, then his father waking him, the beginning of his training. Each detail memorized and reviewed, always the same. Until recently. The dream had started to change. Little things at first. An expression or phrasing of his father’s words askew, some piece of scenery out of place. All seemed to be clues to a puzzle that Joshua didn’t understand. Last night though he felt as if he’d had a break through. When he arrived at the training circle his father’s eyes were downcast, focused on the symbols surrounding him. When Joshua looked he saw the familiar shapes bend and change. Before his unconscious mind they shifted into the inverted 4-point star of the Vendot. As he continued to gaze, the lines began to fade until they left only a single ‘V’. The dream shattered early, leaving it unfulfilled, but Joshua knew that this was the clue he’d been searching for. The breadcrumb his father had left. Whatever it meant, the Vendot was the key, or at least the starting point. Finally he had something tangible to investigate.

He’d spent most of the day researching the Vendot. Their movements, habits and haunts. The files didn’t tell him much. The Vendot were a violent, chaotic group. There were plenty of reports on various murders, rapes and other vile acts worthy of only the most disturbing horror-core lyrics. Plenty of information, but no pattern. No discernable agenda or motive. Just a storm of destruction and death.

As Joshua sat in his office tower, watching the sun begin to set over the Las Vegas Strip, he knew he had to do what he had hoped to avoid. He pressed the button on the desk and heard the familiar ding of the intercom.

“Yes Mr. Williams.”

“Renee, set up a meeting with Allen Murrs please. This evening if possible.”

“Right away sir.” The intercom went silent as Renee most certainly went about her task.

Allen Murrs. Murrs was the first Adept Joshua had met when he left home for college. At first they were good friends. They shared an interest in deciphering patterns, solving life’s mysteries through observation. But as their acquaintance grew Joshua began to notice a streak in Murrs that shed doubt on their friendship. Philosophically they’d always had a different approach to their ability. Joshua preferred to decipher patterns as they came, dealing with moments as they happened, whereas Murrs liked to bet the odds on the future, following the pattern that most appealed to him. At first it was a harmless difference, but soon Murrs began following paths that had questionable outcomes. People getting pulled under in his tow. Eventually it became too much for Joshua’s conscience and the two stopped being friends. Unfortunately over the years they still managed to come into contact with each other from time to time. Each had skills the other had a need to call on now and again. This time it was Murrs’ turn. Because of his shady habits he also had a plethora of shady contacts. The kind of contacts that might be able to give him more insight into the Vendot. At least that’s what he hoped. If Murrs couldn’t help him, he wasn’t sure where to go next.

The intercom buzzed and Renee’s voice came over the static, “Sir, Mr. Murrs says he’s down the street and to tell you he was expecting your call. He’ll be here in 15 minutes.”

That was just like Murrs. Nearly nothing ever got by him. He always saw what was coming. “Thank you Renee. When he gets here send him right in, then you can cut out for the weekend.”

“Very well sir.”

Exactly 15 minutes later Allen Murrs walked into Joshua’s office, perfectly on time. As he came through the door he was turned, craning at Renee as she headed to the elevator to leave for the night, “Hey suga, don’t leave yet. After the meeting we cou--.” Murrs cut off as if on cue as the elevator doors closed. Chuckling he turned to Joshua, “I knew she wouldn’t go for it, but it’s fun to watch em squirm.” Already Joshua was regretting his decision.

“Have a seat. Want a drink?”

“Sure. Scotch and soda, easy on the soda.” Joshua walked over to his office bar as Murrs plopped down into a chair and put his feet up on Joshua’s desk. “So, what is it you need my expertise on this time?” Joshua had forgotten what it was like to be around Murrs. He oozed a slime ball attitude and his quasi gweedo persona was punctuated by his bright suits and pony tailed hair. Joshua pushed his feet off the desk as he handed him his drink.

“I need information on the Vendot.”

“No foreplay huh, just right to the meat of it.”

Joshua moved around the desk and sat in his own chair across from Murrs. “Can you help me?”

Murrs leaned forward, setting his drink on the desk, “Well that’s a difficult question to answer.”

For the second time Joshua was having second thoughts. Murrs was toying with him, baiting him to get information he could use. He sighed, gazing wearily at the other man, “Why?”

“Well, no one really knows anything about the Vendot except the Vendot, and they ain’t exactly holding seminars is they?”

“So we get a guy on the inside.” It still struck Joshua funny how easily the two could slip into a working relationship. He didn’t even question if Murrs would try to help. He knew he would. It was almost refreshing to be able to skip past the bullshit and get down to the business at hand. Almost, that is, if it wasn’t Allen Murrs who he found so easy to work with.

Murrs leaned back in his chair and almost chuckled, “Not fucking likely. This ain’t the boy scouts or hell, even the mob. It’s not like you can just paint up one of your Rose saints and send em in. Those crazies would sniff em out in a second.”

“Rose saints, huh? Cute.” As Joshua stifled a chuckle of his own his office door flew open.

“Speak of the devil,” Murrs didn’t even flinch. He always knew.

Fane came striding into the office with a worried expression and a file folder in his hand. Fane was Joshua’s top pupil. His intrusion wasn’t an interruption. He mostly had carte blanche when it came to matters under his watch and Joshua knew that if he was here it was important. He came to Joshua’s desk and slid the file to him. “We might have problem. New player in town.” Fane threw a disapproving glance at Murrs before turning his attention back to Joshua. “Guy named Agony. Has a nasty rep.”

“Holy shit. Agony’s here?” Murrs sounded shocked and even a little scared. Never a good sign.

“What? Why? Who’s Agony?” Joshua asked as he picked up the file and began scanning through it.

“Agony isn’t a who as much as he’s a force of nature,” answered Murrs. “He’s an anarchist. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Not like these pussy protesters you see at GOP conventions, but the real deal. Violent, destructive and don’t answer to nobody.”

“Sounds like you’ve had dealings with him before.” The disdain in Fane’s voice was thick enough to choke on. He did not like Murrs one bit, which stood to reason. Fane was a good person. One of the purest souls Joshua had come across. He could smell the taint on Murrs and he certainly didn’t hold back his distrust.

“No, not exactly, but I’ve heard stories.” The hatred from Murrs was just as palatable. The two held no love for each other.

Something clicked. Joshua did know the name. “Wait, is this the same Agony who toppled the government in that island country a few years back?”

“That’s the guy,” Fane this time. “And that’s just the tip. He’s been involved in countless revolutionary actions, though it’s tough to say which side he’s on once one wins. In a few incidents he’s gone right back and toppled the new leaders too. On top of his political resume he’s been involved in the downfall of several corporations as well. Where ever this guy goes, authority falls.” Fane had certainly done his homework. That was one of the many reasons why Joshua put so much trust in him.

As Joshua continued to study the file a pattern began to emerge. There. Right there. “He’s perfect.”

Murrs looked up from a thought he must have been having with shocked eyes, “Are you nuts? No way, no fucking way.”

“Wait, perfect for what?” Fane was looking back and forth between the two men now locked in a stare.

“We need information on the Vendot. The only way to get it is to get someone inside.”

“And you want to use this guy? Hell, I hate to agree with Allen, but are you crazy?”

Without taking his gaze from Murrs’ he slid the file back to Fane, “Look again. Tell me what you see.”

Fane picked up the file skeptically, but he was used to this kind of treatment from Joshua. He often didn’t point out the answers, but rather encouraged you to find them yourself. As he flipped through the practically memorized file he began to see it too. “The government. The one on the island. They were oppressive. Quality of life there has increased since Agony was there. It’s still not any place I’d go for vacation, but it’s better.”

“So what? What does that prove?” Murrs wasn’t liking this one bit.

Joshua’s eyes still held strong to Murrs, willing him to see the pattern, “What else?”

“Umm,” Fane continued to scan. There, “The Redreese Corporation. They tested deadly chemicals near a small village. Their collapse saved the village.” Murrs gave a disbelieving grunt to which Fane turned his attention to, “There’s more too. In every act he’s been involved in there’s been some positive outcome. Not always a great grand outcome, but this guy’s definitely done some good.” He slid the file to Murrs and turned to Joshua, “You’re right. He’s perfect.” The staring contest ended as Murrs picked up the file and Joshua looked to Fane approvingly. It was Murrs’ turn to look back and forth between them in confusion.

“You guys are nuts. Even if I agree that he could do it, there’s no way you’ll get him too. You represent authority in your pretty little executive office. He wouldn’t give you the time of day.”

“True. We’ll have to find someone he will listen to.” He turned back to Murrs with a look that nearly made the man flinch. He’d seen the look before. It was the look that said ‘I know you know a way.’

“You’re not gonna budge on this are you?”

“No, no I’m not.”

“Fine," he sighed, "I might know a guy. I still think you’re crazy, but if anyone can do it, it’s him.” Murrs gave another half chuckle, “Though I don’t know you’ll have much luck getting his help either. He’s not much better then Agony when it comes to authority.” He looked at his watch and stood, “Well we better get going if we want to catch him before he gets too busy.”


“People call him Slo.” Murrs gave a contemplative look, “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him call himself anything.” He shrugged, continuing, “He runs the Fight Club down at the Dead Zone. Ex-Military or some shit.”

“Why do they call him Slo?”

“Oh no, I won’t ruin all my fun tonight. You’re just gonna have to see for yourself.” The grin that populated Murrs’ face nearly gave Joshua pause. There was something in this for him now. Something Joshua hadn’t seen. But it didn’t matter. If Murrs thought this Slo character could get Agony on their team then he had to try. The dreams assured him of that much.


The Dead Zone was the number one hang out for Adepts in Las Vegas. And not just Adepts. Norms frequented the place too. A difficult balancing act to be sure, but they managed. On a cool November Friday night, it was sure to be packed. As they pulled into the parking lot, a large crowd had already gathered.

“Hope we’re not too late. If the fights have started he won’t talk to us.” Murrs pulled his beat up Cutlass into the closest spot he could find, nearly 50 yards away from the doors. They’d taken his car to avoid looking too ‘richy’ as Murrs put it. Joshua had even dressed down, though he still emitted an air of authority no matter what he wore.

The club had been built in what was once a supermarket in an abandoned plaza. Even with the Dead Zone’s success, the surrounding area had not benefited. A stone’s throw from their parking spot looked like a dying slum careening toward becoming a ghost town. Homeless, addicts and derelict destitute dominated the wasteland, milling about around burnt out trashcans and sleeping in cardboard domiciles. It dawned on Joshua that the Dead Zone had impacted the area after all. The unwashed forgotten had increased quite a bit, flourishing off of the cast off life force of the shimmering masses next door.

As they got closer to the doors, Joshua noticed a change. The people loitering in the waste were no longer the typical cast off refugees you’d expect to see. No, these people looked, well, normal. They all meandered in the same way, crouched similarly to their less fortunate companions further back, but they all looked like regular people, as if they came here after a long day at work or school.

Joshua stopped, studying the strange crowd, “Who are those people?” Fane stopped too. He noticed the change as well.

Murrs stopped a few paces ahead and looked to where Joshua was motioning. “Oh them? No one knows really. They just started showing up a few weeks ago. They don’t bother anyone. Keep to themselves mostly.”

That didn’t make sense. What was driving them? Why here? Then a terrible pattern began to form in front of Joshua. There and there again. The same on all of them. “It’s the Vendot.”

“What? No way. Not their MO. It’s just some crazy cult or something, like those carnival kids.” Murrs turned to start walking again dismissively, but Joshua and Fane held.

“No, look closer. They’re marked.”

Fane stretched his vision, tried to see the way Joshua had taught him. To see the patterns. There it was. He saw it too. They were marked. Sure enough on all of the strange company somewhere there was a single ‘V’. All were different; some in a tattoo or shirt logo or other marking that formed the shape of a ‘v’, but still, each one had it. “I see it. Shit, I see it too.”

Joshua turned to his protégé, “Check it out. See if they’ll talk and if they know anything.” Fane nodded and headed immediately to his quarry. He didn’t expect him to discover much. Not because he didn’t have faith in Fane, but because he could feel the shroud surrounding the pattern. The ‘V’s were definitely the clue, but already he knew the direct approach wouldn’t work. “Come on Murrs, lets go meet your guy.” Joshua continued for the door, but Murrs hesitated a moment, watching Fane meld into the confounding crowd.

Inside the Dead Zone was like another world. The division of the space was genius as far as Joshua was concerned. Immediately upon entering you were thrown into an open concert area, large and open, but on nights like this it was packed. Many bands, mostly of the underground variety, played the venue. It was the only one of it’s kind since the Huntridge was condemned. Tonight the crowd was filled with the painted faces of the dominant horror-core crew; the carnival kids as Murrs had called them. Joshua looked over at Murrs who was grinning back at him. Just like Murrs. The devastating rattle and hum of the rap duo on stage dominated the crowd’s attention as Joshua took in the scene.

Directly to the right was a less chaotic concession area with tables and a bar, though all were filled now. Further from the doors, off to the left beyond the hall floor, stretching half the far wall was an arcade/pool hall. There things looked much quieter, the game area being somewhat secluded from the rest of the club, mainly due to what neighbored it. The other half of the left wing was their destination; a separate room with a full sized wrestling ring complete with bleacher stands. The sight of Slo’s Adept Fight Club. The entrance was clamoring with people, but no one was getting in. Good, it hadn’t started yet.

Joshua and Murrs made their way easily through the moshing crowd. Most of them were Norms. The Adepts were the clamoring masses outside the fight sight. Joshua recognized a few faces, but Murrs seemed to know everyone, though not everyone seemed happy about it. Others did though, and the pair managed to reach the front of the line with only a few groans from those waiting. Murrs strode to the bouncer, “Hey Jimmie, boss around?”

Jimmie didn’t seem happy to see Murrs, “No way, man. I already told you we don’t fix fights here, now get lost.” Jimmie stood revealing the massive bulk of him, well hidden when seated. Murrs didn’t seem concerned, but the line wasn’t so sure. As one they backed away giving the trio plenty of room.

“Calm down, calm down. It ain’t about that. My friend here has a job opportunity right up his alley.” Murrs gave the man what Joshua could only describe as an underworld wink.

Jimmie shifted his gaze to Joshua, measuring him. After what was certainly a thorough stare down, his demeanor softened, or as much as mountain is able to. “Okay, fine. I’ll tell him.” The big man shifted back at Murrs, “But if you try and pull some shit…” He didn’t need to finish the sentence. He simply became menacing. The line crowd moved back again, but Murrs still seemed unaffected. Joshua too wasn’t moved by the threat, but then it wasn’t directed at him. He wasn’t so sure his nerves would hold if that look were for him. Jimmie disappeared into the arena, and emerged again shortly later. “He’ll see you. Go on in.” The mass moved away from the door, glaring at Murrs as he passed.

Inside was empty except for a kid who seemed to be working on some sort of projector mounted above the ring. He took mild notice as the two walked toward the back where the locker rooms and office were. Before reaching the open office door, Murrs stopped, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Joshua just looked at the man. “Fine, fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The office they entered was dark but rather plain. The rectangular room stretched along blank walls to a large desk and two simple chairs for the guests. On the other side of the desk sat a man who had the look of someone waiting, yet at the same time like someone who could wait forever if necessary. Oceans of patience ebbed and flowed around him. Joshua understood the moniker ‘Slo’ now.

“Have a seat gentleman.” His voice too held a reserve, and you knew it would sound the same even if the building was burning down around him. “Murrs. Wish I could say it was good to see you, but didn’t I ban you from the fights?”

Murrs hesitated slightly as he sat, looking almost nervously at Slo. Nervous? Murrs was never nervous. Interesting. “I apologize for that,” Joshua interceded. “I asked him to bring me. Told him rather.” Murrs paled a bit beside Joshua, but he let him take the lead, sulking down to a hunch. “I need your help with something.”

Slo’s eyes slid slowly to Joshua. Again he felt the draw of those eyes spread empty for eternity, infinitely calm. “Go ahead.”

“What do you know about the Vendot?”

“Enough to know I don’t want to know.” Slo leaned back in his chair, elbows propped on the arms, fingers arched together.

“What if I made it worth your while to know?”

Slo laughed, abrupt yet measured, “And how would you do that? It’s not like you can pay me off. Money’s not really a marketable asset to us you know.”

“Have you noticed the new vagrants outside the club?”

“Yea. So?” Slo crossed his arms and sighed as if bored.

“What if I told you the Vendot was connected to them?”

“Is that true?”

“Yes. I believe so.”

He thought about it, Joshua could see the wheels turning, weighing the impact of a Vendot infestation this close to his business. He sighed again, this time in appeasement. “Then I’d say it’s worth my while. What’s your plan?”

“The Vendot are secretive. Very secretive. We need to get someone inside.”

Murrs rolled his eyes and scoffed. Slo considered the idea briefly, “Makes sense, but why come to me. I mean I’m not enemies with the Vendot, but I’m not exactly friends either.”

Joshua manifested the file on Agony and handed it to Slo, “You’re not the someone I had in mind.”

Slo opened the file and scanned through, “Agony? Yea, I heard he was in town. You think he’d go for it?”

“He fits the profile. I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t already scouting him.”

Slo set the file down on the desk and went back to his finger prayer position, “Okay, but do you think he’ll go for it?”

“He’ll go for it, but you have to sell it. Think you can handle that?”

“Wait, you’re not really considering this?” Murrs blurted, no longer able to keep silent.

Ignoring the outburst Slo said, “Ya, I can do it.”

Murrs burst out of his chair. “This is bullshit. You’re both crazy. Did you look at the file? What makes you think you can control this guy.”

Joshua heard the ominous click of a gun hammer being pulled back as Murrs felt a barrel press against the back of his head. A shadowy figure that was Slo but not Slo stood behind him while he still sat in his chair. “What makes you think you can control me?” Murrs hadn’t seen it coming. Shock played plainly across his face. This guy was good, real good.

“You’ll do.”


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adept Tales 04 “Stardust”

Broc hated drug dealers. They creeped him out. But if Rand said this guy Tric had something they needed then he’d tough it out. After all, being tough was kind of his thing. The complex he lived in, nick named the Cinder Box for the amount of times it’s gone up in flames, looked to Broc to be just the sort of place a tweaked out dealer would live. Run down, off the main drag, and rarely frequented by cops or outsiders. The kind of hole Norm scum go to be forgotten. As they approached the door Broc had to stifle a shiver. He really did hate drug dealers. They tended to be jumpy. Especially if you weren’t expected, and Broc and Rand were not expected.

Rand went to the door first with Broc behind him in the standard tuff-guy pose; arms crossed over his chest, menacing scowl on his face. Rand, going for a cordial meeting, knocked politely on the door to a response of, “Fuck off!”

“So much for being polite,” Rand said turning to Broc with a mischievous smile on his face. “We’ll just have to knock harder.” Broc knew this to be his queue. He smiled a mirror of Rand’s, stepped forward as the other man slid behind him and slammed into the door with massive force. The door splintered inward revealing a stunned Tric and an even more stunned young woman.

Tric was sitting on a couch, pants around his ankles. She was kneeled in front of him, no doubt putting the finishing touches on an oral performance. Broc could see right away that the girl was way out of this dudes league. He looked exactly as he had imagined; skinny, frail, cracked out. But she was a bombshell. Blonde, nicely proportioned, perfect skin, beautiful eyes. Not the kind of chick you usually find bobbing the knob of some skeevy crank dealer. But there she was.

Rand walked in with his sadistic cool, “I think its time to go love.” The girl didn’t even hesitate. She simply scooped up her pride and ran. “Mind tucking that away there mate?” Tric scrambled to pull his pants up as the two headed further into the room. Broc filled the room with a menacing presence. Tric paled.

“What’s going on? Who are you guys?” Panic was playing across his face along with confusion, anger taking a back seat to caution.

“You’ve been a very naughty boy, Tric.” That sadistic cool laid thick as Rand moved closer to the frail man.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Nerves made the words come out in a stutter.

“Oh come now, you’re telling me that girl was here cause you're just that smooth?” Rand plopped down on the couch next to Tric and it was as if a switch was flipped; sadistic cool to best friend. “Don’t worry, we’re not here to bust you.” A glance at Broc told him to tone down the muscle bit. Tric suddenly found it was easier to breathe. The whole atmosphere in the room seemed to be more inviting. Tric visibly relaxed.

“If you’re not here to bust me then what do you want?”

“We just want to know how you did it.”

“What do you mean?”

“How did you get that girl in here without Sage banging down your door?”

“Oh, that.” Tric stood up and headed toward the kitchen, “Just a special concoction of mine.” It never ceased to amaze Broc the way people instantly took to Rand. Even having busted down his door and chased away his Norm slut, Tric was now treating them as if they were old friends. Rand had this affect on most people, and only part of it was Adept ability. Mostly it was just him. He had that kind of aura about him that drew people to him.

Rand got up and walked over to the standard issue apartment bar that overlooked into the kitchen. Broc followed close behind. Tric opened a cupboard and pulled out a jar of what looked like purple powder. He held the jar up, looking at it with a lustful gaze, “This is Stardust.”


“Yea, Stardust.” Tric shook himself out of whatever dark thoughts he was having holding the jar, and set it on the bar in front of Rand. “That’s just what I’m calling it. Has a nice ring doesn’t it?”

Rand picked up the jar and turned it in his hand, watching the purple crystals swim under the glass, “Sure, sure, but what’s it do?”

Tric hopped up so he was sitting on the counter directly across from Rand. “Ah, well, lots of things really. It gets you high as fuck. Well, not you. Norms. It only works on them. It’s highly addictive, but it has no physical symptoms. All mental shit, so no one goes all cracked out, but they keep coming back anyway. And they’ll do anything for another taste. Anything.”

“Like blowing a cracked out dirtball like you? No offence.” It sounded harsh, even to Broc, but he knew Tric wouldn’t take it that way. Another of Rand’s social gifts.

“Yea, like blowing a cracked out dirtball like me.” Broc mentally shook his head. Amazing.

“But that still doesn’t explain how you kept Sage out of your deal. You gotta be breaking several of their Guidelines.”

“Not really. The drug itself is real. The only manifested part in the whole deal is the equipment used to make it. Other then that it’s 100% genuine so it doesn’t leave an Adept imprint behind. It also has a detoxifying agent in it that cleanses the user of not only the chemical traces of Stardust, but also any other drug in the system. My personal favorite, this turns junkies hooked on smack into clean upstanding citizens hooked on Stardust instead. Which is untraceable. No one comes looking for a source of a drug that doesn’t exist.” Tric smiled brightly. He was certainly proud of his creation.

“You’re pretty smart for a tweaker.” Rand placed the jar on the counter and looked at the other man intently.

“Thanks…” Tric hesitated, not sure what to make of the look on Rand’s face.

Rand sighed and relaxed his stare, “Too smart to be hustling these low games.” This was it. This is why they were here. Rand slipped into his routine. The same kind of routine that made him popular to the neo-nazi youth he used to recruit before he manifested. Again, this was mostly him. His natural disposition inspired people to follow his lead.

Broc had heard it all before. Had even been taken in by it himself. Rand wove a verbal web of how Norms were less then they were. How Adepts were like gods and deserved to be treated as such. How Sage suppressed our freedom for the sake of lesser beings. All beautifully mocked up to be words of gospel to all that heard it. Tric was hooked. Broc could see it in his eyes, filled with open adoration for Rand.

“Shit, you’re right. I never thought of it that way.” Tric’s face held emotion like he’d finally found purpose.

Rand’s tone came dark and serious, “Then you’d be willing to use your gift to help your brethren?” Shadows formed around the apartment and Broc could feel their eagerness at hearing the answer.

Tric slid off the counter, falling to a ragged kneel. “Yes. Yes, I’ll do what ever you want.”

The shadows rejoiced and engulfed the room. Rand’s voice came out of the darkness, thick with jubilant malice, “Welcome to the Vendot.”


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Adept Tales 03 ~Shattered Dreams~ "The Morning After"

The world is often confusing when you first wake up. Shattered dreams blend into the day leaving traces of fantasy behind. It’s strange that I can still clearly remember the dream I was having that day. I was walking through a dark forest that wasn’t a forest. Everything bent and changed around me, forming into something new. Something that was somehow still surrounded by trees but on the edge of being something else. A figure began forming out of the darkness. I could almost make out the wavy face when the dream shattered.

“Wake up Joshua. It’s time.” At first I thought it was the dark figure who said it, and sometimes, looking back, I think it might have been. As the world began to refocus, I saw my father standing in my bedroom doorway. Whatever piece of the dream world that still had me washed away when I saw his face. His eyes where red and puffy like he’d been crying, but the expression on his face was emotionless.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Time for what?” I asked as I frantically got up from my bed.

“Just get dressed and meet me out back.” His voice held the same emotion his face did, none. In 11 years of life, I’d never heard my father talk that way. It frightened me in a way I’ve never experienced since. With that he turned and walked away, leaving me in my confusion and fear.

I got dressed as fast as I could, afraid to leave the man waiting too long. He had always been stern, but something about the way he was acting made me believe the consequences would be great if I wasn’t prompt. As I headed through the house to the back door I noticed Abigail’s door was open. She wasn’t in her room which, normally, wouldn’t be strange all on its own, but with our father acting like he was I began to wonder. I stopped in the hall and listened for signs of life. Our house was small enough and old enough that just about any movement made some sort of noise. I strained my ears, but there was nothing. As far as I could tell no one was home. Maybe she was outside too.

It’s strange now to remember that I wasn’t the least bit concerned about where Mom was. For some reason it didn’t seem out of place even though it was as well. My only thoughts were of Abigail and my father's strange mood. I hurried toward the backdoor with renewed apprehension. Maybe the answers were outside too.

Our house sat nearly hidden in what passed for a forest in the mountains of Southern Nevada. Our backyard wasn’t much more than a small clearing. As I emerged from the back door I nearly fell as I struggled to comprehend what I was seeing. My father stood in the middle of the clearing, head down, arms clutched behind his back. There was a circle of strange symbols burned into the ground around him forming a wide circle. I stopped, mouth gaping open. If I hadn’t been confused before, I was then.

When my eyes could finally stop to focus on one thing, what they chose was my father’s eyes. His head was still down, but his eyes were turned up to me, piercing me. His gaze was like a weight or maybe gravity. I suddenly felt separated from my body and I had a sense that I was taking a step forward. Even now I don’t know why I resisted it, but I did. In my mind I fought for my own control, and as if a fog lifted, my senses rushed back into my body. I took the step back, fear dancing through every inch of my nerves.

“Come to me Joshua.” I felt the sensation try at me again. It was like an invisible force was trying to push me aside. I braced myself, stood my metaphysical ground, and felt the force wash over me and recede. My father’s facial expression never changed, but he raised his head and gave a small nod, “Very good. Now, please, enter the circle and stand before me.”

Maybe it was the please, or that I was able to consciously resist the second wave, but I did as he asked. I slowly walked forward and crossed over the symbols etched in the earth. As soon as I was across I felt something break over me. A sensation unlike anything I’d ever felt before surged through me, and I felt within me a spark spread to meet the growing energy. When the initial rush faded I was left breathless, but I felt energized, like I could do anything. I could still feel the power, but I was riding with it instead of being ridden.

“This is a training circle and has been used for a thousand generations to hone the skills of our people. It is designed to amplify the Shine inside you.” He spoke as a lecturer does to his class. The words seemed official and bland, as if he’d said them a million times.

I knew I shouldn’t ask, but the words formed before I could stop them, “What’s the Shine?”

Anger flashed on his face for only the briefest of moments before returning to his emotionless mask, “The Shine is a powerful energy. It seeps into the cracks of reality and binds with it. It also flows through us, is one with us. We use the Shine to help us bend and shape reality. When you are skilled enough you will be able to use it to manifest your will.”

“Manifest my will?”

“Yes.” He seemed sad when he said it though his voice and expression hadn’t changed. I realized with a shock that I could actually feel his sorrow coming off him in waves.

“Father, where’s Abigail?” There, just for a flash, the sadness filled his eyes, then gone. I felt him draw back his emotions, felt a barrier crash into place blocking me out. His eyes went cold and distant, even more so then before.

“Abigail’s gone.” He continued on like the question was never asked or that the answer was sufficient, “You’ve already had a taste of the first lesson, but let’s explore further.” I felt his essence crash into me. I tried to resist, but it was stronger this time. “You must first learn to protect yourself. Block me out, push me aside!”

I felt my mind open to him, felt the walls that held me together crumble away. I knew, without knowing how or why, that he had me. Every thought I ever had was laid bare. I knew he could destroy my mind, or even rebuild it if he wished. I screamed wordlessly and fell to my knees gripping my head as if it would help. I felt everything wash away, and I was left floating in blackness. Then there was nothing and I was gone.

After what seemed like an eternity, I came back to myself. I was floating in blackness, surrounded by a strange web of purple energy. My father’s voice came out of the darkness, “This is the Spirit Web. It binds all things together.” As he spoke pieces of the world began forming in the web. Even now, I’m not sure how I knew, but I could tell that each partial of reality was attached to the web. I could see almost without seeing as the threads intertwined and connected the trees, our house, even me. “The Shine allows us to see the web,” and as he said it I could see the Shine as well.

The light of it seemed to fill every space on and between the web. The sheer magnitude of it was overwhelming. It filled me and seemed to burst from my pores. The feeling was too much. I screamed again, trying to push it all aside. Suddenly it was gone. I was left panting on the ground inside the training circle, the web and the Shine seemed to disappear, but I knew they were still there.

“Very good,” my father said with a strange smile on his face, “there may be hope for you yet.”


New Direction-ish

I've made a semi-official decision to play out "The" story through Adept Tales. In a way, that's how this whole thing started. When I first came up with the idea, I really wanted to do a comic book (I was 12, they were cool...still are actually, but that's not the point) but the only thing I can draw are stick figures. So I wrote them as stories, but in a comic book format with series numbers and such. Of course I didn't write many (see first post) but you get the idea. So, I'm just going to build off of that original idea.

There are going to be multiple story lines going on so from now on each Tale will have a tittle and possibly a 'Path' identifying which story line it's connected to. For example, a future one might be called Adept Tales 15 ~PitPat and the Past~ "Lets Play a Game".

Also, I really, really, really would like to make these stories illustrated. I've vetoed the comic idea, but I still would love to have a visual interpretation of my world. If you're an artist and are interested, sketch me something based one one of the stories already posted and email it to me.

So there you go. It seems like for the most part Adept Tales is taking over. Other random, non-adept related stories may pop up from time to time, but not often I suspect. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the series as much as I'm going to enjoy writing it. Feedback is always welcome as well, so please comment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Adept Tales 02 "Hallowicked"

Halloween was going to be great this year. It had to be. He’d spent months planing, buying decorations, building props and sets, developing costume ideas…preparing. Halloween was the only holiday Brandon liked. It was the one time of year when the unnoticed could be noticed. When it was okay to be different because, on that night, everyone was. Ever since he was 8 years old, he’d dreamt of having the prefect Halloween. In truth, it had been since then that he’d been planning this night. This night. The thought sent a shiver through him. All this time, and it was finally here.

He had the entire thing planned to a tee. He’d designed the set in the front yard to not only be scary, but to also be easy to put together so it could mysteriously materialize minutes before sundown. His costumes too were a combination of street cloths and elaborate yet easily adorned accessories designed to allow for quick changes depending on the situation and candy customer. These things were the easy part. The part that Brandon’s parents had agreed to. The part they even helped fund. The real trick was the haunted house. The haunted house was the corner stone of the entire plan. The costumes and yard make over where just window dressing. The real attraction was always the haunted house. Unfortunately, Brandon’s parents were not cooperative. “Do what ever you want to the yard, but leave the inside alone!” He’d spent years trying to convince them otherwise to no avail, but this year gave him a unique opportunity.

Brandon’s parents weren’t into Halloween the way he was. Mom’s holiday was Christmas; Dad’s, Thanksgiving. But even those they approached with lackadaisical enthusiasm. What that meant for Brandon was that his parents had never in his life gone to a holiday party of any kind. This year though, Dad started a new job at some multi-million dollar IT company. He managed to land a position that was just low enough on the totem poll to not be overly stressful, but high enough to be noticed if you don’t attend a company event. And lucky for Brandon, J.W. Technologies threw a huge Halloween party every year. Guess who was going.

What may seem to you as a sliver of an opening was the Grand Canyon for Brandon. He knew his parents well. Well enough to know they’d stay at the party till next to ending. Dad was always overly conscious of appearances and would stay and appear to have a great time until they started cleaning up. And if he really wanted to impress someone, he’d help clean up. He really wanted to impress these guys. By all accounts it was a great place to work, and the benefits he got blew any other employer out of the water. Oh yea, he’d stay. Brandon knew this with a reasonable amount of surety.

That gave him the house, but how to get it all ready in time? The party started at 6 p.m. but Dad would want to get there early, say 5 or 5:30, which only left Brandon a half-hour, hour max to set up. He’d been very careful to not tip his hand to his parents. He hadn’t told anyone about the haunted house, relying on the scenery to draw customers on the day of. He hadn’t wrote or sketched any of the details the way he had the front yard. He hadn’t even bought most of the supplies he needed yet. He knew if his parents caught wind of it they might not go or make him go with, and he couldn’t have that. He worked very hard to keep his parents overly aware of that which he was allowed to do and oblivious to that which he wasn’t.

At 4:30 Brandon sat impatiently in his room waiting for his parents to leave. Every few seconds he’d look at his watch or bedside clock, agonizing over each moment in anticipation of the event. He’d already bribed some neighborhood kids into setting up the yard for him, so all he had to worry about was the house. If they left when he hoped they would, he’d have just over an hour to get to the store, grab what he needed, get back and set up the inside before sundown. It seemed feasible to him. He knew exactly what he needed at the store and had been scoping it out for weeks, strategically planning his route to increase expedition. Timed on several occasions, he could get to the store, through his route and back home in 20 minutes. If everything went to plan, he’d have 40 minutes to get the haunt in the house. He could do that. If his schedule got thrown off though, he might be pushing it. If the line at the store was long, if there was traffic, if his parents didn’t leave till later…What time is it? Looking at the clock again, 4:31.

By 5 Brandon is worked up near to frenzy. Why are they still here? Leave already! He watched painstakingly as the moments ticked away. At 5:02 he’s pacing. Come on, come on. If you go now I’ll have time. 5:03. Shit, shit. I should have had a plan B. Why didn’t I develop a plan B? 5:04 and Brandon’s near tears. I can still do it but I won’t be ready at sundown. It won’t be perfect. All that planning. And what if they don’t go at all? So close, I was so—“Brandon hunny, we’re leaving. Have a good time tonight.”

Relief washed over him as he ran to his bedroom window to watch them drive away. As soon as they were around the corner he sprinted down the stairs and out to his beat up orange VW Bug. Maybe next year he’d paint it like a pumpkin like he’d always wanted to, but now wasn’t about the car. It was about the house. He sped away, giving a wave and a nod to the neighborhood kids to make sure they hadn’t forgotten their duties. As he hit the main street, luck continued to be with him; traffic was light. He made it to the store in record time. I’m going to make it! Excitement building, bubbling ever closer to the inevitability of his triumph.

The store too was on his side. Someone was pulling out as he pulled in so he got a close parking space. Everything he wanted was in stock and when he got to the register there was no line. With his cart full and his wallet empty he sped out to the parking lot. He was so focused on his plan and so excited for it’s completion that he almost didn’t see Johnny Landaus and Paul Murphy on their collision course with him. Almost. He looked up from the 5th inventory he’d done on the bags since leaving the register just in time to see them come a bow to his cart.

Paul stopped the cart with the menace typical of every high school bully, “Whatcha got here, Blandon?”

“Huh, huh, Blandon. Good one Paul.” Blandon? Was that Johnny and Paul’s idea of wit? What the hell does that even mean? That he’s bland? Is that even an insult? If so it’s not a very good one.

“Hey, I’m talking to you space case.” The menace level turned up a notch. Paul didn’t need to be witty. He was violent and that trumped witty in a fight.

“Supplies. It’s supplies. I’m putting together a haunted house.”

“A haunted house? Cool.” Johnny didn’t have wit or violence, but he did whatever Paul said and that was dangerous in a whole different way.

“A haunted house, huh? What, you got some strobe lights and fake skeletons so you can lure dudes into your bedroom?” To this Johnny laughed hysterically. At least he thought Paul was funny.

Normally Brandon would be intimidated by this situation, but he was too close to let a couple bullies snare him for long. “Right. I’d invite you guys, but you already have each other, right?" Johnny didn’t get the joke, but Paul did. Brandon watched as his face turned several shades of red and purple. He could feel more than see Paul’s muscles bunch for a punch.

“Everything ok out here?” Saved by the rent-a-cop. Paul’s muscles relaxed, but his eyes pierced into Brandon with a merciless fury. “I said is everything ok?”

With a smirk Brandon just couldn’t help he said, “Yea, everything’s fine. These guys were just leaving.” His eyes never left Paul’s, and he couldn’t help but feel like he was in a movie. He couldn’t believe this was happening. That he’d stood up to Paul and his boy toy. He felt like he could do anything in that moment.

“Right. Let’s get a move on then. You’re loitering.”

Paul backed off the cart as Brandon nodded to the rent-a-cop and continued to his car. When he fired up the engine and saw the time he was amazed. 5:11. Even with that episode he was somehow ahead of schedule. He really was going to make it.

When he pulled in front of his house he was pleased to see the neighborhood kids diligently at work setting up the yard. He smiled and tossed a bag of candy to one of them. This was part of the bribe. When he got inside he immediately got to work. With expert speed and precision he plotted out the course of the haunted house. Elements flew into place as the atmosphere of his home changed into an eerie, creaky, dark abode of horror. By 5:36 every thing was ready. 5:36? I still have a half-hour before show time! Secretly this is what he’s hoped for all along.

Since he had to keep the haunted house secret from his parents he hadn’t been able to do any promoting. And while the front yard did look awesome (the neighborhood kids did an excellent job setting up) he wasn’t sure it would be enough to get people into the haunted house. But now that he had extra time, he could hit the streets and drum up business. He designed a costume specifically for this task. Like everything, it was easy to put on, incorporating his regular cloths. After less then a minute he was adorned in the perfect approximation of an undead sideshow caller. Off he went down the street, announcing along the way, “Haunted House at sundown! Don’t miss the spectacle that will leave you in terror for years to come. Come on down, all ages welcome. No charge and candy for the kiddies at the back door. Haunted House at sundown!”

Time and excitement got away from him. He found that many of his neighbors were very interested in his haunted house, expressing their intent to attend. Soon the whole tract was abuzz. Brandon was elated. All his expectations were not only coming true, but also being exceeded. Only now he found himself blocks away from home with mere minutes till sundown.

He ran full tilt back to his street, fueled by pride and anticipation. When he got to his house, panting from the exertion, his heart dropped. No. Even in his head the word was filled with defeat and depression. The yard was destroyed. Decorations were torn down. Caskets smashed to splinters. Fake webbing burned and smoldering on the lawn alongside ripped open trash bags and their intestines. No! This time more forceful, more defiant. Brandon ran inside, threw open the door, No, no, no, no. Destroyed. Like vandals they’d come through and laid havoc. Spray paint across the faux-walls declaring “Fags this way” and other colorful comments. Decorations were broken, lights smashed. He had a moment to realize they’d only touched the decorations and none of the actual house before the rage broke over him.

Brandon wasn’t normally an angry person. Of all his years of being a zero, none of the bullying got to him too much. So, when the rage broke, it broke hard. “Noooo!” Years of frustration and anger spilled into that word, as the house seemed to vibrate from its force. He fell hard to his knees, slouching down nearly defeated. No. He couldn’t let them win. He’d worked too hard, too long to let those assholes beat him. He began hitting the floor in a steadily growing cadence aligned in his mind with No……, Nooo!” He smashed his fist into the vinyl wood grain floor and something broke over him. But it wasn’t rage this time. No, it was something new.

It was as if he could see everything at once; the front yard, the house in disarray, even himself kneeled on the ground. Then, a light bulb illuminated above his mind; he knew how to fix it. He could put it all back. Without knowing how, he reached out with his mind. He saw the front yard flow back into it’s decorated state. No, not back. Into a new state, a better one. The decorations looked real. Not just cardboard headstones, but real marble. The bones of the dead seemed to have real rotting flesh on their bones, and Brandon couldn’t be sure, but did the wings on that Gargoyle statue just flex?

The inside was next. He stood now in the eye of the storm as the house itself bent and reshaped. Decorations vanished, forgotten, as the walls themselves became the scenery. Ghouls and goblins were released from his mind to wonder the halls, waiting for their prey. Each room was transformed into a different nightmare, each door leading to a new discovery of horror. This was how he really imagined it. Not the shell mock up he had done earlier, but this. Something so near to real that anyone would be convinced they had crossed into Hell. He marveled now at what he had done, still not sure how he had done it. A smile played on his face though, as he stood unafraid in the construct of this new power.

The doorbell chiming pulled him away from his amazement. Outside, just as the sun was setting was a line of people waiting to be let in. Many more were milling around the yard, amazed by the decorations. Brandon heard one of the neighborhood kids say, “We helped put it together. Cool huh?” Brandon had to smile at that. Really they hadn’t done any of this, but he’d let them have their moment. After all, they had done a great job before it was destroyed.

Just as he was about to let the first group in, Johnny and Paul came pushing through the crowd. “What the shit is this?” Paul did not look happy.

“I told you I was having a Haunted House. You didn’t believe me?”

“But we destr—err, I mean, oh yea. I forgot.” He must have noticed Officer Brown, the neighborhood cop. “So, you gonna let us in or what?”

“Sure. Right this way.” As the door closed the people outside could hear the boys’ scream, terrifying and thrilling them at the same time. Some even got out of line, but most stayed.

Soon after, Brandon returned and began taking more groups in. Each was treated to a haunting experience that seemed to vary greatly with each individual telling. Kids experienced an almost joyful tour that left them fearful but not crying. Couples were scared into each other’s arms. The kids from Brandon’s school walked through a maze of terror reminiscent of the kinds of horrors they’d come to expect from the movies of the day. No matter what they saw, each guest exited safely at the back of the house where the kids were treated to handfuls of candy. Adults too if they wanted. All exited except Johnny and Paul that is.

All through the night people claimed they could still hear the boys screaming. That they must have ran home after getting out. How embarrassing to scream like such a little girl when you act so big and bad. No one questioned where they were, but all laughed at how they must have pissed themselves to make a noise such as that. As the night wound down and people went home, Brandon too could hear the screams of Johnny and Paul. He smiled at their terror. I guess I’ll have to let them out soon. Darn.

There was a knock at the door. Brandon hadn’t expected any more people. Time was getting short. Mom and Dad would be home soonish, but he was game to let one more group through. Waiting on the other side of the door was a man and a woman. They were dressed up like old style detectives, except the woman was more Victorian, if that makes sense. “And what are you guys supposed to be?”

The man flashed a badge and said in a friendly tone, “We’re from Sage. I’m Agent Ham, this is Special Agent Fury.”

Um, ok. What’s Sage?” Paul screamed loud and long. The kind of scream that lets you know someone is being ripped open with a dull knife. Special Agent Fury became alert, looking past Brandon into the house, trying to see who had screamed. “Oh don’t worry about them. They’re fine. Nothing can hurt them in here. It’s only a haunted house after all.”

Agent Ham’s expression and tone never changed. “Fun’s over Brandon. Let em out. Then we have some things to discuss. Hurry too cause your parents are on their way home.” The two walked inside, pushing past Brandon, making themselves at home.

“Hey, how’d you know my name?” Brandon closed the door as the two strangers prepared to open one to a whole new world for him.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Adept Tales 01 "Mission 1"

The wind swept deserts of Nevada could be very dangerous. The wind blew harder here sending shards of sand into Tash’s face. I must be close. She pulled out her trusty C69 Rail-Pistol and continued forward. Or at least that’s what she called it. It’s doubtful it’s ever been seen anywhere else. It was like that when you were an Adept. Everyone had their own little toy or creation. Everyone wrapped up in their own little world, and this chick really got herself wrapped up in a doozie.

Tash had been out of Sage’s training program for about 6 months now, but this was her first real assignment. That’s not too cliché. Should’ve brought Ensign Ricky to back me up. Nerves usually came out in sarcasm. Well, nerves and most emotions really. It’s not like she was green though. When she first manifested she became a vigilante of sorts in her city. That’s what drew Sage to her. At least that’s what they told her. But something about this girl she was after was different. She didn’t pop on any of the normal radar. The first Sage got wind of her at all was 3 months ago when a biker gang claimed to have come across a sand witch in the desert. The local authorities thought it was some kind of joke, but Sage makes a point of at least trying to look into any strange activity reported in Norm society, so they sent some feelers out. What they came back with is what gave Tash the wigs.

According to Sage Intel whoever was out in that dessert has never had any contact with other Adepts. It’s like some kind of Adept dead zone. Population density versus square miles or something. Tash didn’t really understand the math, but what it meant was there were no other Adepts to challenge her out here. It meant this chick, for god knows how long, has been living out in the desert, alone, with the ability to shape reality around her with no idea why she’s able to do it or anyone to mediate her. It meant Simple Sally probably has one hell of a god complex and an appetite for destruction. If the biker’s statements were any proof, this is one twisted sand bitch. Sage policy though is to at least try to rehabilitate. This was supposed to be strictly a snatch and grab operation, but somehow she doubted it.

The wind seemed to get more and more furious as she continued on. Sand slammed into her with surprising force, nearly knocking her to the ground. Fuck this. Tash activated the armor hidden under her cloths. Metal alloy of an unknown and technologically advanced origin surrounded her and left her looking like a futuristic super soldier. The sand and wind were no match. That was easy. Either she’s not that powerful or she wasn’t expecting to be resisted.

Her answer came thundering into her mind. She saw the sand grow dark and furious in front of her. A shape of a women barely on the outline moving in, then the gravel sound of sand slammed into her ears and into her mind, shouting with a voice of fury, “How dare you defy me!” Tash fell to her knees, hands to her head, C69 forgotten in the sand. The voice ripped her to shreds from the inside out. The fury of sand, shards of infant glass tearing at her soul.

In agony she managed to say in an almost inaudible whisper, “Activate sound filters.” The click and hum of advanced electronics manifested into her helmet, then silence. Free from the voice and the fury of the sand, Tash threw her self backwards, backpedaling on the ground away from the shape in the sand. It regarded her with eyes of darkness. ‘It’ now because Tash was no longer sure this was just some crazy girl. Something else was at play here. She could feel it. Almost as if the shadows heard her thoughts, the darkness began to swarm around her. Like a see of blackness it rose on all sides, blotting the desert sun already diminished from the sandstorm still in progress.

Training, reaction, finally kicked in. Flip kick back to her feet, a Turbine-X950 Super Shotgun in her hands. Click-click, Boom! A barrage of shrapnel flew into the sand figure, scattering particles of its makeshift body into the wind. Click-click, Boom! Another and another as she stepped closer and closer, each shot whittling the creature away.

Beneath the sand the shadow began to grow, filling the empty spaces with a solid void. As Tash gazed into that emptiness she began to slow. Click…Click……Boom. Her mind dissolved into that nothingness, floating toward the safety of oblivion. Just then a tiny little dot of light caught her eye and as she watched it, it grew. It began to shine brightly, illuminating the dark, and suddenly she found herself back starring at the sand-shadow beast, shotgun forgotten held loosely at her side. What happened? Oh yea! Re-energized, she blasts into the sand with renewed determination. Click-click, Boom! One after another, but this time a light surrounds each shot, shredding the darkness.

As Tash watched the darkness subside, she noticed the sandstorm begin to die down. More then that it seemed to be running from the dark. Perhaps rehabilitation isn’t out of the question. As the final shots chased away the shadows, the wind died down to a whisper, the sand parted and fell revealing a woman lying still on the ground. Tash moved cautiously forward, C69 back in her hands now instead of the sand shredder, eyes never wavering from the figure on the ground. She began to stir. ‘She’ again because whatever ‘it’ was, was gone. The face turned to Tash was sharp with dark features; sand worn and hard, but a weariness shown at the eyes. She had the look of the betrayed. Like one who was promised the world and failed to get delivery. Shocked, alone, afraid.

Gun still pointed Tash released the visor of her armor, revealing her own face. “I’m from Sage. I’m here to take you in. What’s your name?”

The woman looked up with sullen eyes, “Sandi. My name’s Sandi.”

“Will you come with me willingly Sandi?”

Sandi’s eyes began to drift up with watery abandon, face poised on the verge of collapse, but the floodgates held. She seemed to pull herself back from the edge, composed for the moment. Eyes still diverted though, looking somewhere up and to the right, but not really looking at all.

“Sandi. Will you come with me?”

Her eyes came back to Tash’s with a measuring look. In that moment Tash saw something she hadn’t expected. Intelligence, but more than that. Something on the edge of that look struck Tash as devious. As a calculated gesture of measuring the odds. Part of Sandi wanted to take the fight further. But in the end her eyes reflected their master’s surrender, “I will.”

With those two words Tash felt Sandi’s resistance slip away. It was over. The C69 went back to it’s home on her hip as she extended a hand to Sandi. As they headed back to Tash’s XJ-50 HoverCyke she began to feel better the further they got from the dead zone. Strange, because she hadn’t realized anything was wrong, but as they moved away from the scene of the battle, a sensation of dread she hadn’t realized she had began seeping away. She saw that Sandi seemed to perk up too, though she was still defeated, in more ways than one. She's going to need a lot of help, but that’s what Sage is for.

As they got to Tash’s HoverCyke the sun was just reaching the tips of the distant mountains. Well, as far as cliches go, riding off into the sunset ain’t bad. I even got the girl. Looks like mission 1 is a success. “Too bad Ensign Ricky didn’t make it.”


“Nothing Sandi, nothing.”


"The" Story, Manifestation, and Adept Tales.

Ever since I was about 12 years old I've been working on this one story. "The" story. My opus, my epic, my 'Dark Tower' series if you will. The details and characters have changed and grown over the years as new life experiences created new fodder for my world, ever expanding with a life of it's own. Of course, as stated in the previous post, since I lack focus, much of this story is not written down, but rather scattered through out my mind. Interestingly enough though, either because of my lacking focus or in spite of it, what was once a JR High kid's idea for a comic book has mutated into a franchise of least in my head. The actual implication and publication is a work in progress, this blog being one example of that.

Which brings me to the point. Of the random crap that may appear on this blog, there are two things that are certain to: Manifestation related info and my short story series Adept Tales. What are those you ask...well let me tell you.

Manifestation is a pen and paper RPG (Role-Playing Game) I created. The setting for the game is the same one as "The" story and they tie together. If you'd like to check out Manifestation you can view it here. It's only a beta version and needs more testing and some tweaking, but it's playable. The site it's hosted on can be a little screwy when trying to view. Sorry about that. Until recently you could download a .pdf version from, but due to low activity, they took it down. When and if interest is peaked in it I'll look into hosting the .pdf again.

Adept Tales is an idea I have for a serial. It was born out of a need to create an identifiable society and culture not only for the Manifestation RPG but also for "The" story. In its present (and newly created) form it will be short stories and narratives highlighting life as a Manifest Adept. I'd like, at some point, to make them into comics or graphic novels (a hint to any artists interested). While some of the stories will intertwine and all will take place in the same 'world', each one will most likely be dramatically different from the others. Such is the nature of Adept life.

So there you have it, this blog's first official direction. I leave you now with an exert from Manifestation. This is the section that describes the basic setting and background of the world. Enjoy.

Manifest Your Reality…

All of reality in the world of Manifestation is bound together by a Spirit Web; from the smallest particle to the largest constructs. The number of possible Threads in the web is effectively infinite and a single person could be connected to millions at a time depending on their Path in life, although the average person is completely oblivious to their existence.

Saturated in and around the Spirit Web is a mysterious energy called the Shine. This powerful energy illuminates the web, allowing certain people to see the Threads connected to them. These Manifest Adepts, or just Adepts, are able to tap into those Threads, manipulate the Spirit Web, and manifest their own reality.

The Shine is not native to our world. Unbeknownst to most, our world is actually part of a Binary-Dimension; two parallel worlds interconnected. The Shine originates from our sister dimension, called Jar-Din; a world of wonder and power where people make their own destiny and create their own realities. All Adepts are descendents of these once great people. Unfortunately, where light shines, the shadow of evil lurks just below.

As there is the Shine, so is there the Shade. Locked away and forgotten about for millions of years, the Jar-Din knew next to nothing about it. When the Shade was released from its prison over 8000 years ago, it rained chaos upon both worlds. Seeking the power offered by the Shade, an Adept named Vorlok, along with his vicious Vendot minions, waged war to seize control of Jar-Din’s reality from The Body of Thorns and the Sovereign Rose. After a catastrophic war lasting thousands of years, the only way the Rose and his Thorns could devise to prevent his ascension and the destruction of both worlds was to seal the door between them, locking Vorlok and his Vendot away. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were forced to relocate to our realm.

One of those, a man named Saige, realized right away that he and his people could have a dramatic and possibly dangerous effect on the inhabitants of the Earth Realm. He, along with a small group, created the Order of the Saige as an informal police for Adepts. They quickly grew in power and influence, not only among Adepts, but also amongst the human population, as they easily infiltrated and pulled the strings of whatever ruling body was in power.

Over time, having been cut off from its source, the Shine dissipated until it was barely present in our realm at all. With its influence drained, Adepts where no longer able to see their Threads, preventing them from manipulating the Spirit Web. The Order of the Saige all but disappeared leaving only scattered remnants behind and most of the Jar-Din history was lost. Though the most powerful may have survived, most of the original refugees died off, passing their Lineage on, albeit unknown without the presence of the Shine.

Less than 100 years ago the Shine began flowing back into the Earth Realm through a small crack in the seal. Slowly the crack grew bigger and more and more of the powerful energy seeped into the world. As it did the long lost descendents of the Jar-Din began awakening to their power. A new age of Adepts was being born.

The scattered Order of the Saige quickly reinserted itself as the Adept Law. Calling themselves simply Sage, they infused their organization with that of the infrastructure of our society, masking themselves as a secret government agency. Burdened with not only monitoring Adept activity, Sage also tries to identify and contact new Adepts. They estimate that around 10% of the world’s population has some Adept Lineage, though most have so little Sage ignores them. These Low Lineage Adepts often have no idea they’re special, thinking themselves just lucky or of exceptional character. Others may believe they are psychic, practice witchcraft or even become spiritual leaders. Only about 1% of all Adepts have a Lineage high enough to fall under Sage’s jurisdiction.

The word ‘Lineage’ may seem to point to family lines, but ancestry has little to do with it. Instead Lineage is defined as an Adept's closeness to the Shine and their individual ability to see and manipulate the Threads connected to them. While it is true that some Adepts manifest their power with a high Lineage already and that it is often associated with a particular bloodline, even those that start as Low Lineage Adepts can grow to be very powerful. When Adepts manipulate the Spirit Web, even unconsciously, they grow closer to the Shine and their Lineage grows allowing them to see and manipulate the Spirit Web more easily. Over time and with enough practice, even the most pathetic of Adepts can rise to heights unknown.

Unfortunately, with the return of the Shine, the Shade has emerged as well. Even with Vorlok trapped until the gateway is fully opened, his disease of destruction and despair continues to spread with the reemergence of the terrifying Vendot. Lacking any real knowledge of the world they descend from or the enemy they face, Sage is worn thin battling this threat and is desperately trying to recruit new members. While the level of chaos continues to rise, rumors of a new Rose are beginning to emerge as well. Will this mythical figure be our salvation or our destruction? The lines are being drawn; all reality is at stake. Where will your Path take you and will you be strong enough to manifest your own reality?