I have completely dropped my update schedule! Sorry about that!
Some real life issues have cropped up is all. They will be dealt with shortly.
I have completely dropped my update schedule! Sorry about that!
Some real life issues have cropped up is all. They will be dealt with shortly.
Rohan kept quiet as the pair proceeded beyond the entrance and into a series of hallways, instead glancing around the building itself as they moved on. The walls were a deep red wood, of some sort he had never seen before, with a light blue line that ran down their middle, with the blue line having points on it that glowed slightly brighter and followed the pair, with the walls often having what looked like old-style paintings that, as one neared, were revealed by the barely-visible crystal fronts to be advanced display screens in disguise. Hardwood floors were covered with red silk rugs, each of which showed no signs of wear or dirt. Lighting was provided by gold candle holders, designed in the style of vines growing out from the wall and holding two candles, which had faux candles with holographic flames. Tables, often positioned below paintings and holding crystal vases designed to look like giant closed roses, were of a hand-carved dark wood, with the legs designed to look like winged women clad in togas, whose wings extended across the sides of the tables to provide support. The temperature was maintained at a constant evenness by what looked like steam pipes overhead, having vents every so often in which one could rotating screws that moved the air and helped expel some out. And then there were the doors, which lacked doorknobs or handles and were a dark wood and carved with an elaborate depiction of a woman in a bikini top and sarong standing on a beach and holding the sun in one hand and the moon in the other; rather than the normal circle with spikes and crescent that were used for those two, these depictions involved what the sun and full moon actually looked like in the sky, right down to the craters on the moon’s surface.
“Do you know how the Empire came to be?” the woman asked, after a few moments of silence.
“The Corporate Wars,” Rohan answered. “During the Assault on D.C. The Federal and Exxon forces were fighting each other in the first battle… then Hashtag Jefferson showed up, charged the Washington Monument with magic, and used it to obliterate both forces and seize D.C. for himself. He built a force and conquered the United States quickly, the Exxon Alliance joined forces with him, and they went on to conquer North America.”
“You know the Imperial Truth well,” the woman said; from the tone of her voice, it was neither a compliment nor insult. “But, they often forget what led to so many soldiers being near D.C.
“The United States had suffered a total economic collapse and was in a state of civil war. And both sides had devoted most of their resources to fighting for D.C. Both sides had the majority of their troops there, and the war would probably have been decided by the outcome of that battle. That is why the Exxon Alliance chose to make D.C. their first strike… they intended to catch both sides fighting and obliterate them both. The only reason the Exxon forces did not succeed is an outbreak of influenza caused the leaders of both sides to negotiate putting off the battle until another time… neither one wanted to rest their armies on top of a disease outbreak, and this particular strain was more vicious than normal.”
“Why didn’t they use satellites?” Rohan asked.
“The civil war,” the woman answered. “Both sides were shooting down any satellite that wasn’t loyal or allied to them. As a result, satellite coverage of the United States had been nonexistent for months by that point. There were also communication difficulties, due to blocking techniques being used, and sending a scout would have risked giving away the fact they planned to attack.”
“So the attack went worse than expected?” he asked.
“Their initial plan was to exterminate one quarter of the civil war forces before a defense against them could be mounted,” she said. “They exterminated one third. It is likely the Exxon forces would have won with far fewer casualties than expected had it not been for Hashtag Jefferson.”
Rohan nodded and fell silent, not certain what to say.
“Would you say the American Empire is better than the United States?” the woman asked.
“Yes,” Rohan answered. “We’re not making the same mistakes. And our system is far less prone to corruption.”
“‘Far less prone to corruption,'” the woman repeated, amused. “You know the Imperial Truth quite well. Do you think it is still better than the United States even with having to hire mercenaries to keep law in the Midwest?”
“Of course! The Midwest is sparsely populated.” Yet, even as he said it, Rohan knew he didn’t sound so certain.
“The United States had no need for mercenaries to do the same job,” the woman pointed out.
Rohan said nothing. He had no idea what he could say to that.
“A large portion of this job requires you to understand the limits of the Imperial Truth,” the woman said. “And to understand when the Imperial Truth is wrong.”
Rohan blinked with surprise when they came to a plain dark wood door, which was even more surprising in that it did have a doorknob. The door also glowed rather brightly with red runes and orange lines of energy, seeming to pulse at times as it sat there. He was more than a little uncertain he wanted to open it, yet the woman he followed made no effort to reach for the door.
“Do you remember the path we used to get here?” the woman asked.
Rohan blinked. He hadn’t actually been paying attention to that. “No.”
The woman reached over and smacked him upside the head. “Pay attention!”
Rohan sucked in his breath as the pair approached the front doors; the doors stood there, twice his height, and were decorated with the Assault on D. C. from the Corporate Wars; it depicted the mage-backed Exxon Alliance forces taking on the technology-backed Federal Government in an attempt to seize power over the United States. The blimps, from which one could see rockets streaming from, that represented Exxon Alliance air forces mixed with the the fighter jets the Federal forces still used. Ground forces, made up of soldiers using machine guns and tanks on the Federal side and people launching fireballs and walking steam-powered mechs on the Exxon Alliance side could be seen intermixing, with the center showing them fighting on top of the bodies of their slain comrades. And off in the background, one could see it: The Washington Monument beginning to glow, with a lone figure standing in front of it. Notably, the doors lacked handles.
“Stop,” the woman said, her hand reaching up to block Rohan from touching the door. “This is the test. You must bypass the security on this door.”
Rohan blinked and looked to her, only to notice how her face was neutral. “What if I fail?”
“You die,” the woman said. “We do not take security lightly. If you cannot accept this risk, you may always return to prison.”
Rohan reached up, his hand edging nervously towards the door, only for the woman to reach up and smack his hand away. Irritation began to radiate from her, and she made a low frustrated growling noise in her throat. He could also feel an energy flow, as though part of the air had become charged with static and suddenly began to taste of silver, around the woman; it was the telltale sign of magic usage. Then, with a flick of her hand, he found himself floating off the ground and turning to face her, able to see the irritation written across her face.
“If you do not have the skill to do this, walk away now,” the woman ordered. “This lock is magical and will not accept any random fiddling around that might get you past common locks.”
“I don’t sense any magic from that door,” Rohan said.
“Then you need to pay attention,” the woman responded. “Look at me.”
Rohan blinked, and did. Other than the unimpressed look having changed to irritation, her appearance had not changed.
And then the woman smacked him upside the head again, this time hard enough to get a yelp of pain from him. “Look at me. And pay attention. Brief glances and staring will get you nowhere.”
Rohan rubbed the side of his head and looked at her again, this time more carefully.
The woman stood nearly two inches short of six feet in height, with hair down to her rear end that was green with orange highlights and held back out of her face by a maiden braid; the hair itself showed hints of the green being dye, as the green had that faded appearance of cheap dye that was beginning to wash out. The woman’s face had eyebrows slightly on the bushy side, which also showed the same signs of being dyed as her hair, but with signs of grooming over eyes that constantly shifted color as the woman moved. Her thin, delicate nose led down to lips softly painted pink, below which were a delicate chin, with her chin having the slight discoloration to it that indicated a magically-hidden tattoo; from what he could see, the tattoo was the shape of a bird of some kind, though he couldn’t tell what species. He also noticed how her face had a faint bit of makeup, designed to blend unto the skin, under each eye, as though hiding some blemish or tattoo. Then came her delicate neck, which was covered by a golden choker that glowed with power and which almost completely covered another tattoo that appeared to have a red circular top. Her body was covered by a red silk kimono, which seemed to be padded by something rather bulky that clung close enough to the woman’s body to reveal she was actually rather curvy under the padding, that was decorated with pink flowers and gold dragons breathing flames, with each dragon having a small ruby for an eye. The woman’s left hand featured a stylized piece of gold finger armor that resembled a dragon’s claw that had the faint glow of hidden magical runes, while her right hand featured a gold glove decorated in white runes that glowed with power. The slight scent of a soft sunflower perfume that covered the charged ozone of a magic user wafted from her direction.
“Good. Now look at the doors,” the woman ordered. “If you just glance at it, I will set you on fire for annoying me.”
Rohan’s eyes turned back to the doors, this time with him taking his time on detail. The doors stood there, twice his height, and were decorated with the Assault on D. C. from the Corporate Wars; it depicted the mage-backed Exxon Alliance forces taking on the technology-backed Federal Government in an attempt to seize power over the United States. The blimps, from which one could see rockets streaming from, that represented Exxon Alliance air forces mixed with the the fighter jets the Federal forces still used. Ground forces, made up of soldiers using machine guns and tanks on the Federal side and people launching fireballs and walking steam-powered mechs on the Exxon Alliance side could be seen intermixing, with the center showing them fighting on top of the bodies of their slain comrades. And off in the background, one could see it: The Washington Monument beginning to glow, with a lone figure standing in front of it. The door lacked handles still, and the doors had a very tight, almost imperceptible seam where they met. Then Rohan noticed that the door was covered in glowing runes that were just barely within human perception; the blimps glowed a slight blue and the jets red, while the ground forces were a chaotic mixture of green and orange and brown. The Washington Monument itself glowed a soft, comforting purple, while the carved glow around it glowed a hostile white. Interestingly, the figure in front of the monument wasn’t glowing; curious, Rohan touched it, only to blink in surprise as the doors opened automatically, swinging outward to reveal the room inside.
“You have passed the first test,” the woman said, starting inside.
Rohan did not cross the threshold, but instead just peered inside. The room had white marble walls, which were decorated every three feet with flowers… the center of each flower having tiny little dark holes on them, like one would see on a drain or a gas dispersal units. The floor was a cheap white stone tile, of a kind marketed as easy to clean blood off of, with each tile having a center light-grey circle that didn’t quite meet the tile, with the edges of the circle being the black of a separation that ran deep into the ground. The ceiling was of a matching tile pattern to the floor, save that the circled on it were a bit set into the ceiling and appeared capable of sliding aside. The only other decorations in the room were four statues, of gold, depicting men in old United States military uniforms… with each statue carrying assault rifles that looked realistic enough to possibly be real guns with a gold plating… and two cheap faux-wood tables near the door; on each table, a light, almost imperceptible coating of dust could be seen. The only exits from the room were the door to the outside and a door opposite that, with the other door being a heavy dull grey metal and resembling a blast door designed to look like a regular door. And then there were the faint, almost unseen, lines of energy that coated the entire room.
“If you wish to get the job, you must enter the room,” the woman said, giving him a curious look as she waited.
Rohan frowned at the statement, but knew of no other entrances. He then kneeled, reaching to place his hand on a floor tile, right over the lines of energy. And he concentrated; he wasn’t entirely certain of what he was doing, only that placing his hand on spell or rune lines and then concentrating on them getting more energy somehow worked. The lines of energy on the floor began to glow brighter, and brighter, easily becoming visible to the human eye… and then they vanished. Rohan then stood, dusted his hands off, and stepped into the room, looking to the woman to see what she thought.
This time, the woman looked impressed.
“Overloading the enchantments with magical energy so the surge protection activates and shuts them down,” the woman said. “Clever. And when the surge protection cycles and the enchantments come back up, no broken enchantments to signal a break-in.”
“Next test?” Rohan asked.
“That was the final test,” the woman said. “Your skills with physical objects was never in doubt; if it was, you would not be here. We needed to see how you handled more… creative security measures.”
“So I got the job?” he asked.
“That is up to my employer,” the woman answered. “I would suggest you be on your best behavior… you are technically breaking and entering, and she may have you killed for it at her discretion.”
“Is there any part of this job that doesn’t involve potential death?” Rohan asked, his voice just slightly shaky and reflecting how unnerved he was at the woman’s even, neutral tone.
“If you are not willing to risk your life, then why did you open the front door?” the woman countered.
March 20th. 2335 C.E.
Residentual Quarter, Kansas City
Rohan groaned as he awoke, the car he was in jolting a bit as the shocks failed to adjust for the road. The car itself was completely black inside; black leather seats, black carpeting, black tinted windows that allowed one to see nothing of the outside, and a black sound-proof mirrored glass divider that separated the back of the car, where Rohan was sitting, from the front. Lighting was provided by tiny rectangles along the edge of the roof, which only managed to further emphasize just how depressingly dark the car was. It didn’t help that the car itself smelled of nervous sweat, some quite old, mixed with blood, urine, fear, and a slight orangish scent that was popular with certain mass-produced cleaning solutions advertised for their ability to remove blood.
Rohan paused as he caught his reflection in the mirrored glass; he looked young for his age, appearing closer to sixteen than the twenty years he currently held. Until one looked into his blue eyes; he was told they normally seemed dull, almost reflecting a more naive outlook at times, but right now they stared with a fierce calculation that one normally saw only in soldiers and those far older than he. It didn’t help that those eyes were staring out over a crooked nose, which had been broken at least twice in his life. His upper lip held a scar on the left side, where it had been split at one point, and there was a faint scar that traced his right cheek from cheekbone to chin. His brown hair was raggedy, having not seen a proper combing in ages, and fully reflected the fact its most common trimming was done with a knife. His eyebrows had the normal thickness of having never been properly groomed, while his face was still slightly red from the fresh shaving he had just prior to entering the car. His clothes were a patchwork of rags, some of which didn’t match and some of which were from very old military uniforms, and his feet were covered by highly scuffed boots that didn’t match. The most striking feature was the set of runes tattooed upon his neck and wrists; right now, the runes glowed faintly with a soft blue energy that kept giving out waves of confusion, almost like the enchantment the runes held was uncertain what to do.
Rohan then glanced back to the paper which got him into this situation; paper itself was rare enough, normally only the domain of the rich, and only the most elite still used it for anything other than books. To have been delivered a hand-written letter in a paper envelope was almost completely unheard of; yet, right now, Rohan was holding such an envelope containing such a letter in his hands. He pulled it out once again and opened it, ignoring the gold letterhead that consisted only of two dragons surrounding a sailing ship.
Those wishing to seek a way out of their jail sentence take heed:
An opportunity awaits those of a nonviolent nature.
But those who do so must be strong of heart and not of a murderous disposition. Loyalty is rewarded, treachery earns a quick death. There is much money to be earned by following this opportunity if one chooses to continue after freedom is earned, but one’s path is not bound to this once the shackles of society’s debt are removed.
If you have received one of these letters, it is believed you may hold the skills that best suit this opportunity.
Rohan blinked as he read it one more time; the entire thing was strange. The letter lacked any kind of name and the letterhead was one he didn’t recognize. Nor had he been allowed to consult the prison’s library before making his decision; it was either take a risk or refuse the offer on the spot. The look on his face, as he glanced back towards the mirrored glass, revealed his silent worry this choice was a mistake.
All chances of turning back came to an end as the car pulled to a stop and the door closest to Rohan opened, letting daylight flood the car’s interior.
Rohan sighed to himself and stepped out, only to pause at the view before him: He was on a floating island. One quick glance behind him confirmed it was a floating island, connected to the multi-level road system via a bridge it could extend or retract. What Rohan could see of the island consisted mostly of the large mansion in the center, which appeared to be a mixture of Victorian, clockwork, and castle-like architecture that was designed to appear to be made entirely out of unpainted wood. The mansion even had a tower that, too all appearances, could raise and lower its height. The rest of what could be seen consisted of the road leading to a curved driveway, grass fields with a few trees scattered about haphazardly, and a small pond off behind the house. The edges of the island were maintained by forcefields, given the light shimmer of light that announced the forcefields, but still hand physical handrails at the edges. And then there were the two people standing near the car; a man that barely registered and a woman that was so stunning he could not help but stare.
The woman stood nearly two inches short of six feet in height, with butt-length hair that was green with orange highlights and held back out of her face by a maiden braid. The woman’s face had eyebrows slightly on the bushy side but with signs of grooming over eyes that constantly shifted color as the woman moved. Her thin, delicate nose led down to lips softly painted pink, below which were a delicate chin. Then came her delicate neck, which was covered by a golden choker that glowed with power. Her body was covered by a red silk kimono, which hid most of her figure but hinted at just enough to show she was rather curvy, that was decorated with pink flowers and gold dragons breathing flames. The woman’s left hand featured a stylized piece of gold finger armor that resembled a dragon’s claw, while her right hand featured a gold glove decorated in white runes that glowed with power. The slight scent of a soft sunflower perfume wafted from her direction. And then he noticed the unimpressed look upon her face.
“And what did this one do that is worth even considering him?” the woman asked, her tone matching her expression.
“Burglary, theft, larceny, grand larceny, grand theft auto, assaulting a police officer, causing damage to Imperial property, causing damage to city property, causing damage to private property, assaulting an officer, reckless endangerment, smuggling, grand resisting arrest, misdemeanor terrorism, grand destruction auto, inconveniencing a nun, and treason,” the man answered.
The woman looked slightly less unimpressed. “I am surprised he didn’t get the death penalty for the nun.” Then the woman rolled her eyes. “And I do not know why they bothered with a treason charge; that’s normally reserved for jaywalkers and other minor criminals.”
“Shall I send him back?” the man asked.
“No,” the woman said, motioning to Rohan. “Come. It’s time to see if you are worth keeping.”
As Rohan started forward, the woman reached up to lightly smack him upside the head.
“Next time, don’t stare,” the woman ordered, before turning to head inside.
March 14th. 2335 C.E.
Skydock Quarter, Kansas City
Caramel hated coming to the city’s top; the constant movement of people and boxes and airships always unnerved her. And then there were the sounds; clangs of metal hitting metal, soft whumps as docking bolts blew to let airships leave, the hissing of airlines as they connected and disconnected, the hisses and screeches of steam-powered equipment, the buzz of electricity and forcefield from the more advanced equipment, the roars of fire, the grunts and groans of dock workers moving shipments onto and off ships, the hammering and hissing and screeching of ship repair, the whirring of clockwork mixed with beeps of electronic equipment, and the constant low murmur of dock workers and ship crews and harbor masters all mixing together. And then there were the smells; oil, coal, ozone, water vapor, sweat, blood, spices, silks, rubber, silicon, and many more minor scents. The air itself tasted of ozone and gunpowder and that soft tingle that indicated magic. And the sights! The metal walkways, guarded by forcefields with a light shimmer of holographic light to let you know they were there, mixed with the panorama of being a little over seven thousand feet above the ground, the constant movement of airships of every style imaginable, and the strange sights of exotic animals, androids, clockwork automatons, golems, and people of varying races and hair styles, many of the hair styles far outside what used to be the natural range for humans, around, with the people wearing clothes that ranged from simple rags or patchwork ensembles to the finest silks and richest jewels, medieval armor, and even body-hugging armored suits and powered armor. Altogether, it combined to form an assault on every sense, easily leaving one who was not used to it overwhelmed.
One thing that did not help Caramel’s visit was the fact she had a phobia of heights. She always had; despite living in a city of towers, she much preferred to keep herself to ground level. Being able to see the Missouri river run through the city and head out towards the Mississippi, as well as seeing the heavily forested land south and east of the city with the tiny towns interspersed in it, did not make up for the knowledge she would have enough time to strain her voice from screaming in terror before she hit the ground. That the city had safety systems in place were also not a comfort; the safety systems were AI-controlled, only when programming it they programmed into the AI that it should only catch those deemed of worth to the city, but forgot to set any parameters as to exactly what they meant by “of worth to the city.” As such, the AI’s tendency to use its magnetic field emitters to catch people depended entirely on how well the AI liked whoever was falling to their doom. It also didn’t help that the AI’s medical files had suffered corruption and had not been successfully reinstalled; as such, the AI was currently learning the tensile strength of the human body through trial and error. As such, not being caught by the AI was generally considered the less horrible option.
And then Caramel saw the person she had been waiting for on this particular unpainted metal walkway: Captain Janessa Washington, one of the most feared pirates to roam the skies; a woman said to have smashed more blockades, stolen more hidden treasures, and defeated more tomb guardians than any captain outside the Imperial Air Force could ever hope to claim. The captain was an unimposing five and a half feet tall, with long hair dyed a flaming red and green eyes that stared fiercely out from beneath carefully-groomed eyebrows. And the woman had chosen her outfit carefully, choosing to not stand out at all by, instead of dressing like a dockworker or normal ship person, dressing in full pirate regalia; Janessa was wearing a stereotypical black pirate hat, complete with white skull and cross bones on it, with a black eyepatch covering one eye, a brown tailed jacket over top of a top that consisted of a brown corset-like bodice with a white shirt on beneath it and brown breaches. Completing the outfit was a set of brown walking boots. The captain had chosen to openly display pistol holsters, though the pistols in them were modern semi-automatics instead of the magical derringers some people had taken to using, and was wearing a bandoleer loaded with ammunition inscribed with runes under her coat.
“Do you have it?” Caramel asked.
“Got it,” Janessa said, before stepping forward to give Caramel a hug. “How’s mom?”
“Unhappy that her eldest daughter chose a pirate’s life over butling,” Caramel said, grinning as she hugged her dear friend back. “She keeps telling me I shouldn’t have gotten you out of that mess with the Imperials.”
Janessa snorted. “Bet she likes it even less you pay me to do legally what I once did illegally.”
“She approves, actually,” Caramel said with a smirk. “The Imperials are happy with it as well. You don’t destroy their ships now.”
Janessa giggle. “But I had so much fun destroying their ships! Especially the Indestructible Might. That ship was just asking for it!”
Caramel sighed and rolled her eyes. “You would.” Caramel reached up to wrap an arm around Janessa’s shoulders. “Come, let’s discuss this map…”
“Kay,” Janessa said, wrapping her arm around the other woman’s waist. “But I’m going to need a new crew member. Sadistic bastard used poisoned darts…”
Welcome to my blog! I’m still setting it up, and I’m not entirely certain on the current theme, so that may change…
Well, expect the story to come when it comes. I’ll add posts for it over time, as I think of them. In the meantime, feel free to just enjoy looking around. And, yes, I know how empty it is.
If you have any questions/concerns/comments/untapped gold mines you wish to get rid of, please comment and let me know ^^