[Story] The Future History of Jakob Pettersohn (11/Jul/09 - Final Chapter)

Started by Tapewolf, February 24, 2007, 03:15:04 PM

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I was originally intending to follow this on from The Chronicles of Jakob Pettersohn, but I've changed my mind and decided to run the two stories in parallel.  Although it is technically the sequel, it should in theory be possible to read from scratch.

This series is set around 150 years after the current DMFA strip.  I've currently got material for about six chapters - whether it continues past that, I guess we shall see.  (EDIT: It made sixty chapters!)

Unlike last time, I'm going to double-post and add the first chapter immediately after this header.  The chapter index will replace this text when there is more than one chapter.

(EDIT: Someone HAD to go and post after the index, didn't they?)

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6

Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12

Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18

Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24

Chapter 25, Chapter 26, Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Chapter 29, Chapter 30

Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 33, Chapter 34, Chapter 35, Chapter 36

Chapter 37, Chapter 38, Chapter 39, Chapter 40, Chapter 41, Chapter 42

Chapter 43, Chapter 44, Chapter 45, Chapter 46, Chapter 47, Chapter 48

Chapter 49, Chapter 50, Chapter 51, Chapter 52, Chapter 53, Chapter 54

Chapter 55, Chapter 56, Chapter 57, Chapter 58, Chapter 59, Chapter 60

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

I was going to say.. that's a very short chapter :-)

Edit: Yes, I do believe I had to. :-)
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"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


The Future History of Jakob Pettersohn

Chapter 1 - Joshua

The dim figure of a husky staggered through the driving snow, clutching at his torso.  The pain had faded to a dull ache, and that probably wasn't a good sign - too much blood loss from the bullet wound.  He tried not to think about it, but a few minutes later he collapsed to his knees.

Why not? he wondered, but his home became a sudden and vivid memory.
Not here, not yet...
The husky struggled for a moment and stood up briefly, but he was too weak and the cold was creeping in ever faster.
Unwilling to give up he crawled on his hands and knees, a trail of blood in his wake until finally, he could go no further.
It was worth a try... he thought sadly.  It no longer felt cold.  Then his arms gave way and his head pitched sideways into the snow, a faint weary smile on his face as his eyes closed and everything went dark.

* * *

Waking was sudden.  Joshua found himself lying on his back, staring at the ceiling of a brightly-lit white room.  At first he thought he was dead, until he noticed that the lighting came from fluorescent tubes in the ceiling.

Hospital, he thought.  I must have been in an accident.

All at once his last moments in the snow came back to him with a sudden jolt... and that was when he noticed something rather odd.
An ability that had been with him for his whole life - one so natural that he didn't usually think of it - was now with him no longer.

"I can't breathe!" he whimpered.  It should have come out as a shout, but it didn't.

"You don't need to," said a voice.  "But calm down.  Calm down and don't worry about that right now."

"I don't understand!" he cried, struggling to turn his head so he could see the speaker, but his body was still too limp to respond properly.

"Look, I'm afraid this will come as something of a shock," said the voice sadly, "but please, don't panic.  I assure you that you're quite safe here, and there is nothing for you to worry about.

"Now.  I need to check your memory.  What is the last thing that you remember before waking?"

"The snow... I was shot... I must have collapsed.  Who are you?"

"Just call me Kristofer," said the voice.  "Yes, you collapsed.  I had to put your body into a state of suspension to keep you alive until we could begin the operations that saved your life.  But as I say, I'll explain more about all that later.  Really, everything will be fine and there is nothing to worry about.

"Now.  I believe you are a Mr. Joshua Oswald, are you not?"

"Yes.  Where am I?"

"A... scientific outpost in the North.  I'll explain about that later as well, but right now you are far more important.  We need to make sure you've healed properly."
Kris turned a page in his clipboard and made a brief note.

"Now.  I'd like you to raise your right arm, and place your hand in front of your face, if you can..."

Josh promptly moved his left arm.  "Oops, sorry..." he said and raised the correct one.

"Good.  Now, examine it carefully." said the doctor.

"It's not mine," Josh replied.

"It is, well, sort-of.  We had to do some skin grafts.  Do you think you can manage to sit up?"

The husky struggled.  Whatever they had done to him, it was obviously extremely major because he felt very, very strange.  Probably he was still under the influence of some powerful anaesthetic.  Thinking about it, that might explain why he couldn't feel himself breathing either.

At length he managed to flop himself into a more-or-less sitting position.  Looking up, he caught a good look at the speaker, a white wolf in a lab coat who was eyeing him with a friendly, although rather concerned expression.

In the background there were two other figures in lab coats - a grey vulpine who seemed to be about the same age as the doctor, and someone who appeared to be a caracal studying a display.  Every so often he cast nervous glances at the doctor.

Standing to the side was a large, free-standing mirror which Kristofer wheeled into place and tilted so that the husky could see himself.  He was naked except for a pair of briefs, but what shocked him most was the fur patterning.
It was rather like his coat but not quite, and it was these subtle differences which he found rather jarring.  Indeed it almost looked like an artist's impression of his fur and whatever it had been it was most likely dyed.
His head looked okay though.  That was a relief - at least he still had the same face - but had they really needed to graft that much skin for a gunshot wound?

"This is, as they say, 'the new you'." Kris continued.  "As I believe I mentioned, you very nearly died.  We had to do a lot of work to save your life, but I am confident that we have succeeded.  Do you think you can you rub your arm, please?"


"I want to check for nerve damage.  Rub your arm with your hand, and tell me what it feels like, if you would be so kind."

Josh complied with the request, and soon found out why.  It didn't feel the same as it did before.

"What have you done to me?" he exclaimed, with a sinking feeling - and even that didn't feel quite right.

"Just one last check, and then I'll explain," the doctor promised.
"Now, take one of your fingers and put it in front of your nostrils."

Becoming used to the strangeness, the husky did so, and as he had half-expected there was something very funny going on.

Whatever it was, it must be bad, because the doctor is obviously taking great care to break it to me gently, he thought.  Placing the finger before his nose, he quickly discovered that one nostril was blowing a continuous stream of air, while the other...

As he put his finger closer to it, he realised it was actually drawing air in.  He looked pointedly at Kris, who turned away before taking a deep breath and launching his explanation.

"You don't need to breathe because you don't have any lungs anymore.  I had to replace them with an electric blower.  Two actually... one for redundancy."

Josh made a strange sound - he no longer had the ability to choke, or laugh for that matter.

"If you pinch one of your arms and flex it, you'll find that you don't have any muscles either.  Your whole body is synthetic, except for your head and neck.  Inside your chest cavity is an oxygenation system, blood pump and various other life-support systems.  The power-plant is in your belly, a small cold-fusion generator."

"What about my fur?" the husky asked.  'What about my brain' might have been a more pertinent question, but when something like that happens to you, an entirely coherent and sane response is something of a bonus.

"Oh, it's synthetic polymer.  I couldn't get the fur to sense things I'm afraid, that's all done by your skin, but I'm sure you'll get used to it."

"What does that make me, then?  Some kind of robot?"  The scepticism in his voice was something which Kris had anticipated.  It was only natural, after all.

"Mostly, yes.  Your body is one of my experiments...  I was fairly sure it would work, since I've been able to test most of the components in isolation.  But I didn't have the means to test the entire system until you came along.

"It's a good job you made it as far as you did, you know.  If you hadn't set off my intruder alarms, we wouldn't have found you until it was far, far too late for me to save you.

"Now, I guess I'd better explain a few of the basics.  You don't need to eat anymore.  In fact you can't because you don't have a digestive tract - or any other organs below your neck, come to that - so I advise you not to try.
You will need to take some substances once a day to remain alive however, it's a solution of various nutrients that will be absorbed directly into your bloodstream."

Kris strode over to Josh, and gave him a sharp poke in the chest.  His indignation melted into surprise as a panel in his breast swung open.
Woah... he's not shitting me about this robot business.

"All you have to do is attach the canisters to this receptacle, and your systems will do the rest.  You get the canisters from a special vending machine.  See the data port here?  You'll have to plug yourself into the vending machine.  It will then create just the right mix your body needs using the data from your internal blood analyser.  It will also tell us about any impending or actual fault conditions, either in your bloodstream or your hardware."

Joshua was impressed.  "You've really thought this through, haven't you?  It sounds like I could live forever."

The doctor's expression became somewhat sombre.  "I'm afraid not.  The furrae body is a complex, self-stabilising system which I cannot replace so easily.  What I have done will keep you alive for a while, but not forever."

The husky could see that there was something he was reluctant to add.

"So how long is 'a while', then?"

"Five years, ten, maybe fifteen if you're lucky.  But don't worry - I have another body you can inhabit when that time approaches.

"There are a few other things I should mention.  Your body will be considerably more prone to disease I should think, and you won't be able to do a number of things which you took for granted before.  Swimming, for instance.  But if you remain here as one of my staff, I'll do my best to see you have as full a life as you can, given the circumstances."

"Can't I just upgrade to the new body now?" asked Joshua, although he wasn't entirely sure he would be able to cope with any more strangeness.

"No.  You're not ready for it yet.  Believe me, if you thought this body was a shock, the next one will be even more different.  If we hadn't found you when we did, I might have been forced to try it, but the jump could have driven you insane.  It is better that it happens in stages.

"Besides, if you don't mind, I'd like to know how well your current body performs."

Joshua followed as the doctor showed him to his quarters.  They had advised him to sleep, and that seemed like a good idea.  Perhaps when he woke up he would be safely back at home and none of this 'mission' nonsense would have happened.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


A bit short though well written as everything I can recall you putting up on the forum. The reliance on dialogue with fairly sparse descriptions to work the revelation slowly into it all is a good move in my opinion. A bit creepy actually as I wonder just what was going while I progessed through the chapter.

llearch n'n'daCorna

Hmm. The breathing thing... seems odd. Sure, a mechanical blower is going to be more efficient, but... there's a lot of other complexity involved.

Like your diaphragm, for example. And the inter-costal muscle groups, etc, and the way you need to blow air across the vocal cords - which, in order to sound normal, is going to require phrase groups, and breathing in between them......

From what's been described, this guy could now recite the whole of the Lord of The Ring without pausing. Which would sound rather strange...
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Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on February 24, 2007, 04:01:41 PM
Hmm. The breathing thing... seems odd. Sure, a mechanical blower is going to be more efficient, but... there's a lot of other complexity involved.

Like your diaphragm, for example. And the inter-costal muscle groups, etc, and the way you need to blow air across the vocal cords - which, in order to sound normal, is going to require phrase groups, and breathing in between them......

I could have looked into that further, but I am actually pretty squeamish so I didn't.  That said, I did go out of my way to look for problems that most people either ignore or don't think of when the stick-a-living-head-on-a-robot thing comes up.  Suffice to say, Josh's voice isn't exactly normal.

For the curious, the genesis of this story was in KoH's 'cybernetic canine' picture in this thread.  At first I assumed it was a cyborg (actually it's a body suit of some kind), and it set me off on a train of thought like "how would someone get into that condition?"

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

"Don't you need to pee?"
... or, there's still stuff going in, there still has to be stuff going out.

.. then there's the obvious dealing with touching things, whilst not having the same senses as he used to. Like, say, picking up a raw egg without breaking it... And the, ah, equally obvious, "deal with a pretty lady cuddling up to you"

Let's not forget coping with wind. Or balance. Or integration issues. Or, say, catching a cold, and what effect that has on the rest of the system (if you're using a mechanical blower, it'll blow out a constant stream of mucus.... or just get much noisier when the nasal passages contract... Can you say "steam whistle"? I knew you could...) Or...

But I digress. :-)
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Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on February 24, 2007, 05:39:17 PM
"Don't you need to pee?"
... or, there's still stuff going in, there still has to be stuff going out.
Indeed, but that's dealt with by the vending machine, the canisters he has to swap out contain the waste matter.  Most of the blood/body-fluid maintenance is external to his body.

Quote.. then there's the obvious dealing with touching things, whilst not having the same senses as he used to. Like, say, picking up a raw egg without breaking it... And the, ah, equally obvious, "deal with a pretty lady cuddling up to you".
Let's not forget coping with wind. Or balance.
The mind-machine integration is actually pretty solid.  Why will become clear around chapter 4, but I ain't explaining it now because it would give too much away.

QuoteOr integration issues. Or, say, catching a cold, and what effect that has on the rest of the system (if you're using a mechanical blower, it'll blow out a constant stream of mucus.... or just get much noisier when the nasal passages contract... Can you say "steam whistle"? I knew you could...)

I could be wrong, but aren't most of the antibodies manufactured by the bone marrow?  Josh doesn't have any so a cold is more likely to finish him completely unless they use some kind of magic to cure him.  Then we have questions like "what weird stuff has Kris done to his skull?" has he removed the mucus membranes entirely?

Keep 'em coming... I can use this stuff to bulk out chapter three  >:3

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

Drake Manaweilder

hmm... well, heres something else to explain in Chapter 3:

(if you are squemish about blood then... yeah) 

If memory serves,  the average human body wares out about 10-50 thousand blood cells a second. (I could be wrong though) Sense ol' bucket butt dosen't have as much I would imagine he would need to get rid of the warn out stuff and get it replaced by new stuff quite often. My guess would be perhaps once every two-three hours. I'm aware that odds are the cell "death rate" is likely not as much in his case, but still enough to be somewhat of a threat.

man that sounded alot clearer in my head... L:


Quote from: Drake Manaweilder on February 24, 2007, 09:11:17 PM
If memory serves,  the average human body wares out about 10-50 thousand blood cells a second. (I could be wrong though) Sense ol' bucket butt dosen't have as much I would imagine he would need to get rid of the warn out stuff and get it replaced by new stuff quite often. My guess would be perhaps once every two-three hours. I'm aware that odds are the cell "death rate" is likely not as much in his case, but still enough to be somewhat of a threat.

Yeah, I'm well aware of that (not the figures, but the problem).  Kris does say that he doesn't know how long Joshua is going to live, but in any case it's a stopgap measure, not a solution.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

It acts as a filter, and removes shite from the bloodstream, IIRC. Hence why if you remove someone's spleen, they're much more vulnerable to infection.

Or, at least, certain types. it's also involved with removing the old, dead red blood cells - at least, according to wikipedia.

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Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on February 25, 2007, 10:29:19 AM
It acts as a filter, and removes shite from the bloodstream, IIRC. Hence why if you remove someone's spleen, they're much more vulnerable to infection.
Not wholly sure what you were referring to by 'it', but filtration is accounted for.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

spleen. Acts as a filter.

Sorry, I started with a different sentence, realised it was irrelevant and incorrect, removed it, and didn't change the imprecise pronoun...
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Chapter 2 - Angels

"May I ask... what you are?  About your wings, I mean?" asked Joshua nervously, as they wandered through into the main living quarters of the ice-bound complex.  It was the following day - or so the doctor maintained - the sun having made its brief appearance while Josh had been asleep.

One of the reasons he was nervous was because Joshua was sure that despite his own shocked state, his host hadn't had wings the day before.

"I'm an Angel," Kris replied, with a slightly sharp edge to his voice.  "There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"

"Oh no," he replied hastily.  "But you didn't have wings last night...?"

"No.  I was afraid that waking up in the hands of a Creature would spook you on top of the aftermath of your revival, so I concealed them with a patch."

"Ah, I was just wondering."

"So was I," said the doctor in a faintly amused tone.  "You still haven't really explained who you are, or how you came to be skulking around in the Arctic with a bullet hole in your chest."

Joshua was about to reply when a small black creature drifted slowly past them carrying two frying-pans joined together by a piece of string, clanging faintly as they banged together in the breeze.  Kris froze and then went berserk.

"Kirian, what the HELL do you think you're DOING?" he screamed.

"Fishing," the little creature replied happily in a vaguely female voice.

The doctor put his hands over his eyes.  "Put the pans back where you found them," he said in a voice of forced patience, as though he was talking to a small child, "and do not enter the kitchens again.  That is an ORDER."

The thing didn't really reply, but floated back in the opposite direction singing some nonsensical words to herself.  Joshua watched her recede until a faint beep from behind made him glance around.

"Yes, Dad?" said a tiny voice from Kristofer's wrist.  The white wolf was staring at his watch and talking to it in a tired voice.
"Nilson," he said, "Your little... pet... has been stealing things from the kitchens again.  Can you please try to keep her under control?"

"Not again," came the voice of the grey vulpine. "Where is she now?"

"Hopefully going back to the kitchens, but I'd like you to make sure she doesn't get distracted or something.  Oh, and check that she hasn't been hoarding food again."

"Righto," he said and the watch fell silent with a burst of static, the tiny image of the fox's face vanishing to be replaced the time once again.

"What was that... creature?" Joshua asked in a tone of bewilderment.

"That was Kirian, my son's Warp-Aci," the doctor replied.  "He summoned her as an end-of-year project while studying magic at university.  She can be rather trying at times, although there's no denying we're short-staffed here.  Still, I wish he could have summoned a more... psychologically stable familiar."

"Warp-Aci?" he replied, a faint air of suspicion and puzzlement in his voice.  "Aren't they usually the preserve of 'cubi?"

"Not necessarily.  Anyone with the right kind of magical know-how can do it.  I'll admit it's a bit more difficult for us, Angels being better at Light magic and all, but it's not insurmountable.  The main thing is that not many Creatures can be bothered to deal with their incessant whinging - or insanity.

"Now, I guess we could stand here all day discussing Kirian or Warp-Acis in general, and ordinarily I'd be happy to do that, but I do believe you were about to tell me who you are, and more importantly, what you were doing here."

"Is it really so important?" asked Joshua reluctantly.

"Yes.  There are a number of people out to kill me.  And while the fact that you were the one who was running leads me to suspect that you are relatively harmless, I don't believe in taking chances."

"All right," Joshua said.  He would have sighed, but that ability didn't really work anymore... it was all he could do to make his voice sound relatively normal.

"I'm a spy.  I was sent to break into a suspected weapons facility in the Northlands and see if it really was a weapons plant."

"An industrial espionage gig, hmm?"  Kris' eyes narrowed.  After my secrets, are you? he thought to himself.  We'll have to see about that.

"More-or-less.  The facility was being run by the Nagristi brotherhood."

Kris froze.  "I see," he murmured, his eyes narrowing even more.
"That's not good.  They're one of the groups who are after my head.  But how did you end up here?"

"I went to the complex in a light aircraft, but unfortunately they had some of their own as well.  I almost got caught while I was trying to leave the facility, and they pursued me by air after I took off.

"Their plane wasn't armed, but they still managed to put a bullet through the fuel line with small-arms fire.  I was forced to make an emergency landing around here.  Then they landed too, and came to finish me off.

"I lost them in the snow, but not before they put a bullet through me as well."

And then there's the other facility I was sent to find afterwards, he thought to himself.
Kris gave him a curious look, as if he had half-guessed that Joshua was holding something back, but he didn't press the husky for any more details.

"While we're on the subject, how did you spot me in all this snow?" the husky asked.

"As I said, there are a number of people who'd like to see me dead," said Kris, "so the complex has quite a tight security net.  You were actually spotted by one of my falcons."

Joshua didn't really know what to make of that.  "Falcons?  What do you mean?" he asked, thinking of feral hawks, avians or perhaps some breed of Phoenix.  But neither of these seemed particularly likely in this ice-veiled wasteland.  The icy wastes of Hell, he thought suddenly.

"They're patrol aircraft," the doctor replied.  "F-16 falcons equipped with thermal imaging systems."

A puzzled expression crept over the husky's face.  "F-16?  I've never heard of that designation.  Where do they come from?"

"Oh, I hired them from another world, a realm inhabited by humans.  A little place called 'Earth'."

"Hired?" grinned Joshua, "Don't you mean 'stole'?  I've heard of interplanar travel, but it's not like you can pay the lease by direct debit."

"No, I really do mean 'hired' - just not in the sense you're thinking of.  These falcons are my employees."

"Employees?" he said - his voice making a passable impression of spluttering - "What on Furrae are you talking about?"

"They are not merely vehicles," said Kris, with a smile.  "They're sentient machines.  These poor creatures were going to be sent off to fight in some pointless and idiotic war in their home dimension and country.

"They were willing to do almost anything to avoid that, so I stepped in.  Once I'd convinced them that I was on the level, they jumped at the chance and since then they have taught me virtually everything I know about robotics and artificial intelligence.  They even helped me design your body, in fact."

Joshua was boggled.  Perhaps it was because he'd been exposed to such an incredible amount of strangeness in so short a time, but - perhaps as part of his attempt to keep his hold on reality - he was once again wearing that cynical expression that had graced his features when Kris had told him he was a robot.

"Okay," he said.  "For the sake of argument I'll accept that your complex is patrolled by true AIs in aircraft form.  But the part I don't understand is this - if they came from a human realm, how did you wander around without attracting attention to yourself?"

"That's another patch," said Kristofer, and placed a small ring upon his finger.  He shimmered and was replaced by a human.

"Nice trick," said Joshua, and clapped his hands.  For a moment I was afraid you were an incubus, he thought, but he didn't say it - the doctor might think he was prejudiced against Angels as well.

"You know, Farlane reacted in about the same way you did," said Kris, removing the ring again.  "He's the commander, by the way.  I'll take you to him later, if you're up to it.

"But anyway.  Naturally enough, he was skeptical of my claims of being a dimensional traveller.  Only for him, I took the ring off."
He smiled, remembering the moment when he'd turned into a winged wolf-man right before the big aircraft's eyes, like some twisted circus act.

"And for an encore, I made five jetfighters disappear without them leaving their hangar," he laughed.  "I wish I could have seen their commander's face when he found it was empty.

"But the real pièce-de-résistance was the guards."  Kris touched his watch.

"What guards?" said Joshua.  "I haven't seen any..."

Before he could finish, one of the bulkhead doors opened, and something large, black and snow-flecked, with glowing crimson eyes padded towards them.

"Come here, please," said Kris.

"Yes, Master," the creature replied in a stilted, obviously synthetic voice.  He, she, or possibly it, was a robot in the form of a feral panther.  The teeth and claws looked formidable, and Joshua shivered.

"Where is R-MAC?" asked Kris.

"He is inspecting the service bay, Master." the panther replied.

"Good.  What time is it?" he added.

"It is twelve fourty-three, Master." said the panther immediately.

"Very good, you may go," said Kris and the robot padded off.

"Not very bright is it?" Joshua remarked, and to his horror the panther came to a halt and glanced back at him.

"He didn't mean it," called Kris.  "They are my guards," he added for Joshua.
"They may not be all that smart, but they are sentient and it would not be a good idea to provoke them unless you wish to test my safety interlocks."

"Duly noted," Joshua replied, as they marched towards what he guessed was the service bay.

"Mac," called Kris, "are you in there?"

"Yes boss, coming up," called a voice that was rather different from the previous speaker.
Although the panther, when he finally emerged, looked almost identical to the other guard, the way he moved and the way he spoke exuded an air of intelligence that suggested he was at least as smart as Joshua - maybe smarter.

"What time is it?" Josh couldn't resist asking.

"Time you got a watch," replied the panther.  "You're the new guy, right?"

"I guess so," Joshua replied.  "And you are...?"

"Panther R-MAC," he replied, "while I haven't officially earned a name, Kris has very graciously christened me 'Mac' and upgraded me to full spec anyway.  That's probably illegal, but I ain't complaining and besides, I'm not sure Earth laws apply here anyway."

"I'm not sure I follow," said Joshua.

"Okay, it's like this.  We start off as grunts," he replied.  "With the same basic memory set that was programmed in at the factory.  Since you asked me the time I guess you've spoken to one just now.

"Anyway, after a few years of guard duty, we tend to learn and grow.  Panthers who display a natural aptitude or accomplish a feat of loyalty, intelligence compassion or whatever are granted a name as a reward, and usually upgraded to support higher intelligence.  Kris did it to me anyway, even though I wouldn't have qualified under Guild rules."

"Thanks Mac," said Kris.  "But we'll have to catch you later.  Right now, it's time for Joshua to meet Farlane."

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

They object to hearing the truth? That's an unusual trait in an AI...
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Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on March 09, 2007, 06:15:55 AM
They object to hearing the truth? That's an unusual trait in an AI...

They object to being insulted.

By the way, 'Nagristi' was assembled from random word fragments that sounded nice.  Turns out it's Serbo-Croat for 'bite'.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

I guess it depends on tone of voice. I took it as a simple comment upon reality, not a criticism... but I can see how it might be taken as the latter.
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And now the discussion of Joshua's metabolism becomes moot...  :mwaha

Chapter 3 - Demons

"Joshua Oswald," said the judge, "you have been found guilty of sixteen counts of murder and cooking without a license.  I hereby sentence you to death by fructifixion."

"What does that mean?" asked Joshua, his voice strangely unconcerned.

"He doesn't know!" crowed the judge, and the entire court burst into laughter.
"It's a bit like being crucified," he said.  "But it also involves..." he hesitated.
"Fruit," added one of the clerks helpfully.

But before Joshua could find out exactly what his execution would consist of, the doors burst open and a grey, winged canine skipped happily into the room.
With a look of pure delight, he drew out an assault rifle and as the husky watched in astonishment, proceeded to mow down the entire court - men, women, children and nuns.  Nuns?  I didn't order any nuns, he thought.

The canine aimed the gun at Joshua for a moment, before blinking at him with a shocked expression.  "Oh! I'm sorry," he said, and at that moment Joshua knew the true meaning of terror.

His death sentence, seeing the court slaughtered before his eyes and being threatened at gunpoint had not frightened him in the least, but the wings on top of the other canid's head chilled him to the bone.  Incubus!

"Please don't kill me," he begged, but the 'cubi had already darted away and was now doing a strange dance in the middle of the room.  Taking out the assault rifle again, he inscribed an occult glyph upon the ceiling in bullet holes.

"Ta for the dream, mate!" he said and made his way out of the court door, clutching a cane and performing a dance routine as he left.

Joshua woke a short while later, still frightened.
Had it only been a dream?  He hoped so, but such a dire threat to his soul was not something to take chances with.
Gingerly, he peered under his bed, half-expecting to see the demon lurking in wait for him.  Fortunately it was empty, but with a sinking feeling, Joshua realised it hadn't been a dream.  On the floor there were some shards of plastic where something had been trodden on, and he was pretty sure he would have remembered doing it if it was him.

Under the bed was a grey primary feather.

* * *

"An incubus?" said Kris, slightly puzzled.  "Are you sure you weren't dreaming it?"

"Quite sure," Josh replied.  "I found one of his feathers."

Kris looked dismayed, and touched his watch twice.  "Nilson, Oskar," he said in a rather irritable voice, "You haven't seen an incubus anywhere, have you?"

"No!" they replied, not quite in unison.

"Never mind." he signed off.  "Anyway, Joshua.  Can you describe him?  And exactly what happened?"

"He was a grey canine.  A wolf, I think, maybe some kind of fox.  He murdered everyone else in my dream and shot some mystical symbol in the ceiling."

"Ah.  Well, it sounds like he was just having a laugh.  I wouldn't worry about it too much."

"You're joking, right?  He's an incubus!  He'll have my soul out before you can say 'Uh'!"

"I doubt it," replied Kris, eyeing him curiously.  "Did the symbol look like this, by any chance?"  He sketched an intricate glyph upon some paper.

"That's the one."

"Good.  He's an old friend of mine.  What he's doing here I don't know, but he should be pretty harmless unless you attack him.  Weird, but harmless.
"Let me know if you see him again."

"But... but how did he get in?  You said the security was top-notch!"

"Well, he probably teleported.  The base is protected by anti-teleportation wards, but I gave some of my more trustworthy associates a charm to allow them to enter anyway.  Now, are you up to meeting Farlane?"

"I think so," said Joshua.  He had almost met the aircraft a week or so ago, but he had been forced to take off to investigate after one of the other pack members had reported a UFO.

Since then, Joshua had caught a cold.  His reduced metabolism had made him considerably less resistant to disease and Nilson had spent a long time helping him recover, often resorting to magic to augment the husky's crippled immune system.
It was fortunate that Kris had performed surgery upon his nose while they were rebuilding him.  A side-effect of this surgery prevented it from being able to run, which would not have been good considering his rather unconventional mode of breathing.

* * *

"Greetings Cap'n," said Farlane, saluting with a thin arm that retracted from his belly.  The way in which his cockpit had been redesigned gave him two large yellow eyes on the front, lit from the back and with a small black pupil in each that tracked Joshua's movements.  They were probably cameras.
This, along with the gloss black paint on the nosecone, gave his face an appearance not dissimilar to that of a cartoon dog.

The eyes were mostly to give the aircraft a face to talk to and expressions to read.  In flight, their primary senses were radar and a few other external cameras.  Speed, positioning and various other flight parameters were mapped directly into their short-term memory systems.

"Any updates on the intruders?" asked Kris, getting straight to the point.  Even if Joshua hadn't been able to make it, he was still due for the report.

"We got a decent look at one," he replied.  "Light aircraft.  Primitive stuff... propellors, internal combustion engines and meat pilots.  No offence intended," he added quickly.
"There are several of them, and my guess is they're making a sweep."

"Oh dear," said Kris, his voice hardening.  "That might mean they're looking for us.  Or Joshua," he mused, glancing at the husky with an expression of concern.  He began pacing.

"Still.  They shouldn't be able to find us quite that easily by air, not with the wards I've got."

Farlane had taken something of an interest in Joshua, not least because he had helped design the husky's body.  Nonetheless, their meeting was rather brief as the security situation was still rather tense.

"They're rather like wolves," Kris said afterwards.  "Apparently their designer used the mental patterns from a labrador retriever - feral canines, I mean.  They tend to form packs, and I'm their Alpha."

As they left, Nilson appeared courtesy of Kirian, the latter eating a large pastry.  She had not even bothered to defrost it beforehand.

"Dad, I have found another one," he said, with a sombre, yet determined expression upon his face.  "I've got to attend it to it very soon.  Can you manage without me for a few days?"

"It will be inconvenient.  The big day is likely to be next week, assuming the intruders don't force us to reschedule, but I think I can manage.  Joshua will have to take over some of your duties for the time being.  How soon must you leave?"

"By tonight at the latest.  Much longer and it will be too late."

"Okay.  Stick around until ten if you can, after that, go for it."

"Thanks Dad," he replied and vanished a few seconds later, leaving a small pile of crumbs in the shape of a smiley face.

"I've got to do something about Kirian," muttered Kris.  "I wonder where you can go to get Warp-Aci house-trained?"

"What was all that about?" asked Joshua, staring at the crumb-laden spot where the pair of them had stood.

"Oh, Nilson is a very driven kid," said Kris, ignoring for the moment that his son was over five hundred years old.  "He intends to save someone's life.  Like me, he believes that life is too precious a thing to waste, so he is off on what you might call a mercy-mission."

Kristofer didn't seem too willing to discuss Nilson's mission in detail, but the husky was still curious about the difference in species between him and his father.

"If Nilson is your son, how come he's a fox?" he asked.

"His mother was a vixen," the wolf replied.  "A Being, though.  She passed on many centuries ago.  As you may know, if a Being and a Creature have a child, the child will usually take the appearance of the Being side of the family."

Kristofer was about to elaborate on the wiles of his youth and the way in which he had fallen for a Being, when he was suddenly interrupted by several things.

Firstly, the lights changed colour to red, followed swiftly by the sound of an alarm.  Then a small yet penetrating voice spoke urgently from Kris' wrist.

"Captain, we have a perimeter breach!" barked Farlane.

"What?!?" he yelped, bringing the communicator to his face as someone would glance at a watch.  Upon it, the aircraft's face bore a strange expression.  It wasn't real - the face was actually rendered by one of the creature's processing cores.

"How many, and how did you miss him?" Kris barked.

"At least one confirmed.  He's got some kind of heat shield because he didn't show up at all on the THIALDs!  We didn't even know he was there until he entered the building itself.  Probably a lone agent, though."

"Right.  Alert all units.  Bring him in alive if possible, but use all necessary force if he does turn out to be hostile - which I suspect will be the case.  And keep your sensors peeled for any more intruders."

"Aye aye, Cap'n!" said the aircraft and signed out.

Suddenly there was a crash and the figure of a ram entered the room.  He moved like lightning, most likely with demon reflexes - the horns and leathery wings upon his back were something of a giveaway.

There was an interesting discrepancy though.  Most demons would favour magical weapons or attack spells, but this one carried a small yet deadly firearm.

Without saying a word he took aim at Kris, who made a strange gesture with his hands, what seemed to be either cowardice or a pathetic attempt at covering his head.
"No!" shouted Joshua, and pushed the doctor aside.  The ram hesitated for only a moment before turning the gun on him instead. 

From behind a dark shape sped on all fours, leaping and tearing into the assassin's flesh with razor-sharp talons.  But just as the red-eyed creature's steel fangs had closed around the demon's throat, he made one last desperate bid to complete his mission.  The trigger clicked home, punching a hole clean through Joshua's doggy skull and ending his life with a sound like a car backfiring.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

This assumes that the skull is still the seat of the intellect, which, given the various redesigns, is reasonably optional.

... unless, of course, I just gave something away... Oops... ;-]
Thanks for all the images | Unofficial DMFA IRC server
"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on March 18, 2007, 10:55:27 AM
This assumes that the skull is still the seat of the intellect, which, given the various redesigns, is reasonably optional.  ... unless, of course, I just gave something away... Oops... ;-]

Nope.  I'd say 'guess again' but you might hit the correct answer.

One of the things I was hoping to draw speculation on was who Jakob is, but I probably haven't done a good enough job in confusing that issue.  :rolleyes

Especially for the people who read the original drafts...


J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


I commissioned a picture of this chapter from Turnsky, but it isn't ready yet.  The sketch is awesome, though :P

Chapter 4 - Incubi

Josh woke on the operating table.  Again? he thought, and then suddenly remembered what had happened.  The flash in the gun's muzzle and the sound of a gunshot echoing as the consciousness ebbed away from his shattered mind.
I can't be alive, he thought.  I don't have a brain anymore.

"Kris?"  He tried to speak, and couldn't.  But the doctor saw him move.

"Good, you're awake." came his voice.  "Nod if you can hear me."  Josh nodded.
"Don't try to speak yet.  I've had to transfer you to that other body I've mentioned on occasion.  You're going to find it quite a jump."

Josh got up unsteadily, and noticed something a bit odd with his eyes - they didn't seem to be focusing quite as quickly as they did before, and they were taking a lot longer to adjust to different lighting levels.
He rubbed them but they felt very, very wrong.  Eyeballs are soft, but his were not.  They were hard like glass and his eyelids felt strangely different.  He had a sudden suspicion, and an odd chilly feeling came over him.  Not like before the change, when his fur had still been able to stand on end, but a strange feeling in his mind.  He tried to speak again.

"Shrrriiiizzzzz..." he said.  There was something wrong with his tongue, his larynx and his lips.  He tried again.

Kris came over and looked down at him with a worried expression.
"Can you move your fingers properly?" he asked.  Josh rippled them, and then took the pen that the doctor had proffered.
What have you done to me and how? he wrote, bastard took me down with a headshot."

"You remember your first day here?"  He said, and Josh nodded vigorously.

"You said you were a robot.  That wasn't strictly true - you really meant 'cyborg', since you had a living canine brain.  Damn," he added, realising that he had just given the game away.  Screwing up his eyes, he took a deep breath and ploughed straight into it.

"You're dead, Joshua.  I've shut your old body down in preparation for anyone else who needs it.  This body is brand new - hopefully the fur should be the right colour this time."

"Deeaad?" slurred Josh, slowly re-learning how to speak, "What's in heere?" he tapped his head, and found to his concern that it was a good deal more solid than before.  It was more like tapping a brick than a living skull.  Uh oh.

"Your brain is a bank of neural processors, my friend."

Josh stared back at him, with a look of horror in his synthetic eyes.  He didn't speak, so Kris continued.

"That's why it's hard for you to talk.  The interface to your speech synthesizer is necessarily somewhat different from what you're used to, although I've done my best to make it as similar as I can, and your voice should sound more normal than it did before, once you get the hang of it."

"But... I'm not really me!  The real me is deaaad.. that makes me a copy!  I'm just an impostor..." he wailed.  The emotions he felt were not helping his diminished ability to speak.

"No." said the doctor, with an air of finality.  "You aren't a copy, I can assure you of that.  You really are the original, the one and only Joshua Oswald."

Kris held out a small jewel in his hand.
"I had half-expected something like this, so I took precautions although I had hoped that my guards would be able to take him down before he could attack you.  Nonetheless, just in case they failed I had a backup plan."

He paused.

"I stole your soul as it left your murdered corpse and trapped it within this gem.  It took me a few days to get the new body functioning, but when it was ready I shunted your soul out of its prison and into your new brain."

Joshua stared at him in disbelief, and although he was relieved to find that he really was himself, the notion that this doctor was able to manipulate his very soul was utterly horrifying.  But one advantage of his new brain was that he was able to concentrate and focus on things much better than before, so he quickly came to attention as the doctor spoke again.

"What's left of your head has been cremated.  It's just a few ounces of cooked meat now really, if you'll pardon the flippancy.  Unless you have a sentimental attachment to it you can flush the stuff down the toilet for all I care.  What's really important is your mind and your soul - both of which should now be properly housed within your new body.

"The rest of your corpse was just a mechanism, and that's being cleaned and repaired for its next tenant, should there be one.  You will probably notice some minor differences between this body and your old one, but I think you'll agree it's a small price to pay.  Because now you really do have a shot at living forever."

"But how?!?" said the husky, his voice finally able to express emotion again.  "How were you able to manipulate my soul?"

"Oh, that's easy when you know how," said Kris, his fur darkening to grey as a small pair of feathered wings sprouted from the back of his head.

Joshua made a strange noise and took a step back, a look of sheer terror in his
synthetic eyes.  Oh my Gods... he IS an incubus...  Ohshitohshitohshit...

"Calm down, calm down," he said with a reassuring smile.  "Do you honestly think I'd spend all that effort and expense in resurrecting you twice if I wanted to have you dead?"

"But my soul!" he warbled, "you held my soul in your hands!"

"There, there..." said the doctor, staring into Joshua's eyes and a strange, calming sensation flooded his brain.  Actually it was the feeling of his terror being eaten, but he didn't know that at the time.

"The name is Pettersohn," said the incubus.  "Jakob Pettersohn.  You can call me 'Yak' if you prefer."

Suddenly Joshua broke down completely.  Jakob put his arms around the sobbing husky and comforted him.

* * *

"So," said Joshua, after he'd recovered himself, "I guess that's how you were able to graft my brain to the first body?"

"Quite," replied Jakob.  "'Cubi have a natural advantage in neurosurgery since we can observe the workings of the brain and soul.  With training we can extend this to probe other parts of the nervous system as well.
Reverse-engineering the protocols used by your body is a lot easier when you can debug it, which a normal Being or human cannot do.  Even so, I needed a great deal of help from my Clan leader, Daryil, for his skill in probing the mind is far greater than mine.  You may remember him from a dream, perhaps?"

"But how did you know you'd be able to... steal my soul?  It was sheer luck that you happened to be standing next to me when I was killed."

"Actually the gem was implanted in your skull.  It had a standing spell upon it to absorb your soul if you died.  It's not my invention, by the way - armies sometimes use them upon their soldiers.  Everyone here has one, even me.  For although I think I might even be powerful enough to effect a corporeal return from the dead, I would rather not have to find out the hard way."

How many souls must you have you eaten to do that? Joshua wondered to himself, but the question he actually asked was rather different.

"Have I got one now?"

"Yes, although it shouldn't be necessary, since your skull should be a good deal more bulletproof this time."

Jakob flinched slightly, remembering the messy way that Joshua had died, and a brief wave of guilt resurfaced at the people he had shot in the head himself all those centuries ago.  He had never really forgiven himself for the deaths.

Testing the skull had been uncomfortable, although necessary.  Jakob had tested a number of mockups himself, placing a row of lifelike canine heads upon a workbench and attempting to execute them with handguns, sniper rifles and armour-piercing rounds.  What made him most unhappy was that a small part of him had found it fun.

* * *

Later that day, Joshua heard Jakob talking animatedly to himself in one of the laboratories, one which he had always found locked on previous occasions.  He was about to go inside and see if the incubus needed any help, when he noticed that it had a small sign marked 'do not disturb' upon the door handle.

Perhaps he should have left, but curiosity got the better of him and, seeing that it had not been properly closed, he opened it a crack and poked his head inside.

As he did so he became aware that Jakob was not talking to himself, but to another, quieter voice.  It was not a video link or a phone, but he was talking directly to a large machine which answered him in a strange, monotone voice.
It was not completely synthetic like Joshua's own speech synthesizer, so it was probably not an AI but some strange kind of communicator.  Yet there was something distinctly wrong about the voice.

Joshua's own voice had been carefully programmed to simulate all the little mouth noises which occur as a side-effect of speaking, the ones which a recording engineer will take great pains to minimise.  This voice had none of them, and it was this very... purity... which gave it a sinister, disembodied air as though it was somehow coming from beyond the grave.

Joshua didn't have hackles anymore, but the sound of that voice was extremely disturbing.  He began to wonder what it was, when Jakob replied to it.

"...works," he said excitedly.  "Fully operational.  We performed our first full activation this morning and it is working almost perfectly!"

So I saw.  What of the primary unit?  Is everything prepared?

"Almost," he said.  "There are a few glitches in the design which the prototype has exposed.  I still need to retrofit the fixes to the primary but after that we're good to go."

Excellent.  I have awaited this moment for what seems like aeons.  It must be done soon!

"It will, it will!  I shall have the primary unit ready in... three days?"

Perfect.  We will also need the prototype for the ritual.

As the voice bade him leave, Jakob turned a switch and strode into another part of the lab.  He didn't seem to have noticed that Joshua had witnessed most of the exchange.

Now what, wondered Joshua, was all that about?  This is obviously some kind of major shit that Jakob is involved in.  And what's that prototype business?  Oh.  Oh Gods.

Joshua's commander had been convinced that a protege of Johan Cross, the notorious crimelord, had set up shop in the Arctic and was working upon some new kind of ion beam weapon.  One that had enough power to work within Furrae's atmosphere, if the intelligence was to be believed.  Joshua had been sent to the frozen north to check these rumours, starting with the Nagristi mob facility and then the other candidate, the low-temperature research station owned and run by Kristofer Ausmann.

The fact that the researcher in question might be Johan Cross himself was not something that had entered into his darkest dream.  Everyone knew that Cross was dead, after all.

But Joshua had suddenly remembered the name 'Pettersohn' from an old film about Cross that had seen years ago.  Pettersohn was the one who had made the film, and in it the incubus had not only made a convincing claim to be Johan Cross, but his appearance was a dead ringer for this Jakob Pettersohn as well.

Reports of your demise are premature, I see, Mr. Cross.  Never mind.  I guess I'll just have to see what I can do about this prototype of yours.  I just need to steer the topic of conversation to secret ion-beam weapons that I was sent to destroy...

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

Drake Manaweilder

Interesting... I can't place why, but I really like this one.
One thing though:
Quote"Don't try to speak yet.  I've had to transfer you to that other body I've mentioned on occasion.  It's going to be quite a jump."

Bit of a problem there... unless it's an expression that means he'll be suprised when he learns what he is. 


Quote from: Drake Manaweilder on March 30, 2007, 05:13:50 PM
Interesting... I can't place why, but I really like this one.

Thanks.  As Sid may recall, this chapter was written at the same time as the first chapter.  Chapter 6 is almost done - that chapter has been incredible fun to write.  It's just a pity chapter 5 is  still too short, but I'll probably need to recap some events from CJP anyway so it makes more sense to anyone who decides to read the sequel before the original :P
And chapter 7 has begun.  :mwaha

QuoteOne thing though:
Quote"Don't try to speak yet.  I've had to transfer you to that other body I've mentioned on occasion.  It's going to be quite a jump."
Bit of a problem there... unless it's an expression that means he'll be suprised when he learns what he is. 

To be honest, it's a little difficult to choose the right tense for that.  The transfer has been completed, but Joshua isn't fully capable of controlling his new body yet.  So it's really something that's happening now.  Perhaps "you're going to find it quite a jump" would be better...

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


By kind permission of Turnsky (given that he hasn't been paid for it yet), the draft sketch:

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

Thanks for all the images | Unofficial DMFA IRC server
"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Dragons, it's what's for dinner... with gravy and potatoes, YUM!
Sparta? no, you should've taken that right at albuquerque..


Chapter 5 - Ritual

"You have conspired against me," boomed Jakob's voice.  "And for these most wicked acts your life shall be slain!  Prepare your soul, for death is at hand!"

"But Lord Cross, he is the Chosen One!" said one of his aides, kneeling before his evil master.  In the corner, a chamber quartet was playing a funeral march.

"What foolishness is this?" Cross demanded.  "Answer me, worm!"

"He has the mark of the Chosen One upon his body," whined the aide.
"We cannot thwart the prophecy... we cannot slay him!"

His answer was partly obscured as Joshua bumped into something in the darkened room.

"...'mongst your sins was the murder of the captain of my guards, and for that you must die.  Yet your body bears the mark of the Chosen.  For this I shall spare your body, but your brain shall die instead!  Your mindless cadaver shall become an empty, soulless shell that will be my slave for all time!" Cross began to laugh evilly.

Oh my Gods, it's a video diary, Joshua thought.  He was completely spooked and in his haste he tripped over something, falling to the ground with a loud thump. 

"SHHH!" said Jakob, without turning.

"Now nothing can stand in my way.  By morning I shall have un-made creation and reforged it in my own image!" he roared with triumphant laughter as the music reached its peak.  "Hear the dirge for the old order and weep!  Mother Nature dies tonight!"

"Utter bull, but it paid well," remarked Jakob as the credits flowed up the screen.

Joshua picked himself up and gazed at Jakob with a look somewhere between horror and dismay.

"Johan Cross?" he whispered.

"Indeed.  I was quite the actor for a time.  Comes naturally to 'cubi, so I could still get back into it if I wanted to, but right now I feel that my experiments here are a more worthy cause, and a better use of my time.  Cross was a challenging role to play though, and it would be fun to do it again."

One of his tentacles shot forwards, and pressing a button with its nose, retrieved a large, silver platter from the player.

"That's a big videodisk," Joshua remarked, trying to take his mind off what he had just seen.

"It's a laserdisc," replied Jakob.  "It looks like it should be digital, doesn't it?  Actually it's all-analogue.  The video signal is frequency-modulated and the resulting carrier wave is encoded into a series of pits on the disk using pulse-width modulation.

"The video quality is almost as good as C-format video or film, but it has the distinct advantage of not degrading with each playback.  The most difficult part was building a machine that would allow me to create my own disks."

"Hey boss," said a voice, "Eeek!"

The panther coiled his body in alarm as he noticed Jakob... apparently he hadn't got the memo.
"Oh, right.  Back to your usual look?  I swear I'll never get used to this shapeshifter business."

"Yes, well there's no point in putting it off any longer, it just makes it more of an embarrassment when someone finally does slip and calls me by the wrong name.  Either one of the grunts or more likely that idle muff of a Warp-Aci that my son summoned in SAIA."

"He really is your son, then?" asked the cyber-husky.

"As good as.  I never actually had a son but a daughter.  For some reason all my descendants were Beings until Niall, who was actually my great-great-grandson until I formally adopted him."

"I preferred 'Nilson'," grinned Joshua.

"Anyway.  Mac... what can I do for you?"

"It's Osk- I mean Ashley.  He's found something in the power room, and he'd like you to come and see it ASAP."

"Very good, Mac.  I'll see to it right away.  Do you want to come?" he asked, turning to Joshua.

The husky accepted and to his confusion, Jakob took him by the hand, and Panther R-MAC by the paw.  A few moments later they disappeared.

"Impressive."  Joshua had seen teleportation before, but not often, and it was rather unusual to see it done without any instrumentality.

"Couldn't he just call you on your watch?" he asked.

"The power room is a Faraday cage," Jakob replied.  "It jams the communicators."

Mac led the pair of them to where Ashley stood, still in his caracal form, by a hole in the floor which had been concealed by a box of spare parts.  It led to a large space, hollowed out apparently by magic.  Inside was an enormous heap of brightly-coloured paper strips.

"Kirian," said Jakob darkly.  Ashley looked bewildered.

"Do Warp-Aci make nests?" he asked in a puzzled tone.

"Not to my knowledge, but then again, I've never had one myself." So saying, he knelt, and reaching down into the hole, drew out a handful of paper shreds and amongst them, something more tangible - sweet wrappers and chocolates.

Joshua hurried away as Jakob launched into a particularly graphic description of what he was going to do to Niall's pet when they returned.

* * *

Joshua didn't need to sleep anymore, and although he could, he was sufficiently tense that he would probably not have been able to even if he desired it.  And besides, there was the problem of the mad incubus who kept screwing around with his dreams.  I'll admit I'm the only Being here, he thought, but it would be nice if he didn't keep doing that.

His mind kept going over and over what information he knew about Johan Cross.

Cross had come to prominence in the city of Ha'Khunn following the death of its founder, an Angel called Page who had been its patron.  Under his guidance it had thrived and grown from a nondescript market village to a prosperous town and beyond.

Some maintained that Johan Cross had murdered the Angel - who had in his later years begun to call himself 'Azrael' - in order to seize control of the city.
Many more claimed that Cross was driven insane by the murder of his best friend and swore vengeance against the killers, hunting them down over a period of three centuries. 
Jakob's documentary had gone for the latter theory, although the film had been biased, with a particularly sympathetic portrayal of the shadowy incubus.

But even Pettersohn's film admitted that Cross had done evil things, including racketeering and a number of murders.  That he had kept his throne room dark so that only his most trusted henchmen could ever see his face clearly - and those whom he sentenced to death.
It was more-or-less a fact he had kept the city in a state of fear, wandering the streets at night in disguise.  No-one dared speak ill of him for fear that he might overhear them, for he purged the city of malcontents on numerous occasions - those whom he believed were plotting against him would softly and suddenly vanish away and never be met with again.

It was a popular belief that Cross had eaten tens of thousands of souls in these purges, although Pettersohn had claimed that they were simply banished and had filmed a long segment in a bleak and distant land where a people lived whom he claimed were the descendants of these exiles.
Dirk Brandenssen's film "Cross Reexamined" claimed that this was a hoax and that the whole thing had been staged.  Joshua himself was still undecided on this matter.

Brandenssen had also said - although Pettersohn had angrily refuted it - that amongst the many murders he had committed, Johan Cross had actually eaten the soul of his own Clan leader in order to steal his powers and assume overall control of it.
That was at odds with Daryil though, whom Jakob had claimed was that Clan leader, but then again, Joshua had never seen Daryil and Jakob in the same room at the same time, so he wasn't going to rule anything out - and he was certainly not about to take chances with a potential mass-murderer of souls.

* * *

"We shall perform the summoning ritual tomorrow morning," said Jakob, speaking again to the eerie voice which emanated from the communicator.

Ritual?  Return?  What's this all about? thought Joshua, eavesdropping upon his so-called master once again.

At last, it replied, a touch of eagerness seeping into its usual monotone, I have waited so long... and now, in less than twelve hours, I shall walk again upon Furrae!  Ending the lives of those who have sinned in My sight!  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

"Now you're overdoing it," the wolf muttered to himself.

Silence, fool!  Abase yourself before My power!

Jakob's face screwed up and he fell to his knees, his voice trembling and his body wracked with great sobs.  "Forgive me, Lord," he cried.

Enough... there is work to be done.  Ensure that the prototype is ready to perform its task.  Now leave My presence.

Joshua could hear the wolf still sobbing to himself as he switched off the device and walked away.  The husky crept stealthily out of sight and was left to ponder by himself.

How can you summon something with an ion beam cannon? Joshua thought to himself as he strode down the corridor.
Perhaps as an energy source, but what kind of... he stopped abruptly.

No, no, no! he thought to himself and whimpered, his tail curling down between his legs as he padded through the corridors to his room to prepare.

Some time later he was beside the plane.  It had been a curious journey, as he had needed to avoid arousing Kris' - no, Johan's - suspicions.  Kris-Cross, he thought idly to himself.

To this end he had left his shirt behind - to say nothing of his overcoat - trudging through the dark arctic snow at -30 degrees, naked to the waist.

I owe him my life, he thought, as he examined the fuel systems.  But he'll probably kill me after the ritual anyway.  It would be better to flee.

The damage itself was not too severe.  A few days at a well-equipped machine shop and he could soon have the aircraft flying again.  But he didn't have days, and he certainly didn't have any way to bring the aircraft back to the base without Jakob finding out about it.

If there isn't going to be a flight, there will have to be a fight, he thought unhappily.  Beneath the passenger seat there was a package which he removed.  He didn't have to open it to know what it was, the shape alone told him that it was the right one.  It was wrapped in a greased rag to keep the mechanism clean, but even so swaddled the gun fit snugly into his hand.

"I don't want to have to do this," he whispered to the chill air, "not after all you've done for me.  But you're going to summon the Dark God tomorrow, and I'll kill you before I let that happen."

As he began the journey home, his mind went over what little he knew of the ritual, until the cyber-husky suddenly realised what the 'prototype' was.  It was him.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

llearch n'n'daCorna

Hmm. Some confusion in the early stages as to who's saying what. Having a Johan Cross on screen, and  Johan Cross watching it, is just asking for someone to get confused.

Of course, it might just be me...
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"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on April 08, 2007, 08:37:44 AM
Hmm. Some confusion in the early stages as to who's saying what. Having a Johan Cross on screen, and  Johan Cross watching it, is just asking for someone to get confused.

That's deliberate  >:3

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


The next chapter of CJP may be delayed owing to other commitments such as getting the house tidy enough for my stepmother to visit.  So here's something else to keep you occupied.
(It's so much fun to write Jakob when he's being evil.)

Chapter 6 - Resurrection  (aka "guess who's coming to dinner?")

Jakob was rifling through a toolchest in one of his laboratories.  When he finally located the diagnostic probe he had been looking for, he glanced up to see Joshua.  He had adopted a marksman's stance and was aiming an Earth-imported magnum at the wolf's head.

"Put that down!" the husky cried, "Or I'll blow your headwings off!"
He was trembling and his voice was very unsteady.  It had begun to warble as it would often do in times of extreme emotional stress.

"Oh dear," said Jakob in a completely unconcerned tone.  "I was hoping we wouldn't have to do this until after the summoning ritual."

"PUT IT DOWN!" the husky yelled.

Jakob laughed.  "Well, there's gratitude for you.  I've saved your life twice, given you a near-immortal body that is far tougher and stronger than a mere Being has any right to be, and this is how you repay me?"

"I know who you are, Cross.  I know what you're planning to do, and I was sent to stop you.  Now for the last time, put the tool down, or I will kill you!"

"Then you'll have to kill me.  Just make it quick," he replied, and closed his eyes, making the same curious gesture that he had made when the ram had aimed at him before.  He was actually invoking a projectile shield, but the husky didn't know that.

As he prepared to squeeze the trigger, Joshua's body jerked and folded up like a rag doll - just as he had done at his death, and for much the same reason.

"You fool," said Jakob, standing over the fallen canine body and turning it over with a kick.  Joshua lay staring, his mouth half-open.

"I know you know who I am," Jakob continued.  "I could hear your thoughts.  I have always known that you were sent to thwart me, ever since you first arrived.  I had hoped that placing you in my debt would soften your edge, but I guess I knew that we would come to blows eventually.  Too bad it had to get violent."

Picking up the handgun and unloading it, Jakob sighed and hauled the limp dog into a chair.  Only his eyes showed the slightest signs of life at all.  He could only listen and watch.

"You forgot about the safety interlocks in my panthers, didn't you?" the wolf said, staring into Joshua's eyes with a look of amusement as he savoured the husky's fear - the emotion he found easiest to digest.

"Surely you didn't think I was stupid enough to put one of my enemies into a body that I didn't have complete control over?
"Now.  I need you to help with this ritual, and you will help with it.  The only question is whether you do so of your own volition - if reluctantly - or whether I will have to, er, change your mind?"

Jakob's twisted smile and his tone of voice made it quite clear that he wasn't talking about counselling.  Even death by torture would be preferable to what the incubus was threatening Joshua with, and they both knew it very well.

"So, what do you say?  A truce?  At least until the ritual is completed?"

"Very well," Joshua said, able to speak again.  "I will help with the ritual.  But I make no guarantees about afterwards."

"Good choice," the wolf smirked, "But I can't trust you anymore, so I'm going to limit your actuators to one-quarter power until and unless we can come to some more permanent arrangement.  You'll need our help to lift heavy objects and so forth."

As he spoke, his wing tentacles emerged.  One remained still, watching the others as they began tapping a series of commands into a nearby computer terminal.

"Anyway," he continued.  "You should be able to get up now and I would urge you to do so.  The hour is finally at hand to activate the Primary Unit.  My master is ready, and the time has come at last for us to bring about his triumphant return!" he crowed, his voice trembling with exultation.

Oh shit.  What have I agreed to? thought Joshua.  But he knew he really didn't have a choice.  He was too weak to defend himself and in any case Cross would either kill him... or worse yet, lobotomise his soul and turn him into some kind of mindless slave like in the TV series they had been watching.

With his tail between his legs, Joshua followed Cross to the large room where he had awoken himself.  Unlike then, the room was dimly-lit, the most illuminated spot being the table bearing the robot which Cross referred to as the 'primary unit'.  It was feline in form, the feathered wings white as newly-fallen snow, the fur grey and spotted.

When Jakob's evil master had said they would need the husky for the ritual, he or she wasn't kidding.  To Joshua's alarm and discomfort, Ashley connected their computer systems to a data port in his skull, usually hidden by his hair.  He had found it by accident once while absently scratching his ear.

By this means they downloaded what Jakob referred to as "transport ballistics data" directly from his brain, and after disconnecting him again, uploaded it into the still-idle neurocircuitry of the feline by the same means.  After that he was made to fetch tools for Jakob as he performed some final adjustments to the android's servo systems.

From out of the shadows stepped another incubus, a grey fox whom Joshua recognised with a start as the mad one who kept warping his dreams into strange, twisted fantasies that involved killing nuns.  Enthralled by the ritual, he barely exchanged greetings with Jakob before taking his place by the wolf's side.
The two of them held hands, each placing their other upon the felines's skull and chanting in a strange way.  The air felt thick and a strange ethereal glow danced upon the robot's head.

Daryil stepped back to watch the scene from the shadows with an air of expectation, as Jakob turned to face the lynx with a fanatical gleam in his eye.

"Throw the switch, Ashley!", he cried.  Actually he pressed 'RETURN', but it amounted to the same thing.

"It's alive!" he screamed, as the android opened first one eye, and then the other.  Turning his head to look at Cross, the leopard opened his mouth into a wide smile and gave a peal of diabolical laughter which grew stronger as Johan prostrated himself before his dark master.  Daryil watched the scene, trying unsuccessfully to keep a twisted smile of triumph from showing upon his muzzle.

"At last!" the leopard cried.  "At last I live again after all these centuries!  The world shall feel my wrath once more... Furrae shall tremble 'neath my might, cities shall crumble!  Mountains shall become as dust before my withering gaze!"
He began laughing again, although this faded as he turned his head and his eyes settled upon the husky.

"Ah yes, the prototype," he said, fixing Joshua with one dispassionate grey eye.  "Destroy it.  It has outlived its usefulness."

He paused for a moment as the husky stared back with an expression of total, unbridled horror.

"Just kidding," he grinned, sitting up and shaking the bewildered husky's hand.  "The name's Azrael, and I am greatly in your debt."

"K-k-kidding?" said Joshua, his voice warbling again.  Jakob and Daryil had both doubled up with laughter and were trying to steady themselves against each other with only moderate success.  Ashley was in serious danger of falling from his chair.

"Yep," the Angel replied.  "Of course we knew you were spying on us.  Jakob could read your thoughts and I figured it would be fun to wind you up.  Particularly when you realised he used to be Johan Cross."

"The most difficult part was trying not to laugh," added Jakob, wiping tears from his eyes.  "Azrael didn't exactly make it any easier when he commanded me to worship him.  I very nearly lost it."

"I thought you recovered rather well with the crying thing.  And yes, I'm sorry about that, but I just couldn't resist.  I got kind of carried away with the whole 'dark god' business."

"Please," said Joshua, "don't ever do that to me again."

"Don't worry, we won't," said Jakob, still chuckling.  "Now, if I can ask you to extend your truce a little longer, Azrael and I will show you what we've really been doing.  A no-holds barred tour of the most secret parts of the complex.  I will show you everything, and then, with no further secrets between us, you will be free to make an informed decision as to where your loyalties lie."

"That sounds fair," said Joshua.  He was still left shocked by the whole Dark God prank, but he didn't have an adrenaline system anymore so it passed relatively quickly.

"Good," smiled Jakob.  "I can't ask for more than that, although I do hold out hope that you will realise I'm really not as bad as the legends make out.  You've seen my documentary debunking most of them, haven't you?"

"I've also seen Brandenssen's series," Joshua pointed out.

"Brandenssen was a dick," Jakob replied dismissively.  "He wasn't even born until a century after the events, whereas I caused them.  My documentary is completely true.  I made it to try and debunk the most hurtful rumours like the one where I killed Azrael, and the crap about mass soul-stealing.

"I guess I also wanted to try and lay the past to rest.  I've never completely been able to forgive myself for what I did, although the fact that I was somewhat unhinged by Azrael's murder does help.  And now I've got Azrael back, it's time for us to make things right again."

Azrael grinned and gave Jakob a high-five.

"Now, you believe I've been building ion-beam cannons, don't you?" said Jakob, turning back to Joshua and causing him to cringe at the casual thought-reading.

"Well, you're right.  The aircraft are armed with them, and their drive systems are ion-based as well.  Nagristi Clan have just had first-hand experience of those after I sent Farlane and his pack to put them out of action."

Joshua looked appalled.

"Don't worry," Jakob added quickly.  "I set out to avoid casualties, so we simply vapourised their power plants.  After that they were basically crippled."

"What did you do to them?"  Joshua asked, his voice a whisper of horror.  He had just had a sudden vision of Johan Cross in his trademark leather trenchcoat, shooting the mind-paralysed survivors in the head one by one, or cackling with glee as his panther guards eviscerated them.  Jakob saw the mental image in the husky's mind and grimaced.

"It wasn't like that," he said.  "Well, I did wear the trenchcoat, but I didn't kill them.  I gave them the old "all-life-is-sacred" routine and summoned a portal to banish them with, just like old times.  It seems I did have to play Johan Cross again, although in a rather more realistic manner than I'd intended.  And you know what?" he added, as Azrael gave him a disapproving glance.
"It was a challenging role.  It brought up a lot of bad memories."

"Anyway," he said, changing the subject.  "Ion cannons.  I built a few small ones for hand use - mostly as cutting tools - and some medium-sized ones for the aircraft.  I did start work on a great big one, but I think I dismantled it in the end."

Good, that saves me a job, thought Joshua.

"I heard that," the wolf replied.  "But yeah, I did dismantle it.  After all, what was the point?  An ion beam is a mere tinker-toy next to total conversion..."

"TOTAL CONVERSION?" screamed Joshua, looking even more terrified than when Azrael had ordered his death.

"Yes.  Total mass-to-energy conversion!  I could weaponise it of course, but frankly that would suck.  Despite the many pogroms against 'Cubi and other Creatures, I still believe Furrae is too beautiful for doomsday weapons.  No.. I've been developing it as a power source."

"A power source...?  For what?"

"Project Future," said Jakob enigmatically, beckoning them away.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E