Tangled Tokens

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So my 9th novel is now complete and in the middle of the editing process.  The book, entitled “Tangled Tokens,” will be the first of the series I’m calling “The Adjusters.”  It will tell the story of the rebuilding of civilization after the Cen War, through the eyes of a number of Deryk Shea’s Adjuster’s […]

The Cen War Part 1

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“Shortly before Christmas, 2019.  While out shopping for gifts for their parents, two sharp youngsters stumbled on a bunch of folks who just don’t smell right.  They weren’t right.  They were Cen agents, human animal hybrids utterly loyal to their creators.

These kids being on scene saved the west coast of North America a lot of heartache.  When the word went out what they’d been caught with, the mages up and down the west coast, from Los Angeles to Denver, stood ready.  And, in a flurry, a hundred nukes we thrown through dimensional portals to land on our doorstep.  But our mages were ready. They kicked them back and slammed the portals shut.  Made for a lot of unhappy hybrids, wherever they went off.”  He grinned wryly, scratching his bald head.

“Things didn’t go so well back east.  Magic still hadn’t gotten the acceptance it had in the west.  The infections had spread from this coast, so the easterners hadn’t as long to learn to deal with monsters and freaks in their midst.  And magic scared the crap out of them.  The bible belt nearly had a collective coronary.  Heh, heh.”

The old man chuckles, pats his jacket absently, then sighs.  “Ain’t never gonna get used to the cigarette ban.  Can’t believe you can smoke dope but not cigarettes.  Then again, dope doesn’t cause cancer.”  He shakes his head.  “True story.

“So… the east coast had been utterly destroyed.  Low radiation bombs, from what we were told, but I wouldn’t want to take my grandchildren sightseeing through those parts, if you know what I’m saying.  Not if I want great-grandchildren.

The Cen took Omaha, then swept north and south from there, moving forward until they reached the base of the Rockies.  That’s when they settled in for the winter.  Nothing lived behind them that didn’t glow already, and if they had their way they’d consume everything in their path until they reached our sea.

We only communicated sporadically with posts overseas.  Thankfully there were supers and magi everywhere, more or less.  Everybody had a fighting chance.  And everybody knew–you fuck a super or a mage, you might come up with the power too.  Fucking for humanity.   It might kill you, but if it didn’t…

Truth be told, by the time the war came along most people had quit dying from the plagues.  Most of the ones dying of disease those days were the kind that come back.  Everybody else just hung on for dear life.

The plagues killed a lot of people, but there were a lot of people cheering them anyway.  They made us stronger, they said.  Sounded like Nazi shit to me.  As it turned out, I wasn’t alone.  Anyone who tried pushing around ordinary folk usually ate some recoil.  As I was one of those ordinary folk at the time, I appreciated the backup.  I ain’t a coward.  I’ll stand up to a superhuman type.  But those trolls?  Or a vamp?  Or how ’bout a ‘thrope?  Uh-uh.  I’ll leave the monsters to fight each other.

Anyway… We’d all heard how the Cen hated magic.  True story.  Apparently they like things that fly even less than they like magic.  Their anti-aircraft weapons are scary as fuck.  They targeted our satellites in orbit.  That’s why our communication grid went to hell so fast.  They hit them as they came through the gates.  Along with any aircraft that came within fifty miles of airspace they claimed.

We had no way to flank them.  Oh, a few of our flying heroes could get over there, but so what?  Then we skirmish them on both their borders?  They had enough people for that, believe me.  Of course, I was just a lousy Sergeant.  No one listened to me.”

He snorts.  “People.  Never thought I’d call ’em that.  Anyhooch, I gotta mosey on home to my Jamie.  Going to be a cold night and we like to bundle close.  Happy holidays to you all.”

From Memories of the Cen War

by Tagai Hava

(Interview with 1st Sergeant Matthew O’Bannon, Earth Defense Forces).

Starhaven Pt 1

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In between one breath and the next

for me, in this land beyond,

was yet a year passed back home

unknown

My family grew, laughed, and cried

Certain I had died

But I dined and danced beyond the veil

In what seemed 

but a single passing night

Valhalla, Avalon, the Blessed Isles, Paradise, Heaven, the Courts of Faerie.  The dimensional construct now known as Starhaven has been featured in many mythologies, tales thrown down around a campfire, of experiences in a place no mortal could quite comprehend.

Time stands still in a static universe.  Starhaven is a construct so large that no valid estimates of its size actually exist.  Attempts to circumnavigate the colossal structure in spacecraft have come to naught.  Those who have attempted it just loose their way and end up back where they started.  Even computers and mapping devices come up short.

Starhaven is broken up into several sections, each accessible to the others via teleporter pads in each region.  There is no other known way to get from one section to another otherwise.

The regions now seem well designed to serve the function impressed upon them by the Interworld Agencies as a clearing house for equipment, agents, and other resources, as well as several common areas for entertainment and housing.

The Starhaven Bazaar itself takes up one whole section and is, in general, a mercantile free-for all.  If it exists, you’ll likely find it somewhere at the Bazaar.  The Bazaar itself is run by a merchant’s guild, who is in turn represented on the Immortal High Court.

Violence is frowned upon, but generally tolerated as long as intentions don’t run toward the deadly.  These days the law, such as it is, will be enforced by the Phoenix Squad, 50 of the fiercest mortal fighters on Starhaven, backed up by the Immortal Dedra Phoenix.

In case of an outside attack they can shut down the worldgates and remain unmolested for as long as they leave them down.  There is only one rift between Starhaven and the outside universes, and thus that single rift can be taken down.

(This is not strictly true, however certain the Starhaven Agency Manuals might say otherwise.  On more than one occasion an externally activated rift and gate was able to breach the outer defenses.  Each time the interlopers were driven off).

The Sections of Starhaven are as follows:

Agency:  The offices and classrooms of the primary Interworld Agencies, including a good portion of their internal R&D operations.

Housing: Divided by agency.  Family, individual, and co-hab units.

Bazaar.

Entertainment:  Cinemas, concert halls,  Practice yards and shooting ranges.  Swimming pools, museums, virtual zoo, 

Magitech Commercial:  Magitech Bank, the original Magitech Lounge, The Magitech Outlet, Havoc’s Ye Old and New Weapon Shoppe.

Magitech Private:  Housing for members of Magitech and Mirage.  Artificer’s labs.

Medical Section.  Helix Headquarters plus R&D and medical facilities.

High Court:  ArchAngel’s apartments, Phoenix team barracks.  High Court Chambers.  Other immortal apartments/suites.

Worldgate:  The only way on and off Starhaven.

(Note:  Kids are generally raised off Starhaven, at least a good part of the time.  They do not age if they remain within the dimensional rift where Starhaven exists.  It is not unusual for way stations on backwater Earths to be staffed by a whole family.  It provides early training for the young and allows them a chance to actually grow older).

Equipment Continued: Mirrorgates and crystal and magewood weapons

The Mirrorgate

It’s often mistaken for a PCD.  In some ways it performs the function of a PCD, but they’re generally worn on the opposite wrist.  A mirrorgate will allow the wearer to enter and leave the dimension of mirrors, the other side of the mirrors.  It’s a place of fractured light and jagged pathways, where a misstep might leave an unwary traveler stranded in the space between until s/he goes mad.  Or is rescued by one of the denizens of the dimension of mirrors.

For the most part mirrorgates are the province of Mirage, provided exclusively to them by Artificer, a mage-engineer of great power and subtlety.   Only the members of Mirage are able to make use of the dimension of mirrors.  (See the Places: Dimension of Mirrors entry–forthcoming).

The spells involved in creating a portal into the dimension of mirrors—by the way—is the casting of a mana strand into the surface of the mirror, then opening it up as a portal.

Crystal Weapons:

Deep in the Earth there exist rare crystal caves, said by some to have formed around the grave of a great mage lost in time.  For whatever reason, these stones gain a kind of sentience, and will aid a smith in the casting of them as weapons.  A high crystal blade is the only blade that can still an immortal’s heart, apparently interfering with the communication between the cells necessary to allow them to regenerate from death.  A crystal weapon is their greatest fear.  But bear in mind most immortals either carry or have access to crystal weapons.

Many crystal weapons also have active intelligences inside them, offering advice—solicited or otherwise—and using additional abilities on behalf of the wielder.  It is also possible to rune-bind them and allow them to take on magical properties.  Telepathic blades are not unknown.

A particular school of smything can also create colored crystal blades with access to an obscure type of magic known as the High Art. It appeared to be the product of a symbiotic bond between the wearer and the mage stones.  In return for life energy, the gems would manipulate magic to the desires of wearer.  Or that had been the intended purposes.  A mistake led to the propagation of a type of stone with a relatively limited array of abilities.  It is thought they use one of these programmed mage gems in the creation of their weapons.

Magewood

Said to be grown by dryads on a far off world, magewood is blacker than ebony, so black it almost gleams in the light.  The black of a widow’s ass or a sinner’s soul.  It makes it to Starhaven in small quantities, brought in by smugglers as well as legal couriers.

Carrying magewood enhances magical and psychic focus.

Hard as steel, sharp as paper.  Magewood is deadly.  And it can be trained.  Rune-bound, of course.  Throwing knives or axes with return runes on them.  Designed to flip back around and return to sender—or simply reappear in a holster.

That can be done with crystal weapons as well, but it’s actually more common with magewood.

Equipment Continued: The Personal Communication Device.

PCD   First invented in the early 21st Century, they most resemble our own smartphones—except PCDs are wearable.  People of Earth Prime just preferred to wear a large bracer on one arm (or, in some cases, on both).  Early users needed either a wireless headset or a draw cable headset.

 These PCDs were used for navigation, communication, record keeping, and reading their version of the internet.

23rd Century PCDs, on the other hand, are so much more.  It is said that it takes moments to learn how to use one, but a lifetime to master.  It has the communication function, enabled instantaneous multi-reality connections between agents in the field and home base, as well as filtered channels for other agencies as well.  Transmissions are tracked and backup can be alerted instantly.

 

Scanner function enables a 300 meter area in which the device can read life signs from everything in the area.  Temperature, pulse-rate, rate of movement, size, mass, and, often, potential threat levels.

 

Databases extend through the operational Starhaven archives, with the knowledge of five worlds within easy access.  Look up any piece of information necessary to do one’s job within minutes.

 

Panic in the Disco Ball:  If the panic function is activated, the wearer and anyone s/he’s touching is surrounded by a force bubble of immense strength, which can last between ten minutes to an hour depending on how much of a beating it’s taking.  At the same time it shoots out scintillating bolts of light, including infrared and ultraviolet.  It is said to be particularly dangerous for a vampire on the outside of one.

 

This also calls for backup.  A second squad will be dispatched to the wearer’s location within 10 minutes.  Arrival times are not guaranteed.

 

The last function, the least used, is the dreaded Gate Home.  It’s… humiliating.  But every agent who’ve ever needed to has used it.  It usually doesn’t help your next promotion come any faster, as it happens.

 PCDs are durable enough to be used as a shield, if necessary.  More than one agent has owed their life to the agency leash strapped around their wrists.