"But, my Lord, there IS no such force!" — Grima Wormtongue, winner of the Two Towers "SuuuurPRISE!" award.
"Next time, screw doors, I'm popping through the wall! Or maybe I'll make the wall poke her!" — Joshlamont
Part 18: Destruction Production
It's one of those days on the Boards. A day when mysterious events abound in the world and strange forces walk abroad as Boardies get Up To Something...
Funky Horror Docking Bay Annexe
Roscoe and the Dragon continued their walking discussion, which now seemed to be about 1970s political movements (which raises the odd and somewhat interesting question of just what the Dragon did in her self-styled "rebellious youth", but whatever it was it has Roscoe apt) completely unaware of the movement behind them.
It wasn't so much a ripple as a bubble in the decking. A pocket of something seamlessly glued to the bulkheads that shuffled forward slowly towards the Dragon when it thought she wasn't looking. The effect was not unakin to those moments in cartoons when Bugs Bunny is tunnelling.
Until it ran head-on into the pair of shoes.
The ripple stopped, bounced sideways a little, and attempted to shuffle its way around. It failed. The ripple seemed to puzzle on this for a few seconds before extending slightly and poking at various routes around the shoes like an inquisitive bloodhound. Every attempt seemed to send in failure - it was clear that nothing was getting past those shoes.
After a minute or so of this (during which one of said shoes began to tap on the decking in the age-old signal to get on with it), the ripple bulged upwards and outwards to erupt in a brief flare of energies that subsided to reveal an annoyed Joshlamont.
"Do you mind, whoever you..."Oh...herself.
"I do seem to remember saying something about one poke per newbie?"
"We ARE only administering one poke! Or, well, I will if I get there first and, eh..." Josh attempted to indicate that there was a Goddess in his way.
"She's BEEN poked. Last year."
"That goes for Starlock too. Isn't it rather hot in those tubes?"
"Oh, I dunno." said a muffled voice from the glowing strips of energy the Board used as corridor lights. "It's certainly a bit noisy."
"Now run along and find something else to do. I'm going to see a man about a dragon."
* * *
April rolled her eyes and forced herself to concentrate on some textbook or other on the nice, sunny quad bench, emitting her "why me?" sigh as a high-speed Roger tore past followed by an equally high-speed and giggling Diana. The sight made unwelcome feelings bubble up, and...
"Cheer up. If you're still alive it means the other guy isn't."
...Margaret wasn't helping, although at least she had enough tact not to slap her on the back. And Marsha...well, maybe in another 10,000 years she'd be talking to her again.
"Geeze, you two!" Margaret's voice carried with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, making April sink even deeper into her book."Get a hotel room!"
Sod it, maybe despite the stinging pain and the soap and the horrible, horrible memories of those huge rollers swinging down onto her, it might be worth another trip through the car wash. At least being a tease could be fun, even in a small, nasty, crush-their-feelings kinda way...
It would mean dealing with that obsessed guy who worked there, though. Say, he hadn't been around for days now...
* * *
A long time ago, an oldbie had run into a young man down on his luck on the streets of Luzern , and given him enough details about the coming wonders in the next 100 years of the Industrial Revolution to make quite mind-boggling sums indeed financing it. Oh, and a chocolate orange but that bit was lost to history. The net result was....
Offices of First Credite Suisse, Zurich
Rigger took a deep breath of the cold spring air in Zurich's burgeoning financial district (mostly skycrapers neatly filling the gaps between listed buildings where company X had started small and worked it's way up), and reflected that the silly thing about Swiss banks was that all the stereotypes were true. Ah well. Stock exchanges and banking cartels were his "place of power" in the CRFH world, and this was the stuff he did...
Sure, the Board's financial holdings were shuffled around on Internet investment programs these days, and were more measured in capacity than sheer raw cash (on the other hand, that translated to enough buying power to make FCS's Board of Directors' mouths collectively water), but the Board did like to have fiscal might behind it's agents and activities...and Mari had Views on people destabilising the global economy by fabricating too much money.
Coyotegirl's concentration and the resulting tiny loop in the Reality Control Array was the only thing keeping his illusion as a slightly-odd financial lawyer intact (given his usual shape was a medium-sized ebony dragon, hence his occasional use of the name Ebondragon), but on the other hand these were established family bankers. They were used to weird. He and his group swept through the revolving doors into the huge entrance hall chatting as they went.
"...and then I just said" Sucks to be you" and waved every outstanding stock and bond in his company at him."
"BWA! Lemmie tell you about the time we ran into this yuppie..."
Sounds like Madam Green's getting along with the Boardies juuuuust fine, although the Dragon had forgotten to mention the fact that she'd waved them in the luckless gangster's face as her minions had pitched him over Brooklyn bridge.
All this was taken in with a modicum of eyebrow-rasing by the Board's usual financial liason with their bank, a middle-aged man who'd seen plenty of clients come and go through those glass doors. Well, okay, the dragonic guy wasn't entirely new, and that was, well okayish, given that the bank had around history of dealing with anybody so long as they had money in vast quantities, and the instructions from Herr Director concerning the Board were quite clear on the "do everything they want even if it kills you" bit, but did they have to be quite so...uncouth?
...and then he took in the woman behind them. Oh boy. Merger....merger with the assets and the commissions and the investment plans and the 5% commissions and the comms and the isses and the...
"I love the smell of skulduggery in the morning. After this....oh, someone prop up Herr Konig, will they? I think we overawed him a bit...shall we adjurn to watch the proceedings of our wonderful military-industrial complex?"
"Military-industrial complex?" Rigger eyebrowed at Roscoe bringing up the rear. Was he missing something?
"Oh, she means Dag and the armoury people."
* * *
There is a scene (or montage) like this in every space opera film worth its effects budget. The hero says something about how proud of his crew he is, the soundtrack cues in lots of snare drums, and we then see lots of preparations as engineers pound down corridors with implements of Big Science.
Funky Horror Central Core Manufacturing Centre 12-B
"Laser, we need those filters in here!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming..." The somewhat overworked Boardie carrying a stack of what looked like very flat wafers paused in the middle of the wide (very wide, to allow large loads to pass) corridor as a trio of engineers pounded past carrying implements of Big Science, and stepped ooooover the jury-rigged pipeline running through the permanently-open compartment door where Kay Qui was waving and jumping up and down and colliding with him in mid air and...
"Ooops...sorry." Kay watched the stack of paper filters cascade out and down as LL himself joined them on the smooth metal floor.
"'s'okay...I wasn't using that kidney anyway..."
"Okay then..." Her high-energy attention span satisfied, Kay tapped keys on her POST and grinned as the spilled porous sheets of paper neatly ran back through the actions of the last minute until they were a pile again, this time one that handily fed itself into the waiting hopper bin in what was actually quite a large compartment filled with machinery. Kay's eyes lit up in time with the scrolling green pips on her POST as the fabricators swung into action. "I declare these thermos flasks Fully Operational!"
This is the Board we're talking about here. What kind of preparations were you expecting?
* * *
Finean's Tor, Ireland Board Shipyards
Drill, thought Dagda as his Clan went through obstacle courses with the hovering bulk of the battleship that would ferry them to the assault glowing above them as it's drive fields skewed in to land. Drill. Just because you had technical superiority and a Goddess on your side didn't mean you could skip on the...Oooow, the way Tcher had slammed that dummy in the face with a ladle had to hurt.
His team would be up next, of course, since he believed in leading from the front, and he flexed his shoulders, unsheathing his ancient sword and wondering if maybe the Other Guy would care for a duel over the lives of his servants.
"Oooh, Dag's standing on a rock in a skirt in order to show off his big fat thing to everybody."
Of course, the peanut gallery wasn't helping his dignity any....
"Sandra, on te' day te Hordes o'Satan march forth against us agin, ye'll be darn glad fer ter trainin' now. Fire and steel, gal. Good, ol'-fashioned...YE CALL DAT A SWING, DWARF? ME AGED MOTHER COULD HIT HARDER T'AN THAT!...smitin' te' unrightous."
"Hrm." Sandra gave this some thought for a second. "I'm stealing it, then."
The Good God laughed. "Yes gonnae just swipe Ter an 'is..."
"Is it nailed down anywhere? No? Then it's mine."
There was a sound similar to, but not entirely, Yhoink!, and Dagda would wonder for days how the hell Sandra did that.
* * *
Funky Horror Central Core Workshop 28/C
"Star's mana battery behaving itself?"
The engineer snapped up from his lathe where something crystalline was being carved with delicate care and much consulting of wave guides. "Yes, Kosei!"
"Right. Good." The armorer pushed her hair out of her eyes and pushed herself out of her seat in one swift motion, heading back into the controlled chaos of her workshops as Boardies decided that with the upcoming smackdown now would be a good time to finally do all their maintenance. "Spam, how'd it go?"
"Firing test successful. Observation: Kickass!"
"Nice one. Good job, Arch." Hayasaka waved to her "assistant" (who still wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten down here in the first place) nodded in salutation to MolTARE as she passed, running a trained eye over the microtools he was using to do something to one of Symie's deeplight cannons. Knew that thing had had a funny kick to it.
"Right, Talix...gimmie an arm. You SURE this is a heavy-lifting drone? Good. Right, now let's see where Mr Temporal Disruptor can plug in, shall we?"
* * *
Future Nemo Facility, Upper Rig
Busy, busy, busy....Flyingfish looked at the stacks of raw girders being unloaded from another freighter, and noted the way the Greens had doubled the guard on this one. Blasted thugs couldn't pitch in and help if you gave them a map to their hands.
"Wing, you need fuel?"
"Good, good..." That over, Flyingfish got on with more pressing preparations. "Laun! Silver's repair crew still needs cracks sealed in 1-8-4. We've got nukes in there, so hurry up! Kum, if Shen brings Big & Purple back alive we'll need you in case he busts out so work with Crazyfurries, wherever she'd gotten to..." The mad biogeneticist had moved some of her equipment into Nemo a week before the accident, the better to experiment with the local sealife. "...and help her with tranqs and restraints...Jeff! Call us a cargo lift and some of M Division, we've got girders to juggle!"
* * *
Funky Horror Command Deck
A fortnight, going on three weeks, with the mind of the person who oversees the huge reality generators buried under Mexico so close to it, buzzing with background Board radiation, always warps the Command Deck after a while. With Coyotegirl in office the vast dome had acquired the air of an art gallery, with a tinge of the unexplainable. Small wisplike trails of something smoky occasionally darted from here to there and back again. Perhaps the most telling change were, of all things, the idle terminal displays — they cycled geometric shapes that leapt and spun and twisted around each other in a flurry of dancing vertices.
Locoluis squared his shoulders, making his cloak-cum-habit twitch on his shoulders, and cleared his throat in that polite "There is a throat here, and it wishes to talk to you" way." Well, time to actually see what kind of Director all this stuff means she is.
"Uh, CG? Omega says everything'll be ready within the hour."
"Great!" The chair spun around and took off slightly, revealing CG's canine features. "Tell me when we're all set."
"Will you want us to ready the, ah..." Luis swallowed, since like many Boardies he didn't like to mention it sometimes "...BIP device?"
"Oh, I imagine Tcher'll get his reflectors lined up if we ask. Doesn't mean we have to use it, though." CG grinned. Despite needing it to mop up after the Admirals had reflexively toasted that SKID...well, rave had probably been a good word...the BIP status panels up here had stayed resolutely dark throughout her tenure so far, and she was keeping it that way. "If we're desperate for a zap gun we've got the fleet drooling over all that wonderful orbital artillery."
"Orbital...but what if they try to surrender?"
"Luis, our usual rules about that have been that the way to surrender is to not sell your soul in the first place." CG's slightly hard-edged voice was simply quoting straight from the Archives of past Boardies there, and Luis knew it, but it still irked him. Sure, he despised W&S as much as the next Boardie but he didn't particularly want them to die in a hail of charged particles.
The fact that the Board is perfectly willing to arrange their demises by more personal means is just one of those hypcritical Board quirks, and Luis shrugged it off as he ploughed on down the list. Vessel readiness (good), Boardies available (lots, since saying "who wants to smite the guys responsible for Dave's jaunt in Hell?" is about on a par with standing on a streetcorner and offering free money), equipment readiness...("Get that torpedo loaded!" screamed Toxic a thousand meters above "And make sure Tangent isn't in any of them!")....and suchlike ("You just can't get the chocolate these days" said himi as he tried to work out just what Grazer had built with the orange he'd given him).
As he read, Luis became aware that either he'd been up too long and his vision was blurring, or the Director was...undulating? Oscillating...? No, no, bouncing. Actually moving herself and, indeed, the entire chair up and down in a kind of ripple of enthusiasm. Luis sighed. The Boardieborg had mentioned this...
"Director, must you keep doing that?"
"It's not that we mind, but the gyro-stabilisers are starting to bounce in sync and it's having strange effects on our orbit..."
"Forget that." The Director smiled, a canine expression that...well, showed her canines. "Get back to listing my minions. I wanna kick some script kiddie butt."
* * *
Somewhere in Montana:
Globalisation is a dangerous thing. For a relatively small outlay any modern activist can get himself a communications network that would turn Blofeldt green with envy simply by getting himself a net connection, and you don't need covert communications lines when you can have Hotmail and a decent system of codewords, or even one of those handy anonymous email servers set up by conspiracy wackos convinced the Government's Coming To Get Them.
Hence, in a dusty tent held down by decaying pegs in scrubland, the sound of drunken gunfire from his goons sporadically cracking in the distance as they waste good ammo, a young man is typing furiously away at a laptop. Of considerable embarrassment to the Green family are the stylised draconic logos etched into the laptop's casing, but we'll skip the politics.
The typist looked up as the ten flap was peeled back by his co-conspirator. There is a curious lack of Louie. Anywhere.
"Make it quick, Steve."
"The Harlot's had her pageboys freeze our assets."
"Ohh, what a big surprise. Traitorous &^$^." A decidedly feral sneer welled up from somewhere because, after all, Waldo had always been the slightly violent one even before he'd had his personality scythed away by the Dragon's doctors. "She'll just give us some more of the stuff whether she wants to or not."
His bravado disguised his faint disquiet. Not fear, since that part of his brain is a chemical stew, but disquiet. Without money and, bluntly, booze and hoochies, the loyalty of his men would evaporate like the morning mist.
The activist closed his laptop, spent a second scrabbling around in the dusty stacks of cluttered papers until he retrieved a nasty-looking sawn-off shotgun, and then bolted out to scream the boys into line. High above him, Boardies continue to refuel and retool their equipment.
It's going to be a bit of an anticlimax if nobody shows up to this raid.