Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! Welcome 2016

Hey folks.  Here's hoping you all had a fantastic 2015 and I do hope 2016 will be a fabulous year filled with gaming and fun.  I still have a HUGE number of game session transcriptions to catch up on as well as a lot of activity planned in the months to come.  The Gamers & GMs Philippines mini-conventions will continue to celebrate and share the love of gaming.  There will be a few personal game projects soon to be launched as well and I do hope the reception of the will be pretty positive.

Will also start on my new list of 12 New Games for the year. I started this last 2013 and thanks to this personal challenge, I've exposed myself to the creative ideas and systems of a lot of other people.  This, I feel, has given me additional insight in how to approach my own games when I design them.  This 2016, I am already excited to get started in trying a bunch of other systems, hopefully including some like Marvel Heroic Role-playing, Mythender, and maybe even something as awesome as The Farm.

Currently, I have a few ongoing campaigns.  Our teen superhero game called The Wardens (using DC Heroes) will be back with the Summer Break story arc.  I'm throwing complete trust in my players in this game, giving them complete reign on the pacing of the story for three game sessions.  Hopefully, our Bliss Stage game, wideawake, won't meet the cancellation that our Orpheus game, dollhouse, did.  The Orpheus game had to die because the group faced the one threat that kills games with the greatest ease: real life demands.  Then, there's A Red and Pleasant Land's Dreams Betwixt Walls game under GM BJ where I get to be a player.  Pretty awesome game, I must admit with the story nicely unfolding with just enough horror and wonder at the same time.   We recently wrapped up our Ryuutama game, Journey, with the heroes finally finding their way out of the horrible Black Isle where the Black Dragon rules.  It was a nicely touching moment with some tears and some laughter.  An ongoing office-game campaign using Blades in the Dark is also nicely flowing.  Thieves should start having sessions again starting next week, if not the week after.

2016, I hope you will be a kind year.  And I do hope everyone finds themselves having more fun telling stories with each other.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Journey ep04 : Ryuutama


Episode Four
"The Granile Road"


Joshua, Jordi, and the three others leave the quaint town of Ifa.  The group takes a trip to the town of Artienna, known for its Great Bridge of the Dawn and its Mineral Water which rejuvenates tired muscles.  There, they celebrate a Festival for Travelers from all over.   The group excitedly make their way to the town, anxious for an opportunity to sell the Nekonip they have earned. Once they arrive, they hope to meet with the head of the Traveler's Festival, a stout kind fellow named Matthew.  But that won't happen til a few more days pass, however, on the Granile Road.

During the first day of their journey, the group journeys to Aya's Tango in the Grass.  The heat bears down on them, making Tristan feel tired and all of them are getting pretty Smelly.  Aya wishes they could find the closest body of water.   Jordi tries to argue with Piter on how they're all carrying his bathtub for free when he should pay them.  The argument ends when they realize despite the desire to banter more, it is just too warm.  A sign soon shows them they are moving towards Artienna. Eventually, the group finds delicious berries to eat.  Joshua, the weather-reader, senses the coming of a thick fog.  The group travels quickly through the landscape and soon find a wonderfully large tree to set camp under.

The trees grow in number as they move through the shade and the growing fog.  The path winds between the massive trees, but the canopy of leaves protects them from the harsh sun.  By the end of the day, they find a nice clearing to set a campsite at.  The stones on the ground even mark a good fireplace area.  There's even a hallowed out three area with vines that serve as a curtain if one wishes to get changed.  Tristan casts an Alarm spell.  Jordi cooks a meal using the berries, creating three whole dishes to enjoy!

The next morning, they wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon, eggs, and rice.   But as they open their eyes, they discover the Heavy Fog surrounding them.  Jordi hands the others their sliced berries, and shares his own heavier breakfast with Aya.  Aya hums the Foggy Cha Cha to raise their spirits.  A shrill cry comes out in the distance!  The group hurries to follow behind Piter, wondering what it was.   They find a massive figure around 30 feet long, with emerald scales encrusting its form.  The thing is  majestic green dragon on the grasslands!  It seems to be munching away at the raspberries.  The group catches its attention, and the green dragon turns to face them.  It shrieks in surprise! The group slowly backs away as it breathes heavily, uncertain how to act upon seeing them.  The monstrosity strikes... but suddenly, its attack seems to have been deflected by something emitting sparks and fireflies.  Piter stares at the ground where he should have been hit, but there is no wound.  The fireflies scatter, fading into the night.    Aya picks Piter up and they all hurry back to the camp.  Neither realize the Reveil that the Ryuujin used to protect them had left their protector with a wound of its own.  They realize the rare sight of meeting a Dragon is one fraught with danger as well.

The morning that follows has them continue the journey.  Aya seems to be having an unlucky day as she keeps tripping, stubbing her toes on things and catching her elbows and shoulders on nearby plants.  They move through the milky fog.   Jordi gives Joshua a ride on his cart, but only long enough til Aya commends him for his kindness.  The cobbler intentionally only let Joshua hitch to look good in her eyes.   Trees flank their path.  They see a signpost but discover it is broken.  The road does not fork, however.   They find along the way a leather bound bag with metal stitches.  On its face, SOXI can be read embroidered on it.   Inside, it seems to contain gem stones, coins and other small effects.  Also, a small notebook can be found, and the first letter reads:

To my dearest, may your travels bring you joy.
And may your return bring us the wealth we need to pay for my medicine.  - D

Tristan groans aloud on why did he have to read the letter.  He was hoping the purse was money they could keep.  The notebook marks that the total contains are 450 coin worth, and that he needs 150 coins left to go for the medicine.  Piter asks Joshua if there's a Lost-and-Found place in Artienna, but Joshua admits he has not heard of one.  That does, however, sound like a good business.    As they camp down to eat, Joshua starts lamenting the loss of his favorite donkey, Amberdilexi, which makes the others squirm, knowing they had eaten it by accident.    Alarm is cast once more before bed.

With nightfall, however, they wake up upon realizing there's that feeling of having to keep their balance.  When Aya tries to sit up, she realizes the ground is slanted somehow that she rolls on top of  the others.  She yells at them to wake them that they're somehow moving despite being camped!  Aya opens the tent flap and they discover all around them is nothing but fog and cloud.  Jordi does not seem to be with them.  They tumble to the other side of the tent once more as the slope shifts!  Aya wonders as she rolls out of the tent if they're on the dragon!   She surveys the area and realizes the clouds are the fog.  The tent is upon what seems to be a giant leaf.  And around them are massive blades of grass!  Worse, the party donkey has gone missing.  Piter wakes Jordi, who then shares the grassland dragons can make things grow faster.  "Faster or bigger," Piter hisses, "There's a difference!"  When Piter's abacus begins to levitate out from his hands, the group begins to suspect foul play.  Not long after, even Aya's personal belongings, a pearl encrusted mirror, begin to float away.

They soon discover that capitalizing on the incident are a pair of Konekogoblins, both of whom are training to be thieves.   The two masked figures are seen with a telescoping fishing rod.  One tries to disable Tristan, who gets to them from behind, with some kind of powder but it fails to affect him.  He casts a shooting star to bring one down.  Piter snags the cord of the fishing rod, keeping the masked figure from running away with it. When captured, they identify themselves as Kotaro and Quika, and try to claim they're doing this to feed starving kids.   The Dragon's Blessing must have caused the plants around them to grow into gigantic proportions.  The two, it turns out, happened to encounter Jordi, the cart and the donkey, at the ground and only then began to fish what they could.  The Alarm never triggered since they were fishing from outside it's range.   Realizing the two are far too young, Tristan forces out of them the information that they were being trained by a man named Kotihi, and the group decides to bring them back to Artienna to get reprimanded by their adult counterparts.  They camp down the night.

The next morning, Aya wakes them with her song, "Shiny Shimmering Splendid" and the group awakens to a sunny day.  They approach the town and see bright colors about.  The festival is ongoing!  The gates open as they approach and the sound of cheering voices fill the air.  They see the many carts, the many stands, the wonderful collection of cultures and products available.  They meet a man selling portraits of the dragons, but they realize the artwork is not accurate. The man claims to have painted accurate ones, but it seems he's lying.  Piter insults the man, accusing him of making fake paintings.  He mentions a companion who was there with him when he witnessed the dragon.  The companion supposedly lost his purse while there.   Later, they present the two thieves to the local authorities and find a not too happy authority figure receiving them.  The guards are confused, however, on what exactly happened as per their tale.

Tristan sets up his spot to sell stuff.  Jordi admits he was denied a license since he has no wares with him.  He raises the hope to unload and sell the Nekonip at once so there's time to get a new permit to sell his own wares.  Jordi challenges Tristan to sell the Nekonip within the day, and if he does, he will even give Tristan half of his sale.    He starts selling the Nekonip in Piter's special boxes, and selling actually gains the attention of a Noblewoman who is also enjoying the sales the festival is offering.  They fiercely bargain on the purchase, with Jordi and Tristan pretending to be lovers to distract the customer long enough to recalculate their offer.  The sale is made and Jordi successfully maneuvers Tristan to agree to splitting the sale 50% down the line.

When the group argues with the painter about the cranberries in the path (while they remember seeing Grandberries instead), which seems to suggest that the painter saw the dragon  (or at least, a dragon) earlier than the ones the group had seen.  The painter's reputation is ruined by their accusation, and the nobleman who wanted to buy the paintings opted not to buy it instead - worried the painter might be just creating fantasy images and not accurate depictions.  

The group soon reunites near their temporary spot, and Jordi has a moment with the noblewoman's servant, and learns a few more things that explain why they would be searching for so much Nekonip.  Piter seems happy to get the painter's bag, despite Aya feeling guilty that they may have ruined his reputation.  Piter considers getting more materials for better boxes to create and stuff.   The group also starts shopping for travelling gear, in preparation for future trips.

Aya visits the bathhouse, hoping to clean up and feel cleaner.  Someone joins, and she notices the person who joins has a large scar across her back. It is a healed scar, but still clearly new.  Her hair is long and reddish blonde.  Aya strikes a conversation with her, talking about her scar, about being a minstrel, and later, about the festival itself.  When Aya helps her recover from slipping into the water, she is surprised how warm the woman is.   In the other side, Tristan dips into the water as well to clean up.  Like Aya, he has a guest in the tub as well and they talk about life in general, then shifting to the man confessing about how stupid he feels about losing his wallet while travelling with some painter.  His name, it turns out, is Soxi.  And as it turns out, he too was behind the reason the signs were broken up that warned travelers of the "large plants."

Back at the shop, Piter continues to work on the boxes he hopes to finish.  Jordi asks him if he's going to the bath houses like the others to clean up.  The two argue about the deals they had made and the two snarl at each other about going to the same bathhouse.

The red haired woman shares to Aya that her wound was from helping a friend, and that the wound was caused by a dragon.  She explains that dragons tend to swipe once then leave.  Aya is very impressed she would protect someone to that extent.  Oddly when Aya asks about the friend the red-haired woman protected, she admits they actually haven't met. "I don't think I am what he is looking for.  But don't worry too much, Aya.  Your friends and you are doing a great job."   Aya realizes she never shared her name with her.  The room fogs up completely, and then fades, revealing to Aya she's completely alone.  

Tristan and Soxi go through a long tirade of trying to get each other's names, but after Tristan thinks the bag is owned by the man, it turns out to be owned by someone else!  Tristan asks if the man at least recognizes it, and he admits its a money-pouch, but not a bag.  Tristan heads off, searching among the city guard for someone named Ixos.  He finally finds a perfect match, and the man weeps and thanks him when Tristan even adds the missing amount of money to help him get the medicine he needs.  Ixos actually asks if Tristan is one of the Ryuujin, but Tristan insist's he isn't one.  Tristan leaves so happily, he fails to notice the woman he walks into along the path.  He apologizes, and the woman gets back on her feet, telling him to never stop being himself.  She turns the corner and vanishes into fireflies as she walks on.

And finally, Piter dips into the bath only to find Party Monkey there too.  Piter steps over him.  The door opens and someone asks if he can share the bath.  Piter welcomes the strange, "As long as you don't make shoes."  The man comments about how one would think he'd hate the water by now given he's surrounded by it day in and day out.  The man turns out to be a seafarer and owns a ship.  He travels here once a year for the festival only.  The man turns out to be named Captain Calum and he talks about having bought four donkeys and how he'd love to get more.  After the long conversation on how well the donkeys do their job and the like, Calum mentions his desire to buy a few more.  Piter, however, wonders by the end of the conversation if Calum refers to something else when he says Donkeys.  He isn't to leave til a week from then, and Piter admits he'd love to see what the ship looks like.

That moment, a bearded man arrives and informs the Captain that the asses have arrived.  Calum bids Piter farewell and leaves.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Gamble : Blood and Honor

The Gamble

Houses of the Blooded: Blood and Honor

Under the Kind Daimyo Masamune, whose Cunning is known.  The Province of Hokkaido (Enduring/Well-defended) had a Shinto Shrine, a Geisha House, Sumo School, Gambling Den and a Rice Farm.  The Meibutsu of the province was their delectable kani.    The island had women who are the best lays in the land.  They have few warships, and do not project their strength.  Welcoming but secure place.  People are highly superstitious but devoted to the sea.  The Emperor's summer palace is here.

The Samurai under his service include:
Tetsuo Morinaga, the Kaishaku, played by John.  His name means Steel.  His weakness is Beauty.  Despite that, he has an intimidating presence.  The Clan Blade rewards those who have succeeded against the challenge it poses.
Kai, the Hatamoto, played by Phil.  His name means Knowing.  His weakness is Beauty.  He is quite a well-read Clever Strategist.
Unagi, the Onmyoji, played by Patrick.  His name means Slippery.  His weakness is Prowess.  Truly a sea-man before he became samurai.
Shiro, the Courtier, played by Adrian.  His name means White.  His weakness is Strength.  Wonderful conversationalist.
Ono, the Oniwaban, played by Rocky.  His name means Secrets.  His weakness is Courage. He is known to be quite Harmless.

Act I - Opening Gates

The gambling den.  All the samurai are gathered at its gates, with the rest of the Province watching eagerly over their their shoulders as the Daimyo shows the new gambling den to the Seneschal of the Emperor.  The Daimyo struggles to find the words to boast of their gambling den.  Shiro, sliding into the conversation, supports Masamune's loss of words with his own.   The Seneschal is amused, but then stops in front of the Executioner, stating that he recognizes him somehow.  Tetsuo admits he led an army before, but the Seneschal Never Forgets a Face, despite being Dangerously Honest, and that moment, Tetsuo realizes he recognizes the Seneschal.  He had worked under the Seneschal before, and he was once an ashigaru under him but he thought Tetsuo was dead. Clearly he was mistaken as the samurai still lives.  "Perhaps you should consider the honor of some people," the Seneschal sneers, then walks to the Omnyoji asking if today is a good day..." gamble?"

"The ebb of fate favors those who risk..." comes Unagi's response. When the Seneschal asks for the name of the gambling house, Shiro once again steps in to cover for the Daimyo's befuddlement.  Shiro claims the house is to be named after the waters, and the Seneschal declares the place open.    They have gained Honor.  But not all of them.

Act II - Doors

The people celebrate in the gambling house.   Shiro handles the games as the master of ceremonies.  Unagi inspects the construction to ensure everything was done appropriately.  Ono is quietly serving sake, unrecognized by all. Kai visits Tetsuo, hoping to talk to him about the earlier events - clearly the Seneschal knew him and did not look at him favorably.   Tetsuo thought he was the last survivor, so he ran off to start a new life.  As it turns out, he was wrong.  Kai reminds him that he is now of the Hokaiddo and that their Clan takes care of its own.  His past is the past.  "But be prepared to do what needs to be done," the Hatamoto warns.

Moving down the corridor, both catch sight of a pair of beautiful women approaching the door they are keeping watch.  The Hatamoto excuses himself, especially after checking if they appear to be Geisha of the Province and reminds the Kaishaku he's handling the Yojimbo duties tonight.  The Kaishaku tries to remain composed, being so devoid of understanding the ways of women.  The women claim to have been summoned by the Daimyo and that their duty is to entertain the guest.  Tetsuo stumbles with his words as he explains he wishes to serve his master.  The geisha suddenly steps forward, touching Tetsuo's lips, as she tells him they are ready.  Unagi happened to be passing through that moment, inspecting things and in shock proclaims how these geisha are wearing the wrong patterns.  There is a silent clash of wills as Unagi finds himself staring at the lead Geisha's eyes.  Unagi is certain the patterns are wrong, but he does believe they are geisha.  They are not familiar faces though.  Unagi recalls seeing the lead geisha once outside the Province... but then remembers she witnessed him doing something once that he did not want anyone else to know: a broken vow of celibacy... with the Hatamoto's wife.  He allows her to go, and she smiles, knowing what she knows gives her an upper hand.

Neither of them realized, however, one of the Oniwaban's spies saw that exchange.

Back at the Gambling House, Shiro entertains the guests.  He soon notices an unthinkable act: one of the men in the gambling house is armed with his sword.  And worse, he seems to be drunk and very talkative, now very friendly and generous to everyone close.  The man frighteningly is one of the samurai of the Seneschal of the Emperor.  The Hatamoto arrives, but chooses to observe for now how Shiro will handle the event.   Even Ono, serving sake, simply observes.  Shiro draws out the man's anger towards women and gets him to admit he is depressed for having lost a woman.  Ono notes that part of his anger is his hate of sea travel, and that he has been in service to the Seneschal for quite some time.  The man's left arm, he notes, is weaker and he seems to have the beginnings of a cataract in one eye.  His name is Jingoro Takimoto, and he turns out to be the Executioner of the Seneschal.  He finds the duty to be such a burden, as he carries with him the Emperor's sword.

Unagi notices a perfume in the air, one different from the usual scents he has grown accustomed to in this Court.  He follows it and realizes it leads to a side corridor the Geishas would not have used.  He hurries off to find the Hatamoto to report his findings.

Kai congratulates Shiro's actions on controlling the Executioner of the Emperor, despite the drunken man waving the Emperor's blade around.  He heads off to visit the Daimyo.

Back at the Daimyo's chamber, Tetsuo Morinaga can hear the sounds of giggling geisha and gasping men coming from the door.  Sounds of cloth tearing as well erupts from within.  He realizes the sounds can sound both like those of sensuality or of murder.  The groans and grunts are accompanied by splashes and giggling.  The sounds alarm him, but deep down he feels he must remain a samurai and wait.  That moment, fortune smiles upon him as the Hatamoto arrives.  Both realize they can smell smoke emanating from the door.  Kai feels the demands of Courage rise as he slides the door open without asking for permission from the Daimyo - and given this is an act in which the Hatamoto is risking his honor, even Unagi's predictions come into play.

The door slides open to reveal the lead geisha smoking a pipe.  Behind her, the paper doors are closed with a trail of scattered clothes of the Daimyo, the two geisha and the emperor's seneschal.  Hatamoto sees a small stream of red coming out from the bottom of the bed.  The lead geisha sees his concern and explains, "They were virgins."  She blows out another cloud of smoke.  Knowing Masamume would understand his actions in these matters, Kai feels confident his brashness would be excused.  However, he had accidentally partially drawn his sword.  Pressing his thumb against the blade, he draws blood to satisfy the honor of the blade.  The lead geisha smiles at this, and Kai feels he can trust her.  He explains the smoke was unusual as their geisha had not taken to this foreign habit.  She offers it to him to try.  As Kai takes a puff, the lead geisha stares at Tetsuo and asks if he would like to try - her legs parting at the moment her offer is given.  Tetsuo takes a leading step forward, but then feels his loyalty challenged.   Under other circumstances, he would have probably indulged.

Kai feels his senses shift from the tobacco.  His sight sharpening.  His hearing expanding.  The lead geisha suggests the Executioner try the tobacco as well, but he reminds the General that they are not on personal time.  Kai walks up to the Executioner and offers it to his lips, challenging him if he will deny her this hospitality.  He inhales, coughs from the smoke, and she returns to the General's side.  She commends the General for being used to the ways of women, and he admits he knows when there are times to indulge and times to deny oneself.  More sounds of passion waft from the paper doors.  Kai forces his attention beyond the haze the tobacco has placed his mind in, and he realizes a direct way to check is not acceptable.  But thankfully, they hear the Daimyo call out asking for an explanation.  The lead geisha motions to the Hatamoto to remain silent after he tries responding, claiming she was practicing her "man's voice."

Unagi cannot find the Oniwaban.  He does find the gambling house has become a celebration.  People are watching a central table where the Takumi is with a drunken samurai.  The drunken samurai has gone into a full narrative moment, standing with his hands on his chest, as he demonstrates how his wife used to berate him night after night after night.  Unagi sneaks in, searching for the Hatamoto, only to be singled out by the drunken samurai to come forward and act like his wife.  Shiro moderates the whole event, keeping it acceptable in a way that all believe it to be an act - saving the samurai's face.  Unagi acts out what the drunken samurai wants, but remains evasive to ensure none of the blows actually land, and avoiding any sort of physical contact with the Emperor's Sword, without it ever slipping out of its scabbard.   The people remain amused.    The place develops a reputation for being lively and fun.  The drunken samurai feels relieved and happy that others are listening to him, feeling more at home.  He understands Shiro has protected his honor, and thus owes him one.  They cheer, with Shiro offering a round of sake to the house - hoping he did not declare it too soon because they might not fully afford it.

The night begins to end with laughter in the gambling den, with the two samurai leaving the chamber with the geisha, and as the sound of a breaking pitcher reveals the Oniwaban is actually in the chamber of the Daimyo, picking up the pieces to clean the mess he - as a servant - had made.  Jingoro is escorted to the resting rooms by the Ashigaru.  And the girls are gathered by Shiro, congratulated for a job well done.

Act III - Before Morning

Testuo stayed by the corridor til the coming of morning, inspecting the pipe during the silent hours.  He notes the hint of red on it from the lead geisha's lips.  He fumbles with it and finds a note asking to meet at the Shinto Shrine before dawn comes.

The Daimyo meets with the Hatamoto around the same hour, telling him today is an interesting day.  The Hatamoto commends that he sounded satisfied, but then realizes he may have just slipped and revealed he was in his chambers without permission.  Masamune shares how Ogo's male voice did sound like Kai's.  Kai simply claims that geishas are truly talented in such a way.   He admits he will rest, exhausted from the night's affairs.  The Emperor's Seneschal sleeps with the Geishas.  At the room, the Daimyo retires for the night suggesting that they visit her Province in the future.  "Tomorrow, if we are truly blessed by the Kami, the Emperor will send word if he is truly visiting."

Tetsuo finds someone waiting at the Shinto Shrine, but it is far from who he had expected.  Unagi is there, as he rightfully should be, and questions the Executioner on why he'd come.  Tetsuo confesses his concerns, his conflict between his role now and that of his past, and of the Emperor's Seneschal and her role in his history.  Unagi allows him some time alone to think and ponder on his life.  Tetsuo makes a donation and the Unagi gives him a Blessing, reminding him that I have no Home.  "Your old life is your old life. This is your new life."  Tetsuo feels extremely thankful for this.

To the Unagi's surprise, the lead geisha Ogo emerges at the doorway.  She addresses him with amusement seeing he is now a priest.  She teases him with the fact she is aware that Unagi had slept with Kai's wife, and muses how many prayers he offers each night that he does not find out.   She claims to desire time in the temple but Unagi inquires if she is here to meet someone.  Ogo admits people who come here come to see her.  Unagi dismisses his acolytes and leaves, as requested, a single lit candle.  Ogo promises to never tell the Hatamoto, but Unagi turns down the offer, insisting he wants to hold the last promise he has made in his heart.    He leaves to dismiss the Acolytes, only to discover there is no sign of any of them in the temple!

Back at the town, a messenger arrives and the message speaks of the Emperor's visit having happened yesterday.  Shiro and Kai are dumbfounded at the idea that his August Patronage had been in their presence all this time.   The messenger admits he had been instructed to delay the message for a full day.  After discharging the messenger of his duties, Shiro runs to the Daimyo!  

Ono, the Spymaster, happens to be in the temple praying when the scent of Ogo's perfume reaches his nose.  He realizes he knows who Ogo is and overhears the exchange she had with Unagi.  He knows she is the Emperor's Spymaster and he realizes she has been here for a duty he must have secretly assigned her.  He observes as Ogo addresses Tetsuo, referring to him by his full name, Tetsuo Morinaga, Great and former Yojimbo.  He tells her he prays for the Kami to bless him a new life.  "You and I, we have committed grave sins in the past."  Ogo counters that they have committed so sins.  Tetsuo stresses he has fierce loyalty to the Emperor and he feels inside the conflict remains between wait he knows is right and his loyalties.  "I have tried my best to run from that life, but now I am seeking blessing for having lived peacefully here."

Both the Hatamoto and the Courtier find no sign of the Executioner in the chambers they had given him.  They are not certain what is transpiring.    They rush to the Daimyo's chamber.  The two feel panic rise within them.  The Chaos swirls.

Unagi was about to interrupt both Ogo and Tetsuo only to find Ono interrupting him.  Harmless Ono asks him to stay silent.  To observe.  "In the future," Ono whispers, "The temple should be locked at night.  Too inviting. I would not presume to tell you how to do things, but clearly there are those who enjoy hanging here at night."

Ogo tells Tetsuo that it is not the blessings of the Kami that he seeks, but a chance to make things right.  The door opens and Jingoro, the Emperor's Executioner walks in with the blade raised in its scabbard.  Ogo tells him, "We have unfinished honor that seeks to be settled."  Ogo leaves Tetsuo's side and walks up to the blade.  Dawn breaks.  Sunlight creeps upon them.  A new day.  Unagi realizes a new prediction is due.  "Draw your blade, samurai, for we must settle the past," Ogo draws the Emperor's blade,  "We have the Emperor's blessing."

"It seems the sins of my past have caught up with me," Tetsuo admits.  "There is no need to stain the Emperor's blade with the blood of a traitor."  He kneels and prepares to commit Seppuku to regain honor. But Ogo tells him he is mistaken, for his actions have never brought him dishonor.  Ogo calls out Ono, claiming to know he is in the room.  She states how none of them have paid attention to the upper balcony of the shrine.  All look up to see the Emperor watching.  Ogo declares Tetsuo to be the man she believes would better serve as Yojimbo  and offers to give a demonstration.  The Emperor, with the smallest of movements, shows he desires to see.

"When you are ready, Samurai," Ogo bows before Tetsuo.

"Is it done?" the Daimyo asks Kai and Shiro as they reach his door, gasping for breath, "Have we lost the Executioner?"  The two soon are enlightened on what was actually transpiring.  "In as much as we are known to be kind and generous, many forget we are Cunning."  The Daimyo tells the two samurai to accompany him now to the Temple, blind to the spy of the Spymaster listening from the ceiling.  They learn how the Executioner acted as a fool to distract all and focus attention on the gambling house while the Emperor and his gathered arrived at the Shinto Shrine.

Unagi watches as the duel is about to begin.  He pulls back a sleeve, reaches for the brush, and begins to write a new prediction for the new day.

"Let everything be reborn."

Ogo and Tetsuo stand, swords drawn and ready.  Ono knows Ogo as well, however, and is surprised she is not using her bow.  The two remain unmoving, reading each others stance and anticipating each other's moves.  They clash, but not a single time does Tetsuo land a blow upon Ogo.  But as they strike a few more times, Tetsuo successfully disarms Ogo of the Emperor's blade and launches it into the air.  Old emotions boil to the surface and Tetsuo begins to scream out words containing all the anger and feelings of betrayal he had felt.  In an attempt to steady himself, Tetsuo extends the blade against her chest and demands that she yield. Rather than do so, however, she rushes forward towards it.  Tetsuo withdraws the blade at the last second, and sheaths it, then runs for the falling blade.   Ogo smiles, and yells, "Ono!" knowing he will throw her something she can throw.  Ono throws Ogo a dagger.   With Courage, Tetsuo catches the blade with his hand, and the blade draws blood from his palm.  Ogo raises the dagger, but seeing what Tetsuo has done, drops it to the ground.  Tetsuo turns, with the Emperor's blade in his hands, and offers it back to her.

The Emperor is impressed.  The duel is concluded.  And the Executioner comes up to Tetsuo and offers the scabbard.  Ogo bows, with the dagger at her feet.  There is no need to draw blood anymore.

"Come and take your place among my samurai," the Emperor addresses Tetsuo directly.  Tetsuo walks up to the Executioner, takes the scabbard, cleans it, then sheaths the blade.  The Hatamoto and the Courtier arrive at the doorway in time to see Tetsuo rise to his feet.

"Well," Ogo smiles at them, "I guess it is time to celebrate."

And they celebrate, indeed.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dreams Betwixt Walls ep03 : A Red and Pleasant Land

Dreams Betwixt Walls
Episode Three

"Foreclusions and Other Oddities"

A Red and Pleasant Land

Fleeing.  There has been nothing but the need to find Ilya in Vera's mind.  But the urge to find her comes secondary to the need to flee when dangerous elements gather in the vicinity.   Vera threatens Archie, the rabbit, to give Ilya the opportunity to eventually study magic.  The Grandmama, however, warns Vera of the scarcity of reagents that can be used.

Vera assigns Vidar to watch over the rabbit, but he leaves it when she calls for him. Ilya, with the rabbit, runs off to look around the other side of the town. There, she meets "Jack, Knave of Clubs." Father Geoff and Mara and a dwarf named One try to separate Jack from Ilya. Vera makes a deal with Grandmama to give Ilya a gift to protect her.

Vidar and Vera find the well. Vera gathers glowing herbs as reagents. They learn of children living in the well. Draws one out (around fifteen years) and learns of the foreclusion he had of his mother being attacked by a man in white. Vera concludes Geoff is a danger. Jack invites them to come with her. But Mara resists the magical influence. At a well, Bob, who lives in a well, is invited to join them. Jack seems determined to gather more children from the well.

Vera and the others return to the cottage. Grandmama is on her way to leave, but Vera decides to ransack her cupboard for reagents. Ilya arrives, calling for help with word of Mara having hurt herself in a fall. Vera realizes the priest and the child are needed to talk to the Red King. When Vera starts throwing out commands, Rabbit admits she works for the Queen. He drew us to the world for the Queen needs humans. Vera plays along when the Rabbit magically compels her to bow.

Angered, Vidar picks up the rabbit, then smashes it against the wall, killing it. Ilya exasperates that moment and she starts crying and realizes there is a spare pestle under the kitchen sink.  The pestle, she later discovers, is what is needed to control the walking house.

The priest confrots a giant monocled hog, who begins eloquently talking about the pigs and the wolf. using the spear, he tries to stab it in the heart. The third pig being its ancestor...

Grandmama on a giant pestle appears, falling from sky.  She is grievously injured and is barely able to speak.  She tries to warn them of the Heart and Clubs. She warns us of the coming danger.  Somehow, despite the distance they have made since running from their enemies, Clubs close in their location.  Everyone is now in danger!

People panic. Vera tells people there is only one thing to do.  Father agrees and asks Vera for the plan.   Instead of just telling them what to do, however, she admits the best is to follow what Ilya says.  Ilya decides the best thing to do is to head for the far distant mountains.  Some choose to join them. Vera smiles inwardly, knowing now they now have a house and servants.

Geoff speaks to the Dwarves, asking them to decide on what they will do. He reminds them of his promise to them. He revisits those in the well and admits having killed the mother, an act she had him do, and promises to watch over them.

Ilya goes to visit Bob's well, but finds Jack back there. Bob is now Ace, of Clubs. He's been transformed too.  Not the kind of circumstances that would lead to having tea, nor a drink with jam and bread.

But things are never simple here in this red and pleasant land.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

12 New Games for 2015, now complete!

Great news everyone!   I've finally completed my 12 New Games Challenge for this year.  Rounding up the list is John Harper's Blades in the Dark.  I had supported the Kickstarter and decided to finally take a stab at running it for my officemates.   Six player game in barely three hours, and yet it was a blast!  Even better, one of them was a first-time Role-playing gamer. 

2015 New Games
1) End Of the World
2) Don't Rest Your Head
3) Fiasco: Bad Timing
4) Ryuutama
5) Roll20: Dungeon World
6) Bliss Stage
7) Companions
8) A Red and Pleasant Land
9) Apocalypse World
10) Dungeons and Dragons, 5e
11) Dread
12) Blades in the Dark

Another awesome piece of news is how I'm gonna be another stretch goal this year!  Andy Kitkowski of Kotohi, who brought us the lovely game Ryuutama all the way from Japan, is now working on another game.  Even more awesome, fellow Pinoy GM and Gamer, Jay Anyong is also working on one too!  Woot Represent! It is not too late to join the fun and back the project.  Head on down to their Kickstarter page before the December deadline and join the fun.

Finally, this Sunday will be the last G&GM Philippines mini-convention for the year.  We're celebrating Science Fiction with our event called In A Galaxy Far, Far Away!  I'll be talking about Going Gmless, as well as introducing the people to three GM-less systems (Fiasco, Questlandia and Our Last Best Hope) as well as holding a game session of Our Last Best Hope for others to watch.

Special thanks to my Patrons, and my TAG TEAM SUPPORTERS, with special mention going to Mina , Rocky and Justin as well as James for the support.

Thank you!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Journey ep03 : Ryuutama


Episode Three
"The Meowtain Path"


The mayor and father of Kenemokabakamabebe has tasked the team to find a way to bring the stars back by finding the Nekomata who is in the mountain far north.  The group heads off to the quest without Jordi, the shoemaker.  The group makes their way through the swamplands in the dark of night, across the difficult muddy landscape.  Sinkholes, sharp rocks and sticky mud makes the trip quite a challenge.  Aya sings the Samba in the Swamp to raise their spirits as they make their way through the foul smelling terrain.  Sadly, all of them and their belongings become "smelly" until they find a chance to freshen up.  But on the other hand, they find no other threats or complications during their journey.

They soon reach the base of the mountain, with the weather becoming colder as they approach the tall cliffs and strong winds.  Pebbles dot the ground, making travel a bit slippery.  At the bottom, a sign reads: STEY AWEY - DARK EEVILHEART MEOWTAIN!  Keene, unlike the most of them, is completely clean.  He admits to them that there is a path that the Nekogoblins take to avoid the muck, but since the rest seemed so happy to trudge forward, he just let them go through the sludge. When they ask if there was a path up the mountain, he admits there used to be one.  But the path ceased to be useful ever since the Eggs showed up.   Not seeing any river nearby to camp and clean up, they opt to press on. When Tristan suggests the "party leader" goes first, Piter argues that isn't the case.  But Tristan's monkey marches ahead, happily claiming to be the party leader.  They come across some shattered egg shells on the floor.  Keene worries it might the beast, with great flames and giant arms that shatter trees.

Charging out of the darkness, the group finds themselves facing a number of Running Eggs!    But the stone steps, the dead tree stumps, the thorny bushes, the darkness and even the party donkey prove useful in the battle, allowing them magnificent moves to dispatch the wandering monsters.  Twice, the group defeats Running Eggs spectacularly, causing a surge of inspiration and adrenaline to swirl within their hearts.  The question still remains: where are these eggs coming from?  Casting their sights ahead, they can see the snow peaked alps ahead.  The group smiles, knowing they had packed in preparation for the snow.

They continue up, following the Egg path to the peak, braving the cold weather.  They decide to camp down to recover.  But discover a clutch of more eggs that run away, watching them from the distance.  They quickly pack up, with the weather having shifted to have less wind and more snow. Tristan wonders why the eggs did not trigger the Alarm, despite him casting the spell.  They journey up the mountain.   Soon, they reach an ice sculpture towering over two meters, appearing as a massive great cat standing on its hind legs.  Its body is covered with spikey protrusions of ice.  Tristan wonders if they should try to boil the ice down into water and take a bath first.  Piter thinks its preposterous to suggest that given the cold.  The monkey digs at the foot of the statue, and finds more broken egg shells.  Aya wonders why they would be there.  Piter wonders if there's someone else, or if they hatched.   Keene has backed away, muttering about the Nekomata's Guardian.   That every Nekomata has one.  Piter wonders if they should have charged extra for this mission.  Aya wonders if the statue is what the guardian looks like. Tristan begins calling aloud to the statue, declaring themselves as having been sent by the town.  He asks if they are given passage to cross the Guardian.  Aya wishes they had a noble with them to handle the negotiations.  Tristan asks Piter if he has an extra container, or something for display.  The idea of such a container makes Piter feels aghast.  Tristan clarifies he needs something to show as a gift.  Piter turns to Aya to ask if she has a song instead to soothe the savage beast, so to speak.  Aya decides to try and begins singing but nothing happens.  They all turn to look at Keene.  He admits to never having been here... Tristan grabs Aya's clothes box, but Aya starts pulling her clothes out.  As Tristan offers the box, Keene, seeing the empty box, cannot help it but leap inside.  Cats love boxes.  Piter stats describing the features of the container, given its quality and materials.   But only the whistling of the wind seems to respond.

Aya and Tristan step forward to offer the box to the Guardian. Piter stays by the party donkey to keep watch. He glances at the right side and sees a man in a robe also watching.  The man smiles, a feral grin, and asks what they are doing.   The man, turns out to be the Nekomata himself, who asks Piter why they are at his home.  Piter explains they have come a long way to find him.  Aya and Tristan are dancing now and singing in front of the ice sculpture, trying to appease the statue.  The Nekomata asks what they are doing and Piter admits it is complicated.   The Nekomata finally admits to Piter that it is just a statue.  Tristan and Aya are now bowed before the statue.  Piter clears his throat loud enough for the others to hear, and they turn to see the newcomer.  Piter shows the box to the Nekomata, and after Aya drags Keene out of it, Piter taps on the side of the wood and a really thin lanky and mangy cat is inside.  "What is this!?! What paradise have I found!?!"  Keene slips inside and Piter closes the lid on the two of them.  Piter grins, mutter now they have succeeded in their quest, as the two have met.

An argument erupts inside the box!  The Nekomata mutters about recognizing Keene.  Tristan wonders if they can ask the Nekomata to give the stars back in exchange for another box.  In the far woods, however, a shadow in the trees has been watching them.  The shadow realizes neither of the group realizes what is about to happen.  He steps into view to call out and warn them!  It is the Weather Reader, he asks them about the situation but before he can say more, the Guardian comes to life!  A quick fight ensures, but the group easily convinces the Nekomata to shut the guardian down.  Nekomata admits to being worried that the town has replaced him with the younger new Nekomata, Kenemokabakamabebe.  His powers wane as the young one's increase.  They succeed in convincing the two to agree to work together, and realize that bringing back the stars meant having the Nekomata create fireworks in the sky.  Using his magic, the Nekomata easily keeps the group warm on their journey down the mountain.  He even knows a way around the swamp, as there's a false swamp path back to the town.

They receive the reward, but what they though would be thousands of coin turned out to be thousands of pounds of Nekonip instead!  The group excitedly considers their prospects when Jordi and the Weather Reader share that not too far away is the town of Artienna.  And that it was not far off til the coming Traveler's Festival!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Maybe it is time to run a new chronicle.


I so want to run a game using White Wolf's Mage: The Sorceror's Crusade for this.  I mean, just look at the character concepts!

Oh the possibilities are endless! :-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

12 new games update and HorrOctober update!

So I finally got to run a session of Dread for the HorrOctober mini-convention we held and boy, was that a blast of an experience.  I wonder if I should share the audio file of that game session (I probably need to get permission from all the players) but man, it was definitely such a rush of an experience.    That, plus the Mouseguard D&D session I ran brings my total list to 11!  One game to go!  Although the RomCom game I ran was a homebrewed one, I guess I shouldn't count it yet until I write it out to have its own system.

I also gave a talk on How to Host Horror, and while the original slides were around 68MB huge, I had to trim it down to the basics for an online release.  You can find it here in case you'd want to check them out:  The Garapata Repository  

So yeah down to one last game for 2015's 12 New Games for the Year.

The current tally includes:
1) End Of the World
2) Don't Rest Your Head
3) Fiasco: Bad Timing
4) Ryuutama
5) Roll20: Dungeon World
6) Bliss Stage
7) Companions
8) A Red and Pleasant Land
9) Apocalypse World
10) Dungeons and Dragons, 5e
11) Dread

I have a Saturday horror game scheduled up with two players and Rocky. Maybe that's the perfect time to have one last new system.   Or maybe it is time to dive back for a moment into the World of Darkness.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rust : Apocalypse World


Apocalypse World

After playing so many games that were Powered by the Apocalypse, we realized we had yet to take a dive into the Apocalypse World game itself.  So this day, we opted to do so.  The cast of the game is as follows:

Humphrey, the Driver.  Played by Urim.
Humphrey was a Transgressing Cool and Sharp No Shit Driver with Daredevil tendencies.  He wore leatherwear, had a gorgeous face, pale eyes, and a solid body.  He barely recalled life before the Apocalypse.

Gritch, the Brainer.  Played by BJ
Gritch was an ambigious Cool and Weird figure with an Unnatural Lust Transfixion and Brain Puppet Strings.  S/he wore a plastic raincoat, had a sweet face, no hair, caring eyes and a soft supple body.

Fluffy, the Gunlugger. Played by Rocky
It was hard to tell his gender under the mismatched armor that matched his Hard and Cool exterior.  He had an opaque biker helmet that covered his scarred face, sad eyes and a huge body.

The group felt this overlying need to get to the Nexus, a place which Gritch kept babbling about but could not really define.  Fluffy joined the two since he owed his life to the Brainer.  It was a world of Envy and Fear, with groups forming their own little communities to make sense of it all.

Among the threats were the Medicant, whose Prophet build the Fortress that promoted fear.  They believed Brainers were here to evolve humanity into a hive mind and were the cause of the Apocalypse.  The Robinsons on the other hand were a family of Brainers that envied the Prophet of the Medicant.  They sought to find their missing child, Gritch, who escaped from their clutches.  And the Vikings, the hunting packs that sought to find and kill any Brainers they could find.

The group were moving on the road, seeing the Medicant's cult dotting the landscape with the lights of their churches.  The 4x4 off-road vehicle proudly showed its neon-green body against the rust-colored landscape.  Fluffy found himself remembering moments of the world before the Apocalypse, the day when technology stopped working and mutants began to take over the cities.  Now, most cities have been abandoned and groups have carved their own little niches to call home.  Nature has taken over the rest.   Humphrey found himself remembering the words Gritch mumbled, "The Nexus.. We have to find the Nexus.."  They've been moving around blindly for months, it is only lately that her words have shifted to claim they feel closer than before.

A sound.  Something seems to have hit the car from underneath.  A cursory glance, however, reveals nothing.  Gritch fondles the her jack, the place where computers used to be plugged into her, as she worries over what the sound was.   Humprey checks the gauges and the gas tank seems fine.  Water levels are good. Another sound.  Fluffy preps his machine gun.  He loads his shotgun, anticipating trouble.  "Four," Gritch mutters despite knowing there are only three of them in the car, "There is an unknown variable in the identity equation."  Fluffy asks where, and Gritch responds, "My mistake.. five."  Gritch stares at the leather of the seats for anyone sitting beside them, but she finds none.  Fluffy slides open the sun roof, climbs out, and looks at the roads and tries to catch anything but isn't sharp enough to notice anything out of the ordinary.  Save for long humps on the road.  Humps.  People lying on the road.  A Viking emerges, hanging from behind the car, and flings a knife at the Gunlugger.  Fluffy stabs it with the knife, and it bounces away, clattering to the street.  A knife.  Fluffy opens fire with the machine gun.

The side door pops open, and Gritch sees a face staring back at her!  Hearing the door, Humphrey yells, "No body touches my car!" and swerves the car to make the Viking lose balance.  The door slams closed, pinning the Viking's fingers in the doorframe.  The bullets of Fluffy's gun miss, balance lost by the swerving car.  Another Viking clamps a hook onto Fluffy's arm to pull himself up onto the car.  Fluffy impales his own knife into the Viking's face and he falls onto the road.  Fluffy swings the machine gun at the other guy, blowing him off the car.  Gritch sees a vision of mutants standing.  She realizes and tells Fluffy, "You're calling their attention!"  Fluffy spits out a cuss and shoves his machine gun back into the car.  "Knives it is."

Another Viking tries to pry the door open.  Gritch opens the door, causing the Viking to slip off and fall into the road.  Humphrey stomps on the gas.  The car accelerates, and occasionally bounces off the ground for a few seconds.  Again.  Again.  Fluffy sees the bodies on the ground rolling away in pain.  It seems the Vikings had been waiting on the road, hooks ready to latch onto any vehicle driving by to grab hold from underneath.  Humphrey spins the car, hoping to knock the others off the vehicle, but loses control of it!  As Humphrey tries to recover, they slam against the side of the road.  Sparks fly as Humprey reengages the engine, and the car growls down the road.  Gritch locks the doors shut.  And they move again.

"..three..  only three.." Gritch finally mumbles, "We have successfully performed the simplification.  Identity matrix is intact again."

"Do you ever speak in English?" Fluffy snarls.

"English is crude," Gritch mumbles.

The trio continue down the road, knowing the cities are not safe with all the mutant cannibals.  They know, however, there are small settlements within which use the cannibals as "front line defenses," and the cannibals have learned not to waste their lives trying their defenses.  Humphrey takes the rest to one settlement where an old friend of his, Kim, a Savvyhead, stays at.  Gritch remembers this place had a massive bonfire at its center.  Fluffy hates how that makes them seem like such a beacon to others.  They arrive, are given a quick check, and are allowed to approach.    "Are you here to Barter?"  They seem unhappy to see the group, more so with Fluffy holding his shotgun out.  "What's she, your wife?" he points at Gritch.  Gritch simply tells them she is their wives.   The guards decide to them them through.  An outline of light reveals the door beneath the car, which then slides at an angle to allow them down.  Fluffy realizes there are snipers in position, ready to shoot any by the bonfire if need be.    Gritch wonders aloud if it would have been better if she appeared as a man.

Below, with the rigged lighting, gaslamps, and electricity, the group are greeted by four people with guns.  They are escorted to lot A-4, and park the car.  They are greeted by Prim, who asks what they are here to barter with.  Humphrey stresses they are here for Kim, and that Fluffy is just "cleaning the sight."  He adds Kim helps maintain his car, Rosie, once in a while.  They aren't too happy to see a Brainer but Fluffy warns them that she's protected.  When they are told to leave all their claws and teeth at the car, Fluffy opts to stay in the car given his desire to not give up his weapon.  Gritch weirds out the others, showing she has nothing under her translucent raincoat.  Prim leads them to Kim so they can barter. Gritch mutters that she thinks they will need a duck.   Gritch opts to head for the market place with Fluffy.

Maser Kim is wearing the robes of the medicants.  Humphrey looks shocked to see his friend has become part of the Cult.  The two quickly get reacquainted and catch up on old times.  Humphrey makes sure to tell Kim that "Rosie" is now a green "Cobra."   Sort of like how the Saavyhead is now a Priest.  "It is so easy. They just ask you for advice and you tell them any shit.  And if it doesn't work, you tell them they need to be more penitent."

At the Marketplace, neon lighting and stalls are all one can see from wall to wall.  People of all sorts run around.  The two ask for a duck, a strange request which Gritch admits she simply understands they need. "I'll understand it when I see it."  They opt to try eating a duck, given its at least a step in that direction.  Prim pats Gritch's raincoat hood and tells them she will find them the duck.  Humphrey blocks her hand and reminds Prim no one touches her.  They go to a Chino-Resto and order some roasted duck.  Prim shares with them how they work with the Medicants now, standing as the front line between the Cannibals and the people.  Gritch touches Prim's hand caringly, and they stay silent for a moment of intimacy.  Gritch ends up deeply Brainscanning Prim without realizing it. Gritch learns Prim's partner used to be obsessed about finding the Nexus, and was once a Robinson too.  Prim excuses herself, and quickly hurries out.  Gritch notices Prim's jacket shows an old cartoon character who looks like a duck!  "She's the duck!" Gritch mutters aloud.  They have some more tea.  "We need to kidnap her, I guess.  But we can try to get her to go willingly, whichever would be easier."

Kim and Humphrey talk more about his new gig as a Brother Medicant and how some even think his hands can heal.  They cook up a scheme where Kim will help Humphrey but in return he can claim that the Brother Medicant had healed him of something.  Something they can "prove" afterwards.  Humphrey suggests he can claim to have been converted but that's what Medicants do.  Proper arrives, asking to see the Medicant.  Kim makes a show of "completing" Humphrey's transformation to now be completely "a man."    Humphrey sees Proper and realizes she sounded exactly like Prim, even looks like her, but she's not the same person.  Proper reports that they recognize the Brainer with the group, and of "the Nexus".  Kim admits not knowing about the Nexus and this just has Proper walk away.  Kim hurries after her to discuss things but she is gone.  They gather their things and make their way back to the car.

The group heads out of the restaurant, searching for any sign of Prim.  Gritch hates how there are too many people, however.  Too many touching her.  When one asks how much for some time with Gritch, Fluffy pushes her back as he catches the other's hand with his own.  "Walk away."   Fluffy picks Gritch up entirely to carry her for the rest of the way.  They opt to head back to the car for now.  Gritch sees a white dove suddenly getting snared inside a net.  She warns the others there may be a trap waiting for them.    True enough, they see one waiting for them.

At the distance, seven men and Prim are waiting by the car.  Fluffy goes aggro, flinging knives at them.  Gritch slinks around the sides to get closer.  As one of the men accosts Humphrey and Kim, telling them they are going to commander the vehicle, Fluffy's knife lands in his throat.  Humphrey runs to slide into the car if possible knowing he works best within it.  Staying low, Fluffy rushes forward to bear tackle the closest men.  He slams into the ground, pinning three of the men to the floor.  Prim yells at everyone to hold their fire.  Gritch emerges from behind, hugging Prim and asks, "Why must we resort to violence, Prim?" the two find their minds linking and Gritch can see the images of a man holding Prim, talking about getting to the Nexus, to change things and bring the Spark back.  "It is you, Prim, you are the one I must bring to the Nexus," Gritch hears the man tell Prim in the mindlink.  The connection, however is too way, and Prim sees a glimpse of Gritch's own past:  Of loose jacks, of Gritch wriggling away from it to emerge from the vat, gasping for air.  As she crawls up, "mom" and "dad" are distracted, not noticing her, as she crawls out to grab stuff from the medicine room and escape.    Humphrey revs the engine and Kim slams the door shut as he joins him.  He blasts the horn to distact the others.  Fluffy grabs Gritch to head for the back seat.  Gritch yells at Fluffy to wait and she pulls out her implant syringe.  She trains it at Prim's neck and tells her it is poisoned.  She tells Prim to tell the others to lower the ramp so they can leave.  Humphrey moves Cobra to interpose between them and the guards.  Prim relents and the ramp is lowered.

Gritch, however, still plunges the syringe in and stuns Prim.  Fluffy shoves them both into the back seat and shuts the car.  Humphrey  gives Fluffy the signal and he shoots off the tires of all the other cars in the vicinity, but when some shots hit people, the others begin blasting back at them. As the others are shooting at Cobra, Humphrey takes a moment to stay calm.  Fluffy yells out the best exit path to take.  As they drive off, however, they realize the group is sure to be chased by others given the belief that they've kidnapped the Medicant.   Kim has been shot however.  And as he keeps bawling about how much it hurts, Gritch slides up to him and uses a medikit to dig the bullet out.  Prim asks them to give her a gun, but Fluffy insists he can handle it.  Gritch argues they should trust her.  Humphrey insists she should have one, but Fluffy counters she won't get one of his.

Cobra roars down the road as they make their way towards the great bonfires in the distance.  Prim learns from Gritch that they are also looking for the Nexus and that she would have gone with them willingly.  "You don't know my sister."  Proper hears about the news of what had transpired and tells them to prepare what cars can be used.  She tells them she will take the Chopper.

They approach the Vikings camp, car rumbling down, heedless of the noise.  They close in on the camp and Vikings on watch see the car and begin their initial assault.  They run along side the street from above the rooftops and start hurling things at them.  The bags splatter on the windshield, gooey and dark and obscures their vision.  Humphrey opens himself to the psychic maelstorm to see what's outside of the car despite the stuff on the windshield.   The group drives closer to the camp and they can hear music blaring from the camp.  Tied to the camp, a brainer is held prisoner.

Viking jump down from above, chains to keep them from hitting the ground.  Gritch focuses on pulling the bullet out, but she finds herself shocked to see Humphrey reach out to the Maelstorm.  Fluffy shoves open the sunroof to draw out his machine gun. But before he could unleash hell, the machine gun jams!  Vikings land on the roof of the car.  Cobra slams against the gates of the village, dislodging a few of the vikings.  Another leaps at Fluffy, mouth agape to tear into his throat.  Fluffy draws a knife and cuts at the Viking's chest.  The cannibal tries but cannot break open the mask.  Gritch sees the machine gun Fluffy dropped back into the car and turns to Prim. "Miss Prim, I believe someone just gave you a gun."

Guns fire.  Tires squeal.  Gritch mutters about needing one of the Vikings, while she finishes patching up the Medicant.  A chain smacks Fluffy in the face, temporarily blinding him, and a Cannibal clambers atop the car.   Gritch reaches to pull the Viking inside, but Prim pulls her down and kicks the guy off the car.  "I needed one!"  Grabbing Prim's heel, Gritch whispers to Prim to bring one to her.  Prim feels the commands wrap around her and take control.  She jumps down the car.  Humphrey stops the car.  Prim drags one of the Cannibals she knocked unconscious towards them, even as a second one closes in to stab her from behind.  Fluffy fires his shotgun at the attacker, but the shot clips Prim's arm - breaking the mental controls. Gritch takes the Cannibal close and kisses him, wrapping her puppet strings around its brain.   Gritch leaves the Cannibal the command to save the "other Brainer."  As she releases it, she tells them they don't have to save the brainer themselves.  But Humphrey slams the car against the poles holding the imprisoned brainer to have the prisoner fall into the car.

They hear the sounds of a helicopter closing in from the distance.  Suddenly, Gritch slams against the door window!  Prim growls and warns her never to do that again.  Kim trains a gun at Prim to drop it.  Humphrey asks if Prim has a helicopter and learns they always had one.  They roar away from the camp, with the weak brainer inside, unawares of the one cannibal gasping, "Must save brainer" and runs after them.  Behind them, the company of the helicopter finds the cannibals stopping their pursuit.  The helicopter follows the Cobra, choosing not to fire with the sniper.  They were more curious to see where they are headed.

The Cobra drives on.  Humphrey admits this is why he doesn't visit often.  Gritch and Prim start talking about the Nexus, something Kim doesn't really know anything about.  Gritch admits she just knows about it without knowing how.  "It is the only way to bring back the Spark."  None of them really know what that means, however.   Fluffy grumbles about not being permitted to shoot it down.  Gritch talks about how her brain is always nagging her to find the Nexus.  Prim shares her partner's name was Drummer.  And he too sought it.  Kim insists there's no need to get rid of anyone as he can claim he volunteered to ride with them.  Prim assures them her sister won't shoot at them as long as she is safe.  She admits she searches for the Nexus now with them in Drummer's memory.  Gritch admits she isn't him, and won't replace him, but she can pretend.  Prim thinks she has an idea where it might be.

Elsewhere, a man in all white in a room just as white receives a messenger.  The man informs him that the medicant had been shot and abducted.  The Prophet receives the "photographs" of the assailants, sketches of them, and he mumbles, "Humphrey. Prepare the barge.   We are getting back Rosie!"

The Cobra continues across the landscape.  Humphrey considers laying low, but Prim suggests they head West.  It was where Drummer wanted them to go.  Gritch admits there's no way to hide from the helicopter.  Kim suggests the tunnels, which Humphrey counters given the Mutants tend to live down there.  Gritch admits its not the most elegant solution.  "Leapers, those things allergic to the sun. They live down there," Humphrey warns them and then reminds them to make sure the other Brainer is tied up.  And to put something in her mouth.  They continue down the roads, making towards one of the tunnel entrances.  Gritch moves to the side of the Brainer and realizes she's been fed on.   She sees her mouth had been stitched closed.  Gritch begins to snip it open, sharing a quiet moment of intimacy.  Fluffy retrieves his machine gun and begins reloading it.  Prim admits she might be better with the chain and asks if she can keep it.  Fluffy allows her to arm herself.

Gritch reaches out to the Brainer in a shared mind-palace.  Soft music plays.  They talk about helping each other, and of the story of a witch helped by a powerful queen, but betrayed the queen because in her mind though she was saved, she was raped by her captors twenty times over.  "You are no longer as you are."  Gritch tells her they have two choices: to be with them in a dangerous journey, and probably die anyway... or... the Nexus.  The Brainer admits she can hear the Nexus too but does not understand what it is.  They both feel the compulsion to find it.   They consider finding a way to end it together.  Gritch remembers his actual name was Matthew Robinson, but doesn't say it aloud.  The other knows herself as Barker.  "We shall speak again soon. But for now your friends need you.  We are about to die."

Seconds before, as the group enters the tunnel, the darkness suffocates them.  Only the Cobra's lights provide some semblance of visibility ahead of them.   Humphrey stomps on the breaks to stop the moment he sees something in the distance.  Kim smacks his face on the windshield.  Prim, Fluffy, Gritch and the Brainer are forced against the seats.  There is a massive hole ahead of them, with hundreds of broken cars down below.  Above, hanging platforms stir and things leap from above at them!  "Gun!" Prim screams out that moment.  Fluffy throws Prim the machine gun while he uses the shotgun at any leapers that get too close.  Humphrey yanks the stick to go on reverse, but a ruined car slams down on the road behind them, trapping them.  It must had been hanging above on a platform as well earlier!  Fluffy shoots at the closest leapers, blasting holes into the chests of the goat-legged monstrosities that close in.  Humphrey stomps on the accelerator, hoping his daredevil sense kicks in into the darkness, hoping luck holds out!   The car is airborne, but leapers slam upon the car at the last second, and it falls upside down as they hit the ground.  Gritch's eyes open to see the shattering glass in all directions.  They are miraculously alive, but battered.  Rattled, Fluffy crawls out with his guns to shoot at the leapers.  Humphrey pulls himself off the steering wheel, in pain and hating the fact he opted not to have that airbag repaired.

Gritch crawls out, hoping none of the mutants spot him.  Fluffy fires at the other leapers that have landed closely, but have stalled - perhaps to wait for their companions.  Well-placed shots remove their heads easily.  Gritch stops.  He realizes he sees Kim on the ground.  He must have fallen out of the car during the drop!  Gritch pulls himself close to Kim to see if he's still alive.  "Guess I am luckier than I thought," he mumbles.  Underneath him, a leaper crushed from the fall.  Gritch feels suddenly someone grab him from behind, and he is lifted up.  He slips out, ditching his plastic raincoat and dropping to the ground.  He channels his rage outwards in a way he didn't realize he could before and the psychic assault causes the leaper's face to contort in pain.  Freed, Gritch searches Kim's clothes for the gun he used to threaten Prim earlier.  Humphrey can hear the fighting outside.  He pulls his gun free, and shoots at the Leaper near Gritch.  He begins crawling to get out of the car.  Fluffy shoots a few more Leapers down and he is unable to maintain a perimeter.  Sliding out, Humphrey looks up as three more Leapers land in front of him.  "The car's a goner," Gritch yells out.  "Fuck you," Humphrey snarls and he starts stabbing those close enough with the shard of glass he picked up from the ground.

The staccato sound of sniper rifles.    Leapers drop, heads popping like shattered eggs.  Spotlights erupt as a helicopter hovers near a break at the top of the tunnel.  From above, armed men rappel down.  A voice asks, "Is she hurt?  Bring her to the light!"  Gritch looks for Prim and sees her still in the car.  He whispers to himself, hoping she would wake up.    Her clothes are stained red.   Humphrey recalls she carried a lot of knives.  He quickly pulls out a medpack to try and staunch her bleeding.   "Guess we won't get to the Nexus, huh.." she mumbles.  Gritch fights back the tears.  "I guess not."  Proper walks up to them, warning them they will all pay for this.  Fluffy tells her that Prim wanted to come.  Humphrey hisses at her to let him finish.    Proper lets them know the Prophet will cure her sister.  And when they question her trusting the Prophet to cure Prim, she reminds them she is giving him a Brainer.  Humphrey claims Prim's a Brainer, a statement Proper takes as an insult.  Fluffy hits Proper just enough to cause the shot to miss.  Gritch corrects them that Prim isn't a Brainer.  "Only half one."  Proper takes charge of the situation and makes them all her prisoners.  Humphrey realizes Proper and Prim might indeed be Brainers, given she knew where to find Prim despite driving down the tunnels.  Fluffy's eyes widen, "Are they a Brain... together?"  Proper asks Gritch why this is happening.  Why now?  Gritch admits its because he is a Robinson.   "You better be right about this," Proper hisses and warns them if they're wrong, she will throw them to the Prophet.  Kim, who miraculously is still alive, groans he can still fix the Cobra.   Gritch admits if they are wrong about the Nexus, she would rather die to stop the voices in her head.

Proper warns them to shield their eyes.  Groaning noises from above.  Topside, the large metal shields are pried back to reveal the sinkhole they are in.  Proper's men now work to get them out of the hole, dragging it back to the headquarters.

Hours later, the Cobra is red again.  Gritch muses it will be called Rosie again.  Wounds are patched up and bruises are fading.  Prim asks to see the others later, revealing she kept Fluffy's machine gun safe.  She is alive, but broken and crippled from the fall.  Pulling out a knife, Fluffy hands it to Prim and smiles.  "You are not the kind of woman who should be unarmed."

Kim, with an arm in a sling and lots of bandages all over tells Humphrey that though he can try to explain what happened, the Prophet probably would hear more from others about the kidnapping.  The Prophet becomes their topic as they realize the lawyer named Partridge whom they once stole Rosie from does somewhat looks like that man.  Kim wonders if this has anything to do with his quick entry into the order.

The rescued Brainer had been locked up.  Proper tells them the Grant Medicant never shows up without a present waiting for him.  It was either her or Gritch.  Gritch realizes Barker will understand that it is needed to get to the Nexus.  "Perhaps I am a Queen after all."

Horns announce the Grand Medicant's arrival.  Everyone in the Market watches as they arrive.  The Medicant's Whitecoats force everyone aside.  They throw out blessings, perfumed water, and those who are wet all exault in being "blessed."   Gritch crawls into Prim's bed, hugging her tight.  Prim whispers to Gritch that they can still get to the Nexus.  They can still take her with them.  The door opens, and Proper tells them both that the Grand Medicant has arrived.  Grtich tells Prim to close her eyes, and tells her she can pretend he is Drummer.  "I can make you believe."

Gritch slips into a memory of his first encounter with Fluffy as a bunch of ruffians assault the Brainer.  How he saves Gritch despite having a job to watch over some client.  It was that moment that Gritch first heard the word Nexus slip into his thoughts.    Gritch then sees a memory of Prim's of her walking with Drummer on the street when a commotion can be heard in the distance.  Their hired gunlugger runs off to help.  Prim rushes after and sees the Gunlugger helping some ruffian.  It was their first meeting... so long ago, without realizing it.  Prim was the trigger to Gritch knowing of the Nexus.  Prim and Gritch pull back, staring at each other, realizing they met that night, and that Drummer's desire to find the Nexus was something that awakened in Gritch.  "It seems he is my ghost."

Fluffy is forced to wear a collar.  Long poles keep it extended away from the guards who escort him.  Gritch is forced to wear a dark bag over his head too, a precaution to keep the Brainer from being dangerous.  Outside, Humphrey's arms are held behind him, then a plastic strip is locked around his wrists to contain him.  Kim is injured, but is drugged enough to be carried with them to meet the Prophet.  Finally, the doors shove open and they reach the platform to head outside.  Chanting is repeating outside but as they emerge to the street level, the cheering shifts into booing and hissing at them.  They see the Prophet pointing at them... calling them Viking Whores... and the crowd screams for their blood.  He claims he will allow the crowd to decide on the judgment they will deserve.  The Prophet has the lights focused on them, and he stares at Humphrey, finally realizing he recognizes the man.   "You!!! What is your naaaame?"

The Prophet begins to realize who Humphrey is and true enough, Humphrey admits that he used to sleep with him.  Fluffy tenses, realizing this can go bad.  Humphrey hurls a few more factual statements which come off as insults while he slowly backs up towards Rosie.  "Anette," the woman declared by the Prophet as the Mother Goddess of Healing, with a beauty mark on her cheek, the very same beauty mark on Humphrey's cheek.  "You cannot.  Be.  Her."  Gritch hears in his head, "It is almost time."  When he mumbles about not being able to see anything, the voice reminds him to not look with his own eyes.  He reaches out into the Psychic Maelstorm and tries to see through it instead.  He begins to see in a dizzying way through the eyes of the other people, jumping from one perspective to another as he tries to focus his sight.   Fluffy clicks his boots together, and a knife poops out of the tip.  With a swift roundhouse kick, he buries the blade into the nearby guard's head!  With everyone too stunned by the revelation that their Mother Goddess is now a man, none see Fluffy's act of violence.  Gritch's vision snaps to match that of Fluffy.  He drops to fall down and disable the other guard holding the poles keeping him restrained.  The Prophet declares that Humphrey had stolen the Goddess' face, rallying the others to a fury.

Humphrey and Kim break for the car.  One of the guards moves to tackle Humphrey even as he snarls, "You dare touch your goddess!"  They hit the ground, but the guard begs forgiveness while pinning him down.  Gritch's vision shifts to the guard holding her down.  Gritch kneels, reaching into the Maelstorm to give Fluffy an ultravision-viewpoint of the area.  Fluffy realizes he can see everyone who is a threat, and is now able to plan better.  He realizes the safest place is the car!  He grabs the dead guard, picking him up as a shield, and flings a knife at the nearest guard along the way.  The blade stabs the guard between the eyes and as he falls dying, the gun in his hands discharges.  Humphrey leaps into the car, revving the engine into life!  Kim stares at Humphrey, then looks at the Prophet who yells, "Take him but do not harm his face!"  Kim leaps into the car to joins Humphrey, muttering he is "trying to claim the face."  Gritch stares through Fluffy's eyes and sees the nearest guard closing in.  He projects a psychic assault at that guard through Fluffy's gaze.  The guard drops, feeling his head burning.  Fluffy realizes Gritch is somehow helping him.  He drags his meat shield with him to get to Gritch, and when the bullets fly, the body takes most of the strikes.

Gritch hears a voice telling them to hurry and find the Nexus and not to forget that they will need "one of them."  A voice suddenly demands everyone to stop!  Proper emerges with a shotgun in her hands as she tries to control the situation.  Humphrey steps on the gas, risking the gun firing as he attempts to drive into her.  He ends up flooding the engine, and the car stops.  Proper lands on the hood, pressing the barrel at his direction. She hisses at him to step out or she will fire.  Fluffy realizes the shotgun in Proper's hand is his.  Gritch reaches through her connection to Prim to see if it can extend to Proper as well.  Gritch discovers the link is there, and she whispers to Proper to come with them, easily manipulating her as if with puppet strings.  Fluffy collects his guns and quickly hurries into the car with Gritch.  Proper joins them, much to everyone's surprise.  The Rosie roars back alive and the Prophet realizes Proper has been taken over!  Strangely none of the Prophet's men stop them.  They drive into a nearby truck which is large enough to house Rosie, an old truck which Humphrey recognizes.  The truck has mounted guns and grenade launchers.  They take the truck and leave.

"Go," a voice tells them psychically.  "We will hold them as long as we can," a second mental message reaches them.  "You have to find the Nexus," a third telepathic voice says.  "We can only hold them for so long," they whisper in unison.  And as they leave the vicinity of the camp, the voices fade away.      The group realizes the voices were probably other Brainers the Prophet had held prisoner with his barge.  Had they helped them escape?

They continue past the city, guided by the stories Proper shares of a well which supposedly houses the Nexus.  She, however, confesses it was just a story they made up when they were kids.  Gritch however admits it was a story made by twins who when together act as a Brainer. Gritch's childhood was in a vat.  Kim mumbles to Humphrey how if he played this right, he can actually take over the church of the Prophet.  

A rust storm looms ahead.   The swirling red cloud of metal is even rumored to have once been the things that circled outside the earth.   When the Great Crash happened, the lighter than air metals on those things swirled in the winds, gathered together like a thousand knives that would tear through anything it passes over.  Fluffy stresses how much like knives they'd be.  It is not intelligent, but it follows an intelligent pattern, Gritch believes, and that he can reduce the damage to the truck to minimal.  Brainers can't do this.... but a Robinson can.   They park the truck, move to the back of the trailer, and Gritch settles to the floor to meditate.  They choose to stay in the dark, with Humphrey reassuring them he is sure they will be okay.  Metal sounds begin to rake the outside of the truck.  Rattling sound grow in intensity as the storm hits their location.  As Gritch reaches out into the Psychic Maelstorm, however, he realizes he can sense... one extra person with them.  Hands suddenly wrap around Humphrey's throat, choking him.  Humphrey digs for his magnum, whips it out and bashes it at the figure.  It pulls back, hit, and runs off.  Gritch mutters to Fluffy he has a flash light in his bag.  Humphrey yells at everyone to duck and trains his gun to shoot at it.  Gritch mutters, "We already have our duck."  Gunshot.  A shriek.  Something brushes close to Fluffy, and his battlefield instincts kick in, and he realizes its a bald woman.  The figure drops to his feet and Fluffy realizes its Proper who asks him to untie her.  Fluffy digs into Gritch's stuff for the flashlight.  Kim grabs Gritch, vigorously shaking him as he asks if he can sense the other in the truck.  He does not realize if the Brainer loses focus, the truck will get torn through by the storm.  They are all blinded by a light that suddenly opens as Fluffy trains the flash light at the group.  There is a trail of blood on the floor towards the car further in the trailer.  Fluffy draws his machinegun.  Humphrey activates the car alarm to shock the thing hiding there, and turns out to be one of the Vikings!  Fluffy riddles the body with bullets.  Gritch struggles against all the noise to maintain his focus, but fails!  Immense raking sounds tear at the truck, the trailer shakes violently.  Gritch realizes the Viking was the one he had whispered to and he just wanted to "save the Brainer...."

A few hours pass.  The group is thankful to learn the trailer mostly survived the storm, although all feel strained from the constant barrage of noise they had to endure.  They emerge to see the ruin around them that the storm had left in its wake.   They prep to continue their journey, with Kim and Fluffy taking charge of each gun turret.  Gritch apologizes for failing, but Proper reminds him though that he actually did hold the storm at bay to some extent.  Humphrey starts the truck and they continue for the "Nexus" following Proper's directions.  As they hit the dirt road, however, they realize the full weight of the trailer, all of them, plus the car is too much for the wheels given the Rust Storm.  The group starts calling Humphrey "Goddess" for fun, given the circumstances, and they inform him they may have to junk the car.  Humphrey insists instead that someone drive Rosie alongside the truck.    Kim, left at the turret, peers through the scope and gasps in worry.  He sees something coming after them.  A helicopter and a large cloud of smoke... vehicles.

Gritch chooses to untie Proper, knowing they will need every able hand.  Proper is instructed by Humphrey to take Gritch and use Rosie to reach the Nexus.  The rest of them will buy them time and hold the rest back.   "You are trusting me to take him to the Nexus?" Proper asks.  "If anything happens to her," Humphrey reminds her, "You will never see your sister again."   Proper agrees and if anything, they will see it is just a story.  "But everything is just a story," Gritch mutters.

Fluffy takes a bead on the chopper, trying to see if he can aim on the pilot.  Kim starts to freak out, admitting he doesn't know how to use the mounted turret. The truck makes a turn to allow the car to easily drive off the ramp and continue on.  Gritch and Proper quickly scale the side of the truck to head into the trailer, but Gritch flinches and falls.  Proper grabs her hand before she hits the ground.    Fluffy fires, and the shot hits the pilot.  The helicopter begins to spin erratically.  Return fire.  The incoming enemies have their own snipers, and one bullet shatters the windshield, and Humphrey is blinded for a moment, and instinctively he taps the brakes.  The jerk causes Proper and Gritch to drop, and they hit the ground painfully. The truck clips them as it moves over them, and the raincoat is crushed as Gritch pulls Proper low.  Naked, Gritch gets back on his feet, and with Proper, the two hurry once more for the back of the truck.  Kim sees them and realizes the hatch is still closed, so he hurries down to unlock it.  The cars close in.  Fluffy counts five cars and one truck closing in.  The helicopter crashes.  Shots are fired once more by the snipers.  Fluffy focuses on one, and realizes the sniper is trained at him!  He risks it and takes the shot.  He feels his shoulder get hit, but his aim is truer and kills the shooter.  Rosie emerges from the truck, driving off.  Humphrey stops the truck, realizing Kim had left the ramp down, and hurries to close it.  They hoist back the hatch.  Fluffy reloads.  Humphrey teases Fluffy that this makes it even for them.   Fluffy shows a knife with notches on its handle, "I've saved you this many times."

Emerging from the dust cloud, six motorcycles emerge and close in on them.  The group braces themselves for a big fight.  Fluffy grabs the grenade launcher and hits perfectly, blasting them all but one of them to the ground.  Humphrey closes in on the last one, but Kim uses the turret to shoot the guy down before Humphrey could get close enough to use his magnum.   Kim doesn't realize he missed, and it was Fluffy who shot the guy down.  When Kim celebrates his kill, Fluffy raises a knife with notches telling him that's the number of times Kim has annoyed him. "But we just met!" Kim protests.  Fluffy inwardly laughs knowing he just showed the same knife he showed Humphrey.

At the distance, Rosie drives on.  Proper and Gritch reach the hill which Proper claims is the entrance to the Nexus.  They see the dirt road heading down a path.  Proper questions how Gritch knew where she and her sister were.  She claims Brainers were kept away from them for a reason, and that Drummer was a mistake.  He was a Brainer they were to entertain for fun but Prim fell in love with him.  Proper accuses Gritch and "all the other Brainers" for sniffing them out, tracking them down.  But Gritch questions why would they care for half a Brainer?   Proper suddenly stomps on the brakes, and Gritch painfully hits the dashboard, as Proper's foot lands squarely on Gritch's throat... or would have if he did not block it with his hands in time.  "Don't you dare compare yourself to us!  We made you!"  Gritch stares at Proper, the words of her outburst slowly sinking in.  Gritch uses the puppet strings connection she has to cause pain to surge through Proper, and she screams with blood oozing out of her nose and ears.  Gritch reminds her she is supposed to come with her to the Nexus.  "It is real, isn't it?"  Proper finally admits that the Nexus has not been operational for years.  And that they shut it down years ago.  Gritch asks what is it, why does it call them, and what have they done?  The winds blow, and the dirt on the ground is blown away, revealing a metal floor.  A logo is on it, as are the words: Nexus Industries.  

"We're already here," Gritch realizes.  "All the brothers and sisters that died.  We all were drawn to go here."

Proper finally admits that she and Prim were the first Brainers that Nexus Industries discovered.  They had found what made them different, and they tried to grow their own.  That's where the Brainers came from.  Nexus was not salvation, it was where they were born.  They hear explosions in the distance.  

The cars close in.  Kim clearly is losing it, fear setting in.  He asks what the plan is, and all Humphrey says is "Don't die."  Out of the blue, Kim admits he never really got introduced to Fluffy.  Fluffy turns to look at him, flabbergasted this would be his concern this very moment.  And that's when a sniper bullet ricochets off the helmet, breaking it.  Taking it off, Fluffy drops it to the ground, to reveal a tremendously scarred visage.  Ignoring the loss of the helmet, Fluffy takes a bead on the sniper and fires, killing the fool.  "I liked that helmet."  The truck charges forward, the other truck charges too.  A dangerous game of chicken.  None seem to be willing to swerve out of the way, but Humphrey then fires at the driver.  Both trucks barely miss each other.  Men with chains leap from the other truck to Humphrey's truck.  Fluffy shoots one of them in the stomach, spilling his guts all over.  The second one swings a hook at Fluffy, but misses.  Fluffy fires a second shot to blow the guy's head off.  The wounded one emerges through the spray of gore, and swings a machete at Fluffy.  Fluffy catches it on a chain, yanks the machete from his hands, and returns it blade first.

Down a curving path, Proper and Gritch reach the entrance of a facility.  The remnants of a guard post can still be seen.  They move into the darkness, feeling for a door.  They find a glass panel instead that lights up, and it responds to Proper's eyes.

Robinson, Philomena -- Confirmed.

"So you are family," Gritch mutters.   A door opens.  Gritch decides to call Proper "grandmother" from now on.  More lights kick in, revealing a laboratory.  The facility has artificial intelligence, and it asks them where they want to go.  Proper asks it to bring them to the creche.  They talk about how the Brainer clones are the products of their attempts to recreate Prim and Proper, and how the other brainers are probably others like the twins, now happening in the world out there.  They find the chamber called the creche and see the massive unit that serves as the science-crafted womb.  Photos are all on a wall, showing subjects numbers with M and F tags.  All the subjects look alike.  When Gritch asks what that makes Proper, Proper suddenly clicks her heels together.  Recognizing the move from Fluffy's usual weapons, Gritch pulls back and dodges just enough to avoid the blade from Proper's heel from slicing too deep.  Gritch hides behind some machinery, hearing Proper ranting about the Brainers never supposed to be, but Gritch inflicts another psychic surge of pain to bring her down.   "I promise you, I'll let you break my neck yourself," Gritch tells Proper, "But I still need to know..." Gritch pulls Proper close and stabs her with her scalpel.  Proper plants her hands onto Gritch's face, hoping to plunge her thumbs into her eyeballs, but Gritch suddenly realizes she can hear Prim in her head reaching out through the bond of intimacy they have.  "She's a friend," Prim tells Proper, "You won't hurt her any more!"  Gritch withdraws the scalpel, and tries to grab a hold of Proper once again psychically.   Being linked, however, Gritch realizes both Prim and Proper scream in pain.   All of them drop, exhausted.

Threat detected.  Security Protocols standing by.  Activation required?  Please respond...

Gritch identifies himself as Matthew Robinson and asks if he is recognized.  The voice, however, asks for Philomena instead to respond.  Gritch mentally dominates Proper's body and makes it say Matthew Robinson is promoted to full Robinson.   The computer accepts the command and declares no intruders are detected.

The Prophet emerges, a boomstick in his hands, as he stands on an all-terrain vehicle.  He fires it and Fluffy yells at Kim to duck.  Fluffy takes the blast, getting disfigured in the process.  Kim leaps to his side checking if he's still alive.  Fluffy aims the rifle and fires, aiming for the boomstick.  The Prophet's weapon shatters in his hands.  The Prophet digs for another weapon.  Noting where all the vehicles are moving towards, Humphrey decides to bring the truck to a full stop and waits for the Prophet's all-terrain vehicle to close in.  A man with a crowbar from the other truck has leapt to land on the hood of the truck.  Humphrey grabs the crowbar before he can use it, and slams it against his face.  He falls backwards off the truck.

As the Prophet trains his submachine gun at them, Fluffy hoists his machine gun to his feed and unloads on the grand manipulator.  The bullets tear through him.  Kim stands, celebratory, but a sniper takes the opportunity and fires.  The bullet is deflected by Fluffy's machine gun.  The others stop their vehicles, staring in horror as the Prophet falls to the ground from the all-terrain vehicle.  Humphrey kicks the door of the truck open and runs to the downed Prophet.  Fluffy takes the mounted gun and trains it on the others.  Humphrey finds the Prophet barely dead, his clock almost empty, and Humphrey leans in.  "Barter... I can barter," the Prophet gasps, "I can give you a city... I can give you a city each..."  Humphrey ignores his begging and warnings, and drags the Prophet to the front of the truck.  He pulls out a chain he's had and wraps it around the Prophet's body to tie him up to the front of the truck.

"You're crazy... you're insane... you're letting them know it was you!?" the Prophet, "You.. you have to let me live!"

Kim shoots at the other mooks, killing them, but leaving a few to spread the word.  Fluffy tells him to stand down, and learns Kim's sudden surge of anger was upon seeing the machine gun break.  He promises to do what he can to fix it.  Fluffy smirks, "You did good, Kim."  Humphrey revs the engine but sadly does not know where Gritch and Proper have gone.  So they decide to drive back to the city, and parade the fall of the Prophet.  Change is coming.

Back at the facility, Gritch limps around and explores the rooms and finds a cafeteria, sleeping quarters, and more.  Gritch asks the facility to access historical data and learns why they left this facility, given its self-sustaining nature.  He sees the historical data of how a plague has struck the world, and the Nexus Industries was working on creating a virus to wipe away specific undesirables.  He sees Prim and Proper, still as very young girls.  The virus, it turns out, was to be some kind of nanites which can be accessed via a wireless method.  Gritch stares... confused with the whole thing.. more video clips showing scientists angrily attacking others having lost members of their family since the virus had a -/+5% chance of error.  Gritch asks the facility to show him the pods and eventually gets there.  He accesses the Psychic Malestorm... the wireless... and learns the nanite swarm is only reduced to 5% operational status.  95% of it has been destroyed.  It still continues to travel, moving from city to city, searching for its targets.  The rust storm.

Gritch asks for the facility if it has a self-destruct system.  But he cannot hear it anymore.  He decides to just declare for the nanites to be disabled.  And for the facility to self-destruct.  Darkness. Cold.  Then hands.  Gritch looks up to see Prim, in the darkness, standing with him.  He asks her if he did it.  If he saved everyone.  She admits she doesn't know, but believes they did what they can.

Prim dies in her bed, miles away. Gritch dies alone in a dark facility that silently kills itself.

And at the cities, the people of the temple watches as Humphrey, Fluffy and Kim display the defeated Prophet, standing at the beginnings of a new tomorrow.  And further distant, the Viking cannibals begin to rub their ears... words finally reaching their lips as they mutter... "Gone.. the noises are gone."

All of the nanites have gone to rust.
And the world can start again.

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