Status

Recent Statuses

3 days ago
Current Under my mask I have another mask, very King in Yellow
1 like
11 days ago
I have bleach fumes in my eyes because people cant clean their respirators properly, doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that the rest of our procedures are being followed.
8 likes
13 days ago
Blame my plan to clandestinely deliver drugs in ersatz Fed-Ex vans.
3 likes
13 days ago
The staff meeting today was the least fun I've had discussing how to dispose of a body
5 likes
14 days ago
Honestly if you looked at the real world objectively it wouldn't make as much sense as you think
3 likes

Bio

Early 30's. I know just enough about everything to be dangerous.

Most Recent Posts

“Good afternoon Miss Knox,” Harold said as he unhooked the rope which sectioned off the covered veranda of Bombay’s Imperial club. The building had once served as a palace for a high offical of the East India Company, with elaborate arches and several acres of garden. A large section was clear and was currently host to a dozen or so sweaty looking men engaged in a game of cricket. The current batsman was a Sikh, identifiable at this range by his turban who presently delivered a straight drive which would have been at home at Lords to the cheers of the other players.

“Thank you Harold,” Opportunity replied, brushing self consciously at the long scratch on her cheek. The wound had evidently been picked up during this morning's foot chase, though she couldn’t, at this remove, recall receiving it. Harold, still lean and muscled despite entering his early sixties and a veteran of not only the Great War but the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War before that, affected not to notice. The Welshman’s glance at James was less warm, Opportunity had grown up in the Far East and was family to the Imperial Club and its members. James remained an American and thus, despite his now long standing association with Percy Knox’s niece, was to be viewed with at least a touch of suspicion.

Ignoring the reserve Opportunity led James through the twin pillars and their surmounting lions and onto the covered veranda. Here amid potted ferns a dozen or so tables were arranged for those members who wanted to take their meals outside, rather than in the princely rooms of the main manor house. Only two of the tables were occupied, one by a man in a safari suit smoking a pipe and reading a book that’s cover was too battered for the title to be dicerned. At the other three other Europeans, Brits for a near certainty were engaged in a desultory game of cards, though interest in the cricket match seemed to trump whist for the moment. Glancing at their hands and sipping from their condensate covered glasses of beer only periodically.

They had taken the crucifix to the airfield where a catalina flying boat had whisked it away to who knew where. Malta or Cairo at a guess, though the matter was only of academic interest to Opportunity. They had been paid the two thousand dollars they had been promised, though thwarting Admiral Ducet was reward enough. What the skeletal and malformed Admiral had wanted with it was beyond her, though it had bought him and his shady criminal allies out of their strongholds in Cochin China to attempt its seizure. Uncle Percy maintained that the French were ill suited to long term exposure to the tropics and that Ducet had gone mad with malaria and exposure to native superstition and ancient religion. Nonetheless he had advised her to steer clear of him and above all avoid his abode in the ancient city of Hue, advice that suggested that Percy Knox gave the rumors a little more credence than he claimed. A year ago Opportunity might also have sneered at such talk, but since her adventures in the Near East her worldview had become a little more fluid.

“Can I get you anything Ma’am,” asked a rugged looking Hindu in a sweat stained white shirt and khaki trousers.

“Yes Rajiv, can you fetch us a bottle of claret and a bottle of champagne,” she replied in Hindi before glancing at James. The Americans facility for languages exceeded even her polyglot talents and after two months in India he clearly followed the gist of the conversation if not the specifics.

“Beer also.. Uh Rajiv,” he interjected. The serving man nodded his understanding.

“Will you be eating Ma’am?” Rajiv asked politely. Opportunity’s stomach rumbled and she was reminded she hadn’t eaten in nearly twenty four hours. Even under the shade of the verandah though the day was too hot to admit much pleasure in the thought of a steak or other hot meal.

“Yes sandwiches please and spring rolls if you have them,” she responded. Rajiv bowed and headed back into the small door to the kitchen. James and Opportunity took a seat at one of the open tables just as shout went up from the cricket field. The heavy red leather ball ricochet off one of the pillars and bounced off the table before James, cat like, snatched it out of the air and tossed it back to one of the nearby fielders to good natured cheers.

“Never understood the game,” he told her with a grin, “now baseball, there is a real game!”

“Tosh,” Opportunity said with a smile, “Cricket is about discipline and willpower, not about flash and dash.” James cocked an eyebrow.

“Have you ever even seen a baseball game?” he asked suspiciously. Opportunity blushed slightly.

“Maybe I can find some work for us in the States and I can teach you a thing or two.” Opportunity opened her mouth to rejoin but as she did so Rajiv emerged with a flagon of the house beer, both bottles of wine and a platter of sandwiches which he set on the table skillfully.

“A telegram for you sir,” Rajiv added and produced a folded sheet of paper from his apron and sat it before James before bowing from his waist and retreating.
Annika felt immediate relief as they stepped into the consecrated space of the chapel. The familiar iconography soothed her troubled mind and she went immediately to the altar and knelt, ignoring the startled looks of the attending acolytes. Closing her eyes she began to pray working herself through the litanies of purification she had been taught by her Estakonic tutors. The calming effect of the pray settled over her slowly, quelling the influence of her Dark Twin. Ever since her psychic gifts had emerged she had struggled to keep them under control and even with years of training, they still sometimes threatened to overwhelm her. She couldn't have said how much time had passed when she finally stood, but the ache in her knees suggested it had been no short period.

Feeling renewed she walked back down the knave to where Orion stood in conversation with the bound Ragnar. The Vuldrock appeared calm despite his bonds, evidently his faith in Orion's promise to protect him was stronger than Annika's own. His ice blue eyes narrowed as she approached, warning Orion of her quiet progress.

"Sister?" the knight asked as he turned his handsome face to her.

"I thought that, as we are in a church, it might be a good time to hear your confession," she told Orion. She glanced toward the door where a pair of armed guards slouched in the shadows, rifles slung across their chests.

"Afterall, it is best to face the future with a clear conscience."
Annika followed in Orion's wake as the approached the city. The ranks swelled as neighbors ran ahead to warn their kin and friends until the column of civilians stretched out and was lost to sight in the trees behind them. The forrest grew thinner and more cultivated as they walked
and the rough trail grew into a true road. At length the gleaming walls of Tolth came into view and many of the peasants, having never traveled so far gasped at the size and beauty of the place. The walls of Tolth were of a white material that resembled marble. It wasn't truely a stone, but rather a ceramic that had been cast by the Engineers of the Second Republic. Despite years of war and weather they remained as pristine and unmarked as they day they had been cast. Annika wondered what it must be like for the peasants following them, to know that the slim margin of their existence was, probably even now, being ransacked and destroyed by Vuldrock raiders. What wasnt consumed would be carried off or torched, and they would return to land stripped bare of generations of work. She glanced sidelong at Ragnar who seemed perfectly at ease with the situation. Perhaps such things were natural and proper within his world view.

"Hold!" shouted a guard as they came insight of the walls, his voice tinny and distorted through a loud hailer. Orion halted and the colum slowed to a stop also. Minutes rolled by in silence save for the muttering of peasants and the clink of metal on the walls. Annika could well imagine the captain of the watch being roused, and then consulting his superiors in turn. At last one of the vast gates began to grind open and a file of soldiers tramped out, each wearing the livery of Rochfort and carrying automatic rifles at high port. In the middle of the group was a nobleman of indifferent merit who looked as though he had just been roused from his bed.

"What is the meaning of this," he called more or less in Orion's direction.
The father, a muscular looking man with a salt and pepper beard hurried toward them. Annika struggled to keep her mind focused, following the paths of Estakonic mediation to keep her away from her dark twins influence. The farmer looked nervous, as well he might, to see two obviously armed strangers coming out of the woodlands. They might not know there were Vuldrock raiders about, but no one could have missed the noises of weapons-fire during the night. The farmers eyes darted between Orion and Ragnar, paying little attention to the slender woman who made no obvious threat.

"Jacquen, take your brother and go inside," the farmer instructed. A girl who had, until that moment been concealed behind a low wall of mossy stones stood up looking indignant.

"But papa.." she began to object.

"Now girl," he snapped, and something in his voice precluded further argument. THe girl grabbed the boys and headed towards a low stone hut roofed with sod.

"What brings you to these parts sir," he asked Orion respectfully. He was clearly afraid, but he wasnt willing to give up an inch on his own farm.
"We are going to bring him with us?" Annika asked. The Barbarian, Ragnar Crowson, from what she had seen in his memories, was no angel but nor was he a wanton butcher. Annika took no pleasure in the idea of cutting his throat while he was unconscious, especially know that she had inhabited his mind.

"There is no honor in killing an unarmed opponent and if we leave him he might wake up thirty seconds from now and set the whole pack of them on us," Orion pointed out. There was no edge to his tone but Annika couldn't help but feel slightly shamed by her own thoughts and her dusky skin took on a slight blush.

"Of course," she agreed hastily, tucking the stolen laser pistol into her waist belt and following along behind.

"Let's just be sure we are far away from here when he does."

It was nearly an hour later by the time the Vuldrock began to stir. By that point the sun was beginning to paint the eastern horizon and it was becoming more difficult to evade the roving bands of Vuldrock, they seemed to be concentrated between their landing sight and the city, curse their luck.

"We should find somewhere to hide out," Annika advised as she moped the sweat from her face. The going had been rough as they had been forced to avoid roads and trails and she was unused to such sustained physical exertion.

"I need to pray also," she added with deliberate understatement. The physic exertions she had undertaken differed from thuegry. While it was safe enough for her to use them, overextending herself as she had tonight engendered certain risks. She could already feel her dark twin moving in the back of her mind, stirring unhealthy desires and lusts that she worked to keep under control. The Vuldrock slung over Orion's shoulder began to moan as she spoke. It was obvious the knight, in peak physical condition as Annika's distracted mind gleefully reported to her, wanted to continue but he could see that she needed rest and they needed to determine what to do with the captive. Fortunately the Pancreator smiled upon them and there were several craggy defiles penetrating a nearby granite hilltop. Orion selected one and they followed it into the hill until it became a true cave. A rivulet of cool fresh water flowed along the center of the narrow space that opened up to a small pool where it welled up from an underground spring. It was pitch black but Orion, perhaps guided by his augmetic eye led her without faltering. Once they reached the spring they gathered up anceint brushwood and piled it in the opening to block out any chance of light escaping and started a small fire with the aid of the laser pistol.

As Orion propped the Vuldrock against one of the stony walls the barbarians eyes snapped open as the cold stone touched his back. Orion had his sword to the man's neck in an instant and the big raider froze in place, hands extended. Annika pointed the laser pistol at him more or less haphazardly though she doubted she could finish the job if Orion failed.

"Slig Hassen der vender bakan Thane," the Vuldrok said quietly.

"He says he is at your mercy lord," Annika translated. Orion glanced at her, surprised that she seemed to speak the languge, in truth she had lifted the knowledge from his mind when she had melded with him earlier. Without practice it would fade but for now she could manage it. She knelt in the sand and sketched out the symbol of the universal church with her fingers then began to pray.

"Dreken hexen will curse us both," the Vuldrok said, his words resolving into the common tongue as her rite imbued all present with the ability to understand each other, just as the Pancreator understood and judged all souls, regardless of their faith.
I'm isolating myself when Im not at work so I theoretically have time to write.
Annika came forward cautiously, a little stunned with the speed and ferocity with which Orion had dispatched the enemy. Not for the first time she wondered what he had done in order to earn the emnity of the Bishop. It seemed an extreme reaction to the cybernetic eye alone. She stepped carefully around the fallen and knelt down on the rough grass. The Vuldrock smelled of animal fat and smoke and it turned her stomach as she got closer. Almost gingerly she reached forward and touched her fingers to the unconscious mans temple and eyebrow.

The smell of smoke and sweat competed with the reek of stale beer and damp animals. There must have been thirty tribesman packed into the longhall, shouting to make themselves heard over each other and over the roar of the blizzard outside. Wulf stood on the dais shouting down at his thanes.

"Silence you dog faced curs!" he roared, brandishing a massive machine gun with a brutal looking glaive blade affixed as a bayonet. To punctuate the point he fired a long burst at the far wall, shattering a post into a pile of splinters and half deafening the halls occupants. Annika felt herself laugh in maniac excitement, after a moment the laugh caught and the rafters shook with the roaring laughter of the thanes.

"I am no coward and ill kill any man who says otherwise, and this is not suicide," Wulf roared. He waved a handful of documents, simple parchment now stained with grease.

"These are the patrol schedules for their fleet, we can be there for a week before they can bring their ships back to stop us!"

"Your bum paper tells you this?" Svain shouted to another round of uproariously laughter.

"These I have from a chieftain of the soft folk! He wants us to raid. This Engel seems to think it will help him, he hasn't known many Vuldrock! His pretty throat will be cut with the rest!"

Annika snapped back to herself, pipe smoke spilling from her nostrils. She leaped to her feet eyes wide as she found her form to small for her muscles, her tattoos were gone and her beard... The Priestess blinked as she seemed to settle into her own body again. She spat into the running stream and recited a ritual of purification to center her thoughts.

"These men are not here by chance," she told Orion, reaching down to draw a laser pistol from the cross belts of one of the dead Vuldrok.

"Someone invited them here, someone in Rochfort's court."
Annika knew nothing of woodcraft. Truthfully anything beyond the sparse palm trees and scrubby vegetation of Istkar’s vast deserts made her vaguely uncomfortable but she knew enough not to imagine that they could slip around these three without drawing attention. She was just about to give Orion the go ahead to dispose of them when she heard a familiar word amid the gutural gibberish of the Vuldrock speech. Engel. It clashed sufficiently with the Vuldrock speech to stand out. Not a word. A name. Annika held up a hand to stall her knightly companion for a moment as she tried to recall where she had heard the name before. She closed her eyes and focused her mind on the rite of Idetica.

Annika sat at the captains table in the dining hall of the Farsi. The recollection was so perfect that she could taste the wine and smell the delicious aroma of roasted chicken and seasoned vegetables the chef had prepared. In the here and now her stomach growled, reminding her it had been nearly twenty four hours since she had eaten. Fasil, the dark skinned captain, a member of one of the junior lines of the al-Malik family was engaging in a spirited debate with the Charioteer.

“I tell you that Rochfort and all his advisers, Bessimer, Engel, all the rest have gone mad,” Fasil declared waving his fork to emphasise his point. The Charioteer opened his mouth to counter the assertion but Annika allowed the rite to lapse, having learned all she needed. She glanced across at Orion. They were too close to the Vuldrocks to risk even whispered speech.

We need to take the talkative one alive sounded her voice in his head.
Annika pursed her lips as she pondered the question. Though there were cavernous differences between Orthodox and Estakonic doctrine the confession of sins was a fairly uncomplicated point of agreement.

“Both things can be true, certainly we should conduct ritual confessions periodically,” she hopped over a stream with a graceful jump and smiled back at Orion.

“Though, perhaps not right at the moment,” she grinned. The were climbing a small hill, clambering over rocks as the trees thinned in the unhelpful soil. Reaching the crest they could view the valley beyond through a large gap in the canopy. The city of Tolth was visible as a distant smear of light, but the forest between was spotted with fires where Vuldrok’s had found smaller forest villages, or perhaps had simply started fires.

“I am supposed to watch you, and provide advice during your service,” she continued as the started down the otherside of the hill.

“Most people, yourself included, confess at church services and ask for the Pancreator’s forgiveness in a general sense,” she explained, halting for a moment as Orion cautioned her about a fern covered with hairlike barbed hooks.

“But some people, like nobles, sometimes take on quests and tasks that have far more dangerous decisions to make. People who need the Pancreator’s forgiveness in a more immediate and personal way. I am expected to act as a counselor and a confidant as well as a priest.”

She climbed over a log and slipped down into a shallow creek that soaked her to her ankles in chilly water.

“I suspect that the bishop had his own reasons for making this particular appointment, but I shall endeavor to do my best to serve.”
Annika peered through the forest her eyes hardly able to keep track of the whirl of violence and death. As a teenager she had witnessed the gladiatorial combats in which condemned prisoners fought to the death, she had seen blood and viscera then, but to be so close to the scene was an altogether different experience. It was only once the action was over that it occurred to her that Orion might fall and she would be left alone and without a weapon. She wasn’t exactly helpless but nor did she think she had a chance of prevailing over two battle hardened warriors. Shakily she came to her feet.

“Shedding blood in the defence of the Faith is no sin,” she quoted from the Omega Gospels. It sounded a little strange to her lips and she wondered if the mad Duke they were being sent to help had used the very same passage to justify his actions. Before she could say anything further a series of brutal shouts tore through the woods. Weird ululating hunting cries that no doubt came from other Vuldrock warriors.

“We should go,” she suggested but before she could speak a dozen Vuldrock burst into the clearing. Without thinking she grabbed Orion by the shoulder and reached out with her gifts.

Don’t move. Annika’s voice sounded in Orion’s mind. The thought voice had an edge of command to it that was enough to quash an immediate and unfortunate reaction. The Vuldrock at the edge of the clearing looked around in confusion, bestial faces suddenly perplexed.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? Orion’s voice thundered in her mind though his lips didn’t move. The Vuldrock suddenly seemed edgy, glancing around and hefting weapons.

Think quietly she thought/implored. Imagine you are small, beneath notice. The volume of Orion’s thoughts subsided somewhat though they still swirled and edied in confusion. All will be well, she thought reassuringly. Annika rather hoped that was true, she had been told of this technique but she had never actually used it. The barbarians fanned out in a rough line and began to sweep across the clearing. She could hear the thunder of Orion’s pulse, still primed for action and her own racing with fear. The Vuldrock walked toward them though despite the fact they were in plain sight, gave no indication of having seen them. A pair of the bearded warriors paused to examine their dead companions and looked around in confusion. One seemed like he was about to tread on Annika but then inexplicably stepped aside and walked around her, gesturing off into the brush and growling in his own language. After a brief debate the headed off into the woods, bodies low and weapons hefted in expectation of action. After a few minutes all was quiet.

Annika released Orion and there was a faintly audible hiss in the air. She sagged back slightly reciting a ritual of purification under her breath. Orion gave her an unreadable look.

“We must rejoice in the Pancreator’s favor,” she told him before coming unsteadily to her feet.She touched a fingertip to the symbol of the Celestial Sun that hung between her breasts and then made some effort to shake the twigs out of her braided hair.
@POOHEAD189
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