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Subject: Bifford's Lady Blackbird IC Game B - Newbie Initiative 2013. rss

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Paul
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From its size, Snargle reasoned that the modest chamber they'd entered must be only one of many rooms inside the large ship. Nearby, Blackbird was explaining their presence to the tinker. Snargle had only just put together what was going on from their previous exchange: Uriah Flint, the pirate king was "stealing" the ship he'd commissioned as Heap (an alias); his own ship! Her bluff appeared to succeed because it was mostly the truth, with only a little white lie. 'Baby steps!'

Whatever the tinker was about to say was interrupted by a thunderous metallic sound—somewhere between a boom and a gong—that reverberated through the hull of the ship. He was then too preoccupied with the welfare of Bathysphere to worry about unexpected passengers (himself and the clockman included). "My baby! I haven't worked for six years to have her plucked like an egg from a nest! Nix! Secure the hatch and prepare to send a current discharge along the hull!"

"May I remind you that none of the defensive systems have been tested? Any number of unknowns might occur."

The ship lurched, her passengers feeling the sensation of sudden motion. Through a small, thick-paned porthole, Snargle could see the lights of the city falling away beneath them. Several more, smaller pinging sounds and the muffled whirr of thopter wings spurred the tinker to action.

"No time like the present!" He pulled a lever, watching an indicator light gradually dim. There was a loud crackling sound as lightning arced across the outer surface of the porthole. There were several loud pops, the sphere jerked, then swayed drunkenly.

The clockman's voice was even and calm amidst the action, "I extrapolate that that the charge travelled along the smaller ships' grapple cables (which were likely acting as stabilizers), disabling them—but failing to detach the magnets. Thus, we are now swinging chaotically with several dead ornithopters still attached."

"Being reeled in like a fish; this can't be good for hull integrity!"

"In attempting to improve our situation, you made it worse. I believe that is called irony."

"You're iron-y, you tick-tock know-it-all! How about putting that mind to use coming up with a plan? Like using the star axis to pull back!"

"Unfortunately, the discharge seems to have burned out the power array. We would appear to be… sitting geese."

"Ducks. Sitting ducks!" the rest of the tinker's rant was lost as he staggered his way into another part of the swinging ship, presumably the engine room.

There was little to do now but wait. They must be approaching the end of the line, as it were; Killing Time, if the Lady Blackbird was to be believed. Whatever came next, they were now in it together.
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Lady Blackbird watched proceedings with a mixture of detachment and wonder. The city rapidly vanished beneath them, the lights receding to pinpoints. It was like a dream of falling played out in reverse. Not falling but flying. Wasn't that how the old verse went? Somewhere the Tinker and the Automaton were babbling about an escape, but she knew Uriah better than that. There would be nothing left to chance, no possibility he had failed to examine. It was simply a matter of time.

The walls of the little ship seemed to close in around her and she felt anxiety rising in the pit of her stomach. What would she say? 'Oh hello there Uriah, sorry for running off like that. By the way I'd quite like to upset the very way society functions. Interested?'

She still remembered how they had parted, remembered his rage and his disappointment. Remembered his words most of all, the raw wound they left behind - 'I always thought you were just playing at Pirates.'

Outside the window the vast bulk of the Killing Time loomed large. It had changed substantially. Parts bolted on, others removed. It was still a lance-like spear-head of dark grey metal, sleek and deadly, but it seemed less impressive now than it once had. The vast, arcing windows of the cockpit buttressed against the body of the ship by elegant brass fluting remained, though they were soot-blackened and scored with jagged gouges. The observation bubbles had not changed. She had loved to stand there just looking out into the expanse of swirling blue. Neither had the sparking tesla domes, the cannon hard-points, but there was significant battle damage. The ship had taken a pounding. An ornithopter launch bay had been added, crudely bolted on to the larboard side, and some strange kind of glowing blue contraption hissed and seethed near the engines, but before she could get a closer look they were plunged into darkness.

There was a whoosh, a shower of sparks from the hatch, a pop, and the door fell outward to reveal a devilishly handsome and moustachioed face. It blinked once, twice, then a huge gun appeared as if from nowhere.

The hell? Blackbird, that you? You want to step outside rather slow.'

Kill him. The voice screamed. Take his ship, kill him and take it take it take it. Quick. Before he kills you! KILL HIMMMMMMMMMM!

She stepped outside, slowly, hands raised as the blood boiled and seethed inside her. There were perhaps three score men and women, all heavily armed, weapons pointed at the sphere. Pointed at her. Even Flint had a weapon out, a lethal flintlock pistol with a cavernously wide barrel pointed straight at her chest, more cannon than handgun.

He hadn't changed, not much. A few more scars, a few more wrinkles. He was still whippet thin, a long curly mop of brown hair largely hidden beneath a wide-brimmed hat. His eyes still sparkled and he still dressed plainly, long greatcoat and practical boots, red sash belted around the waist holding a brace of pistols.

No need for the gun, surely she murmured, smiling.

Uriah adjusted his hat, chewing on one lip.

Hmmm? Oh, you know how it is? The devil you know. He gestured at the others. Who in the blue blazes are this sorry looking lot?.
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Bifford "Bring back Ernie" (Sam)
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"They chose not to answer I see. You have exactly five seconds to step off my ship and on to my ship, otherwise you can be carried to the medical bay on a stretcher. When we can be bothered to get one."

Uriah was obviously a hard man and not one to be messed with. To Naomi and Snargle he does not seem to be the type you would have expected Lady Blackbird/Natasha to want to be with. He seemed un-trusting, even of the Ladyship. But maybe he's just being cautious after all these years. Only two people knew exactly what was said the last time they saw each other and currently they appeared to be having a staring match and word battle.

"Oh, and where's the excuse for a designer and mechanic?" he says.
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Paul
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'Grudding Jove.' Snargle didn't know how he'd expected Uriah to receive his old flame, but at gunpoint had never entered into his goblin mind. This now raced along at the conditioned speed of a daredevil pilot, making split-second sums and gut decisions. Either Flint was genuinely threatened by Blackbird's surprise arrival, or he was… bluffing? Testing her? Snargle hadn't inquired into the circumstances of their past relationship (or separation), and now he wished he had. He just hadn't expected they'd find Flint so quickly.

Menace or bluff, Elisha (and perhaps, Naomi) had to be given an opening, and preferably one that didn't involve wanton bloodshed. An idea was brewing in his mind even as he heard the pirate king deliver his countdown ultimatum… an ancient story about a superior force brought low by a simple trick… Do or die; Snargle depressed the send button on the ship-wide bullhorn.

Alive+Sly+Crafty+Sneaky+Distractions+Bluff+Languages+Trade Speak+Sharp+9 pool 18custom2{0;1} = (0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1) = 9

"Hail, Uriah Flint, king of the Blue Sky Pirates! The Lady Blackbird you know, and we, 'this sorry looking lot,' are her personal security. I'm a goblin, but even where I come from, gazing down the end of a barrel is no way to greet a lady! Lower your weapons. In fact, lay them down, nice and slow.

A worldly man like yourself will have heard the term Doúreios Híppos (or commonly, the Trojan Horse), and note the parallel here. Sniff the air (but do not inhale too deeply); that which you do not smell is trace Essence being vented from our craft by another goblin, the tinker you inquire after. The slightest spark will ignite it.

You are in the 'blast zone,' as it were, while we are within the relative safety of the sphere. One spark, and you'll all go to the Other Side–but not in any ship–the conventional way! A man of your connectedness will have heard of the explosion that crippled the Imperial destroyer, Hand of Sorrow. That was our doing. If you value your ship, your crew, or your life, lay down your arms.
"

Snargle had no idea if Bathysphere had any Essence aboard at all, let alone the means to vent it. But, after a long handful of heartbeats he was relieved to see the pirate king stoop ever so slowly, laying his pistol on the floor. As his crew followed suit, the pirate king's unreadable eyes never left the lady's…
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  • Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:06 pm
She had to try very, very hard indeed not to laugh. She knew nothing of the Bathbysphere and still less of mechanical engineering, but after some time with the Goblin she thought she knew when he was bluffing. Doing her best to cover her reaction she adjusted her hat as the voice raged manically in her ear.

Killthemkillthemkillthemwatchthemdie!!

Well, that's better. My friends and I have appropriated the Bathbysphere. No hard feelings, truly we had no idea it was yours. Or should I say Heap's? Still, we're entirely reasonable and we're willing to hand it over on one condition.

She summoned her most winning smile.

I need your help Uriah. The world is broken and we need to...

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a power cable, presumably dislodged by whatever device had manhandled the sphere aboard. It was advancing like a snake, tracing its sparking, juddering way across the floor toward a big red sign attached to what looked to be a gas tank. A gas tank. A. Gas. Tank. She blinked, raising one hand.

Um.... She had time for nothing else before a deep, percussive roar sent her flying through the air. She hit something hard, the wind whooshing from her lungs as she bounced and collapsed wheezing to the floor like a broken rag-doll. Her head spun, her ears rang and a knot of queasy terror sat in her stomach, waiting.

She crawled, it was all she was capable of, gasping for breath toward the entrance to the sphere. She reached out with one trembling hand and clutched the entrance, cold and hard. Somehow it was reassuring. Somehow it was not. Her hands were coated in soot and sweat and filth and all around her was heat, fierce and painful. She looked up and saw flames leaping toward the ceiling, great arcing sheets of chemical fire moving with impossible speed. Most of Uriah's men were down, screaming as they burned alive or still, their bodies twisted into charred husks. She couldn't see Snargle or Naomi, but Flint was staggering to his feet, a look of absolute horror on his face. From within the sphere she heard voices.

Sir, there appears to be a highly increased chance of imminent death. I calculate a 98.3% probability that this ship in which we are currently captive will be destroyed within five minutes. Recommend we leave immediately!

YOU THINK?

Yes, that is why I....

Shut up!

She slumped against the entrance, the cold metal at her back, defeated, the clockwork man's words running through her mind. What else could she do? 98.3%, those were long odds indeed to play. There was only one way out, only one answer. At least the voice was finally, mercifully, silent. It had won. Such a quiet thing, to fall.

She reached for it, pushing past the slick taint, feeling it wash over her as she embraced the frothing, bubbling, raging power that lay behind, channeling it into a writhing ball of spasmodic energy deep inside her gut. You are a flower, unfolding in the darkness. Only this and nothing more. She clung to it but the mantra meant little, as well try to hold back the tide. There was no resisting, the voice was everywhere its words babbling, overlapping, its demented laughter reaching every corner of her mind. It was the worst of her, amplified, twisted, changed, embittered. All that she never wanted to be, all that she feared she might one day become. She embraced it all and laughed.

As the blood came alive in her she screamed out her rage, her envy, her calumny, her hate and her pain. She laughed until the tears came, then found she could not stop. She had never held so much before, not even at the height of her training. It tore through her body, the pain almost unbearable. With this much power she could do anything. With this much power she was a God. No wonder she laughed.

She couldn't stop the fire, there was too much, but she could keep it away from the sphere, for a little while.

Alive, Master Sorcerer, Spellcaster, Channeling, Stormblood, Wind, 5 Pool 11custom2{0;1} = (0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0) = 2

Wind came, but it was a feeble, stunted thing. The kind of wind an apprentice might summon after a month or two with the Blood. Her hair stirred, the hem of her skirt with it, but little more. The voice was too much, the endless, seething pit of darkness reached out and she could not focus. She closed her eyes and screamed, throwing everything she had at it.

Reroll (Secret of Inner Focus) 11custom2{0;1} = (1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 0) = 6

There was a moment of eerie silence, then the wind came. Not a gust, not a burst, but a Tempest. It roared around the Sphere with the force of a hurricane, tossing burned bodies and loose equipment across the bay like they weighed nothing. A huge loading tractor spun, bounced off the wall, then began to orbit the sphere, accompanied by pallets, cogs, detritus, huge hunks of metal and scores of bodies. In the center of it all was a calm space, an eye where nothing stirred. The flames shied away as if in terror, the wind hurling them back from the sphere. They lapped at the edges of the bay, seeping through the doors to creep into the rest of the ship. Somewhere in front of her she was aware of Flint looking at her in awe, but she could not loose focus. Not now. Not here. The voice laughed and cackled and raged and somehow, somehow the tiny part of her that had not fallen held it back through sheer force of will.

In....side...the....sp...here... she gasped, sinking to her knees.
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  • Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:42 pm
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Naomi's strong arms, like metal cables, wrapped around Natasha.

The warrior scooped her Lady up off the floor with alacrity and grace, and swiftly moved backwards within the sphere's protective embrace.


Naomi wasn't sure what the Hermanshion had just happened here.
They'd been negotiating, Natasha's honey tongue and Snargle's cunning against the gunboat diplomats outside the Sphere. Then everything had somehow erupted into primal chaos about them.

Yet, from the flames of confusion within her and without, the need for Natasha's safety rose like a Phoenix.

Flint and his men were no threat right now; simply trying to survive the maelstrom of elemental power about them. She guessed many of them were incapacitated, or even dead, already.

She screamed backwards, towards Snargle deeper within the Sphere, "Get us OUT of here".
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Paul
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Naomi screamed backwards, towards Snargle deeper within the Sphere, "Get us OUT of here".
Naomi's shout riveted the goblin pilot to action. He stared at the ship's controls (noting their power had been restored)… but there were no wheels for pitch, yaw, or roll, nor any thrust controls. The only maneuvering was buoyancy control; Bathysphere was made to dive, not fly. She needed no pilot.

They swung freely again (the explosion having blown open Killing Time's bay doors), but the doomed warship had Bathysphere in a grapple-tether death grip. Blinking in awe at the Lady Blackbird's wind magic against the flames, Snargle was impelled to action. He bounded toward the exit hatch, pausing only a moment to say, "my lady," to Naomi, pressing something small into her hand. He was gone out the hatch before she could reply.

Nearby, the flames had not yet crept back from the magical blast of wind, but they were advancing quickly. Snargle nearly tripped over the pirate king, Uriah Flint, who was sitting slumped and delirious from injury. "Elisha, dearest treasure, my love… would that a captain could abandon his ship…" and with that, he fell unconscious. "To the Void with honor–you're a grudding PIRATE! Love, however… that's different." Snargle dragged the man into the sphere, then quickly resealed the hatch from without.

The flames were licking closer now, and the floor lurched drunkenly as Killing Time drifted, groaning under immense stresses. Goblins, however could withstand a fair amount of pyrotechnics (after all, they'd created them). Astride one of the hangar bay's least-damaged personal ornithopters, Snargle lined up the crosshairs of its weapon…

Alive + Sky Sailor + Gunnery + Aim + Maintenance + Observation + Pirates + 9 pool 16custom2{1;0} = (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 0) = 10

And, 'thopter wings beating back flames with wind of their own, Snargle squeezed the trigger. His aim was true. After a moment of drumming gunfire, the tether was severed and Bathysphere dropped in freefall away from Killing Time. Not a second too soon, as a series of massive explosions tore the flagship apart. Had the passengers aboard the sphere not been so drowned in grief over the heroic goblin's noble sacrifice, they might have spied a tiny fluttering aircraft flit away from the rolling fireballs and twisted metal.

"Fare thee well, my Lady Blackbird, wherever you fare. It seems I'm fated to be surrounded by friends in need of help… but I thank you for yours."
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  • Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:28 am
Out of the viewport the great ship burned. The Killing Time, where whispering clockwork trees danced in the arboretum, their vast arms spread above her head in an ocean of molten brass, embracing and embraced. The Killing Time, where she had truly met Uriah and grown to love his flamboyant grace. The Killing Time, where he had read to her from the writings of Roethke and asked if at the end she would favour fire or ice.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


The pain, the anger, the shrieking, raging, unrestrained fury of the Blood, it was too much to listen to and so she soared. Into the void. The wide, cold, black, dark, empty beauty of it all and for a single, glorious moment she watched their escape unfold in her mind, building like a symphony as the Bathbysphere hurtled away from the burning world above them. There was grace here, she thought. Even here. The grace of fire and steel and force and death. The still point and the dance. This moment, she thought. Freeze it. Freeze it right here. How unspeakably beautiful it is.

The end was near. She saw great gouts of smoke billowing out from the Killing Time’s rent sides like blood from a wounded beast. It crystallized, freezing into strange botryoidal shapes that drifted away into the darkness or ruptured against the ship, shattering into dazzling shards of incandescent smoky ice. She looked down at Uriah, slumped unconscious against the sphere’s curving wall, still so very handsome. She smiled.

I think at the end, love, I hold with those who favour fire.

She had time to close her eyes before the Killing Time’s cargo bay detonated in a blizzard of expanding metal and flame, the escaping fluids freezing into glittering beads of blood-ice that twinkled like fireflies in the dark. Behind them the Cruiser trembled and came apart, the monstrous ship folding in on itself as though crushed by an invisible hand as the drive at its heart ceased to beat, the shock-wave it birthed the biggest firework of all. A mile wide incandescent halo of shimmering fire that raced outward towards the sun, almost orange, almost gold, almost light.
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The All Father
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{Naomi}


And then they were plummeting.
Both she and Natasha had wanted to leave their lives behind, leave their respective worlds and forge a new path for themselves.
But this; this wasn't what she'd been expecting.

They were, if she understood correctly, plummeting down out of their entire World. Into the soup, with plans to exit out the other side.

Naomi just stood, watching out of the porthole; transfixed by the disappearing world, and life, that this space bauble was carrying her away from.

The fiery airship that had been Flint's flagship was becoming a distant star ... and her thoughts went to Snargle.

Had he died on that star, setting them free?
She hadn't meant for him to sacrifice himself. Hadn't asked him to do THAT; just 'Get us out of here'.
The 'us' was supposed to include him, too.

For the first time in ... decades? ... a tear rolled down her cheek.
He'd been uncouth. Rude even.
But maybe he'd been a friend, too.

It'd been so long since Naomi had known a 'friend' other than Natasha, she'd almost forgotten what it was like. Forgotten, that maybe she didn't recognize it when it happened.

But now, somehow, she felt a loss: a hole deep inside her.
Tears ran down her face.

Something bit into her hand, and she remembered Snargle's gift. Looking down, and opening her hand, she beheld the clockwork locket. It's small code-dials blossoming out like petals on its cardinal sides.

And the world above vanished into the mists that now encompassed the plummeting sphere.

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