Faerieland: Part 44

My armor threw out a long series of errors and red alerts about my gauntlet and all the control mechanisms inside it. Essentially, it was useless, and so were the weapons systems on that arm. Plus, the life support systems informed me the temperature inside the gauntlet was hot enough that my arm had “probably been damaged.”

Given the pain in my arm, and faint scent of cooked pork that certainly had to be me, I would have made some nasty comments about the idiot who wrote the error messages except that was also me.

Well, a past version of me at least, a version who hadn’t had his hand turned into–

“Cooked meat,” Artaxus said. “Was that enough to break the Bloodmaiden’s spell, I wonder?”

Haley coughed from behind me in the cabin. The heat of the dragon’s breath must have made it uncomfortable for her to breathe. As we both asked, “Are you okay,” the air conditioning kicked on, and the hatch snapped shut, showing that the mech wasn’t dead yet.

It appeared to be getting better.

Quickly checking the mech’s vitals gave me a rundown of its current capabilities. No movement. No weapons to speak of. All that it had going for it were better sensors and communication equipment.

Ignoring the pain in my left hand, I tapped out commands to the mech with my right. It darkened the windows so that we couldn’t see out of them, protecting us from looking Artaxus in the eye, and set the walls, floor and ceiling to act as screens, giving a 360 degree view of the area around the  mech.

Well, it showed the sonar version of the view at least.

Artaxus loomed over the mech, pausing to look it over, a huge grayish figure set against a black sky. Sonar didn’t detect the stars.

Haley grabbed a new rifle and looked at my left hand. “How bad?”

“I can’t move my fingers. I’m trying not to think about it.”

She pursed her lips. “Ok. How’s the mech?”

“What you see is what you get.”

Outside, the dragon roared, grabbed the mech with his forelegs, and threw it upward against the cliff wall.

Haley grabbed the webbing  around her chair before we even hit the cliff, and caught me with one arm, pulling me in. I hung on to the webbing with my right arm, and pulled in my left so that it wouldn’t flop around as we tumbled down the cliff.

For all the strength in the Rocket suit, Haley’s arm around my waist was the main thing keeping me in one place. She held on to the webbing with her right arm and foot and held on to the rifle with her other foot.

The mech seemed to roll forever before finally coming to rest on the lawn of the nearest house.

I felt dizzy, and Haley helped me to the floor which technically was the side of the mech again–except this time it was the opposite side. As difficult as it was to concentrate on anything more than standing, I checked my HUD for the mech’s status report. Except for losing a leg in the roll, we were doing slightly better than the last time I checked.

Current estimate for the weapons was one minute. The gravitic panels would work in five.

A glance in the dragon’s direction found him walking toward us stiffly, limping a little. All the hits we’d gotten in had counted for something. But that wasn’t all. In my HUD, the word “Bloodmaiden” changed from offline to online, glowing bright as the sonar showed a woman come out of the sky and land between the mech and the dragon.

Amy stood in a ready position, knees bent, arms held out in front of her. In the computer’s interpretation of the sonar, she was bright white with very little gray.

The dragon’s head hung stories above her. “This isn’t smart. You won’t survive fighting me.”

“I’m the Bloodmaiden,” Amy said. “Fighting monsters is what we do.”

“Oh no,” Haley whispered. Pulling up her rifle, she said, “You need to open a window.”

My head felt clearer by then and I knew what I’d do. I’d target Artaxus’ head with a killbot, and skip opening the hatch. The mech could repair itself, and if it worked, the the dragon would be dead. Well, assuming magic played fair and the killbot worked normally. It hadn’t last time.

Lifting my right arm, I activated one of the two remaining killbots, and pointed my arm toward the windshield. It was less protected there. To Haley, I said, “No, I think I’ve got this.”

Then Lee’s voice came over the comm. “Bloodmaiden, I know I told you to stand down. And Rocket or Night Cat, if you’ve got something planned, don’t do it. I’ve got this.”

Amy’s voice came over the comm. “Did you really think I’d stay inside the hill?”

“No,” Lee said. On the screen, he was walking out to join Amy on the lawn. “But it was worth a shot.”

Artaxus tilted his head toward Lee. “Who are you?”

“Don’t recognize me? Would this form work better?” Though I could only see him as a grayish man-shaped figure with sonar, it was obvious that he changed, growing taller, and more muscular.

He held a short sword in each hand, and each blade had a wispy, moving shadowy substance that rose from the blade. I wondered what it was, and then I realized. He’d changed to his Gunther identity, and for some reason had chosen to hold a flaming short sword in each hand.

The dragon hissed. That was probably the form Lee had used while fighting the fae with the League back in the 1960s.

Artaxus took a step toward him. “Then I look forward to killing you as well as your students.”

Lee saluted him with a sword, and said, “It gets better.”

The dragon’s head froze, and moved backwards a touch, and I could guess why. Lee had just switched languages. I didn’t know what the new one was, but it included a lot of hissing and growling. If someone told me it was the language dragons spoke to each other, I’d have believed them.

“I couldn’t understand any of that.” Haley said.

Artaxus said (in English), “How did you know that tongue?” I wasn’t sure, and it may have been the sonar being fuzzy, but it seemed like Artaxus trembled.

“Easy,” Lee said, “I knew it back when the world was young, and you weren’t much more than a hatchling. Do you remember the wars between the elves and the goblins? We met on the day Keldrad the Younger died.”

Now Lee had the dragon’s full attention. It stared, moving its head from one angle to another. The trembling became even more obvious. “That’s impossible.”

Lee said, “Would you like me to prove it to you? We fought, you and I, and you were losing, but you were young, so rather than kill you, I told you to run, or I’d rip your throat out.”

“No,” Artaxus said, still staring at him.

“Oh yes.” Lee made the swords disappear. “Tell you what, I’ll prove it to you. I’ll change. It won’t be but a second.”

Artaxus glanced from Lee over to Amy. She had her spear out.

The dragon turned and injuries seemingly forgotten, he ran.

31 thoughts on “Faerieland: Part 44”

        1. Yeah, but that’s not news, exactly, either. We know he’s sorta hiding out from his own kind, which implies that they’re, if not bigger and tougher, at least big and tough enough to give him pause..

    1. Having Lee fight the dragon would have been cool, but this was less predictable than the outcome of that fight, and more interesting for me at least on a number of levels.

  1. Eh, very very nice, so Lee has been chilling out in the Fae Kingdom way back when and encoiuntered Lil’ Atraxus an traumatized him.

    Heh, wonder what form Gunther will take here as I do not think he will take his real one due to his people looking for him and all, perhaps some uber draconic form, also Lee speaks dragon so obligatory Fus Roh Dah mention and also mention that if Atraxus had a child with a human woman said child would be Dragonborn. Eh seems the Dragon Age got postponed even if we got a Bloodmage here.

    Now, I am still wary about Atraxus having one last trick up his sleeve as he looked on Amy before strategically retreating in haste, true it could just be him looking at his opponnents and thinking “oh shit” or he could somehow be thinking about using Amy for…something as he knows her line and how their power works.

    Now I am very curious to see Amy’s reaction to what she just witnessed and to what Gunther will do, should be very interesting given her magic savviness, now If our friendly Lovecraftian abomination turned ercenary knew Bloodmagic it would be even better and solve Amy’s tutor problem, and having her being one of Gunther pupils outside of Stapledon would get her even closer to the league(yes because I just want her on the team)

    Oh and:

    “Then Lee’s voice cam over the comm. ”
    Missing and”e” here, Then Lee’s voice camE over the comm

  2. Major injury for Nick – is this the worst one that he’s had?

    Sounds like Lee has ‘meddled in the ways of dragons’, and the (smarter) dragons have said ‘Yes sir! Please keep on meddling!’…

    Typo(s):

    “I would have made some nasty comments the idiot”, missing ‘to’?

    “Haley’s arm around my waist”, double space before ‘waist’.

    “My head felt clearer by then and I knew”, double space before ‘I’.

    “The mech could repair itself, and if it worked, the the dragon”, first ‘the’ should be ‘then’.

    “It won’t be but a second.”, should ‘be’ be ‘take’, or is this speaking in an old style, or something?

    1. It’s most definitely the worst he’s had. If there’s a moral to that, it’s “Don’t fight dragons.”

      Also thanks for noticing the typos. Fixing them is next on my list.

        1. Nick’s a genius with ceramics, he could probably introduce a refractory element that would be excellent protection against high temperatures and directed energy weapons. A thin layer of silica aerogel under the armor and a heat-reflective coating would probably significantly improve the suit’s resistance to high temperatures, too. And fire attacks can be somewhat neutralised by extremely strong magnetic fields, so Sean might have a chance to make an impact there, too.

          1. The big issue here is the modularity of the suit. I’d bet that the older, ‘solid’ Rocket suits would actually have taken that blast with a lot less damage- heck, the WWII suit probably was hardened against Napalm. But because the current suit is made up of microbots, the suit lacks the ability to spread heat as effectively as a solid would- the cellular nature of the armour makes it much more capable of taking punishment itself without shutting down or being destroyed, but that means that damage can get through in localized areas.

  3. Nice chapter, Jim!

    The end-hook was a bit jerky though.

    Two back-to-back single lines of text starting with the same name.

    “Artaxus glanced from Lee over to Amy. She had her spear out.

    Artaxus turned, and injuries seeming forgotten, he ran.”

    I would replace the first ‘Artaxus’ with ‘The dragon’ or start that line with a descriptive element. Maybe mention that the head-movement looked jerky, not smooth and in control. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with it, but I think you can say the same thing better with different words 🙂

    1. Yep. That’s definitely worth an edit.

      You want to know how that happened? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. I was basically done around 2pm, and fell asleep at the keyboard. I woke up again, finished the next couple sentences, and then fell asleep again, wrote the final sentence, and looked everything over. Then I went to bed.

      As such, I’m not surprised that the ending is a bit rough.

      1. Been there!

        You might want to poke at that last sentence again though.

        “The dragon turned and injuries seemingly forgotten, he ran.”

        Something like this.

        The dragon turned, injuries seemingly forgotten, and ran.

        I *think* that’s how to use commas in an interjected clause in the middle of a sentence. Take out everything between the commas, and it still makes sense.

  4. “…the mech wasn’t dead yet.

    It appeared to be getting better.”

    Nice update, made even better by a sneaky Python reference? 🙂

  5. Pedantic grammar note:

    “Artaxus turned, and injuries seeming forgotten, he ran.”

    should read as

    “Artaxus turned and, injuries seeming(ly) forgotten, he ran.”

    The ‘and’ is required, so it should be outside the commas. Seeming/seemingly is a stylistic choice, and has a subtle effect on the emphasis:

    “SEEMING forgotten” vs “seemingly FORGOTTEN”

  6. Ah, yes. Lee is always fun in that OP PLZ NERF style. Cooked arm worries me a little, although due to Paladin’s or Preserver’s powers or, failing that, sweet, sweet cybernetics, this won’t keep Nick down in the long run.

    1. I try not to overuse Lee for that purpose. It would be easy to do.

      As for Nick’s arm. There are cretainly healers available. It’s mostly a matter of making them conscious.

    2. Speaking of, though…

      Lee has, so far, been very much a Deus-Ex. Immortal, unkillable, unbeatable, etc. etc.- and yes, in this situation, he was really, really needed. But that just calls to mind prior situations where he was one of the primary players (the Cabal, especially), and also how often “Call Lee” is one of the first responses that the League has to a problem.

      How is this going to play out, story-wise? There’s two obvious possibilities here- one is that Lee’s Obligation ‘wears out’ somehow, and he becomes the Big Bad (for some reason). This is an issue, because, as he’s been portrayed so far, there’s very little the League (or, you know, Humanity) could do about it, unless the story has ramped up significantly to that point- like, One Piece levels of Ramping Up.

      Second, is that Lee’s “People” arrive- and then you have a similar situation. Either Obliteration (WAR, perhaps had a good reason for what he did?) or the story will have to have had the protagonists connections, power and ability rise to that occasion.

      Both of those have the classic issues of Power Creep and maybe a little bit of Cthulu-esque Cerberus Syndrome. That, though, can still be handled in a good way.

      What I’m more worried about is a third option (among many others)- that Lee becomes a literary crutch- the Worst kind of Deus Ex Machina. Jim’ll write the League into harder and harder situations, only to have everything become a battle of attrition/stalling until Lee arrives to Captain Planet the problems away, and no lessons are learned.

      I know Lee’s teaching Nick and Rachel and all them how to survive without him, but we haven’t been seeing a lot of that, at least not from Nicks POV- and while I can understand someone not being able to realize their own growing confidence, there’s still the issue of Nick being nigh-completely oblivious to his position on the team, and in the grander scheme of things.

      I’m not asking for 4th-wall “I’m the Protagonist!” realizations, but I’d like to see Nick be a little more aware of when and how he’s being assertive and leader-like. I keep waiting for the “Team Building Exercise” that assigns him as the Leader, with all the “You’re not worthy of leading us!” shenanigans that entails. It’s not necessary, but it’s one of the ways I could see to pull the focus of the series back around to the protagonist as the agent of change, as opposed to having him just be the guy with the phone-number of the Agent of Change.

      1. Lee is bound by an agreement. He also seems content to remain bound by that agreement, and even be generous with it.

        He is a very powerful being, but I haven’t been terribly upset about how he’s been used. Sortof like a ‘fallen’ demon.

        Nick being Nick, his next version of the catmecha and the suit are probably going to be designed to absorb heat energy for use in weapons systems.

        Absorb heat energy. Translate through power matrix. Redirect to superconducting power core array.

        Dragons being dragons, we probably haven’t seen the last of Atraxus, though I doubt he’ll mess directly with Nick again. If he doesn’t mess with Nick or his sister, then Lee may not interfere directly.

        At one point, long ago, I believe that Lee said he saw a future where Nick worked with Lee. A future that Lee wanted to happen…

        1. As I recall it, Lee’s agreement (made with the original Rocket) only lasts until the current Rocket “comes of age”, which is when he turns about 20, I think. At that point, Lee is free to go do whatever he wants, including attacking anyone.

          I don’t think Lee will always be the solution, since he’s often pretty busy. Also, he’s fine with everyone getting beat up, parts cut off, as long as it’s not permanent death or serious disfigurement, so long as people learn a lesson in how to fight better the next time. That’s kind of a drawback for relying on his intervention.

      2. I’m not going to comment on all of your points, but I will say that option three isn’t going to happen. Having Lee being the solution to all problems is boring.

        More to the point, if he were the solution to all problems, I’d be writing a completely different series–one where he’s the main character, the problems are appropriately cosmic, and the League is barely in the story.

  7. The interesting thing is that I suspect Lee was bluffing. He has a lot of good reasons for being unwilling to unleash his true power these days. What was important is that his bluff was credible enough to get Artraxus to run away. Running away breaks Artraxus’s agreement to hold this place until morning, which means the fae don’t get a foothold.

    I wonder if the healers can help if Nick’s army is completely dead, as in all the tissues were thoroughly cooked. He might end up having to go the cybernetics route (though that puts a crimp in his secret identity).

    1. Nick can turn a nondescript plumbers van into a CatMecha, a normal seeming arm with “extras” probably wouldn’t pose too many problems after a good think.

  8. I think run like hell shows the Dragons not stupid. He could have been like i was just a kid then or somthing instead he decided he wanted to live.

  9. There’s only so much you can do to armor hands and retain their range of motion..
    Italian style gauntlets sometimes included a mitten shell over fingered gauntlets ( and those only consist of scales over the top of fingers ). Mitten gauntlets usually provide better protection to the side of your fingers….at the cost of mobility. All gauntlets limit mobility of the wrist. Note that all gauntlets are designed with the hand closed to grip some kind of weapon.

    Nick would gain the most protection by enclosing his hands (by extending the arm armor ) and providing some robotic hands moved by some kind of motion sensing remote gloves.

    I wonder if Nick could mod the antigrav plates to generate some kind of gravitic shear region to protect an area.

Leave a Reply