Character study – Letting the voices speak for themselves.

Related to the last one. More experimentation. Aiming for a pulp-fiction-seen-through-a-1980s-horror-movie-vibe.

You’re asking me why I’m doing this? I could say that it’s my job, sure. But that’s not what you’re after, is it? No, you want to know how I got started. Maybe then you’d really understand.

No, I wasn’t poor. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t a street rat, begging for scraps of bread and stealing the loaf when someone offered it to me. My family wasn’t rich, but we weren’t beggars. My parents worked. My father was a shoemaker, my mother worked in a factory, when she could. After all, they had six kids. I was the second.

I was the smartest. The most ambitious. I couldn’t stand living in the tiny rooms, all of us on top of each other all the time. They were happy. They liked the company. Me, I wanted to see something different than the same seven faces day in, day out. Eating the same rice and potatoes every day of the week with meat on Wednesdays. I was the first one to leave the house.

I lived by doing the jobs a young man can get in a city. After a couple of months out there I caught on to how the kids who went to school had money. Sometimes the money came before the school, sometimes the school got the money. Didn’t matter. The smart kids that went to school — now I’m not talking high-school or anything like that here, no — but the smart ones… they looked at things differently.

They looked through things, as though they could see what was really behind everything around them. They could see right through everything…

*She* saw right through me. What? You really thought there wouldn’t be a girl in this story? Don’t pretend it surprises you. Her name was Carol.

Carol was one of the smart ones. She did well, and she learned far more than just what they were teaching in the classrooms. She knew what I was about when she first laid eyes on me. I don’t think I impressed her much, but she went out with me anyway.

I should’ve known then that she’d get herself into some kind of trouble. She stumbled across a cult. It was obvious, even funny. Robes, phony sacrifices, runes, secret codes, all of it. She played along, telling me stories about their rituals and made-up chants. We thought someone was having fun, that everyone HAD to be in on the joke and was just playing along.

We laughed about it for a while. Carol kept going to their little covens. They mostly did drugs, pretended to have visions, speak in prophecy, that kind of thing. She was going to write a paper about the whole thing for school. She came back to our apartment to write these meticulous notes about all the craziness people got to. Carol always came back to write everything down.

One day, she didn’t.

Took me three days to start looking for her. I had her notes — it didn’t take me long to find the place.

It was a home. Abandoned. Right in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood. The windows and doors were boarded up. I thought I was at the wrong place but, when I got closer, could smell the smoke from their half-assed peyote-and-horse-glue ritualistic incense. Couldn’t have been more than a day old.

It didn’t make sense.  The wood boards on all the doors was old and musty, with the nails rusted into it. Carol’s little cult had no way to get inside. The smell was too intense to be any older than a few days. I had to use a crowbar to rip them off.  

I nearly threw up when I finally got inside. The stink of the smoke was covering up the smell of a corpse getting ripe. It was on the dining room table, split open from crotch to collarbone. It wasn’t Carol. I did recognize them, though. It was one of her classmates.

The whole room had been turned into an altar. Runes written in blood in a jumble of alphabets and ideograms. Pentagrams. Bloody handprints, the whole deal. It would’ve been the set of a cheesy horror movie, were it not for the very real corpse.

I ran outside and didn’t even bother to try not to throw up that time. There was a moment there, after I was done retching, that I knew what I was expected to do. I was supposed to run off, call the cops, let them figure out the mess and get as far away from the whole mess as I could. I should’ve forgotten about Carol.

Instead, I spat up the last of the bile, took a deep breath, and went back into that house.

There was no one else there. No way out either.

I found a stack of notebooks in a corner of one of the bedrooms, out of the way. They were full of Carol’s careful handwriting. Hundreds of pages. More than she could have filled up in just three days. I took them, called the police, and left. They didn’t find anything else. I hung around to make sure.

There were names, dates, places, people, patterns. I felt the same way reading those notes that I did when I first noticed the college kids talking about the world. It felt like I was just skimming the surface of something much deeper.

I took the notebooks to one of her professors, an older woman called Von der Walde. All I said was that Carol had gone missing, and I thought the books may have a clue. She was curious enough to be talked into having a look.

A couple of weeks later, with absolute calm, she explained to me what Carol and her friends had done. They sacrificed their classmate. Whether it was the drugs that led to it, or if it was just a convenient excuse to kill the boy, I don’t know. The notebooks said that the sacrifice worked. That something answered, coming through the boy’s body into our world, and that it spoke the others.

Professor Von der Walde told me she didn’t believe it. She hadn’t seen how the boy had been burst open from the inside like I had.

There were places that the professor said I should go, if I was going to keep looking for Carol. She also said I shouldn’t, that I should just hand over the notebooks to the police and forget everything about it.

Somehow, I couldn’t. I needed to know the truth about the world.

What came after was years of searching, following a thread that led me to unholy places, to more blood and gore, and very few answers. I couldn’t get past the surface. Maybe I was just unwilling to pay the price, like they had.

I still graduated, years late, deeply in debt, and frustrated. Without realizing it, however, I had made a name for myself. People began to call me a mercenary, a treasure hunter, a charlatan, but then there would be those who would call me for help.

Sometimes families, sometimes colleagues, looking for others who had gone down a dark path would reach out to me. Eventually I figured out how to get them to pay me to look.

Most of the time the stories were mundane. The ones that weren’t led me to places like that abandoned home.

Sometimes, rarely, there are happy endings. Other times, I got glimpses of the world that Carol had gone to. I chased after it, looking for her, looking to understand.

Carol never came back, and I haven’t found her yet.

I still read through her notebooks, even though I just can’t understand them, let alone explain them. I do know this, though. How she saw reality was that much deeper than what I could see, again. It made me feel like I did when I was young, listening to the college kids talk about the world in ways that I just couldn’t see.

Knowing what I know now, what is clear is that the world that we live in is a comforting lullabye. Even with violence, disease, greed, cruelty… it’s a fairytale, laid over the nightmare that Carol knows it to be.

Now, though, I may just have found someone else who does understand, and doesn’t turn away from the dark. He’s blind, and he claims that he knows where to find the truth. I don’t know if I should trust him, but I have to try.

I have to know how deep this well goes. That, in the end, is why I’m doing this.

A small character study

** So this is a small experiment I did in order to define a character I’ll be writing about for a new project. It’s, like everything I write,  a bit meandering. So, forgive the mess.

This is nothing more than an effort to record the little trip I took with them. **

Who is the old man? What does he care about?

The truly demented, and honestly *boring* sort would clench their fist, grind some yellowed teeth and say “POWER!”, as though power in and of itself was the goal.

For some, it may be, but most people want power for a reason. That reason may very well be quite idiotic on its own — I wanted to get back at my siblings, I wanted to impress someone who didn’t notice me, I wanted to PROVE THEM ALL WRONG! — and that reason is enough.

So, who are you, old man? And why do you care?

Am I searching for truth? Am I searching for an answer to a question no one else dared to ask? Or am I seeking a boon to solve a riddle no mortal should seek to unknot?

I have money, so what does it matter? I will spend it as I see fit, and I see fit that a man such as you go to this place and tell me what you see.

You must understand; I am blind, but I was not always thus. My sight was taken from me by a disease. One feverish night clouded my eyes forever, just as one did for my father, and my grandmother, and her father, and so on…

When we come of age, we are told to prepare, the children of my family. We are told ‘The world will go dark for you one day, and there’s nothing you can do about it’. I took that to heart, I sought to see as much as I could. I traveled, I read, I saw. I realized shortly after I left school that commonplace things did not satisfy me. Knowing that I would lose my sight, I wanted to see the extraordinary.

I was fortunate. My mother’s family was rich; landowners with noble bearing. I could afford the rare things. The old things.

I thought the thread I followed was laid out by history, impersonal and meandering. I must have had a question buried in some dark cellar of my mind, however. I came to realize that I was seeking something in particular.

I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what reason, what folly or crime, what offense or curse by wraith or spirit meant that I had to go blind.

The world went dark for me long before I could find an answer. Even then, I did not stop hunting my elusive quarry.

I did, however, find myself in need of hounds.

My blindness, ironically, brought me clarity. Clarity of purpose. Without the distractions of sight, my goal, the truth, became the only thing to occupy my thoughts.

I explored old places, ruins, temples, fallen castles and even caves under the sea, led by my guides. Usually I have only one of them at a time. The things I seek, the places I must go to, do not surrender the secrets they hold lightly.

The first time one of my hounds was taken it was an accident. He opened a tomb for me. I don’t know what happened. All I know is that the sound I heard was what I would expect in a butcher’s shop. I called out my hound’s name. He was called Javeh. I asked him what the noise was. It lasted almost a minute, starting and stopping every few seconds.

A voice, like the sound of bones grinding together and a mouth full of something, said, “Ask.”

I did.

“Why was I made to go blind?”

“Because there is a price to be paid”, the voice replied.

“Why? What is the price? Why must my bloodline pay it. Why must I pay it?!”. The voice didn’t reply. The presence that nearly froze the marrow in my bones faded away. I tried to chase after the voice I heard. I slipped after the third step I took.

I fell and hit my head. I groped around and found my guide’s leg. There was nothing above the knee.

My hounds, of whom there have been many, don’t know about one another. I make sure that they believe they are the first. There have been simple servants, treasure-hunters, a couple were beggars who thought I was like them. Two more thought about robbing me, after we were deep in the dark place they led me through.

Eventually, something will happen. Sometimes there will be a voice. Sometimes there will be writing that I’ll have my hounds copy down and carve into a wax tablet so I can feel it with my fingertips. In doing so some have lost their minds.

The answer I am looking for, the truth about my disease is still out of reach. I still have the thread leading me to it in my grasp.

I will find another hound, and I will get my answer soon.

Terran Interceptor — A StarCraft 2 custom map

First off: What is Terran Interceptor? 


Terran Interceptor is a custom StarCraft 2 map where players fly a light air unit to accomplish a series objectives. The player’s fighter climbs and dives to avoid buildings and other obstacles, sporting heat-seeker missiles, a small cannon, afterburners for a burst of speed, and flares that confuse its enemies.

This map uses custom scripts to simulate physics. This means that the units bank to turn, fight g-forces, and convey a sense of the power of the machines depicted. Players, then, are not commanders; they’re pilots.

Here is a video of what that looks like in action:

My intention with this map, and others in the series I’ve been working on, is to offer tactile gameplay. Not quite arcade-y action, not quite simulation, but somewhere in the middle of the two.

This map in particular is supposed to be an introduction to this kind of gameplay, teaching the player how each mechanic works. Each aspect of the light fighter is explored, and given context with various challenges the player has to overcome. The challenge for me there was to structure the mission in such a way that it wasn’t a lecture, didn’t hold the player’s hand too much, and yet wasn’t prohibitively difficult.

Here is a technical breakdown of one of the signature abilities in this map: Heatseeker missiles.

Time-to-fun was actually an important metric for me when I was considering the map’s flow. During the iteration process I had to restructure the mission several times to bring that number as close to 0 as possible, while still teaching players everything they needed to know.


There are a handful of unit types in Terran Interceptor:

  • Fighters
  • Drones you shoot down
  • Probes you chase after
  • Turrets that shoot at you if you fly over buildings
  • And a Big Bad corvette that plays the role of final boss.

Each one has different physics characteristics and abilities, showing the player just how far the rules of the playing field can flex. Some, like the turrets, are meant to shape the landscape and force the player to actually care about the terrain, offering an increased skill challenge.

One of the harder lessons that I had to learn during the development of this map, and other maps that use this type of custom gameplay, was that ff you change basic behavior, like movement as I did here, you will have to change everything else around it. The AI had to change, the UI had to change, the way the camera behaves, the way maps are laid out, etc.. I ended doing a fairly deep dive into the inner workings of the Galaxy engine as a result. It was a good experience to have since it made me more comfortable learning complex systems in game engines, but it did slow down development considerably.

Along the way, I ended up learning quite a bit about how physics engines in general work, along with some math I somehow glossed over from my school days. As it turns out, making games isn’t easy.

Another hard lesson is that this type of gameplay will never be perfect in the Galaxy engine. The way that it handles controls, the way that the scripting is executed present obstacles that are quite difficult to get around of.


Even so, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished here, and I’m going to continue working on more of it in the future.

The map is available in the StarCraft 2 custom tab. Just search for Terran Interceptor.

Barrel Blast Design Breakdown

In this post I’ll be breaking down some of the approach I took and lessons I learned from working on the design for a GameJam project called Barrel Blast!

You can download it here. (25meg RAR file. Just extract it and run)

This was a project developed over 48 hours using Unity 5 by a team of 5 people. Misti, Thomas, Carson, Rim and myself. I did the gameplay and puzzle design, along with a chunk of the gameplay engineering, but everyone contributed in equal measure to the final product as a whole.


First off, The premise!

You’re aboard a massive freighter that’s adrift on rough seas. Bad dudes are trying to find you in the dark, cavernous hold below-deck. And you’re a… guy who can make certain oil drums explode at will, with a little delay.

It’s a puzzle game that was birthed by the theme “Chain Reaction”. The ship tilts back and forth, making some barrels roll along the floor. You can click them, and after a moment or two, they detonate.

You clear a level by killing all the dudes, which you do by exploding barrels next to them. Since only some of the barrels are clickable, you have to create chain reactions. The image above is the first level where the mechanics are tutorialized.


This is level two. Note the splitting paths. The idea here is to illustrate two things: The position of other elements in the level matter, and a single explosion can lead to more than one chain being triggered.

This level, like the first, is simple in the sense that detonating the barrel in the right spot is all that matters. But, there is another element to consider here, phase.


Rolling barrels actually have two characteristics to their patterns: position and phase; where they are and whether they’re moving left or right. Level 3 introduces this element to the player. The first barrel will be in the correct spot twice during its pattern, but won’t trigger both the cascading chains when the barrel is detonated while rolling to the right.


Level 4 makes the player consider both concepts, but on a longer level, and from a different perspective. It also introduces the idea that walls block explosions. The player’s margin of error for an “optimal” solution on this level is very narrow, but they have additional barrels for a less-than-perfect clear.


With Level 5 we introduce a new type of barrel has a completely different mechanic: it’s steerable, but doesn’t have any power of its own. So, the player has to navigate through the level, using the tilt of the ship to give it them momentum to get where it has to in order to start off the chain.

This gameplay is more tactile and less about puzzle-solving. Note the affordance of the solid-red spotlight, which was introduced in level 3, guiding players to the optimal detonation location.

Levels 6 and 7 are explorations of that same idea with different layouts and more labyrinthine paths.

I enjoyed the experience of making this game as a while. Here are some conclusions I reached.

The Good

  • For a quick project, the team was able to present something quite polished! 48 hours really isn’t that much time.
  • The gameplay quickly becomes intuitive, with the feedback and payoff being quite clear. Players engaged with it rather well, became frustrated at the right points and with the right intensity — more “grrr, gonna get it right this time!” instead of “meh, too hard. Laters.”
  • The combination of elements leads to a surprisingly wide design space. There are a lot more possibilities for new entities that detonate and can be detonated.

The Bad

  • In order to allow the player to consider more than one rolling barrel, they need to be able to always see it in relation to all the others. There is only so much depth a level.
  • Furthermore, the only real effect of additional rolling barrels is to narrow down the “optimal solution” window without really increasing complexity. This leads to the wrong type of frustration — the one that comes from mechanics rather than puzzle-solving.
  • Phase and position are questions answered quickly. The depth of the complexity of rolling barrels on their own is limited.
  • Didn’t have time to explore the whole design space.

Whut I durn learned

  • Experimenting leads to unexpected results. The steerable barrel, for example, was a bit of an accident.
  • Design aids, like a display that shows a designer the radius of a barrel’s explosion speeds up design and iteration considerably. (Thanks Carson!)
  • Good versioning is absolutely crucial for good collaboration.



Heavy Gear — The Ending

This is the final writeup I did for a Heavy Gear campaign. We got lost in the scheduling muck of the end of the year and lost the thread of the campaign…

Still, I can’t overemphasize how much fun I had running it. Alas, this is likely going to make ZERO sense to anyone who wasn’t one of my players.

They were Mekong Dominion Peacekeepers.

Their unit was called “Experimental Squad 16”

This is the ending to their story

XxFireDog1913xX writes: I don’t know if this address is still going to reach any of you, but I found something interesting for all of us.





















So we’ve been talking for some time about the activities of Experimental Squad 16…




And we have discussed how their practices mostly led to the destruction of property, destruction of evidence and so forth…



Yes, we have been discussing that.


Now, as you well know, we’re not here to assign any blame or responsibility for the actions of the experimental squad in the past–


We’re interested in just what happened on the night of Summer 15th.


The “Ballroom Blitz” incident.


I understand that the rank and file have taken to calling it that.


Effectively beheading half the major criminal organizations in the hemisphere, exposing a corruption ring and dismantling the Atsi Red yakuza family would make an impression on–



We’re not arguing about results here, or what junior constables think. The number of suspects and constables killed alone during this fiasco is unacceptable.


I’m sure the lieutenant commander knows that the squad was facing opposition armed with military hardware, and that the first part of the operation was carried out without incident.


Two dead suspects by beheading, inciting a riot and then using an unapproved chemical agent hardly seems to be without incident. Those people–



Move on.







(to the unnamed guests)

You’re here as a courtesy, not as part of the proceedings. Don’t try my patience.


We have some gunsight footage from Constable Guzman’s equipment… Are you familiar with this footage?


I’ve seen it, yes.


Let’s take another look…


The video is grainy, with just a handful of colors. An overlay displays the time and location, along with Constable Guzman’s name and vitals. His heartbeat is spiking. The scene is a set of blast doors, half-open. Whorls of condensation roll out from the chamber on the other side.

“This is bad”, a heavily digitized voice says. “We’re all exposed.”

Guzman walks through the opening, stepping over the legs of another constable who is propped up against a wall. Inside the chamber, there is a gruesome collection of body parts, some of them sliced clean, others ripped by gunfire, all of them bleeding something the camera can only register as a dark gray. Guzman can’t look away from a hand, its trigger finger is still twitching, even though it’s chopped out at the wrist. The rest of the arm is in the maw of a metal and muscle nightmare that is collapsed next to the corpse it bit into.

“How long will it take to make?”, another voice asks.

“Couple of hours should be enough…”

Guzman looks up at the voices. It’s Doctor Rokka, barely distinguishable in the low light, and Sergeant Gramm Lumox, who is unmistakable. His prosthetic robot body casts a very particular silhouette. On the floor around them there are dozens of smashed glass tubes. Past them there is a container-sized box. Its smooth walls open up at one end, revealing racks of even more tubes. All of them are broken. There is a hospital bed next to the crate, bloody sheets still on it. Gramm and the doctor turn to look at Guzman. The video cuts out suddenly.



It seems like two members of the Experimental Squad were discussing something very specific. You’ve said before that you don’t know what it is.


Do you stand by that?


I do. I have no knowledge to share of what transpired in the third basement level of the compound.


And just what do you make of the footage we just showed you? Or the fact that that was the only evidence about that phase of the operation in existence?


All my constables submitted the requisite reports. Any details…



None of those reports mention the last chamber. And all the reports from the experimental squad are missing. You know this already, Chief Constable. Aren’t you responsible for that omission?


I am. They were removed from our records for security reasons.


Are you saying you knowingly deleted the reports yourself?


I am saying that they were removed for security reasons.


Under whose —



Move on, lieutenant.



Sir, the inquiries department has the directive AND the authority to —


XxFireDog1913xX writes: No clue who the guests were. They’re gone for the next part of the transcript I was able to pull. Being talked about like this feels weird.


Seems like we’re set so I’ll just go into it. Chief Constable, let’s talk about the third floor.


What do you want to know?


Experimental Squad 16 was given the directive to arrest “Ghenghiz”, the leader of the Atsi Reds yakuza family, who was reportedly on that floor. Is that accurate?




The squad requested back-up when it became apparent that they would face unusually stiff resistance. That request was denied. Why?


All our resources were invested in other operations, as well as on the perimeter of the compound.


This is a team that routinely took on seemingly overwhelming opposition head-on. What prompted them to ask for back-up?


All the information I have is in the reports.


That information isn’t in any of the reports the inquiry department received — but it doesn’t matter.


We have footage of that floor as well. Shall we?


The image jumps to life abruptly. It’s still footage recorded from Constable Guzman’s equipment. He’s with at least half a dozen other officers. They’re in a stairway. A digitized voice starts counting down.

“In Three… Two… One!”

The image shakes, pixelating. Gunfire in the dark. Flashes. Screams. A blue glow swipes across one side of the screen and the image begins to settle down. Guzman’s vitals are spiking and his breathing is a fast hissing down in the background. He’s around a corner, looking down a wide open space. The body of another constable is in the middle of the floor, still bleeding. Figures move in the dark, punctuated by flashes of yellow and blue light. Guzman crawls over to the wounded constable, turning her over. She is still breathing. Guzman’s gloved hands press down on the oozing wound. A hissing voice is barely caught by the mic.

“Help… help…”

Guzman looks up suddenly, shifting the perspective of the image.

A statue of a young woman is standing over the two of them on a pedestal, lifting her hands in a quasi-religious pose. The statue is standing in the middle of a frame made out of metal tubing, held like a puppet by steel cables attached to its joints. The statue is bone white, except for where the wires dig into its flesh. The wires are surrounded by bloody scabs.

“Help me…”

Guzman looks down at the constable he’s keeping alive with his hands for a moment, then across at the rest of the room. There are at least a dozen statues there, all of them different. All of them are striking poses that contort them into something akin to prayer. The firefight continues down the hallway

Guzman stammers into his radio.

“I – I need medical over here!”



There are no victim debriefing reports, no names collected of possible survivors, no suspects or charges, for anything that was going on on the third floor.


Is there an issue you are trying to raise here, lieutenant?


The absolute lack of a paper trail is an issue. The lack of charges for the crimes we just saw on the screen is an issue. Or do you disagree?


Let’s move on from that. We have some autopsy reports, as well as some medical logs…


Those were leaked to the press, weren’t they?

XxFireDog1913xX writes: I added the news clip she’s talking about here. Still no clue who the actual leak was. I’m betting it was the quartermaster, Sgt. Bolton. That guy always had way too much cash.


The music sting of “Atsi Action News Report on Channel 52” plays as the shows logo spins into view in tri-dimensional video. Sarah Vikkers comes into the foreground.

“Good evening Atsi, and welcome to your Action News Report on Channel 52, the most trusted source of up-to-date news that matters to you. Our top story tonight…”

An image of the Atsi Red’s compound fills most of the screen. It’s a dark silhouette with the glow of a blazing fire in the background.

“A public disturbance call on one of Atsi’s most notorious gangsters leads to a pitched battle and a strange discovery in the home of Yakuza Gang-leader “Ghenghiz”.

An image Ghenghiz is displayed. He is a wide-set man in his early forties, sporting a thin Fu-Manchu.

“The Mekong Dominion Peacekeepers report that when answering a noise complaint, they discovered that several dozen guests at the home of notorious Atsi Reds leader “Ghenghiz” were intoxicated by a gas leak and in need of medical assistance.”point

A shot of police officers in gas masks carting out unconscious bodies replaces Ghenghiz’ face.

“While searching the premises for more victims, MDP sources tell us, they found evidence of several felonies and started conducting arrests. Several gang members resisted, according to the MDP, and were neutralized without incident.”

The logo along the bottom of the screen changes to “ACTION NEWS EXCLUSIVE!”

“But here at Action News Report we are prepared to state that there is more to this story than what MDP sources tell us. In tonight’s exclusive, we shall have a closer look at medical reports tied to the incident.”

A photograph of a corpse is brought up, with its face and crotch censored. It has gaunt limbs, with barely any skin on the bone. Thick cabling comes into view from whatever is censored on the corpse’s face.

“Autopsy reports acquired by this station list at least fifty dead, plenty of whom were members of the local Peacekeeper garrison, and scores more wounded. Amongst them, though. One stands out. It is an autopsy that says its subject was, a two-year old, who was 60 pounds, and five feet tall.”

The camera pans to a middle-aged, well-coiffed man sitting next to the anchor.

“To discuss this report we turn now to our medical correspondent, Dr. Arnjan Vonderwalde. Doctor, what can you tell us about this remarkable report? Is it a fake? A series of errors?”

“Well, Sarah, if you read the report you’ll see that it addresses all of those discrepancies itself. The subject, according to the report, was a clone.”

“A HUMAN clone?”

“Precisely, Sarah. A human clone. The subject appeared to be a thirty year old eunuch, but testing by a member of the MDP medical staff proved that this was, in fact, a two year old clone, deformed by an aggressive growth acceleration treatment. We can’t really tell who was cloned — but we do know that they were likely not a functioning individual.”

“How can you tell, doctor?”

“Well, Sarah, according to the report, half of the clone’s brain was atrophied. It had some sort of mechanical device that seemed to relegate higher intellectual functions to a computer over a network.”

“Remarkable. How does this tie into the events at the Atsi Reds’ compound?”

“The report tells us that the corpse was found in the personal chambers of “Ghenghiz”, the leader of the Atsi Reds, the night of the incident.”

“How did the clone die?”

“A massive heart attack, if the report is to be believed. It lists a number of lacerations and other wounds, but it states that the clone went into grand mal seizures when the network connection was forcibly cut.”

“Thank you, doctor. Let me bring the conversation now to our security specialist, Mr. Lucas Arppaio.”

“Good evening, Sarah. What an eventful few months we’ve just had in our fair city!”

“Yes, it’s been a very busy time for us here at Actions News. Especially for you! Tell me, what do you see in this incident, with your expertise as a retired intelligence officer?”

“Sarah, I see a culmination of a long string of incidents, where there was a single common thread…”

The image focuses on Lucas Arppaio, a portly man with a shaved head and a wide, predatory smile. An image of Gramm, Willow and Yasuhide at the Atsi Maglev station appears next to him.

“The special Peacekeeper unit known as Experimental Squad 16. They have been at the center of the riots that shook our city earlier this year…”

The image changes to one of Doctor Rokka standing next to Yasuhide in the middle of a city street over a corpse covered with a plastic sheet. Red Rum’s silhouette is nearby, stalking out of view.

“The dismantling of one of the biggest smuggling rings in our city…”

The next image is one of Gramm leading uniformed constables while they search the rubble of a building. Langstromm is standing next to him with his rifle.

“And this latest incident. They are all connected by this special unit that was, I might add, also the unit that stopped a mercenary takeover of one of the maglev train lines. They are the best of the best of the MDP and I am sure they were hand-picked for this mission.”

“So you’re saying that all of this was planned, Lucas?”

“Absolutely. I believe the capital has had it with the corruption in our city and has sent this crack team to clean up the mess!”

“While their achievements may be impressive, the amount of collateral damage…”

“That is a symptom of just how deep-rooted the problem is! Even the best surgeon amputates when the whole limb is diseased.”

“Well! That’s quite a statement! Based on your experience, can you speculate what this specialized team will do next? Storm city hall?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised, Sarah! I wouldn’t be surprised… Though, I did have a question for our good doctor. Arjan, my friend! What do you make of an entire MDP garrison being scheduled for “vitamin booster shots” immediately after last night’s incident?”

“Well, it sounds fairly innocuous. It’s strange that the entire garrison was scheduled to get an injection the morning after, but with bureaucracy being what it is –“

“I’m sorry gentlemen, but that’s all the time we have for that story.”

The image focuses back on Sarah, the anchor.

“As a final note, “Ghenghiz” was amongst the arrested during last night’s MDP operation. Our requests to interview Ghenghiz have been denied by MDP officials, stating that “Ghenghiz” is currently indisposed due to an acute case of complete catatonia.”

The image shifts to another camera angle. The anchor glances that way with a smile.

“Let’s move on to sports news. The Charioteers continue to dominate this season as –“


XxFireDog1913xX writes: That’s the end of the segment. Maybe I let it run a little too long. Back to the transcript…


The leak is irrelevant to the current inquiry. But yes, I’m talking about those medical reports.


What about the reports?



We see a few things that made us curious. Constable Langstrom is listed among the casualties. And there is a lot of “salvage” listed that matches components of Sgt. Lummox’s prosthetic body, and of the xenocyborg projects “Cujo” and “Red Rum”.


Your point?


This is the last time any members of Experimental Squad 16 are listed anywhere.


I still don’t see how —



It just leads us to one question, Chief. One which we think only you could answer.


And that is…?


Where is Experimental Squad 16, Chief? Where are they now?


XxFireDog1913xX writes: I guess they’ll never know.

Some experimental things in the Heavy Gear universe

So, the following are images I created of some of the most significant documents that would affect the lives of young people throughout the southern hemisphere of Terra Nova. I attempt to portray something specific and essential of the culture that created them.

The one that is most unlike the others is the Eastern Sun Emirates one; it’s a poster in the barracks of an Ethereal Guard training facility. The rest are fairly self-explanatory.

Aaand this document that I wrote to go along with these:

I used these as an intro to the world for my current RPG troupe. We’re getting deeper in the world now. Some of the recaps for those sessions may end up here as well. We’ll see!

A father’s letter

This is some stream of consciousness I wrote while trying to ‘clear my throat’, so to speak. It’s related to something else I’ve been working on for a while. This entirely unedited; I’m sure I’ll be mortified in the morning. 

Let me just write about you for a while, about those dreams you had when you were younger.

They were unpleasant dreams, but not quite nightmares. The horror in them didn’t seize you like that, did it ever?

You tossed and turned in your bunk-bed, distracting me from whatever it was I was trying to do. Every time, I hoped you’d mumble something, remember something, give me some hint of what was troubling you. You never did. Every morning after that, I’d ask you how you slept and you’d always say “fine”.

I wanted to know what your unpleasant dreams were, in hopes that you’d say something, anything, about the last night your mother was with us. What do you remember? What could you possibly remember? But you do remember her. What’s more, you remember specific things about her, like that lullaby she used to sing. You remember it better than I do.

I’ve heard you humming it sometimes, late at night, when we’re crossing somewhere beautiful. You’ll sit by the porthole, brush your hair, and hum that song. One time, while we were passing through a nebula, you hummed it from beginning to end. I watched you. I wanted to ask so badly it physically hurt when I stopped myself.

You remember that song better than I do.

Do you remember the house we used to live in? The house on the hill looking over the valley? Your room used to be in the corner, and we had a little porch swing you used to try to swing for real, like you do on the kind in the playgrounds.

You have to remember. You were holding the brush your mother used, while the two of you would sit in the window. You’d talk about something, anything, and she’d brush your hair and look out over the valley. Do you remember?

Do you remember the night they came, when I wasn’t there? Do you remember anything, anything at all? Did your mother say anything? Did she tell you to hide? I need to know. I need to know how she lived the last few moments she had in this universe. But I can’t ask you. I can’t even show you this letter.

What if you do remember?

What if you know exactly everything I want to ask and that’s still not enough? Is it better that I don’t know at all what they sounded like? Did THEY say anything? Did they find you and let you live? Or did you run away so far that you didn’t see anything or hear anything of what happened? What if you know their names? What if it was all a big mistake and they tried to explain it all away to you?

What if you don’t remember? What if I remind you of everything that happened, everything you locked away because you’re just too young to deal with it? You still are. I can just imagine you arguing that you’re not, but you are.

That’s why I’m writing this, because I’ve got to get rid of these questions before we get to the waystation. They’re making me sick, and I need my mind to be clear when we get there. You don’t want to be alone anymore, you don’t want to drift anymore, but the moment we meet other people I don’t know what it’ll do to me.  I don’t know how I can look anyone in the eye when they ask “where is your wife?” and “where is her mother?” And they will ask. They will see you, and for one of the millions of different reasons they could have, they will ask.

“Oh, you’re teaching her how to use a gun? What does her mother think?” “Are you two been traveling a long time? Oh, she’s your daughter… Really? Where is her mother?”

I can’t blame them for asking. I can’t stop them from asking, but I don’t know how I’ll answer. I don’t know how I’ll even look at anyone’s face after they ask.

Al I need to know is if you remember, and I never will. I’ll never ask. I can’t. I won’t. If you ever find this, don’t tell me. Don’t bring it up at dinner. Just say you’re “fine” like you always do. Burn this page, forget you ever saw it. My heart broke when I realized I lost your mother. I don’t think it can take you finding out your father is not as strong as you need him to be.

Tonight we’ll be crossing through the plasma flare of a star that died long ago. I know you’ll sit and watch its dying light. I know you’ll brush your hair and you’ll hum that song. I’m going to be sitting there, pretending to navigate, while all of me just wants to ask “What do you remember? Did she say anything for me before she died? Did she say anything at all?”

What do you remember?


Another section of the story “The Chiron” kicks off.

“Alright, how about this one,” Odie started as he leaned over the back of Jane’s pilot seat in the cockpit of the Vespertina.  “Military police gets called into a factory after a grisly murder…”

“Malfunctioning adjuntant killed him”, Jane interrupted. She didn’t even look up, speaking in a theatric monotone.

Tau Bellum was slowly rising up to meet them as she banked the left edge of her salvager ship’s wing into the atmosphere. “Really, you don’t have any stories left. Face it, you’ve told them all ten times over.”

Odie, deeply offended, straightened with a harrumph. He was heavier set than most S.C.V. operators, thicker without being altogether round; a brawler if there ever was one. A harrumph like that moved considerable mass around.

“I think I still have a few”, he protested, sticking out his curly-bearded chin out. “There’s one about the ship that jumped and jumped back with all its crew–”

Jane, again, didn’t let him finish. “Dead,” she stated, “The crew went insane and everyone killed each other while they hallucinated they were–”

“Fine!” Odie grunted as he responded to an interruption with another, “Waaay back, there was an explosion on Terra’s moon, because–”

“Mad scientist broke into another universe, invented a quantum reactor”, Jane replied. She let out a full-lunged sigh as she eased the Vespertina into a sharper dive. “Just quit before you strain something, like my nerves.”

The edges of the shuttle began to glow.

Odie glared down from Jane’s shoulder while the glow illuminated the silhouette of her tiny nose and her tinted visor reflected the planet’s fierce shine as they punched through their atmosphere. “I haven’t told you the one about how they finally built the first orbital elevator at the site of an old temple on Terra, have I?”

“Butterflies blew into the temple and forced the monks to leave”, Jane replied, her nonchalance cracking into a mutter.

She smirked when she heard Odie choking on his displeasure. “Do you really expect me to believe that all these stories?” Jane asked. “Half of them seem to involve some kind of superstition, and the rest has some incredible technology.”

“Oh, they’re all true, in their own way!” Odie replied over the noise. The Vespertina began shuddering violently while topographic details of the surface started to become distinguishable. It was desolate, but varied enough; a salt-desert plain, shattered by thermal shifts that formed peaks. Some were several miles high.

“I still kinda want believe some of them were real!” Jane yelled back as she pulled gingerly on the controls, leveling their flight-path to be parallel with the gently curving horizon. The world kept getting bigger, and the edge of their wings became white-hot.

“There’s one I know I haven’t told you yet!” Odie yelled back.

“Not now, Odie!” Jane tapped on her ear. Odie let the momentum force him back into his seat, harrumphing one last time.

“Tau Bellum approach, Tau Bellum approach, this is the D.S.S. Vespertina checking in, do you read? Over” Jane’s tone of voice became all business, speaking into the microphone over the sound of every panel, nut, bolt and wire trying to shake itself loose.

Below them, after the ship’s quaking eased and the engines bit into the sky, counteracting their fall, mountains and valleys rolled past. A metallic gleam flashed over the horizon; it was the highest spire of the Tau Bellum research station.

“Copy that, Tau Bellum approach. Bay Seven. Vespertina will be on manual approach. See you in a few minutes. Over and out.” Jane cut off the connection before any reply could come through.

“Manual approach?” Odie asked.

She replied with a grin over her shoulder, which he could hear in her voice as clearly as having seen it. “You don’t want it to be a boring landing after all that time in transit, do you?”

Just try not to get us shot down, okay?” Odie shot back. He tightened the straps holding him into his seat.

“If they tried to, you’d have a new story to tell!” Jane shot back as she tightened her grip on the throttle and gradually loosened the engines’ reins, which responded with a blue-flamed roar.

“As long as I get to live to tell it!” Odie managed to force out, before the sudden negative gravity from their sudden dive knocked the breath out of him.

The Vespertina tumbled like a leaf out of the overcast Tau Bellum sky, shrieking as it went.

The Prometheus Cycle – Translation

This is a translation of a story I published in Spanish a while ago. The translation was done by Amanda Black: (Any fault with the style/language of the document is entirely my own. She is a superb translator)

The Prometheus Cycle

by César Mateo González

In the year 4462 of our era, the Xenomorphological Studies Institute of the Third Capital Planet, which studies alien beings, received a message from the Archimedes Way Station, which orbited the planet Kappa VII. The memo took fifty years to arrive at its destination.

The message stated:

From: Aurelio Bolívar – Archimedes Way Station- Kappa VII Perihelion

To: All institutions interested in Xenomorphology – Imperial Complex

Subject: Analysis of “Golden Disk” artifacts from the D7 species


I am a Xenomorphologist at the Royal University of the Centaurian Empire, and I hereby state my purpose for writing to you: I wanted to inform you of certain irregularities identified in an artifact constituting a part of the long-range probe of the Daniel species (D7). The message that the artifact contains is not made up of the usual collection of descriptions of a self-aware species. Attached is my research log:

— Attached text —

Kappa VII is quite a peculiar planet; it is greenish due to its corrosive surface, covered in carbon gas clouds. The apical position of the planet’s star in the intergalactic wind and its orbit are of particular interest. What had previously been observed as a series of small meteorite rings orbiting around Kappa VII are now known to be the remains of artificial satellites. Amongst these remains we have found human artifacts from previous millennia, as well as Xenomorphic species satellites dating back to more than 30 million years ago. The most recent Xenomorphic species is classified as Daniel (D7) in the Encyclopaedia Universalis; this species existed approximately one hundred and fifty thousand years ago.

These crowns of rubble have come to be called “galactic cemeteries,” and each of their satellites, “tombstones.” There are several examples of Xenomorphic engineering in this galactic cemetery that I have recovered over the course of my investigation. All of these examples contain “golden disk” artifacts, in accordance with the tradition established upon the inclusion of the first specimen in the Voyager ship.

These artifacts in particular play visual and audio recordings when certain sound and light spectrum frequencies are applied to them. The planet of origin of the Daniel was able to be determined through the readings recorded in the artifact, and by studying the history of the luminosity of its stars through the use of retroscopes. The results of these observations revealed that the Daniel followed the traditional self-aware model, until the abrupt end of their civilization. All traces of artificial light disappeared from the systems colonized by this race little more than five hundred thousand years ago, according to my observations. Their disappearance was not sudden, although it was fast.

I was able to extract several Daniel satellites from the cemetery, and I recorded the age of each one of them. The closest one to the cataclysm, and the last of the series, contained a golden disk artifact that was more complex than the others. Employing the normal protocol, I extracted its content. Along with the usual self-descriptive images, there was also a direct reference to the planet Earth, made through indicators and astronomical maps. The context of the reference was ambivalent, somewhere between a salutation and a goodbye. I was not able to infer the specific nature of the context.

Using the conjectural algorithms of the Archimedes computer, the accompanying artifacts pertaining to the Daniel, and the results of the retroscope, I was able to piece together the events that occurred simultaneously. This video simulation is the result:

–Attached video file–

In total silence, the screen shows two images; one is that of a stooping simian with thick fur, moving on his knuckles and feet through a primitive Pangea; the other figure is erect, with four fingers emerging from two long, slender arms, large, shining eyes, surrounded by a city of light and trapezoidal pyramid buildings.

Both creatures’ eyes, staring at the viewer, reveal how the inner light, deep inside the creatures’ thoughts, sprung into one creature and was extinguished in the other. The brilliance of the Daniel reaches twilight, gradually vanishing, as does the light of their cities. The biological process is slow, but quick in astronomical terms. The countdown in years nears zero with an uncontainable fluidity.

In the simulated image, even the overwhelming desperation suffered by the Daniel is felt. As each biological generation passes, the Daniel is stripped of more and more of their spark. The human being on the other edge of the screen progressively takes the form of Homo sapiens, emerging from their own darkness to brandish the power of Prometheus. The Daniel collapses. They lose more and more of their graceful shape as their fur becomes dense and rough. Their cities disappear in untamed wilderness, victims of entropy itself, erasing all traces of their existence, and the genius of their creators.

When the countdown is complete, the now completely developed human being stares at the viewer, formed by the intellect that now inhabits its eyes. It is the same brilliance that disappeared from the eyes of the Daniel, now a mere jungle rodent, lost in the bush.

— End of attached video file —

As you can see, the rise of the human being is synchronous with the fall of the other species. I do not know the specific cause of that correlation. However, the Daniel are conscious of the connection between their species and ours; this cannot be a simple coincidence. Not when they are so sure that they leave a message like this in an artifact that could be discovered by their successors. I can only imagine that they knew what their fate would be, just as the computer’s algorithms do. Could it be that divine or natural law prevents two self-aware species from coexisting? Is it possible that our rise has been the actual cause of the fall of the other species? I do not have answers for these questions, but I know that I will not be able to rest until I do have them. Until now, we have thought that the semi-eternal nature of our universe was the limiting factor for us finding someone else to dialog with.

However, what we have are engravings on tombstones, this one directed towards us.

There is another aspect of utmost importance to us as a species. It is well known that the natural cycles of life and death, darkness and light, extend beyond the ecosystem of our small stellar cradle. Stars are born, the same as us. Just like them, we must die. But it is possible that we are part of another cycle, another return to our origin. I can only think that we are also destined to return to Eden some day.