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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Dinglehoff

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My apologies to all. I've been house-hunting in Pennsylvania. In the process I've looked at bad housing in four towns, had my luggage destroyed, my flight first delayed 6 hours and then cancelled, sat next to a family with a screaming child and a barking dog the entire time (during the delay AND the flight) and then had the airline lose my (brand new replacement) bag.

Based on my present temper, the next update should be posted tomorrow. It may be savage, but it could be theraputic.

Full feedback to your comments tomorrow. Tonight I just want to smash things. Wheeeeee!
Screaming children(even mine) are #2 for things I hate most. I would have spent as much time as possible in the lavatory. You have my sympathy.
 

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That's just a string of 'from bad to worse' (that reminds me, didn't someone write an AAR titled From Bad to Verse one time? Ah, distractions...). I sympathize with your rough experiences and hope you're done with them now.

Looking forward to feedback (always instructive) and update.
 

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...

Based on my present temper, the next update should be posted tomorrow. It may be savage, but it could be theraputic.
this is worrying, given the destructive power her ladyship has in her hands ... :eek:

hope you recover from this run of horrors soon ... worst I've managed today is a long tussle with KLM's self-help system for check in (based on the FOFO pedagogic model) and, quite clearly, having returned to the UK at least two days too early for my long term sanity
 

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That's astonishing, Director! :eek:

To my recollection I've never had the airlines lose my luggage. To lose TWO suitcases is just beyond remarkable incompetence!

Sorry about all the rest of the stuff you're going through. Hope it settles down soon, and you find a good place!

Rensslaer
 

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loki100 - Ronsend would be the first to tell you he's not very good at this cloak-and-dagger stuff. Given his low situational awareness he's fortunate Messoune didn't creep up behind and slit his throat.

We are coming to the last act, and in the tradition of Shakespearean tragedies a lot of people are going to die. Messily. And perhaps gratuitously.


Stuyvesant - hadn't thought of alerting the Germans. Makhearne and Ronsend say they wanted to finish the job themselves.

We shall see that a certain... ruthlessness... is not confined to Makhearne. He sees himself as more of a pragmatist, by the way, but many sociopaths do.

As for the descriptions... Ronsend is telling the story and he's only talking about things that are interesting to him, or that he feels his (supposed) reader will want to know. Me, I just type the stuff.


TheExecuter - More of a two-pronged attack than a diversion, but you might be right about Makhearne thinking he has a better chance on his own.


J. Passepartout - I worry about the shifts from past to present tense, but at this point I'm mostly putting it down as it comes and doing only a little light editing. I can always claim that Ronsend is not a talented writer, can't I?

You put your finger right on it when you said that Messoune had become a creature of passion over thought. We shall see more of that in the next post.


Lord Durham - Bruce, I feel like I'm dragging this out but the truth is that I'm going through what I always do at the end... not writer's block but more like writer's dread. I hate sitting down and working at the keyboard, especially at the end of the story. In the beginning and middle you have flexibility and room, but at the end you have to exactly hit your marks with split-second timing or the magic trick just doesn't work. That's the best I can describe it... do you go through that? Or are you one of those perverted freaks like Isaac Asimov who can write all day and all night and never feel a pang? (Sorry - that's envy speaking).


Jape - a cute little dachshund. He was well-behaved while the owners held him but whining and barking when they put him in the carry-on crate. After hours of sitting in a jam-packed terminal surrounded by frustrated people, I felt like howling too, so I don't blame the dog.


Dinglehoff - the mom and dad were doing what they could. But were I them, unless it was an emergency most dire, I would take my kids and dog and drive - not fly.


Rensslaer - well, I fly a good bit. Last year I was in the air pretty much every Sunday and Friday from... well, from January to November, and then every other week until spring.
Delta has totaled two of my bags in three years and paid for both, though it does take 6 weeks or so to get the money. They've also lost my baggage twice in the same span, and delivered it to my house the next day both times. So... not too bad, really.
 

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I got to my feet, cursing myself for all kinds of a fool, and took my needler from the inside pocket of my coat. These represent as high an achievement of the gun-maker’s art as I can imagine, being no bigger or heavier than a water-pistol, rechargeable by solar power and capable of firing a needle-sized steel pin at supersonic speeds, three per second to the limit of the thousand-pin magazine. I’ve always hated the things: the timeline that developed them was found littered with needlers and all-but-empty of people, and if you think that is coincidence then gods bless you for your innocence. But like the device or not I was a fool for not having it in my hand from the moment I climbed through the window.

And so, needler in one hand and stunner in the other I ran through the door and collided head-on with Messoune, who was hell-bent on coming the other way – gods know why; I never did figure it out. I’d like to take credit for tactical brilliance but the plain fact is that the shock of the impact set both guns off. Police records are full of cases where people blaze away with handguns and manage to miss from a distance of only a few feet, but my stunner and needler were literally touching him when they discharged. He was moving a good bit faster than I – well, for whatever reason we went back into the room and landed in a heap on the floor with me at the bottom of the pile. I had just enough wits to stun him again, then rolled free as he thrashed; his brain might not be able to send signals to his muscles but feedback, shock and neural overload made him twitch like an epileptic.

By this point I was beyond caring about his condition, I just wanted him to lie still so I could kill him. I stunned him a couple of times more, then noticed the blood on the floor and on his clothes. The needler had removed a chunk of flesh from the general area of his liver and kidneys, a piece about the size of a small apple: not nearly enough damage to kill him. So I leaned over and put the barrel of the needler to his eye and pulled the trigger. I was beyond anger, past rage, gone into a dark place where all my intellect was bent to the task of killing him as thoroughly as possible.

The needle doesn’t really have enough mass to penetrate steel-reinforced bone, but when it leaves the barrel it has speed enough that impact vaporizes the metal with heat and force capable of turning solids into gas. His head rocked with the impact and gouts of gasified brain-matter blew out of the eyesockets – the other eye went up like a missile, optic nerve still attached. I wiped my hand clean on a bedsheet and retrieved the needler from across the room, mindful to be less showy in the future. When the gun was knocked out of my hand it had discharged at least three times, leaving a pocked trail in the walls and ceiling and a haze of plaster dust in the air.

I sat down to think, and I thought first about being sick to my stomach. Then I thought about what I was going to have to do next and I really was sick. Oddly that seemed to clear my head and I was able to focus on planning out my next steps instead of just reacting to one thing after another. I was on my own in a building that might be full of enemies, and I was going to have to be smarter and better prepared than I had been, or I was going to be dead. So first I went to the little wash-stand, cleaned my hands with soap and rinsed my mouth with clean water from the jug. Then I went back over to the body and shot him in the other eye. I thought he was dead, but I wanted to make sure. I had plenty of needles, and it felt… satisfying. So I turned the needler up at an angle to point under the ribs and pulped the intestines and lungs, just for... Well, just because. Then it was time to move from the personal back to the mission. Time to try to remember all the mission training I had thought I would never need…

The next bit was harder. I couldn’t go off and leave the two women since I didn’t know how long they would stay stunned, and I didn’t trust my ability to tie them up securely enough. So I rolled them over on their backs and put a needle into each woman’s eye, quick and professional and as clean as any of that sort of work ever is. I didn’t vomit again but only because there wasn’t anything left to come up. Mostly I wanted to go find a place to curl up into a giant ball of self-loathing and stay there until I died of shame, but my instincts told me I didn’t have much time to linger. To cover my tracks I planted some sparklers on the oil lamp and on the metal can of lamp oil in the wardrobe – those are button-sized incendiaries with a timer that can be set at intervals from a few seconds up to a couple of hours, and they have a handy sticky backing - locked the door, closed it and tested it. So far, good.

I had an hour before the fireworks would go off, and I was pretty sure that the fire would spread quickly with a gallon or more of lamp oil for a starter and walls, floor and ceiling of waxed and painted wood. So to keep the place from coming down around our ears I would need to find Makhearne, finish doing what we came for and get out, all in less than an hour. I couldn’t risk using the radio link to talk to Makhearne – at this range it was certain that Frost would overhear, and even if she couldn’t read the message she would have to know who it came from and that we were very close by. All this went rushing through my head and I focused on it: anything to keep my mind from Messoune’s black empty eye-sockets and those poor women…

Down the hall I went. Off came the shoes and down the stairs I crept, shoes hung on laces draped around my neck. At the foot of the stairs the stone-walled stairwell opened on the right into a large basement, so large a space I assumed it had to extend under the courtyard. The area was divided by wooden half-walls, some with wire mesh continuing up to the ceiling, and by racks of shelving filled with spare parts and half-assembled pieces of equipment. In the uncertain light it would have taken half an hour or more to make a thorough search of the place, but as it happened I heard voices coming through the archway on the far side and so made my way there, crouching beside the opening and carefully – very carefully – extending a snooper wire around the edge.

I could hear a woman’s voice, but too soft and indistinct to make out any words. Once, twice a man cried out – Makhearne’s voice I recognized despite the distortion. The little camera on the tip of the wire showed a flight of steps going down to a hallway with a series of doors along the left-hand side and another opening at the far end. The fathest door showed a faint rim of light on the stone flags of the hallway floor. Time was precious and I had no way of knowing how many people were in the building or when they might discover me, so I retracted the snooper and padded down the hall with a stunner in my left and the needler – which I liked a lot more now – in my right. My plan was simple: to throw open the door and shoot anyone who needed shooting, then sort out what to do next.

Of course the door was locked… leaving me standing in the passage looking at a thick iron-bound wooden plank door secured by a deadbolt whose shadow I could see in the thin line of light between the door and the jamb, standing there and thinking – What now? The stunner was useless and the needler practically so; I could pump the entire magazine of needles into wood and ironwork and possibly blow my way through, but any element of surprise would be long since flown. So I paused for a moment to listen to the… not a conversation, more like a diatribe by the woman punctuated by grunts of pain from the man. Who could it be but Frost, whose voice I had never heard, and Makhearne, who was beyond words?

“I’ve set Tesla to one last test, but the poor dear doesn’t know that I don’t care a particle whether he succeeds or not. Of course it would be very convenient if he were to have perfected the device at last. I have dreamt of that, you know: the great cities aflame… But Tesla seems unable to direct his blows in any useful way. Most of the planet is ocean, you know, or empty space: Siberia, the Amazon forest, the deserts. So tiresome. You wouldn’t have any… insights, perhaps? Some thoughts on how to make my weapon better serve my will?”

There was another groan that tightened into a shriek, then a sound as though a book had been slammed onto a table. A brief silence was broken by a bubbling moan. “Ah. Dear man. Stubborn even when there is no point to it, nothing to gain and all to lose. Tesla’s talent is prodigious – really, you should see the part that generates and stores electricity. It is a marvel, far beyond… Perhaps you will have a chance to examine it. From extremely close range! But I have more than one arrow in my quiver, Donneval. I find I have grown tired… Tired of fighting narrow-minded, stupid old men. Tired of your interference! Tired of doing my best to bring along these… well, savages, really, stupid, stubborn savages who don’t know to simply accept what is best for them. Would you care for wine, my dear? Well… perhaps not, under the circumstances. But I shall. And we will talk, while Tesla sees to his machine. Then we will try the sword one last time, and if it fails again…

“Where was I? Yes – Tesla. A genius, in his way, but a man who needed… focus. Discipline. Firmness - that, I could provide. Along with a sense of… urgency. All of this is powered by one of his little machines, did you know? He draws the current up from of the earth and down out of the sky, then pumps it up to quite frightful levels and discharges it to make his weapon strike. But I’ve had him working on another project, did you know? I gave him all my information on temporal gates. My, you would have laughed to see his face! Those people that Nemor contacted, the ones that you dropped a mountain on – you do remember them? Yes, I see that you do. They are still out there, did you know? I’ve contacted them myself, and built a gate of sorts, too. Ah – naughty boy! You know I can’t let you do that!”

That slamming sound came again, loud as a gunshot, and I winced because I could not imagine it was anything but something pounding on human flesh.

“If this last experiment fails – and it will; for all his genius Tesla is so impractical! The man can create a thunderbolt worthy the gods and can’t say where it will land! Well, as I say – if it fails, then I will send a signal and when they try to open their gate I’ll be ready to give them a hand from this end! Then the gate will open and I’ll step through, and then Tesla will ground the whole planet across the arc! It’ll be bad for those people on the other side, of course – everything electronic will go out in one big spark, and it will be no party on this side either! But I’ll be there, not here, and I can pick up the pieces. I’ll be able to start over, Donneval, and this time I’ll not make the mistake of being soft. So we’ll just sit here, won’t we, and wait for Tesla.

“And it will be an empire for me in this world, or an empire for me in the next one. And won’t that be wonderful!”

I padded down the hallway a very shaken man. I will tell you that it tore me to go away and leave Makhearne in the hands of that monster, but what else was I to do? There was no way through the door with the tools I had to hand. Perhaps I should go interrupt Tesla. Would he be willing to help me? With a gun in each hand I felt able to be as persuasive as Madame Frost herself.
 

J. Passepartout

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That bit on how he ensures that body is dead is quite an image. I rewrote this post a few times before entering it, trying to describe which real-life descriptions it reminds me of, but am not sure I can quite do it. Tthere were lines in Helter Skelter that had a similar effect on me. A few Nazi-related things as well.

And on a lighter note, I knew those Pararomans had to get mentioned again. Let's see what happens with them.
 

Dinglehoff

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A great update with some higher stakes. That can make the end all the more cataclysmic or allow complete resolution to elude our protagonists, and offer the opportunity for Director to continue the story down the line.
 

loki100

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awesome again. So many details and layers interacting - loved that aside about the fate of the timeline that invented the needle guns. That added so much to the richness of your overall concept without detracting for a moment from the narrative in this section.

Grim stuff though, was very surprised you offed Messoune so early. But it revealed a more vicious side to Ronsend than hitherto has been plain (and yep I know he has real personal reasons for killing Makhearne with some pleasure), if he retained enough humanity (though that is clearly not the right adjective) to be sick, he is cruel and focussed enough to kill 2 innocent bystanders 'just in case'

intrigued to find out just how her ladyship has managed to trap Makhearne, doesn't sound (and I liked that it was all reported as indirect sounds) too good for him. And she is clearly determined to rule a world, just not too fussy which one or who is left alive to be ruled over ...
 

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J. Passepartout - honestly I was so busy typing it didn't occur to me until later that the content might be somewhat disturbing. Sorry... I don't like gory books and movies, but this is where this story has to go. Messoune would have fit right in with Manson's hell-cult, I think.

Yes... our other time-traveling civilization raises its shaggy head again. Mme Frost is determined to rule in Hell rather than serve in Heaven and cares not that we must all go with her. She's crazy, of course. Quite rational and logical and calm, just... operating in a universe where she sets the laws and always gets what she wants.

Dinglehoff - the players are pushing in all their chips, though Makhearne seems to be holding a (sorry) busted flush.

Continue the story? Um... how?

TheExecuter - if so Makhearne has already been caught. I must say I've always thought Mme Frost was better looking than Admiral Akbar, but tastes do differ. ( :) )

loki100 - the Universe is full of discarded histories, swept like rubbish into the corners of the Multiverse. Actually, that's a sly reference to Mark Geston's 'Lords of the Starship' where a nation establishes the law that elections are determined by assasination. The country goes up in smoke when half the population decides to run for President. I'd insert a joke about Egypt or Syria except I think the horrors there have gone way beyond the service of humor.

Well... I originally plotted out a more conventional confrontation where everyone got to mix it up and show their stuff... And then I sat down and started typing and the next thing I knew the daft @#$% ran back into the room and got shot.

Seriously, I thought it worked better this way. Sorry if the scene was too graphic...


To all - packing, packing, packing. I've secured a lease in York, PA and will be moving this weekend. If I can get in another post before then I will; if not, it will be at least a week.
 

Dinglehoff

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Dinglehoff - the players are pushing in all their chips, though Makhearne seems to be holding a (sorry) busted flush.

Continue the story? Um... how?
I know you are burned out on this game and are probably ready to wrap the story up, but you just put in the "out" for Frost to try if Tesla can't make his machine work how she wants. Whether any of it works, or whether she survives the doomsday showdown or the escape attempt is something else that you'll be revealing.

How to continue would be restarting another Vic game or moving on to a later Vic game in the series and carrying on from someone's perspective. However; I don't expect that, given that it would be hard to keep the story fresh with a nearly complete reboot and how this one has gone.
 

J. Passepartout

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J. Passepartout - honestly I was so busy typing it didn't occur to me until later that the content might be somewhat disturbing. Sorry... I don't like gory books and movies, but this is where this story has to go. Messoune would have fit right in with Manson's hell-cult, I think.
No problem on the gore, by the way; it's a plus that it managed to be sufficiently disturbing.
 

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It would conceivably be possible to continue the story in the faux-Roman world as some kind of custom Hearts of Iron scenario. Maybe they are new to the trans-temporal technology - it may have been introduced as an accident by some traveler from a more advanced civilisation - and still fight wars with tanks, and don't have a unified planetary government? I'm not recommending this course of action, I think it would be hard to give such a continuation the same tension you've built up here. I'm just playing with possibilities.
 

Lord Durham

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Lord Durham - Bruce, I feel like I'm dragging this out but the truth is that I'm going through what I always do at the end... not writer's block but more like writer's dread. I hate sitting down and working at the keyboard, especially at the end of the story. In the beginning and middle you have flexibility and room, but at the end you have to exactly hit your marks with split-second timing or the magic trick just doesn't work. That's the best I can describe it... do you go through that? Or are you one of those perverted freaks like Isaac Asimov who can write all day and all night and never feel a pang? (Sorry - that's envy speaking).
I wish I had one tenth of Asimov's energy when it came to writing (did I ever tell you the story when I met him at a Con in Toronto?). With me it's the middle of the story where I struggle, especially when I know how I want to end it. The trick is not to rush it. So no, I have no trouble ending a story :).
 

Stuyvesant

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awesome again. So many details and layers interacting - loved that aside about the fate of the timeline that invented the needle guns. That added so much to the richness of your overall concept without detracting for a moment from the narrative in this section.

Grim stuff though, was very surprised you offed Messoune so early. But it revealed a more vicious side to Ronsend than hitherto has been plain (and yep I know he has real personal reasons for killing Makhearne with some pleasure), if he retained enough humanity (though that is clearly not the right adjective) to be sick, he is cruel and focussed enough to kill 2 innocent bystanders 'just in case'
No problem on the gore, by the way; it's a plus that it managed to be sufficiently disturbing.
When I'm late to the party, everybody else already has made the comments I would've made myself. :)

With loki I agree that the aside about Needle World adds a lot to the broader world without distracting from the furious action. I also agree that Ronsend is more vicious than expected. I know killing Messoune is personal, and therefore was bound to be a charged event. But even considering that, Ronsend didn't have to blow out his other eye. And empty out his chest cavity. Or make the passing comment about liking the needle gun a lot more now - Ronsend liked destroying Temic a little too much for my comfort. Killing those two ladies (again, shooting them in the eye - he could've used any number of less gruesome ways to execute them) just adds to that unease.

With Passepartout, I agree that the gore was not too much (the flying eyeball was as bad as it got, but it was over in a flash). It's not the gore that's disturbing, it's Ronsend's behavior.

Switching topics, I do wonder if somehow Frost is laying a trap for Ronsend. How can he know for sure it's Makhearne in there? Maybe Frost has gagged a random flunky and is doing her audio play just for Ronsend's convenience, trying to lure him into the open? Can Ronsend passively listen in on Makhearne's radio? That would allow him to determine for certain if Frost indeed has captured his friend.

Regardless of what othere plots the Lady is spinning, her "This world or bust" scheme with Tesla is extremely troubling. It sounds like she'll either have this world (which, by her own admission, won't happen), or she'll do something Really Bad to this one in order to allow her access to the Futuro-Vlacho-Romans. Who would be bad news all by themselves, even if Frost wouldn't cripple this world to get them over into this one.

With Ronsend's newly-found taste of bloodshed, I think the least bad option right now is for him to find Tesla and introduce his genius brain to half a clip of the needle gun...

PS: Good luck moving and settling into Pennsylvania.
 

loki100

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I agree that the gore was not too much (the flying eyeball was as bad as it got, but it was over in a flash). It's not the gore that's disturbing, it's Ronsend's behavior.
agree, completely within the bounds of what was needed for the story ... how else to show the extent that Ronsend is acting in a different manner?

Switching topics, I do wonder if somehow Frost is laying a trap for Ronsend. How can he know for sure it's Makhearne in there? Maybe Frost has gagged a random flunky and is doing her audio play just for Ronsend's convenience, trying to lure him into the open?
this double take had occured to me ... but then why would Frost bother with such a ruse unless she knew that Makhearne was in some way accounted for?

PS: Good luck moving and settling into Pennsylvania.
heartily agree ...
 

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To all - The Porter has landed in York PA with most of his possessions intact.

Happy Birthday 'Special Providence', born 8/8/2007.



Update coming this weekend... counting down to zero.
 

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I'm glad to hear you've made it. Congratulations on your baby, all grown up - just three months younger than my oldest, which really drives home how long 6 years can be. :)