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The Continuing Adventures of Rack and Ruin - Story Thread
#1
Here's the idea: This is a collaborative writing effort, initiated by BIAD and myself, but potentially open to other writers who may want to join in. This thread is meant to contain the story installments, and ONLY the story installments. Comments and coordination will be carried out in an companion thread, to keep the storyline as fluent as possible - if it gets fluent, that is!

The Companion Thread for comments is here.

With that said, on to the story...
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#2
It was a dark and stormy night...

... somewhere. Not here, wherever "here" was - whenever "here" was, Ninurta amended the thought mid sentence. Here, it was hot, and humid, but curiously shady. Ninurta was glad for that, since he was sure that any sunlight accompanying the humidity would without a doubt cause his head to explode as it piled on top of the blinding headache he had. Would an Immortal die if his head exploded? Could an Immortal die if his head exploded? Could his head really explode? Ninurta banished the thoughts almost immediately, as he had more pressing matters to attend to.

That should tell you just how seriously he he considered the matter - there were more important considerations than whether his head was going to explode.

He tried to open his eyes, but immediately slammed them back shut after noticing that everything, including whatever was creating the shade above him, was whirling spectacularly. It really didn't take all that long to notice, on a cosmic scale. "I hate it when the whole room spins... and it's worse when the whole planet spins" he muttered under his breath, adding "but planets are supposed to spin, aren't they?" He grimaced at that, trying to remember if it were the case or not. The grimace made it look as if his whole face were puckering. Slowly gathering his bearings, he decided  - and announced aloud - "Yeah, they are, but ya ain't s'posed to notice it, I think".

At nearly the same moment, Ninurta felt a breeze. All over. "GODDAMMIT! Ahm nekkid agin!" he screamed to the world - if there was an actual world there to scream to, which he had not yet ascertained. "I don' even remember gettin' drunk to begin with, an' that jes' ain't fair!". The shouting made his head hurt worse.

But he hadn't - gotten drunk, that is. His thoughts had not gathered together tightly enough yet to realized he was at the ass-end of a particularly rough time/dimensonal transfer.

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#3
Most of the Ketta was coming away now and following the advice of the kid on the other side of the mineshaft, Boy In A Dress
dialed the pneumatic drill down to idle and watched the ore become the golden liquid it was known for.
The generator sitting at the mine entrance announced it had taken up the slack of the power needed to unearth the expensive
mineral by roaring louder than it's usual head-throbbing growl.

BIAD's shift was nearly over and to most of who worked out on this barren moon, they'd be happy to spend some time away
from the dirty tunnels of Barabas. But for the strange being with the hidden face, it would be just another day in another part
of his existence.

The shuffling machine known as 'Sniffer' trudged its way past Boy In A Dress and began sucking up the exposed Ketta that
was pooling on the shaft floor, the bare-legged Man-Girl tugged at his hem and waited for the youngster in the company's
dark uniform to continue his tale of woe.

As the same generator acknowledged that it would be proud to accept Mason's unused drilling power by roaring like a furious
dragon at the pit entrance, the kid breathed in deeply and wiped his brow. Finishing with it's task of relieving Boy In A Dress
of the material that altered it's composition when coming into contact with air, Sniffer carefully stepped over the red high-heeled
shoe and wandered towards Mason's output.

"Yeah, like I was saying..." continued the young man tucking the grey bandana back into his chest-pocket, "...after my family
sold all of it's rights to Parr-McClean, the wealth just dwindled away. By the time I was born, you'd have never have known
I could have been one of the richest people in the galaxy"

BIAD moved his chin to indicate that he understood and moving his long black hair from his right shoulder, pretended to be
interested in the drill's settings.

It was always the same, the need to covet for self-comfort. There'd been a time in the strange hermaphrodite's life when such
concerns had never invaded his environment and as the kid known as Mason carried on with his complaint of cruel fate, BIAD
recalled those days when he was proud to have the nearest-things he could called friends.

He's still alive -Boy In A Dress wagered and unseen by himself or the grumbling teenager gazing out at the light of the tunnel
entrance, BIAD's usual grin widened. Oh yes, a bad-tempered bastard like Ninurta would certainly still be alive.
Out there somewhere, the once- battle-hardened soldier of the Clan Wars was probably sitting on an old rocking-chair and gazing
out across a breeze-kissed wheatfield -and causing BIAD to stifle a chuckle, he reckoned he'd be trying to smile too.

"...For if I'd just got to put it all on 37, you'd be looking at a billionaire right now" Mason informed his assumed-engrossed audience
of one.
BIAD nodded and offered a 'well, that's unlucky' shrug, the kid twisted his mouth to show -he too, felt that his destiny had took a
wrong turn. The Sniffer didn't respond to the miner who had ended-up working for the same company that had allegedly taken his
imagined fortune.

The Exit light flickered on and gave it's usual two beeps, a sign that told the pair that their shift was finished. Boy In A Dress waited
for Mason to scramble in front of him as the dirt-smeared employee of Parr-McClean never wore undergarments and it had been a
problem in recent weeks.

Following the kid towards the noisy generator, BIAD's mind demanded that his memories of the grizzled Gunslinger-come-universe
saviour were revisited. But the surroundings invaded the serenity needed for such attentive journey.

Pretending that he had eyes that would squint from the glare of the arc-lights, the Man-Girl waved a red-nailed hand of see-you-later
to the young bullshitter and aimed his scarlet high-heels towards the single room that was his quarters.

The high dome that protected the facility reflected the site's illumination and for a moment, a fleeting memory of a large reptile
stalking it's prey in a cavern fluttered by and BIAD's attention failed to grab it. But what small amounts of wisdom he had gathered
of his existence, it told him there was a connection with why he was reminiscing and what lay ahead in the future.

Opening the dirt-smeared door of his room, BIAD went back to his memories and ignored the klaxon that reported incoming craft.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#4
It had been quite a while since Boy In A Dress had mulled over his time with Ninurta and the others -who's names escaped
him for the moment. Letting the hot water wash away the grime from his current employment, BIAD breathed deeply in the
shower and thought back to when he had ran the gauntlet with the famous Gunslinger.

There'd been a battle in a fortress... yes, he remembered that and then suddenly, the Man-Girl saw a naked Ninurta hunkered
down in a shadowy jungle with a makeshift spear leaning on his shoulder. If BIAD could frown, he'd have done it then, the image
seemed so real and recent.

Deep in his struggling thoughts, Boy In A Dress ignored his hair moving around as if it had a mind of its own. The long jet-black
tresses danced under the hot spray and seemed like a thousand night-vipers twisting in a beguiling hypnotic swaying motion.

Then it came to him, this was how he had first met the man of Vandalia. The Tree of Woes, the stealthy nature of the stranger
and the deep rage he could produce when he'd been wronged. BIAD waved a hand over the sensor and the jet of of water
stopped, it was all coming back to him now.

His waist-length hair lay lank on his shoulders once more and it had been a long time ago since BIAD had ever wondered how
his mane seemed to come to life without his knowledge.
Being almost dry at once as he stepped out of the shower, was a puzzle too.

"Necked as a Jaybird" Boy In A Dress muttered for no reason as he slipped his eternal red dress over his head, why would
he think these things? The ruby-red lips had even attempted the same drawl as the man that had once spoken it and he'd
even caught himself trying the lop-sided grin in the flaked and steam-blushed mirror of the bathroom

Ninurta did that rarely and it was generally after he'd found that reasoning wasn't the preferred tool in an interaction.
That struggling smile was also the usual signal that a loud noise was coming followed by the smell of gunpowder.
BIAD showed one of his own smiles as he felt the feelings of comradeship he had enjoyed back then rush across his body.
A different time and different part of the universe... all gone and almost forgotten.

"Almost..." croaked the stranger stood in his open doorway, "Aye, almost yer'bugger" the creature -that BIAD realised was
female by her form, reiterated. For ...oooh, about a second, the hermaphrodite in the crappy badly-lit room didn't know who
it was and as the name surfaced to brand the old female grey alien in the dirty poncho, another familiar voice arrived to enforce
what the grinning Boy In A Dress was beginning to believe.

"I wish... *pant*... I wish you wouldn't walk so fast" Tibbs said and appearing beside his wife, added "my legs aren't as
long as yours". The four-foot-nothing brains of an outfit that disbanded long ago, peered in to see if the person he'd always
called 'Mr. Devil' was at home.

That once-wet hair stretched like taffy, fired out across the room, grabbed both of them and slamming the door closed behind
BIAD's unexpected guests, pulled Tibbs and Mucklebones towards him affectionately.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#5
Ninurta sent out mental feelers along his limbs to insure that all of his body parts were intact, knowing somewhere in the back of his mind that the maneuver was merely intended to delay the inevitable - he was going to have to get upright some time.

"No better time than now" he growled, and bolted upright into a more or less sitting position. That was, of course, a mistake. one which suggested that there might indeed have been a better time. But what was done was done, so he clung the the bare dirt floor for dear life. When the swirling of the world that had momentarily sped up reduced speed enough that he thought he might not get flung off of it, he peeped his eyes open and took in his surroundings.

He was inside some sort of rough timber shack. Daylight crept in between the gaps in the timbers, illuminating what appeared to be a storage shed. Shelves lined the walls with as yet unidentifiable equipment and parts of equipment, and wooden crates lined the floor. "Well, this isn't so bad", Ninurta thought. " 'Least I ain't been dropped into the middle of something that's trying to kill me this time" he mumbled. Gritting his teeth and steeling himself, he gingerly clambered to his feet.

As he arose, and his blurry vision clarified, Ninurta's gaze alighted upon a canvas tarp covering one of the wooden crates. Seizing it and shaking the dust off, he tore the tarp roughly in half, and attempted to wrap it around himself toga-like. He decided that was not going to work. It was too binding, stifling freedom of movement, and the skirt portion tended to wrap his legs up, which were already none too steady, so he took it back off and looked around until he espied a rusty knife stuck point-first into one of the crates. Ninurta pulled the knife out of the crate and cut a simple slot in the center of the fragment of tarp, then stuck his head through it so that he was wearing a functional poncho.

That would do, Ninurta reckoned.

It was at that point that he noticed the crate that had been under the tarp. It was filled with yellow balls about the size of a baseball, each with two gray balls the size of ping-pong balls attached to the sides of it, the entire assembly having a thick stem protruding from the top. At the top of the stem was a knurled disc with some sort of alien symbols he couldn't decipher arranged around the rim. It slowly dawned upon Ninurta that what he was looking at was a storage shed filled with... explosives, among other odds and ends.

Maybe the universe WAS still trying to kill him.

Ninurta shrugged and set to work. When the universe gives you lemons, you make lemonade. That thought was a bit unsettling, given the yellow color of the main parts of the explosive charges. He cut a wide strip off of the unused portion of the tarp and wrapped it around his waist for a belt, more like a sash, and then slid the rusty knife into it. Next, he seized a canvas bag from the wall which had a flap and a shoulder strap and unceremoniously dumped the contents onto the dirt floor before starting to fill the bag with explosives. Ninurta had learned long ago that when you were in a place where folks might get hurt, you didn't want to be that last one hurting. Once he had it filled, he slipped the strap over his shoulder and across his chest so that the bag hung at his hip for easy access, and started for the door.

When he got there, the door proved resistant to exit. Of course! Explosive shacks were generally locked to keep out the riff-raff. Ninurta drew a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and kicked the door sending it flying open with a ripping sound as the lock hasp tore free of it's moorings.

Ninurta blinked. He had been right - too much light made his head hurt exponentially worse, which improved his mood nary a bit. Peering out, he took in the surroundings and determined he must be in some sort of mining camp - that would explain the explosives, her realized. Off work miners were dragging along, entering rows of shacks via this door or that. Others were heading towards a gaping hole in the hillside, presumably to start their shift. Drawing a deep breath - and only slightly choking on the airborne dust - Ninurta strode forth. "Might as well", he thought. "Ain't no way I'm getting through here unnoticed in this getup".

Striding down the main drag as if he owned the mine, Ninurta drew curious gazes until those gazes were averted when he gazed back, hard. One fellow - Ninurta supposed the man must be some sort of foreman by his surly manner - stepped into the middle of the path and demanded "Just who are yo - " which was all he got out before Ninurta knocked him on his ass by the expedient of simply sticking his arm out, locking he elbow, and not slowing his stride until his hand made contact with the man's chest. The force of Ninurta's stride, transmitted through his arm, sent the foreman sprawling, and left him gasping on the ground.

"I ain't got time to talk, feller" Ninurta mentioned as he strode purposefully along. His objective was a gate opening onto an airfield of some sort... and AWAY from the mine environs. He had no idea where he was going, other than the fact that wherever it was, it was not here.

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#6
(08-27-2018, 06:55 PM)BIAD Wrote: It had been quite a while since Boy In A Dress had mulled over his time with Ninurta and the others -who's names escaped
him for the moment. Letting the hot water wash away the grime from his current employment, BIAD breathed deeply in the
shower and thought back to when he had ran the gauntlet with the famous Gunslinger.

There'd been a battle in a fortress... yes, he remembered that and then suddenly, the Man-Girl saw a naked Ninurta hunkered
down in a shadowy jungle with a makeshift spear leaning on his shoulder. If BIAD could frown, he'd have done it then, the image
seemed so real and recent.

Deep in his struggling thoughts, Boy In A Dress ignored his hair moving around as if it had a mind of its own. The long jet-black
tresses danced under the hot spray and seemed like a thousand night-vipers twisting in a beguiling hypnotic swaying motion.

Then it came to him, this was how he had first met the man of Vandalia. The Tree of Woes, the stealthy nature of the stranger
and the deep rage he could produce when he'd been wronged. BIAD waved a hand over the sensor and the jet of of water
stopped, it was all coming back to him now.

His waist-length hair lay lank on his shoulders once more and it had been a long time ago since BIAD had ever wondered how
his mane seemed to come to life without his knowledge.
Being almost dry at once as he stepped out of the shower, was a puzzle too.

"Necked as a Jaybird" Boy In A Dress muttered for no reason as he slipped his eternal red dress over his head, why would
he think these things? The ruby-red lips had even attempted the same drawl as the man that had once spoken it and he'd
even caught himself trying the lop-sided grin in the flaked and steam-blushed mirror of the bathroom

Ninurta did that rarely and it was generally after he'd found that reasoning wasn't the preferred tool in an interaction.
That struggling smile was also the usual signal that a loud noise was coming followed by the smell of gunpowder.
BIAD showed one of his own smiles as he felt the feelings of comradeship he had enjoyed back then rush across his body.
A different time and different part of the universe... all gone and almost forgotten.

"Almost..." croaked the stranger stood in his open doorway, "Aye, almost yer'bugger" the creature -that BIAD realised was
female by her form, reiterated. For ...oooh, about a second, the hermaphrodite in the crappy badly-lit room didn't know who
it was and as the name surfaced to brand the old female grey alien in the dirty poncho, another familiar voice arrived to enforce
what the grinning Boy In A Dress was beginning to believe.

"I wish... *pant*... I wish you wouldn't walk so fast" Tibbs said and appearing beside his wife, added "my legs aren't as
long as yours". The four-foot-nothing brains of an outfit that disbanded long ago, peered in to see if the person he'd always
called 'Mr. Devil' was at home.

That once-wet hair stretched like taffy, fired out across the room, grabbed both of them and slamming the door closed behind
BIAD's unexpected guests, pulled Tibbs and Mucklebones towards him affectionately.
minusculeclap
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
[Image: attachment.php?aid=936]
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#7
(08-28-2018, 05:47 AM)Ninurta Wrote: Ninurta sent out mental feelers along his limbs to insure that all of his body parts were intact, knowing somewhere in the back of his mind that the maneuver was merely intended to delay the inevitable - he was going to have to get upright some time.

"No better time than now" he growled, and bolted upright into a more or less sitting position. That was, of course, a mistake. one which suggested that there might indeed have been a better time. But what was done was done, so he clung the the bare dirt floor for dear life. When the swirling of the world that had momentarily sped up reduced speed enough that he thought he might not get flung off of it, he peeped his eyes open and took in his surroundings.

He was inside some sort of rough timber shack. Daylight crept in between the gaps in the timbers, illuminating what appeared to be a storage shed. Shelves lined the walls with as yet unidentifiable equipment and parts of equipment, and wooden crates lined the floor. "Well, this isn't so bad", Ninurta thought. " 'Least I ain't been dropped into the middle of something that's trying to kill me this time" he mumbled. Gritting his teeth and steeling himself, he gingerly clambered to his feet.

As he arose, and his blurry vision clarified, Ninurta's gaze alighted upon a canvas tarp covering one of the wooden crates. Seizing it and shaking the dust off, he tore the tarp roughly in half, and attempted to wrap it around himself toga-like. He decided that was not going to work. It was too binding, stifling freedom of movement, and the skirt portion tended to wrap his legs up, which were already none too steady, so he took it back off and looked around until he espied a rusty knife stuck point-first into one of the crates. Ninurta pulled the knife out of the crate and cut a simple slot in the center of the fragment of tarp, then stuck his head through it so that he was wearing a functional poncho.

That would do, Ninurta reckoned.

It was at that point that he noticed the crate that had been under the tarp. It was filled with yellow balls about the size of a baseball, each with two gray balls the size of ping-pong balls attached to the sides of it, the entire assembly having a thick stem protruding from the top. At the top of the stem was a knurled disc with some sort of alien symbols he couldn't decipher arranged around the rim. It slowly dawned upon Ninurta that what he was looking at was a storage shed filled with... explosives, among other odds and ends.

Maybe the universe WAS still trying to kill him.

Ninurta shrugged and set to work. When the universe gives you lemons, you make lemonade. That thought was a bit unsettling, given the yellow color of the main parts of the explosive charges. He cut a wide strip off of the unused portion of the tarp and wrapped it around his waist for a belt, more like a sash, and then slid the rusty knife into it. Next, he seized a canvas bag from the wall which had a flap and a shoulder strap and unceremoniously dumped the contents onto the dirt floor before starting to fill the bag with explosives. Ninurta had learned long ago that when you were in a place where folks might get hurt, you didn't want to be that last one hurting. Once he had it filled, he slipped the strap over his shoulder and across his chest so that the bag hung at his hip for easy access, and started for the door.

When he got there, the door proved resistant to exit. Of course! Explosive shacks were generally locked to keep out the riff-raff. Ninurta drew a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and kicked the door sending it flying open with a ripping sound as the lock hasp tore free of it's moorings.

Ninurta blinked. He had been right - too much light made his head hurt exponentially worse, which improved his mood nary a bit. Peering out, he took in the surroundings and determined he must be in some sort of mining camp - that would explain the explosives, her realized. Off work miners were dragging along, entering rows of shacks via this door or that. Others were heading towards a gaping hole in the hillside, presumably to start their shift. Drawing a deep breath - and only slightly choking on the airborne dust - Ninurta strode forth. "Might as well", he thought. "Ain't no way I'm getting through here unnoticed in this getup".

Striding down the main drag as if he owned the mine, Ninurta drew curious gazes until those gazes were averted when he gazed back, hard. One fellow - Ninurta supposed the man must be some sort of foreman by his surly manner - stepped into the middle of the path and demanded "Just who are yo - " which was all he got out before Ninurta knocked him on his ass by the expedient of simply sticking his arm out, locking he elbow, and not slowing his stride until his hand made contact with the man's chest. The force of Ninurta's stride, transmitted through his arm, sent the foreman sprawling, and left him gasping on the ground.

"I ain't got time to talk, feller" Ninurta mentioned as he strode purposefully along. His objective was a gate opening onto an airfield of some sort... and AWAY from the mine environs. He had no idea where he was going, other than the fact that wherever it was, it was not here.

.
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Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
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#8
"And it's not the first time..." Tibbs snapped at Boy In A Dress, "...Ninurta has a terrible habit of being taken and dumped
in places he shouldn't be" The small bearded man in the monk-like robe sipped his tea and watched the Man-Girl for
signs that his explanation had taken hold.

BIAD moved his long-fringed face from his long-lost friend to the other person in the cramped quarters, the fabled Witch
of Carbiox. Mucklebones was of a rare-breed, she held the features of the stereotypical doleful alien that most earthlings
believed had once ran the cosmos, but her old age and ragged apparel leant a persona of an individual with thoughts of
her own.

Wearing the same amount of clothing as BIAD, Tibbs' wife also enjoyed the same lack of discretness as the hermaphrodite
when it came to personal undress. Old Mucklebones' colourful language -apart from her skills in the art of what she called
'majick', was also something that set her apart from what the same earthlings would consider a hive member.

"He'll be no-doubt shootin' the shit out of someone-somewhere" Muckles muttered as she browsed the only shelf in BIAD's
living space. The crone who'd been saved from the stake by the man she was referring to, noticed that apart from some
oddly-shaped stones, a dented badge proclaimng something called 'Rogue Nation' and a well-thumbed photograph of an
old man in a lab-coat, there was little-else residing on the plastic ridge.

Mucklebones had been told by Tibbs during their stay at Bisley Deeps that there was a long-dead scientist in their host's
life that BIAD looked to as his father. The wispy-haired alien in the green poncho had also been informed that it was a prickly
subject.

Boy In A Dress waited for the answers to why and how the couple had come back into his life. Tibbs and Muckles had both
decided after BIAD had slain his long-time enemy, to remain in Bisley Deeps. They -to BIAD anyway, seemed happy in their
little underground home and in his heart, he was glad that they'd found each other.

How the universe had brought these two lovers together would certainly be a reason for using the word 'bamboozle'.
Tibbs was a Vithian, a Manager of time and a great-thinker. His race had scoured many universes for answers to ancient
mysteries and were widely noted for their wisdom.

Always seen sporting their dark-brown robes and seemingly staying with their own kind, but what many didn't know was that
Vithians also carried the gift of multi-ism, the act of creating oneself over and over again in certain conditions.
So technically, Vithians walked alone -but with many versions of themselves and the only other precedent was that they could
never marry.
Tibbs -it seems, bucked the trend.

The small man with waist-long beard took off his little round spectacles and cleaned them during relating his information.
"I told you from the very start that he was a problem..." Tibbs said softly "...Even Death didn't want anything to do with him"
he growled and roughly strapped the lenses around his well-lined head again.

Boy In A Dress restrained himself from reminding Tibbs that when he and Ninurta had first come across the Vithian, Tibbs was
building a gun to shoot God with and in the Man-Girl's view, that attempt would really warrant the heading 'problem'.
But the room remained quiet as the trio contemplated the inevitable, that of once more retrieving their friend and through that
action, probably saving many lives.

Muckles caressed the smooth pebbles and without thoughts of decorum, furnished Boy In A Dress and her husband to the vista
of her bare ass. She always scratched that cracked -yet still pert (in Tibbs' opinion)  part of her anatomy when at a crossroads
of a decision that she wasn't happy about.

"Dear... don't do that" Tibbs said and placed his empty cup back onto the small table.
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#9
And so it was, that after thirty minutes of Boy In a Dress quitting his job and saying farewell to the would-be billionaire teenager,
the three of them walked towards the clunky-looking craft that had brought Tibbs and Mucklebones to the dusty moon called
Barabas and it's cheaply-ran mining facility.

"It isn't much, but it's my own design" Tibbs said proudly and as BIAD surveyed the spherical contraption, even he with his
limited scope of intergalactic vehicles, silently agreed it wasn't much. The metal ball was around eight-foot in girth and its
surface was covered with antennas. Bent and in some cases, snapped off, the aerials made the ship look like a well-worn
hedgehog that had curled up and called it a day.

A single metallic leg with a three-toed foot kept it from sitting on the ground and as BIAD scanned the little door on the sphere's
side to see if he could actually enter the spaceship, he saw that an act of vandalism had occurred in it's history. Not wishing
to deflate his friend's pride, the bare-thighed physical version of a singularity moved on with his negligent audit.

Mucklebones made the decision to relieve herself of water during the Man-Girl's inspection of Tibb's invention and squatting
beside a nearby defunct generator, she ignored her husband's smouldering stare. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand
times not to do that in public" Tibbs hissed and stepped between BIAD and his wife performing her natural function.

"What's it called?" the red-dressed anomaly asked as he stood with his hands on his hips. Tibbs sighed and whispered "Er...
it's called urinating". The great Time-Manager shook his head at the mammoth task that lay ahead of them and the innocent
hebetudinous of the pawns on the chessboard who were about to undertake such a mission.

"No..." said BIAD, "...what's the ship called?" and after two seconds of the stuff Tibbs had pledged to manage, the three friends
were giggling like children.

The little man with the beard had initially named it 'Muckles' to celebrate his devotion to his Missus, but after the poncho-wearing
love-of-his-life had daubed the word 'Bitch' over his fine calligraphy -after an intense argument that she'd won again, Tibbs had
resigned himself to not christening the make-shift craft with a appellation.
As the laughter echoed out under the pere-flex dome, one may think the vessel should've been called 'Companions'

It wasn't a spaceship. That was what Boy In A Dress realised after Tibbs had tripped a bank of switches, banged his fist
against a console of lights that were embedded in the hull to his right and turned a large dial in front of where the Vithian
now sat.
The interior seemed to glow with an odd-blueish colour and from the cramped area of seating, BIAD marvelled at how the
ultramarine-toned effulgence intensified as Tibbs pressed more switches.

In most accounts of space-travelling vehicle design, the inside of the ship usually involves comfortable seating that wraps
around the user and gives-off the feeling of security. Sadly in this telling, we are to fail miserably.

Tibbs sat in a leather seat that held material so cracked, it would rival his wife's ancient posterior. A large safety belt had been
sewn to it's side and being ever-the-conductor of life-concerns, the Vithian had ignored it and now the tough strap dangled like
a forgotten gym-sock.

Mucklebones and Boy In A Dress enjoyed the luxury of a distorted uncomfortable bench which -I swear to the deity Tibbs had
attempted to murder, was made of wood. Since BIAD had been around since the forties back on Earth, he recognised it as a
standard park-bench from a long-ago playground area. Pilfered -no doubt, on one of Tibbs' jaunts.

It had been altered to fit into the craft's interior, but the cast-iron leg supports still brandished the name 'Wicksteed Kettering' and
BIAD guessed that this was the manufacturer. During the hermaphrodite's examination of his seat, he felt Mucklebones watching
his perusal and looked up at the monitoring of the unblinking Witch.

"Iron me-lad... you devil-bastards hate the stuff, dontcha?" Muckles whispered to BIAD as her husband busied himself with his own
brand of magic. The part of the question that referred to 'devil' was something Boy In A Dress had given-up on long ago.
Tibbs had predicted that there would come a time when his red-dressed friend would become the sole ruler of a world where all
its residents would believe he was Lord Satan -himself.

It was obvious that Muckles -with her paganistic beliefs, had accepted her man's assurances and now took delight in reminding
her fellow-passenger and trusted-associate of his destiny. BIAD's softly-spoken response of "with all respect, you're full of shit"
sat well with the sorceress of Carbiox simply because it was her type of vocabulary and he knew it.
Muckles' smile dissolved the fake confrontation and with assistance of her eyes, told him she liked him anyway.

The blue air throbbed as the noise increased and Tibbs shouted over his shoulder at his passengers that they'd better hang on
and not touch anything. As a series of lights began to flash from a display above the Vithian's head, he'd have sworn he'd heard
his wife yell "he's not my type!" -but he could have been wrong and it was merely a confirmation regarding his instructions.

Oh yes, it wasn't a spaceship, the kid who'd worked with Boy In A Dress at the pit-face could testify to that as he walked to the
canteen. With the popping-sound of air speeding back into the area where the ramshackle jerry-built vehicle once stood, Mason
Conroy would suggest to anyone who would listen to his usual bullshit, that the thing was actually a time-machine.
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#10
If Tibbs was to provide a manual on how his machine worked, the reader would find expressions like 'severed-entanglement',
'bulk space' and 'electromagnetic-phasing' between it's pages'.
I would also suggest that such an informative glossary would have at the bottom of the index page, a crudely-drawn rendering
of a man's private-parts, but that'll be Mucklebones just being a nuisance.

Basically, the juice to make his contraption slip from where it was to where it's wanted to be, is loosely based on the molecular
-based awareness of everything in every universe since everything began and the energy that's emitted from the functioning of
this weird linking.

Our current thinking is that single particles of light or photons, hold certain qualities and have the capacity to interact with an
older version of itself when tossed into a blackhole. It's true, but that strange link that assures the photon will 'find' itself is the
key to true time-travel.
A wormhole won't be required when we finally harness that indestructable chain, we'll just need to work out how to follow it and
utilise the energy that pulses from it.

In fact, the sooner Tibbs gets on Facebook, the better-off we'll all be.

The blue-glow that is seen within the time-machine is the actual exhaust or discharge from the use of such dynamism and the
use of this abundant energy is an old idea to Tibbs' race. Mucklebones would use other words to explain the ability to move
through time and space, but the principle of appreciating one's surroundings and activating the vibrations and electrical fields
of quarks and photons is fundamentally the same.
But that incandescence might also be just a blue lightbulb under Tibbs' seat.
.................................................

The vast tundra held nothing but marshy ground and wind-blown grass, and Tibbs thought it prudent to keep the time-craft in
hover-mode rather than chance sinking into the boggy surface. Boy In A Dress opened the small door and peered out into
the tree-less world and mentally reminded himself to ask the Vithian if there was oxygen outside next time.

"Whey, he's not here..." Mucklebones said sarcastically and nudged her fellow-passenger out of the way, "...'Ah've told yer'
til' 'Ah'm blue in the face that yer' daft science does'na work". The Witch clambered out and dropped to the yielding soil in
a manner that hid her years, BIAD's admiration for the grumpy old alien rose a couple of points.

Tibbs followed the Man-Girl out of the machine, but only after he had lowered it to be a few inches from the ground and now
all three of them surveyed the uninteresting landscape. "The sensors picked up a trace of him here, a few centuries before
the time we were and only eighty light-years away" the little man announced unenthusiastically and lifted the hem of his robes
from the sodden grass.

The light-wind blew and the stunted-grass swayed like waves on a deep-green ocean. The trio watched the horizon for any
movement, but there was nothing.

"Who the fu...?" Muckles began to say and as her company followed where her arm was pointing, her husband quickly
interrupted her with "Please honey, I've asked you to not use that word". A moment passed before Muckles breathed in
deeply and nodded.
"Yes..." she said softly and surprised the red-dressed irregularity beside her, "..I'm sorry, my love"

The stumbling figure was a young girl who's appearance had been hidden by the time-machine's bulk and now she could be
seen just a few hundred yards away from where her hoped-for rescuers stood. "Mai Kia?" she called, but the cold prairie wind
snatched her question away.

Tibbs fished into his robe pocket and produced a small hand-set that he held out at arm's length and the exhausted female
shouted again "Who are you?" -which the Time-Manager's device translated a second later.
Muckles immediately slipped off her poncho and ran towards the girl who had now collapsed onto the boggy ground.

"You-two buggers get her something to drink..." the Witch barked over her shoulder as she crouched down and covered the
girl's shoulders with the dark-green cape. "...And make it hot" she added in a snarl.

Just as evolution had taught all males throughout the galaxy not to argue with their female counterparts when dealing with
emergencies, BIAD and Tibbs quickly set-about unpacking a large hold-all that Tibbs had pulled from the time-machine
and said nothing.

The half-conscious teenager allowed the strange-looking naked creature to help her towards where a fringe-hidden woman
in attire unsuitable for the Siberian wastelands and a little monk with a grey-white beard creating a fire under odd-looking pot.
Svetlana -for that was her name, realised she was now hallucinating due to her dehydration.

"Yer' gonna be okay, lassie" the black-eyed monster with the sagging breasts assured Svetlana, but due to her condition, the girl
thought the assurance came from where the two humans were stood. Panting in her exertions, Svetlana stared at the bright
glow that ignored the wind that covered the land.

"I... I'm lost and very thirsty" Svetlana spluttered and as they neared the spherical object that had no legs and the two individuals
seemingly making a hot brew, the young girl saw the squatting dwarf-like character produce a bottle of water from a large satchel
and pass it to the grinning female hunched in the same position.
The sight of male genitals dangling from -what she'd naturally assume was a woman, caused her to collapse in a swoon.
"Poor bugger" Muckles whispered and carried her the rest of the way.

Svetlana's eyes fluttered open and revealed the nightmare she had imagined before her faint was still ongoing. The small
wizard in the brown robe was packing away whatever paraphernalia they'd used on her and the Man-Woman-thing was making
shadow-animals with his hands on the round craft's surface. The girl believed that this oddity in the alarmingly short red dress
may have mental issues.

"Yer' gonna be fine" hushed the old creature cradling Svetlana's head and as power returned to her muscles, the young girl sat
up and looked immediately for an escape route. Slowly, Mucklebones stood erect and spoke into the device that Tibbs had
given her. "We're just passing through lassie and mean you no harm "
The Witch was wearing the poncho again and strangely this brought a little comfort to the lost-but-now-found youngster.

With initial reluctance of assistance from the odd-looking crone, Svetlana got to her feet and showed her terrified features as
she came to terms with being marooned on a barren moor with three individual misfits. And yet, her being-here didn't seem the
focus of their concerns, storing equipment back into the floating spiky-contraption seemed to be more important.
"Aye, we're gannin" Muckles said easily and the girl heard an automated voice explain that they were leaving.

Grabbing a dented canteen that looked like something out of a western cowboy movie from the area where the dwarf and the...
the 'man' in the woman's attire had been squatting, Svetlana drank it's contents without stopping to see if it was water or not.
However, she was surprised to realise that she wasn't as thirsty as she had been before meeting this weird trio.

Muckles scratched her ass and spoke again into the handset. "There's a party of fellas coming in from the west and are about
thirty miles from this loca... from here" she said and watched the information sink in. Svetlana's frightened face eased as she
whirled to where the alien was pointing and every fibre in her body to her to run in that direction at once.

But for some reason, she didn't. For somewhere in the back of Svetlana's mind, the idea that she'd been somehow saved from
certain death by these peculiar entities whispered to her that immediate threat wasn't on the cards. The girl felt it somehow.

"I'd like to thank you for saving my life..." Svetlana said solemnly and ignoring the robotic english-sounding voice coming from
the radio-like gadget in the female alien's hand, she continued "...I -too, mean you no harm and I'm in your debt".

Boy In A Dress approached Muckles and Svetlana's position with his hands raised to show that he-also meant no harm, but as
the girl observed that this thing also sported long red fingernails, the very sight of 'it' was damaging to the senses.
In fact, it stirred a giggle that she stifled.
Muckles smiled and was content that her use of telepathic empathy had it uses.

"If you'd be so kind... " said BIAD, "... it would help us a lot if you don't mention our being-here" and he'd just got the last words
out before he stumbled forward and offered his bare bottom and a pair of stiletto heels to the two females standing over him.
Svetlana looked over at the grey-skinned alien that matched her own height and heard the translation from the handset.
"Bicano-Vett" which in the language the prone Man-Girl lying in the cold grass understood, meant 'Dick-head'.

Tibbs noticed the proximity-light flashing that told him something was heading their way and sticking his bearded head out of the
time-machine's door, he shouted that they'd better be underway and fast. Mucklebones patted the girl's arm and bowed her head
slightly and Svetlana lowered her head too. "Thank you and I will say nothing of our meeting" she assured her odd-looking savior.

BIAD had collected himself and widened his grin as he pulled the hem of his dress down. "Sorry about that" he mumbled and
awkwardly walked back to the craft that was beginning to buzz. After smirking at each other regarding the weirdo's antics, Muckles
lifted the device to her tiny lips and whispered "Yer'll be fine, lassie".

Svetlana watched the alien -a fellow-female she accepted, follow the red-dressed anomaly towards the antenna-covered spaceship
and climb in. As the door closed, she glanced in the direction that Muckles had earlier indicated and thought she saw vague shapes
on the horizon.

Svetlana's reactions came alive again as a sudden 'whoosh' made her turn back to look at where the sound had come from.
The wind and the swaying grass were her only company again on the barren boggy steppes and for a second, Svetlana actually
felt the emotion of loss.

Where were they going and where are had they come from...? Turning to the faint sounds of cheering men approaching, allowed
those questions to slip away on that cold wind that held sway on the Gydan peninsula.
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#11
Ninurta strode towards the gate to the airfield - that's what he presumed it was, anyhow - and studied the surroundings as he went. In an earlier life he might have called it "reconnaissance", but in the now he was just checking stuff out to find the easiest path. He no longer had need for any fancy names. To the left of the gate. from Nin's perspective, was a ramshackled shack which he presumed to be the guard shack found at most facility gates.

The fence, extending from either side of the gate, appeared to be unbroken, meaning he would either have to vault a 12 foot hurricane fence or go through the gate. Ninurta elected to go through the gate as the easier and quicker route out of this armpit of whatever planet he found himself on. His thoughts drifted to the bag of explosives at his side. Nin had no idea what the symbols on the knurled disc at the top of the stem denoted, but he guessed it was either the timing of the explosion or the strength of it - very different things when playing with explosives!

Depending on how many guards the shack contained, he may have to fight a lot or a little to get through the gate, so he took stock of what he had to work with - a knife and some explosives... pretty short list on the face of it. Either way, the explosives ought to do the trick with the least amount of effort. "A knife and some bombs" Ninurta mused... sounded like a party where he came from.

There was the matter of what the knobs on the bombs controlled, and the fact that Nin had not the slightest idea just what they controlled. No time like now to find out, he reckoned. When he was within 50 yards of the shack, he took one from the pouch and cranked the knob half way along it's labeled travel, and threw it at the shack. Immediately, he seized another and cranked it all the way around, finding that there was a stop at full crank, and flung it to the fence line to the right of the gate.

The reaction from the guard shack was almost instantaneous. Guards boiled forth like clowns from a miniature car.  Mildly surprised, Ninurta had expected 3 guards at the most. Instead he was treated to a spectacle that resembled ants boiling from a disturbed ant hill. Most went in all directions, but one or two headed straight for Nin, which was, upon reflection, a mistake.

The one in the lead, nearest to Ninurta, was shooting at Nin for all he was worth - which appeared to not be much. The combination of moving and jolting footsteps and launching projectiles at an opponent was not a good combination, and every shot flew wide... all over the place wide. Ninurta slapped his sash, then realized the accustomed pistol was not there, and so shot his hand out while turning sideways as his assailant got within reach of him, with said assailant redoubling his efforts to perforate Ninurta.

You would think that if he could get his muzzle against Nin's chest, he would be hard pressed to miss, right?

Unfortunately for the guard. Ninurta's chest was not where he thought it would be at the moment he needed it to be there. Turning sideways on Nin's part took care of that. Instead, Ninurta's hand grabbed the barrel of the guard's rifle just behind the front sight and, continuing his spin, aided the guard's momentum... but blocked his progress with a leg, causing the guard to sprawl but leaving the rifle in Niniurta's hands.

Oops. The guard had inadvertently armed Nin with a command detonated device of just a little more precision that the average bomb. Ninurta kicked the downed guard hard in the ribs, twice, then deftly stripped the ammo belt for the weapon from the guard, and strode onward. It was just about that time that the bomb hurled at the guard shack detonated, sending splinters all over the place, leaving a gaping hole in the ground, and sending up the prettiest miniature mushroom cloud you ever saw right where the the shack had stood just an instant before.

20 seconds for that bomb. Ninurta continued towards the gate since the exodus from the guard shack left a clear path.

Just as he cleared the gate, the second detonation went off to the right of the gate, 20 seconds after the first - 40 seconds total - with the  same miniature mushroom cloud, but scattering dust and gravel over Ninurta instead of splinters... and leaving a gaping hole in the fence - one which Ninurta had no use of, since he was already into the edges of the airfield. Still, Nin's question was answered - the knob controlled detonation time, not detonation strength. Furthermore, it allowed him to sort the timing out - 20 seconds for a half turn, 40 for  full turn, meaning 1/8 of a turn should give him 5 seconds or so, just a little longer than the hand grenades of his youth, but close enough for gummint work, he reckoned.

Ninurta continued on the the airfield - or whatever it was - and left a minor wake of ruin behind him... but having added a rifle and ammunition to his arsenal... still wearing that silly-assed makeshift poncho. Momentarily his thought drifted to that old alien witch Mucklebones -She of the Saggy Teats - wouldn't she be proud of his fashion sense?

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#12
There is a little-known rule in this -or any universe, that transcends the boundaries of why or what-for, and that is any
undefined event that occurs that will have a deviating effect on anything larger than a cosmos, the duration of the event
is thirty-seven seconds.

From the Vithian species perspective, the nearest reason they got to for why this is -is that whatever the incident is,
it profoundly changes an accepted perception of what a species' reality is.

Take -for instance, the first detonation of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico back in 1945.
Or even the deliberate alteration of Pluto's orbit by the US Space Force near the Christmas of 2027.

I would even suggest the harnessing of fire a couple of million years ago, that changed the course of human destiny
even more than than Neil Armstrong's first step on Earth's moon -which fully took thirty-seven seconds too.
Tibbs is still trying to work that one out.

Time-dimesional travel is -apparently, a criterion-changing function to anyone discovering the ability and so, falls within
the rule of the 'just-over-half-a-minute' period. It's unbreakable and believe me, many have tried. That's why Keplar IV has
a hole through it.

This evokes another query regarding time-travel, the future is someone's past and the past -to the observer has been
someone's future. And the thirty-seven-second rule works both ways.

Hence, thirty-seven seconds after leaving the plains of the Gydan peninsula, the spiny-ball holding Tibbs, Mucklebones
and Boy In A Dress finally arrived at the location all the sensors and Muckles' rune-stones agreed on.
It was way-out in the boonies of the Tetula system and somebody was blowing things up. This -alongside multiple deaths,
is always a good indication that Ninurta was around nearby.

The percussion from one of these explosions rocked the time-machine as it aligned itself with the time-zone and appeared
adjacent to what be comparable on Earth to a T-28 Trojan military training aircraft. This compact-little plane merely wobbled
as the air-waves arrived at it's position. 

Realising that a conflict was in progress, Tibbs kept the ship hovering until it had steadied itself, and then took it up to fifty
feet in hope of a better viewing platform. Boy In A Dress vaguely connecting aircraft and air as a good sign, opened the door
and peered out at the scene below him.
Muckles' wispy-haired head joined the perusal.

"Aye, it's him..." the Witch said loudly back into the cockpit, "...running around with his bombs and bollocks hangin' out n'
killing people" she proclaimed with sarcastic pride. The speherical ball began to shorten the distance between its location
and where the stoic-faced man dressed as a scarecrow was busy arming himself to the teeth.

The sepia-hued screen that Tibbs was using to direct his thorny-bucket of weirdos, offered enough of a display to assist
in his driving. The time-machine wasn't built to be an air-borne vehicle and the steering was difficult, but getting Ninurta out
of this situation far out-weighed straining his home-made craft.
After all, there was a larger, more important mission ahead.

"See if you can can grab him" the Vithian shouted and banked the time-machine to the left, BIAD nearly fell out if it hadn't
been for Mucklebones' quick-thinking. The Man-Girl lurched forward and as his thighs passed Tibbs' wife's face, she grabbed
at his ankles and hung on.

"We divna' need you all the way down there, Mr. Devil..." the Witch shouted towards the sudden exposure of BIAD's under-
carriage. "Yon murderous bastard enjoying himself is enough" she rasped and straightening her own legs to take the weight,
she noticed that they were closing in on their target by the way the wake of devastation was nearing.

So there Boy In A Dress dangled, his upper-female assets trying to wriggle free from their captivity with the use of gravity
(another important element when discussing forces of the universe) and air that carried man-made craft into the skies blowing
gently on his bare -but fuzz-free rump.

Heroes all.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#13
Ninurta had gained the relative freedom of the airfield - "relative" being defined by the fact that he was outside the wire rather than confined within it. He of course had no idea which way to go from there, but that, too, was relative. Nin had not the foggiest idea of where or when he was, and when one does not know his own location, one location is as good as any other... one never had to make the decision to go right or left, because both were equally unknown, just like the path behind him.

In other words, "wherever you are, be there". Wherever Ninurta was, there he was, and under the circumstances one "there" was much the same as any other "there" - which included potential destinations. Ninurta jogged left and tossed another grenade set for 5 seconds or so under an aircraft that looked like it might be more or less airworthy. He didn't need any airborne pursuit... and he jogged on.

It was just after he passed the doomed aircraft that he realized he WAS the subject of an airborne pursuit already, and what a pursuit it was. The pursuing machine was a sight to behold, looking like a giant metallic chestnut burr. That, by itself, would be enough to excite a bit of curiosity, and indeed some of the denizens of the mining camp WERE halted, gaping at the flying machine... but there was more.

MUCH more.

Dangling from a hatch in the side of the machine was an apparition that would inhabit many a nightmare this night for the inhabitants of this corner of the Tetula system. A being in a short red dress dangled and flailed, but flailed with a purpose it appeared. The skirt on the red dress had succumbed to gravity's spell and hung down from the being's waist - but "down" would have been "up" if the individual had been upright, which he wasn't... and it was very clearly a "he", for all the world to behold. The flailing about had allowed gravity to also free one of "his" upper-story assets from it's restricting superstructure, and that flailed about, too - although it created a dichotomy in the average mind that screamed "I've gone insane!" in the perceptions of average folk. It was a good thing Ninurta was not average folk.

It was hard not to recognize BIAD in that state of affairs. Ninurta felt a sense of guarded relief. He was happy to see his old friend BIAD, but usually, meeting up with him presaged an "adventure", which was the cause of the guarded part of the relief. "Adventures" that involved BIAD and Ninurta tended towards the... intense.

The singular reason BIAD was dangling and flailing from the machine was... Mucklebones. It was hard to miss her, for she had a firm grasp on BIAD's ankles, hence the dangling, and in order to brace herself so that she was not dangling too, Muckles had firmly planted one foot on each side of the hatch, against the bulkheads on either side.

That sight was bad enough, adding in BIAD's state of wardrobe malfunction, but to top things off the backdraft blowing across the hatch had flung Mucklebones' poncho over her right shoulder, leaving not much guesswork as to her gender at all. There was a bit of flailing and flopping going on there, too. Having both her hands tied up in preventing BIAD from doing a face-plant from the vehicle, and both feet planted to brace herself, left no appendages free to rearrange her clothes - not that it bothered Muckles very much. She was just that way, gave nary a shit but generally took a perverse pleasure in the shock value of her actions or inactions.

The sight was doubtless the inspiration for the Sheela na Gigs of the British Isles on old Earth.

Ninurta mended his pace and destination towards the prickly craft. He had to do something, or Sheela na Gigs would start popping up all over the Tetula System in commemoration of the event.

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#14
"Do you have any idea of the disgrace you're bringing..." Tibbs began his berating of his two half-naked passengers at the craft's
doorway, when glancing at his monitor, he saw Ninurta making his way towards them. "Had yer' gob!" Muckles shouted back and
using her chin, shuffled the poncho away from covering her eyes.
Her husband accepted that he'd been impolitely asked to stifle his complaint and went back to struggling with controls of his
homemade time-travelling vehicle.

The other aircraft -all four of them... scratch that, three of them now as the tarp-wrapped running man lobbed another of his odd
-looking bombs under the plane that resembled a Douglas A-26 Invader. Seconds later, the blast from the explosion rocked the
little time-machine and caused the wizened-Witch's grip to loosen. Now, hanging by one leg, Boy In A Dress swung like pendulum
marking the stuff that Tibbs had once sworn to patrol.

For his part, the Vandalian kept low and in his escape, fired two shots towards a wide-eyed guard that had appeared from along
the fence. Watching from a pilot's position, Tibbs would've liked to call them 'warning shots', but as the guard buckled and clutched
his knee, the frowning little man realised that Ninurta's response was far-darker.
"Oh be-Jezzus..." Tibbs whispered "...who gave him that?"

The spiky-ball moved closer to where Ninurta panned his rifle around him as he walked. The urgency had slowed now that he felt
he was armed enough to take on any interference and with the approaching Boy In A Dress -Ninurta's rope-ladder in this particular
instance, the stone-faced man watching from the tarmac believed he acheived some-level of control.

"Eh BIAD, how's it hangin'?" Ninurta said easily to the upside-down hermaphrodite closing the space between them and pondered
if another explosion would be necessary. The antiquated plane with the double wings looked like it needed cheering-up and so for
old times-sake, he plucked a grenade from his makeshift belt and tossed it towards the delapidated biplane.

As the massive detonation took place and also took attention to himself away, Ninurta's features pinched -as slinging the rifle-strap
onto his shoulder, he grabbed for the calves of the dangling Boy In A Dress. 'Oh -if the Taggarts could see me now' -Ninurta thought
as he grappled his way up to where Mucklebones grunted in her exertions.

"Er... they're hanging the wrong way?" BIAD finally answered as he felt a bare foot find purchase in a personal cleft we'll be better
-off to leave to the imagination. Quick-fire humour was never part of the Man-Girl's forte.

Seeing the half-exposed Witch of Carbiox staring at him as he climbed aboard, Ninurta felt another informal greeting was in order.
"So, the old bitch finally returns" he hissed and ignoring the breaking-grin from Mucklebones, checked his six to see if any of the
remaining miners or guards wanted to test their bravery.

"I've got one!" shouted the man in the remains of a uniform and from BIAD's inverted position, he could see that the military
person was bleeding heavily from the side of his head. The soldier -who was pulling for his worth on his captive's arms, looked
puzzled at the strange attire, the red fingernails and the odd fact that even as this... thing, hung upside down his fringe still
covered half of his face.

"Oh bugger-me, they've grabbed BIAD" Muckles sneered and began to use her skinny arms to pull her burden up. Tibbs yanked
on the two steering-handles and began to take the craft higher, his screen told him they weren't out of this yet.
The dying flames from what was left of the aeroplanes gave the sweating Vithian a view that others were arriving from a collection
of buildings within the mining area.

"SHOOT THE BASTARD..." Mucklebones barked as she strained with Boy In A Dress' weight, "...Blow his freakin' head off!"
she snarled and moved her head to avoid BIAD's stiletto-heel.

Ninurta's features eased as he looked out of the small doorway and noticed his fool-of-a-friend's long tresses begin to stir.
"A lady like yer'self would look away around now" he said and aimed the rifle out across the airfield.
Two quick shots dropped two running individuals.

The skin from his wrists being sliced away were the first thing the guard noticed, that and the snake-like lengths of hair that were
doing the grisly work. His body reacted quicker than his mind and demanded that he released the author of the damage, but by
then, most of his forearms were down to raw meat.

That was when the soldier began to choke. Black hair covered his lower-face and neck, his feet were no longer on the ground and
all-in-all, he was having a bit-of-a-day. The pain assured him that he would pass out soon and has the enlisted man realised that his
hands were no longer part of his make-up, the lack of oxygen and the horror of it all brought his body to slump in shock-related
unconsciousness.

Moments later, those same black strands of hair unceremoniously tossed the lifeless body back down to the airfield and carefully
plucked the remains of the broken, bleeding digits hanging from BIAD's swinging arms.

"Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop" Tibbs whispered to himself and almost went into a coughing-fit preventing his laugh from
being heard. The spherical machine had fully cleared the immediate danger and now cruised across the canopy of some woodland.
Muckles and Ninurta pulled the bare-assed irregularity into the craft and waited for the next thing.

"Welcome aboard Ninurta..." Tibbs proclaimed with a smile of his shoulder. "...I see you haven't ceded any of your old hobbies"
The man in similar garb to the weird-looking alien beside him, offered no response and focused on placing the rifle beside the
stunted-bench. Still close-to-hand, of course.

Boy In A Dress patted Muckles' hand and whispered a thank-you that brought a reciprocating nod as she too, sorted her poncho
-so as not to arouse the men around her and make her husband anymore jealous. At least, that's what she wanted to tell herself.

BIAD smiled his eternal smile and looking at his old friend, he said "It's good to see you".
Ninurta showed a face that could have been cast in an ancient forge and returned with "The amount of you I saw... the word 'good'
wouldn't be something that came straight-to-mind".

As the craft bucked and jolted against the air currents, Tibbs kept an eye on his little screen for a landing-site less violent than the
previous one. He now had a familiar crew and the mission to save a universe could get underway.

After all, that little section of a reality just happened to be where the stoic killer in the knife-carved clothes and the red-dressed
creature who destroyed half of the accepted rules of quantum theory, used to call home.
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#15
Ninurta settled in for the ride, and to ponder the last little bit of his puzzling existence. He had no idea where he was, or how he got there - all he knew was that he had awoken in a strange place with a hangover... not an altogether unaccustomed experience for him. For all of his recreational mayhem of the past while, he STILL didn't know where he was, or why. The thought had never crossed his mind to ask someone instead of just dropping them in passing.

Ninurta had never been one for asking directions on a road trip, either.

Then there was the puzzling question of how his present company had been able to find him at all, given the plethora of wheres and whens, and all combinations and permutations thereof, that were available to choose from. He'd be willing to bet a month's wages that his diminutive pilot Tibbs had a hand in finding him, however.

The big question of that was why.

There was also the somewhat troubling aspect of not being able to recall just where he had been before he arrived here, wherever "here" was. Nor could he fathom why he had arrived "here". He'd bet there was a story just in those two facts. Ninurta was physiologically likely somewhere in his 40's, or perhaps early 50's, but chronologically nearer 60. Although he would continue to age chronologically, he would no longer age physiologically, thanks to a curse (or a blessing - which depends entirely upon your view point) that had been placed upon him while once upon a time saving the universe along with his present cohorts. Perhaps a bigger problem was his mental age. Nin felt as if he were thousands of years old, probably due to time-traveling all over the dimensions - and the things he had seen in those travels, he mused.

As the spiky craft passed over a small lake, Nin suddenly realized he was hungry. Rather than asking if there was any food around, he plucked one of the bomblets from his satchel, cranked the knob to what he guessed would be about 30 seconds, and without ceremony dropped it out of the still open hatch to the body of water skimming along below. BIAD, ever curious, watched the bomblet sail out the hatch and tried to follow it's arc to see what would happen, but Tibbs had a far different reaction. "What are you doing NOW?" he demanded of the once-upon-a-time gunslinger.

Ninurta shrugged and offered Tibbs one of his lop-sided grins, and (as he grabbed BIAD by a handful of fabric between his shoulder blades to prevent him from tumbling out after the bomblet in his curiosity) merely replied "Fishin' of course."

,
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#16
From where Tibbs stood with his bundle of proximity sensors jingling in the bag on his shoulder, the aroma
of cooking reminded him that he and Mucklebones hadn't eaten since the day before.

Technically, the pair hadn't eaten for centuries of course, but as he jammed another of the stick-like appliances
into the long grass of the meadow, he smiled at the thought of how his friends would contemplate the fact.
The shadows of the trees that lined the edge of the field told him evening wasn't far away and the campfire would
be welcoming against the darkness of this out-of-the-way planet.

"Kinda nice here, ain't it?" the poncho-wearing Witch said to nobody in particular and twisting the well-fashioned
spit, the three fishes rolled to accept their browning.  Ninurta finished counting the ammunition he'd acquired and
checked that the explosives were nowhere near the crackling flames.
"Yeah" he answered without enthusiasm and moved the rifle to a better position for access.

Boy In A Dress watched his friend's diligence regarding the weapons and attempted to copy him by straightening
the bundle of kindling he'd gathered from the nearby wood. With all the sticks pointing towards the campfire, BIAD
straightened himself up, tugged his dress hem lower and waited for the tales to be told.

"Does anyone recall the days when fishing involved a rod and a hook...?" Tibbs said sarcastically on his return,
"...I'm sure I read about it somewhere" he added and removing his old bag, he sat down next to the one he called
his wife.

Ninurta sighed deeply and said nothing. Explaining that he'd efficiently obtained their early supper without the waiting
wouldn't change Tibbs' general attitude towards him and anyway, Ninurta had never been one for appreciating anyone's
judgement.

For a minute or so, the sounds of the mile-long strip of forest drifted on the last of the dwindling daylight and the small
secluded meadow seemed a world away from the explosions and gunfire of an hour ago. The Tetula system was and
still is the asshole of the universe, it's only saving-grace was there were other universes that held the same title and a
lesser-known fact was that Tibbs had visited most of them.

"After 'Ah've eaten my meal, 'Ah'll be expectin' a reason for yer' bein' here" the stone-faced Vandalian stated in an
ominous tone and this halted the little man in the brown monk's robe reaching for his plate.
After glancing around at the only three people he really trusted, Tibbs rose and went to his ship and clambered in.

As the fish left their perch and now idled on the plates provided by the great Manager of Time and his spouse, Tibbs
returned with an armful of clothing. Following close behind, came another Tibbs carrying a gun-belt the way someone
would carry a dead skunk.

Finally, a third identical Vithian with grey-white beard approached the fire and this time, he had a long long wooden
box hoisted on his shoulder. "I'll take it you remember your apparel from yester-year...?" Tibbs said with his attempt
to counter Ninurta's strong demand. "...And that terrible item" he added and nodded towards the holstered pistol.

Dressing himself without concern for his nakedness, the impassive raggedy-man changed into the Gunslinger at the
same time the multi-Tibbs became one again. As the night sky came a-calling, Ninurta scanned the approaching
darkness and silently enjoyed the familiar feel of his sun-faded wide-brimmed stetson on his head again.

"There's still the answer of why we need you" Tibbs softly said towards everyone sat at the flame-lit pow-pow and
picking up his plate, he began to eat.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#17
Quote:"There's still the answer of why we need you" Tibbs softly said towards everyone sat at the flame-lit pow-pow and

picking up his plate, he began to eat.

Ninurta grunted in an acknowledgement of sorts to Tibbs' comment. "That right there is a question AND an answer, all in one statement. I see ye've not lost yer flair fer riddlin' by understatement" he then commented around a mouthful of fish. Wiping his grizzled chin with the back of his hand, he continued after swallowing said fish. "As I see it, you need me, by yer own admission. That generally means you need something or someone blowed all to flinders or otherwise rendered inoperative, seein' as that's pretty much my only function and use. I DO have a flair for it, ah reckon, and pap always said 'do whut ye do best'. The question part comes in with the 'why', which also implies 'who', 'where', 'when' - I kin supply the 'how' - an' prob'ly a couple other questions I ain't even thought of yet."

Tibbs, for his part, rather enjoyed keeping the gun-hand in the dark and puzzled. It may have been a perverse pleasure, but Tibbs took his pleasure where he could find it, and keeping Ninurta dangling was one of those times. "You just said we should discuss it after we ate" Tibbs responded to the implied queries, adding "and I'm not finished yet" just to sweeten the prize a bit.

Ninurta, not wanting to display that the little Vithian had rankled him by using his own words against him, stretched his boots towards the fire, patted his stomach, and responded  "S'all the same to me - I got forever to wait it out" and sat his hat a bit farther back on his head to get a better view of the alien stars. "Thanks fer my duds, by the by. They beat hell out of that poncho. Drafty thing it was - I dunno how yer missus kin stand it" - the last added just to tweak Tibbs a bit. The Time Keeper - or Time Herder - Ninurta was never sure which was Tibbs' proper function - was acutely aware of his wife's propensity to make use of her attire's shock value. Ninurta just wanted to make a point that it never went unnoticed.

Mucklebones, for her part, shifted to her left hip to better give the right one a vigorous scratching, necessarily exposing it to punctuate that point.

BIAD squatted across the fire from Ninurta, arms crossed on top of his knees, listening to the banter. He was waiting for story time to begin, and seemed to have an infinite store of patience - a quality that Ninurta aspired towards, but had never really mastered. Nin fleetingly wished BIAD would sit more lady-like, or else wear a longer skirt, but that was just not BIAD's way. That's why Ninurta always stationed himself on the far side of the fire - such that the fire's glare drowned out most of what he didn't want to see at such moments.

It WAS good to have his clothes - and accustomed equipment - back. He wondered briefly how the Vithian had gotten them, seeing as he himself had no idea where he had left them, but Tibbs had a knack for such things. that and planning out these escapades. Ninurta saw it as a sacred duty to at times muck those plans all up. Maybe that was HIS perverse pleasure.

"take yer time, runt" Ninirta directed at Tibbs. "Ah've got all of that I can stand, and prolly more".

But he didn't. He was snoring before the diminutive Time Wizard had finished his fish.

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#18
For a single individual like Ninurta, life was fairly simple. A person acquired what he-or-she needed in a manner best-suited
by utilising the skills of surviving that-that person had gathered through living.
A snake eating it's own tail, Muckles would have preferred in her own way.

A child living on a farm matures into a farming-savvie individual who knows the seasons and where to place the best crop.
In the snoring Gun-Man's case, a kid brought-up in conflict knows whether to damage his enemy in order to gain information
or to eliminate that foe to further his goals.

And once again -to Tibbs' annoyance, it was Ninurta's aptitude to deliver violence for personal preservation that had to be
called upon to hopefully solve the Time-Manager's predicament.

The truth of it was -and one that those who'd assigned Tibbs with the mission had skirted around due to the obtuse aftertaste
of discussing it, everything we know and will know, everything life has created and offers in the future, everything...
relies on the grizzled, snoring man's unique and yet, mephitic prowess of decision-making.

Maybe to the flame-mesmerised Man-Girl sitting beside the deep-in-thought-Vithian, such an art of judgement comes in a
child-like grasp of their immediate surroundings and consequences of his actions are either left neglected inside that black
-maned head or just never contemplated.

But Ninurta's walk in life holds larger strides and his effects are deeper. He had died and returned, he had the ability to decide
against a cardinal, unwavering ruling of a reality and enforce his contrasting determination into overiding what could never be.
To the Great Council's horror, this nobody-humanoid with the lop-sided grin and itchy trigger-finger had become transcendental.

Mentally shaking his mind away from the first time he and his people had discovered that such a devastating reality existed,
Tibbs re-gathered his thoughts on how to explain what would be the most dangerous endeavour of anyone sat around the
campfire could ever imagine, Tibbs reflected on his time at the Hall of Owls and the adjudication of the Great Council.

Life isn't simple when you're dealing with trillions-upon-trillions of individual lives and maintaining fairly-impartial balance
throughout the incalculable realities that encompasses those lives. Time will always endure, but the Great Council had
decreed at the beginning of the latter births of the universes that their administering care must have a cadence that chiefly
favoured living beings.

Vithians, the powerful arm of time-advocacy, agreed that with this decision came many obstacles, sentient life in itself was
a debatable concept and what is valid as an actuality. That confused and troubling conversation is still going on within the
ornate Gallic-stone walls of the hallowed place where Tibbs had patiently waited for his orders and he recalled he'd been
disappointed that he hadn't been able to bring Mucklebones along for the visit.

Now as Tibbs patted his wife's thigh and offered her a kind smile, the Vithian couldn't help-but to be drawn to the rising
and falling of Ninurta's breathing chest, an excellent example of the pulse of existence -if there ever was one.
The conversation from his time with the Perfect Nine and himself floated in his mind as Tibbs cleaned his little round
spectacles and looked at the sleeping man that shouldn't be.
...............................

"It is without doubt, the most abominable situation we find ourselves in..." the tall hooded figure said from his marble-carved
seat in the chamber. "...To become aware of such an issue at this stage brings home why I suggested terminating that universe
at it's accouchement."

It was the one thing that... as his wife and probably what the Gun-Man would say, that really pissed Tibbs off and that was that
these chancellors didn't have names and all looked the same. So the smaller Vithian inwardly called him 'Haughty'.

"I agree, but can we not discuss options to negate this situation and look to maintain our directorate?" said the identical being
sat across from the former. Tibbs labeled him 'Flaccid' and forced his features to not show his boorish decision.

Standing up to deliver his opinion, one of the Perfect Nine stated "A universe in jeopardy is one-thing, but to ignore the cause
is to willfully diminish our authority and place other macrocosms in peril as well. I say we counter this unknown force with what
we may have at-hand, hence I requested Tibbs to this meeting."
'Jobs-Worth' -Tibbs titled this one and felt the daunting realisation of what they might ask of him.

The one who was all-for wiping out some un-said universe somewhere, leaned forward and from the direction of his shadowed
cowl, Tibbs believed he was being examined.

"A terrible force... a force known as the Final Mainyu, from a reality we agreed to banish it to, as now mustered itself to attempt
to break through into another for reasons of conquest. We believe that a scheme to take over the running of space-time for
alluvial reasons is underway and displace this senate of it's power....".

'Haughty' leaned closer and hissed in a way that made all of Tibbs' nightmares cling together in fear.
"...Hear me Vithian, this cannot be."

The temperature in the sky-high hall was similar to what polar bears enjoy when National Geographic aren't fudging the
climate-narrative as the giant in the black robe perused the paltry custodian before him.
"Do you have such a contradictory influence, Sir?" the viper-tone from the dark hood asked.

A fourth of the Nine waved a finger to indicate he had something to say and the sweating Tibbs swallowed to show his relief.
These big-boys really put you on the spot Tibbs thought as he turned to hear what would be said next and somewhere in the
back of his mind, a thought began with 'if I was Ninu...' and fell away as this tall-being began his address.

"You know the whereabouts of Boy In A Dress, yes...?" the velvet-toned Time Referee asked and Tibbs saw that the speaker's
long fingers were held out in willingness to accept an answer. "...The anomaly could surely assist you in your mission"
he supplemented enthusiastically.

It had been a while since Tibbs had kept track of the red-dress Man-Girl and even ignoring a sigh of exasperation from 'Haughty',
he felt it prudent to nod in accord with the kindly-sounding questioner. Tibbs unconsciously arranged his beard hanging over the
front of his own robe to imply he still held some semblance of control.

"That creature causes more damage than its worth. He's a shame on this Council" Haughty sneered and sat back on a chair that
must have taken a thousand of years to carve. 'Aye... and probably by below-minimum-wage buggers' Muckles interjected in Tibbs'
mind.
The doubtful member of the Perfect Nine seemed to fall into a sulk and that was fine with the smaller man struggling to keep his
thoughts on the task-in-hand.

"We in the Council will provide you with anything you need and give you full authority over the... Boy In A Dress' 'Mr. Silver-Tongue'
said and Tibbs noted that BIAD's name didn't sit well with the ten-feet-something tall Judges in the room. The Man-Girl was something
they had never counted on and his singular existence had been begrudgingly tolerated for aeons.

The Final Mainyu will not debate or comply to anything offered..." he continued, "...The leader -a grotesque known as 'Ba'al' leads
an army of lethal killers, malevolent shamans and the finest of scientists of his current reality".
Silver-Tongue turned to face his peers and added: "There is a mythology from the beginning of time that he and his people cannot
be stopped"

The cold silence of contemplation held sway in the brightly-lit lodgings of perspicacity as it sunk in how buggered these elite
Time-conciliators actually were. To them, force came in the chess-play of astute manipulation of an adversary's dialectic,
a manner of control that only higher-minds can fully appreciate.

"May... may I say suggest someone else?" Tibbs stammered as he felt some-sort of plan was being constructed between himself
and the Council of the Perfect Nine. Well, really between the Council, really.

Nine empty cowls all faced to where the little man -who had the audacity to clean his spectacles during this existence-shattering
convocation, now lingered for the wisdom that made Tibbs their go-to-guy. "There's someone else who would be a good
confederate for this situation" he said lightly.

If the coldness that 'Haughty' had caused during his snooty-petulance had caused the Vithian to tremble, the deep brumal that
dropped into the Hall of Owls painted an immediate frost onto Tibbs' beard as he dared himself to suggest who he wanted.
"Do not say his name here Vithian, he contaminates this sacred edifice with just thinking of his existence" came the snarled
-warning from another of the Council. This one had remained silent up to now and sat in the centre of the congregation.

Tibbs set his jaw to show that even though he could understand the Council's disapproval of Ninurta's policies of living, the man
who courted violence like an old-friend was really their only tiller for this voyage. And in his own strange way, Tibbs missed the
angry troublemaker.
"I want Ninurta to escort us on this mission" he said and made a silent prayer to Muckles' Gods that his voice didn't waver.

"HE'S A FREAKIN' KILLER OF THE WORST ORDER!" 'Haughty screamed and a sudden loud muttering came from the other eight
of the Chancellors. As Tibbs watched the once-slow, deliberate house of alleged enlightened and judicious Time-Conquerors
transform into a bunch of aloof idiots throwing a hissy-fit, the diminutive Vithian placed his hands behind his back and repeated
loudly -yet calmly "I want Ninurta to lead this mission and fix your problem... do you hear me?"

The silence was similar to the air around the campfire as each of the individual members of the Council of the Perfect Nine came
to terms with what they had resisted since the kid once called 'Carpenter' had first picked up a weapon.
Control is only a matter of perception.

With a simple comment like 'take yer time, runt", an entirely different slant can set existence on another route and unless you have
the will to command the reigns of such a primitive beast, everything can go tits-up. Tibbs smiling from this thoughts of that time at
the Hall of Owls now looked over the firelight and realised that snoring man with the hat over his face held such qualities.

He lovingly patted his wife's thigh again and inwardly, patted his own shoulder for his pansophy. He'd chosen wisely.

"Anyone here ever heard of the Final Mainyu?" Tibbs asked across the flickering flames.
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#19
Quote:"Anyone here ever heard of the Final Mainyu?" Tibbs asked across the flickering flames.

The sound of Tibbs' voice breaking the silence woke Ninurta. Instead of sitting up, or even pushing his hat back, Nin growled from beneath the hat "My ass! Ain't nothin' 'final' 'til I say it's final. The hell is a 'Mainyu'?" The sound of his voice startled the campers momentarily, since he'd done nothing else to announce he was awake before speaking.

Tibbs recovered quickly, and, pushing his spectacles up his nose to his eyes replied "It's a organization - an army, really - headed by an entity named 'Ba'al' that..."

At that, Ninurta sat up and pushed back his hat with a scowl. "Ba'al? It's my understanding that Ba'al was banished for good over 2000 years - closer to 3000 - before my time! I never though Ba'al was a real thing... is this a campfire tale then?"

Tibbs expressed his displeasure at the interruption with a pointed scowl at Ninurta, then continued with "as I was saying, the Final Mainyu is an army poised on the edge of invasion - of other dimensions."

At that, Ninurta snorted and interjected "So it IS just a campfire tale then! Pray tell continue wi' yer yarn."

"I will, if you'll stop interrupting it" Tibbs responded. "And I assure you it's real, and no 'campfire tale'. It's real enough that the Great Council of the Perfect Nine has tasked me - us - with stopping the threat..." here Tibbs paused and lowered his voice " ... and legend has it that this threat is unstoppable."

At that Ninurta snorted, threatening to break out into a full grown guffaw. "Unstoppable you say? Ain't nothin' unstoppable. D'ye recall the old philosophical question of 'what happens when an unstoppable force encounters an immovable object'? We ARE that immovable object, and any 'unstoppable force' ain't got a ghost of a prayer!"

Tibbs resigned himself to the interruptions and gingerly said "That is a question without an answer, designed to confound. It's an impossibility."

"Oh no, it DOES have an answer. You just have to think outside the box" Nin responded.

Tibbs was pretty sure he didn't want to get drawn into this philosophical debate with a lowbrow obviously out of his depth, especially not on the eve of such a momentous undertaking, but he couldn't resist - Ninurta at times thought he knew more than he really did, and this was obviously one of those times. Tibbs intended to prove that, and shut the gunman up for once. "Well, my fine philosophical master. If there is an answer to this question designed to have no logical answer, what would that answer be?"

Ninurta didn't bat an eye, but managed to look smug all the same. "Mutual annihilation, of course! Destruction of everything involved, and the production of pure energy from it."

Tibbs sat nonplussed for a beat, then said "We would be among 'everything involved', in that case, wouldn't we?"

Ninurta shrugged. "The prospect of personal destruction ain't never stopped me afore. Point me at 'em!"

Tibbs was torn. He was certain he had selected the right crew for the job, but this didn't look like there was going to be a happy ending involved for any of them. The little Wizard - looking man wondered, and not for the first time, whether Ninurta was banking on his immortality or trying to find a way around it to his final end. He fervently hoped that the Final Mainyu's 'unstoppability' WAS indeed just legend.

.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




Reply
#20
With another couple of dried-branches tossed onto the fire by the quiet -and probably confused Boy In A Dress, Tibbs arranged
his thoughts and his robe in preparation of explaining a conundrum that should have only one outcome.
Regardless of Ninurta's gung-ho attitude of slash-and-burn everything before, behind and beside you -including your enemy and
yourself, Tibbs' mind cried out for another alternative to an outcome set in some long-forgotten folklore.

The prone Gunman was once again under his hat, but the Vithian knew he wasn't resting. Tibbs took solace in the fact that Ninurta's
natural position was to absorb information for self-benefit, inwardly examine each piece and arrive at a solution without wasting
time on moral consequences or concerns regarding collateral damage.
And it usually involved the use of that awful altered weapon on his hip.

The pistol, an archaic firearm from when Earth was still young and believed it had importance in the cosmos, had been deconstructed
by a a technologically advanced race of Carboxians and now performed in a manner no other Navy Colt revolver had. Tibb's inwardly
frowned at recalling all the destruction the weapon and its owner had administered.

How Tibbs had reacquired the pistol and Ninurta's clothes was a tale in itself. The account also explained why the Time-Machine could
locate the bad-tempered Marine fairly-easily in the first place. Struggling to haul his contemplation back to the matter in-hand, Tibbs
released the mental images of blood-soaked beings on the Dresden Flats and unnecessary carnage -in his opinion, of The Frates conflict.

Forcing himself to return to the subject of the Final Mainyu, Tibbs cleared his throat and began.
"Okay... it's like this" the bearded gizmo-wizard said.
.................................................

The growling Gunman was near to the truth when he'd said three thousand years. If pushed, the handset in Tibbs' pocket could produce
the exact-date from Ninurta's birth if relevant to the yarn, but let's not get bogged-down with little details.
It's not like it's the end of the... well, you know what I mean.

The problem with The Final Mainyu arose when a race of space-time explorers came across a planet system under control of a being
called Ba'al. Something of note should be said here is that up to this point, Ba'al and his obedient minions were stunted in their own
abilities to travel in space and you can forget utilising faster-than-light travel, The Mainyu's concept of what is a reality tended to stifle
any theories beyond basic science.

True, the habitable planets in the Mainyu system had been colonised and some efforts had been made to look at other star-systems.
Probes were launched and information examined, a manned-rocket was even sent past the Rings of Golan in order to find out if the
Mainyu species were the only ones in this vastness of nothingness. But since it never came back, the alleged wise and brave Ba'al
decided that he may be conqueror of all, but he was shackled to what he knew and that had to be enough.

Tibbs didn't elaborate on this part because it sort-of messes with most people's minds. In this particular universe, pain didn't exist
in the way we perceive it and the concept of how we see death was different. The Mainyu's physical make-up were similar to ours
in the fashion that their bodies comprised of organs needed to function in an animated manner, but requirements of oxygen and
edible sustenance were not part of that reality, nor the need for an alarm-system that warned of physical damage like ours.

Believe me, these were a large part of the main worries that The Council of the Perfect Nine believed would hinder Tibbs' mission
to stop the Mainyu's advancement from their current corporeality.
But I'm straying off topic.

Ba'al wanted his people to be better. To the reader, these horse-faced humanoids could be equated to mankind's later-yearnings of
wanting to be part of something bigger, the only difference was that Ba'al also wanted that enormity to be under his controlling hand
and assist in branding his name across what he dreamed was a place of infinity.

The day (which was worth two of ours) that the Lavantians appeared through the clouds above the financial-district of Copa-Moor on
Hadad and pretentiously presented themselves as fellow-neophytes of the universe, was the day everything changed.

If we scroll on ten thousand years, the impatient and power-hungry Ba'al had also changed. Physical existence had been left behind
as the use of scientific knowledge and high majick had brought him a body that would endure until the end of time. Brightly, his essence
shone amongst the stars and every sentient-being knew of the fair-but-strict Warrior-King's shadow across their land.

A tale you've heard before, yeah...? and you'd be correct. Ba'al wanted everything, but don't make the mistake of thinking that his hunger
of total sovereignty led him without prudence. The tall figure with the equine features measured his conquering, he knew when to attack
and knew when to halt. He held a rare quality of absorbing incoming information and utilising it without moral obstacles or immediate
concerns for those who assisted his goals.

Some would nonchalantly use the word psychopath, but Ba'al was more. Psychopathy is a disorder that rides the possessor, in Ba'al's
case, he steered that wild mare with such finesse and acumen that a whole functioning macrocosm could lay in his control.
Planet-systems blossomed in their separate evolutions, the betterment of societies became a major issue under Ba'al's watchful gaze
and like a steady breathing of a grizzled Gunslinger, the idea that attainable goal of accessing other realities moved closer.

The Lavantians' ransacked technology didn't function for Ba'al's science-communities, it was from somewhere else... a place they'd
missed possibly. Twisting time, puncturing its actual fabric and discovering what lay beyond, it seemed like a mind-boggling chess-piece
just out of reach.

Of course, it was no accident. Those who mused in the Hall of Owls had foreseen what -what later scholars would describe as 'evil-think',
and that the brooding King-of-Kings would eventually become aware that his massive realm could multiply if he could somehow learn the
unlearnable. For the human species, it was like trying to build a vehicle that would run on ghosts or be fuelled by unicorn breath.

Using the many conquered races and their technologies that existed across the light-years of the known cosmos, the tall smouldering Majesty
with the now-famous silver hair, assured his vastly-expanded followers that they would not weep when they reached the edge of the universe,
they would push on and through.

After another ten thousand years later, Ba'al did just that.
.................................................

"So he wiped out another universe and became the Boss..." Ninurta interrupted from under the wide-rimmed stetson. "...It's a scary tale
without an endin' that's told to chillun' when the bad weather comes down" he added caustically and wondered if Mucklebones had any
coffee left in the dented-pot she brought from her husband's contraption.

The other beguiled listeners blinked out of their concentration -with exception of Boy In A Dress who doesn't have eyes -but the mental
action was just the same, and peered out into the darkness with their thoughts.

The lean figure rose from his position and reached across for the coffee-pot sitting on a smooth stone next to the fire -that no doubt,
BIAD had found somewhere. What it was with stones and the Man-Girl was something Ninurta had never worked out and to be honest,
the Gunslinger wasn't that intrigued with.

Tibbs sat silent as the intruder of his pre-mission ramble poured himself a cupful of the black liquid and wondered if the simplicity that
Ninurta saw the world around himself would drastically change when they finally met up with the legend that was more than a legend.

"But since the weather is fine and we're all over eighteen, please go on with your spine-chilling saga about old horse-face" he muttered
and resettled himself on the terminator, the point where the firelight failed and the same darkness that Muckles and BIAD had pondered
in, began.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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