Saturday, November 28, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 11-4

“You say this is the future, but can it be stopped?”

“I don’t know for certain,” Kaihime said. “I can spout quantum theories at you, but I’m not a time traveler by nature. I don’t know what it means. But I knew that I could trace the rise of GENESIS to this moment, when they sought to secure a group of powers unlike their previous victims. Your friends. If we can stop GENESIS now, we might be able to make it too much of a liability for the Court of Shadows to continue their work.”

“How? This is too big, Kaihime. I hunt ghosts. My friends have powers, but none of us are heroes. We can’t fight an endless army.”

“Then the world is lost.”

“What about F.O.R.C.E.? Why not go to them?”

“A government entity? The Court’s reach is long. They have agents on the inside. They would tip off GENESIS before F.O.R.C.E. could do anything. No, we have to do this ourselves.”

“It’s too much,” Alli said.

“I know my words are terrible. But the mission must be completed, one way or another.”

“But what if we can’t find Marilyn and the others?”

“Then we have to find someone else to help us. And for that we need to return to Spirit Cop Headquarters.”


“I believe you have files in place. We must unlock them and find the rest of their metahuman database. River City has more metahumans. We can only hope they will come to our aid in our time of need.”

“Alright. You make it sound like I don’t have much choice. But when this is over, you need to help me find Marilyn.”

“You care about her a great deal,” Kaihime said. “Is this what you call love? It’s an emotion I can fathom, but I’m not sure I fully understand.”

“Yes, I would call it love,” Alli said. “And maybe someday you will get a chance to understand it, Kaihime. But it sounds like we’ve got a lot to do before then. Let’s get you to those files and see what you can do with them. Then we find my friends and stop this GENESIS once and for all.”

Kaihime could only nod her head in agreement.

This was going even better than she could have hoped. She thought she would face far more resistance to her revelations. But Alli believed her every word. She would follow and help her find the others and stop GENESIS. And when all was said and done, Kaihime knew her real plan could begin.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 11-3

“GENESIS does numerous experiments of a questionable nature. One of their areas of research is into replication of extranormal powers. But such research requires subjects, individuals with powers. Individuals with few connections to society are the most convenient. They constantly research internet records, police records and whatever other network they can access to find individuals that fit that pattern. Individuals like your friends.”

“Doppelganger works for this GENESIS?”

Kaihime nodded.

“But if they want us so bad, why haven’t they tried again already?”

“Their attempted capture of you was not their original plan. GENESIS operates in secrecy. Five disappearances would have caused the police and the news to find a pattern. Their hand was forced when Ian escaped their clutches. So they tried to capture all of you, even though they only managed to secure your friend Rosa.”

“How do you know all this?”

Kaihime tapped the side of her head. “I have access to the GENESIS communication channel. They keep most of their most important information off the line, but they use it regularly during strikes on targets. That’s how I knew who all of you were. A few internet searches followed by a hack of the city’s CCTV system, helped me find your vehicle. I had hoped you could lead me to the others. What about the one you called Stomp?”

“If the radio in the car is telling me the truth, he’s dead. He died in an explosion on the pier while I was...away. I’m not sure what happened. I figure Rosa has the answers. I have nothing. I’m just stuck trying to figure out where the hell everyone went.”

“This bodes ill. If your allies are already gone, GENESIS could already have them. And if GENESIS has them, they could—” She stopped short as she realized she said too much.

“They could what?”

“I—it is dangerous for me to say too much. When I started to research coming to your world, I experimented with the connection point between the Aerie and this world. In the process, I managed to unlock the ability to shift the Aerie through time. I saw the future. And in the future, GENESIS has conquered the world. Billions are dead. They rule with an iron fist, perpetuated by an army of superhuman soldiers that can download any power necessary at a whim. The rich have powers of their own while the poor scramble to support the culture of excess. And anyone that steps out of line dies.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 11-2

“The circuitry?”

“Yes. They embedded my body with a new neural network. It controls millions of nanite antibodies in my blood that keep the cancer from returning. But without it, I would have no immune system and no nervous system. I live, but I am as much machine as woman.”

“But you live and that’s something.”

“It is,” Kaihime said. “After my parents found my cure, they freed me from my slowed time statis. I was approximately eleven in my own frame of time reference, but they spent over thirty years finding the answers they sought. I watched my parents age every time they visited me, far faster than anyone should. By the time I joined them, they had already made the decision to remain in the Aerie until they died. I stayed with them, learning about your world through our connection with your computer networks and your television.”

“You’ve watched us.”

“My parents were scientists for a group known as the Court of Shadows. They were a secret society of men and women that sought to protect humanity by controlling it from the shadows. They did this by hiding technologies they considered humankind not ready to handle. My parents researched this technology and they stole it when they built the Aerie to save my life. They eventually died for it when the Court found them during a supply run. I watched them die from my home as my mother cut off the portal between worlds. I was left alone in The Aerie with my only escape wired into my own hardware. And I knew I had a purpose. I had to stop the Court of Shadows from hurting anyone else.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Alli said. “But what does any of this have to do with me or Marilyn or the others?”

“The Court of Shadows has many branches though in my research I’ve learned they are only one of many such societies seeking to force their influence over mankind. But one of those branches is a research group called Genetic Enhancement and Neurological Improvement Systems Analysis Group. They call themselves GENESIS, because there is nothing the Court loves more than a good acronym.”

“I don’t think I like where this is going,” Alli said.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 11. Kaihime

Kaihime still wasn’t sure what to think of the carbon spitting locomotion Alli drove through streets filled with hundreds of other similarly poisonous vehicles. She knew that this world was far more noxious than she could see from their broadcasts. Thousands of articles existed to discuss the harm this transportation did to the air of a city this size. But no one seemed to care as they drove them to and from work or school or even nowhere in particular. She couldn’t quite understand why people would be so disinterested in their own well-being. Even if their technology couldn’t be made cleaner, some means of well maintained public transit would be far wiser for their continued well-being.

“Look, Kaihime. It’s time you stopped staring out the window. I told you I need answers if I’m going to keep driving around this city on a wild goose chase.”

Kaihime turned back to the other woman. “What do geese have to do with this mission?”

“Nevermind that. What is this about?”

Kaihime studied the intricate pattern tattooed onto Alli’s shoulder. It poked out from under a sleeve and traveled down to her elbow. The ink braided into skin reminded her of the circuitry bound to her own form. She wondered if the tattoo was anywhere near as painful as her own transformation.

“I come from a place called The Aerie. It is not of this world, but adjacent to it. I believe the best term I could use in English is a pocket dimension. It is a space made separate of Earth society where I could be raised in isolation.”

“Okay, that’s certainly not anything I can begin to comprehend and I talk to ghosts, lady.”

“It is nothing unusual for me. It was the way of my life. I was born with a deadly illness, a cancer that ate away at every ounce of my body from the day I left my mother’s womb. Exposure to this atmosphere would have made it far worse. My mother and father sought a way to raise me outside of normal time where they could retard the cancer’s growth until they could find a way to destroy it. In The Aerie, I could be kept in a state of slowed time while they would be able to use the intervening years to find the answers they need to keep me alive.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

River City History: The final stand against Yankee Doodle Jones

With the insanity of Yankee Doodle Jones now an institution even as World War II neared its conclusion in the European theatre. With police thinned by the fighting overseas, they didn’t stand a chance against the massive super-powered being more powerful than any mortal. Heroes of comparable power existed—but most were also too busy aiding the war effort to lend a hand.

The Midwest city found itself alone against a power it could not hope to control. Jones declared himself emperor and set out to systematically destroy anyone that opposed him. The police and city government saw no choice but to bow to his whim when it was clear no one would aid them in their plight.

The other heroes of the city took up the call. The Dragon would gather Echo, the Enchanted Dagger and California-based hero Barry Kuda to join him in his fight against the insane created man. Kuda was a mysterious underwater hero only in the area by chance. But when The Dragon looked for heroes, the undersea adventurer answered the call.

Everything came to a head on October 14, 1944. The four heroes confronted Yankee Doodle Jones face to face…and the battle would rock the city to its core.

In his mad quest to take total control of the city, Jones now ruled from city hall, flying off to destroy anyone or anything he might see as a threat. As night fell, the combined might of the heroes made their move.

The details of the battle can only be pieced together in hindsight. The heroes succeeded in ending the life of the artificial man, but Echo and the Enchanted Dagger were both killed in the conflict. The Dragon disappeared from the city, his whereabouts to this day still unknown. Barry Kuda returned to California after the victory, but refused to speak of that night for the rest of his life.

The Dragon left Yankee Doodle Jones’s body little more than a burning corpse, his components melting away. Only dental records were capable of identifying the former hero. River City was free of his rule, but now stood with a broken government, a police force in shambles and no super powered protector to help its through the post-war transition.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

River City History: Alias the Dragon

The origins of police scientist William Norton remain shrouded in mystery. Before his arrival in River City in early 1944, no record of a William or Bill Norton that fit his description can be found. The name was almost certainly an alias for the mysterious figure, but no amount of research has ever brought any more information about Norton to life. Whatever the secrets of his origins, he quickly found a place as part of the River City Police Department in their laboratory.

But as a police scientist, he seemed to rarely involve himself in cases. Not officially, by any means. Instead Norton worked under the Alias of the Dragon, a deadly crimefighter on the streets of the struggling city. Wearing a skintight piece of red fabric unlike anything in the world and a green cloak that seemed made of some lizard-hide, he was a strange figure in the dark nights of River City. His red bodysuit was impervious to flame, while his green cloak was bulletproof. He carried a strange ray gun that could unleash massive blasts of flame unimagined by the most modern flamethrower designs, dwarfing even modern techniques. Truly the Dragon was a mystery wrapped in an enigma, a figure that not even history seems able to explain fully.

Either as Norton or as the Dragon, he would remain a fixture in River City as Yankee Doodle Jones’s insanity grew. He would become a key player in the coming battle that would threaten to tear the town he now called home to pieces.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 10-5

Phoebe chuckled. “I know you only have a week’s worth of experience to go upon, but you don’t have to rush into decisions, Ian Page. We are talking about a potentially life changing experience. These people after you could be far more deadly than you suspect. They could have given up on any urge to capture you.”

“I need answers. And I can’t crack their files despite clearly being good with computers, even if I can't remember why or how. So you’re right that this is how I find my answers. I don’t think I have any other path.”

“Have you considered that the answers you seek may not be the answers you want? What if you are not the person you think you were? What if you were someone far worse than you are now?”

“I—if that is what happens, then I will face it when it comes. But if I’ve learned anything in the last week, it is that I cannot let my fear force me down my path. I need answers and I cannot let any worry about what I might find out stop me from going after them.”

“Alright then. When we return to Alli’s shop, we should figure out a plan.”

Ian nodded. “What about Rosa? Should we find her first?”

“I’m sure she will be fine with her new boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend? You think her and the cop are an item?”

“She clearly has affection for him. I suspect they are intimate, though whether you wish to define that as love or lust is up to you.”

“Do you ever give a clear answer?”

She smirked. “After living as long as I have, one gets used to not just jumping to one simple answer. I’m used to having time to make decisions.”

“I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Ian said. “I told you I’m not used to this immortality thing.”

Phoebe slung an arm around him and gave him a playful squeeze. “I promise you this, once you get used to it, you lose half the fun. Come on, Ian. Let’s enjoy the rest of the day. And tonight we start to solve the mystery of your missing life!”

Ian laughed with her as they continued down the pier.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 10-4

Phoebe nodded. “You could very well be much older than you look, Ian. You also could be naturally immortal, but still a young one. I cannot answer one way or another. But none of this explains your memory loss.”

“What does then?”

“If I were to guess, I would suspect someone removed those memories. But it could be accidental or purposeful. That I cannot know without learning more about your past, just as you wish to do.”

“Then we’re back at square one.”

“Not exactly. You have knowledge of what you are. And it seems you have one source that must know something about you.”

“What? Who?”

“You’ve told me the story of how you and your friends came together,” Phoebe said. But I don’t think you’ve considered it as deeply as you might. Yes, the people you escaped from had your name and the others on the list, only one of dozens of files you’ve managed to open. But don’t you think if they have this many files on you and your new friends, they also have more information about who you are or where you came from?”

Ian stopped in his tracks. “I suppose. But even if they do, it does me no good. Doppelganger is dead and whoever he was working for vanished as fast as the police could cover up the crime scene.”

Phoebe turned to face him. “But they’re still out there and they have answers. All we have to do is get their attention. You just have to be ready to turn the tides on them.”

“We don’t know how many men they have,” Ian said. “They could come at us with a small army.”

“You could be right. You have to consider whether or not that is a chance you wish to take.”

Phoebe started to walk again. Ian stared at her for a few more seconds before he ran to catch up with her. But he still wasn’t sure what to think about her words. Facing danger was never his natural inclination. Phoebe was right that Doppelganger’s employers had to have some answers for him. Besides, they were still out there somewhere. They would be back to hound him and the others soon enough. It just made sense to take the battle to them.

“I’ll do it,” he said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 10-3

“Dang, I hoped I might have an answer.”

Two more tables down, Phoebe was now at the back of the store where a bored teenager paid them little attention as she listened to a pair of earbuds. She didn’t appear to want to even be working, let alone give any help to either of them.

Phoebe didn’t pay any heed to the clerk. Instead, she seemed to find exactly what she wanted from the store. She picked up a simple black knitted beret. It was oversized and clearly made for someone with a lot of hair. It didn’t look like anything particularly special, but Phoebe studied it harder than she did her previous choices. She turned it around in her hands more than the two circles of the other hats. Then she put it on her head and pulled her long braids up under it.

“How do I look?”

Ian shrugged. “Honestly, Phoebe, I think you’re gorgeous no matter what.”

Phoebe laughed. It was a loud roar—a rousing guffaw that almost shook the tiny shop. “You are a flatterer, Ian Page. But thank you. This is the one that I want.”

She pulled the hat off and brought it to the girl, who looked up from the Scribblenauts game on her tablet long enough to mumble, “Twenty bucks.”

Phoebe brandished the card. Ian stopped, suddenly fearful that the clerk would ask for the identification neither of them had. But the employee barely looked at them, so it was no real surprise when she didn’t even ask for a signature. Ian silently scolded himself for letting his own fear get too much control over him again.

As they left, Phoebe one again positioned the beret over her head and tucked her blue braids beneath it.

“Do you feel better now?”

“Much,” Phoebe said. “I’ve never been on this world but that doesn’t mean I’m interested in sticking out.” She paused. “Is the idiom ‘like a sore thumb’ correct? That makes little sense.”

“It’s correct and you’re right that it doesn’t make much sense.” Ian glanced back at the store for just a moment. “Back there you said that my memory loss couldn’t be due to the fact that I’m way older than I look. But everything tells me I am, from Ian Page in the thirties to the barrier stopping me to this El Sanguijuelo business tells me that I have to be an immortal. It feels strange using that word about myself, you know.”

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 10-2

She perused the hats as Ian slowly followed behind her. She would pick up at least one from each table as she passed through. She examined it carefully, turning it around in her hands a few times. But she wouldn’t try it on, only place it back on the rack or mannikin head she took it from.

She turned to him after the third table and the fifth hat. “You have went silent again, Ian Page. I know mortality is a trait seen as normal for the human race here, but throughout the universe it isn’t that way. Billions of sentients from across the universe have paid for or been rewarded with the ability of consistent cellular repair. But even that comes with problems. You see, the human mind is much like one of your computers. It has amazing processing power but its storage space has limits. The cells of the brain may stay stable, but their capacity doesn’t grow. Once you reach about three hundred forgetfulness sets in without a proper memory extension.”

“Memory extension?”

Phoebe pushed the blue braids away from the back of her neck. A tiny piece of metal barely showed against her skin, just to the left of her spine. A casual glance might take it as a strange piercing, but it was clearly embedded deeper than that.

“Your world is already beginning to explore the melding of man and machine. I would think a memory storage upgrade wouldn’t be all that surprising to you.”

“I—I guess I’m not really sure what to think. But I wonder if you’re describing what’s wrong with me. Could I be so old I’ve developed some kind of complete memory loss?”

“It doesn’t really work that way,” Phoebe said. “Memories simply fade over time. Most people rarely remember more than a few snippets of their childhood by the time they’re forty. As time comes between the reality and the memory, the memory fades. But it is the distant memory that fades, not the near one. A thousand year old without a memory extension will remember the last couple hundred years alright, but he may have forgotten his first love, his first marriage or even all of his first five hundred years. It all depends on the individual. If you are truly old, your memory might suffer from some degradation, but your current loss of your past is not due to this.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 3 Chapter 10. Ian

Ian walked in silence with Phoebe down the pier. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk. It was that he wasn’t sure what to say. The mystery of his own existence whirled around in his skull over and over again. He wanted answers—he needed answers—but he couldn’t find a single clue outside an eighty year old newspaper entry.

Well, maybe not the only clue. He glanced to Phoebe. “Can I ask you something?”

“I suspect it’s been wandering through your brain for quite some time. But you know you can ask me anything, Ian.”  

“Back on the prison world—”

“I called it Elsewhere, though its proper designation was D97F9931.”

“Yes, there. When you were possessed by Caelus, you needed a mortal to break through the barrier that held the portal between worlds. But I couldn’t do it. It stopped me the same as it did you. How is that possible?”

“You’re clearly not a mortal, Ian.”

Phoebe said it so matter of factly that Ian wasn’t quite sure how to respond. An immortal? Even the concept seemed preposterous, though he was now speaking to an ancient human from outer space and fought a god only two days ago. Perhaps it was time to accept nothing in his life was preposterous.

“I’m not a god,” Ian said. “I barely can stand on my own in a fight. I have to overcome my own terror every time any danger comes near.”

“You don’t have to be a god to be ageless, Ian.” Phoebe stopped short in front of a tiny little hat shop. She pointed at the heavy blue braids on her head. “Come on. I need something to tame this.”

Ian followed her in. “Do you have any money?”

Phoebe laughed. “I took the liberty of confiscating Ms. Finch’s business bank card. It seems simple enough to operate. I will replace the funds in it soon enough, but I need to be a bit less conspicuous first, I suspect.”

“I guess. I just think maybe we should have said something to Alli before we spent her money. I don’t even know if she’s got any—”

“You worry too much, Ian. One thing you learn over decades and centuries is that worries only make you feel older. And after a few hundred years, it’s hard not to feel ancient, especially on a world that hasn’t unlocked any significant medicinal restoration.”

“Uh, I guess.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Love Walking Shadows? Support it on Patreon!

I have been working on Walking Shadows in one form or another for three years now. While its current iteration only dates back to early 2015, the previous incarnation featured far shorter posts on a daily basis with less overall content. But as I've worked on the story and developed the characters, I have wanted to put more and more time and energy into the world of Ian, Stomp, Cyrus, Alli, Marilyn, Rosa, Peach, Phoebe and Kaihime. But I also have to be realistic: Walking Shadows has never turned a profit of any kind.

Last year I set up a Patreon to allow fans to directly support my work. I left it unused for most of this year, but starting in November, it will become the go-to support method for fans that enjoy Walking Shadows. Readers will be able to donate anything from a single dollar up every month to show their support for great fiction delivered at three pages a week.

What is Patreon? It is a crowd-funding profit designed for fans to directly contribute to the creators they love and want to support. Put simply, it is a way for anyone reading this to show their support financially for Walking Shadows and super powered fiction as a whole.

If the Patreon proves successful however, I plan to do much more than just bring you Walking Shadows. I want to bring things like a dedicated domain, paid art and professional site design to Walking Shadows. I also want to increase the publishing schedule as well as debut new serialized features like Cosmic! and Lightweight.

All supporters get access to exclusive content only available to patrons. Supporters can get also ebook editions of Walking Shadows delivered on a monthly basis, plus novels in the Metahuman Press library and even print editions.

This doesn't mean I plan to put this series behind a pay window or anything like that. I plan to bring Walking Shadows free to readers for a long time to come.

Please head over to Patreon and check out the campaign, the goals and the rewards. With your support, we can start to make them a reality.