Chicago Geek Guy

Comics, Cosplay, LARPs, RPGs, Fiction, and more... all from Chicago

Custom Comic Cabinets from M&P Woods

I haven’t done the quarterly filing yet, but I have a lot of comics. DC makes up about two thirds of my 9,544 books, and there is a good showing from when I was a teenage Marvel zombie. Comic Drawer Boxes have served me well for years, getting me through three moves in the last ten years: Portable, strong, and stackable. Unfortunately, the bottom row of my collection suffered a blow out back in January. Since I had settled into a home and had enough room, I figured it was time to look for a more permanent solution.

I briefly considered making custom comics shelving myself. I’m not a complete carpentry slouch. Anything I build, I can always build more of when I got to the point of too many comics. (Like that could actually happen!) How hard could it be? Fortunately, good sense got the better of me and I decided to go a professional route.

Google did not offer many worthwhile or cost-effective solutions. I also had particular requirements. I wanted removable drawers with handles on each end, a small faceplate to drop in an index card, and casters on each cabinet to make is easier to roll around. Nothing pre-made met my specifications. Custom solutions seemed way out of my price range. Building myself something was looking like a better, very time-consuming option.

Then I found M & P Woods. Mike and Paula had something very close to what I wanted and offered customizations. Hopeful, I penned an email to the pair and sent it off. In terms of comic book storage and customer service, I could not be more pleased.

M&P do an amazing job with keeping their work safe in transit.

From the onset of our relationship, the couple remained engage in understanding my requirements and walking me through options. We decided on hardware together. When the first shipment had suffered some damage, we worked together to work out solutions. Customer service is more about how a company handles issues after they happen. Mike and Paula went above and beyond in that regard.

I have a comic storage solution with exactly the features I wanted. Each drawer has custom inserts to prevent comics from sagging. The nameplates let me know exactly what’s in each drawer. Wheels made the cabinets a breeze to push around, even while full. Mike and Paula knew the questions to ask to get me to explain what I required, then had the skills to make those specifications real.

Looking for a permanent home for your comics? Look no further than M & P Woods.

Beautiful; and functional

Fire in the Skies

((Soon after leaving the Ultimate Guardians, I was approached by a few former leaders of that group and recruited to join a new effort. I had been kicking around the idea of a Steampunk priestess and I thought it would work well in the context they framed. This was Torchlight’s first story. I’m offering it up here as a sample for a potential collaborative partner. It was originally published in October, 2012.))

“Uh oh!”

Micajah Levenworth felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. He had survived the broadsides of cannon fire; watched wood splinters larger than a man’s hand render an airshipman standing next to him into so much tenderized meat. His eyes looked out to the sky through gaping hole carved out by the six inch, 32 pound cannon ball thrown by the carronades of his own airship. He had survived the boarding action; moving forward with cutlass and pistol in hand, careful not to slip on the blood or shit smeared over the deck. Hard fought, he and his men had claimed the prize.

None of that frightened him as much as a single “Uh oh!” from a Crafter of the Council of Clackers.

“Philomena,” Micajah began, “It this an ‘Uh oh!’ we’ll have a laugh about at the pub later or is it a more a run for your lives event?” He looked at his companion. The crimson flames of her craft licked at Philomena’s red hair. Her brown leather apron and thick gloves protected her against the castoff sparks of tortured machinery. A symbol of two intermeshing gears, the badge of her office, hung around her neck. She did not look at him.

The crafter’s eyes focused instead on the mysterious machine in front of her. Clearly damaged by the cannonade, the gears of the massive device whined and screeched as they ground against each other. The destruction looked far more serious than an innocuous ” Uh oh!” would seem to indicate.

“Mena?” He asked again, more cautiously. Her hands moved as if she had not heard him. Her flames bled into the flickering, multicolor emanations of the machine. The scent of ozone filled the room and Micajah could feel the hairs on the back of his arms start to rise. He could not guess at her purpose. For all the times they had gone into battle together, he had never seen this side of a crafter’s skill.

“Take the prisoners,” she said, her words breathy with effort. “Take what you can carry. Get off the boat.” She did not turn her head to speak to him.

“Mena?” He asked again, concern clear in his voice. She snapped her head around towards him, beads of sweat clear on her skin beneath the flames that danced about her face. “Cage,” she said, “I don’t know what this is or what it does. I know it’s unspooling and about to seize. There’s no gear in the Maker’s toolbox that will make it mesh again. Get out. I can forestall the explosion for a short time….” A flash in the machine drew her attention.

Micajah looked about the room, hastily pocketing any items of value before heading towards the cabin door. “Philomena,” he said again, quietly. The woman, the crafter, did not look back at him. She did not respond.

The soldier made his way out of the airship, calling for others as he ran. Safely aboard his own vessel, he looked back to watch the gondola of his prize explode. Its airbag caught fire as it plummeted to Earth. He would never forget the stench of burning canvas and pitch; the smell of losing friends.

Philomena awoke. Behind closed eyes the scene played back for her. She had never seen patterns like that before. The forces generated by the cogs and springs of the machine swirled around her as the device unspooled and began to seize. Philomena felt a twinge of regret at failing her mission. The gears, sprockets, and springs of the damaged device would have to soothe the Ravens, the intelligence agents, of her queen. The crafter hoped the explosion left enough of the machine intact to determine its purpose

Her muscles ached as she stretched them. Her lips uttered a few words of thanks to the Maker. Then she remembered the flash; that terrifying moment when she knew the machine had unraveled and she braced herself for the explosion. The rough surface of concrete felt different than a cool wooden deck beneath her hands and cheek. She breathed in the place and opened her eyes with a start. She sat up in the dank alley, far from the skies, her captured airship nowhere in sight.

“Grit and gunk!” she exclaimed as she looked around and began to recognize the environs. “I’m on Earth!”

Introducing Dr. Nightsky

Toward the end for my time in Champions Online, I found myself wanting to play someone my own age and horrified at the tropey character I was using as my main. It was time for something else and the emotionally scarred, deceptive Dr. Nightsky seemed to fit the bill. I updated his introduction recently to see if I could spark new role-play.

I wait for the moment to pass. I watch the rise and fall of my dog’s chest. I put my legs on the ottoman. I count my fingers. Ten. I have ten fingers.

I wasn’t always like this. There was time that minutes flowed without the tick of the clock; When I lived free of the moments that bind me to worry and anxiety. I think back at those times and I am filled with fear.

Then I go back to watching the rise and fall of Guido’s chest. Relish the feel of my ankles laying across multilayered fabric. Then count my fingers. I have ten fingers.

For some reason. This comforts me.

I check my feet for swelling. My mother’s feet swelled. Diabetes led to a double amputation.

Content with my feet today, I wait for my next patient.

I served with Médecins Sans Frontières straight out of residency. My French got better throughout those years. My idealism faded almost as soon as I landed in Rwanda, February, 1994. Most of 1994 remains a blur to me. A blot, perhaps, inked out by the saner parts of my mind. At 29 I thought I had seen it all. I believed a healthy diet of TV violence and the casual mayhem of big cities streets had prepared me for anything. Rape gangs, machete wounds, grisly murders, all dissuaded me of that conviction.

I had not even seen the tip of the iceberg. Even now my memories crawl back from that time. MSF lost over 100 local staff members in the killings. I lost many friends, saw many futures extinguished. I nearly lost my own life with the foolish daze of immortality that accompanies youth. I moved south with Opération Turquoise and thousands of refugees. There never seemed enough hands, blood, or drugs. I ran “midnight” clinics, sneaking back into Rwanda to provide care for those unable to reach the Zone. It was the first time I heard the phrase “Doctor Nightsky,” a pseudonym for those with the courage to evade the Hutus and serve those in need under the cover of a million sparkling stars.

I stayed in Africa for years, treating of cases of cholera, starvation, and mass murder in Zaire and Tanzania, eventually moving to Sierra Leone to care for the innumerable amputees that civil war disgorged. Unknowing, the end of my adventures in Africa grew near.

In movies, the hero reaches a point where they believe that if just one person stood up for the community, the block, town, tribe, what have you, would be freed from wicked tyranny. They revolt against the villain, maybe failing once, but somehow uniting people behind them to triumph over evil. That’s how it works in the movies.

In real life, it leads to the destruction of a village: its men shot to death by 12 year-olds carrying Kalashnikovs; the legs of its women and girls hacked off by machete so they cannot run away when the rape gangs come; its boys hopped up on khat, given a weapon, and trained as the next generation of “citizen soldiers.”

The hero? He’s protected by his American passport. No one really wants the Marines back here again. Bad for business. He’s beaten, threatened, his name is written down. When he finally escapes, he spends months in the bush before he can reach the US Embassy in Djibouti, praying… praying that he can find a way out of there. He finds his way out. He finds his way to Geneva, the International Office of the MSF. There, he meets Dr. Christian Tipler.

Chris Tipler is one of those people you find in life, then wonder how it’s taken so long for you to finally meet. We grew up in the same area, developing a nice cross-town sports rivalry. We went to similar schools, were residents at hospitals of similar size and in the same general location. We looked enough a like that people thought we were brothers. We both shared some darkness in our past that we never discussed. We became fast friends.

When we were ready for reassignment, we headed to Thailand together. The MSF operates in many roles throughout Thailand. Everything from beginning the first anti-retroviral treatment program for people living with HIV/AIDS to ensuring adequate medical care, water supply and sanitation in the Lao Hmong refugee camps on the borders with Laos and Myanmar. We traveled together all over that country, treating TB, providing counseling; whatever the country needed.

You would think that I had learned my lesson in Africa, that for just once I would be able to turn the other way and let things be. I didn’t. Like Africa, I would face great loss, great change, and once again find myself running through the jungle with my mind focused solely on survival.

Thailand supports a thriving black-market trade in pharmaceuticals and other drugs. Baxter, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, all protest this lost income by maintaining high prices in the targeted countries. An ART treatment that sells in an African nation for $150US cost four to five times that much in Bangkok. The MSF press releases decry these actions, publicly denouncing these megacorps for these crimes against the ill and disenfranchised. Their doctors keep doing what they can with what they have. I wanted to have a little more.

I started with a box of antibiotics that had literally fallen off a truck. Worth more than an equal weight of cocaine or heroin, I quietly gave the medicines away to other doctors on my wide-ranging rounds of the countryside. We saved a lot of lives. I organized a small group of like-minded Thai’s. The screams of Africa still echoing in my ears, we took great care as we stealthily liberated drugs and other medical supplies from any number of criminal organizations.

Chris found out by accident, a careless lapse on my part. He tried to talk me out of it. He reminded me about Somalia, that more was at stake than just my life. When a local operative warned me of strangers in the area on one of backcountry house calls, I decided to end my career as a medical Robin Hood. I made plans to flee through the jungle then lose myself in the crowds and tight streets of Bangkok before making my way home.

To his credit, Christian wouldn’t let me go alone. We climbed into that jeep, knowing that our time in Thailand had ended. We headed into the bush together. There, in that dark, overgrown land, I would die. Only Christian Tipler, Doctor Nightsky, would survive. I thought that I was ready to reflect on that moment, describe in detail what happened. I’m not. The pieces have just not come together in my mind.

At some point we were running, sprinting through the undergrowth. I remember Chris calling out to me, to wait. I remember falling, ruins or wreckage, then pain. A waking nightmare where I pitifully prayed for the release of sleep. I awoke outside the massive blocks of unearthly materials. I lifted my hand to the sky, marveling at the thin traces of circuitry spreading from my fingers down my wrist, my arm, my chest.

It burned.

I remember finding the dead, Chris and my picture among them. The soldiers were not Thai. The multiethnic team carried the equipment of an organized, international cadre of mercenaries. I had upset more than a local warlord. Looking at Chris’ broken body, I realized it better that I should die in his place.

Let GSK, AZ, or whatever mega-corporation I had offended believe me dead. Let them believe this mission to murder me successful. I gathered the parts of my new life, a passport, money, bits of jewelry. We looked enough alike that no one would question my identification. In that daze, I believed I knew enough about my history. The cross at my neck came from my deceased mother, that ring from my university. I had become Christian Tipler. I would become Doctor Nightsky, soon.

I put the memories away, tucking them deeply into a mental box. I count my fingers again as I stand, then open the door for the next mind I can save.

Marvel Comics for DC Fans, and Vice Versa

A question on sparked this short essay. “I’d like to know what books inspired people to dive deeper into the marvel universe. And what books anyone can pick up with limited knowledge and enjoy? I’ve found the Marvel Universe pretty hard to get into in general ”

My comic collection is roughly two thirds DC, but I’ve always had a deep appreciation for Marvel. More than a few books inspired me to dig deeper into the Marvel Universe. I had to make a few suggestions.

Marvel Comics for DC Fans:

  • Uncanny X-Men #108, 109, 111–143 by John Byrne and Chris Claremont. It’s not out of line to say this run on the X-men revitalized the book, defined the characters, and bore some of comics most beloved stories. Marvel began to publish the book every month, Byrne crafted Wolverine as we know him and created Kitty Pryde, and the team gave us “Days of Future Past” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” In many ways, this book mimicked what was happening in New Teen Titans and League of Super-Heroes at that time and may give DC readers a nice bridge into the Marvel mythology. The late 70’s and early 80’s offered a wealth of character driven, longer form story lines.
  • The Mighty Thor #357–382 by Walter Simonson. Simonson writes Thor as a god in this stretch of stories, driven by powers beyond mortal ken, and driving into all sorts of interesting situations. In this run, Thor meets one of the few other worthy of holding his hammer and is even turned into a frog. It’s all a great mix of drama and humor that’s pretty much uniquely Marvel.
  • Daredevil #158-161, #163-191, #219, #226-233 by Frank Miller. A Batman knock off with a twist, Frank Miller used this run to separate Daredevil from the source material by better explaining the character’s history, powers, and expanding the cast of characters. This is when ninjas got cool.
  • Ms Marvel volumes 3 and 4 by G. Willow Wilson. This book hearkens to some of the lighter fare from DC, like Impulse or Young Justice. All fun, character driven stories with solid art.
  • Marvels #1-4 by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. A great introduction to the Marvel Universe, touching on all it’s major eras and themes as told through the eyes of a photographer.
  • Vision #1-12 by by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta . Tom King really shows a love of a character’s history and personality in this book. He “gets” Vision and this take had me tracking down all sorts of stories from the Android’s past.

DC Comics for Marvel Fans:

  • Superman Annual #11 by Alan More and Dave Gibbons. Many comics fans don’t seem to understand what a good story about Superman would look like. “For the Man Who Has Everything” is likely one of the best five Superman stories and demonstrates how to write the character and make him interesting.
  • All-Star Superman #1-12 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. I offer this run for the same reasons as above. It may give the skeptic a chance to really enjoy Superman (for a longer time than just one issue.)
  • Tales of the Teen Titans #42–44 and Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. “The Judas Contract” offers a compelling story about super-heroes living in the shadows of their older counterparts. It’s similar to X-men in that it’s character driven, soap opera dramatic, with incredible art. Tales of the Teen Titans really pushed the envelop for comics at the time with a pedophile villain and non-martial, cross species sex.
  • The Golden Age #1-4 by James Robinson and Paul Smith. This story traces several characters through an oft overlooked period of DC history, the 50’s. An Elsewhere, or non-cannon, tale, Golden Age heroes have to face life after WWII and the advent of McCarthy-ism. Robinson reveals his deep understanding of the DC Universe in this book and it made me want to find out more about what came before, and after.
  • Batman Vol. 3 #1-85 by Tom King and others. To a certain extent, Batman has become a self satire, more difficult to write well than Superman, and without a really meaty, solid story line since maybe Death in the Family (IMHO). (OK, there must have been something since the 80’s but really, Batman’s been bad for a long time. hmmm. Maybe the Grant Morrison run?) Tom King breaks that string of so-so stories with a solid, multi-year run that examines the character of Batman, drives other than “the Mission,” and clearly defines his relationships with Catwoman and Superman. This is the first time I’ve seen such a nuanced and three dimensional Batman for a while.

What would you suggest to a DC or Marvel Zombie looking to branch out?

Reaching for the Sky and Grabbing Only Air

Another story from my archives, posted as a sample of my work for potential RP partners.

Gotham Academy for the Gifted. Shortened to GAFTG in all of its publications. Abbreviated to GAG by all its students, as in, with a spoon. There’s not a day when I don’t wander these halls on my way to and from class wondering, “Someone didn’t think this one through, did they?”

It’s not a bad place as far as exclusive, private, preparatory schools go. The uniforms don’t itch too much. The building is large enough I can usually get through the day without running into my snot nosed and occasionally annoying nephews. They don’t use metal detectors so I can sneak in my costume and collapsible staff, just in case I need to skip class to go fight crime.

Yeah. I’m one of those, a super-hero. I prefer the title, “Perky Teen Adventurer,” but everyone teases me that it sounds too much like a kinky personal ad on Craigslist. I’m Mercedes Agnes Thomas-Arasaka, Kid Harrier, daughter to Silent Strike and the Harrier King. All my friends call me Des, except for my nephew (yes, one of the two I try to avoid at school). Nick calls me “Mercy,” the twerp. Maybe it’s a crush. Whatever it is, I hope he grows out of it soon. I live with my ”vader” (Father in Dutch. I speak four and a half languages. My Mandarin, sorry, ”Putonghua”, is in development) in one of the worst neighborhoods in Gotham’s East Side. We’re reclaiming the streets, block by block around two of the apartment buildings we own there. My mother? That’s a whole other conversation.

The conversation I was trying to focus on at the moment included my best friend, Veena Batchu. She leaned on the locker next to mine, dark skin and an athlete’s body dressed in our cheerleading uniform. There’s a beauty mark on her cheek that sinks into a dimple when she smiles. I think she’s really pretty. I hear her father is some famous surgeon in the city. Since that incident with the alcohol burner in the chem lab, I can’t see her with a scalpel. There wasn’t too much damage and that whole painted eyebrow look worked well for her as they grew back in, but give her a wicked sharp knife and say, “cut me, cut me?” Like, no way.

“Brad will be there.”

I can admit it. I wasn’t paying my best friend much attention. I’d been receiving the same Friday pitch for six weeks. “So and so is having a party. Wanna come with me? The other cheerleaders are starting to say things about you.” blah, blah, blah, blah. 

“Huh?” I stopped poking through my locker and looked over to repeat, “Huh?” Yep. That’s me. Clearly erudite and master of my vocabulary.

Veena smiled broadly, setting the hook. A perfect eyebrow (completely healed, seriously) lifted. “I said Brad will be there. Weren’t you listening to me?”

“I hang on your every word, Vee. Lisa’s parents are out of town. Big party at her house. Come at seven.”

“Wow,” she replied, eyes widening. “You’re like an idiot savant, absorbing everything you hear, except for that it’s Andrea’s parents, it’s a small gathering, and it starts at nine. Hmmm, maybe I’m half right.” I thought about sticking my tongue out at her, but if the other cheerleaders were talking… Oh godver. Like I care what the rest of the team thought. Maybe I could punch her in the arm. Nah, that would look too boyish.

I swallowed. “Are you sure?”

Her head tilted to one side as she rolled her back against the locker. “Of course, I’m sure, Des. I have a talent for these things.” She wasn’t kidding. Veena has this like, innate sense of the social scene. If someone will be somewhere, she would know. It’s like she’s telepathic, or something. Seeing what I’ve seen in Gotham, it’s a distinct possibility.

Brad. I turned back to face my locker, trying to hide the warmth that rose to my cheeks. Brad’s a senior in my honors American Lit class. Lacrosse team captain. Sandy hair with just a bit of a curl. Really dark, brown eyes. Reads Thoreau. No really. He actually reads all of his assignments and participates in class. Call me a geek, but I find that a major turn on. My knee started trembling.

“Well,” I stammered. Surely Va can do without me for one Friday night. “Will you come pick me up?”

“Really?” Vee squealed in excitement. “I mean, really! You will have the best time! I totally promise! I never believe anything Tricia says about you…”

I should have objected, defended myself. But at that moment I was thinking about talking to a dark pair of eyes and what I was going to say.



I was sure he could see my knee shaking. It threatened to vibrate my entire body, leaving me standing on the stairs with chattering teeth like some hypothermia victim. I choked out a, “Hey.”

Brilliant. Witty. Fantastic first start. Please kill me now.

We were standing next to each other in the line for the bathroom. Like, like, I know everyone goes, but I was hoping it would be a while before Brad and I had to actually face that each of us had bodily functions to tend to. I looked into my half full cup of water, wondering if I could swear off drinking. Not just alcohol. Everything. I’ll get just enough via IV fluids and never have to go pee ever again. I heard the biologist part of my brain start explaining how that’s just not possible.

“Great party, huh?”

I’d only seen two people vomit so far. I’m pretty sure I saw a partially digested pea in Angelena Cortez’s hair. The modern meaning of “small gathering” equated to “as many as we can cram into the place.” When Vee and I arrived, we spent the first 15 minutes checking out the trends of Gotham’s hip teen scene; cute, short skirts with tall boots; lace and drooping necklaces well suited to one of my dad’s old 80’s movies. At 20 minutes, Vee and I agreed the beautiful people had started to turn ugly and a trip to find some ice cream sounded like a great idea, right after a quick detour to the bathroom.

Brad’s eyes looked darker up close. I took the liberty of looking into them as we stood in the queue. He didn’t smell like vomit or alcohol. So close to him, he smelled nice. My bangs lifted from my forehead with a puff of air from my mouth, something people say I do when I’m nervous. “Hmm, no,” I tried to muster a grin, but my lips felt lopsided. “This really isn’t my scene.”

Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, widened and a smile spread across his face. “Oh man, I was worried I was the only one.” It took me a second to recognize the noise coming from me as a laugh. “I got talked into coming here by a friend,” he continued. “You’re Mercedes, right? We’re in AmLit together, aren’t we?”

I nodded, feeling the smile even out on my face. “Des,” I blurted out. “My friends call me, Des.” He extended his hand. “Des, I’m Brad Winterborne. It’s a pleasure to…”

It’s human nature to run from screams; from those all too natural sounds that emanate from pain, shock, loss. It’s a behavior that I didn’t inherit. I vaulted down the stairs, cursing in Dutch that I had left my massive Chrome messenger bag in Vee’s car. Tracing the source of the screams took no effort. I ran towards what everyone else was running from.

I saw the body on the kitchen floor first, blood slowly spreading from a collapsed female figure. The screaming filled the room; Sharp, shrill, cries echoing off cold, yellow, Mexican tile. “Demons!” My head snapped left. I didn’t recognize the girl. Wet blood covered her all too short dress. Violent, red cuts lined her exposed legs and arms. She had shed her shoes sometime in the evening and stood barefoot. She held a $500, 8″, Hinkle sushi knife in one hand, pointing the tip at me. What can I say? My family knows cutlery.

“Demons!” She screamed again. I spared one look behind me. Demons are an occupational hazard in the hero biz. Movement brought my attention back to her, but not before I felt that exquisitely crafted blade cut through my silk, violet top and bit into my skin.

“Hey, no!” I yelled. “I’m no demon!” It didn’t take much to restrain her. It took a lot to keep her restrained. Her body flipped and skidded beneath me, slippery with blood and filled with unnatural strength. My side burned from the wound. I didn’t think she hit anything vital, but I found the pain distracting. When Vee and Brad poked their heads into the kitchen doorway, it took all my concentration to call out, “Call 911!”


Nothing clears out a party like a stabbing and a police presence. Well, maybe gunfire. To their credit, the GCPD arrived in record time. I took comfort in watching six peace officers try to get a pair of cuffs on Christine after they asked me to back off. Eventually, she just passed out.

Christine. Her name was Christine Dawley. We had Calculus together. I didn’t recognize her until the EMT’s had got her on a gurney and wiped the blood from her face. The other girl was named Jennifer Acosta. She had been critically injured, not expected to make it. I didn’t know her.

The police interview took about 45 minutes. They did offer me some medical attention before starting the questions. By then, my wound had completely healed. (Regeneration, improved dexterity and strength. All gifts from mom. Thanks mom!) Once they figured out I hadn’t been drinking, they didn’t even call my dad. (I inherited a bunch of stuff from Va, too! Thanks Va!)

The cops asked me a lot of questions about drugs. What I saw at the party. It didn’t take a detective to figure out drugs figured in here, somewhere. I was guessing Angel Dust. I have red hair, but confusing my cute, energetic self for a demon takes a serious hallucinogen.

Veena stuck around the whole time. She got drilled too, but not quite as long. Brad, sadly, had faded at some point. Difficult to say if my skill at wrestling a crazed, knife wielding teenager made a good first impression. Some boys don’t like it when girls can break them in half.

We didn’t say anything until we got to her car. The door barely shut before I called on Veena’s power of social awareness. “Do you know where she got the drugs?”

“Adam Farintino.” A junior. Slouches a lot. I had seen him at the party earlier, hanging out with Christian Rickey and Max Waguespack. I felt pretty sure I could track him down before the cops could.

“I know where he is.” I looked at Veena across the small space between the seats of her red Volkswagen Beetle. Telepathy looked more and more like a possibility.

“Could we talk about that later?” OooooooK. Yeah. Conversation needed. My eyes flitted to my messenger bag in the back seat. “Yes, Des,” Veena told me. “I know.” Make that, long conversation needed. I bit my lip and tried not to think.

“Yes. I’ll drive. You’re flexible. You can change on the way.” The whole not thinking thing apparently doesn’t work too well for me. As she put the car in gear, I crawled into the back seat and started pulling my costume out of the bag.


I’m not terribly intimidating. I stand about 168 cm (oh sorry, 5’6″) and I’m not really bulky. Still, you think that the costume, the mask, and the staff; and the fact that I had just trashed the two of his friends who had attacked me would have shifted Adam’s attitude a little.

“I didn’t do nothing!” he challenged. “She asked me! I didn’t even charge her for it!” He fished a small packet from the pocket of his jeans and threw it at me. I plucked it from the air. A pair of long legs and flowers adorned the small envelope; Vanilla Sky bath salts.

“Bath salts?” I asked. I had heard about this craze. Snorted or ingested, certain substances marketed as bath salts, acted like cocaine or PCP.

“Completely legal!” Emboldened, Adam took a step forward. “I didn’t do anything wrong! The cops were already here and didn’t find nuth’n! Now, get out of here, Harrier, before I call them back to arrest you for assault!”

I didn’t let my jaw drop. I like to think I kept a stern expression on my face while I worked through options. Technically, his buddies could charge me with battery. Self-defense wouldn’t work. The two of them really weren’t a threat and I could have gotten away too easily. These weren’t street punks. These were three kids from GAG, children of some of Gotham’s wealthiest; the city’s most likely to sue.

I stepped forward. Adam retreated a bit as I brought the tip of my staff to rest on his breastbone. “You didn’t do anything illegal, Adam. There are two of your classmates in the hospital. One of them might die. You did something wrong. Stop.”

I turned and left, trying not to trip over the tail between my legs.


“Well, this just sucks.” Veena plopped down on the curb next to me. I had slipped back into my jeans and cut up top as we hunted for supplies. My friend rummaged through the 7-11 bag for a moment before handing over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Karamel Sutra. I could get used to hanging out with a mindreader.

I started rolling the container in my hands before replying. “Total, major suckage. That great wooshing sound? That is the sound of suck.” Veena pulled open her ice cream and started in with a spoon. Some people just don’t care about the proper temperature at which to consume the holy dessert. “Does it usually end like this?” she asked.

I shook my head, squeezing the ice cream, checking if it had reached the right consistency. “It usually ends in arrests and a few bruises, maybe a pat on the back from a local cop or saved citizen, and then a bunch of questions from a DA”

“Do you ever have to testify?”

I peeled off the lid of the cup and dipped my spoon into the cold, creamy goodness. “Sometimes,” I answered, mouth full. “Most DA’s don’t want to get a mask with a secret ID in the courtroom. Too easy to attack credibility.”

“What are you going to do now?”

The ice cream rolled across my tongue as I thought about an answer. “Talk to my dad about it.” I knew that wouldn’t sound too geeky to Veena. Who tries to hide anything from a telepath, anyway?” I scooped up another spoonful as I pondered about things a bit more. “I’ll definitely keep an eye on Adam. I’ve heard that he deals in harder stuff. If he does, I want to bust him.”

My train of thought took me to a station I didn’t want to visit. “If Jennifer dies, Christine will likely face a manslaughter charge. Maybe then the DA can hit Adam with something like ‘willful negligence.'” I shook my head, dropping it between my knees. “Chris is looking at assault with a deadly weapon, at least. When you boil it down, she’s really the problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“If we believe Adam, she asked him for the salts. Nobody forced her. I don’t think seeing demons is what she expected, but…” I shrugged. “If everyone stopped using drugs, we’d stop having drug related crime.”

“Making them legal would stop drug related crime, too.”

“Maybe,” I said, shoveling out some more. “Vanilla Sky is legal and that didn’t stop a stabbing, tonight.”

Veena nodded, her spoon poking around in a cup of Chunky Monkey. “That’s true.”

“”Va” knows a few drug counselors, really good people. I might point one of them in Christine’s direction. I will pay for it.” I rolled my eyes. “Not like she needs the money.”

“Whether something like this happens to Chris again, will really depend on her.” We sat there in silence a few moments, finishing off our ice cream. A good thing about superpowers? They burn a ton of calories.

Veena turned her head towards me, her dark eyes settling on mine. “Do you like it? The hero thing?”

“Usually,” I answered, puffing the bangs from my forehead. “My family and I, my mother, my father, my sister, my…” I couldn’t get it out without a short snort, “nephews, and I have helped a lot of people, made a lot of people’s lives better.” I stopped, thinking about two classmates in the hospital and a drug ‘dealer’ I couldn’t touch. “Do I like it, tonight? Not so much.”


In January of 2014, I was invited to join a rather elite super-group, The Protectors of the World. I came into the group, mid story. Unlike my most previous experience, the leader of PotW, Pallas, went out of her way to include Chance, The Harrier, in the ongoing tale, and made excellent use of his abilities as a detective. After pushing a suspect a little too far, Pallas asked me to come up with come up with a response that would test Chance’s resolve and commitment. This is what I came up with.

This doesn’t tell the whole story. Some parts occurred during real time role-play. I’m hoping there’s enough to convey the gist.

Hurt, fear, and anger welled in his stomach, pushed up his throat, and out past his teeth. Chance felt the rough gravel through his palms and knees where he heaved by the roadside. Winter’s bitter wind ripped through his silk shirt and jacket. He thought he was through when his body spit out another glob of bile on the Michigan highway.

He hadn’t even made it back to Millennium City. The car had been on its way from a small, private, airport when the call came in. Senator Channing hadn’t wasted any time in bombing a vulnerable spot in Chance’s life, Kori’s. Chance had stopped listening to his phone after Paz told him about the death. The face of Incul Adomo hovered before his closed eyes. Incul had a quick wit and a quicker smile. A smile now darkened.

Chance ordered his driver to pull over. He barely made it out of the car before he threw up.

“¡Jefe!” his phone yelled at him. “¡Jefe!” Chance picked himself off all fours, then struggled to seat himself, back against the tire of a black Mercedes. His mouth tasted bitter. “I’m here, Paz,” he told the phone. “How many others hurt?”

“Thirteen at last count,” Paz replied. “Things are still very chaotic here. MCPD is on site and some engineers. They want to check for other explosives and make sure the building is safe.”

He had traveled to Texas to get information and provoke a response. One dead and almost a score more injured twisted and curled Chance’s stomach again. He swallowed down another dollop of vomit. He had brought this on his people.

“Give them everything they need, Paz. Call Eddie. As a superhero, I want SCIU involved.”


“Has anyone talked to Incul’s parents?”

“No lo sé” Paz answered. “Chance, we need you here.”

Chance stood, accepting help from his driver. “I’m going to find the Adomo’s first. Call everyone in. We’re going to need as much help as we can muster to keep things calm in the neighborhood and find the people who did this.”

He knew who did this. He knew who killed, injured, and threatened the people that put their faith in Harrier. That catalog of ten powerful men had just become a hit list.


She found him kneeling amidst hovering words and lists, photos and diagrams. Her husband’s eyes looked red rimmed; his face unshaven. Kori crossed to him silently and wrapped her arms around him from behind. A deep sigh of relief filled his right ear.

Chance closed his eyes and took a deep breath of her. Kori moved, setting in front of him, a hand on his cheek. She kissed him deeply before embracing him.

“I am so sorry,” she whispered to him. “I love you.”

The space of a few heartbeats passed before Chance spoke. “How many more, Kori? How many more will die? I look at this list of names….” She took a deep breath as he paused. “We could have them killed. Couldn’t we? Isn’t that how…” He turned his head away, unable to look at her.

Kori exhaled slowly before leaning in to kiss his cheek. The flesh tasted tear stained salty. “I can’t count how many have lost their lives in my past and in my family’s history. Nor can I count the tears.” His eyes found hers as she continued. “We make choices and hope for a better way.” Chance could see the love in her violet orbs. “But we can’t anticipate all of the tragedies.”

She reached out to touch his chest and rest her palm there. “These are important people, judges, businessmen, scientists. They’ll be well insulated by lawyers, plausible deniability,” he explained.

“Everyone has a weakness.”

“Wouldn’t it just be easier if they were dead?” he asked

“For some, yes. For others,” she cautioned and pressed on his heart, gently, “not so easy.”

“When I first met you, I saw what I wanted to be,” she told her husband. “And I strive for that every day.”

“You don’t murder.” She shook her head. “You’re not a villain. And the ability to stay the course even after enduring the pain of all these deaths is what makes you a hero.”

Chance swallowed as Kori moved her face closer to his. “My hero,” she whispered, “and a hero to your children.” He embraced her, held her tightly against him.

“We’ll take care of the families,” she told him, “and the services for them

“I love you, Kori. I… ” Chance choked on the confession, “I wanted them all, that whole list, just even for a moment, dead. Judges, Senators, all of them. They used their children as lab rats. Put chips in their brains to control them.”

Kori breathed a sigh of some relief. “It’s not who you are.” Chance’s body shuddered for a moment in her arms. “There are other ways to deal with them.”

“I need some help.”

“Anything,” she answered with a nod. “After the bombing I contacted a specialist that I’ve used in the past, along with Kei, and others at the castle.”

“I need a system hacked. A company called Cyberchane. It’s way beyond what I can do.”

“The specialist can handle it,” Kori explained. Kei has been infiltrating the MCPD for about a year now in several departments, and Gen can handle the UNTIL end of things.” Her eyes hardened. “Please don’t ask any questions about this specialist. He’s known as Raven and I used to work with him on past operations.”

“I won’t,” Chance assures her with a shake of his head. “He’ll be contacting you when he’s ready,” Kori said and then kissed him. “He owes me a favor for something I did for him. A huge favor, And he’s on our payroll.”

“I’ve had security increased in all of our major branch offices,” she continued, “the castle, and here in Millennium City as well.”

“Thank you,” Chance said to her. “You are my hero.

“Of course,” Kori replied, her lips turning into a smirk. “I’m your wife.”


The initial meeting went quickly, a few words spoken over a hastily devoured breakfast. The results came to Chance in the form of a flash drive and a note to his wife. “We’re even,” it read. The analysis took more time for Harrier to plow through than it took Raven and his team to steal.

Control. It was all about control.

Initially started as a method to provide battlefield telemetry, the DoD scrapped Project Apotheosis as too invasive. From the data Chance had gathered, if looked like Cyberchane decided to press on, anyway.

The tiny chips could allow remote control of a body, like a marionette on strings. The chips went into four children of the group, including Alex Harper and Justin Channing.

Chance reviewed the error logs on the implanted devices

20131227-13:56 Device activation, Alex Harper<br>

20140119-13;04 Device Failure: Justin Channing<br>

20140119-14:56 Device Failure: Robert Mann<br>

20140119-19:03 Device Failure: Marcus Gate<br>

20140125-17:53 Device Failure: Alex Harper

Apparently, failure equaled death. Their perfect brains, Chance supposed. Their perfect brains couldn’t abide by an attempt at foreign control. Only Alex has survived, a roll of the dice.

Sloughing through the financial data brought a slow smiled to his lips. A thin trail of dollars and cents traced from Cyberchane’s 56 employees right back to partial owner, Senator Oliver Channing. Obtained illegally, Chance knew he couldn’t take this to a Federal Assistant DA, but Chance had other ideas.

After making a secure copy of all the information, he dialed the offices of the Millennium City Horizon. “Susan,” he asked. “How would you like to bring down a political dynasty?”

“What do I have?” He chuckled. “Illegal experimentation, casual disregard for human life, all from the great state of Texas.”

Pictures hovered around him, faces staring to the unseen recesses of his living room. Chance turned as he heard Nora’s boots on the hardwood floor. “You’ve broken me,” he told her. “Kori and I chatted yesterday. Futuremax will be installing the holo-emitters in my BSP office, next week.”

The raven-haired young woman grinned. “Athena be praised,” she chuckled. “What are we looking at?” Chance spread his hands, a mage wielding technical magic. “These are pictures taken at the scene of the bombing.” He looked around as if trying to absorb all the details of the hundreds of images. “Everyone in the barrio came out. Those that didn’t help the injured took snapshots, just like they were supposed to” He flicked a few fingers. White circles appeared over a common face in the crowd. “That’s our bomber. Look how he’s moving away in time as everyone else is either moving closer or watching at a distance. He’s getting away.”

Nora opened the folder in her hands. “That is our bomber, Chance. The FBI got a partial print off the detonator.” She turned the folder to show Chance a picture. “You’re looking at Lawrence Shelby. He’s got a healthy list of priors. Bombing is his thing.”

“You got alias’ and last knowns?”

“Indeed, I do.” Chance turned to grab his jacket. A wave of a hand dissolved the floating collection. “Let’s go do this the old fashion way. On our feet.”


Chance plopped down into the uncomfortable chair. People hustled and moved around them, some dragging luggage along behind. The detective fiddled with the newspaper in his lap than turned to look at the man sitting next to him. “Morocco, huh?” Chance said. “Nice choice. You’re got plenty of money stashed and it doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. Well done.”

“I’m sorry,” the other man told him, confusion adding wrinkles to his face. “Do I know you?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do,” Chance said. “I certainly know you, Lawrence.” The detective bit back a smile as he watched the color drain from the other man’s face. Chance reached out to place the newspaper on Lawrence’s lap. The headline read, “Corruption at Cyberchane. Charges Expected.”

“Stupid boss,” Chance mused. “Got caught before the heat died down and suddenly you have to risk using a known alias to get out of town in a hurry.” Chance patted his thighs. “You thought we wouldn’t notice. We noticed.” Lawrence shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“I figure this is going to go down in two ways,” Chance told him. “You’re going to sit there then nod at me, once. I’m going to give the agents with me the high sign and they are going to come over and arrest you. No muss. No fuss.”

“Or,” Chance sighed, “You think you can get the drop on my with that handgun you smuggled past the security checkpoint and I get to shock you before you even make it to your feet. Then, I signal the cops and they come over and arrest your drooling, unconscious body.” A wide smile spread out over his face. “What’s it going to be?”

Lawrence swallowed then nodded, once. Chance raised a hand and waved. A small group of plain clothed agents descended on them. “Thank you, Larry,” Chance quipped. “Please do try to have a nice day…. In prison.”


In 2012, I participated forum RP that I used to explore the varying moralities of two very different characters, a witch and a superhero. It wasn’t exactly what the original author intended, but she liked the read.

Siobhan’s Story

The quiet girl clung to her kilt. Siobhan turned slowly, her sword at the ready. No other demons appeared. No more tentacles threatened to snake out from the darkness. The witch’s eyes settled on the huddled, whimpering form in the corner. “Don’t kill me,” he whispered. “Please don’t kill me.”

Siobhan knelt and faced the little girl. Her senses reached out. Her magics could heal the broken parts of this body. The fragmented emotions would take more time. Calloused fingers wiped away the dirt and tears from the innocent face. “Yer safe now, lass.”

Her attention turned once more to the man in the corner. A minor practitioner, he had decided to turn his skills to terror and power in ways Siobhan once believed un-imaginable. After her long lifetime, the witch could now easily envision the dark places a young, male imagination longs to visit. She turned back to her young charge, removing the remaining smudge from the little girl’s face. Dim, dark eyes stared into Shiv’s. “Stay ‘ere, lass. Will ‘ave ye hame soon.”

At one time, she would have called the police. She would have accepted mortal justice and hoped this man would seek redemption. That was lifetimes ago.

The witch rose, sheathing her sword, and walked towards the cowering figure. “Please don’t kill me,” he muttered again, his eyes widening as she neared. “I didn’t know…. I didn’t know.” Her knee touched the ground as she knelt by him. “Ye will knoo,” she hissed.

The mixture of dirt and tears on her thumb glowed briefly as Siobhan breathed across it. Harsh, whispered syllables called upon ancient powers. She reached out to press the grime into his forehead. “Ah curse thee. Ye will knoo the terror that girl has known. Ye will know the ripping, the blood, the pain. Ye will knoo these things for as long as she knew them.” The witch gathered her breath and exhaled in his face. “Ye will never knoo magic, again. An fer yer lifetime, ye will ponder and regret what ye ‘ad, what ye did, an what ye lost.”

Gentle as a lover, Siobhan leaned forward to place a tender kiss on his blacked, dirt and tear stained forehead. “Ah curse ye.”

Chance’s Story

“We didn’t have to pick him up here, Mr. Thomas. This is a courtesy to you and your special relationship with the police.” Chance smiled and nodded to slightly shorter narcotics cop. “I understand and appreciate that, Officer Jackson. I know you’re taking a lot of time out of your day to handle this case.”

Chance’s head tilted to look back at the teenaged boy sitting alone at the hardwood dining table of the private dining room in Kori’s wine cellar. “There’s no way we can keep Shon out of the system, Peter?” he asked.

“No, Chance.” The officer shook his head. “The case is too high profile. Between you and me, I think I’m going to give up my season tickets. I don’t think I can watch a team whose players offer up a bunch of kids to avoid jail time.”

“Thanks, Pete.” Chance nodded again. “Let us have a moment while our lawyer gets here. Go ahead upstairs and let us get you some lunch.” The officer started up the narrow stairs before stopping to turn and address Chance. “I think it’s sad, Chance. Teens look up to these guys and all they want is a quick score.” He shook his head and continued up the stairs, leaving Chance and the teenaged boy alone.

“Abaline will be here is a few minutes, Shon,” he said as he walked towards the table. He slid out a chair and sat down next to the boy. Shon kept his head down. His hands fidgeted with the strings of his long apron. The young man arrived for work today expecting to bus the lunch rush, not get himself arrested. Chance didn’t even think about trying to contact Shon’s mother and decided to summon his lawyer right away, instead.

“Jefe? Is my shift being covered?” the young man asked quietly. “I don’t want to anyone to work extra because of…”

Chance waited for the thought to pass before he answered his employee. “It’s OK. Chandra needed some extra hours. She came in.” The boy nodded, his head bobbing slowly. “Jefe?” Shon’s dark brown eyes turned up sluggishly to look into his boss’, “I did it, Jefe. Derek Palmer asked me if I knew where I could get some… incentive. I went out to talk to my brother, came back, and sold Mr. Palmer some cocaine in the men’s toilet.”

The long exhale disguised the sound of Chance’s anger banging against the inside of his forehead. He wanted to yell, to scream at the kid. Tell him in no uncertain terms that if he wanted to fuck up his own life, do it as far away from Kori’s and the people wanted to work towards a better future, as possible. To remind him how crack ruined his mother. Tell this bright future sitting here that some pro-ball player asked him for drugs because of the color of his skin, because he looked like a dumb ass kid. Speak of the risk and temptation Shon’s actions just exposed every one of his co-workers and friends to.

Chance tried to breath out a bit more anger before he finally asked in a calm voice, “Are you going to do it again?” Shon’s head shook back and forth quickly. “No. Jefe. My marks are up. It’s only another year until I graduate high school. I want to go to college.” Tears welled up in those eyes. “I’ll never do it again, Jefe.”

“This is how it’s going to work, Shon.” The restaurateur leaned forward in his chair. “This is nonnegotiable. There is no compromise.”

“You are going to cooperate with our lawyer and the police. If Abaline tells me about a hint of sass, you’re fired. You keep clean and do everything Abaline tells you, you will have a job here. You will have off for every court appearance, every time the MCPD wants to talk to you. This is your first offense. I don’t think it’s likely, but if you have to do any time in juvi,” the boy’s face blanched. “If you have to spend any time in juvi,” Chance continued calmly, “you will still have a job here when you get out, you will not lose your scholarship, and the restaurant will cover the costs of your legal expenses.”

Silence stretched out the moments. “And my expenses can get expensive,” said a voice from the stairs. Chance rose, extending a hand. “Thank you for coming, Abaline.” the young man at the table stood as the professionally dressed woman walked into the room. “Abaline Rose, this is Shon Tuft.” The attorney glared at her young client. “You talk to the cop upstairs?” Chance asked. “Yes,” the woman responded. “I’d like to meet with Shon for a few minutes and then we’re all going down to the station. I think I talked him out of handcuffs.”

“I’ll leave you two alone, then,” Chance said as he began to walk towards the stairs. “Jefe?” said a weak voice behind him. Chance stopped and turned, his foot on the first step leading up. “I’m sorry,” Shon told him. Chance spoke clearly. “I believe you, Shon. And I believe in you.”

The Snake Knows… Creative Notes

In 2013, I started then had to prematurely stop a super-heroic RP. I took to the forum to explain to the participants the plot and why I decided to cut it short. I’ve learned a lot since this time, but I wanted to share some of my thought processes and insight into the type of RP’s I’ve participated in.

With me pulling the plug on “The Snake Knows…” I thought I would post a few notes about how the story got started, what I learned in this effort, and possible endings. A confluence of factors led to me trying to run it as a RP and I appreciated everyone’s help in trying to pull it off.

The initial impetus for the story came from a reading of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein. I had friends that decided to stay in Japan as hostesses after their contracts with the JET Programme ended and I met a few hostesses during outings into Tokyo. Many of them described the “Job” like paid dating with a real potential to receive expensive gifts and money before heading back to home countries. I don’t think anyone understood the dangers that went into the job and/or the business’ ties to the forced sexual exploration of hundreds of women throughout Japan.

Armed with some new information from the book and my own experience, a mystery involving the disappearance of an American hostess seemed like a good fit for Chance. I originally saw the tale as a 5 to 7-part short story and sketched out this outline:

* Investigate the death of an English teacher

* Chance visits a local crime boss

* Discovers she was working as a prostitute

* Discovers she was talking to a reporter

* Questions reporter

* Learns girl talked to him about forced sex workers

* Something leads him to murderer

* Discovered murder with introduced to victims by pimp of forced laborers

* Chance is told the pimp is untouchable to police due to a tip years before.

* Chance confronts pimp.

As I wrote the outline, I realized that I didn’t know what Chance would do when he solved the case or the particulars of how he would solve it. This isn’t unusual for me. I set my characters up with a base framework of a story and I write what they do and how they react using their voice in my head. This case would challenge Chance, calling into question what he would find acceptable in a pursuit of justice. I honestly didn’t know how this would turn this out.

Given that a few of friends had asked Chance about the next time he was going to Japan, I thought I would open the story up to other players. It would provide an excuse for Chance to go back to Japan for something other than meeting his contacts in the intelligence services or Yakuza and give me an opportunity to play with a different group of people. I was also very curious to see if the other players could come up with a solution I did not.

Think I overshot with this story as an introduction to my storytelling style, but I found it a valuable experience. I don’t think I would have used two pronged story as my first RP with this group. Sticking to a single objective would have made it easier to maintain focus and shortened duration. Some in game time would have really helped things along. The setting added unnecessary complexity. The Japanese legal system is considerably different from Western organizations, as are the populace’s relationship with the police.

While it provided some great character moments, this story could at best end in a draw. I. Didn’t hear any plan so far that would lead to shutting down the Nigerians permanently or getting Kumagae convicted with certainty. That might be a standard in the worlds I usually GM for, dark fantasy, but it doesn’t work too well for superheroes.

So, what happened next?

If the group can get the women away from the Nigerians and to the Polaris Project, the women will be safe. This seemed very likely. The nightclub owners have no reach outside of Japan. Unfortunately, it is just a matter of time before the two start again with another collection of foreigners. It’s possible that anonymous tips about drugs in the bar will finally attract the attention of the police and get the Nigerias deported, eventually.

I’m still struggling about Kumagae. Initially, I believed Chance would steal video of the man assaulting a clearly drugged hostess, then handing that footage over to the reporter for Pittard to give to his contacts at the police. This would force a search of Kumagae’s house and reveal hours and hours of video. This is by no means a slam dunk. It took years to convict Joji Obara, the criminal upon which I based Kumagae, and they had similar evidence in that case.

To give the party a “win” I had considered making Kumagae a kappa, a type of Japanese vampire. That would give the group something to fight against and offer a clear victory over an evil creature. I wasn’t sure I was going with this idea and was waiting to see how things went at the noodle shop.

In either case, I found it pretty likely that Kumagae would meet some form of justice for assaulting and killing an unknown number of hostesses.

Stephanie Burdette would eventually turn herself over to police and be charged with the Japanese version of obstruction of justice, get released after she makes a public apology, then quietly booted out of Japan with a request to never return.

Pittard is finished as a reporter in Japan. Loosely based on Jake Adelstein, I imagine him starting to work for a human right organization trying to end exploitation in Japan. It will consume the rest of his life.

One last note, the title “The Snake Knows…” comes from the Japanese proverb, “The snake knows the way of the serpent.” It reflects something that Jake Adelstein was told when assigned the Lucie Blackman case. It takes a foreigner to investigate a crime involving foreigners, basically.

May you never forget… Mnemonic Devices

I offer this up as an example of urban fantasy forum RP between myself and another player from 2011.

The address led to a nondescript brownstone, up the street from a haberdashery, on the city’s northwest side. A simple brass plaque identified the offices of the Black Swan Project. The receptionist greeted her with warmth and professionalism, pushing her ill-fitting glasses up her nose as she assured Ms O’Mallory that M’lady Warwick expected her and then led the slightly nonplussed woman upstairs.

The roof door opened to reveal a steel framed greenhouse, its contents hidden behind the moisture clinging to the glass. The clanging of metal sounded from the wooden shack next to the structure, a steady curl of smoke wafted from a brick smokestack.

Siobhan wore a t-shirt in the heat of the smithy, muscular arms working the metal beneath repeated hammer blows. The item of her attention went back into the forge, clasped in iron pincers. “This bae mae first trade,” the woman said as MacKenzie waited in the open doorway. “Ah cuid make most simple tools before ah ever saw a telly.” The item returned to the anvil from the fire and the pounding began anew. Four iron bars as thick as Mac’s pinky twisted to form a setting for a jewel as large as a man’s hand.

“Ah cannae teach ye ‘ow tae craft an enchantment, naet in one day. Ah can still make yer charm, iff’n yer still willing.”

MacKenzie smiled as she watched the woman working, amazed to see such an old craft still being used in these times. She nodded to the witch, “I understand and yes I would still like you to make it for me. I think we are going to need it.” The druid forced a smile across her lips.

The setting sizzled as Siobhan placed it in a bucket of water. The red headed woman gestured towards a tunic hanging on a peg. “Change. T’will bae easier tae clean up iff’n ye make a mess.” Mackenzie nodded as she slipped the simple shift over her shoulders. “Shiv? is it bigger in her than it looks, or just a play of the lightening?”

“What di ye bring of this man ye want tae find?” the Witch asked, grinning at the comment about space as she weighed the locket in her hand. Mackenzie pulled out of her pocket a small chain with a wolf’s head locket on it. “Umm I am not sure if this is from him, but I think it is him or my father. I… uh.. I am sorry that I am not better prepared for this. I just wish I could remember more.” She handed the chain and locket over to the red headed woman.

“Iff’n yer naet sure, this may spoil the charm.” She set the jewelry on her anvil and walked over to a satchel hanging from another peg to pull out a few items.

“Oh then umm maybe we should not use that, because I am really not sure where I got it. I just know that I have had it since I came to the states.”

“The spell used tae repress yer memories reflects the nature of its maker. We need tae read that mage’s signature, iff’n ye will. We need tae draw his handiwork closer tae the surface.”

The witch slung a length of netting between two pegs then knelt. Within a few moments, she had drawn a circle beneath the makeshift hammock. A thick nob of chalk rested in her hands as she checked the sigils surrounding her work. Satisfied, she stood looking around the room. She found a large, clay bowl and set it in the center of the circle. Her face expressionless, she pressed her hand to Mackenzie’s abdomen. She nodded then held out a flask to Mackenzie, its cork sealed with dark red wax. “This will naet bae pleasant, lass. Drink this.”

“Eh.. umm sure” She takes the flask and drinks it, scrunching up her nose. “Oh… uh..”

Siobhan leapt forward, clearly surprised by the young woman’s level of trust. “What ye shuid bae asking yerselv now, lass,” the witch clucked, “tis what ye now have in common wit Socrates.” Strong arms caught Mackenzie as her legs gave out underneath her.

“Dinnae fret, lass,” Siobhan cooed as she carried Mackenzie to the makeshift hammock. “There shounae bae any pain.” The young druid’s legs refused to answer her commands. Her breath quickened as the tingle from her useless limbs spread into her chest. “Shhh, shh,” Siobhan comforted, watching the spittle build at the corner of the young woman’s mouth as her

Lips struggled to form words. The witch brushed locks from MacKenzie’s face, then crossed her arms across her breasts. “Yer life will flash before yer eyes,” Siobhan whispered, watching the panic blossom across an angelic face. “Yer memories will press again the fetters that bind them. Ah need tae grab ahold of those chains. Ye need tae remember.”

The rough sounds of a Gaelic lullaby echoed from Siobhan as the witch placed a hand against Mackenzie’s chest. She sang with unexpected sweetness at the girl’s heart slowed, then stopped.

”When she saw her, she felt like she was five again. She wanted to run to her and hold her and be held in her arms, but she didn’t… Mackenzie stood there and watched her mother and she knew she could not go. She could not leave Chance, no not her. She knew his fear was of losing her and she was not going to go out, no like this, no matter how much she wanted to run to her mother’s arms, she knew it was not her time. She had plans dammit, so she turned away from her mother and walked the other direction.”

The witch worked quickly, spreading her hands over the young druid’s body, ensuring the bowl and the circle below captured all she needed to fashion the charm. Quiet mantras passed her lips as she felt life flow and ebb around her. She plucked out the foreign streams of magic and sent them to the bowl below. Like dye in a river, the mage who suppressed Mackenzie’s memories had left traces; traces a skilled practitioner could find and track.

When finished, Siobhan took a deep, deep breath, sucking up all the life in the magically contained space. With one forceful exhale, she pushed the life back into Mackenzie’s lungs. A heart began beating again. The woman would rest for a few more moments, letting the witch work in peace.

Siobhan removed the bowl from the ground and broke the chalk circle with a rubbing of her toe. She kneaded the fowl mixture of excrement and magic with her hands, reaching out to add powders and liquids from nearby racks. She set the dun colored patty into the flames, driving the heat with a bellows. She washed her hands in a bucket then brought the water to Mackenzie’s side. The soiled shift slipped easily from the young woman’s shoulders. Siobhan bathed her naked body, drying and wrapping it in furs before stepping back to wait.

Mac sat upright with a gasp and whispered “Chance?” She looked around the room slowly remembering, where she was and why she was here. Her body trembled as she looked to the witch sitting there. It took her a moment before she was able to speak again. “What did you do to me?”

The witch stepped over to her forge, plunging the pincers into the coals and pulling out the burnt paddy. She struck it one time with her hammer, revealing a crystal within. She carried the still warm gem back to Mackenzie. “Making yer charm, lass.” A faint light glowed in the center of the amber. “An it seems that whoever ye bae looking fer still lives.”

She held out the gem to the young druid.

Mackenzie watched her intently, curiously, as she worked at the forge. She took the gem from the woman, her eyes holding a mixture of emotions. “You could have told me what was going to happen. You could have prepared me for it.” Her voice was calm and steady as she spoke. “This will help me locate him?”

Siobhan returned to the anvil, picking up the setting and attaching a chain to a ring at its back. She walked back to Mackenzie to pluck the gem from her hands and press it between the tines. The witch dangle the charm in front of her. It lilted slightly if pulled by an unseen force.

“The pull will git stronger as ye git close. T’will also brighten.” Siobhan explained. “It may naet function iffn’ ‘e warded.”

“Oh? Well then let’s hope he is not warded.” She looks to the older woman “Thank you for your assistance in this matter”

Siobhan nodded her head, slowly. “The service t’was bartered fer. That lad must care about ye a fair bit, ah ken. When ye return,” a sardonic smile passed across her face, “we’ll talk again about teaching ye what ye wannae knoo.”

Mac frowned and then looked up to Shiv. “Is there any way that I can make it to where I owe you and not him?” An eyebrow lifted in curiosity. “Dinnae faesch yerselv, lass. Ye will owe mae in tiem.” Siobhan’s lip curled. “Fer now, ah keep tae the original terms of mae agreement wit yer boy.”

Mac grinned at Shiv “Oh but I do worry myself about him, that is not anything that is going to change anytime soon. Since the favor was for me. Are you sure there is nothing I can do to convince you to let me pay this debt?”

“If he agrees,” Shiv explained patiently, “I will consider it.” The witch inhaled through her nose and sighed. “Young love. So delicious.” Mackenzie smiled “Deal. Now, thank you again for your help with this, I will see you when I get back.” Mackenzie slowly stood to offer the older woman a hug.

Siobhan accepted the offer of the hug, her strong arms squeezing Mackenzie tightly. “May this bring all the knowledge yer ‘oping fer, lass.” ”An none of the pain”, the witch thought to herself.


This is a really old story. I offer it up as a character intro for potential RP partners.

“I am spent m’lord. I doubt I can feel my legs, let alone move them.” She watched as he chuckled, gazing with appreciation if not disappointment as he clothed himself. He looked back at her, dark curly hair framing a pleasant face. The fullness of his lips caused her a tiny shiver as she lay in bed remembering their touch.

“How else could I escape your ravenous appetites, Giselle, but to leave you hobbled from exhaustion.” His voice matched the richness of her velvet bedcurtains. “Best stay out my reach then, good sir,” she cooed, “Lest I drag you back into its confines with my arms.” She laughed, naked as she crawled towards him. He stepped playfully back, slipping the chain of fob through the buttonhole of his gold threaded vest.

“I think not, m’lady. We have dallied too…” Somewhere in the house a door slammed. “Long.” The two raised a single eyebrow at each other as a rush came up the stairs. She had barely time to conceal herself with a sheet before the bedroom door swung open. “Look mother. Look at what we…”

The eyes of the young woman settled on her unclothed mother and her gentleman caller. “Mother!” She cried.

“Abigail!” her mother retorted.

“Abigail?” the young man asked, recognition dawning across his face. He looked back to the woman on the bed. “I would never have thought that little thing… with the tongue… a matter of genetics. Fine breeding madam.” She smiled and blushed at the complement.

“Ro!’ Abigail hissed from the doorframe. Her nostrils flared in anger. “Father!” she screamed.

Lt. Ichiro “Ro” Falconer, slipped his waistcoat from a chair and around his shoulders in one swift motion as he looked for another exit. Damn his poor reconnaissance. A second story window seemed his only other means of escape. The sound of heavy footfalls told him the enemy had taken the stairs.

“Colonel!” Ro called as he recognized the man. Once again, he looked to the figure on the bed. She had let the sheet drop. “An excellent choice, madam. A fine man. Hardly hated at all by his troops.” A smile spread across her face as if she was enjoying the confrontation.

“You sir are out of uniform!”

“Well yes, colonel,” Ro fumbled for something in his pocket. “A little less so than a few moments ago, but yes.”

The large man roared through the room, tugging at the sword at his side. Ro frantically worked a small piece of paper between his fingers, then opened his hands wide. A blossom of brilliant paper butterflies filled the room to impede the colonel’s progress. Offering the matron a wink and a smile, Ro slipped out the window to the ground below.

“Sean!” He called. “Quickly Sean!” A young man emerged from a nearby shadow. “And what does keeping watch mean to you lad?” he berated the boy. Sean began to speak when his eyes opened wide. Ro turned to spy the good colonel readying a quantum musket. “Run, lad! Run!”

The two fled down the street, the buzzing sound of the weapon filling the thoroughfare. “Oh, ye’ve done it this time for sure Lieutenant,” said the young man between breaths. “Looks like it’s the front for us!”

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