Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Concept Art: Captain Jane Carter

Taking a moment to compose herself, she whispered, “There’s an assassin after me. I think he might already be here at the VelAquant.”

He winced. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” She got back to her feet and looked at her phone as she walked toward the bathroom. The text message read, “DO NOT ANSWER THE DOOR. –RC.” Her breath stilled, and she stopped. Counting on the position of her body to block his view, she plucked the atom wrench from the table. “Wait,” she muttered, and she quietly twisted the end of the rod until the safety cap came off. Her back to him, she asked, “Gavin, how did you find my room?”

He snickered, and she heard the bed creak as he pushed off to stand. “It wasn’t hard. You aren’t that far away.”

She swallowed to moisten her throat. “I didn’t tell anyone where I was staying. Not even Val.” Timidly, she glanced sidelong at him and immediately spotted the soft white glow of his eyes.

“It would’ve been easier if it looked like you slipped in the shower,” growled Phoranxth, and his forearm took on the shape of a heavy blade. “Less painful, too.” He reached back to strike, but Jane spun around and plunged the exposed tip of the atom wrench into his chest.

She snarled, “Not for you!”

The atom wrench was invented decades ago to give laymen a way to build their own nanobots. Powered by a cold fusion core, it was roughly the size of a large flashlight and weighed about the same. Within its quantum bubble chamber, the atom wrench sustained a minute spacetime singularity, and with it offered the user control over the strong and weak forces on a molecular scale. Nanobot hobbyists scooped them up as soon as they reached the market, and material synthesis labs found them to be invaluable. But they were risky to use, since they were prone to internal decay, and the safety caps had a bad habit of falling off at inopportune moments, leaving the singularity exposed. Direct contact with the singularity led to disruption of the contact site on an atomic level. Invariably, this resulted in a gust of hydrogen ions and a bloody stump.

Jane twisted the wrench and switched it on. Phoranxth’s eyes widened silently as most of his trunk instantly vanished. White fluids cascaded from the gaping wound, as the byriani assassin reverted to his true form and collapsed, lifeless, on the ground. She switched off the wrench and capped it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Concept Art: Takeo Sato

“They’re almost here,” noted Taryn upon reaching the massive door, and she wrung the grip of her claw hammer.

Takeo gripped a section of heavy pipe.

Father Stone’s zealots shambled into view, drawn from a mix of races. They advanced along the stairs and dropped down from nearby roofs and catwalks. Bound with red ropes, festooned with liturgical ribbons, their tattered attire did little to hide their ruined bodies. Faced with nightmarish death, millions had accepted Father Stone’s nepenthe. It left them with patchwork flesh, silvered eyes and glinting clusters of glutted nanobots. Moving in unison, they spread out to form a semicircle around D’Arro’s team.

“Cajun, get that door open,” he said and faced the mob directly.

“Right away.” Fumbling somewhat, Cajun retrieved a prybar from his pack. Takeo and Taryn formed a protective wall at D’Arro’s back, separating Cajun from the horde.

“Back off,” Takeo growled, and he raised his heavy pipe. “We’ll defend ourselves if you force us.” He narrowed his eyes.

A wiry, gaunt human man stepped forth, wearing a crown of jagged teeth that had been embedded into his scalp. “You are trespassing,” he rasped as he moved close to Takeo.

“We’re here for Father Stone.”

With all his might, Cajun strained against the door. He heard something pop within, but it didn’t budge. “Oh, come on,” he huffed, and he drove the prybar deeper into the space between the door and its jamb.

The gaunt man smiled wickedly, a rictus of metal teeth and receded gums. He reached for Takeo’s arm. “You would defend yourself with something so crude? How unprepared you are to face the might of this army. The blessing of conversion will deliver you from your small thinking.”

As one, a thundering chorus resounded, “Conversion!”

Takeo warned, “I said back off. Look, we’re just here for Father Stone.”

“Stone is lost.” Lowering his brow, he held Takeo’s gaze. In a deep snarl, the crowned man said, “Again, I offer you conversion.” The throng boomed, “Conversion!”

Reaching back with the pipe, Takeo said, “Don’t force me to do this.”

With a derisive cackle, the crowned man jeered, “Don’t force you to strike me with your primitive weapon? By all means, take your best shot.”

“Not so primitive,” Takeo breathed, and he swung at the old man’s head with all the strength he could bring to bear. However, when the pipe struck home, there was no crack, or clang or crunch. Instead, there was a muted splat as Fogg deformed and spread around the crowned man’s face. He set to reprogramming the nanobot symbiotes.

Moving as one, the ravening horde swarmed toward D’Arro’s team. Howling, they reached out with claws and hungrily peeled open their mouths.

“It didn’t work!” Taryn shouted, and she lunged and dodged, her hammer striking and gutting in short arcs.

“Fogg needs time,” Takeo barked. He was a blur of precise hits and kicks, and he sent a dozen opponents to the ground. “Just hold them off until it’s done!”

The door at last gave way. “There!” Cajun triumphantly announced. “Door’s open, guys!”

“How’ll we know?” D’Arro asked. His enormous wrench struck with crushing force, taking out two or three enemies with each hit.

Takeo insisted, “You’ll know!”



Thanks to Regular Jane for her delicious bokeh background. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Concept Art: Fogg

He blew into his hands, rubbed them together and glanced down the street. “There you are,” he muttered to himself. He watched Takeo slip in and out of visibility as he rode his bicycle under the street lamps bobbing in place over the sidewalk. Dressed in a black suit and long coat, Takeo looked as sharply dressed as ever. He drew close, drifted to a stop, and dismounted. Gavin smiled slightly. “Still rocking the bike, huh? I like it. Totally old school.”

Takeo lifted a brow. “Stop that.”

Gavin pointed toward the bicycle. “Want to put it inside?”

“No need,” answered Takeo, and his bicycle vanished in a puff of swirling, fading fog.

Gavin recoiled. “What?”

Takeo hunched his shoulders as he looked sidelong at his friend. “Fogg… ate it,” he answered, and he laughed dryly. “Completely by accident, of course, so he offered to be my bike until he can replace it.”

The first thing most people noticed about Takeo Sato was how absurdly tall he was. Graceful despite his height, he was lean, had black hair, and his eyes were dark as coal. His father was a distinguished kobun of the Yakuza’s Yubitsume Syndicate, and Takeo was being groomed to take his place in the family business.

Peering toward where he had seen the haze dissipate, Gavin said, “Hey, Fogg. You can come too, if you like. I’m sure Taryn would be happy to see you.”

The metallic mist coalesced into a small, spinning saucer-style craft with a bank of bright lights that flashed in sequence. A tiny orb dropped out and displayed the words, “Yes please.”


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Concept Art: Filan Portssi

“Let’s see who else wants to do some eleventh hour delving.” Zerki asked around. Before long, she, Valerie, Gavin, Filan and Takeo gathered and began their search for a way to enter the mountainous corpse of the planet-shaper droid.

“Taryn didn’t want to come?” Gavin asked.

Takeo said, “No, she’s helping D’Arro direct traffic.”

“There!” Filan interjected. “Oh, sorry.” She practically bounced as she pointed to a well hidden hatch some distance from the harvest site, seated along Behemothylax’s dorsal segmentation. Impatiently, she hurried to the passageway and strained against an embedded handle. It slowly turned and opened with a hiss of icy fog.

“Good find,” said Zerki, and she stepped close, hunched down to peer into the guts of the leviathan. “We’ll need light.” With the rip of Velcro, she loosened a pouch cover on her vest and produced a small disc mounted to a heavy band that had been sewn into its pocket. Glancing to Gavin, she added, “You have one, too,” and she tapped hers on. A brilliant cone of light issued forth.

“Oh,” he muttered and soon had his own torch ready for use.

Filan offered, “I can go full body, if we need it.” Her hands and forearms faintly glowed.

“Good to know,” said Zerki, and she descended through the hatch. Her companions followed.

Darkness gnawed at them, shrouded recesses filled with glinting blades and jagged points. Carefully, they made their way along the sub-dorsal service catwalks. Below them, rows upon immeasurable rows of devices sagged in immense ropes and stacks, hung indifferently over the scarred heart of the mountain so very far below. Regularly, the silvery blue wash of lighting danced up along vaults of machinery.

Zerki raised her hand, and the others paused while she checked her data tablet. “If these old schematics are still accurate, we’re heading for the central computer core.” She looked long at the darkened, cramped, grime-coated, grated pathways. “It’ll be tough going, by the look of it, but it’s possible we could find out why it went haywire, and ultimately why it just shut itself down.” An excited smile tugged on her lips. “We could be the first people in the entire galaxy to know the truth. What do you think?”

Filan said, “Ooh, I could access its deep core.” She beamed giddily. “I’m in!”