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> Chance in Plureality 7

He came to in a field. The sounds of tires on asphalt floated by with the Doppler effect. He rubbed his eyes and crawled out of the tall grass. He felt like being drunk, from the glass of water's point of view. He was actually starting to get used to it now. Balance was always hard to maintain though and he fell into the orange doors of the storage lockers.

Find an identity... Pretend. The usual course. Weather the shift.

Reaching up he grabbed at the lock on the shutter door. Someone didn't fully close it... Either that or reality was throwing him a bone. Dropping the lock to the ground he reeled the door upwards.

Stumbling over some worn faux-leather recliners, he squeezed himself between a propped up mattress and reached for the brown boxes in the back. Boxes held parts of people's lives, he knew. Stored away the trinkets that held memories, these time capsules of sorts.

He dug through quickly. Not wanting to handle too much at once. He'd come to realize across shifts that during these "calibration" moments he could take on the memories stored in objects. He wasn't sure if this was some sort of fallout, or if this is what the Angel and Demon wanted him to be doing.

It was a blessing and a curse at the same time. He could hide from the sweeper teams, those seeking the reality deviants, this way. You blend in properly they look right past you. They scan your mind, and if you happen to be carrying enough hijacked memory from someone they might just overlook you.

It's hard taking on someone else's life though. You don't always have the understanding you need to fully adapt. You've got fractions of the whole... And if you're not careful... You impale yourself on the sharp end of the stick of their pain.

Rummaging through the boxes Keane picked up his new identity... A writer... Struggling apparently. Lost... Self-destructive... A small red box he lifted sent a jolt of loss. A woman with red hair. Brilliant smile... Miles away. He dropped it with a pained cry.

Sudden spurt of rage and the box shoots out into the night air, its contents scattering along the gravel. Opening the new box, digging frantically. A jacket, worn beaten leather. Shrugging the mantel on the memories dug in. Sore feet. Vacant highways. Wanderlust.

Then he saw the phone... These little computers held so much of a person these days. Calibration was nearing its end... He grabbed the phone. A different woman's face now. A hollow feeling now. But a goal... Hear her voice... Even though he's never heard it himself. The memories he'd stolen were there... But memory wouldn't do this time... It wasn't as simple as hiding from the sweepers this time... He had to find this woman... It was going to be dangerous, it wasn't going to make sense... These weren't his memories. This wasn't his life... But this one held a key, he knew it.

Keane crawled back out of the locker, over the pile of scattered contents, and headed for the highway, down a road he had never walked, but one his stolen memories knew.


"Who Prophesize With Your Pen" [version.Upgrade]

"But you don't get to punch anybody," Max said with a smirk.

Wraith laughed. Warmly, not wickedly. Max blinked.

"You look surprised," she said. "I meant it when I said it."

"I believed you, I did." He took a sip of wine, the candlelight reflecting in the liquid, refracting in the glass. "I guess... I guess out of everyone I never thought 'happy' was a version you'd wear. Or that if you had to, you'd at least be unhappy about it."

Wraith kept smiling as the waiter cleared their salad plates and began serving the main course. "Maybe you never really knew me all that well," she said. "Or maybe you knew me the best, I could never be sure."

The chef of the restaurant had appeared on a Reality TV show that Max used to watch; he was excited to try the dish. He was thinking about what Wraith had said.

She started eating. They finished the meal in silence, but it was comfortable.

After dessert she said, "You thought Dexter and I might end up married, raising a family in a small town somewhere. Or you wanted us to - and maybe in some version out there we did - but in most versions it's not about happy, it's about the work."

Max nodded. "You're working now," he said, glancing at the other well-dressed patrons.

"The couple by the window overlooking the harbour; the CEO of a transnational corporation and the ambassador of a relatively small but controversial dictatorship. Their second meeting this month. By the end of the next I will have gathered enough information to publish an expose that will do them both a decent amount of damage for the rest of the year. No, it's not as dramatic as infiltrating their hotels and assassinating them, but..."

"No, I understand." 

"Besides Max, you were the one who convinced me that writing was a way to make magic happen."


A Look Into The Mind

A Look Into The Mind Of Someone Who Lost Theirs
by Hank Markins

Press Syndicate (National)
June, 6, 2001

When patients were committed to the Morganfokker Asylum for the Mentally Unstable in Upstate New York they arrived with little belongings; a rucksack, or backpack, or even a suitcase jammed packed with their only possessions they ever had with them. It's sad to say that most of those who entered Morganfokker Asylum never left.

The mental hospital had an average stay between 20 - 25 years. So, when patients passed on they were buried in graves in a cemetery adjoining the institution. Their possessions were then locked away and forgotten over time.

In May of 1994 Morganfokker Asylum was closed due to a fire that broke out in ward three. The fire spread quickly and gutted out the wing.

It wasn't until 2000 when the now-closed institute was bought and is now being renovated in condominiums. It's when the workers discovered several items; rucksacks, suitcases, notebooks and other trinkets stored away in a locked basement file-room.

In all a total of 333 boxes were found that were left behind. Unclaimed and lost in time.

Allison Ellen is cataloging each box and it's opening a window into the lives - and the minds - of the people deemed too unwell to be allowed in society. Ellen is a local historian and her job is putting the pieces of the past together.

"It's interesting indeed," Ms. Ellen said. "Unlocking history and discovering the lives of those who were admitted into this asylum. Abandoned by their loved ones and left to waste away in this place."

Ellen finds a box marked; Khoob, Maxmilliam H. The contents inside are: a small Mickey Mouse alarm clock, a Commander Cody Signet Ring, a deck of playing cards - with weird sigils drawn on the face cards as if some sign of Tarot, three small tumblers each with a scratch at varied levels and the words 'Ok Now' etched beside them, a picture torn from a King James Illustrated Bible showing an angel hovering over the sky with her arms outstretched and written below her Magriel, a key ring with 33 keys on it - each a different colour and several with various shades of them, a medic alert bracelet, three passports and several newspaper clippings of various recipes from different newspapers.

Ellen goes on to say that there is no record of this Maximillian H. Khoob and it's not sure if he had left on his own accord or in a pine box.

Ellen admits that the records could of been destroyed in the fire that gutted out a ward.


Dictation Vacation - Summer's Recollection

Summer watched the stars appear in the evening sky one by one as if someone was pricking holes in the fabric. Venus and Mars appeared near the crescent moon in the heavens above. The waves lapping on the shore gave her a sense of calm and serenity, something that she needed after the events that had happened.

A lone gull called out in the night and she was shaken from her daydreaming.

She continued dictating into the tape recorder.

"It feels dream-like at times. More like the sensation one feels after waking up from a dream and their mind is trying to sweep the dream away so the brain can focus on the tasks at hand; get up, go to the bathroom, make the coffee, the dull day-to-day things we do and take for granted.

"The girl they called Tatter... Well, I don't know if she really was a girl at that - she was trans, but that's not what I mean: transgirls are girls... I mean that she was alien-esque in nature, was rather strange and unique. She had the appearance of a teen but it seemed like a mask she had on. Though you could see the illusion if you looked at her through the corner of your eye."


Incident Report A-2271





TO: ------------------------


THIS PHENOMENON IS STRANGE AND WE HAVEN'T FACTORED IN --------------- ------------------- ----------  OR EVEN ---------------------------------------- -------------   BUT ONE THING THAT REMAINS IS ONE THING AND THAT IS ---------------------------




"Things'll Get Brighter" [version.Upgrade]

Max looked around the classroom, movie posters on the walls, quotes from Toni Morrison on the chalkboard. The sound of the students playing in the yard; recess on a sunny, spring day. 

"It's great, Dex," he said.

Dexter leaned back in the chair behind the desk at the front of the room. Smiled and nodded. He had let his hair grow in; it made him look a little younger. Maybe he was younger, somehow, this time.

Max perched on the edge of one of the student's desks, looked at his longtime ally. His friend? 

"This wasn't a shift, was it? You chose this, made it happen."

Dexter nodded again. "I got too tired of too many folks with the same skin colour as me getting killed by too many folks with the same badge as me."

"Well, you've taught me a lot over the years; might as well share. They're lucky to have you."

"Thanks, Max. When I'm not at school I do a lot of community organizing, activist-type stuff."

"Those protests at the new LEGACY site downtown?"

Dexter smiled.


A Night At The Lab

Max stepped out of the car and walked around to the entrance as he tossed the keys to a young fellow rushing up to pull the car into a private lot. Max opened to door for Maggie who was dressed to kill in a red Baroness Lumiche dress with a dazzling necklace by Ammon Pryce that cost as much as a small nation.

Max looked spiffy in his Hugo Nass suit, diamond cufflinks and tie pin as well. His $3000 hairstyle didn't even budge in the slight breeze. Glancing at him one would think that he was a dead ringer for that 80's icon, Max Headroom.

"Max over here!" he could hear the ladies calling him. All with fPhones ready to snap a picture of him and flood the intrawebs sites like Fall'n, Tweetie and Novelhead. His agent said it was golden to be snapped up around town and his ratings would hit the roof, making his brand even more known.

Tonight was the opening of the hottest club in town, The Lab, owned by Morganfokker Productions and catering to the filthy rich and lavishing luxury. The place was going to be all over the news in the morning...


A Recollection Of A Reflection - Summer's Recollection

Summer sat on the bluff overlooking the sea, enjoying the gentle breeze as it caressed her skin and whisked her hair about. The sun was setting upon the horizon which painted the sky with a reddish glow which reminded her of a Bloody Mary.

She poured herself a cup of coffee from the thermos beside her and took a sip.

She then placed the cup down and picked up the mic of the cassette recorder and pressed the play and record button at the same time. She could see the wheels of the cassette moving which told her that she could speak. She brought the mic up to her mouth and let out a breath.

"I don't have anything else to add, since the events beforehand are just jumbled fragments of memories. Did any of it happen? I couldn't tell you. It felt real, it felt dream-like, it felt like images on a silver screen projected before my eyes."

She paused for a few moments, letting the wheels spin away, dragging the fabric of tape before she brought the mic up once again.

"I'm convinced of whatever happened and the world keeps spinning. I'm grateful to the powers that be that opened my eyes to the frailty of what is real and what is truth. I'm only making this recording of what happened as a personal journal, a record of events that happened and now the traces have been wiped away by the Monitors of Time. Who knows, maybe when the next time someone presses play on this thing all they will get is static..."


Poem For the Postmortem Mind

If the answer's in the wind
What is the question?
Nothing is sacred
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Sayings etched on the walls of the mind
Truth revelations hidden in scrawls
Lies conceal the truth that matters
We are who we are
Or who we think we are
When we think what we've become
It's just the tip of the iceberg.
Underneath we are layered
like onions on a counter top
waiting to be sliced or chopped
and put into a sauce.
Universes in my coffee cup
Sipping away billions of what ifs
Merging with the meta life
One can only forgive.


A Chance Meeting

Desmond Hill sat at the table reading the paper as he waited for the breakfast special to arrive. He had been doing this routine for the past six decades now and it was good to know that some things never change in life.

"So what's the scoop for today?" Marley Bishop asked him as she approached with a fresh pot of coffee.

"Oh, the same thing that went on yesterday," he replied and slid his cup over to her.

Marley topped it off and dug into her apron and put two 11% creamers and a packet of sweetener on the table. Then she wandered off to the next table to see if the two truckers wanted a top-up and Desmond went back to scanning the obituaries.

He saw that George Neilson Jr had passed away the other day and he was hit with a wave of sadness. He got to wondering when the last time was that he had chatted with George. Maybe it was a little over two years, but they had constantly waved when they passed each other on the streets or highway.

"Damn," he muttered. He made a note to attend the wake tomorrow. After all, it was the least he could do for an old friend.

The restaurant door opened and set off a jingle as the chimes were activated, snapping him out of his thoughts. He glanced at the door to see a young lad enter and his mind went to a spot of recognition but it was blurred by time. The fellow was in his late 20's or early 30's, white with a thin frame. His dirty blonde hair was spiked up some; Desmond thought the 90's were coming back again - it seemed it was the style back then.

But by gum he thought he knew this fellow from somewhere, or perhaps he could be the son of someone he knew but he couldn't exactly place it at the moment. The young fellow spotted him and Desmond could see the look of recognition in the fellow's eyes as he saw him and he let out a smile.

"Desmond Hill!" the lad said as he approached. "There ya be!"

"Here I be," Desmond replied. Desmond didn't want to ask the fellow his name; he wanted to see if his memory would kick in. "So what brings you here?"

"I heard the news and I had to come," the fellow said. "He's being waked tomorrow."

Aha, Desmond thought, he's George's grandson. Though the fellow could be just a close friend of the family, as well. Still there was something about him that was familiar.

"I just came in to grab a coffee and was about to swing by your place," the youth said. "Just wanted to see how you were doing as well, since it's been a while."

"It's been more than that," Desmond bluffed. His mind still trying to pin a name to the fellow.

"Yeah, you're right," the man said with a slight nod. "I knew that you and George grew up together and ended up being in the same unit..."

The unit he was talking about was in Viet Nam back in '69 when the robotic rebellion...

"Yo Max!" a Japanese girl called out to him as she entered. "The gang is waiting for you!"

"Cube?" Desmond asked. Then it dawned on him; the fellow in front of him was Sgt. Cube. How the hell was this possible?

"Look Des, I got to hit the road - there's a matter of importance that's not too far from here and I will swing by tomorrow and we'll get caught up..." Max said. He got up and headed for the door leaving Desmond stunned and wondering how this was possible.


C2IP - WaveAnomalyEcho Cubed

The sound of static fading...

“Hello Max,” Control said.

“What do you want?” Max asked.

“Relax for a second. It was very hard for me to reach you, but we have time now. Have a coffee. I don't mind if you smoke.”

Max poured himself a cup of coffee. He wasn't sure that he smoked anymore. He took a sip. “It was really hard for me to get here, too. What's going on? Things feel stranger since...”

Purgatory,” Control said. “Max, I need you to consider the possibility that you are still in Purgatory.”

Max had considered it. He took another sip of coffee.

“Max,” Control said. “I need you to consider the possibility that you are still in the motel room, with the laptops.”

Max had considered it. He took another sip of pop.

“Max,” Control said. “I need you to consider the possibility that you are still in the Lab.”

Max always considered it. He took another sip of tea.

Control glanced at the screens on the wall. “Alright then... Max, it's time that... You need to be made aware of something called The System. It is an organization that seeks to govern plureality. Using advanced Neo-Linguistic Programming, Noo Media techniques and Omega Magic it attempts to participate in the versioning process in such a way that allows it to direct and exploit the possibilities of Noo-Mo Omniism in accordance with its own agenda, the main goal of which is to sustain itself at all costs.”

“They sound like Legacy.”

“The System is what agencies like Legacy, MJ-13 and MK-Omega aspire to be. It operates on an entirely different level. Its activities can manifest as overt authoritarianism or subtle forms of oppression. Its operations are both visible and invisible. It created the Subway, the Elevator, the UFO and the XXXXXXXXX using technology stolen from The They. A great deal of the information that travels between versions is controlled by The System.”

“And you work for them...?”

“There is another organization, designated the Counter-System. Its agenda is even less clear, but it often acts in ways that mediate or even contradict the workings of The System while using many of the same methods. It is suspected that the Counter-System may be involved in maintaining key elements of Continuity as a form of resistance to The System's ultra-colonial goals. For instance, locations such as the Diner, the Bookstore, and the Brownstone. Or items such as uniforms and weapons. It is the likely source of the Metafesto. It may also be behind a pirate data broadcast known as 'Faux News'.”

“Okay, so you work for them...?”

“Current analysis suggests that the Subway has been under the control of a Counter-System operative known as Bishop for quite some time. The System recently undertook a direct action to retake the Subway. It has also deployed a squad of agents to capture a team of Dragons, although that order appears to have been upgraded to kill.”

Max frowned. “So? So why are you telling me all this? After all this time? If any of it is even true.”

“The System is on the move, Max. It is reacting to something. Something is coming. A threat. I'm telling you this as a favour. 

"As a warning.”


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Echo Squared


Please stop, Angst thought. There was only static coming through the cell phone now. The bathroom was still empty. Max was gone. Angst wasn't a quitter but she needed things to pause; maybe after seven years she was just out of practice with the violence and lunacy and chaos. Maybe I can't do this anymore.

But then she realized that things had stopped...

Thirty seconds earlier Suki shouted, "Here they come!" as the mysterious agents launched their final assault on the motel room.

Right when Goner and Frank finally returned, the stolen car swerving into the parking lot, crashing into one of the agents' vehicles, crushing one of the agents, the engine revving and tires squealing, Frank at the wheel ready to drive into more of the attackers. The car was the only weapon they had; the equipment cache they were hoping to find didn't exist in this version.

"Thatta boy Frankie!" Suki shouted, firing her gun, the agents firing back.

Frank spun the wheel and swiped two more agents but they were still outnumbered and outgunned. Bullet holes erupted in the front and rear windshields. Goner cracked his knuckles, knowing they'd have to jump out soon and go hand-to-hand. Frank had seen Suki returning fire but not Angst...

Then the damnedest thing happened. A stuttering flash of light, a sound like thunder, and a subway car tore into the parking lot, materializing out of thin air, crashing onto the pavement, sparks flying, slamming into and scattering a lot of the attackers. And before it had skidded to a stop, the doors slid apart and Aqua and Akimoto, her in her signature cowboy hat, him wearing his trademarked army jacket/tropical shirt combo, leapt out, Akimoto swinging his broadsword and Aqua throwing punches with her gauntlets.

When Angst stepped out of the bathroom her friends were gathered in the parking lot, in the calm after the carnage, the sound of sirens fading in. She looked at Aki and Aqua and at the subway car. 

Everyone was smiling.

"I guess things are about to get weird," she said, and joined them.

"Sing it," Suki said.


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Anomaly Squared


"Please stop!" Charlotte whispered harshly as she adjusted the costume. Mick was fidgety, more nervous than he wanted to admit. Marshal was in full-blown stage-fright but trying to deep-breathe it away. Simon actually looked relaxed, but he had swallowed two pink pills about fifteen minutes ago.

Miguel dropped down from one of the lighting scaffolds. "They're starting to get restless."

They all looked to Suki. She looked up from her clipboard. Frank could tell that they all wanted her to give the go ahead but he knew that she wouldn't until Mallory had called. The show didn't start until the director told them all to "break a leg", whether she was backstage or in the hospital.

The murmurs of dissatisfaction were growing louder from the audience.

Frank believed in the play that they were about to perform, but he also knew that it was a risky piece and that if they started off with a grumpy, hostile audience that it might not work. Something needed to happen.

Then Marnie stepped in - she always entered as if there was a spotlight shining on her. Vlad was flanking her, holding up a CD.

"He's got the music of To Be Continued," she said with a sly smirk. If she was bothered that Vlad had a copy of her only hit single with her vocals removed it didn't show. "It'll buy us four and half minutes, five with applause."

Suki grinned. "Sing it."


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Wave Squared

The dragon is discovered.

The transmission is received.

The powers are merged.

The grave is opened.

The object is decoded.

And Max doses on Plex and enters the Portal.


As Aqua was about to throw the first punch there was suddenly light coming in the windows on her right side - a station! But the subway car was not slowing down, in seconds it would clear the platform and return to the dark. 

In those seconds one of the windows smashed inwards, Aqua dropped into a crouch, the man turning in surprise, and Akimoto crashed into the car, thudding into one of the poles in the aisle, keeping his footing amidst the sprinkling shards of glass.

The man produced a pistol from inside his jacket and with a smooth, simple motion of his broadsword Akimoto chopped the man's hand off. The subway had passed through the station and was back in the dark of the tunnel. Aqua felt a strange pulse of emotions about having missed a chance to stop and exit the car, but she didn't let it distract her from launching a massive Superman-punch at the man as he watched his hand fall away from his wrist. He quickly joined his hand in a bloody pile on the floor.

"Check on Bishop!" Aqua shouted - the noise of the train was louder through the broken window. She began searching the body of the man. Generic dark clothing, generic weapon and ammunition, no identification or markings. For some reason he reminded her of those agents that Jason Bourne was always running up against in the movies.

"He's breathing!" Akimoto reported. 

Aqua adjusted her cowboy hat. "What's going on, big man?"

"I'm on a mission from the gods!" the barbarian roared, a wild look in his eyes. "We have to rally the Dragons!"

"And how do we do that?" She looked at the unconscious body of Bishop.

Akimoto grinned. "Play your favourite song on that tiny music maker of yours and hold on." 

He looked at the emergency stop button.


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Third Echo


Dexter ordered two more salvos aimed at the latest breach in the wall, rubble exploding as the cannons' shells crashed into the charging bulk of the Demons, some of the creatures still slipping through to be met with the eponymous weapons of the Swords on the ground. Commanding the Haven forces in defence against the Demons' siege – the Arcana had unanimously elected him to the role – reminded Dex of conducting an investigation. You had limited resources - evidence analysis, witness interviews, confidential informants, suspect interrogations – or in this case the skills, talents and tech of the Staves, Swords, Cups and Coins, and you had to decide where to direct them and what to give attention to, what leads to pursue that would most likely lead you to the truth. Dexter's truth today was the survival of the people of Haven. Dex had been a decent cop, along time ago, and he was doing a better-than-decent job at directing the forces at hand, but the Demons were vicious, they were mighty, and they were many. It was not so different than the fighting he had endured at Frontline, but Frontline had fallen...

Dexter pointed with his staff to the northern tower. It was an order to Callan, who was down on the ground, in the thick of the fighting, but always watching for guidance from the commander. It was, based on the patterns of attack so far, where Dexter suspected the next surge of Demons would strike. The staff was the one that Marshal had given him, the strange man they had met in the wasteland. Dexter wondered in every spare moment what had become of him and Wraith. And he still wondered why the Arcana had sanctioned his quest – they said that they would explain once (and if) Haven was safe. Dexter was used to mysteries; the lifetimes he had spent adventuring with the Dragons had forced him to make some sort of peace with unsolved cases.

And he had made peace with death. He had certainly sent enough enemies to the grave, some more deserving than others. And since contracting the Sickness he knew that his end was coming sooner rather than later, regardless of how long he could fight off Demons. The people though, the citizens of Haven, they deserved a chance at a longer life, a better life, and so he would do what he could to give it to them.

Dexter trusted that Callan would be directing the Swords to the new position at the northern tower. He broke away from the scene below him to check in with his team. The Chief Stave gave him a quick rundown of scouting reports from the western wall. The Chief Coin rattled off a list of remaining munitions. The Chief Sword offered a brief analysis of troop distribution. The Chief Cup had a message – Arcana Seventeen wanted to see Dexter.

In her chamber in the central tower, the sounds of the battle outside faint whispers, the Arcana showed Dexter a device, a relic from the founding of Haven.

“I remember that,” Dex said. He felt tense, needed to get back to the fight, but had a sense that something important was happening here. “We had found it in the ruins, thought it was maybe a piece of a Grid.”

“And the first Seventeen kept it and passed it on to each of us who filled the role after her, as a reminder that there was a world, a world of possibilities that had existed before the coming of the Demon Army. That we may one day return to.”

Dexter nodded. He realized that he had long ago stopped dreaming of better worlds, only of survival instead, and he felt a great sadness.

The Arcana continued. “Less than an hour ago, Commander Washington, the device began receiving a signal. An audio message... I wrote down what she said, as best I could.”

Dexter took the sheet of paper, read the precise handwriting.

If I am right about what this is then the Arcana should have a similar device stored somewhere, from when Haven was founded...I have been trying to send that device a signal from this one, and now this one has received a transmission, so now I think I understand how it works... If I do and this is transmitting... Dammit, it's always so complicated... Here goes: It's Wraith, I'm with Darius... And we are at the Portal, where the Demons came from... And we received a transmission here, on our device... It was strange but he figured it out, Max did...

Dexter's eyes went wide. He kept reading, had a brief flash of memory, of reading a science fiction novel when he was a teenager.

Marshal was Max... I wonder if the Arcana knew, somehow? Max deciphered the message – he said it was from Control. That he needed to meet with Control. And then he went into the Portal...

'Of course he did,' Dexter thought with a smirk.

So if you are somehow receiving this, please get this message to Dexter or Callan or the Arcana, please let them know that something is happening... please tell them to keep fighting.


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Anomaly Three


Suki blind-fired two rounds through the window, glass shattering outwards and inwards, the attackers' weapons appeared to be using normal bullets this time, just lots of them, shredding the curtains, chewing up the bed, the opposite wall. She was talking with them, two shots like nodding politely during conversation, letting them know that she was still hearing them, still paying attention – Max once told her that gunfights were just another form of communication, usually an argument, but they could also be a debate or a confession or a lecture or even therapy, and that all the standard techniques of active listening applied. So Suki was listening and replying while she was also trying to puzzle out why they had reverted to standard ammo after using those weird mind-guns before, trying to understand the point they were trying to make... And she was also waiting for Max to come out of the bathroom, Joy and Pain blasting, a moment she had waited years for, except that Joy and Pain, like the Godhammer, had yet to manifest during any shifts and Max, despite the spectacular eruption of violence in the motel room, was still nowhere to be seen.

“I'm going to check on him!” Angst shouted from where she was crouched beside the bed, holding a scavenged hunting rifle instead of her uzis. Suki had missed this, when they all became borderline telepathic during combat. She blind-fired another three rounds, interjecting to change the flow of the exchange.

Angst had not kept up with her cheerleading but she could still round off a wicked one-handed cartwheel that had her at the bathroom door in a smooth second, then slipping through.

No Max.

And a pause in the enemy's gunfire, a moment of silence while they gathered their thoughts, prepared to articulate the real point that they were trying to make. Suki reloaded; she was pretty sure that she knew what they were going to say.

Angst looked at the empty tub. Her heart was aching. Her cellphone buzzed.

Suki shouted, “Here they come!”

The gunfire resumed, more intense. Angst answered.

A voice she didn't recognize. Bullets started splintering the bathroom door. “Beware the Morganfokker.”

“Who is this?” she asked. “Professor?”

Suki was shouting something. The voice said, “What the KLF is going on?”


“To be continued.”

Suki was still shouting, gunfire like thunder. Angst shouted into the phone, “WHO IS THIS?”

The motel room went quiet. The voice said, “This is Control. Is Max there please?”


Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Third Wave


“We found it. We bleedin' found it.” Trump sits down gracefully on the floor, cross-legged. “I don't generally like to do that much shooting, Max.”

“Simon. I'm Simon right now.”

“Yeah, 'course.” 

Three days straight of sneaking, spying, charming, cheating, meshes, meetings, double-crosses, demolitions and then one final quick-cut, hand-cam, techno-soundtracked gunfight. The mooks guarding the penthouse had been outfitted with Hades Cortexes running Guillotine and Plague mods, Spectrum Corp combat tech and that perfectly nasty mix of cold professionalism and crass thuggery. It was as tough as a dystopian, hypercore, noo-mo omniist mythical quest should be.

Who hired the guards, who rented the penthouse, who transported the target here on what occult schedule are all just figments, names and licenses of phantom businesses and agencies, made-up mixed-metaphors like a steady autumn evening rainfall of fabricated data spun like spiderwebs from secret agendas lurking deep in the Grid, whoever is really running things since the Fall of Legacy. All that matters is the object on the table in the middle of the tangle of corpses, a faintly glowing cube like from that old-time movie The Avengers, the port to the most powerful and sophisticated surveillance node in Omegatroplis and maybe the Universe, The White Room.

“You gotta wonder though, who did build it?” Trump asks while Simon stalks the room injecting each of the bodies with Entropeez, dissolving the Cortex links at the synaptic level, just to be sure none of them can be remote-activated. Zombies are in another cycle of popularity lately, and that extends beyond a third reboot of The Walking Dead franchise into some grisly paramilitary applications. “Do you figure it was Horsebreeder?” 

Simon, a designer Polysonae identity running in Max's head on the Horsebreeder-engineered Omega Cortex, shrugs. Simon is about completing the mission, solving for x, while it's Mick who's more about the y's/whys/wise. And it will likely take an appearance from Marshal for the final hack into the Room. Likely the toughest Mesh he's ever run, Tatterdemalion-level work, and for that to be anywhere close to a potential possibility then Max is likely going to have dose on Plex...


Callan rejoined them at the table. He nodded. The scrape of chair-legs on the wooden floor as they shuffled to make room, Dex grabbing an extra seat from the table beside them, the prospector seated there nodding his assent. The man seated at the table Callan had left started to re-shuffle the cards. The bartender glanced at them, frowning. Everyone tense, these strangers in town, except the man with the cards who was grinning. Callan poured himself a shot from the bottle on the table, the scrape of the whiskey sliding down his throat.

“The gentleman's name is Mister Brogan Mirk, a man of property and interests in a number of businesses, resident of the Canyon for over a decade,” Callan said in a low voice, the music from the piano further masking their conversation. “Once I began buying drinks he started to relax, and once he started winning he started talking.” 

“I'm not sure that directly questioning the locals is the safest route to our destination,” Darius said.

“Everyone here knows why we're here, preacher,” Wraith said, glancing at the glances they were constantly receiving from all the other patrons.

“So long as we can keep things friendly,” Dexter said. “For now,” he added with a look to Mags.

So Callan recounted what he had learned from Mirk. The tale as they had heard it was broadly true – Sugarcube had gotten into it with this Logollos fellow and had gotten gunned down. Mirk had known Sugarcube from prior visits to Omega – the drifter had even stolen one of Mirk's horses once but then done some gunwork for him to settle the debt. Logollos had been good for business though, so Mirk had been on the fence when the showdown approached, to the point where he actually refused to place a bet on the outcome. 

Another shot and Callan leaned in close to the table. “Now I reckon you'll agree with me that this is where the tale turns conclusively from tragedy to mystery...”

Mirk, one of whose business interests involved gunsmithing, claimed that the revolver Logollos used in the duel sounded different from a regular weapon. Furthermore, Mirk, who also had interests in the Canyon's funeral business, claimed that the corpse buried in Judgement Grotto was not Sugarcube's. The actual body was, apparently, delivered to an associate of Logollos', of whom Mirk knew very little other than that he was renowned for breeding horses.

“And now if someone could kindly lend me five dollars?” Callan asked.

“Excuse me?” Dexter asked.

“Now that losing is no longer profitable I need to win my money back,” he said with a wink.

Mags tossed him a wrinkled bill. “And we need to dig up Sugarcube's grave, and if he's not in residence then we need to track down this horsebreeder.”


Jiro answered the door and raised his Alien Revolver. The sights auto-scanned the figure standing there, analyzing for evidence of cloning, shape-shifting, holographic disguise, and other standard forms of deception. The gun beeped.

“Mostly normal,” Jiro confirmed and lowered the weapon.

Mackenzie smirked. “That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.”

“I thought we were supposed to be Code White,” Jiro said, moving aside so Mackenzie could enter the apartment. 

“I wanted everyone to be safe, in case the object was what I thought it was,” she said, taking a seat on the old, ratty couch. 

Jiro sat down beside her. Despite his gruff posture, the kid had missed his friend. “So it wasn't? We're safe?”

Mackenzie looked at him. “On the contrary.” She began talking about the Plureality research that she had stolen from Omega Station 12, about a theoretical state of existence called the Metaplex, and how it had been hypothesized that objects and possibly even entities could originate from within this 'place' and travel to our universe. Mackenzie had suspected that what Magnus had discovered was one such object, and that meant there was an assortment of hypothesized risks associated with coming into contact with it – hyperdimensional infections, psychocellular mutations, and/or being tracked and targeted by Plex entities. That's why she had initiated Code White to keep everyone separated and hopefully safe until she could maybe figure out what was going on.

Jiro rarely understood Mackenzie when she talked about this Plureality stuff, or Omega Magic or Neo-Linguistic Programming. He knew though, and had seen enough weird things, to take her and it seriously. She had told him once about how she had shot and killed a man, part of her program, who had learned too much about it and had become too dangerous. So he listened closely.

“Now I was just going off the pics Mag had sent, and comparing it to diagrams and equations in the research, but I eventually discovered some patterns occurring in the geometry of object that were transcribable as a code.”


“I think the object is a transmission from the Metaplex. I've managed to turn some of it into English...” Mackenzie pulled out her phone, tapped open a text file.

“And if it is, Macks, then it could be a danger? We could be in danger right now?”

She paused. “You're right, Jiro. I'm sorry. I was excited by what I figured out and wanted to share it with somebody. I shouldn't have-”

“Stop it, doofus. I'm glad you came by. Besides the bank account is almost empty and the landlord is finally starting to notice that there's never any adults around the apartment.” They shared a smile. “Alright, so what's this thing saying exactly?”

“It reads kindof like a mix of surrealist poetry and those bizarre junk emails... Like the first line is 'Beware the horsebreeder'.”

Jiro frowned. “Mackenzie, you know I'm a polyglot, right?”

“Yes, Jiro. You know seven languages. And you're ambidextrous and can play the trumpet and hold your breath for over five minutes.”

“The name of that man you told me about, the one you shot...” Jiro's tone was very serious. “There is a type of horse called 'Morgan', and the Dutch word for breeder is 'fokker'...”


Aqua stared at Bishop's unmoving body and watched as a man stepped out of the conductor's booth. Stepped over the body and turned to face her. 

Aqua felt very afraid. She stood up though, faced the man. There was something so strange about him. They faced each other in the aisle of the subway car, like a showdown.

“You're him, aren't you?” she asked.


“The one Max talks about. The one he shot and killed. The one who haunts him. Who chases us, who's always messing with us.”

The man stepped forward. Aqua reached down and picked up her gauntlets, began strapping them on. The man kept walking forward. The lights in the car flickered. From her headphones on the seat she could faintly hear a new voice speaking. The man approached, Aqua raised her fists, strained to hear what the voice was saying over the sound of the subway hurtling through the endless tunnel.

The man approaching, the voice repeating: This transmission is coming to you.