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"Yeah, we're going to disrupt the Mayor's press conference," Dexter said into the cell. "He's been dodging questions about the school closures all week. No more."

"My sources are saying he's got a lot of corporate connections, maybe some occult ones too," Wraith's voice came back through the phone, a hint of static.

Dex's brow furrowed. "You think there's another angle to this?"

Wraith paused. "With everything we've seen, you have to wonder. And your town's not the only place where schools are being closed at an unprecedented rate."

"With a disturbing lack of public outcry."


Dexter sighed. "You think we should call Max. Wraith, I... I was never sure whether Max helped straighten things out or whether he just made them weirder. I know we did a lot of good, and we still are-"

"I know," Wraith interrupted. "Some days Max was Ragnar and some days he was Floki. Some days he was Longshot and some days he was Constantine. Some days he was Kirk and some days he was Picard."

"Yeah, but was he the problem or was he the solution?"

"Dexter, I still have the nightmares too, about the War. And I still wonder if any of that really happened. I guess... Well, I guess I don't really know."

Dex smiled slightly. "At least we're not alone then."


“I've Got Thick Skin And An Elastic Heart” [version.Upgrade]

“I miss the Bookstore but the food here is good at least,” Angst said as she took another bite of the curry.

Max sipped on his mango milkshake.

“So...” she continued. “If everything Control told you was true, about the weapons and costumes and the subway and all that, does that mean we were working for the Counter-System all that time?”

“I honestly don't know, Angst.” He looked at her. He still trusted her and knew that she trusted him but things were different now.

Crow entered the restaurant, looking like a young black woman with short pink hair. Max waved and explained to Angst that Crow had arrived; only Max could see her. Angst slid over to make room in the booth.

“I've got news,” Crow said as soon as she was seated. “Maggie was being held in a System facility. I don't know how They got her, but it does conform to her recurring Initiation arc.”

Angst watched a serious expression come over Max's face as he stared into the air beside her. His beard made him look older, more worn out.

Crow continued. “She got out though, like she always does. Apparently she was locked in a vault of some kind but she eventually escaped. By tearing the doors off their hinges. Big doors. Metal doors.”

Angst saw Max's eyes widen slightly, the hint of a smile.

“And when the guards opened fire on her... the bullets bounced off of her. She punched a hole in a wall and leaped into the sky.”

Now Max was smiling.

“No idea if They were experimenting on her or if this is the result of all that Angel/Demon magic she used to be into. And no clue where she ran to.”

Angst watched Max pull out his wallet and gesture to the server for the bill. He asked the space beside her, “Do you have the location of the facility?”


Road Trip

Stretched out on the roadside, it's relaxing.

The car about 20 feet away. We could

be victims or snipers. Laying there perhaps

after the event or before it, possibly

an effect or possibly the cause.

You roll over onto your back and

let your head roll to the side so

your eyes fall into mine and

your hair falls over your face and

a car drives past, going down the road.

Your fingers tap the stereo when we're driving

and songs skip like stones over the water.

I've got the window cracked to ash my cigarette

and the wind is blowing your hair over your face

and you don't mind.

Eventually we take to leaving monuments,

small tokens, at the spots where we stop

on the roadside to stretch out and relax.

Once a pop can with a smiling face punctured in its side

by your penknife. Once a receipt from last night's motel

folded into a shape, improv origami. Things

like that anyway. Because it feels like that

with you. Like a fairy tale, like one

of those modern fairy tales.


Office Spacetime

Marshal glanced around and noticed that he and Javier were alone in the office. “Any leads?” he asked.

Javier waved him over. “I’m running a Mask,” he explained as he tapped at the keyboard, letting Marshal know it was safe to use the computer. The screen changed colours and a new graphic appeared.

“I found these buried in the tags of Launchpad’s incoming emails," Javier said.  "I’m going to check Altar’s next.”

Marshal scanned the list. He didn’t recognize the data:

Delta Fox
Charlie Ten.7
Angel Cake 1.7
Elephant Cobra

“I think they’re tracking Versions,” Javier said. “Think about it: wouldn’t a master-list of all variations of plureality make controlling them all that much easier? In fact, they probably couldn’t have achieved their spread of influence without having a trans-variable method of structuring and coordinating their activities. Sure, it’s creepy but you can see how useful it would be…”

Marshal nodded. He saw the appeal but there were implications, if it was even possible. Versions weren’t just parallel realities; the existence of parallel realities was a variable within a given version, a sub-criteria. Not all versions contained parallel realities.

He pointed at the screen, the list of data. One of the lines stood out:


“What’s that, Frank?”

Javier stood up quickly, looked nervous. “Who’s Frank? Marshal, what’s-“

Marshal grabbed Javier and took him down, an elbow to his throat. “Who are you?”

“I-I’m the Counter… Your Counter c-contact…”

Now Marshal stood up, releasing Javier. He looked confused.


The Writing On The Wall

It was 30 degrees in the shade. He had been skateboarding around town waiting for a signal and decided it was time for a rest.

Darius sat on the edge of the road, skateboard at his side. He took took off his headphones and wrapped them around his Digital Audio Player.

He was sipping a cola when he happened to glance up at the wall across from him and saw the graffiti.


Underneath that someone else had added in red spray paint:



Mandatory Training

"Some of you may have worked together before, others will be from different departments, so let's take a moment to introduce ourselves," the instructor said.

Max was the fifth person to speak. "Marshal Montgomery," he said. "I work at the Altar Station, incoming data mostly." He was just trusting the words that came into his mind.

The others continued sharing their names and departments. 

Max, is that you? Frank's voice sounded in his head. Max suddenly realized that the man who had introduced himself as Javier Alvarez from Launchpad Station was Frank; he looked different, probably in the same way that Marshal somehow looked different than Max, but it was him.

Marshal gave a questioning look to Javier. Max wasn't sure that anyone besides he and Maggie (and Morganfokker) had demonstrated polysonae before...

I'm not sure, either, Frank sent back. I was practicing with some trancework, meditating on what we've learned about the System, and I ended up piggybacking into Javier... Is this what it's like for you? 

Marshal shrugged slightly. The truth was that Max had been sleeping and hadn't been entirely sure this wasn't a lucid dream. Now he suspected that this Agency was a System or Counter-System front; maybe he and Frank could learn something. 

The introductions had finished.

The instructor continued, "To appreciate the importance of the Emergency Response Protocols we are learning today it's useful to understand an Emergency as a situation where there has been a loss of control; these Protocols will help to regain that control."

I wonder why they are providing this training now? Frank asked in Max's mind.


C2IP Update.1

Mick opened the locker and removed the satchel, headed to the nearest washroom. The intercom rattled off train arrival and departure notifications in a bland, synthetic voice. A security drone hummed over the swarm of commuters. Mick had taken two capsules of Glamour before arriving at the station and run some invisibility mantras - he'd be cloaked from any surveillance for about an hour. Unless the Sidhe showed up, which meant things were fucked anyway. 

Hunkered in a stall, Mick unzipped the satchel. There was a hardcover book, one of the sourcebooks for the Aeon Triumph Gun Messiahs RPG. A pencil and a piece of paper. Mick used the book as a firm surface to write on, scrawling notes quickly with the pencil on the paper.

Four System operations identified.
Two Counter-System activities being monitored, plus one potential.

Pretty George might be dead.

Max has made contact with Dexter, Wraith and Callan - still not sure if they've joined the System or have been recruited by Counter. No contact with Darius (he's been running on a parallel stream ever since the Millennium Incident I think, which Max doesn't know much about, either because he wasn't there or can't remember).

Max is still working closely with Angst and Frank

Goner's gone dark. Suki seems to be missing.

Aqua disappeared with the remains of the Subway car.

I've got some rumours on Akimoto to follow-up on.

The name Summer keeps coming up...?

No confirmed contact with Maggie.

No clues yet to which one is the double-agent.

Any idea what the fuck exactly is going on?

Mick folded the paper once and tucked it inside the book. He noticed the page he had randomly opened to: the description and stats for one of the Vatars that players could summon once they reached level 13 as a Gun Messiah. 'The Void'. 

He shivered. Then sneered. Mick was not the superstitious type.


"What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell" [version.Upgrade]

Max looked up at the moon then back at the door to the warehouse. A moment to centre himself.

Come on in, Max, he heard Frank's voice in his mind. It's okay. Max thought that his accent sounded stronger than usual.

The building was rundown, damp, empty. Frank was sitting in fractured moonlight on a stool in the middle of the cracked and stained floor.

Max heard his voice again. I need to figure out how to turn this off. Max understood; whether or not distance actually made a difference or not, being isolated was helping Frank cope.

"Are you okay if I come closer?"

I... I think so...

"No promises, I get it," Max said as he slowly approached. "What's the knife for?"

Frank's hand twitched slightly, the blade catching moonlight. I keep thinking I might need to stab myself in the eye if this doesn't settle down soon.

"Fair enough. Can you hold out for a bit longer?'

Frank's head tilted towards Max; he wasn't wearing his glasses but his eyes were in shadow. It's like... There's still this hurricane of synesthesia all around the edges. I can't let it back in or I will drown or implode or-

"Ok Frank. We can figure this out."

You've been psychic before, haven't you?

"On occasion."

I can't - well, 'see' isn't exactly the right word, but your head... I can't tell what it happening inside it. Hm. Sorry. Maybe you were hoping I could solve some mysteries for you.

"No worries, Frank. I like my privacy though, too. Speaking of mysteries, any idea what caused this?"

Maybe it's a leftover from LEGACY? Or maybe it's related somehow to that warning you got from Control? About The System and Counter-System?

"Well, if we can keep you from sticking that knife in your head this might actually turn out to be pretty cool."



I just wanted to say

To say that there's something

A song or a word or a wind

That there's something dragging through me

That there's a rhythm or a want or a maybe

For you inside of me

Afternoons with you are all discovery

and oaths and histories and maybes

There's the way you finish my smiles

There's something just around the bend

I catch your sleeve and you turn back to me

I see trees when I think of you

And a direction

And wonder if I can


Summer's Journal - Stranger In My Eyes

I finally discovered what secret Max has been hiding all these years and it's not one that should be shared ... or even posted about. All I can say is that he's a shattered soul with a million angelic and demonic voices singing in unison. If that makes sense.

He doesn't dare look into a window or mirror much for he's afraid of what he sees there. Or what he doesn't see or what is missing. He's the Bob Dylan of wanderers, sometimes coherent, sometimes ranting on in jangled words stitched together like poetry.

I know him but I still don't know him.

If that makes sense.


A Stop To Work Out The Kinks

Suki butted out the cigarette with the heel of her foot. She let out the breath of smoke and watched it trail into the air looking for symbols or other imagery to show her what was coming. Thunder rumbled upon the horizon letting her know that the storm was approaching but she was sure that it was passing them by.

She took the thermos off the roof of the car and poured herself a coffee, black. She made sure the cap was on tight before she took a sip from the cup. The sound of Depeche Mode emanated from the speaker; Dave Gahan was asking for someone to reach out and touch faith.

"We should be going shortly," she called out to the two young kids playing at the park. "We only stopped to stretch our legs and for a little pee break."

Suki was used to the stern 'just one more minute' look the two gave her and she only nodded her head without realizing she had just given in to that look. She wondered if she had ever done that to Max; she presumed she had.

"Okay, one more minute then we have to move on," she called out.

"Thanks gramma," Yuri shouted back at her.


"Everybody Need A Saviour, Baby" [version.Upgrade]

Max stood watch by the door while Angst laid out the tools. Survival knife for the athame, a coffee mug pocketed from the nearby cafe for the chalice. An air freshener, a book of matches, eye drops, a gift card for a grocery store. For the sylphs, salamanders, undine and gnomes. Lit the incense, wrapped a green scarf loosely around her neck and shoulders.

They exchanged a quick glance and Angst began the ritual. It was quiet in the motel room for some time, the sound of traffic from outside seemed to fade. Only the low whisper coming from Angst, seated on the floor in the candlelight.

"Thusa Bríd an stór, Thusa Bríd na cochaill, Sciath dom ó an toirmeasc de na sióga na tuláin, Na faeiries na tuláin..."

The candle was sputtering, the last of the wick about to drown in the wax. When another light blossomed in the room. Angst's eyes had opened and a soft but steady glow was shining from them. She was still whispering but Max couldn't understand what she was saying anymore.

Afterwards. He had made them a pot of coffee, put the TV on low. Made the space normal again. She had lain on the bed, cried a little; it had taken a lot out of her.

Then, sitting on the edge of the bed beside him, "Brigid told me that The System sometimes smuggles data in the sub-quantum imprints of recurring toxic variables... I don't think They want to eradicate disease, just manipulate how and when it spreads? I had a vision that if we surveilled Angus Mode for a decent amount of time we would divine a pattern that would give us a clue to the circuitry of Their network."

Max frowned. "We can find Mode, but Plureality is a mess right now so who knows if we'll have the time we need..."

Angst nodded in sympathy, then yawned.

"Another cup?" he asked.

"Another nap," she said as she flopped backwards on the bed, already yawning again. Max moved back over to the door, the sightline through the break in the blinds out to the parking lot.

"Hey," he said as Angst scrunched a pillow under her head. "That was really great work."

She smirked, eyes closed. "You think I haven't been paying attention all the times you did that stuff? It wasn't much harder than learning the cheer we did for the Cannons/Yetis game."


Riveta - Summer's Recollection

"I met Riveta once before, a long time ago when I was just a kid, but I guess she didn't recognize me or didn't want to remember," Summer said into the mic. "She was a cop then; I guess she is still a cop but one can't be too sure these days. Oh, it can drive one person out of your mind if not attuned to these things. Riveta is a very beautiful woman; she's smart, intelligent and she's got the right amount of sass."

She hit pause after a few awkward moments of silence as she was trying to compile the words in her head to speak. Setting the mic down on the blanket, she took a sip of the coffee and she closed her eyes as if recalling an event or image in her mind's eye.

Twin moons hung low in the sky with a third one phasing in and out, like a UHF tv station that her grandfather once had. She remembered her father standing outside toying with the antenna as her grandmother was shouting "a little to the left, a little more, there it is".

She smiled a sincere smile and then picked up the mic once again, thinking there should be one more, or was it two moons, she wasn't sure herself.


"On The Road To Find Out" [version.Upgrade]

"It's a combination of psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioural techniques, Grofian holotropic breathwork, Celtic paganism, and Taoist sorcery. Sessions can run from an hour to three, usually no more than once every two weeks, maybe more often if the person is struggling. It's formal but fluid, like a martial art I suppose."

Max sipped his tea. "Are you accepting new patients?"

Callan smiled. "Now that would be a conflict-of-interest, but you know that."

Max smiled. "Who said it was for me? Are you suggesting I need some therapy?"

Callan smiled too and looked at Max. Max held his gaze. Their banter was a script, they both knew it, the rote exchanges that people performed almost unconsciously, but when two experts at communication were involved the artifice of it all was too apparent.

Callan was anticipating Max commenting that it seemed as if Callan was trying to prove himself, justify his new career path, and he had his argument ready, about the merits of slow and graceful change rather than the sound and fury of their action-adventure exploits, about supporting individuals in gentle ways, about how real change and real healing was a long process. 

Except Callan also knew that Max knew a comment like that could sound like a judgement, and that Max liked to pretend or at least perform that he was very non-judgmental. And furthermore, that by insisting Callan had nothing to prove Max would be implicitly positioning himself as the authority even as he explicitly denied the role. 

And Callan was also acknowledging that part of him did feel as if he had to prove himself, to validate this new approach to the kind of work that they had all been doing for so long; and Callan knew that his relationship with Max was in many ways a manifestation of that dynamic within himself, that Max was in some sense a spirit he had summoned into his life to challenge him and push him to be better. 

Callan knew too that Max knew all of this, and that Max was at the very same moment wondering if he should make the comment about Callan proving himself and if doing so would somehow prove that everything Callan was thinking was true. 

And somewhere within the swirling, tangled mesh of subtext and near-telepathic mutual understanding was the mystery of what Max really did think about Callan becoming a practicing psychologist... And what Callan really thought about what Max thought...

They both sipped their tea.


The Way of the Dragon

The street plays at angles, documentary style,

a composite and a surveillance.

Faces in the ideas of images begin to appear

and reappear, feels like seeing shapes in clouds,

patterns in the wind, the apprehension of a vast conspiracy.

These beautiful faces you see

young no matter their biology,

abducted and raised in utopian theories and released,

burdened with every tale, every tale to them

a history and a precognition.

They have all the allowances granted by

all the world's mythologies.

They are to be revered and feared and allowed

as artists, burdened with the need to tell every tale for themselves,

to be allowed the chance to tell every tale for themselves.

Encounters will be subtle at first.

Imagine watching a movie, late night television,

when the moon has come and swallowed the light

and the population and the noise, like a trance.

That sound coming from the kitchen, that erratic and faint sound,

could be them and the beginnings of contact.

Or the wait for your friend to answer the door

after you've knocked, an erratic sound.

These ways to give you pause or make you attend.

They will come like this.

They will come like love, cloaked in glamours,

appear in the possibility of love.

Like looking into her eyes, across the crowded room

and the subjectivities and histories, and holding the gaze,

and suddenly your thoughts have rhythm and purpose,

as an actor making dialogue live.

The desperation and desire condensed into such a fragility of biology,

this meeting of eyes, the mathematics of the moment

like an equation of astronomy, something improbably but powerful.


Dropping The Jigsaw

The kids call it dropping the jigsaw. I call it one hell of a clusterfuck but that's the military training coming out. I really don't know what the mess is to begin with but I guess it snowballed into one hell of a shitstorm.

Well, you know that kid who lived three doors down? He was a quiet, shy one that played tons of videos games. I thought I would read his name in the paper one of these days as someone who just "went off". Strange huh? He had that aura about him. Which is a strange hue to begin with, but oh well, time would tell, I guess.

This kid cruised by on a huge motorcycle this morning, which was pretty freakin' weird since he looked like he'd put on several pounds as well as lots of tattoos. Tons of em all over his body and I was like what the hell? So, I go over to his parents and knock on the door to inquire what was going on and some young stoned girl answered and I asked to see Mr. Harboch.

The biker kid shows up and I asked about his dad and the fellow told me that his father had passed on years ago. And I was like what the heck man, I was just chatting with him the other day over the BBQ and a beer. The kid looked at me strangely and shut the door. That's when I saw that the neighbourhood I had lived in was all changed; grittier, darker like a Quentin Tarantino movie.

What is going on?