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C2IP Update.3

Marshal stepped into Mick's apartment. He had used a Neo-Linguistic Programming technique from a library book to convince the superintendent to give him access. Mick had only disappeared a few days ago but somehow there was already a thick layer of dust coating every surface, almost like ash. 

The kitchenette was a mess of take-out packaging. The living room was a ruin of videogame cases and controllers (many smashed in rage), cigarette butts, CD cases, sketches and hand-written poetry.

In the small bedroom (just a sleeping bag on the floor) Marshal found the map Mick had been working on, pages pasted to the wall with lines and circles connecting them, a shot straight out of a conspiracy movie. It was the outline for Mick's next novel. 

Marshal had read Illiciterati and Evanjaculist and had been eagerly awaiting Mick's newest book. Except he had been having all these strange dreams and when he performed his ritual meditations to Odin and Merlin the gods had been telling him that something more was happening, that Mick was involved in something deeper. Then Marshal had started having these really potent daydreams at work, imagining uncovering a covert war between something called The System and a group calling themselves Counter, and it was all connected to Mick's writing. The dreams and visions and daydreams became more and more intense until he was compelled to come here...

One page was titled 'Chronoplex'. The name 'Suki', 'version GrownUp?', 'version Grandma?'. 'Project Realtime?'. 'Can we access the Missing Season?'. 'Can we learn what happened during the Millennium Incident?'.

Another page labelled 'Paraplex'. 'So what happened to the Initiated Dragons?'.

The next: 'Ultraplex'. 'Are these reports that the Counter-System was broadcasting? Or are they made up? Propaganda or just fiction?'.

'Hyperplex'. 'The Plureality Dragons Upgraded'. 'The Diner Dragons?', crossed out. 'Darius?', circled and crossed out.

'Omniplex'. 'Art, journals, music, RPGs?'. 'Project Horizon?'.

'Synchroplex'. A list of dates.

'Manaplex'. Mostly illegible. 'New job?' circled. 'Project Ellipses?'.

And in marker, scrawled over many of the pages: 'BETRAYAL'.

Marshal had no idea what any of it meant but could feel that it somehow explained everything.

He also noticed a copy of a magazine on the floor. Profile Celebrations. The cover story was about a man named Vlad Akimoto. Marshal scanned the article:

International fitness business empire mogul. Founder of "The Timeless Warrior" training regime, based on ancient lost arts of body purification through testing one's physical limits, combined with the introduction into your healthy diet of designer herbal infused beverages. Proposed by some in the fashion industry that Akimoto was the father of the "hipster" movement. Rumoured a) to be majority owner in the up and coming "Citadel" independent music label, b) to have founded the online "Barbarian" clothing line which specializes in custom design t-shirts, c) to own a number of fashionable craft beer eateries in Tokyo, St Petersburg and Munich.

Why was Mick researching this guy?


The Battle for the Hyperplex Part One: E.S.P.ionage

The intel indicated that the Ashen Tradition was seeking a powerful relic called The Hyperplex.

Collateral information referenced the Hyperplex in contradictory fashion; sometimes it was described as a Staff, others a Chalice, sometimes a Sword and, of course, a Disc. Max had lots of ideas about what the Hyperplex could be, what it might mean, how it might relate to the other Plexes they were learning about; he was the idea guy, after all. 

The rest of the team knew that ideas were important but sometimes not as important as taking action. So Max hunkered down to try and figure things out and the other Dragons went to work.

Angst learned from a contact in the Ultraviolet Lodge that the Tradition had a large-scale portal operation running in a secret sub-basement of the local Museum. 

Frank conducted some psychic eavesdropping on people entering and exiting the Museum; he confirmed that the portal was indeed active but could not determine where it led to. 

Goner was able to hack the Museum's security and Angst was able to counter the protective wards that the Tradition had set up. 

They had put the call out to Aqua and to Maggie, anticipating that things would likely get hostile once they made a move on the portal. 

When the team gathered, after a few minutes of warm reunion, they prepared to enter the Museum...


Miles To Go

The kids had finally fallen asleep, sprawled on the motel bed. She had let them watch a late night talk show and snack on candy bars from the vending machine. Yeah, maybe she was going a bit soft. 

Suki stepped out the door but left it open a crack so she could still hear the cute little snores. Scanned the parking lot. She had started learning counter-surveillance habits when she had been roughly the same age as Yuri and Hira; she wondered if she should start teaching them.

Lightning flashed in the dark, still miles away.

She lit a cigarette and took out her phone. The screenshot was a selfie of her and Olivia from... seven years ago? A few less wrinkles. Olivia was kissing her on the cheek and Suki was frowning, pretending to be irritated, but her eyes betrayed her, the sparkle in them. Suki suddenly missed her so bad it felt like a bullet in her heart. Actually, Suki knew what that felt like and this was worse. Just to brush her fingers across her cheek...

She shoved the phone back in her pocket and took another drag.


Spilling Milk

Mags Qute looked up from the book she was reading and over at Axie and waited for him to speak. His bright blond hair stood up in messy tufts as the sun streaked through the dark room. Providing light in the abandoned house.

"We've been here for three days now," she stated. Or has it been longer? Placing the tome on the table as she reached for the coffee. "When do we move again?"

Haven't we moved already?

Axie glanced at her and smiled. He had been sharpening his knife on a whetstone. "As soon as Franz and Loner return."

"Maybe they got captured?" Mags stated. They've been captured already, we know they have, so what are we doing here? Back here? "Then what do we do?"

"I guess we can cry over the spilled milk then," he replied.

No, not again...


What was that Barthes' essay about killing writers?

When they came for him none of his neighbours were surprised. 

For years Mick had been a 6.6-on-the-Richter-scale nuisance in the building. Loud music, loud video-games, loud movies, loud shouting at various gods and goddesses. Aileeza, the tenant in 2B ("Or not to be!" Mick would always shout at her when they passed in the hallway) would often point out that his whole shtick was a knock-off of that character in Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan. The other tenants didn't get the reference but they got the fact that Mick hated Warren Ellis and therefore hated the comparison, and they took some pleasure in that. Petty maybe, but they had endured and were entitled to some small retributions.

Evicting Mick wasn't an option, despite it being a cause that would have unified Democrat and Republican, Israeli and Palestinian, Team Angel and Team Spike. Mick's residency was secured due to the funding agreements as arranged by the local Arts Council and the local Mental Health Agency. Mick's presence was what kept the rent so low and ensured the other tenants could continue living there. 

"'There is no war, there is only the Dalang!'" Mick would shout about the way he both embodied and transcended the dualities of the situation, to which Aileeza would point out that he was only quoting Grant Morrison, another comic writer whom Mick rather liked but nevertheless resented being accused of imitating (although he most certainly was).

And so it had continued until the day it stopped. When they finally came for him. The other tenants weren't sure exactly who 'they' were, or what Mick had done to finally warrant apprehension - for all his sound and fury he never signified anything actually violent. 

Of course he did a fair bit of shouting as the men and women in nondescript clothing (the kind of outfits that operatives in those Bourne movies always wore) took him away in their black SUV. 

"I fucking made Max! He's nothing without me! If I had never taken that assignment for Opi8 he'd still just be a figment of your fucking imaginations! And who do you think has protected him all this time? Do you have any fucking clue how hard it is for him to even be in the world? If I hadn't kept all you assholes distracted with my rants and my jokes you would have seen right through him and he'd be thrice as fucked as he already is! So you thinking you're helping Max? You're fucking killing him!"

Three or four days later the tenants began commenting to each other on how unsettling the quiet was.


CD Two

Max Cube vs The Interdimensional 
Corporate Mofo's
The Soundtrack

(interior artwork: Max suspended upside-down in the position of The Hanged Man from Arcana 12 of the Tarot in front the Tree of Life from the Kabbalah, with the Sephirot replaced by popular icons: Keter = Yin-Yang, Binah = Radioactive, Hokhmah = Watchmen clock, Gevurah = The Invisibles' blank badge, Hesed = The Bat-signal, Tiferet = Peace symbol (on Max's shirt), Hod = Warning sign, Netzah = Crosshairs, Yesod = X-men symbol, Malkhut = Happy Face)

Track 01: ReFlex - The Politics of Dancing
Track 02: Crystal Method - Comin' Back
Track 03: Rolling Stones - Shattered
Track 04: Cardigans - Erase Rewind
Track 05: Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff
Track 06: Fishbone Beat - Goza Goza
Track 07: Air - Talisman
Track 08: Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus (Pump Mix)
Track 09: The Doors - Maggie McGill
Track 10: Juno Reactor - Conga Fury
Track 11: Kajagoogoo - Too Shy
Track 12: Destiny's Child - Bootylicious
Track 13: David Holmes - Gritty Shaker
Track 14: Cornershop - Brimful of Asha (Fatboy Slim remix)
Track 15: Queen - Now I'm Here



“There's surveillance everywhere! Every-fucking-where I go I'm being watched!”

“Max, okay, let's slow things down,” Angst said softly.

“Don't try and de-escalate me, I'm the one who fucking de-escalates people. You know it's true – they are watching me everywhere I go. And don't you dare cast one of your fucking spells on me. I don't want to be calm.”

“Okay,” she said. “That's fair.”

Max could tell he was scaring her. He took a deep breath and activated the appropriate implant. The equations began processing.

“I'm sorry, Angst. I'm not mad at you. I just got scared.”

Her posture relaxed slightly. “I know. And you're not wrong – you are being tracked. We know that.”

Max rubbed his forehead. “Do we? I mean... Jesus, it's just that everywhere... It's so loud everywhere, you know? All I hear is alarms and cries for help. And even the silences between them are just spaces for more alarms to fill. And I'm trying to figure out this whole System thing, and the Counter-System. If they're even fucking real. How do I know? It's something Control told me, but what if it's just another thing I made up. Like Maggie.”

Angst tensed again. “Maggie's real, Max. I've met Maggie.”

“How do I know you're real?” He looked at her, his eyes wide.