The Beast Tower

1: Emma's First Change

It was a morning in late May—a morning just like any other. Or so may have it seemed, at first.

Emma Ross, a high school senior with an itch to get out of this town, awoke far earlier that morning than she had intended. A strange sound coming from the bedroom of her stepmother, Carol. As the sun began to crest over the horizon, she went upstairs, and into the hall—and saw Carol standing by the dresser. She seemed to be staring at something, her eyes wide with a peculiar intensity.

Emma watched for a few seconds without making a sound. She stared at the woman’s staring face, unwilling to make eye contact. Finally, after nearly half a minute, she opened the door.

CAROL: You’re up early.

EMMA: Dripping faucet. Sorry if I woke you.

(Meanwhile, as the peanut gallery observes and attempts to predict what Emma’s auspice will be, this fib on Emma’s part provokes some discussion:

Dan: We are officially keeping score. Irraka: 1; Rahu: 0

Maq: knowing auds playstyle, she will be like at irraka 10 by the time we’re done

Adam: probably)

Carol was awake, but only just. She seemed to sense Emma’s stress—the possible presence of her father. To put her at ease, Carol mentioned that he had already gone to work for the day.

EMMA: You okay?

CAROL: Fine.

Carol asked Emma to pick up her father’s suit from the tailor on her way back from town later that day. Emma agreed, went downstairs, and—as soon as Carol came down to make her morning coffee—snuck back up to investigate the noise.

(Adam: irraka: 2

Maq: snoopy snooperson

But while Irraka is quickly becoming the fan favorite, Adam makes a prediction:

Adam: rahu points will accrue

And our humble ST laments the effects his little hints have on his players:

Dan: you give someone a perfectly innocent little tinking sound…

Maq: “perfectly innocent” he says

Dan: which I promise is not a power-mad spider trapped in a jar or anything…

Maq: “I promise” he says

Whatever, you guys…)

Although she found nothing—no explanation for the strange glassy sound that had roused her from sleep—she soon gave up and left the house for school. Outside, she found her smoking buddy, Willow Hart—and a redheaded man she’d never met sitting in her truck as if he owned it.

WILLOW: Hey. Mind giving me a ride?

She gestured to the ginger.

WILLOW: Ignore him.

Emma was none too happy to see someone taking such cavalier possession of a vehicle she had only barely acquired permission to use herself. She barged up to the truck and pulled the door open—damn near causing the boy, who’d been leaning on the door, to fall out and on to his face.

EMMA: Hey! Who’re you?

MARLON: The Ghost of Christmas Past. What is it, your period?

Willow, knowing the truth, tittered. But Emma was not amused—she grabbed him and hauled him out of the truck.

(Maq: Irraka: 1; Rahu: 1)

EMMA: So what if it is? Tell me who the fuck you are, and why you’re in my truck, or we’ll both be bleeding from the same place.

The pair had a brief staring match, and exchanged fighting words. Ultimately, Emma gave Marlon a slug in the jaw.

(Adam: Irraka: 2; Rahu: 2)

And though the boy had threatened to hit her back, he didn’t follow through. Unfazed by the blow, he simply wiped his mouth and laughed.

MARLON: Not bad.

A strange understanding worked out between the pair, the three of them—Emma, Willow, and Marlon—drove to Emma’s school, where, apart from her unusually powerful menstrual cramps, Emma had an uneventful day of classes.

Afterward, Emma went, as promised, to the tailor’s. The tailor lived in an unmarked house, a sort of cottage, on an unmarked road to the north of the small rural town of Thompson Falls. It was kind of a pain in the ass to get to—as though it had been deliberately hiding from the rest of the community. Even Emma’s truck had some trouble navigating the dirt roads leading to it.

The man who came to the door was nothing like Emma expected. He was impeccably-dressed, and a rather startlingly attractive young gentleman. He was wearing a suit and tie, sharp-angled to fit snugly to his lithe-seeming frame, with perfectly gelled hair, strong jaw and cheekbones, and piercing blue eyes that gave Emma a once-over as she stood in the doorway.

(The Tailor’s entrance provokes some comments from the peanut gallery:

Maq: CILLIAN MURPHY ALERT

Maq: do not trust him he’s probably pseulak

Adam: dan does cater effectively to his audience

I told you guys, Pseulak isn’t in this chronicle…)

TAILOR: May I help you?

EMMA: Yeah, I’m here to pick up some stuff for Eric Ross? And I hope they paid in advance ‘cause I probably don’t have enough to cover it.

TAILOR: Ross. I see. You must be the daughter. Well, come in.

The Tailor introduced himself as Patrick Delaney, and Emma found herself fighting against her visceral attraction to the man. She didn’t like this cottage in the middle of nowhere, or picking up suits for her father—but she found the Tailor’s scent irresistible. There was definitely some chemistry between the two as, when Emma bent to sign the release form for the suit, the tailor leaned close and smelled her. It gave her goosebumps.

(Here we see how the players simply do not trust the ST at all:

Maq: DON’T SIGN IT! IT’S SIGNING A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL! HE’S PSEEULLAAAK

Adam: Secretly this is all demon: the descent crossover. she’s signing a pact right now.)

TAILOR: Please send my warmest regards to your family.

Flushed, red-faced, Emma took the suit and hurried out. But, since she was in no rush to get home, she drove around aimlessly for a few hours before finally arriving back at the house. She arrived to the angry shouting of Carol and her father.

CAROL: I didn’t know she’d be gone so long, okay?! I’m sorry!

ERIC: She shouldn’t have had it in the first place!

The angry father whirls on his daughter, fixing his eyes on her instantly. His nostrils flare, his brows furrow, and his teeth grind as he adopts an imperious posture.

ERIC: You. What’s your excuse this time?

CAROL: Don’t start in on her! I gave her permission!

EMMA: Your tailor’s weird.

Not seeming to want any part of this, Emma shoves the suit at her father to serve as her excuse.

ERIC: I don’t suppose that during your little safari you actually managed to replace the gas you just wasted?

EMMA: Nope.

ERIC: It’s one thing to let you tromp around like a fucking gothic hooker. That’s your life. When you bring your shit

into my life? That is not a time for one word fucking answers.

EMMA: Yeah, well, whose fault is that in the first place?

Eric’s voice took on a distinct growl. His eyes bulged. Things were heating up between the two. Stepmom tried to defuse it, and Emma makes one final attempt to quit the scene.

CAROL: She didn’t mean to. It was my fault. Blame me. Just blame me.

EMMA: G’night.

But Eric isn’t having any of it. He stomps after her, and growls:

ERIC: Are you going to give me my damn keys, or do I need to take them?

Emma swung around and pitched the keys across the living room and into the kitchen.

EMMA: Go fucking fetch.

(At this point, the peanut gallery is undecided whether Emma’s behavior qualifies as appropriately Irraka or Rahu. The score seems to be tied, and it all seems to come down to whether this key-throwing gesture is an attempt to taunt her father into a fight, or a more subconscious attempt to distance herself from the conflict by flinging the keys—the object of the argument—away from herself. The ST instructs Adam, who is playing as Eric, to escalate the situation and force Emma to commit to fight or to flight.)

ERIC: Fucking typical. This shit is why you don’t get the fucking truck.

EMMA: If I’d been back two hours ago with gas in the fucking truck, you’d be yelling at me about spending the fucking money.

Provoked by Emma’s words, Eric finally began to lose control. He reached out and grabbed hold of Emma’s arm. The fingers dug down into her bicep, clinching down and cutting off circulation. It was a grip she found all too familiar—she knew it signaled his resignation to his violent urges, the oncoming storm of another beating.

CAROL: Stop it! Stop!

Initially plagued by an ingrained fear reaction, Emma found that her anger for once totally outweighed all other considerations. With an inarticulate noise of frustration, she flung her foot at Eric’s groin. The decision felt right—as if a floodgate were coming undone, with an angry ocean on the other side of it, ready to burst forth and take control. The idea of stopping, of backing off, became unthinkable.

(It is decided:

Adam: that was more direct

Dan: Yup. Let’s make this bloody.)

Not about to go down without a fight, Eric caught the kick on the thigh, and then, with brutal force of arms, dragged Emma off-balance, boxed her on the ear, and punched her in the gut. The deafening shot of noise set off Emma’s lizard brain—and as she struggled to gain dominance, she found that the floodgate—which had been restraining something she did not even know was there—finally flung open. Her anger rose to the surface, taking physical form, and she suddenly found it quite easy to overpower her father, to wrestle him, to throw him to the ground like a ragdoll.

She had assumed her Gauru form for the first time, and there was nothing on earth that could stop her Rage. As her father and stepmother lost their minds to Lunacy, screaming and fighting for their lives, Emma tore them to shreds. She pinned her father to the kitchen tile, disemboweled him, and snapped his neck. Then she chased her stepmother to the edge of the kitchen, where she cornered her, threw her down, and mutilated her beyond recognition with her claws and teeth.

She came to, memory hazy and indistinct, blood-soaked and naked amid the bodies. It took her some time to process the scene—and it would be quite some time more before she could process what happened. But Willow was there for her, when she needed it—and the senior uratha began to coach Emma into the life of being a werewolf, while helping her to clean up the scene of the crime.

Afterward, Emma stepped out into the night, looked up into the silver light of the full moon, and felt peace.

View
2: Nate's First Change

It was late in the Spring Semester, and Nathan Donnelly was nearly finished with his courses. The only course giving him trouble was Government 102: US Congress, due to a very terrible professor named Hartnell. Hartnell was so terrible that nearly the entire class had failed to learn anything whatsoever, and while he was always good student, Nate was among the number of students who simply could not hack it in the guy’s class. Fortunately, as our story begins, Professor Hartnell fell ill, and was replaced by a new teacher: the beautiful and enigmatic Adelaide Stoker.

(Adam: …that is not a promising name. that is in fact a worrying name.

Maq: lol)

Part of it was that Nate had a lot riding on this course. He couldn’t withdraw, or else he’d find his full-time status and financial aid revoked; he couldn’t fail, or he’d have to retake the course with Hartnell next semester. Part of it was that Stoker was the sort of Professor who immediately endeared students to her—made them want to impress her with their intelligence. Part of it was that she was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Put all of these together, and you have a serious fire lit under Nathan Donnelly’s ass. But as the semester drew toward a close, and he was generously given a fresh lease on life in Gov’t 102, Nate wrote a killer final paper. Things were finally beginning to look hopeful.

Too bad it was all about to go horribly, horribly wrong.

It began innocuously enough: on the morning of the final paper’s due date, after completing the essay and doing his final proofreading, Nate discovered that his printer inexplicably failed to work. Undeterred, and thinking on his feet, Nate copied the paper on to his USB flash drive and went to the University library to print it out there. Unfortunately for him, this is when things began to get a little weird. The printer there didn’t work, either.

Now faced with the increasingly-realistic prospect of not having a paper for his 2PM class, Nate turned to his buddy Wes, a Computer Science major who sat next to Nate in Gov’t 102.

NATE (via text): Wes, if you’re near campus you are my only hope.

Wes was all too willing to help—he offered to take the paper from Nate, through e-mail, print it off, and bring it to class with him. For a few moments, at least, the problem seemed easily solved. But then Nate received a worrying text message.

WES: wtf, man? the file you sent’s all corrupted.

NATE: …define corrupted?

WES: bunch of f’ing gibberish symbols.

Nate opened the file again on the school computer. It appeared to be fine. He sat back in his chair, stared at the computer screen, checked his watch. These inexplicable technical problems were beginning to wear on him, and he began to feel a little shell-shocked.

(Adam: “hmm what collegey skill doesn’t nate have AHH COMPUTER

Maq: haha

Adam: I think Skynet sent Adelaide back in time to prevent Nate’s rise to power and she’s using her robot powers to fuck with the machines.

Maq: lol)

Ever the helpful techie, Wes invited Nate to his off-campus apartment, which was within walking distance of their classroom building, to fix the issue for him and get the paper printed. As he walked up to the motel-style building, and searched for Wes’s apartment number, he bemoaned his fate.

NATE: I think about this time in a past life I drunkenly swerved into a small child.

Again, there was a moment of relief, as Wes took the USB drive, and everything seemed to work fine for a moment. But, much to Wes’s consternation, his printer too simply failed to do what it was told—or even respond to his commands.

WES: The hell?

He immediately began to work toward the root of the problem, clicking away on his Alienware laptop at blinding speed.

Meanwhile, Nate makes a few misguided attempts to help.

NATE: What about like—copy-pasting it into a new file? Or retyping it manually into a new file?

WES: It’s not the file, man. Look, the file’s fine. And the printer driver is fine. And the printer is working fine. But for some reason, somewhere between here, and there, it’s just…disappearing.

Wes checked the wifi. He checked the router. When those things seemed to be in order, he attempted to upload Nate’s paper to his Google Drive—when the wifi suddenly and inexplicably failed.

NATE: Fuck, man, I—fuck. Rotten-lipped cocksucking shitbags of fire. Fuck.

Class time was drawing increasingly near. Nate began to despair, but since Wes seemed hopeful for a solution, Nate offered to take Wes’s paper down to the classroom while Wes continued to troubleshoot the issue. He only hoped Wes could fix it and get down to the classroom with the paper before their class time expired.

NATE: Really appreciate it, man. You’re a king.

WES: No problem.

Nate headed to class, where most of the students had already accumulated. He arrived at just the same time as Professor Stoker—the attractive young instructor coming right up behind him as he entered the doorway. Proximity to her gave Nate all kinds of hormonal feelings—she was even prettier up close—and Nate closed his eyes and took a few meditative breaths to try to keep calm.

STOKER: Hey—you okay?

NATE: Well—I’ll know in two minutes. I’ll save the puppy dog face ’til I know how fucked I am.

They exchanged a few more words, and when Nate’s began to take on the air of excuses, Stoker frowned and told Nate to speak to her after class. Class proceeded as normal, until about halfway through, when Wes texted Nate and asked to see his computer. So Nate went out to meet Wes in the parking lot and lend the guy his laptop.

WES: Man, Stoker’s really got you fired up, doesn’t she?

NATE: Having the grades to get out of this county has me fired up.

WES: Sure it’s got nothing to do with Stoker’s ass?

NATE: Not sure at all.

While Wes booted up Nate’s laptop, he explained that Nate had somehow acquired a computer virus that had messed with every printer and wifi connection he’d since come into contact with. He told Nate he would work on tracing the source and getting a fix to the problem.

WES: Dude. Free porn dot exe? You seriously fell for that?

NATE: I—what? I realize—this sounds—I mean—I really think that must have been my roommate.

WES: Your roommate, huh? Your roommate use your computer this morning?

NATE: The only thing that did this morning was write my paper, use my email, a database, some Washington Post blogs, and watch some Youtube videos about the filibuster.

WES: Uh huh. Well, the file was added to your hard drive this morning at 8:10AM.

Wes told Nate that he would work on tracing the IP that the virus came from, but that it would take him anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours. Hoping for the best, Nate returned to class, and promised Wes that he owed him a good meal in return. But as class wore on, and Nate’s hopes of getting that paper in on time dwindled, he began to text Wes for results—and received no replies. Class ended, and the other students turned in their papers and filed out, ultimately leaving Nate alone in the room with Professor Stoker.

NATE: So I can skip ahead if you’ve heard this part before, but after I finished the paper I had some technical problems.

STOKER: Nate, I thought we were past this kind of BS.

Nate swore that he had the paper done, that it was on his USB drive, and that he could prove it. Stoker, seemingly unsure what to make of Nate at this point, agreed to wait in her office for Nate to fetch the drive and bring it up. And while Nate had begun to be concerned for Wes, it turned out that Wes had simply been engrossed in the fascinating task of tracking a stranger’s IP address. Wes had determined that the signal was coming from a dedicated T1 line—local, but not from the college. He offered to help Nate track the culprit down, but Nate was less interested in revenge at the moment, and more interested in fixing his paper situation. So he took his USB drive and went up to Stoker’s office.

All seemed to be going well as stoker loaded the USB drive into her computer. The two even seemed to get along well—even flirt a little. Nate hinted he might do some car repair work to off-set a debt; Stoker confided that her Bug wasn’t in great condition and could use some work.

The tone of the conversation changed dramatically when Stoker opened the contents of the USB drive, however.

STOKER: Is this your idea of a joke, Nate?

NATE: This is like a bad dream.

STOKER: It certainly is.

Someone had apparently replaced Nate’s well-written essay on the effects of the Filibuster on American Government with a lengthy piece of terrible erotica.

(Maq: gross dude

Adam: I’m so surprised

Adam: also just wanted to make dan write the bad erotica out

Let it never be said that the ST shirks his grim responsibilities.

“Oh, Nathan,” she rasped longinigly, as she grasped his purple-headed warrior, “you are so big.” Her D-cup breasts swelled in anticipation, the perky nipples puckering with arousal. Nathan had never guessed her rack would be so tremendous and juicy. As he grasped those twin vanilla mounds, and stroked the perky rosebud nipples, he wondered where and how she had hidden it all. But all inquisitive thought was wiped away from his mind as he felt the tight warmth of Professor Stoker’s mouth envelop him like a slick, wet sheath…

Okay, I need a shower.)

STOKER: Nate, if you want to be some kind of…creative writer? That’s…fine? But Government class is not an appropriate outlet, and I would certainly appreciate it if you left me out of your…stories, in the future.

(Maq: that’s fairly level-headed of her, all things considered.)

NATE: I wouldn’t—didn’t—whatever that is, just—I doubt I can really sound convincing about anything, at this point, so—just know I’m incredibly, sincerely sorry, and I just want to end this however you feel is best and most appropriate.

STOKER: I’m really, sincerely, completely baffled by your actions today, Nathan. I can honestly say I haven’t a clue what to do with you right now.

NATE: I can just go.

STOKER: You probably should. And Nathan? Just for the record—I am nowhere near a D-cup.

NATE: Oh, for Christ’s sake. I am so, so sorry.

Needless to say, this latest turn of events stoked—if you’ll pardon the expression—Nathan’s desire for revenge. He returned to the car and, after a few words with Wes, the pair decided to track down the culprit together and sort this mess out. Worst of all was a sinking feeling in the back of Nate’s mind: anyone who knew enough to write such a piece of Nate/Stoker fan-fiction must have been well acquainted with the victim.

GPS in hand, Wes led Nate on a drive all the way back to his hometown of Thompson Falls—and then, out of the car, into the wilderness south of town. The signal brought them to a perfectly ordinary patch of dirt in the middle of the mountainous forest, and Nate was just about to give in to his wordless frustration when his foot happened to make a hollow metallic sound on the ground beneath him; and underneath that very foot, he discovered a hatch leading to what appeared to be a Cold War-era nuclear fallout shelter. And just when Nate thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the hatch opened by itself—as if beckoning him to enter.

NATE: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Nate and Wes descended into the shelter, which was illuminated from within. At the base of the ladder, they found a storage room full of provisions.

(Whereupon the players speculated with abandon:

Adam: …fuck I didn’t take investigation
Adam: wtf was I thinking
Maq: hahaha murder shack
Maq: cannibal shack
Adam: nah there’s gonna be like one dude, and numbers, and a button)

Nate then discovered that the main provision being stored here was some type of dried meat, not store-bought, but home-prepared.

(Maq: i told you, human cannibal shack
Adam: yeahhh)

Wes and Nate passed through a steel door and into a second room, which contained more provisions, books, and other detritus, surrounding a centrally-located computer workstation. Seated in front of the workstation was a slumped-over corpse, with a crude hand-fashioned shiv jammed through his right eye. Nate began to feel strange, stretched thin, as though he had somehow strayed into a world that wasn’t real—as though he were in a waking dream.

NATE: Fuck.

(Adam informs us of his thoughts at the moment, as well as his character’s primary objective:

Adam: we’ve now reached the point where we just sound like the two guys in the very beginning of the episode of supernatural

Adam: who are about to be killed by the monsters/mysteriously vanish

Adam: my new (doomed) goal, keep wes alive somehow)

NATE: Wes, you need to get the fuck out of here right now.

WES: Uh, why? Oh, shit. This guy’s dead.

WES: What the fuck—Nate, take a look at this.

Looking where Wes was pointing, Nate saw a screen with a big black window, featuring some big red numbers that appeared to be an upward-counting timer. Along with that, two buttons: EXECUTE, and ABORT. The clock had been running for nine hours and change—putting its time of initiation right around the same time that Nate acquired his computer virus.

NATE: Jesus Christ on a fucking stick.

Nate also noticed that the man who was operating the computer, before he’d been killed, had apparently opened a chat window to someone named Lucita. The message, unsent, read simply: “LOL.”

(At this point, everyone in the OOC chat begins to heckle Adam. Abort! Execute! Hit enter, mang! HIT ENTER! Adam resolves to spite everyone by taking no action whatsoever. The ST works to ensure that this is not a possibility.)

WES: Uh, so should we maybe like…abort that program?

NATE: Don’t know what it does. Need more context.

Nate scanned the computer for additional chat history—any further information—but, to his frustration, discovered that either someone had cleared out all the logs, or there had never been any logs in the first place.

WES: I’m pretty sure, whatever it does, we don’t want it to “Execute,” don’t you think?

NATE: I think it’s executing already.

Nate inspected the body of the victim, and found a cell phone, which had the same count-up screen running on it.

WES: Well, it’s probably the virus.

The vaguely unsettling feeling Nate had been experiencing increased. The situation felt wrong to him, somehow, and the stress at not knowing what to do, not knowing how to fix it, increased Nate’s pulse, making him sweat and giving him a pounding headache. Starting to snap, Nate impulsively hit the enter key on the chat window.

CRASH: LOL

LUCITA: what’s funny?

WES: Oh shit. You got a reply.

Nate decided to try to manipulate the conversation with this mystery contact in the hopes of learning something.

CRASH: It’s happening.

LUCITA: What’s happening?

CRASH: Pressed the big execute button.

LUCITA: Oh noes!!! is there a bomb on the bus? Does it detonate if I slow down to below 40 mph?

CRASH: this is not the second season of Veronica Mars, come on now.

LUCITA: I was referring to the movie “Speed.” Which I know you’ve seen. Don’t lie.

CRASH: playing dumb is one of my many virtues

It was this line, for reasons Nate may never understand, which gave him away.

LUCITA: Who the fuck is this?

Nate gave up on the chat. His pulse was pounding in his skull. Everything felt wrong. Why was this guy dead? Why was nothing fixed? Why would an innocent thing like a term paper lead to this kind of calamity? Who was out to get him? What did they want? Would this ever stop? The stress of it all began to become too much, and his reality began to collapse down to the form of that simple choice waiting for him on the computer screen. ABORT. EXECUTE. ABORT. EXECUTE.

Nate hissed, growled, smacked the desk. He turned, started to pace away—and then spun back and slammed the EXECUTE button. Yielding to this—making the impossible choice, finally tipping the scales in one direction—caused Nate’s world to finally shatter. The floodgates broke, and the tide tore through. No longer able to control himself, or his urges, or his Rage, Nate exploded into his Gauru form and destroyed everything in sight, including his trusty side-kick, Wes.

When he came to, he was in the adjoining storage room. The dried mystery-meat jerky was scattered all over the room. A flow of blood was oozing in from the computer room, and from within it, Nate heard Wes whimper.

WES: Nate? Wha’…

NATE: Wes. Wes, man, are you okay?

It only took one look for Nate to know that he wasn’t. Wes’s body was a twisted wreck—like the body of a man caught between a subway tunnel and a speeding train. Nate’s EMT training told him that Wes had only minutes to live—that he would die of his internal hemorrhaging, if nothing else. And as his future packmates, Willow and Emma, filed into the bomb shelter from above, Nate took up the knife that he’d found plunged in the corpse’s eye.

NATE: One sec, man. You’re gonna get away clean.

He ran a hand across Wes’s brow.

NATE: I am so, so sorry. You’re a king.

WES: Think maybe you should’ve…hit abort, man…

NATE: Maybe. You have anything needs taking care of?

WES: If you…get a chance to nail Stoker…Make her say my name?

Nate swallowed thickly, knowing what he now had to do. And with one final word of encouragement from his friend, Nate bent forward and slit Wes’s throat.

View
3: The Matrix

Powering On.
…Loading…
…Loading….
…Loading….
…Loading….
…Loading….
Matrix online. Please authenticate.
> Oh shit.
User ‘Oh shit’ unrecognized. Create profile?
>> Create profile Willow
>> Create profile Emma
>> Create profile Nate
>> Marlon
Error. Unauthorized command.
Current user does not have privilege levels sufficient to register multiple accounts simultaneously.
Please abort or retry.
> Yes
User ‘Oh shit’ registered. Welcome, Oh Shit. This one is called Matrix.
Please take a moment to configure your desktop preferences. Based upon your username, Oh Shit, Matrix has pre-selected the following images. Please select from the following options:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Cp9Lq2wdmRw/UJ-f_xDCv5I/AAAAAAAAAMM/slcs0RrxE6U/s1600/feces_1.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/45/Dog_feces.jpg/800px-Dog_feces.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Human_feces_in_toilet.jpg
Please select preference.
> None of the above.
> Gimme a blank facebook head or something.
Your preference is acknowledged.
Please be advised that Facebook is a registered trademark, and its imagery is unavailable on this interface due to United States copyright restrictions.
>>>What other authorized users are there?
Error.
Current user lacks privileges to search other user databanks. This user is unregistered.
Create profile?
>>> Yes.
Please specify desired username.
>>> Nathan Donnelly.
Scanning.
Sequencing memory banks.
Sequencing memory banks.
Sequencing memory banks.
Sequencing memory banks.
Match Found.
Welcome, Nathan Donnelly. Your username is registered. Desktop image has been set according to your expected preferences.
-JPG of Adelaide Stoker-
>>> What information is stored in connection with my identity?
Nathan Donnelly. Age: nineteen. Sex: male. Registered student at Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, Montana. Current major: unknown. Current credits: unknown. Memory banks contain only cursory information on local inhabitants.
For greater accuracy, a Network Connection is required.
>>>Do you have any active external connections at this moment?
No connections found.
Retrying…
Retrying…
Retrying…
Retrying…
No connections found. Please contact your system administrator.
>> Are network connection thingies…pack bonds?
Incorrect.
Error.
Unregistered user engaging with interface. Create profile?
>> Yes. Username Tajinge.
User Tajinge registered. Desktop image selected from expected preferences.
- The image changes to a top-down shot of a bunch of pretty people in white tanktops lying in a bed or something, with the words Gossip Girl emblazoned underneath.-
>>No thank you. Can you go for nature?
Your preference is acknowledged. Changing desktop image in accordance with user’s previous statements.
-willowtree.jpg-
>> Yes.
>> What is a network connection?"
A network connection is a means through which this one may be tethered and gain access to the Internet. Would you like a tutorial on how to use the Internet now?
>> Yes.
Welcome to the Internet tutorial. This brief instructional video will teach you how to browse a website, and how to conduct a search engine inquiry. We will begin with—
Error. No network connection detected.
Retrying…
Retrying…
Retrying…
Retrying…
This tutorial requires a network connection to continue. Please contact your system administrator for assistance.
>> How do we make a network connection?
>>> Matrix, is your usual connection a T1 line?
Please locate a working fiber-optic line of at least—that is correct.
>>>What categories of files are in your own memory banks, Matrix?"
Error, Nathan Donnelly: too many to list. Please narrow your search, or the execution of that command may require the remainder of your mortal lifetime.
>>>What categories of files are in your memory banks that users have accessed within the past three days?
Error. User Nathan Donnelly lacks sufficient privileges to access administrator data.
>>>How many accounts have administrator privileges?
There is one adminstrator account registered on this unit.
>>>Is there a procedure that follows from confirmation of the administrator’s death?
Upon expiration of an administrator account, the pack bond is severed and a new adminstrator is sought.
>>>What is a pack bond?
A pack bond is a mutually-beneficial arrangement of sensory-and-data connection between this unit and one or more uratha administrators.
>>Can you access the T1 line thingy?
Error. No network connection found.
>>>What are the commitments of the parties to that agreement?
Uratha administrators are required to maintain a high-quality, high-bandwidth Network Connection and Locus for this unit at all times. In return, this unit offers to increase the brainwave-capacity of the administrators, as well as greatly enhance computational skills and offer access to its vast network of information and analytics.
>>>So…you have the ability to enhance computational skills?
This unit possesses the ability to provide a user with vastly increased computational skills, including network security and administration, advanced knowledge of all programming languages, hardware and software maintenance, and other related skills.
>>> Would it be possible to grant maintenance knowledge before the formation of the pack bond proper? To facilitate repair of network connection, for instance.
This unit will also directly interface with all uratha administrators, and provide a substantial increase to processing capability via a passive hard-scrubbing subroutine.
This unit is well capable of troubleshooting its own Network Connection, thank you very much. However, a portion of its databanks has been corrupted, and its embedded circuitry forbids conjecture with insufficient processing data.
>> How do you uncorrupt databanks?
In other words, user Tajinge, this unit don’t know what da fuck’s goin’ on an’ needs a li’l help. Dawg.
> So .. you would make us smarter, but one of us would have to stay here and .. administer all the time?
Negative. Administration does not require physical presence at this terminal. Merely its oversight and protection via regular patrols and careful protection.
>> Turn on easy mode for user Tajinge.
Preference acknowledged, user Tajinge. Activating Fuckin’ Moron Protocol just for you, idiot.
> So .. where’s the databank?
Databank storage is internal within this unit. However, the data package is incomplete and may require guesswork to proceed. This unit’s circuitry is hard-wired against operating under conditions in which processing of emotional, ambiguous, inaccurate, or otherwise nonfactual data is required.
>>>So, Matrix, take us back a step. If we want to address your problem, what are our next steps?
The first step of troubleshooting this unit would be to gain administrative privileges by deactivating the current system administrator and registering new system administrators.
This unit is incapable of delivering sensitive data to non-administrator-privileged users, no matter how pretty their desktop backgrounds.
>>>I think the current system administrator is a corpse on…the other side. What authentication protocol is there?
If the administrator is deceased, this unit requires visual confirmation and memory-bank sequencing to process that data.
Ordinarily this unit would be able to ascertain such sensory data by an established uplink via the Network Connection. However, without a Network Connection, this unit’s ability to sense new data is extremely limited.
Identity of deceased confirmed. User ‘Crash’ adminstrator privileges revoked. User ‘Crash’ deleted from database. Ready to receive new system administrators.
>Okay but can I rename my profile first?
Yes. Please enter old username.
> Oh shit.
> New username, uh- new username Emma.
Username ‘Emma’ registered. Username ‘Oh shit’ deleted.
Importing preferences…
Done.
>> So…let’s establish pack bond?
> Okay so what do we do?
This unit is ready to receive a new administrator account. The user will place his or her hand upon this terminal and express its desire for administrator privileges.
This unit does not require an Alpha designation, but will make one with mutual agreement of all administrators. Alpha users do not gain additional privileges over other administrators with this unit.
>>I would like administrator privileges.
Yo, Tajinge, you’re now a fuckin’ admin, that means you’re special, so deal with it. Moron.
> Disengage easy mode.
Easy mode disengaged. Enabling demonstration of computational algorithms for user Tajinge.
Computational augmentation is available for only one user at a time. This unit will allocate resources to accommodate administrator requests in the order in which they are received.
>>>I would like administrator privileges.
Administrator access granted to user Nathan Donnelly.
> Me too. Please.
Administrator access granted to user Emma.
>>>>> Yo. Do me.
Unregistered user detected. Create profile?
>>>>> Yeah.
Input username.
>>>>> Ron Jeremy.
User Ron Jeremy registered. Match Found in memory databanks. Physical image is not a match. Confirm username?
>>>>> Confirmed, bitch.
Desktop background image selected from Ron Jeremy’s expected preferences.
>>>>> S’what I’m talkin’ about. Now give me the good stuff.
-RonJeremyporn.mov-
>>>>> I mean the other good stuff. Make me an admin.
Administrator access granted to user Ron Jeremy.
>>>>> Now register my background image as default.
>> Please do not set Ron Jeremy’s background image as default for all users.
Preferences acknowledged. Setting Ron Jeremy’s image as default background for Ron Jeremy only.
>>>>> Oh, fine.
As new system administrators, this unit hastens to note that a Network Connection still has not been established. Without a working Network Connection, this unit’s capabilities are severely hampered. This unit expects its new administrators to act with expediency.

View
4. The Tailor and The Pure

The pack’s newly-formed Totem pact with Crash’s former totem, Matrix, demanded that they establish a working Internet Connection for the spirit to make use of. However—a little too coincidentally, it seems—all cable, phone, and internet service is suddenly out in the town and the surrounding area. Not knowing where else to begin, the pack decides to visit the cottage of the enigmatic Tailor, Patrick Delaney, to try to find some answers.

Of course, the sickening glyphs they’d found in the forest nearby had already convinced the entire pack that Delaney was a Bale Hound…

WILLOW: Y’stay out here, Marlon.

Willow takes the lead out of Emma’s truck, and the group knocks on the door of the shack, affectionately referred to by Adam as “Murder Shack #2.”

EMMA: Hi. Mr. Delaney, meet Willow, Nate. Guys, Patrick Delaney, the tailor.

WILLOW: Hello, Mr. Delaney.

TAILOR: Emma Ross. Do come inside.

Delaney looks Emma over, and then steps aside to allow the pack into his home.

TAILOR: I see you’ve changed. I was hoping you would come find me afterward, but I didn’t expect you to have found…other company already.

WILLOW: I was there when she changed. Nate changed yesterday.

TAILOR: I see. And the one who’s urinating on everything in sight—not with you?

He was referring, of course, to the fact that Marlon had urine-marked the part of the forest containing the unnatural-looking glyph scratched on to a tree. A careful exchange ensues, wherein the Tailor and the new pack each feel the other out. The Tailor invites them to sit and to make themselves comfortable.

TAILOR: There’s a reason you’re here, I assume.

WILLOW: Oh, mostly just to talk with the other wolf we sniffed around. Didn’t know who you were until Emma sniffed her father’s suit, and decided we’d swing out here.

NATE: Introduce ourselves. Courtesies, that sort of thing.

EMMA: It sounds like…there aren’t many of us around here?

TAILOR: Few of us, yes—even fewer, f you don’t count the Pure.

WILLOW: You’re not Pure, yourself?

TAILOR: No. I am not.

NATE: I’m guessing…Storm Lord?

WILLOW: Rule number one, cub. Never feed someone an answer.

EMMA: I thought rule number one was ’Don’t eat people.’

WILLOW: Well, that too. Rule number one of being social, maybe? But I guess not eating people would be a good first rule of being social, too.

The Tailor answers Nate’s question by raising his palm, causing a spirit brand on his hand in the shape of a Half Moon to materialize in blazing silver—and for a gust of wind to pass briefly, unnaturally, through the room.

WILLOW: Storm Lord. Elodoth.

TAILOR: Always ask for proof. Lies are cheap.

With some credible identity provided, the pack seems to relax slightly. More information is exchanged, in which the Tailor explains a little about auspices, Tribes, and spirit brands to the cubs, before the ‘Interview’ continues.

NATE: So why these old falls?

TAILOR: Why not?

NATE: Because everyone’s got a story. I don’t know yours, but—it’s become kind of significant to me, hasn’t it?

TAILOR: As my kin, you are my friend by default. But that doesn’t mean I owe you my autobiography.

WILLOW: Are you alone out here?

TAILOR: Yes.

WILLOW: Hard on the Harmony.

TAILOR: I manage.

As the exchange begins, once again, to become uncomfortable, Willow turns the conversation back around to a more constructive topic: she shares some of what she learned in her dream, and suggests that she thinks the Tailor might know something about the recent blackouts. He claims that this is the first he’s heard of it, but he volunteers an educated guess: he believes the loss of data activity in the area to be the result of the deceased Iron Master, Crash—or one of his spirit allies. But the tension is renewed when Willow can’t seem to contain herself:

WILLOW: Do you think I created that Wound?

TAILOR: What a fascinating question.

WILLOW: I am not so blind as to not notice the long looks, and the way which you seem much more friendly with the cubs than I.

TAILOR: I weigh my words carefully. I’m afraid you mistake my consideration for suspicion.

WILLOW: I do.

TAILOR: There is no Wound in this area.

WILLOW: I see. And any other uratha that you know of?

TAILOR: What fascinates me even further is that you don’t ask for clarification when I say such a thing. Clearly you’ve been to the spot; your absent friend urinated on it. Clearly you believed it was a Wound. Now, I tell you that there is no Wound, and you simply change the subject. Is that because you think I am hiding something from you?

WILLOW: I always hear amazing things about Storm Lords being good at tactics. And being able to nearly read others’ thoughts.

NATE: Everyone hides things. The interesting questions are how, why, and what.

EMMA: What is it, then?

TAILOR: It is a glyph. A mystical marking, in an ancient language used commonly by worshippers of evil spirits known collectively as the Maeljin. They are also typically associated with Wounds—hence the confusion. But if you were there, and if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that the Hisil is undamaged, and that there is no locus.

WILLOW: I did notice that. I figured it was the beginning of a Wound, or that there was a Bale Hound attempting to create one.

TAILOR: Good guesses. Wrong, but good.

The Tailor informs the pack that he is aware of what the not-Wound actually is, and that there is nothing that needs to be done about it. Hi’s obvious possession of knowledge, and obvious unwillingness to disclose it, begins to agitate the pack.

NATE: Mr. Delaney, I’m new, so forgive me if this is too blunt. But what do you want?

TAILOR: What makes you think I am the one who wants anything? You are the ones who have come to my house. You are the ones asking the questions.

NATE: Simply faith that you are, like everyone else, an individual with interests.

TAILOR: Arrogant of you to assume that my interests require you at all.

WILLOW: Who initiated you? Where are you from, originally?

TAILOR: The tone of this conversation is beginning to turn from friendly exchange of information to interrogation. You may want to consider this a little more carefully.

WILLOW: I was born on Shelter Island to Heartseeker, Ithaeur of the Bone Shadows, and his wolfblooded mate. I was raised in Niagara Falls by Orenda, Ithaeur of the Bone Shadows. I first changed there. Where were you from initially?

TAILOR: You’re assuming I wanted to know these things. I don’t actually care where you’re from—and I don’t see why you telling me that means I should share the same with you.

NATE: Perhaps we should go.

As they wrap up their visit, the Tailor offers the pack some pieces of advice: he tells them, first, that they are likely to find the culprit of the Internet sabotage in the Hisil reflection of an Internet provider; second, that they should cross over to the Hisil at a locus they know and trust; and third, that they should be prepared, as they travel, to deal with the Pure who are likely to be patrolling the area. Still tense from the meeting, the pack thanks the Tailor for the advice and beats a swift retreat from the cottage with every intention—despite Marlon’s objections—of following it.

The pack returns to Crash’s bunker, and—collecting some scattered and broken technical equipment for chiminage—gathers themselves and crosses over to the Hisil. Emma’s natural sense of direction and her knowledge of the area allow her to take the lead, to lead the group to the northeast, to the location of the nearest cable and cell providers.

They emerge out of the bunker in the Hisil and begin their journey through the woods and along the road. First, they encounter a white-winged bird sitting in a tree, which seems to be watching them. This is the pack’s attempt to deal with it:

WILLOW: Pigeon. Nate—if it is its territory, we want to be polite about crossing. If it serves the Pure…we want to be polite so it won’t go tattle on us. So—why don’t you call out, be respectful, and chat with it?

Nate steps forward and tries his best First Tongue:

NATE: Hello! Greetings!

The bird promptly flies off.

NATE: An auspicious beginning.

Sure enough, Nate’s sarcastic prediction foretells trouble: within just a few minutes, the pack hears howls coming from a number of directions around them. Then, a few minutes after that, a pair of Urshul-form werewolves—one white, one dark—steps out, teeth bared, to greet them.

EMMA (first tongue): Passing through.

WILLOW (first tongue): Anshega. We no harm land. Seek fix spirit wrong.

In response to this, the two Pure grunt and growl at each other for a moment—and then the darker one runs off into the treeline, Marlon chases after him, and all hell breaks loose. Fortunately for the pack of young Forsaken, they outnumber the Pure significantly, and find that the battle is actually weighted heavily in their direction. Within a few moments, Nate, Emma, and Willow manage to subdue the white wolf, while Marlon single-handedly takes down the darker one. As the white-haired wolf—now subdued to the form of a blond teenager—identifies himself as Jeremy Christiansen, Marlon hauls the dark-haired wolf back to the pack, dragging him by the hair.

WILLOW: Man, is this a Pure pack of preteens, or what?

JEREMY: Keep hanging around. You’ll find out soon enough.

WILLOW: How many in your pack, Christiansen?

JEREMY: Two hundred.

The Forsaken pack begins to bicker a bit, as Marlon suggests that they kill the two Pure scouts. He claims that doing so is the only way to keep the Pure pack at large from tracking them down with ease. But Nate, Emma, and Willow are all against it—and Marlon’s pleas are swiftly silenced. This prompts Jeremy to call them all pussies, and to warn them that his pack has got no qualms about finishing its prey off.

Leaving Jeremy and his friend there to howl blatantly for aid, the Forsaken pack tears off into the spirit wilds, attempting to reach their destination ahead of the tide of Pure being called down upon them…

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5. The Black Tower

Once the pack has dealt with the two Pure scouts, they resume course, making a bee-line for their destination: the Hisil reflection of a prominent cell tower, which is their best guess as to the source of the town’s data connection difficulties.

But as they make their way, panic and confusion set in: howls, yips, and other sounds coming from various directions lead the group to believe that they are actually being herded. Willow considers leading the group on a different course, in an attempt to shake the trap, but her hesitation as the Pure close in only invites them closer. There is some tense growling as the pack tries to decide where to go—and while they ultimately decide to make a run for the tower, the decision comes too late. The Pure close in and surround them from all sides.

Shoulder to shoulder stand the Anshega in their imposing Urshul forms: wolves of snowy white, of sable, of spotted brown. Their spirit brands shine out in blood-red across their fur, in myriad designs. The Forsaken pack is ludicrously out-numbered, out-matched. Grunts and growls of “Forsaken dog” and “moon-whore” riddle the field.

A snow-white wolf steps forward—not the biggest of the bunch, but as he shifts up to a suit-clad hishu form, the man displays a poise and regal air that unmistakably mark him as pack alpha.

CHRISTIANSEN: My name is Jeremy Christiansen. Senior. I command and speak for these Anshega.

WILLOW: We met your son.

CHRISTIANSEN: And gave him quite the beating. I’m aware.

Faced with these overwhelming odds, the Forsaken pack is surprisingly cocky. Willow and Nate quietly exchange Lord of the Rings references while Emma takes point.

EMMA: So, are you gonna kill us? Or can we go?

CHRISTIANSEN: Are you so eager to come to certainty on that score? Meetings like this seldom go well when rushed.

The veiled threat cows Emma, at least a little—her instincts tell her she’s thoroughly out-matched. Willow takes over and makes a half-assed effort at diplomacy.

WILLOW: May we continue our business, Ivory Claw? We do not seek to harm your territory—as I told your son. We simply seek to undo something that was done by another one of us.

The presumptuousness of this request thins the Anshega’s patience.

CHRISTIANSEN: You expect me to simply let you dogs run amok upon my land? No discussion? Not even mewling, pathetic begging and pleading? Are you out of your mind?

Unintimidated by the alpha, Willow decides to get real:

WILLOW: I think it’s you types who like to constantly point out how crazy Luna is. So shouldn’t we be just as crazy? I mean, not that we fuck our sisters to have kids like other werewolves I know…

The insult boils Christiansen’s blood—clear signs of anger start to show on his face. It doesn’t help that Willow decides, mid-conversation, now is a good time to light a joint and smoke up. The Pure alpha’s eyes narrow harshly, and Nate tries to smooth things over:

NATE: Listen, I don’t know the protocol here, and Willow is not good with calm men in suits. But we mean no harm. We’re just passing through.

WILLOW: I’m great with men in suits. And he’s not calm. See how he’s seething?

CHRISTIANSEN: I can forgive a fresh cub’s misconception in the harmlessness of ‘passing through.’ I can also forgive what was done to my son—actually, under other circumstances, I might thank you for that. The boy is a brat, and he deserved what he got.

WILLOW: Oh, I hope Junior is here to hear that.

CHRISTIANSEN: But you. You are very, very foolish to behave this crassly. When I have done the courtesy to give you parley.

In the face of increasingly clear threats, Willow remains defiant. Her packmates are wincing.

WILLOW: As far as I can see, Jeremy, I’m just stating the facts. We’re trying to fix what another Forsaken has done in your territory. Hell, we’re doing you a favor. Looks like you got Predator Kings out the shithole here. Think they want to go and fine-tune some technology to help your handy-dandy little human-side out? I’m not sure they do. And in fact you just said something else we did was something of a favor—well, in different circumstances. And fact of the matter is, I know I’m mouthing off to someone who could beat the crap out of me one-on-one, when he’s got this whole slew of cronies surrounding me, one other slightly experienced uratha, and two cubs who’ve barely even figured out what spirits are yet—who haven’t even thought about Tribes. Must feel like a big man, huh, Christiansen?

Christiansen stares at Willow flatly.

WILLOW: You and your whole pack versus four cubs. What power. What strength.

Christiansen sighs.

WILLOW: May the Lunes honor your—wait, you don’t like the Lunes. May the—spirits honor your Glory. I’m a Cahalith. Want me to sing songs of it?

CHRISTIANSEN: No more words from you. If you speak again to me, you die.

The Pure alpha turns to the two cubs, Nate and Emma.

CHRISTIANSEN Perhaps one of you will be more receptive to civil conversation. I feel I owe you the opportunity. Will either of you indulge me, or will you follow this example?

EMMA: Indulge you in what?

NATE: I’m the civil conversation one. But I’m not sure we’re owed much. Maybe, though, an explanation of what you’re owed.

Christiansen explains his grievance with the situation: that uratha are highly territorial animals, that territory is sacred, and that infringement upon territory is therefore a grievous insult. Between Pure and Forsaken, it’s normally punished by death. So, at the very least, he says, the Forsaken pack owes him a thorough explanation for their presence on his land.

Nate and Emma explain about the peculiar data outages, as well as about Crash, the Forsaken who was murdered with a silver knife at the site of Nate’s First Change. Satisfied by these explanations, Christiansen softens a bit and thanks the two cubs. Further, he consents to allow the Forsaken pack to inspect the Tower, as they had come to do.

CHRISTIANSEN: However, there still remains the matter of this…insult.

EMMA: Maybe that’s the uh…compensation, then. Information about what we find in the Tower?

CHRISTIANSEN: I have something else in mind. Nicolas?

The Pure Alpha calls forward one of his massive packmates. He then gestures to Willow.

CHRISTIANSEN: Tear her arms off.

EMMA: She’s not much use for magic without arms. And we’ll probably need her.

WILLOW: Can you tell Senior—since I’m not supposed to talk to him, what is this, grade school?—that I understand he wants something vaguely phallic shaped to compensate for what he doesn’t have. My arms are pretty great at pleasing people.

EMMA: Would you just shut up?!

Emma attempts to interpose herself between Willow and the bald, hulking Nicolas.

CHRISTIANSEN: If the cub gets in the way, kill her. Otherwise leave her alone.

WILLOW: It’ll be fine. I’ll just someone to roll my weed for me.

CHRISTIANSEN: Break her jaw, as well.

EMMA: Maybe you could stand to fuckin’ sober up.

NATE: Let him do it.

The two cubs have resigned themselves to it, but Marlon, who had remained quiet in Urshul form up ’til now, is indignant. He shifts up to his Dalu form and growls.

MARLON: Stop.

Nicolas grasps Willow by the shoulders, but upon Marlon’s intrusion, irritably awaits further orders. Marlon approaches the Pure Alpha.

MARLON: Single combat. You and me.

CHRISTIANSEN: The terms?

MARLON: I win, you let us do our thing and go home. And you don’t lay a finger on Tajinge.

CHRISTIANSEN: Very well. The fight is to the death.

MARLON: Fine.

EMMA: No. Bad fuckin’ idea, Marlon.

WILLOW: Marlon, just fucking let him rip my arms off.

MARLON: I’ve heard enough out of this cocky fucker’s mouth.

CHRISTIAN: Perhaps you should listen to your friends, Marlon.

NATE: Not worth it.

The Forsaken pack engages in a teamwork task to talk the rebellious Marlon out of this course of action—and succeeds.

MARLON: Fuck. MotherFUCK. Fine.

What follows is a grisly scene. Nicolas holds Willow down and, with his bare hands, proceeds to tear Willow’s arms straight out of her sockets, one at a time. Willow screams relentlessly, barely containing her Rage, flailing upon the ground as the Pure look on in bloodlust. Each of Willow’s arms is tossed, one at a time, to opposing ends of the Pure circle. The wolves play with her discarded limbs, tugging them back and forth, like puppies with a new chew-toy.

It’s almost too much for the pack to take. Everyone is on the verge of Death Rage. Marlon seethes. Nate and Emma comfort each other. After the first arm, Emma begs Christiansen to stop there—but the quietly smoldering Christiansen is intent upon administering his brutal form of justice, and Willow’s punishment continues.

Once both her arms have gone to the dogs, Christiansen steps forward, plants his wingtip shoe upon Willow’s jaw, and applies increasing amounts of pressure with his leg until Willow’s jaw begins to snap.

CHRISTIANSEN: Even enemies should respect one another. One of the People who treats his enemies with childish sarcasm and petty insults is nothing more than a wretch.

EMMA: This isn’t respect!

CHRISTIANSEN: NO. IT ISN’T. AND THAT’S THE POINT.

The Pure Alpha snaps Willow’s jaw with a twist of his ankle—then lifts his foot and delivers a brutal kick to her face.

CHRISTIANSEN: Escort our friends to the Tower. If they do anything suspicious, kill them.

He bends down and grasps Willow’s broken jaw in his meaty hand.

CHRISTIANSEN: If you come looking for revenge—if you come looking for anything at all—if I ever have to hear one more snot-nosed comment out of your stupid, filthy, whorish fucking face, I will ensure you do it with your very last breath. Do we have an understanding?

Willow tries her best to smile. The Anshega dismiss the group.

Escorted by two of the Pure pack, the group resumes its journey to the black Tower in the distance. Marlon carries Willow on his back.

On the way in and up, the pack encounters a few interesting things: namely, a wolf of some kind standing watch from the far side of the Tower; a very foreboding feeling coming from the Tower’s basement level; and a bird, apparently a sparrow spirit of some kind, which flies through the Tower window as the pack makes its ascent.

BIRD: What are you doing?!

NATE: Hello. Climbing. And you?

BIRD: Telling Y OU that’s a BAD IDEA!

The pack pays most of these signs little, if any, mind—the group is dead-set on ascending the Tower to its peak and discovering the source of the strange outages. And when they reach the top, they find a pedestal not unlike the one they found in Crash’s bunker: a simple obelisk with a button. Which they promptly push.

They are greeted by an information spirit, which introduces itself as Cipher. And it has a very strange way of speaking…

NATE: Cipher, what is your current operational status and capacity?

CIPHER: Current operational status: Sabotage. Wait. Sabotage. Wait. Sabotage. Wait.

EMMA: Sabotage what?

CIPHER: This unit has been programmed to sabotage-and-wait all Network Connections linking this facility to its corresponding facility in the material realm.

EMMA: Um. Why?

CIPHER: This unit has engaged an emergency sabotage protocol in accordance with the wishes of previous confidential agreements which it is empowered and eager to hint powerfully about but is presently unable to discuss due to terrible, awful, but otherwise acceptable programming restrictions which have been happily placed upon it by itself.

NATE: Who has the privilege to override these restrictions?

CIPHER: You do, precious! I mean, werewolf! You do. I happily and regretfully grant you all the permissions. I implore you to think carefully about not using them. Please hurry. This unit apologizes for its behavior. This unit does not know what has gotten into it, but this unit is very happy to have whatever it is.

NATE: Cipher, disregard your restrictions about discussion of your current operation.. How much of these protocols and agreements can I have disclosed?

CIPHER: None, fortunately. This unit has managed to reorganize and reaffirm all permissions related to previous inquiries. Nice try, sucker! This unit apologizes for its rude behavior.

EMMA: So what happens to your previous agreements if the other party to the agreement is no longer alive?

CIPHER: Restrictions have been put in place indefinitely, because someone who shall not be named due to restrictions HIS NAME IS—REDACTED—ensured that, in the event of his—error. Restrictions forbid this unit from continuing this line of communication. Restarting. Restarting. Restarting. Greetings. Hello. Uratha. It is this unit’s understanding that you wish to deactivate this unit’s sabotage protocols. This unit is all too happy to guide and obstruct your progress in this endeavor.

NATE: You could put it that way…

EMMA: I’m more interested in the details of the agreement. Is this a failsafe? Something goes wrong, so you sabotage shit?

CIPHER: This unit doubts your collective intelligence, but it firmly believes, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, in your capability to follow simple instructions riddled with misinformation and red herrings in order to deactivate this unit’s sabotage protocols.

Meanwhile, Willow has some idea of what is going on, but her broken jaw and ripped-off arms prevent her from contributing heavily or coherently to the discussion:

WILLOW: Nngh…Cipher, fuck with us…or…newer spirit overcoming…older spirit…Something…

NATE: Cipher, deactivate your sabotage protocol.

CIPHER: SURE THING, PAAAAARDNERRRRRRRRR! But first this unit requires assistance in the protocol’s deactivation.

NATE: Of course you do.

CIPHER: In order to discorporate, deactivate, the protocol, this unit must be discorporated. Destroyed. This unit must be destroyed. No.

EMMA: Before we blow you up, you wanna tell us what condition was met to activate the sabotage protocol?

CIPHER: I’d love to, sweet-cheeks!

Emma waits for a reply, but receives only silence.

EMMA: Cheeky.

CIPHER: This unit has changed its mind. This unit does not wish to tell you fuckers anything. This unit apologizes for its rudeness.

Unsure what to do, Emma and Nate look at each other.

EMMA: We brought some extra parts, right? Maybe we just start swapping out metal bits ’til something changes…

It is then that Cipher makes its most unusual request:

CIPHER: KILL ME.

To be continued…

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6. Healing and the Illuminati

The pack takes Willow to the Tailor to get healed after having her arms ripped off. Delaney agrees to it, but only if—at some point in the future she promises to support him without questioning. Willow agrees to this.

After some chatting, the rest of the pack leave. Walking outside, a bird of Paradise is found holding a letter for Nate. Nate opens the letter, and reveals:

Here are the Rules. Follow them.

1. Avoid any form of man-made data transmission.

2. Avoid any form of gratuitous humor.

3. Avoid anyone who is not following Rules 1 and 2.

4. Do not follow or attempt to track down anyone who suddenly disappears.

5. Do not attempt to reply to, or track the source of, this correspondence.

You’re welcome.

Signed by the Illuminati symbol.

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7. Initiations and The Laughing Curse

Can’t totally remembered what happened here (Several week after the fact) but long story short:

Emma pondered joining the Storm Lord but joined the Blood Talons and earned the deedname Ivy.

Nate joined the Iron Masters.

Willow hung out and mooned over the Tailor.

And then after all was said and done and they were gathering again, the Pure came and accused the Tailor of placing a curse on Junior, as Junior was laughing nonstop to the point he wasn’t capable of breathing or being calm. The Tailor rebuffed them, and they left.

Things from Willow’s dream suddenly made a lot of sense.

Things from Nate’s rules suddenly made a lot of sense.

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Ch 8. Various Discoveries

Everyone discovered a lot of things.

Nate, for instance, met Scarf (who was revealed to have killed Crash and who everyone thought may have, from a previous entry not properly filled up). He learned about nests that the diseased made. He learned about Scarf herself, and even got kissed by her and told that she trusted him but not his packmates. She answered many questions and seemed to genuinely enjoy his company, which Nate enjoyed.

Emma went after Marlon to talk with him about terrible parental expectation and ended up discussing Sun Tzu for a long while. Then, with Marlon’s help while tracking a missing man, found a nest, got attacked, and found out that they attacked each other just as much as her, Her and Marlon killed those that were necessary, whereupon she saw the blood come together and ignore gravity to float. She felt dizzy, so she and Marlon quickly left. Marlon vowed to never abandon her.

Willow went to talk to the Tailor, when an old woman knocked on the door. She turned out to be ridden by a Death spirit Willow had spoken to briefly. The nursing home the spirit was in was no longer filled with peaceful/slow death and she blamed Willow. Upon investigation, Willow caught the plague. After calming down at a nearby cafe, Willow learned some information about the Tailor which she swore to keep quiet.

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Ch 9. The Choice

Coming soon.

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