Posted by: lordkyler | May 16, 2015

Radiance Part XI: In the Air

In our last installment, trouble had finally caught up with our heroes. Lured into a trap, they found themselves in the middle of a three-way war between the Blades, the Mongrels, and the Seven Sisters. However, the battle was interrupted by the appearance of Agent Gray, who dispersed the gangs and captured our intrepid team. Fortunately, the group was rescued at the last minute by Drake’s group, Arcaneum. They are now on a boat with Arcaneum’s leader, Brutus Salk, preparing to flee the area and investigate their mysterious leads.

Under the cover of evening, the boat sailed on until it reached a small cove, and then dropped anchor and waited.

“They should be here any moment,” Brutus said. “The ship is the Odessa, captained by Caleb Loxely and his wife Iris. Iris’s sister is a member of Arcaneum, and while they are not technically members, they are magically gifted and have proven strong allies in the past.”

They stood in silence for a moment, and gradually began to hear a noise separate itself from the night breeze, a low rushing noise that would have been easy to miss if they hadn’t been listening for it. A moment later, a silhouette rose against the full moon.

Those that knew about airships would identify the Odessa as a hybrid craft, using two forms of lift. The center of the ship was a zeppelin, with decks above and below the long cylinder than comprised the body, but on either side, huge rotors spun in a lazy circle, providing further lift and steering capability.

It descended gently, like some giant moth, eventually hovering twenty feet above the deck of the ship. A platform from the bottom deck descended with a whirring of gears, and soon came to rest with a thump on the deck.

Standing atop the platform was a woman, dark-haired and dark eyed, in a flowing dress that fluttered dreamlike in the breeze. Her face was kind, and wise, and bore a faint scar across its length.

The woman smiled serenely. My name is Iris, said a voice inside their heads. It is wonderful to meet you. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | May 2, 2015

Radiance Part X: Caught in the Middle

In the last installment, we witnessed a thrilling battle between the members of the party and the General Fisher’s men. After a fiery confrontation, they managed to escape to safety, bearing only a few mysterious locations marked on a map. However, they soon found out that their employer, Mr. Partridge, has been murdered… and they are blamed. We join them now at a secret hideout as they discuss what steps they must take next…

“Okay, guys, we have some decisions to make,” Aria said. She pulled up a chair and sat down, while the rest of the group sat on their bunks, except for Connor. He stood restlessly, tapping his fingers on his sword hilt as he listened to Aria speak. “It seems we are wanted for a crime we didn’t commit, although that wouldn’t make much of a difference in the face of the crimes we did. What’s next? Is this over? We’re not getting paid. It might be best to split up and make our own paths.”

Ian shook his head. “This is about far more than just the breaking and entering, or even the murder. Something big is going on here. I can feel it.”

“We’re wanted as a group,” Connor said. “And the government is serious about this. If we split up, we’ll keep them chasing us for a while, but when they catch up – and they will – they’ll take us down fast. We stand a better chance if we stick together.”

Such advice from Connor came as a surprise, but the group seemed to agree. “So we’re together,” Aria said. “Now the question is what we should do about it.”

“Book it,” Lilly said flatly. “I don’t want to mess around with this any longer. If we can get out of the country, they can’t follow us.”

“Well, not officially,” Aria said. “I’m sure they won’t give up that easily. But it would make it much harder, especially if we made it to Faith or Fate. Oh! Or we could go to Katé, in Fortune. I have family there that could help us.”

I have family in Meadowlark,” Lilly said. “So I don’t want to go anywhere near the lake.”

“Meadowlark is clear on the other side of the lake,” Aria said. “I doubt we’d run into anybody.”

“You’d be surprised,” Lilly replied.

“I don’t think we should run at all,” Connor said. “We’ll be running forever. I want to get to the bottom of this. Maybe if we follow these markings on the map, they’ll lead us to something we can shut down or use as blackmail.”

“I agree something strange is going on,” Drake interjected. “If nothing else, I’d like to know what it is. But I don’t think it’s worth getting killed over. We could head somewhere like New Destiny, and disappear.”

“You’re not even one of the ones with a warrant,” Ian pointed out.

“Not for long, I’ll bet,” Connor said darkly.

“I think Connor’s right,” Aria said after a moment of silence. “We need to get out of Republic City in any case. Let’s investigate these leads and see what we can find. We can always make for the border if it seems too dangerous.” Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 25, 2015

New Cinematic Addict Video – Love Runs Out

In case you missed it, I completed another video for my Cinematic Addict YouTube channel. This one features the song “Love Runs Out,” by OneRepublic, and cinematic trailers from futuristic and cyberpunk games. I hope you enjoy it.

Posted by: lordkyler | April 19, 2015

Agency – Short Story Week

“I’ll be frank,” Coach Hadfield said, leaning forward. “I don’t much care for your attitude.”

I slouched in the chair and didn’t make direct eye contact. I didn’t really care what he thought. I was just tired of this.

“Now, I’ll be the first to admit that you’ve got talent. Talent that could take you a long way if you gave your best – which, by the way, I don’t think you are. You’re fast, you’re strong, you’re a quick thinker. But as good as you are, I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep if I cut you from the team right now.”

He leans back, and I can tell he favors his left leg, probably on old injury. A pair of reading glasses lays on his desk. He will be likely to miss details. His hands are rough and callused, indicating a tenacious disposition, but not likely speed.

“I know you were a big shot at your last school, and it can be tough moving to a small town like this,” he continued. “But you need to man up and get over it. This is a team, and it’s about time you acted like it.”

There’s a pen on his desk. I could grab it and go for the eyes, the throat, possibly the kidney. The keyboard would make a decent bludgeon, or the cord could be used as a garrote. Hell, I could put him in a chokehold and make it look like he’d choked to death on one of his jellybeans.

“Evans!” he barked, and i instantly tensed, ready for action. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, damn it. This is exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t start working with the team, you’ll be off the team. Understood?”

I nodded. “Yes sir.”

He looked at me closely, skeptically. “I’m serious, Evans. If I don’t see some real cooperation in the upcoming weeks, you’re out.” Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 18, 2015

Insight – Short Story Week

Rain pounded against the windshield of my car, distorting the glow of the neon signs across from me. “Madame Zandoori’s Psychic Readings,” the sign proclaimed in cherry-red letters, and a smaller, unlit sign underneath explained that they also did palmistry and tarot cards. It was a small place, wedged between a Lebanese restaurant and a laundromat.

It seemed banal and incredibly clichéd, but that was what I was looking for. I checked my phone, stalling against the moment I would have to get out of the car, and saw I had missed six calls. That was enough to get me moving.

I nearly pulled on my gloves out of habit, but I caught myself and stuffed them in my pocket. I needed to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could, that meant I couldn’t have my blinders on, however uncomfortable the experience might be.

I stepped out of the car and walked up to the door. The air was thick with smells despite the rain, cigarette smoke, spilled gasoline, the enticing aroma of cooking meat. My stomach growled, but I had to ignore it. I had a hard time eating at restaurants. Some things cannot be un-learned.

It felt as though the rain had a personal grudge against me, and was intent on bringing me down. Despite this, I paused in front of the door, and reconsidered. The open sign beckoned luridly, but the dark interior of the building seemed like a trap of some kind.

I almost laughed. You wouldn’t think a psychic would have these kind of problems. Unfortunately, I cannot see the future. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 17, 2015

The Overview Effect – Short Story Week

Invictus stood quietly and alone, watching the multitude of displays that surrounded him. He did not focus on any particular screen, instead drinking in the whole, processing every piece of information and assimilating it into a single picture. His video feeds showed that seemingly every Empowered, gifted and specially talented individual in the world was assembling at the Nexus, his base on the summit of K2. Newsfeeds confirmed that they were here to kill him for his supposed atrocities.

Everything was proceeding according to plan.

He dismissed most of his displays and stepped up to one of the transparent panels that formed the geodesic sphere perched atop the mountain like the all-seeing eye atop a pyramid. From here, he could see them coming, a line of tiny specks converging at the base of the mountain.

“Zoom,” he commanded, and a display appeared with an enhanced image. He scanned slowly over the line, taking note of who had come. There was Hellfire, burning like a comet as he streaked across the sky. Silver-haired Lancelot with his shimmering cape trailing behind him. Architekt surrounded by his technological minions, dark-eyed Aurora, bathed in green light. Coming up the western slope were the Tokyo Guard, Torrent, Champion, the Jade Twins, Dervish. And those helicopters would be the Delta Squad, in from Moscow.

The longer he looked, the more it seemed it was true. They were all here. Tech wizards and brainless bashers, solo artists and power teams, do-gooders and ne’er-do-wells, people from every nation, race, and creed, all united to kill him. All in one place.

Everything was proceeding according to plan. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 16, 2015

Frames of Reference – Short Story Week

“Enough games. Why don’t you tell us who – or what –  you really are?”

“I’m afraid I am the most selfish being in the universe.”

•••

The midnight sun cast a harsh glare on the endless white plains, nearly blinding him. An insidious wind tossed fingers of snow into the air like streams of diamond dust. He was chilled to the bone, but he could not stop, could not rest. He was so close.

Behind him, barely audible above the whispering wind, the staccato thump of helicopters came nearer.

•••

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Ah, meaning. The eternal quest of sentient life. An amusing thought, now.”

•••

His energy levels were high. That was good. These humans of earth were more advanced than most races he had encountered. Their technology was certainly less sophisticated than his own, but dangerous nonetheless. It would be a good fight.

•••

“I once thought I understood everything I needed to know. I had a good life, not unlike your own. A bond-group, a life’s work, joy and sorrow. That was before Oblivion arrived.”

•••

There were planes as well, fat-bellied carriers no doubt loaded with troops and artillery. At first there had just been a few, but now the horizon was thick with approaching aircraft. They were quicker than he had expected. But, after all, their world was at stake. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 15, 2015

The Curse – Short Story Week

Music, lights, and laughter filled the great hall at Castel de Montresse, rising to the majestic, vaulted ceiling and spilling out the massive stained-glass windows. Everyone in the kingdom had been invited to the celebration. Everyone, perhaps, save for the black-cowled figure brooding at the castle gates.

His robes flowed from his shoulders like spun midnight, rippling in the cold night wind like a nightmare’s shadow. Beneath the inky velvet folds of the cloak were robes of the deepest purple, yet they shimmered like starlight and bore arcane sigils of eye-dazzling complexity.

In one hand the shadow clutched a gnarled ebony staff, on the other, a raven perched. The bird stirred impatiently, causing the dread figure to tear his malevolent yellow eyes away from the great hall.

“Not yet, Grôthe,” said the stranger, in a voice like one dead. “We will wait for midnight.”

Nevertheless, he began to approach the castle, seeming to glide weightlessly, an apparition of the night.

The streets were empty. The king had been generous in his good fortune. Baron and beggar alike had been invited to feast at the King’s table this momentous day. After so many years, the Queen had finally given birth to an heir, a healthful and robust daughter, the future queen Auroure. Today was her christening.

The streets were filled with banners and ribbons in all colors, but in the gloom of night, they hung pale and restless, like wraiths. The steady tapping of the stranger’s staff against the cobbles rang hollow among the empty buildings, a lifeless beat to accompany the tuneless sighing of the wind.

The midnight bell began to toll, a bold, joyful sound that carried over the barren city with all the levity of a man laughing at a funeral. Judging from the raucous noises that made it past the wind, few of those inside would pay the bells much heed. That would change shortly.

At the first chime, the walking shadow crossed the drawbridge into the fortress. At the second, the gates swung open for him. For three more, he passed through the detritus of merriment strewn around the great courtyard. At the sixth, he passed a slumbering guard, but the man did not wake. Four more times the bell pealed as he climbed the broad stone steps to the great hall. At the eleventh stroke, he reached the door, and gathered himself, cloak pooling around him like liquid shadow.

At the moment of the twelfth ring, he raised his staff and spoke.

“Now.” Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 14, 2015

Railroaded – Short Story Week

I couldn’t believe my luck. Of all the idiots in the world, tourists are the dumbest, and this guy was obviously a tourist. He tried not to look like one, but his wide eyes and nervous watch-checking gave him away. He might as well have been wearing a fanny pack and snapping pictures of the place.

I had been watching the crowd from the balcony, pretending to text, but actually using my phone’s camera to search for a target. Grand Central Station was an anthill at rush hour, but when I saw this guy, it was clear who I was going to go after. He had a backpack –worn over both shoulders – which bulged with corners. That meant electronics, and that meant easy money.

I try to practice my art on rich guys, the ones that can afford to lose a few hundred. This guy wasn’t rich, but he had looked well enough off. And it looked so easy that my excitement had outweighed any guilt.

It only got better when he headed for the bathrooms. It was the perfect setup. No cameras, pants around the ankles, backpack off. I had thought that I would have to do a little scamming, maybe pick a pocket. But no, the guy entered a stall and then set his backpack on the ground next to him.

What a moron. A toddler could have taken his pack. Hell, he barely noticed the pack was missing until I was halfway out the door. I wanted to laugh, but I had to look normal. I did my best to stay inconspicuous. My record was miraculously still clean, and I meant to keep it that way. Crime only doesn’t pay if you suck. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 13, 2015

Damsel in Distress – Short Story Week

Renauld stopped for a short rest, his warm breath steaming in the cold mountain air. He looked with despair at the trail ahead. It had taken him three days to get this far up the mountain, and he still had no idea how much further he would have to go. Only the thought of Annea kept him going.

Sighing, he pulled a small piece of smoked fish from his pouch, and tried to make it last. He didn’t have much left. The wind gusted fitfully, bringing with it shards of ice. Renauld shuddered and wrapped himself closer in his leathers. He wished that he was old enough for the gift of flame.

But he wasn’t, so he had to make do. He forced himself to get up and keep moving. If he stopped for too long without proper shelter, he wouldn’t get moving again. He hurried onward, hoping to find a cave or crevice of some sort in which he could wait out the coming night.

This whole venture was ill-advised, he knew that. He had only the most meager of food and supplies, his old and poorly-fitted scale armor, and his fresh, unhardened leathers. He didn’t even have his second gift yet, just a rusty sharp-blade and a battered hard-shield from some ancestor years ago. But when the monster had come and snatched up Annea in its terrible grasp, Renauld was the only one that had volunteered to save her. So here he was on the side of a mountain, freezing to death.

A red light flickered up ahead, barely visible through the swirling snowfall. Renauld squinted, but could not make out what it was. He crouched low and made sure his sharp-blade was well in hand, then crept forward. As he grew closer, he heard conversation in the wild tongue, the curiously smooth and rhythmic speech shared by the most dangerous monsters. It was strange to hear such nearly-musical sound from such ugly and awkward beasts.

There were three of them, huddled around a fire. They were similar in appearance to the great black beast that had stolen Annea, but smaller and wingless. Where the black beast had been totally covered in an impenetrable hide, these monsters were less mature, and their armor had not yet covered their fleshy, brutish faces or their stunted fingers.

Renauld stared longingly at the fire and dreamed of being warm again. It was foolishness to attack the red beasts, of course. He didn’t have the gift of stone for protection, or the gift of fire for attack… a sudden thought came to him. He hadn’t yet been given the gift of wind, but even without it, his leathers were built for gliding. It would be a risk, but it might be worth it.

He looked once more at the crackling fire, and saw a haunch of meat roasting on a spit above it. That decided it. Moving softly, Renauld circled to the right, and when he judged he was in a good position, he stood tall and bellowed at the top of his lungs. Read More…

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