stranger things

Only the Mage could tell you exactly what happened because she went into the void alone. Was she not ready either? We rush her to the Cleric’s house. Similar symptoms had befallen him, extreme aversion to heat and a need for cold, and his mother had gone through great length to save him. It is without doubt the Nightmare Hive. It waited ever so patiently for the right moment to strike. The instant it struck I sensed the portal open.

The Mage lies writhing in agony on their kitchen table. The Chief and Paladin both attempt to savagely beat me but are easily cast aside. They all want me and Augumon gone. I can’t blame but I insist on saving her. The darkness can’t have her!

I place my hand upon her forehead a dive deep into her psyche. At the first level I see the Mage in the void sobbing as screams “Popa” at a man leaving her with government scientists. At the second level is an endless loop of thoughts that her mother was trapped in. The third level is her little Paladin boyfriend yelling at her and leaving alone in the dark. I call out to her.

“Sensei!” she screams as she runs over and hugs me.

I hold her close wiping away her tears with my sleeve.

“Everything is going to be alright. This is your mind, your mind! You have dominion here” I tell her.

A sinister and booming laugh cackles all around us.

“She rejects your dominion! This is her cosmos!” I scream out at the void.

“While they are entwined by strings spun by fate a boy cries out and a girl feels. I want you for the one I care about.”

The voice of the void echoes through Eternity. I feel it ripple through every fiber of my being and hundreds of worlds shake. No! It is…There’s a sudden flash of lightning and for the briefest of moments the face of a black wolf with piercing yellow eyes flashes before me. When my senses return the void as changed; red lightning dances across the sky and many slender limbs and nondescript head of the Nightmare Hive stretch across the horizon.

“This is your cosmos” I tell her, “here only you have power. Only you can defeat it. But if you’re not quite ready you can give me the power to defeat it” “I can’t!” she cries, rightfully terrified. “Believe in the me that believes in you!” the entirety of this madness may have been orchestrated for the sole purpose of meaningfully say that phrase in proper context.

She gives me a willful smile and her eyes burn like fire. I’m transformed into a hybrid of myself and Gandalf the White as I pull my staff from the ether. I am now the Sorcerer and cast what I know as a ninth level banishment spell and the Nightmare Hive vanishes in a brilliant explosion of light that becomes a whirling portal in the sky that sucks in all of the void and her fears.

She jolts awake from the table and I fall back onto the floor, staff in hand. They all rush to her side, while the Cleric’s brother helps me to my feet. I give the Mage thumbs up and she returns it in kind. There is a moment of peace before a tear in reality opens and the hellish red light pours in as a demon claws its way through the portal.

Before anyone else can react the Mage has stepped forward. I’m one step behind her with my ignited saber in hand. The monster rips its way through, charging us and is cut in half in short order. She raises her right hand and with a single shout dissipates the portal and the demon’s body fades away into ashes.

She collapses to the ground and I notice that her veins have turned black and she is starting to shake. The ashes of the demon corpse gather along the wall in a very familiar shape, the Nightmare Hive. In the sultry voice of a woman that also echoes in the void it speaks.

“You struggle will just make your sacrifice that much more delectable.”

In my rage I cast dark lightning from fingertips and utterly decimate the wall. I can sense the portal and it knows it. This is an open challenge that I must meet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trap, I have to go.

“Hold on to this for me” I say as I hand her my staff. “Do you have the thing I gave you before?” Augumon says to her.

She pulls the digital device out of her pocket.

“It will help” he tells her. “You ready bud?” I ask him “Yup” “Sensei!” she yells.

I turn to see her rising to her feet to bow and do so in kind. With a final nod I and Augumon walk out of the hole where the wall used to be. Once we’re outside I tell him something very important…

“Augumon, it is time.” “You mean?!” he exclaims with utter joy. “Yes. It is time for dino-crazy.” “Dino-crazy!” he roars as his voice deepens and he begins his metamorphoses into his ‘Champion’ form.

To the initiated: you know what song to play in your own head.

“Greymon” he shouts as he completes the change into a 30 ft. tall orange t-rex with three horns on a brown skull guard and blue stripes running down his back.

Channeling the weave I leap up to his back. The Party is awestruck and their family members are terrified. With a great roar Greymon charges forward. Screw subtlety! We’re making a beeline for that old government facility, we’re rampaging through that portal, and we’re slaughtering everything on the other side of it until the Nightmare Hive dies and stays dead.

Greymon barrels through the concrete walls and chain link fences as if they were paper. He claws his way through to the lowest level and there it is! The most ominous passage way made up of sinewy flesh bathed in hellfire that this world has ever seen. No slowing down now! Greymon charges through and we are greeted a hellscape of fleshy branches covering the ground, rainfall of ash, eternal dusk, and the distortion of all high pitched sounds.

In the distance towers the Nightmare Hive like some terrible dead oak standing over a barren field. All the while demons and demon dogs come at us by the hundreds. With saber in hand and fire in his breath, we give them hell. By the droves I slice them to pieces and fry them with lightning while Greymon stomps, thrashes, and incinerates them.

Now I know why it waited, it was bidding its time. Every last one of these monsters had to be grown. My suspicion is that they were waiting for us leave but the Mage discovered them in her fear trial. I’ll try to answer that question a little more thoroughly later because right now I’m kind of busy.

After several minutes the hoards stop and Nightmare Hive laughs.

“What’s so funny, Slan?” I say to her. “You are a clever boy, aren’t you?” she responds as she makes her true self manifest.

The many limbs form into the green strands of her hair and her black bat wings. The slender non-descript head forms into her sensuous succubus body.

“Look at your beautiful slaughter! Truly it moves me so. The joke is that you could consider yourself either hero or savior.”

Here it comes.

“For what sake do your worlds come into being? What do they live for? Why are they destined to meet that which important to them? Everything relies solely on conflict.”

“That’s enough!” I scream at her.

“Lambs to the slaughter, insects marching into a flame, suffering for your wil,l story-teller. A will that is not even your own.”

This will which moves me is mine own.

She howls with laughter in the face of my defiance.

“Is that so?” she says snaps her fingers and the hoard melts away into blood and bones, “Shall we count the bodies?”

With a clap of her hands the sky turns red as blood and bones assemble themselves into Skullgreymon, the skeletal reflection of Greymon’s darkness that is twice his size. The monstrous skeleton easily tosses him aside and attempts to crush him between its bony fingers.

All the while Slan has shrunk herself down to human size and glides down in front of me. I rush forward to slice her but she seemingly fades away only to materialize directly behind me. Before I can react she has bound my arms in an embrace and is wrapping her bat wings around me.

“Are you master of your desires” a voice that is not hers whispers in my ear.

I turn my head to see the Queen’s face! She’s taunting me, torturing me as rubs that face against mine and kissing my neck while extending her claws into my side.

This hurts! This hurts a lot!

But just as Greymon is about to be crushed a whistle breaks the distortion in the sound and he begins to glow. I find myself linked with the Mage. The device is active and the fire of courage is coursing through her veins burning out the Nightmare Hive.

“Metalgreymon” he roars as he achieves his ‘Ultimate’ state, growing to be a 70 ft. tall cyborg version of himself with a metal skull guard, left arm, and chest with tattered wings.

As he grows he shatters his skeletal counterpart’s arm. While the monster staggers back Metalgreymon opens up his chest and fires a pair of missiles at it. The resulting explosion utterly destroys his opponent and sends a massive shockwave sweeping over the hellscape. The only reason I’m able to withstand it is because Slan is inadvertently shielding me from it.

She goes to speak but then the pain steals her words. The fleshy tentacles are all on fire and so is the inside of her body. She releases me and staggers back as the fire consumes her from the inside out. Unable to retain her form she reverts back to the succubus.

“It is by my will that you die” I say to her as I jab the amethyst blade into her heart. “Exquisite!” Slan says breathily as she disintegrates into nothingness.

With her gone this place begins to fail too, collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Soon it will be no more.

What do we say to the God of Death? “Not today!” bellows Metalgreymon as flies by and I leap aboard him.

Pure oblivion pursues after us as we rush towards the portal. From it I hear a voice.


She’s holding the gate open. Holly hell that girl is scary powerful.

We fly through just as the tear blinks out of existence. Metalgreymon reverts to Augumon as we fall to ground. The building trembles slightly as the aftershocks reverberate through. Bruised, beaten, and bloody Augumon and I sit alone in the quiet for moment. He then starts pounding the ground in a particular rhythm. I start quietly sinking the accompanying words.

“Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day You got mud on yo’ face You big disgrace Kickin’ your can all over the place Singin’”

He joins me in the chorus,

“We will we will rock you We will we will rock you”

We sing the rest with our full hearts like a couple of idiots. Then it’s quiet again.

“Augumon” I ask, “should we get out of here?” “And not say goodbye!” he exclaims. “Well I’m just going to be direct. Are we telling them goodbye or are we saying goodbye?” “You’re crazy man. My adventure is far from over” “Thanks man.” “Yup, no problem.” “So should we wait for rescue or should climb out of here?” “I don’t know about you but I’m tired. So I vote that we pass out and wait.” “I second that motion.”

And just like that we both fell into unconsciousness. An unknown amount of time later we awoke in at the Chief’s cabin. Fortunately our little endeavor was widely understood to be an earthquake and damages will be paid accordingly. I still feel kind of bad about the house.

Me and the Mage have a conversation about what she should do.

“Believe in the me that believes in you” she says. I shake my head no, “Now you need to believe in the you that believes in you.” “You go?” “Yes” “Don’t. You stay.” “Sorry kid, I got worlds to save.” “I go?” “No. You stay here and keep these idiots safe.”

Just as I say that the Party busts through the door. They may be happy I’m alive but it ain’t me they’re here to see. My boy Augumon eats that attention up. The Bard hands the bag back to me, god only knows what these pre-teen boys used that power for. So while the Party is busy explain how they made Augumon an NPC for their next campaign I reach into the bag and pull out a star saber.

The Mage’s eyes go wide and I hand it to her with a nod.

“Thank you” she says. “You’ve earned it” I tell her.

So it’s time to go. I may not care too much for this place but I will miss its people. I could stay here but I can’t. It would be a nice place to tie everything off for now, but that’s not how this journey goes. Onward we go to new and dangerous place in pursuit of victory against Fate itself. We say our goodbyes and we’ll leave them to chart their own courses.

Now she’s free to be a real kid.

“We can always comeback” my orange companion says. “Oh I know you are” “You’re not?” “Probably best if I don’t.”

We’re back at the motel and a certain Camaro is in the parking lot. I’m sure that relationship will end well. Augumon tosses me the keys and we climb. There’s one song we got to play on our way out of town. I plug in the cassette and electronic piano leads us in.

“You can’t can’t stand the way that I walked out from the wreckage Can’t understand the way the way I turned myself around I tried to terminate this With you But you won’t let it go You keep on coming back for more”

This time we pull out at a little more leisurely pace.

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “We’re out of here, no turnin’ back” “We’re in a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

As we’re rolling down the street some bicycles pull up next us and the Party joins in the singing.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it” “And drive it like you stole it”

With that we wave our last goodbyes and  I accelerate and don’t stop until the Camaro vanishes into a flash of electricity and burning tire marks upon the ground.

Several weeks have passed. The Mage is getting better attuned to the weave but her growth comes in fits and starts. She’ll handle a task well until her patience ebbs and she decides to blow through it using raw force. The problem this poses is that her power shall be the sword she’ll die by. She’ll blow through all opposition like a hurricane wind until she hits a mountain. If she won’t refine her gifts then a superior power will crush her utterly.

And there are superior powers to hers. I’ve already encountered several.

Augumon and the Party have become fast friends. Them passing him off as some sort of oversized stuffed animal has proven to be a surprisingly reliable cover him. During their game nights he regales them with tales of his many adventures and his many companions. Do not let his small stature and pleasant nature allow you to presume to underestimate him. Truly he is a seasoned and accomplished hero of multiple worlds.

The most succinct and seemingly bizarre manner in which I can explain this is that if Superman was a t-rex it would be him. Together they took him on many little adventures over the course of our time here. Those tales are his to tell, not mine. It does suffice to say that he loved every minute of it.

My extended stay in town has forced me to expand my cover. While confident that I could fend any of any government action taken against me does not mean that I am eager to indulge that headache. According to that need I started renting a space for a dojo. Several months in and I’m a regular in the community under a totally false identity…I am a pretender and fraud.

The upside is that as the Mage begins her martial training we have the luxury of doing it indoors. Having the physical outlet greatly tempers her reliance on her rage. The more she channels her power into her physical prowess the more centered her connection to the weave becomes. By the time three months have passed she can use her power without her nose bleeding. Good, that means she’s not going hemorrhage as we dive deeper.

The girl is a natural telepath and a blooming master of telekinesis. With the growing need to challenge her power we are forced back our little arena in the bog. Now with her enhanced speed and strength she can start running laps with Augumon on her back. If you are envisioning a particular training sequence from a particular film series you would be correct…I am a thief….The difference is that this is the 80’s so we have much better training music. You know the routine…and a hack. THE music plays…

Rising up, back on the street Did my time, took my chances Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet Just a man and his will to survive

The Mage and I are taking turns doing hand stands with Augumon on our feet.

So many times it happens too fast You trade your passion for glory Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past You must fight just to keep them alive

We practice energy flow techniques as we pose against the backdrop of a setting sun.

It’s the eye of the tiger It’s the thrill of the fight Rising up to the challenge of our rival And the last known survivor Stalks his prey in the night And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

In a black void I see a man dressed in black monk’s attire, a grey tunic, with a red sash wrapped around his waist, and white boots. His back is turned to me but I recognize the clothing and his black curly hair but they belong to two very different beings. I awake in a cold sweat in the dead of night.

Face to face, out in the heat Hanging tough, staying hungry They stack the odds still we take to the street For the kill with the skill to survive

Sparing between me and her with our bare hands, she’s getting faster and stronger as the months pass. Almost five months in and she’s really getting the hang of using telekinesis in combat; throwing rocks, logs, anything she get a good grasp on and telekinetic defenses are better than mine.

It’s the eye of the tiger It’s the thrill of the fight Rising up to the challenge of our rival And the last known survivor Stalks his prey in the night And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

I’m in the void and the see the familiar figure again but this his time he’s facing. It’s the Bastard but not like I’ve ever seen him before. His features have become…wolf like, teeth like fangs and piercing yellow eyes. I snap out of the telepathic meditation and walk away from the Mage.

“Who’s that?” she asks me. “That answer is complicated” I tell her. “Friends don’t lie” “I’m not lying but it’s hard to explain” “Try” “Alright. It’s what you’re, what we all must face before our training is done” “What?” “Our darkness but mine is a little different since I last saw him.” “And mine?” “Only you can face it. Only you can beat it.” “I’m scared.” “You should be. You should be. Let’s get to back to it.”

Rising up, straight to the top Had the guts, got the glory Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop Just a man and his will to survive

Augumon and the Party join us, namely to throw anything and everything at me and her. The objective is simple, don’t get hit. The lesson, be cool under pressure. I’m trying to catch each individual thrown item in the weave while she is simply projecting a wall in it that the stuff bounces off of. Our dino friend ups the ante by firing a fireball at her. It impacts against her against her barrier shattering it as it explodes. None of the fire gets to her but the force of the explosion does send her tumbling head over ass backwards more than a couple meters.

She’s none too pleased and scrapped up pretty good but she’s alright.

It’s the eye of the tiger It’s the thrill of the fight Rising up to the challenge of our rival And the last known survivor Stalks his prey in the night And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

In my nightmares I remember a battle long past. It’s a starless night and all that can be seen are the silhouettes of two pairs of combatants squaring off against one another. Two men equal in height and two wolfmen, one very tall and the other very short. One of the men ignites a purple blade and the other starts glowing like golden fire, while the large wolf emanates a black flame as the small one taps his claws together and they become drenched in blood. The fires fly at one another while their respective partners charge each other. As they are about to clash lightning strikes and I’m jolted awake.

The eye of the tiger The eye of the tiger

Augumon is firing fireballs at me rapid fire and I’m deflecting them using the saber. After he’s out of energy I turn towards the mage who’s flinging debris at me. I cut through the projectiles and rush towards her as I do she outstretches her hand and closes her eyes. I’m in the black void and I stop dead in my tracks. It takes me moment but I realize where I am and what is going on. Through my mind I banish the void away and the world erupts back into existence around me. As it does a rock hits me squarely in the face and I’m down.

Bruised and slightly miffed, I curse underneath my breath as I get up. Augumon chides me for my foul language. The Mage looks anxiously towards me. I walk over to her and congratulate on how far she has come in these 7 months.

The eye of the tiger The eye of the tiger

We are at the end of eight months and the Chief has made it clear that he doesn’t want her training to interrupt her schooling. This’ll be the first year she’ll be enrolled in public schools and that’s enough for her worry about. He’s content at how far she has come and is confident that she has the tools she needs to live a normal life. That and he’s worried that I’m going to drag my apprentice off on some dangerous journey beyond this world.

I couldn’t be honest and say that I hadn’t considered it at many points but ultimately I choose not to. Sure she would be tremendous asset to my endeavors but she’s also a little girl who’s been denied a normal life her entire life. Let her live life a little and then she can decide that for herself. That decision is hers and I’ll let it be hers.

So was all of this a waste of my time? I’m no closer to my goal and what occurred here should have no bearing on the rest of my quest. No, no it wasn’t. I helped her achieve some balance, I’m leaving a highly capable defender against the Nightmare Hive should that threat arise, and I started a minor boom in the appreciation of the martial arts in the American Midwest. All good things, though the second point warrants some further consideration.

There is no way the presence of myself and my traveling companion failed to impact the world’s balance. I was certain that the Nightmare Hive would respond, I mean I know for a fact that its attention is firmly on this town and the Party. Maybe it’s waiting for us to leave? But what action is warranted from me?

Shall we stay, as I don’t want to leave this world to be trampled underfoot the instant we leave, and then how long are we obligated to stay? Then again this is their world and their battle. Do I not have an obligation to others, to her that I must uphold? Why don’t we just initiate the fight and win it outright? Then again it is their fight and wouldn’t I be stealing their conflict, denying them their growth?

That bridge will be crossed tomorrow. Today is the last and critical test for the Mage, the trial of fear. She must go to a dark and cold place so that she may face her darkness. How she fares in the face of it shall determine the path she shall take. It will be a difficult test but there should be no peril for her.

“At least it is true that man has no control”

I was so very very wrong!

The following morning we ride with the Chief to his cabin home. It’s a little ways from town, safe and secluded. Exactly the kind of place you’d keep a 13 year old girl with burgeoning psychic powers until she was properly integrated into society. It’s a quaint but pleasant domicile. Me and Augumon sit on the couch as the Chief knocks on a bedroom door.

The door opens and the Chief persuades her to come out and join us.

“Hi! I’m Augumon.” says Augumon.

I introduce myself with less enthusiasm. The Mage introducers herself by tersely saying just her first name. Small conversation is initiated; she has a small circle of friends that like playing table top adventure games…hence the handle. The discussion shifts to her powers and get a little more complicated. Fortunately, unlike the people of the Song, I don’t have centuries of technological and cultural knowledge on her or her adoptive father and that makes explaining myself a little easier. What they need to know is fairly easily conveyed, I’m a galactic warrior from beyond the stars and I’m here to train her.

The ‘why’ is where I still remain elusive. To be truthful I’m not entirely sure myself. It’s more a feeling than a thought and I’m going to run with it. Why am I so eager to pass on this knowledge? I tell myself over and over that it is because “it is that will which is mine own” but after my encounter with the King Other I am terrified that I act in service to something else.

Am I but a pawn in my own game?

The Chief wants assurances of her safety, as any good parent would. My retort is asking whether or not he’d like her bleeding to stop when she uses her powers. They both like that notion very much. Her distrust is plain in her face but I can sense the eagerness in her heart.

She rises and makes a demand of me, “How I know?” “How do you know what?” I question back. “How I know if true?” “You want to see it for yourself?”

She nods. I stand up and walk across the room. I point at the television.

“Throw it at me” I tell her.

The Chief asks if we can use something a “little less valuable”.

“Throw me!” Augumon volunteers. “Dude, you’re a little more than a little more valuable than a TV” I chide him. “Yeah but I won’t break” “You mean that I’ll catch you, right?” “Yeah sure that to” “Ok” the Mage says. “I’m ready” says Augumon

She tenses up her shoulders and the TV rises off the ground into the air. There is no doubt; she has a strong presence in the weave. Her hand claws up as lashes her arm forward and the television is sent hurtling towards me. The technique is raw, primal.

I hold my hand up as I was catching a baseball and it is that easy. Through the weave I seize the device in midair and gently set it back into place. Clearly she has power but wields it like a club. Above all else we must refine her abilities. There is no peril of time, and I’m shaken by what happened with happened with the Bastard, so there is no need and there will be no use of the time chamber.

Upon closer inspection I am reminded of how exceptionally shitty TV’s were in the years prior to my birth.

“Augumon, I think we got a gift for her in the bag” “Oh yeah! I almost forgot”

Forgot? I just thought of this. How can he know? Well, that’s it.

My companion pulls out a hand sized digital device of particular significance that the initiated will recognize. If you’re among the uninitiated then don’t worry about it…too much.

“If you ever need to find me this will help” he tells her. “Ok that’s cool but not what I was talking about” I say as I wander over.

I reach into the bag and pull out a DVD player with a built in screen and three films of particular relevance. She is instructed to watch all three movies and that training begins later this week. The Chief is instructed that this if future technology and it would be to the timeline’s benefit to not have it leave these premises. He agrees.

Augumon and I step outside for a moment as the Chief prepares to take us back into town. I’d like to have a little chat about that gift of his.

“So you just wanted to go on an adventure, huh?” I press him. “Wha are you talking about?” “That’s quite the gift you gave.” “So you know what that is, huh?” “Dude, of course I know” “Yup I guess you would. You’re not mad are you?” “No of course not…” “Because we’re still partners, right?” “Yeah, yeah we are but you got to listen for a sec, ok?” I ask as I get down eye level with him, “You didn’t decide to come here on a whim. Somewhere deep down you really wanted to come here for that reason, right” “Yup. Was that bad?” “No, no it wasn’t but you have to be mindful of your desires. My will can bend the fabric of this world and I suspect that as an extension of mine, so can yours?” “Ah, I uh…I’m confused. What does that mean?” “It means that if you want something badly enough then the world will accommodate you. As such you need to think about what it will do see that wish done.” “Like you and the Queen?” I close my eyes and swallow hard, “Yeah like that.” “Hey cheer up! It’ll be ok. I promise.” “I do sincerely appreciate that bud but I don’t if that’s a promise you can make.” “It will, I’ll show you.”

I pet his t-rex head and he hugs me. We can make this right but I’m afraid that his optimism is naivety and ignorance of what we’re really up against. If it is as I fear then all of this is akin to a doomsday prepper preparing to outlast the Sun’s supernova.

That’s enough existential dread. The Chief comes out and we load up into this truck and make our way back into town. He asks where we’ll be staying, as he’d like us to remain inconspicuous. We go back to the motel. We arrange a meeting time for two days later and he drives off.

Augumon pulls my long coat out of the bag and uses it to cover himself as we walk to our room on the first floor. I pull out the room key from the bag and we make ourselves at home in that dingy room. While the two of us idiots watch movies, have a dance competition, and re-steal the 79’ Camaro; now would be a good time to explain a few things…namely, the bag.

What it says on the tin is what you get, “a bag that contains everything we need”. Now given that we know that the worlds will attempt to balance themselves out from whatever displacements you introduce into them how can I justify so haphazardly introduce such a device. Simple, keep it small enough to not make a major difference. These worlds are bound by their creators like knots and similarly have as much give as they are, knowingly or not, designed with. My error with the Song was not respecting that it’s tied like the Gordian knot. This Peculiar Place is more a figure eight knot; you can pull from several directions in increments and not notice the difference.

In the grand scheme of a ‘world’: car keys, clothing, a couple thousand dollars, and a motel room will have no bearing on reality as those things exist and are in common use. A DVD player and a modern television will have more of an effect because these are advanced technologies but are technologies that already exist. If worst came to worst some jerk would patent the designs and get rich by leap frogging technology by a couple decades. That would only negatively affect the actual future inventor/patent holders, which sucks for them but it isn’t a threat to the world.

However a pseudo-magical device that grants humans quasi-divine power in a self-sentient digital world that is currently in fledgling state, if existing at all, could have some severe repercussions. I understand why Augumon did it, who doesn’t empathize with trying to relive past glories if you’re past a certain age, but we all too often forget what made those days “glorious”. You only get to be as big hero as the evil you face and all that entails. Not that I have room to talk.

Two days come and go and the Chief picks us up under the cover of early morning. I’m back to my tunic and robes. We walk into a deep part of the woods where there is a bog…I am a thief and pretender…and the Mage is waiting for us. This is the first part of training, setting up shop.

As I use the saber to slice trees into balancing stumps I instruct her to lift the pieces in heavier and heavier loads. She is powerful but her focus wavers. When angered or stressed she lift an entire tree but she needs to heat of the moment to do it, her connection to the weave is too reliant upon her emotion. It will take time but she must find clarity to achieve control.

At the end of our session our little arena has been made. She bled a lot and I know her father is going to give me hell for it. That’s all the more reason to find that clarity, that center. Once she can interact with the weave with a little less emotion then that should stop.

The most important take for me is that I’m only going to train her in the light. As a grey I could train her in both but that would not be wise. Though she may be a child who’s been exposed to far more darkness that any person should, she is still a child and the light makes a better foundation. It’s easier to learn to question rules as you age than it is impose rules upon questions. That and the dark is inextricably tied to one’s emotion, something that calling upon endangers her life. Quite unlike the Bastard she has an affinity for it. By nature of her birth and her life experiences she is attuned to it. Whereas the dark would overcome and wield him it would consume her.

Maybe once she’s secured a safer connection to the weave and has achieved more emotional stability I would highly encourage her to master her dark. Yet we must learn to walk before we can run. The next couple weeks will be nothing but basics, the months after that will be augmentation & martial combat training, leading into the half year mark we shall focus on advanced applications, at the half year mark we will begin the deep dive into advanced technique, and hopefully by the nine month mark we can start rounding out the advanced techniques with advanced applications.

Just as we’re about to end for the day I take a wet rag and wipe the blood away from her nose. I tell her that she did a great job and Augumon is overjoyed to praise every cool thing that she did in excruciating detail. In time we’ll worry about curbing ego but for now I need her to want to come back. For what it is worth she is very powerful but I can’t say it enough, that power is bloody raw.

The Chief came by to drop off lunch and check-in on her around midday. He comes back around to collect us all a couple hours later. When he does he has company. The Mage’s little group of friends consists of the Paladin, Cleric, Bard, Ranger, and Zoomer collectively calling themselves the Party. The Paladin’s mother is his co-pilot. On our way back into town she’s quite insistent on being the conversationalist. That’s not her usual M.O. Clearly she’s here to get a sense of us. Augumon wins her over.

As we pull into the motel parking lot she invites us to dinner. I politely defer to take her up on the offer at a later time. Augumon hides underneath the long coat as we talk. Just before they’re about to pull away the Mage steps out of the back seat. She places her hands together and bows, calling me sensei. I am moved and bow in kind. Maybe it’s just a formality but that meant a lot to me.

Before she goes I ask her, “What do you want you Gi to look like?” “What is Gi?” she asks. I point to my vestments and tell her, “It’s our uniform.”

She nods acknowledging that she understands.

“Do you have it pictured in your head?” I ask her.

She nods. I hold up the bag a gesture for her to reach in. She pulls out her Gi, exactly as she would want it. There’s a magical kind of wonder in her eye.

“Thanks” she says.

She gets back in and they drive away. Once they do I sense eyes on me. The angry jock is watching me from his Camaro from across the street. I glare at him and he drives away.

Let me not be bothered by his nuisance.

We rest for a couple hours when a knock comes at the door. Augumon covers himself with the sheets. I answer the door to be greeted by the Party. They have many many questions for me that all essentially revolve around whether or not I’m a galactic warrior. I assure them that I am by telekinetically closing the door. They knock on the door more. I open the door and they have a thousand questions about their irrelevant assumptions. This, this I do not have the patience for.

“I’ll tell you everything” volunteers Augumon. “Everything?” I query him. “Most everything” he clarifies.

Truth be told, I’m more than happy to let him play baby sitter. I need this time to do some assessment of my surroundings. The easiest thing for me to sense should be a portal to this shadowscape that started the whole mess for this town. Since I can’t I can only assume that there isn’t any…now. For one I know that its return will more than likely be a slow creep and not a grand explosion. While we’re here I must remain vigilant.

Why am I so certain that they will return? My little bag of wonders may have a negligible effect on the world but the presence of me and dino companion do not. This world will make an effort to realign itself the Nightmare Hive will take advantage. The Mage’s growth should not upset the balance as we are honing as opposed to awakening her power. With a little help and a lot of guidance she can beat it for good.

While I’m being honest I need to own up to something. I don’t expect the Nightmare Hive to react. I’m counting on it. If I can confront it in its realm I can confirm or deny the foreboding suspicion growing in my heart. When that time comes we will be ready for it.

If I am to have any hope in the face of my grave fear we must be ready.

On the outskirts of a small Indiana town is a motel. At this motel a high school senior is having an illicit rendezvous with the mother of one his younger sister’s friends. For the initiated, he is the older brother of the Zoomer and she is the mother of the Paladin. He’s an angry jock who takes his anger out on all the wrong people in all the wrong ways and she’s a desperate housewife who settled for less than she wanted, far too soon.

Though I don’t much enjoy his personality I do appreciate his style. The illicit lovers make out with one another as they enter their second story motel room. Once their door is shut and locked electricity sparks in the parking lot. The sparking increases as a silver orb manifests, growing larger and larger until it explodes leaving a flaming circle with me and Augumon standing in the center, our aviators on and non-descript duffle bag hung over Augumon’s shoulder.

We saunter over to the angry jock’s steel blue 79’ Camaro and get in.

“So how are we going to start the car?” Augumon asks me. “Reach into the bag” I tell him.

He pulls out a set of keys for this 79’ Camaro.

“Whatever we need is in this bag” I tell him. “Oh! That’s neat.”

As I insert the key into the ignition and let the engine warm up Augumon pulls out a red and orange striped scarf which he wraps around his neck. The Camaro’s engine roars as I feed it a little. Reaching into the duffle bag I pull out a cassette.

“What’s that?” he asks me. “The perfect song for this occasion” I answer as I insert the cassette into the player.

The electronic keyboard feeds into the rhythmic drums of the intro:

You can’t can’t stand the way that I walked out from the wreckage Can’t understand the way the way I turned myself around I tried to terminate this With you But you won’t let it go You keep on coming back for more

The tires squeal as the Camaro peels out of the parking lot and speeds down the dark highway. I crank the volume up and the two of us sing with our whole hearts like a couple idiots

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “We’re out of here, no turnin’ back” “We’re in a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

The brisk midwinter air floods through the open windows. It’s a little nippy but nowhere near too cold, cause we got fire in our hearts and spirit in our lungs.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it” “And drive it like you stole it”

The farther we go the faster we accelerate and the more we dance in our seats.

“We get stuck in the dirt” “And we can’t see where we’re going” “We face all kinds of hurt” “And the friction slows us down” “But we won’t be waitin’ for the world to win us gold” “And we’ll leave your dust behind us” “Stranded in the road”

Cars on the other side of the road are flashing their lights and blaring their horns at us. It’s only a matter of time now.

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “Attitude” “We’re givin’ it back” “In a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

At long last a pair of red and blue siren lights starts to tail us. We’re not going to keep him long, but we are going to finish this song.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it”

The cop is right on our ass and flashing his brights. The light illuminates the silhouettes of Augumon drumming on the dash board and me swaying like an epileptic lunatic.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it”

As the last few bars of repetition and “hoo, hoo, hoo-ooh-ooh” play out I let the car coast to a stop. The music fades out as I shift into park. The deputy walks up to the driver-side window and he is not prepared for what he’s about to see.

“Son, do you have any idea how fast you were…” he starts with but tapers off as he sees an tiny orange dinosaur in the passenger seat.

I wave my hand in a small circle as I speak, “Officer you don’t need your gun, do you? We’re cooperating.” “Yeah I don’t need it”, he says as he pulls his pistol out its holster and tosses it aside, “why is there a giant lizard in your vehicle?” I wave my hand as I speak, “Sheeesh…I think you’re going to need the Chief to check this out.” He speaks into his handheld radio, “Chief, I need you to check something!” “Back at the station” as I wave my hand. “Meet me back at the station” he nervously echoes my words.

Augumon and I climb into the back of his squad car and he quietly hums the song as we are taken to their little lock up. As per my “request” we are put in a cell removed far removed from any others, are allowed to keep all our items, and the cell door is left unlocked. Now all we have to do is patiently wait.

It’s a little but not too long before the Chief storms over to gaze at us in bewilderment. We politely introduce ourselves and he demands to know who the hell I’m with.

“Me, myself, and him” I quip as I point back at Augumon sitting on the cot.

The Chief demands to know what the hell he is.

“I told you, I’m Augumon” my companion says.

The Chief rudely requests for clarification.

“Chief, take my word on this. Explaining him too much will only make less sense” I respond.

I ask him if he’s seen a particular series of films of popular and critical acclaim. He says “yes” and I assure him that I’m a “galactic warrior”. He sneers unbelieving as he locks the cell door. As he takes a step back I flip my hand to the side and unlock the door and push it open as I push my hand forward. Duly alarmed he grabs his handgun and trains its sights between my eyes.

“Really? You of all people should know how this goes” I say to him.

While he’s commanding me to freeze I reach through the weave and wrench the gun free of his grip and toss it against the back wall. It goes off as it impacts.

“What’s going on in here?” the Deputy asks as he enters. I wave my hand, “Chief dropped his gun. He’s got to be more careful.” “Jesus, Chief! You’re going to hurt somebody” he berates his boss.

The Chief is befuddled as to the nature of reality and queries his deputy as to what the hell Augumon is.

“Oh he’s my iguana” I answer for him, waving my hand in a particular fashion that shall continue for the duration of this exchange. “Yup, I’m totally an iguana” Augumon concurs. “You can hear him talk because you’ve been working too hard” “Uh huh and you totally deserve a day off.”

The deputy rubs his hand through his hair and sys to his boss how he’s out of it and needs to take a day. The Chief nervously agrees as he stares at me. The deputy thanks me for reporting the stolen car and coming down to station to give a witness account. I assure him that his thanks “aren’t warranted” and he walks back up to the office to sign out for the evening.

While the Chief is trying to gather his bearings on what the hell just happened I approach him and say, “Chief, we got to talk about Eleven.”