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About Deviant Artist Member JacobMale/United States Groups :iconhexengeliebtegruppe: Hexengeliebtegruppe
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  • Mood: Cheerful
  • Listening to: Some Owen Pallett
  • Reading: Internet updates
  • Watching: Men Drinkin' Coffee play Sonic Boom
  • Playing: Preppin' for Savage Worlds!
  • Eating: Reasonably well
  • Drinking: Got mildly crunk on Jaeger on Thanksgiving!
As you noticed, if you noticed, I sorta dropped the ball in those last days of NaNo.  This and that came up (primarily in the form of me getting my ass kicked at work and also having to wrestle with exactly what I wanted to happen later in the story) and I wound up losing the race completely.  But I got a huge block o' text down and a better grasp on the characters and setting, so I will be returning to MGP and finishin' it!

note to self actually do that this time

In the interim I'll be finishing Clio vs. Kayfabe and doing some other writin' junk in this and that variety!  But not tonight.  o lord anything but productivity now
One ice-blue evening at camp, Irenka and Osanna set up camp far out in the fields outside of Icemelt.  Irenka hacked down a small tree with her entrenching tool, more or less just to show off that she was good at it, and set up a nice warm campfire.  Osanna set up the tent and church-keyed open the first beer, taking a long, loving drought as Irenka worked her flint and tinder, catching the kindling alight and getting the flame started in earnest.  "Keep at it, almost there," Osanna said.
With a few flaps of her blanket the kindling caught, licks of fire pressing up through the pile of logs.  "There we go," Irenka said.  She took a seat on her bedroll next to Osanna and watched her campfire blossom.  "Heck of a thing," she said.
"Hell.  You can say hell."  Osanna reached for another beer from her satchel (of beer) and punched two holes in the tin.  "You ever have Black Bliss?"
"What's its vintage?" Irenka said.
Osanna laughed.  "Ha ha, oh, you poor ginger bitch."  She held out the can.  "Brace yourself, this is gonna be good."
Irenka took the can, read the label, sniffed the punched holes, and stared at Osanna warily.  "This is supposed to be drunk by humans, right?"
"It's supposed to get humans drunk, yes."
"It's always about getting drunk with you."
"One of these days I'm going to have a conversation with you off-duty and you will be sober while it's happening."  She took a drink and flinched.  She spit it out.  "--what even is this?!  Did something pee in it?"
"Probably!  But you don't argue with ten per cent alcohol by volume in a beer.  Ice-fortified beer is the Winter Mountain's cold cruel mercy for thinking minds."  Osanna reached for her satchel.
Irenka swat at her hand.
"He-e-ey.  What'd you do that for?"
"Corporal Karolina Osanna Nowakowski.  We are going to talk to each other without either of us being drunk."
"Fine."  Osanna slumped onto her bedroll.  "What is it you want to talk about, little miss lightweight?"
"We could talk about anything."  Irenka reached for her own backpack and retrieved her sketchbook.
"What kind of anything?" Osanna said.  "I don't like talking about myself.  Everything you do is public knowledge.  So what else?  The news?  The weather?"
"Books, maybe?  What kind of books do you like to read?"
"I don't like talking about literature."
"So it's really just liquor with you."
"Well.  As far as you care."  Osanna crossed her arms.  "Maybe if I got a little drunk I'd be more interested in talking."
"You can't talk literature when you're drunk," Irenka said, leafing through her journal.
"Says you."
"Did you know I'm an artist?" Irenka said.
"Well.  I know you write in that thing a lot.  So you're drawing instead?"
"I am indeed.  Would you like to see?"  She glanced over at Osanna, wagging her journal invitingly.
"Sure.  Not gonna kill me."  Osanna reached for the journal; Irenka handed it over.  The princess flopped onto her bedroll and watched her assisstant gunner leaf through the book.
"Huh, first thing in here and it's me... and Stolarz.  Ha, was that the start of your unrequited crush on me?"
"It's not a crush..." Irenka said, smiling.
"Not really how it works, so you know," Osanna said.  "Leg position is really important, you can't just stand like this and expect to get any hits in.  Or not get flipped on your back... or your head.  If we had knives we'd be cutting the hell out of each other too.  Not how you win a knife fight."
"How do you win a knife fight, Sana?"
"Don't get friendly with me, ginger.  But the trick is to get them before they get you.  It's the easiest thing in the world to get cut up.  You want to end it as soon as you can.  You ever... well, I'm starting to get you haven't seen or done most things, so I'll just tell you.  Amateurs, they pull their knives like they're little fencing champs.  Usually both of them die, one right there, the other after he bleeds out.  So what you do is you get his knife under control, and your knife in his throat or eye or groin..."  She realized she was pointing at her own groin in the sketch and quickly readjusted to point at Stolarz's.  "Ahem."  She turned the page.  "Moving on."
"You're a real scrapper, aren't you?" Irenka said.
"You could say that."
"They did wind up giving you the biggest bayonet we make."
"Yeah, they did.  Not that I need the biggest.  Reach isn't everything, though it helps.  When it comes to bayonets, you need something sorta... you're actually listening to me, aren't you?"
"I am."  Irenka scooted a little closer, for emphasis.  "It helps to be a good listener."
"Hell.  Maybe you might even learn something."
"Go on.  What is it about bayonets?"
"Well... they can't be too long, or they unbalance the gun, and you're supposed to use it like a spear, see.  And spears don't have too long a point.  Scythes, yes, but that's because of how they're used.  Basic spears are pick-up-and-go weapons..."
This went on for some time.
", of course some idiot's going to run in and ram his sword in your guts.  You have like a two-foot reach and exactly two feet.  That's why we mount the blade parallel to the haft."  She used the journal to indicate what she meant, placing it flat along her arm.  "You don't get that reaping motion and you can't punch through somebody's helmet, but it's still a big meaty chopping blade with a sharp point.  And you can actually, you know, uh, adjust how you're going to grip it... thrust it... slash it... hit somebody with the blunt end... all that good stuff."
Irenka nodded.
"...shit, I've been going on a while..."  She propped herself up and went for another beer, pausing to make sure Irenka wasn't going to smack her hand again.  Irenka waved her along, and so she fetched herself a drink.  "There."  She took a long, slow drink.  "Shit, my throat feels like it's been scoured.  You let me go on, didn't you?"
"It was nice.  You were really passionate about it.  It's nice hearing people go on about what they're really into."
"Spoken like someone who's never had the plot of Endless Blue Symphony explained to them."  She slew the drink in a final deadly draught and tossed the can off into the distance.
"You know you're collecting those in the morning," Irenka said.
"Tomorrow's tomorrow.  Today is right now.  Ergo I do not fucking care."
"You really like that word, Osanna."
"It expresses everything I feel in as few syllables as possible.  It is a miracle word."
Irenka rolled over, at last.  She'd lost feeling in her elbow.  "So... what do you do when you're not a soldier?"
"Smelt iron.  Fight people."
"Had a feeling about the second thing."
"How 'bout you?"
"I paint still lifes.  I'm still getting my education, otherwise.  How old are you?"
"I remember."
"Oh... right."  Irenka laughed.  "Everybody knows, don't they."
"Everybody.  Hard to miss it.  Friggin' queen won't stop having babies and she won't stop reminding us when it's their birthday.  How are you not spoiled rotten?"
"You haven't spent twenty-four hours with her.  Or your entire life.  She, uh, she has her ways."
"'least she didn't raise a bitch.  Or too big a one, anyway."  Osanna stared up at the stars.  "What do you know about the Astral Court?"
"The... what?"
A long quiet unfolded where only the crackle of the fire and the distant moan of wind sounded.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"I'm not."
"You're--what--in college?  And you don't know anything about the Astral Court?  The fucking gods of the stars?"
"Oh--well, I know that you worship the stars.  That's the Równiny oath, isn't it?  'The earth mirrors the sky.'"
"The gods aren't stars.  The gods are among the stars.  The constellations are... oh, I can't start with you."  Osanna covered her face with her hands.  "I cannot begin to start with how much I am hating Social Harmony right now."
"I... well."  Irenka turned away from Osanna.  "Well, there goes that."
"There goes what."
"Us, talking."
"I'm not goin' anywhere.  You're not gonna hike off without me.  We're both still here."
"But I just pissed you off."
"Everything pisses me off.  It's... it's alright.  You get used to it.  I think you'll get used to it."  She paused.  "I don't have a lot of friends... or any.  I don't have any friends."  A longer pause.  "Fuck me, I don't have any friends.  Star Maiden, how did I never notice that?  Or care?  Closest thing I have to a friend are the idiots who keep trying to go for a rematch.  My mom's dead, your mom killed my dad, my brother killed himself, my sister killed herself, I'm the last fucking one and I don't have anyone who's gonna miss me."
Irenka turned back around.  Osanna's hands were resting on her stomach.  Her eyes were open and staring at the stars.  Her expression was, as often it was, unreadable.
Osanna tilted her head, looking Irenka in the eye.
"You're blushing."
"I'd miss you, if you died," Irenka said, just above a whisper.
"Well.  Somebody's got to carry your bullets."
"I like you, Osanna.  You're my friend."
"Well, you'd say that.  You're a princess.  You have to be... what's it... gingerly?  No, that's--"
Irenka planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
"I'm saying it because you're my friend.  I like you and I'm glad I know you."
A crooked, ungainly smile crossed Osanna's face.
"Well, shit.  I was kind of enjoying the angst, there, for a minute."
"Well.  I still don't know anything about the gods, and none of my brothers or sisters do... probably not one in ten people in Winter Mountain know either.  So I guess you still have reason to be... angst-y."
"Hey, you're right."  Osanna chuckled.  "Don't let anybody tell you you're not half-bad, okay?"
"I'm a princess.  I can have them killed if they do."
"Hey, speaking of.  Don't waste that beer.  Or hand it over here if you would."
Irenka glanced at the beer can still resting on the grass next to her.  She chose option two, and Osanna knocked it back.
"Ahh.  Bliss."  She flicked it away.  "What do you think your mom's up to, anyway?"
"Trying to make another baby," Irenka said, sighing.  "If Mr. Devarajah ever says yes, anyway."
"By the gods, woman, why the hell does she have so many?" Osanna said.
"I wish I knew.  Some days I think she just has a problem."
Machine Gun Princess, day 23
Total: 35,574

Oh God I slept in yesterday because yesterday was suboptimal and aaaaaaaagh
"...and how is Irena doing?" Devaraja said as he placed his Boiler piece on the queen's pawn.  The wargame was in its final rounds.  Agnieska's pieces were thoroughly scattered across the bard and Devaja's own were poised to rush her point and take it.  In a challenging game this would have taken an hour to set up.  Devaraja had the queen at his mercy in about ten minutes.
"Oh, happy as she's ever been," Agnieska said, surveying the board and trying to suss out some way to disrupt his strategy.  Winning was out of the question.  She could never figure the guy out, but then, that's why she had him where he was.  "I think she's doing great for herself.  You should see the way she carries that gun around.  It's just delightful, like a new puppy."  No, she was doomed.  She moved her Siege Tower over to one of Devaraja's own Towers and plopped the tile down.
"And how do you feel about this?" he said.
"Couldn't be any more proud."  She reached into her purse and pulled out her smoker's tin.
"You're nervous, too.  I haven't seen you smoke this much before."
"It's been a good crop, Dev."
"When we met, you only smoked when you were nervous... or waking up.  Now you can't put that tin down, or so it seems."
"Well..."  She opened the box a crack.  "I guess it's been a busy year."
"If you don't mind me doing so," Devaraja said, "I would like to guess the reason why."
"Go right on ahead."  She went ahead and flipped the box open, rolling out a fresh cigarette with machine-like efficiency.
Devaraja sighed and won the game, using his Mantid piece to send his Infantry into the queen's point.  "Firstly, the last time you smoked this much was when you sent your eldest to basic training.  You were a chimney from the palace 'til the night after you came back, which I presume meant three straight days of partaking."
"Mm... accurate."  She lit a match with her thumbnail and lit her hand-rolled.
"Then again when Irena's first day of basic ended... then again after I demonstrated the Thunderbolt to her... and from the day she saved Ms. Nowakowski until she was discharged from care.  And a week after.  And ever since then you've lit up at least four times per day.  Up from a rate of, from what I'd seen, perhaps four times per week."
"Hm."  Agnieska took a contemplative toke.  "Two joints in the morning... two in the afternoon... two in the evening... really, it's more like six."  She smiled.  "Then, you'd know that if you went to bed with me~"
Devaraja closed his eyes.  "Well, that didn't take too long."
Agnieska pushed up from her seat and walked around the game table.  "It's because you're being such a fuss bucket, Little Raja.  You could use a little smoke yourself."
"I'm not a smoker, Your Majesty.  One can have a few drinks before they get to one's head, but all it takes is one of those--"
"Blah blah blah."  She wrapped her arms around him and rest her head on his shoulder, her cigarette dangling from her lips.  "You're proving my point.  You're a smart, smart boy, Raja, but you really do need to loosen up too.  I'm not saying retire to smoke a lot of wee-e-e-d, I'm saying once in a while and you'll get nice and calm."
"I'll consider it," he said.  "But, Your Majesty, dare I observe that it's your eldest daughter you're most worried about?"
"Mm.  I do love my babies, Raja."
"As a mother does.  I propose that the reason you have been so deep into your tin as of late is because you're worried she'll meet her end as a soldier, in the prime of her life."
The queen plucked the joint from between her lips and blew out a lungful of smoke.  She started speaking but quickly devolved into a short series of coughs.  "Ah, pardon.  You know... I'm told I have very cute coughs.  Do I?"
"Like a sneezing kitten, your majesty," Devaraja said.  Exaggerating only slightly.
"Right-o.  I wonder what you sound like."
"You're avoiding the subject... my queen."
"Ooh.  'My queen.'"  She kissed his cheek.  "Mr. Khasa, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to seduce me..."
"I believe I have found the core of your distress, Your Majesty.  You miss your husband, don't you?"
"...well, of course I do."
"And you don't want to lose Irena."
"Of course I don't."
"Because you love her, and because you love him.  You see it in her red hair, you see it in her soft-spoken demeanor.  She's a painter, too.  You took the royal gallery out of mothballs around the time she started talking, if the histories are correct..."
The queen had no response for that.  She took slow, deep draws off of her cigarette.
"Thus, my conclusion: you're proud that your daughter is learning to defend herself, but outright terrified at the notion that one day the Reunification will need her to lay down her life... and given that she is proving a model soldier, that she will have no qualms with doing so."
"Let's say you're right," the queen said.  "If you don't want me smoking so much, Raja, what do you want me to do?"
"Well."  He bat his eyes at her.  "Have you considered the Svartalf project?"
Agnieska rubbed her temples.  "Oh, Raja, Raja, Raja.  You sweet little bastard."
"Remember what I said last time?"
"What we are discussing here is the life of your soldiers, and in particular, your daughter."
"But here's the thing, Raja.  Each one of those little metal soldiers costs as much as one of our main battle tanks.  And they're not as strong as one of our main battle tanks. That's a lot of finely machined moving parts, and a lot of spirit stakes, and that's on top of the Thunderbolt and Boneshaker and everything else we're making for that next fabled generation of warfare."
Devaraja furrowed his brow.  "Have you actually seen the Boneshaker?  The good men and women of Równiny assemble them in garages, with civilian-grade tools.  That's why only half of them have the wooden stocks.  If you had good sense you'd invest in more of the Riot..."
"Raja, baby, war isn't just about putting out the fanciest toys.  You know that even we have to care about lo-gi-stiiiiicks.  A platoon of tanks will have more of a return on investment than a platoon of toy soldiers, and those we can repair with quote unquote civilian-grade tools.  I can't even name half the stuff you use to put the knees back together on those Svartalves."
"Your Majesty..."
"And if we can't keep them up and moving in the field, they're not going to take the place of any soldiers, and there goes a big chunk of our budget on an experiment that goes nowhere.  And all our pretty boys and pretty girls get ground up anyway, and all that we did was say, 'but we tried not to get ourselves killed!'  And the other guys will laugh as they make chairs out of our bones."
Agnieska slid away from Devaraja and made her way to her bed.  "Raja, I get you, believe me.  I don't--okay, yeah you're right.  Of course you're right.  I absolutely do not want to see my little girl come home in a little coffin with a flag draped over it.  I've been having nightmares, these, just, really horribly sick nightmares that I don't even want to talk about..."  She flopped onto her bed, on her back.  "And every time I think about it I wonder who in the hell would want to go to war with us, and I just start thinking about how much wealth we're sitting on... and I gotta wonder, who wouldn't want to crush us underheel just to get at it?  And... that's the trick of it, isn't it?"
"...Your Majesty?"  Devaraja edged towards her bed.
"You can never really trust anyone, can you?  Hell, look at what we did to Flatland.  We made it live up to its name.  And now here we are, trying to get along, waiting to see if anyone wants to test it.  Maybe it'll be Threshold, wanting more raw material for its fleets.  Or Shiver, or Lightwreath, or hell, maybe the Continent will try getting back in the game.  And who the hell knows what they're up to?  I mean, shit, look at what you're making that's not even worth pitching at invaders.  War is getting scary.  Like, really, really scary."
Devaraja stood at the foot of her bed, uncertain of what to do.  There were some things that didn't read as well as a fight, or a game.
Agnieska looked down at Devaraja.  "You know what my idea is?"
"Can't begin to guess, Your Majesty."
"Make a lot of friends and give them good reason not to kick you out of bed."
"Hm.  It's a plan."
Agnieska worked her shoes off and, grasping them with her toes, tossed them to the side.  "You sure you're not trying to seduce me?  Because let me tell you..."  She plucked a clip from her nightstand and grasped the short end of her cigarette.  The little light was getting rather too close to her fingers for comfort.  "Nothing gets me hot like discussing how screwed we are."
Devaraja sat on the side of the bed.  "I... don't think so, Your Majesty."
"Well, then."  The queen pulled open a drawer on her nightstand and took out another one of her smoking tins.  "Brace yourself, we're getting you good and relaxed.  We've still got a half hour 'til lunch is done."
"Your Majesty..."
"That's an order, general.  I outrank you."
He sighed.  "Understood, Majesty."
* * *
"That's on good and tight, right?" Irenka said, gesturing to the sides of her head.
"Huh?!" Noriko said.
"You are good!" Irenka said, slowly mouthing the words and giving her the a-okay sign.  She pat Noriko's earmuffs, then pulled Henryk back behind the line drawn in the sand.  Her Thunderbolt was mounted on a heavy-duty tripod, one that essentially negated the gun's recoil.  It also sported a remote trigger, which meant none of her siblings actually had to touch her gun.  This put her at an odd kind of ease.
"Alright!"  She held up her hand.  Henryk and Tymon covered their ears.  "One.. two..."  She tapped Noriko's shoulder, and she squeezed the two triggers.  The gun ripped through its first belt in seconds as Noriko peppered the hill Irenka chose as their target.
"Woo!" Noriko said, throwing her arms up once the gun stopped firing.  "That was so awesome!"
"Oh yes.  Now reload it so your brother can shoot."
Irenka pulled an earmuff away from her head.  "Reload, so your brother can shoot."
" I have to?"
"It's not hard, Nori.  Just follow my lead."
"You're still a dork, Renka."
"But I'm also a corporal.  That means I outrank you.  And I'm older than you.  And I'm first in line for the throne."
"Gonna assassinate the hell out of you," Noriko grumbled.
Machine Gun Princess, day 21
Today: 1866 words!
Total: 33,727 words!

eeee i'm almost caught up
Time passes; this is what time does.
Irenka took to her paints, and Osanna to her little life in the Flatlands.
This is how it went:
* * *
Six in the morning, and bells chimed.  It was the end of the late shift for all the happy little workers of Mountainheart, and the start of the morning for the dayfolk.  It was the start of Irenka's morning, too, and oh, how painful it was to peel herself out of her bed.  She'd learned to love her stiff bunk, her lumpy bedroll.  Sleeping in a real bed was like sleeping with her head in heaven.  But the day waited, and the day would roll on without her.
A brisk shower, changing into her day clothes, breakfast with the family.  Another round of questions from Henryk and Tymon, asking if they could shoot her gun today.  (The answer was no.)  Chou and Noriko asked her how her sleep went, and if she had any dreams ("I thought I was a poor sick girl in a hospital, except I was healthy enough to sneak out all the time to sell old books for an old man who lived in the wading pool"), and if they could shoot her gun today.  (The answer was no.)  Agnieska simply smoked two joints and ate her share of breakfast.  It took her a while to warm up.
Schooling during the morning shift.  Calculus and astrology and hagiography before lunch; lunch by herself on a patio outside, watching the servants and laborers below as they worked on the castle, sketching one she'd finished up her food.  Post-lunch: socio-economics, etiquette, today's foreign language (Albedo, one of the languages of the brutal northern wastelands).  And time to brush up on her soldiering.
Thunderbolt slung over her shoulder, ammo cans hanging from her hips, strapped into a backpack loaded with necessities, she hiked into the woods around the city, followed close behind by whoever was assigned to her today.  She didn't recognize them--they must be new.  She struck up a convesation about what their training was like, shared stories.  It seemed that no matter where one went, when it came to training people in the art of fireams, the world had plenty of people like Stolarz to keep them from accidentally shooting each other.  Or so Irenka hoped, and wow, she had just hoped for more people like Stolarz.  That was a realization that gave her pause.
When her workday ended with the chiming of distant bells, she found a nice quiet spot in the woods, assembled her easel and doled out paint on her pallet.  Her machine gun strapped to her back, she painted what, in her opinion, was just a lovely little depiction of the forest as the evening sun poured through the bough, red and sleepy and warm.
She let her bodyguards watch the paint dry and ensure no leaves or bugs or other debris smacked into it as it did.  In the meanwhile, she dug a little foxhole with her entrenching tool, dug in, and emptied a few belts into a tree growing in front of a hill.  The poor thing didn't take two full belts to get chopped down.  She jotted down where she'd found the log; she was going to burn that son of a bitch for warmth in the winter.  (That and she needed practice with the sharp edge of her entrenching tool.)
Life was good.
* * *
In a small apartment on the bad side of town, the train that passed by yards of her endow did its usual job of waking her up at six in the evening.  The sound drowned out the bells over here.
Osanna filled a bucket and took a cold rag-bath, bracing but awakening.  Some days she missed the hot showers on base.  Other days it was too hot at work for her to want a hot shower in the morning.  Her morning, rather.  Today was the right day for a cold bath.
Breakfast was toast and butter.  Lunch was salted haddock rolled in rice and wrapped in seaweed, packed tight in a paper-lined lunch tin.  She tried not to think too hard about her lunch on the train ride over to work; it was part of what made work worthwhile.
At nine in the evening the bells tolled and the steam whistle shrieked for the start of the graveyard shift.  Poor little Karolina Osanna; Iron class worker at a steel mill.  Too useful to not pay, not useful enough to pay well.  In particular she loaded the raw stuff into the blast furnaces and carted the molten product to the next stage of processing.  Step one: load iron and coal into the furnace chute.  Step two: stoke the fire, bring the mess to a boil.  Step three: purify with limestone flux.  Step four: dump the stuff in a vat, wheel the vat over to the next station.  Step five: get more coal, iron, and limestone, and take a long swig of cold water if need be.  (She had her issues with the Winter Mountain, but at least they put out for safety.)  Step six: back to step one.  It was heavy, hot, dangerous work, but it kept her in shape.
The locker rooms were a good distance from the rest of the plant, and were nice and cool.  Her lunch kept her going.  Her lunch reminded her of quiet days fishing alongside her mother, hoping for dinner, settling for time together and peace.  Also, allowing for a little pride, she smoked a damn fine haddock.
Then, back to it.
At the end of her shift, the first and most important thing was hitting the locker rooms, taking a brisk shower (also cold; more for safety, she imagined, than a lack of means to heat water) and changing into her spare outfit.  Then the walk to the absolute shittiest neighborhoods in the city of Blackhold, under the shadow of the mill.  It was a miserable place to live; she had scraped and occasionally stabbed to claw her way out from it.  But there was one feature here that was useful to her.
Three brisk matches in the not-strictly-official "martial arts expositions."  They had the faintest air of officiality, in nice little buildings in imitation of the old style of dojo, but the old dojos didn't have wire cages for the fighters, nor were their nurses men with off-the-shelf first aid kits and a few syrettes of Sweet Dreams morphine.  There were no titles and honors to win, just fistfuls of bills and rolls of coins after the fact, adjusted for performance and crowd favor.
On the other hand, an actual dojo didn't pay cash for victory, and if she ended an actual fight with actual judges and actual honor by grabbing her opponent by the hair and slamming her head in the ground until it sprung a leak, she'd be disqualified.  Not to mention the unsportsmanlike conduct as she hurled the worst words she knew into their ear as she did so.
So there were advantages.  And this morning she brought in as much money in an hour as she did in eight hours of labor.
Life was good.
And in two weeks she'd be back in Icemelt.
* * *
Irenka hustled down the training range, machine gun cradled to her chest, Osanna two steps behind her.  "Count of three!" Gwendolyn shouted a few yards above them.  "One, two..."
The priness reached the gap and leaped, and a freezing gust hurled her upward.  She blinked fast, as she had been trained, losing momentum just as she reached the platform ahead and landing at a run.  Osanna was just behind her, tucking and rolling and loosing a few demonstrative rounds from her Boneshaker at a steel target on the walls flanking the course.
"Nice!" said Gwen, swooping down lower to the ground.  The mantis saluted them.  "You're really taking to this!"
"I learn quickly!" Irenka said, readying her gun and loosing a half-second burst downrange at a pop-up target before hurling herself behind cover.  Osanna slid into place near another raised barrier and peppered downrange with her fancy new submachine gun.  Target after target popped up.  Irenka held up her left hand in a fist, then kept sending single shots downrange, some targets flopping down, others popping back into hiding.
With a crack Gwen propelled herself behind enemy lines, Irenka and Osanna ducking behind cover once she was in their line of fire.  With a few swift gestures, Gwen sent targets flying out of cover, ripping free of their mounts.
The siren sounded, and the test ended.  Gwendolyn doffed her helmet and took the pin from her hair, shaking waist-length sea-green hair free.  "That went well," she said, offering a crisp bow.
"Glad to be part of the team," Irenka said, returning the bow.
Osanna joined in hesitantly.  "Of course it had to be the Royal Rejects," she said.
"Well, hey, you're not the only non-royal," Gwen said, patting Osanna's back.  "My Piotr's just a humble courier when he's not toting a shotgun for the good of the Reunification.  And I don't know if Mayumi is actually... anything.  I've not heard her say a thing that wasn't 'sir yes sir' or 'sir no sir.'"
"Reminds me of a few people," Irenka said.
"Would it be this person?" Osanna said.
"Oh, I don't want to name names," Irena said, whistling innocently.
"Hey, I talk now!  I'm downright conversant."
"All it took was us nearly killing each other, too."
"Hey, hey, let's set the record straight, you set me up to be killed by other people."
Gwendolyn raised her hand.
"...yes?" Irenka said.
"Do I want to ask the story behind that?"
"It's not that interesting.  She nearly died, I saved her, she started hitting my head after I got a concussion... you know, the usual."
"Seven crowns, and you work with this chick?"
"I'm just that good," Osanna said, giving her Boneshaker a pat.
"Yeah, nobody swaps out barrels like a psychotic Równiny girl," Irenka said.
"Oh, to hell with you," Osanna said, throwing her arms up.
Life was good.
Machine Gun Princess, day 20
As you might be able to tell, this is not gonna be neatly wrapped up in ten days.  We're in for the long haul, fokes!

Today: 1687 words!
Total: 31,861!
Some Notes on Magick

Magic in its present form has only been practiced for about two centuries.  The spirit shepherds were aware of the existence of other worlds and realms of being before then, but only with the creation of the spirit stake were they able to do more than observe via the use of assorted powerful drugs.
The spirit stake is created during a ritual undergone while on a particular mixture of alkaloid herbs and poisonous mushrooms.  Inspired carvings and designs link the stake to a specific spirit witnessed by the ritualist; from then on, when correctly hammered into a living creature at a focal point just above the navel, that creature is granted powers and abilities derived from the linked spirit.  While hypothetically usable on any creature with a navel, for reasons which should be obvious they have only been used on humans after the first furtive tests of their utility.
Those who bear a spirit stake are known as magi, bearers of sacred wisdom.  Spirit shepherds consider all magi living gods and treat them with due respect; governments across the planet consider magi force multipliers in combat and beings of intense utility outside of battle.  Conflict between these two viewpoints has favored world governments over shepherds; shepherds are funded and accommodated in exchange for equipping as many troops as can successfully host a spirit.  Most shepherds are content with considering magi as living monuments to the power and influence of the spirit realms on the physical.
Certainly, a spirit has little to lose once it has been attached to a stake; for all intents and purposes they are invincible in their native habitats.  Spirits attached to stakes do not die of old age or sickness, and while they can be beaten off, wounded, trapped in an untenable situation, or suffer a variety of other misfortunes, they cannot be slain.  This can lead to profoundly old and profoundly powerful spirits.  The oldest and most owerful spirit, the sail mantis Worldtree, was one of the first spirit stakes ever carved, perishing at the ripe old age of 183.
There is a consequence for harnessing the power of spirits: inevitably, physical alterations are made to those who host a spirit.  There is a cycle known coloquially as "being in."  Depending on the spirit, there are a few days or weeks of "being in toe-deep," as a magi can back out of their status without significant physical alteration.  When this grace period ends, then comes "being waist deep," where the first physical changes begin.  During this tumultuous period, removing the stake will leave the user either heavily injured, crippled, or dead.
One the physical changes are complete, one is "in too deep," and returning to a normal human existence is impossible.  Some magi can remove their stakes and return to life with some adjustments for their physical alterations; others are effectively bound to their stakes until they die, else perish ignominiously.  Rumblers, being the most common and most heavily altered, are the most affected by this.
Spirit stakes are immaterial once they are activated, and can only be removed in one of two ways: by a ritual of liberation that frees the stake for use again, or by the user's death.  Rarely, a stake may be destroyed by a sufficiently powerful attack to a magi's midsection.  This has since become more common with the proliferation of rifled firearms and explosives, as prior it would take a powerful stroke by a strong man to damage a stake, or an intensely lucky shot with a musket.
"Lucky," though, may not be the right word.  Damage or particularly destruction of a stake also results in the death of the attached spirit--and, in its death throes, its powers are loosed uncontrollably in the material world.  This is known as a magi burst, or simply a burst.  While slain doves may simply vent gouts of antiseptic fluid and analgesics, and slain automatons surge forth with hungry, panicking, dying, alien ants, other bursts are yet more spectacular and horrible.  Boiler bursts, for instance, have scarred the landscape of Równiny, perhaps irrevocably.
Modern warfare has made the prospect of fielding magi a trickier affair than before.  The new ubiquity of precision firearms and explosives has made effectively every magi death a potential burst, and thus a potential disaster.  Some insist that the age of magic in war is ending, and that the next big conflict will be the last nail in its coffin--a particularly showy and unpleasant nail at that.  Others think that the threat of bursts is not enough to deter the sheer utility a magi presents to a fire team or squad.  Only time will tell.

Certain Types of Magi

While other types exist, these are the ones most familiar to inhabitants of Równiny and Górazima.

Rumblers are the most common and, until the creation of the Boilers, the most iconic of magi.  Rumblers are imbued with incredible physical strength and endurance, along with a dramatically accelerated rate of healing.  While this is accommodated by a drastically increased need for protein and iron, the increase is distinctly insufficient to cover the logical deficit in calories a Rumbler would undergo to patch over rifle wounds or replace lost blood in moments.  While not flashy, Rumblers are simply easy to use, dangerous (able to flip over or cripple armored vehicles with particular use of a rumble pike, for instance), and have a number of uses in logistics due to their high mobility coupled with high strength.
The downside of these powers is the effect on the Rumbler's physical form.  Incredible physical exertion results in incredible damage to the user's muscles, which are healed over by their spirit's healing factor, resulting in irregular, abnormal muscle groups growing to replace the original.  Their bones harden, long bones and the bones of the skull having a tendency to "scab over" for additional protection, resulting in visible knotted lumps on their arms, legs, and skull.  Rumblers are typically Rumblers for life; removal of their stake generally results in a halved lifespan from the acromegaly-, cystic-fibrosis-, and fibrodysplasia-ossificans-progressiva-like damage done to their bodies.
A Rumble burst, known as a concussion burst or conc, results in the sudden expression of all potential energy contained in the Rumbler and their symbiotic spirit.  This creates a devastating overpressure wave, either all at once or in a series of devastating pops.
It is of note that while Rumbler armor (every army that makes use of Rumblers ensures that they are heavily armored) has a functional purpose--lowering damage taken and thus reducing the strain on the Rumbler's body from healing--its all-concealing nature is inevitably a means of keeping their gruesome appearance out of sight and out of mind.
Rumblers derive their powers from the rumble worm, an herbivorous spirit species that lives in forests constantly buffeted by hurricane-force winds.  Averaging four feet in length at adulthood, rumble worms resemble a cross between a caterpillar, a koala bear, and a pug, an absolutely harmless-looking green lozenge with four stubby legs and a blunt, toothy mouth.  Despite their appearance, their muscles have ludicrously dense sarcomeres and store incredible, perhaps impossible, amounts of energy.  Precise measurements are impossible due to only being witnessed in drug-induced hazes, but scientists who have taken the plunge accredit the Rumbler's healing powers to be a necessary secondary power in order for a human body to survive the influx of power granted by symbiosis with a rumble worm.

Mantids are the signature magi of Równiny.  They can create and command gusts of wind, ranging from gentle breezes to localized tornadoes.  As a Mantid grows in power, their control over wind is such that they can approximate such tricks as telekinesis, flight, and barriers against projectiles which send bullets flying far from where they were aimed.  (The last trick is known as "adjusting with windage" among Mantids who think they're funny.)
Mantis have among the most mild of transformations due to their powers.  Their hair inevitably turns green and stays green; their eyes grow silvery mirrorlike scales that ward off dust and grit yet somehow do not impair vision despite growing over pupil and iris; and their tongue grows a slit from which emerges a retractable root covered in sharp rootlets, which they use to consume nutrients from food.
Retiring as a mantis is known as "putting the blindfold on," as the scales in the Mantis's eyes lose the property that makes them see-through, and until they are shed, the Mantis is blind.  More problematic is the tongue rootlet, which effectively becomes a tumor sitting in a wound on the subject's tongue.  Surgery can remove the root and restore some ability to eat normally, but often damage from the rootlet renders the tongue at least partially insensate or unable to taste, and at worst require the tongue be removed.
A mantid's burst, known as a vortex burst, results in powerful winds streaming from their bodies, creating a dangerous localized windstorm.  The more powerful the spirit, the more widespread and apocalyptic the resultant burst, up to the creation of tornadoes.
Outside of combat, Mantids are valued for their ability to cool or heat troops in intense weather and transport messages or small packages discretely and swiftly.  In battle, Mantids are used to sow discord among the enemy and transport fire team members to strategically useful locations, such as rooftops.  In peacetime, Mantids power windmills and commandeer sailing ships.
The namesake spirit which grants their powers is the sail mantis.  Averaging seven feet in length, they have serpentine bodies with a pair of long, spiked grasping limbs used to hold down prey while their "mouths"--a bundle of tentacle-like roots--do their dark work.  They also bear fine, feathery wings and a hollowness in their "chest" known as a vortex organ, the source of their ability to create powerful winds.  With use of the vortex organ and wings, the sail mantis can cover enormous distances with minimal energy, as well as stun enemies or prey.
Sail mantids never stop growing, and so sufficiently old mantids put down roots with their feathery tails and remain sessile, transitioning from predators to ambush omnivores.  Worldtree, the oldest known sail mantis, reached a height of forty feet (assuming one's perceived height in its spirit world is the same as in the material).

While Doves are among the least physicall demanding of magi to be, they are definitely one of the most viseral, and thus fewer exist than any country would prefer.  A Dove's tears sooth and clean injuries.  A Dove's salia numbs wounds.  A Dove's tongue becomes an enormously long member covered in manipulators, including a variety of scalpel-sharp teeth and cilia, all dripping with an agent that encourages swift healing.  Doves are thus among the best surgeons in the planet, but must perform every surgery by plunging their tongues into wounds.
One may surmise why Doves are not more common.
A Dove's physical alterations are relatively minor, but vocal communication is out the window.  Retired Doves generally undergo surgeries that remove almost all of their tongue, save the hindmost segment, in order to return some ability to speak, as well as prevent choking due to loss of fine control over the member.  Other than this, their eyes turn a pinkish color and their vision takes a pinkish haze due to the presence of antiseptic in their tears.
Dove bursts are perhaps the most mild of all, merely resulting in a messy explosion of topical anesthetic and antiseptic.  Colloquially these are called "sleep bursts."  While disorienting and vile, the only real risk of death is due to accident from loss of sensation, or due to drinking too much of the antiseptic and anesthetic.
A Dove's powers stem from the doctor's dove, a spirit pigeon with a woodpecker-like beak fit with nasty serrations and a numbing agent that enables them to cut chunks from large animals.  That Doves obtain their healing powers from rank and particularly unpleasant parasites is either ironic or entirely fitting, depending on one's opinion of getting treated by having one's injuries, to use a Terran expression, "French kissed."

The most infamous and gruesome of magi are the Boilers.  A recent discovery by Górazima, they may be thought of as a dark counterpart to Mantids--or at least a substantially more destructive one.  Boilers secrete and manipulate a layered fluid: an outer layer of a water-like substance that does not appear to actually be water (due to its swift evaporation it has been difficult to pin down exactly what it is), and an inner fluid of intensely inflammable oil.  The oil can be diluted to "merely" burst into white-hot flames on exposure to atmosphere, or concentrated to outright explode.  A Boiler can project these fluids in geyserlike gouts or create hovering clouds.
Boilers are immune to the effects of their own flames, though not any secondary explosions or fires caused by the spread.  A few Boilers who have launched attacks on magazines or ammo dumps have learned this the hard way.
Once a Boiler is in waist-deep, their arms grow long lines of fine, puckered orifices which secrete the fluid used in their attacks.  (Until this point, a Boiler summons the fluid out of thin air.)  While comparatively mild a mutation, the few Boilers who have retired due to injury have found that these orifices do not close up, ever.  Once retired, Boilers are resigned to having a number of tiny injuries up and down their arms, which must be continually dressed in gauze and antiseptic to prevent infection.  Loss of sensation in the arms and occasionally hands is common, as is loss of strength or coordination if the hollows that once contained glands do not shrink up following retirement.
There are few things as terrifying as a Boiler burst, known as a firestorm or hellstorm for reasons which should be obvious: the Boiler explodes in a mass of chaotically exploding and burning fluid, which, worst of all, does not all go off at once.  Pockets of buffering fluid sent spraying far afield of the initial explosion can evaporate and cause further explosions or bursts of flame minutes after the initial burst.  A few ill-timed Boiler bursts have destroyed farmland and old-growth forests in the Flatlands.
The source of a Boiler's power stems from the boil fish.  In its aquatic habitat, boil fish are fat mola-mola-like fish coated in an orangish grease.  The grease is a powerful irritant, and a taste results in a hideously powerful burning sensation, like taking a bite out of a ghost pepper.  Boil fishes brought to the surface burst into flame or, if they're unlucky, explode; it was the witnessing of alien intelligences accidentally pulling up a boil fish in a net that prompted research into the powers they may convey.
(As it happens, no sentient spirit-being has been successfully harnessed as a stake.  It is unknown why this is so, or what would happen if such an attempt were successful.)

Empire ants are [CLASSIFIED]

The cryptically named Squid are [REDACTED]
Machine Gun Princess, day 19: Some Notes on Magick
Another day of worldbuildin' while I ponder what wil happen next!  Because it's hard to follow up a tidbit like that.

Today: 2458 words!
Total: 30,177!
  • Mood: Cheerful
  • Listening to: Some Owen Pallett
  • Reading: Internet updates
  • Watching: Men Drinkin' Coffee play Sonic Boom
  • Playing: Preppin' for Savage Worlds!
  • Eating: Reasonably well
  • Drinking: Got mildly crunk on Jaeger on Thanksgiving!
As you noticed, if you noticed, I sorta dropped the ball in those last days of NaNo.  This and that came up (primarily in the form of me getting my ass kicked at work and also having to wrestle with exactly what I wanted to happen later in the story) and I wound up losing the race completely.  But I got a huge block o' text down and a better grasp on the characters and setting, so I will be returning to MGP and finishin' it!

note to self actually do that this time

In the interim I'll be finishing Clio vs. Kayfabe and doing some other writin' junk in this and that variety!  But not tonight.  o lord anything but productivity now

Journal History


United States
Current Residence: Beside you in time
Favourite genre of music: Rock most of all, but anything that's good-sounding.
Favourite style of art: If it's good, I like it.
Operating System: Call it: Windows.
MP3 player of choice: My reasonably up-to-date eyePod
Shell of choice: That +5-and-up cloth armor that lets you fly
Wallpaper of choice: Appealing!
Skin of choice: Demure and understated.
Favourite cartoon character: Black Rose. that way.
Personal Quote: You can find a better place in this twilight.

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