Prose & Poetry
Role Playing Games
A Powered by the Apocalypse table top role playing game about angry teenagers with brain computers trying to change the world and figure out who they are, by defining what they hate.
Cut is a two-player game of truth and discovery.
This game was created as part of the Libre Baskerville Jam
A interactive fiction exploration of what it can be like, not to belong.
This game was created as part of the Neurodiversity Jam
Role Playing Fan Content
Masks: The New Generation
Content for Magpie Games
Masks: The New Generation
An 80,000 science fiction horror novel about about sentient machines, slower than light travel, and the inevitable conflict between individuals trapped in a small space.
A 50,000 word YA LGBT coming of age novel about a young graphic novelist finding out he doesn't really fit into the boxes he's assigned himself.
[In Final Edits]
The sequel to Twisted.
The teenager, still angry, still with motorcycle and brain computer, realizes how little he actually knows about his allies. In trying to remedy that fact, ends up in over his head.
[In Final Edits]
A cyberpunk/biopunk novel about tech theft, bio-editing, genetic engineering, spies, and creche-born assassins.
Resistor: High School, Low Life
"In electronic circuits, resistors are used to reduce current flow, adjust signal level, to divide voltages, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines.
Colloquially, the term Resistor refers to an individual who uses subterfuge to deliberately disrupt the normal function of political, corporate, or economic operations in order to achieve a goal."
- "Resistor" Netpedia article, n.d.
Resistor is a near-future cyberpunk game about angry teens with brain computers. A strange mix of corporate spy and punk rock rebel, military-industrial mercenary and social justice advocate, Resistors are children of a new normal. Everyone's already plugged in and turned on. NetSpace has put the worlds in their heads. If they want to change things, they've got to get creative in their rebellion. But if there's anything teens are good at, it's rebelling.
A mechanics-light game, designed for flexible, low-prep play, collaborative world building, and character-driven storytelling, Resistor is centered around classic, tech-laden cyberpunk tropes. Take what you like, trow away the rest. Every rule is made to be broken.
Welcome to the neon grime of the streets of San Angeles. Here it's high school, low life.
On the first day of spring, you wake up with a tiny plant growing out of the palm of your hand. Small, and pale green, with two seed leaves, shading to yellow-white at the tips. It is rooted in your skin, in the middle of your life line. Part of your body as though it belongs. As though it has always been there.
It is beautiful
A Risky Gambol
You come across them on the side of a forest path, when you are suddenly alone, your friends far ahead.
Tucked inside the mouth of an alley, surprisingly quiet compared to the dissonant clamour of the city street.
At a crossroads, under the light of the full moon.
“What do you wish for?” They ask, “What do you wish?”
And so you wish. Almost without thinking. Wish for the thing that you want with all you are. That you want with not just your mind, but with your name and body as well.
“It is yours.” they say, and smile. “And you are mine.”
Masks: The New Generation
Changeling: the Lost
The Experiential Courts
At the heart of understanding and "reality" is perception. All knowledge, all reputation, all safety is based in what is perceived and what is occluded. These Courts thrive in the most dangerous parts of the Hedge, where laws and reality grow thin, and the fae lead lives of daily struggle. In the harshest environments, The Courts of Experience can be relied upon where more "nuanced" societies fall.
This power comes at a cost: when swearing to a Sensational Court, the changeling must choose one of the other Sensational Courts to oppose her. This is not structured, or a choice formed by anything but her own personality. When speaking the oath, the fae is compelled to name that sense that brings her the most difficulty, suffering or fear. While she never adds her Wyrd when depending on that sense and cannot overcome penalties to it, immersing herself in the opposed sense allows her to harvest Glamour off herself, much the same way she can by providing experiences to others based on her championed Court's sense.
These chosen vulnerabilities bring fae together as well as any Court does, and most political unions depend more on mutual trust by a shared weakness than confidence in a common strength. While Gustatists are usually subtle, and Somatists are usually direct (and as often Opticists are remote and Auditists sociable), these opposing techniques are not enough for true rivalry in places without laws.
Lockport: Our Refineries Power the World
The westernmost port of Skovlan, Lockport has a long and bloody history, its crimes too recent to have been dulled by memory.
Unable to see the honor in being selected as the home for the Refineries and Manufactories that turn Leviathan Blood into power, Lockport led the Skovlan rebellion, beginning the Unity War.
Spanning nearly 40 years, and costing countless lives, the war ended only when a brave hero risked everything to rid the world of the rebellious so-called Queen Alayne, and once again bringing Skovlan firmly under the control of the Immortal Emperor, may we be worthy of his Sunlight.
Now aware of the favor it has been granted, Lockport’s Refineries and Manufactories once again produce power and products for the rest of the Empire. They do, of course, shoulder a much larger burden of taxation. This is by no means punitive! Rather, it is simply compensation for the years they deprived the Empire of their labors and service.
Many of Lockport’s citizens fled during the war, risking the dangers of the Sea to shelter in the security of Doskvol’s open arms. Now, they are slowly returning, but Lockport has suffered a shortage of labor. To remedy that, the Ministry of Preservation is importing able bodied workers owing a debt to the Empire. While the citizenry of Lockport might object, they have a poor understanding of exactly how necessary this is to continue to support the reclamation of the city.
Lockport is a setting complete with map, factions, politics, and NPCs. Some material is derived from the Blades source book, some from the character sheets, and some has been invented whole cloth
The Heuristic Protocol
The problem with artificial intelligences were their penchant for going insane. For the crew of Eclipse, a Company cold sleep ship commanded by Captain Alonzo ben Asher, this hadn’t been a problem thus far. Mickey, the AI, had always run the ship with energy and efficiency, per specs and standard operating procedure. The human crew, however, was not as sound.
When Eclipse came limping back from its last mission missing a quarter of its cargo, as well as the ship’s psychologist who had been tasked with keeping the AI sane, the Company was displeased. Still, they accepted the Captain’s explanation. And now, per regulation, the ship is slated for another long-haul run. They've brought a new psychologist on board, straight from the Calvin Institute, and a stranger to the crew and ben Asher himself. According to everyone’s standards, the ship is back to perfect operating order.
But facing another 30 years of cold sleep, can the crew trust the AI to keep them safe, and a headstrong novice to keep that AI sane? And deep in the black, dependent on the AI, trapped in a tiny tin can of a ship with only each other and the ghosts in their heads for company, who can the crew look to when something goes wrong?
Alonzo ben Asher
Run 6893081ECIP (Perun System): Year 0
Alonzo had dropped the habit of standing to attention several decades ago, but it was still compelling when faced with Company authority, even when the so-called authority was too thick to know which end of a wrench to hold. Still, a casual stance would encourage familiarity. He opted for straight posture, hands behind his back. Attentive, respectful, and anything but relaxed.
The woman looked up, tucked an asymmetrical curtain of black hair behind her ears with mathematical precision. “Alonzo ben Asher?”
She waved to a chair. “Sit, sit. I hear you just got back from a long-haul run.”
Alonzo nodded, staying on his feet. He kept his face in the blank, no-nothing expression he used with Company officials, his mind as empty as the space between stars. “Here and back thirty years, home clock.”
She consulted the screen in front of her. “The ship came back with extensive damage, and a serious loss of cargo. Can you explain that?”
He'd expected that question since they limped back into dock. The answer, or lack thereof, had, in fact, been one of the loudest of the voices playing on the loop in his mind. He let his thoughts drift out into the black again, to draw the sheer, cold, silence into his body, then answered. “One of the cargo pods underwent an explosive decompression. In an attempt to control the damage, and not risk the rest of the ship, the pod was jettisoned.”
“And the matter of the psychologist?”
Alonzo hesitated. He knew what he should tell her, what he’d written in the report. But he didn’t want to talk about Isobel Finn, not to this desk jockey, not to anyone. He stiffened his back further. “We think she went into the cargo pod to try to repair the damage before it got too bad. Our AI called her out when things got dangerous, but he didn't have enough time, and had to eject the pod before she could evacuate. He then woke me up, per his fail safe programming.”
The clerk nodded absently, only paying partial attention. “You realize you lost nearly invaluable materials that belonged to the Company? While you may have managed to deploy the probes, if the ship had been lost, we would have had no way to know you had completed your mission. The Company would have been forced to send out a second run to the Anunnaki.”
And that, of course, was what she cared about. The revenue. No mention of the loss of one of his crew. Glad as he was that he wouldn’t have to go into yet more detail, answer yet more questions, it galled him to see Finn’s life vanish with a few lines of text. “Yes, Ma'am.”
“Now.” She put down the stylus, tapped her keyboard. “Since it has been decided you will suffer no administrative penalties, we should discuss your next assignment.”
And just like that, Finn's death was brushed away, a side note in a mission file somewhere. Crew member: deceased. Mission: successful. “As you say.”
“We will be sending you out on another long-haul.”
Alonzo blinked in genuine surprise. “What?”
This time, she didn’t look up, just continued as if uninterrupted. “...another long-haul planetary exploration mission, similar to your last run.”
“Ma'am.” Alonzo put in, allowing himself to breech protocol in light of their prior violation. He felt the iron bar that had held his spine stiff and unyielding go perfectly, icily cold. “We always get four months in-system downtime after a 30 year run. The crew needs to...”
She cut him off, resumed tapping with the stylus, obviously ready to be finished with this conversation. “The Company has determined that a rest period is not necessary at this time, and as such, we will be sending you out again.”
He willed his jaw to relax, his teeth to unclench. “When do we leave?”
“A few days. When the reconfigure is complete, and your new psychologist is brought on board.”
A new psychologist. Mickey was going to love that.
The woman’s eyes had strayed back to her screen, as though they couldn’t bear to be focused elsewhere for long. “Information on your new psychologist has been sent to the terminal in your quarters, as well as mission data and the file of your Cargo Chief. I hope this mission is more successful than your last.”
They never officially dismissed you. Just made it clear you were no longer useful. Alonzo turned on his heel and left the room.
Back in the tiny, bed-and-desk chamber he paid to occupy, he discovered that the new crew assignments were both better and worse than he could have hoped. The Cargo Chief, at least, would be an easy edition. Bobby Walker was one of the few robo-wranglers Alonzo actually welcomed on his ship. Walker might be a playboy and adrenaline junkie during shore leave, but get him on the job, and he stayed focused. Plus he’d flown with them before. When Finn was psychologist.
And that was the real problem. The new psychologist. Cate duLongpré. Licensed by Commonwealth Consolidated and magna cum laude graduate of the Calvin Institute. And totally green. Never gone under. Never worked with an AI with a run-time of more than a few dozen years.
They'd have to trust her, for better or worse, because she was the one who would be brought out from under during the trip to talk to Mickey. Perhaps the novelty would do him good. Perhaps. Either way, she'd never be part of the crew, not the way Finn had been, not even the way Bobby Walker was. This duLongpré was an unknown, a quantity that had yet to be measured.
And God help her if she found out what had really happened on the last run.
The Secret Lives of Almost Super Heroes
Tyler (Ty) McKee is one of three out kids in his high schools’s GSA, he’s had his heart broken by an ex, and about a dozen online relationships, but nothing’s ever quite clicked.
He figures he’s probably gay, at least, as far as that goes, because calling himself bisexual just got him hate from both sides of the aisle. So, except in select online communities, he basically sticks to the male-identified dating pool, small as it is.
He’s supposed to fall for his best friend Lia, but neither she nor his hormones are cooperating, and they’re pretty well content playing off each other while studying for AP Biology and dodging their parents innuendos.
Ty’s fixation on comic books, and his desire to write and illustrate a graphic novel sends him hunting down research material in the form of a local community college class. And then he meets Harper. And falls head over heels.
There’s only one problem. Harper is in the possession of two X chromosomes, and most decidedly identifies as female.
Ty’s rules for writing comics:
#1- The first issue should never be the origin story.
On Tuesday, I wake up and realize the plot has gone off the rails.
It’s been three days since I’ve rearranged a single element of my storyboard, mapped out with index cards pinned to my closet door. I figure why not, pull them all down, shuffle, and put them back up at random. Couldn’t be any worse than the horrible cliches I’ve been writing. Once I stick them back up, the story arc doesn’t make much sense, but at least it’s a little less predictable. This time, the HERO doesn’t turn up until page 5, panel 3, while LOVE INTEREST is right there at the beginning. An interesting inversion, but maybe not where I want to go.
I keep thinking if I tear the story apart often enough, and build from the ground up, I might hit on some kind of winning configuration. Thus far, all I’ve done is annoy myself and my friends by asking if the hovercar chase should happen before or after the assault in the dark alley.
Seven hours later, I’m tapping my pencil against the desk, staring into space, just waiting for the bell to ring. It’s 6th period, the end of a very long day, and as much as I love (or at least don’t loathe) art class, I’m just wishing it would be over.
I glance across the room to where Dexter’s sitting, and my stomach tightens, my heart speeds up a little. As always, he’s got all his attention on his thick, black-bound sketchbook. I flip open my own book. The one I take to school, with the half-done outlines of characters, costumes, and cityscapes.
Dexter, though...I can’t help it. I look at him with an eye to how he’d be in a comic book. With his hair falling in his face, he looks like a study of some young scientist working on his latest discovery, scribbling equations for world peace.
I draw in a few lines, the curve of his chin, his slight frown. Add goggles pushed up on the top of his head, a neckline reminiscent of a lab coat. It doesn’t quite look right. I scratch out the lab coat, replace it with a fitted t-shirt. Better. He glances up, catches me staring at him. I flush, the heat rising in my cheeks and look back down at my drawing.
Correction. My sketch. I don’t draw. I illustrate. My art teachers are always on me to try a different style, but if I can’t doodle excessively muscled anatomy, union suits, and improbable fight scenes, I’m really not that interested. Which means that I don’t do particularly well in art class, which you think would be my best subject, but where everything is still life pencil sketches, and flowers in watercolor.
I add reflection to the goggles, and definition to the eyebrows. I don’t look up at Dexter, because I’m afraid he’ll be looking back, but I’m hoping he’s got his eyes on me. We’ve been doing this dance for a couple weeks now. Look up, look down, look up, look down.
He’s the kind of guy that anyone, guy or girl, would want to date. With floppy blonde hair that always seems to need to get cut, and these clear green-grey eyes, he’s fantastically good looking, but he has no idea. He’s about the least vain person you’ll ever meet. He’s quiet. So quiet, sometimes some people forget he’s there till he says something so on-point it’s unbelievable. He’s got this insight into people around him, but he doesn’t always say anything about it. I feel like, sometimes, he could be incredibly popular, or at least more visible here at Kennedy if he actually liked to talk, but there’s something endearing about his shyness.
And the best part is I’m pretty sure he’s into me.
This wouldn’t be a big deal, if I were most people, but I’m “that weird gay kid who likes to draw” which is actually kind of a thing.
I want to tell them that I don’t really understand myself as much as they think I do. As they think I should. That sometimes I don’t know what I am. Sometimes, though, an identity’s all you’ve got, when you’re standing up for yourself so hard it hurts, because no one else will. Anyway, no one here knows what it’s like to be so visibly different it’s like you’re from another planet, and you kind of have to go with it. Roll with the punches, so to speak. Thankfully, there haven’t been any of those.
My school’s not the best for people who are obviously different, but it does have some things going for it. One of the only Gay Straight Alliances in Orange County, for one. And one of the most liberal principles, ditto, for another. It makes what could be daily torture simply unpleasant.
After an only barely measurable eternity, the bell goes off. I tear the drawing out of my book, scribble “call me tonight” on it, along with my number, just in case, and drop it on the drawing table in front of Dexter.
Then, shouldering my backpack, my stomach still feeling a little strange, a little light, I push through the crowds in the hall out toward the gates.
Kai Hart told his parents he was a boy when he turned 15. By senior year in high school everyone had pretty much gotten used to the boy Lee as opposed to the girl one. He’s even got everyone but his grandma using the right pronouns.
Still, for Lee, dating has always seemed a little too complicated.
Then she transfers into his Literature class.
Her name is Psyche, a holdover from her hippie parents, and she’s perfect. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know that.
As he falls deeper and deeper in love with Psyche, Kai begins to realize that she’s got a past (and to be fair, a present) that’s much more complicated than he could imagine.
Struggling to maintain his identity while loving a girl who seems to have everything but herself under control, Kai finds himself trying to rescue both the girl, and himself.
“I have an almost morbid interest in everything queer and out of the way”
It was a Thursday, just before nutrition, in AP Literature. Ms. Spicer was finishing up her introduction to Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (also known as, per her reedy explanation, The Golden Ass) which we were supposed to be discussing when the door opened and in walked this girl. And my life exploded.
Ms. Spicer just sort of looked at her for a while, and the girl looked back. The first thing you noticed about her was the hair. It was aubergine with these pink highlights around her face, maybe a little longer than her shoulders, hanging in these loose, tangled curls. Everyone else had their eyes fixed on her now, and not their notes or Penguin Editions. I noticed how she didn't seem at all uncomfortable with the entire class staring. God knows I would have freaked, but she just stood there and stared right back at everyone like she owned the place.
Finally, Ms Spicer turned to her and said “Can I help you?”
The girl smiled, her lips matched her hair, and their glossy purple shape curved up. The silver ring piercing her bottom lip glinted. “I'm a transfer. Fairhurst. Psyche Fairhust.” She held out a yellow slip.
Ms Spicer grabbed it. “Ah. Well.” She seemed at a loss for words for a minute which wasn't surprising all things considered. In addition to the purple lipstick and lip ring, the girl had and a matching silver ring in her nose. She wore a black velvet skirt and a black lace tip that fell off one shoulder showing a purple satin tank. She didn't look like she belonged in Orange, much less in the classroom of a stringy brown haired English teacher who probably slept in a sweater set.
I couldn't take my eyes off her.
Neither, apparently, could anyone else.
Ms Spicer finally got herself together, and said “Well, all right. Welcome, then.” And she pointed the girl to a seat. The only empty seat. The one next to me.
I did my best to keep breathing and shoved my books off the desktop where she'd be sitting.
The girl dropped into the chair, and shrugged off her backpack. It wasn't purple, which seemed to be her thematic color, but black, covered with words scribbled in white correction fluid. I squinted at it, but she jiggled it with her foot and I lost focus.
“Hey.” She said, as Ms Spicer restarted her lecture.
“Hey.” I said back, playing it cool.
“Is it my imagination or is she really thin?”
I grinned. “She only eats raw fruit.”
“Really?” The girl cocked her head to the side, nose ring catching the light.
The bell rang. I stood up, grabbed my messenger bag and turned to the girl. “What class do you have next?”
She was obviously new, not just a transfer into the class. I knew all the AP student, and if have noticed someone as… dramatic…
As she was.
The world has certain expectations, for the people who live in it. Ways they are expected to be. To behave. To think.
But those ways, customs, they do not fit everyone. Some are born belonging not Here, but Elsewhere, with that strange language written in their blood and bones.
Translating Arcadia is a collection of stories exploring those people. The ones who do not fit. Whose minds do not work like human minds are expected to.
It is a collection that uses the language of Faerie, of Elsewhere, to look at reality through another lens. To discover what the world might be, to minds that refuse to conform.
Becoming, Become, Became
Alivia’s imaginary friends took her away the day after her twelfth birthday. They had been gone for years, the little people she’d created when she was a lonely little girl who didn’t understand the right words to say. But she could hear their voices, the wind against the sycamore tree, the skittering of dry leaves on the sidewalk.
Alivia had never been afraid. Not of the long-nailed hands, the sibilant words sieved into her ears. She knew them, her imaginary people. What they were. They were the wishes, from before. All of them. They came with her from foster home to foster home, holding her hands in their thin, delicate ones, slipping secrets in her pockets like acorns. They could always follow her, finding ways to fit into the smallest cracks in the pavement where the dandelions grew.
When Alivia was small, small enough to fit in the cracks herself, she didn’t understand things. She had made more wishes then, but hadn’t called them by name.
She watched, eyes like saucers, as foster parents fought about bills, foster sisters put on makeup that weighed their eyelids closed, foster brothers played video games with screaming sirens, explosions. She watched over the stair rail, or from behind the couch, or out the window, wondering. At night, the wish-people told her stories about the bent oak trees, toadstools, moss like lace.
Writ in Salt & Sawdust
Writ in Salt & Sawdust is a strange little urban fantasy collection. The stories are designed to take standard fantasy tropes, and subvert them in one way or another.
From super heroes to vampires to angels, Writ in Salt & Sawdust takes what is known, and twists it into what could be.
When you see it, that path of moonlight-rimed seaglass threading down, down to where the waves foam and break on the sand… Or that path of gilded fallen leaves curving lazily to the sun-dappled glade... That path of glittering silver sand, out into a basin of stars under the breathless desert night... When you see that cobbled road branching off the cracked asphalt into an alley you’ve never noticed before, somewhere in the belly of a frantic city…
When you see it.
Before you, brave and misguided, square your shoulders, take a breath, and pass through the rowan arch.
Before you commit yourself.
First, traveller, remember there are rules.
Desire has many languages.
For some, it is sweet nothings, soft caresses, and gentle, romantic poetry read under the stars.
Others find themselves drawn to more violent delights. They require darker words. Heavier hands.
Pledgebound speaks a language of rough desires, telling the stories of people who crave the satisfaction they find in walking the edges between self-control, and self-indulgence.
The language that reminds the world that there is no crime in being hungry.
Do you have it in you, to ask for that?
*Pledgebound is updated bi-monthly, and can be found here:
Ask for what you really want
It’s not a good idea to turn down a dinner invitation from your primary investor, even if he makes you a little nervous. Especially if he makes you a little nervous.
Ash couldn’t say he disliked Mr. Prince. It was impossible to dislike the man. He was too self-possessed to be disliked. What people thought, even of him, slid off of him without making an impact. He wore his confidence as easily as he wore his tailored suits. As easily as his diamond signet ring and his slightly amused smile.
So Ash didn’t dislike him. He couldn’t even say he disliked the way the man made him feel–like the ground wasn’t quite level, like he had to continue to adjust how he stood, just to stay upright. A conversation with Mr. Prince longer than a few minutes left Ash’s muscles shivering with the tension he’d used to hold still. Left him on edge, wondering if he wished the conversation had ended sooner, or gone on just a little longer.
But Ash didn’t really mind that either.
He really didn’t have a good reason to turn down the request they meet. But he could try to direct it, to something less likely to overwhelm than dinner together. Alone.
The problem really, was that Ash wasn’t sure that “dinner” meant “just dinner.” When Mr. Prince had invited him out before, it had been with his partner. Given that Cat and he shared ownership of, and responsibility for, the bookstore, it was expected that she would be involved in any discussions related to it. Cat wasn’t quite as interpersonally inclined as Ash was, but she’d surprised him with her business acumen, and there was no way he’d take any steps without her.
And she wasn’t invited.
“Why don’t we meet at the store?” he offered, into the phone, not sure if he wanted Mr. Prince to agree or not. “That way I’d have the records right there, and the proposals. Plus all Cat’s notes, so if we needed…” there was silence on the other end of the line, and he trailed off, slightly embarrassed. He was talking too much. But it had been important. To get her name in there. To remind Prince about her. About who she was to Ash. Just in case.
“No.” The velvet voice ran a finger down the back of Ash’s neck, and he shivered. “Dinner, I think. At Arcadia. Seven, tonight.”
“All right.” his voice came out unsteady, and he cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said, more firmly. “That sounds good.”
Mr. Prince’s rich chuckle filled his ear.
Ash hung up the phone, and took several deep breaths to clear his head. It was just dinner. A business meeting. Nothing more. Still.
Cat watched him disconnect the phone, put it in his pocket. Cocked her head at him. “You’ve got that look on your face. Prince?”
He nodded, feeling inexplicably embarrassed. As shy as he did…other times.
“When’s he going to fuck you?” she asked him, dryly.
Drew's addiction was anything but naturally occurring. Most people came to wireheading casually. Drew sought it out and orchestrated a downward spiral to rival the most determined user. Twisting, overloading his in-brain computing wetware again and again with the electricity that gave you a no-strings-attached high, became a means and and end rolled into one.
Jax, Drew's big brother, wetware designer and genius, said that wireheads were missing out on the truth in the feed. That they were buying into today's culture of mediocrity for a cheap thrill. He said it, then he went over the highway guardrail into the canyon, twisted out of his mind.
With Drew's parents still mourning the death of their best and brightest, it isn't as as if Drew can't hide his own personal tragedy behind the haze of electricity, his motorcycle, and the interchangeable citizens of the city of San Angeles.
Except, now Drew's got some dataphisher and her little bodyguard on his tail, telling him everything but what they really want. Now he's getting both the carrot and the stick from the same Multinational that had employed his brother, with no indication of what they're looking for, either. Now, there are rumors that Jax's accident wasn't exactly what it looked like. And now Drew's starting to think maybe he took this addiction a little too far.
Drew pressed the wire to the opening in his skull, and decided he'd chosen to become an addict. Planned it, in fact. Not that he was one, of course. An addict. You couldn't become addicted to current in the traditional sense. It had no side effects, built up no dependencies. Everyone said all the current did for you was make you feel good. Still, everyone knew your brain could need something your body wasn't craving. Plus there were habits, and then there were habits. If you tried hard enough, you could get hooked on anything. And Drew had tried very, very hard.
He took another long hit before letting the wire go slack in his hand. There were lights going off in his head. Constellations of stars on his eyelids. The familiar itching explosions down his spine, each nerve, each vein, every drop of blood carrying the current. Forked like lightning in his arms, his legs, out across his back. He realized how strange it was to be corporeal. To have limbs attached to his body. They were like...independent creatures, only joined to him at hinge points. He watched his fingers flex, open, close, open, close. Maybe he told them to. Maybe he'd willed it to happen, the impulse traveling the same lightning branch nerves that carried the current. Maybe they just wanted to move, to feel the muscles expand and contract as they pushed and pulled the bones, each muscle firing with its own volition. He was inside his head, just his head, sitting on top of this unconnected mass of independently exhaling tissue. Independent tissue and the sensation of being only barely contained, only barely able to hold everything inside his skin, inside his mind. As the twist mounted, his vision blurred in the familiar stripes of iridescent light, coruscating static streaming across his view.
Someone jerked the wire out of his hand. The buzz and sigh of another hit. Everyone was quiet, except for the sizzle of the current. They were at the stage of the twist that left them speechless, worlds expanding in their heads. Soon, it would peak. They'd be twitching, dying to do something, to be around straights, looking like red-faced, blood-filled aliens.
Wirehead parties were all the same, once you found your kind of user. This group, the one he normally partied with, they'd twist, go to a show. Maybe hit off someone's car if they started to come down. Some crews liked to hit and wire in. The perfect time to understand it all—when you're jumping, totally twisted but amped up. Plug in, take on the net, data surf, avoid the straights, just pump it into your brain and see what happens. Drew just wanted to get out.
Jax said that only idiots became wireheads, that hitting the wire was playing with your greatest non-renewable resource. He said you had to remember what you were doing-- overloading on current, flooding the wires that ran through your grey matter, risking shorting your wetware, maybe even frying the meat. Blowing out the one organ they couldn't replace with an artificial one. Even if you didn't cook your brain inside your skull like a hard-boiled egg, you were still giving in to the pressure of the feed, skipping out on what was real, what was true, in exchange for another kind of opiate of the masses. He said to never, ever ride with a wirehead. Never, ever ride if you've been using.
Jax said it, and then he went through the safety rail, over and down into the canyon, amped out of his mind.
Drew's kicked his addiction, and cleared his brother's name, but somehow things haven't gotten any easier.
Without the distraction of the wire, he finds it harder and harder to keep himself distracted, and without the mystery of Jax's death, he feels like he's got no purpose. The fact that Reena and Topher still aren't letting him in on their real secrets doesn't help matters at all.
Giving himself something to do, in the form of a dataphish on his allies themselves ends up opening a Pandora's box Drew never would have expected.
Finding himself once again pursued through San Angeles, this time by a private security company composed of child soldiers, Drew must decide if his allies are trustworthy, or if the skeletons in their past are too dangerous to overlook.
She laid it out casually. She called her client “Big Phish.” (“Better to keep names out of it.” Except Topher knew the name, Topher knew everything.) At any rate, he was on the lookout for data about this virus. Something really complicated. A trojan, got in past your encryptions and wreaked havoc on your internal data. It was all about trashing the wetware programming, specifically the stuff that stored long-term data. You'd go back to look for something you'd stashed against a rainy day,and it would be gone. Or worse than gone, spread all over the 'net.
Reena had shivered a little, talking about it. “I mean, imagine a wetware engineer or a dataphisher losing everything she'd stored long-term, or having it tossed on the feeds for anyone to get a look at. No control at all, just all-access to the buffet of programs those of us who care keep in our heads.”
Drew shrugged. Sure it was serious, but not that serious. So a dataphisher or two had their info splashed? So some rich, multinational toadie had his programming put up somewhere anyone could pull it down?
“Tell me why I care.” He challenged Reena.
Reena rolled her eyes. “I'm trying to broaden your horizons, 'Burb. Get you out of your little box. I mean, two months ago, where were you, before we came in and shook shit up?”
“If it helps,” Topher added “Big Phish works for one of the rival Multinationals.”
“One of the rivals? What happened to your quest to bring down Diazo-Kingman? What happened to your underground movement?”
“We're breaking the rules. We wrote them after all.” Reena smiled. “Decided one is just as bad as the other. Plus, he's paying. How do you think we afford our rock and roll lifestyle?”
It happened very suddenly. Drew had no idea he was going to do it, but then he was on his feet, blazing with that same uncontrollable anger he'd had when he was twisting. He hadn't felt it in months, but it filled his body, rocking him upward, raising his voice, clenching his hands into fists pounding against his thighs.
“You are so fucking full of shit Reena.” he choked it out around the anger, pitched low, but with a viciousness he wasn't expecting. “Sure, you're all about championing people, right? Until it stops paying and you need to fund your anti-establishment existence by buying right back into the feed. Did you think I wouldn't notice? I get that you've got Topher under your thumb, and in your head, but I'm not like that. Not anymore. I don't think I ever was.”
Reena had shoved herself backward, collapsing the pile of clothes in her rapid escape from Drew's tirade. She stared at him, mouth half open, blinking.
Then she pulled herself to her feet and closed the distance between them, raising her hands as if she'd hit him. “What. The. Fuck. What the fuck do you think you're saying? Who do you think you're talking to? Without us, you'd be some fucking wirehead loser, burning out his brain on current, still thinking his precious older brother was some kind of pathetic drug addict. We're the ones that got you here. We're the ones who made you what you are. You're calling us out for making money? Who pays your allowance, little boy?”
“Damn right I'm calling you out, Reena.” he shoved a finger into her chest, harder than he probably should have, rocking her back. “It's all just feeding your ego, isn't it? It's just this huge trip. 'Look what someone is paying me to do.'” He sang it, all the while wondering what exactly had pushed him over the edge with the strange, isolated, back part of his brain that was watching this objectively. “You know why you keep us around? Topher and me, I mean? To watch. To cheer. To back you up. But not to work with you.”
“Hey.” Topher put in “Don't bring me into this one.”
“Of course not.” Drew shot back. “You're inside her fucking head. You got what you wanted, she can't even lie to you. It's not like you've seemed anything less than perfectly happy backing her up, as long as she's honest. Or her lies make you feel good, right?”
Topher threw his hands up, always with that goofy half-smile that was fixed on his face. Drew was aware of a tension in Topher's muscles, though, the slight closing of his fists. He had risen as well, and seemed to be balancing on the balls of his feet. Ok, Drew, keep it under control. No need to get laid out by the ninja-kid.
Reena's voice had gone very calm, very distant. “Once a wirehead, always a wirehead. You been hitting, then, 'Burb? Thought you getting clean was too good to be true.”
Now he really was angry. Not just this strange, twist-like rage, but actual, honestly pissed. She still didn't trust him, after all this time, after watching him go through withdrawals, she still didn't fucking trust him. He wanted to scream at her, wanted to tell her just how wrong she was, but that would mean acknowledging she'd said something worth responding to.
“You know what, Reena? I'm not your toy, or your audience, or your cheering squad.” He felt his shoulders try to collapse but he refused to let them. “Not interested in this new job. Thanks, but no thanks, right?”
He picked up his helmet as he headed toward the door. “Don't call me. I'll call you.”
The Neural Markets
Niobe is good at her job for De Organisatie. She makes sure the drug dealers, stack hackers, and black market traders of Kinshasa remember who they are loyal to, and what the price of betrayal is, and in turn is well provided for. She has access to the best sleeve upgrades, medical care, and mods available, for the low price of a little violence.
It's a great gig, and Niobe has no interest in making trouble.
Until it begins to look like the disappearance of her sister Dione has more to do with De Organisatie's back alley dealings than it does Dione's drug dealing ex boyfriend. Then, Niobe begins to question at what price her own loyalty may be bought, and weather security has a higher value than family.
The knife fight had already ended when the Organization’s enforcer arrived on the scene. It hadn’t lasted long, but then these things rarely did. Despite the murmuring spectators that had gathered, the combatants’ aim had been to injure, not put on a show.
Stopping, her boots raising puffs of dry, red dust, she gave the bloody street a once-over. A circle of onlookers, pushed close together in the space between two market stalls, nearly hid a man lying on the ground. He curled around his midsection and groaning like a drunk. Another, who was being given wide berth by the watchers, bent over him, and with a practiced movement jerked free the knife he’d obviously been instrumental in placing. The groaning abruptly turned to sharper, choking cries, and the crowd craned their necks, let out a collective gasp.
The enforcer approached cautiously. She’d tracked her asset to this corner of Kinshasa, into a market that specialized in salvaged bits of tech. Blankets covered with everything from jail broken phones to antique flat screen monitors spread out from the plywood stalls into the street, and squatting men and women in jeans, tunics, pagnes, called out to passersby. Or would have normally. At the moment, in the aftermath of the fight, a dull silence reigned. Scanning both crowd and combatants, the enforcer identified her asset from the digital photo she’d received from her employers.
Thankfully, it was the hard-looking man now cleaning the knife against the leg of his camouflage pants, and not the half-dead one on the ground, or any of the number of observers that were dispersing in the absence of anything interesting or violent to watch. Trying to explain that an asset got killed on your watch never went over well. Telling the powers that be he'd killed someone was a considerably easier.
“What’d he do?” She asked the man with the knife, only partially curious, one hand lightly resting on the sheathed combat knife at her hip under her black tank top, just in case the asset didn’t like the intrusion.
“You don’t look like a cop.”
She let herself laugh, shrugging off the accusation. “And you don’t look like a murderer. So what’d he do?”
The man waved a hand, like brushing a cloud of gnats away from his face.
“The Organization sent me.” she said, interpreting the man’s silence as something between distrust and disinterest.
The crowd continued to mill away, the spectacle obviously over, and the shrill whistles of the police carried over the ambient murmur that had begun to rise again into the roar of a typical market street.
The man’s eyes narrowed a fraction as he looked her over. “Ekwensi, right? I’ve heard of you.”
“Niobe Ekwensi, yes. And we probably should probably relocate.” she said, pointing to the man on the ground “I don’t really want to be here when the cops show up. The higher ups don’t appreciate us showing civic responsibility.”
“Right.” The man echoed, and with a final, businesslike swipe of the knife across his pant leg, he folded it, pocketed it, and turned away and into the crowd, away from tan uniform-clad officers approaching from the other direction.
His name was René and he was a stack hacker.
Analogs are never as good as the real thing. From genetically engineered canines, to creche-born homo sapiens, something that’s been hatched will never equal its biological equivalent.
And anyway, gene therapy can’t solve everything.
Creche-Born Jak, salvager, ruffian, and sometimes street tough thinks he’s gotten out from under the thumb of Quantech, the creche that hatched him. But when he is blindsided by an offer he can’t refuse, he realizes that no analog is ever his own man.
Thom Rosek, bodyguard to several now-deceased presidents, just wants to settle down somewhere warm. His latest and last principle, however, seems to have not been entirely square about exactly the degree of risk involved in this job.
As the two men are drawn inexorably closer, on the trail of a piece of tech that might just be as valuable as it appears, the line between biological and analog becomes increasingly strained, and increasingly blurred. Kidnap, theft, and corporate espionage frame a trans-national mission with the ultimate payoff--the right to determine the course of one’s own existence.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America
The president had just been assassinated. Again.
And Thom Rosek was about to lose his job.
He hadn’t expected it, though he really should have. Stupidly, Rosek had figured that inside the Reconstructed White House the president would be marginally safer than he was on the road, where Rosek’s skills were generally employed. Considering that the White House was prepared to handle everything up to and including a siege, and even kept a few un-human crèche-born on staff, it had seemed reasonable to assume Rosek’s own attentiveness would be secondary. Now, standing in the foyer of the President’s personal suite, watching those very staffers scatter like ants and his principal spit up something that looked like strawberry mousse, he realized he’d been dramatically mistaken. Wonderful.
The other secret service men, the ones in the matching dark suits, started toward the stricken administrator, and Rosek wondered, not for the first time, what was wrong with his luck. This was the third President that had been assassinated out from under him in almost as many months. When he nursed a few on a Saturday night, he’d start to think maybe he was cursed.
He knew better, though. The office of President of the United States was probably the most dangerous political role anyone could hold. The US had made so many enemies back before the Wars of Secession that everyone had a debt to settle, and targeting the president was a fast way to settle it.
A big secret service officer with a clear earpiece dangling out of his ear, shouting tinny, half-heard commands, shoved Rosek out of the way, and the private bodyguard took a step back. The “secret service” weren’t anything other than glorified mall guards, really, but given that they carried guns they were very ready to use, it was a good idea to stay out of line of sight. Rosek didn’t want to have to break another wrist.
The paperwork when you worked for governments was absolutely endless, and it got worse if you killed someone. They let you do the short form when your life was on the line, but Rosek had already spent enough desk time on that particular task.
To be fair, Rosek thought, this isn’t my fault. After all, the president hadn't been shot or anything. Not like last time, when the bodyguard was sure he was going to be actually executed on the spot. That dodge had taken a fair bit of fancy verbal footwork.
Rosek glanced with distaste at the fallen politician, whose strawberry-mousse extrusions had turned into froth at the mouth and eyes. Poison, most likely. Rosek felt a flash of sympathy for the Reconstructed White House’s kitchen staff. If they were smart, they’d be out of here before someone got the bright idea of arranging their arrest and conviction.
Rosek had zero control over what the president ate, though as chief of personal security, he’d strenuously lobbied for access. Everything was supposedly run through the very latest in poison sniffers, bug identifiers, and pathogen testers. Evidently, they’d missed something though, because the president-- the former president-- was rapidly turning to ooze.
The secret service man, his earpiece still dislodged, poked at the president’s disintegrated corpse with his toe and looked over at Rosek. “You gonna do anything about this?”
Rosek closed his eyes for a long moment. “What am I supposed to do? Get a mop?”
“So are you.” Rosek reminded him.
“You’re private sector.” As if that made all the difference.
Rosek sighed. “Get bio-disposal up here. Call the vice president. He’ll have to make his acceptance speech by tomorrow, otherwise people will get restless.”
Seeming glad that someone was telling him what to do, the secret service man pulled out his sat-phone and started making calls. When Rosek was satisfied he was otherwise occupied, the bodyguard put on his most professional stance, and taking the back stairs down to the parking lot, got into his car, and drove toward Vegas.
The Wild Hunt: A Game of Bloodthirsty Desire
The call of the horn drifts over field, mournful and sobbing like a lover betrayed. It is distant, yet. Could almost be an echo, a memory. Still, the air is clear and sounds carry far. The moon rises high and yellow in a sky black, and cold, and starless.
The horn calls again, the lover-in-waiting, body aching, alone in their bleak bed.
There, in the empty field under the moon, the Quarry crouches. Its ears prick, eyes widen. Its nostrils flare. Its body quivers. Sometimes, with fear. Sometimes, with other emotions entirely.
It knows what is coming. Knew, since it woke here, its skin bare to the night, its feet already bloody and raw. This was what it craved--the beating of blood in its ears, the sweat stinging it face, the sweet-salt of tears, and the bitterness of bile coating its mouth.
But craving, and having are not the same.
The Quarry is afraid.
The horns call, and on the horizon, come the shadow of the Hunters.
The Quarry takes flight.
The Hunt begins.
The Wild Hunt is an experience for five players who trust one another, enacting the familiar Arcadian game of the Hunt, pitting the strength of the Hunters against the wits of the Hunted.
It requires a deck of tarot cards, a place to tally the Hunter’s scores, and paper for recording the Rules.
The Wild Hunt can be purchased here
An unsafe game of mental vivisection
There should be two players, to engage in this Game.
There can be three, if you like, but no more.
Each player decides if they are a Tool, or a Toy.
Tools are always Tools, no more, and no less.
Toys are what is needed, to play any Game, especially this one. Toys can put on the roll of a Tool, when it is appropriate.
Cut can be purchased here
Like Trying to Learn to Breathe Underwater
You do not belong here.
You have known that as long as you could know anything.
You do not belong in this house, wrapped in the arms of Mother and Father like wires. Sister like a knife. The names they give you are wrong. Even the one that is closest, the one you’ve come to fit like wearing in once-blistering shoes.
It is not your name.
But they have the Words to bind you. To spin you up in telephone cables, pin your arms to your sides. Tangle your feet till you fall. The have the tools to make your body heavy, fat, thick and clotted with possessions and expectations.
They love you. They are so very proud of you.
Don't you want to make them proud?
Interactive fiction exploring what it is to feel wrong. To neither fit, nor be able to make yourself fit.
And to consider that maybe what they've told you is wrong is simply different. Is belonging somewhere else.
This game is about growing up with brainstuff that wasn't allowed to be real. About what it can feel like to finally begin to accept that it is. That it's a part of you.
It uses the language of make-believe to make the unsafe, safe, and the safe, unsettling.
Like Trying To Learn to Breathe Underwater can be purchased here
Bread & Stone
There is seldom peace in Arcadia.
The Gentry of Faerie are fickle, capricious things, and conflict between them is inevitable. Even in a single noble’s court, one is more likely to find enemies than allies. Between the Great Houses, disagreement is both volatile and incessant. Discord is inevitable, and alliances ever-changing.
This, of course, makes travel through the Kingdoms difficult.
Precisely because the politics of the Kingdoms are ever-changing, customs have grown up between the Gentry, and the dwellers in their realms. Customs of welcome, of turning away, of a means by which one may stay, for a time, even under the roof of one’s enemy, without harm or fear. Customs which, through time and repetition, have become immutable Laws, reinforced by the magic of word and vow.
Such is the Law of Hospitality.
Bread & Stone is a microLARP for at least 2 players, centered around the making and sharing of a meal.
The Guests, beholding to one Liege Lord, request Hospitality, and the Host and their Household, beholding to another Liege, offer it.
Then, all that remains is to get from sunset to sunset without violating the Laws.
It’s a pity that both sides want to force the other to break them.
Bread & Stone can be purchased here.
Tell delicious stories of home.
Casserole is a small, quiet 1 page game of telling stories inspired by food, and good memories of eating it.
This game is dedicated to the memory of my Grandma, and her recipe cards.
Casserole can be purchased here.
What Happened to the Theater
"One and all keep us guessing
What the heck they're expressing…”
Live action role playing is often as much performance as it is gaming. This game is designed to bring the two closer together.
The game itself is meant to be put on as a miniature, improvisational play. But unlike typical theater, the game is not meant to tell the whole of a story. Rather, the goal is to tell, to show, what that story looks like experienced through the eyes of the different characters, all of whom are on the outside of the principal narrative.
The characters themselves, over-the-top caricatures drawn from Commedia Dell’Arte are not part of the main plot at all. No one will play the Rich Uncle, or the Scheming Mama, or the Crafty Merchant. Rather, the players are people on the periphery, who have watched the story move forward and are reacting to it.
The story is built in the absence of the key players, through the ways the player characters respond to them.
What Happened to the Theater can be purchased here
The Daisy-Chain House
Down in the meadow, just past the bend of the stream, there is a tiny house with a ring of mushrooms in the front garden. All the woodland folk know the place. In the mornings, the smell of baking bread comes out of the open windows. In the evenings, voices, singing together. And all the time, laughter.
The Daisy-Chain House is a game for 4+ about creating a family. About meeting one’s needs without depriving others. About compromise without sacrifice. About finding love, in all the forms it may take.
Work together to create a found family, romantic or otherwise.
The Daisy-Chain House can be downloaded here.
Just not meeting your match on average dating websites?
Hook-up apps failing to light your fire?
Speed dating too slow?
Are you a pessimistic, seductive grandma seeking a soul mate for deep sea fishing or massage?
Maybe an aquatic, mutant pageant winner who wants a rebound relationship for sexting or seances?
Whoever you are, whatever you're looking for, we have it.
Welcome to PeacockTail.com, where everyone is something special. And knows it.
So you’re vacationing on the Earth!
We want you to dive in, and have the trip of a lifetime! But remember, Earth is an unsophisticated planet that hasn’t made interstellar contact.
(Warning: the sensory events you are about to have may be be shocking, disgusting, or even disturbing.)
The Tau Ceti Accords
The 300 year war has devastated the galaxy. Neither side can afford to continue to fight. Peace has become not need, but necessity. But necessary or not, negotiations between two such different species are complex. Especially species with wildly different body language & social customs.
When the Messages Began
You live in the dark.
Or you did, until the computer came to life.
Until it whirred, and clicked, and found power where none had been.
Until the screen blinked on, and bright while words began to print themselves across it.
You were alone, until messages began.
When the Messages Began is a 2-player role playing game of digital exchanges.
The Receiver is a member of a functioning community built in the ruins of a post-Apocalyptic world.
The Sender is a string of words appearing on the screen of a long-dead computer.
Receiver and Sender, knowing each other only through what they write, communicate in the hopes of learning who exactly the other is, and how they can be used to further their own goals.
When the Messages Began can be purchased here.
You (and your team!) are undercover heroes. Spot the villain, and plan how you'll save the day.
The Food Truck Rebellion
First, it was monoculture. Single-product factory cultivation made so efficient small, variety-filled farms became financially impossible.
Next, terminator plants. High-yield crops with sterile seeds that produced only one harvest before dying, preventing any self-sustaining cultivation.
Agriculture became less and less profitable. Farms went bankrupt--first the family-owned ones, but gradually larger and larger businesses. Food production ground to a near standstill.
There were shortages. No broccoli, once. Weeks when you couldn’t get cucumbers.
But it wasn’t till the price of potatoes skyrocketed that we complained.
As if in answer to our prayers, agribusiness moved in. Multinational conglomerates who had vast research budgets for researching the best ways to get the most from the land. They bought foreclosed properties, scooped up unprofitable land for pennies on the dollar.
And they brought us the answer-- industrial food.
SmartMart has mastered food efficiency. Industrial Food can be produced easily and cheaply, stored forever, transported anywhere. It can be anything. Look like anything. There’s no need to cook anymore, when finished meals can come straight from factory to table. New houses don’t even have kitchens.
It all tastes the same.
Sure, we’re not starving, but at what price? There’s so much we’ve lost, in caring only about the most economical way to produce and consume calories.
That’s where we come in.