And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

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"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Chapter 3 And Some Thoughts

Chapter 3


Shinka Keep once again rattled and shook with the sounds of thousands of hopeful warriors in battle. There, in the ominous throne room, the reigning queen, Elena, was once again facing an opponent – one that was rather familiar to the champion. The black silk gi with olive green trims, along with the black hakama was the attire of the champion that Elena had deposed to gain control of the Hidetsugu Throne. The two of them had fought a spectacular, hard-fought duel during their last encounter and many of those engaged in duels had taken the time to stop, to observe the two master warriors. The man in black readied her twin katana as she took one step into the throne room’s interior. Elena readied Stranglehold, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Both of them had been there before, the stakes hadn’t changed and both had only differed in just how many had fallen before them since the last encounter. A smile dashed both their faces, the duel began.

The first strike was laid down by Elena. A forceful downward stroke meant to try and end the duel quickly missed, barely avoided because of the speed of the blade coming down. The opponent, Takemura by name, made a quick cut aimed at Elena’s waist with one katana while the other remained in a defensive position. The readiness for a second strike using it was clear, however. Elena managed to take the hit due to her armor and quickly readied her weapon. Elena adjusted her stance, leaning her bodyweight back to keep the balance of her body as she leaned Stranglehold’s blade lean forward. Both champions circled each other, knowing that any foolish attacks would have been the end of them. It was a battle for the ages. Elena had in her hands the dreaded Stranglehold, possessing raw power and an incredible durability. Takemura wielded the katana, a weapon that carried centuries worth of history behind it as well as centuries worth of skills in the art of kenjutsu woven into every strike. Both of them smiled again, realizing that the strategies that had made and lost their other battles against others were null and void. For the first time in a long time, the two champions in Shinka Keep found themselves faced with someone who was their equal in battle.

Takemura had an excellent record, having never lost a single battle before or after facing Elena. It was his only defeat but he had turned it into a challenge. He’d risen back up, earned his way through all of Shinka Keep’s secret chambers and ancient guardians to enter the throne room once more. He was again in that place; he could feel the power coursing through his body once more. He was filled once again with all the intoxicating energy of the Hidetsugu Throne but he was anchored to reality by the fact that Elena still had sway over the place. If Takemura wanted to regain that power, he had to bring Elena Fairchild down. It was a daunting task, as he knew that while he was cutting down opponents left and right, Elena had been in a similar state, cutting down worthy opponents. He shifted his stance, altering his position to one that gave him more flexibility. He knew he would need to be able to shift from offense to defense in a split second if he was going to win the battle. He looked on at Elena and understood that his best chance at victory was slitting her throat. That would prove difficult, as the gap in the armor was small and a clean cut there would have been difficult. Takemura was not one to back away from a challenge however and he prepared himself.

“Stranglehold has taken much blood since she and I last met.” Takemura said coldly.

“And your blood may well be the next to stain her blade, Takemura.”

“I see your skills have not dulled, Lady Fairchild. I am duly impressed.”

“You are still as deadly as ever, Takemura. It has been a long time since I’ve fought anyone with a level of skill like yours.” Elena said. In a second, she suddenly snapped and thrust her weapon forward.

Takemura avoided the attack, his gi cut by the edge of the blade as he moved. “You are the only truly worthy opponent I have ever faced. Even that talented young girl Leonia does not come close.”

“Ah, so you two have met? She’s quite good, albeit she made a mistake when she faced me.”

“I will admit to her talents but…” Takemura made a quick lunge forward, his sword making one stab at Elena’s shoulder, which was deflected. His second weapon was stealthily prepared, thrusting at the small gap between the armor of the shoulder and the breastplate. “…she still has much to learn in battle.”

Elena shook as she drew back, realizing that she’d fallen for such an obvious trap. She looked on at the bleeding area, knowing that Takemura would continue to exploit that as a weakness and perhaps he’d also attack the other small gaps in her black armor. It alarmed her, as no one had ever managed to secure a wound in the gaps of her armor. Many had tried in the past –Leonia having had come the closest – but none have actually succeeded. It made her aware that Takemura’s skills had increased as hers did, making the battle even more of a pleasure to win in her mind. She smiled at the thought, trying to flush the pain from her mind. She had a true duel on her hands and the stakes were high. And for once, she dared let her mind doubt the assurance of her victory. The idea of that thrilled her as she began to craft her plan of attack.


` Yuki breathed a little nervously as she realized that ‘Takemura’ had drawn first blood in the game. It was an unprecedented event and it stirred a bit of adrenaline in Yuki. She hadn’t faced any player with a skill level like that one and she’d always wondered who the players that she’d been beating were. Part of her was more intent on finding out the names of the players behind the three players that had come closest to beating her. However, she brushed the thought of finding out the players’ real names were and focused on keeping her opponent in the game from exploiting the weakness that he’d managed to open. For a brief moment, she let the sight of Michiko humming Mozart to herself while scanning a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets into her memory banks take her mind off of the battle. Michiko had a tendency to be distracting at strange times whenever she was in her silence. Yuki smiled warmly before returning to the game.

Michiko sat there, idly scanning sonnet by sonnet into her memory banks. It wasn’t something that Yuki had her do but rather, it was something she’d found a pleasant way to pass the time. She had plenty of time to spare thanks to the release of the Shinka Keep game; she’d chosen to occupy her time by scanning the best literature she could find into her memory banks. She’d taken in works from both east and west, all of them accessible to her and to anyone who asks at a moment’s notice. Yuki had never bothered to install a great number of programs into Michiko’s system, aside from hacking software and a self defense module, despite the noted lack of combat ability in series-1 and series-2 units. Once she was done, she stopped and simply sat to watch Yuki play her game. She would have objected but it was difficult for her to do so.

Programmed as she was to be vocal about her objections, Michiko personally didn’t find that sort of thing to be necessary to her character. On occasion she would but only due to programming, her mental override systems often keeping the programming at bay. She sighed, looked out the window and noticed a series-3 unit walking with his owner. She smiled, knowing just how fortunate she was because Yuki wasn’t intent on trading her in for a later model. Yuki had once mentioned that Michiko was incredibly human in comparison to the countless series-3 models she’d seen roaming the streets. She sat still for a moment, in a way that only a machine could sit still, and ran some random thoughts through her processor. Then, a grunt from Yuki alerted her that she wasn’t taking the events in her game too well. She smiled, wondering what was going to happen next. She’d rather hoped Yuki wouldn’t get frustrated, as Michiko had taken note that Yuki wasn’t as attractive frustrated or angry as she was when she was happy. Not that Michiko thought she was watching her mistress. She’d always reasoned it out as simply being an observant android.

“Ha! He made a mistake! Now he’s mine!” Yuki said aloud. It was clear to see the determination in her eyes as she bit her lip. “Just one good hit, that’s all I need and I’ll get the win…”

Michiko smiled seeing Yuki happy. It made her feel pleased as well. She proceeded outside to get Yuki a drink, anticipating that the girl would be looking for something to drink after her game. As she got down to the kitchen area of the dorm, she took note of a strange figure standing ominously on the rooftop of the building next door. She didn’t recognize the person but she realized quickly it wasn’t a student and she had a strange feeling – a feeling – that it wasn’t something she understood or knew. Suddenly her mind realized that she just had a thought run through her processor that wasn’t something she could define in her system’s protocols and database. Initially, she had thought of is as just a glitch or bug but in time, she had come to the realization that it wasn’t a bug and she couldn’t find any explanation to it. The only thing that she could call it was feeling, an instinct. Instinct didn’t happen to machines, even series-1 units. They only simulated human emotions but there’d never been any reports of series-1 models simulating something so human as instinct. It wasn’t possible. Yet, it had just happened to her. She shrugged and brushed it off for a while, scheduling some time later that night to figure it out. For the time being, she had to get Yuki’s drinks.

“There are some very strange things going on here. I better contact Minako or Hodaka and ask about this. They probably have experience on this, right?” She muttered to herself as she fixed Yuki a cold drink. She looked up and was tempted to open up the bourbon she knew one of the other students smuggled in but decided against it. Yuki had enough vices and she didn’t want to add another to the list. “I’m talking to myself again. Oh, Yuki would have a long, hearty laugh at my expense if she knew about this.”

* * *

Koji looked out his window and took note of the figure standing atop the building that was next to Yuki’s dormitory. He quickly got Takara to scan the figure, his curiosity overtaking much of his thinking and there was something darkly intriguing about it. Takara activated the enhancement of her optical sensors and attempted to get a good scan on it. She’d determined that the figure had a feminine frame, shapely. It stood shorter than Takara did; the details of the physical appearance were hidden by a black cloak and hood over her body. As she attempted to get a more detailed scan of the target, it turned its head at her direction and then a hand reached out to the cloak. In a matter of seconds, the figure disappeared before Takara’s eyes and then, she couldn’t get any trace of the figure. It confused her to no end as she turned around to report on what she’d learned – and more on what she’d failed to learn – to Koji, despite her better judgment.

“I failed to obtain a comprehensive scan of the figure. Current data suggest that it had a female frame, though whether the subject is human or not is uncertain.” Takara said. “There is high probability that the subject is in possession of a military-grade personal stealth device, possibly a prototype.”

“Did you say a stealth device? There are rumors going around that the Japanese army’s lost some sort of portable stealth technology prototype but there’s never been any evidence to confirm them.” Koji muttered as he browsed through one of his textbooks. “What else did you manage to get on it?”

“I have obtained nothing else, sir.” She answered before letting her second processor run through and analyze the little data she had again. “The target activated the stealth system before I could conduct a closer visual inspection. The current data is inadequate to assume whether it was human or android.”

“Well, that’s not very reassuring.” Koji drank in a shot of Russian vodka. He filled his glass again and then took another shot. “It doesn’t matter much though. I doubt that it’s anything really important.”

* * *

“That’s strange. I don’t think anyone’s ever disconnected from the network in the middle of a duel before.” Yuki thought out loud as she took a sip of the red iced tea Michiko gave her.

“I can check for contingency errors in the network if you like.” Michiko said.

“No, that’s alright. Neither of us was winning anyway.” She said with a disappointed sigh. “Michiko, I’m curious. What do you do when you’ve got some time alone, when I’m not around?”

“I read books mostly. Or rather, I scan them into my memory since you’ve never really installed any software into my system.” Michiko answered while Yuki signaled for her to lie down on the bed with her. The android felt a little uneasy, having never been that close to Yuki before.

“I’ve got a free day coming up; do you want to…take a walk around the gardens?”

She kept silent for a while, unsure of what to answer. “Well…I’d…like that.” She answered after much thought. “Yes, I think I’d enjoy spending time with you.”

End Chapter 3


Well, that's chapter 3. So far, I'm still ahead of my updates like in the old FFN and FPC days. However, part of me has been inkling towards making a fanfic again, mainly because I never got around to writing it back when I still was making it. It should have been easy. A re-telling of the story of the Phantom of The Opera using the Love Hina cast.

Then again, part of me is drawn to take the original elements of an old fanfic of Cecilia's (The Corp) and adapt it so that it's completely original. Must be the influence of playing Galerians again, not to mention RPing a Psionicist in D&D: Ravenloft.

Also, I find the outcome of the Michael Jackson trial both just and profoundly disturbing. Just because even I can't convict him considering how the prosecution mishandled the case and the fact that the accusers did seem rather opportunistic and almost...scripted. Disturbing because this is Michael Jackson. He looks like a zombie. He is a 46 year old deranged, deluded nut that thinks he's a 10 year old innocent kid. This is the guy Charles Manson is afraid of. This is the guy that would have saved the Jews if he was around during WW2 because Hitler and the Nazis would have spent their time ridding the world of people like him. He deserves to be put in jail. But sadly, he doesn't deserve to be in jail if the only reasons are his accusers in the trial.

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