Joined: Jul 2011
Originally posted on MSPA
by Lord Paradise
Saint Scofflaw, who was prone to the most obvious metaphors, knew a chessboard when he saw one.
He scolded himself, knowing he could do better than that. Clearing the throat of his mind, as it were, he recalled spending a period of some weeks in a pseudo-afterlife with fellow celebrity criminal the Czech Mate. About half of it they spent exploring strategies for a two-player Settlers of Catan variant of the Czech Mate’s own devising whereby only one of the players had to play by the rules, but these rules were stacked in that player’s favor. Scofflaw forgot what the variant was called, but he knew the same basic principle when he found himself caught up in it over the course of some hours.
What upset Scofflaw was that he didn’t seem to be a critical piece on the board. He was like the pirate in Catan: Seafarers, in that he got shuffled around only when the player rolling a 7 already controlled the thief and the merchant, at which point—
Scofflaw groaned and snapped himself into a meditative state of unthought, eiher fearing that his internal rambling would attract the attention of Chaos, or that it wouldn’t. He felt quite alone.
A bit more wandering did him good. When in the mood, Scofflaw was remarkably good at organizing his brain, compartmentalizing his issues, rationalizing his flaws, turning any minor memory of success into a near-suicidal overconfidence. This skill, as far as he chose to remember, had served him well in the past.
While devoting the forefront of his consciousness to replacing the German dance music stuck in his head to a more self-congratulatory fanfare, he found himself having found a workshop, of sorts. The room was unmarked and seemed to be one-part janitor’s closet, one part military bunker and one part garage.
Scofflaw didn't want to employ the phrase "candy shop" because he'd had some nasty experiences in the Crazy Confectionarium of Colonel Candyfloss some time back; perhaps it was more like a Best Buy on Black Friday, except all the other customers are dead on the ground.
Scofflaw brushed away the happy memories and got to work. He'd only been going for a quarter of an hour and had thirty-four patent-worthy ideas and three newsworthy ones before Jetsam entered the room.
There was a moment of awkward silence; not a malicious one, from Scofflaw's perspective at least, more of the silence one experiences coming out of a three-hour cuddling session with a good novel and realizing you had better watch some television as a cooldown exercise before you're ready to interact with other people. For a moment he looked at the man through the goggles of brilliance (also through some physical goggles he had found lying on a bench) and found himself vaugely equating the intruder with the pangolin he'd encountered before, picking up on some nigh-imperceptible patterns of behavior and expression (Scofflaw has these moments at times and relishes them as proof that he did not, as has often been suggested, suffer from any form of Asperger's Syndrome). At this point he snapped out of it and realized he was sort of in a situation and that the man had a couple of very sharp-looking things dangling from his hand like the week's groceries.
Scofflaw had already forgotten what he was working on three seconds ago, but he took the risk of hefting it and searching for a trigger; he managed to make a rather aesthetically satisfying ray of gigaviolet light shoot straight into Jetsam's head. Unfortunately, this seemed to have no effect whatsoever, though Scofflaw, remembering now, was certain that a couple more hours' exposure might have given him a serious risk of melanoma.
Discarding that little experiment, Scofflaw fumbled for something he'd jury-rigged five minutes ago for the express purpose of countering any smarmy magicians who got any smarmy magician ideas. Before he could go about the business of leveling it, however, there was a scythe-blade on either side of his neck and Jetsam's nose an inch away from his eye (the latter was somehow more disconcerting). He remembered later that Jetsam's breath was remarkably clean.
Scofflaw tried a little diplomacy; lacking any manner of charm, he was forced to resort to a radiant unlikeability that nonetheless created a strong impression that he was right about everything, otherwise how would he get off being so smug about it?
With this in mind, he gave Jetsam a paternal look and said, "Bored with round one already, are we? Well well, finish me off then."
Jetsam looked down at his hands, back up at Scofflaw, and let the grappling hook slacken a bit. "I don't know and I don't care what you're talking about. I'm after the glowing man."
Scofflaw wasn't dumb enough to assume that Jetsam was lying about that first bit, but wasn't smart enough to find it terribly interesting. "Sorry, I can't tell you. Last time I ran into him, he sort of tossed me out the door. It was a four-dimensional door and I still haven't really gotten my sense of direction back."
Jetsam threw Scofflaw to the floor, not quite hard enough to display any focused animosity, just a general sense of frustration. "This place has been... giving me a tour of itself," he said, as though trying to convince Scofflaw he wasn't addressing him directly, "It's annoying."
Scofflaw pulled himself off the floor and began pulling parts out of the various weapons on the table until he could fold them up and stash them in his pockets. "You're looking to knock off the magician, aren't you? That's... ambitious. I admire the spirit." He considered giving the man a pat on the shoulder, but figured it could wait. "Consider me an ally, until then."
"Don't slow me down," said Jetsam, hypocritically making no immediate attempt to leave. He was eyeing the workbench, as though afraid of eye contact.
"If you'd like, I could supply you with weaponry and simply send you off," offered the Saint, sensing an opportunity. "No payment necessary if it's for a noble cause. You'll just... owe me one."
Jetsam shot Scofflaw a glance with a degree of contempt that the villain found admirable. He hefted his grappling-scythe and walked off towards the door. "Are you coming or not?" he asked.
Scofflaw followed. Immediately past the door, the lighting made some odd decisions, suggesting that their path had once more stepped out of the bounds of linearity; they found themselves in the middle of a hallway. It was precisely the part of a hallway where one wouldn't expect to find a door, and on an ordinary day it would be precisely the part of a hallway where you wouldn't be able to see a squid, two men and a Varalica engaging in some sort of confrontation up ahead, but Scofflaw was long past such whimsical delusions of normalcy. The cool breeze of Unity emanating from Jorgensaard's waist-region caused the doorway to lodge itself in a way that made sense, and also made Jetsam wobble a bit. Then, before Scofflaw could remember at whom he was supposed to be shooting, the magician took control.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" came that lightly melodic voice that one simply cannot harbor indifference towards. Miles faced the foreman, at the same time seeming to look past him to where Scofflaw and Jetsam were standing, and held up one hand.
Jorgensaard was perhaps quicker than Miles gave him credit for, and pulled the trigger on his crossbow-wrench. With a sort of beautiful simultaneity, Jorgensaard, Scofflaw and Jetsam tumbled backwards and downwards slower than conventional falling would dictate but still fast enough to hurt as they hit the floor, while Miles, taking the wrench's attack in his stomach, made a sound like somebody was tightening a bolt in his gut.
To say that a lot of things happened at once would be an insult to the observer's intelligence, but one can definitely say that the few things that were happening all at once were extraordinarily flashy. Scofflaw pulled something volatile-looking and only vaguely gun-shaped out of seemingly nowhere and made it do something that didn't seem like it was firing a projectile so much as sucking something in; it grazed Jorgensaard on his shoulder, knocking the aim of his crossbow-wrench off enough that the unity blast bypassed Miles and went straight into Huebert's kneecap. Huebert, not seeming to be badly injured or even necessarily in pain, nonetheless was compelled to stumble forwards. This predictably caused TinTen to lose his tentacle's grip on the trigger of his plasma projector, sending a bolt of plasma streaming right into Miles' face.
The magician, though powerful, wasn't prepared on an immediate basis to have roughly the heat of the sun in his eyes, and was forced to intervene in the least subtle, most immediate way possible, which consisted of creating a point of absolute zero which diffused the energy of the plasma long enough for him to get his bearings. Bearings thus gained, and still very near death from all the alternative energy sources floating around his brain, Murdoch engineered a short time loop that sent a slightly confused past version of his body stumbling into the present.
This flagrant defiance of the laws of nature and good sense put Unity into a bit of an epileptic fit, making Jorgensaard's belt tighten uncomfortably. It also put a bit of a spring into Jetsam's step, allowing the man to close the gap between him and the foreman and brush Jorgensaard against the wall with the blunt end of his grappling-scythe.
Before Jetsam could bring his scythe's blade down on Murdoch's face, TinTen recovered his aim and put a burst of plasma between the two, keeping both of them alive for long enough that the Varalica could regain his composure and teleport away, pausing on the way out to bind Jetsam in some thick-looking ropes of golden energy. Scofflaw's second shot was distorted a bit by the vacuum that Murdoch's head left behind and only managed to tear out a bit of piping from the wall. Chaos, which was perhaps feeling a bit giddy and didn't want the action to stop, managed to summon forth a small swarm of beetles; they came crawling and occasionally flying out of the pipe before quickly being incinerated by TinTen or banished by Jorgensaard's recovering Unity belt.
Scofflaw considered running away, but was frankly a bit tired and suffering a bruised ego from a losing streak of sinister schemes, so instead he nonchalantly approached Jorgensaard and shook the foreman's hand.
"I don't believe we've met. I'm Lars Scathford," he said, in a faint accent that wasn't quite identifiable with any portion of middle America but that smelled vaguely of home cooking. "Any chance you could tell me what just went on here?"
Jorgensaard gave this some thought. "Well I caught some of your people mucking around where they weren't supposed to, I showed the electric kid the end of my five-eighths so I could ask some questions of an accusatory nature. He made to attack me and then there was a fight, as has been happening every five minutes or so ever since you all showed up, and this resulted in everyone just sort of leaving or giving up the conflict, as has been happening, the only difference being that this young man over here"--he indicated Jetsam, who was making no effort to struggle against the restraints, and in fact seemed comfortable in a frustrated sort of way--"has found himself in a position where the rest of you could easily kill him off. Now, I don't mean to prejudice you one way or another in this regard, Mr. Scathford, but by my limited understanding of events your taking advantage of this opportunity might get the whole bunch of you out of my hair and reduce my troubles to a known if not surmountable quantity." Jorgensaard gave Scofflaw a pat on the shoulder, effortlessly demonstrating a degree of folksy paternalism that Scofflaw had had to take some deeply embarrassing acting classes to master. "I'm Aldred Jorgensaard, by the way, and this is my facility," he concluded.
Scofflaw considered this proposition, trying not to make it too obvious that he was glancing nervously at TinTen and Huebert as they dutifully mopped up the last of the beetles. "Well, Aldred," he said, measuring his words to give the appearance that he was measuring his words, "It would perhaps do us all some short-term benefit to simply 'kill him off,' but I'm afraid that sort of behavior isn't in my nature. I honestly don't believe it's in the nature of the better part of the team either, else I'd have been 'out of the game' on multiple occasions already. Now, if I were to have to commit a murder in order to get myself out of this mess--and I feel that that's what it may come to, one way or another--I'd make sure to aim my weapon right in the eyes of the man that holds the greatest threat to the rest of us. Now you can call that altruism or you can call that long-term strategy, but either way that's what I feel I have to do."
He held Jorgensaard's gaze under the pretense of failing to avoid it.
"All I can tell you," said the foreman, "Is that there's a fellow with a skin condition who calls himself Kajan and he's agreed to be in my employ. A feisty fellow, probably dangerous if he were motivated to be dangerous, but I don't think he's an immediate threat to anybody who hasn't taken great pains to get on his bad side." Scofflaw nearly broke character at the news that Tor had gotten to the foreman first, and apparently made a good enough impression. Though the villain knew how much damage a nemesis relationship could do to both sides, the impudent little alien bothered him on a gut level. "My real worry is the lightbulb fellow. His very presence seems to be taking liberties with the U/C index and I can only assume it's getting worse."
Scofflaw became aware of TinTen and Huebert consorting amongst themselves and making their slow way over towards where the two men were standing, and did the best he can to wrap up his point. "Yes, I'm afraid that boy has been consorting with forces not meant for man. What's worse, some of the other contestants"--he threw his entire face over in the direction of the man and the Meipi in an exaggerated gesture--"seem to be quite taken with him. I hope you don't mind, I'm a bit of a scientist and I've been in your workshop cooking up some--"
Huebert's gun was leveled at Scofflaw's head. "Sir," he told Jorgensaard, "I'm going to ask you to rethink any opinions you may have formed of this man."
Scofflaw was deeply impressed by the earnestness of Huebert's voice. He glanced over at Jetsam for support, and found the wanderer relaxing meditatively in his restraints, not paying overmuch attention to the diplomatic struggle at hand. This was going to be a problem...
Arson | Serial kidnapping | Reckless endangerment | Disturbing the peace | Crimes against nature | Welfare fraud | Grandmastering while intoxicated