“It’s simply that a koala isn’t what I was anticipating ,” said the client.

“Oh, so you think that koalas are somehow inherently unable to do mercenary work?” the bear said, its voice strangled and unnatural, issuing as it did from the koala’s nasal vocal folds..

“Well, I’ve never even met a mercenary before, much less one who was a kolala,” the client said quickly.

“I’m one of the handful of critters that can properly handle a gun,” the koala sighed. “With two thumbs, I can shoot better and more accurately than anyone or anything else! I can see better than humans and smell better than humans to boot.”

Genuine curiosity and defensive scorn; the client was seemingly torn between both. “Why haven’t I seen any koala mercenaries before, then?”

“Dolls. Recently humans’ dolls have gotten fat enough so their clothes are our size,” the mercenary koala said, “and that’s what’s been holding us back in the eucalyptus trees all these years. The only thing.”

“So, can you help me?” The client shifted uneasily.

“Yes, provided you can meet my fee,” the koala said. “50 pounds of young and tender eucalyptus shoots a day, plus expenses.”

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Jitney Motors, long renowned for its off-road vehicles, was forced into bankruptcy in 1986 after the overwhelming failure of its new upscale vehicle. The Jitney Islander rotten on the lots of dealers, and the high unit production costs ate up the profit from Jitney’s other models, forcing its sale to Chrysalis Motors and the continuation of the Jitney name as a brand only, slapped on rebadged Chrysalis Masticator trucks and vans.

Why had the Jitney Islander been such a failure?

The fault lay in the cont chosen for the Islander logo, painted on the sides and molded in chrome. The “s” in “island” was stylized as a flowing river with two bends…that gave the logo the appearance, which had gone unnoticed throughout its design and marketing, of being a “Jitney ßlander.”

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The Omnidome, GA: In an official statement this afternoon, NBS Television blamed the interruption of its live coverage of the Southern Michigan University-University of Northern Mississippi on “technicult problems.” The SMU Fighting Grizzlies and the UNM Fighting Abolitionists were in the second quarter of the GesteCo Bowl in Westchester Repeating Arms stadium when the transmission was suddenly cut to digital television subscribers and live online feeds, with only local radio commentary by WREK radio remaining uninterrupted.

“Is is our great regret that the much-anticipated GesteCo Bowl was interrupted by technicult difficulties,” said an NBS executive as part of the statement. “Members of the Church of the Anti-Machine, a radical technicult that rejects and believes any technology invented after 1800 to be sinful and mind-controlling, attacked our primary relay station with swords, torches, and flintlock muskets. Our defenses were designed around a direct, large-scale assault, and their small one-man groups were able to penetrate the outer defense. We sincerely apologize to anyone who felt offended or inconvenienced.”

At press time, NBS Television and its parent corporation Lucky 777 Dragon Industries of Shanghai, had not commented on whether losses to advertisers and fans would be compensated monetarily or simply though apologizing with nice cheap words.

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They say
Only after you have been defeated within
Can you be defeated without
I worry
That I am the within
Sowing the seeds of defeat
In the body of the nation
With my every action

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They are the most enigmatic order of insects, and yet in many ways the most beautiful, the most devoted. It’s a measure of how little we know of them that they have only such cold and impersonal names as Strepsiptera or “twist-winged flies.” I have devoted my life to their study.

I am sure that at some stage in their evolution they were something else, but in our era they are parasites, living inside creatures as varied and pestilent as wasps, silverfish, cockroaches. The young are scuttling planidium, almost microscopic in the wild, that burrow into the larger insects they parasitize. Once inside, they undergo hypermetamorphosis, losing their legs and their eyes in favor of a wormlike form that has a variety of effects on its host in addition to living off it as a parasite. They can alter the host’s behavior in a much more complex way than Cordyceps fungi to suit their needs; causing it to go where they want and to congregate with more it its kind.

Females remain wormlike parasitic grubs their whole lives, but the males eventually metamorphose again into tiny fly-like organisms with beautiful gossamer wings. They have only a few hours to find and mate with a female before their energy reserves are exhausted, and cannot eat…what used to be their mouth has been modified into a sensory structure of unparallelled power for something so tiny. There’s a certain purity about Strepsiptera that’s not found in any other creature; they never eat when they are mobile, and they do not typically kill their hosts.

My sponsors in the military hoped to use Strepsiptera’s ability to alter the behavior of its hosts for strategic purposes, and that was the source of our experimental breeding program, trying to create a Strepsiptera large enough to affect a mammalian host and one that will alter behavior in the way that would be useful for killing and maiming, even though that is not at all in keeping with the nature of these gentle parasites. The largest males of our new strain were the size of butterflies, their wings a thousand times more delicate and beautiful, and their heads aquiver with complex sense organs and the most basal compound eyes in the insect world. The females were much larger, and gave birth to young who could secrete enzymes to break down not only skin but also clothing to enter.

They said that the experiments were ultimately a failure, that the behavior induced in the test animals was simply limited to congregating with other parasitized specimens and becoming deeply protective of the living monuments to maternity within and the fleeting, selfless masculine gossamer flutterlings without. They said that the funding was to be pulled before we could engage on field trials and human subjects. They are peaceful parasites, it is true, but that does not mean they do not know a modicum of defense.

We are all huddled together now in the laboratory on the base, deriving the most serene comfort from each others’ presence, the sort of feeling that would have precluded all human conflict had we but discovered it earlier. The ones outside are dead; having refused the gift, we were forced to act in the name of the greater good. They are peaceful parasites, it is true, but that does not mean they do not know a modicum of defense.

I can see them protruding from my abdomen now, a dozen or more gently quivering with peace and life. Some destined to reside in me forever, to bring forth brood upon brood of peace and brotherhood to release upon the world; some destined to soon burst forth in fleeting gossamer life to mate with others and bring still more broods about.

Strepsiptera. Twist-winged flies. Parasites. Love, in its purest and most selfless form. I cannot wait to see where they will take us in their purity.

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“Your father…is James. I had hoped that you would never find out.”

The news struck Cole like a thunderbolt. “What? How…how could you, mother?”

“But, you see, as I told myself at the time, it didn’t make any difference. What does it matter which of a set of identical twins is the true father? They’re he same, after all, aren’t they?”

Uncle James…intemperate, foul-mouthed, always in the drink and letting what little money he earned as a delivery driver slip through his fingers. He’d been a terrible figure in Cole’s childhood, a bitter presence always ready with a swat. To think that he, rather than his mild and kind brother Jacob, was his father…Cole reeled at the thought.

“No,” he said firmly. “No they are not.”

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Excerpted from the Ruins & Rogues Creature Compendium, incorporating materials from the Sorcerers & Sabers Interverse Guide

Menthol Dragon
Size: S (young) to VL (old)
Hit Dice: 12d13+25 (subtract 5 HP for each year of age under 100, minimum 25)
Treasure: Class D (common), Class B (uncommon)
Armor Class: Advanced Placement
Attacks: +6 (claws), Special (breath)

In ages past, the so-called Elemental Drakes who traveled the Interverse tended to reflect he classical conception of the elements: fire, water, earth, air (occasionally adding light and dark). But, as the Interverse is nothing if not a mirror of the Primary World, the invention of new materials has let to new races of Elemental Drakes.

The Menthol Dragon is one such, hailing from either the Interversal Continuum of Smoke or the Interversal Continuum of Disease. It exists in opposition to the Unfiltered Dragons in the former and the Fruit Dragons in the latter. The dragons project a powerful soothing aura for 10′ around them, against which all players wishing to harm the dragons must roll. While they can attack with their claws, causing +6 soothing damage, their breath weapon is their most potent tool. A blast of high-pressure menthol, it will sooth anything into a coma within a 20′ cone. A successful roll against soothing will result in only numbness and an intense desire for cough drops and cigarettes.

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