November 2014


§ P013M01/1. Arrest of person about to engage in Pokémon, Bakugan, or Yu-Gi-Oh duel; peace bond

A person subject to this code who fights, promotes, or is concerned in or connives at fighting a Pokémon, Bakugan, or Yu-Gi-Oh blood duel or who, having knowledge of a challenge sent or about to be sent, fails to report the fact promptly to the proper authority shall be punished as a the law directs.

Any person, being about to violate the provisions of this chapter against Pokémon, Bakugan, or Yu-Gi-Oh blood dueling, may be arrested, and be required by any conservator of the peace to surrender their Pokémon, Pokéballs, or other paraphanalia to keep the peace and not violate the law against blood dueling for the period of two years. In default of such, they shall be dealt with as provided in other cases of security to keep the peace, and all the provisions of the statute on that subject shall apply to bail as herein provided for.

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“Apostle Alexandra?”

“I reckon that’s about what people call me.” From behind the kerchief, behind the darkness, the voice was husky but feminine. “I reckon I’m not much fond of it, either.”

“Well, tell me your real name, and I’ll see to it that it’s published.” Sands held out a pencil and stenography pad, gripping each by only two fingers to show his mild intent.

Each was torn away seconds later by a sharply-aimed shot. “And if you do that, there’ll be people after my gold within a week,” she snorted.

“You have gold?” Sands’ eyes glittered.

“Not a flake. But that’s not how rumors work. As soon as people know where I am, who I am, they’ll convince themselves I’m sitting on a goddamn vein of the stuff.”

“I assure you that-”

“Which is why,” she continued, “you have until the count of twenty to give me a very good reason not to gutshot you and leave you for dead.”

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The MAIA-I lurched forward. The clear shield over its face, long known to be a weakness in any powered armor, was long-since shattered. Though there was a face behind it, mummified and kept from total decay by constant exposure to the vacuum of space, that face was little but a vestigial affectation. The brightly powered sensors on the front of the suit were the MAIA-I’s real eyes, its real ears.

“We require of you a source of fusion power,” it warbled over an open frequency. “Surrender it to us and we will allow you to pass without further interruption.”

“And if I refuse?”

A forest of other lights snapped on from the darkness, revealing a whole platoon of MAIA-I armors, fusions of artificial intelligence and operator.

“That would be unwise.” There was a distinct undertone of menace to the otherwise emotionless synthesized voice.

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“Hang on.” Ryder gripped the controls tightly.

“I’m buckled in,” said Orlov.

“I said hang on.” Ryder forced the plane into a tight dive. The attacking fighters, caught by surprise, could only scatter in order to avoid the oncoming Revolutionary Guard aircraft. Several couldn’t make it, and the Dalien D-270 rattled with the impact of parts thrown free by their fiery collisions.

As Ryder steered the aircraft down below the clouds, a tableaux of aerial carnage opened up before him. Most of the air force had gone over to the Revolutionary Guard en masse, and they were out in force, bearing blood-red roundels painted over the former royal insignia. The opposing force of Imperial craft were resplendent in their own livery of the black Imperial arrow over a blue circle, but the pilots didn’t have the same wartime experience that the Guard craft did. Explosions bloomed like spring poppies as they engaged each other, numbers on the one side and skill on the other.

The path to the island seemed clear for a moment before an Imperial zeppelin suddenly burst through low-hanging clouds immediately below the D-270. Ryder pulled on the stick until Orlov could hear the metal groaning in protest, pulling the craft level with the zeppelin’s dorsal surface so narrowly that the low-hanging fuel probe was torn off. The crew of the helium-filled monstrosity were wide-eyed as the craft passed their heavy machine gun turrets, and several turned to engage Ryder’s Dalien as it passed.

But the swarms of incendiary bullets tearing into the craft from the Guard were a far grater concern, and the flammable doped canvas began to catch fire and break up even as Ryder flew above it. He pitched forward once again just before the nose dropped and the craft fell out of the sky. For a moment, it looked as if he and Orlov were about to collide with an attacking Guard fighter, but it bloomed into a crimson flower just beneath them, the victorious Imperial plane buzzing them at close range.

“I-” Orlov tried to say.

Hold on!” Ryder growled.

They were low enough now that the anti-aircraft fire rising up from the Imperial fleet was a major concern, as were the streams of tracers issuing from Revolutionary Guard fortifications on the island. Ryder corkscrewed the plane down to wavetop height, breaking up a formation of Guard torpedo bombers making a run at an Imperial cruiser. They sputtered impotently with their defensive guns as they wheeled away, but the cruiser opened fire anyway, with a distinct lack of gratitude. The Guard planes attacking it were swatted down all around the Dalien, but Orlov saw something in the water out his window that make him shriek anew.

“Torpedoes!”

Ryder pitched the plane up and over the cruiser seconds before the Guards’ silver fish connected, blitzing through the fireball that rose as the ship broke in half and sank.

Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on.” Orlov realized, once he had half a second’s consideration, that Ryder wasn’t talking to him anymore. No, the words were meant for the island, and the princess.

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“And so Hercules had to make up for his behavior with twelve labors,” I read.

“What were they, Dad?” Sean asked, leaning forward a bit under his blankets.

“Slay the Nemean Lion. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis. Capture the Erymanthian Boar…” As usual, The Big Book of Greek Mythology wasn’t helping my attempts at educating the boy through bedtime stories. Did anyone but a classics scholar even know what half of those adjectives meant?”

“Wow, Dad, that sounds really…boring,” yawned Sean. “I catch Pokémon with cooler names than that all the time.”

“Hahaha,” I laughed in a really fake laugh. “Good catch, Sean. Those were just fakes to make sure you were paying attention. The real labors were much, much cooler.”

“Like what?”

“Ah…the capturing of the Nemean MissingNo with the Golden Pokéball, for one,” I said.

“Oh wow!” Sean said. “You can’t get that one without hacking!”

“And neither could Hercules,” I said. “He also had to slay the, uh, nine-headed Creeper of Craftmine, which grew another head every time it exploded.”

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Ordinarily, the gigantic temple among the decaying ruins of Gallides’ Temple District might have been a foreboding place, made all the more so by the woods that had sprung up since that part of the city was abandoned centuries ago and the great wall that still sealed it off from the rest of the world.

But Sen, once a Circlemaiden priestess of Quinas, and her uneasy ally Arckain, once a dagger-for-hire and cutpurse of the same, were not to be dissuaded. Their pursuers, after all, were far more horrifying than any ruin. And they were seeking the only allies that might aid them agains those impossible odds.

After scaling the wall and finding the semi-collapsed entrance, Sen paused to read a monumental inscription in the temple’s dusty but mostly intact entrance nave:

YOU TREAD WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF GALLIDES
BE OF PEACE WITHIN THIS ABODE
BRING NOT WAR INTO ITS HALLS
AND ALL SHALL BE WELL

“A sanctuary of peace protected by walls,” Sen said. “It’s…touching…in its purity.”

“Remember Quinas?” Arckain sneered. “The Maidens of the Circle?”

“Those were the happiest days of my life,” said Sen, wistfully. “How could I forget?”

“That crusty old religion run by crusty old women was all about being super peaceful and against war and whatnot. And you saw what that led to.” Arckain wasn’t native to Quinas–he was a Hacenian by birth–but years of plying his trade of stealing and killing for hire in the seedy underworld of his adopted town had given him a healthy distaste for it. His parents, who had spirited him out of Hacen to save his life, at the cost of their own, probably had no such an outcome in mind.

“We were naive. We were isolated, protected by the wall. And we had no idea how deeply the other kingdoms had been infiltrated and subverted by the Legion.” Sen said.

“Ah, yes. Quinas: the last bastion of freedom in the Six Kingdoms, with doors open to all warriors who would lend it their sword and convert to the teachings of the Maidens of the Circle,” Arckain sneered. “I remember that old lie well even as I was sneaking in and out of the city. Freedom and protection as long as you do what they do and say what they say and never try to leave is hardly different than slavery. I bet this place put a lot of stock in its walls too, and look how easily we bypassed them.”

“Can we talk about something else? Please?” said Sen, shuddering at the thought of that horrible day when her home of Quinas had fallen to the Alliance of the Four Kingdoms and enemy warriors had battered down the door to the Maidens’ citadel.

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“What’s with the mask, honey?”

Lyra sighed, and pushed a lock of her long black hair over her ear. “What’s the matter, never seen a Raikon before? It’s traditional.”

“Traditional? With shark on one cheek and the raccoon on the other are traditional? Oh, honey, I could tell you were an animal but that’s just perfect.” The man leaning on the street corner grinned a grin that said nobody who asked him for directions was getting what they wanted.

Lyra silently kicked herself. Her mask, wooden, stark white, and glazed, was often her first outlet for self-expression. When she’d woken up in that ramshackle North Kaiwa inn that morning, it had just cried out for something fierce on one cheek and something resourceful on the other. She should have just left it blank, but she was an artisan and whether in the family forge smelting platemail armor or the fletchery carving a bowstaff, the creative impulse wouldn’t be denied.

“You going to tell me the way to Leonidas’s or not?” Lyra said.

“Maybe…or maybe I’ll knock that mask off your pretty tan face so I can see where those blue eyes fit in.” The man pulled a shortsword out of a loose fold in his clothing and advanced.

The sword at Lyra’s side flashed into her hand. She’d made it herself, talked Father’s ear off about how she’d made it perfectly balanced and how a rapier of its cut and cross-section was used in combat. It glinted in the North Kaiwan sun as it arced toward its target…

…and the brigand easily brushed the weak and badly-aimed blow away. “Flashy, but you can’t actually use the damn thing, can you?” he chortled. “Just like that stupid mask.”

It was true, combat was not Lyra’s strong suit: the instincts that were natural in bringing an item’s potential out in the forge weren’t worth anything in battle.

“You give me everything you’ve got and let me have a little fun, maybe I’ll let you live,” said the brigand.

Lyra aimed another swing, but the counterattack was so fierce that it stumbled her backwards, landing painfully on her tailbone.

“So it’s gonna be that way then, is it? Fine by me, I get what I want either way.”

The brigand aimed a savage blow at Lyra, to which she held up her own blade in self-defense. The swords connected…

…and the brigand’s shattered so violently that several fragments drove into his skin and his arm fell limp and numb at his side. Wearing a horrified expression, he beat a hasty retreat, slinging anti-Raikon epithets over his shoulder as he did so.

“Hmph, that’s right,” Lyra said to herself, getting to her feet ant adjusting her mask. “Trying to come at me with a gutter-steel falchion and thinking I wouldn’t see the impurity seam! That’s what happens when you get cheap stuff from a cut-rate forge.”

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