May 27, 2001
When (unreal) Worlds Collide - By Rapscallion
It was just a rubbish-strewn alleyway that Duncan had never really
taken any notice of, especially at this late hour of the evening. That
said, a sudden flare of greenish light from the far end was more than
enough to attract the attention of a curious adolescent. He peered down
the passage between two large department stores and scratched his head -
as far as he knew this was a dead end and without any side doors. It
certainly hadn't been torchlight or a door opening, but something
interesting must have been going on down there. Especially interesting to a
fourteen-year-old boy, no doubt. Wrinkling his nose he looked around
to see if the coast was clear and moved into the alley, his sneakers
making little noise.
He gingerly picked his way over mounds of detritus that the city
cleaners had cheerfully ignored over several years and passed by a number of
damp cardboard boxes. There seemed to be some sounds of movement at
the far end of the alley but no light, although if anyone were there then
they'd surely be using some sort of illumination soon, he reasoned.
The beam from the streetlight opposite the alley entrance didn't go
far into the passage and the twilight was nearly no use at all. He
squinted into the darkness and, as if summoned, the greenish light flared
for an instant again.
Duncan breathed deeply in sudden panic - perhaps thirty feet ahead of
him was the far wall that had illuminated from within its surface. A
rippling effect had, during the flare, undulated across its surface and
he thought he had seen a human figure emerging before the light dimmed
Duncan started to make his way, as quietly as possible, back towards
the alley's entrance in the hope of a speedy exit from the area when the
penny dropped. Deserted alley, late at night, rippling effect and
figures coming through a strange glowing wall. He'd seen the movies, taped
the series, read the books and had most of their ships dangling on
cotton threads from his ceiling.
If these weren't advanced visitors from a scientifically enhanced
society then he didn't know anything! He turned back towards the darkened
end of the alley in time to see it flare once more before another figure
swelled into existence. He dove behind a large mound of rubbish so
that he could observe the visitors from close range. After all, you never
knew if they would be invaders or the good guys come to chase the
baddies. Everyone knew that the bad guys had to kill some innocent
bystander to make sure everyone knew they were evil. By the same token,
everyone knew that there was always some young earth kid bystander who was
befriended by benevolent aliens. Some caution would be an idea for now,
He crept closer to the far end of the alley, trying to avoid stepping
on the rubbish and in the foul smelling puddles of water. The
occasional voice drifted toward him but he could make little sense of it. The
light flared again and he flattened himself against the wall. Risking a
glance he saw two oddly clothed figures silhouetted against the far
wall that undulated in such a way as to make him nauseous. This was a bizarre
situation and no mistake!
Another figure 'popped' into existence, the wall only grudgingly giving
it up, and it fell to the floor. As the glow died he thought he saw
the two figures stand over the latest one and try to raise it to its
feet. Invaders? Visitors from the future come to observe us? Whatever it
was, if they had chosen a deserted alley for their entry then they
didn't want to be seen arriving. He tried to remember what he had seen of
the area when the glow had been at its brightest and decided to risk
creeping towards a pile of rubbish he had in mind. If he crouched behind
there then he should be able to hide and hear their plans - after all,
everyone knew that anyone invading would recap their plans where an
attentive audience would be able to hear.
He crept forward, flinching silently as he went ankle deep in a pool of
slurry, and dove behind his target. Trying to shake his foot dry
quietly he strained to hear something, anything. A tingling sensation made
him duck in anticipation of another arrival and he ducked out of sight
to await the glowing light. He was not disappointed, but the figure
that emerged from the wall seemed to be having problems. Carefully
peering over the rubbish, Duncan watched as a man, draped in cloth of some
kind, pulled and wriggled until the wall finally gave him up with a loud
Thoughts whizzed through Duncan's mind as he peered into the sudden
darkness once more - outlandish dress, must be aliens or people from the
future. They seemed to be wearing armor and carrying hand weapons so
they must be technologically advanced - after all, everyone knew
technologically advanced civilizations still used ancient weapons. Some sort
of honor thing, usually. Did they have the regulation bizarre
haircuts? Well, the last one was certainly scruffy around the scalp so that
would have to do. No prosthetics on the foreheads, fortunately - that
often meant odd accents to try and understand. He dove face first into
the rubbish and held his breath as a sudden burst of white light flared,
held aloft in the hand of the last being to exit the wall. What would
be the first words of the alien invaders or saviors?
"That was a hell of a misportal and make no mistake," the light bearer
Well, Duncan wasn't surprised that he could understand the... man?
After all, everyone knew that beings from the future or other galaxies
spoke perfect English, complete with the vernacular of the day. He
decided on it being a man after risking a few seconds perusal, although he
wasn't quite certain as the man was garbed in nearly a floor length
dress. Ah - maybe ceremonial robes of office? Could have done with being
cleaner, thought Duncan. After all, everyone knew that heroes and
aliens would remain perfectly clean even after a vicious fight to the death
in an oily swamp. So far he wasn't overly impressed.
"I'm sure I don't know," said a feminine voice. The speaker walked
into the circle of light and looked around in disgust. Duncan was
impressed - shimmering chain mail covered most of her body and that mace
looked as if it had seen some use instead of having just come from the SFX
department. The light wielding man looked around again, causing Duncan
to duck once more, then again and again.
"I am not getting a zone name on this - odd," he announced. "Someone
check listzone will you? Is there a zone you know of with really bad
"Except where you are?" asked the female. She ignored the man's dirty
look and pulled a notebook from a pouch at her waist. After a quick
perusal she looked around a time or two and shrugged. "Nothing in
there," she said.
"So what happened with the portal?" the man asked. "I feel as if I've
just been resurrected." Duncan tried to restrain his gasp - they could
defeat death itself? These were advanced beings indeed, and being
stranded on earth to hide amongst the population, defeating evil as they
went was a pretty good scenario. He felt as if he was on familiar ground
"I haven't got a clue," the woman replied. "So what do we do now?" she
asked, although she didn't appear to expect a decent answer. Duncan
held his breath, awaiting wisdom from another galaxy.
"I don't know about you, but I could do with a drink," the man stated
with a grin. "Ouch," he added as the woman slapped the back of his
head. "Well, you're more in touch with the gods being a cleric - how about
praying?" They had gods they could talk to? This was getting better
and better. Surely the gods were some sort of advanced beings that they
After a moment of standing still the woman shook her head. "No
response," she said. Telepathic communication with their own deities? Duncan
was rapt. After all, everyone knew that the high priestess of an
ancient cult must hold many secrets sacred to her order.
"Not even for a princess? Most odd." Aha - a priestess and a princess
to boot! That said, Duncan was somewhat puzzled - after all, everyone
knew that princesses wore skimpy chain mail outfits or nearly
see-through gowns. Attractive, yes. Chain mail, yes. Skimpy, no. For a
fourteen year old this was most distressing.
"Just let me get prepared," the man announced, "Then we'll have a good
look around." He waved his hands and spoke some words in an odd
language, something that produced no visible results but he certainly seemed
to feel better for it when he'd finished. "Shall we?" he asked the
"You think we'd better make sure they're all right back there, Raps?"
the woman responded. Aha - a name and not an earthly one at that. He
must be the sire of a noble lineage, a descendant of kings and noted
warrior. After all, everyone knew that the people who did all the real
work in the future were the aristocratic elite.
"Oh yes - forgot that Alt," Raps replied. Duncan smiled to himself -
everyone knew that newcomers to a scene would always identify each other
sooner or later. "Skottie?" he called out into the darkness, "Are you
ready to move yet?" Now that was a name that Duncan could work with -
he knew exactly what he would be doing very shortly. It must be an
undercover infiltration but they'd slipped up just then with a real name.
"He's fine," another feminine voice called back. Raps nodded to Alt
and turned to face the exit to the main street.
"Right - I'll stay behind and everyone stay in front - it's for your
own safety. It's a new zone so I'll be mapping carefully. Keep an eye
out for an altar and the recall spot," he announced, the words meaning
nothing to Duncan, for he was intent on announcing his presence. "Let's
get... By Vryce's toenails!" Raps stopped in his tracks as Duncan,
liberally covered in (and strongly smelling of) rubbish rose before him
like an apparition. Duncan raised a hand that he had made ready earlier
- two pairs of two fingers together and his thumb outstretched - and
delivered the eternal phrase that worked on every occasion.
"Live long and prosper," he greeted them. Raps looked at Alt and Alt
looked at Raps. They both looked at Duncan as if he were some sort of
curiosity to be examined carefully.
"Um," Alt said to Raps, "Just what is that? A garbage Elemental?"
"Darned if I know," replied Raps. He peered at Duncan closely, making
him feel very nervous indeed. "Well, it's not aggro and I could do it
with a needle, so that's enough incentive for me to have you lot kill
it and look for keys after. We could use it to check the repop time of
this place, I guess."
"You mean you're not from the Federation?" squeaked Duncan hastily.
This caused a bit of a stir.
"Um, Raps? Either it's very well procced and spammy, or this isn't a
"Come on - with a description like that? Can't be a player - he'd get
frozen for stinking the place out. I reckon it's a refugee Janitor -
there's rumors about one that went rogue some months ago. I bet this
is where he's been hiding," Raps stated triumphantly.
"Well, I'll admit that 'Duncan' would be badnamed immediately as being
too common, so..." Alt told him.
"Hey - wait a minute. What are you on about?" Duncan was starting to
panic. A small part of his mind wondered how they knew his name from
just looking at him but he had rather more urgent things to consider
"That said, he certainly sounds like a newbie," Raps admitted, peering
at the youth closely. "Maybe the rogue Janitor has been listening to
clan fifty around castle square and been learning the style. I'm
wondering what he's done with his mop."
"What's this clan thing? I'm not a janitor - I'm just a fourteen old
kid!" Raps and Alt did the looking at each other thing again.
"Skottie? Ysabell? Can you come over here please?" called Alt. The
two figures came from the gloom towards the light, a young lady in
well-kept robes and a young man who glided through the dusk in his leather
armor. The lady - Ysabell presumably - held a staff ready for use and
the man's hand was held close to his sheathed daggers.
"What is it?" Skottie asked as he peered closely at Duncan. "Hmm - I
think I have a needle here somewhere..."
"It's a boy," Ysabell announced with certainty. Duncan nodded
enthusiastically in relief. "Smelly, there's a lot of spots on his face and
he's on the gangly side, but it's a boy." Duncan glared, his small spark
of pride overcoming his panic.
|APOLOGIES FOR THE DELAY - WE HAVE ALMOST RECTIFIED MATTERS
"What was that?" Duncan asked with renewed alarm. The yellow letters
had flashed through the air and imprinted themselves on his brain.
"Explains it," muttered Raps. "One of the coders found a bug *after*
we got caught in it." Duncan tried the word out in his head - did he
mean that the 'Kohdass' that he referred to were his gods?
"Rapscallion!" Alt shouted at him, "You know what happened the last
time you started criticizing the coders." Duncan stared - that wasn't a
very noble full name, though he'd certainly heard worse in his time.
"Come on Altisa, if you don't tell I won't." For a lord of a noble
lineage he certainly seemed to be shamefaced, though Duncan expected high
priestesses would be really good at instilling guilt in a person. He
looked at the visitors from beyond and realized they had stopped
talking. Instead, they were staring at a point well behind him. He turned
slowly to see a number of figures silhouetted in the streetlight that
stood on the other side of the street from the alley entrance. Several of
them were obviously armed with chains or lengths of wood for makeshift
"You're on our turf," the central figure stated. It was the sort of
voice that Duncan would remember for the rest of his life, the sort of
voice that didn't bother to tell you that you were in trouble. If you
heard that voice then you just *knew*.
"I don't see any grass around," Rapscallion said to Altisa. She spared
him a brief look that said enough in itself and turned to face the
"We didn't mean to intrude. We'll be leaving peaceably now," she
"Hold on Alt - I've been learning local customs. I'm really
cosmopolitan these days, you know." He raised a hand in the manner Duncan had
used and shouted out, "Live long and prosper!"
"Shut it, beardie. I see two attractive... ladies," the leader
announced. "I don't see that anyone will be leaving anytime soon, right
lads?" A number of guttural grunts came from his friends and Duncan nearly
"I think I'll just check the back of the alley for secret doors,"
announced Rapscallion brightly. "I'm sure you can deal with these chaps by
yourselves," he added, edging towards the darker areas of the passage.
Duncan smiled as he realized he was in the presence of a true and
experienced leader - everyone knew that there was a secret escape route in
every alley in every town, just where the heroes could find it in time.
He was obviously just getting that part out of the way.
"Alt? Ever heard of an Idiot Mob Faction before?" asked Ysabell,
looking at the gang curiously as they approached.
"Not until now," Alt replied and smiled. "I wonder how you trigger
"Reckon I might need two needles for these," Skottie mused aloud,
peering down the alley with interest. Duncan was amazed - there was a gang
preparing to fight to the death to defend their territory and these
people were just... watching them.
Something sparked between Duncan's ears and he moved quickly out of the
direct line between the strangely clothed people and the gang. After
all, everyone knew that when a strange person from another world was
confident in the face of adversity, they would have more than just a trick
up their sleeves.
Ysabell (Duncan made the name to face connection easily) watched as the
leading gang members came closer, swinging lengths of chain and
grinning widely. She waved her hands, muttered a phrase and a spark of
actinic blue flew from her fingers to earth in the chain of the nearest
attacker. The man dropped his weapon with the shock, clutching at his arm
with his good hand, but the spark flashed across the air to his fellow
thug - and then flew to another and another. It danced around the gang
members, earthing itself in their weapons, jewelry and, in one
unfortunate case, a set of fillings.
The gang slowed their advance but they had the advantage of numbers.
Fists would suffice. Altisa murmured a brief phrase and the ground
rippled violently, sending the gang members to the ground with loud curses.
Duncan watched fascinated as the gang started to look nervously around.
"Shall we report them for cursing? I think that may be worth a
lightning or even a freeze," suggested Ysabell.
"No secret passages down there, but I managed to remember how to cast
mana shield," said Raps as he came back. "Only took seven fumbles as
well. I assume you dealt with them quite easily?" he inquired with a
"I don't know what you did or how you did it, but you're mine," the
leader spat, dragging something from his belt.
"Look out - he's got a gun!" Duncan screamed.
"What's that, then?" asked Rapscallion with interest. The closer gang
members got to their feet and staggered out of the way to regroup and
watch. Duncan watched helplessly as the leader aimed his weapon and
shot Rapscallion without hesitating.
An emerald light flared briefly around Rapscallion's chest and the
bullet ricocheted around the alley. Duncan breathed a sigh of relief but
he shouldn't have needed to - after all, everyone knew that omnipotent
beings had some nifty energy based protective devices. Whatever mana
was, of course. Must have been some sort of futuristic energy source.
"Hey," squealed Rapscallion, "He's got a wand!" The leader frowned and
cursed again before firing again and again. Rapscallion curled up into
a little ball and waved his hands around in seeming random patterns
around his head, although Duncan knew that such gestures were essential to
maintaining the protective energy flow. Or something. Ricochets sped
around the alley and Duncan ducked too late - a burning pain flared as
a nearly spent bullet went through his thigh. He fell to the ground
with a scream.
"Oh no - he's used all the charges," Altisa complained as the empty gun
clicked uselessly - the wild eyed leader desperately continued pulling
the trigger in panic. "I wanted to loot that!" Duncan just clutched
at his leg and groaned to himself as the gang leader shouted for a
"At last, they've sorted that out," Skottie announced cheerfully,
walking out of the shadows where he had been lurking. Duncan groaned -
strange yellow letters floating through the air were the least of his
worries right now. Someone grabbed his leg to inspect it, causing him to
squeal, and he looked up to see Ysabell frowning at him.
"Altisa? I think this boy needs a heal," she called. The woman came
over and glanced at him before wrinkling her nose and laying her hands
on him. A few muttered words later, Duncan felt warmth spread
throughout his leg and a rather unpleasant tingling as his flesh knitted
together. He looked down to see his leg whole again and gasped loudly. Then
again, everyone knew futuristic beings had many miraculous restorative
techniques - they always managed to turn up fully recovered for the
He heard whispering and looked up to see the two ladies talking quietly
to each other, glancing at him furtively and giggling merrily. The
priestess put out both her hands and rested them briefly on either side of
his face - they felt icy cold for a moment and then the feeling passed.
He looked at her with bewilderment but before he could say anything a
voice came down the alley.
"Aw come on - these loads are lame! There's no procs or any bonuses on
these chains and really low tweaks - I've aye-deed them all!"
Rapscallion paused to grab one of the discarded clubs and sneered at it.
"Wouldn't even get fifty gold at a weapon smith's. May be worth
entertainment value on imm, though. Oh well," he sighed, "It's about time. Get
ready to recall for Marious - I'll watch while you go combing."
"What the..." was all Duncan managed to say before everything went
black. Limbo surrounded him for an indiscernible time and then light
flooded back into his life. His parent's house stood before him, bathed in
the glow from the streetlights and he looked around wildly. How he'd
gotten there was a mystery but he didn't complain - instead he rushed
straight in locked the door.
As he passed the hall mirror, something caught his eye and he stood
still, staring at his reflection. The priestess had done something to his
face - he could still feel the tingling sensation rippling around his
skin. Maybe it was a mystic tattoo, binding him to a kinship beyond all
human understanding? He peered closely and saw what had happened
before smiling broadly. After all, everyone knew that people from far off
galaxies never suffered from acne.
Author's note: This story was conceived and started recently, although
it must be pointed out that since this was mostly completed both
Ysabell and Skottie have multiclassed. Woo! :)
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