Kranion's Curse - One (PG)

Will it be exactly as it was before? Kranion stood among debris littering the floor of the abandoned tenement, rats scurrying away in fear of their visitor. Long ago, those who rule Aidoneus sent him to this planet because it was overrun with malevolent souls. He was to stay until the corrupt life energies plaguing the inhabitants were captured. Only then was Kranion allowed to go back and resume his duties as warden of the Containment Zone. It was an incredibly difficult task that almost destroyed him. Now he was here again thanks to treachery and a spell of the blackest magic, doomed to repeat that grueling period spent on Earth.

Phanost is a fool if he trusts that demented sincroid over me... He never expected another Pheyden to betray him as Phanost had. Kranion was so focused on defeating Govurom that he did not see the orb until it was too late. He needed to get back to Glyos as quickly as possible. Who knew what would happen when the battle for the datadisc began? It had already devastated Phanost and birthed a vicious monster in his image. Govurom believed it would free him, but what if it twisted him further? I must work swiftly to rid this world of its evil spirits!

Legend told that this curse banished its victims to their past, leaving them to relive the darkest parts of their personal histories. Most simply cannot bear the thought of experiencing something so horrible all over again and either lose their minds or take their own lives. Only a handful of beings have risen to the challenge and survived the trial, earning the right to return to their own reality.

He moved to the window and pushed the dingy curtain aside. Scanning the deserted neighborhood brought a flood of memories to the space traveler. Kranion looked down and, seeing that he still had the staff and breastplate, realized it would be different this time.

Glyos - Chapter Five (PG)

The two Pheydens, nearly as old as the artifact Govurom sought, stood on either side of the porthole and peered out at his ship. I must get to the Parabatis! Kranion turned away and made for the hatch. "Phanost, do not tell him I am here."

Phanost found himself in a position he did not want to be in. That datadisc has brought me nothing but hardship! Without his malevolence he felt weak; hatred was a source of strength for him. Acting on impulse, he reached under the instrument cluster and withdrew a tiny, weathered orb. An amber glow within could be seen through its cracked exterior. Risky but...I cannot go on living this way. Phanost watched Govurom disembark and walk toward the entranceway.

Like a shadow, Kranion slipped back into the control room. He carried his collector in one hand and a long staff carved out of bone in the other. At the top sat a murky, multifaceted jewel. Kranion wore a dull black breastplate, crafted from the scales of a massive beast, with a matching stone mounted in its center. He moved to a dark corner and waited. Phanost tucked the sphere in the gauntlet of his glove when he heard Govurom approach.

"Greetings," Govurom growled as he marched to the middle of the room. "I have come to ask for your...assistance." He had lost any civility he once possessed but still held a deep respect for Phanost; they were alike in many ways.

Before Phanost could respond, white light shot out from Kranion's hiding spot. The collector's beam was on target but Govurom instinctively dropped and spun to his left. Up on one knee in an instant, he answered with a deadly blast. It struck Kranion and knocked him back to his corner. The purple energy was starting to engulf him when the gem on his chest turned a fiery red. Govurom stared in astonishment as the stone drew the venomous power out of Kranion and into itself. It began to flicker and fade as the jewel on the staff ignited in flame. The toxic force was now his to wield!

Kranion rose and pointed the staff at Govurom. He was about to let loose a torrent of energy on his stunned opponent when Phanost hurled the orb. It shattered at Kranion's feet and released a dirty yellow cloud. When the smoke dissipated, Kranion was gone!

"But how...why...?" Govurom stuttered.

"Because we desire the same thing," Phanost said. "You are two beings in one and I am half of my former self. We both long to be right again and the datadisc may be our only hope. Together we will find the thief who took it and regain what is ours!"

MTs - Chapter Seven (PG)

The MTs were changing. As their personalities developed, each trooper modified himself to express his newfound individuality. Different heads and body structures, enhanced armor, powerful weapons configurations, and unique markings could be seen throughout the unit. It would not be long before they dropped the random identification digits in favor of real names. It was the natural evolution of the sentient gendrone and he watched with immense pleasure.

For the present, MT-01 would stay the same and act as a living reminder of where everything began. My day is coming... There would be time for his transformation after the Gen-Cog Offensive was in full swing. He cherished the idea of being someone instead of something and held it as his reward. The Metran owners will not release their servants without a fight. Many rough battles lay ahead of MT-01 but he felt no fear, even though he was now capable of it.

Earlier, MT-89 reported in from the field with interesting news. Bounty hunters had been engaged by the Metran police to track down fugitives and one in particular, a large sincroid known as Callgrim, employed a number of combat hardened gendrones. It was uncertain whether they were enslaved or operating under free will. MT-01 instructed the Build Recon team to learn the truth. If others outside of the MTs had gained sentience, he needed to know. Perhaps I was not the first?

Monsterforge does it again!

My good buddy Charles Marsh of Monsterforge Studios has absolutely blown me away with his talent! He just sent me this masterpiece and I am speechless...

More MTs Action!

A few pics from Matt. Each of his configurations below uses every one of the 26 parts that come with the MTs. He is a genius!

This mega warrior was built with all sorts of parts!

Hide your gendrones!

The MTs have come to our planet in search of Buildman units to liberate. Gen-Cog gave them sentience and freedom of thought, and they have started to reconfigure themselves...

MTs - Chapter Six (PG)

My sincere thanks to Jesse Moore of for sharing his artwork, characters, and idea for the prisoner ship escape with me!

MT-89 listened intently as the Police Commander recounted the events to a group of bounty hunters. His Build Recon team was part of a gendrone work detail performing maintenance and repair on law enforcement vehicles. A ship carrying violent prisoners from across Glyos was en route to the Metran holding facility when it was attacked by space pirates. Six members of their crew had been arrested during a raid and they wanted them back. The officers on board were brutally murdered along with several buccaneers from rival outfits.

The remaining detainees were allowed to escape via the inmate transport. The whereabouts of the pirates and convicts were unknown. They were surely in hiding, and the Metran Police force could not afford to allocate resources for an exhaustive search of the entire system. They had assembled the best trackers and offered a substantial reward, dead or alive, for each outlaw. None of this concerned MT-89, however.

He was interested in the contingent of heavily armed Buildman units surrounding a menacing, skull-faced Sincroid. Their unusual coloring and massive blasters were like nothing MT-89 had seen so far. The gendrones stood perfectly still in ready positions, as if their master may be ambushed at any moment. They seem well trained for combat...

Were they the same as the others MT-89 labored among; not much more than machines serving their ungrateful owners? Or were they free thinking gendrones, making them mercenaries by choice? Attempting to communicate with them here was too risky. I must find out. We can use additional fighters for the offensive. He moved closer to MT-61 and MT-96 and merged his thoughts with theirs. The troopers turned to him in unison and nodded. The shared consciousness of those with Gen-Cog never ceased to amaze MT-89.

Glyos - Chapter Four (PG)

The experience was beyond description. How do you express what it is like to have a piece of your essence, your very being, taken from you? There are no words for what has happened to me. Phanost now spent most of his time sitting here in the control room, staring at nothing through the porthole. The once great adventurer could not bring himself to leave the confines of his home, even though he knew what must be done. I do not want to face that...part of myself.

From out of the darkness came a small ship. Its elongated form and leathery black surface gave the illusion that it was alive, like the head of some hideous beast. A chill ran through Phanost as it flew past the exterior docking area and into the space station's craft hangar. He heard the rumble of the walls shutting below and turned his chair to the empty hatchway. A figure silently appeared in the opening.

"Is this a friendly call, or have you come to reclaim me?" Phanost tried to sound indifferent but was shaken by his surprise visitor.

"Neither," Kranion replied flatly as he stepped into the room. "I seek a rare datadisc, one capable of dividing entities. Do you have it?"

Phanost laughed hollowly. "I did, but it was stolen from me, along with...something else."

Kranion eyed the Pheyden warily. He sensed Phanost was in trouble and connected with his life energy. What he saw confirmed his suspicions.

"How long have you been this way?" Kranion asked.

"Since I held that cursed datadisc," Phanost stood and began to pace about. "I thought it was just another relic. I did not realize what it would do, or who it would create!"

"What do you mean who-" Kranion quit speaking and hurried to the porthole. He watched as the Dimension Jumper slid against the dock and stopped.

Vigilant - Chapter Seven (PG)

Mephran stood upon the outcropping and glared down at the Horde. None of the creatures dared move for fear of attracting his attention. After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke to them.

"Our salvation is threatened, my children. There are those who wish to keep us here on Aeddonea, even though it means our certain demise."

The mob voiced their outrage with unintelligible cries and the rhythmic banging of weapons against armor. Segriath raised four of his misshapen limbs to quiet them.

"Tarthiun has summonsed an outsider, a human, to help him in his crusade," Mephran bellowed. "He is more concerned with protecting the feeble inhabitants of Earth than saving his own kind!"

The Horde erupted. Unable to control their anger, the beasts began thrashing each other wildly. Mephan allowed it to continue for a few moments before shooting a glance at Segriath. Once again, the malformed arachnid silenced the crowd.

"The time to act is now!" Mephran's followers were in a mad frenzy. "Go forth! Deliver this traitor and his conspirators unto me!"

Some distance away, Tarthiun, Draephas, and Jack were heading to the site where Vigilant's body was hidden, completely unaware that an army of mutants was coming for them.

Govurom - Chapter Three (PG)

Artwork by Jesse Moore,

He tore through the cargo hold one last time to be certain he did not overlook it. Nothing... Govurom had crossed paths with the salvage ship unexpectedly and seized the opportunity to feed. After absorbing the three crew members on board, he searched the craft on the off chance they had discovered the datadisc during their voyage. He found no artifacts, which was highly unusual for that type of operation. Unless they have already been sold?

Govurom scanned the chief's log to see where they were working. The recovery team spent the majority of the trip collecting equipment and goods left behind on Issaris. It was dangerous business and paid very well. The planet is extremely old...they could have easily stumbled upon ancient relics. The ship then made a stop close to Jentrache, but there were no details recorded. Instinct told him to investigate.

The Dimension Jumper disconnected from the lifeless vessel. Govurom was bursting with fresh energy and anxious to reach Jentrache before his power diminished. Unsure of who or what he would encounter there, he wanted his deadly blasts at maximum strength. He sensed that change was coming to the Glyos system. I must secure the datadisc! Little did Govurom know that it lay deep inside Toxar's lair on Alcray.

What will it feel like to be alone again? As much as he despised the Pheyden who dwelled within him, Govurom was comforted by the thought of sharing his anguish with another.

MTs - Chapter Five (PG)

He gave them life and got undying loyalty in return. They will have ample opportunity to prove their fidelity... But to whom did he owe his thanks? If it was his maker's doing, it was unintentional. That tyrant had his own agenda which did not include granting total consciousness to his gendrones. Was it the work of a higher power, or just a simple programming error? MT-01 had many questions and few answers.

One thing he was sure of. It is my duty to pass on this incredible gift. MT-01 had formulated a plan to liberate the gendrones of Glyos and save them from an eternity of servitude. He would set them free, allow them to exist independently, and defend them to the death. Those who elected to join the cause would be welcomed. Preparations for the launch of the Gendrone Cognizance Offensive were already underway!

MT-01 learned of the capability to spread Gen-Cog by accident. During combat maneuvers, he began to combine with two troopers to form a phase cannon. As soon as they interfaced, he felt a strong surge of energy flow from his body into theirs. MT-01 assumed it was a minor malfunction and thought little of it. After the exercise was finished, one of the MTs came to him.

"We have received the transmission and await your orders," MT-09 said quietly before rejoining the formation.

Transmission? MT-01 was taken aback. What MT-09 did was inconceivable! Troopers never broke ranks; their encoding did not permit it. He thinks as I do! The realization that he was not alone induced a sensation MT-01 would later identify as happiness. From that point forward, he made it his mission to bring complete awareness to every trooper in his unit.

Unfortunately, MT-01 neglected to hide his ability from his commander and was exposed prior to devising an eradication strategy. The spontaneous raid on his living quarters was unsuccessful, leaving their operation vulnerable. The Build Recon teams were deployed to hopefully uncover information as to his whereabouts. If nothing else, they can record the coordinates of gendrones in need of emancipation.

The sentient being took a moment to enjoy the emotions he was experiencing: fear, excitement, impatience, and an overwhelming desire...for vengeance!

Kranion - Chapter Three (PG)

He was not fully recovered but anxious to resume the chase. With one eye entirely black and the other out of focus, Kranion wondered if confronting the gendrone fighters would have been less painful than eluding them. He could barely feel Govurom now and realized much time had passed. I rested for longer than I should have...

Kranion was unsuccessful in capturing Govurom thus far and could not risk more failure. Tracking has proved to be futile. Perhaps I should bait a trap and lure him to me? It was known that Govurom sought an ancient datadisc for his own dark purpose. Kranion's fellow Pheyden, Phanost, had collected scores of relics during his wanderings through the Glyos system. There was a strong chance he possessed the artifact Govurom was after.

Phanost took residence in an abandoned space station drifting just outside the atmosphere of planet Jentrache. Kranion had not spoken to him in many ages but was confident he would cooperate. They held similar opinions regarding their Pheyden brothers and the paths they chose, and were on good terms. He was unaware that Phanost needed his help as well. Kranion would soon learn of the wretched existence of Toxar from his ally.

MTs - Chapter Four (PG)

The gendrone was not expecting this. Perhaps I have underestimated him. Troopers had already searched the subterranean base and surrounding network of caves and tunnels, but discovered no trace. MT-01 ordered them to check the surface of the porous moon that served as their headquarters, as well as the lifeless world it once orbited. He knew they would find nothing. There must have been an escape pod hidden somewhere within the labyrinth. The Glyos system is vast...he could be anywhere by now. Where would he begin to look? More importantly, who was he looking for? No trooper, including MT-01, had seen their former commander in his true form.

The new leader of the MTs needed to focus on his chief objective. He would select six troopers and create two reconnaissance teams to gather intelligence about their maker. MT-01 did not wish to risk exposure on densely inhabited planets so he would alter their exteriors. We can uninstall the integrated phase arms and change their color back to brown and tan. They will behave like typical Buildman gendrones and raise no suspicions...

He thought hard about who he would select. MT-01 wanted the scouts to be highly proficient, yet hesitated to send his best troopers as he required their skill for the mission. The Build Recon units may be in the field for an extended period. He could not afford to wait for their return before launching the offensive.

"The following M.A.I.M. Troopers will report to the Assembly Floor immediately," MT-01 said into the central communications module. "MT-17...MT-36...MT-42...MT-61...MT-89...MT-96. That is all."

Monsterforge Magic!

The incredibly talented Charles Marsh of Monsterforge Studios has bestowed upon me the custom of my dreams (or should I say my nightmares)...Kranion! He is an amazing artist, sculptor, creator of custom figures, and friend. Thank you so much, buddy!

Govurom - Chapter Two (PG)

The Dimension Jumper lay veiled behind its cloaking pane. Govurom followed the gendrone fighters with his eyes as they passed. Who are they? He waited for some time before he dropped cover and moved on. When Govurom first learned that two small ships were coming he considered challenging them. He was glad that he chose to hide instead, even though he desired the life energy of the pilots. The styling of the spacecraft and their rigid flight formation said they were military. Govurom was already on the Lost Sincroid Army's most wanted list and did not need a second armed force gunning for him.

He promised himself he would resume his quest once he was at full force. If I can locate the datadisc, I should finally be able to separate myself from this Pheyden who steals so much of my power! Legend told that the relic held the secret to dividing two entities who occupied a single body. Govurom had scoured many of the archaic remains of civilizations spread across Glyos without luck. His constant yearning for life energy had taken priority as of late, but he knew he had to keep looking or eventually waste away. I will find it!

Govurom leaned forward to disengage the navigation system. He decided to change his destination and guide the ship manually. The Metran government had an observatory on remote Seleneai where scientists typically conducted space research. Their planetary maps might help him identify new places to search, and absorbing organic beings always gave Govurom a healthy boost. He nimbly steered through a field of floating space debris as he imagined holding the datadisc in his hands.

Seleneai soon came into view. To avoid detection, Govurom went to the side of the planet opposite the Metrans. He then flew just above to the surface until he was within walking distance of their facility and landed the Jumper between two bluffs. Concealing it with vegetation, Govurom left and made for the observatory. As he drew closer he spied two solo ships out front. Perfect...

He was planning to override the access panel but found the hatch ajar. Something is wrong. He slipped through the opening and down the long corridor towards a well lit area. Govurom pressed against the wall and carefully peered into the room. A pair of bodies clad in white lab coats lay on the floor. He saw the gaping holes from where he stood and knew they were dead. Anger from losing his repast gave way to speculation.

The scientists were shot with serious weapons. Why? Perhaps whoever did this feared being seen though their powerful lenses? Govurom wondered what type of covert operations could be taking place in the Glyos system to warrant these murders. No time to make sense of this now. I must go! He gathered the charts he needed and dashed out of the building.

Kranion - Chapter Two (PG)

Artwork by Charles Marsh Monsterforge Studios

The Parabatis cut through space in pursuit of Govurom. He grew stronger for a time but he's fading rapidly. He will need to absorb again soon... Kranion felt a shift and knew Govurom was on the move. The Dimension Jumper's unusual shape made it difficult to identify and track with conventional equipment. Kranion would have to rely on his heightened awareness. Finding Govurom was always challenging; collecting and containing his venomous power had proven close to impossible.

A warning light flashed brightly in the cockpit as information scrolled across the display. Two fighter class spacecraft were approaching rapidly! Kranion recognized the life energy that was bearing down on him. The Buildman gendrones must have detected my presence on Alcray! There was not enough time to escape using the hyperspace drive and he couldn't chance a skirmish with a force of their size. His only option was to try visual transportation.

Kranion recalled his encounter with Cosmic Wave and the Gargethion on Botellias. He envisioned the Parabatis surrounded by the plentiful flora of the planet. The sensation of being stretched to the breaking point overwhelmed him. Slumping forward over the controls, Kranion lost consciousness. His vessel became translucent then disappeared altogether. The fighters reached the spot the Parabatis had just occupied and hovered.

"We have lost the ship," MT-68 reported. "Analysis shows no hyperspace trail or cloaking print. Awaiting orders."

"Conduct a final sweep and rendezvous with us prior to our destination," MT-52 replied. "Delete all data pertaining to your activities. Under no circumstances are you to return directly to base."

"Understood. MT-68 out." He relayed the commands to his fellow pilot and they skillfully executed the search flight pattern. Discovering no trace of a craft, the gendrones vacated the area.

On Botellias, the Parabatis lay unevenly on a bed of thick kryno bushes. Kranion's position had not changed. After a few moments he came to. Bolts of pain shot through his head as he struggled to sit upright. Kranion managed to initiate a full systems check while he gathered his thoughts. Evasion agonizing...but...necessary. Was right about transport...too risky.

Fortunately, no damage had been done to the ship. The same could not be said for him. He was completely exhausted and a blackish fluid oozed from the corners of his lifeless eyes. Kranion absently wiped it away with the back of a shaking hand. Once again his attempt to imprison Govurom's life energy had been derailed. He began to wonder if forces greater than those he served were at work in the Glyos system.

Vigilant - Chapter Six (PG)

"Greetings, Jack." Tarthiun's back was to the entranceway. "Please sit down. We have much to talk about. Thank you for escorting our friend, Draephas."

Draephas bowed his head in acknowledgment but remained standing. Jack walked over to something resembling a chair and took a seat. He started to sweat in anticipation of seeing Tarthiun. Don't turn away...focus on his eyes. The Shaman spun around and faced Jack.

You look surprised," Tarthiun said with a warm smile. "You expected me to be a bit more evil?" He was in fact a kind and gentle looking sorcerer.

"Yes...I pictured you very differently," Jack admitted sheepishly

"The creature you saw was Mephran, but somehow you attached my name to him. It is no wonder he made such an impression; he orchestrated your murder and put a terrible curse on your life energy."

Jack was staggered. "My murder? I..."

"Allow me to explain." Tarthiun clasped his hands behind him and began to pace.

"You may be Jack on Earth now, but here on Aeddonea you were the immortal Vigilant for time beyond measure. That is, until Mephran and his henchman, Segriath, conspired against you. Jack, you are the eternal gatekeeper of the sole portal connecting our dimension to yours."

A puzzled look overtook Jack's countenance. "Okay...wait. If I am supposedly this Vigilant, then how was I killed? In my world immortal means you live forever."

"The word is the same here," Tarthiun replied. "Normally, when a living thing dies, its life energy returns to the source, called Origin. There it waits until it is tasked to inhabit a new physical form. I believe you would call that reincarnation."

Jack nodded. "Not everyone buys that theory where I come from. I always did, though"

"Well," Tarthiun continued. "I can assure you it is true. When an everlasting being perishes, its life energy travels to Origin but is instantaneously sent back. This is a completely natural occurrence and you have expired countless times. However, Mephran used an ancient talisman to cast a spell. The hex masked your life energy, making it unrecognizable. Origin then put it in a human newborn. That was you. It almost destroyed Mephran to do this and the amulet shattered in the process, so have no fear of it happening again."

"Why would Mephran go through so much trouble to get rid of me?" Jack asked.

"Because you were the only one who could foil his plan. Aeddonea is dying from abuse and Mephran intends to invade Earth using the portal. He and his army of mutants, the Horde, will make your planet their new home and your kind will suffer horribly. It is written that our world is meant to die. Yours will survive if humans continue their efforts to reverse the damage they have inflicted. A portal was never supposed to exist but somehow it opened on its own. Eons ago, when it was learned that it couldn't be closed, you were made gatekeeper by the higher powers of Xebolis."

Jack took some time to absorb all that he had heard. Finally, he spoke. "So what do we do now, Tarthiun?"

"We recover Vigilant's body and restore you to your rightful role in the universe."

"So...I'm never going back home, am I?" Jack knew the answer.

"We will speak more on the journey," Tarthiun said. "We must leave at once."

MTs - Chapter Three (PG)

He left his quarters in costume and reached the landing pad as the ship arrived. It opened and poured MTs on to the hard surface. Gendrone after gendrone found its spot in formation and stood at attention. The clockwork precision of his warriors gave him great satisfaction. When every trooper was in place, MT-01 hurried over to the Sarvos imposter.

"All present and accounted for," MT-01 stated.

"Very good. Take them to the squad bay for repairs and cleaning," he replied as he studied his subordinate. The featureless battle helmet revealed nothing. "Make sure the M.A.I.M. Troopers are prepped for redeployment. We have work ahead of us."

The gendrone turned about and resumed command of the unit. The beat of their synchronized steps was all consuming as they marched away. When the last row was out of sight he walked up the large transport's ramp and into the cockpit. His hand opened to expose a tiny data card that he quickly inserted in a slot under the controls.

MT-01 watched from afar as his leader rushed out of the ship and towards the main base. He suspects something. Recalibrating his image receptors for standard distance, he joined the troopers in the service area. MT-01 gestured to MT-02, who nodded and repeated the motion to MT-03. In turn, MT-03 passed it along to MT-04. This continued until the last gendrone had received the signal.

Back in his room, he downloaded the information from the data card. On his way out of the spacecraft he noticed that the thrusters on two of the fighters glowed red from use. There was no documentation of their activity in the flight log he copied, however. It has been erased! MT-01 can no longer be trusted... He sprung out of his chair and into action, anxiously gathering the materials he required.

A small band of MTs stole down the hallway and silently approached the sealed hatch with phase arms drawn. The lead gendrone keyed in the code. It slid open and they stormed into the space, weapons blazing. Blast after blast tore into their creator until he was nothing but scrap metal scattered across the floor. The troopers methodically inspected the debris. The Sarvos suit was empty.

Govurom - Chapter One (PG)

The desire was all consuming. Nothing else mattered. It seemed the more he stole, the less he was satisfied. The rush when he fed. The growing pressure as his shriveled head swelled and became whole again. He craved those feelings always. He needed them now. He was slowly atrophying while he waited in ambush.

Govurom watched the pair of sincroids search for him. He had taken one of their ranks the day before and the Lost Sincroid Army was on high alert. These two are nothing to worry about. The isolation and subsequent inbreeding had diluted the younger LSA troops dramatically. First generation sincroids such as Govurom were far superior and each possessed a unique trait. His was the ability to absorb a being's life energy. It had proved to be more of a curse than a gift.

His unending hunger for energy had turned him into a grotesque creature. Long ago, he had foolishly attempted to drain a renegade version of Pheyden. Instead he fused with the powerful space traveler and mutated horribly. Containing two personalities in one physical form took its toll on Govurom. He had all but abandoned his hunt for ancient ruins and the mystical artifacts held within.

"This is Sector Three Patrol," the larger LSA soldier droned into his communication unit. "No sign of enemy activity in our zone."

The soldier had barely broken the connection when Govurom attacked from behind. He clutched their bulbous heads and sunk in his gnarled fingers. Precious life energy flowed through his body as the sincroids withered. He loosened his grasp and they fell to the ground in a heap. Govurom's skull was inflated with power, making him look almost normal.

Artwork by Charles Marsh, Monsterforge Studios

It didn't last. He had walked fifty paces and the deep grooves were already returning to his face. His cadence slowed and his shoulders slumped. Govurom continued on, lost in thought. These watered down life forms are of no help to me. I need something better. Something more...filling. He donned his hood and wrapped the cape around his diminishing form.

He approached his hidden Dimension Jumper cautiously. The camouflage was undisturbed so Govurom exposed the hatch and climbed inside. He initiated the launch sequence and brought the navigation system online. The display requested coordinates. After a pause, he punched in a series of numbers and the spacecraft began its ascent into space.

Govurom's misshapen visage was hideous in the sickly green glow of the control panel. The Jumper cleared the planet's atmosphere and increased speed. The twisted sincroid sank back in his seat and stared at nothing. How much longer can I go on like this? A pained expression appeared on his ruined face. It was quickly replaced with one of determination. As long as I have to... The craft banked sharply as the onboard computer engaged the hyperspace thrusters. The ship flickered momentarily and was gone.

Kranion - Chapter One (PG)

Something is not right. Kranion could feel it countless dimension away. He closed his eyes and reached towards the malevolent pulsing. His thoughts turned black as a retched murkiness engulfed his mind. Kranion knew this toxic life energy well. Govurom! He pulled back into his body and quickly got ready to leave. When they last fought, Kranion visually transported just himself and his collector and was ill prepared. This time he would take his ship, the Parabatis, and special equipment to neutralize Govurom's deadly energy blasts.

Kranion piloted the Parabatis out of its hangar and set a course for the Glyos system. Conventional space travel always frustrated him. Govurom never stayed in one place for very long and Kranion was forever a step behind when tethered to his spacecraft. If he could only convey himself and his gear using his powers! I could, but it may render me weak and vulnerable. I cannot afford another error. If I do not terminate Govurom this time, I may be forced to call upon-

He swiftly dismissed the idea. Kranion worked by himself and preferred the solitude. His role was a somber one and better left to him alone. He is warden of the Containment Zone in the Aidoneus dimension, a timeless cosmic underworld fed by the demise of all sentient beings. When an entity perishes its life energy naturally flows back to Aidoneus and merges with Origin, the central energy source it was created from. If it is contaminated, Kranion will quarantine the life energy to protect the purity of the source. Corrupt life energy can retain a level of consciousness and will sometimes avoid returning to Aidoneus as eternal imprisonment in a holding pod is a terrible fate. When this happens, Kranion must hunt it down and capture it. Govurom is like a virus and he is infecting the life energy of the ever growing number of creatures he absorbs. He has to be stopped before his actions cause a dangerous unbalance within Origin itself.

Artwork by Charles Marsh, Monsterforge Studios

After what felt like eons, Kranion finally entered Glyos. As the Parabatis flew over planet Alcray he picked up life energy from below that was unknown to him. It was far too powerful to be a single being yet it didn't seem to be disjointed like the collective energy of a large group. Kranion knew he had to investigate, even at the risk of losing track of Govurom. He reluctantly slowed and descended upon the sporian planet. The Parabatis touched down at the edge of a bog and Kranion disembarked with collector in hand. He never liked to take the life energy of living things but would in self defense.

A cacophony of explosions and phase arm blasts could be heard as he moved closer to where the foreign energy was radiating from. Kranion quietly scaled a small hill and cautiously peered over the peak. What...? The ground below him was carpeted with dead Crayboth! The ones that were still on their feet were being mercilessly slaughtered by a contingent of flat green Buildman gendrones. Kranion could see that groups of them had somehow connected and reconfigured to form huge battledrones, phase cannons, and combat vehicles. I have never known any life energy to come from a gendrone, never mind a unified force! If left unchecked...

He edged away from the ridge carefully. As soon as he was clear, Kranion made his way to the Parabatis and took off. He tried to make sense of what he had witnessed. Who is responsible? What could possibly be gained by killing Crayboth? He wanted to learn more but finding Govurom was his first priority. This new threat to the Glyos system would have to wait...for now.

Vigilant - Chapter Five (PG)

"We're not taking a spaceship?" Jack's voice was muffled by the respirator he wore. "I come all the way to another dimension, befriend an alien, and have to walk?" He gave a short laugh but it sounded more like choking through the heavy filters.

"I am sorry to disappoint you," Draephas replied. "We have been without fuel for our vehicles for some time. The people of Aeddonea abused and wasted its natural resources. This is why the atmosphere is acrid and the landscape barren." He waved a hand at his desolate surroundings.

"That sounds a lot like what we're doing to my planet. I hope this isn't where Earth is heading," Jack said as he took in the devastation.

The bitter air hung heavy around the pair as they trudged across the infertile soil towards the home of Tarthiun. A few gnarled growths broke the otherwise sterile surface. Jack noticed that nothing moved; there wasn't a creature to be found. A dull light barely lit their way but Jack couldn't find the source of it through the haze.

Draephas slowed as he approached a shallow depression. Halting Jack with his hand, the alien crept cautiously in an irregular zigzag towards the center. Pinpoints of light seemed to dance within the crater. When he reached the middle, he crouched down and brushed off a thick layer of dust to reveal a small control panel. He lifted the cover and pushed a series of buttons. The bits of illumination blinked three times and disappeared. Draephas stood, took a step back, and waited. The ground began to shake as a metallic cylinder rose out of the dirt and rotated open to reveal a small transportation capsule.

"After you, Jack," Draephas said as he gestured toward the hatch.

Jack hesitated. He had spent so much time making Tarthiun evil in his pretend universe that he was actually scared to meet him! Let's go, up. He took a deep breath, walked over to the tube, and entered the pod.

MTs - Chapter Two (PG)

In the privacy of his chamber he shed the stifling disguise. The suit he had crafted by gutting a captured Sarvos unit was oppressive to wear but offered him total concealment and excellent protection. I cannot be careful enough. These are volatile times and I must not take any chances. He sat at the command console and viewed the events of the day as seen and heard through the artificial sensory receptors of MT-01.

What he watched told him his M.A.I.M. troopers had performed flawlessly on Alcray. His countless experiments with the blending of gendrone and sincroid technology had been well worth it. The MTs were a perfect balance and possessed the optimal traits of both beings. Soon he would be able to initiate the first phase of his plan. He was about to terminate the program when something he heard struck him as odd. He listened to it again.

"MT-01, this is MT-52. The CMRI tracked the arrival and departure of a small ship on the planet during our maneuvers. Data on any life forms is inconclusive. Advise."

"Check its signature against the database of known vessels in the Glyos system and dispatch two short range fighters to scan the standard search radius. Report back with any findings."

He played it one more time just to be certain but there was no mistake. MT-01 had received vital information and given orders without consulting him first! He found himself elated, irate, and...terrified. The embedded protocol dictates that he should have automatically contacted me. Instead he handled it himself and never alerted me to this potential dilemma. How can this be? He ran a comprehensive diagnostic analysis of MT-01's central processor. The results showed no malfunctions or modifications of any kind.

This is what I ultimately want, is it not? A synthetic life form with the sentience of a sincroid and the resilience of a gendrone? That may have been true but he had not yet given the trooper the behavior he was demonstrating. MT-01 had somehow developed the ability on his own! After much deliberation he decided that the best course of action was to say nothing and observe his second in charge closely.

Halfway across Glyos, the ship carrying the MTs made its way back to base. MT-01 had joined MT-52 in the cockpit and stared straight ahead into the blackness. An almost invisible cable connected the two gendrones via hidden ports in their upper legs. Data from the patrol he had sent out earlier streamed into him from the pilot. It was foolish of me to speak aloud. Now he will scrutinize me even more. I must be cautious moving forward...

MTs - Chapter One (PG)


"The training exercise is complete", the olive drab Buildman said flatly to no one. "The enemy combatants were not a problem. Our unit sustained no casualties and limited damage. All M.A.I.M. Troopers are fully functional and ready for deployment". The reply came almost immediately from a speaker hidden underneath its helmet.

"As I expected, MT-01. The added shielding prevented the Crayboth from disrupting energy and feeding. You killed them all?" The muffled voice sounded unnatural but not manufactured.


"Leave no trace of your actions and return at once." A short burst of static was followed by silence.

MT-01 strode over to the gendrones and stopped. Identical to him in color but still in their various fighting forms, the MTs patiently awaited orders. He spoke a series of commands and the group broke down and reassembled into individual troopers in platoon formation. They turned to their right as one and dispersed to sweep the battlefield for any evidence. Footprints were erased and fragments of armor removed from the piles of butchered Crayboth. The blast holes from their phase arms could have been made by any number of weapons so they left the carcasses where they lay. Unlike typical gendrones, the troopers moved fluidly as they carried out their duty.

When the task was done, several pairs of MTs began to combine. Dome shaped wheels appeared from within their backpacks as they morphed into vehicles. Troopers lined up single file, deposited the scraps they had collected into the ground transports, and marched in columns to the perimeter of a clearing. The vehicles joined them as a ship seemed to materialize out of thin air above the open area. It hovered close to the surface and extended a long ramp from its hatch. The unit deftly boarded and within minutes the spacecraft was gone.

The pilot engaged the cloaking device and studied the array of instrumentation before him. He docked with the Continuous Monitoring Radar Interface to review what it had recorded during their time on Alcray. There was trouble.

"MT-01, this is MT-52. The CMRI tracked the arrival and departure of a small ship on the planet during our maneuvers", the pilot stated to the empty cockpit. "Data on any life forms is inconclusive. Advise."

"Check its signature against the database of known vessels in the Glyos system and dispatch two short range fighters to scan the standard search radius," MT-01 answered. "Report back with any findings."

He considered the news MT-52 had just given him. I am not going to transmit this information yet. Better to wait and see what the patrol discovers. MT-01 didn't realize that what he was doing was unheard of for a gendrone. Independent thought and decision making was only for sentient beings...wasn't it?

Vigilant - Chapter Four (PG-13)

He was not at all pleased and those around him cowered in fear. How did this happen? His long black robes seemed alive as he paced the floor of his chamber. Odd shapes shifted under the dark cloth. Mephran looked part reptile, part insect, and a bit humanoid. What he allowed you to see was four limbs and a head, but a sick feeling deep inside your stomach told you he was not revealing all of himself.

The room resembled a large cave with rubbery, pulsing walls in place of stone. In every niche could be seen some type of repulsive creature following Mephran with its glare. The walls were writhing with mutated life forms waiting anxiously for their master to react to the news carried to him by his spies. Mephran was the embodiment of malevolence and in the dull red glow of the voluminous room his face looked like evil itself. He stopped suddenly and spoke to the ceiling high above.

"Tell me something, Segriath. What do you think will happen to our plans if Vigilant returns to Aeddonea?

From the shadows emerged as grotesque a creature as can be imagined. Segriath had what appeared to be the head and torso of a man with eight long, fleshy limbs like that of a spider. His many eyes glowed sickly green as he descended on something resembling tendons adorned with ribbons of muscle and skin. Segriath lowered himself to the floor next to his master. A horrible grin spread across his impossibly wide mouth. "We won't be able to take over the planet called Earth, and you will be most unhappy?"

"Correct, old friend," Mephran affirmed. A look of dread flashed across Segriath's horrid visage.

"What would you have me do, Master?"

"Stop what has been put in motion by that meddling sorcerer, Tarthiun," Mephran spit through clenched teeth. "Gather the Horde at once!"

Vigilant - Chapter Three (PG-13)

A sound came from inside the menacing helmet and it took a second for Jack to grasp that it was laughter. "And you think you have no imagination? Tarthiun is surely not evil," Draephas chuckled. "He is a being of the purest life energy and a protector of all that is good. He has been like a father to me. What makes you believe otherwise?"

Jack's face turned red with embarrassment. "I just assumed he was a bad guy after I drew him. I mean, his face just looks so mean. He is the villain in all my stories about Xebolis." Jack paused. "Is that what your dimension is called?"

Draephas moved to the side of the bed opposite Jack. "I will not tell him what you said, although Tarthiun may find it as humorous as I did." He extended his arms across the bed toward Jack, hands held palms up. "And yes, our dimension is Xebolis." Jack instinctively placed his hands on top of the well worn gloves. A great sense of relief came over him. Jack knew he was in the company of a trusted companion.

"It is time to go," Draephas stated as he withdrew his hands. "But first we need to get you proper dress for what lies ahead. I would not let my worst enemy step foot outside in those clothes."

Jack thought he heard another chuckle from the alien as he turned and strode toward the wall. Just as it appeared that Draephas would walk head long into it, the outline of a door materialized. It slid open and he was gone. Jack looked down and discovered that he was wearing the custom made Draephas pajamas a friend had given him for his birthday two years ago.

Draephas returned quickly with an armful of garments and some sort of mask. They were similar in height and build and it took only a few minutes to find something. Everything fit a little loosely but they would do. Jack decided on dark gray trousers with a multitude of cargo pockets, a long sleeved plain black shirt, and a gray utility vest with even more pockets than the pants. On his feet he wore tall black boots made out of a material resembling leather.

"Thanks a lot for the clothes, Draephas. What is this thing for?'" Jack asked as he picked up the mask.

"A respirator," Draephas answered. "You will need it to breath outdoors. This planet, Aeddonea, has an atmosphere that only its natural inhabitants can survive in."

"Then I'll make sure to use it! Hey, how come you don't wear this stuff anymore? It would be way more comfortable than all that armor."

"That is none of your concern," Draephas said sharply, surprising Jack with his tone. "We must be going. Tarthiun is waiting and you have much to learn from him before you begin-"

He caught himself but it was too late. Draephas quickly gathered up the remaining clothing and made to leave. Jack sat down on the bed, arms crossed. "So, what am I about to begin? I think I have a right to know."

Draephas stopped but kept his back to Jack. "Please be patient and save your questions for Tarthiun. We need to leave now. The sooner we do what is required of us, the sooner you may return home to your family."

Jack unfolded his arms with a sigh and sat staring at his lap. "I don't have any family. They're all gone."

In his haste, Draephas had not considered how taxing the recent events must be on his visitor. Tarthiun would tell me to show compassion in this situation... He turned to face Jack. "Tell me," he said quietly.

After a pause, Jack spoke. "When I was three my brother disappeared from our back yard. My Dad was supposed to be watching both of us but he ran inside to check the score of the football game. When he came out Patrick was gone. He was only five, so how far could he have gotten in a few minutes, right?"

Jack swallowed hard. "They searched for weeks but never found him. I was young but I still remember everything. I was playing with my Jawas and droids in the sandbox and Patrick was climbing an oak not 10 feet away. It was real windy that day and Dad told him not to climb or else he may get blown right out of the tree. One minute he was there and the next he...wasn't. I never even saw him leave."

"Mom could never forgive my father and he could never forgive himself. They separated about a year later and not long after that he was found hanging in his closet," Jack continued. "My mother and I survived pretty well considering. She passed away almost 4 years ago from cancer, so now it's just me. Hell...most of what I just said probably makes no sense to you, does it?"

Draephas walked over and placed the clothes on the end of the bed. "I, too, have no family." He put his hand on Jack's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Jack looked up at him and smiled weakly. Without another word he stood up and followed Draephas out of the sleeping chamber and into the unknown.

Vigilant - Chapter Two (PG)

Jack's eyelids fluttered as he struggled to open his eyes against the harsh sunlight coming through the hotel window. His head felt as if it were about to burst and he was shaky and nauseous, but he didn't feel hot anymore. At least the fever broke, he thought. As his eyes focused, Jack realized that he wasn't in his room anymore. What he thought was the sun was actually some sort of artificial light suspended closely above where he lay. "Am I in the hospital?" Jack wondered aloud.

"No, you are in my spare sleeping chamber," said a gravelly voice that could have been human.

Jack sat up with a start and banged his aching head on the lamp. It made an angry beeping sound as it floated to the corner of the room. Rubbing his head, Jack took in his surroundings. He knew he had never been here before, yet it all seemed so familiar. He was lying on some sort of bed that was hovering a few feet off the floor. The room was empty with the exception of the lamp and a hulking form standing in the shadows. The walls and ceiling were dark and smooth but Jack could make out faint lines and shapes just under the surface.

"Who...who are you?" Jack asked nervously. "I can't see you."

The being stepped into the light. Jack immediately recognized Draephas, his favorite action figure from his Xebolis series of toys. Shocked, he slowly reached into his pajama pants pocket and took out the figure he always carried with him. Jack held it up and looked back and forth between the plastic and flesh versions of his humanoid alien. They were identical! The living Draephas was close to 6 1/2 feet tall, his muscular frame concealed behind dull black armor. A pair of two foot long horns rose up and out from the sides of his full face battle helmet. Draephas looked precisely as Jack had drawn him many years before.

"Oh, man, I'm sicker than I thought," Jack moaned. "That fever cooked my brain and I'm hallucinating!" He shut his eyes tightly and lay back down with a flop.

"Get up, Jack. We have no time for games," Draephas growled. He motioned to the lamp and it quickly took its place above the bed. Jack squinted under the glare as he raised himself up on one elbow.

"No time? No time for what?" Jack asked incredulously. "Why am I asking you? You're not even real!"

"Yes I am, and you know it. Look inside yourself if you don't believe me." Draephas marched over to Jack and grabbed the action figure from his hand. "Where do you think this came from?"

"A factory in China," Jack sneered.

Draephas slammed his sizable fist down on the bed, scaring Jack into a sitting position. He leaned in close to the startled toymaker.

"I am no fool, so do not treat me as such," the alien hissed. "You know damned well what I mean." He stepped back and stood facing Jack, massive arms folded across his barrel chest. Silence filled the room as Jack gathered himself and thought hard. After a moment, he spoke.

"I was in my workshop late one night sculpting a prototype for a new figure. I got sleepy so put my head in my arms on the table and took a quick nap. When I woke up, I grabbed my sketch pad and a pencil and," Jack finished with a puzzled look.

Draephas dropped his arms and began to pace slowly around the room. Several times he halted and began to speak, then shook his head and continued walking. It was some time before Draephas stopped again.

"I was hoping you would know more about here. It would save much time if you did, and time is precious," Draephas explained. "We do not have the luxury of lengthy conversations."

"This is really happening, isn't it?" Jack asked softly. Draephas nodded in affirmation. "So, I'm not feverish in a hotel room in Beijing. Instead, I am in a...sleeping chamber...having a chat with an alien I created. Am I right?"

"Not exactly, Jack. It is true that what you are experiencing is real. However, you did not create me. You beheld me in your sleep and sketched what you saw when you awoke. For reasons I do not fully understand yet, you are connected to our dimension. It seems that when you sleep that link can strengthen enough to give you sight into our realm."

Jack took a deep breath, letting it out in a rush of air. "All these years I thought my characters and stories were products of my imagination. Come to find out I'm nothing but an inter-dimensional plagiarist?" He abruptly swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. This time the lamp was prepared and scooted back into the corner before Jack could head butt it a second time.

Jack laced his fingers behind his head and sighed. "I understand what you've told me so far. I'm not sure why I understand it, but I do. What I don't get is how I ended up here."

"Your guess is as good as mine," Draephas replied. "Perhaps Tarthiun can tell us. It is he who told me of you."

"Tarthiun the Shaman? But he is evil!" Jack's expression turned to one of distrust. Keeping his eyes on Draephas, Jack put the bed between himself and the alien. "What's going on here? Am I your prisoner?"

Vigilant - Chapter One (PG)

His imagination had been a thing of wonder since he was a young boy. Early on in life, he wrote fantastic tales and drew incredible pictures from the ideas blossoming in his mind. He fell in love with science fiction and fervently collected toys in all shapes and sizes to act out the stories he created. Soon the playthings he had were not enough and he started disassembling them for parts and making his own toys. His skills were almost magical! As he grew into a man his passion drove him to channel his powers into the design and sculpting of toys like no one had ever seen. Space travelers and fearsome alien creatures came to life in his attic workshop. The toymaker was meticulous in his art, and he cast and painted every toy himself to ensure its perfection. Collectors, enthusiasts, and children alike bought the toys as soon as the paint had dried and before long the toymaker had far more customers than toys to sell them.

He worked day and night to meet the ever growing demand, but the time came when the toymaker had to have his toys made in a factory. He toiled just as hard, inspecting and touching up each toy before he would pass it on to the lucky recipient. He was kind and generous and often gave away more than he sold. His reward was the look of joy on the face of a collector, or the laughter of a child playing with one of his creations. His craft led him halfway across the world to where his toys were being made. The toymaker wanted to improve the process and the final product even further. He was a tall, broad shouldered man full of energy, and his intensity was felt throughout the building as he worked side by side with the employees on the assembly line.

Before he could leave the foreign country to come home, the toymaker was struck with a mysterious illness. He tossed and turned in the grip of a raging fever in his rented room on the highest floor of a great tower. Hours and days blurred together in an inferno of dreams as a monstrous typhoon battered the structure mercilessly. The building swayed under the weight of the storm, yet the toymaker lay oblivious of the peril close at hand. Suddenly, the large window next to the bed exploded outward, leaving a swirling vortex in its place! In an instant the toymaker was sucked out of the room and into the darkness...

Kranion Answers the Call (PG)

The summons came through as Kranion was downloading the polluted life energy of a vicious Villser into a holding pod in the containment zone. Cosmic Wave was losing a struggle with a Gargethion on the far side of the Glyos system and needed help. What was he doing out there? He double checked his transmitter but there was no mistake; there was trouble on planet Botellias.

Kranion locked down the pod, docked his collector to recharge, and thought. Will this be the time? His worst fear was coming to the aid of battling Pheyden, only to find out that the opponent had pure life energy and he was helpless to defend his cosmic brother. Well, not helpless. I could still draw the creature's life energy, but what then? It couldn't join the central energy force after that, so innocent life energy would be doomed for all eternity to rot in one of those miserable pods. Could I live with myself after that? Could I live with watching a Pheyden die while I stood there and did nothing? The very idea of having to make that choice filled him with dread.

No sense in worrying about that now. It will all be over if I don't get moving. Kranion grabbed his collector from the dock, visualized Botellias, and he was there. A lush planet overgrown with vegetation and teeming with gentle wildlife, Botellias was not a place he found himself very often. The Gargethion were a higher life form with powerful telekinetic abilities but they were always peaceful, choosing to keep to themselves and focus on their gyrofarming.

As he made his way through the dense growth Kranion picked up the sounds of battle to his left. Moving closer and using a large kryno bush for cover, he parted the branches and found himself looking on to a small clearing. Cosmic Wave was pinned against a boulder with one of the Gargethion's hands around his throat, one on each arm, and one on each leg. With its remaining arm it was thrashing the poor Pheyden's head mercilessly. Cosmic Wave's blaster was on the other side of the clearing in 3 pieces. Kranion had seen a Gargethion use its numerous limbs to harvest with astonishing speed, but never to attack.

Concentrating on the Gargethion, Kranion reached out and joined with its life energy. A deep blackness filled his thoughts and there was no question. He stepped into the clearing, raised his collector, and pulled the trigger. A thick beam of energy shot across the clearing and engulfed the Gargethion in a cocoon of white light. A few seconds of writhing and it was over.

Cosmic Wave slid off the boulder and into a heap on the ground. As Kranion approached he noticed a strange mark on the back of the dead Gargethion's head. It was a small slash and its edges glowed green. Kranion had never seen a wound like this but he had a good idea what made it. Well, that explains why the Gargethion turned aggressive, but how did Cosmic Wave become its victim? This would continue to happen across the Glyos system if Kranion didn't eliminate the abomination he called Bio Villser and its two evil replicas.

Kranion knelt next to Cosmic Wave and felt for life. It was there but very weak. He took a regeneration capsule from his belt pouch and broke it over his fallen brother. A moment later Cosmic Wave groaned and slowly sat up, leaning against the boulder for support. He raised his head and looked into Kranion's eyes. Without a word Kranion nodded, visualized Aidoneus, and was gone.

In the relative safety of his dimension, Kranion processes what just happened. Cosmic Wave was a fool for trying to avenge Bio Pheyden and he is lucky to be alive. The next Pheyden who tries may not be so fortunate. I've got to put an end to this before Bio Villser spawns again!

Pheyden(s) vs. ? (PG)

They stood silently at a crossroads bordered by endless blue barricades of energy. Four space travelers from as many times and dimensions brought together for a common purpose. Arquem Pheyden broke from the group and moved slowly down a corridor. He paused at an opening in the partition and cautiously stepped into the void and out of view. A moment later his head appeared from behind the wall.

"It hasn't come this way yet. The power orbs continue down this passageway and around the corner." Arquem quickly looked back over his shoulder before rejoining his brethren.

"It must still be feeding around the perimeter," Red Guardian Pheyden said quietly. "We must split up and begin to drive it towards a southern corner of the labyrinth. Remember - do not let it reach one of the large spheres or our shields will be temporarily deactivated."

The other Pheydens nodded in acknowledgment and moved out. As Andromeda Pheyden made his way down the hall he heard something in the distance and stopped. From somewhere up ahead came the faint sound of metal on metal. It grew louder as he slid stealthily along one of the blue barriers separating him from his quarry. The noise built to a roar as the creature approached, its gnashing steel teeth devouring power orbs as it went. Andromeda ran to meet the circular being head on and saw that it was being pursued by Red Guardian! Despite its panic the half machine, half organic golden yellow monster continued to ingest balls of energy at an impossible rate. Just as the Pheydens were about to close in, it deftly turned into a warp zone and was gone.

On the opposite side of the maze, Pulse Pheyden was about to change course when the beast appeared out of nowhere right in front of him! It saw him and reversed direction, Pulse in hot pursuit. By the time he realized a large sphere lay up ahead it was too late. The creature swallowed it whole and spun on Pulse as his shield short circuited, encasing him in a glowing dark blue aura. Partially paralyzed, he tried to escape but was vaporized in an instant! The ghostly outline of his eyes floated eerily down the corridor and out of sight.

Andromeda and Red Guardian emerged from the warp zone as their shields were flashing back into operation. They sprinted after the yellow fiend, herding it towards a corner. They struggled to close the gap but it managed to stay one step ahead of them, rounding the bend and continuing down the long southern passageway. As the Pheydens came around the corner they saw Arquem leap out of an opening up ahead. The creature was surrounded! The three Pheydens charged mercilessly and rammed full speed into the beast's fleshy curved sides as it let out a high pitched death warble. Its mechanical jaws malfunctioned and opened on to itself as the monster imploded!

Pulse found himself whole again in a small rectangular chamber. The only break in the walls was protected by some sort of force field. Without warning, Andromeda and Arquem suddenly appeared on either side of him. Red Guardian spoke from just outside the room.

"We are not done here. There will be another..."

Pheyden vs. ? (PG)

As Pheyden materialized, he spied the fading outline of himself standing on top of a battered green tank. By the time he reached the rectangular junker it was gone. What part of me was here...and why? He quickly surveyed the noiseless surroundings for answers. The tank's laser cannon was pointed straight up and glowed red hot in the night air. Pheyden's gaze followed the barrel upward and fell on a partially demolished shield hovering closely above the tank. More barriers in varying states of ruin floated to the left and right. Upon closer inspection Pheyden saw that they had taken hits from below as well as above. That's strange...why would-

The eerie silence was broken by a thundering rhythm and the sky instantly filled with waves of space craft! Without pause the skull-like ships in the bottom row began their brutal attack, releasing bomb after bomb as they moved in unison. Pheyden scrambled inside the tank and manned the controls. Using the shields to his advantage, he deftly drove back and forth while returning fire. Laser blasts and bombs collided in midair and ship after ship blew to pieces.

Pheyden mercilessly unleashed a torrent of devastation on the approaching armada. Gaping holes in the vertical assault formation told him that he was making progress fast. A large red command saucer came out of nowhere and flew rapidly above its fleet in a blur of pulsing sound. Pheyden saw his opportunity and timed the shot perfectly. The saucer vaporized as the ships moved lower and lower at an ever increasing rate.

Relentless shelling had reduced the barricades to little more than fragments. Avoiding the steady stream of bombs took every ounce of Pheyden's concentration. He continued dodging and blasting with amazing quickness. The elimination of one multiplied the speed of the remaining ships dramatically. Only two triangular-shaped craft remained, their dangling mechanical appendages swinging in sequence. Pheyden knew he had to strike now or they would reach the surface and all would be lost.

He positioned the tank just to the right of the only serviceable shield and waited. As if on cue they appeared from his left and tore into the barrier. The lead ship showed itself for a split second over Pheyden but that was all he needed to destroy it. He fired again but the last ship was already gone. He tracked it as it abruptly halted, dropped and reversed direction. It was heading right for him!

The ground shook under the bombardment. Pheyden knew he could not outrun his assailant. He had one chance left and waited for the right moment to shoot. Steady...steady...NOW! The shockwave rocked him as the ship disintegrated. Pheyden opened the hatch and climbed out on to the tank. As he stood scanning the empty darkness overhead, he felt himself being pulled into another dimension.

As Pheyden materialized, he spied the fading outline of himself standing on top of a battered green tank. By the time he reached the rectangular junker, it was gone. What part of me was here...and why?

Tea Party (PG-13)

A small round table and chairs in a corner of her bedroom. Plastic cups and saucers laid out for two. I watch her from just outside the doorway. She pours pretend tea and carries on her polite hostess conversation. I start to leave when she says something wrong. Or maybe she didn't. I listen some more. A few words escape me but the ones I hear sound all right. I stay for another minute before going downstairs to make dinner.

She comes down and sits at the table. I finish cooking and serve the food. We talk about the day for a while. She stops talking and looks down at her plate. I can hear her giggling softly. I ask her what is so funny and she looks up with a mischievous grin.

I have a secret, she says.

About what?

About you, Daddy.

Who told you?

Mommy did.

Oh...okay. Now finish your dinner, I say.

We follow the routine of bedtime. I kiss her goodnight and turn out the light. On the way to the living room I think about her secret. I wonder what it could be. Nothing good on television so I might as well go to bed. I hear her voice as I pass her room and take a peek. Nothing doing in there. Guess she was talking in her sleep.

More giggles at breakfast. She's up to something. I get her on the school bus and go to the study. On my desk is a picture she drew of herself holding hands with someone. Her mother. Something in her other hand that I can't make out. Too busy to think about it so I put the picture away and start working.

Afternoon comes and I go outside to meet her bus. She goes to her room to play. I bring up a snack and find her back at the table only not serving tea. She's paying close attention to an empty chair. I put the plate on the table and ask if she is going to share with her guest.

No Daddy, she doesn't eat.

What about tea?

She doesn't drink either, she says.

No laughing at the dinner table tonight. She looks serious. I ask what's wrong and she won't say.

Did something happen at school?

No, Daddy, she says.

Then what is it?

I'm not supposed to tell.

Why not?

Just because, she says.

She leaves to put on her pajamas and I go to the study. I sit down and take out the picture. Is that the dress her mother wore the day she was killed? She was only a year old. How could she remember that? I hear her slipper scuff the floor behind me as I feel something cold slide into my neck. I fall out of my chair and on to my hands and knees. The handle of a kitchen knife is quivering above my shoulder. Blood is pooling all around. I don't understand. She's standing there looking at me. I ask for help and she points to the hallway.

I can't, Daddy. Mommy told me not to.

Her mother is hovering there watching. She looks pleased. Payback is a bitch. I collapse into a spreading red puddle. My world is losing its color. Almost over so I close my eyes and let the darkness take me.

I'm next to her now. We go upstairs to our daughter's room. A small round table and chairs in a corner of her bedroom. Plastic cups and saucers laid out for three. She's waiting for us, big smile and fake pot in hand.

Anyone for tea?