Midweek Muse Backlog

A Closer Look at Musashi Miyamoto!

Meet the enigmatic main character in Steel Souls, Book 1: Life in the Machine

Name: Musashi Miyamoto
Height: 2.7 meters (8.85 ft)
Weight: 385 kg (850 lbs)
Blood Type: ????

In every era of human history, there are those who prefer to live in the past, and Paul Liblick was one of them. Born in the last days of organic life on Earth, he was consistently disappointed in the decadence of his era. He greatly preferred the habits and behavior of the ancient peoples of Earth. The Far East, particularly Japan, captured his imagination, and he went to great lengths to immerse himself in that culture. He studied every form of martial art he could, including JujitsuKarate,Muay ThaiKenjutsuKung Fu, and Iaido.

Once the Great Catastrophe hit, Paul had a chance to reinvent himself. He changed his name in homage to one of the great historical samurai – Musashi Miyamoto – and designed his new mechanical body to be compact, fast, and strong. He even covered that body with traditional Samurai garb and armed himself with a traditional – if oversized – Great Katana. In the decades following the Catastrophe, Musashi trained himself harder than ever, learning how to use his new body as well as he did the old. The new world was harsh, and no one could survive just by studying the martial arts, so Musashi used his skills to make a living as a mercenary.

Unfortunately, many others decided to follow the path of combat, and specifically designed their own bodies to focus on brute strength and size. Some even went so far as to inhabit bodies ten to twenty stories tall! Musashi wanted to stay true to history and specifically kept his body as close to original human proportions as possible. He invested all he had into the best body he could design, and pushed that body as far as it could go, but he was still at a severe disadvantage when competing against the over-sized bullies who dominated his chosen industry.

In desperation, Musashi searched the world for a way to get stronger without sacrificing his beliefs. Finally, he caught wind of a guru in Tibet with a revolutionary new approach. When Musashi reached the top of the sacred Mount Kailash, he discovered Master Gyatso using the rattiest-looking mechanical body he had ever seen. But inhabiting that body was the fieriest soul Musashi had ever met, and in their first encounter, the tiny rattletrap threw him over the horizon without even trying. So, the student swallowed his pride and learned from his new master. By the time the samurai left the mountain, he had begun mastering the use of Ki (or Chi) – the energy that pervades all things. Traditional martial arts training during his organic life had taught him the rudiments: how to use the energy within his own body. But Gyatso taught him to look beyond himself and draw energy from his surroundings, and even his enemies.

Now, Musashi roams the wastelands of Earth with his trimaranMiranda, partner Lulu, and her robotic pal George. They do whatever it takes to make ends meet, whether that is mining rare ores from dangerous locations, raiding gang strongholds for supplies, or even acting as bodyguards. He has yet to be bested in a fight, and has become extremely confident in himself as a result. Instead of taking that to the point of arrogance, he instead strives to hold himself in control at all times, and project an air of respect and sophistication. He loves language, and primarily speaks very crisply and cleanly. However, he is also an avid student of dialects, so he can often be found copying the manner of speaking used by those around him. Strong and honorable, Musashi is exactly the sort of fellow you would want on your side in a scrap, but not someone you would like to meet in a dark alley.

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The Life and Times of Lulu Johnson

Say hello to the bouncy sidekick in Steel Souls, Book 1: Life in the Machine

Name: Lulu “Dances with Flowers” Johnson
Height: 1.5 meters (4.92 feet)
Weight: None o’ yore business!
Favorite color: Pink!

Some people float through life like butterflies. Jobs, friends, living arrangements, all are as temporary flowers to them. Lulu Johnson is one of those people. Born to very traditional Soiux parents deep in the heart of the great America Megapolis, she soon chafed against their strict ways and ran away when she was only fourteen. For the next ten years, she moved from place to place, never staying anywhere more than a few months. Extremely intelligent, outgoing, and with a penchant for fixing mechanical things, she wanted for neither work nor lodging.

In the years leading up to the Great Catastrophe, body alteration became extremely popular. Many people changed their hair color, skin color, and body type often. Some even had cosmetic alterations grafted on: cat tails, mouse ears, troll tusks, the variety was endless. Lulu was no exception. What little spending money she had went to her two passions: mechanical gadgetry and wild surgical modifications. At the end, she sported pink skin, a 50 centimeter mohawk of electric blue, pointed elvish ears almost a third that long which could swivel independently, a prehensile tale like that of a monkey, whiskers, razor sharp metallic nails (just in case), and gangly rabbit legs. If that sounds strange to you, just think what people a thousand years ago would think of our clothing and hair styles!

So, when she had to reinvent herself after the Great Catastrophe, Lulu decided to go all out. Tired of changing her body manually, she designed a body that could keep up with her imagination on the fly. Her skeleton is as rigid as any, but is not so tightly jointed and each bone can change its length. So, it can transform itself into several different configurations. Over each bone lies a flexible sheath of piezomuscles which can change their attachment points at any time. Finally, a thick layer of smart metal (known as “MaliMetal”) covers everything. This metal can – through the manipulation of electrical charge within its mass – mimic almost any shape and color. Lulu uses all of this to great advantage, and changes the way she looks almost daily.

Her favorite form, however, is a small homage to her heritage and her name. “Lulu” means “Rabbit” in the ancient Native American dialect her parents spoke, so she often dons attributes of that sacred animal. Long, floppy, prehensile ears sit to either side of a face with an expressive, twitching nose and impressive whiskers. Her shins are a bit shorter than normal, and her feet are much longer, terminating in huge four-toed paws, so that her legs resemble the hind legs of a giant rabbit. Over everything, she forms the MaliMetal into a thick fur-like layer of blinding pink – just to keep people off balance.

Her transforming abilities also give her an edge in her favorite hobby: tinkering. Her hands can easily take on the form of almost any tool she can imagine, including many tools you and I cannot. She can almost always be found in her workshop, futzing about with some new gadget or another. Her greatest mechanical accomplishment to date is a large robot she calls “George.” Built out of scrap metal and spare parts, George is not a looker, and since Lulu isn’t the most imaginative programmer around, he’s no genius either. His torso is an almost perfect sphere of very tough armor, and his dome-like head is just as strong. Extending from this are squat arms and legs which give him almost overwhelming strength. His smooth exterior is marred only by the numerous handholds Lulu has bolted all over him which allow her to ride him into battle like a very strange horse. He is her bodyguard, butler, fighting partner, and traveling machine. She complains about him often, but could never stand to lose him.

Fun loving and rambunctious, Lulu is always looking for the next adventure. Whether it’s bouncing around dangerous ruins with her partner Musashi, or mixing it up with ne’er-do-wells, she’s constantly cheerful and playful. Coming from the middle of the United States, she tends to mangle her English a little bit, and can even sometimes be found dropping into a southern drawl. She’s cute and cuddly, but don’t get on her bad side or you’ll regret it!
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Who is Bill?

This brilliant scientist saved the world, but where does he come from?

Human Name: Bill
Delphine Name: [unprintable]
Length: N/A
Favorite activity: surfing

By the middle of the 23rd century, humans finally realized that they were not the only sentient species on the planet. Over time, many species gradually made themselves a part of the global culture. But the dolphins were the first, and have since been instrumental in improving many areas of life across the globe. From art to science to sports to philosophy, these playful Tursiops are constantly at the front of the wave.

Bill is no exception. Even as a young pup cavorting in the warm swells of the Western Pacific, he was fascinated by the spiritual side of science and attended the Pacific School of Metaphysics. There he learned about the amazing way in which the intangible elements of our world interact with the tangible ones. His passion carried him to the top of his class, and when he graduated, he joined the world-famous Delphine/Human “Laboratory of the Seas.”

There, Bill threw himself into a study of something which underpins all life on Gaia: souls, which are so elusive that for eons people didn’t even believe they existed. Eventually, he became obsessed with the possibility of actually moving a soul from one body to another, and formed his own research team focused on that endeavor.

Just a few years before the Great Catastrophe turned everything upside down, Bill accepted a young human onto his team. From then on, he and Maya were solid friends, and it was she who volunteered to be the first ever soul to shed her organic shell and become something entirely new. Then, when the Catastrophe hit, Bill and his team became heroes by saving billions from obliteration through their research.

Since then, Bill has not let up in the slightest. His new mechanical body was designed to be as close as the biological form he had to leave behind, and in his off time, he enjoyed surfing, frolicking, and playing Underwater Soccer with his pals. His work with the Laboratory continued also, as he pushed the boundaries of Soul Science further, even to the point of … well you’ll just have to read the story to find that out. 😉

This idyllic life was thrown into chaos when the Laboratory of the Seas was attacked by a mysterious gang of bandits. Despite being in their home element, the researchers – both human and dolphin – were quickly overwhelmed. Most of Bill’s colleagues were killed, and those left were put to work for the marauders. Bill himself, along with his lab partner Jules, were stripped of their bodies entirely, their Soul Gems installed directly into their new laboratory. Although they were allowed – nay forced – to continue their original line of research, both miss their independence and bodies dearly.

Bill is well-spoken both in Dolphin and English. He speaks in a crisp, concise manner which his Delphinic attitude brings off as cheerful and fun. However, he is also a scientist and teacher at heart, so he can tend to get carried away into long-winded lectures which can be more interesting to him than to his audience.

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A Daring Escape from a crashing aircraft into Enemy Territory!

Scritch Fischer, a Scout in the Hunter army, has just leapt from a troop transport which the dreaded Gatherers shot from the unfriendly skies. Will he survive? Read on to find out!

The outside air slapped Scritch like an angry giant, driving the air entirely from his lungs, but he remembered his training and curled up into as tight a ball as he possibly could. The insane air currents surrounding the plummeting transport bounced his small body around like a salmon tossed amongst a group of playful bears. He knew he couldn’t pull his ripcord too early, or the BubbleChute would run out of juice before he hit the ground, but it was all he could do to not slap the release right away. Who knew how long he could stay out here without getting hit by some broken piece of aircraft, or even caught by the explosion of an enemy anti-aircraft round? Scritch was still gasping for air, but he forced himself to exhale completely and inhale as slowly as possible. Finally, when he felt he couldn’t wait any longer, an insistent beeping reached his ears from the BubbleChute disc. “It’s about time!” Scritch barely had the breath to growl, and he frantically banged the release button on his chest.

For a split second, Scritch worried he’d gotten a dud. But just as the worry turned to panic, a tremendous explosion rocked his body. The next moment he felt something enclose him in a soft but firm grip, and the entire world around him became muted. He could still hear and feel the buffeting of the wind and explosions, but it was as if they were all on the other side of a thick blanket. Scritch gathered together some courage and straightened his body out just enough to take a cautious peek around. Right in front of his eyes, he could see the tiny, transparent, gelatinous bubbles protecting him, but by consciously focusing outward, he could also glimpse the outside world through the thousands of bubbly layers. He almost shut his eyes again as a wave of nausea racked his body. Everything was spinning violently around him, and it was very difficult to tell what was going on. But, he was fairly certain the dark, brownish bits were land, and the bright bluish smear was the sky – especially since the dark part took up more and more of his view as the seconds passed. In fact, each time the ground spun back around into view, it was alarmingly more clear and detailed. Scritch barely had time to process this before he struck the ground. The collision – even through layers of the super-absorbent Bubble-Chute material – was so violent that he lost his breath once again, and was barely able to keep himself curled up in a protective posture. Although the ‘chute was strong, it was not impenetrable. Scritch flew back into the air missing a few chunks out of the sphere. Each time he bounced, more pieces were torn away, until finally he found himself rolling down a hill with only a few ragged streamers dangling from the disc on his back. Eventually, Scritch managed to control himself, coming to a crashing, stumbling, bruised halt.

“Oooooh, where the scat am I?” Scritch moaned as he painfully picked himself up from the ground. BubbleChutes may be safer than the old parachutes, but that didn’t mean they were painless, and he was now feeling every bump and bruise that his adrenaline had allowed him to ignore on the way down. He unbuckled the pod from his back and looked around warily. Smoke drifting through the air and the distant thumping of explosions told him he was still in a war zone, and still in excessive danger. He quickly discarded the remnants of his brightly-colored ‘chute and opened the pack he had so carefully clutched all through his chaotic flight. If he was going to be able to survive this, he’d need the correct equipment. He began by grabbing a high-powered pistol from the top of the pile, snatching up the matching magazine and slamming it home. Feeling slightly less vulnerable, Scritch dug around the pack a little more. Grinning, he pulled his equipment harness from the bag. A few seconds work, and he had the familiar straps buckled around his torso and legs. His gun snapped easily into place on his hip, but he kept digging. Several several solid, but light pieces of armor appeared, and he clipped them snugly to various attachment points on his harness. In the end, his uniform disappeared under a flexible grid of armor plating. Scritch felt much more confident now, but still looked carefully around him, hoping no charging Rhino or flying Squirrel would come crashing through the underbrush. He knew it was only a matter of time until something of exactly like that happened, so he quickly hooked the rest of his equipment about his person and moved out.

“Scritch to the crash survivors. Any of you knuckleheads out here?” Scritch made sure his communicator was tuned to the general encrypted band. He knew it was a risk, but he had to connect with someone friendly, and it really was unlikely that the grass-eaters would have already broken the encryption. However, they could still monitor his location if they really tried, so he hoped someone would respond soon.

“Is that you, pipsqueak?” Scritch almost laughed as Slash’s grumpy growl grated in his ear. “We gotta get off this band. Tune to private channel alpha-eight.”

Scritch did so. “What’s your location? Did anyone else make it out?”

“The transport is down, but its beacon is still functioning. We’ll give it a wide berth of course, but we’ve used it as a home point for the trackers. We’re about two klicks northeast of there. Think you can handle that, rookie?”

“Aye Sir! Although technically, you should call me Sir, Private!” Scritch chuckled and winced simultaneously as his earpiece was almost blown out by the force of Slash’s enraged roar.

“Soldiers, can the chatter!” The commanding voice of the Sergeant broke in. “Scout Scritch, radio silence until you rejoin the squad. Move out!” Scritch did so, reminded of how much Sergeants killed the fun, and missing his solo missions more and more. He powered up his relative location finder and centered it on the only beacon it could see, which must be the downed transport. He was glad they’d be avoiding that place. Quite aside from the obvious dangers to being close to a radio beacon anyone could pick up, he wasn’t too eager to see the carnage of the crash site.

“Let’s see, two klicks northeast of the beacon is about … here.” Scritch muttered as he tapped the interface buds built into his forearm, entering a temporary waypoint that turned out to be about four klicks away from his current position. Suddenly, a soft swishing sound rose above the normally subtle forest noises, intruding on his thoughts. He froze in apprehension. Was that an enemy soldier? Scritch swiftly moved away from the sound, being careful to set his feet on the wettest twigs and dryest stones. He knew he needed a way to lose his scent trail as well as his physical trail – and the sooner the better.

Just as he was looking around for signs of a stream, an ear splitting screech rang out from the tree above him. “Graaaah! I’ve got you now, you dirty murderer!” Scritch’s mouth gaped as he looked up and saw exactly what he was hoping to avoid: a rabid Squirrel flying through the air toward him, yelling like a banshee. Scritch reached for his gun, but it was too late. His attacker fell on him like a ton of rocks, and the two went rolling into the underbrush. The Gatherer was fierce, Scritch had to give him that. He hadn’t drawn a weapon, but was spitting and hissing like a madbeast, pummeling Scritch everywhere he could reach. It didn’t do much good; Scritch’s armor was more than a match for one creature’s fists – especially one as untrained as this.

“Wait a minute!” Scritch gasped involuntarily. He caught the squirrel’s next punch easily, locking his arm behind his back in a simple hold from Basic Training. “You’re not a soldier!”

“Of course I’m not, you dummy!” The squirrel squealed shrilly as he wriggled in his captor’s grip. “I’m not a murderer! Now, unhand me, you stinking life-ender!” The irate creature threw his head back, hitting Scritch under his chin, knocking his teeth together, and making his head ring. The confused Scout stumbled backward, shaking his head and cursing.

“You dumb runt!” Scritch drew his knife and charged his enemy with a battle cry of his own. The Squirrel held his ground, but was shaking so much he could barely stand. Although he was a civilian, he’d clearly had a little training, because he managed to block Scritch’s initial stab. But when he tried an attack of his own, Scritch was ready. He swept the weak punch to the side and brought his knee viciously into his opponent’s face, spraying blood and teeth everywhere. The brave Squirrel’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he swayed on his feet for an instant before crashing to the ground, out cold.

Scritch stood above his enemy, chest heaving as he caught his breath once again. He had met Gatherers in battle before, but they were all soldiers, and they almost never got close enough for hand-to-hand combat. He’d never had a problem ending the lives of those trying to kill him and attack his way of life – at least when they were at a distance and just shapes in his gun scope. But now, as he raised his knife to make sure the kid wouldn’t follow him or alert his mates, he hesitated. For some reason, the old Supply Officer’s words intruded on his thoughts.

“Remember young one, we’ve all been made by the Creator. Whether we’re Hunters or Gatherers, we all share that connection, so we’re not really that different.” Scritch had always thought the old beast was crazier than a frog in a desert, but all of a sudden he wasn’t so sure. He gazed upon the brave creature who had attacked a strong, trained soldier without a second thought. What would he have done in the same situation; if a soldier had come upon him suddenly in his own territory? Being honest in his own head, Scritch had to admit that he would have done the exactly the same.

“Still, since I can’t have you following me …” Scritch muttered and tied the unconscious spitfire into such a complicated configuration that he knew it would take the young Squirrel hours to get out; plenty of time for him to get away and to the rest of the squad. Then, he headed in the exact direction his finder told him the crash site lay. Let any veggies who found their mate think he was going in the obvious direction – he’d change it up soon enough.

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A Thrilling Flight through dense forest to find the Intruder!

Arboreal Physician, Plink Stephomipopilos, along with Air Ambulance Driver Melody, have decided to take the investigation of the mysterious Hunter intruder into their own hands, and are on their way to the scene.

Plink was once again soaring through the air. The breeze was fresh in his face and leaves would occasionally float past, only to swirl madly around in the wake of his passing. He was so excited to be moving again, and enjoying the sensation of flying so much that he barely noticed Melody’s huddled form clinging to his back. He was having the time of his life and diving directly into the depths of an adventure.

Melody, on the other hand, was having the worst time of her life. “Any way to slow this thing down?!” She screeched. “I love flying as much as the next girl, but only when I’m surrounded by the safety of a few tons of smart metal, and actually have control over where I’m goooiiiinng!” Her voice rose into an even higher scream as Plink banked sharply and dove to miss an outstretched branch.

“Ha ha ha ha!” Plink laughed in sheer exhilaration and executed a completely unnecessary barrel roll, eliciting another shriek from his terrified passenger. “I have perfect control over where I’m going! What’s wrong, Melody? Can’t take a little of your own medicine? Wheeeeeee!” Plink twirled again, and shot toward the position his readout told him would be an optimum landing zone. “Now, hold on tight!”

“What else would I be doing?!” Melody wailed, and clutched Plink with such ferocity that he struggled to breath. But he didn’t have time to worry about that as he gathered his paws underneath him for the landing. Plink barely remembered at the last moment to compensate for the extra weight, and hit the branch much harder than he intended. They skidded toward the edge, and Melody completely lost it, sobbing in terror. Plink dug in his own claws while deploying the mechanical claws built into his flight suit. He’d never had to use the emergency functions before, so he heaved a huge sigh of relief when they worked flawlessly, and they were brought to a halt just in time.

Melody tumbled off his back, still completely beside herself. Plink retracted the claws and rushed to her side. “Melody, are you OK?” He grabbed her shoulders and gazed into her blank eyes with concern. “I’m sorry I scared you so badly. Are you injured?”

Melody took a few shuddering breaths and got her crying under control. In a moment, she was coherent enough to speak. “What the hell is wrong with you, Plink?! ‘perfect control’ my furry tail! I’ve never been so frightened in all my life! Do you really do that every day?”

“Yup!” Plink said proudly, then hesitated. “Well, maybe not exactly like that. I may have been a bit more … exuberant than usual. I hate to say it, but you almost deserve it after what you put me through in that medical transport! I thought I was gonna pee my pants and then die!”

Melody gazed in shock at the normally mild-mannered doctor, who burst into laughter at her expression. Within moments, he was rolling around the branch, completely overtaken with mirth. For an instant, Melody felt rage course through her, but then the absurdity of the situation hit her and she began laughing too. It was some time before the two of them regained control of themselves. Melody wiped tears of mirth from her eyes. “Yeah, I guess I was a little … um … ‘exuberant’ too. Maybe that does make us even. Friends?” She held out her paw. Plink considered it for a moment, then extended his own.

“Friends,” he said, and clasped her paw warmly. Then, he briskly clapped his hands and pressed a couple of control buds on his flight-suit interface panel. “Now, where to next? I remember I was at Carlos’s tree – that’s number K4927 – when I decided to investigate. Let’s see, his tree is … here.” Plink shared his display with Melody, a trick by their individual optics which made it appear as if a large window was hovering in midair before the pair of them. It was a map of the forest, and one tree out of the hundreds in the image was glowing an extra-friendly green. “Do you recall the coordinates at which you found me, Melody?”

“It’s recorded in the emergency transport’s flight records, but I don’t know myself.” Melody admitted. “Urth is still at the hospital with the van. I could call him and ask him to look for us.”

“Good idea,” Plink agreed, “but that might take a while. In the meantime, we’ll head for Carlos’s tree, which is about two klicks over that way.” He gestured briefly toward the surrounding forest. “Do you think you can manage to make a call while we’re in the air? I don’t know how long it’ll take Tick to get there, and we don’t want to miss anything.”

Melody took a huge, steadying breath. “I think I can manage that. That is, if you can manage to not flip all over the place like a deranged sparrow?”

Plink appeared to be considering this question very carefully. “Um, I’m not sure about that …” he said slowly. Melody growled low in her throat and punched him lightly on the shoulder. “OK, OK, I’ll take it easy!” Plink cried out in mock pain. “Just don’t break anything, you savage beast!” Laughing heartily, he crouched down so Melody could climb back onto his back.

She hooked herself tightly into the rear of his flight harness and reported crisply. “Private Melody ready for flight, Sir!” She tried to sound serious, but her voice cracked with laughter anyway.

“Ok, hold on tight, we’re about to launch!” Plink cried with joy, flexed his muscles, and took a mighty leap from the branch.

“Eeeee!” Melody screeched again, but Plink could tell that, this time, there was less fear and more exhilaration. He did his best to hold his flight level and straight. He could feel Melody’s paws flexing and tapping against his back as she interacted with her virtual display. It took only a moment for Melody’s communicator to make the connection, and Urth’s voice sounded in her ear.

“Urth here. What is it Melody, where’d you go?” Urth’s deep voice sounded concerned, but Melody knew him well enough to hear the humor below it all.

“Not to worry, big guy!” She said cheerfully, speaking loudly to be heard over the wind rushing around her. “I’m just flying, that’s all!” Her laugh turned to a bit of a shriek as Plink jinked to avoid another branch.

“Riiiighht.” Urth’s concern transformed into skepticism. “Ground Hog Melody is flying without a machine? Pull the other three, my dear!” Urth chuckled deep in his chest, and Melody could tell he was shaking his head incredulously.

“No, really! I guess we learn something new every day, righ—ooof!?” She was cut off as Plink landed heavily on the next branch, her air whooshing involuntarily out of her lungs. But Plink had compensated perfectly this time, and they were already racing toward the edge of the branch. Plink gathered himself, leapt, and they were airborne once more. “Sorry about that Urth, we had to land for a moment.” Melody chuckled at the shocked silence coming from the other end of the line.

“You’re really flying?!” Urth grumbled, still not wanting to believe his friend could suddenly be so reckless.

“More falling with style, actually,” Melody responded, mirth coloring her voice, “Plink has a flying suit for work, and we glide from tree to tree! I was terrified at first, but now I’m really having fu—Watch out for that branch!” Melody’s voice changed abruptly from laughter to fear as the large limb seemed to leap right in their path.

“Calm down, newbie!” Plink laughed heartily and spread his arms and legs to increase their lift. They soared gracefully over the branch and were back on course once more.

“Melody, are you OK?!” Urth’s cry almost overloaded Melody’s hearplugs, and it was a moment before she could respond.

“I’m fine, Urth,” she gasped. “Just an evasive maneuver, nothing to worry about!”

“Uh, huh.” Urth said, unconvinced. “Listen, did you call just to give me a heart attack, or did you have something you actually needed?” Melody could almost feel Urth crossing his arms and staring disapprovingly at her.

“Er, now that you mention it, there is something pretty important I hope you can help me with.” Melody stuttered to a halt, suddenly worrying about how Urth would take the news of their adventure. “Well, you know that Ferret we brought to the hospital? The police showed up and took over the investigation. Not surprisingly, they don’t want us civilians involved, but we just couldn’t accept that. So, we’re on our way to the crime scene to help out!” Melody spoke with as much cheer and strength as she could muster, but Urth must have hear the hesitation in her voice.

“Are you out of your nutting mind?!” He howled. “Interfering in a police investigation is a terrible idea! You could get in real trouble, you know!” He audibly took control of himself, taking deep, shuddering breaths. “But, you’ve clearly taken this thing to heart – God only knows why – and I have a sinking suspicion I can’t change your mind. What do you need?”

“Oh thank you, Urth! You’re the best partner ever!” Melody trilled in excitement. “We’re trying to track down the exact location of where we found Plink and the intruder. Neither of us remembers exactly, but I know it was recorded in the EM’s flight banks. Could you look it up for us?” Melody gasped again as they crashed into another barely-controlled landing.

“Sure thing, partner.” Urth said in resignation. “I’ll call back soon. Just don’t get yourself killed or arrested, OK?”

“Thanks again, brother! I’ll do my best!” Melody cut the connection and focused once again on holding tightly to Plink’s flight harness. She was happy she did, because at that moment, Plink rolled suddenly to the side, and she shrieked again as they spun through the air.

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