Ep. 008: Transaction transcript

NARRATOR: Mana-pitch. Centuries ago, we built a city on this coast to exploit a vast underground supply of it: a black, viscous raw material we refine into powerful mana gems.

Soon after, the city became a magnet for unlikely events known as “glitches”, and improbable people called “glitchers”. Eventually, most citizens came to call Manapitch City by a new name…

We present Managlitch, City of Accidental Wonders. Do try to keep your aura clear, citizen.

GLENN 755: Glenn SevenFiftyFive here: once again we’re polluting zed-frequency twenty-three-oh-eight with Managlitch City Underground just for you! Broadcasting by net, infotower, and data-scry every open period, we’re here to help *you* stay grounded in the City of Accidental Wonders.

The first weekend of Clearlight is always hot and humid in Managlitch City, and this year is no different from any other on record. …not counting the time a glacier tried to move through at breakneck speed. …or the time when half the city was somehow exposed to vacuum, and the Council had to put up our force dome and ship in emergency oxygen supplies. Right, Seven Hundred and Fifteen is no different from the *majority* of years on record. But I know you haven’t tracked down this broadcast to hear me complain about the weather; no, there’s an entire channel for that on a different frequency. Based on the messages we’ve been getting, you want to hear about crasher demons!

You’ve guessed it: we’ve had our first expedition. How’d it go? Well, I’m here talking to you, so not too badly! And while the online betting pools have been pretty amusing, I’d like to extend sarcastic apologies to those who had money on my gruesome death. Happy to take your pitmarks, losers!

Yes, right, the expedition. A couple of nights ago, Slippery Adam, Nikolen Weber, Mistress Messiér and I met up as planned in Templeton’s diner off Coin Street. Nice place, a bit beat-up: not far from where the main Manapitch Transplanar Bank used to be. The first Portalblast really tore those neighborhoods up, and the Ministry patrol teams aren’t common down there. Perfect place to go hunting!

We attracted some attention, I confess: we were quite a bunch! Nikolen wore ether-crew fatigues and an engineering sash of gadgets. Slippery Adam wore thick creased leathers that had obviously seen fighting before; while I showed up hoping to improve my own armor rating with a polyweave tunic and jeans combo. Naturally, the Mistress outclassed us all in fashionable flaring pants, a vinyl corset bearing strange symbols and small equipment pouches, and a loose over-blouse worn open. She managed to look both less dangerous and far more so than any other two of our party.

After fortifying with a good meal, we set out to wander the less-reputable streets of the City and look for specific trouble. But though we wandered past a few commotions, none of them involved a crasher. A few guys with teleball bats and broken bottles came after us at one point; I stunned one with a volt cast, Slippery Adam knifed another, and the Mistress… ah, well that dude’s gonna walk funny for years. Sometimes one of us would get brave or bored enough, and separate from the group to play bait; but no luck. The night wore late, then later, then early; so we gave up and rented a cheap room to flop. Mistress Messiér ducked away, making assurances she’d return; the other three of us tucked in for an uneasy rest.

We dragged ourselves awake around noon and went looking for food. The sun’s glare seared into our aching eyeballs, and I for one wished Nibiron was floating in front of it just then. Damn moon. Good for nothing. At least Slippery Adam knew of a nearby place for some good fried tree rabbit. A collapsed building blocked the old road, so we decided to take a shortcut through a patch of ruined merchant galleries. Some of the rubble was tricky to navigate, but soon we were back in the open and much closer to a meal.

And that’s when the blasted surty pitch-eating thing dropped on us! We’re in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, and suddenly Nikolen was down on the ground under the thing. Knife-like claws on four upper limbs struck sparks off his force barrier. He stabbed upward with a power knife, but the tip lodged in the scales covering the crasher’s torso. Slippery Adam tried his best to get a good pistol shot at it; but those two were rolling around so much, he was afraid of hitting Nik. Meanwhile, I threw a really damn good flamecast and cooked the four eyes on the right side of the thing’s head, but that wasn’t enough to take it down.

Then I heard, “Weber! Get the pitch out of the way!” Mistress Messiér stood down the street a bit. I hadn’t seen her appear, but I really wasn’t paying attention. Both Nikolen and the crasher paused for a second to look over at her, and that gave Slippery Adam a chance to knock it over with a shot in the back. Nik rolled away as the Mistress chanted something under her breath; she had that mana-gem-encrusted rod I’d seen at last month’s party and was waving it at the crasher.

A piercing squeal filled the air, and the crasher’s snake-like form blurred and lost focus. Primary colors bled from its edges, and a cloud of ether static surrounded Mistress Messiér’s device. The next thing we knew, the crasher was gone.

Nikolen picked himself from the ground, and aimed an appreciative eye at the device. A bit breathlessly, he said, “Portable, self-powered, targetable transbeam beacon. I knew they were possible in theory, but I didn’t know anyone had ever tried to make one.”

The Mistress raised an eyebrow. “Your reputation is deserved, Weber. I’ve known high-level cybercasters who weren’t that quick to identify a strange piece of techmagic.”

He wasn’t easily distracted by flattery, though. “So where did you send the creature? I doubt you went to all the trouble of a toy like that just to beam critters randomly into the void.”

She looked calmly at the three of us. “I told you boys that I’m here to learn something from these abominations. I’m not going to learn nearly as much from a dead crasher as I will a living one.” Mistress Messiér favored us with a sardonic smile. “You have no idea what you’re caught up in,” she said, not unkindly. “Still, you’ve helped me quite a bit, and I promised to share. I’ve got some homework to do, but you’ll hear from me soon. Thanks for the assistance.”

She tossed a small bag at Nikolen, then brandished the rod once more, and started her chant again. This time, her own figure blurred and vanished, leaving only spitting ether static behind. The three of us just kinda looked at each other until Slippery Adam said, “So, same time next week, right?”

The bag contained a tidy sum of pitmark coins, more than enough for our lunches and several weeks’ more. And I’ll openly admit to it: the fried tree rabbit was every bit as good as Slippery Adam said it would be.

So that’s our first hunt! We didn’t die, we didn’t get caught by the Ministry, and we didn’t take verbal abuse from anyone in a purple jacket. We also didn’t catch a crasher of our own, but I’ll call it a moral victory. Won’t be our last time, I’ll tell you right now. There’s mystery out there, and we wanna be in the middle of it!

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in the city otherwise. The sprinkles are all gone, no decorative outbuildings have threatened anyone recently, and I think most of us have gotten used to the nightmare moon overhead. A pair of sunglasses I had in my desk drawer are gone, but I think Slippery Adam just swiped them and won’t own up.

On the subject of quiet, remember the strangely-marked stone pyramids that sprang from the ground along the Manapitch River? Well, Frederic Thurms – the guy with the Phimesor Removal Company – has acquired one, and moved it quietly into the City! It seems the Manapitch Aurametric League has been examining it with his permission. We’ve, um, accidentally seen documents suggesting they’re close to some startling answers about the pyramids’ origin. I promise you all, we’re doing our best to accidentally see some more docs: something with the scoop on what those strange constructions are, where they came from, and what a pretty guy like Frederic wants with one! Especially since someone told us they have the cleanest aura anyone’s ever seen: no one’s going to need his services to shine up one of these beauties! Very very curious.

Okay, cohorts. Still haven’t caught up on sleep from our late night crasher chase, and bed is calling me. Not literally, thank goodness: no one needs a glitched bed. But the Underground doesn’t sleep for long: you’ll be hearing from us next open period, broadcasting by net, infotower, and data-scry. This is Glenn SevenFiftyFive for Managlitch City Underground, shutting down zed-frequency twenty-three-oh-eight. Remember, keep your aura clear, and stay grounded.

ANNOUNCER: The voice of Managlitch City Underground today was Michael O’Brien as Glenn SevenFiftyFive. The narrator was Maya Kralovna as Princess Swiftstorm. Episode Eight, “Transaction”, was written by Michael O’Brien. Our theme music is “Crime of the Century” by Consortium 499. All other content is ©2015, Glitch City Media. Visit our website at managlitch.com for more information about the City and links to our podcast archives.

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