Comic 1170 - Get Pierce

Posted on 27th Jan 2019, 11:00 PM in Like a Bullet from Behind
Get Pierce

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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 27th Jan 2019, 11:00 PM edit delete
You take a second to assess yourself.

You do feel more relaxed and focused, maybe even a bit better rested, after listening to the weird... space trip CD. So, that's a thing.

You think it may be best to get Pierce's opinion on COMBAT #11.

"I think we gave him a key, right?," Michelle asks. "There's a card reader in Ilworth, too."

You mentally message Pierce, and tell him the situation. You ask if, it's not too inconvenient, if he could come listen to this ritual.

It doesn't take long for him to arrive. He makes his way to the office, and you play the audio track again.

"...Hmm," he begins, as the voice starts to read off the instructions. "That is very redundant. I'm not sure why you would need so many--"

As the voice on the recording continues explaining the ritual process, Piece lifts his gaze toward the ceiling. He squints slightly, as if he's trying to picture the scrawling used--and then his eyes light up, ever so slightly.


He's quiet as more of the ritual is elaborated on. His expression gradually, subtly shifts--it's the closest you've seen him to genuinely excited.

"...Oh. Oh, that is clever." He pauses. "That is... very clever."

"What is it?," Michelle asks. "We got no idea about this magic stuff."

"Well..." Pierce stops, trying to process the best way to explain it. "Three dimensional sigils. In theory, they allow for more powerful, flexible magic--the problem is implementing them. You can draw an arcane circle on any flat surface. Where do you draw an arcane sphere? The... order I was a part of, we experimented in a few ways with using the human body as a canvas--magic symbols both inside and out."

"Yeah," Michelle says with a smile, "we met Swordhands."

Pierce nods. "That was... roughly the height of our accomplishments. The ritual outlined on that disc... it's a surface level, two dimensional collection of symbols that ostensibly summon the rest of it."

Michelle arcs an eyebrow. "The rest of it?"

Pierce gives a short but slow nod. "Pain is deadened... and then, as per the instructions of the initial markings, the inside of the host reconfigures to form further sigils--three dimensional iconography. Once those are in place, the spell proper activates."

But what's the final spell? What's it all build to?

Pierce... hesitates, looking for the words.

"Super Swordhands?," Michelle asks.

"...Essentially," answers Pierce. "The principle is there--weaponization of the body. With our human weapon, we'd sought only to enhance and add to what was already present to the best of our abilities. This ritual..." He pauses, and looks at the screen for a moment. "...This ritual is transformative. The subject becomes something else, their body more a starting line than a foundation."

"That sounds scary as hell," Michelle remarks.

Pierce shakes his head slightly. "No pain, a fixed time limit, and the body returns to normal afterward. Numerous protective measures and checks to ensure that nothing can go wrong. ...I only see two issues."

Which are...?

"Size, first of all. Her preface was correct--these three dimensional symbols would require a great deal of space. I imagine an increase to size to accommodate them is part of the first sigils summoned by the outside ritual. Whoever calls on this spell would become... large."


"The terminology used is very specific--and understandably so. With something this... bold, you wouldn't want to be vague, too much could go wrong. However, I'm... not confident about how particular it is about a human caster. I have no doubt that the ritual is completely safe..."

Pierce trails off somewhat, and Michelle picks up where he left off. "...If you ain't a mutant, right?"

"Or engineered, potentially," Pierce adds. "They use very old terms for this ritual. Safe, tested, proven... but possibly outdated, given modern diversity. I'm not sure how this spell would affect those that aren't explicitly, specifically, exactly human."

You're not even sure you count, when he puts it that way. You're human, but that's not all.

Pierce nods. "Given the other redundancies in the spell, the worst that could happen is still not likely all that bad. I just don't believe the ritual will work as intended."

"One last question," Michelle begins. "...Is this ritual callin' on Blondie?"

It takes Pierce what looks like actual effort, but he smiles a little. "I believe it is, yes. The symbolism used is similar to the ones my group used, but... more elaborate. More accurate. Whoever designed this ritual, they seem to know more about who she is than we did."


Mochi 28th Jan 2019, 12:00 AM edit delete reply
Maybe we should go ask the Tradesmen if they can tell us who designed this ritual.
Baron11704 28th Jan 2019, 12:43 AM edit delete reply
And if its safe to use on not-quite-humans
Limrix 28th Jan 2019, 12:51 AM edit delete reply
I would vote for Caius to ask, as he has the brain phone. Each question takes a fairly decent amount of energy to ask as well as a cost, so we might be able to find out if it's safe testing with a series of Lumpys for less.
Golnor 28th Jan 2019, 1:53 AM edit delete reply
Huh. Can Caius call the tradesmen? I can't remember if that was a thing his phone could do.
Deminia 28th Jan 2019, 2:06 AM edit delete reply
Could just be an alternate timeline version of our group. But I guess there’s no harm in asking.
Twyll 28th Jan 2019, 2:36 AM edit delete reply
Even if he does end up needing to do the full ritual (which I suspect he will), Caius having the brain phone will mean he can call us from within the ritual to discuss prices and things.

Also, while we're asking the Tradesmen things, we should probably ask about the repercussions of our ideas for establishing a specific day when we're gonna go deal with Carpenter and letting him know so he doesn't get impatient-- specifically, if that's likely to backfire, or if it will actually help us be a little bit firmer with how much time we've got until he starts getting antsy. Heck, if they can tell us how long we *do* have until he starts getting antsy, that'd be even better!
Kumondo 28th Jan 2019, 4:12 AM edit delete reply
I'll just interject that the reason the amount of time until Carpenter loses patience is up in the air is specifically because the Tradesmen can't answer that, due to Carpenter's reaction to our actions being generally unpredictable, coupled with Nil's interference.

On the topic of communication with the Tradesmen, I put it at a 50/50 that Caius' brain phone can contact the Tradesmen directly, a guarantee that he can contact us from within the ritual, and also a 95% that our usual telepathy/speech observation communication method should work when somebody is in the ritual, we just haven't tried it yet. I checked.

Other than that, a +1 to sending Caius, if he's willing, to petition the Tradesmen for a couple more answers, as our questions list is getting rather large.
Limrix 29th Jan 2019, 8:59 AM edit delete reply
If the brain phone can't contact the Tradesmen, we can "ask" for it. Something like, "We would like your phone number, if you would be so kind."
Matanui3 28th Jan 2019, 12:01 AM edit delete reply
So now Mine explicitly knows a ritual that summons her own power. That's gotta feel odd.
undeadDreamer 28th Jan 2019, 12:09 AM edit delete reply
The bone armour one might also do that?
Twyll 28th Jan 2019, 2:39 AM edit delete reply
Yeah, both bone armor rituals (the clean one and the messy prototype) also summon material from her red. The notes with the bone armor ritual specifically mentioned that she's not a devouring god, but a creative, protective one.
Taenidia 28th Jan 2019, 4:50 PM edit delete reply
I wonder if the anti-Fascist ritual-makers were friendly with her mom.
PurpleKetchup 29th Jan 2019, 12:07 AM edit delete reply
Magicians will use whatever energy source they're able to - they've been tapping in the red for a long while probably, no need to know the First Womb fragment personally.
Mine's (relatively) recent awakening and decisions have altered how they can use that energy, hence the warnings in the modern spellcrafts we found.
TGWMoC 28th Jan 2019, 12:03 AM edit delete reply
Yay! We're famous (and feared) as a 'nice' god! What a great way to start the morning :)
Crestlinger 28th Jan 2019, 12:06 AM edit delete reply
Expressly Only human so...Grizwald. Everyone else has been blooded, etc. I think.
undeadDreamer 28th Jan 2019, 12:10 AM edit delete reply
Being blooded doesn't make someone not human. It'd almost definitely work on Finch.
Taenidia 28th Jan 2019, 4:36 PM edit delete reply
And Lydia, presumably. But yeah, we don't know a lot of fully unmodified humans.
undeadDreamer 28th Jan 2019, 12:16 AM edit delete reply
Let's test this ritual on Mine, and pay attention to see if we can detect our power being pulled.
Limrix 28th Jan 2019, 12:50 AM edit delete reply
There are lots of interesting things, but we are still preparing for a fight.

There will likely be some form of electronic warfare in the upcoming battle, so we should have Fuse and Dr. Finch begin work on devices for that. Raw power may be better than finesse in this case.

We should try to will blood into one of our allies bodies, as being able to do so would greatly improve their durability. If the reason we can't will blood into our allies is because it's not our body, there may be a solution. We've touched on the idea that we're a spirit piloting a body, but what makes that body different from the other bodies we have blood inside?
Taenidia 28th Jan 2019, 4:42 PM edit delete reply
+1. And if we can make or buy like... 5 decent electronics-overloading devices, we might be able to Tradesman for an upgrade.

We may be able to test out blood infusions if we can manage to convince ourselves that our allies are "in-aura." (This might be easier with those who can "suck in their gut", aura-wise?)
Limrix 28th Jan 2019, 10:24 PM edit delete reply
We can take it one step further: what says we can't will blood into any object we've blooded? Our blood was inside a vial in Grizwald's pocket, and we made a bug from that which we then willed blood into. If we can do that, why not just cut out the middleman and will blood into the vial?
Lunar Waffles 28th Jan 2019, 10:57 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles
also do you mean using the blood to make more blood within inanimate objects? if so +1 to that as well x:
I'de also like to see if Mine can use her aura to blood inanimate objects.
on the whole In aura thing, i am sure that if Mine can convince herself of it it will work x: but that will be the hard part.
Kumondo 28th Jan 2019, 11:48 PM edit delete reply
+1 one to preparing some EMP type armaments; It'll be a good use of their time, and yes, we really do have to actively prepare for the upcoming battle.

Also +1 to a quick test adding Blood directly to a teammate. At this point there really should be nothing stopping us from doing so. We've pulled blood out of the red several times, controlled tiny amounts of material, altered our friends directly for the bone armor ritual pigment tattoos, and are just generally so much stronger that before when we were warned against it.

Edit, as I posted before done: Finally, willing blood into an inanimate object that already HAS our blood in it is totally fine; the logic checks out, and works with the rule presented so far. Willing our blood into an inanimate object that HAD and no longer has our blood in it, say, a used syringe, now that's a little trickier. It'll take a bit more pondering before that'll be viable. Might work on something that Mine strongly believes is hers, such as the plush collection.
Myya 29th Jan 2019, 11:47 PM edit delete reply
+1 to emp weapons, and +1 to adding blood directly to one of our friends with their permission. While Mine's friends are not her, the blood is even if it's in them.

Somewhat related to the emp weapons, I'd also like to see if we can take those sparks we accidentally made with our aura manipulation earlier and see if we can turn that into a serious electrical attack. The testing would need to be done in a safe location of course...
Verde 28th Jan 2019, 12:54 AM edit delete reply
The voice on the CD already warned about the size thing.
"Don't try it in tight spaces" Anyway, if anyone is gonna test this, maybe bring a change of clothes for after it wears off or just strip beforehand. There's a distinct possibility that anything you're wearing will be ripped to shreds.
zophah 28th Jan 2019, 12:05 PM edit delete reply
A good point, but also may be that transforming clothes are also part of the ritual.
HoSt. 28th Jan 2019, 2:26 AM edit delete reply
The only to use the Hulk-Ritual is Finch it seems, at least in the maingroup.
Griz and Lydia should be able to use it too.
As for the Martians-now-Ilworth-residents I'm not sure if they are mutants or not.

We need purple pants for Finch and he should begin using the phrase "don't make me angry, you don't like it when I'm angry" (or was it "I don't like me when I'm angry"? not sure here)
Taenidia 28th Jan 2019, 4:46 PM edit delete reply
Illsworthians are mutants entirely, I think. Lower socioeconomic status plus unnatural hair colors makes it nearly guaranteed.
Leafia_Barrett 29th Jan 2019, 5:28 PM edit delete reply
"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
Twyll 28th Jan 2019, 2:35 AM edit delete reply
Oh, that's a thought-- we can ask Pierce how the hell Swordhands was tracking us. I remember not being able to figure that out in the moment.

We should also ask Pierce about the Trippy Golden CD and what that might be doing, or any suggestions for like, defending against its weird cognitive effects while experiencing it.

Also also, does *he* have any ideas on the "protecting our squishy meat friends" front? Since we've been doing pretty well at keeping ourself safe, we really just need to work on making sure our allies aren't going to die horribly if they choose to come along with us. We could also ask if he knows of any ways of keeping track of time in a dimension where time don't real-- basically just ask him if he knows any magical ways of dealing with issues we've been considering that we might not have thought of.
Limrix 28th Jan 2019, 6:41 PM edit delete reply
+1 to all of this. Also, I'd like to include Pierce as a member of the group in the main bunker if he is interested. It's got to be lonely on Mars.
Lunar Waffles 28th Jan 2019, 10:59 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles
+1, also all the mars refuges have been moved to <the town we own that i always forget the name of>
Kumondo 29th Jan 2019, 1:16 AM edit delete reply
Fourthing the whole set of questions in the chain here. I'll also add that we should give Pierce a quick hug as thanks for all his insight and general helpfulness. And the Mars refugees have become the Illworth homesteaders.
Myya 29th Jan 2019, 11:20 PM edit delete reply
Beyond just asking about methods of protecting our "squishy meat friends", it would be interesting to see if he has ideas on how to strengthen our (and our friends') spiritual fighting ability. I could see Dr. Finch potentially having interesting input on this topic as well.
Ablaze 28th Jan 2019, 6:56 AM edit delete reply
What about crafting another empty body from the red and testing the ritual on it? We know it won't work the same, but it would be interesting to see the results.
Guost 28th Jan 2019, 11:29 AM edit delete reply
I would suggest trying it on Lumpy but, no, definitely not human.
zophah 28th Jan 2019, 12:08 PM edit delete reply
Then now's our chance to start building a body properly. If we can make a real human from nothing but the Red, I'd say we've made a ton of progress becoming a god of life.
Mayteyalan 28th Jan 2019, 3:05 PM edit delete reply
Surely you're not suggesting we create actual life? That isn't something to do frivolously.
Taenidia 28th Jan 2019, 4:52 PM edit delete reply
Making *us* seemed to be a heck of a challenge for our mom, so I suspect making a full human would be dangerously draining. Talking with mom's Red might tell us more.

I'm going to note a slight concern that we might end up making Lumpy into a "real boy" anyway (or a soul-free mini-Mine?), depending on the mechanics for the "revert back to human" part of the spell. I say lets try it anyway. Even if that doesn't work, maybe if we synced with Pierce we might be able to fix symbols on the fly and *make* it work.
Archon 28th Jan 2019, 4:58 PM edit delete reply
This feels...
A bit like tampering with a loop we didn't know existed?
That is, learning a ritual from someone who presumably learned it from Blondie.
Though maybe not, depending on what the Tradesmen did to get it.
Perhaps they interacted with another, temporally unrelated Blondie? Hmm.
Limrix 28th Jan 2019, 8:20 PM edit delete reply
Library certainly seemed to know of alternate realities. He sent Mine to borrow a book from her alternate self. If the Tradesmen are dealing in trans-reality items, the boundaries may be less firm than we thought.
wierdweblurker 28th Jan 2019, 10:05 PM edit delete reply
No engineered beings or mutants... Well, I suddenly feel a lot less nervous about leaving Finch alone. I doubt he'll ever be a combat powerhouse, but with that ritual he'll at least have a contingency in case the base is invaded.
Kumondo 29th Jan 2019, 1:38 AM edit delete reply
So I have here this nice, new wall-o-thoughts (patent pending) with a proper list of directions at the end.

Firstly: kudos to Morgenstern for continually churning out interesting character interaction and internally consistent lore on demand for the ever hungry readership. I'm impressed by the unique idea of 3D magic spheres tied to the call back of sword hands. Just everything about this comic pleases my nerd side. :-)

I think we still have to trade up the foil hats and watches, as we haven't seen the result from those trades yet. Actually, hopefully our crew has taken care of that while we were, ah, away.

Of our main crew, Finch is the only one who the Combat #11 will Most Definitely work on, and thus be a good control, scientifically. Plus, he'll have (likely) an awesome power in his back pocket if things get out of hand for him at any point. Conversely though, he (and we) would likely object to being on the front line for our operations. Also, putting the symbols for this ritual on anyone sounds like and ORDEAL. Making a complicated image, from audio, translated and clarified through Pierce, is gonna tie up Mine, Pierce and whoever is to be prepared for at least an hour, probably several. This really emphasizes asking the Tradesmen about what this ritual would do to mutants and tube born individuals, as well as working further on time manipulation powers.

I'm kind starting to wonder if, just maybe, some of our team could use Blood powers directly, without rituals. They have the Blood, and it works on will and belief, and the rules seem to be somewhat... flexible, to say the least. I'm still percolating on the chain of logic, but it seems rather plausible for say, Finch with 10 of Blood to give a command to Willard or a bandage with 1 of Blood as long a he believes he can do it and Mine with 100 of Blood doesn't object.

When we meet up with the Tradesmen, we want to ask them about:
What are the side effects of Combat #11 on not-quite very-exactly humans?
Can we get into contact with the designers of Combat #11
Will trying to establish a date with Carpenter on when we fight assist in reducing civilian casualties or backfire?
Are our current or planned time experiments stepping on the metaphorical toes of any time beings or like entities, and should we be worried about them?
How can we convert some of our abilities into rituals, and how do we set the parameters for rituals that draw on our power?
Just what is up with the Blue Cactus? (Page 885, if Dr. Finch hasn't had time to poke at it yet.)

So, specific order of operations, drawn from the comments, aligned to our goals, and appended with my comments. Finish our conversation with Pierce, asking about Sword hand's tracking, his insight into The Music To Beyond The Stars, his thoughts on protecting our teammates from supernatural attacks, and if he want in as a full member of the team or to remain a consultant. End the conversation with hug for Pierce; he's earned one. Then return to Bunker A, relay our findings on the disks to the team in exchange for the traded hats and watches. Ask Fuse and Dr. Finch to work on Electrical Warfare Devices, Caius to enter the Tradesman petitioning ritual, while Mine runs a quick couple of experiments on pulling blood inside objects, keeping an eye/ear on Caius. I think that covers everything we want to do succinctly. We'll want to get back into working on time powers again pretty quick, as we're approaching a breakthrough there, we just keep getting side tracked by breakthroughs and revelations from all other directions. :-p
Limrix 29th Jan 2019, 11:37 AM edit delete reply
Kumondo has summarized everything I wanted to to nicely, I give my full support to his plan. Maybe not asking about the cactus. Hopefully Finch already checked it out along with the green slime at some point.
Taenidia 29th Jan 2019, 9:04 PM edit delete reply
I'm going to second the kudos to Morgenstern's worldbuilding. Also, amazing job dealing with power-scaling! He handed the powers of a God to a bunch of kindhearted munchkins, said "Yes" to most of their proposed hacks, and still concocts well-scaled enemies and hazards that present a legitimate and interesting challenge. It says something that God is still scared to walk into her hometown, and still jumps at noises in the walls.
37212513 31st Jan 2019, 1:41 PM edit delete reply
It is many times in a story that a character goes forgotten or overlooked for even the simplest reason, even when they can be the most helpful. Those EMP's you guys have been talking about? Have Red (Mines Mental Friend), start showing she can help too. She's far from powerless and she's show this before, repeatedly. Experimenting with ghost has boosted Mines, (and thus Reds) Bio electric generation skill. There are a number of chemicals in the human body designed to hold amazing amounts of that, but I'm not going to pretend I know which one's best. Mitochondria can suck oxygen out of a room to boost the affect post launch if you make a bio grenade, EMP or Flame. Either way, it doesn't take much to learn just a little and make some REALLY GOOD BIO BOMBS in the red here.

Energy is, after all, energy.
If all else fails, they'll still make damn good batteries for improvised EMPs.

//I suppose I should make the side note that as of them becoming two separate characters (not just a figment of the mind), Red can act without draining Mines fatigue.
pkrankow 31st Jan 2019, 8:25 PM edit delete reply
We never had someone try on a foil hat while looking at auras. We need to do this.

What does Pierce's aura look like?