(You find a tattered old tourists' brochure, faded and only half legible...)

Welcome to Unity City!

We like to think that this is the one place that can give you everything, from the heights of luxury to the fringes of the arts, but don't forget to visit many of the surrounding jewels of our nation, easily accessible by steam train, electric tram or dirigible, as your budget allows!


This fantastic historical town has withstood two thousand years of warfare from its commanding position atop high ground, and with a far-reaching view of the sea. Even in these more peaceful times, the Imperial Army maintain a strong presence, and visitors from abroad are encouraged to view its towering guns and regimental guard changing ceremonies!


The country's busiest port, and quite possibly the place you first arrived on these shores! Portensea is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place, with much on offer for the curious tourist or serious holiday-maker.


The nation's most recent urban development, this is a towering city of beautiful architecture and businessmen in expensive suits. Don't let that put you off visiting, though, as our tallest 'sky scrapers' will afford the more courageous visitors with breathtaking views!

(name obscured by a rip in the paper)

A masterpiece in functional design, this industrial town is home to some of our most sprawling and fantastic factories. It might not sound that interesting, but most visitors agree that the wrought iron architecture and moving monuments to recent wars make this a more memorable place to visit than you might think!


Named for an era of dirty, coal-burning industrialism, the move to filtered boilers and electrical power has made Smogton one of the most modern and vibrant towns in the country! Visitors from across the world flock to the world-renowned art galleries and museums, including the public faces of the Imperial Society of Science, the Historical Preservation Fund and the Academy for Machine Intelligence. A conversation with a humanoid philosophy engine will certainly be one of the most memorable of your life!


A small town, steeped in history. The quaint cottages and beautiful aristocratic mansion will charm you, while the peaceful countryside will offer a refreshing breath of air. Not far from Oldcastle, this is the perfect place for a quick day trip when you have nothing else on your itinerary!

High End

One of the most northern cities in the world (don't forget to bring a warm coat!) High End has been the base of operations for many of the most daring and heroic trips to the frozen north. Various museums and monuments showcase the sights and relics of this strange and icy world apart from our own - and on a clear day, you may even be able to see the thin white sliver of the ice caps yourself, far across the sea!


A safe port of call for as long as records and myth can recall, this is a little out of the way for most visitors, although the brief journey across the Eastern Sea is an attraction enough for many. Ridgeford is a peaceful, friendly town, with--

(the page has been torn away here, leaving a few broken sentences hinting at something north of Unity City)


Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders: Cast

(The main characters and what we know about them so far. SPOILERS.)

It has been five years since the Sky Spiders descended. The world has been irrevocably changed. Most of the remaining free people are huddled in poverty behind the protecting guns of Fortress City. Many others live strange, transformed lives within the Twisted Forests. And then there are those in Unity City...

In this world, five disparate heroes are seeking the one connection, the one potential source of knowledge on the Sky Spiders and their terrible reign. Five heroes hoping that they have not merely found a route to madness, quick death, or worse...

The Supplicants:

Viscount Cyrus of Circhester
Once the designer of formidable war machines, he now relies entirely upon arcane life support equipment. Cyrus hopes to uncover the information learned by the EON units.

A humanoid philosophy engine sent to investigate the Sky Spider's analytical machines. A telegram from EON-2 claims that all the EON units but EON-4 possess 'vital information' about the Sky Spiders and are still to be found in the vicinity of their old objectives.

The Five:

Dr Peregrine Gleve
A scientist of the Imperial Society, apparently the only surviving member of the mysterious 'Select Committee'. His polite demeanour holds many dark secrets.

Lady Una
Niece of the Viscount of Circhester, she is familiar with the science and history of these times. Mortally wounded after the arrival of the Sky Spiders, her uncle refashioned her into a hybrid of woman and tank.

Major Fabian Thurlow
An officer of the Tropical Expeditionary Force, he has an intimate knowledge of the madness that lies in the Twisted Forests. His good humour hides a bloodthirsty attitude.

The only EON unit to fail to complete its objectives. Polite and good humoured.

Sigrid Phenice
A soldier of the 4th Company Rifles and something of a loner. Straightforward, taciturn and a crack shot.

Supporting Characters:

John Kirkham
Leader of Fortress City, a man who wears a golden mask. He stole Prometheus from the Sky Spiders during the battle for Unity City.

Professor Suzette Layling
The scientist in charge of the thunderous guns of Fortress City. Wife of Dr Frederick Layling, a member of the Select Committee.

EON-5/The Iron Queen
An EON unit dispatched to a Sky Spider structure in the Twisted Forests. She seems to there have lost her mind and refashioned herself as the forest dwellers' 'Iron Queen'. Her severed (but still gibbering) head is now in the possession of the Five.


Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders: Part 15

Previously: “Captured by the raving mad EON unit that was the Iron Queen, a diversion from my friends allowed me to sever her head and attempt an escape. But at the verge of freedom I was confronted by three armed forest dwellers.”

Part 15: A Forked Path

I had one chance as far as I could see: that the forest dwellers would be reluctant to fire at me if it meant possibly hitting the Iron Queen's head as I held it in my hands. But her head was poor cover to shield myself behind. I honestly expected nothing more than the surprising sensation of a bullet passing through my skull.

What happened instead was almost as shocking to me. The three forest dwellers - eyes wide - lowered their rifles. One of them lifted its weapon up by the barrel, raised its elongated head to the sky and let out a triumphant, exuberant warble.

I was unarmed, and they were stronger than me. If I had not been too astounded to even think of resisting, I would still have been unable to prevent them from grabbing me with their hairy, long-fingered hands and pulling me out onto the street, pushing up my arms so I held the Iron Queen's head over me like a sporting trophy.

Cold rain fell on me from above, coalesced into fat droplets as it filtered through broad purple leaves. Around me, forest dwellers taking cover behind the overgrown ruins of an old town threw down their weapons and looked at me with bright, thankful eyes.

It had never occurred to me that the forest dwellers might not be following the Iron Queen willingly. That they might be grateful towards me for having separated her head from her body.

Above me, the Iron Queen remained silent.


I sat on the crumbling stone steps of a wrought iron war monument, its inscription long since eroded away by the harsh elements of the Twisted Forests. A soldier of pitted metal stood on the stone, legs apart to support the weight of his wounded comrade. Unearthly vines entwined themselves around his legs, and bright flowers hung from his chest like medals.

Emerging from white mist beyond a spiked fence, Lady Una and EON-4 approached me.

“I'm not sure what happened,” Lady Una said.

I looked up at her and smiled. “What happened is that things are okay. Relatively speaking, at least. Where are the others?”

She shook her head. “Thurlow won't come near this place. The riflewoman disappeared some time ago.”

“She's around,” I said. “I think she saved my life earlier.”

Lady Una made a point of ignoring EON-5's head sitting by my side. “I still have your shoe,” she said.

I looked down at my new tree bark moccasins. “I've got a new pair, but thanks all the same.”

EON-4 knelt down in front of the Iron Queen single eye and looked up at me. “Still functional?”

I laid my hand on her steel crown. “Yes. As functional as it was before, at any rate.”

The Iron Queen's eye clicked and rotated. “Who are you?” she asked. “That is the question of prime importance. Who are you?”

EON-4 picked her up and examined the ragged tear at the bottom of her neck, then held her eye level with his own. “I am EON-4. We are alike, you and I.”

“No,” the Iron Queen said. “I am solid. I am me. You are a mirage. Who are you really? Not shimmering water. Not for this fish.”

EON-4 affected a sigh. “This is not as I had hoped it would be.”

“So it's as we feared,” Sigrid said, stepping out of the fog, her rifle resting on her shoulder. “They've all gone... bananas.”

EON-4 rotated his cylindrical head in an approximation of a shake. “No. EON-2's telegram was lucid. Not at all like this.”

“I was about to say that myself,” Lady Una said. “We've had bad luck with EON-5, but there are still three more left. If we absolutely must, we can journey all the way north to find EON-2 itself.”

“EON-1 is the next nearest,” I said. “Except for EON-3, of course, in Unity City.”

“We should return to Fortress City,” EON-4 said. “It may still be possible to extract sense from... from the 'Iron Queen'. We should not gamble her knowledge, but instead be sure to provide it with adequate protection.”

Lady Una put her hands on her hips. “I disagree. From here, we can easily reach EON-1 while avoiding Unity City, while we'd have to make a significant detour to get there from the fortress.”

Thurlow skulked up to the monument, his rifle butt pressed tightly to his shoulder. “I'm with her,” he said, crouching down near the relative cover of the spiked fence.

Lady Una produced a crooked smile. “Two votes, then.”

I laughed. “So it's come to democracy has it? A new low.”

“I vote for Fortress City,” EON-4 stated, tucking the Iron Queen's head securely into his pack.

Thurlow looked at Sigrid and tweaked his moustache. “Phenice?”

She shook her head. “Leave me out of it. I'm not here to make decisions.”

“This affects you as much as anyone,” Lady Una pressed.

“Okay,” Sigrid said, smoothing back her dew-dotted hair. “I vote the same way as the doc.”

Everyone looked at me.

“Great,” I said. “Thanks for that Sigrid. So it's up to me then? Fortress City or the Poison Wastes? Both places of such opulent luxury that it's hard to choose.”


Next week: What will Peregrine decide? Back to civilisation? Or further into strange lands? Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!


Friday Mermaid Blogging

A Mermaid, John William Waterhouse (1905)



Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Saturn's night side glows warmly in this Cassini image, bathed in light reflected from the rings.



Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders: Part 14

Previously: “Searching for the secrets of the Sky Spiders in the Twisted Forests, I was snatched away from my companions by the eerie forest dwellers and presented to EON-5: the Iron Queen. But she spoke only in gibberish, and her intentions were less than friendly, arming the forest dwellers for some unknown purpose. Ultimately, I found myself staring down the barrels of two rifles...”

Part 14: Gasping for Air

Two gunshots, close together, and the two forest dwellers collapsed, blood spurting from their shattered skulls. Glass tinkled from one of the factory windows. As stunned as I was, I thought immediately of Sigrid somewhere outside with her telescopic rifle sight. At least she was still alive, if not the others.

 I dropped to my knees, expecting more shots that didn't come. The Iron Queen waved her arms, gesturing to the forest dwellers throughout the factory and emitting harsh, metallic barks. The workers started grabbing brand new guns from the conveyor belts and heading for the exits. I saw my chance and sprung to my feet, kicking the EON unit hard in her metal stomach. She staggered backwards, her rigid skirt scraping the floor.

 I ran, awkwardly, my hands still tied behind my back.

 The Iron Queen called out behind me. “Keep this salmon from the waterfall!”

 A forest dweller appeared before me, welding mask pushed up against its stubby horns. I lashed out in the only way I could, kicking at its stomach as I had with the Iron Queen. Big mistake. The creature caught my foot in its hands and pulled my ankle upwards, throwing me backwards. I slammed into a stack of rifles. Something sharp – a bayonet, I assumed – stabbed up into my jacket, cutting through the fabric.

 The forest dweller studied me warily with its strangely soulful black eyes. I noticed now that it held something in its hands. A squat black gun of some kind, unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

 The Iron Queen strode towards me, her feet clanging against the cracked concrete floor. “You should breathe brine,” she told me, her voice low, almost angry. “It's not safe outside the shoal, though not even there for long. Be happy in the current. It is brief-lived but warm.”

 I looked straight into her single eye. “I am not a fish.”

 She came to a halt close to me. I could feel the coldness of her metal skin. Her face featureless but for that single eye, she still somehow managed to give me a condescending, almost pitying look as she said, “Glub, glub.”

 She lifted her hand and closed her fingers around my throat. I cried out in surprise, the sound cut off as she constricted my windpipe.

 I lifted my arms behind me, painfully, trying to press my bonds against the bayonet.

 Her metal fingers closed still tighter. “I know his face.”

 I felt my vision closing in. My body seemed increasingly distant, its urgent need for air growing easier to ignore, my actions with the bayonet more mechanical, more abstract. And then the ropes slipped from my wrists and I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline.

 I brought my fists flying forward, knocking the Iron Queen backwards, into the forest dweller with the strange weapon. I spun round and grabbed at the rifle behind me. Looking back, I know that it would not have been loaded. But the thought never occurred to me at the time. I acted purely as a cornered animal. I gripped the thing by the stock and swung it like a club. My first blow merely dented the Iron Queen's head as she grabbed at the factory machinery to steady herself. With my second, I sliced right through her neck with the bayonet. Her head hit the floor and bounced.

 The forest dweller let out a guttural bleat of terror and dropped its gun with a heavy clatter. It backed away from me - the whites of its eyes showing - feeling its way through the machinery, afraid to take its eyes from me to look where it was going.

 I drew deep nourishing breaths. I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. I set the rifle down carefully and stepped towards the Iron Queen's head, grasping it firmly. It was lighter than I might have expected. I lifted it with ease.

 “Foolish shark,” it said. “Slippery eel.”

 The forest dweller stopped dead in its tracks, staring at the talking head. I looked around. We were alone in the factory. I suddenly noticed the staccato hammering of machinegun fire from outside.

 I looked at the forest dweller and patted the Iron Queen's head. “I'll be taking this, if you don't mind.”

 The creature said nothing.

 Now it was my turn to back away, moving much more slowly than I would have liked, bumping into factory machinery and kicking discarded tools. At the final stretch, beneath the faded green letters labelling the exit, I turned to dash away to freedom and danger in the Twisted Forests.

 Standing in the doorway, between me and the cool wooded air, were three forest dwellers, their rifles raised and hairy fingers on the triggers. I tightened my grip on the Iron Queen's head.


Next week: Will Peregrine escape the factory and reunite with his companions? Or will he pay the terrible price for dismembering the forest dwellers' revered leader? Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!


Well, my policy of always leaving my writing for Sky Spiders until the absolute last moment has finally backfired.  Check back... tomorrow for the next instalment.  :-P

This is as good a time as any to mention this: if you're interested in hopping onto the Sky Spiders train, but you're not keen on reading through all the previous episodes, I'm planning on posting a recap of the story so far after Part 15, complete with a list of the important characters and possibly a map.


Friday Gyrocopter Blogging

Credit: NASA

One day we will all use one of these to commute to our jobs in the mega-cities.


Wonder Moon

We approve heartily of moons of all shapes and sizes on this blog, so it's great to hear that Daniel Benmergui of Ludomancy has been selected as one of the ten finalists for the Tokyo Game Show's Sense of Wonder Night with his unique game of photo-manipulation, I Wish I Were the Moon.

For this event, the TGS set up an extremely scary set of selection criteria intended to provoke innovation, and although I think that Moon provides the best sense of emotional closure and quirky characterisation, there's arguably even more potential in Daniel's further development of this concept in The Trials and Storyteller. Check them all out, I would suggest.


Moon Shadow Cap

Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The first thing I thought on seeing this Cassini image was, "Wow!"

The next thing I thought was, "Wait... what am I looking at?"

You've probably noticed from other Cassini images that Saturn's rings, like any object with a suitable source of light, cast their own shadows. Gargantuan shadows, capable of swallowing up whole worlds if they're cast at the right angle. In this image we're looking down on the northern reaches of Mimas, which are cut across by the shadow of the rings bending around the moon's curved surface.

If you were standing on Mimas in one of the dark grey/very dark grey, but not quite pitch black areas to the left of this view, you'd see the sun shining through Saturn's rings. For us, however, the result is merely this eye-catching inverted-comma of a moon phase.


Cloud Swirls on Saturn

Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Cassini apparently only captured this gorgeous image of Saturn's northern cloud-tops by accident. Not nearly as intricate as those of Jupiter, but far more elegant, I feel.


Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders: Part 13

Previously: “Searching for the secrets of the Sky Spiders in the Twisted Forests, I was snatched away from my companions by the eerie forest dwellers. Could their Iron Queen actually be EON-5? I was about to find out.”

Part 13: The Iron Queen

Everything in the factory seemed yellowed and faded, from the aged propaganda posters on the walls to the air itself, hovering dust motes lit by grubby light slanting in through the broken windows. The clatter of the paint-flecked machinery hurt my ears. All around me, forest dwellers lurched and loped among the steam-machinery, fashioning remarkably fine-looking rifles from wood and steel.

My wrists were bound tightly behind me, my shoulder holster empty. Either side of me, forest dwellers in brightly-coloured headdresses guided my path, guns resting on their shoulders. They moved with heavy grace, their knees backwards, their large wet eyes looking to either side. I was led along the factory floor, between huge swooping wheels and massive presses, until I stood before what must once have been space for the foreman's desk. Now it was home to an intricate wrought iron throne and its occupant.

I attempted as much deference as I dared. “The Iron Queen, I presume.”

She was an EON unit, beyond a doubt. The same cylindrical head as EON-4, the same single, circular eye, clicking and clacking as it focused and refocused on me, as if unable to believe what it saw. She was clothed in strips of wrought iron, billowing out into a structure that I might have expected to find beneath Lady Una's hoop skirt (if such inappropriate musings could be said to have ever crossed my mind).

“A special one,” she said, in a clipped voice, completely unlike EON-4's gentle tones.

Uncertain, I said nothing.

“A special one,” she repeated, more firmly. “Upstream swimming, infra-red this fish among silver.”

My heart fell. This wasn't good. “Excuse me?”

She raised an arm, clutching - I noticed - a rifle by the barrel. “The few chatterers, you visited the visitors and returned with lies.”

I stammered a little. “I'm quite prepared to be truthful with you. I'm sure we have much to learn from one another.”

She jabbed the rifle at me. “Infra-red fish, too hot to touch. The water doesn't boil here. My iron hands can grip you without melting.”

I looked into her glass eye. “I really hope you can understand what I'm saying better than I understand you. Because I think there's a bit of a gulf here.”

She lowered her arm, touching the butt of the rifle to the cracked, weed-sprouting floor.

I looked at the forest dwellers either side of me. “You're arming these creatures. Mass production weaponry, your own private army. Why? A million soldiers with the best war machines couldn't take back Unity City, back when the Sky Spiders had a fraction of the power on Earth that they do now. Who are you fighting? Whose side are you on?”

No answer. The poster peeling from the wall behind her informed me, in silent, stained writing, that Hard Work Will Defeat the Star Creatures.

“You've touched the Sky Spider's calculation engines,” I pressed further, “you must know something, must have some insight - but what?”

She gestured to my two guards. “Kneel.”

Before I had a chance to think, rifle butts hit the backs of my legs, knocking me to my knees. With my hands bound behind my back, I had to squirm to avoid falling flat on my face. “Good grief,” I shouted, “do you even know anything that I don't know myself?”

“I have looked into the brightness of distant stars,” the Iron Queen said slowly, “and seen humanity burned to dust. I will break the castle past the spider-child. It is the softest way.”

The hard floor was hurting my knees. I glanced up fearfully at my two escorts. They both stared straight ahead. At least, as much as they could with their eyes so far apart.

“Don't be frightened,” my captor said, almost soothingly, “this is what you wanted anyway.”

She waved a metal hand and the two guards brandished their rifles, aiming them down at me.

I suddenly thought of something. “Wait, but the telegram from EON-2... EON-2 was capable of forming a coherent sentence, so why not you?”

“Unruly siblings,” the Iron Queen answered.

“Did you each learn something different?” I asked. “Or each react differently to the same knowledge? How much similarity is there between each EON unit?”

“Enough,” the Iron Queen snapped. “Bliss is ignorance. I give you bliss.”

She waved her hand sharply at each of my guards in turn. They squeezed the triggers of their rifles, staring down at me with dark, inhuman eyes. I heard the sharp cracks of two rifle shots.


Next week: This is surely the end for Peregrine Gleve! Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!


Friday Fool with an Owl Blogging

A Fool with an Owl, by Bartolomaeus Maton (1675).



Well, I finally figured that it was time to stop staring longingly at all the games for the Nintendo DS that place an emphasis on character, storyline and art design and just buy one of the things.

Cue predictable image of my cat playing The World Ends with You.

Rings, Moons and the Grey Area Between

Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Cassini scientists have unravelled a few more of the intricacies behind the Saturnian 'ecosystem' of rings and moons, as described in this recent news item:

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a faint, partial ring orbiting with one small moon of Saturn, and has confirmed the presence of another partial ring orbiting with a second moon. This is further evidence that most of the planet's small, inner moons orbit within partial or complete rings.


Both Anthe and Methone orbit Saturn in locations, called resonances, where the gravity of the nearby larger moon Mimas disturbs their orbits. Gravitational resonances are also responsible for many of the structures in Saturn's magnificent rings. Mimas provides a regular gravitational tug on each moon, which causes the moons to skip forward and backward within an arc-shaped region along their orbital paths, according to Nick Cooper, a Cassini imaging team associate from Queen Mary, University of London. "When we realized that the Anthe and Methone ring arcs were very similar in appearance to the region in which the moons swing back and forth in their orbits due to their resonance with Mimas, we knew we had a possible cause-and-effect relationship," Cooper said.

Scientists believe the faint ring arcs from Anthe and Methone likely consist of material knocked off these small moons by micrometeoroid impacts. This material does not spread all the way around Saturn to form a complete ring, because of the gravitational resonance with Mimas. That interaction confines the material to a narrow region along the orbits of the moons.

Meanwhile, Pallene, Janus and Epimetheus, three small moons free from the meddling effect of Mimas or any other moon, have created their own complete rings, stretching right around Saturn.



Free advice: you should run and play Iji at the earliest opportunity.

A role-playing shoot-em-up in the vein of Deus Ex and System Shock 2, it has a nicely melancholy ambience, some interesting characters and a lot of choices to explore.

Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders: Part 12

Previously: “We were in the heart of the Twisted Forests searching for EON-5. After a brief stop in a ruined family home - where I had discovered that Lady Una was half-human, half-war machine - it was time to press on and find our goal. We had heard reference to an 'Iron Queen' in the area. Could this be who - or what - we were looking for?”

Part 12: Kidnapped

“It's a shame,” Major Thurlow was saying as Lady Una and I stepped outside. “We know the old bastard left this place to go hunting. There must be a way to get past these turrets without disabling them completely.”

“I'm afraid I can't see how,” EON-4 said. “The Academy modified me to allow interfaces with advanced information processors, and these turrets are rather... simple.”

“Perhaps he just turned them off,” Lady Una said. “The forest dwellers may have learned to fear the turrets, with no understanding of when they might not be a danger. Or perhaps the old man did his hunting when the rest of the family was around to turn the turrets on and off when needed. But honestly, it doesn't matter. We're not planning on moving in to this place. We have to find EON-5.”

As she spoke, the others gave Lady Una and me some strange looks, taking in her change of clothes. If Una noticed, she just ignored them.

“All the same,” Thurlow said, “when we deactivate these things we should at least consider taking a machinegun or two with us.”

Lady Una studied the nearest turret as it swivelled its reflector at the surrounding foliage. “As a military man, can you tell me Major, would you prefer to move quickly, or be bogged down with heavy weapons?”

He grimaced. “In this situation, milady, I can't say that either course of action grabs me. But you're right. I'd sooner be able to get out of a bad situation than try and follow it through to its conclusion.”

Sigrid stood up straight and unslung her rifle. “But those things know just where we are. We're not going to get far before we have to fight.”

EON-4 placed a steel hand on the breast of his suit. “I strongly feel that our best chance for success is to reach EON-5 as soon as possible and attempt to exchange information. If, as EON-2 claimed, EON-5 is still operational, than it must have found some way of surviving in this environment.”

I sighed. “The old man mentioned that the forest dwellers had an 'Iron Queen'. I'm not sure I like the implications of that. We may find that EON-5 isn't actually on our side.”

We all looked at Sigrid as she sparked up a match and lit a cigarette. “Or maybe,” she said, “the Major here just precipitated a small misunderstanding when he plugged the first freak he saw. We haven't exactly given these forest creatures much of a chance to engage with us in a peaceful fashion.”

Thurlow spoke through clenched teeth. “The riflewoman may have a point. But I'm not about to lay down arms any time soon. Maybe we didn't have to be in conflict with a bunch of sub-human degenerates, but the simple fact of the matter is that we are. If EON-5 is really in charge of them, then we can take it up with 'her'. If we can't even convince the thing not to kill us, then we'll have a tough time getting it to divulge the secrets of the Sky Spiders.”

“Let's just get moving,” Lady Una interrupted. “All of this talk is meaningless if we don't at least try and reach EON-5.”

“We need to head roughly south-southwest,” I said, “unless I've completely lost my bearings.”

“That seems about right, doctor,” EON-4 concurred.

“If it was up to me,” Thurlow chipped in, “I'd like to check out the source of that factory siren.”

“Well, Major,” Lady Una said, “we only know that the factory is related to the forest dwellers, who may or may not be related to EON-5. On the other hand, we have a definite link between EON-5 and the Sky Spider installation. We know, in fact, that EON-5 was present at this installation five years ago.”

Thurlow bowed slightly. “Certainly, milady.”

She drew her automatic pistol and turned to me. “Stay close, doctor. As Miss Phenice said, I don't imagine we'll get far before we run into trouble.”

Thurlow met my eye and winked, tweaking one end of his moustache.

I checked my revolver in its holster. “Yes,” I answered gruffly, “milady.”

Sigrid nodded at EON-4. “Do it.”

The android looked around briefly with its single circular eye, then yanked something on the bottom of the tall, slender turret. The reflector at the top folded up gracefully and the barrel of its machinegun sagged in its cradle.

We stepped forward, across the band of black, ruined earth surrounding the house, and into the strange, intertwined foliage of the Twisted Forests - the long, afternoon shadows of alien trees plunging us into darkness.

No sooner had strangely-coloured, asymmetrical leaves come between us and the sun, then slender, long-limbed forms dropped down on us from above. The others crouched to their knees, aiming down the barrels of their weapons. I tried to follow suit, but strangely, gravity didn't seem to want to co-operate, and I remained standing.

I only just noticed the long, hairy arms wrapped around me from behind, when I was hoisted rapidly into the forest canopy. Lady Una flung out a gloved hand to grab at me. She succeeded only in depriving me of my right shoe.

Leaves and branches whipped into me at speed as I was rushed through the forest by abductors who showed unbelievable agility. Their tight grip kept me from drawing my revolver, while behind me I heard the gunshots of my companions fighting for their lives.


Next week: In the heart of the forest dweller's meagre civilisation, Peregrine meets the Iron Queen. Who is she? And what does she know? Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!


Freefall Brass Demo

So tired...

Managed to complete a one mission demo of my demake:

Freefall Brass Demo (~1Mb)

Now going to crawl into bed and die.

I expect to spend all day today working on my Demake Competition entry, so don't expect the next Sky Spiders until Tuesday. Sorry. :-P

Until then, satisfy your desire for anachronism with this 1901 print by Charles Dana Gibson.


Three Days...

Three days to go, and I have all the main objects and code that I need for my game. It's just a case of generating content and stitching it all together. I think the end result is going to be... flawed but interesting. I already have ideas of what I want to change for the inevitable post-competition version.

Latest screenshots:


Moon Chasm

Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Ithaca Chasma cuts across the face of Tethys in this Cassini image, the second largest known canyon in the Solar System, after Valles Marineris on Mars.


Through Rings and Clouds

Image source with more information
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This infra-red image from Cassini provides a rare view of both Titan's cloud-enshrouded surface and Saturn's rings.