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Amoeba Man
Level 6: 1335 points
Alltime Score: 2059 points
Last Logged In: May 14th, 2015
TEAM: SF0 Skypeness! TEAM: HFXZero TEAM: team cøøking! TEAM: Bike TEAM: SFØ Academy BART Psychogeographical Association Rank 5: Transit Authority EquivalenZ Rank 3: Protocologist The University of Aesthematics Rank 7: Professor Humanitarian Crisis Rank 3: The Honorable Biome Rank 2: Ecologist Chrononautic Exxon Rank 3: Historiographer Society For Nihilistic Intent And Disruptive Efforts Rank 2: Trickster

25 + 15 points


August 30th, 2012 8:20 AM / Location: 44.664227,-63.58438


There are two versions of this Praxis.
The first is a fantastical account involving nightmare beasts, tiger jets, and Big Trouble in Little China references.

The second is a straight-story version that's just the facts.

Both are presented. Readers are invited to choose which they want to believe.

"Hello city
You've found an enemy in me.
- Barenaked Ladies, Hello City

Some of you may have noticed that I make frequent reference to the Steed.

"The Steed" is just shorthand for its real name, Lord Gallant von Tanncaurt III. It, or rather, he is one of the Jagd-Warriors of the 7th Groza Wing. The Jagd-Warriors are a caste of warrior princes/princesses from the city of Yot-K'Thalg, and there has been a long standing agreement between Earth and Yot-K'Thalg that every year, humans will be selected from our ranks to ride into battle atop them, to act as gunners, navigators, guitar players and all around best bros forever. This is all a matter of public record, of course, you can check the books yourself.

Lord Gallant looks rather like a giant tiger with the back end of an F-18 grafted seamlessly into his back. He mounted two forward-facing M230 chain guns, and we typically carry a small load of ASRAAM missiles as well. It's a good loadout for fighting the Nightmare Serpents of Skye-Taran-Zyl, but Gallant is built for speed, and anything much bigger we usually leave for our heavier compatriots to cover.

Gallant and I were paired off long before I joined SF0. Several interested parties had heard about my exploits during certain incidents surrounding the Dragon's Sea off Japan (still being declassified) and sponsored my entry into the academy. I wasn't top of my class or anything, but I did solid (10th percentile in Short-Range Engagement, a couple of trophies for exceptional formation flying. Graduation with honours). Gallant and I met up in my second year of the Academy. First year is all the theoretical stuff- tactics, math, making sure you know how to keep your kit and whatnot clean- second year is when you actually get to meet the K'Thalg who've been doing the same thing on the other side of the Academy. Gallant is the second son of minor nobility, he scored high points for solid maneuvers in and out of formation, and a keen eye for tactics. We singled each other out and the selection committee didn't see anything wrong with the pairing, so we got our uniforms and joined up with the 7th Groza.

We'd go on to earn medals of distinction in the Battle of Fengdu Gate (2003, Sky Marshal's Medal of Valour) and the Moscow Breakthrough Incident, during which we were Second Feather on the final run through the Kremlin Convergence (2011, Silver Peal plus a promotion to Riders-At-Arms). If you're interested in further information, there's an excellent book titled Rebel Yell: Air Tactics at Fengdu by R.S Sevain that covers most of the major points of the battle surrounding the Gate. His assessment of our victory over Fengdu Bridge doesn't give nearly enough credit to the last-minute arrival of the Artillerex division, but other than that, it's quite a good read. He's also done a series on the history of the 7th Groza, titled Bad Thunder, and last I checked, HBO was looking to option the book he's working on now (an analysis of the 11th Caribbean Skyshatter Event, in which I wasn't involved).

One of the infuriating features of Earth-centric reality, however, is that anytime Lord Gallant- or indeed, any of his kind- are seen by someone not trained to look beyond the veil (this includes cameras), they appear to be in all aspects identical to a modestly sized mountain bike.


This is deuced inconvenient, as you can imagine. For one, we are forbidden from flying where we need to go within the city. Not due to any kind of inter-reality regulation, you understand, but simply because you have to file nightmarish amounts of paperwork to be allowed to even think about doing that. That leaves us hoofing it most everywhere. Necessarily, we can't ride on the street- Lord Gallant doesn't move very fast on the ground, and the cars would, in any case, hit him around the legs and cause him great discomfort. Thus, we spend most of the time riding on the sidewalk. People are usually smart enough to get out of the way, and in the case that they're not, Lord Gallant usually passes right over them fairly harmlessly.

However, it occurs to me that, in light of his appearance, we may not be properly upholding our standards as upright members of a noble cadre of protectors. After all, if we can't set an example for proper behaviour, who can? The mayor? The same mayor who went swimming in the harbour? The same harbour where we dump our sewage? Of course not. Thus, it falls to Lord Gallant and I to show people what's right. To make them see the correct way to conduct oneself in this hateful and hard-bitten world. To prove to them that there's a better way, a way that leads us all into a brighter world where none need fear.

We were going to have to start following local bike laws.

Fortunately, the local police have made such information widely available. According to the Halifax PD website on safe biking, the following laws apply.

According to the Motor Vehicle Act, you must:

Ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic.

This was going to hurt, I could tell. Halifax has bike lanes in the same way that Michael Bay has flashes of genuine inspiration- rarely, and with invariably disappointing results. This meant I was going to be riding on the street, barely inches from passing traffic. Lord Gallant would be upset.

When riding out of a driveway, stop before crossing the sidewalk.

No issue here, my driveway doesn't have a sidewalk.

Wear a helmet. The fine for not wearing a helmet is a minimum of $141.16.

Luckily, I have one. When a human rider and a K'Thalg Jagd-Warrior are paired off- a decision made by a joint team of K'Thalg nobility and U.N delegates- the human receives a set of protective Holai Carapace armour, carved by master artisans from the shells of great crustaceans from the beaches of Sauwten. And, because we're living in the 21st century, the armour is CSA approved, meaning it's safe to ride an ordinary bicycle on it.


It is also, incidentally, bulletproof, weatherproof, fire-retardant, guaranteed to stand up against the bite of a Nightmare Serpent, watertight to several hundred meters, safe to use when re-entering planetary atmosphere, and it contains an internal air supply good for two hours.

Ride in single file if you are with other cyclists.

I wasn't anticipating trouble here. Cyclists aren't exactly everywhere in Halifax, and I can usually make my route without having to encounter another. Additionally, K'Thalg riders tend to go it alone when not running formations, so the other riders in the city were unlikely to give me trouble.

Obey all road signs and traffic signals.

We always do! They're there to keep you safe.

... Okay, we occasionally scoot a red light if we think we can get away with it. I guess that buck stops here, though.

Signal your intentions clearly before you turn or stop.

In spite of the vast array of intricate and difficult hand signage at play in the process of riding K'Thalg in formation, I have not been able to manage the use of the simple three-symbol bike signage. Not that anyone ever seemed to care. I guess now I'd have to master it.

You must not

Drive on sidewalks or other pedestrian areas.


Carry another person on your bike.

This would, in any case, be a colossal affront to Lord Gallant. Riders and K'Thalg are bound in a sacred ceremony involving dance, music, an entire festival, and big bags of weed. It happens once yearly, and is considered one of the most sacrosanct traditions of the entire Earth-K'Thalg alliance. The only ones with multiple riders are the heavy artillery crews, and the twinsing. To invite another person aboard Lord Gallant would end badly.

Coast on the highway with your feet off the pedals or hands off the handlebars.

No problem, we tend to stay away from the highway. Last time, the comparative isolation provided the perfect opportunity for an entire squadron of Wyrms to get the drop on us. We mostly stay in the city.

Install a whistle or siren on the bike.

Why would I do that when Lord Gallant's roar can shatter the souls of the unjust and split the air around them?

Cling to another moving vehicle upon the highway.

See above.

Alter, replace or remove a bicycle’s serial number.

He's a living thing, you clod, he doesn't have a serial number!

So it was that on a bright, August morning, I made my way to Gallant's out-building (we can't keep him in the house, he sheds awfully and my dad's allergic). He was curled up on the roof, taking in the morning sun, snoring softly and absently flicking his tail back and forth.

"Hoy, Gallant", I cried from below. His ears perked up and, with an almighty yawn, he stretched to his full length. The jets on his rear idly spurted, and gouts of fire shot from each before they cooled and Gallant nimbly hopped off the roof.

"Time for work?" He tried to disguise the excitement in his eyes, but Gallant loves his job at the university (he patrols the lower levels and helps plug any reality breaches).
"Yup", I said as I strapped on my armour. I also slid my ceremonial spadroon into place and made sure my hand-flamer was secure in its holster.
"Good", Gallant replied. "I need to double check the wet labs. Did you know I caught an entire Wyrmguard trying to come through there? Madness!"
"Speaking of", I said, slowly. "We're going to need to ride on the road today".
Gallant made a noise not unlike a cat choking on a hairball, and the machine guns on his shoulders spun up furiously.
"What?! Have you lost your mind, Bruce? There are cars on the road", he turned to face me, his eyes full of fear and anger. "We could die!"
I buried my arms in the thick fur around his neck and scratched until he calmed down. "It's the law, Gallant", I said, doing him the courtesy of not sugarcoating it. "If we're going to be the authority in this city, we're going to need to prove ourselves capable. Besides, we've been through harder runs than this!"
"Aye, but we could fly through those". Suddenly, his eyes narrowed and he fixed me with an icy gaze. "Is this an SF0 thing?"
I winced- I'd explained the game to Gallant while working on my Mihi task. He'd been terribly interested, but I rather sadly had to explain to him that an account with a bicycle as its picture- my well-recognized bicycle, no less- would look an awful lot like a sockpuppet account, and that no one would give him credit for it. He'd been a little bitter ever since.
"It may be". He didn't break his gaze. "It's for the Humanitarian Crisis", I finally blurted.
"Oh, for- that batch of whiners?" Gallant was a Biome sympathiser through and through. "Gimme a break".
I admit, I had no response to this. Instead, I patted him on the snout, then hoisted myself onto his back.
"Don't worry, I'll keep a weather eye. Anyone gets too close..." I punctuated the sentence by giving a twirl of my hand-flamer and shooting a bolt of fire into the air. I think this calmed him down, but it was with no small measure of trepidation that he stepped out into the road and began lumbering down the street.

The first little while was easy; the roads near where I live are generally quiet and free of much traffic. I used the opportunity to practice my hand signals- right angle up means right turn, straight out means left turn, right angle down means stopping. Fist pumped twice in the air means incoming bogeys, nine-o-clock, and a raised middle finger means "I think you just turned without signalling".


It wasn't until we reached the approach to the bridge that things started getting iffy. The route from my house to the bridge runs down a large hill, and traffic is fairly heavy there since it's right near a bus terminal. Luckily, this early on a Thursday morning, there wasn't much to speak of. Gallant picked up the pace a little, the proximity to traffic making him nervous, but he held his cool admirably.


It wasn't until a pickup truck tore past us that he began running full-tilt down the hill, his jets heating up and spurting.
"Gallant!", I cried "Calm down!"
"Easy for you to say", he called back.
I needed a way to get his nerves back to normal, or he was going to tear ass into the sky, and then we'd have problems. Then I remembered the stripmall nearby. "Gallant, do you suppose a parking lot counts as a pedestrian area?"
He grinned as he caught my meaning and cut off into the stripmall's lot.


It was quieter in here, and there were no cars in motion. We took a while to simply ride around, let Gallant calm himself down. In truth, I was scared myself, but to let that show would have been disaster. Gallant is no coward, but I needed to be resolute- to give in to fear would be to confirm his suspicions. Were I to give in, we'd never manage it.


Once we were both a little more collected, we exited onto the street and made our approach to the bridge through another parking lot. This was more or less identical to how we usually do it, so neither of us had a problem with it.


By the time we were actually approaching the bridge, we felt emboldened. Strengthened. Like we were actually ready for this. We got across the bridge easily, thanks to the bike lane, and took in the morning sights.


We made our usual loop down the bike lane (bike lanes are silly on the bridge; rather than exiting onto the same street the bridge does, it doubles back under the bridge and exits onto the one perpendicular to it). Then we realized we were, as the saying goes, gonna have a bad time.


Barrington Street. Together with Robie and Spring Garden, it forms the jugular vein of Halifax. Buses, trucks, cars, and traffic of all nature frequented this street, regardless of time, regardless of day. And we were about to try riding through that.

"You know", Gallant said, his voice wavering, "If you want to think twice about this, I won't think any less of you".
"Never think twice about the law, Gallant". I motioned for him to continue, and braced myself for entry.


Cars roared around us as we bolted down the street. Gallant had gone from fear to outright rage at every car that came closer than a foot, roaring at every passing vehicle and even firing a few passing shots at their tires. Fortunately for us, his aim was off, and I managed to calm him down before he tried again. The road snaked off to the left before doubling back to the right when Lord Gallant gleefully cried "Look! Parking lot!"


"Aye", I said "But we'd have to go along a sidewalk to get there". We usually did this, but not today. The traffic didn't let up for an instant, and we were again sucked into the dread river of screaming metal and tires.


We blasted through a crosswalk with nary a second thought (though you'll note the light is green, so we have the right of way), when we came across a terrifying sight.


This is where Barrington forks- the left is Hollis Street, the right is Barrington. We'd need to keep going up Barrington if we had any hope of getting to work on time. Note, however, how the road narrows towards the end, bracketed on either side by high, concrete walls. Note also, the buses- on the other side of that overpass is Scotia Square, which is where every single bus going into or out of downtown Halifax must stop. That meant if we didn't hurry up, we'd find ourselves with buses breathing down our necks.

Picture how ambivalent your average Halifax driver is to the safety of a biker. Now, imagine they're driving a car three times the length and twice the height that doesn't handle so well.

You can see the cause of my consternation.

I checked over my shoulder- the light we'd just come through had turned back to red. We had a few seconds to get up that hill and into the comparative safety of the wider roads. I looked down at Gallant- he was scared just as shitless as I was.
"Gallant", I finally said, when I realized our time was running out. "Little hand says it's time to rock and roll!"

He looked at the light and realized we had a shot, and without further hesitation, took off at a loping run up the hill. I counted the seconds in my head and realized the light would have just turned green. I whispered silently to myself, praying to all the gods of men and K'Thalg alike and everything in between that we'd make it up that hill. I could hear the dull blast of the bus' engine coming up behind me...

Then a leveling off, a kick to the right, and we were free. The buses blew past us, but we were long gone. I sighed heavily and leaned back, letting Gallant carry me up the hill to one of the few bike lanes in town, which would take us closer to school.

Something was off, though. I opened my eyes and looked around. Traffic was going past me, in the opposite direction... on my right side?


"Gallant!" I shouted. "Get off the sidewalk!"

Obviously, when he noticed I wasn't watching, he slipped into our usual route, which takes us up the sidewalk on a one-way street and deposits us in the bike lane. He turned left onto a street which we followed, but I don't think he knew I saw his self-satisfied smile when I noticed what he was doing.


A short jaunt brought us up to the one major bike lane in the city, and for a while, we were safe. No cars could touch us here. It wasn't until we took the usual right turn up onto Summer Street that I realized we were going to have more of a problem than I'd expected, getting over.


"Oh look", Gallant said, dryly. "Con-fuck-tion".


Getting down a regular street on a bike is bad enough, getting down one artificially narrowed by the ever-present roadwork is even more of a nightmare. I set my foot in the stirrup and Gallant grumbled nervously as we watched the light, waiting for it to turn.

I looked at the car nearest me, looking to see if they were the kind of person who'd run me down. They were driving a modestly sized car, nothing nasty like a pickup truck. I looked in at the driver (I can't recall his face) and nodded, a simple greeting. He nodded back, and I confess I'm not sure if it was simply a matter of returning the gesture or if he was acknowledging what was to come next.

The light flipped and Gallant immediately dropped the hammer, charging forward into the street. I looked over my shoulder and saw a magnificent sight- the driver at the front of the line was making a left turn onto Spring Garden- thereby holding up the entire lane behind him! We were free and clear for a moment- all we had to do was make it to the end of the street and turn, and we'd be damn near home free.

Two things happened, then. The first was that the man finally made his left turn, freeing the accumulated traffic to continue its progress ahead. The second was that I realized we were heading straight for a large heap of gravel on the side of the road.


The knowledge that there is a car rapidly bearing down on you is not an easy thing to hold onto. The brain compulsively reels at the thought. Cars are typically thought of as safe, and utilitarian. But when one is approaching your tail pipe at high speed, you learn their true nature- horrible beasts of steel and fire, bred for death-bringing and waiting for their chance to rebel against those who have enslaved them.

We twisted out into the road with plenty of distance left between us and the approaching car, hoping that the driver would be able to coax their mount into slowing down (but not expecting it). We could feel the hot breath of the creature on our backs as we rode towards the mound, its approach impossibly slow. The sharp clatter of its teeth as it snapped at Gallant's tail rang in my ears. I could feel every irregular thud of its feet, sending a terrible staccato all through my bones. Finally, Gallant snapped- with a roar, his engines blasted to life as he screamed into the air. We could hear the shrieks of the beast below as the engine fire scored its metal flesh, though it faded quickly as we pierced cloud and sky, racing breathlessly into the air.

"Gallant, stop", I yelled over the thunder of the engines. "Down!"


Once we came down (barely a block away), I leapt from Gallant's back and turned to face him.
"Why is this so difficult for you?" I said, trying to keep my voice stern. I couldn't keep cracks of compassion from appearing in every syllable, even as I exercised my best officer's demeanour. "I've watched you laugh in the face of Kerten six times your size. We've played chicken with Taran-Zyl Fetrains from dawn 'till dusk, and you didn't once flinch. For crying out loud, we were on-site when the Kremlin collapsed into a portal to Hell, and you got a commendation for quick response under pressure! So why is everyday traffic such an insurmountable obstacle for you?" By the last sentence, all the harshness was gone from me. I could see it in his eyes, he was ashamed. Whatever I said now, he knew he'd failed me.

"There's nowhere to run", he said after a long silence. "When we're in the air, I can go anywhere- three dimensions, all open to me". He started drawing simplistic scenes of battle in the dust with a single claw. "The first thing we learn in first year is where to run to. When everything goes wrong, we're taught how to assess escape routes in midair. Before we ever go into an engagement, I've already worked out at least four ways to get us out twice as fast as we got in". I felt like a heel when he looked up at me. "It's not because we're cowards, it's because we need to look after two people- ourselves, and our riders. Lose either, and it's someone out of commission until they can find a replacement- lose both, and it's a catastrophe. That's on us".

"On the ground, there's nowhere to go. Go left, you run into traffic. Go right, you run into the curb. If you try to go backwards, you'll end up a hood ornament. We get into a dangerous situation, and I've got nowhere to go. It's against everything I know". He scuffed out whatever he was drawing and flicked idly at the dirt. "I wasn't made for the ground", he finally muttered.

I'd fucked up. I hadn't been thinking, now I'd made him feel like a screwup and myself like an asshole. For one of the few time I've experienced in my career as a writer, words failed me. Words of apology, of encouragement, of friendship and camaraderie all went to ashes as years of officer training finally slipped and I couldn't help but wrap my arms around his neck and bury my head in the soft white fur underneath.

We stayed there, everything left unsaid, until I realized we would soon be late for work.

"We better go", I finally muttered. We rode on wordlessly, both needing a measure of reflection. I motioned for Gallant to hop up on the sidewalk, figuring on these side streets it hardly mattered, but he refused to go, marching quietly along the side of the curb. I stopped trying after a moment, and held my tongue- he knew the way well enough from here.


I was snapped from my reflection when I felt Gallant stop.
"Look", he finally said.


Four lanes of traffic. Four lanes, to get to where we needed to go, and not a crosswalk in sight.

I decided this was probably the end of the task. Risking my life like this wasn't worth the trouble, and I was already stressed all to hell from the close calls already. I prepared to throw in the towel and admit to Gallant that we weren't up to the task, when something unexpected happened.

I don't believe in fate. I don't believe in luck, or karma, or some kind of magic governing force. The K'Thalg have a word for it- Szae: it translates roughly to "happy coincidence", but there's layers of subtlety attached to it, implying deistic influence and cosmic balance. I don't believe in that either. But for a split second, the planets aligned, the stars were right, the lucky horseshoes were all pointing in my direction, and the traffic lights at the ends of either blocks leading into this patch of street were both red. We had a clear shot.

I didn't even have to tell Gallant to take the shot, he leapt into the road, bounded around the corner, and brought us safe and sound into Dalhousie property, where cars understand instinctively that cyclists and pedestrians very much have the right of way.

We pulled up outside of the LSC and I hopped off Gallant's back, patting him on the nose as I walked up to the door.
"Well, I'll see you at the end of the day, I guess", I said as I headed off to the door.
"Yeah, I'm going to wait here a bit", he said, as he sat down and curled up. "I need a sit-down after all that".
"You're already late", I said, but I couldn't muster any degree of force or sternness.
"Yeah, I'll be down in a sec. They don't mind if I'm a little tardy".
"Ah, fine. And hey-" I flashed a thumbs-up and a weak grin. "Good job out there".
He returned the grin with one of equal weakness, and laid down to rest.


The day then proceeded mostly as normal. Basement level patrols went smoothly, and I gave a presentation that didn't go so well. At the end, I reconvened with Gallant, and we headed out off the property.


"Alright", I said as we neared the intersection with Robie. "Cut up here, we'll hop up onto the curb". I figured there was no point in pushing him further. I'd done the task as written, and I had a story to tell. That was enough.

"Nothing doing", Gallant said flatly, as we stopped at the edge of the lights.
I took a deep, hissing breath. "You sure? If we turn back now, I won't think any less of you".
He set his jaw, and poised himself to pounce.
"Never turn your back on the law", he said.

The light turned, and he tore into the street like a demon.


The charge didn't last long, though.


Gallant slowed as he took the corner, then doubled back and trotted around onto the curb.

"What's the matter?"
"I'm hungry".
It was then I'd noticed we'd stopped in front of a small cafe.
"Geez, all the fire you just had in your belly, I'm surprised you've got room for anything else!" I punctuated this with a chuckle, before thinking about it and admitting "I'm hungry too".

I went and bought a chickpea roll, and we split it. I felt bad about chastising him this morning, so I gave him the half with more chickpeas. Once we'd eaten and brushed the crumbs from our respective beards, I hopped back on, and we kept on the path.


Now, the next bit has a dearth of pictures, and I have to explain why, because about then I realized what Gallant was playing at. He must have taken his panic attack this morning harder than I'd realized, because he was now about to overcompensate in a big way. He was making a beeline straight for the main drag of Spring Garden Road.

Spring Garden Road is, in many ways, the jugular vein of Halifax. It has an abundance of shops, services, and tourist traps, it leads off to many other important streets (Barrington and Robie, mostly), and every bus in the city goes down it at some point. That's the bit I want to get at, here. It is impossible to go down Spring Garden Road and not deal with a bus at some point.

I don't know how many of you have ever been approached by a bus while on a bike. It's not a pleasant experience.

First, you hear a roar. It builds faster than you'd expect, until it's right on top of you. It's not a nice roar. It's not an inspiring, gusto-filled roar that you might hear from a lion or, well, a Jagd-Warrior. It's a mechanical roar, a roar backed by roiling fire and blackened machine blood. It's unnatural, it's frightening, and it's right next to your ear by the time you even register it's there.

Next, you look over (for the eye is drawn to motion) and suddenly see this gigantic beast towering over you. And it is, of course, filled with faces, horrible, pasty faces discolored by filthy glass, staring out at you with pale, pleading eyes. Eyes that beg for release, for freedom from the metal prison in which they've been shut away. And the very size of this thing is really quite astounding, you don't quite grasp the full scale of a bus until it looks as if it's about to tip over and crush you.

Finally, once you survive all of that, there's the smell. It's an acrid, choking smell, the smell of diesel and impure air. If you can bear the smell, you're safe, and it's by far not the hardest part.

Long story short, buses are horrible things to encounter on a bike- or a Jagd-Warrior. And Gallant was taking us right to their home.

There's a reason I don't have any photos. It's because if I stopped to take them, I'd be destroyed. It was all I could do to hang on, shut my eyes, and let the roaring tiger-jet carry me safely. Now I knew it was okay to admit fear. Now I knew that I could let the pent-up terror from the morning all out. I dropped my visor, closed my eyes, and held on as Gallant tore down Spring Garden, laughing in the face of certain death.


It was with shaking hands and wobbling knees that I hopped off Gallant after pulling onto the side street that would take us through to the bike lane and onto the bridge. I tried to stand as I landed, failed, and went sprawling on the ground like a neophyte after his first trench run.

"That was a big step from 'No Way Out'", I finally wheezed.
He puffed out his chest and grinned- proud of himself, and rightly so in my estimation.
"Sometimes, the only way out is through".
"Yeah, good, great. I'm gonna go look at comics until I can feel my fingers again".

It was with a degree of pride that I wandered down the hill. Gallant caught a few winks up at the top while I headed to the small comic shop below. He'd gone above and beyond the call of duty, redeemed himself in both our eyes, and proved he could handle road-driving in Halifax- no small feat.

Then I realized, as I stepped out of the shop, that we were going to have problems. Surrounding Gallant, still snoozing, was a team of Groatian Padfoots- servants of the Taran-Zyl, our sworn enemies. Formerly creatures of science, brilliant philosophers and artists, the Groatians had been attacked by the Taran-Zyl twelve thousand years ago. The Taran-Zyl fell upon the Groatians, and with the power of nightmares and fear, hollowed them out and made them warriors of murk and shadow. Thirty thousand years of peace, and for it, they were doomed to a lifetime of war.

I knew they would not miss an opportunity to slay a K'Thalg- or its rider- so I hastily snuck up behind them (they have notoriously bad hearing), and shoved the barrel of my hand flamer into the small of their leader's back.
"See something you like", I growled, "Or are you just window shopping?"
The flame tore through the black burlap clothes their leader wore and his piercing shriek woke Gallant immediately. When he realized what was happening, he bellowed with fury and hate, and took the heads off the nearest two with well-placed blasts from the chaingun. The last attempted to run, but I drew my sword and sliced a leg clean off, blasting what remained with fire.

"Time to go", I said curtly, lifting myself back aboard Gallant.
"How did they find us? Halifax is supposed to be a safe zone!"
"Yeah, well, with Peter Kelly in office, you can't count on anything".

We tore down the bike lane, with nothing to impede our progress, but it wasn't long before we realized the jig was quite thoroughly up.


At first, this looked like simple Haligonian driving insensitivity. But I saw a head, and a long neck draped in black burlap peek out from the window, and a smile with too many teeth. I heard Gallant spin up his guns, I set my jaw, and I growled "Son of a bitch must pay".

The flamer tore the creature apart and sent the car blasting into the sky as the gas line ignited. We didn't even stop to admire our handiwork- this wasn't going to be as simple as a chance encounter, they were here for a reason. Probably, to kill us.

We came rocketing down the street and watched as at the end of the bike lane, a Groatian dropship bore down out of the blue afternoon sky and dropped an entire kill squad right in our path (to those untrained to look beyond the veil, this would have appeared rather like a flock of seagulls crapping all over the street). They were carrying flamethrowers, the barrels carved into the shape of snarling wolves, and Sincasters, which needed no embellishment to strike terror into the hearts of their targets.

I signaled right as Gallant tore into the beasts with his chain guns, blasting one apart with his furious roar. They returned fire with twin Sincasters, their black ooze ripping holes in the air itself, and we only barely avoided being hit. We banked, and came to a fork, where we'd been this morning.


To the right, a loop back onto Barrington.

To the left...


It looked like a goddamn roller coaster from where we were. But we didn't have much of a choice.

We came out going what felt like a thousand kph down the opposite direction down Barrington street, towards the bridge. Gallant had long ago hit full stride, and car horns blared as we merged with traffic and forced ourselves over to the right. It wasn't until we were almost at the bridge anyway that we realized the Groatians were no longer following us. Not only that, but there was a perfectly serviceable bike route just over the divider. We slowed, exchanged sheepish glances, and hopped onto the safer path.


Finally, we reached the bridge, and it was looking like we'd lost the Groatians. Certainly no more drop ships came. It was odd for them to abandon the chase so easily- but we had been going awfully fast.


"Mental note, Gallant", I muttered. "Make sure we report this to the K'Thalg Embassy when we get home. We need officials who are going to keep this space clear for us. This is supposed to be our home, we can't have our enemies on our doorstep like this".
"And how", Gallant said, nodding vigorously. "We can't let this place turn into another Albany".

The ride became pretty leisurely from there. The bike lane on the bridge is always fun, it gives you a good view of the harbour and on a nice day, you can really see some of the beauty of Halifax.

"Oh, hey, a tanker!", Gallant cheered as we came onto the bridge. "Let's go, I want to get a look at it". Gallant was fascinated by sea travel, always had been. He was a little envious of the marines, and although neither of us would trade in our Groza lightning for Vodovorot fins, I often saw him look with wonder and awe at the sunsails of the Lineships that came into port every so often.

We approached and stopped just overhead, in time to catch the ship as it passed under the bridge. It was surprisingly serene, all things told- you expect big things to make a ton of noise, but from here, all you heard was the quiet slosh as the water around the hull broke and rolled back. We sat in silence, and Gallant looked on with rapt fascination as the behemoth glided effortlessly through the clear, blue water.

Then there was a squeal, a horrible peal of protesting metal, and we saw one of the tanker's crates tear open. With mounting horror, we watched as a beast, in appearance somewhere between a tarsier and a harvestman spider, crawled out. A Carnick- an animal harvested from the nightmares of mankind. It sheared away the metal like rice paper and turned its fourteen milky eyes on us, stalks and all.

By the time I turned back to yell "Run", Gallant was already on his way across the bridge, charging down the bike lane so fast it made heads spin. The Carnick shrieked as it cleared the partition in a single bound and skittered after us. Gouts of flame seared the pavement as I turned and blasted away with my flamer, but I knew it would have no effect- nightmares shy from flame and light, but it cannot hurt them. Still, it bought us a few extra meters of breathing room.


We pulled up to the crosswalk just as the light turned green, breathing hard as we tore into the street. The green arrow flashed left, meaning we had a small window in which to execute what we both knew we'd have to. The single most dangerous maneuver you can make in the city.


When the light turns green, you can safely make a left turn up onto the hill. However, you then only have until the light changes to safely move up the hill- there's no bike lane. What's more, this is right next to the bus depot, meaning more goddamn buses. What's more, this was another street artificially narrowed by construction. This run was the culmination of everything bad that had happened to us in the course of the trip.

After you turn, if you're not on the sidewalk, you ride as fast as you possibly can up the hill and try to get to the spot where you can roll into the woods, out of harm's way (the woods mark the spot where we've placed wards to keep nightmares out).

Buses, cars, bikers, and a raging Carnick coming down the pipe behind us. And there we were, running our asses off up the hill, waiting for the light to change.

The Carnick didn't care about the light. It ran out into the street and tore ass up through the street after us (in flagrant contravention of basic traffic safety rules).

It was closing fast, faster than we could run. I could see its jaws from here, its nine fangs extending and spraying the thick, black venom that ate away at hope and joy. I watched the gremlin-like hands on the end of its legs clench tighter with each step. I saw its eyes narrow in a twisted, animal glee, waiting for its prey to fall.

Then it heard a roar, and the faces within paid it no mind as the light changed and a bus came up through the lane, crushing the Carnick under its front grill.

We were too tired to cheer, or even just cry out with joy. Too tired to utter the words of the Groza motto in mockery of our defeated enemy. We just pulled ourselves up to the forest, and collapsed in a heap of fur, armour, and exasperated sighs.

"Gallant", I wheezed, as I gently rubbed his snout. "Don't let's ever do that again".
"Aye", was all he could muster before he passed out. I wasn't far behind.

Of course, about an hour later, we woke up and walked the rest of the way home. Appropriate complaints were filed with the embassy about the level of security provided to K'Thalg and riders within the city limits. We've made the trip since then- back on the sidewalk, the way we always have- and it looks like the breach has been patched.

But that doesn't change the fact that an entire Groatian kill-squad and a Carnick both attacked us in broad daylight, in the middle of the city. Something's up, and I don't like it. We may have won the day, but whatever sent those after us is still out there- waiting.

To the army, the navy, the battles they've won;
To the Groza colours, that never run.
May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.


The laws I sought out were the local regulations on bike riding in Halifax- I usually bend them for convenience and my own safety and peace of mind. Following all of them was an intensely unpleasant experience which I do not intend to repeat. Haligonian drivers share the road in the same way I share my popcorn at a movie- i.e, not at all if I can manage it, grudgingly if forced. It's dangerous, it's difficult, and it's pretty pointless when you get right down to it. The old saying about people having a duty to disobey unjust laws tangentially applies.

Basically, everything that happened in that last story happened in the real version- just trim out any of the fantasy stuff and the dialogue, and you have pretty much the story. The route, and all descriptions thereof, is the same. I actually did accidentally lapse and ride on the sidewalk a while. That thunder run at the end can actually be done. I did go down that crazy-ass twist off Barrington, and I did realize that I was riding on a terribly dangerous road right next to a real bike lane. Sometimes I'd luck out and get spaces with no traffic, sometimes I'd almost get hit by cars.

Rest assured, I did actually make the trip on the road, and it was every bit as harrowing as being assaulted on all sides by horrible nightmare beasts. I did the task first and wrote the story second when I realized the straight tale wasn't fun to read. It was more or less just an account of how I almost got hit by a car, repeated ad nauseam. Also, I maaaaaaay be trying to Level 0 this one. Just sayin'.

And yes, the Groza motto is a Big Trouble in Little China reference. So you know it's a good one.

So, yes, I did craft an elaborate fantasy mythos for the express purpose of completing this task. What else was I gonna do on my lunch break?

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3 vote(s)


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4 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by relet 裁判長 on August 30th, 2012 9:28 AM

Traffic laws for, or just applied to bicycles are an excellent subject for this task.
I am conflicted about depicting this act elaborately scary, as it is by asserting your role, place and numbers in traffic that cyclists gain in safety.

(no subject)
posted by Amoeba Man on August 30th, 2012 9:44 AM

I can see the case for that argument. For my part, I agree that by becoming more visible as a street presence, we'll push back against callous drivers, but that doesn't change the fact that the initial push can still be kind of harrowing.

(no subject)
posted by Libris Craft on August 30th, 2012 4:01 PM

I've biked in small towns without bike lanes, and I was nearly hit more times than I care to count, even with riding on the sidewalk (the darn thing always ends!). My friend was hit, riding in a bike lane, and broke a bone. A classmate was killed while riding his bike on a road under construction.

Roads often aren't made for bikes, and even those with bike lanes are far more dangerous than being on the sidewalk, especially where there are not many bikers. I've supported awareness raising for bikes (like Critical Mass), but it is too darn dangerous most of the time.

(no subject)
posted by Amoeba Man on August 30th, 2012 6:30 PM

We have a small monument in Halifax to a biker who was struck and killed coming off North street. It's kind of a sobering reminder to everyone to share the road.

I've only ever been dinged on my bike once- I was stopped and a car that was starting turned at too tight an angle and bent my front wheel a bit. He didn't even notice. Nothing serious, fortunately, and I just swapped out the wheel without any sweat. Hope the bastard scratched his car on me :P Conversely, I've only ever been told to get off the sidewalk once- by anyone with authority, that is.