As often as I can. No other promises.
Meet Thunderous' kids.
Neal and Donnie are by a previous relationship with the dark-haired woman, Rhonda is his child by his wife, Teresa Rowan-Donner (DNAvatar). The dark-haired woman is NOT part of the Next Level. They're all very adult and civilized about it. However, you can see why if Teresa was going to do anything with Lafferty, it would have been before the kids returned. (Evidently, despite being only half-siblings, all three are a package deal....whoever keeps them gets all three.)
Of course, she may have just tried to sneak into Lafferty's bedroom to get him to act as babysitter. He's good with kids...
No wonder Chronos ate his own young in Greek Mythology.
From Flicker's mention of the Smiling Man, his host knows he knows about alternate realities. And I rather like this little bit...looking down at his alternate self he murdered...to emphasize how little mercy he'd show Flicker's family.
Flickerflame has no choice but to betray the most powerful member of the Next Level...
So far Gerard hasn't done THAT much...
That's about to change.
Yeah. Thunderous has actually been wise to SOME aspects about Gerard--that he's a threat to the Next Level. That's why he's been serving as his bouncer---to find out all he can--for Lore, and for the Next Level.
Sorry it's been so long. I'll try not to go this long without an update again.
Thunderous knows he's walking into a trap, but he's confident he can elude it, even without his traditional weaponry. However, he hasn't experienced what Flickerflame experienced, so the idea that Mr. Gerard is being directed by the other-reality Smiling Man ---or that he can bridge realities---is absurd. Besides, Thunderous is not too big in the imagination department.
Flickerflame, though not wanting to believe---knows the truth. He may have to protect Thunderous against his wrong assumptions.
Thunderous was a young man in 1908 (like many of the Next Level, Ageless keeps him young) so his grandmother would have been in her prime in the nineteenth century...and in Russia, tales of Baba Yaga or Koschei would have been used as scary fairy tales.
Experimenting on the backgrounds. Humor me for now.
The lady with the light blue hair was seen with Mr. Gerard earlier in the story. She's one of three.
We'll see the other two pretty soon.---Al
Still experimenting with backgrounds. Sorry about the delay.
Sometimes win-wins feel like a lose-lose.
You may think Thunderous is a good guy, even among the Next Level.
Up to now, Thunderous has been the most benign Next Leveller we've met so far. Married, kids, roughhewn but okay.
But if you thought he was a good guy...
Not that she wasn't trying to kill him. Still...
I know, I know. Between CROSSOVERLORD and MINDMISTRESS, this took a back seat for a while. So sorry.
Soul/Sage/Lore is going to be really worried at this point. He should be able to sense the nanites in any Next Worlders' body. For them to suddenly drop off the radar is...disturbing. He didn't really credit Lafferty's story...the Next Level's origins are odd enough, but alternate realities? Still, he's concerned, and is checking with Vigilant, his super-sensed son, with Thunderous' wife, DNAvatar, and Lafferty's lover, Attractive.
So who's the glowing person Soul is talking to in the last panel in what looks like a religious setting?
Well...let's just say...you haven't met ALL the Next Level yet. This guy will be very important to Lafferty...someday.
I wanted to emphasize this...Thunderous is NOT a good guy. He's an amiable guy in many ways, a good guy to party with--and he's also totally merciless. He's like a hit man on the SOPRANOES, interesting in many ways but totally amoral and sociopathic at heart.
Yes, he slaughtered the remaining villagers. No excuse. He did it purely to hide the Next Level's secrets. That way Stalin's police would find some eradicated villages, but no real clue to what did it.
It's true that Stalin or Hitler, his then-ally, later enemy, learned of the Next Level and their abilities is a frightening thing. But that doesn't excuse what Thunderous did.
Lafferty genuinely likes Thunderous somewhat. So it startles him to see the ruthless interior to his "friend".
It was already a matter of record that they used Soul as a living, cybernetic computer that they ran data through...then I wondered if it might be connected with the Crossoverseers, the race that "Ringo", whom Lafferty met earlier, is the last competent survivor of. (And of course, Ringo is playing a pivotal role in the CROSSOVERLORD.)
If there had been a member of that race protecting Lafferty's reality, once upon a time. As all their race worked to keep realities separate, free to develop on their own.
I opted to go with a sort of crystalline being, mask-like in appearance like Ringo, yet different. The Crossoverseers, the same race that Ringo belongs to, are extremely powerful---but their lifespans, though immense, is still liable to senility. It sounds like this particular Crossoverseer had contacted the Zha'Tahn before, acting as mentor and guide.
In fact, one wonders if the Zha'Tahn's fiddling with humanity---turning some of them into superhuman weapons---may be because they fear that the rest of the Crossoverseer's race might come looking for vengeance.
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