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Thread: (The Return of) The Mental Age!

  1. #1
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA

    (The Return of) The Mental Age!

    It has been over a year since Muuurgh has updates The Mental Age. I endeavored to find him and, after an exhaustive search of many hour, I discovered that he had fallen into a burrick warren and hit his head. Suffering from amnesia, he had been accepted into the pack and believed himself to be one of them. It took some urging, but I was eventually able to communicate and determined that he wouldn't be returning soon. When I left him, he was sniffing glowing mushrooms and trying to belch noxious gas. (Which was difficult for him, because there are no Taco Bells in the Old Quarter.)

    And thus I have taken it upon myself to finish the tale of the master thief, Gary, as he learns of the sinister plans of the Mechalomaniac leader Kletus. I begin with an episode that Muuurgh had overlooked....

    Reliance upon others is weakness,
    Wisdom and Balance lie in knowing
    What you can supply to the party.
    Bring Your Own Beverage.

    --Invitation to the Mental Age

    Chapter One: Running Payback for Making A Friend Help You Paint Your Flat

    Gary learned a long time ago never to finish a job with unpaid debts. Unfortunately, he had been doing jobs for an even longer time before that. So when Bass-Ale the Boxmaker knocked on his door, and Gary couldn't get to the window before his pal shouted, "I know you're in there," he knew it was to repay one of those old debts.
    Bass-Ale had found himself the love of his life... again. Gary wasn't entirely sure, but guessed this was the fourteenth time. After making sure that his fiance was both female and human this time, Gary asked the inevitable question, and held his breath.
    "So... What do you need?"
    "I want you to be my best man."
    Gary was stunned and relieved. For once, he imagined, this might actually turn out well for him. Or, at least, leave him with fewer headaches and torn clothing than his usual favors.
    "Really? I'd love to!" Gary grabbed a bottle of his favorite beer. "Let's celebrate. You've got nothing to worry about, buddy. I know this guy, Phillipe, it's a bit weird but is really good at things like planning dinners."
    "And break Gilly out of prison."
    "... your bachelor party... There's this girl, Rosie? You'll love her... And do what, now?"
    "She's being held prisoner. We need to break her out before we can be married."
    "She's in JAIL!?"
    "Oh, no! Not in jail. She's a maid and the housemaster won't let her leave the place. Keeps her locked up day and night."
    "So you want me to steal your girlfriend?"
    "Well, yeah... You're a thief, aren't you?"
    "I am, but this is different! She works for this guy, right? Why doesn't she just quit? Or call the labor board? I don't know, Bass-Ale, this sounds more like a job for Norma Rae."
    "Norma who? Oh, come on Gary. I know you can help me out, and you already agreed to be my best man. Just think of it as a panty-raid, only we're getting the panties while they're still on the girl."
    Gary paused for a moment as the description materialized in his mind, then shook it off. "No! We're not in college anymore. I'm a professional thief and steal things like gold and paintings and scepters..."
    "Yeah, I've been wondering, what's the deal with those scepters anyway?"
    "I don't know, it's just part of the job. The point is, I don't do kidnappings!"
    "Oh, Gary," Bass-Ale was starting to get whiny, "You're the only friend I got."
    Gary crossed his arms and glared sternly at his friend.
    "It won't be all kidnapping. They've got some gold and trinkets lying about the place, too."
    Gary started tapping his foot impatiently.
    "You could practice your blackjacking, I know how much you enjoy that."
    Gary was tempted, but held his ground.
    "After the wedding, I'll let you rob the banquet hall."
    This caught Gary's attention. "Rob a wedding banquet?"
    "Yup, clean the place out. There'll be lots of fine wine."
    "And plenty of guests for pick-pocketting?"
    "As many as you invite."
    "What about the china."
    "I've got a catalog with all the best."
    "Wow," Gary's eyes were glazed with lucrative fantasies. "I could really have some fun sneaking into a wedding... Sure! I'll do it. Bass-Ale, you're the greatest."
    "Thanks, buddy! How 'bout a toast."
    They toasted and drained the last of that bottle. By the time Bass-Ale stumbled out of the apartment late that night, four more empties had joined it on the floor. If it weren't for the tattoo, Gary might never have remembered what he had promised to do.

    The next night, still trying to shake off the effects of the previous evening, Gary met Bass-Ale outside the Rumphoard's mansion. Judging by the smell, Gary was able to solve where his missing sixth bottle had gone to. He decided to let it go, figuring he'll be repaid when this is all over.
    "So, did you spring the lock on the side door so I'd be able to make an easy entrance."
    Bass-Ale blinked nervously. "Yeah, about that..."
    "Oh, never mind. I've got my lockpicks. You wait here until I give the signal."
    Gary hurried off, wanting to get this over with before Bass-Ale was too drunk to remember his own name. He left too quickly, in fact, to answer his tipsy friend's question.
    "Say... What was that signal again? You were gonna whistle like a night bird, right? Or was it a night bug? Maybe he meant a lady of the night... Oh, bugger all..."

    Gary crept around to the servant's entrance of the house. According to Bass-Ale's map, the entrance passed through the butler's quarters; which must be rather annoying for the butler, Gary mused. He was preparing his lockpicks when he noticed that the door was already open a crack. Maybe Bass-Ale was able to get to the door after all, he thought. But as he opened the door wider, he leaped back at the sight of someone lying on the bed. Stealthily hugging the shadows, the master thief peered closer into the room. He focused on the sleeping occupant, looking closer and closer... until he realised he was so close he could clearly see the individual hairs on the man's toes. Gary lurched up, smacking his temple.
    "Dammit!", he cried out, "I'll never get used to this crazy mechanical eye." Then he clapped his hand to his mouth, and turned a frightful eye to the doorway.
    The butler was still asleep.
    Gary then noticed the two empty bottles on the floor and breathed out in relief.
    "Heh. Good thing the butler's out for the night. I guess he won't mind if we leave the light on."
    He paused once to be sure the butler really wasn't going to wake up, and twice to consider investing in stock for Blackbrook Brewery, then slipped through the rooms and to the hallway door.
    The door was locked, making Gary have to dig out his lockpicks again. He first inserted the large, square-toothed pick; but it there wasn't enough room to turn it. So he tried the small, triangle-toothed pick; but couldn't get enough leverage to turn the tumblers. Unfortunately, these were the only two picks he had. A small, square-toothed pick would have helped, or even a large, triangle-toothed one. But every shop in the City only sold two kinds of lockpicks: large, square-toothed ones, and small, triangle-toothed ones. Gary was beginning to wonder how anyone could make a living as a thief with such pitiful accomodations.
    As he struggled with the lock, and (after remembering the sleeping butler) had decided not to try bashing the door down with his sword, Gary was beginning to get nervous. He was also having a difficult time controlling his sneezing. The butler's room was extremely dusty, and Gary remarked on this as he wiped his finger across a layer of grime on the wainscoting. He wiped the dirt off on his cloak, and was about to set at the lock again, when he realised that he hadn't wiped his finger on the wainscoting, but on a key that had been sitting on the wainscoting. Gary seized the key greedily and stuck it in the lock. He was relieved to feel the satisfying scrape of teeth pushing against tumblers and releasing the tension of the bolt.
    "I bet that butler thought he was pretty clever, hiding the key under all that dust." Gary congratulated himself. "But he never anticipated The Master Thief!" he added with extraneous capitals.
    The hallway was almost entirely lightless, except for the glow from a single torch around the next corner. Gary's guard-sense told him that there was a watch post where that torch was. He called it his "guard-sense," but there wasn't anything extrasensory about it. Everyone in The City knew that guards were extremely noisy, and could be heard coughing or shuffling their feet even behind thick, metal doors.
    Gary leaned around the corner and shot a water arrow right at the torch, dousing it with a loud splash. The noise startled him, as for years he had always known water arrows to be virtually silent. He slinked back into the deepest shadow he could find, hoping the guards didn't notice. They had.
    "Wh... What was that?"
    "Probably just rats."
    "Taff-off! We got rid of all the rats weeks ago."
    "Oh. Well, maybe it was the wind?"
    "What are you talking about? We're in a basement with no windows and only one door to the outside? How could there be wind down here?"
    "I'm just saying, I've worked a lot of places and it's usually either rats or the wind when a torch goes out, or I hear a noise like footsteps, or some fast-growing moss spreads across the floor..."
    "Fast-growing moss?"
    "Yup. And it's really fast. Turn your back for two seconds and it'll spread right across the floor. My cousin, who owns a nursery, says it even grows in thick crystal-like lumps all over his flower beds."
    "Well, gee. That's really fascinating. But it still doesn't answer what happened to that torch?"
    "You want me to go light it or something?"
    "I want you to find out why it went out in the first place."
    "Why are you so interested in a torch going out? Are you writing a book or something?"
    "Actually, I--Urk!"
    "You're what? It sounded like you said--Oof!"
    Gary stepped out of the shadows behind the two guards. While they had been talking, he had snuck past the watch post and through the guard quarters. He dug a piece of chalk out of his pocket and made two small marks on his blackjack.

    ... continued...
    Last edited by telliamed; 13th Nov 2002 at 00:56.

  2. #2
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    Twenty minutes later, his blackjack had ten more marks and a smiley-face on it. Along with the knock-outs, Gary had picked up quite a lot of loot, a whole bunch of things that he didn't know what they were, and had stopped in the kitchen to munch on some cheese. That last one was why he was now sitting in the ornate, upstairs lavatory of Lord Rumphoard's mansion. After relieving his bowels, and reading most of an interview in The City Post with a woman who claimed to be the Baron's mistress, Gary finally remembered why he was here.
    He hastily pulled his pants up, and heard the ominous sound of something falling out of his pocket. Taking a quick inventory, he found that his lockpicks were gone. He cursed his professionalism for extinguishing the only light in the bathroom when he entered, and began searching for his picks while avoiding the sticky spots. Just as he was about to give up, he felt one of his lockpicks... bounce off of his fingertip and into the bowl of the toilet. He shouted something foul and unprintable. In utter frustration, he dug into his quiver and found a fire crystal, strapped it to an arrow and fired into the far corner of the room. The blast knocked him into a large, iron pipe, singed off most of his eyebrows, and set a corner of his cloak aflame. In the brief moment before he lost consciousness, he saw his other lockpick sitting on the edge of the toilet... until the explosion pushed it all the way in.
    Gary woke up in the usual daze with the usual headache; but also with the unusual sensation of his leg being on fire. He puzzled briefly what could cause such a feeling, before realising that it was because his leg was, in fact, on fire. He leaped off of the floor and danced around the room trying to put out the flames. Once he remembered that he was in a bathroom, he hobbled over to the large tub and flipped head-over-heels into the shallow water. The tub was filled deep enough to extinguish his burning clothes, but not enough to prevent his head from violently colliding with the bottom and nearly sending him to dream-land again.
    The dripping, aching, charred master thief leaned out of the main doorway and whistled. Nothing happened. Must be too far away to hear, he thought. He walked across the courtyard and whistled again. No Bass-Ale. Gary unlocked the front gate, walked across to the gatehouse, climbed in through the window because the door was locked, and smacked Bass-Ale on the head. He fell out of his chair, then jumped to his feet in confusion. Gary whistled, sarcastically.
    "Oh, sorry about that, Gary. I guess I dozed-off a little... So, err... Where's Gilly?"
    "Still inside. I've cleared the place out, we were supposed to go get her together."
    "Right, right..."
    The pair headed back to the house through the courtyard, and past a group of unconscious guards arranged into the shape of a letter 'G' on the lawn. Just inside the front doors, they both paused. A few seconds later, Gary realised that Bass-Ale wasn't going to lead the way.
    "Don't you know where her room is?"
    "Sure, but you've got my map."
    Gary dug out the scrap of parchment Bass-Ale had given him earlier. The single sheet showed the layout of both floors of the mansion... one on top of the other.

    Six minutes later, after looking in nearly every room in the west wing, they found a door that was locked. Bass-Ale looked at Gary.
    "Okay, open it up."
    "You don't have a key?"
    "No, I thought you were gonna do your thief-thing and pick the lock."
    "Right, about that..." Gary hesitated.
    Suddenly, the door swung open and the pair turned to face Gilly. She was a stocky girl with short, fiery red hair, a round mousy face, and a chest that would make even Phillipe look twice.
    "Hey! What are you..." She put her hands on her hips. "Eyes up here, boys. What are you doing here?"
    "We've come to rescue you!" Bass-Ale exclaimed.
    "Rescue me? What are you talking about?"
    "You told me that Lord Rumphoard wouldn't let you leave. So me and my pal, Gary, have come to help you flee from this place."
    Gilly snorted in an unladylike way. "You fool! I said that I wasn't able to go out last night because Rumphoard was having a big ball, and needed all of his servants there. I'm not a prisoner here."
    Bass-Ale's face dropped.
    "Oh, don't look like that." She stepped forward and put her arm around him. "Now that you're here, we may as well spend some time together."
    Her encouraging words cheered him up a little, and the tight hug did most of the rest. After waiting for Gilly to change her dress, they all headed down the hallway.
    "Why's it so dark in here?" Gilly asked, "What happened to all the torches."
    "You always put out all the torches when you're sneaking into a place." Gary boasted, "Lets you hide from the guards better so you can blackjack them."
    "Don't you have some kind of light so you can see, though? Here, hand me one of them flares."
    Gary followed her hand and realised she was referring to the bundle of stick-like things he had been collecting, but never found out what they were. He picked one out of his bag and handed it to her. She peeled off some of the paper from the tip and scraped the flare against the brick wall. It sparked to life, lighting the hallway for a good twelve feet in either direction. They continued, faster now and without so much stumbling and bumping into the walls. Five seconds later, the flare went out.
    "Another one." Gilly said, matter-of-factly.
    "That was kind of useless," Gary remarked as he pulled a flare from his bag. "Can't they make them burn longer?"
    "Not really," she responded while lighting the flare. "It's everything they had to do to keep them affordable."
    "So how much do they cost, then?" Gary inquired, hoping for a good black-market resale value.
    "Twenty-five copper each."
    Gary tripped over his own disappointment.
    "What?! Twenty-five!!"
    "I know," Gilly said, misinterpreting his astonishment. "But where we buy 'em, you can get a dozen for just two gold."
    Gary shook his head and counted the flares in his bag. He also counted the gold plates, goblets, and coins that he could've fit into the space the flares were taking up. By the time they made it to the butler's room, all but eight of the flares had been used.

    Outside, Bass-Ale turned and looked nervously at Gilly.
    "So, what have you got planned, Bass-Ale?" she asked.
    "Well..." Bass-Ale looked at Gary. He shrugged in a what-do-you-expect-me-to-do way.
    "I thought that, once I got you away from Lord Rumphoard, that you'd... marry me?"
    Gilly stood with her jaw wide-open for a few seconds. Then she threw her head back and snorted. Gary realised that that was her laugh.
    "Marry you? Good Builder, why would I want to marry you. Why, you're nothing but a box-maker!"
    Bass-Ale's face shattered like the time Gary tried to rob the Shalebridge Glassworks.
    "Oh, don't look like that." Gilly put her hands on Bass-Ale's shoulders. "I like you, and all. But I just wanted to have some fun, and roll around in the hay a few times. I'm not ready to marry no one just yet."
    "But... I really love you."
    "You'll get over it. Besides, we've still got some time together. When all those guards wake up they're gonna be mad as hell, and I'm sure to get the sack for it."
    Bass-Ale became even more distraught when he realised he'd cost Gilly her job.
    "Oh..." Gilly was starting to get turned-off by his whimpering. "If you don't want me shacking up with you, I can just find someone else. I'll bet he wouldn't mind." She grabbed Gary's arm and pulled him close to her side, and a considerable portion of her front.
    "Uhm..." Gary stammered embarrassingly.
    "You wouldn't mind having a girl sleep over for a little while, would you mister dark-and-sneaky?"
    Gary could see Bass-Ale turning red at the sight of his best man standing so close to his girlfriend. Gary wrenched himself away from the buxom red-head.
    "Yeah, I'm thinking you two should maybe talk to a couples counselor or something... I can give you a few names. And whoah! Look at the time! I almost forgot, I've got an appointment, to, err... you know, rob a house. See, that's what I do, rob places. And this is, like... way, far from here, so... Gotta run!"
    He sprinted off, glancing back once to see Bass-Ale on his knees as Gilly walked away. He had given up all hope that those two would get married, which meant no wedding banquet for him to rob. What a horrible night, Gary thought, I can't imagine how things could get any worse.

    Okay, next I'll return to where Muurgh left off, where Gary tries to steal a recording of Sheriff Trout so he can blackmail him. The Bank or "And You Thought the Thieves Were Crooks!"

  3. #3
    Registered: Mar 1999
    Location: the City
    Niceeeeee.... except for the repeat in the first post... you might want to edit it...
    Last edited by belfong; 12th Nov 2002 at 22:43.

  4. #4
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: North of Seattle, USA


  5. #5

    More Mental Age?
    *runs to celebrate

  6. #6
    Registered: Nov 2000
    Location: ttLg
    If you truly have sought out this Muuurgh and recieved his approval as you say, and which I believe, then who am I to say You can't carry the torch. After I read the top of your first post, i was afraid; luckily you seem to have some writing ability, as well as a twisted yet lighthearted sense of humor.
    Keep it comin!

  7. #7
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    Yes, I did talk to Muuurgh before posting. I wouldn't have done this without his thumbs-up.

    And the weekend is here, already. My, where does the time go? I must pound out a few more paragraphs so I can deliver on Sunday. I want to get at least half-way through the Bank.

  8. #8
    Registered: Jul 2001
    Location: Bafford's well-house
    wow that's some good stuff, Muurgh would be proud

  9. #9
    Registered: Jan 2002
    The bad news is that it looks like we won't be seeing Muurgh again. The good news is that Telliamed is giving us an equally funny Thief parody.

  10. #10
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    I spent the weekend installing Windows XP and restoring all my files, so there wasn't much time for writing.

    Bricky-up holes
    and they still sneak in,
    springy traps
    they capture naught,
    even setting out poison doesn't help.

    Builders we a better traps
    for the mousies and,
    Nature, she makes
    a better mouse...

    --Poor Birch's Almanac

    Chapter Six: The Other Thieves' Guild

    In the heart of The City stood an imposing marble edifice. Four-stories tall, it loomed over even the exquisite noble mansions. It was surrounded by a well-lit, 36-foot wide lawn without trees or obstructions that dared, menacingly, any thief to approach it unnoticed. This was The First, Last, And Only City Bank and Trust; and the black spec of a man who just dropped over the south wall was the master thief.

    Gary rose, cautiously, to his feet. He slipped deeper into the thin band of shadow skirting the wall, and rubbed the bruise on his head where he hit the ground. He surveyed the open field between himself and the front entrance of the bank. There would be guards, he was sure of. There would be Mechalomaniac security, he was sure. No thief had ever broken into the vault of the bank... He wasn't so sure of that, but when he asked around the night before, no one could give him any names.

    "Well, I'll make sure they remember my name," Gary uttered confidently.

    There was also, in the back of his mind, a small voice telling him he was nuts, and that he'd never be able to pull a job like this. But, much to Gary's relief, all he could hear now was a dull ringing.

    He stepped onto the lawn, knowing better than to try the front door, and began looking for a side entrance. Most of the windows were high and latched on the inside. The few basement windows looked like they would only open a few inches. Finally, he came across a door. The ground floor entrance was protected by iron bars, but another door opened on to a balcony overhead. Gary leaned back and scanned for a bit of wood he could attach a rope arrow to. He closed his good eye and tried to make his artificial eye zoom in. All he could get it to do, however, was display strange looking circles with writing in them. Every time one of them appeared, he'd hear "bloop" sound.

    These marble blocks were supplied by Granmauden Stonework, one of the circles read.

    Fieldstone was going to do it, but their agent was murdered before they could sign, read another.

    Gary couldn't see any wood, so he looked around for something else and spied a drainpipe.

    Seventeen Hammerites lost their hands while forging this metal, the pop-up said.

    "Curses," Gary uttered and smacked his head until the eye went back to normal.

    Not seeing an easy way up, he started climbing one of the barred gates. The corridor had a short roof over it; he might be able to make a grab for the balcony from up there. The marble was polished smooth, and difficult to find a foothold on. Gary flailed about for a few minutes, then paused briefly before making one more attempt; and that's when he heard footsteps.

    He dropped to the ground and spun around, desperately looking for a place to hide. The sound was coming from the front of the building. Gary peeked around the corner; there were three guards only eighteen feet away. He stifled his gasp of surprise and took the only option left to him--he ran.

    The side of the bank was narrower than the front, but better lit. What few shadows there were were too thin and too light to hide in. Gary could see a shed at the far end of the yard, so he headed for that. His legs were frantic, his heart pounding; he dared not turn around, certain that he'd see the guards in fast pursuit with their swords raised. After covering the endless sea of grass, Gary dove into the darkness of the out-building. When he looked up the guards were still far away, unaware of the thief that had eluded them.

    Just when Gary began to relax, the other door of the shed opened with a loud creak. His stomach leaped into his throat as he scrambled backwards, tripping over a bucket and tumbling awkwardly through a trapdoor in the corner.

    "Hey, sarge?" the archer asked as she paused in the doorway, "Did you hear something?"

    "It's probably just one of them thieves," he urged, "Never you mind."

    "I didn't think they were gonna be using the tunnel tonight, though."

    "Hrmm..." he uttered as they continued their patrol, "I'll ask about it later. You can never be too sure with these types."

    Gary swam out of unconsciousness with a bad cramp in his shoulder. The damp ground told him he was in some kind of pit. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw that it was the end of a tunnel. He glanced up where some light shone in and remembered the guards. Not wanting to repeat the experience, he decided to explore the tunnel a bit.

    There were a number of pipes in the tunnel. Figuring that at least one of them must go into the basement of the bank, he examined each one in turn. Halfway down the tunnel, he came across a pipe that was straight up-and-down. Odd, he mused, if the only thing above me is the lawn, where does this pipe go? He checked is compass to be sure.

    He looked closer at the pipe and noticed an opening in the brickwork behind it. It looked like it might be large enough for him to squeeze through. This must be a secret entrance, he realised, these things usually have a lever or panel to open them. He pushed, pulled, turned, and frobbed everything he could get his hands on, but nothing happened. The only thing that moved was a rotating valve, but it did nothing no matter how much he turned it. He leaned against the pipe, frustrated. The pipe slipped out of its footing and tumbled to the ground; the master thief with it.

    Gary dusted himself off and peeked into the passage. As he had hoped, it widened a few inches beyond the wall, and there seemed to be a dim light in the distance.

    "Yes! A secret entrance to the bank!" Gary exclaimed as if it had been his idea to build it. "This should be a piece of pie now." He looked at his notepad.

    To-Do List For Today:
    Sneak into the Bank: Done
    Open main vault: Not Done Yet
    Steal recording from Mechalomaniac deposit box: Not Done Yet<
    Profit!: Can't Wait To Be Done

    "Just how I like it." Gary beamed, "Nice and simple. No complicated codes to memorize. No bizarre contraptions to mess with. And best of all, no pesky rule against blackjacking anyone!"

    He scrambled into the passage and a few minutes later, sweaty and covered with grime, emerged deep in the basement of the bank.

    Sauntering down the narrow corridor, the master thief was sheathed in the cold isolation of the basement. He was calm, he was bold, he was stepping on the carcasses of dead rats, which he tried his best not to think about. The only thing disturbing Gary's supreme confidence was a pebble that had slipped into his boot. He stopped in a dark corner to dislodge it. While shaking his foot like an overpriced cocktail drink, he tapped the heel against the wall.

    -TAP- -TAP-


    "Clang?" Gary puzzled. He tapped again.



    "That's odd," Garry muttered, "How could tapping a boot make a sound like those metal beasts of the Mechalomaniacs?"

    Just as he finished speaking, he heard the ominous squeaking gears and stamping feet of a metal beast. Gary nervously leaned around the corner and saw the face that he feared the most.

    The robot was three feet tall, painted in delicate pink and lavendar, and carried a container that resembled a straw basket. Because of its short legs, it walked strangely; almost hopping and skipping about instead of striding. But otherwise, it was an exact replica of the hulk he had encountered at the Mechalomaniac Sunday School. The same homely face, the oversized feet, and the wind-up key sticking out of the back. Except that now there was a drive belt attached to the key. It emerged from a box that was crudely strapped to the thing's back. It shook unsteadily with ever step. As the oblivious droid passed him, Gary could see that the box itself was actually vibrating. He was able to peer inside and see a dense coil of rubber bands twisting itself free. The enormous torque of the mass was propelling the machine.

    "Quite clever of those Mechalomaniacs," Gary admitted. "At least they've managed to make a more..."

    He hesitated to say "normal."

    "... agreeable type of contraption."

    He cautiously watched the harmless robot walk away, making sure it really didn't hide some fiendishly painful weapon. Relieved, he turned around and stood face-to-face with one of the robots that didn't try to hide its fiendishly painful and deadly weapons.

    Gary screamed, leaped into the air, dropped his jaw on the floor, and turned to flee simultaneously. As sheer terror overtook him, he was able to see one of the large rubber band motors attached to the behemoth. He could only hope that the beast might run out before he did. But the clammoring footsteps in pursuit told him that outrunning the machine wasn't an option.

    Stumbling through the winding passage, Gary began to suspect that if the iron monster doesn't kill him, he may still end up busting his head on one of these walls. He slid around a tight corner and into a medium-sized room with two doors. Lunging at them, he was hardly surprised that they were both locked. He dumped the contents of his sack on the floor and snatched his lockpicks. Taking a split-second inventory, he swore at himself for buying that lottery ticket instead of an invisibility potion.

    -- continued --

  11. #11
    Registered: Jan 2000
    Location: sup
    Come on, there was a toilet scene and a scene where a map was you think Muurgh would've missed an opportunity like that? pah!

    Seriously though, it's okay. Keep going, you'll get better with time.

  12. #12

  13. #13
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    eep. thanks for the reminder. I've gotten too caught-up in another one of Komag's infernal fan mission contests...

    He shoved the pick into the keyhole, then pulled it back out and turned it the right way around. His well-trained hands maneuvered the tool even as the rest of his body was trembling uncontrollably. As he worked through the tumblers the footsteps pounded louder and louder behind him. The tension on the bolt was easing, but the robot was coming closer. The lock was almost open and Gary sensed the iron monstrosity behind him. The door swung open. He sprang to his feet, then froze.

    Nothing happened.

    Gary's better sense screamed at him to run for his life. This was the better sense that had told him that the Creepers were too weird, that Cottonrabbitine shouldn't be trusted, and that a time-share in Craghill ski resort wasn't a good investment. But like every time before, Gary's morbid and often fatal curiosity made him ignore it.

    The metal beast was behind him, Gary could hear its footsteps. But the sound hadn't been getting any closer for a few minutes. It should've caught up with him by now. He turned around slowly.

    The robot was standing where the corridor turned a right angle before entering the room. It stepped forward, to turn the corner, and its arm got stuck on the wall. It then moved backwards before attempting the same move again. The machine was repeating the motion and, because it was the arm with the cannon that was being blocked by the wall, it could not even fire a projectile at Gary. Its brain didn't even consider that there were other ways into the room than this corridor; it simply tried to move forward, got stuck, moved backwards, then went forward again.

    "Now listen here, varmint. You done lookin' for a hurtin' if ye don't be gone from here," the beast threatened unconvincingly.

    The sound of another metal beast echoed through the passage.

    "Well gawly! Looks like we found us'selves an intruder" it drawled when it spied Gary. But the first robot was in its way and it too became entangled in the roadblock. Gary shook his head at the pitiful monsters. Before he left, he heard the voice of a third mech further down the hallway.

    "What in tarnation are you boys makin' a fuss about?"

    Gary closed the door behind him with the mechanical reproduction of Kletus's nasal whine irritating his eardrums.

    Information was expensive. It used to be simple, you could aways find someone willing to double-cross one of the wardens. But the bureaucrats were in charge now, and something as simple as a map was hard to get. That's why Gary had taken up map making as a new skill. He checked his compass after sketching out the rest of this room. According to his measurements, Gary should now be under the main hall of the New Market Hammerite conference center.

    He tore out that sheet and stuffed the ledger back in his sack.

    "What am I doing still in the basement," he chided himself. "I know where the vault is. I just have to get to the upper floors and find a way in." He headed down the largest of the hallways.

    That seemed to be the right choice, as Gary noticed the floor was sloping upwards. He was eager to leave these drab, stone walls behind him. It was strange that the bank had such a large basement; there were lots of storage rooms, but none of them held more than one or two small crates. Gary speculated that they might put things down here when the main vault got too full; but why aren't there any doors on the rooms? The only rooms that did have doors on them were the ones with metal beasts. I guess these guys are afraid of the robots as well, he thought. But why keep them at all, then?

    Gary suddenly flattened himself against the wall. Up ahead was a larger, brighter room, and he had seen something move in it. He crept forward with his ears alert. When he reached the room, he slipped in and hid himself in the shadow of a column. He thought he heard the distant sound of a boot against the stone floor. He turned his good eye and peered across the room at the source of the sound. A hand grabbed the back of his collar and spun him around.

    "What are you doing here, taffer?" hissed the man who had been hiding on the other side of the column. He was dressed in black leather and a hooded cloak: a thief. Gary's hand reached for his sword.

    "Didn't you read the newsletter?" the man continued, "The basement is off-limits today for robot maintenance."

    "Huh?" Gary fumbled.

    "First floor and second floor east only Tuesday through Thursday. No one permitted in basement or executive offices. Great Builder and Housepainter! We put all of this in the..." the thief eyed Gary suspiciously. "Wait, I don't recall seeing you around before. Show me your registration."

    "Re- registration? What do you mean?"

    "You're a thief, right? You don't have a thieving license?"

    "What? No. Who ever heard of a thieving license?"

    "Oh." he stared sternly at Gary as his fingers danced over the hilt of his sword. An electric silence hung between the men.

    Eventually, the thief eased his grip on Gary, without actually letting go. "What's your name?" he demanded, sternly but respectfully.

    "Ga..." It occurred to Gary that he was being tested, and telling his real name would be a mistake. "Gall... aban... der... son..." he stuttered.

    "Gallabanderson?" the thief repeated warily. Gary wondered if maybe he really did want to know his real name.

    "Yeah, I'm..."

    "Why don't we just call you 'G', eh?" he interrupted. Gary smiled and nodded with relief. "So, G, what are you looking to steal from this fine establishment?"

    "Well, there's this recording of Kletus and Sheriff Trout and it's in the Mechalomaniac safety deposit box, and..."

    "A deposit box in the main vault. Is that all?" He didn't sound convinced.

    "Well, I figured I'd be able to pick up some gold or silver. You know, just some coins that happen to be laying around. I mean, this is a bank; how hard could it be to find..."

    "Right. Let me tell you about what we've got here, G." Gary began to suspect that his new friend had a problem with periods in sentences. "My name's MacHall. I'm one of the master thieves who run the Bank Guild."

    "Hey! I'm a master thief too!" Gary offered, encouragingly.

    "Not until you get certified, bub." MacHall unrolled a parchment from his belt. The paper was crowded with stamps and seals, each one next to the name of a location in the bank and a date. "This documents notable things I've stolen from the Bank, all witnessed and notarized. And," he tapped a line near the bottom, "as you can see, I also hold a seat on the thieving committee. You have to be voted in for that. This is how we do things here. Not like the awful anarchy of the old guilds, before the City Watch busted 'em all."

    Gary leaned against the column. "Your thefts are witnessed? I don't get it."

    "Of course. That's how you become certified at a particular level. So we don't have taffers trying to break into areas that are too difficult for them. See, when this place was built the Board of Directors knew that every thief in The City would be wanting to rob the place. The cost of hiring enough guards and Mechalomaniac security was astronomical. So instead, they contacted a few of us thieves and offered a contract: if we only broke into certain areas of the Bank, and stayed within a specified quota, they would instruct the guards not to bother us, and they wouldn't call the City Watch. So we organized a thieving committee and wrote the bylaws that all thieves who steal from the Bank are required to adhere to. That way we can keep track of how much is stolen and not go over the quota. It also ensures that everyone knows and adheres to the bylaws. We can steal stuff, no one gets hurt, and the Bank can spend less on security. Everyone's happy."

    "That's ridiculous! You're stealing from the Bank. Aren't they losing money?"

    "Oh, no!" MacHall laughed. "The Bank makes way more than we ever steal from them. Service charges, and interest rates and... Well, you can talk to one of the accountants on floor two, east. The point is, we've got a contract and we don't allow anyone here to ruin it." He stood up and did that fluttery thing with his fingers and the sword again.

    "Okay! Okay! As long as the contract thing-a-ma-jig lets me get that recording."

    "Alright, but you'll have to be certified. Now, what level would you be... I saw you sneaking about earlier; that wasn't too shabby. You got water arrows?" He gestured at Gary's quiver.

    "Yup. Moss arrows too."

    MacHall frowned. "Go easy on those. We've had some complaints from the janitorial staff. Now, what about Mechalomaniac security?"

    Gary felt his sweat glands open. "I've gotten around my share of robots." he exaggerated.

    His companion nodded slowly and finished scratching on a parchment. "That should do it for now. Take this to the Hall of Records and show it to Mr. Bartleby. He'll issue you your thieving license and you can get to work. That paper has the Bank Guild bylaws on it; be sure to read them."

    "Where's the..."

    "The Hall of Records is second floor, north-east. Next to the main conference room, you can't miss it. Now, you'll be certified as a Thief in Good Standing. That lets you access most places in the Bank. You won't be able to go to the lobby or the junior and senior bankers' offices. And as I mentioned before, all executive offices are off-limits until Thursday, as well as the basement. Also, no one is allowed on the third floor, no exceptions."

    Gary's head was swimming. "Uh... The vault?"

    "Oh, right. You wanted to get into the vault. Well," he glanced at a pocket watch, "I wasn't going to be opening the vault for another eight hours. Are you going to be around that long?"

    "No... I really only came to get that recording. I guess I could, though..."

    MacHall patted Gary on the shoulder. "Ah, I'll go open her up right now. Just for you."

    "Thanks. So, I'll just go take this paper, then," he stood and dusted off his cloak.

    "That's another thing, G, you're pretty heavily armed there. Because of the contract there's really no need for such weaponry. We're not allowed to harm the guards, anyway."

    "Oh, that's not a problem," Gary said and reached for his blackjack.

    "That means no knocking them out, either."

    Gary clenched his teeth. "Well, this has been quite eye-opening, MacHall. But I'd like to get that recording and get out of here." He waved and began striding toward a nearby staircase.

    "Sure thing. Oh, and mind the watcher."

    Gary paused. "Watcher?"

    MacHall pointed to the stairs. "There's a Mechalomaniac watching eye just at the top of those stairs."

    "Not a problem," he shouted back and slipped into the shadows.

    MacHall stood and watched him for a few seconds, shook his head, then strolled away.

  14. #14
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    Oh yeah, which title do you like better for this chapter?

    The Other Thieves' Guild


    And You Thought the Thieves Were Crooks

    I'm in favor of the second, but it's a bit wordy.

  15. #15
    More please .

  16. #16
    Registered: Oct 2001
    Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
    Ah, i was wandering what happened to you!
    As for the chapter name, I say go with the second one.
    FM in Progress: Bane III
    Previous FMs: CoSaS III- THE NINE YEAR SLEEP (content released), Keep of Deceit, Cult of the Damned and A Keeper's Betrayal.

  17. #17
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Location: Virginia, USA
    Gary sat in the darkness of the stairway and listened to the footsteps fade away. He could see the watcher from here. It was looking into the room and did not seem to cover the stairs themselves. He ascended the steps cautiously nevertheless. The watcher continued to scan the opposite side of the room, ignoring Gary. There were three exits from the room, two of them required passing through the watcher's field of view. As Gary considered how he could avoid being detected, one of the doors opened. A dark-clothed figure slipped into the room and slinked to the other exit while staying close to the wall. The watcher was oblivious. Just before closing the door, the other thief looked back into the room and, noticing Gary, waved to him. Gary raised his hand tentatively. He glanced at the watcher once more, then turned to the third exit. According to what MacHall had told him, and also the convenient map written on the parchment he'd been given, the Hall of Records was in the direction the other thief had went. But the vault was on the other side of the building, and didn't require passing by this watching eye.

    "What kind of a thief needs permission to rob a place. This is ridiculous." Gary muttered as he stuffed the scrap of paper into his sack.

    The door eased open to reveal a large, marble-floored hall with two guards stationed on opposite balconies. Fortunately, there was a carpet running down the middle of the hall and the guards had their backs turned. He was about to jog to the opposite door when some movement caused him to reflexively duck back into the shadows. Two large thieves were dragging a body across the hall. They dropped it near a brightly-lit fountain then disappeared the way they had came. Gary watched one of the archers yawn, but otherwise take no notice of what had happened. Curiously, he crept over to the body and examined it.

    The man, another thief, was merely unconscious. He had taken a beating, however, and would likely regret whatever had happened to him once he woke up. Gary rifled through his pockets and liberated a sack of coins and some water arrows. He couldn't figure out what the thief had done to have been so poorly treated, however. Whatever it was, he'd be lucky to wake up before morning so no one discovers him. He'd certainly get in trouble, thieving license or no...

    Gary realized that the thief didn't have a license. Could that be why they did this to him? he wondered. He heard a door open and, correctly assuming that the two other thieves had returned, ran back to the safety of the doorway. It was only one of the thieves. He had come back to deposit the unconscious man's sword next to him.

    After he left, Gary dug the parchment with the Bank Guild bylaws and quickly read them. There were quite a number of rules, many of them seemed strange and pointless to Gary -- much like his income tax forms. But the descriptions of punishment were quite clear, and severe. Minor offenses resulted in torture. More serious infractions could get you turned over to the City Watch or, worse yet, forcibly enrolled into a Mechalomaniac "lifestyle management" program. Gary shuddered.

    "They really take this seriously," he remarked. Deciding that conformity was the better part of valor, he checked the route to the Hall of Records.

    He was creeping with his back pressed against the wall. He had seen the other thief do it, and figured that was the way to go. He had gotten to the first door without being detected, and was about to slip past it. It occurred to him that someone else might be about to open the door. He leaned over to look through the slit of a window, but couldn't see anyone. He was about to turn back so he could continue sneaking, when the door flew open and banged into his forehead.

    "Ow..." Gary clamped his hand over his mouth.

    "Keep it down!" hissed the woman who had opened the door.

    "Why don't you check the window before you open a door, next time?" Gary responded.

    "There's no rule that says I have to."

    "Well, there should be."

    "Talk to the committee if you want to cry about it" she said as she turned to leave, "I've got some diamonds to steal."

    When she walked away, Gary noticed that she wasn't pressing against the wall like the other thief. He checked to see if the watcher was still functioning, then looked back at the thief as she passed through the doorway. He scratched his head, then bent down to pick up his sack. That was when he saw the red line painted on the floor. Before, it had looked like decoration. But standing this close to the wall, he could see it had been added later. He waved his hand around and looked up. Nothing happened. But once he crossed over the red line, the watcher beeped and its light turned yellow. He leaned away from the line and the watcher soon relaxed. With his newfound knowledge, Gary confidently strolled across and out of the room.

    He was standing before another stretch of marble, but with no carpet. Considering what he had just learned, Gary looked to the edge of the floor. The marble ended in a two-foot wide swath or wood. Could they be any more accommodating? he mused to himself. Using the conveniently silent pathway, he skirted through the room and up to the second floor. While crossing to the door leading to the Hall of Records, he noticed an expensive vase on a table and slipped it into his sack.

    The room was dark on the other side of the room. Gary was squatting and crawling because of the Mechalomaniac watcher and cannon opposite him. There were no markings on the floor to indicate a safe area. He crept as close to the door as the darkness allowed. He thought he might be able to open the door from here. Leaning close to the wall, he reached out. A loud click jerked him back into the shadows. The cannon had turned and raised its head. It was poised to fire at the slightest provocation.

    "Okay, stay calm," he reassured himself. "It's clear this is a test. Every thief has to get this license, so they put those machines here to make sure only the good thieves can do it. And I'm a Master Thief, so this should be no problem for me."

    Near the door was a small, decorative table. It didn't appear as if it could hide a person, but Gary doubted a simple machine would be able to notice. He still had to cross a bright area, but had the camera's inherent delay to his advantage. He stepped back and took a deep breath in. Then he made the leap.

    The Master Thief sailed into the open light of the room. The Mechalomaniac watcher raised a yellow alert. However, just as the cannon is not able to strike a target lower than three feet, they could neither fire higher than five. He landed barely short of the table. With cat-like reflexes, he leaned down and rolled for safe cover. The buckle of his boot catching on the loose carpet was not part of the plan. Gary's knee jerked out from under him and he fell backward, crashing into the doors. They broke open and spilled him onto the tiled floor of the Hall of Records. He rolled over two more times with a loud clatter. Scrambling to his feet, he reached for a flash bomb, anticipating whoever might come to investigate.

    The only sound was the mechanical chirping of the watcher as it resumed normal operation. The were no other people around. Gary let his breath out and closed the doors. His note said a Mr. Bartleby should be here. Gary would have to wait. He wandered around running his fingers over numerous books, all filled with arcane numbers that were meaningless to him. When he climbed a ladder to look at some of the higher shelves, he was startled to discover the room was occupied after all.

    Seated at a desk was the wrinkled and slightly overweight figure of a man with a ridiculously bald head of ragged, gray tufts. He precisely matched the description of someone who would be named "Bartleby".

    Gary began to creep closer to the seated figure. Then he recalled that he had been walking around openly and without regard for the tile floor before. The old man hadn't been alerted then, so he paced right up behind him. There was no response. He cleared his throat. Bartleby didn't stir.

    Finally, he moved to Bartleby's side and leaned down almost directly into his face.

    "Wha...? Oh! How startling! Ah... You must be a thief."

    Gary marvelled at the banker's powers of observations.

    "I must say," Bartleby continued, "You were able to sneak up on me quite well. Why, I didn't hear a thing! You must be a very excellent thief."

    "Yeah, I'm that too." Gary acknowledged, absently and slightly underwhelmed. He handed over the parchment given to him by MacHall. "I'm supposed to get one of these permission slips."

    "Yes, yes. Of course." He slipped out a sheet from the stack of thieving licenses and began filling out the appropriate blanks. "What's you're name, then?"

    "It's... just put down 'G'."

    Gary frowned as he watched the old man write the letters 'G', 'E', 'E'. Bartleby continued to ask other basic questions: age, occupation, years in school. It made him impatient.

    "Where shall we deliver your newsletter to?"

    "I usually hang out at the Incontinent Apeman." he offered.

    "Would you like to be entered into the drawing for a valuable prize."

    "What are you talking about? I'm just here to get this license thing."

    "New licensees are put in a drawing and..."

    "I don't care about that. Just give me the paper that says I can steal stuff."

    "You don't want to be in the drawing?" Bartleby persisted.

    "No. Now give me the license."

    "Oh, okay." He marked Gary to be entered in the drawing, then handed him the completed license. "Now, I have to read you the Bank Guild bylaws. But where did I put them? Oh, here they are. See, it starts with this preamble and, I know it seems a little boring, but it's all very important and..." Bartleby looked up to discover that Gary had left a few moments ago. He turned around in time to see the Master Thief exiting the Hall of Records. "Well, I'm sure he'll do all right." he muttered.

  18. #18
    Registered: Oct 2001
    Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
    So far so good. Let's see some more.
    FM in Progress: Bane III
    Previous FMs: CoSaS III- THE NINE YEAR SLEEP (content released), Keep of Deceit, Cult of the Damned and A Keeper's Betrayal.

  19. #19
    Hey, why'd ya stop?

    M-m-m-m-oooo-r-r-eeee. Urp.

  20. #20
    Registered: Oct 2002
    Location: Michigan, USA
    It's been over half a year, I doubt he has any more to tell.
    Last edited by Rebelteen; 1st Jun 2003 at 12:01.

  21. #21
    Registered: Oct 2001
    Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
    Originally posted by theImmortalThief
    Ah, i was wondering what happened to you!
    I'm still wondering about that.
    When I saw this thread up in the first page again I got excited for a minute, thinking that he'd finally returned. I regret to say this, but I think telliamed like many others, has left the thief world.

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