Friday, 30 March 2012

Top Bryss Looks At The Rapier Laser Destroyer Rules




Tonight, 'Scape drives on a road, Sooty hurts his eyes reading the green text, and I freak out over the news of no more Necron Abyss supplies..

Hello, and welcome to a short Top Bryss! If you pay attention to the green text, you'll notice we have a new presenter rather than two of them being different names for me. We'll introduce him properly later. For now, this:


The Rapier. At first glance, it resembles a miniature Land Raider but with a massive laser cannon welded to the front. And you'd be right. However, this is in fact a piece of artillery, which means inevitably we must compare it to the Thunderfire Cannon. This makes it look really rather good. It's 40 points cheaper, with 1 extra point of armour than the norm for artillery. Furthermore, it has two crew rather than one, and can be bought in squads for more wound-spreading. The weapon itself is reasonably ranged, and competent at its job penetration-wise.

However, it is very easy to compare it favourably to the Thunderfire, in the same way that Angelina Jolie can be compared favourably to the fat slob working in the supermarket. Despite all that it has going for it, it's still a mediocre unit. For one thing, it's a one-shot gun, meaning that if it misses, it's about as useful as a hot tub made of ice. For another, it has the peculiar trait of exploding when it is vanquished, something more likely to affect the crew than your enemy. If anything, that should have lowered the cost a bit.

Now, this is the point where the people who have armies as bland and efficient as a chess army will yammer on about cover, and how much this will help it. However, being as it is a Forge World unit this makes the usual user demographic slightly more casual. And they usually don't care about cover-open space ratios and suchlike. And even if it is in cover, it doesn't take too much to kill six men operating three shots.

So, if I were to make a concluding statement, it would go something like this. The Rapier is better than most of the artillery units out there. But that doesn't save it from being an artillery unit, with the five hundred and four drawbacks that incurs.

EDIT: Having re-read the entry, I have noted that the Rapier is in fact Twin-Linked. This improves its score somewhat, although I am unwilling to give it what classes as an A in the SQA system.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

40k Races In Four Units: Space Marines


Ooh, fancy new Blogger layout. I personally think it's a little too white but the postwriter looks more like Word now, which is a plus.

I'm getting sidetracked. Today's 40k RIFU is one of the most difficult of them all: Space Marines. You see, the problem with Marines is that they're so similar it's hard to find actual distinct units within the book. But I'm going to try anyway.

TACTICAL MARINES: This is the most obvious and mandatory unit choice. The Tactical Marine is the Space Marine in his base form; tough, mid-to-short range and flexible, what with the grenades and everything. It's a nigh-on auto include for this article, and for that reason they go in the list.

Now, this is where it gets difficult. The article premise means I can't include vehicles, and there are so many bland units in the book that don't add very much to the overall impression. After some more thinking, my second choice is...

TERMINATORS: The Terminator at its core is a model designed to shout "Look how implacable I am!" Doubly so for their Assault counterparts. They represent the element of frustration present within rival players as you jammily pass all your saves with your 2+ shenanigans. Even if their army does the same thing, they will still encounter frustration, it's just that easy to negate damage. For that reason, they're on the list.

BIKERS: The Biker represents a key tenet of most Marine armies: that of being really rather tough but still having the power of mobility. They're also really flexible, able to keep bolters but also gain special weapons to bust tanks. They don't sacrifice any skill to concentrate on another, and for that reason, they're on the lists.

TECHMARINES: Wait, what? Right, listen here you. Techmarines are terrible. But if they were good, they wouldn't deserve a place on this list. Why? Because Techmarines represent how samey all Marine armies really are at their heart. These armies punish uniqueness in favour of more generic awesome power armour dudes with melta guns. The Techmarines suffer for being a special snowflake in an army that doesn't want that, and that's the reason why they're on the list. Got it?

Well, this means we now have two armies done, with another to come. That's coming soon-ish. Probably after I receive a certain something in the mail...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rules Repair: Necron Destroyers


Welcome back to me actually doing what I would have done at RulesMan! And can I just say how excellent it is to be doing so. Anyway, today I'm looking at the Destroyer and how to fix it.

The first thing we need to do is examine where the Destroyer stands in the new book. It's Jump Infantry, has a weaker Starcannon and can upgrade to something a bit more rangey. It costs double the points of the heir apparent, Tomb Blades. If I upgrade the Tomb Blade to the Retrocron Destroyerlike (a 3+ save and particle beamer), they are equal in cost but one is clearly superior. Especially since in most cases a one wound model won't care that it doesn't have natural T5.

Now, what the purists (the ones that approve of custom rules anyway) would do is probably turn it back into what it was before and keep the new price. This creates an X vs Y scenario. On the one hand, the Destroyer is more likely to pass a T test (minor plus), needs not rely on good Scatter (strong plus) and has better AP (minor plus as this only matters against 4+ armies like Eldar and, err, Necron Warriors, I guess?). The Tomb Blade has....nothing much in its favour. It might score more hits, and can swap armour for cover. Therefore I don't want to do this. It turns Tomb Blades into the equivalent of Scout Bikes, and who uses those again?

What I really ought to do is make Destroyers in their new state a viable option. OK, let's throw this out:

Necron Destroyers: Same points per model

Statline Changes: None

Wargear Changes: The Gauss Cannon may be fired in either Low or High Gauss Concentration. High Concentration uses the current Gauss Cannon profile however is promoted to S6, Low Concentration uses this profile:

Range     Strength    AP         Type
_______________________________
 36"               5             5        Assault 3

Special Rules Changes: Destroyers become Jump Infantry (Jet Pack).


Well now, the situation isn't so clear cut any more, is it? By keeping it Jump Infantry, it keeps an element of difference to the Tomb Blade. Like a certain other infantry weapon with 'Cannon' in its name it has two profiles. It, and by extension the Heavy Destroyer, gain a JSJ move. I did toy with also allowing them to retain a 12" move but that makes Heavies really, really good.

The fake Starcannon is now a real(ish) one, which makes it slighly more plausible as a threat and makes the regular Destro  better equipped to support their heavier brethren rather than being useless ablative wounds you'd never take.

That's all for now. If it doesn't work out, or you think it should be 45 points, etc., let me know. I was swithering between 40 and 45 (in which case the Heavy upgrade drops in cost by 5), so if the other makes more sense I'd like to know.

Friday, 23 March 2012

40k Races In Four Units: Necrons


Yep, new series time! In this series, which may or may not help new people in choosing what race to play as, I shall boil down armies into a small, condensed list. I'll begin with Necrons.

But before I do that, some ground rules. The four units will consist of non vehicles only except in extreme circumstances. This isn't because they're not iconic, rather the flipside. Each army has a unique vehicle aesthetic template, and therefore adding one vehicle to the list doesn't work as well. Also, I'm taking in iconic units of both gameplay and fluff. Certain armies may contain bias towards one side or the other. Let's begin.

Necrons In Four Units


You'll notice I've used the old Codex cover. This is because, to me, it fits the overall theme of the Necrons better than the 'Hey, look at me, I'm an Overlord' cover of the new book. Anyway, the four iconic units of Necrons are:

IMMORTALS: Wait, what? Not Warriors? No, not Warriors. Why? Immortals ARE Warriors. The old ones, anyway. They emphasise the tenets of the classic 3rd edition Necrons, resilience and short-ranged punch. For that reason, they are the quintessential troop of Necrons, especially for the purists. (I'm looking at you, Kilgore...)

DESTROYERS: If my previous point about fluff and style vs gameplay wasn't clear enough, have another reminder. Destroyers represent(ed) what Necron fire support is about, adding a mobile firepower element at a moderately better range. And they are easy to proxy as Tomb Blades, which are actually all of these things in the current book. However, I'm not sold on the aesthetics of the Blades so can't include them. For that reason, I classify Destroyers as an iconic Necron unit.

CRYPTEKS: Now this is a new unit I CAN iconify. The Cryptek is the single most customisable model in the Necron army, and represents the innovative side of the Necron army. They, like Lords before them, give the player an extra layer of options that often do things no other army can. They prove that Necrons are more than mere machines, and so for that reason they have their name stamped with the Bryssling Imperial Seal into the Hall of Iconic Units.

SCARABS: All the other units I have listed fall into the Necron stereotype of skeletal metal men. All Space Marine units fall into the category of seven foot bodybuilders with rocket-propelled-bullet guns. Scarabs are here because they are not skeletal metal men. They represent the fact that Necrons have an element of difference, the Canoptek units, which have different aesthetics and different roles to play in the army. Plus, they exemplify the classic Necron trait of being really annoying to fight against. For those reasons, they're in the list.

That's all for now. I need to have a go at mending the Destroyer entry. Off I go!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Minor Updates!

Right, I've managed to get my dissertation and final Spanish Speaking Test done and dusted. Woot. Now I can resume work again. Current to-do list looks like this:

  • Paint Talos
  • Paint Razorwing
  • Paint Deathmarks
  • Paint Overlord
  • Paint Barge
  • Paint Trazyn
I also finished the Cronos and a couple of Warriors, so I'll try to put them up soonish. They're basic, but they're evidence of me doing actual hobbying, so they'll do. Additionally, I'll try to do more Sa'Maa stuff as well as start a new custom rules series.

The tentative title for this is "Warhammer 40k Races in Four Units," with the purpose of boiling down lots of factions and sub-factions into Kill Team style lists. This will typically consist of a Sarge-type commander, a Troop and two other units, modified as I see fit. I'll kick off with Space Mari...nah, I won't, you'd expect that. I'll start with Necrons.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

High Gothic For Dummies #7


At long last, I'm back for Tyranids #3. There aren't many left to go, which is good because at the time of writing I need to be out the house in an hour for a wedding. Let's plunge into Heavy Support.

Zoanthrope: tyranicus animus aborrens. This one stumped me. I know the first bit is 'Mind Tyranid,' but I can't find aborrens anywhere. I first thought it was the present participle of the verb aborior, 'to miscarry,' but it isn't. Even if that would suggest it's a horrible abomination that shouldn't have been born.

Biovore: tyranicus patris boletus. Despite the two words seemingly swapping cases, this is 'Mushroom Father Tyranid.' Very appropriate for the skillset of this particular beast.

Carnifex: The Carnifex gets its own genus, that's how awesome it used to be. The 4th edition book gives 3 possible names for different biomorph configurations.

  • carnifex voracio- They were aiming for "Ravenous Executioner." I'm assuming this could be any Carnifex.
  • carnifex ululare-  "Howling Executioner." This probably points to the classic 'Screamer-Killer' variant with a pair of scything talons.
  • carnifex arbilys - I have no idea what the bit that doesn't mean 'Executioner' is supposed to be, and neither does my dictionary.
Dominatrix: tyranicus praepotens. Moving up to the really massive stuff, this is 'Very Powerful Tyranid.'

Norn Queen: tyranicus primogenitor. 'First Creator Tyranid.' Unsurprising.

Prandium: Not actually a Tyranid, but I'm including it to round off the 'Nid section. This planet was one of the first to be devoured by the race, and means 'Lunch.'

And so, having exhausted the 4th edition Tyranid book, the High Gothic series can give itself a pat on the back and rest for a bit.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Hints for Homebrew: Weaponry



Although clever and characterful unit design is important when writing up your custom army, just as important is the weapons cache you're going to send them into battle with. This is obviously a lot easier when designing a C3 or new Guard regiment, as you have a solid base to work from, adding only a few unique things that are often only trinkets for characters or new units. A new race on the other hand demands you to build up the entire weapon list. I'll cover hints for both these scenarios in this post.

Adding to an existing weapons portfolio

1) X Pattern: The obvious way to add a small distinction to your new Chapter or suchlike is to have some units have a different make of a standard weapon. Ideally this modification will help the unit perform their role within the army or allow them to do something that their parent unit couldn't do before.

Example: Sanguinary Guard. It would obviously be a bit naff to carry a normal bolter if you're a blingy assault unit, on account of it being Rapid Fire, so we get the Angelus pattern. This also sets them apart from Vanguard Veterans, who carry bolt pistols instead, and makes the Guard seem more of a 'different from the norm' unit.

2) Theme weapons: Use the theme of your army as inspiration for a new weapon, simple and effective. Bonus points if it would look really out of place in the parent army, as it's a bit of a detriment to uniqueness if the weapon could feasibly be seen in the original army.

Example: The Frost Axe. It's a frosty axe carried by warriors who hail (I swear this isn't a deliberate snow-based pun) from an ice planet. It would look really out of place in the vanilla flavour codex, which is more universal and unspecific.

Designing a new weapons portfolio

1) Don't go overboard with guns: It's all very well having lots of weapon types, but statistically the more you have, the less unique they will all be. A good rule of thumb is to have 15 ranged weapons or less that can be used by at least 2 units. That should be enough to cover all your bases. You then have room for more guns that can only be used by 1 unit and form part of the unit character.

Remember when writing a custom codex to keep in mind that you want other people to be able to use it easily. Think in your mind that it's not just you who has to memorise all these statistics. Too much codex flicking ruins game pace.

Example: In the Dark Eldar Codex, there are about 14 guns (excluding missiles) that appear in more than one unit entry. You then have Haemonculus gear, missiles (included here as only flyeresques use them), the Mandrake Baleblast, etc.

2) Things you want to cover: When writing up gun stats, keep in mind the gun archetypes. They work for a reason. Don't feel pressured to include all of them if some of them aren't keeping with the army theme so long as this doesn't affect the playability of the army. Some common types are:

2.1) The Troop Gun: You NEED this. Generally around the potency of a Bolter or less. Don't feel scared to go up to AP4 or have 3 shots by the way. It's perfectly doable if balanced by shorter Strength or range. As a rule, I'd say the extremes are 30", S5/Poison, AP4, Assault 3, but not all at once. That's more like an Elite Gun. If you'd like more shots but not Assault, just make a rule that allows the gun 3 shots rather than 2 when rapid-firing or similar.

2.2) The Troop Gun Upgrade: This is a better version of the Troop Gun. Often characterised by a similar name and slightly better stats, or being a Heavy version of the Troop Gun, or both. The classic example is the Heavy Bolter. These are often disregarded by the competitive sector as a unit upgrade for not being able to do much more than the Troop Gun for the points you pay, which is usually about 5. So keep that in mind when deciding what to do with it.

2.3) The Mid-Strength: Not quite the TGU, not quite the AT, this gun is at home fighting both heavy infantry and vehicles. This is a very effective, popular archetype for that reason. Generally no more than +10 points for the pleasure of having one. No more than S7, as any more is technically Anti-Tank territory. Examples include the Autocannon and Missile Pod.

2.4) The Short-Range Anti-Tank: 6-24", S8+ with usually 1 shot, sometimes 2. They all generally have better AP than the Mid-Strength to emphasise their role as specialist weapons, and help justify their slightly more expensive cost. That said, a S10, AP6 weapon shouldn't be too much fewer in points compared to say, the Railgun or Lascannon as otherwise it's very exploitable. To help make up for shorter range, they often overlap with the Special Rules Gun, for example the meltagun and demo charge.

2.5) The Long-Range Anti-Tank: Although usually less effective than their short-ranged cousins, they make up for it in range. Sometimes they can be more expensive than these weapons because of their range, but this shouldn't happen in extremis, as it just makes them less efficient and less tempting than their cousin.

2.5) The Pricey Awesome Gun: The extreme Long Range AT, it's really expensive and usually unjustifiable, most often because it's only been giving one bleeding shot. Try to make yours less of an expensive gamble. It should be expensive, but surely if it's the best of the best it should be effective too?

2.6) The Special Rules Gun: A gun with special rules. They come from all walks of life. Cost them according to their role, and when talking templates think about how many they're likely to wound and their range.

2.7) The Downsized: Teeny-weeny versions of other weapons, in pistol form. Generally round about the cost of the original or slightly less due to the combat bonus.

3) No copying Jenkin's work: If you want a bolter, autocannon, meltagun, etc, play that army or make a variant of it. Try to be ever-so-slighly different whilst still useful.

Examples: Every race in the game has their own slighly different Troop Gun. Eldar missiles have a different anti-infantry profile to Marine ones.

4) Don't re-invent the wheel in combat: You're allowed the Special Combat Weapons from the rulebook, as they are the equivalent of public domain. Try to make up something useful if you want to though. Key emphasis on 'useful.' Even the combat armies don't really deviate too much from the norm.

Example: The Agoniser. A nifty two-combo of power weapon and poison. Dark Eldar in general are good at this.

Original Example: The Rector's Spear. A spear personally blessed by a priest of Sa'maa, so long as the bearer is alive, his squad gains +1 Leadership. 5 points. Useful as it means you don't need to attach a character to your unit to gain more Leadership. Also proves that it doesn't strictly need to be a purely combat bonus, although it helps if you lose.

Bad Example: The Scope Knife. A knife with a targeter on the handle for throwing, it gives +1BS. 10 points. For a combat unit with only pistols, this isn't really too useful, as you're not relying on the secondary shot.

Alright, that's all for now. Check back soon as I outline plans for the Disciples' weapons portfolio.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

RulesMan: Planning the Disciples of Sa'Maa


Right, I feel like I need to get back into doing this on a more regular basis after spending so much time on the hobby front. Before the good ship RulesMan sank, I alluded to and gave examples of units from a project tentatively dubbed 'The Disciples of Sky.' The premise is really quite simple: they're a sort of alt-Ecclesiarchy, a religious sect based on the worship of an Imperial saint whose soul was taken by the Dark Powers at the end of her life and warped into something else entirely. Reborn as a mad daemon, this former saint revealed herself to already slightly-deranged members of the Ecclesiarchy, who broke off and formed a religion of evil.

Not that you'd know it from talking to them. Rather than being a bunch of fanatical nutjobs, the Disciples have exacted careful, small scale plans and gradually emerged with a competent, intelligent worshipper base. In the grand scale of things, they're tiny, but they're a recognisable threat in their local star systems.

So, some basics:

HQ

Caliph: This is your basic commandery type. Rather than having proper force leaders, I've opted to have Haemonculus/Cryptek-type leaders. The idea is to have three or four Caliphs per slot, who get some basic morale and ability enhancing gear.

Safekeeper: This is your in-your-face heroey type. Named for the fact that when they're not in battle they guard vaults of holy relics. Can choose to specialise in shooting or combat.

Troops

Disciple Squad: Your basic trooper. Comes in three flavours, Attacker (short-range), Blaster (long-range) and Jammer (anti-vehicle). Themed names are forthcoming. Probably.

Transport

Bullfrog: It's a quadrupedal tank that carries stuff without fear of terrain. Disciple transport will either have legs or float, never tracks for religious reasons.

Misc

High Caliph Asum: Currently my only planned Unique. A very old man carrying a staff with the power to unleash plagues against certain model types.

Buraq Light Interceptor: A gun platform operated and partially powered by two detachable jetbikes. Like the Command Barge, the bikers will be able to negate a weapon destroyed/immobilised result at the cost of cutting movement speed in half. They can also abandon the platform, making it an immobile turret while they go to contest something. Fast Attack.

Golem Automatic Walker: Giant powered by magic. Can be cheaper, weak Scrap or stronger, more expensive Ferrosteel. I'm thinking of allowing it to throw wrecked vehicles as an attack, which could explode from the extra damage or potentially be used to block. Heavy Support. I don't know whether I want to make it a Monster or a Vehicle. Or I could be bold, and make it both. How? Witchery, of course.

The R-Save: A lot of Disciple armour is R-Save, meaning it must be re-rolled if passed. Disciples have Plated Robes that grant R3+, which is about a 44% pass rate and a happy medium between 4+ and 5+. Every non-vehicle model in the army will have an Invulnerable Save of at least R6+, which is more of a character thing than an actual advantage as the success rate is about 4%


Light Weapons: Many Disciple units have a secondary wargear item that grants them either better BS or a single S1 shot that ignores all types of save.

Throwing Knives: Rather than ordinary pistols, Disciples carry a brace of throwing knives. These are fired in the Assault Phase in lieu of using grenades and can do damage with either the initial attack or in a special (weaker) retrieval move. It's an interesting new take on the S3 combat unit.

That's all my initial ideas for this project. It's intended as a concept army, trying out new things and bizarre ideas. Plus, it would cost me lots of monies to actually make the army.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Lost RulesMan Articles: Fanfiction

And so, we come to the final lost article from Atrotos, this time from the era when we made a small foray into fanfiction. Unlike the others, I won't try to finish this, but I'll just leave it as is. Enjoy.

Jayla rapped softly on the hardwood doorframe peering around the open door into the dark office beyond.

"Come in," came a gruff voice and Jeyla swallowed hard before straightening her back and striding into the room with a forced air of confidence. Her uniform was neatly pressed and her posture was excellent. Her dress cap, tucked neatly into her sash, was adorned with the three gold pips of a senior lieutenant but her blouse still clung to her awkwardly as she broke into a nervous sweat.

The Judge's office was darkened by the armored slats that smothered the windows and the air was oppressive with the stale scent of cigar smoke and old leather. The walls were lined with massive tomes, some clearly too large to be lifted by an unaided human. Jayla was certain these contained every minutae of the Law and its subsequent studies, revisions, blessings, academic commentary and history. It was like a clear view into the augmented memory banks of the Judge himself.

Judge Kole did not sit at his desk, Jayla doubted he ever had done something as human as sitting. He stood ramrod straight, one hand behind his back the other plying a stylus over the hologram of an ancient document as it was projected from within a plinth of lacquered wood.

Jayla came to attention saluting the Judge's back and he ignored her for a few moments before he extinguished the hologram with a gesture and a grunt. When he turned toward Jayla it was like a statue in the Imperial Square had come to life and fixed its cold stare upon her. Every inch of her was scrutinized, accessed and recorded by the Judge's fathomless membanks. Every detail was weighed and every flaw was highlighted for further study at a later time - a Judge's glance was enough to produce a pages-long performance report that could lead to suspension or even a court martial.

"At ease, Lieutenant."

Jayla almost swayed with relief. She was not a soft person, no Arbites from the highest Judge to the freshest Academy grad could afford an iota of laxity to invade their character, but standing before a Judge made her want to beg forgiveness for her shortcomings. That such imperfections did not truly exist in her case was irrelevant.

"Lieutenant Jayla Al'Mad reporting for duty as ordered, Sir"

Jayla poured all the steel she could muster into her voice but it still sounded shaky to her ears. Years of harsh commands and withering dress-downs of new recruits still hadn't qualified her to speak directly to a Judge - not even a relatively junior one such as Kole.

Kole did not invite Jayla to sit in one of the uncomfortable looking armchairs. Instead he moved slowly back toward the plinth and inserted a series of commands into a retractable key pad. A new hologram appeared hovering in midair and Jayla could make out her picture and a massive block of blue, hazy text apparently split into entries like a journal. The latest, she saw, was from just two days before.

"Your record makes for interesting reading, Lieutenant."

Jayla did not know how to respond to this and so she kept silent. The Judge continued slowly as if reading aloud.

"Three accounts of heroic conduct, one Wounded Lion, 15 high-risk raids and no less than 1220 arrests."

Judge Kole turned his head toward Jayla eyebrow raised. He made a deft gesture with his stylus and her record disappeared.

"Al'Mad," he said tasting the word. "Tallarn or Beshdan?"

"Beshdan, Sir" Jayla replied.

"Indeed," said Kole grimacing as if contemplating something profound. It made his features seem even more predatory and his facial scars twisted into crazed webs of old pain. "Beshdans make excellent officers and have done for near 500 years. Beshda III has is a home to one of the largest precinct recruitment hubs in the Imperium."

"We are a proud people Sir. Eager to serve."

"I'm sure you are Liuetenant," said the Judge still contemplative. "What do you know of the Keshdar district?"

The change of topic was abrupt but Jayla had been expecting it. She knew any reference to her heritage would likely lead to a discussion of her home district. One that had been little more than a ghetto for Beshdan refugees 600 years ago when a civil war had ravaged the nearby systems - the Beshdan one included.

"It's a commercial district, Sir. Population verging on one million citizens - mostly lower class. It... it's been in a state of emergency the past 50 hours."

"Practically a warzone," Judge Kole said nodding slowly. "Right here in the heart of the city. Informants have alerted us to the presence of instigators and ringleaders - the ones goading the poorer citizens into a frenzy. Terror attacks on commercial centers has the district in chaos - a state that cannot be allowed to gain momentum."

The Judge's voice had a hard edge to it and Jayla wasn't surprised to find the Kole's eyes were alight with the flame of fanaticism. His lip curled in disgust as he went on to describe what the informants had uncovered concerning the various cell leaders.

"I  know that Keshdar is where you were born and raised Lieutenant,"said Judge Kole "but you probably didn't know that it is also where I reside."

Jayla had to clamp her jaw shut to keep from gaping in surprise. Judges were wealthy members of the high society she could hardly imagine one staying in such a decrepit part of town. For all she knew the Judge could live within a stone's throw of her own home! The last thought made her shiver.

"You are surprised," he said even though Jayla's facial muscles are burning with the effort of remaining absolutely rigid. A normal man might have smiled at her perceived discomfort but Kole only continued talking. "It was not always so - we were once residents of the Lilac district on the north side of the city. But when my son expressed interest in becoming a pianist we moved to Keshdar so that he could be closer to the Academy there."

Kole's gaze flickered for a moment over to a tiny frame on his broad oakwood desk.The picture is of a handsome young man playing the piano, his fingers moving too fast to be captured clearly by the pictographer. The Judge's face did not change but Jayla sensed something like pride radiating from behind the rock-hard visage.

So he is human after all, she thought to herself.

"Lieutenant," Kole says, his voice iron-hard once more. "You will assemble your squad and rendezvous with me at the southern gate of the precinct at 18:00."

"Yes, sir" Jayla responded, her thoughts of the Judge's humanity perished almost instantly.

"Dismissed."

Jayla unwound her muscles realizing she had stood almost at attention throughout the entire conversation, every instinct telling her that to relax even an inch was folly. She turned on her heel and left the room.

****

At 17:58 Kevan Sumone is all but sprinting down the polished marble hallway of the southern wing of Precinct 1019. He cannot believe his own stupidity.

"Women!" he howls aloud in frustration and a custodial servitor is shoved roughly aside as the Arbites armsman begins to pump his arms and legs in earnest, shifting his body into an all-out run. He rockets around the final bend, chest heaving and cold fear pouring ice into his bones. He has never been closer to utter terror than at the thought of being late for a rendezvous with Judge Kole.

Not caring about what his colleagues must think - after all they would all be doing the same in his position - he barrels down the last few meters of the southern thoroughfare and into the motorpool courtyard that marks the location of the southern gate.

None of his squadmates look up from their preparations at his approach but Lieutenant Al'Mad mutters something that has the other three members chuckling. Kevan's flushes in embarrasment but he maintains his cool knowing that a little chuckle at his expense is a small price to pay for almost being late. 

And I'm afraid that's all we're going to get out of this series. Back to original content next time.