Happy Halloween, everyone, and welcome to my latest Shadowchasers project.

I expect big things for this one, especially since I'm working with a beta-reader now, who's helping a great deal.

Anyway, I'd like to take this time to ask all fans of my continuity to check out a few additional stories that have popped up recently. Lux-Nero's new "Dark City Chronicles" debuted yesterday, and Metal Overlord's "Dance Macabre" should be updated soon. For another good Shadowchasers fic, check out "Journey to the Future", a joint project between Metal Overlord, Lux-Nero, and MichaelDJ54.

And now, without further ado…

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Hello. The name's Jacob Dugan. Senior member of the Chicago Shadowchasers. You might remember me from a story you read a few months ago about all the trouble that happened in this city.

I didn't play a personal role in the story you're reading now, but I did study the events of it a great deal after it happened. And I've got a lot to say in the matter.

I thought I'd start it off by saying a few things about something I saw a lot of while in the service: ambition.

Ambition plays a big role in the military, where a lot is based on merit. A soldier who does a good job advances in rank, and his job has greater rewards. Higher rank means a better salary and more privileges, along with a lot more respect from others. There's not a Corporal who doesn't want to become a Sergeant. And there are no Lieutenants who don't strive to be Captains.

Trouble is, there's an old saying… "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". There's another old saying that says "With great power comes great responsibility", but very few people actually take it to heart. The higher in rank that a person gets, the higher he wants to get. A Colonel will sometimes do anything to earn the stars that signify the position of General, and once he has them, he might not be satisfied, and want more stars.

Stories of the Marines are full of ugly stories of officers who used every trick in the book to become successes in the business… Some have bent and even broken the rules to do so. Leavenworth is full of unscrupulous officers who thought they could get away with it, but the sad truth is, many did get away with it.

In the world of Shadow, many races have meritocratic societies and militaristic ones where rank is everything. And in these societies, climbing the ladder to the top can be long journey fraught with peril…

It's amazing what the most megalomaniacal members of these societies will do to be on the top of the heap…

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SHADOWCHASERS

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Ascension

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A Fanfic by Cyber Commander

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DUEL ONE

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Prologue

A Hot Day in The Walking City

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Boston.

It was a town known for its history, and its heritage.

Its inhabitants, humans and Shadows alike, called it The Hub, The Cradle of Liberty, and The Athens of America. It was far from the biggest city in America, but the citizens here had a lot of pride as Bostonians.

It was nine AM, and it was August 21st, a little over one year since the fall of the Temple of All-Consumption in Chicago. The Triad was still at large, but nary had a peep been heard out of the Cult of Tharizdun since then. It seemed that they had not yet even come close to recovering.

In a diner in Charlestown, a waitress – who happened to be an elf – turned on a radio before picking up a tray to serve food to customers. A familiar female voice came on the air.

"Good morning Beantown!" said the cheery voice. "Sarah Blaze here, and there's something that I want to get off my chest, because it's really been bugging me.

"It's not that the Red Sox blew it again last night… It's not that the hot chocolate machine in the studio commissary broke down this morning for the umpteenth time…

"You see, my car was shot, so I had to trade it in to buy a new one. I got a model I really liked. It was sleek, sporty, and the financing was just great. Hell, I even liked the color.

"Now, I had barely driven it off the lot, when this old guy, who I figure was between seventy and three-hundred years old, who likely had just come back from the early bird special at the local diner, tells me that it's a, quote, 'curse on our country' because of its Momentum-powered engine, and that his old electric-gasoline hybrid was much better!"

In the financial district, a street crew repairing the road (made up partially of hobgoblins) was also listening to Sarah Blaze's broadcast.

"Now, I went online and compared my new car with the typical hybrid," continued Sarah. "The last model of hybrid cars got forty miles to a gallon of gas. With their tank capacity, that means they could go about four-hundred miles without needing a fill-up or a charge. My new car can go six-hundred and eighty miles before I need a new charge.

"Also, hybrids always bragged about how they emitted much less carbon monoxide than old cars that were fueled only by gasoline. True, but… You know how much carbon monoxide a Momentum engine puts out? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

"Not to mention that all the hybrids I've seen are the size of clown cars. My new car actually has room for four passengers and a full week's worth of groceries in it!

"Come to think of it, I'm willing to wager a week's salary that the old fart couldn't name even one advantage his old hybrid had over my new car. And in case he's listening right now, which I doubt, I'm deadly serious."

In Chinatown, the kitsune owner of a horticulture shop had just turned on Sarah's show. He had listened for a few minutes before having to help customers.

"So what is wrong with Momentum that causes old folks to get into a pants-wetting panic?" asked Sarah. "I'll tell you in two words: Zero Reverse.

"That's right. Ever since folks found out that Momentum caused the disaster that blew up half of Neo Domino, some people have been scared of it. Every time there's an accident with something new, people think it's the work of the Devil. Everyone is worried that it will happen again.

"I hate worrying! It gives me hives!

"Well, I have news for all you curmudgeons… Zero Reverse was done on purpose. That's right. You heard me.

"Is it our fault that some psycho organization with a dumb name wanted to blow up a city? Should we stand in the way of progress and make terrorists think we're scared?"

In Lou's Auto-Body Shop in Kenmore, not far from Fenway Park, Lou (actually a gnoll) stopped to turn on Sarah's show as he took a break from repairing a pickup's busted transmission.

"Old codgers have been saying that the 'good old days' were better than it is today," continued Sarah. "Well, comparing their days to today, I'd rather have what we have now. Modern technology is a lot better than doing things the old-fashioned way… And people have been trying to resist progress for centuries, saying that this and that is going to corrupt us. People said that rock and roll was evil back when Buddy Holly first went into business. Heck, did you know that when Elvis was popular, there were some people who thought that his gyrating dance moves were too raunchy? I swear I am not making this up. Those people should compare him to the way some of today's pop stars dance.

"And that's only entertainment. When crossbows were invented WAY back in medieval times, some people wanted to outlaw them, because they thought that they could kill people too easily. But the kings who ruled over these idiots were smart. They knew that if they didn't let their armies use crossbows, they'd be mowed down by the armies of nations who did use them! That's probably why they were the ones in charge.

"So… I have some advice to all my fans who like the fact that their televisions have more than three channels and you don't have to get out of your seat to change them. If some old geezer tells you that some product of modern technology is bad, just tell him to pick up his old rotary phone and call someone who gives a rat's ass!"

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Far away from Boston – across the ocean, in fact – lay Great Britain.

I was one PM here, and in a hidden valley in Yorkshire, Shadowchaser Headquarters stood.

In a waiting room in the infirmary, a very depressed girl – not yet quite a woman – sat on a couch. She was wearing pajamas and an odd sleeve covering her left arm and hand. The sleeve was actually made of iron that had been magically enchanted to give it the consistency, weight, and softness of cloth; unworked iron was one thing that weakened demons.

She was part-demon now… Something that she regretted with every fiber of her being.

Her name was Shelly Kirkson, and she was seventeen years old. A year ago, she had run away from home. Confused and bewildered, she had been easy prey for the Cult of Tharizdun, who brainwashed her and made her one of them. Her initiation had been terrible. She had been fed to a demonic machine that devoured her left arm and replaced it with a demonic graft, a new arm made of demon's flesh.

The arm didn't truly have a mind of its own, but its evil aura had corrupted her blood, filling her mind with evil thoughts and bringing her to the verge of madness. Fortunately, the cult was toppled before she had hurt anyone with it or committed any crimes.

She regretted her actions now, and wanted to go home. There was hope… The sleeve she was wearing would protect her from the graft's wicked influence. And her parents were in the other room, speaking to a doctor. As they did, she looked through her deck of Duel Monsters cards – she had been allowed to keep it, so long as she never went near a Duel Disk.

Inside the doctor's office, the doctor was speaking to the very worried parents.

"This won't be easy, Mr. and Mrs. Kirkson…" he said. "Your daughter's body has been corrupted by that graft, but I think we may be able to do this… Let me explain how it will be done…

"Simply amputating the arm won't work, as demonic grafts tend to regenerate. What we'll do first is put Shelly into a medically-induced coma."

Shelly's mother seemed a little afraid at the sound of this, but he went on.

"We'll then give her treatments of something called golden ice," he continued.

"Golden ice?" asked Mr. Kirkson.

"It's not real ice," explained the doctor. "Golden ice is a ravage, which is kind of like a poison, but it only affects creatures of supernatural evil, like demons. Eventually, it will cause the graft to simply die. It may take one dose and only an hour, or it may take several doses and a whole day; with demonic flesh, it's hard to tell. But it should do the job.

"Once that is done, we will combine modern blood transfusions with divine magic to purge all traces of demonic corruption from her body. And once that is done, we should be able to use more powerful divine magic to regenerate her true arm.

"Then actual therapy can begin. She can recover, given time."

Mr. Kirkson sighed.

"Can you explain again who's paying for this?" he asked.

"A businessman named Maximillion Galti," said the doctor. "His company was unknowingly funding the cult, and now he has a fund in place to help every one of its victims."

"Do what you have to do…" said Mr. Kirkson. "We just want our little girl back…"

His wife nodded.

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Three hours later, back in Boston, the clock turned to noon.

A popular sitcom that took place in Boston was set in a bar. The Prancing Pony was a bar in Forest Hills that was very popular with Shadowkind.

Inside the bar, it was busy. A waitress served mugs of beer to two muscular lizard men.

"Well, it ain't viperwine," said one of them, as they picked up the glasses, "but it's good stuff."

At another side of the room, two eldarin were drinking margaritas and looking suspiciously at a female dark elf. She was sitting alone at a table, wearing sunglasses to protect her eyes from the sun, and sipping a martini.

Standing up and leaning against the wall (because the chairs would break if he sat in them) was a banderhobb, drinking from a pitcher of stout lager as if it were a mug. Two gnomes sat at a nearby table watching the large, toad-like creature nervously, drinking Irish coffees (a favorite cocktail among that species).

In one quiet corner of the bar, a man sat at another table. He was clearly human. He wore a spotless white suit and tie and a white fedora, the brim of which covered his eyes slightly. His hair was blonde and collar-length.

He sipped from a glass of 7-Up (he wasn't averse to having a beer now and then, but he was on duty right now). He peered at the bar from under his hat. So far, so good. No-one knew he was here yet… No-one but the waitress who had given him the soft drink, and he didn't think she knew who he was.

He reached into his pocket and took out an old fashioned pocket watch on a gold fob. He knew that a wristwatch might have been easier, but this was kind of a family heirloom. He looked at it.

Then the door opened, and two girls walked in. They were dressed like typical rebellious teens, in leather halters with midriffs and tight skirts, with black eye shadow and lipstick. They both had long, raven-black hair down to their waists. Aware viewers could see that one of them had small horns on her forehead, and the other had a tail that lurked quietly behind her. Tieflings.

They're here, though Dante. It's show time…

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Next:

Dugan: You're likely wondering who Dante is. Well, for now, let me just say that he and I go back a long ways. We were involved together in something big a few years ago, and I'd love to tell you about it, but that's a tale for another time. I will say he's an exceptional guy.

More about him will have to wait… We're just getting started.

"On the Assignment; The Conflicting Decks" is coming soon.