Sunday, June 27, 2010


The Ancestral Trail #35: Identico, Deadly Replicator

Lost in the Factory of Dreams


In the thirty-fifth sector

10011 10100 10010 00101 01110 00111
10100 01000 00110 10010 01111
01101 10011 10101 01110 01100 01001
00111 01000 10100 00100 01001
00101 10011 01001 01110 10011
01000 00001 00100 00101

Strength from sunlight dies in shade

Richard and Robo can do nothing but watch as they are hurled through time and space through the worm hole, their journey lasting seemingly for an eternity. Then, without warning, their journey ends and they find themselves floating on the cruiser in an inky blackness. Richard hears Robo's motors humming and notices he is encased inside a thin bubble. Robo immediately informs the Chosen One that he is generating a temporary force field to protect him against the vacuum.

Unable to believe that he is in a vacuum, Richard asks Robo where they are, but the robot cannot determine their current position. So Richard can only use his eyes, and he soon discovers that they are hovering over the surface of a small planetary body, with a larger planet nearby. Indeed, a few moments later Richard sees a massive planet emerge from the distant horizon.

Just then, Richard notices something unusual in the distance and points out to Robo that there are pyramids in the distance. As he excitedly points this out, the inky sky above them begins to change, soon transforming into a white glow until large streaks of lightning split the sky. Robo warns that an electrical storm is approaching and that they must seek shelter. Richard quickly charts a course toward the pyramids, arriving there fairly quickly thanks to the lack of air resistance. Robo warns he is about to lose the force field and advises Richard to immediately enter one of the pyramids.

Richard seeks out an entrance, but Robo points one out at one of the pyramids' base. The robot releases a series of sounds and the door to the pyramid slides open. Richard wastes no time in guiding the cruiser through the tight opening. As soon as they are fully inside, Robo closes the door and removes the force field, indicating that it is safe to breath. Richard, however, is distracted by something else.

The inside of the building is filled with thousands of strange and exotic plants, and from above a sun-like light source shined its rays down. Richard felt at ease inside the giant greenhouse-like structure. Robo, meanwhile, follows the Chosen One wearily, his energy supplies almost depleted. Richard then seems something new: a giant pagoda in the garden's center. He excitedly runs up to it to see what's inside it, pushing aside some of the hanging vines to peer into it. Surprisingly, the pagoda is solid.

Without warning, Robo fires his heat ray on one of the closest vines on the pagoda. What really surprises Richard, though, is that he sees a metallic framework inside the plant, whose exterior smells of burning plastic. Suddenly, another vine whips from behind Robo and wraps around the robot, pinning its arms to its side. Robo fires several blasts of its heat ray, but to no avail as the vines begin pulling Robo up the side of the pagoda.

Richard has no time to help his friend when he, too, is caught in the vines' grasp. Within moments both companions are being carried up the pagoda's sides, being passed from vine to vine. Richard, unable to do anything, asks Robo what was going on. Robo replies that the vines are Replitypes, mechanical copies of organic beings created by a replicator called Identico.

Eventually, the duo are released when they reach the top level of the pagoda. There, Richard notices a peculiar creature in the level's center. From its bulbous body exudes many tentacles and creepers, and attached to those creepers are hundreds of pod-shaped items. Richard calls out to the creature, asking if it is Identico. The replicator smiles and exclaims happily at receiving a genuine carbon-based organism.

Richard is puzzled about Identico's enthusiasm, and the creatures explains that its prime directive is to replicate the dominant species on every known world and dimension, to create Replitypes whose function is to obey his every command. Identico complains that his Replitypes wear out too quickly without organic body for a pattern, and he gleefully notes that Richard would make an excellent source material. Richard isn't too keen on Identico using him to churn out thousands of clones of himself, each a mindless slave to the Evil One.

A robotic vine near Richard lashes out and wraps around his leg. Richard tries to hack it off, but it bounces off the rubbery skin. In desperation he turns to Robo and notices a new message on his panel. Richard hastily decodes it and quickly realizes that Identico, even though a machine, still relies on the sun as a power source. He asks Robo to somehow blot out the sun, and Robo complies. The robot flies up into the air and aimed two small tail jets at the ground.

With a burst of air from Robo's jets, the soil below is disturbed enough to generate thick dust clouds in the air. Identico tries to knock the robot down with his vines, but it's already too late. The dust clouds already begin to work as particles coat the monster's green skin and blot out the sunlight. As Identico's motors screech and groan, Richard feels the vine around his leg loosen. Within a few moments, Identico slumps over, motionless.

But Richard realizes he isn't out of the woods yet, as the pods surrounding Identico begin to burst open and grotesque Replitypes emerge, eager to avenge the destruction of their master. Robo lands and advises that the Replitypes don't need sunlight to function, meaning they need to escape. Robo hastens to the edge of the pagoda, which draws the attention of the creatures. Richard follows Robo and clambers down the side of the pagoda along its now-dead vines; Robo fires his lasers at the swarm of Replitypes to cover Richard's escape.

Once on the ground, Richard heads for the cruiser and looks for an exit, realizing that they have to leave the way they came in. The Replitype army is approaching quickly, and as Robo arrives Richard orders him to open the airlock again. Robo does so and the cruiser carefully flies out of the airlock. The door slides shut behind them, but a few Replitypes manage to squeeze through.

Richard feels the familiar sensation of Robo's force field, and moments later the Replitypes arrive and leap at Richard, bouncing harmlessly off the protective bubble. Robo warns that they creatures could damage the cyber cruiser and advises them to leave immediately. Richard obliges and sends the cruiser into a burst of speed away from the pyramids. Soon, the small planet beneath them disappeared, leaving the cruiser suspended in blackness. Richard asks Robo what their next move is.

Robo advises that the wormhole is now closed and scans for an additional exit. He finds one up ahead and advises Richard to push the cruiser to maximum speed. Richard can't see the exit but follows his companion's orders. Suddenly, he feels the cruiser strike something invisible. A bright red clouds his vision and the cruiser spins out of control. The dark skies around them give way to a more normal atmosphere.

Robo proclaims that they have successfully escaped by piercing the dimensional walls of Identico's dimension with the cruiser. Behind them, Richard sees the whole world that they had left collapse like a deflated balloon. With the atmosphere back to normal, Robo lowers the force field. Up ahead, Richard can see something strange approach them. He notices that the collection of objects look like numbers.


The thirty-fifth issue of The Ancestral Trail, while not breaking much ground, offers one of the more interesting sub-worlds that Richard has encountered so far in the second series. In previous issues, Richard navigates the terrain as if it were regular terrain, from one sub-world to the next on the cyber cruiser. But after being sucked through the worm hole, he ends up in a true sub-world, a whole self-contained dimension inside what looks like a giant balloon. This is the kind of minor details that make stories like this enjoyable, and while Richard's fight with Identico may not have been the most interesting, his location certainly was.

This issue also highlights something a bit more minor: the issue titles. If you go back and read through all of the first half's titles, you'll notice that the monster names are described only by title-esque descriptions. For example: Narkum, the Fly King; Klaw, Servant of Evil; Spector, Keeper of the Ice Kingdom, etc. The second half of the series also started out this way (see: Tengam, Gravity Defier; Zenon, Laser Lancer) but now it's getting into using adjectives to describe the monsters. You may recall that Holotron was called a Dynamic Deceiver instead of just a deceiver. Now we have Identico, who is a Deadly Replicator. While this trend won't be that prevalent, a few more monsters will have adjectives attached to their names when their issue is introduced.

Go to #36 - Scordef, Sinister Supervirus

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The Ancestral Trail #34: Toxis, Poison Predator

 Caught in the Grip of the Slime Creature


In the thirty-fourth sector

00010 01100 01111 10111 10011 00111
01001 10110 00101 01110 00101
10001 10101 00001 01100 00010
01100 01111 10111 10011 10010 00101
10100 10101 10010 01110 00111
00101 01110 10100 01100 11001
10100 01111 10111 01001 01110

Blows given equal blows return gently to win


Richard feels nauseous as he slowly opens his eyes, unable to remember where he is for a few moments. Eventually, his memory does return and he hears the familiar sound of Robo performing some kind of scan. Robo declares that Richard is all right and informs the Chosen One that he blacked out because of the Omni Piece. Carbon-based organisms cannot touch it, so Robo offers to carry it and places the glowing item inside a small compartment in the robot's side. Robo then states that they need to leave because without the Keeper,the citadel will collapse.

The pair quickly rush outside as Richard hears the sound of creaking metal and groaning mortar in the citadel. Outside, the cybercruiser is waiting for them. Richard and Robo hop onto the vehicle and climb into the air as the citadel stirs up a massive dust cloud with its destruction. Richard asks Robo for their next destination, and Robo instructs Richard to follow the toxic river that flows through Pipe City. Richard does so, and as he leaves Pipe City behind he notices the river begin to widen. He also notices the large collections of debris and garbage amidst the slime as the cruiser soars over the green muck.

Eventually, Richard notices a pungent smell and asks Robo what it is, but the stench is so powerful that Robo's sensors cannot analyze it. As the smell becomes worse, Richard sees a city in the distance, and upon flying closer to it, Richard notices that the entire city is charred black, from its buildings to the remnants of trees. Behind this city is a tall tower that seems to have escaped destruction. Richard asks Robo what happened, but Robo is unable to answer. Just then, something begins stirring inside the water beneath the cruiser, and a few moments later a massive creature emerges from the slime.

The monster, calling itself Toxis, demands to know who dares defy it before reaching out and plucking the cybercruiser from the air. Richard is forced to remain still as he is examined by the creature, who is disgusted by Richard's cleanliness and holds the cruiser away from its face. Toxis demands to know who Richard is, and Robo answers for him, identifying Richard as the Chosen One, much to Richard's chagrin.

Toxis' face flickers with recognition at the name and his disposition suddenly changes from cranky to sickly sweet. Richard asks Toxis what he wants, and Toxis insists he doesn't want anything and nearly lets the cybercruiser go. But he changes his mind and then says that there is one thing that Richard can do for him. Toxis creates a massive hole inside the toxic river and sets the cruiser down inside, along with Richard and Robo. Toxis then starts explaining to Richard what he can do for him.

Toxis explains that there is something inside the giant tower in the nearby city that he wants: a bauble containing a potion. Because Toxis can't leave the river, Richard has to go fetch it for him. Richard promises Toxis that he will retrieve the item; Toxis, to make sure Richard isn't "slowed down," keeps Robo with him as insurance. The poison predator then lifts Richard onto dry land, though not before the Chosen One reads a new binary message from his companion. Richard quickly sets off for the nearby city. On his way, he notices several pools of liquid on the landscape, similar to the alkali pools that had saved him and Robo from the Hydronomizers.

Eventually, Richard reaches the tower. He draws his sword and pokes inside the open doorway as a precaution. He feels his sword cut something like a rope, and suddenly a giant blade snaps into view at about neck-height across the doorway before vanishing into a narrow slit. The trap disarmed, Richard bursts into a run inside the tower and climbs up the spiral staircase that leads to the top. At the tower's peak, he finds himself on a small platform with no parapet and no bauble in sight. He lays on his stomach and leans carefully over the edge; he sees his prize, sitting inside an alcove surrounded by a forcefield and flanked by stone gargoyles.

As an experiment, he takes his sword and tries to stab the forcefield, but it bounces back at the same force with which he had struck it. Remembering the binary message, Richard attempts a new tactic and slowly slides his hand against the forcefield. He feels his hand slide into the forcefield, which feels like it is burning his hand, but he grits his teeth and carefully grabs the potioin before pulling it out of the forcefield. Wasting no time, he hurries back inside the tower and sprints down the staircase. He hears a loud commotion outside, which is the sound of the four gargoyles coming to life as they shriek in rage of their treasure being stolen.

Outside, Richard rushes through the city back to the slime river, but the gargoyles are beginning to catch up with him. He can see the river up ahead, with Toxis screaming encouragement. Before he can reach the river, however, one of the gargoyles manages to scrape Richard's helment with its poisonous stinger, forcing the Chosen One to take cover underneath a piece of wreckage. As he does, he hears a mighty scream and looks to see Toxis flinging gobs of slime at the gargoyles. As Toxis is distracted with the gargoyles, Richard looks at the vial and formulates a plan inside his head.

Within moments the gargoyles are encased in green slime and Richard emerges from his hiding place. He heads to the river's edge, where Toxis awaits him eagerly. Toxis demands his prize, but Richard insists Robo and the cruiser are freed first. The monster complies, and Richard tosses the beast the vial. Toxis catches the bauble, opens the stopper, and downs its contents greedily. After finishing the drink, Toxis immediately cackles and starts mocking Richard, stating his master the Evil One will be pleased that it is the Chosen One, of all people, that had freed him from his prison.

Richard doesn't seem surprised, which only makes Toxis laugh the more. He states that the potion was the key to his release, and now he is free to cover the Cyber Dimension in filth and purge it of cleanliness. The massive creature then attempts to pull itself out fo the river, prompting Robo to suggest an evacuation of the area. Richard, however, stands his ground and calmly asks Robo what are the contents of the pools of liquid in the area. Robo scans the pools and comes up with an answer, but has Toxis already figured it out.

The beast screams in rage as he realizes that instead of the potion, he had drunk sodium solution, he had drunk soap, which Richard had placed inside the bottle while Toxis had been distracted by the gargoyles. The solution is already affecting Toxis' body and causing the predator's mechanisms to swirl violently. Toxis tries to cover himself in slime, but it is already too late. Soon the monster transforms into a massive whirlpool, which unexpectedly rises into the air like an inverted hurricane.

The slime typhoon grows in strength until the winds begin to suck up Richard, Robo and the cruiser. Richard and Robo try to hang on to something, but the pull of the swirling toxic twister is too strong. But before they are sucked into the massive vortex of green goo, Richard notices that something is pulling them away from the river. At first he thinks Robo has done something, but Rob informs him that a new force has come into play: a worm hole has emerged nearby and is dragging them inside. Robo cannot counter the gravitational pull of the worm hole, and Richard realizes to his horror that the location of the worm hole is where he had emptied the phial of Toxis' potion.

Richard and Robo, unable to do anything else, climb onto the cruiser as the worm hole grows until it encompasses everythinig they can see. The sound of the swirling toxic vortex dissipates and the pair are pulled into the hole's center. Richard closes his eyes as he hangs on.


The thirty-fourth issue of The Ancestral Trail starts off with the revelation that the Omni Pieces, the MacGuffins that Richard has to retrieve in the Cyber Dimension, are toxic to the touch for him. This is in stark contrast to the Life Force Pods in the Ancestral World, which helped improve his courage, endurance, and other useful attributes. This toxicity once again reminds me of the theory that this series is a giant metaphor for growing up. If we see the Ancestral World as childhood, then the Cyber Dimension could be seen as the teenage years: in the former, life can be hard but there are those that help you improve and better yourself along the way, but in the latter, such help is much more difficult to come by and can be dangerous if not handled properly.

This issue also ends on a note that highlights just how different the Cyber Dimension is from the Ancestral World. In the Ancestarl World, the entire land is interconnected - while there may be different types of land like snowy mountains and swamplands and rocky craigs, the Cyber Dimension is more of a loose connection of areas that would never work in real life when interconnected. The emergence of the worm hole might explain such disparity in that alternate dimensions could be at play. What fate lies in store for Richard as he is sucked into the deadly gravitational pull of the worm hole?

 Go to #35 - Identico, Deadly Replicator

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