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The Destruction of Albany....

A scene I've been planning on writing for many years -- originally in fanfic, and now scheduled for "eventually" when I reach a certain point in my regular writing -- I've finally written a version of for the PBEM I've been running for some of the residents of Baen's Bar who frequent my conference "Paradigms Lost". The PBEM takes place in an alternate version of the world of Digital Knight, shortly after the end of the book.

As it is an alternate world, the events in the PBEM will only partly reveal things that will happen in the "real" universe, and therefore while the players will learn some neat stuff in advance, they will not know nearly everything, and many events which happen will not be the same in the real stories.

I just thought that many of my readers here -- a lot of whom are also gamers -- might enjoy my destruction of Albany, New York, as seen through a local newscast...



For those unfamiliar with the Empire State Plaza, you can
see much of it HERE.




Morgan switches to WTEN (Channel Ten); instead of the
Larry Elder Show, which is normally on at that time, the
words "SPECIAL REPORT" are emblazoned across the screen,
and Tanisha Mallett, one of WTEN's reporters, is speaking:

"...knows exactly what is happening, Ryan. Reports are
that some sort of ... creature, possibly a w..werewolf,"
she stumbles, as so many still do, over using that word in
a serious broadcast, "has killed several people inside the
Capital and may be being chased by agents of some special
forces. Eyewitness reports are confused at this time, but
what is certain," she continues, gesturing to the area
behind her, where you can see the towering South Mall of
Albany with its one huge central tower and four lesser; the
plaza nearby is cordoned off by police, and ambulances are
visible, with stretchers being loaded into one even as you
watch, "is that something terrible is going on inside.
We've seen several bodies brought out and a number of
wounded."

A large police van comes into view and stops,
disgorging a group of heavily-equipped men -- a Special
Weapons team.

"It looks like the police are getting ready to go in.
I'll see if I can get a word with one of the officers." She
and the cameras move in closer. "Excuse us sir, Tanisha
Mallett, WTEN. Can you tell us anything about the
situation?"

The officer is staring at the building, not even really
looking at her. "Not much, sorry. We have information that
there's probably a... one of those things that wrecked
Morgantown in that building, and it's apparently fighting
someone or something else at this point. But there's a hell
of a lot of people still in there, so we're sending in our
best team with special ammo to try and take it out. No
hostage situation has been reported, but in effect if we
can't get the problem isolated, everyone in the building is
a potential hostage."

The team heads towards the entrance to the main tower.

The SWAT team has disappeared into the huge main tower.
Those observing would have seen that they all put on
"CryWolf" units before entering.

Tanisha continues her narration. "As you can see, the
special team has entered the main tower of the Rockefeller
Plaza. From here I can... what's that?" she seems to be
listening to something being said to her through her
headset. "We have a cell phone call from within the
building! Hello, this is Tanisha Mallett, WTEN News; who is
this, please?"

The voice that answers is somewhat tinny, as is often
the case in such broadcasts, but seems to be a pleasant
baritone -- one with a rather nervous, breathless quality
about it at this time. "Um, this is Ed Kerwen. I work on
the tenth floor."

"Thanks for calling, Ed. Have you seen or heard
anything unusual?"

"Well, of course we got an alarm in the building a
while ago, and then everyone was told to stay in the
offices, not to attempt to run out. It's not a happy place
here, lemme tell you, people are right on the edge of
panic."

"Did you see any signs of what's going on in there?"

"Well, actually, I was out of the office when the alarm
went off -- down at the men's room -- and as I was going
past the stairwell door I saw... something."

"What sort of something, Ed?"

"Well, first I just saw a really quick movement --
someone running by the window in the door, right? And since
there was an alarm on I wondered if they were evacuating
down the stairs or something, so I took a look through. And
I couldn't quite see the guy who had gone past that first
time -- just a last movement as he vanished up the stairs -
- but I got a good look at the guy chasing him."

Everyone in the room is leaning closer to the TV;
Morgan and Camillus in particular seem to be hanging on
every word.

"And what did you see?"

Ed gives a nervous sort of laugh. "Well, it was really
kinda... look, I'm not into the wierd s[beep], you know,
and I always wondered if that whole Morgantown business was
some kinda hoax. Anyway, this guy -- kid, really -- comes
whipping up the stairs like three at a time. He's really
bookin', which is really pretty f[beep]ing impressive
'cause he's wearing armor."

"Armor? Like SWAT team armor?"

"Nothin' like that -- it's shiny and black and silver,
sorta like that stuff the stormtroopers wore in Star Wars,
except it's like more form-fitting and really shiny; the
parts that weren't silver, they were like shiny as glass,
not dull plastic or anything. And he had a sword."

Tanisha's expression is interesting; she's got a scoop
here, no doubt, but it's all so wierd that it's giving her
painful moments. "A... sword, you say?"

"Yeah, a big straight sharp blade longer than my arm --
and this kid wasn't all that big, but he didn't seem to be
havin' trouble carrying it. He just whipped right on by and
went up the stairs after whoever it was."

"That's very interesting, Ed. Anything else?"

"No, not really, just sitting here in -- hey, I hear
something on the next floor. Thumping or something? WHOA!"

There is a crashing noise and suddenly the air is dead
for a moment, before Tanisha takes over. "Ed? Ed?... We've
been cut off."

Screams come from the crowd and the camera slews around
and up, pointing at the main tower. A body plummets towards
the ground, having been apparently hurled through the
windows. Faintly, the sound of an explosion reaches the
microphones.

"Something's happening -- it sounds like a firefight
has broken out in the building!"

A brilliant flash of blue light blasts from the windows
of the 10th floor, and every window visible blows out in a
spectacular fountain of glass. A moment later, two more
figures are hurtling from the windows, plummeting screaming
towards the ground. "Oh my God..." Tanisha is heard to say.

A narrow shockwave rips across the plaza, jarring the
broadcast van nearly around, knocking the reporter and her
cameraman off their feet (you see the view on the TV
suddenly go sideways before weaving back upright), kicking
other people in its path out of the way as it heads
straight for the embattled skyscraper. For a moment it
stops and is hazily visible, a tall figure in a black
cloak, hands raised over its head.

"ENOUGH!"

The voice is so thunderously loud and deep, echoing
across the South Mall, that the microphones distort and
fuzz it out. But more stunning is the fact that the two
figures, now only scant tens of feet from certain death...
slow and stop in midair. Then the image spins crazily,
seeming to lift higher in the air... and the signal cuts
off, leaving nothing but static.

Morgan and Camillus have risen to their feet and are
staring off in the direction of Albany as though they could
see across the intervening miles. "Sh'ekatha..." whispers
Morgan.

"In daylight? What drives him to such lengths?"
Camillus says in a hushed tone.

Suddenly the screen lights again, focused this time on
Alyssa Van Wie. Her brown hair surrounds a pale face in
lighting that seems considerably darker than before. "This
is Alyssa Van Wie. I'm standing here on the Watervliet-Troy
Bridge looking downriver towards Albany, and what I am
seeing is... almost impossible to believe."

The camera slowly pans up toward Albany. "A beautiful,
clear morning was what we saw when Tanisha began her
broadcast. Here, it's still beautiful and clear. But over
Albany..."

Above Albany, apparently centered on the South Mall, a
monstrous black stormcloud swirls, spinning slowly and
ominously, casting a pall of darkness over the entire city,
lightning bolts illuminating the interior briefly. "I can
hear howling winds even from this distance. Steve?"

Weatherman Steve Caporizzo replaces her, looking
utterly stunned. "Alyssa, this system just appeared in a
period of a few seconds. It's not ... possible. Looking on
the radar, we have a storm of tornado intensity focused on
downtown Albany, but relatively little precipitation,
though the radar returns are very fuzzed in some areas. The
storm is not moving, despite prevailing winds of about 10
miles per hour over the Capital District. I'm afraid ...
this is completely out of my experience."

"Thank you, Steve. We are attempting to contact -- Oh
my GOD ---"

From the sky, *people* begin to rain down, landing on
the bridge, on the shore of the river, the roadway, but
landing gently, none of them apparently injured, but all of
them with terrified, shell-shocked expressions.


Alyssa manages to regain her composure and moves over
to check on one of the people. "Ma'am, are you all right?"

"I... I think so." The young lady, about 25 with
blondish hair, shakes her head dazedly.

"What happened? Can you tell us anything?"

"Um... I remember the alarms in the building... then
something that sounded like an explosion, screams... and
then this tremendous wind just whipped through the building
and I... well, flew through the air. It's all a blur, dark
clouds, and, um, I closed my eyes when I saw how high up I
was and..."

She questions a few others, getting similar stories.
"Ryan, I find this hard to believe, but..."

"... We're getting similar reports from a perimeter
that seems to be something like three to five miles in
radius, Alyssa. It appears that everyone, or nearly
everyone, in the central part of Albany was picked up and
moved out of the area -- though windows, from basements,
everywhere. With, as far as we can see, minimal damage." He
glances off to one side. "Hold on, Alyssa, we're getting
another signal... Go ahead, Tanisha!"

Tanisha appears. Her hair is disheveled, she looks
stunned, but also determined. "Ryan, that ... wind was like
a screaming angel, that's the only way I can put it. It
picked us all up and carried us miles in a few moments,
then put us down as gently as you please. Our van was
carried along for the ride, which is why you're still
getting transmissions." she gestures to the side, where you
can see the tall columned walkways of the University at
Albany; a number of uniformed people are gathered together
nearby. "The entire special operations team was dropped
near us. I'm going to see if they can tell us anything.
Excuse me, Captain?"

The commander of the special squad is sitting in a
portable chair, leg being worked on; the quick image of it
onscreen is... ugly. Contrary to what one might expect, he
seems almost relieved to have something to distract him.
"Yes, Tanisha?" His voice is obviously strained; they may
have sprayed local anaesthetic on it, but he's still
feeling something.

"Most people seem to have landed unharmed. What
happened to you?"

He shakes his head. "I didn't get hurt when we started
playing Dorothy. That was a little earlier inside the
building."

"So you did find something?"

"Werewolf, no doubt about it. But he's either tougher
than we were led to believe, or we're worse shots than we
thought; I'd swear we got at least four silver bullets into
him and he just snarled and waded into us. Then something
else -- couldn't quite make out exactly what it was, but
our cameras might -- slammed into it before it could finish
us off. OW! Watch it!"

"Sorry, Captain, but there's no way this isn't going to
hurt."

"I guess I deserve it." He shakes his head again. "Then
all of a sudden, whoosh, we're all leaving the building."

"Sorry to break in, Tanisha, but we have one of the
local traffic copters in the air nearby. Diane, is that
you?"

"Yes, Ryan. What you're seeing is the image of downtown
Albany as it is right now. That storm disappeared as
quickly as it appeared, and so what we see below is a
perfectly fine late summer Friday morning in Albany...
except it's a ghost town. For blocks and blocks around the
South Mall, there's no movement at all."

The streets of Albany stream slowly by on the screen.

"Hold on -- I see something! Yes, there's a single
vehicle, a motorcycle it looks like, heading straight into
the South Mall area... it's gone into the underpasses where
the parking garages are. I don't know --- JESUS!"

The camera slews around, just in time to catch the main
tower's top third sliding off on a slanted angle, as though
sliced diagonally. The cohesiveness crumbles as it falls
with that terrible slow-motion appearance that truly large
moving objects have, the destructive majesty of an
avalanche.

"I saw just a sort of flash along the edge of the
tower, and it just... well, you saw, it came apart.
Something's moving inside! At least two somethings, maybe
three, I can't tell for sure. They're moving so fast --"

The camera shows blurred images. Something is indeed
moving around in the remaining portion of the tower, but
doing so at such speed as to defy the ability of eye or
camera to define it.

Two of the blurs onscreen come together, and suddenly
something streaks across intervening space, punching a hole
entirely through one of the subsidiary towers and smashing
down with meteoric force into the plaza, sending up a
fountain of water and shattered rock from the reflecting
pool.

For a moment, there is no movement atop the ruins of
the main tower.

"It's definitely a werewolf, Ryan. I'd guess that, um,
whatever it was that just took a dive was one of its
opponents. The other opponent, as you can see, appears to
be a tall man in some sort of black outfit. We're trying to
get a better shot of him now."

"Um, Diane? We're not seeing anyone else. We see the
werewolf -- god, that's creepy -- but there's nothing else
there."

"What?" Diane's voice is somewhat annoyed. "He's right
there, not fifty feet away from the wolf. They're both in
the same... what is it, Jim?"

As viewers, you are seeing... something there. The
Werewolf is clear, a massive shaggy form close to nine feet
in height, glittering crystal claws, seeming to be talking
to his opponent. That is perhaps one of the most eerie
things you have ever seen, for the monster's glittering
teeth, far too long to permit normal speech, appear to be
shifting as fluidly as a normal mouth, allowing the thing
to speak. But where his opponent is... you have a vague
dark shape, a manlike figure, but it's very indistinct. And
from what you're hearing, the people back at the studio
aren't even seeing that.

"All right, just one more wierd thing to add, Ryan. Jim
says he can see our other participant just fine with his
eyes, but he's not there through the electronic viewfinder.
We're trying to get a little closer and see what's going
on, maybe pick up some words."

As the copter approaches and the camera zooms in, you
can see the Wolf glance upward. The soulless eyes glow
yellow and it seems to smile hideously, extending a clawed
hand outward as though to invite you all to join it.

Then the taloned hand curls shut with a crushing
motion.

"What the ---"

The transmission begins to break up, but you can hear
the engine of the helicopter start to choke.

"Something's wrong -- the electrical systems are
shutting down -- God, it's suddenly so cold --- Oh my god,
we're going down --"

The screen goes blank.

After a moment, Ryan is back. "We've... lost contact
with Diane." He's pale. "Marci Tanner, in the TV-9 news
chopper, is standing by. Marci?"

The feed shifts to a shot from considerably farther
away, showing the truncated Corning Tower (the main tower)
and the four smaller towers in perspective. Smoke and dust
are forming a cloud at the base, similar in a smaller scale
to that seen when the Twin Towers went down.

"Hello, Ryan. The sight here is unbelievable. Diane's
helicopter disappeared below our line of sight, but we have
not -- repeat, have not -- seen any subsequent explosion or
fire from a crash. We will try to get closer in and see
what is happening with -- my GOD!"

A shockwave blasts out from the Corning Tower,
shattering windows in the other towers and, moments later,
causing the view in the TV-9 Helicopter to vibrate. Dust
and debris spurts from every angle and seam, and the
Corning Tower collapses in on itself in a fountain of
destruction.

Startlingly, something emerges from the billowing cloud
of smoke, vapor, and dust where the 44-story tower stood
moments before; a looming shape that seems to whip the
roiling dust into a frenzy. Trailing a comet-tail of
devastation, the first helicopter bursts back into the
sunlight. The feed flickers and Diane's voice returns, a
bit shaky but clear.

"Ryan? Are we back? Ryan, we were falling with no
power, but something must have distracted the Wolf, because
systems came back just in time for us to stop. We were
going outward near ground level just before the Corning
Tower went. Our pilot say the pressure wave at ground level
actually pushed us upward to safety."

"Diane, you should back off --"

"The monster's too busy now to worry about us, Ryan,
and there's no way we're missing this!"

Dark brown and silver streaks are crisscrossing the
plaza and reflecting pool, leaving trails of destruction in
their wake. The two come together with a shockwave that is
literally VISIBLE in the air like a spherical expanding
heatwave, leaving a circular depression in the shattered
marble. For a moment the two figures are clearly visible:
the hulking shaggy crystal-clawed form of the Werewolf,
claws parrying and holding off the long, straight double-
edged sword of the silver-armored figure before it, a shape
with red-gold-brown hair that seems incredibly tiny next to
its monstrous opponent, silver and crystal armor glittering
in the sun. Then clawed arms and sword blur again as the
two stand almost toe to toe, neither giving an inch,
testing skill versus skill. The tiny armored figure -- a
boy, judging by the faint glimpse you can get of his face -
- backs up a step. Then two. A section of the armor
suddenly flies away in shards and a red spray of blood
follows it. The armored youth seems about to be killed when
a sixty-foot I-beam section slams into the Wolf from
behind.

"My god, this is unbelievable. That dark-cloaked man --
that you can't see for some reason through the camera --
saved the other one just in time, by THROWING that beam.
The two of them are double-teaming the monster now..."

You can see the vague shadowy form and the armored
youth hammering at the Wolf. Now it is the monster that
backs up, staggers... and is hammered down in to the
sublevels by a dual attack.

The battle can still be followed as it rages
underground; the plaza splits and shudders. One of the
secondary towers tilts, and slams into the next, and like a
series of monstrous dominos all four collapse in a welter
of shattering stone and glass and steel.

As the underground garage caves in, a shining black
shape streaks out, a motorcycle racing for dear life as the
man-made canyon around it crumbles. Other shapes seem to be
pursuing, misshapen things that do not look human in the
dust, yet do not seem to be Wolf either. But they are not
as fast that the black thunderbolt of speed that is the
mysterious cycle, nor as fast as the tsunami of masonry and
metal that catches them.

"That cyclist is still alive! Ryan, did you see that?
He came out of the garage with something chasing him, just
barely in time."

"Yes, Diane. So there's more than just this battle
going on there."

"Marci in the News 9 copter says there are military
choppers coming fast, telling us to clear the -- holy --"

Diane's voice cuts off in a clearly censored beep as
the line of underground combat streaks downhill. The Egg
shudders as the supernatural conflict smashes into the six-
story deep support pillar that holds it, and then tilts and
slowly, majestically rolls lopsidedly down, crushing part
of the Knickerbocker arena, shattering an overpass as it
begins to crumble, and plunges into the Hudson, sending a
twenty-foot wave across the river and nearly swamping the
U.S.S. Slater.

The reporters seem to have been struck dumb by these
latest events; the screen continues to relay the images,
but for the moment narration appears to have been
abandoned, words having failed in their ability to convey
what the people are witnessing. Below, the devastating
impacts have caused a chain reaction. The warrens of
tunnels, garages, meeting halls, and other areas dug out of
the earth and stone of Albany are all collapsing; the
entire area of the South Mall sags downward, crumbling,
shattering, part of the hillside starting a slow,
inexorable slide towards the Hudson. In the center of the
maelstrom of moving rock and steel, an island of furious
activity moves independently, following its own imperatives
of hatred and fear and survival and dancing through the
cataclysm, as unaffected by the movement of a million tons
of rubble and stone as two fighting men would be by the
eddying fog in which they fought.

The battle seems to have paused, the landslide tailing
off into a trickle, the dust and smoke (with fire now
visible where various gas mains and other flammables have
been exposed) drifting instead of being blown this way and
that by unnatural forces. For a few moments it seems quiet.
Camillus and Morgan seem to strain towards the television,
tense as bridge cables.

"R...Ryan? Yes, we're still here. It seems things might
be over, except for the cleaning up... which will be huge.
The whole South Mall is gone. I don't think even these
PICTURES get across the scale of the destruction here. It's
... horrible. The Albany skyline has a hole in it that must
be half a mile wide now, where everything that used to
stand has been leveled. I see at least three... no, four
major fires. And with everyone in range moved, that means
that fire companies from outside will have to be
scrambled..." She pauses. "Those military helicopters are
ordering us to clear the area immediately, Ryan. We have to
pull back, but we will try to -- JESUS!"

A howling, roiling stormcloud of black bursts from the
center of the wreckage, shoving both the news helicopter
and the incoming military choppers aside like toys without
-- quite -- knocking them from the sky. For a moment it
stands there, an ebony tornado crowned with lightning, and
then the video feed fuzzes into static. When it returns,
the sky is clear and quiet.

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