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Catstacker

Nile Empire

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Doctor Mobius rose from his golden throne, leaving behind the slave girl who had been feeding him grapes, and strode out onto the balcony overlooking the main staging ground for his invasion forces. Everything was moving according to plan. Lines of tanks and half-tracks rolled into position below, metal armour shining in the setting sun, machine guns oiled and ready. He smiled, thinking of the modifications he'd had made. Invisibility cloaks, fear bombs, electro-cannons... he was going to enjoy this campaign.

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Turning from the window, the Pharaoh looked back at his new slave girl, a raven-haired beauty from the Ninth Empire, his most recent conquest. Once, that cosm had been a highly disciplined low-tech world known as Aquila where the Roman Empire had never fallen. Mobius had enjoyed spectating at its fighting arenas and indeed had personally slain the cosm’s Emperor in single combat in front of his dismayed citizens. Of course, the pharaoh had been piloting a 5m tall Gladiator-bot of his own design, and the Emperor had been over 70 years old and armed only with a spear, but the victory was valid. Remembering the loud CRACK as he turned his thumb downwards and stepped on the old man’s skull with a 10 tonne steel boot still made Doctor Mobius smile.

 

Runa, the slave girl, had been the Emperor’s daughter, and had sworn bloody vengeance with tears in her eyes, promising that she would make him pay for his crimes. Only she’d never got to carry out her threats, Mobius mused. With his immense personal magnetism (and a little brainwashing from the Hypno-Scope), she had instead accepted a role on his staff as the official Imperial Grape Peeler...

Edited by Dyschunky

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There had been reports of a number of unusual occurances in and around Agra over the past few weeks. Home of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the modern world, Agra had risen to prominance in the 16th century as the capital city of the Mughal emperors. In recent times, Agra played host to thousands of tourists each year who flocked to see its ancient wonders. So, when an American tourist had run into the local police station a week ago, panting breathlessly with a tale of a flying man in strange armour who had gunned down the rest of his party, the authorities were alarmed.

 

Wide eyed with panic, and sobbing, the tourist had told how his group had wandered into a roped off area in the Taj Mahal and disturbed the man, who had been apparently taking readings with a weird flashing and beeping device. One of the other tourists had hailed the stranger, who had looked up with a snarl, growled something about 'fools who will never be able to stop the Pharoah', before spraying the group with bullets and blasting off through a window like a rocket.

 

Rumors elsewhere spoke of a giant crocodile sighted in the river Ganges to the northeast which had upset a fishing boat. Looters had stolen a 2000 year old bead featuring the Hindu sun god Surya, along with a number of sacred Hindu texts from the museum, leaving two guards dead from what looked like severe frostbite. Delhi, 100km to the northwest, had seen an odd sect rise rapidly to prominance, led by a charismatic old Arab preacher who foretold that the gods would soon return to walk the earth once more.

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In the sky above Agra, black clouds gathered, coalescing from a previously empty sky. Some of the cityfolk hurried to finish their business and find shelter, but for the many poor taking time out of their day just wasn't an option. Minutes later, the heavens opened in a torrential downpour and a ferocious storm lashed the city. Irridescent clouds strobed blue and red in a strange and spectacular display of colour, and the sodden citizens marvelled. None, however, would have predicted what happened next. Exactly an hour after the downpour began, it stopped, and with an earsplitting boom and a bright flash a hole was rent in the sky.

 

Miraculously, when the onlookers regained their sight a bridge-like structure had appeared. Up above, a paved sandstone causeway over a hundred feet wide arced down from the disconcerting circular gash which was now ringed with flickering red and blue light. At the base of the bridge, a chaotic scene was unfolding.

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Half of a bus protruded from beneath the mighty edifice, the remainder presumably crushed (along with its passengers) under thousands of tonnes of sandstone. Around, people clambered out of crashed cars, trying to call for help on mobile phones which would no longer even switch on. Horrific accidents of this nature were extremely rare; however, for the people of Agra the day was just getting started. A dozen small fighter planes shot through the hole in the sky, followed by a seemingly unending convoy of old-fashioned looking tanks and trucks, five abreast, carrying legions of men down the arc towards the city...

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Jaipur, the 'pink city' of northwest India (so called because its citizens had once painted the whole city to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1853) had undergone a few changes over the past weeks. One was in the street traffic - the once common Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki hatchbacks no longer worked for most residents. In the case of some lucky people the axiom wash had transformed their vehicles into gleaming 1930s Buicks and Fords, but the remainder had to make do with bicycles, donkeys, or their own feet to get around. Nestled against the local McDonalds, Starbucks had become an upmarket tea house, serving hot drinks in porcelain cups with freshly baked pastries.

 

Mihir Sen, a twenty five year old Indian street worker, was waiting in a long line of other young men at the recently opened recruiting station. Ever since he'd been orphaned at an early age, he'd had to live by his wits to survive, even if that had meant a little shoplifting and petty theft. Or fraud; in more recent times he'd made his living by selling bottles of 'mineral' water to rich foreign tourists. Refilling discarded bottles (which he took out of the trash) from the tap, he made a handsome profit - if his customers got ill, that was their problem not his. Poor sales over the past week, however, had hurt Mihir's finances as few tourists were willing to brave the storms which surrounded the region. Even worse, the rupees and dollars he'd saved in his stash were now useless following new laws stating that all trade in the city must be conducted in the new currency 'Royals'.

 

Ravenously hungry, last night he had pulled a knife on a well-dressed couple as they walked through an alley, threatening to stab both unless they handed over their money. Instantly Mihir was blinded by a dazzling flash and someone punched him in the face. Stunned, he fell to the ground. He'd heard running footsteps as his intended targets scarpered, but never saw his assailant as by the time his vision cleared he had been alone in the alley.

 

Mihir had not worried when televisions and telephones had stopped working, it had made little difference to him as he owned neither. Also, he cared little for the reports that a man calling himself 'the Pharoah' had taken over the north of India, citing divine right to rule with the backing of the Hindu gods and devas, and promising to raise India to its rightful place on the world stage. Going hungry and feeling powerless, however, did matter to him.

 

Grimly, he remembered how he had been impressed when the convoy of tanks had first rolled through Jaipur, crewed by soldiers with faces inscrutable beneath their sunglasses. Once in control of the city, the troopers had marched into shops and seized whatever they wanted, shooting the first shopkeeper who had tried to stop them in the head; after that, there had been no more protests. That display of power had planted the idea in Mihir's mind: with the authority of the army behind him, he too could take what he wanted and he'd never go hungry again. So when he saw the posters advertising for recruits for the 'New Empire of the Ganges', he'd seen his chance and hurried to the recruiting station to join the queue of eager volunteers.

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Deadly explosions shattered the night, ripping apart the waiting helicopters and tossing soldiers into the air. A few miles away the small convoy saw the flames in the distance, much brighter than the full moon above, and pulled to a halt.

 

"Madar chod!" Sergeant Singhamanputra, of the Jut regiment of the Indian army, swore. Now the already difficult job of extracting the Indian President and his cabinet from their hiding place in Delhi would be next to impossible. Still, he wasn't the kind of man to give up without a fight. Turning, he addressed his squad in the back of the ancient open-topped jeep. "Ok men, things aren't good but this is a chance to show the invaders what the Indian army is made of. Remember, even though they've got some way of glitching our equipment, this is our country and we know the terrain and the people better than..."

 

Machine gun fire interrupted his speech as it rattled through the air, and the jeep behind him exploded, its petrol tank ruptured. Evil laughter floated from above the vehicles, where a man in a bulky metal armoured suit hovered in mid air - held aloft by blue jets of flame which roared from his boots. Raising what looked to be an old-fashioned tommy-gun, the flying man taunted the soldiers.

 

"So, you thought you could save your pathetic government? Inconceivable - you can't even save yourselves! How honoured you will be to be sent to your doom by me, the Brass Condor!"

 

As quick as a flash, Sergeant Singhamanputra reacted, snatching the RPG-7 from the back of the jeep and loading it in a single movement. The weaponry hadn't worked since the unit had approached within 200 miles of Delhi, but it was their only hope; uttering a quick prayer to Shiva, he flicked on the laser sight and was rewarded with a flicker as the LEDs lit up!

 

"Eat this, backarchodu!" he called, taking aim at the villain, and pulled the trigger. The rocket shot towards the flying man, who barely had time to utter a wide-eyed "Storm...aaaaarrrrgggghhh!" before being struck in the chestplate by the missile, which exploded on impact, blasting his body backwards to crash out of sight in a thicket of trees over a hundred metres away.

 

Heartened, the sergeant allowed himself a brief smile before shouting orders to press on towards the city of Delhi where the remaining Indian soldiers might be able to evade the shocktroopers who would surely be drawn to investigate the fighting. Even if they were able to escape, Sergeant Singamanputra knew the odds were well and truly stacked against him accomplishing his mission.

 

Meanwhile, none of the troops noticed the black clad figure watching them from the darkness...

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Delhi was a ruin after a month under the Pharoah's rule. First the storms had boiled over the city, shaking the buidings off their foundations, burning with lightning, and driving men mad in confusion. Then two armies held a titanic battle and Delhi was filled with holes and flaming wrecks. With the power gone, and the water lines cracked, and money good for nothing except as mementos for times of propsperity now gone, the five million people in the city began to fight themselves for the little that was left. And too soon that too was consumed or smashed.

 

Two men ran through the broken streets, trying to find a way out of the chaos. Sergeant Singhamanputra had been sent with a large military force to airlift the Indian government out of the war zone, but their planes had been destroyed on the ground. The rescuers and the refugees had been cut down by the Pharoah's army surrounding the city, and the sergeant's men were being picked off one by one as they tried to get this last important man in government out. The Defense Minister was not used to running, and he had abandoned everything except one briefcase, but still he had to be pulled along by the sergeant. Stalking their heels was a cruel gang of assassins, and the diminishing fire from his regiment warned Singhamanputra that he was running out of commandos.

 

"In here!" the sergeant barked, as if he knew where he was going, and the minister followed because he had lost his way weeks ago. They ducked through a nondescript doorway into what must have been a private club in happier times. The ceiling was now in pieces on the floor, and they stumbled over the rubble to the other side of the room. The door there wouldn't open, but Sergeant Sinhamanputra was prepared to tear down the door and the wall too if freedom was waiting on the other side.

 

Instead, floating down from the indifferent skies, the Brass Condor closed the trap he had laid. "Going somewhere?" he asked amused, then with a kick he sent the upper part of the cracked wall crumpling over the door they had come in. "I think not." he answered himself. "It's been a merry chase, but I believe it's almost time for tea, isn't it? Join me." His armour gleamed despite the damage the grenade had done, and he looked colossal compared to the torn and bleeding pair he had cornered.

 

The Defense Minister looked beaten, but his job was to make decisions, and so he did. He handed his briefcase to the sergeant and said, "I don't know if this will work for me, but you have been more successful with our equipment up until now. We can't allow him to get the codes." Sergeant Singhamanputra understood. He took the briefcase, and ignoring the passcode buttons he opened it. An explosion within disintegrated the briefcase into fragments that ripped through the sergeant and minister.

 

When the Brass Condor uncovered his eyes and looked through the smoke, he saw his quarry broken on the floor, dead. What could have been in that bag that was so important, that it was worth dying for? He wondered. And they say I'm crazy. In his frustration he pushed down the rest of the wall. Outside he found some of troopers from Battlegroup Ivanov. "There's some bodies in there I want you to take to the Cult of Kali," he ordered them. Turning back to the blasted building he said, "So I'll be seeing you again, gospog Singhamanputra."

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Clippings from a round-up of the week's news from the Agra Chronicle newspaper:

 

Archaeologist Indira Jha has uncovered a treasure trove of precious jewels inside a hitherto unknown tomb thought to be from the Murghal era. In a statement Ms. Jah (36) told reporters that this dig differed greatly from her previous expeditions, as it involved much less careful excavation and many more poison tipped dart traps.

 

Readers are warned to be extremely respectful to the sacred cows. Over the past month there have been a number of incidents where people who have accidentally harmed cattle have met accidents themselves soon after. At 4pm last Tuesday Sriram Karri (42), a truck driver from Nagpur, struck a cow which had wandered into the road - killing the cow and puncturing a tyre. Not more than an hour later Mr. Karri was later found crushed underneath his vehicle, unluckily the jack had slipped as he tried to repair the truck.

 

Despite larger specimens of the Indian gharial (a member of the crocodile family) surpassing 7m in length, their thin, weak jaws render the species harmless to humans. However, in recent weeks there have been over a dozen fatal crocodile attacks on the banks of the river Ganges. Animal experts note that a mutant strain may have developed, and warn bathers and fishermen to take extra care near the water.

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New Delhi, destroyed by violent storms and recent rebel activity, is to be restored. Our glorious leader Pharoah Mobius announced that the nation's capital will be rebuilt according to ancient mathematical principles designed to harness ambient mystic energy in order to foster peace and prosperity in the city.

 

Incredible events have rocked the Hindu world over the past month. Not only have the devas appeared publically on numerous occasions, including the great Vishnu, but holy men and women have manifested true miracles - leading followers to flock to them. One high priestess of Kali, a Ms. Sothama, told how her cult had discovered a funeral rite to guarantee that your next reincarnation will be into a higher form.

"We have been wrongly burning bodies for hundreds of years; instead, they should be buried..."

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Fingering his long white moustaches, the criminal genius Wu Han walked with his shocktrooper bodyguard and an old egyptian man through the North Punjabi battlefield which was now littered with dead and dying Indians.

"Ravagons, you say they're called?"

 

"Oh yes," his companion, dressed in priestly robes with a lapis amulet at the neck, answered. "Mobius sent the demons up from Agra. They were a gift from someone called 'Baron Samedi', apparently."

 

Hearing this, Wu Han nodded, he'd heard whispers of that name before - hushed whispers - and the toothy winged demons were clearly from... somewhere else... somewhere horrible.

 

Even so, they had been very useful in drawing the enemy into his devious trap. Not seven days ago, the Indian army had destroyed Battlegroup Herunut and then retreated into a defensible hardpoint, the glittering Golden Temple of Amritsar. Inside that building the Indians would have been able to use their advanced technology with impunity, whilst the Nile lightning cannons and priestly blessings would fail. Losses would be too high in a direct assault. Even though shocktroopers were expendable, Wu Han did not have an endless supply at his disposal.

 

The timing of the ravagon wing's arrival had been fortuitous, and had inspired a cunning plan in his brilliant mind.

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One benefit of his reality's laws was that good men became very good, and thus somewhat predictable. To capitalise on this, he had ordered the winged demons to prey on the townsfolk outside the temple's area of influence, making sure that their screams of terror carried to the Indian soldiers sitting in relative safety. Hearing their countrymen (and women and children)'s agonised screams as they were torn apart, it was only a matter of time before the Indian general ordered his men to save the helpless civilians. Even though he must have known in his heart what would happen, the general had acted exactly as Wu Han knew he would.

 

Guns blazing, the Indian army had charged bravely from the Golden Temple, scything down a trio of ravagons in the initial burst, but the remainder had darted out of range. As the soldiers were lured away from the holy site's limits they became subject to the Nile reality. Now, they were doomed. Great cracks of electricity split the air as the Indians were caught between two full strength Battlegroups, and they were cut down to a man.

 

Enough with the pleasant memories; Wu Han shook himself from his thoughts. "Sesetek, my friend," he turned back to the old egyptian commander of the second battlegroup, "we still have work to do to eliminate this annoying world's influence on this region..."

Edited by Dyschunky

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Beneath his hood, Mobius smiled. His moment of glory was almost at hand; everything was in place. Whilst the resistance from this cosm's defenders had been more fierce than anticipated, the rewards were also much greater. It had taken just under two months to siphon sufficient possibility energy from Earth's inhabitants to start the process to become Torg.

 

The great shape of the Sorting Device lay silent in the corner, its work done. A slack-jawed Indian woman drooled mindlessly in the centre of the machine. Pipindar Ravidas had proved herself to be a capable lieutenant since the day she had presented herself to the Pharoah. Thirsty for revenge against the countrymen who had looked down on her because of her caste, she had commited atrocities in his name - luring a whole battalion of the Indian army into a trap at Mumbai, and slaughtering thousands at Bengalaru in the south. However, a Core Earth stormer was a key component of the Sorting Device, and unfortunately (for her) she had been the most readily available. Mobius was sure she would have been honoured to know of her vital role in his ascension.

 

The Pharoah strode across the opulant throne room, resplendent in treasures plundered from across the Empire, and plucked the Kefertiri Idol - his darkness device - from the massive machine. The black idol thrummed with power, full of the recently sorted possibilities. Sibilant whispers in his mind hissed its excitement at their imminent victory.

 

One final component remained - an awesome release of destructive energy.

 

Several days ago Mobius had sent the Brass Condor and a team of Terra-Nauts on a mission to the Moon in Rocketship Horus. The loyal lieutenant had planted three stelae, enabling the Kefertiri Idol to land a maelstrom bridge on the barren rock. Carefully positioned forcefields trapped the air which rushed from the rip in space, providing an atmosphere (and a zone of pure Nile reality) for the team of Weird scientists who followed down the new bridge. The scientists carried plans for the nefarious device which would change the direction of the moon, sending a quadrillion lakh tonnes of rock hurtling towards the Earth.

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