Court Halts Brain Transplant

Before arriving in Valhalla Flexx Dazmon was serving as a Shock Trooper in Divine Industry Associates, Inc.’s third armored battalion.  He chose to have his body put in stasis while his brain was implanted in the shell of an Enforcer.  When his ten year enlistment period was up, he would be given two and one-half million dollars for his efforts.  He would then be returned safely to his body, unaged and unaltered.  For many poor men and women like Flexx, it meant a longer life, and the promise of economic freedom well beyond what they could imagine.

He signed a ten-year contract to serve in the company’s military arm as it tried to defend against separatist forces and genetically altered rebels as well as foreign and home-brewed terrorists.  During his tenure, he earned both the Silver Star and the CEO Medal of Honor, both of which were earned when he drew fire to enable wounded comrades to escape during the second Battle of New York.

The medals were awarded posthumously.

Upon arriving in Valhalla, Mr. Dazmon realized that he was forever separated from his birth body.  While his mind and the machine that housed it landed in Valhalla, his birth body was lost.  As has happened to others, his ten-year contract turned into life imprisonment in a high- tech chassis.

“When I learned that D-Tech was doing business here in Valhalla, I decided to approach them and see if they could get me out of my can and get me back some skin,” laments Flexx Dazmon, his voice eerily synthesized within the Enforcer chassis.  “I thought they might be able to do something for me, seeing as I died fighting for them.  They couldn’t give me a body.  There was no body to give.  They did give me a job, though, and a promise to keep looking for a suitable host.”

“Finding a host body for a brain is unlike anything else,” explains Gunther Lang, a spokesman for Divine Technology Associates, Inc.  “It isn’t as simple as matching blood type, or even HLA typing.  We discovered that the electro- functions of the nervous system are extremely sensitive.  If the synapses don’t fire properly then the brain and host body will both perish.”

Mr. Dazmon continued to work for Divine Industries for the next seven years, far exceeding his original contract in the simple hope that a body would one day be found.  One early fall morning, his dream was answered.

“They pulled me out of a circuit repair session early telling me that they found a match,” Dazmon paused, his electronic voice strangely filling with emotion as he recalled the incident.  “I just couldn’t believe it.  After all this time to finally be given the chance to really touch something again.  To feel wind on your face, or the taste of food . . . you don’t know how much you miss that stuff until you never think you will feel it again.  Hell, I even miss getting a cold!  That call was the sweetest thing I ever heard!”

Last week that sweetness took a sour turn when the Alpha Sector Court intervened and halted the operation.

The court order stems from a lawsuit filed by The Human Dignity Corps, an advocacy group for the poor and dispossessed in Megalopolis.  It is their contention that the host body, whose identity is unknown, did not give his permission to be used as a host.  They are quick to point out that the man, whom they have taken to calling John Doe, didn’t even have a donor card or any type of identification on him.  A thorough investigation of biometrical data revealed no matches within the INSL records, or within the extensive Megalopolis databases.

“We came to the conclusion that the host was simply a Newbie who was unlucky enough to come to Valhalla on the wrong place and time,” explains Mr. Lang.  “He was shot in the head by rebel terrorists during a confrontation with some of our security forces.  Of course it was our responsibility to identify him, but when we couldn’t, and couldn’t find next of kin, we looked for possible matches with DNA.  Low and behold we found a body match with one of our own Enforcers, Flexx Dazmon.”

“Just because John Doe doesn’t have a record or family doesn’t mean he isn’t a person,” counters Jessimon Bishop, the lead attorney for the plaintiff.  “Mr. Doe has nobody to speak for him.  The law is clear that permission must be obtained by the host or next of kin in order for a procedure like this to be allowed to move forward.  Without his permission the reanimation of his body would be morally destitute and completely illegal.”

Gunther Lang and the Divine Technology legal team contend that with no identity or family, they are the party responsible for the body, the de-facto next of kin. “Section 9-503 of the Revised Moral Code indicates that the burden of post mortem remains internment is the responsibility of the owner of the property where death occurred if next of kin can’t be located.  We not only have the right to decide what is to be done with his body, we are required to do so by law.

“In addition to this, we are also obligated to fulfill our contact with Mr. Dazmon.  He has been waiting a long time to regain a mortal life.  How can we morally refuse to allow him this opportunity when another chance may never come?”

Jessimon Bishop contends that Section 9-503 allows for only the internment of remains, not for use of remains in any other way.  “Mr. Doe’s body is his own, in death as in life.  He has the right to retain the dignity of his physical nature.  Such decisions should never rest in the hands of a corporation regardless of how well intended their motives may be in this specific instance.

“It is a slippery slope we are treading.” Ms. Bishop continues.  “If today we allow an unidentified body to be used as a host for a retiring enforcer, tomorrow the companies will declare the right to use any body that dies on their property in any way they choose.  Forced organ transplants and human experimentation are already happening, how much further will we let this Oligarchy push the limits of individual human worth versus profitability?  Laws are made to protect all citizens of Megalopolis, not to cater to the machinations of the corporate elite.”

Gunther Lang dismisses such sentiments as paranoid, leftist group-think.  “It is this type of backward thinking that has caused terrorist groups like the Next Step to make such violence and chaos in our streets.  The host body was killed during a terrorist attack.  Perhaps Ms. Bishop should confront these violent groups who target our institutions, our economy, and our people rather than preventing a war hero from a chance at a normal life!”

“I just want to be able to breathe the air again,” Flexx Dazmon says.  “I’ve been locked in this machine so long now, I don’t even remember what it’s like to draw air.”

It is unlikely that this will happen any time soon.  The case is not due to go to court for another six months.  Regardless of the outcome of that trial, the case will surely go to appeals.  A case such as this is destined to drag on for years to come.  In the meantime Mr. Dazmon continues to work security for Divine Technology Associates, Inc. while the unidentified body remains frozen in stasis, awaiting either the grave or the brain that will grant it new life.

Hag Horror Discovered in New Detroit

The citizens of New Detroit were horrified to discover that one of their downtown neighborhoods has been host to a Hag for nearly a century.  The revelation came over the weekend when a team of adventurers slew the creature in her urban home.

The team was hired by a Janice Henttle, a prominent business woman, who was attempting to locate her son.  According to Mrs. Henttle’s attorney, her son went missing two months ago.  A freshman in college, Ryan Henttle was last seen walking home from the library.  He never returned to his dorm room and the worst was expected when his cell phone was found in a garbage can two days later.  When the police could find no leads Mrs. Henttle turned to the Adventurer’s Guild and assembled a crew that she hoped could locate her son.

Though it took over a month of investigation, the search finally bore fruit.  “We noticed a pattern of disappearances in the area,” explains Derik Rathbone, a member of the crew that is now being hailed as heroes.  “We took the rough data of missing persons reports from throughout the city from fifty years back and ran it through an algorithm.  What we found was that a five block area just south of the college was six times more likely to have a missing person than anywhere else in the city.  Strangely enough, the older the disappearance, the more likely it was to have happened in this area.”

With this in mind another crew member, Ajaku Qotor, an Elvish Necromancer, began to expand their search, looking for potential non-human factors.  Though originally suspecting a vampire, her research quickly turned up what she immediately suspected to be a Hag.  “It is not common to find Hags outside of low tech areas,” Ajaku says in an interview with the Valhalla Crier.  “It is not common to find Hags at all, for that matter.  Everyone assumes that they live only in remote places where they can conceal themselves and their identities, but it was just that type of thinking that allowed her to stay hidden for so long.  Nobody expected her, and that made concealing herself easier.”

In essence, the Hag is a nature spirit.  It is strictly tied to the changing of the seasons, its true form apparently aging through the passing of the year rather than over the course of many years.  While they appear as young children in early spring, they gradually age, becoming young women in summer, matrons in autumn and old crones in winter.  With the coming of spring the cycle begins again.  Throughout the year, however, they are able to create illusions that enable them to project anything they want, not only allowing them to appear in any form, but also subtly changing their environment.  The stench of a rotting corpse could be made to smell like freshly baked bread.  The run-down shack could be made to look warm and inviting.  These deceptions are used to attract prey to add to her cooking pot.

While they are not particularly strong creatures when confronted directly, their powers of trickery, deceit and obfuscation make them extremely dangerous.  They are often master trappers and deal with all manner of poisons.  Some have been known to keep spiders, snakes, and other venomous animals as pets, extracting their poisons to use for their own vicious ends.  Toxic herbs are used in similar manners.  It seems, however, that their most deadly characteristic is the ability to get their prey to trust them.  A Hag’s victim is almost always willingly lured into her lair where they are quickly captured, killed, and consumed.  Children brought home as a playmate by a young-looking hag, or a young man brought into her lair on the pretext of sex are but two of this creature’s tricks.

Evidence of the ghastly success of this creature can readily be seen in its lair.  The hovel located near the corner of Wilson and Elm appears now like a house from a horror story.  Its weather-beaten façade and sagging roof combined with the overgrown lawn and garden of mushrooms and mandrake is only upstaged by the heavy stench of rot emanating from the house.  Neighbors, however, tell of how just two days ago the house was one of the bright spots in the neighborhood, well-maintained, and often smelling of baked goods.  They tell of a lively young girl digging in the back garden, and the nice old lady who always smiled and waved as she sat on her rocking chair.  These illusions are gone now, leaving only the vile truth of the creature’s heinous nature.

Nightmare tales of the inside of the house make even the stoutest warriors cringe.  Human meat hung by hooks drying in the kitchen, piles of cracked bones sucked clean of marrow, grinning skulls lining the hallway, flayed skin used as curtains and bedding, and necklaces made of desiccated eye balls are only the tip of the horrors held within the home.  It has been said that the discarded bones in the root cellar were knee-deep in places.

It is believed that the Hag has taken hundreds, if not thousands, of victims over the long years of her life.  The creature’s true age may never be known.  As nature spirits, Hags can live for centuries.  The number of lives she has taken could outnumber those lost during some of the bloodiest battles in history.

The Medical Examiner spent three days cataloging and removing remains from the home.  It is projected that it will take months to identify the victims, if they can be identified at all.  Tragically the body of Ryan Henttle has already been identified.  Though the crew failed to find him alive, they were at least able to recover his body for a proper burial.  They were also able to stop the long and terrible reign of a dangerous predator.

Questions about how such a thing could happen in such a modern city have the entire Republic of Nations in an uproar.  The INSL has been called in to look for possible collusion from foreign nations.  The citizens of the once-quiet neighborhood are pressed with questions about how they could not know about it, how they could miss the signs, or how a mythical creature could dwell so easily inside a high-tech area without detection.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Ajaku Qotor answers.  “Hags are nature spirits, after all.  There are four seasons here.  You can’t stop the change of seasons any easier than you can stop a Hag’s magic.  Tech Zones are tied to Elemental magic and Alchemy, not to the changing seasons.  You can’t stop nature with concrete and air conditioning.  Humans have this illusion that they can control the world, but humans can’t even control themselves.  How can they stop nature?”