A Look at Metamorphosis Alpha 2 (Chronicles from the Warden)

Metamorphosis Alpha 2 (Chronicles from the Warden)
Editor: Craig Martelle
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Page Count: 358 (digital) / 608 (print)
Available Formats: eBook and print
eBook – Free w/ Kindle Unlimited
Print (other options available) – 16.56

“Metamorphosis Alpha: Chronicles from the Warden, Volume 2” is the second in a series of short stories set on the generation ship Warden, edited by Craig Martelle. Contributing author James M. Ward along with six returning authors from volume one, Craig Martelle, Craig J. Brain, Stephen A. Lee, Valerie Emerson, Christopher Clark, Steve Peek, and seven new authors to the series, Alex Bates, Bob Brinkman, E.E. Isherwood, Scott King, Scott Moon, Thomas J. Rock, Bill Patterson construct yet another stellar collection of tales. The only author not to return from volume one is Michael Curtis, who I image was or still is knee-deep in writing assignments for DCC Lankmar Kickstarter for Goodman Games. This volume is considerably larger than the first with fourteen stories totaling 358 pages as opposed to the first volume which featured eight stories at 198 pages. Once again the authors did a terrific job of portraying life on the spaceship Warden.

Similar to volume one, the honor of the first story goes to James M. Ward. It’s about a father taking his son on his first hunting trip and having a howling of a time. Alex Bates sends forth a simple gardener, with a unique ability to telepathically communicate with plants and a bearoid companion to track down the source of a raiding force that has threatened their village. Craig J. Brain returns with a tale of a mutant cat forced to go with a mixed group of mutants and humans on a dangerous mission sent by the village’s pure stain shaman who would rather not see the mutants of the party return. Bob Brinkman reaffirms the bond between a dog and her boy when faced with a dangerous situation while investigating disappearing livestock from their village. Christopher Clark continues his story “Demon in the Midst” from volume one with the mate of the previous protagonist defying village norms in search of his love, who has not yet returned home. Valerie Emerson assembles an everlasting story of companionship between a robot and a lone human with an obsessed of upgrading his mechanical comrade and himself. James M. Ward contributes yet again with a Metamorphosis Alpha script treatment he had written back in the late 70s/early 80s. E.E. Isherwood digs up a rumor of buried treasure, that draws many factions searching for the encapsulated riches. Scott King presents a cunning heroine set on taking revenge on those responsible for turning her world grey. Stephen A. Lee revives more cryogenically preserved crew members to take control of the Warden against rogue AIs. Scott Moon rises within an elevator shaft used by local tribes as part of their funeral ceremony and the Ascension Manager who enacts that rite. Bill Patterson roams the pages with a traveling minstrel with a secret ally and mission to keep the Warden and its peaceful inhabitants. Steve Peek awakens a hungry DNA altered crew member which has deviated from its’ original concept. Thomas J. Rock unlocks a mysterious tale told to a girl by a close friend on his deathbed. Craig Martelle takes the helm of the Warden with the last story in the volume. All the stories in the volume are well thought out and in their respected author’s voice. Each one taking their own spin on life aboard the Warden. Out of the stories in the volume the ones I liked the best were Christopher Clark “Frenemies”, Valerie Emerson “Another Man’s Treasure”, and Bill Patterson “The Minstrel”. All the stories we good, but I did find one story, not to my liking; Craig J. Brain “A Walk in the Black Forest”.

Warning the following contain some spoilers. If you wish to be spoiler free please skip ahead as I briefly outline the three stories I liked and the one I didn’t.

In “Frenemies” we pick up where we left off in Christopher Clark’s last story “Demon in the Midst” from volume one. “Demon in the Midst” was a favorite of mine which surprised me that it continued based on how it ended. We learn that Rani, our protagonist of the last story, is hardier than we thought, as she is still alive. She comes to understand who the Ravagers are and the purpose of her home that she protects by conversing with a Ravager, a member of the Warden’s crew. Together the two agree to try to end the hostilities between the two communities and set off to Rani village to seek an accord. Meanwhile Rani’s mate, Bahal worried that Rani was in trouble and sneaks out of the village on a quest to find her. Along the way, he encounters a Ravager among the groves. He overpowers him and is able to acquire the use of the Ravager strange club, a laser rifle. He continues his journey until it ends at Rani’s last known place, the elevator in which she ascended. Unable to go any farther he waits and asks the great War Don to bring his Rani back, which it does. When the doors of the elevator open Rani and Bahal reunite in a twist ending, which I will let the ready discover for themselves.

“Another Man’s Treasure” by Valerie Emerson is about a lone human called Geo and his only companion, a robot he named Avie. The story told by Avie as seen through his eyes. All around Geo dwelling and beyond lie dangerous security robots that will kill on sight. Geo keeps a careful watch and evades or neutralizes them when he goes out to scavenge for parts to alter Avie. In his workshop, Geo continues to upgrade Avie physical body so it can do delicate medical operations. At first, Avie carries out Geo’s orders, restricted to follow his commands. Later he locates loopholes in Geo’s orders which allows him to disobey, but Avie continues to comply out of loyalty and friendship to the human. When Geo locates a medical facility with replacement body parts he commands the robot to replace his organs. With fresh organs, he can regain his youth and live a longer life. Avie afraid Geo would not survive the procedure persuades him to wait until it’s ultimately necessary. Geo relents and the years pass until its finally time for the operations. What really struck me with this story is the friendship that Avie develops for Geo and then later the friendship Geo develops for Avie who at first was just a tool he built to allow him to extend his life.

Bill Patterson story “The Minstrel” features a traveling human named Fordice, who secretly works with one of the Warden’s AIs to protect the villages on his level and the Warden itself from danger. Fordice travels from village to village singing for his supper and a place to rest while he collects information about the threats of the level. He then periodically rendezvous and reports at predestined computer terminals giving to him by the AI along his travels. In this story, Fordice is journeying towards the rear of the Warden, where the ship’s engines are. Along the way, he encounters a girl named BylerLynn who possesses an artifact, that when activated can immobilize a being in place. Once BylerLynn sees that Fordice isn’t a threat she releases him and they converse briefly before Fordice continues on his travels which he is close to finishing. He soon reaches the end of the Warden where he finds the predetermined terminal and reports to the AI. The AI had sent him to the rear of the Warden for a special purpose. The AI suspects something is amiss and directs Fordice to descend to where the engines of the Warden lie and report his findings.  Fordice does as requested and in doing so finds unearthly creatures tampering with the engines. He retreats to relay this information but finds himself held by an unseen force like during his meeting with BylerLynn. BylerLynn had seen him in a dream and came to find him. Once freed by BylerLynn, Fordice quickly reported his findings to the AI. The AI orders Fordice, with the help of BylerLynn and her device, to eradicate the unknown threat by any means that would not only affect the unknown creatures but the many villages at the back of the Warden near the engines included BylerLynn village.

I enjoyed the idea of a minstrel traveling from village to village. Gathering information and passing it on as he traveled. This has inspired me to create a Metamorphosis Alpha campaign, where the player characters are lead through the Warden by an AI. Traveling from village to village and checking in with the AI as they travel at predetermined terminals. At those terminals as a gamemaster, I can plant plot seeds for them to explore or give them information to aid them.

As I said early each of the stories in this volume is great but Craig J. Brain “A Walk in the Black Forest” disappointed me. Craig J. Brain previous story from volume one “A Small Chance of Success” was one of my favorites. It had a lot of wacky and very original humor in it. “A Walk in the Black Forest” also contained a large amount of humor but I found it unoriginal and lacking in imagination. At times it felt like I was reading a transcript of gaming session with players who like to spout out overused one-liners, stereotyped accents, and bad references like; “Ignore him. Just a hairball. Continue please”; and after battling and toasting giant crabs “I wish I had some lemon to go with this!” The worst for me was the writing out a character’s stereotypical Germanic accent in the dialogue which went on and on for far too long. “Oh! Um. Virst, ve goes past ze dive sites, de kelp gartens und seaveed forest and zen ve schtop at de peosussing komplex.” If Craig J. Brain appears in volume three I hope the humor he chooses to use in his stories is a more original like in volume one.

Spoilers are over you can come back now.

Overall I thought volume two was a success and I hope enough people enjoy it as I did. As with the first volume, Craig Martelle is contributing 100% of the profits to Mr. Ward as a thank you for his creation of the 1976 Metamorphosis Alpha Roleplaying Game. A game which Mr. Martelle cherishes and brought along with him around the world to 20 different countries while serving in the military. “Metamorphosis Alpha: Chronicles from the Warden, Volume 2” is available on Amazon in PDF or paperback. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited the book is free to read. Please consider supporting this book by leaving a review or contacting Mr. Martelle to let him know what you thought of the book. Keep on showing your love for this series and in no time the third volume will be out.

Written by:
Stephen Pennisi
(“DadsAngry” on various websites)

Follow Stephen on Twitter at @DadsAngry 

Follow Rolling Boxcars on G+ or on Twitter

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