Operation Lamassu Picture

Dear Mr. Londour,

I am pleased to hear from you so soon after your promotion to prime subdirector of Division 18. Please accept my hearty congratulations. I don't know if you remember, but you and I actually met briefly at the last agency retreat. I was quite surprised by how direct you were in addressing the devision directors--people at your level are often maddenlingly obsequious--but apparently the Archdirectress found your suggestions for handling the Pestilentian and Neohominid uprisings quite useful. Therefore it does not surprise me that you are rising so quickly through the ranks.

You may have noticed that Division 18 is more or less the catch-all for the agency's less easily categorized operations. I have been here for thirty five years and I am still surprised by some of the things we have on file. It is perfectly understandable that you would require some clarification on some of our odder current operations.

First, you specifically asked about Operation 125b-38, Codename Operation Lamassu. I must confess that this is one of our Devision's operations that holds the greatest fascination for me. You know of course that during the Strife of the Unraveling, many of the harder-hit worlds were severely depopulated, with their peoples now reduced to Iron Age level technology, or worse. The Empress--Ahura bless her!--has made it clear that we are not to interfere with these worlds, and let their peoples fail or progress on their own efforts. She feels that we will learn more by observing the slow advancement of these primitivized peoples than by uplifting them to our level of technology, though we could of course do that easily.

New Mesopotamia is one of these worlds, but its situation is complicated by the fact that there remains a functioning Planck gateway on the world. Since the empress has decreed that there must be no contact between us and primitivized peoples, we were given the task of preventing people from traveling through the Gateway. Disabling Planck gateways is notoriously risky, given the spacetime curvatures involved, so rather than attempt that we installed a demibiological guardian on New Mesopotamia to kill anyone who approached the gateway.

The guardian and gateway occupy a central position in the pagan religions that have developed on this world. Read this account of it from one of their sacred texts, which we viewed via nanodrone. "The Guardian of Heaven, called the Behemoth by some, is the greatest and most fearful of all beasts. It is five manheights tall, and the pillars of its legs are greater and stronger than the greatest tree, and can crush anything that stands before it. Even more fearful than its legs are its arms, which are heavier and swifter by far than the greatest smith's hammer. The Guardian of Heaven's belly holds enough liquid fire to fill a sea, and it spits this curious flowing fire with an accuracy unmatched by any archer. Its skin is no harder than rough leather to the touch of a hand, yet bends and breaks any sword swung at it. The Guardian was placed here to prevent mortals from entering the realm of the gods before their time."

Fascinating, isn't it? It is remarkably accurate in spots as well. It is likely that memory of the Strife and the Early Empire survives in their mythology. Anyway, the Guardian, as they call it, is a demibiological organism designed by Samad Theoni; if you recognize the name, it is because Sammad also designed the infamous Andean Basilisk. The beast is an absolute work of art, cobbled together from the genomes of hundreds of different organisms. I've attached both an overview and a detailed account of its genotype, as well as its other specifications. It is mostly organic, but contains an internal safe-fission plant that powers its biological processes; it does not need to eat. The plant is refueled periodically via a very small mobile Planck gateway within the creature itself. Likewise, it's "flowing flame" weapon, actually a napalm derivative, is also refueled via an internal Planck gate, so that it never runs out of ammo. The fission plant also powers the Guardian's stopfield, which lies flush with its dermis, and renders it invulnerable to any attack with a force of less than a megaton. It will be quite a while before the New Mesopotamians will be able to vanquish the Guardian and enter "heaven!"

Thank you and congratulations once again. If you require additonal clarification on Operation 125b-38, or any of Division 18's ongoing operations, please don't hesitate to ask. I look forward to working with you.
Humble servant of the Agency, the Archdirectress, and the Empress, may she live a thousand years.

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I'm still very very busy, but I figure I'll start posting some of what I've been working on one or two pieces at a time.

Several weeks ago, Creature of the Week over at ConceptArt.org has a topic called "Portal Guardian." I was working on my freelance stuff at the time, so I didn't participate, but I did think up a vague creature concept. Around that same time, I saw some orchids at Home Depot, and it struck me that an orchid flower would make an excellent creature head. I also wrote down the passage above around that time. About two weeks ago, when I had a free couple of hours, I finally drew this creature. It was an extraordinarily fun and satisfying drawing. I am loving ink these days.

I think this is also a good opportunity to talk about all the various influences that go into a piece of art. As I thought about this drawing, I realized that I was borrowing bits and pieces and features of it from designs and illustrations that I'd seen in the past. I tried making design choices to distinguish it from these earlier drawings, but the influence is still evident. Most drawings are like this, I think. They're cobbled together from bits and pieces of remembered shapes and features. I'm not talking about this because I'm worried that this drawing is unoriginal, but because I think this is an interesting subject, and because I'm particularly aware of the influences that went into this particular design. They are as follows:
- [link] An orchid, obviously. I didn't stay true to these shapes very much at all, but their influence is still apparent.
- [link] . Behemoths by Wayne Barlowe.
- [link] . The soul collector by Jeff Simpson. The orchid petals started me thinking along the lines of this head shape.
- [link] . Pharaoh Hound, by Fyreant. This obviously influenced the napalm falling out of my creature's mouth.
- [link] . This creature by the wonderful Matt Barrett (known as M.C. Barrett on ConceptArt.org; one of the best concept designers around) somewhat influenced the ponderous, long-legged stance of my creature.
- [link] . There is definitely some General Grievous in the face, though I didn't notice it until afterwards!

Well, that's it for this one. Hope you found it interesting.
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