Chapter 1 Now, most of you have heard the story of how the USS Miami (aka "Transylvania") sailed through the rift portal and was feared lost. And, of course, a few of you know "the rest of the story" because you, yourselves, either took part in the rescue mission to save the Transylvania or were among the crews stationed at the rift portal who helped keep the hordes of darkness busy until Dr. Venture and the Snargfargle could complete the towers and seal the rift. Many of you heroes still feel the effects of the mutagenic nanogenes of the Pall to this day. While the majority of the nanogenes were rendered inert when the rift portal was closed, their effects still linger in everyone who was exposed to them. Dr. Venture, Compass Rose Jones, and the world's foremost scientists are studying them and working with the Snargfargle in an attempt to use the Staff of Ages to temporarily reanimate and reprogram enough inert nanogenes so that their deadly machinations can be reversed. Let's hope they can find a cure soon because those exposed weaken more and more as each day passes. That is, except for the Snargfargle. Even though the mighty creature was not totally immune to the effects of the nanogenes, in him their effect was quite different indeed. Active nanogenes still swarm in the Snargfargle's body, powered and instructed by the Staff of Ages. However, far from causing illness, the nanogenes which infect the Snargfargle have done something very strange and wondrous indeed. Perhaps the nanogenes of the Pall referenced the genetic material that the Staff of Ages had picked up from the humans who, over the millennia, reverently touched its surface and traced its strange hieroglyphics because they now apparently have decided that "human" should be the Snargfargle's true form. We knew that the Staff of Ages could act as a supercomputer, translating even the most arcane of languages and allowing the Snargfargle to communicate with anyone, even a mythical "dragon," without having actually learned their language. We also knew that the Staff of Ages came from the same dimension as the crystals and the nanogenes themselves. What we didn't know (until recently) was that the Horde didn't invent the nanogenes but merely stole them and and then used them for their own sinister purposes. The Staff of Ages was constructed by beings so advanced as to make even the @Alien_Observers appear primitive in relation. To this ancient (if "ancient" is even the correct word for beings who could control time itself) species, an Observer scientist would have seemed even more primitive than the Snargfargle once had appeared to the Observers when he was a H omo erectus, gnawing on bones in a cave and thinking his crude (though intelligent for his species) thoughts. The only reason why the Observers didn't come down and take the staff from "Snarg the Thinker" by force, which they could easily have done, is because they are a noble race with a strict code of ethics that prohibits non-interference unless the threat is dire. That, and the fact that even they still do not fully understand the staff's awesome power. But we digress. The mutagenic nanogenes that swarm in the Snargfargle's body under instruction from the Staff of Ages are changing him. No longer is he the massive green "monster" of myth. His green skin has turned to a golden bronze and, though he is still more massive and powerful of body than most humans, he appears more and more human every day. This change in appearance has bemused him as much as it has his closest friends. At the same time his brain is also changing. He is beginning to see things in a new way and understand things that were once just beyond the grasp of even his brilliant mind. He sometimes sits and ponders where this change will take him. With the change he also has removed the shamanistic accoutrements that once adorned the Staff of Ages and has given it a more modern guise. His raiment too is different, though it still looks somewhat "archaic" to modern humans. Only Compass and Venture know that he now wears the garb of a philosopher-king of Atlantis, which is not an affectation for he was the last king of Atlantis. He no longer wishes to be called by the shamanistic title "the Snargfargle" either. Lately, he has been referring to himself as Metis, which is the name of an ancient titan of wisdom.