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First Blood

Tragur was excited. On one hand he finally earned the right to witness a first blood but on the other hand the privilege of participation passed him by in favor of a cat in the same litter as he. Tragurs mood soured at the latter. Only a year ago he despaired at not being old enough to witness the early morning ritual. Now the child like enthusiasm of his peers was only mirrored on his face. Inside he was a miasma of envy and jealous ravings.

Tragur was six years of age, full grown by the standards of his tribe and by extension his race. As far as Tragur was concerned he was ready to hunt when he was four. Nevertheless he and his litter comprised of cats of mostly rival prides, they jockeyed endlessly for status and recognition since there grouping at the age of one. The reward for their hard work, besides begrudging recognition from their lord fathers, was standing in the hunts. Standings that despite Tragur hard work, was probably rather low. A fact Tragur was coming to terms with as the hour of first blood approached and the sleek approach of the chosen one hushed the jitters of the crowd.

As tradition would dictate the warrior approached the circle early and bare of any weapons. The crowd would hush to consider their representative, though he was no more than six, his reputation among those who oversaw his progresses within the litter preceded him like thunder before torrential rain. Rumors spoke of his speed, which was undeniable even to his peers and some even regarded him as the best in his litter, though no self-respecting cat would admit that out loud. To his non-handlers he was the black cat of the Azeroth, and with the name came the rivalry of men many years his senior. Envy has never been his stranger; his parents as a hunting pair bring belts from all cross the peninsula, and new lands to the north and across the seas, if rumors be true.  To his friends he was Pant, his birth name, and he kept his friends close, a lesson drilled into him by his father. As Pant he was generous head strong and fair. Never shying from opportunities to lead, and yet never overbearing. Within his inner circle Pant regaled his friends with stories of his parent’s exploits, which more often than not exceeded even the most outrageous rumors surrounding Pride Azeroth. Tragur of course, heard none of things camp fire tales; he sat on an opposite circle of friends, whose defacto leader was one of the many prides that fervently opposed the Azeroths, which is often the way of school litters.

But in this day the litter cheered the son of Azeroth, though some did so with more enthusiasm than others. Tragur, who was more concerned with being skipped the honor, cheered the chosen one with tepid enthusiasm.

“I wonder what manner of beast have they prepared for the Azeroth?” whispered Wafelia, her bright ember eyes and somber expression greeting Tragur as he turned to acknowledge her.

“Probably a river rat.” joked Tragur, which elicited a chuckle from the less serious members of the litter, Wafelia included.

“Those things are dangerous; my mother lost a brother in the amazon hunting a family of them.” At this the group nodded somberly, Carl being Carl killed the joke and as usual from the back of the group, where his wide face and height made his otherwise silent presence unmistakable.

Granted he was right, to the many that lost family and limbs to hunts in the river lands and densely wooded areas found further south, the two ton creature was no laughing matter.

“It’s probably a rabbit, it’s always a rabbit.” Alphonese said sagely. He was close to Pant and cheered him with enthusiasm despite his usual reserve. “But it looks like I’m wrong.”

Whereas before the crowd was merely hushed to a murmur, the silence that wrapped the witnesses of First Blood was such that nothing else but the shuffle of reluctant feet echoed inside the open circle. Slowly but surely the whatever the son of Azeroth was to face moved toward the center, passing men and women that would have normally hissed at its presence if it wasn’t for the sacred nature of the ritual. To Tragur to anticipation was maddening, he had reasoned it was too short to be rabbit yet made too little of a dent in the circle of onlookers to be on four legs. Curiosity was stinging his feet and traveling up and down his legs, prickly his spine for motion on each relay. He bite down the urgency to act the fool and resolved to be the adult, forcing every fidget and inpatient twitch of the tail to a mere slow grit of his sharp teeth.

And then it emerged through the throng of furry bodies, four burly cats in his tow. Two of which held his arms separate and behind his back with leashes held with both hands, and a third holding a rope tied to a contraption that held his mouth shut while pulling the rope forward to the extent that his body bent low as he moved forward at the urging of the fourth cat keeping pace in front of him. When the monster was inside the circle to the satisfaction of his escorts, they let go of the ropes and darted back into the crowd. It was at this moment that Tragur face shifted rapidly, from impatience, to puzzlement, to distaste, and then finally serious concern for the son of Azeroth.

This was the first time Tragur has seen a green devil and it didn’t take long to understand why First Blood was forbidden for the young and untrained. It was this shock and similar shocks to come that awoke Tragur to the seriousness of his new position, as a child to man, from house cat under the safety of his parents Pride to a hunter. What he saw, the green scales, the brown shell that protected its back and looked impossibly heavy, and the beady black eyes that stared at the son of Azeroth and nothing else, was extremely unsettling. It was 5 feet and a few inches and about the size the average cat if only a little shorter. But most importantly to Tragur, the green devil was like a living statue; his scales resembling hard plates of brick baked at odd shapes and made thin enough for the creatures massive muscles to move, if only barely, underneath.  In his mind to slay such a beast unarmed and worst head on was suicidal.

But none of his compatriots shared this view. All cheered with blood-lust as the beginning of First Blood was rapidly ending as the sacrifice to the hunt was safely delivered before the tribe’s representative. The son of Azeroth, bounded up and down in a flurry of swipes, lunges, and kicks. However despite the impressive showing, Pant was not trying to intimidate the green devil as much as he was trying to relieve his own impatience. For the match cannot occur unless the beast, if it is capable of reason, removes all disadvantages, the muzzle and the rope around his hands. For a moment the creature stood observing the young Azeroth, unblinking and to the crowd uncomprehending. Then as slow as one would expect a living statue to move, the green devil removed the muzzle first, gnawed at his rope till it fell apart in a heap to be dragged away by cats delegated for the task. It was then that the casual display of martial skill ended, and the young cat stalked his prey, shuffling his feet deliberately between the different stances one takes before the all-consuming lung.

“He plans to end this in one stroke.” whispered Alphonese, appreciation cracking his otherwise monotone speech.

It was in these seconds that the devil mind sharpened, his body tensed, and his breath held in anticipation of what was to come. His capture hung heavy in his mind, having witnessing his scouting party slaughtered, only 6 days before. In the midst of the battle, the helplessness of being taken completely by surprise feebled his response and shattered his resolve against an enemy that leaped from previously harmless shadows at the dead at night, where his kinds vision was rather excellent. In the days preceding his capture, he naturally wondered why he was kept alive while the rest of his troop was butchered, some hacked to pieces in front of him and packaged. These thoughts filled him with understanding that came with despair, he was to be tortured, and executed once they have gathered the information that they need. No known attacks by the cat race left much in the wake of survivors and few could confirm if they bothered taking live prisoners. Their continued success at wiping out scouts and small caravans must be due to the intelligence they gather from captives like himself. Though that much he couldn’t confirm because his captors kept him in a cage, not a prison cell, which was by and large exposed to the elements and lacking in neighboring cages. Worst his theory was slowly falling apart as the cats didn’t torture him, or ask him pointed questions. They spoke the northern tongue when around him, something he found disconcerting, and fed him regularly with cooked meat, local vegetation, and cups of water.

Much to his surprise this unusual treatment went on for many days. This measure of kindness however didn’t lower his guard, but raised it, though not to the point that he abstained from sleep. Expecting to be slaughtered with little chance to fight back, he was more than comfortable with the thought of never waking up again and felt sleep was a reprieve from an otherwise cruel world where his wife and four daughters will never be seen again. On the fifth day the first and only question to be asked of him was his name. To this the scout responded with his name, rank and nation: Henry Butchwater, 2nd Scout of the Expeditionary Legion, Proud citizen of The Black Water Bay, respectively.

On the sixth day, he was selected for first blood, and he woke up to ropes and a muzzle. In his heart Henry Butchwater resigned to his fate, and handled the indignity with meekness and resignation. It was only once he entered the circle, and realized what the cats had in mind, that his heart stirred with cold furry. He was kept alive for sport. His friends slaughtered for sport. The fuckers make light of a turtle.

So when the young Azeroth, the chosen one, the Lead hunter of his litter, charged the turtle, the crack of life entering Henry’s eyes was mostly unnoticed, as he went for the kill. And how textbook the attack was, perfect execution, managed by painstaking calculations of his speed, height, arch of his swing, the resistance of the soft grass that covered the plains of his homeland, made in a precious moments of calm before the storm… and how it all calm to a halt as the turtle backhanded the blow with ease of a seasoned soldier of his experience and pedigree and carried the assailant off balanced and surprised into the dirt. Having bet the entire ritual on that one strike, he was both surprised and criminally off balance, only the instinctive ability to right himself mid tumble allowed him the grace to see the next attack coming in a hammering knee to the sternum that nearly liquefied his internal organs if it wasn’t for a timely twist of his hips and sudden shift of his weight assist by his tail. Panic however didn’t set into Pant, as he counter attack while falling away from his foe only managing to scratch his shell. Rolling and popping back into stance, Pant contemplated what went wrong. According to his mother these creatures are criminally slow, if not dimwitted. Surely only coincidence of raising its arm out of instinct and enough wherewithal to attack while he was off balance was the only logical explanation.

The turtle was content with not pursuing, for he knew he couldn’t run the cat down. The son of Azeroth paced the creature, his self-confidence and fighting spirit hardly affected by the earlier exchange. A smart hunter always stalks his prey, and his father’s words and the training of his task masters training echoed inside of him as his plan of action took shape.

“No more gimmicks.” whispered Pant in his native tongue, which to Henry was no more than a barely audible sharp hiss.

And that’s when Pant went in again, rushing as before, but as Tragur and many of his peers would note, from a much different stance and footwork. For to the casual observer, Pant was merely doing the same thing again, but to the multitude of trained eyes, Pant was slightly slower and more balanced, so when he attacked he planted his feet before darting to the right while swiping with his left paws. Henry however, while not anticipating the cats actions, instinctively trusted the attack patterns he had learned to defend against from his nation’s footmen; lessons reinforced during campaigns against his neighboring nations like the Red Shells and the Sons of the Sire. With practice and focus he took a back step as the young cat lashed out with right, the blow catching him but not stunning him as he ducked under the left paw while pivoting on the planted foot. As the cat went right he met the out stretched arm of Henry, having intended to end the fight with the left paw in a vicious strike that carried his entire weight, he realized his mistake quickly enough and intended to escape before being yanked to the ground with brutal efficiency. For it only took a second for Henry to catch his quarry, fling him to the ground as he pivoted in the other direction. As the cat bounded for freedom, a cry only matched by newborn kittens in mortal danger escaped his lips as a loud resounding crack was felt more than heard by the entire audience.

It is to be said that having grabbed his opponent, Henry could have pulled the young cat into his muscular embrace and did much worse. And maybe it was because Henry did not take the speed and strength of young Pant for granted that he chose to fling him to the ground. But when Henry planted his foot hard and deep into the cats right leg, there was no doubt that the Black Water Bay soldier took some vindictive pleasure in crippling the son of Azeroth first. And as the son of Azeroth limped away, the pain of his lost leg made every attempt to put some distance between him and the green devil, a near comic effort if not sight, though no one found it funny. A slow and steady hiss started to build in the crowd as the turtle leisurely stalked his prey. It’s meaning foreign to the turtle soldier and too ancient to translate in the northern tongue. But in a second the hisses will be eclipse by a deafening roar from with the crowd, as a black cat with white spots marking her face and underbelly, leaped into the circle with murderous green eyes.

Time for a second froze as everyone knew who she was but few were willing to cross her, even for the sake of the ritual. But few is not all, as a taskmaster caught her leg with a whip as she was in midair. The resulting break in momentum crashing her in the plain grass, her murderous eyes now burning even brighter with a feral rage as she clawed desperately toward the turtle advancing toward her son. However the sound of her rage and the subsequent crash as her peers desperately stopped her, did get Henry’s attention. And Henry as he turned to see the new attacker, he bellowed in rage. For this wasn’t just any cat, but the cat who murdered his friends and brought him to the hell. So with speed not thought possible he bounded on the Lady of Azeroth, and nearly was on top of her if she wasn’t dragged back into the safety of the circle. Though for whose good, no one will found out as all the previous escort cats rushed the turtle, netting him before knocking him off balance with long poles made of harden wood. As Henry bellowed and cursed, the crowded dispersed; first blood was a failure and the hunt will not be blessed for this day and many days to come.

*******

When Tragur walked home, like so many other cats, he moved with a shuffling gate that betrayed in his downcast spirit. Whatever feelings he had toward the son of Azeroth, no cat deserves to be a cripple. Yet beyond that was another feeling, the question of whether he or god forbid one of his friends would have ended up the same or worse? It was a terrible thought, an angery thought, and Tragur shuffled through the front door yet again betrayed by his conflicting feelings.

Now Tragur home was not the largest, or the smallest in the Tribe. He was the third son of three litters, and his family wasn’t short on food or pelts to batter with. In this way, his family had the luxury of expanding on their humble home, which was originally one lonely shack facing the east river. In time however their manor grew to the size of eight shacks, as was the cat way to expand their homes by building a second home adjacent to the last. Tragur was fortunate enough to live in a home with four litter-rooms and lodge room two huts long, where cooking fires burned meat brought from the six meat lockers his parents kept stocked, as his siblings watched mouths drooling from the sweet aroma.

Of course such memories were far from his mind as he rubbed his feet against the patch of dry grass, maintained at the front door, before giving way to a rich network of white furs that still smelled of treated prey.  He wanted to cry out for his mother, but decided against it, not wishing to interrupt his father in the middle of his pleasure time with his mother. Judging it best not to announce his presence and at the same time avoid any doorways that crossed too close to the master bedroom, a lesson he learned the hard way on two occasions which encompassed two of his three near death experiences. So after taking great pains not to make too much noise, and alternatively not too little, Tragur finally entered his lodge room only to find his father waiting for him, with one bored eye watching him enter while his fingers worked away at the imperfections in a wood carving of some type of lizard.

“So how was your first First Blood.” His Lord Father said with a sigh. Having spent the morning indoors and working on his favorite hobby, he was only half interested in his sons account of the ritual. But to Tragur his father’s question nearly made him gush uncontrollably with words describing the fight in its bloody detail, the despair of the morning events nearly leaping from his lips. But instead with a calming breath, Tragur leveled his voice its most monotone, choosing even the northern tongue for the maximum dryness.

“The Black of Azeroth is no more.”

“That bitch died?” Tragur’s father nearly jumped out of his seat in excitement, “Wait your talking the Runt of Azeroth, the one half the town been raving about.”

“Be more respectful dear, the boys a cripple.” chimed Tragur’s Mother sharply.

“How do you guys know?” Tragur spoke with astonishment

“How could I not?” retorted his Father, “Practically everyone who walked by here was talking about how that turtle cracked that boys bones. Sad story he’ll tell his cross eyed children one day over the morning fire.”

“Garris!” Tragur’s Mother cracked.

“What!” her husband replayed “Everyone knows those Azeroths are brother to sister. “

“Baseless rumors” his wife countered.

“Baseless my ass. And now the son a crippled? Boy tell me, which one of your sisters will want the runt now”?

Tragur let the question roll over his head, his usual revulsion at the thought, numbed by today’s events.

“Exactly. The only hope he has for a life partner is one of his sisters… and needless to say what the resulting offspring will be like.”

“Still Garris, must you profane the Azeroths on a day like this?” sighed Tragur’s Mother.

“Jiilian everyone is saying it.”

“You don’t have to join them.”

“Why weren’t you at First Blood” Tragur interrupted, having learned early in his life to change subjects before his father and mother started their endless bickering.

“No real hunter needs it.” His father replied, not the least interested in the conversation.

“Isn’t that an affront to the gods?”

At this his father sighed.

“No son. An affront to the gods is an empty meat locker. Starving children. A Pride Lords unable to protect their family –“

“A husband unwilling to give his wife a fourth litter” Garris wife interrupted.

“A woman who won’t shut the hell up.”

“What’s that dear?”

“Nothing” Tragur’s Father sighed, “Nothing….Those things are affronts to the gods. Souring the meat of good prey and carving it up in front of the entire tribe proves nothing but some Pack Leaders vanity.”

Tragur took in his dad’s words and turned to his mother,

“You feel the same way mom?”

“Tragur, I’m 29 years old and the mother of three litters, I sleep as much as your father does.” At this his father hissed something in the native tongue even Tragur didn’t understand, though going by the daggers emitting from his mother’s face, Tragur committed not repeating the hiss within earshot of his queen mother to memory.

“Though Tragur I can’t say I’m not entirely un-thrilled that you wasn’t participating personally. Especially after what happened to that Azeroth boy. I know you worked hard for the privilege but still, I’m glad your home and safe. “ At this his mother crossed the room to give him a hug and a nuzzling, and being too emotionally drained to feel embarrassed he finally let his mother’s act of tenderness warm him, something he hasn’t allowed in quite some time since declaring himself a man in his heart.

“Tragur, you realize what this means right?” His father shouted over his mother embrace. Tragur mind, having finally begun to bring the pieces together, starting to think again with his usual Tragur like thought processes.

“No dad.” Which was the honest truth beyond his mental exhaustion.

“Just as well… Tragur a Azeroth has been made a cripple in combat and the beast that crippled him will be made to go free tomorrow.” His father gave Tragur a minute to soak in the words before continuing, “Please tell me the implications.”

Being the third son of three litters, his lord father, while not overly friendly, has never been unbearably antagonistic either. Nevertheless he has learned over the years that his father regarded him as a son because his mother convince him to do so and that his best chance of reaching adulthood, as he rightly reason, was staying out of his father’s way. Because of this approach to his father, and his father’s seemingly disinterest in him, he had very very few opportunities to genuinely disappoint him.

But as Tragur will come to learn, being an adult and more importantly a hunter will bring his every action and inaction into razor focus. A lesson his mother knew her son have to learn as she went back to her own carvings, a hobby Tragur’s mother shared with her husband, though her wood miniatures had very little resemblance to anything on earth.

“Son,” his fathered sighed, “I’m too tired to beat the runt out of you. However, since this directly affects you, I’m going to give you this freebie, lash free. “

At this Tragur gulped, his mind finally awakening completely from its stupor and today’s events cast under the measured eyes of a cat’s intellect. At first Tragur’s thought drifted toward the standings. His most importantly, but than his mind flicked that aside for a more terrible thought, for while on one hand the importance his own positioned was nearly all consuming it was battered by another image, the image his father was alluding to despite not being there to witness it. In his mind Tragur replayed the son of Azeroth’s last moments as a hunter, but not in its grizzly detail, but as a casual observer. And in this frame of thought came one image that brought chills to his spine. First was the roar, then the razor claws, sharp fangs, the blur of a muscular body, night black fur with a white underbelly streaking into the demonic circle, only to be stopped, though barely by the crap of the whip.

“The law of first blood present a problem that the bitch of Azeroth cannot avoid.” His father began.

“But if the Azeroths control half the tribe as you say…” replied Tragur, half in thought, half in horror.

“The superstitious fools won’t let her. Not that way.”

“No father…” the horror dawning on Tragur as he spoke, “she can’t make us.”

“Your father is right,” Tragur mother started somberly, “she can. Unless the Lord of Azeroth stops this madness.”

“He is no Lord.” His father grunted.

“Despite the unsavory rumors surrounding him, he is still a Lord to Caitlyn’s Lady.” To this Tragur and his Father raised an eyebrow. For calling the Lady of Azeroth by her first name implies a friendship at odds with the disposition of Pride Greyfish. Though this is merely a coincidence; before Juillian became the life partner of Garris, her school litter housed many great names, one of which was to be the Lady of Azeroth.

With a sigh, Tragur dad continued, “That’s maybe so, but few husbands deny the wishes of grieving mothers. The Silverstreak of Azeroth may not be inclined to avenge his whelp but the same can’t be said for the Black. If the cuddled runt had only fallen during a hunt, she would be free to charge into a pack of green devils as many times as she likes, saves the tribe from her madness all the same. But this…”

“This is war father,” Tragur said soberly.

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Samson : Note 1

I was born in a test tube. Can’t say I feel any particularly way about it, maybe some base distaste for being a crime against nature from the day I was slated to be conceived.  I have no brothers and especially no sisters, for I am a clone and the term brother couldn’t begin to describe what it feels like to be around one of me. Humans talk about love, love for family, love for strangers. But they don’t know respect, understanding, knowing someone not by word or action but by smell and thoughts unspoken. This “respect” is fostered in the litters in which we were born. 24 man-made souls, from 872 capital ships, raised over a period of 14 years, and taught all the basic essentials of life, mostly what we are, what we are meant to do, and the meaning behind doing so. The meaning is the most important, not because having a purpose in life is important, but because that’s what you’re suppose to understand to avoid being weaned from the litter. Out of 24, seven of us are bound to wash out and those bound to wash out rarely turn the age of 10.

“For we are the glory of mankind.

We fight in their footsteps and through the mouths of angels.

We bring the rains of hell upon the foul things that pollute the motherland with their very existence.

We make life short and bleak for those who fester under the sun and below rocks and even under the sea if there is yet more evils to be found there. ”

And so on and so forth until our lives are ground into dust by the reclaimer protocol that claims our corpses when the enemy has finally slain us. It is, as we like to say, a brutish existence not becoming a softer toned men. Softer tone being that of our human handlers, some too anxious to join the battlefield in glistening armor and flaming sword. We try to discourage the spirit the best we can in those that seem a bit too, “into it”, as the softy’s would say, so at least only those fully trained and ready in body and soul can stand in the darkness and freedom as we do, as we have been born for.

Some of our a soft tone handlers, most from divisions not considered to be part of Noah but part of a greater slice of the government with many branches that my kind are vaguely privy to, would often go through great pains to personally ask why us Samson’s, lauded for our great intelligence, seem content with our “grim fates.” Why we don’t rebel? Which even now, several years into this war, is a primary concern of those who distance themselves from the institution that is Noah.

I have answered this question a few times. Usually with a wizened laugh, stating their concerns are drowned under several facets and sufficiently buried underneath several layers of reasons and understanding. The soft tones have misconceptions about the nature of intelligence, inherently so being very much far removed from what is necessary for survival. For humanity intelligence is merely the sum of facts gathered purposely under a keen mind. In mans natural habitat, the universe simply yields results and the only wall to overcome is the ignorance of the unknown. But for the rest of us, archiving facts means little, and nothing “yields” unless savagely broken. To know, to study, and to ultimately overcome an intelligence keen enough to evade your pursuit, or better fight back, is the greatest show of mental prowess. So they (not all) inherently misunderstood what it means to have a firm head on ones shoulders, at least from our perspective.

Now you can blame our ‘nature’ on the weaning, or our indoctrination from a young age. Maybe its the genes, though no one can deny we were bred to be aggressive, if not eager to spill and cause mayhem. Each layer of reasoning has its toll, though I’ve never meet a Samson to complain about it. The assumptions that we’re either happy to be used or seething with bitterness, is a misconception. To rephrase, we are tools, that much is obvious, but we do not take orders for the love or hate of it. It’s not the adrenaline that rides our veins, or any particular high or thrill that ultimately allows us to swallow the heavy pill of our fates. As a Patriarch is a man, not of science, math, or reading, but of necessity, if not mere students of disciplines long forgotten to time and the Exodus, we Samson’s are students of war. And like any good student, it is not the pleasure, or the ease that drives us, but the necessity of the subject in question. Because someone must learn it, we are merely the volunteers.

Can anyone imagine? Full war-time production of Samson’s can reach, 20928 at any given time, with a six-month delay between batches for each ship can only contain at max 3 litters of potential troops. Not including the ones who are weaned, this method of thinking, some may call even twisted, is shared by each and every one of them. Through potentially 20928 life experiences, or 62784 souls at max capacity. This is why we are clones, not brothers. Clones can differ in behavior, temperament, thought process, and can even deal with variations in environment, but eventually…. you are what you are. And if the core is right, ultimately they’ll avoid getting weaned, and the soft tones will declare another victory for the glory of man.

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Patrick D Mortal : January 25th, 2010

“So I have a joke to tell. A young man visits a catholic priest for his monthly confessional. Same day, every month, every year, for 40 years since this gentle old man was transferred here back in the 70s to replace some big shot who packed his bags for California, or Vegas. Never one for the small details. Now this young man was a peculiar young man, not necessarily for the content of his confessionals, but for one small little detail that few people are apt to believe. And thankfully this kind old priest never reports. For no what matter what day or season, no matter how often you cut the cheese on the math, this young man doesn’t seem to age.”

“Don’t find that funny? Ok maybe you simply don’t find it possible. Fair enough. You might find what I’ve been telling the same man, every month, of every year, for forty years funny. Or maybe you already think I’m crazy. But I can tell you’re new so maybe I shouldn’t bust your chops. ”

“I don’t think your crazy.”

“I think I misspoke. It’s not that I can tell that your new, it’s that I know your new, to here anyway. Henry died didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah he tends not to miss our chats. Stroke wasn’t it? Or plain old heart failure. Told him he needs a new heart, but stubborn bastard didn’t listen huh.”

“I-”

“Don’t worry, I don’t mean to disrespect, Henry was a friend, who also thought I was crazy but after sometimes he started to believe me. Or at least understand me.”

“Father Henry was indeed a good patient man.”

“Don’t I know it. Gentle souls like him show up but not too often. Told em once that I was considered converting back in the 1920’s when this cathedral was first built. Helped out Cardinal Luey when they nearly burned the place down and figured why not. Been avoiding the cross for about as long as it was invented. Remembered spending sometime up there myself, figured I rather not wear any reminders around my neck for fun. Didn’t seem right to me, but you know times change and you figure why not? Wouldn’t hurt me none, but you know I came from a time when your words stood for something and in the end I figured I rather not join your club, conflict in interest and all.”

“Father Ron?”

“Yes, yes…just give me a moment to think.”

“Hey don’t wreck your brain over it now, give it a minute, you’ve heard wilder yarns huh? Tell me I’m wrong! And besides I came here to confess remember? Just wanted to loosen you up a little.”

“Anyway, here’s the thing, it’s January the 25th using a modern calender correct? Well I can’t be quite sure when it happened. It’s been so long that at this point I’m just picking a random date. Same day every month no exceptions. Easy enough rule to follow I guess. The day, the month, hell the year doesn’t really matter. Cardinal Luey got me hooked on venting my problems. Considered me a troubled youth when we met. Well ‘youth’ compared to him anyway. But defiantly troubled, gliding on a pound of opium and a half a gallon of moonshine troubled. Even to this day I’m not sure what month, or year we met. I got the 25th off a newspaper so not sure it was the 25th. But you know it, that meeting, returned some sanity to a very dark time in my life, so short of excepting the lord and savior in my heart, at least I try to drag ass to the same old spot and keep it open  with whatever change I’ve managed to collect along the way.”

“Now in hindsight you might be thinking, being the priest of a New York cathedral and all, that I’m some boozing and whoring druggy that needs to see the light again. A month here and that is to be expected and it’s not like I haven’t enjoyed boozing and fornicating. Its  a sin for me to say otherwise. But at the end of the day, I like you have less material concerns to sleep at night with. In a way we deal with the same problem, just on different scales.”

“What is it son?”

“The object of my confession. The words I’m afraid to utter….”

“Don’t be afraid to confess your sins before the Lord son.”

“Sins? What if I told you that 2000 years ago aliens abducted me, tore me apart, and put me back together? Than they talked to me. Explain to me what they are, where they come from, and what they do. What they did to me? What they made me into, their gift to me that I didn’t deserve. A gift you’ll think that I squandered if you believed me. You see they made me immortal, as in doesn’t die unless exceptionally violent means. What would you do with eternal life? On earth I mean. Aw you’d be beside yourself. Me my future was grunt for the Roman Empire or shoveling dung and making horse shoes…so frankly I was rather short on bright ideas back than. And there was the catch hanging over me. Always a catch, though not like I had a choice, abduction and all. If I wanted to opt out all I had to do was pick an excessive painful death. Otherwise the catch applies.”

“Oh not curious huh? Figures I’ve lost me marbles and all sense. Heard it all now? Well fair enough. But I just have to tell you anyway. Its my sin you know. Not in the sense of what I’ve done but in the sense of what I’m going to do. Pretty bad stuff. Ready? Sitting down properly? Used the restroom recently? Ok thing is, the catch, pretty damn terrible thing to have over your shoulder. Didn’t believe it at first because well, 27AD shit shoveler who can’t read just couldn’t imagine it. 2000 years ago they, the aliens, looked like Gods to me but now? We put a man on the moon for christ-sake, s’cuse my cursing, and that was only 50 odd years ago. So yeah my perspective changed over the years and it started to hit me, about two hundred years ago, that the conditions regarding my relative immortality may need to be taken seriously.”

“And you may be thinking, get to the point all ready. And I will, just need to swallow some bile as I say this. Again disturbing to think about really. I remember what they showed me, their plan and how they go about it. Makes eternal lakes of fire sound about as tame as water-boarding is to be skinned alive. You see at some point in our natural history, as science marches on, we’re going to look beyond putting a man on mars. And when we do we’re going to want our space ships to go farther, faster so we can colonize planets further and further away. When this happens, when the day comes when we’re at the cusp of truly exploring the cosmos to plant our seed on foreign soils, I have to make a phone call. A long distance phone call to the same people that made me what I am today. And they’ll come, not in peace, or to make war. There too advance for either. They just want to neuter us. Tear us apart and than leave those behind with a bare minimum of functioning brain cells. Sparing only me.”

“And that’s just PG abridged version. Are you imagining what they’ll do to me if I don’t call. I can’t, but they’ve told me. In terms I’m still not able to understand. But I rather that not happen. Any of it. Either way you slice it. So that’s my dilemma, that’s my confession.  Every January 25th. Till that day comes, because I don’t know what I’ll do. I mean I was never a strong person to begin with, so I really don’t know… and the fact that I don’t know what I’d really do…isn’t that a sin?”

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Pink Bomber

I still remember the argument me and Sammy had before I left for this job. I asked him a simple question, I expected a heartwarming response, and instead he got snide.

“What keeps you human?” I asked earnestly we were only 10 feet apart but I consciously took a step forward so when I leaned into him it would be more intimate and natural. Before he says anything profound he kisses me on the forehead as if I was the daughter he always wanted but never had. He was always big and tall and old spice musty, comfortable and what I needed considering what I was about to do, so I looked forward to him showing a moment of tenderness. But his impassive eyes told a different story. I backed away from him; I wasn’t his anything right now. The one thing about Sammy that irritates me this much is that he doesn’t mind telling the truth. He just considers the truth too adult for me to hear. As if I was really just a child to him. So when his lips starting moving I already started to get anger.

“Nothing.” He says as dryly as possible. No room for argument he was saying without saying.

Stunned but not deterred, I started to speak but Sammy was already speaking over me before I could get a coherent sentence in.

“Sure we may look the same, but just watching the nature channel will tell you that having your nose and eyes in the same place don’t mean you belong to the same species. Do you know that we can’t even give blood transfusions to regular humans? One rumor slash speculation is that our blood is radioactive and will cause cancer in significant amounts. Fact is normal people can’t turn cars into soda cans or have tap dancing lessons in people’s heads. ”

“But we have the same feelings as they do!” I protest with significant use of flailing arms to show how annoyed I am at his matter of fact tone.

“Yeah so do dogs, cats, mice, etc, etc.” I started to say something in exasperated protest, but he raised his hand to cut me off, let me finish he was communicating while sighing to apologize for the sarcasm in his tone earlier. He didn’t mean to be like that it just came out that way.

“I know you want to say something about love. Dogs love too Tabatha, by the standard definition of love espoused and acknowledged by most people, a dogs devotion is just the same as love. “

I fumed, even now remembering it I’m fuming! No argument with Sammy Tabatha, he just beats you over the head with his “facts” until your blue in the face and ready to clock him. He even makes things worse by giving me total access to his brain while he picks me apart. He is literally just churning the logic wheel, no emotion in it at all, maybe a vague sense of regret like I’m being told there is no Santa Clause. Well I wasn’t going to be out think by you Sammy.

“So we’re better than normal people?” I say in an, “I can play your game too!” kind of tone.  Now I just wanted him to admit I was right.

“Physically superior sure… but so was the dinosaurs. If you’re simply valuing the people around you based on their ability to stand up to you than you’ve missed the point of the past thousand or so years of civilianization.” He paused to examine my souring face and genuine concerned hanged in his expression.

“Look Tabatha” Sammy continues, “You’re never going to read about dinosaur art or literature because the dinos never made any. We’re the same, not saying that we will disappear or anything like that, just saying that I honestly don’t mind driving in cars that move slower than I do or watching bad movies, or doing all the little vain things that people do because if it was up to me…none of this would exist. When in Rome do as the roman’s and we say that because it doesn’t matter if you’re not a roman. Hell that phrase was made specifically for us! We live in this world as ourselves, nothing more. “

I sigh, no arguing with Sammy, never did have an argument with him. I only get mad at him and he never responds to my anger. Which is usually the best response.

Anyway I think of him because the job I’m on was previously his. Should have been his but he ran into a BPP agent a month ago. It was an ambush of sorts; they tracked him down by his bad habits, cigars and strip joints. Sammy blames it on making too much noise; he picks out telekinetic like himself to fight and leaves a big mess behind. But even if you leave the scene of the crime in a timely fashion, BPP has ways to follow the bread crumbs if you leave enough of them. On that note he stopped me from carrying an automatic, just wanted an Uzi really, and a couple of grenades because he felt the noise level will put me on their radar. Out of respect I only took 1 grenade. I feel nervous about fighting someone who can juggle minivans with only two knives, four glock 21’s with my signature pink handle. The hello kitty guns jokes Sammy. I wasn’t even sure I carried enough ammunition; practice fights with Sammy can easily burn through 30 rounds. But I rather not carry more than I have to. I wasn’t a small army. Ok technically I was, but that was due to other factors.

Ok focus on earning your keep Tabatha. This is for Sammy; that fight with that BPP agent was a fight he of course won but barely. He was too badly hurt and needed too much time to recover. An inconvenience for the boss and an opportunity to get even for anyone Sammy belittled. Three people in the first week of his recover felt brave enough to play “practical jokes” on Sammy. I killed two, Sammy killed one, cleaning up the blood for weeks type of kill. Nursing Sammy back to health was myself appointed job till the boss requested that I take on his responsibilities.  I refused of course, but Sammy convinced me to oblige. “We may be the only psychics officially on the payroll, but he has at least three running a protection detail just for him and the occasional internal affairs man.” I took Sammy’s word for it.

The boredom ended with the appearance of a crisp business suit heading down the parking garage. The parking garage was a three level facility, the last level being underground. The suit was my target, I had no doubt about that, he fit the profile, 6’2 caucasian male, black hair and brown eyes. Smooth features and wore a natural tan. Handsome by contemporary standards; looks like he held a good job, nice car, big house.  He had a casual appearance despite the double breasted suit, ivory black shoes, white shirt with sandy grey tie.  A guy like him had one of two jobs, security or management. I didn’t read that deep into the profile, all I wanted was a picture, a time and a place. I didn’t even know his name, which makes this even more awkward because it sounds like a one night stand. Not my thing and the pretty boy Harvard look ain’t my type, though he does look like quite the athlete. Maybe there is some mileage to him…

Oh hell I got a good shot from here maybe I can take him out now? Not likely, he’ll just catch the bullet…

Oh well time to move. Pretending that the parking garage is a jungle makes the sneaking go easier, two hundred paces away and maintaining that distance all-important. Now if the cars are the trees what would the support pillars be? Oak trees….. God he is moving awfully slow, is he by his car yet?  Ok why is he stopping isn’t his car parked a much further down? Maybe he parked in a different space this time? Wait that doesn’t make sense, there’s assigned parking isn’t there?

I almost out of habit call Sammy’s name out loud when I notice my target talking to himself, like I am but out loud. Crazy much? I couldn’t hear him of course considering the distance and the fact that he seemed to be whispering. Most not be important. Then he turns to face me and with a great jerk of his right arm rips the door of a nearby Lexus Sedan out of its hinges and hurling towards me.

Now a normal person at this time would be too deep in panic to dodge the door, or too concerned with “how he found me?” to react in time. I’m not sure this is unique to telepaths but I personally find anything moving slower than the speed of light moving in slow motion. A feature that only comes to play when I’m in immediate danger, like now, the only bad part is that you’re looking at your death happen in slow motion because normally your body is usually unable to keep up with the speed of whatever is coming at you even though you see it move as slow as snail. However I was special; like a mouse I dashed from behind my cover, a lesson I learned from Sammy who strongly discouraged hiding behind anything once a telekinetic knows your there. I was right the instant my feet cleared the headlights the Volkswagen I was using as cover was nearly split in half.

I regained my balance with ease, hours of cardio, and dash into the swirl of violent intentions that is Mr. Property Damage. Adrenaline on full pump, glocks in both hands, I fire haphazardly at Mr. Property Damage, managing center of mass shots each click. He plants his feat, strains his eyes (maybe he does see the bullets moving in slow mo as well?), and plucks the rounds out of air.  I stop firing for a second, and leap for cover behind a Masada, the glass shatters above as the car nearly tips over in the Mr. Property Damages rage.

I enter his mind at this juncture; my persona, the representative of my mind in his body, an avatar if you will, crosses the distance between us in instant. Entering Mr. Property Damage mind, or anyone’s for that matter, is similar to walking into someone’s front lawn, unremarkably easy. Unnoticeable until you look ahead and see the house. When someone tells you your mind is filled with empty space they are right. Your mind is only a piece of property, the “house” is where all the good stuff is housed and is only the byproduct of our subconscious attempting to compartmentalize an otherwise formless system. The trick is breaking into the house, which in most cases wasn’t a house per say but merely door representing the boundary between the formlessness of the peripheral corners of your mind and the haphazard attempt at organization most people call their brain. And I’m not kidding, most people’s minds are merely front doors that aren’t even locked and most of the time halfway open.

Mr. Property Damages mind however was simple a dome, smooth on all sides and two stories tall. I wanted to be taken aback by this; I usually see steel doors or vaults when it comes to the mind of a telekinetic. This was overly simple. It reminded me of a walnut and at this I smiled.

Than the smile faded, while I was busy being confused, Mr. Property Damage flipped the Masada over. Using more luck than skill, I laid flat and slid underneath the rolling car. Thanking father timing, rolled forward only to be picked up and slammed up against the now turned over vehicle that was just sent sailing over me.  The pain shoots up and down my lower back in a conga line of misery; I raged and slammed my fist against the dome protecting Mr. Property Damage’s mind. He cringed at the sudden loss of focus and his psy hold dropped.  Free I charged at him, the need for a less direct approach never occurring to me, I drew two new pistols and let muscle memory empty rounds. As if catching an air current, he floats back into the air while erecting a multi layered psy wall that stops the bullets cold. No problem, I use my persona’s fist as sledge hammer and swing madly at his mind’s defenses, yet only managing to crack one layer in futility.

No way!

Amateur hour at its finest, I dodge his raw surge of psy by rolling just under it, taking note not to notice the crater that it left behind. I’m using the wrong kind of brute force, I should be in already! I was taught better, I should have broken his defense in seconds not 2 minutes and counting. I relied too much on the element of surprise. Panic mode is over, this is a straight up brawl, and I let my persona assume the form of the first demon of the personal hell I’m going to make out of Mr. Property Damage’s mind. Four horns curled like elephant tusk, four arms with claws big enough to rend spines from men backs. It stood at 20 stories of purple and green demon. The illusion wasn’t finished, to him the sky darkened and the ground opened up to the underworld. He resisted of course, his mind worked feverishly to repair the damage, but that’s the fun part about being a telepath, once I’m in I’m always in, the best you can do as a none-telepath was hold on to your little corner of reality.

I bucked my head and my horns ripped open the roof. I climbed into the dome, my weight being too great for the structure; it was really just an onion, each layer gave way to more layers. I work feverishly with all six limps, clawing and kicking and pulling and more clawing. His focus was wild now; he punched at the air and sent psy waves into menacing parked cars and support beams. Still dangerous, he aimed for my general direction and when he didn’t hit the explosions he left behind sent glass and rocks everywhere. He was still airborne the parking garage proved surprisingly spacious as he assumed a half crouch as he glided. Mr. Property Damage stopped blocking my bullets, instead he focused on increasing our distance and dodging my gunfire. I wanted him down on the ground, and in my anxiousness he caught me by surprise and rocked me off my feat without me realizing what hit me. I hit the ground with a bounce, realizing that both glocks were empty I discarded one, while unclipping and reloading the second with the free arm in mid bounce. When landed I rolled to my feet to face him, but I was wrong about where he was.

Wait what?  I should know where he is, I’m in his head for god’s sake! The demon was finished with the dome, but found a very conventional iron door underneath. She roared and slammed head first into the thick steel of Mr. Property Damage’s final layer of peripheral defense before I was in. At that moment, as the demon took the door of its hinges, Mr. Property Damage sent a sports car barreling through the air in a free falling tumble. I jumped to my left side, and found it was a mistake, a second car slammed into my mid section knocking the air out of me as I rolled up high into the air nearly hitting the ceiling and crashed hard on flying windshield. I was beyond pain at this moment, I felt the thud of my body hitting three more previously parked vehicles or maybe it was the same vehicle and I hit the ground with a thud followed by a wet roll. I wanted to get up but everything hurt at the same time, I could only stop myself from screaming in pain.

So I moved my head slowly and saw Mr. Property Damage grinning and breathing heavy. He held his hand over me and I knew what that meant, the remaining hairs on my body stood on end because of amassing whirlpool of psy just above me. My little she demon was so far from me now, but I felt it raging on by my direction. Even in this state I was multitasking her assault on his mind, but it was only a battle that I was losing as his defenses and sense of reason held against the little daemon working too far away from her master. Given more wherewithal I would have thousands of little programmed horrors working on every nook and cranny of his mind, forcing him to experience a thousand deaths and warping his perception to the point of insanity. I’d messed up big but I knew theyweren’t enough tears left in my tattered body to cry for failures sake.

No! I need to focus even harder. I reached my right arm for the grenade I kept in my left pocket; I thanked Sammy for suggesting I wear bagging clothing. Still intact surprisingly, I forced my right arm to move further than the pain would allow. Like a puppets arms it merely flung the grenade at Mr. Property Damage, the pain of my right arm being dislocated was so intense that I nearly passed out. But I gritted my teeth; that wasn’t my real focus, no my rampaging demon had one more sin to commit before Mr. Property Damage mind pushes it back into his outer defenses.

I don’t know why but the Catholics never considered being a liar a deadly sin but it is the sin that kills the easiest. The mind is ready to accept all manners of lies, especially the ones the owner wants to believe are true. So when I felt Mr. Property Damage’s enthusiasm, the heavy bass sound of a victory vibrating from every corner of his soul, I rode his high right up to his ear and whispered with the voice a thousand gum drops, “Don’t worry she is already dead.” Of course that wasn’t going to convince him not to smash me flat like a pancake, but it would paint a big enough illusion that my flailing right arm tossing the hand grenade would go unnoticed. However the grenade itself had to be accounted for and I poured all my effort into blocking its flight from Mr. Property Damage’s sight completely. When it finally came to stop at his feet, by than all five of his senses knew something was there, I made him think that it was merely a small slab of loose concrete, which considering the state of the parking garage that lie wasn’t all too unbelievable.

But it wasn’t a perfect lie and I was out of luck if he noticed. But he didn’t! He raised his hand up like a roman senator deciding on the life or death of a disgraced gladiator and then the grenade exploded. At that moment, before even the sound of the explosion could reach Mr. Property Damage’s ears, I caught my second wind and resolved to show him real telepathy. So I pulled his conscious, grabbing the presumption of himself and dragging him out of his own reality.

Suddenly he was in a free fall toward the destination of my choosing, but he resisted never the less, going up stream with all his might kicking and swearing all the way down. It took time to fully create the reality I wanted him to experience but when I was done he found himself in an endless field of pink sunflowers. In Mr. Property Damage’s mind all that could be seen was rolling hills of blue, pink and subtle green. The confusion on his face was priceless. So I gave him something familiar, my demon appeared before him bellowing a challenge. Mr. Property Damage cursed and shouted back “This is MY HEAD!” and charged at me sword in hand. Figured he’d use a gun, oh well, he slashed at the demon as it popped in a shower of rose pedals like a piñata. His confusion was hilarious, he looked around wide eyed attempting to match an unforeseen threat but saw nothing but pink and blue.

I laughed as he kept whirling around to meet a shadow that wasn’t there; he heard my laughter and fumed with anger. Than the ground began to sink and concern returned on his face and he watched as some parts sank faster than others as if the whole landmass was on top of a sinkhole. The sunflowers soon started to burst as pockets of nothingness replaced patches of the  ground. The haze of pink petals floating up into the sky was almost magical until it started to catch fire. And the panic in his face was also priceless; the impossible heat that radiated from each pedal burned boils his flesh and cooked his hair. He took to the air pushing past the fire and the smoke, coughing and crying despite knowing this was all just a bad dream.

As he flew higher he started to feel the air pushing him back down, he looked down, the pink and green disappeared, in its place was a black hole that sucked in all matter. He panicked and tried to fly faster, harder, but the downward spiral of the wind was proving too strong. Than his faced grew white as he realized that at the far ends of the black hole there were rows and after rows of teeth. The demon has grown impossible large, the black hole was merely his mouth. Mr. Property Damage tried even harder he pressed against his fate and for a moment his momentum was greater than the gravity that was pulling him back down. “Free!” was the only thought that echoed throughout his consciousness and for a moment he was, but then I stuck my tongue out like a frog and wrapped it around his mid section instantly crushing ribs and liquefying organs. I retracted my tongue just as fast stuck it out; amazingly he still managed to put up a fight, changing his form three times one of which pierced my tongue. I applauded his effort by closing my mouth shut, leaving him in the dark where his screams were swallowed by the nothingness around him.

He screamed again, an abbreviated cough in comparison to the one his persona made, no this was shear instinctive reaction to nerves being abused beyond comprehension. He was rocked off his feat by the explosion his body disappearing in the flash. I heard the crunch of a wield shield, I saw Mr. Property Damages body crumbled against a generic looking black Sedan. I sigh, he put up a psy field at the very last second but it wasn’t enough for him to take that unscathed. He looked as though he got on the bad side of a bear and was only left in one piece because the bear eventually got bored. I couldn’t be sure that killed him, telekinetics have amazing recuperative abilities, but I couldn’t even get up to finish the job. Then I saw a pink and smiled. I rolled right slowly and gingerly, reached with my left hand for my pink handled glock 21. Not as good of a shot with my left hand, but it’ll have to do. I puppet my arm and fingers to move, too shaky but can’t really do anything about that. Slowly I steady my aim, Mr. Property Damage head is slouched over clearly unconsciousness may or may not be breathing though but it doesn’t matter at this point. Have to make this shot count, not sure my wrist can handle the recoil for a second chance.

Steady…

Steady…

Shoot! Oh god! The kick hurts more than I thought it would and the noise is awfully loud! I black out. No choice everything hurts too much at once.

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November 24, 2108

Happy Thanksgiving, I believe you have much to be thankful for. I read the second email you sent after the 15th of September. Yes I will be attending the wedding in December. Now on to less loftier matters, the speech pretty much confirmed a lot of conspiracy theories you picked up on the web, some I believe myself. The African European State Union, AESU for short, is real and is happening. The paper work will take a while, but when they get that conglomerate up and running we are going to have a big shape up of regional powers. At worse this may cause panic, which will show up as tension, and may escalate to something more. This is pretty much unprecedented, no one really knows what to make of it. If you want to know my theory (which you probably do), the old OWG is rearing its head on this one. Many of the OWG are praising this move and I can’t seem to blame them, the world just got smaller.

P.S, if you’re going to send pictures of your supermodel wife to my email, the email of a soon to be married man, at least make sure you’re in more than one of those pictures.

-November 24, 2108- Erik Riddler Burton to Becker Bradley Jr. On November 27th, 2108 the French Prime Minister also severing as the president of the EU speech was leaked to the public. In this speech the Prime Minister called nationalism the root of all evil, and called for all nations to make way for a new age, where the people will live on one earth and under one sovereign government.

Check out War Story, because your up here ->>>, when this story started down there <<<—-

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Just a Ling

“Who is he?”

“I don’t know.”

“How did he get here?” one voice rises shrill above the others.

“Maybe a cop?”

“What type of cop you know doesn’t have a badge?” retorts Percy, the grogginess slowly wearing off.

“No ID either.” another feminine voice, softer than the last one, replies.

“Look he must have followed me, I don’t know how or why.” Alex waves his hand up in his defense.

“Nothing human should be able to get through the spell. Even if they did the fence should have…”

“He, I mean she could help us right? I mean its safe for him, I mean her, to stretch her legs isn’t it?”

They all look at the man probably named Joey. Alex nods and John agrees. One of the girls takes an unconscious step back and in the direction of my stuff. All my stuff, even my phone still hooked to the double whammy. It’s a shack used for “fuck all if I knew” and only the sections obviously needed was somewhat cleaned to “don’t dirty my pumps” conditions. The occult books I was looking for? All here, laid out in piles spread around the various dust and hay free zones of the barn. Arcane symbols are written haphazardly on 8’11 pieces of paper, but most look too old and faded to be “hot” and none are spread out in any particular order or pattern, just the scribbling of children playing at Harry Potter. And in the middle of it all stood the cage. While the shack was well lite by modern light fixtures (very wise of them), the cage itself was a black tinted window masking the figure(s) moving inside. To understand how strange that was you’d have to imagine a typical zoo cage made to generously hold back a lion and then fathom why a grey sheet would be billowing inside, conveniently muting all attempts to illuminate the contents.

Joey was the one who opened the door, showing all the practice of a zookeeper working open the exit to a tigers cage. The tiger was not his friend, but he showed no fear of the tiger. Though his grasp of the door remained firm ready to close and lock it at a moments notice. The cage wasn’t just a few jail bars and a padlock, it had inscriptions running square to each corner, only stopping at the door itself, where a rune of vague, probably made up origin was sketched in most likely goat or cows blood. It glowed hot as the door was open gingerly. Joey backed up to give whatever it was plenty of space, though no one gasped everyone’s hair stood on end, even mine, though granted I was tied up like a dried pig.

It sniffed the air a few times before turning in my direction. Whatever It was, it did a good enough job of repairing its host body;  the only sign of a struggle was the orange-colored hair, the color of dried blood on blond. Otherwise you wouldn’t think said young girl was being posses by an alien entity beyond our concept of space-time. Though possessed is an odd word; it implies that there is someone home when the daemon gets bored and leaves, a cute Hollywood trope with no basis in reality. Fact is currently IT is wearing that poor girls meat suit with about as much practice as a dog walking on two legs (and doing a worse job than an actual dog because it’s probably accustomed to having more legs than four). For all intent and purposes, the poor girls last moments were spent locked in the back of a car, stripped naked, wrapped in chains and thrown into a bear cage for the amusement of the bear. Now the bear is wearing human skin like an expensive fur coat, and is sniffing me up and down looking for fear in my eyes.

“So who is he?”

“Out of your league” It hisses, he gives a moment to give the woman who asked the question a longing glare before turning his attention back to me.

“Yessss” it chimes, running a finger down my chest before his finger sizzles against the iron chains. The iron isn’t the problem, but the paper talisman wrapped around the locks and hanging from the chain links are. He notices me staring at it and nods the answer to my question, I groan.

“A precaution for me, but I can only imagine what it does to you.”

“Not much.” I chuckle, “mild headache really.” Also no low-level telepathy or access to magical items like wards or cursed items.

“You know him!?” resounds Alex

“Simple creatures, you don’t even know your champion?” It laughs, while keeping an unnatural level of alertness on me. As far it was concerned I was a shark in a fish bowl.

“King of Atlantis” It begins, “I wonder, have you sired an heir yet?”

The prospect of me dying today finally hits home and the only thing I could do was fake a steely eyed resolve. Damn this.

“Aww, I guess not.” It turns and walks toward the cage. Stops and address the confused rabble of white picket fence necromancers, “I’d suggest you kill him before he causes any more problems for us.”

And with that It climbs in and Joey locks the cage. I can see IT’s eyes staring at me now, mucus green circles spinning rapidly around her dead iris and beyond, the slither of worms moving in dead waters. He wanted to kill me himself but was afraid of the repercussions, the geass they have him under is strong. And it saved my life. Something I wish to take full advantage of.

“Hey, hey don’t tell me your believing…that thing do you?”

“How do you know she’s not human.” John points out.

I smile. “Well it wouldn’t pass the typical college frat girl test with that deep gurgled voice box she’s working with. I mean come on, I grew up in the 80’s, I’ve watched my share of scary movies! But let’s be serious do I look like the “King of Atlantis”? Do I sound like I drink vodka with SpongeBobSquarePants? I got a knife and a smart phone, and some jewelry I was hoping to pawn. I came by to rip you guys off and suddenly I’m out cold. Now I wake up in a strange shack and tied up, weird talismans hanging everywhere, and naked chick you got locked in a cage. I didn’t mean to interrupt your bachelor party, but I’d gladly get back on my way.”

“No.” says the woman who must be Katherine. She is calm and to the point, unlike Jill who is a bit more than nervous and hugging herself since her earlier outburst. Without any of my usual talents for building up persuasive arguments they’ll get me for being either suspicious or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There is another way to get me out of here…

I”Look, I’m going to be frank with you.” not the best idea, but you know what they say about the truth, “She-IT’s right.  But I’m going to tell you something; this situation, this nightmare you’ve invited into your lives for 18 years can not be controlled. And don’t tell me you have it under control because I can see it laughing at all of you. How many people have you sacrificed to it? How many young women will never see their mothers again because of your actions. Boys that will never be fathers. For what?”

The room grows silent.

“Answer me!” no one speaks up. “Tell me that you have this under control! You don’t. And you know whats sick? Its waiting. Buying time until it knows it can stay in this world without you. Until it knows its safe to kill you all.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” John marches forward, anger in his eyes.

I match his glare and smile, “I see it now. Six years after that incident, your lives all suck, some with no girl, others with no job. There is only the guilt that maybe your responsible for all those unexplained deaths, maybe those douche-bags never really deserved to have what you thought was coming to ’em. And you feel like a scumbags, all of you do, and nothing you do can change that because realization of the truth only you know and only you can believe is eating you alive.” Than an epiphany hits like a brick, “So you come back to the barn where the magic happens…. my god, there is a piece of IT in you?” the group’s faces doesn’t deny it, ” A little bit of charisma, less guilt? The perfect family? The perfect job? A nice apartment with all the panties traffic your dick can manage? Is that’s what your soul is worth?”

Actually for most people the answer is yes, it is. But I doubt that they were stupid enough to make that exchange, no, they chose a different route, young boys and girls picked off from the street and late nights at the local bars. It’s not a coincidence that John has an alibi between the hours of 12-4,  and worst comes to worst his unwitting family can vouch for him being home despite sometimes not being home till 9 am in the morning. All this in exchange for a bit of knowledge here and a bit of juice there. But..

“But your deal wasn’t worth it for IT wasn’t it? It broke free six years ago, despite all the assurances that the sporadic flow of fresh bodies is of no fault of your own. You scramble to put it back to in the closest when  its true form can black out the state of Missouri. And yet you feed it prime stake as if it’ll be satisfied! Ha!”

I turn my full attention to the thing in the cage. “You’re nothing but a mid level Ling with dreams of grandeur  If you was a real daemon you would devoured them from  the inside the moment they took your offer, but you’re not even capable of holding a human body for longer than two hours, so you wait and bide your time until you learn to be a proper greater horror.” Even now with my eyes adjusting to the weird lighting of the cage I see IT’s form mutating; stretching the lips, elongating the fingers,breaking her skin out into hideous boils that ooze with blood and mucus like slime, while shifting her facial features to match the realignment of bones to a fit a newer more alien model…

“And you chuckle heads are just yucking it up as you put the lives of countless thousands in danger! If you had any idea where that thing came from you would have tried and failed to destroy it years ago instead of trying to appease it believing your two-bit parlor tricks will hold it back forever.”

Come to think of it, there is a reason why cops and soldiers above the level of rent-a-cop or merc-for-hire, train intensively in hostage situations. The simple basis being that sometimes you are the hostage and you’ll have to talk your way out of being gang-banged by the local psychopaths. Sometimes you must do this while speaking broken-unamerican, sometimes its better that you don’t call your current caretakers on their bullshit. Joey proves how much not being a snide douche keeps you alive longer,

“You talk too much.”

My knife is fresh from the table and in his right hand in pre-stabbing form when Alex and Jill rush to head him off.

“We don’t kill!” demands Alex

No, you just sic your pet daemon on people, big difference stupid git!

“Get off me he needs to GO!”

Alex lands hard on his hip while Jill, who is basically 5’1 and maybe a buck’one if you count the slippers, is sent flying before the rather fit Joey who could have been a 5’9 college quarterback in the heyday of his frat years (doubting he saw the inside of one). Neither John or Katherine moves to stop him when suddenly–

“JILL!!!” Kathrine was screaming for her friend’s name while the rest looked slacked jaw and petrified in fear and piss, Joey dropped my knife, Alex couldn’t peel his eyes away, and John…John had no expression at all.

You see Jill, a wisp of a thing, was neither tall or needing a gym membership, even her long hair was purposely cut business short to improve her streamline dry dolphin look, if the dolphin was a vegan; so when she went flying, she quite literally flew, and where she landed and thunk’d her little head, was no less convenient than the very cage, containing the very daemon they put so much effort into home trained.

Not funny how time stops when you have no way of changing the outcome. Fuck all the way of the warrior bullshit; a real fight is a blur  of indiscriminate motion only parsed though the magic filter of muscle memory and self-preservation. It’s only when death is looking at you straight in the face and there isn’t a god damn thing you can do about it, that you see the world at whatever frames per second is considered slow. When IT forced her hands through the bars– the sizzle and pop of the talismans all desperately trying to burn away the human meat coat but never beyond the level of third degree burns– you can see the momentary gasp of fear in Jill’s eyes as the window of escape closed before she understood it was open to begin with, the hands claps around her head and squeezed for dear life, nearly ripping her head from her shoulders as she thrashed against the otherworldly grip. But it wasn’t the physical touch that was loathsome, but the sudden invasion of one being of the immaterium into another being of immaterium (the human soul) that caused the panic that was almost primal to behold.

It was in this painful seconds of absolute horror that ages the soul and forces young men’s hearts to turn white before the twilight of their age, that the spectacle completed itself before a dumbfounded audience; powerless in body, mind and soul against the thing that eats goats and children. It was in completion that the cage in which the daemon lied for two decades, finally showed a natural hue, revealing the liters of dried blood and bits of unprocessed flesh of vague origins. Where the former host of ITs black intentions lay silent like a dried husk, the new host of horror laid slack like an adolescent child sleeping in a school bus.

And John just stood there, like a bloody stole pigeon.

“John!!”

My words barely moved him out of his stupor.

“John get me down!”

His eyes trail upward, sees me and hesitates to even stutter a no.

“Get me down or die with the rest of them.”

And like clockwork It moves. Why IT jumped on Alex McCoy as the first order of business, could be rationalized as the pure expression of a deep-seated grudge or the sheer coincidence of being the closest warm body to a soul eating monster, historians can decide, but as far I was concerned “it was better him than me” when it found Alex first.  Alex whispered “Jill” as he cried, tears flowing for a friend he just lost, the realization not quite hitting him but the gravity weighing all the same. It was the same for all of them, seeing Jill tightening her fingers around Alex’s shoulders, her green eyes reflecting a slight sickish hue. Only Alex could see what I knew was there; the hollowness beyond her facade, the IT that was barely contained, withering in places that shouldn’t move.  And when doom visited him, I mean finally dawned on him the nature of the creature he helped summon 18 years ago, he screamed. Not for help. Or for pain. But a torture keen to only the most basic senses in the human brain that still remains after years of surviving the hell of post-Jurassic. The sound of every cell wishing to do one thing, one basic thing and being denied the chance long before the understanding of the need. So he defecated himself, and twisted and thrashed and tried to escape the tiny grip of the hungry alien for all of one second-

“Crrrrrck”

Most children have tried, unsuccessful, to pull the head off a pez dispenser by yanking at it from the chin. But that method, with proper amount of superhuman  strength, is indeed sound. First the head is yanked back hard, the neck elongates before flesh and muscle cords snap at the seams. The sickening crack of bone is heard, as the spine is being snapped at the base, followed by a slosh of blood gushing forth like a shaken soda bottle.  When the child is done she merely toss the head against the nearest wall like a wet wash cloth before letting out a howl of ecstasy. Pure hunger  takes over as she unhinges a human jaw much like a snakes, and dives into the blood stump.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, and it rips an arm off from its socket to get a better grip of the mid section. Working its teeth and snapping jaws against and through tough muscles and cracking bones. Where it comes from there is no elegance is feeding on souls, no high pitch sucking noises or firm laying on hands. No Shang Tsung declaring your soul is mine. Just keep chewing and ripping at flesh until the belly is satisfied. This can be considered primordial, ritualistic, or just plain evil, pick your adjective, either way no person looking at this thing rip and spit out gobs of flesh and organs, face nose deep in blood, the clicks of its teeth mashing up fat and gristle…returns sane. And there was no escape. Even though John was the first to try.

“JOHN!” damn these chains,” You can’t run from it, it knows where you live, that you have kids, and even how your going to defend them. You have a piece of it inside you John! How do you think this will end!? I’m the only one here that can stop it, the only one here that its afraid of!”

Coincidence would have it he had the keys on his person (and that was a good measure of luck right there) and freed me promptly, being the only hope and all. I put a hand on his shoulder to show thanks.

“Took you long enough.” before sliding my palm under his chin and snapping his neck in savage disgust.

I only heard the shack doors slap close as Joey and Katherine ran out screaming. If I was in a generic action flick I’d menacingly call out “it’s just you and me” while pointlessly circling the room. I bite down the cliché’ and focus on the task at hand; my dagger, my three wards, and two curse items are call to me by me via the soft magic of displacement theory. Taking an item and re-materializing it to a very specific location is only intrinsically hard if you not particularly careful about details of the item or where exactly in space-time its going. You have to call by value not reference, and it takes much practice to do the former because the human brain likes to do some things by the latter . Otherwise I would be summoning a new copy of all my essentials from an alternate reality…and I’m too much of a fan of the original article thank you.

The daemon formerly known as Jill looked up at me the way a cat does when you interrupt it enjoying a fish stick, backed away slowly as I approached, looked around the shack as I advanced before giving the ceiling a quick eye.

“Rumor has it that your only half-Atlantian.”

“Whats your point?”

It chuckles, “Maybe we can end this game, I go my way you go yours. The real monsters are the human’s your letting escape.

Their engines barely make a sound but the slamming of their car doors grabs my attention for a second, a second enough for It to escape. Not on foot mind you but through Jill’s mouth, as the daemon drags its being into the shadows, leaving his meat suit to drop carelessly on the floor.

“Fuck.”

I scramble for the fleeing necromancers, their tail lights blaring as they speed into the open road.

“NOT FUCKING TEXAS!”

In my rage I channel a more serious form of magic, the art of probability, with the help of two cursed items, both red rubies that aren’t set to expire and anytime soon, one of which is holding the soul of a former meth dealer. Probability is relatively difficult because you’re never quite sure how far you need to manipulate the matrices to achieve the desired effect, and considering the effect only when casting can be rather lethal…to you, so its best to be prudent before letting the magic run wild (because there is no call backs once you hit the negative). Probability can be pushed up or down per set margins or given a sum to work out the difference, for me I just wanted their cars to break down, a sum based cast basically, which was the easier of the two options. The latter of which would be the untimely death of two healthy 30 somethings, speeding away in opposite directions in the middle of nowhere.

Quick thinking on my party determines which is most likely to end badly.

Joey’s car breaks first, a sports car running at triple digits, barely a speck in the horizon, the hood bursts into blue flames and acrid smoke, he hard swerves as the engine dies and his breaks fail. His crash is a series of hard skids, followed by a hard stop somewhere in horizon.

Katherine’s Chevy on the other hand caused a sharp pain in my chest before its front wheels snapped cleaned from its axle, slamming the front bumper hard against the open road. One of my dear rubies burned out and I traded the difference with one less month of old age, not a fair trade really and its going to take a minute for my breathing to regulate itself. But I’m calm enough for whats going to happen next as I step out into the middle of the road, Katherine’s car well in my sites. As expected she stumbles out from her unexpected crash, haven’t not bothered to wear a seat belt she is far more dazed and confused than she otherwise would be. Which means the following would be relatively painless, as my knife breaks past her spine and finds her heart before reappearing in my hand in a blur.

“One down.”

Displacement was only used in the return trip; actually placing a foreign object into a human body or any solid construct violates Pauli exclusion principle, which basically states that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Granted it is a rather simple and effective way to murder someone, its best not used when you actually want the object back. For all intent and purposes all natural laws can be violated, however not all natural laws should be violated, which is the fundamental difference between a good necromancer, a bad necromancer, and a dead necromancer.

And I clearly intend to be a good one as I find Joey’s car hugging a welcome to sign. I see smoke, I see blood, I open car door, but no Joestar. I kneel to touch the blackening ichor, rubbing its warmth against my index and middle finger and following the trail into the tall grass. I smile and turn around, catching the brunt of a tire iron with my forearm. The pain is numbing but bearable. Joey however is breathing heavy and ragged, half weak, half exhausted from the crash. He’s nursing a few chest injuries and a dire need for aspirin. When I grab and pull down his only weapon, he nearly yanks it from my grip with a surprise amount of upper body strength.

End this fast.

So I stab him quarter to center but not deep; he checks my elbow and shoves his forehead into my face. I go down flat as he climbs on top, bringing the iron down as he holds my knife hand by the wrist. Two good shots is all he needs for me to nearly lose consciousness, only a gasp of air separates me from a shatter skull, as everything goes into a mumbled blur of sky, gray and red. Even in a situation like this nothing slows down, everything moves at the same time with no concept of before or after, especially decisions; I reach for a nearby rock, grasping it in my left hand, before hearing the thunk of it disappearing from my clutches and reappearing somewhere inside Joey’s skull. With a gasp his eyes fell back and his mouth hanged open, blood drooling out his eyes and nose from the aneurysm, before he started convulsing in seizures. Pushing him aside, I watched him thrash and gargle non-words before finally deciding what to do with his entrails.

And Yes this will be edited

                                                                 

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Chapter 5

“Primed and ready!”

The first bug dies in a burst of napalm.

“Not enough”

Is there hope? No room for gambling, since the odds are already less than zero. No, as long as I’m not downwind I can keep the odds at zero … of course I’m covered in swarmling blood, feces, and other material … so it probably makes no difference. But who cares.

So a bug approaches low from the corner of my eye. I lunge at him; first smashing it under the forward momentum of my goliath armor before rolling to my feet in an instant to burst down, one bug, three bugs, twelve bugs in time to turn around and roast two dozen more. Not enough; the explosions attract more bugs, the corpses attract more bugs, I attract more bugs. How long ‘til I’m swarmed?

Am I in hell? The demons don’t care. Brother, sister, living, dead? Eat, attack, lung, gorge, buffet their stomachs until their wings are forced to unfold. It makes no difference: one blind sides the other, and buries its face into the loser’s underbelly, chewing and ripping its way inside. The loser fights back, smashing his assailant’s head three times with its claw and cracking its armored back, but it makes no difference. Natural selection in full display and we evolved from this? The ones I cut with the sword become food to his brother; the ones I burn with the torch are feasted on by his sister. I’m chest high in death and goo, as the wanderers and the curious come at me by the hundreds and soon thousands.

No escape. I duck under the leap of a swarmling, cutting it in half as I twist away from his raining organs. I recognize one heart in the mix – funny what you notice in crisis situations – before I bash the nozzle of my II into the gaping mouth of a fast-approaching swarmling. My timing’s unreal! As it tugs at the metal, I shove the barrel deeper into its mouth and swing the creature into his brothers, who take no notice of him as he is quickly trampled under the weight of the armored sea. The swarmling I just cut in half gets beset on by his brothers as it struggles to regain some sort of balance. And the battle moves as I move, forward and away, but never far enough.

The fight goes until the ground is soppy with the lickerish they call blood. It sizzles and pops with each release of napalm. Swarmling blood at boiling point releases gasses that rapidly expand the swarmling’s body until the pressure becomes unbearable for the rigid insect body. This process is aided by the four hearts that pump blood into the swarmling’s seven foot body at extraordinary speeds, a necessity to keep all of the organs and extra organs filled with nutrients and the keep the muscles oxygenated.

One bug rears up on four legs, allowing his other four to act as claws capable of punching dents into the pride and joy of human war engineering. I could already see the complaint form I would file as I dodge the first swing with a step back, twist around to let the swarmling behind me lunge at my attacker, and then watch them tackle and fight each other as they suddenly found better things to eat. I lit the dueling pair on fire as one finally got the advantage over the other after a 0.512 second life-and-death duel that saw the loss of 3 limbs, the snapping of one mandible, and multiple puncture wounds that must have caused the failure of four to five important organs.

“Endless.” I cut down three swarmlings in a frenzy of haphazard swordsmanship.

“Axe-Hand,” the name of a Samson I’ve gotten to know since my 10 years of being assigned to the 122nd mixed infantry, “Why do you insist on taking melee weapons when range combat is safer and more effective?”

He looks at me and shrugs, “Well, when your tech boys invent a gun that doesn’t run out of ammo, I’ll leave my axe at home.”

I rip a female swarmling from her head to egg-sack; some eggs are large enough to hatch, pop, and spill out into the ground, some crack on impact, while others bounce. I take a moment to step on one, taking note of how hard they become when exposed to fresh air. The Sword of David, or SoW, sizzles with the blood of the slain. I drip sweat despite the suit’s best efforts to keep me cool. My vision takes a lapse as my conscious slips for a precious moment. I feel the sudden weight of a swarmling, I shrug it off, another swarmling, I knock it aside, I stumble forward feeling dehydrated for the first time in my life.

Too much! The smell alone; of the living, the dead, and the burning, is too much! Oh mercy, if anything was to kill me right now it would have to be whatever manages to seep through the air filter. The smells are poignant even to my soul. Of all the creatures on God’s green earth, the cockroach, despite its order in the food chain, is the one insect that elicit the most hatred. And now I see why as I smash one with a back hand swipe of my sword hand. It stumbles without a head, but turns toward me despite having no eyes to see, and claws with every limb. I shove the sword inside its mid-section and let the blade rip out its side, effectively folding the creature’s carcass upon itself. I take another backhanded swipe as something approaches from behind, it’s cleaved in two with no effort, I choke on bile as its inwards spill mere inches from face.

But carnage doesn’t stop and neither will I. With a turn I let a cartridge of napalm go before doing an odd one-handed reload procedure that required me to hook the II between my shoulder-blade and elbow, swipe a fresh cartridge, and jam it in when I let the Industrial Incinerator fall. How I manage to do that while on the run I have no idea, but I burst down a group of swarmlings before they approach within 50 yards of me and twist sideways to torch a flanking party without missing a beat.

I dive and roll to send a few bugs sailing over me, experience with humanoids must have taught them to aim for the chest. Or to be more exact, “experience” is more like the genetic memory of the ones that survived long enough to breed. I wonder what this experience will teach them. It’s probably not the fear of fire. I press and swing the flamethrower into mob, blood and liquefied guts shortly follow. I take a step and meet a swarmling, I cut it down, avoiding its claws as it twitches, and nearly step into the fury of another bug before I incinerate it out of frustration. “Too many!” and I’m exhausting my supply of napalm. I could have insisted on getting some smokers or mountain poppers, but I only managed a SoW because they forgot to remove it from the scabbard.

“Think!” I look around, forcing my eyes to see past the smoke and my own tears to see the chaos unfolding before me. I see a vision of hell; of chaos and death eating death, raping death, and spilling forth more death. I won’t sleep after this; if I survive, I simply won’t sleep. Who thinks of rest in this vision of hell? When life is obscenity that causes the eyes to bleed? But here stands the reaper man armed with lance and fire, surrounded by smoke and abominations, baked in the blood of the profane things. The smell dries and drips down the naval cavity, allowing me to taste hell.

“Enough!” As my adrenaline levels spike, letting the heart explode while everything becomes a blur of red and orange, black and yellow, screeches and roars, both human and demonic. Hell burns and I step through the carnage into the bosom of more beast. Why don’t the demons flee before the reaper man? The question taunts a response from hell’s denizens; they collapse on me from all sides, mandible click and chip at steel, both arms are trapped before the tide that sweeps away forty tons of war machine.

But who am I if not the reaper man? They meet fire, if only for a second, before the cartridge ejects; but I’m not defenseless. One meets my elbow as I pull out the fresh catch of napalm while another meets the back of my right hand. They attack from all sides and there is no end to this sea of black in site. The swarm is focusing on me now; the dozens is now hundreds and soon thousands.

“Come try to eat me demons!” because it’s reassuring to shout at things that don’t speak English. They come at me in one push, but I’m ready this time and lunge into them like 40 tons of inedible space hull approved steel. Their bodies of flesh and fat shatter under my weight; the armor that evolved to handle the hardest blows any living creature is capable of producing splinters like dried wood.

I drive my SoW into a swarmling before it can rear itself up to my height, disarming myself for a second to reach for another cartridge. I twist with my hips to avoid one lunge before shattering the exoskeleton of another attacking swarmling with my right knee, snapping three mandibles off the face and driving the fourth into what’s left of its compound eye.

I catch a shallow breath before driving my elbow into the mid-section of another bug, knocking it off-balance, as I pull the cartridge out of my ammo pouch, only to hammer the same fist into the face of a diving swarmling, sending it sprawling.

I even bash my head into swarmling just as it rears up to claw at me, forcing its body to cave inward due to the pressure, while I complete my reload. I dive to ground, rolling past and under swarmlings as they dive for me, before resting at the spot where I left my sword. I clenching it with my left hand; I spray the fire of man into the crowd, scorching the blood soaked ground along the way.

“Primed and ready!” The SoW rips through three swarmlings in one swift horizontal slash that parts mid-sections, heads, and legs from body. I twist and high-step to avoid being weighed down by the bugs. I wade through them with fire, and check my six with blade in hand. The barely living that I leave behind crawl desperately to their next meal before being eaten by healthy and hungry; the cannibalism won’t stop! Even I’m just another swarmling to them. Baking in their stench for god knows how long now … some have probably tried to mate with me …

Then that thought goes away with one thrust of my SoW. The bug is skewered from the side, I lift and toss him as he screeches, his brood devours him before he meets the ground. I have to keep moving, but hell seems to have no exit. The nest is stupidly large, the mounds seem to go on and on for miles. God help me, I’m going to die here.

I let out a jet stream of napalm, making sure to cover a wide area, as the bugs come dangerously close to surrounding me before letting go of the trigger at the worst possible second. Before I can raise a hand, a swarmling comes and nearly tears my overworked helmet from head with a quick swipe of his front claws. I only manage to twist my head in time to avoid his blade embedding itself into my visor. The crack impairs my vision for a second as I stumble in wake of the hit. I flail the II frantically to ward off the approaching swarm while my sword hand zims and zips through empty air. I get my bearings in a breath before a swarmling latches itself onto my back. I twist and turn violently in the hopes of shaking it off, but its legs are wrapped tightly around me in full embrace.

In rage I break three legs to no effect. It pecks and rams its head against my helmet in a vain attempt to find an opening. But that’s not entirely true there is a self release button around the back of the neck…

And that’s when I took a running leap into the air twisting myself mid-air in order to land squarely on my back. Smashed beneath my goliath armor lays the one swarmling that made me piss my pants. I roll and push myself up to my feet, thanking whatever divine providence saw fit to allow me to get up unmolested, before coming face-to-face with a swarmling’s moving mouth parts. Two pairs of mandibles click to my helmet as it attempts to pull me down.

“Oh look, we’re kissing!” I land an uppercut with my sword hand that ruptured it so fast into the air that it forgets to take its lips with it. With callouse efficieny swing through four and burn down several dozen in a long screeching ark of fierier death in my rage.

“Not any closer …” then I notice a ridge not so far away from where I’m currently standing and compel myself forward two meters in an outburst of joy.

“How did I miss that little detail when I looked over the Swarms’ nest? Was I heading for it the entire time? Does it matter?”

“Say goodbye to the reaper.” Then I notice a mound’s worth of swarmlings moving in unison; ignoring their imperative to eat each other in the face of a meal that smells like mother of all meals – me.

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September 15, 2108

Don’t feel so guilty, I couldn’t have read your email even if you sent it earlier. I’ve been working on a theory on synthesizing atoms into molecules using very complex magnetic fields. Ok you probably don’t want the long explanation on how you can possible do that, so I’ll go directly to a topic of interest. But I do have to say congratulations on getting married. I see you have come a long way from drunken senior at the freshmen orientation party. Be sure to remember to invite me to the wedding.

I still haven’t gotten over NATO being disbanded; I mean wow times have changed huh? From what I’ve been able to glean, it appears that the EU and AU are discussing the nature of their organization and how the UN will play in the future. With the CAU (Central Asian Union), PAU (Pacific Asian Union), MEC (Middle East Coalition) being considered the concept of single states unrepresented by a larger body is becoming unlikely. The UN was originally an organization that facilitates relationships between individual states. However, with a lack of individual states and the relevance of large international organization, can the UN actually act in the best interest of states still unaligned with their neighbor?

P.S I can’t help but think we are going in the wrong direction. Maybe it will all work out in the end.

-September 15, 2108- Becker Bradley Jr. to Erik Riddler Burton. The French Prime Minister, severing as the president of the EU at the time (recent EU laws allow Prime Ministers of individual EU states to be appointed to the Presidency for a 28 month term), invites the AU leaders to a special two months long conference to discuss the future of the EU and AU in the international stage. The closing speech will be televised at all cable and local stations during 11th of November, 2108. However a month later the EU cancels the televising of the speech.

Check out War Story, because your up here ->>>, when this story started down there <<<—-

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April 2, 2108

Becker I greatly apologize for the lateness of this email, a lot has happened since our last exchange. I have a fiancée now, and the wedding plans, my web column…so much stuff I need to take care of! But at last now I have finally time to address concerns you are probably too busy to truly meditate on. Congratulations on your Nobel Prize!! I did get a chance to read that article concerning your work, unfortunately I did not understand a word of it, but I wasn’t a science major at USC like you were. Now concerning the meat of this message; I have to say I too am startled at the speed in which our world is changing. Though many would say “progressing”… I leave the word choice to you my friend. Do not be mistaken what Doc. Trenton and those who have published similar pieces of work are suggesting, is a One World Government. By proxy the United Nations, the largest international body to date, would be a logical starting place for these reforms. The idea flaunted a year ago is now a full-blown political movement, global in retrospect. So the idea of reforming the UN, though grass-roots at best, is not completely out of the question.

But the movement soon realized that they will be hitting a brick wall, unable to adapt a true One World Government, or OWG for short, through the UN. It might not make a lot of sense inherently, but it is quite common sense to people who understand the nature of the UN. The UN, despite the bureaucracy, is still a democracy with very loose and limited powers over the individual laws of member states. In which case you might as well say it has no powers over its individual members, except the power provided by enforcement via sanctions. Even then, sanctions, if even voted on, can only “strongly” persuade a nation from its original course; which again assumes said nation even cares. UN cannot be vested more power beyond its initial democracy and even if it did; we by all means would love to see the UN actually enforce these powers (which you might have deduced it can’t).

Many would argue that if all nations adopt the same laws unilaterally, according to whatever guidelines that come out of the UN of course, that the UN’s job will be made easier and we would have a true OWG. The plan coined the Universal Constitution is a logical idea, but lacks foresight. As I, like many others, have pointed out; even if you do get everyone to adopt a Universal Constitution unilaterally to avoid the mess of having each nation vote to adopt it, than by what means do you ensure that there isn’t 100 different versions of a legislative document that you couldn’t get anyone to vote on in the first place. Not only would enforcing one version of that document be impossible, finding a version of the Universal Constitution that all the states of the world can agree on will defiantly never happen.

So thus a new, even more efficient approach was taken, where the UN simple recognized “nations bond together by treaty or alliance forming a union. With the exception of alliances formed solely for the purpose of co-military dependence or trade.”Effectively allowing the EU, AU, and the USAN to be voting blocks with the weight of all its member states, instead of observer status members or only allowed full participation during certain occasions at best, and also effectively reducing the number of countries needed to pass resolutions without getting rid of vital votes. The perfect start to the OWG, since now individual nations held less sway over the decision-making power of the UN. Pressure for nations in the Middle East, Asia, and even the USA with North American region, to become part of a multinational organization sharing a common currency, possessing a legislative body, common borders, courts, free trade, and joint military is mounting.

-April 2, 2108- Erik Riddler Burton to Becker Bradley Jr. Becker never got a chance to read it until September 1st, 2108. NATO was disbanded August 29, 2108, because of concern over non-EU nations having influence over the global policy of the EU. America, Canada, and Mexico form the NAU, North American Union, August 30, 2108.

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Chapter 4

The thing about falling from 40,000 feet is that you die. Not from the fall, I’m confident this won’t even break my legs, but from what’s waiting for you when you reach the ground. Naturally I’m implying that there are things in this life worse than going splat from a 40,000-foot fall. Well… maybe I have to survive one to know for sure….

0.51 seconds till I go splat

Two tons of metal should never be allowed to free fall to the Earth without a solid plan. Fact is dropping from “bomber” height is routine for Samsons; though their ability to survive the fall is not entirely due to their ridiculous muscles and bone structure. No, a special shock-absorbing jell, that accounts for multiple layers of both the Goliath and Samson’s armor, allows this impossible feat. The relationship is simple, if not farfetched: as the jell absorbs the energy of the fall, the energy moves rapidly through the armor, generating heat as it travels up. The heat rapidly changes the jell’s state from solid to gas, as large quantities of kinetic energy travel up the armor. Gas is vented out immediately, as the jelly filled layers rapidly expand to accommodates the increasing volume of gas. This same gas is then expelled, once the jell filled layers hits pressure based external facing vents.

Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

0.33 seconds till I go splat …

After the venting process is complete, the remaining shock travels though the numerous layers of fibers muscle; several layers inside layers of wire, that mimic actual muscles, allow the David inside to move the Goliath with ninety percent of his own strength and without the assistance of the various power systems. Through the muscle fibers, energy is fed into the shock motors; their spinning burns the excessive energy while generating reserve energy. Even then, what does manage to penetrate past the muscle fibers and landing jelly naturally triggers the David’s adrenaline glands, which brings another one of the Goliath’s system into full focus. As the human body pumps adrenaline and endorphin to cope with the pain, the Goliath Armor prepares its first injection of the superman serum. Derived from a Samson’s own adrenaline glands, Noah scientists found the chemicals and hormones inside a Samson several times more potent than anything similar in a lab. Potentially addictive in large quantities, its main side effects are increased strength and improved reflexes, along with pain resistance and improved fight-or-flight responses. Landing would simply jar the brain too much without this simple drug.

0.0001 seconds till I go splat …

When I was five years old, I took the Academy test. The line was long and my parents looked nervous. I was a commoner then so at the time, Patriarch, Noah, Wise Men meant nothing to me. I was five and I wanted to spend my day playing video games. So when my turn came up, I refused to take the test. So my dad yelled and my mom yelled and the Patriarch instructors prodded me, but I just “didn’t wanna.” I wanted to go home; it was hot and smelly with all the people and the kids still in diapers. And besides, I had better things to do like beating level 9286 of Tetris. Faced with the prospect of never knowing my full potential, my dad for the first time took me by the ear and put a world of pain on my bottom that left me unable to sit without fidgeting for the better part of two days.

0.00001seconds till I go-

Ka-boom …

The ground splits, my legs turn to liquid, and the world becomes a brown and yellow haze. The headache follows next as the teeth rattle out of my gums, the armor is pelted with newly displaced rocks and the air smells of sulfur and methane. I heave in one breath, thanking God that the air is filtered as the super-heated landed gel releases itself in a burst of vented steam. Not disoriented, not hurt, I lift my leg gingerly; I can still walk and that’s when I finally look down. Buried under the dirt is a black carapace; the cracks in it seep a mixture of brown, yellow and white goo. The color of its blood and the remnants of his organs are liquefied.

Scattered all around are the remains of the creature that once occupied the same space as where I stand. It being a swarmling, obscenity given proper form: long by at least 8 feet, plenty legs on either side, and a sideways mouth rowed like a chainsaw with teeth and possessing two sets mandibles, one cracked from my landing. And it wasn’t alone; I feel more than see or hear the movement all around me.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEACCCCCCCCCCTCH”

I turn to face it.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAACHTCH”

My II lets out a jet stream of napalm at the seven o’clock position as I turn. I’m alone in the crater, more screeches, more scuttling, the dust hasn’t cleared, and then-

“CRRRRRRRRRREAAAAAAAATTCCCCCCCCCCCCCKTCK”

And the smoke parts before the bullet of armored flesh, otherworldly fast for a hundred pound of insect. It doesn’t bother to dart out of the way as I swing the II to check its advance. It doesn’t know fear, nor does it have any concept of prey and predator. No, in its mind there is only “full” and “starving,” which makes it the purest binary machine in nature. Oh, and it explodes when set on fire. Ignoring the fire or any thought of self preservation, it pushes past it before exploding.

Taking a step back, I admire my second kill before I’m hit hard from behind. Stumbling, I regain my balance before being hit again from the opposite side. Unable to down me, they shake off the daze before resuming the attack. I take note of how few of them come to attack me. A relief, but not reassuring; the stench of a fresh corpse will attract more of them, but only the curious, the wanders, are paying me any attention. For now anyway; eventually the mounds will displace themselves as millions start to inquire about the funny smelling tin can, and when that happens, the Goliath armor won’t hold against a million set of claws and teeth.

I avoid the attack of one as it rears up on its four legs.

“Cockroaches don’t do that.”  A swarmling is for all intent and purposes a seven-foot-tall cockroach (females are nine to ten feet tall with egg sack included) with eight to ten legs and four mandibles. The first set of legs are its claws: short, hard, and sharp. They can dent steel, and are ideal for rending flesh as quickly as possible with as many strokes that are necessary. Its other legs aren’t specialized, except its back legs that are capable of holding its weight, and are generally sturdier than the other pairs, which alternate between fast travel and tearing into flesh with its jagged edges.

Unlike other insects worthy of extermination, the swarmlings are thankfully not self aware; unfortunately, their weaknesses end there. The Swarm numbers in the billions, possibly trillions, worldwide. Those black hills I mentioned earlier are their homes.  The “mounds” are not constructs, but thousands of swarmlings eating and mating in one spot. Each mound contains over one million swarmlings. I was dropped in a nest containing dozens of mounds.

Three more explode, five more explode, and then a dozen screech and roast before my II. The curiosity phase is rapidly ending; the shadow of one mound disappears, and the smoke gives away to a black tide that approaches from all sides.

“Say hello to the reaper man.”

And I charge forward, guns literally blazing as the Industrial Incinerator becomes a dragon consuming swarmlings by the dozen. But it’s not enough; they come crashing in, biting at shoulder pads, helmet, ripping away the cape and trying to rip apart my arms and legs. One swarmling tugs me by my left ankle with such ferocity that I smashed my head against the carapace of the adult swarmling, cracking it in the process. My II was on full automatic as I blindly shot in any direction with one hand, while my left hand smashing heads, claws, and anything in-between. I was drenched in brown blood as each explosion drenched me more and more in swarmling body fluids.

Then the napalm cartridge ejects without warning and at the worst possible time. I jam the trigger in desperate plea to save my soul before finally realizing the dragon has gone silent. I reach for another cartridge, but the lack of an attacking hand gets taken advantage of in an instant, knocking me flat.

Within seconds, I’m twisting and turning within the mass of bugs. Claws and teeth attempting to dig their way through my armor to get to the sweet flesh inside and rapidly my world stops making sense as the air becomes too shallow to breath. The world has become black, brown, white, and yellow, and it makes no sense. Below me is the swarm, above me is the swarm, and when I look ahead I see the ever moving machinery of a swarmlings underside moving tirelessly in the darkness.  Nauseating! The stomach churns away a response that I barely bite back.

So on all sides is moving wall of armor and carapace and I can’t move. The slip and drip of blood, feces, the insides of their stomachs, and god knows what else surrounds me, and I can’t move. “Can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t think,” and something punches into my armor. I force my fist through the armored flesh and undersides until I reach the handle of my side arm, and with one swift stroke I hear the ’Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkccccccccccccck’ of a dozen bugs bucking the blade in agony.

A space opens for a second, so with empty flamethrower in my right hand and blade in my left hand, I pushed and slash to proper footing but not escape. The swarm has made a mound on top of me, an orgy of blood and mating is all around me, but the lack of air will get me killed first as my filter is taxed beyond usability. Out? I slash widely and haphazardly at the world around me, dispersing my anger into this cruel dark world devoid of light and air. I find space to move my right hand properly and hook my II before the chance is lost. The space closes, within moments, but with my newly free right hand I strike out blindly, and grab onto what I assume is something’s mouth because I feel thousands of rows of teeth grinding at my gauntlet. And pull. And push. And pull. And Push. Forward, I move my sword with purpose, as the blade cracks through armor and carapace like chewing through tender meat. Forward; with the barely-conscious swarmling as my shield, his brain bashed into a dozen times and his second or third brain only capable of making his claws and legs fight me out of muscle memory.  The head finally comes off as I crunch the flailing body as I press forward. No I charge, using a cross guard, I bull-rush into mound; using my two-ton body to make the wall armor flesh yield to my will.

But is it good enough? The smell, the air, the weight of thousands, more like millions of swarmlings pressing my feet into the ground, slowing my step, slowing my breath, my consciousness …

“NO!” And I take another step, but the momentum is gone and my armor is being assaulted on all sides. Not even a swing of my sword will clear this, it ends here.

“Too many … Was never a soldier … Can’t breathe …”And then I lunge forward, god help me, and I break into fresh air at least. Coughing up blood and bile, I automatically switch my sword out for a napalm cartridge, plug it into my II, and unleash on the new mound, killing thousands of swarmlings as the mound collapses in on itself and into the fire. The smell of that many dead swarmlings nearly takes me off my feet. It was that bad. I couldn’t breathe for a moment because the smell drafted right into me. Tears ran uncontrolled for the first time and my god why was I laughing even as my eyes burn despite the filter. Then the sound of too many legs scuttling in too close to my ear cleared my mind of all other thoughts, but the one thing to remember about the swarm.

“They are always attracted to the smell of their dead, Andrew.”

“And why would that matter, don’t we kill them all anyway.”

“In war yes, in battle no.”

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