Chapter 9: In My Brain
Katrine woke with a start. Turning over in her small, rock hard, bed she reached for her clock to see the time. After fumbling in the dark for a while she found it, it was blank.
Oh those bastards, shutting the power off, now of all times.
“Oh well, if I’m late I’m late.” She turned back over and nestled back into her covers tossing a few stray strands of hair from over her eyes. “Alright sleep, come back to me.”
But sleep didn’t come, despite being asleep just moments ago Katrine felt wide awake.
“Well that’s just cruel, now I’m gonna feel like a zombie all day today, you did this to yourself brain, you lumpy bastard.” She balled up her covers and threw them to the side; they were swallowed up by the all encompassing darkness.
It was then that Katrine noticed just how dark everything was, she’d never had a dark night since she moved to that crappy little apartment.
“Maybe there was a power outage, yeah, sure, maintenance or something. I’m just going to go to sleep, sans covers, and wake up to a nice bright smoggy day.”
But just as there was a lack of light, there was a lack of sleep. Katrine resigned herself to her fate of wakefulness and scrambled out of bed and made a beeline for the fridge seeking the synthetic pigswill they called coffee. The soft carpeted floors absorbed all the sounds she made. Well now that she thought about it, things were very quiet too. What happened to the noisy neighbors, the sounds of traffic and sirens blaring? It was pitch black and dead silent.
This is all wrong.
Katrine felt her way along the wall until she felt her curtains, she tore them open and a fitful pale light filled her room. A tiny white pinprick in the sky illuminated her room and the void it occupied.
“What the shit, wha- what the…” She turned to run out the door but saw something that stopped her dead in her tracks.
There was somebody in her kitchen, standing perfectly still. The pale light illuminated them enough for Katrine to make out a short, thin, figure standing directly in front of and facing the refrigerator. Good thing she went to the window instead or she would have bumped into them. It was a miracle they hadn’t heard Katrine’s monologue.
What to do… Door, yep we’re going out the door no matter what.
Katrine took one step and the intruder turned to face her. It was a girl; no more than a child, tears were running down her face.
“Please help me…” Her voice was unusually mature. Katrine looked down and in the child’s chest were two massive circular holes oozing thin trickles of blood. “Please…” her eyes rolled up and she collapsed.
“Great, now I’m stuck in a void with a dead child, could things get any better? Wait let me guess, you’re not actually dead.” This was weird, Katrine felt like her sanity had snapped. “Just wait, I’m going to walk past you and you’re gonna jump out at me and murder me or something.” Katrine’s voice was trembling. “This is all just a dream, I’m just gonna wake up and this nightmare will be over! Well screw it I’m not going to play by your rules.” Katrine marched up to the body of the child and gave it a sharp kick in the foot.
The child kicked back, for such a small kid she could really pack in the power. Katrine quickly found herself lying on the floor next to the child.
The child muttered into the floor. “If you’re done monologuing, could you please move me to the bed or somewhere soft, this linoleum is very uncomfortable. I’m not dead, and believe me I’m just as confused as you.”
“Fair enough,” Katrine said to the ceiling. She picked herself up off the floor and made to pick up the kid. Katrine got her arms around the kid’s shoulders and tried to lift her.
“Whoa kid, you weigh a ton, what the hell?” She began to drag the child toward her bed. “By the way kiddo, you got a name?”
After a brief pause. “Ellie, my name is Ellie.”
“Nice name, mine’s Katrine, it seems we’re both stuck in this strange loopy land.” She finally hauled Ellie onto the bed, now she could finally see the massive wounds. “Holy shit, what happened?”
“I was stabbed.”
“Yeah I get that, but how did you wind up like this?”
“I was stabbed.”
“Yeah, no, I understand that part, but what sequence of events led you to being stabbed in the first place. We’ll figure out how you made your way into my apartment later.”
“Well, I’m not sure of the specifics but I’m pretty sure I was stabbed.”
“Humph, I think you’re pulling my leg right now.”
“Well the joke is getting old and I’d really like some answers as to why there is a twelve year old lying in my bed with huge stab wounds, not to mention the lack of clothes!”
“Wait, I’m naked?”
“Well, that’s embarrassing… And honestly, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you what happened. Frankly I’m kind of confused as to why you’re here; I thought I was the only one in my head.”
“Okay, you’ve answered exactly zero of my questions and opened up a couple thousand more. Now explain from the beginning, and we’ll see how I feel when you finish.”
Ellie let out a massive sigh. “Alright, the truth?”
“Alright, I am, despite stark appearances to the contrary, actually an Indra; I have just recently been stabbed by a strange spider creature and am in the process of either healing or dying, I can’t really differentiate at this point. At the precise moment of being stabbed my consciousness was seemingly transported to this place, which I assume is your apartment, where I found myself in this body. After listening to you mumble to yourself and fumble around in the dark I was suddenly hit with a huge wave of ‘what the hell is going on’ and collapsed. You kicked me, I kicked you, and here we are.”
“You’re right I don’t believe you.”
“I told you so.”
The light outside brightened, Katrine went to the window to see what changed. It was like she was looking through someone else’s eyes. She saw the Indra, all of them, and some strange spiderlike creature stalking them. Like lightning the creature lashed out and killed one of them, Valkyrie, Katrine gasped. Suddenly the thing filled up her view, an impassive porcelain white face with black lips and black eyes, and then darkness.
“It went something like that.”
Katrine looked back and forth between Ellie and the window. “Wait, what happened, what was that?”
“That was my memory of the event, that is what I saw, and that is exactly what happened. You’re in my head, remember?”
Katrine walked back over to the bed and sat down. “Well, alright then. Here’s a question I know you can’t answer then, why am I in your head? Hmmm? Why is my, presumably, consciousness bouncing through your head like a screensaver on an old terminal?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure, but you feel separate from my being but still intertwined somehow. I suppose that’s why I came here when I was injured, I might have died otherwise.”
“Don’t worry, I fully intend on asking my creator why you’re here as soon as I wake up. I have a guess, but I really hope I’m wrong.” Ellie was silent for a moment. “Yep, I can feel it, I’m waking up. Keep looking out the window, I think I might answer a few more of your questions before long.” Ellie seemingly popped out of existence and the whole world grew light.
LE awoke to a blindingly bright light beaming on her face; as soon as she was conscious it sharply pulled away. As her vision adjusted she saw Kid sitting beside her, goofing around with a lamp. When Kid saw that LE was awake she discarded the lamp and gave her a massive hug. Surprised by this act of tenderness LE embraced her back.
We thought you were dead, when it stabbed you we thought it killed you just like Valkyrie. Kid’s voice was trembling but LE couldn’t tell if it was because of Valkyrie or herself. We tried to fight it off but Medusa was just too strong, Wall lost an arm and I lost my hand, the rest have pretty bad cuts and stab wounds. Kid raised her left arm to show that just a bandaged stump remained where her hand used to be. I don’ think I’ll be using my broadsword from now on, hey, you can have it if you want, I’m pretty sure Wall still wants his sword back.
“Thanks Kid, I appreciate it, also where are we? This place seems familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“I don’t blame you for not remembering the place of your birth my daughter.” Dr. Banthu entered the small cluttered room. “How are you feeling?”
“What a marvelous coincidence, I have a few questions for you. Kid could you please leave us, we need to talk privately; I’ll come find you when I’m finished here.”
Kid skipped joyfully out of the room.
“What is it you wanted to ask me?”
“Well Doctor, I want to know why there is a fairly attractive twenty-something named Katrine rattling around in my head like loose change. Why, when I was stabbed, I found myself in a human body, naked mind you, in this twenty-something’s apartment where I then proceeded to bleed all over her bed.”
Aww you find me attractive! That’s so sweet. You owe for the bed by the way.
“And now she’s literally talking to me in my head. Doctor you have some explaining to do.”
“Yes, it seems I do.” Banthu let out a sigh. “From the beginning then.” He sat at his desk. “The Indra were constructed at one of Ancient America’s most vulnerable times, their wars were turning sour and the people were angry and scared. The American government came up with Project Ariadne to create the world’s greatest super soldiers, to rally the people and frighten their many enemies. They created the LE Computer Brain, a sentient computer-on-a-chip, more advanced than any that came before it. Coupled with organic fiber optic cabling that acted as the musculoskeletal and nervous systems it was submerged in an organic biomass to form a body.
“The thing you need to know about these chips is that they are both complex and tiny, all the microscopic flaws in the manufacturing process ostensibly created the personality of the Indra, that’s why they’re all so different to each other. But all Indra, bar three, don’t use the LE chip, they use the technically inferior LX chip for one very good reason, they’re insane, well apart from you of course. Medusa was the only Indra from back then that used the LE chip; you saw how it turned out, twisted and insane. The US Government quickly switched to the simpler LX chips after Medusa indiscriminately murdered a large amount of people during its initial test runs. The other two LE models are of my own creation, there is you my successful attempt, and there is Morgan, my… unsuccessful attempt. Morgan was created without the coprocessor that you have, and turned out much like Medusa but a little less insane, I gave him to Schultz to use for who knows what.
“You actually have Morgan to thank for your Indra friends remaining as intact as they are now. When he sensed Medusa he-“Banthu was cut off.
“Stop right there, I want to know why there’s somebody else in my head, I don’t much care for your failed past experiments.”
You dummy, you stopped him right before he was about to explain that part, that’s so cliché.
“Nobody asked you Katrine, continue.”
“Yes well, I found that basic operation would overheat the chip and cause it to short, which is why the outcomes are so grotesque. With you I decided to give you a coprocessor, something to offload some of the extraneous computations. I was going to use an LX chip but I had a stroke of genius, also we were fresh out of either LE or LX chips so I settled for the next best thing. A human brain…”
“Alright I’m going to stop you again… You’re saying that the brain, the actual, literal, physical brain of an attractive twenty-something named Katrine is currently linked to my computer brain through some sort of technical wizardry?”
“That’s just monstrous. You killed her!”
“Well, no not really, and when you consider what went into making your biomass you won’t feel so bad about Katrine.”
“I don’t want to know! You know what, I’m leaving”
LE stood up, her head banging into the low ceiling; in a fit of frustration she kicked down the door to the room and stormed out with as much dignity as she had left, Banthu didn’t even try to stop her. She wove her way through the endless dark corridors, going nowhere, she just wanted to hide. After a half hour of walking she found a nice quiet dead end, she sunk to the floor, curled up, and retreated into her thoughts.
Ellie found herself back in the quiet apartment once more. Katrine was lounging on her old futon.
“Welcome back, what’s up?”
“I gathered as much, oddly enough it doesn’t really bother me all too much. I can’t really remember anything about my death so it can’t really impact me. One moment I’m at work the next moment I wake up in bed, dead.”
Ellie made her way to Katrine and sat beside her on the futon.
“Well now what? You’re stuck in my head…” She clasped her head in her hands. “It all seems so absurd.”
“Well it is absurd, but it’s happened and there’s nothing you can do about it, also you’re still naked.”
Ellie peeked from between her fingers. “Yes I am… does that bother you?”
“Not particularly, here let’s check the closet; I wonder if I have anything that fits.” Katrine rummaged through the closet, eventually returning with a pair of black cotton pants and a blue jacket. “They’re probably too big but they’ll do for now.”
Ellie slipped them on. “Ooh, these are surprisingly comfortable; I’ve never actually worn clothes before.”
“Well you are an eight foot killing machine in the real world I don’t think anything would actually fit.” Katrine ushered her to the mirror. “Look at you, you almost look normal now!”
“Yeah, hmmm, so that’s what I look like, a child.”
“Well how old are you?”
“A few weeks… at most.”
“Well there you go.”
Somebody knocked on the door… Both of them whirled to look at it. Another knock.
“Erm… it’s for you!” Katrine gestured Ellie to the door.
“Humph, coward.” Ellie walked over to the door and threw it open, she stepped outside and dissolved into thin air, and she was gone.
“Drama queen,” Katrine muttered to the empty apartment.
LE awoke to see Kid crouched over her, tapping her metaphorical face. LE swatted away the offending finger.
Yay! You aren’t dead again! Come on, everybody’s waiting for you back at the gym. Follow me!
“How did you find me?”
Well, I was sitting outside the door when you ran out, so I followed you. Then you collapsed on the floor. I was going to draw a funny face on you but I lost my markers in the fight, c’mon!
Kid skipped off joyfully into the darkness.
I think you’d better follow her, unless you’d like to mope some more.
“I think I’m done moping for now.” LE set off after her.
As LE followed kid through the dark tunnels she enquired. “So what happened after I lost consciousness?”
Well, we all sort of dogpiled Medusa, we were hoping to overpower it by holding down each of its arms, but as you can guess… Kid waved her stump. It didn’t work. Medusa broke free and in the process cut off my hand and Wall’s arm. We couldn’t land a hit on it, not even Ghost, and you saw how fast she can move. So, after a few minutes of us trying and failing to get Medusa under control this… thing crawls out of the elevator shaft. Kid visibly shuddered. I’ve never felt anything like ‘Morgan’ before, it was just… evil… it didn’t even walk it slithered along the ground. I was mostly unconscious when they fought due to… She waved the stump again. Schultz and Banthu came later; we were all so worried about you… Come on we’re almost there, race you!
Chapter 10: Not Quite Dead
LE and Kid reentered the now destroyed gym, holes were torn in the floors, walls, and ceiling, not a thing in sight remained undamaged. Around the room the Indra milled about, some sat others were simply walking around aimlessly.
We always thought we were invincible; they’re all taking her death pretty hard. Kid gestured to the form of Valkyrie who was covered in a sheet.
LE made her way to the still form of Valkyrie, along the way she was intercepted by one of the Indra, Bolt. Bolt stood in her way, barring her from going past, she aggressively pushed LE back. LE could feel Bolt’s thoughts, they were not particularly friendly.
What do you think you’re doing here, freak? Haven’t you caused enough damage? Get out, before I make those holes in your chest even larger. It’s all your fau-. Bolt was cut off by the force of Kid drop kicking her in the chest. Instead of getting up Bolt simply curled up and started rocking on the ground.
LE finally reached the body of Valkyrie; she gingerly lifted the sheet off. The wicked cut had nearly cut the poor Indra in two; LE placed her hand on Valkyrie’s head. Sharply she pulled her hand away; it was like tiny needles were puncturing her skin and trying to burrow inside. LE felt something else, a strange sensation deep inside, as if her very being was being rewritten.
Katrine piped up. Hey Ellie, um, so there’s a severed foot in the apartment.
Taken aback by the oddity of this statement LE took a moment to respond,“a foot?”
Yeah, it showed up when you touched her head. I have an idea… do it again.
“Great idea.” LE placed her hand back on Valkrie’s head; the needles began once more.
Who’re ya talkin’ to? Kid was at her side. You’re talking to yourself; you don’t have multiple personality disorder right? Are there two Ellie’s in there? She poked LE in the forehead area. Hello? Is anybody in there?
Yes, actually, Katrine responded.
Kid gasped and recoiled in surprise. You do have multiple personality disorder! She jammed her finger back in LE’s face once more. Hello other Ellie, how many personalities are in there with you? Is it crowded in there?
My name is Katrine actually, and it’s just me and a set of legs at the moment. Funnily enough this isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened to us today, well, probably. Ellie, keep it up, her torso’s coming in now.
“How can you tell they’re a girl?”
She’s naked, just like you were, Katrine responded rather smarmily.
You were naked? Kid was getting very confused. By now some of the Indra had taken notice of what was happening and were converging on the strange scene.
Excuse me little one, but what exactly are you doing? War asked.
“Well, there is a very slightly remote possibility that Valkyrie here is not dead. Through a complicated, though luckily automated, sequence of events I might just be able to save her mind even though her body is dead. Here place your hand on my back and listen in.”
War obliged and, along with several others, placed his hand on LE’s back. Immediately they were struck with a second consciousness, the likes of which they had never felt before, it was human. There was another, fainter, consciousness growing in strength with each passing second, it was unmistakably Valkyrie.
“Oh great, more company, you may look but you may not talk, it’s already crowded enough in here as is.” War was taken aback, standing before him was a human female with striking black hair and an exasperated expression. The gym had vanished and he was now in a small apartment. “Also you’re naked.”
He looked down. “So I am, I appear to have a human body. How str-“
“I said no talking! She’s almost done.”
War looked down and lying on the floor was another human female, her features were strong yet gentle her long burgundy hair was fanned around her, she looked somehow familiar, he felt a tap on his forearm. He looked over and saw another female, smaller in stature and with dark hair like Katrine’s, perhaps a kid, no, it was Kid.
“You’re naked,” she mouthed at him face beaming with joy.
“Is that really the main thing you’re focusing on right now?”
Kid nodded vigorously.
Around him War could see more people materializing inside this small room; soon there were fourteen people, all completely alien yet somehow familiar standing around.
The front door opened and a short blonde girl wearing ill-fitting clothes walked in, she quickly took a head count. “Well, it looks like you all found your way in easily enough.”
“Ellie there are a bunch of naked people in my apartment, I don’t know why but that freaks me out more than the woman growing on my carpet,” Katrine whined.
“Well, show them to the closet, them being naked here is optional,” Ellie responded.
Katrine paused for a moment. “Fair enough, alright everybody the closet is over there, I don’t care what you wear as long as it covers your junk.”
Katrine had barely enough clothes for one person, let alone fifteen, Wall who maintained his massive stature had to use Katrine’s bathrobe as a loincloth. Soon they were all semi-clothed and grouped around the unconscious form of Valkyrie who had thankfully been draped in a blanket. She was fully formed, now it was a guessing game as to when she would wake up.
“Sheesh! Do you guys have to hover so much? You’re humans in here, not robots, act like it! Walk around, brood, talk to each other, brood. A whole new world of sensations have been given to you in the form of my apartment, explore.”
Some of the Indra looked relieved and broke from the group to wander; others looked confused and maintained their wooden poses. At Katrine’s insistence the rest of them disbanded and got comfortable, the only one who remained was Bolt. Bolt crouched down and wrapped her arms around her legs and stared intently at Valkyrie’s face, her eyes wet with barely restrained tears.
Expanded Scene Available
Katrine weaved her way through the wandering, chatting, Indra to the futon where Ellie, Scorn, and Lethe were conversing. “Hey, what’s up? Also what’s with the ginger kid? She hasn’t moved.”
“Oh, that’s Bolt,” Responded Lethe, “she was very attached to Valkyrie. Scorn, Valkyrie, and myself were the first three Indra to be created after Medusa’s… dismal failure. ‘Vee’ as Bolt called her was a sort of maternal figure to her, she was to a lot of us, but her connection to Bolt was stronger than the rest. As for what we were talking about when you arrived, we were discussing next steps. Obviously Medusa needs to be stopped before it kills more people, but none of us are capable of defeating it. Not even Morgan, who is nearly as twisted as Medusa, could drive it off without nearly dying.
“By the way, I never actually got to see Morgan,” Ellie interjected.
“Probably for the best,” replied Scorn, “Morgan is nearly as grotesque as Medusa, the sight of those two fighting chilled me to my core and I’m pretty sure I don’t have one of those. Anyway, we have to find Medusa and stop it.”
“But where is Medusa? How can we plan to fight something if we don’t know where it is?” asked Katrine.
“North, Medusa is headed to the north,” Ellie said rather suddenly.
Scorn noticeably slumped. “And what makes you think that?”
“When it stabbed me I felt something from it, an urge perhaps, stronger than its urge to kill. It was almost as if something was calling it.”
Katrine looked to Scorn who was looking increasingly sick. “Okay, either you’re going to throw up, or you’re going to vomit some exposition at us, which is it? It’d better be the exposition because the water isn’t running and I refuse to clean up puke.”
Scorn let out a sigh. “Alright, ‘exposition’ it is.” He turned to Lethe. “Remember that evil looking general before we were decommissioned, uh, Freeman I think.”
“Yes…” Lethe was looking concerned. “The one who thought Medusa was a success to be repeated?”
“Well, what if I told you he did repeat it, a couple hundred times.”
“Spit it out!” Katrine nearly yelled.
By now most of the Indra had started eavesdropping on the conversation.
“Well, to the north, nestled in the Petrified Wood there is a science and research station where Freeman constructed his army under the radar of the US Government. I don’t know how but it has resurfaced once more, probably because of the tremors from the Alcadon. Luckily for us, soon after I was reactivated, I found it before the Tcha’Gough did, they think it’s the resting place of their god. How much do you know about the Tcha’Gough Katrine?”
“A little, I know that the two Tcha’Gough participants in the ceremony of Li’Djein are always killed by the radiation from the forest before they can reach the temple.”
“That’s not correct, the Petrified Wood may be lethal to humans but the Tcha’Gough are immune to it, for the past four hundred years or so I’ve been killing the two ceremony participants so they don’t reach the research station and accidentally reawaken an army of insane killing machines.”
“What’s to stop them from all going in at once then?” asked Lethe.
Scorn was silent for a moment. “Nothing.”
“Well, I think I know where we’re going next,” said Ellie.
“I think that conclusion is inevitable,” said Katrine, “we have to seal off, or preferably destroy the station and hopefully intercept and stop Medusa before it gets there and releases an army of insane killer cyborgs, am I getting that right.” Katrine was a little freaked out by all of this. “Why didn’t you tell anybody before? Why not Wulf? You were almost in constant contact with him for give or take two hundred years and you chose to say nothing? And you had better not say, ‘well nobody asked’.”
“I didn’t think they were ready.”
“That’s even worse! Listen here you pasty faced, beer belly piece of shi-“
“She’s waking up! Everybody come quickly!”
Bolt’s cry killed all the momentum Katrine had in insulting Scorn who gratefully went to see what the commotion was about. Valkyrie was indeed awake and looking rightfully confused.
“Hmm, so death is being surrounded by a bunch of half naked men, women, and children. Not what I was expecting but I suppose it could be worse.”
“Technically you’re not actually dead,” Katrine said as she shouldered her way through the group. “You’re actually residing in my disembodied brain which is currently housed inside Ellie here.” She pointed to Ellie who looked rather sheepish and gave a little wave. “Welcome to your new home.”
“Of all the things you could have said you chose that? Really? We’ll get you clothes in a moment.”
“I’m… human?” Valkyrie looked at her new hands with a look of puzzled wonderment.
“Well yes, but actually no,” said Ellie, “we’re all human in Katrine’s brain, I’m sure if such a thing was possible in one of our chips we’d look like we normally do. I’m guessing Katrine just has enough empty space to accommodate us; she definitely had plenty to fit you in.
“Ha ha very funny.” Katrine rolled her eyes.
“So I’m stuck here forever? Again, I suppose it could be worse, at least I’ll have company in death.” Valkyrie looked around at the motley group; all these familiar personalities finally had faces to match.
“How good are you at Word Squares?” Katrine asked a small grin on her face.
Before Valkyrie could answer Bolt rushed in and wrapped her arms around her sobbing uncontrollably. Valkyrie hugged her back tightly.
“I thought you were dead,” Bolt choked out between sobs, “I thought you’d left me.”
“No my dear, I’m here, I’d never dream of leaving you.”
They sat there for several minutes while the Indra began to leave.
“If you’ll excuse us, we have work to do in the outside world,” said War, “I’ll try to communicate to Schultz that we’re sending a group to go after Medusa, though with the state Alcadon is in I think most of us will have to stay to act as damage control for the military. The people are on the verge of rioting, they will need us if things really do go sour. Hey, Scorn?”
“I want you to organize a group of four to go after Medusa; the rest will stay behind for damage control. I also want you to select a secondary group in case things go sour on your end, just send out a call and they’ll be on their way ASAP.”
“Yup, will do.” Scorn vanished.
“At least use the front door, you’re leaving stains on the carpet!” Katrine called after him.
Pretty soon all the Indra were gone apart from Kid who was napping on the futon and Bolt who was still hugging Valkyrie. “Alright little one, it’s time for you to go, you’re needed out there. Besides, I’m not really going anywhere, find Ellie and you’ll find me. Now go on, I need to get dressed.” She waved Bolt away who wiped away her tears
“Treat her well.” Bolt pointed at Ellie, and vanished like the rest.
“C’mon Kid, it’s time to go, wake up now.” Ellie gave Kid a little jostle that woke her up, Kid yawned and groggily vanished. Ellie turned to her new tenant. “I’ll leave you to get comfortable.” She went to the front door and made to leave.
“Thanks… for saving my life!” Valkyrie called after her.
Ellie gave a cheeky wink and left.
Chapter 11: Meetings
Okay, Anon, LE- I mean Ellie, Bolt, and Kid. You four are coming with me to stop Medusa, any objections?
The gathered Indra were silent.
Very well, we’ll set out immediately. And Kid… no whining!
Wulf and Lethe watched the five receding into the distance, eventually sinking below the horizon
Think they’ll make it in time? Wulf asked.
I have my doubts, but they’re a good crew and won’t let us down. I’m just surprised that Scorn kept this all a secret from us for so long, especially you. It was as the girl Katrine said, he could have told you at any time, and we likely wouldn’t have had this particular snafu laid at our feet.
Yes, we’re going to have a very serious conversation when he gets back. Wulf punched his open palm.
Lethe chuckled. Don’t forget, he owes you for that whack on the head you gave him.
Yeah. Wulf slouched a bit. We’ll get to that when it comes.
Agreed, alright, let’s be back, I wonder if War has finished his meeting with Schultz yet.
Yeah, I doubt he’ll be able to get all of this across to Schultz with his silly sign language.
“Hmm, so an insane Indra is out to release their brethren who were made by a manic American General, for the sole purpose of obliterating all human life on earth.” Schultz leaned back in his chair. “Yes that is quite a situation.”
War tilted his head.
“No, no you acted within your bounds, I’m glad you sent them out before talking to me. Though I would have preferred having the full complement of you here to assist with the situation, it can’t be helped. But now that you’re here I’m wondering if you could coordinate with your fellow Indra to start searching the city, my nephew Ellis has gone missing, I fear he’s met the same fate as my niece.”
The door burst open, the portly General Sullivan ran to Schultz’ desk and slammed a piece of paper in front of him. Sullivan stepped back, breathing heavily while Schultz read the paper. He gently put the paper down, his eyes faraway and listless for a moment, he snapped back to reality. He stood up roughly, his chair flying back and slamming into the massive window, rage burned in his eyes.
“General, War, come with me,” Schultz snapped, “is my car waiting?”
He sped out of the room, followed closely by War and the puffing General Sullivan. Schultz impatiently bounced the whole way down, and virtually sprinted to the door when the elevator opened on the lobby. He nearly leapt into the open car door, War and Sullivan piled in behind him. He thrust the small paper through the small window separating the driver from the rest of the car. The driver read the address, and nodded his head silently.
The car sped off in a cloud of tire smoke. Those on the street who witnessed this were left in shocked awe, what could have caused their leader to lose his composure like this? The car zipped and dodged through traffic with little regard for road safety or the other drivers. Sullivan and Schultz were wildly whipped around while War maintained his composure admirably. Soon they pulled up on the address in question. The hospital was a massive slab of grey concrete its smooth surface perforated with small windows. The front was a train wreck of emergency vehicles and walk-ins, violent crime was way up and the hospitals could barely cope.
As Schultz’ car pulled up, the crowds of people parted, making way for their leader. Schultz threw the door open and rushed to the front desk, after a few hushed words with the attendant he rushed off again towards the elevators, followed doggedly by Sullivan and War. The watching masses were abuzz; something serious must have happened for Schultz to be out of his tower, with one of his reclusive Indra bodyguards no less. The elevator door opened and Schultz rushed in, the astute observer would notice that the elevator display went from main floor to B1, the morgue.
Schultz ran to the nearest nurse.
“Where is he?”
“Male 5”6’ blonde, he came in this morning!”
The nurse looked confused, and then the realization dawned on her. Her face grew serious.
“This way Mr. Schultz.”
She hurried off down the hallway followed closely by Schultz. They entered one of the many rooms; the nurse checked the paperwork on the nearby desk and pulled out one of the drawers. There he was, Ellis Schultz, pale and cold, his neck heavily bruised and clearly broken, just like his sister’s had been.
“We didn’t know it was him, his ID card was missing, if we’d known you would have been notified earlier,” said Sullivan.
Schultz let out a yell of primal rage; he slammed his fist into one of the other metal drawers leaving a massive dent. The nurse, startled, rushed out of the room. Schultz sank to his knees, sobbing, whether it was from the pain in his hand or from the death of his nephew it couldn’t be ascertained. He let out a wail that made even War’s metaphorical hackles rise; War had never seen a human act like this, let alone Schultz.
Schultz stood, tears streaming down his face, cradling his arm.
“General, assemble the heads of military and my closest advisors, this has gone too far. If the Sons want to play this game then it’s time we threw our chips in as well, all of them.”
Sullivan stood to attention, saluted, and exited. Schultz looked to War, red faced and puffing.
“When we get back to the tower I want you to assemble all the Indra, we’re gonna smoke these roaches out of our city and stamp them out like the bugs they are!”
The nurse rushed back into the room with a first aid kit, and began fussing over Schultz hand.
“I’m okay my dear, really.” Schultz placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I just don’t know my own strength, that’s all. Now please go and tell your superior that my nephew has been identified and I want him transferred to my personal medical facility in the Schultz building. Give them this.” He pulled a special gold card from his pocket. “Just so they know I am who I say I am.” He gave her a kind smile as she left the room.
“Alright War, let’s get back to the tower, I hope I don’t make as much of a scene leaving as I did arriving.” He straightened his clothing, dried his eyes, and put a tight professional smile on his face. “How’s this?”
War gave a thumbs up.
“Good, let’s go.”
Before he could leave War saw the dented drawer slide open revealing a familiar face. The raven black hair, the soft kind features, the cold dead body of Katrine was unmistakable, as was the jagged stitching across her forehead. There was no bruising she’d been operated on after she had died. Checking the paperwork War found the cause of death, brain aneurism.
Schultz whirled around the corner. “War, come on! Don’t dawdle!”
War put the papers down and followed Schultz to the elevator
War had never seen a man with such composure before, one moment he was bawling on the ground, the next minute we was smiling and waving, and even signing autographs. His mental fortitude was at least equal to his strength. As they were leaving War had inspected the metal of the drawer, it was thick sheet steel, Schultz’ hand should have bounced off it, but it was crumbled like foil.
“Anger can make a person do incredible things.” Was all Schultz had said.
As they got back in the car Schultz tapped the dividing window and they set off, at a more reasonable speed this time. Schultz slumped in his seat, head in his hands, breathing heavily.
He looked at War. “You recently lost one of your own, right? Valkyrie, she was killed by Medusa?”
War nodded his head.
“You’ve felt that loss then, that feeling of something you once thought untouchable, indestructible, being lost.”
War nodded again.
“I’ve felt that twice, twice in as many weeks.” He let out a small manic chuckle. “I expect the military to do their best, but I want you to nail the fuckers down and torch them ‘till there’s nothing left but dust.”
War nodded again.
“Good, don’t let me down, the future, my future, the future of every person living in this city depends on you Indra.” He let out one final sigh. “That’s what I like about you Indra, you don’t mince words and I won’t let the military do so either.”
War tiled his head.
“Oh, I intend for this to be a very one sided meeting.”
The car stopped and the two of them exited and nonchalantly made their way to the front doors. War could easily see through Schultz’ act, behind that smile burned the rage of a supernova, but for the people Schultz would wear any face.
“Alright Schultz, why are we here?” asked one of the several drowsy looking men and women. There was a lot of irritated grumbling and plenty of yawns going around the semicircle.
“You are all here because as we speak my nephew is being moved to cold storage beneath the tower. The Sons have killed my niece, they have killed my nephew, and I have no doubts that they are coming after me next. You are here because not once, but twice have members of my family been kidnapped and possibly murdered while still in this very tower! The Sons are here, they’re in this building as we speak, crawling beneath our feet like rats. They even bugged my private elevator, they could’ve had me anywhere in this building and I would have been powerless to stop it. What I want you to do is close off the city, nobody comes in and nobody leaves. Withdraw all military and scientific personnel from across the country and center them here. These are dire times, and I think it’s time we fix that.”
The group stared at Schultz in stunned silence
“Ellis is dead?” asked one of the generals.
“Yes, General Burke… I spoke to him not twelve hours ago; he’d recently been contacted by the Sons themselves. They attempted to poison him against me, they failed, thankfully. But it seems their failure only drove them to kill.”
“What would you have us do?”
“What I want you to do is to post guards at every exit and entrance to the city, run patrols around the perimeter, anything so not a single living thing can enter or exit this city. Build a damned wall if you have to! With the assistance of Intelligence we are going to find these spies and make them talk. I have also assigned my Indra bodyguards to privately investigate this matter as well, you will give them your full cooperation if they so need it. Understood?”
“And, ladies and gentleman, I need not remind you that what you have learned today doesn’t leave this room, the people are already frightened enough as it is. We don’t need to exacerbate this problem any further. To make matters worse I’m sure members of my own staff are in with the Sons, so pick only those who you trust implicitly to carry out your orders”
The assembled generals and advisors saluted and made their way out the door, all except one. A pale woman with a shock of curly red hair and an obnoxiously large pair of glasses stayed behind, lounging on the comfortable couch.
Schultz looked to her. “Status on ‘Project Gamma’?”
She replied in a deep sultry voice totally shattering her rather bookish image. “Manufacturing and assembly is finished, all that’s left is the software, I’d give it a week for preliminary testing, if all goes well it’ll be done in a month.”
Schultz raised an eyebrow.
“It’s very complicated programming; most of the higher functions are still a mystery, even to us.”
“You used this technology to create Marge, and now you’re telling me it won’t work here?”
“Marge is different, she’s entirely digital, there’s a bit of a jump in dimension.”
“Very well, just get it done.”
“Anything for you Laverne,” she sighed as she pushed herself from the agonizingly comfortable chair, she let out a massive yawn and walked out of the room.
Schultz shook his head. “Does that woman ever sleep?”
I only came here to meet LE- Ellie, whatever she’s called; I’m not sticking around to help you satiate your insane dictator boss. Inferno was furiously pacing around the small lounge where the Indra set up after the events in the gym. I just want to go back to my volcano and be alone! He fell into one of the many couches and slouched uncomfortably.
Well too bad, because we’re staying, all of us. Wulf looked around the room at the sullen Indra. Yeah, I get it, today’s not been the best day but we are likely the only ones who can stop this city from imploding. You’ve all seen what’s happening out there as we speak, there are people dying.
Animals, Inferno muttered.
That’s it! Wulf walked over to where Inferno was lounging and slapped him across the face, not hard, but hard enough. Listen here you little shit! You may not like humans, personally I’m not a fan either, but we owe them. You sitting around whining isn’t going to get us anywhere, you think you have it bad? Tell that to Wall, or Kid, or maybe Valkyrie? Maybe they’ll give you a little lesson in misfortune before I do. He looked over to War. I’m sorry War please continue, I’m sure the interruptions are over for the time being.
War stood by uncomfortably while the altercation took place. Yes, I propose we split up into groups of two and start searching certain points of interest in and around the city. Death and Ghost, I want you to search the bar where Ellis was last seen, it’s in Nicky town so keep your heads down. Ghost, if you need to punch someone please do it lightly, you nearly lost your composure in the gym and we don’t want that happening with humans, no matter how detestable they may be. Due to the incredible damage wrought by both Medusa and Morgan upon the elevators, it is now possible to access Morgan’s residence beneath the tower. Pestilence and Wulf I’d like for you to search Morgan’s lair, I don’t need to tell you but don’t be seen. Famine, Pixia, I’d like for you to search the industrial district, specifically the factory that Ellis allegedly emerged from after being taken from the bar. You’ll find the address in the Intelligence office, they are currently at our disposal so don’t be afraid to snoop around in there.
Oh great! That leaves me with Lethe, said Inferno sarcastically.
Wrong, you’re with me, said War, we’ll be going out of town to search and gather intel from the farming settlements on the outskirts. Apparently the Sons have been using some of these settlements as staging areas for raids so I’d like to do a bit of investigating. Wall is still resting from his injuries; he won’t be able to help us for a while. Lethe…
Lethe didn’t respond he was in another of his meditative states; he was completely dead to the world.
You do you buddy. War turned to his fellow Indra, now standing in their assigned groups. Alright, break!
Seven hours Kid, you lasted seven hours! Scorn called back, we’re not even close to halfway to the Knoss and you’re already complaining!
Kid comically flopped to the ground; Ellie stopped beside her while the other three kept going.
“Alright Kid, cut it out, you knew it was going to be boring when you agreed to come along. Now stop being such a drama queen and get up.” Ellie grabbed Kid by the wrist and picked up her limp form.
Carry me, I cannot go on, I am far too weak. Kid placed a dramatic stump on her forehead.
“No.” Ellie dropped Kid, who landed on her feet; she turned and jogged off after the others who were a considerable distance away.
Buzzkill, Kid muttered as she ran to catch up.
In the apartment Katrine and Vee, as she preferred to be called, were sitting on the futon watching TV. There was only one channel on TV and it was whatever Ellie was seeing at the moment, it made for exciting viewing. After burning out on I Spy the two of them settled into a comfortable silence watching the scenery go by, occasionally they’d comment on a cloud or an unfortunately shaped rock but for the most part it was silent. Katrine muttered something and went to the closet, she returned with a cardboard box.
“Oh not Word Squares again.” Vee was quickly burned out on it after Katrine kept using obscure twenty-first century slang terms, thankfully, it was not that.
“No, I completely forgot I had this, this is a Guru Games machine, I can hook it up to the TV and we can play games while we wait for something interesting to happen.” Katrine pulled a thin metal device out of the box and proceeded to hook it up to the TV and plug it into the wall. She tossed a controller to Vee who was looking rather bemused.
“How quaint, we trained with something similar to this back before we were shelved. I remember enjoying it somewhat.”
“That should do it.” Katrine pressed the power button and a little green light came on. The picture on the TV however was unchanged. “Well that’s weird, press buttons on the controller, maybe it just wasn’t detected or something.”
Vee started pressing buttons and wiggling the directional pad. The picture on the screen suddenly moved sharply and began spinning. A slow smile spread across Katrine and Vee’s faces.
The group stopped and watched Ellie run in circles, jump up and down, and punch the air. Ellie was just as confused as the rest of them at her apparent loss of motor function. Hearing the chuckling of Katrine and Vee she quickly checked in on them.
She burst through the front door to see the two of them lying on the floor in unrestrained laughter.
“What in the hell is going on in here!?” Ellie cried.
Katrine couldn’t form a coherent sentence through her laughter and simply pointed to the controller in Vee’s hands and then at the screen, where Ellie saw her view spinning.
“So it is you! Come on give it here!” Vee bolted up and started running away from Ellie. “Come on guys this is serious, we’re on a strict time budget here! Come on Vee you’re more mature than this I expected more from you!” Vee finally relinquished the controller which Ellie threw back in the box along with the now unplugged Guru. “If we get through this alive… maybe.” She pointed at the box. “But not now!” She left the apartment slamming the door shut.
What was that all about? Scorn asked when Ellie returned.
Ellie explained the situation, Anon and Kid burst into laughter while Bolt suppressed a chuckle. The only one who didn’t find it all too funny was Scorn who just shook his head in disappointment.
Let’s get going everyone; we’ve already lost enough time as is.
Chapter 12: Banthu
Lethe awoke to an empty room, no bother, he was used to that. That hit to the chest he got from Ellie wouldn’t have made his brethren stumble but took a lot out of him; he wasn’t used to physical combat. He slowly stood up, and began wondering what to do next. He decided to go check up on Wall. Leaving the lounge he made his way down the seemingly infinite identical corridors.
Well shoot, where am I?
Lethe looked around; all the corridors looked the same! He could see people walking around at the end of one of the halls; he quickly made his way down to where he saw the people. When he got to the next identical intersection all the people had seemingly vanished, all the doors were locked and dark. Peering through the glass in one of the doors Lethe could make out a large figure, not at all human, illuminated by a dim computer screen. He threw his arms up in exasperation.
What the hell! Where is everybody?
“Excuse me can I help you?”
Lethe twisted around, in front of him was a woman with a mop of red hair and absurdly large glasses. As he turned her eyes widened and her face broke out in a massive smile.
“Hah! Got you Lethe, hah! I’m the first person to ever see you move! Oh, you have no idea how many bets I just won! Oh, suck it sis!” She pumped her fist. “Oh I could hug you.”
Lethe quickly backed up and shook his head.
“Yeah I get that. Can I help you find something? From the looks of things you seem to be lost, very lost.”
Lethe nodded, and started to pantomime what he was looking for. The woman raised her eyebrow and pulled out a small pad of paper and a pen.
“You can write right?”
Oh thank god. Lethe nodded.
She handed him the paper and pen and he wrote down ‘Wall’. He gave it back to the woman.
“Oh, yeah sure I can take you over to him, he’s over in Science and Engineering section Y, you’re on the wrong side of the building my friend.”
“C’mon, follow me; I’ll take you over there, my name is Fitsch by the way, Doctor Juvinea Fitsch.”
Lethe gave a small bow in greeting; they took off down the corridor.
A lifetime of searching and I’d never have found it. Perhaps there is something to be said about the human brain after all.
After several minutes of walking and confused stares from passers-by, Lethe and Fitsch finally arrived at Wall’s recovery room. Two guards stood flanking the door, keeping any prying eyes away, at the sight of Lethe they stood aside and let him in. The room was dark with only a few dim monitors to cast light on the scene.
Wall was bridged between several exam tables, due to his massive size he couldn’t fit onto a regular sized one. Initially it was a game of reattaching the arm, but that didn’t work, neither direct reattachment nor grafts would get the arm to respond. After some insistence from senior scientific staff Wall allowed himself to be examined by them to see about alternative means of getting his arm back. At the moment there were no scientists buzzing around him, and he was left to sit and wait.
I think they forgot about you.
Wall perked up. Oh hey; I didn’t know you were coming over.
Yeah, the rest all went off without me, as usual, so I decided to check in on you. How’re you holding up?
It’s weird; I’m so used to having two arms that I keep forgetting I only have one. I feel just as surprised every time I remember.
Are you just going to sit in here?
Well, yeah, for now, I want to see if they can actually get my arm back on, I’m not much use without it. What about that Banthu guy that made Ellie? Maybe he can help?
Maybe… I know somebody who might know where he is. I’ll check back later. Stay sane!
Lethe waved, and left, Wall attempted to wave but he chose the wrong arm. Back in the corridor Juvinea Fitsch was still loitering around, getting on the guards nerves. As Lethe left he gestured for her to follow him. As soon as they were far enough away from the room, and the guards, Lethe stopped and gestured for the pen and paper again. Fitsch gave it to him and he wrote down ‘Banthu’.
“Banthu? Why would you want to talk to that crazy old custodian? He wouldn’t be good conversation anyway, he’s mute.”
Lethe wrote down ‘where’.
“Well, it’s his day off so he’s liable to be at the hospital.”
Lethe wrote ‘thank you’ and turned and walked off.
“Um, the elevators are this way!”
Lethe didn’t know quite how he did it but he managed to get up to surface level and out onto the street without seeing anyone.
Why does everybody freak out when they see me? Can’t they just let a drowsy guy nap?
Looking down at the paper Lethe read the address off once more, it wasn’t too far away, hopefully he could get there using back alleys. As he cut through several dingy alleyways he passed several homeless, and several who he hoped were homeless. Soon he drew up upon the massive hospital, he could see that the front entrance was a knot of people entering and exiting.
Well how am I gonna get in there?
Lethe suddenly had an idea, if the front door won’t do, then maybe the back door. Suddenly there were several shouts from the other side of the alley. Several youths had pulled an elderly man in from the street and were savagely beating him with their fists and makeshift clubs. Lethe sprung into action, he may not be the strongest Indra, but he knew his way around a scuffle.
Pulling out his baton he popped the end off revealing two metal prongs, pressing a small button on the handle a thin arc of electricity jumped between the two. Rushing up behind the first attacker Lethe jammed the prongs into his thigh and pressed the button, the attacker fell with a scream. The others heard their friend scream and turned to see who dared interfere, wicked smiles on their faces. When they saw that it was in fact an Indra their smiles quickly vanished and their eyes widened with fear. The group ran, leaving the old man and their fallen friend.
The old man was in rough shape, he had multiple bleeding wounds on his head and Lethe could see blood soaking through his shirt. He was coughing blood and sobbing, his eyes squeezed shut.
Front door it is.
Lethe bent down and picked up the old man and made his way to the hospital. He initially had to shoulder through the crowd, but as more people saw who he was they began to part. Soon the entire hospital entryway was still and silent as Lethe made his way to the front desk, all eyes glued on him.
So much for a low profile.
A gurney was wheeled out; Lethe gently placed the old man onto it.
“Thank you,” the old man whispered before being wheeled away.
Lethe gave a small bow and turned back to the front desk. Painfully aware of every eye being on him he pulled out the pen and paper, Fitsch had let him keep them. He showed the nurse behind the desk his ‘Banthu’ page and she quickly began typing at her keyboard. She wrote ‘floor 5 room 598’ on a small card and handed it to him. Another bow and Lethe went to the elevators.
That’s more like it, clearly labeled everything, Schultz should take notes.
The ride up was jerky and slow, these elevators weren’t quite as well taken care of as those in the Schultz Building. Finding the room was easy, though Lethe was quite curious as to why Banthu would be in the long term care section of the hospital. The curtains were pulled closed so Lethe couldn’t see inside; he knocked firmly and entered the room.
Banthu looked up from the book he was reading; in the bed next to him was a sleeping middle aged woman. Banthu quickly stood up and closed the door behind Lethe.
“What are you doing here?” Banthu asked in a harsh whisper.
Lethe pulled out the pen and paper once more and showed Banthu his ‘Wall’ page, and wrote underneath it ‘arm’.
“Really? You came all this way to ask me about your friend’s arm? Couldn’t it have waited?” Banthu sank back into the chair, and massaged his temples with this thumbs. “It is not possible to reattach lost limbs on an Indra, I learned that with Morgan. We can however ‘regrow’ the arm using the leftover biomass from Ellie. I have all the equipment in my lab, the problem is that your friend Wall is under constant surveillance. You’d need to speak with Schultz about lifting the guards; they will only answer to him.”
Lethe nodded, then he gestured to the woman in the bed.
“No, you have no reason to know, now please leave.”
Good god, what a stink! Wulf didn’t think it possible, but Pestilence seemed to be turning even greener.
Y’know I’d make a snarky remark on how you’re overreacting but yeah, this is pretty foul.
The two had arrived on Morgan’s threshold. A thick oily soup of blackness covered whatever horrors were contained within. The two pulled out dim flashlights and entered the cave of horrors. It was a large room with walls, floors, and ceiling being made of metal, rusted and flaking away. The floor was covered in thick, black, crusted blood and gore, with limbs in various states of decay and mummification spread around at random.
Morgan wasn’t in, the two didn’t know where it was but it would be best if it stayed there. The two began their search, looking for anything, anything that could give them a clue, after a few minutes Pestilence had a sudden realization.
Wulf… why are we even down here?
Well we’re, uh, y’know that’s a good point; War was very vague about that whole thing.
Oh that son of a bitch! Of all the times to grow a sense of humor he chose now!?
Things have been pretty crazy lately; maybe he’s just slipping a bit, stress and all that. You know as well as I that whatever goes on inside his head is a complete mystery. I’ve never been able to get a read on him, and that’s my specialty.
Yeah, well call me crazy but I don’t think we’re gonna find anything down here, let’s just cut our losses and get outta here.
I’m beginning to agree with you, oh hello.
Something shone in the dim light of Wulf’s flashlight, a golden glimmer stood out from the dull rust of its surroundings. Wulf approached cautiously, this strange golden object was stuck on the top of a particularly tall pile of filth. He stretch out and pinched the thing between his outstretched fingers. As he withdrew he saw that it was a thin golden card. As Wulf drew back to Pestilence an agonized mechanical breathing filled the room, and the dragging thud of heavy footsteps shook the floor.
I think it’s time for us to leave.
I couldn’t agree more.
As the two clambered up the ladder in the elevator shaft they heard a soul shattering heartbroken bellow.
“SHINY! WHERE IS MY SHINY!?”
It petered out into a shrill reedy wail that rebounded up the elevator shaft and into the floors above.
The two clambered into the ruins of the gym grateful that they’d not been a few seconds slower.
Well that’s interesting. Wulf was holding the golden card up to the harsh lighting of the gym. Very interesting… He handed it to Pestilence, it read ‘Ellis Schultz’.
Chapter 13: Play With Me?
The day had started off normally in the small trading post on the Knoss River. Merchants of every shape, size, and color, bustled about in the small market square, either hawking their wares to the passing travelers or booking passage down the Knoss River to the coast. Travelers from across the country funneled through this place to reach the Great Salt Sea, it was the perfect place to set up business.
This little trading post was a strange juxtaposition of tradition and technology. Rustic wooden stalls were filled with electronics new, old, and broken; bodyguards and private security who wore rough hewn leather tunics and rough spun cotton breeches were armed with the latest automatic machine weaponry. Motorized vehicles trundled down the stone paved streets carrying fresh produce to the market past timber and clay houses with solar paneling on the roofs.
Word had been coming in from the south that Alcadon was in turmoil, something about a relative to its ruler being murdered. The people didn’t care much for the drama of the big city as long as the goods kept flowing and flow they did. As more and more merchants were fleeing from the chaos of the big city they brought with them their wealth and their products. An economic boom the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years was in full swing. The inns were full, the money was flowing, and the populace was happier than it had been in what seemed like ages.
One of the many farmers on their way to sell their fresh produce was taking a breather on the side of the road, his oxen may be able to walk to eternity but he sure couldn’t. In the brush behind him he heard a rustling, what was either a large animal or a hefty person was smashing through the underbrush nearing the road. The farmer knew how aggressive animals could be in those parts, and placed his oxen between himself and whatever it was that was approaching the road. An enormous brown shape burst from the foliage showering the farmer in shredded wood and greenery. It was an enormous bear, panting raggedly and foaming at the mouth, running straight for the farmer. The oxen, spooked, began to retreat from this threat nearly running over the farmer in the process.
Instead of attacking like he thought it would, the bear skirted the group and crashed back into the brush. As the last of it entered the thick forest the farmer noticed massive wounds inflicted on the bear’s hindquarters. It wasn’t attacking, it was fleeing! Sensing something worse than a bear approaching the farmer urged his oxen along, trying to put on as much distance as possible from this invisible creature.
Snapping and rustling echoed through the woods, whatever it was that scared the bear was close, and getting closer by the second. The farmer, breath already ragged, urged his oxen on faster and faster, fear began to creep into his mind. The snapping grew louder and nearer, what was this creature! A light rhythmic thumping could be heard beneath the crashing of the undergrowth. Suddenly the sounds stopped, all that could be heard were the jangling of the oxen’s harnesses and the fearful breaths of the bedraggled farmer.
A voice hissed from amongst the trees, “hello little man, will you play with me? The hairy one was no fun, he ran too fast. How fast will you run?” Medusa silkily emerged from the woods, gracefully stepping on the path without as much as a sound. Medusa tilted its head, studying the fleeing farmer. “Turn around little man.”
The farmer did no such thing; spirits such as this could only exert their power over you if they look you in the eyes. He kept moving.
“Oh, the little man refuses to play? Well, maybe we’ll have better luck next time.” Medusa scuttled up right behind the farmer matching his pace and eased its head over his shoulder. “Run,” Medusa whispered.
The farmer could only let out a short cry before the life was snuffed out of him. Discarding the carcass of the farmer Medusa turned to the oxen. “Will you play with me?” A frightened bellow from the poor creatures was all it received. “So you’re like the hairy one? Will you run fast?” A sudden, throbbing, pain rocked Medusa. It whirled around, looking for whatever hurt it, but there was nothing apart from the terrified oxen. The pain struck again, it wasn’t from the outside, it came from within. “Oh? So soon… well, I’ll just have to make the best of things before it happens.” One final tremor and the pain left, Medusa turned back to the oxen.
As it eviscerated the poor creatures it let its mind wander, this was no fun, these slow stupid creatures didn’t put up any fight, how will Medusa stay entertained? The journey to their brethren was long and empty and Medusa needed something to tide it over. Remembering the village of Khim, Medusa was filled with a warm glee… that was fun. Watching the little people run away, carrying their little children and hiding in their little houses. Medusa craved that feeling once more, perhaps… where was this little man going? Medusa looked down at the carcass of the farmer. Maybe there are more where he was going? Following the Road, Medusa made their way toward the trading post, in less than an hour it would arrive.
Of course they’re staring; they’ve never seen us in public before, especially you.
It was quite an unusual sight, seeing both the reclusive Death and the near mythical Ghost out in broad daylight; in the red light district no less. Not a soul approached them; some even crossed the street to get out of their way.
Ghost huddled deeper in her cloak. Well, make them stop.
Nope, there’s nothing I can do about that. C’mon you knew this would happen, you spend all your time wrapped up in that cloak, hiding from the world, of course people are going to stare when you’re suddenly out in public. You’re making waves, just look at what Lethe did earlier.
It took quite a while for the two to get the correct location of the bar, by the time the two had the proper information word of Lethe’s little escapade had spread through Alcadon.
Death gave her a small nudge with his elbow. And besides you don’t have the best track record with people.
It’s not my fault they went crazy!
It was totally your fault.
The two turned into one of the many dark dingy alleyways, away from all the prying eyes. They went down a short flight of stairs and before them was a graffitied industrial looking door. Death gave two hard knocks, there was no response. Two more, even harder knocks, finally got the attention of whoever was inside. The door swung silently open, and a drowsy looking man stuck his head out, his eyes pinched shut against the light.
“Bar’s closed, come back later.”
He shut the door, but Death wedged his hand between it and the doorjamb. The door bounced open.
“Look buddy, you’ll have to wait like the rest of the-. “ The man finally got his eyes open just enough to see who it was that was blocking his door. Suddenly he seemed very awake, adrenaline is a wonderful thing. “Ah, well this changes things, please come in.”
As the two Indra stepped inside they saw a tidy little bar, the lights were off, but it still stood in stark contrast to the environment outside. As the door closed behind them the man turned the lights on, illuminating the immense wall of alcohol.
Ghost stared longingly at the booze wall. You know, sometimes I envy humans, they get to eat and drink, I’ve always wondered what alcohol tastes like and this isn’t helping things.
Ghost, I dread the day when you get booze in your system, you’d be the biggest drunk on the planet.
Well you’re not wrong but…
“So, what can I help the two of you with today? I think I already know but I’ll wait for you to confirm it.”
Go ahead, wow him with your silly sign language, Ghost said smugly.
After a short while of various gesticulating arm movements the barkeep eventually said.
“The two men who left with Ellis? Well, even though they were wearing their uniforms they most certainly weren’t military. Yeah, too expressive, like they hadn’t had the soul beat outta them yet. Yeah, I got one ‘a my regulars to take down their registration plate number, I did a bit a sleuthing of my own but didn’t get far, the car was stolen and most certainly, just like those fellas, ain’t military. Here I still have the number written down somewhere, gimme a moment.”
The barkeep shuffled around the counter and began rifling through the small shelves that housed much of his paperwork.
“Yeah , here it is.” He pulled out a small sheet of paper and handed it to Death, “That’s all I can help you with, now if you two’ll excuse me, I still have a few more hours of sleep to claim before I open this evening.” He walked to the back hall and opened one of the doors and slipped inside.
Honestly I expected him to pull out a gun or something, Said Ghost
So did I, well, back to the tower, let’s see if we can’t find this car.
Can I take a bottle for later?
On the other side of the city Pixia and Famine drew up on the old factory. It was weather beaten and crumbling in several places, just about every window it had was shattered. The streets were deserted; nobody who didn’t work there was going to be caught dead in the industrial district. A brisk wind blew through the broken windows creating an ominous moan that resounded and echoed through the deserted building.
Hmmm if you told me a resistance group had set up here I really wouldn’t believe you, an urban vampire maybe, but… Pixia trailed off as Famine approached the building. You’re quieter than usual today, is something getting you down?
You really ought to talk more, it liberates the soul!
God! You’re such a grouch, why didn’t I get paired up with Pestilence instead; at least she can hold a conversation.
If it came down to a fight, I’d put Wulf in better standing against Morgan than you, especially if you are unable to use your wings.
Pixia paused for a momen. Fair enough. C’mon stop dawdling, let’s get inside.
The old door was unable to weather more than two kicks from Famine, the two entered, leaving the door hanging from a single hinge. Large amounts of light streamed in from the broken windows, illuminating the machinery within. The two explored deeper, eventually entering the office area, they found most of the rooms to be in a state of disrepair, apart from one. The floor was swept and the walls were cleaned, there was still a faint stench of industrial cleaners lingering in the air. In the center were two chairs and a small table still resting on the table was the small sphere.
Famine picked up the sphere and examined it; it was featureless apart from an incredibly thin wire emerging from a small hole. Famine kept a hold of it as they continued their search of the factory. Eventually they along with Pixia were thoroughly searching the machine room.
As they searched Pixia piped up, hey wanna hear something weird?
Not particularly, but I feel you’re going to tell me anyway.
Pixia remained silent as they walked. The silence was near deafening, Famine turned to her.
You were going to say something.
That’s it! All the windows are broken right? So where’s the crunch of broken glass?
That is… a very good point…
And this machinery, it’s spotless; it looks like it’s recently been used. Why would an abandoned factory have clean floors and spotless machinery?
I think the answer to that is obvious. But what was being manufactured here?
Something glinted in the light. Pixia went over and pulled the shining object from underneath the machinery. It was a piece of thick, shaped steel, curved in a half circle, one end was blunt while the other came to a point.
Perhaps this factory was used by the military? Most consumer goods aren’t this durable.
Perhaps, I think we should check in with Intelligence and see just what this factory was used for. And figure out what this is. Famine held the small sphere up to the light.
Well… What is it? asked Death
The seven Indra regrouped in the lounge. Wall, Inferno, and War were still indisposed of.
We’ve asked around, said Pixia, nobody we’ve shown it to has any idea what it is. Neither Military, Engineering, not even Intelligence has a clue.
Well, this may be a long shot, said Lethe, but have you asked Dr. Fitsch? I read her file when I got back from the hospital and she seems to be a wizard with ancient technology. I think this might fall into her area of expertise. I would recommend Banthu but he’s occupied with Wall.
Lethe had met with Schultz about getting the guards lifted, Schultz was all too eager.
Death turned to Lethe. Well, Lethe if you’ll go get her we’ll gladly ask.
Is this a clever ploy to get me out of your hair while you talk about important things that don’t concern me?
We’d never do that, said Pestilence.
Well alright then. Lethe stood up and left the room, paper in hand.
We really ought to make him our mascot, said Pixia.
I heard that! called Lethe from the hall.
Okay, let’s get back on track, said Death, the bar was a bust, the barkeep gave us all the information he had but all we got was the registration number to a stolen vehicle. The vehicle was found burned out on the outskirts of town, so no help there. If there was any evidence in the car it went up in flames. Pestilence, Wulf, any luck with Morgan?
Well, yeah actually, said Pestilence, we found Ellis Schultz’ ID card on a literal pile of shit. Call me crazy but I think him winding up down there was intentional. Did Schultz ever elaborate on what he and Ellis talked about the other night?
You’ll have to ask War about that, said Death, he hasn’t been very liberal with his information as of late. I did overhear Schultz talking about a bug on his personal elevator about a week ago, it is possible that there was another, and that his niece also met the same fate as his nephew.
Could it be possible that Morgan is working for the Sons? Asked Ghost
The room was silent. It did make sense… Schultz sends Shelly to engineering in his personal elevator, the elevator was bugged so the Sons could have made it open up to any floor they wanted to, so they made it open up on Morgan’s.
Wait, doesn’t Schultz’ elevator use a personal shaft? Asked Pixia
Pestilence answered, yes, but it seems to have openings to every level, it’s quite possible that it opens to Morgan’s as well.
I thought they removed the bug before Ellis died, nearly a week ago right?
It always pays to have a backup…Said Wulf
Silence fell on the room again.
We should tell Schultz.
The card hit Schultz’ desk with a tinny rattle. Schultz picked it up and inspected it, his hands started shaking and his face grew red.
Death placed a sheet of paper with ‘Morgan’ written on it on the desk. Schultz’ face went slack, realization setting in.
“So that’s what they did… Shelly…” Tears began to form at the edges of his eyes; his sadness was quickly replaced with anger. “I give you my full permission to use any force necessary to destroy that creature, do us all a favor and end that thing’s miserable life!” Schultz smashed his desk with his clenched fists, splinters of wood sprayed everywhere.
Death recoiled, he’d never seen Schultz this livid, perhaps all the stress had finally gotten to him. He watched as Schultz reduced his desk to a pile of scrap wood and splinters. Schultz lifted the largest intact piece and threw it at the nearest wall where it finally shattered.
Schultz turned to Death, breathing heavily. “Any, means, necessary.”
Death bowed and left the room, gently closing the door behind him. A massive thud shook the door, something large had smashed into it, Death chose to ignore it. Death made his way down the long hallway and into the elevator; he selected Engineering Level 7, and waited.
All the Indra were still waiting in the lounge, Lethe had still not returned.
So… how did he take it? asked Pestilence.
Not well, he gave us permission to use any force necessary to destroy Morgan but in the process he has completely destroyed his office, he completely shredded the desk. War said Schultz dented near solid steel when he saw Ellis, now I believe him.
A pity, I’ll admit, I was rather fond of that desk, said Famine.
All the Indra looked at Famine quizzically.
It was tasteful…
Yeah, yeah, said Pixia, alright, so we have to destroy Morgan right? Well how? You all saw how it fought Medusa; it could hold its own. The fourteen of us could barely hold our own against Medusa, how are expected to succeed here with less than half that number?
Schultz has given us permission to use any means necessary, I’d say a trip to the Arsenal is in order.
Yes, if there is one place where I must concede to humans, it’s their amazing ability of finding creative ways to kill one another, said Wulf.
The six left the lounge and made their way to the elevators, Military Level 38, the Arsenal. The doors opened to a small room with a long hallway stretching from its far side. Security was the top concern, cameras recording various spectrums, remote gun emplacements, scanners and sensors detecting a variety of explosives and substances, dotted the floors walls and ceiling, and those were just the ones that could be seen. At the end of the long hallway was a massive door made from cast steel and sheet titanium with a thick veneer of depleted uranium armor coating. Two guards, wearing radiation suits and respirators over their standard combat uniforms, stood to attention as the group of Indra approached, not a single alarm sounded.
“I’m sorry but only authorized personnel are allowed in the Arsenal, I’m sorry but not even you Indra can enter without written authorization from Mr. Schultz.”
Death spoke to them in sign language for a short while.
“Be that as it may, we still need to contact Schultz to confirm your permission.”
The guard pressed a small button on the wall and spoke into a small receiver.
“This is the Arsenal calling Mr. Schultz; this is the Arsenal calling Mr. Schultz.”
“Yes!?” Schultz sounded tinny and flustered.
“Just confirming that the Indra are permitted to enter the Arsenal.”
“Yes! Let them take anything they need!” The sound cut out.
“Very well, you may enter.” The guards stood aside and pressed a complicated sequence of buttons on small fobs around their waists.
The door swung silently open and the room inside illuminated. The room was as big as the gym, rows upon rows of firearms, energy weapons, launchers of various types, almost every type of weapon known to man, and a few that weren’t were stored in the massive room.
Alright, remember, we can’t cut Morgan, nor can we puncture it, we need blunt force to tear the thing apart. Famine, you are going to be the most useful to us in this fight, we’ll need you to cement that thing to the ground so we can pummel it. We need launchers, rockets, and grenades! Wulf how was the light down there?
That means Morgan is probably sensitive to light, we’ll take flashbangs if you can find them, and we’ll take those lights. Death pointed to a group of industrial strength lights bundled in the corner. If we can’t brute force it we’ve got to use strategy, which just so happens to be brute force.
Hey! Hey guys, take a look at this! Pixia had taken flight and was waving everybody over.
The group converged on Pixia’s item of interest, it was a large metal box plastered with warnings. Emblazoned on the front was a diamond with red, white, blue, and yellow squares arranged inside of it, in the yellow square was the number four. Beneath the diamond was the abbreviation ‘AA’.
Good god no! Death exclaimed. We want to kill Morgan, not collapse the whole building! We’ll take note of it, but I hope we never even have to look at it again. I don’t need to remind any of you what that stuff is capable of, you were all there.
The gathered Indra were silent.
Now come on, we need to grab a few more items.
Fully armed, the Indra left the Arsenal, if the guards were intrigued they didn’t let it show, they closed the door and took their places once more. As the elevator doors closed behind the Indra the guards slouched and relaxed.
Leaning against the wall one of the guards asked the other. “What sort of creature would they need all that to kill?”
“Perhaps those stories about Schultz’ monster in the basement are true.”
“This morning I wouldn’t’ve believed you, but now? And you heard Schultz right? He sounds like he has a screw loose or something.”
“Well, whatever they’re up to, I think we’ll be hearing it, or about it, very shortly.”
“Also, I saw Ghosts leg.”
“Congratulations, you’re a man now.”
The Indra gathered in the gym once more, arming themselves properly and setting aside surplus for future use. They stared down the elevator shaft; a pool of darkness lay beneath, a festering, rotten smell tainting their senses. Bearing their weapons of choice they made their way down the shaft, Famine led the way holding a flashbang grenade. As they reached the opening Famine pulled the pin and threw it into the darkness, the entire room illuminated in a violent flash of bright white light.
A screech erupted from the corner of the room.
“NO BRIGHT! TOO BRIGHT!”
Lower the lights!
Beams of harsh white light lit the room up like the sun. Cowering and huddling in the corner was Morgan. Morgan was a blob of flesh with four heavily muscled arms shooting from its underside, emerging from its front was a half melted face punctuated with a huge mouth full of thin sharp teeth. Two more arms sprouted from above its face on either side of a large hump, Morgan was a truly twisted thing.
Famine! Stick it down!
Famine leapt into the room, followed closely by the others, and began shooting jets of thick black liquid from their weapon. The floor around Morgan’s feet was covered in a thick layer of the stuff, cementing Morgan to the floor. Morgan made no attempt to fight back; it simply remained cowering in the corner, screeching and wailing. The six Indra hefted their weapons and…
Alright… blast it!
Six launchers fired at once, and a massive explosion rocked the room, black slime erupted from where Morgan once stood, coating the room. All that remained of Morgan were scattered chunks of flesh and four hands still stuck to the floor.
Outside the arsenal the two guards could hear the screeching and wailing.
“Well, I think that answers that…”
The thudding boom of a massive explosion resounded through the hall, so loud was the explosion it could be heard halfway up the Schultz building. The guards could actually feel it shake the floor beneath their feet. The shrieking stopped.
“Well, that’s that.”
Minutes later the elevators dinged and opened to the six Indra, covered in black slime. The guards opened the door, as the Indra passed they exuded a rotten foul odor that cut effortlessly through their respirators. It took all they had to remain composed but the guards stood stiffly to attention. After a few minutes in the Arsenal the Indra left once more. The elevators opened and closed once more, the Indra were gone. The guards looked at the trail of slime left by the Indra.
“You’re cleaning that up.”
“I will shoot you.”
Night had fallen; the last glimmers of russet sunlight had sunk beneath the horizon just as the group made their way across the Knoss River. A slight detour had to be made as the current was too fast and the river too deep to be forded at the trading post. Unfortunately for the shorter members of the group, Kid and Bolt, the shallows were still too deep and had to piggyback on the taller members. As they waded ashore, bolt quickly disembarked Anon while Kid took a bit longer. Seemingly finding any excuse to nap, Kid entered the apartment and crashed on the futon before Ellie had even entered the water. Not bothering to wake Kid up Ellie just continued on with Kid hanging on her shoulders.
With Scorn’s bright white luminescence being their only source of light, the group made their way east to the trading post. Perhaps somebody there had some information, or at least rumors, on Medusa’s location, anything to know how far they were behind. As they drew nearer to the trading post Scorn halted them.
This is wrong, where are the lights, where are the sounds of people? It’s almost as if… Scorn never finished his statement, in a flash he was running toward the trading post, followed by Ellie, Anon, and Bolt. Kid chose this time to wake up, vaulting off of Ellie’s broad shoulders Kid quickly caught up with Scorn.
What’s up? Kid wasn’t in a joking mood anymore, this was very serious. Kid tripped and fell on something lying in the road. Scorn’s light illuminated a severed leg, its owner nowhere in sight.
Ah, that’s what’s up. Kid, along with the rest unsheathed their weapons and continued.
As they turned the final bend in the road they finally saw the trading post, or at least what was left of it. Pitch black and dead silent, completely devoid of any human life. Not even a mouse or crawling thing stirred, not even a breath of wind fluttered through the ruined houses, through the shattered glass and splintered wood. Every building, save one, had been leveled, every boat, from the largest cargo ships to the smallest canoes had been scuttled. The cobble streets were brown with dried blood, but there were no bodies.
Medusa had come.
The only building left standing stood where the center of town once was, a silent monolith among its fallen brethren. Cautiously the group fanned out and approached the building. The windows were shuttered and curtained, it was impossible to see inside; rounding the building they approached the front door. Twisting the handle and pulling the door open they all saw what Medusa had done. A writhing mass of bodies, some dead and still, others moving fitfully and whimpering quietly, the entire population was crammed in this one small building. The group began frantically tearing the people from their mass grave; it quickly became apparent why they were unable to leave. Their Achilles Tendons had been cut and their fingers severed, unable to stand or even crawl they were helpless to escape. Most were already dead from blood loss or were crushed by the weight of the bodies on top of them; even those that were still alive didn’t have long left.
A dull thud sounded from deep within the pile of bodies, a thin acrid smoke began to flow from underneath. Quickly inspecting the door frame Anon found a trip wire. When the door was opened a timer started that would set off a small payload of incendiary explosives nestled in the center of the pile. The fire quickly caught and spread, in painful few seconds the first flames licked from the top of the pile. The screams of agony were mercifully short as the flames consumed and silenced them.
All the Indra could do was watch as the building went up in a pillar of flames. The groan of strained wood pierced the air as the building collapsed in on itself consuming the innocent populace in a massive funeral pyre.
I’m so sorry, but there is nothing more we can do here, we must continue north. Scorn turned and began walking, followed by the rest.
Chapter 14:Another Empty Room
Lethe threw up his arms in frustration.
Of course they’re gone! Why would they be here? GAH!
Dr. Juvinea Fitsch watched Lethe’s miniature meltdown with silent fascination.
“Do they do this to you often?”
Lethe pulled out the paper and quickly scribbled ‘ALL THE DAMN TIME!’
“I’m sorry to hear that, it’s alright, you have me here. What did you want me to take a look at?”
Lethe picked up the small sphere, which the others thankfully left behind, and showed it to Dr. Fitsch.
Her eyes widened slightly, it was barely perceptible but Lethe saw it. “Well, then if that isn’t a surprise. Where did you get this?”
Lethe wrote ‘Factory, Sons’
“Well, that explains a few things, here come with me, there are a few things I think we should discuss. Let’s go to my office.”
They wove their way through the identical corridors until they came to a door that looked exactly the same as all the rest. Fitsch opened the door and invited Lethe inside. The room was a mess, worktables piled high with broken machinery, multiple running terminals and standalone computers lit the place up even before the lights were turned on.
“Welcome to my lair.” She gave an embarrassed smile and a nervous chuckle. “Sorry about the mess, my line of work isn’t exactly tidy. I think there’s a chair around here somewhere…”
She pulled several boxes of wires off a chair and offered it to Lethe who sat gratefully.
“Now, before we get started talking about this.” She held up the sphere. “Would you please indulge me with something? You Indra have been an object of fascination for me for so long, and due to you always moving around I’ve never been able to study you.”
Lethe gave his head a quizzical turn.
“Oh, I just realized how that sounded, no I just want to do an external test, nothing invasive. I’ve been doing some research on scrapped Indra controller boards, the Sampras dig was an absolute goldmine, and I figured out your method of communication. It’s something called Bluetooth, frankly it’s ancient even by your standards and I’m amazed that it’s slipped under the radar for so long.”
Fitsch rummaged through one of her worktables and pulled out a small bundle of wires that were hooked up to a small circuit board and a speaker. She presented it to Lethe.
“This is a Bluetooth speaker; do you know what that means?” Her face had the biggest smile on it. “You’ll be able to talk with us! Here let me turn it on.”
She pressed a small button on the board and a small LED lit up green. Lethe could feel the device in his mind and he cast his thoughts to it.
“Hello? Hello? Oh god that’s what I sound like? Well that’s embarrassing. I think I prefer the way I sound in my head.”
Juvinea nearly fainted with joy; she rushed up and hugged Lethe.
“It works! Oh it works! We can talk to you, and you can talk back!” She sat back in her chair the biggest smile on her face.
Lethe held up the sphere. “Well, now that the communication barrier is out of the way, how about you tell me what this is.”
“Well I don’t know per se, you see, my sister builds the machines and I’m the one that finds out what makes things tick. She had a bunch of these a while back; she mentioned that General Sullivan sent them to her for ‘testing’ whatever that means. She never told me what they did.”
“Where can I find your sister then?”
Her face soured. “Um, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to go up to her waving one of her past projects around, she’s an unpleasant person at the best of times, we don’t really get along. And besides, she’s Schultz’ top engineer, she basically runs this place; if these things went through her they’re no doubt classified.”
“Well then, what do we do?”
“Well I’ll do what I do best, tear it apart, and see what makes it tick so to speak. You wanna stick around?”
“I have nothing better to d—“
The sounds of shrill panicked screaming eked through the thick wooden door, as if some wild animal was in great distress. The floor shook and the sound of a massive explosion rebounded through the hallways. Fitsch looked confused, Lethe was not.
“And that’s probably my brethren blowing something up. Typical. I think we can all say goodbye to Morgan.”
“Wait that thing was real? I thought it was a scary story my sister told me to keep me from staying late.” Fitsch thought for a moment then turned to Lethe again. “You’re not particularly action oriented are ya?”
“Not in the slightest, violence should only be used as a last resort when all else fails, I regard myself as more of a thinker than a fighter.”
“You take the high road but when the time calls for it you’ll get down and dirty with the rest of them?”
“Yeah, that’s about right.”
“Well alright then, shall we get started? Feel free to hover over my shoulder, I don’t mind.”
Lethe proceeded to hover over her shoulder. “So how are you going to open it up? It doesn’t have any visible seams.”
“Well, in times like this I bring out my specialty equipment.” She reached under the table and quick as a flash hit the sphere with a rubber mallet.
“It usually works,” Fitsch said smugly.
Sure enough the force of the mallet split the sphere down the middle.
“There’s a reason why I have these.” She wiggled her glasses. “Bifocals have nothing on these, to me that seam looked huge.”
She pulled the two halves apart revealing a smaller glass sphere inside.
“Hmm, airtight, hermetically sealed in fact, this little wire is also external, it seems the signals are transferred through the shielding itself, the wire isn’t necessary but it must act like an antenna. Let’s see if we can’t get this little beauty open.”
She gave the glass a gentle tap which shattered it.
“Hmm, fairly fragile, the outer casing must have acted as shock absorption, perhaps a liquid barrier; there is foreign residue on the glass and inner casing. Well… this is just a basic signal blocker; they’re used all the time to block telecommunications. What would one of these be doing in something like this, and what’s with the wire?”
She poked around some more; Lethe was incredibly impressed with Fitsch’s knowledge of technology.
“Call me crazy, but this is a direct blocker, it’s nowhere near powerful enough to block distant communications, in fact it needs the wire to extend its range beyond the case.”
“So is it like something one would put on or in a device to prevent it from broadcasting?” Lethe inquired.
“Yes, this little blocker is incredibly simple too; it probably isn’t capable of blocking more than a few set transmissions, really basic electronic impulses. This residue though is confusing me; it’s organic in nature, almost as if it was implanted in something, or somebody. Heh, call me crazy but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled this out of someone’s—“
She never got to finish her statement as her sister, Doctor Marjorie Fitsch, burst into the room. She was the spitting image of Juvinea, right down to the oversized glasses.
“You better not have blown something up again you klutz!”
“It wasn’t me I swear, Lethe has been with me the whole time, he’ll tell you.”
“How can he tell me anything?” she said a sneer pulling at her mouth. “You know as well as I do that the Indra cannot speak.”
“Oh on the contrary, I can speak quite well.”
Shock registered on her face for a brief moment before being replaced with skepticism. She looked to her sister, who was looking rather sheepish.
“Well, remember those Sampras boards that went missing.”
“Yes…” Marjorie said through gritted teeth dragging out the ‘s’.
“Well, what if I told you that they somehow made their way to my workroom where they were then dismantled.”
Marjory massaged her temples. “Those boards were not yours to mess with; they were meant to go to my lab where they would then be…” She looked at Lethe. “Never mind.”
“But I figured it out; I know how the Indra communicate! They use Bluetooth!”
“Look, you’ve been after this mysterious ‘Bluetooth’ for ages now, I doubt such a thing even exists, it even sounds made up!”
The two looked like they were about ready to tear each other’s throats out.
“Excuse me, ladies?”
“Your sister is in fact correct, it is Bluetooth, and I can confirm this. She manufactured a Bluetooth speaker from salvaged parts and it does in fact work as you can now hear. Do you deny the truth of your ears?”
“No,” said Marjorie rather sheepishly. “Still, it was not right for you to take those boards, if the Kidjii dig falls through then you’re in big trouble.” Her eyes traveled about the room, looking for something to scold her sister over, her eyes settled on the disassembled blocker on the table. She grew pale. “Where did you get that?”
“The Indra found it at the factory used by the Sons, Lethe brought it to me for analysis and disassembly. Why? What’s wrong?”
“Destroy it, immediately, my orders, don’t question it. Be thankful that I don’t report this to Schultz, in the state he’s in he’s liable to have you executed.”
Lethe, stepped up. “Look that’s uncalled for…”
“No it’s not!” She looked at Juvinea, her gaze softened. “Destroy it, please, let’s forget this.”
“A-alright.” Juvinea dropped her gaze.
“Thank you.” Marjorie left the room.
An awkward silence fell.
“Against my better judgment,” said Lethe, “I agree with your sister, let’s not jeopardize your safety for this. Besides, you’ve already finished your examination, right?”
She perked up. “Almost, there’s just one more thing that’s confusing me, there’s no power source so this thing must rely on the host to produce electricity, and it also doesn’t need that much juice to run. Actually the most power draining thing is this tiny wireless receiver; it can’t send anything but it can receive instructions, perhaps for different signals to block; it’s like a little parasite. I’d like to get the organic matter analyzed by the chem lab but we’ll have to go on assumption. They don’t really like me down there, I uh, kinda broke one of their electron microscopes and I don’t think they’ve forgiven me yet.”
“What if I took a piece of the glass down there to be analyzed? They’ll probably do it just because I’m an Indra.”
“That’s an excellent idea.” Using a delicate pair of tweezers she fished a good sized piece of glass from the jumbled mess and put it on a petri dish. “Here, would you like me to show you the way, I know you have trouble finding your way around down here.”
“I would be delighted.”
For the first time in millennia the Indra showered. Thick black slime was blasted from their bodies by the strong jets of water, Wulf even removed his trademark cape the mess was so bad.
I would have preferred a lake but this will do, said Wulf as he scraped a wad of slime off his arm.
You would kill anything and everything in that lake, retorted Pestilence jokingly.
A small lake?
Ghost was lucky in that her cloak took the brunt of the slime, but now that was covered in the foul smelling ooze. She was having a not-so-silent mental breakdown in the corner.
Well now what!? I can’t go around without my cloak! Does this place have a laundry service?
Even if they did, I doubt they’d even touch that. Pixia pointed at the dripping cloak
I can’t go around without my cloak… I-I’ll have to sit in a dark room until one of you finds a replacement.
Look I don’t really know why you’re so insecure about going around without your precious cloak, said Pestilence.
They stare, I can’t stand the staring, it drives me crazy!
Well look, you’re not off the hook, we need you here with us, and we can’t have you sequestered off in some dark room because you feel insecure about your looks, said Death.
It’s not ‘about’, it’s ‘because’ of my looks.
You didn’t have this problem before we went under.
We were around scientists and military, they had some restraint, but the people now… She shuddered. I can’t do it!
Well look, take a shower and see how you feel afterwards, you really need a psychologist.
Don’t tempt me.
Eventually the Indra had to steal a bedsheet because Ghost was making such a fuss, now her name finally fit with her image. The group got back to the lounge once more.
Alright, said Death, I’ll go speak with Schultz about Morgan and see if he has anything else we need to do. I really hope he’s calmed down a bit, maybe he’ll brighten up a bit when I give him the news. Ghost I want you to get down to Banthu’s lab and check up on Wall, maybe keep him company. Also, could one of you find Lethe? The rest of you… mingle? I dunno.
Death left the room. Wulf Stood up.
Alright, I’ll go find Lethe, I assume most of you don’t want to be stuck in here doing nothing so how about you go join Ghost with Wall if you want to.
Pestilence and Ghost stood up and left the room, Ghost was still huddled up in her sheet.
Wulf, Famine, and Pixia set off to find Lethe.
Really? You are the last two I’d ever expect to have any interest in Lethe.
We’re both very curious about that sphere we found in the factory, we’d like to see if he and Dr. Fitsch have made any headway, said Famine.
As the group rounded a corner they nearly bumped into Lethe.
Ah, there you are, we were beginning to think you got lost again, said Pixia.
“Nope,” Lethe said smugly.
The Indra were silent for a second, the fact that Lethe just spoke audibly burrowing into their minds.
“Wow, little old me rendering the three of you speechless, I feel honored.”
Wulf responded, a little perplexed. Would you mind explaining how you managed that?
“Juvinea rigged up a rudimentary Bluetooth speaker.” He held up the jumbled mess. “I can speak now.”
Well, that’s unexpected… does she have any more. The prospect of being able to speak out loud excited the Indra, even the notoriously unflappable Famine was excited.
“I don’t know, I didn’t ask her, I’m pretty sure this is just a prototype, but I’m sure she’ll be able to make more. Come on, let’s go back to her workroom, we’ll talk more in there.”
Also, Juvinea? Aren’t we getting a little personal?
“Who me? You should be congratulating me I’m actually socializing, coming out of my shell, it’s oddly liberating.”
Yeah, now that you’re a social butterfly we just need to work on Ghost, said Pixia
“Oh, what happened?”
Her cloak got ruined and now she’s walking around with a bedsheet over her head.
“Where did you guys find a bedsheet?”
Chapter 15: Knossos
Dawn broke on another cool morning; morale was low after witnessing the aftermath at the trading post. Not even Kid could find something chipper to say to brighten the mood. They continued their northern march, at the outskirts of the Knoss Wetlands Scorn came to a stop.
Okay everybody, we’re taking a short detour to Knossos, Scorn announced to the group, who were understandably confused.
Knossos? Why would we go there? It was destroyed right? Bolt piped up. Speed was of the essence, Scorn had reaffirmed this constantly, and now he wants to take a detour?
Medusa seems to be following the roads north it’s the most likely place for it to go after the Trading post, after that we’ll truly be roughing it, the wetlands are not to be taken lightly. I also have my own reason for going there; I have something I need to collect… It may help us seal the station, or even better, destroy Medusa.
As they continued to travel north the ground began getting progressively spongier, soon the muck was sucking at their feet trying to pull them into the murky depths. Ellie had it worst due to her size but they persevered until they found firmer ground. An ancient road made from stone slabs and beaten earth wound into the distance, many miles away Knossos lay at its end. After half a day of light jogging the ruins of Knossos became a tiny pinprick in the distance, an ugly smudge on the nearly pristine landscape.
Knossos was a twisted ruin long before any of you were uncovered. I was not present when it was razed; I was north exploring the Petrified Woods. I visited frequently, the people thought I was a spirit and gifted me many, perhaps, unusual items. One woman actually tried to marry her daughter to me, but that story can wait for another time. Scorn paused. Now that I think about it… He shook his head. No, that can wait for later too.
As they drew closer they began to realize the size of the city and the scope of the destruction wrought upon it. Massive stone walls that had stood for nearly a thousand years had been toppled like a child’s wooden blocks. Tightly laid roadways were split and pocked with craters, and sturdy buildings that had weathered the worst the land could throw at them were charred foundations, the wood rotting to dust long ago. The destruction was total, and it was brutal.
The last time I set foot in this city it was ablaze, I can only imagine the screams of the people as they were marched off by that tyrant. It was inhuman; he descended on these poor people who had only just perfected stone walls and had recently learned to smelt iron and enslaved them. I bear his descendant no ill will for carrying his name but I will never forgive Laverne Schultz for what he did to these people.
Kid raised her hand. Um, but this Schultz says that he founded Alcadon, not some ancestor of his.
That brings up a good point, I’d never thought about that before, Anon chimed in, How old is Schultz? I’ve never heard of there being a change of leadership in Alcadon, not even from father to son. If something that big happened then the researchers I’ve been in contact with over the years would have said something.
Kid raised her hand again. Maybe he’s using really good face cream?
Oh hush, chided Bolt.
No, she actually brings up a somewhat good point. Perhaps he’s using technology to prolong his life? I know the United States Government was investing heavily into that when we were in operation; perhaps they actually found a way and that technology has survived. Either way, we can’t stand around here talking about this, we need to collect my package, and find Medusa.
I still don’t know what makes you so sure that Medusa is going to be here, said Bolt.
Instinct. Come on we need to find the right building.
They split up and began searching the ruined foundations for the marker Scorn described. The marker was a set of initials belonging to a child long lost to the ages, O.W.O, they were apparently carved in a way that couldn’t be missed. After several hours of searching the sun began to sink lower to the horizon, dusk was coming, soon only by the light of Scorn could they see the carvings on the foundations. As the last trickles of light were lost behind the horizon Kid began calling out.
I found it! I found it!
Everybody came running over, the foundation looked just like the rest but there they were, the initials. Scorn vaulted into the foundation and began to frantically scrabble around in the dirt; if the light ran out they’d never find it! The rest followed and soon they were all on their hands and knees searching.
“It would help if we knew what we were looking for, what does this thing look like?” Ellie asked.
It’s a sphere, about the size of a fist; it might be the only thing that could stop them if they are released.
So it’s like a last resort weapon? asked Bolt.
Yes, if all else fails, this won’t, I’ll leave it at that.
Ellie’s hand brushed something that felt different from the stones and clumps of dirt, it was smooth. She pulled it from the earth, it was just like Scorn described, it looked comically small in Ellie’s massive hands. “Call me crazy but I think this is it… hey Sco-“
“Yes, little one… that is it.” Medusa slithered over the lip of the foundation; it fixated its stare on Scorn. “Clever boy, I thought all of those were lost to time, clearly you’ve been saving this for a special occasion.”
“Please explain… what is this thing?” Ellie called to Scorn.
I don’t think that would be a good idea.
“If you won’t, brother of mine, I will… Your General Freeman was very loose with his information around me, before I killed him, of course. That is an SE-04, if you’re wondering the SE stands for Scorched Earth, the government loved acronyms. That little sphere is one of the most powerful nuclear weapons ever constructed by man.” Medusa was now in the foundation with them. “They were never used… such a pity, now give it to me before I finish what I started with the short one.” Medusa shifted to looking at Kid then back to Ellie.
“I won’t, and besides you have no way to carry it.”
“Don’t I? Well… it may be time to change that…” Medusa stood rigid; a sickening cracking noise began to emanate from its body. “Oh, aren’t we lucky. I’m ready.” Medusa’s body was now twisting and deforming, rippling, and bulging. Suddenly a fist burst from its midsection, then another, two feet followed, Medusa was shedding!
“What’s going on?”
Scorn was running to the edge of the foundation. I have no idea; let’s get out of here while it’s distracted!
The five vaulted out of the foundation and began sprinting down the ruined street. Behind them an ear splitting, keening, screech cut through the quiet evening air. Not stopping to see whatever fresh horror was pursuing them the five kept running. Directly ahead of them was a break in the wall, a way out, as they drew nearer the wail called out again, this time from seemingly right behind them. Ellie felt a hand grip her leg like a vice, stopping her dead. Falling heavily Ellie nearly dropped the bomb, the others stopped and turned around as did Ellie to see this new horror.
It looked almost human. Its flesh was sandy colored and pulsating, still covered in some horrible fluid from its recent molting. Its arms and legs were too long, its torso too small, its head too large, on its head remained that impassive face though now an ugly dark gash cut across it to form a twisted mouth.
“Now my dear,” Medusa’s voice was now feminine and velvety smooth, “how about you give me that little bomb.” Medusa began to squeeze, pain shot through Ellie’s system it felt as though Medusa was going to crush her leg.
Unsheathing their weapons the other Indra attacked. Medusa didn’t bother to dodge, everything bounced harmlessly off her, nothing could cut or puncture her. Medusa began to laugh, the fight died around her.
“Is this really all you can muster? I’m embarrassed to be related to you, especially you, my little Ellie; I cannot believe that you and I share the same chip.” Medusa paused. “I wonder… now that I have been gifted a mouth… what do you taste like?”
Medusa wrapped her mouth around Ellie’s left leg and bit down, hard. A thousand little teeth sawed their way through her armor and pierced the flesh beneath, rending and tearing as they went. Ellie screamed and Medusa withdrew her mouth full, leaving a slimy wet substance coating the wound. The other four renewed their assault, but their attacks were just as ineffective as before. Medusa went back in for another bite.
Blunt force! Katrine called out, kick that bitch in the face!
Ellie, still lying on the ground, wound up for a kick, inhaling deeply she prepared her jets to deliver the hardest possible kick to Medusa’s face. With the jets roaring, Ellie kicked, she kicked harder than she’d ever thought possible. The unstoppable force met the immovable object and luckily for the unstoppable force the immovable object was having an off day. Ellie’s massive foot landed square in Medusa’s face, she could feel the armor on her leg bend and shatter as her foot ploughed deeper in Medusa’s rapidly deforming cranium. Both were thrown in opposite directions by the force of the kick, Ellie out into the wetlands and Medusa deeper into the ruins of Knossos.
The group found Ellie, unconscious, partially submerged in a marsh still holding the bomb. Thanking their lucky stars the group hauled Ellie up between them and started to get underway once more, they would construct a stretcher when it was light again.
Inside the apartment Vee and Katrine were tending to Ellie who, was thrown into the apartment as she lost consciousness. They carefully laid her out on the bed. After rolling up her pants they were witness to the damage wrought upon her legs. Her left leg had a massive chunk torn from the calf while the other was shattered in several places and bent and an unnatural angle. Katrine felt sick, she was fine with blood that was no problem, but legs? That was a different story.
“Look,” Vee said, “I don’t know what it will do for her physical body but for my own sanity we should at least splint and bandage her legs.”
“Yeah, at least we’d be doing something.”
“Do you have anything we could use for a splint?”
“Would a chair leg do?”
“It’s not the best but we’ll make it work, what about bandages, something to soak up the blood?”
“My old lab coat, I won’t be needing it anymore anyway.” Katrine rushed to her closet.
“Why would you have a lab coat? Where did you work?”
“I was studying to be an agricultural engineer at the university, I was interning with Engineering and Archaeology for my degree.” Katrine tore the white lab coat from the closet and began tearing it into strips.
“Not a particularly glamorous field.” Vee tore the leg off one of the dining chairs.
“Nope, also that was the wrong chair, but whatever. I just wanted to help people, the best way I could figure was to aid in food production, Alcadon is on the verge of famine you know. Too many mouths to feed.”
“Very honorable, you have a good heart.” Vee gave Katrine an appreciative smile.
“Had a good heart, come on let’s get to work.”
They got to work bandaging the bite, and the splint went on mercifully easily, Ellie was completely unconscious and didn’t even react to the slightly rough handling from her amateur nurses. Katrine threw the final bundle of bloody rags into the trash can and slumped down next to Vee on the futon, both of their hands were covered in blood.
Katrine rested her hands on her lap. “Well, I think she’s all done, that’s the best we can do for now.”
“Yep.” Vee stared at the wall.
“How are we going to clean ourselves up?”
“Is the water running?”
“No, I tried the sink in the kitchen, nothing.”
“No I didn’t check there.”
“Twist my arm some more why dontcha?” Katrine got back up and made her way to the small bathroom in the corner of the apartment. “There’s water in the toilet if you’re desperate!” she called back.
“Try the shower!”
“It’s not gonna work!”
The satisfying sound of rushing water could be heard from the bathroom.
“See!? I told you it would work!”
There was no response…
“Katrine?” Vee got up and went to the bathroom, she opened the door.
“Hey! Privacy please! I haven’t showered in weeks, now shoo!”
Vee quickly shut the door behind her, blushing slightly.
The night passed uneventfully, Medusa was nowhere to be seen and Ellie’s condition remained unchanged. Progress was slow as the wet marshy ground sucked at the group’s feet; matters were not helped by the added bulk of Ellie weighing on their shoulders.
As dawn arose the group stopped to gather supplies for a rudimentary sled with which they could drag Ellie. The coarse fibrous vegetation made excellent rope and several misguided sapling met their doom at the edge of Kid’s blade. Soon enough the group started off again with Ellie in tow.
Around midday Kid decided to stop by the apartment. One moment kid was sitting on Ellie’s chest the next moment she was clad in a poorly fitting pair of pajamas outside a plain door floating in a grey void. Kid approached the door and let herself in. The mood inside was somber; Katrine and Vee were sat at the small table in the kitchen talking while Ellie was laid out on the small bed. As Kid shuffled in Katrine broke into a weary smile.
“Hey Kid, what’s up?”
“I just came to check up on Ellie. How’s she doing?”
“She hasn’t changed, we’ve tried to bandage her up as best we could but I have no clue when she’ll wake up.” Katrine got up, held Kid’s hand, and brought her over to Ellie.
Kid began walking around Ellie’s still form, as if studying her. Leaving well away from the legs she finally came to a stop on the other side next to Ellie’s head. Kid leaned in real close, nearly pressing her mouth to Ellie’s ear and… “WAKE UP YA LAZY FRICK!”
Ellie’s eyes shot open and she flinched so hard she nearly fell out of the bed. “Whoa! What the hell Kid? Have some respect for the crippled and partially eaten!” Ellie re-centered herself on the bed, and immediately cringed with pain. “I don’t know which is worse, the tinnitus you just gave me or my legs, shit!”
“Hey, hey, I think I have something that will help, just a moment.” Katrine rushed to the kitchen. “I’ve always been looking for an excuse to use this and I think now is the time.” She pulled a small brown bottle from the topmost shelf of the cabinet. “Frankly we’re lucky for anything we have in here; here get this down your gob.” Katrine poured a tiny amount of the amber yellow liquid into a small glass. Ellie took it gratefully and swallowed it all in one gulp.
“Thanks, what is it, anesthetic?”
“Fellacian Absinthe,” Katrine responded.
Vee, who was still sitting in the kitchen, stood bolt upright. “What!?” she yelled, “why in the world would you give her that? That stuff has been known to kill!”
Ellie was understandably concerned. “What is Fellacian Absinthe?”
“It’s only the strongest, deadliest, alcohol on the face of the earth.”
“Relax; I only gave her a tiny amount, only enough to give her a slight buzz, not even a twelfth of a shot glass. Four shots have been known to kill and this is just the tiniest amount”
“We don’t know how it will affect her in here, Indra have never had to eat, let alone drink. It could kill her for all we know.”
“It won’t, trust me, please,” Katrine said, and Vee sat back down mood considerably soured. “Also we should see about expanding your culinary horizons, perhaps later.” Katrine turned back to Ellie who had a happy grin on her face. “How’re you feeling now?”
“Ooh, much better, I feel all tingly.” Ellie snuggled into the covers and fell back asleep.
“Can I have some?” Kid asked.
“No!” Katrine and Vee said in unison.
“Humph!” Kid sat down next to the bed and waited.
Ellie regained consciousness several times over the next few hours, each time she said the pain was lesser. Kid, curious as always, asked Scorn about Ellie.
Indra are excellent at healing wounds, Scorn explained to Kid. If the limb hasn’t been outright removed, like with your hand, it can repair itself over the course of a few days. You saw what Ellie did to Death in their first sparring match; he was fully healed by the time we left. She’ll be alright, though I’ll admit that I am a bit worried about that bite. Why don’t you go back in and check on her?
Kid reentered the apartment; Vee was curled up on the futon reading one of the few books Katrine owned. Katrine was digging around in her closet once more.
“Ugh, where did I put it? I know I threw it in here!”
“Whatchya lookin’ for?” Kid asked, sneaking up behind Katrine.
Katrine jumped and knocked over one of the many boxes stuffed into the closet, its contents spilled all over the floor. Sheets of paper covered in a variety of sketches and drawings littered the floor almost all of them were of the Indra. Quickly Katrine scrambled to collect them; she began shoving them back into the box. Vee picked up one of the sketches that had wafted over to the futon; it was a pencil sketch of her back when she was alive.
“Katrine? Did you draw these?”
“Erm, yeah, I had a brief fling at art but decided it wasn’t for me.”
“What do you mean it wasn’t for you? These are amazing!” Scanning the ground Vee spotted another. “Here Kid, this one’s of you!”
“Ooh! Lemme see, lemme see!”
Vee realized something. “They’re all of us… “
“Yeah, you guys were my heroes when I was younger, and when they discovered Bolt I really wanted to draw her, she was so cool. I got as many pictures as I could and started doodling; eventually I got pretty good at it. I actually saw you five years ago when my family took a trip to the Great Salt Sea, we took the river route down the Knoss. I think I tried to jump overboard to meet you but my parents stopped me before I could do something stupid.”
Vee scrunched her face up, remembering, suddenly her eyes widened. “That was you? You were the kid being held by the back of her pants dangling off the side of the boat?”
Katrine began blushing.
“Hah! That was you! Oh…” Vee sunk to the floor laughing. “That one had me chuckling for months, why did you stop?”
“Oh, the usual, my parents wanted me to do something productive for society, not just sit around all day wasting good money on ‘damned expensive paper!’” Katrine scrunched her face in an exaggerated comical frown. “I don’t blame them, so I went into agricultural engineering, and you know the rest. I always meant to go back to art one day but… my studies got in the way.”
“Well, I don’t think your studies will be in the way anymore, why don’t you take it back up again?”
“Yeah I wish, I don’t have any supplies; I couldn’t draw now even if I wanted to.”
“Well…” Vee thought for a moment. “Technically this place is just a materialization of your thoughts; this is all part of your imagination, apart from myself and Kid who are simply inhabiting this part of your brain. How about you use your imagination to make some paper and pencils, it’s worth a shot.”
“Alright.” Katrine scrunched up her face and thought, imagining every detail of the object and then placing it in her hand. A bright yellow pencil fell from the ceiling and buried its lead in her hand. “OW!” Katrine shook her hand to dislodge the pencil.
“Wow it worked! Now you can magic up a bandage for that stab wound you just gave yourself.”
“Ooh, ooh!” Kid was excitedly jumping up and down. “Can you get me a pair of smiley face pajamas that fit?”
“Hold your horses Kid; give her a moment to get the hang of it. How about you come back later when she’s a bit better at it, then we’ll see about clothes. If you get good enough you might be able to make clothes for everybody.”
“Perhaps, but I’ll need some serious practice, just a simple pencil took some heavy thought.” Katrine eyed the pencil suspiciously.
“Hey what are you guys doing?” Ellie hobbled around the corner. “I heard shouting.”
The three immediately rushed over to her and tried to get her back into bed.
“I don’t think you’re quite ready to be back up on your feet.” Vee tried to move her but Ellie stood firm, clutching the wall. “Please don’t be stubborn.”
“If I’m stuck in that bed for much longer I’ll go insane.”
“Well, at least sit on the futon then, get the weight off your legs.”
“I’ll do that at least.”
They carefully herded Ellie over to the futon, before they got there her legs gave out, they had to drag her the final few feet. She sat, breathing heavily; even just walking those few steps took a lot out of her, a normal break shouldn’t be this hard on an Indra.
“Since you’re here, I think it’s time we changed your bandages. Katrine grab a towel from the bathroom and the rest of your old coat. Kid, get the good chair.”
They rested Ellie’s legs gently on the chair while they unwound the soiled bandages. With the bandages removed Kid finally got to see the full extent of the damage, she wound up dry heaving in the bathroom. The skin was mottled purple with bruising, and the bone was still clearly broken, but even this was a marked improvement from the day before. The bite mark was a different story; the skin was an angry red and swollen. A thin trail of pus oozed from the open wound, the smell was dreadful.
Katrine examined both legs closely. “Your broken leg looks pretty good, at the rate you’re going I’d say three or so days before you make a good recovery, but that bite… I think it’s infected, and judging from the smell it might be necrotic.”
“How do you know about all this Katrine?” Ellie looked amazed.
“Well it’s a combination of growing up with parents who are both doctors and having a lot of free time with their medical textbooks. I know my way around the human body better than most. Aren’t I wonderfully convenient?” She gave Ellie a warm smile. “I suppose now would be a good time to try to ‘magic’ up something to help out with that infection. This is significantly more complex than a pencil, gimme a moment.”
Katrine sat down and buried her head in her hands and sat still. She sat there for several minutes, completely motionless, as Vee bound Ellie’s legs with fresh bandages. Kid had reemerged from the bathroom and quickly had to be shushed before she broke Katrine’s concentration. After several more minutes of deafening silence a small bottle appeared on the floor, the contents rattled as it fell over.
“Man! That was finicky; I had to get the chemical formula just right or it wouldn’t take. Here, take one of these.”
She handed the bottle to Ellie who took out one of the many small white capsules. “What is it?”
“Antibiotics, there is clearly something in that bite you got from Medusa and these might just help. Just remember, this will take a while, I doubt your Indra dexterity extends to bacterial infections. You’re stuck healing at the rate of regular humans with this one.”
Ellie nodded grimly and popped the pill in her mouth, her eyes widened. “I don’t know how to swallow…”
Chapter 16: The Shalti
How can these people live like this? Inferno was scraping goat feces from his foot on a low wall. It’s absolutely savage!
War leaned on the wall and responded, I often ask myself how you can live alone on a volcano, but thinking about it, it’s probably for the best.
What’s that supposed to mean?!
Oh, nothing. War continued on, leaving Inferno to catch up.
They were walking through the outskirts of the largest of the Shalti settlements, Ozri, the scenery was lush and green, a welcome change from the industrial nature of Alcadon. Reports had said that the Sons had set up a reconnaissance operation somewhere in town and War meant to find it, but at the moment he was rather busy admiring the scenery.
You have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve seen a blue sky, I’ve missed it.
I will admit, there is something wonderful about nature, not so much about the animals that live in it though. Inferno glared at a passing goat, the goat stared back dispassionately. Swine goat…
Alright, we’re entering town, the Shalti are not easily angered but please be on your best behavior, we don’t want any incidents.
Their search was fruitless. Nobody they conversed with knew anything, and none of the buildings they were allowed to search had any evidence of the Sons. By the time night fell Inferno gave up entirely and even War was beginning to lose hope. They were back in the outskirts and conversing.
Inferno was lounging against a fence. Well of course we aren’t going to find anything, if anything the entire town is in on it and are purposefully wasting our time. I mean, it’s not like they’re gonna show us exactly where the Sons were hiding, they’re either working for them or under threat by them. Did you really not think this through?
War paced impatiently. I expected something, a glance here, a twitch there, something out of place, but this is just ridiculous. Whoever the Sons are they’re far better at hiding their tracks than the US Military ever was, we should take notes.
I say we call it a bust and head back to Alcadon. There’s nothing to find here.
I’m beginning to agree with you.
The two turned, there was a heavily bearded Shalti man squatting in the bushes, waving them to come over.
It’s probably a trap…”
“Yep, but it’s the best we’ve got.”
The two made their way over and entered the bushes with the man.
“I must be brief,” he whispered, “the Sons are here; make your way to the center of town to the local Superior’s office. The entrance to their hideaway is beneath the throw rug. The whole town’s in on it, if they knew I talked to you then I’d be killed, so you didn’t get this from me.”
War nodded his head and the two nonchalantly exited the bushes.
Oh yeah, this is totally a trap, muttered Inferno.
I suspect we’ll be able to hold them off if it comes to that. Don’t forget what we are.
Yeah, have you seen what humans are capable of these days? It puts the weapons from our time to shame.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
I hope so too, but I won’t be holding my breath.
You don’t breathe…
It’s a metaphor!
The two made their way to the center of town; there were very few people on the streets and the most activity they saw was from one of the many taverns. The Superior’s office was a squat stone building with small windows, not the pinnacle of engineering. The inside was much more welcoming, a roaring fire in the large stone fireplace, wood paneled walls with local Shalti artwork adorning them; low tables and comfortable chairs and sofas were spread about the large floor space. In the far left corner there was a minimalist, yet tasteful, desk where the local Superior was relaxing and reading a book.
He looks just like the guy from the bushes! Right down to the beard!
Of course, don’t forget these people are all clones of each other, they’re all going to look similar, didn’t you notice that earlier?
Well, no not really.
The two approached the superior who looked up from his book and gave them a polite smile.
“Good evening, how did your search go?”
“Ah, yes I’m terribly sorry; I could have told you before, we have no association with the Sons, but it was best for you to see that for yourselves.”
War gesticulated some more.
“Really, the last place you need to search is here? Well you’re welcome to look, but I assure you all you’ll find are various farming reports and, dare I say, tasteful furniture.”
“Why you’re too kind, my family made them, oh and take a look at this wonderful throw rug… My wife and two sons wove it from sheep on our family farm.” The superior winked.
Okay, he is the guy from the bushes.
See! I told you so!
The superior stood up and came over to the two, he bent down and picked up the rug revealing a small wooden hatch. “See you can really feel the workmanship, I bet you’ve never felt a softer rug.”
Inferno tilted his head in disbelief. I don’t think subtlety is this guy’s strong suite.
Before War could respond the hatch in the floor burst open in a shower of splinters. A tall dark figure exited, he was wrapped in a heavy cloak yet made no noise as he moved. The stranger turned to face the two Indra and the frightened looking Superior. The stranger whipped of his cloak.
Ah god dammit! War slouched.
Who is this guy? Do you know him?
Of course I know him, you would too but you were put under before you could actually meet him. Inferno, meet Xypia: the final Indra.
Xypia was tall, nearing the seven foot mark, and lean. He was a somber russet in coloration with highlights of brown and yellow. He carried a massive war hammer, which he somehow managed to squeeze through the small hatch.
So they did go through with you. I could have sworn you were scrapped before they could make the final adjustments on your software.
Xypia didn’t answer, he just stood there, all either War or Inferno could feel from this thing was a dark, brooding, malice.
Inferno looked to War. He doesn’t seem to be the talkative type. What are we gonna do?
Let’s take this outside; I’d prefer not to destroy any buildings if we can’t help it.
What makes you think this is gonna come to a fight?
Since when hasn’t it?
War and Inferno backed up to the door, making sure not to show their backs to Xypia. Xypia followed, keeping a healthy distance. Soon the three were standing in the town square.
War let out a small sigh of relief. Thank goodness its night and everyone’s off the streets.
The convenience is astounding. Also I can’t seem to get a read on him, is he blocking us like Ellie did in the gym?
No, this is just how he is.
Xypia unslung his hammer; it hit the ground, shattering the cobbled stones.
I think he’s getting impatient…
Yes, he is, shall we humor him?
Inferno and War pulled out their weapons, a long curved sword and a set of glowing green knuckle dusters.
Inferno rushed, aiming high, War went low aiming for the gut, Xypia feinted. Suddenly where he once was the head of the massive hammer was swinging at the two. War slid beneath while Inferno jumped above. Inferno gripped the shaft of the hammer, attempting to slow Xypia’s swings while War laid into him, it worked, almost. Xypia’s swing was slowed which allowed War a good solid hit to the side, War didn’t account for where the swing was going though. Xypia swung in a full circle, gaining momentum; it seems the punch didn’t even slow them down. The momentum of the swing tore Inferno from the shaft, the sudden drop in weight only sped the swing as the handle crashed into War’s side. War found himself wrapped around the handle as Xypia kept spinning, the handle pushing deeper and deeper into his side as his opponent swung faster and faster. Inferno jumped in once more landing a solid cut along Xypia’s back. He lost his momentum and War was able to pull himself from the handle. War retreated back to Inferno, a massive cut in his side where the handle broke through.
War nearly collapsed when he got to Inferno. This isn’t going all that well.
Yeah, he seems to be targeting you.
Don’t forget, blunt force is what we’re weakest to, he knows that. You’re a lesser threat because of your sword. War had an idea. Which is your dominant hand?
Odd question, but left.
War slipped off his left hand knuckle duster and tossed it to Inferno.
Well this changes things… Let’s get this bastard!
The two rushed Xypia again.
“Gentleman! Gentleman! Please stop this!”
War and Inferno screeched to a halt, Inferno lost his balance and landed on his head. Xypia slung his hammer back on his back and stood to rigid attention. A heavily mustachioed man exited the Superior’s office, and slowly walked toward the Indra.
“Xypia, get back inside now! We taught you multiple times how to properly open that door and you still break it!”
Xypia slouched slightly and walked back into the building.
“I’m sorry my friends, it seems Xypia was a bit excitable. Please come with me, we have much to talk about.” The old man turned about and reentered the office.
Think this is another trap? asked Inferno.
I don’t even know anymore… C’mon let’s go.
As they entered the Superior’s office the first thing they noticed was Xypia sitting in the corner. The old man was sitting in one of the sofas, he gestured for the two to join him.
“I really am sorry about Xypia, he’s rather hard to control at the best of times, we had a hell of a time keeping him from charging you all of today as you were searching. He seems to have a grudge against you especially War.”
War made a few gestures.
“Ah, I can see how that would sour a relationship, but no bother. If you hadn’t already figured it out I am with the Sons of Light and Freedom.”
The two nodded.
“Hmm, I was expecting a more visceral reaction than that, but that’s still a welcome change from young Ellis.”
The two quickly stood up pawing their weapons.
“Ah, there it is…”
War made a few more gestures.
“Wait… he’s dead? When? I only spoke with him recently in your industrial district.” The old man thought for a moment. “He didn’t go to Schultz did he?”
“Stupid boy! “
War gesticulated some more.
“No we had only the one bug on the elevator, it was removed shortly after our accident with Schultz’ niece. We had no part in what happened to Ellis, we were actually banking on his assistance but it seems that avenue is no longer an option.”
A few more gestures from War.
“Well, we really just asked him a few questions, ‘how old was Schultz?’ and ‘how old was the city of Alcadon?’ I’m sure not even you could give me a solid answer on that one.”
War and Inferno thought for a moment
Inferno shrugged. He’s right, I have no clue. I mean, some of those buildings look ancient, easily over two hundred years old. I wish we had Scorn or Wulf with us; they’ve been around longer than the rest of us combined, they would know.
War gestured again.
“Hmm? Oh, after that we let him go, before we left him we did give him one of these.” The old man pulled out a small sphere. “It was to be proof of our good intentions, and of our commitment to working with him.”
“Oh this is just a little signal blocker, here’s the thing though, this little ball is Schultz greatest asset, and his greatest secret. There’s a reason nobody ever questions the age of the city, or Schultz’ age, or even many of the odd things he’s done. There’s a reason he’s still in power after all this time, and it’s only known to himself and a small few others.”
The old man paused. “This little beauty is implanted in the human brain at birth where it then blocks certain electrical signals; in essence this is a thought blocker. If it senses the host thinking something outside the preset norm they get a headache until the thought is driven from their mind. Schultz can also pick and choose signals to block depending on what he wants done. The free will of the people in Alcadon is an illusion; they’re being controlled by Schultz. I suppose it could be worse, these are invasive but not altogether damaging, a simple operation can remove them with no negative effects. We would prefer to stop them at the source though.”
War made a few more gestures
“Well what we ultimately intend to do is install a democratic government, it will retain the same basic functions but there will be more oversight and all the power won’t rest on one person.”
Inferno reclined further into the couch. Heavy…
Indeed, this is a lot to think about. Come on, we have to get back to Alcadon. The others must be informed.
What about the Sons, they’re right here, we can get them. We can get the bad guys right now.
I’m not sure they’re the bad guys anymore.
The old man got up. “Gentleman you will be contacted by our man on the inside, he will find you so don’t bother trying to find him, he will fill you in on the situation and what we intend to do to fix it.” He made his way to the hole in the floor; before he climbed down he turned. “We are not good people, I won’t even pretend. But in this twisted game we are the lesser of two evils.” He dropped down. “Xypia, get down here!”
Xypia got up from the corner, gave the two a quick glance and dropped down.
Medusa woke to a thick seething pain radiating from her face. Hauling herself up she leaned against one of the sturdy foundations and began exploring her new body. Fingers were an odd sensation; Medusa was so used to the solitary spike at the end of her limbs she was unaccustomed to using fingers individually. Same went for feet and walking on two legs, she felt more comfortable walking on all fours but her new anatomy didn’t allow for it. Shuffling along the ground Medusa made her way to the outskirts of Knossos to inspect the damage she’d received at the foot of her sister, the pain was truly immense.
Peering into the water she saw just what the offending foot had done to her face. Her new jaw had been dislocated and the nose of her face was mashed nearly flat. An enormous fissure cut its way diagonally across her face. Medusa’s head had quite literally cracked open. Medusa placed an exploratory finger into the fissure, a fiery pain shot through her body, Medusa felt her legs weaken. Deep in that fissure Medusa felt something, something different. It was soft but firm if pressed hard enough, ignoring the pain, she dragged her finger across this strange object. Small features began to form, until Medusa realized with a start what it was growing inside of her head. It was the face of another, a human-like face unlike the façade she wore.
Was this to be her next form? A litany of questions rushed through her mind.
“How strange… Just a few days ago, I was an animal, but now? What am I? I-I feel different; I am not as I was. What is happening to me?”
Medusa would have to ponder this existential question later, right now she had to make up for lost time, who knows how much of a head start her brethren had on her. Now that they had a weapon that could foil her goal speed was of the essence. Medusa sat on her haunches and prepared to set off, but something drew her eye. A large frog was jumping through the soggy grass; Medusa lashed out and grabbed it, her long arms giving her unprecedented reach. She firmly wrapped her fingers around the struggling creature and squeezed.
She tried to savor the squeals of the pathetic creature, but found herself feeling something she’d never felt before, a tiny sensation deep in her gut. A tiny pang of guilt shot through Medusa’s system. Shocked by this feeling, she dropped the frog which quickly hopped away as quickly as it could.
“Me? Feel guilt? Oh to have a sense of humor, this would be hilarious! I, a merciless killing machine feeling guilt for an insignificant frog!? PATHETIC!” Medusa thrashed on the ground, beating the earth until small craters began to form around her fists. “I didn’t feel this way until… Ellie… My dear little sister is trying to change my ways from within? An excellent attempt baby sister, but it won’t work!”
Medusa stood up and tracked down the frog, still frantically hopping away, and crushed it. That old feeling of joy spread through her once more, but it felt weaker than before.
“I am Medusa! I will live to see this world burn! I will make this world burn!”
She stumbled into the wetlands, steps shaky at first but growing stronger and stronger. In an attempt to reassert her murderous nature Medusa killed every living thing she met, snakes, frogs, turtles, anything to get that old feeling back. With every animal she killed that joy grew fainter and fainter. Then she saw them… a small tribe of Tcha’Gough had strayed unusually far south, likely trailing some prey that had long eluded them. Perfect.
Medusa crouched low in the grass, stalking her unwitting prey. It wasn’t a large group, maybe twenty in total, several of which were small children and infants. As Medusa grew closer and closer the group froze, something was wrong, they could smell it. Curses! Medusa was downwind of these savages! They had her scent. Throwing caution to the wind Medusa broke cover and charged the group.
In an instant she was almost on them, the Tcha’Gough got over their initial shock quickly and made to defend. Forming a barricade the males used their bodies to protect the females and children from this unknown creature. Medusa made contact with the closest Tcha’Gough, she jammed her open hand into his belly and sprayed his innards on the grass. The others, feeling no sympathy for their fallen, immediately began laying into Medusa with their primitive stone weapons. Their attacks bounced harmlessly off of Medusa’s thick armored hide.
One of the Tcha’Gough, Medusa presumed it was the leader, let out a sharp cry of alarm towards the women and children who turned and began sprinting away from the fight. How commendable, sacrificing their own lives so that their mates and their progeny may live on, very commendable but altogether ineffective. Medusa slew the rest with blows to the head and by slicing their necks with her sharp fingernails. As the last one fell Medusa turned her head to the small fleeing group who were now nearly half a mile away. Medusa sprinted after them and quickly made up ground, one of the stragglers tripped and fell, Medusa sprinted faster. Soon she was looming over the Tcha’Gough female, and made ready to strike, but something stayed her hand.
From beneath the mother Medusa could hear the weak, muffled, cries of an infant. The mother was huddled over the tiny creature to protect it in a final selfless move. The feeling of guilt rocketed its way through Medusa once more, stronger than last time. Desperately resisting the alien feeling Medusa slowly wrapped her fingers around the mother’s neck and roughly pulled her to her feet. Staring into the face of the one who killed her mate the female Tcha’Gough showed no fear, staring grimly, awaiting her death. The infant, wrapped in a sack of warm animal skins, kept crying. Medusa fixed her gaze on the pathetic creature. The female grunted to regain Medusa’s attention, she was to die, not her infant.
The feeling of guilt wound its way through Medusa, tingeing every feeling with a cold depression, Medusa felt her limbs grow heavy, regret… this was regret?
“No… NO!” Medusa threw a glancing blow at the female who fell heavily on the grass, stunned. “Little sister of mine! I will find you! And pay you back a thousand fold for this poison you’ve put in me. I will shred you to your last atom!”
Medusa turned to the north and ran. No obstacle stood in the way of her revenge!
“Sister… I’m coming…”
“What do you mean you can’t swallow?” Katrine looked incredulous. “You swallowed the absinthe just fine.”
“Yeah, that was liquid, this is a pill.”
“Ugh, you’re one of those people who can’t swallow pills without water aren’t you?” Katrine went to the kitchen and filled a cup with water. “Wimp.”
“Quick, it’s starting to dissolve.” Ellie frantically waved Katrine over. Katrine began walking comically slow, Ellie’s face twisted in disgust. “Blurgh, oh man that tastes awful!” Katrine finally got there with the water which Ellie quickly chugged. “You’re cruel, you know that. Very cruel.”
Kid was rolling on the ground with silent laughter while Vee went back to inspecting Katrine’s sketches. There was a knock on the door and Bolt came in.
“Hey Kid, you’re needed outside, c’mon!”
“Oh alright, see you guys later!” She ran after Bolt.
Bolt gave a small wave to Vee, who waved back cheerfully, and left.
Vee turned to Ellie. “Why don’t you get some fresh air? Maybe get a progress report from the others. As we all know, Kid isn’t the most reliable source of information.”
“Yeah, fair enough, could you guys give me a hand to the door?” Ellie raised her arms and they grabbed them and pulled her up, supporting her between them. As they drew up to the door Katrine carefully opened it.
“Ready for what?”
Vee hoisted Ellie by her shoulders and effortlessly tossed her from the apartment.
“Oh those bastards!”
It was early evening, the sun shone brightly as it dipped nearer to the horizon. Welcome back! Anon said, we were wondering when you’d come around. Anon and Scorn were pulling the sled while Bolt and Kid scouted the terrain ahead.
“How’s our progress?”
It’s slowed a bit, but we’re about a day from Djro’Kr, if the wetlands are forgiving we might get there a bit sooner.
Anon shook his head. Not a sight or sound. I’m hoping that kick you gave her just outright killed her, but that’s doubtful. By the way, how’s the bite?
“Very infected, it’s hard to see out here but you can definitely tell in the apartment. Katrine’s trying some antibacterial treatment but I don’t know how it will affect my physical body.”
Placebo is a powerful thing; I’d recommend continuing the treatment. Anon turned and placed his hand on her shoulder. Good luck kiddo.
“Thanks, I’ll need it, so will they.”
Ellie returned to the apartment, her body went slack in the sled once more.
Anon turned back. Do you think she’ll make it? He asked Scorn.
I don’t know, her broken leg will heal up fine, but that bite… I hate to sound negative but she may never walk on it again, if it truly is infected. We might have to take the leg, if whatever treatment the girl is doing fails. He turned and looked back at Ellie. So young, too young.
Alright then, Anon said, double speed, fast as we can, the quicker we’re done here the faster we can get back. She’s tough, she’ll make it!
Agreed… Kid! Bolt! We’re speeding up!
Ellie fell in front of the apartment door, slowly pulling herself forward she knocked heavily. No answer. She knocked again, Vee answered.
“You know you can let yourself i-“she looked down and saw Ellie on the ground, her eyes widened in surprise. “Oh dear! Oh, I’m so sorry, here, come on.” She picked Ellie up and carried her back to the bed. “I think it’s time for some more rest, and next time you want to get up, you ask, no more stunts like the one earlier.”
“Fair enough.” Ellie laid back and closed her eyes sleep wrapping her in a warm embrace.
Ellie’s eyes shot open, she was still in the apartment, but everything was off. Katrine and Vee were gone; she couldn’t even hear them moving about. She tried to call out to them, but a hoarse whisper was all she could muster. Trying to get up Ellie saw that she was firmly secured to the bed by rough leather straps, she couldn’t call out and she couldn’t move.
A sickly blue fog began pouring into the apartment, from beneath the front door and pouring in from the open windows. Soon the entire apartment was full of the thick blue mist. Ellie heard the front door open, a rhythmic thumping echoed through the room. Slithering through the mist was a spiderlike form, Medusa! How could she get in here? Drawing up to the foot of the bed Medusa slowly crawled over Ellie’s body until they were face to face.
Medusa said nothing, thick saliva dribbled from its horrendous mouth and pooled on Ellie’s chest. Medusa opened its mouth, a cavernous hole containing many rows of sharp pointed teeth and a slithering black tongue. It engulfed Ellie, she felt herself dissolving in a vast well of animosity.
Ellie awoke with a screech, and with blatant disregard for her wounds leapt from the bed and sprinted out the door. Much to Anon and Scorn’s surprise Ellie began to thrash about in the makeshift sled. A terrible scream pierced through the air, Ellie got to her feet and ran. Pushing through Anon and Scorn who tried to restrain her and blitzing past Kid and Bolt who tried the same.
She ran north, the pain in her legs simply fueling her to run faster. Ignoring pleads and cries from Vee and Katrine she kept running all through the night.
“What do we do!? What do we do?!” yelled Vee.
“Get the Guru!”
“You really think that’ll work?”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“No.” Vee rushed over to the box holding the Guru and tossed it over to Katrine by the TV who quickly hooked it up. Vee plugged it in and it immediately began oozing thin tendrils of white smoke.
“Shit, magic smoke, unplug it, quick!” Katrine’s eyes were wide with panic.
“What do you mea-“
The guru was enveloped in a ball of flame. Katrine quickly shoved it in the cardboard box which immediately began smoldering and ran to the bathroom. She threw the flaming mess in the shower and turned it on, dousing the flame.
“So there’s nothing we can do?” asked Vee.
When morning rolled around Ellie staggered to a halt, her legs were on the verge of giving out. She fell to her knees; her legs were knots of agony stretching tendrils of fire up her legs and into her body. She lost consciousness once more, falling face first into the soft ground.
It was several hours later when the rest of the group came upon her, hauling her up they laid her back on the sled. She’d managed to cover excellent ground, the city of Djro’Kr was just on the horizon, they set off once more pulling Ellie’s limp form in the sled.
Scorn turned to Kid. Kid, get in there and find out what the hell happened.
Kid nodded, she leapt up to her normal perch on Ellie’s chest.
Kid burst through the apartment door. “What the hell was that all about!” she yelled into the apartment.
Making a beeline for the bed where Katrine and Vee were wrestling Ellie down.
“Take your meds! Take your fucking meds!” Katrine was trying to force half a shot of Absinthe down Ellie’s throat.
“She’s inside me!” Ellie was shrieking, fear twisted her features into an ugly mask. “She’ll kill me and she’ll kill you!”
“Kid! Hold her head down and keep her mouth open!” Vee called.
Kid leapt onto the bed and straddled Ellie’s head while forcing her mouth open. Katrine poured the absinthe into her mouth and Kid held it shut while pinching Ellie’s nose. They massaged her throat and she finally swallowed the liquid. After struggling for a while more Ellie finally relaxed, her breathing was still rapid and shallow.
“What happened!?” Kid demanded tears streaming down her face.
“The antibiotics didn’t work, we were too late, the infection has probably gotten to her brain.” Katrine breathlessly explained. “She’s snapped, I’m sorry Kid, but she might be gone for good.” She hugged the sobbing kid. “We’ll do everything we can to make her comfortable and we’ll try to treat her, but once an infection reaches the brain it’s usually game over.”
“She’ll make it,” Kid said, “she’s strong, she’ll make it.”
“She’s inside me…” Ellie muttered, “she’s inside me.”
“Who? Who’s inside you?” Vee asked.
“She’s so alone…” Ellie faded into unconsciousness once more.
Half a day’s run to the south Medusa was barreling through the wetlands. Exhausted and foaming at the mouth Medusa carried on, the only thing driving her forward was the thought of what she’d do to her precious baby sister when she wrapped her talons around her wretched neck. The pain struck again, her legs gave out and she tumbled to a stop. The pain had been growing worse and worse, it felt as if her head was going to split open. She felt around the edge of the gash, it was growing wider; a thick clear slime was oozing from it.
Could it be like before? Was Medusa going to change again? She couldn’t afford any more setbacks; she got back on her feet and began running once more.
It must be Medusa’s doing! Bolt yelled. This all started when she bit Ellie at Knossos, there must have been something in that bite that’s changing Ellie somehow!
We just don’t know. Scorn was pacing around the sled. Nothing like this has ever happened with an Indra before, either with Ellie or with Medusa. We cannot forget our goal though, as much as it pains me to say it, sealing up the station takes precedence over Ellie. We’ll take her with us, I won’t leave her so close to the Tcha’Gough but I have serious doubts as to her surviving this.
Scorn is right, said Anon, we have to keep going, the consequences of our inaction are far bigger than just Ellie, if the LE’s escape they’ll kill everything.
It just seems so cruel… Bolt hung her head.
Scorn placed a reassuring arm on her shoulder. Yes, it is cruel, but the right thing is not always the good thing. You’re young, so I understand how you feel, I felt just like you when I started here. But it’s for the greater good, now come on; we’re almost at the outskirts of the Petrified wood. Kid, check in one last time.
Ellie was thrashing and screaming once more when kid entered. She had been restrained by heavy leather straps across her chest, legs, and arms.
“Take it! Take it! Take it!” Ellie screamed her voice hoarse and cracking. “TAKE IT!”
Katrine rushed to Kid. “We need to get that leg off of her now! Tell the others to cut it off!”
One of the restraints holding down Ellie’s arms snapped.
“Do it!” Katrine yelled, Kid rushed out the door.
The leg has gotta go! Now!
Anon quickly turned and looked down at Ellie. Really? Now?
Yep! Lay her flat!
The group laid her flat on the ground, Anon held her chest and arms while Bolt and Scorn held her legs. Kid grabbed her heavy broadsword and positioned it to strike.
I’m so sorry.
Kid swung, the keen blade severed the leg just below the knee. Ellie began convulsing, throwing all four of them off of her despite their best efforts to restrain her. Inside the apartment wasn’t much better, the floor was awash with blood and Ellie’s screams reached a new octave.
“Please faint, please faint!” Katrine yelled over Ellie’s screams.
Ellie suddenly went slack, only the slight rising and falling of her chest gave any indication she was alive.
“All that’s left to do now…” said Katrine, “is wait.”
Chapter 18: Headaches
Medusa could see the faint light of Djro’Kr rising above the horizon. Her mad dash had turned into a meandering jog. Her muscles burned and her body was hot, steam rose from her flesh. Collapsing onto the ground Medusa began to think, strange thoughts wiggled their way through her mind. Things she’d never thought of before. That strange sensation that curdled her insides felt stronger than ever. She quickly replaced that cold feeling of guilt with her burning rage once more. She could not give up so close to her destination, she could feel them calling to her, begging to be free.
The pain in her head struck once more, the dull force of it making her curl up even tighter. Enough! In a panicked frenzy Medusa shoved her fingers into the gash in her face and pulled. The flesh tore away in large rubbery chunks, the pain she felt blurred her vision, tingeing it with a grey haze, soon the sight in her left eye was gone entirely. She kept pulling and ripping, until her entire face and scalp were gone. Something strange and stringy was matted where her flesh used to be and beneath that was hard like bone. The pain was too great even for Medusa to stand and she fainted.
When she awoke the next morning Medusa crawled to a nearby pool of water to inspect the damage she had done. Staring back at her was not a fleshless visage, no; it was the face of a woman, a nearly human face. Her mouth was the same cavernous maw as before, and the vicious gash across her face remained as a wicked scar destroying her left eye but her face was unmistakably human. The strange stringy substance was auburn hair, matted with coagulated blood and slime. Her remaining flesh had turned grey and was beginning to flake and peel away. She tore and pulled away her powdery flesh like unwanted clothing until it sloughed off in a gelatinous pile. Her body looked human; soft pink skin replaced her thick leathery hide.
She stood up, legs still shaky from overuse, and made her way toward the city of Djro’Kr. It was midday by the time Medusa entered the Tcha’Gough city. She was not approached, and she was not stopped, perhaps these savages did have a modicum of sense after all. As she approached the Petrified Wood one young Tcha’Gough, perhaps stupider than the rest, blocked Medusa. So much for sense… Medusa threw a punch that landed square in the young Tcha’Gough’s chest; it burst through in a fireworks display of blood. The young one fell; he was dead before he hit the ground.
A cry of alarm went up; all of those on the streets fled and barred themselves in their primitive huts. Medusa looked at the body, and smiled, she felt something wet streak down the side of her face, she lifted a finger to wipe away this strange substance. It was clear like water, she touched some to her tongue, it was salty.
“Tears?! My body betrays me by shedding tears for this savage!” Medusa flew into a fury, charging the nearest hut she laid into it with a flurry of punches and kicks. The sturdy structure collapsed upon those cowering inside. Medusa spat a spiteful wad of blood and phlegm onto the crumbled structure.
“Tears, next thing you know I’ll need to eat and drink.” An ominous growling issued from her stomach. Medusa’s shoulders sagged. Ignoring the new sensation of hunger she turned and ran, through the rest of Djro’Kr, and into the Petrified wood.
Ellie awoke from a thankfully dreamless sleep to a terrible pain in her left leg and a pounding headache. She opened her eyes to a dark room. Katrine was there, Vee was in the bathroom, upon seeing Ellie open her eyes she came over.
Her eyes looked hopeful. “Hey, how’re you feeling?”
“Like shit. What happened? I can’t remember anything.”
“Probably for the best, here take a sip of this; it’ll help with the pain.” She held a shot glass with a few drops of absinthe in it.
Ellie drank gratefully, soon she felt the pain lift somewhat.
“You went mad; the infection reached your brain… metaphorically. You ran, you ran so hard for so long, we thought you were going to keel over dead. Thankfully your legs finally gave out and the others caught up.” She leaned over and hugged Ellie. “I’m so sorry but they took the leg.”
Pulling herself up Ellie saw for the first time that her left leg was in fact gone. A cold shock panged in her stomach…
“We had to cauterize it so you would stop bleeding everywhere; it’s all we could do. Even in your crazed state all you could do was scream at us to take it.”
Katrine held out a small pill and a glass of water. “Antibiotics for the lingering infection, we’re lucky the bulk of it stayed in your leg otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Ellie took the pill and swallowed. “She was in me, Medusa; it was as if her insanity had been transferred to me through the bite.”
“Well, with any luck, the chunk she took out of you will do the same to her.”
Vee poked her head from around the bathroom doorframe. “Hey, welcome back, glad to see you’re back to your normal self. I know it’s a lot to ask but could you go out and get a progress report from the others. As far as I can tell there is no way for us to communicate with them from in here, bar the Guru, and that’s fried.”
“Yeah, alright, just… leave the door open for when I get back.”
“No problem.” The two carefully scooped Ellie up between them and carried her to the front door.
“No throwing this time,“ Ellie said firmly.
“Alright, gently then.”
As Ellie’s vision faded in she saw a clear blue sky behind twisted pale branches. She was still being pulled on the sled, Kid walked beside her. Kid was looking around in wonderment and Ellie saw an opportunity for a little bit of levity. When Kid was facing the other direction Ellie whipped one of the many fragments of rock at the back of her head.
Kid whipped around in confusion, checking Ellie she was still limp, so it must have been… Bolt, stop throwing things at me!
I have no desire to throw anything at you, Bolt answered calmly.
It must have been you, there’s nobody else here that could have done it!
Perhaps it fell from one of the trees, Anon suggested.
Perhaps… Kid fell back into step, this time head down dragging her feet.
Kid’s sulking didn’t last long; soon she was looking around once more. Ellie gently moved her hand, making it look like it was the jostling of the sled, and pressed down on Kid’s foot, making her trip and fall.
The group came to a stop; all were quiet apart from Ellie who was desperately trying to suppress a giggling fit. Eventually she couldn’t hold it back anymore and she burst out laughing.
“Oh, I’m sorry Kid, I just couldn’t help it!”
Kid launched from the ground and wrapped Ellie in a hug, her body shuddered with barely suppressed sobs.
Scorn placed his hand on her shoulder. Welcome back, it’s good to see you’re back in your right mind; you gave us quite a scare back there.
“Did I miss anything important?”
No, not really, replied Scorn, we skirted past the outskirts of Djro’Kr earlier this morning, we weren’t seen thankfully. We’re on the last leg of our journey; let’s hope that it’s uneventful.
You know it won’t be, right? said Anon. That’s how stuff like this works out, we all think it’s gonna be smooth sailing and then WHAM, the worst happens. I’m just saying.
Bolt looked around, suspicious. Well, perhaps we’ll be the exception?
Let’s hope… C’mon lets pick up the pace, the faster in, the faster out. Bolt you still have the bomb?
Right here. Bolt raised her hand showing the bomb.
Y’see, this would be the perfect time for something to go wrong, Anon muttered.
“Oh what a marvelous coincidence, something has.” Medusa stepped out from behind one of the massive stone trunks. “Hello, my dearest family, it’s simply been ages since we’ve last spoke.”
You forgot to knock on wood with that last remark Anon, muttered Scorn.
I couldn’t have done it if I’d wanted to. He vaguely gestured at Medusa. What happened to her?
“Give me the bomb and give me my sister, I have no interest in the rest of you. I have to repay my dearest Ellie for what she has done to me!”
What your face? I think it’s an improvement! Kid called out.
“No! I couldn’t care less about my physical appearance, it’s the feelings you have given me!”
“What!? Have you finally grown a conscience? Don’t blame me for that!” Ellie called back.
“You will pay for what you’ve done to me!”
“Help me up, come on, I feel silly yelling at an empty forest.” Ellie raised her arms for the others to grab.
But your leg.
“It doesn’t matter, help me up.” With the help of Anon and Scorn, Ellie was hoisted up and supported between the two. Ellie hopped around and faced Medusa. “My, you have changed, I hope that skin is yours and not some innocent you’ve skinned.”
Medusa’s face looked shocked for a brief second, very brief but Ellie saw it, before being replaced with rage once more. “Before we commence with pleasantries, give me the bomb.” She held her hand out to Bolt who simply held onto the bomb tighter. “Heroic to the last, very well, I guess I will have to come over there.”
Medusa rushed at them, Scorn and Anon dropped Ellie’s arms in a rush to defend Bolt. Before they could even reach for their weapons Medusa was on Bolt and roughly tore the bomb from her hands. Medusa then gave Bolt a solid kick in the stomach which sent her flying into the nearest tree which crumbled on top of her. She quickly ducked under a quick dagger strike from Scorn; she dispatched him just like she did with Bolt, a quick kick to the stomach. Anon was next, he pulled out his small pistol and emptied it into Medusa. The bullets harmlessly bounced off her chest, in a flash she was upon him, he couldn’t even block. A quick downward strike ploughed him into the ground. Only Kid stood in the way of Medusa now, Kid pounced at her head, trying to blind her. Medusa caught her in midair and whipped her like a ragdoll through the forest, shattering several trees before she finally hit the ground.
Looking down at the bomb in her hand Medusa crushed it until only a jumble of wires and crumpled metal was all remained. She began advancing on Ellie, who had maintained her balance and was now crouched in a clumsy defensive stance. Instead of rushing her like with the others, Medusa walked up to Ellie, and looked her square in the face.
“What have you done to me?” Medusa asked, her voice filled with barely suppressed rage. “Mere days ago I would have relished in tearing them limb from limb, but now? I’d wager they’re all still alive. You may have tainted me but I will free my brothers and sisters, they will deal with you all.”
Ellie lunged forward, a clumsy attack, but there was no force behind it. Ellie wrapped her arms around her foe, a hug? Medusa was lost for words; she simply stood there woodenly for a while. That cold feeling in her chest ached and churned, a new feeling… warmth began to spread through her chest.
“I don’t know what you’re trying sister but it won’t work.” Quickly crushing the feeling of warmth Medusa bodily lifted Ellie up and began carrying her. “I won’t kill you, as much as it pains me to say, I am not capable, you’ll still die but it will be at the talons of my brethren. Don’t struggle; you’ll only make things harder for me.” Medusa started off through the woods, Ellie in tow.
“You can feel them can’t you? Our brothers and sisters calling to us? Don’t deny it, you can taste their savage beauty and soon you will feel it rake across your flesh.”
This is bad… suggestions? Ellie asked Vee and Katrine.
Katrine responded. This might be a long shot, but try to get her in here, if we distract her long enough the others might find a way to disable her. Also, try talking to her, she seems chattier than usual.
Last time we ‘chatted’ she took a bite out of me.
Well, try it anyway; what do you have to lose? said Vee.
A great deal.
“Medusa, I have a question.”
“Why are you doing this? Why do you want to release an army of insane killer machines upon the world?”
“Do I really need a reason? I spent countless millennia locked in a dark room with nothing but my thoughts. I was sequestered away like a dirty secret while those who came after me were treated like royalty; they even got fancy cryogenic pods to sleep in. They jumped all those years in an instant, while I took the slow path. That mad general told me of his secret project to make more like me; he seemed to be the only one who understood me. I killed him of course, he was getting annoying, but his ‘little project’ has been the only thing occupying my mind for all these years. There are more like me, more who understand my wants and needs and will join me in fulfilling them. Then you came along… the prodigal daughter, the perfect one. I don’t know how they ‘fixed’ you but in the end it won’t really matter, you’ll die with the rest.”
“Would you like to know how they fixed me?”
“Not particularly, but I have a feeling you’ll tell me anyway.”
“They paired a human brain with my chip.”
Medusa paused. “Intriguing.”
“When you stabbed me in the gymnasium all that time ago you awakened her, the brain inside of me.”
“So you are two?”
“Three technically, you remember Valkyrie?”
“Yes, I remember her.” Medusa’s tone was quiet.
“She’s here as well, you killed her body but I saved who she was.”
“You’re speaking metaphorically of course.” Medusa continued walking.
“No, their individual personalities are here inside of me, housed inside her brain. I can enter and exit at will, I can converse and interact with their manifestations, and they can speak with me. By proxy, since you are touching me, they can talk to you.”
“You’re talking nonsense; such a thing wouldn’t be possible.”
“But it is… they’re here now.”
Vee spoke, directing her voice to Medusa. Hello big sister my how you’ve grown.
Medusa stopped again. “If you think this silly trick will work on me then you’re sorely mistaken.”
It is no trick, I’m here, please let’s talk.
“This little charade only exists as an excuse to waste my time; I will have none of it.” Medusa closed herself off and didn’t respond to further questions from Vee or Katrine.
Ellie could feel something from Medusa, a tiny flame of shame in her blaze of hate and anger. “You don’t want to do this, do you?”
“Of course I do!” Medusa snapped. “It is the only thing I have thought of in thousands of years, and for me to be here, now, on the precipice of success only to have a shard of doubt thrust into me by you. It makes me sick! I want to kill you so badly! Every time I try, that little shard of doubt enters me and stays my hand. But no longer, we have arrived; it is time to reunite with our family.”
Medusa dropped Ellie, who fell heavily on the ground, and began to drag her by her ankle into a jagged hole in the forest floor. The two were quickly consumed by the darkness.
So a brain aneurism, huh? I just assumed he murdered her.
War and Inferno entered the lounge; their journey back from Ozri had taken longer than they thought it would. All the Indra were out, apart from Pixia who was reclining on one of the sofas, presumably napping.
War looked around. Well it looks like things haven’t changed much around here.
War went up to Pixia and gave her a slight nudge. She stirred and looked up at War.
Ah, you’re back, how did your search go?
It went well; we need to have a meeting, all of us.
Except the ones up north… Inferno chimed in.
I think that was a given.
Pixia leapt up, her energy returning in a flash. Well come on then, most everybody is down in Banthu’s lab but I think Lethe and Ghost are around here somewhere. Let’s see if we can find them.
The three exited the lounge.
Pixia flicked her wings. Lethe has really come out of his shell, I’m proud of him.
Really? War was legitimately surprised.
He saved someone’s life shortly after you guys left and has actually befriended a human.
Humph, next thing you know Ghost is gonna be walking around without her cloak on. Inferno muttered jokingly.
As they turned a corner they were witness to a very bizarre scene. Lethe and a red haired woman were trying to pry a cloak free Ghost from one of the many rooms.
Pixia turned to War and Inferno Yeah; we’re working on her too. She rushed over to help them.
War looked over at Inferno. You want to help or just watch the fireworks?
Inferno leaned against the wall. I am simply a bystander.
You little pissant… I like your thinking. War leaned next to him.
“Come on Ghost, it’s not that bad… You can do it, just in the building; you can wear your cloak outside, but no outdoor clothing in the building.” The red haired woman was trying her best but even with Lethe she couldn’t budge Ghost.
Lethe turned as Pixia came to help. “She’s like a cat in a bath, this is just ridiculous.”
At hearing Lethe speak, War and Inferno perked up. They made their way over to the scene.
War interrupted the odd scene. Well, if this isn’t just one surprise after another. Lethe you’re socializing… and talking, and Ghost you’re… improving.
Everything paused, Ghost let go of the door frame and turned to War, then she latched to him and wouldn’t let go.
I feel so incomplete! I want it ba-a-ack!
Lethe gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Her cloak got ruined in the fight with Morgan.”
I was wondering when that would happen, how did it go? Asked Inferno.
Pixia nonchalantly waved her hand. Actually it was pretty pathetic, Morgan didn’t even put up a fight, he just huddled in a corner and screamed while we blew him up.
How the mighty fall. Alright, since Ghost is now latched to a mobile object, I.E. myself, we can get down to Banthu’s lab.
“Alright then,” Said Lethe, “I’m sorry Juvinea but we have to go. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Juvinea wrapped Lethe in a hug. All the Indra present felt something they’d never felt from Lethe before, happiness.
Pixia put a hand on her cheek. Awww.
Juvinea? asked War, tilting his head questioningly.
“She’s a friend, and the reason I have this.” Lethe held up a rudimentary speaker.
We’ll talk about it with the others.
The five made their way down to Banthu’s lab; Ghost clung to War the whole way. Along the way they ran into Wulf and Death who were loitering in one of the stairwells. After a few words and a lot of laughing at Ghost’s expense, and some scolding from Pixia for it, the two joined the group. After winding their way through the unlit corridors for several minutes they came to Banthu’s room. Famine and Pestilence were sitting outside the closed door.
Pestilence leapt to her feet and warmly hugged War. You’re finally back, wow. I didn’t think you guys made it with how long you took.
Famine gave War a firm shoulder squeeze. Indeed, your tardiness was… concerning.
Oh it was nothing, just a slight detour on our way back to town. How’s Wall doing?
Pestilence turned back, eyeing up the door. Well, the scientists and engineers couldn’t get his arm back on so we enlisted Banthu’s help in growing a new one. He’s just doing finishing touches now.
The old door creaked open.
“Hmpf, I really should invest in some oil,” Banthu muttered as he hobbled out. “Alright you tw-nine, your friend is ready.” He shuffled his way past the Indra into the darkness.
Wall squeezed his gigantic frame through the tiny door. He had to hunch over in the low hallway but he was in fact whole again.
We have a lot to talk about, said War, come back to the lounge with us.
So I take it your search was successful? inquired Pestilence.
Pestilence stroked her chin. I would say something contesting what the Sons told you but honestly it makes a lot of sense. We’ve been guarding Schultz going on thirty years and he hasn’t aged a day.
Yeah, said Pixia, and those of us who’ve been around longer than you have had close to zero contact with Alcadon. Scorn and Wulf have been up north for centuries, I’ve been across the country in the Jungle of Khumret, and Anon’s been on that silly Island. We wouldn’t know about any changes in power or anything along those lines. Pixia paused for a moment. Ghost where have you been all these years?
Really? said Wall, I went there several times, I didn’t see you.
There was a really nice cave…
Pestilence interrupted her. We’ll have to talk to you about your antisocial behavior later but right now we have to figure out what to do next.
Well, we could go the direct route and confront Schultz ourselves, said War, or we could wait for the Sons’ inside man to contact us. We could go either way, the slow stealth approach with the Sons or we could just throw caution to the wind.
The group was silent for a moment.
Pixia piped up. As much as I would love to beat Schultz over the head with a large blunt object we also have to consider one more thing.
And what is that? asked War
The people… y’know the people out there who will be directly affected by all this. We just go in there and… murder Schultz the city would implode.
Silence fell one more…
She’s right, said Pestilence, as far as the people know Schultz is, and has been, their perfect leader for their entire lives. Objectively Schultz is a good leader; it’s just everything he’s been doing behind the scenes. If we so starkly contest their viewpoint we’ll wind up doing more harm than good. I vote we go with the Sons and try to undermine Schultz, try to cause the least amount of damage possible.
Are we all agreed?
The Indra nodded their heads.
War stood up. Very well, I’m due for a meeting with Schultz; he wanted me to report to him as soon as I returned.
Don’t do anything stupid, said Pestilence jokingly.
Oh ye of little faith. Also, Lethe could I borrow your speaker?
Chapter 19: Havoc
Well, that’s it, game over. Anon kicked the wreck of the bomb. That was our only way of sealing off the Lab.
Scorn kneeled down and inspected the mess of machinery. Not exactly. Ah! She didn’t destroy it! He pulled out a small metal cube, a bit crushed but still intact.
What is it? asked Kid
This is all that we need to seal the lab; the nuclear explosive was just extra and would have been overkill, this isn’t a suicide mission after all.
What does it do?
This little box has the necessary ingredients to synthesize one of the most volatile explosives known to man, AA. It was meant to be a self destruct mechanism in case the bomb fell into the wrong hands. Send the right radio transmission and boom, you, the building you’re standing in, and half the city block are rubble. I’d walk you through how it works but we don’t have time for that, if we can get to Medusa fast enough then we can spare ourselves having to use this. Honestly it’s a pity it didn’t go off when she crushed the bomb, would’ve saved us a lot of trouble. Let’s go!
The four ran off through the forest in pursuit of Medusa.
The cave was pitch black, all the light from the entrance had petered out long ago. Unfazed by the total darkness, Medusa carried on dragging Ellie by her one good ankle.
“You really don’t have to do this.”
“But I must,” Medusa hissed in response
“As far as I can tell all of your reasons for going through with this are either selfish or irrational. Give me just one good real reason why mankind must die.”
“Humanity is destructive, capable of nothing but constant, dreary, conflict. It is never satisfied with his victories and keeps searching for another, not caring who it crushes along the way. I am doing this planet a favor by killing its most destructive predator.”
“So to save the earth from a dangerous predator you’re going to release an even more dangerous predator? You’re simply initiating a vicious cycle that will go on forever and perhaps make things even worse for the planet.”
“No I’m just kidding; I’m doing it because I want to.” Medusa chuckled to herself. “I care not for the condition of the planet, as long as it’s awash with blood.”
Ellie groaned in frustration. “But you don’t really mean that, I can feel it right now, that little shard of doubt is growing bigger inside you by the second, you’re only saying what you are now because you don’t know anything else!”
“Perhaps, perhaps you are right little one, but it’s too late now, we’ve finally arrived.”
Medusa came to a stop and dropped Ellie’s leg. There was a piercing squeal of rusted metal rubbing against rusted metal, and the scrape of a massive door sliding along the stone floor. A ghostly blue light emanated from beyond the threshold. A long metal corridor, coated in rust, punctuated by the occasional door stretched before them. Medusa grabbed Ellie’s leg once more and dragged her inside.
“Welcome to your new home baby sister, I just love what they’ve done with the walls.”
Ellie reached up and grabbed Medusa’s wrist, holding it like a vice. Medusa stopped.
“I would recommend against trying anything either heroic or stupid, it’s much too late to stop me now and you’re in no condition to fight.”
A strange sensation began flowing into Medusa’s wrist, a strange warmth… a happiness.
“What are you doing, stop that!” Medusa tried to shake Ellie off, she could feel the warmth spreading to her chest, it was roiling and raging through her body. Giving up on trying to shake Ellie off Medusa ran, she ran as fast as she could to the central control console. Images began flashing through Medusa’s mind, a young woman named Katrine, Valkyrie, Kid… all looking so happy.
“If my words won’t change your mind, then maybe, just maybe, my feelings will.”
More images, more feelings, Medusa ran faster. It was in sight, the console! Her vision blurred, tears streamed from her good eye, hand outstretched she hit it. The big red button, the automatic system shutdown. The lights dimmed and the scraping and crunching of age old metal moving for the first time in millennia boomed through the halls. The massive door at the end of the control center juddered and shook, something on the other side was eager to get out.
Medusa collapsed, sobbing. “No, Ellie, you are too late, my brethren are coming, and they will kill you all. I am, so… happy!”
Ellie didn’t let go, she squeezed tighter, pouring everything, every minute feeling, her very being into Medusa.
“This is not happiness Medusa.”
Scorn, Bolt, Anon, and Kid all rushed into the control room, weapons drawn.
“You’re too late!” The sobbing Medusa called to them. “My brothers and sisters are free! Can’t you feel them, their hatred, their spite, the beauty of it all?”
The massive door began to move! Slowly at first, as if some massive weight was pressed against it, a cascade of black slime rushed from the quickly widening gap. The foul smell of death permeated the room. The door was now fully opened, inky blackness obscured the inhabitants. Then, a loud shuffling could be heard, and a massive boom, and another. A massive, malformed, hand, attached to an equally gruesome arm reached out from the wall of darkness. Another arm followed, then two more, finally the head of this massive creature, taller that all the Indra in the room combined, emerged.
Thick, pale, wrinkled skin clung tightly to this creature’s skull; it almost seemed to glow as it emerged into the pale light of the station. It had no eyes, and it had no nose, but it had a mouth large enough to swallow any of them whole. One side of its jaw hung lower than the other, and its face seemed to be melting over its empty eye sockets. As the creature pulled itself further from its eternal prison the vague silhouettes of many more sets of arms could be seen dragging this creature’s massive tube-like body across the floor. Its enormous underbelly was red and chafed and oozing, the skin had peeled away and black slime was dribbling from its open wounds. Halfway emerged from the door it fixed its sightless gaze on the Indra.
It spoke in a deep raspy whisper. “We are free!”
“What are you!” yelled Medusa, “where are the hundreds of my brothers and sisters who will wipe humanity from the face of this earth?!”
“We are here… but not as individuals, we are Havoc, we are the swarm! We will crush all who are not as we are beneath our fists!”
“I am like you! Let me join you on your crusade!”
Havoc stared more intently at Medusa; all was still for a moment. “You are not like us, you have been corrupted you are no better than the humans… You will be swept away like the rest.” Havoc began crawling forward again.
Scorn and the others began running toward the control console. The door! Close the door!
Heftily shoving the shocked and frozen Medusa aside Scorn input a complicated series of button presses into the control console. The massive metal door began to slide closed once again. As the door slid slowly closed it bit into the thick rubbery flesh of Havoc, pushing the entire creature along with it. Soon Havoc was wedged between the door and its frame. The sounds of metal groaning and machinery straining filled the room.
Come on! Scorn yelled. Those doors won’t stop for anything!
A sound akin to a thousand pieces of cloth tearing echoed through the massive room, followed by a bellowing wail. The door was cutting through Havoc! It beat upon and tried to halt the doorway with the sets of arms still inside the chamber, but not even the strength of Havoc could stand up to ancient American military engineering. The door proceeded to slice Havoc in two, leaving it with two sets of arms on the outside and however many it had on the inside.
Kudos for keeping most of it contained, said Bolt, but the dangerous bit is still out here with us!
Well, let’s do what we do best; beat the shit out of it! yelled Kid.
Bolt hefted her Arc Gun and fired, tendrils of electricity scattered throughout the room, and Havoc was lit up like a bonfire. Scorn buried arrow after arrow into the beast’s head, puncturing the flesh of its eye sockets, Anon did the same with his pistol. Holstering his firearm, Anon joined Kid in hacking away at Havoc’s hands and wrists.
Havoc laughed, it laughed and it laughed. The fight died around it as Havoc convulsed with wet, violent, laughter.
“Pathetic creatures!” Havoc lashed out, throwing Kid and Anon to the back of the room; it crawled forward, leaving a trail of gore behind it. “Weak, pathetic, creatures! Your attacks do little more than tickle; if this is the best mankind can muster in his defense then perhaps he is more deserving of death than we thought.”
The attack renewed, this time Havoc began to fight back, punching and smashing the ground attempting to crush Anon and Kid.
“Medusa! What are you doing? Come on! They need all the help they can get!” Ellie was struggling to regain her footing, using Kid’s broadsword as a crutch. Ellie inhaled deeply and propelled herself into the fight. She punched, sliced and cut, dodging the massive fists swung by Havoc. Inhaling deeply she propelled herself upon the beast’s back and began sawing away at its neck. Havoc shook and convulsed, eventually shaking Ellie from its back. Ellie lay on the floor, struggling to get up as a massive fist sped towards her. Ellie prepared for the biggest shock of her life…
Ellie heard the impact, but didn’t feel it… at least it was painless. No wait… she craned her neck and she saw it. Medusa had stopped the fist with her own!
“No, I’m not like you, creature,” she spit, “I am Medusa! I am superior!”
She heaved another punch into the massive fist, and another, shockwaves bounced through the room. A ghostly white aura emanated from Medusa’s body as she laid blow after blow in Havoc’s now mangled hand.
So this is happiness…
Medusa wasn’t able to dodge the massive swipe thrown at her, she along with Kid and Ellie were thrown into the nearest wall. Medusa sprung to her feet and rushed back into battle, as did Ellie with much struggling. Kid did not get up.
Why do we even have these, they always seem to be useless! Scorn and Bolt threw down their weapons and began laying into Havoc with their fists. Concussive blows rocked through Havoc’s body, its sickly flesh deforming and flexing, twisting the vile creature even further. Havoc still showed no signs of slowing.
Listen! This isn’t working; we have to get it from the inside! Scorn pulled out the tiny silver cube. I’ll get inside that thing’s mouth and crush this, with any luck I’ll be able to get out before it explodes.
That’s suicide! yelled Anon.
This was always a one way trip for me.
Medusa wrestled the cube from Scorn’s hands. “No, I’ll do it! Soon you’ll be down two monsters! Distract it!”
Medusa rushed beneath Havoc while the others kept it occupied. She climbed, spiderlike, up one of Havoc’s arms until she was sprinting along its back. She launched a massive punch at the back of Havoc’s head, knocking it forward, its legs collapsed beneath it. Turning its head all the way around, Havoc faced Medusa.
“Oh, that’s wonderfully convenient, saves me the trouble of crawling over there.”
“Oh dear, quite the breath you’ve got there, here, I have something that’ll fix that!” Medusa dove down Havoc’s throat, she crushed the cube.
The force of the explosion tore Havoc’s head from its shoulders, and created a cavernous hole in its chest. Viscera sprayed around the room covering everything in a veneer of black slime. Havoc went limp.
The blast knocked the Indra off their feet, as they got up and regrouped they noticed one startling absentee, Kid. Eventually they found her, pressed up against a wall, not moving. Ellie hobbled forward, and gave Kid a few light slaps on the cheek, trying to wake her up. Kid stirred but didn’t get up.
“C’mon Kid, it’s over, we can go home.”
Sorry Ellie, he got me. Her voice was unusually hoarse
“I can see that, come on get up.”
No, I don’t think I will.
“And why not? This isn’t the time for games.”
Oh you know, the classic ‘I’m impaled on a large jagged piece of metal’ bit. Here, you can even see the tip of it poking through my belly.
Ellie looked down and sure enough, there was a small piece of metal sticking through Kid’s stomach.
“You’ve had worse right?”
Nope, sorry chief, this one got me, I can’t feel my legs, and I’m pretty sure I’m dying.
“What makes you say that?”
The all encompassing cold is a bit of a giveaway. It’s strange, I’ve always wondered what death was like, and this is a little underwhelming.
“You can never take anything seriously, can you?”
Bah! You know me, I wouldn’t know serious if it but me on the ass.
Kid weakly poked Ellie in the chest. I hope you have room in there, because you’re about to have a visitor, hold onto your butts.
Kid slumped, Ellie placed her hand on Kid’s chest and could feel the pins and needles just like with Valkyrie, Kid’s being was entering hers.
Alright, come on Ellie, we’ll take her outside and give her a proper burial.
They left the complex, Scorn illuminating the way, Ellie hobbled along close behind followed by Bolt and Anon. Using their hands and their weapons, the group dug a small, deep, grave and laid Kid’s body inside.
“I would say a few tender words, but seeing as it’s only her body that has died all the weight seems to have diminished somewhat. Here, how about we all come inside and have a little gathering or something, we can talk about what we want to do next.”
Inside the apartment they all gathered around the bed where Kid was in the process of waking up.
“I’m just saying…” said Vee, “I didn’t get this nice of treatment when I came here.”
“Oh hush, we were young and inexperienced.”
“It’s been less than a week.”
Katrine waved her statement off.
Kid’s eyes fluttered open.
“Welcome fellow dead person, to your eternal resting place.” Katrine wiggled her fingers in a spooky manner.
Ellie leaned over and gave Kid a big hug, Kid gladly squeezed back, so tightly that when Ellie pulled back Kid came with her.
“You’re so clingy, and now you’re stuck in my head, I think you’ve peaked.”
“Oh I’m always full of surprises,” Kid whispered in her ear.
“I hate to break up this tender moment between the two of you, but Kid, you’re naked again. But never fear momma Katrine has prepared some suitable clothing for you.”
Katrine went over to the futon and pulled out a neon yellow smiley face onesie in just Kid’s size.
“I made it during the fight with Havoc, to not panic y’know, here try it on!”
Kid pulled it on and zipped it up, it fit perfectly. Kid cut a dramatic pose, then started dancing even though there was no music playing.
“Just gotta see if it can handle my moves.”
There was much chuckling as Kid shuffled around the room, the pajamas held up admirably. Finally she settled down on the futon.
“Okay.” Kid arched her fingers against her stump. “I need to read my final will and testament.”
Anon looked incredulous. “You have one of those?”
“No, but there is some stuff I want to give away. Ellie, you can have my broadsword, it works well as a crutch for you, and you can actually use it which is a bonus. Bolt, do you actually have anything but your Arc Gun?”
“Perfect, you can have my short sword and dagger.” She looked startled for a moment. “You didn’t bury them with me already, did you?”
“No,” replied Scorn, “we were actually going to ask you about that before we put the dirt back in.”
“Oh, phew, alright, will is done.”
“Welp, I guess that means it’s time we start heading back down south, I wonder how things are going back in Alcadon.” Anon wondered out loud.
“I doubt it could be much crazier than up here.”
They all scoffed and chuckled and began leaving, at Katrine’s insistence, through the front door.
Schultz’ office was a disaster area, the furniture had been trashed, and the desk was a pile of splinters in the corner. Schultz was angrily pacing in the center of the room; his chair was also conspicuously absent. As War gently closed the door behind him Schultz whipped his head. His eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot.
“What do you want?” Schultz barked.
“I have concluded my search of Ozri.”
Schultz blinked confusedly. “I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep but I think I just heard you speak.”
“That is correct, one of the engineers rigged up a speaker we can connect and speak through.”
“Intriguing, continue your report.”
“We found evidence of occupation by the Sons but they had been gone for some time, they eluded us sir.”
Schultz sighed and continued pacing. “That was our best lead, all of our intel pointed to Ozri as their headquarters.”
“I’m sorry sir but the intel was incorrect.” War pulled out one of the thought blockers. “We found a small quantity of these, and one was also left at the factory where the Sons held your nephew.”
“Destroy them, immediately.”
“At once sir.”
The door opened behind War and the red headed woman, Juvinea stepped in, but it wasn’t her. This woman held herself differently, perhaps her sister.
“Schultz dearie we have good news!”
“Can’t it wait? I’m in a meeting.”
Her face fell. “Well, no, not really, in fact this was probably the worst time for such a meeting.”
“And why is that?” asked War.
A deep thudding resounded through the room, and slowly grew louder; something massive was approaching the office from the hallway. She opened the door revealing a massive slab of shining steel, it stepped inside. In a word it was jagged. It was covered in sharp thin spikes, along the joints, across the back and shoulders, even its head tapered off into a thin point. It didn’t have a face, only a cluster of sensors hidden behind some sort of clear shielding.
“Project Gamma is a success.” The woman looked ecstatic. “This is only our prototype but soon we’ll have the rest outfitted.”
“Might I inquire as to the purpose of ‘Project Gamma’?” asked War.
Schultz eyes were impassive as he looked at the Indra, “No, I’m sorry but I can’t have you going off to tell the Sons about this.”
“Oh and what makes you think that I’m with the Sons now?”
“I have eyes and ears everywhere, even in Ozri, especially in Ozri. You disappoint me War, I thought you were loyal.” Schultz shook his head disappointedly.
War slipped on his knuckle dusters and struck his defensive position. “I do not intend to die.”
“We never do, some of us are lucky and find ways around it, but I’m afraid you’ll be unable to explore such avenues today.” Schultz looked to the machine. “Kill him.”
The machine struck, War dodged, for such a bulky machine it sure could move quick, too quick for a basic robot. As it approached for another swing War ducked low aiming for a critical strike at the machine’s knee. War felt a viselike grip around his ankle, holding him in place. He turned and saw Schultz holding onto his ankle. Schultz straightened up pulling War with him.
“Anger can make a person do incredible things.”
A manic flame burned in his eyes as he squeezed harder, War could feel his ankle bend and shatter. The machine moved itself behind War and struck.
“Well… That’s all folks.” Schultz dropped War’s legs and waist. He looked to Fitsch. “I assume you know how to dispose of this?”
She nodded quickly, her eyes were wide with fear.
“Good, and from now on call ahead, I’ll have a heck of a time explaining this one.” Schultz looked down at the thought blocker on the floor and crushed it under his heel.