Monday, September 28, 2015
Michael wondered why he woke up, searching his thoughts as the rain drummed away at the dimly lit window, dusk or dawn was irrelevant, the pane was painted a placid orange. Waking without purpose was something that had always annoyed Michael, even when he was human, so the search for a reason intensified as he swung his bare legs off the side of the bed, taking a deep breath while stretching. He had received his shipment of weapons from Phil just a few days ago, the last internal email from The Community had been intercepted and hacked, the last kill count caused by the three was in the triple digits. He couldn't figure it out. The only one awake in the house got up and decided to take a shower, no point in wasting energy.
The vampire couldn't believe that the giant man standing next to his bed had gone unnoticed this entire time. Michaels purple eyes met with the man's perfect emerald ones. The intruder was near as big as Raecien, in height and muscle, tattoos ran across his flesh like twisted vines, interrupted only by scars. The vampire wasn't fast enough to stop the kick that knocked him across his large room and through a concrete pillar, turning it to dust and pain. He cried out from the broken ribs and heavy landing, it was enough to wake his slumbering lover. Balthezar leapt from the bed and rammed his shoulder into the massive man, but the effect was minimal. As soon as his bare feet touched the floor the curly haired vampire opened up a flurry of punches and kicks, putting everything he had into it. Again the man was unimpressed, using his massive arms as a shield against the volley of attacks. Balthezar brought out his claws as Raecien joined the crowded room, looking for the trouble. He saw it, and the attempts Balthezar was making, and knew what the assassin was, "Balthezar don't touch him! He's an alchemist!" But his warnig came too late.
With deft speed the alchemist shot his hand out and grabbed the older vampire by the throat, whose skin began to smoke and burn, his usually deep and majestic voice turned into a scream. Michael called out, trying to move and join the fight, but the massive wolf had already scooped him up like a handbag. Raecien made for the nearest exit, which was a window, looking out on the river. Michael was able to look into Balthezars eyes just before the Alchemist plunged his free hand into the vampires chest, silencing the lingering scream.
The massive assassin tossed aside Balthezars already smoldering body and turned his attention to the two fleeing, but it was too late, Raecien and Michael were through the window and into the dusk. Michaels heart was torn apart, wanting to transform and rip the assassin to shreds, crushing agony, bleak sorrow. He hadn't noticed that the setting had changed from his cold warehouse to the woods behind it, nor did he notice his bruised ribs, or his lack of clothing.
The wolfs deep voice broke Michael out of his stupor, "Can you walk?" The vampire nodded and was put down, finding his own feet touching the ground felt alien. Raecien bowed his massive head, "I'm sorry we lost him. He was a good man." Cold fury was coiled inside Michael, begging to be unleashed, but it wasn't his companion that deserved the lashing, "Thank you, Master Raecien. He was a good man. And we'll carve his name into every single person from The Community, I swear it."
"You're a formidable foe, Michael, but this is something different. That was an Alchemist. They're the worlds oldest assassins. Their touch is lethal to you and I, our heightened senses don't work with them, and their strength is more than even mine." Every word was like a droplet of water falling upon a white hot rod of iron, doing nothing to quell the fury of the temperature. "How do we beat them, Master Raecien?" The wolf sighed deeply, "We don't. We buy them." Michael nodded, "We hit the humans, take their gold, and build ourselves a silent army. Except for the one that killed Balthezar. I want his heart."
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Sunday, July 5, 2015
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
It had been a long journey, starting when he was only 6. His father, a kind and caring man, took him camping in the mountains of Tibet. The point was to spend time with his son, but at the same time try to get a glance at the creature known as the Yeti. Little did his father know that he'd found the creature, but the creature didn't approve of their presence. That night the creature came to their tent, ripping it open and attacking them both. Kaine's father fought, hiding his son behind him, but the creature still managed to swipe at the boy, knocking him unconscious. The last thing Kaine saw was the thing ripping his father to shreds and walking away, into the furious snow, with the remains.
He was found a week later, covered in frozen blood, wandering through the forest, unable to speak. There was a distinct wound across the side of his head: Four claw marks, three of them extending onto his cheek. His mother died during childbirth, his father's remains missing, Kaine found his way into the systems of orphanages. Years of foster homes and every sort of correctional institute for youths did nothing but feed the anger that Kaine felt. Catholic lore helped build his ambition and drive, bullies and abusive parents helped build his toughness and abilities to fight. Humanity was a luxury he could afford only in the smallest of amounts.
Night came, but so did his destination, The Loch. His first hunt was the Loch Ness Monster, and the head of every major professor that claimed that cryptozoology was a farce. The knock on the flimsy door nearly knocked it off its hinges, but the intent was clear: it was time to get to the hunt. Kaine was used to the cold, so he didn't put his coat on, he was also used to the icy rain beating down on his boat. This brought more than a couple of stares from the tiny crew he'd brought along, but he ignored them all, concentrating on the lockbox that sat in the middle of the open deck.
Off the back of the tugboat protruded a giant crane, a thick chain running through it, and a menacing hook at the end of that. The murky water bucked and rolled the boat, making the metal dance and sing with every other wave, it sounded almost like a song to Kaine as he knelt down at the long box. The key to it came from under his shirt and he opened all the locks, flinging open the lid. A collective gasp came from the tiny crew as they saw the contents: A man with chains around his waist, wrists, and ankles with a gag in his mouth. Murmurs were made static by the rain, then drowned out by Kaine's own voice.
"Your sacrifice will forever be appreciated and marked down by the men that appreciate science, instead of religion." Kaine had built his body to be strong and rigid with muscle, so picking the man up from the box, even as he squirmed and kicked, was an easy task. The chained man was dragged to the back of the boat, just under the swaying hook, which Kaine grabbed and brought down. It was only then that the crew began to object, questioning what was going on, "Hold on there, chief! We signed on for a hunt, not no murder!"
Kaine turned to face the crew, letting his amber eyes convey his displeasure of being interrupted before he spoke. He knew that he looked scary, head to toe in leather, a giant handgun hanging from his belt on his right, a huge knife on his left, and another knife on the small of his back. "You signed up for a hunt. Either you do what you're told, or you don't get paid. That's the end of it." The statement cowed them, but only temporarily, "And how is using a man as live bait hunting?" For some reason the question brought a chuckle from Kaine, his hand still on the chained man.
Kaine turned back to the crew, waving his hand in a grand gesture as he explained, "You see, my good men, the creature of the Loch was banished here by a Catholic monk, vowing and cursing the creature to do no harm to any child of God. This man here, comes from a long line of Atheists, wasn't even baptized." The smile and the gesture faded from Kaine's face, "And he's been sentenced to death for crimes that I don't really care about. And in lieu of waiting decades and pushing through appeal, after appeal, the good government has decided to donate this man to our cause."
The crew still didn't budge on their position, closing around Kaine and the chained man, "But why do we gotta use him as live bait, Boss? He'll be suffering something terrible!" Another smile graced the leader's face, distorting the scars on his cheek, "Who said he'd be live bait?" Quicker than any of the men could react Kaine drove one of the sharpened spikes of the hook through the chained man's chest; then pushed him overboard, into the icy water. The chain clinked and clinked as more was drawn out, the body weighted down with the chains, heading for the bottom.
Shocked was a delicate phrase for the look upon the crew's faces. It soon gave way to anger, then before they could decide to rush the man in leather, they all stared down the barrel of the giant handgun. Hesitation saved their lives. "Just do as your told and you'll all be very, very rich." It took a moment, but they all accepted their responsibilities. The men left him alone and Kaine took a seat on top of the canopy, staring down at the black water, waiting for a sign. Night was already closing it's dark fingers around the day and the stars began to shine.
Heavy rain gave way to a light drizzle, the bucking Loch became almost placid, and hours seemed to be grinding by. Kaine knew he hadn't made a mistake with the bait, but perhaps the location was a bit off. Calculations walked through his head, a slower pace than what he was used to, as every bit of information was checked and checked, again. That's when the first sign came. The back of the boat dipped, the chain pulling taut against the frame of the crane. The entire crew froze. Kaine waited with a wicked smile.
The boat dipped again, the chain rattling loudly, orders were shouted, the spotlights at the back of the boat were flipped on, the still night was alive with noise and movement. Kaine hopped down onto the deck, giving his own orders, and soon the chain began to be brought up. The boat creaked and moaned with the stress that was being caused by whatever was at the end of the chain, the engines running the winch complained. More and more of the chain came up, closer and closer his prize became. Kaine's voice was lost in the noise, but he shouted for them to pull, regardless.
All at once the world went still, just for a moment, then they were all plunged back into violence and maelstrom. The giant head of the creature broke the surface of the water, spraying the already drenched crew. It looked like a giant snake, the mouth open and threatening, lined with dagger-like teeth. An otherworldly shriek made several men cover their ears, shielding themselves from the piercing sound. The neck seemed impossibly long, but soon the body broke the surface, too. Deep green skin, white teeth, and yellow eyes, the trademarks of a living dinosaur. The creature fought and shook its head, trying to get the hook that was through its bottom jaw out. Kaine smiled so hard his face ached, then whispered to no one, "I knew it."
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Thursday, April 2, 2015
Job walked away from The Spire, dizzy with the implications he was going to have to deal with. He'd heard of messiahs and saviors before, in his old life, but in this world it just seemed ludicrous. Voices were murmurs, even the threats that rained down from windows above were nothing but noise, somewhere off in some distant place. He tried not to think of the monstrosities that awaited him, tried not to think of the crippling thirst and hunger that would plague him on his journey, or of the acid rain that could fall from the sky and burn him to nothing in seconds. This was too big for him. He was just a soldier. He wanted to sit down, let the world stop twirling. Job felt like a top, spinning out of control, seeking solid ground, but unable to find it.
He was leaning against a rusted car when he came to his senses, his shirt was soaked with sweat, his brow was slick, somewhere behind him the soft voice of Jedidiah was calling for him. He wanted to answer, but his throat was dry, his head ached from the sight atop the giant tower. He never considered himself an educated man, but certain words suddenly made so much sense, words he'd never thought he'd use to describe a single thing as long as he lived. 'Bedlam, maelstrom, conflagration' were all real and visceral now, like he could feel the weight of them on his mind and tongue if he spoke them. The old preacher's hand laid gently on his shoulder, letting Job know he was there, “Come on, son, let's get some rest, the night approaches soon and we don't want to be out with the things that go thump in the dark.”
The disoriented soldier could only nod, following behind the shuffling old man, through the town, back to the church. The sun was diving past the distant horizon, turning the already odd colored sky into an even stranger purple. Job stopped at the steps of the small church, looking back at where the sky gave way to dirt, feeling the weight of the setting day on his shoulders. The last rays of light danced across the dark colors, highlighting the winged things that were starting to emerge, looking for whatever and whoever they could devour. Soft coos, like those of a whale, were carried on the gentle wind that wafted by the stranger in this strange land. He watched the things climb out of the dunes outside of the town, shake the dirt from their heavy fur, stretch their bat-like wings, and take to the bruised sky. Job's thoughts were dark as he stepped inside and closed the doors, wondering why he'd not encountered them before. He scoffed out loud at the though of 'divine intervention'.
Job stayed up most of the night, after the meager dinner the father had served for them, he let his mind wander, think of all the things he'd have to face. Images played over and over again, like a slide show on repeat. It was a long time before he fell asleep, the sounds of large wings flapping and coos and their echos lulling him into slumber. The sleep was deep, but dreamless, like the world was covered in a thick, black blanket, shielding him from everything. It was comforting, time was not present, it was his own little world. Jedidiah's voice began to pull him out of his world, each word another tug, until Job was awake. The sun was pushing through the small spaces in the wooden shutters, giving the back room of the church an orange hue. Job sat up and finished waking, shaking away the deep sleep, and decided to see what Jedidiah was going on about.
The rickety door creaked open, leading into the main room of the church, the once empty pews now packed to the brim with people. They didn't notice Job, their backs to him, but they sat in rapt attention of Jedidiah as he spoke, “No, my good people. This is a Church of Mankind, not of promised messiahs, or of prophets. Job is only a man, a victim of science, as we all are, in some way. We mustn't go back to the old ways, believing one man was sent to save us.” Job sat quietly in the back, content in the shadows, as he watched the preacher take a more serious tone, “Need I remind you? Look at the world outside our walls. Where were the kind and loving sons of deities when our earth and it's people burned? Where were the miracles our forefathers were promised when our own skin was melted from the acid falling from the sky? Why can't the ones that are lost to the desert, devoured by creatures from nightmares, feel their mercy?”
Jedidiah's hand, covered in melted skin, reached up to touch his own face, the cheek's damaged texture near identical. “The pain we've felt, the people we've lost, the world that still burns, shows us that we must never believe in a single man again. There are no messiahs, no prophets, no promised ones. Do not let hope falsely lead you into faith.” The soldier at the back of the room observed carefully, watching heads hang, either in shame, or resignation to the truth. Murmurs went through the crowd like a ripple on water, wanting answers, others seeking forgiveness for their presumption. Jedidiah's white colored eyes glanced over his congregation and went directly to Job, standing in the shadows in the back, “Let the man, himself, talk to you and qualm your fears.” He gestured for Job to come forward, “Please, my son.” Every person turned to look at him, the pews creaking in unison, feet shuffling in concert.
Job felt a bit of nervousness in his stomach, but walked forward, anyways, clearing his throat and letting his crossed arms hang loose at his side. Whispers that he couldn't make out followed him like a wake as he stepped upon the tiny stage, replacing Jedidiah. He looked out at the pool of expectant faces. He didn't know what to say, what to do; so he stood there, hands on the altar and stared blankly. It seemed like a few minutes, but a voice came through, a meager, older voice, “Will you save us?” Job felt his heart sink again, he wanted to say 'yes' and mean it, but even he didn't know if the journey was going to be taken. His mind was blank, devoid of all things clever, not even the simple words of his training were there. So he just opened his mouth and let the words pour forth, whatever they may be, they would be the truth, he decided.
“I don't know if I can, truthfully. I'm just a soldier. I've never really been anything other than that. I don't know if I'll even take the journey to try and restart or fix whatever is out there. I'm new to this world, and it's....frightening. Where I came from the very idea of monsters and acid rain are fiction, things of nightmares. I don't know this world. I don't know any of you. And if you think that's a cruel thing to say just remember that my family is dead.” He paused for a moment, the weight of those words hit him hard, “My friends, everyone I've ever known....they're dead. You care about you and yours, and I don't blame you, you have to. I don't. They're not my family or friends, this isn't my world. But there's a chance I can get it back to good and save you. And in doing so, save myself. Understand something: No matter what I decided. I decide in my own interest. And that has nothing to do with any of you. For that, I'm sorry.” Job didn't raise his head, he didn't want to see the silent faces. He simply stepped off the small stage and walked back to the small room where his bunk was.
He spent the rest of the day in silence, staring at the sun turn the blinds on the windows different colors, then finally set. Jedidiah didn't bother him, not once, and with the words Job said earlier, there's plenty of reason not to. Job's thoughts were swimming, passing through all sorts of possibilities, all the failures that could happen, all the terrible creatures out there, waiting for a meal. His mind glided over the landscape that he remembered from The Spire, trying to plot a course where the monsters didn't roam, but the task was too difficult, he wasn't familiar enough with the territory. With his thoughts so scattered he couldn't get his plan straight, so he decided to plan it like he would a mission, back when he was a soldier. Hours went by as he tediously thought and plotted, changing variables when he could and couldn't, taking stock of what he had. Job didn't even notice that the night had passed as dawn began to break, quieting the soft coos of the creatures that flew in the night and bringing back color into the world.
A little while after dawn Job could hear the slow shuffles of his host and the gentle placing of a tray of food at the door. Guilt crept into Job and he got up and opened the door, facing the gentle smile of his only friend, “Jedidiah. I'm...I'm sorry.” The kind old man with the half melted face smiled and patted Job on the shoulder, “Don't be sorry, son. You're only human. No one can blame you for your trepidation, even if they had the education to do what needed to be done, themselves, you bet they'd still choose not to go.” With another reassuring pat the old man shuffled off to his own room, leaving the soldier to think in the dark and enjoy his meager meal. All the motivational posters, encouraging words, speeches, everything that he'd heard in the military, came back in whispers, like lost, faint memories trying to make themselves known. They would fade as quickly as they came, leaving only traces, floating in the depth-less moat that had become Job's conscious thoughts. Luckily those didn't hang around that long, either, and soon Job gave in to sleep. His dreams were light, though they were nightmarish, none were memorable.
The sun came again, just as harsh as before, the quiet coos of the giant bat-like creatures died out as a soft dawn became a blaze of light pounding against the closed shutters. Job cracked open his burning eyes, feeling as he'd only gotten a few hours of sleep, waiting for the soft shuffle of Jedidiah's footsteps, but they didn't come. The quiet lingered, like an unwelcome guest, uneasy and all but palpable. Sound exploded, boots trampled the soft floor of the church, shouts of 'be careful' and 'over there', came. Job hopped out of bed, reaching for his knives when the door to his room burst open, four men poured in, holding a large army crate. They dropped it beside the bed as the old soldier stared on. “Thar ye go, boy-o, tha' only t'ing we found out in tha' dump of a place ye say ye came from. Hope yer happy, boy-o.” The skinniest one, with the worst teeth, finished his speech with a kick to the heavy chest on the floor that did nothing but cause a bit of dust to rise. With sneers and whispered threats they left Job to his new companion. Jedidiah's soft shuffling came wafting down the hallway, “Job? Job? Are you okay?” The soldier answered, “Yeah, I'm just fine, Jedidiah. I'm just fine.”
Job got to his knees and inspected the sealed crate, knocking off layers of dust and dirt around the rim, revealing a seal and a small label, 'Arms and Armament'. Job smiled, finally feeling like he'd caught a break, just as the old preacher stood in the door, “Job? What did they bring?” The soldier's fingers found the catch, pulled hard, hoping it'd give way, “An equalizer.” Jedidiah nodded and said he'd leave Job to it. The heavy latch gave and resounded with a loud 'CLACK'. The lid popped open just the slightest, allowing air to rush out from the pressurized container. The soldier hesitated, thinking that maybe he was, in fact, frozen and thawed out for the very purpose these people believed. Maybe he was supposed to save this world, maybe none of this had been an accident, after all. Hope flared up in Job's heart as he opened the lid to the box, the heavy plastic hinges creaked and complained as he did.
Inside was what the soldier hoped for: an M4 assault rifle, a heavy ballistic vest, a Kevlar helmet with a strange attachment on the brow, a .45 caliber handgun, four boxes of ammunition for both the rifle and the pistol, clips, magazines, and silencers for both. A folder, sealed in plastic, lay at the bottom of the crate. After a brief inspection, making sure that everything worked, Job grabbed the sealed document and cut it open. For some reason the smell of the paper and plastic was comforting to him. He opened the folder, inspecting the first sheet of paper, a table of contents that gave no real information, then he turned the page, the first words sank all the hope he'd had: Long Term Storage Test #4189: Cryogenic Freezing of Equipment and Storage. He read on. 'Long term cryogenic storage, test number 4189, rifle, pistol, ammo, HUD helmet, Sensor Vest, Neptunium slow drain batteries. Test set for longest available freeze. To be thawed out and tested at date set on freezer pod. Please report results to local research agent.' The date on the papers was more than a hundred years after he'd been frozen.
The soldier laughed, tossing the papers aside, finding the entire thing utterly hopeless, but at the same time hilarious. No predetermined fate. Rage began to build beneath the hopelessness, forcing the laughter to the wayside. A decision was made. It took him a few minutes to figure out where to put the batteries, following the overly simplistic instructions. Inside the vest was a web of sensors and wires, all sewn into the cloth of the vest, a cable coming from the top of the vest near the neck, and the pockets ready for the magazines that were in the crate. The helmet seemed to be just as heavy as the ones he was used to using, the only real exception was the strange square plate of technology on the brow and the wire on the back. The vest went on and adjusted itself, tightening snugly to his torso, the helmet and vest connected to each other at the nape of his neck. With the push of the only button on the visor the helmet came alive. It lowered an armored shield, expanding to under his chin and the sides of his cheeks, hiding his entire face behind it. For a moment the world was black, then it burst into colors and text. There were monitors for everything: Heart rate, body temperature, hydration level, injuries, the amount of bullets that were stored in the vest. He picked up the rifle and there were new displays, telling him the amount of bullets in the magazine, even bringing up a digital cross hair to let him know what the weapons were pointed at.
For the first time since he woke up in this nightmarescape Job didn't feel helpless or lost; he felt like used to: Like a man with a mission. He counted his steps, lined them up, while he loaded all the magazines and clips he had. What needed to be done was finally clear, so he would do it, and maybe he'd save this miserable world while prolonging his own life. Odds had finally shifted in his favor and he was more than grateful for it. After all was loaded, said, and done, Job stared at the noon sky, the black clouds, the blue and purple lightning, and thought of all the horrors that awaited him on his journey. He didn't feel the same dread as before, the sense of hopelessness was lost, he now had a purpose. And the first step was to get what he needed from the Mayor of this little town. Job pulled the charging handle on the rifle, chambering the first round, and putting him in a way of thinking that was all but lethal.
Most of the morning had gone, but he didn't mind, he still had time to get to where he wanted and do what he needed. With a full load of ammunition and attitude Job made his way out of the church silently, taking to the road, his helmet visor down, his rifle brandished, pistol in it's holster. As he walked down the dirt path his helmet gave him all sorts of information, even trying to recognize the region he was in, the best it could do was some small town named El Paso, but nothing else. The townspeople that saw him in his battle gear turned and went back inside their rickety buildings and homes, avoiding him as he went down the main road. His destination was that town hall of a party palace, the guards were nothing but targets, this time. His helmet counted the nine individuals for him, but he knew he only needed to take down two.
The biggest of the guards stood as Job approached, wearing a confused look that quickly turned to fear once the armored man's rifle went to his shoulder. Job didn't know what the rounds were made of, but he knew they'd be more than effective. With a short burst of three rounds the giant man's body broke apart like plate violently thrown against the wall, blood, bones, and internal organs splattered across the dry ground. The loud reports drove the rest of the mob back, the gory mess of the giant man took away their fight, and they all backed away silently. Another three rounds turned the lock on the door to shredded metal, sparks joining the barrel flash, lighting up the already bright afternoon. Inside the hall a dance track was playing loudly, the lights were low, but people were cowering away from the commotion instead of enjoying the rhythm. This was the effect the old soldier wanted.
His helmet alerted him of hostile movement from his left, the other guardian, and as quickly as his current setup would allow him, Job dropped to his knee and repeated the same process as outside, turning the man into chunks of flesh and sprays of blood, all colored oddly from the strobing lights inside. The man with the armor and rifle walked uninhibited to the main office, the door opening quietly. “Move to the other side of the room, next to the desk.” Job didn't recognize his own voice, it was projected through the digital speakers, distorting it and making it semi-robotic. Several men, that couldn't be scene from the hallway, followed the order. Job switched the rifle to his left arm and drew the pistol, the silencer making it look much larger than it actually was, but added menace to the weapon. The mayor sat with a smirk on his face, staring at the man in the armor before him, “Welcome back, Job. Seems ye' found yerself some new toys. What can I do fer ye'?” The soldier leveled the pistol at the mayor and let the menacing digitally converted voice carry the threat, “I need volunteers to go save this miserable world.”