Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Runs Thin (Original Series)

Michael woke early. To his right was the window to his second story bedroom, to his left was Balthezar, in a deep slumber and naked. He ran his hand through his hair, surprised to find it almost shoulder length, but it had been a busy few months. The guerilla war they'd been fighting had taken its toll on all of them, even Master Raecien was slumbering in the next room, dreaming of something that made him mutter in his sleep.

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

An Immortals Tale (Original Series)

An Immortals Tale
The March to Heaven
Chapter 2: The Rumor of God

Two men sat in a diner down the street from a destroyed building, one with short cut blonde hair and green eyes, the other with hair bordering the long end and grey eyes. They were still and silent for a long time, staring into their cups of coffee, soaked to the bone from the rain. The restaurant buzzed with noise and life, flowing all around them, but the two paid no mind to it. Even as the waitress came back for the the third time, asking what they wanted to eat, did they barely respond. Through the sky was already dark from rain the night managed to make it even darker, hiding the moon behind thick clouds, lightning brightening the world when it felt like it.

Jon broke the silence, finally, "Bob? What happened?" Without looking up the angel responded, "Before I answer that I have to ask, Jon: Have you heard the rumor?" Lucifer's words rang through his head, but the rumor was left out, "No. I heard there was one. Lucifer-" Bob scoffed at the mention of the name, "Him. Oh, I bet he enjoyed playing out that tale for you." Jon shook his head, "He didn't tell me, Bob. He said I wouldn't believe him." Green eyes stared in disbelief for a moment, studying the Paladin's face, "He's up to something, I know it. You mustn't get caught up in-" It was Jon's turn to interrupt, "Bob. Please."

It took some considering, and another bit of time, but the blonde man answered, "It's...they say...God is no longer in heaven." The words were as confusing as they were disheartening, and it was Bob's turn to sit in silence and await a response. Jon's mind raced through all the reasons that the rumor would exist, but he couldn't narrow just any single reason down. When he looked up to his friend, he answered without being asked, "Jerusalem. The rest of the world's memory was wiped away, the horrible things never happened, all those people didn't die, but the rest of the world. The Angelfolk, Demonfolk, the Attuned, we didn't forget. And some of them took it as a sign that God no longer is in his throne." 

The idea was suddenly very clear to Jon, "And now everyone wants to occupy it." Bob nodded, "By sword or by favor everyone wants to claim it." Once again the scale of the problems of the world was more than any one man could combat against, but he wouldn't be alone, Jon knew there were other Paladin. "So that's why I was woken up? To join the others of my kind and try to keep the peace?" Bob emptied his cup and shook his head, "You're the last one, Jon." The immortals cup was already empty, so there was no buffer, "What? What do you mean I'm the last one?" The angel's perfect features wore a scolding look very well, "Who do you think they killed first?" 

"Who is they, Bob?" The moment paused while Lily, the waitress, filled their cups again. "The Angels. They knew that it was you and your kind's job to restore balance. The logic is easy to follow. After they were gone the next targets were our kind: The Seraphims that arm you guys." Bob touched the shoulder where his arm used to be, "I only survived because I was on fired and covered in blood, I'm sure I looked dead. My brothers didn't make it." Jon offered his solemn condolences then asked why he was still alive. "No one could find you. It was like you'd disappeared off the face of the Earth. When they couldn't find you we all assumed you'd died in Jerusalem." 

Jon wondered about how he kept hidden, not aloud, but trying to think why he would be hidden, and then something tripped up his thought process, "Wait. You said 'We'." Bob kept his gaze upon the cup in his hand as Jon spoke again, "What did you mean 'We'?" The Angel's brilliant green eyes were shimmering with tears, "I'm sorry, Jon. They said they'd let me live." The world exploded, cacophony and fire were everywhere. Jon's ears rang, but his grey eyes worked perfectly, he checked his surroundings. The tiny restaurant was in shambles, lights hung from the ceiling, flashing on and off, sparks were spitting from exposed wires. Sterile white walls were covered in dust and blood, gore clung to the moldings, people were gasping and choking. 

The ringing died down to a voice, so pleasant it was almost musical, "Jon. Oh, Jon? Did you live through that?" There was nothing too painful for him, so he stood, brushing the dust and dirt off his suit, "Yeah. Yeah, I lived. And who's asking?" The beautiful voice replied, "Step out of that mess and let's introduce ourselves properly, please." The immortal decided to comply, walking over body parts and bodies to the blown in front, and out into the night. The orange streetlights illuminated the chaos and the single man that stood outside, wearing a smile, dark jeans, and a button up black shirt. Long blonde hair that curled in places reached the middle of the mans back, his body was in perfect shape, skin was like porcelain, and with eyes a shade of blue that was too perfect to describe.

The man stood in the middle of the street, Jon on the sidewalk. "The Paladin Jonathan Ross, I presume?" "And you are?" The blonde bowed deeply at the waist, "I am Epoch, member of the first Choir of Angels, enforcer of the word of Michael. I'm also your executioner, and for that I'm very sorry." He stood back up, still smiling, to his full height of around five and a half feet. Jon knew better than to engage an Angel head to head, so he had to delay to think of something, "So, Epoch. Why did you kill the people in the restaurant? Why kill Bob?" It was enough of a question to intrigue his opponent, who looked back at the smoking wreckage he'd created.

"The humans and the Seraphim? Innocent? Please, Paladin, don't make me laugh. Those people are all sinners, and two of them are atheists. They don't even believe God exists. As for the one known as 'Bob', well...The weak must be culled. Chaff from the wheat and all that." Jon's temper flared, but he was still thinking of what could be in his repertoire that could possibly take down an Angel. "If you're trying to buy time until the police show up, don't bother. I've put this entire city to sleep. Unfortunately, your time has come." Pain took Jon's words before he could speak them, his vision white from the impact he never saw coming.

His head went through the back window of the car, his body crushed the trunk. When Jon lifted his head he was twenty feet or so from where he was standing previously, the Angel was on the sidewalk, strolling towards the wreckage Jon was now a part of. Anger now flooded through the Paladin, all his powers awakened at once and begged to be unleashed, and he did not deny them. He opened his mouth and let forth a blast of energy, as much as he could expel at once. Epoch held out his palm and the blast impacted and dissipated almost instantly to nothing. Jon focused his vision and let forth another blast of energy as he pulled himself from the wreckage of the car, but it got the same treatment and the angel kept walking forward. 

"Please, Jon, don't embarrass yourself. Just die with some dignity." Anger was a haze clouding Jon's thoughts, but he tried to think. The immortal smiled, his teeth red with his own blood, "There's an issue with me, there Epoch. I'm older than most other Paladins. So I got a few more tricks up my sleeve." With a shaky hand Jon reached into his pocket, where he always kept his vials of holy water, and withdrew one. The smug look never left the Angel's face, even as Jon began to speak a language that had been dead for more than a thousand years. Jon rushed the words, pressed to hit every syllable. As the last of the words fell from his lips the Angel Epoch stared down at him.

Jon shook the vial, the cue for the liquid to do something in reaction to the spell he'd just spoken, then glared angrily at it when nothing happened. The angel reached into the wreckage where Jon was and began to pull him out, prepared to deliver the final blow. Epoch lifted the immortal, his free hand forming a blade, fingers pressed together. Jon shook the vial again, ignoring the immediate threat, a last resort. "Goodbye, Paladin Jon." The liquid finally changed, the vial's clear contents turned black, and with that Jon met Epoch's smile, "Goodbye, Angel Epoch." Jon's hand flew as fast it could and smashed the glass container on the angels head. The scream that filled the air was unearthly, shattering windows and glass doors for blocks.

The Paladin was released as Epoch reeled away, he clawed at his smoking face in agony, dropped to his knees by the pain, his screams now just choking sobs. The black fluid melted away the holy beings flesh, sloughing off in chunks. Jon stood over Epoch, adjusting his suit as he spoke, "Black water. Deadly to Angelfolk. Luckily, though, this isn't enough to kill you. This, however, is." The immortal plunged his knife into the heart of the angel, twisting the blade. The world went silent again, but so did Jon's hope. Angels were hunting him, and now, even friends weren't to be trusted. With Epoch dead people began to wake up, and that was the immortals cue to leave the scene and try to regain a sense of self.

Half a block from the dead angel and the chaos that was left behind something happened that Jon couldn't believe: A woman walked into his path, fully awake, and seemingly unaffected by the sleep spell Epoch had cast. She looked one way, then the other, and laid eyes on the immortal walking her way. Both paused, staring wide eyed at each other, both just as confused as the other. Jon broke the silence, "Attuned." She startled and turned away, and began to walk quickly, muttering to herself, "Oh, my. Oh, no. Oh, goodness." Jon began to give chase, "Hey! Hey! Come back here!" 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An Immortals Tale (Original Series)

An Immortals Tale
The March to Heaven
Chapter 1: Everyone has One.

Jon drifted through the void, black, endless, nothingness. His body weighed nothing, his senses were non-existent, nothing mattered. He was finally comfortable and at peace. For a long time he remained there, happy to be a part of the void. Then something disturbed the emptiness,  buzzing like an angry fly in his ear. It was a voice, pushing through the thick shell of his sanctuary, saying something he didn't recognize. 

The voice repeated over and over, but as moments passed, it changed its tone. The annoyance that it carried fell away. The words were soothing, sweet, soft, and comforting. With every repetition they made more and more sense, revealing themselves to not be words, but a name. 'Jonathan Ross...Jonathan Ross...' it was so familiar, yet so distant. Slowly the name began to pull the immortal from the nothingness, towards the light, the pain, the world outside.

The smells of the world came first, soft and serene. Wood, books, a leather chair, and somewhere in the distance: gun grease. His body ached, each movement was met with resistance, his muscles complained. Finally sight came in, slow at first, then blinding, all at once. Still the soft voice cooed his name, gently, softly. The name. It was his name. Jonathan Ross, the immortal, the Paladin. And this was his home. He craned his sore neck around, took it all in. He stopped abruptly when the source of the voice revealed itself. 

There he sat, on the arm of Jon's chair, as the immortal lay on the floor: Lucifer, himself. He was tall, with perfect skin, a perfect smile, and long blonde hair, dressed in a gray suit with a red shirt and tie. While Jon struggled to get his body moving Lucifer smiled down at him with glee. "Good morning, sunshine! The earth says 'Hello!'" The groan that Jon emitted was unclear if it was from disgust or from the pain he was feeling. "Oh come on, Jon. Is that any way to greet an old friend?" Another groan came as Jon sat up on his floor.

The immortal worked his mouth, trying to dispel the dryness making it impossible to speak. His hand bumped into a glass of water, sitting next to him. He picked it up and shot the only other person in the room a look, waiting for an explanation. Again, the former angel smiled and tapped his throat. "Sleeping for two years tends to dry one out. I know, trust me. But, having your soul nearly sucked out will do that to a person." Jon sipped the drink, trying harder to make the roughness dissipate. "A 'thank you' would be nice, there, Jon." The immortal nodded and croaked one out, his throat still dry, as Lucifer continued.

"That's better. Now..." The immortal chimed in before the former angel could continue, "What are you doing here?" Lucifer's face wore annoyance, but with a hint of grace, said, "I was getting to that, Jon. Let's get you all woken up and fed before we continue, yeah? Chinese or hoagies?" With a spry hop, he left the chair's arm and helped Jon off the floor and to the chair. The Paladin's body was still waking up, pain throbbing through him. He knew he couldn't do anything against his visitor, so he could only answer, "Uh...Hoagies." 

Lucifer clapped, "Yes! I guessed right! Hold on a second." Jon watched him leave the room, and examined his surroundings. The single room apartment was not as he'd left it. The windows were back, the walls repaired, all the damage that had happened during that fight outside had been made right. He turned his gaze to his own body, checking for grievous wounds, but found none. He suddenly became aware of the fact that he was utterly naked, just as the blonde angel returned. Jon's hands instinctively went to cover himself as his guest returned, gently bumping the door open with his hip.

The blonde angel had two white bags clenched in his perfect teeth, a folding chair and a small folding table under each arm. He placed them in front of the immortal, setting up the dinner, when he noticed the self-censorship of the holy man. With a scoff he smiled at Jon, "Oh, please, Jon. I've been waiting a while for you to wake up. There's nothing I haven't seen at this point. And if it makes you feel better I can get naked, too." Rising out of the chair he began to undo his tie, but the immortal objected, "No, no! It''s fine. Just a reaction." Lucifer shrugged and sat back down, doling out the stuff in the bags. "Suit yourself. Let's eat. We've got a lot of catching up to do." 

Jon ate in silence, enjoying the beef hoagie as best he could. Lucifer, however, commented often about the taste of the sandwich, and the fries, following it with a sheepish smile. "Hey, I hardly get to enjoy things like this anymore. Usually it's all work, work, work." Jon smiled politely as they both finished their meals, giving another 'thank you' for the food. The tall blonde man smiled brightly and gave an enthusiastic, "You're very welcome, Paladin." Still wearing the same smile, Lucifer cleaned up the meal and returned from tossing the empty remains with two cups of tea, placing them on the table.

"I love tea. Such a wonderful concoction. I was there when they invented it, you know. Humans. So inventive. Feel better, Jon?" Though he was on high alert in the presence of the first fallen, Jon had to admit that he did feel much better. Lucifer nodded, "Good. Let's begin, shall we?" The immortal nodded his agreement as he sipped his chamomile tea. "You've been asleep for two years, Jonny boy. And, believe it or not, almost nothing has happened. Demonic activity here on Earth has fallen to microscopic numbers, all because of the example YOU made of that cult.

"But on the two-year anniversary of your little escapade, things have begun to heat up. Angels are coming down here and making a mockery of your work. Have you ever met an angel?" Jon wanted to reply, but he kept talking, "They're...well, for lack of a better term, dicks. They're so black and white, it's infuriating! Innocents have died in their little crusade - on both sides, mind you. And I thought I'd be here to lend you a hand for what's going to be coming up, there, Jon." Jon was reeling. The news that he'd been asleep for two years was a serious blow.

"What's coming up?" was the only thing Jon could get out. Lucifer looked surprised at the question and finished his sip. He answered as if his host was supposed to know. "The end of the world, of course." Another shock to Jon's system left him, once again, only able to utter a few words, "What do you mean?" The fallen angel finished off his tea, and sat it down before turning to Jon once more. "There's been a little rumor circling the world, and it's caused massive tremors. And now, unlike last time, there's a single entity leading this entire movement."

"No one knows who they are or what they wants, and truthfully I find back stories boring. Everyone has one, Jon, everyone. And they're all so cliché. Momma didn't blah-blah, daddy was yadda-yadda. I'm just no longer impressed with them. Anyways. Demonfolk and angelfolk, alike, have all begun their march to the Pearly Gates." Jon looked confused, by more than one thing, but asked, "What's the rumor?" Lucifer smiled, "Now, THAT I can't help you with, Jon. But I can tell you where to begin."

The angel got up, folded his chair, adjusted his suit, and walked toward the door. He turned around as he opened the door, a mischievous smile on his perfect face, making his green eyes shimmer, "I'd tell you what the rumor is, but, the question is: Would you believe me? Oh. How long has it been since you've been to Constantinople?" With that the door closed, and Jon was left to ponder if this bizarre meeting really happened. With a bit of resolve, the immortal found his feet and walked to the shower, taking his time to get himself back in order. After shaving, showering, and donning one of his black suits, The Paladin walked back into the world, unsure and unready for what was going to happen next.

After a short distance, getting his stride back, Jon found himself not wanting to take a cab, but to exercise his muscles. The afternoon was waning on, the sky darkening, both with rain and night. The immortal kept going, none the less. What was a forty minute car ride turned into a two hour walk back to his old friends' place: The the three angels. Hope swelled inside Jon at the sight of his destination, then was dashed to nothing as he saw something he didn't expect: The Angels' building was destroyed. It looked like a bomb had gone off, taking apart the structure like a cardboard box that a firecracker had gone off in. 

Jon's hand pushed through the yellow tape sealing off the entrances to the place, worry deep in his mind. His new senses didn't smell or see any real reason for the demolition, but he knew the reason almost instantly: Divine Fire. On what was left of the floor where the angels stayed was almost nothing but debris, pieces of the giant metal door that protected them scattered throughout the ruins. The immortal prayed silently that his friends escaped the conflagration intact. As he finished his 'Amen' the clouds above roared and opened up, pouring their contents upon the world. And in that moment Jon felt truly lost in a tumultuous sea.  

As he stood there, in the cool rain, another voice rang out, a familiar one. "Oh Jon. What a mess of the world they've made." The immortal looked down the alley way, his eyes resting on a sight he'd never expected to see: A man with blonde hair that had been shaven to the scalp, beautiful green eyes, perfect skin covered in grime, and missing his left arm. "Have you come to help, Jon, or to finish what my brethren started?" The soft British accent, which was so nice to hear, before, was heavy with pain and hopelessness that left Jon all but speechless. When their eyes met Jon could say but a single word: "Bob?"

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Blood Runs Thin (Original Series)

Michael sat still, watching the rain pour out over the night, making everything shine. The moon was particularly beautiful, its shape reflected in the pools of water on the empty street. Crouched like a gargoyle overlooking its domain, the vampire let the smells of the world wash through him, bringing back beautiful memories, and memories that filled him with rage. 

Atop the pointed roof of his warehouse, soaked to the bone, he waited. The place was empty now, as Phil's workshop relocated to a nearby suburb. He wasn't happy about it, but it had to be done. Michael stayed behind, sending his new partner in crime to retrieve his sire, after letting him experience the pleasantries that were doled out by The Community. They'd all be hunted, no doubt, but Michael wanted to make sure that their world burned before he gave his final breath. 

The plan, as long as it would take, would be executed the way he wanted it to be, no other way. As the details of it began to sprint through his mind, a scent caught his nose: fresh human blood. He knew his sire was near. He stretched and stood, waiting for the arrival of his old friend, and his new wolf one, the night still washed with  rain. Lightning flashed across the sky, turning the night to day just for an instant. He didn't need the assistance, but Michael easily spotted his compatriots coming in from the edge of the forest line.

Balthezar was naked as the day he was born, his muscular body and thick curly hair soaked, parts of him swinging back and forth with his gait. Raecien was just as drenched, but seemed nowhere near as jovial as the nude vampire, a grimace firmly affixed to his bearded face. Their pace slowed as they approached the warehouse and the waiting vampire, who smiled and growled their greeting, "Welcome home, friends. Let us plot the end of the world." 

Inside, out of the rain, Michael led his little company to the office, where clothes awaited Balthezar, and a reward for Raecien. Talks and planing were held off until the old vampire was dressed, and the wolf had consumed his leg of beef. Michael watched his sire dress, remembering nights they'd spent together, vivid and gentle. But it wasn't time for that, now. "I can always tell when you stare at me, Chell." Balthezar's voice brought the young vampire out of his thoughts. 

Michael could feel his face heat, "Don't call me Chell, you know I never liked it." Raecien paused his noisy eating and rolled his eyes at the whole exchange, choosing to turn his back to the other species and continue his delicious meal. "So what is this grand plan, Chell? Do we burn down the capital? Assassinate all the officials? Expose a corrupt system? Or simply take them all to war?" the sire asked, pulling on his shirt and freeing his wet hair from the collar. 

His purple eyes faded to the gold of the Fire of the Night, conveying the deep conviction and hatred Michael felt, "No. We start a civil war, watch them kill each other off, and then burn what's left of them. We light a conflagration so immense that only ashes and blackened bones will be left for us to crush underfoot." Balthezar's demeanor darkened with the words, his jovial nature nearly completely defeated. "And the innocent, Chell, what of them?" Michael's eyes still burned as he answered, "There are none." 

The old vampire was afraid to ask, but he didn't need to. "After they came for me, they went for Aviel. She didn't go down easily, so they took their time with her." Images of her body flashed through Michael's mind, her naked form in the throes of both pleasure and unbearable pain. "After Aviel, it was Maris, then Julia, David, Eleanor, Rebecca....Shae." The last name made all the difference. Balthezar hadn't talked to his sister for a few years, since they'd both left the house of Tor, hoping to start over. 

"Did...did she..." Balthezar couldn't finish, but Michael answered, "No. She suffered the worst. I'm sorry." The old vampire put his fists on the metal desk that held his clothes, trying to choke back the fury gathering inside, aching to be loosed on anything, and violently. He didn't hear the desk creak and groan as it bent under his strength. Testing his voice wasn't an option, not for a few more moments. Even Raecien's noisy meal had halted, though his back was still turned.

Michael waited, knowing how much it hurt, feeling the pain emanating from his sire in waves. Balthezar's silence broke. He spoke only two words, "What's first?" The young vampire placed a sympathetic hand on his sire's shoulder, "Markov." Raecien stood slowly and turned to face the vampires, his face contorted with confusion, "The human second in command?" 

Michael's brow lowered into a stern look, "Is there an issue, Master Raecien?" The wolf growled, anger in his voice, "Not an issue, but a request." Both the vampires waited, "I get to eat his heart."

The vampire with the purple eyes couldn't help but smile. He went to his wolf friend and wiped away some blood from the wolf's lips, left over from the meal. 
"Of course you may." 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Burnt World: Finale Part 1

The Mayor stared at the barrel pointed sternly at his face, the man behind it determined and armored, their face hidden behind a mechanical mask. The sight was horrifying, his ego and bravado was suddenly put into check, fear taking his sarcastic comments before he could make them. Job's voice was distorted now, like the techno songs that pumped downstairs, only this voice conveyed ferocity, instead of joy.

It had been a long time since the Mayor had felt genuine fear. He almost relished the rush, watching the mysterious things that were leveled at his head. He didn't know what they could do, but a large part of him didn't want to find out. The demand was simple, but the delivery was going to be the difficult part. "Alright, thar, boy-o, calm down, now. I'll 'ave some volunteers fer yer lit'le mission. Ease up on tha' thing, will ye'?" 

Job didn't want to let up on the pressure, he wanted to push this as far as he could take it. "I'll calm down when I feel like. Do you have cars? Vehicles? Anything with a running engine?" The Mayor looked lost in thought for a moment before he commented on some old motorcycles out back that might be salvageable. "Bring them to the church before sunset. And if anyone does anything to Jedidiah or the church they WILL answer to me. Understand?" The Mayor answered silently with a smile and a nod. 

It wasn't over. There needed to be an example. The old soldier turned to the rest of the posse against the wall, waiting for them to nod their agreement. All but one did, exactly as he predicted. Muscle memory kicked in, the pistol with the silencer whipped through the air and found the man. There was barely any time to react, on anyone's part, Job pulled the trigger, sending three lethal rounds out. The man who didn't nod took all three bullets to the chest, the wall was sprayed red, viscera clung loosely for a moment and then succumbed to gravity. 

The man slumped over, his head hitting the floor with a thick thud, exposing what was left of his back. Three giant exit wounds showed white bone, a severed and fractured spine, and what was left of his internals. Every face, except the one hidden behind military grade technology, was in terror and drained of all color. Job's robotic voice came again, breaking them out of their trance. "Don't disappoint me." 

Job's exit was quick and unhindered. The church was his base of operations, for now, and then in the morning he would begin to take the steps necessary to find out if he could do anything about this burnt world. As he walked back, taking in all the information from the various displays on his Heads Up Display, the thought of telling Jedidiah he'd killed men today weighed heavily on him, for some reason. He knew the news would come, eventually, but for some reason, he didn't like the idea of the old man knowing. 

Jedidiah was sitting on one of the front pews of the church, his hands atop the cane that helped him walk. The old man looked up as Job entered and gestured for the soldier to sit with him. And he did. With a click the visor came up and the world was back to normal. There was no words coming to the soldier, so he waited. He didn't have to wait long. Jedidiah spoke with the same softness and kindness he'd always had. 

"Job, my boy, I want you to know that I will never judge you. You must do what you must do, as a soldier, and as a human. This world can be cruel, hate-filled, and violent. And one must adapt or be pulled under foot of those who have. I will never begrudge you trying to keep alive, or trying to keep others alive, by any means you deem necessary." He ended his sentence with a soft pat on Job's shoulder, smiling up at him, and nodding. The ancient soldier was grateful for the words, but he felt he was compelled to tell his benefactor.

"Jedidiah. I...have something I have to confess. I-" The old man cut him off, "You don't need to confess a thing to me, my boy. I'm no god, and I am not without my own sins. Just help, if you can, and want to, and live as well as you can." Job was taken aback. Those simple words, free of judgement, and want, made the idea of the old dogma his old life held over his head seem simply vile. Job nodded, "I will, Jedidiah, I will." With that, the white eyed old man stood up and shuffled off into his room, leaving with a smile. 

The sun started it's slow descent into the horizon while Job waited for the Mayor's cronies to show up with what he'd requested. The idea of killing all of them didn't bother him too much, for some reason. He also wondered at the nature of the vehicles they were bringing, and if they could be repaired. Memories of summers with his father and uncle repairing cars and dirt bikes seeped into the edges of his mind, playing old sounds and smells, making the memory of them being gone all the more painful. He diverted his memories to the repairs they used to do, and to his training and education from the military.

Determination started to set in as the sky was turning to the color of wine. Job would play the part of the executioner, and like one, he'd have no mercy. One last deep breath, to steel himself, and he was ready. As soon as he stood, the breath still filling his lungs, sounds of a cart being pulled up the dirt road, accompanied by shouts, started to play. Relief washed over the armored soldier and the deep breath became one of almost total alleviation. He walked out to meet them, taking his rifle and pistol with him, just in case, hoping he wouldn't need them.

Three men, all of their clothes rags and tatters, hauled a cart with what looked like the remains of five dirt bike like motorcycles. They all but ignored Job as they walked by and left the cart in the yard next to the church. The effort was filled with grunts and curses before it was finally done. The complaints continued as they walked off, stares of discontent aimed at Job only brought a smile. The soldier began to study the contents and make his assessment. The parts were all there, but it would take work to make maybe three whole bikes out of the five.  There was even some tools included, all rusted, but they seemed useable. 

Thus Job began his work. For three weeks Job slaved away, tolling almost day in and out. From dawn until the winged things emerged from the sand dunes his work continued. Working on the bikes gave him hope, igniting in him a sense of purpose. The engines were different from combustion ones of the past, but the concept was close enough for the soldier to figure out how to get them to run on some alcohol from the mayor's hall. The first time the engine sputtered to life and hummed steadily Job couldn't help but smile. It was time to collect his crew and do what needs to be done. 

Job walked to the mayor's hall, this time he walked in unencumbered. He took notice of the shoddy job that had been done to replace the lock and the mechanism on the door where he'd blasted it in earlier. He also took note of some of the men trying to armor themselves by tying pieces of metal to themselves. The old soldier wanted to smile, but kept his face straight. The door to the Mayor's office opened before he arrived, the guards all giving him wide berth as he walked.

The soldier took the lead, speaking before anyone else could, "Where are my volunteers?" The visor was down, the voice was distorted, the HUD gave him all the information, there was no wiggle room for the leader of the town to exploit. The Mayor had his hands on his desk and a nervous look on his face, "You've got them, boy-o, you've got them. When d'ya want t'get goin', thar Job?" The plans had already been laid out by the soldier, "We ride out at dawn. I need two people to go with me, that's all. No more, no less." 

Business was concluded, as far as Job was concerned, so he turned to leave, but the Mayor still had something to say, "Sorry, thar, Job. But thar is still some...unfinish'd business tha' ye need t'address." Anger began to rise, but Job kept his cool, turning back to the Mayor, waiting for the rest. "The man ye kill'd not t'long 'go had a brother. An' he wants his pound o' flesh. I kno' tha' yer not from 'ere, but thar are rules tha' must be follow'd. Ye fight 'im. Ye win. Ye get t'go on yer pilgrimage. Ye lose. An' we bury ye nex' t' tha church." 

Job strode back to the desk, his grimace hidden by the helmet. The Mayor shot up from his seat, putting his hands out in defense, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! This needs t'be done! This ball o' dirt we call home has some rules! Ye may not be from 'ere, but they are!" As much as the man behind the mask wanted to decimate the mouthy mayor, he knew that this was a situation he couldn't avoid. 'When in Rome.' was the old saying. "Where?" he growled through the electronics. "He'll be waiting fer ye outside." Job turned to leave, again, and again the Mayor interrupted, "Oi! Be fair, yea'? Leave yer toys out o' tha fight."

Out  in the dirt street of the little town there was even less people than usual. They'd all sought some kind of shelter, eyes peered out of windows, others hid behind whatever they could grab. In the middle of street there was a giant man, his body was misshapen, mutated by the radiation of this world. His body was twisted up, flesh dragged and stretched out, the right arm was huge, triple the size of a normal mans. On the opposite shoulder the arm was equally warped, but instead of huge, it was emaciated to the point of being almost skeletal. Strands of thin hair stuck out from calcified boils atop the equally warped head, the mouth going from normal to a gaping maw, drool hanging from the separated lips.

The giant arm raised and pointed at Job while the mutant man spoke, "You...murderer. Me..kill. Brother...dead! You...MURDERER!" With that the creature launched forward, closing the distance quickly, bowed and twisted legs carried the man at a rapid pace. Job reacted as quickly as he could, letting his fighting instincts take over, running towards the mutant charging him. As much as he wanted to just draw his rifle and let his bullets rip apart the goliath, he resisted, instead drawing two knives. Where Job's run was steady and straight, the giant's was awkward and stilted. It made the soldier's strike easy to plan.

While the massive limb swung back, ready to come down on the much smaller man, a roar came forth. Job's speed and frame made it easy to avoid the hammer-fall, ducking under and going to his knees, sliding between the goliath's legs. The two knives in the fight made deep and horrific cuts into the flesh of the inner thigh, near the groin of the mutant, instantly bringing huge spurts of blood, and a cry of pain. Job recovered quickly on the other side, turning around and shifting his weight back towards his opponent. Using the built up momentum the soldier jumped on the broad back of the man, burying one knife under the shoulder blade, and using it as a hoist up. Another cry of pain came forth and Job let his voice join in, a furious yell as he brought down the second knife, plunging it hilt deep into the top of the skull of the creature. 

Silence swept through the world swiftly, leaving only the slight whistle of the wind. A sickening thud resounded off the scrap metal buildings, dust kicked up from the massive weight. Job stood upon the fallen corpse, his hands shiny with blood, and looked at the denizens that had come from the club, the mayor included. They all stood in silence and in awe of the spectacle that had just happened. Job's voice broke through the silence like a pane of glass shattered in the middle of a quiet night, "We ride out at dawn." 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Monster Hunter (Original Short)

Kaine sat in the bowels of the boat, feeling the ocean sway him back and forth, like a mother comforting a child. This would be the first hunt, the one that opens the doors for him, a nobody orphan. Those doors would lead to money, success, and eventually, revenge. Darkness helped the man think, plot, and take inventory of what he needed to do.

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

Blood Runs Thin (Original Series)

Balthezar stared at the wall across from the one he was chained to, wishing the sun would set, already. The thirst during the day was far worse than at night, he discovered. Though none of the sunlight that came in from the giant windows above him touched his skin, it was reflected harshly by the slathered on white paint, making it harmless, but still very painful. Cuffs made of a mix of steel and iron were clasped very tightly around his wrists, sapping his strength and causing him constant pain, suspending his arms above his head with nowhere to rest his body, he'd dangle in agony while he tried to let his legs rest.

The thirst was only part of his pain. He hungered intensely, his stomach at war with itself constantly, growling and moaning. They'd denied him blood thus far, but he wouldn't mind other food, either. He tried not to imagine all the good food he'd eaten in his long life, it only made his pangs worse. Being a prisoner of The Community was not the way he'd envisioned his days ending, that was for sure. He knew, now, why Michael had done what he did, and as much as the ancient vampire wanted to be angry, he couldn't. It had taken weeks of torture, starvation, beatings, and ceaseless questions to open Balthezar's eyes. He swore he'd never close them again.

Pain was nothing to the vampire, but the thirst was all but unbearable, cracked lips split open every time he moved. His mouth was coated with sand, his throat felt like paper, even the memory of a drink was something he could barely recall. The iron restraints sapped his abilities, the reflected sun weakened his already waning will, and the news he'd learned made the dark nights an enemy, instead of his home. Balthezar swore vengeance upon the ones who did this, silently, over and over. It became a mantra of hatred and pain, etched in his mind forever. He counted, in his mind, the ones he needed to kill, then counted the ones that he'd kill for sheer pleasure.

Quietly the sun set, the white paint reflecting orange for just a few moments, then darkness fell. Balthezar sighed with relief as his naked body no longer felt like it was on fire. He didn't care if the cuffs bit to the bone, again, he sagged against the solid concrete wall, letting the coolness of it drop his body temperature. It was a painful, but easy, decision to stay there, hanging like that, for a while. Suffering was but a distant memory for a while, and sleep came. Dreams were a luxury, comfort a tax, peace of mind a wish, the vampire in chains could afford none of them, even tears were too much to ask for.

Blood, or at least the scent of it, brought him awake, slowly he came around, his nose working to find the source. 'Another cruel trick, another form of torture.' he thought to himself. But the smell was strong, and fresh. Curiosity and hunger finished waking up Balthezar, his senses on high alert, on his aching feet, he tried desperately to find the source, but the iron wouldn't let him. Another splash came, this time so strong he nearly lost control, the blood seemed to be right outside his cell door. He fought back every instinct inside himself, no matter how loudly it screamed, and waited.

The world seemed so still, but his thoughts raged, 'Who was outside? Why did they spill fresh blood? Was it his executioners? Did they finally come to collect? Were they baiting him? Were they wishing for him to give into the beast within?' If they were, they were near their goal, his control was slipping quickly. His vision was blurring, the edges of the world were beginning to tint red, even the iron restraints were just a buzz at the edge of his perception. Tired, ached muscles began to awaken, straightening and straining themselves against the crippling cuffs. Somewhere, in the misty fog of his mind, Balthezar bade farewell to his sanity.

The entire room shook so hard dust was knocked out of the creases in the stone walls, the vampire lost his footing, the chains bit deep and pulled him away from the edge. Balthezar stared at the thick iron door in confusion as another shock rocked the small cell, causing more debris, and even a heavy stone to crack with an earsplitting report. It seemed like gravity was distorting the door, twisting and pulling it here and there, misshaping it. The metal screamed and collapsed upon itself, the door vanishing in a plume of dust and concrete. The vampire prisoner stared with wide eyes, not knowing what would come through the hole.

A man stepped through, ducking his head beneath the top, thick with muscle, a beard, piercing eyes, and hair down his back. In one hand he carried the keys to the restraints, in the other was a human guard, barely conscious. This was no man, but a Lycan, Balthezar noticed. With a flick the man was tossed into the center of the cell, then the wolf focused his attention on the captive, “Good evening. I am Raecien, Guardian of the Word, and my master asks you to join him for dinner.” He gestured at the moaning heap in uniform on the floor, “Consider this an appetizer.” With a single step the distance from door to restraints was closed.

As gentle as a man his size could be, Raecien undid the cuffs, then stepped back as Balthezar fell to the ground in a slump. Abilities began to come back, like opening shutters for the sun to come in, slow at first, but then all at once. The vampire stared at the giant man, his emerald green eyes fixated, but the rumbling in his stomach and the burning in his veins made the human too appetizing to ignore any longer. It was the most savage bite Balthezar had delivered in a very long time, but it made draining the man quick. Reinvigorated he stood and faced the Lycan, wiping his chin of the excess, “And who is your master, Raecien, Guardian of the Word?”

A low growl came from the wolf and he hesitated, but answered as if someone were twisting his arm to do it, “Master Michael of the House of Tor.” Belthazar's eyes went wide as saucers with the realization of what this meant. “And how do you propose to get us out of here, Master Raecien?” All the wolf answered was “Hold still.” as he wrapped his giant arm around the vampire's waist and leaped through a giant window above where the cuffs were chained to the wall. The back up arrived at the cell just as the remnants of the glass window danced across the concrete floor and their drained comrade, their arrival too late.

As they ran through the woods, in the rain, under the bright moon, Belthazar smiled at the feeling of dirt under his feet, leaves and all of nature against his naked body. He vowed he'd never complain about the rain again.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Burnt World: Part 4

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.”