Category Archives: Rough Draft

Dang Trolls

“Okay, so why do trolls like to live under bridges anyway?” Kevin asked as the squad car drove them away from the homeless shelter.  Brigitte, the person in charge of the shelter, had told them that Fraaphknot lived under the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Honestly,” Atheara said, unwrapping another chocolate bar, “I never gave it any thought.”  Twisting up her face, the fairy lost herself in deep thought, “They aren’t that sharp, maybe they like it under there.”

“It’s not just a stereotype?” Kevin asked.

Taking a bite of her chocolate bar, the fairy shook her head, “Mmm … nope.  Every one I’ve known lived under a bridge.”  She was glowing green that day and shaking her head cast off a scattering of golden, glittering mystical particles.

Blowing off some of the particles that landed on him, Kevin switched mental gears, “Are these things like fairy dandruff or something?”

The car came to a stop by the bridge and the doors opened for them as Atheara answered, “Uh nooo!  But if you mix them with fruit juice they’ll turn you into a frog … or is it a giraffe?”

Her face twisted up again, “Manatee?”

Shaking his head, Kevin climbed out and cast a look around the underside of the bridge.  Fraaphknot wasn’t hard to find among the homeless.  At over eight feet tall, as broad as a house and with ashen skin, he stood out worse than a manatee at a masquerade party.

Sitting against one of the Brooklyn Bridge supports in a flannel vest and blue jeans, he was scratching a mongrel dog behind the ears.  He seemed strangely gentle although somewhat disconnected.  The scratching was absent-minded.  Had he been any other race, Kevin would have assumed he was deep in thought.  But trolls didn’t have deep thoughts … did they?

“Fraaphknot?” Kevin asked, approaching the huge beast.

The troll looked up at him with his beady red eyes and blinked.

“We need to ask you a few questions about London if you don’t mind,” Kevin started, but the troll shook his head.

“Look, we just need to …”

The troll shook his head again, “Am I under arrest?”

“No, but are you aware ..?” Kevin started, but the troll cut him off.

“I don’t talk to cops without a lawyer,” Fraaphknot said through his tusks  and continued scratching the dog.

“Look,” Atheara stepped in, “You’re not a suspect, not under suspicion …”

Fraaphknot shook his head again.

“Come on,” Kevin groaned, grabbing Atheara by the shoulder, “Leave him here.”

“Hold on,” Atheara tapped the PC on her wrist.  Quickly she began scanning the holographic text that appeared in front of her.

“Honorable discharge huh?” she nodded.

The troll just blinked.

“But they wouldn’t let you re-sign huh?  Section Eight?” she smiled.

“You can drag up whatever you want …” Fraaphknot started to say, but the young detective cut him off.

“So you were kicked out for mental issues, your boss and a guy you fought came up dead,” she noted, raising one eyebrow.   “But why would you kill the dwarf?”

Fraaphknot likewise raised one eyebrow, “What dwarf?”

Kevin stepped forward, “That has your attention?  Why would Dwaldin Vtharth get your attention?”

“The jeweler right?” the massive troll pulled himself up.

“So you do know something,” Kevin smiled.

“Aye,” the beast swatted at Atheara’s hologram, causing it to warble and distort.  “You detectives suck.  Come on.”

The big troll pushed past as Atheara spoke up, “Wait, what …”

Stopping, he looked over his shoulder at the police, “A jeweler is killed.  A lost key is stolen.  A security company owner is killed.”

“How do you know about the key?” Kevin started, but quickly knew it was a stupid question.

“The news jackass,” Fraaphknot groaned.  “Now come on, we don’t have long.”

“Before what?  Where are we going?” Atheara asked, quickly gliding to the troll’s side.

“The House of Lords,” the troll explained.

In the year 2019, a musician and actress who went by the name of Traci Lords had gained prominence by becoming the Senator for the state of California.  At the age of fifty-eight, she had become President.  The former pornographic star turned trance musician was voted into two terms before popular vote put her back in office for two additional terms.  In an unprecedented move, she turned down a fifth vote so she could focus on peace in the Middle East.  In what became known as the Middle East Unification Treaty, she had managed to bring all the feuding countries together under an umbrella of mutual assistance.  The Middle East Unification Treaty was the start of what later became known as the Century of Peace; one-hundred-fifty years with no territorial wars, police actions or skirmishes.  She had died at the ripe age of ninety-seven, a legendary world leader and humanitarian.

Then started the worship.  Her media quotes were used as gospels, the club music she had written was used in churches devoted to her and her effigy became a symbol of peace.  Even the pornographic videos she had been in when she was underage were re-released as holy objects.  By the year 3000, the House of Lords was the most prominent religion in the world.

“That place weirds me out,” Kevin mumbled.

Fraaphknot stopped by the car, an amused look on his dull face.  There wasn’t a shoe-horn big enough to pry him into the little vehicle.

“Why?” he asked.

“It always seemed like I was just going to a dance club,” Kevin explained, catching up to the big troll, “Just with prayers.”

Snorting, the troll chuckled, “You might want to say one now … it’s about to get real ugly.”

 

I’ve been listening to way to much Traci Lords on my “I Heart Radio” stations.  It’s weird how much of her music has found its way into popular culture without people knowing she even did music … thus the idea for the House of Lords.

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The Chosen One – A Short Story

I apologize for the lack of updates lately.  I have three stories in the works, but can’t seem to get them done.  Here’s an odd little concept that’s been bouncing around in my head for while though.

The Chosen One.  It was said that a woman child would be chosen by the goddess to defeat the demon, a woman that would be the demon’s polar opposite.  It was said that she, herself, would be a dichotomy.  She would be born with hair the scarlet of flames and eyes the color of ice, she would be gentle and compassionate but deadly in battle, small and weak but strong and deadly.

Thasrie shifted in her saddle.  Eighteen years of non-stop training.  All the signs had pointed to her, all the efforts of her people had been poured into her and now was the time.  Chaste and pure as the virgin snow, her life had been dedicated to knowledge and comabat.  She had won the Underblade armor; gleaming steel armor forged by forgotten dwarves.  She had retrieved the Waveripper blade; a sword forged by the sirens of the north sea.  And with it all, she carried the hopes and dreams of her people.

Below her, the demon and its army tore into their forces.  Soldiers from her own kingdom fought side by side with the northern barbarians; savages known for their viciousness in battle and ability to sail through the most harsh seas.

The demon, fifteen feet tall and burning with the fires of the fifteen hells, lashed out at the soldiers with its blackened iron sword.  Their armor was useless, it crumpled before the beast’s onslaught.  Men were scattered like so many leaves before the typhoon of the monster.  As the body-count grew, Thasrie tapped her horse in the haunches, urging it forward.

“It’s time for this evil to fall,” she announced to her comrade.

On her left, the Knight Captain Chelter nodded.  He had been her constant companion throughout her life; training her, educating her and protecting her.  He was tall, quiet and stunningly handsome.  A true noble knight, his only goals were honor and duty.

Drawing her blade, The Chosen One lowered the visor on her helmet and they charged into the battle.  The Waveripper blade tore through the loose hides that the ogre soldiers wore, one after another they fell before the woman and Knight Captain.  As she cut a swath through the beasts to their demon leader, the young woman managed to see more movement out of the corner of her eye.

Turning, she saw a barbarian woman likewise charging toward the demon.  Her people where not known for their equestrian skills, but she guided the massive warhorse expertly.  Buxom with child-bearing hips, the large woman was filthy and her long blond hair was twisted in knots.  She wore the simple leather armor of her people and brandished a massive great-sword common to the barbarian warriors.  She charged past some ogres and mowed down others, her target being the demon in the center of the fray.

Thasrie smiled.  The poor woman.  She was overcome with the bravado of her people and would be cut down just as the soldiers had been.

Driving forward, Thasrie and her companion continued slicing through the wall of ogres.  One after another collapsed under the blade until the demon was in sight … and the barbarian woman!

Hopping onto her destrier’s saddle, the filthy woman with her chipped sword held the reins as the demon swung at her.  At the last moment, she jumped.  Clearing the attack, she brought her own massive sword around.  With a Valkyrie scream, she cut through the neck of the beast, sending its head flying as she tumbled to the ground herself.

Dead?  The demon’s body collapsed and quivered in the stunned silence of everyone on the battlefield.  It … it was dead.

But it couldn’t have been!  The barbarian wasn’t the Chosen One.  She … she was just a filthy savage!  Probably not even a virgin!

As the woman stood up and dusted herself, Thasrie approached her, “How … how did you ..?”

“Chopped ‘is ‘ead off din’t I?” the woman chuckled.

As the Knight Captain next to her dismounted, Thasrie lifted her visor in confusion, “But nobody but the Chosen One could kill it,” she said in a stunned mumble.  “I … the goddess picked me.”

Watching the Knight Captain take off his helmet, the barbarian woman snickered, “‘ell princess, yer goddess,” she turned and sneered at the young woman, “was wrong.”

Grabbing the blond man by the collar of his armor, the woman laughed, “Dumb gods, always talkin’ crap.  No good ta anyone.”

“What … now?” the dumbfounded Thasrie stammered as the ogres quietly dispersed and the barbarian horde cheered their victory.

Pulling the knight to her, the barbarian woman kissed him roughly on the mouth, “Ya go back ta princessin’.  We’re gonna celebrate ain’t we gorgeous?” she smiled at the handsome man.

Turning away and dragging the stunned knight behind her, the barbarian woman laughed, “I’ma be yer goddess ta’night boy.  I’ma make ya call me momma.”

The Chosen One could only watch as the filthy savage stole her glory away.


Tales from Charon – Bitter Reunion

Jenny Barrister could barely contain herself.  She was going down in history.  They were already talking about a Nobel for her work exposing the Biocorp hunter/killer program and their work on the Delta Units.

But every image could always use a little bit of tweaking and she had a perfect human interest story that would cement her image.  Caprice Parker, reunited with the son she couldn’t remember.  And a son, reunited with the mother he never met.

It was perfect.

As if on cue, the gate came to life in front of Jenny.  The polished steel supports began humming and the green swirling gases under the glass floor froze.  Inside the gravitational field contained by the gate, reality began to bend.  It was folding, breaking down.  The gateway functioned by folding space-time, putting one location directly on top of another that was millions of light years away.  The visual appearance of two locations sharing the same space was something to behold.

A young man came into focus.  He was tall with gently curling blond hair and square glasses.  He was thin and gangly, a consequence of teenage hormones run amok.

“Ian Parker?” Jenny asked.

The young man staggered and stumbled out of the gate, “Yeah … I … whoa!”

Jenny caught him and laughed, “Your first time through is a little wild huh?”

“Yeah,”  the boy laughed with her, “Hey, so where’s my mom?”

Jenny nodded.  Perfect.

“Now keep in mind,” she took him by the hand, “You’re mom is what they call a Beta Unit.  Even though she generally looks like she did on Earth, her body has changed quite a bit.”

Ian patted her on the back, “I don’t remember my mom so I guess I won’t be surprised,” he smiled.

“Then let’s go find her,” Jenny offered.

 

*  *  *

 

“Shoot him!” Caprice yelled from the back of the warpig.  “Just shoot!”

It was her worst fear, instead of adapting and finding a way to kill the warpig, the soldiers were just relying on her to do it all.  Just because their plasma weapons didn’t work didn’t mean they didn’t have other options!

But there she was, gored twice by the monsters huge tusks, bleeding out of her mouth and stuck riding on the back of the giant boar.  At least it was outside the  city.

Hearing the baying of the gorehounds on the hill behind her, Caprice was able to grab her wakazashi.  She had to stop the damn thing from crashing back through the gates of the city.  It would kill too many civilians if it got back in.

Holding onto the back of the boar with her legs, she grabbed one tusk.  Her breathing was coming in short, excruciating gasps and more blood poured out of her mouth.  At the very least her ribs were broken, more likely she had a punctured and collapsed lung.

As the creature charged the gates, Caprice actually thanked the Bardo.  When it had come, the skin had peeled off the monster and she could see its vertebrae underneath the muscle tissue.  All she needed to do … was …

The blade bounced off the bone of the beast’s spine.  Her damn hands were still shaking!  Just one more time!  One time dammit!

Kicking the creature, Caprice dug her heels into its sides.  The warpig kicked its front legs out, skidding to a stop and throwing the platinum blond over its head.

“She’s clear!” she heard the soldiers start yelling.

Just one more …

The wakazashi struck true!  She slipped the blade between the armored boar’s vertebrae and felt the satisfying tug as the edge sliced through its spinal cord.  The monster’s head instantly collapsed to the dirt and Caprice tumbled through the air.

Slamming back-first into the gates, Caprice heard a sickening crunch issue from her spine and any remaining breath left her body.  Crumpling to the ground, her head hit the dirt and more blood poured out of her mouth.  Only yards away, the warpig tried to gasp for breath, it stared at her in confusion.  It didn’t understand how she had beat it, it didn’t understand what she had done to it.  It didn’t understand why she wasn’t dead.

That was it!  A wave a relief rolled through Caprice.  The moment of clarity draped a blanket of understanding over her, warming and calming her.

Death had been there for her the whole time!  Charon was death, it wasn’t denying her.  She was denying it!  All those years, all that time, she thought she’d been lucky (or unlucky) enough to stay alive.  She had fought and fought and fought.

For what?

Once the soldiers’ plasma rifles didn’t work, they gave up.  The civilians wouldn’t fight.  Like always, it was up to her.

Why?  Because Charon wanted her!  It had always wanted her and even though she wanted the fight to end, she wouldn’t stop fighting.

Pushing herself to her feet, she started staggering toward the paralyzed boar.  She couldn’t hear the shouts of the soldiers, didn’t want to.  Gorehounds loved to follow warpigs, feeding on the scraps left by the bulldozer-like monsters and they were singing to her on the hill.

Their baying was her requiem.

Stopping by the warpig, she drove her sword into its skull, extinguishing the remaining  life in the beast.  Continuing her practice of following the ancient rituals, she punched her hand into the pommel of the katana, breaking the blade.  The sword had been made for her and she would be the only person to ever use it.

Her weapons were all used up and her armor was destroyed.

 

*  *  *

 

“Come on!” Jenny yelled.

Caprice was just on the other side of the gates.  The floodlights were shining down and Jenny would have her human-interest piece.

Ian followed after her, panting, “She, she’s okay?  Right?”

“Your mom’s as tough as anyone I’ve ever seen!” Jenny yelled as the gates opened, but the light wasn’t going to be on her this time.

Caprice held her hands out to the sides, blood dripping from her fingertips.  She couldn’t breathe, but it didn’t matter.  She wouldn’t have to for long.  They could see she was unarmed.  The gorehounds wouldn’t hesitate.

Her hands didn’t shake.  Her muscles weren’t tense.  The platinum woman who had trained so many killers, slaughtered so many monsters, was completely at ease.  She wasn’t afraid.

“M … Mom?” Ian stammered.

Caprice smiled as the creatures fell on her.  It wasn’t pain that she was feeling, it was contentment.  She was getting to meet an old friend for the first time.  The animals tore and ripped at her and her body gave out.  She fell to the ground, smiling as skinless hounds the size of cougars tore the flesh from her bones.

“MOM!” Ian tried to rush forward, but Jenny grabbed him.

“No Ian!  No!  They’ll kill you too!” Jenny yelled.  She was losing it!  Losing everything.  This was supposed to be her big moment!

Caprice closed her eyes and sighed one last time.  Darkness embraced her, her body faded away, feeling faded away, sound was gone.  Then there were colors, red and then smoke.  But then the smoke was driven away by a brilliant white light.

The light was peaceful.  The light was understanding.  Caprice was happy.  No, she was joyful.  No, that wasn’t it either.

Bliss.  Caprice reached out without hands and touched bliss.

It was over.


Tales from Charon – Birthing Center

I have to apologize for the lack of updates lately.  Work has been so crazy that I don’t even have time to think and frankly, I need a little time to think if I’m going to write.  Mrs. Webgoji has been working extra hard and will be applying for Director in Qualification with Mary Kay and I myself have been putting in quite a bit of overtime at work.  But all that said, here is another Tales from Charon!

 

Her damn hands were shaking too bad to make a decent cut.  The wakazashi shook violently in Caprice’s grip as it was poised to enter her stomach.  If she could just get her hands to work!

Biocorp had claimed that the reason the Beta units were retired was because they couldn’t adapt.  That wasn’t entirely untrue.  It hadn’t been long before Biocorp had realized their Beta weapons were exhibiting a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that they called Repeated Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Most, if not all, of the remaining Betas suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, hypervigilance and paranoia, suicidal tendencies and hyperadrenalism.

It was the damn hyperadrenalism that was making her hands shake.  Her adrenal glands were pumping out hormones constantly at a rate that would kill most normal people.  But she couldn’t be lucky enough to have it kill her.

So there she sat.  Wearing only her underwear and on her knees in her dingy little room with sweat pouring down her body as she tried to get her blade aimed at her abdomen.  She  had to get it done before someone came in asking …

The door burst open and Sergeant Jackson leaned in, “Ma’am!  We found … what the hell!”

… for help.  They always came to her for help.

Grabbing the weapon out of her hands, the sergeant barked, “What are you doing!?”

Trying to steady her jaw, Caprice blew her sweaty bangs out of her eyes, “It’s called harakiri Sergeant.  It was an ancient ritual practiced by the Samurai of Japan.”

“Thank the lord,” the young man wiped his brow, “I thought you were trying to kill yourself.”  Quickly, her turned away from her, “Sorry about seeing you in your unmentionables Ma’am.”

Spitting on the floor, Caprice grabbed her armor.  Another little technique she used when she was upset.  By spitting, Caprice had conditioned herself to diffuse her anger when she was mad at someone.

“First, I don’t believe in your god Sergeant.  You want to spout that crap take it somewhere else,” Caprice barked, roughly pulling up her ES Poly armor.  “Second, what’s the problem?”

“Uh, yes Ma’am.  Sorry about that,” the young man’s dark skin turned a slightly blush color.  “We found a Biocorp facility out in the forest Ma’am.  We don’t have any records of it, it’s like it never existed.  We want you’re help securing it Ma’am.”

“Nuke it,” Caprice groaned, sheathing her wakazashi.

“Ma’am?”

“What part of ‘nuke it’ didn’t you get Sergeant?” Caprice barked again.  The platinum blond spit on the ground again trying to calm herself.  “Unless I miss my guess, that forest you’re talking about is the one near the village.  During the Bardo all kinds of nasty shit comes out in that forest.  Don’t risk the men.  Blow the whole damn thing back to hell.”

The Sergeant looked up as Caprice put her hand on his shoulder, she was as ready as she was going to be.

“I’m sorry Ms. Parker.  We’ve got orders,” he shrugged.  “We have to find out what they’re doing in there before we can destroy it.”

Shaking her head Caprice sighed, “Fine, let’s do it.  It’s a good day to die anyway.”

 

*  *  *

 

The troop transport was getting close to the forest and Sergeant Jackson was chattering like a bird, “… so anyway, can you tell us anything about the Bardo?  Where did that name come from?”

Caprice leaned back, looking up at the top of the transport, “You need to read your history Sarge.  There’s only one religion left; The Church of Light.  It’s based on an old dead religion that came from a prophet who was supposed to be the son of a god.  It’s teachings are gone, but some of the basic concepts are in your religion.  At that time though, there was another religion that was older and died off sooner.  That other religion stated that there was a state between life and death.”

“Bardo,” the soldier nodded, understanding.  “And since so many people die during the darkness here, we call it Bardo.”

“Yup,” Caprice nodded.

The truck came to a stop and the soldiers started checking their weapons and armor, “Is that where your harry-carry ritual came from?”

Banging her head against the side of the transport, the woman groaned, “Not remotely,” was all she said as her finger tapped involuntarily on the side of her plasma rifle.  Damn hyperadrenalism.

“Well anyway,” the soldier seemed to be wrapping things up, “Can you give me your workout plan?”

The other nineteen soldiers piled out of the back of the transport as they disembarked.  Caprice followed suit, taking her rifle off safety.

“Why?” she asked, looking up at the canopy of trees.

“Because I would give anything to have arms and abs like yours,” the young man laughed.  “Seriously!”

“Sell yourself to Biocorp, give them all your memories and sanity and you can have a Gamma body,” Caprice snorted.  “Who knows?  Maybe I would train you.”

Ahead of the troops loomed a two story glass and steel building.  It was strangely out of place in the rotten, dark woods.  The building was like a gleaming scalpel cutting into the rotten flesh of the forest.

“Stay here,” Caprice ordered.  “If they’ve got bioweapons as security, you’ll have to stay back and shoot them from a distance.”

“What about you?” the sergeant asked.  Was there a hint of concern?  Yearning?  In his voice.

“I told you,” Caprice walked toward the building, “It’s a good day to die.”

 

*  *  *

 

Just as she entered the building, Caprice was greeted by a strange receptionist behind a grand, oaken desk.  The woman was like nothing she had ever seen.  Tall and so thin she might have been anorexic, the woman … the being, had skin that was the color of malachite and long, long pointed ears.  Her eyes were black with only green rings around what would be the pupil and her hands were long and ended in vicious talons.

“Hello, can I help you?” the creature asked with a song-bird voice through deadly fangs.

Snapping the rifle to her shoulder, Caprice aimed between the creature’s eyes, “What the hell are you?”

Her eyes widened with shock and the creature raised her hands, “I … I’m Fifteen.  Do … don’t sh … sh … shoot okay?”

“You look older than fifteen,” Caprice grunted, looking for security, “Who’s in charge here?”

“I … I’ll j … j … ” tears were starting to roll down the beast’s cheeks as she lowered a trembling hand toward an intercom  button.

“Fifteen?” another melodic voice came from the hall behind the desk, “Are you okay?”

Another creature emerged from the hall.  This differed from the first only in the color of its satin hair and hellish eyes.  That and the second creature appeared to be uncomfortably pregnant.

Caprice snapped her rifle up to the new beast, “Stop right there.  Move and you’re dead.  Got it!?”

The second creature raised her arms as well, “Don’t!  My baby!” she yelled.

“Don’t move Eighteen,” the first creature said, “She wants the doctor.”

“Eighteen?” Caprice looked back at the first creature without lowering her weapon, “What the hell are you?”

Fifteen’s trembling hand poked the intercom button, “D … d … d …”

A voice responded, “Yes Fifteen?  Are you okay?”

Caprice stepped forward and shoved the receptionist out of the way, causing her to fall to the ground and whimper like a scared child.  Keeping her weapon pointed at the second monster, Caprice poked the intercom button.

“This is the Earth Military.  You in charge?” she said.

“Don’t hurt them!” the man’s voice responded, “I’ll be right down.  Just don’t hurt them!”

In moments, a well dressed human man with sleazy black hair and thick glasses burst around the corner of the hall.  Caprice took her aim off the crying creatures in front of her and motioned for the man to raise his hands.

“We’re unarmed Miss,” the man panted, “Please don’t hurt them.  Let me show you.”

“Keep you hands where I can see them,” Caprice nodded.  “You so much as twitch and I’ll kill everything in here.”

“Understood,” the man agreed and motioned for Caprice to follow him.  “If you’ll just follow me, you’ll see.”

The man lead the bleach-blond woman into the hallway past several open windows.  Inside the rooms were more of the creatures with young boys that looked like them.  They were playing and laughing with toys like normal humans.  In other rooms creatures were nursing their black skinned babies and in yet other rooms, they waddled around like pregnant mothers, happy, glowing and uncomfortable.

“As you can see, we’re raising the next generation of bioweapons,” the man explained.  “We lost communications recently, but we’ve continued our work.”

He stopped by a room where several doctors were working on a skrill, “Thanks to the Delta Prototype, we know we can produce Epsilon units by impregnating deltas with skrill genes.  The resultant weapons are … amazing.”

Deltas?  Epsilons?

Caprice lowered her rifle and put her left hand on her plasma pistol, “You impregnate those … things with skrill to make … monsters?” she asked, holding back the urge to vomit.

It was the most disgusting thing she’d ever seen.  The poor creatures seemed so happy to be carrying monster babies in their bellies.  Blinking, Caprice remembered reading about Nazi breeding programs during World War II.  It was sickening.

“Well, they’re not monsters,” the man corrected her, “But they are so much more advanced than you that they even make the Deltas obsolete …”

Faster than the man could finished his sentence, Caprice drew her pistol and placed the barrel on his temple, pulling the trigger.  She didn’t take her eyes off the horrible semen extraction even as the doctor’s brains hit the wall.  The place couldn’t be allowed to stand.

Killing every creature she passed, Caprice stormed through the cries of anguish and fear until she was out of the building and stopping in front of Sergeant Jackson, “Nuke it!  Now!”

“What’s in there?” the soldier asked, grabbing his com unit, “Epsilon Seven requesting tactical nuclear air strike.”

“They’re making monsters,” Caprice mumbled.

 

*  *  *

 

Watching the mushroom cloud grow over the trees Caprice pressed her cheek against the glass window of the transport.  There was one other symptom of Repeated Traumatic Stress Disorder that Caprice had never experienced; an uncaring disassociation.

The blond woman sighed and sat back.  Death was a release from suffering on Charon.  Why wouldn’t it come for her?


Tales from Charon – One of Their Own

No rest for the wicked.

Or at least that’s what they say.  Looking at her half-empty bottle Caprice wondered, was she one of the wicked?

Her ribs still ached and because of her unnatural constitution, the alcohol was only slightly dulling the pain.  Blowing her platinum bangs out of her eyes, she took another swig from her bottle when she heard the door to the bar open and then close behind her.

“Alright, give me a pan of all of the hunter-killers and then … hang on,” she heard a woman’s voice say.

Sitting the bottle down, the veteran bioweapon rolled her neck, causing it to pop.  Damn reporters had been showing up like an infestation of blood sucking fleas recently.  Whatever had happened, it had been big and Biocorp must have been in trouble.

“Excuse me, you’re a Beta right?” the woman’s voice asked.

Taking another quick drink, Caprice sat the bottle down and nodded, “Yeah,” she sighed.  “Why?”

Talking made her ribs hurt worse.

“The Betas I’ve talked to have more of their memories back than the Gammas, do you have a little time to talk to the National News Network about what’s happened to you here on Charon and how you got here?” the voice asked.

Caprice didn’t look through her bleach-blond hair to see who was talking to her, “Whatever,” she groaned, taking another drink.

“I’m joined with another Beta Unit …” the woman’s voice started, but Caprice interjected.

“Racist,” she barked, motioning for the bartender.

“What?” the woman’s voice responded.

The bartender, a burly man named Harvey, handed Caprice another bottle as she turned to face the reporter.  Caprice looked her over quickly; a skinny little blond that was showing a little too much cleavage and a maliciously ambitious gleam in her eyes.

“My name is Caprice Parker, not Beta Unit,” Caprice said flatly.  “You wouldn’t call your cameraman Black Guy would you?  We have names, we’re people.”

The woman paused for a moment, considering what Caprice had said.  She wasn’t confused.  No, that woman wasn’t dumb.  She was just mulling over some new information.

“I remember that I used to work for Biocorp until I got a divorce,” Caprice took another quick drink.  “Can’t say as I know what or who I was married to, but I signed up for the hunter-killer program.  I got here, stayed alive for a while and when they came out with the Gamma Units I was promoted to trainer.  That’s about it.”

The woman had recovered quickly, “Are you excited to be going home?”

“Ms. Parker!” a soldier yelled from the other side of the room.  “We need help!”

Groaning, the platinum warrior stood up slowly, “I guess you’ll have to ask someone else,” she chuckled.

She met the soldier in the middle of the room with the reporter and her cameraman in tow, “What’s up Sergeant?” she asked.

“It’s …” he panted, evidently winded from running to the bar, “One of yours Ma’am.  He’s killed five men already and has a hostage.”

“So shoot him in the head,” Caprice shrugged over the whispers of the woman behind her.

“Snipers can’t get a shot Ma’am, he knows what’s going on,” the man was catching his breath.  “And we can’t take him up close.  We need you.”

This is only the third recorded time this has happened,” the woman whispered to the camera behind Caprice.

“Dead or alive?” Caprice asked, starting toward the door.

“Alive if possible,” the soldier responded.

A short drive in the transport took Caprice to a closed warehouse surrounded by soldiers.  Looking at their formations, Caprice chuckled.  The sergeant had been right, they weren’t ready to try to take on a bioweapon.  They were all too close.

Hopping out of the transport with the reporter and camera behind her, Caprice patted one of the soldiers on the shoulder, “Get your people back, if this comes out of the warehouse you’re all too close.”

Shoving the camera back, Caprice approached the closed rolling door and grabbed it by the handle.  With a grunt, she broke the lock and, entering the warehouse, closed the door behind her.

“Caprice!” the bioweapon in the center of the room gasped.

It was a tall man, a Gamma, with long brown hair and striking eyes.  He held a woman next to him on her knees, his sword on the back of her neck.

“Okay Ron, drop the sword and let’s go,” Caprice said, holding her hands up so he could see she didn’t have a weapon in her hands.

Ron had been one of Caprice’s success stories.  She had trained him from the day he arrived on Charon and he had gone on to save hundreds of people.  She had been so proud of him, felt so great to have taught him.  He might have actually been the closest thing she ever had to a real son.  But now he was shaking and sweating next to a terrified dark skinned woman.

“I … I can’t Caprice,” he stammered, blinking back tears.

“You’re going home, now drop the sword,” Caprice said flatly.

He was broken.  Not physically, but mentally.  It wasn’t the first time she’d seen it either.  The stress of the constant nightmarish fighting on Charon was more than anyone should have to endure.  Only the people that eventually hardened their heart so much they didn’t care about life or death were the ones that lasted.

“I can’t go home Caprice … I’m …” Ron was nearly panting while trying to keep from crying.  “I’m a murder back there.”

“So?” Caprice shrugged, “Stay here then.”

“I can’t take it any more,” Ron began crying, “No more death, no more …”

“Ron,” Caprice approached him, her voice as deadly serious as it could be, “There’s only two ways this can end Ron.”

Ron nodded his head.  He dropped his eyes, not wanting to look at Caprice.

“So which is it Ron?” Caprice asked, lowering her hand to her own katana.

“Do you know what Seppuku is Caprice?” he asked.

Caprice’s heart sunk into the pit of her stomach.  She wanted to vomit and cry.  She wanted to run away, but both the woman and Ron needed her.

Drawing her wakazashi, Caprice nodded.  Handing him the small sword, handle first, she bumped the woman with her foot.

“Don’t watch this,” she told the woman.

Obligingly, the woman scooted out of the way and covered her ears while scrunching her eyes tightly shut.  Caprice was glad she obeyed.  People didn’t need to witness death to understand it happened, especially violent and upsetting deaths.

Drawing her katana, Caprice stepped behind Ron as he dropped to his knees.  Holding the wakazashi in both hands, he turned the blade toward himself.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered

Ron drove the blade into his gut without so much as a grunt.  Gritting his teeth against the pain, the warrior ritualistically sliced through his abdomen, disemboweling himself.  Before he could grunt or cry out, Caprice decapitated him with a single smooth stroke of her blade.

Pushing her sorrow into her gut, the blond veteran approached the former hostage.  Taking one of her hands, she helped the woman up.

“Come on,” Caprice grunted.  “On your feet.”

As she lead the woman out of the warehouse Caprice was greeted to cheers and clapping.  Several cameras were trained on her, recording her every move.

She was a hero … again.  And heroes always cried alone.


Tales from Charon – The Hive

“We gonna survive this ma’am?” one of the young soldiers asked.

Caprice couldn’t see the young man’s face through his helmet and didn’t really care to.  For most people, life on Charon was short, violent and nightmarish.

For Caprice it was just another day.

“Listen up!” she barked, turning toward the fifteen soldiers that were packed in the troop transport.  “You’re training until now was useless!  Got it!?”

She waited a moment for a response.  None came.

“Am I understood!?” she yelled again.

“Yes sir!” the soldiers responded in unison.

Shaking her head Caprice sighed.  They were dead.  Like so many times before she would be the only survivor.

“You will be flanked, you’ll be attacked from behind.  This is not a ‘keep moving forward’ situation!” Caprice continued as the transport rumbled across the barren land.  “This is a hive of skrill!  Skrill only do two things; eat and mate!  Listen to my orders and follow my lead and you’ll stay alive.”

Caprice took a moment to look out the front of the transport, the computers were adjusting nicely.  They would reach the hive soon.

Blowing her platinum bangs out of her eyes Caprice sighed, “You ladies keep firing until there’s nothing left.  If you don’t, you’ll get butt-fucked to death.”

Behind her, she heard a chuckle.

“Think that’s funny kid?” she asked without turning around.  The mound that was the entrance to the hive was just ahead.

“Just wondering ma’am, who’s gonna be doing the ..?” the man started to say as Caprice patted the driver on the shoulder letting him know to stop.

“I just told you, skrill eat and mate,” she grabbed the automatic plasma rifle the military had given her.  “While one is eating your face, another will be fucking you like a two credit whore.”

The back gate dropped and Caprice walked past the soldiers.  Pausing at the exit to the transport, she looked up at the sky.  Whatever had happened, something had killed the sky.  It looked like it was rotten and it undulated like it was filled with parasitic worms.  The death of the sky had put the entire planet into a perpetual twilight and the shadows seemed longer than usual.

“Ma’am?” she heard a voice over the communicator.

What now?

“Yes?” Caprice sighed.

“Why do you have swords ma’am?” the voice asked.  She wasn’t even concerned with who asked the question.

Raising her rifle to her shoulder, Caprice began moving deliberately toward the mound, “Because rifles run out of ammunition.  Before you ask, the katana has a molecular edge, they don’t make them anymore.  It takes technique to use it.  The wakazashi is for me.”

The soldiers followed as she lead them to the entrance of the hive, “For you ma’am?”

“To kill myself with before they rape me to death,” she sighed, stopping at the entrance.

Where were the skrill?  They should have been flooding out of the entrance the minute the soldiers disembarked.

Leaning over the edge, her rifle at her shoulder, the platinum blond waited for her helmet to pick up some kind of movement inside the hive.  Where were they?  It was silent all around them except for the rumble.

Shit!  The skrill were waiting for the Bardo!

“Three cover the back!  Don’t let anything behind us,” Caprice ordered, moving into the hive, “Two on each side, watch the walls!”

Pushing into the tunnels, she heard the thunder of a thousand storms roll over and Charon went black behind them.  Shrieks issued through the tunnels and the sounds of scampering echoed through the hive.

Taking a deep breath, Caprice pointed her rifle around a bend to see a horde of skrill scampering toward them.  Bigger than a man with four back legs, two arms and an insect-like carapace, the creatures charged toward them.  Caprice squeezed the trigger, firing round after round of plasma into the insect-like creatures.

“Behind us!” someone yelled.  The electronic sounds of plasma rounds being fired echoed from behind the veteran bioweapon.

“Don’t stop until they quit twitching!” Caprice yelled.

The male skrill were easy to identify.  They were rushing toward her with their over-sized and armored genitalia erect and ready for mating.  Ignoring the disgusting display, Caprice kept firing, blasting holes into every skrill she saw.

Noting her plasma battery, Caprice yelled, “Second row!” and stepped back into the middle of the group.

The soldiers in the middle stepped up and began firing while Caprice and the other front row soldiers grabbed magazines off their belts.  Slamming the next battery into her rifle, Caprice turned to a new set of screams behind her.

One skrill had gotten through.  It was on top of a soldier, chewing on his face and trying to tear off his armor.  It was trying to rape him, driving its erect penis into his armor.

“He’s dead!” Caprice yelled, firing into the skull of the skrill.

Taking the fallen soldier’s position, she quickly fired into the man’s head, ending his life.  The remaining skrill would have eaten him alive.  Caprice had watched it happen numerous times, one of the worst ways to die possible on Charon.

“Get moving!” she yelled.

The group kept pushing through the hive, deeper and deeper into the tunnels.  The corpses of the skrill were piling up like leaves.  Blood formed rivers, flowing down to the heart of the lair and soldier after soldier felt the fangs of the rabid beasts.

Seven soldiers had been killed by the time they reached the heart of the hive, “Where’d they go!” the lead soldier yelled as the skrill withdrew.

“The queen is ahead!” Caprice yelled over her shoulder.  “Kill her and you kill the hive!”

Wiping blood off her visor, Caprice moved to the front just as they entered the egg chamber.  The walls and floor were covered with white, leathery eggs and a layer of slime coated the dirt room.  In the center was a huge female skrill attached to a massive abdomen.  Egg after egg poured out of the queen and she turned to the soldiers, shrieking at them.

Pushing through the stunned soldiers, Caprice began firing at the twenty-foot tall monster, “Shoot you idiots!  Shoot!!”

But the woman quickly saw that plasma rounds were the wrong answer.  One after another, they bounced off the glistening armor of the queen as she continued laying eggs.

“Fuck it!” Caprice yelled, tossing her rifle to the ground and drawing her katana.

Made from Charon steel and laced in black hyper-alloy, the molecular blade gleamed in the darkness.  An elegant weapon, the katana relied on technique and sharpness as opposed to the traditional weight and technology that the normal swords and axes relied on.

While the soldiers continued firing, Caprice charged forward, slicing into the queen’s belly.  The beast screamed and thrashed, shocked to be injured.  It snatched out at Caprice, but she twisted, slashing off one of its limbs.  Before the twitching arm had hit the ground, the blond woman drove her blade into the beast and carved upward.

Shrieking in pain, the queen lashed out, hitting Caprice in the chest.  The bioweapon could hear her ribs break as she was flung across the room.  With a thud, she hit the wall of the cavern, the impact knocking the wind out of her.

As she hit the ground, Caprice looked up to see the soldiers moving up on the queen.  They were getting too close!

“Get back!” she yelled through the pain of her shattered ribs, but the queen grabbed one in her maw.

Chewing and grinding, the queen crunched the soldier into a pulp as if he were a simple kernel of popcorn.  The man’s screams were cut short as his head fell to the ground.

Limping and trying to catch her breath, Caprice closed the distance to the queen while the soldiers fell back, “Aim for her eyes!”

Her injuries were slowing her.  Caprice couldn’t react like she had to.  The queen knew who the real threat was and grabbed her in a taloned hand.  The beast squeezed the thrashing woman, collapsing her broken bones.  The platinum woman’s breath left her again as the broken ribs punctured her lungs. Her vision was fading and stars were flashing in her line of sight.

But it was only a moment before Caprice had her chance.  The queen brought the bioweapon to her maw and Caprice drove her blade up through the creature’s bottom jaw.  One simple shudder as the sword entered its brain and the monster fell, dropping Caprice to the ground.

“You got it ma’am!” Caprice heard someone say as she struggled to grab a syringe on her belt.

“I got you ma’am,” she heard as warmth poured through her body.  Someone had given her a shot of regen injection.

Her ribs were moving back into place and her breath returned as she smiled through her helmet, “Sergeant?”

A voice responded through the communicator, “Yes ma’am?”

“Let’s get out of here,” she sighed.  Only fifty percent casualties … a pretty good day actually.


Tales from Charon – Old School

The “Tales from Charon” series isn’t just about Ascheya and Lieutenant Jack.  There are so many stories to be told on Charon that I’m going to introduce you to someone new this time.

The sign would have said Processing Center 8, but like most government ideas, they didn’t think it all the way through.  So the glowing neon lights over Caprice’s head were nothing but a jumbled mess of red lines that swirled and changed constantly.

Caprice blew her platinum bangs out of her eyes while twisting the ace of spades in her hand.  It was torn in one corner from a plasma blast.  That card had stayed on her helmet until the day an Alpha Unit nearly took her head off.  Now it stayed by her heart.

“I didn’t catch your number last night,” she heard a voice say behind her.

What was his name?  Bob, Berry?  Who cared?  The night before some Gamma Unit had been hitting on her.

Bill, his name was Bill.

“No, you didn’t,” Caprice groaned, tucking her card into her armor.

Bill stepped out of the door and put his arm over her, leaning on the wall.  To be fair, he was gorgeous; tall, long blond hair and  a body that could grace the cover of a romance novel.  But all Gamma Units looked like that.

“So Jennifer gave me her room number, what d’ya say?” Bill smiled down at her.

Caprice was a Beta Unit, obsolete.  She had been designed with function in mind, not to look pretty.  She was broad and strong, built like an elite athlete.  Small chested and barely six-feet tall, she didn’t compare to the model-esque gamma units with their long hair, lean legs and big breasts.  Why was he bothering her?

“I say back off,” Caprice grunted, pushing Bill away with her free hand.  Even the bioweapons had their douche-bags and one was in front of her.

There were three production generations of Hunter/Killers made by Biocorp.  The Alpha Units were cyborgs made from cybernetic parts and dead bodies.  They hadn’t adapted to Charon so they were mothballed and replaced by the Beta Units.

Betas like Caprice had been designed from living people and their strength, speed and healing were increased through a genetic and physical protocol called The Archangel Protocol.  When the Beta Units weren’t enough, Biocorp had released the Gamma Units.

Gamma Units like Bill were upgraded to be able to charge their weapons into laser cutters and power their armor through an internal battery.  They were given a better protocol called The Seraphim Protocol and were actually given an appearance that Biocorp thought would endear them with the Earth public.

But they were just annoying to the veteran trainer Caprice.

“Come on,” Bill cooed, “Let’s get you out of that armor.  You can’t be comfortable in that.”

Caprice was wearing a black, obsolete armor called ES Poly; Extreme Service Polymer.  Not as strong as the current Hyper-Alloy armor used by the Gamma Units, it was lighter and allowed her to move better.  It was complete with interlocking panels covering her entire body and a electronic helmet that helped her target enemies and see during the Bardo.

The tall blond man put his hand on her waist, “I love those abs you Betas have.  Let’s see ’em.”

“Take.  Your hand off me,” Caprice growled, “NOW!”

She might have been alone outside Processing Center 8.  She might have been outclassed and obsolete compared to the bigger, stronger and faster Gamma Unit in front of her.

But she was far from defenseless.

“Come on baby, Jennifer is waiting for us,” Bill cooed as Caprice adjusted her grip on her helmet.

Twisting, she slammed the helmet into the side of Bill’s head with a satisfying crunch, staggering the big bioweapon.  He stumbled to the side and the smaller woman spun, kicking his feet out from under him.

But he was ready.  Just as Bill hit the ground, he kicked himself back up to his feet and elbowed Carprice in the side of the head.  The blow was worse than being kicked by a bull.  He was so strong that his strike caused her vision to go black and her ears to ring.

Stumbling back, the platinum blond felt Bill grab her from behind and slam her into the wall of the Center.  Her vision was already clearing, but her ears were still ringing.

“Now,” Bill groaned, pressing into her and sniffing at her hair, “Let’s just see if we can’t get that old armor off …”

Jerking her head back, Caprice smashed her skull into her attacker’s nose.  Feeling the satisfying crunch of bone breaking bone, she donkey kicked backward, driving her heel into Bill’s groin.

The Gamma Unit collapsed and Caprice jumped onto him, punching him in his broken nose, “NOBODY!” she yelled punching him again.

“NOBODY DOES THAT TO ME!!!  YOU TRIED TO RAPE … A GODDESS!!” Caprice bellowed, elbowing the man in the face.

As she reared back to hit him again, she was caught and pulled off of the man, “Whoa there little lady!” a voice said from behind.

Struggling and kicking at the bleeding man on the ground, the woman tried to get back to him.  How dare he try to rape her!  She wasn’t just some little whore in a cantina!  She was Caprice Parker, the best Hunter/Killer trainer on the planet!

“Get him out of here,” the soldier holding her said, nodding at three others who were gathering around the fallen fighter.

Calming, Caprice pulled away from the Earth soldier behind her and snatched up her helmet, “I was fine!” she huffed.

Her heart was still racing and she was so mad that she was seeing red.  Nobody touched her without permission dammit!  Nobody!

“Listen Miss,” the soldier Caprice noticed was a sergeant said.  “We’re trying to find your records.  You’ll be headed home soon okay?”

Shaking her head, her short platinum hair waving in front of her face, Caprice groaned, “How far back have you gone?”

Motioning into the Processing Center, the sergeant shook his head, “Ten years so far.  We haven’t matched your DNA yet though.”

Caprice and the soldier walked into the dark Processing Center.  It was actually a bar in New Boston that the military had converted into a processing center, but the good part was it still had ice and alcohol.

“Lemme buy you drink,” the soldier chuckled.

Groaning, Caprice rolled her big green eyes, “You’re so cute,” she said sarcastically.

He actually was kind of cute.  Even though everything on Charon was free of charge to everyone but the HK’s.

Grabbing a bottle of black-label whiskey and a towel full of ice, the soldier … his twisting and swirling tag might have said his name, gave her the bottle.

“How long have you been here?” he asked, pressing the cold rag against her head.  “Maybe we can start farther back in the records.”

Taking a long drink from the bottle, Caprice sloshed the alcohol around her bloodied gums and spit some blood and alcohol out of her mouth onto the floor, “Before the Gamma’s.  Time doesn’t make sense here though.”

Handing her the ice pack, the soldier offered her a chair, “How much do you remember?  The other HK’s have said they have some memories left.”

Looking around and taking another drink, Caprice watched the other biological weapons giving information to a collection of soldiers.  They were all trying to get their identities back so they could go home.  Something had happened, she wasn’t sure what, but something had happened to Biocorp and the Earth military was trying to bring them all home.

But she didn’t have a home to go back to.  She remembered.

“My name is Caprice Parker,” she offered, “I worked for Biocorp on the Alpha Unit project.”

Shaking her head and taking another long drink, she groaned, “I’ve already told you guys this three times.  I remember getting a divorce, I remember volunteering when the Betas went active.  I told you my identity. I know who I am.”

“You’ve been here that long?” the Sergeant asked, scratching his flat-top.

Her memories were still sketchy, but more complete than anyone she had yet met.  According to Biocorp, the process of becoming a bioweapon was so traumatic it destroyed their memories.

Caprice nodded.  Caprice was the Betas “Ace of Spades”.  She had been on the planet long enough that she knew the ins and outs of pretty much every place they had explored.  She knew how to handle all of the monsters, how to work their technology and even how to speak their language … Latin.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

When the Gammas had gone into production, she had been promoted to a trainer’s position.  She had taught more Gamma Units than she could count how to survive on Charon and more than a few of them were still alive.

“Man, we sure could use someone like you,” the soldier said, standing up and pushing his chair in.  “We’re lost all the time, can’t handle the local animals, speak the language, nothing.”

Caprice dropped her rag and grabbed him before he could go back to the information terminals.  That was it!

She didn’t have a family to go back to.  She didn’t have a job waiting for her.  There was nothing for her back on Earth … but they still needed her help on Charon.

“So what’s your offer?” she grinned.

“Ma’am?” the confused soldier twisted up his face.

“You need a Sacagawea?” Caprice thumped her chest, “I’m your girl.”

“A sack-of-what?” the man turned back to her.

Caprice rolled her eyes, “You guys give me room and board, I’ll train your soldiers and be your guide.  Deal?” she asked, spitting into her hand and then holding it out.

“That’s unsanitary,” chuckled the soldier.

“Yes,” Caprice was laughing inside, “Yes it is,” she smiled.

She hoped he didn’t notice her missing tooth.  Getting kicked in the head by a bloodmare can easily loosen an incisor.

Shaking her hand, the soldier laughed, “You just stay here miss.  My C-O will be out to talk to you shortly.”

So that was it.  Caprice had her calling again.  She remembered how excited she had been receiving her PhD and never thought it would lead to training soldiers on an alien hell-hole.  But there she was, nursing a sore head and watching the sergeant hurry to his commanding officer … and his butt looked nice in his fatigues.

 

I’ve quoted some song lyrics somewhere in this story.  Like before, if anyone can find them, point them out and give me the name of the band you’ll be the star of an upcoming story that appears on my blog!


Tales from Charon – The Lost Child

Sorry it’s been so long since my last update.  Work has been … well, the last two weeks have been quite an eye-opener.  So without further ado, the next Tales from Charon.

She did it on purpose.  Had to.  Stepping into the front doors of the foundry, I was still wiping the blood and entrails of two guard lizards off the armor I borrowed from Jacob.  Jacob?  He was still covered in crusted muck, but nothing new.  Ascheya was as clean as a whistle, but I was covered in gore.  Like I said, she did it on purpose.

“So Jacob,” I was still asking questions, “What was the deal about the landmark getting us lost?”

The long fluorescent bulbs above us flickered and snapped.  They cast long dark shadows from the dried blood and dirt that covered them and our footsteps echoed through the tile hall.

“The deal is shut up or they’ll know we’re here,” Jacob whispered from inside his helmet.

“Shit moves,” Ascheya answered, still seething from her mistake.  “Nothing is static on Charon.  Objects move around.  They’re always about the same distance away, but if you miss one, you’ll get lost ’cause all the other stuff has moved.”

Jacob shook his head.

“What?” I gasped.  How was that possible?  The terrain moved around?  That didn’t make sense at all.

“You ever look at the sky Lieutenant?” Jacob said, looking around a corner.  “Ever see the monsters living here?  Shit, why would rocks moving around surprise you?”

Jacob’s hand shot out and caught me, putting his hand on my chest, “Hang on chief.”

Ascheya stopped next to us, “Wha ..?”

A door clicked far down the hallway.  It had just closed.

Shouldn’t Ascheya have heard something else?  She always seemed to smell or hear things that most of us couldn’t.  But she had missed something moving around a few doors down?

Jacob motioned for us to follow him and, with dexterity surprising of a man his size, he slunk silently to the door.  Pausing next to it, he leaned close to it as if he was listening.

Clumsily drawing the sword he had given me, I motioned for us to enter.  In one smooth motion, Jacob kicked the door open and drew his own sword.  With red and blue bolts of energy coursing up and down his blade, the big man charged into the room.

There were two saurian beasts, like those we had seen at the site of the ambush.  The turned away from a cage and rushed toward Jacob, but he caught them unready.  He brought his blade down through the skull of the first dinosaur-like creature, nearly splitting the beast in half.  Before he could withdraw his sword, the man grabbed the next creature around the neck.  Wrenching his sword freed, Jacob twisted the neck and head of the second monster, nearly pulling its head off and crushing the vertebrae of its neck.

I was ready … not that it mattered.  When I was in the military, I was a badass.  But with Ascheya and Jacob, I was a tag-along.  The truth on Charon was that I was the exact opposite of what I had been on Earth.  On Earth I was strong, decisive and physically dangerous.  On Charon I was confused, weak and slow.  I was once a leader of men.  Now I followed people like a lost puppy.

Wanting to be of use, I ran to the cage while Jacob stomped on the skull of one of the hackers.  Reaching the cage I peeked inside … and dropped my sword.

There was a child inside!  But not like any child I had ever seen.

She stared out at me with one eye that looked like a gleaming green human eye and one black and blue eye that looked like it had come from Ascheya; black outside and a black pupil with a sapphire sclera.

Her skin was dark, black, but oddly pale.  Looked at from straight on, her skin was the color of pitch, but shined with a white reflection.  Looking closer I could see tiny scales all over her body; soft, gentle scales.  In contrast to her skin, the child’s shoulder-length hair was the color of polished platinum.

Asheya leaned over my shoulder, “What the hell ..?”

Jacob had said the hackers would carve pieces off some monsters and graft them onto other creatures.  This poor child had suffered from their slipshod work.

The right side of her face, the part with the human eye, was covered with lightly tanned human skin held in place with rough and rusted metal staples.  Her right arm had been replaced from the elbow down and her legs were replaced from the knees down.  Her arm had a black exoskeleton covering her hand and the bones in her forearm.  The exoskeleton had black spikes jutting out of her very long hand and fingers and around the site where it was attached her arm.  Her legs likewise had the black exoskeleton and ended in two-toed feet, much like hooves.

Unblinking, the child smiled out at me.

Jacob stepped between us and raised his sword to smash open the cage, but Ascheya grabbed his arm, “Whoa big guy!”

Jacob turned and stared down the dark woman who quickly responded, “We can’t just take home every stray we find.  We don’t know anything about her.”

I kept watching the child, I guessed her age at the human equivalent of thirteen, as she watched us.  The same calm smile decorated her face and she would move her eyes to the person that was talking.  She hadn’t blinked yet.

“One, she’s a child,” Jacob barked, “Two, she Andarain.  Three, the hackers have been working on her.”

Andara was the first planet humanity had discovered after opening the jump.  I don’t think anyone had ever seen a female Andarain, but a few of the males had decided to help Earth on Charon.

But this Andarain in front of us didn’t seem right.  She didn’t have the body of a child, just the size.  Her build was like a twenty-year-old women, complete with hips and breasts.  And she still hadn’t blinked.

“We can’t leave her here …” Jacob started to say, but then the child moved.

She lifted her black, taloned hand to the lock and, smiling up at me, pushed gently on the door of the cage.  The bars and lock melted like wax, dribbling and running off the edge of the steel table, they fell into a thick pool on the tile floor.

“Battle mage,” Asheya whispered in awe.

Battle mages were almost legends.  Only Andarains could become battle mages.  They had a strange, psychic ability to warp and change reality around them.  They were horrifically dangerous and only a handful had ever been documented.

The child crawled out of the cage and stood next to me.  Without blinking, she took my hand in her creepy, long and bony fingers and smiled up at me.

“Uh,” I stammered.

“Put her back,” Ascheya whispered.

But Jacob chuckled and shook his head, “Looks like you just adopted a battle mage there Jack.”

“What do I do?” I asked.  The little girl was really, really giving me the creeps.  Her unmatching eyes wouldn’t blink!

Jacob shrugged, “I’ve only known three battle mages and one was her sister,” he said, pointing at Ascheya.  “Looks like she’s taken a liking to you L-T.”

“Why’s she looking at me like that though?” I asked as she laid her head against my arm.  Her skin, even with the gentle scales, was as soft as cotton.

Jacob plodded back to the door, “My understanding is that their minds fracture.  They don’t see reality anymore, just potential and I’m thinking she’s completely gone.”

“Possum venire vobiscum?” the little girl said to me.  Still not blinking!

Sighing I shrugged, “Okay, let’s get Samantha and get this kid back to her parents before she completely creeps me out.”

If we were going to be one big happy family, we might as well have a Wednesday Addams with us.

“Parvulus sum, sed amicus ero tibi in praesidium invenerit,” the little girl said in her cherubic voice.

“Yes, we’ll get you a kitty after we kill the bad monsters,” I chuckled, leading the girl into the hall.


Harold the Cat and the Bogus Case of the Bogey Dog

I got this story done early so I’m going to publish it today instead of tomorrow.

I love visitors.  I’m a Labrador retriever so guests are always great.  New people to meet and new people to scratch my ears are always welcome.

People.  Not dogs.

I’m not really fond of animal visitors.  There was one time that a Mary Kay lady brought her dog over to visit, a forty-seven year old Boston Terrier by the name of Humphrey Bogart … or Bogey for short.

Okay, he wasn’t forty-seven, but that dog was old.  I’m pretty sure he was alive when they invented time.  He was almost blind, scrawny and trembled even when he was hot.

Bogey was sitting on the couch next to me when he woke up and declared, “Bring the puppies to me.  I must share my wisdom.”

I’m pretty sure he was looking at me, but his eyes were on the side of his head.  For all I knew he might have been watching television and looking outside at the same time.  Prey animals have eyes on the sides of the head, predators have their eyes facing forward.  I wonder if there was a correlation.

“Uh, there aren’t any puppies here Bogey.  I’m ten, Ben is two and Harold is a cat,” I explained patiently.

“That’s fine, gather the Harold!” Bogey announced.

Ben rolled his eyes, “Dude, get him yourself.  He smells like urine and motor oil.”

But as if on command, Harold wandered into the room and sat down, “‘Sup?”

“Excellent,” began Bogey.  “Then I must explain the value in taking a cricket for a roll.”

“Yer old,” Harold noted for no particular reason.  I would like say Harold pointed out the obvious, but unfortunately it was obvious to everyone but Harold.

“You see children, there was once …” he took a deep breath.  “A cricket.”

“Dude, really?” Ben groaned.  Ben was the only dog I ever met that had ADHD.  He was a total spaz and could barely pay attention long enough to go to the bathroom.

“I stalked it for weeks, followed it, hunted it,” Bogey explained in his raspy old-man voice.

Laying my head down I sighed, “You never hunted anything in your life.”

But I was pretty sure that more than one hawk had seen Bogey and thought he would make a nice snack.  Snack.  He wasn’t big enough to make a meal for a bird.

“I caught it,” Bogey continued.  He must have been deaf too … or ignoring me.

“Tossing the cricket high into the air, the second it hit the ground … I pounced. I rolled over on the cricket in the same way that you puppies roll over on something to get its scent  on you,” the terrier explained.

“Uh, but Ah’m a cat,” Harold raised one eyebrow, genuinely confused.  Looking at me, he cocked one ear, “Aren’t Ah?”

“Yes Harold, you’re still a cat,” I groaned.

“Quickly snatching the cricket, I tossed it into the air again and the moment gravy took over …,” Bogey smiled.

“Gravity.” I corrected him, “Gravy is for biscuits.”

“The moment gravy took over, I rolled over on the cricket,” Bogey finished.

“Why?” Harold was entranced.  He would have made a good puppy … a dumb one, but a good one.

Bogey nodded knowingly, “Ah, but that … that is the important question isn’t it?

“Nope, not at … Bogey?” Ben asked.

Bogey had fallen asleep.  I didn’t want to wake him up, but Harold seemed genuinely interested.  Dang Harold.

I kicked Bogey and he opened his big gold-fish eyes, “The reason you take a cricket for a roll,” he continued as if nothing had happened, “Is because …”

Bogey paused for dramatic effect, “they deserve it!”

“Ya gotta be kidding meh,” Harold groaned.  “That’s it?”

Bogey stood up and shook, “I will now demonstrate.”

What!?  I picked my head up just as Bogey launched into the air.

“AH HELL!” Harold bellowed at the sight of the flying terrier.

I’m pretty sure Harold was still trying to figure out what was happening when the Boston Terrier landed in the middle of him.

“Get ‘im off meh!” Harold bawled as the old dog rolled over on him, rubbing on the nasty cat.

Ben broke down in insane laughter.  I’ve never seen a dog laugh like Ben did.  He couldn’t even hold himself upright.  Rolling on the ground, the overweight yellow Labrador howled.  Tears rolled out of his eyes while Bogey rolled over on Harold again.

I couldn’t help but snicker.

But then it happened.  Bogey stopped and licked Harold as if he was a cricket.  He wanted to throw the vile cat into the air, but the instant his tongue touched the yellow … ish … fur of my feline friend, Bogey stopped.

The Boston’s eyes grew even larger.  I didn’t think the bug-eyed dog could look any more shocked, but there it was.  The combination of cockleburs, Pennzoil, tomcat musk and other unidentified vile-tasting chemicals hit Bogey like a Mac Truck.

The small dog coughed lightly while we all waited to see what would happen.

Yipping and gagging, Bogey broke into a run.  He was sprinting around the room dragging his tongue on the floor.  I honestly never would have thought the old man could move that fast.

When Bogey shot past Harold, the cat looked up at me, “What happened?” he asked.

“I guess your armor worked this time Harry.”

“It worked!?”

“Yes Harold,” I smiled and laid my head down again.  “Your armor worked.”

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Poor old Bogey dog passed away a few days ago at the ripe old age of forty … er … fourteen.  We’ll miss you buddy, but will do our best to keep back the cricket and peach pit hordes.


Harold the Cat and the … uh … Catnip … wait, what?

The use of recreational drugs is bad.

I know you’re wondering how I, Liza Jane, would know this.  How would a black labrador retriever know recreational drugs are bad?  I’ll tell you how I know …

Catnip.

You see, the family was gone one evening and there was a nasty storm raging outside.  Harold, Ben and I were all inside and I was doing what I always did when I was home … sleeping.  Sadly, having to live with Harold and Ben meant “was” was the key word.

The strangest sound drew me out of my heavy sleep.  A purring, meowing, purring sound was coming from the other room.  Harold was known for his purring or lack thereof actually.  Most people like to say that when a cat is purring, their “motor is running”.  If that was true, then Harold had a rod knocking.  His purr would miss out, sputter, cough and sound generally sick.

Stretching and yawning, I crawled off the couch to the rumble of thunder.  Turning the corner around the couch, the lights flashed and rain hammered against the windows.  The purring meow was accompanied with a strange scratching sound.

Scratch, scratch, purr.  Scratch, purr, meow.

The lightning flashed again, lighting up the house and I saw a form on the floor. It was rolling on the carpet and twisting in strange shapes.  The strange sounds seemed to be coming from the form.

Stretching my nose out, I tried to catch the scent of the object.  What was it?  It didn’t quite sound like Harold and if it was, he would have said something.

Trying not to get too close, I leaned far out and sniffed out at the air.  Ugh!  Yep, it was Harold, but what  was wrong with him?

“Harry?” I whispered, “You okay buddy?”

Another flash and he looked up at me.  His eyes were huge!  They were dilated wide and he was purring … well … choking … okay, whatever that sound was he made.  Then I saw it.  Catnip.

Harold was high on catnip!

“Heeeey Liiiiiiza,” Harold cooed, “How ya doooooin’?”  His words were slurred and he was drooling on himself.

“Harold,” I laughed and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.  “Time for bed,” I said out of the corner of my mouth.

“Beeeeeed,” he slobbered, “Beeeed sounds goooooood.”

“I’m sure …” but something stopped me in mid-sentence.

There was a heavy clunk from the other room.  Then another.  It sounded like someone was beating something against the wall.  Clunk, clunk.

“Harold?” I asked, “You hear that?”

“I … can heeeeear colors,” Harold snickered.  “Do yooooooou smell that … ssssssss …. sssssound?”

I dropped my drooling companion and he fell like a heap into the pile of catnip.  Something was coming.  Clunk, clunk.  The thunder rolled outside and the windows flashed from the lightning.  The clunking grew closer and closer.

I took a step back and the rain slammed into the windows.  The lightning flashed and something appeared at the end of the hallway.  The dang lightning was messing up my vision!

It was as big as I was and walked on four legs.  It’s head was round like a fish bowl and it banged into the walls over and over again.

“Harry!” I barked, “Run!”

Harold rolled over, rubbing himself on the nip.

The beast came forward and I barked again, warning it.  I hadn’t ever bitten anything in my life, but I wasn’t going to let it get at my stoned friend.  I would bite if I had to.

It stumbled and banged its head into the wall again.  Clunk!  I rushed forward.  Maybe I could make it run away.  Maybe I could …

“Ben?” I stopped, curling up a lip.

Dad enjoyed giving Ben and I dog cookies when we were … well, breathing.  They came in a large plastic fish bowl, a fish bowl that was now on Ben’s head.

“What the hell Ben!?” I exclaimed, “You scared us …” Harold was asleep, “me, you scared me to death!”

“I was just sooooo hungry dude,” Ben’s voice echoed in the bowl.  “Harry and I found the nip dooooood.”

The dumb yellow labrador retriever was looking out at me from the jar, his eyes dilated just like Harold’s.  He would randomly lick the bottom of the bowl as if he was trying to find some remnant of flavor.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re head is in the cookie jar,” I said, cocking my head to the side.

“Dooooood,” Ben’s tongue lolled around in the bowl, “the nip gave me the munchies dude.”

I blinked.  Seriously?

“Ben, catnip doesn’t affect dogs,” I explained.

“It doesn’t?”

“No Ben.”

Ben looked at me through the bottom of the cookie bowl, “Then why do I have the munchies huh?”

“You’re fat Ben,” I groaned, “Being fat gave you the munchies.”  Rolling my eyes I padded back to my couch.

“Um,” Ben followed me, “Can … can you get this thing off my head?”

I turned in a circle twice to be sure I wouldn’t lay down on anything and looked up at him, “I don’t have thumbs Ben, you’re on your own.”

The patter of rain lulled me into a gentle sleep while Harold slept off his nip and Ben developed an appreciation that humans had thumbs.


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