Category Archives: Short Story

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.


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.


Dang Cameo Appearances

Kevin looked up at the power plant.  Soaring hundreds of feet above the city, the floating island provided power for the entire state of New York.  It was an amazing site.  Waterfalls of pure green energy fell from the island, splashing down into the reactors on the ground, generating power from both the kinetic and mystical energies of the rivers.

“Uh, Kevin,” Atheara mumbled next to him.

No.  There was no more chocolate.  She had eaten it all.  All of it.  Every bit of freakin’ chocolate in the whole state of New York!

“Yeah,” the detective replied.

“You know our ogre?”

“Yeah,” Kevin chuckled, “The one that got his butt whooped by the troll?  Man that was one hell of a fight.”

“He’s dead,” the fairy responded matter-of-factly.

The platform on which they were standing began to lift them up to the power plant, “Dead!?  How?  That troll didn’t beat him that bad.”

“Well, see … same as our dwarf,” Atheara moved the reports around on the holographic image in front of her.  “The gore-bots found that our dwarf died of loss of blood to the brain.  His heart stopped for no reason.  Curse scans have come up empty.  Our ogre is the same.  He just kicked over in the jail.”

The platform stopped and they stepped off in front of a skinny young man with nervous hair, “Hello detectives,” he said while handing Kevin a pair of headphones.

“You’ll be needing those sir,” the young man tapped his own set, “Matching pair.”

“Okay, so let’s see the victim here,” Kevin nodded.

“Yeah, sure,” the young man nodded, leading them toward the interior of the power plant.

As they passed several uniformed police officers directing gore-bots and talking with workers, Kevin had to pause momentarily to look at the heart of the plant.  There, in the center, were four blue columns of gleaming mystical energy.  Drifting happily around the columns were the most beautiful women Kevin had ever seen.  They sang into golden cones toward the columns and as their voices struck the energy, glowing gold and silver symbols appeared in the viscous ether.  The symbols would then dissolve, leaving the energy green and ready for processing.

It was amazing.

The music their voices created was enchanting, enticing and more lovely than any sound Kevin had ever heard … even with the earmuffs.  It was no wonder sailors would sail to their deaths hearing their songs.  Leaning on the rail, watching the enchantresses sing to the energy, the detective noticed something just down the rail from him.

“Oh that’s soooo cute!” Atheara gasped.

Two miniature dragons sat on the railing, watching the sirens.  One was purple with golden antler-like horns and the other was pink with silvery horns.  Their tails were intertwined and they were watching the women with the same interest people would watch opera singers.

“Leave ’em alone Atheara,” Kevin snickered.  He felt a case of diabetes developing from how sweet the sight was.

“So our victim ..?” Kevin asked.

“Security contractor,” the nervous man answered.  “We hired him to make sure our security was up to snuff.  Then he just … died.”

Stopping by the crime scene, Kevin knelt by the body of a tall, white-haired man, “Got anything Atheara?”

Looking at the hologram projecting from the PC on her wrist, she shuffled a few files around, “London McCray.  Owner of Immovable Wall Security.  They provide security systems and personnel to …”

“Personnel?” Kevin asked, blinking.  Like rent-a-cops?

“Already on it …” the fairy said smiling.

Grabbing a gore-bot that drifted by, Kevin checked its preliminary findings.  Same as before, no sign of injury.  London had simply died.

“Fraaphknot works for Immovable Wall Security,” Atheara noted.

Kevin stood up, dusting himself off, “But I can’t believe that troll is smart enough to figure out how to kill someone without pounding them into goo.”  The singing of the women in the back was distracting.

“No, but he knew this victim,” Atheara said, shaking a scattering of pink particles out of her hair.

Singing … singing …

That was it!

“Atheara,” Kevin grabbed her, “Check if the ogre had a PC.  Then have them check the records, but warn them not to listen to anything.”

“Why?” the fairy closed her holograms with a confused look.

“I need to know where all the registered banshees are in the city,” Kevin responded, quickly heading back to the lift.  “But I’m still missing a motive …”

Why would someone kill a dwarven jeweler, a security business owner and a big ogre with a long rap sheet?  The only connection was the troll who worked for the security company and who beat up the ogre.  But that didn’t explain the jeweler … how did it all fit together?

“Hey, let’s stop at the Stop-and-Rob on the way back,” Atheara said as they climbed into the squad car.  “I need some chocolate.”

Dang fairies.


Dang Ogres

Who would have thought that fairies were candy fiends?  Atheara sat next to Kevin in the squad car, happily enjoying her crunchy chocolate bars, as the vehicle drove them to their next murder site.

… All twelve chocolate bars.

The worst part was the munching.  Munch, munch, crunch.  Crackle, crumple, tear.  Munch, munch …

She was insatiable!  It was like she hadn’t eaten in months.

Atheara swallowed as the PC on her wrist went off.  She was glowing purple that day and a flood of pink, glowing particles scattered off of her as she tapped the personal computer.

As a holographic report appeared in front of her she said, “So I got to thinking about our dwarf.  Dwarves don’t get allergic reactions, so I had the gore-bots run another toxicology report.”

Gore-bots was the affectionate name for the robots that scanned murder sites.  They had to record all of the gore for the detectives, thus the name Gore-bots.

Kevin rolled his eyes, “But if he was infected with lycanthropy, he would react to silver.”

Pointing at the report, she nodded, “Yep, but according to the curse scan … no lycanthropy AND … look at this.”

Pointing at some bone scans she smiled, “His middle fingers were cut short and then healed.  There’s the scar tissue.”

Kevin leaned in, “Hmm … good work.  I was wrong.  So we’re looking at a mage killer?”

Looking closely at the report, he saw that Dwaldin Vtharth was a jeweler from Times Square.  Before he could read any more, the front wall to the bank they were passing exploded.

Something huge slammed into the squad car, throwing it sideways and causing the safety foam to erupt inside.

“Holy fuck!” Kevin barked as the car came to a stop on its roof.

Wet and frazzled, he staggered out of the damaged vehicle to find that his fairy partner was sitting on one of the tires on top of the overturned car.  Dang fairies.  Dragging himself to the front of the car, he saw what had hit them.  A massive ogre was picking itself up off the asphalt.  Broad and powerful with green skin and a bald head, the beast roared, focusing back on something at the bank.

Turning his head to the building, Kevin watched a huge troll burst through the hole in the wall and return the roar.  Dressed in a rent-a-cop uniform, the monster’s grey skin glinted in the sunlight.  Easily as broad as the ogre, the troll’s arms hung to his knees and were as big around as his waist.  He had huge tusks and his hair was shaved on the sides and braided in the back.

Impacting each other like angry buffalo, the giant-kin rained punches into each other.  The detective could almost feel the impact from the blows.  Both beasts were insanely powerful and their kinds were known for being dangerously short-fused.

Looking at the holographic map of the city from her PC, Atheara commented, “Getting in the middle of that would be hazardous to our health.  We’ve got containment on the way.  And it seems someone is running out of the Museum of Natural History with something.”

The ogre ducked under a punch from the troll and picked it up.  It turned and drove the troll through the bottom of the squad car sending metal pieces flying and a dazed detective rolling to the ground.

Looking up Kevin noticed that the fairy had popped up next to him, still studying her PC, “That was close.  Boy those guys are strong,” she noted distractedly.

While the troll tore into the car, bending the metal out of the way so it could get up, the ogre rushed to a street sign and ripped it out of the ground.  Just as the first beast freed itself, the green behemoth charged it, brandishing its new weapon.  Like a linebacker tackling a running back, the troll put his shoulder into the ogre’s gut, stopping the assailant in mid stride.  He lifted the monster into the air and slammed it into the street with such force that the ground shook under Kevin and the asphalt fractured around the ogre.

“Our troll friend there is Fraaphknot and I I.D.’d our ogre as Grolf Skullsmasher,” the fairy continued.  “Grolf has a pretty long rap sheet, mostly assault charges.”

“And Fraaphknot there is a former Marine, Force Recon,” Kevin noted, standing up and dusting himself off as the troll staggered back a few steps.

“How did you know!?” Atheara gasped, pulling up the troll’s records.  “You don’t even …”

“Look at the tattoo on his neck,” Kevin pointed, “That’s the Force Reconnaissance emblem.”

“Oh,” the fairy sighed, closing her holographic pad.  “Here come the people in the bank.”

A flood swarmed around the big troll as he straightened his uniform amid the calls of the containment squad vehicles arriving.  With claps on his broad back and cheers and thanks, the monster lumbered back to his post, seemingly unconcerned with the previous events.

“Let the containment squad handle the clean up,” Kevin offered, tapping his own PC to get a ride back to the station, “We’re gonna be late getting to the power plant.”

*  *  *

Leaving the Brooklyn West Family Center with a can of beans, Fraaphknot tucked his uniform into a plastic bag.  He would need to get it cleaned.  Damn ogre.  That meant another few weeks living under the Brooklyn Bridge until he could afford an apartment.  Stopping next to a man who sat with his back against the wall of an alley, the troll took a moment to look at the can of beans in his hand.  Handing it to the man, he continued toward the bridge.

Rats again for dinner.


Dang Fairies

Buckminster Fullerene was probably the laziest Basset hound on planet Earth.  He didn’t do walks, he went for a drag.  He didn’t fetch sticks, he imitated them.  Buckminster, or Buck, had made sleeping into an art form, napping into a athletic endeavor and snoozing into a profession.

And he was perfecting it in the seat next to Kevin.

Kevin Warren pulled his squad car into the parking garage and poked the tri-colored hound, “Okay Buck, time to wake up.”

The power source on the car shut down and the manual steering mechanism retracted.  Kevin was a bit of a dinosaur, he still liked to steer the vehicle when it wasn’t an emergency.  The doors opened and Buck sighed.

“Oh come on,” Kevin groaned.

Reaching across the car, he grabbed the snoring hound dog and hoisted Buck into his arms.  Lugging the dog into the police headquarters, the detective carried his hound to the lift that would take him to the ninety-seventh floor.  A few seconds later, he was laying Buck down in the doggy bed next to Kevin’s desk.

“Hey Kevin,” a light, feathery voice said over his shoulder.

Standing up, Kevin sighed before turning around, “Yes Etheara, what do you want?”

Sitting on his desk was the new detective, a fairy named Etheara.  Her hair, the color of quicksilver, flowed in the air like a human woman’s hair flowed under water.  She was glowing blue that day and blue glistening particles were drifting off of her like pollen.  The old stories had always depicted fairies as being small and having wings, but they were just as tall as humans and didn’t need wings.

A fairy detective was definitely something new.  They tended to be a little to mischievous for something as serious as police work.  They always had been since they came out of their fae mounds in the later part of the twenty-sixth century.  The fairies and their kin had brought back magic and a whole host of other problems.

The young fairy gasped, “Why would I have to want something?  Maybe I just want to say hi to my friend!”

Kevin blinked.  She wanted something.  She always wanted something.

Drifting on magical currents to Buck’s bed, she petted him on the head and smiled up at Kevin, “See? I just wanted to pet Bucky.”

Kevin blinked again.  The easiest way to catch Etheara in a lie was to wait.  Eventually the awkward silence would be too much for her and she would spill the beans.  Her blue glow brightened, illuminating Kevin’s mocha skin and making it seem to glow as well.

“See!?” she patted Buck, “Petting … pet … okay!  Can you take a look at something for me?”

Leading Kevin into the holo-scene simulator, Etheara drifted to the center of the crime scene depicted inside.  A dwarf was lying face down in the middle of an alley.  A first glance, Kevin didn’t see any sign of injury.

Kneeling down next to the dwarf, he studied the body, “No obvious signs of injury.  Toxicology?”

The holographic toxicology report popped up next to Kevin.  High levels of histamines in his system.

“Interesting,” Kevin commented.  “Take a look at his lips.”

The fairy drifted to the holographic corpse and lifted his head, “What am I looking for?  Oh, he’s got a little sore on his lip.”

Kevin nodded, “Did you find out where he’d been?”

“Yeah,” Atheara nodded, pulling up the holographic report she had made.  “He ate at Chez Misard about twenty minutes before time of death.  You think he was poisoned?”

She was quick, Kevin had to admit that.  But for a fairy, she thought from an awfully human perspective.

“Take a look at his hands,” Kevin said, nodding to the short fairy-kin on the ground.

Atheara furrowed her brown in confusion, but picked up the hand of the victim.  Looking at it for a moment, she sighed and then sat it back down.

“His index finger is longer than his middle finger,” she frowned, “So he’s a werewolf.”

“But fae …” Kevin started to say, but the fairy in front of him caught on.

“Are immune to lycanthropy.  Sooo ..?” she groaned in confusion.  “He couldn’t be a werewolf.”

“But he could be a carrier,” Kevin added.

“So?” Atheara raised one eyebrow over her violet eyes that were devoid of pupils.

“Okay,” Kevin said, standing up and dusting himself off, “Put it together here.  He has a sore on his lip, ate at a fancy French restaurant and is infected with lycanthropy.”

Gasping, the fairy’s eyes widened, “Silverware!”

“End simulation,” Kevin commanded.  “You’re dwarf was infected with lycanthropy, ate off real silverware and died from an allergic reaction.”

The alley disappeared and Kevin and the fairy were standing in a round, black room.  Forensics in 3246 was so much more simple than in the two thousands.

“I’m guessing he didn’t know he was infected,” Kevin thought out loud.

“Thank you!” the young fairy squealed, hugging Kevin roughly.

Shortly, Kevin was sitting down next to Buck, “Hey dude,” he said, scratching the sleeping hound dog behind his floppy ears.  “You hold down the fort?”

Buck groaned.

The communicator on his desk chirped, “Hey Kevin?” his captain’s voice said.

“Yeah?” Kevin responded.

“Hey, you need to meet Atheara in my office, she’s going to be your partner on this next one,” he explained.

Great.  A partner.  A fairy partner.

“Yes sir,” Kevin groaned.  He didn’t want a partner.  Much less someone as ornery as Atheara.

Dang fairies.


Of Gnomes and Trolls – Enter Fraaphknot

A princess was not supposed to be wallowing in the mud!  No.  A princess was supposed to be riding in a carriage.

A princess was not supposed to be accosted by brigands!  No.  A princess was supposed to escorted by soldiers.

But there she was, Caoilinn Mag Uidhir, wading through the mud of a lake without her escort, without her carriage.  She wanted to scream!  She was even without clean clothes!

Stopping momentarily, she shook the mud off the bottom of her dress.  How completely … uncivilized!  To be attacked by highwaymen.  For all her guards to be killed.  What was the world coming too?

“Well, well, there you are Your Highness,” a voice said to her out of the bushes.

Looking up slowly, she saw a tall man with long smooth hair sitting on a horse above her.  He wasn’t one of the lowly brigands, that was obvious.  His armor gleamed in the daylight and his sword sheath was well oiled.  He was someone of importance.

And usefulness!

Quickly pushing her ruby hair out of her eyes, the princess straightened her back, “Yes, we were attacked by robbers.  You will take me back to my home now.”

“Oh, you’re quite right about that Your Highness,” the man smiled widely.  “You’re going back … with me.”

There was a sparkle in his eyes.  A … gleam.  Caoilinn’s breath left her chest.

“You’re a fae!” she gasped.

*  *  *

The first dwarf out of the tunnels was Ruadhrí Mac Giolla Eoin.  The bramble berries would only be ripe for one day, the very first day of Spring and he had to be there first.  His pony rumbled through the underbrush while he searched intently for a bramble bush.

The dwarves would be the first to get to the bushes.  The fairies and pixies would be sleeping late … as usual.  But to be able to make his bramble berry pie, he would have to get two full baskets.  The other dwarves would just sit around eating the bramble berries … they didn’t appreciate the delicacy of making bramble berry pie.  But they certainly appreciated his pie when he sold it for two copper coins for each slice.

The forest was nice that morning.  The birds were signing, the breeze was rustling through the new leaves and the women were screaming.

Wait … screaming women?

Ruadhrí groaned and reined his pony forward.  A fairy maiden had probably gotten lost again.  Now his berries would have to wait.

*  *  *

The screaming grew louder and Ruadhrí peeked through some bushes next to Sapphire Lake.  There, on the shore, were ten fairies and one of them was roughly pushing a young human woman onto his horse.

A gentleman would rush out and help her.  A gentleman would fight to protect her.

Groaning, Ruadhrí kicked a rock.  It sucked being a gentleman.

Grabbing his hand axe, the old dwarf stepped out of the bushes, “All right lads, you’ve ‘ad yer fun.  Let the lassie go now.”

The dark haired fae paused without looking back, “A hero?”

Turning, he faced Ruadhrí and smiled, “Well.  I know you,” he sneered while pulling his sword from its sheath.  “You fought in the Northern Border Skirmish didn’t you?”

“Aye lad,” Ruadhrí nodded, carefully watching the other fae as they backed up, forming a circle around the old dwarf.  “Now you just let that lass go and we won’t have ta relive that.”

The fae moved toward him, brandishing the gleaming sword, “Oh, but that’s not where it ended did it?  You’re a … what?” he turned his head quizzically, “A baker now?”

“Aye,” the dwarf nodded.

Ruadhrí was worried.  Being surrounded by a group of aggressive fae had not been his plan.  He was supposed to be gathering berries, not fighting.  He was too old for that heroic garbage.

“Well then,” the fae took a fighting stance, “Defend yourse …”

The forest exploded with a deafening roar.  A beast nearly eight feet tall ripped through the lower branches and crushed the bushes.  It was unnaturally broad and its biceps were as big as its waist.

Exuding power and violence, the ashen-skinned monster tore into the fae soldiers, scattering them like insects.  Its huge claymore cut through the surrounding fairies like a sickle mowing down shocks of wheat.

Roaring past its long tusks, the monster grabbed a fairy and tossed him into the lake like child throwing a ragdoll.  With all but the leader dead or running, it lowered its long arms where his hands hung below his knees and turned slowly toward the dark-haired man.

“Ah ha!” the man laughed, “I know you!”

Caoilinn gasped.  The creature’s face was scarred with ritualistic swirling brands.  Its armor was forged from blackened steel and its claymore bore the most recognizable runes in the kingdgom.

The beast was a troll from the Wyrmreaver tribe.

Vicious and brutal warriors, they were known for being more intelligent than their usual barbaric brethren.  Being capable of metalsmithing and literature, the Wyrmreaver tribe was notoriously neutral, never taking sides in any conflict, but unceasingly hunting their most hated enemies … dragons.

The troll looked at Ruadhrí, its beard was braided and its black hair, shaved on the sides, was likewise braided in the style of the dwarven knights.  It blinked dully and then turned back to the fae knight.

“We’ve been graced by the presence of the mighty Fraaphknot,” the fae laughed.  “The Scourge of the Southern Barbarians, slayer of the Western Daggerwyrm, blah, blah, blah …”

Ripping up his blade, he brandished it before the huge troll, “So its your decision.  Die here or hunt your dragons somewhere else?”

Fraaphknot circled the soldier and stopped in front of the still mounted young woman.  Unceremoniously, he roughly grabbed her with his left hand and lifted her off the horse while keeping his eyes fixed on the soldier.

“What!?” the young princess kicked and thrashed.  “How dare you!  You filthy beast!  Unhand …”

Caoilinn landed roughly on her butt as the beast dropped her.

The dark-haired fae fainted and the lunged, driving his blade toward the gut of the troll.  Fraaphknot, without a flinch, backhanded the soldier like a drunken wife backhands a willful husband, sending his sword whirling into the lake and dropping the fae to the ground.

Without saying a word, the huge troll grabbed the smaller man off the ground and threw him over its shoulder.

Ruadhrí laughed as he watched the armored man fly into the bushes, “Well lad, guess ya bit off a bit more’n ya could …”

The troll turned toward him just as a monstrous mountain-boar emerged from bushes.  Dressed in a riding saddle and saddle bags, the boar appeared to be Fraaphknot’s mount.

“Ya … don’t wanna do this lad,” the old dwarf explained, adjusting his grip on his axe, “I don’t want’cha to do this,” he chuckled.

Fraaphknot blinked again and then reached back, grabbing the red-headed princess.  With complete disregard for her social station he lifted her to her feet and pushed her toward the dwarf.

“Hey!” Caoilinn barked, “Get you’re hands off of me beast.”

“And just what would ya have me do with this lass?” Ruadhrí asked, stroking his own mahogany beard.

“You, dwarf,” Caoilinn ordered, trying in vain to straighten her dress, “Take me home.”

The mighty troll climbed onto his own boar and nodded to the dwarf.

Chuckling, Ruadhrí turned to the young princess, “Well lass, ya see I only have a wee pony.  If ya’ll be ridin’ with me we’ll be gettin’ real personal.”

Caoilinn looked back at the troll who was sitting patiently, “I’m not riding on a pig.  I’ll ride your pony and you can guide me.”

“Oh no lass,” Ruadhrí laughed loudly, “Took a mace to the knee.  We ride together or ya walk home alone.”

Following after the dwarf as he went after his pony, the young woman huffed, “How dare you!”

“You say that a lot don’t ya lass?” Ruadhrí snickered.

“You!” Caoilinn gasped.  “You would … I am your princess!!  You will show me the proper resp …”

Just as they reached the pony, she felt the familiar rough hands grab her from behind.  Lacking delicacy and proper manners, she was dumped on the little horse behind the saddle.

“You were sayin’ Your Highness?” Ruadhrí couldn’t stop laughing.  The troll certainly didn’t care for her breeding or station.

Climbing into the saddle in front of the princess, Ruadhrí noted that the troll was still next to him.  He was coming with them.  Why?  Ruadhrí didn’t know or care why, but the brute force of Fraaphknot would be helpful if they ran into more fae.

Caoilinn could only huff, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You should probably hold on Your Highness,” Ruadhrí smiled, “Having him with us, it’s gonna be a ride!” he nodded to Fraaphknot.

Urging his pony forward, Ruadhrí cast a longing glance at a nearby bramble bush.  So much for his bramble berry pie.


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!


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