Tag Archives: Draghixa

Tales from Charon – No Place Like Home – Part 1

Long time no update huh?  Needless to say, overtime at work is killing my ability to think.  Anywho, here is one I’ve been working on and I’ll try to get another out this weekend as well.


“Did I tell you I know a magic trick?” Ascheya asked me while giving me a devious grin, one fang bared.

Leaning around the corner in the foundry, I waited to see if there was any movement.  We hadn’t been able to find Samantha Schmidtweiler anywhere and the last place we had decided to look was at the power plant.

Gently, I tried to take my hand back from the unblinking child at my side, “I’m guessing this doesn’t involve doves?”  The little Andarain girl wouldn’t let me have my hand back.  Damn.

Looking back to Ascheya, I never saw it coming.  I felt Ascheya’s fist smack into my eye causing it to swell instantly.

“Nope, but I can make you’re eye swell with a wave of my hand,” she laughed.

“Ow!” I barked, covering my swollen eye with my free hand, “Why the hell would you do that!?”

“Oh you pussy,” she groaned, “I’ve seen you slap fight the guys back at the base.”

At the end of the hall were the steel doors to the power plant, “Jacob, what are we going to do with this girl? I asked, holding up the girl’s hand.  “I ain’t exactly the motherly type.”

“At ego non sum hædum,” the little girl next to me said, tightening her grip on my hand.  She must have been scared.

“Nolite solliciti. Curabo te,” she smiled up at me, but didn’t blink.  Her one human eye and one Andarain eye were always staring at me.

Ascheya snickered.

Reaching the doors, I looked down at the little girl, “Yes, we’ll get you a kitty when we get out of here.  Pointing at Ascheya and staring at her through my swollen eye I grunted, “And no, you can’t eat it.”

Leaning on the door, Jacob looked at the three of us, “You two are giving me diabetes and you,” he pointed at our little tag-a-long, “You can open this door can’t you?”

“Non est ostium. Morbi porta mente tantum percipiat,” the little girl replied, letting go of my hand and stepping up to the doors.

“Do any Andarains speak Earth standard?” I asked as she tapped the steel with her clawed right hand.  “I don’t know Andarain …”

Wait.  Why didn’t I notice that before?  Well, because I’m not a linguist, but it sounded like the same language that Ascheya was using when she talked to the hackers we fought.

“But it’s not Andarain is it Ascheya?” I asked.

“Course not stupid,” Jacob groaned.  “It’s that language everything here uses.”

With a splash, the door fell to the ground like it was made from water.  And not surprisingly, the little girl smiled at me.  Inside, facing a bank of what appeared to be computer monitors, was a man that I assumed was Andarain.

His skin was like out little friend’s; covered in tiny, iridescent black scales giving it a pale dark coloration.  His shoulder-length hair was the color of virgin snow and his feet were propped up on the keyboards.

Clapping slowly with his hands high over his head, the man chuckled, “Well done, well done,” he snickered.  Pointing to a young, blond woman hanging by chains on the wall he said, “But you wouldn’t want anything to hap …”

The Andarain man stopped in mid-sentence as he spun around in his chair.

The young woman looked up, “Daddy?”

Jacob stepped forward drawing his sword, but the stunned Andarain man raised his hand, “Alright, I’m sure we can reach a gentlemen’s agreement here.”

Ascheya drew her blades, but the Andarain flexed his hand toward the woman on the wall causing her to spasm in pain, “Whoa there, we don’t want this to end badly now.”

He relaxed and so did the girl on the wall, “You just let my mother go and I’ll give you this human okay?”

“Wha ..?” I stammered, but realized he was looking at the girl next to me.  “Her!?

Andarain women looked like children!?  She was full grown?

“Velles iniuriam. Mihi Legiones conatus es,” the girl … or woman next to me said in her childish voice.

With a flick of her wrist, the chains suspending the human woman turned to powder and she fell to the ground.  Jacob rushed over and grabbed her while the Andarain man stepped back.

“Mother, you …”

“Perime magi domino. Vos defecerunt me interficere quod interpretatur …” the smile evaporated from the woman’s face.

In unison, the skin began melting off the Andarain man’s face.  He might have been made from wax by the way his flesh poured away from his musculature.  Screaming, the man collapsed.

Writhing in pain the man called out, “Mother!”

Blood erupted from his mouth as his mother stepped forward, “Te fragilem ignavus. Te volo me occidere aliquem se non sperant.”

I watched as the man’s entrails crawled out of his mouth.  He was folding inside out!  Blood poured out in torrents and even as the man’s intestines looped out of his mouth, the small woman next to me stepped over him and looked at the monitors.

Ascheya patted me on the shoulder and followed her, looking down at the gore, she curled her lip, “Gross,” she commented.

Staring up at the monitors, the Andarain woman adjusted the monitor so the symbols on the screen stopped changing.  Typing on keyboard she grinned to herself.

“Vos potestis statuit eam ..? Ascheya started to ask, but the woman nodded.

“Puteus ‘procul sit cum uacuatur,” the small woman responded.

Stopping by Jacob and Samantha I patted the large man on the back, “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I think we need to get going.”

“How did you know?” Jacob asked Samantha, helping her to her feet.

Smiling gently, the young woman stared at the giant man that was her father, “How could a girl not know her own father?”


Tales from Charon – Shadows of the Past – Fin

The following contains adult language.


“But how did you even know?” I asked Ascheya while stumbling over large rock.

I still didn’t understand how she knew that Samantha Schmidtweiler had been on the transport.  She was out investigating when Kelly had found Samantha’s name.  It didn’t make sense.  Well, that and the fact that no matter where I went, I was falling over some kind of rock.

Damn desert.

“We already went over that,” Ascheya dismissed me with a wave of her hand.

Jacob just shook his head while I continued my line of questioning, “You said it yourself, I’m a ‘by the book’ kind of guy.  Procedure is that our mics aren’t cued when communication isn’t required.”

Groaning, the hematite skinned woman next me rolled her eyes, “I guess you messed up.  I know I made a mistake once, maybe you made one huh?”

“Because I don’t make mistakes!” I barked, “Mistakes on Charon get you killed!”

I felt a thud in the back of my head and saw Jacob’s hand returning to his side.  He’d slapped me upside my head!

“Either get a damn room or shut the fuck up,” he ordered.  “One thing you need to know, she’s a girl.  She makes up rules on the run and changes them on a whim so she’s always right even when she’s wrong.”

“Hey!” I exclaimed, but before I could say anything, Ascheya spoke up.

“In your dreams buddy,” she snickered, “This body is a temple and I won’t let you or anyone else desecrate it.”

“What the hell!?” I shoved them both.  “No!” I pointed at Jacob, “And hell no!” I responded, pointing at Ascheya.

Jacob stopped, causing me to stumble again, and looked around, “You sure you got your bearings Ascheya?”

“Yeah, why?” she asked, likewise stopping and turning to face Jacob.

Looking at the rocks and stones that surrounded us and then looking up at the sky, I noticed a slight grin on his haggard face, “You were what?  Twenty five kliks from the base?”

“Uh huh?” Ascheya nodded, looking around herself.

“What do you think L-T?” the right side of Jacob’s grin grew.

Shrugging I kicked a rock, “This place always looks the same to me.  Let’s see; rock, rock, dirt, another rock.”

“You sure it was twenty-five kliks?” Jacob asked, looking over his shoulder.

“Yeah, right …” Ascheya paused and turned her attention to Jacob.

“You … sure?” Jacob asked again, raising his right eyebrow.

Ascheya stared at Jacob for a moment.  Her face was blank.  Expressions are our methods of communicating with the outside world.  She had stopped communicating with the outside world, everything was inward … just for a moment.

“FUCK!” she suddenly bellowed and kicked a rock hard enough to break it into pieces.

Jacob just laughed.  I watched him laugh at the woman that everyone feared.  I watched him laugh at her folly.  I watched Jacob make a victim out of her.

She had left so many in her wake, so many corpses, so many upset people.  She had dedicated her life to making other people her victim in whatever way possible.  She had told me she wasn’t her sister.  Maybe she was more like her sister than she wanted to be.

“You missed a landmark,” Jacob chuckled, watching her rage boil.  “We went the  wrong waaay …”

She stopped her blade just under his chin, “You think this is funny!?  HUH!?  WE COULD BE ANYWHERE!?”

“You’re fast,” Jacob grinned, “But you’re still predictable.”

She didn’t see it, but I did.  His dagger was pointed at her heart and he tapped her to let her know she’d been caught.

“And we’re not just anywhere,” he continued grinning.  Taking his dagger off of her heart, he motioned to the ridge of rocks we were standing next to.

Shaking with rage, Ascheya dropped her weapon to her side.  Walking to the stones, she peered over the edge, “What is that?”

Jacob sat down, the smile having vanished from his face, “It’s a foundry.  You know why I got the drop on you Ascheya?”

She didn’t look back and only shrugged.

Standing up, Jacob grabbed me by the collar and pulled me over to the ridge of stones.  Below us was a huge steel building with stacks that tried desperately to reach the rotten, rolling sky. Smoke billowed out of the stacks and the rancid stench of burning blood and flesh filled the air.

“You desperately want to live,” Jacob said flatly.  “Just like you’re sister.  She taught me something though.  There’s no guarantee I’ll live to take another breath, I’m not scared any more.  Just waiting.”

Jacob sighed.  It was one of those contented sighs of someone who knew something nobody else does.  He leaned on the rocks and hung his head, his matted hair falling over his face.

“I wasn’t worried about whether or not you would be able to kill me,” Jacob explained.  Slapping me on the shoulder, he took a deep breath, “Draghixa wanted to level that place.  Come on Lieutenant, let’s see if there’s anything left of Samantha.”

So I blundered down a hill behind the most advanced killing machine ever created and an obsolete cover model comfortable with his impending death to face beasts that created horrific monstrosities out of the pieces of their victims.  It was going to be one hell of a day.

Tales from Charon – Shadows of the Past – Part 2

Poking a mad bear with a stick.  I always laughed at that expression, but never really thought that someone could do something dumber.

It looked like touching Ascheya was that something dumber.

The man that Ascheya called Jacob rushed in and grabbed her by her arms.  He lifted her up and spun her around laughing, but then realized she wasn’t who he thought she was.

And she was pissed.

Looking down at the man, she lifted her blade so it was prodding him in the throat, “Put me down … NOW!”

Jacob gently sat the woman down, “You’re … who are you?”

Jacob was huge, he obviously was what Biocorp called a Gamma Unit.  With his long hair and scruffy bad-boy beard he would normally been a very handsome man, the type of guy that appears on the cover of a romance novel, but he was covered in dirt and dried blood and his hair was matted with mud and gore.

“I’m the bitch that’s gonna remove your head if you touch me again,” hissed Ascheya furiously.

“Oookay,” I quickly stepped between the two before Ascheya went psycho-hairdresser on Jacob.  “Jacob, you’re a Ga … ga … JACOB!  THE JACOB!?”

Jacob couldn’t take his eyes off Ascheya.  His eyes were narrowed in confusion and his jaw flexed.

“Yeah, that Jacob,” he grunted.  “Who are you?” he asked Ascheya.

“I’m the one that got out,” she said, relaxing.  The subtle, bedroom tone to her voice was returning.

“So what happened?” I asked.  “The last bit of information everyone had was that you and Draghixa went to find her son.”

Jacob grumbled and shook his head, walking past me and tossing his sword into the pile.  Pulling his dagger out of a sheath on his belt, he groaned and picked up a can.  Still not speaking, he carved it open with his dagger, stabbed a small sausage out and ate it.

The silence was heavier than a winter blanket.

“Jacob?” I couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

His mouth full, the big man looked up and glared at me, “You see any kids running around here?”

“They’re both dead aren’t they?” Ascheya offered, sitting down with her back against the wall.  She was smiling; a devious grinning filled with intent.

Jacob spit something against the wall and nodded without looking at the demonic woman, “So where the hell did you come from?” he asked with a full mouth.

I wanted to change the subject, whatever happened, Jacob wasn’t happy about it.  So I thought I would bring up something that had been bothering me for a while.

“Hey,” I spoke up, “So watching the news and reports, all you Gamma Units look alike …”

“Designer,” mumbled Jacob, “Wanted us to be good looking.”

He pointed his dagger at Ascheya, “Her designer had a fetish for anthro … anf … animal-like women.  You’re a lot skinnier than Draghixa was.”

Ascheya was watching him very closely.  I could see in her eyes that she was holding something back, waiting for just the right moment to say the wrong thing and upset him even more.  She was like a malicious child waiting for just the right moment to write on the wall.

Lowering her head, she watched Jacob with an acidic stare, “Well I didn’t have you there to take care of me,” she leered.

Jacob stopped chewing and  stared the dark fury in the eyes.  His own eyes were seething.


“You read her stories, you fed her,” Ascheya leaned forward, relishing the mental anguish she was causing, “But you just left me.”

It sucks to be the third wheel listening to an inside joke.  Its worse listening to a conversation between two people and only one knows what’s going on.  Jacob appeared to know just enough to be confused and angry at the same time.

“Yeah,” I tried to interrupt, “So Ascheya and I were just looking for a place I could sleep.  I’m guessing you don’t sleep either?”

Shaking his head, Jacob returned to his sausages, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh you don’t?” Ascheya cooed like a dove, “Lieutenant Jack, meet the man formerly known as Doctor Steven Schmidtweiler.”

Oh shit.

“I figured …” Jacob mumbled.

“Oh yeah,” Ascheya giggled, standing up.  “When they sent your baby here, you signed up.”

Jacob just grunted.  He didn’t seem to want to care.  Stabbing the last sausage, he tossed the empty can into the armor pile

Figuring a less subtle approach might help, I tried to step in, “Okay Ascheya, that’s enough.  Let’s leave him alone.”  I tried to usher her out of the basement, but Ascheya was on a roll.

“Seriously though,” Ascheya continued, “Why don’t you just go home?  You’ve still got family there.”

I wasn’t going to listen any more.  Walking out I waved them off, “Okay, I’m going to hang out with whoever survives.”

I sat down on a broken pile of lumber outside and breathed in the air of Charon.    I wouldn’t say it was peaceful, Charon was never peaceful, but at least it was quiet.  I watched the undulating, rotten sky, feeling the pangs of regret.  I wouldn’t get to see the blue skies of Earth again.  Well, on the plus side I wouldn’t have to fast food anymore.

But a burger sounded really good.

Hearing a slam behind me I wondered who would be my next traveling companion.  Jacob would probably be a more pleasant companion, but Ascheya was the reason I was there in the first place.

“Take me to that attack site,” I heard Jacob’s raspy voice behind me.  Paydirt!

But then there was a giggling sound.  They were both alive?  Dammit!  Now Ascheya was going to be a worse pain in the ass than before.

“Why do you want to go there?” I asked.  I really, really didn’t want to get involved in that situation.  Nothing better than introducing a guy to the chunks of meat that had once been his daughter.

Holding his dagger in her hand, a laughing Ascheya staggered to our side, “Wouldn’t you want to at least find a part of your daughter?” she snickered.

Putting my face in my hands I groaned.  Perfect.  Back to the scene of the crime.

Tales from Charon – Shadows of the Past – Part 1

We had ditched the truck and our armor almost immediately.  No use running if the military could track us through our equipment.

It seemed like we had been running for weeks, but since there was no day or night I couldn’t be sure.  The only thing resembling a nocturnal cycle was the Bardo and it was totally random.  Sometimes one Bardo would clear only to be followed by another immediately.  At other times I would have to stop and sleep three times before seeing another.

That was another odd thing; Ascheya didn’t sleep.  She would just laugh at me and explain how sleeping was just another chance to die.  And she was right.  I lost track of how many times we got attacked while I was asleep.

We didn’t talk much during our cross country trek, but she seemed to know where we were going.  Which was fine, I had to do some soul-searching.  Should I just turn her in?  Could I take my court martial and then go back to a normal life?

“Well, here we are.  Oasis,” declared Ascheya as we rounded a corner in one of the many gorges we had gone through.

Ahead of us were the burned out husks of several buildings.  Based on the scarred ground, I would have to assume that …

“Biocorp hit this place with an air strike,” she explained, stopping by a pile of rubble.  Bending over, she dusted off what looked like the remnants of a neon sign.

“It doesn’t look like much of an Oasis,” I said, looking at the skeleton of a larger building at the end of the gorge.

Tossing a piece of broken glass to the side, Ascheya stood up and dusted her clawed hands off on her legs, “It’s not the kind you’re thinking of,” she said, smiling.

I waited for an explanation, but she seemed fine with leaving me hanging.  Stepping gingerly over some more rubble, she tip-toed toward the main building.

“You gonna explain why you call this Oasis then?” I asked, stumbling after her.

“Huh?” she stopped and turned her head slightly toward me, “Oh, yeah.  You know how you can’t read written text here on Charon?  How things seem to move around?”

“Yeah,” I grunted, stopping next to the dark woman.

“They don’t here.  It’s like a little oasis in the middle of the insanity of this world.  Plus the monsters didn’t ever come in here,” she said distractedly.  Something had caught her attention, something I couldn’t see or hear yet.

“And we’re here why?” I asked.  I looked up at the rolling, infected sky.  Like so much rotten meat, it twisted and rolled as if filled with massive maggots.

She turned her head as if she was trying to catch a subtle sound, “This is where the news report happened.  The Biocorp hunter/killers used this place as a safe haven when they knew Biocorp was coming after them.”

Ascheya held her hand up, “Something’s … not right.”

“Tell me about it,” I groaned, rolling my eyes.  There was plenty that wasn’t right.  “So about that weapon?”

“Smell that?” she sniffed at the air like a dog.

Why did she always do that?  I didn’t have her senses.  I wasn’t as fast as she was.  I wasn’t as strong as she was.  Why did she feel the need to include me?

“You don’t?” she turned around and looked at me.

I rolled my eyes and shook my head.  Of course I didn’t.

Turning to me she sighed, “Look, I appreciate you getting me off base and trying to get me a new identity and everything, but you’re dead weight out here.  If you’re going to get all butthurt because you aren’t me, we can part ways now.”

Ascheya stepped close to me, looking me in the eye.  I watched the violet sclera of her eyes grow thinner … her eyes were dilating as she studied me.  The scalpel of her perception was slicing off a little piece of my soul.

“You’ll be dead before you get out of this gorge Jack … or worse,” she said flatly.  I didn’t think it was possible for her subtle, seductive voice to sound so uncaring.

“Take your pick Jack,” she said and continued her walk to the main structure.

Dead.  Was that what I wanted?

Not sure about the answer, I followed her into the devastated building.  Picking through the rubble, I was able to tell it had once been a hotel.  The front desk was still there and the walls collapsed, but most of the first floor seemed basically safe.

“You know where we’re going?” I asked.

Tapping her nose with a long, ivory claw, my guide sneered, “Just following my nose.”

Pushing through some collapsed woodwork, she found an opening to what appeared to be a basement.  Skipping down the concrete steps, she found a door.

Following her I pointed to the bottom of the door, “Light,” I whispered.

Nodding her acknowledgement, Ascheya pushed open the door slowly and peeked inside.  Seemingly convinced it was safe, she entered and I followed her.

Someone was living in the basement!  There was a bedroll on the floor and a glowing lamp next to it.  There were cans of food and other supplies in one corner and a collection of bladed weaponry and exotic armor piled up in the other corner.

I knelt next the bedroll and lifted up a corner, “Who would live in this place …?”

Ascheya’s blades flew off her belt and she snapped around to the door, ready for a fight.  In the doorway was the shadow of big man, a very big man.  Probably two inches taller than Ascheya with long hair and a broad build, the man was dragging a sword with him and appeared to be wearing military armor.

“Draghixa?” I heard him whisper in a raspy voice.

“Well,” Ascheya lowered her weapons, “If it isn’t the legendary Jacob.”

For those unfamiliar with Jacob, he appears in “The Seraphim Protocol” and I’ve mentioned him in several posts.  Here’s one example  http://wp.me/p2yGIy-1b

Tales from Charon – Crazy Compassion – Fin

A man is nothing without his honor.  When I enlisted, when I received my commission, I made a public oath that I would defend the Earth Constitution and honor the ideals it represented against all enemies foreign and domestic.

After the deaths of over forty soldiers, I regret that oath.  I regret doing what I had to do.  I regret that I wasn’t smart enough to find a better way.

*  *  *

We pulled back into the base with our new “survivor” ready to start a new life.  Ascheya … er … Hanna Thompson would be hired on as a native consultant.  She would have all the rights and privileges of an Earth citizen.  I was already trying to figure out how to start an underground railroad for clones when Fernando stopped the truck.

Where was everyone?

Asch … Hanna stepped out of the truck and I followed her with the rest of the team dragging behind us.  But she froze after only a few steps.

“What?” I asked, “Is the Bardo coming again?”

“Uh,” she mumbled, “Yeah, but that’s not it.”

“Wha ..?” I started, but the MP’s came out of the barracks.

They were followed by what seemed like the entire base.  Everyone was armed and in full armor.  General Vishay emerged from the crowd with an older civilian man next to him.

Grabbing Ascheya by the shoulder, I stepped in front of her, “General Sir.”

“Step away from the clone Lieutenant,” General Vishay ordered.  “Orders are that its supposed to report for disposal.”

“What’s going on sir?” I asked.  Why was the whole base waiting for us?  I reported that Ascheya had been killed.  They would have had to have known she didn’t actually die …

I turned around and looked back at Kelly.  It was her.  She had let them know through the mobile terminal.

“Look at it,” Kelly said.  “It’s a monster Lieutenant.  Fangs, claws.”

“She’s one of our own!” I barked.  “She’s a soldier just like us!”

The general motioned to the MP’s, “Disarm it.”

Ascheya grabbed the blades off her belt, “You think you’re man enough guys?” she hissed.

“No!” I yelled.  “You took an oath Kelly!  To protect all citizens regardless of the circumstances of their birth!”

“She wasn’t born!” Kelly yelled, “Look at it!  It was grown in a lab!”

I looked over at Ascheya who was eyeing me closely.  She was thin as I said before.  Almost anorexic thin, much like a French model.  Her hands were monstrous and her ears were almost cat-like, but over a foot long and extremely pointed.  I had always focused on her voice, her scent.  I never thought about how she looked like so much like demon.  But even now, I didn’t care.

The civilian stepped forward, “Son, I’m Doctor Cashen.  That thing behind you, it doesn’t have a soul.  It’s an animal that doesn’t even know its an animal.”

Asheya watched me.  She just stared at me.  It was like she couldn’t decide whose side I was on.

“Step back Lieutenant,” the general ordered, “That’s an order!”

I looked back at Eric and Fernando.

“Look at her skin,” Eric said.  “Look at how it shines.  It’s like metal.”

“Eric,” I groaned, “Really?”  Eric’s family had descended from Africa.  They had been taken as slaves and a civil war had been fought over them.  And here he was talking about the color of her skin?

I looked back at the general, “No sir.  You know this isn’t right.”

“We have our orders Lieutenant,” the general sighed, “Kill it,” he nodded to the MP’s.

One of them placed his plasma launcher against Ascheya’s temple as she slowly lowered her weapons.  She was giving up!  I could see her holding her breath.

In the distance I could hear the rumbled of a thousand thunderstorms on the horizon.  Ascheya closed her eyes tight, preparing herself for the coming plasma round.  One pull of the trigger and she would fall into darkness.


The blanket of the Bardo rolled over us like a tidal wave of pitch.  Just as the world went black she opened her left eye … and smiled at me!

The compound was alight with the blue glow of plasma rounds and I felt the splash of warm life hit my face.  It was like watching her move through a strobe light.  Each instant that my eyes could catch her, she was slicing another soldier.  They fell one by one, their blood spraying into the air and their intestines dumping onto the ground.

Kelly moved and pulled my rifle off my shoulder, “Don’t even think about it.  Don’t make me do this,” I told her.

The sounds of battle surrounded us.  Ascheya was wading through the soldiers, killing everyone in her path while I held my squad back.

“It’s gonna kill them all!” Kelly yelled.

What the hell was I doing!?  This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen!  We were supposed to work together.  We were supposed to be a team!  This was right, it was the right thing.  How come everyone was dying?  Why?

“Ascheya!” I yelled, “In the truck!”

Holding my team back at gunpoint, I waved Ascheya into the truck.  We both bailed into the front and I gunned the throttle.  Crashing through the gate, I finally remembered to breathed out.

“Well Lieutenant,” the blood covered woman next to me started, “I’m used to this, but you’re a criminal  now.”

“I know,” I groaned, “I … I guess it’s just Jack now, no more Lieutenant.”  Plasma rounds slammed into the truck and careened past us into the blackness of the Bardo.

“You were always Mr. Orders, by the book,” she giggled, “What made you change your mind?”

Driving through the curtain of the Bardo I shrugged, “I’m still by the books.  I took an oath of service and I’m following it through to the end.”

“So now what?” she asked, leaning the seat back a little.

I stared into the palpable blackness around us.  I had just wanted to do what was right.

Smiling, I snorted, “Remember why they made you?”

“To protect people,” Ascheya groaned.

“Yep,” I nodded, “to protect people.  We’ll just have to do it our way.”  I was out of ideas at the moment, ” Well, this is your planet.  Point the way.”

“Ever had a holiday on Charon?” Ascheya giggled.

A holiday on Charon?  What had I gotten myself into?

Tales from Charon – Crazy Compassion – Part 2

This is part 2 of the exciting “Crazy Compassion” episode.  Please note that the following contains adult language and violence.

Sometimes, we find that we regret doing the right thing.  That’s where wisdom comes in.  Wisdom isn’t common sense or the sound application of knowledge, wisdom is actually a virtuous form of intelligence.  It is positive intentions tempered with the knowledge of actions and their consequences.  As I’ve said though, I was lacking that knowledge.

And as they say, The road to Hell is paved in good intentions.

The lights of our truck pierced the blackness of the Bardo and fell onto the wreckage of several armored vehicles.  There were bodies scattered around the twisted skeletons of the trucks.  Blood was splattered on the shells of the transports and severed organs were draped over the site of the attack like holiday garland.

Asheya put her hand over Fernando’s should and leaned over his back, staring into the darkness.  I saw Fernando withdraw slightly, the sight of her long hand, easily two feet long, unnerved the big man.

“Hackers,” she mumbled, “Stop here.”

Fernando slowed and then stopped, letting the lights fall over the site of the attack.  It was silent and there was no movement outside our truck.

“What’s your plan?” the dark woman asked.

“We have to check for survivors …” I started to say, but she held up one of her long hands.

Her skin, the color of malachite, made her nearly invisible in the dark truck save for the glossy sheen, “No, I mean for me.”

Kelly looked at me quizzically, “For her?”

“I need identifications Private,” I ordered Kelly, “We’ll have at least one survivor.”  I looked at Ascheya and nodded, “Time to be born again.”

Staring at me apprehensively, she grabbed the blades off her hip, the dark woman opened the back door, “I’ll check for survivors,” she said, pulling on her helmet.

Eric grabbed his KS-16, “I’m going too.”

I watched the Delta woman glide to the wreckage like a wraith.  Behind her, Eric seemed clumsy and ungainly.  Her movement was alien, animalist.  She paused, turning her head to listen.  When she stopped, not a muscle moved, not even her chest when she would breathe.  When people stopped, they would lean back and forth, constantly adjusting their balance and that movement always gave people away.  But like a deadly predator, when Ascheya stopped, not a single muscle flexed.

While typing on the mobile monitor, Kelly looked up at me, “What’s the deal with  her L-T?”

Watching them both closely, I responded, “Church of Light was able to get her declared a clone.  She’s supposed to report for destruction so we’ll just have her die here and pick up one of those victim’s life.”

“Not like people won’t know she’s back,” Kelly mumbled.  “Sticks out like a sore thumb.”

“Yeah, but nobody on the base is going to say anything,” I chuckled, “We watch out for our own.  Sure, she won’t be able to go to Earth, but this is home for her anyway.”

“What the hell!” Fernando yelled, interrupting our conversation.

A reptilian beast appeared from behind one of the shattered vehicles.  At about seven feet tall, its head was saurian, like that of a tyrannosaurus.  Its armored hide was covered in scales and its arms were human-like.  In its human hands, it held a bloody cleaver.

The beast rushed towards Ascheya who pushed Fernando back.  The beast swung down at her and she sidestepped it easily.  Driving her blade into its gut, she disemboweled the monster, dumped its guts unceremoniously on the ground.

The first creature dropped to its knees as three more appeared from behind one of the trucks.  Catching the lead beast in stride, the dark woman slashed its throat as it rushed past.  A gout of blood spurted out of its severed aorta, showering the demonic woman with a pumping geyser of veinal fluid.

Punching a dagger into the side of the next creature’s head, Ascheya rushed toward the final beast.  Turning, it tried to flee, but the woman jumped on its back.  Punching both daggers into its back, Ascheya severed its spine, dropping it limply to the ground.

While the first creature bled to death on the ground, trying to pull its intestines back into its body, I saw the dark fury grab the last beast by its nose.  She leaned over it and seemed to be saying something to it.

“She’s … talking to it,” I heard Eric mumble.

I could hear her speaking through the communicators in our helmets, “Unde venistis ex?” she asked.  “Diabolus ego ostendam vobis putatis dolor.”

“What the hell?” I wondered.

“It’s Latin,” Kelly said.  “How about … oh shit … shit, shit, shit!”

“What?” I turned to Kelly, trying to see what she had found on the monitor.

“Samantha Schmidtweiler,” she mumbled, “She was on one of those trucks.”

I had to agree, shit!  But now wasn’t the time for mysteries, “Stay focused Private,” I ordered, “Give me a name.”

“Uh, sorry sir,” Kelly responded, “Hanna Thompson.  Her family was killed here on Charon.  No family on Earth.”

“Perfect,” I said and then winced as Ascheya beheaded the creature she had been interrogating.

After completing a sweep of the wreckage, Fernando and Ascheya found no survivors.  They returned to our truck just as the Bardo was dissipating.  Like fog being burned off by the sun, the darkness faded and the arid, rocky world reappeared around us.

After she had closed the back door, I looked up at Ascheya and pushed the button the vehicle’s communication system, “Base?”

The pleasant woman at dispatch, I think her name was Jill, responded, “Alpha 3 go.”

“Alpha 3 returning to base,” I winked at Ascheya, “One survivor, Hanna Thompson.  One team member down, Sergeant Ascheya Schmidtweiler.  Unable to retrieve corpse.  Copy that?”

“Understood,” Jill … Jennifer? … responded.  “Have a safe trip back Lieutenant.”

Looking up at Ascheya, her hair was slick with perspiration and hanging to her shoulders, I winked again, “Happy birthday Miss Hanna Thompson.”

For the few that have read my novel “The Seraphim Protocol”, you read that right.  Foreshadowing is fun.  For those who haven’t had the opportunity to read “The Seraphim Protocol”, it should be available for download in a couple of months.

Stay tuned for the shocking conclusion of Tales from Charon – Crazy Compassion!

Tales from Charon – Crazy Compassion – Part 1

I know I promised the next chapter of “Jessica Redux” today, but the story between Ascheya and Lieutenant Jake Carlson is heating up.  Jessica will take a short hiatus while I dismiss the plot bunny that’s making me write more about Charon.

This next episode will take a couple of installments to get through so please enjoy “Crazy Compassion – Part 1”.

Why is it that the most distracting things always happen during the Bardo?  The entire base was pitch black and covered in the pale glow of the flood lights when we got our call, a group of refugees had been attacked on their way to the base.  We were the clean-up crew, but I couldn’t find my squad.

After running all over the base, I thought to check the barracks.  There I found Fernando leaning on the wall outside the barracks with Eric and Kelly waiting in the truck.  It sounded like a war was waging inside.

“What’s going on?” I asked just as something heavy hit the door, denting and slightly tearing the steel.

“You’re girl is throwing a fit,” Fernando chuckled, “She’s super-mega-pissed at something.”

A bunk struck the wall and busted through the corrugated steel, tearing the metal like flesh and sending the bunk into the next barrack.  Fernando looked over at the fallen bed and chuckled.

“Good luck there L-T,” he snorted.

I pushed on the door, changed my mind and then kicked the dented door open, I saw Ascheya smash a locker with her hand and then grab it.  Picking it up she threw it across the room while screaming at the top of her lungs.  It was a piercing sound, like the wail of a banshee.

“What’s the matter soldier?” I asked, but quickly regretted the soldier part.

Stopping, she huffed to me and pointed a vicious talon in my face, “The fucking Church of Light is what’s the matter!”

The Church of Light was the dominate religion on Earth.  I’m no theologian, but my understanding is that they’re based off a long dead religion that was supposed to have been founded by the son of a god or something.

Before I could even ask, she answered my next question, “They fucking blocked my citizenship!”

“They’ve got no authority …” I started to say, but she grabbed a footlocker and through it through the window.

“A damn clone!  They convinced the Senate I’m a clone!” she yelled, smashing a bunk with her hands.  The metal collapsed as if the bed was made from taffy.

There are three very dark eras in Earth’s history.  The first was slavery that ended in the late twenty-second century.  The second were the Jewish, African and Hispanic Holocausts.  Finally, came the Clone Trials.

During the Clone Trials, the cloned people had managed to get enough support to take their case to the Earth Supreme Court saying they were legitimate humans and should be afforded all rights of normal people.  The Church of Light had convinced enough lobbyists and judges though that the clones didn’t have souls, they weren’t conceived by The Lord, so they weren’t human and therefore, animals.  They used those people since then as slave labor.

“We’ll just …” I started to say, but Ascheya was beyond raging and wasn’t going to let me say a word.

“Destruction!” she yelled, throwing a rifle into the wall.  “I’m supposed to report for destruction!”

I’ve never claimed that I was a smart man.  As a matter of fact, I tested a little low.  My IQ was listed as “dull normal” and borderline “mildly deficient”.    But this time my brain was working overtime.  This problem was so easy to solve, even I knew what to do.

“Well?” I blurted, “So you’ll report.  It’s an or …”

A humming blue blade stopped by throat, “Oh really,” Ascheya hissed, “And you think you’re man enough to take me there?”

Even though I had nearly pissed myself, I never saw her grab her blades, I grinned maliciously, “After we’re done with this mission, we’ll turn you in.  I can’t control if you … die … out in the field.”  I winked.  Wink, wink.

I’ve never been more afraid in my life.  Please know what I’m thinking, please get what I’m thinking, I pleaded inside my mind.

Her eyes were horrifying.  Black pits except for the gleaming violet rings of violent fury.  Lacking the white that most of us have in our eyes, Asheya’s glare was demonic and coupled with her fangs … terrifying.

Her long, pointed left ear … twitched.

“You’re … serious?” she mumbled, slowly lowering the tonfa-like weapon.

Oh yeah, I was supposed to breathe to stay alive.  Pushing out the air in my lungs I winked again, “Serious as a heart attack.  People die in field all the time.”

Hooking one dagger on her belt, she turned away, deep in thought.  She was deciding if she trusted me.  I could see her eyes darting back and forth as she studied each thought in her brain.

The blade snapped up so that it was just millimeters from my right eye, “You know what I can do to this base right?” she asked.  Her normally whispery voice was dripping with venom.

“I can’t say I do,” I responded, “I get the feeling I haven’t really seen everything you’re capable of.”

Looking down her arm at me, she lowered the blade again, “Remember what I said?” she asked.

“You ready soldier?” I responded.  She had said plenty of things, I had no idea what she was talking about.

Stepping past me, she stopped with her shoulder touching mine, “The fastest way to die on Charon is to fuck with me.”

To be continued …

Tales from Charon – Ladies of the Night

“Watch it!” was all I heard.

A bizarre caterpillar the size of a dachshund scrambled onto my tray in the mess hall.  Instead of legs though, it had about twenty sets of tentacles it used for locomotion.  Instead of an insect face, the head was that of a baby human, but complete with wicked mandibles.

The horrible creature looked at me … and exploded!

Even as the electronic sound of a plasma launcher reverberated in my ears, I could hear Ascheya laughing.  Orange goop and stringy entrails dripped off of my face and fell into the puddle on my tray.  Sure, the salisbury steak was dry and the potatoes were instant, but they definitely wouldn’t go good with giant caterpillar goop.

Around me I heard my team yelling, “Clear!”

“Lieutenant Carlson …” Asheya laughed, “you … gonna eat that?”  Her laugh was like the song of angels.  How could someone so foul have a voice so beautiful?

But I had to pause for short moment.  She called me Lieutenant!  I guess I earned some modicum of respect by getting my ass kicked by the woman.

“What the hell was that!?” I laughed with her, wiping my face.

“I got three more in the hall!” Fernando yelled, looking out the door.

Handing me her rifle, Asheya helped me up, “Space herpe?” she shrugged.  “This is Charon, you never know what’s gonna run across your plate.”

“Literally,” I chuckled.  “So what’s the deal?”

“Hey Sarge!” Fernando yelled, “We’ve got about five more in here!” he said looking into the hall.

“Some idiot let a prostitute on base,” Ascheya responded, looking over her shoulder.

We both approached the hall door and looked through the window.  They were swarming.  Since Fernando had yelled, they had been joined by twenty or thirty more of the caterpillar things.

“Space herpes?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” Ascheya nodded.  “They’re the Charon version of VD.”

I bumped Eric, “Can you clear that hall for us?”

Laughing, the big man kicked the door open, “Oh hell yeah.”

Lowering his KS-16, a multi-barrelled plasma cannon, he pulled the trigger.  Streaks of bluish light shot through the hall, exploding into the caterpillar creatures and blasting holes in the walls.  The smoke grew as he sprayed plasma rounds all over the hallway like a gardener watering a garden.  The walls exploded and orange goop fell like rain.

“Whoa hoss!” yelled Ascheya shortly after none of us could see through the falling plaster and smoke.

Her long claws wrapped around the wicked knives at her hips.  They were shaped like the ancient tonfa with one blade extending along her forearm and the other curving out from the bottom of her hand.  Her internal battery lit up the blades with a blue-black hue and they hummed happily in her hands.  Two children excited to be let out of the house.

“Lieutenant Jake,” Ascheya whispered in her bedroom voice, “You hear that?”

Her long ears wiggled slightly as I strained to listen above the crumbling plaster of the walls.  There was a strange hissing sound that I thought was the sound of plasma burning the walls, there was the dropping sound of caterpillar blood falling from the ceiling; nope, nothing.

I shook my head.

“What hell? she sneered, “Do they even give you guys a bio-fusion battery or just pump you up and send you out?”

“You’re out of line Sar,” I started to say, but caught myself.  She obviously had a problem with authority so I tried a new tactic.

“We weren’t all born with those big ole’ Dumbo ears Sarge,” I laughed, punching her in the arm.

Ascheya must have been stunned.  She just stared down at the spot I had punched, her lip curled slightly.

“You know … Dumbo ..?” I chuckled uncomfortably.

I was dead.

But then I heard a funny little giggle find its way out of her fangs, “What the hell is a Dumbo?”

“The little elephant you know?”  I laughed, “Disney?  You know, they lock it in their vault all the time?”

Eric pushed past, “How many times do we have to tell you two to get a room?”

“Not a clue Lieutenant,” Ascheya smiled, elbowing me in the ribs.

Pushing our way through the smoke and rubble, we paused outside doors to the rec room.  Now I could hear what Ascheya was talking about.  Someone was crying.

“There’s someone in there L-T,” Kelly whispered.

“Think we found our hooker,” Ascheya barked, kicking open the doors.

We all took our positions instantly.  Eric and Fernando secured the corners and Kelly and I fell in behind the malachite-skinned woman.

In front of us was a woman, but not like anyone we had ever seen.  Her skin was immensely bloated as if she was stretched and filled with fluid.  The poor thing was nearly eight feel tall from all the swelling and her gut had spread nearly ten feet.  She was sobbing and her hands wiggled from inside the folds of flesh around her arms.

“H … help … m-me,” she gasped, but then heaved as if she was going to vomit.  A few more heaves and she vomited one of the big gross caterpillars.

The instant the caterpillar was out of the way, Kelly shot it, splattering its goop on the wall.

I should have been paying more attention, but I was too focused on the woman, “Alright!  Kelly.  Emergency medi …”

I heard the echoing electronic sound of a KS-16.  As fast at the plasma cannon would fire, I watched round after round slam into the woman.  Stunned, I turned to see that Ascheya had taken Eric’s weapon and was unloading it into the prostitute.

“No!” I yelled, but Ascheya’s mind was made up.

After blowing the poor woman to kibbles, the dark woman handed the weapon back to Eric, “Well that’s that,” she commented, smiling to herself.

Stepping in front of her I thumped the woman on her chest with my finger, “I’ll have you court-martialed for that.  That woman …”

“Was dead!” she yelled back at me.  “There was nothing we could do!  But instead you wanted to let her suffer.”

“I wanted to save her!” I barked back.

“For who!?  Her or you?”

“I …” I couldn’t respond.  “Wha ..?”

Leaning close to me, Ascheya thumped me in the chest as I had done to her, “You want to be the hero.  It’s about you!”

“How could it be about me?  My duty is to protect people.”

“By making them suffer?” she groaned and pushed past me.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kelly said, patting me on the shoulder as she passed.

But … she was right.  The woman’s internal organs had been destroyed, her body devastated.  Compassion is great, but compassion without wisdom, without understanding can be the cause for more suffering.  A lesson I would have to learn the hard way.

Tales from Charon – From Brutal Origins

The following contains adult language and violence.

I slapped the syringe of viscous green fluid on the lunch table.  Looking up at me, her black and violet eyes blazing, Ascheya swallowed the meat she was eating.

“What?” she barked at me in her bedroom voice.

Since joining us, she had been disrespectful, antagonistic and insubordinate .  The woman was frighteningly enraging.  She could push my buttons better than anyone I had ever met.  After our second mission together, I had gone to my CO and demanded she be court-martialed.  Calmly, he had explained that I needed to learn to work with difficult soldiers.

“You know damn well what!” I yelled.

I quickly looked down at the metal tray in front of her.  The meat she was eating hadn’t been cooked!

Lowering her eyes to the syringe, she licked her pouty lips, “Are we playing twenty questions again Sarge?”

I could hear Kelly grumble from down the table, “I wish they would just get a room and get it over with.”

“That’s Lieutenant or Sir to you!  Contraband like regen injects are illegal here!” I yelled.  I couldn’t even address her properly, I was still waiting on her paperwork to be sent so I knew her rank.

“I’ll call you whatever I want,” the Delta Unit snickered, “And that contraband has kept me alive in the field more than once.”

“They’re addictive and can kill normal ..!

She stood up and glared into my eyes.  I could smell the strange scent of desert flowers emanating from her and could see the muscles flexing below her thin, high cheeks.

“Do I look normal!?” she yelled, “None of us is normal!  You’re all Betas!”

“The law is the ..!”

Dismissing me, she put her hand up in front of my face and turned away.  Her hands were long and thin with vicious talons and barbed bony protrusions jutting out of her joints.  My blood-pressure skyrocketed and my hands shook with rage.

How dare she!

Grabbing her thin shoulder, I turned her around to face me, “That’s it,” I growled.

Taking a step back I ripped the stripes of my uniform, “No ranks, no orders.  You and me bitch.”

Her eyes watched the stripes fall to the floor and a wicked smile spread across her dark face, “That’s more like it,” she cooed while pushing the table out of the way.

She was tall, but thin; built like a French model she lacked the bulk that the Delta Prototype carried.  I knew she was fast, but I was confident I would grossly overpower her.

Fernando groaned, “Can’t you take this to the bedroom?”

I snapped a jab toward one of those annoying fangs.  My fist brushed the end of her nose as she turned and watched my fist harmlessly strike air.

“Nice,” she commented, “Good snap.”

I followed with a cross.  As she stepped back I felt my fist brush her flirty bangs.  She took the opportunity to tap my wrist, keeping me from throwing a backfist.

“Good,” she laughed, “Try harder!”

I kicked out at her, driving a powerful front kick toward her gut, but she tip-toed to the side of my leg.  She was toying with me!  She was too fast and she knew it.

“Look, are you just fiddling around with me or what?” I asked as she deftly ducked under a roundhouse kick.

“I just want you to feel you’re doing well,” she snickered.

I snapped out a backfist, but she moved in and jammed my shoulder with her hands, “Would you stop that!?” I yelled.

I can’t be entirely certain what happened next.  I have to fill in the gaps with what I think happened based on my injuries.

My nose shattered as she kicked me in the face, but before my head could snap backward another kick landed in my stomach, folding me over like a taco.  I was lifted into the air by the kick and then grabbed around the throat.  Asheya flipped me over and slammed me though the table, my lungs emptying of air as my back hit the tile, the impact cracking the floor.

Gasping for air and bleeding all over the floor, I could barely see the dark woman through the tears in my eyes, “Here, have some contraband,” she smiled.

I felt the sudden rush of the drugs flowing through my system.  My eyes cleared and I could breath like normal.  My nose was repaired and I felt revitalized and calm.

Walking away from me, Asheya giggled, “Better than a trip to the infirmary aren’t they?”

*  *  *

Nothing was static on Charon; not directions, not text, not life.  We had to use miniature black holes to see monitors back on Earth.  Words printed on paper would blur and change, becoming impossible to read almost immediately.  Luckily, my information had been posted to the monitor back on Earth.

Classified, the reports explained that the Earth military had infiltrated a secret Biocorp facility on Charon.  They had started production on the Delta units just as the Epsilon unit had been born.  I read that when the news reporter had broken open the atrocities committed on Charon, Biocorp had quickly moved to terminate the Delta Production Units.

But there had been one snag …

“They had already administered the Divinity Protocol,” I heard Asheya’s soft, gentle voice behind me.  “The military had cut power to the facility so they tried to throw me in the incinerator.”

“How did you survive?” I asked without turning, “Divinity?”  But then I saw it in the report.

“Fifty two dead,” I heard her laugh, “No survivors.”

“I saw the reports, your sister wouldn’t have killed those people,” I flipped through the report on the monitor.  “She tried to protect people.”

It sounded like there was a little growl in her voice, “I’m not my sister,” she replied, draping her long hand over my shoulder.

“The fastest way to die on Charon,” she whispered in my ear, “is to fuck with me.”

I have quoted “The Princess Bride” somewhere in the text.  The first person to find the quote and comment will be in one of my upcoming stories.

Tales from Charon – The Delta Production Unit

For those wondering what became of Jessica, we’re just going to give her a little break with her family while we follow a few of the (mis)adventures of Harold the Cat and I take a moment to introduce you to a few characters from Charon.

Please note that the following contains adult language and violence.


I like to think I joined the military to help people.  You know, defend them.  But never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would be defending them against the shit that lives on Charon.  Hell, the Earth government abandoned that planet almost immediately.  But you can always count on corporate greed to get everyone in trouble.

Biocorp Inc.  decided they could make insane money off the natural resources on Charon by giving people places to live there, free land, everything.  The problem was the indigenous lifeforms … if you want to call them that.  Since the government wouldn’t help them out, Biocorp started making cyborg soldiers, but machines made out of dead people were nothing but food for the monsters on Charon.  So they started paying for volunteers, slaves really, indentured servants to go through genetic and physical protocols so they were faster and stronger than any living person.

Still not good enough.  Honestly, the stuff on Charon is tough.  They went through two generations, the Beta and Gamma units, before they rolled out their better than everything; the Delta Prototype.

Grown in a lab through genetic recombination of two different species and then going through their genetic and physical protocols, it was supposed to be a killing machine without equal.  Turns out they made a pretty girl that the world fell in love with.  One nosy reporter made it to Charon and all hell broke loose.

And I mean literally.

Nobody is completely sure what happened, but she died and killed the sky with her.  You heard right, killed the sky.  Told you Charon was messed up.  The Earth government moved in and started dismantling Biocorp, taking them through trials … all the legal stuff.  They also stated sending military squads to Charon to help the people living there.

My squad, Earth Special Forces Squad 4, was the first to go.  We had all signed up for the military version of Biocorp’s hunter/killer program … which meant we got to keep our memories, families and everything that made us human.  It also made us the perfect choices to go to Charon.  We were the best there was.

Until we met … her.

It was a simple extraction mission.  A convoy of supplies had been attacked and we were to go in, rescue the drivers and get out.  Simple right?  One little snag was that our explosives expert had been killed by a skrill and we had a new squadmate on the way.

As our transport rumbled across the barren, cracked ground my sniper, Kelly Spafford, tapped me on the shoulder, “Hey Lieutenant, what do you know about this noob we got coming?”

I looked up a the sky, it looked almost like it was made out of rotten flesh and on the skyline I could see the gangrenous tear in the sky, parts of it hanging just like a vicious wound.  There was always something moving above it, like the sky was alive, like worms were digging though its rotten flesh and threatening to tear through and fall to the earth at any moment.

“Dunno,” I shrugged, “You know the whole drill …”

“Do and die,” she chuckled and sat back, “Yeah, yeah.  He screws up I’ll frag him you know.”

“He screws up, you won’t have to,” I tapped Fernando on the shoulder and pointed to a gap in the weathered stones we could drive through, “He’ll be dead before you get him in your sites …”

As we entered the pass in the stones, something landed on top of our armored vehicle.  It was light so it wouldn’t be able to tear through the armoring, but oddly enough it wasn’t scratching around.

“Road hog?” asked Eric.  Eric was our heavy weapons expert.  A frighteningly large black man with an equally frightening love of killing.

“Doubt it,” Fernando responded, “I would have hit his buddy by now.”

There was a knocking on the roof.  Shave and a haircut … seriously!?

“… And road hogs don’t knock,” added Fernando with a grin.

There was a second, heavy thump and then the sounds of a struggle.  We could all hear claws digging into the metal of the roof of our vehicle and we all quietly watched the roof like a bunch of idiot turkeys staring at the sky while it rains.  The thumps quickly ended with three massive bangs that left dents in the roof and then everything went silent.

Someone keyed their communicator and a gentle, sultry feminine voice filled the body of the vehicle, “You fuck-sticks wanna let me in or do I have rip this damn hatch open?”

Eric started twisting open the mechanism and smiling, “Welcome aboard noob,” he replied into the microphone of his own communicator.

The hatch swung open and was quickly replaced by the bloody head of a terrordeer, it’s dead, multi-faceted eyes staring in at us, “Noob my ass,” the gentle voice responded, “I kill these things for fun.”

The head withdrew and a woman in full military hazardous operations armor dropped into our vehicle.  The armor was cutting edge and composed of black heavy high polymer plates over the spine and vital organs with gray light polymer over the rest of the body.  All of it used a person force field making the wearer nearly invulnerable … except on Charon.

I never thought I would be surprised by anything, but when the woman pulled off her helmet I have to admit that I was stunned.  Kelly even gasped a little.  She was a Delta!

She had black hair that gleamed a violet-blue and cascaded to her shoulders.  Her skin was the color of malachite and her ears were at least a foot long and pointed, dropping playfully on the ends.  Her eyes were black where the white should have been and her irises were a frightening shade of bright purple.  She evidently had fangs because one had gotten caught on her upper lip.

“Yeah, yeah,” she sighed.  “Delta Unit, only production model.  My sister was the one you all heard about.”

I quickly composed myself, “Name, rank and serial number soldier,” I ordered.

“Oh, aren’t you cute,” she cooed, petting my flat-top like I was a puppy, “Got your military haircut and orders and all.”

The woman then dropped her head ever so slightly so she was looking directly into my eyes from under her bangs and brow.  Her mouth was slightly open so I could see she had four fangs; two upper and two lower.

“Name, Ascheya.  Rank, Badass.  Serial Number, Foxtrot-Uniform-Charlie-Kilo-Uniform,” she sneered.

It was weird, she smelled like desert flowers.  Even though she had been sweating under her armor and should have smelled like sweat, instead of the stank, she smelled lovely.  Of course her attitude pissed me off.

“You listen up soldier ..!” I started to bark, but she cut me off by poking me in the chest.

“OR WHAT!!  HUH!?” she bellowed in her strange bedroom voice.  ‘YOU GONNA SEND ME TO CHARON!?  I FUCKING GREW UP HERE!!!”

“If you two love birds wouldn’t mind breaking it up, we’re here,” Fernando chuckled.

Nobody gave me lip.  Nobody.

“Perfect timing,” Ascheya smiled a wickedly. “The Bardo is coming.”

The Bardo.  In an ancient and dead religion, the Bardo was what they called the period between life, death and rebirth.  On Charon it was just the period between life and death.

Everyone grabbed their helmets and Kelly kicked open the back door.  On the horizon, we could hear the sounds of thousands of thunderstorms, a menacing rumble that was the harbinger of things to come.  It wasn’t just the darkness that the Bardo would bring.  No, it was something worse.  Terrordeer, gorehounds, road hogs, all of them were just pests.  No, the real shit came out during the Bardo.

“Let’s move people!” I yelled, but was immediately halted by Ascheya who stopped in her tracks.

“Seriously?” I could hear her ask through the communicator in her helmet.  “No, I thought we were all just going to stay in the truck and hope it all worked out.”  Shaking her head, she unstrapped her MR-7 plasma launcher from her back, “Dumbass …” she mumbled.

Ignoring her insubordination, I lead the group to the trashed trucks of the convoy.  One man was sitting by the wheel of his rig with wounds covering his body.  The darkness was coming, we had to get them into the transport.

“Are you all right sir?” I asked.  “Can you …”

Ascheya swooped in like an eagle and grabbed the man up, “Of course he’s not all right idiot, those are gorehound scratches.  We’ve got infected people here.”

Gorehounds were born by biting victims but letting them live.  In a few days, a newly formed monster would rip its way out of the host and if she was right, the drivers only had a few hours.

In moments, the whole area grew as dark as pitch.  Without our helmets, we wouldn’t have been able to see our hands in front of our faces, much less whatever would be chewing on our legs.  Fernando stood over us as we moved the injured, with his KS-16, he was an imposing figure; a big man with a multi-barrelled automatic plasma launcher.  But he was nothing but lunch to what was coming next.

With the last truck driver over her shoulder and the rest of the team in the transport, Ascheya stopped suddenly next to me and cocked her slightly.  She resembled an Earth dog hearing something outside.  Handing the man over to me, she knelt and put her hand on the ground.

“You got something?” I asked.  Secretly I prayed she wouldn’t just lip off again.

She turned her head again, “Get him in the truck,” she said sweetly.  Even under duress, her voice was like the song of an angel.

“What ..?” I started to ask, but she cut me off.

“Goddamn thunder worm!” she yelled, “Get in the truck!”

I bolted for the transport as she pulled a grenade off of her belt.  Pulling it and tossing it over one of the convoy trucks she dove behind a boulder as I tossed the man to Kelly inside our truck.  Looking back, I saw the plasma grenade detonate and then the ground erupt around it.

“Go!” I yelled to Fernando, “We’ll catch up.”

It was huge, massive.  Like a gigantic centipede, the thunder worm blasted out of the soil, throwing trucks like they were a child’s toys.  Its carapace was rotten and oozed fluids and its mandibles were as large as our transport and wickedly sharp.  But most disturbing was its face; a human nose and eyes looked down on us before a snake-like head came out of its mouth.

While I stood there gawking like a teen girl at a boy-band concert, Ascheya emptied her first clip into the monster.  I’d never seen anything that big in my life and the second head emerging from the mouth of the first was horrifying.  The rapid electronic pulse of the automatic plasma launcher jarred me out of my stupor.

“Fuck this,” Ascheya barked, throwing her rifle to the ground and grabbing the hooked blades she kept strapped to her sides.

Wicked weapons, they were like long, hooked knives made from hyper-alloy metal.  The second her hands touched them, they lit up happily, glowing with a blue-black hue.  She was pumping power into them, charging them and turning them into plasma blades.

“Eat me!” she yelled, running into the open.

What!?  She couldn’t be serious.

The beast obliged, dropping down and swallowing the woman whole.  That was it, she was gone.  One damn mission and we already lost our new team member.  But why would she ..?

The beast shook once.  Then again.  Then its gut exploded in a torrent of blood, torn flesh and stomach fluid.  As the beast collapsed, I saw the armored woman step out of its gut and could hear her panting into the communicator.

“Only … soft spot …” she sputtered, “It’s gut.”

Patting her on the shoulder I started to lead her toward the road.  We had a long walk back.

“So you knew Draghixa?” I asked.

The woman nodded, “Yeah.  She was my sister … so to speak.”

“Well welcome aboard soldier,” I smiled inside my helmet.

*  *  *

Remember how I said we were the best there was?  Now we’re a jumbled up dysfunctional bunch of misfits trying to save the world, but we’ve got the deadliest weapon on Charon with us.  A Delta Unit.

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