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Some grifter had my terminally ill aunt sign a will to give him everything
2023.03.29 02:35 Sunkisthappy Some grifter had my terminally ill aunt sign a will to give him everything
My aunt is in her 60's and has a history of mental illness (likely bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder). She's been committed to inpatient psychiatric care in the past. She has partial blindness from a lifetime of type 1 diabetes. She has always had a tendency to cut family members out of her life and they (my late grandmother, my late aunt, and my mom) would come back to her because of loyalty and knowing she wasn't mentally healthy.
My grandmother was always there for her, and unfortunately, enabled her. When she and my older aunt passed, my mom, her younger sister, took on the duty of taking her to the grocery store, appointments, etc. And all of the emotional baggage that comes with it.
A few months ago, she cut my mom off yet again for some silly reason, and my mom gave her distance like she always does in such situations. My aunt felt fine doing so because she acquired the assistance of a young man. She allows him to park his trailer on her property and live there. This has always been a pattern with her. She allows random people into her life, then has some falling out with them. One of these people even pushed her a few years ago which caused a leg fracture. She's just a terrible judge of character and is easily persuaded by strangers. When they cause havoc in her life, my mom is always there to step in. My mom has spent so much money, money she doesn't have, to help my aunt pay for things like having her ac fixed or her property taxes paid.
So about a month ago, my aunt acquired pneumonia and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She elected to go to hospice. My mom made all of the arrangements, visits her almost daily, etc.
My mom recently found out the grifter who lives in my aunt's property wrote a will and had my aunt sign it at a bank with a notary present. He gets her house. He promised in turn to take care of her two parrots and get dog. That's why she signed it over. She thinks he's going to stick around and care for her animals after she passes, and that my mom wouldn't be able to do so because of how long parrots live. After all, he's young and has his entire life to care for her birds.
My mom never expected to get anything when my aunt passed, knowing her poor judgement. I've never expected any inheritance either. I've always kept a polite distance from my aunt, especially since the one time she left me a terribly verbally abuse voicemail out of the blue. But it infuriates me to think this random man who came into her life but a few months ago has covered her into giving him anything. Especially since I highly doubt he will live up to his promise to care for her animals.
My cousin is livid and has filed a report with adult protective services. My aunt is heavily sedated in hospice and is not likely to live much longer. I don't know what could come out of an adult protective services investigation. The grifter will probably get what he wants in the end. But it just sucks. My mom has put so much time, energy, and her own money into caring for my aunt. And this POS is probably going to get away with taking her house and surrending her pets. As if my mom losing her sister isn't enough.
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2023.03.29 02:30 Red_Stripe1229 Not sure what to do...if anything?
My parents are not well. I mean they are in an enviable situation given the circumstances, but they are not "well." I don't think they have been for a few decades. I will try to unpack this, but it may be a bit longwinded. I promise to use paragraphs!
I am M(50) and my parents are Dad(91) and Mom(80). They adopted my brother and me when were babies in the early 70's. In many ways they were loving parents, but my mom was abusive emotionally, verbally and physically. My dad was very passive with her but very active in our lives. My mom was active too, just not in ways we would have preferred!
In retrospect I think she may have Adult ADD and possibly be bipolar. But she would never seek therapy. She is the type who doesn't believe in that and would not even go to a doctor for 30 years until she had a small stroke 11 years ago. She is also, quite honestly a spoiled brat and acts like a complete Karen and thinks only of herself and her immediate needs.
About 30 years ago, my brother developed a drinking problem followed by crack addiction. My parents drained a significant part of their retirement (and my dad just recently retired as he had to keep working) paying for rehab, his bills, his whims, his divorces, his court cases, his bail, his lawyers, cars that he would sell to drug dealers and God knows what else.
They were fearful that if they left their apartment that they would miss his call that he was home at night and if he didn't call my dad would go out and look for him. My dad referred to this as "keeping him alive." It was a very dysfunctional situation and as a result, they really quit leaving the house (my dad worked in a separate office he rented in the apartment building) to do anything besides my dad getting groceries / dinner or something for his business.
My brother and I had a tumultuous relationship. We would go years without talking. I resented everything he put my parents through - both emotionally and financially. He freeloaded off of them for decades, but they also refused to ever cut him off tried to shield him from any consequences (although he did lose parental rights to his kid and did jail time on several occasions).
I lived out of state for 25 of the last 27 years. I recently moved back to my hometown because my brother died 2 years ago. Of course it was related to his drug use.
I set my parents up with several occasions with someone to come in and help with things. However, my mom kept terminating the contracts with them because no one can ever do anything good enough for her.
She never leaves the house. She has terrible knees (which she will never get replaced) and sleeps a lot. She watches tv all day long (usually 24 hour news - not Fox, thankfully). She has terrible incontinence as well. A few months ago she had decided to stop wearing her diapers and would double up with pads in the bed and just sleep in her own piss every night.
A little over 3 months ago (Dec, 2022), my dad, who has really been a primary caretaker for her (I live 5 miles away and have helped when I can) was helping her change her pajamas. He fell back and hit his upper back on the corner of the dresser and cracked 6 ribs. He didn't tell me about this until 3 days later. I took him to Urgent Care, they told him to rest. He fell 2 more times, the last time in the middle of the night and I called 911 against his wishes and he ended up in the hospital.
Needless to say, with COVID raging and hospital beds filling up, they could not keep him long so they sent to a physical rehab facility. He was very week and could barely walk. He had lost a lot of strength being laid up in bed with the cracked ribs. He is normally very active but he is very small and thin anyway.
During his 2 month stay at the rehab place he contracted COVID and Pneumonia. He is a tough dude for sure.
While he was in there, I took care of my mom along with another helper who she found through a neighbor. I also started the process of terminating my dad's business. I was also running by his place to make sure he everything he needed at the rehab place and trying to find an assisted living place for them both. I also work a full time job, have a side consulting business, a wife, a son in college and I play in a band. Living hell would be a great description of the last 3 months. I also had to coordinate moving them out of that apartment as them being on their own is just not an option at this point.
In any case I found them a top notch assisted care place. They have had a Long Term Care insurance since the mid-90's and basically their care is paid for at this place. They have a beautiful apartment in a complex that has a nice dining, social areas, live music, a bar, a movie theater, a salon, ice cream machine etc..., lots of the fixins.
My mom got their first and the first 2 days she got dressed with assistance (something she cannot do on her own and something she never did in that apartment - she is always in pajama gowns) and went down to the dining room for dinner. After that she started having her meals brought to her. Mind you each meal delivered comes with an $8 delivery fee, also because they encourage the residents to be social and get out.
My dad moved in from the rehab place a month ago - 2 weeks after my mom moved in. He cannot walk very much and is still getting PT, but every time I see him he in a wheelchair. I think he is scared to fall again.
Since he has been there neither one have them have left the apartment. They still get all of their meals delivered which the staff has told me is highly unusual. The only positive is at least they are watching more Andy Griffith than MSNBC.
Today my mom just called me yelling that they have a "huge problem." I winced. "It's 6:15 and they still haven't brought us our dinner! You're father has buzzed the nurse and no one's come."
"Ok, mom, what do you want me to do?" I reply.
She turns to my dad "what do you want him to do?"
My dad: "Well, there isn't really anything he can do."
My mom: "Oh! I'm telling you I'm not happy here and neither is your father although he won't tell you that. This keeps up and I'm moving back to the apartment complex where I was before."
Me: "Well, I don't think you and dad have really given it a chance over there."
My mom: "BYE!" slams the phone down.
I need to have a conversation which is next to fucking impossible with my mom. Either that or I need someone to intervene? Maybe their doctor, I really don't know.
I am going back to see my therapist next week. They are taken care of and I go by 2 times a week or so as they are 5 minutes away, but am trying to maintain some boudaries for my own sanity. Usually they have a list of things they need or errands that they need help with.
I feel my dad may be teetering on the brink of depression as he cannot walk or work. He has no desire to do anything. My mom is just, well, I've explained that. The dynamic seems highly dysfunctional and being that I cannot step back from it I feel maybe I am like the boiling frog. Their situation seems to me to be highly unhealthy. But how do you help 2 people who have been miserable for 30 years and seemingly have no desire to improve their lives?
That sounds like mental illness to me and it is sad. I am just not sure if there is anything I can do or if there is anything I should do? I know the incontinence thing is bad with my mom but at least there in the assisted living she has to wear diapers. My dad has incontinence issues too after this ordeal.
I am open to any suggestions. This was probably therapeutic just writing all this.
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2023.03.29 02:18 somewherein72 Lore Week: The Collected Adventures of Fergis Failout
These are some things I wrote about one of my characters a while back, before the bow was in the game. I should really update Fergis's adventures someday.
Fergis Failout's Lucky Day at Big Bend Tunnel
I began a new character, Fergis Failout and got him to lvl 8 and I took him through Big Bend Tunnel to look for Santa Scorched. Well, it's going pretty well for the first half of the tunnel, some lvl 6 and lvl 14 scorched, but suddenly the bells, bells, bells, bells start ringing and here come 2 lvl 68 Santas, a Legendary Non-Santa lvl 68, and a couple of their lvl 68 ugly best friends - Fergis put up a good fight, but not a match, and he lost all of his junk in the tunnel. Fergis is a loser, but not one to give up, so he trekked right back down the tunnel to retrieve his bag of steel, lead, and other assorted sundries to get out the other side of the tunnel into the Cranberry Bog and certain death, but the group of lvl 68 scorched aren't happy about him tresspassing in their tunnel, so murdered again and another trek back to retrieve his sack of goodies. Rinse and repeat, until Fergis lies in wait just long enough for the hero of the Wasteland to show up, none other than Grahm, lord of the grill, master of trades, and his war drum slay the sleigh bell dangling legendaries, and every other scorched in the tunnel. Fergis is saved and has tons of loot to trade with Grahm, enough to relieve the overencumbrance, and acquire the plan for the Meathook -plus, a sweet lvl 5 Quad-Explosive Pump Action Shotgun, a few blood-soaked Christmas goodies, and a new love for our lord and savior, Grahm with his trusty sidekick, Chally.
Who is Fergis Failout: An Origin
Fergis Failout found himself and his family at fourteen living in Flatwoods, attending the high school and helping at the family business. In the days before the bombs fell, Fergis's family moved into Vault76. Fergis's father had a thriving atomic repair business, that he inherited from his father who emigrated from Ireland to the hills of Appalachia to set up shop in Pre-War America. As Fergis grew up, he worked alongside his father and learned the family trade inside Vault76. He learned to repair vault equipment, small home appliances, weaponry and other items. The years passed, and sadly Fergis's father and mother passed away in the months before Reclamation Day. Since then, Fergis has had little time to mourn their passage, instead he has tried to survive in the Savage Divide and repair some of the equipment he has been able to find laying about using the skills that his father and grandfather taught him.
Fergis Failout: The Mothman Portent of Doom
In this episode, we join Fergis putting the finishing touches on his renovated camp teetering atop a unique rock formation in the Savage Divide. Hungry for adventure, and not content to reside under a bridge near Morgantown.
Fergis packed up his C.A.M.P unit and headed out into the Savage Divide, he heard from a friend about unique rock formation near Autumn Acre Cabin and had to see for himself.
Finally on the scene after an arduous journey, young Fergis, only lvl 25 perched his camp atop the rock formation and set about to unpack all of the mounted animal heads, crafting benches, stuffed animals, and decaying body parts in jars.
As he worked along, he noted how nice and quiet his new surroundings were, "Wow, not getting attacked here. This is swell," Fergis thought to himself. Just as Fergis sat down his prized Mr. Pebbles plushie, he heard his small turret begin whispering outside and wandered out to see what was the ruckus.
Following the hail of bullets into the forest, there in the distance, he could see two red eyes, peering at him from the brush. He snuck toward the creature, but in a whoosh of black smoke, the Mothman disappeared into the ether. Fergis prepared for the Mothman to attack, but he was gone. Not to return.
But, it was not to be a quiet night, for the public address announced a Nuclear Attack had been launched; and in the distance, a mushroom cloud blossomed.
Then, without warning, from the sky a screaming and the patter of many feet, two scorched winged beasts descended upon the teetering camp and a horde of scorched men and women rained hell down upon Fergis and his camp.
Sadly, Fergis died in the melee - only to return to find his camp was beset upon anew by a new threat lvl 62 charred ghouls! Fergis, no match for the ghouls met his end yet again, taking a final breath as the walls of his camp crumbled under the assault from the creatures.
Yes Friends, the Mothman, he came with a warning of terrors to come, presaging death, destruction, and a nuclear holocaust!
Beware, when the Mothman fails to attack - it could mean that dark days are ahead!
Fergis Failout's Weighty Welch Adventure
Fergis wandered down to Welch after spending the day at Camden Park eating expired hot dogs, tossing dross, and lucky muckin'. He recently turned 50 and found himself in possession of a fine shiny suit of armor suitable for mining and fightin'.
As soon as he walked into Welch, a whole swarm of men in cloaks started shooting at him, completely unprovoked! Not to be deterred, Fergis started in to defend himself but found he was overwhelmed by the host of garbled grunting Mole Miners. He had to run away from Welch and get bandaged up, when he got back there, he found all the things he dropped and started in to stealthily eliminate the rude bastards that live in Welch. Directly, Fergis had cleaned out that whole town, liberated it of the rude cloaked men and made his way up to the little shop only to find that the shop was closed due to lack of funds. Not a cap to be had here, the Protectron vendor squawked.
"Well", Fergis thought, "this is an awful lot of salvage to just turn into scrap, I think I'll head up the tracks and find my way toward Lewisburg." The Protectron, stared at him with it's one eye and said, "May I be of assistance?"
Fergis just turned and walked out.
So, he started out of town, only to find there was a terrible-looking beast fighting some ugly green-skinned giants, "Holy moses!" He said to himself, but he was too late to avoid being spotted. Fergis shuffled through all of his junk and managed to get a weapon out of the mess and returned fire on them mutants and that giant goat, the thing damn near put out his eye with a flurry of spikes off it's back. Lucky thing Fergis was wearing welding goggles, otherwise he would've needed an eyepatch.
Finally, the mutants killed that 'Squatch, and Fergis was able to put them down one by one. Some of them, up close and personal-like with a claw he made out of mole rat teeth!
After the smoke cleared, Fergis made his way over to the killing ground and found even more salvage on the bodies, that huge goat thing had a weird weapon on it, said 'Cryolator' on the side and it appeared that it holds four times the normal amount of ammuntion. "I bet this will at least freeze an arm or a leg off, too!"
Well, Fergis turned to look back at Welch dreading the road ahead, realizing they were broke and had no caps for all his salvage, he turned back toward Lewisburg and headed on down the tracks tugging a sack of guns, scrap parts, and missile launchers behind him.
Fergis Failout : The Ghoul Puncher
It was a dreary day in Appalachia, and Fergis was free of Welch and done with breathing the dust of the Ash Heap. He finally made it back to his home in the Savage Divide after weeks of hard-worn foot travel. He was ready for some good sleep under his Mothman blanket in his own bed for a change, sleeping under bridges and old tents was a hard life for a scavenger and he was dreaming of that bed for days on end and the fresh air of the Divide.
After he returned home and checked the messages on his terminal, he found a cryptic call for help, one of the new Responders found themselves in a mess with a ghoul infestation and they were calling for anyone to come and help out.
Now, Fergis had come up against ghouls before, nasty sort of creatures, and he weren't fond of them at all. But, it was a fella he knew from the Vault and he thought he ought to go help as he could. So, after a short rest, he found his way down to the station in Berkley to get outfitted to face some nasty ghouls. Most of his guns were broken, he was practically out of ammo, and all he had was an old Miner's gauntlet with one broken claw.
He had a handful of scrip left over from Lewisburg and after he talked to the shopkeeper there in Berkley, and said where he was goin', the shopkeeper, real unpleasant sort, shoved an odd-looking glove through the window to him. He wasn't sure, but to him, it sounded like she said this was what he needed, he looked down at it and read the label on the side, 'Ghoul Puncher'. It were some kind of powered glove. Now, Fergis was already none too happy about getting close to any ghouls, but he figured this would do as good as anything. He got the rest of his gear on for travellin' and headed down toward the deepest part of the Mire, some old Church where his friend was. Well, he put that glove on, and immediately he felt better about what he was about to face. That glove had a hell of a kick to it, and he could see that it would put a hurt on a ghoul and you wouldn't have to get too close to them after all.
After a few days of plodding through the muddy mire of the swamp, Fergis found the church and could hear his buddy shouting from the window, it wasn't long after that when he saw the ghouls milling around the yard of the church, and not long after that they caught the stink of Fergis. Them ghouls started toward Fergis, and he raised that glove at them, POW, caught the first one right in the face, plumb dented it's face to pulp and it went down, another right behind it, smacked down to the ground, and they kept coming at him. He kept on dropping them with that glove, one after another, there must have been about 20 of them fall under that glove.
After all them ghouls were down, Fergis looked down at that 'Ghoul Puncher' and wondered what else it could do. "Could it take down one of them big flyin' bats?" he thought to himself.
Directly, he heard his friend coming down from the steeple of the church, "So glad to see you, I thought I was done for. I've been up there for days, and I was starting to wonder if anyone was going to help me. What's that on your arm?"
"Well, it says it's a ghoul puncher, and I believe it is."
Fergis followed his friend home, punched a few more ghouls along the way, and felt good for lending a hand, and didn't mind the jingle of a few more caps in his pockets.
Fergis & The Stubborn Camper
After Fergis left his friend, no safe from ghouls in his little bungalow in the cranberry Bog, he thought he might take a look around the Bog and get an idea of what might be there.
"Awful nice place," he thought, "But seems awful dangerous."
While Fergis was roaming around the Bog he had a message on his Pip-Boy from a gal he knew from the Vault, Yasmeen McGillicuddy. "She was a sweetie, and awful pleasant to look at, too."
Turned out Yasmeen's camp had been facing constant attacks from them flyin' scorchbats and she needed to find a new place to set up shop. Fergis had roamed far and wide, and he had a few suggestions for good places. But he was a long way away from the Forest and all of the safe places he might suggest for her to take a look at, but Fergis replied to her call and directly she came to greet him near the old Appalachian Antique store.
"Well, Fergis! Look at you. You look rough and smell rougher - what in the world are you doing in the Cranberry Bog!?"
"You know, Yasmeen - just roaming around, doin' some scavengin' and trying to stay in one piece."
Fergis and Yasmeen took to the road and headed toward the mountains. There were some nice safe areas way up in the hills and Fergis thought he could help her set up a nice place there. Well, over the next few hours, morning wore into the afternoon and they ventured over toward Kerwin Mine and right there they found a place that Yasmeen was just wild over.
"This place looks a lot like where I'm stayin' near now, Yas."
"It's gorgeous! I love the archway, so unique! I've got to move here."
"Well, don't you want to stake it out, find out if it's safe or not? You're gettin' beat down with scorchbeast already. We'll just pitch a little camp here and stay the night."
It's a hard tale to tell when tough-headed people get it in mind to do somethin' stubborn, and Yasmeen was stubborn as they get. She wouldn't have reason or logic, and she just wanted to move there to that archway. She put a call in through her Pip-boy, and before you knew it there was the C.A.M.P unit flickering to life right there on the edge of a cliff under that archway.
"I sure hope this works out for you, Yasmeen. You call me if you get into some trouble. It sure was nice to see you again, been a while since the vault."
"You take care out there Fergis, if you want to stick around a bit, I'll get mutfruit juice and corn soup cooking up!"
Fergis would've stayed, but he felt like getting back toward his own place back in the Divide. There was plenty he needed to see to back at his own house and setting up the conduits on another house wasn't worth a bowl of corn soup.
"I'll keep an ear out for you, Yas...if you need me give me a shout girl."
Fergis looked back over toward the where the Monorail used to be, "sure would be nice to hop on the rail, this walking is for the birds" he thought to himself. Over the week through the Mire and the last few days in the Bog, he had quite a bit of salvage, too much for easy transfer; so dragging it back or abandonin' it was his only choice.
Fergis made it up to a decayed satellite dish, seemed deserted, aside from a few old robots that were easy to hide from, they were slow and had just one eye, so not a threat at all. He was just about to unpack his sleeping bag when his pip-boy started to chatter.
It was Yasmeen.
"Fergis! Help me, there's Super-Mutants, Robots, Ghouls and Scorched people all around this place! Come help get me out of here!"
Fergis rolled his napsack back up, not even getting a wink of rest, strapped it all together again, tugged his bag full of junk parts, and pulled out that ghoul puncher and an old black powder rifle he found in the Mire and started back toward Yasmeen's camp.
Not even a full day and her camp were already under attack from every manner of unnatural deviance Appalachia had spit up since the world ended.
"I just got my house set up, and these mutants showed up - they smashed my tatos! They ripped my corn right out of the ground!" her voice squawked over the tiny pip-boy speaker. "I had one turret set up and an old rifle, I got them chased away, but it wasn't 20 minutes later that the scorched people showed up and start shooting at me and throwing mutfruits at my house. I'd rather have the scorchbeasts!"
Fergis listened to the static-squawking of the speaker and his frantic friend, he pressed the talk button, "I'm 'bout 10-12 hours away, I'll be there as soon as I can."
Fergis grabbed his pack, tugged it over his shoulder and put and turned around, "You can't tell stubborn people anything," he grunted to himself as he headed back through the woods toward Kerwin Mine again.
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2023.03.29 01:43 hitthefrog Early Profile Review: 25M 760 GMAT 3.8 GPA
See details below - just getting started in my process (aiming for a Fall 2025 start), looking for:
- Tips on how to strengthen profile before applying (i.e., do I need more extracurriculars?)
- Realistic feedback on my list of schools
25 y/o white male, live on East Coast of U.S. Academics:
3.8 GPA (Systems Engineering & Economics double major), top 3 U.S. public school GMAT:
760 (Q50, V44) Work experience:
In my third year at a T2 consulting firm (think S&, OW, EY-P etc.), affiliated to their Healthcare practice. Will have 5 YOE and 2 promotions (i.e., running whole workstreams, with direct reports on each project) by matriculation - aiming for a fall 2025 start. Extracurriculars: Post-grad
- Teen program volunteer at local affordable housing program (since 2022) - pair up with a student in an underserved community (meet in-person, weekly), assist him with homework, studying, and "real-world" matters (financial basics, applying to college/jobs). Allows me to build a relationship with one kid and be heavily involved in his life from middle school through high school
- Special needs baseball league coach (since 2014) - coach a team of mentally- and physically-disabled kids who love baseball just the same as the rest of us
- Office representative (1 of 2) to company-wide council for first and second year consultants - organize office events (social and more work-related), "coffee chats" for new joiners in the office, and assign buddies to each new hire
- Recruiting committee member for my school at my firm - scan resumes, conduct interviews, get the word out about my firm via social events on campus and written outreach
- Engineering school coordinator, university-wide peer advising network - led E-school division of peer advising group, responsibilities included: selecting incoming classes of E-school advisors, assigning selected advisors to advisees, organizing and delivering school-specific advisor orientation and promotional events, answering any questions that came up about the program
- Junior executive member, consulting club - organized annual case competitions and served as main POC between student members and faculty sponsors
Schools (please, please, please weigh in here):
- Short term: Return to firm (sponsorship), and use healthcare focus of MBA (if applicable) to further enhance my performance on healthcare/LS projects
- Long term: Work my way up the consulting ladder, eventually moving over to a pharma/biotech company in a strategy role
HBS, Wharton (HCM), Kellogg, Booth, Stanford, Sloan
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2023.03.28 22:10 Nomyad777 [Portal] Chapter 1
[WP] The Elven Kingdoms call their old allies the Humans for aid. Expecting medieval armies, they get a modern 21st century one instead.
Portal - 1
"Test 28-1-AGJ-4, commencing!"
The Gateway was an interdimensional portal opened during Roman times, which closed for unknown reasons. We finally knew why the Roman Empire had spontaneously started to collapse.
As the rig in the center of the field started to spin up, the inside started to glow. Electricity flowed through wires, taking energy from a fusion/fission reactor built not too far away. We'd discovered the ruins of the Portal in 2048 in the height of World War 3, and now, in 2057, a unified Humanity was crawling closer to forcefully opening the portal from our side. KABOOM!
The rig exploded into fly pieces of shrapnel that bounced off the blast shielding in front of me, I sighed. "Clear 28-1-AGJ-4," I called out over the site's PA, "Next test, 28-4-AA!"
Technicians ran over to clear the debris as more began to pull another rig into the field. For some reason, this field was the only one where most of these experiments even powered up. As 28-4-AA was being secured to the ground, something else happened.
In a circle around the stone ruins at the center of the field, runes appeared. Latin runes. Our translators got to work quickly. Help invasion demons daemons need military humans help
I swore to myself. "This is Site Director George Unoid, Quantum Team Inter-Dimensional Research Site One is entering a code orange, I repeat that is a code orange. Test 28-4-AA is not cleared to commence." I entered into the PA, before joining the ring of scientists circling the field looking for what was about to happen. Portal portal portal portal portal go away come help help army dead
In the middle, a shimmering white dot appeared, before quickly growing to the size of a house. Runes covered the edges, and inside, we could see a medieval-looking city.
At that time, some other researchers had finished briefing the military detachment from the TFSU, who had arrived a few minutes prior.
"Site Director Unoid, what did you- Oh. They weren't joking." The squad leader said, looking at the field, before back at their helicopter. "I'm going to call a Red here."
"Red! Are you nuts?" I asked, shocked.
"Buddy," The squad leader explained, "we just made interdimensional first contact, and they're going on about the military. The last time they were here was two millennia ago; they're probably expecting to contact the Roman Empire. We need the Electorate on the line, live."
I sighed. Legally, I couldn't stop him from calling a Code Red if I wanted to. Which I did; nobody wants a Code Red on their record, or even being close to one in real-time; the whole definition was that the scenario was very dangerous.
More soldiers were dispatched, and we waited, staring into the portal. On the other side, more people stared back at us, each entranced by the other. As more helicopters landed, and Electorate Kala rushed out of one to see the portal, the people on the other side gestured for us to come to their side.
Alpha Squad moved up. I watched as the portal swallowed them. Not four seconds later, the sound of a war became audible from their side.
Behind me, SWAT teams rushed up from the closest city. Beside me, researchers and the leader of Humanity both stood mouths agape at the sight we saw. And in front of us, enough known laws of physics were breaking for me to reconsider my career.
"Welcome to the Infinite Prison, gateway to the Underdark. We could survive a full-on demonic invasion, actually. This is one of the most fortified locations in the Lands."
The King of Rafalio nodded, looking across the field. Suddenly, a loud boom! echoed inside the cavern. The next thing he knew, the gate was being assaulted, He watched as siege machines started to come out of the darkness before running for his horse. "Who even built a gate this large here anyway!?!" he shouted, fleeing the devastation.
The sound of breaking stone echoed throughout the valley as the King fled. The moment he approached the border from the Borderlands and into his kingdom, he sent out a full mobilization order. It has been ages, two thousand years since they came. Two thousand years since we were forced to close the Portal. Two thousand years of stagnation; when was the last time anyone did as much as invent a new hammer design! And nobody listens to me. Well, not properly anyway.
Racing into the capital a day later, King Rafalio the Nine Hundredth and Ninety-Ninth began to organize the war effort.
"My liege! The Orcs are being pushed back! They will be out of the borderlands within the week!"
The King sighed, looking beyond the castle and to the main plaza. There, the stone circle of a portal stood, as tall as a house, and unpowered for centuries. A reminder of the pact that they had signed.
"We don't have a choice. The others are still moving their armies, this takes time. Does anyone have any ideas?" The King asked.
"Hmm... well..." One of the court magicians said, "We could power the portal back up."
"Are you mad? The Daemons will come right for us!" Everyone in the throne room chorused. It wasn't the first time this had been suggested.
"Ah, but you see... they already are."
Now the room was quiet, as everyone turned this logic chain over in their heads.
"How do we power to Portal? The network has been offline for so long we don't have the source materials to do it." Archmage Valkiar said.
"We source them, open the portal, and get help within the next month before the city comes under assault." the magician said.
"Does anyone else have a single other idea?" the magician pressed. "No? Well then, I think it's decided."
It took time, lots of time, to source the materials. It became a common sight to see clouds of smoke to the west, growing ever larger as the Rafalio Army was pushed back. Eventually, they were pressed against the city walls, but the portal was ready.
"Porta aperta, porta aperta, ad alteram rationem. Non magia, sed homines, sed homines potius. Desperans proicio, potentiam animae meae ad nutriendum ianuam in aeternum, ut nunquam claudat dum vixero. Sol et eorum sol luceant, lunae et earum luna rutilent, et hi mundi denuo iungant. Rogo, renuntio, auxiliO; Exercitu opus est. venerunt daemones."
The chant continued, filling the entire city. The land itself began to pulsate with light as the spell finished, and with it, a small white light that quickly filled the stone circle.
On the other side, they saw Humans. Most of them were wearing white robes, but some were wearing a green-and-gray splotch of color. More arrived in contraptions as the Humans watched the portal with wide eyes.
But the King instantly knew something was wrong. The portal on their end was in ruins, and Romans nowhere to be found. He knew instantly that they had collapsed; they had been somewhat unstable already, according to his studies. But someone else, dressed differently, came forward, and the King was at least happy to see that some civilization had survived.
He beckoned them forward, and a group of splotchy ones stepped through the portal. And at that moment, a catapult hit one of the walls, and the city shook.
As I stepped through the portal, my body went numb. Then I was there, on the other side.
I looked at the leader of the elf people. He looked tired. A bit too tired, but my translator earpiece chimed in.
"Greetings, Humans of the Alternate Realm. I am King Rafalio the Nine Hundredth and Ninety-Ninth. We are in desperate need of your military services." the leader said. "The Daemons have attacked without end, and we are about to be overrun. There are almost a hundred million refugees here, and we cannot afford to fall back."
"Greetings... your highness, I guess? Excuse me, it's been a long time since we Humans had royalty." I said, choosing my words carefully. "Archaeological records indicate that this portal was last activated during Roman times, and its closure propagated the fall of the Roman Empire, and not many historical records survived that time. We would gladly assist your request for arms; I'm going to head back and talk to Electorate Kala, but, given the circumstances regarding millions of civilians, I can guarantee that we will provide aid, and- wait, what!?"
I spun around to walk through the portal and instead saw Electorate Kala and the Site Director walking up to it. They stepped through, and I stepped aside. "Well, um, Electorate, I'm surprised at your willingness to just walk into a confirmed active warzone, but um... King Rafalio, meet Electorate Kala, elected leader of the TFSU, and by extension, Earth and Humanity."
The Humans hadn't had Royalty in quite some time, so it made sense that they were being a bit disrespectful, but I passed that off.
"Yeah, um, hi... OK, could we get a full mobilization of the military out here now, emphasis on special ops and aerial assault. Not orbital, that'll take too long." the Electorate said, tilting her head to the side and pressing a hand against her ear.
"Right, sorry about that," she said to me. "You might want to clear out, we're going to move through in five minutes. There's too many people here to evacuate through the portal. Um... anyway. I'm Electorate Kala, and... yeah. We have a lot to talk about."
I looked at the Electorate skeptically. She seemed to not care of my royal standing. "Electorate Kala, perhaps we can talk elsewhere."
"Elsewhere is good," she agreed. "I'm going to hand off the co-ordination to the army, a portable command post is going to arrive shortly. It would be best if the bystanders here cleared a path to whatever gate is in that direction," she said, pointing towards the cloud of smoke. On cue, there was another loud bang as another lucky shot from a catapult slammed into the gates.
As we walked towards the Place, I asked her, "Are you certain you can mobilize enough troops in time?"
"Enough? Yes. Fitting them all through the portal? No." She replied. For all her attitude, she at least was smart. "As for your next question of our military prowess, given that this city is under siege by catapult, the TFSU Armed Forces will be fine. We won't even be pulling out doomsday weapons for this one - not that we could, World War Three destroyed every last nuke we had, we only made a couple afterwards, and we don't have orbital access."
"Doomsday?" I asked for clarification.
"Doomsday. As in, end-of-the-world. We haven't used any of the modern ones, and even nukes were used in combat only twice. Twice was too much, though."
"A nuclear warhead has the ability to wipe out an entire city by creating a miniature sun for a fraction of an instant. We're not going to use them, though. Twice was too much."
I noted the tale in my head. Miniature sun. May as well be able to fly without magic! "You mentioned World War Three...?"
"Ah, yes. Also called the First Unification War, World War Three led to a new country with a new constitution controlling half of the world. World War Four, which wasn't really a war, saw the total unification of Humanity. That ended roughly five years ago, though, so it's still a sensitive topic."
We continued to talk. Some things I found primitive, others I was sure were mere tales. But I started to think that the Electorate's blunt honesty was more than just how she spoke, but what she spoke of as well.
I shoved that thought out of my head.
Ralkia watched the splotchy green hunks of metal noisily rumble through the city, down the main road and to the west. Accompanying them were soldiers wearing more green clothing. They marched down the street in loose formation, not timing their steps. With the giant machines, they didn't need to.
Fwump-fwump-fwump-fwump-fwump. Ralkia turned her eyes towards the sky, and saw a floating black metal box racing towards the western wall. It must be some contraption the mages made, she thought.
The sound of the gate opening knocked her out of her fascinated observation of the Humans' military. Being in the slums closest to the West Wall, she was able to peek out and see the battle beyond. Catapults and trébuchets hurled rocks across the field as the Rafalio Army pushed against the Daemons. Mages cast spells, light flared across the battlefield, and bodies littered the hill up towards the city gate.
The sound of some indescribable roar turned her attention back towards the Human army. The metal hunks moved faster, large nozzles pointing towards the battlefield as they split ranks and began to form a rear line. The infantry carrying those smaller metal contraptions also moved faster, running to keep up with the large metal hunks and forming not a battleline, but a line of clusters.
The flying mage-craft began to descend towards the new line, others hovering above. But looking at them then at the metal hunks, and finally back at the infantry, they all shared the same symbol, and the same series of letters. TFSU. These were Human craft. Perhaps, in their time isolated from Ethiria, they had found their own magic?
More soldiers poured out, but then Ralkia heard a different sound. A louder, more uncontrolled roar. Ralkia saw something fly faster than a Dragon could ever hope to. It didn't slow down, it didn't look like it could slow down; it shot towards the Daemons, and she lost it in the smoke.
The Humans began to shout something to each other. As one, they began to prepare.
And Ralkia saw Human warfare.
King Rafalio the Nine Hundredth And Ninety-Ninth was pissed.
The Human leader was blunt. Too blunt. Was she not familiar with the intricacies of a court? He could understand the military being removed, but not the leader themselves!
She had told him he needed to sign treaty documents before they joined the war. That was fine, but being talked to as a common person was getting to him.
"Speaking like normal people increases the speed of a conversation, so I can get stuff done faster." Electorate Kala replied.
"Right, then. Fine. You haven't been honest with me," He accused. Maybe this would teach her some lessons; given that the Human Army was already here, he was confident they had enough time for others to come to Rafalio's aid. "Your people can unleash the power of the sun the very same way you can fly; you can't."
"About that," Kala said. That's when King Rafalio heard it. Fwump-fwump-fwump-fwump-fwump. Glancing towards the window, he did not like what he saw.
First, the Humans had taken over a good portion of the market square with a set of inflated, interconnected tents, and a couple metal units covered in contraptions. 'Portable command center.' Kala had called hit. It was ugly.
Second, a black oval was now flying towards the west wall. A second one emerged from the portal, through which the 'tanks' had stopped flowing, and joined the first; then another, and another.
"That's a 'helicopter.'" Kala said. "It's an artificial metal dragon that can't breathe fire, but we managed to bolt other weapons to it. This is all old weaponry, though; special ops are arriving soon, it's been an hour, that's plenty enough time for them to come. And of course I've been trying to get orbitals here as fast as possible, but we've been short on Hard-Light everything ever since it was invented a year ago, and our only non-launchpad-requiring spaceships are busy."
"I... You've changed since the Romans." The King said. "They were respectable, treated us with respect, and didn't use your mad..."
"Science," Kala supplemented.
"Yes, yes, that. But you, 'Electorate,' may as well have been elected by the dumb common folk instead of the senate!" The King shouted. Then stopped. He did not like the look on Kala's face.
"Yes, yes I was. That's what a democracy is." Kala agreed.
The King was silent, mouth agape. Finally, he found the words to express himself. "You let the uneducated masses decide your leaders? Please tell me you have prerequisites to becoming Electorate." The King pleaded.
"First, the TFSU offers free education including university to all citizens, and second, you have to be a citizen of the TFSU. Which everyone is."
"TFSU, TFSU, What does that even stand for!?!" The King was getting desperate, hoping that the Humans had kept their ways from before.
"Terra Firma System's Union. But beggars can't be choosers," Electorate Kala stood up and walked up to the window showing the west wall. "Besides, we've changed for the better; that much I'm sure of."
The King slumped. To whom had he asked for help? Next
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2023.03.28 21:19 Lazy-Personality4024 Orphan Chapter 3
First Previous Chapter 3: A Little Beating Never Hurt Nobody
“Nemesis!” Shavizi yelled. She backpedaled until she hit the pod behind her and flipped over it in fright, but all Kitern cared about was the one word she screamed just before she did. Not a heartbeat later, the marines had swiveled their weapons over to the bed. Five guns of various types pointing directly at what lay inside. At first, they couldn’t see anything. A heap of dust had fallen off the covering as it opened, causing it to swirl around in vacuum, blocking their view.
“What?! Nemesis!? Torshit!” Kass denied as she stood up. As soon as she did, a hand flew out of the dust cloud and gripped her arm. All she could do was squeak in fear, as she was sent flying, hitting Dentala and causing them both to spin erratically. Bumping against the far wall and other pods as their feet were no longer magnetized to the floor. The ship had no gravity to hold them in place. Any loss of contact meant they would be left totally exposed and vulnerable to enemy attack.
“Open fire!” Kitern bellowed. A kinetic rifle and three energy weapons let loose, yet whatever had been released, didn’t seem to care. Wearing the dust like a shroud as it burst through the swirling clouds, perforated by their rounds. It made a beeline directly for Osan, weaving around and dodging their fire. The thing grabbed her kinetic rifle with one hand and gripped her chest plate with another. It used her like a club, and swung her at Asteli, causing the private to join Kass and Dentala spinning through the room. Mid arc, after it had used Onsa to hit Asteli, it let her go, and she crashed into a wall, denting it from the sheer force of the impact. And electing a grunt of pain as the air was driven from her lungs.
While this was happening, Hran, Jurwa, and Shavizi attempted to scurry out of the room on all fours. As Hran was crawling by as fast as he could, the Nemesis kicked him, sending him careening into Gre’Namra’s legs, she flipped forwards as her legs were pulled out from under her and face planted into the deck, before rebounding and adding another two to the spinning circus.
Seeing that weapons weren’t doing the trick, and her team getting tossed about like toys. Kitern threw her weapon at the thing, hoping to distract it. It easily dodged, only to get tackled by her. Normally, her species would have used their sharp claws to rip apart an opponent in such close quarters, but her armor was sealed completely for the vacuum of space. Thus, she was forced to rely only on her species’ natural strength and speed, in lieu of them. She was lucky; the Nemesis had been stepping forward when they collided, so loss contact and was forced into a wall, with Kitern’s shoulder pressed its midsection. She balled her fist as best she could and began wailing on its less protected midsection.
She only got in a few futile swings before the thing used its two powerful arms to grab her around her waist and tossed her off like an insect. She hit the pod that was beside them and began to spin, but caught herself on another nearby pod. She used the momentum of her flight to swing herself around and run on the side of the wall with her magnetized boots. She dashed toward the Nemesis and kicked it in the head, but the strike did little to nothing as the Nemesis barely even wavered. Her foe did, however, grab the offending appendage and swing her overhead, and slam her into one of the other pods, hard enough to destroy its transparent covering, causing it to deform and spiderweb under her.
Still griping her leg, it drug her off the pod and flung her across the room. Dentala who was just getting her footing, ducked as her commanding officer went sailing by overhead, narrowly avoiding her. Using the duck to her advantage, she tensed her muscles, preparing to leap, and pushed off the ground with both legs, crashing into the Nemesis. It took a single, paltry step back, remaining upright. Given Kitern’s previous attempt at tackling it, it had been ready for the maneuver, and countered Dentala shortly after by elbowing her square in her back. Sending her to the floor. Where she bounced and was about to try and stand, but was stopped by one of her juniors joining the fray.
Though the creature could not hear it, Asteli screamed at the top of her lungs as she jumped up and wrapped herself around it like a backpack, causing the Nemesis to stumble forward. Soon Onsa joined in, grabbing onto the Nemesis in a vain attempt to bring it down. Gre’Namra, aiming to lend her body to the pile as well, was met by her fellow private being thrown full force into her. As Asteli was ripped off and hurled across the room, once again sending them both spinning.
Dentala, still on the floor, grabbed its legs and pulled, holding firm and causing it to teeter. Just as it was regaining its balance, Kitern flew out of nowhere, screaming, “BRING IT DOWN!” And finally, after several minutes of being glorified punching bags, toppled the beast. Causing them all to crash on top of the pod the Nemesis had originated from. The machine buckled under the weight of them suddenly landing atop it, the slide caved in and the sides of the pod dented, and the few flickering lights went out.
Meanwhile, on board the Into the Black, captain Ohmata was sipping on a cup of tea. When all of a sudden, the program that was interpreting some of the background chatter left over from age old constructs suddenly began screaming bloody murder. Until that point, it had been a few garbled automated warnings reporting power loss or damage.
“Usque in finem!” the console roared, broken by the faint sound of static. Causing Ohmata to jump. She choked on her tea and spilled it across her console. Good thing they were water resistant. She coughed, trying to get up the liquid that had gone down her larynx.
Ever so faintly, behind the screaming gibberish, she could hear the sounds of fighting as an intense struggle took place. As whoever was speaking began slamming into things, causing the sound to echo into their mic.
Realizing something must be wrong, she quickly got on the radio. “Away team? Kitern? Anyone?! This is Ohmata. Report now!” The response she got was not a good one.
“Nemesis! It’s tossing us all over the place. Guns don’t work on it!” someone screamed over the comms, though she thought she recognized Junior Scientist Jurwa’s voice.
“A Nemesis?! Do you need assistance!” Ohmata screamed into the console.
“YES!” was the only reply.
Opening a new channel to the entire ship, Ohmata began, “All hands, all hands. Nemesis have been engaged onboard the derelict. Anyone who has combat training report to Quartermaster Shavan immediately. The away team is in need of immediate support. I repeat, anyone with combat training, or at least knows their ass from the end of a gun, go to Shavan and get kitted out!”
When the intercom system chime began, the crew first thought it was just another announcement. Until they heard Ohmata’s tone. With the situation explained, the ship burst into action. Those who knew how to fight went to get geared up. Medical personnel readied the sick bay for potential injured. The bridge crew and engineers began going over the ship’s status to ensure it was capable of a quick emergency jump, should it be required. Science personnel began scanning the derelict in more detail to determine the site of the battle and give information to the rescue team as needed.
While each section was performing near their best, there was no coordination. Different section chiefs and head personnel were constantly calling the others to determine where they were at in terms of preparedness. Lower-ranking personnel were left in the dark with only their direct command structure to tell them what to do. It was chaos; it needed someone to sort it all out, but everyone was bogged down trying to get ready or do this and that, that no one had the time.
“Captain, I can assist with the coordination and rescue efforts. As you do not have the staff required to do so at this time. I can greatly boost efficiency and assist in the retrieval of the away team.” Aphosi said from Ohmata’s console.
Ohmata paused at this. This is what they needed, but if she unlocked Aphosi, there was no telling what she would do. She already admitted that she wouldn’t stop trying to contact the GU, but what else was she capable of?
“First, do you swear you won’t contact the union and retaliate for being locked away? Second, aside from internal comms to coordinate, you cannot utilize any of the ship’s systems unless specifically told so. And any information you receive must come directly from the section heads. You aren’t allowed to pull directly from their systems unless specifically granted permission,” Ohmata asked hesitantly.
“I will not retaliate. You have done no injustice to me. Your actions followed protocol. However, I will not stop my attempt at contacting the Galactic Union, ma’am. Additionally, being confined to the bridge will hinder rescue efforts, but my involvement will still greatly increase efficiency,” she responded.
Ohmata thought for a few seconds. They had no choice. If they wanted to effectively and efficiently retrieve her crew, they needed Aphosi. Besides, it wasn’t like Aphosi could contact anyone. They were over a cycle away from the nearest inhabited GU system, and that was at faster than light speed. Any transmission Aphosi sent out wouldn’t arrive for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands years.
“Fine,” Ohmata relented. “I’ll unlock you from my console, but you still aren’t allowed out of the bridge. You understand that this information may very well cost me my job, right?”
“It may. But what is one’s occupation to the fate of every sentient in the known galaxy?” Aphosi replied matter-of-factly.
Ohmata groaned. “Just fucking start helping before I change my mind!”
“Gladly,” she replied, then went silent.
The effect was almost instantaneous. The incessant comms chatter that had been driving Ohmata crazy slowed, then nearly ceased as clear and concise instructions were given out, and information regarding the status of the other sections was shared.
Ohmata unmuted herself on the comms link with the away team. “If anyone can hear me, help is on the way. Just hold out as long as possible!”
“… hold out as long as possible!” Ohmata’s voice filtered through their comms, static making some of her words barely audible.
“Easy for her to say!” Kitern said, while wrestling the giant metal behemoth that was currently tossing them around. After they had tackled it, the others piled on, but that only kept it down for a few seconds before it wormed its way back up. Now she was the only one hanging on, as it slowly and methodically sent marine after marine flying through vacuum. But help would soon arrive for her, in the form of an enraged Onsa.
A flying kick from the marine lieutenant caused the Nemesis to fall over on top of Kitern, pinning her to the ground.
“Kick the shit out of it!” Asteli screamed as she ran over and began stomping the daylights out of the thing’s head. Every time she kicked, its head would slam into the floor and bounce back, only to be re-kicked, repeating the cycle. Which lasted for a pitiful amount of time before it pulled her leg out from under her. As she was brought down, the Nemesis reared a leg back and gave Asteli a taste of her own medicine. Kicking her full force in her head; knocking her out cold. The kick was so violent, it ruptured her helmet, not fully as to allow explosive decompression, but if left alone for too long, Asteli would suffocate as life giving oxygen escaped into the void. Little crystalline trails gushed from between cracks in the helmet, where water vapor in the escaping air quickly froze in vacuum.
“Asteli is down!” Kitern screamed as she tried to beat the Nemesis off of her, it was futile. While her punches weren’t doing anything to dissuade the creature, the thing did conveniently roll off of her. Only to grab her by her helmet as it stood, and use her as a shield. Using her body to block a stray punch from Gre’Namra. It tossed Kitern aside and counter attacked the Drae’Ildan private. Its own punch was so powerful it dented her chest plate and sent her reeling. Thankfully, though significantly deformed, her armor was nowhere near as damaged as Asteli’s helmet. Regardless, the body suit beneath her armor would have kept her sealed should it be fully breached.
As Gre’Namra literally flew back from the blow, the Nemesis saw that no combatants stood to hinder it. With a moment of respite, it turned toward the door, and began stumbling away. Its legs were shaky and it seemed out of breath, but it made it to the doorway. From Kitern’s sideways perspective, the Nemesis was just leaving the room, when a large blue ball of energy impacted it. Exploding shortly after contact. When the spots in her vision cleared, there was no more Nemesis, just an empty doorway, slightly warped by the blast.
“What the hell?” she muttered, as she grasped for a handhold to right herself. She ached all over. Even with her armor and the insulative underlayer of her bodysuit, she was going to be covered in bruises. She made her way over to the doorway and cautiously peeked around it to the right. There was Shavizi, Kass, and Jurwa holding Hran and huddled behind some kind of scientific instrument that looked to have had its power cell ripped out. Looking to the left was the Nemesis, gently floating down the corridor. Dead or unconscious, she couldn’t tell.
Making sure if it was the former of the two options, and that the thing wasn’t going to wake up and beat their asses all over again. She moved over to finish it off. How? She would figure that out along the way. Seeing what Kitern was about to do, however, Shavizi and Kass both screamed out, “WAIT!”
Kitern turned angrily to them, “Oh hell no! I know you aren’t about to tell me what I think you’re about to tell me!? You know what happens in the vids! Researchers bring the weird alien onboard and it kills everyone, turning it into a ghost ship!”
“That’s science fiction, not reality! You damn gun nut!” Kass shot back.
“Just please, try to restrain it,” Shavizi pleaded. “It could be the last of its kind! Well, in our galaxy. And even if it isn’t, we can’t skip this opportunity to learn about them!”
“Look Kitern, I know we don’t get along. But listen to us! We have plenty of random stuff to tie it up with,” Kass added.
“Fine, I won’t kill it, but you’re tieing it up. I’m keeping a knife to its throat the entire trip back. And someone contact the captain. The ship is probably freaking out by now.” With that, Kitern turned away from the four civilians. She was going to haul the hulking monstrosity over to them so they could restrain it. If it woke up during that time, then the knife she would be holding at its throat would solve the problem nicely.
The away team’s shuttle glided into the hangar bay. Multiple crew members were awaiting their arrival, some to treat the wounded, some to help offload their equipment, and others to help haul the Nemesis to a containment cell. Those crewmembers were armed to the teeth and wore EVA-H suits, which were designed for more hazardous environments and had more armor. Only the marines had the proper combat armor. But Shavan, the quartermaster, had more than enough guns for everyone.
As the shuttle door slide open, Kitern stepped out, with Onsa and Dentala slowly dragging the Nemesis behind them. The thing took every scrap of strength they had to move it in gravity. Behind that, Gre’Namra was carrying Asteli out with the help of Jurwa, since she was still out of it, but conscious. Likewise, Hran had an arm linked with Kass, helping him walk. The kick from the Nemesis had broken several of his ribs and made standing upright painful.
The medical staff, all three of them, immediately brought up gurneys for the wounded. While all those able-bodied who weren’t there for the equipment helped escort the Nemesis to the science lab. They left the hangar bay and got on one of the two main lifts, which would bring them up to the deck with the science labs. Exiting the lift, they walked through clean, sterile white, grey and black hallways lit by lights recessed in the ceiling and along the floor. Colored strips in the middle of the floor led the way to the various rooms and labs on that deck and made a multicolored carpet of sorts. Bringing color to the otherwise drab surroundings. Every once in a while, a bit of greenery or decoration could be seen, from the few attempts the crew made to make the space more livable.
As they were marching down the Into the Black’s corridors, Ohmata appeared from around a corner, and sprinted up to them.
“Are you all alright? Your armor looks like shit! I don’t think even Shavan can fix some of those dents and cracks!” she said, astonished at their state.
“I would say you should see the other girl. But to be honest, we didn’t do anything to it. The techies threw a ruptured power cell at it, and the blast just knocked it out for the time being. Everything we did to it, all five of us combined, didn’t even phase it. The damage to its armor is preexisting. We couldn’t scratch it. Damn thing has been in some tough fights by the looks of it,” Kitern spat bitterly.
Ohmata put a hand to her friend’s shoulder. “Well, we got it now. I see why those humans had such a tough time dealing with the Nemesis. If all of them were like this, it’s a wonder they survived for so long. For now, get it to a containment cell in the lab. Even it won’t be able to break out of there.” Ohmata looked the Nemesis over. Something about it didn’t sit right with her. They would have to watch it carefully, and figure out how to take off its armor. For all they knew, the thing was awake and watching them right that second.
“If you don’t mind, captain, we’ll get to it then,” Kitern said. She and what seemed like half of the crew crowding the corridor, continued to the science labs. Weapons pointed and ready. If the thing so much as twitched, the place would become a light show. Kitern thought maybe she should just have her marines handle everything. If someone started shooting, the rounds would ricochet all over the place.
Watching them go, Ohmata turned and made for the med bay. Along the way, crew members saluted her with a fist over their chest. She walked through the ship like the eye of the storm. Wherever she went, the world stopped to acknowledge her, before the whirlwind of activity resumed.
Arriving at her destination, the automatic doors opened to the white, sterile environment of the medbay, and the sounds of cursing.
“Shit! That hurts, stop touching it!” Asteli yelled as she tried to sit up, her helmet was off but she still wore her battered armor. Head medical specialist, Doctor Klofaa, pushed her down and flicked her in the head, causing her to wince.
“Of course it hurts. You have a concussion and a spinal contusion in your upper vertebrae,” Klofaa responded.
“And you hit me in the head!?” Asteli protested.
“I flicked you. Had I hit you would be in serious pain. And given how much you winced, I’d say you are already in enough of it. Now, stop moving. You’ll only make your injury worse. You’ll be in a neck brace for a few days until we can be certain nothing major is wrong.”
“Tsk. Why do I have to wear a neck brace, but no one else does?” she sulked.
Klofaa’s head crest flicked in annoyance, her species version of an eye roll. “Because no one got their skull cracked open by a living behemoth!”
Asteli tried to rise, but was held down by Klofaa. So the fiery private just pointed toward Hran who was behind a curtain being tended to by a nurse. “He’s more hurt than me!”
Ohmata chose that point to speak up from the doorway. “His ribs are broken, not his head. Though it’s not like you were using yours to begin with. Shut up and let Doctor Klofa work, or I’ll make it an order. Got it?”
Asteli frowned. “Yes ma’am,” she mumbled.
“Good,” Ohmata replied. Looking to Klofaa, she asked. “How are they? I can see Asteli is going to be fine. Aside from Hran, are there any other serious injuries?”
Klofaa looked back at a bruised and beaten Gre’Namra and Kass, who were seated on their own beds. The others had escorted the Nemesis to the science lab. A Drae’Ildan nurse named Za’Eer was going over them. While a male Venanian nurse was tending to Hran. While the privacy of the curtain hid Hran, given that he had to take off the upper portion of his suit, she could see his nurse working on him. “Just their egos. They sustained only minor bruising thanks to their armor. Since Hran was just wearing an EVA suit, he is the most hurt. The other non combatants of the away team declined medical assistance.”
Ohmata nodded. Most likely, the techies and scientists were too busy drooling over their new “prize” to worry about their own health. If Hran hadn’t been so injured, he would have been right alongside them. And Kass, well Kass wa a bit dramatic. Aggravatingly so sometimes. Seeing that there were no life-threatening injuries, Ohmata concluded her visit. Before she left, she called out to the Venanian nurse.
“Make sure you fix him up right, little bro,” she said.
The nurse seemed to hiss in annoyance. “I am on duty. It’s nurse Ohmoto, captain. Regulations state we are to remain professional and address each other by rank and name.”
Ohmata chuckled. “It’s my ship. I’m in charge. And the good thing about being in power is that you don’t have to follow your own rules.” She waved farewell as she turned, intent on heading to the bridge.
Ohmoto grumbled his reply. He continued to bandage Hran’s chest.
Ohmata practically skipped on her way to the bridge. Her crew was fine, at least there was nothing life threatening. They had a new playmate to deal with, who was safely locked in a containment cell. And they had plenty of things to do to keep them busy. Things were actually going well, for the most part.
Chapter 3 is here! I hope you all like it. With that being said, last chapter didn't do very well. Compared to Chapter 1, Chapter 2 didn't do nearly as good in views and upvotes. While I will still write the story even if no one is interested in it, I do use both upvotes and views to determine if the story is well received. If you are liking the story, please consider upvoting it. Also, again, constructive criticism is appreciated. If I am doing something, boring or taking the story down a strange path, etc. please tell me. I can't improve if no one points out my flaws. Anyway, see you all next week.
Oh, and one last thing. Torshit I'm pretty sure is from SSB. I tried coming up with something similar so I wasn't flat out copying it. But it just works so well I had to keep it. I couldn't use bullshit because, you know, they don't know what a bull is.
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2023.03.28 21:10 AlanharTheRiver Insertion Prologue Arc [part 0.6] - Side story of Insertion/NowBoarding, co-writing with u/SamakSalmon
So, I said that Aegis would be being introduced next friday when I posted part 0.5, but it turns out that the exposition wound up being a lot longer, so you all are getting a chapter in the middle of the week!
[main story line of Insertion (formerly titled Now Boarding)] - [first part of prologue arc] - [previous] -
Primary memory transcription subject: Lena Irons-N. Date [standardized human time]: July 13, 2136 Location: I-Industries refueling station and shipyard, located in the Jovian satellite system around Jupiter, Sol system.
The moment that the elevator doors opened on one of the crew levels, Lena was guiding her little posse to one of the conference rooms that were on the central line of the station’s docking ring. “Clear out,” she commanded the group of engineers who were using the space for a card game. “Urgent business that needs a sealed room. Go and hold a game with the refueling crew once they’re done with the Odyssey.”
The three men seated at the table nodded, before hurriedly collecting their cards and making a swift exit. Noah and Sara filed into the room, before Frank shut the door behind them all and turned the lock.
“You know we could have used an already empty room,” Noah suggested, only for Lena to shake her head.
“No, you implied that this was urgent, so I’ll treat it as such,” the raven-haired woman responded. “Now talk. What is it that I am needed for?”
Sara sighed. “You’re likely going to need to prepare to a state of war,” Lena’s old friend said softly. “We made first contact with aliens, and there’s a lot out there that we never predicted.”
Lena’s face hardened as Frank became pale. “Tell me everything,” the woman demanded.
And so the two did. They explained how there were hundreds of aliens out there, some good, some bad, some that would hate humanity as a principle, and one that Lena would eventually find to be more horrifying than what the depths of her nightmares could conjure. The Arxur.
The Arxur were a reptilian species of presumably obligate carnivores that were at war with the rest of the galactic community, a federation composed entirely of herbivores.
“This isn’t good,” was the first thing that came out of Lena’s mouth once the diets of the two parties were explained. “large herbivores are often highly aggressive towards potential predators. I suppose that that would include us?”
“And probably anything else with binocular vision,” Sara said with a slight hum. “That and Noah’s smiling caused one of the party that we had first contact with to outright faint.”
Lena grimaced. “So if they learn about us while having an all-out war with another species of predators, then they’d likely try to annihilate us without quarter.”
“Not necessarily,” Noah commented. “The venlil have become somewhat of an immediate ally, and I would assume that anyone else who might have known about our existence will assume that we wiped ourselves out.”
“How do you figure that?”
Noah shrugged. “They’ve got translators that know our languages,” he responded. “probably learning algorithims trained on the signals that we sent out, so they likely assume that we blew ourselves to bits what with the cold war nuclear tests and our horror movies.”
Lena laughed at the least thought. “I never really liked the genre,” she said after a moment of thought, “but if it saved our lives, then I might owe Willow a drink. Shall we continue with the briefing?”
“Of course,” Sara replied. “So, the venlil allied themselves with us. They initially panicked and called up a Federation battlegroup, so then they kind of sabotaged some of their old alliances to save our hides and now we’re going to put forward the idea of military aid from the UN.”
That didn’t sound good to Lena, and she quickly voiced that thought. The idea behind the modern-day UN was supposed to be of unity, with them deescalating and stopping conflicts rather than engaging in them. But Sara was quick to dissuade her of the hope that there would be a truly peaceful ending. The Arxur, as she explained, were possessed of a truly bloodthirsty mentality. The worst of humanity didn’t come close to the death tolls that they caused with over fifty worlds burned at their paws. And the worlds that had a populace that was… appealing… Those people would often suffer worse fates by the hands of the grays, as they were colloquially known.
The Arxur had turned the populace of the galaxy into their preferred quarry, enslaving and devouring all who stood in their way, and they had wiped out a good 20 percent of the species that formed the Federation. As the governor of the venlil had put it, the grays had no sense of compassion to appeal to.
Sara had a hypothesis as to why. The Arxur had been in an industrial stage when the Federation found them, and they tried to uplift the creatures. Beings at war given far greater technologies and without the development of the arts necessary to devote resources about speculation of life in the stars, they likely viewed themselves as the chosen of a deity, and that all other were heretics.
“Just imagine if Christopher Columbus and Adolf Hitler teamed up and made first contact with aliens,” Sara said. “That’s basically what the Federation got.”
Lena cursed. “So, they don’t recognize anyone else as sapient beings despite the fact that they got their tech from the Federation,” she said eventually. “and we can probably throw in the rampant consumerism without any thought for long-term effects that was prevalent in the average 21st century American as well for good measure.”
Sara nodded. “One would assume so.”
More cursing came from the host’s side of the table, as Frank joined in on the conversation. “Expansionist, colonialist, bloodthirsty and likely trapped in a perpetual war economy,” the assistant noted. “And to top it all off they make the British at their worst look like good Samaritans in terms of treatment of the groups that they find?”
“Not to mention the fact that they literally eat children and hunt them for fun,” Noah added. “Tarva showed us an intercepted video that the Arxur likely sent out as propaganda, and it is not
for the faint of heart.”
Sara nodded her head in agreement. “Yeah, so we’re thinking that we should be teaching some human values to the xenocidal lizard space Nazis,” she said succinctly, a saddened expression on her face. “My deepest apologies Lena, but all of the work on demilitarization that you’ve spent your life working on, you’re likely going to need to undo all of it. Fast.”
Lena nodded as she inhaled a shaky breath of air. “Fucking hell,” With what you’ve told me,” she eventually said hesitantly, “it doesn’t really feel like I have much of a choice.”
“None of us will,” Sara replied. “I’m sorry Le’.”
Lena nodded and briefly clasped hands with Sara, her expression grim. “Go,” she said eventually. “Go to earth, get word to the UN, rally support and get back out here so that we can give the Arxur a swift boot to the keister.”
Sara and Noah nodded their agreement, before Frank unlocked the door and ushered the pair back to the elevator. “Are you alright ma’am,” he said to Lena once they had left.
Lena rested her elbows on the table where she sat, burying her head in the palms of her hands as she let out a jagged-edged laugh. “Not at all,” she said eventually. “I need a drink. Destroying one’s life’s work is not something to be done sober. I’ll be heading back up to my office, Frank.”
Frank let out a sigh. “Yes ma’am,” he replied softly, before watching in silence as Lena picked herself up and exited the conference room. He would stand there for a moment, looking in the innocuous site where the direction of Lena’s company had been irrevocably altered once more, before sealing the door and falling in behind the woman as she marched back towards the passageway that led to the station ring that the two of them had started the day on.
–– [main story line of Insertion (formerly titled Now Boarding)] - [first part of prologue arc] - [previous] -
[next] – – [Nature of Predators Literary Universe]
This is a fan story set in the universe of u/SpacePaladin15
’s The Nature of Predators
series. Posted with the permission he left in the comments of Chapter 16
: “anyone is welcome to write fanfiction; just credit the original universe, if you don’t mind!” In addition, this is part of the fan story by u/AlanharTheRiver
, who I am co-writing this story arc with. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this!
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2023.03.28 21:02 nfg777 Can someone explain this question?
2023.03.28 20:42 synacksyn Doing fine in my neck of the woods
2023.03.28 19:50 Purple_Ad_3097 I wasted my 20's. How do I succeed?
I'm 31 and I'm really behind.
In my 20's, I lived with my parents (never on my own), was 310 lbs, wasted time on video games/internet. Non-existant dating life. I never owned a car. I was mostly unemployed or underemployed; I left jobs and have big resume gaps. I failed college twice (both in 2012 and 2016). Depression, autism and anxiety made life hard for me.
In the past 2 years (age 30-31), I improved a lot. I've worked full-time as a line cook for 2 years. I improved my mental health (via TMS, therapy, meds). I lost 120 lbs, improved my confidence. I got my first car at 30. I've been saving most of my disposible income and I intend to move out this fall/winter.
I've worked on my resume today, made a few of them, and I'm going to be applying for admin assistant jobs.
I have $16k in my bank account right now. But no 401k or roth ira, and no assets. Though I want to get an index fund after the market corrects.
While I've made progress, I have a lot of regret. I'm 31 with the resume, income and life experience of a 20 year old. No assets, and I may get less in social security when I retire because of less work history.
Every night before I go to bed, I imagine what life would be like if I drove at 18, graduated college and got certificates at 22. Then, while living with my parents, work full-time and save religiously for 5 years, and by age 27, I could've put 20% down on a house right before real estate prices would double. It makes me sick.
I turn 32 soon. If I focus most of my free time into learning hard skills (i.e. coding, or a trade), is it possible to get into a middle-class career by age 35?
Any other advice on what I can do to become successful?
(EDIT: Thank you all for your constructive and kind comments. I'll continue to check this)
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2023.03.28 18:59 EldritchEggoWaffle WARDEN OF THE WEAVER - PART 63: "THE UPRISING BEGINS"
Nantha didn't have the heart to tell them. She didn't know how to tell them. She didn't even know where to begin.
Annid Long-Tree, leader of the Savage-Sisters approached the entrance to Tube House. At her side was Ehsh, and several other Savage Sisters, as well as an entire posse of she-Jikk prisoners.
Annid's eyes studied Nantha's closely. "Where is Prince Yallan?"
Nantha forced herself not to look away, to maintain eye contact. "He wanted me to tell you all to go on without him."
"What?" It was Ehsh this time.
Annid looked baffled. "What are you talking about? This isn't the time for jokes, Nantha. Tell the Prince to hurry. We've got the gate open."
"He isn't here," Nantha said flatly. "He's already down below, working to free the prisoners in Jailhouse 2."
Annid considered this a moment. She appeared to do some brief mental calculations. Finally, she nodded. "Well, why didn't you say that from the start? Then let's get going. The Jail-Keepers and Guards will rush in anytime now."
Nantha gave a meaningful nod. "I'm right behind you."
She followed the others away from Tube House and across Dark Cell toward Gate Wall. They did indeed have the gate opened, just as Annid had promised.
"Was it difficult to pry open?" Nantha asked.
"A little," Annid admitted. "But we used the pickaxes and mining tools, just as planned." She pointed to the bars of the gate. Several of them were bent out of shape in the middle. The gate itself hung open, slightly askew. Just on the other side, a crowd of prisoners stood waiting. All of Dark Cell was here, it seemed. Many of them wielded the pickaxes and large chisels used for mining the ore they'd been forced to collect for the Guards.
Nantha felt excitement and adrenaline swell up in her chest. Were they actually doing this, after all these years? It didn't seem possible. It felt like a dream.
The ordinarily dank, stale air of the jail seemed almost electric in that moment. Nantha felt alive for the first time in more years than she could recount. She wasn't just drawing breath, surviving from one day to the next. She was actually living.
Even if this escape attempt meant her death, she thought it would be worth it just for this brief feeling of being alive.
"The Prince is in Jailhouse 2 already," Annid announced to the crowd.
Lively murmurs broke out at once. Nantha's exaltation turned to anxiousness. They were going to be suspicious. Of course they were. Why wouldn't they be? The Dirt Prince was their leader. This uprising was his uprising. Would they truly believe he'd already made it to Jailhouse 2? What more excuse for his absence could she possibly give them? What other reasons would they actually accept?
"How?" asked someone in the crowd. "We never saw him leave?"
Nantha's heart sank. Doing her best to remain calm, she said, "Prince Yallan has his ways."
For a wonder, this actually seemed to satisfy them. Thanks the Gods for Yallan's esoteric, eccentric nature. Yallan, or whoever he was. So much of what Nantha thought she'd known about him had turned out to be a lie. Yet, still, Jikk or human, or whatever he might have been, if there was one fact about him that remained indisputable, it was that he was definitely one who had some rather strange ways about them. Clearly, if recent events in the Tubes were any indication. But then again, Nantha mused, it likely took one of strange ways to not only plan, but pull off something as mad as the uprising.
After a few more moments of excited chatter, they got moving without any further inquiries into the Prince, or his whereabouts. Much to Nantha's great relief.
If they were still alive when the uprising was over, she could tell them all the truth then.
Or, she thought as they marched down the wide corridor toward the rest of the jail, perhaps it was something she'd simply keep to herself. What good would knowing do any of the others? Knowing the truth certainly hadn't done her any good. As she looked around at the determined faces of her sister-Jikk, a part of her thought that it was best this way--with the so-called "Dirt Prince" nowhere in evidence, and the truth unknown to anyone save for her. Afterall, she told herself, The Jailer's crimes had been against she-Jikk more than anyone else. Sure, he'd taken younglings, and the elderly, and the disabled. He'd occasionally taken male Jikk; particularly those who caused too much trouble for his liking in Lo Syy Tett. But he hadn't targeted anyone else the way he'd targeted she-Jikk. The population of the Jails was around 85 to 90 percent she-Jikk.
Therefore, why should a male be the one to lead the uprising? Even before you considered the fact that said male wasn't even a Jikk.
Yes. It was much better this way. More fitting. Perhaps, if by some great miracle they survived all of this, Nantha could begin planting the idea that the Dirt Prince had really been apart of the planning stages of their revolt, more than anything else. The actual execution of said plan, however? That was a purely female undertaking.
Nantha walked between Annid Long-Tree and Ehsh, her head held high. There was still much to do. They were far from being in the clear yet. This was only the first step. The beginning.
They had lots more still to do, if they wanted to capture sweet, sweet freedom.
And as Nantha knew all too well, this was the only chance they would ever get...
The passageway was littered with decapitated corpses.
Ekkr stared down at the boomerang in his hand, with a growing mixture of wonder and horror in almost equal measure. This seemed far too powerful a weapon for someone like himself to wield.
"Well done, lad!" Wolfgang exclaimed.
"Shhh!" hissed the she-ant. "You idiot. Do you want the entire Jailhouse to hear you?
"Oh, right," Wolfgang said, lowering his voice. "Appologies, lass."
They moved down the passageway, stepping over or around bodies of fallen Jail-Keepers. Ekkr counted nine of them in total. The boomerang had cut a clean path straight through them all. Ekkr took slow, deliberate steps forward. The metallic scent of fresh blood hung in the air like an invisible vapor. Having Wolfgang at his side was the only reason Ekkr was able to continue on without stopping out of shock, or fear. Kanka and Ullteffa were close at their heels, wordlessly surveying the corpses.
As they made their way beyond the gruesome scene and down the remainder of the passageway, an almost tangible silence fell over their small group. Ekkr could practically feel the she-ant's eyes boring into the back of his head.
She's REALLY going to mistrust me now. She's probably waiting for the right moment to slip a dagger into my back, just to eliminate me as a potential threat.
The passageway became a wide corridor. Here, were the first banks of jail cells. The walls on either side of the party were lined with them; cold black steel bars like the teeth of a dark stone maw. These cells were empty.
Ekkr stopped, turning to face the others. The Ronzaxx and Willtakk also stopped walked. Ullteffa regarded him with calice suspicion. Ekkr saw her hand twitch for a brief moment, as if she intended to go for the ebony saber strapped to her back--perhaps, mostly out of reflex--before deciding to wait a moment. The Bandit only scowled, folding his arms across his chest. Wolfgang, for his part, continued walking a few more steps before halting. He did a kind of pivoting spin on the heel of one boot, reminiscent of the way Ekkr had seen Grassblade Proeliators turn in order to do an about face, for their marching drills during training exercises.
The frog raised his hairless brow. "Trouble, my boy?"
Ekkr felt his entire body tense. He was very conscious of where he held the boomerang, making absolutely certain not to do anything with it that might be misinterpreted as a threat. He looked the she-ant directly in her dark gemstone eyes. The moment he did this, he wished he hadn't. He saw nothing resembling mortal emotion in those eyes. They were cold and hard as the Void Gems from which they'd been fashioned. He summoned all the (considerably scarse) courage he had in him. He thought of the leaf, and the Weaver. He thought of his new title. He was Curator. That had to mean he was worthy of something didn't it? Well.. something. What that something might have been, he hadn't a clue, but there it was all the same. Ekkr Thrice-Flown, Curator of the Weaver.
This didn't do much to still his rapid-beating heart, but it did grant him a small modicum of strength in his resolve. He leaned on that small modicum like a crutch. Like a steady stone buttress during an earthquake. Like a hand helping an injured friend stand upright, after a nasty fall.
"I can't keep going on like this," Ekkr said. "Every moment. Waiting for a blade to slide across my throat. Please. I really have been truthful with you. I am just as confused as you are in this moment. The dagger you gave me... I threw it, and it came back as... well... as this." He looked down at the boomerang, not daring to move it even an inch; even to emphasize his point. "This is completely new and strange and unknown to me. So... I suppose what I'm saying is... please. I beg of you. I... actually, I don't know what I'm asking. I'm just..." he trailed off. He had no idea how to finish.
The she-ant and Ronzaxx only stared at him, looking utterly indifferent.
Wolfgang (bless him) decided to step in. He moved closer, to clap a webbed hand on Ekkr's back. "I believe what this right and fine gent here is trying to say, is that you're a beautiful woman, in need of a strong gentleman like myself."
Ekkr couldn't believe it. His mouth fell open. He actually emitted a small squeaking sound, for a brief instant. He stared at the frog with complete incredulous. "I meant no such thing!"
The Bandit bowed his head, jabbing his fingertips into his hard brow. He muttered, just loud enough to be heard: "Please let me kill 'em, Boss Lady. Please let me kill 'em. Can I? Please?"
Ullteffa said nothing. Her eyes never left Ekkr, but she maintained a complete and agonizing silence.
Wolfgang said, "Wasn't it, lad? My mistake. Perhaps, it was I who meant to suggest that very thing."
Ekkr openly cringed. This was almost as painful to witness, as it was terrifying.
"Well, maddam?" Wolfgang said, grinning. "What do you, my lady?"
Ullteffa's eyes finally left Ekkr, shifting over to Wolfgang. Then, she blinked. Once, then a second time. It was a bizarre, surreal thing to witness due to her Void Gem eyes.
For a moment, the painful silence hung between them. Ekkr felt every fraction of every second pass in excruciating stillness.
But then, like a ray of sunlight from behind a dark cloud, the she-ant blinked a final time... and smiled.
She actually smiled.
Ekkr was stunned. Baffled. Stupefied.
He now realized how beautiful the she-ant truly was. He'd been too terrified of her to see it before. She was gorgeous. Much too gorgeous to smiling in this way at the frog. It made no sense. It was mind-boggling.
Kanka went on scowling for half a second. Then, his scowl fell away as his eyes went from Ullteffa to Wolfgang--Ullteffa to Wolfgang, back to Ullteffa, back to Wolfgang--before finally landing on Ullteffa one finally time and remaining there. A look of both jealousy and anger began to wash across his cockroach face. It made him look menacing, and a touch pathetic. Almost like a Learning Hall bully who torments other younglings because of his own insecurities.
Ullteffa said, "You truly are an idiot. You do know that, don't you?" She sighed, shaking her head. She was still smiling, however. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the smile vanished and she was all business once more. "Let's get moving."
When Ekkr and Wolfgang remained where they were, the she-ant sighed again; this time with a bit of frustration added. "Fine. I still don't trust either of you, but I'll set my suspicions aside. This time, I sincerely mean it."
The Bandit stared at her, as if he couldn't believe what she'd just said. "But Boss Lady, we--"
She raised her hand, silencing him. Kanka glared off into space, mumbling something under his breath.
Ullteffa said, "Now then. If we keep standing here, we're only going to give The Jailer more time to plan our executions."
This got them all in motion again. As they walked beyond the empty cells, Ekkr looked over to the frog. Nothing seemed to make sense when Wolfgang was around. It was as if the frog were a force of nature, and everything (or everyone) around him was caught up in his peculiar brand of charm. The amphibian had all the whimsical charisma of a trickster God. Ekkr began to wonder just how much Wolfgang's company had influenced him. He also began to wonder just how much of their current situation was prompted by the Weaver, and how much had been on account of Wolfgang. The Weaver had directed him here, but the courage it took to actually go delving down in the lair of The Jailer? That might very well have been a different story.
Wolfgang, noticing Ekkr watching him, looked up and grinned. He tipped Ekkr a wink. Ekkr sighed and turned away. What a strange, strange creature, he thought.
They walked on, down a wide passage and out through another corridor. There were no jail cells here. In there place, were a set of stone doors; rounded at the tops, and lighter gray than the surrounding stone. Ekkr stopped before the third door on the left, pointing.
"This one," he said.
The others nodded, gathering around the door.
Instead of a handle, or doorknob, there was a notch punched into the rock. Ekkr placed his hand into the groove and pulled. The stone door came down like a drawbridge. It was much too heavy for the Jikk to hold. When it swung down, it slipped from his grasp. The Bandit darted forward, just in time to catch the heavy slab of stone before it crashed to the floor.
Kanka shook his head, flashing an irritated glare in Ekkr's direction. "Who needs alarm bells when they've got you around?"
"Apologies," Ekkr said lamely, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.
Kanka gently lowered the slab onto the floor. The four of them walked across it and into an oval-shaped room of pale gray stone. There was a steel rod sticking up from the center of the room. In the place where the rod disappeared beneath the floor, there was an inch-and-a-half wide gap, outlined by a circle carved into the stone.
Once they were all inside, Ullteffa said: "Allow me."
She stepped forward and took hold of the steel bar. She pulled it toward her, then moved it in a slow circle, letting it trace over the gap in the floor. For a moment, she looked like a dye maker stirring a pot of boiled plant pigments. The door behind them sprang back into place with a muffled slam. There was a soft scraping sound--the whine of metal gears--then the entire room began to turn. An overlapping wall began to encroach upon the door, swallowing it inch by inch as the room moved. The beginnings of a narrow gap appeared in the far wall, at the same time. Little by little, the gap widened as the room continued to turn, until an unobscured passageway opened where the wall had been.
"Fancy," said Wolfgang. "A rotating room."
The she-ant said nothing. She released the steel rod and stepped away from it. She looked to Ekkr expectantly.
Ekkr nodded, remembering he was the one who was supposed to lead the way. He tensed his shoulders and stepped through the mouth of the passage. Wolfgang followed beside him.
The four of them walked for only a short distance, before they reached a new corridor, lined with jailcells. There were long hallways winding into darkness, breaking up each set of cells--six cell blocks in all, with a hallway between each. And in every cell, there were prisoners. Some of them were lying down in the corner, sleeping. Others were leaning against the bars. Most of them were sitting in the middle of the cell floor looking utterly pitiful. Ekkr spotted a small handful of younglings, and a single elderly male. The rest were all she-Jikk. Each cell contained between twelve and fifteen prisoners. Close to eighty inmates in all.
The four of them stopped in the center of the corridor, looking around at the prisoners. For Ekkr, it was an absolutely heart-wrenching sight.
One of the younglings rushed over to the bars of her cell. She called out in a small, weak voice: "Are you here to help us? Please. Please help us. Get us out of here."
An aging she-Jikk reached down and swatted the youngling across the side of her face. She furiously whispered, "Shut up! We don't know who they are. Sit down and be quiet. Now!"
The youngling bowed her head and did as she was told. Ekkr saw the little one's wings begin to quiver, birthing a soft bzzttt sound; the Jikk equivalent of sobbing.
Ekkr held up a hand and waved. "It's alright. We don't work for The Jailer."
"We aren't here to help them, either," Ullteffa scolded. "Keep moving, Ekkr Thrice-Flown. We don't have time to chitchat."
Ekkr stared out across the corridor at the frightened, hopeless faces of the prisoners. Could he really just walk away and leave them?"
"Can't we do something?" he protested. "At least open their cells, perhaps?"
"Ekkr Thrice-Flown," Ullteffa said in a tone that was all the answer he needed.
Ekkr slumped his shoulders, feeling deflated. This wasn't right. These were innocent Jikk. How could he just leave them here?
That was when the Weaver's words echoed throughout his mind.
Find the Warden. Free the prisoners.
Yes. Yes. This was it. This was his purpose here. Half of it, at least. The Weaver had sent him here to help these Jikk. This was what he needed to do in order to find his redemption. Free the prisoners. This was his mission.
But how in Vellnoth's Name was he supposed to actually accomplish this?
As if sensing his distress, Wolfgang placed a webbed hand on Ekkr's arm. "We can come back for them, lad."
Ekkr looked down at the short, stubby Amphibian. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, my good man, we came here to free the canine, did we not? Once we've done that, I see no reason why we cannot help these fine folks find freedom on our way out, lad."
Ekkr considered this a moment. If the Warden were with them, they might just be able to pull this off, and live to tell the tale. The canine would definitely assist them, as well. Success would all depend on how The Jailer responded to their trespassing in his domain. But... maybe, just maybe, they could do it. The chances of helping the prisoners, and actually getting them out of this place would go up drastically if the Warden was also free and at their side.
Ekkr gazed over at the inmates again, before turning back to Wolfgang. "Alright. But you must give me your word we will return for them."
"My word is my bond, lad. I give you my word as a gentleman, and a swordsman."
"Alright," Ekkr said. "Then let's go find the Warden."
Paladin Zeyas (known to the inmates of Dark Pit as Dirt Prince Yallan Torchpath) moved along the wall of the slender passageway, feeling for the unseen Rune he knew would be there. After searching around for several moments, his fingertips finally slid across an uneven part of the stone. To the untrained eye, the wall here was no different than it was anywhere else. To Zeyas however, it was his key to breaking out of this place. He pressed his fingers into the Rune. Soon, the stone began to glow with soft red light. Then, the light brightened to a vibrant crimson.
Zeyas pushed against the Rune. The floor slid out from beneath his feet, sending him falling into darkness. He used the wings of his armored suit (the one designed to make him look indistinguishable from a Jikk when he wore it) to avoid a nasty landing. He came down several levels below Jailhouse 1.
He secured his helm back in place, giving himself increased low light vision. He was in the Main Access Tunnel now. The Master Switch was located somewhere on this floor. All the Paladin had to do was find it, activate the thing, and every door to every cell in the entire facility would open. It was a fail safe, in the event of some major catastrophe. And now, it would serve as Zeyas's greatest tool in aiding the Jikk in their uprising.
The Paladin ran down the long corridor, through unlit tunnels and dark passageways.
Soon, he would give the Insectoids of this place their freedom.
Nantha became one more face in a sea of prisoners. She let herself blend in with the crowd. She was glad not to be leading the charge, but was all the more glad to be apart of it. They marched on, into the general inmate areas of Jailhouse 1, putting Dark Pit further and further behind them.
"What's happening?" asked an alarmed voice from one of the cells up ahead. "Is this a riot?"
"Freedom!" someone in their group shouted, raising a hand.
"Let us out! We want to come with you!"
Nantha heard Annid's voice answer. "Patience. The Dirt Prince is finding the Master Switch as we speak, if all is going according to plan. We have our own part to play. As soon as your cell doors open, make for the nearest corridor. Soon, we will all be free."
There was a collective cheer from the other prisoners.
Nantha only hoped Annid's words would prove true. And that the so-called Dirt Prince was really still holding up his part in things. Otherwise, this might all be for nothing, she realized.
The members of the uprising pushed on. They slipped down passages, moved through large cavernous chambers, toward their destination: Coridor Prime. If they could just make it there, they'd be able to access almost any part of the Tunnels. It was a secret of this facility Yallan had discovered, though he'd never revealed how he came by the information. You couldn't get to Corridor Prime unless you went through Tunnel Eight. It only went one way. Once your left Corridor Prime using one of its many shafts and passageways, a Rune Seal blocked you from returning, unless you went all the way back to Tunnel Eight. It was a security feature, and an escape detourant. You had to know which shaft to choose, or else you'd end up in the wrong part of the Tunnels, without a way back.
According to the Prince, they just had to go through the shaft marked with the Source Rune symbol for 'lake'. This would leave them in the chamber beneath the Chartreuse Pool.
The forbidden waters...
Nantha thought back to her time in Lo Syy Tett, all those years ago. She recalled learning about Jikk customs and the Jikkellian faith. She'd been taught that the Chartreuse Pool was forbidden, in accordance with religious law.
The Jailer had used this to his advantage. Used, and abused this fact. The truth was, even by the laws of their faith, Jikk could enter the Chartreuse Pool, so long as they were given a blessing directly from Vellnoth the Lesser. The Jailer and his minions claimed to have such a blessing.
The Mind Mother's influence had convinced them all of the validity of this claim. That same influence had also convinced them the Green Leaf Scrolls' passing reference to the forbidden nature of the Chartreuse Pool was actually one of their religion's core tenants.
Yallan (who wasn't actually named Yallan) had been right. The Mind Mother did have to be destroyed. Jikk needed to realize the atrocities being committed here. As long as the Mind Mother lived, that couldn't happen. Perhaps, on an individual level, it could. But not on a wide scale. Nantha was bitterly glad the false Prince had slain the awful creature. Otherwise, she and the other prisoners might have been too fearful of Vellnoth's wrath to utilize their main escape route.
Nantha snapped back to the present. The crowd in front of her had stopped abruptly, just as they reached the mouth of the next tunnel between corridors. There were whispers of alarm, even fear. Nantha was forced to squeeze or push her way between several inmates, before she was able to make it up to the front of the pack.
Now, she saw what had promoted commotion; the reason why they'd stopped.
The tunnel was not very long. From here, Nantha could see where it ended, before it gave way to yet another block of cells in the corridor beyond. And there, at the opposite end of the tunnel, stood a group of figures. There were four of them. Each one wielded a weapon.
There was a meek looking Jikk. He held a weapon Nantha had never seen before. It was emerald-hued and almost looked like a throwing knife, but not like any normal throwing knife. It was curved in the center. The Jikk seemed just as anxious and alarmed as Nantha felt. Oddest of all was the fact that--aside from a pair of sandals and some tattered undergarments--he was completely disrobed.
Beside the Jikk was one of the strangest creatures Nantha had ever seen. It had a large round head that seemed too massive for its body. In place of chitin, the thing had flesh as green as a spinach leaf, and stood much shorter than the grasshopper man beside it. The creature was dressed in odd attire that didn't seem to match any of the modern styles. The creature had a wooden crossbow in its arms.
The other two figures were what Jikkellians referred to as Children of Ziilk; followers of the false God sometimes called Rogue In Rouge.
A Ronzaxx roachman and a Willtakk she-ant. The former held a silver dagger that might have glistened had there been any light source; the latter wielded an ebony saber. While the Jikk looked concerned and the short green creature appeared almost excited, the two Children of Ziilk were watching the large group of inmates with a mixture of amusement and something close to menace.
One of the braver she-Jikk in front of Nantha snatched a pickaxe from the prisoner beside her, and stepped forward. She raised her voice so that it carried across the tunnel. "We aren't going back to our cells now matter what you do!" she challenged. Although the she-Jikk spoke with confident command, Nantha could see her left leg trembling slightly out of fear
Nantha thought she heard the she-ant snort at this--as though the words were too ridiculous to remain silent--but it may have only been her imagination. Across the tunnel, it was difficult to know for certain.
The partially nude Jikk stepped forward. He kept his weapon lowered at his side, as it he weren't sure what to do with it. In a warm, friendly tone, he said: "I'm not going to force you back to your cells. I'm here to help you escape."
Nantha and the other inmates glanced around at one another. None of them seemed to have any clue how to proceed.
The panicked faces of several Guards and Jail-Keepers appeared before him. Floor Master Guvven considered them a moment, before raising a hand and gesturing for them to speak.
"Uh, Floor Master Guvven, sir? There are trespassers," said one of the Jail-Keepers (Guvven could never remember most of his subordinates' names, nor did he care to remember; they were unimportant to him--he cared only for his Riot Responders).
Guvven stared at him, stonefaced. A congregation of Purple Spiders clinging to the roof of the chamber cast soft, odd shadows across Guvven's features. "Do you think I'm not already aware?"
"No, sir, but they just took out several of our Jail-Keepers. They even got Gosoma."
Guvven cocked his head to one side. Now this was interesting. Gosoma of the Lash was one of his best. Anyone who could take down the head Riot Responder was a force to be reckoned with. This intrigued Guvven a great deal. It had been so long since he'd seen any real action.
A Purple Spider dropped down from the ceiling and landed on his shoulder. Through the spider, came the voice of Porter Huuth. He said, "All Floor Masters are to head to Jailhouse 1 immediately. We have trespassers. Leave Jail-Keepers and Guards at their post. Don't let any prisoners out of their cells. Bring only your top warriors with you. Head to Jailhouse 1, Tunnel Seven. Intercept the trespassers, and cut them off before they reach Tunnel Eight. They'll be bound for Corridor Prime. Kill them on sight. These orders come directly from The Jailer himself. Make haste, everyone. If you fail, you deal with me."
The voice cut out and the spider scurried down Guvven's arm, before dropping onto the floor and scampering away.
Guvven realized the Jail-Keepers and Guards were all still standing there, watching him expectantly with varying degrees of anxious fret plastered across their features. "What are you all still doing here? Did you hear the orders? Get to your posts!"
All at once, every one of them turned and made off for the cell blocks, practically tripping over one another as they went.
Just before the last of them were out of sight, Guvven called: "And send me my Riot Responders! The ones I have left!"
"Yes, Floor Master," one of them said.
Then, they were gone.
Guvven voiced a single dry cackle. "Well then. Looks like we're in for some fun." He reached for his massive warhammer which he'd propped upright against the chamber wall. Hammer in hand, he moved to the back of the room and stopped before a chest-high steel cage. Glowing yellow eyes shaped like dagger blades peered out at him through the bars, from the darkness beyond the cage door.
Guvven bent down to fiddle with the lock. "Been a while since I let you out of here, eh? You ready to go hunting again, old friend?"
There was a deep, hungry growl from inside the cage. Guvven grinned. "That's right. You're gonna have some fun with me, my friend." Guvven flicked the lock and popped open the door.
Elsewhere, in various parts of the jailhouse, the other Floor Masters had just finished listening to Porter Huuth's message.
In Jailhouse 3, Floor Master Ovtuk watched the Purple Spider that delivered the orders as it made for a crack in the stone floor of the tunnel.
He turned to the figure on his left. "Strongest warriors, he said?"
"That's what he said," replied Floor Master Snann. "I would reckon that means the four Majors."
Ovtuk nodded. "Sounds about right. I'll bring Meex while I'm at it. Can't think of a good reason to leave him behind."
Floor Master Snann unfastened the leather thong he used to secure his vine whip to his belt (his vine whip, which might have been called a "cat-o'-nine-tails" were he from a place called Earth, or if he knew what a cat was). "Let's go make the Porters of the Hand proud."
And in a part of the jailhouse known as Dread Point...
Floor Master Klivis and his strongest warrior--a Jikk built like a brick shithouse who went by the name Foxglove--marched down the long winding passageway that would take them up to Jailhouse 1. As they neared the end of the passage, a sinister sounding voice called out them.
"Leaving without me?"
Klivis and Foxglove both stopped and turned at the utterance. Klivis felt a slight chill run along the base of his neck (a rather uncommon occurrence for an Insectoid with an exoskeleton) when his eyes fell upon the one who'd spoken.
Klivis was a mean, merciless Floor Master by all accounts. He favored beating the prisoners, over... well, pretty much everything. Beating prisoners had become something of a passtime for him. It gave the Floor Master a thrill like nothing else ever had. He was a cold, calice Jikk who reveled in violence.
And yet... even Klivis felt uneasy around the figure he now saw before him.
"Nazro?" Klivis whispered. He wasn't sure why he was whispering. Something about the other Floor Master almost seemed to demand it. As if he had to lessen even the volume of his own voice in the presence of this particular Jikk. "You made it up here rather quickly."
"Of course," said Nazro cheerfully. His voice and expression were that of a good-natured chum, chumming it up with his fellow chums. This was all an act, however. Klivis could see it in his eyes. Even when Nazro smiled, his eyes remained cold and lifeless.
"I see," Klivis said sheepishly. It was all he could think to say.
"The Porter said to make haste, afterall."
"He did," Klivis said. He looked to Foxglove for assistance, but Foxglove seemed to be studying the floor as if it interested him a great deal.
"Come on," Nazro said. "I'll walk up with you."
Klivis didn't think there was anything in the world he desired less than to be accompanied by Floor Master Nazro. However, unable to come up with a good excuse to avoid this uncomfortable situation, Klivis simply nodded. "Alright then."
Together, the three of them made their way to Jailhouse 1. As they did, the rest of the Floor Masters and their top subordinates did likewise. And in no time at all, the Tunnels near Dark Pit were crawling with them...
The Comet's Crest Chancellors gathered around the white marble fountain, gazing with great interest into its shimmering waters. Through the surface of the water, they saw as one might see through a pane of glass...
Desolate Chasm--private quarters of The Jailer...
* * * * * *
From the ceiling, the glow of an entire nest of Purple Spiders bathed the room in soft lavender. Yet, this glow was unable to penetrate many of the shadows within; as if they weren't shadows at all, but rather, living things spawned of the absence of light. A portion of the floor near the entryway had been raised, revealing a previously hidden chamber no bigger than a jail cell. A slab of dark brown stone the size of a coffin sat in this crawlspace beneath the floor. The three Blind Black-Robes stood before this secret chamber. Together, moving in synchronization, they stooped down over the stone slab and placed their hands onto its cool, rough surface.
There was a sound like boiling water being poured over ice cubes as the rock began to crack apart, sending hairline fractures across the length of the slab. The stone split in two, right down the center. The two halves fell against the walls of the crawlspace, revealing that the stone slab had in fact been hollow. There was a Jikk inside the stone; lying on his back with his arms and legs, wings nearly tucked away. He stared up at them with emotionless regard.
From the back of the room, a voice that sounded the way a graveyard might sound were it given the power of speech, echoed throughout the chamber. "Ellgost. My only son."
The Jikk inside the broken stone sat upright and looked around. Beyond the three blindfolded earwig men, stood a table of polished ebony. It was as long as the bar counter in a tavern, and ran from one wall to the other--cutting across the entire room from left to right. There were strange instruments and mechanisms at one end of the table. Atop the opposite end, was a bulky object beneath an old gray tarp. And at the center of the table, sat three figures. Two of them were engulfed in shadow, obscuring their form. They appeared to be completely motionless. Between the pair of shadowed figures was the third.
* * * * * *
A Chancellor gasped, taking a step back. "Gods," he whispered. "Is this what's become of The Jailer? This is his new form? It's... horrific."
The other Chancellors said nothing. Even beneath the hoods of their cloaks, the concern on their faces was unmistakable. One of them turned to the Kite Monk who'd been waiting patiently--sitting atop a white marble bench, looking as though he were in deep contemplation--on the far side of the great hall.
The Chancellor said, "You were right to come to us, Proyy Nogg Wexx. I would agree that these matters are certainly dire enough to awaken the True Master."
The monk rose from the bench. "Did you see what's unfolding in the woods with Gupp Ro' Gamm? That fool refused to heed my--"
The Chancellor interrupted. "That is not our greatest concern. What we see in the Gazing Pool may well be the first flickers of rapture's fire. The beginning of the end, as it was written in the Scrolls."
"Silence," said the head Chancellor. "Watch the water. Something is happening."
And something indeed was...
* * * * * *
The Jailer--his transformation now complete--rose from the table and turned back to face the two shadowed figures. "Hithrid, you bitch. I keep you now as you were then. You and the Betrayer. You are fortunate. You get to witness this blessed day. A day you do not deserve to take part in. Consider this my final gift to you."
The two figures remained silent, motionless.
The Jailer turned to the Black-Robes. "Bring me the Black Vine Shroud."
The three earwig men made off at once to do as they'd been told. They moved to the far corner of the room and surrounded a mass of knotted, tangled vines the color of coal. Black roses between long dark thorns sprouted up from the growth. The Blind Black-Robes hooked their arms beneath vines, lifting the mass as they did this. Now, the underside of the growth was visible, revealing that there was in fact a wooden casket beneath the many vines. They slowly made their back to the large table, carefully placing the casket--vines and all--atop its smooth polished surface. With this accomplished, they stepped away and made themselves scarse.
The Jailer took several deliberate steps toward the Jikk inside the broken stone slab. "My son. We are together at last," said The Jailer in his thunderous voice. There was the slightest touch of sentimentality in his tone. Hearing such an inflection coming from his horrendous new form would have been deeply unsettling for anyone else. However, the Jikk he'd called his son only looked up and smiled.
The Jailer said, "I've kept you in this piece of the God Shelf since you were still a larvae. I dropped you into such a small hole in the rock. Now, look at you. Grown and ready to stand at my side. I've worked on softening that stone all these years, so that it could be cracked when the time was right. I've fed you Knowledges and Wisdoms to nurture your mind. I've transmitted Dark Energies and the Old Arts to strengthen your body. You have received an immeasurable quantity of my power, in a constant stream for your entire life. Your potential is limitless. I am soon to Ascend, Ellgost. I shall be Godhead, and you, my Numen. Do you understand, my son?"
Ellgost got to his feet. He began to rise from the crawlspace, levitating over the stone which had served as his entire world until mere moments ago. "Aye, father."
"Then we shall unseal the Black Vine Shroud together," said The Jailer. He turned back to the large table behind him, his dark eyes returning to the shadowed figures there. "And with its unsealing, your purgatory shall be made eternal, Hithrid."
Ellgost lowered himself to the floor beside his father. Together, as father and son, they approached the Black Vine Shroud; The Jailer taking one end, Ellgost taking the other. The two of them began tearing away the dark vines.
* * * * * *
Several Chancellors gasped in unison--watching the Shroud's unsealing with mounting terror and revulsion. A few of them tried to speak, but couldn't. The water began to ripple, disturbing the image. It was almost as if what the Shroud concealed was too abhorrent for even the fountain itself.
One of the Chancellors collapsed. The others acted as if they didn't even notice.
After several long moments of silent, one of the Chancellors finally lifted head, to turn to the others. "It's finally happening," he whispered.
"What is?" Proyy Nogg asked in an alarmed voice.
"The end of everything," said the head Chancellor. "All of existence."
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2023.03.28 18:15 peaceman14 Humans don't do magic Chapter 6: The begining of the end
Across the seas separating the dwarven Alpine from the lush beaches of california, The green forests stretched off into the horizon covering the rolling hills and towering mountains in a blanket of green,slowly fading away to reveal grey rock and white snow as the mountains stretched higher and higher into the clouds. The howl of the wind was all that could be heard from these mountains.Distant screeching of jet engines and howl of artillery shells and rockets quickly replaced the calm rustling of leaves and quiet chirping of birds.In an instant, the white capped mountains of the Dwarven alpine were covered in a blanket of fire, beginning the long grind of the mountains into the ground
Enhanced by dwarven magic, perfected by experience and technology accumulated from years of warfare, the human arsenal had no shortage of explosives. The tall mountains stretching high into the clouds will soon find themselves flattened given the time, just as the Dwarven Archmage had flattened the Tibetan mountain range almost a year ago, humanity will now return the favour. It will take time but soon the dwarves will find themselves cornered, but for now the bombardment served to ensure that no dwarven force would be able to cross the sea and reinforce the patches of resistance forces hiding underground in human territory.
Underneath these towering chunks of rock, The Dwarven city of Ganzir sprawled outwards across a rocky plateau,surrounded by an abyss that led directly to the planet’s mantle, High above the city distant rumbling gently shook the stone roof. The dwarves would be safe from all human attacks for now but they knew it is only a matter of time before the humans would find some way of circumventing their underwise air tight defence. Smoke stacks spewing black smog, churning out new equipment for the dwarven war effort, electrical cables stretched haphazardly from them reaching every building providing them with the lifeblood of any sufficiently industrialised civilization with the help of primitive coal generators stolen from the humans. Within this city. A dwarf by the name of Hallthrim was running up the steps of a towering stone palace, a loud creaking echoed throughout its massive halls,as the dwarf signalled the large stone doors to be opened, inside tall dwarven statues stood, holding gigantic braziers which served as the halls sole light sources. Its decorated pillars stretch up towards the tall ceiling, strolling into the chamber Hallthrim walked up the red carpeted floor towards a second reinforced stone door. Which opened to reveal a single empty stone throne overlooking a long wooden table, filled with paper maps, and stone figurines, around which 5 dwarves clad in shining enchanted armour, their hammers, swords and spears, literally glowing in their holsters.1 was sat at the head of the table clad in fur robes and a gold crown with 2 sat on either side of the table, 1 had was clad in shining white the other was clad in polished black. Both bearing a different insignia on their shoulders. On the table itself in the place of several empty chairs were the helmets of several dwarves, laden with shrapnel and bullet holes, placed on their respective parts of the table. The room quite similarly to the last one was silent. The atmosphere was grim, the 3 dwarves stared at the paper map on the table, as another stone figurine that had been silently moving across a part of the map marked as the Neptune Sea, crumbled into rubble before their very eyes with 7 more stationed in what was marked the Ironside highlands following suit.
“ How the hel did this happen!” One of the generals yelled his head in his hands as he watched his division literally crumble before his very eyes, “ A Year ago these insect’s barbaric weapons could barely scratch us!” he yelled
“ Its all because of Baldur! If only that damn idiot hadn’t gotten himself killed.” The dwarf clad in black, with the insignia of a red gryphon slammed the table with his fist.
“ Calm down Treant, none of us could have predicted the humans would have been able to take him down” The dwarf in white bearing the insignia of a golden dragon answered, as yet another similar dragon figurine on the board crumbled.
“Yea, but what shall we do now, Halvar?”
“I…I know not.” He said, his face looking down onto the board in defeat “Forgive me my lord, we have failed you.”
The dwarf at the head of the table sat forward, “ It is alright, the humans have yet to figure out how to properly enter our lands. Let us retreat what we can on the surface and shore up our defences, underground. Lure them into our element.”
“ That is an excellent idea my lord. We shall execute this at once.”
“ I’m sorry to interrupt my lords..but I have a request from the Elven mage we had harboured known as Eva.” Hallthrim interrupted. “ She claims she is on the verge of something big.She just needs a little more time”
“ We have no time for more of her outlandish claims of the power of ‘atoms’ and ‘molecules’……we have invested far too much into her ‘endeavours’ and have received far too little. We had given her everything she had claimed she needed, human databases, human analysis equipment, even the giant metal ring thing that she wanted so badly we had stolen for her yet she has yielded no results.”Halvar yelled, before being interrupted by a distant rumble, followed dust falling from the ceiling
“ Alright, fine, I will pay her a visit and we’ll decide from what she has got so far.” Halvar
“ Thank you my lord.” Hallthrim said before running back out of the war room.
“And in other news, celebrations are erupting across freshly liberated Europe and America as liberation forces have now pushed the remnants of the dwarves off all human lands… Yes you heard that correctly, viewers. Earth is now officially back under human control” A news reporter’s voice reverberated through the speakers of the holodesk in front of Jean, inside a well furnished victorian era style office.Muffled cheers and celebrations of troops and civilians alike could be heard from both outside her door as well as in the streets below as long separated families are finally after 4 years of constant reunited within the Terran capital. The once grim and smog filled industrial zones of the core human territories,was now entirely unrecognisable as multi-colored fireworks lit up the night sky, and the humm of heavy machinery, as well as the typical chatter of the human workforce had been replaced entirely with cheers and pops of fresh champagne bottle being opened. Most of these fresh bottles had text written on their fronts in dwarven tongue,many still held contempt for the dwarves for the enslavement of many of their friends and family, as such they had no quarrel with using the captured dwarven supplies for our own recreational needs. The air itself had a nice lavender scent to it, the once smog filled air completely cleansed of its pollution, thanks to the help of what were once Elven high ranking officers and concentration camp wardens who now with the help of a little invasive surgery and corrective neural implants now ‘willingly’ used their magical abilities to better give back to the human community.
The news report was playing in an open tab next to multiple tabs of wordy military reports and civilian reports, which Jean flipped through disinterestedly with her left hand, whilst taking a sip of her wine with her right. The Orcs had easily capitulated following the neutralisation of their Arcmage, They might have had our access to our military technology but without their Arcmage, they had no idea how to use them in combat, as such many of their tanks ended up dying in a cavalry charge at our more superior tanks and anti-tank infantry squads. Their air force was quickly crippled as the Orcs had no idea what stealth or radar actually meant. Which meant that even with access to advanced stealth jets like the F22 and Su57, many were easily shot down when their pilots engaged our air superiority fighters in head to head combat resembling primitive dogfights of WW2. Or even worse tried to do gun strafing runs on anti-aircraft batteries in open plains with clear skies. Once their human equipment ran out the Orcish tribes quickly agreed to our terms of surrender. They apparently had no problem turning on the Dwarves once we promised them that they could use them as livestock instead of us.
The dwarves however are another problem, though we have pushed them off our lands,finishing them off proves another issue,The dwarven underground tunnel network is immense,and ever changing. Cramped ever shifting underground tunnels prevent us from even beginning to find an entrance to their cities. Not to mention the fact that the earth itself on dwarven ground seems to have an appetite for literally swallowing any heavy equipment that landed on their beaches. Jean had thus ordered a pause to the offensive, having liberated almost all of the human population from their concentration camps and all of our lands. There was simply no reason to even continue with a ground invasion of Dwarven lands. Thus she had given her men a well earned break,for after this week. High command will order a high intensity bombing of dwarven lands, the lights of which this world and even humanity itself has never seen.
Thinking on this, she swiped through another report, a seemingly routine logistical report of the newly liberated CERN. These reports were ordered to be taken by her in order to take account on what human technologies were stolen by the dwarves so as to be able to create effective counters to them should the dwarves decide to employ them, thus Jean would usually overlook reports on the civilian sector, but this one was interesting everything had been accounted for except for the large hadron collider, an obsolete piece of research equipment that was supposed to discover new quantum particles.That had since been turned into a tourist exhibit in the early 2050s. Now why would the Dwarves want that, of all the equipment in cern and all the military industrial complexes they had access to, they decided to take the one thing that was effectively useless? She had vigilantly read through all the logistical reports, fearing that our hydrogen centrifuges, nuclear reactor cores, or even calcutrons would be found missing but they were all there. Instead the dwarves took a tourist attraction? She leaned back into her office chair and stared at the ceiling overhead for a few moments, before getting up from her chair and walking towards her office window.
The celebrations continued to echo through the hallway outside her office as well as in the streets below. She looked out above the squat military factories into the well lit streets and towering skyscrapers of the residential districts,which stretched high into the skies, fireworks launching from their roofs.
For this first time in 3 years, the threat of extinction has been lifted, For the first time, soldiers and pilots have the chance to stand down, and for the first time, our missile silos and artillery pieces that line the grand wall in the distance lay silent.Silently watching over the large sprawling cityscape and industrial sprawl below. 3 long years of war, death and misery had finally seemed to pay off. The Elves and Orcs have been defeated and the Dwarves are on the brink of joining them soon. She breathed in the lavender scented air, through her open window the skies were clear and the full moon shone bright in the night sky, “Maybe I’m overthinking this.” She muttered to herself, it is likely the Dwarves simply did not understand how we manufacture and create our nuclear weapons and went for the flashiest and most alien looking thing present.
“ Marshall!” a voice shouted from the street below, it was one the members of high command, currently shitfaced, with a bottle of Dwarven brew in his hand surrounded by other members of command all equally wasted. “ When are yer joining us.”
Jean looked down and smiled, “ I’ll be there in a bit!” She called.
“ Your working too hard Ma’am come on down and enjoy yourself a bit, we know your part robot but it can’t hurt to live a little.” Another officer shouted
“ Yea! Science assistant Kim here suggested that we test the capabilities of the cyber-liver we installed. ”The ballistics division head added
“ What? I did not say that!..” She shouted playfully punching Frederick in the shoulder,
Jean looked down endearingly at her celebrating team, it had been forever since she last had a proper celebration. Walking back into her office, she closed her holoprojector before leaving, to join the celebrating crowd below. She was sure she was just overthinking this.
Meanwhile, in the lush green jungles of the Elven Archipelago, A mix of white concrete and clear glass skyscrapers had been built alongside the towering trees of the thriving Elven megapolis. Inside one of these massive trees, Marshall Jean was taking a tour, accompanied by Fredrick who was now walking with the aid of a black cane. His cybernetics was making a slow recovery after the encounter with the Orcish Archmage had nearly fried half his brain. A few power armoured guards accompanied the 2 as a security detail and led by an Elf known as Professor Greenstead.The newly appointed Governor and liaison between the human government and their newly acquired Elven colonies. Having been head of an Elven group known by the Elves as the Human Rights Activists,her group had worked alongside captured or separated human military forces to help break out and save many human lives from Arcane experimentation and concentration camps. At the price of being branded heretics by her own government, in the end when the war had ended, the human expeditionary force had found her and her group hidden deep in the jungles of the fringe islands within a small camouflage town which housed thousands of rescued humans. So as a recognition of their actions she was appointed the new governor of the Elven Colonies and her closest officers were appointed as high ranking administrative staff.
The corridor around them had a homely feel, but yet mystical. The walls were made of oak bark while the floors were polished stone brick. Many smaller wooden doors flanked the Marshall’s entourage, with Elves, clad in blue robes running up and down the corridors with scrolls in hand. Leading the Marshall down the corridor was a tall elf,with red hair. She was clad in green robes and walked with a certain spring in her step. Her aura was extremely energetic and lively, as she introduced the Marshall and the Director to the facility.
After a short walk the entourage came across a large open wooden door, which opened up to a massive clearing, a wooden spiral staircase, sprawled both up and down as far as the eye could see, leaving quite a large empty space in the centre of the stairwell, where a steel bridge led to an elevator that was being built in the centre of the stairwell. Around it many wooden platforms floated up and down with Elven scholars riding upon them, their arms filled with scrolls, accompanied by human scientists. Human scientists walked alongside the Elven mages up and down the spiral staircase, rushing to their respective labs or arcane chambers and classrooms.
“And now that you are familiar with the dorms, here is the central staircase. Each level of the tree has been specialised to a different field of arcane discovery, with a new level expansion being dedicated to the field of combining the Human Physics research with Elven Water magics. That is if your grace would allow us that honour that is.`` The Elf spoke,
“ Thank you Professor Greenstead, and, please do call me Marshall. We humans are not governed by the imperial system.” The Marshall replied to the lively professor.
“ Ahh of course! You humans are governed after a ‘Merry to crazy’ right?” Greenstead smiled.
“ A Meritocracy professor.” Frederick corrected
“ Yes! A government where the ruling class is decided by the academic or military achievements of the individual, Rather than bloodlines. Maybe if we Elves had that kind of sense we could have avoided the war altogether.” The professor said, her smile disappearing for a second as she led the group down a level through a glass auto door and into another smaller corridor. Instantly the environment was a far cry from what it was,natural wooden bark was quickly replaced with concrete and glass, the plank wood floor was replaced with that of white sterile ceramic tiles. To the left and right large glass windows peered into labs filled with a mix of Elven magical equipment and human electronics, stone runic tablets stood next to human electronic ones, while Elven spell scrolls sat upon keyboards in front of flatscreens or holo displays. Large biovats stood upon floors inscribed with arcane circles. Inside Human Scientist, worked alongside Orcish warlocks, and Elven Mages to further their understanding of all their respective fields, “Anyway, here we are at the Aracnoscience level.” The professor said as she introduced them to the labs which surround them. “ Thanks to the approval and funding from you Mr Fredrick, we have made tremendous breakthroughs in multiple fields, the labs you see here are dedicated to life magic or as you humans like to call it, biology.” She said as their group walked down the corridor. “ Ahh, its no problem professor, Though I am sorry we had to put that chip in your head in order to do this. It's just… the safety of our own people has to come first, you know having no magic and all that.”
“It's no problem at all, director, as long as it does not hinder our abilities ‘most’ of us are ok with it.”
“ Ah, that's great to know and all, professor, but why exactly have you called us here?” Marshall Jean interrupted as they continued to walk down the rows of laboratories and libraries.
“ Oh Oh, I’m glad you asked Marshall, its because of this.” She said as they reached the end of the corridor stopping before a large stone door, carved with runes and engravings. She gently knocked on the stone door, causing it to slowly creak open. Greeting them behind the right side of the doorframe, was a human scientist in a white lab coat,holding an electronic table. Her long blonde hair tied in a bun. To her right was a slightly taller red haired Elf clad in white robes and holding a wooden tablet in her hand, and to her left a towering green muscular Orc warlock with black hair clad in a similar white lab coat which looked like it’s buttons were about to burst should the Orc decide to flex and holding a 2 metre long wooden staff tipped with the skull of an oxen. “ These are the researchers that are responsible for the breakthrough.” Professor Greenstead said gesturing towards the team of 3, whilst stepping into the poorly lit stone antichamber. A large transparent glass tank was placed in the centre of the room, The stone circle around it was inscribed with various symbols compromising Elven script. In front of the tank was the cloned bodies of the 3 archmages, Dwarf, Elf and Orc, Each of the bodies was placed in the centre of an Orcish Arcane symbol. Their skulls were cut open and their cloned brains were removed and placed at their feet, facing the tank with an array of electrodes covering each brain, their wires linking them to the tank.The tank itself had Dwarven Rune carved into the base reading absorb. Inside the tank was a sort of brain, it was suspended in the air by wires hanging from the roof of the tank which then stretched down the back of the tank into the base, on closer inspection, the brain was not organic, it looked like a brain from afar but instead of the grey squishy biomass, it was made of warm black steel. The back of the room was a large table filled to the brim with human computers, Elven wooden tablets, and scrolls as well as Orcish bone charms.
“ Hello, It is…an hon…a pleasure to meet with you, Marshall, I am lead scientist Amelia. These are my colleagues Guranak and Windstrider.” She said introducing herself and her colleagues.
“ Please the honour is mine,do explain to me wha.. What exactly am I looking at right now”
“ YES!” Amelia’s face lit up, a little similar to Fredrick when he had first introduced his breakthrough in enchantment.
“ We have, after extensive…very extensive… research and effort, created an artificial blank slate,a mind capable of absorbing the souls of the archmage without their memories and in turn wield, their magical abilities as well.” She explained gesturing to the tank. As she led the group around the circle. “ However, what you are seeing is simply a testbed we had set up to test whether what kinds of minds could take that kind of magic. Guranak and Windstrider will explain the rest” She said, passing the explanation on to her colleagues as the group approached the large table at the back of the room.
“ Souls, and memory are very hard to separate, so we use elven life magic to leave memory in body while Orcish soul magic absorbs the soul.” Guranak began
“ Yes indeed, however the mana released from separating 2 fundamental parts of life from one another will squash any human, Elven, Orc or Dwarven mind, it has even proven too much from some of the ‘syn-tee.thick’ minds you humans have made. Thus we have made use of your new found mastery of dwarven enchantments to help resist this mana explosion.” Windstrider continued
“However since according to Guranak, and Windstrider our clones don’t technically have the proper souls, we would require the use of the original bodies and brains of the Archmages to create one capable of wielding the full might of these 3 formidable foes.” Amelia completed.
“ So your telling me, this thing would allow the user to use the power of all 3 archmages.”
“Yea.” Amelia answered, Meanwhile Fredrick was just staring at the tank in awe, his mouth agape.
“ Holy crap, you guys actually did it, my guys have been working on this for years t o no avail and you guys finally did it.” Frederick smiled, a wide grin appearing on his face. “ The possibilities behind this are endless.”
“ I don’t know, is there a possibility this thing might go rogue?” Marshall Jean asked
Amelia let out a worried sigh, “ Yes we thought of that, and that is why we need to ask you for one more thing….” She said, looking away for a second. “ We need a human host, more specifically, you. We need you to host it. ”
“ Wait, wait ,wait…” Frederick turned away from the tank. “ You want the Marshall to host this.”
“ I mean why not, Being the only human to ever merge with another mind and survive, The Marshall would be the best candidate to host this thing.”
“ Hmm, I see, and what are the chances of failure.”
“ Unknown, we have not had the chance of merging the testbed to a human host and we do not know what that might do to the person’s personality, or even soul for that matter.”
“ Then we cannot pro…”
“ I’ll do it.” Jean interrupted.
“What? We don’t know what it could do to you. You might go insane, die, or worse.”
“ I’ll do it, Fredrick, this… this thing would be the key to ending the war once and for all.”
“ Marshall, I cannot allow the Jeopardisation of humanity’s greatest asset.”
“ Please, for once just trust me.”
Frederick looked at the Marshall in the eyes before turning to look at the machine
“ Alright, but I will be overseeing the process.”
“ YES! Alright!” Amelia jumped into the air, cheering.
“ You will not regret this, Ma am. I am confident this will work.”
A few day later, in a lab in the human capital in the same facility that turned the tide of the war, the facility that gave humanity the power to save itself from extinction. Jean was hooked up to the synthetic brain, the cloned dwarven brain that had once resided on the nape of her neck was now removed, replaced with sprawling cables linking her directly to a glass tank with the synthetic brain. It was set up the same as seen before in the Human-Elven labs, except the 3 bodies were in different stages of decay as opposed to the fresh ones before. Their brains were still fresh though as they had been kept as fresh as possible to provide the blueprints for their clones. Frederick stood in front of Jean, who was lying on an inclined bed. Amelia and her team were watching the 2 from a glass viewing window above them.
“ Are you ready for this Jean?”
“ Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“ Alright, this is going to hurt.” He said, signalling a thumbs up to the team above. Instantly, an arc of electricity surged through the tank, its runes began to glow, as did the Orcish symbols and the Elvish circle. The bodies and the brains began to hover upward as electricity in the form of lightning came from the base of the tank, and arcane energies alike flowed from the circle and the texts through them. Soon the brains began to disintegrate its fragments flowing into the tank through the base of the tank, through the dwarven runes, their biological mass being absorbed by the runes and converted into an electrical signal which was sent directly to the mechanical brain which now surged with power. Jean screamed in pain and agony as this happened, the power of the synthetic mind being passed onto her own, sending every single pain receptor left in her body into overload. Passing out from the pain soon after, The lights began to flicker and soon after the bodies began disintegrating as well, their biomass quickly turned to ashes before exploding, coating the entire room in ash. The pulses of electricity slowed and the runes all began to slowly dim. Once the pulses stopped and the runes went dark. The room fell silent, the humm of the overhead lighting the only thing making a sound. “ Jean?” Frederick whispered as he slowly walked over to her. Jean let out a loud gasp as she shot upright. A muffled cheer could be heard from the viewing room above.
“ Oh thank god.” Frederick said, “ How do you feel.”
“ Amazing!” She said unplugging herself from the synthetic mind. She felt powerful, unlike the power she had before with the dwarf, one of pure rage. This time she felt in control, but she did see the world completely differently. She could see the blood flowing through Fredrick’s veins, she could see his soul, a bright blue glow just above his brainstem.Its a shame she couldn’t have any of the memories absorbed, having been corrupted by memes and all. Though She could still feel the air move in and out of his lungs as he breathed. Similarly she saw this through the one way glass of the viewing deck. Every air current, or movement she could see. Similarly, the earth underneath her didn’t even feel properly solid anymore. She felt it move and slide above the mantle of the planet, even ever so slightly. It felt like clay that she could just… A boulder was immediately lifted from the ground, tearing through the ceramic tile from and slamming through the ceiling tearing a hole all the way to the roof before being flung into the sky and off into the horizon.
“Damn.” she said staring at the roof. “ Oops” we let out a weak smile. Frederick was staring at the ceiling with his mouth agape, “holy shit… it worked” he muttered, before looking back at the Marshall. “Now that you have their magic, what will be our next move?” He asked recomposing himself.
“ I think…it's time we put an end to this Once and For all.” Previous
submitted by peaceman14
to HFY [link] [comments]
2023.03.28 18:07 Wine_Dark_Sea_1239 I own an abandoned motel and this is the end.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11] [Part 12] [Part 13] [Part 14]
I opened my eyes and blinked under the rays of the hot summer sun. My eyes adjusted and I realized I was on a boat, a familiar Sea Ray Sundancer. My uncle was at the wheel, my father standing next to him. No. No, no, no. Not this.
I tried to open my mouth to scream, but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak.
They were speaking calmly, but I could sense they both were anxious.
“It’s been getting worse, Denny,” my uncle said. His voice was almost unrecognizable to me, far from that of the jovial uncle who was always good for a laugh. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in days.
“She gets a kick out of spooking you, that’s all,” my father said, trying to reassure his brother, but not quite convincing himself.
“No, no. This isn’t just the occasional dead cat. I’ve been seeing
her. In my house, at work, nowhere near the motel. I…I…think I’m losing it.”
“What about Martina? Has she noticed anything different?”
“You know she doesn’t know about her.
“Yes, I know. But nothing different around the cottages?”
Hearing my father speak of these things, a voice from my innocent past speaking of terrors that now haunted my life—it was jarring to say the least.
“Nothing different. Denny, her laughter. It’s everywhere. Every time I close my eyes, I hear it. She wants…she wants me…oh god, I can’t even say it.”
“She wants you to end your life.”
Uncle Jim looked at his brother in surprise.
“I’ve heard her too,” my dad whispered.
My body shook in its invisible prison. Dad, no.
“We need to tell Nora.” My uncle said.
“You know it. You know she always finishes what she’s started. When we’re gone…Nora’s next. We have to warn her.”
My father leaned against the side of the boat, his face a mask of anguish.
“You’re right,” he said. “We should have told her years ago.”
The buzz of the boat’s motor increased and the boat began to speed forward, accelerating rapidly. Uncle Jim desperately grabbed at the throttle, trying to shift it, but it wouldn’t budge. The steering wheel spun out of his hands as though it was being controlled by an invisible force. My father tried to wrest it back into his control, but it too could not be moved by the men in the boat.
The boat continued to accelerate, bucking up and down on the water violently before finally swerving, hitting a shoal with great speed. I was utterly helpless as I watched my uncle’s skull shatter in the windshield. My father was launched out of the craft, I heard his neck snap as it made contact with the hull.
Their mangled bodies still seared into my mind, I found myself in a cold, damp room, sobbing on the packed dirt floor, my body once again my own. I sat up, a wave of dizziness passing through me.
I was pretty sure I was underneath Bellevue Castle, in the unfinished wine cellar, familiar from the numerous tours I had taken there as a kid. The cellar was filled with barrels of old building supplies, still in the same spot they were when the lovelorn (or perhaps bankrupt) owner called a stop to construction, over a century ago. In the opposite corner, however, there was something that wasn’t there in the tourist season.
Jake was huddled on the ground, unconscious, silver collar around his neck, his body laced with new, raw-looking scars, as though he had been scourged or cut.
I rushed over to him and began to shake his shoulder. He moaned.
“Here, let me take this off,” I said, fiddling with the silver collar. He winced; his eyes fluttered open.
“Nora?” He said, dazed.
“Don’t try to talk, I’ve almost got it off.”
“No,” he said weakly, grabbing my wrist. “No, no, don’t. Please!”
With a final twist, the collar clanged to the floor. But this only made Jake more agitated.
“Nora, put it back on. Put it back on and get out of her. Please, I’m begging you. Get as far away from me as possible.”
“What are you talking about?” I cried. “I’m not going to torture you.”
He took the collar, but dropped it with a moan as his hand burned at the contact.
“Run!” he shouted. He staggered backwards, and I could see the tell-tale signs of transformation. But this time, his eyes began to glow, his mouth lengthening into the snarl of the wolf twisted almost into a smile. The half-shifted creature before me laughed.
“Too late now, girl,” it growled. I bolted to the stairs, the grunts and howls of the final throes of transformation behind me. I climbed the stairs with speed I didn’t know I possessed, slamming the door behind me. The wolf threw itself against it, buckling the wood with a sickening crack.
I was in the castle’s recreated kitchen. Frantically, I threw down the elegant copper molds that lined the walls, hoping to slow down the creature’s pursuit. The cellar door gave way just as I fled the kitchen in to a grand dining room. My eyes immediately fixed themselves on the elaborately set table, ready for an Edwardian feast and my heart leapt with hope. Such a meal would never be served without the finest of silver
I scooped up the numerous utensils set before the nearest place setting, stuffing oyster forks, fish knives, butter knives, bouillon spoons, tea spoons and anything else I could fit into my jacket pockets. The door behind me shattered, and the wolf came barreling towards me. I hopped up on the table and flung a giant silver soup tureen at him, hitting him on the chest with a howling hiss.
“Sorry, Jake,” I muttered as I ran into the front hallway. I pulled at the carved wood door leading outside, but it was locked, bolted with a padlock for the winter. Behind me was the grand staircase of gilded oak and marble. My only way forward was up. I knew the wolf would not be far behind me, once he had shaken off his temporary debilitation.
I ran up the stairs, up one flight, now two. The restored Gilded Age luxury of the first floors morphed into a dilapidated, unfinished area of exposed beams and plaster, covered with decades-worth of graffiti. The wolf was in pursuit once more; I could hear the scratching of its claws on the marble of the stairs, making his way upwards. I turned around.
The wolf crouched some feet below me, grinning, far closer than I had thought. I pulled out a few silver forks and threw them at him, sprinkling more on the stairs between us. The wolf howled with dismay. My eye caught a long ladder leading up to the turret. Without further thought, I raced towards it, pulling myself upwards while unsheathing the knife at my belt. The wolf had shaken off the silver and was at the bottom of the ladder. I tossed my last handful of silver spoons at him, hitting him in the snout which bought me enough time to put more space between us.
I could see the opening to the turret above me. But just as I managed to get my upper body through, a claw grasped my boot. With all my strength I kicked at it, to no avail. I lowered my right arm and slashed at it with my knife. The claw released its grip and I dragged the rest of my body through the opening. The wolf snarled at me and he poised himself to jump. I pushed the ladder away and he fell to the ground. Now in the turret room, I saw a large metal filing cabinet against the wall and brought it down over the opening below with a tremendous bang that gave way to silence, revealing the ferocity of my haggard breathing.
I took a step backward into something cold, the parts of my body that had come into contact with it tingling unpleasantly. I turned around.
The witch stood before me, smiling that terrible smile, her eyes like coals. She was draped in thin, almost transparent, black silk, her body a corpselike gray. Her hair hung to her knees, wreathed in the brittle, dead leaves of late winter. I stumbled away from her, my back hitting the walls of the stone turret behind me, a large, arched window with a several stories fall my only escape.
“Girl,” she hissed, her voice a crackling flame. “I do not believe we have been properly introduced.”
“You need no introduction,” I said bitterly.
She laughed, the cadence about as pleasant as scraping paper with a broken pencil.
“Many mortals call me a witch. Is that what you think I am?”
“I think that’s a mere euphemism for what you are.”
“Smart little cow.”
She smiled slyly and perched herself on the ledge of the window, one bare leg draped over the side.
“I was once a girl like you. I danced before Baal at the dawn of men. I was found worthy. I became much, much more than a sentient pile of meat. My name was worshiped by emperors and queens. Generals and high priests prostrated themselves before me and offered me sacrifice. I am triodia, enodia, brimo, indalimos, chthonia
. I am Hecate.”
At the utterance of her name, she raised her hand, and my body began cramping in agony. With ease, she moved aside the filing cabinet I had pushed over. The wolf came crawling up the ladder, eyes still a possessed green, no sign of Jake within them. He crept over to Hecate and she patted his head, pleased at my anguished expression.
“Now we are only waiting for our mutual friend,” she said. From below, I heard a splashing in the water. I could see René climbing out of the river and over the fence leading to the castle grounds. He was waterlogged, filthy, and nearly frozen, his jacket gone, his shirt torn and bloodied in several places, indicating he had received and healed from several wounds in his struggle.
Hecate smiled coldly. She stood and, with an almost imperceptible motion, we were thrown out of the window on the back of a great burst of air, only partially cushioning my body from the fall. I hit the ground violently and my shoulder exploded into pain. I vomited. Hecate made some sound of disgust at my side. Her feet were bare on the frozen ground, but even in the barrenness of winter, earthworms burrowed upwards to writhe against her toes.
René made a move to approach me, but Hecate raised her hand for him to halt and a column of fire erupted between us, reaching high into the night sky. He took in a deep breath, ragged with rage.
“If it’s me you want, I cede myself to you once more. Let the girl and the wolf go and this will be my bargain to you.”
“So predictable. So boring. I know this will come as a shock, René, but it’s not about you this time. I reject your little bargain. Go mope around a lumber yard for another few centuries, I could care less.”
“Why?” I said, finding the courage to speak. “Why do this?”
“Because I stayed my hand when I should have destroyed your wretched forebears. For a century, I watched them fumble their way through a simple set of chores. Did you know your uncle dared to complain to me? He begged me to lift my curse, not for his sake, not even for the sake of his poor servant, but for you.”
She dragged me upright by my injured shoulder, digging her nails into my flesh. I tried not giving her the pleasure of hearing me scream, though it felt like my head would burst.
“Precious Nora,” she said with contempt. “I hope you enjoyed watching their last moments. I have made a decision, you see. I will snuff you out, each and every one of you. You Calnons are far too troublesome and extremely replaceable. I had planned on killing Martina too—such a loyal and obstinate thing she was—but then my dear René got to her first. Always good for that sort of thing, isn’t he?”
She took a fist full of my hair and pulled me closer to her face. René took a step forward, fangs bared, but Jake stood between them, snarling threateningly. She whispered into my ear, her words sickening me.
“I planned on killing you too. It would have been simple, quick. But then you had to find him
, didn’t you?” She glared at René. “The one who is mine. And then both of you, taking away my favorite pet. You upset me, Nora. You’ve upset me greatly. For you, not only death will do.”
A torch appeared in her hand and with it, she traced a flaming circle around us on the ground which ignited into a sickly green flame. René shouted and leapt at Hecate, but he collided with Jake instead and the two of them fell to the side, locked in a frenzied struggle.
“Now, now, René, no cheating,” she said, snapping her fingers. The silver chain René carried with him flew into her hand and she threw it in to the column of flames where it was consumed with a terrible hiss. She turned her attention to me.
“It is not the next quarter day for quite some time, but I am sure he
will not mind. I could not resist the symmetry of it all. You awakened to this reality on the night of the grand tithe and now you
will be the last tax the Calnons ever pay.”
Clouds appeared in the night sky, suffocating the stars, churning with ferocity, the green of decay. The air pressed down upon me, pushing the air out of my lungs, causing me to sputter and gasp. Hecate raised her hands, shouting in an ancient tongue. The sky tasted of wet earth and lightning; a frisson of electricity passed through me. A vial of water appeared in Hecate’s hands, and she performed her ablutions.
René pushed Jake aside, but a fissure in the ground opened between us. A terrible roar erupted, the cries of the damned comingling together into a dreadful force. Hecate pressed her palm to my forehand, her eyes glittering with malice, intoning words I could not understand. I reached for the knife at my belt in desperation, but found my sheath to be empty.
“Looking for this?” Hecate said, producing my knife in her left hand. With a cruel laugh, she plunged it into my belly. I heard René scream, but he already sounded far away. I looked down in shock. She pulled out the weapon and blood began to pour out of me. I felt no pain; it was as though I was watching this happen to someone else.
The vortex of voices became enhanced around me, and I was being dragged downwards and downwards. I was slipping into the void.
The world disappeared. There was nothing and I was nothing, or at least, nothing beyond endless misery. This was a place with no hope.
It is impossible to describe such things to those who have not witnessed them. I was in a great Maw, of that I could surmise. A great gaping Maw of flesh, throbbing, burning, constantly consuming. All around me I could hear weeping, sobbing, cries of madness or anger or futility. There were people here, or what was left of them. Tendrils of flesh fused their bodies to the walls of the thing, which slowly digested them, eating them away only for them to regenerate, continuing the torture in perpetuity. They were still conscious, if that word could be used in this place, unaware of each other, but making the most despicable sounds of suffering, some wailing, others grinding their teeth.
Arms of flesh tore at my legs, searing my skin. But just as quickly as they had come, the tendrils receded and the surface beneath me began to rumble. The wailing was overpowered by a growling coming from the Maw itself, as loud as a jet engine and as haunting as the roar of a jaguar. It was enraged.
My body was ejected. I was suspended somewhere, away, and then I hit the ground. My fingers dug into blessed, real dirt. I blinked and the stars were above me once more.
Hecate stood before me; her face twisted in shock. The column of fire was extinguished. Jake fell to the ground, shifting back into human form. René rushed to my side.
“It appears your payment has been rejected,” he said grinning.
Hecate scoffed. She took a step backward, muttering in that same ancient tongue, but nothing happened. I could see panic rising within her. She fell to her knees and raised her hands to the sky, speaking as though she were entreating someone or something. Little sparks danced on her hands, tiny pieces of skin flecked off of her, slowly at first, then hastening, faster and faster. Hecate let out a great cry and her body combusted into green flames, stripping her down to her bones, blazing until she was no more than dust borne away by the swirling winds.
A deafening sigh echoed around us billowing upwards into a swirling funnel cloud. Whisps of tormented souls rose into the spinning air until with a clap of thunder so loud the castle behind us shook, their whimpers were extinguished, released to their final fate. The clouds receded and the sky was clear and calm again.
I tried to sit up, but my abdomen erupted into pain. I was still bleeding. I was bleeding a lot. I tried to steady myself on René’s arm, but my fingertips were numb. René was speaking to me, but I couldn’t understand him. Get up,
I willed myself. Get up.
I could not obey. I was falling—no, I was flying, flying away from my body.
I was walking through a tunnel. Not a dark tunnel of terrors, but one of soft greenery adorned with flowers in colors beyond comprehension. There was sunlight on the other side. It was warm, so delightfully warm. With every part of me, I wanted to be there. There were people waiting for me, I knew.
I tried to step forward, but I was stuck. Something was dragging me, dragging me back into pain, into the dark. I cried. No, no, please no. Let me rest here. Please.
There was something in my throat, something thick and sweet. I choked, but I swallowed. I was drinking.
I wanted more.
It has been several nights since that happened. When I awoke, it was sunset again, as it will be for the rest of my days.
René is quieter now. I wish I could reassure him that he did the right thing, that I am grateful. He doesn’t seem to believe me, but I guess we have a lot of time now to figure it out.
“Time enough for you to grow to hate me,” he said sadly, pushing a lock of hair away from my face. I hope he’s wrong.
The cottages are peaceful now. The entities are gone. There is a sense of ease here that is permeating more every day, heralding the coming of a Spring like no other before. They’re gone too, the spirits of Cottage 14. I tried to go to thank them. After all, it was their blessing that had saved me from the Maw. They had kept their promise to Ellen. Your soul shall not be dragged down to perdition, you will not know the eternal flames.
The cottage door was open; there were buds on the trees. I think they have finally found their true home, their eternal rest.
Jake has recovered from his ordeal. He is still a werewolf, but his mind is now his own. With our help, he is mostly healed, though there are scars he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
We haven’t been doing much lately. Things are too raw, too new. We have just begun to breathe again. Sometimes we just sit by the river. A wolf and two vampires, a funny trio.
“I want to find my parents,” Jake said last night. René passed me his thermos, which I took a bit too eagerly.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I stopped by my old house today. Neighbor told me they were taken into assisted living a while ago, though he didn’t know where. Their minds…weren’t quite the same since I…” His voice broke. So many lost years, so many ruined lives
“I guess I’m just saying I’m leaving.”
“Do what you must, Jake,” René said. “You will go on. You are free now. Find your parents; find your own kind.”
Jake nodded. I caught a tear glistening in his eye.
“What will you two do?” Jake asked.
“Figure out what the hell to tell my mom,” I said chuckling. Even René smiled. “But you know, this place? It has some potential.”
And so, I find myself back where I started: with a giant pile of wallpaper books and a folder of paint swatches. René is pouring over plans for a complete remodeling of the cottages and motel with some structural enhancements. Given our change in circumstances, our business model and targeted clientele will be slightly different, slightly more…nocturnal.
But this is where the veil of secrecy must finally descend between us.
For now. x
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2023.03.28 17:57 Chilisicca Aunt is a lying drama queen who will destroy your relationships if you cross her with toxic lies. (All while calling you sweetie)
My aunt has always been a one-upper and a liar. My grandmother and I are very close. Closer than the two of them because aunt talks to her like a dog, thus my aunts daughters do too. Recently my grandmother was not doing so well so my she is living with my aunt. (My mother is the only other daughter and is a working person who struggles so didn’t have an extra room for my grandma.) my aunt is EATING THIS UP. (It’s been 10 days) Talking about how hard it’s been for her and how NO ONE HELPS HER and always has to rub it in everyone’s face that she’s the POA (weird flex but ok) (Side note: this aunt has never worked a day in her life- she has a husband who makes upper middle class income so she gets to stay home and judge people full-time.) The amount of complaining doesn’t fit the situation. My grandma needs very little assistance. Right now she just needed someone to make her meals, give her her pills, and make sure she doesn’t fall in the shower after being weak from a mild case of covid. They are looking for a retirement facility for my grandma and I called my aunt to say that if she doesn’t want to go to a retirement facility then I can take care of her since I only work 10 hrs a week after having my son. I just added “when we found a place for my mother-in-law it was really hard on her.” She flew off the handle and said “I would never put MY MOTHER into a nursing home!” And I apologized profusely for offending her and let her know that I knew she wouldn’t do anything against grandmas will and that I support whatever my grandma wants to do and can help in any way that I can. And that I know it’s been hard for her. To my face she forgave me. She told everyone in the family that I think that she’s trying to throw her in a nursing home and made herself out to be a victim of bullying or something. (She even went crying to my grandma.) So I told some family members that I do not think aunt is putting her in a nursing home against her will, that that was untrue. And so now because I preemptively told everyone she was lying, she is salty as ever. And I can only see my beloved grandmother by going through her.
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