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    1. #1
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      The Chapters of Helm

      This will be periodically updated.

      List of test participants--

      Nathan Aki - Uninjured
      Alex Denman - Uninjured
      Jackie Cho - Uninjured
      Marco Didoria - Uninjured
      Finn McCaorty - Uninjured
      Charlotte Briggs - Uninjured
      Revol - Uninjured


      Voice -
      Helm - Uninjured
      Chigun -

      Health status:
      Slightly Injured
      Severely Injured

    2. #2
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Chapter I

      Nathan Aki [Test Facility]

      There was nothing Nathan liked better than using his mind. He thought everything through. He analyzed even in the midst of a troubling situation. To any observer now watching in on the dark and damp chamber (where Nathan now found himself tied to a fishhook lodged in the ceiling) they would have been shocked at his calm resolve and calculating eyes. This logical mind unique to Nathan did not stop the young man from wondering just what was going on. His thoughts even turned to ponder how he had gotten there and what he had been doing the night before.

      A light flashed on taking the young man off guard. A window by the automated steel-plated door was illuminated, yet revealed nothing in particular through it. A moment passed and then a voice, one almost metallic, permeated the chamber. “Mr. Aki, a man selfish enough to wind up here. Welcome.”

      Either by magic or some unforeseen mechanism the ropes loosened. Nathan felt his bare feet pound onto the cold floor. He was free from the restraints but not from the icy room.

      “Who are you?” Nathan asked.

      “Our database here does not indicate that answering such a question is necessary,” it said. “Opening the door now. Please proceed.”

      Nathan heard the door pop and creak open. Taking cautious and slow steps he tiptoed over the hard ground and slipped through. Observing in awe Nathan went down a narrow hallway equipped with fluffy blue carpet and giant headlamps. Only then did he notice the necklace wrapped around his neck. It was hard as rock, though he couldn’t see what it looked like from its compromising location below his chin.

      At the end of the hall Nathan stepped down a single step and took notice of the circular chamber that spanned up two stories high. Before him was a locker, half open, with his name on it. Beside the locker was an opening leading to a grated stairway. What took him by the most surprise was a rectangular window above him that showed the stars. Space? Nathan thought. Impossible, this must be some sort of dream.

      He fished through the locker and found two things. One was an old dusty duffle bag. Next to it was a clean and polished double-barreled shotgun. Wasting no time he unzipped the bag and found within a thick raincoat, a bag of marshmallows, two shotgun shells, a hammock, an iPod with his name written sloppily on it, headphones and a firelighter. He glanced around. Seeing no one looking he stuffed the shotty in the bag, zipped it back up, and proceeded his way down the stairway.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Revol [Test Facility]

      Oh man,” Revol said as he crawled through the thin dark space like a rat.

      Ten minutes before he had woken in a jail cell. The cell had chipped paint, a slime and poop covered ground, a foul smell of decaying flesh and a piercing scream of a man from the next room. Certain that the behemoth behind the scream was looking for him he fingered for anything that would give him a way out. He found the shaft behind an eroded toilet. Removing the pot wasn’t much of a problem since it was not even connected to the ground.

      The grayness of the shaft went on and on towards one small point of light. He pressed on until, to his surprise, he something on the way. It was a flashlight. He took it with an eager swipe of the hand and clicked it on. He saw something else up ahead. It was a small pair of binoculars beside a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He stuffed these things into his jean pockets and gave a subtle laugh and brushed his long hair out of his eyes. Right before reaching the end of the shaft he found a sharp military grade knife. He put it in his other pocket.

      Turning off the flashlight and putting it away Revol climbed out of the shaft opening into a bright room with tiled floors and a receptionist desk. There were chairs and a white door on his right flank. He deduced it was some sort of waiting room for a hospital, but there were no people to be found. Then a strong metallic voice came into his ears.

      “What are you doing here, unknown? You are not supposed to be out of your containment.”

      Revol looked around rapidly to find the origin of the speaker. “Do I look like a child to you? For molesters you really screwed up.”

      “You do not even have the proper neck apparatus,” said the voice. “Please do not proceed further. You will be detained and sedated shortly.”

      “Listen, I don’t know who you are or how I got here, but there’s no way you can catch me. I’d like to see you try.

      Revol kicked the door beside him open and raced into the next room.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Alex Denman [Test Facility]

      23 years old, a young man on the threshold of all that life had to bring. Alex was nothing amazing; he had many novice talents yet brought nothing exceptional to the table. That aside, it was he who best represented humanity. He was no hero, he was no star, but he was a man who had trudged through the day-to-day grind of life.

      Until he woke up in on a damp, stone floor with nothing but his underpants and a tight squeeze below his chin.

      Alex kissed his palms to the ground and heaved himself up. Straining he saw nothing except a thin ray of light coming out of a slit in the ceiling. His thoughts raced, and he stood with a sense of fear crawling up his spine. “What in the hell?” he said, stepping forward and toppling to his knees.

      A voice, a mix between a computer and a man, shot against his eardrums, “Hello.”

      Sweeping the stone below Alex felt nothing he could use as a weapon. He stumbled about and groped the air to no avail. The room was empty.

      “What is it that you are doing?” said the covert person, “I should have you know that you are wasting your time.”

      “Home,” Alex yelled, “take me back home!” Then it clicked. Did he have a home? If so, where was it? Just what was he doing the day before going to bed?

      “I think it is fit to inform you that you are going to die very soon. I would tell all loved ones before you die. Once you are dead you will not be marked in any obituaries to inform them. I also want to tell you that you will certainly be going to hell. It is mourn-worthy, but that will come after you are dead.”

      “Why are you doing this?” Alex said with rapid breaths.

      “For the same reason that—“ it cut off. “I will be teleporting you now to the appropriate test preparation room. Please equip yourself and enter the briefing chamber. You will meet very nice people there. An aside—you are a coward. We will adjust for that.”

      Suddenly, a brilliant white light surrounded Alex. He stood there, shivering, until his eyes adjusted. Sure enough he had be teleported, though his mind couldn’t wrap around how such a phenomena was possible. He immediately noticed the wood table before an ironclad wall. There was an old dusty sack strewn haphazardly over the oaken surface. Taking a step forward Alex was shocked—his step made a loud thump. Rising his arms so he could examine them he observed what was unmistakably some sort of armor. The metal shined from the light coming from above, and he moved his fingers and felt the hardness of the gloves. The broad breastplate was molded perfectly to his body as was the greaves and boots. He took another step and was left with an open jaw. It didn’t burden him in the least!

      After the awe has run its course Alex moved to the sack and scraped out the contents. Inside was a bottle, a lighter, a small pocket knife, a cellular telephone, and a green key. Snatching the phone he immediately dialed 911. He slammed it against his ear and heard ringing through the speaker.

      “Hello,” said the same voice he had heard in the dark room through the phone. “What are you doing? You do not have time for this.”

      Alex stomped his foot and cursed.

      “Please proceed through the door to your right,” it said followed by a click.

      Frustrated Alex threw all of the loose items into the sack and carried it by his side. He turned to the aforementioned door, one made of wood like the table and quite out of place for the hard silver walls, and edged for it. Taking a last glance through the room he saw no other alternative. Knowing to stay was to starve he reluctantly wrapped his palm around the knob.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Charlotte Briggs [Somewhere on Earth]


      Charlotte Briggs stirred from her bed, squinting to see her black cat curled up beside her. Sunlight poured through the window to illuminate the fine cream carpet and her desk—one cluttered with her leather purse, a pink packet of makeup and lipstick, unfinished university homework and a book on scuba diving she never bothered to read. The ticking clock on her nightstand stared her in the face, screaming that she was late for class. Pushing the cat off and speaking a few silent words she realized she was still in yesterday’s clothes. Sighing she threw back the covers and slid off. Squeezing at her jeans pocket she slipped out a cell phone.

      Taking note of a new message, she thumbed at the keys until she opened up her inbox. There was one new message with the subject of “Test” from a number she did not recognize. She opened it and scanned the contents of the message for a moment. Then her face went pale. She read it over again to make sure it said what she thought it had said.

      “Please die.”

      The phone slipped from her shaking hands and her ass plopped down on the bed. The fear was irrational and primal. Her joints froze and she started talking nonsense to herself. Then she yelled, “mom!”

      There was no response.

      “Mom, get in here dammit,” she screeched. This time there was a response, but it wasn’t from her mother.

      “Welcome to the test facility,” said a rapid computerized whisper, “If you thought this clear fabrication of your house was indeed real, than it should be met by laughs. For it is laughable.”

      Charlotte darted up and retreated into a corner, looking at each crevice of her room to see where the voice seeped.

      “In any event it should be noted that women have a statistically lower chance of survival in a combat situation. You may as well take the gun in your purse and kill yourself.” Charlotte didn’t move an inch, “You have some attachment to your beating heart. That would be respectable in many circles but you really should just blow it out right now and get it over with. Am I speaking f—f—French? If you do insist on dying please proceed to the preparation room which happens to be through your door.”

      “You fucker,” Charlotte lashed out in tears. “This is all a big prank, right? You hid some kind of audio devices in my room. I swear if you do anything to me I’ll—“

      “Save your chastising rebuke for the answer is yes we did put audio devices in that particular room. We remind you that—shoot yourself now.”

      Storming to her desk Charlotte snapped open her purse and pulled out a desert eagle complete with loaded magazine. She stared at it a moment, knowing full well that she had nothing like it before. With baring teeth she flung the piece towards the ceiling and shot. The deafening blast and recoil sent her to her knees. She cradled her head, tears flowing down her cheeks. Once the ringing in her head had died down the voice returned to torment her.

      “Statistically speaking women use guns less often than men. I wouldn’t trust yourself to carry such a large responsibility. If you really wish to be violated in vulgar ways and then killed please go through that door. Perhaps it is some consolation that you have a 7% chance of being missed by someone. Finally, your mother actually died two years ago you just don’t remember. A giggling affair.”

      Rage consumed the young woman. Huffing and wheezing, she punched the oaken desk and stumbled to the door. “Fine, you bastard. I’ll go through the door, and when I go through I hope to take your head off.” Ripping the door ajar she passed through with hurried feet.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Jackie Cho [Test facility]

      Jackie loved to run. Somewhere deep in her memories she recalled herself lining up to race the 800-meter dash, a sweating mess from the hot summer sun that showered over her black hair and brown skin. The race started and finished in a flash, and she won by over two seconds. Afterwards she spoke with the other runners, laughed with them, and made friends. It was never about the competition, but about feeling alive.

      “I’m not alive,” she spat, “I shouldn’t be here. I should be—“ she drew a blank.

      Before her a statue resembling a gargoyle guarded a circular door. The door was halfway open, but even the temptation of the light that flowed in through that opening was not enough to get Jackie to walk, or even run out. She saw with her own eyes what that inanimate figure did to the man before her, one who was but ashes spread over the dark tiled floor. Her mind flashed with his burning, screaming body. He had dissolved into dust. She would burn, too, if she tried to leave. She stayed seated.

      “I’m not a bad person,” she tried persuading the rock carving, “sure I can be a smart ass, but who isn’t? I mean,” she fingered at the circlet around her neck, “I mean what did I ever do to deserve this? Am I ever going to be able to leave.”

      “No,” the gargoyle talked backed, sending Jackie to her feet. She recognized the voice as some sort of computer alteration. Wither there was a human behind it or not eluded her. “Must I spell it out for you,” it continued, “you are someone to be forgotten. Just another face that looks like everyone else.”

      “What? There’s no logic in that,” Jackie winced.

      “If you really want to get out of here than we will present a suggestion. The suggestion is this. Throw yourself at the mouth of this beast and we can all live happily hereafter. We were going to add you to the testing roster but you are clearly trash to be thrown away so we will not bother.”

      “No! Just who are you? And who was that man?”

      “That man was like you, loved by no one. He will burn in hell without leaving a single memory. To be sure you may leave memories, but they will be memories of bitterness that cause people to vomit. That is the kind of person you are, you cause people to vomit. I am vomiting right now, can’t you see?”

      Jackie focused but saw nothing of the sort. “Don’t you mean ‘we’ are vomiting?”

      “Incorrect,” the statue’s hidden eyes bored into Jackie’s skin. “That time it was only I vomiting. I am going to command this beast to incinerate you now. You are not part of this test. Farewell.”

      Jackie gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth. The fear that came so suddenly was unbearable. She stumbled back around the chair and pressed against the icy wall. The smell of smoke and ash filled her nostrils. The teeth of the gargoyle reflected on her wide eyes. Then, nothing happened.

      Nothing continued to happen for the following five minutes.

      Jackie lowered her shivering arms and arched her brows. “Miss Cho,” the statue spoke, “the attempt on your life was a complete misnomer. Reports say you are young, so we thought we would exploit that flaw by terrifying you. It was quite funny how you resorted to cowardice as your means of defense. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

      The young woman fell on her ass as tears formed on her eyelids. She heard a loud click, and then saw as the statue lowered into the ground. In mere moments it vanished from sight. At the first sign of the clear passage Jackie bounded to her feet and sprinted out into the adjacent room—square with a large computer panel and monitor taking up the whole front wall. After seeing there were no other doors or openings she skid to a halt. Around her she was surrounded by velvet wallpaper.

      The computer monitor flickered on. Text ran across the screen along with images of old ruins, wild birds, and trees. Assuring that she was in no immediate danger Jackie approached the control panel with caution. There was a slight relief inside when she realized that she recognized some of the keys from her own computer and technical training.

      “Woman,” the voice said from nowhere in particular, “I have a problem with this computer. It keeps showing me these stupid images. Be a doll.”

      Throwing her head back she delivered a punch atop of a set of keys. “I won’t say it again. Let me go!”

      “Why do you hate me?” it said, “I am commencing teleport now. Proceed to the preparation area.”

      In a blink Jackie was standing in a different room. It was small, only three times her width and barely one time her height. She stared at what was in front of her. A slide? She mused, I was just in front of a computer. What the hell?

      Sitting at her feet before the start of the funnel slide a backpack smiled at her with its colorful design. Recognizing it instantly she dropped down to unzip the various pockets. In the back rested a laptop strapped behind a pencil case, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich complete with a zip lock bag, and a notebook. In the first pocket awaited an MP3 player with headphones.

      Knowing these were once hers she secured the pack, then raced down the slide.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Marco Didoria [Test Facility]

      The first sight Marco saw was a woman. The red head was lying on him, her hands wrapped around his neck in a seductive fashion. Figuring he was still dreaming the man allowed it to continue, until he noticed she wasn’t actually doing anything. “Hey,” he murmured under his breath and felt at her back. The chilly, soft skin felt so real that he gasped. This isn’t a dream? As gently as he could he pushed the woman off and got a good look at her face. There was only one problem: there was no face. There was nothing but muscles, bones, and empty eye sockets.

      Gasping and gaining his footing he leapt back. The arched, church-like antechamber was covered with corpse--.marred, burned, and even skeletal corpses. Spotlights illuminated the grizzly scene, and iron statues watched with bated breath the ghostlike expression painted on Marco’s face. He wanted to run; he wanted to scream; yet he was as lifeless as the statues.

      Then came the voice, a synthesized voice of either a man or machine. “Hello,” it said, “Isn’t this like heaven? It is not everyday you wake up with a woman all ready on top of you.”

      “Shit!” Marco said.

      “We think it may amuse you when we share that I came personally to make this enchanting experience possible. Still, you do not express pleasure.” Marco shut his eyes. “This is where a very high percentage of test participants take a break. We would give you the exact percentage if our computer weren’t showing those stupid images. Yes, the images are stupid, like you. You are a very boring person when you think about it.”

      “Shut up,” Marco exclaimed, “just shut the hell up and tell me what’s going on.”

      “I would tell you to proceed to the preparation area but we have just realized a hindrance. You have no combat experience and would only die. Please join these dead now, I don’t really care how you do it.”

      A click permeated the chamber and the voice said no more. Marco wasn’t sure how much time passed before he moved. Starting with small baby steps he upgraded to large, frantic ones. He skipped and leapt over bodies.

      The open arched door caught his attention. Thinking the stench of decaying flesh would drive him insane, Marco took off full throttle for the escape. He hurdled over the last body and climbed six sets of stone stairs. The moment he passed the threshold of the opening a crash blasted his eardrums from behind. The doorway was sealed with a cracked, jagged slab of pure granite. The man couldn’t help but laugh at his first accomplishment, wiping the sweat that accumulated on his brow.

      The laughing stopped once he registered how much blood had been splashed all along the walls. Drips resounded from leaking pipes and the smell faired no better. Pressing his fingers over his nose Marco eyed the silver stairs that lowered into what he couldn’t describe as anything but a dark abyss.

      “Didoria,” the voice returned, “the door at the bottom will take you to where you so ambitiously seek. I do not understand why you are so eager to be killed by very nice people but I will give you this.”

      A huge weight pressed on Marco’s back. It was such a spontaneous happening that he lost his step and splashed into a puddle of blood. He climbed out from under the weight and examined it quickly. Marco wasn’t the most experienced at weaponry, yet here before him laid unmistakably a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Picking it up he rubbed his moist hand over the green shaft until, at the base he stopped before a keyhole. Thumbing at the hole he didn’t have the first clue as to what its function was.

      “Alright,” Marco mumbled, “say I actually need this for something in this twisted place. Don’t I get any ammo?”

      “No but we will provide you with a sack of completely useless goods. You are welcome, now proceed down the stairwell.”

      A pain shot through Marco’s head. Cursing and yelling, he plucked the grocery bag from his shaggy hair and eyed it. Indeed, everything he poked at inside was useless. : He found a pair of binoculars, a pen, soap, a small backpack and an ink cartridge filled with goopy black ink. Tying the bag around one of his belt loops he heaved the RPG over his shoulder and sauntered down into the unknown.

      [Continued in last part of this chapter]

      Finn McCaorty [Test Facility]

      Country music gave an ambiance to the small wood cottage, a soothing sound spitting from the speakers of a radio dated from the 1920s. Finn McCaorty, a carefree slightly short man with hair as red as lava, leaned back on a stool with his sneakers resting on a scratched up desk. He held a deck of cards in one hand and a smoking cigarette in the other. He eyed his would-be opponent standing on the other side of the desk. This opponent was a suspicious sort, a foot taller than Finn with radically long red hair and dark armor. He was a real freak right out of a comic book, but Finn didn’t care. He smiled at the stranger.

      “Have you heard a word I have just said?” said the man in black.

      “I’m going to need a few more drinks before I digest anything you’re throwing at me,” Finn said in a thick Scottish accent. “Would you play a round of poker with me now? Unless your hiding a lass somewhere around here, that is.”

      Finn gave another once around of the room. Again he was mildly surprised that there was no exit, or windows, or a clear light source. Shrugging he slapped the cards on the desk by his feet, snatched a flask of scotch whiskey and gave it a swig. To follow up he puffed a few smoke rings into the air.

      “Fool,” said the man in black, “I have lived through the hell you are about to experience, and you are fortunate to be in the only place where it cannot talk with you. You are going to need this.” The stranger pulled out a rolled up parchment and slapped it on the desk. “It’s a map. You will found out how to escape if you study it enough.”

      “That’s be nice,” Finn shrugged, “but why do I need a map for a place that’s so small? I mean I can see there ain’t any ways out of here. Right, what’s your name anyway?”

      Black feathered wings jetted out from the man’s back, “Chigun, and I have survived to pass on the message. Everything you are about to know is a lie.”

      Finn stuck the cigarette between chapped lips and lowered his feet to the planks below. Fingering the map he gave it a passive glance before stuffing it into a pocket. “Wings, huh? I must be drunk.”

      Chigun retracted the wings, “That black necklace you have below your chin is an explosive devise. Before you are able to escape, as I have, you must remove it. In order to do that you must find the demolitions expert on the southernmost island. I beg you, do not participate in the killing. You will only wind up being killed yourself.”

      “Wait, so tell me once more. I’m about to go onto some kind of island and kill people? Do I get anything out of this? I mean I’ve got no reason to go around shootin’ people and all.” The light in the small cabin intensified. Chigun bent over and pulled out a small pack, begging to throw all of Finn’s loose belongings, including a set of bagpipes, inside. “What’s up with that?” Finn said.

      The pack hit Finn in the chest after Chigun hurled it towards him. “It found you, so you’re being taken to the preparation room. I’ll do what I can, but for all intensive purposes you’re on your own. Godspeed.”

      The light became brighter and consumed Finn.

      [Continued below]

      Everyone [Preparation Area]

      Perhaps it was coincidence, or perhaps some kind of intervention. Everyone arrived on the grassy field at once. An Asian girl came down a slide connected to the white structure, a Scottish man appeared from thin air, and the others through different doors. Whatever the means of entering no one doubted that the sight was a beautiful contrast from the indoor confines of the test facility. The field went on for a good quarter mile before a line of exotic and beautiful trees took precedence. It was dawn, and dew rested on the ground while the birds sang exuberant songs. On the far left stood a stoned fort with a cannon fashioned on top. To the right was a slight hill leading to an old farmhouse, its windmill rotating in the morning breeze.

      In the middle of the field a jeep awaited a driver with a running engine. The men and women of the scene, no one saying a word, gravitated towards this vehicle. Right before a young man in body armor touched the automobile a signpost sprang up from the ground in front of him. On it was a list of names.

      Nathan Aki
      Alex Denman
      Jackie Cho
      Macro Didoria
      Finn McCaorty
      Charlotte Briggs
      The group of people stared at the list, then at each other. Confusion, strife, and anger showed in each of their faces. A mid-sized man with dark red hair and green eyes spoke first. “My name isn’t on this list, what—“

      The voice cut the man off. “Unknown, you were told to return to your containment. But we do not have time for this. I will be quick because I am sure you are all eager to start. This is a simple and light test on human endurance that we have proudly hosted for many years now. We are ecstatic to inform you that none of you standing here are human beings. You are points, and it is all you will ever be worth unless you complete the requirements requested of you. To put it simply, everyone here is an enemy of each other.

      “Each person that you kill will grant you a point, and you may spend your points for items and abilities that we sell at the base of the volcano five miles west of here. The one with dark red hair here is worth two points so you may as well kill him off right now. If you are lucky enough to be the last test participant alive we will send you home as the data collected will be more the sufficient.

      “There is a set of rules, as all of you on this list have explosives attached to your neck. Failure to comply will result in annihilation of your person. The first rule is to make no attempt to reenter the test facility you have just left. The second is that you should make no attempt to enter the volcano in the center of this island. The third is that you shall not leave the perimeter of the island space. In other words building a ship to escape is a very stupid idea. The fourth—if there are no deaths in a three day period I will blow you all up since it indicates to me that you are all very lazy bums worthy of burning in a fire. Finally, I reserve the right to add rules at any time and even if you do not hear about them I will blow you up anyway.

      “This concludes my speech. Now do as you will.”

      The men and women once more looked at one another…

    3. #3
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
      Join Date
      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Chapter II

      Day One (Morning to Afternoon)

      Daniel Seyton [Basement]

      “What are you doing?” said a rapid computerized voice. “You are not supposed to be in here. You are late.”

      Daniel Seyton pulled his leather trench coat closer to his body. It was difficult for him to fathom why he was in a small steel room with the smell of wood chip and the sound of chirping birds nearby. He eyed a ladder on the far end. Its rusty rungs, at least the ones still attached, went up about two stories to an open hatch. Through this hatch rays of sunlight poured in and revealed what little there was to the empty chamber.

      Daniel’s ass sat on the rock-hard floor. He rested his head on his knees and let out a moan. What is this? He mused. I hear a voice, and I’m in a place I don’t recognize. Was I kidnapped?

      “Attention depressed, middle class, and may I add good-for-nothing test participant,” said the voice. “You can stay here and wallow in your personal misfortune—an aside that misfortune is laughable—but I suggest you should climb up that ladder and kill nice people like everyone else. I have taken the liberty of giving some completely useless trinkets at the top.”

      “I don’t know what the deal is,” Daniel said, “but screw off. You’ve taken me here to kill me. So do it.”

      “Our reports say you are terrible with the females,” it responded, “there are some nice lady humans up there. Maybe if you just climb up that ladder you can succeed for once and not be a miserable failure. Yes, you heard me correctly, you are a terrible failure with your only hope to grow old and die alone.”

      “Your point? You’d think I’d know that without being told.”

      “Attention: this concerns you. If you do not climb up we will detonate your neck collar and your bitter attitude will be wiped from the earth.”

      Daniel laughed, until he felt the cold collar pressing at the bottom of his chin. Storming to his feet he observed each corner of the room meticulously. Unfortunately he couldn’t tell where the voice originated. Pacing to the ladder he wrapped a gloved hand around the first rung and gazed above him. The sky was blue and a bird soared overhead.

      “Fine,” Daniel said, “won’t you at least tell me why I’m here, and who you are?”

      “We are the committee of the craft’s owner. Interestingly enough, you are the first we have admitted this to. Perhaps you caught us in a good mood. You are here as an active participant in the pursuit of knowledge. You must eliminate-- you must murder all other human beings on the island if you wish you be sent home. Perhaps one of the other participants will fill you in on the rules and regulations before you slaughter them. Good day.”

      A frown formed on the young man’s mouth. With squinting eyes and shaking legs he ascended the ladder and climbed up into a sunbathed Utopian island.

      [Continued on “Revol”]

      Revol [Preparation Area]

      [Refer to “Daniel Seyton”]

      The speech of the unknown malefactor had concluded, leaving Revol wide-eyed. He cast suspicious glances towards his peers. Retreating ten steps he gazed at some whom had already taken off in a frightened sprint, and then at a pair of men in a vicious fight for the rights of the jeep. Deciding it was best time to retreat, Revol turned south towards the cannon tower only to find a pale, brown-headed man waving a shotgun with threatening intentions. Gasping, Revol swung around northward to find nothing hostile to block his path. Without a second thought his legs churned, bumping past a young woman with auburn hair.

      The open field of grass felt like it went on forever, the sun beating on his side—surprisingly hot for the morning. Proceeding, the young man caught sight of another person, an armored man with mahogany hair around the same age as he. Trailing the stranger with his eyes he noted his route led to the farmhouse up the hill. I won’t go that way, he thought, I’ll go straight. I’m bound to find an escape somewhere, along with the cameras and director.

      Breaking past the line of the forest Revol stuck to the rigid mountain wall on his right flank, brushing past thickets, bushes, weeds and tree branches. He gained some comfort from the melodious songs of the birds and crickets, yet there was something hollow in his stomach. It ate at him and absorbed the happiness that guided his normal jesting self. He slowed, took a glance back through the wall of leaves and stems, and let out a long sigh. “I really have to go through this, huh?” Revol kept his ears open for anything that might endanger him, such as footsteps or gunshots. He recalled that woman he had brushed past. A pistol had been clutched in those delicate hands.

      Step by step Revol forged on, sometimes rubbing his hand across the rough bark of a oak tree, or savoring the fresh aroma of white flowers patches. His mind was stuck in a loop, a cycle of spontaneous images—some of ruins he had never seen and others of ancient trees. He could only wonder if they were memories of his life before, or if they held some significance.

      The trees thinned out and the mountain’s rocky wall curved around to block his passage. Kissing the walls he followed it around until the forest ended and he entered a sort of grove. Crashing waters sent an aura of white mist in a crystal clear pond. A waterfall, he thought following the vertical stream up to where the water launched off of the top of the sedimentary plateau. Revol grinned at the soothing water speckles that hit him and he bent over to splash some of the liquid onto his face. Cool and refreshing, just what he needed. Sitting on a patch of weeds he eyed a bumblebee zip by and the small minnows darting to and fro in the water’s body. Beyond the waterfall he saw more trees, and then a vast blue. “Huh,” Revol said to himself. “an ocean so close to a pond. If we really are surrounded by water on all sides-- bah, fine then.” Gathering his bearings the young man returned to his feet and followed by the pond’s bank, reaching a rapidly flowing stream of white foamed water. Stepping in the shallow stream he trudged atop rocks. The icy water splashed his shoes; hitting the skin above his ankles.

      He continued along the steam for a good ten minutes, taking note of the old rotting logs and a set of train tracks that went for about fifteen feet before ending. The sun was visible through the reaching arms of the oaks, much higher in the sky than it was before. Then Revol saw it—a wood cottage in a clearing with stumps and a brick well. The door to the structure was wide open and there was a rocking chair on the porch. He didn’t see smoke coming out of the chimney or any signs of life. Veering right he stepped out of the stream and approached the cottage.

      Taking the first step onto the porch he heard a sound on his left. It came from the well— A pair of hands grasped the rim, and then a head popped out. Someone was climbing out! Darting around the side of the cottage he hid and peaked around the corner. It was a man, clearly in his twenties from his size and facial features. The stranger jumped out of the well, his leather trench coat blowing softly in the wind. His eyes were dark and he squinted as he glanced around. He looked angry, confused even. Who? Revol thought, I didn’t see him in front of the jeep earlier.

      “Someone there?” the man asked in a deep voice. “You here to slaughter me?”

      Revol had to make a choice.

      Finn McCaorty [Preparation Area]

      Like a sly little fox the young upstart, grasping a massive rocket propelled grenade launcher, shot for the door of the jeep. Finn immediately left his thoughts on the voice’s little speech and tied his sack of belongings around his shoulder. “hey now,” he darted for the hijacker holding the green launcher and threw a swift, dirty punch. It made direct contact with his kidney. Following up Finn hurled a rabbit punch for his neck, but instead got a fist full of air.

      Next he saw the jeep hijacker was facing him with burning eyes. He gave Finn a piece of his mind in the form of a kick to the chest— sending the Scottish man two feet back. Eating dirt and weeds, Finn used his hands to propel himself to proper footing—he found that the man was already halfway on the driver’s seat. There was no time to think. He ran like a professional marathon champion and, just as the door of the jeep slammed and the man started to drive off, Finn leapt onto the back and scaled onto the tan roof of the vehicle. He extended both arms as wide as he could muster and held on by the sides. There was no doubt it was going to be a bumpy ride.

      He saw a tree approach at around 30 miles per hour. The jeep swerved around it and rattled as the tires churned over scattered stones and rotting logs. The lashing wind made it hard to see. The speed of the jeep increased, and next time Finn opened his eyes to look he saw it had connected with an old dirt road leading off into the distance. Wherever this crazy man was going, it was far away. Still, he had every intention to see where and, if possible, take the ride for himself.

      That is until the jeep gave a real big shake, causing the street fighter to start and lose his grip. Gotta be going about sixty now, Finn thought, I won’t let go—

      He let go. Hurling through the air, he wove his arms about as the speeding brown road approached. Slam. He let out a yell as pain filled his arms and legs. He laid on his back, holding his sides and gasping for air. “Damn driver,” he cursed, “Oh god it hurts.”

      He remained there for a time, the blue sky in his vision and the songs of birds in his ears. He heard some far away voices, no doubt the others he had left behind. Still, he thought after the initial pain subsided, I’m far enough away now to be safe.

      He sat up and checked for broken bones, finding only tears in his pants, bloody scrapes and black bruises. He pulled himself over to the side of the road and sat up against the tree bark of an oak. Taking the bag from his shoulder (untying his masterfully done knot), he fished out his bottle of wiskey. Then, taking out the map from his pocket, he unrolled it and viewed.

      “Yeh, I need to get away and think anyway,” he said. He rattled the flask and got a feel for the whiskey left inside. It wasn’t going to last forever. Deciding it best to preserve until later it he returned it inside the cloth. “I don’t see nothin’ but forest on all sides.”

      Sure enough, apart from the road, it was a stretch of uninhabited wild land. Still, he had the map. He was sure to find something useful nearby.

      And so he had to think carefully about his next move.

      Marco Didoria [Dirt Road – Westward Bound]

      [Refer to “Finn McCaorty”]

      Marco’s back relaxed against real leather seats, the launcher resting on the adjacent seat and the sack still tied on one of his jeans belt loops. He kept one palm wrapped tightly over rough steering wheel using his other hand to rub his left kidney. He had watched the red-haired scoundrel fly off the back some five minutes before, leaving Marco wondering what had become of him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he hoped he was still alive. He knew exactly what was expected of him, but something in him didn’t want to comply.

      The dusty road stretched onward as if someone had taken a long piece of brown tape and stretched it through the forest. The sun was all ready set high in the sky forcing a glare through the windows. Everything inside vibrated, doubtless because of the rocks and twigs strewn along the motorway. Marco observed colorful parrots perching on the arms of the trees, small crumbling stone murals of unknown significance and pieces of railroad planks with bent metals. Shrugging Marco rowed down the window. Wind splashed the side of his face and messing his shaggy hair. Curious Marco flipped on the radio.

      “Broadcasting in English the first time,” said a woman in slurred speech, “we bring to you the Apian news all around the clock. We are on sight before the eighth overhead node to report a new steel drive. Volunteers are working to bring in old rods and beams that have lost their importance and no longer benefit society. You may be wondering where these useless pieces of steel are found. Well in the old civilian center outside the twentieth over-sky highway there are many abandoned facilities. We give credits to each pound you retrieve. Please submit your will and caring and travel to these points now marked on your crystal diagram.”

      Marco pushed the volume button to shut off the foreign rant. He was just about to increase speed to seventy MPH when instead he slammed the break pedal with a guttural yell. The jeep jerked and skidded around 180 degrees and came to a halt. Marco snapped the door open and secured his RPG. He glowered at the cliff that has nearly spelt his doom. It was a clear drop, a good fifty feet. There he saw most of the island, a canopy of green and the vast blue at the sides. There was a pointed volcano about a half a mile out. To the left he spotted house roofs, and to the right tall stone pyramids.

      The bushes and trees were too dense on either side of the road for the jeep to have much use. Deciding to leave it there (remembering where it was in case he had further use) Marco headed leftward along the side of the cliff. He used the front of the RPG to break off twigs and fend off patches of thorny vines. Sweat formed along his hairline from the heat of the sun. Why is the sun rising in the west? He thought. How backwards is this place? He broke through into a rocky clearing. Shying away from the cliff’s edge Marco took particular interest in a small shack hut. Past this tin house there were three targets set up on painting canvases. Wasting no time Marco barged into the hut, coughing from rising dust in the interior. There was a workbench sitting at the far end—wrenches and screwdrivers scattered across it. At the right wall there was an old rusty car, tireless with shattered windows. Waiting near the opposite wall sat a pair toolboxes. Padlocks sealed their contents from potential robbers.

      Swatting a mosquito from his shoulder the young man put the launcher down and stretched his arms. He would take time to think about his next move. Should he comply and go after someone? Should he keep running? Was there anything useful to be found here? Finally, could he survive?

      Nathan Aki [Preparation Area]

      A quick unzip of the duffel bag yielded the shining double-barreled shotgun. Nathan opened the chamber and thumbed both red shells into place. Sloshing the bag over a shoulder he aimed the weapon at no one in particular, scanning from the jeep over to the silver walls of the research facility. The slender woman with long brown hair in jeans and a tight shirt caught his attention. She was petrified, pale-faced, and yet she was packing some serious heat. To Nathan’s great relief no one tried anything threatening to his person. Once he had backtracked about twenty steps he turned and sprinted away, his vision a blur from the speed of his plight and the wind. He had his sights set on the stone fort, only a tenth of a mile or so away.

      He passed the clearing into the protective sanctuary of the forest, droplets of water splashing on his head from the tree’s leaves. He skipped over thorny vines and mossy stumps until he came upon the base of the fortress. An arched doorway allowed him easy passage; without further questions the man raced inside.

      The ground was covered with sloppy mud. Looking up Nathan saw the cloudless sky. Immediately he went for a ladder on the far end leading up to a wood balcony that stretched all around the stone structure. His feet darted across the moist planks until he reached the base of a cannon. It was a black behemoth of a weapon, the large barrel set on a flexible base for ease in aiming. Nathan poked his head over the stone and set his sights on the preparation area he had moments before retreated from. Not a soul was left—each and every person had dispersed in his or her own direction. Someone even took the jeep.

      Disappointed at having no one to aim at, Nathan rubbed his chin. I’m at more of a disadvantage in this rock. I might be able to find a covert way to eliminate the targets.

      Just as Nathan turned to leave he noted a rusty boxy on the other side of the cannon. Seeing that the wood catwalk was too narrow to walk around the cannon, he reached for the scorching hot top of it and pulled himself up. He landed on the other side and placed the shotgun down, popping the box’s lid open.

      Inside awaited a box of pistol bullets, a box of shotgun shells, two rockets and two grenades.

      Nathan smiled. “Excellent."

      Alex Denman [Preparation Area]

      Alex’s green eyes spotted the farmhouse towards the northwest. His legs were frozen and the warmth drained from his hands. This can’t be happening. He detected movement around him. Deciding it was best to move too, he darted across the grassy field, crying out in a vain plight. He swooshed past a tree, and then by a small patch of swampy water. His legs barely scaled up the incline of the hill, falling flat on his face once. He pushed himself up, comforted by the sight of his shining gauntlets, and pressed on the rest of the way after reclaiming his sack of goods. The farmhouse was of wood, painted white. There were two windows on the side he approached but both were covered with curtains from the inside. Glancing back Alex’s shoulders sagged. No one had followed him. For the time being he was safe.

      The sun cast shadows from the trees. Alex slipped around the corner of the house and gazed up at the windmill. It was twice as high as the farm home; its four struts rotating from the morning breeze. His attention turned to the wood door, its window also covered from the inside. Squeezing the knob Alex forced his way inside. Immediately he saw a table In front of the yellow wallpaper. There were additional doors on his left and right sides. Kicking the front door closed with his foot Alex noticed a metal box on the table.

      He popped the latch open and peeked inside. “No way,” he said from his shock. There, waiting for him, was a machine gun with a circular magazine holding god knows how many rounds. Fingers trembling he took it out, feeling the immense weight and imagining the potential power such a weapon held. Alex had both offense and defense covered. Now it was time to formulate a plan. He considered his options while staring at the gun’s black steel. Would he try and follow the voices suggestion to kill the others? Would he keep running?

      Alex had to make a choice.

      Charlotte Briggs [Preparation Area]

      The voice had told her that her mother was dead. Now, Charlotte Briggs stood in a foreign world after stepping from her room. She kept looking back at the chrome door she stepped out of, feeling as if a camera crew was about to show up and explain she had been captured as part of a television special.

      No such luck. The young woman put distance from the others, observing to see if anyone cared to explain what was going on. Instead all she saw was a man kicking someone to the ground, another waving a shotgun as he backpedaled, and the sprint of a frightened man in shining armor. Then someone hit her in the side. She nearly toppled over, catching the man who claimed not to be on the list running off northward. Fear grasped onto her like a hand squeezing the life out of her. I’m exposed! She thought I have to get out of this clearing too. The silver shine of the desert eagle reminded her of her superiority. Right, I have a weapon. None of these bastards will touch me.

      Charlotte followed in the footsteps of the redhead, passing the testing facility building and slipping from the clearing. She wove between trees and screamed when she saw a snake slithering out from a mossy rock. She stomped on its head with lightning reflexes, glancing behind to assure herself that she was indeed alone. She proceeded, step by step, keeping close to the mountainous wall on her right side. As she went she heard something, freezing her in her tracks. Pointing the gun and waving it back and forth, she eyed her surroundings carefully. The sound came again—unmistakably footsteps.

      She wedged a tree between herself and the unknown assailant, poking out enough to the aim the gun as best she could in the direction of the sound.

      [Continued on “Jackie Cho”]

      Jackie Cho [Near Preparation Area]

      [Refer to “Charlotte Briggs”]

      Jackie knew she’d been spotted. She didn’t know if it was from her colorful backpack making too much contrast from the trees, or from her hasty steps. The moment she saw the silver gun poke out from behind a tree she lunged to her chest, using a boulder as cover.

      Moments before, back at the insertion point, she thought herself crafty having disengaged and hid in the trees before the speech had even concluded. There she observed—noting nothing except frantic behavior. She had seen the red-haired man dart past, but decided to stay in case any groups formed. By the time her female peer approached she had long concluded that nothing constructive would happen. So she followed her. Jackie knew larger groups augmented survival chances, and for some odd reason she thought she might be willing to form a group.

      She regretted it. I should have noticed the gun, she thought. Then she yelled, “I’m not going to hurt you. Calm down!”

      In response the woman said, “How do I know? You heard the guy: we’re all enemies. Screw off!”

      “You weren’t the only one with a gun,” Jackie said, covering her head as if to give additional cover, “I saw this guy going for the fort with one. We—we have to work together. It’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

      In truth Jackie didn’t know herself if she wanted to form an alliance with this clearly unstable woman. If she ran now she would probably be safe. She knew she had to choose her next actions carefully, lest she become this woman’s first victim.

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 01-23-2008 at 02:04 AM.

    4. #4
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Chapter III

      Day One (Afternoon to Night)

      Nathan Aki [Southern Fort]

      The clunky box weighed a good thirty-five pounds. Nathan heaved it into the bag and fingered for the smooth metal of his shotgun’s handle. Thus equipped, the man stood with the bag’s strap constricting a shoulder.

      The sun glued high in the sky; it grinned towards the pale white stones of the fort. Nathan had all ready slipped his way out the back doorway and shot through muddy grounds in the midst of a sweet and pleasant aroma. The birds chirped, crickets sang, woodpeckers pecked and bees buzzed. Twigs, pale leaves, rocks and rotten logs crunched under Nathan’s sneakers and water continued to drip on his dark brown hair. There was no way to deny it-- it was a great mimicry of Earth, an almost exact duplicate of some tropical forest island. Nonetheless the man was already counting in his mind the flaws their captors had made in the construction of the Earth mock.

      The most obvious was the sun rising from the west and preparing to set eastbound. Additionally the trees were very similar in composition, most of them having exactly ten braches. Jagged white stones were placed systematically in rows ten feet apart every fifty steps or so. Finally, upon observing a few of the bumble bees he discovered anatomical flaws in the thickness of the wings and body. And what was with that window peering out into space? Nathan wondered. I saw that right before heading outside. Perhaps it was a television screen. If it was indeed real, what does that mean?

      The density of the trees lessened. Leftward Nathan laid eyed on the mouth of a cave at the base of the brown mountain wall. To the right grew an expanse of tall wheat-like grass, a pointed radio tower a half a mile beyond. As appealing as these options were, Nathan was lulled on by the sight straight ahead-- the ocean. He stomped forward (sending some grazing deer into a frantic run) and lowered the declining landscape to the shoreline of the isle. The beach, void of any sand, consisted of rocks and splintered planks of wood. Nathan scooped one of the planks up and felt the rough texture.

      “I can see the shadow of land in the horizon,” he said gazing out over the vast blue. “Perhaps it is better to let them do the killing for now. I have a strange inclination that something important is out there.” Nathan plopped the bag down, unzipped and yanked out his hammock. It was a tangled mess of white string. “I have the wood, I have the string. To work…”


      The sun’s final rays vanished behind the mountainous mass to the left. Nathan tied his last knot. He get up, stretched his limbs and nodded in approval at his newly created raft. It spanned out five logs, three feet wide and seven feet long. The rope (that had before been a hammock) crisscrossed and bound the boat together. There was no doubt in Nathan’s mind that it was adequate enough to hold him on a voyage.

      Walking down the shoreline Nathan did his best to estimate the distance to the island. When he was comfortable with his position the man threw the raft down onto the shallow portion of the water. Turning he snatched the biggest stick he could find to act as an ore and then laid flat on his belly over the raft. Before setting sail he tied the strap of the bag around his stomach and assured it was zipped up tight. When he knew all was as it should be Nathan pushed the rocky shore with the stick and began to traverse the dark icy waters.

      It was wobbly and unstable, yet it floated. He carefully stoked the water, alternating from left to right, glad to see he was making some, even if little, progress.

      And so he sailed on into the night’s horizon…

      Jackie Cho [North of Preparation Area]

      Run, the thought ripped through her head. In truth she started to run before the though occurred, and now the forest sped past her in a blur-- her calves burning, her arms screaming as braches and thorns cut at her skin. Running, Cho decided, had to be the only logical choice. It didn’t matter who it was. Anyone clutching a pistol equaled bad news.

      A gunshot blast slammed her ears. Shrieking and picking up speed she wove around trees until she broke out from the forestry. Ahead a railroad track cut across white rocks, leading off into a tunnel made of concrete. Yellow signs were placed along the sides of the track, displaying a black cautionary “v”. past the tracks and up a leaf-riddled incline a white boulder rested in front of the face of a small mountain. The white stone shined in the evening sunlight. Piney trees were rooted few and far between.

      Jackie immediately bolted for the concrete tunnel to find a grated fence and padlock denying access. Flipping around she went the opposite direction, racing down the wood tracks, her only thought focused on escape. The tracks turned slightly, reminding Jackie of a slithering snake. The sun vanished behind the accumulating clouds above; the world around grew dark and more dreary. Then Jackie realized she was tired. She veered off at the first patch of trees, stepping through weeds to get into the vital cover she desired.

      She heaved the backpack between some roots and eyed the stout branches of a tree, deciding they were just wide enough to hold her although uncomfortably high up. Near the base, the branches were thin, though a few looked stable enough to climb on. Giving an uneasy glance around, Jackie unzipped her backpack and sliped her sandwich into a pocket. Following this she collects a number of stout sticks along the straw-scattered ground. She lodged a few of them near the weaker branches in hopes of making them look more durable. Anyone who comes after me will make noise, she thought to herself, scraping some leaves closer to the tree’s perimeter. Either by stepping on these leaves or breaking some of the branches.

      Stepping up on one of the few sturdy branches, Jackie muscled her way up towards the top. Once she found a comfortable branch, camouflaged by the tree’s leaves, she rested her back against the bark and wrapped her legs around it. Things were getting dark-- real dark-- and Jackie did all she could to suppress the fear that bored her insides. Thinking the food would help she took the sandwich from the bag and started to chow down. The bread was stale, though for some reason it seemed like the most delicious meal of her life. Tossing the zip lock bag aside she watched it float down near her pack. Jackie gasped, seeing something very peculiar near where the bag landed. There were two orbs, a red and yellow aura, staring at her. A pair of eyes.

      “Whoa now,” Jackie said nearly loosing balance. “Whoever you are, go away.”

      The eyes came closer. Jackie made out the rest of its body. It was a tall man donning blue and silver armor. His eyes indeed pierced through the evening darkness and his grin showed a pair of sharp fangs. Most peculiar of all were black demonic wings, much like the kind Jackie saw in comic books, stretched out from its back. It cocked its head up, its radical aqua hair drooping in front of half of its face. “Contrary to your feeble perception begotten by too much time with normal humanity,” it said in a deep voice without its lips moving in the slightest, “I am not going to hurt you.”

      “I don’t care,” Jackie shrieked, “I don’t want to see another living thing as long as I live. Go!”

      “Interesting that your curiosity doesn’t peak in regards to my identity and abnormal qualities,” said it. “I would caulk it up to a state of shock and disbelief continuing from when you started this little game. In any event I am here to help you. You are at present the most helpless, as I once was. Yet in your eyes I detect a will to kill, a dormant aggression that you’ve never been able to release, a passive attitude that you secretly despise. You want to kill the others. You want to go home. Home, yes. A warm room with a delicious steaming meal. A cat on the couch, a fire crackling, a touch from family. Ironic that home is the reward for winning, when winning requires you to do everything contrary to what you’ve learned from home. Well, it would be ironic if the reward wasn’t an enormous lie. Still, being the final survivor has its rewards and you get the gift of continued survival, even if its on a maggot’s level.”

      Jackie couldn’t believe her ears. “Who--”

      “The Phoenix. I already know your name. Now then,” In the flash of an eye The Phoenix perched on the same branch where Jackie sat staring at her from one foot away The shine left its blue hair, the sunlight waning further. “I could fill you in on Ap and the relation to this island but I don’t think you care.”

      “But I do!” Jackie insisted. “Tell me everything, please.”

      “Denied. I will not waste my breath on trivialities that will in no way ease our situation. Take this,” The Phoenix contracted his wings. He pulled out a gun from behind him, his gloved hands shoving the piece in front of Jackie’s nose. She took it. It was long blue-plated gun. The barrel extended past the body. A red and yellow shine reflected on it from the monster’s eyes. “A rail gun,” it said. “Fit anything that you can push in the barrel-- a stick, a metal bar, so forth, and it will shoot it in a manner more efficient than any pistol. If the substance you load inside is hard enough it can even go through objects to reach the desired target.”

      “I really don’t want to k-- kill though,” she said, “But I mean. It might come in handy for defense…”

      “You will kill starting now and end this fiasco as quick as you can. I’m not sure if you have the blood of Helm in you, but you are the one I have chosen to finish this. Remember that you must be willing to kill or you will never see tomorrow.” It leapt off the branch and flew into the night like a vampire bat. It was gone.

      Alex Denman [Farmhouse]

      The machine gun proved more burdensome than he first imagined when he found it within the old box. It was heavy, bulky, and somewhere in the back of his mind he imagined himself accidentally pulling the trigger and putting a hole through his foot. Still-- he knew practically well that there was only one logic reason for carrying it with him-- murder. The haunting voice of the mechanical malefactor echoed in his head. I must kill everyone, Denman’s thoughts went wild. I don’t know who I am but-- I know I don’t want to hurt anyone. I-- I’ve always wanted to help people-- to be there for someone.

      The pressure of the neck collar was overwhelming, and even the light from the sun that seeped below the farmhouse’s door faded into a dread-evoking darkness. Alex pictured that some reptilian monster would leap out if he proceeded farther into the farmhouse. He felt much safer below the open canvas of the sky. Once he had slipped back outside ontop of the grassy hill he scoped behind the windmill. The wall of trees covered part of the orange and indigo sky. A gunshot pounded a distance away. That was all Denman needed to hear to get his body moving. He pawed the gun with both hands and zoomed for the cover of the greenery, lowering his body as if expecting a sweep of bullets to take his head off. I can’t do this, he thought as he went, panting heavily. I just can’t hurt anyone else. It’s not me. Only if absolutely must. Only if I’m cornered…

      Constellations of stars watched overhead. Alex slowed his pace (gasping at every shadow of every tree) and then came to a complete stop when he saw something run past. It was a red and yellow streak, a creature that he thought a man from the heavy footsteps and gasping breaths. It vanished as quick as it had came, and it left Alex paralyzed with fear.

      Was there any escape? Would he remain running the remainder of his time, destined to be shot or obliterated? What was that strange creature? He proceeded at a crawling pace, hypnotized by primal terror and the vastness of the moonless night sky.

      Finn McCaorty [Dirt Road]

      His head ached, arms burned, legs seared and chest moaned. The red-headed man had fallen asleep lying by the dusty road, head on a wet and mossy stump and his bag of goods clinched in a fist. When he woke he heaved up, abs sore, smirking in the direction of the dropping sun to the east. He plucked out the map the stranger Chigun had granted him and, taking advantage of the last spat of light, studied it intently. He pressed his bony finger on the spot he estimated he resided. Just a little trip southward and I’m at a garage. He may not have secured the jeep thanks to the shaggy haired bastard, but he would surly get something just as good.

      Once Finn returned to his feet he gave a big toothy grin. He knew his injuries were healing up. The man walked forward south of the road, stumbling as if drunk, all the while wishing it was true. More than once he lost his balance over a slippery rock, or jumped from his skin at the sudden flight of a crow from the trees’ canopy. Above-- through the ceiling of leaves-- Finn admired the stars, stirring in his head the image of some mystic land on a mountain, a blond beauty by his side and bagpipes in hand. Then again, Finn thought, feeling an insect bite the back of his neck, even loosing all my money to the guys would be better than this. Hell, anything.

      He dawned upon the garage sooner than he expected, running into the side of the brick structure and jamming his nose. “Shit,” he yelled, stumbling around the corner and catching sight of the open garage door. It was a peculiar sight: the tiny structure in the middle of a tree-infested terrain, no roads connected to it or any signs of civilization around it. Shrugging, Finn stammered through the open door and fingered the cool drywall for a light switch. It took him five minutes before he found it and flipped it.

      Barren came to mind. The overhead lights reflected on smooth concrete. Finn approached a small tool bench first, dust rushing up his nose when he inhaled. “Lesse,” he said, “Gotta kit of hexagonal screwdrivers, a knife, a roll o’ bandages,” he moved the clear case with the bandages out of the way to look behind it, “keys to somethin’, and a book.” he scraped the book across the wood surface to read its title: Ap Tu, Pessue Husu.

      The right corner of the garage took Finn’s attention. Black cloth covered something half his size. Unable to stop himself Finn let down his bag and map and tore the veil off the object. He stood shocked at the sight of a motorcycle, and a new one at that. Its muffler shined, its seat spit polished and Its casing a sleek black and grey that gave it a professional sports-grade appeal. Finn yelled in excitement, discovering that the Yamaha was fueled and ready to go.

      “Oh, this is amazing,” he said, “Who needs a gun when ya got this bad boy.”

      After the initial excitement waned Finn sat against the dented wall beside the bike. It was night, almost impossible to see outside, and given that the garage was surrounded by forest for at least a quarter mile, Finn decided it best to wait before driving. Besides, his mind spoke, there are killers out there. Hell if they get me. I’m not an easy one to get rid of!

      Unconsciously he reached for his flask of whiskey.

      Charlotte Briggs [North of Preparation Area]

      The Asian trash poked her head up from behind the jagged boulder. Then, like a rabbit, she ran in a zig-zag fashion using some stout pines and oaks as cover. Charlotte yelled, taking aim as best she could (though failing to adequately line up her sights). In the pull of the trigger she was sent back into the rocky mountainous wall, her ears, like the time in her room, consumed by the tinnitus following the blast. The shock faded, and Charlotte knew deep within herself that she had failed to make the bullet connect with her peer‘s flesh. This feeling was confirmed when she ventured out from her cover and followed in her would-be-victims tracks. Charlotte saw what she thought might be her in the distance: a figure passing by trees and through bushes.

      “Fuck,” Charlotte said. She stomped her heel on a twig. “I-- I could have had her. I should have blown her brains out the moment she said anything to me.”

      She felt a fire burn within. There would be no tolerating these strangers. If she didn’t kill, another would take advantage of her and she would be the one breathing her last. That in mind-- she was left perplexed. What now? Without thought of properly answering that question Charlotte pressed the desert eagle against her chest and took delicate strides in the direction she had come from. When the preparation area, complete with signpost, came into sight Charlotte cautiously walked around to avoid being exposed in the open. The light of the day vanished, and by the time she came beside an old farmhouse onto of a hill the stars were out and she had trouble seeing very far in front of her.

      Charlotte heard a woodpecker in the distance along with the call of a crow. The wind brushed her hair and the moist evening grass kissed her ankles. She crossed over a toppled tree, skipped over a rivulet and even caught sight of a dirt road. Where she was going was a mystery, but it comforted her to know there were no sounds of footsteps, no voices, and no human contact. The forest continued with the same trite, nondescript details up until Charlotte caught flashing red lights above in the sky. She also heard the crash of ocean waves. Sprinting to the base of the tower she grasped hold of one of its metal beam. There was no doubt about it-- it was a radio tower.

      Scanning the gravel surrounding the tower Charlotte’s eyes locked onto a tiny shack made of flimsy red metal with a tin roof. Behind the shack and down a sharp hill she saw vast black waters along with distant far off lights. That’s either another part of this place way over there, she thought, or there are smaller islands out in that ocean. She looked from the tower, to the shack, to the water and finally to the dark forest wall behind her. It was night, the perfect time to hunt prey. Yet still the tower might hold some secret, perhaps the key to finding help. Finally, the islands held a mysterious and exotic appeal.

      Need to act,” Charlotte frowned, “I swear to God I will come out on top…”

      Marco Didoria [Dirt Road -- East Bound]

      It was dark, the sun dipping below the mountain that lined behind the infamous test facility. Marco had hit the road again, this time in the opposite direction. The red-headed man must have invoked his sympathy. Or, perhaps, the spark of fear in the man’s eyes told him he was like himself and, therefore, trustworthy. Either way Marco was searching for him.

      Twenty minutes before Marco had cleaned house at the work shed. He had taken a wrench and shattered the padlocks on the toolboxes. To his great delight there was a rocket inside, a thin pointed missile that fit into the shaft of the RPG like a glove to a hand. He had also pocketed a box of shotgun shells, a grenade and the wrench he had used. Needless to say returning to the jeep with all his acquired goods proved more than a light task.

      Now Marco, realizing his headlights were still set to low, switched the knob to augment their intensity. Again curious the man punched the radio button with his finger. He thought deep inside that maybe, just maybe there would be some clue in the programming. “--node is 12 miles high from the underworld,” said a man’s voice from the jeep’s speakers. “The gracious ones above, and of course we mean the ones in the mecha-planetary ring, have declared new freedom grants in regards to occupational selection on a personal level. Of course the OCU-tests will still set limits to some choices where the individual is shown to explicitly lack the qualifications.”

      Marco slammed the breaks, shifted the jeep into park, cut the power to the engine and pocketed the keys. I’m sure of it, he thought. This is where that guy fell off from. I should find him around here somewhere. Marco snatched his bulky sack and rocket launcher. Popping the door open he stepped into the rough dirt and took a close survey of the ground. He kept his body low and squinted to see, going step by step and looking for any sign that might point him towards the stranger. Footsteps! Marco caught a pair of boot tracks, albeit faint, leading off southbound through a stretch of trees. It didn’t take but five minutes following the prints before Marco saw lights from a red-bricked building past a couple of trees. He slowed his pace so his footsteps wouldn’t crack any twigs or crunch any leaves. There was no doubt-- the man resided in the building before him. The question: could he really trust him? Should he give it a chance?

      After all it he could still return to the jeep.

      Daniel Seyton [Northern Cottage]

      “Someone there?” Daniel Seyton asked with trembling hands. “You here to slaughter me?”

      No response. The wind blew, birds chirped, and the sun sloped down in the sky sending its light into his eyes. “My… imagination?” His thoughts turned to the voice he had heard below the well. “That’s it, I’ve just finally lost it. This is all me being crazy. That makes the most sense.”

      The man sagged his shoulders and waltzed over to the open door of the cottage, shooing away a swarm of pesky flies. Taking a peek inside he saw nothing that interested him particularly-- there was a hearth before a fireplace, an old stove and a straw bed all above a dusty old floor. Turning his head to take a close look at the rocking chair he about lost his wits. There, staring at him, stood a wide-eyed man with fiery red hair and piercing eyes. Daniel jumped back and gave a yell.


      Woah, is it something on my face? Calm down,” said the man, holding out a hand as if to wave Daniel’s fright away. “Where’d you come from? Didn’t see you before.”

      Daniel fell to his knees and snatched locks of his own hair, teeth chattering. “God, we have to kill each other. That’s what it said. Just get it over with, as you can see I’ve got no weapon.”

      The man smirked and held both hands out wide. “All I have is some trinkets in my pocket, bud. No guns or anything. Geeze, why would I possibly want to kill you anyway?”

      Daniel staggered back to proper footing, again pulling his trench coat closer to his body. “You’re just saying that to catch me off guard. I feel the breath of the wind, the solid porch,” Daniel tapped his shoes on the wood below him, “and hear the trickle of the stream. Its too real for me to be casually dreaming. So clearly my entire mind has gone crazy. You’re another part of me that wants to slit my throat.”

      “Uh, name’s Revol. Not ‘part of you’.” The man stepped up onto the porch, placing his bony fingers on a handle of the rocking chair. The sun vanished behind him. The area grew significantly darker. Daniel noticed Revol clenching onto a small white bag. He tossed it and Daniel instinctively snatched it out of the air. “I found that tucked around the corner. Forgive me but I took a peek inside, you got a think for pink diaries?”

      Daniel slammed the bag on the ground and opened it, shuffling through the contents with hurried hands. Sure enough a furry pink diary laid below a pencil with a pony shaped eraser. Beside that a flashlight and razor sharp scalpel rested in wait for use. Zipping it back Daniel threw the bag’s strap over his shoulder and shot a rather nasty look towards Revol. “I don’t know who owns this junk, but I’m keeping it.”

      Revol came closer, smiling a wry grin.

      [Continued Below]

      Revol [Northern Cottage]

      [Continued From Above]

      The dark-headed lad was terrified. Revol could see it all over his face. “Daniel,” the newcomer said after a long pause. “My name is Daniel Seyton and I’m confused as hell.”

      “Let’s go inside,” Revol nudged his head towards the open cabin door, “You have a lot of questions and I’m in the talking mood.” He paced in first without a second glance at him glum companion. The cabin consisted of a single room. The chairs and dining table looked worthy of admittance in a 19th century museum. The stove hatch was open, void of coal, and the fireplace had no firewood. After he grew tired of taking in the sights Revol plopped his ass on the hard edge of the straw bed. Then came Daniel’s awkward and slow entrance. The man pulled up a chair and sat three feet away, staring towards Revol like it was the first time he had seen a human being.

      “So, uh, Revol,” he said. “What are these ‘rules and regulations’ I was told about?”

      “Rules?” Revol thought for a moment. “Oh, right. That collar you have on-- just don’t mess with the testing guys and you’ll be fine. Also someone has to die every three days or everyone gets taken out.”

      “So it’s true,” his face grew pale. “We are here because we have to kill each other!”

      “Yeah,” Revol shook his head, “I wish I could tell you otherwise. But hey, you look like a reasonable guy and I ain’t got any plans to kill unless in self-defense. If we stick together our chances skyrocket. It might actually be fun.”

      “Fun? Shit, are you high?” Daniel dropped the white bag to the floor, leaning forward, “Well I don’t want to play. You’re behind this, aren’t you? I don’t see a collar on your neck.”

      “Long story man. In short I escaped. I don’t think I’m supposed to be participating. Seriously though we can both benefit from watching each other’s backs. Though if there‘s a girl she‘s all mine, comprende?”

      Daniel brushed a hand across his forehead. He sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

      Revol scanned the room. It’s much darker than before, he thought. Night came on me fast. Revol, bounding from the bed, walked to the entrance of the cabin. “Make your choice quick, Daniel. We either go together or alone.”

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 02-01-2008 at 11:29 AM.

    5. #5
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Chapter IV

      Day One (Night to Morning)

      Lyinda [Test Facility]

      The silver rims of the door shimmered from twin fires dancing on circular podiums. The sleeper awoke with a jolt to find herself naked on the damp ground, a steel pendulum blade kissing her delicate neck. The pendulum’s surface displayed a young woman with dark gold hair and squinting eyes. There was a tint of fear in the reflection’s face, though surprisingly absent given the obscure situation. Pushing with one hand and pulling with the other she crawled from under the semicircular knife and, once reaching a podium, stood. The warmth of the fire soothed the skin that had pressed on the cool floor. Other than the fires there was no light source. Likewise, other than the door there was nothing significant along the pale walls. The slender yet muscular woman darted for the door, grasping the textured handle and yanking. It didn’t budge. She tried a second and third time with the same dreadful result. The woman had no doubt: It was locked tight. Above, the grated ceiling caught her attention—through it wafted the sound of blowing air and the smell of old cabbages. A small hole was cut at the center of the checkered vent for the rope of the pendulum to rise into the darkness above.

      “Remain calm Lyinda,” she found herself muttering to no one in particular, “the flow of air comes above—I can probably escape if I cut through the ceiling.” The pendulum came to mind. Its blade would prove more than enough to cut through flimsy metal. Prior to having the chance to try her plan, a deep metallic voice consumed the area, its luring and rapid speech reverberating all around.

      “That is the problem with your specific demography, man—wo. You are so certain that you can figure every puzzle out through intuition. Did you not stop to consider than the air you hear is coming out of a one-centimeter-wide copper pipe unfit for a human to climb through? Additionally you have formed a conception in your mind of the purpose of what that room is for. The truth is there is no purpose, even that pendulum isn’t able to swing, and there is no pit. Is this funny?”

      Lyinda pressed her back to the hard wall. She panted and glanced around. “Whom do you work for?” The moment her mouth closed the silver-rimmed door creaked open. The woman stared but may as well have been glued to place, her forearms shivering. “I am clearly at your mercy. State your intentions”

      “Through that door,” the voice said, “is a wonderland that encourages you to show love to your fellow man via bloodshed. More specifically, through that door is clothing to cover your ugly body. Most specifically, through that door is some utterly useless objects that may amuse you in the sphere of time you stumble about. If I got any more specific it would ruin all the surprise, do you not agree?”

      “You didn’t answer the question you pig bastard,” Lyinda said after rapid pants, “Who do you work for? State your intentions.”

      “The rebel whom goes by ‘Chigun’ is in love with someone. Can you guess whom? He loves the demolitions expert!”

      Lyinda cursed. I’ve heard enough of this nonsense. The handle winked in the firelight. She snatched it, swung the door ajar and stormed through into a room covered with a blanket of darkness. In the distance a thin ray of chatoyant light reflected against her moist eyes. Step by step she forced her aching body forward. The light grew larger by the moment.

      “You have ignored me,” the voice said. The point of light assumed the shape of a door. “Have your years of harsh disciplinary training and teaching desensitized you to the basic courtesies of conversation?”

      “Quiet,” Lyinda snapped, “you may think you’re doing some justice to your country, but you’re just a filthy terrorist. You will be caught—especially if you refuse to let me go. It won’t be long before they realize I’m gone.” Lyinda blinked. She didn’t know who they were. She couldn’t recall the past week, or even the past year. “Have you put me on some kind of amnesia drug…?”

      “Women are less rational than men,” it said, “we make no claims to be void of sexism, racism, ageism or ethnocentrism. Our point is that an older man would not have made a clearly false deduction such as an ‘amnesia drug’. Such a drug does not even exist, yet your lack of knowledge and tendency to talk brought about this moment of shame. It is truly fortunate that you cannot vote.”

      Stepping into the light, Lyinda captured first the stone pillars by each corner. An alter waited in the center with the mutilated carcass of a kangaroo resting on top. The smell of decay matched the obscene sight. Behind the sacrifice waited a set of thin steps rising up to a wood trapdoor on the ceiling. A pair of trousers lay on the stone tiles with a folded T-shirt on top. Resting by the white shirt a lumpy sack awaited recovery. Lyinda took the shirt first, squeezing it past her head, arms and breasts. The tight fit showed the curves of her body well. The trousers went on next. Lyinda grunted in attempt to pull them up, again dealing with a garment two sizes too small. Once they were on she looked with disdain at her ankles and the bottom of her calves, noting that the pants didn’t go down as far as they were supposed to. Humiliating, yet irrelevant.

      She thumbed through the contents of the dusty, wrinkled sack. The five items rattled around: an Ale-8 soft drink, a pocketknife, a bag of peanuts, a G.I. Joe action figure and a pornographic magazine. Lyinda’s eyes left the bag for the bare ceiling, and then to the stairs. “Women,” Lyinda said, “are a hell of a lot more intuitive than men. For example,” her memory flashed, “one time I waited in the trenches and lured out a man with a magazine just like this one here. The horny bastard put down his gun to pick it up. I almost felt sorry for the moron.”

      The hard, cold stairs passed under her feet. The voice responded, yet she blocked it out with her thoughts. I have no choice but to proceed and play along. Eventually I’ll figure out what’s going on. I must keep a logical mind and suppress my fear. She pulled at the trapdoor’s handle from the top step. It detached and crashed into the stairs, toppling down by the sacrifice alter. She heard crickets, smelt grass and saw a purple and black mesh of a sky. Stuffing the sack into her trouser pocket Lyinda pulled herself above the trapdoor, feeling the dirt and the tickle of moist weeds on her forearms. She climbed outside. It was dark and difficult to make much out. The moonless sky provided little aid, though she deduced that a field expanded ahead and around her. The voice spoke one last time, “Keep in mind, confused, that you are not to reenter the test facility. Please kill others if you want to live. It is in the interest of the pursuit of science. Good day.”

      In the distance an explosion resounded in the air.

      Marco Didoria [Garage]

      Marco knew someone hid inside. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what bright lights and harsh breaths meant. It meant the red haired muscle-head. Thrusting the hand grenade from the bag, he snatched it in-flight. Alliances had no point, he decided. They were going to blow up in two days unless they obeyed the bastardly voice anyhow. He crept around the corner with nimble steps until a stick cracked under his weight. The man inside yelled something in a strong accent. Marco turned the corner to the open garage door and peeked inside to see the man standing and looking around with rapid glances.

      Marco pulled the pin from the green egg. The Scottish gentleman, seeing only the launcher and assuming the worst, charged for Marco with a brutal yell. He planted his fist into Marco’s gut and slammed an elbow into his jaw. Stumbling back the shaggy-haired soldier stared at the active grenade and, in a fright, lugged it behind his enemy. A flash blinded Marco, and a piercing explosion rendered him deaf. The rocket-propelled grenade launcher slipped from his shoulder. His face scrunched from the heat of the blast. It took a few seconds for Marco’s bearings to return when he noticed his opponent had vanished. “Where are you coward?” Marco said scooping up his launcher and taking aim at the shadows of the trees ahead. “You can’t run far, that blast must have scorched your back.”

      Turning for the bricked garage Marco’s question vanished. The man, hunched over, glowered at him from the roof. His face remained half in shadow, his eyes wide and venomous containing both extreme pain and the anger of an animal on its last spurt of life. “You fucker,” he slurred after a cough, “No one kills Finn.” Marco witnessed a knife flick from Finn’s sleeve and park in his right palm. “Not after I just got the ride of my life.” He leapt from the roof and dropped down towards the shocked Marco. Shock turned to pain as the edge of the knife dug into Marco’s stomach. Embracing him Finn retracted the blooded knife, lunging for Marco’s throat while kneeing him in the balls. Marco thought fast. Using the RPG as a blunt weapon he bashed Finn in the skull. Marco stumbled back with a cupped hand around his delicate spot. Looking down at Finn’s struggling body Marco saw the flesh of his back under a torn and ripped shirt. It oozed crimson blood.

      Finn staggered to his footing, turned, and attempted to attack Marco once more…

      [Continued On “Finn McCoarty”]

      Finn McCaorty [Garage]

      [Continued From “Marco Didoria”]

      Finn’s punch connected with Marco’s chest, his kick with Marco’s side. Still the pain biting Finn’s back exceeded anything he knew before. The last stretch had come. He’s gotta be on his last leg, Finn thought. He whiffed the aroma of his own blood and listened to the crickets’ songs. The sky began to light up with an orange and indigo tint—the start of dawn.

      Marco retreated back and, in a display of stamina and finesse that exceeded Finn’s expectations, leapt onto the branch of a cider tree three feet above the leafy ground. “That hurt,” Marco said, “I’ve had enough of you.” Finn collapsed to one knee. The burn from the grenade proved too much to bear. Looking up he saw that Marco aimed the rocket launcher barrel directly towards him. “I didn’t want to waste this—but you’re too much to risk eliminating any other way.”

      “Why,” Finn said between gasps, the sun visible in the western sky. “Why d’ya cave in and play this damn game?”

      “Why?” Marco said, hunched over. “Survival. May your soul rest in peace.”

      A bright glowing ball shot from Marco’s launcher. The trees, grass and sky warped around the object. The following second the rocket impaled Finn. Pain consumed his brain, the sky, then the ground, then the sky again sliding past his eyes like some kind of slideshow. Slimy red intestines slapped on his face while his head landed aside his severed foot in the mud. Pieces of his spinal cord and chunks of a fleshy arm rained from the heavens above. No breaths came to his lungs. He had no lungs.

      His sense of sight failed first. The pain transmuted into an odd mixture of euphoria and anxiety. A line of speech repeated in his head, I’ll be waiting for you; I’ll be waiting for you. Now he remembered. He remembered his past life with clarity. She was his age, one of the first that stole his heart. The day before he awoke in the room with the desk and radio he had spent the evening on a bridge playing the bagpipes for her. “I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow,” she told him with a smile. “Promise me you’ll come back here tomorrow.”

      Finn McCaorty died.

      Alex Denman [West of Farmhouse]

      The voice had called him a coward, a soft and average bloke whom didn’t have killing in him. It spoke the truth, though Alex didn’t see an issue in a pacifist stance. Just in case he changed his mind a black machine gun rested comfortably in his steel-gloved palms. If nothing else it would be the perfect tool in self-defense. With it he could sniff out a trustworthy ally and eliminate any with wicked plans.

      The dark sheet in the sky slowly pulled back; the morning sun poked its illuminated head in the western horizon ahead. Water drooped on Alex’s head from moist leaves dancing in the wind. Sticks and leaves snapped from his fortified boots. The oaks and ciders thinned as Alex came out into a field. Before him a railroad cut through the grass, sitting atop a mound of gravel. Rightward, he saw, after squinting, the track running into a concrete tunnel and out of sight. Leftward it continued off sloshing up and down in an undulating fashion. I’ll head left he decided after a quick survey. After all, the tunnel had been blocked off with a grated fence and straight ahead there stood a white mountainous barrier.

      The sky merged into a bright orange. A patch of forest along the journey took Alex’s attention. More specifically it was the sight of a human leg hanging from one of the branches between a cluster of red leaves and sticky pines. He approached with caution, skimming the outskirts and eyeing a thick bundle of herbs and bushes. Crouching down low Alex hid and observed. She was a slumbering Asian lass. Her body leaned to one side against a tree shaft and appeared ready to topple clear off. Her clothes were skimpy; her hair not too long and not too short. Parked on her lap a strange white weapon that winked at him in the dawn light. Alex’s sights lowered and locked onto a colorful backpack with pieces of straw scattered around by the tree’s roots.

      I’ll watch here, Alex thought lowering and placing his machine gun on the ground in front of him. Girls seem to be the reasonable sort, I doubt she’d want to kill. I guess time will tell. And so he watched.

      [Refer To “Jackie Cho”]

      Jackie Cho [Forest Patch—West of Test Facility]

      Jackie jerked awake. The light of the morning poured through the canopy of pines and leaves. Her legs were asleep, doubtlessly due to the weight of the sleek rail gun. “I wonder how long I was out,” she mumbled, raising the gun and jabbing her tingling thighs with an elbow. “Well, there’s work to do now.” She jumped from the branch and crashed onto the ground, stumbling forward and falling flat on her face. Rolling around she heaved up and stood, plopping the weapon beside her book bag. She unzipped the bag, plucked out her laptop, and pressed it on the muddy ground monitor-side-down. Luckily the battery to the computer didn’t require a screwdriver and, with the pressure of her finger, the thin power unit came out—a slab as hard as platinum. She tossed the unit from one hand to the other playfully. Once she grew bored of the single player game of catch she thumbed the unit down the barrel of the rifle. It fit perfectly.

      The gun beeped and thin trails of steam poured out of slits near the barrel shaft. The aroma of gasoline with oil filled the area. Interesting, Jackie examined it while the steam thinned into the morning air. It must have converted the power unit just now into a shape it can fire, a gun that can transform anything into a bullet. I wonder how it looks when I pull the trigger. Excitement filled her. Her thoughts turned to the arburn-haired, pistol waving Caucasian. That woman would have made great target practice.

      A notebook (and its companion the pencil) was the next thing Jackie retrieved from her pack. She scribbled a rough map, stressing her memory. She had gone north from the facility onto a forest path with quaint little rivers. Following this she ran west until a railroad track and then paced south until reaching her current location. She wasn’t that far above from where she started if her calculations proved correct. After staring at the rough sketch on the lined paper for a moment Jackie drew and arrow pointing left. She would keep going west towards the rising sun.

      “It’s decided, I’m off,” Jackie hummed, stuffing everything of hers minus the gun into the pack. She sloshed it onto her back and took the rail gun in her right paw, resting the long barrel shaft on her shoulder. She took off in high spirits.

      Charlotte Briggs [Southern Shore—Radio Tower]

      Those are Islands,” Charlotte said upon lowering the hill and stepping onto the rocky shore. They were near impossible to make out, yet she knew. A light flashed from one of the sea-bound landmasses, beaconing her to come. There was but one problem—Charlotte couldn’t swim all that way and she never built a raft or boat in her life. Still a denizen of the island would be safe. “I’m sure of it.”

      The waves crashed against the shore. A sea breeze brushed by her hair and cheeks. Charlotte found it cumbersome to walk about in her heels and she couldn’t imagine what she could do to traverse the waters. Then she caught sight of a toppled over tree down the shore a bit. It had been severed from the roots by either a hurricane of sorts or the sharp edge of an axe.I read in a book once, Charlotte thought, about the tide. If I can catch it right maybe I can ride on that tree when the ocean pulls back.

      “That’s a stupid idea,” said a voice. Charlotte nearly tripped on her feet as she twirled around. Red and yellow eyes glowered at her through the dark wall of the night. “Don’t be alarmed, I won’t waste my time kill a wretch like you. I am Chigun; consequently you have reached the very spot I am bound. Well, here and the old wood hut near the tower.”

      Charlotte squinted but could not see the creature that spoke, only its fear-invoking eyes. “You heard my thoughts,” she said.

      “Irrelevant, though I can remember the days when I would be shocked. I know exactly who you are and what you intend, an ability I bought through bloodshed.” It raised a hand and pointed towards the island, appearing to the young woman as a shadow blending in with the black waters behind it. “I don’t particularly have favorites, though I prefer those who are kind in nature. I do understand if you go the path of the contrary. I can help you get to the islands if you so seek, for many secrets lay dormant there.”

      “I—I just want to be safe. Can’t you get me the hell out of here?” Charlotte said, “I have to go home, dammit, I want to go back.”

      “No. The Apian people are a sick science-obsessed race, and heaven forbid they allow some to survive after witnessing a section of the geo-ring. You have no hope of going home. You can live under some semblance of existence if you are skilled enough,” it paused. “Head west down this shore, woman, and you will find a boat tied slightly out from shore. It has a motor and should take you there if it has enough fuel. If not do it the old fashioned way through an oar—after all your peer has beaten you on that end.”

      Chigun’s words sped through her head. You have no hope of going home. Charlotte felt a tear trickle down her cheek and her jaw hung open. “What’s the point. I thought if I won I got to go home.”

      Chigun extended a brown parchment and stuffed it into Charlotte’s hands. “I’ll be here if you need support, I can’t go far from this spot. Please, take this letter to the demolition expert on the southernmost isle. You may have trouble getting there as whirlpools surround it. Use the labyrinths on the other isles to venture there via the underwater cities.”

      “That sounds like a lot of work,” Charlotte said.

      “It is, but your reward is having that collar of yours removed. Oh, and Nathan will kill you. I would avoid him.”


      “Enough. Go, please. I need rest.”

      * * *

      She found the wooden boat, one resembling a canoe, half a mile down shore. It was easy enough to spot it given that the morning sun poking out from the western horizon. Swimming in the freezing water Charlotte climbed in and yanked the engine cord. It didn’t make a sound. With a loud cry and a drawn out sigh she returned to shore to fetch a suitable oar—in this case a long sturdy branch nestled in a spot of sand. Returning she untied the rope and began her slow approach towards the closest island.

      Nathan Aki [Island # 1; Easternmost]

      Nathan’s raft was coming apart. Fortunately the man discovered this just as it washed onto the sandy shore. The trip had been rough. More than once the raft flipped over. It was only by some miracle that Nathan managed to keep all his belonging together, though everything he owned was now soaked. He rolled off and crawled up the tan hill, rejoicing that he had solace from the freezing chill of the salty waters. He removed his pack and threw it aside, raising his arms at the sight of the sun, easily visible and casting an orange circle on the distant waters. “I did it,” he told himself with a laugh, “I did what no idiot here will think to do.”

      The island was pathetically small. Nathan could see the other shore from where he stood on his knees, lowering his arms as the excitement ebbed away. In the center of the island was a grassy field with a singular palm tree. Below the coconuts of the palm stood a stone structure—a small labyrinth with a door leading into a dark unknown. Turning his head left Nathan saw a wood cottage. Half of the logs of this structure were cracked or caving in. He had to wonder if there was a place where someone actually lived. Looking right Nathan saw the bulk of the small country he had left the evening before. It was much larger than he originally imagined. He saw the tops of two other islands farther out past the palm tree.

      Equipping his goods Nathan gave another glance at his raft. The strings were tangled and the cracking logs came loose. It was close to being beyond repair. Nathan had to decide what to do next.

      Revol [Northern Cottage]

      “Fine, together,” Daniel mustered the voice.

      Revol lit a cigarette and pressed the filter side between his lips. He paced the front porch, gazing out into the darkness—hearing the howls of what he thought were wolves—and then plopped his ass on the rocking chair. Daniel followed, hunch-backed and hands in pockets, poking his head out the doorway and eyeing Revol. Revol eyed back, suspicious though his nerves remained calm. The warmth of the tobacco entered Revol’s lungs, where he then blew out the smoke in masterful ring puffs. His nerves relaxed and his head felt a layer of calm and complacency. He forgot just how good nicotine could be.

      “Sir, er—“

      “Revol, man. Now where do you want to go from here?”

      “You know the place right? You tell me.”

      “Well, eh,” Revol took another hit from the cigarette, “Might be better if we got an even bigger group, right? I want to go say hello to some people that way.” He pointed directly ahead of him. Daniel followed the direction Revol pointed with his eyes. “As you can see it’s night, so might be best to travel now under the protection of the dark.”

      “Isn’t it the other way around?” Daniel mused, “I mean scary things come out at night.”

      Revol cast an annoyed glance at the man, whom continued to press his trench coat close to his body and hunch over like a ghoul. His scalpel came to mind. I just need to get that away from him, just in case. Maybe I’ll get the chance to--

      “Fine,” Daniel said, “lead the way, but if you try anything I’m out of here, understand?”

      “Guess I could say the same,” Revol said climbing to his feet. He stepped off the porch and onto the moist grass. He took rapid steps and heard Daniel follow close behind, panting. Ahead awaited a forest line leading into a nest of trees, stumps and the like—the usual. Still someone might be found nearby, and for Revol that held particular interest.

      “Yo, new guy.” Revol said, “If we run into any maniacs are you going to be fit to kill?”

      Revol heard the young man draw in breath as he pushed a hairy vine out of the way, squinting to see two feet ahead of him. “If they look like they’ll try anything on me, yes.”

      Revol nodded with approval.

      [Continued Below]

      Daniel Seyton [South of the Cottage]

      [Continued From Above]

      The distant wolf cries sent a shot of fear up Daniel’s spine. He took in a whiff of the cigarette smoke as Revol blew, the wind carrying it right to his nose. In honesty he didn’t know which frightened him more, the wolves, or the red-haired snake face that seemed so friendly at face value. Daniel had slipped the scalpel into a trench coat pocket minutes before, suspicious heavy on his conscious. He kept a close grasp on the rough strap of his bag of belongings.

      The sky turned a shade of orange. Daniel was shocked. “Didn’t it just turn night? How is it that it looks to be dawn now?”

      The man ahead shrugged, skipping over a mossy root and splintered stump. Daniel mimicked the jumps and kept close behind. Birds began to sing, customary to the mornings he recalled, and the crickets continued to hum. The howls died down and then, almost at once, halted completely. Peeking over Revol’s shoulder he saw nothing but more of the same—rows of stout trees, boulders, twigs, stumps, streams and miniature ponds with murky waters. There was no way, Daniel realized, that he could navigate on his own. For now sticking with him was best.

      “So, Revol,” Daniel said after a long spurt of silence. The darkness had faded into morning light. “Where are we? Can you fill me in with detail?”

      Revol flicked the remainder of his cigarette from his fingers and proceeded to light another one. “Far as I can tell it’s an island, not that huge. I was told there’s a volcano in the west, and some different caves and labyrinths, that sort of thing. ‘Sposidly each person you kill you get a point and can spend it for special things. Other than that I don’t know. The island could be in the middle of an endless ocean for all I understand. I doubt there’s escape.”

      “Damnit. Then again, maybe it’s fate. I don’t really care—“

      “Lighten up. You only live once, you might as well enjoy the game while you’re alive.”

      “I—“ Daniel was awestruck. “That’s absurd! There’s nothing to enjoy about any of this. Hell, I don’t even remember where I came from. Where did you come from?”

      Revol shrugged once more. “Don’t think about it. C’mon let’s pick up the pace. I heard an explosion earlier. Maybe we’ll find people there.”

      Thus the duo proceeded further south, unsure of what they would find, or what traps could lay ahead.

    6. #6
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Chapter V

      Day Two (Morning to Afternoon)

      Nathan Aki [Island # 1; Easternmost]

      The collapsed abode had no windows, only splintered walls and floors that made ones feet ache. Nathan didn’t like the dim interior anymore than the average man, shuffling his shoes to get a close eye of the bookless shelves. He saw a peculiar statue of an Indian spearing a Caucasian man laying flat on the ground. Nothing stood out as useful, and nothing gave signs of recent denizens. Before returning to the sunny island, however, a small note under the shelf beckoned Nathan near. He thumbed it from the dust and read.

      To those above, in all of your glory and power, do I write. The geo-ring is running at ninety-five percent efficiency. The connection with the ten Overhead Nodes is at full strength, and the S-4s have been distributed to all peoples.

      There is no doubt that Ap is all powerful on a universal scale. This concludes my rather simple report.

      The document held no ones signature, leaving Nathan curious to its author. Flipping the paper around he spotted a crude drawing of charcoal. On the left it read “Beginning” and had a picture of a tall city, with monorails running through and tiny stick figures walking about. An arrow pointed to the right where it read “End” with a depiction of a ruined city, buildings cut in half and corpses in the mud.

      Nathan pocketed the paper and jumped out the doorway-- back onto the grassy plane. Waves crashed all around. A seagull soared and flew from above and, as usual, the wind pounded his face. The stone labyrinth beckoned him to draw near; its cracked steps leading down into a dark catacomb. Securing his belongings tight Nathan lowered into the depths, relived that it never grew pitch black, his every step sounding an echo.


      Twenty minutes of the clay-bricked hallway rendered Nathan tired. Light poured in from holes cut out at the top of the walls, casting shadows on the skeletons and piles of dung. The foul smell chewed at Nathan’s brain with the effect of a toxin, the scurry of rats interrupting his thoughts. Drawings carved the ground from a knifes blade-- some depicting cities, some of large towers and others of stick men being tortured with tubes, blades and other devices. Nathan came across a small table, empty syringes and bottles scattered across the surface. He snatched one bottle and syringe and continued on.

      “Great,” Nathan said coming to a three-way divide. Without putting much thought into the choice Nathan continued straight ahead, lowering a set of stairs and seeing more of the same kind of hallway. Occasionally he would catch sight of an oddly placed pillar that he would have to walk around, or a hole in the wall where the bricks crumbled away. Then he saw the end: a white, metal door with a circular wheel. The bolts were visible around the arched top of the doorway where much of the paint had chipped away. Snatching the wheel he turned with all his might, ignoring the screech it made from the lack of oil. The door came open.

      Blood oozed down the white cracks of the medical walls. Leftward chrome cords dipped from the ceiling and went into the chunky throats of headless humans strapped to silver chairs. Ahead, behind a glass centerpiece, lurked five circular chambers locking in naked men and women whom stared at Nathan in terror. Below the glass centerpiece waited a control panel with its inner wires and processing chips exposed. Rightward hung a diagram of a conveyor belt carrying intestines and organs with foreign text written across the top. A ladder led down into a hole in the corner. A box titled “evidence” rested in the center room and bid Nathan to approach. He crept forward, pulled open the cardboard flaps, and retrieved the one and only paper tucked inside. He read:

      Phi us Leampu’n Ap Te
      Cde - Rachael Peacecraft

      “To any restricted to the common tongue, I write a warning that needs your attention. The structure in the title is the epitome of fear within us, the reason many refuse to as much as leave our humble refuge. I, Rachael, have had the privilege of converting a former worker of the aforementioned structure, and in light of that have gained great insight to assist our community.

      “Though it is not the Castle of Lost Dreams it is of nearly the same severity of punishment. Because of this knowledge it is clear to me that the majority of our captured converts are not sent to the land below, as formerly thought. Instead a subtle example is being made of us, even outside of the public eye. The technical term for this structure among the marked is ‘Phi us Leampu’n,’ for those of the common tongue, I have dubbed the truthful name of ’pressure house’. The origin is lost in history, much like everything else, but the techniques used there are rather primitive. The house generally has five levels, one under the element plate. Rooms are filled with circular holding tubes for humans, designed for many measures of torture. Through simple mechanics air pressure within these cells can be raised or lowered at any speed programmed. The result of one undergoing the torture is either a gradual or quick implosion. Reports show the eardrums rupture first, followed by the eyes. Death is only granted once the pressure surpasses the cranium, or in less common cases the lungs. Unfortunately, the horrors within do not end there.

      “Incineration in furnaces is another common practice, along with a ride along the ‘Shink‘, or conveyor belt. The programmer can remove and ligament at any speed. They tend to go quick on the muscles, and slow on the bones. In response a cyanide capsule with a perfected fail-safe will be attached along the back of each members teeth. These can be removed once inside our walls. At the very least a peaceful journey to death can be assured. We will be addressing this as top priority. And as always, we will continue working to better protect the Red Stallion.”

      The paper slipped from Nathan’s hands. Warm sweat soaked his shirt. The booming metallic voice returned:

      “What are you doing?” It said, “Coming here was a very stupid idea.”

      The lights shut off leaving Nathan blind. In his fright he stumbled forward and toppled to the tiled ground. “Turn that back on…”

      “If you are so insistent on going this route to meet with me than I have no choice but to make it as difficult as possible. You will continue the remainder of this chamber without light.” A buzzing permeated the area. “Additionally we will go ahead and… kill the people in that chamber. You have no love for them anyway.”

      “What is this place?”

      “A prototype, a rather ancient place actually,” it said over bloodied screams, “it is unfortunate for you there are many ways to die in here. I look forward to seeing you stumble into a pod where we will squeeze your brain. Or mayhaps we will just crush your lower half and laugh with delight. We will keep your head alive until you grow old. You will be ever so bored at being nothing but a head for seven decades. Even if you make it through you will have to get me to cooperate and take that necklace off of you. Ask yourself-- why would I do something like that? You may as well turn back now.”

      Once the voice ceased only the eerie buzz remained.

      Charlotte Briggs [Island # 1; Easternmost]

      [Refer to “Nathan Aki“]

      The belly of the boat slid onto sand beside a rickety raft. The scolding hot sun laughed at Charlotte from its high spot in the afternoon sky. To contrast this a cool splash tickled her neck. She rubbed the seagull droppings off and stared at the white smear on her forearm.

      The sand pressed between her toes (as she discarded her heels, finding them utterly destroyed from her journey). The rosy, half-collapsed cottage held for her little interest and she instead caught notice of the palm tree in the midst of tall grass. Its long leafy branches cast shadows over a crumbling stone outhouse. More importantly a coconut bobbed in the wind. Seeing no immanent danger the woman strode into the grass, small rocks cutting at her feet She scaled the textured stem of the tree and pawed at the fruit like a monkey. After the third whack it tumbled to the ground. Dropping down Charlotte took one of the sharpest rocks nearby and cleaved the coconut wide open. The innards tasted cool and delicious; it was nothing short of refreshing.

      The sky held the late afternoon signs. Charlotte left the shell of the coconut and wobbled over to the outhouse, peeking in from the side without a wall. Ugh, this isn’t a place to use the bathroom. The stairs go down-- It didn’t take anymore thought, her legs moved for her. They carried her down into the unknown labyrinth.


      Charlotte grew tired of walking down the endless hall of brown clay bricks. The skeletons no longer frightened her as much as when she saw them first, and the smell grew a bit more bearable. Still, given the horrors and the creepy pictures engraved on the floor, she couldn’t understand why she kept walking. This has to be something, that red-haired freak told me about this. Just keep calm. She pressed her side on the lumpy wall and took a breather.

      A rat bite got her moving again. She passed a table with empty jars and syringes, and then the hallway came to a three-way divide, large overhead lamps illuminating the intersection. Forward a thin stairwell led down, and to the right and left it appeared as the same hallway expanding off. Which way? A pop shot through her ears and everything went dark.

      She screamed and flipped the pistol from her jean pocket, aiming in different haphazard directions. A voice resounded from the distance, though she couldn’t tell which direction, and a churning much like a piston took her ears by storm. This is terrible, she thought. She had to choose which direction to take and, more importantly, how she would get much needed light!

      Jackie Cho [Forest Patch—West of Test Facility]

      A thud froze the confident Asian woman in her tracks. On the ground in front of her stared a cellular telephone, her face reflecting in its crystal display screen. She bent over (quite a task given the bulk of her gun) and picked it up, holding it to where she could get a clear view. Arching a brow she glanced over her shoulder and past the tree she’d spent the night on.

      The phone slipped from her fingers, her eyes widening. A man in clad armor spied on her from behind a shaggy bush. He must have known he was spotted, and thus he spoke first.

      “Hey, don’t’ be frightened. I-- I just want to talk, you know?”

      Jackie flipped around to face him, restraining the urge to whip her rail gun into place in order to aim at the stranger’s head. She didn’t see a weapon with him, though she didn’t know what hid behind the bush. “Show your hands,” Jackie demanded.

      The stranger rose two gloved hands, both empty. “I’m Alex Denman. And you?”

      Slowly she lowered the rain gun so she held it with both arms, ready to aim and fire quickly if necessary. “ Jackie. How long have you been watching me?”

      “Not long. Just got here,” he said, brushing a hand through his hair as he lowered his arms. “I-- you know. I just want to know not everyone’s gone crazy. I heard this explosion earlier. But I don‘t want to kill anyone! I just want to meet some people I can trust.”

      “Well I certainly don’t trust you,” Jackie shot, tapping a foot from both excitement and anxiety. The sun’s rays lit the leafy ground beautifully, casting shadows all around. “I hear it, you’re fiddling with something behind that bush.”

      “Uh,” the man’s face flushed red. “I, I admit. I do have a weapon. I didn’t want to scare you off.” Alex stood. Clamped tight in his right arm shimmered a black steel-plated machine gun. He kept the barrel towards the ground. Jackie, on the other hand, took aim immediately.

      “Not funny,” she closed one eye and targeted his chest through the iron sights, tightening her grasp of the stock and trigger. “Give me one good reason not to blow a hole through that fancy armor of yours.”

      Alex flinched and slipped behind a tree about five meters from the bush. “Calm down! I told you I don’t want to kill!”

      It took about a minute before Jackie calmed herself. She squinted and saw the side of his arm sticking out from the tree. “Remove the magazine.”

      “What?” he said.

      “Take the ammo out of the damn gun,” she said, “I don’t want to be full of holes the moment I turn around. I want to know you can’t shoot me before I’ll even talk about traveling with you.”

      “What about you,” he shouted back, his voice echoing from far away.

      “That’s the terms buddy. I can shoot, you can’t. If you can’t comply than get the hell away from me.”

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman [Forest Patch—West of Test Facility]

      [Continued from Above]

      Alex’s back pressed against the tree, taking a moment to register the woman’s demands. He glared at the gun from the side and, after some thought, popped out the circular magazine with a small switch. “I’m keeping the magazine on me though,” he said, “It just stays off the gun until a combat situation, that’s all. I have to defend myself you know.” He extended his arm with the magazine between his thumb and index finger, allowing Jackie to see it. To further the message he squeezed the trigger. The gun sounded off piercing clicks.

      “Okay, come out slowly,” she told him. Alex slipped into the open with cautious steps and approached her. She had since lowered her weapon allowing Alex to breath a long sigh of relief.

      “You take point so I can watch you,” Jackie said, “I tell you where to go.”

      “Damn, lighten up,” Alex said with a perturbed tone, “I told you I’m not going to shoot you. We can walk side by side.”

      Jackie’s face went from angry to complacent. Her shoulders sagged. “Fine, but one suspicious move and you’re out of here.”

      “Same with you. Then it‘s agreed.”

      The pair started out westward, their shoulders rubbing and their eyes flickering towards each other every couple of seconds. Jackie kept her sighs on the machine gun, while Alex made sure he knew the position of her rail gun. They traveled slow, breaking out from the forest patch into the field with the railroad and distant white mountain. Jackie took a slight lead, curving to the left to follow along the tracks. Alex mimicked her moves.

      “So, where are you going anyway?” Alex asked.

      “Volcano,” she replied, “Don’t know why. Seems like a good place to spy on some of the other participants. I guess just to the other side of the island in general.”

      “Not a bad idea. I’m curious what’s over there.”

      They continued in silence for a time until Jackie pointed right. “See where the mountain gets shorter right there? If we climb over it’ll get us to the volcano quicker.”

      Alex nodded, “Fine if you say so. Let’s go.”

      Thus the two closed in on the white rock mountain.

      [Continued Below]

      Revol [Far South of Cottage]

      [Continued from Above]

      A pesky bee zipped from a patch of clovers and looped around. The chirps, caws, barks, howls, drips, splashes and songs resounded, as they usually did, accompanied by a fair smell of spring. There also came a noise not all that common: rain. It started slow at first, but it didn’t take long for thousands of raindrops to unleash on the world-- pelting the ground, hopping on leaves and drenching anyone foolish enough to stay outside. Along with the rain came its dark twin, thunder, clapping in all its anger. Those who got wet felt both sticky and warm feeling from the heat of the humidity and the uncomfortable drips of water on their head, nose and shoulders.

      Revol wiped a droplet from his eyebrow and struggled to see anything other than green. He knew Daniel kept close behind, though paid him little mind in his drive to forge ahead. He traveled up the hill in hopes of contact with others. From behind, Daniel whispered to himself, muttered curses and pleas. Revol didn’t have time to pay it much mind increased his speed all the more.

      Then he broke from the greenery, finding himself atop a small stretch of concrete. Leftward Revol saw the distant glimmer of a window and the wild twists of a windmill. Over the edge of the concrete slab awaited a ten-foot drop, and then a railway cutting over a mound of gravel leading into the distance. The tall grass of the field blew in the storm and lightning raged in the distance. Revol squinted to see ahead, scanning the area. He came upon two little specs and almost leapt with excitement. “Look! I think I see other people over there. C’mon lets sprint and catch up.”

      Daniel clasped Revol’s wrist. “Wait, why? Why do you want to head towards the explosion? Why other people? They’re murderers!”

      Revol flicked his wrist away and turned to face his cowardly companion. The man’s hair covered part of his eyes, drenched with the rainwater. His trench coat blew about wildly in the wind and he clamped onto his white bag with both arms. “Look,” Revol said, “I see what you’re saying about the explosion thing, but they’re traveling together. That means they’re obviously open to the idea of an alliance. Besides, we’ll keep a stealthy watch on them first. If they look like bad news we’re out.”

      “Hell! Can’t we just stick together and go find a place to sleep somewhere?” We’re unarmed.”

      “I’m a very good fist fighter, Daniel.” and with that Revol leapt off of the concrete slab and onto the railings. “Follow if you’re not chicken!” He sprint with all his might, the world passing by his vision in a blur.

      [Continued Below]

      Daniel Seyton [Tracks; West of Facility]

      [Continued from Above]

      Daniel ran as fast as he could against the pelting rain, squinting his eyes in fear of loosing one of them. I have this damn bag, I’m hungry, tired and sick of all of this. Revol remained a good deal ahead. Daniel’s boots clapped after each step, his feet beneath them soaked. I should just go off on my own, these people are gonna kill me in my sleep.

      Revol stared at him when he finally caught up, arms crossed and eyebrows raised. He pointed towards Daniel’s right. On a stone incline, rising up for the peak, climbed two people hardly distinguished through the rain. “Follow my lead,” Revol said in a loud voice to combat the winds and thunderclaps. “See the trees by the base of that mountain? We’ll observe there, but we have to get there before they reach the top. In other words, run!” Revol bolted off from the tracks, onto the muddy fields en route to the two strangers.

      “W--wait,” Daniel came close behind. Half way across the field the man’s boot lodged in the mud forcing him to pause and correct it. By the time he arrived Revol had found a comfortable spot between two trees. Daniel squatted next to the red-head and looked straight up. Sure enough there scaled a black-haired girl and a round armored man. The strangers were almost at the top.

      “Look they have guns,” Daniel whispered. Revol Shhh’d him.

      “They’re at a disadvantage while climbing,” Revol said almost inaudibly. “Quite a compromising position. Maybe we should take their guns.”

      “W--what?” Daniel said two notches too loud “Let’s just--”

      “Someone there?” Came the armored man’s voice from above. Daniel leapt to his feet and retreated ten steps with sweat seeping from his pours.

      “Time to run,” Daniel shouted

      “Who’s that?” asked a woman.

      Ahead-- past Revol’s shaking head-- Daniel witnessed the Asian woman with defined muscles and Caucasian armored man slide down the side of the mountain to the murky ground. They approached Revol and Daniel’s position with hasty steps.

      “Machine gun! Some kind of shotgun thing,” Daniel shouted.

      “Shut up,” Revol demanded, also retreating.

      The armored man slammed a black circular magazine into his iron-clad machine gun while the woman pointed a gaping barrel in their direction. Revol and Daniel looked at each other.

      “Who are you two?” The woman asked Daniel and Revol. “You better give me a good reason not to shoot.”

      “Likewise,” said the armored man, “I hope you two aren’t planning anything.”

      Thus a battle loomed amongst the four, the future uncertain…

      Lyinda [Preparation Area]

      The sun popped up before Lyinda comprehended that light replaced the darkness. The chamber she experienced some minutes before dwelled on her mind, though the explosion took precedence of her thoughts. She took a moment to look at jeep tracks in the open field and then at the peculiar signpost with names. Then she darted off, clearing the length of the field and breaking into the western forest. The trees reminded her of her life before-- of the life she no longer recalled. Birds soared visibly above and, for such a hellish situation, the weather mimicked the perfect day. She hurdled logs and stumps and avoided pesky branches with the finesse of an acrobat. Her years of military training, a time she remembered only vaguely, paid off ten fold.

      The patch of forest ended abruptly in favor of a lumpy dirt road. She continued down it without halting, eyeing the accumulating clouds above that eclipsed some of the comforting light. Then the jeep came to view. The one that made the skid marks, she thought. The owner must be responsible for the explosion earlier. I think I’ll pay him a visit. She found herself cursing when the jeep lights flickered on. The owner clearly sat inside. Right as Lyinda dawned the wheels skid, shooting dust into the air. The automobile rocketed off into the distance.

      Stopping she felt the urge to hurl her sack of trinkets at her feet. “Dammit, I needed to ask questions--” her eyes trailed to her left and caught a line of obvious footprints between two giant oaks. “Maybe I can find them out on my own.”

      She followed the tracks through the forest until coming to a bricked building. At the base of the structure rested a man or, more accurately, partof a man. It could be described as no less than a pool of intestines and blood, a head by an arm, a shattered spine. Scarlet blood smeared on the bricks and trees nearby. Lyinda could only pause and stare. It was a scene so vulgar that it would have been a rare sight even in the most intense wars.

      She gazed out towards the forest and sighed. She needed to calculate her next move.

      Marco Didoria [En Route to Volcano]

      Resting on the passenger side of the jeep the green rocket launcher relaxed its head. Marco’s sack of goods overflowed. From it came the shimmering motorcycle keys and a thick and detailed map of all things related to the island. Marco’s fingers tapped the leather wheel excitedly, a gold circlet perfectly fit on right ring finger. Bandages wrapped tightly around his injured stomach, and below them a pinch of whiskey fought infection.

      The ride consisted of lots of bumps, each causing the man to cringe in pain. Marco had to swerve off the dirt road and weave around trees to avoid running into the same cliff he encountered his first ride up. The radio dial winked at him and begged to be pushed, but the memory of the last two broadcasts stayed Marco’s hands.

      A raindrop splotched on the windshield. Followed by a dozen others, and then a hundred. The area had grown dark, and the canopy of trees leaves swayed wildly in the sudden storm. He flipped on the windshield wipers to full and continued to drive on. Relief came when he came onto a gravel road, following it west with much higher speeds.


      Ten minutes of the gravel road and Marco gazed at the new sights of the island. There were more stumps than trees, more stone pillars and archaic architecture than wildlife. He felt like he entered a Mayan civilization. The Volcano loomed ahead, towering a good one hundred times his height into the sky. The gravel road ended abruptly. The jeep rode over grass, and then rock, until Marco stomped the breaks. He reached the Volcano, and right in front of him, lodged into the side of the volcanic wall, a ten-foot tall and six-foot wide computer waited for his use.

      Marco popped the door open and embraced the rain. He wasted no time-- slapping both palms at the Computer keyboard and staring into a blank screen.

      “Hello,” the computer spoke in a high-pitched female voice, “I love you.”

      Marco’s face flushed. “W--wha?”

      “You drew first blood. Your grand total is one. Would you like a pistol? Maybe a gallon of water and a basket of cookies? Or may I entice you with a handful of grenades. Oh, rockets are nice too.”

      “T--that’s it?” Marco muttered. The computer screen remained blank. “What about flying or super speed? You know superman shit.”

      “Oh, you must be joking. You aren’t funny, you know. Wings require you to be much more proficient at your craft. So does super-- man-- shit? Anyway, name your weapon and it is yours in exchange for that point as long as it is not something ridiculous. Like a particle decelerator. That requires many more points.”

      Marco gazed from the machine back to the running jeep as thunder sounded in the sky. Well, he thought. What to do?

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 02-17-2008 at 01:29 PM.

    7. #7
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Chapter VI

      Day Two (Afternoon to Night)

      Nathan Aki [Phi us Leampu’n Ap Te]

      Fatigued and taken by fright, the young man slipped into a disturbed sleep.

      Marco Didoria [Volcano Base]

      “Where are you off to?” The disappointed lull of the computer asked, “am I not good enough for you?”

      Marco didn’t waste time responding to a machine. Instead he raced to the dry sanctuary of the jeep’s padded seat. The rain pounded on the roof like a thousand fingers tapping on glass. The sky had darkened enough that the volcano became a silhouette in a fog of blue.

      Slamming the door and flipping the light on he retrieved the parchment he secured from Finn and studied the intricate cartography. This circle here, his thumb pressed left of the volcano, leaving a smudge, has what I seek. Placing the map aside his hand met the gearshift and switched it to drive. The vehicle’s engine bellowed and the tires scratched. A jerk of the wheel sent it off in the right direction: zooming over barren dirt. Light shot in waves ahead; booming thunder roared as a beast. Worn stone pyramids and twisted iron pillars flashed past the windows. Large and small stumps alike spread across the path, some meeting the wheel of the jeep and giving Marco a harsh shake. He pressed the gas pedal harder with his big toe noticing, for the first time, his fuel gauge. It had another hour of gas at best.

      The rained ceased in the blink of an eye. The clouds dispersed, starting with a small circle of clear sky. The circle grew until sunlight poured onto the land again. Marco gazed in astonishment at the shining blue until, looking ahead of him. He saw a white building speeding towards him. He slammed the break; the jeep skidded to a halt ten millimeters from the structure.

      “Another close call,” Marco sighed, popping the door open and letting in the melody of the birds. Shifting to park and retrieving the keys Marco exited the vehicle and locked it up. “Guess I’ll leave my crap here so I don’t have to carry so much.” Twirling the key chain on his ringed finger, Marco trotted around what he assumed to be a house, moving from dirt to concrete. His feet froze once he got sight of what lie behind, taking in the sight of civilization-- of a city.

      Three towering skyscrapers lined the back of the metropolis, their windows shimmering from the eastern sun. Between two of these a small tower stood on a rock cliff, reminding Marco of a lighthouse. In the center, surrounded by pools of green water, a statue-- a robed, hunched over woman, holding a small baby-- wept. She stood on a cracked circular pedestal made of black marble, a contrast to the white sheen of the figure. Eastward a blue capitol building watched the statue, its steps surrounded by thin columns that supported a second story. On the opposing end of the city a plethora of square huts littered the walking space, each without doors or windows.

      Marco descended three stairs to the level of the statue, the wind blowing his ever lengthening hair. In his progress a peculiar detail became prominent-- that of the littered and maimed corpses covered in a white powder. Additionally the city had no streets, no light posts and no citizens roaming about. A deep bitter cry sounded from the capitol building and a tick pounded every second from a clock tower lying on its side. Thick wires ran from the arched roof of the fallen clock to the side of the capitol building.

      Clamping his bandaged stomach, Marco lugged his heavy shoulders over to the woman statue. Engraved in the pedestal it read: “She who solves the puzzle will be granted access to the wealth of mankind. That which is tall and grand shall be built in an hour. That which serves no purpose shall rise in a minute. Seek elsewhere for the remainder of your instructions.” Blinking Marco read the message again, and then glanced up at the scrunched, miserable face of the hooded woman.

      The sobs captivated his attention, drawing him to leave the statue behind in favor of the blue construct. Slipping between two vats of the water he ran the distance in but a moment, climbing the stairs towards the building’s black ironclad door. There, lying at his shoes, Marco gazed at a decapitated body dressed in a fine yellow tunic. Clutched in the cold pale hands a loaded revolver awaited retrieval. Where the man’s head should be rested a thick gray tome atop a splotch of dried blood.

      Marco clutched the book in both hands and pressed his ear to it. This book is the one weeping? Sure enough the wail assaulted his ears stronger than ever. The title read “The Significance of Humankind.” Opening it he shuffled through the pages-- finding every one of them to be empty. Once he reached the end he noted the last page had been torn from place…

      Far off, on the roof of the lighthouse, someone lined Marco’s head with their sniper’s scope.

      Daniel Seyton(1) [East of Volcano-- Tracks]

      “No!” Daniel bellowed as he took a trembling step back. Both the armored man and woman pointed their barrels towards him. Rain seized Daniel’s head, dripping down the bridge of his nose and over his ears. It didn’t phase him. Nothing except the daunting barrels mattered.

      “Calm down,” the gun wielding man said in a drawn out voice. “Name’s Alex. She’s my traveling companion Jackie. You?’

      “Daniel, and he’s--” Daniel glanced towards the distant tracks and then towards the mountain wall, “Revol? Where did you go!”

      Jackie approached. “Where did he go?”

      “Ran like a chicken no doubt,” Alex smirked, appearing to enjoy the situation. “Now that the courtesies of names are out of the way, why don’t you explain exactly who you are?”

      Daniel retreated ten paces, his heart ready to burst from his chest. Then he felt someone warm breaths from behind. Before Daniel could investigate a pair of hairy arms constricted his chest. Below his chin he saw the shine of a knife’s blade pointed directly at the collar on his neck. Daniel flailed his arms and legs, but to no avail-- his captor had an iron grip on him. “Let go,” Daniel bellowed, watching helpless as Alex and Jackie came closer, “Revol, that’s not you, is it?”

      “It is,” said a stone cold voice, “you two stop where you are.” Jackie and Alex froze. “I’m willing to bet this collar will explode if I apply enough stress to it. You wouldn’t like to go up in flames, would you?”

      “I see I was right,” Alex said with arching brows, “you really can’t be trusted.”

      “I saw it in your eyes,” Revol growled, “you were going to shoot anyway. Go ahead, I dare you!”

      “Idiot,” Daniel yelled, “You’ll die too. You’re fucking crazy, traitor!”

      [Continued Below]

      Revol [East of Volcano-- Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      The storms, the rain and the swaying of the trees around them stopped instantaneously. The clouds folded back and the eastern sun poked its head out to watch the events unfold. No one spoke after Daniel’s last words, though his weeping filled the air. Jackie’s eyes bored into Revol with a hatred, her lips curling down in a frown. Alex, by contrast, smirked and even made slight approaches in their direction. Revol looked from him, to Daniel’s thick mop-like hair. He kept his thoughts to a minimum, relying on his most primal instincts to lead him through alive.

      “You’re bluffing,” Alex said. He removed a hand from his gun to feel at his own collar, “This thing is hard as rock.”

      “I will see you splattered along the wall unless you leave me be,” Revol shot.

      Alex continued his approach. “I‘ve had enough. I should have had the guts to do this earlier--”

      Revol’s instincts flashed. Releasing Daniel, Revol gave him a thunderous kick towards the shocked Alex. Flipping the dagger around to a frontward stance he bolted around Daniel‘s guileless body, slipping to Alex’s flank and slicing into his eye. Alex released a guttural cry of pain, yellow and white puss flowing over his lips and chin. In a fury Alex twirled to match Revol’s position and unleashed two dozen bullets from the end of his gun. Revol flew back with new holes in his flesh. He slammed onto the damp grass.

      Adrenaline flooded his brain. He staggered up and hurled the knife for Alex’s head, sprinting away with his last sliver of life. The pain hadn’t hit him yet-- though he knew it would. Energy evaporated from him, his stamina wiping away in the evening breeze. Gunshots permeated behind. Revol fell flat on his face.

      He got up a second time, eyes bloodshot and mouth drooling. His sprint decreased to a jog, and then, at the side of the train tracks, he slowed to a stop. Everything around rippled in his vision and faded in and out of focus. Then he collapsed, two of his ribs shattered from the fall onto the track’s railing. Reaching out he took a handful of gravel and squeezed tight.

      I can’t die, no…

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman [East of Volcano-- Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      Daniel had run a good distance, but it didn’t stop Alex from firing continuous bursts towards him. Alex saw him fall to the ground through the crescent of his only eye. Then he collapsed. He brooded for a moment in an intermezzo of pain and numbness, and then he ripped the dagger from his cheeks, tasting an inordinate quantity of blood.

      “AUUUUGHHHHH,” Alex scram, tendrils of blood dripping from his lips. Revol’s blade had impaled both cheek and tongue. He felt as if a chainsaw grinded his cranium in two halves, or like someone cut his eye open with a thin razor blade over and over again.

      “Dear god,” Jackie exclaimed, though Alex barely heard her through the ringing in his ears, “are you going to make it?”

      “’ut opp,” Alex said back, “ouk ish hhit.” He felt Jackie’s hand touch his shoulder, but he swatted it away with a yelp. ’Uur goina shuut me nuh, iight?”

      “I don’t understand you,” she said louder, “We really need to patch you up. Oh, fuck. I can’t believe that just happened!”

      Alex spit out a mouthful of blood and vomit, cradling his eye and cheek with his palms. Further attempts to communicate were futile. He wasn’t sure if he could live with the pain he experienced, yet he refused to let it end. It all depended on how his “traveling companion” chose to take advantage of him.

      “I-- I should have something in my pack that can help. Just hold on, okay?”

      Alex felt around for his gun and drew it close to his chest.

      [Continued Below]

      Daniel Seyton(2) [East of Volcano-- Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      Daniel’s face kissed the ground. He could tell from the biting pain in his shoulders that he had been shot-- thought how many times he couldn’t tell. Slipping the scalpel from his trench coat Daniel continued by dragging himself along the ground, trying desperately to get as far away as possible.

      [Continued Below]

      Jackie Cho [East of Volcano-- Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      The only thing Jackie thought useful from her pack was the notebook. She tore a few pages from it and, gently walking over to the hunched man (his armor gleaning silver from the last rays of the sun) dabbing what blood she could from his cheeks. He jerked and moaned, uttering nonsense. She got in front of him and, moving his hand from his eye gently, rubbed the paper to get the pus from under his already swollen eyelid.

      She placed the paper by the base of one of the trees and reclaimed the rail gun she had left by the pack. The attack had left her trembling and, deep inside, she knew it could have been different if she hadn’t locked up with fright. I should have fired, she thought, I could have killed that son of a bitch before he even got close. She looked towards the incline of the mountainous wall they had climbed up. No, we shouldn’t have even confronted them. We could be far away right now.

      Alex stood slowly and faced her, his face a purple and red mesh. His lips drooped and he continued to ooze blood. At closer glance she could see him crying from his good eye, tears dripping down his blooded cheek. “eets guh,” he said. Jackie interpreted it as Let’s go.

      “What? Are you up for moving?” she paused and noted the direction he looked towards. “You mean go and finish those two off? One of them is dead, I think. The other one didn’t seem to want any of this.”

      The man proceeded to talk some more, though none of it made any sense at all. Sighing Jackie zipped her pack and hauled it onto her back. “Seriously Alex, we need to talk about the immediate future. Your future.”

      The last rays of the sun vanished. Alex looked at her and continued to weep.

      Lyinda [Garage]

      Lyinda’s snowy skin tingled from each drop of the sudden storm, her dark gold hair waving in the gusts. Her face remained stone hard as she gazed out through the collection of trees. Flashes of lightning and cries of thunder surrounded her. The rain tapped each leaf, pelted the garage roof, and washed the dead man’s blood away. She looked at the body one last time without the slightest of sympathies before trekking forward.

      Her walk became a run after two steps, her military boots cracking every twig and stomping every thorny vine. She passed a patch of sugarcane and jetted through a grove of blue roses and weeds. Gliding around the trees held no challenge, nor did leaping over rivulets and ditches. Perched on the restless branches, crows watched her with their beady eyes. Death lies this way, they told her. You are running to your grave. The oaks and ciders grew more distant when, leftward, she spotted white specks. Slowing her pace she moved towards it, breaking free from the vegetation onto a gravel road.

      Scratching her forehead with long nails she sighed. The rocky motorway spanned far off into the storm’s veil. Right before she took off again something caught her attention from the corner of her eyes. There, along the side of the road, a tall, wood church building with open door invited her passage. Dim candlelight flickered through two glass murals and on the roof a bell waited to be rung. Happy to get out of the rain Lyinda stepped up three creaky steps into the warm and, most importantly, dry interior. A red carpet with pews on both sides led to a small stage. Interestingly enough the pulpit wasn’t a pulpit at all, but rather a diamond-shaped steel exoskeleton housing a glowing orb. Inside the glass sphere fire and ice swirled around in a brilliant display of color, beaconing Lyinda to come closer.

      Her every step reverberated, her breaths soft and direct. Once she had made it to the top of the stage the soldier pressed against the orb with her right index finger. A constellation of sounds consumed the church: a door slamming, gears churning, glass shattering, electricity humming and a generator cranking. The diamond lowered into the ground into a compartment that sealed off with a trapdoor. Turning she saw the pews had become white consoles with glowing computer monitors, the doors and windows replaced with iron slabs with connected red bulbs. The red carpet was no more, in it’s stead a pointed obelisk hosting a projector rose from the wood. The lens of the projector shot a cone of light.

      A movie screen presented two pictures of different planets. On the right displayed a blue planet with swirling white-- undeniably the earth in all of its majestic glory. The left showed a dominantly white planet at least twice in size, a strange metal disc orbiting it as any natural planetary ring.

      “Hello,” said a monitor behind Lyinda, causing her to jump in fright. It had a surprisingly human tone. “My name is Teleportation Facility Administrator, TFA for short. Please hold while I identify you.” Red flashed through Lyinda’s eyes. “Identification confirmed. You are Condemned 003245. How are you doing today, Condemned 003245?”

      Lyinda cast a quick glance all around, looking for some unseen assassin that she would have to eliminate. “You’re a machine?”

      “I am glad that you are feeling “you’re a machine?” I am doing well myself. Please state desired location of teleport.”

      Lyinda stared at the projected screen for a moment, her jaw hanging open from confusion. “I-- I don’t know. Do you honestly expect me to believe I can teleport? This technology, the revolving pews and all, just which country am I in?”

      “You are currently located at space coordinates X 1243-7345254 Y 0177-4856139. I have been denied access to pinpoint this on the display. Please forgive me, Condemned 003245.”

      Lyinda stomped her foot and threw her leather sack onto the ground. “Stop screwing with me. I won’t talk. Even this new-age interrogation method won’t make me crack.” Her cheeks flushed, knowing she didn’t remember anything anyway.

      “I have just been informed by Miss. Montag and Mr. Helmet that I have made an egregious error. Switching video feed.” The display changed to a map of a small island with a peninsula on the left side and three islands below. “I am told the islands are off limits because only idiots with no life go there. Please select desired location of artificial island ‘Dacil’.”

      Lyinda laughed, knowing full well the spectacle was a fraud constructed by sick terrorists. “There,” she pointed, both amused and frightened. “Take me to that rock formation in the center. I want to see this.”

      The wind lashed at her face, the sky cloudless with a purple tint. The giant volcano gazed down at her with a look that threatened to stomp her if she drew near. Small stone pyramids and twisted iron pillars surrounded the rocky area, and stumps scattered about. Rightward a sky-high cliff carried a mass of trees. At her feet, in the thick mud, her sack awaited.

      Lyinda collapsed to her knees, speechless.

      Charlotte Briggs [Underwater Catacombs]

      The smell of decay snipped at Charlotte’s mind. Lowering to her hands and knees, she brushed her palms on the lumpy, dust-covered stones and proceeded with a burst of courage. The floor changed into a steep descending stairwell. She cautiously stood and tiptoed down, kissing the wall with her torso. She smiled as she pressed her bare feet at the bottom, sliding them the rest of the way. Sometimes she would run into a pile of bones or the carcass of some unseen animal. Her resolve remained and she pressed ever onward. That is until the strange sounds grated on her nerves. Deep moans sang from the walls along with the hum of electricity. A man’s yell came from far off, leaving her to wonder if it came from the man who used the ruddy raft.

      Her head cleaved a wall. Crying, Charlotte held in a scream and groped the obstruction. An opening. She sidestepped and entered, her feet stepping onto icy steel, the smell of decay replaced with a pungent aroma of body odor. She continued to slide forward when her feet touched something warm. Bending over to feel, she touched what was undeniably a living human. He snored softly and muttered under his breath.

      “What are you doing?” The familiar voice from the test facility said in a tone more angry than usual. “You’ve come as well? Have you both traded in your brains for garbage?”

      “Shut up, fucker,” Charlotte shot, recalling the incident in her room. “Is there nowhere I can go where you aren’t spouting your crap?”

      “What is that you have? A letter? For me?”

      Charlotte’s eyes widened, reaching for Chigun’s parchment. “You? No, defiantly not you. Turn on some lights!”

      “Denied. More importantly, you are faced with another, and might I add defenseless, test participant. You have a gun. Go ahead and shoot him dead and then leave so we can move on to better things. Oh and leave that letter here.”

      Charlotte looked down at the man, seeing nothing. “I’ll so what I want, but not because you said it.”

      “Very well. Just know if you proceed, and I do hope you leave the letter so it is not damaged, that you will be fed to a pack of pigs. A fitting end. That said, I bid you a good life. Goodbye.

      After a time Charlotte bit her bottom lip and sat down. What do I do?

      Peter [Test Facility]

      Peter jerked awake. A forty inch computer monitor flashed images of exotic trees and strange, humanoid birds. The machine had three separate keyboards, only a few keys that he recognized as English letters. Looking over his shoulder Peter saw nothing but dry walls and a paint-splotched concrete floor. Above, through a glass ceiling, dark outlines of human figures watched.

      “Hello?” Peter stared at his thick leather gloves and then back to the monitor. “I don’t remember falling asleep here--”

      “Hello,” said a deep computerized voice. “That whore Jackie Cho refused to fix out computer. We figured a man is more up for the job. Fix our computer please. Our records show you are good with puzzles.”

      Peter’s blue eyes stared for a moment before it dawned that he might not be dreaming. Staring up he squinted to see who stood above. “Crap! Is this a kidnapping?”

      “Perhaps so, the point is we can’t figure out how to access the Internet, or so we tell you. Just do as you are told.”

      Peter stormed from the seat and paced around the door-less room. He rubbed his forehead and took in harsh breaths. “Oh god, oh god, I read about this kind of thing. You’re gonna ransom me off, right?”

      “We take your jumping to irrational conclusions as an indicator that you will not fix the computer. This angers me. Activating Transport. Please die.”

      The room vanished and Peter felt his body suspend mid-air. His back cleaved dirt and rocks. He laid outside below a moonless night's sky. Crickets and distant howls came along with the aroma of gunpowder and grass. Staggering to his feet Peter spotted a dirty leather sack waiting to be retrieved.

      He had to figure out what in the hell was going on.

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 02-24-2008 at 08:47 PM.

    8. #8
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Chapter VII

      Day Two (Night to Morning)

      Marco Didoria [Western Metropolis]

      What’s a man to do? Stuck in some shantytown watching the sun dip below the distant emerald ocean. The riddle made no sense. No, it made more sense than the white washed buildings that filled the city square—the ones without even a door, window, or chimney. There were no housecats like back on the old world and the roads were a pinch too narrow for any cars. And just why was that clock tower on its side, anyway?

      Marco’s gaze lazily rose between the two skyscrapers (now reflecting a brilliant indigo and red from each square window) where a small tower jetted from the top of a rocky plateau. The slit on the tower’s domed roof hosted a white protrusion, what Marco assumed to be a light. Yet what if it wasn’t a lighthouse? Perhaps he should investigate.

      No. Besides, he had a weeping book at his side (and wow, the howls can get to one’s nerves quicker than a few stabs in the gut) and a jeep he wouldn’t trust to abandon for long. Marco drew closer to the woman-statue as if about to ask her for some clue, and then returned his watch to the lighthouse. Then he noticed it—a little speck, like one of those ants you squish in the mud, moving about behind the light. Could it be another playing the game, he thought. That’s right. It was just a game, after all. I should be safe since the sun is almost gone, then again will I be able to see anything?

      A high-pitched crack dispelled Marco’s thoughts. He lost balance, using his elbows to absorb the impact of his fall. Enough sunlight remained to illuminate the large hole in the lady-statue, and the chunks of marble lying by the tubs of liquid. Someone shot at him; someone had actually shot at him! Checking with a fury he breathed a sigh of relief to see no new wounds and then darted while crouching towards the neighborhood of featureless houses. He didn’t stop until one of the houses served as a wedged between him and the accursed lighthouse.

      “The distance, has to be a long range rifle,” Marco panted seeing the first patch of stars in the sky (interestingly all in rather bland circular formations, it would have made boring astronomy). “Dammit,” then, for the first time since viewing the ungodly corpse, he groped at his new, shining revolver. That’s right. The assailant would wait and, after seeing no further movement would come to confirm his kill. All Marco had to do was wait him out and attack when the time came. Hey, a point is a point, right? What’s another stranger dead-- especially for a stranger who had shot at him.

      The crickets grew especially loud coming with it the pungent smell of gunpowder. How long had it been? An hour? Maybe he would be better off staying frozen there until dawn. Yes, then he’d be doubly sure to watch out for any pesky ants in the distance. Never again would he be so careless. Or so he thought. A voice washed over him from behind, a female’s dark, melodious voice. “I have a teaser pointing at your spine. This teaser will render you permanently paralyzed.”

      Marco jerked. He had told himself a million times: if someone snuck up on him he was to shoot without thinking. Yeah, easier said cozy and alone. Then he said: “wait, I—“

      “Drop the weapon on the ground, move ahead ten spaces and turn around. Slowly.”

      Marco tossed the weapon away from the dark concrete wall of the building, stepped ahead ten spaces and turned to face the woman. Slowly. To him she was nothing more than a shadow, a faint semblance of eyes with an amorphous body. Somehow he pictured her smiling.

      “Good,” she said, “no sudden movements or I will kill you.” Marco watched the black blob move closer, felt it snatch the weeping book from his grasp, and return to its original position. He couldn’t see, but there was a pop, a clank, and the crying ceased. The night then seemed eerily quiet. “I was hoping you would be of some use, but I see you have a neck brace like the others. Still, maybe…”

      “Are you going to kill me or not?” Marco said with his hands instinctively up (perhaps he had been a criminal before?). “An explanation would be nice, seeing as how you nearly put a hole through me earlier.”

      She laughed. It was sarcastic, as expected. “Oh, well I’m not exactly the kind to care about lives as insignificant as the ‘test participants’. Still…”

      “Still what?”

      “Call it a hunch. You seem the type that can help me. Maybe in turn I can help you.”

      Marco could see her a little more clearly. She had dark hair to be sure, short though covering her ears. Her armor, or was it a tight suit? The kind those dancers wear. No, it looked more textured, with sheaths along the belt, horizontal slits moving down her pants and a plastic-looking plate over her abdomen. Her eyes gave off a pointed, yellow gaze. Marco could only describe her as a ninja with demonic pupils, although she seemed very well developed where it counted.

      “The only way you can help is getting me off this rock,” Marco said. “Well, maybe if you have some kind of arsenal that would help too,” he flashed his white teeth, thinking himself funny.

      “Oh how I’ve longed,” her voice rose and shocked Marco, “to get off of this damnable rock. Even without the confinement of the explosive collar—even then I cannot figure out how escape is possible. I do have ideas…”

      Marco wrinkled his nose. Something about her he just couldn’t trust. He decided to pry further, however. “I’m about as clueless as one can get. Seeing as how you’ve got me as hostage, I’m listening.”

      She laughed again. “Come, there are ears here. There are special designated buffers where we can talk.”

      * * *

      The tick, tock and clang of the clock bounced back and forth in Marco’s ears. The clock tower had been close and for that, at least, he was grateful. Ahead he could see the shadows of the gears twisting and grinding. The woman sat on a wood beam (presumably a pillar that broke following the tower’s collapse) and indicated for Marco to take a seat on the floor ahead of her. Grumbling and thinking of the revolver in her custody, he obeyed. She now sat above him by a head-- her brows furled-- her sarcastic smile visible from a small fire she had lit near the entrance. The young man sighed feeling as if he were forced into story time or some other nonsense. Shaking his head, he then tried to remain serious.

      “So, these ‘ears’ are deaf here?”

      “Correct, this tower has been cleansed by me personally. You can say I’ve taken this city as my residence. I haven’t been out of my usual spots in a while.”

      “So, no collar?” Marco examined her delicate neck, also covered with the black tight-suit armor. “You also seem to know a lot. Who are you? More importantly, tell me your plan. I don’t want to be in the dark about anything.”

      Her smile vanished. “Just because I’ve let you live doesn’t mean I trust you. This is a killing field, after all. I’m Contra, an exiled assassin for the eighth-sector judge circle of the Apian Empire. They intended to put me where most exiles go, Zaybous, but there must have been some mistake. I ended up here!”

      “’Apian’? And what exactly is ‘here’? Oh, and the weeping book—“

      “One at a time,” she said, fiddling with his revolver and avoiding his eye contact. “I won’t try to explain what Ap is other than a planet that I happened to have served long ago, before the bastards cast me out. I barely know more about what here is than you. I know it is worse than Zaybous could have ever been. There is also evidence that it is in close proximity to planet Ap. I once spent two months on a voyage at sea from this island. No—there’s nothing out there. It just keeps going and going until you wind up here again.”

      “Wait, so you literally went in and straight line and—“

      “Yup, like one of those podchasers.” She noticed Marco’s blank look, “Eh, anyway, the volcano is sealed shut with titanium multi-level locks. The test facility building at the east has some interesting things inside, yet nothing that will get me off.”

      “How long have you been here?”

      “The six year anniversary is any day now,” her eyes returned to his. “Funny to
      think I was exiled due to a simple misunderstanding.” She gauged Marco’s expression and looked as if waiting for him to ask for more. He decided to play along.

      “Go on.”

      “A record mix-up, someone had it out for me. My file was placed in the criminal section and the criminal, your typical murderer, in the supervisor. Funny thing was, I wasn’t even supposed to have a file—I’m no judge. The slave traders and exile transporters don’t know anyone personally, so one look at the file and they believed it. I was in bed, night, sleeping soundly when a knock came to the door.”

      Marco grimaced. He could picture the rest.

      “Five hooded men apprehended me and put restraints over my mouth before I could raise a word of protest. After all—my file was in the condemned rack—I already ‘had my trial’. And my brother, damn him,” she looked down. “Sorry—I only recently put the pieces together that he was most likely the one who did this to me. Anyway, long story short. I find myself with the rest of the cattle in the cage of a starship set out for Zaybous. I went to sleep and,” she paused, “I woke up inside this clock tower.”

      Marco was taken aback. He almost felt sorry for her, though then again, was his situation much better? At least she had gotten the opportunity to live six years. With the collar he had a few days at best. His past and his future were meaningless.

      “So, this book,” Marco broke the silence. “Was it audio devices?”

      “Yes, actually,” she smiled with half-closed eyes, “a form of terror. Anyone without the knowledge would think it was legitimately crying and lose their mind. Ironically it was attached to a book about the folly of mankind.” Then, as if reading his mind, she said, “you’re thinking about sleep, right?” Her yellow eyes were glued to him. “I’ve told you all I will for now, it’s up to you wither to stick around or to run off. At this point I’ve made up my mind: you can do what you want. Help me or run off, whatever. I doubt I can accomplish anything that I haven’t tried before. Though your name would be nice…”

      “Marco,” Marco said, “Marco Didoria,” he deliberately looked away and shrugged his shoulders. “First, give me my damn gun back, then we can talk about the whole I scratch your back, you scratch mine crap.”

      “Someone’s foul tempered,” she slid the revolver forward without hesitation, to Marco’s surprise. Then she said: “Oh, you know what happens to the winners of these contests, don’t you?”

      Marco stared at her for awhile, and then said, “no, can’t say I thought much about it.”

      “Wise. Goodnight, Marco.” She pressed her back on the surface of the pillar after lying down and closed her eyes. “Feel free to shoot me, dear, though it may cost you your life.”

      Marco continued to stare, utterly confused.

      Revol [Railroad tracks]

      It’s amazing how memories work. There are those times when you have brief flashes of images, of faces and things that warm your heart—yet you can’t quite place the specific time and events those images belonged to. Until this very moment, Revol had dealt with this problem, yet now it all flooded back like the cap in his mind had been plucked away.

      It’s so dark now, and it was raining before. Where did the rain go?

      What did it matter if he used to be an outdoorsman, a charming man in his early twenties who had just drew up plans for a new logging company? That was in another world, a fiction. All that mattered was his torso, filled with too many lead bullets to count, and the pain of his ribs that chewed at his flesh like a pair of monstrous teeth. But he had to get up. He had to survive. He was Revol, rated most likely to succeed in his senior year, a star hunter and wilderness survivor man.

      Then his memories included the dark days following his capture, but he quickly brushed the thought of that away.

      Heaving to his feet sent a biting pain through the left side of his body. It took all his effort not to scream and alert the others of his exact position. He then surveyed the sparsely forested direction he had came from, and then froze after hearing a rustling sound…

      Jackie Cho, that Asian woman he had pointed out to Daniel, broke into the clearing with her fiery eyes on him. Her weapon has changed as she now clenched onto Alex’s heavy-duty machine gun complete with circular magazine. She pointed it at him. Revol stared at the black tunnel that was the SMG barrel with his mouth agape. He could only think of one thing to say, “wait.”

      “It’s a miracle you’re standing,” she said with a voice more snide and sarcastic than he would have hoped. “Unfortunately you cut up Alex pretty bad. You’re too dangerous to keep alive.”

      Bitch, he thought. Isn’t it obvious from my wounds I would die anyway? Still, maybe I can talk my way out of this one.

      “W-wait,” Revol said again, “I was caught up in the moment, y-you know I would never play this damn thing. I lost it out there, please. I’m going to die anyway, so can’t you let me go?”

      Jackie grinned ever so slightly, tilting her head. “If you’re going to die anyway all the more reason to kill you. Better the points go to someone.”

      “You can’t be serious! You’re enjoying this, killing innocent people, I can’t believe you—“

      “Look at you trying to place fault on me when you betrayed your own friend and nearly killed Alex. I’m sorry. Actually, no, I’m not. Goodbye.”

      Revol was just about to say ‘wait’ for the third time when a series of pops, like firecrackers, washed over the land. Jackie smiled over the smoking barrel of the weapon, eyeing Revol as he examined the new holes all over his stomach and thighs. Both his shirt and pants were soaking with a crimson red. Needless to say he reeked of blood.

      Then something hit Revol, something powerful and internal, like a part of him had just switched on. A little voice like the one that admonished him from within the test facility spoke inside his mind, though this time it was even deeper in pitch. “Submitting cleansing impulses. Submit.”

      “Yes sir,” Revol said out loud, causing Jackie to stare in confusion. She thought about shooting again but figured he was just loosing the last shred of his logical facilities.

      “Bodily functions down. Nearly fatal,” the voice said, “Enter soldier mode, then follow with survivor mode for approximately three days time.”

      Revol’s eyes flashed with intense yellow, causing Jackie to gasp. His pain faded away and the dark green and brown colors around him grew more warm and vibrant. Glancing at his arms Revol smiled as the mussels in his arms bulged from a rush of concentrated steroids commanded from his S-4 implant. By the time Jackie shot another round at him he had ducked and leapt to the right with the prowess of a master martial artists. He lunged for the woman, his fist connecting with her skull.

      Jackie was thrown back and slammed against the surface of a nearby tree, one with a tall trunk that provided little cover. By the time she had recovered Revol had already covered half the distance to her, his arm back ready the jab his index and middle finger into the whites of her eye. Revol’s hair danced wildly in the wind, his grin broadened and his excitement flooded into his veins.

      He felt powerful, like he could snap any obstacle in half. More importantly he felt really pissed at the bitch in front of him who didn’t show him mercy. In the name of the laws of the land, she will die! But Jackie had other plans. Instead of sidestepping or attempting to avoid his advance, she took a bold step forward and jetted out the sub-machine gun. The barrel kissed Revol’s forehead and then—

      A sharp, severe headache was the last sensation Revol ever felt. His body launched into the air and from the back of his skull brains shot out much like the blast of a shotgun. His moist eyes pushed out and his tongue dipped out from between his teeth. The new hole between his eyebrows came complete with a waterfall of blood.

      Jackie rubbed the red bump on her forehead where Revol had hit her and cursed at the corpse. She only took a second before examining his body for all of his items. Once these items were secure she turned to leave.

      Jackie Cho [Railroad Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      Before Jackie had the chance to walk six meters towards the location of the other straggler, a familiar presence grappled her attention. Like last time the encompassing darkness of the moonless night masked most of its finer details, its silky blue hair covering parts of its red and yellow eyes. The beast stood and full height (towering at least seven feet tall) its sapphire armor shining just barely from the starry illumination. Jackie, her heart still pumping from the adrenaline of killing a man, wasn’t afraid. She did stop, however, and open her eyes just slightly in wonderment.

      The Phoenix lowered its head. “You hold not my gift?”

      “I still have it. It’s waiting for me near the mountain,” she pointed, though The Phoenix did not bother to look. “I figured since it could only shoot once before a long reload time I would swap it out for one better fitting for the situation.”

      “Intuitive. To think before you were chirping on about self-defense and your refusal to kill. It seems a person can change in a day. Or, perhaps it is simply that the phony side of you has withered. You are, after all, only human.”

      Jackie felt anger well up inside her. Whatever this creature was, she didn’t sign up for its help. Still, she decided it best not to anger it. “It’s as you say. Now I have another prey to kill, if you would excuse me…”

      “I’m afraid my time is limited so you’ll have to postpone your plans,” it stomped forward. Jackie, in turn, stumbled backwards. She felt the urge to aim the sub-machine gun at the monster, to fill it full of holes. Terror began to flood through her veins—inexplicable and irrational. The Phoenix continued to speak through its mind, “take me to your latest victim.”

      “What?” Jackie said.

      Its red eye flared and grew brighter. “The one you murdered, I wish to see him.”

      Jackie turned, trying to hider her shivering, and ran the six meters back near the train tracks. It was there Revol laid, sprawled out in a puddle of blood not yet congealed. Once at the body Jackie kept her distance, watching The Phoenix storm towards the corpse. It dropped to its knees, lowered, lowered some more and then…

      Jackie turned her gaze away and grimaced. Chomp, crack, slurp. Other than cannibalism, she didn’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t like that thing was human, right? Nonetheless she couldn’t take another moment of it. With a firm step forward she started making her distance, figuring that the best chance to get away was while it wasn’t looking at her. Her brain scream to her legs to workuntil a deafening, skull-shattering bellow pounded behind her. Shoving a shoulder against a tree to prevent falling she stared back at The Phoenix. Its onyx wings jetted out, its body surrounded by a dome of crimson light. Turning it stomped for Jackie with a blooded smile, its fists clenched.

      “N—no! Stay away!” Jackie heard herself say, falling back onto her ass.

      “You have done me a service,” The Phoenix said.

      “Get away,” Jackie focused the monster’s head in her gun’s iron sights.

      It stopped with a barely perceptible smile forming over its lips. The red aura intensified and forced Jackie to squint. “It’s not as if I particularly enjoy that part either. I have some of my former power back—“

      “If you don’t leave now I’ll kill you, I swear,” Jackie’s teeth clattered.

      “I’m not leaving yet,” The Phoenix’s smile grew, “If you were wielding my gift I might have been afraid. That toy is not worthy of my notice.”

      “You mean this gift?”

      Both Jackie and The Phoenix looked up. There, in the shadows, was the barrel of the rail gun held in the shaking palms of Alex Denman.

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman [Railroad Tracks]

      [Continued Above]

      Alex knew how he must have looked, assuming they could see him through the veil of night. His eye had since sealed itself shut with a pitch-black bruise covering the side of his face. It had taken all his effort to speak coherently, although his mouth ached as if it held a thousand needles. Earlier he examined his checks through the reflection of a puddle to find two grizzly, bloody gashes that were bound for infection. That aside once he heard the yell and Jackie’s frightened voice there was no choice but to act. He was, after all, covered neck to toe with battle armor. “Don’t make any,” he swallowed spit and blood, “movement.” Alex caught sight of the mutilated corpse by the railroad track. Who’s doing was that? Alex thought, just what is that thing?

      “This really is turning into an amusing spectacle,” said the demon, “I have gained back much of my old self through feasting on death. I doubt even that rail gun can kill me now.”

      “Look at her,” Alex pointed toward Jackie, “She obviously doesn’t sheel comf’table wif oou,” he swallowed, “around so can’t you just get the hell out of here? Do you really want to find out if this can kill you now?

      The Phoenix glared from Alex to Jackie and gave a little nod, “It is almost daybreak anyway. I will return next time the darkness falls.” Its wings snapped and its massive body rose into the air. Then, like a bat, it darted off into the night sky. Alex lowered the gun and ran over to Jackie, whom was still sitting on her bottom. Offering a hand she hesitantly accepted. Alex couldn’t feel her, though he imagined she was both burning up and covered with goose bumps. Once the red glow vanished from the sky he bided Jackie to walk with him. Together they returned past the sparse trees to the mountainside they had started at.

      “Thanks, Alex,” Jackie let go of his forearm and stumbled back to a large boulder. She sat.

      “What was that ‘hing?” Alex said after a moment. Then, as if intending to cut himself off, he spat, “shit!”

      “What?” Jackie stood.

      Alex groped at the grass and dirt through the blinding pain in his head. Somehow he had enough wits to notice his bag of belongings were no longer there. What was more, in its place a magazine rested waiting to be read. More accurately, it waited to be looked at, given that it was a very recent issue of Playboy. Alex’s ears twitched, hearing leaves rustle. There, in the distance, he saw the shadow of a person running off. “He stole!” Alex pointed, “t—that bastard!”

      By the time Alex convinced Jackie to go after the perpetrator it was long too late.

      Lyinda [Near Volcano]

      [Continued Above]

      There was always a great satisfaction in learning a skill. Some enjoyed mastering sports, others martial arts, Lyinda must have been some sort of covert ops specialist or a part-time thief. Having come out of pure curiosity, she had snagged the bag and retreated even as the owners were returning. Better to get away with something to show than stay and get gunned down. Just through feeling the bag’s contents Lyinda figured there were no useful weapons. Just give me a damn gun already, she said to whatever was listening, or at least a place to take a bath.

      The rocky road lowered the rocky hill in a back and forth fashion. Squinting past the dark she made out her footprints from her original trip to the bag. Now all she had to do was return to the giant volcano she had ‘appeared’ in front of and count her gains. The outline of some stone ruins waited at the bottom of the hill, and beyond, like a giant upside-down “V”, the volcano welcomed her to come closer. She ran over the grass that crunched under her feet, leapt over a collection of stumps and zoomed over the rocky terrain, until coming to the lighted up computer terminal that was so articulately attached to the side of the massive rock formation, not to mention the jeep tire tracks leading westward, the very same that had brought her to that dead man’s body.

      Sitting she scraped out the contents of the bag and used the computer’s light to see what she was dealing with. First to come out was a long green key, then a bottle, a cheap cigarette lighter and a cellular telephone (which appeared to be out of batteries). Staring Lyinda gave a slight yell. “I went through all the trouble for this utter crap?

      “Ha ha,” the computer said, taunting her, “You are funny.”

      Staring, Lyinda slobbered at the mouth, “does everything in this screwed up world talk?”

      Yet the computer refused to say anything else. Lyinda felt like crying. She plopped down and watched the lonely black sky. What ever is a woman to do…

      Nathan Aki [Phi us Leampu’n Ap Te]

      One of the few decent dreams Nathan ever had the privilege of having evaporated from two distinct voices—that of the deep, masculine machine and a definitively feminine peer. His mind did a double take, his ears perceiving the minor nuances of a gun clattering in shaking hands. There was no doubt that meant trouble. Nathan secured his bag and scurried away from the woman in the direction he had seen the ladder; the pungent smell of blood complimenting the obnoxious screeches. Slipping the bag straps over a shoulder his hands slapped the ladder as he slid down. His feet met rough resistance and ahead a hint of light beaconed him to approach….

      * * *

      The computer had lied. More specifically, its exaggeration had legitimately frightened him. What a fool to let his guard down out of fear. The island was blanked by brilliant sunlight, the breeze warm and carrying the smell of sand and palm trees. Grass went as far as the eye could see and flowers of vivid color—crimson, plum, indigo, yellow—released their pedals in the wind. On top of a small incline a wood house, painted purple, appeared inviting. It was a two-story structure with large porch and many windows. Surrounding it were patches of cabbage and, to Nathan’s left, a field of wheat. Interestingly enough the sky had no sun, nor did it hold its regular blue tint. It was a deeper blue somehow, artificial.

      Then ‘that woman’ came to mind. Slapping the bag down by a black cat (whom came by to sniff Nathan’s feet), the youth snapped out his shotgun and turned around. Sure enough the adolescent girl ascended out of the cave’s mouth, her pistol barrel meeting Nathan’s gaze. He froze, his eyes widening and mouth twitching, and for a moment gave into the idea of his immanent death. Snap out of it, his thoughts admonished him. I have the upper hand here. Nathan ran directly for her, knowing the unexpected move is always most proficient in combat. Avoiding being in the direct line of fire Nathan jabbed the front of his shotgun into her stomach. Almost at once the woman winced back and weaved around his shotgun, a furious fire in her eyes. Taking the initiative from Nathan’s shock, she pressed her desert eagle into his eye socket. Checkmate.

      “It’s not nice to attack a girl, you bastard. Aren’t you supposed to be all chivalrous or something?”

      “Wait,” Nathan inched his shotgun barrel closer to her. He had thought he hit her pretty hard, but whatever the case he was in some deep shit. “You came at me with that thing pointed at me, what was I supposed to do, give you a hug?”

      Her smile faded, “put the gun down.” Gnashing his teeth, Nathan tossed the weapon aside, half of it landing within the cave the other half on the grass. “Now turn around.” Following instructions he faced the field and purple house.

      “Look,” Nathan said, feeling the gun barrel on the back of his skull, “do you even know why I came here? I can’t imagine you happening to know too. You must have been following me this whole time.”

      “Shut up—“

      “This is the least beneficial time to fight, or did you not hear the warning? Three days without playing along and its goodbye to our heads. Even if you kill me, do you think you can get back and kill someone else in that amount of time? No. Back at the staging area I had a prevailing thought enter my head: go, go to the southernmost island and seek out the demolitions expert. Someone here can get these neck collars off. If that happens we don’t have to kill anyone.”

      “This is a trick. You want to let my guard down.”

      “I’m unarmed. Take what you will, but look, time is of the essence for the both of us.”

      The gun barrel receded from his head. The woman rushed past him and snatched the shotgun, then stumbled over to take the bag. She was quite the funny sight trying to carry all of it. Then she, facing Nathan, backpedaled to get as much distance as possible. “Take me to this expert person or I’ll use all of this on you.”

      Nathan cracked his neck and scoped the purple house. Pointing he nodded. “That looks like a good place to start looking.”

      [Continued Below]

      Charlotte Briggs [Southernmost Island]

      [Continued Above]

      So, his name was Nathan Aki. Maybe he wasn’t so bad, though his mostly blank expression annoyed her. In her left hand she wielded the silver pistol, in the right the shotgun. The bag bounced against her back hanging over her right shoulder—and it was really damn heavy.

      The pair stopped before the porch of the house. Nathan began to head around to look for a front door when a voice took them both off guard. It belonged to a woman, young, spunky with an air of sarcasm. “This is no place for a young couple to go on a date, oh no, what a silly decision this was.” Charlotte and Nathan stepped back (still a good distance away from each other) and up where they heard footsteps. The slender figure came into view. From her gentle eyes she removed a pair of oil-splotched goggles and slipped them into a pocket of her white miner’s work-coat. On her arms were peculiar steel gauntlets and around her thin neck hung a pale necklace. Her hair, dark blue like the artificial sky, covered one eye. Contrary to her tone a smile did not appear on her face.

      “You were the one speaking to us this whole time,” Nathan said. Charlotte shot a glance over to him. Is he serious? She isn’t anything like I pictured—no, it’s not true.

      “I apologize for the trouble,” she said, resting her elbows on the porches railing, “but there has been a mistake. You weren’t supposed to get here at all. Someone must be tinkering in my affairs.”

      “Wait, so this is the demolition expert?” Charlotte said, making a face from the pain in her shoulder. “You’re my age.”

      “I’m no expert, I just happen to have made your collars,” her expression grew more angry. “Now shut up and hand me the letter.”

      Charlotte caught Nathan stare at her from the corner of her eyes. Then he said: “collars off, then you get your letter.”

      She laughed, stepping back from the porch beam and turning her back to them. “You’re in no position to be bargaining. Well, it has been quite a few years…”


      “Since I tested anyone. Please wait there,” she walked off out of sight. By the time the woman came around the wood house her goggles had returned to her face and black gloves covered her hands. Charlotte shrieked and moved away from her and closer to Nathan. “You may use anything at your disposal. Your job is to defeat me in combat. If you succeed the collar key is in safe six,” she smiled, “I do not intend to show you mercy so I expect the same in return.”

      “What? You have no gun or anything,” Charlotte said and took another step back, now at Nathan’s flank. “And there’s so much I want to ask—”

      “I agree,” Nathan said bluntly. “Answers are preferable, though I don’t intend to leave here without getting this off. If fighting you is the only way to do this, than so be it. Also, a name is polite. Mine is Nathan.”

      “Mine?” her smile turned sad. “That’s all in the past now. I would so like to read that letter before dying, but this score needs to be settled now. As for your questions young lady, I’m sorry but I have nothing to say.” Her arms rose in front of her face, her hands forming fists, “prepare yourselves and kill me.”

      Charlotte froze, unsure of what to do.

      Peter [Preparation Area]

      There were no words to describe the confusion and the fear. To live once in a land of positive energy (the memory of which was blocked by an amnesiac barrier) compared to the dark, humid outdoors of this land. Peter’s thumb brushed the rough material of the bag and tensed his shoulders. Ten minutes had passed in this featureless field without any sign of life. There was no moon to guide the way and the stars were unlike those of ‘that planet’. Whatever the case running was the best plan of action, and so that was what Peter did. The grass crunched under heavy footsteps as he took in steady breaths. There, to the right and up that hill, a silhouette of a building next to what appeared to be a windmill. Forging up the incline the silhouette became more clear, that of a wall, an old farmhouse. Yes, it was the perfect place for cover where he could formulate a plan.

      The door was already cracked so getting inside wasn’t a problem. What was a problem was the light; Peter squinted and felt around, touching the hard texture of an oaken table and the smooth feel of wallpaper. To the right he felt a wood door and he wasted no time in opening it up and slipping deeper into the house. There was an old cabbage smell and he gave a few coughs from sudden inhalation of dust. To Peter’s great relief he came upon the cool dial of an oil lamp. The blue flame within the globe sent shadows dancing along the walls. The room had white carpet, yellow painted walls, three leather couches, a brick fireplace and another door leading off into a dark haze. Sitting on the couch beside the nightstand that he had found the lamp on, Peter fished through the bag he had acquired from the voice. The first thing that came out was a silver spoon. Peter almost laughed, discovering also a magnifying glass, a pack of cards, a bag of cookies and padded gloves. Returning them to the sack he sighed. I was expecting something better than that.

      His hands froze from a sudden sound outside, like someone had hit the side of the house. Forgetting the bag Peter rose and kept a calculating gaze in the direction he had come in from, sliding his boots along the frilly carpet. Reaching the fireplace he searched around and found in a basket a poker: a fine long metal rod with a pointed end. Cautiously moving back to the couch he had been sitting at, he knelt by its side and peeked out just barely. He would be ready for any enemy that decided to barge in on him.

      The front door of the house creaked open…

      [Continued Below]

      Daniel Seyton [En Route to Farmhouse]

      [Continued From Above]

      It took five whole minutes to climb to his feet. The wet bark itched against his neck and forearms and the darkness brought no hope. Sounds were distorted, even the crickets seemed more melancholy than usual, and Daniel couldn’t place the smell. Was it his blood? Just thinking about it caused the man to clinch his fists, breath deeply and gnash his teeth. Betrayal, it wasn’t as trivial as the storybooks made it out to be, a few apologetic words or treaties couldn’t right the wrongs or take away the wounds. His mind flashed with pictures of the redheaded devil, those cold eyes, that lulling voice! Hate never held such a precise definition as it did then.

      “I hate you, hate, hate you!” Daniel’s voice grew sore, his eyes moist and his jaw aching. Taking his first attempt at walking Daniel collapsed back to his knees, his palms landing on sharp rocks that added two more wounds to his body. His stomach churned and then a spray of chunky vomit spewed from his mouth. He figured there went the last of his nutrients, given that he hadn’t eaten since he had arrived. Staring up he cursed louder, wanting to pull some great deity from the sky and force him to make it right. Just get up, Daniel, he thought to himself. This is it, you only have a little bit of energy left. You have to get somewhere to mend yourself and fast! I refuse to die because of that bastard Revol! Climbing up once more, Daniel bellowed a yell from his chest and charged forward, legs churning. At once he regretted his decision as things around became blurry and his head faint.

      Daniel broke into a clearing and passed over a railroad track, and then beyond he saw the silhouette of a house he had seen once before—the farmhouse. Reaching a steep hill leading up to the house Daniel collapsed once more and had to proceed by crawling, using embedded rocks and sticks to scale up. Each new rock he grasped sent pain shooting to his cranium, his gunshot wounds (at least more than one, Daniel decided) stinging like a constant barrage of bees. Once at the top he used the frame of the windmill to stand and lurched for the house wall. Using the support he walked around the side, catching wind of the door and a faint candlelight from inside. “s’one there,” he whispered, a stream of tears flowing down his checks.

      I’m going to die.

      Pushing the door open Daniel stumbled in, coking his head rightward towards the firelight. He wasn’t fooled for a moment. He saw the dark mop-like hair sticking above the arm of a leather couch. Daniel gave a wry grin. Ironic to come all this way only to find another ‘player’, but what did it really matter? Falling to the carpeted floor Daniel’s senses dulled. “H—help,” he whimpered.

      Daniel knew the bitter truth. If this unknown player didn’t help him soon, he would most assuredly leave the mortal realm and answer that all-important question. Still, he didn’t want to know. Not yet. At least let me see the sunrise one more time…

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 04-14-2008 at 09:30 AM.

    9. #9
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
      Join Date
      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Helm Character Recap…

      Gives point by point moves of characters up through chapter VII.
      Gives current health of characters as of the end of Chapter VIII.

      Lyinda (Kromoh) - Uninjured

      IV: Starts
      V: Traveles west until coming to Finn's body and the motorcycle shed.
      VI: Finds a strange church that turns out to be a teleport station. Is sent to the volcano.
      VII: Steals Alex Denman's belongings.

      Nathan Aki (Sindred) - Injured

      I: Starts. Obtains double shotgun.
      II: Goes to southern fort. Obtains ammo and grenades.
      III: Builds his own raft and sets a course for the easternmost island.
      IV: Arrives at the easternmost island.
      V: Explores island and goes deep into an underground labyrinth. Talks with the expert.
      VI: Dreams of Russia…
      VII: Meets up with Charlotte and relinquishes items to her after reaching the southernmost island. Meets the demolition expert who wants to fight them in order for them to have their collars removed.

      Alex Denman (DD) - Severely Injured

      I: Starts with battle armor.
      II: Goes to farmhouse. Obtains machine gun.
      III: Leaves farmhouse unsure of where to go.
      IV: Discovers where Jackie is and spies on her.
      V: Reassures Jackie and travels with her for the volcano. Meets Daniel and Revol.
      VI: Revol takes his eye and injures his cheeks. Shoots Revol many times.
      VII: Waits as Jackie kills Revol. Threatens The Phoenix. Loses his belongings.

      Jackie Cho (Lord Toaster) -
      Uninjured 2 Points.

      I: Starts.
      II: Goes north and is caught off guard by Charlotte and her pistol.
      III: Escapes danger, heading west. Makes to sleep in a tree. Meets The Phoenix and obtains a rail gun.
      IV: Plans where to go. Spied on by Alex.
      V: Meets Alex demanding he take out his gun magazine. They set off for the Volcano. Get cut off by meeting Daniel and Revol.
      VI: Treats Alex’s wounds the best she can after Revol assaults him.
      VII: Kills Revol. Meets The Phoenix for the second time.

      Macro Didoria (Grod) -
      Uninjured 1 Point.

      I: Starts with an RPG.
      II: Fights for the jeep with Finn and wins. Heads west and enters a tool shed.
      III: Receives items from shed. Drives back to where he saw Finn fall off.
      IV: Kills Finn McCaorty
      V: Takes motorcycle keys and Finn’s items. Drives to Volcano.
      VI: Drives far west to a city with an odd puzzle connected to it.
      VII: Nearly shot by Contra. After both calm down they talk.

      Finn McCaorty (Man of Steel) -

      I: Starts with Chigun. Receives map of the island.
      II: Fights Marco for the jeep. Rides on top of it until being thrown off.
      III: Enters a garage with a motorcycle in it.
      IV: Is flanked and killed by Marco and his RPG.

      Charlotte Briggs (Carousoul) -

      I: Starts. Obtains Desert Eagle
      II: Goes slightly north and aims her gun at Jackie Cho with intent to kill.
      III: Fires and misses. Jackie gets away. Goes far south.
      IV: Wants to go to the southern islands. Meets Chigun who gives her a letter and a boat.
      V: Reaches the easternmost island. Goes through a labyrinth and all lights shut off
      VI: Catches up with the sleeping Nathan Aki. Taunted by the demolition’s expert.
      VII: Reaches the southernmost island with Nathan. Meets the demolition expert who wants to fight them in order for them to have their collars removed.

      Revol (De-loused) - Dead

      I: Starts without a collar. Goes north.
      II: Travels until meeting Daniel outside a wood cottage.
      III: Talks with Daniel. Goes inside cottage.
      IV: Travels south. Is suspicious of Daniel and wants to take his scalpel.
      V: Follow explosion from Marco’s rocket. Meets the untrusting Alex and Jackie.
      VI: Takes Daniel hostage. Manages to slice Alex Denman’s eye out and cut both of his cheeks. Is shot several times but gets away temporarily at the train tracks.
      VII: Is revealed as an agent. Dies at the hands of Jackie Cho and the machine gun.

      Daniel Seyton (CyroDragoon) -
      Severely Injured

      II: Starts. Meets Revol outside a wood cottage in the north.
      III: Talks with Revol. Goes inside cottage.
      IV: Travels south with Revol in the supposed attempt to meet others.
      V: Follow explosion from Marco’s rocket. Meets the untrusting Alex and Jackie.
      VI: Taken hostage by Revol. Runs and is shot by Alex three times in the back.
      VII: Manages to make it to the farmhouse where Peter is.

      Peter (PeteB) -

      VI: Starts
      VII: Travels to the farmhouse. Is visited by the injured Daniel Seyton.

      Frank Dread (Firedog) - Uninjured

      No History

      Rogger Dread (Tigerman) -

      No History
      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 10-05-2008 at 02:23 AM.

    10. #10
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Oct 2003
      Louisville, Kentucky
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      Chapter VIII

      Day Three (Morning to Afternoon)

      Marco Didoria [Western Metropolis]

      There’s nothing quite like waking up to find someone you’ve just met learning over you. In her case those eerie yellow eyes forced greater discomfort akin to staring at a beast or vampire. He wasn’t sure what to categorize Contra as yet, but at least (he was fairly sure) she wasn’t an enemy. Marco came to accept the woman’s stare, but grew unsettled when his mind cleared from his mental block—the kind people experience from waking after too few hours sleep. Sure, the situation could be worlds worse. He’d evaded the rest of the group, secured a small arsenal of vehicles and weapons, and found solace inside the clock tower. But couldn’t it change at any moment? After all, just last night the woman’s bullet nearly blew his head off.

      “As you see,” Contra said, “I did not do anything to you as you slept.”

      Marco lurched forward, sitting upright. The interior’s appearance changed dramatically from last night. The sun shined through every crack. Straight ahead was a chrome gear twice Marco’s height connected to other gears by slender polls. Chains and weights dangled from the polls and vibrated along with every tick and rotation. To the right was a fissure in the brick wall-- presumably where they had entered. Marco saw a small portion of the sunbathed city through this hole. He also heard the call of some obnoxious birds he couldn’t identify off hand.

      “Smells like burning rubber in here,” Marco said groggily. “Care to explain that?”

      “Ah, what an odd thing to say. I smell nothing.”

      In reality Marco was experiencing something internally. Something unexplainable. But he decided the matter wasn’t important enough to persist. Climbing to his feet Marco unconsciously gripped his revolver tighter. He gave a pointed stare towards the woman.

      “The sleep didn’t do much for me,” Marco said. “I’m more tired now.” Contra smiled. “I’ve got some questions I’ve been mulling over in my head. Since you’re here, mind answering them?”

      “It may be all I’m good for,” she admitted.

      “As you know so much, do you know how many veteran players are on this island right now?”

      “By veteran I assume you mean those who didn’t start off with you?” She paused to give a hearty laugh. “A good question! There’s quite a drama going on here that I myself have only gotten bits and pieces of.”

      “Go on.”

      “To answer your question directly,” Contra said, “there are three players from before your time. I’ve only had the pleasure of speaking with the one who names himself ‘The Phoenix’. He’s radical beast with wild blue hair and eyes more fierce than my own—which by the way is a story in itself. We fought... he sparred my life, vouching instead to speak with me. He told me the story of himself and the others.

      “Fourteen years ago-- I’m unsure how that translates to earth years-- he was a participant in the first ever test. This was before precautions such as collars were made and when every player started off with superhuman ability. As it turns out most people died without even fighting. Their organs failed due to the experimentation they underwent for their wings and psychic powers. Phoenix and his brother, Chigun, were the only two who survived.

      “For years they evaded recapture and death from the administrators in the volcano. They bided their time by working together to help new players in hopes of adding them to their numbers. They envisioned forming an army that could one day overturn the order here and lead to escape. Unfortunately no matter how many times they tried, they never saved anyone from the icy grip of death. Until some five years ago…”

      “What happened then?” Marco asked.

      “I was here then, so I can tell you what I saw. I watched like a hawk on top of the pyramid facing the volcano. Chigun and Phoenix had an argument so aggressive I thought they would rip each other’s throats out. Chigun had saved someone—a thirteen year old girl who managed to get her collar off all by herself. Phoenix was enraged that his brother hid the girl from him, claiming he knew she worked for ‘Helm’ or else she couldn’t have removed the collar. I admit he had a point; only an agent could manage something like that.”

      “These two fell out over a girl?” Marco said and popped a joint in his neck. “They didn’t like each other to start with, did they?”

      “I don’t know. But Chigun did tell his brother never to talk with him again. It later came out that he had fallen in love with this little flower, though he waited until she had grown fully to declare it. The ironic thing is by then the Volcano administration captured him and put a sort of collar into him. An explosive chip in the beast’s heart set to go off if he leaves certain areas. I hear they will be replacing the collars for those during future tests.”

      “So Chigun is unable to move… what became of the girl and Phoenix?”

      “The girl went to the island in the south and is working for Helm, just as Phoenix suspected. Chigun refuses to believe this, but has no way to prove it untrue. The Phoenix no longer cares about their mission of toppling over the administrators. He seems to just have fun playing with people’s minds…”

      “You’ve mentioned Helm a couple of times. What is that?”

      Contra gave a sad sigh and walked over to sit down by a toppled over pillar. She placed both hands on her knee. “Like any country or organization, there has to be a leader. That would be Helm.”

      “Is that all you know?”

      “Yes. I don’t think he even exists. Probably just a figurehead.”

      After a moment, Marco decided to move on to his next question. “About this Volcano administration. Is there any way to get inside the volcano?”

      “No one’s ever gone inside the volcano. It’s impossible, unless someone working for Helm lets you in. I guess if, theoretically, you could emit the perfect radio signal that the titanium doors are set to unlock, it would unlock. I’ve tried, though, and nothing worked. Good luck trying to blast your way in. It’d take something much bigger than a rocket to do that.”

      “Something like—“

      “A nuke or a rail gun. Both weapons have gone extinct some years ago.”

      Marco took a moment to think. For some reason, the keyhole found in his rocket propelled grenade launcher came to mind. He realized he kept silent for too long. He got up and went to the hole leading outside.

      “Well that’s all very interesting. I hope I don’t run into any of those former players you mentioned.” He looked over his shoulder. “Do you have any useful equipment I could have? Gas maybe?”

      Contra laughed. “You’re too much. I have a whole collection of gear you’d drool over. It’s all in the lighthouse and the capitol building here.” She got up and went over to the chrome gears, chains and weights. “Help me set this for 5:52pm.”

      Marco obeyed. He pulled on the chains she instructed and flipped some switches found in a power box. When he had done everything she asked, a deafening blast of air trumpeted through the city followed by a soft hum of electrical wires. The ticking of the clock had stopped.

      “I figured this out a long time ago,” she said. “Grand buildings rose in an hour, this city has two skyscrapers, a lighthouse, a clock tower and a capitol building. Useless buildings in a minute-- that would be the fifty-two buildings without doors or windows. Let’s go and have a look at what we opened.”

      Marco followed her out and shielded his eyes from the sun glowing low in the sky. Past the statue (hole included) and the tubs of green water, the pair reached the grand structure with steps leading up to the now-open doors. He entered with huge eyes and a gaping jaw. Littered inside—a place similar to the garage he found with the motorcycle-- were boxes stacked upon boxes of supplies. In the middle of it all was an old World War 2 era airplane, its propeller shining like new. Contra showed him the sniper rifles and percussion grenades, sleeping gas canisters and gas masks, shotguns and pistols, machine guns and mortars. Then she pulled out something from a dusty locker: a suit. It was all black with vertical slits just like the one she herself wore. Throwing it at Marco she commanded him to put it on.

      Marco let the suit drop, too amazed at the sight of all the weaponry to pay it any mind. Only when Contra repeated the command did he snap out of his stupor.

      “What does it do?” Marco asked, excited.

      “It doesn’t provide much protection, but you can jump higher, run faster and withstand long falls. It’s a little gift from Helm.”

      Marco threw off his shirt shoes and jeans without heed and slipped the tight suit on, though it took him some time to get it over his neck. Contra gave him black gloves and boots. He put these on as well. Instantaneously the man noticed his every movement felt like being under water.

      “I can’t thank you enough,” Marco said. “I would have never thought—after last night—that you’d give me all of this.”

      “Yes, well you owe me. Pay me back by finding a way into the volcano, hm? Don’t forget me when you do. Now go on, I’ll stay here like always.”

      “You don’t want to come with me?” Marco asked, thumbing a packet of rockets with delight. “It’d make more sense to go together to find a way out of here.”

      “No, Marco,” she sighed. “You see, I, too, have an explosive chip in my heart.”

      Marco bit his bottom lip. So much for her coming along… Still, now he had the power to do just about anything he liked…

      Charlotte Briggs (1) [Southernmost Island]

      The young woman that the two former students faced held the appearance of a scientist donned in her white coat and goggles. The calm breeze was the only thing to break the silence. Thick dew settling on the grass and cabbage heads, yet the sky remained its dark artificial qualities casting doubt that it was, in fact, morning. Charlotte let the bag drop from her shoulder and nimbly passed off the shotgun to Nathan’s sweating palm. If this eccentric demolition expert was as weak as she seemed, than the fight would be over as quickly as squeezing the trigger. But was it right to kill someone near her own age, clearly lacking in her mental facilities?

      The nameless expert kept her stance: arms raised and fists clinched. Those gauntlets on her slender arms reflected an unseen light source, her glance expressing a deep, inexplicable hatred. Nathan made a sign and created distance between Charlotte and the expert. Taking the hint, Charlotte dragged the duffel bag along and did the same—all while keeping her pistol sights trained on the stranger’s azure hair. She stopped once her heel bumped against a jagged rock.

      “I am Helm,” said the expert after the pair had taken their long distant positions. “I took charge after murdering the sick bastards who started this whole thing. In truth I was only in charge for a couple of months before being overthrown. Now I am being blackmailed, something I never thought myself able to succumb to, in order to continue playing the role of leader. It is I who plucks innocent souls from your planet, I who commands from the shadows, and I who forbade myself from ever having contact with another living being.”

      “What?” Charlotte muttered.

      “I was an agent at first, a participant who is imbibed with secret knowledge and prompted to do evil things. That man whose letter you now hold tauntingly freed me, where I devised a devilish plot below the knowledge of anyone else. I poisoned the water facilities below the volcano, climbed up above the sky and disconnected the power, all with the prowess of a god. The former leader was the only one to survive, but succumbed with a dreadful fever and would not recover. He—a man so twisted in his thinking he actually saw me as a savior—crowned me leader. The rest I have told you. They cannot kill me, so they have me stuck playing a role.”

      “Climbed up into the sky?” Nathan said with due skepticism. “You’re a bit twisted in the thinking lady.”

      “Have you not witnessed Chigun, who himself has wings and the body of a beast? So, too, do I, one of the many successful experiments conducted in this land called Dacil. Right now I am hypnotizing you so you do not see such things.”

      To prove it to them the woman’s body transformed before their eyes—four dark wings like a crow’s bursting forth from her back and forming an ‘X’. Her eyes glowered like that of the other urethral beings: left pupil pale yellow and right a bloody crimson. A deafening pop shot through the air and, with it, the artificial sky vanished all together. Charlotte took her eyes off the monster long enough to be equally shocked by the ceiling. Capacitors, wires, windows viewing an open starry space, chrome ladders and blinking lights winked down at them no more than a mile above. The sounds of birds, crickets, frogs and other animals ceased, the wind quit blowing and warmth receded into a shivering cold.

      “So much power,” Helm eyed her hands like a scholar would study an ancient tome, “and I cannot even escape. I have been abandoned, everything dear to me held to die for the moment I defect. You understand now, don’t you? I have to fulfill my duty as administrator.”

      Despite her fright, Charlotte kept her pistol relatively steady. She looked to Nathan multiple times only to find him lost in thought. Helm took a step forward, sending such a scare through Charlotte that she fired a shot right for Helm’s legs. Flinching, the monster groaned and knelt on one knee. I did it! She’s not immortal!

      Nathan looped around Helm and blared two furious shots from his smoking shotgun. Helm flinched again and collapsed completely to the grassy floor.

      “Yes,” Charlotte exclaimed aloud. “Way to go, Nathan.”

      [Continued Below]

      Nathan Aki [Southernmost Island]

      [Continued from Above]

      The shot from Nathan’s twin barrels sent the weapon recoiling in his chest. Helm’s wings covered most of her twitching body. Thinking it safe only for a moment, the young man gazed to the sky as he pulled out two shells from his pocket. He reloaded and calculated where, if anywhere, the main power could be found. Helm’s lulling voice interrupted him.

      “The two of you managed to shoot through my barrier. Yes, I understand now. I have for so long remained out of combat that I have grown weak…”

      The winged demon staggered to her knees, then returned to a stand, her back facing Nathan. Charlotte gave little screech from the other end of the field. Eyeing the bag, Nathan remembered the letter.

      “You clearly have no reason to fight us,” Nathan said. Despite their easy victory he had reason to be weary of continuing the fight. “All you have to do is remove the collars and send us on our way. You can continue playing god.”

      “No,” she shrieked, turning to set her blazing eyes on the man. “When I set out to test someone. It’s to the death. This is part of my contract.”

      Nathan fired another two shot’s for the expert’s legs. When the shock of firing cleared from his mind he saw her flying, or rather hovering, in the air above. Charlotte shot off a couple rounds but, like a crafty snake, Helm weaved around the shots at lightning speed. While the two were distracted Nathan managed to lunge for the blue bag and pull out two more shotgun shells. He loaded the weapon and then…

      Helm phased before Nathan and jammed her fist into his stomach. Firing like a cannonball the man’s back exploded with pain on hitting the side of the purple house. Screaming, he aimed with the quickest of reflexes—but not fast enough. Helm snatched his neck and hurled him clear into the sky. The entire Island shimmered in Nathan’s dull eyes. Yes, the height he found himself now falling would be enough to kill him. …Going to die…

      Warm, soft arms wrapped around him; then wings blocked out all light. Helm had taken him in her embrace, turning upside down and plummeting for the ground headfirst. Remembering the shotgun, Nathan manipulated his arms with all his might, pressing the barrel, like rings of ice, on the demon’s body. BANG.

      Helm lashed away leaving Nathan freefalling alone once more. It felt odd falling without wind lashing at one’s face, or the swoosh in one’s ears. The roof of that purple cottage closed in ever closer until, closing his eyes, Nathan burst through and lost consciousness.

      [Continued Below]

      Charlotte Briggs (2) [Southernmost Island]

      [Continued from Above]

      The ‘normal’ blue orange sky returned with the symphony of ocean waves and nature itself. Helm crashed not three yards in front of Charlotte in a cloud of smoke. Her wings vanished—blood covering the young woman’s frail legs, chest and neck. Shock gripped Charlotte from seeing Nathan thrown so high and then plummet down onto the roof of the building. There’s no way he could have survived, she let the thought pass. Then she said aloud: “Oh my God.”

      Inching forward like some scared little mouse afraid of setting off a trap, Charlotte jabbed the expert’s limp shoulder with a toe. The body moved!

      “I don’t believe it,” Helm climbed up, her coat barely hanging on her body. She didn’t bleed, her blood having dried up. “You win, I don’t believe it for a second.”

      “Bring Nathan back,” Charlotte screeched, whipping helm’s face with the butt of her gun. The expert took the blow without incident.

      “I haven’t heard his heartbeat stop yet. Anyway, since you beat me fair and square, my masters won’t have qualms in me ‘retreating’ now. You’ll find everything you need on this Island. Farewell, and I say again, adieu, and may we never meet again.”

      Helm vanished using her famous hypnosis. Later, when one built up the nerve to search that quaint little blue bag, they should find Chigun’s letter missing.

      Charlotte cried. Would she have the courage to walk into that strange little house to see the desolated body of her acquaintance? She crossed over cold, moist grass tracing her finger along the coarse purple wall of the house. The side door of the structure opened with a creak. A booming beat pulsed from underground and the hum of electricity made quite the contrast from the natural sounds of the outdoors. At first sight the home reminded Charlotte of a country cabin. It could have passed off as one, too, if it wasn’t for the strange apparatuses scattered across the kitchen shelf, tables and floor. Below a window was a throne; its armrests slender like thin silver poles and, latched on the head of the chair, a black dome invited anyone to fit one’s head inside. It might have made a good addition to a gothic hair solon. On closer investigation Charlotte noticed small buttons and latches along the seat’s sides.

      Beside the sink lined safes one through ten (the numbers painted on in yellow). Remembering the words of Helm, Charlotte opened safe six and, without any difficulty, pulled out the contents. Unwrapping the black bag she gasped at the peculiarity of the object. Like a remote control cut in half with five antennas poking out at different widths and heights. Its weight was easily five kilograms. On the remote were two buttons. The top button was below a drawing of an erupting volcano, and the bottom under a picture of an explosive collar. Too afraid to push a button just yet, Charlotte stuffed the object in her pocket and went across into another room where she found the stairs. “Nathan?” she called. She saw the young man once she had climbed up the stairs into the attic—where sunlight poured in brilliantly from tall and narrow windows on the ceiling. There were no walls, only the upside down ‘V’ shape of the roof and its wood beams. It was obvious the attic was used as a loft; the entirety of it was covered with blocks of hay tied with thick twine.

      Nathan lay on four such blocks of hay, his limbs spread in directions opposing the other. He rested below a hole his falling caused. Charlotte screeched and ran to his aid, checking his pulse and found it still strong. His eyelids were open and his eyes rolled back into his head. Blood oozed from his mouth.

      Lyinda [Volcano]

      Summer camp always reserved a great excitement for waking up each morning. You knew the day held adventure over routine. A great meal waited for you, laughing friends and eventually a great big lake with shirtless guys.

      These were the thoughts Lyinda had as she woke up, lying flat on barren dirt in the volcano’s shadow. She had excitement, but what was missing was the scent of campout grills and small fires and, more importantly, food. The sun’s opaque rays on the trees ahead made the forest glow like a thousand jewels. The air carried along the calming smell of spring flowers and rain. Sounds of crickets, frogs and pidgins resounded as usual all over. No signs of other human life. This could only be a good thing.

      The woman got up with her belongings secured and went around the volcano. She came again to the talking computer, imbedded into its rocky surface. The machine shouted out in an obnoxious tone: “Over here, guys! This is the thief!” Shit, Lyinda thought looking around. She found something that made her blood run cold. To the west, coming down a gravel road near the base of the cliff, walked two people. To make matters worse they both held weapons she couldn’t distinguish from where she stood. They hardly made another step before Lyinda darted away behind the volcano, taking a path of broken up steps and heavy shrubs. She passed a door engraved into the volcano’s side, silver without any buttons or knobs.

      Passing over a stream she continued on down a barren dirt road. On the sides were stone murals and miniature pyramids, totem poles and heaps of scrap metal. Eventually these curious artifacts ended along with the road, leaving the woman standing before a huge field of rock much like you’d find in a canyon. To the right was a vertical shelf impossible to climb, ahead the ocean, and leftwards the start of a sparse forest. Two thick pipe-like wires cut across this field sprouting out from the volcano’s rear, leading directly to a structure in the middle of the nondescript land.

      The building was longer than it was high, painted black and windowless. The wires connected into the building next to a circular, insulated hatch with a wheel to open it. Lyinda reached it out of breath. She glanced behind her shoulders and then snatched the icy wheel, turning with all her might. After three turn and five minutes the door popped open into the glowing indigo interior. Test tubes caused the glow, lining each wall. The specimens inside were too illuminated by the light for Lyinda to tell exactly what they were. At the far end of the room she spotted a tan panel with a large lever. At the foot of this panel rested a military box with flacktarn pattern camouflage painted on. It didn’t take a rocket scientist, but only one with ample curiosity, to move over and unlatch the box. Lyinda lifted out a long and heavy weapon. She moved closer to a test tube to make it out.

      The all black M107 .50 caliber long range sniper rifle was fully equipped with its palm-length ten round magazine, adjustable scope, spiked feet, muzzle break and rear grip stock. Its barrel extended out for 737 millimeters, its weight approximately 13 kilograms. Lyinda couldn’t hold in a laugh, hugging the rifle as a mother to a child. She was saved. All she had to do was plan, then even those two near the volcano couldn’t as much as touch her. She carried the heavy piece out, realizing the problem it might cause in slow travels, panting as she pushed open the circular door with a shoulder. Once outside, she considered her next move.

      Jackie Cho [Volcano]

      Jackie took the lead with Alex lagging behind. Before the night ended they had discussed where to go—taking a long time for either of them to decide given the trauma Revol and The Phoenix left on them. They both came to the conclusion to go to the volcano, Jackie with the machine gun and Alex holding the rail gun. The journey past the mountains and down the declining gravel path was slow. Even the slightest rustle in the leaves or croak of some animal froze the pair in caution and fear. Now the sun had risen marking the beginning of morning. With the disappearance of the shadows came the return of their confidence.

      They cut across a barren canyon and patches of mud once they reached the bottom of the cliff. The volcano appeared daunting through the mist. Jacking motioned Alex on and ran up to it. Alex, on the other hand, limped and moaned from the incessant pain coursing from his eye and cheeks. He rested his weapon on the hard armor covering his shoulder.

      “See this computer?” Jackie asked once Alex caught up. “Isn’t it weird how it’s installed in the side of a rock formation?”

      Alex muttered in agreement.

      “Rest there. We’ll camp a bit to discuss what to do next.” After saying this Jackie faced the white machine—with its LCD screen and foreign keys—and began to wonder any possibilities of hacking it for information. She placed the machine gun down and pecked at the keyboard.

      “That hurts,” the computer said in a feminine voice. Jackie yelped and jumped back. “Manners are not something given to humans, oh no. You’re as stupid as a crayfish.”

      Glancing towards Alex, Jackie made a nervous laugh.

      “You have two points, one kill,” continued the machine. “Would you like to hear your possible rewards for your services, crayfish?”

      “Yes,” Jackie said.

      “With one point you may cure any participant to optimum health, gain any standard weapon, take ammunition for any weapon, receive a pink mountain bike worthy of getting through many rough terrains, obtain a map outlining every secret of the island, or you may have twenty non-lethal items of your choice. For two points you can cure any participant including missing limbs or body parts, be donned Helm’s special battle armor, request any advance weaponry short of rail guns and nukes, and have a stone fortress built for protection and lodgings.”

      Jackie returned to Alex. She sat down next to him and noticed his downcast gaze. His gloves covered his face. He seemed better once she placed her warm hand on his and spoke a few soft words.

      “It’s nothing,” Alex said. “You got the kill, so what are you going to spend those points on?”

      “I don’t know,” she said. “We should talk about it before I make any rash decisions.”

      “Hey, guys,” the computer chimed into the conversation. “Shut up I’m trying to sleep.”

      “Quiet,” Alex snapped. “You’re just programmed to annoy us.”

      “I know just the thing to get you to go away,” it continued. “Behind this volcano went a suspicious looking bitch with two sacks of goods. Oh, mousier, you’re missing a sack of goods—so she must have stolen yours!”

      Alex was on his feet before Jackie could stop him.

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman [Volcano]

      [Continued from Above; Also Refer to Lyinda]

      “Wait here,” he told his young Asian friend as he readied the sharp rail gun in both palms. His anger outweighed the pain—his head screaming and eyes continually itchy. Coughing, the young man marched past the computer and around the side of the volcano, up a set of shattered steps, over a running stream onto a dirt road flanked on both sides by monuments, totem poles, statues of men in military uniform and small pyramids. It was than he saw them clear as day. Footprints running across the soil, just like someone putting up a sign saying “I went this way!”

      If I can get one point for myself I can be cured of my infections, Alex mused, forcing himself to stand upright. Why should we stop with that red-haired lunatic? Mustering all his strength Alex turned around and headed back to Jackie to tell her of his plan. Just then his body went limp—his every muscle seizing. The body that served him so well until now fell. His forehead splashed into the stream, the rest of him lying belly first on the brown street.

      Ten minutes later Jackie let out a yell, running to Alex’s aid. She flipped him over and took in his horror-stricken features. Sweat rolled down over the bridge of his nose and temples. To make things worse he had a severe fever. “It’s cold,” Alex gasped. “You’ve been so good to me, but I don’t think I can go on. “

      “No,” Jackie said, “I can’t survive on my own.”

      Alex gave one of those smiles condemned men gave before facing the gallows. “The only way I can survive is by,” he swallowed, “spending that point to cure me. But I couldn’t ask you to—“

      “I will,” she cried. “What makes you think I wouldn’t?”

      “There may be another way, too,” Alex said. “See these footprints? Another life is ours to take…”

      At this Jackie’s pallor dulled. “Do you think I felt good killing that man?”

      “No, but… but… I don’t know.”

      The two went silent. The wind picked up and sent chills up the young woman’s spine. On the horizon some thick clouds gathered. It was a warning, perhaps, of a storm to come.

      Peter [Farmhouse]

      The first thing most people would do on seeing a deranged man enter their house would be to send them on their way with a kick to the ass. Daniel was a frightening sight with his bloody overcoat-- untied and nearly falling off his trembling body-- slobber dripping from his lips and those eyes, wider than Peter had ever seen, bloodshot akin to a madman or druggie. The oil lamp cast shadows along Daniel’s face turning it more a skull than a face. Despite his frightening manner, his pitiful cries for help reached Peter. He tossed aside the fire poker and caught the young man just as he was about to collapse.

      Peter carried him to the couch by the nightstand and carefully placed him on its soft cushions. The darkness was rapidly replaced by light as, outside the farmhouse on the grassy hill, the sun decided to show itself. In a panic Peter’s hurried steps pounded on the carpet. He checked adjacent rooms, bathrooms, and briefly the upstairs in search for medical supplies. Luckily fortune was on his side. He returned to Daniel with a white box tucked under his armpit. Inside the little medical case he found just what he needed—tweezers, bandages, disinfectant alcohol and a thermometer.

      The task of undressing the man was, needless to say, as embarrassing as it was difficult. Once Daniel was stripped down to his underwear Peter saw no wounds. He turned Daniel over on his back and a cold sweat covered his brow. Three wounds still pulsed out blood, three bullet holes. One hole about the size of a penny was below his left shoulder, another on the lower right of his back. The final bullet lodged in a calf just a hair off the main artery. “Try to relax,” Peter said getting out the tweezers. Kneeling down he gripped the back of the man’s knee and eyed the calf closely.

      Daniel’s breathing picked up. Even if Peter had any medical experience, he didn’t remember a thing about it. Lurching the points of the tweezers into the wound he fumbled around until he was certain he clamped the bullet lodged within. Daniel cried, “It hurts, oh God.” Pressing and pulling, Peter made slow progress in yanking the bullet out. Finally, once Daniel was crying out in more distress than a burning victim, he succeeded. At once he opened the alcohol and poured it on the gash—causing poor Daniel to flail wildly and vomit a little. The final step was the bandage. Peter wrapped the white fabric six times around the leg and then tightened it. It stained red.

      This procedure was performed twice more on the other wounds. Before Peter could finish Daniel went unconscious from the pain. After all was done the young man turned his patient around again so he faced up. A pitiful sight he was. He trembled even in sleep. Peter went for the thermometer but instead felt his forehead. It wasn’t necessary to check—he had a high fever.

      “You’re lucky, I think,” Peter said packing up the bullets and supplies into the white box. “A lot of times bullets rip right through their target. I’m guessing you were shot from some distance away.”

      Daniel’s eyes twitched.

      “Anyway I’m not gonna kill you so rest easy. Lord, if you live it’ll be a miracle.”

      [Continued Below]

      Daniel Seyton [Farmhouse]

      [Continued from Above]

      Dreams (it’s often said in the east) hold a deep part of oneself locked away. In Daniel’s dream he was sitting on a bench outside a drama classroom, leaning back with arms crossed and lips furled. A group of students came out chatting jovially until they realized they weren’t alone. One guy, wearing all black in his usual dramatic fashion, separated from the ground and came to Daniel wearing a smile.

      “Hey Seyton,” he said, “what do you think of this assignment? Pretty big production to put on in a week, eh?”

      Daniel flinched at being acknowledged. The bane of drama was working in a group-- all that blabbering on about useless and menial topics with no relevance.

      “Yeah,” Daniel forced himself to say.

      “We’re getting together at my house to practice tomorrow. You’re coming, right?”

      Daniel got up and shrugged. “Sure,” he muttered and headed for the door. Clouds covered the moonless sky. Ahead was a grand view of the city’s bright lights. The hum of cars driving, distant chatter and honking of horns went unnoticed. Crossing a road, Daniel went along a crowded sidewalk. Rain sprinkled from the sky.

      All of these lights, these people, Daniel gnashed his teeth. Their lives are so pointless. Do they know what they’re doing? Forty years of hard labor, for what? So they can die better? At the next intersection Daniel joined a crowd staring guilelessly towards the road like a bunch of monkeys. Someone had been injured. The ambulance’s lights rapidly blinked as a group of men raised a stretcher into its back. The victim was a young woman, barely sixteen, covered with bullet wounds. Look at them! When someone needs help, they just stare openmouthed! Even the ones taking her to the hospital only do it for their paycheck. He made a mental note, then, that no one was capable of helping out of sheer kindness. Greed drove all action.

      Daniel woke up in a burning fit. His lungs struggled to draw breath. Sticky blood soaked into his back. Three bandages held firm to his body. Reaching out Daniel wanted to grab some unseen force and command it to take away the pain. The well-lit room wasn’t very kempt. A chair lay on its side and prints of dirt mussed up the carpet.

      “Awake I see,” said a man who suddenly entered. “I’m Peter and you, my friend, look like hell.”

      Groaning, Daniel didn’t take well to the jab. “Water,” he commanded. “I need water.”

      “You got it,” Peter left through the same door he entered.

      Daniel took the sleeve of the overcoat he rested on and covered his eyes with it. The headache was so sever and pain so great that, given the choice, the man might well consider suicide. “Hey,” he shouted. “Painkillers, too. Find me some.”

      Peter returned without painkillers. He handed off the water that, the moment it entered Daniel’s hands, was lapped up. “What about painkillers?” Daniel gasped.

      “There’re none in this house, I’m sorry,” Peter scratched behind his neck.

      “You’re killing me,” Daniel said. “You have to get some for me, please.”

      Peter stood there a moment, dumbstruck. “Look man, I don’t know where to get any, okay? I seriously don’t know what to do with you.”

      Daniel slammed his fist on the couch. Could he possibly outlive the pain? What if someone tried to kill him in this state? He would be helpless. No, he wouldn’t let this be the end. He had to get up and keep fighting and survive this screwed up game.

      That’s what he decided.

      Frank Dread [Test Facility]

      Best in his class, a prodigy at taekwondo and unmatched in his looks. This was the kind of man who woke up cold and alone in a space no bigger than a closet. The pungent scent of sewage filled his nostrils and water splashed over his scruffy hair. The young man managed to utter a few unintelligible words and touch the icy walls-- finding no exit. Unknown to him was that, if he had arrived only a day sooner, an obnoxious voice would have been there to greet him. Instead the silence persisted.

      Hungry and alone the young Frank tried to recall pleasant memories to console him. In horror he came to the realization that he couldn’t remember anything. Who am I? How did I get here? Will I get out of this box? His thoughts consumed him. Then, as if to answer one of his questions, the floor below him collapsed. Rushing down a slide the lash of wind cleaved his cheeks, but he could see nothing. The end of the slide came before Frank could react. He flew out of an opening and crashed into a pile of horse poop. Gasping for air he trudged from the manure and gave a yell: “What in the world is going on?” Frank tossed his shirt revealing a chest of chiseled abs. He cleaned his pants the best he could and went on to explore the new room he found himself in.

      It goes without saying to describe the room as smelling terrible. Otherwise the walls were bare and the floor asphalt, a few wood beams acted as support. No animals or other humans were to be found. At the far end, beside a furnace with a chrome pipe leading up into the ceiling, was a open door and the glow of candlelight. Frank gave a shiver and passed through the door. The hall led into a significantly cozier room. It had red fuzzy carpet, two giant windows revealing a bright and sunny outdoors, and a television set facing a couch. The television displayed text which Dread wasted no time to look at. It read as follows:

      To all filthy participants reading this: welcome! I’m afraid I’m not available at the moment so you’ll have to settle with this message. We own you, your memories, everything. You may have noticed a collar latched below your chin. This is set to explode unless you comply with the guidelines of this test. It’s simple really. Kill everyone who is not yourself. Doing this will gain you points you can spend at the volcano for goods and services. You win once you’re the last man left standing. The rules are not that strict, really. One, you may not re-enter the facility you are in once you leave it. Two, you may not enter the volcano. Three, you may not leave the island of Dacil. Four, if no one kills anyone for two whole days, everyone explodes. Five, I can add rules at any time. Six, do not attempt to remove the collar. That’s just stupid.

      Have fun! I love you, too.

      “Is this some kind of joke?” Frank said aloud, thumbing his collar’s smooth texture. “Did some sick freak kidnap me and put me here?”

      Behind the television and between the two windows a part of the wall folded back creating a pathway to the outside. Birds were singing and crickets chirped. A calming air poured in. Not wanted to be confined in this terrifying place, Frank wasted no time in heading out through the new opening, finding a brown sack with his name on it the moment he stepped onto the dirt. Inside he found a small pillow with a racecar stitched on it, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a sharp lumpy rock, a leather car wheel and a black comb. The moment he stepped out the wall closed behind him-- locking him forever from the facility.

      [Continued Below]

      Rogger Dread [Test Facility]

      A young man with a dirt-splotched tee shirt, worn and holey jeans, blue eyes with unkempt hair woke up on a surgeon’s table. A blinding light glared above. On a table Rogger eyed wearily a scalpel and syringes next to a bottle of pills labeled “arsenic”. Lurching up to a sitting position, Rogger yawned and cracked a joint in his neck. It was then, when his thick layer of sleep subsided, that he noticed the collar wrapped around his neck. Then the realization set in: he had no idea where he was.

      Leaping up the rogue-like individual scoured the room for some clue as to how he got there. Behind a curtain he saw an operating table; hovering above were saws and blades connected to mechanical arms. The table itself held at least a pint of dried blood. “I have to get out of here,” was the first thing Rogger could say. Thinking it wise he grabbed the scalpel and bottle and ran down the only hall leading out. The headlights flickered and sometimes died for moments at a time. He came to a grated stairway leading up. His feet pounded the ground as he went, coming to the last step and entering a circular, domed room painted gold. In the center a glass obelisk dominated and shimmered as if watching over the place.

      Rogger went up to the obelisk and felt its cool, smooth surface. He saw his own distorted reflection in it. Abruptly a voice filled his ears. It was a teenage woman who said simply: “Nathan?”

      “Who’s there?” Rogger demanded.

      No response. Rogger felt anxiety well in his gut. He paced the parameter of the room and came to a trapdoor with a tan latch. Opening it the young man descended down an old rusty ladder into an area with no light. Once on the ground the clueless Rogger stumbled around with his arms extended in hope of finding anything. This comic display continued for some ten minutes until, at long last, he felt a coarse knob. He opened the unseen door and light poured into his eyes. It took him a moment to adjust.

      On the left wall, painted cream, a mantle held old shriveled books with wrinkled spines. In the center a leather couch sat on a woolen rug. On the right a hole was punched in the wall, big enough to climb through. From the sound of it-- that of nature, birds and calm winds-- it led outside. Rogger went for it but decided he needed to think a bit. He doubled back and sat down on the recliner. How did I get here? Wait a second-- who am I? The implication that he didn’t remember who he was came like a punch to the chest. He rocked uncomfortably and kept trying to pick his own brain, but could only recall his name. When he continually failed to remember, he grasped his hair and pulled some it out. “Who am I?”

      Cursing Rogger stormed from his chair and went for the hole that led outdoors. Tucked in the corner of the room, masked by shadows, the young man caught a brown sack. On closer inspection the sack had his name written on it. Snatching it he perused the contents and found a slender lock pick, a backpack, clothes much like the ones he had on, binoculars and a case of black face paint. He took out the backpack, unzipped it, and placed everything else in it. He zipped it back up and put both straps over his shoulders. It fit him quite well.

      When all was said and done, Rogger leapt out of the hole to the mysterious that waited for him on the other side.

      [Continued Below]

      Frank and Rogger Dread [Preparation Area]

      On one end of the white two-story facility a young man came through an opening carrying a sack. At the other end a backpacked youth leapt through a hole and landed on the barren ground with a thud. Almost immediately the two caught sight of the other. They joined in the middle to talk. The sweet smell of flowers floated in the air, and dew settled on the ground.

      “Who are you?” Frank spoke first, a wry grin on his face.

      “I should ask you the same,” Rogger said in a soft, poignant voice.

      Indeed, neither could see the irony. Brothers all their lives, their memories had faded and with it all ties to family. Now they faced off untrusting and ready to fight each other at any moment.

      “I’m Frank Dread, and I’m wondering what in the world is going on? Do you know something?”

      “Dread,” Rogger muttered. “It’s odd. We share the same last name. I’m pretty sure my name is Rogger Dread…” Taking off his backpack, the man showed Frank the bag with his name on it. Frank inspected it and his face went pale.

      “We’re related?” He laughed. “Are you serious?”

      “More than likely,” Rogger muttered.

      “Too bad, that screen said we had to kill everyone we found,” said Frank. “But I’m not one to follow orders so blindly.”

      Rogger, unaware of the requirement that he had to kill, muttered a curse under his breath. The two then observed their surrounding carefully. Straight ahead, to the west, was a dirt road heading off between a densely forested area. Tracks of a vehicle could be seen still imprinted on it. Slightly to the right of that was a farmhouse on a hill. The shadow of a face appeared in one of the windows and quickly vanished. Immediately right neither could see anything but great oak trees swaying in the wind. Leftwards, in the distance, a stone fort hosting a cannon watched over them and invoked fear.

      “Where to go, what to do?” Frank said with a sigh.

      “We take some time to plan,” Rogger muttered. “I know one thing. I’m getting to the bottom of this lunacy.”

      And so they took time to plan.

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 10-04-2008 at 04:28 PM.

    11. #11
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Oct 2003
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      Chapter IX

      Day Three (Afternoon to Night)

      Lyinda (1) [Facility Behind Volcano]

      The view from the top of the onyx facility was great. It became all the better once Lyinda placed her eager eye to the sniper’s scope. The view was steady enough, the M107 propped up on its spiked feat and the ex-soldier lying flat on her belly. Through the spherical view the back of the rocky volcano appeared as a mesh of gray and red. Lyinda adjusted the scope and scanned the horizon with elation, pondering the possibilities of using the killing tool in the right place at the right time. First she edged the rifle to the right, seeing between two trees the vast blue of the ocean, the sunlight reflecting on its calm waters. The range was excellent. With it, a shot might be able to reach a target even as far as a mile away. Panning left Lyinda landed on something far more interesting. Two heads.

      Breathing heavily Lyinda kept her sights steady. A man lay flat on a dirt road, facing a stream as if unconscious. Light danced on his full body armor. Leaning by his side knelt a young woman with long black hair and tanned skin. A machine gun held firm in those delicate fingers of hers. “There, now,” Lyinda smirked. “We can’t allow someone with that kind of firepower to be prowling around.” Matching the crosshairs with that pretty face of hers was a cinch. So was pulling the trigger.

      The shot hardly made a sound.

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman (1) [Volcano]

      [Continued From Above]

      Jackie stopped talking. Chewing into his bottom lip Alex pushed his bulky body to rise. She laid on the ground motionless. Crimson streamed into the calm river, the blood exuding from the back of her head. Flipping up his rail gun to active use the armored youth’s chest expanded and contracted like a piston. “Who,” he shouted between expressions of pain. Past a oaken totem pole Alex could see a building a little larger than a spec in the distance. He didn’t need anymore thought. After only a half assed attempt at aiming the thick trigger was pulled. Immediately the silver gun shot out streams of condensed steam from four pours and screamed like a distressed child. Colors warped and the air pulsated like being viewed through a television screen.

      A large, oval beam of blue light spewed forth. The “laser” not only blinded Alex but created such a force that it sent him flying back. What followed was a series of explosion-like pops and a pulse of heat unmatched by a raging fire. Only when Alex toppled onto the ground again did his senses return. Destruction riddled the once-smooth plane in a straight line. If someone had come then to see they might believe diggers had unearthed a semicircular crevice all the way to the beach.

      “God,” Alex muttered. Tucking the rail gun under one arm, he imperturbably snatched the machine gun by Jackie’s corpse and lurched away from the site of the sniper. Chunks of the volcano flaked off. Some were mere pebbles while others resembled boulders. Passing down a set of cracked stairs, Alex looped around to the front of the volcano where the computer stared him down with a flashing monitor. Only when Alex had the rock formation to protect from the danger did he allow himself to fall to one knee. Tears doused the tips of his ever-growing hair. “Just like that, she’s dead. Lord, to think I’ve almost been enjoying this!”

      “You disrespectful bastard,” said someone.

      Whistling. It could only be whistling like a coach at a little league baseball game. It hummed all around. The sky turned a sickening red. A woman with shining eyes and four pointed crow wings materialized before Alex holding a device with a single button. Her voice vibrated from anger. “Where did you get that contraband? Those have been banned for years. You have even damaged the administrator’s quarters. If you do not give that up immediately I will blow you to the moon and back, understand?”

      Wrought with fear Alex extended the rail gun, trembling. “O--okay.”

      Not a moment later another creature with the same blue hair appeared behind the demon woman. It was The Phoenix, hovering on his dragon wings and clutching in both hands a scythe. He impaled the tool’s blade through the back of her neck and yanked. The woman let out a scream, “Damn you, it’s always you.”

      “It is not me,” hissed Phoenix, “but your guilt which is so ravenous to you, Helm.”

      Helm vanished in the twinkle of an eye. The buttoned device fell onto the cavernous floor. The Phoenix strapped the scythe with a leather strap and stormed over to Alex, peering down at him like a giant to an ant. “Your time draws near, too. It is unfortunate. Perhaps my gift will prolong your days if only by a little.”

      The Phoenix left him there, dumbfounded.

      [Continued Below]

      Lyinda (2) [Facility Behind Volcano]

      [Continued from Above]

      Binoculars and scopes can tell you many things impossible to the naked eye. In this case it showed Alex bursting into action with a gun pointing in Lyinda’s direction. In normal circumstances there would be no need to be alarmed. Short of a rifle like her own there would be no way a bullet could travel such a range with any sort of accuracy. This gun was different. She couldn’t place it in her thick lexicon of weaponry. Such a thing could only be related to new technology, like the teleport station she’d suffered a day back. No, she convinced herself. five seconds and I’ll take his head off, too.

      Then the gun did something strange. Blue light emitted from its tip and steam barreled out into the air. New position, I’ll get a new position. Lyinda kicked the legs of the sniper up and tossed it over the short side of the building. She dove in behind it and landed less than graciously with a roll on the coarse grass. Immediately following an explosion of sound and a scorching heat torched her back. She could smell the smoke of the fire caught on her clothes, the pain unparalleled with anything she yet experienced. She dropped and fumbled around for a good minute yelling and screeching. When the fire finally subsided she gasped for air. That was--

      Lyinda took the sniper rifle directly next to the flattened remains of the facility. Pieces of aluminum, stone and steal littered all sides from the pile of fragmented roof and broken glass. You could see clearly where the beam had passed from the scorched line of smoldering dirt. Lyinda got up and inched towards the beech. She had to escape from sight, and quick.

      Marco Didoria (1) [Western Metropolis]

      It took Contra and Marco a good hour to move the bulky airplane out onto the city streets. It was even more impressive in the sun, the black body with red teeth painted on its front like an air shark. The road spanned out by the broken statue and figureless buildings a good distance. It made an adequate runway. A few trips to the jeep made the space behind the cockpit seat packed with a world of goodies. Along with food and other provisions he had a fully loaded machine gun, a backpack full of rockets next to his trademark RPG, gas masks, gas grenades, revolver ammo, the map he secured from Finn, and a packet of bandages. In his old brown sack he stuffed fragmentation grenades and a vile of gasoline. He holstered his revolver and knife along his belt and made to climb up onto the padded seat.

      “You still haven’t been clear,” Contra watched him go. “What do you plan to do? Where are you going?”

      Together the pair looked like twins, both dressed in that black tight-suit. Marco brushed the hair from his eyes and scratched his thick beard. “I can only think of one thing to do in order to make this right.” A devilish grin formed on his lips.

      “Do what?”

      “Let’s just say I have a feeling there is a way to get into the volcano and end this. It might require some… casualties.”

      Contra produced a wide frown. “You’re playing the game now, then? After everything I’ve told you?”

      Marco hopped inside the cockpit and sealed the glass hatch over his head. The plethora of dials and gages between crude bolts would confuse any man short on experience. The smell of crude oil pungent. Marco practiced by clutching the rectangular steering stick and fought away images of smashing into the ground by some oaf-like folly. On the outside, with a sigh and a shake to the head, Contra sat on a chunk of stone and watched as the airplane propeller began to rotate. The plane’s stubby wheels jerked and moved the mechanical marvel along at a quickening pace. Once it had gone about halfway across the cobblestone it raced before launching into the air.

      “Yet again,” Contra said with the warm afternoon breeze kissing her face. “I’ve created a monster.”

      [Continued on “Rogger Dread”]

      Frank Dread [En Route to Farmhouse]

      There was so much green. Stepping over tall, itchy grass Frank felt at peace from the warm sunlight pouring through the canopy of leaves above. At times Rogger helped him pass over patches of hindering thorn bushes and cut down gnarled, hairy branches extending from thick maple trees. Blue birds groomed in puddles of mud and, above, more birds lulled harmonious songs drowning out the usual call of crickets so associated with forests. Dogs barked in the distance, and the smell akin to freshly cut grass drifted in the air. Frank had become so absorbed in this, pondering how such a peaceful surrounding could be associated with a killing game, that he almost missed the painted farmhouse to his left. The hill was a steep one, but he was more than ready for a small climb.

      “About the change of clothes,” Frank whispered. “We’ll be visiting guests and I can’t have horse crap all over my jeans.”

      Rogger gave a slight nod and fished through his brown sack of belongings. He withdrew dark cargo pants, a dirty tee shirt, short socks, white tennishoes and a sheepskin belt. Frank dressed with a great fervor surprising Rogger at how fast a man can swap apparel. When all was done Frank left the dirty clothes in the dirt and extended his hand as if expecting something.

      “What?” Rogger said, perturbed.

      “The pills, genius.”

      Rogger took out the bottle from his pocket and reluctantly handed it over to his brother. Frank ripped the label off and gave it a firm shake. “Yes, all we have to do is find someone injured and offer him ’painkillers’. Do you get my drift?”

      “I thought I was the evil one,” Rogger gave a wry grin.

      “Good. Let’s go.”

      The two young men scaled up the hill to the wall of the farmhouse, next to a wooden cellar door. Finding the nearest window Frank peeked in. He found a man little older than himself reclining-- or rather, coughing, moaning and shivering-- on a bloodstained couch. “Perfect,” Frank said. “Put on your poker face. We’re infiltrating this place.”

      “Alright, sounds good.”

      It didn’t take long to walk around the building to the entrance door. Luck smiled on them for the door opened with a simple turn of the knob. The first carpeted and dimly lit fore-chamber had little in it other than a dark table, two doors and peeling yellow wallpaper. Frank entered through the right and came into presence of the injured man. Like a corpse his dull, watery orbs hardly responded to their entry. The brother’s emergence didn’t evade all notice, however. Another man, healthy as a calf, jotted in carrying a white case. His stare spoke volumes on his confusion and uneasiness.

      “Who are you?” He said.

      Frank winked towards Rogger as if to say “leave everything to me.” he then said aloud: “ I can only guess that, like you, we’ve been placed into this ’game’ beyond our choice. We came to ask one thing. Are you friend or foe?”

      “Friend, as long as you are,” he said, more uneasy. “Uh, Peter. I’m Peter. He‘s Daniel.”

      “Frank. This is Rogger. Your friend looks like he needs some serious help.”

      Peter moved closer to the injured person and grew all the more pale. “I did all I could. He keeps slipping in and out of consciousness. I fear--”

      “Say no more,” Frank held up the bare-white pill bottle. “Rogger here found these when he woke up. He’s a bit crazy so he took some, and what do you know, he felt extremely light like a feather floating through the horizons. Some excellent pain pills.”

      The sweating, stricken man jittered and stirred, eyes bloodshot. “What’s going on,” he groaned. “God, all of you leave me alone. The noise burns.”

      “Relax there, buddy,” Peter said. He confronted Frank and snatched the bottle from his hands. Unscrewing the cap and glancing inside he scrunched his face. “Black pills? I can’t possible give this to him without proving they’re painkillers. You understand, right?”

      Frank swallowed. This time Rogger spoke. “How about we let him decide?”

      “C’mon,” Peter said sternly. “Two strangers barge in here unannounced and offer pills without a label. Your friend here,” he turned his glance to Rogger, “doesn’t seem to be under any effects of drugs. Maybe he should take another one?”

      “Shut the hell up,” Daniel said. “Get these maniacs out, now. And get me some painkillers.”

      Frank forced the bottle back from Peter’s firm hands and pushed past him. Kneeling he put the bottle before the bedridden man’s view. “We have some. Your pal thinks we have some ulterior motive. We’re not playing any game, nor are we murderers. These will take the pain away.”

      It didn’t take much in the way of mental facilities to see the bottle was suspect. Nowhere did it indicate the nature of the pills inside. Daniel slipped his trembling hand into the pocket of his overcoat and slipped out his scalpel. Then, to everyone’s great surprise, he lurched forward to a sitting position. The glance he gave the two strangers would invoke fear in even the hardest of souls. He waved the small knife around threateningly. “Do you take me for a complete retard?” Daniel paused to cough. “No amount of pain will get me to trust the likes of you.”

      Frank made to respond, but a peculiar sound outside the farmhouse’s walls cut him off. A hum, propellers-- an airplane. The brothers didn’t think too much of it, but for the veterans Peter and Daniel, it sent fear coursing through their veins. Never once until then had there been an aircraft on the demented island. What could it possibly mean?

      The first barrage of bullets crashing through their windows told the answer.

      [Continued Below]

      Rogger Dread [Farmhouse]

      [Continued From Above]

      In times of diplomacy and applying charisma, Frank took lead role. Rogger, on the other hand, took the helm during crisis. Leaping forth Rogger landed on his brother’s back and forced him to the ground as a sweep of bullets passed overhead. The plane’s audible signature soared and turned for a second volley eastbound.

      “Stay down,” Rogger commanded over the confused cries of the others. “It won’t be easy to get us if we stay away from the windows.”

      Shots pulsed through the glass by the couch; shattering with a shrill noise. A shard nearly cut Rogger’s jugular clean open. Thankfully it missed by a half-inch. An explosion thundered not twenty yards from the closest wall forcing a massive vibration.

      “Gah,” Peter gasped. The brothers noticed in unison the bullet wound through the young man’s chest. He collapsed onto the frilly carpet.

      “We have to crawl out,” Frank said still under Rogger‘s weight. He couldn’t take his attention off Peter whom he felt surely had died right before him. “If the assaulter has explosives this whole place could come tumbling down.”

      More bullets. Another explosion from the room adjacent along with shattering vases and wood cracking in half. Determined to take Frank’s advice, Rogger took the lead and began crawling at a swift pace for the exit. “If we make it to the cellar we’re safe,”

      “Yeah, just go already,” Frank shouted. “And where did that injured guy go?”

      Sure enough, Daniel was nowhere to be found.

      “Forget him just come already.”

      Rogger wormed his way back out the front door onto the hill. The black spec-- a silhouette under the shine of the sun-- flew above. The brothers kept their shoulders close to the side of the barn house and crawled around with as much speed as could be mustered. If they had gone any slower they would have surely been spotted and shot to bits, but luckily they made it to around to the cellar entrance in record time. Opening it to reveal a stairway leading into darkness, Rogger descended. Then Frank. Another deafening boom reverberated and the roof of the house came crashing down.

      “Close it,” Rogger said. Frank obeyed rendering them blind.

      They could very well be buried under rubble soon. It beats making a run for it and being shot dead, Rogger thought. We’ll come out of this alive somehow.

      Daniel Seyton [South of Farmhouse]

      [Continued from Above]

      Miracle. Nothing else pinned down Daniel’s escape. Who’s ever heard of a sick, wounded man running for the hills? Not likely. Whatever the case, his life was sparred for the time being. He’d fled from the farmhouse to the forest when the plane was occupied-- right under the noses of Peter, Rogger and Frank. At long last he was with the only person he could truly trust. Himself. Crawling skin and chills gripped him like a hand of death. To make matters worse he wore nothing short of underpants and a collection of bandages. Each blade of grass, pebble and twig chewed his bare feet, to say nothing of the light-sensitive headache that made each step agonizing. Only when he passed from the green mesh of leaves and bushes to an old dirt road did he rest.

      “This is a mistake,” Daniel said, collapsing to his knees. “I’m too young. There has to be some mistake. Oh God, why have You forced on me such misfortune? Why not some other fool, some other swine that no one would miss?” Daniel was yelling now, “My life was fucking normal. Who did this to me, huh? Show yourself, coward. I swear I’m going to grind every fiber of your pitiful being to dust.”

      Daniel got up and continued fueled by rage alone. He passed the side of a square rectangular fort and stepped over logs, a garden snake and a gravel ditch. Crashing waves finally caught his ears. The southern beach was more stone and pebbles than sand, each wave spewing up white foam into the sea air. To the right was a pointed red radio tower next to a tin hut similar to an outhouse, all within the frail protection of a fence. Better than nothing for a resting place. Seagulls rested on the poles of the ruddy gate but flew off after Daniel kicked the barrier open. He sifted over the gravel for the hut.

      “Who are you?” Daniel said, surprised he hadn’t seen the giant crimson-haired goliath sitting at the base of the tower. The creature hardly reacted to the question. “Great,” Daniel went on, “I come this far only to find someone else. Can’t I ever just be alone?”

      “It will be night soon, by then my body shall hang by the noose.”

      Daniel couldn’t stand any longer. He sat Indian-style and wrapped his hands around a screaming stomach. “Heh, depressed?”

      The beast lifted his sharp chin and looked with glimmering eyes below bushy brows. His speech came without the aid of his mouth. “What are we, Seyton?”

      “My name--”

      “So temporary, like dust in an infinite cosmos. Yet here I sit,” tears dripped down his bony cheeks, “sobbing over the wellbeing of another, over the wellbeing of a speck of dust.”

      Normally Daniel would have been annoyed by this, but the man had such a mysterious, almost wise, aura that his curiosity made the pain vanish ever slightly. “Welcome to real life, I guess,” said Daniel. “A girl problem? Anyway, answer the question, who are you? What are you? You act like you know me.”

      “Chigun, and what I am is a dead man by the suns’ flight. I know you because I’m not a fool, and can read files.” Chigun lowered his head again. “Look. It grows to be dusk as we speak.”

      The sun dipped below a distant hill and the sky transmuted to a velvet orange. The air rapidly cooled and shadows stretched out to full length.

      “Well,” Daniel produced an ironic smile, “I’ll be joining you, then. I don’t think I’ll get over this fever any time soon. Whatever comes next will be a million times better than this.”

      “Sleep,” Chigun said. “I will help you out ever slightly before my end. Be quick, for I fear I cannot live another moment. Oh, fantastic it is that I’ve been such a failure these last few lifetimes! Such innocence, so pure, ripe for tainting from wolves.”

      While Chigun spoke an inexplicable layer of tiredness blanketed Daniel. Any attempt to speak proved fruitless. Then, like the unpredictability of a thunderbolt, the world slipped away completely.

      Marco Didoria (2) [Near Volcano]

      Launching and landing an aircraft is often said to be the hardest part of flying. In Marco’s case, perhaps being some aerial prodigy, it came as easy as riding a bike. The plane’s mounted guns had since run out of ammunition. He couldn’t be completely sure, but after seeing that frail farm topple on itself like a house of cards he was confident that someone had died. Contra would be so proud.

      The plane came to a vibrating stop along a strip of barren land, the volcano looming over like a sentinel. I’ll check the computer to see if I gained any points, Marco thought as he climbed out of the already unlatched hatch (necessary for lobbing out grenades). First he took out the machine gun, then felt that his revolver was in place. He thought about taking the RPG, too, but figured the added weight would hinder any tactical advantage. Finally, he slipped out the grey gas mask and latched it to his face and filled his pocket with grenades. The view through the mask made all colors a pale tan.

      The sky darkened and the air pressed with an icy brush. Marco made the half-minute trip to the base of the volcano. His attention immediately fell on an armored youth crawling along the dirt dragging two weapons; one an automatic gun with a circular magazine, the other a foreign silver weapon. His face was half black and bruised.

      “No,” wheezed Alex. He fell three times before successfully climbing to his feet. “Go away. Leave. Don’t kill me.”

      Marco aimed between Alex’s eye and smoldering wound, firing off a string of bullets. They ricocheted at once on the armored plate of Alex’s forearm. In retaliation Alex threw aside the silver weapon and returned fire with a strife away from the volcano. Marco cursed and bounded to the ground, narrowly dodging contact with the wailing bullets. Slipping out a grenade he ripped off the pin and hurled it in the direction of his adversary. The green egg burst with a puff of thick smoke obscuring Marco’s vision for an instant. Taking the opportunity he sprinted off away to find temporary cover.

      Marco weaseled his way in next to the computer (monitor still flashing). He regretted then not bringing along his rocket propelled grenade. Once the smoke in the distance cleared Alex was nowhere to be found. Damn it, I bet he didn’t breath any of it in. To his relief his prey wasn’t gone for good. I see him, he collapsed over there-- maybe he’s out after all.

      [Continued Below]

      Alex Denman (2) [Volcano]

      [Continued from Above]

      Alex had no energy. None. He couldn’t change positions when he was left alone, how was he supposed to outrun this masked freak? Hope did not dissipate so easily. Did he not have the body armor and a good weapon? Still, the attacker wore some strange black suit, maybe that was a type of armor, too?

      Getting back to a stand took a superhuman effort. Hunched over and panting he must of looked like a wild beast. “It’s not over,” he cried. He couldn’t tell where Marco had gone, but it didn’t really matter. “I will carry on Jackie’s memory. If anyone’s saga is going to end, it’ll be yours.”

      There! Slipping out from a crevice in the volcano was the head of his enemy. Come a little closer, fucking rabbit. Marco did come closer, but the speed of his movements left Alex’s jaw hanging. A cloud of dust blew up behind his haste; in another second they would meet face to face. Jetting into action Alex shot in a circular fashion and stepped sideways to avoid a collision. Too late. Marco’s bulging hand took hold of Alex’s neck above the collar of his armor. With the other hand Marco ripped the machine gun away and tossed it behind his back. Then Marco took out the revolver from his belt loop and pressed it on Alex’s forehead.


      “You got me a few times, I think,” Marco breathed through the gas mask. “But I haven’t died yet so I guess I win.”

      Alex struggled to breath.

      “This is what you get,” said a voice inside his head. It was the same from the testing facility. “Contraband is strictly forbidden. We frown on your existence.” The gate to his memories burst open and a number of images flashed before his eyes. A couch, a computer, a room of any typical teenager. He carved his time away on school, surfing the internet or watching television. Terribly average. I never did anything that people would remember. But here, here I could be a hero. I could do great feats and even take someone’s life without consequence. No! I can’t die. Not before I’ve made something of myself. I’m too young--!

      “Maybe next time you‘ll fight someone more in your league." Marco fired the gun.

      Alex Denman lost.

      Nathan Aki [Southernmost Island]

      Dreams were of no consequence to Nathan. This is why he promptly forgot his dream when he woke up lying on bails of hay. The slender woman with disheveled arburn hair and a dirty face gave a look of relief. She tried to aid him up but Nathan pushed her helping hand away and shoved off the hay on his own. Stretching the young man yawned. “Considering what happened, I don’t feel very hurt at all.”

      “I’m so glad!” Charlotte cried.

      “What do you have there?” Nathan eyed the antenna remote. Charlotte explained to him the events that occurred during his unconsciousness. “I see. So what are you waiting for? Push the collar button and be done with it. I’d like to think we accomplished something through all of this.”

      “Are you sure? What if this, like, makes them explode?”

      “Just do it.” Nathan passed by her holding the shotgun and used the railing to descend the stairs. “I’m going to go look around a bit. You can do whatever you want.”

      About halfway down the steps the onyx circlet around Nathan’s neck produced a long beep and detached into four parts, hitting the woodwork with a thud. Continuing Nathan smiled ever so slightly. First he took a small time to observe the downstairs: the safes and odd throne, then he stepped out into the bright, breezy outdoors and noticed the makings in the grass where Helm had fallen. He spotted the blue bag and took the time to take the remainder of the shotgun shells, snatching a few grenades as well.

      He returned inside to find Charlotte moving her hands along the throne’s dome and muttering silent questions. Nathan disregarded this and gave a survey for any useful gear stored in the house. Each of the numbered safes (all unlocked) were empty, and the drawers had little more than spoons, pots and other copperware. The cabinets held used candles, cookbooks and blank pieces of paper. Just when Nathan was about to give up he found a cupboard behind the stairwell locked via padlock. He smashed the rusty lock with the butt of the shotgun. By the third strike it had done the trick-- the padlock fell off. Doing this drew the attention of his female companion.

      “What do you thinks in there?”

      “Well, Charlotte, that’s what opening the door is for,” he sighed and entered the dark compartment. Nothing but cobwebs. Wait, what’s this? Nathan dragged out a stale and crumpled shoebox. Removing the lid he took out a fat grey marble and a note. He read the note to himself making sure Charlotte couldn’t peek over his shoulder.
      IP ORB
      Congratulations, patron. You’ve bought 1,002 cookbooks from Cooking with the Martians Co. As a reward here is an trivial artifact that might help you on gathering your ingredients. Touch the orb and state a location. Presto! You’re standing there.
      - 5 uses.
      - You have to have been to the location before.
      - Does not support travel over 5 light years.
      - Takes one minute to activate.
      “What is it?” Charlotte said. “Let me see.”

      Nathan passed the letter off and quickly made distance between himself and her. Holding the orb up he cast a quick, uneasy glance back at Charlotte. Then he whispered into it “Preparation area” and ran out through the door, around the house and into the thick wheat field. Once he’d gone a good distance he rested flat on his belly to get out of sight. Sure enough, Charlotte’s voice thundered through the air.

      “Nathan, where are you? You’re kidding me, right? You’re going to run away on your own and leave me here? God, I swear if that’s what you’re doing I’m going to kill you. I’m not joking.”

      Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine. The marble’s texture became almost liquid. The orb flared with heat. Once sixty hit Nathan heard a maelstrom of random, mechanical sounds and found himself lying on the dirt exactly where he’d started the game. The signpost was no longer there and, ahead up on the grassy hill, the farmhouse had collapsed on itself leaving nothing but smoldering debris. “Absolutely incredible,” Nathan couldn’t take his eyes off the orb for the longest time. Looking back at the bare white test facility he realized then that he had no boundaries, no rules to follow. He was collarless and free.

      Nathan started by running due east along the barren dirt road, cautiously scanning around for any potential foes. The heavy forestation and diminishing light made discerning enemies from mere shadows a hard task.


      The sun had gone, a pale half-moon pinned high in the starry sky. It was more luck than knowledge that brought him down the gravel path to the barren land where, up ahead, the faintest outline of a volcano could be seen.

      “So this is the fabled volcano,” Nathan whispered. “Very good.”

      He wondered if all his hard work would pay off.

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 10-14-2008 at 01:15 PM.


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