Monday, October 3, 2011

Crux: Revelation 3

She felt her lungs collapse, deflating with whatever small volume of air still in them after that scream of agonizing pain. Maar rushed and caught her in mid fall, holding her in his arms like the most precious thing in the universe; with a look of horror in his eyes, he tried to understand what was happening.

“What’s going on?” Kara asked, rasping for breath, while raising her hands in front of her eyes. The skin on the back of her palms turned to wax and it started cracking like dry earth under a scorching sun. Her veins went black and thinned into a spider web pattern. The question was rhetorical, but she didn’t know that. Maar stood paralyzed, crouched, with the mortal girl in his arms, wishing with all his might he could do something.

There was nothing to be done. He felt her body become a corpse and just fell to his knees, holding Kara like a broken doll. A cold sensation rushed over him. He didn’t want to move, speak or even breathe anymore. He couldn’t see the point. The only rational thought his mind could force-process was that the scenery couldn’t have been more appropriate. It was dawn in Acaccia and the land, as always, was ripped to pieces. The forever blowing gale swept giant waves of grey sand (or was it gun powder?) over skeletal remains of fallen warriors. Those struck down in battle, those who were absorbed by war still fought with fanatical dedication one another. Floating islands of burned earth rose and fell slowly, in a dance of chaos, while silent ghosts with no definite outline appeared and vanished, repeating the same scenes over and over. Some fell, with expressions of fury and anger and frustration, while a spear or a sword skewered them. Others took the hill, raining led on the enemy and being blown to pieces by some grenade. It was a silent play describing what war would look like if it was a liquid and that liquid was distilled. Maar and Kara became one of the silent shapes, unmoving and dying, each in their own way, mixing slowly into the thick patches of smoke or mist that hovered above the ground. Only flashes of white and orange coming from distant cannon fire gave away their position in that valley of pain.

And so, Kara passed away.

Yet somewhere else, on Earth, a different character thought otherwise. For while on Crux various factions plotted the assassination of the most important figure of their times (if suffered to be called so), figures of no less significance on Earth decided to act as well… And, as everyone knew – or at least everyone that mattered – mages didn’t really give a damn about what angels and demons desired, let alone stand by and enjoy the game. Thus, while some had the pleasure of sailing on a yacht with two obscenely rich Damned and a vampire, as previously mentioned, others employed the services of a rather talented ghoul who had just blown the brains out of a doctors’ head.

That was a tad extreme, not to add messy, spoke the voice in Dominics’ head.
“Then why did you add it?” he whispered while removing the syringe from the limp girl’s arm. “You said keep her alive. Luckily, he didn’t manage to push the serum all the way through. She’s still got a chance.”
Good. See if you can get her heart pumping again then take her to safety. I’ve got the feeling more trouble is coming your way.

It didn’t take a two thousand year old Upir to know that, the ghoul thought holstering his suppressed pistol and removing the syringe from Kara’s arm. His dark blue eyes glared at the heart monitor for a second – it was plummeting fast. He rolled up a sleeve and bit on his wrist with short but razor sharp fangs then reached his arm to the girls’ lips. A few drops slipped into her mouth and rolled down her tongue.

“I sure hope this works” he muttered.
She ought to be strong enough, the voice replied like a rusty metal door. She… Oh, hell! Dom, get out of there right now!
“What’s wrong?” he asked evenly – the only way he knew how to speak – but at the same time pulling the girl up right and sliding her over his shoulder.
Forget what I said about being messy, my friend… I just hope you have enough ammo.

He did. He always had enough ammunition. It was his job.
As he exited onto the corridor, the lean tall ghoul clad in dark clothing, staggered as he noticed the entire group of people there just staring at him. Something beyond their eyes told him that Octavius had reason to sound concerned. Nurses, doctors, patients, all taken over by some entity that made them look blank.

Dominic put Kara down gingerly, leaning her against the wall and twisted his head slowly in a circular pattern. A silent crack was heard above the buzzing of the white neon lights. It was as if the entire hospital was under a spell, but more powerful.

“What exactly am I fighting?” he said, looking as normal as ever, not a hint of concern in his voice.

Octavius wanted to answer but realized his ghoul was not addressing him. From the throng, a young man in nurse uniform walked slowly and extended his palm. A flash of white light behind his calm gaze: “Give me the girl and you may walk away, creature.”

“That was impolite, I think,” Dominic replied. “Wasn’t that impolite?”

Somewhere in a dark crypt, lying back in a giant armchair, Octavius grinned. He knew what his ghoul was facing. Only that that particular entity had no idea what it was up against. Upir ghouls were rare, being that in order to create one, that person had to have a solid constitution to withstand that particular undead blood and to be of absolute stubbornness. More to the point, one must refuse Death even though Death wouldn’t offer any bargains. And Dominic chew the metaphorical bubble gum while kicking Deaths’ ass.

“I am the angel Barthariel” the nurse man replied. “Give me the girl”.
“I would really rather not. You seem like a reasonable… fellow,” Dominic tried to mediate. “Perhaps I can persuade you to leave instead before more people get… well… dead?”
“My patience is wearing thin! I-“

The ghoul shrugged behind the barrel of his silenced Beretta while the rest of the gathering watched the body of the nurse fall back, a bullet hole between his eyes. As following a silent signal, their eyes turned towards the assassin then rushed forward. Before reaching a threatening distance, the lights went out and, for long moments, there was nothing to be heard but a distant electrical buzz.

“Thanks” Dominic whispered.
You’re welcome, said Octavius.

The gun was joined by its twin and, with Kara back on his shoulder, Dominic strode forward through the darkness. Angelic possession or not, humans still couldn’t see in the darkness. He could. Flashes of gun fire illuminated the white hallway rhythmically, as both pistols hummed a deadly song, while the ghoul marched through at even pace between the scattered assailants. They would try and jump at him when the barrel lit up but by the second shot, they would find him in a completely different spot. As he reached the elevators by the end of the corridor, the lights returned and he turned slowly to contemplate a trail of corpses displayed like a grotesque form of art deco. The elevator doors opened with a ding and a large man in a white lab coat extended both his hands, like pliers, towards Dominics’ neck. The ghoul dropped the guns, time folding into his own private dimension, where he ducked and drew the black combat knife from his belt. He spun and rammed the weapon in the man’s chest, then pushed him back, entering the elevator and pressing the bottom floor button. As it gasped for air, drowning in his own blood, it looked at the ghoul with intense hatred. He knew that look well.

“Listen… I really don’t enjoy killing all these people for nothing. Just back off, okay?” he asked politely.

The dying man didn’t answer, still looking at him with a curse in his eyes, but as the last sparks of life flickered out, Dominic could tell that it got the message. He walked out the front doors without anyone trying to stop him, though the staff and patients followed him silently with angry gazes. His cold thin pianist fingers checked Kara’s pulse – her heart was beating normally, fact which allowed him to spare a seconds’ satisfied smile.

You should have been a diplomat, the hoarse voice mocked in his mind.
“Too bad my master had other uses for me, eh?”

Kara sucked the thick smoke-filled air in while Maar stared at her in awe, completely lost to what happened. She coughed and stared at her palms – they were normal again.

“You’re alive!” he exclaimed and hugged her tightly.
“Not for damn long if you don’t give me some space!” she protested. “Do you smell… steak?” Kara added sniffing the air.
“You… don’t want to know”.

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