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Scifi/Fantasy - Apocolypto

Started by Ren, Nov 14, 2019, 08:37 pm

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Note: There's a few sections before we reach the Suggestion Phase here as I'm just catching up with this on the OP..



Prologue - Part I

The war was never ending.  It encompassed everything. The entire world, literally the entire world, was a battlefield scattered with the ruins of cities, even whole civilisations. Cultures had been wiped out, entire peoples erased, with no one left to remember they ever existed. 

Max sometimes wished he had been wiped out.  The miserable existence that he suffered, had suffered for almost all of his adult life, seemed to be more torture than it was worth a lot of the time. 

Maybe he had died, he speculated as he crawled through a sea of mud towards the forward lookout post.  Maybe he was in, what did the ancients call it?  Hey.  No, Hell, that was it.  Some kind of life after death for those who had lived less than perfect lives, if he recalled his mythology classes. Well, perhaps Zhong had made a mistake when he came up with the Unifying theory which finally disproved religion.  He'd obviously forgotten to carry a one or something.  He was dead and in Hey...Hell. 

Slithering over one more mound of mud, he took in the remains of the lookout post, and discovered that the soldiers manning it had been sent to their afterlives.  A worm mine possibly, by the looks of it, and a big one too, leaving a massive gaping hole in the ground where the bunker had been.  Chunks of battlecrete lay scattered around, blown outward.  Mixed in with that were numerous body parts, torn apart in the blast.  The head of one was directly in front of Max.  By chance it had been cleanly severed, as if with a laser, or sharp knife, and had landed right way up.  The woman's shocked expression glared at him accusingly, as if his late arrival was to blame for the whole fiasco.

Max slithered back behind the mud mound and rolled over onto his back, panting hard.  It wasn't the bodies that had upset him, it was the fact that he knew the woman, Sergeant Hooper, and if she was dead, which she very clearly was, then he was next in line for promotion.  To sergeant.  Widely held to be the most unlucky rank in the squad. 

Five-five squad, of which he as a proud member, had never, in its history, had a sergeant last longer than a week.  Even, famously, Sergeant Thomas, who was on leave when promoted, was killed in a freak accident involving a runaway vehicle outside a coffee shop.

It had become so bad that promotion had been made sequential, with those who had been in the group longest promoted when the, inevitable, vacancy arose. 

And now it was his turn.  Max wondered if he could lie, just report Hooper MIA, but he knew that would only stave off the inevitable. 

He was just about to start the long crawl back when something caught his eye.  Sticking out of the never ending mud was... something shiny.  Something that he couldn't recognise. 

Intrigued, he checked that the coast looked clear, and pulled himself over to the item.

Prologue Part II - Bar.

The bar was full of the customary atmosphere, which could be summed up as a 'dark murmer.'  The scattering of the usual customers, wedged into their chairs in the gloom, sat quietly, intent on the business of drinking hard and forgetting the real world as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Dave had just refilled a glass for a regular that was half slumped over the bar when the door, a dark portal at the far end of the room, crashed open. 

Jumping back, he grabbed the baseball bat more out of instinct than anything else.  The last time someone had come through the door like that it had been two guys out of their heads on acid.  That wasn't pleasant.  The bat still had some ominous dark stains on it.

This time though, the barman quickly realised he was out of his league.  The man who entered, under normal circumstances, wouldn't have looked all that out of place.  He was a tall man, dressed in a long black leather coat that had definitely seen better days, stained, torn and ragged as it was.  His head was cropped short, with a tattoo on the muscular neck of some dark design.  His left hand held a giant pistol of unfamiliar manufacture, smoke still drifting out of the long barrel.  The other hand held a wicked looking hatchet, with congealed sheen coating the metal head. 

Despite all this, it was his face that caught Dave's attention.  It was a face that had seen hell, apparently hitting quite a lot of it along the way, judging by the scrapes, cuts and bruising that adorned it. 

As he staggered up to the bar, Dave stepped back.  It was the man's eyes.  They were dark, haunted eyes.  Eyes that had seen too much, eyes that even the dead wouldn't envy.

The stranger sat down heavily upon a stool, oblivious of the reaction to the clientele, half of which were making haste for the exit, the other half watching expectantly, anticipating something different for once.

With a clunk the man placed the gun on the bar, followed a moment later by the hatchet, which splattered the counter with dark liquid blobs.

"Beer," he said. 

Dave pulled a beer and put it down in front of the man, who had watched him intently as he prepared it.

"That'll be, er..."  He trailed off as those eyes bored into his skull.  "...on the house."  He watched as the drink was lifted to cracked lips and downed in one desperate gulping go, much of it spilling over the already ruined coat, before the glass was slammed back down onto the bar.

"Another."  The voice was slightly less hoarse this time.

Dave complied, watching as the second glass was treated to only slightly less urgent treatment than the last.

"Another?"  He raised an eyebrow as the stranger gasped for air, slumping forward slightly. 

As he began to draw another the door to the bar opened again, in a more normal fashion this time.  Instantly the man grabbed his gun and whirled around to point it at the man entering the room, who shrieked and scuttled back out, double speed.

"Er, I'd rather you didn't kill my customers," Dave said, as the man slowly lowered the weapon and, even more slowly, retook his seat.  "Or frighted them off either.  I have bills to keep you know," he hinted.

The gun was placed gently back on the bar, and the half full, or in this case, possibly half empty, glass was prised away by a dirt covered, scarred and calloused hand.

"They're coming you know."  The man spoke in a rough, throaty voice.  Then he lifted the drink.  This time the glass shook as it was emptied. 

Dave took a punt.  "They?"

His reward was to be grabbed by the collar and half dragged over the counter.  Despite his struggles, and Dave wasn't an overly small or weak man, the hand gripped him like a vice, and he was unable to resist as he was pulled forward, to end up nose to nose with his new client. 

"I can't go on anymore!"  The desperate terror in the voice scared Dave more than the unrelenting grip. "You have to take it.  Take it!!"  Something cold and metal was thrust into his hand.  "They can't have it!  It'll mean the end!  THE END!"

Then the world exploded.  Dave was thrown back across his bar as two shadows erupted from apparently nowhere, grabbing at his new friend and pulling him back off the stool, but not before the man had grabbed the hatchet. 

There was a flurry of violent activity.  The hatchet rose and fell, and blood splattered across the room and over the remaining customers now fleeing or cowering in abject terror.  One of the attackers, a blurry figure enveloped in a billowing black coat, fell back, and Dave caught a glimpse of an unnaturally white face before he was distracted by his new customer being thrown directly at him.  He ducked, and the bottles above him smashed as the man bounced off them and landed on him.

He started to push his way out from underneath the dead weight when it was suddenly gone.  He looked up to see an inhuman parody of a face glaring down at him.  One of the attackers.  It hissed at him, and then turned its attention to the man, which it was holding up with one large, clawed, hand.

Dave took advantage of the creatures distraction and rolled clear, dragging himself up onto the bar. 

Seconds later his shoulder was grasped by what felt like an iron vice.  He swung about to meet one of the attackers as he lunged forward, and then stopped.  Dave thrust the barrel of the large gun the stranger had left on the counter into the tooth-filled mouth - and fired.

The explosion deafened him, and the recoil threw him backwards.  He landed hard, the breath knocked out of him.

Eventually the ringing in his ears stopped and he clambered shakily to his feet.

The bar was a mess, blood and flesh splattered over everything.  He staggered over to the person-thing he'd killed, which now lay in a bony heap, its cape covering it like a shroud.

Dave wished he could think of something smart to say, like in the movies, but his mind had decided to go away and come back when things were calmer, so he just kicked the body as he moved over to his latest customer, who was panting in a very unhealthy way on the floor.

Kneeling next to him he winced. 

"Hey buddy," he said.  "Keep still, I'll get help."  He made to stand, but an arm shot out and pulled him closer.

"No.  They cannot be allowed to get it.  You...you need to go.  Run, kill them.  Find the other thr...th..."

He let out a last, final breath and slumped back.  The hand holding Dave relaxed.

"Oh shit."

Dave laid him down, gently, and then frowned.  It?  He remembered the item he'd been handed, and looked about, spotting something shiny on the floor. 

He picked it up and examined it. 

"Interesting," he said.

Part III - Assassin

Very carefully Shinto slid through the narrow tunnel. This was the most dangerous part, the place where he was most likely to be heard. 

This part of the tunnel, uncovered through meticulous research in secret archives, passed between the guardroom of the royal quarters on one side, and general Matxu's office on the other. The royal cadre were elite, but Shinto was more concerned about the general. He was a legend, with skills honed on the almost mythical temple of Ho-hun. 

So he used every trick, every skill, every stealth incantation at his disposal. He doubted there was any other who could match him in this regard. 

It took nearly an hour to move through the two metre long section. 

Even then, when he finally dropped down into the small, hidden room at the end, now within the royal quarters, the most dangerous part was still ahead. Yes, he was confident he could find the item and eliminate the princess, after all, she was only young, and all the rumours about her abilities, even if true, would be no match for his years of training. No, it was escaping with the item and eluding the inevitable chase. That would be the real challenge. 

Shinto slipped into the corridors of the inner sanctum like a black cat on a dark night. Unseen, unheard he slid from one corner to the next, secure in the knowledge that the only people who were likely to be about were the royal family themselves, and possibly a servant. 

It wasn't long then, before he arrived at the door. With a gesture to invoke the cantrip of decisive action, he slid the door to one side and slipped into the room. 

Inside the room was sparsely decorated. At first glance one could mistake it for a peasants' room, but then, on closer inspection, you would notice the rugs, made of the finest silks, the trunk, desk, and chair carved by master craftsmen out of dark red, thousand year old mu-shi wood. The bed itself, with covers made from the wool from the legendary white mountain ox, and the pillow - flayed skin from the last of the defeated blue sword tribe, that now extinct warrior people. 

Yet none of this concerned Shinto. It was the head that rested on the pillow that his gaze alighted on. First her, and then the item, no doubt in the trunk. 

Time to act. He slid Silk Terror from its scabbard. The small blade was a legend in of itself, and tonight it would taste the blood of its highest profile victim to date. 

Sliding over to the recumbent form, Shinto raised the weapon and, in one smooth motion, brought it down for the death stroke. 

There was a breeze, and suddenly the princess was not there, the blade sliced the blanket, causing damage to that would cost a years wages of a village to pay to repair. 

"Assassin!" Behind him! 

He turned, even in his shock preparing for combat, pulling The Red Edge from its sheath. It was longer than Silk Terror, but still short enough to wield at close quarters. 

The princess, a tiny figure next to him, stood with her own blade ready. Her pose was that of Undying Snake, an impossibly advanced stance for one so young. Still, Shinto responded, adopting the attacking position of Silver Fire. 

They stood there for a moment, facing each other, evaluating. 

Shinto moved, using both blades in a combination attack of Thrust and Slice. 

The Princess moved. Her body impossibly sliding between both weapons using the Water in Air counter. Shinto could barely follow her moves, and had to do a backflip to avoid her. 

"Impressive Princess," he hissed, "but too slow." 

"Was I, assassin?" she replied, holding up her weapon. The steel was coated with something dark along one edge. 

Shinto looked down, to see his stomach open and his insides slip out onto the floor. He gaped at the young girl, as she stepped forward and raised her blade once more. 

- * - 

Princess Xy wiped her knife on the body of the would be assassin before sheathing it. Then she bowed to the ghost of her enemy, as ritual dictated. She had no wish to be haunted by his shade for disrespect. 

Protocol followed, she padded gently over to the secret panel in the base of her bed and opened it. Unrolling the purple velvet she looked at the shiny metallic object within. Soon, very soon, legend said, the time would come for it to be used. 

She hoped she would be ready. 

 Link

Ren

Good idea there Poi!   I can certainly use that. 

Thanks for reading!
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Poison

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New writer.  Be gentle!

Ren

I will be adding something to this/my others at some point, just distracted by a few things at the moment.  Oddly enough, writing related, but nothing I've put up on here. 

So, anyway. Watch this space and all that.
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Ren

Just FYI, in case my many thousands of readers  :(  were wondering, I've not forgotten about this, or my other ongoing tales on OP.  I've been focussing my writing on another project, unrelated, mostly, to the OP.

More details as/if things move along, and I will write some more on this soon.  I actually started writing another chapter on The Other One, but not got very far.  :o

Anyhoo, watch this space, or one close by anyway,
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Ren

Max

A lifetime at war had made Max cautious, even when there was apparently no need for it, and now this caution paid off.

He'd woken up early, and slipped outside to check the area and relieve himself, both of which he'd done.  However,  his return, which had been a stealthy one, had been interrupted.  He'd ducked down behind some rubble as a group of enemy soldiers had marched up.  They had been led by a large man in a captain's uniform, and Max had had to rub his eyes.  There had been something... wrong about the leader.  He looked somehow, well, blurred was about the only way to describe it.

Sighing to himself, he'd watched as the soldiers, four men and two women, the captain included, had walked confidently up to the the entrance to their hiding place.  It seemed as if they knew where they were, which made Max frown.  Maybe they thought their own men were still there, but then these appeared to be from a different unit altogether, from their uniforms and insignia. 

One woman was left on guard outside, whilst the rest went on it, leaving Max with a dilemma.  Should he wait, or try and rescue his new friend?  The so called magician was the only one who knew what his ring did, or was, and having tried to remove it, unsuccessfully, Max didn't want to lose that source of information. 

On the other hand he wanted to remain living too.

"Bugger it," he decided, after a minute of consideration.  Pulling his knife from its sheath, he circled around the building as quietly as he could, until he came around the other side, which was closer to the sentry.

The woman on duty was young, as in fact most soldiers were.  At nearly thirty, Max was a rare old man in his unit.  Few troops survived to live to such a ripe old age.  In any case, young meant impatience, which he was certain would work in his favour here. 

Sure enough, the guard started fidgeting within a few minutes.  Then she began pacing up and down, which gave him the opportunity that he'd been waiting for.

As she paced away from him he moved swiftly.  Coming up behind her, he clamped one hand over her mouth and used the other to cut her throat with the knife.

It wasn't the instant death some thought It was, but he was ready, having done this before.  She struggled for some seconds, but he held her tight, and slowly she subsided. 

Laying her down quietly, he shook his head.  She was a young, attractive, woman.  "What a waste," he muttered to himself as he peered in the doorway.  There were no other guards, so he slipped quietly inside and made his way over to the bottom of the stairs.

Peering through the gap, he could hear talking.  One voice was Salzar.

"They can't see who you really are can they?"  he was saying.

"Keep them talking," Max whispered, treading carefully on the first stair, and unslinging his captured machine gun. 

"Where is it?" he heard another voice answer, as he crept slowly forward.  "We know it is nearby.  You must have it."

Max made it another step before his luck ran out.

"Stop!"  cried a voice from the top of the stairs. 

Thanking the Universe for sending him an idiot, Max didn't waste time replying, but simply opened fire.  A brief burst of sound, and the man fell back.

Max did the same, in a more controlled fashion, making it to the corner of the stairs before answering fire smashed into the floor where he'd been standing.  He put the gun around the corner and fired back blindly, emptying the magazine.

There was more shouting from upstairs, and more shots back, but then there was another sound, one that he'd heard only once before. 

There were screams and brief blasts of explosion. 

The firing stopped, but the shouting didn't, nor did the explosions.

Replacing the empty magazine with a full one, Max peered carefully around the corner and upwards.  Blue lightning flashed across his vision, followed by dull retorts.  It seemed his friend was using his magic again.

Throwing caution to the wind, he dashed upstairs, to see Salzar extend a long finger at... something.   It was dressed in a captain's uniform, but it certainly wasn't of this world.  A bald, skull-like, white head, with jaws filled with monstrous teeth snapped forward at the mage, who threw up his other hand in reply.  Another flash, and the captain thing was pushed back. 

It snarled again, and moved forward to attack in return, swinging with a hand that was more claw-like than anything. 

Max didn't wait any longer.  He opened up with his machine gun again, blasting the thing from behind. 

Whatever it was, it wasn't invulnerable to good old fashioned lead.  It shrieked as the projectiles impacted it, stitching a line of gore up its back. 

That, and another blast of blue lighting from Salzar was enough.  With a final shriek of rage, the creature succumbed, falling onto the charred corpse of one of his men.

"Thank you," Salzar said.  He lowered his hands and bent over, gasping for breath.  "I thought I was done for for a minute there."

"What the hell is that thing?" Max replied, stepping forward and grimacing at the creature.  It was bubbling, melting, where it lay.  "It's dissolving!" he added.

"So it seems."  The mage nodded.

"So what is it then?"  Repeated Max.

"I'm not sure, but it's not from around here, that's for sure."  The wizard knelt down and, to Max's disgust, stuck a finger into the thing's face, pulling out a digit covered in slimy goo. 

"By the Universe!" Max exclaimed, as the other man sniffed at the residue.

"It had wards, magical wards," Salzar said, wiping the gunk off on the thing's uniform.  "It had an illusion that made it look like one of your species," he added.  "Which, all by itself, says it has other-verse origins."

"When I saw them come in it looked, kind of, blurred to me," Max nodded, checking the other enemy fallen to make sure they were dead.  Old instincts die hard.

"That will be the ring you wear," Salzar said.  "It has certain benefits.  They'll probably get stronger the longer you're together."  He looked up.  "Are you ready?  This thing was looking for the segment.  We should move on quickly."

"Move on, as in..."

"Yes, move to the next universe."

"Wow."  Max looked around.  "Let me salvage a few things first," he said.  "A few more magazines wouldn't go amiss.  And rations."

"Good idea," Salzar replied. 

They set about scavenging.

>>>>

Okay, short and sweet, but at least it's something!  So, better SP this time, I hope.

What is the next universe like?  Well, wherever they land. 

All suggestions, big and small welcome!

<<<<
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Poison

Short is better than nothing, which is about the amount I've done lately.

Well, how about the next universe being totally opposite to this one.  A very peaceful society, horrified by weapons.  However, also really, really, really bureaucratic!  Cross to the other side of the city sir?  Forms 41b and 12delta, in triplicate please.  And is that an unlicensed tattoo I see?

 ;D
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New writer.  Be gentle!

Ren

Ooh, nice one.  Thanks Poi!  I could certainly work with that.  8)
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