Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Rebel’s Rise, Part 8

“We can’t.  We need these weapons.  It is worth our lives, without them we won’t be able fight again, or defend our own base.”  He motioned at me.  “Fire three more bursts then follow me. I found a side path to the cache.”

 

I nodded.  Inwardly, I panicked.  There is no chance we tripped any alarms.  This is a trap, I thought.  The rest of me kept firing, and following orders.

 

Harl made the motion.  A rip toward a grenade from my side I hurled it down the hall, as we turned running down the side passage.  The hallway shook before I heard the boom.  A yank on my arm caused me to stumble.

 

“Are you trying to get us killed?”  There was no real accusation in Harl’s voice.  There was fear.

 

I shook my head.  “No, it’s a trap, Harl.”

 

“I agree.”  Amaria chimed in a gun resting against her side.  “We need to go, if we are going to make it at all.  You’re lucky Vallen knows how to make grenades, otherwise we would be dead already.”

 

A grunt as Harl swept his eyes over who we had left.  Celi was missing, as was one of Harl’s people.  “Amaria keep to the middle, Vallen cover the rear, and I’ll lead.”

 

Sweat dripped down my forehead.  Our progress was slow.  I couldn’t hear anyone coming down this way.  It didn’t make me feel any better.  Most likely they were concerned I had more grenades and were waiting to ambush us up ahead.  My arms, and neck ached with tension.

 

Behind me, I could hear gunfire, and shouts.  “Harl?”

 

“Not us.”  He sounded as tense as me.

 

Jirth’il!” rumbled from Harl.  “Vallen, come here.”

 

I tapped Bara on the shoulder.  “Take over on the back.  Understood?”

 

“Yes, sir.”  He looked pale.

 

I walked over to Harl and I cursed as well.  The hallway was strewn with corpses, at least ten

soldiers lying in their own blood.  A look told me they weren’t rebels.  I noticed a doorway stood open and inside were walls of weapons.  “Is this cache? Is this all the sand for the ambush?”  It didn’t seem like enough to me.  Nobles could be arrogant, but not generally stupid.

 

“No, they took after whoever did this.”  He motioned to footprints in the blood.  “Let’s get the cache. I have to set it up to go down the trash chute across the hall. Someone is down there to pick up.”

 

I didn’t feel like trusting Harl’s judgment since his contact failed this time.  “Who?”

 

Xialo.” I couldn’t object.  A Woellian isn’t an ally who you distrust.  Besides Xialo was a good guy for an eiaa, an abnormal.

 

Harl stood against the door frame.  “Bara, grab as much as you can and send it down the chute.”  I motioned to Harl’s trainee.  “Same for you.”

 

Amaria tilted her head in the direction the Noble’s troops went.  “Whoever they are chasing is frustrating and angering them.”

 

“Who they are chasing?”  Harl barked.

 

The star in her eye expanded outward for a moment, her eyes widening.  “I can’t sense them.  Either they are shielded in some way, or have the mental capability to block me. It seems they are leading them on a merry chase.”

 

Huge crates of weapons, and ammo got dumped into the chute, the two panted from the effort.  Still, the cache’s shelves filled with more.  “We can’t hope it will last. Eventually, they’ll get annoyed enough, or smart enough to come back here.”

 

“I agree, we’ll get a fourth of it at least before we cut out.” A fourth would help us last for months, and it would be more than worth it.

 

Something about Amaria’s posture troubled me.  She seemed either confused, or upset.”What is it?”

 

“They are dying.  Not quickly, but the person they are chasing is killing them.”  Her face scrunched up.  “I can feel their lives being snuffed out.  Whoever is killing them is as efficient as me.”

 

“You’re telling me they are drawing them out to keep them away.  As if they are choosing to keep them distracted.”  The rumble in Harl’s voice seemed as confused as Amaria.  Never before had anyone attempted to help us aside from those already with us.  “If that’s the case, go ‘till half.  Vallen, help them.  Amaria let me know if you sense anyone coming this way.”

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My Life for Your Life

Another week, another Chuck Wendig challenge.  This one was a little different.  There was something different about this one.  One needed to write a story with a cliffhanger. Do not finish it, leave the reader wanting, and mocked : ).  Here’s my entry.  

My Life for Your Life

 

This is why I need to go independent. Working for the guild is no fun, I thought with a shake of my head. Nothing more boring than escorting some preening, unimportant Noble from one place to another. This one was frantic. Sweat poured off him. The powerful scent wafted up my nose. I patted my trusty gun, Tiff, and kept watch.

The walkways were clean, and only a few people about. A few slaves, obvious by the plain white clothing they wore, drifted back and forth between the buildings. Typical High District traffic during this part of the day. “Grand Lord Devon, calm yourself.”

“My life is in danger, would you be so calm?” He snapped wringing his ring ladened hands.

I eyed him for a moment before gazing back the glittering spires around us. I wish I lived in such a nice district. “Every time I go on an assassin’s guild assignment my life is at risk. Guild Vook are bodyguards, Grand Lord. My life for your life.” Don’t roll your eyes, Vena, don’t do it.

He huffed straightening his tunic. “I know Sotho is after me. His house has been cross with me since our last business venture.” A cocky little sneer popped on his face. “Not my fault he didn’t read the contracts properly.”

“Of course not. There is no excuse for poor contract reading skills.” A sneaky, underhanded bastard, a vaero in the flesh. My life for his, I don’t think so. This job might not end so well for Grand Lord Devon.

The walkway cleared all the slaves gone, as we approached his apartment. My arm went out. “Stop.”

“Don’t make a fuss now. We are nearly to my home.” He tried to push against my arm.

There should be people going in and out of the massive housing complex. This was the usual work end time, and the building housed over a thousand people. And, yet no one stirred. “Engage your personal shield.”

“Don’t order me around.” Devon snapped at me.

“Do it!” I was not going to let him die, putting a mark on my record, because he wouldn’t engage his damn shield. A low hum from him put me at ease. My rifle lifted upward, both arms holding it steady. “Get behind that artificial tree display.” I motioned at the cylinder with a plastic tree on it at the end of the walkway.

Devon grumbled. “Hiding behind a tree, how ridiculous.”

Please, let the attacker be a sniper. I took a slow step forward. The overhang was shadowed and I could see something underneath it. In a very even motion I pulled a secondary shield off my belt, pressed the activator and threw it at Devon. It landed next to him triggering a second layer of shielding. I knelt down and my auto cover activated.

A laugh echoed across the empty plaza. “I heard you were good, Vena. I’m glad this won’t be boring.”

In a nearly silent voice I said. “Back camera activate.” I’m not going to be tricked into believing he was in front of me.

A shot came from the far west side and bounced off my cover. I tossed a grenade in that direction. The bang caused debris to fly. An armored figure rolled out of the smoke, and took off at a run.

I fired at his feet. He took a large, boosted leap to behind a statue.

A tug at my weapon with a powerful voice. “Vin, a kinetic.” I pressed my back to my cover holding the gun behind it. Another rip nearly dislocated my arm. Another grenade went flying. It emitted a high pitch squeal. I fired four more shots.

A blast of power knocked me flat. The gun tumbled away off the walkway. “Great.” As I struggled to sit up my weapons were being pulled off my belt and getting thrown off the side. I gripped my fabricated material sword between my two hands. His power seemed to be ignoring it.

“If you want to give up now, Vena, I’m sure Guild Vook would understand. They can’t expect you to fight with no weapons.” Arrogant little idiot.

“Hardly fair of you.” A few changes to the set up of my auto-cover.  That would do the trick.

“I’m a murdering assassin, fair isn’t something I do.”

My feet dug into the ground and sprinted forward. Using the same tech as him I leapt over the statue landing on him.

A swing of his leg caught me in the stomach sending me back. I rolled in time to miss his feet landing on me.

Then, I defended against his sword attack with a slash. My foot caught him in the knee. Off balance I cut upward. He recovered fast. I was forced to defend losing ground.

A hard object came against my foot. He backed me into the statue. I rammed into him with my shoulder. For a moment, he was forced back. He came back with rapid fire attacks. The fear of doom and failure crashed over me. For the first time I worried I might die.

Another slash, my arms growing tired already. I didn’t sword fight. A cry of despair echoed from far away. Oh right, Devon. I am not going to die to save that whiny loser. I blocked with my arm and punched with the blade hilt. The assassin stumbled with a cry. I slammed into his ankle. A cross cut against his thigh.

A rumble behind me distracted me as he pushed me down. The statue crashed down in my direction. Before I could move, he tripped me cutting into my leg. I only had one second to think.

 

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The Rebel’s Rise, Part 7

“You don’t want me to go. I’m the most enhanced person here.” Gulla’s hand rested on a cocked hip.

Harl whipped around.  “You are a child.  A well trained, tough child, but one nonetheless.  Do you think your parents would be glad if I risked your life?”

“They’re dead.” Her nonchalant delivery fell flat.  Pain welled up in her eyes for a moment.  She banished it with a snide smile.

Harl’s arm muscles tightened through his form fitting shirt.  “I am aware.  But, I knew them.  They would want you to live.  I have already failed them by not finding you.  Do you want me to fail them again by taking you into this situation and putting your life at risk?”

Her face flushed a deep crimson as her small fists curled.  “I don’t care.  You know who killed them? Those self- absorbed, meaninglessly, prattling nobles. I have the strength, the endurance, and the power to stop them.” She spat at his feet.  “I’m sixteen cycles. I’m not a child.”

“You are emotional.  As you have just proved.”  Harl roared back.  “I don’t know you.  What if you choose revenge over the lives of your comrades. What if you lose your cool and rush into a dangerous situation.  I know nothing about you, and how you operate.  I am not going to take you on such a risky mission to satisfy your bloodlust.”

Before anyone else could escalate this argument any further, I put my hands on them pushing them apart.  “Enough!” My voice raised with aggravation.  “Both of you are being stupid. She isn’t a baby, Harl.  And, you just joined. You can’t expect us to immediately take you.  Ko!”  I cursed giving them a final shove.

Gulla shoved back knocking me off my feet and onto my ass with bruising force.  “Fine!” She stomped off.

“Brat,” Harl started to wind up for a rant

“Don’t start.” I pulled myself up.  “I’ll see you tonight.  By then, I hope you would have cooled off.”

***

 

The ride out of the faculty was uneventful.  I’d taken Bara and Celi for my crew.  I didn’t recognize Amaria’s people, but her group was the most secretive.  The main sewerage tunnel was as gross as you could imagine.  Slimy, reeking with dim light from our guns, and so cold, it made me thankful for my heavy combat gear. Amaria seemed to be the only one not affected. Her calm dignity intact as she got covered in unmentionable goo.

The light caught Harl making the motion to stop.  I heard the scraping sound of someone removing the grate. This, for me, had always been the worst part of any mission.  The quiet tension gnawed at my worries.  I’d rather be shot at any day.  Harl’s deep voice seemed to boom, even though I knew he was quiet.  “We’ll go as a team, my people first, Amaria’s to scout, and Hallen’s to provide range support.  I don’t know what’s in here, so we have to be careful.”

For an agonizing minute, the group slipped out of the grate.  I got out last, pulling out my gun in one smooth motion.  A quick glance told me Amaria’s people were already scouting.  “Bara, Celi. What in the Ko are you doing? Get your guns out.”  I put a considerable bite into my words.

Bara ducked his head.  “Sorry, Sir.  I thought I heard something.  I was talking it over with Celi. She said she can’t hear it.”

“Your weapon has to be out in a hot zone. Be vigilant.”  One thing I agreed with Gulla on was how amateurish our whole operation seemed.  We never had enough time to train, and most of them weren’t really battle-ready.  The only thing our army had going for it was everyone had nothing to lose.  A dubious quality to build a rebellion on.

“Harl! Vallen!”  It took me a moment to recognize Amaria’s voice.  She had never yelled before.  A stutter of gunfire filled the air as a scream was abruptly cut off.

“Get in defensive posture. Defend us with long range.”  I signaled my people as weapons came up firing in short bursts.

Amaria appeared out of thin air.  “There is too many, Harl. We need to move.”

“Your people?” Harl pulled out a map.

“Gone.”  The sorrow in that one word stopped my breathing. One always forgot that underneath Amaria’s cool, reserved exterior beat a sensitive heart.  “Harl, we do not have time for this.  Abort the mission.  We must go.”

 

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The Mail Man Horror

Another week, another Flash Fiction Challenge.  This week is Spin the Wheel, roll the dice of fate and get your number.  Mine was Home Threatened.  Check out Chuck Wendig blog for an excellent selection of stories.

The Mail Man Horror

“Oh me, oh my, I love my butter and bread.” A tiny figure whirled around in a small room with little windows cut into the north and south walls. The wings fluttered as he put the dime plate on a counter made of dice. The glittering hands pulled out two jars one filled with yellow, and the other golden. He picked up the edge of a bread crust dipping it in the soft butter, and the gooey honey. With a big grin on his angular little face he shoved into his huge mouth. “Yum, yum, in the tum tum.”

He weaved across the house and settled on a packing peanut. He closed his eyes and pulled a ratty piece of cloth over him. Not a minute passed when a loud scraping sound awoke him. Large white pieces of paper with scrawl written on them were shoved into his house. He let out a shriek. “I hate the mail man.”

A loud, cheery humming filled his home. As the flap was shoved close with a bang. “Only two houses left to go.” A loud, happy voice boomed above his home. “And, then I get to go home to the lady.” A quieter scrapping noise as a red plastic blocked his window.

“Oh you.” Tiny figure sat up. His hands resting on his hips. “I’ve hexed him, put a rash on him, made him sick, made him turn blue, and he comes back anyway. And soon, the big people will be back.” His bright yellow eyes got big and wet. “And, they pull out the white paper shoving my things all about. Unfair, unfair I say. I must do something. The other brownies would only laugh. They had no trouble living in human-homes. He didn’t get along with his assigned family at all. Their cat, Nuzzles, was always trying to eat him. And there was this horrible, insidious mail man. Would his torment never end?

For a bit he sat on his bed and considered fleeing. Yet, he liked his metal home. The only thing he didn’t like was the hard big pieces of paper that got put in and out of it. “Oh, oh, oh, that’s the answer. If my house was not there to put paper in, then they wouldn’t do it anymore.”

The excitement in his belly dried up when he realized he didn’t know how to make that happen. The home sat on a post, and a few strange large, block letters were written on the side of it. He tried to scrap the letters away before. The humans put them back up within a day or so. The mail man still came. The post, that must be it. Because, it was on the post. If he could get off the post that would make all difference in the world.

He wasn’t strong enough to get the home off the post. He had some small magic, but not enough for that. “Nuzzles!” On his feet, and shoving down the door. Nuzzles was big, overweight, and strong. The only thing Nuzzles bothered to chase was him. Yes, he could lure it out home, and have it knock house off the post. Plus, Nuzzles would get hurt, that made the idea even better.

Bright sun filled him with joy as he rushed forward in the warm air. Little lavender, and blue sparkles followed him, reminding him why he was called Two Color. Being different from the other brownies was hard. They got along with big people, humans. Pets didn’t bother them. And, they didn’t live by themselves. Oh, well Two Color could be wonderfully different this time, instead.

On the big white porch Nuzzles was curled up on a cushioned wicker chair. His big black strips contrasting against his barely brown fur. His tail tucked under his chin. “Hey stupid.” Two Color announced floating a few feet away from his enemy.

Nuzzle opened a green eye, and then another. She stretched in a slow, drawn out motion. Her tail made lazy turn around her. “Meow.” Big paws swatted at the air near him.

“Come and get me, stupid face. I’m tasty, tasty.” Two Color shot a beam at the Nuzzles’s sensitive nose.

A growl rumbled Nuzzle’s chest. A pink tongue flicked out to lick her nose.

Two Color took off at half speed, he could hear Nuzzles bounding behind him. He smiled, then let out a yelp when Nuzzles almost landed on him. “Oh you.” He shouted his arms flying up in the air. He flew higher landing on top of the home.

At first Nuzzles paced around the home making irritating, chripy noises. Then those eyes narrowed with deadly intent. Nuzzles settled down on her haunches as they began to dance up and down.

Two Color was thrilled. His moment of freedom was near. No more mail man. He jumped back ducking around the side of the home.

A clanging sound as Nuzzles let out a yelp, the claws not finding a grip on the smooth metal. “Yowl,” Nuzzles screeched as the house began to tip.

Two Color knew it was now or never. With a touch of his magic he weakened the hold of home. Nuzzles and home went flying. Most of his furniture flew out of home, along with the invading white paper, and home crashed in the long grass in the ditch covered by tall plants. Nuzzles slammed into the side of the weathered fence. In response, Nuzzles out a hiss, clawed the wood, and took off running back to the house.

Two Color clapped with joy. He’d have to spend the afternoon looking for his things, but it’s been worth it. The mailman would trouble Two Color no more.

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The Rebel’s Rise, Part 6

Harl grunted and crossed his arms.  “Fine, we’ll get started on this project.  Amaria, you’re in charge of it, and the girl.  Vallen, get back to training your troops.  We need that ammo from the depo.  Without it we are going to have to start cabalizing our gear to make weaponry.”

Amaria and I bowed keeping our heads down until Harl stomped off.  We exchanged a look.  Both of us were worried about Harl’s attitude.  To this day, I find it odd I had more in common with an alien than anyone else.

Vallen, do not trouble yourself.  Harl does not like her cavalier attitude.” Amaria fixed a very slight frown at Gulla who only grinned in return.  “Neither do I.  If she ever expects to lead she must behave as an adult, not a rebellious child.”

A sweet delight laugh burst out from Gulla.  “I’m just being myself, Amaria.”

I shook my head.  “I’ll go back to my soldiers.”

***

  A week passed without much change to our routine. Missions happened, people came back injured, and we retrieved supplies.  I walked by the lab occasionally to see Gulla and Amaria.

At the end of the week I attempted to choke down some dry rations. I was relieved when Harl called for a camp meeting.  I trotted over sipping out of my cup.  The first one to arrive as I gazed over the angular, broken landscape.  The remains of old wars.  The Nobles had stopped trying to rebuild the planet, too wrapped up in their own affairs.  In the end, I couldn’t be fully upset, since it kept us hidden.

I heard voices talking behind him as I turned.  Harl, Gulla, and Amaria stood at the center.  Harl motioned to Gulla.

She raised her voice loud enough to nearly echo over the area.  “We have created enough for the serum to enhance all the working soldiers.  However, as we tested we realize it does not activate immediately.  Therefore, we will do it in phases.  General Harl has picked out the first wave and you will report to the lab for your injection and calibration.  Not all the enhancements will take, and they may manifest differently.  Report any reaction to the medical officer or genetics, even if it is minor.”  She paused her dark eyes narrowed, and intense. The strength of her personality struck me, she took after my sister apparently.  “Headaches, rash, food tasting different, anything, understood?” The edge to her words was a command.

A chorus of ‘yes ma’am’ filled the air.

“Do as she says.  Obey.”  Harl slapped his hand onto his palm.  “Go out, the geneticist, will grab the first round.” He waved me over as the crowd dispersed.

I strolled over, taking another sip of water.  “What is it?”

Amaria stepped up beside Harl.  “General.”

Harl’s nostrils flared as Gulla strode up beside him.  “This doesn’t involve you.”

“Oh, I can’t listen?”  How such a sweet-looking thing could come off so demeaning surprised me.

Harl turned his back toward her before talking. “Tonight, I want to hit a military installation with a small team.  I want you and Amaria.  You need to bring two operatives from each of your teams.”

I considered this.  “Why are we going?” Gulla remained quiet and watchful.

“They have high grade explosives, and advanced weaponry.  And from a source I learned they won’t be as guarded because they were diverted to go escort a Noble to another Noble’s estate.”  I knew without asking he would not reveal his source.  Whoever the source was, he used them often and achieved good results.

Amaria’s appearance shifted a bit.  Her skin lightened and her hair darkened to black.  “This seems risky. Perhaps we should have less valuable people on the mission.  The cause could be irrevocably harmed if you and Vallen both died.”

“It’s too dangerous to risk the non-enhanced members.  You are, well, a Star Child, Vallen is a Noble, and I am a former head of a guard.”  Harl ground his jaw together loud enough to be heard. “This will give us a good arsenal.  I have hopes we will be able to duplicate some of it in our lab as well.  Though, it may not be possible.”

With grace, Amaria bowed low.  “It will be done.”  She popped up and headed out.

I nodded. “I’ll get it done.”

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Umm…WTH?

Another lovely, ie horrible, challenge from Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.  This week we got an article to a strange net/web/thing that is stumping scienctist across the world.  We had to explain it, somehow, someway.  Here’s mine. 

Umm…WTH?

Tommy and Jacob ambled down a dusty, dirt road. They kicked rocks out their way. Every once in a while they look over at the rolling fields of wheat.

Jacob’s tanned arm slapped Tommy in the chest. “Hey, check that out.”

Tommy pushed Jacob’s arm off him. “What, I don’t see anything.”

Jacob shoved Tommy hard causing him to stumble. “Right there, what are you freakin’ blind?” His crocked finger pointed at a strange, white web at the edge of the wheat field.

Tommy frowned and strode forward kneeling beside it. It was a white tall tower, surrounded by a woven fence. It wasn’t much bigger than his hand. “Huh, that is pretty odd. Come over here, Jacob.”

Jacob poked him the shoulder. “I’m already over here.” He knelt down beside his friend. “It kind of looks like a spider web, but it’s not like any web I’ve ever seen before.”

“Oh yeah, you’re some kind of spider expert, Jacob?” Tommy shot his friend a lopsided grin.

Jacob rolled his eyes. “My dad is into bugs. He has all kinds of weird looking web pictures in his office. This is the weirdest web I’ve seen. He’d have it up on his wall, if happened all the time. Must be something strange going on.”

“Sure, whatever,” Tommy started to stand up.

Jacob pulled out a cell phone and started to snap a few pictures. He stepped around it taking a few more shots.

“What are you doing?”

“My dad would want to have some pictures of it.” Jacob glared up at his friend. “What do you care?”

Tommy’s chest puffed up. “I got somewhere to be.”

Jacob made a rude noise. “You want to go check out Lacy. She’s not interested in you.”

“I just need to swing by the church is all. Not everything had to do with Lacy.” Tommy glanced away from Jacob, eyes staring out at the wheat fields.

“Sure, it doesn’t.” Jacob tone was filled with smugness.

Tommy punched him hard in his shoulder. “Jerk.”

Jacob caught himself before he tumbled into the tiny structure. “Watch it!” A few steps back before he kicked Tommy in the shin. “I almost crushed it.”

“Who cares? I should crush it. It’s probably has a nasty collection of spiders.” Tommy raised his foot up.

A shout as Jacob barrelled into his friend. They grappled. They twisted in the dirt road kicking up dust into the air.

“Get off me.” Tommy jumped up dusting off his jeans. “You need to relax. Seriously.”

“You need to not be an idiot. Guess which one is might actually happen.” Jacob snapped back.

Tommy’s eyes got wide. “What’s going on?”

Jacob whipped around. The little tower was shaking rapidly. Jacob body went all stiff as a lump worked its way down his throat.

The little fence flattened, and then sunk into the dirt. Chittering and clacking filled the air. Jacob and Tommy took several steps back and exchanged a look.

The tower started to spilt at the top. Each side curled down. At the bottom was a red writhing ball. “Jacob…” Tommy started to say.

The ball exploded outward becoming a mass of shiny red spiders no bigger than a head of a pin. For a moment the world seemed to go still. Then, they started to move as one making their way toward the two boys.

“Tommy we need to move. They could be poisonous.” Jacob tugged on his friend’s arm as they started to run.

Their feet pounded against the dirt, as their hearts beat so loud it drowned out all other sound.

Jacob glanced behind his shoulder and realized they were gaining on them. “Crap.” Something caught on his foot and they both went down.

The mass of red spider’s reached Tommy’s foot swarming up his body. A gurgling sound ruptured out of Tommy’s mouth. “The pain, the pain, the pain.” Tommy babbled over and over.

Jacob attempted to kick them off, but they would only climb back onto his friend. He shot off toward the side road pulling a broken piece of the fence. A quick tug as he pulled off his shirt, wrapping over the wood. His lips compressed, as he dug around in his pocket bringing out a lighter. The clicking on the trigger as he lit his shirt. He ran back toward the spiders waving the hot flame over them.

They began to scramble to his friend and scattered away with the same speed they chased them. This time they went their separate way.

Jacob dropped beside Tommy. Thick, pulsing sores were all his body. “Jesus, I’m going to call my dad.” He punched in the number and prayed there was something his dad could do.

 

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The Rebel’s Rise, Part 5

If I were to be honest, I didn’t know we could trust her.  She was a slave, a slave to something I couldn’t even understand.  However, her master’s goals were our goals.  “She’s helped us from the very beginning.” I waited a beat.  “And, she didn’t have to tell us who, or what she is.  In fact, if I remember, her masters’ punished her for it.”

“I understand.  But, Amaria doesn’t make decisions on her own.  She’s at their beck and call, and if they changed their minds, she would have to obey.”

I knew there wasn’t any point to arguing.  Privately, I acknowledged the fact Amaria often disobeyed the Soul Merchants.  They punished her, brutally, but it didn’t seem to affect her decisions. “I trust her.”

He shook his head at me. “I already have enough problems with the Nobles.  I don’t need to add the Soul Merchants to the list of obstacles.”

“The Nobles are doing what they feel they have to.”  I used to be a Noble before my parent’s disowned me.  “I don’t think what they do is right, but I can see it from their point of view.”

Harl clapped me the back, hard.  “That’s why you are invaluable.  You know how they think, and you know their tactics.”

“We are still losing the war.  We need the technology.  If the girl brings it…”  A slight narrowing of my eyes as I expressed my seriousness. “We need to use it.”

He stepped back from me.  He crossed his bulky arms again.  “Don’t you worry if it has side effects? Or how dangerous it might be?”

“I don’t,” involuntarily, my head jerked away.  I motioned around us.  Shattered, remains of skyscrapers all around, littered with the remains of ships. Our base lacked proper lighting, we had stolen food, and the only place we had a computer was the lab. Which was a salvaged medical bay. “If we keep going as we are it will be over soon.”

“I hope she comes back with the tech then, Vallen.”  Harl’s brown eyes seemed darker, and more worn down.

****

A week passed and everyone started to think Gulla would not return. Amaria hadn’t either.  Unlike the rest of them I believed.  A foolish hope, perhaps, but I trusted my niece already.

While I was pacing back and forth behind my troops shots ringing out from the rifles as they did range practice,  I’d stopped to correct one of the new recruits.  “The butt of the gun has to be pressed hard against your shoulder to stabilize it.  You see how wild your shots are?”

A shout cut off the rest my words.  Harl’s voice seemed to boom in the open yard. “Vallen!” 

Terror pierced my heart. I was running toward him, gun in hand before I realized it.  My feet pounded the melted metal as I rolled behind a shattered ship hull behind him. My gun braced on the top of a shattered beam.

He looked over to me with a laugh.  “The girl’s returned.  Sorry to have frightened you, Vallen.”

My troops barrelled behind him.  I waved them off. “Go back to your posts.”  I took a deep breath and bellowed.  “No emergency, get back to drills.”

Gulla strolled up at ease, her sable eyes sparkling.  A battered metal box clasped in her hands. “Hello, Harlin.  Hello, Vallen.  Brought you a present.”

A shadow detached itself from the wall and stepped beside her as stood before Harl.  Amaria lips flicked upward.  “Gulla, try to be polite.”

“How does it work?” The gruffness of Harl’s voice failed to hide his excitement.

Gulla squatted down and lifted the lid off the box.  Four syringes rested on top of a metal box with several lights on top.  “You inject yourself, and then use the machine to calibrate the changes.  They were in the middle of making more usable as it stands you need a geneticist to set it up.”

“Is that all you have enough for four?” Harl glared down at her his eyes glowing with a rage. 

Gulla peered up at him, lifting a brow.  “That’s all I have made.  The machine can give you specs on making more.  You just have a lab to fabricate it.”

“We have a geneticist and a lab.” I broke the tense staring match before it escalated. Harl needed to stop talking to this girl as if she was some kind of moron.  She’d been fighting the same brutal fight for survival we had.

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Filed under All About Gulla, Amon, Story Chains