02 May, 2097
Beneath the Conduit Building, Knightborn
The white walls gleamed brightly as Uek Ferris made his way through the corridors below the Conduit Building. His pace was casual, orderly, giving the appearance of a man with not much on his mind. Of course, Uek’s mind was a constant machine, filing and removing potential ideas or processes like a busy secretary.
Still, a few thoughts had taken over for today, and were filling him with an almost childlike anticipation. It’d been a while since he’d physically seen the results of ‘the Storm’s’ little endeavours, and it was always good to see progress.
His boots echoed off the corridor walls as he marched. Yes, ‘the Storm’ had certainly been busy. In fact, a little too busy. His supply of Ossillium was surprisingly high, so high that he’d actually had to reschedule shipments to avoid the attention of the Imperium.
Despite the inflation and the price of smuggling going up, the rocks and dust kept coming in, and ‘the Storm’s’ underworld presence kept growing. And on top of that, the rebuilding of Knightborn had finally begun. Already construction crews, desperate for work and contracts due to the inflation, were setting the foundation for the city, filling in the caverns underneath the ruin and covering the rubble that had descended to the depths.
Ahh yes. Commander Ferris was growing in popularity as well. His plan, for once, was actually going in his favour.
He heard the other set of footsteps moments before he saw their owner. His well-trained senses picked out the man’s gait and he fixed a smile to his face as Almas Havok walked out one of the many doors that lined the hallway. He looked tired, judging by the bags under his eyes, but the smirk on his lips revealed excitement. Uek fuelled his own smile as he realised what it meant. A minor breakthrough.
He strolled up to the younger man and met his eyes. Yep. Very tired, but there was eagerness there as well. Havok greeted him and Uek took his offered hand. The young man was still very keen to please him, despite them working together for over a year now. Ahh, it was good to have loyalty in his ranks.
Havok: “Morning Uek. How you going?”
Uek: “As good as always. Public opinion is on the rise, so I can’t complain. I take it the project is going well?”
Havok: “Yep. Had quite the breakthrough actually…just a few minutes ago.”
Uek: “Excellent. Who was it?”
Havok: “Subject 072. He’s responding well to the stimulus. The neural suppressor’s in place and the Ossllium’ll go in shortly.”
Uek grinned again as Havok began walking toward the door again, calling for the doctors to prep the patient. Uek had made sure to witness the Ossillium implantation for each subject so far, so Havok knew what to do without asking. Loyalty once more.
His thoughts spun to the Ossillium, tracing back dates and shipments. The current lot they were using had been brought in by the Unaligned Independent Marauder Factions, plus various small time gangs looking for a quick buck. The group had stocked them well. He’d even had to push Vohilla’s schedule back, something she wasn’t happy about. Still, she had enough fear to keep her head level, and had pushed the shipment back a few weeks.
Havok leaned against the door and rubbed his tired eyes before continuing their conversation as the operators prepared the subject.
Havok: “So…any luck with Brickton?
Uek frowned at the mention of the name. Ah yes, Jack Brickton. A little hiccup in his operation. Though the man hadn’t known much, the fact that he’d managed to escape, and the fact that Diego had gone against his word, was proving to be an unnecessary frustration.
Uek: “Well, I didn’t have to worry about the bounty. The Imperium covered it all by themselves. Apparently, his mother’s defected to Aurelia, put the name in the spotlight. They’ll be watched closely.”
Havok: “Good riddance.”
Uek: “Yeah, you’re probably right. Still, a missed opportunity. And a betrayal, right under my nose.”
Havok: “You gonna hunt Stingray down?
Uek: “No. Sting’s smart enough to know to head underground, and frankly I can’t be bothered wasting the resources. Still, from what I remember, he can hold a grudge, and us taking Brickton probably upset him. If he wants a fight, he’ll resurface. I’ll kill him then.”
Havok: “Right and, um…, what about our other runaways?”
The frown on his face deepened as his thoughts focused on the individuals in question. Donovan and Michaels, still on the run and no closer to be found. He’d asked Judas to bump up the bounty only last month, but the news was still empty of their names. He ground his teeth together. Another unnecessary frustration that refused to resolve itself.
Uek: “Still nothing. Whispers here and there, but nothing concrete.”
Havok: “Well Risa was always good at keeping things to herself, trust me. But still, for her to go into hiding for this long? She wouldn’t know how to keep it up.”
Uek: “My bets on Michaels. He keeps changing their names, ID’s, passports, etcetera, always one step ahead of the police. Gotta admit Havok, it’s frustrating. What I wouldn’t give to run a knife through that woman’s heart.”
Havok: “Not before me sir. I asked for offering her the chance to join. She refused, and she didn’t stay dead. So I’ve got a job to finish.”
Uek: “Agreed. Well, regardless, once the Project’s completed, I’m sure it’ll flush them out. No one will be able to stand in its way.”
Havok chuckled slowly but his reply was interrupted by a voice beckoning them into the room. Havok nodded and, with a yawn, strolled inside, Uek on his heels. The room inside was, for the most part, fairly ordinary. Tools and vials filled the cupboards and various machinery whirred and beeped without a care in the world. Without any context, it would’ve seemed perfectly ordinary. Apart from the fact that the surgeons in the room weren’t there to heal.
Two surgeons stood around the bed, their faces covered by masks for hygiene’s sake. They stood casually, like this was another day in the office.
Completely ignoring the screams of the man in the bed between them.
His hair and beard were long and unkempt from months below ground. His skin was muscular, but lacked substance due to minimal exercise. Multiple scars littered his body, some medical, others…for a different purpose. Subject 072.
Uek’s face lit up as he focused on the subject’s head. There, in plain view for all to see, was the fruits of thousands of credits worth of cybernetic research. The neural implant prototype, pulsing gently with red light.
The man was furiously trying to break free from the grip of the metal straps locking him to the table, howling with a mixture of rage and pain. He was clearly delirious at this point, though Uek could understand. Having a chunk of machinery hardwired to your brain would drive anyone mad. Still, he was breathing. And conscious. A breakthrough indeed.
The surgeons saluted as Uek entered the room, which he dismissed with a wave. The pair nodded and went back to their instruments, occasionally adjusting one of the many tubes that stuck out of 072’s body. One surgeon, a woman named Karol, adjusted a component on the implant, causing a shriek of pain from the subject. Quite the spectacle, Uek though to himself.
Havok: “See? He’s the first one to stay conscious after the operation. We’ve finally nailed the right positions that the implant needs to pierce, as well as the right level of X-17 to inject prior. Falcon’s gonna be thrilled at that.”
Uek: “Nah. Falcon still hates my guts. Still, he’s done good work, I suppose. Has the implant been tested yet?”
At his question, Havok only smirked and stepped back, as if offering a gift. Uek returned the grin and turned to the other surgeon, Andrew, another question on his lips.
Uek: “Is he ready?”
Andrew: “Almost…Karol? How’s his heart rate?”
Karol: “Steady. Breathing checks out as well. Brain readouts are….yep, all good.”
She pushed a few more buttons, caused a few more screams and gave a thumb’s up for further confirmation.
Andrew then sent his gloved fingers flying over a keyboard, before thrusting a recording device in Uek’s face.
Andrew: “Alright. Commander, mind saying your name? Loudly please.”
Uek: “My name is Uek Ferris, Commander of Knightborn, or what’s left of it.”
Andrew nodded to himself, punched in several more codes and returned Karol’s thumbs up. The pair shared a brief look of anxiousness before slowly raising gloved fingers and pressing two buttons in unison. The computers began humming, gently building in power as small beams of light began to fill the room.
A brilliant light shone from one of the cables attached to the subject’s head. 072 howled in agony, biting his own tongue in the process. His shackles went slick with blood as he writhed and shook, desperate to be free from the nightmare that surrounded him. But there was no escape. The nightmare was taking place inside his own head.
Uek covered his eyes with his sleeve, but couldn’t help but glance at the scene unfolding before him. It was like looking at a star that was constantly pulsing with electrical life. The subject began to jerk in a sort of rhythm, passing out between shocks and waking with a shriek as the electricity poured into his brain. He writhed, shook, cried, drooled and screamed again. It was completely inhuman.
But, of course, if he survived he wouldn’t be human any longer.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably minutes, the screaming faded and the light slowly died. Uek and Havok lowered their arms as the surgeons went about their business. The subject had collapsed on the bed, sucking in lungfulls of sweet, sweet air. His eyes were bloodshot and as wide as his body would allow, but they didn’t see the grin on Uek’s face. It had worked. He’d survived. Or, more accurately, it had survived.
The surgeons nodded to each other and slowly began removing the tubes from the body. Each would have been as painful as removing a knife, but the cyborg barely flinched. After what it had gone through, that bit of pain was nothing. Finally, after a grunt, the main implant cable was removed, smoky slightly as the electricity dissipated.
With a gulp, the surgeons stepped up and undid the shackles keeping the subject down, stepping back in a hurry the instant they were off. But the cyborg barely moved, only raising its hands slightly, just to know that it could.
Silence descended for several minutes as the subject slowly, but surely, sat up, pulling his legs over the cot, one at a time. Its breathing was deep, its body shaking. Dozens of tiny pin-pricks of blood dripped from the holes were the cables and tubes had once been, but the cyborg barely noticed. Didn’t even care.
Uek stepped forward as the subject finally got to its feet, a scowl on its face. It was free. It was finally free and able to do whatever it wanted to its captors. It just stood there, slowly realising that fact. These bags of meat had put it through several lifetimes worth of torture. It had to take revenge, had to seek justice. It raised its bloodshot eyes and met Uek’s steely gaze. It took a lumbering step towards the man, arms outstretched, an animalistic fury in every motion.
Uek grinned again and spoke. Just one single word.
The cyborg halted immediately. And not just stopped it’s advance, stopped all movement entirely. Every muscle was set in stone, the only movement coming from its lungs. All it had taken was a single word and the towering beast had been reduced to a statue. Uek felt his grin broaden as the others in the room raised excited eyebrows. The implant was working.
Uek: “Tell me, how are you doing today?”
Uek: “Ok…Tell me that you’re fine.”
072: “I’m….I’m fine.”
Uek: “Excellent! Doctors? What’s the next phase?”
Karol: “Simple Commander. We need to test its effectiveness, as well as the subject’s pain tolerance.”
Andrew: “All the readouts are at optimal levels. Hmm…ask it to do something that it shouldn’t be able to do.”
Uek: “Very well. 072. Standing backflip. Now.”
The cyborg strained for a moment, as if trying to resist the order, but its body went to work and, despite the pain that I’d had been through, and despite the lack of skill it possessed, the subject jumped. Its body tucked tightly as it rotated around before landing squarely in a crouch, the execution damn near perfect. Uek ordered it to be still once more and looked at the others in the room. Havok particularly was wearing a huge grin. He’d done his leader proud.
Uek: “Well…the implant works then.”
Andrew: “It seems so. And the numbers don’t lie. His brain waves are stable, as are his heart rate, breathing, everything.”
Karol: “Except now we, or rather you Commander, have complete control over what signals his brain sends to his body. It’s…honestly, from a medical standpoint, unbelievable! Think what this could accomplish, what it could lead to!”
Andrew: “Indeed. Thank you again Commander, and to you Lieutenant, for giving us this opportunity. After I lost my licence…well, I thought…I thought I’d never be able to make a name for myself ever again.”
Uek: “You’re both welcome. You’ve worked hard to get this far, and I must say the results surprise even me! Nice work.”
The pair puffed up their chests with pride, even as the subject between them grunted once more. The pain his body was going through must’ve been immense, but the implant was forcing him to remain as still as consciously possible. However, Uek’s mind was already racing. His project was just getting started.
Uek: “So, Ossillium implantation time, is it?”
Havok: “Indeed it is. Doctors?”
Andrew: “Agreed. Gotta say, working implants will make this a hang of a lot easier than it has been. We’ll have subjects living through the process before you know it.”
Uek: “Excellent. So, what’s the mixture going in today?”
Karol: “Well, we’re trying a ratio of 7 parts of Ossillium, mixed with 4.5 parts of X-17 and 2 parts of Epinephrine and Nonepinephrine, along with some other chemicals. After 071, we thought we’d decrease the X-17 level, particularly after the implant process.”
Havok: “Good call hey? Don’t want another rage-induced psycho to put down.”
Andrew: “Yes, but with the cybernetics now working, that won’t be a problem.”
Uek: “Good. Very good. Get to work then Doctors. 072, on the bed if you please. Do not move once you’re there, and keep it quiet, shall we?”
The subject nodded and climbed back onto the gurney, going motionless the moment it was had laid down. The surgeons immediately got to work, hooking up the network of tubing once again, resetting monitors, mixing vials and punching in codes.
Uek and Havok watched the pair run around for several minutes before Karol came forward with a twin set of vials. One was a murky green, the X-17 mixture, the results of Falcon’s own experiments. The other was a brilliant blue, a blue that almost radiated light.
Uek nodded at the mixtures, his eyes setting on the blue syringe. More than a crate of Ossillium had gone into that little vial, as was the nature of re-engineering the chemical. So much wastage, but it was an unfortunate necessity. Again, he was thankful for the effectiveness of ‘the Storm’ and his dealings. Their supply would easily get them to Vohilla’s restock on the 30th. Still though…it was annoying how difficult the chemical was proving to be.
But progress was rarely simple.
Karol nodded in response and went over to the subject’s bed, passing the X-17 syringe to Andrew. After a few moments and several word confirmations, the pair removed the caps on the needles and plunged them simultaneously into the subject’s exposed veins. Uek watched as the needles slowly emptied the twin mixtures into the subject, followed by another hasty step back by the surgeons as they prepared for the inevitable.
But nothing happened. The subject’s eyes trembled and its heart rate increased, but it did not move. Once more the room descended into silence, the only sound the subject’s heavy breathing as the chemicals waged war with his immune system.
Havok: “Well…damn. Sure is quieter than usual.”
Uek: “That’s the understatement of the year.”
Havok: “Can’t say I’m wrong though…”
Uek: “True. How's it looking?"
Andrew: "Well, the pain tolerance is unbelievable! You both know what the reaction should be, but the implant's forcing him to keep quiet. Amazing!"
The group watched the subject for a number of minutes, the only movement coming from his chest and the twitching of his eyes. They were patient, waiting for the inevitable to come. Perhaps this subject would be the one…perhaps. Maybe the mixture had been just right and blended in just the right way…
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Everyone in the room spun to watch one of the monitors as the subject’s heart rate sky-rocketed to abnormally high levels. Karol and Andrew reacted instantly, adjusting dials and fluid inputs, but both of them knew immediately what was happening. It was dying.
Subject 072 was not the one.
A loud popping sound rang out as one of 072’s stomach muscles exploded in a fountain of blue fluid and blood. Its skin began to split apart as the flesh within grew to a horrific size, before tearing and unleashing torrents of glowing liquid. Bones snapped as snot and mucus burst from the cyborg’s nose. Blood began leaking from the implant and the tubes, as well as from countless other scars and tissue.
Two fingers swelled with fluid before bursting and leaking out more Ossillium filled pus. Fluid erupted from every hole in the subject’s body and the stench of a thousand chemicals, both bodily and otherwise, filled the room.
Karol and Andrew sighed as they stepped back from the explosion on the bed, switching on the ventilation without a moment’s thought. They all knew what came next.
However, this time was different to all the others before it. This time, the subject was completely silent as it’s body slowly fell to pieces. The pain would have been unspeakable, unimaginable, and yet the implant kept it silent as the grave. It was...quite eerie, Uek thought to himself. The screams had always added the human element to the whole situation. Now….now there was nothing but the sound of a painful death.
Another finger burst apart, followed by a large snap as its shoulders shattered. The limb held on briefly, only hanging on by skin and flesh, before that two gave way and the arm simply split from the torso in a further cascade of red and blue. Uek stepped back to avoid a splatter that had erupted from another muscle, bits of sinew ejecting like nervous shuttle pilots.
Finally, after a solid two minutes of torture, the cyborg finally moved. Uek raised an eyebrow in mild surprise. Had the implant failed? His worries were dispelled however as he focused on the subject’s head, now punctured with countless bleeding holes. His keen eyes focused on the little chunks of grey and pink that were slowly leaking out a large hole in its head. There was barely enough of a brain there for the implant to do anything. The creature was barely alive.
Still, with a herculean effort, it managed to tilt its head upwards, spilling more liquified brain in the process, and locked eyes with Uek. It held his gaze, as if it was the only thing that mattered anymore. Slowly, second by diminishing second, it twisted its ruined face into a hateful snarl and growled, it’s final wish to let Uek know just how much it hated him, a hate that dwarfed anything that the creature would’ve ever felt in his life, or would ever feel again.
Uek nodded with a sigh. He knew the look well by now. This was the seventy-second time he’d seen it.
The creature gave one final, desperate growl before collapsing onto the bed, the snarl permanently frozen on its face. The room went still, save for the flatline of the machines. Havok yawned loudly as the surgeons began to remove the tubes, careful to avoid the piles of brain and puddles of glowing blood. Andrew picked up the audio recorder and began to speak.
Andrew: “Alright then. Time of death, 23:17. Subject name, Garreth Briggs. Former occupation…let me see, um…Shuttle Mechanic. Allegiance, Galactic Imperium and he was born in….Qoter. Karol, what do you reckon?”
Karol: “Still too much X-17 for the amount of Ossillium present. Recommend increasing Ossillium in Subject 073. On the bright side, the neural implant has been proven 100% operational. Next step is to decrease the overall size of the mechanism.”
Andrew: “Agreed. Recommend further analysis of successful implant with Commander Ferris’ engineers. Sound good Commander? Lieutenant?”
Uek: “Sounds good.”
Havok: “Fine by me.”
Andrew nodded to himself and ended the recording before moving to assist Karol on removing the implant. Uek gave a quick wave to the pair before stepping out of the room, Havok on his heels. Another yawn from the younger man. Unlike the surgeons, he’d been on the job all day. Uek grinned. Loyalty once more.
Havok: “Well then…I guess that went alright.”
Uek: “Hey, the implant works. What more can we ask for?”
Havok: “That the Ossillium works as well?”
Uek: “Patience Almas. You should know how tricky it is. Heck, the X-17 alone is bad enough, no re-engineering required.”
Havok: “Yeah, I know. It’s just, well, I thought that the project would be done by now, or at least further along.”
Uek: “A successful implant will speed things up, that’s for sure. No more troublemakers escaping mid-procedure, no more breaking free of the shackles when the X-17 goes in. And besides, this is a marathon, not a sprint. No use throwing everything into a rushed attempt. Why do you think there’s over three hundred subjects?”
Havok: “Still though…”
Uek: “Progress, no matter how small, is still progress. This plan, despite its hiccups, has been in the works since Firelight. I see what you’re saying Almas, believe me. I could be ruling by now if it wasn’t for my father and…and…”
Havok: “And what?”
Uek swallowed and grinned, putting on his masks as the memories slowly filled his brain. Memories of a dead man that had set his plan back years. Dustin Vorn. Even now, that name filled him with anger. But he kept his face even. He had to forget him, leave him behind. A bad memory shouldn’t slow him down.
Uek: “Doesn’t matter…someone dead. Regardless, it’s the long haul Havok. It always is with these things, and we just take it as it comes. I’ve told you this before, haven’t I?”
Havok: “Yeah, yeah. Still, I feel as though you deserve to be ruling now Uek. More than ever. After One, after this inflation…the system needs a solid foundation to build upon.”
Uek: “Don’t worry Havok, it’s coming. And you’ll be up there when it does. Now get above ground and get some rest. You don’t need to watch the janitors do their jobs.”
Havok grinned and thanked him before disappearing down the corridor, his body thankful for the opportunity of a good night’s rest. Uek watched him go before turning on his heel and marching back to the elevator. Once more, his mind began whirring as the possibilities of full neural control presented themselves. He could send the subjects anywhere, get them to do anything without the folly of human error. And best of all, none of it could be traced back to him. It was as close to perfect as an ex-assassin could ask for.
Which was good. Uek liked things that way.
April 20, 2097
The lights of the penthouse apartment slowly went out as Brody Walker farewelled his guest, letting the door gently close behind him. Immediately, he furiously rubbed his eyes as he trudged to the kitchen. Within moments, he had a glass in his hand and whisky in his belly. A sigh burst from his lips as his thoughts began to wander.
Of all the times for Uek to change his plans, that had been one of them. Perfect, plan everything to the last detail Uek, had changed his schedule. Because the universe had it out for Brody, that was the only explanation.
Sal’s glass still sat in the sink, rinsed and left to dry. The old man had been equal parts annoyed and patient at the news. Of course, Sal’d already informed everyone else of Vohilla’s adjustment in her schedule. At least he, along with Madison, had been keeping tabs on Uek, or rather ‘the Storm’, and his underworld dealings. Otherwise five ex-core members and two wanted fugitives would’ve showed up to an empty shuttle port. That would’ve been difficult to explain to the others.
Still, at least everyone in the team knew Uek’s nature, knew that the time for action would come. Vohilla had moved her schedule forward by a little over a month, according to Sal and his stolen datapad. Vohilla, thank goodness, hadn’t changed her account settings, despite changing datapads. So Madi had her watchful eye on all of her going-ons where Ossillium shipments were concerned.
But it peeved Brody off regardless. Why couldn’t Uek just be Uek for a few more days? Of course, the logic made sense, as it usually did with Uek. The Storm had risen in notoriety over the past few months, and nearly every gang worth their salt had been trying to get as much of the rock to Qoter as possible. The Red Hands, some Aurelians, the UIMF and even someone named Brickton.
Brody remembered the name of the old pirate from the Core days. He’d been a crafty one, that was for sure. Thankfully, the Core hadn’t been able to take out his hier, or his grandson. Brody wondered if this ‘Jack’ was anything like his grandfather.
With a yawn, he overlooked the night sky of London as the city slowly came to life. His thoughts kept wandering as he took another sip of his drink. Uek Ferris. The Storm. The man behind the upcoming plague of Qoter. He wondered what the man was doing right now. What his thoughts were, what form of twisted ethics and logic filled that rotten mind of his. What Brody wouldn’t give to throw those ideals of his behind bars. For good.
April 29, 2097
The Skarr, Republic of Australia
The slum stank of blood, filth and rotting sewage. Distant screams and yells filled the air as countless fights broke out across the landscape. Tomas Brock covered his nose with the sleeve of his stolen police uniform, trying to block out as much of the smell as he could, without much success.
However, his companion didn’t seem fazed in the slightest, as if waltzing through the biggest slum in the Imperium was as normal as brushing his teeth. If he even had teeth. If he was even human. Grim certainly didn’t give off that vibe.
It had been over two months since he’d seen the man, ever since Taze had sent the monster of death to his doorstep. Tomas remembered the meeting well, how could he forget it? The man had played with the blade of his scythe all night while he asked Tomas all he knew about Donovan and Michaels. After that, he’d got a phone number and left without so much as a thank you or a goodbye.
And then he’d simply vanished, like a ghost. No word for ages, until two nights ago. Grim sent him a list of instructions, including to meet him in the Skarr and to wear his police uniform. Luckily for him, Tomas wasn’t a moron like most of the system. He knew about the Skarr and Northton. He’d done his research.
And now here he was, trudging through filth and junk like a bin rat. With the Reaper himself by his side.
Tomas: “So what are we even doing here?”
Grim looked at the man like he’d asked a stupid question, before replying in a voice that was equal parts strange as it was terrifying. It was clearly modulated through his mask, but it was deep regardless, and carried a subtle weight that gently pressed at the listener’s soul.
Grim: “To see a friend.”
Tomas: “Well surely we could’ve met in a nicer environment.”
Grim: “Doubtful. He likes his space, this friend. As do I.”
Tomas: “No. People that like their space go to the countryside, or some villa somewhere. Not here, not unless you don’t want to be found.”
Grim: “Well then he doesn’t want to be found.”
Tomas: “Still though, surely there’s nicer places to hide? Even Etrion’s better than this place.”
Grim’s only response was a shrug, causing the scythe on his back to wobble slightly, almost as an intimidation. Tomas casually rested his hand on his handgun, careful to make it look natural. This was the last place where you went looking for a fight.
Grim: “On your right. You’ve got company.”
Tomas opened his mouth to question the statement until he heard the voices. He spun quickly and took in the sight as he walked.
Three slum dwellers, all bald, were on their knees with their hands in the air, palms facing outward. They were chatting loudly and began bowing in the direction that Tomas was walking. Tomas gulped as he took in their physiques. All of them, including the lady, were well muscled and toned. Each carried weapons on their side and, despite being on their knees, Tomas could tell that they knew that they meant business. Evan as he moved away, the group angled to his path, not leaving their knees but worshipping him nonetheless. It was…very unsettling, to say the least.
Grim: “Skarr Zealots. Ignore them.”
Grim: “Idiots that believe that Northton is some kind of heaven, and that anyone from its walls are holy.”
Tomas: “What? Seriously?”
Grim: “Yes. That’s why I told you to bring the uniform. The Zealots won’t bother you now.”
Tomas: “I don’t need the help of a uniform. I can look after myself.”
Grim: “Try saying that when you’ve got fifty of them on your heels.”
Tomas opened his mouth to retort, but Grim just kept walking, not waiting for a reply. With a scowl, Tomas pushed the insult down. The man hadn’t been insulting him, just stating a fact. Damn it…
He hurried up and kept his step with the man in black, careful to avoid the gaze of the Zealots. The trio stopped following him and bowed lower, apparently accepting his unspoken order to stay away. Tomas gulped. It was quite eerie to be treated like a god.
The pair kept walking through the dust and filth, over broken highways and ruined paths. Tomas stayed a step behind Grim, as only he had any idea where they were going. It actually seemed strange, how well he seemed to know the place. Almost as if….
Grim stopped suddenly but casually, like someone waiting for traffic to pass. Tomas followed suit, and was about to ask the question until he heard a yell from the shadows of an alley to his right.
Voice: “Oi! Hands on ya heads, slum-rats!”
Tomas narrowed his eyes as a pair stepped out of the alley, armed to the teeth. Both were covered in grime and dust, their clothes held together with patches and twine. However, their weapons were sharp enough, and the anger in their eyes was all to apparent as the older man with a pearl white beard raised a pistol. Tomas' hand fell to his gun instantly, any earlier thoughts about not fighting forgotten. However, one of the pair, a young girl with a bandana over her mouth, saw the movement and extended her sword.
Girl: “I wouldn’ do that! Bryce ere’s got bullets in his gun. Actual bullets! Goes for you too, mr Death. I see ya touch that scythe, ya dead!”
Bryce: “Try me punks! I’ll fill both of you with lead before you can blink! Now, wallets and weapons here. Now!”
Reluctantly, Tomas dropped his gun to the ground and raised his hands behind his head, anger etched on his face. However, Grim merely sighed and crossed his arms, cocking his head to the side. The girl’s eyes furowed deeply as she focused in on the man, her sword of twisted metal inches from his chest.
Girl: “Oh, tough guy ey? I don’ need ya alive, ya know. Just want ya stuff.”
Grim sighed again before speaking, his voice eerily even, not a hint of emotion in any word.
Grim: “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Bryce: “Of course we’re sure! Hands up, now, ya weird pun-“
A single motion, like a gust of wind. Tomas barely registered the movement. One moment Grim had been gently reaching for his weapon, and the next a pair of corpses had hit the ground.
Barely a second afterward, two wet thumps rang out as two heads slammed next to their owners, their looks of shock etched permanently on their faces.
Blood began to spurt and flow from the headless corpses, causing Tomas to tear off his goggles in shock, his eyes wide and his mouth gagging at the obscene amount of blood.
Tomas: "Wha?... What on earth was that?!"
Grim: "What was what?"
Tomas: "How? How did you move that fast? How!"
Grim: "I thought it was simple. I grabbed my weapon and killed them. Let's go."
Tomas: "But...but...cutting their heads off? Really?"
Grim: "Ah, you've never dealt with death before have you?"
Tomas: "No...no I've shot people. Bounty hunter and all that..."
Grim: "So no. Your bullets have handled death. You never have. This is the Skarr boy, people die every day for anything. These fools should've seen that they couldn't kill me. They chose wrong. If they were that stupid, they'd be dead soon anyway. Now let's go, my friend lives just up the road."
Grim took off, stepping over the bleeding corpses and separated heads like nothing. Tomas chocked back the phlegm in his throat and put his goggles back on, thing to avoid the sight and smell as best he could. He gave the pair a wise berth as he followed in Grim's wake, though he couldn't help constantly glancing back at the Reaper's handy work. Suddenly, Grim's side seemed a lot less safe.
He followed Grim a few metres up the road till he stopped in front of a crumbling building with a faded green door directly in front of him. He stopped, taking in the ruined walls for a rather long time. Tomas, however, spoke up. He couldn't just erase the corpses from his mind, and it didn't help that Grim seemed oblivious.
Tomas: "Well...I see why they call you Grim."
Grim: "Congratulations Sherlock."
Tomas: "But seriously, how did you do that? I mean, that scythe, that fast?"
Grim: "Thank the Core Tomas. And drop the subject. You'd be fine if I'd shot them. They're no less dead now. Now keep quiet, I'll do the talking."
The man stepped forward on knocked on the door in a sequence. Two long knocks, followed by three quicker bangs, before he stepped back and waited patiently, the scythe on his back shifting slightly as blood dripped from the blade.
The door swung open, revealing a man in surprisingly clean clothes. Grim stepped forward, obscuring his face from Tomas' view, and spoke, though his voice seemed to have little affect on the man.
Man: "Morning Grim. What d'ya want this time?"
Grim: "Taze gave me a job. Dangerous, but pays well. You in?"
Man: "Depends. Who are we hunting?"
Grim: "Risa Donovan and Ted Michaels. Heard of em?"
Man: "Yeah, yeah. I have. What's your progress so far?"
Grim: "They're on Qoter, landed in Regentis. That's all I have right now, but we'll be heading their way soon. Could use your help."
Man: "I didn't hear a please in that Grim?"
Grim: "No, you didn't."
Man: "I'm gonna need a please. Sorry about that."
Grim: "Fine. Please? I know you haven't got anything better to do."
Man: "Meh. Sure, I'm in. Let me just grab my things, get changed and all that."
Grim: "Sure. Take you're time pretty boy."
Man: "Says the man with the tailored suits."
The man shut the door and disappeared as Grim stepped back and waited again. However, Tomas' mind was moving a million miles an hour, questions spewing forth.
Tomas: "What did you mean by 'they're on Qoter'? Why aren't we following them then?! How long have you know?"
Grim: "I mean they traveled to Qoter after One's attack, we aren't following them because I wanted another ally and about three weeks?"
Tomas: "Three weeks! Why didn't you tell me?"
Grim: "Because you're fuelling this hunt with revenge, and that makes you reckless. You would've flown to Qoter but you still wouldn't have any idea where they are. A planet's got a lot of hiding places. How do you think they've kept hidden for so long?"
Tomas: "And I suppose you're reasons are better? A favour? Come on!"
Grim: "Boy, you may not know much about me, but know this. When I say something, I mean it. I owed Taze a job, and now she's giving it to me. I'll get some money for the criminals sure, but I promised Taze I'd follow through. And I intend to."
Tomas was about to retort when the door creaked open and the man from before strolled out, and Tomas felt his jaw open and his frustration rising.
The man was tall and thin, wearing loose, comfortable clothing and carrying a white bag over his shoulder. However, his head was covered complexity by a skull. A freaking skull! Tomas threw up his hands as the man turned to meet his gaze, the empty eye sockets giving nothing away.
Tomas: "Great, that's just great! Now I'm working with two mysterious masked morons! I suppose you won't tell me who you are, or what you do either. Why is it I'm suddenly surrounded by masks?"
Man: "Er, you alright mate?"
Grim: "Ignore him. Tomas, meet Bones. He'll be our medic during our hunt."
Bones extended his hand, which Tomas reluctantly took. He seemed genuine enough, but still. Another mask? Why?
Bones: "Well, regardless, it's nice to meet you Tomas. But, if you don't mind me asking, what's your purpose here?"
Tomas: "I was the one that found Donovan and Michaels. I was hunting them for...for revenge...She killed my brother, and eventually Taze came along and gave me a hand. She offered Grim to help track them down..."
Grim: "After you lost them."
Tomas: "Yes, after that, and he's gone at brought you into this."
Bones nodded to himself, meeting his eyes once more. He spoke again, his voice oddly cheerful despite its deepness.
Bones: "Ah, so Taze is involved. And she killed your brother? Can't have that, can we?"
Tomas: "No, we can't allow it to go unpunished."
Bones: "Right. Also, I worked with the Core as well. Needed to protect my identity."
Bones: "You asked before, about the masks. It's actually a helmet though, just saying. Old habits die hard."
Tomas: "Uh, okay. Thanks, I guess."
Grim: "Alright, let's go then. We've spent enough time here."
Bones nodded and began to walk, leading the way. Grim followed closely behind and Tomas brought up the rear. Again, Tomas thought how strange it was how casually the pair seemed to walk, despite sticking out like a sore thumb with skull helmets and death scythes. He knew a little about the Core, Taze had told him about it, but still. They walked without a care in the world, which only seemed to add to their intimidation factor.
Bones stopped before the bodies laying in the street, pausing to prod one of them with the tip of his boot. The blood had stopped flowing and was now simplify sitting there, drying up in the mild Australian sun.
Bones: "Did you have to decapitate them Grim?"
Grim: "No, but why do you care?"
Bones: "Well you've gone and made a mess of my street. The rats'll be here soon, and they're a right pain to get rid of."
Grim: "You might die during the hunt Bones. Donovan's a killer, as the boy pointed out."
Bones eyed Grim for a moment, saying nothing, until the pair chuckled under their helmets. Tomas gulped as they kept walking, avoiding the corpses like they were piles of trash, a few chuckles echoing as they went. His hand went to his firearm again. Scrim. What had he gotten himself into?
Quoting Jack Brickton
Another awesome episode as usual Wolff! And the conversation about Jack's escape and Body's thoughts really tied our crossover together. And The elaborate set up for the operating room is stunning! (Not to mention terrifying.) And I'm starting to like this Grim character. I can't wait to see where this goes!
Cheers Jack! Thanks for having the crossover as well! And yes, the 'terrifying' nature of his experiment was the intention, as well as the brutal logic of Grim and Bones. You'll be seeing more of them, I'll say that much!
Another awesome episode as usual Wolff! And the conversation about Jack's escape and Body's thoughts really tied our crossover together. And The elaborate set up for the operating room is stunning! (Not to mention terrifying.) And I'm starting to like this Grim character. I can't wait to see where this goes!