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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:41 pm 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
I'd be glad to, which fan site are we talking, The Great Metropolis?


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 Post subject: Chapter Seventeen: Night Crawlers
PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 4:38 pm 
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Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
The control pylons were the easiest way to handle the zep car. While I was familiar with driving one, with the rain picking up and the wind beginning to howl about us, most people with any sense had already left the lanes. We were a battered lot, and even my Gladstone might not help Jilly. I needed to get to my shop, and quickly.

She had saved me from a bullet that VanGoeder has fired, her blinding speed interposing herself between myself and my enemy at the last moment. I looked back at her, sprawled along the back seat, white slicksuit dripping bright beads of blood. Pink beads. Her lung had been punctured, but the bullet had miraculously missed her heart. Every moment that it took me to wrestle with the zep car was a moment lost for her, a moment closer to death.

Quick sat beside her on the backseat, pressing his shirt into the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Her black-dyed braids, bound with white cloth, fell over the seat. She was so very pale.

“Nuthin’ ya can do now, Doc, just keep yer eyes peeled, eh? We dinnae need no more troubles at this point.”

I looked over to the sprawling D.A. as I turned. He was drugged heavily, sedated into a place that was untouchable. Until the drugs wore off, I wouldn’t be able to speak with him, and I needed to desperately. Perhaps a few purgatives at the shop would assist, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what they had given him.

My face resolute, I set back to guarding the steering column of the zep car while the control pylons pulled us along. Everything seemed to be going downhill so far. My hands trembled, and I reached for my Gladstone. Surely there would be something in there to help; I was running on vapours, all energy exhausted. I needed to eat, I needed to sleep, and yet there was time for none of these things. But I had exhausted my meager supply of pharmaceutical pick-me-ups.

As I looked into the Gladstone I heard D.A. struggle, and then groan. I looked to him, and his eyes were finally opening slightly. They were reddened, and gummed up. And then I saw his lips tremble as he mouthed something unintelligible, saw his eyes widen more, and looked up to see what he was staring at.

That’s when the lights blinded me. I threw one arm up before my eyes, and reached desperately to break the pylons’ control over the zep car. A horn honked deafeningly, and I heard the zep car coming towards us scrape its side against ours. Then something thumped onto the top of our zep car, and D.A. began to scream.

“Dtharsa! Dtharsa! Togorthi Dtharsa!” he shouted, ominously familiar words.

Several thumps sounded on the roof, something heavy denting in the roof in little pocks. I hear Quick grasping his pepperboxes and loading them, cursing loudly. Jilly groaned. Then the back window of the zep car exploded, showering us all with shards of glass. I tried to disengage the lanebreaker, we were cruising so slowly in the protected zone of the pylons.

A horn blared behind us, glaring lights in the rearview, indicating to me that there was a zepcar. It pulled dangerously close to the rear of our own, and I heard the thumping sound of something landing upon the boot. Quick’s gunfire startled me in the close confines of the zep car’s interior, causing me to jump.

“Take that, ya bastid!” I heard him call with venom in his voice.

Then I heard the scratching at the window besided me. Glancing to my left, I saw something…alien, malevolent, and utterly inhuman, clutching the side of the zepcar. A great lamprey mouth lined with circular rows of razor teeth, a long neck of pulsing dead grayish white flesh, and what appeared to be a single great barbed claw scratching at the window.

I suppressed the urge to scream at the sight of this hideous, unbelievable thing beside me. Instead, I jerked the steering column of the zep car hard to the right, praying the lanebreaker had engaged. Fortunately for us all, it had. The zep car swerved away from the pylons’ control, and the other zep car following behind continued on its track. The thing outside my window’s teeth made an unnerving skittering, scratching sound upon the glass.

I could hear Quick howling in the backseat, his guns roaring. Then he gave a pained noise, and something struck me in my shoulder and rolled over it. I looked down as it fell across my chest to see in my horror that it was Quick’s hand, still holding an emptied pepperbox pistol. The shattering of my window, and a white-hot pain in my left arm brought me back around.

My gaze was pulled down to my arm, which I saw was pinned to the zep car door by the barbed hook of the creature’s claw which was buried in my forearm. I rasped out a cry, and jerked on the steering column again. The creature was extending its neck into the cab towards me. I had to do something, and fast.

D.A. was gibbering, staring at the creature, screaming the name he’d learned that had shattered his mind. I reached down to pull at the seat lever, and just as the toothy maw reached for me, the seat lurched back to accommodate more legroom. The grasping, needy maw seeking my flesh went past me. The seat bumped into something behind me.

“Dammit all, Doc watch where you’re-aaahr!” I heard Quick say, and then his hand laid upon my shoulder.

I feared another hand rolling down my chest, but instead felt the heat of his last remaining pepperbox’s blast as he fanned the hammer with his thumb while his finger depressed the trigger. Four shots sounded, and my cheek burned from the stinging powder. The sucking mouth with its razor teeth exploded in a shore of bone and gore, the body drooping almost to my lap as it fell.

“There ya go, Doc,” Quick snarled, his voice pained, over my shoulder.

I yanked at my left arm, but the thing’s weight and the barbs in its horrid limb held me fast.

“Cut off me fuggin hand!” Quick mumbled.

I struggled with the steering column, the gore splattered over the interior of the windshield making it rather difficult to see. The zep car clipped something, and began a mid-air slide hard to the right. D.A. looked out his window and screamed. That was when the zep car collided with the side of a building.

Everything went black as my head struck the steering column.

I am not sure how long I lay there in the wreckage, but Quick’s cursing awoke me. The clack of him spinning his pepperbox’s wheels in reloading them helped as well. Then I heard someone kicking my door hard.

“C’mon, Doc, help me out a little here,” Quick said as he saw my eyes flutter open.

“Can’t…arm pinned, can’t move it,” I said as I struggled futilely.

He peered in and grimaced at the sight of the thing’s claw still piercing my forearm and pinning it to the door.

“That’s a narsty one, but not near so narsty as this, eh?” He grinned as he pushed the oozing stump of his right wrist into my sight.

“Save you hand if you can, I’ve studied some experimental methods of reattachment that seem to actually work.”

“Oh…shite…” Quick muttered, looking past me to my right.

I turned to look at what he was staring at. D.A.’s blank, clouded gaze greeted me. His head had been turned in my direction from the impact of the collision; something gleamed in his open mouth, and he seemed to be drooling profusely. My eyes focused, and I recoiled in horror. The zep car’s window had been shattered by a water pipe from the side of the building we had struck. The same pipe had punched through the back of D.A.’s skull, and the gleam I saw was the pipe end in his mouth; the drool I thought I saw was a constant trickle of water from the pipe.

He was most certainly dead. My heart sank; not that I felt great attachment to him as my brother, but I had been sure that he held the key to this whole mess somewhere inside his head.

“How’s Jilly? Where are we, Quick? Are we close to a hospital, do you know?” I fired off at the little Gamma.

Leaning over D.A., I reached into the floorboard to grasp for my Gladstone bag. The claw pinning my left arm pulled mercilessly and the agony flared again.

“Here, Doc,” Quick said, and climbed in to grab the bag and hand it to me.

As I pulled the bone saw free of the jumble that the wreck had made of my carefully organized implements, Quick reached over to take it.

“Ye steady it, an’ I’ll cut tha bugger away from ye.”

I nodded grimly as Quick set to work on cutting me free of the pinning appendage. I took some time, and I began to notice some people heading over to watch. They stared in muted horror as Quick tossed what was left of the creature from the zep car. We struggled together to free my arm, and then both looked at D.A. I could see that Quick was torn.

“We can’t take ‘im, he’ll only slow us down,” Quick said, and I nodded my assent.

“And Jilly?” I asked.

“She’s one tough woman,” Quick said, looking down at her.

“Find a cab if you could, Quick.”

As he set out to do that, I positioned Jilly so that she could be more comfortable. She was still out like a light, and I brushed back some pitch braids from her face. I’ve always found women to be very beautiful whilst they were sleeping. Something about their vulnerability, and it bringing out my deep-seated desire to protect them; it gets me in trouble every time. But Jilly wasn’t normally vulnerable, I could tell, and something about that excited me even more. And shamed me; why was I thinking this way with my marriage impending, to the woman I had adored for years?

The cab pulled up beside where I cradled the beautiful, crazy spitfire’s head in my lap, and Quick jumped down before me. He helped me lift Jilly into the cab gently, and then the little Chinese man took off like a rocket. It took a moment to see that he was equipped with legs of steel, a cybernaughtic replacement which certainly earned him his keep.

Upon arriving at the hospital, I gave the intern watching over them quite a bit of sterling to keep a close eye upon them. I knew and trusted Dr. Thomas Paul, who was the current surgeon resident in today, and told the intern to tell him I said hello. He seemed to raise his eyebrows in surprise that I a ragged and bloody man knew a doctor of some prestige. The Gladstone bag in my right hand seemed to allay some of that surprise, though.

“You’re that country doctor, am I right? The one everyone’s looking for?”

I gritted my teeth and asked the question I knew that I wouldn’t like the answer to.

“I am Doctor Edward J. Halloran, Esq.; I also happen to be a country doctor at the moment. But I am not aware of everyone looking for me. Perhaps you could fill me in, young Bradford,” I said, looking at his badge to fill in his name.

The next few moments later, and another handful of sterling, and the smirking intern Bradford was watching over my friends as his charges. He told me about the men who had come looking in the three different hospitals that he had worked in today so far. He told me about the police and their radios ,which he had heard in the lounge earlier today.

I had known something was wrong with the setup early on. Things had been happening so fast of late; I hadn’t given myself the time to think empirically. I left the hospital. Dark clouds followed me on my way, and dark thoughts. Things were beginning to come together, but I needed confirmation. The kind of confirmation I could only find in the place I had grown up.

The place that had sheltered me, fed me and watered me, broken bones and ego, given and taken strength, raised me straight and beaten me down, all at the same time. My answers were in Huyton, not some Etherscope domain, not some industrialist’s grubby purse, not some gentry’s bald-faced lie of a smile, and definitely not in the pretty face of a woman which might be hiding my death in her eyes. I walked back to Huyton to see O’Malvilriain the Druid.

Sometimes, as he had once told me, the old ways were the best.


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 Post subject: Chapter Seventeen: Night Crawlers
PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 4:39 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
The control pylons were the easiest way to handle the zep car. While I was familiar with driving one, with the rain picking up and the wind beginning to howl about us, most people with any sense had already left the lanes. We were a battered lot, and even my Gladstone might not help Jilly. I needed to get to my shop, and quickly.

She had saved me from a bullet that VanGoeder has fired, her blinding speed interposing herself between myself and my enemy at the last moment. I looked back at her, sprawled along the back seat, white slicksuit dripping bright beads of blood. Pink beads. Her lung had been punctured, but the bullet had miraculously missed her heart. Every moment that it took me to wrestle with the zep car was a moment lost for her, a moment closer to death.

Quick sat beside her on the backseat, pressing his shirt into the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Her black-dyed braids, bound with white cloth, fell over the seat. She was so very pale.

“Nuthin’ ya can do now, Doc, just keep yer eyes peeled, eh? We dinnae need no more troubles at this point.”

I looked over to the sprawling D.A. as I turned. He was drugged heavily, sedated into a place that was untouchable. Until the drugs wore off, I wouldn’t be able to speak with him, and I needed to desperately. Perhaps a few purgatives at the shop would assist, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what they had given him.

My face resolute, I set back to guarding the steering column of the zep car while the control pylons pulled us along. Everything seemed to be going downhill so far. My hands trembled, and I reached for my Gladstone. Surely there would be something in there to help; I was running on vapours, all energy exhausted. I needed to eat, I needed to sleep, and yet there was time for none of these things. But I had exhausted my meager supply of pharmaceutical pick-me-ups.

As I looked into the Gladstone I heard D.A. struggle, and then groan. I looked to him, and his eyes were finally opening slightly. They were reddened, and gummed up. And then I saw his lips tremble as he mouthed something unintelligible, saw his eyes widen more, and looked up to see what he was staring at.

That’s when the lights blinded me. I threw one arm up before my eyes, and reached desperately to break the pylons’ control over the zep car. A horn honked deafeningly, and I heard the zep car coming towards us scrape its side against ours. Then something thumped onto the top of our zep car, and D.A. began to scream.

“Dtharsa! Dtharsa! Togorthi Dtharsa!” he shouted, ominously familiar words.

Several thumps sounded on the roof, something heavy denting in the roof in little pocks. I hear Quick grasping his pepperboxes and loading them, cursing loudly. Jilly groaned. Then the back window of the zep car exploded, showering us all with shards of glass. I tried to disengage the lanebreaker, we were cruising so slowly in the protected zone of the pylons.

A horn blared behind us, glaring lights in the rearview, indicating to me that there was a zepcar. It pulled dangerously close to the rear of our own, and I heard the thumping sound of something landing upon the boot. Quick’s gunfire startled me in the close confines of the zep car’s interior, causing me to jump.

“Take that, ya bastid!” I heard him call with venom in his voice.

Then I heard the scratching at the window besided me. Glancing to my left, I saw something…alien, malevolent, and utterly inhuman, clutching the side of the zepcar. A great lamprey mouth lined with circular rows of razor teeth, a long neck of pulsing dead grayish white flesh, and what appeared to be a single great barbed claw scratching at the window.

I suppressed the urge to scream at the sight of this hideous, unbelievable thing beside me. Instead, I jerked the steering column of the zep car hard to the right, praying the lanebreaker had engaged. Fortunately for us all, it had. The zep car swerved away from the pylons’ control, and the other zep car following behind continued on its track. The thing outside my window’s teeth made an unnerving skittering, scratching sound upon the glass.

I could hear Quick howling in the backseat, his guns roaring. Then he gave a pained noise, and something struck me in my shoulder and rolled over it. I looked down as it fell across my chest to see in my horror that it was Quick’s hand, still holding an emptied pepperbox pistol. The shattering of my window, and a white-hot pain in my left arm brought me back around.

My gaze was pulled down to my arm, which I saw was pinned to the zep car door by the barbed hook of the creature’s claw which was buried in my forearm. I rasped out a cry, and jerked on the steering column again. The creature was extending its neck into the cab towards me. I had to do something, and fast.

D.A. was gibbering, staring at the creature, screaming the name he’d learned that had shattered his mind. I reached down to pull at the seat lever, and just as the toothy maw reached for me, the seat lurched back to accommodate more legroom. The grasping, needy maw seeking my flesh went past me. The seat bumped into something behind me.

“Dammit all, Doc watch where you’re-aaahr!” I heard Quick say, and then his hand laid upon my shoulder.

I feared another hand rolling down my chest, but instead felt the heat of his last remaining pepperbox’s blast as he fanned the hammer with his thumb while his finger depressed the trigger. Four shots sounded, and my cheek burned from the stinging powder. The sucking mouth with its razor teeth exploded in a shore of bone and gore, the body drooping almost to my lap as it fell.

“There ya go, Doc,” Quick snarled, his voice pained, over my shoulder.

I yanked at my left arm, but the thing’s weight and the barbs in its horrid limb held me fast.

“Cut off me fuggin hand!” Quick mumbled.

I struggled with the steering column, the gore splattered over the interior of the windshield making it rather difficult to see. The zep car clipped something, and began a mid-air slide hard to the right. D.A. looked out his window and screamed. That was when the zep car collided with the side of a building.

Everything went black as my head struck the steering column.

I am not sure how long I lay there in the wreckage, but Quick’s cursing awoke me. The clack of him spinning his pepperbox’s wheels in reloading them helped as well. Then I heard someone kicking my door hard.

“C’mon, Doc, help me out a little here,” Quick said as he saw my eyes flutter open.

“Can’t…arm pinned, can’t move it,” I said as I struggled futilely.

He peered in and grimaced at the sight of the thing’s claw still piercing my forearm and pinning it to the door.

“That’s a narsty one, but not near so narsty as this, eh?” He grinned as he pushed the oozing stump of his right wrist into my sight.

“Save you hand if you can, I’ve studied some experimental methods of reattachment that seem to actually work.”

“Oh…shite…” Quick muttered, looking past me to my right.

I turned to look at what he was staring at. D.A.’s blank, clouded gaze greeted me. His head had been turned in my direction from the impact of the collision; something gleamed in his open mouth, and he seemed to be drooling profusely. My eyes focused, and I recoiled in horror. The zep car’s window had been shattered by a water pipe from the side of the building we had struck. The same pipe had punched through the back of D.A.’s skull, and the gleam I saw was the pipe end in his mouth; the drool I thought I saw was a constant trickle of water from the pipe.

He was most certainly dead. My heart sank; not that I felt great attachment to him as my brother, but I had been sure that he held the key to this whole mess somewhere inside his head.

“How’s Jilly? Where are we, Quick? Are we close to a hospital, do you know?” I fired off at the little Gamma.

Leaning over D.A., I reached into the floorboard to grasp for my Gladstone bag. The claw pinning my left arm pulled mercilessly and the agony flared again.

“Here, Doc,” Quick said, and climbed in to grab the bag and hand it to me.

As I pulled the bone saw free of the jumble that the wreck had made of my carefully organized implements, Quick reached over to take it.

“Ye steady it, an’ I’ll cut tha bugger away from ye.”

I nodded grimly as Quick set to work on cutting me free of the pinning appendage. I took some time, and I began to notice some people heading over to watch. They stared in muted horror as Quick tossed what was left of the creature from the zep car. We struggled together to free my arm, and then both looked at D.A. I could see that Quick was torn.

“We can’t take ‘im, he’ll only slow us down,” Quick said, and I nodded my assent.

“And Jilly?” I asked.

“She’s one tough woman,” Quick said, looking down at her.

“Find a cab if you could, Quick.”

As he set out to do that, I positioned Jilly so that she could be more comfortable. She was still out like a light, and I brushed back some pitch braids from her face. I’ve always found women to be very beautiful whilst they were sleeping. Something about their vulnerability, and it bringing out my deep-seated desire to protect them; it gets me in trouble every time. But Jilly wasn’t normally vulnerable, I could tell, and something about that excited me even more. And shamed me; why was I thinking this way with my marriage impending, to the woman I had adored for years?

The cab pulled up beside where I cradled the beautiful, crazy spitfire’s head in my lap, and Quick jumped down before me. He helped me lift Jilly into the cab gently, and then the little Chinese man took off like a rocket. It took a moment to see that he was equipped with legs of steel, a cybernaughtic replacement which certainly earned him his keep.

Upon arriving at the hospital, I gave the intern watching over them quite a bit of sterling to keep a close eye upon them. I knew and trusted Dr. Thomas Paul, who was the current surgeon resident in today, and told the intern to tell him I said hello. He seemed to raise his eyebrows in surprise that I a ragged and bloody man knew a doctor of some prestige. The Gladstone bag in my right hand seemed to allay some of that surprise, though.

“You’re that country doctor, am I right? The one everyone’s looking for?”

I gritted my teeth and asked the question I knew that I wouldn’t like the answer to.

“I am Doctor Edward J. Halloran, Esq.; I also happen to be a country doctor at the moment. But I am not aware of everyone looking for me. Perhaps you could fill me in, young Bradford,” I said, looking at his badge to fill in his name.

The next few moments later, and another handful of sterling, and the smirking intern Bradford was watching over my friends as his charges. He told me about the men who had come looking in the three different hospitals that he had worked in today so far. He told me about the police and their radios ,which he had heard in the lounge earlier today.

I had known something was wrong with the setup early on. Things had been happening so fast of late; I hadn’t given myself the time to think empirically. I left the hospital. Dark clouds followed me on my way, and dark thoughts. Things were beginning to come together, but I needed confirmation. The kind of confirmation I could only find in the place I had grown up.

The place that had sheltered me, fed me and watered me, broken bones and ego, given and taken strength, raised me straight and beaten me down, all at the same time. My answers were in Huyton, not some Etherscope domain, not some industrialist’s grubby purse, not some gentry’s bald-faced lie of a smile, and definitely not in the pretty face of a woman which might be hiding my death in her eyes. I walked back to Huyton to see O’Malvilriain the Druid.

Sometimes, as he had once told me, the old ways were the best.


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 Post subject: Eighteen: That Olde Blacke Magick
PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 2:01 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
It didn’t take me long to discover where I was; our path in fleeing the Pennine moors had lead us through Valleys and into Bury, but our flight from the creatures and the zep car following us had been a bit off track. The streets were largely swept clean of the debris commonly found in most of the districts of the Great Metropolis, save for what little had blown in upon the heavy rains which were beating down upon me. The textile mill that I passed had no fortifications whatsoever built up around it, which was also rather uncommon for most districts.

It was the first person who stopped here to take pity upon me, a poor lone traveler with no umbrella to speak of and the rain threatening to wash away in any instant, who told me where I had found myself. The epsilon was uncharacteristically friendly with me as he spoke to me of Farnworth, where I had found myself. It seemed idyllic in his speech, and I couldn’t help notice his good cheer although it seemed that even good cheer found in such an unlikely place could not infect me.

I had become increasingly certain that something was so out of order that this whole venture might well be the death of me. Only the thought of lovely Moira was carrying me; and the thoughts in the back of my mind that I tried to suppress about Jilly as well. Jones’ death lay hard upon me as I thought of him as well. And how I was to break the death of his legitimate and obviously favored son to Lord Alfred Wellesley III?

But I decided to focus upon the meeting with O’Malvilriain. The man had taken me under his wing for a time, while I was a young man and still found bats and toads and eye of newt fascinating stuff. He’d believed that I had the potential to master his craft, or so he’d told me. But science soon had gained sway over my thoughts and the empirical observation of the world had taken over my thoughts.

Nothing about my last encounter had been empirical, however. No matter how hard my logic tried to pass explanation of the creatures, something deep inside told me I nknew the name for such creatures and had dreaded that name since I was a child. I, like all other adults, hold that dread inside and scoff it away as childish, but that childish part in all of us agrees that some things cannot be explained with the periodic table and Science’s cold logic. Monsters.

No, they weren’t just monsters. They were demons. Evil incarnate, and placed here upon Prime Reality. Where had they come from, and what did their master want with me? It had to do with everything I’d found myself involved with as of late. My hand fingered the scrap in my waistcoat. This thing, this simple piece of parchment containing awful secrets of an ancient culture. It was the key, and with O’Malvilriain’s help, I would unlock the door.

The epsilon didn’t seem too annoyed by my lack of attentiveness to his chattering as he dropped me off in Saint Helens. He bid me a cheerful farewell and plodded on in his rickety steam carriage to the canals to drop his load of finished clothing with his company’s distribution centre. I waved half-heartedly, becoming aware of the throbbing in my left forearm as I did so.

Rolling up my sleeve, I inspected the wound when my benefactor was out of sight. It was unpleasant to look upon, and certainly becoming infected. The damage was not something which would heal, though. I applied some penicillin into the wound with a syringe from my Gladstone, covered it as best I could and continued on. It was still quite a way to Huyton.

I plodded on, drenched and cold and ready for an end to this game. I believe if there were an autopilot for a person, then I had found it. I barely now recall my journey, until I reached the outer edges of Knowsley. The familiarity of the past rushed in, and awakened me as I walked down the labyrinthine web of streets. I’d walked them so many times before in my youth that the familiarity began to warm me and drive me on as I moved down the corridors of memory with my steps as well.

But all too soon I found my reverie interrupted.

“Hey, mate, you look like yer well off. Spare a few for us poor children?” a small voice called to my left.

“Well off? ‘E’s a doctor!” another, decidedly more feminine and yet still small voice called to my right.

The children moved from the narrow outlets to my sides. Four of them, two boys and two girls. They couldn’t have been more than perhaps ten or eleven years old each, yet they moved with the confidence and swagger of ones much older.

“What ya got in yer bag, Doc? Uppers? Downers? Zonkers? Bonkers?” grinned the second boy.

“We wants ‘em, Doc. Give ‘em over ‘n maybe you walk out of here whole an’ good!” shouted the second girl.

The children were circling like sharks, and their grins reminded me of predators. I had heard plenty of the terrible rumours of street children gone feral, and never once had supposed that they were just rumours. I knew the Great Metropolis too well for that. They moved closer, and I could see the rusted straight razor in the hands of the first boy in the hazy light of the nearby gaslight lamp.

They were little more than scrawny ragamuffins, and in better days I would certainly have scared them off easily. But this was not one of those days; I was wounded, exhausted, and alone and could barely stand. And they sensed that. Predators always flock to the weak of the herd.

They drew closer, eyes alight with need and desperation. I knew what they intended. And my own desperation drove me. Children or not.

The second boy came at me from the right. A bit heavier than the other children, he sought to take my legs out from under me. I let him hit me, and brought my elbow down sharply upon the back of his neck. With a grunt, he flopped to the rain-slick cobblestones. I felt teeth sink into my left calf, breaking skin painfully. The first girl, I saw. As I kicked at her with my right foot, the first boy with the razor slashed it across my back as he moved behind me. The other girl leaped at me.

I cried out my pain at the razor’s cut, my foot connecting solidly with the first girl’s head. She didn’t seem to want to let go, so I kicked her again in the ribs and felt something give beneath my blow. She fell with a whimper, soliciting some small amount of pity from me for inflicting such a cruel blow upon a child. But I thought of what they had planned for me, and hardened my heart.

The boy behind me leapt up onto my back, arm around my neck, and began to bring the razor towards my face. My hand came up just in time to catch the slash of the blade. It opened my palm deeply and painfully, but I managed to grasp his hand and close mine around it. His strength was amazing for a child, but still the strength of a child. He howled like a wild animal then, and sank his teeth into my shoulder where my greatcoat had fallen open. I squeezed his hand in my grip, and felt bones popping.

The larger boy was up again, coming at me from the front. His balled fist punched forward, and I barely turned myself enough for his blow to strike my hip rather than its true intended target. I reached up and pulled the boy behind me over my shoulder, hauling him up into the air. Grunting with the effort, I threw the boy against the wall of the flat compound to our left. His eyes were wide as he struck, and a smear of blood followed his head as he slid down the wall. He lolled upon the ground where he landed, eyes staring accusingly and fixedly at me.


Bringing up my knee, I struck the larger boy under the chin and heard the clack of his teeth snapping into each other. His head rocked back with the force and he fell heavily.

The last child standing was gripping my leg, staring up at me with fearful eyes.

“Please mister, don’t kill me. I swear, we’re just hungry. We’ve nothing to eat. My mommy’s sick, and she is getting worse; I think she’ll die soon if she doesn’t eat. I’m scared. Please help me.”

I couldn’t tell if there were tears as the rain streaked down over her face, but her plea softened me. Just as she had intended. As I reached down to touch her hair, her hand came up from her holey knit yellow sock, and she jammed something up against my leg. Her target had been my knee, but I had seen it coming and had dropped a bit before whatever she held hit me to protect my kneecap.

The shockingly loud sound of fired percussion cap thundered in the confines of the small snake of a lane, and I felt something punch into my leg and then rip through it. An evil little grin then came over her formerly angelic face as I toppled, and gasped loudly at the pain of catching myself on my sliced palm. It was a zipgun, something commonly made by criminals and prisoners as an improvised weapon.

I reached for the scattered contents of the Gladstone desperately as the girl walked over to where the rusty straight razor had fallen. I heard the scrape of it as she dragged it across the cobblestones.

“Now, Doctor, let’s see what you look like on the insides, eh?” she said in a little angel’s voice.

My hand closed upon something, and I drew it to me. The agony in my leg was almost blinding, and I was quite certain that the bullet had broken bone. The heavy chopping knife I had only used once for amputation in my career was in my hand. I flopped myself onto my back with a sob at the anguish of my effort, and forcefully threw the knife at the girl as she approached.

Her smile turned to surprise as the knife sank into her chest deeply. Blood exploded from her mouth, and she choked and clawed at the handle of the chopping knife feebly. The razor fell from her hand, splashing into the water covering the street and landing with a dull clunk. She fell face first to the ground and I winced at the loud crunching noise that accompanied her landing upon the knife hard.

Gasping, I tried to draw myself up to my feet but found I could not. The children all lay still as stones, although the girl who had bitten my calf still appeared to be breathing. My misery notwithstanding, I noticed something about them all as I gazed upon their forms. All of them wore the same socks; each wore one blue sock and one yellow sock. Some symbol of unity, perhaps, I thought.

I gathered the contents of my Gladstone and crawled painfully down the straight. At the next curve I was to take on the path to O’Malvilriain’s home, I found some old slats from a boarded window lying upon the ground. I used them to aid me in slowly and painfully rising to my feet. Now chilled and drenched thoroughly to the bone, I staggered my way to Huyton, fueled by will alone.
I don’t know how long it took me to get to the place I stumbled into, or how I made it there, or even how I found it to begin with. I must have been saying this aloud, as well, for I was answered.

“Hello, young man, it’s been a long time. You’ve looked better, I must say, Ned.”

O’Malvilriain the Druid’s resonant bass called out to me, though I could not see him.

I stumbled then and fell to my knees. A figure moved towards me in the half-light of the twisting serviceway. The form seemed to tower over me, a giant of a man, and he blocked out what little light the gaslight lamp behind him threw out in the pouring rain and obscuring mists.

“On your feet, a true sorcerer never kneels,” he growled.

“But I am no sorcerer, Druid, I’ve told you that before,” I replied weakly.

His hand came down to rest upon my head, and warmth coursed through my body.

“Stand up lad, and come with me. We have much to discuss, and I need to have a look at you I see.”

My leg’s dull pain was gone. I peered down to look upon it and saw the mended limb, not quite completely good as new but nearly. It was still stiff.

“Walk with me,” grumbled the Duid.

“Where are we going?” I asked, feeling fatigue begin to slip from me.

“Where do we always go eventually?” he responded, his usual question for a question repartee that I’d long ago grown used to but which now seemed a bit unwanted in my current situation.

I tried not to let my annoyance show. I knew where we were going, from his own question, before we arrived. But I let him think I was surprised.

“Huyton Memorial Heights Cemetary, may I ask why we’ve come here, Druid?”

“All things begin with the earth and all things end so, do they not? The earth has secrets to teach us, if we were but willing to listen. Are you willing to listen, son?”

“I’ve learned what I can from you, O’Malvilriain. I need your help now; there’s some kind of conspiracy going on-“

“Trust in Man to bloat themselves with the self-importance to think that their “conspiracies” will really change the earth,” O’Malvilriain said then, rumbling.

After a moment I realized that he was laughing. I was confused; this was no laughing matter.

“People have died; there is something loose on the earth, something that’s not natural,” I replied, hoping that this would catch his attention.

“But it’s natural for people to die; what makes you think there is any unnatural cause in that?”

I ventured further into my gambit.

“Demons, O’Malvilriain. They are not from Prime Reality, they are unnatural and hideous creatures.”

“Oh, so you judge them by home and appearance, then?”

“Damn you, old man, will you just shut up and listen to me?” I lost my temper.

He smiled at me, and I knew he’d known what I was going to tell him all along. He’d just been goading me into exposing what I knew about what was going on.

“I always said you would make a great enchanter one day. I still feel that way, but you need some practice. So I have brought you here to help me fashion a charm. This charm will assist you in your fight.”

“I don’t need a charm, I need to understand what the hell is going on!”

O’Malvilriain stopped then, his piercing blue eye focusing upon me. The other eye, always covered in a black patch since I’d been a young boy, seemed also to bore into me.

“Twice now you have come across the unexplainable, Doctor. And twice now you have come for my aid. Perhaps it’s time you accepted there are some things you cannot rationalize, some things you cannot simply explain away and some things that defy human understanding.”

I was at a loss, and so said nothing as he transfixed me with his gaze. He continued on without a care that I was feeling like a lost babe now.

“I will not help you this time; you must help yourself, and accept your destiny which you have struggled all of these years to deny yourself.”

With that he turned his back to me and began to walk deeper into the graveyard. I followed, reaching for him, my sense of being lost swiftly growing.

“Wait! What do I do? How do I find this destiny you speak of?”

“How did it find you, Ned?” he replied with a chuckle.

As we moved along in the graveyard, he stopped in front of a stone and peered at it. He drew out a pipe and tamped tobacco down into it.

“Some answers we deny, even when they will look us right in the eye, Ned. Will you deny the answers you find tonight? Or will you accept them, learn from them and grow?”

I looked to the stone, and what I saw there chilled me to my very bones. I sat down hard, so stunned I couldn’t even hold up my own weight. The name upon that gravestone, it couldn’t be! It was impossible!

My head swam with the implications. This couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be possible. My mind spoke refusal, even as my heart sank with the truth I was faced with here, on the silent testament of worn stone.

“Answers are never truly what we seek, are they Ned?”

I quivered, staring at the stone before me.

“Are you ready to learn of black magic tonight, Ned? It’s a crash course I offer, but one that should awaken your heritage and mind. And you will be able to use all I teach you this night to find your answers and win your battle that awaits you.”

I could say nothing. My eyes stared fixedly at the gravestone before me, even as my body rose.

“Teach me,” I found myself saying in a very small, frightened voice.


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 Post subject: Chapter 19: Endgame
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:17 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Well, devoted readers, it had to come sometime...

Some parts are a bit risque for a public forum, but I've decided to post it in its entirety and the mods can decide whether they will censor or modify it ;)

You can find it in its entirety, if that does come to pass, at the sites mentioned previously.

And so, without further ado...
___________________________________________________________

The sun rose and fell upon my studies, and then again it followed the same schedule for days while I studied at the feet of the Druid. I had become lost in the knowledge that the old Druid was sharing with me. It was both dangerous and enthralling work, and I could feel it calling to me. It was something I had been born for, the Druid was right. The magic sang in my blood.

He tried to teach me in such a short time that I think it awakened more in me than he had intended. I knew my target now, and I intended to make it suffer. I had been so sorely deceived for so very long. As much as O’Malvilriain told me his warnings on the use of this magic in a hateful manner, I was filled with the loathsome emotion, and it drove me on.

As O’Malvilriain had said before, I was quickly mastering the art of enchantment. With my own blood, I learned to imbue power into items. When the Druid took his rest, I stayed up later in order to begin implementing my own plan and further my skills without his watchful gaze.

By utilizing my will and my blood to fuel the enchantment, my old Navy pistol had drawn me to it. I cleaned it like I had in my Navy days, rather than leaving it to collect dust and grime as I had in recent days, until its blued steel gleamed. I polished it with droplets of my own blood, and the blued steel shone radiantly.

Each of the six remaining bullets in the cylinder I cared for as well, and each received a part of me in the form of my blood. This would be the instrument of my revenge. This would end the terrible game I’d found myself a part of.

I kept the scrap of parchment safe, for I understood now what my enemy wanted of it. It wanted free from its prison, and this tiny scrap of paper was the key. I knew the longer I stayed with O’Malvilriain, the less danger my friends were in as my true enemy would stop at nothing in their search for me and my friends were incidental. If it could not use my friends to torture me since it could not find me, it would consider that line of thought a wasted of time.

But thoughts of Quick and Jilly worried me, they’d both been so badly injured. And Jones; I knew now the powers of the darkness I had never wanted to look upon before from the Druid’s instruction, and I both feared for his soul and for him being sent after me from beyond death as an agent.

I made other charms as I learned, some to aid in healing and some to ward against demons. I thought I was ready. I may have been wrong, but I thought I was. It wasn’t until O’Malvilriain began to seem a bit on edge that I thought about how long I had been studying with him, and about how I had lost track of that time. I wasn’t even certain what day it was anymore.

“So, Druid, are you impressed with my learning and skills?” I decided to ask him on the day I’d made up my mind to take my leave.

“There is much strength in what you have learned. And I see the things you make while I sleep, Ned. One a dangerous too, fed with too much blood already before your own was added. Weapons are dangerous things to enchant. Be careful with it, because sometimes blood-fed weapons don’t care whose blood it is that they next feast upon.”

“Something will be coming tonight. It knows you are here. My protections, while strong, have worn down under the search for you Ned. I think you should go to the ground, hide, and hunt it. It is time for you to come into your own before this thing finds you and is ready to take what it wants from you.”

I nodded. Time to go.

“Thank you, old man, for your lessons. Oh, Druid?”

He had begun to turn from me, but turned back with a curious look.

“How long have we been here?”

“Three weeks, Ned, only three weeks. Seems like a lifetime though, doesn’t it?” His eyes twinkled, and as he turned and stepped away, he melded into the shadows and was gone.

And I had thought I was the one leaving.

I was on the move for the rest of the day. A collection of dailies caught me up on current events. I had a new suit cut at an expensive tailor. I visited my acquaintance, the epsilon navvie, and picked up some more drugs of a wider variety. I went to a popular hunting and firearms shoppe in Valleys which catered to big game hunters who traipsed about in the Pennine Moors.

I paid a visit to a fetish shop in Ancoats which supported counter-culture dress and, on a whim, bought a matching pair of white slicksuits for both a man of my size and a slender woman of nearly a height to me. I also went to a very cutting-edge and very underground program crafter who provided me the things I would need for the journey into the Etherscope I was certain I would need to take.

In short, I scurried about the Great Metropolis like a wild mouse.

By evening, I donned my newly-tailored suit, stopped by a takeaway cart in Chinatown to partake of my dinner and stuffed myself, and found a flower shoppe in the Bury market and headed over to Radcliffe to find the hospital where I had discovered Jilly was still present in. Her condition was poor, but I meant to remedy that. The only problem I was presented with was that she was under police guard. But I had a plan for that as well.

The fire was easy to start, and it would be very easy to put out too, but it would at least draw the attention of most of Jilly’s police guard. And it worked like a charm. There was only one man left on guard. I hoisted my bag and held my flowers; the pretty exterior served more than one purpose for me. As I approached the policeman, I thrust the flowers in his face for him to examine.

The long needle that was hidden in the bouquet slid into his cheek and the potent cocktail of drugs I injected in him caused him to droop in his chair. I pulled him into the room, and stuffed him into the locker where Jilly’s personals were kept. He fit rather nicely.

Moving over to Jilly, I monitored her condition for a moment before adding the contents of the vial I had mixed while under O’Malvilriain’s watchful eye to her IV. Her cheeks began to redden, becoming less livid, and she began to seem more life-like. I had suspected one might not be enough, so I slowly added a second while watching for her reaction.

She stirred, and then sat straight up faster than I’d seen anyone move. Her hand gripped my wrist on the IV, and her face softened when she saw it was me.

“Where have you been you bastard?” she said as her arms went around my neck and she pressed herself into me.

I was a bit surprised by this, and almost knocked over her dinner tray.

“Careful, Jilly. We have to be quiet. I’ve brought some clothes; are you ready to get out of here?”

“What did you do to me?” she said suddenly, looking down to where her wounds had once been.

“Wow,” she said as she stepped up to the full-length mirror on the wall and dropped her hospital gown, “Not even a scar, how did you do this?”

She turned to me. My face reddened and she smiled broadly.

“Come now, Doctor Ned, surely you’ve seen a naked woman before?”

“Yes, well I uh-”

“But never one you wanted so badly, eh?” she said, smiling as she slipped her arms around my neck and stepped in to me.

“And what if I want you too, Magic Doctor?”

Her lips were so close to mine, but I had to resist this powerful temptation…for the time being.

“We’ve got to go find Quick,” I told her, “It ends tonight. I know where and I know how. I have been planning, you see, and-“

She kissed me, pressing her warm naked body into me. Her lips were like ambrosia, and I felt a thrill run through me. My arms slid around her of their own accord, my body closed in on hers. She was moving me backwards, to the bed. I felt my urgency rise. So did she, she giggled into my mouth, drawing a leg up mine and over my hip as she leaned back.

She pulled me with her, atop her, wrapping her legs about my waist, and I felt her hand opening my trousers. In a moment, my burgeoning manhood sprang free and I could feel her warmth, moist and inviting, against my stiffness. I groaned as I thrust forward into her, joining with her. Her hips surged and she cried out into my mouth with our joining.

I moved quickly, wanting her so badly and yet knowing that our situation was dire. She sensed my urgency and matched it with her own need. Our lips broke apart, and I could hear her sucking in breath.

“Oh, sh*t, Ned, oh yes, harder!” she cried out.

I could feel her tense around me, and begin to tremble as I thrust myself harder into her, groaning. Her hips rocked, her mouth became a perfect “O”.

“Ohhh!” she moaned, and then, “Yes, Ned, yes!”

I spent myself violently as her womanhood wrenched around me viciously. We both fell still, and I slowly attempted to roll from her but her arms and legs tightened about me.

“Goddamn, I’ve wanted that for a long time,” she breathed softly, and her eyes were shining. But they didn’t look mad at all, nor did her smile.

“Bathroom, get cleaned up, then we can dress and get the hell out of her, Neddie-love,” she said pushing at me.

I nodded and rose. We cleaned ourselves up quickly, and donned the twin slicksuits. She giggled at them.

“I like…you like?”

I could only nod as she spun a tight circle in front of me; the slicksuit did wonders for her tight, slim and athletic body.

“Good, now let’s make like a tree and get the f*ck out of here!”

I chuckled at her, and we fled the hospital. It was easily done, and we made haste. I knew quite well where to find Quick, and we set out with haste to do so to the Great Docklands, where I had met before the first time. He’d killed then, and I was certainly hoping he was ready to do more before this night was through.

Saunders’ was as squalid and rough as when I had first walked into it several weeks ago. Several drunks were engaged in a brawl over their favored prostitutes, who were egging them on to greater heights of violence. The bouncers were moving edgily over to the brawl, eyeing the participants warily.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied Lucy. She would be the one to speak with, so I moved over towards her. She eyed me in my white slicksuit judiciously.

“Well, luv, what kind of mess are you lookin’ ta get yourself into? I have a nice mess, meself!” she said cheerily as I approached.

“I am sure you do but-“ Jilly started, but I interrupted.

“It’s me, Doctor Halloran, Lucy. Have you seen Quick of late?”

“You can take the haunt out of the ghost, but you can’t take the ghost out of the haunt, Doctor. Nice getup! You two be needin’ some companionship later?”

“No thank you,” Jilly replied icily.

“Just Quick, then, eh? Though I could think of better to spend my evenin’ with.: Lucy replied, nonplussed by Jilly’s rebuke.

She rushed off and in only a few moments she was walking back with the Gamma in tow. Something was different about him, though I couldn’t tell what until he sat down with us. His new cybernaughtic hand clacked on the wood of the table.

“I know what’s been going on, Quick. I have a proposition for you.”

Quick nodded then, considering.

“Let’s go on ta somewere we can talk, laddybuck. I’m gonna need guns, ain’t I?”

“Yes Quick, lots of guns.”

He grinned, rose from the table and lead Jilly and I to the back of Saunders’. We found a very private room, and I settled in to tell them both of what I had discovered, and what I was planning. We talked for several hours, and I could see that the sun was going down.

“I hate tha ‘Scope…d’ye think this really be necessary?” Quick asked as I concluded.

“Trust me, my friend, if I didn’t think this was the best way do go about it I wouldn’t ask you to do this,” I replied.

“I like the ‘Scope; you can be whatever you want to there,” Jilly said to Quick, “you can be a regular giant of a gunslinger there if you like.”

“I have the programs for everything we will need from a top-notch crafter, and I know where our target will be and how we can get in. I need to score some tabs; I am meeting with one of D.A.’s friends tonight, before it all goes down, to pick them up. And then we move in on the target and end this,” I told them.

Both nodded with grim-faced determination. Tonight was the night to bring down a demon. And end all of the troubles we had been submerged in. We moved from Saunders’ then, to secure our tabs and set my plan in motion.

Jade Cho was apparently a very close friend of D.A.’s, and had agreed to help me because of her sense of grief at his loss and need for avenging his death. She was a very pretty Chinese woman with dragon tattoos on her shapely legs and arms. I wondered how many other women would be feeling so with D.A. gone; he’d been quite a ladies’ man. She sobbed silently as we left with our tabs.

The Silver Drake Pleasure Dome in New London was the place to be to find our target. The tabs I carried were small wafers of paper with a stylized silver dragon head painted on them with tiny and exacting detail. I had checked out a room at one of Castlefield’s most extravagant hotels, The Parker Regency Building, after discovering that the one we were seeking had established residence there just recently.

The three of us strode in like we owned the place after our visit to Chinatown and Jade Cho. Parker Security eyed us nervously; clad as we were, I am sure we were quite intimidating. I flashed my wad of cash at the desk to secure room service, and dropped some pounds on the security guard to have some boys help us with our luggage. He moved off immediately to find some, as the cash I had handed him was a rather sizeable amount.

And why not pass out so much money, I had thought to myself? Revenge for years of lies and manipulation was well worth financially breaking myself, well worth any cost at all. We went up to our room moments later, followed by three young men. Arriving at the room, I gave each boy an amount of money that made their eyes wide. My wad of cash was growing thinner, but I smiled to myself thinking of how much closer I was to my goals.

Our target’s room was only two rooms down the hall. I would obtain the layout of the Parker Regency in our ‘Scope hunt, and then we would be set in the knowledge of exactly how our next steps would fall into place. Everything was falling together perfectly. We took our bags and put them in the sitting room after shooing the boys away.

“So, let’s get down,” I said, looking to Jilly as I stole one of her American euphemisms and smiled at her.

“Kick some arse, fin’ly…” Quick replied, and I shared a smile with him.

I pulled my Scope point out, and readied the private space in New London’s Wall that I had hired out to store all of the programs I had bought earlier. My Etherscope gloves flashed in motion, repeated in the Scope, as I made us ready. Meanwhile, Quick prepared our guns for use in Prime Reality. Jilly stared in wonderment as he pulled from one bag a bandolier belt of knives.

“For me?” she said, grabbing it up with a wicked grin.

“Of course, my dear,” I replied with a smile.

She leaned in to kiss me, hard, her tongue finding mine. Quick coughed.

“No time fer that shite, comon now, we gots ta get busy,” Quick said sharply.

I broke the kiss slowly, and the promise in Jilly’s eyes of more to come was like a fire in my veins. I pulled out the plastic bag containing our tabs.

“Let’s do this thing,” I said, smiling at my two companions.

I passed them their tabs, and placed my own beneath my tongue. We relaxed, and the world began to melt away from all around us. The white walls of the Regency became bright yellow, the private space in New London’s wall bleeding in over Prime Reality. After a few moments, we found ourselves in Etherspace.

Moving swiftly, the three of us readied ourselves and then made our way outside New London’s wall and into the industrial zone outside of it. The great towering monolith that was the Parker Regency Building’s presence in Etherspace, and covered all of Parker Regency’s locations in Great Britain and the Empire, loomed over us. I pulled out the keycard I’d had forged for our entry here.

The keycard, as promised, provided for full access to the construct. Although numerous employees shot us questioning glances, as we were certainly unfamiliar avatars, our presence brought no alarum. I found my way to the archives department and within moments was attempting to access the floorplans of the building. Once again, up until this point, there was no resistance. But I was stopped in my tracks as I picked up the bulky file that represented the floorplan details and a shock ran through my avatar.

A great golem of grinding gears began to rise from the floor as the file fell from my hands and scattered about the floor.

“Unauthorized access, intruder alert,” it spoke in a dry monotone, and rasied its arms.

“Destroy it! I will work on shutting off the alarm!” I shouted over the clicking and whirring of the arms as the transformed.

A pair of huge-bored gatling guns had formed on the golem’s arms, and it began to fire as I ducked low and slid across the smooth tiled floor of the archives room. Jilly ducked and weaved as bullets chewed up the tile around her. Quick ducked around behind the construct and pulled free the twin giant pepperboxes I had made for him by the program crafter; the guns roared, and scraps of metal began to fly from the construct’s back as Quick’s bullets tore into it.

I moved to gather the file, and pushed my hand into it. I had to manipulate the file structure to shut off the alert before it called too much attention to us. My manipulations were not as fine as D.A.’s might have been, but they were effective. So effective, the construct began to wheel upon me with its thundering gatling arms.

I tried to roll away as it fired upon me, but several bullets punched into me and I flopped onto my side. Jilly screamed my name, and tumbled deftly towards me, but several shots caught her in the back as she did so. She cried out as she fell across me.

The pain in her eyes was evident.

“It’s not real, Jilly. Just get out, just go back to yourself. We will take care of this, go back and keep a watch in case they know we came here,” I kissed her forehead, and she nodded at me while grimacing in pain.

Her avatar melted away over me as she relinquished herself from the ‘Scope. Meanwhile, Quick had leapt upon the construct’s back and was firing his pepperboxes into the heart of it through the holes he’d already made. More of the gatling’s bullets ripped into me, and I fought to retain my conscious hold over my avatar. A final blast from somewhere deep inside the construct sounded, and it fell apart in a great jumble of gears, tossing Quick violently to one side.

I crawled to him, file clutched to my chest, my avatar leaking out great runnels of its Ether essence. Quick lay upon the broken tile around his body, a twisted shape, pieces of the construct buried in his avatar. He was fighting to stay here, much like I was.

“Ya got it, laddybuck? Gah, it almost feels like I am really dying…”

“No Quick, it isn’t real…keep fighting…or let go and go back to help Jilly get ready. I have what we need, and it will only be a few more moments. I just…uhnnn…just have to hang on.”

“I’ll stay here, an’ watch over ya,” he replied as he weakly began to lift his pepperboxes to cover the doorway.

I nodded, and then settled painfully to a position in which I could scan through the files. My avatar’s body began to shake with the effort it took me to keep myself in the Scope and hold it together. Quick began to pull himself upright, and then the door into the archival shot open.

A gunshot rang out, and Quick slumped back against the wall of the room. I could see bits of what appeared to be bone and grey matter mixed in with the blood that painted the wall behind him as he slid down the wall. I turned my head, and saw the thing that I had come here to destroy.

In the visions and waking dreams that had come to me while pursuing my enchanting skills with O’Malvilriain, I had seen her for what she truly was; a demon from the farthest reaches of the depths of Etherspace, masquerading as human. A demon seeking full entrance into the realm of Prime Reality, to subjugate it to her dark will. She was fiercely beautiful and the darkness oozing off of her stabbed into my heart painfully.

“Ned, so glad to see you,” she said to me.

“Hello… Dtharsa…” I grunted, not willing to call her by the name of the woman I had once known any longer.

“Don’t call me that, Neddy dear, its me, its your sweet Moira.”

“No…Moira’s gone…she’s been gone for a long time, hasn’t she? I saw a grave, saw her name on it…she died when she first came here….I never even really knew Moira Hampstead, did I? It’s always been you. You’ve lead me along by the nose this whole time we’ve known one another…since the day we met,” I replied, anger and betrayal shining brightly in my eyes.

“I love the way you loved me, sweetheart,” she smiled, “and I love the way your emotions were so very strong. They fed me well, along with the hundreds of other men who loved me. I think you were my favorite, Neddy, really. Kiss me, so I can set you free. You really don’t want this anymore, do you? This tired, useless life? I can give you a new one.”

She let her gown slip down the length of her body, showing me all of her in her exquisite beauty. I shuddered, knowing that deep inside I still wanted her. Her smile showed me that she knew this. She moved closer, kneeling beside me, moving me onto my back and then straddling me. Despite my knowledge that she was no earthly creature and her beauty was inhuman, I was still quite aroused.

Her hand reached down to the Scope leathers that I wore, opening my trousers.

“Let me take you in, Neddy. I will love you like no woman ever has. Be my husband, give me children. I will love you,” she intoned, the sound of her voice intoxicating.

She gripped my manhood, stroking, readying me to join with her. I stared up into her eyes, unable to move.

Her gaze held mine, like some magnetic field. I felt her warmth move slowly down to begin enveloping me and I gasped, wanting it. But she screamed then, her face becoming a hideous fanged mask of evil as she immediately leapt from me.

The charm I held which prevented demonic possession worked. She was trying to join our souls together, to take mine for her own. She had probably planned this for a long time, I thought bitterly. My hands weakly fumbled with my trousers, shamefully adjusting my betraying member within them. I struggled to rise to my feet.

“I killed him, you know. I killed him slowly. He was stronger than you, you can’t defeat me, I will have what I wish for.”

“Perhaps he was stronger, but I have other reasons driving me,” I knew she was talking about my mentor, O’Malvilriain. I felt sadness well up.

I tried to let myself go from the Etherscope; this was her domain, and she was stronger here. But nothing happened. Dtharsa began to laugh.

“I can keep you here for as long as I like Neddy. I will play with you for a long time, baby. I will make you hurt so sweetly…”

“No,” I replied adamantly, smiling with tight lips as I pulled up the program I had the crafter make most carefully, “No you won’t.”

There was another way to leave the Etherscope; another way when will alone might not suffice. I raised the Navy revolver to my mouth, inserted it, and blew my own brains out.

I came to groggily lying on the floor at Quick’s feet, twitching and groaning, trying to move. The shock to my system from my avatar “dying” so suddenly left me severely disoriented. But I had planned for this.

“Go!” I croaked to Quick.

His hand came down, holding a small mirror with lines of white powder cut into fine lines over its surface. A small tube lay atop it as well. I took up the tube in a shaking hand, and snorted in the line closest to me. As the fire slowly spread through my nerve endings, quelling the shock and awakening me, I snorted two more lines into each nostril. I reached over the edge of the sitting room couch and hauled myself up onto my knees.

“You get the plans?”

“No. She came for me too quickly.”

“Fucking bitch,” Jilly spat.

She grabbed up a pair of autoguns and strode towards the door.

“We go now, and we just kick in the goddamned door and start shooting. That’s what I say.”

“Wait, Jilly!” I shouted to catch her attention before she exited.

“No, we can’t wait any longer, that thing has been feeding on human emotion and souls for too long! It’s got to go!”

I desperately reached for my Navy revolver, and pulled five speedloaders into one of the pockets of my utility belt. Quick was already grabbing up his holsters of pepperbox pistols. He’d gotten more…I thought I counted a dozen of them at least as he carefully and lovingly strapped them on. This was it.

All I had gotten of the room itself before I had been interrupted was the layout of the sitting room itself. I informed my companions of how it was laid out and the best way to make an entry as we approached the hotel room’s door.

We stopped short of the door as six figures rounded the corner. Taking the lead was Harvey Tallhorn of MI-6.

“Well, well, Ned Halloran. I suspected this is where I would find you.”

“Tallhorn,” I said softly,” Not exactly expecting you. How did you find this place?”

“No time for that now, just know that we are here to help. And remember, I’m with British Intelligence,” he smiled.

I gave him the rundown of the sitting room. The five heavily-armored agents behind him listened cosely.

“Are you sure your men are ready for this? There could be occult forces at work, you know.”

One of the men, in answer, unbuttoned his coat to show me the body armor on his chest, covered with occult symbols. I knew them for wards against demons. I nodded.

“Ready, then?”

Tallhorn nodded with a tight and grim smile, and two of the men moved to the door with a large heavy iron rod in their hands, some sort of entry device I supposed. The reared it back, and then slammed it into the door just below the door handle. The door sprung open with a violent crash. It was pitch dark inside. The two men stepped back, and two others moved into the room.

I looked to Quick, who held two pistols at the ready; I then looked to Jilly, who clutched three knives in each hand. Tallhorn had a small snub-nosed autopistol in his grip. I tightened my hand around my Navy revolver, and stepped in behind the men.

It was pitch dark, but I could see red images in the darkness. I quickly realized the red lighting was from the scopes upon the autoguns of the two soldiers before me. Something shifted in that light, to the left of one of the men, and a shape moved towards him in the darkness. Someone threw a lightstick in, and as it flared up, chaos ensued.

There were at least a dozen of them, razor claws ripping at the armored flesh of the soldiers before me. The revolver in my hand bucked and roared. The two men’s autoguns chattered. These were the same creatures that had nearly killed Quick, Jilly and I in the zepcar that night. They moved faster though, and seemed stronger.

I knew it was because of their proximity to their foul master. She was close. I could feel her. I stepped back from the crowding things as they began to rip through the two men before me. The roar of a pair of pepperbox pistols beside me caught my attention, as did the creature being fired upon as it spilled obscene gore from its belly which was ripped open by Quick’s shots.

A fleeting image of a tall, slender figure moving from the back of the sitting room towards the bedroom was all I needed to goad me on. I placed a bullet neatly into the grasping mouth of one of the creatures moving for me, watched its mouth erupt with ichor as the enchanted bullet burrowed deep in its innards, and kicked it aside to follow Dtharsa’s flight.

Jilly was beside me, knives flashing and a creature fell away. I darted to the bedroom door, a claw nearly swiping my head off as I ducked beneath it. Quick ended the creature with a shot to its chest, flinging it back from me.

The door was locked. I fired my last shot into the door lock, and flipped the cylinder open to reload; I nodded to Quick, and he kicked the door open. Jilly tumbled in before us, and I snapped my revolver’s cylinder shut. And there on the bed was Moira.

Jilly dropped to her knees immediately as Dtharsa shot her a hate-filled glance. Quick attempted to vault towards her with his pepperboxes leveled, but seemed unable to move. And I was transfixed by the perfection of Moira’s nude form. She was extraordinary…beautiful…and I could feel her love in her eyes as she smiled upon me.

I moved towards her, my hands betraying me as they moved to the charm around my neck and began to remove it. I dropped it to the floor, oblivious.

“Come to me my love. Give me what I want…what I need…love me…make me with your beautiful child…”

I nodded in agreement, my desires stirring me.

I pulled off my waistcoat and placed it on the bed beside her as her eyes commanded. Her hands came up to me, unbuttoned my shirt.

“Take me,” she commanded.

My eyes saw her hand going down to my waistcoat, into the pocket, and drawing out the scrap of ancient paper. My mind didn’t register it though.

It was the jealousy of another woman that saved me. Jilly leapt upon Moira, screaming at her, pounding her fist into the inhumanly perfect features of the other woman. Something gave then, and Moira…no, Dtharsa…began to shift her…no, its…form.

Jilly was thrown bodily to one side by a large tentacular limb, thudding hard first into the wall and then the floor. Another such limb curled around my waist, and began to strip my trousers free. I heard Quick’s cry of surprise and anguish as his pepperboxes fired. Twisting my head, I saw him moving woodenly, like an automaton.

He had emptied his guns into Jilly’s back at an alien controlling thought which had taken over his brain, even as he was still fully aware of what he was doing. Even more horrifying was the trembling of his hands as he reloaded, showing me the struggle he was making but could not win. Tears began to run down his whiskered cheeks as he raised both of the pepperbox pistols and placed one at each temple.

He started a scream, but it was cut off as his fingers twitched. The Gamma’s head was vaporized by the bullets of his own guns.

I focused myself then, trying even harder to fight the influence over my mind. A bullet whizzed by my head, and struck Dtharsa full in the face. While the bullet merely sank into its flesh, it provided me with a moment of distraction as the thing which held me focused its full attention on the soldier behind me. I felt a spray of blood across my naked back as whatever horrid force this creature could exert ended the soldier.

Reaching down to the bed, I picked up my Navy revolver. The thing faced me again, its repulsiveness now obvious. I pushed the revolver up against its rubbery, glistening gristled head and fired. The bullet tore through it, and into the wall behind it. The demon leaped on the bed, sualling, its tentacles loosening and dropping me to the floor.

As it squealed its agony, I emptied the other five rounds that I had lovingly enchanted into it. Their enchantment was designed to sever the bonds with Prime Reality that the creature had forged, and they did their job very well. Its form leaked copious amounts of ichor, and chunks of its flesh began to fall away with wet sounds onto the floor.

“You think you have won, Neddy? I have taken everything you love! I even killed your mother, Neddy! She cried when I told her what I was going to do to you! She cried tears of blood, Neddy! Ooohhh! Ahhh!” the creature scquelched with mushy tones as its physical integrity was destroyed.

I put one bullet into the chamber of my Navy revolver, and lifted my hand to my mouth. The Scope tab there tasted sweet as I placed it under my tongue. Sweet as revenge. I smiled at Dtharsa then.

“You may have done just that monster, but this time, it’s your turn to suffer. And I am going to watch as you die.”

I cam to a time later, to Tallhorn standing over me. Medics were treating the soldiers, looking over Jilly, shaking their heads at the carnage. There were several British Naval and police officers in the room. I looked into the cylinder of the Navy revolver, to see if the last bullet was really gone, and it was. I rose shakily to my feet.

“Now it’s over, Moira,” I whispered.


Last edited by maded on Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Epilogue
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:21 pm 
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Hard-Bitten Adventurer
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
So now I am sitting on the little porch outside of my nice Spire condominium in New York City, sipping hot tea (and not this dreadful iced tea that they seem to love here) and smoking an English cigarette. It’s been three years since the day I left England, and I’ve regretted it little. I keep in touch with old friends through the ‘Scope, but I don’t drop Tabs. Never again.

Jilly’s here by my side, but she’s not Jillian the Razor Queen anymore. She’s my beautiful Evangeline Halloran. Her left hand comes down over mine, fingers curling together as the matching silver bands clink together slightly. I smile up at her. We married just a few weeks after we arrived in The States, and since then our life together has been nothing but marital bliss. Sure, we have our arguments, but it’s the making up that more than makes up for it.

Everything’s been quiet, normal. No magic if I can help it, no murders, no mayhem. Retired, that’s what we call it. A simple life; I am respected here, in my self-imposed exile. I am a Doctor again, and no one calls upon me to perform self-sacrificing feats of derring-do for Queen nor country.

My Evangeline is not really crazy nor a spy anymore, and has settled into the social whirl of American Society. While I did not know this at the time of our meeting, my “Jillian” is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist by the name of Thomas Aundine. She was brought into the life of a spy, excelled for a time, then met me and fell head over heels, as she puts it.

As we cannot have a child, we have begun the process of adoption. He’s a beautiful boy, who is certain to grow handsome and strong. We call him Rhian; he’s only four months old, and our paperwork should be completed soon.

“Do you ever miss it?” Evangeline is saying to me as I am considering where our lives have taken us.

“No,” I say in return, smiling, “Not one whit. I love-”

But she is not looking at me; her eyes are focused into the distance of the view from our condo.

I follow her gaze, and I am feeling like a lead weight has struck me in the stomach.

A small zeppelin is approaching us as we watch. There’s a man, small at first then growing larger in our sight, waving madly at us. As the zeppelin is growing closer, I can hear a familiar voice, complete with British accent, calling out to me over the speakers. MY eyes are closing, as I know something bad is about to happen.

“I say, is that you, Ned Halloran? I have been looking all over this blasted Spire for you! There’s something we need to discuss, old chap!”

Evangeline’s hand tightens on mine; we both recognize the man. It’s Harvey Tallhorn of MI-6.


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