Among The Dragon Lines
The snap of the old florescent light turning on was akin to a gun going off. The blinding light that followed was almost torturous. A man struggled against his bonds, like all animals do after a long period of captivity. It was as if, now that there was stimulation to the senses, it would somehow loosen the bonds that had kept him restrained for so long.
“Do you realize who I am?”
The tone was, for lack of better words, heavy, as if each word carried a weight with it that made a simple question more intense. A silhouette appeared.
The bound man muttered an inaudible garble at the figure, sounding both exhausted and desperate. He fell slack against his bonds once again.
“Excuse me. You’ll need to enunciate properly. Curl the tongue! Gives you better staccato with quick worded insults!” the figure jested.
Though his vision was blurry from the long hours of darkness, he could see the figure lean toward him slowly, a hand gripping him by the jaw, two fingers working and prying their way into his mouth and forcing it open.
“Well no wonder I can’t understand you!”
Fingers are pulled from the prisoner’s mouth, and a light pat on the cheek is given. Bloody finger prints decorate his jawline.“My team had to rip out your tongue to keep you from casting this spell or that…” the figure muses.
The figure turns a hand idly around, then, realizing the spittle and blood upon it, wipes it off in the prisoner’s hair playfully as if teasing a small child.
“Mages, such children.”
A cold laughter follows.
The figure turns, putting his back to the prisoner, and sighs.
“I just need to know where It is, a simple question. Simple enough that a man with gifts such as yours, does not need a tongue to tell me what I need to know.”
With that, the prisoner sucks in his lower lip and bites ferociously, blood surging from the deep punctures. Each drop that touches the floor sizzles and dances as if hitting a hot iron. The figure turns, as a lumbering swell of power pools before the prisoner.
“Blood magic?!” the figure asks in cold surprise.
The prisoner’s eyes turn red as the blood starts to evaporate before it even touches the floor. The power, while not growing as quickly as a standard spell, will be complete long before the figure can exit the room. He sends a mental message to the figure before him, letting his mental block down for the first time in days.
“F#c y-.” He sends, being cut off immediately by a mental scream.
“IT’S ME!!” A familiar voice hammers back desperately.
The spell finished, the prisoner looks to his target confused, the figure now visible. As the magic channels through him it seems to slow time and heighten his senses. He doesn’t notice the reinforced cement walls cracking and warping around the figure. He also doesn’t see the very water in the air turn into droplets as the pressure surges towards the center of the figure’s mass.“Heather?” he questions weakly to himself. He stares in horror at the face of his wife, tears running down her face. His spell takes effect, the florescent light shattering under pressure and plunging the room into darkness.
“I lov—“, the mental voice is cut off.
The force would have thrown him across the room if he had not been restrained to the anchored chair. Instantly a warm wetness covers him from head to toe in the dark.
His mental block down, a voice, somber and dark speaks to him, “Now I will thank you, though you will not appreciate it, for allowing me to know its location. The East China Sea is it? Dark and Deep are its waters, but not nearly as dark as where you are going, a place where your precious Kami can’t even reach you. Perhaps we shall pay your friends a visit and see if they wish to join you?”
Kir was breathing heavy; he was cut in various locations, blood oozing as wounds closed. It was a cold night, the city scape a shining beacon of technology and light squelching the night sky.
The last seventeen hours had consisted of cleaning up. Loose ends, men who owed him favors, people who knew too much, and it was finally over. He could already taste the Slitvovitz on his tongue, but he had one thing left to do.
Hush, the man that knew too much was slumped over in the corner, the former comrade had tried to double cross his Johnson; he had too high of morals for this kind of work. Morgan had liked him; but it was inevitable a job like this would appear and he would need to be put down
The fight had been long, considering how quick most close quarters fights were; Hush had not underestimated Morgan, and Morgan had not underestimate Hush. Hush was known for his wet work skills, and the extent of his body modification had become all too apparent. A whirl of cyber weapons had shot, spun, and punched out at Morgan from every place on Hush’s body. If it had not been for Morgan’s training in the gruesome art of sambo, with the assistance of his trusty pistol, The Bratava, he may not have been able to counter him as well as he did; and in the end, ‘Too many bells and whistles Hush.” Kir had told the man, more machine than human, as he died; the bastard just grinned and slumped over; he had not said a word the entire time.
A whimper of pain brought him back to reality. It was another man dragging himself towards the edge of the steel structure. He was just an average desk jockey; but a desk jockey that had unraveled a complex plan.
“P-please.” He whimpered, “I-I have a wife and kids. I-I d-didn’t k-know, I w-won’t tell a-anyone.” He had a gun shot in the shoulder and two in the arm. Bratava had stopped him from running while he ended Hush.
Kir Morgan’s voice was conversational, “You are too smart for your job.” He pulled the action back on Bratava, confirming there was a shell remaining in the clip. “You however were not smart enough to know when something is bigger than you. I will not say I understand the mind of a married man, or maybe the moral compass that comes with having children, these things are something foreign to me; but I would think a man, as smart as you, would know that such actions could potentially put not only yourself, but your wife and kids in danger.”
“Please…” he whimpered again, “Leave my children be…”
Kir continued, ignoring him, “You should have stayed in America, and not boarded last night’s flight here.”
The man knew it was coming, but raises his hands up to plea, opening his mouth to say something he was cut off.
“Welcome to Valdivostock.” Kir Morgan stated coldly, Bravata cracking in the night air.
Huong grimaced again as the technical hit another rut and jarred the group of armed men in the bed. He glanced in the rear view mirror, seeing the five armed men scowling at him, one giving him the middle finger.
“Don’t like it. You can walk.” He shot in return and gave a half grin, the path they were taking was winding heavily in the jungle now, it had rained a few days prior and the mud had hardened in odd angles making the trip a bit rough.
He eased on the brakes, the three other technicals and a deuce-and-a-half in front of him slowing, the upcoming corner sharp, the road now dangerously close to a cliff. The men in the back all shifted to one side, each putting a single hand on the edge, in case they had to vault if the road decided to give way; even Huong opened his door.
Shifting into first gear, he rounded the corner, and then gave more gas as the road turned into a fairly steep incline. The engine worked hard, some of the men looking nervously back; if the brakes and engine failed the technical would roll straight back and off the cliff.
“Come on…” he whispered to himself, a rear tire spinning and flinging dried mud back like a shotgun. Huong breathed a sigh of relief as they crested, the other vehicles a good bit in front of them as the rest of the trip was a slow and easy decent back to the village.
Suddenly he swore, vulgarly, steam starting to roll out from under the hood. The small truck had overheated, again; he let the vehicle coast down the hill and it rolled to a stop.
The men jumped out of the back, and one tossed him a battered jug of water as he exited the cab, slinging his rifle over his shoulder. It wasn’t the first time the damned thing had overheated, so the men weren’t blaming him just their luck. Few of them lit cigarettes or went a few yards away to relieve themselves while he lifted up the hood to let the engine cool off.
He dropped the water bottle at the sound of a gun shots in the distance, turning to look down the descending road at the rest of the convoy.
“Ambush!” one of the men yelled and three of them started sprinting down the road, the other two taking a moment to grab some clips and a belt of ammo for a dated machine gun.
“Get the truck running!” the man with the machinegun shouted over his shoulder as he sprinted off.
Swearing Huong took off his shirt and threw it over the radiator cap, covered his face as best he could with the other arm, and pulled it off in one quick motion and dove back. The pressurized water instantly spewed and steamed violently, some of it catching him on the arm and chest. It was painful, but the quickest way to cool down the truck and get more water into it.
From his prone position he looked toward the convoy. They were in the beds of their trucks shooting into the Jungle to his right, the five men from his truck were about a third of the way there when a large, monstrous thing exploded from the underbrush from the left and plowed into the middle technical, flipping it easily from the force of its charge. Men thrown like rag dolls into the Jungle or against trees from the impact .
“Oh my god.” He hissed, as two more monstrous creatures tore out of the jungle. One pounced on the rear technical, the cab being crushed and pinning or outright killing the driver. The men in the back turned to shoot, but its’ speed did not match its size, a gigantic reptilian clawed paw crashing into the five of them and throwing them off the back.
The deuce and a half’s men had turned to focus their fire on the first creature, he could hear the feline like snarl clearly and it leapt back into the jungle in one swift leap, like a big cat. The other two creatures having maimed, or killed, the last technical’s occupants. The second technical, the deuce, and the five from his vehicle opened up on the remaining two creatures.
Even at this distance he could tell the creatures were being hit by gunfire, but they show no sign of being slowed as they both turned and leapt into the jungle with ease.
“JIAN!” he shouted at the top of his lungs and pointed at the jungle edge near the men from his truck. The foliage shaking and trembling as something large moved through it at a frightening speed.
Barely hearing him, Jian, the man with the machine gun, turns just as the creature about the size and weight of ten men crashed into him, a giant maw tearing off his left arm. The other four men turn to shoot, but are just as swiftly dispatched, as the other two monsters plow into them from the sides of the road. Gun fire erupts from the remaining convoy, as the monsters duck into the safety of the jungle once again.
From further down, just past the deuce, two more reptilian monsters crawl, stalking like lions, from the edge of the jungle into Huong’s view. The men’s attention is on where the first three monsters were to Huong’s dismay. Finally a man turns, noticing the two new creatures and screams, the creatures surge forward, toward the deuce.
Huong stops watching. Scooping up the jug of water, as he gets to his feet, pouring it into the radiator frantically. Twisting the radiator cap on he then scrambles into the cab and attempts to turn the engine over, the starter whining in protest. He looks up from the dashboard, terror permeating him as the monster that tore Jian’s arm and shoulder off walks into the center of the road not fifty feet in front of him. He tries the key again, and the engine refuses to start. The creature starts to accelerate toward him in long bounds and leaps.
Huong abandons the truck and runs, almost falling, back down the hill he had just moments before ascended. He looks over his shoulder the creature slowing to a stop at the top of the steep incline. He is defeated; he cannot out run such an apex predator, he cannot hide, fight or negotiate. Trembling he turns and takes a long, if only seconds, look at the monster before him.
The monster is large, easily double the size of the biggest Tiger Huong had ever seen. Reptilian skin cover the vaguely feline frame like a rough armor. Claws easily bigger than Houng’s forearm are not as razor sharp as he thought they would be, but with the muscle that powers this creature they will easily pierce his flesh. Carnivore fangs bared it breathes slow, almost controlled breaths, as it looks down at him; a long tail whips back and forth while it crouches getting ready to spring. The most unnerving aspect is the eyes, a gleam of feral intelligence beyond that of what an animal should ever have. But in those same eyes there is no mercy or compassion. It knows it is a superior breed of beast.
Huong takes his eyes off the creature and looks over the edge of the cliff, the creature moves a single clawed foot forward eerily, as if it knows what Huong may do.
The creature lunges forward just as Huong turns his attention back to it and in response, an instinctive reaction, Huong leaps to his death; a large set of teeth flashing and clamping onto nothing but empty air inches from the back of his head.
The world shutters, just before he impacts the rocky ground, and reality filters back in. A heavily tattooed man stands over the mangled body of Huong, an outstretched hand being returned to his side.
“Ravar… bigger than I have ever seen.” The Shaman states morbidly. “This is what destroyed them.”
“You sure?” the Tatooed man asks nervously, shifting a very large caliber rifle in his arms.
“Have I ever been wrong in my viewings of the deceased?” the Shaman asks bluntly.
Gansu Warlords Agree to Holiday Cease Fire
By Cho Tenwu and Joe Sterling, Asian World News Network
The guns that have ravaged much of Gansu since March 2070 may fall silent next month, now that the Reigning Warlords have agreed to a cease-fire.
A summit was held representing the major Gansu factions and a mutual agreement was reached Thursday they would halt military operations during the Taoist holiday the Festival of Ghosts, an extend the celebrations 2 weeks to allow the population a rest from the constant fighting.
But the terms of this agreement have raised skepticism among some observers: some key factions reserved the right to respond to “terrorist” attacks, including bombings, as well as “terrorists” trying to reinforce their positions; and to protect neighboring borders crossed by “terrorists.” However, it must be noted that the label “terrorist” is defined by any faction that is not their own.
The UCAS and the United Nations, which helped negotiate the truce through U.N.-Asian League special envoy Chen Lu Quan, welcomed the news, despite the uncertainty.
“What we are hoping and expecting is that they will not just talk the talk of cease-fire, but they will walk the walk — beginning with the hired mercenary groups many of the Gansu warlords use to strengthen their numbers,” said UCAS State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “welcomes the reported announcements,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.
“Obviously, the world is now watching to see what will happen in 2 weeks,” he said. “We cannot be sure yet what will transpire, but the hope is that the guns will fall silent for the people of Gansu so that they will have peace and quiet during this holy holiday.”
The Cease-Fire treaty states that all forces including contracted mercenary groups must be removed by the first Saturday of June. Any forces left will be treated as terrorists and the severing the treaty and will “Spark the flame of war the likes of which have not been seen in 50 years”—States Warlord He Tia Noot.
He shifted nervously and put his hands in his pockets, hoping the action would keep him from fidgeting. He didn’t like it, not a bit, he told himself; but for the amount of cash this guy was shelling out?
“They were stories? Right?” he asked to himself. He had a nervous habit of speaking his thoughts aloud, he secretly blamed it on his prior addiction to BTL chips. He thought in his head, ‘Even if it gets back to him… what else can he take from me?’
A large figure blocked the only light source into the alley
He raised his voice, trying to sound confident, but his voice failed, the first word coming out like a squeak. “Who’s there?”
A rumbled response, “Your the one known as Father Rat right?”
He hated that nickname; sure he was a prior rat shaman, and before that a prior priest. ‘Hell, I’m prior many things well before that even…’ he suppressed a sigh and nodded in the dark.
“Good.” The figure said simply, “Speak and I give you this.” The man produced a wad of cash as thick as his wrist.
With that the words came tumbling out, “You see, I don’t know much." replied Father Rat “Wait-wait-wait; I don’t know much but what I know is more than you’ll find anywhere else. You see, I was under his employment for quite some time.” The man grunted and a bushy eyebrow shifted slight up as the human lifted himself up with a boost of confidence. “I ran many jobs for him, so I know firsthand how generous he can be.” That is usually the first question I get. He pays well.. no not well, fantastically. Mundane jobs you’d get from any other Johnson he would pay you triple. He’ll send you to a stuffer shack with enough cash to buy the damn place out! He pays for the best, and when he pays, he expects the best from his runners. While I worked for him, I had respect for him, hell I still do, and he returned that respect by never giving us false information. Out of the numerous shadow dives I went on at his request, not a ONE did he give us bad Intel. If he wasn’t sure of the information, he told you upfront.”
The man raised a hand to stop the endless tide of words from the humans mouth. “Who does he work for?” his answer was quiet laughter.
“Don’t matter, and frankly you shouldn’t let that question burden you. He could be running teams against each other for all we cared. The perks and rewards for a successful run were astronomical compared to the nuyen I was making for my former Johnson. If we were told to go kidnap a Politian and deliver him to a boat at the docks, we did it. Go into an “A” zone neighborhood and burn down a square mile of houses? We did it. Did he make us do things that we’d consider terrible? Debatable, it was always a choice, and you know? We rarely said no. If there were consequences to saying no, we weren’t aware of them at the time.”
The man stopped him again, “So why are you here. Like this?”
The former rat shaman went silent, he never liked this question, but it was inevitable; with how much he talked him up, it made it seem contradictory coming from a human that looked like he slept in the sewers, well in fact he did sleep in the sewers, during the dry season the sewers were cooler. “I asked too many questions. I wanted to see the whole pie, and not just the slice he let me have.” He chewed on his lower lip. “There is a certain point, and I see this now, that all runners get to. You have so many contacts, weapons are easily acquired regardless of legality; hell one of my friends had a warehouse with seventeen ICBMs?!” He had fallen off topic slightly, people rarely believed him when he stated that fact; no one would believe a Troll had a warehouse with that kind of weaponry. “The point I’m trying to get at is this. I thought I had wealth, connections and power. I had fabricated this belief that I had woven this web of influence and questioned him, and to make it short… I crossed him.”
The man didn’t look moved, he stood there, waiting for more.
“It was a simple extraction. We had done it by the book as they say and we were on route to the drop off. I had received a contact prior that another company would like to have this person of interest, and they were paying a WHOLE lot more than him. It wasn’t like he couldn’t find another like him, the corporate drones are a dime a dozen right? I had thought, there would be no way he would pay this much for a pencil pusher, so… “ he smashed a beetle under his worn boots as he talked, grinding it into a pulp. “The web of influence fell apart as if overnight. My accounts frozen or ceased to be. Safe houses I had stock piled with extra weapons or items I’d need to bug-out were condemned and bulldozed to the ground; hell I was IN one of them as the dozer came through it. Friends I had acquired over the years didn’t speak to me, or faded into a backdrop as if I never knew them. I attempted to contact him, I knew he had done this to me, and for a VERY long time I thought that… until I realized it was me that had done this to myself.” He waves his hands at himself as if to present his current situation to the troll in front of him.”
The man still didn’t look impressed. Time for the ace in the hole he thought to himself.
“Ever hear of Vermin-Kai?” he waited.
The man’s eyes lit up slightly, “Yeah. He was a shaman some years back, got some serious notoriety for a run he supposedly took on two Insect Shamans and three cyber zombies protecting some relic of sort in Chicago. People say he retired, or bit it, as he fell off the grid.”
“It was five Insect Shamans and four cyber zombies… You’re looking at him.” He knew the man was going to laugh and tell him to frell himself, so he opened his shirt.
The man looked in a mixture of horror and awe at what he saw.
“If you knew of Vermin-Kai, you’ve undoubtedly know what I had done to myself…” he closed his shirt. “For as much power as I had…his was more. Now give me my money you drek; and remember this. The first mission or two you get from him is a test… succeed and you could be the next Vermin-Kai.”
The race begins,
as engines roar.
They charge ahead,
like a wild boar.
vie for position.
Victory and glory,
is their common mission.
maximum speed desires.
Each sharp turn,
burns their tires.
often tease disaster.
strive for nothing but faster.
Their greatest nemesis and savior,
are known simply as brakes.
In order to pass,
they wait for mistakes.
In the end,
only one gets to brag.
The first to kiss,
the checkered flag.
The team opens the final armored security door; smoking shell casings still rolling as they diligently press on. This had been one hell of a run, drek, probably one of the worst ever. A member dead and, like icing on a cake, countless bodies of guards and lab coat personal lay strewn about the floor. It had been bloody, but after what they had seen? Those bastards deserved it. That grizzly facility made him want to vomit back up his synth-meal, the tubes and wires, the chunks of living pulsing flesh that had been carved out, only to be replaced with something fabricated, something no longer meta-human. It’s heavy, remaining eye had been sunken, its gaze had pierced through him like a nano-wire… as if it cut his very soul. Machine assisted labored breathing was all it could do, it’s limbs having been either removed or shackled to the metal table, he assumed, had kept him chained for how many days? Weeks? Years? It was the best thing his team could do, to put it out of its’ misery, and the test data their Corp wanted? He hoped the data was wiped out “accidentally” by the Black Ice program their decker flooded the system with. To hell with this mission… they’re lucky he didn’t feel like stirring the pot and sharing the info with the dreckin’ Live NEWS wires via his eye cam.