I see you got the lock open.”
motherfuckin’ cocksucker!” she spat. “Do you know what I went through
here? What they did to me? What they were going to do? Do you even care?”
yes,” Simon replied, never taking his eyes off hers. He noted the shaking of
her hands, making the blaster waver. “But I needed you. I needed the
distraction you provided, keeping Hardiman’s men off me…”
she yelled, her voice cracking. “Hardiman said that he had been expecting you,
that the Baron told him you’d come! You didn’t need me! The sec-men
would’ve let you right in! You didn’t need me!”
lunged to the side, the blaster barking in Elsbeth’s hands, the bullet
snapping as it passed his head. The slug ricocheted off the wall, hitting the
floor, taking a chunk from the stone. Graydon could hear her shriek of
frustration as she struggled to bring the .45 back down in line with him, the
recoil having driven it up.
caught her wrists in his hands, his grip like a vise. All he had to do was bear
down, twist his torso, and she would be on her back, helpless for the length of
time he needed to kill her.
he couldn’t. For the first time, indecision tugged at him.
all, it was his fault she was here.
She’d be free and clear if…
seeing the indecision in his eyes brought her knee up, hitting Simon between the
legs, smiling with sadistic, insane glee as she saw his dark face turn pale.
stayed on his feet, more by the fact he still had a grip on Elsbeths wrists than
by his own will. He felt his heart flutter, and his knees began to buckle, and
suddenly he felt the floor hit his shoulder, and the warmth of urine flowed
across his leg as he lost control of his bladder.
he felt the impact of Elsbeth kicking at him, flipping him over, the sole of her
foot stomping down, striking him in the stomach, her own mind so completely
filled with the need to inflict her pain on the man who had led to it, that she
forgot, or simply ignored the fact she still held the blaster in her hand, and
could have ended it with a single bullet.
cool, professional manner had fled when she’d laid her eyes on the dark haired
toes caught in the gash in his ribs, left by the skulker’s spike, tearing open
the scabbed over wound, the blood beginning to flow. Her heel caught his injured
head, slamming it down against the floor, igniting sparks behind his eyes, which
were becoming heavy, hard to keep open. The blows began to register only as
pressure. The pain was fading. Simon could feel his mind floating.
good, he thought. So
good to just let go…no more pain, no more Deathlands…
more Maryyyyy… whispered that cold
voice in the back of his head. If this
woman beats you to death, who will help Maryyyy…the voice was becoming
Simon thought. He saw her face swim
up, smiling, laughing the way that she did, her very soul reaching out and
touching him with the sound…
surged up from beneath the blows, nearly slipping in the pool of warmth that had
gathered beneath him. His vision came back with a vengeance, tinged with red,
and his vision sharpened on the face of the silver haired woman who had, until a
moment before, been methodically beating him to death.
eyes widened as the man she’d been kicking stood, piss dripping down his legs
and blood oozing from a wound in his side, and sprang towards her, his gritted
teeth white against the flush that had begun to creep across his face, the fire
that had flared up in his eyes threatening to spill out.
remembered the gun in her hand, and raised it.
arm swung out, catching the blaster, his grip twisting it down, the detonation
searing the side of his thigh, the bullet smashing the floor again, glancing off
and burying itself in the plastered ceiling.
twist, and the gun was now held, barrel first, by Simon.
raised his hand to strike down, in his minds eye seeing the grip of the blaster
hitting her, shattering bone as the weapon hit her temple.
didn’t hear the whirring until it was too late.
gun hand was pulled back by a whirling cord, the sheer weight and force driving
him against the one beam in the jail house, the slender steel bar adorned with a
single set of manacles, and long streaks of blood.
whirling cord wrapped its remaining length around the steel beam, used by
Hardiman and his men as a whipping post, trapping Simon’s arm.
tried to pull his arm free, the red mist filling his vision blinding him to his
body’s pain, and likely in this berserker state, would have broken the limb in
his desire to kill.
saw a shapeless form hovering over the girl he wanted to murder, waving its one
exposed hand over her face, catching her as she slumped.
pulled his arm free of the leather cord, releasing the blaster, and relaxing the
taut muscle, giving him enough slack to slip out.
figure just stood there as Simon charged, the killing rage that the woman had
awoken in him wanting nothing more than something to kill, to feel the hot blood
flow, to bathe in it.
hand that was hidden came out, fast, releasing a cloud of powder into the air,
stinging Graydon’s eyes and nose, the sweet cloying smell of death seeping
his limbs lost all their strength, the hot rage turning suddenly cold. He
stumbled, and was caught by the figure.
face pressing into the tattered clothing, Simon fell into the darkness again,
this time smelling the sharpness of sewers and waste.
gulped water, hoping to ease the soreness of her throat, scraped raw by the
intensity of the screams she had given voice to.
woken up in yet another room, this one with a single bed, covered in blankets,
clothing draped over the foot, a dark blue carpet, thick and plush, new looking,
and unlike the carpeting she had seen before in Rykerville, covering the floor.
had looked around the sparsely decorated room, the white walls making the lights
in the room seem brighter, digging into her head, bringing back the memory of
the last thing she had seen in that other room, the descending needles coming
for her eyes, the pain from the needle in her stomach too much to bear…the
darkness just before the needles touched…
blinked back tears, the salt stinging her eyes as they flowed.
don’t come out…the same.
had the Baron done to her?
Her eyes settled on a doorway, opened to reveal a
She stumbled from the bed, making a beeline to the other
room, barely making it to the toilet before she vomited, the bitter bile a mere
trickle, showing it had been a long time since she had eaten.
looked at her arms, felt a sharp relief that her skin was unmarked.
stood shakily, noticing for the first time that she was still naked, and that
she had lost some weight, her skin stretched tightly over muscle.
girl turned the tap, letting cold water flow into her hands, splashing it over
her face and the back of her neck, feeling more awake now. She cupped her hands,
letting them fill with water, and raised it to her mouth, rinsing and spitting.
looked into the mirror, seeing that the skin of her face was pinched, tightly
stomach growled, and she looked down, saw that her skin was unblemished around
where she had felt the needle pushing in. She pressed on it slightly, but felt
long had she been asleep?
long since she had eaten?
the thought of food, even the sludge she had gotten from the cafeteria, her
mouth began to water, and she found herself walking toward the clothing on the
bed, and she began pulling it on, preparing to go out.
she finished dressing, she felt a chill, like a cold draught had caressed her.
She looked toward the bathroom, the thought that she had missed or forgotten
something tugging at her.
her stomach rumbled again, and all thoughts other than of food were chased out.
pushed open the door, and walked out, not noticing that she felt no fear of what
lay beyond, or of the mutant creatures the Baron kept here.
eyes watched the monitor as it received information from the devices sewn into
the clothing Mary now wore.
steady and strong.
regular; body temperature a perfect thirty-seven degrees Celsius.
far everything was going perfectly.
scorched and furious, watched as yet another building caught fire in the
strengthening breeze, the hint of sulfur growing stronger, threatening to
overpower the scent of gas and scorched oil and the cloying smell of sizzling
trained to fight the occasional fire that started from a carelessly tossed torch
or an overturned lantern were completely overwhelmed by this blazing
conflagration, desperately starting up bucket lines, violently conscripting
people to lug bucket after bucket, each brimming with water from a well that
shimmered red in the falling darkness, reflecting the hell that Rykerville truly
light also reflected in Hardimans red cats-eye, flaring for an instant as a
building, one of the Baron’s best gaudies collapsed, the blazing shower of
sparks swirling up, a glowing swarm of elemental locusts searching for its next
blinked as he saw a man, wreathed in flames stumble from the inferno, screaming,
the sounds growing hoarse as the heated air scorched his lungs bit by bit. The
big man watched as he stumbled and then fell, still trying to move, even as the
fire stripped skin to the bone.
snagged one of the men directing the buckets as he ran by.
this fire contained,” Hardiman snarled, lips over teeth pulling back in a
feral rage. “Or I’ll break your legs and throw you in it!”
man, his bright clothing proclaiming him to be a gaudy owner, drew himself up,
and pulled his arm out of the Sec-chiefs grip. “I’m doing the best I can,
but this fire’s getting out of control. The wind is driving it straight to the
man’s speech ended as Hardiman gripped his throat, and said; “I didn’t ask
he crushed the man’s throat and dropped him, watching for a moment as the
brightly dressed figure flopped about on the ground, kicking out his life.
glared at the men who had stopped, and were even now watching the man die. They
all seemed to feel as one the weight of Hardiman’s
stare, and looked up, to see him glowering at them.
it out,” Hardiman said quietly. “Or when the ashes settle, I’ll be coming
for you. All of you.”
for you, Simon.”
arrived back at the jailhouse to find a group of his men pounding on the door,
trying to force their way inside.
Sec-chief grabbed the greasy locks of Bray, the stench of the mutie nearly
making Hardiman gag.
shook the swampie. “What’s happening, Bray?” he demanded. “What fool
locked the sec-men out?”
rasped, barely heard above the sounds of shouting and screaming; “Guard went
in, think dead. Can smell blood getting cold from inside. Think blackhair
chiller chilled him.”
whispered Hardiman, releasing the mutie. Though Bray had a stench that would
make people puke if he passed too close, the Sec-chief had no reason to doubt
his mutie abilities, such as his ability to survive mortal wounds.
the ability he had to scent prey.
Hardiman shouted. The sec-men gathered around the door scattered, those too slow
were trampled by Hardiman, one falling, then getting the big man’s foot on the
back of his neck.
last thing he heard was his own vertebrae crunching.
foot shot out, shaking the door. He rammed his shoulder into it, felt the bolt
holding it beginning to give. He drew back, began kicking the door again, each
blow making the door shudder, each impact widening the space that was now
beginning to show.
sec-force drew back, and some of them slunk off, and began to fight the fires
while others merely hit the gates, heading off into the night.
to die fighting a mutie, these men thought, than being around Hardiman when
he’s like this.
a shriek the door gave way, the bolt holding, but the brackets were pulled from
the wall, and swung on the extended bolt like a mocking decoration.
stormed in, found this; one lone sec-man, naked and hung to the whipping post,
his head held on only by some gristle and the gleaming red and grey of his
coil of blood clotted wire was on the ground, stuck to the stone slabs that made
up the floor by the blackening pool of congealing fluid.
two open cells.
sec-men that had lingered turned and sprinted to join their colleagues at either
the fires or the gates as Hardiman’s roar of insane rage sang out, the sound
drowning, for an instant, the screams and the shouts and the roaring of the
in the distance, white-hot chem lightning flickered.
looked out a window, and reasoned she was now in the building she had seen from
before, the chaos below and the balcony across the way confirming it.
scene below hadn’t changed, she noticed. Figures still moved, slowly or
quickly, whips falling soundlessly outside the thick glass she stood behind.
They carried bundled things, what looked like cases or boxes, and they carried
each other, throwing the weakened bodies onto a cart that was immediately pushed
away to some unknown destination.
bore the deformities Mary had seen on the muties that had pursued her, but some
of these were much worse.
saw a woman, carrying a bucket filled with dirt, dumping it with trembling hands
then collapsing to the ground, clawing at her back, ripping off the coarse shirt
she wore, revealing the mutant growth on her back, a child that had no face, but
a single aperture that had adhered to the space just below her shoulder blades.
Mary could see the muscles of the child-leech-growth working, draining it’s
black masked overseer strode over, and brought down the whip he held, leaving a
stripe across the parasite.
it was the woman who reared back and screamed.
struggled to her feet, bare-breasted, and began to trundle off again, the
leeching mutant nursing happily as they passed a man dragging a third leg like a
interesting, isn’t she?”
started, turned to see the familiar robed and cowled form of Baron Ryker. He
stood there, his height a little above normal, the robes disguising the fact
that he was hunched over, taking nearly two feet off.
mind spun a little, remembering the brief glimpse of the so-called man.
got the impression of great size, well over Hardimans six-and-a-half feet, and
muscular definition that was so impossible, it was obscene.
was a wonderful subject. She was a mutant, though she didn’t know it, and
likely wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t found her. She was pregnant,” Mary
suppressed a shudder. “with her father’s child. A common practice in the
very clannish ville I found her in, I’m told. They were nothing more than
simpering idiots anyway, rife with inbred deformities.”
moved past Mary, looking down. “I altered the genetic structure of the child,
with absolutly no idea what would happen.” He turned, looked at Mary with
shaded eyes. “My studies were still hit and miss back then. The result,
however, was truly astounding. The child, when it was born, began nursing, as
all babies do. But in the night, the child crawled…only one day old, and it
crawled! behind his sleeping mother and anchored itself there, his face molding
itself to her flesh, his jaws disjointing like
a snakes, and four hidden teeth unsheathed, latching onto her.”
Baron chuckled, Mary finding it a chilling sound.
screamed for hours, unable to move from the agony her offspring was causing her.
I merely thought that he was consuming her from the inside, but I was wrong. The
child was sending out from it’s body fine cilia-like filaments, each one
burrowing into his mother, attaching to bone and muscle and nerves.”
noticed that she screamed when the guard whipped the child? That is because of
the joining. She feels everything that the child feels, the pleasure of feeding
or the pain of being struck.”
horrible,” Mary said. The Baron shook his head.
you haven’t heard the most extraordinary part, Dear Mary. She never sleeps
now, and her strength is three times that of a normal woman. Her stamina has
also increased considerably.”
because of that thing?”
It makes her stronger, so she can fight for more food. It makes her more
durable, so she can survive the rigors of near anything other than mortal
injury, and even then…well, I haven’t learned enough yet to lose such a
said she was already a mutie, and she didn’t know it.”
yes…I did, didn’t I? Her celluar structure was most…mallable, let’s say.
I could shape it like clay on a potter’s wheel, metaphorically speaking.”
voice almost cracked when she spoke next. She had to turn, so the Baron
wouldn’t see the fear in her eyes.
you do that to me?”
what did you do? Did you just torture me with those machines? For what?
Pleasure? Are you a sick chiller like Hardiman?” Of course, she already knew
the answer to that.
learned from someone.
Mary. You must learn patience. You will learn all…in time.”
was silence, then.
knew, without turning, that the Baron was gone.
the fear remained.
the whole upper part of Rykerville was gone.
dead lay in the streets, some of them fused together by the blast furnace heat
of the fire. Dogs and rats began to gather in the darkness, eyes glinting in the
gloom, noses twitching at the scent of the cooked meat wafting in the damp wind.
the end, the sec-men’s efforts to extinguish the fire had come to naught, some
of them bursting into flames while still yards away from the blaze.
sudden chemstorm had swept in, dumping water on the burning town, while a
twisting tornado sucked up the flames and burning debris, becoming, for a few
brief seconds a massive tower of fire, reaching up to the sky. Blue-white and
purple-red chemlightning curtained the sky, giving the sky a writhing, living
omnipotence, absolute power blazing with the power of a world still insane.
a quarter of the population was dead.
all the homes here, abodes of the holders of the town’s wealth were gone, just
swirling soot remaining.
the poorer section of the ville, the part of the town that some said needed the
fire, was untouched.
in their alleys and hovels, their gaudies and small gambling houses, the people
watched as the fire consumed the homes of the people they had once wanted to be.
Now, with their wealth and power gone along with their fortified homes, they
would be coming to claim what the untouched part had.
were pulled out, the rusted blades put to the stone. Blasters, carefully hidden
were revealed again, loaded with precious bullets, or packed with powder and
and boards and old rusted pipes, made even deadlier with weights and nails and
whipping barbed wire were collected, handed out to trusted allies and family,
each pair of eyes going dead as the weapons were received.
figure was looking out a window, when a door opened up, and a man’s voice
bad?” said the figure, her warm voice flowing.
crapped out,” was the reply.
turned, drew the curtain, then turned up the oil lamp, revealing her almond
shaped eyes and delicate features. She looked at the man, his hair standing out
nearly a foot from his head.
you think they’ll come here?” Tanna asked.
said; “Well, I don’t bet against a man showing three kings. And I sure
don’t bet against a man with nothin’ left to lose. They’ll be comin’,
like screamwings to a howlin’ dog.”
get the girls.”
done,” Sam said. “Sorry you stayed?”
smiled, walked over to Sam, and kissed the gangle-limbed man.
wouldn’t have missed it, Sam.”
she put out the light, and together, the two walked out the door.
wheezed, his lungs taking a deep breath for the first time in hours. If it
weren’t for the fact he desperately needed the oxygen, he’d have gagged on
the sewer stench.
de boy wakes at last.” Graydon heard an accented voice say. He tried to open
his eyes and was surprised to find they opened easily. He felt the warmth of
clothing on his skin, and looked down, seeing the faded bloodstains that had
refused to wash out. The clothing had a familiar look…
belonged to de sec-man you chill in de jail,” said the voice. Simon sat up,
found that his head was bandaged when he put his hands to his temples to fight
off the dizziness that hit him.
am I?” Simon asked. The voice laughed.
let de powdar run it’s course. Den, I will tell you what you want to know.”
Den try to move your legs.”
grinned at the challenge in the words, then the smile changed to a worried
frown. “What the fuck?” he exclaimed, realizing only now that he couldn’t
feel his legs, nor force them to move.
I said, let de powder run it’s course. Den we will talk.”
lay back down, feeling his body’s energy draining away. He could feel his
heart thundering in his chest, as his lungs began to breathe faster and
shallower, drawing in less air.
breathe…” he gasped. His eyesight, blurring again, saw only a shapeless form
appear before him. “Can’t…”
worry,” the voice said. “The dust is losing its strength. You’ll be dead
only for a little while.”
felt his heartbeat suddenly slow.
last conscious thought was that he now knew the accent.
sat back, putting down the book she had been reading.
mother had taught her the arcane art of literacy, and she had been proud of the
fact she could read and write. But as she read the books around her, stacked
twelve feet high, and covering the walls of this huge hundred-foot chamber, she
realized that her skills were woefully overrated.
had been reading a book entitled History
Of The Twentieth Century, and had marveled at the occurrences described
within, wars fought in lands far away, commonplace machines that flew, traveling
the world in a day. Medicines,
miracles and curses.
muties, no Barons, no sec-chiefs tramping in at night, taking your family away.
is, she thought that until she found the section pertaining to the communist
witch hunts, where the government took on the characteristics of it’s worst
enemy in weeding out anyone who didn’t fit in their version of American
she found herself looking for other people, blackhearts who had used their
power, and been used by it.
she found them.
began gathering books, using a card directory she had reasoned out how to use,
the tomes piling up on the table she had been reading at, spines revealing a
pile grew higher…
she began reading, finding out about the Barons and the pestholes and the
chillerfreaks that had lived over a hundred years before.
had been here for nearly a week.
you are, child.”
you, Mother,” Simon said, taking the proffered teacup, the porcelain
clattering slightly. The delicate, lovely black woman laughed, her teeth
flashing. Her dark eyes flashed too, joy within shining out.
have to talk, you and I,” she said, her laughter still in the air.
shivered suddenly. The air itself turned dark, a hint of smoke and cooking meat
on the edge of his tongue. He could feel the heat of a fire at his back, the
touch of hot sparks and soot on the back of his neck. He blinked, and for an
instant, he swore he could see others, faces dancing about like fireflies in the
corners of his eyes.
I gave Mary what I could, all the love I had for her. She faces trials now that
you cannot imagine, tortures and horrors and agonies that even a madman would
shy from.” Her hand moved up, almost touched his face. “You know that I am a
seer. I see things when I use the cards. Some use jolt to free their minds, some
use pain or sex to transcend their bodies. We all have something to give us
focus, some thing that frees us to see, yet anchors us so we may return to tell
what the future may hold.” Her hand finally reached out, touched his cheek.
flesh was cool on his face, which had become hot from the fire. He saw soot
falling around them like black snow, clinging to her sleeve, coming to rest on
a time, you have transcended. You will
never come to this place again in life, so take what knowledge you can back.”
pain grows within her now, becomes a part of her. She tries to ignore it,
thinking that she is sick. Her dreams scream like the air about her. She drinks
water and sweats flesh and blood. She eats more and more, but grows thin.”
needs focus. She must be made to come back, to tell what she has seen.”
heat had grown greater, and Graydon felt his hair, swaying in the hot breeze
beginning to singe, the blackness of the curling strands matching the black
flakes that grew thicker.
must give her focus…or the Baron will…”
fire roared, and her voice began to fade.
arms and legs hurt, throbbing as the flames began to burn him.
watched as the flames raced past him, licking along like it followed a trail of
gas, running up her legs, he watched her begin to burn, face melting, hair
flaring up like a halo…
heart slammed in his chest.
skin began to blister.
man in a ragged cowl looked down on the man swathed in blankets, covered in
greasy sweat. A fire burned near him, the steel pot that held it sending beams
of red-gold light through the holes punched in it for air.
cowled man turned his head, looked into a single green eye.
emerald eye blinked once.
Simon Graydon, man from the past, opened his eyes and screamed out:
head jerked up from where she had laid it, sleep swept away from her like dust
before an approaching storm.
had dreamed. She had heard a voice, so clearly that she looked around.
Baron’s eyes widened as he watched Mary sleep. The readings from the
instruments showed a sudden temperature rise, even as the EEG monitor showed a
spike that nearly shot off the screen.
the video, Mary sat up.
moved stiffly, every muscle in his body aching from the convulsions that wracked
them from time to time. The stench of the sewers had faded away, his body
acclimatizing itself to the noxious fumes. His hands trembled, one, gloved in
heavy leather resting on the moss smeared wall, the other holding aloft a
guttering torch, made from drifting wood and old, oil-soaked rags. A tattered
blanket draped his shoulders.
stood in ankle deep water, though damp water marks showed that the water had
been much higher not that long before. He noted the charred rat carcasses that
looked up, the tendons of his neck standing out as he fought the exhaustion that
pulled at him, his eyes blood-shot and glazed.
much longer,” he panted, causing his companion of the past few days to pause.
turned, his green eye glittering in the darkness, while the other eye gleamed
dully as light reflected from the cataract that blinded it. He shook his head.
hadn’t really expected an answer anyway. The green-eyed man, called Zeb by the
never spoke, only grunted. He’d only asked so that Zeb would hold
up, and let him catch his breath.
had only been awake for a day and a half.
had been down here for a week.
Mary suffered at the hands of Baron Ryker.
fear he felt drove him up, off the cot of rags and straw that the Skulkers had
built for him when he had been brought down here. He had stumbled around,
looking like a new-born colt taking it’s first steps. He’d heard laughter,
and felt anger rising, temporarily driving the weakness away.
he stood steady for those few short seconds, his fists clenched and eyes
glaring, the laughter quickly choked off.
his mind back to the present, he watched as Zeb pulled aside a piece of
near-rotted plywood, revealing a narrow passage.
pointed, first at Graydon, then at the tunnel.
he turned, and limped off into the darkness, disappearing before Simon could say
Gritting his teeth, he pulled the ragged blanket around himself tighter, and holding the torch before him, proceeded into the unknown.
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