Two Worlds – Chapter 253

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor

 

<Relax.> Coop tried to focus his mind on the task at hand.

It was hard to concentrate when he was surrounded by shit.

Literally, him and a squad of rebellion soldiers were stuffed into the back of a truck hauling shit to a fertilizer plant…or at least that was the cover story if they ran across any checkpoints before their target. It was also the beauty of the disguise, because who is going to look closely at a truck full of shit.

<Don’t breathe,> he told himself. Despite all his enhanced body could do, he couldn’t survive without oxygen.

After a few minutes of holding it, he screwed up his face and inhaled. He was wearing a mask, one identical to what he’d worn back in the PHA a lifetime ago, so he knew how well it would work. It blocked out some of the noxious fumes, but he could still taste the shit as the air worked its way down into his lungs.

He fought down a gag and studied the men and women around him. He didn’t like what he saw. <They’re so small,> was his dominant thought. He took for granted he was used to working with professionals. HI troopers and the SRRT were beasts of the human race, usually standing at least two and a quarter meters tall, and built like tanks. Since he’d actually seen a tank in action, he knew the analogy was appropriate.

The tallest man in his ramshackle unit was a hundred and seventy centimeters and couldn’t be more than eighty-five kilos soaking wet. At least they all had on Dragonscale armor, even if it wasn’t sized properly and looked awkward on them. Better awkward than dead.

Coop felt just as awkward sitting in the back with them. His V4 LACS was deadlined until an armorer could get in and make some repairs. Since SSG Hightower was the team’s certified armorer, Coop was shit out of luck. Instead, he was in a standard set of Dragonscale.

Up until this point, he’d liked it when women wore short shirts that showed off their toned abs, hips, and maybe a little side boob, but now, he wondered why they didn’t feel completely naked. The armor barely went to his own belly button, which left his intestines, and other critical organs, vulnerable to enemy fire. The GYSGT had jerry-rigged a fanypack-looking contraption over his gut and filled it with the ballistic plates that were tucked into the compartments of his CMUs for protection. The only problem was, the plates they had weren’t meant for someone his size, so despite being the biggest, strongest, and most experienced person in the impromptu-squad, he was the least protected.

That was a whole new feeling for him. He hadn’t felt this vulnerable since Basic.

He pulled on his flexible neck gator to alleviate some of the built-up heat. He’d been smart not to seal his armor just yet. If he did, he’d seal in the stench as well.

“Two minutes, passing phase line alpha” the GYSGT’s voice echoed over the team’s comms.

“You heard her. Let’s lock and load,” Coop pulled up his new Buss and ran a quick diagnostic. The weapon was a model older than what he’d lost in the Windsor ambush, and didn’t have all the features he was used to working with.

<Stop complaining,> he admonished himself. <It has a decent targeting suite and still shoots, that’s good enough for this mission.> His HUD beeped green, but he kept the weapon on safe until they were good to go.

One by one the members of the squad gave him a thumbs up. They were all armed with M3s, which was better than the crap they’d had before. When everyone was green, he radioed their readiness to the GYSGT. She was in charge of the overall operation. Coop was just in charge of one of the moving parts.

“Let’s go over this one last time,” he ordered as the truck hit a bump and everyone was jostled around.

“We’re been over this a hundred times before,” the person next to him whined like a little girl.

For the life of him, Coop didn’t understand why the GYSGT had put Masha Kulikov on his team. The skinny man belonged on a university campus somewhere with a holo-sign protesting something or other. He didn’t belong on a battlefield. Coop knew that the second the other man didn’t properly handle his weapon.

<The farmer’s daughter even knew how to do that.> He’d rolled his eyes at the time.

Masha was a man of words not action, and getting him involved with action was likely to get him killed. Since he was one of the rebellion’s leaders, he felt it was his duty to act, so it became Coop’s duty to keep his ass alive. That was a tall order with what their part of the operation entailed.

All across the sector multiple operations were going to hit the enemy simultaneously. They would by no means cripple the Windsor’s ability to wage war on the planet, but it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be a message that the planet’s populace wasn’t going to sit down and take this unlawful occupation and annexation. It was also meant to test their response. The rebellion had people in position to watch and see how the Windsor’s reacted. Their reaction would prove valuable intel in planning the next attack, and the one after that. Eventually, when the Commonwealth fleet arrived, the GYSGT and rebel leaders hoped to have enough intel to cripple vital aspects of the Windsor’s defense so the infantry could come in and liberate the planet.

<Or at least that’s the plan,> Coop thought everyone was getting a little ahead of themselves. They needed to live through the next five minutes first.

“Passing phase line Bravo. We’re all clear,” the driver of the shit truck announced as the truck started to round a corner.

“Go!” Coop hit the button.

Micro-explosions busted open the back of the truck. Semi-solid shit slopped out onto the roadway along with the members of his strike team. The truck kept going for a few more meters as the driver engaged the auto-drive and bailed out.

On the other side of the turn, about twenty-five meters further was a roadblock manned by Windsor soldiers. It was one of four that barred anyone unauthorized from getting to one of the main powerplants that provided energy to a nearby city. It wasn’t the capitol, that would be too bold for their first joint operation, but it was an ambitious target nonetheless.

Coop could imagine what was happening as the driverless truck completed the turn and picked up speed. It couldn’t pick up a lot of momentum in twenty-five meters, but every kilometer per hour counted. It took a few seconds before the soldiers realized the truck wasn’t stopping and they opened fire on the hostile vehicle. Unfortunately, there was only so much they could do against sheer mass and momentum.

There were only a handful of cracks before a monstrous boom shook the ground Coop was busy rising off of. In addition to fresh shit, the truck was packed with explosives.

“Let’s move!” Coop was the first up and charging around the corner. Twenty-five meters wasn’t much, and before the enemy had even recovered from the shock of the explosion, he was among them.

The acrid smell of the explosion mixed with the smell of burnt shit permeated everything. To make matters worse, smoldering shit was everywhere. It might seem random, but there was a method to the madness. The shit had been flying so fast, anything shielded would have stopped the flying poopoo in midair. As Coop vaulted a cracked and crumbling barrier, he knew right away who was shielded and who wasn’t. An even better plus was that those who were shielded, and therefore the deadliest to deal with, had to spend precious second trying to scrape off the crap impeding their view.

If Coop was in their position, he would have turned up the shield’s power and frequency so it blocked out everything, even air at a fart’s speed from getting through. Unfortunately for these poor bastards, but fortunately for Coop, he was better trained then they were.

A scan of the area showed Coop that only one soldier, probably the commander, and the heavy weapon on top of a lightly armored vehicle were shielded, so he quickly lobbed two grenades through the weakened barrier and aimed his Buss at the nearest enemy. The guy was on his knees, struggling to get back to his feet when Coop sprayed him with plasma-tipped rounds.

His armor held surprisingly well before the explosive plasma ate through his vulnerable neck area and the man died with a screamed gurgle. By then, Coop was already moving for cover while the rest of the rebels engaged the other soldiers.

That was when his timed grenades went off. The heavy weapon had only fired a short burst when it was engulfed in flames. The metal of the barrel warped under the explosive pressure as the man behind it was pulverized and nearly pureed by the rebounding pressure of the explosion ricocheting off the shields.

The commander was probably midway through calling for backup when his grenade exploded and tossed him aside. Looking at him, Coop wasn’t sure if he was dead, but if he wasn’t, he was hurting bad. Either way, he was down for the count, and Coop turned his attention to the remaining Windsor’s.

They only had a fire team guarding the checkpoint, and without their shielded commander and heavy weapon, they were quickly overwhelmed by the rebels. They might have held their own longer if Coop wasn’t hitting them from within their lines with his powerful Buss. Within forty-five seconds of the initial explosion it was all over.

“Sit-rep!” He yelled as he started his after-action mission. He needed to grab any intel and weapons he could get his hands on.

He instantly went to the lightly-armored vehicle. It was open, but bio locked. He jumped in the open-bed back and grabbed one of the gunner’s dismembered hands. He put it on the control panel and everything turned green.

<Well isn’t this my lucky day.> It had been a long time since he’d committed grand theft auto.

The follow up vehicle with back up rebels appeared around the curb and stopped story of the ruined barricade. Another squad jumped out and started grabbing things as well. Medics also headed to help their wounded friends. The short burst the heavy weapon had fired off had killed and mangled some rebels.

Coop started up the vehicle and it lurched off the ground. It wasn’t smooth, his grenade had fucked something up, but an armored vehicle was an armored vehicle, and one with anti-grav to boot. The rebels desperately needed one.

“Put the wounded in the back,” he ordered as the medics started helping the injured to their feet. “Ten seconds and we’re out of here.”

These things had to be done quickly. It wouldn’t take long for orbital support to be brought into the equation, and that just meant death for anyone caught in the open.

There was a lot of clattering as people, weapons, and tech as the vehicle was loaded up. It was a little more than ten seconds, but when the sensor indicating the back was closed blinked green, he hit the accelerator. There was a hidden tunnel about five kilometers away that he hoped was big enough to fit the vehicle.

<Now all we need to do was get there.> Coop was not a man of prayer, but he thought this was as good a time to try as any. <The friend or foe indicator is still good, so that might buy us a minute.> He thought as he sped down the highway.

Who knew, if there was a creator, he’d probably just see a bright light and meet him face to face.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 245

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Argo, United Commonwealth of Colonies

{On your right!}

Coop’s breath was ragged as he finished off one opponent. He was lightly armed in something similar to Dragonscales. It would have been simple enough to put a few plasma-tipped rounds from his Buss into the guy, but the shields made that a non-starter.

<Fucking shields!> Coop was still pissed as he rotated as fast as he could. He had only enough time to see a wall of red, set his feet, and bring his arm up before it felt like Atlas dropped the world on his shoulders. <Son of a …>

Even in the newly improved LACS V4A, the biggest individual war machine in the Commonwealth’s arsenal, the Windsor’s mech still towered over him by a few meters. With the disparaging mass difference, Coop was just glad his arm didn’t snap and allow the mech to cleave him in two. He still had to put all his augmented strength behind the block, and if the angle was worse, the mech would have easily overpowered him.

The ground still cracked around him from the force of the blow. Pain radiated through his shoulders, down his spine, and into his knees. Coop knew he needed to move fast, so he reacted based on training. He used the mech’s height and mass to his advantage. He twisted, which caused a painful pop in his back, but it allowed the mech’s giant nano-blade to slide off his own sword and into the ground. Using his core Coop spun and chopped at the mech’s midsection. His blade sang through the air, but came to an abrupt stop a few centimeters from the mech’s rust-colored armor.

“Fucking shields!” Coop repeated as he pushed against the flashing blue barrier. The shield gave under the pressure, but not enough to pierce the armor.

Thankfully, the tech wizards at Gold Technologies had studied the recordings they had from New Lancashire, and the recent offensive mounted by the Windsor’s, and they’d come up with a counter. Coop activated that counter through his IOR a second after his nano-blade made contact with the shield.

The developers called it the chainsaw feature. Coop didn’t get it, and when they explained how the devices were used to cut down trees centuries ago, Coop still didn’t get it. He hadn’t seen a tree for the first time in nearly two decades, and he didn’t see the point of a cutting instrument when you could just fire a clear laser-burst and cut it at the base more efficiently. His comments sufficiently rained on the engineers’ parade, but they eventually explained the gist of it to him, and he got to see it himself while testing his new V4.

Through some mechanical process utilizing the power of the LACS’ miniature gluon power plant, and some grav-tech, the molecularly-honed edge of the nano-blade had been configured to spin. The high-speed rotation created the sawing motion that sought to disrupt the integrity of the enemy shields. It was a pretty sweet technique, and he had quickly fallen in love with it.

A slight whirring noise filled the air as Coop activated chainsaw mode through his IOR. The mech’s shield sparked brighter and there was infrequent resistance as Coop applied pressure. The shield still held for about three seconds, before the new and improved nano-blade made it through. Of course, the mech didn’t just lie down and take it up the ass while Coop was trying to fuck up its day. Coop’s blade had barely eaten a centimeter into the mech’s armor when the behemoth swatted at Coop like he was an irritating fly. Since Coop was holding the blade with both hands to maximize the power he put into the chop, all he could do was duck his head and raise his shoulder to avoid his skull taking the brunt of the blow.

It worked, but it felt like God bitch-slapped him. He lost the blade, which was still wedged into the mech’s armor, but he was able to execute a combat roll and look somewhat graceful. In doing so, his mind whirled with possibilities. He liked to think he was quick on his feet, and this time, he had a plan just as he got his feet back under him.

<The IOR might be a pain in the ass while walking down the street, but it’s good for at least two things: porn and quick decision making.> Since the IOR basically recorded everything you ever did, unless you subverted the settings, Coop had a wonderful first-person recording of his trip to pound town with Eve. Since they were on opposite teams, opposite shifts, and opposite anything else the SGM could think of, it had kept him sane for the last few days.

At the moment, it was the quick decision making aspect that he was referencing. Using the IOR, Coop toggled to his weapons system, activated his spine-mounted 250mm cannon, and had a round chambered when he came out of the roll. He braced himself upon completion, which made him look like a kneeing man offering up his neck to the mech’s sword, but what it really did was angle the cannon right on target. Through the LACS sensors interfacing with the IOR, Coop didn’t have to look where the face of his suit was directed. He could have been aiming out the ass section if he needed to.

The mech had wheeled on Coop, and wasn’t bothering to take Coop’s blade out of its side. It knew the real threat was Coop, with him out of the picture, the mech could take the blade back to its armory and learn the secrets of the chainsaw function.

<Maybe another time.> Coop sent the command to fire, and the HE round shot from his cannon. At the same time, he activated his ES shielding. The nanites of his armor fused on a molecular level just as the HE round impacted the mech. Due to Coop’s position, and the height difference, an inferno erupted right around the mech’s crotch area.

“Endex!” the voice of God announced.

The dusty plain Coop had been fighting in dissolved around him to reveal a black VR station. Coop took a deep breath and squeezed his fists tight together. He’d just gone from mortal combat with a Windsor’s mech to sitting alone in a quiet space. The VR crash was unavoidable, but he had found ways to cope over the year since he’d been in the infantry.

He flexed and opened his fist a few times before shaking his whole body like a wet dog. Once his breathing was back under control he got up and exited the cube. There were two in Argo’s grunt country, and the SGM had battle buddy teams rotating through them to test their new LACS features since they couldn’t do it in the real world.

“Cooper!” GYSGT Cunningham’s voice cut through the adrenaline that was slowly fading from his veins. “What the fuck was that?”

“I was staying alive, Gunney,” Coop replied a little harsher than he should have to his team leader.

“The exercise parameters stipulated you were only to use your new nano-blades.” The Gunney crossed her arms under her impressive chest and glared at him. “We want to get a good baseline on where you are with your swordsmanship, where you need improvement, and the new weapon’s effectiveness against the enemy.

Coop thought the last one was a stretch since they were doing it in VR, but he knew they were loaded with the latest and greatest data the Commonwealth had on Windsor tech. What he’d just been through was the closest he was going to get to a mech without facing off against an actual one again.

<I’ll pass.> He had no intention of doing that again if he could help it.

“I can help you with that,” Coop continued. “The chainsaw feature is good, but unless three other team members are holding the guy down, we’re not going to have time to saw through his shield and armor. It’s a good try by the Gold tech weenies, and it’ll fuck up the Windsor’s regular troops, but the mechs are still going to be a tough nut to crack.”

The Gunney scowled back at him, but her eyes unfocused for a minute before she sighed in defeat. “I’ll give you your formal review later. You have bridge guard duty in ten minutes. Get suited up and hit the armory.”

Coop didn’t need to be told twice. It would have been nice to get a shower, and not stink up the place, but there wasn’t any time. He walked the short distance to the armory where SSG Hightower was on duty. He signed out an oversized Dragonscale vest to him, and then an M3. The guard duty was largely a traditional, ceremonial deal. If shit really went down, the rest of the SRRT team would have time to suit up with their specialty gear before the enemy arrived.

“Ma’am,” he passed the LT in the corridor and greeted her with a salute. It was the first time he’d seen her today, so he’d just give her respectful nods from here forward.

“Good morning, Sergeant.” It was only a little after 0900 shipboard time. Coop had been up since 0400, but the officers didn’t keep to the same schedule. If anything, the LT looked like she hadn’t slept yet.

The SRRT’s new mission, since dropping off the diplomats at Thurgood Station, was a recon of an enemy occupied system. Harper’s Junction was one of the systems taken in the Windsor’s latest offensive move, and it was the SRRT’s job to go get up-to-date intel on ship disposition as well as troops on the ground, and civilian resistance efforts before the Commonwealth Fleet showed up and fought to retake commonwealth soil. There was no word on when the counterattack would come, but Coop hoped the warring politicians in the midst of election season could put their differences aside and come at a mutual enemy as a unified force.

<Might as well wish for a blowie from the Gunney.> Coop thought he had a better chance at that, despite the GYSGT batting for the other team, than politicians getting along.

He reached his post next to the bridge hatch and settled in for the next few hours. He slung the weapon across his chest, muzzle down, and made sure a round was loaded but the weapon was on safe. He did the same for the sidearm on his leg holster. Both were good to go.

That left Coop alone with nothing but his thoughts. The bridge was pretty quiet. Argo was taking a roundabout route to where they would portal out of the system and to Harper’s Junction. They’d portal into a nearby system and then jump with their Alcubierre Drive into Harper’s Junction because there was no QE signal to lock on to. Gold Technologies had sent one of their buoys, but they’d received a self-destruct message before losing the signal two days ago. That added days to their timetable, but it didn’t affect their mission much.

Once they arrived at the edge of the enemy-held system, they’d spend a while coasting in ballistic at maximum stealth. They knew the Windsor’s ship had state of the art tech, but with Argo’s own upgrades, and the extra precautions, LCDR Gold thought they’d be able to pull it off. Once they were close, the SRRT would beam down to the planet and link up with the local resistance. They’d gather intel from the ground while Argo did the same for the space surrounding the planet.

This was the part Coop didn’t like. It was the LT and LCDR’s call if the SRRT team came back to Argo or stayed on planet and worked with the resistance until the fleet showed up. Coop didn’t want to be on an enemy-held world one second longer than he had to. It didn’t matter how fancy his gear. He’d read up on Harper’s Junction once he learned that was where they were going. The population wasn’t overly fond of Commonwealth governance before they got annexed, and he sensed they wouldn’t be fans now.

He just shook his head at no one in particular in Argo’s empty corridor. <Well I might as well have a little fun,> he thought as he pulled up his IOR, subverted some of the settings with the code he’d been working on for a while, and pulled up some recordings of him and Eve from memory. To anyone checking in on him, it would look like he was religiously scanning the corridor for hostiles. When in actuality he was watching Eve’s tits bouncing beneath him as they made ferocious love to one another.

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PCS to Eden – D is for Defense

Ava grunted as she kept the gateway between Charlotte and Lower Manhattan open. She could feel her power draining fast from her Hand as her two companies of guardians quickly marched through the eighteen-wheeler sized hole in space-time she’d created. Once the last man was through, Ava stepped through the gateway and released the hold she had on it. There was a loud SNAP as reality sought to correct itself, and when she looked back behind her all she saw was traffic. The traffic was backed up as far as she could see.

Ava heard a few people screaming, but that was normal when two hundred armored angels suddenly appeared. The gateway had also done some damage. The abandoned cars spanning several lanes of traffic had been neatly cleaved in two by the energy from the gateway. If they had been occupied the humans would have been split and cauterized into two well-preserved halves, but the owners of those cars were long gone. The human’s primal instincts were kicking in, and they were running away from danger.

The gateway had landed well back from where the bridge met the water, but the bridge itself didn’t end there. It extended almost to city hall before off ramps let cars disembark, and there were multiple layers of overpasses to deal with. Tactically it was a nightmare. Ava couldn’t just order a defensive line on one street to help stop the Infernals, she was going to have to layer her defense, which meant spreading her already thin forces even farther apart.

“On me,” she yelled and flapped her wings to gain altitude. Her soldier followed her and the air filled with angels. She didn’t bother to use the energy to go insubstantial. There wasn’t any point anymore. Archangels were doing battle close by, so a flock of normal sized angels wasn’t too out of the ordinary.

All of that was about to change. Elevation gave Ava some perspective of the battlefield so she could make her decisions. “I want a defensive line on FDR Drive from the Manhattan Bridge down to the Staten Island Ferry.” Ava hung in the air and gave orders. “Give me one hundred meter spacing along the Drive. The bridges are going to be natural choke points, so I want layered defenses there. Use the abandoned vehicles to create natural barriers. Anything we can do to bottleneck and slow the enemy down is going to be advantageous. We need multiple fall back positions leading all the way back to Park Row, and we need to be prepared for spillage onto side streets  like South, Pearl, Gold and Madison if enemy elements get past our initial defensive positions. We need to get this place warded and warded yesterday.”

The guardians in command of squad-sized elements nodded and went about executing those orders. The formation of flying angels broke apart and individuals started to land along the prescribed lines. Their bodies swelled and grew until they’d transformed into their combat forms. An intimidating line of twenty-foot, armored soldiers grew out of the abandoned cars, which they began to push around like Hot Wheels.

Within minutes a makeshift wall of metal stood between the East River and FDR Drive. It wouldn’t stop anything, but it would slow the enemy down. With that task complete, the guardians went to work on their defensive circles. One by one, the guardians stuck the tip of their flaming swords into the cement and slowly drew a circle of fire around themselves. The soldiers’ eyes were clamped shut in concentrations as they chanted and drew wards in the air around themselves. Those wards solidified in the air around them, becoming just as substantial as the cars they’d built the wall with, and as more time passed more wards began to surround them.

Angels were some of the finest soldiers in existence, and a key part of their defensive doctrine was creating a circle of power they could draw from in the middle of a fight. The circle could either be fixed or movable, with each method trading strengths and weaknesses. Ava and her guardians had been unable to use their defensive circle techniques in either of the battle around Charlotte because they required time to establish. As a mainly reactive force, the Divine Host didn’t get to utilize one of their most potent techniques as often as its soldiers wished.

Ava watched her troops establish their circles as she grew into her own combat form. She stopped her growth as thirty feet, because anymore was just going to single her out as a target. She knew her true from was nearly tripple that. The power that came with being a Power was much more than she was used to as a Dominion, and she needed to use it responsibly.

The Hand was still recharging, but she knew something she could do to help. The guardians assigned to the Brooklyn Bridge didn’t have nearly as much to room to work with as the ones along FDR Drive. They were position two abreast from where the bridge met land all the way back to Pearl Street. It was a solid defensive tactic. When the two guardians exhausted their power or were in fear of being overwhelmed they would step back and two fresh soldiers would take their place. That meant there would always be fresh soldiers fighting against the Infernal’s bottlenecked force, and if the enemy abandoned pushing against the strong defense here, Ava could pull soldiers from the back of the formation as a rapid response force to reinforce other weaker areas.

Ava landed between the first line of guardians working on their defensive circles and the ten-foot-high wall of cars that had been piled up to block the bridge’s path into Manhattan. She extended the Hand out in front of her and said a few select words. The air shimmered in front of her and began to undulate like the water of the East River below them. With a grunt of exertion she pressed and the shimmering barrier expanded to five feet thick and to the height of the car-wall.

The Hand puttered out as she ran out of æther, but she was satisfied with her work. The two guardians first in line to meet the enemy grinned at each other when they saw the barrier. It was something beyond their skill and power, but it would allow them to deal the Infernals crippling blow after crippling blow if they continued to assault this position. Ava just wished she could have put the barrier along her entire defensive line.

“Enemy spotted, one thousand meters and closing!” Bart’s voice rang out from where he’d positioned himself on the top of a tall building just to the right of the bridge.

The wind shifted and the smell of rot, sulfur, and madness washed over Ava and the rest of the guardians. Unlike the soldiers of Seere they’d faced earlier, Beelzebub’s minions were twisted forms of humanity that had been driven over the edge long ago. They didn’t care about anything except the most animal of needs, and they were driven by half-crazed generals that knew defeat meant eons being pulled apart and reassembled by their Lord. That meant they were ruthless and without mercy.

Ava knew this was going to turn into a bloodbath as the bridge began to rumble beneath her feet as thousands of stampeding hooves, talons, paws, and feet charged towards her position. As much as she knew she shouldn’t be right here on the front lines she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to strike the first blow against the invading Infernals.

<For Maria,> she told herself as the flames of her sword licked against the asphalt making it bubble. She didn’t have a defensive circle established, but she didn’t need one.

Heavy footsteps drew her attention back to the wall of cars just before it exploded outward. Something powerful had hit them from the other side and just kept on going until it hit the barrier she’d established. The barrier didn’t stop anything dead in its tracks, but it wasn’t designed to do that. A full barrier took a lot of energy and tended to wear out quickly as it was pounded away on. If something powerful enough came along they could simply shatter it and leave something or someone completely defenseless. Ava didn’t want that, so she pulled on her knowledge, experience, and greater power to do one better.

The ten foot high by five foot thick barrier was a time-distortion field. Anything caught in the field slowed down to one-tenth of its normal speed, so that creature that had just charged through the car-wall had gone from a sprinting beast to a something crawling at somewhat slower than a walk. Ava gave the beast one quick once over to see where to deal the most damage. It had an armored hide, but it was natural armor, not Infernal Iron. Its legs looked thin and week, but it had a lot of them, like a centipede, to keep it up and moving.

Ava took one step forward and pivoted, torqueing her core in a swing that had more in common with a baseball swing than a sword fight. The creature was till moving at a crawl when Ava’s sword made contact. The hide held for half a heartbeat before it began to scorch and weaken under the flame. Then the blade pierced the flesh. Ava’s blade was not constrained by the same warped reality that she’d created in the field, so her sword finished passing through and killing the creature just as the blood splatter began to explode out of its side, and the force of her attack picked the thing up off its feet.

It wasn’t until it cleared the distortion field at the edge of the bridge that it practically exploded with gore out into the East River and down onto FDR Drive, but by then the next set of enemies had already entered the field and died as Ava reversed her swing and slashed back through the area. Infernals died by the half dozen with each swing of her sword. It was like shooting fish in a tea cup with a shotgun.

She only took a few swipes with her blade before she stepped back from the distortion field. Steam was hissing away as her blade’s fire burned off the gore from her vanquished enemies. The two guardians first in line looked eager to get in on the action and they began to chop, stab, and slice into the field as more enemies poured into it.

“On your right!” someone yelled before something hard smacked into Ava’s helmet.

She caught herself on the bridge and heard the scuttling of something sharp against her helmet. Her hand darted up, but grasped nothing but air. The scuttling continued as she tried to catch whatever was on her helmet, until finally there was a screeching noise followed by a loud bellow. Whatever was attacking her had tried to scratch through her Divine Steel helmet, and likely injured itself. Ava took advantage of the things pain, but this time she didn’t try to reach for it and grab it. Instead, she smacked herself hard in the side of the head. The clang of metal on metal rang in her ears for a second, but there was also a satisfying squish. She pulled her hand back and it came away with dripping, black, tar-like blood.

She didn’t get any time to celebrate.

“FDR Drive to your left!” Bart relayed coordinates where her guardians needed assistance.

Ava looked over the side of the bridge and saw the enemy streaming down away from her barrier. They’d quickly adapted to her tactics and were taking the route of least resistance right into her waiting guardians, but it was easily fifty-to-one odds, and Ava needed to plug the gaps.

Without hesitation, Ava went insubstantial and sunk down through the bridge, only to shift back into reality as she hit FDR Dive below. She saw the flaw as she looked up. For every Infernal advancing on top of the bridge there was one crawling along the metalwork below it. There were easily a hundred enemies already dropping off and landing to engage her guardians.

“Hold the line!” she yelled and cut down two Infernals that got to close to her flaming blade.

She was going to have to rethink the disposition of her soldiers, and was about to call out new orders when the ground rumbled beneath her feet. The whole island seemed to sway as the earthquake hit, but Ava knew Manhattan didn’t have earthquakes. She looked over her shoulder back in the direction of Central Park, but couldn’t see much over the buildings between her and where the Archangels were fighting the Infernal Lord.

The ground rumbled again, and Ava hoped Michael and Gabriel were winning, but she didn’t have time to wonder. More Infernals were pressing forward. She had her own work cut out for her here.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 214

Noah Grisham

Location: Savannah City, New Savannah, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Move your skinny chicken legs!” Able huffed as he scraped his head against the top of the tunnel. “Stupid fuckin…”

“Shut the fuck up,” Noah hissed back. The small, skinny pirate captain had no problem navigating the tunnels built for normal men. Clearly, the New Savannah Liberation Movement hadn’t planned far enough ahead and considered someone with military-grade augmentations might be in their secret tunnels with them.

<Or maybe they have.> Noah wondered. After all, if it was giving Able a hard time it was certainly inconveniencing whoever was chasing them; assuming they were Commonwealth. In the end, Noah didn’t give two shits who it was. Dead was dead no matter who pulled the trigger.

“We’re almost there,” one of their two local guides said as he made a sharp right hand turn.

An explosive soundwave roared past them just as they made the turn. Dust shook from the roof and clouded the passageway in front of them, but Noah was more concerned with the chunks of soil that broke loose. Whoever built this place knew what they were doing, but knowing what you were doing, and dealing with grenades detonating in your carefully designed space were two very different things.

<I try to sell some guys some RPGs and this is the trouble I get.> Noah huffed as they reached the end of the tunnel. It was a steel plate with a mechanism on the side identical to what had hid the tunnel back in the suburban basement. One of their guides punched in the code to open it, while the other discretely kept an eye on Noah and Able. Everyone was armed, but no one was pointing weapons at each other just yet.

<They got cocky.> Noah concluded as the steel plate swung forward on soundless, well-oiled hinges and into some type of warehouse. The other side of the plate was a shelf filled with chemicals.

When Noah sold the revolutionaries the data on the tracked air-cars, he didn’t think twice about it. He made a hundred grand easy, and the revolutionaries got to fight their little war. Noah never expected it to go so well, and that was the silver lining to the whole deal. When a group blew all their big guns on an attack that was successful, then they wanted more big guns, and who better to ask first than the man that gave them the critical intel in the first place. Noah, or Able as the pretend captain, had a good reputation now.

The problem was that the revolutionaries were now rushing things and making mistakes. Noah always thought it was a little convenient that one of the rocket teams made it back unscathed when the other three teams got blown into little, meaty pieces. That was why he refused to meet in the house itself in the first place. He needed to insulate himself from all of this liberation movement business. He was simply supplying a much-needed good, nothing more and nothing less.

The Commonwealth soldiers wouldn’t care who was a revolutionary and who was their arms dealer when they caught up with them, so for the moment, Noah and the revolutionaries’ goals were in sync. But once they weren’t, he was getting the hell off this humid rock. Things were getting too hot for him now. He’d have to follow up on his leads into who stiffed him another way.

“Shit.” Able grumbled, as the small group picked their way through barrels of chemicals toward an exit. “Smitty’s down.”

Noah leaned over as Able tilted his wrist-secured PAD toward him. The PAD had the vital signs of everyone on Noah’s crew identified in tiles that could be expanded to reveal more data. The tile with Smitty’s name on it was flatlined and grayed out. Since Smitty had stayed back to secure their retreat, that meant whoever was barring the Commonwealth’s way was out of action.

Noah growled to himself as workers at the chemical factory gave a nod to the revolutionaries passing through them. It seemed the liberation’s ideals had seeped into some of the planet’s workforce, or the movement’s success in killing high ranking planetary officials was finally allowing people to voice their complaints for the first time. Again, Noah didn’t give two shits. What this meant was that he was surrounded by a group of potential hostiles. The revolutionaries could easily turn on him and Noah and that would be the end of it.

His oh-shit-o-meter pinged even louder when a small group of armed people entered from the very exit they were heading toward. These people did not look like the kind who wanted to be friends. The scattering factory workers were proof of that.

Noah caught Able’s attention with a tug on his smartlcoth. The big mercenary raised an eyebrow, which Noah replied with a glance to his gun, followed by a glance at the two guides, and finally a glance to a different exit. Able caught the drift immediately and smiled. This was why he was here after all.

“We’re going to need a place to lay low.” Able engaged the guides in conversation, while simultaneously stepping forward to get in a better position.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got several…” that was as far as the guide got before Able whipped out his trusty sidearm in a practiced motion, and put a high-velocity round through the man’s temple.

The guide’s head seemed to vaporize as the projectiles hit it with such force it popped like a balloon. But that wasn’t the best part. Able had lined up his shot so the bullet went through the first man’s head and directly into the second’s. The second guide’s head didn’t explode as fabulously as the first, but a big chunk of it was missing, and he was dead before he hit the ground and his brains sloshed out onto the floor.

Killing the guides was only phase one. Now they needed to get the hell out of there. The factory workers scattered. They might be sympathetic with the revolutionary’s cause, but they weren’t willing to die for it. The other group heading for them did the opposite. Weapons emerged from concealed holsters, and in one case, a rifle from under a trench coat. The group spread out to take cover as Able rounded on them to lay down suppressive fire. Noah’s mind calmly worked on an escape plan as he pulled his own pistol from the holster at the small of his back. He took aim at a bottle of some chemical on a shelf behind one of the new adversaries, but a glint of metal caught his eye.

“Able, cease fire!” Noah screamed before Able could get another shot off.

“What!?” The big guy’s reaction was classic Able, but if showed he was too busy targeting who to shoot than recognized who he was about to shoot.

“We’re dropping our weapons and coming out!” Noah yelled loudly and clearly to the group as he slowly got to his feet, dropped his pistol, and stood with his hands raised above his hands. “Do it, Able.” He hissed when the mercenary didn’t immediately follow suite.

They had a quick stare down as the other group quickly advanced and encircled them. Even if Able was going to fight, he’d be dead before he could get a few shots off. Able knew that, and his glare said as much. It wasn’t in the man’s nature to give up the initiative.

“Trust me,” Noah hissed.

Able gave a grumble, but eventually dropped his weapon and got to his feet with his hands above his head. The new group rushed over them and quickly secured them. They were rough, but that was to be expected. Noah and Able were physically patted down, wanded for any hidden sensors or systems, their PADs were confiscated, and they were put in restraints. All of this was done under the eye of a smoking hot woman with a gold badge affixed to her tactical vest.

At first glance, anyone would think this new group was cops, but Noah knew better. He’d operated in the Core Worlds several decades ago before teaming up with Able, which was why he was able to get the big guy from make a life-ending mistake. The golden badge was a roaring bear’s head with a sizable green emerald nestled in its jaws. Noah knew from experience that badge was worth twenty-five thousand dollars easily, and that the person wearing it was confident they could wear it openly and kill anyone who tried to take it.

“Let’s go,” the female leader instructed the group.

Able continued to grumble as black bags were placed over their heads. They took about a hundred steps, half of those outside the building, before being forced into a car. Noah did his best to count the seconds and turns that were made on their journey, but he lost count after twenty minutes of zig-zagging through the city, and one exchange. By the time they reached their destination, he didn’t have a clue where they were.

Wherever they had arrived was loud. It was full of women laughing. Noah caught a whiff of pheromone-laced perfumes and incense, which immediately gave him an chubby, and the jingle of gambling devices, followed by the occasional grunt of a man orgasming. Judging by the distance they walked while in the building, it was a very large establishment.

Despite all of the distracting sounds and smells, Noah caught the beeping of a security door being accessed. He wanted to tell Able to remain calm when they were violently thrust back into the light of the real world, but he just had to hope the big man kept his cool.

The two pirates were shoved roughly into chairs before the black bags came off, and bright lights overwhelmed their vision. Once Noah blinked away the yellow and white orbs that threatened to overwhelm his vision, he found himself staring down the barrel of a very large gun.

“Parley.” He stated calmly, looking around the gun at the person sitting in the high-backed chair at a table nearly overflowing with cash chips.

The person sitting behind the desk was a woman, a big woman. Not fat big, but tall and muscular. She was clearly someone who’d undergone physical enhancements…and in all the right places. She was a nearly flawless example of the female species. Noah thought nearly because he wasn’t into big women, and secondly, because of the scar that ran diagonally across her face. He had no doubt the person who’d done that was dead, but the old wound had clearly taken the woman’s eye. A mechanical, glowing orb sat in its place, and judging by the tightening of the fake-pupil, it was scanning him.

“Parley?” she laughed in a masculine baritone. “What makes you think a person like you deserves an honor like that?”

“Because I’m not some revolutionary liberation movement wannabe. My name is Noah Grisham, and I’m a captain, which gives me the right to parley. You can check me out. I was in the middle of a business transaction when I was rudely interrupted. First, by the cops, and second, by your men. My qualifications award me a parley at a minimum with an underboss.”

The woman’s eyebrow rose as Noah explained himself. She picked up her PAD and quickly did some research. If there was a time to make a break for it, it was when she was distracted, but Noah just sat there waiting patiently. Able looked a little restless, but half a dozen guns pointed at him settled him right down.

It only took the woman a minute to get the information she needed. “Hailey?” She asked the woman wearing the golden badge who’d led the contingent that brought them in.

“It looked like corpies,” the bombshell blonde with amber eyes answered. “They took out the safe house we were watching and smoked the insurgents out of their tunnels. I had the extraction team waiting at the exit, where these two popped two others before surrendering to us.”

“Who were the two they popped?”

“Confirmed liberation movement members,” Hailey answered.

“Well then, Mr. Grisham,” the underboss’ demeanor altered like someone had flipped a switch. “It seems thanks are in order.”

“What?” The woman’s sudden change, which was accompanied by sidearms being holstered throughout the room, was too much for Able to handle without opening his mouth.

“The New Savannah Liberation Movement killed individuals they were not allowed to kill.” Hailey responded for the woman behind the desk.

“The governor guy?” Able followed up.

“No, the six girls who were at the party and in those air-cars.” The underboss replied, and the temperature in the room dropped a few degrees.

“Wha…?” Able started again, but Noah cut him off.

“I’m sorry for your loss, but can I assume we’re safe for the time being?”

“Paying customers are always safe in my establishment.” There was special emphasis on the word paying.

Noah smiled, and inclined his head at Hailey. “How much for her?”

Hailey growled, but the underboss held up her hand and instantly silenced the younger, smaller woman. “A hundred thousand for the night.”

“Deal.” Noah smiled at the surprised expression on the two women’s faces. Clearly, they thought the number was big enough that he’d decline.

The underboss’ face recovered before Hailey’s. “Hailey, get in something more appropriate.” To the younger woman’s credit, she didn’t hesitate before leaving the room to prepare. “I’ve reserved Room three for you…for another twenty thousand.” The underboss made a play that betrayed her favoritism for the other woman.

“Fine by me.” Noah grinned and paid up. He was blowing all the cash he’d made from the revolutionaries’ intel purchase, but he didn’t give a shit. This Hailey woman had thrown a bag over his head, manhandled him, and brought him to this place against his will. Now it was time for her to pay.

“Noah, what the hell is happening?” Able kept his mouth shut until they were out of the back office and headed toward the reserved room.

They passed through an ornately-decorated lobby full of men ranging from handsome to fugly, but only beautiful women. The establishment had a tropical theme, which made sense given the planet, and the women were dressed appropriately skimpy. It didn’t matter that they were high priced whores.

Noah just gave the big mercenary a pat on the shoulder. The pirate captain didn’t hold Able’s lack of knowledge against him. Able had grown up under the stricter moral laws of the Maccabee Alliance, and then spent most of his criminal career in the Outer Rim, with the occasional jaunt into the Mid Worlds. His experience in the Core Worlds was limited, and he lacked the understanding of the well-oiled machine on mankind’s longest-settled planets. Even when it came to crime.

Noah pointed up to the roaring bear visage on the ceiling that could have been painted by Da Vinci himself. “It’s the symbol for Putinski Family Holdings. On paper they’re a legitimate business, but that is simply a front for one of the three biggest criminal syndicates in the Commonwealth.” Noah knew this because he’d done business with them once upon a time. “That’s why I didn’t let you shoot at them. We’re already on the Commonwealth’s shit list, also probably Gold Technologies’. Now, the liberation movement is going to want to kill us. The last thing I wanted was for PFH to be on our ass as well. If that was the case, we wouldn’t make the spaceport before someone scattered our brains all over the sidewalk.”

They arrived at his paid-for room, and he flipped a thousand-credit chip to Able. What he was going to do inside the room was for Noah’s eyes only, but he was going to make sure the big guy had some fun. Able smiled at the chip and wandered off to do whatever he wanted.

Noah pushed open the door, and came face to face with the finest, tightest ass modern medicine could create. He thought Hailey was naked for a second, but it turned out there was a barely noticeable G-String for his viewing pleasure. She looked over her shoulder with a smoldering ‘come hither’ look, but he could still see hate burning behind her eyes.

<Even better.> He directed for her to get on her knees and get to work.

Previous

Aftermath is out!

The exciting continuation of The Harbinger Tales Saga, Aftermath, is now available on amazon kindle! Get it for only $3.99 or for free on kindle unlimited. Read the synopsis below.

Once you finish, please take a moment to write a customer review. Every review helps promote the book, and I greatly appreciate them!

Enjoy!

GET IT HERE

Aftermath Cover

What’s next?

That’s what Sam Daily has been thinking for months. His wife, Elle, has been gone since their defeat of the Rogue Harbinger, Faultline, and he doesn’t know when she’s coming back. Stuck in a world he still doesn’t understand, with abilities he’s only begun to explore, Sam is forced to figure out how to live a normal life after the vicious battle that cost him more than he knows.

But no good deed goes unpunished. Unbeknownst to Sam, powerful people are stepping into the game, and they detest Sam and what he represents. Caught in the middle of their schemes, Sam must continue his fight to survive with new allies against cunning enemies.

Aftermath is the second book in The Harbinger Tales Saga.

PCS to Eden – Facts and Fiction

Gerry watched in awe at the aerial battle overhead. The things coming through the Rift in the sky were so high up they looked like birds, but people didn’t shoot missiles at birds. Contrails of fire shot upward to meet the aviary threat. He got a better look at the creatures hurtling through the Rift as they charged toward the missiles.

<They look like people with wings.> Something tugged at his memory, but rolling explosions sufficiently distracted him.

“Holy shit,” Vicky mumbled as they watched the fireworks display in the sky.

Some of the men with wings had gathered together. <Flying phalanx.> He gave the formation a name, and felt the tug of memory again.

Multiple missiles hit them and broke the formation. Other’s scattered before the missiles could target them, and his eyes automatically followed the largest one. The man was dipping and diving with something gleaming on his back. Gerry’s eyes focus on the gleam.

He felt his stomach drop as gravity seemed to shift. His eyes were drawn to the gleam. They focus and zoomed until it was like he was standing right next to it. The winged man had a big golden chair strapped to his back. Gerry’s mind didn’t even process the ridiculousness of it. The chair held all of his attention.

At first, it just looked like a large chair. It was clearly made of gold, which made it the most expensive chair he could think of, but that wasn’t what captured his attention. When he really focused, it seemed like something was moving across the surface of the chair. The chair continued to draw closer until the only thing in his vision was the chair. On the surface were tiny symbols. Some moved in neat lines across the shiny surface. Others formed grid patterns and small pulses of something could be seen running along them. Other areas had lines and pulsed orbiting around certain symbols, like their own little solar systems, but dozens, maybe hundred, spread across the surface.

The man shifted and a new portion of the chair became visible. It was the part where a person would sit. Lines and grids dominated this section and all the pulses lead in one direction. At the top of the section, where the head of the sitter would be, a single symbol radiated. Gerry’s eyes watered as he took in that single rune. It seemed to transcend everything around it. It outshone reality, bathed everything in its shadow, and seemed like it was anchored to the core of the universe.

Without a doubt, it was the most beautiful thing Gerry had ever seen. He would be completely content sitting there for the rest of his life, as his flesh wasted away, looking at the intricate, living patterns and central rune that were the true essence of the chair.

<Throne.> Realization sparked inside his head.

The realization wasn’t pleasant. It started as a slight burning sensation behind his eyes that quickly sparked off an inferno inside his head. He wanted to scratch his own eyes out, but he couldn’t stop staring at the throne. The central rune still held his full attention as it tried to drown him in pain. Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore. He blinked, and when he opened his eyes the symbols were gone.

<No!> He wanted the pain back and the clarity it brought with it. He tried to focus and bring them back, but nothing happened. All he could see was the golden gleam of the throne and the man carrying it. <Gaius…?>

Fire engulfed his vision and he instinctually looked away.

“Look out!” Something strong hit Gerry in the side, knocked all the breath from his body, and him off his feet.

Vicky’s arms circled him as they went flying across the parking lot seconds before something big, black, and burning crashed where they’d been standing a moment before. Chunks of asphalt went flying as people screamed and dove for cover.

“Everyone back!” The leader of the soldiers guarding the generator darted forward with his weapon trained on the crater. “Clear the area! We need to…” the man never got to finish.

Something long and black jutted from the crater. It hit the soldier in the chest. His camouflaged body armor might as well have been tissue paper as a black spear impaled him in and explosion of gore. What was left of the soldier’s center, hanging together by a few strands of half-pulverized meat, was picked up and nailed to the wall of one of the cargo containers stored in the parking lot.

The tips of black wings and helmeted head rose from the crater as a man emerged. He reached up and pulled himself out of the crater. The sword in one of his hands scraped against the cracked parking lot. The people that weren’t already running were shocked into stillness as the man drew himself up to his full height.

He was easily seven feet tall with dark, foreboding armor covering him from head to foot. A ripple passed over that armor as the man surveyed his surroundings and small spikes began to emerge at strategic places. His eyes lingered a moment on Vicky before focusing on the small group of petrified soldiers.

They stood there for a tense second just staring at each other, until a soldier finally pulled the trigger. The sharp CRACK of the rifle shocked everyone into motion. The other soldiers opened fire and the civilians ran for it while Gerry and Vicky held their ground.

The bullets pinged harmlessly against the man’s armor, but that didn’t stop the soldiers. It was the only sense of power they had at the moment, and even though they saw it doing nothing they still held down the triggers until the magazines ran dry.

It was a slaughter after that. The man moved in a blur and cut down the soldiers before they could reload. Blood splattered as high as the second story of the nearby hospital from the powerful blows that cleaved the soldiers in two.

Gerry just stood there unsure of what to do. He could feel the power in the other man. He understood it. It was familiar, but foreign at the same time. Memories tricked in as the man planted his boot on a body to help remove the impaled corpse from his sword.

A memory seized ahold of Gerry’s mind. There was a hot room filled with the smell of sulfur, large black and white squares, and an old woman that wasn’t a woman. He shook his head as the itchiness returned behind his eyes, but by then the man was standing in front of them.

“Bravo.” Vicky clapped her hands dramatically. “I’m Vicky and this is Gerry. Who do you serve?”

“I am a soldier of the personal guard of General Gaius Icilius, Commander of the forces of Seere.” The man’s back instinctually straightened with pride.

“Awesome,” Vicky let out a breath that she’d been holding. “I’m Victoria, the queen of the Soulless in this area, and also a servant of Prince Seere. We’ve been waiting for reinforcements since the big guy went down here. So, what’s the plan?”

The man looked at Vicky like she was something brown and squishy that had stuck to the bottom of his boot, but that wasn’t what had Gerry’s temper steadily climbing. It was that the man completely ignored him. Gerry knew this man should be bowing in front of him. He knew the man was beneath him despite the awesome display of power he’d just shown.

Gerry’s hands clenched and his white knuckles popped from the pressure. The man caught the soft pops and turned to look at Gerry. Gerry saw the man’s grip tighten on his sword a second before a loud rumbling announced another arrival. At the entrance to the parking lot a mechanical beast roared its defiance.

The armored man leapt into the air with two powerful flaps of his wings and shot toward the new comer. Vicky looked glad the man was gone. However she thought the interaction was going to go, it clearly hadn’t been headed in that direction.

“We should…”

BOOM

Gerry covered his ears as pain shot through them. He peeked between squinted eyelids and saw the armored man rocketing backward, covered in fire, and headed straight for the hospital. If this happened an hour earlier Gerry would have been inside when the man crashed into it with enough force to cave in a small section. Fresh screams filled the air as the ground shook and the tank rumbled into the parking lot with two dozen soldiers in its wake to press the attack.

“We really need to fucking move!” Vicky yelled, grabbing Gerry’s wrist and pulling him behind the container the first soldier had been nailed to.

They were out of sight when they heard a furious roar that was quickly followed by the sound of a second 125mm shell firing from the tank’s main gun, three-to-five round bursts from a .50 caliber heavy machine gun, and the single shots of the individual soldiers’ M4 assault rifles. Gerry was more concerned with how he knew the specifics of the weapons than with the battle raging behind them.

Memories started to form, but the burning returned. He shook his head to ease the pain and the budding images slipped between his fingertips.

“Well that was a colossal clusterfuck.” Vicky led the way across a second parking lot that was already empty of people and onto a street leading away from the medical campus. “I don’t know who the royal guard of General What’s-His-Face is up to, but they’ve gone rogue. We’re already up to our dicks in chaos here, anything else and the Divine is going to come down on then like the hammer of…well…God.” She was shaking her head back and forth while she walked.

Another loud boom echoed behind them along with the sound of tearing metal. It didn’t sound like things were going well for the humans.

“So, what now?” They were far enough from the fight that Vicky felt comfortable stopping. “My people are going to make their way back to the camp. We can head there now, or fart around here some more. I don’t know what your plan is, or if there is even a plan, but we could really use something. All hell is breaking loose…literally. Infernals from Hell are showing up and wrecking shit. So not cool.” She plopped down on the curb and ran her hands through her hair.

Gerry ignored her bitching and looked to his left. With the danger of the armored man gone, and the sounds of battle far away, he could feel what they needed to do next. There was a small pull tugging at his heart, and it was pulling him to the left. He took a step to the right and it pulled tighter, and he was sure if he started walking away to the right the tension would grow painful.

The pull was magnetic. He was being drawn toward something, and it didn’t take much to figure out what it was.

“This way.” He didn’t wait for Vicky to reply. He just started walking with the pulling sensation as a guide.

“What…where are we going?” She hopped up and followed a few steps behind him. When he didn’t stop she planted her feet and crossed her arms. “Tell me what the fuck is going on or I’m gone.”

Gerry didn’t even break stride. “I’m going to find something.” He could tell Vicky wouldn’t follow through with the ultimatum, and the hurried approach of her steps confirmed it.

“What are we looking for?” Her eyes kept scanning everything around them. The sounds of gunfire were picking up everywhere, and the occasional BOOM shattered the night.

“You’ll know it when you see it.” Gerry felt the tug shift and he took a right down an empty street. The people who’d survived the first disaster were taking cover as another fell right on top of them.

“That’s not cryptic or anything,” Vicky’s remark dripped with sarcasm, but she kept her eyes peeled.

They had to dart down an alley when another tank rumbled down the street, and a heavy machine gun swept over their position, but didn’t see them hiding behind a dumpster. The soldiers walking in the tank’s wake covered the alley but didn’t check it.

Gerry could taste the fear on them. The radio calls for help were hectic, coming more frequently, and often cut off abruptly.

“This whole thing is bullshit,” one soldier muttered as they passed. “LT is going to get us all killed.”

The tank and its infantry escort disappeared around the corner, and looked like they were heading toward the hospital. Gerry poked his head out and made sure the coast was clear before heading out in the direction of the tug. They had to hide three more times from passing patrols, each of which had a tank at the center.

One spotted them, but Vicky was able to play the damsel in distress well enough to convince the young officer to give them directions to the nearest shelter. Once they were gone, Gerry led them in the opposite direction. The destruction began to fade the farther they got from the center of the city, but was replaced by normal dilapidation. Wherever the throne had landed, it had been a shitty place before the whole city got stomped on.

The street was full of overgrown yards full of random bits of junk. The garbage hadn’t been picked up since the incident and was piled several feet high on the curbs. The rotting stench of spoiled food due to lack of refrigeration was everywhere. Gerry didn’t gag like Vicky. He knew he’d been through worse even if he didn’t know when. He kicked a stray can out of his way and the racket caused several heads to poke out of boarded up doors.

“Ever heard of sneaking up on the bad guys.” Vicky hissed as a group of young men approached them.

To Gerry, they looked like nothing more than boys.

“I know,” she sighed when Gerry shot her a look. “I am the bad guy…or bad girl…but that doesn’t mean I want to draw more attention to myself.”

“Yo,” the leader of the ragtag group of young men planted himself in the middle of their path. His friends spread out to either side of them and created a human wall. “You’ve got to pay the toll.”

“Toll, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Vicky rolled her eyes.

“You come over here, baby, and I’ll consider it paid in full.” One of the friends licked his lips and winked.

“Ewww, you’re like a perverted, retarded Little John.” Vicky dismissed him with a wave.

“Who you calling little?” The boy puffed up and pulled a knife from his pocket.

“Little John…from Robin Hood.” Vicky’s eyes widened when she only saw confusion. “Will Scarlett…the Merry Men…what the hell are they teaching you kids these days.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Gerry could feel the pull. It was close, and these boys were in his way. Something told him dealing with them directly was below him. “There is something close to here. It fell from the sky and is very valuable to me.”

Pupils widened as recognition spread through the group of men, and the rest of them pulled weapons. Only one had a gun.

“Looks like we came to the right place,” Vicky smiled.

“Fuck off and we’ll let you live.” Gerry noticed that the leaders hand was shaking as he said it.

“Tell me where the throne is and I’ll let you walk away from here with all your limbs.” Gerry replied.

“I told you it was a throne. That’s the type of shit the King of England sits on.” One boy whispered as he held his knife out in front of him.

“It’s a queen right now you idiot,” the boy next to him said.

Gerry could tell these boys weren’t killers. All he sensed was fear over a thin layer of determination, but one thing gave him pause. The original boy who said he would kill if they didn’t leave was telling the truth. He didn’t know what he had, but he wasn’t going to give it up.

“Victoria, if you’d please…” Gerry waved for her to get on with it.

All of the teenage boy’s weapons adjusted to cover her as she sauntered forward.

“Now, boys.” She placed her hands behind her back, thrust out her chest, tilted her head, and gave them a million dollar smile. “Be good, drop your weapons, and go home. If you don’t you’ll regret it.”

The boys didn’t seem to get that she wasn’t afraid of their weapons. If they knew anything about what they were about to get themselves into, that would have been the first red flag.

“Last chance!” The hand of the boy holding the gun shook harder, but Gerry felt his determination harden.

Vicky turned her full attention on the boy and smiled. “No.”

Gerry watched the boy pull the trigger, but Vicky was already moving. It didn’t help that the gun didn’t even fire. Gerry could spot the poor maintenance from thirty feet away.

“Shit, I…” the boy didn’t get to finish.

Vicky appeared in front of him and punched him in the chest. Her vampiric strength made the kid fold inward on himself as he was thrown back several feet. He was spasming before he’d hit the ground. Vicky’s punch not only broke his ribs, had one stabbing him in the lung, but it had also fucked up the rhythm of his heart. The gun clattered to the ground next to him, and his friends eyes darted from him to Vicky.

Run.” She added a hint of compulsion and the rest of the boys tripped over themselves as they fled.

Gerry walked over to the boy on the ground. It was clear he was dying, but Gerry could feel a sensation creeping up his spine as the final seconds of the boy’s life ticked by. Gerry grabbed the boy by the scruff of his shirt and pulled his upper body off the ground. The boy’s eyes were rolled into the back of his head, and blood was leaking from his nose and mouth, but Gerry could glimpse something in there.  A small flicker of something deep down that was working its way to the surface with each of the boy’s labored breaths.  Finally, the boy gave a final shudder, the smell of fresh shit filled the air, and a bright object pulsing with power leapt from his body.

Gerry reached out and caught it. He didn’t catch it with his hand. He didn’t even move. He wasn’t sure if anyone else could even see it, but when his metaphysical net snagged the object, raw electricity coursed through his veins. His back arched as power and energy flooded into him. It hurt, like someone ripped a big ass Band-Aid off a fresh wound, but the pain was coupled with pleasure. The world expanded, and memories flashed through his mind.

<Power…respect…Dux…the right to rule…> He was certain of all these things, but the by then the light was spent, and without context, the world dimmed back to dull reality around him.

The one difference was that he felt a hundred times better then when they’d released him from the hospital.

“Shit, Boss.” Vicky just stared at him. Whatever had happened, she’d seen it.

“Let’s move. It’s close.” He dropped the boy and his skull impacted the concrete with a small thud.

He stood up, took a few steps, and pain lanced through his mind. Visions flashed in front of his eyes and blocked out the rest of the world.

…He was young and his mother was whooping his ass for taking a toy he wanted from the department store. He took the pain but didn’t regret what he’d done. He really wanted that toy…

…He was older, sitting in school, and the only thing he could think about was getting the hell out of there. Some older guys were waiting on the corner. They’d give him some stuff, he’d run a few errands, and then he’d get paid a hundred bucks. No other kids in school were making a hundred bucks a day…

Gerry staggered as the visions assaulted him.

…He was even older now, he was one of the guys on the corner that handed little kids product. He knew how stupid it was to think that a hundred bucks was a lot. He had at least two grand rolled up in the pocket of his pants that were currently on the floor of his mother’s mini-van. Krystal Johnson was the hottest girl on the block, and she riding his dick like a pro. He reached up and grabbed a handful of those Double –D’s. She slapped his hands away.

“That costs extra,” she smiled as she bent down to kiss his lips. It ended with a nibble that nearly made him finish…

Gerry bent over and retched, but there was nothing in his stomach. He gripped his knees and tried to take a deep breath.

…Now, he was cowering in a building while two rampaging giants tore up Charlotte. He was sitting in the darkness without power. There was no electricity to work the fridge, so he ended up tossing out all the food. Then, in the middle of a run to the curb with two Hefty bags, something shiny dropped out of the sky and plowed right into his living room. Krystal and their baby were screaming in the other room.

“Shut the hell up!” he yelled and slammed the door in her face.

He looked at the big ass golden chair that had taken out his recliner and plasma, and all he saw was dollar signs…

Gerry was on his knees and he felt like he couldn’t breathe.

…Suddenly he heard voices in the street. He peeked out of his door just as a guy, followed by a fine as girl, kicked a can down the street. He looked across the street at his friend’s house and nodded. All his friends poured out of their houses. They were going to protect their payday. It was their way out of this shit-hole city. He didn’t want to threaten the chick with a gun, but he did. He told them to fuck off, and didn’t understand why they didn’t.

<Fucking crazy people.> He gave the stranger a final warning, they didn’t take it, so he pulled the trigger. <Shit.> The gun didn’t fire, and the next thing he knew the girl was punching him in the chest.

His world exploded into pain, and pain was all he knew until he closed his eyes forever…

Gerry gasped as he threw his head up and a diminished ball of light shot out of his mouth and into the sky. It zipped around for a few seconds, doing figure eights in the air, before plummeting down into the asphalt where it vanished with a soft puff.  Instantly, the visions stopped and the crippling pain vanished. He felt weaker, still stronger than when he’d left the hospital, but nothing like that moment between taking the ball and the visions beginning.

Vicky just stood there looking at him with her jaw dropped. “What the fuck was that?”

“I…I don’t know.” It hurt Gerry to admit it, but he had no idea what the hell had come over him. “Let’s go.” He quickly changed the subject and headed toward the dead boy’s house.

The bright side of this whole thing was that he knew exactly where the throne was.

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Scheduling Update

Hey Everyone!

Just wanted to give everyone a quick update on some scheduling updates I’m making. You’ve probably guessed it by now, since it’s happened the last few updates, but i’m having to cut down on A Change of Pace with everything I have going on. I have to prioritize a bit with life and i’m electing to get my original works out more. Kind of the same thing Drew ended up doing when Superpowereds Year 4 ended. But fear not! I’m confident I can get in an update every other week.

I pride myself on not only the quality but the consistency of the chapters I publish and I don’t want people to continue to get their hopes up for a chapter every Sunday night and get let down.

As of now, there are no other changes. Two Worlds will still go up Monday and Wednesday nights, and the new PCS to Eden (I’m on TDY from Hell Book 2) on Friday.

Those who become patreons in the SGT category get a Two Worlds chapter early on Friday, and there is always the opportunity to donate for bonus chapters.

Also a heads up to everyone that i’m 90% certain Aftermath: The Harbinger Tales Book 2 will be released this coming Friday, March 30th, 2018! Super pumped. It’s always hard to top the original, but i think I’ve done a good job if i may say so myself 😛

Shoot me any questions you have in the comments.

Thanks for reading

-Scott