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Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)


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Chapter 79: Igor Ex Machina 

The Shadow slunk across Valentina's helpless mind, seeking the weak point it had found so easily in all the others. Somehow she knew, she knew, that the moment it did, hers would be a fate worse than death, worse than madness, worse than any concept of mortal suffering. 

And then, conveniently, Igor's fist came through the wall. 

Followed shortly by the rest of Igor. The fist sought its target like a guided missile, rocketing across the room at phenomenal speed until it slammed into Arnold's jaw with all the power of a bolide. Arnold stumbled back; Valentina dropped to the desk still, caught in Edmund's thrall. The other surged relentlessly at her mind, with her last bit of will she kicked forward and drove her head hard into Edmund's face. It collapsed with a noise and reek like a rotted melon and he tumbled back onto the floor. Still reeling, in a state beyond dizziness, Valentina turned and beheld a clash of titans. 

Arnold recovered quickly, grabbed Igor and swung him around into the other wall. Thick cement blocks shattered like glass. Igor kept the momentum, used Arnold's own grip to swing him around into the same wall, crushing more blocks and smashing the huge aquarium. The ugly behemoth found a spiky fish with a flailing hand and drove it into Igor's face, then punched him hard in the stomach with the other. 

Arnold lunged as Igor now stumbled, moving to drive him into the other wall, but Igor countered, pirouetting with a grace that belied his bulk. Again Arnold crashed backwards and demolished rows of blocks, sending them falling in a concrete rain. He never hesitated, but reached up for a huge loose brick and cracked it in two over Igor's head before pounding the two halves into his ears. 

Igor punched, Arnold dodged and the wall behind him exploded outward. He shoved Igor back, the two giants trading furious blows back and forth. The impacts thundered like cannon fire heard at a distance, each hit sending shockwaves rippling across the room that kicked up dust and blew Valentina's hair this way and that as she stared in bewilderment. 

Somewhere far away, Edmund's hand pawed at the buttons on his chair, "thecurity! Thecurity!"

Back and forth the colossi fought, each straining for advantage. As the spectacle unfolded, Valentina was somehow reminded of an old Gytepi movie she once saw, all that was missing was the cityscape. Finally, Igor connected with an uppercut that sent Arnold into the ceiling like a rocket. Debris crashed down, some bouncing off Valentina's head while she sat mesmerized on the desk. Then Arnold came down, riding a thick wooden beam and holding a decorative copper ceiling tile. 

He jammed it down over Igor's head, shoved him back against the wall, trying to suffocate him. Igor's head writhed back and forth, his face standing out through the sheet metal like cloth. The tile squealed and groaned from the strain, Arnold grinning as he pressed even harder. Beneath the copper, Igor's mouth opened and his tongue ripped through, punching the other square in the face. 

Arnold staggered back; Igor ripped the plate from his face but had to spend a moment gagging and spitting. It was all Arnold needed, he seized the heavy timber pole and swung it, sending Igor straight through the wall. What was left of it. Igor recovered, and lunged forward. The beam swung the other way, batting him across the room into the massive desk which now exploded in a hail of splinters and Valentina. She struck the other wall, which seemed quite a bit more solid to her, and fell to the floor in a lump.

When she looked up, Arnold was raising the beam over a kneeling Igor, ripping again at the tiles overhead. A furious grin split his lumpy face as he brought the post down with a blast like an explosion. Slowly the dust cleared, and Valentina saw that Igor had simply caught it. With one hand.

Arnold's eyes widened in shock. Igor shoved the pole straight back into his face. As the he tottered, Igor burst forward. Arnold's fist caught him in the stomach. Before he could react, a salvo of jackhammer-like punches landed one after another against his face. Arm moving like a piston, Arnold pummeled him again and again and again, his head flopping back each time, and Valentina could feel every blow. 

BAM! 

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

The lumpy-faced brute paused to smile at his handiwork, Igor's head hanging lifelessly. A meaty fist came up for a death blow, but found only Igor's hand waiting again. Arnold tried to pull away as Igor's head rose, slowly, mechanically. A smirk curled his lips, a tiny smear of blood staining one corner. Grabbing his shoulder, Igor head butted his opponent with a noise like a boulder cracking. 

Finally, Arnold made a sound. A deep, resonating growl came as his lips pulled back into a snarl. For a moment, Valentina thought his teeth had been shattered; cracked, jagged points jutted from his mouth, but then she saw--

His eyes...

His EYES..!

She couldn't stare long, he doubled over as a crushing blow from Igor pounded his gut. Another followed, and another, making sounds flesh should not make. A fourth came, this time the momentum carrying Arnold up and off his feet. Igor held him up like a gloating barbarian as he struggled helplessly. Fear flashed across his twisted face.

"And now," Igor bellowed, "I break you!"

He threw the defeated giant down at the same moment he brought his knee up, and a sickening, wet crunch washed over Valentina. Igor spun, still grasping the body, and let it fly through the far wall. She heard it crash through a half dozen more walls before the noise ceased.

A thick, dusty hand appeared before her, "come with me if you want to live."

She blinked, but Igor didn't leave much time for deliberation, simply picking her up by the scruff of the neck. Which was awkward, as Kerbals have no scruff. 

Still stunned, she blathered, "did... did you see..? Did you see--" 

"I saw," Igor boomed. Then smashed through the last good wall, right into the waiting sights of--

"Stop I'll shoot!" a wide-eyed security guard waggled a revolver at him. "I mean it, don't test me!" he squealed. 

Igor took a step, the gun went off with a crack and his head snapped backwards. After a moment, once again, slowly, mechanically, it rose. He smiled... then spit out the bullet. It click-clacked away down the polished floor. 

The guard gaped up at him, looking like he really wished he'd called in sick this morning after all. He still held the revolver out in a trembling hand. Daintily, Igor plucked it away. The remaining rounds went off with a pop as he crushed it between his thumb and forefinger. He lowered his huge face to the guard, who had gone quite pale.

"Run," Igor suggested, adding with a thought, "scream." The hapless fellow nodded feverishly before taking Igor's advice, waving his hands in the air for good measure as he went. Igor gave a pleased smile, stuffed Valentina under one arm, and crashed through the next wall, again right into the waiting sights of--

"Hold it right there!" Several security guards blocked their way to the huge wooden doors, "put your hands up!"

Grunting in annoyance, Igor moved his own body between Valentina and the horde, and using one hand, picked up a convenient couch.  

"Here," he drew it back, "take seat," and threw it. And so they did. He walked past the groaning mound of grunts and splintered furniture, this time simply opening the door. 

"Freeze!" Now more than a dozen guards surrounded a long, black, blocky shape slathered with chrome in the driveway, "you're cut off, give up!" A cascade of revolvers clicked to readiness. 

Igor gave a huge sigh, rolling his massive eyes. From somewhere, he produced a tiny keyfob, and in clear violation of several laws of physics, pressed a single button. 

The black shape chirped twice; a perky voice announced: "carjack. Protection. Activated."

Eyes barely had time to widen before thick purple and actinic blue bolts struck them, trailing off the myriad of chromed accents on the huge kar. Every hair on Valentina's body tried to point a different direction as the air was filled with blinding light and sound. Not the cartoony crackle of static, no, this was the spine-jarring subaural BUZZ of an arc welder set to 'vaporize.' She was positive she even saw flashes of skeletons in the glare. After a ridiculously long time, the buzz ceased, several limp, lightly smoking shapes slumping to the ground, groaning. 

The kar chirped again and a door popped open, "welcome. Mister. Igor." 

He simply threw Valentina inside, "get in." 

There was no sudden stop, she decelerated gradually against the softest material she had ever felt. It seemed to envelop her, to predict her motion and adjust itself so there was nothing but even, steady pressure all over. Igor eased into the seat next to her without the slightest hint of lean or protest from the suspension. Before her was a vast expanse of polished burlwood, creamy leather, and very tasteful brushed metal accents. A gold nameplate read--

"An 8000SUX?!" she blurted out. 

"Quad quad turbines, dual triple-belt double clutchless CVT's, eight-wheel-drive, 1000-series adaptive-tread Kerelli run-flats, Armor-Zap™ defensive chrome package, endangered-leather comfort package, LudicrousSpeed® performance package, more cupholders than beverage factory, and trunk so big it need own zip code!" He turned to her with a manic, wide-eyed grin that was truly terrifying, "I like Kleptogarti kars!"

Valentina could only gape, speechless. 

Turning back ahead, having somehow found shades that fit his massive face, he settled them into place, "fasten seatbelt, it be bumpy ride."

She didn't have to, the seatbelt fastened itself. Igor button-pushed the kar into gear, and it took off with a noise that was both beautiful and terrifying. There was barely any sense of acceleration, the ride was actually quite smooth. 

"W... where did you get this?!" Valentina said, as ranks of awed security guards flashed past outside. 

"Rich guy."

"How?!"

"I negotiate."

"But... how?!"

He turned to her with that crazy look again, "I make offer he cannot refuse."

They shushed around another corner, streaking right for the gate at the end of the long drive. The tired-looking guard from earlier was now wide awake, frantically waving his arms in front of the crossbar. Igor accelerated harder. He jumped out of the way just before the bar became so much kindling. Inside, it made no noise whatsoever. 

"Why you run away again?!" Igor suddenly burst out. 

Valentina put a hand to her forehead, "long story. We have to--POLICE!"

At the end of the road, several land-bound police cruisers with flashing lights blocked the intersection. Valentina yelped as Igor button-pushed the kar into eight-wheel, made a hard left, and tore out across the expansive dunes. She stared in amazement, wondering a little more if she had gone quite mad. The huge, heavy vehicle skated across the waves of sand like it was born to do so, throwing up a towering rooster tail behind it.

"W... where are we going?" she said distantly.

"Home."

"No, no we have to--gaaaaaah!" they rocketed off the crest of a dune and briefly went airborne. The landing was... well, it was just as soft as everything else. The thing seemed to disregard the very laws of physics. Ripping across the pale, undulating silicon ocean was like... being on the actual ocean. They bobbed and swayed and drifted just a bit in the turns. And occasionally flew. 

"You change hair?" Igor said as casually as walking down the street. 

"Part of that (aack!) long story (oof!)"

"Look nice." It was hard to gape at him as they porpoised along the dunes. She kept bracing for a hard landing that didn't come. Igor actually seemed to be enjoying himself! Igor never enjoyed anything. Especially himself. 

She caught a flash in the mirror, "incoming!" Several VTOLS were now bearing down on them.

To Valentina's great surprise, Igor spat a curse, and turned back in the general direction of the highway. Their mechanical beast darted out onto the road, the tires adamantly refusing to give up traction despite the dusting of sand covering the asphalt. VTOLs swarmed in on both sides with more police kars bringing up the rear, flashing lights everywhere. Ahead, two more kars blocked the way, with only the narrowest of gaps between their front bumpers. 

A couple of soft beeps drew her attention back inside, "hello. Igor. What. Can. I. Do. For. You?"

Igor tightened his grip on the wheel, which rather incredibly didn't crush it, "LudicrousSpeed®... GO!"

Valentina wasn't... exactly sure what actually happened next. She was certain that now, she really had gone quite mad. Not a little mad, or sort of mad, but quite mad, with 'stark raving' waiting not far away in the wings. She couldn't tell if it was the vehicle or the fabric of spacetime itself that stretched out before them. The surrounding world dissolved into a blur, the kar threaded a gap it never should have been able to, and she was almost positive she could see the tell-tale ruddy glow of compression heating on the windshield. 

Everything else looked sort of... plaid. 

Beside her, Igor looked quite beyond 'stark raving,' "I like Kleptogarti kars!" he bellowed. 

Then as quickly as it began, it was over, and they were smashing through the gates of--

"The KSC?!" Valentina said incredulously. 

"Have plane."

She blinked in disbelief. A journey that should have taken better than an hour had been only... how long, exactly?

"How did you just do that?"

"HyperDrive®! I love Kleptogarti kars!"

"Hyperdrive?!" Ah, yes. Here we go. Stark raving mad in all its gibbering glory. 

"Is powered by pair of sugared-up toddlers," Igor explained, "limitless energy but need frequent naps."

"Oh, alright," Valentina mumbled with glazed eyes, "hyperdrive. Makes perfect sense. Also, police again."

It appeared that, even at transluminal speeds, one could not outrun Mister Kerborola. Igor cranked the wheel hard and darted down a side street, followed closely by flashing lights and screaming sirens. Just ahead, Valentina saw something that, on any other day, might seem strange in a back alley at the Kerbal Space Center. 

"Fruit stand!" she pointed, "fruit stand! Fruit stand!"

Igor did... something, and spun the kar sideways. The tires should have been screeching, but all she felt was a low, rumbling vibrato as they slid to a neat halt in front of the proprietor. Igor rolled down the window and made a quick exchange with him, then handed something reverently to Valentina. 

"Is wise," he boomed, "to never take watermelon lightly."

She blinked down at the large green-striped fruit in her lap. What comes after 'stark raving,' now? Like a bullet, they were gone again. 

"Cardboard boxes! Cardboard boxes! Cardboard boxes!"

The kar shushed left. 

"Oblivious gamer! Oblivious gamer! Oblivious gamer!"

The kar shushed right. 

And of course, the obligatory, "plate glass window! Plate glass window! Plate glass window!"

Just ahead, a vaguely familiar pair of glaziers cursed their bad luck and earlier decision not to take the rest of the day off. They braced for the inevitable. 

Valentina's seatbelt snapped taught with a gentle yet comforting firmness, feeling the first sensation of velocity change since this entire long, strange trip began. The kar not-screeched to a halt just in front of the glass panel, eliciting nothing else from it but a soft ping.

Beside her, Igor beamed, "airbrakes! I like Kleptogarti kars!" then hit a button, scuttled sideways, and roared down the alley, leaving the two glass workers to gape in amazement. Valentina was starting to feel like the edges of reality itself were becoming a bit... crinkly. Oddly, she wondered if anyone else ever felt the same. 

A jig here, and a jig there, and the blocky black shape shot out of the nest of alleyways... and to another not-screeching halt. 

Valentina stared. 

Igor stared. 

There was a plane, all right. A standard diplomatic transport jet decked out in official Ussari colors. Surrounded by dozens and dozens police officers. And also...

Valentina gazed calmly. Sure, why not? On a day like today? Perfectly normal. Certainly not the strangest thing she'd seen in the last 24 hours. 

"Is that a tank?"

"Is APC."

"It looks like a tank."

"No, is APC."

"How can you tell?"

"Has wheels."

"But... it also has a cannon."

"APC have cannon."

"Oh," she thought for a moment, "I suppose this thing is cannon-proof too, yes?"

Igor made a low growl deep in his throat. His fleeting mirth seemed to have already... fleeted. He punched the kar into reverse. 

They shot backwards like a huge metallic... squid, undulating through the waves of startled police kars that had built up behind them. The two glass–workers had barely finished their celebrations when they heard the oncoming roar. Looking back over her shoulder, Valentina had just enough time to see the dead, empty looks wash over their faces. 

Through the pane of glass, over the oblivious gamer, into the cardboard boxes, and out of the fruit stand in a colorful explosion. 

She rounded on Igor, "you just hit that poor—"

"I got 'im!"

Slowly, Valentina turned back toward the rear. A hand appeared over the trunk, then another, clutching a familiar bicolored ball. Then a head, then a torso. Short several teeth, covered in pulp and wearing a box on his head, the new MonéPoke master thrust the ball aloft in victory. And promptly lost his grip and slipped back under the kar with a thump.

"Pedestrian–friendly bumpers," mumbled Igor. He spun them in a tight circle so they were going forward again, jinking back and forth between buildings on the sprawling grounds. "Change of plan," he boomed, sliding out onto a concrete apron quite far from the runway. A confused-looking pilot stared at them next to his Velociteze. Igor opened the door and grabbed the melon.

"Wait, what are you going to do?!" Valentina asked nervously. 

"Negotiate."

The pilot shrank back at Igor's approach, "hey, who are you? I don't think you're supposed to be here. I'm gonna have to call--splat--goodnight, mommie..." thud.
 
Igor turned, "he accept," then pointed at the plane, "you can fly?"

Valentina gave an annoyed sigh, but hopped out and trotted toward the airstairs, "I can fly anything." 

She paused when she heard the trunk pop. Igor reached in, and removed a pair of sleepy-eyed, cranky kerblings. They each gave him a swift kick in the shin before scurrying off. He sighed himself, like a tropical hurricane, and pressed they keyfob again. The kar chirped twice. 

"Self. Destruct. Mode. Activated." it said cheerily. 

Igor followed Valentina up the steps, "we go now!" Plopping into the pilot's seat, she was once again surrounded by a dizzying array of knobs, switches, and instruments. But this time, she actually knew what each one did. FlickFlickTurnTweakPresHooooooooooold. The engines rapidly spooled to life just as the first pursuing police kar flew from the alleyway. 

"PЦTIЙ!" she spat.

"Language!"

She took the moment to glare at Igor before bumping the throttles forward. The plane lumbered forward slowly. A cruiser skidded to a stop in front of it. Valentina cursed again, jammed the left rudder pedal down and pegged the right throttle. Engine roaring, they narrowly evaded the blocker. As the nose swung around, more police flooded in from every direction. 

All right, no more miss nice Kerb! The way immediately ahead was clear. Mostly. She ignored the awkward platitude and simply firewalled the throttles. The humble plane was painfully slow to build speed, she zigged and zagged in a slow motion dance, dodging cops this way and that. After what felt like hours--and given today, might actually have been--they finally began to outpace their pursuers with open concrete ahead. 

Then the glass truck pulled out in front of them from a side street.

Valentina planted her feet on the instrument panel and pulled back on the yoke with everything she had. The jet shuddered in protest as the nose gradually came up, but not fast enough. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the impact. 

It never came. After a long moment she opened them again to find the Velociteze clawing skyward. 

"Climb. Go east," Igor rumbled from the cockpit doorway. Only his head would fit through. She banked into a quick turn. Looking back, she saw a police kar had indeed clobbered the glass truck. Two Kerbs in coveralls seemed to be giving the officer involved an earful. Back near where they had started, now a deserted patch of concrete, a long black shape went 'FOOM!' and disappeared in a dark cloud. A sniffle drew her attention back to Igor. His lower lip was quivering just slightly. 

Pretending she hadn't noticed, Valentina continued turning away, "what now?"

"Climb," somehow, Igor managed to squeeze an arm into the smallish cockpit, and threw some switches on the side panel. A collision avoidance radar winked on, followed by a low rumbling in his throat. 

"What?" Valentina frowned back at Igor, then squinted at the screen. There. Coming out of the backscatter noise from the mountains. Three contacts moving in fast.

"PЦTIЙ, interceptors!" She swore and began to turn. 

Igor didn't bother to scold her, "no, hold course. Climb."

She did as he said, but the anemic jet was already beginning to slow at only a few thousand meters. That didn't matter much, as the fighters were on them in a matter of moments. On the display, she saw two of them break off and take up position a couple of kilometers back... perfect missile firing position. The leader came up close alongside. 

He stared at her across the across the space, anonymous behind his visor and mask. Like a condemning Roamin' Emperor, he gestured down with his thumb. 

The emergency channel on the radio lit up, "yankee doodle floppy disk, descend and reverse course immediately. You will be given vectors to return to the Space Center."

"Hold course," Igor boomed. He punched in some numbers on the transponder panel and hit the 'IDENT' button. 

The radio flashed again, "yankee doodle floppy disk, reverse course immediately. We are authorized to use force if necessary." He banked away for a moment, showing his belly, and the fact that he was fully equipped to carry out the threat. 

PЦTIЙ!

"Steady. Hold course."

"Yankee doodle floppy disk, if you do not change course immediately you will be fired upon!"

The dreamy sense of madness was gone. This was all too real. Valentina's mind raced, groping for any alternative that did not include getting blown out of the sky, but came up wanting. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. No thrilling chase through downtown streets. This was a civilian craft, no warning receivers of any kind. If the jets fired, she wouldn't have any idea until the warheads ripped them apart.

Maybe... maybe if I--

A beep drew her eyes back to the screen. Five more contacts coming in from the north at fantastic speed. 

That's it. Game over.

Then, the radio flashed with an accented voice, "Kleptogarti aircraft, this is Commander Dmitri Kermaniv of Glorious Crimson Navy. You are aggressing civilian aircraft squawking Ussari transponder code over international waters, in clear violation of several treaties and established international law. Do you wish to engage?"

Wait, what?

She saw two pairs on the display break off from the leader, circling around for position on the pursuers. Outside, the Kleptogarti flight leader's head jerked this way and that. Valentina could just see the contrails blooming like a flower in the blue sky. 

What... what have I done? Did I just start a war?

Any moment... at any moment, now, the sky would explode with missile trails and flares and death. This... this was truly madness.

What have I done?

The other pilot looked at her, blank and unreadable behind his mask. The world seemed to hang on this moment. Reality still... crinkled. 

Finally, after an eternity, he broke off and dove away. The screen showed the other two following suit, turning back toward the coast. Valentina finally realized how long it had been since she'd taken a breath. 

She didn't get long to breathe, however. A new radio crackled, behind her. Turning, she saw Igor pull a small handheld from his pocket. She recognized it as one of the encrypted units every Kerbonaut crew kept for emergencies. 

"Has the package been secured?" A new voice asked.

"DД," Igor said simply. 

"Is she there now?"

"I am here," Valentina said, a new feeling of dread working into her spine. 

"Excellent. There is an abandoned airfield near your position. It has been temporarily secured. Your instructions are to land there with all haste. Further transportation arrangements have been made.

"A certain Kommissar wishes to see you. And also, the N.K.O.T.B."

PЦTIЙ.

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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"Is powered by pair of sugared-up toddlers," Igor explained, "limitless energy but need frequent naps."

Bahaha I love it!
Oh yeah, and Igor Kerbinator is awesome. The Russian, Green Terminator, Now Coming to a boxing ring near you!

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Wha...? Who...? How...? Wha??

*KSK folds in on himself and doesn't say anything terribly coherent for a while.*

*blinks*

*wipes away drool*

OK, what in the name of ВЯЕZНЙЕVS ТФЕИДILS ДИD ВЕЦУ-ВЦТТОЙ FLЦГГ just happened?

More reading required.
 
Edited by KSK
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Well, that was a crazy ride. And not just for Valentina. I just didn't feel right breaking it up.

1 hour ago, SpaceplaneAddict said:

A Kerbinator, wild Kommissar, and whatever the N.K.O.T.B is? well then... great story m9!

They've only been mentioned in passing, the Ussari secret police. Not to be confused with the washed-up boy band. Which is far more terrifying.

 

1 hour ago, KSK said:

OK, what in the name of ВЯЕZНЙЕVS ТФЕИДILS ДИD ВЕЦУ-ВЦТТОЙ FLЦГГ just happened?

Valentina is asking exactly the same thing. :sealed:

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On 17.9.2016 at 8:38 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

 

"Fruit stand!" she pointed, "fruit stand! Fruit stand!"

...

And of course, the obligatory, "plate glass window! Plate glass window! Plate glass window!"

 

It's not a real chase without fruit stands and plate glass windows. It just isn't.

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Chapter 80: ...And a Light Went Out of the World


"Far over the distant mountains due;
Up passes steep, I must go through;
I'm bound away, at break of day,
But, child, I'll bring the Mün for you."

In a room of pale blue, with thick padding on the walls, on a tiny bed lay a person. Stout leather cuffs lined with sheepskin bound his arms and legs, though they were thin and frail. On a pole fixed to the bed, several bags hung. Tubes ran down from them and disappeared beneath a hospital gown, pumping in life. His face was bandaged, though there was no medical need. The wounds had long since healed. But even the seasoned staff here found that eyeless gaze... unsettling. 

"'Cross oceans wide, and seas of blue;
Beyond the sunset's golden hue;
For home I'll yearn, on my return
Dear child I'll bring the Mün for you."

In a light plastic chair next to him, a girl sat. She wore a dress of deep green, with hair like the sun, as she slowly cut away at his longish hair. The scissors were plastic, too, with no real blade, but she was patient, and gentle. Occasionally she would pause, to brush the hairs from the pillow and wipe the drool from his mouth. And of course, as she worked, she sang. 

"Up o'er the sky, and past the Mün
To Minmus' shores, and frozen dunes;
I won't be long, I've heard the song;
Sweet child I'll bring the Mün for you."

It was an odd sort of song for a lullaby, somber and low. But she sang with a voice that was both strong and delicate, such that would challenge any heavenly choir. 

"Out in the great star-strewn expanse
I'll see where Ike and Duna dance;
Face to face, in fond embrace;
Yet for your Mün, I'll take the chance."

The staff watched from the window of the small door, with the usual mix of apprehension and wonder. They could not help but smile at the angelic serenade. These were always good days, and the person in the bed needed all of those he could get. 

"To Evian seas, and hills that burn,
Vast purple lands, and weather stern,
I'll struggle through, and think of you,
I'll have your Mün, on my return."

Having finished with his hair, she moved on to his face. She scratched at his stubble with a small, battery-powered shaver. Its pulsing buzz seemed to harmonize with her voice, as if it, too, was somehow moved by this hymn. But that, of course, was impossible. 

"Far over the bright green clouds of Jool,
Her court of moons, I'll pass there too;
I'll think of home, no more to roam;
But, dear, I'll bring the Mün for you."

She clicked off the shaver, and placed it in a little plastic caddy along with the scissors, cloths, and few other things allowed in the small, sterile room. She smiled broadly as she wiped his face one more time, yet her voice caught often through the final verse.

"And when at last, all journeys through,
When I'll no more return to you,
You'll be strong, and sing this song,
For now, I've brought the Mün for you."

She squeezed his feeble, yielding hand as her smile faded slightly, "do you remember that one? You used to sing it to me, when I was little and got scared."

Nothing. Despite the slow rise and fall of his chest, the person on the bed remained as lifeless as stone. Still she smiled, her lip perhaps trembling a bit, and brushed at his hair with her fingers, "much better, now. You were getting pretty shaggy. But always so handsome."
 
A soft knock at the window signaled it was time, yet again. She squeezed his hand once more.

"Um," she said with a sniff, "I might have to go away for a while. It might be a long while. Promise me when you get out of here, you'll think of me, 'kay?"

She rose, still clinging to his limp hand, not wanting to let go. She leaned close and kissed him softly on the forehead. 

"But... when you do get out, don't wait up for me, 'kay? 'Cause," and here, her fragile voice finally broke, "'cause I'll be waiting for you."

She watched him for a long moment, hoping vainly for some sign, some motion, but he lay as still as the grave, as it always was. With one final squeeze, she laid his hand down, oblivious to the tears patting against it, and stepped away. 

"I love you, Billy."

Her heels clicked softly on the tile as she stepped towards the door, carrying the little plastic basket. Absently dabbing at her cheeks, she reached for the door when--

"I love you, Anastasia."

She spun around with a gasp, a hand going to her mouth. But nothing had changed. Nothing had moved. He lay there, still as ever. An attendant opened the door, and she bolted through, afraid the last of her composure would fail before she reached the gates. She fled into the heavy evening air, where storm clouds had already begun to gather. 


***


The sky rumbled with apprehension above a city that slept. In the dark, deserted streets, nothing moved. Nothing made a sound. Even the night creatures crouched anxiously in their hollows, the instinct to hide overpowering the need to seek food. The world itself seemed to be holding its breath. 

Presently, a sound did rise, a rhythmic, staccato tap-tap down an empty street flanked by darkened windows and unlit signs. Only meters away, people slept soundly in their beds, blissfully ignorant of what was unfolding. As distant thunder rolled, a figure appeared, running with an unsteady, half-limping gate, her shoes clicking along the pavement. She paused for a moment beneath a streetlight, doubled over, panting. Her green dress was already torn, her long golden hair pasted to her skin with sweat. Her breath came in harsh rasps through a throat raw from screaming. She had already given up calling for help; there was no one around to hear. 

A noise further down the street drew a gasp, she only dared look a moment before taking flight once more. To either side was the cruel beckoning of strong doors, but none would open. She had already tried. Conscious thought having long left, she darted down an alley lined with trash cans and garbage. It didn't take long to reach the end, a lone door standing in vain hope. Nevertheless, she tried the knob, banged on the rusty metal surface. Her ragged breath turned to sobs. 

She snapped her head around as lightning flashed across the angry sky, silhouetting a dark figure at the end of the alley. There were no features to be seen, no face. In the meager light of the street lamps, something metal flashed in its hand. 

"You... have become quite the little pest," the figure said.

The first tears rolled down her cheeks as she slid back against the door. 

"Thanks to you, Edmund nearly ruined everything. I will see that he suffers for that, it's a shame I still need him. But you..." an icy smile cut the muggy night air, "I've decided to take care of you myself."

Light winking off cold steel, the figure strode forward, "go on, scream! No one will hear you. I've seen to that."

She didn't scream. Instead she threw a brick. 

"Ow! Why you little--OW!"

That one she had not thrown. Then another brick, and another.

"What?!" the figure cried out in surprise. 

A trash can slammed into its back, nearly knocking it down. An old bottle. A startled rat. 

"Gah, that's worse than the frog!"

Thunder exploded from the sky with the fury of ages, dry winds arose and joined the tirade of debris pelting the foe.

"It... it's not possible!" the figure batted impotently as garbage assaulted it, "it can't be! Not here, it... it can't be!" 

At the other end of the alley, the girl rose, her face a mask of confusion, bewilderment, strain,... and fragile hope.

"No! You'll ruin everything!" Now as bits of junk and refuse battered it, here and there they burst into flames, casting up sparks that swirled and danced in the raging wind. 

"NO!" Clouds churned overhead. Thunder split the sky and lightning rent the air. Searing bolts struck the asphalt, leaving deep, smoldering holes in their wake. All creation seemed to erupt against this transgression. Behind the figure, even the very ground tore open, to swallow up this abomination and purge it from the world. 

Wherever she looked, an object shot away. The window frame. An old chair. A hubcap. With each blow, each hit, the figure stumbled backwards, inching ever close to the abyss. Teetering on the edge. Her eyes fell upon the manhole cover. Like a bidden warrior, it flew from its place and charged the monster, glowing with crimson fire. To slay it. To end it. To put right what had nearly gone wrong. 

And stopped a centimeter from its face. 

For a moment, iron hung in the air in failed agony before clattering to the ground with a hail of sparks. In its other hand, the figure held up... something. The light seemed to flee before it. Like a perversion of the very light itself, it gave off darkness, and cast shadows of light. Standing in the hellish glimmer of a dozen fires, their glow strewn in negative across its face, the figure raised a hand to its brow, and eyed the blood on its fingers. 

Heaving, spent, the girl fell to her knees. 

"I don't know... how one of you... got here..." the figure huffed, "but it doesn't matter... In the end, it doesn't matter... Your kind dies just as easily as anyone else... once you're cut off."

Framed in light and shadow, its face twisted into a snarl, the figure advanced once more as the first drops of rain began to fall like tears. 

"I never thought I'd get to kill one of you. The Dark Lord... will be most pleased. I'm... going to enjoy this."

Alone in a sleeping city, while around her the world raged and the sky wept, Anastasia Kerman screamed. 

And screamed. 

And screamed. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Welp, should definitely be a shorter wait on the next chapter. 1:30 in the morning here and the second half is already done. For the first one... I foresee having to do battle with onions.  ;.;

So Anastasia with nature on her side is defeated. This is sad. As you have forseen, I am having to do battle with onions, but the onions are losing for the moment but that can change with the next chapter of this book.

Edited by Alpha 360
"Kouston, we have several problems, but none of them are going to make a difference so we want to continue on with the mission."
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10 hours ago, Ten Key said:

 

Listens for a minute-->Googles lyrics-->Whut?-->Googles some more-->written by Bob Dylan-->ooooooooh, ok. Makes perfect sense, now.

2 hours ago, KAL 9000 said:

That moment with Billy... Onions, just onions... Why do you have to make this so SAD?

So that y'all all be experiencing the right emotion... at the appointed time. :sealed:

1 hour ago, Andem said:

I don't think that "hard hitter" quite grasps this chapter... incredible.

*bows* As a creator, there are times when one throws ridiculous amounts of effort into something and it just never seems quite right; you almost throw it out there just to be rid of it. But there are other times when you have to just lean back, smile, and think, "awww yiih. Nailed it."

 

Some have speculated this was coming for a long time. Hopefully I managed to throw a few surprises in. :wink:

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17 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

*bows* As a creator, there are times when one throws ridiculous amounts of effort into something and it just never seems quite right; you almost throw it out there just to be rid of it. But there are other times when you have to just lean back, smile, and think, "awww yiih. Nailed it."

I know that feeling. I especially get the "I know I've got it wrong, but I have to work with what I have" feeling.

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