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


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12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

:D There are worse things to be called, I suppose. These days it's more like Ser Cumference, the round knight.

 

Not to be confused with Sir Cumspect the round ABOUT knight, or Sir Reptitious, the sneaks about knight.

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It's on it's way I'm sure. I can't speak for the good author but I know I'd be fairly drained after writing those last two chapters and wondering quite how to start the next one.

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45 minutes ago, KSK said:

It's on it's way I'm sure. I can't speak for the good author but I know I'd be fairly drained after writing those last two chapters and wondering quite how to start the next one.

Haha definitely! :confused:

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4 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

''Tis currently underway, of course. Maybe tonite, Mondays are usually productive days. Things continue to get... interesting. 

Awesome!

And a thought just occurred to me (Well, actually it occurred to me when I first read this, but I didn't post this until now)

"

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!"

"

I was thinking that "Hasta la vista, Kerby!" would be more appropriate. Or "You are kerbinated!" :P
Also completely unrelated, I watched Terminator 2 for the first time a few days after this chapter came out.... Hmm....

 

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4 hours ago, vsully said:

Awesome!

And a thought just occurred to me (Well, actually it occurred to me when I first read this, but I didn't post this until now)

"

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!"

"

I was thinking that "Hasta la vista, Kerby!" would be more appropriate. Or "You are kerbinated!" :P
Also completely unrelated, I watched Terminator 2 for the first time a few days after this chapter came out.... Hmm....

 

2 hours ago, 0111narwhalz said:

Maybe Arnold would have said something like that, but this is Igor we're talking about.

I have it on good authority Arnold has never said anything, ever. Or likely will, at this point. :sticktongue:

 

But yes, new chapter should be up in a little while. :prograde:

It gets quite dark, bring a nightlight. 

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Chapter 81: Out of the Frying Pan...

Tick. 

Tick. 

Tick.

Unconcerned upon the wall, the clock ticked away the time. Nevertheless, Valentina had no idea how long she'd been standing here, facing the Kommissar's rigid back across his desk. Hours? Days? Years? She was amazed she could still stand at all. Each time she thought she had finally achieved the zenith of weariness, something happened and kicked it all up another level. 

There had been no rest on the long journey back here. She had landed at the abandoned airfield as ordered, and was immediately taken into custody. Someone had tried to handcuff her, but a single growl from Igor convinced them otherwise. Then a helicopter to a waiting aircraft carrier, followed by a swift departure in a high-speed transport. All through the long flight skirting the horn of Kerfrica with escort fighters on either wing and several aerial refuelings, Igor never strayed more than a meter from her. Whether he was guardian or warden, she couldn't quite tell. 

Neither, it would seem, could the pair of black-suited NKOTB agents who had spent the entire time interrogating her. They had looked completely unsettled, not at all the demeanor she would have expected from such. Yet neither rain nor snow nor giant, irritable... things... could stay these envoys from their appointed task. They had questioned her without end, and when they finally did reach the end, they asked the same questions again but in a different way. Then, they asked the original questions again. 

Valentina had answered honestly. There was no sense lying to the secret police. They were well-skilled at cutting to the truth, and even telling the truth was no guarantee against cutting. Besides, if she really did sound as mad as she thought she sounded, maybe they would get it over with quickly. Mad Kerbs don't typically make quota in blutonium mines. 

And now they stood just off to the side, in the wood-paneled office of the Kommissar. Another drop of sweat ran down her temple. This was certainly the last place she would have expected to end up. The air was thick with acrid stink of rattail smoke, the Kommissar clutched a smoldering one in his folded hands. He must have smoked several packs by now. Yet in all this time, he said nothing. Just stood there, still as a dormant volcano, staring out the window and occasionally smoking. 

Apparently even the agents were beginning to wane, "comrade Kommissar, can we move this along, please?" one of them said with plain annoyance, "our superiors are anxious to get the prisoner to a proper interrogation facility."

Silence. Valentina blinked as a blob of sweat slid into her eye. 

"This formality is only being granted out of respect for your long service," said the other, "say your peace and be done with it. Need I remind you she is wanted for the murder of an equally well respected political officer? To say nothing of being at the center of an international incident. The Ambassador is still trying to secure the release of," he turned to his associate, "what was his name?"

"Kerman."

"Yes, a certain Lieutenant Kerman, the pilot, also one of of your personnel."

More silence. The only motion the drifting of continents. 

The agent produced a handkerchief and dabbed at his brow, "just do your scary kommissar thing and let us move along."

"Do you have any idea, what it is you have done?" the Kommissar spoke finally, not turning.

"There, you see?" one agent nudged the other, "watch this, he really can be quite terrifying. Never even raises his voice."

The agent blinked in surprise as the Kommissar turned and approached him.

"Do you," The Kommissar laid hands amicably on his shoulders, "comrade?

Then snapped his neck. 

The other one's eyes barely had time to widen before the Kommissar's closed fist came down on the top of his head, and his neck disappeared. He imploded to the floor and laid there, twitching and gagging. 

The very instant his throes ceased, the door swung open, and the strange desk clerk from that horrid anteroom shuffled in. He seized the two corpses by their collars and disappeared back through the door without making a sound. Or looking up. 

Valentina didn't bother blinking. Or gawking. Get it over with quickly. Right. For the umpteenth time she thought that now, she had finally gone mad. She absently wondered what could possibly happen later on to think that, no, now she had really, truly gone mad. There would certainly be something. Then the Kommissar's piercing eyes fell on her, freezing the sweat on her brow, and such thoughts ceased. 

He stared at her for a long while. Like so many times before, she could feel that frigid, weighing gaze boring into her. Like some bizarre inversion of distant Moho, half her head felt frozen in that view while the other sweltered. 

"And you," he thundered, "do you realize what you have done?"

"I... er..." Valentina struggled to mount a coherent thought before that scouring glare, "I acted in the best interests of the Union, to thwart a grand conspiracy against the Imperium and--"

"Do not lie to me," he never did raise his voice, yet she shrank back from him, blasted like a planet that had wandered too close to its star, "you, who have stood before the Empress herself with no guile of politics; you, who have beheld the eyeless stare of the shadowstained and not lost your soul."

He leaned in closer, his eyes piercing right though her, "do not play the mindless comrade with me. I have warned you of such."

"I... the Imperium..." when had her mouth gotten so dry?

The Kommissar crushed the stub of his rattail between his fingers with a soft hiss, "the Imperium parades a bear on a leash, thinking it controls its power, while the rats infest its home and eat its stores." His eyes were only centimeters away, now. The whole world seemed to disappear into them. "Do not speak to me of the Imperium."

Valentina's mouth worked helplessly like a fish. Reality seemed to have gone from crinkly to crunchy. Now this, this, THIS was surely madness. 

"You have felt it. Sensed it," the Kommissar turned away, moving to stare at the tip-less knife on the shelf; his back straight, his knees rigid, "you have seen it. The darkness that spreads across the land, blacker than the sins of any mortal kerb. Even them."

Suddenly, he rounded on her, "why are you here?"

She blinked in genuine confusion, "I... was brought--"

In an instant, he was looming over her like a planet, "why. Are you here. Why are you not in a factory somewhere. Or working at a collective farm. Or scrounging a living in a shack in the taiga." Again, his eyes bored into her, "why. Are. You. Here. What is it that drives you."

"What," his eyes... "do you want?"

Before this onslaught, there was no conscious thought. As his eyes tore into her, images, feelings, memories drifted by... Anastasia... the Political Ofiicer... Donald... Sergei... the Director... her deda... her parents... all the burdens she carried... as if he were drawing them forth. As if he were seeing them.

She said simply, "to atone."

And then, the Kommissar did the most terrifying thing yet. He laughed. It was every bit as mirthless and cold as his eyes. 

"To atone?" his voice was distant thunder on open plains, "to you even know the meaning of the word?"

"I..." Valentina's lips felt dry as a tomb. 

"I will tell you a story, of what it is to want to atone," the room grew darker. Surely... surely it was just her exhausted state... her critical lack of sleep... but now, images, feelings, seemed to flow the other way... like... she could see...

"There was a boy," the Kommissar rumbled, "he wore sackcloth on his back, and wrapped his feet in rags, though his toes had already turned black from the cold. For his entire short life, he knew nothing but pain. Yet he wanted nothing else from life, but to go on breathing for one more day. 

One. More. Breath. 

"So he goes to the soldiers, and he tells them where the People are hiding, and the soldiers come and take them away, like all the times before. And for this, the soldiers laugh at him. They call him shinok and make him to crawl on his hands and knees in the snow. But they let him lie with the dogs and share their warmth. He eats their food, drinks their water, and he goes on breathing for one more day. 

"One. More. Breath. 

"The next day, now he goes out and finds the People, because they know him and trust him as one of their own. And again he tells the soldiers where they are, and the soldiers come and take the People away. And again they laugh at the boy. They give him the coat off a corpse and paint rank stripes on it. The make him parade up and down the empty streets, and call him nemnogo komissar; but they give him a ragged tent, and share their food and rattails with him, for he makes their work easier. 

"And one day, he has a coat with real stripes, and the soldiers obey him. They look at him with terror as he orders the last of the People away with a face as cold and heartless as the long winter. But the People do not fear, for they are far beyond fear. They jeer at him, and call him da'tsang, and betrayer, and cursed. 

"But the Powerful, they commend him, for now the People are all gone. They give him names and citations and a real Kommissar's badge, and send him to find other people, because he is good at it.

"But every night when he sleeps, the People return to him in his dreams, and they whisper to him all the torments that await him, when one day he takes his last breath. So despite all he has... the boy still wishes nothing more from life than to go on breathing for one more day. 

"One. More. Breath."

The world felt like it was spinning. More than usual. Valentina's exhausted mind tried to process everything she had just... seen? What?

"So do not speak to me of 'atone,'" the Kommissar lit another rattail, "and now, you have put me in a most difficult position," he took a long drag, "I have been ordered by the Imperium itself to have you disposed of in a fitting manner."

She stumbled at that. She had been expecting something unpleasant, but to hear it so directly...

The Kommissar turned toward the window, and the large rocket waiting on the pad beyond, "in thirteen hours and forty-seven minutes, that rocket will lift off. It is ostensibly an uncrewed test launch of a system to finally land an Ussari on the Mün. At exactly three minutes and twelve seconds after the trans-Münar injection burn, the rocket will explode. You will be on that rocket."

Valentina swallowed against the lump in her throat. Well, she wanted 'quickly.' 

"Sometime after, it will be revealed that you were aboard, that it was not a test," he continued, "you will have a grand state funeral the likes of which have not been seen since the death Vladimir Kermin himself. Every Kerb, Kerbelle, and Kerbling in the world will hear that Valentina Kermanova is dead."

He stalked up to her, "do you believe that I can kill you? Do you believe, that with a word, I could have you drug out into the street and shot like a dog?" he thundered.

Reeling, all she could manage was a quiet, "yes."

He sneered, "which is why I do not have to."

Wait, what?

"Belief is the most powerful thing in the universe. When the transfer stage explodes, it will scatter several chaff packages, creating a massive debris field that will mask the lander and return craft until they are well out of radar range. All the world will believe that you are dead, but you will navigate them to the Mün, unaided, land at the KSA's abandoned Münbase, and investigate it... and the artifact they were sent there to study." 

The odd little clerk reappeared from somewhere, holding a stack of binders, "Kegbraid, here, will supply you the necessary flight manuals, and a room to study in."

Valentina felt like someone had stuck a spoon in her brain and stirred it all around. But one lump in particular bobbed back up.

"Wait, what artifact?" she managed.

The Kommissar's gaze turned colder than ever, "it is an object of most concentrated evil. I fear its contents may have already been released."

The world spun a little faster. Too fast, in fact. When had she last slept? She could vaguely feel her own head bobbing about. Finally, at long last, this was madness. Pure, immaculate madness. Perhaps here would be a good place to lie down. Yes, right here on the floor, sleep and then--

"Don't you dare faint!" the Kommissar's roared, and Valentina was instantly wide awake. 

She snapped a salute, "Yes, sir, Comrade Kommissar, sir!"

He leaned in once more, drawing his rattail to a bright red glow, "are you afraid?"

"No, sir, Comrade Kommissar, sir!"

Smoke billowed from his mouth and took on ominous, misshapen forms, "you will be." His lips hardly moved.

"You. Will. Be."

 

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1 hour ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Quite. By my calculation, I'm now within 10 or so chapters of the end. Not sure whether to be relieved or terrified.

Be proud. Your work is that of a very gifted writer, comrade!

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1 hour ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Quite. By my calculation, I'm now within 10 or so chapters of the end. Not sure whether to be relieved or terrified.

Still plenty to look forward to then! And we've got Val going to the Mun - what's not to like.

Quick aside - the Kommissar would make one heck of a flight director if he put his mind to it. I did like the way you switched him from terrifying figure of the State to conspirator to person with a shadowed past to person giving a matter of fact briefing complete with all the correct technical terms. In a single chapter no less. Great stuff!

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Chapter 82: ...But Left a Spark

The last few drops of rain fell from unmended gutters, or clung languidly to eaves and ledges. Here and there in the dark, empty streets, clouds of mist drifted like wandering specters. Everyone would remember this storm, only speaking of it in hushed voices during quiet times of worry. They would speak of how, for a few, brief moments, lightning crashed and wind raged. Windows shattered, trees toppled; and here, where none had ever been recorded before, an earthquake tore the ground asunder. They would say it was as if the very world itself had cried out. And then, as quickly as it began, was suddenly silenced. 

The rains followed. For three days, and three nights, it rained. This was not unusual, but the rain that fell was light, and slow, and mournful. No one wanted to go out in it; anyone who could stayed indoors and held their loved ones close. No one would speak it, no one would acknowledge it, the feeling that permeated the dark days and still nights. But they all knew.  

The muggy evening that had preceded the storm turned into unseasonably cold, even frigid weather. Now, as the rains passed and low clouds lingered overhead, lit from below by the city lights, a Figure came walking down a deserted street. Nearly deserted. Huddled by a damp, pitiful fire in a barrel, a derelict who had not escaped the rains watched him with tired, glassy eyes. The Figure wore a wide hat and long coat, hiding his face; garb that at any other time might have seemed silly, but tonight, seemed not a bit out of place. 

The Figure walked on, his shoes clicking and echoing in the stillness, and paused before a humble door. Stenciled on it were the words: KERBIN CITY MORGUE. Collecting himself, the Figure entered. 

A clerk at a desk waited politely as he approached, "may I help you, sir?"

"Aye, lad," the Figure said, "you've the victim of a recent crime here. Ah'll be needing her personal effects."

The clerk scoffed at him, "sir, I can only release such things to lawful next-of-kin or--"

A golden badge hit the desk.

"Of course, how foolish of me," the Figure said, "they dunna call it the red eye for nothin'."

Peering at it, the clerk's eyes grew wide, "Gednalna yard??"

"Aye lad, this matter has now become an international investigation."

"Wow..." the clerk ran a hand through his thinning hair, "but... I'll still need copies of--"

A stack of papers hit the desk. 

"In triplicate. Registered by the Solicitor General and sealed by His Majesty the King himself."

Against all probability, the clerk's eyes grew wider. He ran a stubby, callused thumb over the raised wax seal. 

"Wow," he breathed again, "I've been doing this a long time, and I've never actually seen one of these forms."

"Pray you never do again, lad. Nasty business, this."

"Yes," he picked up a thick ledger, "er, what was the victim's name, again?"

"Anastasia Kerman."

And dropped it with a thud, "oh." He shook himself, and leafed through the pages, "sign here, please, and here, and just here. Thank you." He disappeared down the hallway for a long while before finally returning. 

"Are you quite all right, lad? You're looking a bit green. Er."

The clerk sat down roughly, plopping a large clear plastic bag marked 'EVIDENCE' on the desk. He ran a hand through hair considerably more damp.

He sighed, "KCPD has already closed the file, just chalked it up to a random act of violence. Said the storm probably washed away any real evidence." His eyes lingered on the bag. Smears of blood could be seen on the smaller bags inside, and hints of green cloth. "This is one of those cases that just gets to you. I'm sure you know how it is."

"Aye, lad," the Figure said, taking the bag, "Ah do."

"Oh, one more signature here. Thank you." The clerk looked up at him, still not able to make out a face, "good luck with your investigation, sir. I really hope you get the guy. We all do."

"In my experience, these things have a way of working themselves out. One way... or another."

The clerk nodded, "will there be anything else, sir?"

"That'll do, lad, that'll do," the Figure tipped his wide-brimmed hat, still shrouding his face, "you have yourself a pleasant evening." And with that, he disappeared through the door and out into the dolent night. 

He didn't go very far. He sought the beam of a nearby street lamp, its pallid glow falling on his broad shoulders like a mantle of light, embracing him against the surrounding darkness. He considered the plastic evidence bag for a moment before fishing around inside and withdrawing a small, grey, sparkly rock. 

"Well now, aren't you a beauty," he observed as he turned it over in his stubby fingers. Even in the dim cast, the light seemed to play and dance off the crystals in the rock, in mirthful defiance of this lachrymose night. "It may take some time, but Ah'll see that you get to your rightful owner. Given what Ah may have t' put him through, it's the least Ah can do."

He tucked the rock away in a pocket, the bag under his arm, and brought out something that looked like a white porcelain disk, roughly split down the middle. He stared at it beneath the light, running a finger along the angular markings around its edge. 

"Fairy tales..." he said slowly, shaking his head, "fairy tales dunna give us our first idea of evil, they give us our first clear idea of the defeat of evil. The baby has known the dragon intimately, ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him, is a knight to slay the dragon.

"Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons... can be beaten."

The figure raised his eyes to the light above, and for the first time it bathed his face. It cast soft shadows on creases and wrinkles not yet fully formed, and highlighted the brilliant streaks of red still left in the shaggy hair beneath the brim of his hat. 

"Ah happen to be a knight..." he turned his eyes away, and looked once more on the bag and its bloodstained contents, "and now, you've gone and pist. Me. Off." The bag crumpled in his clenched fist, "Ah do beleive the time has come... t' pull some strings."

He left the comforting mantle of the light behind, stepping again into the shadows, "of course... in all those tales, it's usually the hapless young squire who saves the day."

Drawing near to the derelict and his pathetic fire, the Figure tossed the bag into the barrel, where it burned with frightful intensity. The shivering old kerb looked on him with vacant eyes. 

"Ch... change, mishter?" a grubby hand in a grubby mitt came up. A large wad of bills appeared in it. 

"Go sleep someplace warm for a while, lad, have a good meal," the Figure said kindly. 

"And forget that you ever saw me."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Great point, evil can be beaten. And evil will be beaten by Valentina Kerman. I can't wait till the next chapter! Please also don't have us battle with onions once more. Please

Edited by Alpha 360
"Kouston, we have several problems, but that doesn't matter so we want to continue on with the mission."
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7 hours ago, vsully said:

next chapter coming this week?

Hope so. Looking to be another long one, and the research wasn't completely finished this weekend due to getting sidetracked into 1.2. :blush:

In addition, I've officially gone from "trying to buy a house" to "STДLIИS SШЗДTУ SФCКS, actually buying a house" to be followed shortly by "PЦTIИ now we have to move into a house" which is likely to booger all sorts of things up, especially time. I'd rather go punch the Kraken in the face, knowing full well I am not Edgas Kerman. :confused:

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Good luck with all that CF. 

KSP might be a time-suck but from personal experience it's got nothing on moving house and still less on buying that house before moving into it!

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