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Author Topic: [6th World] Short Stories  (Read 4468 times)
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« on: October 14, 2005, 02:16:02 AM »

What follows are six short stories along with the introduction to the setting of 6th World. I am hoping for in feedback is what you as readers with no other information provided back of the stories. Do they set the stage so to speak, and if they do what do you think that stage looks like? Do the stories draw you in with just the material presented? I hope you enjoy and I look forward to reading your responses.

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A Night on the Town

The town was called Crossville, a suburb of Chicago. I had passed though on my travels. While looking for a place to rest I came across this man’s diary. From what I could tell he had used it to break open his basement window.

Journal Entry 256
     It’s been far too long since I have picked up this old diary. Since the storm began I’ve watched terrors unspeakable. I’ve watched them running though the streets, screaming, just to stop mid stride and fall over; and they were the lucky ones  - that was the first night. By the third night of the storm I could hear them like packs of wild animals, local gangs ran the streets grabbing at anything they could find. What little I had sat with me in the basement of my house.
     Within a week I had begun to ration what was left of my food. I could still hear the storm outside. I could still hear the gangs of people, not just the odd troublemakers; no this was the sound of the staving systematically breaking down doors looking for food. I barricaded the door to the staircase and boarded up the only window down here.
     I’m not sure how long has passed before I found my old journal down here. Funny I thought I had lost this thing in a move three years ago. Ironic, I hadn’t thought about it much since then.

Journal Entry 257
     I’m not sure how long it’s been since my last entry. How ever long it is I wish I could go back to that time. My food SisS has run out. I do not have the strength to pry open the window or the door. I still hear them though, beasts, guttural howling for food. The storm, still out there. There. Sometime while I was sleeping the roof started to collapse, a Sgir,S SpSi, it smashed into the radio, not that it gives me anything but static. Stupid. Why did I stay here?

Journal Entry 2
     Screaming animals. The thundering outside won’t stop. I broke my Left finger pinky. Burned it with lighter to stop the blood. Still can’t get the boards from window. I’m so hungry.

Journal Entry 259
   Roof broke more today. I have a stream of water. It’s from a pipe. I can hear them outside now. They want my water. I know they want my meat. I know they do.

   That was the final entry. After reading this diary I returned to the street where I had originally found it. With little effort I kicked in the board still on the window.
   His body was half gone, what was left housed vermin. The pipe was still dripping water from the sewers.
   When I put his body to the earth, it crossed me to leave his diary. Though, I think it better serves a reminder of what we all lost during the Cataclysm. May your soul finally have peace.

-Donavan ~ Keeper of Antiquity.
 
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2005, 02:17:47 AM »

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Introduction

The Following Speech was originally presented to Class 01472 in the Ashville  Reduc 
   
   With the return of magick, mankind’s time has passed. Like dust shifting across a road too long to see any end, their once great empires have been taken away by the winds of fate. Their science, which allowed them to rise up and beat the world into submission, has no meaning in this new era. Their question has finally been answered: you are not alone.
   In this time many, both human as well as others, have come to question how and why this great change has come to pass. Contained herein are some of my personal writings though the course of the last fifteen years. Perhaps they may shed light where there is now only vague recollection, nightmares and fear.

The Last Days: Man’s Final Plea

   The end of the twentieth century was met with many varied problems. The increasing turmoil of the human political powers had broken into over a hundred wars across the globe. In the U.S., the newly elected president was trapped under the weight of a country struggling to find a platform to gain respect from its jaded citizens. On July 5, 2012 the president of the United States of America announced the formal acceptance of the Theory of Psi, first founded in the mid-nineteen eighties. With this announcement the U.S. government implemented a nationwide program to help the psychically gifted to better understand and utilize their talents. That same day, letters too many unknowing citizens across the country arrived offering an open invitation to the new “gifted” schools slated to open within the same week. All students were offered free transportation, room and board as well as a reasonable allowance for being part of this new program. Many found this offer hard to resist.
   Thus the gifted riots began at the first opening ceremonies in Manhattan, New York. This escalated to a countrywide panic. Many people feared what these schools had to teach those deemed “gifted”. The riots spread like wildfire though the states many schools for the “gifted” burned though the nights fueled by a mass hysteria.
   Within the first week, many cities having a school for the gifted were placed under marshal law. The U.S. Military drafted many of America’s police and rescue forces as a new military police.
   Throughout the world paranoia took hold and religious leaders of almost every faith denounced the U.S. Government as rebelling ageist nature. Rioting in the States escalated. Old wounds bleed fresh. Terrorists’ attacks became more frequent, accusing the U.S. of using psychics to attack foreign targets. By the end of the eleventh month of the Christian calendar every U.S. military base stood at full alert, the country had closed all borders stopping all international trade. 
   As international tensions continued to rise the great storm broke. It would come to pass that Earth herself would see the armies of man laid low before the horrors of a growing third world war that could eliminate all life. There was no more international conflict as the nations of man were struck down by Earth wrath. December twenty-eighth, two thousand and twelve the reign of Humanity ended. 

The Storm of Ages: Cataclysm

   As I lay this to paper I can feel the tugging at my mind to look back to the days before the Cataclysm.  It begs for me to rest in these memories. Yet even as my mind is comforted here I know what my chosen path is.
   My name is Donavan, and though many things surrounding the Cataclysm still remain unclear there is a need to have what I know put to the page.
   Many who could feel the currents during the waning of Maylos knew. It began years before the true Cataclysm as the cycle of Maylos came near to the end.
   Wait I get ahead of myself, let me begin again. Many people in the modern world have come to accept magick. What they do not understand is how or way magick is what it is. Legends speak that the gods placed a cycle and an order to all things. Those of the Order of Magnus lay claims that Maylos is the cycle of magick drifting in and out of flux once a millennium.
   Though none can place a definite date, all which understood the nature of Maylos knew the time was at hand. Slowly man’s precious science began to fail them. Beginning with the pinpricks of fringe science, continuing to the safest of airplanes dropping from the sky. Then the storm came.
   It was late into the last month of the Christian year. Some would say, the last Christian year.  It began slowly; the crimson of dawn never gave way to the blue of the daylight. Masses of black and purple came rolling from the coasts, the heavens waited in silence till the last clouds met. There was no skyline that did not fall under this bloated swollen mass.
   The storm broke in waves of lightning snapping from cloud to cloud striking the earth in rage. In its defense the earth broke forth in fissures of magma and black pitch choking the sky from its sight.  This was the turning point. Maylos had finished its circuit and was ready to return the world to the lush garden of its youth.
   However, there had to be a cleansing before the healing. The foulness that humanity had forced onto the world had to be purged if by the blade of Thanatos himself. Cities burned, or were swallowed whole in great fissures only to be regurgitated as fresh soil. Doomsayers spoke of end times, yet they somehow knew it was only a beginning.
   There is no real way to tell how long this great storm lasted. Occasionally the light of the full moon would break the clouds and cast a night’s reprieve. Yet, even this was uncertain as a gauge of time. When it was finished the children who survived where now men and the world of steel and cement was berried with no gravestone other than in the memories of the those who had lived in this other place, this past time.
   
   Every garden has a weed somewhere.



The Long Day After: redemption, or the End of the Council and The Trail of Blood.

   When the Storm of Ages settled those who had been forced into hiding for so long finally began to make new lives for themselves. This was a sad time for humanity as a whole.
   Many humans, those who lived though the first night of the Cataclysm, bound together outside of cities and away from the harshest destruction. When the storm lifted some tried to return to their former homes. For many this was their first experience with other races of the world.
   Long before humanity there were those who claimed this world as their home. When humanity was still young leaders of the major races came together to form a pact and a council to govern that which concerned all people. Very little time passed before the council was little more than a machine driving the races of the world into humanities myth.
   With the Cataclysm came the death of many things, including the remaining members of the high council and their laws. Those who had been forced into hiding were now free of the sanctions that barred them from their ancestral homes. On that Long Day the Trail of Blood began.
When the tragedy of the cataclysm came, survivors banded together forming small camps often memorials like this can be found within the remaining ruins.   There are those who to this day still blame humanity for the Cataclysm and during the Long Day after their anger cried for blood.  Of all the races it was the Eutrozic who cried the loudest. Forced to live among humans to watch over and guide them, the Eutrozic saw them betrayed into a slaughter and assimilation into humanity. In only three generations, the majority of Eutrozic elders had ether been killed or lost to the pox and insanity. Without the leadership of the elders the Eutrozic people fell quickly. Their culture and history drifted away from them until even they believed themselves to be only human.
   Even the most renowned of the Eutrozic spirit walkers do not understand the happenings of the Cataclysm, in some aspects. The legends say that spirits spoke to the Eutrozic Shamans. Some say they spoke to all the Eutrozic but it was only the faithful who understood. The rage was a result of the memories bestowed to the Eutrozic.
   The Trail of Blood led from the old U.S. state of Oklahoma and ran like veins though the body the Americas. Originally forged by the Eutrozic, the Trail of Blood bled for years to come as many of the Elvin tribes, and mysterious Brotherhood moved to reclaim their lost lands. Many know this as the Long Day. Many lost themselves in the slaughter, forgetting the reasons and seeing only revenge.
   Humanity was pushed further and further from the good lands, forced into deserts and stagnate marshes. Few survived this forced march.
   Once the subverted races reclaimed their true residences the Trail of Blood began to wane. Yet it was not until almost two years after the Cataclysm that the Long Day finally ran its course.
   Sadly, with the spread of trade and an economic growth within the cities humanity seems to be etching a new place in society and the grumbling of the still spiteful can be heard.

The First Spring: Hope

   As they tell it by the end of the Thirteenth moon the true Eutrozic tribes had reclaimed the territories the once watched over. During the second cycle from the Cataclysm many Eutrozic elders ran their warriors ramped to remove the Human scourge. Many survivor camps were wiped from this world in that year. Many believed that the bloodletting would have continued till no human still took breath. Those that remembered the ancient tenets of the Counsel and Treaty of Arc implored the aid of the Malic Houses to hold true to their word.
   At the break of the third moon of the second cycle the elders of the Eutrozic tribes gathered to meet with the rulers of the Malic Houses, only one came to this summit, with. Angel Lovelost. Rumors say that she was the first human to be formally trained by the Malic in their ways and fighting styles.
   Angel had been raised in the humans’ world, adopted by the Malic leader late in life. She was the key, breed to hate, and to shun all but the most callow of actions Angel stood as her own woman, compassionate and kind despite her linage. Angel also carried other talents that had only truly begun to manifest themselves during the time of the Cataclysm. Her master spoke then of others like her, of the surviving humans an awakening that had finally begun.
   Perhaps humanity had evolved though the trials of the Cataclysm.  It was then that one Eutrozic spoke in the defense of man.
   Walks in Dreams, Lucian, many from outside his tribe knew him only as he who remembers. Rumors claimed that his ancestor had been an advisor to the first counsel; they claimed that during the great renewing of the tribes only he had nothing to learn. When he spoke he told the story of the Time Before The Arc. He spoke of things I can never put to page.
   When day broke on the first day of the forth moon the trail of blood had ended. Humanities path was uncertain, but they had regained the possibility for life.
   This also began the first trade routs between Malic and Eutrozic people. Many of the Eutrozic remember this as the first spring past the Cataclysm.
 

A New Time of Trade: Beginnings

   When the Eutrozic counsel of Elders and the Malic leader had finished, it had been decided to allow merchant houses to travel the upper world. The trade was regulated to no more than one caravan each month on tribal lands. The Malic Houses of Mera and Vox took the reigns of trade over the surface. Both Houses already carried trade to other races and cultures, particularly with both Kurto tribe of the Mer and Meatro of the Kle-Anne.
   Strange how quickly things change, the trade between races, spawned new growth for all who where involved. Within less than a year the Mer had begun renovation of an old human city half thrust into the sea during the Cataclysm. While the Malic House of Dok and Mera begin stetting up operational camps outside of New York.
   The Mer merchants worked serfs relentlessly to complete their city. It was during this time that Angel Lovelost made the first big step for humanity since the cataclysm. The human coalition known as Hunters had been working and training under Ms. Lovelost for just under a year. She used the Mer expansion to build the first Hunters Guild outside of their home city-state. The Hunters Guild offered an outside policing agency not affiliated with any of the Mer’s politics. Fortunate for the burgeoning Hunters the history of the Mer tribes begged for an uncorrupted security. With the aid of the Hunters Guild the new city of Sparaida~Nor opened trade routes all across the eastern seaboard and out into the Midwest.
   As the Hunters tried to engrave themselves to society so did society pull at their Guild. Soon almost all trade caravans had hunter escorts for protection. It was during this time the guild made a terrible discovery. Survivor camps still dotted the countryside, lashing out like wild animals at anything that would come near their territories. The shock of the camps rolled into New York on the backs of horror stories. Very few of the men and women in the city had ever heard of the camps and for many of them this was the first time they learned of the trail of blood.
   Mixed views of fear and hate ebbed through New York. Fear was greater than the rage. Had the masters of the Hunter Guild not spoken all in favor of continued trade I believe the human city would be nothing but a small island of unmarked graves. The Hunters Guilds begin recruiting any and all, human or otherwise, who would work the wild trails off the merchant roads to help find the refugees.
   In the first attempts many of the refugees from survivor camps could not adjust to the new world, for years they had been subjected to their own form of brainwashing. Harsh feudal rule or oppressive religious dogmas that demoralized their citizens and kept them easy controlled. Over time the Hunters begin reeducation camps, much like the one here, outside of the real cities to help the refugees adapt and prepare for new experiences.
   At the same time the Malic House Mera as well as House Vox made plans for a surface settlement that would allow trade between several different races and cultures all within the primary city-state. Unfortunately the plans would take nearly a decade to complete. The city was to name Dor-E’an, the Bridge. It took the efforts of both Malic trade Houses as well as the Mer tribe Yulee and many human workers. Many displaced humans begin small farms outside the walls of the city, and once again the Hunters Guild secured a strong hold over the policing of the city. The foundations of this city were what I believe to be the beginnings of the modern era.

Donavan ~ Keeper of Antiquity.
 
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2005, 02:18:24 AM »

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Burning Night, a Witch’s Tale

   The air was thick, even in my cell the sent of smoke was choking - but that was how they wanted it. The screams were deafening, Valerie writhed on the log and the citizens of Exodus howled cheering it on. With Val burning I knew I was next. Be it a day or a week, I knew there was no getting out of this cell till it was time to burn.
   Sammy’s belly laugh rolled over me as he walked by I could see him watching the spectacle. Most of Exodus called him Sampson; it’s what he likes to go by. I knew him before the Long Night back when he was Little Sammy Richards. Before he was a juicer kicked off the football team for steroid use. Even before high school when he was just a little bully. Whatever happened over the long night changed him though, he was big before, but now, well everyone in the town the story of how he took care of that monster, whatever it was.
Some giant centipede killed two of the farm hands before anyone could do anything. By the time Sammy showed up half the town was there. Some of the older men, cops before the Long Night were out trying to scare it off. Little Sammy comes running out with a rope in hand. Next thing anyone knows he’s mounted that thing and has the rope looped under its jaw. It squirmed trying to throw him but most of its body was of the ground. After about a minute the head comes loose putting Sammy on the ground and killing the bug.
After that no one saw him as a kid anymore, he was Sampson, the monster slayer. He could do no wrong. He would go hunting with the men carry a dear under each arm when they came back. When the Preacher would call for a burning - it was Sammy who cut the tree they’d come back four men holding one end and Sammy at the other. The Preacher had the farmers build him a new house next to and as big as his and he lorded it over everyone. That’s how Val and I got “caught.”   
The Preacher condemned witchcraft and any other form of unholy act. After Exodus was established he would blame any hardship on the sins of the town. “If the town is without sin God will have no need to punish us.” That was his motto, and he used it to turn most of the town into mindless servants. Only those who had something the Preacher could use benefited in the society he created; the sheriff, Crossville’s old police chief, the farmer who knew how to grow the land and the towns “mayor.” An old friend the Preacher put in place to legitimize his actions.
 During the long night the Preacher rallied citizens of Exudes claiming only God’s chosen would survive. The righteous had to be pure of body and soul. Parents who had lost their children to the governments gifted program were scrutinized as they might also carry they taint their children had. When one of the younger survivors started having started having strange things happen around him, milk souring, water boiling, then the fire, burned out everything in his room while he slept except him and the bed, the Preacher used him to recreate his own witch trials. The trial was just another way to fuel the mob, he was dead before the day was out, burned at the state. Life in Exodus changed; the Preacher recruited the Sheriff, and his men to start hunting witches. A prison was built and next to it a burning circle. If they suspected someone, he was taken. After the trial all the witch’s possessions went to the Preacher, to be sanctified and redistributed as needed; which meant his friends and something to anyone who turned the witch.
By the end of the long night the Preacher’s men could use fear to take whatever they wanted. Anyone who stood up to them stood trial for witchcraft and there was only one verdict. By the time Sampson killed that monster things had been quite for some years only a burning every couple of months. The Preacher and his men had everything they wanted and they were smart enough to not cull the herd too much for personal gain, someone had to tend to the fields after all.
Sampson though, he had something to prove; women, a different one every night. The town’s girls learned rather quickly that to say no was as good as tying yourself to the witch’s pyre, coming out afterward only lead to the same fate. Valerie and me, we were his last. I had known to stay away from him but we were together when he comes in her house. Says he’ll take us both. I knew it was stupid but I tried to resist him. Something in me was burning. A fire I had never known before. Something deep inside was awakening. I could feel it, changing me, quickening me. Val fought back too; I got free and out of the house. People had already started to gather by the time I wrestled free. Next thing I know he comes out with two cuts on his chest and dragging Valerie his hand clasped over her mouth.
That was it; he likely cut himself because he knew there were others out there. Witches we were, foul devil worshipers who cut him without sorcery, no one there even looked at us as we pleaded out innocence. A day later and I can’t block it out, her screams are deafening and they’re my fault. I should have let him have me; it’s been his dream since we were both kids. Little Sammy the Flirt, is now Sampson the Slayer and he’ll kill again tomorrow night.
The roar from the crowd outside was overpowering. Sampson, the Preacher and the Sheriff, they stood in front of the cell each with broad grins; each with their sin clear beneath their robes. What hell have I doomed myself too?
“In this book it is written: ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Darling, have you put much thought into this book and its meanings?” The Preacher patted the leather bound bible as he held it over his heart. The gleam in his eyes became wicked and smile curled as the light of the flames danced off his teeth. “Brother Sampson has told me of your crimes. How you used your devilry to throw him into a carnal state. Then to strike him in his weakened state. I have come to give you, absolution!  Will you receive my blessing and the blessing of the men you see before you?” He spoke with all the pomp and vigor of a Sunday sermon. The same feathered voice that seduced the founders of Exodus. There was no doubt what they had come for, but there was doubt.
“Before I “go”, you mean before I’m burned alive.” My voice was dry, cracked, throat swollen from the heat. The Preacher nodded solemnly before he spoke.
“I mean what I say. Will you receive absolution before you leave us?” His hand glided slowly from the bible to the door or the jail his eye’s following as if he needed to see the motion though. A moment’s hesitation, I nodded. The sheriff was silent as he unlocked the cell door.   
Sampson’s shirt was on the floor before he was in the cell. The Preacher followed while the Sheriff held the cell door. I knew what I had to do unbuttoning my blouse as they came towards me.
“Fall upon your knees and receive my blessing.” The Preacher began to unbutton his pants as he spoke. As I dropped to one knee my other leg snapped out catching the Preacher off guard.
Kicking off, I shot forward. My fist landed squarely between Sampson’s legs. He doubled over in pain and shock. He wasn’t the only on growing stronger. Pulse quickening, a fire had erupted within me.
The Sheriff went to pull his club, closing the cell door behind him. Before he could do either I’d covered the distance between us. Ripping my blouse free it snapped around his head as I slid past him; the loose end of the shirt sailing into my hand almost as if it had a will of its own.
Shifting my weight I slung his body free, like tossing a school backpack from a handle. Sailing into the wall the Sheriff’s body went limp and the cell door slammed behind me leaving the Preacher and his thugs inside. I was alive.   
The key snapped in the lock leaving the broken remains in my hand. I was through the door before any of them could stand. Legs pumping, my only hope was that the screams of Valerie and the crowd would be enough to muffle the fight.
That’s when I saw him. He stood silent watching me run right at him. Shadows danced around him as if some unknown light played with the light of the fire. He wasn’t anyone from Exodus that I knew. He wore thick black leather, metal plates along the chest arms and legs. The metal gleamed in the firelight. A sword sheathed at his side, one hand rested on the hilt. The other moved to his lips for silence.
I tried to run past but even with my newfound speed he was in front of me, holding me before I realized he had moved. One hand on my shoulder the other on my arm. His hands felt like stone.     
“I know you’re scared. It’s ok now. I am a hunter and I have come to help you.” His voice was low and metered like a smooth growl. “There are others, the light of the fires brought them. Behind us they wait in the shadows of the forest. They’ve come to help. They’ll take you to a real city. They can explain all that has happened since the long night.” Something seemed to catch his eye as he looked at me.     
   “I know the changes you go though. It has happened to others. You have only just begun to realize the power that grows within you. The Hunter’s will help you. Show you ways to focus this strength.” He slid past me with the grace of a thousand dancers. “Go.”
   “What is your name?” The question left my lips before I had time to think about it.
   “Malachi. Now go, the Hunters await.” With that he was gone. I walked into the darkness. The Hunters revealing themselves as I approached. Not knowing what to expect only one thing was clear. This was the end of Exodus and the beginning of something much greater. I wasn’t Heather Winters anymore, she died last night. I was the witch they feared. I am Delilah.
 
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2005, 02:19:26 AM »

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New Blood, Foundations

   Leather squeaked as the last of the armor locked in place. It was still new and like every other green recruit’s oiled and polished every night with pride. The silver plates of the armor glistened under the room’s two oil lamps. The central training center had working electricity; I suppose that’s not too impressive since most of the Dome had power now. A Reduc twenty miles west of the Dome-Nor pass now that was another story.
Engineers were still working on getting a battery of old generators working for the Reduc. Word was Captain Sullivan had called in some retired Field Engineers from the Dwarven Militarily to examine the generators. But that was just talk around the motor lobby. If they were coming there was no prep work done. Then again who would really know? We were already getting supplies in for the Exodus camp survivors.
   At least the perimeter walls were up. Steel rebar with a concrete sheathe wired for lights but still no generator. Four meters tall and a meter thick it would take something pretty nasty to punch a hole in that and since there’s not too many howitzers these days I’m not too worried. Winston, the one guy most people around here respected, had transferred to Dor-E’an two days after the walls were finished.
Locking my blade into place I grabbed the Keris pistol on the bedside table, thumbing over the LCD plate it glowed 5, the D-Cell, half empty. Snapping an extra Cell into the belt I headed to formation.
   Night patrol was four teams, with six Hunters per team; three field agents like me, one handling communications, two heavy weapons experts, both armed with disruptors, and a spotter. On a good night you never saw the spotter. Central only trained Hunters one way, but they ran field exercises and drills constantly throughout training. Every Hunter spends time in the three basic patrol positions during training. Testing results and trainer evaluations are sent to your first commander who then decides your patrol position after an initial exam.
   Patrols are doubled when a camp comes in. Exodus camp arrived less than a week back. One of our Guides saw the fires, kiddy killers; they call them, the two Guides I’ve met at any rate. Captain pulls in six teams for forced extraction. Half of Indigo, my team was straight from central. Half the Reduc was straight from central.
It didn’t matter, those are the rules, you find a fundamentalist camp killing “witches,” they don’t look militant you go in. I had expected some kind of resistance, but apparently one of the survivors had already taken care of the camps leadership while trying to escape the fire. She came straight for us too, like she knew who we were and where to find us. It didn’t matter that we were hidden in the tree line. A few words between her and the captain and we move in.
No arguments from most the survivors and the only one with some fight had already been beaten by this Delilah woman. That was five nights ago. Delilah got shipped to central and the others came back with us. As a rule the Guild will ship “witches” like Delilah to separate Reducs to ease integration for the camp, but she wasn’t afraid, wanted to see the real thing, and wanted to become a Hunter.
The first caravan arrived yesterday. The tutors should be arriving soon. The captain does the initial talk at the camp and then a welcome at the Reduc, but the Guild keeps teachers and therapists to handle the actual history lessons.
“We got two runners heading straight down the main road.” James, the com officer barked as he received info from the spotter. Without a thought I was sprinting back towards the Reduc.
“Wait, Echo Team is already moving to engage.”  His voice flew at us as we ran.
“Stand down, there is no nee…” James shout ended in a gurgle.
Spinning the ball of my foot and knee dug into the ground as I turned. The APP already out. Our heavy gunners had already moved for cover. I didn’t see the other field agent. Then it hit me, he was running.
James’s body was limp, his head crushed by a massive claw. Shards of bone and flesh shot between the fingers of the creatures paw. The other claw clutched around James arm as the beasts jaw snapped shut over his shoulder severing the limb.
I could see Roi and Franklin, roughly eight meters apart and Franklin half that distance from James’ body. Roi fired first, a streak of blue light darted out digging into the beast’s side. A direct shot from one of those disrupters would rip a normal man in two. It hissed as the light faded in the things chest. Without loosing a beat the beast leapt, clearing half the distance from the body to Roi with just its first spring.
   Franklin pulled off a shot; the beast had already changed course for him before he released the trigger. The beam from the disrupter whistled into the night. Roi had fallen on his back after the beast leapt at him; he squeezed off another shot as he rolled over. The beast’s strides seemed to predict the attacks, this shot rolling under the creature as it pounced on Franklin.
   He had to be dead before he hit the ground. The beast ripped into his neck as Franklin was crushed by the thing’s massive bulk. Roi was already lining up his next shot.
There was no time to shed a tear for Franklin.
There was no time to aim. Taking my shot, my only instinct was to run.
   A Eutrozic Hunter at central had told about these creatures, Wild Ones he had called them. Said they were once men whose spirit had been consumed by an animal. I should have paid more attention.
   Firing another shot, Roi and I were almost in sync his shot following mine both of us aiming for his head. Leaping again, the beast was moving like it knew when we would shoot. Pouncing, the beast’s claw engulfed Roi’s head. Without breaking stride it turned towards me.  Roi’s body being drug under the creature like the bag of some sugar crazed kid running from house to house on Halloween.
   I could hear his skull crack just before the Wild One let go.
It landed on me like a car wreck. I couldn’t move away, overgrown jaws clamping down on my neck and shoulder as I twisted my head away.
   The Keris pistol shoved into it gut.
Four, it bit down.
Three, its’ mass convulsed pulling flesh from bone.
Two, blinding light and warm pool reaching around me.
One, Darkness.
Zero, somehow I could hear the click from the trigger as I pulled it, again.
Click, click, nothing. The pain grew distant, and I knew I was still pulling the trigger but it didn’t matter any more.
Click, don’t want to die green.
Click, don’t have much choice.
Howl, there’s an explosion somewhere and the darkness constricts around me.
Howl and the darkness consumes me.
A forest I don’t know. Chasing the wolf, sometimes I catch it, sometimes it catches me. 
Click, click, click, hum, light. Eyes’ closed and I can’t avoid it. Red blur across my vision. Pain, can’t turn my head. Surrender I open my eyes.  A man I’ve never seen before leans over me holding a clipboard and pen. He smiles. Behind him I see a halogen light covered by a diffuser.
“Good to see you awake, officer Mathews.” His voice is gruff but assuring. “We weren’t positive you would decide to come back.”
“Huh?” My voice sounds distant, alien.
“You’ve been in a coma officer Mathews, several months now. We’re happy to see you’ve finally come too.”   
“Wha, where am I?”  There’s a roughness to it, dry, hardened. I try to sit up but a shooting pain keeps me down.
“The same place you left, the Exodus Reduc. There have been a few changes since the incident. But I’m sure Captain Sullivan and officer Dukes will be happy to fill in those details.” He checks off something on the board.
“Officer Dukes? Why can’t I move?”  I try to sit up again and pain again.
“Yes, officer Dukes, he was your spotter, remember?” The doctor looks me over and flips a page over the back of the clipboard.
“I remember, but, he wasn’t there. Why, why can’t I get up?” The pain throbbed in my sides now.
“Your ribs were broken, they’re likely still bruised. So was your collar bone and right arm.” He begins writing.
“Oh.” I stop trying to sit up.
“Officer Dukes was there, you just didn’t see him before that Wild Thing pounced on you. He put three shots into it before it died.” The docs tone changed as he said this, something more official like reciting a report.
“Just three?”   
“Are you surprised it took so many shots?”
“No, just making sure I had the count right. Four to its’ gut before that thing got the best of me.” The Doctor grunts at this and turns to put the clipboard down.
“I’ll go get the captain and officer Dukes so you can let him know yourself.” With that he nodded and walked out.
Outside the room I could hear him whispering to someone talking about me, “Quick recovery”. Down the hall I the therapist’s working with the Preacher from the Exodus camp. Outside, there were drills for a new set of recruits just in from central. Inside, the wolf, telling me a secret; I would be on my feet within a week, and then we could go and play.
It’s good to be the hunter.
 
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2005, 02:20:00 AM »

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Black Highway, A Night with the Red Wolves

   “Starless night, a storm’s comin’” Grant sniffed the air. “We should ride north, there’s a town, Spring Lake about a day out.”  With that he kicked the bike’s leg as the cycle rumbled to life. The others followed suit; eight bikes, three cars and the rig, seventeen of us in all.
   Grant was the leader of the Red Wolves; he’d been the one to work out how to get the bikes running. The pack wears mostly old biker gear the stuff with Kevlar pads and the Titanium joints. Its stiff but it works in a scuffle. Most of the guys have red stripes painted down the arm, fangs. I don’t know where the name came from but the guys take care of each other.
Most of the pack had run with him back in old Detroit. They picked up Sampson and Eileen after he knocked out three of the Wolves outside of one those Hunter towns.  He was some kind of folk hero in his camp, practically ran the place, after the Hunter’s found them he didn’t take well to being a little fish. Vince and I hooked up with them after a brawl in Horror Show outside the Dome. When we got to that Fish City we picked up Ricky. He helped us take down a caravan there, been with us since then. He kept the rig after we offloaded the haul with a fence in Dor-E’an.
“Is it just me or is Grant on edge?” Vince lit a smoke as I slid into the old sedan. His eye’s drifted over the dash as he tapped the fuel gage. He turned to me as we pulled out. “What do ya think baby he’s always making time with you. You think something up?”  Eye’s back on the road he shifted gears and sped up.
“He’s not; Grant talks to me because I can negotiate with the Malic. You know he gets nervous every time we deal with any of them other people.” I grabbed Vince’s smoke as he drove. He knows Grant hates the other people, he also knows the only reason he’s still alive is because I took care of Grant when we were in Horror Show. I know it eats at him. “The guns we grabbed off that last haul their Malic.” I didn’t tell him the load was all medical supplies, heading out of Dor-E’an to the Dome. Grant was nervous but Vince didn’t need to know that. He’d been looking for a way to take out Grant from the start. I wasn’t about to ruin the only good thing that’s happened to me since the Cataclysm.
  The miles and hours were silent, only the storm chasing us. The highway rolled on black stretching out into the night. We’d have camped by now but Grant was sure they were coming for us and he wanted to put some miles between the city and us. We rode along what was left of I-75. We rode tight to take up most of the road. Even if he was scared it was business as usual when dealing with drifters. Loners were always easy targets. Sometime after midnight the pack pulled off the road.
“We ride at daybreak.” Grant shouted as he pulled out the folding tent from his saddle bags. Within a half hour we’re bunked down and Sampson’s sitting watch with Damon one of the original pack members.
The rifle rings out and I know Grant was right. I’m awake and the rains coming down soft on the tent. Frozen, only my arm moved across the tent bottom reaching for my pistol. Another shot rings out and I hear Sampson screaming. Vince is scrambling to his feet unzipping the tent. Nine mm in hand he slips from tent. The silhouette of his arm rises to fire and the smell of ozone is in the air followed by the cracking sound of a disrupter.
Diving out and rolling to my feet I’m running and a bike’s less than twenty feet away. Vince’s body is limp behind me that blank look staring cross-eyed at a wound he never got to see. Sampson’s behind a car reloading.  Damon’s body is splayed over the hood from the other side. Behind him are six Malics each armed with heavy disrupters like the ones we took from the last jacking. Another stands back chanting and I know he’s the real danger. Grant’s already moving, running between tents. He fires off a shot and it ricochets off a barrier that’s visible for only a second. The chanting ones eye’s flare as the bullet sings away. 
Eileen cuts the side of her tent and comes out shooting. Bullets fly off the barrier and the chanter stagers back. He raises his hands and white energy flares around them. Sampson swings above the car hood firing off another shot from the rifle.
“Run!” His voice is hoarse, hollow, as he pulls the bolt back loading another round. “Run baby!” Sampson’s shouting is cut short as his head blows open from three well placed shots.
Eileen screams and is cut short before she can turn towards the bikes.
Leaping on to the bike I kick the starter and engine roars. Before I can pull out there’s a bellow of an air horn and brights from the truck flare to life as it rumbles. Ricky slams the gas and barrels towards the hit team.   
The Malics break in three directions. The chanter and two of the others are caught as Ricky plows them over. Two of the old wolves pounce firing off the Disrupters we got.  Another of the Malics drops.
Pulling the machete from its sleeve I head straight at one of the remaining Malics. He turns to fire off a shot and I can hear gunfire from behind me. The bounty hunter grabs his side as fires past me. Before he can get another shot off my blade’s sunk into his chest, deep, to the wrist. His weight pulls me from the bike. It goes wild and the Malic collapses on me. Blood spits from his mouth as I try and get the blade free.
Shooting pain and I’m blinded from a white light.
Next thing I know Grant is pulling me up. There’s a pile of bodies burning inside a semicircle of bikes. Not all of them were ours, or they weren’t when this night started. Most of the remaining wolves sit watching the pyre. Ricky and two of the others were busy loading old bikes onto the trailer with the medical supplies.
Grant and I watch the fire with the others. He’s got a gash along the side of face running along his cheek to the back of his neck. An inch closer and I’d likely be standing alone.
As the sun comes up we ride out. I know somewhere in that smoldering pile what was left of Vince was there with the others. We had been together for two years before the Red Wolves came to Horror Show and none of it seemed to really matter. The pack mattered. Seven new Rygire Lances and the rest the old bikes in tow the pack rode out without a word. With any luck we’ll find some new recruits in Spring Lake.
 
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2005, 02:20:32 AM »

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Doing Time in Downtown Dor-E’an

Snorting, Vic lit a hand rolled smoke and looked across the street at the oblivious citizens of Dor-E’an walking hurriedly between meaningless lives and wasted opportunities. Seemed like it didn’t mater what he sold; even straight rat poison and someone would be at his door wanting a fix.
Winston watched him as he made a quick deal and started moving, along though a tight ally and along side streets to the docks. Winston hated this south side of town - it always brought back the lieutenants words. “Damn buildings should be condemned. The warehouses, half only stay open because of trade house sway and the other side homes for societies refuse.” It seemed like every week a hunter would put down a lab or whorehouse in this area and it never lets up.
Vic caught his tail but took the normal rounds back to the dock working his best strut for no other reason than he could. Ducking into a side door he called over two of the thugs he kept for protection. “We got company, he’s alone though.”
Winston waited only a moment or two before kicking the door in, the cheep wood bowing and cracking in the instant before the door flung open as he slung himself to the wall before going in. Bringing the DC 368 to his temple he closed his eyes in a quick prayer before whipping around to the open doorway. “Quick assessment, we got a runner.” With no one in sight Winston moved in
Vic smiled as the oblivious bastard walked though the door, so cautious, so careful. Stifling his outright glee Vic watched on silently as the hunter ambled past the thugs ducked behind a palate or crates coved in netting.
A quick hesitation and Winston hit the ground rolling to one side.  The hail of bullets clanged against the far wall of the warehouse. Squeezing off two rounds Winston rushed for cover. His Victory had never let him down and two punks with nines weren’t about to change that. Waiting for the pause he took the time to assess the building before taking the opening to stand. Firing off a shot to his peripherals the dealer jumped and ran for cover as Winston waited for the thugs to move from the crates.
Vic barley escaping the sights of the hunter made a break for the chem table throwing everything that would sell into a reinforced brief case. Furious that this kid had the balls to take a shot at him he quickly checked the rounds on his old hold out pistol, and then shoved it away.
The first thug never saw it coming, letting off another shot Winston’s 368 ripped though his throat before he dropped lifeless next to his partner. The second punk tried to play it smart and made a run for the open doorway not making it fifteen paces before watching his chest explode before him. Wasting no time Winston broke for the back storeroom where he had seen the pusher.
Vic snapped the brief case shut before kicking over the table for cover. Pulling the snub noise from his pocket he cursed under his breath. Waiting he could feel the Hunter in the room.

“It’s over, throw down your weapons and put your hands in the air.”

Tossing the snub noise to the side Vic slid up the up the table moving at a snails pace the brief case in hand.

“Alright I don’t want problems.  Look, we can work this out.” Vic words ran like venom over Winston.

“No talking, now turn around.”

As he started to turn Vic snapped throwing the brief case at Winston then leapt over the table shoving a shoulder into him, as he was distracted. Knocking Winston over Vic kicked the gun across the room grabbed the brief case and started running.
His pride hurt more than his body Winston pulled himself up into a sprint for the dealer. Vic was quick and apparently was used to having to run however Winston was a Hunter and within a breath had grabbed the metal briefcase.
Wrestling it from Vic’s hand the brief case was sent it hurtling through the storeroom. Vic made no pause at the loss, this was his life now. There was no escaping him though this Hunter was too fast to run from. Wheeling around Vic thrust his shin into the ribs of the unsuspecting hunter.
Catching his breath Winston shook his head and went for his blade only to have his ribs struck again with a surprisingly trained hand. Readying his sword Winston’s words rumbled from his gut. “Not smart, not at all.”  He paced around Vic placing his sword in the middle position.
Amused once again; “Why is it every hunter thinks they’re a samurai just because they get a nice shiny sword to use?” Vic always knew how to incite a hunter, so much pride for no reason.
Winston’s grip on the blade grew tight as he snapped into an attack sliding across the distance between them his blade arced upward in a glistening streak. Yet where he had expected only a rain of crimson there was only air.
Not wasting a moment Vic brought his elbow down on the back of his assailant followed by a quick jab. Jumping back his head only inches away from the Hunter’s blade as he moved.
The pusher’s strikes were beginning to wear on Winston, but he couldn’t show any pain, as soon as he falters it would be over. Slowing down, Winston attempted to judge the skill of his opponent. He hadn’t expected a real fight from him. Watching the pusher shift from stance to stance he figured he couldn’t have any formal training but he was good nonetheless.
Vic walked the circle with Winston staying three paces from him shifting his guard with each step waiting for the hunter to strike. From the way Winston moved Vic knew his only training came from the hunters, this should be over quickly.
As they moved around each other Winston waited for the opportunity to attack. Finally! Vic moved to strike, sidestepping almost on instinct Winston’s blade came down across the chest and up over the back of the dealer, cutting, clean, perhaps an inch deep across any one point. Following though Winston rolled on the ball of his foot, thrusting his other heel at the fresh V shaped wound along Vic’s side.
Falling to one knee Vic sputtered. “Not how this works.” The pain across his side was near overpowering and the twisted demonic smirk revealed Vic’s tenacity unwilling to give in. Focus, his sight was red with malice channeling what strength he had left his leg shot across the floor sweeping Winston. Throwing himself to the ground the pain ran in waves though Vic’s body as he brought his other leg down into the hunter’s sternum, jarring the hunter and knocking the blade from his grip.
Winston coughed at the taste of blood in is mouth. Rolling to his side he brought the ridge of his hand down on the dealer’s throat. Clasping his hand over it, he slammed Vic’s head into the ground as he stood up.
Gripping the hunter’s arm with what strength he had left Vic shifted tossing Winston like so much dead weight. His body tingled as he rose pulling Winston’s blade from the ground.
Quickly getting to his feet Winston steadied himself still dazed from the attack. Snapping him to senses was the distinct sound of a sword, his sword grinding across the floor.
Staggering towards the door Vic drug the hunter’s blade gripping the handle to ground him, give him strength. He had to get out.  With his wounds sapping his reason, Vic made his way to the exit in a haze.
With what energy Winston had left he took a step leaping at Vic, now desperate to finish this. Snapping his leg at the last moment he came at the dealer with the force of a pack of wolves.
No remorse, Vic spun around something cracking inside him. The blade swung into the air cutting deep into Winston’s leg and bringing him down on top Vic. The last bit of fight left in him seeping away with the weight of the hunter literally on him.
It shot like fire from his leg up though the spine Winston fought the instinct to give in. Flailing his arm on Vic’s side he hammered into the cut under his ribs. Grabbing at anything Winston reared back pulling a thick handful of red meat from the dealer’s side. Strands of crimson, tissue arced from the wound as Winston fell back onto the corpse. “Don’t move.” Final words before the pain over took him passing out over the body.
A week later Winston woke up in a bed not his own, tense for a moment he relaxed as he saw familiar uniforms watching the ward. Sliding up on the bed his leg was numb inside the splint. “Anyone got a cigarette?” First Week on a job is always a bitch.
 
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2005, 02:22:08 AM »

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Reckoning Day pt. 1

   The sun was boiling and with no shade in sight the caravan rolled on. Six moons and this was my first time out of the Dome for longer than a day. New recruits always go to a Reduc for evaluation before permanent posting. But at graduation they didn’t give me a number and departure time. Instead, I get pulled out the minute they handed me my certification papers. Our division trainer was there along with two other Hunters I didn’t recognize. 
   “Delilah Spring, we have a special assignment for you. Are you familiar with Spring Lake?” The rest of the conversation, hell the rest of the week had been a blur. Spring Lake was a fishing community - a boomtown with no Hunter presence. Apparently a gang’s set up shop there and the local authorities are worried something big was about to go down.
   A gang, the Red Stripes had set up camp just outside of town; recruiting any hot blooded kid with more muscle than brain. Two moons and they’re still there. Gangers may squat a night or two pick up whatever they came for and move on. These guys had set up shop, only hassle anyone had was when they got too liquored. Something was in the works.
   Its a few weeks ride by horse and when we pull into Spring Lake. Summer’s in full heat. The caravans hauling thirty six, two traders, a smith and his apprentice, five drivers, a cook, a messenger and the grunts. In all five Rigs, two cars, six cycles and six horses, big enough that any road gang strong enough would drool just thinking about what were hauling. There are four of us in the group posing as the brute labor and guards. 
   Most Hunters have some sort of police or military background; they say a good ganger can spot them instantly, even out of uniform. That’s why I’m here, top of the class and fresh out of training the Guild is hedging their bets I can pull it off.
   I watch Winston move as we off load the first of the rigs, setting up the four booths in town square. He was a vet, one of three they pulled in for the assignment. Winston was an expert in unarmed combat and over the last two weeks I’d spent as much time as I could picking his brain.  Thompson and Déjà were both renowned marksman, but it wasn’t what to if I had a gun handy I was worried about.
   By the time were done and moving the smith’s tools off I see the sheriff talking with one of the merchants. Checking paperwork and collecting the taxes for the space. This is my part. Grabbing a crate marked for the booth closest to them I make my way over. The sheriff walks away before I get there. Turns and comes back as I slide the box into the merchant’s booth.
   “Oh, it looks like your trade clearance has expired.” The sheriff grins. “I could take care of this for you. You know I’m registered with the Hunters for it.” Here it comes. “It would only be two thousand sil for each of you.”
   “That’s outrageous! Its extortion four times what they charge at any of the Reducs.” The only the four of us know what’s really going on. When the sheriff got the wire from central saying there were Hunter’s in route he was told to overcharge the next caravan to set up shop.   
   “Hey boss, why don’t you let me talk to the nice man.” Sliding over the booth I look the sheriff up and down with a big grin.
   “Now look officer, we’ll pay the five hundred a head to reregister the caravan. Don’t let this get out of hand.” The merchant regains his composure quickly, the real crew was told things on this trip would be strange but to go about their daily work and if any thing happened the Guild would compensate for damages.
   The sheriff scoffs. “You’re kidding right?” He laughs as his eyes go over the seams of my blouse.
“No.” Before he’s done chuckling I’ve cleared the distance between us, sweeping his legs out.
The sheriff goes for his pistol and a foot lands on his hand. Spinning I drop and land on top of him with another axe kick. Snapping the gun for the open holster it slides across the dirt road. Rolling over I grab his hair and drag him to his feet.
   I whisper, “There are four of us Hunters. Your helps arrived I just need you to play along, someone will explain later. Now stomp my foot if you understand.” He does and I let go. A pivot on my other leg I put my ‘stomped’ foot in his back before he can turn around.
   “Now run along boy, we’ll get that paperwork taken care of when you feel five hundred is a fare price.” There’s a nice crowd looking out from the bar and general store. It takes a second to find the sheriffs gun. Shoving it into my jacket I head back to the rig for another crate. Part one is complete.
   From there it’s easy. Before I had a second beer I got two goons slumped in the chairs in front of me. The first on introduces himself as Ricky, the other one doesn’t. They tell me I passed the first test and ask how loyal I am. As loyal as they pay me to be is thrown back out quick. Good, they tell me, if I want to make some real money I should meet their boss.
   An hours ride out of town and where at what could be a whole new caravan. Two rigs and an extended F-350, a couple of cars and who knows how many bikes, some Malic and this is just what’s circling the tents.
   Bonfire in the center is big real big and I freeze for a second. Memories get shoved back down and we keep moving. A plump kid turns a spit with a dog skewered on it. There’s thirty or more sitting around the fire. Ricky sends his buddy to a tent while we hang back at one of the Rigs. He taps on the canvas and waits. It takes a few minutes but eventually a guy unzips the tent and sticks his head out. Between the banter from the gang and the fire I can’t hear what they’re saying.
   When he ducks back in it’s only a minute before he comes out buttoning his jeans, a loose t-shit over his chest. A woman zips the tent back up after he leaves. Ricky snaps to attention kicking off the truck and puffing out his chest.
   “Mr. Grant, this here’s Delilah she just come into town.” Ricky spits his words quickly, running them together.
   “So?” Grant’s annoyed and his jeans do nothing to hide why.
   “Well sir, she knocks the sheriff around first thing sends him packing as soon as she come in. I thought since we’re still lookin’ for pack she might do.” Why was Ricky so nervous? He was sweating now and looking back at me.
   “That drunk, humph, you want to be a Red Wolf you’ll need to do better than that.” Grant looked at me now, unimpressed. “Now you go five minutes with a real man and we might have something.” He grinned from the side of his mouth.
   “Five minutes, that all it takes for a real man?”  It was my turn to smirk looking at his jeans then his eyes.
   “Diego, get your ass over here!” Grant shouts at the fire and a man stands up -imposing, six feet of hard muscle, bald and tattooed. Sloppy, his walk gave it away, all strength no finesse. The crowd was already turning to watch.   
   “Yeah?” Diego looks the four of us over. “You buy me a present?” A meaty hand goes for what it wants; I slap it aside before he gets close.
   “Actually Diego, this woman’s said some very bad things about your mother and I thought you should know.” The fight goes as expected. I only break the right arm, the feely arm. Part two complete. 
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2005, 02:23:02 AM »

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The next couple of weeks go by quickly. The caravan we came in on moves out after the first week, Déjà, Thompson and Winston “get work” at the bar. The pack takes me in with little question. When I’m with the pack I spend as much time as I can with Linda, Grant’s girl. She was smart, probably smarter than any of the other Wolves. It didn’t take long for Grant to explain why we were camped.
   They had made a major score when they jacked a medical transport. Turned out even sweeter when they found out how easy it was to undercut the traders that came though Spring Lake.
They’d been selling off supplies as needed to the town’s Doctor and Sheriff. Turned out the Sheriff only had a problem with the arrangement when Grant started upping the prices. The cheap bastard had been paying less than half the cost for medicine and turning it around at the general store. It didn’t matter at all he was trading stolen goods as long as he could turn a profit. Instinct says he wanted to just clear out the pack and keep the goods free of charge.
The Malic gear had come from an attack by bounty hunters. They’d taken out one other caravan but they haul was mostly spent. Grant turned the pack back on Spring Lake to sit until he got most the goods gone no matter how long it took. My guess was he was scared; trying to lay low, fill the ranks with anyone willing to hold a gun. All this is getting back to the other Hunters though my voracious drinking habits.
   It was funny, with the exception of Ricky and whoever he could drag to the bar the pack mostly kept to themselves. They come into town; they’d pay for what they bought and move on. Grant spent most of his time trying to teach the younger pack mates to shoot and handle a bike. The Wolves had got so big though if they were all to move half of them would have to cram into the trucks.
   We were three weeks in when something finally happened. While I’m buying a round for Ricky and Diego, his arm still in a sling, Thompson bumps me. Lets me know a Malic came though town earlier looking for the Wolves knew the gangs colors, the Sheriff was in and had a long sit down with him. He had already talked with Déjà and Thompson, it was too soon but we all knew something was about to go down. Part three had changed.
   I grab Ricky and Diego and we ride out. We hit the camp fast. Grants out riding but Linda’s here. She tells me Grant doesn’t know it but it’s time to move on, most the Red Wolves are ready, we’re just waiting on Grant to get back somehow I’m relived. That doesn’t last long though.
   As we talk a Lance pull in though the gangs circle of cars, bikes and trucks. The Malic slides of the bike before most the pack even realizes what’s going on. Keris APP in one hand War Sword in the other.
   “I am Rein of House Vox. I’ve come to talk!” The Malic’s voice booms into the night. I had met several in Central, none of them like this man. No movement wasted, his every action was calculated.
   “You don’t look like a talker. Why don’t you put those down, then we’ll talk.” Linda’s voice quivered for an instant but she drew on an inner strength to pull though. A click from behind a car and the Malic had turned, fired and killed before a wolf had drawn.   
   “I can just as easily kill everyone here as broker a compromise. That’s not what I’ve come to do. The Red Wolves have killed a Battle Mage and his company.  For that House Vox has decided to Honor this legion with Diplomacy. We will discuss remunerations for the lost goods” His words were cold, there was no fear. Back turned to Linda and I, he did not move. There was a long silence.
   “I am Linda of the Red Wolves. We can talk. Everyone, drop your weapons” Linda’s voice finally cracked the silence followed by clanging as gun fell on gun while the pack disarmed. Slowly he turned to us lowering his firearm and sheathing the blade.
   “You may choose the location, I have chosen a moderator.” Rein’s voice was lower now but it still echoed like the rest of his kind.
   “Here is fine. Jester, set up a table and some chairs.” A pack mate I didn’t know moved to get the folding furniture. “Who is the chosen moderator?” It was obvious Linda had dealt with Malics before. If she had met with a real Diplomat before would be a shock. They were Legendary at Central, something like Soldier, Statesmen and Assassin all rolled into one.   
   “Sheriff McCarty of Spring Lake, he waits for my signal now.”  Rein spoke as he walked to where Jester set the chairs down.
   “Um, point of order, Sheriff McCarty, cannot be a moderator.” I hope I said that right. Both Linda and the Malic snap angry eyes at me.
   “Who are you and how DARE you interrupt a negotiation?” His tone changed and Rein’s voice seemed to push me back.
   “My name is Delilah Spring of the Hunters Guild. The Sheriff is biased and has a pointed interest in seeing the Red Wolves fail any attempts at negotiations.” Squaring my shoulders I looked into Rein’s eyes. 
   “You bitch!” Linda’s fist sank into my gut before I could react. “You tricked us!” We fell to the ground Linda on top of me reaching for a boot knife. Rein behind her War Blade drawn under Linda’s throat.
   “I would slow my thirst for blood from someone attempting to help you. Tell me Delilah Spring of the Hunters Guild, how can I know you are truthful?”  His tone was low and moderated as he pulled Linda back and let her go.
   The words cam naturally, name, rank, location of the Guild I was assigned to, still central technically. Recited in the best a Human can hope to emulate the Malic Trade Tongue.
   “If you send up your signal flare the Sheriff will come and so will three Guild members.” This I said in English I wanted Linda to know.
   “So be it, I have seen your Akree but if your comrades fail to arrive your life is forfeit and Sheriff McCarty of Spring Lake will moderate.” Six months of training and I’m facing the fire again.
   “They will come, and when they arrive you will allow us the Honor of moderating these negotiations.” Enough watching other people burn.
   “Making demands?” His tone was almost playful, that was freighting.
   “We are Hunters we were called here to see justice done. The medical supplies in question were slated for distribution in the Dome; we’ve researched the caravan attack. If you can see my Akree you know I am speaking the truth.” Question a Malic’s strength, no going back now.
   “Good, I have chosen a new moderator. Delilah Spring of the Hunter Guild, you will do nicely, so long as your allies arrive.” Turning his palm over a pinpoint of red appeared; twisting in the wind it grew to the size of a fist and shot into the air. Exploding it lit up the night sky.
   It hadn’t been ten minutes when the others arrived. The Sheriff escorted by Winston and the others. The Red Wolves didn’t make a sound as they let the others pass though the circle.
   “Good, let us begin.” Rein sat in the cheap folding chair barely able to fit something designed for humans. Rein had chosen me as the Moderator as I was now both a Hunter and a Red Wolf. He knew I had spent time with the pack and was new to the Guild. Winston was the most senior officer present so it was decided he would represent Hunter interests in the negotiations.
   Goals were simple. House Vox wanted the return of all goods as well as monetary reimbursement for items sold as well as the leader of the attack to face Rein in one on one combat, meaning suicide. The Guild wanted the members of the attack brought to central along with the Sheriff to face formal charges for the crimes. This was only a consideration because of the attacks proximity to the Atlanta Reduc. The Red Wolves wanted to be able to go in peace with no bloodshed and no loss of vital gear.
   The first hours of the negotiations were spent clarifying the goals and justifying each point. Still, no Grant in sight - he was on one hell of a ride. The next few hours went to the actual talks. Winston was out of his league, even as a veteran Hunter his experience with the Malic was never as equals and certainly not at the bargaining table. As things wrapped up the Guild was cut out almost completely but Rein seemed happy. There was little I could do other than validate arguments of the parties. That’s when things got ugly.
   Dawn was breaking as the last few details were being hammered out, financing and transport. The roar of an engine broke the murmur of the negotiating table. Grant pulled into the circle rifle out.
   “What in the happy horse shit is going on?” Grant was shaking, drunk, the rifle swinging between Rein and Winston.
   “Grant, put the gun down, it’s over.” Linda faced me across the table she did not turn to look at her lover.
   “Bullshit it’s over, Linda you’d sell me out?” I wasn’t sure if it was anger or fear driving him but Grant was sweating, his eyes burning.
   “Have we come to terms?” Rein’s eye’s swept the table, to each of us nodding in silence. “The Red Wolf legion will live on. You should be honored by that.” Rein spoke as he stood. “Face me now in unarmed combat if you defeat me you will live and House Vox will not pursue you any further.”
   “Face you, you’re kidding right? Somebody please kill this guy.” Grant moved his rifle to shoot and the sound of a dozen other guns being picked up from behind cover.
   Rein had cleared the table and stood before Grant almost as if he hadn’t moved, like he had been standing there the whole time. Palm turned up, a spark of red and a ring of flame erupted just inside the circle blocking the rest of the pack.
   “I can just kill you, Grant of the Red Wolves. Your negotiator has arranged for you a fair bargain. No guns, no magick, if you can best me I will spare your life.” Rein did not move as Grant’s rifle leveled to his chest; he looked down at him and waited. Winston had tried to get up but Linda had motioned for him to stay seated. He’ll kill us all if we cannot come to terms, it was only a whisper but we all heard it load and clear.
    A long quit passed before Grant dropped the gun.   The flush of liquor was gone, his face was pale sunken as he dismounted. Taking his shirt off, he dropped a 9mm pistol from his back. He took a deep breath and spread his arms. A tattoo over his chest, of a wolf’s head seemed growl when moved.
   “Alright, let’s go.” Grants hands closed into fists and his body rippled.
   Without a word Rein was on him, still fast, but now we could see his movements. His arm arcing down twisted as his legs swung to give him momentum. Grant’s arm went up to block as he dropped into a classic horse stance. His whole body shifted with the blow and for a second the wolf grimaced, snarled. 
   Shifting the Malic’s leg came down next. The wolf howls and Grant kicks Rein’s leg out. Without pause Rein spins on his back, legs striking Grant from the opposite direction throwing him. No wasted motion, in the same swing Rein is back on his feet.
   “I’m surprised. No matter, the Akree of your tattoo will not save you.” Rein paused and I could feel his fighting spirit. Grant wasn’t moving as quickly, blood streamed from his mouth as stood.
   Closing ranks Grant moved to attack. A crack rang out over the fire as Rein’s heel dug into Grant’s shin before he could his leg a foot off the ground.  Hoping back, we all knew what had happened.
   Grant limped in to attack, the wolf bites. Even with his leg broken he moves quickly. Still Rein is there to catch his arm, one hand collapsing over his forearm the other a spear into Grant’s ribs, he crumples.
   Still he tries to stand.   
   “Die with honor, Grant of the Red Wolves.” There is no joy in Rein’s voice as Grant slumps to his knees. Already his chest deep blue and purple, as is the right side of his face. He doesn’t move as the Malic walks behind him, no rush.
   I can see Linda; streams of tears run her face. Not once has she turned to watch the battle. She already knows the outcome. Three loud pops and the sound of a body hitting the dirt it was over.
   The flames subsided as Rein returned to the table. 
   “Your leader was a skilled warrior, his death is an Honor to all those of the Red Wolf Legion.” His voice was booming to all the pack now. “I will leave the body with you as agreed, please make arrangements for House Vox’s cargo.” He spoke to the table. 
   By noon, Linda had the remaining medical supplies packed into one rig. In the other was loaded most of the Lances the Red Wolves had taken from the Battle Mage’s team along with ten heavy disrupters and a hot box. Ricky shoved the Sheriff in the back of the cab of the truck with the medical supplies. Grant’s, leader of the Red Wolves, body was placed in the back as we made ready to take off.   
   “So what happens next?” Déjà asked puzzled at the outcome.    
   “Well your part is easy, without a sheriff this towns got issues. You and Thompson will fill in until central sends a replacement or the town elects a new one. We ride back to Dome. We’ve still got about half the shipment. The old sheriff comes with us since he knew what was going on the whole time and didn’t bother to notify us.” Winston lights a cigarette as he talks. 
   “What about the Red Wolves?” Thompson scratches his head and grabs the smoke from Winston. “You quit, remember.”
   “What about the Red Wolves? They died with Grant and we’re taking his body back with us.” Winston put the pack of cigarettes away.
   “But…”
   “That?” Winston looked over his shoulder at the remaining cycles and other rig. “The Diplomat is taking the supplies worth in trade along with interest for the cost of hiring the bounty hunters.”
   “No, not that…”
   “Linda will be following you back into town, to register.”
   “Register?” Both Déjà and Thompson looked confused now.
   “As guides and armed escorts, haven’t you heard of the Red Wolf Legion, they know every back road from here to Nor?”  Winston slid into the diver’s seat and shut the door.
    “Good luck explaining that to central!” Thompson shouted over the roar of the engine. Winston rolled down the window as he lit another cigarette.     
   “Not my job, I’m filing a report on the now defunct Red Wolves, as the Hunter presence here in Spring Lake you’re the one filing the Red Wolf Legion’s paperwork. Shifting gears the truck hiccupped as he rolled forward. A grunt came from the back. I watched as Déjà dragged Thompson to Linda, on a guess trying to get a ride into town.
   “You know, you talk a lot for someone who let the bad guys go.”  Turning to Winston I grabbed his cigarette. 
   “You’re the one who said they weren’t so bad - tough times and all.” Winston went to light another.
   “A technicality, it’s not like I could do anything about it at the table.” I took a long drag from the crumpled cig. So this is life in the new world. 
 
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Troy_Costisick
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Posts: 802


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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2005, 03:36:14 AM »

Heya,

Without really reading your game, I can't say whether or not they really set the scene for your game.  As far as intriguing me, the first three do a decent job, IMO.  But that's just an oppinion.  If I were grading these as an English teacher, I'd say they were fairly novice writing pieces.  Idea development is simplistic, as is your word choice and sentence structure.  Sometimes you have very strong awareness of the audience, other times that wanes quite a bit.  But I'm not going to spend time tearing you down, that's not what we do here.  Besides, I'm not sure if you were looking to create final-draft, stand-alone stories anyway.

Here are the good points: 1) reading the stories did make go immediately to check out your website.  2) reading them made me want to post my reaction.  3) I am very interested in any re-drafts you make.  4) I definately would like to know more about your game.

So, if those were the reactions you were looking for, I believe the stories accomplished what you wanted. :)

Peace,

-Troy
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Certified
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2005, 03:56:35 PM »

Thank you for taking the time to read these stories. What your high points are basically what I was hoping for; something that pulls the reader in and wants to know more. Although the stories are spaced throughout the book I was curious to see how they read without the supporting material.

There is system and more setting material at the website but I must confess our host has been having issues over the last week so forgive me if it was down when you checked it. Again, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the shorts. 
 
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