AUTHOR’S NOTE. This is a story I’m very fond of that explores some things that always interest me in both the fiction and non-fiction realm. Yes, I’m talking about aliens. I’m talking about UFOs. I blame it mostly on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files from my childhood, not to mention The Twilight Zone. So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my timid UFO researcher, Danny Draper. Continue reading “Danny Draper and the Aliens, Chapters 1-3”
Emily Stuart is victim #6. She didn’t hesitate to be put on ice when I showed her my card for the project at Stone Spiral on a Wednesday night. You can review the previous entries here.
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Emily is half of the band Catching the Westbound, the other half being her boyfriend Andy. They play a mixture of folk, blues and mountain gospel. They’re really good, you should totally follow the link to their website and give them a listen. But that’s besides the point.
I’ve known Emily since about January or so of this year, when I started attending an open mic at Stone Spiral Coffee and Curios in Maplewood, Missouri. She and Andy play live at the open mic quite regularly, and have been subjected to me sharpening my teeth doing standup comedy at the open mic. Emily is loads of fun, one of the few friends I’ve made up here in the St. Louis region since we made the move last year. So, it was with great pleasure that I could kill her*.
Emily Stuart and the Alpha and Omega
Commander Emily Stuart woke from her long sleep shivering and in shock. It was the unfortunate and uncomfortable standard for deep space travel. She rolled out of her open cryogenic chamber and crashed on the floor in her officer’s quarters. She spewed enzymatic fluid on the floor, leftovers from the nutrients that were fed her during her cryotherapy. Her body was sore and stiff. Her vision was blurred, but as it focused she recognized a familiar stain.
She flipped over onto her back, rolled her shoulders and stretched her arms. The muscles hurt and bones cracked. She rocked her head back and forth, popping and crackling sounds emitted. She stretched her neck to the left, and then to the right.
“Omega, play Mr. Blue.” She said out loud to her ship’s artificial intelligence, Omega, which was also the name of her ship.
“Yes, Commander.” Omega said in her calm and gentle female voice. The song by The Fleetwoods began to play. “All systems are checked. All seems a go. How was your cryogenic therapy, Commander?”
“Just peachy.” Emily continued to exercise, she worked her legs with stretches. “Why is there blood in my quarters?”
“I am not sure, Commander,” Omega began to explain, “As you know, I was only running the essentials during cryotherapy. My cameras are just now documenting this as well. Is it yours, Commander?”
“No.” Emily flipped over on her stomach and began pushups. “Do a quick check of the crew, Omega. Is anyone offline?”
There was a silence while Omega ran a check of the life systems connected to each crew member’s cryogenic chamber. Omega spoke up through the intercom system after a short silence, “I have no read on Private Daniels’ cryogenic chamber. Running visual scan of his cryogenic chamber confirms that he is missing. There is a blood trail from his chamber. Give me a moment while I run visual scans of the corridors and rooms, tracking his path. Let me see if I can find his whereabouts. Be back shortly, Commander.”
Emily finally stood up, her bones cracking and aching as she did so. When she stood up tall, she placed one hand over her head and stretched the opposite direction, and then completed the task with the other arm in the other direction. Her eyes were finally cleared up enough to piece together the gruesomeness before her. She saw a trail of blood that entered and led right up to her cryogenic chamber. A bloody handprint was smeared across the controls on the front, as if Daniels was trying to eject her from her the chamber. She saw another handprint that smeared around the side of her chamber. She followed it around to the backside of it and hidden behind it was Daniels’ mangled body.
Emily bent down and examined him up close. He had what appeared to be a large bite of some kind in his neck. Further investigation made it appear as if several bites were taken, and some of his bone was exposed. His torso had been ripped open, and it was his fatal wound. Something had gnawed at his stomach and tore out his intestines. He appeared to be missing several organs. His spine was broken and pulled through from the back, piercing a kidney. It was not an easy way to go. Before Emily had been expelled from the United Nations Academy, she had studied the Jack the Ripper case. Daniels’ condition had a similar grotesqueness to the victim Mary Jane Kelly, who had been carved out and even her breasts were removed and placed on her nightstand.
“Omega, I’ve found Private Daniels.” She said.
“Where are you, Commander? I’m not seeing you on my camera.” Omega said.
She stood up and waived to get the attention of her sensors. “Over here, behind the chamber. It’s a mess.”
A small camera rotated around the roof of the room and repositioned above her and Daniels. “Yes, Commander, that is a mess. Shall I wake the others?”
“Yes.” Emily said. “And check on the prisoner. I want a report on her activity, or inactivity, before I reach the bridge.”
Emily stepped into the shower to rinse off the sleep, and grit. She stood, the hot water pouring over her body, and she thought of the possibilities. Someone, or something, on her ship had killed one of her crew and that infuriated her. No one killed her crew. They were her responsibility, and she felt it hard and deep. A strike against her crew was a strike against her. It was as if someone had cut off her limb without even asking her name. Whoever was responsible for the death of Private Daniels was as good as dead.
Moments later with her long, brown hair still dripping from the shower, she had joined her crew on the bridge. None of them were aware of the death of Daniels, unless one of them was the killer. She scanned them with her eyes, piercing, and then finally, she spoke. “Private Daniels is dead.” Everyone began to react. “He was murdered.” She added, louder, over their murmuring.
“Someone, or something for that matter, murdered Private Daniels while we were asleep.” She continued.
“Wait a minute,” Doctor Bond spoke up, “What do you mean by something?”
“The wounds seem like bite marks, and non-human at that.” Emily added. “But that’s not for certain, that was just my immediate assessment. Doctor Bond, I need you to conduct a full autopsy of Private Daniels and give us your verdict within the hour.”
“Within the hour?” Bond replied. “I don’t know if—”
“There’s a murderer on this ship, Dr. Bond,” Emily said sternly, “I’d prefer to know who they were right now, but I’m giving you an hour, tops.”
“I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t guarantee I can conclude an autopsy in a single hour.” Bond said, crossing his arms and legs, a sign of his disdain for her leadership. “Especially, if we’re talking about a foreign and alien species. It could take days, weeks even.”
It was standard practice for the older generation of her crew to toss their weight around when Emily gave orders. It was partially because of her age, she was only 31 years old, one of the youngest commanders in the universe. And her petite size only added to the difficulty of pushing the old dogs around. She wanted to punch him, flip him on his back and stick a gun in his face, but she knew that wasn’t going to get the job done any faster.
Instead, she stood up tall, as much as she could with her tiny frame and spoke through her teeth. “You will do it within the hour, or I’ll have you charged with obstructing justice.”
Bond sighed deeply, he didn’t like being reprimanded and threatened by a younger officer. “As you wish, Commander.” He stood up to leave.
“Wait.” She said, and he turned around with a red face. “Nobody walks this ship without a partner now. Not until we determine who the killer is and have them tossed into the brigs.”
Bond shrugged in disgust. “I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder. Besides, what if you send the killer with me?”
“Then, I guess you’ll have to arrest them.” Emily said. “Or, they’ll arrest you. But as of right now, I’m treating all of us as innocent until proven otherwise.”
“This is stupid!” Sergeant Marx tossed his hands up and slammed them down on the table. “We all know who the killer is, so let’s just march down to the brigs and put us out of our misery by nuking her butt.”
“I know, I thought the same thing.” Emily said. “It was the first thought that crossed my mind. So, I had Omega run a scan of her cryogenic chamber, and she hasn’t been out since we exited earth’s atmosphere.”
Marx slammed another fist on the table. “That doesn’t prove anything. I hear she can hack, she probably hacked her way out.”
“While she was asleep?” Emily asked. Marx looked confused, he didn’t know the answer to that. “I know you wanna flex those huge muscles, Sgt. Marx, and I’d like nothing more than to pull a trigger on the face of the person or thing that killed Private Daniels myself. But the fact is that we don’t know enough to start blasting faces off each other, and I need you to buck up right now and be a calm and sturdy component of this crew.”
Marx slouched in his chair. “Sorry, Commander, I’m just so… mad.”
“I know.” Emily said. “Trust me, I know.” She looked to everyone else and sighed. “When a crew member of mine is murdered, that chisels at me, and I will out who killed Private Daniels and put that person where they belong. The brigs or out to space without a helmet. Now pick a partner, and man your stations.” She looked to Marx, “Sergeant Marx, take command of the bridge, I’ll be making a visit to our guest in the brigs.” She looked to Bond, “What are you still doing here? Get your partner and get to work. Private Daniels’ body is located in my officer’s quarters, behind the cryogenic chamber. Move it to the medic center and conduct your autopsy. Send your report via Omega as soon as it’s complete to Sgt. Marx and myself.” She looked back at her crew. “We will meet back here at the bridge after Sgt. Marx and I have had time to analyze the data from the autopsy and consider whatever I get out of our guest.” She looked over at the fresh-faced Jonas Smith. “Private Smith, you’re with me.”
“Yes, Commander.” Smith stood up quickly, knocking her knees against the bottom of the table top. She was a rookie and was eager to serve, but nervous to a point of weakness. “Sorry.”
“Apologize to yourself, Private Smith,” Emily said, “They’re your knees.”
Emily and Smith exited the bridge, and Marx assumed command immediately. He barked out commands in a forceful, gruff voice. People scattered to their stations.
Just outside the doors to the brigs, Emily turned to Smith who was significantly taller than her, and most women for that matter. “Have you ever conducted an interrogation on a suspect?”
“Only in training, Commander.” Smith replied.
“Well, then this will be a learning experience.” Emily said. She entered a six-digit code into a side panel of the door. The doors opened, retracting into the walls.
They entered the room which houses only two, small holding cells. One was empty, and the other had an opened cryogenic chamber. Emily gripped the handle of her gun, still holstered at her side. She didn’t immediately see her prisoner. She saw movement on the corner of her eye, it was coming from the small cot. Her prisoner rolled over, completely covered in the blanket. She pulled it back and revealed her face. She was still thawing out from the long sleep.
“Hello, Commander.” The prisoner said.
“How did you get out of your cryogenic chamber?” Emily demanded, her hand still resting on her gun.
“Omega let me out just a little bit ago.” The prisoner replied. “I can’t stop shaking.”
“Omega!” Emily yelled at the AI.
“Yes, Commander.” Omega replied.
“Did you release the prisoner from her cryogenic chamber?”
“I didn’t tell you to do that.” Emily said. “Don’t ever do that again without my authority.”
“Yes, Commander.” Omega said. “It won’t happen again.”
Emily released her grip from her gun. “Looks like your story checks out.”
“Commander,” Omega chimed back in. “I have a report on the crew’s sleeping habits. Shall I report?”
Emily looked at Smith, and then at the prisoner. “Sure, Omega. Report.”
“Only Daniels exited his chamber during the cryotherapy phase of our trip. And, as you know, he had to have been let out by someone else. It appears you have a stowaway.” Omega paused. “That is all to report. May I be of more assistance?”
“Not at the moment. Just keep checking for any abnormalities.” Emily said.
“Yes, Commander.” Omega said and went silent.
Emily stepped closer to the prison bars, the only thing separating her from her prisoner. “Tell me, who are you? And why are you in my custody? What did you do?” It was common practice when transporting high security prisoners to be given the least amount of information possible. The United Nations liked to transport high threat prisoners off the books, so as not to raise alarms and put any information out across the databases that could be hacked by someone wanting to perform a jailbreak.
The female prisoner sat up on the cot, tossed the blanket back and stretched her arms. “The name’s Myrna. That’s all you need to know on that front. My crime is treason, but it’s bogus. I was trying to prevent a hostile takeover. But, the powers that be don’t like being told when they’re wrong, I guess, especially by a woman.”
“Political crimes?” Emily questioned out loud. “What about murder?”
Myrna looked at her coldly. “Not murder. Anyone I’ve ever killed, I did so legally. I’m a bounty hunter. Or, was one, I guess.”
“A bounty hunter, guilty of treason. That is a first.” Emily said. “Can you get out of a cryogenic chamber by yourself? Do you hack?”
Myrna laughed. “No, I don’t hack. And this was the first time I’d been in one of these things. What a mess. You’d think we’d have it figured out a little better by now.”
“Well, here’s the thing, Myrna,” Emily started and walked right up to the bars. “One of my crew members is dead. Someone killed him, tore him to shreds, while the rest of us were sleeping. And I’m half inclined to assume it was you and put a bullet in you right now, just in case.”
Myrna rose from the cot and shuffled across the small cell to the bars. They met face-to-face, “I didn’t kill your crew member. But if I had, I would’ve shot him. I don’t like getting messy.”
Doctor Bond and Private Milton entered the officer’s quarters. And wondered to the back of Emily’s cryogenic chamber. Upon seeing the gruesome site, Milton immediately turned away and vomited all over the floor. Bond examined the scene.
“Yes,” Bond said, “It about matches the description she gave.” He bent down and put on some gloves. He examined the wound at the base of his neck. “Nasty bit of work. Definitely not human. And not any alien bite I’ve seen. Though, I’ve not seen every nasty alien species.” He stood and looked over at Milton who was finally recovering from the initial shock and puking session he’d just enjoyed. “Are you quite finished, Milton?”
“Shut up.” Milton grumbled under his breath. “That’s disgusting.”
“Yeah,” Bond said absentmindedly, looking about the room. “It’s awfully suspicious to me.”
“What?” Milton asked, finally standing up straight again and breathing regularly.
“Well,” Bond started, “The body being found here, right behind the Commander’s cryogenic chamber. I’m not accusing anyone, mind you, just saying that it looks awfully suspicious.” There was a silence while Bond let the paranoia seep in on Milton.
Could the Commander have perpetrated this heinous act?
“Well, let’s stop lollygagging around,” Bond said, “Pick this thing up, and let’s get it back to…” Bond slowly trailed off talking, as he looked back down at Daniels’ body. Something had changed while he had been turned away and talking to Milton. “Here now, what is this?” He moved in closer, and bent down, placing one knee on the ground next to Daniels’ head.
“What is it?” Milton asked, afraid to look.
“Hair.” Bond said. “A lot of it.” Bond looked at the face he had just seen moments ago, and he had recognized it before as Private Benjamin Daniels’ face, but now it was covered in hair and distorted. He examined further up the body and noticed hair on his arms and hands. His fingers appeared swollen and there were claws at the tips. “And, claws?”
“CLAWS?” Milton shouted in horror and looked. He was horrified at what he saw before him, and how it had changed in a matter of seconds for no apparent reason. “What is it?”
“It’s Daniels, somehow.” Bond said. He looked back into the face, he could barely see the resemblance now. “I wonder.” He reached with his fingers to open Daniels’ eyes, to check and see if he even had the same color eyes. He laid his index finger on the eyebrow and his thumb just below the lower eyelid. Before he could stretch them and pull apart his eyelids, both of Daniels’ eyes opened wide up and his pupils quickly dilated and noticed Bond hovering over him. He was alive again, if only barely.
Bond went to push back and away from him, but Daniels’ bit the inside of Bond’s right thigh and tore a chunk out as Bond fell over onto his back. He pushed himself away with the palms of his hands on the floor behind him.
“Milton, help!” Bond yelled.
Milton was frozen, still staring at Daniels, or rather the creature before him. It growled and hissed, but couldn’t move because of the spinal injury it had suffered. It stared at Milton with yellow eyes, desiring to eat him whole. Milton couldn’t think, couldn’t move.
“MILTON!” Bond yelled a second time.
Milton snapped out of it and noticed Bond compelling him for help. He ran around to the other side. He positioned himself behind Bond, and wrapped his arms underneath Bond’s armpits and began to drag him across the floor. The creature growled and barked at them as they made their slow but certain escape.
“There.” Bond said. “Toss me up on her bed, we need to stop this bleeding.”
“But—” Milton didn’t want to stop until they were back to the bridge and in the presence of others, and feeling safe once more.
“No buts,” Bond said, “Do it, or I’m dead.”
Milton reluctantly lifted Bond onto the bed, and pushed him back just enough that his legs were hanging off the edge. “Now what?”
“Find something to tie it off with.” Bond said. “Scarf, towel, shirt, I don’t care.”
Milton ran into a nearby closet and tore through Emily’s apparel, looking for something suitable. He grabbed a black, formal dress with an insignia on the right breast. He spun it around tightly and ran back into the room.
Bond was standing at the edge of the bed, his shirt and pants torn. He turned and looked suddenly at Milton with a jerk of his head. He had turned into the monster as well. Milton froze for a moment, not sure what to do, but when Bond came leaping at him he did all he could. He took a quick snap with the dress and hit Bond in his right eye, he bounced back, and grabbed at his eye while moaning. It was cause for irritation, but only that, so Milton ran around him and headed for the door which lead to the corridor.
Just as he reached the door and pressed the button on the panel to open it, he felt four quick and sharp pains across his back. The door opened and he fell into the corridor on his knees. Bond had slashed him across the back with his claws. Milton went to stand up, but felt a paw push his right shoulder down and he crashed back to his knees. With the other paw, Bond tilted Milton’s neck to one side and reached in for a bite on the neck. The virus leaked from the pours in his teeth and into Milton’s bloodstream. He pulled back from the bite, and then pushed him over to the floor. He walked down the corridor while Milton grouped at his neck and back in pain, crying and wailing for help.
“Commander.” Omega called out to Emily in the brigs.
“Yes, Omega.” She replied.
“There’s been an incident in your quarters.” Omega said, and there was a slight pause. “Again, that is.”
“What is it?”
“Some sort of virus, I’m assuming at this point.” Omega started. “Private Daniels’ reanimated somehow, passed the pathogen on via a bite to Dr. Bond, and from Dr. Bond to Private Milton.”
“Good grief.” Emily groaned.
“Reanimated?” Smith spoke for the first time since entering the brigs.
“Yes.” Omega continued. “As an animal of some kind. Half man, half dog perhaps. I did a quick run of ancient folklore from earth; I believe the appropriate terms are Wolf Man, Werewolf, or Lycan.”
“Yes.” Emily sighed. “That is correct, Omega. Please tell me you have the armory stocked with silver bullets like I always request.”
“Affirmative, Commander.” Omega replied. “But I should warn you. All three are dangerous, though Private Daniels is immobile. Doctor Bond and Private Milton are both moving about the corridors.” There was a slight pause. “It appears Dr. Bond is destroying my cameras in the corridors, Commander. I won’t have eyes on them for much longer.”
“They’re cognitive.” Myrna said.
“It would appear so, Prisoner 4716.” Omega said.
“Thanks.” Myrna replied sarcastically.
“I do not understand.” Omega said. “Why are you thanking me?”
“Forget it, Omega.” Emily interrupted. “Patch me through to the intercom.”
“Are you sure that is wise, Commander?” Omega asked. “If they are cognitive of the cameras, and my AI presence, they may also still understand the English language.”
“I’m aware, Omega,” Emily replied. “Patch me through.”
“Yes, Commander.” Omega said, and a medium length beep sound was heard. “Crew of the Omega, and Prisoner 4176, your Commander has a message. Listen well. The floor is yours, Commander.”
“Everybody listen up,” Emily started, “First things first, Sgt. Marx I need you to lock all entrances to the bridge. Do not, I repeat, do not let in Dr. Bond or Private Milton under any circumstances. Now before you panic, and think they killed Private Daniels, that’s just not true. It appears we are carrying a strain of the Wolf Man virus. I learned about it during my training at the academy. It’s ridiculously contagious and it acts fast. It turns its host into a half man, half wolf—thus the name. The virus can only be killed by silver. When the silver enters the bloodstream of the host, it will destroy the virus. It also, unfortunately will destroy the host. The only cure for the virus will kill the host, that’s just the way it is. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. We have silver bullets in the armory, and Private Smith and I will be retrieving them and bringing them to the bridge.” She looked at Smith, who was white as a sheet at the prospect of having to move through the ship with no eyes on Bond and Milton. Emily continued to address her crew, “In the meantime, you can kill a Wolf Man through blood loss or beheading. However, it is important to remember that since no silver is administered to the bloodstream in those cases the blood spilt is still contagious. Do not touch the blood of a Wolf Man, period. Private Smith and I will be with you shortly. Oh, and one more thing, don’t use the communications, as we have reason to believe that despite their animal nature, Dr. Bond and Private Milton are still very cognitively aware of their surroundings. Your Commander, over and out.”
“So what about me?” Myrna asked from behind the bars of her holding cell.
Emily gave her a cold look. “You better just hope we eradicate the virus before it reaches you.” She looked at the bars. “You might be better off than us with these bars to protect you.”
“Right,” Myrna scoffed.
Emily was nervous for Smith, this was no way to start out as a rookie. She could see that she was already sweating at the thought of their task before them. “Private Smith, ready your weapon. If you see Dr. Bond or Private Milton, start shooting. Don’t hesitate. Any hesitation in this situation could prove fatal. Understood?”
“Yes, Commander.” Smith said with a shaky voice. She cleared her throat and pulled her weapon from its holster, clasping it in two hands before her body.
Emily stepped up to the door of the brigs. “Smith, I’ll lead, you watch my back. Got it?”
“Hey, Commander!” Myrna called out to Emily, who turned and looked at her. “Good luck.”
Emily just nodded. She pulled her weapon from its holster, cocked and opened the door. She peered out; first left, and then right. Nothing. And it was all quiet. She gripped the standard issue gun between her sweaty palms, and headed out into the corridor. Smith followed and the door closed behind them. Myrna did not envy them, but she was concerned about how she was going to fend off such a creature if it came into her cell.
Emily and Smith proceeded through the corridors, slowly but surely making their way to the armory. All doors were opened, and they had to stop and clear each room before moving past them. It was a slow, tedious and dreadful task.
The armory was located on the backside of the cafeteria, and they would have to cross the cafeteria before reaching their destination. They’d be vulnerable in the wide open space, as there would be nowhere to hide. Emily and Smith stood at either side to the entrance and looked inside. It appeared empty and quiet.
Emily made eye contact with Smith, her face was covered in sweat and her eyes were wide. “Look, we make to the left wall, and we follow it all the way down. We stick together the whole time. Got it?” Emily said.
Smith just nodded, afraid to speak.
Emily nodded back and stepped into the cafeteria. Smith took her place behind her and they quickly tiptoed across to the left wall. They continued down it, past the metal tables which were sparkly clean. They hadn’t been used yet since the woke from their cryotherapy.
Just as they were about to reach the door to the armory, there was a noise from the corridor. Emily turned and looked back, pulling Smith behind her to protect her. But while Emily looked towards the entrance they’d come through, Smith panicked and opened the door to the armory. She wanted those silver bullets and to put some space and a wall between herself and whoever (or whatever) was coming for them.
The door slid quickly into the wall with a whooshing sound, as all the doors did on the ship, and there was Milton ready to pounce. He was in his new form, and dripping saliva from the mouth. He came flying at her like a wolf pouncing its prey, and he dug his claws into her torso and they went flying back into the kitchen. He ripped into her throat with his fangs, tearing at flesh, muscle and bone as they slid across the floor.
Emily had turned as soon as she had heard the door, and watched in horror as they both vanished into the kitchen in a flight of violence. She ran into the kitchen, took aim and shot Milton twice in his hairy back. He spun around on all fours, growling and ready to attack her, but when he saw who it was he was taken aback and whimpered like a dog. He stepped back from Smith’s body and bowed his head, not making eye contact with Emily. He was acknowledging her as his alpha, and offering Smith to her.
Emily slowly stepped one foot forward, not sure whether she could trust Milton. He stayed bowed, not looking. She took another step and looked down at Smith. She was gasping for air with the gaping whole in her neck, and she tried to apply pressure to it with her hand. Blood poured from it without end. She was already a ghostly shade of white. Her struggle slowly began to whither, and then she apologized. “Sorry. Sorry, Commander. Sorry.” She kept repeating the word “sorry” until the last of her life drained from her.
Emily knew this wouldn’t be the last of Private Smith, unless she put a silver bullet through her. She looked back to Milton who was still cowering in fear. She decided to play the alpha card. She took her gun and hit him with it on the head. He whimpered. “Bad! BAD!” He whimpered and backed up. “Now stay. STAY!” She slowly backed out of the kitchen, her gun fixed on him. “Stay, Milton, STAY!”
She quickly rushed into the armory and grabbed a clip with silver bullets. She loaded it into her gun, and dumped the rest of the silver bullet clips into a backpack. She put the backpack on and went back into the kitchen. Milton was still cowering and whimpering. He had peed himself and a puddle of his own urine was on the floor beneath him. He was standing in it on all fours. Smith was still dead, for now.
Emily took a few steps in and took aim at Milton first. She fired two bullets into the top of his head. He fell over, instantly dead from the wounds. She looked down at Smith, and she saw her eyes change color from the blue they were to a yellowish tint. The change was coming. She fired one bullet into her forehead. The eyes returned a natural blue and rolled up into her head.
She walked out of the kitchen, and approached the nearest table. She sat down for a moment and sighed. She felt like the worst person in the world. How many more of her crew would she have to kill before restoring order to her ship? She wanted to cry, but knew Bond was still on the move somewhere. She didn’t want to be caught off guard by him. Plus, she had the silver bullets and she needed to get those to her crew on the bridge as quickly as possible. She thought of Myrna. If she was a bounty hunter, and according to her preferred guns, she could use her help making it to the bridge. But she didn’t know if she could trust her. She finally decided she could at least trust her up until a point, because they both needed each other to survive the virus. The brigs was on the way to the bridge, and she could quickly release her on the way. She retrieved another handgun from the armory, tossed it in her backpack and set off to the brigs once more.
Emily stepped back through the door to the brigs, and closed it behind her. Myrna stood up from her bed in the cell. “You made it!” She exclaimed, but when she didn’t notice the presence of Smith, she frowned. “I’m sorry about Private Smith.”
“This is how it’s going to be, Myrna,” Emily said sternly, still huffing from the adrenaline. “You’re going to accompany me to the bridge, so we can properly equip my crew with silver bullets. The way I see it, the only way any of us survive this is if we work together to eradicate the virus.”
“Sure.” Myrna said, “Except you’ll still be marooning me on a maximum security prison after this is all over. Doesn’t sound much like surviving to me. Maybe I’ll just take my chances.” She sat back down on the cot and folded her legs.
Emily tore the second gun from the backpack and showed it to her. “You won’t last long without one of these. Trust me, I’ve seen one of these creatures in action.”
Myrna stared at the gun for a moment, and then stood up and took a deep breath. “OK, fine. I’ll help you get to your crew.”
“Don’t make me regret this.” Emily said before unlocking the cell door.
“I know this won’t sound like much to you now,” Myrna said, “But I’m not your enemy.”
Emily and Myrna approached the doors to the bridge, and were not set at ease when they saw the doors had been ripped open. It appeared Dr. Bond had tore through to the bridge. Emily was thinking of the potential massacre that would be laying before them. She was infuriated at the thought of losing her entire crew.
Myrna laid a hand on her shoulder. “Now think about it: it’s likely they’re all dead or changed in there. Do you really want to find that? Or should we just use the escape pod and bolt?” Myrna said.
“I won’t argue with logic,” Emily said, “But those are my crew in there. I won’t leave them without a fight.”
Myrna nodded. “Fair enough.”
Emily and Myrna snuck up on the crashed doors, and peaked inside. The entire bridge of the ship was inhabited with werewolves. Some were sitting, licking wounds they had sustained when being turned. Others were pacing, waiting for something. In the middle of the bridge, sitting in Emily’s chair where she shouted out commands was the good doctor. She could tell it was him because portions of his doctor’s coat was intact. He looked defiant.
Myrna noticed something on the corner of her eye, and looked to see one of the creatures slowly creeping up from around the corner behind Emily. When Myrna made eye contact with the creature it lunged at them.
Myrna pushed Emily out of the way and fired three rounds into the creature. Emily fell into the bridge, startled. And the creature died at Myrna’s feet. When Emily saw what Myrna had done, she thanked her with a gentle nod, but then slowly turned around to view the room. All of the yellowish eyes were glued on her, and they were all growling through their teeth. But none moved, waiting for a sign from Bond, their new alpha. She looked up at Bond who stood from the chair, his chest sticking out in defiance. He growled at her and sneered down at her tiny frame. She slowly rose to her feet, her gun in one hand at the side of her leg. She wondered if she should bother or just run. Maybe Myrna was right.
Bond lifted his head and howled, long and loud. All of the others followed suit, following his lead. And that was enough for Emily, she was tired of the good doctor defying her. She was going to finally just shoot the idiot. She raised her gun to take aim and before she could pull the trigger, Bond reached out and slapped her hand. The gun flew across the room, and his claws tore through her forearm. She spun around and fell to one knee, groping the gash in her arm. Bond howled and the others followed suit again, it was a mockery. He couldn’t just kill her, they had to make a show of it.
Emily looked at her wound, it was bleeding bad. Her adrenaline was driving fast, and her rage was making her hot. That was when she noticed the little hairs start to grow out of the skin on her arm. She could feel a warmth moving across her whole body, and she knew it wasn’t just adrenaline. She was one of them. But no, not just one of them. She was the alpha, the first. It all made sense now, the mystery was solved. Her cryogenic chamber was the only one she hadn’t thought to have Omega check. She had killed Private Daniels, and he had tried to escape her by taking her empty cryogenic chamber. He didn’t come to her quarters for help, he came there to escape her animalistic wrath. She had started this, all of it. She was the host who had brought the virus on them. She had killed her crew. Her and no one else. She was a monster.
“What do you want me to do?” Myrna whispered to her beneath the howls. She had her gun raised, gripped firmly between her palms. She was ready to fight it out with Emily, but was unaware of the change that was taking place inside her. Unaware of the epiphany she had just had.
Emily looked up to her and her eyes changed from brown to yellow. “Run. You run and don’t look back.” Myrna looked at her in shock, seeing the transformation start before her eyes. Emily suddenly jerked her head back, and her face tore out into a wolf’s snout. The fangs cut out through the insides of her mouth. Her arms jerked and snapped. Claws tore through her finger tips and she pointed a claw at Myrna. “I said RUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNGGGGGHHHHH!” She yelled and her voice carried over into a growl.
Myrna didn’t hesitate the second time, and ran out into the corridor. She tore off into a sprint for the escape pods.
Emily turned around to face her adversaries, her own crew. The howling stopped. Bond was staring at her, growling and hissing as she transformed before him. The others slowly backed away from her, and bowed their heads. Bond saw this act of respect, and he growled and barked at them. He even reached with his right claw and scratched up Marx for defying him. Emily barked at him for that act of aggression, and he looked at her, his yellow eyes burning with fury.
Her transformation completed, and she stood up on two feet. In her new form, she was larger than he was and she had an albino coat of fur. Her eyes shifted from yellow to pink. She stared him down and growled in a deep, harsh voice, “You’ve been a very bad dog. It’s time to put you down.”
Bond took one step up on the Commander’s chair and lunged through the air at her. She turned to the side, and caught him with one claw on his throat and the other between his legs. She followed through with the momentum of his jump, and tossed him across the room. He crashed into the wall and fell to the ground. She had pierced his neck and genitals with her claws while catching him. He was whimpering and spitting blood. He pawed at his genitals and held onto his throat. He tried to crawl away from her, whimpering as he did so. She stood over him and looked down on him. He choked and gagged on his own blood. She stood there for a moment, and then turned away and the rest of the crew charged and tore him limb-from-limb while he howled and whimpered in pain.
Emily returned to her Commander’s chair and sat down. A white beast, and leader of her pack.
The crew finished feasting and came over to her. They bowed and rested at her feet.
* DO NOT READ THIS BEFORE READING THE STORY. SPOILER ALERT. So, I technically didn’t “kill her” in the traditional sense of the word. If you are someone who has read much of my writing, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I have a tendency to blur certain (traditional) lines. Antagonists are often empathetic characters in my stories, and protagonists are often very flawed. In Emily’s story, she requested to be the antagonist. In a way, she is the antagonist of the plot or conflict, but Dr. Bond is the antagonist of the story. She mostly comes across as a protagonist throughout the duration of the story, until she realizes she was the person who introduced the virus to her crew and was personally responsible for gruesomely killing Private Daniels. All that to get around to saying that I took death as being once you’ve been changed by the virus, because the crew members had to die before becoming a werewolf. Theoretically, Emily was already dead before the story even started, it just took the duration of the story for us (and her) to figure that out.
Another one bites the dust in my morbid scheme to kill people for money. Fictionally speaking, of course. I wouldn’t actually kill these people in real life for $5, that’s ridiculous. Maybe for $1,000, but not for $5.
My first two contestants in the wheel of death:
This week we welcome to the cold slab, Shawna Bergen.
Download the Files
Shawna describes herself as being a computer nut, and indeed one of the three images she sent me for the project had her wearing a T-shirt that read, “Nerd is the New Cool.”
The image above of Shawna helped set a mood for the look I wanted to pursue for her in the story, and her description of herself as being a computer nut also helped set a tone for my direction with the character and plot. She had heard of the opportunity through Google+ and I was able to look over some of her public posts there, and this post of hers featuring the song Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone hit a soft spot for me in the creative juices as well. I love this song a lot, and the idea of working it into the story as sort of a theme or backdrop to the story gave me a lot of momentum. I also worked in a thing or two from her About tab on Google+, see if you notice them. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.
And now, let’s stop talking about it, and post the story. Enjoy!
Shawna Bergen had been tweaking the code of her virus for months. The virus was designed to infiltrate the virtual vaults at Free Citizens United Bank and Trust, and perform a series of transactions that would flood the system with unintelligible data in the moment. During this it would also transfer twenty billion in digital credits to a Swiss bank account of hers through micro transactions. These micro funds would eventually filter into the account over a period of 72 hours. After all of that was finished, the virus would launch a DDOS attack on Free Citizens United and she’d be walking out of the bank one, very rich woman.
That was the plan.
She stood up from her desk in the living room of her small apartment. She looked around the room as she stretched her back, and twisted her torso left and right. The apartment was old, rundown and not her own. The last was the most important. She stepped into her bathroom, and pulled back the shower curtains. She had installed her own microbrewery in the bathtub, and had been hiding it from her landlord. She looked forward to finishing her job at Free Citizens United, so she could take a pile of the cash and purchase a little place to call home. Something outside of the cities. She heard there was still such a place, where the countryside was untouched by the progression of man’s ambitions.
She grabbed a cup from the sink and poured herself a fresh beer of her own making. She smelled it and took a sip. It hit the spot, as her nerves were starting to cramp up in her stomach. Tomorrow was the day she walked into Free Citizens United and stole a lot of money.
She stepped into the living room once more, and laid her cup on the coffee table. She grabbed a black hoodie off the back of the couch and put it on, zipped it up and threw the hood over her head. She shouted a command to her computer and it started playing Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone. She picked up her cup, took another sip and laid her head back. She closed her eyes, and then focused on breathing and listening.
Michael Markus was Chief Security Officer at Free Citizens United, and he performed a routine check of the systems at 3:30pm every day, just before heading into the afternoon meetings before heading home. He often wondered why meetings were held in the afternoon, and so close to closing time for many of the higher management, it was just asking for lazy and boring meetings.
He was in a particularly good mood on Tuesday, February 9, 2076. It was his wedding anniversary, he and his wife Audrey had been together for almost ten years. They had three beautiful children, and for the first time in seven years they would be celebrating their anniversary without the kids to interfere. His day was flying by so fast, and nothing could ruin his mood.
He burst into the security office and looked around at everyone with a smile. They all looked a little concerned. “I’m in such a good mood, folks, that we’re starting this test early and finishing early.” He said. “How fast can you check the systems? Make me proud.”
Everyone cheered and spun around in their chairs. The systems check was usually a long, drawn out occurrence, as Michael was very meticulous about every detail that passed through their system. In his mind, running the security for a bank was like running a casino. It was a game, his game, and anything that was out of place was cheating the system in place. His system.
Shawna walked into the enormous skyscraper of glass, which was the main headquarters of Free Citizens United Bank and Trust. She had timed her withdrawal to come at a time when the bank was at its busiest. This also came just before the Chief Security Officer, Michael Markus, performed his daily systems check. She knew she’d have to be quick to blend in with the crowd of transactions, but miss the systems check as well.
Even though currency had gone completely digital in 2049, due to security concerns, most transactions with such currency had to be made via banks. Give a little, take a whole lot more is how it felt. She would have preferred setting the world on fire from home, but it just wasn’t an option. The only way onto the bank’s network was to be inside their building. And in her case, with the amount of accounts she wanted to affect, she would need to be on the twenty-third floor. The higher up you went in the building, the higher risk and more secure you were. Everyday people and their everyday accounts were accessed on the first levels.
She hesitated for a moment at the elevators, second guessing herself. She was squeezing on a memory stick in the pocket of her hoodie with her sweaty palm. The memory stick contained her virus, and all she would have to do is insert it into a bank ATM terminal to get it started.
“Going up, Miss?” A gentleman on the elevator in a suit asked her, holding the doors.
“Oh, yes,” she stepped onto the elevator and was at the front of a group of suits and skirts. “Thanks.” She whispered to the gentleman.
“No problem,” he said, “Which floor?”
“Twenty-three,” she said.
“Really?” He asked, hardly believing what he was hearing and seeing. A woman in a black hoodie and blue jeans, with untamed blonde hair, who did not look like she had much money to her name.
“Trust fund brat,” she said and rolled her eyes. She threw the hood up over her head and took a deep breath.
Michael Markus was standing in the middle of everything, as was his custom, eyeing all of the data coming and going across the screens in his security center. The test had been running smoothly, and he was feeling pretty good. Only a few more minutes were left before they’d have all the data they needed, and he’d be telling his team how amazing they were. But then something caught his eye.
“Wait,” he said, “Something just happened. What just happened?” He spun around on his heels, and looked at another screen over a man’s shoulder. “What is all this?”
“We’re busy, it appears,” the man said.
“Not that busy,” he said and walked over to another monitor. “Are these all incoming or outgoing?” He asked the girl at the monitor.
“Both, sir.” She replied.
Michael walked back to his place in the middle of the room, his eyes darting to and fro. Someone tried to speak up, but he raised his hands and shushed them. He stayed like that for a moment. His eyes watching, moving. And silence. “We’ve been hacked.”
Shawna was sitting in an ATM room, the door locked behind her. The memory stick with the virus on it was plugged in and working its magic. She glanced at her phone, she had thirty more seconds before it was complete. She was hoping when she opened the door to leave, there wouldn’t be a group of security officers waiting for her.
She licked her lips, and tried to swallow but her mouth was dry. She was rattled. She had calculated the whole process taking sixty seconds, but nothing prepared her for how long it would feel in the heat of the moment.
Michael was pacing about his command center, barking orders like a commander in the battlefield. “Tell me what floor it’s happening on, people!”
A girl jumped up from her desk with her hands in the air, “It’s level 23! They just pulled out, but it’s level 23.”
Michael pointed at two of his men, “You and you are with me.” He spun around and barked a command to show all cameras on level 23. He shushed everyone again and stood still, his eyes darting between the different monitors and screens of various security camera angles. There were seas of people everywhere, all in black, and everyone seemingly the same. “There. The hood. I want the hood. Why is there a hoodie on level 23? Bring me the hood.” He took off with the two men, grabbing walkie-talkies on their way out of the door. He spit orders back into the walkie-talkie, “Shut down elevators and stairs on 23. I’ll message you when to let us in. Keep an eye on the hood.”
“Yes, sir.” A voice garbled back.
The three men in suits picked up pace, running as fast as their dress shoes would allow.
Shawna turned a corner and saw a large crowd of people building up at the elevators. The thought of blending into the sea of people sounded promising, but then she noticed the red light above the doors indicating the elevators were locked. The people in suits frantically pulled out their cell phones and texted or made phone calls.
She turned and looked out the window at the overcast sky, it was beginning to rain. Rain was slowly trickling down the glass in front of her, teasing her at how close to freedom she was and only trapped by something as fragile as glass.
She headed off down another hallway, the stairs would have to do. Perhaps it had nothing to do with her, perhaps it was a fire drill or some nonsense. Before she was even near the staircase, she could see another large crowd of people, and the door was closed. They had been caged in like rats.
She stepped into a nearby bathroom, and closed herself off in a stall.
There was no physical evidence to trace her back to the hack. She had done a thorough job of making sure there was nothing on the memory stick to link her back to it, or link it back to her apartment. When they searched her apartment, they would find nothing of any consequence. She had even cleaned out and decommissioned her microbrewery the night before. She just wasn’t sure she could handle the stress of being caged in and rattled around, poked at with a stick.
She took a deep breath and stepped out of the stall. She washed her hands and face in the sink, and the cold water was refreshing against her nervous skin.
She stepped out of the bathroom and there were three men in suits, she recognized one as Michael Markus. She had seen a picture of him and studied him for some time in preparation for the heist. Even admired him. And to prove her admiration wasn’t misplaced, she hacked his personal computer and was pleased to discover she still liked him.
“Hello, Miss,” Michael said to her, “My name is Michael Markus, I’m Chief Security Officer here at Free Citizens United. Can I have a few words with you?”
“Sure,” she said.
“Were you just in room 2318?” He asked.
“A few minutes ago, yes,” she said, trying hard not to feel or look nervous.
“Did you notice anything unusual?” He asked her.
“Other than myself?” She said, laughing a little. It eased her nerves a bit. “I’m not exactly the suit type.”
“I’ll repeat the question,” Michael said, neither laughing nor smiling, “Did you notice anything unusual?”
“No,” she said, “It was pretty much in and out in a few seconds, like most guys.” She saw the two men with him smirk a little, he gave them a look. “Look nothing was out of the ordinary. But I don’t know how I can help you, if that’s the only question you’re gonna ask.”
“I’m gonna need to see your memory stick,” he said.
“OK,” she said and reached into her pocket.
“And you’ll need to be placed under house arrest for the time being,” he added.
“Now wait a minute,” a voice spoke up and she turned and saw the gentleman from the elevator. “What’s going on here?” He looked at her with a disapproving look, “What have you done now?”
Michael looked confused, “You know this woman, sir?”
“Yes, I should say so,” the gentleman responded, “She’s my daughter… well, stepdaughter, and she’s in a lot of trouble.”
“I’m not sure I’m buying this,” Michael said.
The gentleman shook his head, “She’s a trust fund brat, the worst kind.” He looked back at her, “You up here taking out more money, no doubt? Your mother is going to be so upset. I don’t know how she’s going to get through this.”
Michael shook his head, he really didn’t like the way things had turned. “Now, just give me a minute.”
“What?” The gentleman said.
“I said shut up,” Michael snarled, “I need a minute to think.” He stood there for a moment, motionless, staring at Shawna. He bit his lip, “Alright, I still need to borrow your memory stick for a moment. We’ve had a breach, it might have a virus.”
“Oh,” she said, acting surprised, “Why didn’t you say so?” She pulled out a memory stick and handed it to him. The memory stick with the virus she had left in the trash can in the room.
He handed it to one of the men with him, who stuck it into his phone, and it spat up information about her. But it was all misinformation. As they looked over the information, a voice came through on the walkie-talkies.
“We found the memory stick with the virus,” the voice said, “Discarded in the trash can.”
“Thanks,” Michael said. He turned back to Shawna and gave her the memory stick. “Sorry for any inconvenience, Miss.”
“It’s no problem,” she said and pocketed the memory stick.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” the gentleman said, “I’ve got some scolding to do.”
Michael rolled his eyes, “Right. You do that.”
Shawna and the gentleman walked around the corner, and Michael and his men headed off in the other direction. To her left was a large glass window displaying the rain which had broken out in full force. She wanted outside so bad. To lose herself in the rain, and get as far away from the city as possible.
“That was exciting,” the gentleman said.
“You’re kinda stupid, you know that?” She said, “You don’t know me. You don’t know what you may or may not have just got yourself mixed up in.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “I had fun.”
Michael kept moving at a hurried pace, he was going to investigate the room for himself. Something wasn’t right, he didn’t buy that the woman with the hoodie wasn’t their perpetrator. There had to be a connection somehow, and he’d find it. He always found the connection.
“Sir,” the walkie-talkie sparked up, “We’ve got a bit of a problem.”
“What is it?” Michael said.
“Chief Information Officer Linton got wind of the breach, he thinks you’re not doing your job,” the voice said, “He’s sent the muscle.”
“Do they know about the hood?” Michael asked.
“That’s where they’re headed now, sir,” the voice said.
“Try to talk him down!” Michael shouted into the walkie-talkie. He spun around and started into a full sprint after Shawna. The two men with him were right on his heels.
Shawna stopped, and grabbed the gentleman by the arm when the door to the stairs up ahead came open from the inside. A group of men in tactical gear stepped out with assault rifles, pushing the crowd of business suits back and yelling at them. Threatening to use force, if they wouldn’t back up. A member of the squad spotted her.
“There’s the hood!” The officer shouted and raised his gun at her. Within seconds all of the squad had guns aimed at her.
She and the gentleman threw their hands straight up without hesitation. “Step aside from me, old man,” she whispered to him, “They’re gonna kill me.”
He turned and looked at her, “What did you do exactly?”
“I made a withdrawal.” She said.
There was silence as the tension slowly built. A few of the officers broke away from the squad and made their way towards them. “We’re going to approach you, and cuff you,” an officer said, “Do not move. We will use lethal force, if necessary.”
Shawna looked over at the business suits, and they had backed away from the officers. Some were watching, others were holding up their phones recording the event.
“She’s got a gun!” Someone shouted. Shawna couldn’t tell if it was an officer or one of the business suits.
The officers closest started shooting first. They opened fire and the bullets sprayed her body and all around her. The old man was also getting hit with a spray of bullets. They fell, wrapped into each other. And the shooting kept coming, even when they landed on the floor and tried to shield themselves with their arms and legs.
Michael and his men turned the corner just as the shooting broke out, and one of his men was hit in the leg. The other man was hit in the arm. Michael fell from the momentum and shock off the shooting. He slid across the floor and into the glass wall. He threw his hand up and started shouting for them to stop shooting. He held his badge in his hand.
“STOP FIRING. I am the Chief Security Officer,” he yelled, but it seemed to have little effect. He kept yelling it over and over. He rose to his feet and came towards them with his arms raised, his badge visible in his left hand. “I am the Chief Security Officer, stop firing!” Finally, he took the badge in his right hand and pitched it as hard as he could at the point man in the squad, “I’m the Chief Security Officer! Why am I here? Why am I even here?”
The point man raised his gun and almost shot Michael, after getting hit with the badge, but after they made eye contact he called off the shooting.
The business suits were laying on the ground for cover, some had even ran for cover down the hallway and around the corner. There were a few in front who still had their phones out recording the event, though they too had retreated to the floor for cover.
Shawna crawled up and looked into the old man’s eyes. He was staring off into nothingness. Death had taken him quick. He was riddled with bullets, completely wasted and for no good reason. She looked over at the squad members, who looked a little stunned at what they had done. They had lowered their weapons. She looked up at Michael, who looked completely frustrated as he looked into her eyes. Behind him a portion of the glass had been completely shattered, and the rain was now pouring into the hallway and inching towards the old man’s body.
“I’m sorry,” Michael said.
“It’s not your fault, Michael,” she said, and his eyes perked up when he heard his name. “I am the virus.” She rolled across the old man’s body with just enough energy to push herself up to her feet and take two, long steps and then jump out the broken window.
She freefell with the rain.
In case you missed the memo, I started something new last week. That something new is taking $5 from folks to write a short story or flash fiction piece in which they get killed. Some people may call that selling out, I like to call it blood money myself.
Our first contestant on the wheel of death was Kat Folland in Kat Folland’s Early Retirement.
Number two is Julia Robertson (no, not Julia Roberts).
Download the Files
With Kat Folland’s piece, I had (with permission) stalked her social media profile on Google+. It seemed to help me some, but I had also been in a circular relationship on Google+ with Kat for sometime as well. But with Julia, I chose to rely solely on the one image she provided me. We’ll see if this was a mistake or not. I have a feeling I probably could have written a more intriguing story for her had I done so. But that’s my initial feelings on the topic.
When I first saw this image (above) of Julia Robertson, my mind immediately drifted into some familiar territory for me. I’ve got a collection of ideas for various steampunk/western/scifi style stories that I tell myself I’ll write someday, along with ALL THE STORIES in my head. With only this image to guide me, I set off into the future of an icy Wild West frontier in Washington, D.C.
Julia is a Brain Tumor survivor, you can find her here on Twitter. She actively does what she can to try and help research a cure for Brain Tumors. So, similarly to Kat Folland in our first installment, she is tough as nails as well.
And now, without any further ado, the story.
Julia Robertson’s Last Call
In 2134, the Earth entered a second ice age. The entire globe was covered in snow and ice, and all of the technology of the 21st century and beyond was rendered useless. Satellites were lost in space, communication devices became paperweights. The entire world’s infrastructure shutdown and mankind had to adapt, or die.
Heat, shelter and light became the most valuable resources.
Solar power had dominated most of the latter 2000s, but as the new ice age spat down it became clear to some that solar was not going to last forever. Scientists around the globe visited large cities, pleading for politicians to invest in wind energy in advance of the oncoming ice age. Many ignored these warnings, which seemed like cries of a sinking Titanic before any icebergs had been spotted. When the ice age hit, those who had invested in wind energy were able to harness that energy from the intense gusts of wind that blew to and fro all day and night. The world had become a snow-globe of howling winds.
In the United States, the White House had been devastated by the first wave of blizzards, and future presidents were housed in a bunker style compound known as the White Brick by common folks. The destruction of modern communication and technology meant that politics of Washington were cut off from the rest of the country. The law of the Wild West seemed to rise once more. Local politics were where the law really existed, if it existed at all. But most towns and cities weren’t prepared, and didn’t survive.
Many lives were lost.
President Winslow sat in the Thomas Jefferson Bar of the White Brick, and savored a glass of tonic and gin. He looked up at Julia Robertson who ran the bar, which served as a reception area for politicians and foreign diplomats. That night they had entertained diplomats from a struggling Chinese economy. It had taken the Chinese diplomats three months to make the journey, and they had lost two comrades in the process. When stakes were that high, it made for some intriguing meetings to watch. And Julia had watched her share of meetings. Her family had been serving drinks in the White Brick for three generations, and she was the last of her bloodline. The meetings would continue for at least another month, as neither party was interested in parting ways until an agreement could be made. She would be seeing the same long faces day in and day out, pouring their drinks, hearing their pleas for compromise and refusals to budge. But, eventually, an agreement would be reached. An agreement would have to be reached, it was always the way. Going back empty handed after such a journey was never an option. And then, there was always the potential that the foreign diplomats could be shipwrecked before returning home with the news and the process would start over anew.
Julia dried off a shot glass with a towel, one which Vice President Milton had been using for his scotch on the rocks. She sat it down, and Winslow looked up at her. He looked tired with bags under his eyes. He had been arguing with his own men before the diplomats had even arrived. “How do you put up with us?” He asked her.
“Excuse me, sir?” She said.
“You have to hear all of this,” he gestured about the oval-shaped lounge, “And yet, you keep a cool head and never complain. How do you put up with it?”
“That’s easy,” she said, “I ignore it.”
“I wish I could do that.” He said.
“But you can’t,” she said, and picked up a bottle of beer and popped the cap off. “You’re invested in it. I’m not.” She took a long swig and leaned against the bar with him.
“I am invested in it,” he started and his eyes glazed over. He stared off somewhere into the distance, something catching his eye or perhaps a memory of days gone by, or a vision of the future. “I’m invested in knowing things turn out. Knowing that what we do here actually matters. And you should be invested, too, because what we do can impact you.”
“I doubt that, sir,” she said and took another swig, “I just pour the drinks. And when I’m dead, someone else will pour the drinks.”
“I’m trying to change that way of thinking,” he shook his head. “I guess I’m not prevailing.” He sipped on his tonic.
“We live in a snow globe, Mr. President,” she said, “Every time the flurries start to settle somebody comes along and shakes it up again. And besides, you’re better than most. I couldn’t stand the last three presidents.”
“That’s true,” he said and smiled. He turned and looked at the paintings on the wall of former presidents. “And I’m way better looking.” They both laughed warmly, and he finished off his tonic. “Thanks. I needed a sanity refresher. But,” he stood up, “I should reacquaint myself with my wife, as tomorrow is another long, long day. Good night.”
“Good night, Mr. President,” Julia said and picked up his glass. She dropped it into the soapy sink and quickly cleaned it. She rinsed it and dried it off, returning it to the shelf. She unplugged the sink and let the water drain.
Luther Crenshaw, a bodyguard to the president, came in and clocked in just outside the lounge. Julia watched him as he turned and stammered into her corner of the world. He barely looked alive much less awake, he stepped up to the bar and fell onto it. The barstool cried under the weight of his sloppy demeanor.
“Why, Luther Crenshaw, I believe you are skunk drunk,” she told him.
“I don’t need a drink.” He said gruffly, and then thought for a moment about what she had said. He looked confused. He shook his head and decided to start over. “Do you have anything for…” he gestured to his whole body with his open hand, “this?”
“What you need is coffee, Mr. Crenshaw.” She said.
“I have no idea what that is, but I’ll take it.”
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore,” she said and picked up a pitcher of water. She poured him a long glass. “This is as good as it gets anymore.”
“How old is it?” He asked.
“I thawed it myself tonight.” She said.
He sighed and took the glass. “Fine.”
Crenshaw got up and walked over to a lounge chair and plopped into it. The water spilled a little on his hand. He cursed under his breath, and then took a sip. He frowned at the lack of taste and cursed some more. He put the glass on the table next to him. Within seconds she could tell he was starting to fall asleep. His head would slowly nod, and then jerk back up and repeat. She never understood why Winslow kept the drunk around. She was certain he would never prove his worth when the occasion called for it, and worried that one day she would be proven right.
It was about that time that the first of the gunshots rang out.
Her head darted up and she looked towards the hallway. She waited to confirm another sound, hoping it was just her imagination. But when the next burst of gunshots rang out she knew it was a siege. She looked back at Crenshaw who was already on his feet, pistol in hand.
“Those were gunshots, right?” He asked, still dazed from his drunken and drowsy state.
She nodded without a word, and reached under her bar without looking. She felt the cold of steel and wood. She pulled out her grandfather’s shotgun, and pulled the pump to cock it for the ready.
“Not your first siege?” He asked her.
“I’ve seen my share. You?”
“My first,” he said.
A series of gunshots rang out, closer and louder than before. The voices of men were yelling, some sounded like bodyguards trying to give out orders but no one ever listened to orders. Law of the west, everyone was a gunslinger and everyone was his own man or woman. There were other voices yelling, these were distinctively happy and psychotic in nature. Julia could tell when another bodyguard fell, because a voice would shout in acclamation at the victory.
“They’ve broken the parameter,” she said. “Looks like we’re gonna get some action.”
“I didn’t bring any protection.” Crenshaw said and chuckled. She rolled her eyes. “I read it in a book,” he explained.
“I know what it means,” she said.
“You do? What’s it mean?” He asked.
An explosion erupted and the door in the hallway went flying off, splitting into thousands of pieces as it traveled down the hallway. The sound of the explosion was piercing and Julia’s ears were ringing. She dropped down behind the bar for cover. Screaming and laughing voices came screeching through the smoke, and she peaked around the corner of the bar to get a look. A seemingly never ending group of men came running through, yelling and shouting with guns of all shapes and sizes. They were dressed in long trench coats, large brimmed hats and masquerade ball masks. She recognized the masks from a worn out book her father had borrowed from the Presidential Library when she was a child.
“Hey Julia!” A masked intruder stepped out of the smoke and into her lounge, calling her by name, “Hey Julia, I’m home! Now pour me a beer!” He lowered his shotgun from his shoulder to waist level and began shooting up the bottles of liquor on her shelves. The liquor and glass rained down on her behind the bar. All of it, every last bit, she or her family had brewed in the microbrewery underneath the lounge. She was enraged. Her family’s life work had been destroyed by a few gunshots.
She didn’t know who the masked intruder was, but as far as she was concerned he was a dead man.
She took a deep breath and rolled over, bracing her elbow on the floor. She peaked around the corner and he stood in defiance laughing at the carnage he’d just committed. She could hear more shooting off down the hallway, the intruders were making progress. She took aim and fired at his legs. The buckshot sprayed across his legs, tearing up his legs below the knee. He fell violently onto his face, his legs flying behind him from the force of the gunshot. He instantly started screaming in pain, and she waited to see if anyone came to his aid, but clearly the others had their own set of goals. She wondered how the intruder knew her name. She didn’t recognize his voice. She figured it might have been an inside job, that they had been given the layout of the compound, and told where everyone would be at what time. This was often the case during a political siege on the compound. Some politician who disagreed with the way the president and vice president were getting things done, so they’d send in guns for hire and overthrow the government in a matter of minutes. Typically, though, staff employees were not harassed during such raids. To have someone coming in, calling her out by name, and then taking aim at her bar was something different from the usual takeover.
She wanted to know why she was a target.
When she felt confident no one was coming back to aid their fallen comrade, she got off the floor and came out of cover. He had rolled over onto his back and was looking at his legs, screaming in pain and horror. She walked around in front of him and stepped on his right leg. He screamed and jerked his head back. She aimed the barrel of the gun at his face for intimidation.
“Who are you?” She asked. “How do you know my name?”
He jerked his mask off. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” She didn’t recognize him. “Please don’t stand on my leg, it hurts so bad.”
“How do you know my name?” She asked again.
“He told us names, gave us blueprints.” He said, still gasping for air.
“Who?” She demanded.
“I can’t say.” He said. She pushed her boot down harder into his leg, and he screamed so loud his voice broke. “PLEASE!”
Julian heard a lot of gunfire in the distance, and she could hear the voice of the First Lady screaming in horror. She knew it was about over. “I guess I’ll try my luck with someone else,” she said and cocked the shotgun. He stuck his hand out to block the shot, but it didn’t help and she destroyed his unfamiliar face along with it. She turned and saw Crenshaw leaning against a chair.
“I think I’m gonna be sick,” he said, “I’ve been moving around too much, too fast… too drunk.” He gave a burp in the back of his throat, and then he swallowed it.
She sighed and walked up to him. “I’m gonna do you a favor, Luther.”
“Yeah?” He asked, unsuspecting.
She hit him across the face with the butt of her shotgun, and he fell to the floor. He was out cold, and she figured it was best that way. He was no good to her or anyone in the state he was in. It was better for him, if the intruders thought he was counted amongst the dead. They’d be finished soon anyway, and after that they’d leave. They were just the hired muscle. Somebody else would be moving into the compound.
She wondered if should just hide and wait it out. But she thought about the man yelling her name. She was supposed to be dead. She reloaded her gun and stepped up to the hallway. She was too curious. She wanted to know who had ordered the siege and why she was a target. She didn’t like being roped into the politics of things. Her family had always remained neutral, why all of the sudden were they under attack?
She turned the corner and entered the hall. It was empty except for the carnage. The walls were sprayed with bullet holes and blood. There was a gray haze from the gunfire, looming in the hallway like fog. She slowly crept through the massacre, stepping and inching over bodies of the fallen bodyguards and intruders. The bottom of her flowing dress slid across the bodies as she moved along, collecting blood on its tip and weighing it down.
She stopped at the side of a bodyguard she recognized, he was the captain of the guard. She knelt down next to him and pried his handgun from his grip. She checked the clip, and it was only missing three of eight bullets. She searched the inner pocket of his jacket and found two more clips. She stood back up, and then slipped the handgun and clips into her leather belt she had wrapped around her dress. She took ahold of her shotgun with both hands once more, holding it at waist level and continued down the long hallway. She couldn’t hear any more gunfire. Either they were doing a final sweep or it was finished. Either way, they’d be coming back her way soon. She didn’t much feel like taking them all on by herself. She reached the first set of doors.
On the right side of the hallway was an open door, which led into the Presidential Library. Very few people ever set foot in the library at night, so she imagined it was empty. She approached the door on the left side, which was also left open. This door led into the dining room. It was typically empty at night, except for a few staff members finally getting to take in a late dinner. Since she had been targeted, she didn’t figure the kitchen staff had been spared either. She lowered her barrel some, and peaked inside and saw a stack of cooks and waitresses. They had been lined against a wall and gunned down.
Who assassinates waitresses and cooks? She asked herself, not sure if she’d ever know the truth.
She turned around just as a masked intruder stepped out of the library with a red book in one hand, and a pistol in the other. He looked up from the book and they made eye contact for a moment. Both startled, they froze for a second, and then each raised their weapons.
There was one, loud crashing sound of thunder.
She was tossed back into the wall, and he went flying backwards into the library. The book flew across the hallway and landed in her lap after she had crashed on the floor. She sat for a moment in shock with her back against the wall. Then, she felt the pain and it came on fast and piercing. Her neck was writhing in pain, and she reached up to it. He had managed to shoot her at the base of her neck. She felt a hole and it was pouring out warm blood. That was when she noticed she wasn’t breathing, but gasping for air and choking on blood. She heard voices yelling and coming closer.
She looked down and saw the book.
It was red and very old, but it had been kept in decent condition. The title, written in gold letters on the binding, was Wuthering Heights and had been written by an Emily Brontë. She hadn’t heard of either the title or the name. She wondered what it could be about.
The voices were getting louder.
She reached out and picked up the book, her hands smeared blood across the cover. She opened it and turned a few pages, making bloody fingerprints as she did so. It was a second edition print, printed in 1943. It had survived many years, including the time when The Order tried to burn all books. This book, like all of the books in the Presidential Library, was a door to another time. A time almost completely forgotten and trodden under foot with the progression of time and hate.
The voices had become much clearer, but suddenly they stopped. She couldn’t turn her head to look, but she heard footfalls coming towards her. She knew she didn’t have long. She needed to make these precious moments count.
She turned the pages and found chapter one of the book. She started to read.
— Nathan Weaver (@babylontales) February 2, 2015
This is the first in what I hope to be many short stories. The project is simple, I’m taking $5 from folks who are willing to have me kill them. I mean, write them into a short or flash fiction story and kill them off. It’s a fun and morbid tirade for sure. But it also highlights something of a bit of a decision I’ve made in my life of late, I’m ready to begin making money as a writer. I love writing too much to not take it more seriously than a hobby, and try to live off of it (somewhat).
Download the Files
I promised 3 digital file types, and have delivered those to Kat Folland already and now I am delivering on the blog post. You can read the short story included in this blog post, or by following this link and downloading the format of your choosing (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free) from Dropbox, and then reading in your favorite reader or device.
As an introduction to the story, with Kat’s permission I stalked her Google+ profile (she and I have been circled for a few years now). I was looking for some inspiration, and it came in the form of the following image.
Once I saw this image, which she had posted to Google+, I knew where I was headed with the story and the rest came rather natural.
Kat Folland’s Early Retirement
District 37 was a good place to be forgotten or lost. It was also a good place to kill someone, or be killed.
The United Nations had divided the entire globe into Districts by 2037, China being the last to come over unwillingly to the global government model. With the years that followed, the world became one giant slab of buildings and efficiency. No matter where you went, it was all about everything being the same. At least, that was the theory. But of course it didn’t turn out that way.
Blocks, huge compartmentalized living structures, covered the entirety of Earth’s surface. Elevators gave the ability to travel up and down between Levels, and monorails took you from District to District. It was crude, and with time, the sweetest commodity was sunlight. The higher up you lived, closer to the sun’s rays, the more expensive the cost of living got. This lead to a clear cut segregation between the lower and middle classes, with the lower classes living in the lowest Levels of the Blocks. Closest to Earth, but furthest from light.
Kat Folland was a bounty hunter, a necessary evil to take care of the jobs The Order, the United Nations’ law enforcers, couldn’t fulfill. She worked for a bounty agency located in District 40. The pay per job was good, but the hours were staggered. You never knew when your government-issued mobile device was going to vibrate and offer you a new Lead (as they preferred to call them). You had precious time to respond to the offer by tapping one of the Accept or Decline buttons. If you proved your worth to the agency, your contact info was promoted to a circle of contacts who got the offer messages thirty seconds earlier. It paid to be good.
And Kat had been one of the best.
But she was getting old. She could feel the pain in each of her joints, and it only worsened with each passing day. Being a bounty hunter had wreaked havoc on her body through the years, and she knew she couldn’t keep at it much longer. Her best hope was to get out before she got herself killed trying to apprehend or kill a Lead.
The past six months she had been simply tapping Accept every time a new offer came in, not even reading the details. She was trying to squeeze in as many jobs as she could before her body really disagreed with her. She was saving up as much of the money she made for her retirement.
She figured she only had another month or two before she walked out for good.
Her mobile vibrated in her long overcoat and she pulled it out. After quickly verifying her fingerprint, she tapped Accept. While she waited to see if she was rewarded the Lead, she looked at a picture and read a short bio about the fugitive.
His name was Rancor Wilkes, he was an Off-Worlder, and half human. He lived in District 37, the most crime-ridden District on Earth. He was wanted for a series of rapes, sexual assaults and murders. He was preying on women, and just when The Order had tracked him down and brought him in, he escaped and lost himself in the fog of District 37. The Order stayed out of District 37, anyone with a badge was sure to die within seconds of crossing over into its borders.
She rubbed her hands across the base of her neck, and tilted her head, but the pain in her neck barely let up. She pulled some illegal painkillers from her pocket and quickly swallowed them with a dry mouth. She sighed and wondered if maybe this wasn’t the job for her to be getting. It sounded an awful lot like suicide.
Her mobile vibrated. A message appeared and read, “You have been rewarded the Lead. Good hunting.”
She climbed aboard the monorail in District 40, on Level 16. She was headed southwest to District 37, where she’d then plummet to Level 1. Rancor was located in the worst neighborhood in the world. District 37, Level 1. He would be right at home, and she’d be in a world of hurt if she didn’t get in and out as fast as possible. The job was paying well enough, but if she brought him back alive she could make triple the price and bow out of the business once the credits came through into her account. She knew The Order wouldn’t come to pick him up in District 37, so she’d have to smuggle him out. It would be easier smuggling him out alive, than dragging his lifeless body out. If she was caught dragging a dead body to another District, it would be a dead giveaway that she was a bounty hunter and her cover would be blown. She’d be dead and someone else would collect the bounty under the Citizen’s Arrest Statute.
The monorail came to a halt, and she stepped off into District 37. She found an Elevator and began her dissent. She was alone on the Elevator, and she pulled her mobile out to refresh her memory on the various spots he had been known to inhabit. The list mostly comprised of places he could find a hookup and potential victim. A couple of nightclubs called Interstellar Fantasy and Hyperdrive. Three brothels, four nude clubs, and a diner called Cup O’ Milky Way. She rolled her eyes at the last. The Elevator doors opened and she almost stepped out without looking, but a couple fell inside and brushed up against her. She quickly pocketed the government-issued mobile and saw she was only on Level 4. She’d have to ride it out with the lovebirds. She stayed close to the door, and didn’t look at them. She listened to them as a means to make sure they were not going to try and mug her.
“Hey, I don’t feel so good,” the girl said.
“You’re alright, baby,” the man said in a gruff voice, “I got something you can swallow when we get back to my place. It’ll clear you right up, and send you flying.”
“I don’t know, I feel dizzy,” the girl said, “Are we falling?”
“Yes! We’re falling! Why is the Elevator falling?” The girl panicked and pushed Kat out of her way and she pressed the button to stop the Elevator. “There!” She breathed a sigh of relief, after they all stammered about.
The man caught Kat by the arm, who nearly through a fist in his face for touching her. But she looked up and made eye contact with him for the first time. It was Rancor Wilkes.
“Sorry about that,” Rancor said, “My date’s had a little bit to drink.”
Kat’s mind quickly ran the details of his modus operandi. She recalled that it was his custom to find someone he liked, and supply them with drinks mixed with a drug called Morphezipine, which had been banned by the United Nations. It was a drug designed to be an upgrade to Morphine and something cancer patients could use to null the pain. The side effects were short term dementia, heightened sense of smell and often led to states of euphoria. It became a staple date rape drug, since the effects would help to confuse the victim and cloud their testimony with irrelevant and surreal details. Often victims would claim to have been raped by the devil himself, and would believe that they were chosen to bear the anti-Christ.
This young girl was apparently on her way to being one of Rancor’s next victims.
“It’s no problem,” Kat said, picking herself up, and gently removed his hand from her elbow. “Thanks. I can remember being that age.”
“Yeah?” He said.
“That was a long time ago,” Kat said, as she loosened the knot of her scarf around her neck. She was hoping the young girl wouldn’t give her any trouble.
“I hear that,” Rancor said, “I tell you what, she and I will get off at the next Level and take the stairs.”
“OK, thanks.” Kat said.
Rancor walked up to the girl and placed his hands on her arms, in comfort, and whispered in her ear. “I tell you what, baby, let’s get off on the next floor and take the stairs. That, OK, baby? Baby?”
While Rancor waited for her response, Kat lifted the scarf over her head and wrapped the ends around her wrists. She counted to three and jumped at Rancor. She raised the scarf over his head and brought it down tight against his neck. She pulled back hard, kicked the back of his right knee, and he collapsed to his knees. She knelt down and rammed her right knee into his spine. She pushed inward with her knee and pulled back with her arms, tightening the grip of the scarf around his neck. She held an impressive form between him and the floor of the Elevator. Her back arched perfectly, one knee into the floor and another into his back. Her two arms pulled tightly against her torso, her elbows pointing far behind her back. It was a stance she’d taken many times through the years, and it used to be like nothing more than doing a yoga pose. But now, it hurt. The resistance and number of fugitives she’d seen had taken its toll. She could feel the pain in her left knee, as it dug into the floor. She could feel that her arms weren’t as strong as they used to be. Her lower back was slowly hurting worse and worse, a chronic pain that would never go away, even with the drugs. She started to breathe heavy, and knew she couldn’t hold it as long as she needed to knock him out. She was going to need help.
Kat looked up at the girl. The girl was still looking on the scene in shook. She had been completely blindsided by the turn of events, and Kat knew this must be hard for her to swallow. She was going to have to appeal to the girl’s human side. But before she could say anything, the girl raised an eyebrow and smirked.
“Well, alright, I’ll take it,” she said and then pulled out a knife and lunged into Rancor. She was stabbing him over and over in his stomach.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Kat began to yell at her, but nothing would phase the girl. “STOP. STOP.”
The knife kept going in and out, in and out. Kat could hear Rancor’s coughs and gasps for air, and she knew she was going to lose him. She removed her right knee from his back, and the three of them shifted a little. The weight all bearing down on Kat, and she felt a sharp pain shoot up her back. She screamed as she pulled her foot out from underneath the weight and kicked the girl off of Rancor. She couldn’t believe herself, she was trying to save him.
Her mobile fell out of her pocket from all the commotion and rattled against the floor. The girl saw it and looked up at her, “Are you a bounty hunter?” She asked Kat.
“Yes,” Kat said, gasping for air herself. She pushed Rancor off of her and slid him across the floor with her foot. She pushed herself into a corner of the Elevator and tried to catch her breath.
“Are you going to kill him?” The girl asked.
“No,” Kat said in between breaths, “I’m taking him back alive.”
“That won’t do,” the girl said, “Sorry.” She laid her knife on the floor and quickly pulled a pistol from within her purse.
Kat reached for her gun underneath her jacket, but the holster was empty. She felt the pain in her chest before she heard the shot. It hit her just to the right of her heart. She looked down at the entry wound and saw the first of the blood pour out of her shirt. She looked up and saw her gun laying in the opposite corner of the Elevator. It had apparently fallen out during the scuffle.
The girl stood up and walked over to Rancor. She picked him up by his blood-soaked shirt and laid him against the wall. She stood over him, an opposing force with her gun in hand. Kat and Rancor had both completely misjudged the young girl.
“Do you know who I am?” The girl asked Rancor. He spit up blood, but didn’t answer. She bent over and slapped him with her gun across the face. More blood splattered. “Do you know who I am?” He shook his head. “Do you know Misty Landhaus?” She asked, but again he didn’t respond. His eyes were starting to shut and he looked like he didn’t have much time left. She slapped him with her gun again. “Do you know Misty Landhaus?” He spit up a lot of blood, recovered and shook his head. She leaned over and met him face-to-face, “Misty Landhaus was my baby sister. You killed Misty Landhaus. You killed my baby sister. And now, look at you. Look at me. You’re dead. I killed you, Rancor Wilkes. I killed you hard. And no one will miss you.”
The girl stood up straight and waited. She stood there and watched as every last ounce of Rancor Wilkes’ life drained from him. Kat admired the girl’s strength. She had hunted the hunter, for justice, and won. After she confirmed he was dead, she came back to Kat and sat next to her.
“You see what I had to do,” she said, “Sorry. Here.” The girl handed her two pills. “They’re Morphezipine, at least you can go out with a bang and no pain. It’s the least I can do. It’s all I can do, really.”
Kat nodded, but couldn’t raise a hand. The girl placed one pill in her mouth and she swallowed it dry. She put the other in her mouth, and she choked a little swallowing it, but got it down. Almost immediately she felt tingling in her body where pain had once been. It was as if she could feel the medicine going to work on her body, one piece at a time. Where there was pain, tingling slowly began to creep up, and the pain began to vanquish. She took a deep breath and within minutes her entire body was free of pain.
“I’m cold,” Kat said out loud, when she meant to think it.
“That’s death,” the girl said. She moved in closer to Kat and wrapped one arm around her back, pulling her up against her, and the other around her front which completed the embrace.
Kat’s head felt heavy and she rested it on the girl’s shoulder, “Thanks,” she said. Her eyelids slowly closed and she thought she heard the girl say something, but then there was silence.