Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Golden Mile Part 3

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We Can't Fight a God

Reaching into their jackets, the men donned thin tactical gloves. Just in case.
Yamamoto rolled up his jacket sleeve, revealing a paracord bracelet. He unbuckled and unraveled it halfway, leaving a braided handle in his hand and a dangling bight.
Tan waved his phone against the RFID scanner.
The door unlocked.
Yamamoto opened the door. With swift, deft movements, he tied the paracord around the chain.
“What are you doing?” Ngo yelled.
Yamamoto ran the paracord across the upper edge of the door.
“Leave! Now! Security is on the way!”
Yamamoto closed the door.
Held on to the handle.
And opened it again.
With a metallic clatter, the door chain disengaged. Tan barged in.
The apartment was beyond minimalist. A sofa, a glass coffee table, a holovision. Vast swathes of empty space.
And Ngo, in the kitchen, standing by the island.
“Get out! Now!”
Her voice mutated and rippled, a mezzo-soprano transmuting into a discordant chorus of a thousand tongues.

Tan rushed to her.
“Alarm!”
She fled deeper into the kitchen.
He followed.
She yanked a drawer open, revealing a set of knives.
“NO!” Tan shouted.
Her hand snatched up the largest blade.
Tan lunged for her.
She turned towards him, knife whirling for his neck.
He speared his arms out. His left forearm slammed into her knife arm. His right palm smacked her forehead.
Shrieking, she staggered back. He closed his fingers, but found only empty space. She thrust again, going for his belly. He crashed in, sweeping her knife hand away, seizing the back of her elbow, driving his skull into her shoulder. He twisted his left wrist around and captured her own.
She roared in his ear, pulling away from him. Her arm retracted, aligning the point towards him. He stepped out, sliding his right hand down to her wrist, snaring the back of her elbow with his left hand, and crashed into her again, driving her back, back, back.
She bumped up against something. Twisting around, she tried to claw his face. He crushed his left forearm against her bicep, kneed her leg, and brought her crashing down in an armbar.
She caught herself as she fell, her palm smacking against the floor. He planted his knee on her back and lifted her arm high, twisting her hand with both of his to loosen her grip—
She pushed herself off the floor.
Tan’s knee slid off her. His hands clamped down tight, locking down her knife. He threw his weight forward, trying to hold her down—
Yamamoto hooked his boot around the crease of her arm and lifted the limb away.
She went down, smacking against the floor. As Yamamoto locked up her free arm, Tan peeled the knife from her fingers and wrenched her arm behind her back. Yamamoto gave him the other. He pressed both wrists into her spine, holding them down firmly with all his weight. She bucked and screamed, but he had control.
Yamamoto dug out a pair of zipties from his pack and cuffed her hands.
“WE HAVE MARKED YOU! THE VOID WILL CONSUME YOUR SOUL!”
“There’s a syringe of gray fluid in my upper front pouch on my backpack,” Tan said. “Take it out.”
As Tan held her down, Yamamoto unzipped his pack and rustled about.
“Here,” Yamamoto said, holding it out.
“Inject her in the neck,” Tan said.
Yamamoto scooted over, kneeling by her head.
“NO! STOP! YOU CAN’T—”
Yamamoto did.
She shuddered. Convulsed. And screamed again.
“WHAT DID YOU DO TO US?!”
“Easy, easy,” Tan said. “I’ve dosed you with suppressant. It’ll disable the implants. That’s all.”
“THE VOID CONSUMES ALL! NOTHING CAN STAND BEFORE THE VOID!”
Yamamoto dug under his jacket, holding out his necklace.
“Do you see this?” Yamamoto asked.
Ngo looked.
And shrieked.
“Witness the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega, He who is the beginning and the end of all things—”
“I WILL EAT YOUR GOD!”
“He who is lord of the heavens and the earth—”
Incoherent screeching issued from her mouth. There were words, but not in a language Tan knew. They tore at his ears and ripped at his brain. He gasped—there was pain, but there was no pain, there was pain in his brain but his brain could not feel pain so what the hell—
“Aum.”
The word washed over Tan. A hint of white light flashed through his sight. The alien babbling ceased. Ngo stared, dumbstruck.
“Marcie Ngo, I know you’re in there,” Yamamoto said. “Are you?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice normal again.
Then the chorus came back.
“NO!”
“Marcie, do you wish to be free?”
“Yes!”
“NO! SHE IS PART OF US! SHE BELONGS TO THE VOID! SHE IS NEVER COMING BACK!”
“Father God, Lord of All, please come to our aid. One of your children is in the grasp of an unclean spirit, and she cries out for salvation. Free her from the clutches of this unholy being, and send it back to the Abyss.”
The demonic babbling returned, filled with rage and fury. But there was no pain now. Ngo struggled, but weaker this time, unable to resist Tan’s body weight.
“Shine your light on her, oh Lord. Dispel the darkness that has unlawfully taken possession of her. Free her from bondage and restore her to her full strength!”
The thing within her screamed. Ngo screamed too, her voice filling the world.
“Marcie,” Yamamoto said, “do you see the light?”
“I do! I do!” she shouted.
And out the corner of his eyes, Tan saw a faint light shining through Yamamoto’s clenched fingers.
“Focus on the light,” Yamamoto said.
“I will!”
“Well done. As for you, foul spirit, I speak to you now. Tremble now, in the light of the Lord, before whom all the denizens of Hell kneel! I abjure you, most unclean spirit, by all that is holy and good. Cease all resistance now, for you stand against the Creator of All, he who created all from nothingness, he who divided light and darkness, firmament and waters, heaven and earth!
“In the name of God, I command you, along with all your minions, to leave Marcie Ngo now and forever!”
She screamed. It screamed. Ten thousand voices screamed with it. A dark cloud spewed from her mouth, streaming and dissipating into the air, the voices fading with it.
She exhaled.
And went limp.
Tan wiped his brow. “That was intense.”
“Yeah,” Yamamoto said.
He released his grip and let his necklace swing free.
It was a cross. A cross whose bars ended in three lotus petals.
Tan held out the knife to Yamamoto.
“Take this and cover me. I need to monitor the suppressant and flush her system.”
“Gotcha.”
Yamamoto took the knife. Tan rolled Ngo over to her side, whipped out his phone, and synced with the suppressant. It was slowly coursing through her, identifying and disrupting all implants it could find. The micromachines in the fluid would bind themselves to the implants’ receptors, effectively jamming them up, but the only way to be truly free of the implants was surgical removal.
That could wait until they were out of here.
Footsteps echoed against wood.
Tan looked up.
A pair of VC security officers burst into the apartment, training handguns on him.
“FREEZE!” they shouted.
Tan froze.
“HANDS UP!”
He rose his hands.
They marched towards him, covering him with their weapons.
“Easy there,” Tan said.
“SILENCE!”
“No one has to get hurt—”
“SILENCE OR WE SHOOT!”
Tan shut up.
The guards entered the kitchen, pistols held out in both hands.
And Yamamoto, crouching behind the island, pounced.
Yamamoto slapped down the nearer guard’s arm with his free hand and drove his knife under the arm and into his throat. The guard shuddered. Slashing his way out, Yamamoto seized the guard’s shoulder. Spun him to face his partner. Shoved.
The dying man fell on the other guard. The guard flinched, pushed him side, turned to face Yamamoto.
But Yamamoto was already behind him.
He wrapped his arm around the guard’s forehead from behind, forced his spine back, and drove his blade into the man’s kidney. He gasped, his mouth falling open. Yamamoto retracted the knife, punched it into his neck and out the other side, and cut out. And pushed the man down.
The dying guards fell together in a messy, twitching heap. Yamamoto knelt on them, planting his knife on a fallen guard’s spine, and waited.
The men flailed. Twitched. Gurgled. Bled. Summoning the last of their strength, they tried to pick themselves back up. Yamamoto didn’t fight them; he simply slashed their muscles and tendons. All strength fled their limps, and they flopped about like fish drowning in air. Blood gushed over the floor.
After a long, long, minute, they went still.
Yamamoto wiped his knife off a guard’s shirt.
“Are you done?” he asked.
“Almost,” Tan replied. “The suppressant is making a final check.”
Yamamoto placed the knife on the island and picked up a pistol. Pointing it at the floor, he eased back the chamber and shoved it into his waistband. He took the other pistol, checked it also, and handed it to Tan.
“Thanks,” Tan said.
He pulled back the slide and a jacketed hollow point bullet winked out from the chamber. He carefully stowed the weapon in his waistband and retrieved two spare magazines from the body of a fallen guard. As he stood up, his argees emitted a cheery beep.
“Suppressant is set,” Tan said. “All her implants are suppressed.”
Ngo groaned. “What… what happened?”
He rolled her on her side. “Marcy, it’s me, Zen. Do you recognize me?”
She blinked.
“Zen! My God! How… why… what—”
“Do you remember anything?”
“No! No, I… why am I cuffed? What’s going on? And… Holy shit! Why are there dead people on the floor?!”
Tan sat her up, placing her against the island.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “What happened when you sent me the email?”
“I…” Her eyes wandered up the ceiling. “The security team barged in while I was composing the email. They told me to stop. I said I couldn’t. One of them hit me a stunner. But I sent the email with a voice command on my argees. They pinned me down, injected something in my neck and…”
She blinked. Blinked again.
Her mouth fell open.
“Oh. My. God.”
“What?”
“They… they put it inside me! They—those sons of bitches!”
“What did they do? What did they inject in you?”
“It! The Void!”
She shuddered, compressing into herself.
“Marcie?”
“The Void is not a void! It’s not empty! It’s full! It’s—”
“Marcie!”
She startled.
“You okay?” Tan asked.
“Yeah, yeah. My God… the… whatever it was, it took control of me. It’s… it’s like being locked up inside your head, watching and feeling something… something else drive your body. It was… My God, my God…”
He gripped her shoulders and pressed her into him.
“Shhh. Relax. It’s over.”
She heaved a sigh of relief.
“Yeah. It’s… it’s gone now. Thank you.”
“No problem.”
Yamamoto cleared his throat.
They recoiled from each other.
“Um, hi,” she said. “Are you Zen’s friend?”
Yamamoto nodded. “Call me Yuri.”
“Thanks for helping. Are you STS?”
“We were,” Tan said.
“Were? What happened?”
“Long story,” Yamamoto said. “We can explain later.”
“Could you cut me free first? I promise I won’t try to kill you again.”
Tan stood her up. Yamamoto carefully braced her hands, then sliced through the ziptie in a single, swift motion. She rubbed her wrists.
“Thanks. What’s next?”
Yamamoto stuffed the severed plastic loops into his bag. “We get you out of here.”
“No, not yet,” she said. “There’s an initiation ceremony tonight. I think it’s started already. We have to stop it!”
“Marcie, look at us,” Tan said. “It’s just you, me and Yuri, and there’s only two guns between us. There is no way in hell we can fight our way through the arcology.”
“But the Void! That… thing! They’re going to put it inside more people! Can’t you feel it?”
Absolutely. It was a pressure building up in his head, pressing against the branes that divided the cosmos from his brain.
“There’s only three of us,” Tan said. “We can’t fight a god. But once we get out of here, we can call down the wrath of the STS on this place. Hell, we can call in the military if we have to. But we need you to survive so we can deliver your testimony to them.”
She sighed. Sharply. “Fine. Let’s go. What’s the plan?”
“Wait one.”
Tan called up his phone and logged into the cameras. And swore.
“What’s wrong?” Yamamoto asked.
“They’ve locked down the ground floor. The guards have sealed off the stairs and elevators. Look.”
The cameras showed rows of armed guards standing by the elevator doors and stairwells. More guards walled off the doors and hustled civilians out the arcology.
“We’re not going down that way,” Yamamoto said.
Tan switched to the cameras observing the elevators. And swore again.
“They’re sending up the QRF. Give me a sec.”
He summoned a virtual keyboard on his argees and played his fingers across the air. A moment later, he cracked a grin.
“There. I’ve stopped the elevators. They won’t be coming up anytime soon.”
“We can’t go down either,” Ngo added.
“Plan B?” Tan asked.
“Plan B,” Yamamoto confirmed.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“The upper sky garden,” Tan replied.
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If action, adventure and horror are right up your alley, check out my latest novel DUNGEON SAMURAI VOL. 1: KAMIKAZE!
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