Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Babylon Black Week 1 Update and FREE Chapter!


It's been a week since the IndieGoGo campaign for BABYLON BLACK kicked off, and the campaign is progressing smoothly. As of time of writing, we are now 30% funded!

To celebrate this milestone, here's the first chapter of BABYLON BLACK. Enjoy!

Be in the world, but not of it.

The ancient aphorism ringing in his head, Yuri Yamamoto stepped into a world of sin.

The smell hit him first. Perfume, thick and cloying, a dozen scents mingling into an unseen fog. Any thicker and it would be a chemical weapon. Underneath it, he detected other, baser odors. Sweat, musk, bodily fluids. The stench of countless men becoming beasts and numberless women goading them on.

Before him was a parade of flesh. Women, tall and short, young and mature, women of all builds and races, women for any and every kind of desire. Their smiles were broad and bright but their eyes were flat and dead. Lining up in their skimpy dresses and high heels, they exposed themselves to hungry eyes.

Each woman was more exotic than the last, augmented to the limits of human physiology and beyond. Secondary breasts stretching across the ribs. Intricate tattoos glowing in the light, suggesting living circuitry and mechanical tissue. Intoxicating pheromones drifting from hidden glands. The last few women had crossed the species barrier, transformed by strange genetic sciences. A catgirl, a dog-woman, one had the cloven hoofs, bushy mane and long tail of a pony, the last was a pointed-ear elf of achingly ethereal beauty and eyes hard as flint. Every pose, every accessory, every article of clothing, everything about them was an advertisement, an enticement, a siren song leading the willing to the abyss.

Behind the women, a heavyset man in a dark suit stood by a doorway, his feet shoulder width apart, his hands crossed in front of his belly. He didn’t smile at all. Though he hid his eyes behind the dark lenses of his augmented reality glasses, Yuri sensed his gaze drilling into his soul.

And those of the men behind him.

“Welcome to the Rose House!” the receptionist said.

Off to Yuri’s left, the receptionist beamed at him. A short woman at a high table, her face was barely visible above the counter. A soft yellow lamp accentuated the dim lighting, casting deep shadows across her flinty eyes and cracked lips.

“Party for five?” she asked.

Yuri glanced behind him. At the four men with him. This close to them, he could feel the lust boiling off them, responding to the women arrayed before them, and to what lurked within the darkness of their minds.

Yuri would never have come here. Not willingly, not for pleasure. This was neither.

This was work.

Yuri stepped back and swung through a counterclockwise pivot, presenting his profile to the women and glancing at his clients. The four of them ogled the women openly, returning their smiles with lustful grins of their own. None of them paid him any heed.

He was only the hired help.

Yuri would never have taken a job like this. Not if he could help it. But with his funds running low and the New Gods breathing down his back, he had to take what work he could find. Even if it took him to the newest and most exclusive brothel in Babylon.

There were few opportunities for men who refused to worship the New Gods. Religious discrimination was the most common form of discrimination in Nova Babylonia. The New Gods would gladly take money from anyone, but they would only hire those who paid homage to them. The few independent employers out there were growing fewer by the day, and none would take a chance on a man who crossed the New Gods.

None would risk being boycotted, blacklisted, or outright obliterated by the rulers of the world.

Yuri Yamamoto had committed the mortal sin of challenging the New Gods. For daring to survive everything they had thrown at him, he was irredeemable. In the Special Tasks Section, he and his fellow operators had stood against the New Gods, slaying their monsters and harassing their Speakers at every turn. He had testified against them to the Temple Commission, disclosing the true depths of depravity and iniquity of the New Gods. After two years in self-imposed exile, he returned to his crusade to destroy horrors that aspired to become gods.

The New Gods saw all and forgot nothing.

Anyone who put him on a payroll would soon be visited by the taxmen, the cops, and eventually a kill team. Any businesses he started under his name would suffer the same fate. Any home he purchased would be invaded by the soldiers of the New Gods. Anyone who knowingly did business with him would face the ire of the gods.

He was a non-citizen, an outlaw, a heretical barbarian skulking the shadows of pagan Rome. He lived only at the pleasure of the New Gods. The only reason they hadn’t sent their soldiers to finish him once and for all was because they knew he would sell his life dearly. Any of the factions could destroy him, but the toll in blood and treasure would leave them vulnerable to their rivals, and the New Gods hated each other too much to collaborate, even to destroy their common enemy.

He should have stayed in exile. But Babylon was a black hole, its inexorable gravity pulling him into the event horizon. His parents would not leave the city. His community would not leave. His teammates would not leave. So long as they would not leave, neither could he.

Still, he had to find a way to live, and his latest op had drained most of his wallet. He had savings, tucked away in faraway tax havens, but he needed income.

He did what every believer in Babylon did when they faced an emergency like this: he turned to his church.

There was a god for every man in Babylon, but some gods were less celebrated than others. The Old Gods, the old faiths of the pre-Cataclysm Earth, were the least among them. As the New Gods descended on the changed world, none of them openly showed themselves. No miracles, no Elect, no prophets, none of the displays of power the New Gods had demonstrated. For their failings, the Old Gods had been shunned, cast off by a fearful population eager for wonders and boons. None had been more shunned than the Christian Church.

In the tradition of the underground churches of the previous era, the Christian community of Babylon took root in the shadows of the greatest city in the world. It wasn’t actively persecuted, not after the Treaty of Babylon guaranteed religious freedom, but the world turned its back on those that would not embrace it.

The Church in turn embraced all who stepped through their doors.

Yuri Yamamoto was its most famous son, and its most feared. What he asked for, he received. Shelter, aid, and now, a job. Yuri had sent feelers through select members of his congregation, offering his services to those who would need them.

Only one person needed them.

August Reynolds was a sales executive in a megacorp owned by the Guild of the Maker. He had kept his head down and spoke to no one at work about his faith, not even Human Resources. It was the only reason he, an outsider to the Guild, was allowed to rise to such dizzying heights.

A week ago, August had pitched a high-profile client from overseas. The client sent two representatives to Babylon. August and his boss, Dan Brandt, President of Sales, were chosen to seal the deal. August had said the party needed a bodyguard.

What they really needed was a status symbol.

The day had passed smoothly. Pick-up at the airport in the late morning, a working lunch, then a long meeting than lasted for the afternoon. Yuri had driven the principals around, then stood watch outside the office door. His presence signaled the wealth and power of the corporation, so wealthy and powerful they could afford to hire an executive protection agent. Not just any protector either: the most infamous gunslinger in Nova Babylonia.

His clients talked up his skills and deeds. Their clients were suitably impressed. Yuri kept his mouth shut and focused on the job.

After the close of work, the principals decided to indulge in Babylon’s world-famous nightlife scene. Their journey began in a high-end restaurant, where they dined on overpriced beef and lobsters. Then they visited a nearby club, where they downed bottles of high-end wines and brandy. After midnight, they hit the last place on their agenda: the Rose House.

For men who wanted to satiate mere lust, there were thousands of whorehouses in Babylon to choose from, each more outrageous than the last. Anything a man wanted, anything that did not displease the New Gods, anything at all, he could find down some dark alley in this darkest of cities. The Rose House was a higher class of establishment.

The women of the Rose House didn’t simply rent their bodies. They offered an evening of charm, intimacy, and witty conversation. Art, music, politics, they could hold forth on any topic that held the interest of men of wealth and taste. They could adorn a man’s arm for an hour, or spend a night fulfilling his darkest fantasies.

They were courtesans.

And the clients were the kind of men they were trained to entertain.

Brandt and his clients ogled the women. The women smiled and waved. Reynolds turned to the counter, and looked over his shoulder at the rest of the men.

At Yuri.

Yuri locked his gaze on Reynolds. Steely gray eyes bored into soft black irises, hardening into the points of daggers. Slowly shaking his head, Yuri touched his right hand to his left ring finger.

Reynolds gulped, and fingered his own wedding band.

“Four, actually,” Reynolds choked.

“Why four?” Brandt asked.

“I, uh, I just remembered I have to, um, take the kids to school tomorrow. They’ve got a baseball tournament coming up and the coach is holding selections for the team.”

Brandt smiled, slapping Reynolds on the shoulder.

“Yeah? Well, family comes first. Wish ‘em good luck for me.”

“Thanks. I’ll settle everyone’s cover charge.”

Reynolds laid down a stack of bills. Two hundred bucks, fifty per man. That was just the price of entry, to weed out the riffraff. Actual services would be negotiated later.

“What about you, Yuri?” Brandt asked. “You joining us?”

“I’m still on the clock,” Yuri said. “I’ll send Mr. Reynolds off and come back later.”

“Suits me.”

The second Reynolds received his receipt, he made his goodbyes. Yuri escorted him out.

A bracing wind howled down the street. Bright neon signs shouted promises of wine and women and song, illuminating the asphalt jungle in dirty reds and heated fuchsias. Streetwalkers in short skirts and high boots strutted down the street or lingered under lamp posts and street corners. Gravcars lined both sides of the road, high-end luxury models one and all.

Yuri led the way back to Reynolds’ car. A quick check revealed no anomalies. A discreet three-sixty scan turned up no one and nothing of interest.

“Here’s where we part, Mr. Reynolds,” Yuri said. “I’ll continue looking after your boss and clients.”

“They’re not going to think highly of me if I go home now,” Reynolds said.

A protector was always discreet. He did not interfere with his client’s private life outside of his duties, and did not disclose his affairs to anyone else. Anything that was not part of his scope of work was not his business, nor anyone else’s.

But Yuri was also a Christian, and as a Christian he had a higher duty.

“Your family isn’t going to think highly of you if you don’t go home now,” Yuri said. “Neither will God and the Church.”

Reynolds exhaled sharply.

“Yeah. You’re right. I… I guess I had a bit too much to drink. Got caught up in the moment.”

“It happens to the best of us. You didn’t cross the line. That’s what matters. Set your gravcar to autopilot. Go home, go back to your family, and get some sleep. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Reynolds clambered in, his movements jerky and uncoordinated. He retained enough sense to dictate instructions to the gravcar’s computer. The engine whirred, the gravity mirror hummed to life, the safety harness locked into place. Yuri backed up and watched the gravcar soar into the night.

His first good deed of the night. He hoped.

The Rose House glared down at him. Five stories of glass and concrete, as soulless and indistinguishable as the other establishments on the street. Only its vertical signboard set it apart, a long-stemmed rose spanning the second to the top floors. Glowing in lurid crimson, the rose towered over him, daring him to pluck its petals.

He snorted.

Looked away.

And entered the Rose House.

His timing was perfect. Brandt and his clients had chosen their women, and were now passing through the doorway on the other side of foyer. The rest of the women hung around, sizing him up like an army of lionesses studying a lamb.

But behind him was a Lamb of a different sort.

“Are you ready to choose your companion?” the receptionist asked.

“I’m not a customer. I’m just here to make sure the rest of my party gets home safe,” Yuri replied.

“Ah. The designated driver?”

“Something like that. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just stand in a corner and pretend to be a statue.”

She chuckled. “We’re here to take care of you. There’s no need to be uncomfortable. We’ve got a fully-stocked bar in the main room. First drink is on the house.”

“Thank you.”

The women dispersed, barely hiding their disappointment. As a non-customer, he was less than a man to them. He might as well be a ghost. The bouncer, on the other hand, eyed him with renewed interest, trying to figure out who and what he was.

Yuri caught himself judging them too harshly. These women were on the clock, like him. They had bills to pay, families to feed. They couldn’t afford to spend time on people who wouldn’t pay them. And the bouncer, well, he was just doing his job.

This was a house of sin, sure, but it was not his place to condemn them.

Inside the main room, men in expensive suits sprawled themselves over fine leather furniture. Their chosen companions fawned over them, plying them with finger foods and strong drink. Fabrics flashed in the dim light: glittering lame, slinky spandex, high-gloss latex. The smell of perfume grew even stronger, threatening to overpower Yuri’s senses.

A huge stage with four ceiling-length stripper poles dominated the room. A quartet of oiled-up women in shiny bikinis worked the poles, every move slow and sinuous, showing off their assets, timing every spin and gyration with the beat of an energetic pop tune.

Off to the side, the bartender stood at attention behind the counter. A distinguished older gentleman in a gray vest and black shirt, he pasted a fake smile on his face. Behind him, bottles and glasses formed neat platoons and companies on rows of wooden shelves.

A set of stairs led to the upper floors. To where the action took place. A muscular black man in a blacker suit stood nearby. In the dim light, he was almost invisible. No doubt on purpose.

Yuri sidled up to the bar. The bartender nodded at him, wiping down a glass.

“Good evening. Would you like a menu?”

“Please,” Yuri said.

The bartender handed him a thick sheet of cardstock. The heading read ‘House Specialties’. The entries that followed listed a long list of carnal pleasures, explained in graphic detail. All prices began in the hundreds of dollars, and quickly climbed into the thousands. The reverse listed the house rules.

“I meant the drinks menu,” Yuri said, handing it back.

“Ah,” the bartender said, smirking. “Here you go.”

This menu offered even greater variety. Just about every high-end liquor, brandy and spirit in the world was represented here. Cocktails occupied two whole pages. An entire section was reserved for snacks and light meals. At the end of the menu, as though it were an afterthought, was a short listing of non-alcoholic drinks.

“I’d like the cranberry juice, please,” Yuri said.

A disappointed expression crossed the bartender’s face. Nonetheless, he skillfully prepared Yuri’s order.

While waiting, Yuri observed the crowd. The principals were clustered in a corner, occupying a bench all to themselves. Their chosen companions clung to them, holding up menus, smiling and caressing and giggling. At the other sofas and benches, the women engaged their men in lengthy conversation and intimate touches. At one table, a woman rushed to undo her client’s belt, ready to seal the deal there and then.

Yuri watched in horrified fascination, unable to look, unable to look away. Right before his eyes, he saw living souls defile and be defiled, exchanging bundles of dollars for mere pleasure, sinking ever deeper into decadence. In every touch he sensed the claws of devils digging into bone and marrow, in every whisper he heard the laughter of the New Gods. Even so, he felt blood rushing to his nether regions.

He closed his eyes. Breathed. Released all emotions and desires.

There was nothing he could do. He could not deny his clients. He had no authority over their souls, merely their bodies. Their physical security, nothing more. He could not afford to turn down their money either. But neither would he participate in this. All he could do was watch.


The bartender delivered his order. The cranberry juice was ice cold and shockingly sweet. It reset his brain, refocused his heart, recharged his body.

He was here to work. To watch for threats, and respond accordingly. And that was exactly what he would do.

The women left the principals’ table, returning to the foyer. Moments later, they returned in triumph, carrying bundles of fresh bedsheets. Arm-in-arm, they escorted their clients up the stairs. Yuri followed them.

The guard at the stairs held up his hand.

“You here with someone?” he asked.

Yuri cocked his head at his clients.

“I’m with them.”

“Did you book a girl?”

“No. I’m here to work.”

The guard shook his head.

“Only paying customers past this point. Sorry.”

Yuri lowered his voice.

“I’m working a personal security detail. They’re my clients. I can’t let them out of my sight.”

“Don’t worry. They’re safe with us,” the guard replied.

Halfway up the stairs, Brandt called out.

“Is something wrong?”

“I’m not allowed upstairs,” Yuri replied.

“You didn’t book a girl?”

Yuri shook his head.

“That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to watch over you.”

“I’ll handle it,” the guard insisted.

“There ya go,” Brandt said. “You can let your hair down. Tell ya what, you want a party, put it on my tab. You know I’m good for it.”

“No thanks. I’ll wait by the bar until you’re done,” Yuri said.

The men laughed. Their women tittered.

“We’ll be here all night,” Brandt replied. “You willing to wait that long?”

“If I have to.”

“Dedicated, aren’t you?” the guard said.

“That’s what they pay me for.”

Everyone laughed.

“Don’t worry about it. You can come pick us up in the morning,” Brandt said.

“There you have it,” the guard said. “Until then, we’ll take care of them.”

“Alright,” Yuri said. “See you tomorrow.”

Yuri retreated to the bar, leaving the men and their companions to their devices. And their consciences.

His glass was still mostly full. The moment he finished it, he told himself, he would leave, get some sleep, then return to pick up the clients in the morning. That was all he would allow himself to do.

As he sipped at his glass, he reminded himself of the lotus. Rooted in mud, it rose pure and unsullied from murky waters to bloom in perfect grace. As the lotus overcame the dirt to face the sun, so too would he rise above the filth of the world to stand in the Light. Though part of an empire of filth, it was not part of it.

As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space, an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble, a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning, view all conditioned things like this.

Everything here was an illusion. The illusion of affection, of romance, of love. The illusion of status, of wealth, of power. The illusion that tenderness could be bought and sold, that mere money could purchase happiness, that there were no eternal consequences for temporary pleasure.

Suddenly the people around him seemed so… pitiful. Men driven by desire for flesh and warmth. Women driven by desire for money and security. From these desires the Rose House produced twisted blooms.

He perceived light, motion, sound. All human meaning attached to them fell away. The dancers were simply bags of flesh and blood and bone in motion. The customers and the courtesans and the staff were objects occupying space-time, expressing vectors of energy, no threat to himself or those he was hired to protect.

He had learned this trick of perception outside the Church. From the other half of his heritage, hailing from the land once called Japan. While the Diamond Sutra had no place in the Bible, practicing it helped him deepen his faith and remain sane in a world of gods and monsters. Surely God would understand.

A word swam to the surface of his consciousness. An Old World word, a word that came from before the Cataclysm. Ukiyo. The Floating World, the world of the red-light districts of a long-vanished time and place, a world where the pursuit of wealth and pleasure was a man’s highest aspiration. It was also a homophone for Sorrowful World, a transient world filled with the suffering that came from clinging to transience, a world that the pious sought to escape.

Both worlds were one and the same.

Presently a woman strode up to him. Her gait was smooth and confident, exuding sexuality with every step. Her low-cut barely-there dress revealed a shiny black bra popping up massive breasts, muscled legs that stretched into forever, skin glowing with a sweaty sheen.

For all that, she was the most refreshingly normal woman amongst the ladies of the Rose House.

Tousling her dark, flowing hair, she smiled at him.

“Hi! Mind if I join you?” she asked.

All things that happen to you happen for a purpose, and that is for you to discover who you are, he reminded himself.

“I don’t mind, but I’m not looking for a date,” Yuri said.

“Eh? Really? Why are you here?” she asked.

“Work. It just ended, though.”

“Well, since your work is over, maybe you’re looking to relax?”

She smiled. The smile of a working woman, a smile that touched the cheeks but not the eyes.

“I’m relaxing now. I don’t mind talking to you, but I’m leaving once I’m done with my glass,” he replied.

“That’s alright. I’m taking a break too.”

She ordered a drink from the bartender. Fruit juice, like him.

“I’m Sandra. What’s your name?” she asked.


“Yuri? That’s an exotic name.”

“I get that all the time. You’re a dancer?” Yuri asked.

Her eyes popped.

“How did you know?”

Her face. Her gait. Her clothing. She was one of the dancers he’d spotted during his sweep. And there was her sweat. Working girls would wash themselves after finishing an assignation. Few men wanted to smell another man on his chosen woman. It was part of the fantasy, that she was there for him and him only—at least for the time he had paid for.

“It’s my job to notice,” Yuri said.

“Yeah? What’s your job?”


“Freelancer? In which field?”

Yuri bought some time with a drink.

“Personal security,” he said at last.

“Ah. One of your clients is having a party?” Sandra asked.

Yuri shrugged. “Something like that.”

“Must be lonely, huh. Sitting there alone by yourself, no one to talk to, no one to keep you company.”

Sandra was trying to tempt him again. He should…

He exhaled.

He wasn’t here to judge anyone. So he shouldn’t.

“I’m quite comfortable by myself,” he said.

“You look like it too.”


“I saw you while I was on the stage. You were watching everyone with hawk’s eyes. I thought you were a cop.”

“I hear that all the time.”

“Were you?”

Yuri smiled.


He was technically a Public Security Bureau Special Agent. That was just a formality. In practice, the STS had more in common with the military. He had never stopped thinking of himself as an operator.

“Oh. Well, we got cops here all the time. I thought you could have been one of them,” Sandra said.

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

She chuckled. “Ah, you have a sense of humor too. That’s a relief.”

“A relief?”

She regarded him with a frank look. Not as a working woman, just a woman.

“You’re carrying a lot of baggage. I can see it in your eyes. You can take a load off, relax, live a little.”

For a second he allowed himself to take her in. The entirety of her. A woman, so close, closer than he’d ever allowed anyone to be in… too long.

He looked away and drained his glass.

“That’s what I plan to do when I leave. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now,” he said.

“Going already? You just barely got here.”

“It’s been a long day, and I’m finally knocking off.” He paused, and looked at her in the eye. “I’m sure there are many men who would love the pleasure of your company. As for me, I can’t stay. I’ve got an early start tomorrow.”

She smiled. A genuine smile this time, sparks igniting in the depths of her darkened eyes.

“I appreciate your courtesy.”

“We’re both on the clock. That’s all there is to it.”

“Well, if you want to come back any time…”

Yuri shook his head. Rapidly.

“This isn’t my kind of place.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Old-fashioned kinda guy?”

“Only the oldest of fashions.”

She laughed.

“Alright, I won’t keep you. Take care.”

“You too.”

He returned the glass to the bartender. Stood. Stretched. Turned to the door—

“What do you mean, no?!”

Yuri pivoted towards the voice.

Three men seated at a long, curved bench. Six women entwined around them. Table overflowing with bottles and shot glasses. The man in the middle shouted at a woman to his left. The woman recoiled.

“You want money? If it’s about money, I have all the money!” he slurred.

“It’s not about the money,” the woman began.

“What’s wrong, then? Let’s go party!”

“Sir, we have a strict no-drug policy in—”

The client waved his hand dismissively.

“Screw that! You know how much money I made this morning?”

She shook her head.

“Sir, we do not do drugs. Just by telling me this, I have to report you to the police.”

“The what?! Police?”

“That’s right. I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.”

His face twisted in apoplectic rage.

“Leave? I’m not leaving until I’m done!”

“Sir, you need to—”

He slapped her.

A loud CRACK echoed in the room, cutting over the sound of the music. The force of the blow slammed the woman’s face into the soft leather cushion.

“You know who I am? You don’t say no to me! No one says no to me!”

With every word, his voice deepened. His words grew shorter and sharper. The alcoholic slur melted away, replaced by a harsh sizzling and rattling, like background static. His eyes assumed a golden gleam. His fingers curled into bony hooks.

He was an Elect. A follower of a New God, granted supernatural powers and state-of-the art augmentations in return for his undying faith. A Faustian bargain. The human brain could never begin to comprehend the cosmic terror that was a New God in its true form. Accepting even a tiny portion of its power would sear the Elect’s body, brain and soul, twisting him into a meat puppet of a thing that pretended to be a god.

Too many people couldn’t bear the experience. Those who survived became ticking time bombs.

Yuri couldn’t tell which god this one was pledged to. Not yet. All he knew was that this one was dangerously close to snapping. And when an Elect snapped, he became a Husk. An empty shell of a man, fueled by rage and bloodlust, slaughtering and consuming all around him until someone finally put him down.

The security guards rushed in. Yuri faded back, placing his body between the guest and the working girl, unzipping his jacket. He wished he had a gun. But at least he wasn’t unarmed.

“Sir, we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” the black bouncer began.

The man roared in rage. His buddies shot to their feet, taking him by each shoulder.

“Come on, that’s enough,” the smaller of the two said.

“Let’s come back another time, eh?” the other one pleaded.

The man roared again. With a mighty shrug, he grabbed his friends’ hands and peeled them off. The men yelped, falling back to their seats, gripping their injured hands.

“That’s enough,” the black bouncer said. “Time for you to go.”

The guest snarled. His lips peeled back, baring bright white teeth. Two of them. Each tooth was a single bow-shaped block of ceramic, crowned with cutting edges and crushing surfaces, following the curve of the jaw. Thick saliva drooled in thick strings. Energy radiated from him, an invisible pressure Yuri felt against his skin.

“Let’s keep things cool,” the black bouncer said slowly, hands rising to chest level.

The black bouncer approached the man from the front, every step big and obvious, stealing the man’s attention. His partner sneaked up from behind, reaching into his pocket.

Throwing his head back, the man shrieked. He gripped the edges of the table, huge muscles bulging from under his shirt. The women at the table screamed. Every face turned to look at the commotion.

“You do NOT say NO to ME! I will TEAR you! BREAK you! KILL you ALL!” the man said.

Yuri looked over his shoulder. The bartender was crouching behind the counter. Sandra joined him.

“Call the cops,” Yuri said. “Tell them we have a Husk.”

Keeping his arms up, the black man closed in on the Husk.

“Let’s slow things down. Let’s not do something we’ll regret.”

The Husk spun.

He was fast fast fast, blinding fast, his spine suddenly loose and liquid. His arms flailed out like windmills. As they spun, his arms enlarged and elongated, becoming many-jointed whips of muscle and bone.

A huge forearm slammed into the black bouncer’s arms, sending him flying into a table. A meaty palm smashed his partner to the floor.

“Kill! You! ALL!” the Husk screamed.

The civilians screamed. Clients and courtesans scrambled away, crawling under tables, jumping over benches, fleeing for cover. The dancers tottered as fast as their high heels could take them. The Elect laughed, his voice booming in the darkness.

Yuri approached.

“That’s enough,” Yuri said.

“WHO the FUCK are YOU?!” the Husk yelled.

Reaching under his jacket, his right hand grasped a handle wrapped in rough faux-rayskin by his armpit. His left hand seized his necklace and held it up to the light.

A silver cross, every bar ending in three lotus petals.

“In the name of the Lord, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega, I command you to surrender!” Yuri said.

The Husk screeched. In rage, in pain, in fear.

“See now the cross of the Lord! See now the Light that shines from on High! The Light that purifies, cleanses, and redeems! You have strayed from the path, but there is still hope! Turn back now! Choose salvation over destruction!”

The Husk clenched his fists.


A harsh, guttural voice, a woman’s voice, blasted from his throat, drowning out the man’s original tongue.

The voice of a New God.

“Release the human,” Yuri said. “Let him go before—”

The Husk howled.

And twisted around.

The Husk’s mighty right arm swung around in a massive haymaker. It mutated in flight, growing heavy plates of bony armor. The fist doubled in size, becoming a biological wrecking ball studded in heavy spikes, steadily accelerating.

Yuri exhaled.

Released the cross.

And stepped into the arc of the swing.

As his body turned towards the enormous arm, his right hand freed his weapon from its sheath. An o-tanto, fourteen inches of killing steel, forged in the tradition of his samurai ancestors, its wide belly and reinforced spine designed for a singular purpose. The gleaming blade blurred through a truncated parabola, deceptively smooth, lightning fast, the turn and the draw and the cut flowing in a singular movement, taking Yuri off the line of attack and bringing his weapon on the Husk.

The blade melted through flesh and bone, parting it like water. Blood gushed from the wound. Momentum carried the severed limb through the air. Yuri’s left arm, still held up to guard his face, caught the edge of the bleeding stump. The heavy impact forced his arm back, smacking his hand against his forehead. The limb snaked around Yuri and tumbled to the floor.

Screaming in rage, the Husk spun around, whipping his surviving arm up above his head. His left arm transformed into an enormous blade, the tip brushing against the ceiling. It was less a sword, more like a blunt hunk of unnatural bone, a weapon for crushing through sheer mass and brute force. With a powerful whirl, the Husk brought the blade crashing down.

The weapon was huge, the swing powerful. It would destroy all in its path. Yuri couldn’t hope to block it.

He didn’t have to.

Taking a gigantic step with his left foot, he fanned his o-tanto up from his hip to his shoulder. The thick, slightly curved spine of the blade met the back edge of the colossal bone sword. As steel ground against bone, Yuri rotated his weapon outwards by a few degrees, extending his arm as though it were a wing. The o-tanto gathered the bone blade into itself, subtly but inexorably redirecting its trajectory.

And the bone blade whooshed past him.

The bone blade crashed into the ground, shattering the floorboards, throwing up a cloud of dust. Yuri barely noticed. Blade still raised, he leapt in, closing the distance. The Husk’s eyes widened, its mouth opened to scream, his lifted his massive arm—

Yuri cut.

The o-tanto fell like an ocean wave, swift, powerful, irresistible, powered by a subtle turn of his rear hip. As the blade bit into the Husk’s collarbone, complex force vectors crashed into him, bending his spine, breaking his balance, drawing his body against the edge. The o-tanto continued its downward stroke, cleaving through ribs, lungs, sternum, heart, liver, spine, cutting its way out the other side.

The Husk’s upper half toppled backwards. Its lower half flopped forward. Blood gushed from the enormous wounds. Arterial spurts pulsed out into a crimson lake. Yuri aimed his blade at the Husk’s face, and lifted his cross once again.

“You are dying, but it is not yet too late. Do you reject the New Gods and all their works?” Yuri asked.

The Husk grinned through a mouthful of bloody teeth.

“You, the original soul inhabiting this body, I speak to you now. Do you reject the New Gods and—”

“Glory to Namanah!” he yelled.

And vomited a lungful of blood.

And went still.

Yuri sighed.

He’d tried, but the Husk had made his choice. He made a note to pray for his soul. Later.

He brought the blade to the low guard and scanned the room. Total silence had fallen. Now everyone was looking at the mess on the floor. At him.

“Who… are you?” the shorter of the Husk’s companions whispered.

Yuri pointed his o-tanto at him.

“Are you two from the Liberated?”

“Yes,” he squeaked.

“If you hurt us, you’re going to pay,” the other man said.

“Do I look like I can be threatened?” Yuri replied.

The civilian gulped and said nothing more.

“Am I going to have any more trouble from you two?” Yuri asked.

“No sir. Not at all,” the younger man said.

“Good. Stay here until the cops come. They’re going to want to talk to you.”

Yuri glanced around again. The bouncers were picking themselves up, unsteadily rising to their feet.

“You guys okay?” Yuri called.

“I’m… kinda… woozy,” the black bouncer muttered, swaying on his feet.

“Head… hurts,” the other bouncer replied.

“You two sit down at the bar. If you feel sick or sleepy, sound off. Bartender! Get us two bags of ice!”

Yuri wiped off his o-tanto on the dead Husk’s clothes, sheathed the humongous blade, and helped the bouncers to the seats. The bartender held up ice bags. The bouncers pressed the ice against their heads, moaning in relief.

“Much better,” the black bouncer said.

“You’re not out of the woods yet,” Yuri said. “You two need X-rays. Facing a Husk like that, you don’t want to take any chances.”

“Roger that.”

Sandra poked her head above the counter.

“Is it over?” she asked.

“Not until ESWAT arrives,” Yuri said.

“Who are you?”

“Just an ordinary guy.”

Sandra barked a laugh.

“No ordinary guy would have taken on a Husk with a sword.”

An o-tanto was a knife. A long knife, to be sure, but just a knife. The distinction was lost on most people, though.

Yuri shrugged and said nothing more. Sandra shook her head.

“You just killed a man, and now you’re just sitting there like you’ve… taken out the trash or something. Who the hell are you?”

“Like I said. Freelancer.”

She shook her head. “No way. You were praying earlier, weren’t you? You an Elect?”

“In my church, we are all elect. All who follow the Way and the Truth and the Light shall be saved.”

“Saved from who? From what?”


She laughed. She tried to sound jovial, but bitterness tinged her voice.

“Don’t we live in Hell?”

“And by the grace of God, we shall be cleansed of our sins and delivered to Heaven.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know about Heaven and Hell, or whatever God you speak of but… this is the first time I’ve seen anyone stand up to a Husk. And win.”

“I’m not a priest. But if you want to learn more, you can visit the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.”

“Maybe I will,” Sandra said wistfully. “Maybe I will…”

That might be his second good deed of the night. Or, looking at the clock, the first of a new day.

“Have you called the police?” Yuri asked.

“Yeah. Fifteen minutes, they said,” she replied.

“Do you need anything else?” the bartender asked.

Yuri looked at them. At the injured bouncers. At the customers. At the pile of gore on the floor.

And sighed.

The police were on their way. With a Husk involved, the PSB would want to talk to him too. Which meant the New Gods would know he had returned. Again.

The coming days were going to suck. But he had done no wrong. If he ran, he would merely signal guilt. That would give the New Gods every reason to declare open season on him—and everyone associated with him. The only way forward was to face what was coming for him.

To bear the cross that carried his name.

“Well?” the bartender prodded.

Yuri sighed again, and spoke. “Vodka.”


This chapter summarises the world of Babylon. The New Gods offer wealth, power, pleasure—and all they ask in return is your soul. Refuse, and they will make life difficult for you. And when you fall too far, they drag you into the abyss and turn you into a monster.

It takes a special breed of warrior to survive in such a hostile world. A warrior of skill, faith and courage. A warrior who is ever ready to face down false gods and cosmic horrors with upraised blade, ready to place himself between the evil and the innocent. A warrior who can look at a monster in the eye and say, "No."

And yet, every action carries a consequence. When you dispatch a monster of the New Gods, they take notice. They will seek revenge. And the consequences of this seemingly random act of violence will ripple throughout the world—and spell the beginning of the fall of Babylon.

Witness the final days of Babylon here, and share the link with your friends! Let's keep the momentum going and bring this project to the finish line!

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